“Through false nostalgia for the New Deal, you are taking the younger generation hostage. They are the ones who are going to have to pay far greater taxes. They are the future’s forgotten men.”
It was November 9, 2016 at 3:36AM in New York City and Donald Trump was still reeling from his unlikely victory over Hilary Clinton to become the 45th President of the United States of America. He had already delivered his victory speech to hundreds of his elated supporters at his campaign headquarters but still he had one more thing to do. He had to send out one more tweet:
Such a beautiful and important evening. The forgotten man and woman will never be forgotten again. We will all come together as never before
The forgotten man was actually coined over 133 years ago in William Graham Sumner’s 1883 essay “What the Social Classes Owe to Each Other”. In Sumner’s opening paragraph…he defines the forgotten man:
The type and formula of most schemes of philanthropy or humanitarianism is this: A and B put their heads together to decide what C shall be made to do for D. The radical vice of all these schemes, from a sociological point of view, is that C is not allowed a voice in the matter, and his position, character, and interests, as well as the ultimate effects on society through C’s interests, are entirely overlooked. I call C the Forgotten Man.
Some 49 years later, Franklin Delano Roosevelt evoked the forgotten man in a 1932 radio address promoting his New Deal policies. In his version, however, he reassigned Sumner’s original roles making “D” the forgotten man. Roosevelt used the phrase to describe the poor who needed money rather than the overlooked middle class who were forced to provide it via government dictate. Roosevelt said:
“These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power, for plans like those of 1917 that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.”
Jump ahead to the year 2007, Amity Shlaes, a columnist for Bloomberg and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations publishes “The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression”. Shales explores the policies of The New Deal through more modern economic eyes. She concludes that while some of the New Deal policies provided relief…many more policies simply prolonged the depression. Stringent regulations and government intrusion into the free market brought business spending and growth to a crawl with unemployment remaining around 10% until the start of World War 2. Shlaes proves how both Hoover and Roosevelt “overestimated the value of government planning” and prolonged the very problems they were seeking to fix.
I read The Forgotten Man several years ago and my biggest take away was that business and industry can simply wait out presidential administrations that are hostile to business. And that’s exactly what has happened after nearly eight years under Obama’s own nostalgic New Deal policies. Obamacare, Dodd Frank, the EPA attack on coal and energy and a plethora of intrusive executive orders have once again stifled business spending and kept GDP under 2% through the duration of Obama’s term. Unlike the Great Depression however, corporate America’s balance sheets were relatively strong with plenty of cash on the books. Rather than deploy that cash to expand their business, they opted to improve efficiency, reduce debt, buy back their own stock, increase their dividend or acquire the competition. They knew that Obama’s bullying would eventually come to an end so they just waited him out.
Enter Donald J. Trump. After a year and half of intense campaigning, he was still three or four points behind Hilary Clinton in most polls entering election day. The media attacks on Trump were relentless throughout the entire campaign. The New York Times, Washington Post and the rest of the main street media did their best to paint his character as unfit for the presidency. The polls, however, stood in sharp contrast to the raucous enthusiasm displayed in Trump’s huge campaign events held throughout the country. Everywhere he went he was greeted by capacity crowds and fire official often had to turn people away. So why this disparity between the polls and the Trump rallies?
The answer became evident as the election results started to flow in on November 8th. As swing state after swing state were added to Trumps electoral college totals…it was obvious that a particular voter segment was turning out in large numbers. It was the forgotten man. The overlooked middle class who was struggling to pay their health insurance, who hadn’t had a pay raise in many years or who were stuck in a lesser job because nothing else was available. The forgotten man turned “shy” because the media portrayal of Trump made them uncomfortable to speak out. The forgotten man, the man who pays, the man who prays, the man who is not thought of….actually turned out and rebuked the failed New Deal policies of Barrack Obama….and his legacy along with it.
So…not only did Donald Trump engineer one of the greatest Presidential upsets in modern history, he restored the forgotten man to his rightful place in Sumner’s social essay. As Sumner wrote: “He will be found to be worthy, industrious, independent, and self-supporting. He is not, technically, “poor” or “weak”; he minds his own business, and makes no complaint”. Unfortunately, I don’t share Trump’s assertion that he will never be forgotten again. History does have a way of repeating itself. But rest assured, if the left ever does forget, the forgotten man is lurking just under the surface, ready to pounce, ready to make a difference again.
This is John Galt Speaking!