Will America Be Regretful In November?
Close the borders!
That must have sounded really convincing to 52 percent of voters in the United Kingdom. In a non-binding referendum last week, they voted to leave the European Union, even though it was quickly obvious that a sizeable number of them had no idea what they were unleashing.
Predictably, chaos followed. Stock markets plummeted. The British pound note dropped 12 percent against the U.S. dollar. Prime Minister David Cameron resigned. Services were threatened.
Most telling of all, leaders of the “Leave” movement quickly backtracked from some of the extravagant promises they made to entice voters to their side.
More money for health care, tighter borders and an idyllic return to yesterday were among the implied benefits of leaving the union. Except some of the top politicians from the so-called Brexit movement are now saying that, well, they didn’t mean all that. People feel duped, as well they should.
So while the UK grapples with what to do next (an online petition for a new referendum has more than 3 million signatures) what’s the lesson for voters in the United States in this era of global disgust with the political status quo?
They might start by examining what difference between what Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump says and what he can actually do if he is elected president.
Start with his biggest promise: To build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and make Mexico pay for it. Theoretically that could happen. It could be financed with tariffs, withholding aid, and things like that. Of course, building such a wall would make the U.S. look like buffoons to the rest of the world, but Trump seems to think bullying qualifies as leadership.
He says he would “get rid of Obamacare and replace it with something terrific.” It will not be that easy, of course, to dismantle. It certainly cannot be accomplished with the wave of his hand, especially if Democrats regain control of the Senate.
Maybe his biggest fairy tale: He promises to cut the budget by 20 percent and reduce the $18 trillion national debt while strengthening Social Security and Medicare and embarking on a plan to completely rebuild the U.S. infrastructure. Sounds great, but he also wants to greatly expand the military.
Fun fact: The U.S. now spends more money on the military than the next seven nations COMBINED. How you do all that and cut the budget by 20 percent, while getting Congress to play along, would require an astounding budgetary parlor trick. Economists estimate Trump’s tax and spending plan would actually add $10 trillion to the deficit over the next decade.
He said he would bully American companies to stop building plants in other countries, like Ford Motors is doing in Mexico. Sounds great. Of course, he can’t actually do that and even if he could labor is more expensive here and prices for those goods would skyrocket.
By the way, Trump also was an enthusiastic supporter of the Brexit movement in the UK. We see how that is working out.
In trying to explain the Trump phenomenon, the most often used word is “anger.” Millions of people here and abroad feel powerless against a system they believe is rigged against them. They worry about unsecured borders, and they especially fume about working hard while undocumented immigrants get government benefits.
It becomes easy to wish those problems away with the stroke of an “X” at the ballot box. Actually bringing about meaningful change, though, is not quite so easy. Making politicians actually follow through on their promises is even harder.
Voters in Great Britain are finding that out. In November, we’ll find out if voters here have been paying attention.