Matthew Lester: Trump and the Life of Brian. A 30yr saga.

Matt_Lester_With_Dog
Matthew Lester

If there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s the tax guru from Grahamstown finding an obscure, yet plausible reason for events. In his latest contribution Matthew Lester takes aim at the two shock votes the world has been exposed to this year, Brexit and the US presidential election. Although, if you’d read the analysis by Brandseye, it may not have come as such a shock. Brandseye analyse social media, which ties into Lester’s autopsy. He rolls back the clock 30 years to when consumer behaviour started changing as technology went mainstream. Another must read from the wordsmith with a knack for numbers. – Stuart Lowman

By Matthew Lester*

There will be many autopsies written about the demise of Hillary Clinton. Did the campaign go wrong? Should Barrack Obama have stayed in the Whitehouse? Or was her fate sealed in the Oral Office era? Etc etc.

Yesterday’s insane result and the UK Brexit vote are a culmination of events that started more than 30 years ago. And no business would be doing too much wrong if they paid attention as consumer behaviour has changed during 2016.

In summary:

  • Some say that the world changed when Michael Jackson hit the scene with ‘Thriller’ back in 1983. It wasn’t his music that did the trick. It was the quantum leap in home technology and the moonwalk that did it.
  • Since 1983 the family has become fractured by technology. Mom and Dad no longer rule the roost. The kids have rights, you know. And you don’t talk to them. Even a text message is obsolete. It’s Whatsapp or Facebook now. And heaven knows what it will be tomorrow. Mom and dad cannot keep up and look like dorks.
  • Marketing guru’s have unmercifully capitalised on all this, designing products and campaigns to appeal to the kids, today’s decision maker in the home. Apparently dad cannot even choose the car he drives today. Perhaps that explains the success of the Toyota Fortuna. His kids made him buy it.

Moms and Dads (generation x and baby boomer) who cannot afford all this feel like losers and have become hopelessly indebted in trying to finance the new way of life. Today they face an uncertain retirement as defined benefit pension funds have exited the scene. Their only hope is for a new Messiah to lead them out of the quagmire. Not more of the same.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is seen speaking on a television on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is seen speaking on a television on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Generation Y have suddenly grown up. The small minority that were fortunate enough to gain an education may understand the ideals of equality as proposed by the likes of Bernie Sanders and Thomas Pikkety. But the vast majority of Generation Y have suddenly realized that they cannot afford the demands of their own kids. It’s all beyond their understanding and they are also wandering around looking for scapegoats and a new Messiah.

Some will still never forgive the Monty Python team for ‘ the Life of Brian.’ In their defense the Pythonists argue that the movie is not about the life of Christ, but rather the chaos that happens when a bored mob are wandering the earth looking for a new Messiah. They will follow anyone, even Brian Cohen or Donald Trump.

‘Give us a sign!’

The predictions are now that the USA faces a dismal and divided future under President Trump. This is all music to slit your wrists by. Yes, there is a strong possibility of that.

But Trump has only won the White House. What about the senate and the house of representatives? The Republican candidates did far better than expected and more than a few must be saying ‘ I always was on your side, Donald.’

Maybe, just maybe, there is hope that the USA will now try and come up with a new deal instead of a wall.

Nah, maybe not!

  • Rhodes University Professor Matthew Lester was educated at St Johns College, Wits and Rhodes universities. He is a chartered accountant who has worked at Deloitte, SARS and BDO. A member of the Davis Tax Committee investigating the structure of aspects of the RSA tax system, he is based in Grahamstown. Follow him @ProfMattLester.
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