One of the most frequently heard claims in this election cycle is that the political system in the United States — and more recently the Presidential election itself — is rigged against ordinary Americans. In this week’s Working-Class Perspective, Guy Standing explains that Trump’s first claim resonates with the electorate because it reflects the reality that our economy is structured to disadvantage working-class people.
Second, most countries have engaged in a ‘competitiveness’ game by which they indulge in beggar-my-neighbour fiscal policies that give oligarchs and multinationals incredible subsidies to encourage them to relocate or to stay. Such practices include selective tax systems as well as the widespread use of tax havens, tax avoidance arrangements, and access to low interest loans. Here again, the vast unearned subsidies go directly to the rich, not to the precariat or most other workers. This mechanism for inequality transfers income from the precariat to the elite and to financial intermediaries.
Third, a less appreciated form of “rigging,” is the steady commercialisation and privatisation of the commons, public spaces, natural resources, and services built up by and for the people over many generations. Often in the name of austerity, much of the commons has been given away, and more is planned, at discount prices to commercial interests. The accelerated depletion of public natural resources is having devastating ecological costs. It is supplying more rental income to the elite, and the loss is adding to the insecurity of the precariat.
The Working-Class Perspectives blog is brought to you by our Visiting Scholar for the 2015-16 academic year, John Russo, and Georgetown University English professor, Sherry Linkon. It features several regular and guest contributors.