The big White House news is the removal of Steve Bannon as an aide to Donald Trump. Since the beginning of his presidential campaign, Bannon has been there at Trump’s back. It is also true to say that he has been a great source of the ideas and opinions that Trump has implemented while in office. He is definitely much more than a simple “yes man”. He has been the ideological guiding light that Trump has used both before and after his election.
Many people have suspected that Bannon was going to be removed. Whispers around the halls of power accuse Bannon and Pence of really being the ones in power. They suggest that Trump is merely a figurehead that does all of the public work in front of the camera, sign executive orders – but that the daily work that is attributed to the power of “the highest office in the land” was being carried out by Bannon and Pence.
So why has he been removed if he is so close to Trump? The fact is that Bannon is a political “outsider”. He is not a part of the long standing political order that is the Washington scene. He’s the former (and is now again) the head of Breitbart Magazine, an alt-right white supremacist news publisher. He’s not a part of how Washington works. He’s not ingrained in how the system functions. He’s fundamentally antagonistic to it.
Bannon is at his heart an isolationist. He’s someone who wants the system to work a certain way, as opposed to understanding how the system works. Bannon has a vision of an America that he wants to see. Seemingly, he wants the Norman Rockwell painting of post-WW2 American prosperity. A White dominated America that shunted inequality and racial tensions to the background far from the sight of the average person. What he doesn’t comprehend is that such an America can never again exist.
Bannon wants an isolationist policy that places jobs (manufacturing) in the hands of the American working class. Specifically, he wants the jobs to go to White Americans to build up the middle class once again. With this built up class, the path to American prosperity would be ensured once again. Money could flow from consumer to producer in a much tighter controlled way, allowing wealth to remain in the hands of Americans.
The problem is that capitalism doesn’t work that way. It once did, in the post WW2 era, but not anymore. During that time the US had no international competition as a result of the war. It was American products or nothing at all. This allowed American companies to maintain a near-monopoly on production. Eventually, the other countries recovered from the wars and were able to compete with the US. This, of course, was by no means the end of it.
Fundamentally, the US is a global capitalist empire. As a result, it is made susceptible to all the inherent flaws of capitalism. Capitalism is susceptible, by and large, to the falling rate of profit – one of Marx’s criticisms of capitalism that leads to crisis. From the data available we’ve seen that this rate of profit has been on the decline. Each time the rate falls to a certain degree, the US government enacts some kind of political or economic policy to try and sustain the system. Keynesians have tried to take credit for the avoidance of a major crisis, but it is not their economic theory which has accomplished it. Rather, it has been empire building.
The out sourcing of jobs to other countries has not been an act that was voluntary by capitalists. They had to do it. The rates of profit are most easily remedied by the lowering of the cost of labour. The cost of raw materials can also be lowered, but not to the degree, with the flexibility of labour’s wages.
A definite pattern can be established. When the looming crisis in profits appeared, Keynesian-style public spending was established. Far from their claim of being altruistic in their development of the US, the public spending was war spending. It had a double positive effect on increasing profitability and expanding empire opposing the Soviet Union. Otherwise known as imperialism. Then, neoliberalism was instituted to break up unions and decrease their collective power to bargain higher wages. Eventually, as the rates of profit continued to decline new measures were established. Labour was first outsourced to Mexico in the north American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) under the guise of “free trade”. The lower wages of Mexican workers allowed the US corporations to increase their rates of profit. Eventually, this too would begin to decline. At that point, it became necessary to open up the tremendous untapped labour power of China. Seeing the possibilities for development and wealth, China agreed.
This is what Bannon doesn’t understand, that the Washington stock politicians do. They now as representatives of the capitalist class that such protectionist policies would be the collapse of the US economy. It became necessary to combat the source of these ideas which resided in Bannon. What Bannon was hoping to manipulate Trump into doing was the very anthesis of how the modern US economy works. In other words, he presented a danger to the established order.
Bannon wanted the system to work in a way that it can’t work. While the political establishment wanted the system to continue functioning as smoothly as possible. Bannon has a view of how he wants capitalism to work. What he does not have, is an idea how it works. His view of the perfect America is something that cannot rationally exist.