Are you one of the “protected” or are you one of the “unprotected”? A very interesting question if you live in America. A question you might want to better understand as we head into the 2016 elections.
This Stonyhill Nugget was the result of an article I read recently by John Mauldin entitled Life On The Edge. (http://www.mauldineconomics.com/frontlinethoughts/life-on-the-edge). In the article, Mauldin referred to a Wall Street Journal article entitled “Trump and the Rise of the Unprotected” written by President Reagan’s speechwriter Peggy Noonan. (http://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-and-the-rise-of-the-unprotected-1456448550)
I found these articles intriguing. They offered a different way to think about our situation both individually and nationally. Here’s a brief summary of the articles.
They essentially described the “ordinary” and the poor in our nation as the “unprotected”. In Noonan’s words, “There are the protected and the unprotected. The protected make public policy. They feel they can do what they want and impose any reality that makes sense to them because they are insulated from most of the consequences that result from their decisions. The unprotected live in the world created by the protected.”
“The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully.”
She describes the protected as the accomplished, the secure, the successful……those who have power or access to it. They are insulated from the roughness of the world they have created. They live in safe neighborhoods, they have money, and their children go to good private charter schools. Not public schools.
The unprotected have limited resources, they feel vulnerable, and they “see” immigration as a metaphor for all the distance between governments and their citizens. They understand that immigrants often work at lower wages and impact the availability of jobs.
The protected are unaffected by immigration….legal or illegal.
Again in her words “We are governed by protected people who don’t seem to care that much about their unprotected fellow citizens. In wise governments, the top is attentive to the realities of the lives of normal people and careful about their anxieties.”
I believe those words very accurately describe why so many in our nation are feeling unprotected, angry, fed up with the inequalities they experience, and living hand to mouth without hope for a better future for themselves or their children. They live every day in fear of losing their job, another downturn in the economy (which a majority of financial experts are saying is all but inevitable) given the fact that over 10,000 baby boomers a day will be entering retirement for the next ten years. A large number of those retirees are experiencing anxiety as they enter or face retirement with little to no savings. In fact, statistics say many baby boomers are heading into retirement still carrying significant debt. Stated differently, they will no longer be driving the economy.
70% of Americans would fall under the label unprotected. Only 30% would be defined as protected. In America, 47% of the unprotected are currently living in or on the edge of poverty. 40 million Americans lost jobs in the 2007 to 2009 recession. The majority of the unprotected who were able to acquire new employment are still working today at jobs that pay less than they were earning before the recession. Only 25% of displaced workers got back to a pre-layoff earnings level after five years.
A recent article reported that those in the unprotected 47% category are juggling creditors and unable to cover an unexpected $400 emergency without having to sell something, or borrow the money. Yet many of our politicians running for office in 2016 describe these unprotected people as lazy, unmotivated, and content to live on government handouts that are harming our economy.
When you add that shaming statement to a media that talks in glowing terms about the “recovering economy”, $3500 rebates and $0 down on a new $55,000 pick up truck, Alaskan cruise vacations…..while essentially ignoring the growing predictions of another serious pullback in the global economy by financial experts…… it makes sense why so many of the unprotected in our country are angry. Most of them never expected they would suffer financially.
On a personal note, I understand their frustration. We lost about 40% of our retirement in the 2000 recession and another 40% in the 2008 recession. And since 2008 the economy is still struggling to recover, and the stock market has been flat. It begs the question as to whether we should define ourselves as protected or unprotected. And we are not alone. Many of you reading this article probably have similar stories to share.
The Danger of Fear To Shut Down Rational Thinking
It’s human nature for fear to shut down rational thinking and significantly increase activity in the emotional right hemisphere of the human brain. To say this differently, when a high percentage of a nation’s population are angry, their ability to think rationally shuts down. They become highly vulnerable to people like Trump, who intentionally play on that fear. As we head into the 2016 elections, fear is shutting down the intellect of a large majority of the American population.
When we include a GOP that appears to have little understanding as to how Trump has been able to gain so much political traction…things get scary. The GOP and other conservative politicians are convinced that Trump is an anomaly. I don’t believe that to be true. Trump is very intentionally playing on the growing anger of the unprotected.
Public Policy Has Been Creating The Unprotected For Decades
The wealthy protected who make public policy have been intentionally moving our nation away from the concept of “mutual benefit” for decades. Mutual benefit is a concept taken from nature in which every living being on the planet has equal access to the resources of our planetary life support system. The unprotected, both here in our nation and around the world, have been intentionally denied access by public policy to “mutual benefit” and the resources provided by nature and our world’s economic systems.
If the economists are right, that there could be another big economic pullback coming, just picture what the elections might look like in 2020 when even more of the unprotected are denied “mutual benefit” access to the resources enjoyed by the protected. Not a pretty picture.
As I write about often in the Stonyhill Nuggets, we need to begin embracing the sobering realities that are coming…..to all of humanity, not just the Western world. And global climate change is only going to increase the severity of the challenges that are coming.
As I stated above, the problems of the unprotected are growing. Our nation is becoming more angry. Many of the protected policy makers in the Democratic party, the conservative GOP, and other ultra conservative politicians still don’t get it. Change is coming, and it is going to impact every person on the planet sooner than most believe. We are not listening to the lessons and laws of nature. We are not embracing the concepts of “mutual benefit”. And the consequences of public policies that deny “mutual benefit” are going to significantly increase the intensity of the changes coming.
As Mauldin points out, “if you’re in the unprotected class, your vote is not for sale. The unprotected are discovering that their votes are important. They can make a difference.”
The best way to deal with fear is to accept it and work to keep your thinking grounded in rational thinking. We need change, but we don’t need to create more chaos and suffering by public policies that deny “mutual benefit” to the unprotected. We need creative solutions to the challenges that are approaching. And we need a voting population willing to make the difficult changes those creative solutions will call us to embrace.
The future is not going to look like the past.
Prepare for change.
Don’t try to push the river. It never works.