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Porter on Unhappiness of the Unwealthy

The so-called Brexit vote was driven by an inchoate sense among older white workers with modest education that they have been passed over, condemned by forces beyond their control to an uncertain job for little pay in a world where their livelihoods are challenged not just by cheap Asian workers halfway around the world, but closer to home by waves of immigrants of different faiths and skin tones.

It is the same frustration that has buoyed proto-fascist political parties across Europe. It is the same anger fueling the candidacy of Mr. Trump in the United States. ...

The Keynesian era ended when Thatcher and Reagan rode onto the scene with a version of capitalism based on tax cuts, privatization and deregulation that helped revive their engines of growth but led the workers of the world to the deeply frustrating, increasingly unequal economy of today.

There are potentially constructive approaches to set the world economy on a more promising path. For starters, what about taking advantage of rock-bottom interest rates to tap the world’s excess funds to build and repair a fraying public infrastructure? That would employ legions of blue-collar workers and help increase economic growth, which has been only inching ahead across much of the industrialized world. ...

Despite the case for economic stimulus, austerity still rules across much of the West. In Europe, most governments have imposed stringent budget cuts — ensuring that all but the strongest economies would stall. In the United States, political polarization has brought fiscal policy — spending and taxes — to a standstill.

- Eduardo Porter, In ‘Brexit’ and Trump, a Populist Farewell to Laissez-Faire Capitalism, NYT, June 28, 2016



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