Trump’s policy proposals will make things worse – he’s taking the policies that created the problem and doubling them.
“Money is the mother’s milk of politics.”
It’s an old saying that’s never been truer than in this election.
But like so many aspects of this campaign, the conventional wisdom about money has been upended by reality.
A reality in which Democrat Hillary Clinton, standard-bearer of the supposed working-class party, has generated donations of more than $600m compared with $430m raised by and for her Republican opponent, plutocrat Donald Trump.
A reality in which Clinton has relied heavily on the deep pockets of billionaire hedge fund managers and banking CEOs; whereas not a single chief executive of a Fortune 100 company has donated to Trump, the candidate who’s promised to unleash phenomenal economic growth thanks to his own financial brilliance.
A reality in which polls show Clinton holding a narrow edge among likely voters with household incomes of $100k or more – the top 10 percent.
Another survey found Clinton topping Trump 53 percent to 25 percent among those earning $250,000 or more.
It’s a stark shift from 2012, when the financial elite cast 10 percent more votes for Republican Mitt Romney than for Barack Obama.
And a departure from half a century of more high-earner support for the Republican presidential contender than the Democrat.
What might account for this class reversal? Not the candidates’ differences over taxes.
Trump promises tax cuts for all, but would particularly slash corporate taxes and eliminate the estate tax, which affects only those who inherit about $5m or more ($11m left by a married couple).
Clinton, on the other hand, would raise taxes on high-income filers, repeal tax incentives for fossil fuel companies and increase estate and gift taxes.
So are the wealthy who favour Clinton betraying their own financial interests?
Stephen Kraus of the Ipsos Affluent Survey told the New York Times: “The affluent vote seems to be more about the concerns over Donald Trump than the enthusiasm for Clinton.”
The forecasting firm Oxford Economics looked at the candidates’ agendas and concluded that if Trump put through all his policies the economy would invite another recession, losing $1 trillion and four million jobs within five years.
Under Clinton’s proposals, economic growth would still be sluggish but more jobs would be created, according to the same report.
But beyond her ability to compete against a billionaire for the votes of the wealthy lies a political paradox.
It was Bernie Sanders who, notwithstanding his current support for her, explained what set the two apart during their hard-fought Democratic primary race.
“Our campaign,” he said, “is funded by the people. To a significant degree, her campaign is funded by Wall Street and big money interests.”
In fact, at least half the money raised by her and super-PACs that support Clinton has come in large sums.
Facebook co-founder and billionaire Dustin Moskovitz and his wife just pledged $20m to campaign groups supporting her.
It’s a donation that would have been illegal until the US Supreme Court opened the floodgates by allowing individuals and corporations to make unlimited contributions to political groups so long as they are not directly coordinated with a candidate.
Yet among Clinton’s campaign pledges, she promises to fight for a constitutional amendment that would overturn the court’s ruling.
If she succeeds, the wide-open spigots wouldn’t be shut off but the mother’s milk of politics that has nurtured her so well might not flow quite so freely.