“The Vibe in North Houston”: A Report on Working Class Men Betrayed and in Angst

Yves here. I’ve hoisted a series of comments from reader Amfortas the hippie that he made originally in Water Cooler on Tuesday. It’s a report from his cousin in North Houston on the anger and frustration among working class men over mismanagement of Covid, which has left them without work and short of income.

Notice that no one in this cousin’s circle is politically engaged or even repeating Trumpian memes. But they are fuming and stymied, to the degree that the cousin and Amfortas are worried about the potential for violence. That’s an even more realistic concern given that one of few options these men are considering is leaving the country. I doubt work prospects are much better in Mexico, and emigrating anywhere else is unrealistic save perhaps for those with immediate family in more promising destinations. But even then, as we’ve explained longer form elsewhere, most Americans have no clue how difficult it is to emigrate if you don’t have a corporate sponsor or a spouse with a foreign passport. And most countries are pretty savvy about testing the validity of marriages.1

Reader Wyatt Powell confirmed: “he situation is much the same in Southwest Missouri.”

As Amfortas said later in the thread:

One thing I get from cousin, and via him, all the people he hangs out with, as well as the local specimens…is that they’re not Klan….whatever racism is evident in them is mostly habit, learned at the knee, as it were.

And, in spite of his troubles with relationships (married 3 (i think) times, 2 kids with different women)…and him settling into his “Manwhore” lifestyle…he doesn’t think of himself as misogynist or even all that sexist.

His often selfish prickdom is both color and genderblind,lol…

Anyhoo…we really don’t know all that much about so many things that are right there in front of us.
lumping this particular subculture into MAGA or deplorables misses a lot of subtlety, and allows the too easy writing off of their grievances….as well as our continued ignorance of drives, perceptions and motivations.

As above, I’ve added line breaks and capitalization to facilitate reading. With mobile devices, many eschew the finer points of drafting in favor of speed.

By Amfortas the hippie

Anecdote on the vibe in North Houston 2-3-2021…feels very germane to this part of the zeitgeist:

Cousin calls, and says he’s coming up…same worry in his voice as a year ago, when he came out here to hide from the pandemic and correlated uncertainty. (He stayed til late April).

This time, his worry is civil unrest, violence, insurrection.

He’s a self-described “manwhore”…never nailed down….having numerous women all over Texas that he breezes though and stays with for a while when work brings him near (he’s a roofer and tree expert and heavy equipment operator…with ample talent in all of them). The women in question are all divorcees, and seem happy with the arrangement: playing happy married to a hot guy who leaves before he becomes a chore.

Anyway…lately, he’s been hanging around North Houston…where we’re both from. Woodlands, Magnolia, Tomball, etc.

He lives in his truck on a spread of pineywoods he inherited…and gets a hotel room off and on, for a week at a time.

He spends a lot of time in bars, beer joints, dancehalls and clubs.

It is this part of his life where we find the Doom:

He says the clubs, etc are at best 1/4 populated…and that the ratio of men to women is, at best, 3 to 1.

Of course this is the pandemic, and all…we both understand that…although he chafes at the mandates more than I do.

The scary part is the sentiments of the remaining men in these stag halls: “f&&k it….I ain’t doing this any more…they’ve screwed us all…” etc.

the way he puts it: ”They’re tired of everything….the pandemic, the half-assed attempts at mitigating the pandemic, the economic results of those half-assed attempts, the lack of material support to mitigate the half-assed mitigations…and on and on in that vein…”

I interject: “So….blue balls, combined with hopelessness and angst.”

Him: ”Exactly!”

So I ask what he thinks will become of this mood/vibe….

Him: one of two things are being bandied about in these spaces: 1 run to the hills, and hunker down (essentially the way I’ve lived for 25 years)…and 2.”Leave…as in leave the country.”

I ask if there’s been any talk of warlordism or becoming land-pirates or marauders…he says no…but if the other two options are frustrated, that may well be.

These are working class guys…generally white…and towards the upper end of working classdom…small contractors, parts store managers….guys who made enough pre-pandemic to have a nice truck and a bunch of tools, and maybe a decent little house somewhere…many of them had women in their lives, but now do not (I get the gist that this is due to pandemic-related economic and emotional stressors).

They feel betrayed and left behind and ignored, and are casting around for purpose and some goal to look forward to…none of them(he stressed this part) were all that politically engaged…so no Trump trains, here…just regular guys in their late 20’s through late 40’s….with no prospects and declining chances.

Of course, one wants to berate these guys…their antagonism to taking the dern virus seriously a year ago is a large part of our current malaise, after all (why are they in a bar?—I’d be avoiding bars right now just as a question of ethics)…but such berating and acrimony will only serve to further isolate them.

While we were having this conversation, my mind kept going to Nietzsche..and his warning about “200 years of Nihilism”.

I, myself, have been well aware of just how broken our Social Contract is for as long as I can remember…and it was this same cohort (among others) who berated me for thinking it.

Now that it’s come for them, something must be done, obviously, lol.

Cousin says that anything less than a full blown New New Deal will be too little and too late…and that it may be too late, any way…that the Vibe in these spaces is such that he feels the need to run off to my Hill Country Redoubt, because it feels imminent…whatever “it” is.

Some of this, of course, is his own depressive state….all the conditions laid out above apply to him (women troubles, no prospects, etc)…but he’s finding ready reinforcement from the other guys just like him at the various bars, beer joints and dancehalls.

This disenchantment and inchoate anger and nebulous sense of betrayal is almost never reported…so when it boils over in some orgy of violence, we’re always shocked and at pains to explain it.

My take is that the Demparty better get their shit together, cease the bipartisanship fetish and send in Bernanke’s helicopters full of cash. Start dumping it in the suburbs and exurbs, and expand it from there. It’s only money, after all…and we can make more if need be, as evidenced by all the repeated bailouts of the rich folks.

As for me, I’m ready for the extra labor….I have too much to do, and not enough body to keep up with it all.

I’m finally getting the dump-trailer manana, and absconding with 10+ loads (40+ cubic yards) of mulch from the county dump, as a substrate for the expansion of the gardens…bringing me to a whole acre of raised beds.

4 tons of well rotted manure…already here, or right down the highway waiting for me…and mostly horse…goes in top…and then I can relax a bit, and resume tinkering and puttering about, in my usual…much less frenzied…style.

* * *

And here’s The Week’s resident dour curmudgeon, referencing the cohort I’m speaking of.

What Trump recognized was that there are millions of Americans who do not oppose or even care about abortion or same-sex marriage, much less stem-cell research or any of the other causes that had animated traditional social conservatives. Instead he correctly intuited that the new culture war would be fought over very different (and more nebulous) issues: vague concerns about political correctness and “SJWs,” opposition to the popularization of so-called critical race theory, sentimentality about the American flag and the military, the rights of male undergraduates to engage in fornication while intoxicated without fear of the Title IX mafia. Whatever their opinions might have been 20 years ago, in 2021 these are people who, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, accept pornography, homosexuality, drug use, legalized gambling, and whatever GamerGate was about. On economic questions their views are a curious and at times incoherent mixture of standard libertarian talking points and pseudo-populism, embracing lower taxes on the one hand and stimulus checks and stricter regulation of social media platforms on the other.


These are the guys that repair your roof, landscape yer yard, fix your plumbing, or build yer house…rather, the guys that yell at the Mexicans doing all those jobs.

Wife got the house, alimony and child support are regarded as Kafka-esque regimes, everything costs too much, and one night stands are a necessary part of their existence.

Ugly and primitive as we might see them, from their barstool, – or truck stuck in traffic on the way to the job – the world has collapsed, and there’s a sense of drifting and purposelessness, and an almost total lack of meaning.

Again, deploy the helicopters full of $$$.

I sure wish Bernie were president right now.

1 For instance, in Australia, not only does the partner have to have been married to the Aussie native for two years, but immigration officials separate the couple and independently ask all sorts of intimate questions, like where they met, who was the best man, how many people were at the wedding, how many cousins does their spouse have and where do they live, what color are their sheets, what do they usually do on Friday nights, what is the other spouses favorite food/drink….the list goes on and is changed very frequently.

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  1. DanP66

    Well, I am far from working class. VP of Operations for a federal contractor pulling down just over $200k a year but I feel a lot of what these guys do if only because I see it and realize two things. First, I can see where this is going and it aint gonna be pretty. Second, that this is NOT the country I was raised to believe in.

    SO, I am out of here too. My boss even told me Tuesday that if I wanted to work from Mexico, where I plan to retire, I could. We are 100% remote and going to stay that way. (We are subletting our offices and not renewing out leases)

    Now, I have advantages. I make enough money and have enough cash on hand to qualify for permanent resident status. My job can be done completely remotely so I can work in the US and live somewhere else. To top it off, my girlfriend is Peruvian and is open to living there and speaks the language.

    That said, a lot of these people have real skills that could be useful outside the US IF they can figure out how to apply them to that environment.

    I will tell you though, its NOT just these guys that are looking to leave. I have peers that are looking all over central and south America and parts of Europe and Asia. One guy I know just retired to Chile with his wife. Another friend just bought 5 acres in Costa Rica. Another friend just bought a condo in Columbia and he did it because another friend had already moved there. The second guy actually got Columbian citizenship. In short, parts of the upper middle class are looking to get out too.

    The day my son graduates from college I am selling everything I own in the US with the exception of my car and my motorcycle (I’ll drive the one down and ship the other) and I am out of here. Been doing my research. At 63 I will sell everything I have in Va and move to FL to set up residency. No income tax. Then at 64 I will be in Mexico. As long as I sign up for a Mexican health plan by 64 I am good.

    With what I will get for my house in Northern Va, my 401k, savings and my Social Security at 67, I can liver very very well and probably not even touch my savings.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Having actually emigrated on my own to Australia (got a 4 year visa), there is all the difference in the world between getting a retirement visa (a lot of countries are very happy with that and don’t require you show a ton of income) versus moving to another country and expecting to work there. Most countries are hostile to that even if you have a business that does not compete with the locals. A few are very permissive (Mauritius has a self-employment visa) and some officially don’t like expats w/o an employer sponsor to work there, but it’s understood they don’t enforce much.

      And a lot of people discover they don’t like their new home. I don’t have stats for other countries, but Ecuador is in the top 10 for retiree destinations, yet 50% of the Americans who go there come back within five years.

      Other parts of being an expat that are not easy is the US requires you to report foreign accounts with more than $10,000 in them. Pretty much every country requires you to show tons of ID to open an in-country account so there aren’t easy ways around that. And the filing dual tax returns is a pain and can be costly.

      1. Laughingsong

        Hear hear on the accounts and tax returns. When I was in Ireland it was pretty simple because all of my income was salary and under the cap, but still torqued my hide to have to do it. And the reporting of Himself’s PRSA! Argh. We had to hire a specialist attorney to try to figure out how to report it (as in what kind of account it was)… I even sent the attorney the texts of the two main statutes that describe the PRSA structure…. afterwards he threw up his hands saying that if he couldn’t figure out what domestic category it fell in, neither could Treasury… so call it a standard pension (or something like that)…. after many thousands of dollars…

      2. James Simpson

        I find it absurd that most developed societies don’t want poorer people immigrating because they supposedly take the locals’ jobs while, at the same time, lazily sit around and claim benefits from a naive and over-generous (Tory, neoliberal, poor-hating, migrant-hostile) government. How do these amazingly cunning migrating people manage that trick? As most studies show, allowing lots of people into a country always improves the economy, creates more jobs and often lowers the crime rate. What’s not to like? I suspect it’s more a matter of local people resenting their enthusiasm and get-up-and-go attitude.

        1. cocomaan

          The increasing problem with this view is that those most suited to hard labor, agricultural picking or construction work or what have you, perhaps those aged 20-40, are racial minorities.

          That’s right, over half of millennials are some kind of racial minority.

          So we have to be exceedingly careful saying that those who aren’t taking these hard labor jobs are lazy.

        2. B4CKlash

          You find it absurd that people act in line with their incentives? Creating jobs isn’t the trick. It’s about creating jobs that create enough income to allow for consumer surplus. The Trump administration loved to tout a growing job market, but if you looked at the underlying data it was complete nonsense. Short term, low paying jobs that did nothing but stoke feelings of indentured servitude and sharecropping (a hyperbole). It’s not a lack of enthusiasm or get-up-and-go attitude, it’s a lack of incentive to do so. Wealth generation in this country use to be linear. There was a direct correlation to the amount of output you invested and the benefit you could expect to see. For the lowest class of people (within first would countries) that relationship now feels logarithmic. Each step ‘up’ the ladder results in a significantly less value, especially compared to the output required to bridge those gaps. The problem doesn’t get solved by rejiggering the system to allow 2nd/3rd world people to maintain the linearity. It gets solved by fixing the actual problem -> outsized incentives for people who want to rent seek rather than actually create.

        3. Temporarily Sane

          So why do neoliberal countries like the US, UK and Canada accept massive numbers of immigrants each year? It certainly isn’t because political and business leaders are big hearted humanitarians. I don’t buy that mass immigration puts no downward pressure on wages.

          It’s interesting how in the immigration debate something that’s almost never brought up is why so many people migrate from the south to the north in the first place.

          Large numbers of people from Afghanistan and Syria or sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America probably wouldn’t be heading to Europe and North America had their countries not been subject to war and economic deprivation.

          The West is the champion of unprovoked imperial wars and usurious, local economy destroying scams run by the IMF/World Bank that force people to flee their homelands. This, of course, is completely absent from the debate.

          Both the right’s blaming the migrants themselves (instead of imperial neoliberalism) for low wages resulting from mass immigration and the left’s unrealistic open borders fetish (instead of asking why so many people are fleeing their homelands) are red herrings that avoid asking the important questions.

          Fact is, most people do not want to flee their homelands and in a world without massive economic inequality and imperial wars courtesy of the “free world,” mass immigration from the poor/war torn global south to the rich/peaceful (for now) northern countries would be greatly reduced.

          It’s very telling that this is never brought up in mainstream debates about immigration.

          1. Roger

            Immigration, like free trade, does not lift all boats. They generally increases the relative wages of the upper middle/lower upper class who tend to be the managers/specialists doing/facilitating the off-shoring and don’t compete with low paid immigrants. The lower middle/working class get severely impacted by off-shoring and the competition with immigrants (especially illegal) that will accept lower wages and lower living standards. The trends also tend to benefit attempts to break unions, which then lead to lower wages and working conditions. The rich benefit greatly from the increased profits in their equity holdings (lower costs due to off-shoring and declining local wages) and even from the ability to hire cheap servants. These outcomes are supported by the detailed research done on the subject – basically asymmetric outcomes.

            Most left-wing parties used to be against immigration for the above reasons, but they have swallowed the internationalist koolaid and now welcome immigration.

          2. Felix_47

            Having spent a year in Afghanistan, a year in rural Honduras, and some time sub Saharan Africa it seemed more that the population just outgrew the resources. With half or a third of the population 30 years ago there was enough land and water to have a decent life by their standards. Each generation divides up the familial plot and at some point they have to leave…..All of these areas have arable areas one can farm or herd animals on. Global warming has not helped but the most pressing issue is many more people who need to subsist on the land. I have watched this longitudinally for a long time. In Afghanistan over close to 50 years, for example. A good editorial on the subject was written in the New York Times by Paul Theroux in the Rock Stars Burden an op ed in about 2005. Well worth reading.

            1. JBird4049

              Perhaps. I also don’t think that having everything from the American military to freebooters like William Walker to the CIA overthrowing democratic governments or supporting the dictatorships of (just in the Americas and just what immediately comes to mind) El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama… actually thinking about it, it would be easier to say every single country with the possible exception of the Guyanas and IIRC Peru. Often multiple times and usually enhancing American corporations’ profits. In the colony of Puerto Rico, it has often done for financial interests in places like NYC by congressional requests.

              What is being done to the United States economy has and continues to be done to every country south of the Rio Grande. I think that it is not happenstance that Central Americans flooded the United States during the various “wars” of the 1980s displacing all the Americans and their unions in trades like construction or in meat packing (then unionized and well paying), and other industries. Funny, all those jobs that Americans suddenly became too “lazy” to do.

              I want the border blocked. I want just Americans working here. I also want any American official involved and still alive to be sent to The Hague for the war crimes done in the Americas. People do not choose to leave their homes and families often enjoying horrific travel to work for garbage wages because they want to. They do it because they think that they don’t have any choice. But that has helped create the conditions described in the post.

              The American economic collapse here has been nurtured for generations to enrich the few. The thing is that there is not much left to pry out and sell leaving aside the copper wires and stuff. But we’re still still here. Trapped like rats on a sinking ship about to be set afire.

          3. Yves Smith Post author

            Canada has a strict points system and accepts only skilled migrants, students, and people who buy visas (IIRC $1 million in net worth, targeting wealthy Chinese). And the provinces have job categories in which you fit. Some of the “skills” can be blue collar. I once saw Ontario wanting fry cooks. But the big skilled immigrant category is Indians, presumably in IT although there are probably some doctors too.

        4. Abi

          In the UK. foreign students pay almost 3 times local students and were allowed to work up to 12 months after their degree. That was until Theresa May thought it was a grand idea to take all their money and then kick them out after. It was disappointing, so many ppl felt cheated and it hit the economy hard. After rescinding work visa’s with so much fanfare, the current Tory govt reinstated it and even increased the post school working visa to 24 months.

          You can’t use people man, it’s just so wrong

          I think countries who want to eat their cake and have it, they will struggle going forward.

      3. DanP66

        Thank you Yves,

        That is why I have spent almost 2 yrs doing my research.

        I hear you on the moving back but half the retirees who move to Florida move back home. Always the grandchildren.

        As for the visas, from my research, its not hard to get a Visa if you have the money. For Mexico you need to have $25k in liquid assets and/or prove that you have an income over $1,200 a month. You cannot own property within 50 miles of the border but there are work arounds for that. But I plan to live inland.

        To qualify for a Mexican health plan you must be there with perm status by the time you are 65.

        As for banking, you are correct. However, the advice I have received from people who have done it is to move your banking to a firm that has both a US and Mexican presence and they can help you coordinate the finances.

        Nothing is ideal. No move will be a panacea. That said, I just have no stomach for staying here. My kids can come visit or I can come back for the holidays like my buddy does.

        Going to go enjoy the culture, use Mexico as a base of operations to travel, completely ignore US politics and cultural news and read books while drinking tequila. I might work part time on a 1099 basis. If I get $100 an hour and work 10 hrs a week…more than enough.

        I hear that western Panama is the next big place for US retirees.

        1. SoldierSvejk

          “Going to go enjoy the culture, use Mexico as a base of operations to travel, completely ignore US politics and cultural news and read books while drinking tequila.”
          That’s it – being in the USA drains you so much. All that energy expended just to live at a basic level, subsist – forget culture, travel, patience for books. As if there were no oxygen left around – all sucked out.
          Watching the politicians not give a doodoo about the people for years now – this is very tiring.
          On the other hand – talked recently to a diplomat from a country, where a coup happened – oh, let’s say about 7 yrs ago. The place is destroyed, beyond the pale or any chance for a redemption – and she plans to emigrate to a nearby country (which seems better, though not to me). She says it is all relative, depends on the starting point.
          Lately, much of the world seems to be going nuts, and not just because of the pandemic.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          You are still talking over my point. The income and asset tests are for retirement visas. If you intend to work, it’s a completely different kettle of fish.

          And your friends have mis-informed you about banking. When I was in Oz (2002-2004) the FACTA rules were less tough than now. Even then, Citibank (where I already had a US account) made it clear that the Australian account was a separate account from a US and Citi perspective and therefore subject to reporting. Having a foreign account puts a red flag on your back. It greatly increases the odds of being audited by the IRS, for instance.

          1. Rainlover

            Yves, your experience in AU was probably about AU banking rules and not necessarily US rules, although that also complicates things. My daughter is an Auzzie citizen and I could not believe how Byzantine the banking system is there.

            And Japanese banking is similarly bureaucratic. So if anyone chooses to emigrate to another country, it is absolutely necessary to investigate their banking system or else leave all your moola in the U.S. and use electronic banking.

        3. Panamop

          I moved to Panama in 2006, two years before the financial crisis, with a wife, 2 kids under 5, and no job. We’re still here and it was the best move of my life. The quality of life here is so much better, the kids are healthy and happy… it’s just a very laid back (tranquilo) culture and existence.

          We’re full time residents and now considering citizenship. No place is perfect, but coming from the swamp (DC) this place is heaven.

  2. Tom Stone

    My daughter Rosetta is 19, her Fiancee’ 20.
    Both will graduate soon from good schools with no debt because they have full ride scholarships and they plan to move ( At least initially) to Canada as soon as that happens, first looking for permanent residence and then Citizenship.
    They see no future here in the USA.

      1. Arizona Slim

        I can attest to that. Back in 1980, when it looked like Reagan was about to become president, I wanted outta this country.

        While I was in Toronto, I was told, in so many words, that landed immigrant status was almost impossible to achieve.

        So, back to the States I went.

        1. Mk

          The average Canadian is not necessarily on board with us Americans. Sure, they are nice to our face as tourists (mostly) as we are spending our money in their country and will soon be gone.

          Living in Western NY and visiting (pre-covid) Canada hundreds of times, and meeting Canadians in WNY – I know that the nice ‘eh’ attitude covers up a lot of hatred towards America and Americans in general.

          1. Temporarily Sane

            I wouldn’t say Canadians display hatred towards Americans but they can be insufferably smug about how much better their country supposedly is than the bad old US of A.

            (Americans, OTOH, can be extremely thin skinned when it comes to even mild criticism of the US so there’s that too.)

            Making a few jokes about Canadians’ inferiority complex vis a vis the US usually sets them straight ;-)

            1. Roger

              As a Canadian (in Ontario) I can testify that the last thing we want is a ton of Americans coming north. There was much discussion among friends and colleagues about the need to build a wall to keep Americans out during Trump, and also in the case of a climate change catastrophe happening in the southern US. We have managed to keep some basic civilizational traits in this country (free healthcare, less oligarchs control of politics etc.) while our leaders drift toward the US model (doubling “defence” spending in the last decade or so while starving public health of resources etc.). The general feeling is that a lot of Americans would turn Canada into one big Alberta (we hate Albertans more than we hate Americans, and its pretty mutual).

              When Canadians say Americans, a lot of times they indirectly mean the “American elites” and the big money that is ruining the US. Canada is already somewhat ruined, we just don’t want the trend accelerated.

      2. Louis Fyne

        never ceases to amaze me… the reaction of liberal people when they find out that ‘liberal’ countries have right-wing (by US terms) migration policies.

        1. DanP66

          I find that kinda funny too.

          They simultaneously tell everyone how awful and backward we are on immigration while telling us how wonderful and righteous these other countries are and then seem shocked to realize just how hard it can be to get a legal status in those same countries.

      3. Kiki

        So long as they speak English or French fluently and have an undergraduate degree they have a fighting chance. It’s based on a points system – I think having education in a field that the government has listed as a priority helps as well.
        I’m a Canadian who immigrated here as a child and know many immigrants.
        America is our fourth largest source country for immigrants at the moment.

        1. ambrit

          “..and have an undergraduate degree..” sounds so very PMC. Roughly speaking, that means, ‘No Average People Need Apply.’

          1. freedomny

            Lol – I often wonder when the PMC is going to realize that their future prospects are going to be limited and dismal. Such is the rapaciousness of our current system.

      4. SoldierSvejk

        Not true – particularly if you’re young and educated. It is a saner place, though still NAmerica. Can take up to 1 year. And they’ve recently increased targets for immigration. The truth is, they lack skilled work force in the numbers needed to grow the economy. I’d give it a shot (there is a check list to see how many points you get – immigration canada, I think).

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          No, you are making a serious misrepresentation. Canada (like Australia) has a strict points system. The point reward youth, as in penalize age. It’s pretty much impossible to get in (UNLESS YOU ARE SPONSORED BY AN EMPLOYER) if you are over 40. The assumption is that older people will be a burden on their health/social welfare system.

          The exception is the visas targeting wealth Chinese, where I believe CN$1 million gets you in. Not sure if you have to merely show that much in net worth or actually invest that.

  3. Wukchumni

    The fantasy of escaping is interesting, the hour being too late.

    In the diary I Will Bear Witness by Victor Klemperer, he’s often mentioning German Jewish friends who are leaving the fatherland in the mid to late 30’s, and it wasn’t in the financial cards for him to be able to flee, never to happen. There’s a woman whose daughter is in Boston, who is her in-to get out, Jews headed everywhere-Palestine, South America, France (whoops), the UK, the gamut, anywhere but staying in the 3rd Reich.

    They were all subject to a 25% ‘Reich Flight Tax’ which in reality could be more like a 75% tax.

    And then the door closes pretty much after Kristalnacht, similar to our scenario where for upper middle class types after Covid hit, you ain’t going nowhere.

    1. Magda

      Did Germany tax the escapees’ earnings in the U.S.?

      With the 2018 federal tax law changes, paying 13.3% in non-deductible California state taxes (after a $10,000 cap) is even more painful.
      Moving sounds easy, but if you aren’t careful how you do it, you could end up leaving California, yet being asked to keep paying California taxes. California has a broad reach into other states, and in some cases, California can assess taxes no matter where you live.

      “[Her business is] also being clobbered by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, the state agency that oversees the collection of sales and use taxes. This month the CDTFA froze Rubinas’ business bank account in Illinois in an effort to collect thousands of dollars in taxes on sales that Lollipop Seeds made to California shoppers through Amazon.com in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The freeze threatens to push Lollipop Seeds out of business.”


    2. Tom Doak

      As someone born at the end of the baby boom, it took me years to understand why every hot new trend fizzled just as it got to people my age — because we were born far enough behind the demographic peak that the demand curve crashed over our heads.

      It didn’t occur to me until more recently that this could be extended to political events. It will become increasingly harder to emigrate, because the wealthy 65- to 70-year-olds will have made their moves, and other governments will slam the door behind them.

      Likewise, according to any demographic model the stock market should be in the tank by now, but what if that generation’s political power just won’t let it happen for a few years until they feel safe? That’s the real source of QE and bailouts to infinity.

  4. John Siman

    Amfortas writes, “These are working class guys…generally white…and towards the upper end of working classdom….”
    Let me add: “And these are the working class guys I rely on to do the tough and dangerous jobs I can’t — or won’t — do myself, like (last week) going way up on the roof with a 5-gallon bucket of tar to fix a leak. Yeah, I rely on working class guys for a lot of things! But as for the Professional Managerial Class, as for the Morally Woke — what do I rely on them to do to help make my life livable? Jack shit.

    1. barnaby33

      You mean you rely on them to yell at Mexicans who do the actual work.

      You rely on guys in the upper middle (at least guys like me) to keep improving the overall efficiency of our life giving systems each year to keep us from falling into any abyss of violence. You can thank us later.

      1. Mikel

        “to keep improving the overall efficiency of our life giving systems each year to keep us from falling into any abyss of violence….”

        Many new inventions and efficiencies were heralded at the dawn of the 20th Century…
        followed by two world wars.

      2. Roger

        I used to be upper middle class, now I am rich. Guys like you are the courtiers to the rich, and like always you have to disparage those below you to assuage the envy of those above. I left my upper middle class job because I didn’t want to spend another day meaninglessly making rich people richer, while constantly screwing the rest. In my last few years working it was all about off-shoring well-paid jobs (software developers, back-office analysts, every “none-customer facing” job we could) and generally pulling up the ladder which I myself had climbed. I was lucky to see though the looking-glass, it seems that you are still well-trapped by it within your self-aggrandizing sanctimonious world. You remind me of Norman Tebbit, a UK government minister under Thatcher who told everyone to “get on their bike” to find a job – in the middle of a depression engineered by his own government to destroy the bargaining power of the working class.

    2. Rosscarrock

      Used any medical or dental services lately? Do you do all your money management yourself or do you have an advisor who is in the PMC?

      1. tegnost

        “Used any medical or dental services lately”
        no they’re too expensive
        “Do you do all your money management yourself or do you have an advisor who is in the PMC?”
        um…see point one…
        If you cancelled their student loans the docs and dentists could be much cheaper, though…
        of course your money managers job would be a lot harder without being able to just throw your money into the medical industrial biotech complex which would be really really sad.

  5. Michael Fiorillo

    Who even needs men?

    Amfortas’ cousin (who has skills not easily automated) and others like him aside, we increasingly don’t need them for economic production, and thanks to sperm banks and the like, we don’t even need them for sexual reproduction any more. This seem to be at the root of the crisis of masculinity we see everywhere around us, even percolating down to little boys and adolescents, who are disproportionately troubled, relative to girls.

    Almost every huge Ford 150 truck I see, with the exception of the minority that actually are transporting tools or other work-related things, seems to be a material, unmindful compensatory scream over the loss of purpose men increasingly face. Their aggressive driving – many/most drive their huge vehicles down the middle of streets, almost forcing drivers in oncoming lanes into games of chicken – seems to presage the latent, stewing aggression Amfortas refers to. That aggression may be directed inward, or outward, but it will find an outlet, unless channeled into work and identities that can sustain people.

    I’m grateful that Trump was such a lazy, incompetent fascist, but the fear is that if Uncle Joe doesn’t do right by people, we won’t be nearly as lucky next time.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      wokesters scoff at the perception of superfluity, but it’s been a thing for a long time.
      i glean…from long observation…that this feeling of uselessness plays a part in the often over the top seriousness many of these guys show for hunting.
      the gear, the clothes, the whole manlyman vibe that goes with it…
      i go sit in my truck with a rifle…or sit on a log with my rifle…in pretty much the same clothes i wear every day…no deer feeders, no fancy tree stands, no camo(aside from my everyday BDU windbreaker(which has a story, for later).
      at the root of all that Larpy extravagance is a mostly unconscious realisation of uselessness…but here, they’re doing what our caveman ancestors did, and literally bringing home the bacon.
      enduring hardship in the process(cold, freezing wet, sleeping in the truckbed, etc)=”Real man”.
      i’ve never heard this admitted…and wonder if it’s consciously known…but it’s there.
      same with the guns….no one needs a AR-15 with $1000 scope and a 30 round mag to kill a deer.
      no doe essence or skunk cologne is necessary, either.
      “see what i endure to provide for you”…and then the wife doesn’t care for deer meat,lol.(this is a common refrain, said often with exasperation)
      there’s a lot of psychology underneath all of this, that is far too often dismissed out of hand, or—worse—laughed off as ridiculous.
      plug in the “Incel” phenomenon, and all the pseudomilitia things, and almost 50 years of stagnant and falling wages, offshoring family supporting jobs, and on and on…we should be taking all this seriously.
      and taking the stated motivations of these folks seriously(economic evisceration)
      it doesn’t matter, really, if they yell the N-Word…it doesn’t matter if they listen to Jordan Peterson…we must share the world with them, and a whole lot of their grievances are OUR grievances.
      all of their behaviour and opinions that we loathe are symptomatic of something else…something bigger, and more common(increasingly so).
      people who are more or less satisfied with their situation don’t join fascist militias…that takes unaddressed grievances, that are seized upon by would be warlords.

      (and thanks for hoisting this Yves…I am, again, honored)

      1. vlade

        It is a status symbol, and sense of belonging in a world where it’s hard for them to have either.

        A lot of people join a cult for the sense of belonging.

        1. cocomaan

          I have no idea if the blog ate my comment about hunting or not.

          As a bowhunter, I do it because it’s inefficient, incredibly hard on body and mind, and the end result is some meat going into my freezer. The anachronism aspect of it is what’s fascinating. You see the same with people learning jiu jitsu when firearms are small, compact, and easy to get.

          Above, Michael says Who Needs Men, which is to a point correct. Traditionally masculine pursuits like martial arts, hunting, guns, pursuit of strength as a matter of power, are anachronisms in an age of social media, suits and ties. Technology renders male roles weaker.

          The anachronisms remind you of how society used to look and it’s often a bleak reminder of what we think of as barbarism.

          And what’s interesting in America, a country with immense rural roots, is that for many living in the hinterlands there’s not a lot of anachronism to it. I can hunt my property and do. Farmers can leverage their CRP fields as leases to hunters for some cash every year. It’s a fun pursuit and immensely satisfying. There is a psychedelic quality to bowhunting that is unlike anything I’ve experienced elsewhere.

          I get none of the same highs from wearing a tie to a gala dinner or trading stonks.

          Similarly, do I need to keep bees? Chickens? No. I can go to the grocery store. But the deep satisfaction I get out of sticking my hands into bees is unlike anything else you can get. Netflix aint ever had it this good.

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            amen. as a lifelong rural person, and current subsistance farmer, with organic/sustainability features, i agree completely.
            I’m also an anachronism, and live like it’s 1890 with internet and running water(which i am set up to do without if need be,lol).
            I sympathise with many of the noneconomic grievances of this cohort, even if i do not share them(“manliness” has never mattered to me, except as a behaviour complex to be avoided)
            and all that said, i reckon Sympathy is a giant thing that’s lacking…Greek:” feeling with”…writing off great swaths of our neighbors as useless and not worth saving or even worrying about…once, this was a pathology mostly of the Right…but since the Neoliberal Turn, it’s invaded the hive mind of the erstwhile “left”./

            1. cocomaan

              A lot of the dispossessed people you mention aren’t part of the knowledge economy. But those in the knowledge economy act as if these trades more or less don’t exist AND that they are anachronisms. Wife and I watched How It’s Made for a while, and were surprised in our white collar capacity at the number of hands needed to make products in factories. Machines just don’t do it all. But you can act as if those hands don’t exist easily, just order off amazon and keep going.

              Those promoting the knowledge economy seem to think that living life as a brain in a jar is the end goal. Anything less is the evil of a flesh prison.

              It’s almost a monastic tradition. Like Plotinus trying to reach the higher levels of emanation from the godhead.

              This is a good discussion, makes me think a lot of the destructive, unsympathetic behavior is reactionary politics to a bizarre techno future that is itself also unsympathetic.

              1. Mikel

                “Wife and I watched How It’s Made for a while, and were surprised in our white collar capacity at the number of hands needed to make products in factories. Machines just don’t do it all. But you can act as if those hands don’t exist easily, just order off amazon and keep going…”

                Like I’ve said, just because the factories are out of sight, doesn’t mean “post-industrial.”

                That’s a phrase often used to promote a service or product – all of which will involve an industry or factory…even if onlu for the tools you need to provide the service.

      2. skippy

        Some bought[tm] the prepackaged narrative used to sell focused romantic masculine materialism as a short cut to an *Identity*.

        Once that market[tm] is saturated and offers no more growth to gin up financial paper and easy profits the marketing/advertising depts will seek greener fields to establish a *New Identity* from the ground up and with it the prospects of a new profit cycle.




        Wellie would flesh that out a bit more, but off to work by myself on a Saturday to punch out this latest Queenslander as I’m down to the final stage and weather has been off and on. Check back later this arvo …

      3. Karen

        I have a PhD in econ and read constantly—words and numbers, abstractions and models are my comfort zone. I’ve been successful. And so is my husband, who never went to college, has dyslexia and hates to read. But he is tremendously skilled in everything that involves his hands, his brain, spatial reasoning—or getting a bead on people. He’s a brilliant conversationalist. In other words, he’s good at everything except words and numbers. At 62 he’s what you’d call a “real man,” a rock, a perfect husband and stepfather to my children…and the best thing that ever happened to me. It breaks my heart to think there are so many good men in this country who feel lost and unappreciated.

      4. Mitch

        Wendell Berry wrote some interesting thoughts on what man’s increasing uselessness to himself and his family has done to his psyche.

    2. Dirk77

      Who needs women? Who needs animals? Insects? Plants? Science? Knowledge? The earth? There is not a person alive who doesn’t get out of bed each day motivated by faith in something that answers each of these questions in one way or another. Or just answers “I don’t know”, and is comfortable with that. I see no less value in bow and arrow hunting than doing theoretical physics, especially as both may help protect you from the neighboring horde – which is one pressing restriction on how you structure your society.

  6. carl

    Re: moving to another country

    I generally agree with Yves that a lot more people talk about moving than will actually do it. From looking at the issue in depth, here are the major ways someone might accomplish this:

    1. buy your way in, by investing in some real estate or a business in the chosen country (usually takes quite a bit of money, e.g., 500,000 euros in Portugal), but also sometimes just a cash payment upfront, as in some Caribbean countries.
    2. have a pension, normally a modest one is all it takes (e.g., approximately $3000/month in Spain).
    3. have parents, grandparents or great-grandparents who came to the US from the particular country
    4. of course, marrying a citizen of the country is a pretty quick route. As Yves noted, fake marriages are universally frowned on.
    5. have a job or skill that the particular country needs.

    As you might expect, it’s much easier to move to a less developed country than the more developed ones. Australia, Canada and New Zealand are particularly tough, followed by most of the EU. Fun fact: the US doesn’t care if you have a second passport, but you will still pay US taxes on your worldwide income as long as you are a citizen. Renouncing US citizenship is a whole other can of worms, but the number of people doing it has increased substantially in the last ten years.

    Here is a site which will give you cost of living comparisons with the US: https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_countries.jsp
    One large surprise was South Africa, which has European levels of infrastructure, quality of food, etc., but South America cost of living. Too bad it’s so far away from everything else.

    1. BlueMoose

      Scratch South Africa off the list. I’ve been there several times for work and spoken with many 2nd and 3rd generation citizens and while they are not leaving come hell or high water, they have advised their children who were at university abroad, not to come back. They had beautiful properties surrounded by 2-3 meter fences topped with razor wire. It is a lovely country and the people are great but it is a pressure cooker ready to blow.

    2. Janie

      Carl, a “modest pension” of $3,000? That’s a pretty darned good one where I come from. I wonder what percent of us retire with that size pension?

      1. kareninca

        “Modest pension of $3,000/month” is like something from the Pleistocene. My grandfathers had something of the sort, but they have long since stopped collecting.

  7. John Hacker

    Sounds like the cousin doesn’t want to take responsibility for his actions. Addiction to self pity is a powerful thing. It kept me isolated for a long time. My cure then was a belief that more money, sex and power (PMS) would fix my problems. Until i was taught to take back my life i was lost. They said “Go get a job.” i said “But i feel terrible.” They said “Go get a terrible job.” i had to learn to connect with others.

    1. tegnost

      what year was it when you got this terrible job?
      Is this another comment like the one from yesterday by another commenter who said something along the lines of there’s always poor people and haven’t you heard of whiskey as if that explained it all?

    2. Amfortas the hippie

      “…cousin doesn’t want to take responsibility for his actions…”

      there is some of this at play.
      he’s made some pretty crappy choices over the years.
      still…just like how we tend to overlook how expensive it is to be poor, things like child support can be pretty kafkaesque, even if you try real hard to keep up/do the right thing.
      (in his case, he had a wreck(other guy’s fault), was out of work for 3 months with whiplash, and other guys’ insurance dropped the ball, so no replacement work truck…ergo, in arrears on child support, unsympathetic court/exwife, and away we go.
      not making excuses, just reminding that it’s real easy to get underwater these days…even before covid.
      and with things like child support, there’s a knee jerk assumption of “dead beat dad”, etc…in officialdom, as well as in the public mind…which means pariahhood and no means to rally folks with like experience for reform…because under the official narrative, there’s nothing to fix….you’re already a deadbeat, and deserve your pain.
      you end up easily with a “nothing matters anymore” attitude.
      spread this process into numerous areas of life…banking to your shitty job to the ER to interpersonal relationships, and it’s pretty much a recipe for dysfunction and nihilism.

      1. freebird

        These problems are all very real, and at the root of drug epidemics, mass shootings, etc.

        No one in this group grasps that the .1% took 51 trillion from working people while selling govt to the highest bidder, and that life would not be so shitty if these 2 things had not occurred. They think the welfare deadbeats ruined their world.

        1. JTMcPhee

          I think it’s more accurate to say that the 0.1% used money they got the politicians and Fed people to give them to BUY the “loyalty” and fealty of the government and Fed people. It’s an ownership country, an “ownership society” in the words of G. W. Bush.

          One wonders what the mechanisms of return to the mean will look like. I doubt there’s enough loyal fealty-driven cops and troops to preserve and protect the propertied squillionaires.

    3. flora

      Addiction to self pity is a powerful thing.

      If you want to hear real self-pity listen to a group of very rich men moan how unjustly they are abused by the tax system and by the “lucky-ducky” people on govt relief programs like unemployment insurance, as if govt bailouts out of Wall St. with trillions of dollars isn’t govt relief. If you’re ever in their company the subject will come up.

      1. flora

        See also: Luke 12:48

        For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

      2. Kurtismayfield

        When the Central bank, the politicians, and the rich don’t “Take responsibility for their actions”, it does a heck of a lot more damage than the person who wrote this.

  8. Louis Fyne

    i guess the irony is lost on those who leave the inequality of the US only to create a retirement in an ex-pat enclave in a developing country with even worse Gini scores.

    If one does set up camp overseas, learn the language and customs, move into a town-city where you’re forced to integrate with the natives.

  9. Jason

    With mobile devices, many eschew the finer points of drafting in favor of speed.

    In amfortas’ case, I think that’s how he chooses to write!

    Thank you both, and everyone, for continuing “on the ground” commentary.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      too much kerouac in my formative years…it’s largely unconscious, and mirrors how i talk and think.
      i herein issue a blanket and ongoing apology for my incomprehensibility.

      1. cocomaan

        It reminds me of a socialist friend I once had who refused to start his sentences with capital letters because he was against the exploitation of capital.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          my capitalisation issue stems from my first computer, wherein the shift keys bit the dust long before everything else. at the time, no place within 100 miles to get a keyboard, so it became habit.
          I have to actively try to remember to capitalise words(and let’s please just overlook, as well, my unfortunate habit of Cambridge endings(civiliSation, not civiliZation)….seeing the Z actually bothers me,lol.))
          the mind is a terrible thing.

          1. wilroncanada

            You’re quite readable, Amfortas. A helping of Kerouac, a pinch of Joyce, plus a dollop of Miller (Henry, not Arthur) opens the razor-wire topped gate. I note spelling errors frequently in writers. The above contribution by DanP66 this morning–here on the we(s)t coast–contained included spelling of that South American country as Columbia. I hope the new immigrants to that country learned that it is Colombia. This morning, on the band of news that replaces actual news on most television channels, so that they can do 5-minute pieces about cute pets, was a note that the BC teachers wanted more “contract tracing” in their classrooms.
            I am such a lousy typist that I wouldn’t even think of using an android device to send a missive.
            Thanks Amfortas.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I very much like his style but I hoped this post would get traction, and Lambert and I agreed that given its length, adding line breaks and caps where missing would help readability.

  10. Mike R.

    Well,obviously these men have made some pretty bad life choice decisions. By any measure.
    That said, I think the overriding problem today is the frustration (almost exhaustion) of trying to “get ahead”, which for many isn’t that much.

    Our economic policies have resulted in plenty of inflation in the costs of necessary (or required) goods and services. Substitution for lower costs is still possible, but only in a few areas (food) and that doesn’t leave much room for pleasure. Couple this with miniscule or no wage growth over the past couple of decades, and a vast number of people in this country are losing hope of ever saving a dime, or enjoying a vacation (however simple that may be), or retiring (forget it). And this in a society that is “in your face rich”.

    And for some groups affected (particularly, white middle-aged males who were raised to “be a man”), the reality of having to accept government handouts, well……of course they’ll take it, but another stake will be driven in what’s left of who they were/are.

    The reset in this country is most likely to come from the masses (social disorder on a massive scale) and not the loss of the dollar as the reserve currency. We will lose societal control first, and then the economics will have to change; albeit grudgingly.

    Thanks for this forum and the opportunity to comment.

    1. JTMcPhee

      “Bad life choices?” From among which set of choices that are actually presented to people in flyover country? What are the good choices? Not enough land for all the excess population to live amfortas’s life, not to mention his particular skill sets and appreciations. Jobs in extractive industries, or Amazon soul-crushers or fast-food franchises? It’s not like this kind of decline is anything new, recall “The Last Picture Show” set in the 1950s: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067328/

      And what’s being talked about here is Durkheim’s “anomie,” https://duckduckgo.com/?q=wiki+anomie&t=ipad&ia=about&iax=about , normlessness. Which in other places has led to a lot of “running amok,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Running_amok , and it’s been a lucky thing that there’s meth and oxycodone and alcohol to ‘take the edge off’ and direct a lot of potential amok-ers into self-destruction and smaller scale murder-suicide than the incipient Charles Whitmans and Steven Paddocks.

      It’s going to take all the helicopters in the armed forces to deliver the redirected wealth that might short-circuit the negative potential energy that’s building. Accompanying something like the zeitgeist of the New Deal, giving people the sense and reality that they are working toward something bigger, healthier and better.

      As to all the would-be expatriates, seems they have nothing to offer in the way of constructive action for the declining nation — so like people have said in the past, don’t let the door hit you on the backside on your very special way out. Hope those of us who are left behind can find some meaning and paths to action that pose a chance of making something new and better with what is left of this horrific Empire, a dying carcass with every kind of vampire, scavenger and parasite competing for a slice of the remaining meat…

      1. border dude

        “As to all the would-be expatriates, seems they have nothing to offer in the way of constructive action for the declining nation — so like people have said in the past, don’t let the door hit you on the backside on your very special way out.”

        Here here … being from the white working class, which I will say is the people who do not own the means of production or oversee the deployment thereof, from reading all this I am reminded I am stuck and f*ck’d. A lot of my relations have been infected with the current insane cult malady and there seems no way out without absolute chaos. I hope I make it through the bottleneck.

        Yeah, to all the superstars who enjoy the sublime tranquilo of a balmy Caribbean beach, we will need to clean up after your mess, too. So a big sarcastic thanks.

  11. polar donkey

    I drove across Tennessee Wednesday. I don’t think anyone has taken down their Trump signs and flags yet. Visited my family in Middle Tennessee, they were not Trump fanatics. They saw he was a corrupt clown. They were going to give democrats a chance, but 2 weeks into Biden presidency they wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire. Their judgement- lying, do nothing democrats. Democrats had a chance. Just send a $2,000 check like you said you would and many people would have given you a chance on other issues. Opportunity lost.

  12. Joe Well

    I think this is most American males 20s to 40s across the spectrum. I am in this age group and I actually did work abroad a number of times, including straight out of college because it was yet another once in a generation recession (I have lived through I think 5 by now) and there were literally no jobs in my field and very few adjacent to it.

    It is certainly not impossible to emigrate if you have a degree (“English teacher” though much racial discrimination there) or some kind of entertainment skill or some kind of highly specialized ability (those are the standard work visa categories). Yes, it is a paperwork nightmare but applying for jobs in the US is a nightmare too. But I don’t think Amfortas’s friends qualify because every country has a ton of construction related workers. Kind of poignant.

    I would not try emigrating to Mexico except as some kind of digital nomad where you are just living as a tourist while working remotely in the US. Low wages+anti-immigrant+anti-American.

    At any rate, almost no country celebrates immigrants like the USA. Unless you end up literally in Australia, you will be an exotic/maligned/whatever foreigner without much of an American community to fall into for support.

    1. Janie

      The archdruid John Michael Greer reminds would-be emigrants that foreigners are targeted in protests, coups and the like.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I’m sorry, your statement is simply incorrect as far as advanced economies are concerned. You appear to be assuming a foreign employer as sponsor. And in those cases, as you surely must know, when you lose your job or your contract ends, you have to leave pretty pronto. You might be allowed to stay 90 days more as a tourist (non-working) but that would be the max.

  13. Jomo

    So much to feel sorry for (not). Vote Republican, and blame the Dems for everything, even when the Dems were not in power. Hate Socialism and the government, then expect helicopters dropping money when you have some financial difficulty on the “rainy day” anybody could see coming, but you couldn’t save for because you had to have the latest toy. Yeah, I know “pandemic,” and before that it was “Great Recession”, and every 10 years before that it was some other crisis. Run away to another country where it will be “better.” Make your personality so repulsive that no one can love you or be around you outside of work. Take no responsibility whatsoever for your situation because it’s “them.” The USA problem was explained to me by a gentleman from Belgium I had breakfast with at a B&B in Honfleurs, France in November 2019: “Americans do not understand anymore that for a great country solidarity is just as important as freedom.”

    1. tegnost

      seems like you’re projecting…

      “expect helicopters dropping money when you have some financial difficulty on the “rainy day” anybody could see coming”

      Have you ever heard of wall st?

      “The USA problem was explained to me by a gentleman from Belgium I had breakfast with at a B&B in Honfleurs, France in November 2019”
      yeah…ok, and…
      “Take no responsibility whatsoever for your situation because it’s “them.”
      sorry for screaming but it’s the only way to emulate the elite dem hystreria

    2. Laughingsong

      You may disagree, but I think this attitude may actually encapsulate the PMC thoughts about these men, but I have to say that I can’t agree. This makes it sound like these people just decided to believe these things one day and then were astonished at the result.

      Maybe you are younger and weren’t around to hear our leaders tell us that “there is no such thing as Society”, and then proceed to dismantle and restrict said society (by privatizing, off-shoring, and various fire sales) right out from under us.

      They of course weren’t always so honest about what the results were supposed to be…and yeah, a lot of people trusted what they did say was supposed to be the result (“it’ll be great…a few will be displaced but we’ll help…trust us”), but at the time there was much more trust in our institutions and they took advantage of that.

      It was a slow, underhanded, and uneven process like the boiling frog.

      And I will agree that going to another country seems like a fantasy in some ways. I suspect most are just desperate to try anything, but won’t actually take it further. Just consider it a marker for just how much our institutions have lost legitimacy and trust.

      1. Mikel

        “Maybe you are younger and weren’t around to hear our leaders tell us that “there is no such thing as Society”…

        While their velvet ropes, Social Register, society balls, county clubs, and other organizations told a different story.

    3. diptherio

      Need a little more rope? No, no, looks like you got plenty already.

      I have to say, talking about “solidarity” right after berating people for not having enough savings to get through the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression without government assistance is just…**chef’s kiss**. Nicely done. Your cognitive dissonance is superb.

    4. SoldierSvejk

      “Americans do not understand anymore that for a great country solidarity is just as important as freedom.”
      A great observation; saw something along those lines recently – how the stress on individuality (vs community) – mainly in UK and USA – eventually comes to undermine a country.

  14. The Rev Kev

    For three centuries or more, people could emigrate to places like America, Canada, South Africa, etc. In America alone, look at all the pioneers who made their way out west seeking a new beginning. The sort of person who would be prepared to up stakes totally and go out into the frontier is not that common but they are still there. But that option is gone now. So it has intrigued me in all these countries what happens to this sort of person that can no longer emigrate and maybe in this article we are seeing a partial answer.

    It was really a great report by Amfortas on what he saw but I get the feeling that we are seeing only half the picture. What about the women? How do they feel at the present time? What do they talk about when they are together? Do they share the same feelings and fears, especially those raising children? If they are not showing up in places like bars and the like as mentioned in this report, what are they doing then.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      working 2 jobs and keeping the kids in shoes, and avoiding covid as best they can….based on anecdote and observation, as well as jobs numbers that i couldn’t locate a link for quickly.
      there’s also anecdata (from cousin and others) that the ex wives/ex-girlfriends/ex bar flyettes are weary of their morose and increasingly unhinged and despondent man friends….alternately raging at the hardness of it all, and crying like children over how unfair it is.

      and…for the scolders…a screwup or two shouldn’t doom you to a life of desperation and criminality…but we’re no longer a civilisation, or a society, and “screw them” is too often the answer to the “other side’s” problems.

      1. anon

        I think there is sort of a man-child aspect to it. E.g., lately, my BIL just sits around all day outside of work playing games on his phone because he’s depressed.

        Part of you does want to feel bad for him, but he has it made in some ways (my MIL basically provides free on-demand childcare), and they do get $$$ bailouts from my MIL. They’re struggling to pay the mortgage, but it’s largely because he got fired from a better-paying job for messing around with his direct reports, and has to pay $75/mo for an ignition interlock after he got arrested for driving so drunk he didn’t even know where he was.

        I feel the same way a lot of days (depressed/angry about everything), but my wife and I don’t get nearly the help from family he does. While there’s days I feel so lousy I can barely get anything done, I don’t do the deliberate stupid crap he does.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          cousin is secretly jealous of me and my wife and kids, and 22 years and relative stability(making the most of money denominated poverty), etc.
          as is my brother, the PMC.
          comes out when i get them drunk and stoned in a pasture, communing with neighbor’s very zen cows.
          but if it wasn’t for her, i’d be a drunk…or more likely, dead.
          part of the irony, i guess, of me defending these barstool anarcholibertarian failsons, is that they are part—at least closely related to—the very cohort than made my youngsterhood such an ordeal…directly causing me to own my weirdo genius, and hardening my spine…such that, later, i encountered the cops,lol…which led to more beatings and a lasting pariahhood and actual exile that would crumple these whining children, with their $6 draft beers.(haven’t been to my hometown in 30+ years, and will only think about returning after it burns to the ground)

          how, then, compassion and sympathy?
          because i endeavored to study my oppressors, from early on…and discovered that they are just frail humans, with the same fears and craziness and problems as me…and that they have only learned to express fear(say…of a smart kids who likes books better than football) by attacking it’s source.
          it would be relatively easy…and cost effective…to at least begin to get at the root of all this…the root we can see, right there, sticking out of the ground: cover it in cash.
          the other roots will take time, and retraining ourselves that honey gets ya more flies than crap, and that people respond badly to being scolded like children. racism can be addressed by mere exposure…already happening, but for 1. gop riling up such sentiment for short term gain, and 2. wokjeratti being dicks in a very couterproductive way….but even this is made easier by covering that big visible root in cash:if i’m satisfied, more or less, and have a purpose in my tiny existence, insults and opinions are more likely to roll right off.

          unless the social structure of Somalia is what we’re aiming for, that is.

  15. vlade

    Seems that the responses are as often about the emigration as about the other (IMO, unless you want to emigrate, more critical for the US) part.

    But let me add to the emigration bit. I have emigrated quite a few times – as many times as one of my ancestors managed to live in without ever being five miles from his place of birth. Technically most recently just at the start of this year (but that was just a culmination of a drawn-out process).

    It’s something that has two sides.

    One is the process side – the bureaucracy, the different way that things are done or even what things are officially done or not.

    The other is more personal one, it’s about friends, hobbies, and for many people sense of belonging.

    The first one, most people with a bit of drive can deal with, eventually, because living anywhere has some quirks.

    The second one, well, is really the hard one for a lot of people. But what can be even worse then, is that if you do decide it’s not what you wanted, when you come back “home”, you find out that home is not what you thought home is. That home has changed, but because you were not changing with it, it’s now an entirely different place, populated by weird people you thought you knew but don’t anymore. I know many emmigrants who returned “home”, only to emigrate again, because they could not stand it.

    For me, I love almost all places I lived in, and miss all of them, in one way or another, and each of them was different and special in some way. I would be hard pressed to chose one particular to pick if I had to, especially knowing that by now they are different anyways, so coming back would be coming to a new place.

    But I also found that a lot of people can’t deal with that, that the dreams of the past means they end up unhappy anywhere once they move.

    1. Wukchumni

      My dad was a 48′ era Czech as opposed to 68′ Czechs, who came to the USA and we were raised with scant knowledge of the language and really as American as could be aside from the food we ate, and there was a Czech/Slovak club in LA (the social divide between the 2 continuing even when far far away) that my parents went to, and knew a lot of people from the old country, including ’68 models, who when I was a kid really felt awkward around, with their halting fractured English and European ways.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        my family were from Bohemia, circa 1850’s, into central Texas,via Indianola, and were a separate world from their german immigrant neighbors for decades…hence, things like SPJST and the Moravian Brotherhood and a bunch of other things that i can’t even spell, let alone pronounce.
        but back then they were giving away large swaths of land, and being officially welcoming to those immigrants(my great, great grandad and his 2 brothers each staked out a Section(600 acres) that each became the basis for family stability and wealth building.
        nothing like that, today, no matter where you go.

        this aspect, alluded to elsewhere, is why i’m all for figuring out the Launch Problem and going full on space colonisation, even if it makes little economic sense…we need a frontier.
        superfluous failsons are a recipe for disaster…middle ages had their Crusades for just this reason.

        1. vlade

          Indeed. Historically, the society had only two ways of dealing with the “superfluous failsons” – wars, or immigration (or both).

    2. ambrit

      Regarding the emigration issue:
      There is also the phenomenon of America, how big it really is.
      When I was a child, we emigrated from England to America, with few years in the Bahamas, [when it was still a Crown Colony.] The unifying factor for Mom and me was Dad’s job and status. We were the dependents of a Technocrat. Back then, such a status was respected for itself. From what I have gleaned from various sources, it is no longer “special.”
      We moved around in America and lived in California, Florida, and Virginia. Back then, each region was distinct. As a child, I had a fairly difficult time adjusting to each region. But adjustment was beginning before we would move yet again. This begat a personal sense of “placelessness.” That is a hard feeling to manage. Inner strength is not something that this culture places a high value upon. The experience of “The Other” seems to be a prime organizing principle today. Since so much of our culture bases “worth” on material success, it should come as no surprise that the decades long decline of the former Middle Class is leading to a breakdown in social relations and cohesion.
      Thank you for your indulgence.

      1. Wukchumni

        For men, old school social haunts such as: Lions, Kiwanis, Masons, VFW, Rotary, Federation of Eagles, Knights of Columbus et al, pretty much don’t exist or are faint versions of what they once were.

        We’re down to churches being the only place to meet on a social basis.

        1. ambrit

          Churches are such ‘intense’ experiences.
          People do have a need for “social” interactions. Our society seems to have ‘financialized’ even that.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        I didn’t have your experience of foreign moves on top of US moves, but I moved in the US a ton when growing up. And yes, America has many many culturally distinct regions.

    3. PS

      I have British citizenship and with any luck soon the ability to live anywhere in the EU if my wife’s Austrian citizenship is approved. The biggest concern for me though is your second point. I think it’s easy to think living somewhere exotic will feel like getting away from it all but most of us have no idea what its like to feel like a complete outsider in our community, even if you happen to speak the language.

      I live near DC and so know quite a few non-Americans. I’ve often envious that they seemingly have more friends than I do. I’ve come to realize that while perhaps they wouldn’t be close if they lived back home they are able to bond as Europeans/Asians/Africans living in the United States.

      If/when the time comes to seriously start looking at places to move to my number one criteria will be what the American ex-pat community looks like. Not because I expect to live overseas and only mix with Americans but because having that base to build on is crucial for the long-term.

    4. lordkoos

      I think this happens to most people who live outside their home country for any length of time — after some time abroad you don’t feel completely at home in your own country any longer after you return. After extended stays in Jamaica and Thailand I haven’t felt totally at home in the USA for a long time. I’m OK with it mostly but I’ve been an outsider type my entire life so not as culturally connected — many people I’m sure would find that feeling of belonging nowhere more difficult to deal with.

      Even at almost 70 I still think about permanently leaving the USA as I find the culture here to be toxic. One thing about being an expat — if or when things get ugly in your host country you may not be safe there, especially if you are perceived as wealthy (as most westerners are). It’s all too easy to resent privileged foreigners and pressure can be applied socially and financially in order to make things difficult for you.

    1. Jason

      This is what I often wonder about. In many of the accounts I read of people pondering a move abroad, they never mention their parents or relatives, even though, given their ages, it’s obvious that at least one – if not both – parents would still be alive.

      1. PS

        Or children. If your kids settle on the West Coat how will you feel if you live in, say, Europe and seeing them requires a long, expensive plane flight?

    2. lordkoos

      Having had no kids (by choice) the only thing holding us here is my 93 yo mother, but when she’s gone there is little stopping us from becoming expats.

  16. Andrew Watts


    I can’t say the following without sounding like I’m telling on myself, buuuuuuut these guys aren’t talking about legal emigration. They’re the kind of people that don’t mind illegally crossing international borders and living notoriously without a visa in a foreign country. It’s kinda a class thing.

    If you’re wondering how this is even possible it’s because most local authorities don’t really care. If you aren’t actively being sought by American law enforcement, don’t have any outstanding warrants, aren’t committing criminal acts in their country, act like you’re a spy, and/or actively spying for the CIA, you’re probably going to be left alone. Especially in Latin America. The worst case scenario is where you get caught and do a few weeks in a foreign prison where state-sanctioned rape isn’t a matter of policy.

    1. BrianC - PDX

      Daughter of a friend worked illegally in Argentina translating books from English. She did this for ~3 years after college. During school lived a year in Paris and did her Junior year in college there. Picked up a JD at Lewis in Clark in Portland after returning from Argentina. Then worked for awhile for a law firm that did business in the US and SA. Fluent in Spanish and French. Quit the law job…

      Now spends her time living in Central Mexico. Well off the beaten path. Travels north every year to work harvesting marijuana. Then back across the border for the rest of the year. Cost of living is far cheaper in Mexico.

      If you blend in, can get by in the language, and stay out of trouble… no one seems to care.


      With regard to leaving the US. The 3 children of my attorney have all left the US and renounced their citizenship. Two married Canadians and live in Vancouver. The third married an Australian and lives in Melbourne. All have degrees. One of the daughters dual majored in library science and computer science and then took a JD. One of the reasons to renounce was to avoid US taxes. (If I remember correctly they were being taxed by the gov’t of residence and the US at the same time.)

      All left in the 2008-2010 time frame. Couldn’t find work in the US. Instantly hired after leaving and successful since.

      I remember how novel it seemed when I learned of this at the time. Since then I’ve had a couple of other friends relate that their kids have done the same thing.

      1. Andrew Watts

        Thanks for this comment. I thought it might be a class issue, but it’s probably just a Portland thing. Your examples definitely crossed the class divide at any rate.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I know personally two people who are living abroad with not exactly kosher visa statuses. One had to exit in great haste (a mutual friend called it “leaving in her socks at night”) because she did come under scrutiny. The assumption that you’ll be left alone is rank presumption, yet another form of American exceptionalism.

      Similarly, this account from a reader by e-mail:

      I’m not being at all judgemental. I seriously (as in, paid an immigration attorney in to go through my options with proper professional advice). We’ll put this in US/UK terms to make the examples accessible. Given two main choices, one being throw every penny I have to my name into an investors’ visa, the other being try to evade ESTA’s clutches, the latter was probably the least risky. The quickie version being, you’d rent somewhere where you couldn’t easily be monitored by neighbours, like a resort apartment in Palm Springs where there’s a lot of vacation and second homeowners — making sure you’re renting from an institutional rental portfolio owner who wouldn’t know or care anything about you so long as you paid promptly, not an individual or local landlord — never owning or leasing a car, just doing it month-to-month on a tourist rental, being sure to never get into any interaction with law enforcement, and finally, having a $250,000 sinking fund to pay healthcare costs out of pocket. And if you were caught for any reason, have a plausible act ready to trot out and say you’ll be on the next plane outa there, they can take you to the airport then-and-there if they like, to avoid arrest or detention.

      But I’d have to keep my UK affairs completely above board so maintain plausibility that I wasn’t a permanent US resident, I’d just “forgot” about my visa restrictions. Which meant UK assets (I’d have to keep my house and rent it out only on short-term rentals), UK-£ income and a bank account (so I’d get currency risk and conversion costs) and so on.

      In conclusion, while it might have been interesting to see what I could get away with if I was a little younger, what’s fun and exciting in your 20’s and 30’s is stressful and tiresome in your 50’s and 60’s. And you’re fighting a trend which all governments are moving to. Most countries are quite happy to have open borders — open in one direction, that is. You’re quite welcome to leave and try your luck elsewhere, if you can persuade somewhere else to take you, but don’t even think about trying to treat your former-home country as a citizenship of last resort if it all ends badly. And woe betide you if you think you can get away with having a foot in both camps — unless you are a squillionaire. There’s been too many people reading ZeroHedge articles about becoming an “international man” — incurring implicit liabilities in one country but not making appropriate societal contributions. Of course, if those countries hadn’t broken the social contract, they wouldn’t find themselves in such predicaments in the first place… but I digress.

      My own sister also played this lark, hotfooting it from this-and-that country to avoid Japan’s notoriously strict immigration rules. At least until she’d build up enough contacts and blue-chip clients to make herself indispensable, so she could get a (rare) permeant residency. Apart from Thailand, there’s also Indonesia — Indonesia is actually a better bet. But both have essentially the same deal — keep your nose clean, pay your (modest) bills and we won’t look too closely at your documentation. However low risk is not the same as no risk. My sister had to get the hell out of Indonesia in pretty short order when (if I recall) the Suharto regime was flailing around. You are, in that position, the first to be roughed-up, even if it’s only bureaucratically-speaking rather than physically. But even in Thailand, I don’t know the situation well enough to know if it’s a prelude to a serious crackdown which could result in people playing fast-and-loose with their visa entitlements to get nobbled. But if they pull the plug on external internet access (or just make it unreliable enough to be an impediment to spreading dissent) then you’re screwed. Or introduce currency controls. Of the card networks do a blanket “refer all transactions” policy. Or any number of things which spell trouble that you, as a non-elite-member, can’t easily get (i.e. buy) yourself out of.

      1. Andrew Watts

        I think we’re talking about two fundamentally different topics. The idea that the US won’t experience a brain/skill drain as it continues to destabilize itself isn’t American exceptionalism. It’s what happened in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union, Greece during the Euro crisis, Iraq after the invasion, and Syria in the midst of it’s civil war. Increasing numbers of people don’t view themselves as having a future in the United States. The fact that more people seem to be thinking about it, or fantasizing what it’d be like, is the proverbial canary in the coal mine.

        It’s not impossible for a number of them to do so illegally either. It was certainly more achievable in the US before 9/11 and the creation of ICE. Furthermore, I sincerely doubt it’ll be possible anywhere else in the industrialized world, or Asia, with the possible exception of the Philippines. However, the example being used here was Latin America where it is more or less lax depending on what country we’re talking about. I think that increasing numbers of Americans will find destinations there alluring as times goes on. It’s much easier to be poor in a developing country than in a western industrialized one.

        Of course, it will require a certain amount of integration and the eventual resolution of their legal status. You wouldn’t want to retain your American citizenship in any case as it’d more than just a tax liability. Nor was I talking about expats looking for a less expensive locale to retire to either. At the minimum I expect more Americans to try it out with varying degrees of success.

        Other then that consider me duly chastised for allegedly being a reckless idiot.

      2. EarlErland

        In the late ’70s it was easy to find a job in a Pub, and to travel. The Bush Wharf of terror has legalisms that changed nothing.

  17. SteveB

    I was waiting in line to check out at a convenience store. When it was my turn at the register the person said to me: “You know you could have used the self checkout and not waited” I replied I prefer to save your job..

    They looked at me like I had three heads….

    George Carlin said ” when you think of how stupid the average American is, remember 50% are stupider than that”…………. (Not meant to be demeaning)

    All the rush to get rid of people, whether it’s checkout at Lowes, or toll takers, or warehouse people in the long run is foolish… People need to work, it gives purpose, and not everyone can be a Doctor or IT guy..
    Some people just barely capable of maintaining a simple life. What do Uber drivers do when self-driving cars are real?… Handing out cash is OK for short run…. but idle hands long term spell trouble


  18. IM Doc

    Because I am a male physician, I have a very skewed patient population toward the male patients. I am not even close to being in Texas.

    I feel like I can comment on this issue with ease.

    This phenomenon is absolutely present. It is real. It is getting worse by the day.

    I take care of these 20s-40s guys all day. They absolutely dwarf my COVID patients. They are depressed, angry, inconsolable, and increasingly violence-threatening. I was never trained to deal with this, but I have had to become their sounding board. The clergy and the local “health and human” services has completely left them behind. Some of them are lucky enough to have male elders.

    They have had their kids removed from them forcibly – some appropriately – I would say most completely inappropriately. Their former wives with the help of the judicial system have learned to game them in every way. They are routinely humiliated in every way.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Folks, I have to say as thirty years of being a physician, I have never seen anything like this. Our media and politicians are sweeping this under the rug. But it has explosive potential written all over it.

    I am doing everything I can. Sometimes they just need a willing ear. But here is the thing – organic molecules provided by the pharma industry are going to do nothing to help this problem. We have been working hard to create this for 20 years – and the consequences are now going to be served one way or the other.

    1. Fraibert

      I’m afraid of this kind of trend because society could explode with violence if it continues. I appreciate your work to help your patients, as well. It’s thankless, but a kind ear goes a long way to help.

      I think there’s also another alternative possibility for at least some men that is no better than anger, which is adoption of a mentality along the lines of the “Men Going Their Own Way” (“MGTOW” as they like to abbreviate it) worldview. Men who embrace this worldview look after themselves but more or less cease caring about the larger world because they view it generally in opposition to their interests and specifically anti-male. A line you can see from some who take up this mentality is that they will “enjoy the decline,” and it is common for “MGTOW”-types to say how this “clown world” is not worth saving. Many of the “MGTOW” individuals have bad marriage experiences (with divorces, child support issues, etc. as a result), but it seems like their messaging is also spreading to younger men who have never been married and that will result in these younger men never looking to get married.

      I suppose what I am saying is that apathy is also possible, and that’s just as bad (though in a different way) than rage.

    2. vlade

      This sounds very, very much like what I read about the German soldiers coming back from the WW1. All that’s missing is the comeraderie of common misery that only those who were there can truly understand, and a demagogue smarter than Trump.

      The question I have, if they met someone like Sanders, would they believe him? Would he be able to persuade them that his vision is actually feasible and not a “bloody communists who wants to take even that little we have left”?

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        based on my feedstore symposia, Yes, absolutely.
        so long as the boss isn’t around…or other tribal enforcers.
        but you have to have the balls to bring it up in some way…I have a Bernie bumpersticker, and that has started many, many conversations with the unlikeliest characters.
        if i had had support…like from the local demparty apparatus…in 2015/16, i feel certain that Bernie could have run away with it in this county. There was that much support from a big enough portion of my interlocutors in the parking lot.
        but i’m only one guy, moderately agoraphobic, and busy with my own chores.

        1. Adam1

          One of the things I recognized in 2016 was that nearly every county in NYS that Bernie won in the primary were the same ones Trump won in the general.

          1. SoldierSvejk

            Several friends voted for Bernie in primary, and then for DT in general. Seemed strange at the time, not in retrospect.

  19. Pauleta

    Suggestion: These guys stop wasting their time on The Cowboys and others sports, that they get together and have a conversation about how the economy is affecting them, learn about banking, lending, capitalism’s dark corners and who is actually running the country.

    Then, they get out the deer rifles and take some local action.

    1. PS

      I’m sure you’re not advocating for street justice of some kind, BUT if you WERE, I agree that taking out your anger on the plant manager who just laid you off is not very effective compared to say, driving to Greenwich, CT taking it out on the private equity partner who bought the plant in the first place and then moved production overseas.

      1. STEPHEN

        Most people are first-order thinkers. Ie I used to nail roofs, now a Mexican does it, therefore the Mexican roofer is to blame for my economic woes.

        You will be hard pressed to find people who run up the mental value chain through second, third, forth order concepts. They aren’t going to connect their personal experiences to…I dunno…how 10 years of zero-interest-rate monetary policy created the conditions that resulted in their circumstances. Most people don’t think that way.

        1. Wukchumni

          Lets turn around the financial situation in the past 40 years, and the Peso/Dollar exchange rate goes to 1 Peso equaling $200?

          Every American construction worker would head to Mexico, and send remittances back to the USA.

          That was the initial thrust of Mexicans coming to work here when from 1981 to 1992 the Peso went from 12.5 to 3,300 Pesos to the $, until the New Peso (1,000 old Pesos = 1 New Peso) came along. In 1993 when the New Peso came out the exchange rate was 3.3 to the $, it’s now 20 to the $, so the same thing has been going on, and in reality it’s over 20,000 old Pesos to the $, a continual erosion of buying power in Peso terms, and forget about saving, all that has ever happened is devaluation.

          Nothing personal as far as taking away jobs Americans could do, because markets.

          Want to make the immigrants go away?

          Make the object of their desire of no value. If the $ goes to the wayside, they’ll flood back home.

  20. Watt4Bob

    One aspect of this situation that I think is little understood is the size of the disaffected male population.

    It seems to me that most Americans have a vague idea that everyone is more or less ‘like’ them.

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Sixteen years of driving taxi provided me a wonderful education in American demographics, and some surprises, the biggest of which is the relative sizes of our various economic segments.

    The working poor are a vast sea of people living precarious lives never far from slipping into misery, and considering this, amazingly tolerant of their ‘betters’, so far, but their patience is wearing thin, especially those who like Amfortas the hippie’s cousin are relatively recent arrivals to the miserable shores due to unforeseen economic calamities of one sort or the other.

    The PMC especially don’t understand the danger inherent in allowing so many to fall into abject poverty in this supposed land of plenty.

    America, and the rest of the world does not need, and cannot use a hundred million new computer programmers, no matter how skillful.

    What America drastically needs, is to start treating it’s people better, no means testing, all of them.

    We need to start paying a living wage to the folks who take care of our elderly, who take care of our children while we work, who grow, harvest, prepare, and serve our food, and who tend to the maintainance of the commons, what little is left of it.

    Looking down your nose at people can, more easily than you might imagine, result by and by in looking down the barrel of a gun.

    And if that’s what it takes to “wake you up‘ it’s too late.

    1. Tom Doak

      When I first went to China, my clients there explained to me how their economy could continue to grow at 8% per year — because it had to. If it didn’t, all the people flocking to the cities would find no work, and the numbers would quickly add up to a problem for the government. So the government just finds stuff for them to do, letting banks loan money to build huge cities whether or not they will be inhabited.

      Meanwhile, in our system, the government also throws money at the problem, but in a way that allows the 1% to keep it all, and it only trickles down to the 10%. They just don’t take the 90% as a serious threat, because the 90% has acquiesced all the way through until now without taking to the streets to protest.

      I do wonder what it would take to provoke a real insurrection, instead of a Twitter one.

    2. flora

      Great comment. Maybe this is the real reason the US oligarchs want a domestic terr*st bill. (Pols do mostly what their big donors want.) They see what is developing but will never on any account agree to anything that reduces their profits or wealth. Higher minimum wage for workers, better funding for states and safety net programs, more jobs – even a CCC program, a more progressive taxation system, a New New Deal could head off the rising discontent, imo. But the oligarchs have mentally disconnected from the rest of the country.

      1. SoldierSvejk

        That’s what the oligarchy always does – disconnects from the less fortunate. Remaining empathetic toward your fellow man/woman simply does not comport with wealth. Having wealth almost always- I would guess – changes the way you see the world (something about the inner logic of the whole situation).
        And the oligarchy never gives an inch of that wealth. Your list is impressive, but hope you know it ain’t gonna happen. Took a revolution in Russia to dislodge the oligarchy/gentry.

      2. lordkoos

        These disaffected men are all over the place, it’s certainly not just Texas. Apparently the powers-that-be think that mass electronic surveillance accompanied by heavily armed police, can keep a lid on possible violent uprisings. I’m pretty sure that will be proven incorrect.

  21. Wukchumni

    And it isn’t just men…

    I used to never see homeless women, or rarely.

    Was in the drive-thru of a Yoshinoya Beef Bowl restaurant last week, when I spied on all fours, a woman in her 30’s washing her hair in a rare source of water to be able to do it, the faucet behind the eatery for watering the plants. There was no hose so she had to approximate the look of a dog in doing so.

    I observe the homeless a lot while driving, and somehow this instance really resonated.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > a woman in her 30’s washing her hair in a rare source of water to be able to do it, the faucet behind the eatery for watering the plants. There was no hose so she had to approximate the look of a dog in doing so.

      “I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward.” –Hillary Clinton, 2018

      Not to pick on Hillary any more than necessary, but I think most Democrat electeds and apparatchiks agree with her.

      1. JBird4049

        How? I can see if it is some 20 or 30 somethings, however if they are older and California is among those places “that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward” they have some very skewed sight. Either that or ginormous amounts of Hopium are being snorted.

        From what this native can see even the Bluest of Blue locations in the Bay Area have been better. From my albeit often vague childhood memories to now, the 70s and 80s were far more optimistic and sane.

        Or perhaps they visit only the appropriate sites and talk only to the fellow believers all the while chanting “it’s getting better and better in every way, every day?” Maybe it hopium glue that’s being sniffed?

  22. Fraibert

    Just for the record, the United States also traditionally did the “couples game” interview approach to countering marriage fraud. I don’t know if that changed more recently, but at least as recently as I last heard about it in detail when studying immigration law (about 10 years ago), it was still the norm.

    1. lordkoos

      My first wife was Chinese and we went through that process in 2000. The immigration officer who did our final interview was a former US army major who tolerated no BS. From what I understand they are more militant now regarding fake marriages than they were 20 years ago.

      1. RMO

        New Zealand sure does this. One of my best friends has been working on getting citizenship status there with her husband for over two years now and she has plenty of stories to tell of how they test them to see if their marriage is “real.” She’s still on a work visa, recently renewed but she didn’t know until nearly the last minute whether she would have to come back to Canada for a while to reapply.

  23. Reality Bites

    This is an excellent post and is an issue that needs far more discussion. The problem is very real. There is little or no way for many men to earn a living. If you fail to graduate from high school, cannot afford to go off to college, fail to finish college, fail to go to the right college or get the right degree, you quickly find yourself out of ways to earn a decent living. As others have noted, men in this category often turn to things like hunting and gun owning. I’d add certain online games, reddit, and other online forums as the ways they let steam off. However, at every chance they are lectured and heckled by the PMC and stereotyped. Much like poor people in general are lectured for their ‘poor choices.’ It only drives them further away because it is one of their few sources of enjoyment and it is a way of sticking it to the PMC haters.

    Re emigrating: I have lived and worked abroad for many years as an ex-pat. It is quite an adjustment and much more difficult than people realize. For an American, a place like London is fairly easy if you have a job that pays well enough to live there. Same goes for most English speaking places. The moment you move to a country where your language skills are not up to par, it gets tough, quickly. You will have to interact with the bureaucracy at some point and you need language or someone that can do it for you. Many natives in the country also have a love-hate relationship with the professional expat class but tolerate it in the big metros. It would be much harder to do it in smaller cities or for more blue collar jobs.

    Someone above made the point about feeling “placeless” after emigrating and coming back. This is very true. I wouldn’t say it is always because your native place changed while you were gone. Emigrating changes you far more than people appreciate. You have to learn to adapt to a new culture in a way that just doesn’t happen at home. You can readjust but it takes awhile. Some people never make that adjustment.

  24. elissa3

    Yves, Amfortas, commentators: thank you all for an amazing post.

    Amfortas, re: using horse manure in your raised beds. David Goodman, author of Compost Everything, advises against it, and I’m not sure how valid his concerns are. Back in the day (60s), my mom swore by well-rotted horse manure in our family garden, so I’m not sure if the vet drugs have changed since then. On the upside, may be a way to get some ivermectin into your system.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      i worry more about the “persistent herbicides” in all the cow manure.
      from the hay.
      horse people tend to be finicky about what hay they use.
      cows and sheep and whatnot are just as full of dope as horses.
      Know yer Farmer.

      1. IdahoSpud

        A neighbor used horse apples to fertilize his newly-seeded front lawn. The quantity of alfalfa that popped up amidst the bluegrass was something to behold.

        Best to use manure from a critter with four stomachs – viable seeds don’t make it through :).

      2. Lambert Strether

        > i worry more about the “persistent herbicides” in all the cow manure.

        My father swore by horse manure, and his beds sure looked good. But that was in the early 60s…..

    2. Kilgore Trout

      Joke from Prairie Home Companion back in the day: “She was just a dairyman’s daughter, but all the cow men knew her.”

  25. Wukchumni

    Only time I really considered becoming a citizen of somewhere else was in NZ in the early 80’s when I wasn’t hep with Reaganism, and all I needed to do was find the right Sheila, and with an added catch you were allowed to import one vehicle into NZ free of duty, and this was in the days of ultimate cradle to grave socialism with big import duties, the more cylinders-the more dear.

    You’d see car ads in the NZ Herald circa 1983:

    ‘1977 Pontiac Trans Am 45,632 miles $39,000’ (when the car was worth $4k in the states)

    So, I was going to find the ‘right car’ to export to NZ, but never found the NZ woman, ha.

  26. Pelham

    Since leaving the country isn’t a real option and heading for the hills is only marginally more realistic, these guys (capable people whom I as a helpless desk jockey rather admire, BTW) should form a promising cohort for Trump’s planned Patriot Party.

    If I were forming a party, however, I would make it a membership-only arrangement for a small annual fee that would entitle all members without a four-year college degree two votes each and others one vote apiece on planks in the party platform.

  27. Bill Carson

    I understand it is hard to legally emigrate to many other countries, but how hard is it to live illegally in other countries?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You need your head examined. You can be tossed out on no notice. The risk of that is high if you are working. All you need is someone pissed off at you to rat you out. As a foreigner you already stand out.

      1. Bill Carson

        Well, I would expect that. I just know that there are 11 million undocumented people living in the United States and, while they do face daily risks of being deported, lots of them live pretty normal lives and aren’t bothered by others. But America has refused to reform immigration laws, so we’ve created this problem.

        I just wondered if there are other countries where it is fairly easy to live without official permission. We can’t be the only ones, can we?

        1. JBird4049

          Slight nitpicking here. The bottom half of the population did not and does not want the current exploitative system. Those in the elites have refused to reform immigration laws as well as created the conditions forcing many of the immigrants aka war refugees to flee to our semi functional economy from their not functional one.

          The reason that many have been able to live fairly quiet lives is because of the web of transporters, “employment agencies,” and corrupt businesses using them. If they remain quiet, then they can work. If they cause any problems, such as getting sick or insist on getting paid on time or even with the minimum wage, then ICE is likely to be called.

          More to the point, they are here only so long as the whole system is structured to allow their exploitation. The very system creating unrest. What happens if or when we have our little civil unrest or very likely civil war of some kind?

  28. Fabius

    HH – You may be missing the forest from the trees. If you’ve not spent time in true blue collar communities or don’t know true working class people, it is impossible to fully grasp their (many times) legitimate frustrations. The despair that many in this country feel are *not* limited to what many on the left consider to be minority communities. It extends to those whose value system is being erased, day by day, through the offshoring of jobs, hollowing out of communities, and the denigration of the central principles of the Declaration and Constitution.

    There is most definitely a reckoning in the making, and I think this article paints a very good picture of where it is coming from.

  29. chuck roast

    Great post & comments…only on NC!
    Tapping the zeitgeist I have been scanning the horizon for the mast of some clever fellow (and fellow it will be) to come into view. The guy from Mizzou’, what’s is name, appeared to be navigating like Dennis Connor for a while until he went aground on Raised Fist Ledge. There is the ever present Teddy from Texas and his impressive bow-wave. Unfortunately, winning on a triangular course usually requires tacking to-and-fro on the finishing leg, and he seems to have a visceral dislike for steering to windward.

    My guess is that some cheery skipper in one of the post-boat America’s Cup flying machines will suddenly appear and take the wind from the sails of the ancient Republican keel boats. We along the shore may well take great pleasure in the merciless defeat of these white-shoe, milquetoast wannabees. Unfortunately, this captain, whoever he may be, will be delivering us a craft with no galley, no bunks, no engine and no ports. He will however, be greatly celebrated for his flare, his speed and most of all for his cunning. Where’s my passport?

  30. Terence Dodge

    Amfortas, regarding that horse manure. Ask after the horses diet, why? Well it is common for de-wormers to be given to many horses and as I know nothing of Texas and your area with in which you would be sourcing the aforementioned HM. De-wormers as a drug can remain intact in the manure for years ( my experience was in the Willamette valley, Oregon ), the drug inhibits decomposition ( via the anti-bacterial-worming agents ) and that will effect typical vegetables seedlings growing out of transplants. Sample if possible with radish seeds as quick to germinate and sensitive of soil quality.

    Aerobic compost teas may be able to help with the composting cycle, it might not be worth “time” ( labor, machinery for compost turning ) to “try” and complete horse manure composting for the benefit anticipated.

    Most of your vegetables are going to want mycorrhizal fungal relationships and that is water & soil dependent, I am assuming dry Texas environment. Thanks for the article and contributions to NC.

  31. nj

    Have been reading and donating to nc for years but this article was the first to compel me to post a thanks.

    Amfortas, Yves, Lambert, I may not always agree with your prescriptions or interpretations, but I feel that we’re all looking for the same outcomes. Thank you all for everything you do. I suspect I will be returning to and holding up this post and comments section as an example of what healthy discourse looks like for some time to come.

    I’m not sure where my political home is, but I feel among kin here. You’ve got a very special thing going and I appreciate all of your hard work.

    Here’s hoping I will be able to join the discussion more in the future.

  32. Jeremy Grimm

    Though it manifests in different ways, I feel the growing social malaise and sense of betrayal Amfortas describes in the working class men in his locale extends broadly across classes and sexes. I know intimately of the plight of ex-husbands. I have talked with more than a few of the women with small children and too little if any child support from angry, remote ex-husbands or former lovers. Of course these women use the court systems where they have been given great power to cause suffering for their ex-husbands. But revenge provides little of the tangible support that pays rent, provides and cooks food, or helps care for children. How true the saying that you can squeeze no blood from a stone, or from an under-employed, unemployed, or angry and vindictive ex-husband. The acrimony little helps to raise strong children.

    For working class and other men, moving to the hills or immigration is a fantasy escape, like winning the Lotto. [I want to move to the hills — to higher elevation and away from densely populated areas — but for entirely different reasons driven by a very different fantasy or I believe a very different premonition of things to come.]

    I was a low-level member of the PMC class, well-paid for long hours of pointless work. Much of the PMC class has the fantasy that their expertise will prove a sinecure for a full work-life. I remember the blind confidence of the newly minted programmers and analysts convinced they had mastered the mysteries that would pave the path of their future with gold. I remember how many discovered the impact of an ill-considered management transition to some new wonder program purchased following a management software-tools junket. Suddenly master the new tool — if they were given the opportunity or learn form personnel that their shiny skills were already past their expiration date. I am old enough to remember — though too young to have directly experienced — the layoffs that followed Humankind’s placing a few footsteps on the moon.

    The Elite seem either oblivious or unconcerned with the pressures building in society. The disaffected working class men are well-armed and angry. The Elite knows and understands this kind of rancor and has assembled ‘police’ to protect ‘property’ … and control violence with violence. The PMC class contains some with the skills and willingness to undermine the digital fabric of society, the monetary flows that feed Elite greed. All the geeks of Homeland will not sweeten the crashed servers and services in the aftermath of a day-one geek attack. There is a storm coming and it may rain in many dimensions.

    I will add a fantasy of my own — I want to possess paper for and on-the-ground freehold of a small but fertile piece of property and a small warm, dry house — at least 1000 feet altitude above present levels. My fantasy dream is that I might pass this property to kin or kin-in-spirit when I am called away.

    1. border dude

      At the end of the movie Brazil the protagonist lives off the grid in a mini house with his fantasy woman. Then the interrogation ends and his brain is shot.

      I do think that Gilliam had something innate in the human mind with the desire to live the Simple Life separate from the Kafka world … like built into the mind of every American but now the current FJ Turner frontier is closed.

  33. Phil in KC

    The guys in N. Houston sound like they are grappling with downward mobility. Depending on their age, either their father or grandfather had it made during the crest of the working-man’s paradise in the US from 1945 to about 1975 or so. Life was pretty easy then. Find and keep a job, find and keep a wife, have kids. buy a house, etc. A solid middle-class life, back when middle class meant stability, not two paychecks away from bankruptcy.

    Not so easy these days, although in my neck of the woods its easy to find a job with starting pay at $16.00/hr with great benefits. That’s more than a school teacher starts at. My plumber needs apprentices and he’d start them at $20.00/hour with all the overtime they want and sponsoring their certifications. It can still be done, but you have to be willing to get dirty and work hard, and maybe drive a used pick up for a few years.

    This is a reality that Donald Trump, Josh Hawley, AOC, and Bernie are all familiar with. But too many other politicians just don’t get it, or look down their noses at such folks.

  34. wadge22

    Real live working class white 20-40yo man here. This is all very familiar territory to me. You all are talking about my meaningless life, my poor choices, my mildly-nauseating-24/7 prospects, and my depressive rage. Fun.

    When I saw this post this morning before I clocked in, I thought I would be writing a long response with plenty of helpful wisdom. I didn’t really have much of a chance to look at the phone on the clock today, though. Busy turning a big crank. Now that I’m home with some time to catch up on the conversation, I feel it’s gone too far away from me, anyhow. And I’m so tired.
    I really (no sarc) appreciate this blog and the commentariat here, and am happy you all took some time to examine this issue. But this is a stark reminder that yous are not my people.

    The one aspect I will provide testimony to, and the subject ran away with the comments, is this:
    The working people I know are not talking about moving out of the country. Zero of them, and zero of them who I have ever known have ever done so ever. Expatriated or talked about it or thought about it or realized that it was something someone would do.
    “If you don’t like it move to Russia!” is the closest any of these guys would get to thinking about the concept of expatriation, except they would be the ones saying it to somebody, and they don’t care whether or not it’s a real possibility. Or perhaps “If I hit the jackpot I’ll be sitting on a beach on an island” counts, too.
    Otherwise these folks are from where they are from.
    It’s legit, just like so foreign to my understanding about what people around me think. And I can’t believe it dominated the conversation. Moving is for front row kids.
    Maybe things are different in northern Houston Texas than here in northern Akron Ohio.

    Please remember that the working class has both its Archie Bunkers and its Alex Riegers, and you probably don’t ken the patois well enough to know which you’re talking to or about (it still takes me quite a while to figure it out sometimes, even working side by side daily). So think twice, maybe there is a reason to treat this person like a neighbor. Wow.
    Also, you don’t know a damn thing about what somebody does with their pickup truck just because you think it’s too large or too clean or something. Silly childish stereotyping hate-meme regurgitation, that.

    Keep up your incisive criticism of the PMC. I’ma go watch basketball.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      my dad had a habit of criticizing his workers for their “fancy trucks”.
      but when the shop closes, and your welding job turns into an on-call gig, where you bring your own tools,a reliable truck is just as important as a good welding rig.
      that’s a whole world away from the New Rich Play Rancher who drives a shiny new giant dually that he doesn’t need at all, because his workers do all the actual work(I pee on those tires,lol)
      as for “being where your from”…that’s one of the things i’d ask these guys, if i were there, and they were somehow open to talking about such things. i’ve been in exile from my north houston town for better than 3/5 of my life, and Place is very important to me…but i wonder if there is a sense of Place for them. brief excursions on the way to my brother’s place in NE houston(Kingwood=low-mid PMC, pass through low and mid and former mid on the way) doesn’t indicate a sense of Place to me. But i may be biased towards the whole area.
      Cousin is the one i get to probe more deeply…and he has a longing for Place…specifically the Place our families pioneered over there…but he is so habituated to a sort of Essential Homelessness…hence the restless wandering, job to job, and woman to woman…that i doubt he’ll ever settle again.
      and you are correct…the expatriation talk from these guys is pure fantasy, born of desperation(and TV/movies)….unless it could be, like mentioned above, being an illegal alien on a mexican beach….a perpetual frat boy existence, because to them, that sounds like heaven, and represents the high point of their time on this rock.
      Cousin half-heartedly researched it, after his wreck and the resulting child support problems, which seemed insurmountable at the time. He feared prison, and can’t get a passport(due to the child support(!)), so he was gonna mail his fishing rods to a friend in mazatlan(guy who used to work for him in roofing, sent the $ home and bought a bar) and then walk across the border in Tijuana and vanish. Not sure that counts as exactly “expatriation” as usually considered,lol.

      regardless, this is all unlikely to end well.
      Good luck out there.

  35. Phil in KC

    The guys in N. Houston sound like they are grappling with downward mobility. Depending on their age, either their father or grandfather had it made during the crest of the working-man’s paradise in the US from 1945 to about 1975 or so. Life was pretty easy then. Find and keep a job, find and keep a wife, have kids. buy a house, etc. A solid middle-class life, back when middle class meant stability, not two paychecks away from bankruptcy.

    Downward mobility is what much of German working-class and middle-class volk experienced in the 20’s and early 30’s. The centrist politicians of the Weimar Republic could not assuage their anger and despair. Presented with a weak center, the right and left vied with each other in the streets. You know who won, even though he was the leader of a minority party. Downward mobility means fewer people are invested in the stability of society. And why should they be? It is society that is screwing them over.

    I can only hope that the Biden people are cognizant of conditions on the ground and do something!

  36. Expat2Uruguay

    There is a lot of good and important discussion in this post. But I don’t understand the complete dismissal of leaving the country. I would like to ask the author if that is somehow necessary for making your larger Point somehow?

    Anyway, my experience couldn’t be any different. Uruguay is very easy to immigrate to , the locals are patient while you learn the language, and society is remarkably stable. Honestly, there’s no place in the US that can compete, even with a common language. And even though it’s somewhat expensive to live here, (I spend $2,000 a month and own a small apartment that I bought for 100 k) public transportation is cheap, as is Healthcare if you come before your older than 65, and those are two important bills to any retiree. And as bad as you think it is in the US, and as much as you think you’d be happier somewhere else, I can tell you from personal experience that it is true. It is true. Not living in the us, not living in a failed democracy turning to fascism, it’s a really good thing. I don’t know why people in the US need to tell themselves that there is no alternative to living in the US, but I have to push back from personal experience.

    1. Expat2Uruguay

      I’m sorry to speak so forcefully, but I’m feeling quite passionate. I read the article and about 70 comments that were here 4 hours ago or so. But now I’ve had a couple of drinks and I feel like I just have to speak my piece, no offense intended to anyone :)

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        i think that it’s just a toss off whinge for these guys, if cousin’s experience with “planning” for that is any indication.
        with the money he throws down the beer/stripper/hotel hole(all the low rent kind,lol), i could probably come down and be your neighbor.
        but i long ago learned how to spend what $ i get my hands on wisely, be patient and cunning, and wait for the right moment.
        this was learned due to cripplehood and bad luck and the fallout from a pariahhood that resulted from being weird, smart and upstanding where such qualities were unwelcome and feared.
        They never got the frugality skillset, because when they formed their life habits, they could go out and make money licketty split…work hard, do well….and they fit right in with the society they found themselves in.
        that ended in 2008, and he/they have been in a sort of fog ever since.
        he has(and by extension, these others have) been buffeted around for at least 12 years by the increasing precarity and the last year was just the last straw(inability to get laid during a pandemic is prolly the biggest complaint)

    2. Yves Smith Post author


      I don’t mean to sound harsh, but that about “You aren’t working in your new country” don’t you understand? I made very clear the emigration situation is vastly easier for retirees than people who need to earn an income.

      I assume you emigrated legally (you said you are using the Uruguay health care system) and either are not earning any local income or at most are doing only occasional under the table gigs, say like tutoring someone in English. Having said that, I understand that Uruguay has an official policy of not wanting non-employer-sponsored visa holders to work, but looks the other way if your work doesn’t take income from the locals.

      These men don’t have the stash to pay to move and then have an income of $2000 a month. The oldest are 40ish, way too young for Social Security.

      And they probably need more than you do because they need to get laid, which means going out to meet women and looking somewhat groomed. And they need to earn enough to put some money away to retire.

      Since they clearly need to/want to date, that also greatly increases their risk. All it takes is a row over a woman with the wrong guy, and he’s reported to the authorities as an illegal resident and out on the next plane.

  37. Glen

    Good post, and comments.

    Most of the guys I work with are “well off”, consider themselves solidly middle class, and pretty much inherited their wealth from their parents (i.e. houses) or are two upper income families. I think they are somehow still oblivious to what is so obvious to everyone by now. We are rapidly becoming a country of wealthy people and poor people, and almost all of the people I work with don’t seem to realize they are on the poor side of the equation.

    How this all shakes out – I don’t know. I fully expect Biden to completely blow it, and for things to get worse.

  38. Sy Krass

    Re: Amfortas’ cousin – I don’t know where to begin, the cynic in me says boo f’ing hoo. Cry me a river. You’re not the only one who ever experienced problems. You’ve got it tough? My mom died of cancer when I was 23, it was not easy at all on my family. My grandmother lived in a garage with six other people during the depression and had to $h!t in a bucket. Some advice – First of all try saving some money, just a little. Stop going to bars. No woman? Stay home and jerk off for awhile instead. If you’re such a great guy one will come along. If you’re not a great guy, try looking in a mirror for once and let a little of the ego go to see how much of an f’ing mess you are. Try a little humility. No one owes you a god d@mned thing. If you want sympathy be sympathetic toward others. Try going to church. Try praying, try anything positive. If not look down to that long road of losers and realize if you follow them you’ll end up on the ash heap of history.

    1. Mike R.

      Yes indeed. Thus my comment far above about making very poor life choice decisions.
      I know these men/boys. When young and virile, the world was their oyster. They worked hard and when got paid, played hard. Some lived around Mommy and Daddy out in the country so they didn’t save much. They all had big, noisy pickup trucks. They are/were basically little boys in grown up bodies.

      This isn’t the first generation of the above. It’s just that prior generations had much better economic conditions. You had to really work hard at screwing up your financial picture. But still, many did as well. Also, in past generations, men got and stayed married more (I know quite a generality). Today, I’m not sure the same level. Staying married “tamed” a lot of these men children. They ultimately took some level of responsibility for their family (usually multiple children). The wife literally took over control of the money. Marriages weren’t perfect and many were sour. Men often drifted to drink within the marriage and that is how it all kept going. But most made it through to the other side and I doubt they would have done near as well had they stayed single.

      Yes I know….many gross exaggerations/oversimplifications. But I believe an element of truth in this story.

      Know any of these stories? I’ll bet we all do.

  39. a fax machine

    Late to the party but:

    It’s the same way where I live, although swap “frustration” for “desperation”. Guys who were making it enough suddenly found themselves underwater when the schools closed and they were required to do online classes with their kids. Initially, schools thought most students could just log into a website and do things but this quickly fell when it was revealed that half the students couldn’t afford a desktop or laptop. So the (lucky) school bought laptops.. but this quickly fell when it was revealed half the students didn’t have home internet access and all the libraries were closed. So then they issued hotspots too, only to have the network chug to a crawl when they all logged on. Parents were instructed to be by their childrens’ side and help them through this. Half didn’t and kids were just left without help (extent of which unknown) the other half moved out or otherwise filed paperwork to drop their children out of school and into a private school that is more accommodating. It’s also readily apparent that the school district is not getting accurate student data from the company they contracted to do this with, and due to Covid cannot enforce Truancy laws anyway. Smarter students that actually care about the work (typically highschoolers) are already hitting their limits and flaking in large numbers. The school district cannot respond.

    Meanwhile the Adult School is suddenly filled because it’s the only place to get in-person learning right now. Not good learning, but sufficient. Students complete workbooks and most teenagers are able to have a diploma printed for them their Sophomore year. This loophole was already known but is now being exploited to a far larger degree. The amount of students choosing this grows every semester, because it’s better than all-online learning.

    Ask what’s gonna happen at the end of this. The best schools in our district are looking at a minimum 50% reduction in enrollment and half the remaining students don’t have enough credits for diplomas. Do they issue them anyway? What about college admissions? Colleges are closed. The only open colleges are Wyotech & similar. Lower schools are doing worse.

    As for my coworkers, most of them are breaking mentally because of this. These are hard men, some immigrants that had to physically walk in and do everything in cash, that are suddenly unable to make ends meet and have a sustainable existence. Some move in with each other to pool resources, others refinanced their house or ate their kids’ college funds. Others went back to Mexico (no offense intended – except to the people in the gov’t that facilitated this). The only guys doing (comparatively) well are the ones with Class As driving semis… and people notice this.

    The thread of prophecy is severed, and something new is being created. I don’t know what it is, but it’s taking form right now. I like to think Biden will be able to get a grip on it, otherwise the car crash we’re experiencing is going to turn into a meat grinder.

    1. N. Houston dude

      Well, I’m more late to this fine discussion than even you, a fax machine. You mentioned the problem with schools re online learning. Made me think of this: I live smack-dab in the middle of the North Houston area highlighted by poster Amfortas the hippie. That would be Spring, TX.

      We have been getting official reports recently from our local school boards regarding “missing students.” These reports are the same from four districts in the area and are nearly identical. A couple of these school districts are among the largest in Texas; the others are large. What they are seeing is the disappearance of students. Not “transfers.” Not “truant.” The districts have no clue where these students are. How many? A hell of a lot of them. Many, many thousands in each district. Each district is reporting over ten percent of the students as vanished, and some districts are reporting as many as 20 percent of the students as “missing.” In fact, more than one local district is reporting around 20 percent of students as “missing.” School funding from the state, based on student count, is about to be slashed accordingly.

      These students were expect to register for class this fall, but did not. Transfer of records did not occur. Calls to phone numbers are not returned. Knocks on doors are not answered. Again, these are not transfers to private schools, as records would have been transferred. These are kids who simply never came back to school. Whether the parents moved, are living under a bridge …no one knows. I’m sure this is happening across the nation, but I’ve yet to see it addressed in a national publication or forum. Of course, perhaps it has and I missed it, but it certainly isn’t getting much air time.

      1. STEPHEN

        This is shocking, but I suppose not entirely unexpected.

        This data and this anecdote should be forwarded to a competent and persistent investigative reporter with the time and institutional backing to dig into it. Any of those around anymore?

        1. N. Houston dude

          Some of my info – if I remember correctly – came from the Houston Chronicle, but numbers came from Community Impact Newspaper, Spring-Klein Edition, Jan. 22, 2021. Article title: “Pandemic leaves districts underenrolled, facing budget, staffing challenges”

          Example: Second and third paragraphs from the article (there is much more):

          “As of Jan. 6, the enrollments of KISD, SISD and
          CFISD are less than district projections by 2,209
          students, 1,630 students and 3,359 students,
          respectively, according to the districts.

          “We see leavers every year; what we don’t have this
          year is that offsetting incoming group of students,
          and that’s been the narrative across the state: ‘Where
          are the students?’” SISD Chief Financial Officer Ann
          Westbrooks said during a Dec. 3 board meeting.
          “They’re not showing up somewhere else, so that’s
          a bit perplexing.”

          Note that “…KISD, SISD and
          CFISD” are, respectively Klein Independent School District, Spring ISD, and Cypress-Fairbanks ISD.

          While the Spring ISD Financial Officer is quoted as saying the problem in Texas is state-wide, I’m guessing it’s nation-wide.

  40. Palaver

    America’s liberal attitudes and policies on immigration are not shared or reciprocated in the countries that interest Americans.

    A recent American digital nomad appearing in the headlines was deported for advocating legal ways to enter a country. Xenophobic hostility towards Americans erupted on their twitter. Americans were ruining their country.

    The irony is that most Americans in foreign countries are locals with dual passports. There are a thousand of them in America for every one nonlocal American in their country. Your presence will be the target of nationalist outrage.

    The incompetence, corruption, and inequities of their system will be blamed on you. The government encourages and participates in the outrage. It takes the heat of their back. Blaming a tiny foreign population with no social capital or political representation and lesser economic rights is easier than blaming the poor. Americans will find just as much or more to be angry about when abroad.

    I am in generally in favor of more open borders. But travel taught me the importance of reciprocity. The privileges America grants others should be demanded in return. The world was MAGA before Trump was MAGA. The US, sadly, is reverting to the mean after sacrificing it’s industrial economy.

    Summary: America is awful, but the world contains the worst of the worst, which will upset you just as much.

  41. Mark Sanders

    The situation of these young, white men call to my mind that of poor black men for generations and generations. Going from crappy job to crappy job, never saving enough money because they’re spending it at the bars, having several children by different mothers, drug addiction, etc., etc. Growing up, it wasn’t uncommon for me to hear white people bemoan about why can’t black get their act together. (People may remember Bill Cosby, of all people, lecturing blacks about this.)

    Well, now white people are falling into those same bad habits. So it becomes obvious this is not a race issue, it’s a poverty issue. I remember years ago reading short stories about poor Russian peasants by Anton Chekov. The behavior of these characters resemble the behavior of those in Hillbilly Elegy, a book dealing with growing up in poor white Appalachia. Perhaps the most depressing aspect of all of this is that it is very rare for people to jump from one class to another, even from poor to middle class isn’t that common in good times. Like digging a hole one can’t get out of.

    We fear that the coming violence of these young, white men are going to show in the political arena, but I suspect the violence is going to go all over the place, the same way it is in poor black ghettos – violence against each other, against female partners, against well-to-do people, and against oneself.

    1. Robert Gray

      Your mention of Hillbilly Elegy here prompts me to refer those who don’t know his work to the late (d. 2011) great Joe Bageant. Trenchant social analysis and a very readable style.

    2. a fax machine

      Part of the issue is that the typical common ground for this, schools, are not operating. They’re crashing apart with the most “successful” (in a purely survival sense) being the very poor who ejected completely for trade schools and the very rich that got into a private school. The middle is under intense pressure to both preform to the pre-Covid level but do so without any support. As many are now discovering, they cannot do it.

      The most common way this problem expresses itself are people moving out back east where their meager savings can buy a house. But other ways as well: suddenly someone trades their new hybrid or Tesla down for a used sedan, or learn the hard way that most transit isn’t operating. Suddenly the poor peak Internet speeds become a real problem, as do the blackouts – adults start doing work later in the evening or early AM to compensate and allow their children unfettered access. There’s no natural cycle anymore for people who want to work within the system. For those beneath it, they are still doing the low rent cash jobs they’ve always have. The middle looks at this and has no place to fit… eventually this forces them to create a place to fit. That can either happen peacefully or violently.

      I mean, what happens after the Eviction Moratorium ends? Most renters are not paying what they owe because they do not have it. This will hurt many landlords and force them under too. This raises interest rates, hurting other otherwise healthy borrowers. Foreclosures happen and depress prices, as homeowners start selling to compartmentalize their financial loss. Eventually it’s 2007 all over again. Large homeless camps form as people pool resources, and from this revolution can spawn. Or not, if corrective action is quickly taken in advance. I’m not holding my breath.

  42. melle

    I came from a financially challenged family in the Houston periphery myself, but as a Houston-based student and early career worker in the 70s and 80s, I also roamed the country, living for periods of time in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Charleston SC and Philadelphia. Then in summer 1987, I stashed my few possessions in a storage locker, took a cheap flight to the UK and started a graduate course. And because the October 1987 stock market crash wiped out USA jobs I decided to stay. I was in central London between 1987 and 2018, but having voted with my feet regarding Brexit, I am now am semi-retired in lightly populated rural France.

    In my early days as a college student in Houston, I did all kinds of working class and skilled jobs, including driving the freeways delivering units of blood to remote hospitals, stocker & checker at a grocery, selling glue-laminated beams from a north-Houston factory, hand-making models of chemical plants in a west-Houston model shop, drawing oil exploration maps in a central Houston highrise, etc.

    I found that what made Houston special was the relative ease of life there, whatever I was doing. Plenty of space, plenty of opportunity. A welcoming sense that anywhere you went, any life you were leading was a fine adventure. A lot of different kinds of people, all mixing freely. People not too competitive, but very lively. Apartment life? Great. Swimming pools, hot summers, barbecues. Buying a house? Easy finance and endless development in every direction made inexpensive (used) home ownership a possibility, as long as you didn’t need to live ‘inside the loop’ (610). And there was not much need to worry about money if you didn’t mind heat and could accept a close-to-earth lifestyle. I lived in Houston for years with no car, just a bicycle, and without the expense of air conditioning. And don’t forget, Texas had (has?) no state income tax.

    My experience was that a lot of people in the Houston area weren’t really seeking ‘stability’, and didn’t much care about becoming ‘middle class’. What people were able to do instead was to enjoy their life adventure. A lot of people are experiencing a loss of pleasure in living due to the ongoing CV19 risk of personal disaster, but perhaps a freewheelin’ Houstonian feels the loss of options more acutely than those of us whose lives are more constrained.

    ‘Fight or flight’ is a natural response to the pandemic’s effect, I suppose. Of the two possibilies, escape is certainly preferable. Encourage people who want to try. Leave the city for the countryside (I’ve made friends with a pot-bellied pig and learned how to grow brocolli, for example), or go to another state, or country (I’m learning French). I recommend travel, and emigration if desired, for anyone feeling seriously stressed where they are. Easy? Probably not. Impossible? Unlikely – there are a lot of countries to choose from. Don’t worry about whether the trip will be permanent. Even if there is a decision to return home later (whether or not it’s optional), an extended trip can provide a positive focus and genuine new opportunities.

  43. Synoia

    I read that South Africa had a population of 259,000 whites and 250,000 Blacks, at the turn of the last century. I forget where I read the statistics.

    Now it has over 50 Million people. And is a little bit more crowded.

  44. freedomny

    I know this might sound crazy since this is a family blog and not a true “media” site, channel, whatever….but I’d personally love to see a short video of any of ATH’s growing, land and sustainability efforts.

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