Nov 092020

My friends both in the USA and in my own country are ecstatically congratulating one another on the Biden/Harris victory, and I too am relieved to see the imminent end of Trump’s barbarian one-man show. But this may not be the end of his methods, and I think it is important not to be carried away by triumphalism.

The difference was, after all, only four million votes. True, we are rid of Trumpism for four years, but many poor and/or non-white prospective Democratic voters told interviewers that they intended to vote only to get rid of Trump, not because they thought Biden would “make a difference” for them. Will they come out again in four years?

Who voted for Trump and why? I agree with those who maintain that the media played a big part. But Trump, too, blamed the media. In fact, far from all the media was pro-Trump. So I must ask: What is the main difference between people who believe a headline like “chlorine kills Covid”, or who subscribe to the Pizzagate conspiracy, and those who don’t? I maintain that by substantially improving educational opportunities for all young citizens, we would substantially reduce vulnerability to false news in the course of only three or four years.

Evangelical Trump followers were loyal regardless of the press, and there were very many of them, even though they knew what sort of person he was. They believed God was using him because he had promised to continue helping Israel engulf Palestine. I’m not privy to their beliefs, but as I understand it, they are convinced that all of this will hasten the return of the Messiah. Not much you can do about that, I guess.

I have the impression that the past decades (since the 70s) have seen a downhill slide for a large part of the US population as is described, for instance, in the Guardian: Who will speak for…

The so-called “divided America” is not just about Trump. It is to a large extent about despair, humiliation and loss of dignity. It is also about anger.

Trump is angry, too. He claims to hate the elite. To many voters it seemed that because of his ostentatious and iconoclastic alleged anti-elitism, Trump was being humiliated, ridiculed and harassed by mainstream press, just like them. He told them he was on their side, and they hoped he would get rid of some of the multinational corporations that had gobbled up their livelihoods.

I believe that what Trump really hates is science, education, etc.,and anything that stands in his way. Getting rid of him does not, however, mean you get rid of his voters who want something neither Trump nor Biden can or will give them: decently paid work, education and proper health care.

From Thomas Piketty’s book (see the Harvard Gazette article How political ideas keep economic inequality going) we learn that inequality in all of the western world has been rising steadily ever since the seventies, and is now back at where it was before WWI. This trend is not due to Trump, is not limited to the USA, and is not going to stop by itself.

Meanwhile, to quote the above Guardian article, “It is one thing to be spinning your wheels stuck in the mud, but it is even more demeaning to watch as others zoom by on well-paved roads, none offering help.”

Take a look the below graph from the Fed.

Jul 012017

I’d like to tell you about an article I read in El País this morning, about Luanda. I hadn’t really intended to read it – I mean, who cares about Luanda? But there was an intriguing dislocation in the heading that I could not resist: The most expensive city in the world is in an underdeveloped country. Now why would that be? I wondered, so I read on.

Yes, rich countries are the ones with expensive capitals, so how come Luanda has surpassed them all with regard not only to the price of water? In 2017, I read, the most expensive cities are, in descending order: Luanda, Hong Kong, Tokio, Zurich, Singapore, Seoul, Geneva, Shanghai, New York and Bern. Madrid follows way down the line as no. 111, and Barcelona is only no. 121. Now how about that!

Well you see, the article tells me, Angola is actually a super-rich country, for the rich that is, who enjoy its oil and diamonds. (Just think of it, diamonds!) The country is so rich that its government has been kind enough to pass a minimum salary law, giving employees the right to the equivalent of EUR 88/month (assuming the employment in question is declared, of course). This amount is just enough to pay for 30 litres of water, 10 kg of rice and 10 litres of milk. Now that might not sound all that bad to you, but try surviving on this amount of water, milk and rice for a whole month.

And what about this figure: about 50% of all families living in Luanda have no running water.

I leave El País and look up the CIA “World Factbook” – to make quite sure that I have not misunderstood Angola’s situation: No, Angola is not considered a communist state or even a dictatorship. In 2012, I read in the CIA World Factbook, “the UN assessed that conditions in Angola had been stable for several years and invoked a cessation of refugee status for Angolans.”

To conclude – and I am no longer leaning on either the CIA World Factbook or El País – I note that the famous GDP (whether nominal or forecasted (PPP)) (see Wikipedia as at 1/7/2017) tells us very little about whether or not a country stinks – excuse my French. Personally, I have learned today that Angola, for instance, is a particularly bad country to live in for almost everybody.

I would like to add on a more positive note, however, as there there are other ways of measuring countries. There is something called the HDI – Human Development Index, which is better able to describe a country than the GDP and GDI. You are of course welcome to disagree with me, but since I do not allow comments, I shall never know.