Hoisted From Comments: Neoliberalism Tearing Societies Apart

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Yves here. The first comment came in on a post that had gone cold, and I thought it was so revealing that it needed to be seen widely. The second is a synchronistic complement.

As much as I carry on about the isolation of the Acela-riding classes from the acute distress in much of the US, I only have a very distant feel for it. For instance, I grew up moving through many small towns where a paper mill was a major, and in some cases, the biggest local employer. Those mill jobs were well paid and the workers could buy houses, cars, and had pensions. One of my brothers works for a paper mill that should have been world competitive through his retirement, but it’s been wrecked by a series of private equity owners, starting with Cerberus, and in now in bankruptcy. The town in which he lives, Escanaba, Michigan, has lost over 20% of its population since the mid 1980s. Similarly, my uncle lived below the poverty line in Maine, lobstering until his knees gave out. But he had a fully paid for house he had inherited, and access to VA hospitals and doctors, so it could have been a lot worse. But Maine is a poor state, so even visiting there as a tourist in the summers, it’s not hard to see the signs of struggle even in those who are getting by.

The first comment gives a window into the hidden desperation in America that is showing up in statistics like increasing opioid addiction and suicides, rather than in accounts of how and why so many people are suffering. I hope readers will add their own observations in comments.


June 1, 2016 at 3:26 am

We recently took three months to travel the southern US from coast to coast. As an expat for the past twenty years, beyond the eye opening experience it left us in a state of shock. From a homeless man convulsing in the last throes of hypothermia (been there) behind a fuel station in Houston (the couldn’t care less attendant’s only preoccupation getting our RV off his premises), to the general squalor of near-homelessness such as the emergence of “American favelas” a block away from gated communities or affluent ran areas, to transformation of RV parks into permanent residencies for the foreclosed who have but their trailer or RV left, to social study one can engage while queuing at the cash registers of a Walmart before beneficiaries of SNAP.

Stopping to take the time to talk and attempt to understand their predicament and their beliefs as to the cause of their plight is a dizzying experience in and of itself. For a moment I felt transposed to the times of the Cold War, when the Iron Curtain dialectics fuzzed the perception of that other world to the west with a structured set of beliefs designed to blacken that horizon as well as establish a righteous belief in their own existential paradigm.

What does that have to do with education? Everything if one considers the elitist trend that is slowly setting the framework of tomorrow’s society. For years I have felt there is a silent “un-avowed conspiracy”, why the seeming redundancy, because it is empirically driven as a by-product of capitalism’s surge and like a self-redeeming discount on a store shelf crystalizes a group identity of think-alike know-little or nothing frustrated citizens easily corralled by a Fox or Trump piper. We have re-rcreated the conditions or rather the reality of “Poverty In America” barely half a century after its first diagnostic with one major difference : we are now feeding the growth of the “underclass” by lifting ever higher and out of reach the upward mobility ladder, once the banner of opportunity now fallen behind the supposedly sclerotic welfare states of Europe.


June 1, 2016 at 5:37 pm

So Richard Cohen now fears American voters because of Trump. Well, on Diane Reem today (NPR) was a discussion on why fascist parties are growing in Europe. Both Cohen and the clowns on NPR missed the forest for the trees. The reason Trump and Sanders are doing well in the US while fascists are doing well in Europe is the same reason: neoliberalism has gutted, or is in the process of gutting, societies. Workers and other formerly “safe” white collar workers are seeing their job security, income security, retirement security all go up in smoke. Neoliberals are trying to snip and cut labor protections, healthcare, environmental regulations all for corporate profit. In Europe this is all in addition to a massive refugee crisis itself brought on by neoliberalism (neocon foreign policy is required for neoliberal social policy, they go hand-in-hand). The US and NATO destabilize countries with the intent of stealing their resources and protecting their markets, cause massive refugee flows which strain social structures in Europe (which falls right into the hands of the gutters and cutters of neoliberalism). Of course the people will lean fascist.

In the US we don’t have the refugees, but the neoliberalism is further along and more damaging. There’s no mystery here or in Europe, just the natural effects of governments failing to represent real people in favor of useless eater rich.

Make the people into commodities, endanger their washes and job security, impose austerity, and tale in floods of refugees. Of COURSE Europeans stay leaning fascist.

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  1. Marc

    What European fascists is the latter comment speaking of?

    Front National, AfD, UKIP, PVV etc. are anti-immigrant and anti-islam, but none of them qualify as a fascist movement is any sense of the word. In fact the Trump phenomenon is more similar to Mussolini’s rise than any of the established anti-immigrant European parties.

    1. Praedor

      According to NPR’s experts, many or most of those parties are “fascist”. The fascist label is getting tossed around a LOT right now. It is slung at Trump, at UKIP, or any others. Fascist is what you call the opposition party to the right that you oppose. Now I don’t call Trump a fascist. A buffoon, yes, even a charlatan (I still rather doubt he really originally thought he would become the GOP nominee. Perhaps I’m wrong but, like me, many seemed to think that he was pushing his “brand” – a term usage of which I HATE because it IS like we are all commodities or businesses rather than PEOPLE – and that he would drop by the wayside and profit from his publicity).

      Be that as it may, NPR and Co were discussing the rise of fascist/neofascist parties and wondering why there were doing so well. Easy answer: neoliberalism + refugee hoards = what you see in Europe.

      I’ve also blamed a large part of today’s gun violence in the USA on the fruits of neoliberalism. Why? Same reason that ugly right-wing groups (fascist or not) are gaining ground around the Western world. Neoliberalism destroys societies. It destroys the connections within societies (the USA in this case). Because we have guns handy, the result is mass shootings and flashes of murder-suicides. This didn’t happen BEFORE neoliberalism got its hooks into American society. The guns were there, always have been (when I was a teen I recall seeing gun mags advertising various “assault weapons” for sale…this was BEFORE Reagan and this was BEFORE mass shootings, etc). Machine guns were much easier to come by BEFORE the 1980s yet we didn’t have mass killings with machine guns, handguns, or shotguns. ALL that stuff is a NEW disease. A disease rooted in neoliberalism. Neoliberalism steals your job security, your healthcare security, your home, your retirement security, your ability to provide for your family, your ability to send your kids to college, your ability to BUY FOOD. Neoliberalism means you don’t get to work for a company for 20 years and then see the company pay you back for that long, good service with a pension. You’ll be lucky to hold a job at any company from month-to-month now and FORGET about benefits! Healthcare? Going by the wayside too. Workers in the past felt a bond with each other, especially within a company. Neoliberalism has turned all workers against each other because they have to fight to gain any of the scraps being tossed out by the rich overlords. You can’t work TOGETHER to gain mutual benefit, you need to fight each other in a zero sum game. For ME to win you have to lose. You are a commodity. A disposable and irrelevant widget. THAT combines with guns (that have always been available!) and you get desperate acting out: mass shootings, murder suicides, etc.

      1. WorldBLee

        There are actual fascist parties in Europe. To name a few in one country I’ve followed, Ukraine, there’s Right Sector, Svoboda, and others, and that’s just one country. I don’t think anyone calls UKIP fascist.

      2. John Zelnicker

        @Praedor – Your comment that Yves posted and this one are excellent. One of the most succinct statements of neoliberalism and its worst effects that I have seen.

        As to the cause of recent mass gun violence, I think you have truly nailed it. If one thinks at all about the ways in which the middle class and lower have been squeezed and abused, it’s no wonder that a few of them would turn to violence. It’s the same despair and frustration that leads to higher suicide rates, higher rates of opiate addiction and even decreased life expectancy.

        1. Praedor

          Thank you but even as a gun owner I don’t want to imply that easy access to firearms isn’t itself a problem that requires a (non-ban) response.

      3. Jacob

        “Machine guns were much easier to come by BEFORE the 1980s yet we didn’t have mass killings with machine guns, handguns, or shotguns. ALL that stuff is a NEW disease. A disease rooted in neoliberalism.”

        Easy availability of guns was seen as a serious problem long before the advent of neoliberalism. For one example of articles about this, see U.S. Government Tried to Tackle Gun Violence in 1960s. Other examples include 1920s and 1930s gangster and mob violence that were a consequence of Prohibition (of alcohol). While gun violence per-capita might be increasing, the population is far larger today, and the news media select incidents of violence to make them seem like they’re happening everywhere and that everyone needs to be afraid. That, of course, instills a sense of insecurity and fear into the public mind; thus, a fearful public want a strong leader and are willing to accept the inconvenience and dangers of a police state for protection.

      4. Jim

        Mass shootings get a lot of attention but they are a very small percentagee of US homicides. Look at shootings and killings in places like Chicago, New Orleans, Baltimore, etc. This is very largly a black problem and to a lesser extent an Hispanic problem.

      5. RolandO

        To the extent that there is more gun violence in the U.S., the 2 main reasons are (1) liberalism as a religion does not tend to inhibit violence; and (2) more blacks have guns, and they use them on each other at very high rates relative to other ethnic and racial groups.

        1. Jack

          Its not about black/hispanic or any other ethnicity, its all about rich vs. poor. There’s a civil war going on, and those who win every day are the ones who sold the weapons to the poor. Divide et impera.
          The AfD in germany is called a right-wing populist party in the newspapers, but its ok for them to shoot refugees (mothers and children in the original text) at the borders to “protect our western cultural values against muslims” … so our values contain shooting children … !?
          I call it a deeply fascist pile of [insert any bad word you prefer].
          And yes, those who vote for them are poor, badly educated and angry, victims of neoliberalism.
          Just look what germany does to greece and you will know who reigns here. germany a rich country? LMAO

  2. Disturbed Voter

    First they came for the blue collar workers …

    America has plenty of refugees, from Latin America …

    Neo-liberal goes back to the Monroe Doctrine. We used to tame our native workers with immigrants, and we still do, but we also tame them by globalism in trade. So many rationalizations for this, based on political and economic propaganda. All problems caused by the same cause … American predatory behavior. And our great political choice … iron fist with our without velvet glove.

    1. Louis Renault

      Immigrants once expected to work, now they not only expect but demand hand outs. Until the immigration reform act of 1965 they were mostly from Europe. Now the majority are from South America and Asia.

      1. Gio Bruno

        This a “Trumpism”, LR.

        The migration of Latinos to the US occurred before 1965; ever hear of the “braceros”. They probably grew the vegetables and fruits that California supplies to the rest of America. The migration of Latinos increased after NAFTA destroyed the local farmers in Mexico. The migration of juvenile Latinos increased because the USA is providing profits to the drug lords/gangs that destroy the local civil society. And don’t think about Guatemala and the US-inspired coup that has led to a complete breakdown of law and order (kinda like Libya).

      2. sierra7

        I would gently urge you to scrutinize our murderous destabilization policies in both Asia and especially Latin and South America.
        After destabilizing their countries both politically and economically where do you think those poor people are going to go?
        North. and West.
        I regard most of the “immigrant” flow from “south of the border” as justly, refugees.

    1. Code Name D

      If you are skeptical of Monsanto, or TPP, or Nato expansion, or don’t like Hillary Clinton… they are everywhere man.

    2. Jeff

      Germany, Belgium, France, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Turkey, Israel, Australia come to mind (if one is allowed to participate in a European song contest, one is supposed to be part of Europe :) They all have more or less fascist governments.
      Once you realize that the ECB creates something like 60 billion euros a month, and gives nothing to its citizens nor its nation-states, that means the money goes to corporations, which means that the ECB, and by extension the whole EU, is a fascist construct (fascism being defined as a government running on behalf of the corporations).

      1. Seb

        That’s a fallacy. Corporatism is a feature of fascism, not the other way around.

        None of the governments you mention, with the possible exception of Israel and Turkey, can be called fascist in any meaningful sense.

        Even the anti-immigration parties in the Western European countries you mention – AfD, Front National, Vlaams Belang – only share their nationalism with fascist movements. And they are decidedly anti-corporatist.

        1. Tsigantes

          Seb you must be the European equivalent of the Acela-driving classes Yves spoke of, or work for the ECB / Commission / City / systemic bank.

          The very fact that the unelected EU Commission, the illegal Eurogroup, the mandate-ignoring ECB and the useless non-democracy of the EU Potemkin “parliament” retain 40-60% [depending on euro membership] of the EU countries’ sovereignty, and can and do impose their Washington Consensus derived policy on EU countries – despite majority voters / poll preferences supporting exact opposite policies – means that the fascism threatening the EU today comes from the EU itself.

          I offer Greece as an example. Not only has the economy of that country being purposely destroyed (in the face of years of international condemnation from economists) – purposely, yes, and not by accident, since it has happened in a 6 year series of consistent steps – but a Dutch representative appointed by Troika rules the country. The PM and parliament has been retained to give an appearance of democracy, but it cannot vote for anything the Troika doesn’t allow. Finally, its armed forces have been stood down and placed under full NATO command: the Greek armed forces therefore not only cannot defend the territory of Greece, but are forbidden to defend it. Therefore on every key indicator – economic, political, military – Greece is no longer a sovereign country.

          Ireland and Portugal are not much better off. Spain and Italy are next.

          You may not call this fascism but most Europeans do.

          1. Praedor

            Greece is being gutted so the elite rich of Germany and Brussels can buy up all the prime Mediterranean real estate. They really want their villas on the Med and can get it cheap (now) in Greece.

          2. BananaBreakfast

            The problem here is one of semantics, really. You’re using “fascist” interchangeably with “authoritarian”, which is a misnomer for these groups. The EU is absolutely anti-democratic, authoritarian, and technocratic in a lot of respects, but it’s not fascist. Both have corporatist tendencies, but fascist corporatism was much more radical, much more anti-capitalist (in the sense that the capitalist class was expected to subordinate itself to the State as the embodiment of the will of the Nation or People, as were the other classes/corporate units). EU technocratic corporatism has none of the militarism, the active fiscal policy, the drive for government supported social cohesion, the ethno-nationalism, or millenarianism of Fascism.

            The emergent Right parties like UKIP, FNP, etc. share far more with the Fascists, thought I’d say they generally aren’t yet what Fascists would have recognized as other Fascists in the way that the NSDAP and Italian Fascists recognized each other -perhaps they’re more like fellow travelers.

        2. tgs

          True, I posted a few minutes ago saying roughly the same thing – but it seems to have gone to moderation.

          Another key feature of fascism is territorial expansionism. As far as I am aware, none of the nationalist parties advocate invading other countries or retaking former colonies. Once again, contemporary neoliberalism is far closer to fascism. But you are correct about both Israel and Turkey – our allies. They are much closer to the genuine article. But you won’t hear those complaining about the rise of fascism in Europe complaining too much about them.

        3. Jeff

          When I was young, there were 4 divisions:
          * who owned the means of production (public or private entities)
          * who decided what those means were used for.
          If it is a ‘public entity’ (aka government or regime) that decides what is built, we have a totalitarian state, which can be ‘communist’ (if the means also belong the public entities like the government or regional fractions of it) or ‘fascist’ (if the factories are still in private hands).
          If it is the private owner of the production capacity who decides what is built, you get capitalism. I don’t recall any examples of private entities deciding what to do with public means of production (mafia perhaps).
          Sheldon Wolin introduced us to inverted totalitarism. While it is no longer the government that decides what must be done, the private ‘owners’ just buy the government, the judiciary, the press, or whatever is needed to achieve their means.
          When I cite Germany, it is not so much AfD, but the 2€/hour jobs I am worried about. When I cite Belgium, it is not the fools of Vlaams Belang, but rather the un-taxing of corporations and the tear-down of social justice that worries me.

          1. Jim

            But Jeff, is Wolin accurate in using the term “inverted totalitarianism” to try to capture the nature of our modern extractive bureaucratic monolith that apparently functions in an environment where “it is no longer the government that decides what must be done..simply..”private owners just buy the government, the judiciary, the press, or whatever is needed to achieve their means.”

            Mirowski argues quite persuasively that the neoliberal ascendency does not represent the retreat of the State but its remaking to strongly support a particular conception of a market society that is imposed with the help of the State on our society.

            For Mirowski, neoliberalism is definitely not politically libertarian or opposed to strong state intervention in the economy and society.

        4. TedWa

          Inverted totalitarianism is the mirror image of fascism, which is why so many are confused. Fascism is just a easier term to use and more understandable by all. There is not a strict adherence to fascism going on, but it’s still totalitarian just the same.

          1. jan

            I live in Europe as well, and what to think of Germany’s AfD, Greece’s Golden Dawn, the Wilder’s party in the Netherlands etc. Most of them subscribe to the freeloading, sorry free trading economic policies of neoliberalism.

    3. schizosoph

      There’s LePen in France and the far-right, fascist leaning party nearly won in Austria. The far right in Greece as well. There’s clearly a move to the far right in Europe. And then there’s the totalitarian mess that is Turkey. How much further this turn to a fascist leaning right goes and how widespread remains to be seen, but it’s clearly underway.

    4. myshkin

      Searched ‘current fascist movements europe’ and got these active groups from wiki.

      National Bolshevik Party-Belarus
      Parti Communautaire National-Européen Belgium
      Bulgarian National Alliance Bulgaria
      Nova Hrvatska Desnica Croatia
      Ustaše Croatia
      National Socialist Movement of Denmark
      La Cagoule France
      National Democratic Party of Germany
      Fascism and Freedom Movement – Italy
      Fiamma Tricolore Italy
      Forza Nuova Italy
      Fronte Sociale Nazionale Italy
      Movimento Fascismo e Libertà Italy
      Pērkonkrusts Latvia
      Norges Nasjonalsosialistiske Bevegelse Norway
      National Radical Camp (ONR) Poland
      National Revival of Poland (NOP)
      Polish National Community-Polish National Party (PWN-PSN)
      Noua Dreaptă Romania
      Russian National Socialist Party(formerly Russian National Union)
      Barkashov’s Guards Russia
      National Socialist Society Russia
      Nacionalni stroj Serbia
      Otačastveni pokret Obraz Serbia
      Slovenska Pospolitost Slovakia
      España 2000 Spain
      Falange Española Spain
      Nordic Realm Party Sweden
      National Alliance Sweden
      Swedish Resistance Movement Sweden
      National Youth Sweden
      Legion Wasa Sweden
      SPAS Ukraine
      Blood and Honour UK
      British National Front UK
      Combat 18 UK
      League of St. George UK
      National Socialist Movement UK
      Nationalist Alliance UK
      November 9th Society UK
      Racial Volunteer Force UK

    5. Lexington

      “Fascism” has become the prefered term of abuse applied indiscriminately by the right thinking to any person or movement which they want to tar as inherently objectionable, and which can therefore be dismissed without the tedium of actually engaging with them at the level of ideas.

      Most of the people who like to throw this word around couldn’t give you a coherant definition of what exactly they understand it to signify, beyond “yuck!!”

      In fairness even students of political ideology have trouble teasing out a cosistent system of beliefs, to the point where some doubt fascism is even a coherent ideology. That hardly excuses the intellectual vacuity of those who use it as a term of abuse, however.

      1. Jim


        One on the issues I have been struggling with is the exact nature of the political/financial/economic/cultural institutional formation that Trump represents.

        What do you think?

      2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Precisely 3,248 angels can fit on the head of a pin.
        Parsing the true definition of “fascism” is a waste of time, broadly, fascism is an alliance of the state, the corporation, and the military, anyone who doesn’t see that today needs to go back to their textbooks.
        As far as the definition “neo-liberalism” goes, yes it’s a useful label. But let’s keep it simple: every society chooses how resources are allocated between Capital and Labor. The needle has been pegged over on the Capital side for quite some time, my “start date” is when Reagan busted the air traffic union. The hideous Republicans managed to sell their base that policies that were designed to let companies be “competitive” were somehow good for them, not just for the owners of the means of production.
        The only way they have avoided complete revolt has been endless borrowing to fund entitlements, once that one-time fix plays out the consequences will be apparent. The funding mechanism itself (The Fed) has even morphed into a neo-liberal tool designed to enrich Capital while enslaving Labor with the consequences.

        1. Jim

          PodBay stated:

          “Every society chooses how resources are allocated between capital and labor.”

          More specifically, isn’t it a struggle between various political/economic/cultural movements within a society which chooses how resources are allocated between capital and labor.

          Take, for example, the late 1880s-1890s in the U.S. During that time-frame there were powerful agrarian populists movements and the beginnings of some labor/socialist movements from below, while from above the property-production system was modified by a powerful political movement advocating for more corporate administered markets over the competitive small-firm capitalism of an earlier age.

          It was this movement for corporate administered markets which won the battle and defeated/absorbed the agrarian populists.

          What are the array of such forces in 2016? What type of movement doe Trump represent? Sanders? Clinton?

        2. Lexington

          fascism is an alliance of the state, the corporation, and the military, anyone who doesn’t see that today needs to go back to their textbooks

          Which textbooks specifically?

          The article I cited above in Vox canvasses the opinion of five serious students of fascism, and none of them believe Trump is a fascist. I’d be most interested in knowing what you have been reading.

          As for your definition of “fascism”, it’s obviously so vague and broad that it really doesn’t explain anything. To the extent it contains any insight it is that public institutions (the state), private businesses (the corporation) and the armed forces all exert significant influence on public policy. That and a buck and and a half will get you a cup of coffee. If anything it is merely a very crude descriptive model of the political process. It doesn’t define fascism as a particular set of beliefs that make it a distinct political ideology that can be differentiated from other ideologies (again, see the Vox article for a discussion of some of the beliefs that are arguably characteristic of fascist movements). Indeed by your standard virtually every state that has ever existed has to a greater or lesser extent been “fascist”.

          My objection to imprecise language here isn’t merely pedantic. The leftist dismissal of right wing populists like Trump (or increasingly influential European movements like Ukip, AfD, and the Front national) as “fascist” is a reductionist rhetorical device intended to marginalize them by implying their politics are so far outside of the mainstream that they do not need to be taken seriously. Given that these movements are only growing in strength as faith in traditional political movements and elites evaporate this is likely to produce exactly the opposite result. Right wing populism isn’t going to disappear just because the left keeps trying to wish it away. Refusing to accept this basic political fact risks condemning the left rather than “the fascists” to political irrelevance.

      3. NeqNeq

        Lexington gets it in one.

        Fascism: Political Theory as Obscenity: Law

        Nobody can come up with the right necessary & sufficient conditions, but everyone seems to “know it when they see it”….even when someone else disagrees

      4. Jim

        Yes, you’re correct. Attempting to make any sense out of how the term “fascism” is used is futile. There is no sense in how it is used. I’ve heard Osama bin Ladin described as a “fascist”. Was Genghiz Khan a “fascist’?

  3. Kokuanani

    There’s an excellent book, “Methland,” about the scourge of meth across middle America. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6215979-methland

    As one of the commenters noted, it’s not an “expose” or sensational “Breaking Bad,” but rather a discouraging portrait of the conditions that prompt and sustain meth use. Apparently it’s being made into a movie. I believe Clint Eastwood is involved, so that should give it some traction.

      1. Jerry

        I live 160 miles due west of Oelwein. Methland–which I read a few years ago–does not describe this area as far as I can see, yet is often cited as being typical of Iowa.

  4. allan

    The neoliberals are all too aware that the clock is ticking. In this morning’s NYT, yet more talk of ramming TPP through in the lame duck.

    1. Praedor

      Hillary has stated (only recently) that she opposes (her) TPP before the election and AFTER the election (meaning in lame duck). But words are cheap. I have yet to hear her promise to roll back/exit/terminate the TPP if it is passed in lame duck. Saying she is opposed to it getting passed in lame duck session is easy, costs nothing. DOING something about it if it does is where the meat is. She has no meat.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Don’t miss “Brexit: The Movie” on youtube, full of great history and lessons on “trade” deals

    2. Fiver

      Good point – Sanders to the power elite is proof positive that access to better information than that puked up by the usual suspects is dangerously democratic, while the intent of TPP and its trans-Atlantic twin is precisely the destruction of sovereign, civilian, democratic, accountable power including specifically Internet information power. I would hope Sanders would see through any ruse to offer TPP as a possible bargaining chip to persuade him to step aside – only a win by him, or a very massive public response will actually prevent that deal.

  5. Nickname

    Hear, hear. Of course, we’re kind of preaching to the choir here at NC, and none of this will change without us joining forces and doing something about it (and I realize that NC supports the Occupy movement).

    I just saw a “movement” called Take On Wall Street, which sounds great and I hope it gains traction, but it’s still just outsourcing action to representatives. The whole site is only about what they are doing, not what you yourself can do about it (aside from signing another petition/sending a letter).

    One easy step that we can all take is putting our money in a credit union. Democratic banking that you can start using today.

    Here are some other helpful tips from Gar Alperovitz on the matter of system change:


  6. sleepy

    I moved to a small city/town in Iowa almost 20 years ago. Then, it still had something of a Norman Rockwell quality to it, particularly in a sense of egalitarianism, and also some small factory jobs which still paid something beyond a bare existence.

    Since 2000, many of those jobs have left, and the population of the county has declined by about 10%. Kmart, Penney’s, and Sears have left as payday/title loan outfits, pawnshops, smoke shops, and used car dealers have all proliferated.

    Parts of the town now resemble a combination of Appalachia and Detroit. Sanders easily won the caucuses here and, no, his supporters were hardly the latte sippers of someone’s imagination, but blue collar folks of all ages.

    1. weinerdog43

      My tale is similar to yours. About 2 years ago, I accepted a transfer from Chicagoland to north central Wisconsin. JC Penney left a year and a half ago, and Sears is leaving in about 3-4 months. Kmart is long gone.

      I was back at the old homestead over Memorial Day, and it’s as if time has stood still. Home prices still going up; people out for dinner like crazy; new & expensive automobiles everywhere. But driving out of Chicagoland, and back through rural Wisconsin it is unmistakeable.

      2 things that are new: The roads here are deteriorating FAST. In Price County, the road commissioner said last night that their budget allows for resurfacing all the roads on a 200 year basis. (Yes, that means there is only enough money to resurface all the county roads if spread out over 200 years.) 2nd, there are dead deer everywhere on the side of the road. In years past, they were promptly cleaned up by the highway department. Not any more. Gross, but somebody has to do the dead animal clean up. (Or not. Don’t tell Snotty Walker though.)

      Anyway, not everything is gloom and doom. People seem outwardly happy. But if you’re paying attention, signs of stress and deterioration are certainly out there.

      1. ChiGal

        Depends where you are in Chicago – in some parts the potholes, boarded up structures, homeless and addicted folks begging on every corner tell the same story. It is a tale of two cities.

        1. DJG

          ChiGal: Agreed. Here in Edgewater, the houses are suddenly going for unheard-of prices. We locals joke that it has to be drug money: Who else can afford to turn a two-flat into a single-family palazzo with six bedrooms?

          Yet every morning, as I head out for the daily cup of coffee, the main streets (Clark) are covered in a layer of trash. Infrastructure is decaying–obviously so, as the streets flood after each rain.

          On my forays downtown, I notice trash everywhere. (Much of it the detritus of the upper-middle-class in the form of restaurant clamshells, Starbucks paper cups, bottles from micro-breweries, and so on.)

          Conversely, a walk along Clark in Rogers Park is an entry into economic devastation, dozens of empty stores.

          And then the sixty shootings over the holiday weekend. A city in decline, but addled by its own boosterism and by the weird local idea that the corruption is somehow appealing and quaint.

          1. August West

            We are neighbors! I live in RP on the boarder of Edgewater. Yes the realestate prices are crazy in the edge but also here in RP around Loyola which is where I am. The 2 flat prices are back up to 2006 price levels. It doesn’t make financial sense to buy one as one couldn’t charge enough rent to break even especially after the property tax increase. We have several seniors in the hood that own/live in 2 flats and rent to students but with the latest property tax increase (and the future increases that are coming) along with new garbage charge and water rates increasing its going to become tougher for them. Then along Devon we have the developers taking advantage of the tax increment financing, building the ugliest cheapest condos with retail space that nobody is going to rent out. I mean all along Devon up to Clark is nothing but empty retail space. I did hear that Lou Malnati’s will be opening a take out location.Don’t even get me going on the pot holes!!

            1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

              The Fed turned “money”, something that sits quietly in an account and earns a little interest, into a zombie, so people seek “proto-money” and real estate is the main type. Still yields > zero. But the consequences for renters and people in general are horrible. Bankers are monsters.

        2. Christ on a bike

          In some stretches, Halsted Street – one of the “busy streets” that spans Chicago from north to south, and always my favorite for traversing a world of ethnic neighborhoods – rides like a Jeep safari. This on the North Side as well as the South Side, and has been this way even before Rauner started his tug-of-war project to run aground the government. I live half of the year in the south and have grown used to my car bottoming out there. But now apparently it must be crappy everywhere.

      2. sleepy

        I was just up in your neck of the woods, canoeing and camping near Cornell WI and yes the people are still nice. I did notice though that in the state park, in addition to the usual camping fees, there are now fees for hiking on the trails within the state park. I wonder if that was Walker’s doing.

        1. weinerdog43

          You are correct. The fees are new. Also, the above commentators are completely correct… the state of the roads in the Chicago area is entirely dependent on the financial clout of the residents. I was in Naperville and the Loop, and everything looked great.

      3. Jim Haygood

        “the road commissioner said last night that their budget allows for resurfacing all the roads on a 200 year basis”

        … while the fedgov spends north of 5 percent of GDP on global military dominance.

        We’re the Soviets now, comrades: shiny weapons, rotting infrastructure.

        Today in San Diego, the Hildabeest will deliver a vigorous defense of this decadent, dying system.

      4. mark

        ” there are dead deer everywhere on the side of the road. ”

        I saw something similar on the highways of Mexico in the late sixties.

        Along with people washing their clothes in streams and ditches.

    2. Uahsenaa

      I live in eastern Iowa, Iowa City to be precise, which prides itself on all sorts of progressive crap that in practice doesn’t really play out as much as you’d think. I imagine IC in ten years will be a lot like Ann Arbor, where I lived before, i.e. mostly gentrified with the exception of the neighborhoods south of highway 6.

      It amazes me how the homelessness in this city is invisible to most people. Perhaps because I spent a not insignificant time in my life on the margins of society, I can see the telltale signs, but their invisibility strikes me as partially a desire to keep clear of law enforcement and partially the desire of your average guilty conscience not to see them. I recall being at a house party, when the subject of panhandlers standing along the highway came up, and one of my friends asked where they go at nights. I proffered the simple observation, some go to the wildly overcrowded shelter, but when the weather’s okay, most just camp out. He wondered where. I said all over the place, particularly in the city. He assured me that cannot possibly be the case, since he’s never seen them. I noted how there are probably a dozen or so camped out behind his apartment building underneath the ped bridges that cross the creek. Next time I was over at his place, I took him downstairs and pointed out where the old bicycles are stashed and how you can see tarps and sleeping bags tucked up inside the crevices under the bridge.

      Bums around here are remarkably supportive of one another. Sure, I notice the occasional fight break out, but nothing worse than the ridiculous behavior exhibited by college students on a weekend. I even noticed how one panhandler ceded his place by the bus stop so that another with two artificial legs could periodically sit down on its bench.

      Another reason hardly anyone sees this is because law enforcement does its level best to make sure the indigent are cleared out of public places. City Councils and citizen groups want their small towns to appear sanitary and therefore attractive to… I don’t know… which necessitates, according to that thinking, clearing out anyone and anything that fails to conform to their ideal.

  7. Carla

    Cleveland Plain Dealer Headline:
    Ohio chose not to ask for federal money for thousands of struggling homeowners. Why?

    “By pushing so hard for demolition money to tear down abandoned homes and fight neighborhood blight, Ohio lost a chance to help up to 15,000 struggling homeowners keep their houses, according to the state’s own numbers.

    The money was available from the federal government, and the state clearly documented that homeowners needed this cash assistance to keep from defaulting on their mortgages during temporary hardships. But at nearly the last minute, the Ohio Housing Finance Agency pushed more heavily to get federal money for a different priority: bulldozing foreclosed homes that had already fallen into disrepair.

    The choice cost Ohioans millions of lost dollars in federal aid, as cleveland.com reported. Now cleveland.com obtained public records — extensive emails and 17 different versions of the application the state worked on — showing Ohio knew it was leaving thousands of current homeowners behind…

    Treasury announced the awards on April 20. Ohio got nowhere near what it wanted. The state’s final award was $94.3 million, only 37.7 percent of its request, and less money than won by Michigan, California, Illinois and North Carolina.

    All sides were disappointed. A number of sources with direct knowledge of the award told cleveland.com that Ohio lost points in its application, and therefore money, by over-emphasizing demolition at the expense of homeowner aid.”


    1. TheCatSaid

      I wonder if a company involved in demolition was pals with any of the decision makers.

  8. Mary Wehrheim

    This Trump support seems like a form of political vandalism with Trump as the spray paint. People generally feel frustrated with government, utterly powerless and totally left out as the ranks of the precariat continue to grow. Trump appeals to the nihilistic tendencies of some people who, like frustrated teens, have decided to just smashed things up for the hell of it. They think a presidency mix of Caligula with Earl Scheib would be a funny hoot. You also have the more gullible fundis who have actually deluded themselves into thinking the man who is ultimate symbol of hedonism will deliver them from secularism because he says he will. Authoritarians who seek solutions through strong leaders are usually the easiest to con because they desperately want to believe in their eminent deliverance by a human deus ex machina. Plus he is ostentatiously rich in a comfortably tacky way and a TV celebrity…beats a Harvard law degree. And why not the thinking goes …the highly vaunted elite college Acela crowd has pretty much made a pig’s breakfast out of things. So much for meritocracy. Professor Harold Hill is going to give River City a boys band.

    1. abynormal

      The spectacle’s externality with respect to the acting subject is demonstrated by the fact that the individual’s own gestures are no longer his own but rather those of someone else who represents them to him. The spectator feels at home nowhere, for the spectacle is everywhere.
      Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle

    2. templar555510

      Time to frighten the elites . Trump will have to deliver something to all those supporters if he becomes President, but what that could, or might be, who could possibly say . That will be his problem. If he fails Blake’s ‘ fearful symmetry ‘ could be very fearful indeed.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        “Trump will have to deliver to all those supporters if he becomes President..” Why? Because if he doesn’t, there is going to be some insurrection? I don’t think so. Trump is a con man. I’m still not convinced he actually even wants to be president. But if he wins, I wouldn’t expect him to deliver anything, at least not anything good.

    3. uahsenaa

      Someone at American Conservative, when trying to get at why it’s pointless to tell people Trump will wreck the place, described him as a “hand grenade” lobbed into the heart of government. You can’t scare people with his crass-ness and destructive tendencies, because that’s precisely what his voters are counting on when/if he gets into government.

      In other words, the MSM’s fear is the clearest sign to these voters that their political revolution is working. Since TPTB decided peaceful change (i.e. Sanders) was a non-starter, then they get to reap the whirlwind.

    4. Praedor

      Your phrase “Trump is political vandalism” is great. I don’t think I’ve seen a better description. NPR this morning was discussing Trump and his relationship with the press and the issues some GOP leaders have with him. When his followers were discussed, the speakers closely circled your vandalism point. Basically they said that his voters are angry with the power brokers and leaders in DC and regardless of whether they think Trump’s statements are heartfelt or just rhetoric, they DO know he will stick it to those power brokers so that’s good. Vandalism by a longer phrase.

    5. hunkerdown

      Meritocracy was ALWAYS a delusional fraud. What you invariably get, after a couple of generations, is a clique of elitists who define merit as themselves and reproduce it ad nauseam. Who still believes in such laughable kiddie stories?

      Besides, consumers need to learn to play the long game and suck up the “scurrilous attacks” on their personal consumption habits for the next four years. The end of abortion for four years is not important — lern2hand and lern2agency, and lern2cutyourrapist if it comes to that. What is important is that the Democratic Party’s bourgeois yuppie constituents are forced to defend against GOP attacks on their personal and cultural interests with wherewithal that would have been ordinarily spent to attend to their sister act with their captive constituencies.

      If bourgeois Democrats hadn’t herded us into a situation where individuals mean nothing outside of their assigned identity groups and their corporate coalition duopoly, they wouldn’t be reaping the whirlwind today. Why, exactly, should I be sympathetic to exploitative parasites such as the middle class?

  9. tgs

    why fascist parties are growing in Europe

    I think it wise to be skeptical about how our ‘betters’ classify political movements. In the first place, they think of themselves as ‘moderates’, ‘centrists’ even as they adhere to an radically destructive, violent and indeed anti-democratic belief system. Yes, nationalist parties have gained strength in many European countries. And yes racist or perhaps more accurately anti-immigration sentiments are present as well. But many of these parties also clearly make their opposition to neoliberalism a central part of their program. Many of these movements talk about strengthening the welfare state.

    It is not surprising that the elites classify and then dismiss these movements as ‘fascist’ or ‘far right’. The ‘fascist’ Orban in Hungary is actually offering the Hungarian people a referendum on immigration – a chance to express their view of the dictates coming from Brussels. But then again actually listening to what the people, the taxpayers actually want is scary to people like Cohen – our entire political elite.

  10. Robert Coutinho

    Some of those who have commented here need to explain, in detail, with well-thought-out and backed-up plans, just how they would change the system that we currently have in place. I believe it needs to change. I have read quite a few ideas (some of them probably fairly good) on what to change and how to change it. However, it is very easy to complain about a problem. It is fairly easy to destroy things in the name of disliking the problem. It is, however, often quite difficult to fix the problem.

    1. JEHR

      It’s funny, but as an outsider it seems to me you already have the beginnings of a solution (which you may not recognize) in the role that Bernie Sanders is playing in your politics right at this moment. Getting money out of politics, free public university, single-payer health care and taking care of the bankers comprise some of Sanders’ platform which would go a long way in changing the system. There will be fireworks, though, when it happens.

      1. DJG

        JEHR: Well, you must not be too much of an outsider, in that you give the correct diagnosis. The U S of A should start with some better policies and with less of the celebrity politics that has gotten us into this swamp.

        Also: Progressive taxation. How revolutionary! Make the liberal elites and the rightwing elites pay taxes. Likewise, penalize companies for maintaining offshort accounts–as in revoking their corporate status, which can be done.

      2. jrs

        yea it’s a start but something really needs to be done about either jobs or incomes, it’s far more central to people lives. I know sanders has some ideas but it was never given enough emphasis. Or keep wondering why trump still appeals to people – they are misguided of course, but nonetheless, he does promise a lot that he can never deliver that may appeal to people – like bringing back jobs.

      3. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        People rail against Bernie’s “socialism” but we already have massive socialism in this country, just not the kind for you and me, it’s mega-billion dollar handouts for Microsoft, Raytheon, Exxon, Goldman, Pfizer. It’s handouts for the Surveillance-Industrial Complex. The Incarceration-Industrial Complex. The War on Some Drugs. Don’t let anyone convince you “there’s not enough money to do Bernie’s program”, of course there is.
        1. The Fed should hike rates massively, immediately. Bad debts should be allowed to clear. This will be incredibly disruptive but will result in a healthy economy again;
        2. Scrap ACA and put in single-payer
        3. Bring the troops home, make them build bridges and highways and hospitals on US soil for a change.
        4. No more free pass for Wall St. crime. Executives and managers get perp walks again, no more convicting the building for the crimes of the people in the buildings.
        5. Global Peace and Reconciliation Congress. Announce the immediate unilateral end to all American drone and bombing missions. Loudly announce America’s intention to be a force for peace in the world, not war.
        6. Marshall Plan for the MidEast. In conjunction with #5, announce a mega-billion development plan for the ME, take 20% of the money we spend bombing and policing the place and funnel it into investments and handouts, with American flags plastered on the sides of the sacks of grain and boxes of laptops.
        7. Dismantle DHS immediately. We already have the CIA and FBI.
        8. I could keep going…

        1. Whine Country

          My God, have you considered how awful these policies would be for the minority?

    2. Rhondda

      Lambert has a dozen ideas posted over at Corrente. Good, practical stuff. Take a look.

        1. Jim

          A key question becomes(assuming a democratic consensus) what is the potential strategic route to be used in order to institutionalize the platform/reforms mentioned by Lambert.

          Bill Mitchell over at Billy Blog has argued that a significant portion the American Left largely bought into the Jim O’Conner thesis in his “Fiscal Crisis of the State” in the early 1970s, and has consequently underestimated the power and innate capability of Big State to solve our contemporary problems (help implement the Lambert platform and reforms).

          Mitchell has also pointed out (in recent blog posts) that the neoliberals early understood that they needed to gain control of the state in order to successfully implement (over the democratic objections of the average citizen) their particular version of a well-functioning market society.

          Is the Sanders campaign considering attempting to duplicate the early neoliberal move for hegemony–only this time through democratic means–and achieve control over the state to implement such platforms/reforms as suggested by Lambert?

      1. Dave

        There are all good ideas. However, population growth undermines almost all of them. Population growth in America is immigrant based. Reverse immigration influxes and you are at least doing something to reduce population growth.

        How to “reverse immigration influxes”?

        -Stop accepting refugees. It’s outrageous that refugees from for example, Somalia, get small business loans, housing assistance, food stamps and lifetime SSI benefits while some of our veterans are living on the street.

        -No more immigration amnesties of any kind.

        -Deport all illegal alien criminals.

        -Practice “immigrant family unification” in the country of origin. Even if you have to pay them to leave. It’s less expensive in the end.

        -Eliminate tax subsidies to American corn growers who then undercut Mexican farmers’ incomes through NAFTA, driving them into poverty and immigration north. Throw Hillary Clinton out on her ass and practice political and economic justice to Central America.

        I too am a lifetime registered Democrat and I will vote for Trump if Clinton gets the crown. If the Democrats want my vote, my continuing party registration and my until recently sizeable donations in local, state and national races, they will nominate Bernie. If not, then I’m an Independent forevermore. They will just become the Demowhig Party.

    3. Jack Heape

      Here’s a start…

      1. Campaign Finance Reform: If you can’t walk into a voting booth you cannot contribute, or make all elections financed solely by government funds and make private contributions of any kind to any politician illegal.
      2. Re-institute Glass-Steagall but even more so. Limit the number of states a bank can operate in. Make the Fed publicly owned, not privately owned by banks.
      3. Completely revise corporate law, doing away with the legal person hood of corporations and limit of liability for corporate officers and shareholders.
      4. Single payer health care for everyone. Allow private health plans but do away with health insurance as a deductible for business. Remove the AMA’s hold on licensing of medical schools which restricts the number of doctors.
      5. Do away with the cap on Social Security wages and make all income, wages, capital gains, interest, and dividends subject to taxation.
      6. Impose tariffs to compensate for lower labor costs overseas and revise industry.
      7. Cut the Defense budget by 50% and use that money for intensive infrastructure development.
      8. Raise the national minimum wage to $15 and hour.
      9. Severely curtail the revolving door from government to private industry with a 10 year restriction on working for an industry you dealt with in any way as a government official.
      10. Free public education including college (4 year degree).

      1. Jessica

        Some additional ideas:
        1) High tax levels on natural monopolies or treat them as utilities or nationalize them. This means, for example, Microsoft Windows and Office, Facebook.
        2) Require that all platforms for work be non-profit worker co-ops with capped management salaries. This means, for example, Uber, Lyft, perhaps AirBnB, and the like.
        Also, if we cut the defense budget by 50% (which would be an excellent idea), it is important to provide genuine alternative opportunities for current and would-have-been soldiers and defense workers. That includes training too. This point could be pivotal for gaining and retaining the support of the kinds of folks who often don’t vote or vote Republicans while progressives wonder why, the “what ever happened to Kansas” working class vote.

        1. Jessica

          On a more general level, we need to
          1) Find a way to reward intellectual work but also turn the information loose for further use. (Rather than using copyrights/patents to cripple usage of the information or leaving intellectual work unpaid for and crippling motivation.)
          2) Restore integrity to the top 20%.
          One thing that would help is to create a strong social consensus that respects those who profit from genuine creativity but despise those who profit by gaming the system or taking advantage of others. For example, Apple’s creation of the iPod or iPad should be rewarded. Apple’s profiting from super low wages at plants in China (the ones with the nets to catch would-be suicides), should punished and looked at the way we look at child molesters.

          1. hunkerdown

            People are plenty motivated to perform unpaid intellectual work, when their basic needs are taken care of and they have time and space to think. (Another reason Silly Valley startups love BIG…) Did you know that public-key encryption was invented/discovered by an out-of-work mathematician house-sitting for the summer? [1] The Linux kernel was written by a student who couldn’t afford Minix. The norm of tit-for-tat exchange with the community one is supposedly a member of is simply wrong. Not all production needs to be captured or acknowledged by the market economy.

            [1] GCHQ claims their guy came up with it first, but didn’t get around to announcing as much until decades later. What’s behind the closed doors of the intelligence communities doesn’t benefit us, so can’t be deemed a public benefit.

            1. Jessica

              I am not sure how much of necessary intellectual work can be taken care of this way. Maybe all, maybe not. I hope we get the chance to find out soon.
              The more of this work is done by people whose needs are taken care of and who do the work for the love of it, the better we all will be.

        2. fgbouman

          1) Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office and Facebook aren’t natural monopolies. One can do quite well without the Microsoft software as millions of people will attest so it is hard to even call Microsoft a monopoly.
          Facebook isn’t a natural monopoly but it is a highly popular, semi-closed system. There are other such closed systems around but it is the most successful. (My own predecessor site got no traction and went nowhere although it was significantly better than the original Facebook. Zuckerberg has done a great job from the outset at ensuring that he got traction and kept growing. Mine did not the traction and died stillborn. Kudos to him and to Facebook. Anyone can try to outdo him at any time. And someone will. If anything, the government might want to push for further opening up in order to allow competition to develop more easily.
          2) How would forcing platforms to be non-profit be legal in any manner? How does this differ from nationalisation?
          3) Arbitrary amounts to cut defence spending don’t make a lot of sense. What we really need to do is to decide what it is what we want to do and then budget to accomplish that. When you simply hack 50% away from everything you end up with a non-functional DoD. For example,\:
          • eliminate two legs (land and air) of the nuclear triad. They are expensive, unessential, provocative and dangerous. That step would, for example, eliminate the Air Force’s plans to spend a trillion dollars on a next generation bomber. Eliminate the nukes and they don’t need the bombers. The new policy is to retain sufficient nuclear capacity to sterilise any nation on the Earth, but no more and then deploy it in the most robust way (submarines).
          • Killing the F35 program and falling back to a revival/expansion of the F22 and A10 programs would cut the cost of the hardware in half or more and be much more suitable for 21st century wars. The policy decision here is to use the best aircraft for the job and avoid multi-mission aircraft in most cases.
          • We have over a thousand military sites scattered around the world. By readjusting our goals we could probably eliminate half or more of them.
          I could go on. The idea is to develop new policies and scale back to meet them. If we want a goal, it should probably be 3.7% of GDP or less. (it was 48% during WWII)
          The savings will never appear in a manner that would allow the money to be redirected. If it did, to what should it be redirected? Nationwide high-speed rail and LRT would be a good start. It won’t happen, though, for we’ve always had the means to do it, we simply don’t care to.

    4. TedWa

      Prosecute the banksters and restore the rule of law and everything else will fall into place is one great idea. Lawlessness is how neoliberalism is taking over

      1. TedWa

        It’s become a free for all to steal from citizens around the world, blessed by central banks and bought governments.It’s become such a game for “them” that they reward with huge bonuses those that get away with stealing the most. Neoliberalism is no rich crooks ever going to jail. Poor Madoff, should have been a politician with get a out of jail free card. He didn’t play it the neoliberal way so he was punished.

        1. tegnost

          +1, when I’m accused of hating corporations or presented with TINA I simply point out that policy got us here and policy can get us out. This, along with all the effort the parties have put into the concept of the “unitary executive” and you can see why they’re petrified of bernie.

    5. sharonsj

      Ideas are nice. We all know what they are. But nothing will happen unless people get off their duffs and take to the streets. I have read that the elites only change their behavior when frightened by very, very large crowds, preferably carrying pitchforks.

    6. TedWa

      Obama and Holder, allowing the banks to be above the law have them demi-gods, many of whom are psychopaths and kleptocrats, and with their newly granted status, they are now re-shaping the world in their own image. Prosecute these demi-gods and restore sanity. Don’t and their greed for our things will never end until nothings left.

      1. tegnost

        This is why hillary is so much more dangerous than trump, because she and the demi gods are all on the same page. The TPP is their holy grail so I expect heaven and earth to be moved, especially if it looks like some trade traitors are going to get knocked off in the election, scoundrels like patty murray (dino, WA) will push to get it through then line up at the feed trough to gorge on k street dough. I plan to vote stein if it’s not bernie, but am reserving commitment until I see what kind of betrayals the dems have for me, if it’s bad enough I’ll go with the trump hand grenade.

        1. TedWa

          Totally agree tegnost, no more democratic neoliberals ! Patty Murray (up for re-election) and Cantwell are both trade traitors and got fast track passed.

      2. hunkerdown

        “they are now re-shaping the world in their own image”

        Isn’t this intrinsic to bourgeois liberalism?

    7. Michael Fiorillo

      The single biggest thing that could be done to reverse the inequality and nihilism that’s devouring the country would be to make it possible for Americans to join unions.

      While it still is technically legal for Americans to join unions, as a practical matter, it’s not really possible.

      Unions, as self-financing working class organizations – the very reason they are axiomatically targeted by the Overclass – are the only institutions that have any possibility of tilting the balance of power between Capital and Labor.

      It’s no accident that median incomes have been falling for more than forty years; it corresponds pretty closely with the decline in union membership and density.

  11. Sluggeaux

    Two things are driving our troubles: over-population and globalization. The plutocrats and kleptocrats have all the leverage over the rest of us laborers when the population of human beings has increased seven-fold in the last 70 years, from a little over a billion to seven billions (and growing) today. They are happy to let us freeze to death behind gas stations in order for them to compete with other oligarchs in excess consumption.

    This deserves a longer and more thoughtful comment, but I don’t have the time this morning. I have to fight commute traffic, because the population of my home state of California has doubled from 19M in 1970 to an estimated 43M today (if you count the Latin American refugees and H1B’s).

    1. Vatch

      Thank you for mentioning the third rail of overpopulation. Too often, this giant category of problems is ignored, because it makes people uncomfortable. The planet is finite, resources on the planet are finite, yet the number of people keeps growing. We need to strive for a higher quality of life, not a higher quantity of people.

      1. oho

        Because of the obvious ad hominem “you’re a _____” rebuttal no one in the cognoscenti will touch overpopulation (except David Attenborough very gingerly).

        I fear that one day in the near future, overpopulation pressures is going to tear apart Sub-Sahara Africa and the Middle-East—-due to prolonged drought, etc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_fertility_rate

        And not only is the planet finite—-if humankind wants civilization to last 10,000 more years, having “only” 7 billion people to care ad infinitum for is better than 10+ billion.

        Human civilization can’t assume that technology will be able to continue to squeeze more and more productivity from Earth’s resources.

        1. Praedor

          I’ve long since written humans off. No we will not do anything necessary to prevent MORE than 2 degree average global temperature. No we wont solve the fresh water shortfall problem either. No we will not consciously quell our numbers. We are seeing the final few generations of global, civilized humans. Most are going to die. There’s no avoiding that. There will also be war, nuclear war, sooner or layer with Russia for some stupid reason (Hillary belligerence, for instance, is a likely starter).

          We are self-limiting and are fast approaching the break point.

          1. Jim

            Sure human populations could well crash here and there, now and then. Indeed they are certain to do so. This is quite common for biological species. But it doesn’t mean that humans won’t be around for a long time. The utopian things you mention will never happen of course but our species is pretty tough and adaptable as evidenced by it’s evolutionary history.

  12. Enquiring Mind

    Name names. Who are the current neoliberals that are up for election, or are standing for re-election? Or is the list just too long or obvious?

    1. Vatch

      In the U.S., nearly all of the Republican politicians fit into this category, and a substantial number of Democrats, too. Here’s a list of some of the more prominent Democrats:


      Not all of the Senators are up for re-election, of course.

      You can also find more Democrats in this category by looking for Hillary Clinton supporters among the super delegates:


      Many of them are not elected officials, and not all of the elected officials are up for re-election. But House members are always up for re-election, unless they retire or lose in a primary.

    2. tegnost

      patty murray needs to go, and the state that brought us kshama sawant (yes, perpW i know she has flaws, my point is people voted for her, and if she had help maybe could do more for you) can make that vote happen!

    3. seanseamour

      The issue goes beyond “current neoliberals up for election”, it is most of our political establishment that has been corrupted by a system that provides for the best politicians money can buy.
      In the 1980’s I worked inside the beltway witnessing the new cadre of apparatchiks that drove into town on the Reagan coattails full of moral a righteousness that became deviant, parochial, absolutist and for whom bi-partisan approaches to policy were scorned prodded on by new power brokers promoting their gospels in early morning downtown power breakfasts. Sadly our politicians no longer serve but seek a career path in our growing meritocratic plutocracy.

  13. paul whalen

    America has always been a country where a majority of the population has been poor. With the exception of a fifty five year(1950-2005) year period where access to large quantities of consumer debt by households was deployed to first to provide a wealth illusion to keep socialism at bay, followed by a mortgage debt boom to both keep the system afloat and strip the accumulated capital of the working class, i.e. home equity, the history of the US has been one of poverty for the masses. Further debt was foisted on the working class in the form of military Keynesianism, generating massive fiscal deficits which are to be paid for via austerity in a neo-feudal economy.

    1. jrs

      I think that is closer to the truth, U.S. style capitalism produces poverty, always has, always will, actually capitalism does pretty much. But some small section of the population – the college educated, and the white union members, did have it better and are angry at what they lost.

  14. Sam Vaughn

    Being a Mainer I say we need one thing. A rebirth of freedom.

    Mainers, a naturally self-reliant crowd have been so put upon by regulations, compliance, local rules, building codes and especially in Portland, naked hostility towards anyone who owns or runs a business. Nobody feels free anymore to start a business, or at least if they do when they discover all the red tape they give up. Freedom, to live our lives as we see fit, take risks, win/lose. Instead we smash their hopes with social justice hammers and fees and taxes that leave us working 5-6 months to pay our taxes before we take home our own pay. Freedom from being forced to buy something I never wanted (ObamaCare). Freedom from being forced to pay for and support refugees before we help our own (Lewiston). The list is long but we need Freedom first.

  15. fresno dan

    “Those mill jobs were well paid and the workers could buy houses, cars, and had pensions. One of my brothers works for a paper mill that should have been world competitive through his retirement, but it’s been wrecked by a series of private equity owners, starting with Cerberus, and in now in bankruptcy.”

    If you read “Barbarians at the Gate” what was most striking is that companies that get destroyed are PROFITABLE – but it is MORE profitable for a few to strip mine them. In the religion of economics, God has forgotten them…
    We use certain metrics that says this increases GDP, and therefore it MUST be done – like the character in Harry Potter whose name can never be uttered, we can never, ever speak of the distribution of the vaunted GDP.
    As I’ve said many times, inequality is a political choice. I fear our system has been so thoroughly infiltrated by the self absorbed that it is now impossible for any meaningful reform.

    1. TedWa

      Above the law demi-god banksters (I call them financial terrorists) are re-creating the world in their own image. Thank Obama and Holder for placing them above the law.

    2. jrs

      Why were they well paid though? Just because of a tight labor market or because of unions? If it’s the latter sooner or later even all those Trump supporters are going to have to admit that only leftist movements like the labor movement actually work.

    3. cnchal

      . . .but it is MORE profitable for a few to strip mine them

      . . . but it is MORE profitable for the few that strip mine the many. For the many, it’s a total loss.

      I find it totally insane that pension funds hand over money to financial morcellators like Cerberus to suck the guts out of a good going concern that pays the taxes that feed the pensions. It is no different than buying a gun and handing it to the person about to rob you.

      ZIRP and NIRP and the chase for yield have unleashed and focused this, and if there were any justice, the wages and pensions of the economists at the FED would be tied to the success or failure of their policies. From their track record, all they should be able to afford to eat now is dreck.

      There is a lot of suffering by the peasants at the hands of policymakers who feel no pain whatsoever.

  16. bluecollarAl

    I am almost 70 years old, born and raised in New York City, still living in a near suburb.

    Somehow, somewhere along the road to my 70th year I feel as if I have been gradually transported to an almost entirely different country than the land of my younger years. I live painfully now in an alien land, a place whose habits and sensibilities I sometimes hardly recognize, while unable to escape from memories of a place that no longer exists. There are days I feel as I imagine a Russian pensioner must feel, lost in an unrecognizable alien land of unimagined wealth, power, privilege, and hyper-glitz in the middle of a country slipping further and further into hopelessness, alienation, and despair.

    I am not particularly nostalgic. Nor am I confusing recollection with sentimental yearnings for a youth that is no more. But if I were a contemporary Rip Van Winkle, having just awakened after, say, 30-40 years, I would not recognize my beloved New York City. It would be not just the disappearance of the old buildings, Penn Station, of course, Madison Square Garden and its incandescent bulb marquee on 50th and 8th announcing NYU vs. St. John’s, and the WTC, although I always thought of the latter as “new” until it went down. Nor would it be the disappearance of all the factories, foundries, and manufacturing plants, the iconic Domino Sugar on the East River, the Wonder Bread factory with its huge neon sign, the Swingline Staples building in Long Island City that marked passage to and from the East River tunnel on the railroad, and my beloved Schaeffer Beer plant in Williamsburg, that along with Rheingold, Knickerbocker, and a score of others, made beer from New York taste a little bit different.

    It wouldn’t be the ubiquitous new buildings either, the Third Avenue ghostly glass erected in the 70’s and 80’s replacing what once was the most concentrated collection of Irish gin mills anywhere. Or the fortress-like castles built more recently, with elaborate high-ceilinged lobbies decorated like a kind of gross, filthy-wealthy Versailles, an aesthetically repulsive style that shrieks “power” in a way the neo-classical edifices of our Roman-loving founders never did. Nor would it even be the 100-story residential sticks, those narrow ground-to-clouds skyscraper condominiums proclaiming the triumph of globalized capitalism with prices as high as their penthouses, driven ever upward by the foreign billionaires and their obsession with burying their wealth in Manhattan real estate.

    It is not just the presence of new buildings and the absence of the old ones that have this contemporary Van Winkle feeling dyslexic and light-headed. The old neighborhoods have disintegrated along with the factories, replaced by income segregated swatches of homogenous “real estate” that have consumed space, air, and sunlight while sucking the distinctiveness out of the City. What once was the multi-generational home turf for Jewish, Afro-American, Puerto Rican, Italian, Polak and Bohunk families is now treated as simply another kind of investment, stocks and bonds in steel and concrete. Mom’s Sunday dinners, clothes lines hanging with newly bleached sheets after Monday morning wash, stickball games played among parked cars, and evenings of sitting on the stoop with friends and a transistor radio listening to Mel Allen call Mantle’s home runs or Alan Freed and Murray the K on WINS 1010 playing Elvis, Buddy Holly, and The Drifters, all gone like last night’s dreams.

    Do you desire to see the new New York? Look no further than gentrifying Harlem for an almost perfect microcosm of the city’s metamorphosis, full of multi-million condos, luxury apartment renovations, and Maclaren strollers pushed by white yuppie wife stay-at-homes in Marcus Garvey Park. Or consider the “new” Lower East Side, once the refuge of those with little material means, artists, musicians, bums, drug addicts, losers and the physically and spiritually broken — my kind of people. Now its tenements are “retrofitted” and remodeled into $4000 a month apartments and the new residents are Sunday brunching where we used to score some Mary Jane.

    There is the “Brooklyn brand”, synonymous with “hip”, and old Brooklyn neighborhoods like Red Hook and South Brooklyn (now absorbed into so desirable Park Slope), and Bushwick, another former outpost of the poor and the last place I ever imagined would be gentrified, full of artists and hipsters driving up the price of everything. Even large sections of my own Queens and the Bronx are affected (infected?). Check out Astoria, for example, neighborhood of my father’s family, with more of the old ways than most but with rents beginning to skyrocket and starting to drive out the remaining working class to who knows where.

    Gone is almost every mom and pop store, candy stores with their egg creams and bubble gum cards and the Woolworth’s and McCrory’s with their wooden floors and aisles containing ordinary blue collar urgencies like thread and yarn, ironing boards and liquid bleach, stainless steel utensils of every size and shape. Where are the locally owned toy and hobby stores like Jason’s in Woodhaven under the el, with Santa’s surprises available for lay-away beginning in October? No more luncheonettes, cheap eats like Nedicks with hot dogs and paper cones of orange drink, real Kosher delis with vats of warm pastrami and corned beef cut by hand, and the sacred neighborhood “bar and grill”, that alas has been replaced by what the kids who don’t know better call “dive bars”, the detestable simulacra of the real thing, slick rooms of long slick polished mahogany, a half-dozen wide screen TV’s blaring mindless sports contests from all over the world, over-priced micro-brews, and not a single old rummy in sight?

    Old Rip searches for these and many more remembered haunts, what Ray Oldenburg called the “great good places” of his sleepy past, only to find store windows full of branded, high-priced, got-to-have luxury-necessities (necessary if he/she is to be certified cool, hip, and successful), ridiculously overpriced “food emporia”, high and higher-end restaurants, and apparel boutiques featuring hardened smiles and obsequious service reserved for those recognized by celebrity or status.

    Rip notices too that the visible demographic has shifted, and walking the streets of Manhattan and large parts of Brooklyn, he feels like what walking in Boston Back Bay always felt like, a journey among an undifferentiated mass of privilege, preppy or ‘metro-sexed’ 20 and 30-somethings jogging or riding bicycles like lean, buff gods and goddesses on expense accounts supplemented by investments enriched by yearly holiday bonuses worth more than Rip earned in a lifetime.

    Sitting alone on a park bench by the river, Rip reflects that more than all of these individual things, however, he despairs of a city that seems to have been reimagined as a disneyfied playground of the privileged, offering endless ways to self-gratify and philistinize in a clean, safe (safest big city in U.S., he heard someone say), slick, smiley, center-of-the-world urban paradise, protected by the new centurions (is it just his paranoia or do battle-ready police seem to be everywhere?). Old ethnic neighborhoods are filled with apartment buildings that seem more like post-college “dorms”, tiny studios and junior twos packed with three or four “singles” roommates pooling their entry level resources in order to pay for the right to live in “The City”. Meanwhile the newer immigrants find what place they can in Kingsbridge, Corona, Jamaica, and Cambria Heights, far from the city center, even there paying far too much to the landlord for what they receive.

    New York has become an unrecognizable place to Rip, who can’t understand why the accent-less youngsters keep asking him to repeat something in order to hear his quaint “Brooklyn” accent, something like the King’s English still spoken on remote Smith Island in the Chesapeake, he guesses
    Rip suspects that this “great transformation” (apologies to Polanyi) has coincided, and is somehow causally related, to the transformation of New York from a real living city into, as the former Mayor proclaimed, the “World Capital” of financialized commerce and all that goes with it.

    “Financialization”, he thinks, is not the expression of an old man’s disapproval but a way of naming a transformed economic and social world. Rip is not an economist. He reads voraciously but, as an erstwhile philosopher trained to think about the meaning of things, he often can’t get his head around the mathematical model-making explanations of the economists that seem to dominate the more erudite political and social analyses these days. He has learned, however, that the phenomenon of “capitalism” has changed along with his city and his life.

    Money, it seems to him, has somehow changed its role. It has “increased” (is that possible, he asks?) while at the same time it has become concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. It appears to seek to become an autonomous and dominating sector of economic life, functionally separated from production of real things, almost all of which seem to come from faraway places. “Real” actually begins to change its meaning, another topic more interesting still. This devotion to the world of money-making-money seems to have obsessed the lives of many of the most “important” Americans. Entire TV networks are devoted to it. They talk about esoteric financial instruments that to the ordinary citizen look more like exotically placed bets-on-credit in the casino than genuine ways to grow real-world business, jobs, wages, and family income. The few who are in position to master the game live material lives that were beyond what almost any formerly “wealthy” man or woman in Rip’s prior life could even imagine
    Above all else is the astronomical rise in wealth and income inequality. Rip recalls that growing up in the 1950’s, the kids on his block included, along with firemen, cops, and insurance men dads (these were virtually all one-parent income households), someone had a dad who worked as a stock broker. Yea, living on the same block was a “Wall Streeter”. Amazingly democratic, no? Imagine, people of today, a finance guy drinking at the same corner bar with the sanitation guy. Rip recalls that Aristotle had some wise and cautionary words in his Politics concerning the stability of oligarchic regimes.

    Last year I drove across America on blue highways mostly. I stayed in small towns and cities, Zanesville, St. Charles, Wichita, Pratt, Dalhart, Clayton, El Paso, Abilene, Clarksdale, and many more. I dined for the most part in local taverns, sitting at the bar so as to talk with the local bartender and patrons who are almost always friendly and talkative in these spaces. Always and everywhere I heard similar stories as my story of my home town. Not so much the specifics (there are no “disneyfied” Lubbocks or Galaxes out there, although Oxford, MS comes close) but in the sadness of men and women roughly my age as they recounted a place and time – a way of life – taken out from under them, so that now their years are filled with decayed and dead downtowns, children gone away and lost to either the relentless rootlessness of the trans-national economy or the virtual hell-world of meth and opioids and heroin and unending underemployed hopelessness.

    I am not a trained economist. My graduate degrees were in philosophy. My old friends call me an “Eric Hoffer”, who back in the day was known as the “longshoreman philosopher”. I have been trying for a long time now to understand the silent revolution that has been pulled off right under my nose, the replacement of a world that certainly had its flaws (how could I forget the civil rights struggle and the crime of Viet Nam; I was a part of these things) but was, let us say, different. Among you or your informed readers, is there anyone who can suggest a book or books or author(s) who can help me understand how all of this came about, with no public debate, no argument, no protest, no nothing? I would be very much appreciative.

    1. tegnost

      I’ll just highlight this line for emphasis
      “there are no “disneyfied” Lubbocks or Galaxes out there, although Oxford, MS comes close) but in the sadness of men and women roughly my age as they recounted a place and time – a way of life – taken out from under them, so that now their years are filled with decayed and dead downtowns, children gone away and lost to either the relentless rootlessness of the trans-national economy or the virtual hell-world of meth and opioids and heroin and unending underemployed hopelessness.”
      my best friend pretty much weeps every day.

    2. Michael Fiorillo

      bluecollar Al,

      As a lifelong New Yorker, I too mourn the demise of my beloved city.

      Actually, that’s wrong: my city didn’t die, it was taken from me/us.

      But if it’s any consolation, remember that Everyone Loses Their New York (even insufferable hipster colonizers)…

    3. Left in Wisconsin

      Beautifully said.

      I don’t have a book to recommend. I do think you identify a really underemphasized central fact of recent times: the joint processes by which real places have been converted into “real estate” and real, messy lives replaced by safe, manufactured “experiences.” This affects wealthy and poor neighborhoods alike, in different ways but in neither case for the better.

      I live in a very desirable neighborhood in one of those places that makes a lot of “Best of” lists. I met a new neighbor last night who told me how he and his wife had plotted for years to get out of the Chicago burbs, not only to our city but to this specific neighborhood, which they had decided is “the one.” (This sentiment is not atypical.) Unsurprisingly, property values in the neighborhood have gone through the roof. Which, as far as I can tell, most everyone here sees as an unmitigated good thing.

      At the same time, several families I got to know because they moved into the neighborhood about the same time we did 15-20 years ago, are cashing out and moving away, kids off to or out of college, parents ready (and financed) to get on to the next phase and the next place. Of course, even though our children are all Lake Woebegoners, there are no next generations staying in the neighborhood, except of course the ones still living, or back, at “home.” (Those families won’t be going anywhere for awhile!)

      I can’t argue that new money in the hood hasn’t improved some things. Our formerly struggling food co-op just finished a major expansion and upgrade. Good coffee is 5 minutes closer than it used to be. But to my wife and me, the overwhelming feeling is that we are now outsiders here in this neighborhood where we know all the houses and the old trees but not what motivates our new neighbors. So I made up a word for it: unsettling (adj., verb, noun).

    4. Softie

      Try to read this one:

      “If public life can suffer a metaphysical blow, the death of the labor question was that blow. For millions of working people, it amputated the will to resist.”

      — Steve Fraser, The Age of Acquiescence

    5. Jim

      bluecollar Al:

      Christopher Lash in “Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy” mentions Ray Oldenburg’s “The Great Good Places: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Community Centers, Beauty Parlors, General Stores, Bars, Hangouts and How they Got You through the Day.”

      He argued that the decline of democracy is directly related to the disappearance of what he called third places:,

      “As neighborhood hangouts give way to suburban shopping malls, or, on the other hand private cocktail parties, the essentially political art of conversation is replaced by shoptalk or personal gossip.
      Increasingly, conversation literally has no place in American society. In its absence how–or better, where–can political habits be acquired and polished?

      Lasch finished he essay by noting that Oldenburg’s book helps to identify what is missing from our then newly emerging world (which you have concisely updated):

      “urban amenities, conviviality, conversation, politics–almost everything in part that makes life worth living.”

    6. JDH

      The best explainer of our modern situation that I have read is Wendell Berry. I suggest that you start with “The Unsettling of America,” quoted below.

      “Let me outline briefly as I can what seem to me the characteristics of these opposite kinds of mind. I conceive a strip-miner to be a model exploiter, and as a model nurturer I take the old-fashioned idea or ideal of a farmer. The exploiter is a specialist, an expert; the nurturer is not. The standard of the exploiter is efficiency; the standard of the nurturer is care. The exploiter’s goal is money, profit; the nurturer’s goal is health — his land’s health, his own, his family’s, his community’s, his country’s. Whereas the exploiter asks of a piece of land only how much and how quickly it can be made to produce, the nurturer asks a question that is much more complex and difficult: What is its carrying capacity? (That is: How much can be taken from it without diminishing it? What can it produce dependably for an indefinite time?) The exploiter wishes to earn as much as possible by as little work as possible; the nurturer expects, certainly, to have a decent living from his work, but his characteristic wish is to work as well as possible. The competence of the exploiter is in organization; that of the nurturer is in order — a human order, that is, that accommodates itself both to other order and to mystery. The exploiter typically serves an institution or organization; the nurturer serves land, household, community, place. The exploiter thinks in terms of numbers, quantities, “hard facts”; the nurturer in terms of character, condition, quality, kind.”

      I also think Prof. Patrick Deneen works to explain the roots (and progression) of decline. I’ll quote him at length here describing the modern college student.

      “[T]he one overarching lesson that students receive is the true end of education: the only essential knowledge is that know ourselves to be radically autonomous selves within a comprehensive global system with a common commitment to mutual indifference. Our commitment to mutual indifference is what binds us together as a global people. Any remnant of a common culture would interfere with this prime directive: a common culture would imply that we share something thicker, an inheritance that we did not create, and a set of commitments that imply limits and particular devotions.

      Ancient philosophy and practice praised as an excellent form of government a res publica – a devotion to public things, things we share together. We have instead created the world’s first Res Idiotica – from the Greek word idiotes, meaning “private individual.” Our education system produces solipsistic, self-contained selves whose only public commitment is an absence of commitment to a public, a common culture, a shared history. They are perfectly hollowed vessels, receptive and obedient, without any real obligations or devotions.

      They won’t fight against anyone, because that’s not seemly, but they won’t fight for anyone or anything either. They are living in a perpetual Truman Show, a world constructed yesterday that is nothing more than a set for their solipsism, without any history or trajectory.”

    7. ekstase

      Wow. Did this hit a nerve. You have eloquently described what was the city of hope for several generations of outsiders, for young gay men and women, and for real artists, not just from other places in America, but from all over the world. In New York, once upon a time, bumping up against the more than 50% of the population who were immigrants from other countries, you could learn a thing or two about the world. You could, for a while, make a living there at a job that was all about helping other people. You could find other folks, lots of them, who were honest, well-meaning, curious about the world. Then something changed. As you said, you started to see it in those hideous 80’s buildings. But New York always seemed somehow as close or closer to Europe than to the U.S., and thus out of the reach of mediocrity and dumbing down. New York would mold you into somebody tough and smart, if you weren’t already – if it didn’t, you wouldn’t make it there.

      Now, it seems, this dream is dreamt. Poseurs are not artists, and the greedy and smug drive out creativity, kindness, real humor, hope.

      It ain’t fair. I don’t know where in this world an aspiring creative person should go now, but it probably is not there.

  17. Dave

    Americans cannot begin to reasonably demand a living wage, benefits and job security when there is an unending human ant-line of illegals and legal immigrants willing to under bid them.

    Only when there is a parity or shortage of workers can wage demands succeed, along with other factors.

    From 1925 to 1965 this country accepted hardly any immigrants, legal or illegal. We had the bracero program where Mexican males were brought in to pick crops and were then sent home to collect paychecks in Mexico. American blacks were hired from the deep south to work defense plants in the north and west.

    Is it any coincidence that the 1965 Great Society program, initiated by Ted Kennedy to primarily benefit the Irish immigrants, then co-opted by LBJ to include practically everyone, started this process of Middle Class destruction?

    1973 was the peak year of American Society as measured by energy use per capita, expansion of jobs and unionization and other factors, such as an environment not yet destroyed, nicely measured by the The Real Progress Indicator.

    Solution? Stop importing uneducated people. That’s real “immigration reform”.

    Now explain to me why voters shouldn’t favor Trump’s radical immigration stands?

    1. RUKidding

      Maybe, but OTOH, who is it, exactly, who is recruiting, importing, hiring and training undocumented workers to downgrade pay scales??

      Do some homework, please. If businesses didn’t actively go to Central and South America to recruit, pay to bring here, hire and employ undocumented workers, then the things you discuss would be great.

      When ICE comes a-knocking at some meat processing plant or mega-chicken farm, what happens? The undocumented workers get shipped back to wherever, but the big business owner doesn’t even get a tap on the wrist. The undocumented worker – hired to work in unregulated unsafe unhealthy conditions – often goes without their last paycheck.

      It’s the business owners who manage and support this system of undocumented workers because it’s CHEAP, and they don’t get busted for it.

      Come back when the USA actually enforces the laws that are on the books today and goes after big and small business owners who knowingly recruit, import, hire, train and employee undocumented workers… you know, like Donald Trump has all across his career.

      1. tegnost

        This is the mechanism by which the gov’t has assisted biz in destroying the worker, competition for thee, but none for me. For instance I can’t go work in canada or mexico, they don’t allow it. Policy made it, policy can change it, go bernie. While I favor immigration, in it’s current form it is primarily conducted on these lines of destroying workers (H1b etc and illegals combined) Lucky for the mexicans they can see the american dream is bs and can go home. I wonder who the latinos that have gained citizenship will vote for. Unlikely it’ll be trump, but they can be pretty conservative, and the people they work for are pretty conservative so no guarantee there, hillary is in san diego at the tony balboa park where her supporters will feel comfortable, not a huge venue I think they must be hoping for a crowd, and if she can’t get one in san diego while giving a “if we don’t rule the world someone else will” speech, she can’t get one anywhere. Defense contractors and military advisors and globalist biotech (who needs free money more than biotech? they are desperate for hillary) are thick in san diego.

        1. RUKidding

          I live part-time in San Diego. It is very conservative. The military, who are constantly screwed by the GOP, always vote Republican. They make up a big cohort of San Diego county.

          Hillary may not get a big crowd at the speech, but that, in itself, doesn’t mean that much to me. There is a segment of San Diego that is somewhat more progressive-ish, but it’s a pretty conservative county with parts of eastern SD county having had active John Birch Society members until recently… or maybe even ongoing.

          There’s a big push in the Latino community to GOTV, and it’s mostly not for Trump. It’s possible this cohort, esp the younger Latino/as, will vote for Sanders in the primary, but if Clinton gets the nomination, they’ll likely vote for her (v. Trump).

          I was unlucky enough to be stuck for an hour in a commuter train last Friday after Trump’s rally there. Hate to sound rude, but Trump’s fans were everything we’ve seen. Loud, rude, discourteous and an incessant litany of rightwing talking points (same old, same old). All pretty ignorant. Saying how Trump will “make us great again.” I don’t bother asking how. A lot of ugly comments about Obama and how Obama has been “so racially divisive and polarizing.” Well, No. No, Obama has not been or done that, but the rightwing noise machine has sure ginned up your hatreds, angers and fears. It was most unpleasant. The only instructive thing about it was confirming my worst fears about this group. Sorry to say but pretty loutish and very uninformed. Sigh.

          1. tegnost

            part timer in sd as well, family for hillary except for nephew and niece….I keep telling my mom she should vote bernie for their sake but it never goes over very well

  18. Bob Haugen

    Re Methland, we live in rural US and we got a not-very-well hidden population of homeless children. I don’t mean homeless families with children, I mean homeless children. Sleeping in parks in good weather, couch-surfing with friends, etc. I think related.

  19. equote

    Fascism is a system of political and social order intended to reinforce the unity, energy and purity of communities in which liberal democracy stand(s) accused of producing division and decline. . . . George Orwell reminded us, clad in the mainstream patriotic dress of their own place and time, . . . an authentically popular fascism in the United States would be pious and anti-Black; in Western Europe, secular and antisemitic, or more probably, these days anti-Islamic; in Russia and Eastern Europe, religious, antisemitic, and slavophile.
    Robert O. Paxton
    In The Five Stages of Faschism

    “… that eternal enemy: the conservative manipulators of privilege who damn as ‘dangerous agitators’ any man who menaces their fortunes” (maybe ‘power and celebrity’ should be added to fortunes)
    Sinclair Lewis
    It Can’t Happen Here page 141

  20. Take the Fork

    On the Boots To Ribs Front: Anyone hereabouts notice that Captain America has just been revealed to be a Nazi? Maybe this is what R. Cohen was alluding to… but I doubt it.

  21. pissed younger baby boomer

    The four horse men are, political , social, economic and environmental collapse . Any one remember the original Mad Max movie. A book I recommend is the Crash Of 2016 By Thom Hartmann.

  22. rfam

    From the comment, I agree with the problems, not the cause. We’ve increased the size and scope of the safety net over the last decade. We’ve increased government spending versus GDP. I’m not blaming government but its not neoliberal/capitalist policy either.

    1. Globalization clearly helps the poor in other countries at the expense of workers in the U.S. But at the same time it brings down the cost of goods domestically. So jobs are not great but Walmart/Amazon can sell cheap needs.

    2. Inequality started rising the day after Bretton Woods – the rich got richer everyday after “Nixon Shock”


    1. TedWa

      Hi rfam : To point 1 : Why is there a need to bring down the cost of goods? Is it because of past outsourcing and trade agreements and FR policies? I think there’s a chicken and egg thing going on, ie.. which came first. Globalization is a way to bring down wages while supplying Americans with less and less quality goods supplied at the hand of global corporations like Walmart that need welfare in the form of food stamps and the ACA for their workers for them to stay viable (?). Viable in this case means ridiculously wealthy CEO’s and the conglomerate growing bigger constantly. Now they have to get rid of COOL’s because the WTO says it violates trade agreements so we can’t trace where our food comes from in case of an epidemic. It’s all downhill. Wages should have risen with costs so we could afford high quality American goods, but haven’t for a long, long time.

    2. tegnost

      Globalization helps the rich here way more than the poor there. The elites get more money for nothing (see QE before you respond, if you do, that’s where the money for globalization came from) the workers get the husk. Also the elite gets to say “you made your choices” and other moralistic crap. The funny(?) thing is they generally claim to be atheists, which I translate into “I am God, there doesn’t need to be any other” Amazon sells cheap stuff by cheating on taxes, and barely makes money, mostly just driving people out of business. WalMart has cheap stuff because they subsidise their workers with food stamps and medicaid. Bringing up bretton woods means you don’t know much about money creation, so google “randy wray/bananas/naked capitalism” and you’ll find a quick primer.

      1. RUKidding

        The Walmart loathsome spawn and Jeff Bezos are the biggest welfare drains in our nation – or among the biggest. They woefully underpay their workers, all while training them on how to apply for various welfare benefits. Just so that their slaves, uh, workers can manage to eat enough to enable them to work.

        It slays me when US citizens – and it happens across the voting spectrum these days; I hear just as often from Democratic voters as I do from GOP voters – bitch, vetch, whine & cry about welfare abuse. And if I start to point out the insane ABUSE of welfare by the Waltons and Jeff Bezos, I’m immediately greeted with random TRUE stories about someone who knew someone who somehow made out like a bandit on welfare.

        Hey, I’m totally sure and in agreement that there are likely a small percentage of real welfare cheats who manage to do well enough somehow. But seriously? That’s like a drop in the bucket. Get the eff over it!!!

        Those cheats are not worth discussing. It’s the big fraud cheats like Bezos & the Waltons and their ilk, who don’t need to underpay their workers, but they DO because the CAN… and they get away with it because those of us the rapidly dwindling middle/working classes are footing the bill for it.

        Citizens who INSIST on focusing on a teeny tiny minority of real welfare cheats, whilst studiously ignoring the Waltons and the Bezos’ of the corporate world, are enabling this behavior. It’s one of my bugabears bc it’s so damn frustrating when citizens refuse to see how they are really being ripped off by the 1%. Get a clue.

        That doesn’t even touch on all the other tax breaks, tax loopholes, tax incentives and just general all-around tax cheating and off-shore money hiding that the Waltons and Bezos get/do. Sheesh.

        1. JustAnObserver

          This statement –

          “I’m immediately greeted with random TRUE stories about someone who knew someone who somehow made out like a bandit on welfare.”

          is the key and a v. long term result of the application of Bernays’ to political life. Its local and hits at the gut interpersonal level ‘cos the “someones” form a kind of chain of trust esp. if the the first one on the list is a friend or a credentialed media pundit. Utterly spurious I know but countering this with a *merely* rational analysis of how Walmart, Amazon abuse the welfare system to gouge profits from the rest of us just won’t ever, for the large majority, get through this kind emotional wall.

          I don’t know what any kind of solution might look like but, somehow, we need to find a way of seriously demonising the corporate parasites that resonates at the same emotional level as the “welfare cheat” meme that Bill Clinton and the rest of the DLC sanctified back in the ’90s.

          Something like “Walmart’s stealing your taxes” might work but how to get it out there in a viral way ??

        2. Vatch

          “random TRUE stories about someone who knew someone who somehow made out like a bandit on welfare.”

          Hmm. Your acquaintances might need to be educated about urban legends.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Wait, you mean we don’t all enjoy living in Pottersville?

    For anyone missing the reference, you clearly haven’t been subjected to It’s a Wonderful Life enough times.

  24. Steve Sewall

    What a comment from seanseamour. And the “hoisting” of it to high visibility at the site is a testament to the worth of Naked Capitalism.

    seanseamour asks “What does that have to do with education?” and answers “Everything if one considers the elitist trend…” This question & answer all but brings tears to my eyes. It is so utterly on point. My own experience of it, if I may say so, comes from inside the belly of the beast. As a child and a product of America’s elite universities (I have degrees from Harvard and Yale, and my dad, Richard B. Sewall, was a beloved English prof at Yale for 42 years), I could spend all morning detailing the shameful roles played by America’s torchbearing universities – Harvard, Yale, Stanford etc – in utterly abandoning their historic responsibility as educators to maintaining the health of the nation’s public school system.*

    And as I suspect seanseymour would agree, when a nation loses public education, it loses everything.

    But I don’t want to spend all morning doing that because I’m convinced that it’s not too late for America to rescue itself from maelstrom in which it finds itself today. (Poe’s “Maelstrom” story, cherished by Marshall McLuhan, is supremely relevant today.)

    To turn America around, I don’t look to education – that system is too far gone to save itself, let alone the rest of the country – but rather to the nation’s media: to the all-powerful public communication system that certainly has the interactive technical capabilities to put citizens and governments in touch with each other on the government decisions that shape the futures of communities large and small.

    For this to happen, however, people like the us – readers of Naked Capitalism – need to stop moaning and groaning about the damage done by the neoliberals and start building an issue-centered, citizen-participatory, non-partisan, prime-time Civic Media strong enough to give all Americans an informed voice in the government decisions that affect their lives. This Civic media would exist to make citizens and governments responsive and accountable to each other in shaping futures of all three communities – local, state and national – of which every one of us is a member.

    Pie in the sky? Not when you think hard about it. A huge majority of Americans would welcome this Civic Media. Many yearn for it. This means that a market exists for it: a Market of the Whole of all members of any community, local, state and national. This audience is large enough to rival those generated by media coverage of pro sports teams, and believe it or not much of the growth of this Civic media could be productively modeled on the growth of media coverage of pro sports teams. This Civic Media would attract the interest of major advertisers, especially those who see value in non-partisan programming dedicated to getting America moving forward again. Dynamic, issue-centered, problem-solving public forums, some modeled on voter-driven reality TV contests like The Voice or Dancing with the Stars, could be underwritten by a “rainbow” spectrum of funders, commericial, public, personal and even government sources.

    So people take hope! Be positive! Love is all we need, etc. The need for for a saving alternative to the money-driven personality contests into which our politics has descended this election year is literally staring us all in the face from our TV, cellphone and computer screens. This is no time to sit back and complain, it’s a time to start working to build a new way of connecting ourselves so we can reverse America’s rapid decline.

    OK, so I hear some of you saying, corporate America will never let this Civic Media get off the ground. My short answer to this is that corporations do what makes money for them, and in today’s despairing political climate there’s money to be made in sponsoring something truly positive, patriotic and constructive. And I hear a few others saying that Americans are too dumbed down, too busy, too polarized or too just plain stupid to make intelligent, constructive use of a non-partisan, problem-solving Civic Media. But I would not underestimate the intelligence of Americans when they can give their considered input – by vote, by comment or by active participation – in public forums that are as exciting and well managed as an NFL game or a Word Series final.

    seanseymour, thanks for your insights and thanks, Yves, for putting them where we can see them.

    * For any Yalies out there, I documented these roles in this 30-page historical memorial to my dad.

  25. Sound of the Suburbs

    I am paying an exorbitant subscription for the UK Financial Times at the moment.

    Anyway, the good news is that very regular articles are appearing where you can almost feel the panic at the populist uprisings.

    The end is nigh for the Neo-Liberals.

  26. Sound of the Suburbs

    Whatever system is put in place the human race will find a way to undermine it.

    I believe in capitalism because fair competition means the best and most efficient succeed.

    I send my children to private schools and universities because I want my own children at the top and not the best.

    Crony capitalism is inevitable, self-interest undermines any larger system that we try and impose.

    Can we design a system that can beat human self-interest?
    It’s going to be tricky.

    “If that’s the system, how can I take advantage of it?” human nature at work.
    “If that’s the system, is it working for me or not?” those at the top.
    If not, it’s time to change the system.
    If so, how can I tweak it to get more out of it?


    Academics, who are not known for being street-wise, probably thought they had come up with the ultimate system using markets and numeric performance measures to create a system free from human self-interest.

    They had already missed that markets don’t just work for price discovery, but are frequently used for capital gains by riding bubbles and hoping there is a “bigger fool” out there than you, so you can cash out with a handsome profit.

    (I am not sure if the Chinese realise markets are supposed to be for price discovery at all).

    Hence, numerous bubbles during this time, with housing bubbles being the global favourite for those looking for capital gains.

    If we are being governed by the markets, how do we rig the markets?
    A question successfully solved by the bankers.

    Inflation figures, that were supposed to ensure the cost of living didn’t rise too quickly, were somehow manipulated to produce low inflation figures with roaring house price inflation raising the cost of living.

    What unemployment measure will best suit the story I am trying to tell?
    U3 – everything great
    U6 – it’s not so good
    Labour participation rate – it hasn’t been this bad since the 1970s

    Anything missing from the theory has been ruthlessly exploited, e.g. market bubbles ridden for capital gains, money creation by private banks, the difference between “earned” and “unearned” income and the fact that Capitalism trickles up through the following mechanism:

    1) Those with excess capital collect rent and interest.
    2) Those with insufficient capital pay rent and interest.

    Neo-Liberalism – It’s as good as dead.

  27. perpetualWAR

    I just went on a rant last week. (Not only because the judge actually LIED in court)

    I left the courthouse in downtown Seattle, to cross the street to find the vultures selling more foreclosures on the steps of the King County Administration Building, while above them, there were tents pitched on the building’s perimeter. And people were walking by just like this scene was normal.

    Because the people at the entrance of the courthouse could view this, I went over there and began to rant. I asked (loudly) “Do you guys see that over there? Vultures selling homes rendering more people homeless and then the homeless encampment with tents pitched on the perimeter above them? In what world is this normal?” One guy replied, “Ironic, isn’t it?” After that comment, the Marshall protecting the judicial crooks in the building came over and tried to calm me down. He insisted that the scene across the street was “normal” and that none of his friends or neighbors have been foreclosed on. I soon found out that that lying Marshall was from Pierce County, the epicenter of Washington foreclosures.

    The scene was totally surreal. And unforgettable.

      1. Softie

        The kernel of Neoliberal Ideology: “There is no such a thing as society.” (Margaret Thatcher).

  28. Softie

    “In this postindustrial world not only is the labor question no longer asked, not only is proletarian revolution passé, but the proletariat itself seems passé. And the invisibles who nonetheless do indeed live there have internalized their nonexistence, grown demoralized, resentful, and hopeless; if they are noticed at all, it is as objects of public disdain. What were once called “blue-collar aristocrats”—skilled workers in the construction trades, for example—have long felt the contempt of the whole white-collar world. For these people, already skeptical about who runs things and to what end, and who are now undergoing their own eviction from the middle class, skepticism sours into a passive cynicism. Or it rears up in a kind of vengeful chauvinism directed at alien others at home and abroad, emotional compensation for the wounds that come with social decline…If public life can suffer a metaphysical blow, the death of the labor question was that blow. For millions of working people, it amputated the will to resist.”

    — Steve Fraser, The Age of Acquiescence

  29. LeitrimNYC

    One thing I don’t think I have seen addressed on this site (apologies if I have missed it!) in all the commentary about the destruction of the middle class is the role of US imperialism in creating that middle class in the first place and what it is that we want to save from destruction by neo-liberalism. The US is rich because we rob the rest of the world’s resources and have been doing so in a huge way since 1945, same as Britain before us. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the US post-war domination of the world economy and the middle class golden age happened at the same time. Obviously there was enormous value created by US manufacturers, inventors, government scientists, etc but imperialism is the basic starting point for all of this. The US sets the world terms of trade to its own advantage. How do we save the middle class without this level of control? Within the US elites are robbing everyone else but they are taking what we use our military power to appropriate from the rest of the world.

    Second, if Bernie or whoever saves the middle class, is that so that everyone can have a tract house and two cars and continue with a massively wasteful and unsustainable lifestyle based on consumption? Or are we talking about basic security like shelter, real health care, quality education for all, etc? Most of the stories I see seem to be nostalgic for a time when lots of people could afford to buy lots of stuff and don’t 1) reflect on origin of that stuff (imperialism) and 2) consider whether that lifestyle should be the goal in the first place.

    1. perpetualWAR

      I went to the electronics recycling facility in Seattle yesterday. The guy at customer service told me that they receive 20 million pounds per month. PER MONTH. Just from Seattle. I went home and threw up.

    2. Praedor

      It doesn’t have to be that way. You can replace military conquest (overt and covert) with space exploration and science expansion. Also, instead of pushing consumerism, push contentment. Don’t setup and goose a system of “gotta keep up with the Joneses!”

      In the 50s(!!!) there was a plan, proven in tests and studies, that would have had humans on the mars by 1965, out to Saturn by 72. Project Orion. Later, the British Project Daedalus was envisioned which WOULD have put space probes at the next star system within 20 years of launch. It was born of the atomic age and, as originally envisioned, would have been an ecological disaster BUT it was reworked to avoid this and would have worked. Spacecraft capable of comfortably holding 100 personnel, no need to build with paper-thin aluminum skin or skimp on amenities. A huge ship built like a large sea vessel (heavy iron/steel) accelerated at 1g (or more or slightly less as desired) so no prolonged weightlessness and concomitant loss of bone and muscle mass. It was all in out hands but the Cold War got in the way, as did the many agreements and treaties of the Cold War to avoid annihilation. It didn’t need to be that way. Check it out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion)

      All that with 1950s and 60s era technology. It could be done better today and for less than your wars in the Middle East. Encourage science, math, exploration instead of consumption, getting mine before you can get yours, etc.

      1. hunkerdown

        Or, we could replace Western liberal culture, with its tradition to consume and expand by force an unbroken chain from the Garden of Eden to Friedrich von Hayek, with the notion of maintenance and “enough”. Bourgeois make-work holds no interest to me.

    3. Left in Wisconsin

      My understanding of the data is that living standards increased around the world during the so-called golden age, not just in the U.S. (and Western Europe and Japan and Australia…). It could be that it was still imperialism at work, but the link between imperialism and the creation of the middle class is not straightforward.

      Likewise, US elites are clearly NOT robbing the manufacturing firms that have set up in China and other low-wage locations, so it is an oversimplification to say they are “robbing everyone else.”

      Nostalgia is overrated but I don’t sense the current malaise as a desire for more stuff. (I grew up in the 60s and 70s and I don’t remember it as a time where people had, or craved, a lot of stuff. That period would be now, and I find it infects Sanders’ supporters less than most.) If anything, it is nostalgia for more (free) time and more community, for a time when (many but not all) people had time to socialize and enjoy civic life.

      1. jrs

        those things would be nice as would just a tiny bit of hope for the future, our own and the planet’s and not an expectation of things getting more and more difficult and sometimes for entirely unnecessary reasons like imposed austerity. But being we can’t have “nice things” like free time, community and hope for the future, we just “buy stuff”.

  30. catlady

    I live on the south side, in the formerly affluent south shore neighborhood. A teenager was killed, shot in the head in a drive by shooting, at 5 pm yesterday right around the corner from my residence. A white coworker of mine who lives in a rich northwest side neighborhood once commented to me how black people always say goodbye by saying “be safe”. More easily said than done.

  31. Skippy

    I thought neoliberalism was just the pogrom to make everyone – rational agents – as subscribed by our genetic / heraldic betters….. putting this orbs humans and resources in the correct “natural” order….

    Disheveled Marsupial… for those thinking neoliberalism is not associated with libertarianism one only has to observe the decades of think tanks and their mouth organs roaming the planet…. especially in the late 80s and 90s…. bringing the might and wonders of the – market – to the great unwashed globally… here libertarian priests rang in the good news to the great unwashed…

    1. Jim

      Hi Skippy:

      I would argue that neoliberalism is a program to define markets as primarily engaged in information processing and to make everyone into non-agents ( as not important at all to the proper functioning of markets).

      It also appears that neoliberals want to restrict democracy to the greatest extent possible and to view markets as the only foundation for truth without any need for input from the average individual.

      But as Mirowski argues–carrying their analysis this far begins to undermine their own neoliberal assumptions about markets always promoting social welfare.

      1. Skippy

        Hay Jim…

        When I mean – agents – I’m not referring to agency, like you say the market gawd/computer does that. I was referencing the – rational agent – that ‘ascribes’ the markets the right at defining facts or truth as neoliberalism defines rational thought/behavior.

        Disheveled Marsupial… yes democracy is a direct threat to Hayekian et al [MPS and Friends] paranoia due to claims of irrationality vs rationally…

  32. Rick Cass

    Neo-liberalism could not have any power without legal and ethical positivism as the ground work of the national thought processes.

  33. seanseamour

    I have trouble understanding the focus on an emergence of fascism in Europe, focus that seems to dominate this entire thread when, put in perspective such splinter groups bear little weight on the European political spectrum.
    As an expat living in France, in my perception the Front National is a threat to the political establishments that occupy the center left and right and whose historically broad constituencies have been brutalized by the financial crisis borne of unbridled anglo-saxon runaway capitalism, coined neoliberalism. The resulting disaffection has allowed the growth of the FN but it is also fueled by a transfer of reactionary constituencies that have historically found identity in far left parties (communist, anti-capitalist, anarchist…), political expressions the institutions of the Republic allow and enable in the name of plurality, a healthy exultury in a democratic society.
    To consider that the FN in France, UKIP in the UK and others are a threat to democratic values any more that the far left is non-sensical, and I dare say insignificant compared to the “anchluss” our conservative right seeks to impose upon the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
    The reality in Europe as in America is economic. The post WWII era of reconstruction, investment and growth is behind us, the French call these years the “Trente Glorieuses” (30 glorious years) when prosperity was felt through all societal strats, consumerism for all became the panacea for a just society, where injustice prevailed welfare formulas provided a new panacea.
    As the perspective of an unravelling of this golden era began to emerge elites sought and conspired to consolidate power and wealth, under the aegis of greed is good culture by further corrupting government to serve the few, ensuring impunity for the ruling class, attempting societal cohesiveness with brash hubristic dialectics (America, the greatest this or that) and adventurism (Irak, mission accomplished), conspiring to co-opt and control institutions and the media (to understand the depth of this deception a must read is Jane Mayer in The Dark Side and in Dark Money).
    The difference between America and Europe is that latter bears of brunt of our excess.
    The 2008 Wall St / City meltdown eviscerated much of America’ middle class and de-facto stalled, perhaps definitively, the vehicle of upward mobility in an increasingly wealth-ranked class structured society – the Trump phenomena feeds off the fatalistic resilience and “good book” mythologies remnant of the “go west” culture.
    In Europe where to varying degrees managed capitalism prevails the welfare state(s) provided the shock absorbers to offset the brunt of the crisis, but those who locked-in on neoliberal fiscal conservatism have cut off their nose in spite leaving scant resources to spur growth. If social mobility survives, more vibrantly than the US, unemployment and the cost thereof remains steadfast and crippling.
    The second crisis borne of American hubris is the human tidal wave resulting from the Irak adventure; it has unleashed mayhem upon the Middle East, Sub Saharan Africa and beyond. The current migrational wave Europe can not absorb is but the beginning of much deeper problem – as ISIS, Boko Haram and so many others terrorist groups destabilize the nation-states of a continent whose population is on the path to explode in the next half century.
    The icing on the cake provided by a Trump election will be a world wave of climate change refugees as the neoliberal establishment seeks to optimize wealth and power through continued climate change denial.
    Fascism is not the issue, nationalism resulting from a self serving bully culture will decimate the multilateral infrastructure responsible nation-states need to address today’s problems.
    Broadly, Trump Presidency capping the neoliberal experience will likely signal the end of the US’ dominant role on the world scene (and of course the immense benefits derived for the US). As he has articulated his intent to discard the art of diplomacy, from soft to institutional, in favor of an agressive approach in which the President seeks to “rattle” allies (NATO, Japan and S. Korea for example) as well as his opponents (in other words anyone who does not profess blind allegiance), expect that such modus operandi will create a deep schism accompanied by a loss of trust, already felt vis-a-vis our legislature’ behavior over the last seven years.
    The US’s newfound respect among friends and foes generated by President Obama’ presidency, has already been undermined by the GOP primaries, if Trump is elected it will dissipate for good as other nations and groups thereof focus upon new, no-longer necessarily aligned strategic relationships, some will form as part as a means of taking distance, or protection from the US, others more opportunist with the risk of opponents such as Putin filling the void – in Europe for example.

  34. dk

    Neoliberalism isn’t helping, but it’s a population/resource ratio thing. Impacts on social orders occur well before raw supply factors kick in (and there is more than food supply to basic rations). The world population has more than doubled in the last 50 years, one doesn’t get that kind of accelerated growth without profound impacts to every aspect of societies. Some of the most significant impacts are consequent to the acceleration of technological changes (skill expirations, automations) that are driven in no small part by the needs of a vast + growing population.

    Note that the vertical scale in the of the first graph is logarithmic.

    I don’t suggest population as a pat simplistic answer. And neoliberalism accelerates the declining performance of institutions (as in the CUNY article… and that’s been going on for decades already, neoliberalism just picked up where neoconservatism petered out), but we would be facing issues like homelessness, service degradation, population displacements, etc regardless of poor policies. One could argue (I do) that neoliberalism has undertaken to accelerate existing entropies for profit.

  35. Murica Derp

    Thanks for soliciting reader comments on socioeconomic desperation. It’s encouraging to know that I’m not the only failure to launch in this country.

    I’m a seasonal farm worker with a liberal arts degree in geology and history. I barely held on for six months as a junior environmental consultant at a dysfunctional firm that tacitly encouraged unethical and incompetent behavior at all levels. From what I could gather, it was one of the better-run firms in the industry. Even so, I was watching mid-level and senior staff wander into extended mid-life crises while our entire service line was terrorized by a badly out-of-shape, morbidly obese, erratic, vicious PG who had alienated almost the entire office but was untouchable no matter how many firing offenses she committed. Meanwhile I was watching peers in other industries (especially marketing and FIRE) sell their souls in real time. I’m still watching them do so a decade later.

    It’s hard to exaggerate how atrociously I’ve been treated by bougie conformists for having failed/dropped out of the rat race. A family friend who got into trouble with the state of Hawaii for misclassifying direct employees of his timeshare boiler room as 1099’s gave me a panic attack after getting stoned and berating me for hours about how I’d wake up someday and wonder what the fuck I’d done with my life. At the time, I had successfully completed a summer job as the de facto lead on a vineyard maintenance crew and was about to get called back for the harvest, again as the de facto lead picker.

    Much of my social life is basically my humiliation at the hands of amoral sleazeballs who presume themselves my superiors. No matter how strong an objective case I have for these people being morally bankrupt, it’s impossible to really dismiss their insults. Another big component is concern-trolling from bourgeois supremacists who will do awfully little for me when I ask them for specific help. I don’t know what they’re trying to accomplish, and they probably don’t, either. A lot of it is cognitive dissonance and incoherence.

    Some of the worst aggression has come from a Type A social climber friend who sells life insurance. He’s a top producer in a company that’s about a third normal, a third Willy Loman, and a third Glengarry Glen Ross. This dude is clearly troubled, but in ways that neither of us can really figure out, and a number of those around him are, too. He once admitted, unbidden, to having hazed me for years.

    The bigger problem is that he’s surrounded by an entire social infrastructure that enables and rewards noxious, predatory behavior. When college men feel like treating the struggling like garbage, they have backup and social proof from their peers. It’s disgusting. Many of these people have no idea of how to relate appropriately to the poor or the unemployed and no interest in learning. They want to lecture and humiliate us, not listen to us.

    Dude recently told me that our alma mater, Dickinson College, is a “grad school preparatory institution.” I was floored that anyone would ever think to talk like that. In point of fact, we’re constantly lectured about how versatile our degrees are, with or without additional education. I’ve apparently annoyed a number of Dickinsonians by bitterly complaining that Dickinson’s nonacademic operations are a sleazy racket and that President Emeritus Bill Durden is a shyster who brainwashed my classmates with crude propaganda. If anything, I’m probably measured in my criticism, because I don’t think I know the full extent of the fraud and sleaze. What I have seen and heard is damning. I believe that Dickinson is run by people with totalitarian impulses that are restrained only by a handful of nonconformists who came for the academics and are fed up with the propaganda.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been warm homeless for most of the past four years. It’s absurd to get pledge drive pitches from a well-endowed school on the premise that my degree is golden when I’m regularly sleeping in my car and financially dependent on my parents. It’s absurd to hear stories about how Dickinson’s alumni job placement network is top-notch when I’ve never gotten a viable lead from anyone I know from school. It’s absurd to explain my circumstances in detail to people who, afterwards, still can’t understand why I’m cynical.

    While my classmates preen about their degrees, I’m dealing with stuff that would make them vomit. A relative whose farm I’ve been tending has dozens of rats infesting his winery building, causing such a stench that I’m just about the only person willing to set foot inside it. This relative is a deadbeat presiding over a feudal slumlord manor, circumstances that he usually justifies by saying that he’s broke and just trying to make ends meet. He has rent-paying tenants living on the property with nothing but a pit outhouse and a filthy, disused shower room for facilities. He doesn’t care that it’s illegal. One of his tenants left behind a twenty-gallon trash can full to the brim with his own feces. Another was seen throwing newspaper-wrapped turds out of her trailer into the weeds. They probably found more dignity in this than in using the outhouse.

    When I was staying in Rancho Cordova, a rough suburb of Sacramento, I saw my next-door neighbor nearly come to blows with a man at the light rail station before apologizing profusely to me, calling me “sir,” “man,” “boss,” and “dog.” He told me that he was angry at the other guy for selling meth to his kid sister. Eureka is even worse: its west side is swarming with tweakers, its low-end apartment stock is terrible, no one brings the slumlords to heel, and it has a string of truly filthy residential motels along Broadway that should have been demolished years ago.

    A colleague who lives in Sweet Home, Oregon, told me that his hometown is swarming with druggies who try to extract opiates from local poppies and live for the next arriving shipment of garbage drugs. The berry farm where we worked had ten- and twelve-year-olds working under the table to supplement their families’ incomes. A Canadian friend told me that he worked for a crackhead in Lillooet who made his own supply at home using freebase that he bought from a meathead dealer with ties to the Boston mob. Apparently all the failing mill towns in rural BC have a crack problem because there’s not much to do other than go on welfare and cocaine. An RCMP sergeant in Kamloops was recently indicted for selling coke on the side.

    Uahsenaa’s comment about the invisible homeless is spot on. I think I blend in pretty well. I’ve often stunned people by mentioning that I’m homeless. Some of them have been assholes about it, but not all. There are several cars that I recognize as regular overnighters at my usual rest area. Thank God we don’t get hassled much. Oregon is about as safe a place as there is to be homeless. Some of the rest areas in California, including the ones at Kingsburg and the Sacramento Airport, end up at or beyond capacity overnight due to the homeless. CalTrans has signs reminding drivers that it’s rude to hog a space that someone else will need. This austerity does not, of course, apply to stadium construction for the Kings.

    Another thing that almost slipped my mind (and is relevant to Trump’s popularity): I’ve encountered entrenched, systemic discrimination against Americans when I’ve tried to find and hold menial jobs, and I’ve talked to other Americans who have also encountered it. There is an extreme bias in favor of Mexican peasants and against Americans in the fields and increasingly in off-farm jobs. The top quintile will be lucky not to reap the whirlwind on account of this prejudice.

  36. Jack

    How is “neoliberalism” different from the liberalism/progressivism we have had since the 1920’s?

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