Three major factors in Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler achieving power were mass rallies, a patriotic slogan and disillusionment over loss of influence in the world. Power was gained more easily and faster in Trump’s case because TV carries his message to millions rather than the thousands who could attend a Hitler rally.
Their slogans were similar: “Deutschland Über Alles” and “USA! USA! We’re #1.” Their main appeal was (is) to people who saw the world passing them by and blamed a specific group as the root of the problem — Jews for Hitler and Muslim and Latino immigrants (and Barack Obama) for Trump. Each promised to revive their country. Both had failed in their earliest endeavors — Hitler as a painter, Trump as a casino operator and football team owner. Both ignored their top advisers and governed by instinct rather than logic.
Hitler actually had some cause for complaint, in that the Allies had imposed crippling restrictions on Germany after World War I, in which a large portion of its working-age population had been killed or maimed. In contrast, America dominated the world after World War II because its industrial complex was intact, as was most of its youth and working-age population.
Time has whittled away America’s postwar industrial advantage as Europe, Japan and China have recovered. Also, America’s elites have grabbed an ever-larger share of our economy and exported millions of working- and middle-class jobs. But Trump blames our problems on his predecessors signing bad international trade deals.
The reality is that upper-class greed is at the root of America’s problems. Our health care is far worse than Europe’s. In 2017, our average premiums plus deductibles for a family were about $22,800, and 8.8 percent of Americans were not covered at all. In Europe, Japan and Australia, government pays for universal health care out of taxes. Our average waiting times to see a doctor are higher, and medicines here cost roughly twice what they do in Europe.
Personally, I don’t like to see millions of dollars wasted on TV ads for drugs for illnesses I have never heard of, nor do I like to read about doctors getting rich from commissions on drugs they prescribe. Bottom line: Europeans’ life expectancy is three years greater than ours.
“Our education system is the envy of the world.” Really? It’s certainly the most expensive! Yet our high school students rank only 38th in math and 24th in science and reading. Bachelor’s degrees are advertised as taking four years, but only 59 percent of students graduate within six. In Europe, the norm is three years, because they work harder in high school, and the top seven countries have graduation rates of more than 75 percent.
“We need to increase spending on our military!” Why? We already spend more than the next eight countries combined, four of whom are in NATO. We spend roughly three times as much as China and nine times as much as Russia. And we are protected by two rather large oceans. Seventeen years in Afghanistan (and counting) and 15 in Iraq. Again, why?
These problems are exacerbated by our political system, which has four glaring weaknesses.
1. Campaigns run for two years, as opposed to an average of 35 days in the U.K. and 14 in France, wasting what talents our candidates have.
2. There, elections are publicly financed, whereas here, companies and individuals can donate relatively freely — more than $3 billion in 2016. You’d have to be very naive to believe that doesn’t buy favors.
3. We really have only two parties, which means one is always in the majority and can ignore the other, as compared with Europe, where coalitions and compromise are the norm because a legislative defeat normally triggers a new election.
4. A majority of our voters seem to swear lifelong loyalty to a party rather than judging parties and individual candidates on their merits (or otherwise).
I encourage voters to vote out all incumbents this election in the hope that our politicians will get the message and start working for the people instead of their donors and party leaders.
Frank Fish, Park City, was born to a working-class family in England, studied mathematics in college, was a Fulbright Scholar and worked as an information systems consultant in the U.S., U.K., Italy and France before retiring.