Populism is a political ideology that holds that citizens are often exploited by small circles of corrupt elites, who can be overthrown if the people recognize the danger and work together. Populism arose in response to the 19th century “robber barons” who used their wealth to crush competition, rig markets, and corrupt government. Many Americans have embraced populism after realizing that today’s political, cultural, and media elites pose just as great a threat to the rights and well-being of common people, as the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts did over 140 years ago.
I embraced populism after concluding that my fellow conservatives have done little – if anything – to curb the power of the reigning oligarchy. Indeed, conservatives have empowered the rise of the elites by lowering taxes on the super-rich while allowing the tax burden on the middle class to increase dramatically. For example, the median income in 1955 was about $5,000 a year, with each dependent providing a $600 write off. Since then, incomes have increased tenfold via inflation while the dependent exemption has only increased about four times, thereby exposing much more of middle class income to federal taxes. On the other hand, the top marginal rates from the 1950s and 1960s on the very rich have come tumbling down thanks to conservatives, allowing the elites to have more disposal income to purchase politicians and bribe political parties and civic organizations.
Conservatives also fail to see how the current wave of low-skilled, low-wage immigration has ripped off the middle and working classes while lining the pockets of the elites. By drawing millions of low-skilled, semi-literate ADULT workers primarily from Mexico and Central America willing to work for $7 an hour, the “free market” stance advocated by conservatives has only served to burden the working and middle class through job displacement, higher property taxes (to pay for educating immigrant children), and much higher health insurance premiums (to pay for their emergency room visits). Lord, can’t rank and file conservatives see how badly they are getting screwed by the rich who get all of the benefits but none of the costs of cheap adult immigrant labor?
And finally, conservatives have allowed the Left to take over the public schools and academia, resulting in the dramatic dumbing down of our nation’s school children. As the populist comedian George Carlin pointed out years ago, this intentional dumbing down of the younger generation serves the interests of “the owners of America” who want obedient and compliant workers, who are just smart enough to run the machinery and fill out the paperwork, but not smart enough to realize how they have been screwed by a system that threw them overboard 40 years ago. Populists should not be fooled by “well-intentioned” elites who push Common Core and other welfare state ruses designed to keep poor people dependent, middle class kids woefully educated, while the children of the elite and privilege attend stellar schools and receive a world class education designed to keep them in positions of power.
From what I have seen in my lifetime the “rising tide” advocated by conservatives does not lift all boats, but rather only the biggest yachts.