The headlines show America being dismantled. It’s time to act, not just watch.

Summary:  We can see our future in today’s news headlines. Unless we become more active, our complacency today will create future astonishment — as we pretend surprise when the inevitable arrives. Here are ugly examples from our increasingly dark news. I recommend anger as a good first step.

Seeing the future
Ron Chapple/Getty Images.

I love the New York Times, so often reporting the news but burying the lede. Today’s fun headline is “BlackRock Reaches a Deal for a Move to Hudson Yards“. The real story tells how New York State gave $25 million in tax credits to the giant financial firm Blackrock. In exchange for Blackrock moves into nicer quarters and keeps 2,672 jobs in Manhattan. Terrorism works! Blackrock also promises to create 700 jobs (but there are no penalties for non-compliance).

Yesterday the NYT told us that “On Campus, Trump Fans Say They Need ‘Safe Spaces’“, which reports about two trends on college campuses. Conservatives say that “their views are not respected.” And threats of terrorism. As the President of the U of MI said, with insane even-handedness:

“…a student walking near campus was threatened with being lighted on fire because she wore a hijab… Some students have also been shouted at and accused of being racist because of their political views.”

We passively read news headlines showing the US political system breaking down, its norms no longer respected by its leaders. Such as “Donald Trump will remain Executive Producer on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’“. How long until President Trump nominates a horse as cabinet secretary?

We doze while the well-coiffed reporters on the TV announce that America is being dismantled and rebuilt as a plutocracy. Oklahoma’s governor sells off its parks (let the peons relax at country clubs!), and pretends not to notice that unregulated fracking is causing increasingly severe earthquakes. In a truly a truly Orwellian touch, Trump appoints a modern version of Mr. Potter (from It’s A Wonderful Life) as his Secretary of Labor: advocates letting inflation erode away the minimum wage and gutting the social safety net, and opposes effective regulation of overtime laws (see the ugly details here).

Welcome to the Future

Look across the ocean to see America’s future

Similar trends are reshaping Britain. Their social services were more advanced than ours, but are being dismantled at an accelerating pace. Together we race to a dystopian future as plutocratic societies run by hypocritical libertarian cant. Their greatest social levelers, the National Health Services and universities, are being wrecked. Their local governments, providing vital public services, are being defunded. For details see “The Strange Death of Municipal England” by Tom Crewe (editor of the London Review of Books). It is gated, but you should subscribe to the LRB (it is on the top of my reading list).

He describes how since Thatcher austerity has been the hammer used to break down Britain, slowly strangling its public services. The result is closed pools, parks, playgrounds, libraries (15% closed since 2010, the rest are reducing hours), care centers for the elderly, museums (one in five regional museums has closed), and toilets (1,782 public toilets have been closed in the last decade).  Public transport systems are being gutted — cutting routes, reducing timetables, and jacking up prices.

Similar trends are re-shaping America. For example, tuition at the California’s public universities has tripled since 2002 (up 8,9%/year) — and is still rising. Conservatives are directly targeting for destruction other engines of social mobility.

“Councils are also closing Sure Start children’s centres, one of New Labour’s most successful innovations. Designed to mitigate the effects of inequality as early in life as possible, the centres provide sessions with midwives and health visitors, ‘stay and play’ sessions, and other educational activities for families. A government-commissioned report, sneaked out last Christmas, found that ‘children’s centres can have positive effects on [social] outcomes, especially on family functioning that affects the quality of parenting, and that children’s centres are highly valued by parents’.”

This is a process, with the end still not in sight.

“The services that remain are hopelessly overstretched: pay is generally abysmal and training limited … here is no let-up in sight: councils have a further billion pounds of cuts planned for the current year, with more to come until, in 2019, the gap between needs and resources will reach an estimated £2.8 billion, and spending on adult social care will fall below 1 per cent of GDP. One consequence is that the NHS can no longer safely discharge patients into the community, leading to a shortage of hospital beds.”

Privatization is another conservative tool to reshape the relationship between citizen and government. Public assets are sold off, so that the public can pay more to corporations and get less.

“People can no longer expect the services they pay for to be run in their interest, rather than the interests of shareholders; and they can’t assume that the companies that operate these services are in any way transparent or accountable to them. Governments can be removed, but ten-year contracts signed by one set of ministers will persist into the next parliament. The Civil Service has been progressively stripped of expertise: every time a service is outsourced, experience and understanding are lost, weakening supervision and creating gaps that in the future will need to be filled by more private-sector support. “

Austerity is an instrument by which to increase inequality. For conservatives this is a feature, not a bug.

“The poorer an area, the greater its needs and the greater the council’s reliance on government grants, so cuts too are proportionally greater. The richer an area, the less the council relies on government grants, and the less it is affected by cuts. Knowsley and Liverpool are two of the most deprived areas of the country: council spend per head in these areas has been reduced by £400 and £390 respectively. In Wokingham and Elmbridge, two of the wealthiest parts of the country, the corresponding totals are £2.29 and £8.14. Local authorities in the top 20% for rates of health deprivation and disability have had their spending power cut by an average of £205 per head, 12 times the average reduction faced by those in the bottom 20%.

“Between 2010 and 2015 the worst-hit councils cut their social care budgets by 14% on average, while those who received the smallest reduction increased theirs by 8%; child social care in the former group was cut by 4% and increased in the latter by 15%. Look at every other area of spending and you will see the same trend. What is worse, the government’s few attempts to ameliorate councils’ financial position have had the perverse – if intentional – consequence of disproportionately benefiting well-off Tory councils in the shires.”

This is the future of America, unless we wake up and act.  Time is our enemy. Anger is the first step to reform.

For More Information

For more about this Team Trump: Here’s the news about Team Trump. See the promises fade away. Trump assembles a Strategic and Policy Forum to better hear the 1%. Also see “Trump’s wealthy cabinet choices hark back to Gilded Age” by Shawn Donnan in the Financial Times — “Few precedents for collection of billionaires and their lack of government experience.”

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about populism, about the Trump era, about inequality, about paths to political reform, and especially these…

  1. The project to reform America: a matter for science or a matter of will?
  2. Realism about the prospects for reform in America.
  3. Politics in modern America: A users’ guide for journalists and reformers.
  4. Warning: the income gap between races is widening in America.

Useful books explaining what is happening to America

"The Party is Over" by Mike Lofgren
Available at Amazon..
"Listen, Liberal" by Thomas Frank
Available at Amazon.

9 thoughts on “The headlines show America being dismantled. It’s time to act, not just watch.”

  1. Good summary. Better exhortation. Will take a willingness to put aside small and petty ideas and seek Alignment with many POV to assemble the unified voice against the outrageous trends this Early stage of Mr Trump has clearly embarked upon.
    Ominous no doubt but all these Moves have been used for years, only now are they willing to Push to the logical ends…..seemingly unimpeded.
    Joining others in action is what they really are expecting and such actions can be expected to be met with increasing atomization and attack.
    But United actions can and will stop these tends.
    That is a historical fact/realty.


  2. the only thing that matters is preserving the historic American nation from the invading global south. Hopefully, Muslims will start self-deporting as hostility to their unwanted presence (which was never put to the ballot) grows. It’s pretty disgusting to attack people attacking the people demographically replacing them, Fabius Maximus. Do you think the founding fathers were thinking Abdullah and his 9 hijab adorned wives when they referred to their ‘poserity’? Smh.

  3. Larry, surely understanding — and a capacity to propose workable alternatives — should come along with, or even precede, anger.

    1. Did you miss the Links above? Like this one: “This Is How Steve Bannon Sees The Entire World” at Buzzfeed — “The soon-to-be White House chief strategist laid out a global vision in a rare 2014 talk, one where he said racism in the far right gets “washed out” and called Vladimir Putin a kleptocrat.”

      Understanding takes research and in this case daily attention but not too much as there are articles like this all over to be considered at least.


      1. Breton,

        I saw it, and am ashamed to say that I couldn’t bring myself to read it. Breitbart is a cesspool of fake news. Learning what its leader — now President Trump’s chief strategist — thinks seems likely to be depressing.

        “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof…”
        — Matthew 6:34.

    2. Or maybe this one: “THE NECESSITY OF CREDIBILITY” by Nathan J. Robinson at Current Affairs — “Ridding ourselves of fake news requires having media outlets that are actually worth listening to”.

      One needs to take the time to read them, research the claims and filter for oneself.
      Surely you followed the Weapons of Mass Destruction lies, Judith Miller et. al. in the past.
      Theses issues are certainly not new, simply the intensity has risen to become an existential threat. Or Mr. Snowden. And Wikileak dumps? There were “warnings”, many tried to debunk them as hyperbole. Now?



      1. Breton,

        How sad that Mr. Robinson believes the news media is not up to his standards, which are probably of the highest. I hope he subscribes to the newspapers he critiques. Otherwise he is just another of the confused ranks of Americans who believe they’re entitled to high quality in what they don’t pay for. “If you don’t pay for it, you’re the product — not the audience.”

        His claim is quite mad that the news media’s occasional inaccuracies — inevitable unless Mr. Robinson would pay a great deal for his news — justify Mr. Trump’s serial lies. Magnitudes matter.

  4. Meanwhile, under cover of media disinformation, one country is heading in the opposite direction: China. After wiping out urban poverty this year, they will eliminate rural poverty by 2020. And that’s just their first goal. Their post-2020 goals are far more ambitious.

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