The vast inequality of this new Gilded Age didn’t just happen. Nature didn’t ordain it, the market didn’t require it, and Adam Smith’s invisible hand doesn’t sustain it.What happened is the rich declared class war and spent what it took to win.
Not exactly a new story, of course, but the extraordinary new concentration of wealth and power created a juggernaut that makes it harder and harder for democracy to work for all.
From Bill Moyers on Class in America
About a year ago I heard an interview on Air America with a gentleman plugging something - a book, if memory serves - on labor and the working class. I can’t remember the name of the person being interviewed, so let’s call him Interviewee. Interviewee said something very interesting about the definition of “middle class”. He said that if you can’t afford to be without a job for at least six months, you aren’t middle class.
Whether you agree with this or not, it’s a vitally important concept. Why? Because until we as working people re-embrace (or, perhaps simply embrace) our very status as working people, the divide between the haves and have-nots in this country is going to continue to increase because we won’t be organizing as working people.
For quite some time now, America’s been a place where everyone who’s not flat-out rich or flat-out poor wants to define themselves as middle class. “Working class” has become a term only for the poor, and only for blue collar workers. This is bullshit.
Continue Reading »
Yesterday, the Decider paid a visit to New Orleans. You won’t be surprised to hear that he “delivered a message of hope”. More grating, he claimed “[Katrina] didn’t effect the spirit of a lot of citizens in this community”. Both in Washington, and in Louisiana, political games are being played.
Meanwhile, the rebuilding of New Orleans is turning into an exercise in ethnic, and class, cleansing. Many of the people who lived and worked in the city are still housed in trailers - as reported here (YouTube clip). What Americans don’t know, and what they must know, is that many Black people are not being allowed to return to their homes in New Orleans:
Among the miles and miles of devastated houses, rubble still there today in New Orleans, we found dry, beautiful homes. But their residents were told by guys dressed like Ninjas wearing “Blackwater” badges: “Try to go into your home and we’ll arrest you.”
See more details at Greg Palast’s blog, where you will also find clips (such as the YouTube one above) and info on the not-to-be-missed investigative documentary, New Orleans: Big Easy to Big Empty.
Bush got one thing right, though: the people’s spirits have not been crushed. People like Kawana Jasper are fighting for a future in New Orleans.
(Many more testimonials can be found at Voices from the Gulf).
And we can help. We can pressure politicians to have public housing in New Orleans reopened. We can throw whatever small weight we have behind the Gulf Coast Civil Works Project that envisions hiring the citizens on the Gulf Coast to rebuild their city, instead of shuffling more money to large contractor who import sub-living wage labor to do the work.
In his intriguing, if overly verbose, article on “Capitalist democracy: elective affinity or beguiling illusion” (Daedalus, Summer 2007, pp. 5-13), John Dunn states:
“This much is clear: while in America, Tom Paine and James Madison both imagined that that a commercial society could coexist happily with a representative republic, others elsewhere, from Filippo Buonarroti and the first Duke of Wellington in the 1830s to the Guild Socialist G.D.H. Cole in the 1920s, were just as certain that the inequalities generated by the market economy were incompatible with a truly democratic republic. (p. 5)
To this latter position I would add not only generated but sustained for the benefit of some over others. In the article, John Dunn mentions aristocracy and monarchy as counterpoints to democracy, but fails to follow up on oligarchy, the far more relevant (in my opinion) form of aristocratic “ruling” behavior in a capitalist democracy, and a problem in Greek and Roman times as well. Can a group of leaders so constituted as to view their interests (esp. economic) as either constitutive of or superior to the general public be entrusted with power in a democracy?
Continue Reading »
“Unprecedented” may be the word I might use to describe for the possibility that the Federal Reserve and government apparatchiks will baldly and simply overtly “change the score” on the economic scoreboard to both serve financiers and bail them out of their circular firing squad. [It’s been done in the past but covertly.] Yes homeowners who were duped into buying homes way beyond their means will suffer probable bankruptcy, but they don’t have much to lose in the sense that many didn’t have a down payment and some may have even extracted equity.
Financiers seems to have moved from a pyramid scheme to a game of “hot potato” or perhaps “musical chairs.” So filled with greed and hubris from the massive fees they could charge for every transaction and the cheap money merry-go-round provided by the private Federal Reserve Board, they gave out loans, sliced and diced them, repackaged them and shipped them out…to each other! In so doing they ended up screwing themselves as well as the American public.
Before, in the Depression and during wars, these same financiers and industrialist could stand to gain both power and money by allowing a contraction of supply and a stimulation of misery. But now their books are interconnected and they don’t really have someone to sucker, er, dump their liability on.
Continue Reading »
Social Darwinism actually predates Darwin, Herbert Spencer coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” several years before Darwin published The Origin of Species. Spencer was more Lamarkian than Darwinian, actually, but “Social Darwinism” was the fittest catch phrase. Add the broth of 19th Century racial theories, and you have a truly toxic brew. Stephen J. Gould has suggested that an opposition to Social Darwinism was behind William Jennings Bryan’s opposition to biological Darwinism, and I find it plausible though there are those who disagree Gould’s suggestion would mean, among other things, that Bryan got another bum rap from history.
One of the funny-but-also-sad things I sometimes see are the bumper magnet decals that show a Darwin fish being eaten by a Jesus fish, seemingly suggesting that the car owner doesn’t believe in Darwinian evolution, but does believe in “survival of the fittest,” i.e. Social Darwinism. Certainly that is a general attitude from a good many people on the Right. Dog-eat-dog society, but let’s not consider the natural world as anything other than divinely planned. Well, that’s okay; dogs were intelligently designed.
Continue Reading »
“war” ongoing illegal occupation in Iraq continues to be referred to as the “number one issue” among voters. Oh, really?
Perhaps, the occupation is the number one issue gnawed at by the dog of a corporate media we are confronted with on a daily basis. It is also the top issue “debated” by politicians from both the Demo-cans and Republi-crats. Neither of these conditions elevates the occupation to the most important “kitchen table” issue for average Americans.
I say, it’s the economy.
If you can’t buy groceries or pay your bills because your dollars aren’t worth what they used to be…it’s the economy. If you can’t find a decent job, because your industry of choice has realized they can outsource their workforce to a lower priced workforce…it’s the economy. If you can’t fill your tank with gas, because the oil companies are
encouraged allowed to fleece the consumer with unjustified prices at the pump…it’s the economy. If you can’t make your mortgage payment, because your lender is raising your interest rates at the behest of the Federal Reserve…it’s the economy.
So, how is this affecting real American’s, people like you, your mom, my cousin, our friends, their neighbors? Let’s see:
June 12 (Bloomberg) — U.S. foreclosure filings surged 90 percent in May from a year earlier as more homeowners fell behind on their monthly mortgage payments, RealtyTrac Inc. said.
There were 176,137 notices of default, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions last month, led by California, Florida and Ohio, the Irvine, California-based seller of foreclosure data said in a report today. The median price for a U.S. home slid 1.8 percent the first three months of 2007 as the housing slump entered its second year, according to the National Association of Realtors. The filings rose 19 percent from April.
A jump in foreclosures at a time of year that traditionally is the busiest for home sales means the slide in prices probably isn’t over, said James Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. Typically, more than half of all home sales occur in the April to June period, according to Freddie Mac, the No. 2 mortgage buyer.
“Such strong activity in the midst of the typical spring buying season could foreshadow even higher foreclosure levels later in the year,” Saccacio said in the report. That will add “to the downward pressure on home prices in many areas.”
I, for one, am ready to change the debate. I’m committed to focusing on the issues which really concern and affect all of us. Issues like the economy, jobs, health care, and education. These are some of the components of A.Citizen’s progressive ideals, which he and I and our friends at Drinking Liberally Oakland discuss on a regular basis. You are welcome to join us.
malcontent regularly blogs at Bear Republic Action Group.