Violent Backlash Starting?

It does not take much in the way of powers of observation to see that anger against what we called “the Establishment” in the 1960s is rising. A good deal is correctly focused on how banks have looted the taxpayer; a lot of it is more inchoate but if anything even more virulent: anger about downward mobility, about the rising gap between the rich and everyone else.

Machiavelli warned that killing a man’s father was a safer course of action than taking his partimony. The American dream has two core precepts: first, that if you work hard, you can do well, and attain at least a middle class standard of living, second that your children can attain a better standard of living than you had. Those are being turned on their head.

I met with a pollster yesterday, and he said he had never seen such a gap in attitudes in beliefs among those in the political elite versus those of the public at large, and he expected bad outcomes. So I’m not certain the news story du jour, courtesy Karl Denninger, would surprise him.

A plane crashed into a 7 story office building near Austin that had federal offices, including those of the IRS. Denninger reports that CNBC says that the owner of the plane had burned down his house. One website has a copy of what appears to be a lengthy note posted by one Joe Stack, who is reportedly suspected to be the pilot; Denninger checked out the domain registration of the original site and it appears to fit.

The entire note is worth reading, but here is are some key sections:

If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt wondering, “Why did this have to happen?”….The writing process started many months ago, was intended to be therapy in the face of the looming realization that there isn’t enough therapy in the world that can fix what is really broken…….

We are taught to believe as children that without laws there would be no society, only anarchy. Sadly, starting at early ages we in this country have been brainwashed to believe that, in return for our dedication and service, the government stands for justice for all. We are further brainwashed to believe that there is freedom in this place and that we should be ready to lay down our lives for the noble principals represented by its founding fathers. Remember? One of those was “no taxation without representation”….

Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunders can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has not difficulty coming to their aid within days, if not hours? Yet as the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet the political “representatives” (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around year after year and debate the stat of the “terrible health care problem”.

Per Joe, his problems started with a run-in with the IRS, when he and some of his friends, with the advice of tax attorneys, began making use of exemptions “that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy”. Um, the Catholic Church IS a wealthy institution, but yes, tax breaks help keep it that way.

This proved to be a costly lesson. A tax law change in 1986 worked to the disadvantage of independent software contractors like him. He does not say precisely how, but he is clear that he spent a lot of time trying to get the new rule overturned. He also suffered in the economic downdrafts (the early 1990s recession and the dot-bomb era) and went through a divorce.

This is how his piece ends:

I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants. I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after. But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure nothing will change. I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at “big brother” while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won’t continue; I have just had enough…..I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.

Note that he sees his violent response to his economic plight as a political act, a blow for freedom. I am certainly not advocating this course of action. But others start connecting at least some of the dots this way, seeing their financial stresses not as the result of bad luck or lack of sufficient effort, but as an indictment of the system. Given the breakdown of communities (for instance, the fall in involvement in local civic groups and shortened job tenures, both of which lead to weaker social ties and greater isolation), the odds that the disaffected will turn to violence is greater than in past periods of stress.

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206 comments

  1. Michael

    “Note that he sees his violent response to his economic plight as a political act, a blow for freedom.”

    Funny … this is pretty much what the so-called ‘terrorists’ are thinking in their own countries …

    I think we may all be surprised how quickly these things can get out of hand. Particularly for a country like the USA, much of whose identity is based on a violent civil war, and who’s constitution gives it’s citizens the right to violently fight to defend their freedom.

    1. Earl O'Mar

      @Micheal
      “…and who’s constitution gives it’s citizens the right to violently fight to defend their freedom”

      LOL. You mean, like, maybe, a Right of Revolution? My home of New Hampshire.

      [Art.] 10. [Right of Revolution.] Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.

      For my money, Article 10 is more eloquent and beautiful than any found in the U.S. Constitution :-) And, frankly, despite the fact that the Free State folks have embraced NH’s Right of Revolution, it sure does sound a lot like what many Republicans today label as liberal, leftist, anti-corporate, anti-free market and anti-American (our own Senator, Judd Gregg recently claimed that public health care was exactly that).

      I bet that the folks in Washington are awfully glad that the Founding Fathers didn’t take the same approach as the libertarians who authored N.H.’s constitution. If these men were alive today, one would have to think that they would not exactly be the most apathetic bunch.

  2. Francois T

    Yves,
    Your last paragraph translates pretty well what the DHS report on the potential rise of right-wing home grown extremism was trying to say…before the far right loonies like Drudge, Malkin, O’Reilly and the Republiscums apparatchicks start screaming bloody murder, Big Brother and Obama the Diktator. (We’ll leave to the reality-based crowd, the fact that said report was requested by the Bush Administration…a detail the reich-wings could not comprehend.)

    The truly scary part of all this is: What would happen if such acts became those of organized groups, here at home?

    Wouldn’t be pretty, wouldn’t it?

    BTW, could you be (if possible) more specific about what the pollster you met was talking about? Inquiring minds want to know.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Pat Caddell. He says he has never seen anything remotely like the disparity in attitudes he sees now (political elites vs. country at large).

    2. Brian

      Your post seems unnecessarily partisan and mean-spirited. Do you find it ironic that you are contributing to the general level of anxiety and anger? The pitting of the people against each other using generic labels to divide and conquer?

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Wake up and smell the coffee. We’ve had 30 years of stagnant real worker wages, rising levels of consumer debt to cover that fact and buy social assent, and a grotesque increase in income inequality (our income distribution is now the most extreme of any advanced economy).

        If the folks at the top of the food chain were suffering along with the general populace, it would be a completely different story. To pretend that people are not angry, and worse, to pretend that the anger is not justified, is wrongheaded. Saying that does not constitute support for random acts of violence. But a normally complacent American populace is increasingly roused by the spectacle of continued, unabashed looting.

        1. DownSouth

          Don’t worry, Yves. The defenders of the indefensible always trot out the same old hackneyed argument that Brian does, just like they did with Martin Luther King, Jr.

        2. LosingGround

          Considering this guy brought Singapore from a poor third-world country into one of the richest countries in the world over 30yrs, maybe you should consider his perspective.

          http://www.pmo.gov.sg/News/Transcripts/Minister+Mentor/MM+Lee+Social+divide+inevitable.htm

          News: The Straits Times – 20 Oct 2009

          MM Lee: Social divide inevitable
          Global competition cuts wages at the bottom but boosts those at the top
          By Jeremy Au Yong

          HAVING a minimum wage in place here to narrow the income gap could do more harm than good, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said last night.

          In fact, every country that has set a minimum wage over what the market will bear has found that the move cuts jobs, he noted. Employers who are forced to deal with higher staff costs would simply find ways to hire less people.

          That is why Singapore’s approach has been to create as many jobs as possible, while leaving the market to decide the right level of pay. The rationale for this is that having any job is better than having no job at all. ‘Never mind your Gini coefficient. If you don’t have a job you get zero against those with jobs. So our first priority is jobs for everybody,’ he said.

          The Gini coefficient measures the income distribution across a country and is often used as gauge of the income gap.

          MM Lee was responding to a question about what Singapore could do to narrow its income gap. Mr Elvin Ong, a fourth year social sciences and business student from the Singapore Management University, had asked him what Singapore could do to help its bottom 20 per cent.

          The gap between the haves and have-nots is a recurrent political issue in Singapore and there have been concerted efforts by the Government to do more for the low income group.

          Singapore’s Gini coefficient fell from 0.489 in 2007 to 0.481 last year, a mark of a narrowing income gap. If government benefits are taken into account, the figure is further reduced to 0.462.

          Yesterday, the Minister Mentor stressed, however, that the problem of a widening income gap is one that most countries – not just Singapore – have to contend with.

          And it may be that such a split is inevitable in a globalised world. Global competition, he said, both depresses wages at the bottom and boosts wages at the top.

          At the low end, he said that salaries of unskilled workers would be kept low because of competition from cheaper alternatives in places like China and India.

          Meanwhile, at the higher end, workers being deployed to oversee foreign operations will naturally attract higher pay and perks like expatriate allowances.

          An example of this sort of competition can also be seen in the United States, he said, where a lot of lower-end jobs have been outsourced to cheaper nations.

          And though there was talk of passing laws to ban such outsourcing during the last US presidential election campaign, he felt that such a law would mean ‘hobbling their own entrepreneurs’.

          Said MM Lee: ‘If you pass that kind of legislation and you don’t go abroad, but your competitors go abroad to lower-cost countries, your markets will shrink.’

          The inevitability of an income divide was a theme he returned to later in the night when another student asked him if he was worried about a social class divide appearing in Singapore.

          That was unavoidable in a maturing society, he said.

          Here, MM Lee cited the example of China. The country, he said, started as a classless society but has gradually evolved to favour those who have the right connections.

          He explained: ‘The communists started with a classless society. They chopped off the capitalist land owners and so on – literally chopped off their heads.

          ‘But in China today, you have the leaders and you have the princelings… They’re well-educated, well-connected.’

          He pointed to the family of former Chinese premier Li Peng, who now controls the country’s energy sector. His daughter Li Xiaolin is chairman of China Power International Development, an electricity monopoly. His son Li Xiaopeng used to head Huaneng Power, another energy heavyweight.

          Said MM Lee: ‘They probably deserve the job. But if they were not well-connected, they may never be recognised. China is a big place, so you need to be recognised, otherwise you’re just one of one thousand and three hundred million Chinese.’

          1. Mickey, Akron, Ohio

            LosingGround,

            Perhaps you might want to consider HOW he did it. Mr. Lee was a DICTATOR and not necessarily benevolent. Censorship and suppression of dissent were integral to his modernization program along with a good deal of corruption. Educated in Britain, Mr. Lee adopted the Western model – modernize/industrialize first then democratize slowly, if at all.

            To hell with freedom, dissent, the US Constitution, I need a job. But never bothering to ask why, how, or what put you in the position of losing ground in the first place. Hitler offered a solution and put Germany back to work, RIGHT?

            Is a benevolent dictator what you want? I suspect that’s what many Americans are beginning to think we need. And that frightens me. Does it frighten you? The AUTHORITARIAN SOLUTION ready at hand is waiting.

          2. LosingGround

            Mickey,

            I didn’t really intend to debate the political aspect (although I have no problems doing so). The point was really that:

            1. The reasons for that income inequality can be explained by market forces, and that if so, there’s not much you can do about it. This is *not* the view of some academic in some ivory tower–it’s the view of somebody who actually ran a country with this philosophy, and the country did remarkably well, outperforming every other country in the world over that timeframe.

            2. The fact that a third-world country could become so rich and not have accumulated debt suggests that there is no reason that Americans had to do the same. They *chose* to do the same, because they *chose* to bring forward demand for whatever idiotic reason. There’s no reason to be mad about this now, having gleefully spent like a drunken sailor up until this point, and more than someone has a reason to be mad at his head the morning after a 12hr drinking binge. One is an inevitable consequence of the other.

          3. DownSouth

            Losing Ground,

            You say: “The reasons for that income inequality can be explained by market forces, and that if so, there’s not much you can do about it.”

            Ah yes, everyone bow down to the all-powrful God of the free market.

            You market absolutists never give up, do you?

          4. craazyman

            that’s a good idea for sure.

            let the market set the price of labor and if the price goes to zero, so be it.

            with slavery there is full employment and everybody has something to do.

            we can all pick cotton like in the good old days.

            Here’s my response to that little prick shit in Singapore:

            GO FUCK YOURSELF AND YOUR WAGE SLAVERY YOU WET LITTLE PIECE OF GREASY DOG FART!

            I’d rather live in a world where I don’t buy products from wage abusers, slave owners, child laborers and sweat shop assholes. If I spend a little more, that’s a good investment, I think.

            There’s no fore-ordained reason why such firms should prosper, except the moral ignorance and ethical failures of people who buy their nickel and dime crap, or those who justify it because “well, somebody else will.”

            Fuck you.

          5. Mickey, Akron, Ohio

            LosingGround,

            It wasn’t “market forces” that made Singapore a relatively wealthy society but rather the DICTATORIAL hand of Lee Kuan Yew. His fisted hand made it possible for American corporations to relocate production facilities to Singapore at a fraction of the cost with the result that American workers are losing ground.

            Make the connection: Conscious decisions made by Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore coupled with conscious decisions to relocate there made in the boardroom here. Where’s the invisible hand? It’s human beings who ultimately are responsible for such decisions not MARKET FORCES. The market is incapable of making a decision as it is merely a construct. It is nothing more than some reified concept to mask decision making made by individuals. It is the collective result of such decisions. Your use of it is akin to idolatry – a false god! Worship the MARKET all you want but there is nothing invisible about it.

          6. LosingGround

            DownSouth: Ah yes, everyone bow down to the all-powrful God of the free market.

            You market absolutists never give up, do you?
            ___

            ? The marketplace is an intersection between buyers and sellers. If you want a transaction, there’s no real way around the market! Incidentally, I picked the monicker “LosingGround” because I know that my view is going to go out the window soon. I suggest that will be bad for the world, and I think it’s therefore a bad decision, but I’m realistic enough to know that this is how the cookie will crumble.

            craazyman: I’m sure you have a point worth considering somewhere, but I can’t find it. Try to pretend you can state a view at least semi-intelligently and try using more two syllable (learn to use a dictionary and look the word up) words, and then maybe I’ll get back to you.

            Mickey: It wasn’t “market forces” that made Singapore a relatively wealthy society but rather the DICTATORIAL hand of Lee Kuan Yew. His fisted hand made it possible for American corporations to relocate production facilities to Singapore at a fraction of the cost with the result that American workers are losing ground.
            _____
            OK:

            1. Why did other dictatorships not do so well?
            2. Yes, a poor country uses low wages as a competitive advantage–at first. Singapore’s GDP per capita is now higher than America’s. It is also better educated,and it has a ton of money saved up. “Cheap labour” is no longer its competitive advantage, and it’s still doing well.
            3. You miss the point that Singapore (and much of Asia) made a conscious decision to invest and not go on a debt binge, and that as a result those countries are in better shape. Saying that this doesn’t count because they’re run by a cruel dictator is a dishonest way to explain away what they achieved, and a convenient way to disregard that the lack of concern over the GINI coefficient didn’t hurt the country. Incidentally, Singaporeans are not prohibited from leaving their country. Why are they staying?

            Make the connection: Conscious decisions made by Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore coupled with conscious decisions to relocate there made in the boardroom here. Where’s the invisible hand?

            I don’t understand your question..the free market is the result of CONSCIOUS decisions of buyers to purchase what producers make a CONSCIOUS decision to sell. Market forces are a nominalization of the result of a group of buyers and sellers to make agreements that are mutually beneficial, or, in your terms, “the collective result of such decisions [made by individuals].” There’s no “god”–just an aggregate of decisions.

          7. DownSouth

            LosingGround,

            All those high falutin tales you spout sounded just a little bit too good to be true, so I thought I’d do a little snooping, that plus those like yourself that hail from the Libertarian-Austrian-Neoliberal constellation invariably have a real affinity for the supernatural. And sure ‘nuff, it wasn’t too difficult to find that you and your dictator hero are more full of shit than a Thanksgiving turkey.

            “Social Divide Inevitable: Global competition cuts wages at the bottom but boosts those at the top” reads the headline you cite. The article claims that “Singapore’s approach has been to create as many jobs as possible, while leaving the market to decide the right level of pay.”

            So tell me, just how do markets “decide” under the following conditions?:

            ► “the state (that is the dictator) controls and owns firms that comprise at least 60% of the GDP”

            ► “the sole trade union federation which has a symbiotic relationship with the ruling party (that is the dictator), comprises almost 99% of total organized labour”

            ► “Government policy (that is the dictator) and pro-activity rather than labour legislation controls general labour and trade union matters”

            ► “The Employment Act (that is the dictator) offers little protection to white collar workers due to an income threshold.”

            ► “The Singapore Government (that is the dictator) has stressed (that sounds like the understatement of the year) the importance of cooperation between unions, management and government (tripartism), as well as the early resolution of disputes. There has been only one strike in the past 15 years. (I’ll bet. When the dictator executes people caught with small amounts of drugs, what kind of message do you reckon that sends to potential labor agitators?)”

            ► “labour shortages persist in the service sector and in many low-skilled positions in the construction and electronics industries. Foreign workers help make up this shortfall.”

            ► “In 2000, there were about 600,000 foreign workers in Singapore, constituting 27% of the total work force. As a result, wages are relatively suppressed or do not rise for all workers.”

            And personally, knowing the above, I didn’t have any trouble at all finding craazyman’s point.

          8. Mickey, Akron, Ohio

            LosingGround,

            The point is that the market isn’t FREE in Singapore by any stretch of the imagination. It is rigidly controlled and regulated. And that’s being polite. DownSouth has detailed what I already knew and sought to imply with my reference to dictatorial. Nonetheless, the pattern in Korea and Taiwan is remarkably similar to that followed in Sinapore – authoritarian dictatorship coupled with a capitalist economy in the initial stages of modernization/industrialization followed by some semblance of democratization only after the former is well underway. But none of these countries have freemarket economies in the strict sense. You might want to read “Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism” by Ha-Joon Chang in which he explores neo-liberal eeconomic/trade policies in this light.

            Your point about investment in education is well taken. But that may be a cultural trait perhaps rooted in Confucianism more than Lee Kuan Yew. Asian Americans also evince this trait and tend to be much better educated as a group than other ethnic groups in this country. There’s no disputing that education is central to a country’s economic future. But that’s for another day.

  3. scraping_by

    Before the “mad at the IRS” meme takes hold in the corporate media, the “biography” gets cobbled up, and Mr. Wood’s tedious and tawdry private life eats up the available media space, there needs to be a moment of understanding for a life caught between the American Dream and the Reagan Revolution. The assumptions contained in the letter about how the world ought to work are hard and fast Middle American, no different that those held by most of the millions raised in the 20th Century. By ending the New Deal traditions of regulations, laws, and other collective action, the way was made clear for an economic order where the individual had no protection from the whims of the powerful and well-connected. Baffling, unfair tax laws are just inequality in action.

    That said, as a Christian, I believe that despair is a sin. As a citizen, I hope this doesn’t allow the jackboot ballet his last paragraph was hoping for. And as a proud bourgeois, I still believe in lighting a candle. His cursing the darkness seems to have killed some innocents.

  4. Keenan

    Yves – I didn’t realize you’d already posted the links to Stack’s manifesto.

    In the case of a brittle structure, which seems to be the correct analogy for our present society, stresses exceeding limits are relieved catastrophically.

  5. lark

    I have been in tech for 25 years and over this time I’ve seen the degradation of the profession, due to outsourcing and other consequences of our labor market “flexibility,” meaning the rise of contracting and the like.

    I come from a union positive family and my peers in tech were always resolutely anti-union and individualist, even Randian. I thought they were in a fantasy world. Now the corporate predators have destroyed so many of my colleagues, sending their jobs overseas and basically dumping the middle aged. I recognize this suicidal attack response as the cry of a former go-it-alone American professional, now realizing that he was just a cog in a machine which ground him to bits.

    It is a bitter end. But the ideology of this professional class was delusional all along.

    If we are going to fight the corporate predators we have to do it together.

    I used to be a member of a professional association for computer scientists, and they still send me an email newsletter once a week. It is revealing what they think of as “news”. It’s not the decimation of my profession, the decline of wages, any issues related to outsourcing or H1-B, the decline of computer science as a major. I have gotten this newsletter every week for years and those issues have not been mentioned once. On the other hand, every single week there is an item on efforts to expand the presence of women in the field.

    Now I am a woman, and I appreciate these attempts. But what has happened with the rise of ‘identity politics’ is the total suppression of any issues related to preserving our middle class, and what that means for jobs: benefits, job security, outsourcing, stagnant wages, etc etc. It’s like we gained identity politics but lost the middle class.

    I hate to use these words, I know they are loaded, but the truth is, we need class conscious politics to make a come back in this country.

    1. john bougearel

      Lark,

      Thank you. All groups globally need to identify with the struggles of the exploited and oppressed by the existing power structures. This world domination by the elites is an act of violence on nature, culture and all peoples.

      A new economic model, one that is in balance with nature, community, not concerned solely with models of distribution but models of non-distribution, such as care and empathy need to be embraced by all peoples globally and push back on the elites.

    2. Majia Nadesan

      Amen to the need for labor solidarity. Avenues for collective representation have been destroyed with the collapse of union power. Professional workers were duped into identifying with elite powers, until their work was automated, outsourced, and otherwise subject to surveillance and micro-management. It is time for workers to unite to demand changes in unfair tax codes and lenient enforcement of corporate fraud and tax evasion.

      Traditional political parties are not up to the task.

    3. Doug Terpstra

      “But what has happened with the rise of ‘identity politics’ is the total suppression of any issues related to preserving our middle class…we gained identity politics but lost the middle class….the truth is, we need class conscious politics to make a come back in this country.”

      Spot on! Some association journals probably self-censor ‘controversy’; others are elite top down propaganda, with soft but calculated, Machiavellian, divide and conquer newspeak.

      I found Stack’s twist on the capitalist creed interesting:

      “From each according to his gullibility, to each according
      to his greed.”

      I suspect a lot of Randians are due for painful deprogramming by the end results of socal Darwinism. The virtue of selfishness is an oxymoron; humanity is ready for a new pardigm.

    4. Breton

      Lark

      Nice, well said.
      Full of import; this one especiallly:
      “…my peers in tech were always resolutely anti-union and individualist, even Randian.”

      Much in this observation.
      The age group you speak of is heavuly indoctrinated into the Cult of the Individual, thinking they are ort will be immune from the purge we are involved in right now….and then you add:

      “I recognize this suicidal attack response as the cry of a former go-it-alone American professional, now realizing that he was just a cog in a machine which ground him to bits.”

      It really is that simple.

    5. Richard Kline

      lark: “I come from a union positive family and my peers in tech were always resolutely anti-union and individualist, even Randian. I thought they were in a fantasy world. Now the corporate predators have destroyed so many of my colleagues, sending their jobs overseas and basically dumping the middle aged. I recognize this suicidal attack response as the cry of a former go-it-alone American professional, now realizing that he was just a cog in a machine which ground him to bits.”

      So lark, I’m interested to here this again confirmed by one from within the profession. My experience has been just as you say, the tech world has been profoundly anti-union—indeed anti-working class—“I’m better than that, I write my own ticket,” Randian, blah-blah-blah. Reaganite in thought and deed, Ronnie’s their hero, standing up to all those ‘identities,’ read women, minorities, and immigrants who should be emptying trashcans after hours where their educational cadre belongs, blah-blah-blah. Just the kind of guys always outraged that they had to pay taxes at all.

      —And now the lot of them are screwed in a garbage-disposal, bidding their toes goodbye and feeling that downwardly mobile pressure toward more of the same. None of this retire at 40 (unless they already made it big) stuff anymore. And now that they need to turn to the government for, y’know, _laws_ or something, or to solidarity with other workers against corporate evildoing ‘n’ so forth they just. can’t. STAND it. Being wrong-headed all their lives. So it’s GOT to be somebody’s fault. Illegal immigrants. “The Chinese.” Liberals. Sold-out politicians. All of the usual suspects. . . . But never themselves.

      Speaking of the dude who blew his stack, if he happened to be somebody other than a white male the media would be screaming ‘terrorist,’ because that’s exactly what how he chose to end his days. His decision to murder a number of IRS staffers—with whom he had the folly to personally pick a dispute, which he could only lose catastrophically, all his Randian blay-blah-blah nothwithstanding—makes arguably far _less sense_ than the decision of an Army psychologist in to randomly murder a bunch of folks in uniform in that same state. Far less sense, frankly, though heinous actions both.

      I don’t read anything about ‘a turn to violence’ in this particular act, Yves. The man had a personal dispute going back almost a generation. He destroyed himself with it. But more than that, the lunatic ultra-right fringe has always resorted to petty violence as a means of intimidation, not so petty if one was the target, as the families of those killed in this assault are sure to understand. ‘Lynch law,’ and all that. A propensity for murdering agents of groups with which the ultra-nut jobs have grievances is hundreds of years old—but has never translated into political impact. The closest any such groups got were occasional coteries of KKK which had local political power in places like south Indiana and rural Mississippi, but even in those states never constituted any _dominant_ political faction. This is something to understand: the Teapotters are NOBODIES, and the reason the exist at all is that some individuals of great wealth are channelling them a few million while other individuals of great wealth are cranking the media squawkbox on it. I’m highly _unimpressed_ by the nut-job, anti-government right, and they will have no impact at all on Wall Street because politicians of any weight, eager to preserve their careers, edge away from outright cranks. Smoothies passing round envelopes stuffed with serious money, those are welcomed by politicians. Which is why we got what we got in 2000. Anyone see any of that organized by the Teapotters, most of whom can’t even hold their temper enough to talk to each other.

      Tangentially, I would love to read an in-depth post of your contact with the pollster, and any comparablework by others. That’s a substantive issue which has much bearing on the shape of things to come, to me.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Richard,

        Both the headline and the substance of the blog posed the possibility of more acts of violence as a question, not a given. A pattern is already forming, and the question is how it plays out. This blog skews to the left and towards higher educational levels than is typical for the US. It has been striking to observe in this group, which I would presume would be less likely to think along the lines of violence, there has nevertheless been a big uptick in ideas and images that are violent, addressed towards perceived abusers. Now mouthing off is completely different than acting out on a idea. But if this sort of thing is happening here, the foment is clearly much worse in other quarters.

        In addition, acts like this do breed copycats. A very well done study found that a suicide that was described as such in the local media led to an increase in deaths among the same demographic, means people who could identify with the person who had killed himself, over the next two weeks. Looking at suicide data alone did not pick it up, no doubt due to religious strictures, as well as the desire of some suicides to make their death look like accidents so their relatives could receive death benefits under their insurance policies.

        1. cougar_w

          The original signers of the Declaration of Independence walked out of the room knowing themselves condemned men, headed for the gallows if they could not rally their fellows to the cause.

          While very few suicidal acts are patriotic, all true acts of patriotism must necessarily verge on the suicidal.

          The winners in political struggle get to write the history books, and after-the-fact they elevate the patriots to the cause above the merely insane.

          But until then we are free to choose our patriots as we find them.

      2. bob

        I have relatives that I would consider teabaggers. I keep asking them to tone down their rhetoric in the name of self preservation.

        They, like most of the baggers, are completely dependent on the government. They had the luck to pick government employment (and pensions) over private.

        How long do you think that is going to last? I wish that on no one, but for the past five to ten years I feel like cassandra.

        As to my generation and their 3R fetish (reagan, rand, republican). Agree completely. They just want someone else to deal with that. What do we pay you for? Make the decision for me, and if it I don’t like it, espect me to come back and yell at you. Don’t worry, I pay well.

        Entitlement might be a description if they were even capable of thinking that through. Entitlement requires, at the minimum, the ability to see what you are asking for, and to know where to ask for it.

        The complete lack of real skills and abilities is going to hurt them the most.

        1. charcad

          I have relatives that I would consider teabaggers…They, like most of the baggers, are completely dependent on the government. They had the luck to pick government employment (and pensions) over private.

          You raise some salient points here. Too bad this blog “skews” left, as Yves points out. As does the present regime. Otherwise more would recognize so many of the classic symptoms of approaching “revolution”.

          Virtually all ancient regimes collapse from internal decay, rather than violent overthrow. The idea of violent overthrow is a heroic legend spread later by the successor regime. The Bolsheviks never “overthrew” the Czars. Most of them were in exile and the ones still in Russia were coopted Okhrana police informers. The Czars collapsed amid food riots and military defeat.

          Some of the major prerequisites:

          1. Loss of ruling class legitimacy in the eyes of the general population.

          2. Fiscal bankruptcy.

          3. Systemically frustrated expectations in the “middle class”. This is presently being expressed as “loss of the American dream.”

          4. A prerevolutionary period of increasing violence. This is often ascribed to “anarchism”. Much appears to be and is random and disorganized.

          5. Increasingly strong repressionary measures on the part of The State in dealing with perceived internal dissidents and opponents.

          6. Existence of external enemies willing and able to provide material aid to promote revolutionary collapse and chaos.

          This just sets the stage. It is still insufficient to “overthrow” a modern state. The modern state is extremely powerful. The final requirement is the disaffection of the state’s own security forces. iow, they experience a loss of will to kill for the state.

          At this point we’re ready for the end of Act One. This is a disturbance of initially minor scale that apparently leads directly to the collapse of the regime.

          1. rita

            Act 1 has been playing in the USA for a long time, since before the Civil War with parties like the Know-Nothings and Copperheads (the forefathers of the Teabag Partiers). There have been food riots, race riots and draft riots with people killed. After major upheavals like the Depression, there have been major legislative reforms – Glass-Steagall, Social Security, and the Civil Rights Act. I’m not sure that we are close to the end of ACT 1 and the beginning of Act 11. Large parts of the population have always been susceptible to demagogues. The susceptibility manifests itself in rage against the incumbents as demonstrated by change in party affiliation and voting patterns, While the rising tide of populism fueled (as always) by inadequate understanding and susceptibility to manipulation by the media and demagogues is disturbing, anarchy isn’t in the near or mid-term future.

          2. David

            But now there’s no money for the reforms that would buy off the potential revolutionaries. If real reforms are instituted, the bond markets will not tolerate it. Narrowly targeted and phony reforms won’t work.

            So this time is different. Will our creditors (corporate as well as sovereign) coordinate things somehow to prevent breakdown here? I guess we will see. It will require them to coordinate with one another. If each tries to get as much as possible for him / her / itself, their coordination will not work, the system here will melt and things will change in unpredictable ways.

      3. jake chase

        I read this stuff and much of it makes a lot of sense, and then, right in the middle of the paragraph, is a torching of Ayn Rand which makes me wonder how many of you have ever read a word she wrote?

        You have the wrong enemy. The corporatist predator state relies upon corruption and pull to elevate those who yank the strings for their own benefit. It has nothing to do with individualism, relies upon propaganda masquerading as economic theory, and brute force when all else fails.

        All this sentimental whining about jobs is part of the problem. One of its consequences is the utter destruction of those who remained prudent, saved their money, and now watch their capital vaporized by zero interest rates while the Fed engorges the banksters with free money and pays interest on the phony reserves it created buying worthless mortgage drek in the trillions. Meanwhile, the jobs are at the Census Bureau, in leaf raking, in pie in the sky alternatives from the minds of Al Gore and his ilk. Good luck building a life on them.

        The corporate predator state is not grounded in individualism, but in financial monopoly. Its much balleyhooed CEOs are overdressed tin men moving smoothly from one scam to another, enabled by cheap money and justified in their looting by a legal system which pretends that corporate directors exercise supervision while they simply peddle resumes and line up to cash in themselves. These corporate goliaths destroy jobs while demanding tax relief as the price of creating them. It is the business of corporations to destroy jobs, to replace labor with capital and to move capital to the lowest cost platform. Yet we encourage this by relieving the corporations of tax burdens, and tax the people as the corporations and the banks grind them to dust.

        What is happening is very simple. A small class of well connected thieves and liars have conspired to loot the country. A toadying collection of politicians, pundits, editors, academics, and apparatchiks provides support in exchange for a spot at the trough. Nothing can stop them but organized popular intelligence. Instead, we seem to generate little except ignorant rage.

        What we need is a Constitutional Convention and a return to sound money, just taxation and the rule of law circumscribing corporate privilege, but all the Marxist, altruist gobbledygook only plays into the hands of the looters. Its logical outcome is an Obama, who is behaving exactly the way Rand and Hayek would have expected him to behave.

        Fueling ignorant rage is a recipe for chaos, nothing else.

        1. RueTheDay

          “I read this stuff and much of it makes a lot of sense, and then, right in the middle of the paragraph, is a torching of Ayn Rand which makes me wonder how many of you have ever read a word she wrote?”

          I have. I used to be a libertarian, until I realized that the entire philosophy is built upon a foundation of sand.

          No matter how you slice it, libertarianism always comes down to the sanctification of private property and contracts into an absolute moral system. Yet their very premises are incoherent. No defense of private property can ever justify, from an ethical/moral standpoint, the private ownership of land and other unproduced natural resources. There have been many attempts (labor-mixing and homesteading theories) at defending it, but all are logically flawed. As for contracts, libertarianism attempts to bypass the two critical issues (asymmetry of bargaining power between parties and asymmetry of information between parties) by creating a binary classification of voluntary agreement vs force/fraud. In reality, any agreement between two parties reflects a spectrum along both dimensions as opposed to an either/or.

          1. jake chase

            Yes, and you would replace private property with what? Political influence, anarchy, Obama on Steroids?

            Every problem we face is the result of selective raids on private property in the name of altruistic idiocy. Instead of law we have Government. Instead of sound money we have The Federal Reserve System of Targeted Impoverishment and Ingroup Engorgement.

            Libertarianism is bunk. I’m talking about Law, the same Law for everyone.

        2. DownSouth

          Your comment is so replete with cognitive dissonance I don’t even know where to begin.

          First you champion rugged individualism: “You have the wrong enemy. The corporatist predator state relies upon corruption and pull to elevate those who yank the strings for their own benefit. It has nothing to do with individualism, relies upon propaganda masquerading as economic theory, and brute force when all else fails.”

          Then you turn right around and contradict yourself: “Nothing can stop them but organized popular intelligence.”

          The corporatist predator state knows that the only way it can control its helots is to keep them atomized, and that is why it so vigorously promotes the doctrine of individualism that stands at the center of Rand’s stealth religion.

          The notion that the lone individual can stand up against some multi-national corporation is nonsensical, and yet this is the grotesque absurdity peddled by Rand and the entire Libertarian-Austrian-Neoliberal constellation.

          1. Doug Terpstra

            Alan Greenspan, Ayn Rand’s personal friend and disciple, said:

            ‘”Atlas Shrugged” is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should.’

            “Jutice is unrelenting” and “parasites perish…as they should”?? Oh what joy, Alan! If only. Randian philosophy is a bankrupt convenience for the rich and shameless, jettisoned (bailed out) at the first hint of rational consequences.

            Years ago, I read “We the Living [Dead]” and “The [Dry] Fountainhead”. And, while “Atlas Shrugged [because he didn’t give a damn]” was touted as her classic, I couldn’t bring myself to read it for fear of suicide. I found Rand’s universe, where even sex was reduced to a convenient transactional power play, to be a loveless dystopian horror show.

            A product of totalitarian communism, Rand swung her pendulum so far right it collided with the extreme left. We are now poised for something entirely new.

        3. Mickey, Akron, Ohio

          Jake,

          If you’ve read my posts it should be obvious that I’ve read Ayn Rand! Was John Galt a hero, or just a quitter who refused to play the game? By not working to his full capacity could he be deemed a slacker, perhaps a looter? Did he rape Dagny Taggart or did she gladly give in? And if Dagny’s last name had been Smith, instead of TAGGART, would she have had her own little railroad to play with? Hank Reardon might be the only one in the whole novel who deserves any respect as he refused to quit and “tolerated” his family’s insults as they spent his money. But he’s hardly a paragon of morality is he? Or is cheating on your wife ok for the movers and the shakers? He and Dagny were screwing each other weren’t they? A parallel to Rand’s own life perhaps?

          If one reads Atlas Shrugged carefully, there’s an implicit critique of CORPORATE CAPITALISM – the large, bureaucratic, organization – that dominates the modern world. Rand’s argument on behalf of the entrepreneur, that rabid individualist who lives for no other man and asks that no one live for him is a throwback to the “mountainmen” who lived ALONE in the wilderness. Let’s go back further to Rousseau’s NOBLE SAVAGE. Next stop is Thomas Hobbes where life in the state of nature is solitary, brutish, and short in a war of all against all.

          The virtue of selfishness is a substitute for the theory of election. Talented and bright, I have the right to use the rest of you as I see fit. I owe you nothing! The problem Jake is that we don’t all start at the one yard line, do we? Life just ain’t fair! Dagny Taggart is a prime example as is Francisco D’Anconia, two scions of wealth educated at university by their parents. One a brat from a railroad company and the other in copper. It’s easy to be an elitist/objectivist when you’re born one!

          When Rand is taken to a logical conclusion, why should parents live for their children? Why not adopt the reptilian response and abandon them at birth to fend for themselves. Tragically, this a bit closer to reality in some circutstances than I would care to admit. Of course, once these children had grown would they be likely to care for their parents? Would they owe their parents anything? Is their room for LOVE and COMPASSION in Ayn Rand’s world? Wouldn’t such emotions/drives violate John Galt’s [Rand’s thesis/objectvism] prime directive. If her personal life is any guide…

          Mind you, Ayn Rand’s atheism or opposition to organized religion resonates with me. But I wonder how many of her adherents subscribe to her beliefs in this arena. Attending church on Sunday then practicing Rand’s philosophy the other six days of the week smells of HYPOCRISY. But slave owners and owners of the Satanic Mills were no different. In fact, their wealth made the ascent on the stairway to heaven that much easier. After all it was god’s will… almost as if by divine right! God does what he wants why can’t I? Of course, HE sacrificed his own son for the rest of us. How magnanimous of HIM. But then HE obviously didn’t subscribe to Rand’s prime directive which explains her rejection of religion or external moral imperative on an individual.

          Put Ayn Rand back up on the shelf with Plato, Hobbes, Rousseau, Smith, Marx, Schumpeter, Hayek, Friedman et al. All of them are worth reading and studying, but not one of them has all the answers. My point being that FUNDAMENTALISM of any kind – whether secular or religious – when carried to its logical conclusion is TOTALITARIAN.

          It’s time to put this Randian experiment where it belongs: the dustbin of history.

          1. jake chase

            Mickey,

            Your posts betray a clear head and a penetrating intelligence. Atlas Shrugged is a metaphor, not a Bible. Rand would tell you it is the superior individual who creates the progress that benefits the remainder, and that the altruists engorge themselves by harnessing envy among the less talented. I don’t know about all that. I did know that electing Obama would produce exactly what we have now. Altruistic nonsense elevates an endless succession of fast talking bulls**t artists eager to reward friends and supress enemies.

            Individualism means you don’t expect to be bailed out for mistakes. It doesn’t mean you don’t pay reasonable taxes on exorbitant income, or sensible estate taxes when you die. Individualism applies to individuals. It does not apply to corporations, which at the top of today’s pyramid are organized crime families right out of Puzo’s novels. Corporations enjoy privileges and privileges may be conditioned by laws. Unfortunately, our Government Gangsters regulate individuals while allowing Corporations to run riot.

            I think you and I pretty much agree on the things that matter. But perhaps not. I would write more, but must sign off now to prepare for Tiger’s Press Orgy. Wouldn’t miss that for anything.

      4. RueTheDay

        Amen to that, Richard. I’ve been in tech consulting my entire 15 year career, and I have noticed the exact same shift amongst my colleagues. From a libertarian, rugged individualist, anti-government, elitist bent to an “oh my goodness, we really are just a bunch of worker bees and our standard of living is in the process of taking a major dump”.

    6. kevin de bruxelles

      I hate to use these words, I know they are loaded, but the truth is, we need class conscious politics to make a come back in this country.

      As much as I agree with this statement; I believe many of the white collar attitudes you mentioned in your post WERE an example of class warfare; the problem being of course that the individualistic high-tech workers were imagining they were in the upper class. The despair for these professional people arrives the moment they realize that the true upper classes don’t make much of distinction between them and a common gangsta in the hood.

      If there is any hope for the future it is that most people in America are rapidly being disabused of the myth that they too are part of some superior class. America is truly becoming close to the Platonic three class society: of a small and wealthy ruling elite, a group of auxiliaries dedicated to security (police and soldiers), with everyone else just being the consuming masses (of course in Plato’s time these people were called producers but we off shored those functions to China long ago).

      Now the only trick is to find a political expression for this newfound class reality. As DownSouth quoted Hannah Arendt a few months ago (rough paraphrase) “there is political opportunity lying in the street just waiting for someone to scoop it up.”

      1. DownSouth

        kevin de bruxelles,

        Reinhold Niebuhr covered some of this same ground:

        Furthermore, the middle class, even when the independent retailer becomes a chain store clerk through the force of capital concentration, does not react to the situation in proletarian terms. The white collar worker may not own any property and may therefore logically belong to the proletariat, but the dictum of Boudin and others that salaried workers “are in reality just as much a part of the proletariat as the merest day laborer” fails to take important psychological factors into consideration. If we may regard Germany, where all the social and political forces of modern civilization have reached their most advanced form, as a criterion, none of the disinherited middle classes express themselves politically in proletarian terms. On the contrary they turn to fascism, which combines enough radicalism, to give the poorer middle classes some hope of better things to come, with the political strategy of anti-Marxian and nationalism, by which it gains the support of the economic overlords, who are afraid of the rising tide of labor. That the middle classes can be drawn into a party in which the wealthiest and the poorest ostensibly make common cause, is the measure of their political intelligence. Whatever may be the logic of their position in economic terms, they would rather express their resentments in a nationalistic spirit, and in minimum demands for the elimination of financial abuses, than in thoroughgoing economic changes. They will never be reduced to proletarian terms politically (even though they are reduced to those terms economically) until they have lost their cultural as well as their economic inheritance. Unlike the proletarian, they do not stand outside, but thoroughly inside, the national culture.
        –Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society

        Those comments were published in 1932, and Niebuhr expressed great pessimism concerning the possibilities of the petty bourgeoisie being drawn into a coalition with the proletariat.

        But the US did not follow the same trajectory as Germany, and FDR was able to forge a coalition between the proletariat, the petty bourgeoisie and a rather significant chunk of the intelligentsia. There is of course no guarantee that, if push comes to shove, that things in the US will play out again now as they did in the 30s.

      2. Mickey, Akron, Ohio

        Kevin,

        Why do you find ‘CLASS’ such a dirty word? What is it about this word that so rankles my-fellow Americans? I’m fascinated by this reticence to confront ‘CLASS’ as a legitimate construct with which to analyze sociopolitical phenomena in this society. Is it the refusal to abandon the concept of American Exceptionalism or the “inner cop”? A bad case of cognitive dissonance?

        What is more dangerous: the ahistorical approach that laments the emergence of class without seeking to explain how the past has brought us to the present; or refusing to acknowledge the existence of CLASS in the mistaken belief that it will just go away once the economy starts growing again?

        1. kevin de bruxelles

          Mickey,

          I was in a hurry and didn’t express myself correctly. I do not in any way find the concept of class troubling — far from it. I meant to agree with Lark’s point that class is becoming a more important factor in politics. But I do not agree that this is a bad thing — not at all. I have been preaching for years that race, gender, religion, etc, are next to irrelevant and that class rules all. So I am quite happy that people are finally discovering class — it is the first step towards finding a solution to the current crisis.

          1. Mickey, Akron, Ohio

            Kevin,

            Recalling that you grew up in Oakland, I didn’t think I had misread your previous posts. No! I’m not the thought police. Just have an idetic memory or some semblance of one.

            Wouldn’t it be a hoot if the FBI, DHS, NSA were discovered to “monitor” such sights as this? Given the subject matter and use of the word “terrorism” copy here makes for good reading by the thought police. Self-censorship may be our greatest enemy…

            Take care.

  6. Praedor

    I wont say anything is starting until there are more incidents of a similar nature. One doesn’t make a trend. Two is suggestive. Three looks like a trend. Four is a trend.

  7. DownSouth

    Amongst my friends and family, I don’t know a single person who isn’t mad as hell. Everyone is in agreement that democracy in America is broken, that the government only works for the rich. But there’s no agreement on how to fix it. The right wants to do away with government. The left wants to fix government.

    I hail from the left, but from the opposite end of the political spectrum comes something that strikes me as being true:

    He said he has found audiences everywhere struggling to make sense of why they were wiped out last year. These audiences, he said, are far more receptive to critiques once dismissed as paranoia. It is no longer considered all that radical, he said, to portray the Federal Reserve as a plaything of the big banks — a point the Birch Society, among others, has argued for decades.

    People are more willing, he said, to imagine a government that would lock up political opponents, or ration health care with “death panels,” or fake global warming. And if global warming is a fraud, is it so crazy to wonder about a president’s birth certificate?

    “People just do not trust any of this,” Mr. Mack said. “It’s not just the fringe people anymore. These are just ordinary people — teachers, bankers, housewives.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2010/02/16/us/16teaparty_CA0_337-span.html

    To make their point, the NY Times’ authors portray Pam Stout, a petite grey-haired matron, who has come to believe that perhaps violence is the only solution. “Peaceful means,” she says, “are the best way of going about it. But sometimes you are not given a choice.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2010/02/16/us/16teaparty_CA0_337-span.html

    1. Dave Raithel

      And it was for Stouts comments (and the remainder of the article) that I perceived a bee-line from the Teabaggers to Stack, even if HE had nothing to do with them….

  8. noseeum

    The common man person would learn very quickly just how little so called constitutional rights mean once you try to set up a small businesss. As soon as someone developes something of value, they attract flies like sh— t. For example, the legal system encourages frivolous law suits as a means for extortion. In fact, all you need do is to file a brief saying an emergency exists in order to put an opponent under gag order, and out of business. So much for the constiotutional right of free speach. None of which is conducive to liberty or the pursuit of happiness.

  9. Dave

    Yes. Lost in the political sniping (was Stack a teabagger? Is what he did “terrorism”?) he is surprisingly sympathetic. It’s not really obvious that he was insane. His violence is desperate, obviously, and terrible, but there’s no point in demonizing him. It’s tragic, really.

      1. Keenan

        He owned, or at least had equity, in the aircraft and the house. By his logic he removed these assets from the reach of the IRS. Maybe he couldn’t take his assets with him, but he didn’t let the IRS have them either. You can’t diagnose him as insane based on your premises.

        1. rita

          I believe the IRS will have a right to those assets in his estate (unless he did better tax planning this time around).

      2. Dave Raithel

        No, he was pretty clear that he understood insanity to be the repetitive effort of the same behavior to accomplish a different outcome than past repetitions had achieved.

    1. Dave Raithel

      Is what he did terrorism? Well, without citing the US statute but having a fair recollection of its sense, yes, what he did was political terrorism. Political terrorism is – to paraphrase – the use of force or threat of force against a populace or their government agents to effect a change in that government’s policy. The man’s suicide note is pretty clear – he’s out for body count to effect change.

  10. john bougearel

    I have been thinking a lot about Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, and the French Revolution these past few days as more and more Americans wake up to the reality that Americans of all classes are being exploited and oppressed by the imperialist power structures in place.

    So, I find Joe Stack’s name, perhaps our first public martyr to the financial crisis, whose first name is close to Joan of Arc’s first name symbolically significant.

    Joe’s closing statement of futility and resignation is rather poignant. Joe can be congratulated for not withdrawing into apathy and listlessness. While the violent act can not be condoned, Joe’s final act is a signal that a revolution against the slow motion social catastrophe that this financial crisis has led to is underway. What shape this social and cultural revolution takes, we don’t know quite yet. But it is here.

    From Joe: I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at “big brother” while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won’t continue; I have just had enough…..I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.

    1. Anthony

      I’ve been thinking about the French Revolution, too, and I don’t find the thought comforting. Consider this possible analogy. Suppose the first phase, the aristocratic phase when the Estates General met, roughly corresponds to the banking bailouts of 2008. In both cases, elites knew the game was up and tried to get in front of reform to grab as much as they could while they still could. Then suppose the second phase, when the middle-class-dominated National Assembly took over and crafted the Constitution of 1791, corresponds to the Tea Party movement. In both those cases, the petit-bourgeoisie cottoned on to the fact it was getting screwed and advocated classic liberal reforms as a check on elite power. Well, if you’re with me so far, then this is where analogy turns ugly since we all know what happened in the third phase, popularly known as “The Terror.” I have wondered if our millions of unemployed — they’re still being thrown out of work, and benefits are not likely to last as long as their unemployment — could prove the nucleus of an American sans-culotte. If that’s true, it doesn’t get any better later when Napoleon shows up. And, no, switching to the American Revolution for an analogy doesn’t work, either, since a) that wasn’t a revolution so much as a colonial independence movement, and b) we no longer have a magic money machine called “the western frontier” to pump constant new wealth into the economy.

      1. Keenan

        The western frontier, a wild and largely unfettered environment, also offered for adventurers, the failure-scarred, and square-pegs-who-couldn’t-find-a-round-hole a place in which to begin anew. There is no longer on this planet a hospitable wide open expanse of comparable opportunity.

      2. Dave Raithel

        Truly scary shit. It’s kind of like your neighbor one day having a Hammer and Sickle outside his door, and the next day, it’s a Swastika. That’s why I’m only a “m” Marxist, and sometimes, I want to believe that Obama will get his head out of his ass….

  11. John

    When you have a central bank that prints money and serves vested interests at the expense of the individual, when you have faceless, government ‘crats terrorizing honest citizens, when you have actually run a business and had to really meet a payroll (not the theory but actually sending invoices and praying to GOD that the people who owe you money pay you) and when you have to slash your business because dishonest folks cheat you out of money you have earned and when you have to pay the IRS regardless of whether you get paid or not,,,and when you finally realize you are just slaving for folks that are protected by the government…you might sympahtize with Stack….until you have walked in his shoes do not be so quick to judge…when people are cornered they feel they have nothing to lose …nobody has had the courage to question if the system is broken and is driving people to this…the system is broken, dishonesty is everywhere….this was created to a large extent by fiat money making it possilbe for government to grow way beyond its legitimate size…I suspect we will see more of this as summer arrives…folks are really pissed…violence is not the way unless you are a founding father…

    1. Doug Terpstra

      “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” JFK 1962, murdered in 1963

    2. Breton

      Yup

      It is that simple, John
      We are faced with two generations and going on Three that have stuck with it about as long as they think possible.
      I marvel at anyone who has the heart to start a small biz these days!

    3. BrihasPathy

      John:
      Your sympathetic understanding of this “suicider” is quite striking and like you, though I do not condone it all, I can understand exactly the motivations in play in this case.
      Now, I ask you to extend your newfound understanding to the largeyly non-white foreign folk who have been labeled as “terrorists” by the US Government.
      If those populations as a whole were subjected to predations possibly orders of magnitude greater than this gentleman, how much more justifed is their situation.
      Just saying…..

      1. Dave Raithel

        Caught “Reds” the other night, part of TMC’s 30 Days of Oscar – hadn’t seen it since I saw it when it came out, back in the early days of the Reagan Dark Ages. Loved the scene (now, meant less then) where Jack Reed is bitching to Zinoviev for mistranslating “class war” as “holy war”…

        Say all you want… well, I am not the host here …

    4. Dave Raithel

      It’s the “fiat” currency paranoia at which my own working class and petty bourgeois origins depart and say “What the fuck are you talking about?” I spend too much time and effort trying to figure out Randal Wray and those people NOT to say: The issue is for whom the fiat policies are constructed.

      I never had to threaten anyone to get paid, though I had a few very uncomfortable conversations because I worked in places where I kept a lead filled nightstick in my truck, for years, just in case. I shit thee not.

  12. nooseum

    As an addendum to my last comment, here is a NYT story about hedge funds making it a business practice to use the legal system to throw the little people( who clearly are unequal to the hedge fund’s probably $600 per her lawyers) out of their rent regulated apartments, in order to forcefully liquidate and resell their assets. Where do hedge funds get their money? From banks and the fed discount winder, I assume. Forceful liquidation, indirectly or directly using the power of the state is the name of the game, and the little people are getting wise to it.

  13. rkka

    At least in this case the private equity scumbags are getting sued by the authorities. Librulz like Andrew Cuomo do believe in opposition to unbridled corporate power.

    Obama, take note.

  14. Fred Smith

    Simple answer to the irs problem. Flat tax. One rate for everyone and everything. If you work a little you pay x amount. if you work all the time and make millions you pay the same rate. they already take the money out of our pay checks, why jump through all the hoops? Get rid of irs.

  15. CaitlinO

    “and who’s constitution gives it’s citizens the right to violently fight to defend their freedom.”

    And whose Declaration of Independence imposes upn its citizens the DUTY to violently fight to defend their freedom.

    1. Mark

      Caitlin,
      Sorry, can’t let that go by. Read the document(Declaration) please. It says that nowhere.

      Yes, it proclaims a ‘right’ to ‘alter or abolish’ unresponsive governments. But it’s not a ‘duty’ and ‘violence’ isn’t mandated.

      The Founding Fathers deliberated over every word and punctuation–for good reason. Don’t corrupt their long labors by hasty mis-statements of their results.

      Ghandi lived and suffered under a much more oppressive (at least overtly) government than we do, and managed to alter and then abolish it by non violent means.

      Violence will give them the excuse for tyrannical oppression; which they’re probably looking for. There is another way; it’s harder, but the results are far superior.

      1. Jim in MN

        The action menu is the table of contents from “The Politics of Non-Violent Action” by Gene Sharp. For nearly all there are successful international examples.

        http://www.peacemagazine.org/198.htm

        A small sample of the 198 methods:

        PHYSICAL INTERVENTION
        Sit-in
        Stand-in
        Ride-in
        Wade-in
        Mill-in
        Pray-in
        Nonviolent raids
        Nonviolent air raids
        Nonviolent invasion
        Nonviolent interjection
        Nonviolent obstruction
        Nonviolent occupation

        ACTION BY HOLDERS OF FINANCIAL RESOURCES
        Withdrawal of bank deposits
        Refusal to pay fees, dues, and assessments
        Refusal to pay debts or interest
        Severance of funds and credit
        Revenue refusal
        Refusal of a government’s money

        There is no excuse for lack of hard work, creativity and guts in this situation. No one need shoot or blow up another human being in order to exert extreme and overwhelming force. Force does not need to be violent. It just has to change the other sides’ set of available options against their will.

        1. Richard Kline

          Oh hey, MN Jim, somebody else who’s actually read Gene Sharp! Which leads me to interject an important point: all of the successful, organized efforts which have achieved positive political change from with in American history have been non-violent. We aren’t a society where resort to violence has been a successful strategy. Yes, some labor activism involved guys who toted guns and weren’t shy about handing out a slam in the mouth. But on the whole, those efforts had less success. It was sit-ins, shut downs, and political pressure that brought labor change. That swept out racial discrimination. John Brown achieved less against slavery than a bunch of stuffy Christians in tight suits holding meetings and making civil discussion. I’m sympathetic to sabotage when necessary, a longstanding anarchist tradition, without being blind to the mixed results. But it’s clear that when one resorts mayhem and murder even in the best cause a lot of folks on the fence jump off quick on the other side. And it is getting them to step off the fence and stand on _your_ side that success is won.

      2. Dave Raithel

        Maybe you, or maybe me, misses her point. Congress is authorized to raise and pay for an Army and a Navy. There is nothing about a draft. Personally, I think the point at which people feel the need to be violent to secure their safety and security is beyond “right” and “duty” talk – it is back to a state of nature. But this talk gets really complicated – e.g. do invaders have a “right” to defend themselves? Ask any Bush apologist for his stupid wars in Iraq and Afghanistan …

        1. charcad

          Congress is authorized to raise and pay for an Army and a Navy. There is nothing about a draft.

          Get yourself appointed to the next five Supreme Court vacancies. Then grant cert to a suitable case so you can reverse all precedents and impose your opinion as law.

          Put gently, you are 100% wrong here in terms of Constitutional law. The USA has had compulsory military service since the Militia Act of 1792. Said Act was voted in favor of by many attendees at the original Constitutional Convention, and great many more who voted to ratify it as state legislators. If the Constitution prohibited compulsory military service they would have noticed.

          Sometime later in 1918 the US Supreme Court also found direct federal conscription to be “constitutional”. And in the 1980s in Rostker v Goldberg the SCOTUS held the Feds could even have a sexist draft for males only.

          otoh I think you are “right” in terms of street level “law” in the minds of the present population. The Czars, the Bourbons, the Weimar Republic and the USSR also had lots of “law” that is only of interest to antiquarians now.

          1. Dave Raithel

            Ironically, you make my point that the Constitution, as a set of “axioms” is incomplete – and by the later, I mean in the formally logical sense. I have no problem with “judge made law” in principle, but I do have a problem with eviscerating precedent on fraudulent grounds. On the other hand, I care for what dead people intended as to how I should live about as much as I care for a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Their sense of normality, expectations, and “common sense” is theirs, and they are … well, dead. Personally, I’m opposed to a professional standing voluntary armed forces. I want mandatory service for everybody, and the most inefficient, logistically challenged war machine filled with uncooperative conscripts one could imagine. Going to war should be so difficult and so expensive that nothing short of near unanimity can bring it about. So I’ll set about cloning myself, go back to law school, and follow your advice….

    1. Dave Raithel

      I looked at the link, the charts etc. I’d think the next question would be (supposing a most charitable interpretation of the facts): What are those government workers doing?

      Yves Smith posted a link to some of Sam Bowels’ most recent work a few days back that extends his previous work on the “garrison state economy” stuff he did back in the Reagan Dark Ages. I am not unsympathetic to your concerns. But social services for unwed mothers is not the same as piss-cops monitoring unemployed young black males who’d smoke blunts if they could get away with it. Some government workers do like pushing people around. Some just want to do an honest job for an honest purpose …

  16. Blurtman

    The most interesting aspect of this story is how much more people are reading into it. That in and of itself, is very telling.

    Obama is an imbecile. He totally misses the boat about the importance of at least maintaining a semblance of fairness and law and order. Even under Bush the War Criminal financial fraud was seen to be prosecuted.

    Think what this means.

    1. Dave Raithel

      Obama is not an imbecile. He is extra-ordinarily disappointing, but he’s not nearly as stupid as you’d think me to be to believe what you say about Bush….

  17. DoctoRx

    The anger at the looting has minor relation to prior left-right identity on the political spectrum. That DownSouth could quite a Bircher proves that. These are unprecedented times in many ways.

    1. Dave Raithel

      Excellent read. My favorite part:

      “The fat salaries paid to underperforming CEOs are an adult version of the A-. Anyone who remembers the injured sanctimony with which Kenneth Lay greeted the notion that he should be held accountable for his actions will understand the mentality in question—the belief that once you’re in the club, you’ve got a God-given right to stay in the club. But you don’t need to remember Ken Lay, because the whole dynamic played out again last year in the case of Scooter Libby, another Yale man.”

      Here in Columbia, Misery, locus of the University of Misery, we all (well, some of us) know there’s an endowed chair named for Lay (yep, from here, the son of a preacher man) in the Econ Department, filled by a man who counsels the local Democrat Sage, Chris Kelly, to eliminate the state income tax in its entirety and replace it with a sales tax on EVERY retail transaction. And because of something I said to my local Congressman about Scooter, the Secret Service came to visit me. An article like this calls to mind so many pleasant connotations…

      Seriously (not that the above is false, it is all true), a good read.

  18. tim

    My fear started several ago, during the last administration, that people under 70 would witness a revolution in our lifetime. A revolution started inspired by many factors including our clueless unsustainable lifestyles, a lack of common sense and education and now – a lack of confidence in money while being in debt up one’s ass without a job.

    1. MG77

      Pretty well summed up. Lots of rage directed by this guy at nearly everything and anything in his life. Oddly, the only thing he left much out on was his ex-wives and you get the impression there was no love loss there either.

      Maybe some it was justified. Hard to know the specifics of what occur in some of the situations he mentioned since it is only based upon only his first-hand account. He could be largely giving an accurate description or he could be largley full of $hit. My bet is that it is somewhere in between.

      He arrives at violence as the answer and kills the same type of people who probably more closely related to his situation and some of the things he encountered than he realized or would care to admit.

      Already people are trying to argue this one individual is something representative of something. Not buying it.

  19. Stephen Richardson

    Not that the tax system isn’t a regressive disaster, with tons of elites shirking their responsibilites and corporations shifting to tax shelters. But, the IRS reamed him because he listened to some “experts” that told him he didn’t have to pay his taxes. What utter bullshit, when did it become unpatriotic to pay your damn taxes?

    The irony of this whole thing is some poor middle class schlep killed a couple of middle class bureaucratic pricks in the IRS because of his rage towards the government, business, and other elite in this country.

    In all of his frustration and anger he went after people just like himself. A bunch of federal employees that are chained to their benefits, underwater mortgages, and student loans probably trying to get by in modern system of debt indentured servitude, until their kids grow up and they can retire with their shitty pensions. The whole situation is pathetic, funny, and utterly terrible at the same time.

  20. Jim in MN

    I am tired of all the kvetching. Let’s get ‘Merican and fix the damn thing.

    MY BRAND NEW IDEA (OK, I already posted this on Zero Hedge and Facebook but I did just think of it):

    How about a commission that was required to propose budget cuts in direct proportion to the contributions of interest groups? The more the contributions over, say, the last ten years, the higher the percentage cut.

    Constitutional amendment, anyone? Limit deficits to 5% only under certain conditions, and said commission to enforce automatic rollbacks based on some mix of: 1. Historic average political contributions by sector; 2. Historic level of Federal tax/spending outlays; or 3. Historic profitability of sector or some combined formula.

    In addition, note that top tax brackets are still taxed at the lowest rates in almost a century. Hell, Eisenhower would raise top rates quite a lot. But first, bloody budget massacre. Total mayhem. Take the beast back at least 30 years in size. Liberal and conservative programs alike. We’ll figure out the proper balance later.

    1. Adam

      Jim, you have to stop listenting to all the lies produced by the right wing nut jobs. Outside of the past 2 years (and this is due to fall in GDP and 1 time stimulus spending) the US government as a percentage of GDP has been more or less unchanged for the past 30 years. What’s changed is that instead of helping the working man the government is helping the elite. When the republicans run around calling for lower taxes and less government what they really mean is they want to pay less taxes themselves and screw the working man with less government intervention.

      1. Jim in MN

        http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/us_20th_century_chart.html

        I think going from 40 to 30 percent is exactly what I am talking about. I listen to everyone and I understand what right and left wing positions are.

        We are having, simultaneously, the financial equivalent of war and a crisis of legitimacy. At this time, under these conditions, special interests continue to fire torpedoes into the engine room with ‘Me First!’ written on the nose cones. The Supreme Court just handed them a whole new arsenal.

        Are you really so complacent? I find that unacceptable. Please do more analysis. Most of what you need is right in front of you.

        I think we need to get ahead of the problems with a bold stroke. Both sides need to ‘lose’ to break the dynamic of the system.

        Or it will break us.

        1. Adam

          You should take your own advice Jim…

          That 30 to 40% move include state and federal spending (check the little radio buttons on the graph). The Federal government jumped from about 20% to about 25% – a quarter of the jump is in increased unemployment payments (can’t begrudge those checks).

          On top of this, I would find this site suspect. They claim US GDP grew every year the past 2+ years. I don’t know what planet their on but the US economy didn’t grow by 2.7% last year!

          The problems with our government are not the government but with who the supposed elected officials are really representing. Government doesn’t work for the average person anymore and it’s not because government doesn’t work – heck government is working superbly, just not for the right people.

          Warren Buffet recently commented that their is a class war going on – and its being waged by the rich and they’re winning. He’s right.

          People need to stop talking about how bad the government is. That doesn’t do anyone any good (except those who are using it to their advantage – there is a reasons the Republican’s are so anti-government it’s making them filthy rich). We need to start talking about what we want our government and society to look like and then work towards it.

  21. Curious College

    Yves,

    I Have read your blog for about a year now, and I want to say that it, along with Mish’s GlobalEconomicAnalysis are two of my primary sources of financial information. I read a good majority, but not all of your articles so forgive me if you offered solutions to some of these questions. Ultimately, what I am wondering is while it is fun (and appropriate certainly in regards to bank bailouts) to hate on the wealthy class, would the average person really be better without globalization and innovation that frankly is motivated in large part by greed. While it may be true that based on govt. statistics average real wages have been stagnant, the average person has better cars, more advanced healthcare (which yes, does cost more), technology that didn’t exist 30 years (heck 5 years ago) and much more stuff (tvs, clothes, homes (which people got greedy with themselves)? Ultimately, what I am asking is don’t you think that things are way better than most let on. If it would be possible I would love to hear more about solutions going forward, because my generation (I’m a 22 year old finance student) I hope changes things, but right now all that is out there is big business opinions and rabid anti-business opinions that rarely offer enough solutions. Thanks for any response and my apologies for such a long first post.

    1. Evelyn Sinclair

      Inventors,innovators, and workers give. Financial parasites taketh away.

      The “innovations” spoken of in deregulated financial acivities are as unproductive of wealth as Las Vegas Casinos. They reliably redistribute it to the proprieters of the casinos.

      What those giant multinational corporations do to you and me is the same as a really really huge tick does to your dog.

      People manufacturing cars and TVs are making “wealth.” Financial “innovators” are not creating any wealth. They ar parasites.

    2. joe costello

      CC wrote: “While it may be true that based on govt. statistics average real wages have been stagnant, the average person has better cars, more advanced healthcare (which yes, does cost more), technology that didn’t exist 30 years (heck 5 years ago) and much more stuff (tvs, clothes, homes (which people got greedy with themselves)?”

      This is an important point, the “better” you point out, with stagnant wages, was gained via debt, that is the problem.

      CC wrote: “would the average person really be better without globalization and innovation that frankly is motivated in large part by greed.”

      Globalization as a process been going on for 4.5 billion years or so. Corporate globalization, and lets randomly, but adding some clarity, say it’s about three decades old, corresponding with the era of “financial innovation”. Now is “average person”, average American, or since were talking about corporate globalization, the average of 6.5 billion people on this globe?

      The simple thing is for any number of reasons, the corporate globalization of the last three decades is completely unsustainable. The 4.5 billion year globalization, whatever happens that seems to have awhile to go. As far as greed, well when we had gods, greed was once considered one of the 7 Deadly Sins.

      CC wrote: “If it would be possible I would love to hear more about solutions going forward, because my generation (I’m a 22 year old finance student) I hope changes things,”

      Your generation is going to have to figure out a lot of the change, as far as how things run now, your greatest advantage is “you don’t know you can’t do that.”

      1. john

        Joe’s (and Yves’) point regarding wages vs debt is so important. The asset side of the balance sheet all the attention in this line of reasoning (talking toys, safety features in cars, computing power, whatever) without regard for the liabilities that have been required to achieve this standard of living.

        In a debt based economy, inflation is a requirement. Inflation without increased wages is a time-bomb. As long as asset inflation (i.e. tech stocks, houses) occurs, all is well. No need to pay attention to liabilities when asset inflation makes up for it. When that stops…well, here we are.

    3. Evelyn Sinclair

      The points being explored, however roughly, do dredge up some thorny questions.

      Does nonviolent protest work?

      Does violent protest work?

      I recently watched the film of Ghandi’s life story. He utterly shocked the British, and managed (eventually) to shame them into allowing India to govern itself. He was consistently, bravely, brathtakingly nonviolent. This was what made him effective.

      I asked myself afterwards if he would be able to do the same kind of thing if he were alive today.

      I thought about Rachel Corie, who made herself vulnerable to an Israli bulldozer and was crushed. I thought about how when Americans took to the streets to protest the US latest invasion if Iraq, in this centry, news media looked the other way. I thought about how the revelations about Abu Ghraib did not impress the pro-war people, change their minds, or change any practices (except to induce tighter security).

      People are now so acustomed to hideous revelations about revolting behavior that they are no longer shockable.

      I don’t think nonviolent protests get attention. I don’t think they work.

      My choice would be to say, I have the right to dosomething like publicly immolate myself, but I don’t have the right to take anyone else’s life. Most people understand this distinction. So thouse of us who UNDERSTAND the protestor who turns violent, we turn against him when he takes lives that are not his to take.

      So violent protest has the advantage that people may notice something as spectacular as this stunt-suicide-attack. But the news media paints him as an incoherent nutjob, and moves on to the next thing.

      I don’t think that the violent protest ‘works’ either.

      Both Ghandi and MLK were assinated. Even saints are eventually dragged into the violence that doggs demands for social change and justice.

  22. Ken Locke

    I want to get back to what Lark said. What a stunning and poignant diagnosis of the social phenomenon that is Joe Stack. His numbers are legion. Those who bought hook line and sinker the American individualist dream. Of course everything conspired to this boobytrap—the media news popular movies, education, let alone talk radio. And for 30 years the various bubbles seem to confirm this as reality.
    Now the biggest bubble, the bubble of American exceptualism has burst. And the Joe Stacks among us (and who doesn’t have some Joe Stack in him or her) is abruptly shunted into the stark landscape of the real world, a world where the needs and the historical actors are colective, the world of our Founding Fathers, and 90% of our history. And as Lark so poingantly describes,Joe’s individual rageful self-combustion graphical illustrates that we haven’t the collective skills demanded to survive in this world.
    We have to learn a very lot in a short period of time. We have to learn from our own rich history of past movements, anti-monarchy,antislavery, populist,the WWW and early labor union struggles, as well as the antiwar, civil rights and feminist movements. We have to learn what oligarchy is, and how it has been fought in the past(most recently in the 30’s but going back as a common thread to the the argumeents in the Federalist Papers.
    In short, as Larks says, we need class conscious politics to come back to this country. The suicidal acts are understandable but tragically futile—even if more directly (and satisfyingly) aimed at Goldman-Sacks. Joe Stacks (and it’s a great archetypal name) I hope sparks something deeper in our souls—when we all came together to struggle against arrogant, ruthless and seemingly all-powerful oligarchies.

    1. LoneHighway

      Funny you should say that about Goldman… the instant I heard the first connection to the IRS, I thought to myself “it would have meant more to most folks if he’d flown into Goldman Sachs.”

  23. alex black

    Yves, very interesting that you got to sit down with Pat Caddell – he must have some VERY pointed things to say after he was basically run out of a campaigning job in Colorada by the SEIU for daring to say that the bloated pensions of public employees (plus the other bennies, plus the fact that they earn twice what someone doing a similar job in the private sector earns), will be the death of both the Democratic Party AND the US. A recent report shows that public employee pensions are $1 trillion underfunded, and Joe Six-Pack will come to resent the inevitable tax hike to cover this when he realizes that these folks have been making twice what he does, with no risk of unemployment (after Joe just got his pink slip)

    The largest recipient of Obama’s Stimulus funds? – state government workers

    The most frequent visitor to the Obama White House as per public records? – the head of the SEIU

    The largest contributor of money and manpower to Obama’s campaign (bigger than Wall Street)? – do I even need to say?

    I would love to hear if Pat had anything to add….

  24. i on the ball patriot

    INTENTIONALLY CREATED PERPETUAL
    CONFLICT ESCALATES

    Brainwashed Joe Stack,
    Took off on his plane,
    Fucked by the IRS,
    He wanted to cause them some pain,

    Brainwashed ‘bottom’ gun,
    From a trailer in the mid west,
    Launched missiles on Pakistan,
    At Obama’s request,

    Both inspired by propaganda,
    To rain down death from the skies,
    Both motivated by fiction,
    Both motivated by lies,

    Did one pilot have balls?
    And the other have none?
    Was one a hero?
    Was one a hired gun?

    Both impacts caused deaths,
    The collateral damage kind,
    So was their a hero,
    Of oppressed humankind?

    If you think there’s a hero,
    You are a twisted fool,
    Shaped by the elite,
    Your just another system tool,

    If you want to stop,
    The death from the skies,
    You have to eliminate,
    Those who pay for the lies …

    Errr … election boycotts as a ‘vote of no confidence’ in this totally non-responsive to the will of the people government …

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  25. LAst Care SS

    ” random acts of violence ”

    It wasn’t random. It was targeted. The IRS was one of the ones that gave him the most grief. He hit an IRS office. And just as he said, it won’t be the last. Go to your nearest bar, order a shot, and toast Joe Stacks. He died with more dignity than most of us will when this is all played out.

    Never forget the name, may the price he paid not be in vain.

    Cheers.

    1. MG77

      Celebrate him? No. Not in any way. By your line of reasoning, you are entitled to act violently against whatever organization or individual you deem has caused you the most trouble/suffering in your life at your own choosing.

  26. dk

    Robert Reich called it – the extreme left and the extreme right have met up, and the events are pointing in a very scary direction:

    What really worries me is a basic fact, borne out by history. Deep and continuing economic stresses bring out demagogues, xenophobes, racists, and opportunists who channel people’s fears and anxieties into resentments against other people. If this awful economy goes on much longer, the extreme right could meet the extreme left in a place called “I’m mad as hell and am not gonna take it any more,” and form a third party that attracts everyone who feels disempowered and dumped on — and who want to blame someone else for what’s happened to them. Then, watch out.

    http://robertreich.org/post/344459321/what-scott-browns-victory-really-means

    1. MG77

      “Extreme right join the extreme left join together” Since when did that ever happen in history including this country during the 1930s? Both the extreme left and extreme right were quite active but both were represented by quite different constituencies and had very different visions/blueprints of what America should look like.

    2. Dave Raithel

      As I wrote above (not that I expect you or anyone has read it but to make sure I put it here again where relevant): It’s like one day, your neighbor has a Hammer and Sickle outside their door, and the next, it’s a Swastika …. (and then my “m” Marxism apologia ….)

    3. LoneHighway

      It just seems like every time there is any sort of a political vacuum, the political opportunists (Palin, etc.) rush in to fill the void and so how then do we make sense of what is really happening in this arena of “Mad as Hell?”

  27. esb

    Just imagine a second American Revolution, with angry mobs sweeping up the shores of the (Long Island) Sound, burning the “cottages,” sinking the yachts, and “putting out” the majordomos.

    (There is nothing more sad than the sight of a majordomo who has been “put out.”)

    “But I have always been ‘in service.'”

    And you ask, “why the shores of the Sound?”

    Simple answer, easiest access to the most oligarchs.

    (And please be careful with the endangered wetlands when you tear out the private docks!!)

    The private docks that should never have been permitted.

  28. scharfy

    Just finished reading this guys manifesto multiple times.

    Many of the above posters making many good points about American idealism gone wrong, the system, empire is dying, neo-con disaster, people waking up, etc etc… mostly on point.

    That’s all well and good but this guy is no Andrew Jackson. His “Manifesto” is a whiny rant about tax problems and his 401k getting depleted – not a principled attack on the system. I mean he hadn’t even done any Federal jail time. Yea the system sucked, but you are not its greatest victim.

    He burned through cash and couldn’t find work.

    The whole thing reeks of selfishness and he even killed an innocent.

    To me this is a self- centered suicide, not a dogmatic rejection of a corrupt system.

    We gotta fight smart, this ain’t the way.

    You wanna change the system? get 3 million people and march on Washington. It got it done for the blacks in the 60’s, not the riots in Watts. The Watts riots hurt the black movement. Or just flat out don’t pay ’em. But this behavior hurts the cause and cannot be condoned.

    1. Dave Raithel

      Ok, I read the rest of your post, I see your point, I am not unsympathetic, but find a different analog. Andrew Jackson is to American Democracy what Pol Pot is to ….

    2. David

      I think he’s sympathetic. He’s what he says he is, a normal guy who did things right and had deserving achievements. If there’s a realistic American dream, he should have had it. Instead his security and progress were cut out from under him, over and over again.

      He’s an engineer, a private pilot, and the only thing he did wrong was to try to make the system work. He dedicated his life to an idea of America, the idea that we have all been told. To those who were buying, it’s what we were sold.

      I’m not saying he’s a saint. But neither are the millions of people who will identify with him.

  29. J. G.

    The Marxist Rot….House of Kennedy 1962

    SEIU, NEA, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, Change to Win.

    It’s simple really….take down the public sector (Soviet) unions and the country will recover. Don’t…and we go down the Road to Serfdom slowly but surely.

    1. Dave Raithel

      Yeah, get rid of cops and Armies and prison guards and judges and courts and all that. All they do is protect thems that gots from us that don’t. To each according to his threat advantage, from each according to his intimidation.

  30. sunny129

    Any one still imagines the TERRORISM as of purely external threat, this incident bellies that! We have terrorists right in the midst of us – Banksters, the Financial Oligarchy.

    At Davos even a banker admitted to reporter that the perception of them by public is so low that they are just above ‘terrorists’!. Politicians, lawyers and used car salesman got promoted up!

    Economy of USA is the ‘blood’ which can be thrown into seizure and chaos at any time by cyber attack, at any time, from within or any where in the World. Don’t forget that people who are mad and fed up includes IT guys!

    we are NOT just talking about a glitch in an accelerator control device(software)in Toyota!

  31. Siggy

    Joe Stark, a very sad moment. A very ineffectual act of revolution.

    Lark has a very good point of view.

    We do indeed need to begin to reestablish our class structure. It is my view that the middle class has been under extreme pressure for the better part of 50 years. During that period the consistent problem has been a varying degree of debasement of the currency. The persistent loss in purchasing power has negated the inducement to save. Where one income once supported a household, two are now required. Where we once had notable class mobility we now see that process being stagnated.

    We have an abundance of politically correct concern for the abolishment of class differentiation, so much so that we passed legislation that holds that everyone is entitiled to own a home, even if they can’t afford one.

    Joe Stark, may the great providence receive your soul and give it comfort. For us, in your memory, we should begin to consider what genuinely matters in this life. We need to understand how we can compete with countries that follow mercantilist economic policies. We need to understand that our currency must be capable of functioning as a store of value. We need to understand that you can’t borrow your way to prosperity.

    It’s not that Joe Stark failed in his effort, it’s that he failed in his ability to apprehend the reality that he was chasing an image that had left this continent an indulgent and hedonistic generation ago.

    Let us all hope that we can come together to reestablish our middle class. Let us all work to establish a currency that has the ability to serve as a store of value. In that exercise I hope that we will all apprehend that our economic recovery will be sustainable only upon the liquidation of that debt that cannot be serviced. We must all fully understand that what the government might spend as ‘stimulus’ must either be taxed from us all or be borne by us all by way of the debasement of the currency.

  32. jbmoore61

    The minute he chose to fly his Piper Cherokee into a building and harm others was his undoing. One can fight against a government without trying to kill its employees. Now if those employees are coming at you with guns and bullets are flying and you didn’t start the gunfight, that’s one thing. But kamikazing into a government building occupied by people is another. If he’d hit the building when it was unoccupied, or aimed for the income tax returns mailroom, he might be hailed as a hero. But it just seems that he snapped and threw away his life badly. I’d rather try the Martin Luther King and Gandhi non-violent protest approach assuming that the government does not microwave me during the protest with the crowd control ray.

    1. i on the ball patriot

      Piper Cherokee …

      … there’s a little bit of fitting irony …

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  33. Evelyn Sinclair

    He had a wife and a little girl.

    They ran screaming from their burning house.

    They will be traumatized for the rest of their lives.

    My sympathies are with the innocent.

    Making a statement? Tim Mc Veigh was better focused, more articulate, and better organized.

    1. scharfy

      That account seems to be false.

      Apparently they checked into a hotel on Wednesday. Most news sources are verifying this.

      I had heard that rumor too. check into if i am wrong repost please.

    1. Mickey, Akron, Ohio

      Interesting! A friend of mine who goes by the nom de guerre ‘DROID’ emailed me the very same quote this AM.

  34. Dave Raithel

    The website I saw ended with the following:

    “The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

    The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.”

    And not that I expect anybody to read what I wrote, I did write about it ….

  35. Hugh

    What is significant in this is not the act but our reaction to it. In more stable, equitable times, his action would be dismissed as that of a whacko, end of story. But as we see here and in other discussions, this view is far from automatic. What is different are the times we are living in. The point you see is not really about whether Stack was nuts or not. It is that almost all of us can identify with his anger and envision the possibility that he wasn’t crazy, but hurt, angry, desperate, at the end of his rope. The difference is us.

    1. Dave Raithel

      Men – and in more modern times, women – deliberately put themselves in harm’s way when going to war. People who play around with game theory will recognize that as risk increases and outcomes turn to certainty, there is no THEORETICAL account for the “dialectical” or qualitative change in one’s choices in circumstances (Allais Paradox, Ellesburg Paradox, e.g.) – it becomes a behavioral question as to where on the asymptote one chooses to jump off and get all inconsistent. People in finance, as I understand it, do that all the time – except it’s other people’s lives and money at risk. Joe Stack at least put his flesh in the game, to the end….

  36. goodrich4bk

    Just when I thought I couldn’t be surprised by the immorality of what we’ve witnessed from both parties in Washington in the past two years, I read Matt Tiabi’s article, here:

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/32255149/wall_streets_bailout_hustle/1

    When I finished it, I sent it to all friends and family, something I’ve never done before (as an independent who votes for the person not the party, I like to remain open to good ideas from both parties, which is a lot easier if few think of me as partisan). I thought it was so eye-opening that I looked for some mention of it in the mainstream media.

    Nothing. Nada. Zilch. So I went to bed last night thinking: what would it take for his article and ideas to get broad attention? Does he have to fly a plan into a bank building or something?

    SPOOKY! Today I read this dude’s manifesto and it’s exactly what I was thinking could/might/should happen some day! The radio claims the guy was nuts and his writings were those of a madman, but (not surprising) when I read them myself I was struck by how normal they sound.

    So I suggest each of you read the above article and pass it on to your friends and family so that we don’t have to have others take such drastic measures to spread the message that our country has been hijacked by banking and cororprate elites and their paid protectors in Washington.

    1. Dave Raithel

      Ok, it is getting really late and I could only glance over it, but, contra my equivocations above, the article does suggest why a Reign of Terror would not necessarily be so bad…

  37. mayday

    The attack on technical professionals, their livelihoods has ended in tradegy beyond this tale. Suicidies, homelessness, homicides. Now, this is almost like a Columbine situation. Such behavior has to be condemned at the same time, realizing the stressors leading up to it, must be done.

    The IRS complaint is real. They literally turned a profession, which is on the level of an attorney or a executive technical marketing strategist or say a financial consultant and turned it literally,to potential poverty. But that’s just one aspect of of many on the attack against technical professionals and their careers.

    To understand the IRS code, see this post:

    http://www.noslaves.com/content/joe-stack-suicide-note-what-he-talking-about

    1. Jonathan

      Thanks! I’ve been scouring the net trying to find an explanation of this. This is just what I was looking for.

  38. asaramis

    Yves, seriously???? I am a fan and I understand you have your shtick about how the big guy is destroying the little guy, but come on! Justifying a terrorist attack is just losing all semblance of reality. This meets every definition of a terrorist attack and next you’ll be writing about how the 9/11 hijackers were aggrieved and justified in what they did. I am disgusted and you’ve lost me as a reader.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I suggest you read the piece again. I am certainly not “justifying” what he did, that is your projection.

        1. Dave Raithel

          It is all pretty existential then, isn’t it? Could be in a few days we’ll know a fuller story and realize the guy was on half-a-dozen meds and slept with dolls. Or it could be in a few days we’ll know he really was fucked over by innocent people who were just doing their jobs applying unfair rules in an unfair circumstance because he’d been duped by cabalist readers of the True Meaning of the Constitution (the Income Tax is Un-Constitutional, 10th Amendment gibberish, etc.) Then we’re supposed to still say: But he shouldn’t have done that. And the argument that he shouldn’t will then be what? Suppose he believed no nonsense – that you and I both concurred he’d been fucked over. Still no resistance? Because?

          I first heard this from Al Gouldner, so I cite him when I say it: There are some people you can spit on, and they’ll tell you it’s raining.

          Some people are not like that. Categorical pacifism is your only trump card – and that is morally indefensible. So now what?

  39. a

    I’d agree with most commentators who think it’s useful to frame this attack with 9/11. You either defend both acts, or you criticize both.

    I’d be rich if I got a penny every time I heard, “I don’t condone what they did, but I understand it.” Well, understanding is a form of condoning, a weaker form than check-is-in-the-mail-supporting-the-cause, but still a form.

    I do *not* understanding blowing up a disco of youngsters or crashing a plane into a building or launching a war on an innocent people half-way across the world.

    1. Dave Raithel

      The analogy is to?

      Religious fanatics alienated by their straddling two cultures crashing planes into buildings to protest “infidels” desecrating holy lands?

      Global finance capitalism impoverishing non-elites in the third world while pumping profits back to America provoking nationalists to crash planes into buildings….?

      Other than “plane being flown into building”, there is no relevant comparison – wait, unless the theory is from Alex Jones Reality, where the enemy is the same (The New World Order) and the 9/11 murders are false flag maneuvers ….

      1. a

        Let’s see. Nutjob(s) unhappy with life crashes plane into buliding(s), trying to make some larger ideological point without worrying about innocent life. But I’ll grant you the planes were different…

        1. Dave Raithel

          I know you’ve already been through more than a few exchanges with DownSouth re permissible uses of violence, whether “understanding” is “condoning”, etc. I think I have slightly different concerns than his, because I don’t see that categorical non-violence is defensible – though it’s not clear to me that he makes that assertion – and so my attention is upon the reasons which people offer to permit violence, require its mitigation, etc.

          Stack’s behavior itself cannot be taken as the evidence for his being a nutjob, else one assumes what’s to be shown. Supposing no evidence of mental illness is produced, we can get to the more interesting questions (since, who really cares what crazy people do?) What morally distinguishes his behavior from those acts of others also killing third persons you cite as innocent? This country kills peasants, who are not “Taliban” targets, in Afghanistan and Pakistan every couple of days. If some reading of Just War Doctrine (moral ends, proportional harm, etc.) can permit that, why is there no analog doctrine of political resistance? I think it’s easy to make the case that Stack’s suicide immolation is not morally defensible, but the mere fact that somebody innocent was killed is not the whole grounds of that argument, and the killing of innocents is something this country accepts in its foreign policy “religiously”.

          And why is there no talk on a “finance” blog about shorting stock in Piper? :)

    2. bystander

      “understanding is a form of condoning”

      Now *there* is a first-class conceptual trainwreck. Everything all jumbled up together, huh?

        1. a

          It’s a shrug of the shoulders in your direction, perhaps, and yes it’s sad the way you are but deal with it.

      1. DownSouth

        The comments of a, asaramis and Brian at 8:03 p.m. all pursue a common rhetorical strategy, as explained by the Christian theologian Reinhold Niebuhr:

        Both the temper and the method of non-violence yield another very important advantage in social conflict. They rob the opponent of the moral conceit by which he identifies his interests with the peace and order of society. This is the most important of all the imponderables in a social struggle. It is the one which gives an entrenched and dominant group the clearest and the least justified advantage over those who are attacking the status quo. The latter are placed in the category of enemies of public order, of criminals and inciters to violence and the neutral community is invariably arrayed against them. The temper and the method of non-violence destroys the plausibility of this moral conceit of the entrenched interests. If the non-violent campaign actually threatens and imperils existing arrangements the charge of treason and violence will be made against it none-the-less. But it will not confuse the neutral elements in a community so easily.
        –Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society

        The same rhetorical weapons that a, asaramis and Brian deploy against Yves were also unleashed against Martin Luther King, Jr. Here MLK articulates a most eloquent response to this sort of criticism:

        You spoke of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of the extremist. I started thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency made up of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, have been so completely drained of self-respect and a sense of “somebodieness” that they have adjusted to segregation, and, of a few Negroes in the middle class who, because of a degree of academic and economic security, and because at points they profit by segregation, have unconsciously become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up over the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. This movement is nourished by the contemporary frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination. It is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incurable “devil.” I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need not follow the “do-nothingism” of the complacent or the hatred and despair of the black nationalist.
        –Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

        1. a

          “The same rhetorical weapons that a, asaramis and Brian deploy against Yves were also unleashed against Martin Luther King, Jr.”

          Wait a minute, this is backwards. MLK: change via non-violence. a: Sure, be frustrated and upset and mad as Hell and try to change things, but don’t fly planes into buildings killing innocents. I’m no MLK, but I think I’m pretty close to his views.

          1. DownSouth

            a,

            Let’s go back to your original comment where you said: “I’d be rich if I got a penny every time I heard, ‘I don’t condone what they did, but I understand it.’ Well, understanding is a form of condoning…”

            Martin Luther King certainly understood the impulse to violence, and articulated this understanding many times. Here’s another example:

            The discontent is so deep, the anger so ingrained, the despair, the restlessness so wide, that something has to be brought into being to serve as a channel through which these deep emotional feelings, these deep angry feelings, can be funneled. There has to be an outlet, and I see this campaign as a way to transmute the inchoate rage of the ghetto into a constructive and creative channel. It becomes an outlet for anger.
            –Martin Luther King, Jr., “Showdown for Nonviolence”

            And yet even though MLK fully understood the appeal of violence, and the reason for it, he never condoned it, even though the racists repeatedly accused him of doing so.

          2. bystander

            What DownSouth said.

            He is much more patient and industrious than I…so, my apologies to you, a, for my relative lack of those qualities.

          3. a

            Ah, you’re not talking about non-violence, but understanding violence (or shall we say suicide attacks in airplanes against innocents in building?) vs condoning it.

            Sorry, but I think you need to read your quotes from MLK again, because they are not saying what you claim.

            MLK: “If the non-violent campaign actually threatens and imperils existing arrangements the charge of treason and violence will be made against it none-the-less. ” MLK is saying that those who stage non-violent campaigns will be accused of violence, not they he understands violence.

            “The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and comes perilously close to advocating violence.” … but *doesn’t* advocate violence.

            I doubt very much that MLK would have ever said, “I understand why so-and-so did this murder or broke this man’s leg.” He did, of course, understand the rage in the ghetto, but there’s a difference between the two.

          4. i on the ball patriot

            Complacency, non violent protest, and violence, are all three, broad tiers of response to existing violence — the violence of the state first committed against its citizens.

            If you don’t think that violence works, consider then; why does the all powerful controlling state use violence against its subservient citizens?

            Those above who said the Watts riots were ineffective are wrong.

            Yes, the hard ass white racist leaders of the state of California made no concessions to the black community of Watts, but it was the Watts riots, Berkley Free Speech movement, etc., that triggered that hardened state resolve that paved the way for Ronald Reagan to sweep to power, and, for the neo-con philosophy of setting the masses into perpetual conflict with each other, to gain the ear of, and be adopted by, the present day ruling elite.

            Nothing happens in isolation. We live in a continuum.

            Complacency, non violent protest, and violence against the state, are all three, proportional to the violence of the state committed against the citizens of the state.

            Given the increased domestic exploitation of scamericans, which I believe has been intentionally created by the ruling elite, one can only expect things to quickly escalate.

            Yves asks; “Violent Backlash Starting?”

            I would say it simply continues and escalates and people need to wake up to the intentional creation of it.

            Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

          5. DownSouth

            It is absurd to argue that MLK didn’t understand, or at least seek to understand, violence—its causes, uses, and efficacy. His entire life philosophy was dedicated to the study and understanding of violence and its alternatives.

            To quote MLK again:

            [H]istory reveals to us that those who oppose the movement for freedom are those who are in privileged positions who very seldom give up their privileges without strong resistance. And they very seldom do it voluntarily. So the sense of struggle will continue. The question is how will the struggle be waged.

            Now there are three ways that oppressed people have generally dealt with their oppression. One way is the method of acquiescence, the method of surrender; that is, the individuals will somehow adjust themselves to oppression, they adjust themselves to discrimination or to segregation or colonialism or what have you. The other method that has been used in history is that of rising up against the oppressor with corroding hatred and physical violence. Now of course we know about this method in Western civilization because in a sense it has been the hallmark of its grandeur, and the inseparable twin of western materialism…

            But there is another way, namely the way of nonviolent resistance.
            –Martin Luther King, Jr., “Love, Law and Civil Disobedience,” address before the annual meeting of the Fellowship of the Concerned on 16 November, 1961

            And again:

            I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action.
            –Martin Luther King, Jr., Speech at Riverside Church in New York City

  40. G Kaiser

    The point is this, when do you get to a point, where you have to make a point.?
    If you have gone so far and no further, then what do you do.
    I have no reason to believe this guy was seeking to take any lives, and, as far as I know, he didn’t. Maybe working for the IRS, FBI or whatever now comes with added risk, that you should be aware of? I don’t think this will be the last, on the contrary, I think this is a start.
    The edge has been reached, obviously, and I for one will not condemn or condone, just comment.

  41. jumping jim

    OK, we all agree on many things. Let me see if I can make a couple of observations.

    Over the last 30 years the western civilzations(led by the USA) made the decisions to go for the capitalist short term thinking. that is, to make the stock price go higher, even if it means sending important technology overseas, or cutting viable industries to get the short term gains. here we are now without a game plan.

    A great deal of technology, knowhow, has been given away for quick profits. Other countires (china, have had a longterm plan, to aquire the knowhow and equipment) This is to be expected without a plan, right?

    So here we are. The world is now flat with the interent and bandwith. ANything can be done from anywhere.

    Everybody is pissed, where do we go from from here? We got to deal with the new realities and make a plan.

    Time to think about the long term now, and develope a plan.

  42. anonymous

    As someone else noted the concluding lines are amazing: “The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.” And they are not just a tack-on to gibberish, throughout his statement there are criticisms of corporate behavior that are common fare these days.

    A case can be made for the “insane” act flowing directly out of a political system that doesn’t give people with Stack’s understanding of things a *plausible* political venue. To use a snotty-sounding term, he’s a perfect example of a petty bourgeois guy who knows he’s getting clobbered by big capital but takes his anger out on the IRS because it is a more immediate “persecutor.” What is remarkable is that he holds on to his criticisms of capital, and even, at an ethical level, upholds (though likely only sarcastically) a communist alternative. I’m aware that plenty of people argue that Tea Baggery is a melange of tendencies. This supports that view, in spades.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      About polar-opposite philosophies, facsism or state corporatism mirrors seems the unsustainable concentration of power in (Soviet) communism.

      “Extremism is so easy. …when you go far enough to the right you meet the same idiots coming around from the left.” (Clint Eastwood)

    2. rita

      I thought Stack’s line about capitalism was a spot on description of his life – he tried some creative ways to evade taxes (expensing a piano as a business asset) apparently based on some snake oil salesman’s pitch (gullibility thy name is Joe) and got burned. Maybe he was making a principled stand against paying taxes (while enjoying many of the benefits that those taxes support – e.g. roads) but his manifesto sounded more like someone who was angry that he wasn’t so successful in his greed. The world is a big place. If you think things are unfair then work to change them and if you feel you can’t take it any more go somewhere else.

  43. Mickey, Akron, Ohio

    One incident and a severe backlash?

    More important is Yves observation that CLASS may now be the dominant fault line in American politics. If, perhaps reticent to come out and say so directly, allow me. Welcome to working class America 101 and its nascent manifestations.

    I’ve argued this for months and on more than one occasion. Many of US are uncomfortable or ill-prepared to wrestle with this observation. Why? Too ensconced in American Exceptionalism or just terrified of the prospect?

    The making of the American working class is a direct result of the success of neoliberal, supply side economic policies implemented over the course of the past three or four decades. Class formation as a sociological construct happens over time – generations – and will not go away with trite dismissals like “politics of envy” etc. Too dismiss its emergence with the argument that there have always been rich and poor is merely ahistorical posturing and a refusal to link the past with the present in explaining the underlying historical forces that explain class formation in this country since the mid 70s.

    Right now, CLASS has yet to manifest itself in any concrete collective way as the ATOMIZATION of its members takes myriad forms that span the political spectrum. It has yet to attain critical mass. Whether it does or not remains to be seen. There clearly are forces – MSM – working to counter the emergence of this “class-consciuosness”.

    But one thing is for certain, the bond between the rulers and the ruled is broken. But it was the latter who did the breaking via conscious decision-making that put policies into affect that under the guise of reform and deregulation resulted in the making of the American working class.

    As someone who has more than just a passing familiarity with Marx, I wouldn’t celebrate just yet though as the rush to barricades will be met with force. Democrat and Republican alike will quickly forget their partisan differences when threatened from below. Make no mistake about that. But CLASS is here to stay regardless of how we care to analyze its consequences.

    1. Jim in MN

      Is the American professional class, that woefully under-analyzed and now threatened beast, part of the problem or the solution?

      1. Mickey, Akron, Ohio

        Jim,

        It’s both simultaneously. Fragmented and atomized makes collective, concerted action by any of its members very difficult at this time. There’s also the sense that unionization is for blue-collar types… A college degree and my skill sets set me apart. Hence the visceral animosity toward UAW members who might actually earn more…

        At the same time, the technical knowledge key to the functioning of the business on an everyday basis puts them in a strategic position to bring things to a halt by simply not being there. Three sick days in row would have many a manager on his knees… A person may be able to manage a corporation with a spreadsheet, but he/she cannot run it on a daily basis with one. Perhaps the race to downsize and outsource is a direct response by management to counter their vulnerabilty to this “technical knowledge”. But going elsewhere is no guarantee that this problem will not resurface.

        Even more important is the impetus to improve, progress, find a solution to the most intractable of problems held by individuals possessing such knowledge. The belief that WE can surely find a solution to such problems is a powerful source of motivation. Rationality and the scientific method demand a solution. Many a doctor wants to do the right thing by his/her patients and bitterly resents interference by the insurance industry. It’s no different in IT when higher level management decides to implement a new process without adequate planning and preparation oblivious to the consequences of such action. Engineers are familiar with this as well. The relative autonomy enjoyed by many of us on the job or in their career will result in the realization that they are the tail wagging the dog – not the reverse.

        It will take time which is the one thing Americans in all walks of life seem to be in short supply of nowadays. But it is a historical process that will not unfold according to some deterministic model, Marxist or otherwise.

        Perhaps my 81 year-old mother, of all people and echoing Georges Sorel, had the answer when she said matter of factly that WE should all go on strike for however long it takes! A GENERAL STRIKE? There at the barricades with her walker… What a sight!

        1. john c. halasz

          Well, I hate to be so old-fashion, but I’d characterize the trend over the last 30 years as the un-making of the American working class.

          1. Mickey, Akron, Ohio

            John,

            When you say working class do you mean “middle class”? [blue-collar, unionized workers in the steel, auto, rubber industries, and building trades who voted overwhelmingly DEMOCRAT] The latter did not have any “class consciousness” of the kind that we’re talking about now. There appears to be a widening gulf between the rulers and the ruled with the sense the we’re not in this ALL together. It was not as pronounced then as it is now.

            Has social mobility increased or decreased over the course of the past 30 years or so? When I was growing up it was generally understood that with an education I would probably live better than my parents. Today, the assumption that the next generation will live better than that of its parents is not a given. Nor is a university education a guarantee of upward social mobility.

            The scope and breadth of the “working class” has grown considerably as the ranks of what used to be called “middle class” have thinned. Gone are the blue-collar unionized workers who were once deemed middle class…

          2. john c. halasz

            Mickey:

            I wouldn’t call the old unionized semi-skilled or trade-skilled blue-collar mass-production work force “middle-class”, even if they did manage to claw there way into lower middle-class levels of income,- and enjoyed the prospect of inter-generational upward mobility due to the features of the then public sector supports. For a number of reasons,- increased foreign competition/capacity, technological change/automation, “free trade” qua MNC “platforming” and outsourcing, etc.- the old industrial surpluses/quasi-rents on which they actually depended began to erode, and in successive stages, they were “down-sized”, partly by design, partly by inevitable happenstance. (I saw this first hand with any number of people I knew). And eventually, even middle management strata and technical employees were subject to such “down-sizing”. It was only after such processes began and were well under way, that “middle-class” interests became the sole mentionable concern of prevailing political discourse, such that working-class, let alone poor, terms of reference were repressed.

            You’re right that “class-consciousness” was not heavily pronounced back then, though it was certainly felt. But insofar as such “down-sized” people didn’t succumb to self-deflation and social isolation, increasingly reactionary “consciousness” took hold, with plentiful quasi-official encouragement.

            But what’s starting to take hold now, with the current severe down-turn, I wouldn’t characterize,- certainly not yet,- as any sort of class (or caste) “consciousness”. Rather the economic crisis thus far is a generalized legitimation crisis as well. What organization and direction that will take, whose to say?

          3. Mickey in Akron

            John,

            You say: “You’re right that “class-consciousness” was not heavily pronounced back then, though it was certainly felt. But insofar as such “down-sized” people didn’t succumb to self-deflation and social isolation, increasingly reactionary “consciousness” took hold, with plentiful quasi-official encouragement.”

            The “reactionary consciousness” explains the “emergence” of the Reagan Democrats. As economic forces began to undermine their standard of living, it was almost natural to attempt to “conserve” their hard fought gains via the political process. And the rest is history… I think we would both agree that “class lines” have hardened as social mobility has waned over the past 40 years. Whether this sense of betrayal/bitterness becomes “class consciouness” does remain to be seen.

            Ironically, by trying to explain the above within a Marxist analytical framework, it becomes obvious just how awkward or inadequate this framework may be. It begs the question: in what ways is Marxism relevant to a postindustrial economy in which manufacturing is no longer the dominant sector? At the risk of being branded a heretic, IS IT even relevant without signficant revision/overhaul?

          4. i on the ball patriot

            Marxism is like software and needs a serious upgrade to be useful in the present, for a whole range of reasons, a few of which you just touched on.

            Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

          5. john c. halasz

            Ya. As if no one’s been paying attention for the last 100 years or so. We’re picking over a dead corpse here. Though it’s not as if nothing can be learned, paleontologically or heuristically, from such fossil remains.

  44. Doug Terpstra

    Oops: fascism or state corporatism seems to mirror the unsustainable concentration of power in (Soviet) communism.

  45. Naive_person

    When I was younger, I thought history was what happened to old people or those outside of the USA. I guess I was wrong. Bummer.

  46. Im moe green

    Love the blog but have to wonder about the posters or is it commenters…

    I don’t get the fixation of so many americans being so Ghandilike in their embrace of non-violence. As Heinlien said–violence never solved anything–tell it to the carthegenians! Hmm how did u.s. gain independence–oh yeah prayer vigils! Civil war–oh yes marching and boycotts. Of course off how it takes hundreds of thousands of soldiers and killing women and children to bring democracy to Iraq and afghanistan. Heck, we should have sent “a” and a few others with MLK phrasebooks to save the Iraqis from the U.S. army. Its a fair bet that regardless of your embrace of the official government religion (violence solves nothing, this is a great democracy, organize a pac and vote for your candidate and everything will be fine!), there will be more people who lose everthing and then as celente likes to say–lose it.

    1. Dan Duncan

      Utterly moronic.

      “Hmmm, the U.S. fought a Revolutionary War over 200 years ago; had a Civil War 150 years ago; is fighting in 2 wars now…

      “Therefore, if you are mad as hell and decide not to take it anymore, it’s OK to fly a plane into a Federal Building and kill someone’s husband, wife, son or daughter.”

      Ur Moe Stupid.

      As to the take on violence, “I don’t approve, but I understand, wink wink” rationale, keep in mind:

      Both Progressives and Libertarians are beyond disgusted with our government right now…

      Let’s just say these acts of violence escalate to an extreme level, we rid ourselves of this corrupt government…and that all that remains is the hard left and the hard right….

      Do you think the violence would stop there? Right Wing Whack Jobs vs Progressive Pansies?

      Even the French would laugh at “Epic Battle”….

      [Which, of course, reminds me of a funny quote:

      “I would rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind me.” — General George S. Patton]

      Epitaph: Joseph Stack was an angry coward. End of story.

  47. im moe green

    Dan, you can call people names and project but that does not change reality. Also, you seem to have a problem with reading comprehension. Nobody said it was “o.k.” to kill people. You can say all you want but violence is a fact of life and people resort to it frequently. It remains unclear why you imply that waging two wars killing women and children elsewhere is o.k. but political violence at home is verbotten. Civil war and rev war did take place a long time ago, but well French rev is more recent and so was fall of communism (shelling of parliament comes to mind). Whether you approve or not, violnce, death, entropy and corruption are part of human history. Shortcuts to thinking such as calling people who you disagree morons or whack jobs is hardly a sign of intelligence and betrays a certain limited world view to say the least……..I bet you do not know where the terms “right” and “left” originate do you? Mencken was right–beware the certainties of dull men. And only dullards are certain. Enjoy your certainties but they will require much more dellusion to maintain. I bet you and many of your ilk are up to the task…

    1. Dan Duncan

      What are you talking about?

      The act of “condoning” is just another way of saying “it’s OK”.

      There are several comments centered around the statement, “understanding is a form of condoning”….you were involved in those comments.

      The projection is yours’…as is the problem with reading comprehension.

      As to your statement:

      “It remains unclear why you imply that waging two wars killing women and children elsewhere is o.k. but political violence at home is verbotten.”

      I did no such thing. I didn’t invoke these wars, you did. I was commenting on your appeal to two irrelevant wars to the events of yesterday.

      The implication from my earlier comment was that your reasoning is shoddy. A 200 year old war and a 150 year old civil war have nothing to do with a sad, angry man flying his plane into a Federal Building due to a tax problem. [And get it straight: This was NOT social protest. He was mad about HIS own personal taxes…Had his issue been resolved, he’d have simply moved on with his life.]

      Then you write this inane, poorly spelled gem:

      “Whether you approve or not, violnce, death, entropy and corruption are part of human history.”

      What???

      One does not approve or disapprove of death or entropy. “My dog died today. I don’t approve.”

      As for violence…it’s a matter of context. And as to the context of Joseph Stack, flying his plane into a Federal Building because of a tax bill…

      No, I don’t “approve”, “understand” or “condone”….

  48. im moe green

    Point missed and well its a post so grammar optional….

    At least you held back on name calling–there is some progress.

    The point of the post is that this lone act may be taken as symptom of a violent backlash. Most people in revolutions or violent acts do so because of personal troubles stemming from personal challenges–screwed by IRS, racial discrimination, savings wiped out, job outsourced and the like.

    I like the non-sequitors in your tirade. You accept entropy and violence but then you don’t condone it. The wars while a long time ago are hardly irrelevant. The point is that change usually occurs with violence or at minimum the threat of violence. Shows of courage a la tianemen square accomplish the same.

    Back to the main point–as things get worse there will be more acts of violence and msn voices and people lie you will call the perpetrators whack jobs or insist that these people move on with their lives. Good ol american attitude–there are no social problems its just that these people are crazy and or inept and must get on with their lives. Again, like it or not, tough times bring on personal suffering and in turn some will resort to violence. Condone, don’t condone, accept or not it will happen.

    Yes, he flew the plane due to tax bill and the colonists revolted because of a tax bill. I suppose you would have been a royalist? Not to condone Joe Sack but well history is strange.

    Alas, we drift from the point. Like it or not, more violent acts ahead.

  49. Evelyn Sinclair

    On “Understanding” Vs condoning:

    I think I understand the motivations behind acts of “asymmetrical warfare” type terrorism. I think understanding people who are different from you is a good idea. Understanding is part of the compassion and empathy that gives humanity some of its better moments. It is also needed to deal with others effectively, whether you are negotiating with them, cooperating or even fighting against them.

    It takes a very sloppy set of thought processes to mistake perceptiveness for permissiveness, understanding for approval.

    But that’s OK, I understand. You’re just being emotional. Fear and anxiety breeds feelings of hatred and contempt, which mask your own illogic from yourself.

  50. Puddin Tame

    Stack is my hero. We need 100K Stacks to crash into everything Federal, shoot everything Federal, leaving dead Federals everywhere, until Congress resigns and the Constitution changed to a form of government that actually represents the People.

  51. Go Cleveland

    I always amazed at how radical and sane the bloggers/commenters from Midwestern states are. Its the good old Labor tradition. Carries over to politicians in Northern Ohio (Kucinich, Kaptur).

    The rest of the country is filled with jibberish frankly. Self-indulgent individualistic inchoate gibberish.

    1. Mickey in Akron

      Is it because we’ve already experienced the consequences of globalization that the rest of the country has just woken up to?

      It didn’t matter when steelworkers, rubberworkers, autoworkers, and machinsts were laid off by the hundreds of thousands and the plants in which they worked were shipped down South, eventually ending up in Mexico or China. But now the white collar technopeasantry is threatened and it’s a big deal. It would seem to bear out the argument why manufacturing matters. But was anyone listening?

  52. sangell

    Dead Thread, I know it. But thanks for all you do.

    I have never heard such volunteering for the concentration camp. From the junior college academic, to the bond trader.

    We’ve got your number. Your name isn’t oblique. There will be a time and place. Enjoy your numbered days!

  53. Sisyphus

    “Note that he sees his violent response to his economic plight as a political act, a blow for freedom.”

    Now you know why the Patriot Act was enacted– to control all you dissatisified customers with your rogue federal government.

  54. Brave Captain of Industry

    I’d like to congratulate the posters on this thread: I spend hours a day on every kind of political website and I can’t recall a discussion as informed and well-stated as this one, with such a variety of viewpoints and genuine seeking of some kind of synthesized understanding.

    From where I sit: Obama is clearly over his head, mainly because his timbre is not up to the times. The times call for leadership, and leadership means hard choices, and he is unwilling to make very many (none that I can recall).

    I have not seen a mention above of our military budget, which is basically insane in light of any outside threat to the nation. That expense alone is destroying the economic well being of all classes but the very top.

    Class is the current key driver of our politics, unspoken as it is. Anyone who tries to limit Joe Stack’s impact on the culture to that of a lone crazy gone postal has zero idea of the political power of that act.

    The nearest model I can see is the Russian revolution, but we are far from there, and our law enforcement infrastructure is far more powerful than even the czars could have dreamed of. We live in a militerized state already- look funny at a cop and you are asking for a taser in the ass……

    Its going to be interesting, that’s for sure, especially as the easy oil dries up.

  55. Mickey in Akron

    Read Mr. Stack’s Manifesto, the comments herein, and mused a bit more.

    In the past week or so two random acts of violence: shootings/murder at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the action taken by Joe Stack have occurred in this country. Elsewhere, the bombing of JP Morgan Chase Office in Athens, Greece was reported.

    What is of some interest is that Terry McVeigh and Joe Stack directed their anger at the Government. In the case of 9/11 the targets were both governmental and private – the Pentagon/White House and World Trade Center.

    But it would appear that Americans have largely directed their anger/frustration at the government whereas “terrorists” elsewhere direct their’s at institutions – banks and finance – of capitalism. Indeed, as some commentators on 9/11 noted, the targets attacked were merely the hammer [Pentagon/White House] and the anvil [World Trade Center] of globalized capitalism, two sides of the same coin.

    Globalization seen largely as something led by American interests may explain why the targets, random or otherwise, are what they are outside of this country. But here in the United States, the connection between the two has largely been overlooked or received very little attention in the MSM. Or is it simply reported/treated differently by the media and for what purpose? Underreporting of such events may be deliberate but I doubt if it goes unnoticed/unrecorded by the FBI or DHS. Does anyone know of any statistics with which to compare the two?

    Could it simply be a well orchestrated campaign to convince Americans of the threat posed to their lifestyles by foreign terrorists with the direct purpose of masking the domestic forces/processes undermining this lifestyle?

    Comments as to why Americans have directed their violence at the government – public authority – for the most part and elsewhere it is targeted at “symbols” more directly associated with capitalist globalization both public and private – largely American in either case – would be interesting to read. Any explanations/information would be appreciated.

  56. MNPundit

    He was a tech software guy. Those guys tend to have God-complexes. That said, if the populace sees that the government is screwing them over, what recourse do they have? That’s not hard to understand. His helplessness exploded.

    I am sure the reasoning also goes: “The government protects the corporations, if I kill the government I can go after the corporations since they won’t have government guns to save them.”

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