Tag Archives: one percent

Trump and the 1% lead America back to its past, to its dark roots

Summary: Look to the past to see the future of the Trump revolution. That means seeing through the half-truths of both the doomsters and the panglossians. Here’s a brief look at the bad news and the good news. Draw your own conclusions.

Donald Trump's Revolution

The Trump “revolution” is a moment in the wave of history carrying the US to the right. Most Americans do not understand because of their amnesia about our history. Much of what we love about America was true only for a moment. Most of American history is dark. Slavery of Africans. Treaty-breaking, enslavement, and genocide of American Indians. Colonial wars. The long destruction of the craftsman and farming classes. The centralization of power and wealth in the 1%.

Our history is too dark; we do not want to see it. So we manufactured myths to replace facts. We cheer the triumph of “John Wayne in Chisum, the opposite of actual sad events in the Lincoln County War (the cavalry arrived to help the bad guys, as it so often did).

The post-WWII era was an anomaly in our history, a new beginning created by the fires of the Great Depression and WWII. The campaign rhetoric about American exceptionalism, our role as a force for good in the world, our love of social mobility and equality — all was true (in the incomplete fashion of the real world) for a few decades after WWII. Now we have the inevitable counter-revolution, a reversion to the mean of America driven by the immeasurable power and wealth of the 1%. Beginning in the 1970’s they laid plans, which they have lavishly funded and skillfully executed.

I have written warnings about this since 2003. Commenters overwhelmingly said I was exaggerating our danger. Now my predictions appear on the front pages as generations of progress are erased. The 1% has built its political power for four decades; now they have begun to use it. Mother Nature does not care about right and wrong; the 1% deserve to win by her cold logic. Slow and stupid are sins she always punishes.

The old America is resurgent: rule by the exploitative plutocracy backed by domestic force, with an unprincipled and extractive foreign policy. They have just begun to reshape America.

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The 1% won a counter-revolution while we played

Summary: Campaign 2016 has taught us invaluable lessons, as we choose between a clown and a Clinton — a servant of the 1% (sponsored by Goldman). It’s a fitting marker for their victory. But we do not yet see the hidden struggle that brought the 1% back to power, and cannot yet see how to reform America. Others will control our future until we see these things. Here’s a cut at that. This is a revision of a post from April 2014.

Phoenix

Somewhere in our future lies the Third Republic

 

(1)  A different perspective on America

During the long halcyon days of the post-WW2 summer America forgot about economic and social classes — and their cousin, social mobility. A confluence of circumstances made a new America: the cessation of immigration by the 1930’s, the New Deal’s reforms to America’s political and economic structures, the post-WW2 social programs (especially the 1944 GI bill and the Cold War-boosted funding to education (from primary to graduate-level), the 1960’s civil rights legislation — plus the sustained growth of GDP and wages. All these created the rise of a middle class and provided a modest degree of social mobility.

We came to consider this wonderful new America (so different from the horror show of 19th century America) as the true America — not what it actually was, a hard-won victory after generations of oligarchy. We considered this to be our just due.

This summertime culminated in the long boom — the debt-fueled almost recession-free expansion of 1982 – 2007, supercharged by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the late 1990’s tech boom. America was exceptional, history’s favored son, a new moment in history. Marx became a comic figure. “The only Marxists live in Berkeley and Albania.”

The Boomers inherited the New Deal coalition. But most of their political activism was to benefit themselves — such as ending the draft, opening the work world to women, and gaining rights for gays (issues about which the 1%, as a class, are uninterested).

We forgot the long slow low-violence revolution that began after the Civil War, laying the foundation on which the middle class rose. We forgot that we are the crew on the USS America, not passengers on the Love Boat. Too few of us bothered with the boring work of working the engine room and steering the ship.

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On the day after Memorial Day celebrate Plutocracy Now!

Summary: The enemies of America’s democracy have stepped into the light. Yesterday we remembered the sacrifice of those who fell defending America. Today let’s see how we betray them through our apathy and disinterest in working the political machinery of the Republic, putting it at risk. Here are harsh facts essential for us to see. Our complacency is their advantage.

"Plutocracy" bumper sticker

Powerful elements of society seek power just as water runs downhill. They find courtiers who devise justifications for their patron’s rule. It’s a fact of history, although the nature of power changes over time — by ancestry, religious office, ownership of land or animals, or by money.

America’s plutocrats have regained the supremacy they held during the Gilded Age, before the reforms of the progressive age and New Deal. Now they lay the foundation to gain even more power. One node of the plutocrat’s power is Silicon Valley, where the 1%’s dreams of power flower undisturbed — as described in this detailed and frightening essay by Corey Pein in the Baffler: “Mouthbreathing Machiavellis Dream of a Silicon Reich“. He examines the roots of Silicon Valley’s magnates’ belief in their unique fitness to rule America.

“It is clear that {Peter} Thiel sees corporations as the governments of the future and capitalists such as himself as the kings, and it is also clear that this is a shockingly common view in Thiel’s cohort.”

For more about the “Dark Enlightenment” see the articles by Curtis Yarvin (writing as Mencius Moldbug) and Nick Land — collected at this website. As successful reactionary movements so, it has gained allies from conservatives. Such as Andrew Sullivan, providing a philosophical gloss to the 1%’s lust for power: “Democracies end when they are too democraticin New York magazine — “And right now, America is a breeding ground for tyranny.”

“It seems shocking to argue that we need elites in this democratic age — especially with vast inequalities of wealth and elite failures all around us. But we need them precisely to protect this precious democracy from its own destabilizing excesses.”

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American politics isn’t broken. It’s working just fine for the 1%.

Summary: Political commentary often reveals more from its blindness than its insights. For example, a widely-cited analysis at Salon by journalist Andrew O’Hehir tells us some entertaining harsh truths — but avoids deeper, useful insights that would disturb his Outer Party readers (i.e., politically passive managers and professionals).

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

Photo by Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx on 13 April 2016.

Two despised frontrunners, two dying parties & a deeply broken system
By Andrew O’Hehir (journalist) at Salon.

“How did we get here? Trump & Clinton may be the most hated frontrunners in history, dueling symbols of a duopoly in decay.”

He opens with some myth-making, the Left’s efforts to fit events into their standard narrative. It conceals the important dynamics of campaign 2016, things too disturbing for the Left to see.

So here’s what’s happening: Our political system is profoundly broken, and although many of us have understood that for years, this has been the year that fact became unavoidable. Both political parties are struggling through transparently rigged primary campaigns that have made that ludicrous process look more outdated than ever. Nobody cares about the Democratic vote in Wyoming and it’s not going to matter, but when Bernie Sanders dominates the caucuses in that empty, dusty and Republican-dominated state and wins seven of its 18 delegates, doesn’t that sum up the whole damn thing?

O’Hehir is making a purely emotional appeal in defiance of the facts. He gives no evidence that the GOP race is rigged; Trump’s votes have closely mirrored his poll results. As for the Democrats, several political scientists have shown that the results are not “rigged”. NY Times political blogger Nate Cohen has a model showing that “9 percentage points better in primaries than in caucuses“. More seriously, Alan I. Abramowitz (Prof of political science at Emory) has a model of the 2016 Democratic primaries

“This model uses three predictors from the Democratic primary exit polls — percentage of African-American voters, percentage of self-identified Democrats, and region — and it explains 90% of the variance in 19 primaries to date for which exit poll data are available, excluding Sanders’ home state of Vermont…”

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Despair: so common these days, so good for the 1%

Summary:  Despair at the confident predictions of doomsters has become an almost defining characteristic of both Left and Right in America, as documented in so many posts here. Nothing but abject servitude serves the 1% better.  Here’s an example, looking at the effects of the quarter-century-long campaign predicting doom from climate change.

Despair

Edvard Munch’s “Despair” (1894).

Assessing the record, and alarmists’ responses to it

Gore correctly predicted a “time of consequences”, but got the details backwards. He quoted Churchill’s 1936 warning about Hitler, given less than 3 years before the invasion of Poland. What have we seen 10 years after Gore’s speech, and 26 years after James Hansen’s Senate testimony)? Few of the predicted horrors have appeared.

The world is a fraction of a degree C warmer. The record pause in hurricane landfalls continues, global numbers and energy of hurricanes has not risen, number of severe tornadoes, area burned in wildfires, number of extremely hot days in the US, the extent of arctic sea ice, Antarctic sea ice, and area of global sea ice — most metrics of extreme weather have remained stable or within historical norms during the past decade (more details here and here). Nor is there evidence we’ve hit the “tipping point”, despite passing so many deadlines during the past 30 years.

Even the air temperature has frustrated Gore’s predictions, as the pause continues in its second decade while scientists debate its causes. The somewhat ramshackle global surface air temperature networks showed a peak of hundredths of a degree in 2014 (and YTD 2015), less than their error bars; the two satellite-based networks show no record for 2014 (details here).

The consequences: a loss of credibility for the climate change activists, as the US public rates it among the least serious threats (see polls by Pew Research and by Gallup). Historians might see this as one of the most incompetent publicity campaigns ever.

Instead of learning and adapting from their failure, climate activists have doubled down. They ratchet up their claims about future doom, with journalists’ support. Often contrary to the IPCC’s findings, as in these articles about the “methane monster”. And as in this gem…

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The Greek crisis shows Europe’s 1% winning, just like their cousins in America

Summary: Previous posts reported economists’ explaining the roots of the Greek crisis, so unlike the simple morality play in the newspapers. This post looks at its politics, a narrative of victory by Europe’s 1%, a milestone on their 2-centuries-long quest to destroy the Left. Progress requires sacrifices, so examples have to be made — such as the people of Greece. Nike, goddess of victory

Contents

  1. Devastated Europe
  2. What’s the cause?
  3. The Right triumphant
  4. What happens next?
  5. For More Information

Image of Nike, goddess of victory. By Emanuel Lakozas. She no longer favors Greece.

(1)  Devastated Europe

The crisis is one of Europe, not just Greece. As Paul Krugman shows, the people of Europe are paying a high price for their leaders’ policies. Due to its long-standing weakness and incompetent leadership, Greece is merely the worst affected.

GDP change in Europe 2007-14

From Krugman, New York Times, 29 May 2015.

Krugman explains the cause of these dismal results:

… what’s striking at this point is how much the origin stories of European crises differ. Yes, the Greek government borrowed too much. But the Spanish government didn’t — Spain’s story is all about private lending and a housing bubble. And Finland’s story doesn’t involve debt at all. It is, instead, about weak demand for forest products, still a major national export, and the stumbles of Finnish manufacturing, in particular of its erstwhile national champion Nokia.

What all of these economies have in common, however, is that by joining the eurozone they put themselves into an economic straitjacket. Finland had a very severe economic crisis at the end of the 1980s — much worse, at the beginning, than what it’s going through now. But it was able to engineer a fairly quick recovery in large part by sharply devaluing its currency, making its exports more competitive. This time, unfortunately, it had no currency to devalue. And the same goes for Europe’s other trouble spots.

(2)  What’s the cause?

The cause is often described as stupidity by Europe’s leaders. Journalist Ryan Cooper gives this hyperbolic assessment: “The eurozone has become a murder-suicide pact“. Continue reading

Three visions of our future after the robot revolution

Summary: During the past 2 years the robot revolution has come into view, and all but Right-wingers living in fantasy-land have begun to realize it might (like the previous ones) produce large-scale social disruption and suffering. But to prepare for these changes we must first image what kind of world they’ll create. Here we look at three visions about what lies ahead for us.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

“We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it.”
— Barack Obama’s speech to Congress, 9 September  2009.

Dark futures

 

Contents

  1. The center-left sees the problem
    ……and offers mild solutions.
  2. Realistic analysis and prescriptions.
  3. Visions of dark futures.
  4. For More Information.

 

(1)  The center-left sees the problem and offers mild solutions

Slowly, people have come to see the coming robot revolution (aka, a new industrial revolution), even economists. The Left has adopted this issue, as they have climate change, as a means to enact long-sought changes in the US economy. Like climate change, their solutions are far too small for the problem described.

(a) A World Without Work” by Derek Thompson in The Atlantic, July/Aug 2015 — “For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?” Typical of The Atlantic. Long, meandering, confused mish-mash of issues. Never confronts the core issue of how people will earn money to live. Lots of nonsense about people living by selling crafts to each other.

(b) The Future of Work in the Age of the Machine” by Melissa S. Kearney, Brad Hershbein, and David Boddy at the Hamilton Project, February 2015. See the slides and transcript from the seminar they held for academics and businesspeople. Their prescription is aggressive application of conventional methods…

The Project’s economic strategy reflects a judgment that long-term prosperity is best achieved by fostering economic growth and broad participation in that growth, by enhancing individual economic security, and by embracing a role for effective government in making needed public investments.

(c) The future of work in the second machine age is up to us” by Marshall Steinbaum at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, 23 February 2015 — They show that the robot revolution has not yet appeared in the macroeconomic statistics. But it’s coming. Their conclusions are the standard center-left recipe, like those of the Hamilton Project…

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