Mankind, wrote Edward Gibbon, has a “propensity … to exalt the past and deprecate the present”. Donald Trump, the combed-over werewolf at Washington’s door, understands this. The reason he’s so worrisome is that for all too many voters, the past really was better.
In 1998, the median net worth of American families was $102,500. By 2013, measured in constant dollars, it was down 21% to $81,200, according to Federal Reserve (Fed) data crunched by personal finance columnist Liz Watson. Working-class families with incomes in the second-lowest quintile have been particularly hard-hit.
Their median net worth plunged 53% over the 15-year period, from $47,400 to $22,400. The top 10%, meanwhile, did nicely. Their median net worth surged 75%, to $1,130,700.
Which helps explain the distemper Trump is exploiting with his poisonous spew of other-bashing and protectionism. It also accounts for Bernie Sanders’s strong showing on the left. Assuming he does not win in November, Trump may end up doing his country and the world a favour, serving in all his vileness as a reform-inducing emetic.