By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives
Thomas Frank is a historian and writer. He is also the man who tried to save the Democratic Party and our Nation from great harm. He is the great chronicler of one of the most grievous, self-inflicted wounds in modern American history. Twelve years ago, in What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, Frank tried to warn the Democratic Party’s dominant elites’ that their policies and contempt for workers were pushing a large part of its base out of the Party. Many of the workers that were the Democratic Party’s traditional base were leaving the Party and failing to participate in elections, but some were supporting the far-right wing of the Republican Party. At the national level, the New Democrats’ candidates remained highly competitive, but the Republican Party was able to attain complete political domination of most states.
This year, Frank renewed his warnings in Listen, Liberal, which explains with characteristic verve, facts, and candor how the “New Democrats” made the New Deal, labor, and the working class their targets for attack and ridicule. The book explains why the New Democrats’ policies, which adopted traditional Republican policies, proved so destructive to labor and the working class.
The New Democrats cannot claim to be shocked that many members of the working class and labor eventually responded to the New Democrats’ contempt and policy betrayals and the terrible harms those policies inflicted upon the working class by increasingly refusing to support such Democratic candidates. Frank’s books show that the contempt of the New Democrats for the New Deal, labor, and the working class was and is palpable.
Today, Nate Cohn warned Democrats that “Right-Wing Populism Is Prevailing in Left-Wing Strongholds Around the World.” Cohn’s warning repeats Frank’s warnings, but ignores entirely the reasons for Frank’s warnings, the fact that he made the warnings, the New Democrats’ scorn for his warnings. Cohn vaguely references the fact that the workers have been on the losing side of a policy of rigging the financial system to favor the wealthiest and most immoral financial leaders for three decades of rule by Republicans and New Democrats, but ignores the tie between those the anti-labor policies, the rigging of the system, and the resultant losses to the working class while the wealthy grow far richer. This is deliberate, for Cohn writes from the policy perspective of the New Democrats and the Republicans on these issues. He cannot, therefore, address Frank’s analysis of the nature and horrific results of the New Democrats’ anti-worker policies and contempt.
Cohn’s article makes the broader point that the same dynamic put in place in the U.S. by the New Democrats and the Republicans has occurred in the UK with the BREXIT vote, but fails to explain that Tony Blair consciously modeled “New Labour” on the Clinton’s “New Democrats” and adopted a broad range of the Tories’ policies. New Labour’s adoption of the same contempt for labor and anti-labor policies pioneered by the Clintons produced the same horrific results for the working class in much of the UK that the New Democrats’ policies produced in the U.S. It also produced the same smoldering rage in much of the working class and resulting loss of support of the working class for the Labour Party that the New Democrat’s produced in the U.S.
Across the postindustrial world, the populist right is excelling in the old bastions of the left.
If there is a lesson for the United States in the decision by British voters to exit the European Union, it is the importance of the emerging split between the beneficiaries of multicultural globalism and the working-class ethno-nationalists who feel left behind. These issues have the potential to overcome longstanding partisan ties, even in the United States.
Focus on Cohn’s sleights of hand in that passage. The “bastions of the left” is a nasty way to describe labor. “Beneficiaries of multicultural globalism” is a grandly vague phrase. The folks that made out like bandits under the New Democrats’ and “The Wrecking Crew’s” (another Tom Frank book about George W. Bush’s administration) assault on workers and effective financial regulation were the elite bankers that rigged the system to make themselves wealthy by leading the three epidemics of accounting control fraud that drove the financial crisis and caused catastrophic losses to the working class. Elite bankers grew ever wealthier, with complete impunity from the criminal laws, through the “sure thing” of running the most destructive epidemics of financial control frauds in history.
Cohn’s euphemisms were designed to obscure all of those unpleasant facts about why so many workers have turned their back on New Democrats and New Labour because they have suffered so greatly at the hands of the New Democrats, New Labour, the Republicans, and the Tories.
The working class is also sick of being reviled by New Democrats’ and New Labour as “working class ethno-nationalists.” Indeed, Cohn’s column uses that exact phrase to disparage the working class. To be more precise, Cohn derides them as “working class ethno-nationalists who feel left behind.” Notice that in Cohn’s disingenuous tale they only “feel” “left behind.” Cohn’s thing is data, so he knows that the working class is in fact being left in the dust by the financial elites. But making that point would undercut his preferred policies.
Cohn misses the great irony in the BREXIT vote from the Labour Party’s perspective. Jeremy Corbyn is the imperiled leader of the Labour Party who may well lose that position imminently because of BREXIT. Corbyn was in an impossible position. He became Party leader based on his willingness to oppose New Labour’s betrayal of labor and the working class. He knew that New Labour’s contempt and anti-working class policies had led enormous numbers of traditional Labour voters to support BREXIT. He has long, and accurately, warned that the EU is a neo-liberal institution that typically pursues policies that harm labor and the working class. He could not honestly oppose BREXIT on the basis that the EU was a wonderful institution that did not require fundamental reform. He would have caused great harm to the Labour Party if he denounced BREXIT supporters because so many traditional Labour voters supported BREXIT.
Corbyn’s strongest supporters in his run for leadership of the Labour Party were the young. Corbyn knew that the young were the strongest demographic group opposing BREXIT. Corbyn could not support BREXIT without destroying the base of his support. Corbyn knew that if BREXIT were approved it was likely that Scotland would vote for independence. If Scotland became an independent nation it would be a major electoral advantage to the Tories in what remained of the UK by removing one of the most reliable bases of progressive voters. Corbyn also knew that the Scots were among the strongest opponents of BREXIT. If he campaigned for BREXIT he would destroy any chance that Labour had to reverse its virtual electoral destruction in Scotland at the hands of the SNP if BREXIT were rejected. Corbyn also knew that many members of his shadow cabinet were sympathetic to New Labour, ambitious to replace him as party leader, and intense opponents of BREXIT.
Politically, Corbyn had only bad options on BREXIT. Prime Minister David Cameron’s BREXIT gamble was a self-inflicted wound, but Corbyn never wanted a referendum on BREXIT. Corbyn is simply collateral damage from Cameron’s failed gamble.
Cohn’s column returns to the parallel he sees between the effect of the New Democrats and New Labour’s policies. Note that he does not use the name of either political movement and he never openly acknowledges their anti-worker policies and rhetoric even though he uses that rhetoric.
But in much the same way that immigration and nationalism proved to be more persuasive to the more secular European working class, European-style populism — now embodied by Donald Trump — could do additional damage to the Democrats in many parts of the United States.
The parallel is striking. The European center-left, like Democrats in the United States, have embraced lower taxes, free trade and immigration over the last few decades.
Note Cohn’s description of the New Democrats and New Labour’s policies in the second paragraph. Cohn erases from history the defining policies of New Democrats and New Labour – the destruction of effective financial regulation, supervision, and prosecutions and the resultant epidemics of fraud and abuse led by elite bankers caused the financial crisis and the payment protection insurance (PPI) scandal in the UK.
The New Democrats and New Labour did not embrace “free trade.” They embraced deals that gave CEOs exceptional leverage to prevent effective environmental, financial, and safety regulation and increased leverage against their workers. Those deals were drafted and negotiated largely by corporate CEOs for the benefit of corporate CEOs. The key to the deals is not “trade,” much less “free trade,” but the kangaroo, non-judicial arbiters that can bankrupt smaller nations that dare to protect their citizens and workers’ health and safety through law and regulation.
The New Democrats did not embrace “lower taxes,” they embraced greatly reduced government services and protections and an eroded safety nets. Some of them even embraced the Republicans dramatically lower taxes for the wealthiest Americans, even hedge fund billionaires. Collectively, the New Democrats and New Labour’s policies were designed to swing sharply against the working class and labor in favor of the wealthy, particularly financial elites. The policies were accompanied by rhetoric reviling labor and the working class. Those policies transformed America and the UK, harming labor and the working class while making the wealthiest far wealthier.
Cohn is correct to warn the New Democrats that they have pushed huge numbers of the working class to such despair and anger that they have lost their support. But if you want to understand why that happened you need to read Tom Frank, for you will never learn it by reading writers like Cohn.
The stagflation of the 1970s and the perceived “success” of Thatcher and Reagan in reintroducing growth without inflation convinced a whole cadre of vaguely liberal people like the ones who have run the Democratic Party since Mondale got wiped out in 1984 that if you were going to grow the pie, market and business friendly policies were the only solution. Some of them initially thought that by growing the pie they could give a little bigger slice to the poor, but that faction withered over time and the whole point became enriching the donors and trickle-down. Growth and efficiency (as abstractly understood by neoclassical economists) became the twin gods of our times.
Lest we forget, the Republicans have always been about enriching the donors and trickle-down.
So we have policy proposals that span all the way from A to B.
I’m not so sure I can say that Nixon was exclusively about enriching donors and trickle-down economics. I’m not sure that Eisenhowser was about that either. The counter movement seemed to begin with Goldwater in earnest and culminated with the election of Reagan.
Of course, the story of the post-WWII making of global capitalism is one of anti-labor policies being lead by the United States.
The counter movement seemed to begin with Goldwater in earnest and culminated with the election of Reagan.
I’d say it culminated with Bill Clinton. It wasn’t until the Democrats became neoliberals that the vise closed. The GOP is supposed to be the money party, while the Democrats are the people’s party. When the Democrats became Republicans they destroyed the system. True that Nixon and Eisenhower were not neoliberals but that was a different time, before the 70s stagflation James Levy noted, which undermined the traditional liberalism that was consensus since the Second World War.
Not that I want to defend the Democrats, but they were outmatched financially by the donation power of the GOP monied class. Wages stagnated, corporate coffers overflowed, the cost to mount a major political campaign skyrocketed and the people with money were the corporate backers. The D’s sold out the working class for the campaign dollars necessary to compete.
“Sold out” is correct – but the statement “for the campaign dollars necessary to compete” is nonsense. This lie is part of the justification myth put out by new democrats. This was demonstrated to be false most recently by Bernie.
I would argue that without the internet, Bernie wouldn’t have had a pot to pee in. Back in the Reagan years the campaign funding advantage of the Republicans was huge. What the Democrats might have done is work to build up unions and reinvigorate the grass roots local parties as means for mobilizing campaign funding. But like Wily Sutton, they went to the plutocrats because that’s where the easy money was. The Democrats were guilty of faithlessness and expediency, but the problem they faced was absolutely real.
Good thread. Agree that the feckless Ds sold out for the easier money solution. There were and are other solutions, even back in the day before the Internet, and most especially now. We’ve seen success via Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy, which the D elites immediately trashed as quickly as they could. And now we witness what Sanders accomplished, and the trashing has began the day Sanders announced his candidacy.
It’s clear that the D’s no longer care about the actual base of working stiffs. Why should they? They get elected one way or another, and they don’t have to pay attention to or give a stuff about the plight of the common man. If they get voted out? SO??? They’ll just slide through the revolving door to K Street and make even more money.
It’s a viscious system, and I’m pretty clueless about how to effect real and lasting change. To redundantly quote George Carlin: It’s a club, and we’re not in it.
I would agree that Bernie needed the internet — but only because he was an outsider and was given no exposure in the corporate press. However, this is not equivalent to a choice by a major party as to whether it should be funded by small donations or just sell out to corporations. What Bernie showed is that major $$ could be raised from small donations – you don’t need corporate sponsors – you just need the right policies that resonate with your base. When the base is energized, the 2 minutes to write a check and mail it is no different then clicking on a donate button – and that was my point. The Dem Party instead chose to go after big money donations which could be controlled by a small cabal of Clinton cronies and Party elite. It was a choice about control – not about raising enough money. And people solely interested in power have no qualms about selling out their base to get those $$. They did this not because they had no choice – but because the Clintons were neoliberals and did not believe in government serving the majority. The Clintons were out for their personal power and money – and could care less about serving their base. This choice had nothing to do with competing for campaign $$ – one of the big Dem Party lies.
Is Sen. Sanders on the cusp of being elected President along with a large cadre of progressive members of Congress? I don’t think so thus your argument is completely bogus. He succeeded in getting noticed enough and nastily squashed by the neo-liberals (in power, in the DNC and in the MSM). Since few in public life or national leadership are willing to discuss Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) with the general electorate, we are left arguing about a limited number of dead-end variations of existing stupid economic-political policy that only favors the 1% criminal oligarchy. Everything comes down to money – who creates it and distributes it – are the real powers that dictate national and global policies. Until people get that power back (and understand what it is and how to obtain it) they will be perpetually ignorant, confused, subservient, and fearful debt slaves to our elite overlords and slave masters and their puppets in government.
It’s been a while since we had a candidate (or even a president) who understood the awful power and effect of our current money creation and distribution system. Last real one was Andrew Jackson, who made it his mission to get farmers around the country to understand it too via whistlestop tours. (Imagine a politician making the Fed the centerpiece of their campaign today). Jackson founded an entire new political party based on it: the Democratic Party.
One could make the argument JFK understood. To what degree exec order 11110 in June 63 led to Dallas in November (as opposed to all the other sacred cows he wanted to spear) I’ll leave to those who’ve done the research.
I’d also say Wilson knew what was up, what with the whole “unwittingly ruined my country” talk. “The Iron Heel” by Jack London did come out about 5 years before he was elected, after all.
Hell, most republicans until Reagan were Keynsians of some sort or another, everyone was. Newt Gingrich purged the republican party of all of them in the mid 1990’s with his “contract”. The main issue now is whether to do the same to the democratic party to drive it back towards it’s New Deal track or to try to assemble a third party.
“ I’m not sure that Eisenhower was about that either.”
Riiiigggghhhttt, ever since the Bonus Marchers’ Village massacre, where over 100 men, women and children were slaughtered by troops led by three guys named, MacArthur, Patton and Eisenhower, Ike’s been a saint, huh?
Let’s see now . . . a democratically elected good and decent fellow (and capitalist) named Jacobo Arbenz, just wanted to create a middle class in Guatemala, as that was what he learned was necessary for a sustainable democracy.
Unfortunately, Eisenhower’s number one campaign financier, Floyd Odlum, was also the number one shareholder in United Fruit, and such was not to be with progress in Guatemala, so Arbenz had to be overthrown for the good of United Fruit.
And that major lawsuit, instigated by FDR (“United States v. Morgan et al.“) had to be ended during Eisenhower’s reign, as 17 Wall Street investment firms controlling the majority of corporations was not to be publicized, and today we have only four major investment firms being the majority shareholders in the majority of major corporations in North America and Europe: Vanguard Group, BlackRock, State Street and Fidelity.
Yup, Ike, what a saint!
No idea where you’re getting the 100 dead figure. The most I can find is 2 killed. Calling it a slaughter is complete hyperbole, though the entire incident is certainly insane and shameful. Eisenhower was a minor attache at the time, he had no say in what happened. You’re also forgetting that FDR vetoed paying the veterans during another march the next year, and it took an act of Congress to overrule him.
Bill Black writes about “the contempt of the New Democrats for the New Deal, labor, and the working class”.
Black’s admirable career as a regulator and then as a policy intellectual has left him (and Tom Frank) with some blind spots wrt the source of the attitudes he describes.
I ran a union contracting firm that served heavy industry in what is now the rustiest corner of the Rust Belt. The customers were all CIO – steel, rubber, meat packing, etc. Our guys were all AFL – pipefitters, millwrights, electricians, etc. We got to bid on the projects that the customers’ in-house crews couldn’t / didn’t want to handle. There were enough of these to make a pretty good business. We did fine, thank you.
Our craft unions were not what you would call pushovers. They elected business agents who were very much into effective representation of their membership. But when the guys came back from whatever mill or factory was employing us that month, they would be shaking their heads over the ludicrous situations they saw wrt productivity and work rules. This can’t last, they would say.
Whatever the in-house unions thought they were doing, delivering a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay was not high on the agenda. There are a lot of people my age – including the retired mechanics whose children don’t get to do skilled work in these factories any more – who would tell you that the CIO guys got pretty much what they deserved. They earned it, fair and square.
Of course, what Wall Street did was worse by orders of magnitude. And they skated. But that’s a whole nother set of issues.
Thanks for reminding us that reality is complex, and that there can be truth on both sides of an issue. Years ago, a co-worker told me about an incident at a previous job of his. They needed to move and connect some new computer terminals (he was a programmer or engineer). Under the company’s rules, the members of a particular union were the ones who had to perform this particular task. There was a long delay, and needless to say, an engineer or programmer is usually capable of connecting a computer terminal. After waiting, that’s exactly what they did. When the union folks found out about this, there was quite a brouhaha.
I suspect that restrictive work rules such as that have prompted many corporations to do anything that they could do to undermine trade unions. McCormick Place, the giant convention center in Chicago, is notorious for restrictive and bureaucratic union work rules, and over the past decade or so, numerous organizations have chosen to relocate their conventions to other cities. Things may have changed in the past few years, but one of the silliest rules covered the procedure for changing a light bulb. A work order had to be filled out, provided to the union representative, who would then send someone to change the bulb. Do any NC readers know whether this rule is still in effect at McCormick Place?
Let me point out that I believe Walmart and Amazon.com desperately need to be unionized. Their employees are subjected to terrible abuse.
Much of it has to do with whether the shop is in a “right to work” state, or not.
I worked as, then later supervised, IAM guys in Wichita. Their attitude was “we don’t like working with eff-ups either, but the rules for terminations will be followed”. In their view, the rules were there to protect employees from arbitrary termination by a-hole managers (10-20% of management, if my experience is a guide)
We would occasionally send our guys to Michigan to work on GM’s airplanes. A UAW shop. They would come back with all kinds of stories on how big a Charlie-Foxtrot it was.
OTOH, if your granddad was shot by Ford union busters back in the day, I can understand why the union had a little hostility toward management.
The challenge now is deciding where the “cutting off your nose to spite your face” line is. Especially now that company management seens to be generally hostile to the workforce, and to unions in particular.
The rules at McCormick Place were eventually changed, but by then it was too late. Many of the big annual shows had already decided to go elsewhere.
I’m in a professional assocation, and due to the high costs of holding a convention at McCormick Place, we haven’t held a conf in Chicago for over 2 decades. We are doing so this summer because we found a suitable, less expensive alternative. It’s not that we’re anti-union, but we simply don’t have tons of money. Unfortunately, when we hold conferences in some cities, where the convention centers are unionized, we literally see our costs doubled and sometimes tripled.
Basically, I’m very pro-union, but the unions, themselves, have set up some pretty stupid rules and regulations. Fair wages are one thing, but highway robbery for the same service becomes a bridge too far. In this day and age, not everyone can afford the costs involved.
I’m not sure what time period you are talking about but, in my experience, you seem to be talking about pre-1990. I was at the UAW in the late 80s and early 90s and can tell you that by the time I left, the reality of job loss made job preservation, productivity improvement and labor cost “restraint” the top priorities. And it has been that way since. Much to the dismay of many.
Second, what goes too often unstated is that management got exactly the type of shop floor organization they insisted on. Virtually every item in those 400-page contracts was initially a management proposal that the union then insisted on codifying. But the union learned the hard way that it couldn’t rely on management to do what was best for the company.
“I’m not sure what time period you are talking about but, in my experience, you seem to be talking about pre-1990.”
Yup. I retired (age 51) in 1991. Not as brilliant as many here, but I could see which way the wind was blowing.
Reminds me of the summer I spent working (as a union member) in a bottling plant in West Hartford, CT (this was back in 1983…the summer before I went off to grad school). The two previous summers I had worked in the QC dept…non-union, $5/hr. In that third summer, though, I worked on the bottling lines, and got paid $8.50/hr doing essentially low-skilled labor (loading cases of empty bottles at the start of the line…stacking cases of filled bottles at the end). Union rules dictated that two workers were assigned for each station (even though only one was needed to accomplish the task). As a result, we LITERALLY worked only four hours per day (and got paid for eight). Fifteen minutes on/fifteen minutes off was the prescribed schedule.
Sadly, many of the workers used those fifteen minutes off to indulge in smoking cigarettes and drinking the company’s product (we bottled many different kinds of hard liquor). Very often I’d observe workers “on break” pulling out bottles of whiskey, vodka or gin from their lockers — multiple times per day.
Anyways, I was happy to get paid the higher wage (I needed the savings to survive once I went to grad school)…but I was shocked that all of us were getting paid for eight hours of work but only performing four hours worth.
Here’s the deal about the 2 man crews:
You worked Summers for three consecutive years- good on ya, paid for school. The 2 men crews did that physical labor year round for who knows how many years. It may not have appeared efficient to your young self -and we have been conditioned to consider efficiency as a goal. However, for working people, efficiency as you would have thought best, comes at a cost in the physical tole on bodily parts at an atonishing rate. When you break down, your on your own. So the Union that bargained with the management to assign 2 on a crew, understood that the ability to switch off resulted in fewer on the job injuries and permanent job loss.
The boozing – that’s indefensible. The smoking, self-inflicted harm, but not at all uncommon.
I work for a Union and represent blue collar public sector workers. You cannot imagine the damage to a body, how cumulative damage destroys bodies, souls, egos, families.
I’ve come to understand that it’s best not to use my life as a measuring stick.
laura, it sounds as though you are an excellent rep for your union workers. It’s important to be reminded of the physical stress involved in factory work. You mentioned the possibility of injury and job loss for employees. Equally, there is a high cost to management–not only in losing the valuable daily input of an experienced employee, but also in increased workers compensation costs, which are adjusted annually by the state. The larger the workforce, the more significant the dollars that can be spent or saved depending on the safety record of the company. Both workers and management need to be attuned to the effort, risks and costs required to perform the required tasks.
When I was young, I never understood why old ironworkers were so grumpy, and why they snarled at me if I forgot to bring something we needed onto the scaffold.
Now I know. Boy do I ever.
Ironworkers are something else. Walking around in space, with nothing but air between themselves and massive (likely fatal) trauma. How do they do that?
The old, “blame the unions” meme!
So offshore all the jobs, replace all American workers with foreign visa workers, and what becomes of progress?
Yup, great argument. . . .
I was a Teamster so I know of what I speak. ANY AND ALL abuses by corrupt unions absolutely pale in significance when compared to the scale of the abuses by the Capital class. Contempt for unionism in the US is very deeply entrenched however even within that category called “workers” (which to me is the 95% of Americans not living purely on bond interest and rental income). Reagan busted the Air Traffic Controllers and the downhill slide picked up steam. But look at Germany: a labor representative must be on the board of directors. (Oddly, they bring some pretty useful advice from the shop floor when the company geniuses on the board want to launch a new product or close a subsidiary).
Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains.
Exactly, no matter how hard we work for our masters its never enough, work harder slave to earn a living wage! Build/repair your own house and see how that works out.
I see the future for the middle man/women and it does not look good.
The sense of entitlement to others hard work makes me sick.
That`s right, sarge. Notice how when these union-hate anecdotes come up there never any mention of the insane greed, laziness, corruption, stupidity of the management deadbeats, never mind the unbelievable excesses of the financiers and their minions. In fact, the whole neoliberal project is stuffed with grasping thieves from top to midlevel. But never mention of that, huh. So, some boob at the bottom leeches a few bucks.. terrible! Some parasite at the top steals BILLIONS! No mention. Ah, the power of media! Beside which the working stiff spends all his money in the community and is taxed at every level. Not so the bigwig who stashes his money offshore and cheats his taxes every way possible. Gnat in eye, meet log.
I can’t get upset over these anecdotes much. Many firms worked conscientiously for decades to diminish the value of labor peace, which is really what unions mostly sold in their heydays. When the local President tells workers that the likely strike duration is 6 to 18 months there is no strike. Whatever we think is a fair and objective view of work rules of the 1980’s, firms were sufficiently motivated to put in years of unrelenting disciplined work to defang them. The facility that I work at still has union production and the jobs are still solidly middle-class. Works can afford to own houses in good communities and send kids to college. But compared to 1990 there might only be 15% of the output-corrected labor on the job. And claiming productivity compensation is darn hard as so much of it has come from de-skilling the needed labor inputs. A worker is far more productive than 25 years ago, but the replacement labor could be as productive very, very fast. How do you negotiate in that environment? Cautiously.
And fundamentally, if you look at data on forestry, fisheries, minerals, and other basic resources, looming behind this period is a vast political denial of resource scarcity when the rubber started hitting the road in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
However, instead of refining and developing an economics that realistically priced resource extraction and its impacts on collective goods like fisheries, we were served up codwoddle about how the economy was shifting from ‘basic goods’ to ‘services’. Capital was exalted, and the Congress refined a tax code designed in the 1800s to enable resource grabs, and then added layers to enable sprawl, homebuilding, mortgages, big box retail, finance, financial services, and LLC’s (limited liability corporations).
We mis-applied the rules of physics into the realm of money, all the while ignoring environmental impacts, growing resource scarcity, and the long term consequences of pollutants. And all our economics stemmed from fear (of scarcity) and it’s evil twin, avarice (I’ll grab the last of it all!).
And in the background, over 60,000,000,000 microprocessors were introduced into logistics, manufacturing, communications, medical devices, in ways that fundamentally corroded the time-honored craft knowledge of labor. That single shift altered social relationships, but our economics did not appear to take notice of the human consequences of these shifts. (“In the Age of the Smart Machine“, but Zuboff is hands-down, the best thing that I’ve ever read to document the profound nature of how automating affected social relationships and people’s sense of their own value and worth. I’m of the view that questioning their own worth and value made people vulnerable to being rolled politically, and it’s only recently that they have found the gumption to stand up for themselves and see through layers of bullshit. Those of us who have been commenting and participating on blogs have been at this game a decade longer and have a lot of knowledge to show for it, and I do believe that is part of the larger social shift that’s finally happening.)
Meanwhile, during the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush years, the economics spouted by Mishkin, Hubbard, and their ilk failed to address the economic implications of resource scarcity, social alienation, and widespread joblessness. They were intellectually squalid about the effects of automating on American lives — other than to exalt the forces of automation (capital) over labor in endless, self-reinforcing feedback loops. They offered up what I think of as ‘Economics for Autistics’: nothing about being human, or the human capacity for nuanced relationships, but lots about ‘rules’ for capital.
‘Capital’ became dominant in American politics from local government all the way up to the federal level — and in a vicious feedback loop, the role of donations in political campaigns just lent ever more ‘resonance’ to capital. We need to get money out of politics — perhaps by allowing volunteers (labor), but no financial contributions (capital) — is to rebalance the role of labor in both public life and politics. The media’s ox would be gored, so that won’t happen.
My best friend (we are both 39) was raised as classic Rockefeller Republican (in a NYC suburb; his father was in finance, although not one of the “big money” jobs).
My friend always had a passion for history, teaching, and football. He was the only person I have ever known that knew exactly what he wanted to do from age ~13: High School History teacher and football coach. That’s exactly what he’s done and what he does: first in rural North Carolina, the Charlotte, and now Long Island, NY.
I was raised as the son (and grandson and nephew and brother) of union electricians, so I was raised as a child of labor. It was an exciting time in the early 2000s to see my friend’s eye open as he shifted parties and embraced the Democrats over the GOP.
What’s depressing is having to watch this process all over again as he shifts away from the Democrats, as do I. The thing is that his core values have remained steadfast. It’s the parties that have morphed AROUND him. Now he is pro-Sanders, pro-Teachout, anti-Common Core, anti-testing, and it remains to be seen how welcome he remains in the Democratic party (which he now is really part of as a union rep for his school building).
I asked him the other day how it felt to have been abandoned by BOTH major political parties in only 20 years of real political awareness.
He’s pissed off, but smart enough not to embrace Trump. But it’s relatively easy to see how many people get there, especially those already nurtured by 30 years of GOP dog whistles.
Exactly my experience, though I am older. Originally a Democrat, I have been forced first to abandon any Republican candidates (Evangelicals) and later to abandon most Democrat candidates (Clinton triangulators). I would love to vote for an Eisenhower Republican or a Truman Democrat … but they don’t exist. The RNC and DNC are the death of American politics.
My family have been Democratic holdouts for five generations in rural Michigan, surrounded by Republicans. My grandfather was a union organizer who revered FDR. Growing up, JFK was practically the Second Coming for me. I carried the torch high through all the betrayals, having faith that the Democrats would produce leadership that directed the country and party back to economic justice and prosperity. Smooth Barry broke that faith and Hillary is stomping it in the mud. I may vote for a Democrat on occasion but I’m leaving the party in the rear view mirror.
Frankly, I expect kow-towing to Wall Street to get worse, not better. First we had Citizen’s United, now this https://theintercept.com/2016/06/29/supreme-court-eliminates-political-corruption-by-defining-it-out-of-existence/
Not satisfied with having pushed the working class out of the buffet line the Greedy Gordon Gekko’s are after the young, educated, middle classes lunch:
JAMES STEELE: Albert Lord was a fellow who was a lifelong fellow at Sallie Mae. Sallie Mae originally was a public-private partnership—the federal government, the banks. But it was overseen, fairly significantly, by the federal government for many, many years. But after the privatization of Sallie Mae, Lord became CEO, and he took it to a totally different level. They bought servicing companies, they bought companies that collected the delinquent loans, they began issuing private loans, they began issuing federal loans—things that they could not do beforehand. It became a colossus of the student loan industry. In the minds of a lot of students, they thought it was still part of the federal government. But it wasn’t. It was a private company, making hundreds and hundreds of—actually, billions of dollars in profits over the years. Lord himself did very well, hundreds of millions of dollars. He made so much money—and this is the thing that astonished us when we looked at this—he made so much money, he was able to build his own private golf course. Now, I’m not talking about a private club, where any of us could like put in an application, maybe be turned down. I’m talking about your own private golf course in southern Maryland, near Annapolis—I mean, that’s the kind of money he made—so he and his buddies could play golf there, at will.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, of course, the rise of private loan—the loan industry coincided with the rise of more for-profit colleges, as well, right?
A private golf course for our lords and ladies casual use. Do they take turns carrying each others bags?.
From your and my moral systems, this is atrocious. But I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard that if you feel such predation is wrong, you are either 1) “just jealous” 2) have no right to criticize how someone spends their money 3) should want your own golf course 4) would destroy civilization because who would work or strive if they didn’t know that at the end of their travails they too could buy their own golf course.
It’s not the facts of the case that are in question. The rich are rapaciously looting the system. It’s the social and ethical framework in which that looting takes place that is so rotten, because until we change that, we can’t stop the looting.
Let’s start by calling our current crop of lionized corporate heroes (Bezos, Zuckerberg, Brin, Kalanick, Cook) what they are: monopolist robber baron rent seekers.
Teddy Roosevelt would have known exactly what to do with them (and I don’t mean fawning over their utterances on Twitter).
And as I watch Hillary and her new attack poodle Liz Warren go after Trump for his disgusting Trump University all I can think of is Bill sitting on the board of another rapacious for-profit university and collecting around $8 million in two years for his “efforts”… Bill and Trump both taking lots of special rides on Jeffrey Epstein’s “Pedophile Red-Eye Express”… and I think that the good lord above certainly has a macabre sense of humor.
The blindfold plate-juggling guys like Cohn have to do to avoid connecting point A to point B is impressive… just one more of our meritocratic special snowflake water carriers
The name of the institution: Laurentian University. Nice name for a diploma mill, Bill.
It’s Laureate, classy right?
from Daily Caller but still:
“To dress the deal up in 2010, Bill Clinton was brought in to serve as “Chancellor,” a part-time position for which he was collecting $16 million through early 2015. This extraordinary compensation was never properly disclosed until 2015. Many of those on the hook paid Bill and Hillary big fees for speeches as well. Bill Clinton was thus collecting from both Laureate equity and debt suppliers. The Laureate CEO, Doug Becker, is involved as a Clinton backer, Clinton Global Initiative and Clinton Foundation donor and involved in the International Youth Foundation, a recipient of favors and money from the Clinton-led Department of State.”
Disgusting. Clintons line their pockets from vultures exploiting desperate, low-info students.
Thanks for the correction, nycTerrierist.
The buying off of the Democrats is part of a cycle started when FDR did not remove the company bosses from their jobs and restructure US labor in a way that workers were in control of their jobs.
We are repeating another capitalist cycle because we continue to allow the hierarchical capitalist system to flourish. Why do we spend most of our waking adult lives in workplaces that are completely undemocratic?
I am concerned right now that the anti-neoliberal left does not have the structural or popular support to offer an alternative at this moment and if the system crashes. We, the anti-neoliberal left, and Lambert thanks for making me think about what I mean by “we”, “we” have a lot of work to do and who knows how long we have.
We have to think big. We have to think green. We have to think democratic socialism in all aspects of our lives.
FDR was never a socialist though so I don’t think he was ever going to implement socialism. He was the defense against socialism/communism. There was a push for a 30 hour week at the time though. Oh if only!
Now we are lucky if we actually get the 40 hour week. Nontheless they went to radical (anarchist/communist/labor) meetings after 10 hour work days in the early 20th century, although mostly the working class immigrants who had the real incentive (and the community). So there is no excuse for us even if we suffer long hours and long commutes.
How was Roosevelt supposed to do that, legally speaking? Wasn’t that a power which the President simply did not have under the Constitution?
It’s depressing and distressing that Bill Black is still trying to get something out of the Democrat Party… talk about beating a dead horse. BTW, the phenomenon of the Republicans’ capture of state politics is I believe explained in a new book, called “Ratf**cked.”
On “working-class ethno-nationalism”. From the Acelan perspective it’s quite easy to write off the Brexit, Trump, Le Pen, etc. voters as Low Rent Neanderthals (think Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles: “you know, morons”). But these intellectually tortuous displays of political reductionism–it’s “essentially” or “really” about prejudice, xenophobia, etc.–are missing more than half the story.
Just consider that it’s quite possible for a person to be desperately worried about their income, mortgage, credit card debt, job security and medical coverage to also have negative attitudes about people who are different. These two characteristics can exist side-by-side, with no apparent contradictions. So, which factor–pocketbook or prejudice–is more likely to influence that person’s political behavior?
It depends on the political process offering this person a means of improving their economic situation. If it does, then prejudice–as real and deplorable as it is–won’t determine their political behavior. But if it doesn’t, if there’s no way to vote their pocketbook, the person will vote their prejudices.
Just finished Thomas Franks book, Listen Liberal. A truly awakening explanation of how the Dems have thrown the bath water out with the baby. A must read.
The Democratic Party is a failed institution captured by the Neocons, Neoliberals and special interest money seekers. The result is the creation of bipartisan support for these radical policies, as the Republican party is forced to move further right to distinguish itself from Democrats, giving Democrats cover to move further right. Romneycare is suddenly a prize accomplishment of the Democratic party, leaving single payer in the dust bin.
We see the result playing itself out as Cheney, Kissinger, Kagan, et al. support Hillary over Donald. Former W Sec. of Treasury Paulson supports Hillary, along with other neoliberals who appreciate her predictable economic policies and chosen cabinet members/regulators. And having personally taken hundreds of millions from special interests through speaking fees (with Bill), the Foundation and her campaign, she is political history’s best money making machine. She is bought and paid for by every conceivable special interest and many foreign governments.
All the while her supporters rationalize the destruction of the Party, as pragmatic based realism. The cherry on top is, “NOT TRUMP!!” We are in for a very rough ride with no where to turn.
Sure. Before that it was Not McCain! Not Palin! And before that it was.. ie., all the way back to, in my memory: You Know In Your Guts He`s Nuts Barry Goldwater. And yet the suckers never catch on, do they. Revolving Bad Guys as required.
Yesterday, even while the GAO has reportedly initiated an audit of federal bank regulatory agencies’ laxity in regulating US banks, and the ECB reportedly injected the euro equivalent of the $434 billion into European banks through the ECB’s LTRO facility under the cover of “Brexit”, large US banks undertook an orgy of dividend payouts and stock buybacks. Coincidentally the banks’ actions immediately followed the release by the Fed of its latest round of so called “stress tests”.
All that Cash with nowhere to go?… Thankfully, the MSM has also announced the “Brexit crisis” is over. So all is well, people. Move along… Oh, and don’t forget to buy stocks.
Events of the past few days have captured the essence, no? But a note of hope: Restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act reportedly could become a plank in the Democratic Party platform, even if opposition to the TPP agreement does not. So the question then becomes “Which would come first?”” as they would appear to be mutually exclusive legislation.
Wondering if restoring Glass-Steagall was one of the carrots that drew Liz in?
color me cynical if you will but the devil is in the details and I wonder whether under tpp Glass Steagall would have the same effect, we can’t know because we’re not allowed to know what’s in the tpp (other than the devil), or if it sets up the new dems favorite whiny line “because meanie repubs won’t let us ” but now we get the mean girl ticket so be careful if you walk through the lunchroom with your pants cuff stuck in your sock, or worse if you appear before them “cross gartered”, you’ll be a laughing stock before you know it and the BMOC’s will dunk your head in the toilet
General contempt for labor is an enormous factor in the decline of the left and, as in this article, this idea is beginning to surface in the post-Brexit discussion. But another major factor is immigration, as widely acknowledged in the aftermath of the Brexit vote but scarcely mentioned on the left in the US.
The fact is that immigration brings out the worst among many who oppose it. There is an element of racism. But there is also an element — quite a large one, in fact — of rationality. Immigration in the US (and maybe as well in the UK) has traditionally been accepted as a way to hold down wages. We see this at the bottom of the scale with illegal immigration from Latin America as it affects agriculture and various other industries, including meatpacking and construction. And we see it in the middle of the wage scale with the mass influx of tech drones from South Asia on H1-B visas.
But immigration imposes other measurable costs as well, notably in the insidious effects of diversity as documented by liberal Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam. His work confirmed (to Putnam’s dismay) that diversity tends to render communities dysfunctional in a number of ways. And the longer a community is diverse, the more dysfunctional and distrustful it becomes. Once again, this benefits the powerful corporate and financial players, this time politically as diversity serves as one potent way to keep the electorate divided and distracted.
Yes, immigration may provide a net benefit to the economy. But as with any policy, there are both benefits and costs, and in this case the benefits accrue to the upper 10% of the income distribution while the rest of us bear the costs in terms of lower wages, strained and more costly public services and growing social tensions.
The left, however, seems utterly hostile to any suggestion that immigration can be anything but wonderful for everyone. You rarely see any hint of the downside. (Although, as I recall, Thomas Frank gave a nod to the problem in “What’s the Matter With Kansas” when he described the hideous results of an immigrant-dominated meatpacking operation in western Kansas.)
This reluctance to acknowledge the many ills of immigration that are completely obvious to nearly everyone in flyover country may be due in part to the Democrats’ cynical reliance on immigrants as voters. The Dems see them as a reliable cohort that will always vote on the basis of nationality, race and ethnicity, allowing the party to keep humping in corporate accounts and keep the revolving door spinning. It also meshes nicely with business interests that, as always, favor the cheap labor.
Until the left begins to speak out clearly and forcefully against immigration, it may be doomed. However, I’m not holding my breath.
Actually, there are two types of immigration, structured and free-for-all. The U.S. practices the latter. Places like New Zealand practice the former.
One of my biggest gripes in this country is our refusal to designate English as the official language–something the New Zealanders make quite clear in their immigration policies. Either you learn to speak English within three years of arriving in New Zealand (including passing a proficiency test) or your permission to emigrate is revoked. As someone who ran a manufacturing company with many Spanish-speaking employees, the inability to communicate basic safety information on a company-wide basis was a constant concern.
Then there is the whole concept that democracy requires a robust conversation among citizens. How do you carry on a robust conversation when you don’t have a common language? It isn’t just Spanish-speakers, either. My next door neighbor, a Ukrainian, doesn’t speak enough English for me to discuss mutual issues. Since our townhomes are connected, this is frequently problematic.
Finally, on common language, what are we doing to the chances for immigrants to succeed in the U.S. by pretending that they don’t need to speak English? Every immigrant I know who doesn’t have a command of English has a job that barely allows them to get by, if that. Even their children struggle here. Our local school report show that non-English speakers consistently score substantially lower than English speakers, and about on a par with children from poorer households, regardless of subject matter.
Thoughtful immigration policies don’t necessarily imply bigotry. Rather, they permit immigrants to have a greater chance of successful integration.
Excellent post. How un-PC of you, however, so beware the PC police, mostly of the Left. I think it’s possible to nuance this as you have done, yes there is a path between racist xenophobia and the free-for-all you describe. The problem with the free-for-all approach is that eventually, given things like birth rates and ages of immigrants, you end up with a society that instead of being “everything” becomes “nothing”, just an agglomeration of people who happen to be living on the same plot of land. Since they don’t share values and can’t even communicate, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Well some of the problems are because illegal immigrants exist in a legal gray area where they aren’t supposed to be here (can be deported at any time) but are. That gives them less protections that people here legally whose only real workplace protection is well they still can’t be deported from the @#$# country at least! So even full amnesty might be preferable from that perspective (I’m not advocating it, I’m just saying). H1Bs are kind gray as well even though it’s technically not illegal immigration.
Some of the most radical movements in this country historically have been made up of immigrants though not illegal ones but through Ellis Island etc.. They experienced the oppression, more than the native born – they were used to do the grunt work, they had the communities, they had the radicalism, and they didn’t speak English all the time. Is that happening now? No and maybe because so many immigrants are illegal. But could it? I don’t know.
I appreciate all the replies here. Very thoughtful.
But I believe there’s a problem with any kind of immigration, whether legal or illegal, whether English-speaking or not. The problem lies in diversity and the melting pot that really isn’t a melting pot at all once you’re past a certain low level of immigration and diversity — a threshold this country has long since exceeded.
As it happens, I can give an example. Just a few years ago my family and I lived in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. That city is highly segregated, but Rogers Park is different, being the most mixed neighborhood in the city by far. The predominant groups are white yuppies, gays, Orthodox Jews, African-Americans and Hispanics.
Early in our stay there, a proposal came up in the City Council to extend Lake Shore Drive, an 8-lane highway that skirts the lakefront. The extension would have blocked off Rogers Park from direct access to the beach, something nearly everyone there opposed. So longtime neighborhood activists got busy and rounded up enough signatures to put a referendum on the proposal on that year’s election ballots. They succeeded, and the drive extension was voted down.
Afterward, my wife happened to bump into one of the activists while walking to the beach. She congratulated this energetic middle-aged woman, a longtime resident of the community, and made some comment about how nice it was to live in such a politically aware space. But the activist just waved that off. She had lived and been politically active in several Chicago neighborhoods, she said, and Rogers Park was by far the worst in political terms. She said the residents all seemed to be bound up in their own little ethnic and racial enclaves and scarcely aware of city politics, their neighbors or any other matter about the community. People in any other section of the city were much easier to rally around a cause.
Of course, this is just one snapshot. But it made me think of Robert Putnam’s findings, and the following summer I began to notice that in the park and on the beach you’d see clusters of various groups but virtually no intermingling. My family and I were as guilty of this (if that’s the right term) as anyone.
I believe it is urgent for the left in this country and elsewhere to begin to take this into account, though I understand the difficulties, electoral and otherwise. Denial by left of the ill effects of diversity and immigration appears to be as mandatory as the right’s denial of climate change. In both cases we deny the facts, and we do so at our peril.
My favorite example is the “teaching Spanish to Mexicans” classes back in the 90s in our local high and middle schools. WTF?, you ask.
Yeppers, the classes exist. Seems that, like their parents, the kids can speak it, but can’t read or write it. After that, you can start teaching them English.
The bill for this, as usual, paid by Joe Q Taxpayer, not the businesses who brought in and hired them in the first place
The wretched refuse are paying out the nose for problems generated by semi literate immigrants. And when they bitch, they are called “racists”
Behind shrinking middle-class jobs: A surge in outsourcing [LA Times]
This has happened, in fact been celebrated as nimble capitalism, on both party’s watches.
As Larry Summers is quoted in Listen, Liberal,
The joys of the independent contractor.
Like not getting paid.
Sent a guy a bill for fixing his jet in April. Still waiting for the check to show on July 1.
Thats the problem with specialists. You only have a limited number of customers who need your services
Not to worry. I’ll make it up on volume.
I can relate! I am one of those oh-so-cool freelancers in the gig economy.
Just had a new client give vague instructions for a project, and off I went, to do the project. Well, he didn’t like what I did for the price, and tried to bargain me down.
Well, I asked him what he did want. More vagueness.
In the end, he paid for the entire job. But I couldn’t help thinking that he would never try to do something like this with one of his employees.
Call it the Frig Economy. Because of how people keep frigging us over.
We should get our pitchforks and march any time Larry Summers shows his face in Washington. His view of the world is absolutely vile.
“As Larry Summers is quoted in Listen, Liberal,
One of the reasons that inequality has probably gone up in our society is that people are being treated closer to the way that they’re supposed to be treated.”
wrong: if he were correct, Larry Summers would be tarred and feathered.
And whats with this “12 million illegals” number everyone seems to use?
My guess its more like 20-25 million. Yeah, I pulled that number out of my azz. Nobody can convince me that the official number is any better.
Of course, nobody in the government would EVER lie/fudge/manipulate the “official” numbers. Especially if the real number makes the cost/benefits of immigration look a lot worse.
Finally, a report from my brother, an agent in the Border Patrol.
They are seeing tons of East Europeans in California. Fly from (Romania) to Mexico, cross the border, then surrender to the first Border Patrol agent you see.
Go in front of a judge to set up a hearing. The backlog is 8-9 months or more. The judge releases them into the big PX without bail, on the promise they will show up nine months from now. Any guesses on how many actually do?
Which brings us to the point. Many immigrants aren’t here permanantly. They are here to make enough income to go home and retire/live high on the hog for the rest of their lives. They are here for the money, not because they are prrsecuted at home.
Such a deal, if you need cheap, continuous turnover of you workforce.
My problem with all this is that there are a comparatively limited number of people hiring all these workers (creating the demand) yet they are never criminalized. Many people are deported. Some are mistreated by the Border Patrol and the Immigration and Naturalization people. But how many of the people who create the demand for these workers are doing perp walks in orange jumpsuits? If you want to go whole-hog after one side of the equation (supply), I say both sides or neither is the only just approach.
If that eVerify system was actually implemented, think of the campaign contributions that would be lost!
I know a lot of contractors in Aspen and Manhatten that would scream bloody murder.
Well the neoliberal and neocon leadership of the Democratic party just got their just dessert after Brexit: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-06-30/trump-jumps-four-point-lead-over-clinton-first-post-brexit-poll
Hopefully, Bernie quits wasting his time and runs with Jill Stein on the Green Party ticket.
As an added bonus, watch the EU bureaucrats response to democracy:
I like Tom Frank alot, I’ve read all his books and read the Baffler regularly, but I think Steve Sailer is the one really telling it like it is now. What we have is nothing less than a class war of high and low against middle, with accusations of racism as the means of keeping the middle in its place.
Lately the Obama administration, including Vice President Joe Biden, who was the lead Senate sponsor of that 1994 bill, is embracing those very policies and supporting new legislation to reduce mandatory minimum prison terms.