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No One Said Rich People Were Very Sharp: Davos Tries to Combat Populism

No One Said Rich People Were Very Sharp: Davos Tries to Combat Populism

Dean Baker

Let's see, cattle ranchers are against vegetarianism, coal companies are against restricting CO2 emissions, and the Davos crew is trying to combat populism, according to The Washington Post. It is kind of amazing that the rich people at Davos would not understand how absurd this is.

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While I don’t refute that the rich aren’t very sharp, I wholly object to the use of the word “Populism” to accurately describe today’s political climate.

“Populism is a range of political approaches that deliberately appeal to ‘the people’, often juxtaposing this group against a so-called ‘elite’.”

And yet fewer than 27 percent of registered U.S. voters voted for Mafia Don Trump (ditto for Hillary).
That is not “Populism”.
Not voting says a lot more about the lack of support for candidates than does reluctant voting (like those Sanders supporters whom mostly ended up voting for Hillary).

Both Trump and Hillary were HIGHLY UNPOPULAR

In fact, looking at the “likers” and “followers” of Mafia Don on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, one can make a case he is LARGELY UNPOPULAR.

• At last glance Donald Trump only has some 23,748,322 (23.7 million) “likers” on Facebook.

• While he has some 57.3 m followers on Twitter, he typically ONLY gets some 20k-28k “likes” per tweet.

With 57.3m followers, even 28k “likes” represent a mere .04 percent of ALL Trump’s Twitter followers.

Plus, that 57.3 m is from WORLDWIDE users, not limited only to Americans.
Russian Trolls and Troll farms likely account for a good chunk of those total followers (I’m basing this on the pro-Trump comments on Russian state-controlled media).

Plus, that “followers” number is just that, followers.
Those followers are just those subscribed, from the supporter, non-supporter, and disinterested (and such) categories.

Now, according to Pew Research, some 68-79 percent of Americans are on Facebook.
That’s in the range of 221.6 to 257.5 million users.

So, with 23.7 million “likers” on Facebook, out of 221.6-257.5 million U.S. Facebook users, Trump is seeing an approval rate of U.S. users of only 10.6 - 9.2 percent on Facebook.

Twitter has 262-336 million monthly active users.

• About 80% (262 million) of all monthly active Twitter users live outside the United States.
• 72 million monthly active users live within the United States.

So, of 72 million U.S. users, with 20k-28k typical “likes”, Trump is seeing an maximum approval rate of only .027 - .038 percent of U.S. users on Twitter (as those “likes” can be from anywhere, including non-U.S. users).




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Your inference is flawed.

There are “popular” movements across Europe and in the US to reject conventional politics and politicians. In some cases, the people are turning left, in other cases, right.

The point Baker is making is that the very small number of people who now own and run would-be democratic governments to serve their own interests (think Trump tax break) recognize and fear the deep dissatisfaction that is mounting among the 99%.

At Davos, the super-rich and super-powerful are trying to figure out what to do to quell that dissatisfaction. Between $1000 dinners they’re arrogantly devising ways to minimize the concessions they need to make to best preserve their wealth and power.

That, in time, is a losing game. Some future generation, or perhaps one alive today, will end the grotesque inequality that pervades most parts of our planet.

It is a mad world that tolerates Jeff Bezos taking $160 billion for himself while paying his workers a pittance that barely lets them scrape above the poverty line.

You need to think less about Trump and more about the economic conditions that made the election of Trump or someone like him inevitable.

Quibbling about Baker’s use and definition of populism is missing the point.


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Products of the monetary system, the rich are merely following natural acquisitive instincts but without natural limits. Can we blame them for our problems? Or should we blame the system that allows them to concentrate resources, impoverishing the rest and destroying the habitat? They did devise the system, however innocently, or purposely.

Its system change, or pitchforks.

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I agree with most of what you’re saying. The mistake made was by Baker and WP analyst throwing in the term “populist” when the Davos speakers were addressing “nationalist” popular movements which we see happening from the US to Poland to Brazil.

Differentiating between populist movements such as the Grange movement at the turn of the 20th century to the Civil Rights movement in the post WWII era and nationalist movements which may begin with some vague populist agenda such as socialism for the NAZIS but that quickly devolves into an us against them divisions is worth citing. Dean and WP do not make that distinction while Davos speakers were focusing on the Nationalists.

These people are allergic to taxes to improve the whole of society, yet Bezos just divided his empire ($140 Billion) in half by filing for divorce.

Pay higher taxes for a better world for all? Nah, that’s just for fools. Make no mistake, many of these people are mega-wealthy democrats. And you are correct, discussing how to protect their fortunes from the hungry over a $1,000 per plate dinner is not only absurd, it is grossly obscene.