Sorry Dorothy, but Kansas is exactly where we are.
Donald Trump is here, the monster among us. And no matter how many times we chant the spell and repeat the words that he is soon going away, the hard fact is that he is still here, and even trending to remain here for the foreseeable future. The denials are not working anymore.
In my search for understanding the enduring appeal of this popular monstrosity I have seen two interesting takes on the Trump phenomenon, one offered by Geoffrey Dunn, and the other by Robert Reich.
The piece by Dunn describes some striking parallels between Donald Trump and the Wizard of Oz. It is almost exhilarating to realize how, other than the hair, Trump and the wizard are the same guy. Imagining a couple of plumes of smoke and fire around the Donald transports me right back in time. No metaphor works on every level, but I find this one illuminating and entertaining.
The piece by Reich goes to the very heart of the matter. What Reich describes is the process whereby the Republican elites have sucked all of the money out of the middle class portion of the body politic. That core, that torso is filled with people who would spend that money if it was available to them. If they earned a little more cash, they would love to go to restaurants and buy extra pairs of shoes and so forth, but as things now stand they are putting all of their money into food and utilities and survival only.
There is a word for that core of the body politic possessing money they will absolutely spend: Demand!
But let's say they don't have any extra money, because the minimum wage has been cleverly labeled an unjust distribution of wealth that will cost jobs and harm struggling people. How will they spend money they do not have in their hands?
Or conversely, how many restaurants can a handful of billionaires eat at, or how many extra pairs of shoes will those few thousand vastly wealthy individuals need to buy? If they are the only ones with extra money to spend, how exactly will they do enough spending to make demand happen?
I have an impressive bit of consensus to share. Line up the economists, be they liberal or conservative, be they brilliant or dull, be they Republican or Democrat, and I can guarantee you that all of them will have the same answer to the following question:
What exactly is the business solution to people having no money to spend to buy the stuff I am selling?
Credit? That won't work, because they have to pay that back, and with what money? I suppose the middle class could start selling their valuables, so that they have extra money to spend, flowing into the economy like air into starving lungs. But this demographic does not have much of value, and when that runs out, after the middle class and poor have sold everything from their rainy day lock boxes, what next?
There is only one business solution to the problem of people having no money to spend to buy the stuff I am selling: Shutter the business.
Robert Reich is exactly right. Exactly. If there is a choir he is preaching that message to, I want to order a robe.
The connection between these pieces, Dunn's and Reich's, and it would almost be funny if it were not so tragic and frightening, is this: The secret path, the yellow brick road to understanding the rise of Trump can be found most evidently in, of all places, Dorothy's own Kansas.
The strategy of the Republican elites, to get all of the money up to themselves, is being fully implemented in Kansas by Governor Brownback. He has cut taxes to the hilt, strictly according to the conservative playbook. The reasoning is this: Put money into the hands of the 'job creators', and they will use that money to create jobs and prosperity for all.
Funny though, they never talk about how nobody in their right mind opens a new business or expands an existing one when almost nobody else has any money to spend. Like, wouldn't it be dumb to open a business to sell stuff to nobody? Wouldn't you just buy another antique car instead? Practically speaking, how many jobs will that create?
Brownback may sincerely believe that Kansas is the "shining city on the hill", as he calls it, but regardless of his motives, whether he is a snake or sincere, Brownback is doing the country a valuable service in Kansas. We should almost thank him.
Because now, thanks to Brownback, we have a live experiment. Now we get to see with our own eyes, publicly, if conservatives are right or wrong. We will have evidence and results to analyze. Science be in Kansas!
Let's be realistic. If the economy sputters in Kansas, as is already the case and is inevitable because of lagging demand, conservatives like Brownback will find excuses and scapegoats. But let's also remember, they promised us this experiment enriching the job creators would work for everybody, and if it doesn't ... isn't that fishy? If, after all of that, a few rich people have all of that money and nobody else does, is that right? Did that experiment work?
Let me predict something for you, and if I am wrong, shame on me, but if I am right, shame on the oligarchs: There is a pot of gold in Kansas which may be found at the end of the rainbow, and almost every ounce of that gold will soon find its way into the pockets of a handful of vastly wealthy families, leaving everybody else holding a swirling handful of dust.
Brownback is putting the finishing touches on regressive economic policies which have been effectively leveraged upon the entire country by conservatives for decades. What if those economic policies do not actually work in practice? What if conservative economic policies just never work - not in Kansas, not anywhere? What if those policies, though they sound plausible, are in fact mistakes, errors of judgement, or even lies? Wouldn't that produce economic inequality? Wouldn't that result in frustrated, angry masses of people?
Trump has risen because people are furious about becoming poor and left out, they want to puff their chests, point their fingers, and shout, "You're fired!" at their government which has failed them, and so they have become an unruly mob filled with heart and courage, but bereft of brains. They want to go home, but they don't know the way. It is like the road is littered with snake oil salesmen and there is nobody to believe. Trump plugs into those people.
I love that it is Toto who pulls back the curtain exposing the true wizard. I love humble heroes, and who is humbler than a dog?
According to my research the word 'toto' means several things. I was surprised to find out that toto is a euphemism for certain sexual appendages near and dear to me. And sometimes, I must confess, I find myself of the opinion that Donald Trump is a ... well, a toto. Indeed, it is even now a point of debate that he is the The Great Cock Trump leading the economically-frustrated, aging white chickens home to roost.
But I was also surprised to find out that 'toto' is an acronym for "turn off the oxygen". When consider the money being siphoned off by the Republican elite, so that only they can spend it, and how that weakens the body politic, I think that turning off the oxygen is the perfect metaphor. Money is the blood - it delivers the oxygen. When the oligarchs remove all of the money from everybody else so that it accrues only to themselves, as they are doing in Kansas, there is no oxygen for the economy. There is no demand.
Shutter the businesses.
Even the oligarchs will suffer patently false economic policies like these. They may even repent. I mean, they are greedy and selfish, so there is hope in that. They may one day act in their own best interests, even if that means they must be compassionate or even generous.
But voters should not wait for the rich old farts to have an epiphany - far too much damage will have been done by then. Children need there to be enough money for education and healthcare today. There are rumors that class sizes in Kansas are rising at an alarming rate due to a lack of necessary funding, that good teachers are leaving because they have been abandoned in the common cause. I believe those rumors.
In my opinion it is time we reject the whole conservative economic message. Why? For no other reason than we know it doesn't work. And may I add, investing money in people, so that they can spend it, is probably a great step in the right direction.
But don't believe me, I might be full of it. Just listen to the people carrying the torches and pitchforks - the Trump faithful. Just watch Kansas. And when suffering comes to Kansas, please, don't believe conservatives about why they are still right. Please don't fight against yourselves in this class war.
Trump is killing, by populism, the modern Republican Party by exposing the errors and lies of the GOP elites. And while it is true that we would be supremely foolish as a country to elect him as our president, we should not mourn their political passing. Indeed, we should rejoice as their hourglass will soon run out.
The things Dorothy never told us.