Why 2020 Was the ‘Precarity Election’

Yves here. Precarity was indeed the 2020 political elephant in the room. But ironically, it’s not just about the precariat. Highly unequal societies are highly stressful to the well off too, since if the slip down the economic ladder, they lose most if not all of their social connections: they have to move, which means kids in a different school (or no longer in private school). They can’t entertain or vacation at the same level as their former friends. Etc. As we pointed out in 2007, quoting Michael Prowse, highly unequal societies are unhappy and unhealthy due to having weak social bonds:

Once a floor standard of living is attained, people tend to be healthier when three conditions hold: they are valued and respected by others; they feel ‘in control’ in their work and home lives; and they enjoy a dense network of social contacts. Economically unequal societies tend to do poorly in all three respects: they tend to be characterised by big status differences, by big differences in people’s sense of control and by low levels of civic participation….

Unequal societies, in other words, will remain unhealthy societies – and also unhappy societies – no matter how wealthy they become. Their advocates – those who see no reason whatever to curb ever-widening income differentials – have a lot of explaining to do.

By Albena Azmanova, an associate professor of politics at the University of Kent’s Brussels School of International Studies and author of Capitalism on Edge: How Fighting Precarity Can Achieve Radical Change Without Crisis or Utopia  and Marshall Auerback, a researcher at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, a fellow of Economists for Peace and Security, and a regular contributor to Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute. Produced by Economy for All

While Joe Biden will be America’s next president, the 2020 election demonstrated that the basic building blocks of our electorate are evolving. What were 20th-century political anchors of meaning—“working-class” or “white-collar”—are increasingly flimsy labels that obscure critical political tensions and splits.

America’s two main political parties will not be able to produce national majorities unless they consider the changing electorate trends when fashioning their strategies. Race, gender, and rural-urban identity politics clearly remain important dividing lines, but the 2020 election highlighted a greater amount of fluidity and ideological heterogeneity than the media consensus allowed for. Most importantly, these simplistic silos obscured the big political question, namely, to find a party that best can tend to the politics of the precariat—a massive pool of voters sharing very similar experiences, relating to employment security; the rising costs of health care, housing, and education; and the corresponding degradation in the quality of public services (which are increasingly rationed by income and employment, rather than provided with universal access).

The phenomenon of economic precarity is truly the hallmark of contemporary capitalism: the combination of automation, globalization and cuts in social provision has generated massive economic instability for ordinary citizens—for men and women, young and old, Black and white, skilled and unskilled workers, middle class and poor alike.

The challenge is to build a more stable, secure and sustainable society, which means explicitly addressing the issue of economic precarity that largely characterizes today’s capitalist system in the United States and abroad.

As one of us has written before, if any election were ripe to achieve this goal and reestablish the kind of coalition that had “sustained the Democrats electorally for decades, it was this one. But the most striking takeaway from the 2020 election is how much it mirror[ed the profound splits] of the 2016 election, literally give or take the shift of a hundred thousand votes or so in a few key Rust Belt and Sun Belt states. … [And] despite Trump’s direct appeals to racist fears,” he and the New York Post claimed that “more than a quarter of his votes came from nonwhite Americans, ‘the highest percentage for a GOP presidential candidate since 1960.’” As with many of Trump’s boasts, this may be overblown; however, the Brookings Institution reports that as of exit poll results through November 11, in some non-battleground states, “the Democratic margins for each of the major nonwhite groups… [were] somewhat reduced. The Black Democratic margin—while still high, at 75 percent—was the lowest in a presidential election since 2004.” Perhaps even more surprising, among Latina women, the vote for Trump rose from 25 percent in 2016 to 30 percent in 2020. This may seem strange to some, but keep in mind that anxieties related to threatened livelihoods can overshadow issues of ethnicity, gender and race. According to a pre-election AP VoteCast survey, for 28 percent of Americans, the economy and jobs were more important than other issues in this election—and some 80 percent of this group favored Trump.

Joe Biden’s presidential victory is now secure in terms of the Electoral College and impressive in terms of the popular vote (in which Biden received more than 77 million votes, the largest popular vote in the country’s history). However, as one of us has written before, “the coattail effect… [was] minimal (ironic, considering that this was one of the ostensible rationales for Democrats selecting a moderate like the former vice president, as opposed to a progressive, such as Bernie Sanders). [The GOP remains favored to]… retain control of the Senate, and while the ‘Democrats will keep their majority in the House of Representatives,’” as ABC News reports, “after all the votes are counted, they could wind up with the slimmest House majority in 20 years.” And Donald Trump himself registered more than 72 million votes.

As one of us has written before, “It wasn’t supposed to be this close. Against the backdrop of a[n ineptly managed] pandemic, depression-like levels of unemployment, and a president whose approval rating never rose beyond 50 percent during his entire time in the White House, 2020 created what should have been the ideal conditions for a so-called ‘blue wave,’ both nationally and in the statehouses.” The disappointment to Democrats is rooted in a failure to accurately diagnose the nature of the working class and its grievances.

While 20th-century Democrats strongly depended on the working class for their majorities, the current version of the party is rather oblivious to what has given rise to the precariat. In many ways, they are expanding it through the continuum of neoliberal policies the party still favors.

Case in point is California’s Proposition 22, a neo-feudal piece of legislation from the bluest of blue states that has effectively entrenched economic precarity for a large chunk of the state’s workers by undermining traditional employee protections and benefits included in California’s existing labor law. The Golden State has long been viewed as a leading indicator regarding future social, economic, and political trends, starting in 1978 with Proposition 13 (a property tax-cutting provision that prefigured Reagan’s supply-side fiscal policy two years later). If it is still true that “as California goes, so goes the country,” then today’s economic precariat ought to be very concerned about the passage of Proposition 22, a regressive union-busting measure that allows Uber and Lyft to continue classifying their drivers as contractors, not employees, thereby exempting them from a California labor law that seeks to outlaw the practice. Although both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris explicitly opposed Proposition 22, it certainly didn’t help the Democrats’ brand that Kamala Harris’ brother-in-law and adviser, Tony West, who is the chief legal officer of Uber, led the campaign in favor of Proposition 22; her niece, Meena Harris, is on Uber’s diversity team; and her ex-campaign strategist, Laphonza Butler, advises Uber on labor relations. After the passage of Proposition 22, workers at gig economy firms will continue to be classified as contractors, without access to employee rights such as minimum wage, unemployment benefits, and health insurance. There is no doubt that other states will take note.

This kind of development potentially creates a huge opening for the Republican Party, especially if it can also adapt to the new realities of work and relinquish trickle-down economics policies its donors demanded for the past 40 years.

Trump clearly understood how to exploit the anxieties of the rural identity crisis, and he made inroads into what seemed to be certainties about voting patterns with regard to race and sex. If Republicans can deliver leadership about giving security to the precariat, it will be equivalent to the achievement that the Democrats made during the Great Depression for blue-collar workers under the New Deal, a period when Franklin Delano Roosevelt developed policies that mitigated the worst ravages of the economic crisis and sustained a winning governing coalition for over half a century.

Today, the Democrats are losing a lot of what is left of what we understood to be the traditional working class. They are losing what remains of these voters, at the same time that this label is losing its meaning: The traditional working class is disappearing, having been eviscerated through a combination of automation, globalization, attacks on private-sector unions and cuts in public services. Until the party realizes that work is nothing like what it was, and increasingly won’t be, it will be hard for them to offer credible solutions.

At the same time, if the Republicans are to become a more broadly based multiracial party of blue-collar conservatism, as Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, for one, has advocated, they too will have to understand that what constitutes blue-collar—work, life, existence, identity—is quite different now from the 20th-century blue-collar of the Democrats’ coalition, and is going to be even more different in 10 to 20 years. There are some recent indications that the GOP is beginning to recognize this—but the party needs to reverse its positions on taxing the wealthiest, punishing and preventing the expansion of organized labor, reversing their position on outsourcing manufacturing, and addressing economic precarity.

The GOP’s own historic corporate constituencies create some challenges for the party if it wishes to secure this rapidly changing precariat vote. A trade policy whereby American reindustrialization is ultimately married to national security concerns may be part of the answer. Given its historically stronger ties to the defense establishment, that would seem to be a more plausible scenario for the GOP, a recent example being Senator Tom Cotton’s new bill focusing on the domestic production of semiconductors. But that will not be enough.

There are only so many homegrown strategic industries required to sustain U.S. military supremacy that also provide blue-collar jobs, especially given the degree of automation and the requirement of advanced degrees in industries such as semiconductors (even allowing for the knock-out impacts). Traditional concepts of work will have to be expanded as we ponder how to address the problems of automation, rising inequality and economic precarity. This will also mean discarding a lot of old neoliberal shibboleths, recognizing that national industrial policy will be required not simply to reduce prevailing inequality, but also to promote American economic growth and security in the fullest sense of the word—i.e., by addressing existing global supply chain vulnerabilities and discarding the silly notion that economic and employment security can be achieved simply by creating a bunch of serf-labor jobs designed to serve the interests of the oligarch class.

The outrage against inequality has been a calling cry for the Democratic Party, especially in Rust Belt states such as Michigan and Ohio. Here, poverty is a result of broader industrial decay caused by automation and the offshoring of manufacturing to countries with cheaper labor, which has in turn entailed urban decay and rising criminality. Those states responded well to Trump’s campaign rhetoric in 2016. And even though the president lost Michigan in 2020, the results were still close. Likewise, Ohio has increasingly become a red state, as opposed to a swing state. All of this suggests that the electorate was not fully persuaded by the Democratic Party’s solutions, which entailed redistribution from the winners to the losers, but little in the way of structural change to address the precarity problem.

Tellingly, the states where Trump made inroads among the working class (Alaska, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Iowa, Utah) saw the smallest increases in inequality nationwide since 1989, but their troubled economies have not generated good and stable employment, suggesting that precarity, and not inequality, is the central voter concern driving the working-class vote to the right. They remained firmly red, because here too the Democrats still have no policies that address their specific pathologies: Alaska, Oklahoma, and Wyoming were 20th-century resource economies that saw declines in reserves, or devaluation from global competition. But policies such as the Green New Deal have hitherto failed to make the case among workers in those states, even though numerous studies illustrate that green manufacturing jobs are inextricably linked to higher-quality employment and enhanced economic security.

Economic instability nurtures psychological affinities for stabilization—which the cultural conservatism and law-and-order affinities of the Republican Party appear better equipped to satisfy, at least on a cultural or social level. The capacity to attract the vote of the growing precariat has been crucial for the electoral fortunes of the Republican Party. Unsurprisingly, on the eve of Election Day, while Joe Biden issued an appeal for hope, decency and unity, Donald Trump, reportedly against the advice of his communication experts to appeal to moderate voters, chose to focus on his base of supporters with incendiary rhetoric of fear and anger. Judging from the close election result, that gamble paid off: The GOP benefited from a law-and-order backlash against protests and flag burning much as in the 1972 race between Richard Nixon and George McGovern.

The cultural disconnect that manifested itself in the wake of last summer’s marches was in part a product of the fact that, as Thomas B. Edsall writes in the New York Times, “low-income white voters with­out college degrees on the Democratic Party side, high-income white voters with degrees on the Republican side—have switched places,” referring to a phenomenon outlined by Professors Herbert Kitschelt and Philipp Rehm in their 2019 paper, “Secular Partisan Realignment in the United States: The Socioeconomic Reconfiguration of White Partisan Support since the New Deal Era.” If anything, the pandemic accentuated the trends outlined by Kitschelt and Rehm: growing numbers of university-educated Democratic voters had economically secure positions as members of the professional-managerial class. In sharp contrast, Trump may have appeared indifferent to the gravity of the coronavirus, but his persistent calls to reopen the economy addressed the precarity issue, as they appealed to many workers whose livelihoods were being destroyed by the pandemically induced government restrictions placed on economic activity.

Public health care authorities understandably directed their policy responses toward pandemic mitigation, and the Democrats largely embraced their recommendations. But they remained insensitive to the anxieties of tens of millions of Americans, whose jobs were being destroyed for good, whose household debts—rent, mortgage, and utility arrears, as well as interest on education and car loans—were rising inexorably, even allowing for the temporary expedient of stimulus checks from the government until this past August. Yet the inability of Congress to secure extensions on relief packages did not appear to unduly penalize Republicans, if one is to judge from the congressional results. Equally significantly, it didn’t help the Democrats either. This suggests that lingering fears about COVID-19 are being matched by economic anxiety from the many millions of American workers who are coming to realize that their jobs are simply not essential.

The struggle for the precariat vote will define the transformation of both parties in the next four years, and that’s an excellent thing, as it will force both parties to offer competing policies that begin to address their concerns. Until this group’s longstanding economic grievances—jobs, health, safety, pollution, the public purpose, and above all, relative stability and employment security over long periods of time—are addressed, the United States will remain a profoundly divided and divisive country at war with itself.

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107 comments

  1. ArvidMartensen

    My contention is that we are living more and more in a post-reality era, where there is a rapidly diverging perception of reality between the Trump voters and the “vote blue no matter who”/Biden voters.

    Everyone is being peppered all the time by fragments of a manufactured reality via the MSM and social media. And both are echo chambers sending us further down a strand of reality that amplifies the reality we have chosen to pay attention to. So Q-Anon. Who of the liberals understands the attraction of Q-Anon?
    Perhaps like the expansion of the universe, the end game for this reality management is that every person will end up inhabiting a reality so far from any other person that they live in alone in a space of algorithmic meaning. 10 billion separate realities.

    Whether the struggles of the precariat can halt this trend is moot. They need a space to explore shared meaning. Churches used to be places encouraging shared meaning, as the poor and the rich would come together on Sundays. Unions used to be places encouraging shared meaning. People in 9 to 5 jobs used to find meaning in the work and in the communal aspects of work. Most of these communal institutions, purveyors of meaning and belonging, are disappearing or splintering.

    Another take on all of this is given today in this article : https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/11/13/the-77-72-phenomenal-world-divide/
    “We call it “post-truth” but what it amounts to is that the way the world appears to us is narrated, not empirically/rationally delivered, such legitimizing and authorizing being, as Nietzsche remarked, no more than “alibis” enabling us to do what we want to do. Immersed in our own reality and truth making ways, we don’t see that wealth and the power that comes with it construct narratives that tame our own, that subject the personal to such power.
    Remnants of validating narratives with facts, evidence and rational briefs, with proof of truth and determinate meaning linger, but as they no longer can be evicted or abolished, we’re divided in our own narrative frames, our own phenomenal realities.”

    Reply
    1. Hickory nut

      Chomsky and Herman wrote “Manufacturing Consent” and showed the power of creating totally false narratives long before social media. “Post-truth” is as old as this country. The tools for sowing confusion are changing, but the game is the same as it’s always been.

      Reply
    2. kiers

      ….ALL WE NEED TO DO IS ADD GUNS TO THE MIX!
      {Caveat lector: I’m being sarcastic, the internet doesn’t convey sarcasm and irony, it’s just humor i’m prescribing, NOT a policy}

      did you notice that the distinguished William Barr oversaw the the sales spurt of 300K(!) guns sans FBI background check in the past year? Guess where the highest black market price for illicit guns in the US are? Ooooh can you wait till “the summer of 2021”?

      Reply
      1. Scott1

        No real revolutionary would ever disarm their people. I don’t want people in my model nation of airports who I cannot trust with pistols, especially those on the ramp most vulnerable to those either coming over or through the territory fence, or pretenders.
        From the 60s we got the karmic concept that peaceful people were not armed. Hippies with guns? The Trump supporters believe their guns speak, and they do.
        I am thankful to the attorneys signing a letter that objects to William Barr’s corrupt instructions to them. We need as much respect for our bureaucrats as we are told to have for our armed forces and police. It has been abroad the idea that we have a bunch of Dostoyevsky “Poor People” bureaucrats. Maybe it is Mario Puzo’s bureaucrat of the writer’s story “Fools Die” more like the truth. Corruption in our bureaucracy is nil. We engineers (I a grip) worked at creating a better government. Far as a healthy bureaucracy is concerned our bureaucrats are to be given a path towards Technocrat status. Technocrats that can write the right forms for all the functions that depend on them at their booths and desks from early careers interpreting lives and forms.
        I have wondered at what the ideal balance of submarine crews made of introverts and extroverts is. Defense is first and education second. They are about equal duties in the end of it.
        What is the goal of all of America and all Americans? During the Revolutionary War and to this day the goal is self governance. The oligarchs fear us for wanting to have the securities of life they have as a function of wealth. Post WWII when the GI Bill educated all these veterans so they literally changed class and had healthcare from any company they worked for had bottoms far above the security of those entering the workforce now.
        The temporary labor services enrich the piss test labs. So right through all of labor it is either crime or Unions or companies that are small run by people that smoke pot themselves. Competing with young South American immigrants is the reality depressing wages. I didn’t compete with Mexicans but I competed with youth. By the time I was 50 I was forced to work as a carpenter same as when I could find work when in my 20s.
        Those who were born into the working classes were smart to join the military for 20 years. US Generals lose many less soldiers than they used to. If you think it through you know that in reality you need a citizenry that knows how to fight and is willing to do it for their country.
        Working in general is dangerous. Ironically the more dangerous it is the less you are likely to get paid, especially in the South where they expect you to love them.
        Dictators expect you to love them.
        Democracies that have the Free Press have not suffered through famines. We have strong reasons to free ourselves from dictatorships. The way the King & the surrounding aristocrats of the British Empire thought of the Irish was how they thought of the men of the colonies. This was late in the empire built by the Queen’s pirates.
        Trotsky did point out that weapons in an armory were the arms of the people. Economics today do mean there is no good reason to keep Class War, which has as part of it the Drug War, going. The numbers are just too big for small heads to put into practice. It is a big country.

        Reply
        1. ArvidMartensen

          Interesting take. I live in a country that has disarmed their people(as much as you can). There is very little gun violence by criminals. I would rather live here than in the US. I can go outside at night and fully expect not to be shot, in fact the notion doesn’t even enter my head. Whereas one of my countrywomen went outside at night in the US in her PJs and was shot and killed by police.
          Our voting system is a lot more auditable and therefore transparent.

          As regards manufacturing reality. You are right, imho, that employers bring in cheap labour with precarious status to depress the wages of all and to make windfall profits. But those who benefit from the situation and have the money to drive the narrative have done so.

          The narrative is something like “how can you be so cruel as to deny a better life to poor people from other countries. And you are selfish not to want to share. And you are racist not to want to share with people of darker skins.” Bingo. The target demographic is younger people and it has worked well, going by the media and the rise of wokeness.

          And do you seriously believe that corruption in bureaucracies is nil? I worked for a while in a bureaucracy and I saw rampant nepotism. My boss brought in her best friend at a senior level and her brother-in-law for starters.
          And there are court cases here of fraud and embezzlement either started on on the way at the state level government bureaucracy.
          And the federal bureaucrats caused the government to buy a block of land for $30,000,000. It was valued a year later at $3,000,000. They are hunting down how that happened (code for, who got the kickbacks).
          A country run by technocrats would be a very scary thing. And I speak as an ex-technocrat.

          Reply
        2. tegnost

          Far as a healthy bureaucracy is concerned our bureaucrats are to be given a path towards Technocrat status. Technocrats that can write the right forms for all the functions that depend on them at their booths and desks from early careers interpreting lives and forms.

          Technocrats make laws that benefit other technocrats. Being a technocrat doesn’t make you unbiased, it means that (according to you apparently) they are enforcing the”rational” view. I’ve had this argument with tech pros who can’t see that what is rational behavior is different for everyone. When you are in a clique like the tech industry, one techs rational behavior would tend to be the same as anothers within a range, it being basically a monoculture of thinking, computers can do everything better (except the things they can’t do ever which will ever and always be casually ignored). The next phase of that is smart people. Make no mistake, AB-5 with it’s poison pills and prop 22 are the output of your rational technocrat, who no doubt has all the credentials to be called smart. I would say that both devious and clever both fall under the mantle of “smart”. Maybe you have some other examples. Clearly Silly Con Valley is arm in arm with the biden administration, and when they botch it (iowa caucus app, aca rollout) they will not fail to pay themselves well for doing so, and then howl at the injustice of being relegated to loser in 2022 and 24, and even the dastardly republicans, as bad as they are, won’t be worse. It’s a damn shame… As to
          “Democracies that have the Free Press”
          That’s not us. Rational technocrats are already deciding what’s ok for the hoi polloi to hear.

          Reply
  2. apleb

    “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

    You can believe in QAnon or IDPol all you want, but neither is a safe space and the bubble can easily burst as soon as “precarity” which is simply a useless $10 word for “poor”, forces its merciless dominance over everything else.

    “Poor” is the reality, and no matter what bubble you are in, reality pops that bubble sooner or later. In sociology, conspiracy theories or the markets: bubbles never last.

    Or to say it with a Marxist: “Erst kommt das Fressen, dann die Moral”. More anglocentric: Maslow’s pyramid.

    Reply
    1. kiers

      LOL: i thought “precarity” was a $10 version of “fragility” b/c “fragility” was taken by other pundits……

      (BTW: i always felt “Maslow” lied…..the top of the pyramid is not “self realization”, but “the pursuit of pleasure”.)

      Reply
  3. Kasia

    We have to carefully distinguish between two very different concepts, both based on the word “Trump”. First there is “Trumpism” which is an ideology. The overarching idea behind Trumpism is to make the GOP a working-class oriented party. The key policy aims of Trumpism are worker scarcity and anti-imperialism. Worker scarcity is achieved through immigration restriction and protectionist trade policies. So together, we have the Trumpist Trinity, anti-immigration, trade restriction, and anti-imperialism. This is the ideology that Trump ran on and rode to victory in 2016. This is the idea. Unions exist to create micro-worker scarcity. Borders can be used to create macro-worker scarcity which is far more powerful. And E-verify can be far more effective than a bombastic wall.

    Trumpism stands in opposition to globalization; whose goal is worker abundance which necessarily drives wages down and increases oligarchic wealth. US led imperialism, especially in the Middle East is also a necessary feature of globalization. Invade the World / Invite the World.

    The US has always featured two political parties that serve ruling class interests; Huey Long described it thusly, “They’ve got a set of Republican waiters on one side and a set of Democratic waiters on the other side, but no matter which set of waiters brings you the dish, the legislative grub is all prepared in the same Wall Street kitchen.” Trumpism attempts to force one group of waiters to get their grub from the working class’ kitchen. This is obviously an ambitious goal.

    Now comes a crucial distinction. In addition to the ideology of “Trumpism” there is “Trump”, the man and his brand. At best there is an extremely tenuous relationship between Trumpism and Trump. Now to some extent this is natural as ideas never remain pure for long when poured into the cauldron of reality. With that in mind, we can see that 2016 candidate Trump was relatively Trumpist but President Trump was less so. Salaries for the bottom 25% of workers did have the highest rate in increase during his term (through 2019). But in 2020, candidate Trump almost completely rejected Trumpism and ran as an ruling class establishment stooge.

    Now of course Trump is an oligarch and so he is a member of the ruling class. But within oligarchy, the only people who can challenge the existing order are oligarchs. He committed massive class treason in 2016 in order to serve his narcissistic need for recognition and power. In no way should Trump be idealized as altruistically caring about the working class. Trumpism was nothing more than a means to an end. Trump’s end is and always will be Trump, not Trumpism per se. But none the less Trump exploited and brought to life Trumpism and his motives for doing so are irrelevant.

    Trumpism is not a revolutionary ideology in the correct sense of the term. It is an incrementalist approach that seeks to better the material conditions of the working class but within the current capitalist power structure. It posits a class struggle ideological superstructure which is radical opposition to the globalist ruling classes insistence on an identitarian (politics of race, sex, etc) perspective. The ruling class strategy in the US is to decorate with masks of “diversity” the ugly visages of class dominance. Thus Obama’s and soon Kamala’s pro-ruling class policies cannot be criticized for fear of being abused as a “racist”.

    Trumpism’s non-revolutionary aspect is similar to social democracy, as was championed by Bernie Sanders in 2016 (in 2020 Bernie unfortunately fell to the dark side of identitarian politics, which are necessarily the enemy of class politics and the most effective class warfare tool in the ruling class’ tool box). The key difference is that Trumpism relies on labor markets to improve the material conditions of the working class. A tight labor market necessarily transfers wealth from the rich to the poor in the form of decreased profits for the rich through increased salaries for the poor. In fact far from there being any contradiction between Trumpism and social democracy there is a mutual dependence between them. The public education, health, and support institutions of social democracy are can only be supported and revitalized by a prosperous working class. The key idea of Trumpism is that the state asserts its borders to create labor scarcity. The great problem of Trumpism is that the state is everywhere a tool of ruling class oppression. Borders are the battle lines of the struggle.

    Trump the ruler was presented with the greatest gift a border-loving Trumpist politician could ever ask for: Covid-19. But instead of exploiting this crisis like Viktor Orbán did in Hungary, Trump stabbed Trumpism in the back by turning himself into a useless libertarian during the crisis by refusing for example to push a law that requires home manufacturing of all critical supplies and in never closing the borders properly. He acted like a narcissistic clown in the early days of the crisis and deserves to lose just for that reason.

    The ruling class response to Trumpism is identitarian politics: noble ruling class lords screaming that the dirty peasants are racist. What the US ruling class must always do is project their racism onto the peasants, who white or black, both suffer economically from racial oppression. Mao Tse-Tung gave this astute analysis of US racism:

    In the final analysis, national struggle is a matter of class struggle. Among the whites in the United States, it is only the reactionary ruling circles who oppress the Negro people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people. At present, it is the handful of imperialists headed by the United States, and their supporters, the reactionaries in different countries, who are oppressing, committing aggression against and menacing the overwhelming majority of the nations and peoples of the world. We are in the majority and they are in the minority.

    So US racism is fully owned and perpetuated by the ruling class: wealthy oligarchs (including Trump), the media, Wall Street, CIA, FBI, the military industrial complex, multi-national corporations, Silicone Valley Tech, Hollywood, etc. Where there is power there is racism, where there is powerlessness there may be bigotry but not racism. The above lineup of ruling class racists, except for Trump, is the Biden coalition. The ruling class goal is to place an “enlightened person” mask over naked and rapacious ruling class greed and oppression.

    Under Biden, globalization will once again increase the pace and amplitude of the immiseration of the working class, resistance to the dominant economic paradigm will only grow on both the progressive left and the popular right. Previously elections in the US were between center left and center right factions fighting for the right to serve the ruling class. Looking at 2020 from a bird’s eye perspective, roughly speaking the Biden coalition is most progressives, the center left, and many elements of the center right (elements close to the Bush family). The Trump coalition is portions of the center right and the popular right. The ruling class was going to be fine whatever the result, but a Biden presidency constrained by a GOP Senate is ideal in some ways to the ruling class.

    A key strategic objective of the ruling class is to keep the left and right at each other’s throats. Trump helped them achieve this rigid politically binary goal despite occasionally flirting with political fluidity during the 2016 campaign where his similarities to Bernie Sanders were unmistakable. In contrast, anti-ruling class progressives and popularists have to find a way to combine their forces and energy in opposition to the ruling class and not in a pointless stalemate of playing “socialists” vs; “fascists”, a battle whose only possible winner is the ruling class.

    One of the most interesting outcomes of the 2020 election is the specter of Latinos embracing Trumpism. From an economic point of view this makes total sense. Immigration restriction will benefit first and foremost the material conditions of the Latino working class. Also Trump’s macho populist persona works well within Latino culture. Not to mention many Latinos despise blacks and so the whole BLM phenomenon helped push Latinos onto the Trump train.

    California is a now a de facto one-party state but thet conditions are ripe for the rise of a popularist yet macho, Latino based, Trumpist style political faction to oppose the cosmopolitan urban Democratic hegemony. Back in the 60’s, Cesar Chavez was endeavoring to increase the QUALITY of Hispanic life in the US by increasing the salaries of farm workers through a strategy of worker scarcity. Ruling class institutions, threatened by the potential of having portions of their wealth transferred to poor peasants, created an organization called “La Raza” as an alternative to Chavez. La Raza wanted QUANTITY, they wanted more and more Latinos to build up their base of political power. And all the better if these Latinos stayed poor: not only do their ruling class paymasters stay happy, this would also keep the Latino masses dependent on their identitarian political leaders. So one of the key outcomes of the 2020 election is that in ever larger numbers, Latinos are rejecting Quantity of Latinos and opting for Latino Quality of life.

    And so in order to further Trumpism, Trump, who is acting as a fetter upon it, must go. In a sense the Biden presidency will be a reactionary movement in that they will be trying to restore the pre-Trumpism political order. This will only further cement the soundness of Trumpism as an ideology. But Trump as a leader is a much more mixed bag. New Trumpists will arise, for example Tucker Carlson or podcaster Joe Rogan. 2024 will be a great year for Trumpism because this time Trump will not be running it; and that may allow many progressives to join the train, especially in light of how much hippy punching they are about to endure from the coming Biden synthesis of Neolibs and Neocons.

    Reply
    1. Tom Pfotzer

      Nice essay. I especially liked the differentiation between Trump and Trumpism.

      I’d be interested to hear what your vision of the platform (main objectives) might be for this new Trumpism party.

      I still question whether top-down politics of any stripe is really going to address the underlying economic and biosphere issues we’re facing. Why? Because:

      a. the top-down political economy is dedicated to maintaining status quo (with emphasis on status & wealth), and …

      b. the bottom-up people who want things to change seem to want someone else to do all the changing

      c. most of our big problems arise from the disconnect between what we must do as a species in order to survive and what we’re currently, actually doing as individuals

      When a Zen-like party emerges, which encourages its adherents to understand themselves, seek “right” action (accurate situational analysis yielding a well-crafted strategy), and do right action, I’ll get interested in politics again. For now, we’re just treading water in a strong current that’s headed to a bad place.

      The Zen plan is no panacea, though. That path involves great risk (e.g. lots of failures) and hard work. Pay’s not that good, either.

      Reply
      1. Kasia

        Thank you for your comment!

        Top-down vs. bottom-up are not necessarily contradictory and can in successive waves contribute to social change in an increasingly self-reinforcing manner. Bottom-up change influences top-down change (often through the opposition forces’ malignant top-down overreaction) which intensifies bottom-down change: so on and so on.

        I would describe the main objectives for Trumpist party as the development of “Green Trumpism”. The moral imperatives associated with the climate crisis would be used as a catalyst for Trumpist labor scarcity through the means of a Green Reindustrialization. The process of globalization is one where production is severed from consumption. Production is moved to cheap labor countries with terrible environmental standards. Capitalists produce dirtier commodities while increasing their profits. This process must be reversed. If the first world wants to consume then they must produce.

        First world population growth is a critical factor in exasperating the climate crisis. All of this growth can be linked to immigration, usually people from low consuming nations moving to high consumption nations. These migration flows must be reversed.

        Globalization requires imperialist power to enforce the safe transport of commodities produced in far flung regions of the world. As globalization declines, so will necessarily US imperialism.

        This article “Towards a Green Folkhem” influenced much of my thinking on Trumpism, although it is not framed that way in the article

        Reply
        1. Tom Pfotzer

          yes, bottom-up and top-down would interact, if only the bottom-up was happening. It’s not.

          The bottom has no political or economic leverage, and isn’t navigating to a position of strength. For example, the “bottom” is currently accepting placebo identity-politics as pacifier. The “bottom” is still searching for an “easy button” solution rather than taking a deeper look at oneself and the layout of the chess board at the macro level.

          Using the climate crisis as driver for econ change is the Great Hope, and the top 1% is hip to the game. They have and will continue to block meaningful change. Keep in mind that just stopping the daily damage to the environment will render much (most) of our industrial and household infrastructure obsolete. Nobody’s ready to take that on, and that’s the implication of actually effective Green policy.

          Right now, across the political spectrum, “green” consists of “what’s convenient” instead of “what’s necessary”. This is the individual-ethic bankruptcy I’ve alluded to elsewhere: it’s endemic from top 1% to bottom-est of the bottom.

          You made a few statements I don’t agree with:
          “Capitalists … have dirtier / more destructive production than … (others).” 1st world production is cleaner than in other places, and that 2nd and 3rd world production often happens in non-capitalistic scenarios. Dirty production happens where dirty production is tolerated.

          Another statement you made: “globalization has to stop / be reversed”. Dunno about that one. Globalization has resulted in production moving to cheapest-input locations. Like China. Globalization will stop only when cost-of-inputs is leveled, and we’re decades away from that, and a whole lot more pain for the Developed world. Slow barge, that one.

          Your essay doesn’t address the effect of automation on household or societal economics. Automation is not a reversible trend, and it’s accelerating. The focus on the “where” of production might not yield the HH economic benefits you’re hoping for.

          Some fairly different strategies need to be developed at the household level in order to address the problems we face. Would you consider using the household as the pivot-point of your new econ strategy rather than using industry and government?

          Reply
          1. Kasia

            Americans can exert more power with their consumption choices than their choices at the ballot box. So certainly the household is a crucial pivot point.

            Green tariffs can overnight level cost-of-inputs. Climate change provides a powerful moral incentive to co-locate US consumption and production.

            Within an environment of worker scarcity, automation is a positive trend and helps lessen inflationary pressures. The problem with the US is that there is not enough automation because of cheap and docile labor. Compare a meat packing plant in Denmark which is highly automated compared to a US plant, which is packed to the brim with cheap imported labor. Much of the Covid crisis in the US and UK is brought about by sweatshop-style working conditions.

            The question on automation is that somehow “the people” have to have a slice of the profits and thus benefit from the process. A Yang-style UBI would need to go hand in hand with increased automation.

            I agree with the uselessness of the current Green movement. It is typically just used as a tool to attack perceived opponents. But a Green Trumpism would no doubt both address the climate crisis and help alleviate economic inequalities.

            Reply
            1. Synoia

              When Wilson, the last R Governor in CA tool aim at the Hispanics, the vote in CA turned Democratic.

              I don’t see than changing for another couple of generations.

              Reply
            2. howseth

              “The ruling class was going to be fine whatever the result, but a Biden presidency constrained by a GOP Senate is ideal in some ways to the ruling class.”

              Yeah – there will be a lot of Biden disappointment amongst Us the majority – this Precariat. A true Green New Deal would offer lots of employment opportunities here in the USA – and would seem ideal for either party to embrace. Divided government won’t achieve it – the ruling class – and both parties – with short sighted heads up their asses won’t embrace it anyhow.
              Regardless, Trumpism seems a fail except for a vast mob angry/scared/confused voters- and some tax break aficionados. It’s not just Biden/Harris won’t deliver – but Tucker Carlson, Joe Rogan, Ted Cruz, or whichever clever one runs in 2024 , won’t deliver either, and Trumps wall is a fiasco. If still effective propaganda..?

              It’s grotesque to learn that Kamila Harris’s relatives are connected to Uber/Lyft. Prop. 22 getting approved in California is another sign of propaganda/big money effectiveness – and We the People being tricked once again. I got lot’s of mail showing photos and quotes of regular working people embracing Prop 22 VOTE YES! save our jobs – it passed easily.

              Overall: Still glad to see Trump himself out of the White House – the clever SOB.

              Reply
                1. Phillip Allen

                  I take that as meaning that the neolibcons will get everything they are engineering to come to pass, and that it will be the inevitable horror show many of us expect. No one ‘disappointed’, as you say.

                  Reply
                  1. rob

                    yup,
                    it’s like the “certainty” I felt before the 2020 us election. I was certain, I was not going to like who won…. and I was right.

                    Reply
            3. Starry Gordon

              I thought the Working Class was going to disappear. Capital creates the Working Class, and with zero interest rates, Capital as an active force is presumably disappearing. (See To Cheap to Meter, in which Mr. Quiggin sounds like he might be onto something.) Modern capitalism depends on the creation of scarcity, but it may be the forces of production have now made that impossible. If so, a page has been turned, and it’s time to read what’s on the new page.

              Reply
              1. tegnost

                since it’s bold take saturday maybe you can translate what the new page says?

                Capital creates the working class. Thats a bold take.
                Tell me more!

                Reply
      1. howseth

        So due to Perot we got Clinton. I voted for Clinton. Time to re-evaluate that choice – don’t wanna think about it though. Tired, feeling Dole.

        Reply
    2. Scott1

      Privatization is the Trump GOP agenda.
      Trump’s control of the lease to our Post Office Property,
      one of all those deeds to real estate we own since we
      own the Post Office ought signal that so as much as all the attempts to give oil companies land to drill in.
      The chartered private banks do get to create currency
      when they sell loans. The idea of Post Office Banking
      is abhorrent to them. To have the power to create currency
      is why they are supposed to be chartered and regulated.
      Clinton signed away what had been done during the FDR
      years to make us safe from bankers. Meyer Lansky is
      the most powerful financial engineering at work from
      then and now.
      Old money in NYC has taken over big apartment buildings.
      What we want is for Civil Financial Engineers to defeat
      Meyer Lansky Financial Engineers. States actually do need
      their tax money. It hurts that Thom Tillis and Richard Burr
      are the Senators from NC. Insider trading by Burr and that
      it is legal for him is something isn’t it? People have been
      dying because how he operated with the Covid 19 information
      given him.

      Reply
    3. Code Name D

      This is a good essay. But I still have a few issues with it.

      The key policy aims of Trumpism are worker scarcity and anti-imperialism. Worker scarcity is achieved through immigration restriction and protectionist trade policies. So together, we have the Trumpist Trinity, anti-immigration, trade restriction, and anti-imperialism. This is the ideology that Trump ran on and rode to victory in 2016. This is the idea. Unions exist to create micro-worker scarcity. Borders can be used to create macro-worker scarcity which is far more powerful. And E-verify can be far more effective than a bombastic wall.

      I would modify this to say “worker exclusivity”, that only a narrow class of workers can be tapped for specific terms of employment. When discussing the subject with those on the rights, they are far more concerned about immigrants “taking their jobs” then they are of building a scarcity of workers to gain a market share over employers. Let’s not forget that “Trumpian” is still fervently anti-union, even though this would be a good way of generating “micro scarcity” as you put it. Being anti-union would be counterproductive to worker scarcity.

      Assuredly, “worker scarcity” makes a certain degree of sense. And I can easily see how you came to that conclusion. But I fear you still give “trumpisim” too much credit in that they have specific goals that they are attempting to achieve, and thus conceive of logical steps to that goal.

      I would argue that the right doesn’t have goals in the same perspective as we on the left may seem them. What we might think of as “goals” are better described as ideological commandments that must be obeyed at all cost, and ignoring all consequence. As you noted yourself. Trump’s wall would do little to impede immigration. A better e-verify system would be far more effective. So why ignore e-verify while being completely for the wall? Because the wall is a visible simple of defiance against immigration that conservatives can march back and forth in front of brandishing their 2nd amendment right. You can’t do that for a government policy.

      Trumpism stands in opposition to globalization; whose goal is worker abundance which necessarily drives wages down and increases oligarchic wealth. US led imperialism, especially in the Middle East is also a necessary feature of globalization.

      Here too I would make a modification. Neo-liberalism and globalization aren’t about worker “abundance” but rather worker “disposability.” Again, if the idea is to create an abundance of workers, driving down market share, then why make finding work so complicated? Why be against strong education systems which would create new workers. Why shut down factories here in the US only to open them in Korea? Why lock up so many Americans for petty offensive, removing them from the willing work force.

      I would argue that the heart of neo-liberalism is a class structure that places “the establishment” as not just important in the grand scheme of things, but completely indispensable to an individual. And part of that self-aggrandizement is the subjection of every one else. “I am worth more than a thousand of you.” Thus, why I must get 2-million-dollar bonus (even after bankrupting the company) and a post on the new re-org chart while everyone else gets a pink slip and watch their hard-earned pensions disappear in chapter 11 proceedings.

      Of course, unlike much of the right, neo-liberalism does have a goal-oriented methodology. So, creating “worker abundance” to force down individual worker market share certainly makes sense. But is it true? It doesn’t capture the full cynicism of typical neo-liberal thinking. For creating so much worker abundance, plenty of neo-liberal aligned employers still managed to complain about worker “allocations” (the idea that certain employment sectors face chronic worker scarcity.) Indeed, current “plug-n-play” employment patterns have made filling many positions nearly impossible because no one ever has the right qualifications for a specific job without training. I have seen engineering jobs go empty for years because they can’t find “prior experience for proprietary development project.” (face palm.).

      But it does speak to how disposable workers are to upper management. You are hired for X, and when X is done you are automatically laid off. Why would you waste time giving such an employee training of any sort? Let alone benefits or perks.

      Reply
      1. Kasia

        Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I will attempt to respond to your points.

        Ruling class elements of the GOP attack unions in order to minimize worker micro-scarcity. What is inexplicable is when unions attack Trumpist attempts at macro-scarcity through the use of national borders. A united Union/Trumpist front is required against ruling class interests. Struggling for worker scarcity does not mean one “hates” the workers the ruling class is importing in order to create worker abundance. This is to accept the ruling elite’s identitarian frame, which boils down to: class struggle is racist. What this basically boils down to is that the ruling class is benevolent and kind and loves purely altruistically to import little brown workers while evil workers hate them because they are taking their jobs. Oligarchs + cheap labor immigrants = good. Workers militating for their class interests = bad. The key goal for Trumpism is to flip these equations.

        Worker abundance necessarily means job scarcity from the worker’s point of view. This makes workers desperate and willing to accept lower wages. This has been happening for the last 40 years at least since the end of the Cold War, if not a little sooner. Worker scarcity means job abundance, from the worker’s point of view. This means plenty of options because management has to bid up salaries to attract workers.

        Neoliberalism is Capitalism’s attempt to remove the fetters on profits that exist within the power of a nation-state. Worker abundance is just one of many Neoliberal goals. Borders are a huge fetter to capitalism’s basic mission of maximizing profit by producing commodifies with the cheapest labor and selling them to the wealthiest consumers. Nation-states can also impose regulations (environmental, worker, etc) which also limit capitalist profit. Free trade allows corporations to relocate factories to nations with the lowest salaries, environmental and worker protections. For those jobs that cannot be transferred, Prop 22 is the thin edge of the neoliberal wedge that is constraining the nation-state from protecting workers.

        Reply
    4. flora

      I understand restricting immigration and anti-globalism as a means to increase US workers leverage in raising wages in jobs and in better political representation. This addresses the physical world of work.
      Left unaddressed, and equally important imo, is the fact that US business and economy is now largely financialized; much of the greatest wealth comes from unregrulated or restrained predatory financial practices, from rentierism, from tolls and fines and fees. This financialization is every bit as important as the physical conditions you list in the rise in precarity, maybe even more so at this time. How, for instance, would only physical restrictions have changed the financial outcomes of the 2008 mortgage bank frauds and financial crisis, the outcomes of ratings agencies giving bogus ratings to junk bonds, changed the exorbitant rise in medicine prices, etc? This is a very important aspect of precarity. Reducing work competition for jobs to increase wages is only half the job, stopping financial predators is the other half, imo

      O could have stopped the bank predators in 2009-10, but chose not to. In his own words:

      https://twitter.com/matthewstoller/status/1327776212492701697

      Reply
      1. fwe'zy

        +++
        Without immigration or outsourcing or even automation, the predators will find still other ways to break labor. We are seeing it with identity politics.

        Beware of the UBI: it simply greases the wheels for more privatization instead of public goods and infrastructure, similar to how vouchers and charters gut a public school system.

        Reply
      2. Kasia

        Financialization is the necessary result of globalization’s destruction of Fordism: which is the interdependent role of worker and consumer. In order to increase profits, Ford doubled his workers’ salaries so that could serve him as consumers as well as workers. Globalization seeks to increase profits even further by disassociating the worker and the consumer. Work is off-shored to low wage countries, whose leaders intentionally damp down local consumption. This paradoxically means the soon to be immiserated western worker is still called upon to play the role of global consumer of last resort. At the same time, huge waves of profits are washing over Wall Street. And so temporary speculative bubbles are created that serve two purposes. First false wave of prosperity brought on for example by a real estate boom tamps down any worker resistance towards the new economic order. Secondly the seemingly “free money” created by speculation allow western consumption to continue.

        So necessarily a Green Reindustrialization will force Wall Street to stop chasing speculative squirrels and to instead concentrate on financing the new clean plant that will help alleviate the climate crisis.

        Reply
    5. Reverb

      Rogan likes to do long form interviews across the political spectrum, but he has consistently been a fan of Bernie and Tulsi. Author is Confusing the medium with the message. Not the same.

      Reply
      1. Kasia

        I would argue that Bernie and Tulsi are “Trumpism adjacent” in the larger sense of Trumpism. If Trumpism as an ideology is going to flourish, Tulsi in particular will play a critical role in this. The simplest way to see this is that when the ruling class smears someone as a “Russian asset” what they are really doing is recognizing them as a Trumpist threat. Trumpism in its highest form will mean a reconciliation of the non-identitarian left and right. For example, white identitarians like Richard Spencer have abandoned Trumpism.

        Reply
    6. Altandmain

      Awesome comment!

      I think that one of the most important considerations is that there needs to be a coalition of sorts – between the working class Trumpian base and the Left (primarily Generation Y and X). It shares one thing, they are both victims of the Establishment, neoliberals, and urgently need change.

      One image has always been very important to me. Note the distribution of socially conservative, economically left wing voters.

      https://www.voterstudygroup.org/assets/i/reports/Graphs-Charts/1101/figure2_drutman_73d3873f90a694512aeeb56e0ab92cfa.png

      It comes from here: https://www.voterstudygroup.org/publication/political-divisions-in-2016-and-beyond

      The other important issue is this one:
      https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/10/marshall-auerback-democrats-globalization-dilemma.html

      The major challenge facing Democrats today is that race, gender, identity politics, and religion appear to trump economics, at least as far as politically engaged primary voters go. The old-line Democrats were an economic liberal party with socially conservative and socially liberal wings (the social liberals, in fact, were in a minority). The new Democrats are a socially liberal party with an economic conservative wing (neoliberals) and a progressive economic wing. They all agree on social issues. They are loath to compromise on open borders (which is what the existing immigration dysfunction de facto gives us), transgender bathrooms, making room for pro-life members, or gay married couples’ wedding cakesbecause those are the only issues that hold their economic right and economic left together.

      I don’t think that the Democratic Party in its current form is viable for the left.

      So the price of a new New Deal majority would be to let Democrats welcome abortion critics and opponents of mass immigration, so long as they favored a higher minimum wage, less “synthetic immigration,” and a pause on globalization (which facilitates international labor arbitrage). In the words of John Judis:

      I think that we would end up with the following compromise.

      1. The economically left, culturally right agrees to accept global warming, end the wars, and “socialism” like universal healthcare), and to offer legal immigrants along with minorities a shot at the middle class
      2. The economically left, culturally left agrees to compromise on immigration, globalization (think put a strong emphasis on re-industrialization and de-financialization), and social issues (think abortion, guns, defend the police, etc).

      Interestingly, the American Conservative has an article lambasting Trump as well.

      https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/for-trumpism-but-skeptical-of-trump/

      Maybe that’s a good sign.

      Reply
    7. marym

      “The ruling class goal is to place an “enlightened person” mask over naked and rapacious ruling class greed and oppression.”

      Maybe the same can be said of placing a “socially conservative” mask. We need to be cautious in positing the possiblility of a multi-ethnic, multi-racial conservative movement that somehow manages to be “nationalist, anti-cosmopolitan, anti-immigration” but still serves the interests of the multi-racial, multi-ethnic, religiously diverse, working class populace that’s already here.

      Reply
      1. Kasa

        Implementing worker scarcity will necessarily further the economic interests of the multi-racial, multi-ethnic, religiously diverse, working class populace that’s already here.

        Just as implementing worker abundance necessarily furthers the economic interests of the multi-racial, multi-ethnic, religiously diverse, RULING class populace that’s already here.

        Reply
    8. rob

      Great write up.
      While I generally agree with your characterizations, I will also throw out there…..in no particular order..
      1) luckily , trump and his “legion of doom” aren’t competent enough to draw on the “larger picture” you’ve outlined here to maximize his effectiveness by using these natural advantages, in their plot of self aggrandizement… luckily for us americans/ the trump is his own worst enemy.

      2) ejecting trump from trumpism… is a path to greater success for the right…and fascism/corporatism, which some “smart” people will surely weave into their future plans and models. And the corporatists,be they from the republican side of the aisle, or the democratic side… will surely carry forward with this opening in american politics.
      … because trump does have to go… the professionals of deception can mold that wisp of smoke into any shape they want… but it won’t stay for long and doesn’t hold up to any scrutiny…. it isn’t real..It isn’t even a chunk of clay…

      3] the problem of trumpism, or “conservative republican politics”, or “democratic party politics”… is that they all necessarliy MUST be a lie in progress. NONE of the political duopoly can go into “truthland”…. it is their kryptonite. So all have agreed to never enter… and call it a no go zone…
      And the fact that everything about our political situation is “fact free”,at least in the sense that any facts used are only used out of context to keep a truer understanding from happening; hasn’t stopped anyone yet… and isn’t likely too any time soon… so too bad for everyone. .we’ll call that a draw.
      The 30,000 foot description of yours not withstanding, that type of over arching layers of this onion, is something for planners to incorporate… in “the con” as it needs to be.. but is above the paygrade of most political actors , who work at rousing the rabble…

      4) I don’t see actual agency of the people…. what people want to do… has nothing to do with what is going to happen… usually, if the elites want something to happen, they provide the opinions and the votes.. “deserve” has nothing to do with it.. and “our reality” is just an illusion.
      So over layering a description of bigger forces, over the chaos that has been created to keep this “hegelian dialect” in place , is again for those at a higher pay grade… in the process..
      Too many chefs ruin the meal… but hey ,it’s our gruel and we have nothing else to eat , for the moment… and maybe less later, if they get their way.

      Reply
  4. Palaver

    “Post-truth” is dystopian. It’s a luxury to live at a distance from unpleasant realities. If a society can sustain a population/segment so far up their own **** then you’ve “arrived” in a sense.

    However, dystopia sounds better than the crises that lay ahead. It’s the unavoidable hard landing that worries me.

    Maybe truth works like wealth: The first generation discovers the truth. The second generation teaches the truth. And the third generation fakes news.

    Reply
  5. Altandmain

    The Democratic Party doesn’t want to come to terms with the fact that they deserve as much blame as the GOP for the predicament the working class finds itself in.

    They chose under Clinton to repeal Glass Steagall, sign free trade agreements, and bring China into the WTO. Under Obama, those policies largely continued. Under Biden, all signs indicate that this will still continue.

    I think the brutal reality is that the upper middle class is willfully ignorant of what the precariat faces. Public health authorities, while understandably trying to contain the pandemic, are not the ones who are going to see their lives destroyed. The working class was doomed either way, either by being disproportionately hurt by the coronavirus (they can’t work from home) or from long-term unemployment (they’ve suffered more as a percentage of total jobs lost). In other words, they don’t have a stake in keeping the lockdown and may see opening up as a lesser evil.

    Likewise, the Liberals who are in secure upper middle class white collar jobs tended to act disdainfully when working class people protested the lockdowns. I’m not saying the protestors were right, but many are people who put their lives into their work, such as small business owners. Evidently, subsidies were needed at the very least.

    In this regard, the GOP might have more hope than the Democrats, barring a Berniecrat takeover of the Democrats, which is looking less likely. That said the GOP still has a huge right wing apparatus that would have to be overcome for a “real populist” (ex: someone who actually cared about the well being of the working class) to take over.

    One advantage might be that younger people are overwhelmingly left wing economically, so as Generation Y and Z become a bigger share of the electorate, things may change.

    Reply
    1. Louis

      Likewise, the Liberals who are in secure upper middle class white collar jobs tended to act disdainfully when working class people protested the lockdowns. I’m not saying the protestors were right, but many are people who put their lives into their work, such as small business owners. Evidently, subsidies were needed at the very least

      To this day, they still get outraged for the same reasons. If you so much as point out what you just wrote–not being anti-science but simply the hardship lockdowns cause and how it needs to be properly addressed–at best you’ll be called scientifically illiterate. At worst you’ll be accused of being an evil rich person who wants to kill grandma to make the stock market go up.

      While some of the protests may have been astroturf, not all of them were. If you’re a small-business owner facing the prospect of losing everything you’ve worked for and basically being told “you’re on own” of course you will be angry. Likewise, if you’re an employee and can’t work from home, of course you will be stressed out about losing your job. This is the real “economic anxiety” and it is no laughing matter.

      Reply
      1. rob

        for the real small business owners, and the individuals who can’t work….
        they ought to feel pissed…
        after all…. a fraction of the trillions that are earmarked for wall street, could have “paid their bills”..at least for a year…. and then the “citizens” would be getting something tangible for the debt being incurred in their name by the duopoly.
        All the people realizing “someone” is getting bailed out… and it isn’t them…

        is this 2009 or 2020?

        Reply
  6. Bob Hertz

    I was puzzled by the victory of Prop. 22 in California. This is a state which has huge Democratic majorities, and normally rubber-stamps all union-sponsored legislation.

    Uber and Lyft threatened that if Prop. 22 did not pass, they would either stop operations or would lay off 75% of their temp workers.
    (not unlike an employer threatening to move to China if their workers form a union.)

    They also threatened that ride prices would at least double, and wait times would greatly increase.

    The average voter may have put their own self-interest ahead of any class loyalty.

    Final note: the gig workers did get a few benefits out of AB 5, things granted by Uber and Lyft to buy some goodwill.

    Comments welcome! I do not live in CA so I am just guessing on this. It was an important vote.

    Reply
    1. lyman alpha blob

      Prop 22 is going to be the most important result of the 2020 election, not Trump v Biden or control of either legislature.

      I’ve been very puzzled by the result too as it passed handily and wasn’t really close. I don’t live near CA either, but I did read that among other misleading tactics, the Prop 22 proponents gave delivery bags to restaurants that use these gig delivery services so that the delivery drivers would be dropping off meals to people in Yes on 22 bags, which made it seem like prop 22 would be beneficial to gig workers if you didn’t look into it much.

      So on the one hand there was the intent to deceive. But then I think that if I heard about these dirty tricks 3,000 miles away, surely CA voters must have known about them too.

      The depressing thing is that maybe a lot of people did know exactly what Prop 22 was all about and decided they liked the idea of a permanent underclass always only minutes away at the touch of a button to do the things they can’t be bothered with for a pittance.

      The fact that so many of the gig company execs worked first in the Obama administration and are now heading back to the Biden administration with dreams of scaling up prop 22 is a very ominous portent.

      Reply
    2. John Wright

      I voted NO on prop 22, but a mailer I received from the YES side may show why it passed.

      It has text with “by 4-to-1, app-based drivers overwhelmingly prefer to work as independent contractors”.

      The pictures of smiling workers on the mailer are all minorities (Asian, Hispanic, Black).

      I’d suggest a small percentage of CA voters actually use Uber/Lyft, so am inclined to believe voters did not vote to preserve their own self-interest.

      The “YES” mailer lists 5 advantages for the drivers, “guaranteed hourly earnings for app-based drivers”, “per mile compensation toward vehicle expenses”, “medical and disability coverage for injuries and illnesses”, “new health benefits for drivers who work 15+ hours a week”, and “additional safety protections for app-based drivers”

      The mailer lists groups supporting it, NAACP, California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Consumer Choice Center, The Latin Business Association, Black Women Organized for Political Action, California Small Business Association, California Senior Advocates League.

      I remember a prior YES on 22 mailer had support from Mothers Against Drunk Driving..

      The “YES” group spent about 12x more than the No group (188 million vs 15million)

      https://abc7.com/22-california-prop-2020-ca-what-is/7585005/

      “Proposition 22 has become the most expensive measure in California history with over $204 million contributed to this single issue”

      A side effect of this campaign is to show the value of political consultants/advertising to get something passed.

      If Uber/Lyft eventually fail, as many dotcoms did years ago, Prop 22 may be a toxic legacy for them to pass on to other businesses.

      To summarize, it is possible many of the voting public believed they were actually helping the pictured workers by voting “YES”.

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        I saw a lot of pro Prop 22 advertising and nothing against it. The ads were all sleek, full of cheerful drivers with big smiles, and easily the best made ads of 2020. I knew that there was something bad about the proposition, but until just a few days before the election I couldn’t tell you why. All my mental bandwidth was on the national elections and not on parsing the various state propositions like I normally would. This time it was all on something else.

        If a poli-sci/poli-econ geek like me was having some problems with truly understanding this extremely effective, slickly made campaign of manufactured consent, what does that say about the many, often financially and/or socially overwhelmed, California voters who would be much like me? I think that the overlords had the perfect situation for getting the proposition passed.

        Reply
  7. James P.

    “but the (GOP) party needs to reverse its positions on taxing the wealthiest, punishing and preventing the expansion of organized labor, reversing their position on outsourcing manufacturing, and addressing economic precarity”

    And I need to become 6’4″, handsome, young and athletic.

    Reply
    1. edmondo

      All they need to do is fake it. The Dems won’t even bother to do that.

      Who knows? AOC might be running against Chuck Schumer as a Republican in 10 years.

      Reply
    2. Carolinian

      Indeed why would they reverse when the Dems agree with them on all of it. What the above article doesn’t get is that the true ruling class response to precarity is simply to make sure voters have no options to address it. We are in a class war, not a battle between political parties. Any promises Biden made to the poor will blow away like smoke once in office. He is on the record saying that billionaires are swell folks.

      Lambert linked an interesting article yesterday in Water Cooler that talked about cycles in history and the ingredients of high social unrest. The subject is historian Peter Turchin

      He has been warning for a decade that a few key social and political trends portend an “age of discord,” civil unrest and carnage worse than most Americans have experienced. In 2010, he predicted that the unrest would get serious around 2020, and that it wouldn’t let up until those social and political trends reversed. Havoc at the level of the late 1960s and early ’70s is the best-case scenario; all-out civil war is the worst.

      The fundamental problems, he says, are a dark triad of social maladies: a bloated elite class, with too few elite jobs to go around; declining living standards among the general population; and a government that can’t cover its financial positions.

      https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/12/can-history-predict-future/616993/

      Turchin is saying that social instability is not just the result of high inequality but also of a bloated ruling class that is itself insecure because there aren’t enough PMC jobs for all those college graduates and their credentials. Thus in our case the political parties have come to be dominated by these middle class concerns with the poor almost entirely out of the picture and dismissed as racist deplorables who probably deserve their fate. As the article says this sociological theory of history is controversial but at least worth considering.

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        A good, broad, liberal arts degree, or something like it, can be useful in many kinds of jobs, if the jobs exist. Much of the high skilled, high paying jobs have all been shipped overseas, and the remaining good paying jobs increasingly are office jobs requiring not only a masters degree, but good social connections, and at least saying only goodthoughts to get and keep.

        It use to be that there was plenty of diverse work. If you failed at getting tenure or that job at the bank, or the government position you wanted, there was plenty of good work requiring only some education, intelligence, and drive. Having the kind of degree and connections that someone in the modern PMC would merely be very useful, not a requirement for a good life. Bur now we have too many people having the exact education needed to get the few remaining good jobs in the few safe fields, and unlike fifty years, failure means destitution, not disappointment.

        Reply
      2. Amfortas the hippie

        “We are in a class war, not a battle between political parties.”

        the number one confusion in american politics.
        i’ma paint it on my tailgate.

        Reply
        1. JBird4049

          And yet claiming that this class war exist, which is supposedly immiserating increasing numbers of Americans ever higher up the class chain, is all deplorably racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic I am reliable informed. /s

          It is unsettling to see writers who I have been reading for years, even decades, start saying that it is racism or bigotry, and only that, which explains the Bad Man. One doesn’t have to be a Marxist to make a connection with the increasing poverty and corruption under both parties over the past forty or fifty years with President Trump. Yet, many refuse to.

          It does make me wonder what it is that I am blind to.

          Reply
        2. rob

          I agree,
          the class war is a better way of seeing things.
          all the symptoms and externalities the class war provides are the things the parties use as fodder issues for their respective bases… but all the duopoly can provide is more of the same…. “their way”… their culture…. their rules…. their precedents… their history..
          this is how they seem to win… they teach the children… to think their” way”.
          Then what else will happen in the future…
          people continually adopting patterns that already exist.
          They have created a culture…. and we all know how people are treated by their neighbors who are “counter-culture”…
          It becomes a self reinforcing narrative, where the hive keeps the status quo…because they want to….
          We keep supporting systems that are there to control us…rather than recreating systems that help ….. like we are “supposed” to or something.

          Reply
    3. DJG

      James P. Yep. That paragraph has some giant “ifs” in it that caught my eye as I was reading. The likelihood of Republicans sponsoring legislation to repeal “right to work” laws, which tend to be in Republican-dominated states, is almost nil. Further, a party that is opposed to any tax increases, no matter what need has to be addressed, isn’t going to change course. Another “if” is relying on someone like the egregious Tom Cotton, as mentioned, for leadership about legislation.

      I am sure, though, that you are already on your way to becoming a beefcake model and internet influencer.

      Reply
  8. zagonostra

    It’s going to take some time for this article to sink in. Words like precariat and precarity are fairly new concepts, at least for me and my automatic spell checker. What is the etymology of this word and what are it’s conceptual dimensions. I know what precarious means and I can see how using it as an adjective works. But if it’s going to be a key term I want to know more about it. Accordiing to a quick search, the etymology is:

    precarious (adj.)
    1640s, a legal word, “held through the favor of another,” from Latin precarius “depending on favor, pertaining to entreaty, obtained by asking or praying,” from prex (genitive precis) “entreaty, prayer” (from PIE root *prek- “to ask, entreat”).

    The notion of “dependent on the will of another” led to the extended sense “risky, dangerous, hazardous, uncertain” (1680s), but this was objected to. “No word is more unskillfully used than this with its derivatives. It is used for uncertain in all its senses; but it only means uncertain, as dependent on others …” [Johnson]. Related: Precariously; precariousness.

    So what is striking in reading it’s etymology is that it is defined as something “dependent, uncertain, risky, dangerous, hazardous.” This characterizes many areas of life. With respect to contemporary life in the area of economics, I certainly see it all around me and in the news headlines, in the instability of good long-term paying jobs with benefits. In politics, I certainly see the risks, dangers, and hazards, especially in the highly militarized nature of foreign relations. But looking at the term from the perspective of a “social scientist” does it explain the antecedents that lead to this condition and is it operational in the sense of breaking it down into more rudimentary terms and relationships.

    I am reading St. Thomas Aquinas’ book “On Truth” and although the style of Questiones Disputatae, with its contra, sed contra, and style is archaic and hard to follow, it provides a good way of centering dialogue. In Question one of Article 1, the formal reply to the stated Article of “What is Truth?” states:

    When investigating the nature of anything, one should make the same kind of analysis as he makes when he reduces a proposition to certain self-evident principles.”

    Since this term “precarity” is new to me, I don’t think I have a good handle on how to use it outside of a descriptor. Does it explain anything? And maybe I’m just asking too much of the word. Maybe it’s just meant as that, a simple characterization whose underlying causal relationships are to yet be determined and examined.

    Anyhow, great article.

    Reply
    1. thoughtful person

      I’ve seen precariate be described as a combination of precarious proletariat.

      While one could argue the position of the proletariat is always precarious, I do think the are times in history which are more precarious than others, and what we see now is certainly one (climate change impacts, opioid/alcoholism, covid19 pandemic, ever increasing inequality, globalization of manufacturing, health care for profit in the US, increasing cost of housing and education, no doubt many more)

      Reply
  9. Terry Flynn

    Nice piece generally and which kinda validates a feeling I’ve had generally that “uncertainty is increasing” which is often bad for people in so many ways – uncertainty among the “entitled” can be highly damaging to polling (in addition to all the points raised in the article). The elephant in the room is of course interpreting polling results. For example 70% Democrat at a precinct/state/national level is consistent with an infinite number of explanations: at one end we have “strong means” (meaning these are “solid” votes) and at the other we have “very weak means but big variances” (meaning these votes are subject to all sorts of factors like news items, real or manufactured, etc). We can’t “know” which universe we’re in….Unless we conduct a secondary survey to give a “second line in the x-y plane” to see where it intersects the main one…..then we know whether the 70% is driven by means or variances or some combination.

    The likelihood function for all “limited dependent variable models” – discrete choices like voting – has a term that is multiplicative in means and variances. Thus “70%” could mean any of a HUGE number of things. Those of us experienced in interpreting these data can rule out the “dumb” explanations….but we are still left with a number of “possible explanations”. If we don’t actively talk to voters, do a lot of qualitative research etc, then we can’t begin to limit the number of “possible solutions” further. I have had little experience in applying the methods to polling so I rely a lot on sites like NC to give “insights from the ground”. It is a pity polling institutions don’t. YouGov were on the right track in 2017 but bottled it due to collecting data for their “second line” in a poor way. It’s a pity – if they collected data in better way they’d be far and away the best polling organisation. Though the downright lies told by Trumpites that Lambert has highlighted remain a problem – I do have ideas how to address this but they go way beyond the scope of the site and like I’ve said before, I think pushing MMT etc is a better use of resources (even though it pains me personally not to have my own “hobby horse” championed, hehe).

    But I personally think increased variances are a fact of life and reflect the article’s point that uncertainty in life is hurting everyone.

    Reply
    1. Tom Pfotzer

      Uncertainty and fear are increasing because the kick-the-can strategies are starting to look really wobbly, and the fights for survival and hail-marys (like MMT) are being trotted out.

      The velocity of change has increased, and the rate of adaptation appears to have somehow actually slowed down. Just exactly the wrong response at the wrong time.

      One commenter above poked fun at the term “precarity” – said it was a $10 gimmick for the word “poor”.

      A while back Mark Twain said a “cauliflower is a cabbage with a college education”.

      Precarity is a college-educated middle class “information worker” who is “feeling poor”.

      The effects of automation and globalization are moving up the class ladder. The ship’s sinking and the water’s already flooded 3rd class berths (rust belt and flyover), and is about 1/3 of the way into the 2nd class cabins.

      Reply
      1. Louis

        Agree or disagree with Andrew’s Yang’s proposal for a universal basic income, I think he is definitely on to something when he talks about the ramifications of automation and machine learning, though he isn’t the first person to point it out.

        Some people are simply not aware–it’s not that they necessarily don’t care, they simply just don’t know–while others are in denial or don’t care.

        Regardless of where a given person falls, I do agree that with Yang and others that say dealing with this economic reshaping will be of the key challenges–if not the most important challenge–of our time.

        Reply
        1. rob

          reshaping our monetary system is one of the biggest hurdles in reshaping our economic present.
          Monetary reform efforts like the modern day “chicago plan” as was described in the bill proposed in congress in 2011/2012 112th congress HR 2990
          open the door to creating money debt free, and permanently… which could pay off the national debt, and fund policies like single payer health care and even “citizen dividends”, that are really just ways to inject money into the economy, rather than starting the injection of money into the economy on wall street , like now..
          https://www.congress.gov/bill/112-thcongress/house-bill/2990/text

          Reply
  10. Bob Hertz

    This was a very perceptive observation…..

    In sharp contrast, Trump may have appeared indifferent to the gravity of the coronavirus, but his persistent calls to reopen the economy addressed the precarity issue, as they appealed to many workers whose livelihoods were being destroyed by the pandemically induced government restrictions placed on economic activity.

    The average worker up through October does not have Covid and may not know anyone of working age who does have Covid…..but they do have a job, and if the job must be done in-person they know they were vulnerable.

    “Keeping the economy open” is more urgent to them than defeating Covid through lockdowns.

    This is a big reason why Trump even kept this election close.

    In America, the authorities who order lockdowns cannot simultaneously order financial relief. This created a tragic class divide on fighting the pandemic.

    Reply
    1. Carolinian

      These days the members of the media tend to be dominated by the upper middle class who attended elite colleges and probably don’t even understand the meaning of precarity. Therefore to them it seems perverse to object to lockdowns and elaborate precautions that the work from home set can more easily deal with. In the old days newspaper reporters rose through the ranks and came from small town newspapers and were more in touch with the general society rather than journalism schools.

      Reply
  11. Socal Rhino

    I live in California and was surprised to learn here that Harris opposed prop 22. While the Pro campaign carpet bombed the airwaves with ads, I never saw any CA leaders raise a voice in opposition or attempt to explain why this would be bad for working people. Never saw any mention, other than in the state election booklet, that the prop introduced a huge supermajority needed to repeal it, making it effectively impossible to remove once passed. Didn’t see any out of state money funding ads despite it being obvious that success in California would lead to adoption in other states.

    Reply
  12. lyman alpha blob

    Well Harris does all support and oppose M4A depending on who shes talking to and when she’s saying it, so there’s that. I suspect any disagreements she may express over prop 22’s passage are crocodile tears at best.

    Reply
      1. Socal Rhino

        Her and every other leader who takes positions on many issues but not on this one. Perhaps they saw polling and thought it best instead to add to the strategic underground reserves of dry powder.

        Reply
  13. Person

    Great piece. One effect of spreading precarity–and I will use the term more loosely to encompass not only economic precarity, but also the increasing sense of pervasive dread and fear experienced by so many across all walks of life–is that living in this state increases one’s susceptibility to both totalitarian ideologies and to drives for war against some perceived enemy. To me this explains the shadow of “law and order” hard nationalism coming from the far right, the more extreme variants of identity politics on the left, and the terrified push for censorship and “full lockdown” coming from the neoliberal center. Unfortunately the billionaire class and their pets in the media see all of this as a potential cash cow rather than a serious danger. Given their stranglehold on the national discourse and their control of the most effective means of mass organizing (social media), I’m not sure it is possible to reverse the trend early enough to prevent some kind of major conflict. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!

    Reply
    1. Person

      P.S. To avoid any confusion, when I disparagingly refer to “full lockdown” I mean an authoritarian lockdown without accompanying benefits for workers and with “papers please” checkpoints and penalties. The worst kind of lockdown, where people are both unable to support themselves and are actively prevented from doing so. In my opinion people who push for a hard lockdown before benefits/compensation can be arranged are unintentionally advocating for such a position; the compensation will never come.

      Reply
      1. Louis

        Heck, I’ve seen comments (generally not on this site) admiring what China did and lamenting the fact that it can’t be done here in the United States.

        I sure hope these are troll accounts and not real people in this country, especially not real people on the left. If these are real people, we are in more trouble than I thought.

        A government with the power to literally weld people’s door shut, which is what China did, can do a lot of other scary things.

        Reply
        1. witters

          Yes, like get on top of a virus (and achieve the highest level of economic growth in human history, and produce incredible poetry, and so on). And as I’m not ‘in this country,’ I believe I’m not ‘real people.’

          Reply
        2. Person

          I have seen the same thing and have had the same concerns. I do think there is more dishonest disruption/manipulation and trolling going on than we are aware of. It’s at the point where I automatically assume that most social media accounts are not taking an honest position. I hope I’m right, because if I’m wrong then humanity is absolutely terrifying.

          Reply
          1. fwe'zy

            The corporate imperialism status quo isn’t terrifying enough for you? Oil and gas seeping out through the land under and around “affordable housing” because CEQA doesn’t count on those properties doesn’t terrify you? Flint’s water crisis doesn’t terrify you?

            The throngs of human beings thrown out onto the street by Upgrading slumlords and developers doesn’t terrify you? Overlords talking with straight faces about excess and surplus humans and ramming Prop 22 through doesn’t terrify you?

            Reply
            1. Person

              There’s a big difference between “humanity is OK, but the small slice that rules us is terrible” and “humanity is in deep shit because we’re mostly terrible.” The first implies a solution, the second… what? Hope for a benevolent AI overlord to emerge?

              Reply
              1. fwe'zy

                Humanity is mostly terrible because people online are glad that China used authority to stop the spread of a deadly virus? Shaking my head!

                Reply
                1. Person

                  Read my post again. I said that I automatically assume that most accounts posting terrible stuff are bots. There are accounts that say awful things about almost any and every topic imaginable. The number of them is so huge that if these are real people and not bots, then people may indeed be largely terrible. But I assume they are bots.

                  Reply
            2. fwe’zy

              https://popularresistance.org/affordable-housing-developers-set-their-sights-on-former-toxic-oil-fields/
              DeSmog blog
              Vista Hermosa residents like Luna are troubled by a 2019 environmental rollback by the state, AB1197, that exempts homeless housing developments in the City of Los Angeles from the mandates of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Arguably California’s broadest environmental law, CEQA requires builders to assess the environmental impacts of new development and find ways to avoid or mitigate them.

              The political will to rollback CEQA has continued into 2020. In January, Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, who represents District 53 bordering Vista Hermosa, introduced a new piece of legislation, AB1907, to further expand CEQA exemptions to now include all affordable housing.

              Reply
  14. lobelia

    I’m reminded of the excellent post by Anne Amnesia in May 2016, (yes, when Obama and Biden were still in office, and the White House was just a huge gleam in Kamala’s way too sparkly eyes, given the massive poverty, incarceration and inequality in California, as she successfully ran for California Senator and will have not completed even one term) Unnecessariat https://morecrows.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/unnecessariat/

    A very brief excerpt (it’s long and meaty), emphasis mine:

    In 2011, economist Guy Standing coined the term “precariat” to refer to workers whose jobs were insecure, underpaid, and mobile, who had to engage in substantial “work for labor” to remain employed, whose survival could, at any time, be compromised by employers (who, for instance held their visas) and who therefore could do nothing to improve their lot. The term found favor in the Occupy movement, and was colloquially expanded to include not just farmworkers, contract workers, “gig” workers, but also unpaid interns, adjunct faculty, etc. Looking back from 2016, one pertinent characteristic seems obvious: no matter how tenuous, the precariat had jobs. The new dying Americans, the ones killing themselves on purpose or with drugs, don’t. Don’t, won’t, and know it.

    Here’s the thing: from where I live, the world has drifted away. We aren’t precarious, we’re unnecessary. The money has gone to the top. The wages have gone to the top. The recovery has gone to the top. And what’s worst of all, everybody who matters seems basically pretty okay with that. The new bright sparks, cheerfully referred to as “Young Gods” believe themselves to be the honest winners in a new invent-or-die economy, and are busily planning to escape into space or acquire superpowers, and instead of worrying about this, the talking heads on TV tell you its all a good thing- don’t worry, the recession’s over and everything’s better now, and technology is TOTES AMAZEBALLS!

    The Rent-Seeking Is Too Damn High

    If there’s no economic plan for the Unnecessariat, there’s certainly an abundance for plans to extract value from them. No-one has the option to just make their own way and be left alone at it. It used to be that people were uninsured and if they got seriously sick they’d declare bankruptcy and lose the farm, but now they have a (mandatory) $1k/month plan with a $5k deductible: they’ll still declare bankruptcy and lose the farm if they get sick, but in the meantime they pay a shit-ton to the shareholders of United Healthcare, or Aetna, or whoever. This, like shifting the chronically jobless from “unemployed” to “disabled” is seen as a major improvement in status, at least on television.

    Reply
  15. View from California

    I was surprised Prop 22 passed because it was not doing well in the polls for most of the pre-election period. It seemed Californians were solidly against it. Then, perhaps 4-6 weeks before the election, I noticed a dramatic change in messaging. Suddenly the ads were touting that if Prop 22 passed, Uber and Lyft drivers would receive health care benefits. I assumed that this was deceptive messaging designed to turn the vote around. Here is what Kaiser Health News says about the benefits: https://www.news-medical.net/news/20201029/App-based-companies-pushing-Prop-22-say-drivers-will-get-health-benefits-Will-they.aspx Looks like it worked. I guess there’s no penalty for this sort of deception, or at least, no enforcement of a penalty.

    Reply
  16. Bobby Gladd

    So, I have CSPAN on at the moment. They’re streaming the DC #MillionMAGAMarch #StopTheSteal SuperSpreader rally.

    The over-the-top vitriol is rather breathtaking. The angry ignorance is depressing. They’re “not gonna allow the Steal.” They’re gonna “be warriors.” “Trump WON! Trump WON! Trump WON! Trump WON!…”

    The Occam’s Chainsaw “logic” is on full display.

    Meanwhile, yesterday’s new U.S. Covid19 case count was more than 184k, 1.6m for Nov 1-13.

    Reply
        1. Carolinian

          And what was Hopkins’ number for the day previous (which may be the case with Worldometer)? One day is only a snapshot.

          Reply
          1. Bobby Gladd

            “One day is only a snapshot”

            No argument there. I started an Excel sheet, w/ transcribed JHU data commencing Oct 1st (thru yesterday). The exponential upward trendline in the graph has an R-sq of 0.91. (an iterative 7-day moving avg is also illuminating.)

            Of course, it’ll go up until it no longer does. And, “new cases” incidence rates comprise but one facet of interest.

            Stay safe and well.

            Reply
    1. Person

      If you’re struggling but aren’t sick (yet), economic concerns win out. No big surprise there. 70 million people are fighting a return to austerity and a technocratic “Great Reset” that was devised without their input. They see it as literally fighting for their lives and livelihoods. The new admin can ignore this at their own peril. (Too bad Trump didn’t actually solve any of their problems, but at least he gave them his attention, more than anyone else has done in decades.)

      Reply
      1. Louis

        Many people have to choose between the certainty of being unable to pay their bills, if they stay home, versus the unknown risk of contracting COVID if they work.

        Staying home is luxury a lot of people just don’t have–even pre-COVID it was very common for people in low-wage jobs that don’t provide sick-leave to show up to work sick. It wasn’t because these people are evil or wanted to get anyone sick but rather because if you don’t work you don’t get paid.

        Reply
        1. Person

          Precisely. The rent isn’t going to pay itself, and people are scared about their future. Covid isn’t an obvious terror like Ebola, so people weigh the risks and decide in favor of their economic security. If we were like some of the more advanced countries in the world, they wouldn’t have to make this choice, but here we are.

          Reply
      2. jonhoops

        “at least he gave them his attention, more than anyone else has done in decades.”

        Hmmm … last time I looked Bernie Sanders was paying attention and proposing solutions since at least 2015. Nice how you just erased him and the millions who voted for him.

        Reply
        1. Person

          You’re right. Trump is the only primary-winning candidate who paid attention to the working class in recent memory. Bernie was obviously a million times better than Trump because he was sincere, he had a plan, and he would have followed through. But he got screwed.

          Reply
  17. David

    I’m becoming a bit weary of reading that politicians like Trump are “exploiting anxieties” about poverty and unemployment, as though such anxieties were unreasonable and the problems didn’t really exist. The trouble is that “responding to voters’ concerns about their lives” doesn’t have quite the same dismissive overtones. The supercilious assumption that people who are afraid of losing their jobs are being “exploited”, whereas people being urged to vote on gender lines aren’t, seems very strange. Is anyone really surprised that people are more worried about how much money they have than about which gender they are?

    Reply
    1. Person

      Understand people’s problems, devise reasonable solutions, communicate your plan to the voters, and follow through on your promises. It sounds so easy, doesn’t it… but good luck trying it with the media and parties working together against you at every turn. Pull up those bootstraps!

      Reply
  18. Scott1

    Thanks. We are going to find out how the velocity of the vote is slower than the velocity of hunger.
    “Civilization is about 3 meals thick.” John Brockman, ex-con.
    We are not together and the people in power don’t want to give the people without, food money. Two more and 3 more months of disease as hunger and death knock at more and more doors. Evictions pick up apace.
    Cormac McCarthy dystopia. No country for anybody.
    The economic theory attributed to Warren Mosler and popularized by Stephanie Kelton is the last idea. If it is a Hail Mary then so be it. If it doesn’t work, isn’t put to work, mankind itself is doomed.

    Reply
  19. Louis

    Public health care authorities understandably directed their policy responses toward pandemic mitigation, and the Democrats largely embraced their recommendations. But they remained insensitive to the anxieties of tens of millions of Americans, whose jobs were being destroyed for good, whose household debts—rent, mortgage, and utility arrears, as well as interest on education and car loans—were rising inexorably, even allowing for the temporary expedient of stimulus checks from the government until this past August

    I agree and worse this dynamic is playing itself out again–talk about whether President-elect Biden should institute a lockdown is bringing out the “lockdown now, worry about the consequences later” mentality again.

    While I’m not sure Biden personally regards the millions of those who cannot work from home, but aren’t considered essential, collateral damage, there are clearly a segment of Democrats who do–I’ve even seen it on Facebook among people I know. It provides further proof that the Democrats, as Thomas Frank and others have astutely noted, have become predominantly the party of the college-educated upper-middle class.

    While I’m not denying the severity of the pandemic, the consequences of business shutdowns and subsequent layoffs are very real and not something to be laughed at or minimized, especially if Democrats want to have a future among those who are less affluent.

    Reply
  20. Sound of the Suburbs

    The globalists found just the economics they were looking for.
    The USP of neoclassical economics – It concentrates wealth.
    Let’s use it for globalisation.
     
    Mariner Eccles, FED chair 1934 – 48, observed what the capital accumulation of neoclassical economics did to the US economy in the 1920s.
    “a giant suction pump had by 1929 to 1930 drawn into a few hands an increasing proportion of currently produced wealth. This served then as capital accumulations. But by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied themselves the kind of effective demand for their products which would justify reinvestment of the capital accumulation in new plants. In consequence as in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When the credit ran out, the game stopped”
     

    This is what it’s supposed to be like.
    A few people have all the money and everyone else gets by on debt.

    Most of today’s problems come from the 1920s.

    Financial stability had been locked into the regulations of the Keynesian era.
    The neoliberals removed them and the financial crises came back.
    https://www.brettonwoodsproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/banking-crises.png
    “This Time is Different” by Reinhart and Rogoff has a graph showing the same thing (Figure 13.1 – The proportion of countries with banking crises, 1900-2008).

    After the 1930s, they wanted to ensure those times would never return and put things in place to ensure they didn’t.
    The neoliberals have been busy stripping them away.

    What did the economists learn in the 1940s?
    http://delong.typepad.com/kalecki43.pdf
    In the paper from 1943 you can see …..
    They knew Government debt and deficits weren’t a problem as they had seen the massive Government debt and deficits of WW2.
    They knew full employment was feasible as they had seen it in WW2.
    After WW2 Governments aimed to create full employment as policymakers knew it could be done and actually maximised wealth creation in the economy.

    Balancing the budget was just something they used to do before WW2, but it wasn’t actually necessary.
    Government debt and deficits weren’t a problem.
    They could now solve all those problems they had seen in the 1930s, which caused politics to swing to the extremes and populist leaders to rise.
    They could eliminate unemployment and create a full employment economy.
    They could put welfare states in place to ensure the economic hardship of the 1930s would never be seen again.
    They didn’t have to use austerity; they could fight recessions with fiscal stimulus.

    The neoliberals started to remove the things that had created stable Western societies after WW2.

    Reply
  21. Sound of the Suburbs

    We stepped onto an old path that still leads to the same place.
    1920s/2000s – neoclassical economics, high inequality, high banker pay, low regulation, low taxes for the wealthy, robber barons (CEOs), reckless bankers, globalisation phase
    1929/2008 – Wall Street crash
    1930s/2010s – Global recession, currency wars, trade wars, austerity, rising nationalism and extremism
    1940s – World war.
    We forgot we had been down that path before.

    Right wing populist leaders are only to be expected at this stage.

    Why is Western liberalism always such a disaster?
    They did try and learn from past mistakes to create a new liberalism (neoliberalism), but the Mont Pelerin Society went round in a circle and got back to pretty much where they started.

    It equates making money with creating wealth and people try and make money in the easiest way possible, which doesn’t actually create any wealth.
    In 1984, for the first time in American history, “unearned” income exceeded “earned” income.
    The American have lost sight of what real wealth creation is, and are just focussed on making money.
    You might as well do that in the easiest way possible.
    It looks like a parasitic rentier capitalism because that is what it is.

    Bankers make the most money when they are driving your economy into a financial crisis.
    What they are doing is really an illusion; they are just pulling future spending power into today.
    The 1920s roared at the expense of an impoverished 1930s.
    Japan roared on the money creation of real estate lending in the 1980s, they spent the next 30 years repaying the debt they had built up in the 1980s and the economy flat-lined.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YTyJzmiHGk

    Bankers use bank credit to pump up asset prices, which doesn’t actually create any wealth.
    The money creation of bank credit flows into the economy making it boom, but you are heading towards a financial crisis and claims on future prosperity are building up in the financial system.
    https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/-/media/boe/files/quarterly-bulletin/2014/money-creation-in-the-modern-economy.pdf
    Early success comes at the expense of an impoverished future.

    Reply
    1. Sound of the Suburbs

      Let’s get the basics sorted.
      When no one knows what real wealth creation is, you are in trouble.

      We want economic success
      Step one – Identify where wealth creation occurs in the economy.
      Houston, we have a problem.

      Economists do identify where real wealth creation in the economy occurs, but this is a most inconvenient truth as it reveals many at the top don’t actually create any wealth.
      This is the problem.
      Much of their money comes from wealth extraction rather than wealth creation, and they need to get everyone thoroughly confused so we don’t realise what they are really up to.

      The Classical Economists had a quick look around and noticed the aristocracy were maintained in luxury and leisure by the hard work of everyone else.
      They haven’t done anything economically productive for centuries, they couldn’t miss it.
      The Classical economist, Adam Smith:
      “The labour and time of the poor is in civilised countries sacrificed to the maintaining of the rich in ease and luxury. The Landlord is maintained in idleness and luxury by the labour of his tenants. The moneyed man is supported by his extractions from the industrious merchant and the needy who are obliged to support him in ease by a return for the use of his money.”
      There was no benefits system in those days, and if those at the bottom didn’t work they died.
      They had to earn money to live.

      Ricardo was an expert on the small state, unregulated capitalism he observed in the world around him. He was part of the new capitalist class, and the old landowning class were a huge problem with their rents that had to be paid both directly and through wages.
      “The interest of the landlords is always opposed to the interest of every other class in the community” Ricardo 1815 / Classical Economist.
      They soon identified the constructive “earned” income and the parasitic “unearned” income.
      This disappeared in neoclassical economics.

      GDP was invented after they used neoclassical economics last time.
      In the 1920s, the economy roared, the stock market soared and nearly everyone had been making lots of money.
      In the 1930s, they were wondering what the hell had just happened as everything had appeared to be going so well in the 1920s and then it all just fell apart.
      They needed a better measure to see what was really going on in the economy and came up with GDP.
      In the 1930s, they pondered over where all that wealth had gone to in 1929 and realised inflating asset prices doesn’t create real wealth, they came up with the GDP measure to track real wealth creation in the economy.
      The transfer of existing assets, like stocks and real estate, doesn’t create real wealth and therefore does not add to GDP. The real wealth creation in the economy is measured by GDP.
      Real wealth creation involves real work producing new goods and services in the economy.

      So all that transferring existing financial assets around doesn’t create wealth?
      No it doesn’t, and now you are ready to start thinking about what is really going on there.

      Economists do identify where real wealth creation in the economy occurs, but this is a most inconvenient truth as it reveals many at the top don’t actually create any wealth.
      Hide what real wealth creation is, and pretend it’s making money, and this problem goes away.

      Reply
  22. techpioneer

    Irony:

    The party of the New Deal can’t muster a repeat performance.

    Delusional:

    Hoping that the party of “big business” will transform itself into the party of the working class.

    Reply

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