Summary: A different perspective on the New America arising now. Heroin, unemployment, and inequality — bricks in the structure.
I have attempted — with, I suspect, little success — to convey to you that we have left America That Once Was and begun a journey to a New America. We were relaxing by the river, and fell into a deep hole. We were living in our farm in Kansas, and then a tornado came.
The oddest aspect I find about living in Oz is not the strange things. It’s that others do not see them as well. “Look, flying monkeys” I say! “No”, I’m told in the comments. “Those are just squirrels.” This is the primary purpose of the Predictions Page, to show you (and myself) which of our contrasting views of the world is correct.
The Predictions Page serves a second role. This is a journey to New America. Which means we experience new things. I point them out; years later you read about them on the front page of The Economist (motto: accurate, interesting, new — pick two). By then new astonishment have appeared to write about on the FM website. The predictions page serves as reminder that you read about today’s headlines long ago.
Today’s example, making this real for you: five years ago a series of posts (now 26) began warning about America’s increasing income inequality and falling social mobility — how the crash would accelerate it, and how this would destroy the America we knew. Now it’s headline news. On both the Right and Left they spin fantasies of Revolution. On the Right they write about the threat of unwashed moochers and the coming mindless vandalism. On the Left they write about the coming Jubilee when the oppressed arise and righteously smite the evil rich.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Note the inflection point in 2007. Widespread unemployment, foreclosures, bankruptcy — ruined lives (but very very rich bankers). The increase from the 2003 and 2005 lows is statistically significant at the .05 level.
Figure 2.4 Past Month and Past Year Heroin Use among Persons Aged 12 or Older: 2002-2011
As you look at this chart, let’s review the basics. The New America now arising differs from the One-that-Once-Was. The New America is built on the bodies of Americans. It’s construction is powered by our apathy and indifference. The 2012 election showed, once again, that the New American elites regard us with contempt. Our behavior so far shows that they are correct.
But change is the essence of life. We can do better.
Exploitation of the masses by ruling elites is a commonplace of history. Master-peasant is a proven stable form of society. Aristocrats (hereditary wealthy class) oppressing the masses are another commonplace. Revolutions are rare thing. Captain Kirk (the original Star Trek) is wrong; people live quietly as slaves and serfs.
We see the same in our society. The Gilded Age, broadly speaking, lasted for several generations. It was broken by the Great Depression, when the combination of economic stress and fear of communism forced our ruling elites to reform. The WW2 mobilization and its aftermath forced still more reforms (again, a commonplace of history — the ruling elites make concessions to the proles to gain their support for wars). Neither set of reforms were in a real sense earned by us; they were gifts of history (i.e., the blood and tears of unions made reform possible, but as of 1929 had only limited success).
Oppression by itself does not decrease stability, unless done in an extreme and stupid manner. There must be a spark. I see no such spark on our horizon. We must kindle one for ourselves. We have the ability to reform America, and lack only the will to do so.
For More Information
To see the big picture: America – how can we stop the quiet coup now in progress.
Posts about inequality:
- A sad picture of America, but important for us to understand,
3 November 2008 — Our low social mobility.
- An opportunity to look in the mirror, to more clearly see America, 10 November 2009
- Graph of the decade, a hidden fracture in the American political regime, 7 March 2010
- America, the land of limited opportunity. We must open our eyes to the truth., 31 March 2010
- Modern America seen in pictures. Graphs, not photos. Facts, not impressions., 13 June 2010
- Jared Bernstein examines the economic impact of raising taxes on high-income households, 30 April 2012
- How clearly do we see the rising inequality in America? How do we feel about it? Much depends on these answers., 27 September 2012
- Ugly truths about income inequality in America, which no politician dares to say, 2 October 2012
- Glimpses of the New America being born now, 18 June 2013
- Why Elizabeth Bennet could not marry Mr. Darcy. Nor could your daughter., 12 July 2013
Posts about reforming America:
- The project to reform America: a matter for science or a matter of will?, 16 March 2010
- Can we reignite the spirit of America?, 14 September 2010
- The sure route to reforming America, 16 November 2010
- We are alone in the defense of the Republic, 5 July 2012
- A third try: The First Step to reforming America, 28 May 2013
- The bad news about reforming America: time is our enemy, 27 June 2013
- Why the 1% is winning, and we are not, 26 July 2013
- Understand our problem before you prescribe a cure for America. We’ve gone mad., 17 September 2013