The rise of Trump has provoked a considerable outpouring of commentary from the pundits. Most of it centered on the chief complaint that the white working class is upset about losing its privileged position and see Trump as the ticket to setting things right.
There is considerable truth to this story. Trump’s strongest support comes from white men without college degrees, although he also does quite well among small business owners. But before we condemn these workers as hopeless Neanderthals, it is worth stepping back a bit to consider what led them to support Donald Trump’s candidacy in the first place.
The “privilege” that these working class whites are looking to defend is middle-class factory jobs paying between $15 and $30 an hour. These jobs generally came with decent health care benefits and often a traditional defined benefit pension, although that has become increasingly rare over the last two decades.
This is certainly a privileged position compared to billions of people in the developing world who would be happy to make $15 a day. It is also privileged compared to women, whose pay still averages less than 80 percent of their male counterparts. And, it is privileged compared to the situation of Americans of color who have frequently been trapped in the least desirable and lowest-paying jobs.
But these factory jobs and other blue collar occupations are hardly privileged when compared to the high flyers in the financial industry, the CEOs and other top level managers, or even professionals like doctors and dentists. These groups have all seen substantial increases in their pay and living standards over the last four decades.
If you want to see “privilege,” look to the CEO making $20 million a year as they turn in a mediocre performance managing a major corporation. Or talk to a cardiologist, an occupation with a median annual salary of more than $420,000 a year.
The pundits all know about these disparities in pay, but they want us to believe that they have nothing to do with privilege; rather, they reflect the natural workings of the market. And they tend to act really ridiculous when shown evidence otherwise.
Source: Dean Baker | truthout