An Empire in Decline, City by City, Town by Town

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By Peter Van Buren, who blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. He writes at his blog, We Meant Well and has a new book Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent has just been published. Cross posted from TomDispatch

As America’s new economy starts to look more like the old economy of the Great Depression, the divide between rich and poor, those who have made it and those who never will, seems to grow ever starker. I know. I’ve seen it firsthand.

Once upon a time, I worked as a State Department officer, helping to carry out the occupation of Iraq, where Washington’s goal was regime change. It was there that, in a way, I had my first taste of the life of the 1%. Unlike most Iraqis, I had more food and amenities than I could squander, nearly unlimited funds to spend as I wished (as long as the spending supported us one-percenters), and plenty of U.S. Army muscle around to keep the other 99% at bay. However, my subsequent whistleblowing about State Department waste and mismanagement in Iraq ended my 24-year career abroad and, after a two-decade absence, deposited me back in “the homeland.”

I returned to America to find another sort of regime change underway, only I wasn’t among the 1% for this one. Instead, I ended up working in the new minimum-wage economy and saw firsthand what a life of lousy pay and barely adequate food benefits adds up to. For the version of regime change that found me working in a big box store, no cruise missiles had been deployed and there had been no shock-and-awe demonstrations. Nonetheless, the cumulative effects of years of deindustrialization, declining salaries, absent benefits, and weakened unions, along with a rise in meth and alcohol abuse, a broad-based loss of good jobs, and soaring inequality seemed similar enough to me. The destruction of a way of life in the service of the goals of the 1%, whether in Iraq or at home, was hard to miss. Still, I had the urge to see more. Unlike in Iraq, where my movements were limited, here at home I could hit the road, so I set off for a look at some of America’s iconic places as part of the research for my book, Ghosts of Tom Joad.

Here, then, are snapshots of four of the spots I visited in an empire in decline, places you might pass through if you wanted to know where we’ve been, where we are now, and (heaven help us) where we’re going.

On the Boardwalk: Atlantic City, New Jersey

Drive in to Atlantic City on the old roads, and you’re sure to pass Lucy the Elephant. She’s not a real elephant, of course, but a wood and tin six-story hollow statue. First built in 1881 to add value to some Jersey swampland, Lucy has been reincarnated several times after suffering fire, neglect, and storm damage. Along the way, she was a tavern, a hotel, and — for most of her life — simply an “attraction.” As owning a car and family driving vacations became egalitarian rights in the booming postwar economy of the 1950s and 1960s, all manner of tacky attractions popped up along America’s roads: cement dinosaurs, teepee-shaped motels, museums of oddities, and spectacles like the world’s largest ball of twine. Their growth paralleled 20 to 30 years of the greatest boom times any consumer society has ever known.

Between 1947 and 1973, actual incomes in the United States rose remarkably evenly across society. Certainly, there was always inequality, but never as sharp and predatory as it is today. As Scott Martelle’s Detroit: A Biography chronicles, in 1932, Detroit produced 1.4 million cars; in 1950, that number was eight million; in 1973, it peaked at 12 million. America was still a developing nation — in the best sense of that word.

Yet as the U.S. economy changed, money began to flow out of the working class pockets that fed Lucy and her roadside attraction pals. By one count, from 1979 to 2007, the top 1% of Americans saw their income grow by 281%. They came to control 43% of U.S. wealth.

You could see it all in Atlantic City, New Jersey. For most of its early life, it had been a workingman’s playground and vacation spot, centered around its famous boardwalk. Remember Monopoly? The street names are all from Atlantic City. However, in the economic hard times of the 1970s, as money was sucked upward from working people, Boardwalk and Park Place became a crime scene, too dangerous for most visitors. Illegal drug sales all but overtook tourism as the city’s most profitable business.

Yet the first time I visited Atlantic City in the mid-1980s, it looked like the place was starting to rebound in the midst of a national economy going into overdrive. With gambling legalized, money poured in. The Boardwalk sprouted casinos and restaurants. Local business owners scrambled to find workers. Everyone and everything felt alive. Billboards boasted of “rebirth.”

Visit Atlantic City in 2014 and it’s again a hollowed-out place. The once swanky mall built on one of the old amusement piers has more stores shuttered than open. Meanwhile, the “We Buy Gold” stores and pawnshops have multiplied and are open 24/7 to rip off the easy marks who need cash bad enough to be out at 4 A.M. pulling off their wedding rings. On a 20-story hotel tower, you can still read the word “Hilton” in dirt shadow where its name had once been, before the place was shuttered.

Trump Plaza, a monument to excess and hubris created by a man once admired as a business magician and talked about as a possible presidential candidate, is now a catalog of decay. The pillows in the rooms smell of sweat, the corners of doors are chipped, many areas need a new coat of paint, and most of the bars and restaurants resemble the former Greyhound bus terminal a few blocks away. People covered with the street gravy that marks the homeless wander the casino, itself tawdry and too dimly lit to inspire fun. There were just too many people who were clearly carrying everything they owned around in a backpack.

Outside, along the Boardwalk, there are still the famous rolling chairs. They are comfortable, bound in wicker, and have been a fixture of Atlantic City for decades. They were once pushed by strong young men, maybe college students earning a few bucks over summer break. You can still ride the chairs to see and be seen, but now they’re pushed by recent immigrants and not-so-clean older denizens of the city. Lots of tourists still take rides, but there’s something cheap and sad about paying workers close to my own age to wheel you around, just a step above pushing dollars into the G-strings of the strippers in clubs just off the Boardwalk.

One of the things I did while in Atlantic City was look for the family restaurant I had worked in 30 years earlier. It’s now a dollar store run by an angry man. “You buy or you leave,” he said. Those were the last words I heard in Atlantic City. I left.

Dark Side of the Moon: Weirton, West Virginia

The drive into Weirton from the east takes you through some of the prettiest countryside in Maryland and Western Pennsylvania. You cross rivers and pass through the Cumberland Gap along the way and it’s easy going into the town, because the roads are mostly empty during typical business hours. There’s nothing much going on. The surrounding beauty just makes the scarred remains of Weirton that much more shocking when you first come upon them. Take the last turn and suddenly the abandoned steel mills appear like a vision of an industrial apocalypse, nestled by the Ohio River.

In 1909, Ernest T. Weir built his first steel mill next to that river and founded what later became the Weirton Steel Corporation. In the decades to come, the town around it and the mill itself were basically synonymous, both fueled by the industrial needs of two world wars and the consumer economy created following the defeat of Germany and Japan. The Weirton mill directly contributed to wartime triumphs, producing artillery shells and raw steel to support the effort, while Weirton’s sons died on battlefields using the company’s products. (A war memorial across the street from the mill sanctifies the dead, the newest names being from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.)

At its peak, the Weirton Steel Corporation employed more than 12,000 people, and was the largest single private employer and taxpayer in West Virginia. The owners of the mill paid for and built the Weirton Community Center, the Weirton General Hospital, and the Mary H. Weir Library in those glory days. For years the mill also paid directly for the city’s sewers, water service, and even curbside garbage pickup. Taxes were low and life was good.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, however, costs rose, Asian steel gained traction and American manufacturing started to move offshore. For the first time since the nineteenth century, the country became a net importer of goods. Some scholars consider the mid-1970s a tipping point, when Congress changed the bankruptcy laws to allow troubled companies an easier path to dumping existing union contracts and employee agreements. It was then that Congress also invented individual retirement accounts, or IRAs, which were supposed to allow workers to save money tax-free to supplement their retirements. Most corporations saw instead an opportunity to get rid of expensive pensions. It was around then that some unknown steelworker was first laid off in Weirton, a candidate for Patient Zero of the new economy.

The mill, which had once employed nearly one out of every two people in town, was sold to its employees in 1984 in a final, failed attempt at resuscitation. In the end, the factory closed, but the people remained. Today, the carcass of the huge steel complex sits at one end of Main Street, rusting and overgrown with weeds because it wasn’t even cost-effective to tear it down. Dinosaur-sized pieces of machinery litter the grounds, not worth selling off, too heavy to move, too bulky to bury, like so many artifacts from a lost civilization. A few people do still work nearby, making a small amount of some specialty metal, but the place seems more like a living museum than a business.

Most of the retail shops on Main Street are now abandoned, though I counted seven bars and two strip clubs. There’s the Mountaineer Food Bank that looks like it used to be a hardware store or maybe a dress shop. The only still-thriving industry is, it seems, gambling. West Virginia legalized “gaming” in 1992 and it’s now big business statewide. (Nationally, legal gambling revenues now top $92.27 billion a year.)

Gambling in Weirton is, however, a far cry even from the decaying Trump Hotel in Atlantic City. There are no Vegas-style casinos in town, just what are called “cafes” strung along Main Street. None were built to be gambling havens. In fact, their prior history is apparent in their architecture: this one a former Pizza Hut, that one an old retail store with now-blacked out windows, another visibly a former diner.

One sunny Tuesday, I rolled into a cafe at 7 A.M., mostly because I couldn’t believe it was open. It took my eyes a minute to adjust to the darkness before I could make out three older women feeding nickels into slot machines, while another stood behind a cheap padded bar, a cigarette tucked behind her ear, another stuck to her dry lips. She offered me a drink, gesturing to rows of Everclear pure grain, nearly 99% pure alcohol, and no-name vodka behind her. I declined, and she said, “Well, if you can’t drink all day, best anyway that you not start so early.”

Liquor is everywhere in Weirton. I talked to a group of men drinking out of paper bags on a street corner at 8 A.M. They hadn’t, in fact, been there all night. They were just starting early like the cafe lady said. Even the gas stations were stocked with the ubiquitous Everclear, all octane with no taste or flavor added because someone knew that you didn’t care anymore. And as the state collects tax on it, everyone but you wins.

Booze is an older person’s formula for destruction. For the younger set, it’s meth that’s really destroying Weirton and towns like it across the Midwest. Ten minutes in a bar, a nod at the guy over there, and you find yourself holding a night’s worth of the drug. Small sizes, low cost, adapted to the market. In Weirton, no need even to go shopping, the meth comes to you.

Meth and the Rust Belt were just waiting for each other. After all, it’s a drug designed for unemployed people with poor self-images and no confidence. Unlike booze or weed, it makes you feel smart, sexy, confident, self-assured — before the later stages of addiction set in. For a while, it seems like the antidote to everything real life in the New Economy won’t ever provide. The meth crisis, in the words of author Nick Reding in Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town, is “as much about the death of a way of life as the birth of a drug.”

The effects of a lifetime working in the mill — or for the young, of a lifetime not working in the mill — were easy enough to spot around town. The library advertised free diabetes screening and the one grocery store had signs explaining what you could and could not buy with SNAP (food stamps, which have been called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program since 2008). The local TV channels were chock-a-block full of lawyers’ ads urging you to call in if you have an asbestos-related illness. A lot of health was left behind in those mills.

There are some nice people in Weirton (and Cleveland, Detroit, or any of the other industrial ghost towns once inhabited by what Bruce Springsteen calls “steel and stories”). I’m sure there were even nicer parts of Weirton further away from the Main Street area where I was hanging out, but if you’re a stranger, it’s sure damn hard to find them. Not too far from the old mill, land was being cleared to make way for a new Walmart, a company which already holds the distinction of being West Virginia’s largest private employer.

In 1982 at the Weirton mill, a union journeyman might have earned $25 an hour, or so people told me. Walmart pays seven bucks for the same hour and fights like a junkyard dog against either an increase in the minimum wage or unionization.

The Most Exclusive Gated Community: U.S. Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

I grew up in a fairly small Ohio town that, in the 1970s, was just crossing the sociological divide between a traditional kind of place and a proper bedroom suburb. Not everyone knew each other, but certain principles were agreed upon. A steak should be one inch thick or more. A good potluck solved most problems. Vegetables were boiled, faith rewarded. Things looked better in the morning. Kids drank chocolate milk instead of Coke. We had parades every Memorial Day and every Fourth of July, but Labor Day was just for barbecues because school began the next day and dad had to get up for work. In fact, that line — “I’ve got to get up for work” — was the way most social events broke up. This isn’t nostalgia, it’s history.

In 2014, you could travel significant parts of the decaying Midwest and not imagine that such a place had ever existed. But turn south on Interstate 95 and look for the signs that say “Welcome to U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune,” in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Actually, welcome to almost any U.S. military base outside of actual war zones, where a homogeneous military population and generous government spending (re)creates the America of the glory days as accurately as a Hollywood movie. For a first-time visitor, a military base can feel like its own living museum, the modern equivalent of Colonial Williamsburg.

Streets are well maintained, shaded by tall trees planted there (and regularly pruned) for just that purpose. Road, water, and sewer crews are always working. There are no potholes. There is a single school with a prominent football field, and a single shopping area. The restaurants are long-time Department of Defense franchise partners and there’s always a pizza place with a fake-sounding Italian name. Those creature comforts on such bases in the U.S. and around the world come at a cost to taxpayers of billions of dollars a year.

Some of the places employ locals, some military spouses, some high school kids earning pocket money after school. The kids bag groceries. Everybody tips them; they’re neighbors.

The centerpieces of any base like Camp Lejeune are the Base Exchange and the Commissary. The former is a mini-Walmart; the latter, a large grocery store. Both are required by law not to make a profit and so sell products at near wholesale prices. Because everyone operates on federal property, no sales tax is charged. When a member of a Pentagon advisory board proposed shutting down some of the commissaries across the U.S., a step that would have saved taxpayers about $1.4 billion a year, World War III erupted in Congress and halted the idea.

Over in officers’ housing areas, everyone cuts their lawns, has a garage full of sports equipment and a backyard with a grill. Don’t keep up your assigned housing unit and you’ll hear from a senior officer. People get along — they’re ordered to do so.

The base is the whole point of Jacksonville, the town that surrounds it. The usual bars and strip clubs service the Marines, and Camp Lejeune is close to being the town’s sole employer like that old steel mill in Weirton or the gambling palaces in Atlantic City. The base shares another connection to places like Weirton: as men lost their health in the mills thanks to asbestos and other poisons, so Camp Lejeune’s drinking water was contaminated with trichloroethylene, a known carcinogen, between 1953 and 1987.

There, however, the similarities end.

Unlike the archipelago of American towns and cities abandoned to shrivel and die, the “city” inside Camp Lejeune continues to thrive, since its good times are fully covered by taxpayer money. The 23% of the national budget spent on defense assures places like Camp Lejeune of their prosperity.

The Department of Defense, with 3.2 million employees (albeit not all in uniform) is the world’s largest employer. It makes up more than two percent of the American labor force.

And the military pays well; no scrambling for a minimum wage at Camp LeJeune. With combat pay more or less standard since 9/11 (the whole world being a battlefield, of course), the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the average active duty service member receives a benefits and pay compensation package worth $99,000. This includes a livable pension after 20 years of service, free medical and dental care, free housing, a clothing allowance, and more. In most cases, dependents of service members continue to live on a base in the United States while their husbands or wives, fathers or mothers serve abroad. Unlike in the minimum-wage jobs many other Americans now depend on, service members can expect regular training and skills enhancement and a clear path to promotion. Nearly every year, Congress votes for pay increases. The arguments for military benefits may be clear — many service members lead difficult and dangerous lives. The point is, however, that the benefits exist, unlike in so many corporate workplaces today. The government pays for all of them, while Atlantic City and Weirton struggle to stay above water.

Small Town America in the Big Apple: Spanish Harlem

The number of Americans who have visited Harlem, even for a quick stop at a now-trendy restaurant or music club, is unknown but has to be relatively small. Even many lifetime New Yorkers riding the uptown subway under the wealthy upper east side are careful to hop off before reaching the 116th Street stop. Still, get off there, walk a few blocks, and you find yourself in a micro-economy that, in its own way, has more in common with America of the 1950s than 2014.

There are, of course, no shaded areas along the block I was visiting in what has traditionally been known as Spanish Harlem, no boyish Little League games. But what you do find are locally owned stores with hardly a franchised or corporately owned place in sight. The stores are stocked with a wondrous hodge-podge of what people in the area need, including South American root vegetables, pay-as-you-go cell phones, and cheap school supplies.

These stores could not exist in many other places. They are perfectly adapted to the neighborhood they are in. While the quality of goods varies, prices are wondrously below what similar things cost a half-dozen subway stops away in midtown Manhattan. In the stores, the employees of these family businesses speak the same languages as their mostly Dominican immigrant customers, and those who work there are eager to make suggestions and help you find things.

People actually chat with each other. Customer loyalty is important, so prices are often negotiable. When he discovered that his customer was also his neighbor, one shop owner helped carry purchases upstairs. Another store informally accepted and held package deliveries for neighbors.

The guy selling frozen ices on the sidewalk nearby did not work for a conglomerate and doled out healthy-sized servings to his regulars. He told me that he bought his raw materials in the very grocery store we were camped in front of.

Even at night, the sidewalks here are full of people. I never felt unsafe, even though I obviously wasn’t from the neighborhood. People seemed eternally ready to give me directions or suggest a local eatery I shouldn’t miss. The one established mega-corporate store in the area, a Rent-a-Center charging usurious prices for junk, had no customers inside on the day I visited. The shop next to it, with an impressive array of used TVs and small appliances from unknown Chinese manufacturers, seemed to be doing gangbuster business. The owner shifted among English, Spanish, and some sort of Dominican creole based on the needs of his customers.

Few things here are shiny or new. There are vacant lots, an uncomfortable sight at night. Homeless people, some near naked despite the weather and muttering to themselves, are more prevalent than in Midtown. The streets have more trash. I saw drug deals going on against graffiti-scarred walls. There is a busy methadone clinic on a busy street. Not everyone is the salt of the earth, but local businesses do cater to the community and keep prices in line with what people could pay. Money spent in the neighborhood mostly seems to stay there and, if not, is likely sent home to the Dominican Republic to pay for the next family member’s arrival in town — what economist John Maynard Keynes called the “local multiplier effect.” One
study found that each $100 spent at local independents generated $45 of secondary local spending, compared to $14 at a big-box chain. Business decisions — whether to open or close, staff up or lay off — were made by people in the area face-to-face with those they affected. The businesses were accountable, the owners at the cash registers.

The stretch of Spanish Harlem I passed through is a galaxy away from perfect, but unlike Weirton, which had long ago given up, Atlantic City, which was in the process of doing so, or Camp Lejeune, which had opted out of the system entirely, people are still trying. It shows that an accountable micro-economy with ties to the community can still work in this country — at least in the short run. But don’t hold your breath. Target recently opened its first superstore not far away and may ultimately do to this neighborhood what cheap foreign steel imports did to Weirton.

Looking Ahead

I grew up in the Midwest at a time when the country still prided itself on having something of a conscience, when it was a place still built on hope and a widespread belief that a better future was anybody’s potential birthright. Inequity was always there, and there were always rich people and poor people, but not in the ratios we see now in America. What I found in my travels was place after place being hollowed out as wealth went elsewhere and people came to realize that, odds on, life was likely to get worse, not better. For most people, what passed for hope for the future meant clinging to the same flat-lined life they now had.

What’s happening is both easy enough for a traveler to see and for an economist to measure. Median household income in 2012 was no higher than it had been a quarter-century earlier. Meanwhile, expenses had outpaced inflation. U.S. Census Bureau figures show that the income gap between rich and poor had widened to a more than four-decade record since the 1970s. The 46.2 million people in poverty remained the highest number since the Census Bureau began collecting that data 53 years ago. The gap between how much total wealth America’s 1% of earners control and what the rest of us have is even wider than even in the years preceding the Great Depression of 1929. Argue over numbers, debate which statistics are most accurate, or just drive around America: the trend lines and broad patterns, the shadows of our world of regime change, are sharply, sadly clear.

After John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath, he said he was filled with “certain angers at people who were doing injustices to other people.” I, too, felt anger, though it’s an emotion that I’m unsure how to turn against the problems we face.

As I drove away from Atlantic City, I passed Lucy the Elephant still at her post, unblinking and silent. She looks out over the Boardwalk, maybe America itself, and if she could, she undoubtedly would wonder where the road ahead will take us.

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    1. worker-owner

      Pjay … not extinct yet. But The Middle Class is the favorite prey of the 0.001% these days and extinction is likely to be declared by the end of the decade.

      1. susan the other

        the parasite never kills off the host completely… the threshold for the kill has probably already been met

    2. KnotRP

      > Median household income in 2012 was no higher than
      > it had been a quarter-century earlier. Meanwhile, expenses
      > had outpaced inflation.

      And it only took one person to make that income a quarter-century
      earlier, not two, so per person income has actually halved, while
      we’ve left the next generation of citizens (you know, kids) to learn
      how the world works by handing them a latchkey and wishing them
      good luck.

      Living standards have not bottomed, yet…it’s going to be an ugly ride
      for most.

  1. RBHoughton

    The British Empire was the same. We poms thought we could stuff the populace with patriot poems, uplifting songs and a few rousing speeches and they would continue to fund the empire in blood and treasure whilst the men of commerce travelled round the world collecting the benefits made available for them by the Royal Navy and our diplomats.

    It worked for an astonishingly long time – right through the 19th century – and the hoi polloi only started to catch on in and after WWI.

    I am greatly saddened that your fine country has experienced the same amorality.

    1. PaulW

      Are you sure it stopped working? Winston Churchill was voted the greatest Briton of the 20th century.

          1. susan the other

            flesh that out a little please, aco – Churchill is not my favorite, but if anything I’d have thought he was a British spy…

  2. Cal

    “Money spent in the neighborhood mostly seems to stay there and, if not, is likely sent home to the Dominican Republic to pay for the next family member’s arrival in town — what economist John Maynard Keynes called the “local multiplier effect.” One study found that each $100 spent at local independents generated $45 of secondary local spending, compared to $14 at a big-box chain.”

    That’s why we go out of our way to spend locally and in small stores.

    A simple Google search will reveal that The United States is the largest remitting nation worldwide, sending $123.3 billion abroad in 2012.

    That’s 123.3 billion that is not circulating in our local economies. Advocates of liberalized immigration from low skill countries are the enemy of the local economy. You can’t be for local economies and the importation of foreign workers.

    1. jgordon

      That seems to argue that there is something wrong with the scale of the economic system itself. Historically people conducted the vast majority of their economic activity with people they personally knew, and that did not usually involve petty tit-for-tat currency unit translations. That sort of a system would be entirely immune to the imbalances you mentioned and the other deprivations inflicted on people by the dehumanizing global economy. This would also explain why elites have always been so keen on enclosing, privatizing, and monetizing assets and transactions–that is what enables their extortion and theft, and it is the very DNA of our system today.

    2. LifelongLib

      Looks like the money remitted to the Dominican Republic has a better chance of coming back than the money remitted to Walmart does though.

      1. Cal

        Lifelong, I agree! I’d rather see my bucks go to somebody in the D.R. than to the Bentonville Mafia and on to some Chinese factory owner.

        However, money sent to the D.R. brings, according to the article, more immigrants that send yet more money away to attract more immigrants that send more money. It’s almost like the author had a twinge of liberal guilt and inserted it in the otherwise excellent piece.

        It’s the hypocrisy of the so called “progressive left” on the immigration issue that I wanted to point out–talking about “sustainable communities, local economies and further amnesties for Latinos” without thinking of what that means.

        Another scandal is the use of credit cards and the viper sucking of money out of every kind of business local business in which they are used.

        jgordon, I try to deal face to face as much as possible. When I find some good local guy or gal to do things in our place, I tell people about them.
        Craigslist is full of experienced people seeking jobs. You can tell a lot about them by their written replies to queries. High schools often have lists of kids with work permits. Every dollar we spend with the exception of gasoline, is handed out with politics, loyalty to our fellow countrymen and the local spending of it in mind. You have to work at it.

      2. susan the other

        I agree with this sentiment too, LLL. This little essay warmed my heart when it got to Spanish Harlem – a place I’m actually a little familiar with. I think SH is delightful. When I visited my daughter (who lived there for 10 years because the rent was good and the restaurants were too) I found the place was the definition of reality and the people were amazing; nice, smart, resourceful, and respectably poor.

    3. diptherio

      Oh right, it’s those damned foreign workers. They’re the real problem. Why don’t they just stay in their third-world hovels instead of coming here and trying to improve their lives? Only the people who already live here have a right to be here! Sure, I’m only a few generations removed from old Europe myself, but dagnabit, we should have shut the gate and locked it up tight as soon as my people crossed the border!

      This kind of thinly-veiled racism is one thing keeping the poor and working classes from finding real solidarity and the power that comes with it. You think you’re part of the solution, but you’re really just adding to the problem.

      1. PaulW

        Is it racism or common sense? If you have unemployment and decreasing wages it’s natural to not want to see outsiders arriving to compete for jobs. Just wait until the resource pie really shrinks when lack of fresh water becomes an issue everywhere. Then you’ll really see “racism”‘.

      2. Moneta

        Even the farmers realized their land could only support so many people…. the extra children were sent to become priests and nuns who consumed next to nothing.

        Our way of life is completely detached from the local/natural reality. We are depleting the planet but we do not see it because it’s happening in other countries before our own.

      3. roadrider

        You know I’m really tired of reading bullshit like this. The opposition is not to the foreign workers themselves but to the exploitation of them by the corrupt, kleptocratic corporate/political system to undercut the economic security of American citizens. Employers would not be interested in foreign workers if they could not pay them less, have more control over them and dispose of them in a heartbeat if it suited their purposes. Sorry, but being a citizen of a country has to mean something otherwise we should all stop paying taxes and turn in our passports. If you want to make the silly argument you’re making why don’t you take a look at how other countries restrict immigration particularly for those who might want to or need to work. I have looked into how to escape this neoliberal dystopia but quickly found out that it would not be easy at all to go to other countries to work. American citizens deserve no less from their government (not that we’ll get it).

        1. Boz

          Got to love the “I’m really tired of reading bullshit like this” & “being a citizen of a country has to mean something otherwise we should all stop paying taxes and turn in our passports” with no mention of the free-trade agreements that have exacerbated the situation beyond belief. Goods and money crossing the border is okay, but people? no way. Very astute! /snark

          1. Synopticist

            “Goods and money crossing the border is okay, but people? no way. Very astute! /snark”

            So giving the oligarchy mass immigration as well as everything else it wants is somehow better? Bringing lots more people into any country is dumb if there’s already high unemployment and low wage growth.

            1. Doug Terpstra

              Bingo, Syn (and roadrider). This evokes the blind describing the elephant syndrome. Not all opposed to neolib slave-labor in-sourcing (current immigration (non-) policy) are tea party racists. Immigration non-policy is simply Wall Street means of in-sourcing what can’t be outsourced — nurses, janitors, cooks, gardners, builders, and farmworkers. And the beauty of it is, that while circumventing the Emancipation Proclamation, they’ve got us pointlessly divided with name-calling. Got the dogs bickering under the table over the masters’ scraps. Brilliant!

              To some extent, fear of racism or the label also protects and sustains the worst president in US history from frank critical evaluation, followed of course, by impeachment and prosecution. So we’re forced to tolerate a treacherous neoliberal war criminal because he can effectively pass as his opposite, a black progressive, albeit a “clean-cut articulate” one to use Biden’s assessment.

        2. Je' Czaja

          The Liberal Error>It is just stupid to think wide open immigration is A-OK because of “multicultural dogma.” The less-noted problem is this: By leaving their native land, they never actually fix what’s wrong with it. Who really benefits? Their national kleptocrats, who continue with business as usual and our 1% who like desperate workers , whatever their nationality.

      4. spooz

        Its hard to find political solidarity with people who don’t speak your language. At a time when social services are being cut, most of the jobs being created are part time ones that don’t provide a living wage, and college graduates are underemployed and competing with H1b visa holders, I think your employment of the race card here is unjust.
        I call myself a liberal, but am skeptical of the effects of globalization on jobs, including the trend towards creation of global worker units. Loose immigration control supports the trend.

      5. Working Class Nero

        So where are the limits? Every denizen in every third world shit hole has to right to come to America? Flood the country with dirt poor people and then complain about the widening gulf between the rich and the poor? Is this intentional ignorance? You do realize that almost each and every Oligarch in the US is widely pro-immigration, especially the cheap low-skilled variety? From the Koch Brothers, to George Soros, Carlos Slim, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, Sheldon Adelson (for the US but not for Israel), Michael Bloomberg, and Warren Buffet; all oligarchs (except perhaps Ross Perot) enthusiastically support pumping more poor people into America. And it’s not like America had any shortage of poor people when this massive class warfare campaign of mass immigration began more than forty years ago. Now it is much, much worse, and yet people who imagine they are on the Left demand even more poor people be shipped into America.

        I believe many on the Left suffer from huddled masses hysteria. But have any of them actually read the poem by Emma Lazarus? Here are the last four lines:

        Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

        The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

        Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
        I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

        So America is a golden door that showers wealth on these third world low skill immigrants? Let’s take a brief look at what Wikipedia has to say about the Spanish Harlem (East Harlem):

        East Harlem suffers from many social issues, such as the highest jobless rate in New York City, teenage pregnancy, AIDS, drug abuse, homelessness, and an asthma rate five times the national average. It has the second highest concentration of public housing in the United States, closely following Brownsville, Brooklyn. The area has the highest violent crime rate in Manhattan.

        Those golden doors seem to have lost their magic and have morphed into something closer to the color of human excrement. So the question is, is America magically transforming the third world poor into rich Americans or are the third world poor slowly transforming American into a third world hovel? All evidence is pointing to the latter conclusion.

        In the end working class people in the first world have no common interest with poor people in the third world. The only Americans that have a common interest with poor third world people are the oligarchs.

        1. Alejandro

          You ever ponder about what causalities make for “third world shit holes”?
          You ever wonder why anyone would decide to leave their home, loved ones, language and culture to go to a place where they’re not welcomed, vilified and ostracized? Somehow the simplistic narratives seem less plausible than they did just a few years back.

          “We” become so focused on how “we’re” oppressed and who we “think” are our oppressors, that in this trance, “we” can’t see who and how “we” oppress. When this “cognitive dissonance” becomes irreconcilable some of “us” become pathetic apologists. The difference between a “Nero”, “Hero” and “Zero” is a lot less than you might “think”.

          1. Working Class Nero

            It is pretty obvious why people would be motivated to flee their third world shit holes and come and live in the first world. Just like it is pretty easy to understand that if there were a lot of people floating in the ocean, and there were only a couple lifeboats, why these people would try to pile onto to these boats, piling ever more even as the boats became overloaded and sank.

            So you can throw all the guilt around that you want; in the end pumping the first world with poor third worlders (and sending first world jobs to the third world) is only destroying the few lifeboats (non-third world societies) that still exist. Perhaps this is what you consider justice; why should there be a first world, let’s just all be third worlders. After all it seems according to you that the first world is full of oppressors and the third world is full of victims. What could be a better revenge than to see the first world’s working and middle classes wiped out. Push those pampered first worlders out of their lifeboats and let them swim in the sea of poverty just like the rest of the world. While not sharing it, I totally understand this point of view. So do the Oligarchs.

            All I ask is for you to understand that it is nothing personal if some of the working and middle classes resist being pushed into the sea of poverty and try to cling on to their increasingly leaky lifeboats and yes, in doing so, resist the temptation to try to save the rest of the world.

            1. Alejandro

              “It is pretty obvious why people would be motivated to flee their third world shit holes and come and live in the first world.”

              I’m pretty sure when they are fleeing they’re not thinking first, second or third world…My question is, absent the ubiquitous atrocities, would they prefer to stay?

              “Perhaps this is what you consider justice; why should there be a first world, let’s just all be third worlders. After all it seems according to you that the first world is full of oppressors and the third world is full of victims.”

              Ever wonder how the “first, second and third world” narrative originated and why it hasn’t been more effectively challenged?
              IMHO, the word “justice” is one of those neuro-semantic triggers that illicit different reactions, depending on where in the pyramid you happen to be and I’m pretty sure that it’s NOT synonymous with “revenge”…and speaking of pyramids, one of the points I was trying to make is that structurally, every stone, with the exception of the cap stone, carries a load and also loads (oppressed and oppresses simultaneously).

              “All I ask is for you to understand that it is nothing personal if some of the working and middle classes resist being pushed into the sea of poverty and try to cling on to their increasingly leaky lifeboats and yes, in doing so, resist the temptation to try to save the rest of the world. “
              I do understand, I just can no longer accept the kind of thinking that says “ as long as I’m ok, fuck every body else”.

        2. Calgacus

          So the question is, is America magically transforming the third world poor into rich Americans or are the third world poor slowly transforming American into a third world hovel? All evidence is pointing to the latter conclusion.

          In the end working class people in the first world have no common interest with poor people in the third world. The only Americans that have a common interest with poor third world people are the oligarchs.

          With division embraced so ardently by the ruled, it is child’s play to rule.
          There is no evidence whatsoever that the 3rd world poor are transforming America into a 3rd world hovel. Our 1st world oligarchs are doing a splendid job of that by themselves. But their onerous task is made lighter – is only possible – by mass beliefs in incredible things like: a) that oligarchs and 3rd world poor – their unluckiest and most numerous prey – share some common interest! or b) that the domestic and foreign varieties of prey don’t have a common interest: defeat and disappearance of the predators

          pumping the first world with poor third worlders (and sending first world jobs to the third world) is only destroying the few lifeboats (non-third world societies)
          It is pretty obvious why people would be motivated to flee their third world shit holes and come and live in the first world.

          The are not “shit holes” to them – they are home.
          The true shit hole is Wall Street, pooping on all alike. But if the working and middle class elected governments that simply decided to have something like full employment, as basically all governments around the world decided to have during the 30 postwar years, Wall Street would be constipated.

          The unemployment rate is a domestic / government / political / social decision, not something that can be ultimately decided by any offshoring or immigration that occurs. These cannot destroy, push into the sea or even seriously affect any society like the USA if it simply decided to rationally manage its economy otherwise. The offshoring, the immigration is a side issue, useful to distract the inattentive.

      6. Cal

        You are a useful tool for the union busting and third worldization of America.

        The used car dealers, apartment house owners, banks, non-profits and the The Southern Poverty Law Center thank you for your intellectual obedience.
        Good Boy! Here’s a biscuit for you.

        Seriously, what good does the money you hand to a Mexican day laborer who then sends it home do in our local economies? Cue the ‘racism’ whoops in 3,2,1….

          1. Cal

            Oh wow, we have a mind reader in our midst. Try arguing facts and opinions instead of one word crutches that are supposed to represent some profound ideology.

            The term “racism” is meaningless unless some one is claiming that one race is inferior to another. This is an economic discussion. There are illegal aliens from Mexico, England, Jamaica, China and there are also citizens whose parents came from those places and who are as American as you or I and whose interests are hurt by unlimited chain migration.

            Good boy! Here’s your SPLC biscuit.

            1. RanDomino

              The fact that you consider immigrants to be contributing to the US’s “third worldization” implies that you consider them to be inferior to Real ‘Mericans, yes.

    4. F. Beard

      Foreign workers would, reductio ad absurdum, benefit us all and equally too – if capital were equally owned by all.

      So why isn’t capital broadly and roughly equally owned? Answer: Those with some capital can leverage it via loans from the government-backed credit cartel to acquire or build even more capital with the legally stolen purchasing power of those with less or no capital.

    5. John

      Foreign workers, legal and illegal, need to be deported immediately.
      And no, I am not a Right winger. I’m a far Leftest. But I’m for Americans first. Before a single foreigner gets a job in this country ALL Americans that want to have a job should.

      1. worker-owner

        Importing workers willing to work for less than the prevailing wage in a community is roughly equivalent to moving the job out of the community. The employer is explicitly cutting the labor-rate for the job. Diptherio, it is an odd return of indentured servitude for the foreign worker on an H1-B. They can’t live at the standard of living of the people around them because they don’t actually make enough to pay for life in their new community AND they are expected to send money “home.” But to John’s point, the importation hollows out the community into which they are imported and drives labor/wage returns down. So, it’s demeaning for the “lucky” H1-B holder who MAY someday get a green card and actually join the now debased labor pool on an equal footing. And it drives the local labor market towards third-world compensation levels. Welcome to the Globalization Race to the Bottom.

          1. John

            Whenever I hear insults directed at me or others who put Americans first I have only this wish; I hope you lose your job to a foreigner and can’t get another one.
            Then you’ll know how it feels to be desperate in America.

      2. Vatch

        It would probably be more cost effective to concentrate on prosecuting employers who habitually employ people who are in the country illegally, than it is to focus on deportations. That’s not likely to happen, though, because the prosecution and fining of employers would cause great inconvenience to rich Americans.

        The H-1B and L-1 visa programs should be suspended until unemployment is at a much lower level in the U.S. That won’t happen of course, because billionaires tell their servants in Congress that they can’t hire enough qualified Americans, and the gullible Congress critters believe them.

        1. allcoppedout

          Weeding is a tough job. When a mate approached me asking for advice on financial support to build a ‘weeding machine’ I was initially sceptical because farmers typically import cheap labour to do this. Anyway, I went off for a few chats with farmers and discovered weeding is more sophisticated than I thought and people need to be trained to do it. Thus cheap labour plus training was the actual cost. And the work is so hard no one ever comes back next season.

          Long story – end result money raised to build prototype. The cost of these machines can be shown to be less than the cheap labour solution. And I’m pretty sure weeding is actually a more complex skill than most of what goes on in banks, lawyers’ offices …

          What we need is a plan to reduce work and share stuff out. On the chuck them foreign bastards out stuff we have UKIP here – I think it must be a mis-spelling of UKRAP. They are going to sweep the EU polls in a couple of weeks, barring a child sex scandal. Of course, assuming we don’t reach 100% robot heaven, USUK needs immigrants because we are getting old. This fascinating demographic argument is made everywhere with youth unemployment running at 20 – 60%!

          I’ll proll read this book. But I’m voting UKRAP in a couple of weeks and am not a racist. We need to start again.

        2. KnotRP

          > It would probably be more cost effective to concentrate on
          > prosecuting employers

          The corporation has agreed to pay a fine ($1,
          out of the shareholder’s pocket, not the CXX
          office), with no admission of wrong doing

          Cost effective, indeed.

  3. Mogden

    Very well written. My diagnosis: a probably-terminal case of strangulation by our fascist state and its coterie of cronies.

  4. jgordon

    I like the explicit recognition of the US as an empire in decay here. As more in the group-think policy making circles come to understand the wider reality, insular though they are, their natural mercenary proclivity will lead them to reevaluate their loyalties, and thus hasten decline.

    1. Andrew Watts

      We’ve already experienced a period of accelerated decline. This was during the Bush II Administration. Ironically the administration of Bush the Elder was considerably more enlightened. There was significant cuts to military spending, bi-partisan tax raises on the rich, and the US delegated quite a bit of it’s imperial authority to the United Nations. This rapidly changed after the humanitarian intervention in Somalia.

      I can only imagine what the world would look like if this course was followed. The success of the Empire abroad was enabled in no small part by the reform policies it adopted at home.

  5. American Slave

    So more people are finally starting to realize that the federal/internationalist experiment is an utter failure.
    Thats why its so important to have a local economy and local government where business is taken care of at town hall meetings and not behind closed doors in the district of criminals aka. Washington D.C.

  6. YankeeFrank

    This is a great piece. One funny quote that stood out to me was “[m]eanwhile, expenses had outpaced inflation.” I know this to be true, yet by definition it should be impossible, as inflation is supposed to measure the rise in prices. It routinely fails at that, on purpose I would say. But that’s just another hollowing out that’s going on, isn’t it?

    1. direction

      Yes, I always felt it frightful when you’d hear of yet another class of items that would no longer be used to determine inflation. Usually the bare bones survival stuff.

      1. Lord Koos

        There is officially no inflation as long as you don’t need shelter, food, and energy.

    2. Moneta

      My parents bought a dishwasher in the mid-70s and just replaced it. The new one probably cost the same as the old one but will probably last 7-10 years.

      So for the last 40 years, they managed to show no inflation but it sure will show up in the purchasing power over the next decade or 2.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        We used to pay $0 per night for our nightly TV watching, back in the 70’s.

        Now, it’s $50/month, at least, to watch the same TV, with worse programming, I might add.

        That’s an inflation rate of infinity.

        1. allcoppedout

          I’ve gone back to freeview Beef, Just as cable finished the aerial fell off the chimney. That was two weeks back. Soon we may look at that back box and wonder why we let it clutter the place up for so long. The term neither use nor ornament may soon be directed at other than me. Am I deflating?

        2. neo-realist

          The only positive is that on the pay cable channels, you get the risque sex and violence that the FCC doesn’t allow on the free networks/stations.

        3. KnotRP

          Hedonic substitution: when you cut a cord that has become too
          expensive, it’s no longer inflation….and look, more Free Time and
          fewer impulse buys, so that’s actually deflationary, not inflationary.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            A better example.

            Back in the 70’s, when I had a lot of hair, I used to let it grow without cutting. My Hippie grooming cost: $0.

            Now, with much less hair, I have to have it trimmed once a month, for vanity sake, at $10 a hair cut.

            Determined to contribute to the economy, I am forgoing my hedonic substitution, even as I suffer another inflation rate of infinity.

  7. John

    It was the 1% who pushed the country into war. They savored the idea of creating a Pax-Americana in the Middle-East, paid by Iraqi petro-dollars. Now that the wars are winding down and the costs of empire building are unbearable, the 1% are doing their best to make the soldiers and their families cough up the difference in a shrinking DoD budget to pay for over-priced weapons platforms. To bolster their argument Team Obama has falsely claimed compensation was / is getting out of control. CBO has demonstrated this not to be the case. Once you look at the data and not at the propaganda, military compensation has remained level for the last 10-years.

    Slashing the commissary budget was an ornery stunt, sort of like a sending up a trial balloon to see what cuts would stick so they can go after other parts of the personnel budget. The pain would only be absorbed by soldiers and the families so the political fallout from the 1% would be minimal. Did DoD seek to trim the F-35, a weapon system that is billions of dollars in cost overruns and unproven, to help cover the shortfall? No.

    Team Obama is in effect trying to take money from those who fought the nations wars, at the behest of the 1%, and to prop up the stock prices of the military industrial complex. Obama & Co have not once publicly asked individual defense contractors to take a hit. His 2015 budget specifically targets soldiers and their families and no one else and definitely not the contractors.

    Soldier pay is not that great. The $99K compensation piece the author cites is a DoD propaganda position in order to scare the public and is useful to provide cover for the 1%.

    The author does have a point. The US has similar ambitions like North Korea. Build and maintain a large military police state at tremendous expense to the 99%. Take a step back and you realize the military police state is there to protect the 1%. Nothing else matters.

    1. Otter

      Team Obama does not distinguish between taking money and taking blood. The only purpose of the 99 is to serve the 1.

  8. nobody

    “[T]he life of the 1%…the 1%…the top 1% of Americans… They…America’s 1%…”

    No no no no no…

    “[W]hen you look inside the 1 percent, you see clearly that most of them aren’t growing their share of wealth at all. In fact, the gain in wealth share is all about the top 0.1 percent of the country. While nine-tenths of the top percentile hasn’t seen much change at all since 1960, the 0.01 percent has essentially quadrupled its share of the country’s wealth in half a century. It turns out that wealth inequality isn’t about the 1 percent v. the 99 percent at all. It’s about the 0.1 percent v. the 99.9 percent (or, really, the 0.01 percent vs. the 99.99 percent, if you like).”

    1. financial matters

      This would come to about 30,000 people in the US which would seem to make sense. People at the very top of the corporations who are able to shift income to themselves at the expense of their companies and employees through corporate governance policies which are heavily in their favor. And we keep hearing that about 40% of this ‘growth’ is in the financial sector.

      Given that corporate governance is unlikely to change soon a more practical solution would be to heavily tax this sort of income extraction from the top which is often not in the form of a direct salary. Stock price has proven to be a poor way to measure a companies performance. True productivity would be measured by investment in the companies and in the employees. And a strong regulatory network that put the public’s interest before the financial companie’s interests could greatly reduce this outrageous fraud and price gouging.

      1. PaulW

        I wonder if people will ever regain control of their societies again. If they do they may take a hard look at outlawing corporations. Many today would agree that corporations are responsible for our declining standard of living. How much worse will things be when people finally rise up to end the current governing system?

        1. F. Beard

          There’s NOTHING intrinsically wrong with corporations but typically Progressives blame them instead of government-backed credit creation, the true villain,

          Ya see, when it comes to your neighbor’s stolen purchasing power, NO ONE is creditworthy.

        2. Robert Frances

          Have to agree with F. Beard on this one, even though I don’t like replying to incessant commenters. The modern economic malaise is best summarized as too much of the income earned by lower and middle income families is used to pay regressive taxes and to pay rent or housing costs. If many of us are working 3-4 days each week just to pay the landlord and just to pay a myriad of federal, state and local taxes, there’s not a lot of free money left over each month to spend on the dreaded “big corporations.”

          If we think more generally about economic history since at least the 1980’s, wealthy government bondholders have done very well vis-a-vis everyone else, land speculators and stock investors have done very, very well (especially if they bought early in the economic up-cycles and sold towards the end of the cycles), most landlords have done very well since both rents and land prices have skyrocketed since forever it seems on both the east and east coasts where most people live, and government workers have done fairly well too. Those working in government often have secure, well-paying, good benefit jobs that the vast majority of us will never have. After adding to these groups of mainly satisfied economic players, the families living on inherited wealth, the highly compensated professional classes, and fairly large numbers of higher-level corporate, financial and engineering drones who keep the entire system managed, the current economic system looks pretty good to the top 20 to 30% of the population.

          Until society learns how to reduce rent and housing payments for the lower and middle income groups, and either reduce government taxes or shift them off the backs of lower and middle-income families, I wouldn’t expect economic conditions will ever improve for the bottom 65% of families. There seems very little give in the system. Even higher salaries and wages only seem to get us higher housing costs and higher taxes, and net job losses since higher wages only encourage automation and job off-shoring.

    2. Moneta

      Agreed. Most of those making 100-200K are enjoying transient wealth… BMWs, big houses. A lot of toys that suck up a lot of resources. All they need is a little bad luck (which most get as they age) to topple over.

      The truly rich .1% are those who own the good land and industry. HUGE difference.

      1. James Levy

        But I would argue that the whole 1%, plus the 4-6% below them, are crucial, for they are the ones who manage the process and cover the tracks and make the excuses for those 30,000 ultra rich. Without that buffer, the game would be up. And if that buffer switched sides, the 30,000 would be up Shit Creek without a paddle. And despite the stats, that top 7% is doing well and living a life isolated from the rest of us. They are a healthy, wealthy, and deeply self-satisfied bunch, happy to serve those above them and defend their interests. They are essential for the operation of the oligarchy.

        1. Moneta

          I would say the top 10% and even 20% (includes those with guaranteed pensions telling those without to go fight for their own benefits without helping them) are still managing the process.

          1. porge

            It has been shown time and time again that the most significant factor that determines an individuals success is….wait for it…..LUCK. The lucky will never lower there ego and admit this though.

          2. Moneta

            Yes, just like the specks of sand fight for their place in the hourglass!

            IMO, it’s 99.9% luck… even if you work hard, you were born that way.

          3. Cal

            “Tammie Hagen-Noey, in her bedroom at a group home in Richmond, Va., earns $7.25 an hour at a local McDonald’s.”

            Is she a member of the Royal family in England?
            What’s with this absurd hyphenated name nonsense?

            I guess if makes people feel important to have three names and makes up for declining standards of living.

        2. porge

          .001 to .002 represent the true owners of the global system who are descendants of old inherited fortunes.

          .01 to .02 are the figure head puppets that everyone THINKS runs things. This includes politicians, CEOs, etc.

          .1 to .2 are the mangers. This is the most important group and they are the enablers of the oppressive hierarchy. This group largely identifies with the class above them and stands to lose a lot if the system fails. These are the people that need to be changed.

          .8 to .9 are the disenfranchised. This group is owned and considered livestock.

        3. Andrea

          Further in this direction…I always refer to the 20% which is a figure I have modestly proposed for 10 years now with some success (I like to think.)

          The 20% are not defined on a scale which uses wealth, income, but comprise the ‘top’ of the regime, those who are heavily dependent and invested in it, which includes Gvmt. (also at lower levels), Defense, contractors, etc. as well as high-power positions (not necessarily with stelllar pay) in Corps, the professions (e.g. lawyers, chemists, bankers, etc. etc.), Communications and the Media (hyper important) and so on.

          This 20% (or so, might be 25) of regime cadres is a necessity to keep the system afloat and functioning. Without that 20% the whole arrangement implodes.

          Their power and influence rests on social, educational, financial, image, etc. capital, and the just by accident ‘being in the spot’, the node, where it is possible to go down certain paths, support this or that decision, instinctively obey actors behind the scenes, follow the ‘zeitgeist’ etc.

          That 20% commands or corrals *at least* another 20% as they wield authority, vetting, ‘club’ membership, and they impose standards to keep others out (drug tests, clean slate, qualifications needed, connections required, etc. etc.)

          The emphasis on *financial* inequality obscures these social mechanisms, I guess that is why the topic is so popular.

          The ‘bad’ places the author describes are all in their poor position because of that 20% and not directly because of the top 1% (or .01..) in financial terms.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            I think, with technology, you can reduce that number (20%) to something smaller, reducing cost and be more profitable.

            1. allcoppedout

              I read a book years ago, so utterly boring I remember more of the décor of the toilet I read it in, than the tome itself. It was an analysis of elites around the world and generally estimated these at 15% of the population, whether USA or USSR. Magna Carta was about a similar proportion of uppies not all the population, and actually sealed into existence by an Irish saviour of England, not that fart King John. Anyone able to point me to the book?

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                Can’t help you there with the name of the book, though I would think a newer edition might add that, by merging, a country’s rich can shrink that 15% to 7.5% (in the case of two equal sized merger partners), if they can somehow make the other country’s rich, eh, redundant.

          2. Moneta

            Many in that 20% have DB pensions and keep on telling those without one to go fight for theirs instead of trying to take what they deserve away. They could be helping those without, but why would they? Many still believe in the system.

        4. Lord Koos

          ‘The world is run by one million evil men, ten million stupid men, and a hundred million cowards,’ Abdul Ghani pronounced in his best Oxford English accent, licking the sweet honey cake from his short, thick fingers. ‘The evil men are the power–the rich men, and the politicians, and the fanatics of religion–whose decisions rule the world, and set it on its course of greed and destruction.’

          ‘There are only one million of them, the truly evil men, in the whole world. The very rich and the very powerful, whose decisions really count–they only number one million. The stupid men, who number ten million, are the soldiers and policemen who enforce the rule of the evil men. They are the standing armies of twelve key countries, and the police forces of those and twenty more. In total, there are only ten million of them with any real power or consequence. They are often brave, I’m sure, but they are stupid, too, because they give their lives for governments and causes that use their flesh and blood as mere chess pieces. Those governments always betray them or let them down or abandon them, in the long run. Nations neglect no men more shamefully than the heroes of their wars.’

          ‘And the hundred million cowards,’ Abdul Ghani continued, pinching the handle of the teacup between his plump fingers, ‘they are the bureaucrats and paper shufflers and pen-pushers who permit the rule of the evil men, and look the other way. They are the head of this department, and the secretary of that committee, and the president of the other association. They are managers, and officials, and mayors, and officers of the court. They always defend themselves by saying that they are just following orders, or just doing their job, and it’s nothing personal, and if they don’t do it, someone else surely will. They are the hundred million cowards who know what is going on, but say nothing, while they sign the paper that puts one man before a firing squad, or condemns one million men to the slower death of a famine.’

          ‘So, that’s it,’ he concluded. ‘The world is run by one million evil men, ten million stupid men, and a hundred million cowards. The rest of us, all six billion of us, do pretty much what we are told!’

          — from Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts

  9. dearieme

    This piece seems to be based on the assumption that all Americans are entitled to be in the world’s top 1% come what may. Self-regarding fantasy.

    1. financial matters

      Inequality is a pervasive world problem. Austerity measures also shift wealth to the top in the EU, Ukraine and Indonesia. And the regular workers in China aren’t benefitting from their export markets. They would be better served if they could afford some of those products themselves.

      1. Moneta

        Maybe the world only has enough resources to support 500 million American-type middle class… so the American middle lass is getting redistributed across the planet.

        The Americans in the shock of the 70s could have become protectionist which would have probably forced them to cut down on their consumerism but they opted for more stuff and globalization. And this necessitated the help of the military complex.

        I don’t think any country in history has chosen the route of cutting energy consumption because energy is power. So the US is probably just following the natural order of things…

        1. porge

          “I don’t think any country in history has chosen the route of cutting energy consumption because energy is power. So the US is probably just following the natural order of things…” Moneta.

          Right you are…..nature doing what nature does….

          check this out if you are not already familiar.

        2. Lord Koos

          Nobody “opted” for anything — it was decided by the small group of the powerful and sold to the masses. I don’t think most people want or expect to be in the top 1% — what people want is equal access to opportunity.

          1. Moneta

            If a politician in the 70s spoke to the masses and told them the gravy train was gone and to brace themselves for less stuff, they would have been booted out an replaced with those who promised more gravy trains.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                Carter spoke to the wrong people (the masses) and has, indeed, been proven wrong by the really important people (RIP).

                To the 0.01%, the gravy train is still here, if not even better tasting.

    2. Mark J Lovas

      No, you’ve got it wrong. This essay is not about everyone being rich; nor does it suppose that we all have a right to be rich. It describes the injustice which results from the wealth of the wealthy in the real world. The piece laments the fact that people in the USA used to have a more decent life–without needing alcohol or drugs to deal with their misery. It highlights the moral bankruptcy involved in privileging soldiers while allowing other citizens to sink into an abyss. This essay illustrates the idea that when so many are struggling while others have more money than they know what to do with, the society is unjust. No, it’s not about everyone wanting to be rich. Not at all. In the words of an old Depression era song: “I don’t want your millions Mister/I don’t want your Cadillac car/All I want is food for my baby/Give me back my job again.”

    3. masterslave

      “” This piece seems to be based on the assumption that all Americans are entitled to be in the world’s top 1% come what may. “”

      The basic assumption is that large amounts of wealth , including money , are not generally properly ( fairly / equitably ) distributed to the majority due to very sophisticated embezzlements , frauds or just plain stupidity .

  10. Ulysses

    Very moving excerpt. We need to stop lamenting, and start actively resisting this system which will never restore the “good old days.”

    1. susan the other

      The god-old-days deserve to die a peaceful death. What we need is hope to create good new days. I’ve now started to imagine what I would be feeling like if I were filthy rich. I’d be unhappy because my life would be completely false. Industrialism is history. Socialism is history too if it insists on relying on industrial economics.

    2. masterslave

      “” Very moving excerpt. We need to stop lamenting, and start actively resisting this system which will never restore the “good old days.” “”

      Agree . The ” midclass ” must re-assert its right to a fair share of the pie or die of starvation among other ways . There are still about 2 out of 3 people that are unable or refuse to see the impending doom .

  11. Skeptic

    Things maybe not so rosy at Camp Lejeune.

    I was in the USMC in the late 60s and stationed for a time at Camp Lejeune. I remember Jacksonville as a dump filled with bars and stores that preyed on the dumb. One private returned from town with a full set of new clothes bought when he was drunk and on credit. Credit was easy to get then and they knew how much to sell to you based on your pay grade. If you defaulted, they could garnishee wages with military cooperation. Booze and tobacco were dirt cheap as these addictions were used as tools of troop management. I imagine things are much worse today with the neo-cons preying everwhere.

    As for Semper Fidelis, every Marine should read WAR IS A RACKET by USMC General Smedley Butler winner of two Congressional Medals Of Honor. They do not give you a copy of this book when you sign up! Oh yeah, Daniel Ellsberg was a Marine: musta read the book.

  12. Middle Seaman

    Been working at the place for 30 years. My salary today is my salary 30 years ago adjusted to cost of living. Respected, important, considered as contributing way more than most, still my compensation stayed invariant. (It’s OK, for many years I had a more than helpful business.)

    We never complain. We don’t demonstrate. We vote for the robbers and sing their praises. Unless we get off our rear ends, this will continue for a very long time.

  13. Moneta

    Most people in North America look around and only see wealth. And are smug when they compare what they have to those in emerging markets. What they don’t realize is that most of the wealth North Americans admire is transient. It needs to suck up more even more wealth to persist. Proof of this is that North Americans typically mix up income and net worth or look at their assets without discounting their debt.

    Just like a person making 50K, buying a 2 million dollar is biting off more than he can chew, the US has built itself a system/way of life that it can’t maintain over the long term without bullying other countries.

    That’s why it is so important to consider depreciation/maintenance costs when choosing an investment. We are falling behind on the treadmill and many still do not see it. And as long as we keep on investing without considering further resource and energy requirements, the slide will continue.

    1. Moneta

      Here in Canada, when I go on MLS, I calculate that 30% of listed houses are high maintenance properties that should only be purchased by the top 5%.

      Everyone lives by the monthly cash flow thinking the future will take care of itself.

      1. F. Beard

        That “daily bread” thingy.

        I’ve felt a lot more secure being poor with faith in God than I ever felt having money but with little or no faith.

        1. Synopticist

          Mt 6.34
          Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

    2. mellon

      The US is crawling down the lists of every measure that I know of of economic health. It wont be until we vote out all the incumbent partiers and figure out a way to deter corruption effectively that we’ll have relief.

  14. Christopher Dale Rogers

    Yves & Peter,

    Many thanks for posting this, quite a long read, but enjoyed it nonetheless.
    Unlike the majority of posters, this piece resonated with what has become of industrialised Britain since the advent of Thatcherism and monetarism in 1979 – 1976 if we are more precise.

    Why did it resonate so much, quite simple really, travel across the post-industrial towns and villages in much of the Uk and it will evoke memories of this book – as an example, most of my family for 6 generations worked within iron, steel and coal; as did I for a while until I escaped via a University education, one funded by working in the steel mill. The drug issues, alcohol issues and low self esteem are all the same, as is the Walmartisation of society – from a supposed nation of shopkeepers we have become hosts for financial parasites – and then are blamed for the condition many find themselves in.

    Does hope prevail, we’ll heck yes, my father is big on his allotment, as are other working class folk with some pride left, so this is one escape – education used to offer an escape, but not anymore since we are required to cover the costs ourselves in the new financialised Jerusalem. Usery is the name of the game and asset inflation, which is quite sad.

    Still, we have pride, so as one Conservative MP said to another at the height of the Polly Peck scandal: “Don’t let the buggers get you down”. An apt saying for the economic lunacy we now suffer under.

    1. allcoppedout

      The vile Blair wanted to do the casino thing in East Manchester. The first time I saw the collapse in the UK was in 1972 at Millom near Barrow. Our approach to living is upside down.

  15. casino implosion

    I come from a place much like Weirtown and now live in Washington Heights which is like Spanish Harlem but farther uptown in Manhattan. This article made me google streetview the empty, dead streets of the old home town (Walmart the only lot with any vehicles in it) and made me appreciate where I live all the more. I need to remember why I’m here when I can’t sleep at night due to drunken Dominican revelry, boom cars blasting reggaeton and the street-bike gangs popping wheelies.

  16. PaulW

    “wealth went elsewhere”

    I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like in the past when the wealth of the British colonies went elsewhere, while the local poverty remained. Is what we are witnessing now not simply the chickens coming home to roost in the Anglo-American Empire? I know that’s harsh but how bad has it been for people in the past while the english speaking world has been incredibly spoiled? How much of other’s poverty has been the result of our actions? We get brief, brutal snapshots of it today in places like Iraq.

    Which brings me to my one fear: will the Anglo-American Empire accept its fate quietly or point a loaded gun at the rest of the world and warn them that “if we go down, we’re taking you with us.” Like the TBTF banks crashing the entire system if they don’t get their way. That’s not quite right. It’d be more like the Empire refusing to go down no matter what and threatening to blow up everything if the rest of the world doesn’t hold us up. “Us” being the 1% in charge. The 99% is already being sacrificed to buy time.

    I’m not sure what’s better: to hope for an immediate crash or hope it never crashes. With the former one could hope for the impoverishment of the US military before it starts WW3 and once its military superiority is gone that threat will no longer remain. With the latter, I guess we slowly continue down the road of poverty, hoping it happens more to others sooner than it happens to us, and hope the Empire doesn’t feel a need to start WW3 during the process.

    1. Moneta

      In the French Revolution, the poor got poorer. And life did not get easier for them for decades.

    2. Eureka springs

      @PaulW Accept quietly!!! Uh, have you heard about Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Ukraine while threatening Russia, Iran and a pivot to Asia…. and the over 700 bases (they tell us about) around the globe? Did you not read the post which says a quarter of uncles sams budget is dedicated to military madness? A madness only designed to protect the rich by looting and murder. There may not be a mushroom cloud in the sky today, but buddy… the rest has been going on for a long time. All you need to do is listen too or read a few direct quote/transcripts of anything Obama, Kerry or Clinton says to know these are totally criminally insane sad sacks of an excuse for human beings. They should all be in prison cells. Hell, taking the rest of the world down with a humanitarian drone a gun or an IMF loan seems to be the only plan the US has ever had whether booming or bust. We sure have a constitution, executive, legislative, judicial and finance system set up for it exclusively. This is not some anomaly question… it’s who we are, what we do… it’s systemic. Just ask a native American.

      1. Antifa

        Indeed. War is what America does.

        We are like the farmer who knows his land will only support so many children, but instead of sending the extras off to be nuns, priests, or vagabonds has armed them all with weapons and armor and said, “We shall go a-viking!”

        The neighborhood will never settle down with this going on.

      2. masterslave

        “” A madness only designed to protect the rich by looting and murder. “”

        The worldwide progeny of Machiavelli are ascendent . Marx understood him as well as Clinton , Bush and Obama . When the long march thru the institiutions finally completely destroys Christianity then moral injunctions against lying and murder will be completely eliminated ; and the only remaining ethic will be ( is fast becoming ) Machiavelliism .

    3. Otter

      Nothing that drastic. The emperor will agree it is only fair that citizens in far corners of the empire should contribute to the costs of their military protection. The legions in their scattered bases will be instructed to “live off the land”.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        A Roman emperor also relocated his capital to a more defensible region.

        That saved the empire for another 1,000 years.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            I can see some similarities between Denver and Constantinople…geographic center of the empire, more or less…proximate to ancient cultures (of, say, Mimbres and Casas Grandes, in the case of Denver)…distance from patrician families or inherited wealth (as practical as possible)…

  17. ep3

    What about Michigan? Detroit, Lansing, Flint? To see the millions of acres of abandoned factories?

  18. Dan Kervick

    I’m looking forward to reading this book, which seems to be in the tradition of Dale Maharidge’s work.

  19. John Mc

    Well written piece. Peter’s writing reminds me of the Bill Moyers’ episode with Chris Hedges discussing what (Hedges) calls “sacrifice zones” – similar to Van Buren’s organization, but addresses how different cultures (within and among) America have been sacrificed:

    1) Latino immigrant Families in Immokalee, Florida
    2) Native American Families in Pine Ridge, South Dakota
    3) African American Families in Camden, New Jersey
    4) Appalachian Families in Welch, West Virginia

    I think what stands out to me the most (besides the collective inability to solve the ecological, structural and abusive systemic feedback loops in our neoliberal culture) is how embedded gambling has become in our culture, waiting to extract more and more resources out of the most impoverished communities.

    Meth, alcohol, gaming, internet, sex, television mind rot are substitutes for life (for people who are being encouraged to give up to develop stronger relationships with their addictive consumption patterns, thus isolating themselves and their communities even more)

    Here is the link:

  20. jfleni

    RE: An empire in Decline
    First there was the Vietnam war crime with lots of excuses and rationalizations. Later there was the Iraqi war crime, and make no mistake, that’s what it was, pure and simple.

    Empires either rot from the head like fish, or go out in a flash of violent mania and destruction, or sometimes both. Look at the Czar’s Eurasian empire in 1917 for a perfect example.

    Dwelling on the details is dumb, the Empire (DogPatch DC) is disolving. We can only hope that the pieces and parts of the former US that replace it are better for most of us.

  21. cnchal

    At its peak, the Weirton Steel Corporation employed more than 12,000 people, and was the largest single private employer and taxpayer in West Virginia. The owners of the mill paid for and built the Weirton Community Center, the Weirton General Hospital, and the Mary H. Weir Library in those glory days. For years the mill also paid directly for the city’s sewers, water service, and even curbside garbage pickup. Taxes were low and life was good.In the 1970s and early 1980s, however, costs rose, Asian steel gained traction and American manufacturing started to move offshore.

    For the first time since the nineteenth century, the country became a net importer of goods.

    Globalisation. Huge increase in the supply of labor. Practically no increase in the amount of customers.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Not a problem with no new customers (practically).

      Just lower the legal age of incurring debt.

      Instead of being born with a sliver spoon, one can be born with debt.

      ‘When did you incur that debt?’

      ‘When I was in my mother’s womb.’

      ‘Ha, I beat you. I owed even before I was in my mother’s womb.’

      1. cnchal

        Haven’t the credit card companies set up a sales office adjacent to the delivery room yet? A sales pitch for the little spenders from Crapitol One with Bam Bam as the hook, right out of the womb. After their $20,000 birth.

        With what, roughly $100 trillion of debt and obligations, every baby born in the US has an instantaneous debt load of $30,000 or so. Welcome to the world. Here is your bill.

    2. jonboinAR

      Globalisation. Huge increase in the supply of labor. Practically no increase in the amount of customers.

      EX-actly!! We should refuse to trade with all countries that don’t mandate a middle-class wage for their factory workers, should’ve been doing that all along.

  22. Peter Luria

    This is an interesting and provocative article. I respectfully submit that Mr. Van Buren overlooked certain highly pertinent issues in the “On the Boardwalk: Atlantic City, New Jersey” section. What most people do not realize is that Atlantic City is not on the mainland of the U.S. It is located on Absecon Island .Significantly Atlantic City shares this small island with three “downbeach” town: Ventnor; Margate, and Longport. Mr. Van Buren could have used the differences in the financial status between the “downbeach ” towns and Atlantic City to illustrate the financial problems in the American economy at large. For example, Ventnor, Margate and Longport possess literally blocks of million dollar plus homes ALL OF WHICH ARE COMPLETELY UNOCCUPIED during the entire year except for the summer months. Contrast this with the fate of working class people just a few miles north in Atlantic City who must skirt homelessness on a daily basis. Depending of how dangerously Mr. Van Buren wishes to live, he may wish to inquire as to the source of the wealth which finances ” downbeach” real estate.

  23. Brat

    Interesting snapshot of “almost any military base” in the country, particularly the bit about the Exchange. You could have gone much further with this. I grew up in a military family, so when I visit “home,” there is always a very depressing trip to the Exchange. Look at the labels of what is for sale. As long as we’re talking about gambling, I would happily wager that literally every single item is made in a place that has been militarily or economically conquered by the US and/or a US corporation. My relative encourages me to buy stuff because it is cheap. And it is. But looking at the “Made in Vietnam” label stops me. As does the “Made in Haiti” label, the “Made in Indoensia” label, and so on. All I can think of when a holding a pair of boxer shorts (or socks or some other completely common piece of clothing) is, “Wow, my relative bombed the shit out of this country and a pair of boxer shorts came out of the crater. And now I’m wearing them.”

    1. cnchal

      On my one and only visit to Washington DC, I bought a souvenir hat with the POTUS logo on it from the government run souvenir stand very close to the Vietnam War Memorial.

      Made in Vietnam, said the label inside the hat.

  24. FluffytheObeseCat

    This was the best piece I’ve ever read at Naked Capitalism. Thank you. He’s a genius writer; a brilliant, caring observer.
    If he wants to see and speak about places on the west coast that can proxy for Atlantic City and Spanish Harlem, I’d suggest Reno, NV and Alameda, CA respectively. Reno is not so utterly shot as Atlantic City, but it’s close. He could drive up into Sun Valley and see single wide after single wide of half-dead methheads (to get that Weirton connection). Alameda, CA is the Bay Area’s answer to the Dominican part of Harlem. It’s mixed Asian immigrants, tightly built older homes, and walkable main shopping streets with very few big box intrusions. People are out, eating, buying goods and socializing on Park St. until 10 on week nights. There is one Walmart “neighborhood store” going up at the east end of the street, so it’s all under threat, like with the Target in Spanish Harlem. But. Still. Alive.

  25. financial matters

    Erich Fromm saw psychology, ideology and economics as being important and fluid parts of our evolving social structure. He was particularly interested in how fascist systems develop.

    “This discussion will always be centered around the main theme of this book: that man, the more he gains freedom in the sense of emerging from the original oneness with man and nature and the more he becomes an ‘individual,’ has no choice but to unite himself with the world in the spontaneity of love and productive work or else to seek a kind of security by such ties with the world as destroy his freedom and the integrity of his individual self.’

    Escape From Freedom 1941

      1. financial matters

        But JG promotes many useful and productive jobs, childcare, eldercare, environment enhancement, arts etc.

        “The big numbers we should be frightened of are the millions of American citizens who are under-nourished, under-housed, under-educated, and under-cared for—and the massive number of our citizens who are sitting idle beside stacks of available materials and arrays of available tools while uncounted lists of useful things need to be accomplished. Those big numbers mean the thing we thought we were creating when we agreed to form “a more perfect union” is beginning to fail.”

        1. allcoppedout

          I don’t disagree JG FM. I’d go further with a national service involving military and FE/HE in the organisation and training. I generally like the idea of giving poverty back to the rich so I’d make jawbs compulsory for all of us, say a day a week.

  26. allcoppedout

    Once on the inside of an organisation you get some chance of seeing its real procedures and its theories-in-action. Economics nearly always works with institutionally produced fantasy data like GDP. We need more tours through reality like this. The amazing thing is how slow we’ve been to get even the partial understanding of what’s been going on in our general population.

    Economics is the basic problem. It’s older and more based in evil than we suspect, though I don’t address this from a religious perspective. Economics repeatedly tells us what we can’t do and that a casino built by a talking wig is success. In fact, it’s more of a success when it falls down. Economics allows the build of shiny covers for extortion and prostitution, but prevents a global wealth tax. Judging by Trump and Kerry, the US is run by talking wigs. Trump even means fart in English English.

    In maths we have non-commutative geometry (Allain de Connes) about the order of things. I can’t see an application in economics, but it seems reasonable to analyse the effects of what has come before on our thinking. What kind of economics is it that convinces us gambling is a good thing? It’s almost like the 1/99% thing. Everyone loses except a tiny minority and in the process society faces policing and deprivation recovery costs. What has happened to people who enjoy pulling the levers of one-armed-bandits? We need to address the inanity of blue sky reasoning like ‘let’s build a casino for economic success’ like the Japanese lunacy of ‘let’s declare war on America’. And to stop doing economics that falls into the waiting traps of we can’t do anything because of global factors or because their is no money.

    We can take a walk with this author in some of the reality, but how might we build an economics free of whatever first steps skew it to service of the rich. How do we spot what it really does?

  27. susan the other

    How do we pin down economic development? We need a new term for it. It is neither capitalism or socialism. I’d fall back on stg like environmentalism because we all share the environment equally.

  28. allcoppedout

    The narrative of what’s actually going on seems an important exclusion. The propaganda against this in MSM, literature, film and advertising is massive, but we’ve also been had by education. Admitting we’ve been stiffed is the first, hard stage – and one can get trapped in this stage itself. All of us will have had something like 18 years of education. Yet most can’t remember much of it.

    The next is analysis of where politics and economics get us. I’d say this is mostly the impasse of not being able to do what we think right and dirty hands philosophy to rationalise what we do. It all works rather like book-keeping conventions. Rather than everything solid melting to air, the process is more one of turning everything precious to shit. I’d say most of economics and politics is inscribed on the Cyrus Cylinder around 500 BC. Freedom is to come by magic – and it seems we need a book by a Frenchman to tell us of thousands of years of inequality one can surely spot in the forensic analysis of graves. There are clear contradictions of the espoused theory, theories-in-use kind such as comparative advantage of nations in a real world dominated by military power and staying ahead in that, which renders Richardo an innocent abroad. Beyond even this lies Ebagum – the hidden Mugabe factors. What racism lies in regarding him as an outlier when, say, the privatised CIA runs Guinea Bissau and the money ends up in Western banks? Sure his concubines run about in Mercedes, but the bosses of VW fly prostitutes first-class from Angola to Paris. Where does most of the money end up? What sort of social theory wants to cover this stuff up and act as though real pain and suffering are inevitable and unfixable other than by magic?

    The history of economics is one of slavery. Even Cyrus (a good chap by ancient leadership standards – so why focus on the Greeks and Romans?) sent thousands of people into exile, something still going on in Scotland in 1840, after the emancipation of slaves in the UK and the payment of vast settlements to their owners. This is an economics of groaf, jawbs and contrakshun – in a time we know we are burning and poisoning our planet, that wars are primarily to do with mad, libidinal interests of a few who don’t fight and that many live in abject, unnecessary poverty and most of us hate jawbs. Discovering money is just made from air, we find we can’t do the sensible things with it like organising, say, green energy capacity across the globe. What kind of theory is a theory done knowing it must rely on magic to cross the impasse a dozen monkeys at typewriters could establish?

    And, of course, it turns out the book-keeping is bent. I’d say the next move is about the conditions of possibility of a genuine economics of emancipation. Beard does quite well from religious indexing and I don’t doubt some magic of faith is required. How do we slaves live in freedom that isn’t a survival of the fittest anarchy or war of the barons? The story starts in such as this, yet can you hear the cries of ‘it won’t work’ already? Led by economists buttering their parsnips in the Establishment zoo, offering global trade agreements where we need people solidarity, equal opportunity in representation and a green revolution against jawbs, groaf and the very idea contrakshun has anything to do with an increase in decent lives. These are people who will justify immigration into countries with youth unemployment running between 20 – 60% because we need the skills and a balanced demography because we have made children so expensive as not to be wanted.

    We can surely simulate what is going on. It may not be a matter of ‘theorising’ in various day-job economic silos. We can do it ourselves. We have to stop the brainwork being licensed. One can even envisage an enterprise solution.

  29. allcoppedout

    I’d build from case studies. Imagine hospitals running car-pooling and taxi-bus schemes for staff, patients and visitors. We have fairly suitable software. Get this working in hospitals along with necessary security precautions and it would clearly spread to other organisations. We might not want cars as individuals and we could work out energy savings, cuts in road use, maintenance, building and changes in the auto industry. Jobs might be lost in such efficiency. Who would care if we didn’t have insanestream economics and reward practices?

    Hardly rocket science this, but we aren’t doing it. One can imagine walking through many such cases, perhaps in the spirit of the author of this post. We don’t have to get theoretical that quickly, though most people I ask on this simple case, can’t really follow the implications.

  30. skippy

    Thanks Ambrit… Seems some humans need for stimulation is greater than others, then it has a bad habit of folding in on its self like a super dense singularity, the gravity sucks in everyone else willing or not.

    skippy… it is nice tho’ having someone to point out to the kids… my kids… and I thank you for that… deep down….

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