Confusing current national issue #49985787002231
June 1, 2019 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Why do economic conservatives like Trump?

I understand President's Trump's appeal on several ideological levels in America now: right to life, nostalgic- nationalist, xenophobic.
What I don't understand, especially now: why do economic conservative, often behind-the-scenes wealthy elites, who want nothing more than unfettered free hand capitalism and unrestricted global trade, support Trump? They also may believe in social/cultural conservative values but the people I'm talking about are not driven by those; they use them to advance their economic advantage.
So why do they (still) like Trump?
posted by nantucket to Law & Government (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
They're playing the long game. Trump isn't going to last forever, but the judges he's appointing will determine the course of American history for at least a generation, no matter what happens in future elections.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:32 AM on June 1 [17 favorites]

[One comment deleted; let's keep the focus very specifically on "economic conservative, often behind-the-scenes wealthy elites, who [are driven by an agenda of] unfettered free hand capitalism and unrestricted global trade", rather than why other people might support Trump.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:51 AM on June 1 [1 favorite]

Although tariffs and trade wars don't align with the goals of the people you're talking about (and they do oppose Trump on that front), broad deregulation generally does.
posted by egregious theorem at 9:58 AM on June 1 [2 favorites]

Their long game is to get ever lower taxes and fewer regulations so they can externalize all the costs and keep all the profits.

An occasional tariff war doesn't matter to them. In fact, it's to their benefit since temporary instability weeds out the small players.
posted by dum spiro spero at 9:59 AM on June 1 [10 favorites]

Rich people remain rich by keeping more of their money. Trump's policies, especially his tax laws, allow them to do that. When he was boasting that not paying taxes made him smart, he was telling the wealthy elites that he would help them do the same.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 10:20 AM on June 1 [3 favorites]

They don't actually want truly unfettered free-hand capitalism; they're happy to see the state as a 100% owned subsidiary of the richest. Kleptocracy pushes us in that direction.
posted by praemunire at 10:21 AM on June 1 [12 favorites]

I think the answer is in your question. You are describing people who “want nothing more than unfettered free hand capitalism and unrestricted global trade” because they believe these things “advance their economic advantage.” They believe in policy A because it leads to benefit B. If they think that Trump’s actions so far also “advance their economic advantage,” they don’t mind the alternative route Trump has taken to get there. They are ok with the status quo of policy X because it has led to benefit B. Their economic beliefs are a means to an end of increasing their personal wealth, and they will accept other means to that end.

More complex questions - Does this make them doubt their belief that the best route to benefit B is policy A, if policy X also leads there? Are they correct in their perception that Trump is advancing their economic advantage over both the short and long term? Is it accurate that this set of people is less likely to be morally repelled away from Trump (cares more about money than ethics, human rights, etc) and if so, why? All of those I don’t have an answer to.
posted by sallybrown at 10:46 AM on June 1 [2 favorites]

Tax cuts (and attendant buybacks); repatriation of foreign-earned income; deregulation. The gutting of the CFPB, FCC, IRS audit capacity, etc., and the appointment of foxes to guard the henhouses.

"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices." -- Adam Smith
posted by holgate at 10:46 AM on June 1 [6 favorites]

Opportunity cost. Trump may not always be their preferred option, but if the alternative is Bernie a Sanders, Trump starts to look a little better. But if someone with stronger free trade credentials challenges Trump in the primary, watch their fundraising.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:26 AM on June 1

The corporate tax cuts that Trump made are permanent, while the individual tax code changes expire at the end of 2025.

The tax cuts are great news for companies doing share buyback, which is turn is excellent for shareholders. The individual tax cuts are also great news, but the problem of what to do when they expire will be for another kleptocrat to deal with. In the meantime, more money and equity funnel up to the wealthiest.

The tariffs are individual taxes that are actually beneficial to some businesses and wealthy individuals, who don't eat the added costs — they pass those on to consumers.

Moreover, tariffs are taxes that contribute to the federal coffers. This helps reduce the debt burden caused by the corporate and individual tax cuts, but it also gives room for Trump and associates to distribute payola in the form of farm subsidies, which may sound like a benefit aimed for small farmers but are really payouts to large agricultural corporations.

Regulatory agencies are actively working in favor of the businesses they were originally tasked to regulate. As one example, the FCC falsified public input to determine how to rule on the matter of net neutrality, which ultimately has gone in favor of telecommunications companies. As another, the EPA is now managed by people from the energy sector, who have helped dismantle longer-term policies meant to move the US away from fossil fuel extraction and consumption.

Regulatory burdens are also being rewritten in Orwellian terms, where businesses and wealthy individuals are rebranded as "stakeholders" who not only contribute to how regulations are written and enforced, but take over some of those roles normally left to the government.

Boeing's 787 Max death planes are a good model for how "stakeholders" manage oversight, where federal regulatory agencies are placed near to the corporate entity, which makes it easier to hand off their responsibilities. This model is being spread to the USDA, which is now deregulating pork production by handing off the work of USDA inspectors to pork plant employees.

Trump is also not sentimental, where a sale can be made. Ignoring his own emoluments clause violations, one can look at the larger picture of sales of weapons and nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, despite this state being responsible for terrible human rights violations and war crimes in Yemen. Actions like these, in turn, benefit the military-industrial complex and its shareholders.

In all, fiscal conservatives love Trump for a mix of large and small, short- and long-term adjustments to how the federal government interacts with businesses and the wealthiest Americans, which give favor to the latter in ways that will be politically and logistically difficult to undo, even after Trump is out of office. It's a new Gilded Age, just with more overt racism and sexism.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:44 AM on June 1 [9 favorites]

People are making a lot of good points BUT ALSO I think rich people and/or economic conservatives do dumb things that go against their interests at least as much as the rest of us, we just don't notice as much because they don't have to face the consequences of their dumb actions because they're insulated by their wealth. Like, surely we've all seen a business get run into the ground by owners who insisted on cheaping out on paying their workers or upgrading their equipment?

Basically: it's foolish of them to support Trump, but they do it anyway for the same reasons as everyone else.
posted by mskyle at 11:49 AM on June 1 [2 favorites]

I doubt that most pro-trump oligarchs want "unfettered free hand capitalism". Most want captive regulatory agencies that will overlook pollution, fraud and money laundering, and that will pass "common-sense" regulations to prevent competitors from entering "their own" personal free markets.

Trump himself could care less about that, but all of his agency heads are 100% corporate tools. Ajit Pai at the FCC is a perfect example: anything Verizon wants, it gets.
posted by monotreme at 11:52 AM on June 1 [3 favorites]

Trump is methodically hollowing-out every department of government save the military. That’s like a siren song to fiscal conservatives. He’s actually doing the “shrink it so small you can drown it in the bath” dream for them.

And, even if Democrats take over the Senate, House, and White House, it will require an enormous increase in spending to bring government back up to snuff, which would probably require recinding Trump’s tax cuts, which will, once again, play right into the traditional “tax and spend” image of the Dems, which those conservatives love to pillory dems/liberals with. Trump’s administration is like the biggest poison pill evar.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:18 PM on June 1 [3 favorites]

I was curious, so I loaded up a big survey from the 2016 election and only looked at what I imagine is your target group -- people with family incomes over $250K, who are anglo, and who are at least a little bit conservative and republican, around 85% of whom voted for Trump. Even in a survey with pushing 50,000 respondents, there were only a couple of hundred of these folks so take with a grain of salt.

The answer seems to be that there are just not many people in your target group of rich fuckers voting purely economically.

In that group, the few broadly economic issue positions didn't seem to drive voting for Trump or went the wrong way. Conservative Republican rich anglos who supported the Pacific trade treaty were *less* likely to vote for Trump, not more.

What drove voting for Trump among that group was wanting to deport immigrants, disbelieving that "angry racists" exist, and disbelieving in white privilege. Or, if you'd rather, that 15% of the group that didn't vote for Trump? Those were people who *supported* free trade, and who believe that racists and white privilege exist, and that don't want to round up and deport undocumented people.

So, I see two answers here. One is that your premise is wrong -- to the extent that rich fuckers voting economically exist, they actually don't like Trump, or at least didn't then. The other is that to the extent that you see rich fuckers saying that they're voting economically and not because racist, they're lying just like all the other Trump voters who say they're not doing so because racist.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:19 PM on June 1 [6 favorites]

A leopard doesn't change its spots, and some people aren't going to change their political affiliation, no matter what, even Trump.
posted by SemiSalt at 1:42 PM on June 1

Why do economic conservatives like Trump?

Because he isn't a Democrat.

It really isn't any more complicated than that.
posted by flabdablet at 5:13 AM on June 2 [3 favorites]

What flabdablet said. Broadly speaking, we experience Trump as unchecked id, but this tends to obscure the fact that Trump + McConnell + previously Ryan is a remarkably effective vehicle for the Republican agenda, including the conventional, though deeply unpopular, Republican economic agenda. The tariffs amount to a short term inconvenience, well worth the trade-off in judges, tax policy, deregulation, and elite self-dealing.
posted by kensington314 at 4:10 PM on June 2

There are "economic conservatives" covers many subgroups. Professional economic conservatives - e.g., economists who have served in previous Republican administrations - loathe Trump. However, with Republicans in charge of the Presidency and Congress, they were able to pass the largest tax cut in a generation. In their view, that balances many sins.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:37 PM on June 2

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