How did our economy become so titled against the middle class and the poor, thus leading to an embrace of the more nationalistic soundings of Donald Trump in 2016? We must acknowledge that the fount of his appeal had a wellspring in changes in the America fabric that took placee over a long sweep of time and with some jarring impacts in the 21st century. Nicholas Lemann, author of ‘Transaction Man’, traces it back to a move away from an institution-oriented society to one that is based more on transactions. Those who were relegated to minor roles as middle man in finance, for example, found their impact growing as our attachment to government and larger corporations began dwindling. And going back to the growth of the middle class in America, after World War II, it was the corporations, with significant checks by unions and government, which really provided a kind of welfare state–good benefits, longevity and decent incomes–even for those without higher education. As the transaction man ascended, much of that security washed away as union power was reduced, regulations of finance stripped away by both parties and exotic financial instruments put the whole economy in jeopardy. Politicians often looked for scapegoats for conditions and fears they contributed to, as a hollowed out middle class became restless. And while the economy is doing well on a macro basis, the emergence of the transaction man, abetted by the network man(in the gig economy), puts the onus on the individual in new and challenging ways. You may have an aha moment or two listening to this as he frames our economic uncertainty in a clear and convincing historical light.
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