Friday, November 18, 2016

The Long Spiral Down

What does the U.S., Greece, France, Great Britain, and Germany all have in common?

We share a common thread with all of these nations and that thread is a long downward spiral to the lowest common denominator. The middle class is declining and the middle class is starting to reach for straws, anything that they think can save them.

Make America Great Again!

Make Greece Great Again!

Make France Great Again!

All you have to do is to tap into that fear and direct it toward any convenient minority… the Syrians, the Jews, the Muslims, the blacks, the Mexicans, the Gays, any minority will do. And blame them that it is all their fault that we are going down. It is their fault that we can’t find jobs.

This is what Michael Moore said this summer…
I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I gave it to you straight last summer when I told you that Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee for president. And now I have even more awful, depressing news for you: Donald J. Trump is going to win in November. This wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full time sociopath is going to be our next president. President Trump. Go ahead and say the words, ‘cause you’ll be saying them for the next four years: “PRESIDENT TRUMP.”

Never in my life have I wanted to be proven wrong more than I do right now.

I can see what you’re doing right now. You’re shaking your head wildly – “No, Mike, this won’t happen!” Unfortunately, you are living in a bubble that comes with an adjoining echo chamber where you and your friends are convinced the American people are not going to elect an idiot for president. You alternate between being appalled at him and laughing at him because of his latest crazy comment or his embarrassingly narcissistic stance on everything because everything is about him. And then you listen to Hillary and you behold our very first female president, someone the world respects, someone who is whip-smart and cares about kids, who will continue the Obama legacy because that is what the American people clearly want! Yes! Four more years of this!
And he goes to list five reasons why Trump is going to win.
Midwest Math, or Welcome to Our Rust Belt Brexit.  I believe Trump is going to focus much of his attention on the four blue states in the rustbelt of the upper Great Lakes – Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Four traditionally Democratic states – but each of them have elected a Republican governor since 2010 (only Pennsylvania has now finally elected a Democrat). In the Michigan primary in March, more Michiganders came out to vote for the Republicans (1.32 million) that the Democrats (1.19 million). Trump is ahead of Hillary in the latest polls in Pennsylvania and tied with her in Ohio. Tied? How can the race be this close after everything Trump has said and done? Well maybe it’s because he’s said (correctly) that the Clintons’ support of NAFTA helped to destroy the industrial states of the Upper Midwest. Trump is going to hammer Clinton on this and her support of TPP and other trade policies that have royally screwed the people of these four states. When Trump stood in the shadow of a Ford Motor factory during the Michigan primary, he threatened the corporation that if they did indeed go ahead with their planned closure of that factory and move it to Mexico, he would slap a 35% tariff on any Mexican-built cars shipped back to the United States. It was sweet, sweet music to the ears of the working class of Michigan, and when he tossed in his threat to Apple that he would force them to stop making their iPhones in China and build them here in America, well, hearts swooned and Trump walked away with a big victory that should have gone to the governor next-door, John Kasich.

From Green Bay to Pittsburgh, this, my friends, is the middle of England – broken, depressed, struggling, the smokestacks strewn across the countryside with the carcass of what we use to call the Middle Class. Angry, embittered working (and nonworking) people who were lied to by the trickle-down of Reagan and abandoned by Democrats who still try to talk a good line but are really just looking forward to rub one out with a lobbyist from Goldman Sachs who’ll write them nice big check before leaving the room. What happened in the UK with Brexit is going to happen here. Elmer Gantry shows up looking like Boris Johnson and just says whatever shit he can make up to convince the masses that this is their chance! To stick to ALL of them, all who wrecked their American Dream! And now The Outsider, Donald Trump, has arrived to clean house! You don’t have to agree with him! You don’t even have to like him! He is your personal Molotov cocktail to throw right into the center of the bastards who did this to you! SEND A MESSAGE! TRUMP IS YOUR MESSENGER!

And this is where the math comes in. In 2012, Mitt Romney lost by 64 electoral votes. Add up the electoral votes cast by Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It’s 64. All Trump needs to do to win is to carry, as he’s expected to do, the swath of traditional red states from Idaho to Georgia (states that’ll never vote for Hillary Clinton), and then he just needs these four rust belt states. He doesn’t need Florida. He doesn’t need Colorado or Virginia. Just Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And that will put him over the top. This is how it will happen in November.
If you look at Fact Check they have the stats on President Obama’s presidency,
Since President Barack Obama first took office:
  • The economy has added more than 10 million jobs, and job openings are at a 15-year high.
  • The unemployment rate has dropped well below the historical norm, but long-term unemployment remains higher than at the start of the Great Recession.
  • The buying power of the average worker’s weekly paycheck is up 4.4 percent.
  • Corporate profits are running 152 percent higher, and stock prices have soared.
  • The number of immigrants caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally has dropped 53 percent.
  • Federal debt has more than doubled, and annual deficits, after shrinking, are again on the rise.
  • The home ownership rate has dropped by 4 percentage points.
  • The number of Americans on food stamps is up 36 percent.
  • Oil imports are down 53 percent, and wind and solar power have quadrupled.
  • The number of people lacking health insurance has gone down by 15.2 million.
Those are just some of the findings in our latest installment of Obama’s Numbers.
So why are the middle class angry?

The economy has recovered from the great depression of 2008… or has it?

Pew Research found that,
The wealth gap between America’s high income group and everyone else has reached record high levels since the economic recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-09, with a clear trajectory of increasing wealth for the upper-income families and no wealth growth for the middle- and lower-income families.

A new Pew Research Center analysis of wealth finds the gap between America’s upper-income and middle-income families has reached its highest level on record. In 2013, the median wealth of the nation’s upper-income families ($639,400) was nearly seven times the median wealth of middle-income families ($96,500), the widest wealth gap seen in 30 years when the Federal Reserve began collecting these data.

And where was this felt the most?

In the “Rust Belt” good paying union jobs went to China, Indonesia, Mexico, and other country that pay their employees just pennies a day with no health insurance, no retirement plans, just subsidence wages. The jobs that replaced them were all service jobs.

If you are lucky to have a manufacturing job or an office job you haven't received a meaningful raises in years and are barely keeping your head above water. One little accident, health problem, or other event can put you under water.

Trump win had been predicted by Noam Chomsky six years earlier.
President Donald Trump wins: Noam Chomsky called this political moment 6 years ago
'If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble'
By Christopher Hooton
Wednesday 9 November 2016

Back in April 2010, Noam Chomsky offered a dark vision of America's future that was easily dismissed. Today, as America votes Donald Trump President-elect, it has turned out to be painfully accurate.

The philosopher, historian and activist warned of the success a "charismatic figure" would have if one ran for office promising to cure society's ills, and listed elements of their campaign that would take them to power. The similarities to Trump are manifold and clear, from military force being exalted (Trump consistently heaps praise on the army and secret service) to the scapegoating of illegal immigrants (Trump has vowed to eject them from the country and build a wall between the US and Mexico).

Here's what he told TruthDig (via Fahad Alhazmi):
“The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen. Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says ‘I have got an answer, we have an enemy’? There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don’t think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election.”

The Occupy Wall Street people knew this in 2011.

When the wealth is concentrated into the hand of a few we enter a period of unrest and fascism.

Back in the 1890s we went through another depression that created social unrest. Vassar College said this about the depression,
The Depression of 1893

In its impact on industry and employment, the depression of the 1890s was on a par with the Great Depression of the 1930s. In some places it began before 1890, in a deep agricultural crisis that hit Southern cotton-growing regions and the Great Plains in the late 1880s. The shock hit Wall Street and urban areas in 1893, as part of a massive worldwide economic crisis. A quarter of the nation's railroads went bankrupt; in some cities, unemployment among industrial workers exceeded 20 or even 25 percent.

Americans of different incomes experienced the depression in markedly different ways. In the bitter winter months, some poor families starved and others became wanderers. Unemployed "tramps" crisscrossed the countryside, walking or hiding on freight trains. Many appeared at the back doors of middle-class houses, pleading for work or food.

Despite the obvious structural crisis, many Americans blamed those who could not find work, accusing them of laziness or begging. Some among the unemployed blamed themselves, and stories of despair and suicide ran almost daily in many newspapers.

New York Journal 13 October, 1896
"It is Legal to Starve, but Not to Murder"
Hmm… does this all sound familiar?

You can see the same thing happening in the depression of the 1930, the concentration of wealth in the 1920s brought about a worldwide social unrest and the rise of the NAZI party.

New York Magazine had this article about democracy,
Democracies end when they are too democratic.
And right now, America is a breeding ground for tyranny.
By Andrew Sullivan
May 1, 2016

As this dystopian election campaign has unfolded, my mind keeps being tugged by a passage in Plato’s Republic. It has unsettled — even surprised — me from the moment I first read it in graduate school. The passage is from the part of the dialogue where Socrates and his friends are talking about the nature of different political systems, how they change over time, and how one can slowly evolve into another. And Socrates seemed pretty clear on one sobering point: that “tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy.” What did Plato mean by that? Democracy, for him, I discovered, was a political system of maximal freedom and equality, where every lifestyle is allowed and public offices are filled by a lottery. And the longer a democracy lasted, Plato argued, the more democratic it would become. Its freedoms would multiply; its equality spread. Deference to any sort of authority would wither; tolerance of any kind of inequality would come under intense threat; and multiculturalism and sexual freedom would create a city or a country like “a many-colored cloak decorated in all hues.”

This rainbow-flag polity, Plato argues, is, for many people, the fairest of regimes. The freedom in that democracy has to be experienced to be believed — with shame and privilege in particular emerging over time as anathema. But it is inherently unstable. As the authority of elites fades, as Establishment values cede to popular ones, views and identities can become so magnificently diverse as to be mutually uncomprehending. And when all the barriers to equality, formal and informal, have been removed; when everyone is equal; when elites are despised and full license is established to do “whatever one wants,” you arrive at what might be called late-stage democracy. There is no kowtowing to authority here, let alone to political experience or expertise.
Could it be that the Donald has emerged from the populist circuses of pro wrestling and New York City tabloids, via reality television and Twitter, to prove not just Plato but also James Madison right, that democracies “have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention … and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths”? Is he testing democracy’s singular weakness — its susceptibility to the demagogue — by blasting through the firewalls we once had in place to prevent such a person from seizing power? Or am I overreacting?
No, I don't think he is overreacting.

Now that I got you thoroughly depressed, how are we going to stop this downward spiral to worldwide economic disaster?

Well in 1890s, and the 1930s wars brought us out of the economic and social crises and I don’t think we want a World War III.

What we know…
Communism doesn’t work
Socialism doesn’t work
Capitalism doesn’t work

Communism has no incentive to get ahead, socialism drains the economy, and capitalism concentrates the wealth.

Here is what I think would work… return the trade tariffs and give favorable status to nations that protect their workforce by allowing workers to organize. Otherwise we are on the path to the lowest common denominator, how can we compete with a country that pays its workers pennies with no benefits?

Did you know that during the sixties when we had the greatest economic growth in our history the top tax bracket was 90%! We have to raise the top tax brackets not lower them.

What we have learned from President Reagan was that trickledown theory doesn’t work, all the wealth stays at the top. What does work is having a strong middle class to go out and buy things.

I am a strong believer in John Kenneth Galbraith and John Maynard Keynes theories that government’s role is to provide balance between labor and business and to simulate the economy.

Galbraith said,
Should society then simply pursue a policy of laissez-faire, counting on these economic forces to produce the social good? Galbraith answered with a resounding "No." In the preface of his Economics and the Public Purpose he stated, "On no conclusion is this book more clear: Left to themselves, economic forces do not work out for the best except perhaps, for the powerful."
While Keynesian Economics
The central tenet of this school of thought is that government intervention can stabilize the economy.
I believe that socialism does not work and unfettered capitalism does not work, what we have to have is a modification between the two… we need a safety net. We see unfettered capitalism in the healthcare industry with the price of drugs skyrocketing with pharmaceutical companies make huge profits.

As I mentioned earlier corporate profits are 152 percent higher, and stock prices are at record levels but that money hasn’t trickled down. Companies have amassed fortunes in cash and are gobbling up each other with their billions in cash.
Priming the pump.Injection of (relatively small) sums of money by a government into a depressed economy through commissioning of public works. Its objective is to increase purchasing power of people that will stimulate demand which in turn will boost private sector investment ... and so more and more money will be pumped into the economy.
What the Republicans are planning is not going to work. Cutting the budget and balancing the budget is not going to work and it is going to have the exact opposite affect because it is not addressing the cause of unrest in this country, the loss of high paying jobs overseas.

Without tariffs jobs will go to the lowest paid worker. It is a basic tenant of business, I don’t know about you but when I had my roof done I went for the guy who said he could do it for $19,000 not the guy who said he would do it for $23,000.

What I believe is…
We need to do is tax the upper income brackets more and not flatten out the brackets
We need to make education affordable to all and not just for the rich.
We need to stimulate research and manufacturing here in the U.S. and not allow companies to take our research dollars to develop products and then manufacture them overseas.
We need to help developing countries bring their workforce up our level and not bring ours down to their level.
We need to prime the pump by rebuilding our infrastructure.
We need to fund new research, but unlike in the past government funded research should belong to the people not the corporations or a partnership and it has to be built here in the U.S. and not manufactured overseas.
 We need to break the downward spiral to fascism and global unrest.

I suggest reading "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By" by Barbara Ehrenreich
Our sharpest and most original social critic goes "undercover" as an unskilled worker to reveal the dark side of American prosperity.

Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job -- any job -- can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you int to live indoors.

Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity -- a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich's perspective and for a rare view of how "prosperity" looks from the bottom. You will never see anything -- from a motel bathroom to a restaurant meal -- in quite the same way again.
And it is still true today.

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