In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Americans have an initial estimate of the damage. However, we have yet to assess the costs of “Hurricane” Donald Trump.
Moody’s Investor Services estimates that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused approximately $200 billion in damage. Of course, beyond the monetary damages, there are psychological and social consequences: millions of people have been dislocated and, to some degree, traumatized.
Hopefully, the long-term consequences of the devastating Hurricanes will include changes to government policy: for example, at the federal level, recognition of the reality of Global Climate Change and reduction of the power of the fossil-fuel lobby; and at the local level, changes in city planning and building codes (such as not paving over wetlands).
The long-term consequences of Hurricane Donald are more costly than the damage inflicted by Harvey and Irma. Here are five social costs associated with Trump.
Economic Inequality: Trump defeated Hillary Clinton because of economic injustice. Millions of voters ― predominantly white ― felt their lives had not improved during the Obama administration. They believed Trump’s promise to “make America great again.” Trump supporters felt he would change the way Washington does business, shake up the establishment, bring good jobs back to the heartland and substantially improve their lives.
Eight months after occupying the White House, Trump has done little to justify his supporters’ confidence in him. He has not taken on economic inequality. To the contrary, post-election Trump appears to be a typical Republican politician who sides with the one percent at the expense of the 99 percent. (Trump’s tax plan ― still being formulated ― favors wealthy Americans at the expense of working families.)
Ignoring economic inequality has long-term consequences. Many economists have observed that the Republican ideology ― “trickle-down” economics ― damages the economy: it fails to address pressing national needs, such as infrastructure repair, and does not increase the disposable income of the middle class.
Furthermore, protracted economic inequality jeopardizes democracy. Not only does the Republican ideology favor “big money” in politics but it discourages average Americans from participating in the political process; for example, because they are too busy earning a living to adequately inform themselves about national issues. In addition, economic inequality breeds cynicism, distrust of democratic institutions.
Social Injustice: Writing in The New York Times, Emory University professor Carol Anderson observed: “The guiding principle in Mr. Trump’s government is to turn the politics of white resentment into the policies of white rage — that calculated mechanism of executive orders, laws and agency directives that undermines and punishes minority achievement and aspiration.” Trump’s vociferous Aug. 16 press conference ― where he defended the Charlottesville White Supremacists ― illuminated Donald’s true feelings.
The primary focus of Trump’s prejudice has been immigration. On Aug. 2, Trump endorsed a Republican initiative ― led by Senators Cotton and Perdue ― that would dramatically change immigration policy and reduce immigration levels by 50 percent. That same day, presidential aide Stephen Miller appeared at a White House press conference to laud the immigration initiative and claim that current policy has produced a slew of economic problems such as income inequality and a dearth of good-paying jobs. (There’s no compelling evidence for this assertion but it plays well with Trump’s base.)
Besides being immoral, Trump’s prejudice undermines American democracy. It jeopardizes the core notion that we are “one nation, indivisible.” The United States has thrived because it has been seen as a land of opportunity, a vast “level playing field,” where anyone willing to work hard could be successful regardless of gender, race, religion or national origin.
Climate Change: Donald Trump is a climate change denier and a tool of the fossil-fuel industry. His actions ― whether taking the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord or appointing climate change deniers to top administration positions ― are deleterious to the health and safety of all Americans. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma proved that we need to drastically curtail carbon emissions (and move millions of Americans to higher ground).
International Relations: On Jan. 20, Donald Trump became the United States leading “diplomat.” Unfortunately, Trump does not practice diplomacy; he doesn’t believe in negotiating for the common good, striving for a “win-win” agreement where both negotiating partners feel good. Trump is a “deal-maker,” which he once capsulized as “the thrill of winning.” He’s not interested in fair agreements but rather ones where he comes out looking good.
Now Donald represents the U.S. in a variety of harrowing matters. He is negotiating with North Korea, Russia, Iran and China, among others. Furthermore, Trump is negotiating perilous issues such as the proliferation of nuclear arms, global climate change, immigration and sex trafficking.
National Consciousness: We live in a difficult time. Many Americans are experiencing a level of psychological disturbance above and beyond what we might attribute to living in the fast-paced modern world. The national zeitgeist features anger, despair and hatred.
Much of this widespread psychological disturbance has been caused by Hurricane Donald. It’s unsettling for the nation to be led by an unstable bully. A man who lies all the time. Who does not care about the national interest, but rather what benefits him. A president who does not treasure democracy.