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Dr. Merrill Matthews
February 28, 2017
PolicyBytes 14.09
Taxpayers Are the Real ‘Forgotten Man’

President Donald Trump likes to mention he’s for the “forgotten man.”
“The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer,” Trump said in his January 20 inauguration speech. “Everyone is listening to you now.”
Who is the forgotten man? Author Amity Shlaes told us in her 2007 book The Forgotten Man.
When Yale Professor William Graham Sumner first uttered the term at an 1883 lecture in Brooklyn, he was referring to average taxpayers who are compelled to pay for the various government programs that politicians devise.
Who is, then, the Forgotten Man? He is the clean, quiet, virtuous, domestic citizen, who pays his debts and his taxes and is never heard of out of his little circle. … The Forgotten Man is never a pauper. He almost always has a little capital …  The Forgotten Man is weighted down with the cost and burden of the schemes for making everybody happy, with the cost of public beneficence, with the support of all the loafers, with the loss of all the economic quackery, with the cost of all the jobs.”
But when President Franklin D. Roosevelt used the term in 1932 during the Great Depression, he had in mind those at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
“These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power, … that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.”
It’s hard to make the case that the poor were “forgotten” in the last election. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders hammered the themes of poverty and inequality everywhere they went—and President Obama before them. And both wanted millions of unnamed taxpayers to fund their schemes.
Trump’s definition seems to return to the original. Or as Sumner put it:
“He works, he votes, generally he prays—but he always pays—yes, above all, he pays. He does not want an office; his name never gets into the newspaper except when he gets married or dies. He keeps production going on. He contributes to the strength of parties. He is flattered before election. He is strongly patriotic. … Such is the Forgotten Man.” 
And last November they rose up to say they wouldn’t be forgotten, at least not this time.

Today's PolicyByte was written by Dr. Merrill Matthews, resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation.
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