Political elites are horrified at the rise of Brexit and Trump, and many whined and dined at Davos at the World Economic Forum this week articulating their concerns.
But the corporate elites ― who financially support the world’s most rarified gathering in Davos ― were busy figuring how out to profit by disinvesting from Britain, Mexico or China and investing more in the United States.
Conversations included how banks who have called London home for two decades are going to scatter operations across other cities in the European Union, and how UK-based automakers will downsize and relocate to the continent. Others talked about redirecting their supply chains and manufacturing facilities from low labor cost countries to the U.S.
All of this is ironic. Trump talks anti-establishment but is putting together the most elite business cabinet in history, consisting of millionaires and billionaires. He wants to spend trillions building infrastructure and slashing taxes and regulations. He wants to force companies to stop offshoring and create jobs stateside.
“The U.S. looks like it’s a great place to invest right now,” Huw Jenkins, vice chairman of Brazil’s Grupo BTG Pactual told Bloomberg. Even China’s giant holding companies said they will be on the hunt for investments and companies in the U.S. to buy.
All of which may or may not help the average American, but it certainly will benefit corporate elites. That is why there has already been a Trump market boom.
But billionaire George Soros, also a New Yorker and pillar of Davos, is skeptical. This week he called Trump a “con man”, has made large bets against markets in anticipation of Trump. But he has lost an estimated $1 billion doing so. Unabashed, he maintains that there will be revaluation of markets because Trump’s ideas contradict his advisors and will cause fights, inconsistencies and uncertainty.
However, like it or not, Trump brilliantly perceived and surfed the zeitgeist that is global. And an important study released in Davos by the Edelman Group in New York, quantified this. Called the “Edelman Trust Barometer, this year’s annual survey found that the disparity between the elites who “trust” their national institutions and the rest of their populations is widening in every country in the world.
This is a harbinger for more electoral upsets, said Richard Edelman to his select audience. Among the lowest “trust” levels are in countries facing elections shortly: France 38% among the general population; Germany 39%; Turkey 41%; Japan 34%; Ireland 35%; Sweden and South Korea at 36% to name a few.
“This is barometer for uncertainty,” he added.
The reasons are identical worldwide: Their systems are failing by allowing the erosion of social values; globalization; corruption; immigration and the pace of innovation. Even in the US and Canada, trust levels are among the lowest in years or both at 47 per cent among the general population while over 60 percent among the elites.
This becomes a target-rich reality for populists everywhere and Trump’s “culprits” for this are the governing elite and globalization of trade.
“For too long a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost,” he said in this speech.
Then he attacked globalization. “The wealth of our middle class was ripped from our homes and redistributed all across the world,” he said.
Of small relief to many opponents of Trump was his clear promise to insure that benefits are spread fairly across the entire population.
“Whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots,” he said, adding that a child born in a Detroit ghetto or one born in Nebraska each deserve equal opportunities.
His address was not lofty but a reconstituted version of his stump speech with a few more flourishes. It was tinged with anger and not aspirational. And it was as feisty as fits the mood of the country and matches that of his left counterpart, Senator Bernie Sanders. Both men were this year’s revolutionaries and are neither Republicans or Democrats but independent iconoclasts.
This is why it’s self-evident that Trump will take on right orthodoxy as readily as the left which is just what Sanders would have done.
To the rest of the world, the Trump Manifesto is clear and unsettling. To multinationals he said: “there will be two rules: Buy American and hire American.” To legislators, he said: “From this day forward it’s going to be only America first… [this will inform] every decision whether its trade, taxes, foreign relations or security.”
The Inaugural ceremony was peppered with the usual references to the Almighty and America’s exceptionalism, but of particular note and comfort was a Biblical quote by a Rabbi near the conclusion.
The Psalm says simply: “A nation is blessed by its values not its vaults.”
First published National Post Jan. 20, 2017