Thank Pampered Political Class for 2016's Angry Electorate

Thank Pampered Political Class for 2016's Angry Electorate
Marisa Wojcik/The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram via AP
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After Tuesday night’s election returns from Wisconsin gave Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz their victories over Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, respectively, the pundit class promptly anointed April 5 as the pivot point in the 2016 presidential election. This was about the eighth supposed “turning point” in the election—if you listen to the TV talking heads.

In describing this campaign season as a series of “defining” moments, however, the pundits have gotten the headline right, but the story wrong. The reality is this campaign isn’t about a series of moments over the past 12 months. It’s the byproduct of two decades of neglect and corruption by the ruling duopoly in Washington, D.C. That dereliction of duty has been defined by moments, each of which has left the American people wondering who their leaders really represent.  

Sometimes these moments are simply examples of a Congress populated by lawyers with no practical experience in anything other than the inner workings of government. They enact policy prescriptions that favor the special interests that fund the Republican and Democratic parties—or embrace solutions that are well intentioned, but naïve. 

Pass a trade agreement that’s going to eliminate a couple million jobs? No worries. A dollop of Trade Adjustment Assistance will solve that problem. A series of such decisions on trade policy, supported by both Democrats and Republicans, left millions of Americans economically dislocated. Those workers do not typically field a half-dozen employment offers from lobbying firms when they need a job—the path open to former members of Congress and their staffs. While free trade has led to lower prices for American consumers, our government has done a terrible job anticipating and planning for the negative effects of globalization on millions of American workers.

There are other examples of cavalier law making by our elected officials. The passage of Medicare Part D in 2003 was heralded at the time as being good for retirees, and by many measures it was. It was even better for the pharmaceutical industry, which bargained for prohibiting Medicare’s ability to negotiate prices. Is it any wonder drug prices are skyrocketing and Americans not covered by Medicare can no longer afford their prescriptions?

There was the moment in 2008 when Congress bailed out the financial industry, followed by the moment in 2014 when it passed the cromnibus bill that allowed those same institutions to make risky bets again inside their government-insured institutions. Such a double standard is called privatizing profits and socializing losses. It conforms to no known political ideology. What it does conform to is access to campaign cash—and possibly post-congressional employment. It passed with support from both Republicans and Democrats. When the campaign coffers of the Democrats who supported the 2014 bill were examined, it turned out they received twice as much money from the financial services industry as those who voted against it.

Whether it’s a tax code that says investing is more valuable than working, or a bank established with government money that subsidizes large corporations, or a corporate tax system that rewards companies that reincorporate in other countries, Americans are sick and tired of the status quo. They’re sick and tired of a system that’s rigged against them and ignores their needs.

These are the moments, and there were many others, that have fueled the Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump insurgencies—and produced Ted Cruz as the main Republican alternative to Trump. While the establishment seems befuddled by the choices Americans are making, they shouldn't blame the voters, as they’re starting to do. They need to look in the mirror and realize that this revolt by the American people is the logical result of a pampered political class that ignores festering national problems while putting its own interests ahead of the nation’s.

Greg Orman, a Kansas businessman, ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014 as an Independent. His book, “A Declaration of Independents,” was published in May.

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