If you listen to the press and to the politicians, the two men most likely to be president of the United States in 2021 have little in common. President Donald Trump has run a pro-life, tax-cutting, deregulation administration. Vice President Joe Biden is the centrist Democrat whose base is full of union workers and black Americans.
At their core, however, these candidates are running on variations of populism. And just like the toxic “wokeness” populism which is increasingly part of left-leaning public policy, their variations could cost – or, in Trump’s case, are costing – taxpayers and workers billions of dollars.
Biden’s populism has a more traditional bent. Free community college, health care accessibility, “access to hospitals,” and an investment of “billions of dollars to find…cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes” were all part of his Super Tuesday victory speech. So were giving raises to teachers, volunteering as a way to offset college costs, and rejoining the Paris Climate Accord.
I’m sure we can count on more claims of taxing the rich to pay for all of that, with no acknowledgment of how taxes on the rich hurt the rest of us. And, like with Bernie, those tax hikes always find their way farther down the ladder.
Trump’s populism is different. In addition to the wall that Mexico never built but which taxpayers might, Trump has engaged in trade wars that hurt his white farmer, blue-collar worker base. This has reduced farmers’ ability to hire and grow…which led Trump to approve $28 billion in special aid. (We won’t call it welfare, because Republicans hate that word.)
These are all the most obvious, expensive examples of populism. Other forms are more insidious. Colleges spend inordinate amounts of money on woke “diversity” initiatives, hires, and policies – the same types of ideas which populists like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., stand behind even while decrying the immorality of skyrocketing college costs. Contrast this with anti-populist-spending Mitch Daniels, Indiana governor turned President of Purdue University, who, according to The Atlantic, has blocked frivolous spending and kept tuition frozen for seven straight years.
Populism isn’t new, but it is always harmful to put “popularity” over “soundness” when it comes to public policy. One little-noticed “woke” policy which was enacted in the waning days of the Obama administration is a series of lawsuits against Big Tech companies for alleged discrimination. As I’ve written previously, these lawsuits are based upon statistics, not actual claims of discrimination by Google, Oracle, and other companies. In other words – the Obama administration assumed that if X percent of a population is Y minority group, and the percent of employees of Y group was less than the X percentage in the local population, discrimination must have happened.
These lawsuits continue under the Trump administration. They are costing the companies millions in settlements and defense, and they cost taxpayers millions more to prosecute. This is a double-whammy that Americans should never have had to pay – and that Trump can and should stop.
Whether it’s millions of dollars on unjust lawsuits or trillions of dollars on climate alarmism and unattainable Medicare-for-All, populism is simply bad policy. It helps some at the expense of others, and always has hidden costs that suck the economy of jobs, decrease the money we have in our wallets, and creates a bloated bureaucracy that prevents the people from being able to oversee our own government.
Gregory D. Rohrbough, J.D., is a longtime political activist, a former Director of Communications for National Right to Work Committee, and is currently the Director of Government Relations for Shannon Speaks.