Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer, author of “Us vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism,” explains how the American working and middle classes haven’t seen improved standards of living over the past 40 years. This has resulted in the rise in anti-establishment figures like Trump and Bernie Sanders-mirroring the populist wave in Europe. Following is a transcript of the video.
Ian Bremmer: If you are a member of the working or middle class in the United States your life has not improved in last 40 forty years.
We have taken hundreds and hundreds of millions of people out of poverty around the world over the course of the past decades. The rise of China has been extraordinary, 1.4 billion people we’ve never seen anything like it. That growth has occurred on the back of open borders and free trade, no question.
But you have lost a lot of opportunities in the West. You have created much greater structural inequality and it’s not just about the economy, but the economy’s a big piece of it. If you are a member of the working or middle class in the United States your life has not improved in the last 40 years, you feel like the American dream no longer applies to you while the Chinese feel like the Chinese dream that’s something that they can be a part of. That obviously undermines the notion of liberal democracy.
If the majority of Americans don’t think they’re capitalists ’cause they don’t have capital then they’re not gonna support a capitalist system and they’re particularly not gonna support it if they think that the capitalists on top aren’t doing anything for them. If their infrastructure isn’t being invested into, if their schools aren’t being invested into, if their policing isn’t being invested into, if their healthcare is worse than it used to be, if we’re not responding to a massive opioid crisis then they’re not going to support these governments.
And by the way, we’re saying this at a time when the US economy is growing at a strong clip. We’re saying this at a time when the IMF has just upgraded their expectations for global growth in 2018 and 2019 to 3.9%, the best the world economy has done since before the financial crisis. If that’s the case now, what’s gonna happen in the next recession? What’s gonna happen suddenly when we don’t have a huge tax plan that benefits everyone and we’re spending like crazy and increasing the deficit. What’s gonna happen suddenly when times get tighter and when the corporations aren’t hitting the profitability that they are right now. I mean clearly this is a situation that is going to get worse.
We elected Trump in the United States. So people think it was an illegitimate election but there’s no question he got the Republican nomination over 16 other candidates and Ted Cruz was probably number two. Bernie Sanders was clearly enormously popular on the Democratic side. Whoever won the US election, we’ve not seen an election like this with this kind of anti-establishment sentiment in certainly, not as long as I’ve been alive, and in Europe the vote for Brexit, in Germany, the support for the Alternatives For Deutschland party for the first time a nationalist party in the German parliament since Word War II. Given their history that’s extraordinary. In Italy, the Five Star movement, the Northern League winning from the far left and the far right, this is obviously not an accident.
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