American (De)generations

Is American history a cyclical thing; a series of concentric circles endlessly repeating? Are its contours defined by temporary revivals of old hopes and old fears, inevitably renewed and repeated every 80 years or so? Or is it something else, something closer to a straight line evolution; a curve that we sometimes bend towards justice and later let slope down into recession and depression. This hour, we’re testing these two competing models of history against each other, and trying to find where the Trump generation fits into these larger historical frames.



The generational model of history, in which each 80 year cycle is divided into four generational “turnings,” was popularized by William Strauss and Neil Howe. These two hobby historians are best known for their bestselling pop history books  Generations: The History of America’s Future and The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy They also gave us a new, broad label for a diverse and widely-varied set of people. “Millennial” was and is their term for today’s rising generation. Finally, they may have also given our political leaders a new ideology with a dark twist: Steve Bannon, who’s played navigator on the Trump ship, credits Strauss and Howe as his masterminds. Some believe he’s steering us into the skid; embracing the “fourth turning” crisis that Strauss and Howe predicted and that Obama somehow missed.

To help us breakdown our current turn, we brought in a mix of generational theory enthusiasts, skeptics, and critics.

David Kaiser is a prolific academic with Ph.D in history from Harvard. He’s also one of the few historians who takes the Strauss-Howe thesis seriously. He’s made a fighting case for why others should too on his History Unfolding blog. While Kaiser doesn’t share Trump’s politics, he was interviewed by Steve Bannon several years ago as a Strauss & Howe expert in his film, Generation Zero.

John Stauffer, professor of English and African-American studies at Harvard, sees cycles of history swirling in his field of 19th century history, from Frederick Douglass to Abraham Lincoln. Princeton historian Sean Wilentz, similarly, finds connections between the generational model and the cyclical view of history advanced by the preeminent 20th century liberal historian, Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

Arianne Chernok argues that these cycles interfere with our sense of history’s broader continuities. In particular, they overlook the persistence of activist movements fighting for more sustained forms of change throughout these historical periods.

Finally, Shaun Scott, author of the forthcoming book Millennials and the Moments that Made Us: A Cultural History of the US from 1984-present, breaks down some of the many myths that have been told about today’s generation.


Guest List
David Kaiser
American historian and author of No End Save Victory: How FDR Led the Nation into War
John Stauffer
professor of English, American Studies, and African American Studies at Harvard University.
Arianne Chernok
professor of  modern British and European history at Boston University.
Sean Wilentz
the Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor of the American Revolutionary Era at Princeton University.
Sean Scott
filmmaker and historian.
Reading List
David Kaiser

Related Content

  • NotEasyBeingGreen

    Fantastic discussion, as always. However, I would take issue with one important claim that John Stauffer made: that Bernie, because he polled ahead of Trump in a theoretical head-to-head contest, would have won in November had he been the Democratic nominee. This is a claim I’ve heard often, and it comes off as hopelessly naive. Hillary also polled ahead of Trump–and won the popular vote by millions. She is not president today. I’m not arguing that Bernie *couldn’t* have beaten Trump, just that it was hardly a foregone conclusion, and stating it as such makes one sound ignorant. And I don’t think Stauffer is that, so I’d encourage him to avoid such uncritical speculation. Can you imagine how scared the 1% would have been if Bernie had been on the ballot? That might have motivated a lot of very wealthy folks to get behind Trump in a way that Hillary did not.

    • Potter

      But it could have brought a lot more people to the voting booths..perhaps taken votes from Jill and Gary.

    • A in Sharon

      The enduring pathology of the left in the US is that they believe most people, if given a chance to choose, will choose them. This is in direct contradiction to reality on the ground. America was established firmly in right-leaning principals. It’s institutional/governmental traditions and constitution are right-leaning. An examination of our immigrants origins evident far more people coming FROM left-leaning societies. Not the other way around. Even Bernie would be considered a centrist among the left-wing of Europe.

      • Potter

        There you go again….

        • A in Sharon

          Discourse like this can devolve into cliché. There is not unanimity but it exists as a set of norms and cultural traits. For me it centers on ideas around liberty, even at our own expense. We favor individualism over collectivism (We continue to build our transportation infrastructure, even in cities, around the automobile). Why do we have tolls? Why don’t we just tax everyone equally to build our infrastructure? Our popular culture favors the lone hero, the outcast, the one overcoming society’s oppression. (Why do we have Martin Luther King Day and not Civil Rights Day? Certainly MLK did not do it all alone.) How else to explain the aversion by American workers to organized labor? The law is there to protect it. Surely Americans would like the same labor protections given to the average European. Still, try asking most Americans how much money they make or have and you likely get told to mind your own business. All this makes perfect sense for a nation mostly built from nothing, with all respect to Native Americans. I don’t think we are even close to moving away from this. I will believe we have changed when there are no longer 265 million guns in the hands of private individuals.

          • Potter

            A in Sharon: These are not principles. They are your evidence of what right leaning principles?

            I am after one cliche here:
            Gun ownership is apparently steadily decreasing in the US according to the U of Chicago General Social Survery which has been tracking this.

            Survey data shows self-reported gun ownership peaked at 53 percent in 1973 before seeing a fairly steady decline to 32 percent in 2010, the most recent year available. He cautioned singling any one year out, saying the numbers are better judged in the context of a whole: the 1970s averaged about 50 percent, the 1980s averaged 48 percent, the 1990s at 43 percent and 35 percent in the 2000s.

            See Gun Ownership in the United States

  • Tom Recane

    I cannot believe you are giving credence to this numerology nonsense. Why aren’t you asking some basic questions?

    1/ why 80? Why not 49 or 62? My favorite number is 42! Douglas Adams readers will know why.

    2/ The cycles begin in 1774. What happened in 1696? 1616? 1536? How far back do the cycles go? The Pleistocene era? If not when did they begin? Witnesses?

    3/ before Europeans came to America did the Indians have 80 year cycles? No? Hah! 80 doesn’t like people with copper skin color. I always suspected 80 of racism. It’s almost as bad as 59 but of course nothing could be worse than 74! Yuck!

    4/ Do these cycles apply only in America or do we see the same time frames in New Guinea and Turkey?

    5/ if it doesn’t apply to other countries, what are the boundaries? Are they physical? 80 years applies to Mexico because it is in physical contact with America but not to say Cuba? Oh those poor Canadians! Mongolia? How did the oceans stop the magic 80 from wreaking havoc on Easter Island? Ah! That’s what happened to them. It’s all coming together now.

    I could go on and on and on…

  • Floyd C. Wilkes

    History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.” ~ Mark Twain {attributed}

    Any event, once it has occurred, can be made to appear inevitable by a competent historian.” ~Lee Simonson {source Wikiquote}

    Both models alluded to in the program provide a valuable frame for inspecting and critiquing history. With either model at work in the mind of a capable devotee, reasonable conclusions concerning the past may be construed and evinced. No doubt each model also lacks in some essential way and thus fails to apprehend history exactly or predict precisely. The two models simultaneously compete with, and compliment, each other. Either model provides some utility in the hands of an open-minded historian.

    Question: Why are class issues such as wealth-income inequality generally skirted so gingerly or referred to only by proxy by politicians and pundits alike?

    Refreshing and gratifying to hear such issues brought to bear in intelligent conversation.

    • A in Sharon

      The skirting is people minding their manners. It is a functional way for very smart people considered thought leaders to avoid admitting something they know is unavoidably true. The income inequality is simply a complex expression of basic human behavior. Human communities need organization to thrive and in human organization comes hierarchy. The problem is not inequality itself, but rather, when does the inequality become dysfunctional enough to cause conflict. How much inequality is too much is where politics begins. I do not fear wealth inequality in currently prosperous countries like the US. The poorest in the US still live a life far richer than the poor in other parts of the world.

      • Floyd C. Wilkes

        The skirting of class issues strikes me as an observance of taboo by the indoctrinated. It’s intellectuals-pundits politely cowering and politicians gayly groveling and dissembling on behalf of their handlers and masters for rewards, if you’d like to call that ‘minding one’s manners’ so be it.

        Severe income inequality is primarily a matter of policy, including but not exclusively tax policy and rent-seeking. Human behavior is largely but not exclusively a matter of values, motives, and norms i.e. paradigm.

        Paradigms are socially conditioned constructs. Change the values and the motives change. Change the motives and behavior, in the mean, changes. The prevailing cultural paradigm is subject to change and vulnerable to manipulation. What we suffer is a crisis of values. A predictable outcome in a culture predicated on avarice-competition (vice) rather than benevolent-cooperation (virtue), spawning a Vicious Cycle rather than a Virtuous one.

        True, individuals instinctively tend invariably to pursue one’s perceived self-interest. However, the desire for incessant and irrational accumulation of financial wealth and material reward is a socially conditioned behavior, not a characteristic inherent in the human genome.

        Severe inequality, IMO, is a root factor in much of the malfeasance, inefficiencies, dysfunction and distortion wreaking havoc in our cultural and globally. It is by no means inevitable or unintentional. To think so is to partake of the cool-aid, but alas that’s what public intellectuals and pundits (aka smart people and thought leaders) are rewarded for doing.

        Dissent is most often a soloist whose voice is drowned by the chorus of the entrained.

        • Potter

          Global inequality has a lot to do with the great variance in development throughout history as well as differences in cultural norms ( which I wish we would celebrate). Mass communications, social networks keep spreading an increased awareness of global differences in well-being (the real inequality) and this is one aspect of what is wreaking havoc. As well that is complicated by the increased need for resources and the effects of climate change vis a vis geographical situations that are urgent in the present. ROS interviewed Jeff Sachs about this years ago.

  • Tom Recane

    RE: American degenerations
    I cannot believe you are giving credence to this numerology nonsense. Why aren’t you asking some basic questions?
    1/ why 80? Why not 49 or 62? My favorite number is 42! Douglas Adams readers will know why.
    2/ The cycles begin in 1774. What happened in 1696? 1616? 1536? How far back do the cycles go? The Pleistocene era? If not, when did they begin? Any Witnesses?
    3/ before Europeans came to America did the Indians have 80 year cycles? No? Hah! 80 doesn’t like people with copper skin color. I always suspected 80 of racism. It’s almost as bad as 59 but of course nothing could be worse than 74! Yuck!
    4/ Do these cycles apply only in America or do we see the same time frames in New Guinea and Turkey?
    5/ if it doesn’t apply to other countries, what are the boundaries? Are they physical? 80 years applies to Mexico because it is in physical contact with America but not to say Cuba? Oh those poor Canadians! Mongolia? How did the oceans stop the magic 80 from wreaking havoc on Easter Island? Ah! That’s what happened to them. It’s all coming together now.
    6/ does 80 apply to Kansas? In 1774 Kansas wasn’t a state so it wouldn’t apply right? So that means magic 80 only applies to the original 13 states. I knew 13 was an unlucky number but wow!
    I could go on and on and on…

    • Floyd C. Wilkes

      The interval of 80 is derived by assigning a value of 20 years per generation within the context of a 4 generation cycle, thus 80.

      It’s a simple abstraction, an intellectual construct, an overlay for revealing patterns in history. Its relevancy, IMO, applies most aptly in observing inter-generational epigenetic phenomena in either cultures indulging wildly and widely the fruits of (relatively) rapid, sustained economic expansion or societies thriving on the spoils of empire and dominated by competing elites with varying degrees of inequality and polarity. Beside recent and modern empires and aspirant nations, ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt come to mind.

      The frame of reference for this program — implicit in its title — constrains the field of context to contemporary USA and its recent past.

      An intriguing aspect of the model is precisely that its relevancy does not seem equally valid universally. Your critique, while amusing, does not diminish the value of the model or its virtue as contemplation aid to historians, social scientists and so forth.

      Yes, 42 is an awesome number!

    • KaiserD2

      I can see, Tom Recame, that nothing I can say will change your mind, but others may be interested.
      1) The 80 year cycle, as I stated, is an empirical finding based on the American Revolution and constitution, the Civil War, the Great Depression/Second World War, and what we are going through now. To answer 2) Strauss and Howe do argue that there was a comparable crisis in the colonies at the time of King Phillip’s War–you can read all about that in Generations if you wish.
      Regarding the Indians we don’t have the data. The generational cycle S & H define is clearly visible in the book of Genesis and many myths, however.
      4) We very definitely see the same cycyle in Western Europe (I have published an article on that called That Great Atlantic Crises) and in East Asia, going back at least until the mid-19th cemtury. The cycle operates in Eastern Europe although they are about 20 years ahead of us (thus the Russian Revolution, 1917, and the collapse of Communism 72 years later.) And it definitely works in Turkey although it took just a little more than 80 years to transform from a western secular state to a Musim authoritarian theocracy which is happening now.
      I don’t see any need to reply to 7 and 8.
      David Kaiser, guest

      • Rick Heller

        David, I’ve been a fan of Howe and Strauss ever since Generations came out. I’m feeling rather pessimistic these days, however. I think we are in a crisis, brought on by a widening culture gap between traditionalists and post-materialists. I don’t see how it resolves, however. History not being deterministic, there is no guarantee that it will work out. Had their leadership been a little more savvy, the South could have won the Civil War. I certainly don’t think the current-day traditionalists will be able to prevail over the progressives, but I don’t think the progressives have the right recipe either, because they seem very prone to dogmatic thinking about culture. So maybe there will be a crack-up.

  • Potter

    There is a strain dragging us back that crosses generations though I think dragging us back to what I am not sure of.. it’s probably an imagined future. I like the Orwell quote a lot. But it always irks me when I hear talk about the boomer generation with an implied or actual sweeping description. Born during the war (WW2) maybe call me a late bloomer by a little but I don’t think so, the term “Boomers” sometimes includes war babies. (My dad was home helping to make planes for the war effort. My mom says she rolled bandages.) But my point is that that generation, the so-called Boomers, I know from first hand as I was active on one side, was not all on the same page. Some of us were down right revolutionaries and acting it out. We wanted change. We did not want the Viet Nam War. We knew Lyndon Johnson was lying to us. GW Bush on the other hand represented the other half(?), those “straights” who wanted us to beat the hell out of the “commies”, They included young Republicans, Goldwater fans, people who dressed normally. (Notice the almost universal torn jeans and tees, mixed pattern dressing now). Those straights seemed or were unbothered by war, by agent orange. They did not “turn on” or drop out and wear beads, or learn transcendental meditation and study the Tibetan Book of the Dead, join “intentional communities”. They may not have inhaled either. GWBush, who represented the straight half(?), a draft dodger nevertheless (for moral reasons?), said during his campaign we should have “finished the job” in “Nam”. Many in that other half (?) said and felt that way and probably to this day. Many are in the Congress. This intergenerational reactionary mind ( thank you Corey Robin though I have not read his book yet). is with us.

    So, I really loved what both Arianne Chernok and Sean Wilentz were saying. And there you have it, intersectionality or my understanding of the term: the expression of two generations who are simpatico, on the same page right there in your discussion. This is how I have felt all during the 2016 campaign. Sanders was the model too: young at heart appealing to the young forward progressives both in spirit and moral sense.On the other hand the 17 Republican candidates ( you know the ones in that “clown show”) were mostly if not all reactionary. But Trump had it over them all with “Make America Great Again”. So this really is a moment for opposition forces to shine against an agenda that it is clear most people do not really want.

    I’ll listen again to get a better sense of your other guests. Thank you as always for more angles and keeping our wheels going– and the larger view.

    • Pete Crangle

      “They may not have inhaled either” This made me chuckle, more than a little. Where I grew up in the late 1960s and 1970s, if you weren’t high, or at least experimenting with drugs, you were probably either somewhat dysfunctional, or unbelievably mature and ahead of the times, or a messiah and future cult leader … or, a future president LOL. Breaking Bad was the hang-over, not yet manifest.

      • Potter

        I could have gone on. Organic food movement…today big business. Back to nature. Taboos were broken. The straights loved it! But we brought up our kids accordingly, with those values, those morals, we absorbed from consciousness raising together arriving at “we are one”, connected. Far out! And you don’t undo that…even if you go into the straight business world. You bring those values along. We did a lot more than inhale.
        But we went inward too. The notion or realization was that you have to change yourself,start with yourself, your own life. The folks on other side were smart and ran for office. But that’s only this potter’s eye view.

  • Pete Crangle

    A State of Grace, A State of Nature

    Terrence Malick “Tree of Life”

    Some human beings are attracted to patterns, regardless of their actual existence. The generation parsing mechanism is generally speaking, a target maker, not a means of attracting understanding or gaining historical wisdom. The boomers are a soft target, as are millennials. The boomers’ parents often endured tremendous deprivations. This is incredibly important.

    I can understand the trajectory of people like Bannon through my siblings and my parents. His shadow lives in me, and my shadow in him. My father was born into the late 1920s dust bowl Kansas. His family was wiped-out by the economic depression, lost everything but the family truck, and so, they took to the roads and became wandering, itinerant agricultural workers. They lost land that had been handed down across generations; land in all likelihood, stolen by those from whom they purchased this land, so there is karma here. My mother was born into the nightmare of mid 1930s dust bowl Oklahoma, on or near a tribal reservation; this side of my family is of mixed, undocumented ethnicity due to ancestral rape by white men with power. Her family took to the roads and became wandering, itinerant agricultural workers. The first ten years of my mother’s life makes the Joad family look like a picnic. The things they did to survive, and in some cases, die, are beyond the pale; she lost several siblings during this period of migrancy, aunts and uncles I would never know, cousins never actualized. The scarcity that her family endured was for me and my siblings not only unbelievable, but largely unspeakable, and yet, the haunting of it was passed on to us. It was a form of economic annihilation. My father, and my older siblings, disappeared into Reagan’s fantasy land, then buried themselves in right wing, victim narrative media. They will never emerge from it. The myth of America, and the mythos of a punishing Godhead, are spun through this narrative, deeply.

    One should never underestimate the psychological talons of guilt associated with shame, and how that can play out, and be used as a ‘predictor’ of future events. The book of genesis is one of the greatest guilt making machines ever created and taught as a human mythos, and its effects have dug into hearts and minds to the point that the death ethos has overtaken our collective psyche and soul. It is often the book of revelation that people focus upon when considering which horse is galloping by us, but to understand the modern mind and its destructive power, one should look to genesis, for it is there where guilt and shame are burned into the collective psyche. One should never underestimate the nihilism and hedonism than can come about from this sort of guilt and shame, and how it has been passed between the generations. It is no exaggeration that the thread in every bombing fiasco or death squad mission has a connection to this early mythos. Myths are powerful, and how they are taught and embraced, more so. Observe its power over Bannon and Trump and their followers. Collateral damage or join the ethos? Not a pleasant choice to maintain sanity, let alone an affirmation of life.

    The notion of cycles and patterns arise from myths and their poetry. The reality of the sun, rises and sets for most people … and yet it never has, and it never will. The power of the poetry is nearly immutable. Thank you Chris, et al.

    • Potter

      I recently read John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” and it’s still vivid with me. I so appreciate what you write about your family, their hardships and how those had such a bearing on their psyches and consequently the country, as did the hardships of my immigrant grandparents. I do think we look for patterns but everywhere as it’s built in us to do so. I look for it in the arts where I am on safer ground because it’s about the senses but there are some interesting ones out there in human sociology and political science.

  • Apophenia /æpɵˈfiːniə/ is the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.
    From Wikipedia

  • michael pettengill

    Reagan ushered in a shift in politics to free lunch political-economics. He attacked tax and spend liberals, who basically practiced TANSTAAFL political economics.

    For more than four decades, conservatives have been promising free lunches to voters.

    Get rid of tax and government, and the economy will grow faster and your income will rise faster and you will get richer faster. Get rid of unions and their dues and work rules and you will get raises faster and be more secure in your factory or transportation or construction jobs. Get rid of welfare and families will no longer break up in divorce because as a leftist liberal pointed out under Nixon, welfare breaks up black families (Moynihan). Government subsidizing something makes it more expensive, so education will become cheaper by cutting subsidies and grants and requiring students and parents to pay the entire bill. And wealth is created by debt.

    And so on.

    Bill Clinton campaigned as a free luncher, but once in office, he acted as a fiscal TANSTAAFL conservative and looked at the budget and changed his priority to tax and spend to growth and balanced budgets. He got Democrats to hike taxes, with part of the taxes paying for more spending, but at the same time focusing on spending cuts. Clinton cut military spending, but did so in a bargain that increased it in the South while slashing it in the Democratic districts, which harmed the economies of many Democratic strongholds. The South gained jobs thanks to the shift in military pork, jobs that paid well, while Clinton priorities in tech, like moving government to the Internet and new computers benefitted the liberal coastal elites. Lots of slight shifts in government policy leveraged lots of private spending. Ie, requiring more electronic filing to the Federal government drove States to do the same forcing most businesses to invest in new technology to comply, and in the process change their business practices. To be fair, Bush was a strong supporter of these policies so Clinton Gore had a running start. And even after Democrats lost the Congress, Clinton continued his TANSTAAFL political economics, reducing the deficit and restoring a bit of the 60s real growth.

    But Clinton refused to allow Newt to implement his free lunch agenda. But by 1999, Clinton was ground down by the conservatives and voters wanted free lunches. Thus, GW and Republicans won, and the Democrats who held on were progressives who like Bernie promise free lunches.

    In 2001, the conservatives won lots of free lunch victories, tax cuts, more military, but progressives won free lunches as well in Medicare drug benefits by giving conservatives the free lunch of unlimited drug profits to cut drug prices. The place conservatives lost was on Social Security when they tried to privatize the TANSTAAFL FDR program. People were paying for Social Security so they saw conservatives as taking what they owned away from them. FDR and the liberals deciding to tax every earned dollar to fund a benefit invested every worker and voter in the system. It is clear to workers it’s a TANSTAAFL benefit.

    By 2007, it was clear to voters that free lunch political economics was not working.

    Not paying for a war with taxes and a draft did not eliminate the cost in blood and treasure of war, but instead made the cost higher than past wars for millions of losers in free lunch economics. Cutting taxes and spending did not eliminate the poverty and family breakups. Cutting cost to create more better jobs did not create more better jobs for everyone, just for a few at the cost to the many.

    Obama won promising TANSTAAFL political economics, drawing on the Reagan of 1983, Ike, and other Republicans in the TANSTAAFL era before the rise in free lunch politics. Not making Clinton’s mistake, he did TANSTAAFL health reform, higher taxes, spending cut, and mandating individual spending to pay for creating millions of new jobs that pay more. Millions of health care jobs might have been created anyway, but they would have been lower pay and less secure.

    Since Obamacare was drafted, conservatives have been fighting it’s TANSTAAFL structure, promising, demanding free lunch health care reform. They campaigned on free lunch health care in 2010 and every election since. Obamacare was opposed by the free lunch voters on the right, but also by the free lunch progressives that are today’s Bernie Bros. Thus Obamacare polls badly because it’s TANSTAAFL.

    Clinton running as TANSTAAFL was out of touch with voters who want free lunches. Bernie promised free lunches to his supporters by promising to tax the rich in a free lunch economic theory that if you take all the riches of the 1% in one year, you can take it again in year two. And Trump was forced to go to the extreme in promising free lunches to overcome the broad opposition to him by the free lunch pols who know TANSTAAFL, but winners they pick over the losers they create.

    So, Trump promised that cutting costly regulations, costly because they require paying workers, will create jobs.

    Trump promised he had a health care plan that will have lower premiums, lower out of pocket expenses that will allow everyone to get all the health care they want from anyone they want no matter the costs.

    Trump promised he would bring jobs back from China by imposing high tariff without anyone paying higher prices for anything or losing their choice of buying cheap imports.


    Bernie did not promise higher food prices from ending NAFTA and hiking the minimum wages of low wage workers heavily concentrated in industries delivering cheap goods like food. Nor higher clothing prices, shoe prices, gasoline and heating oil prices.


    Obama did not launch attacks on the free lunch political economics of opponents because merely mentioning the huge job losses the month he took office was called a personal attack on President Bush, and a hyperpartisan statement. Nor did Obama attack progressives like Bernie on their free lunch policies because Obama was attacked for telling progressives they need to get people elected – Obama was blaming the progressives for his failure to force radical leftists like long socialist Arlen Specter and Joe Lieberman to demand single payer. After all, both conservatives and progressives deny Specter was a long time conservative Republican and Joe Lieberman was booted by Democrats and campaigned actively for McCain.

    So, given the free lunch promising and demanding conservatives and progressives, it’s no wonder Trump and Republicans won, and TANSTAAFL Clinton and Democrats lost.


    So, Trump and Republicans can’t deliver the free lunches they promised.


    The Republican “repeal and replace” was too clearly a slashing of health care access to ten million of people that was the road map to slash health care for 50-100 million people under Ryan’s Betterway free lunch plan.

    Trump doing what progressives claimed Obama did not do to pass single payer went down in flames because TANSTAAFL and Republicans as a group are no more willing to commit political suicide than Democrats.

    I grew up when both Democrats and Republicans were tax and spend. Republicans campaigned against policies by talking about the tax hikes they would force on voters. You want a bigger school so your kids aren’t going to school in shifts, well you must vote for crushing new taxes. Democrats focused on the need to fund a new school to give kids a better education, which will create jobs constructing the school, so the higher taxes are a small price to pay, so vote for the tax hike.

    Today, Republicans promise the free market will deliver if taxes and government are cut as if the “free” in free market means free stuff.

    Trump’s trillion dollar infrastructure promises with no tax hikes or government spending are just more free lunch economics.

    He promises he will deliver a trillion dollars in jobs by getting rid of government regulations requiring made in America so Chinese steel can be bought out of the trillion, or paying workers lower wages by getting rid of Davis Bacon, so that the trillion dollars in jobs will only cost half a trillion, or something.

    When the overwhelming popular understanding is that TANSTAAFL, then the free lunch era Reagan sold America and the world will be over.

    But Bernie Bros will need to understand everyone must pay higher taxes and higher prices because the free lunch of taxing the rich and capital will never pay for the stuff they want, but instead produce Cuba or Venezuela.

    And conservatives need to understand their policies will lead to the economy and health care of Africa.


    • Potter

      But Bernie Bros will need to understand everyone must pay higher taxes and higher prices because the free lunch of taxing the rich and capital will never pay for the stuff they want, but instead produce Cuba or Venezuela.

      Let’s not overstate what “the stuff they want” is nor underestimate what people are willing to pay for once they understand what they are getting and the trade-offs. This was the uphill battle for Sanders, trying to educate and lay out a new vision.

    • ‎NX-74205

      What is TANSTAAFL an acronym for?

  • Potter

    Re Barack Obama “missing the turn, missing his moment, defining it. He ran on hope and change, boldness and audacity and yet never embodied that. He seemed to recoil preferring to compromise when there was no spirit of compromise. I was thinking that this hope and change thing was merely an aspiration or campaign tactic. Partly it seemed that he himself, being our first black president was the change, or enough of a change. But that brought a lot of racism from the closet–during Trump Time, out full force. And then Obama was boxed in. So it’s not what Obama did not do but what he could not do as well.
    The people were not engaged as they are now or I hope are. There are people who will say he did plenty. One thing he did was preside over a retreat from another war (in Syria but as Russia filled the vacuum) even as he kept us sort of involved, moving away from policeman of the world and coalition builder to half heartedly doing what he could not avoid doing to try to end the mess we are still involved in thanks to W.
    Then he achieved “Obamacare” (the ACA) which he was happy to own. It did not solve the problem, but it went a ways towards that. Now maybe a majority, feel the the government should help actually provide health care. That’s big. He was a moderate, a compromiser by nature. Michelle wore purple!! But the Congress did not want compromise. So yes if we’re headed to some change and Obama was not it, what with Democrat’s dysfunction and all kinds of subterfuge and outrageous behavior in the 2016 campaign on the Republican side, we nevertheless got Trump, such was the desperation in some quarters… which may bring real change by engaging the people.

    • A in Sharon

      Obama faced the classic problem of anyone being “the first” to do something. Not unlike the child of a family that is the first to go to college. Much is expected of them, probably too much. He had a hard choice to make. Was he going to be the President of Everyone? He tried and mostly did ok. But, in America, the stories end quickly and we move on to what’s next.

    • Pete Crangle

      Great comment, Potter. Let’s roll the time machine and observe what passes for citizen engagement and citizen analysis … this speaks volumes for what helped feed Trumpism …

      Stealing our country … blowing up nukes in Charleston, SC

      I watched and listened to commentators scold President Obama over-and-over for being too aspirational, and then being too wonky and not aspirational enough. Obama was too smug and not audacious enough, he skipped DC insider party politics to do policy and family, etc, etc, etc, this stuff was an endless drone. All the while the economy was bleeding jobs at Great Depression rates, two wars raged, and US global reputation was in the toilet for war criminality (which Obama has a mixed record on, too be sure), not too mention congressional obstructionism and dog whistle taunting in the form of birtherism Negrophobia while tarring Obamacare and Jade Helm as some sort of bizarre communist/sharia law take-over… he was the Rashomon candidate, then Rashomon president. He smoked out more wing-nuts and racists than any previous administration.

      I’m neither a strong supporter nor detractor regarding Obama, and I will not assess his legacy for the time being. From my perspective, it’s too early to tell how his policies or lack of policies are going to play for posterity. That being said, it’s important to understand that Obama became a member of a class most people will euphemistically refer to as ‘elite’. This is more about class differentiation than racism differentiation, IMO, but there could certainly be overlap.

      “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks. You guys have an acute public relations problem that’s turning into a political problem. And I want to help…I’m not here to go after you. I’m protecting you…I’m going to shield you from congressional and public anger.” — President Barack Obama, 2009. Quote from a meeting with 13 Banking CEOs in spring, 2009.

      • Potter

        Thanks. I correct myself. Obama really did not keep us out of war..he kept us out of a declared war (our air war) in Syria which Trump seems to have escalated increasing the alleged civilian deaths.

        • Pete Crangle

          Yes. Totally agree. Let us not forget, Obama asked congress several times for updates to the AUMF regarding several campaigns, as well as, authorization in Syria for his red-line rhetorical blunder. I’m not letting Obama off the hook here, at all. However, our congress has totally abdicated their responsibilities in the post World War II era. They love to complain, and gin up anxiety and loathing, but want none of the responsibilities demanded by their constitutional obligation. Great deal in the unitary executive era.

          Right now, Trump is threatening to escalate three more war campaigns: Syria, Korea, Iran… in addition to the ongoing wars and covert operations and ‘targeted killing’ operations that are lawless and reckless, and draining what’s left of the moral center of the nation. It is no understatement that we are at an extremely dangerous moment … one that could end up killing a large amount of the human species. Stephen Bannon and Tim LaHaye’s dream may come true. Trump is literally playing with apocalyptic forces at this point. He’s finally wearing the big boy pants.

          Excellent comments, Potter. Thank you for them. Squawk!