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May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)
Contents Bulletin Scripting in shell and Perl Network troubleshooting History Humor

Redistribution of wealth up as the essence of neoliberalism

Decline of middle class in the USA under neoliberal regime and rise of Economic Royalists ("Let them eat cake ")

News Swimming in Fiat Currency Waters Selected Reviews Recommended books Recommended Links The Decline of the Middle Class
Pope Francis on danger of neoliberalism Systemic Fraud under Clinton-Bush-Obama Regime Neoliberalism Invisible Hand Hypothesis Numbers racket Over 50 and unemployed
The Occupy Wall Street protest Casino Capitalism Notes on Republican Economic Policy Supply Side or Trickle down economics Critique of neoclassical economics Lawrence Summers
Andrew Bacevich Views on American Exceptionalism Principal agent problem Short Introduction to Lysenkoism Famous quotes of John Kenneth Galbraith Financial Humor Etc

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."

-- Abraham Lincoln

Isn’t inequality merely the price of America being No. 1? ... That’s almost certainly false... Prior to about 20 years ago, most economists thought that inequality greased the wheels of progress. Wealth Inequality in America Overwhelmingly now, people who study it empirically think that it’s sand in the wheels. ... Inequality breeds conflict, and conflict breeds wasted resources”

Samuel Bowles,
cited from Economist's View: Inequality and Guard Labor

From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.

Nicholas D. Kristof, NYT, November 6, 2010

Roughly 1 in 4 Americans is employed to keep fellow citizens in line and protect private wealth from would-be Robin Hoods

Guard Labor Why is Inequality Bad

If labor is a commodity like any other, who is the idiot in charge of inventory management?.

Economist's View '


Introduction

As aptly noted Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems ( The Guardian,  April 15, 2016)

Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you'll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it. Neoliberalism: do you know what it is?

Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness , the collapse of ecosystems, rejection of the current neoliberal elite by majority of American people and the rise of candidates like Donald Trump . But we respond to these developments as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalyzed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has – or had – a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly? 

One of the key property of neoliberalism is that it recasts inequality as virtuous. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve. If you deserve to die, so be it. Of cause that does not apply to the financial oligarchy which is above the law and remains unpunished even for very serious crimes. This fate is reserved for bottom 99% of population.

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations, In other words neoliberal economic model uses "unable to compete in the labor market" label for poor people in the same way Nazi used concept of Untermensch for Slavic people.

That also mean that for those outside top 20% of population the destiny is brutal exploitation not that different then in slave societies. It victimizes and artfully creates complex of inferiority among poor people trying to brainwash that they themselves are guilty in their status and that their children do not deserve better. This is why subsidies for colleges are cut. Unfortunately now even lower middle class is coming under tremendous pressure and essentially is moved into poverty. Disappearance of well-paid middle class "white collar" jobs such as IT jobs and recently oil sector jobs  and conversion of many jobs to temp or to outsourcing/off-shoring model is a fact that can't be denied. Rise in inequality in the USA for that last twenty years of neoliberalism domination is simply dramatic and medial income per family actually dropped.

Everything is moving in the direction of a pretty brutal joke: poor Americans just got a new slave-owners. And now slaves are not distinguished by  the color of their skin.

The economic status of Wal Mart employees (as well as employees of many other retailers, who are predominantly women) are not that different from slaves. In "rich" states like NY and NJ Wal-Mart cashiers are paid around $9 an hour. That's around $18K a year if you can get 40hours a week (big if),  You can't survive on those money living alone and renting an apartment. Two people might be able to survive if they share the apartment costs.  And forget about that if you have a child (aka "single mothers"  as a new face of the US poverty). You can survive only with additional social programs like food stamps. In other words the federal state subsidizes Wal-Mart, increasing their revenue at taxpayers expense.

Piketty thinks a rentier society (which is another definition of neoliberal society) contradicts the meritocratic worldview of democratic societies and is toxic for democracy as it enforces "one dollar one vote" election process (corporation buy politicians; ordinary people just legitimize with their votes pre-selected by elite candidates, see Two Party System as Polyarchy):

 “…no ineluctable force standing in the way to extreme concentration of wealth…if growth slows and the return on capital increases [as] tax competition between nations heats up…Our democratic societies rest on a meritocratic worldview, or at any rate, a meritocratic hope, by which I mean a belief in a society in which inequality is based more on merit and effort than on kinship and rents. This belief and hope play a very crucial role in modern society, for a simple reason: in a democracy the professed equality of rights of all citizens contrasts sharply with the very real inequality of living conditions, and in order to overcome this contradiction it is vital to make sure that social inequalities derive from ration and universal principles rather than arbitrary contingencies. Inequalities must therefore be just and useful to all, at least in the realm of discourse and as far as possible in reality as well…Durkheim predicted that modern democratic society would not put for long with the existence of inherited wealth and would ultimately see to it that the ownership of property ended at death.” p. 422

A neo-liberal point discussed in Raymond Plant's book on neo-liberalism is that if a fortune has been made through no injustice, then it is OK. So we should not condemn the resulting distribution of wealth, as fantastically concentrated as it may be. That that's not true, as such cases always involve some level of injustice, if only by exploiting some loophole in the current laws. Piketty is correct that to the extent that citizens understood the nature of a rentier society they would rise in opposition to it. The astronomical pay of "super-managers" cannot be justified in meritocratic terms. CEO's can capture boards and force their incentive to grow faster then  company profits. Manipulations with shares buyback are used to meet "targets". So neoliberal extreme is definitely bad.

At the same time we now know the equality if not achievable and communism was a pipe dream that actually inflicted cruelty on a lot of people in the name of unachievable utopia. But does this means that inequality, any level of inequality, is OK. It does not look this way and we can actually argue that extremes meet.

But collapse of the USSR lead to triumph of neoliberalism which is all about rising inequality. Under neoliberalism the wealthy and their academic servants, see inequality as a noble outcome. They want to further enrich top 1%, shrink middle class making it less secure, and impoverish poor. In other words they promote under the disguise of "free market" Newspeak a type of economy which can be called a plantation economy. In this type of the economy all the resources and power are in the hands of a wealthy planter class who then gives preference for easy jobs and the easy life to their loyal toadies. The wealthy elites like cheap labor. And it's much easier to dictate their conditions of employment when unemployment is high. Keynesian economics values the middle class and does not value unemployment or cheap labor. Neoliberals like a system that rewards them for their loyalty to the top 1% with an easier life than they otherwise merit. In a meritocracy where individuals receive public goods and services that allow them to compete on a level playing field, many neoliberal toadies would be losers who cannot compete.

In a 2005 report to investors three analysts at Citigroup advised that “the World is dividing into two blocs—the Plutonomy and the rest … In a plutonomy there is no such animal as “the U.S. consumer” or “the UK consumer", or indeed the “Russian consumer”.

In other words there are analysts that believe that we are moving to a replay of Middle Ages on a new, global level, were there are only rich who do the lion share of the total consumption and poor, who does not matter.

We can also state, that under neoliberal regime the sources of American economic inequality are largely political. In other words they are the result of deliberate political decision of the US elite to shape markets in neoliberal ways, and dismantle New Deal.

Part of this "shaping the markets in neoliberal ways" was corruption of academic economists. Under neoliberalism most economists are engaged in what John Kenneth Galbraith called "the economics of innocent fraud." With the important correction that there is nothing innocent in their activities. Most of them, especially "neoclassical" economists are prostitutes for financial oligarchy. So their prescription and analysis as for the reasons of high unemployment should be taken with due skepticism.

We also know that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That means that existence of aristocracy might not be optimal for society "at large". But without moderating influence of the existence of the USSR on appetites of the US elite, they engage is audacious struggle for accumulation as much power and wealth as possible. In a way that situation matches the situation in 1920th, which was known to be toxic.

But society slowly but steadily moves in this direction since mid 80th. According to the official wage statistics for 2012 http://www.ssa.gov , 40% of the US work force earned less than $20,000, 53% earned less than $30,000, and 73% earned less than $50,000. The median US wage or salary was $27,519 per year. The amounts are in current dollars and they are "total" compensation amounts subject to state and federal income taxes and to Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes. In other words, the take home pay is less.

In other word the USA is now entered an inequality bubble, the bubble with the financial oligarchy as new aristocracy, which strives for absolute control of all layers of the government. The corruption has a systemic character. It take not only traditional form of the intermarriage between Wall street and DC power brokers (aka revolving doors). It also create a caste of guard labor to protect oligarchy.

New global caste structure and stratification of the US society

Some researchers point out that neoliberal world is increasingly characterized by a three-tiered social structure(net4dem.org):

This process of stratification and fossilization of "haves" and "haves-not" is now pretty much established in the USA. The US population can be partitioned into five distinct classes, or strata:

  1. Lower class (poor) bottom 20%. Those folks have income close to official poverty line, which varies from state to state. In "expensive states" like NJ and NY this category ranks much higher then national level, up to 40%. Official figures from a Census Bureau that state that in 2010 twelve states had poverty rates above 17%, up from five in 2009, while ten metropolitan areas had poverty rates over 18%. Texas had the highest poverty rate, at 33.4%, followed by Fresno, California, at 26.8%.

    According to figures published by the Social Security Administration in October 2011, the median income for American workers in 2010 was $26,364, just slightly above the official poverty level of $22,025 for a family of four. Most single parent families with children fall into this category. Many single earner families belong to this category too.

    The median income figure reflects the fact that salaries of 50% of all workers are less then $26,364 and gives a much truer picture of the real social conditions in the United States than the more widely publicized average income, which was $39,959 in 2010. This figure is considerably higher than median income because the distribution of income is so unequal—a relative handful of ultra-high income individuals pulls up the average.

  2. Lower middle class (60%). Depending on class model used, the middle class may constitute anywhere from 25% to 66% of households. Typically includes households with incomes above $46,326 (all households) or $67,348 (dual earners households) per year. The latter is more realistic. In order for two earners family to qualify each earner should get approximately $34K a year or more ($17 per hour wage with 40 hours workweek). Per household member income is around $23.5K
    The lower middle class... these are people in technical and lower-level management positions who work for those in the upper middle class as lower managers, craftspeople, and the like. They enjoy a reasonably comfortable standard of living, although it is constantly threatened by taxes and inflation. Generally, they have a Bachelor's and sometimes Masters college degree.

    —Brian K. William, Stacy C. Sawyer and Carl M. Wahlstrom, Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships, 2006 (Adapted from Dennis Gilbert 1997; and Joseph Kahl 1993)[4]

  3. Upper middle class (top 20%). The includes households with incomes above 91K per year.
  4. Upper class (elite): top 1%. Annual comes (AGI) for this group exceed $380K per year. Commonly called multimillionaires (net worth two millions or more). In 2010 controlled at least 25% of total nation income (23.5% in 2007, 8.9% in 1979) . Top 1% owns more than 90% of combined or 33.8% of the nation private wealth.
  5. Super rich (top 0.01%, oligarchs, super-elite, or top 1000 families). A close to this category of super-rich are billionaires. US is home of 425 billionaires, while Russia and China have 95 and 96 correspondingly. The average worth of the world's billionaires is now $3.5 billion, or $500 million more than last year.( Forbes)

Share of consumption for families outside upper middle class (with income, say, below $91K per year (80% of US households) is much less then commonly assumed. That means that in the USA consumer spending are driven by upper class and as such is pretty much isolated from decline of wages of lower 80% of population. The median household income in the United States is around $50K.

Possibility of the return to the clan society

The danger of high level of inequality might be revival of nationalism and return to clan (mafia) society in the form of corporatism or even some form of national socialism. Mark S. Weine made this point in his book The Rule of the Clan. What an Ancient Form of Social Organization Reveals About the Future of Individual Freedom . From one Amazon review:

Weiner's book is more than worth its price simply as an armchair tour of interesting places and cultures and mores, deftly and briefly described. But he has a more serious and important point to make. While the social cohesion that the values of the clan promote is alluring, they are ultimately at odds with the values of individual autonomy that only the much-maligned modern liberal state can offer.

Even the state's modern defenders tend to view it, at best, as a necessary evil. It keeps the peace, upholds (somewhat) international order, and manages the complexity of modern life in ways that allow individuals to get on with their journeys of personal fulfillment.

Weiner shows (in too brief but nevertheless eloquent ways) that this reductive view of the state is insufficient to resist the seductive appeal of the clan, and that it will be for the worse if we can't find ways to combat this allure within the legal structures of modern liberalism.

Read alongside James Ault's masterful participant study of fundamentalist Baptism, Spirit and Flesh, and draw your own conclusions.

Dramatic increase in the use of guard labor and conversion of the state into National Security State

Of course the elite is worried about security of their ill-gotten gains. And that's partially why the USA need such huge totally militarized police force and outsize military. Police and military are typical guard labor, that protects private wealth of the US plutocrats. Add to this equally strong private army of security contractors.

Other suggested that not only the USA, but the global neoliberal society is deeply sick with the same disease that the US society expected in 20th (and like previously with globalism of robber barons age, the triumph of neoliberalism in 1990th was and is a global phenomenon).

High inequality logically leads to dramatic increase of guard labor and inevitable conversion of state into National Security State. Which entail total surveillance over the citizens as a defining factor. Ruling elite is always paranoid, but neoliberal elite proved to be borderline psychopathic. They do not want merely security, they want to crush all the resistance.

Butler Shaffer wrote recently that the old state system in the United States is dying before our very eyes:

A system that insists on controlling others through increasing levels of systematic violence; that loots the many for the aggrandizement of the few; that regulates any expressions of human behavior that are not of service to the rulers; that presumes the power to wage wars against any nation of its choosing, a principle that got a number of men hanged at the Nuremberg trials; and finally, criminalizes those who would speak the truth to its victims, has no moral energy remaining with which to sustain itself.

Low mobility created potential for the degeneration of the elite

It is pretty clear that the USA became a society where there is de facto royalty. In the form of the strata which Roosevelt called "Economic royalists". Jut look at third generation of Walton family or Rocafeller family.

Remember the degenerative Soviet Politburo, or, for a change, unforgettable dyslexic President George W Bush ? The painful truth is that in the most unequal nations including the UK and the US – the intergenerational transmission of income is very strong (in plain language they have a heredity-based aristocracy). See Let them eat cake. In more equal societies such as Denmark, the tendency of privilege to breed privilege is much lower but also exists and is on the rise. As Roosevelt observed in a similar situation of 30th:

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power.

High inequality undermines social cohesion

Neoliberalism and its ideology(Randism) undermined social cohesion, making society members more hostile to each other and as such less willing to defend the country in case of real danger. Betrayal of the country is no longer an unspeakable crime.

The purpose of government should be to foster a "civil society". The slogan of the "oligarchic right" is "me first", or, as in Paul Ryan's adoration of Ayn Rand, greed is good. Objectivism became kind of new civic religion, with the goal of maximizing the wealth of a single individual at the expense of the civil society is a virtue. And those new social norms (instilled by MSM) allow the fat cats simply to stole from everybody else without fear of punishment. See an outburst from Stephen Schwarzman. If there are two societies inside of the country with bridges burned, the bottom part is less willing to spill blood for the upper part. And having a contractual army has its own set of dangers, as it spirals into high level of militarism (being in war is a new normal for the USA during the last 30 years or so), which while enriching part of the elite bankrupts the country. The quality of roads is a testament of this process.

Countervailing mechanisms and forces are destroyed. Plutocrats now can shape the conversation by buying up newspapers and television channels as well as funding political campaigns. The mousetrap of high inequality became irreversible without external shocks. The more unequal our societies become, the more we all become prisoners of that inequality. The key question is: Has our political system been so degraded by misinformation and disinformation that it can no longer function because it lost the touch with reality? The stream of outright falsehoods that MSM feed the lemmings (aka society members) is clearly politically motivated. But a side effect (externality) of all that brainwashing efforts is that nobody including players at the top of the government now understands what's going on. Look at Obama and Joe Biden.

As the growth of manufacturing base slowed down and return on capital dropped, the elite wants less government social spending. They wants to end popular government programs such as Social Security, no matter how much such cuts would cause economic dislocation and strains in the current social safety net. The claims are that these programs are "Waste" and could be cut without anyone, but the "moochers" noticing the effects. They use the economic strain felt by many in the economy to promote these cuts. They promise that cuts to vital programs will leave more money in the pockets of the average person. In reality, the increase in money will be marginal, but the effects on security and loss of "group purchasing power" economy of scale will make the cuts worse than worthless (Economist's View Paul Krugman Moment of Truthiness)

Two party system makes the mousetrap complete

The US system of voting (winner take all) leads inexorably to Two party system. Third parties are only spoilers. Protest votes in the current system are COUNTERPRODUCTIVE (i.e. they help the evil, not the merely bad). Deliberate and grotesque gerrymandering further dilutes protest votes.

Again, I would like to stress that rich consumers, few in number, getting the gigantic slice of income and the most of consumption (that's why the US consumption was so resilient during two last financial crises). There are the rest, the “non-rich”, accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie.

The question arise "Why we should care?". Most of the readers of this page are not at the bottom bracket anyway. Many are pretty high up. Here is one possible answer:

But should we care? There are two reasons we might: process and outcome.

Creating a strata of the outcasts aka permanently unemployed

It is very difficult to understand the real situation with inequality in the USA today without experiencing long term unemployed.

Or if you forced into job of a WalMart cashier or other low paid employee. Job that does not provide a living minimum wage. You need to watch this YouTube video Wealth Inequality in America to understand the reality. The video was posted anonymously by someone using the YouTube handle politizane. It is pretty clear that not only the USA became a society where there is de facto royalty, economic royalty but also a strata of people completely deprived. An Outcaste.

And the royalty became recklessly like it should promoting to the top the likes of recovered alcoholic Bush II or "private equity shark" Romney (and remember who Romney father was).

See Over 50 and unemployed

Education is no longer the answer to rising inequality

In the current circumstances education is no longer the answer to rising inequality. Instead of serving as a social lift it, at least in some cases, became more of a social trap. This is connected with neoliberal transformation of education. With the collapse of post-war public funded educational model and privatization of the University education students face a pretty cruel world. World in which they are cows to milk. Now universities became institutions very similar to McDonalds ( or, in less politically correct terms, Bordellos of Higher Learning). Like McDonalds they need to price their services so that to receive nice profit and they to make themselves more attractive to industry they intentionally feed students with overspecialized curriculum instead of concentrating on fundamentals and the developing the ability to understand the world. Which was a hallmark of university education of the past.

Since 1970th Neo-Liberal University model replaced public funded university model (Dewey model). It is now collapsing as there are not that many students, who are able (and now with lower job prospects and tale of graduates working as bartender, willing) to pay infated tuition fees. That means that higher education again by-and-large became privilege of the rich and upper middle class.

Lower student enrollment first hit minted during dot-com boom expensive private colleges, who hunt for people with government support (such a former members of Arm forces). It remains viable only in elite universities, which traditionally serve the top 1% and rich foreigners. As David Schultz wrote in his article (Logos, 2012):

Yet the Dewey model began to collapse in middle of the 1970s. Perhaps it was the retrenchment of the SUNY and CUNY systems in New York under Governor Hugh Carey in 1976 that began the end of the democratic university. What caused its retrenchment was the fiscal crisis of the 1970s.

The fiscal crisis of the 1970s was born of numerous problems. Inflationary pressures caused by Vietnam and the energy embargoes of the 1970s, and recessionary forces from relative declines in American economic productivity produced significant economic shocks, including to the public sector where many state and local governments edged toward bankruptcy.

Efforts to relieve declining corporate profits and productivity initiated efforts to restructure the economy, including cutting back on government services. The response, first in England under Margaret Thatcher and then in the United States under Ronald Reagan, was an effort to retrench the state by a package that included decreases in government expenditures for social welfare programs, cutbacks on business regulations, resistance to labor rights, and tax cuts. Collectively these proposals are referred to as Neo-liberalism and their aim was to restore profitability and autonomy to free markets with the belief that unfettered by the government that would restore productivity.

Neo-liberalism had a major impact on higher education. First beginning under President Carter and then more so under Ronald Reagan, the federal and state governments cut taxes and public expenditures. The combination of the two meant a halt to the Dewey business model as support for public institutions decreased and federal money dried up.

From a high in the 1960s and early 70s when states and the federal government provided generous funding to expand their public systems to educate the Baby Boomers, state universities now receive only a small percentage of their money from the government. As I pointed out in my 2005 Logos “The Corporate University in American Society” article in 1991, 74% of the funding for public universities came from states, in 2004; it was down to 64%, with state systems in Illinois, Michigan and Virginia down to 25%, 18%, and 8% respectively. Since then, the percentages have shrunk even more, rendering state universities public institutions more in name than in funding.

Higher education under Neo-liberalism needed a new business model and it found it in the corporate university. The corporate university is one where colleges increasingly use corporate structures and management styles to run the university. This includes abandoning the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) shared governance model where faculty had an equal voice in the running of the school, including over curriculum, selection of department chairs, deans, and presidents, and determination of many of the other policies affecting the academy. The corporate university replaced the shared governance model with one more typical of a business corporation.

For the corporate university, many decisions, including increasingly those affecting curriculum, are determined by a top-down pyramid style of authority. University administration often composed not of typical academics but those with business or corporate backgrounds had pre-empted many of the decisions faculty used to make. Under a corporate model, the trustees, increasingly composed of more business leaders than before, select, often with minimal input from the faculty, the president who, in turn, again with minimal or no faculty voice, select the deans, department heads, and other administrative personnel.

University presidents became way too greedy

Neoliberalism professes the idea the personal greed can serve positive society goals, which is reflected in famous neoliberal slogan "greed is good". And university presidents listen. Now presidents of neoliberal universities do not want to get $100K per year salary, they want one, or better several, million dollar salary of the CEO of major corporation (Student Debt Grows Faster at Universities With Highest-Paid Leaders, Study Finds - NYTimes.com)

At the 25 public universities with the highest-paid presidents, both student debt and the use of part-time adjunct faculty grew far faster than at the average state university from 2005 to 2012, according to a new study by the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning Washington research group.

The study, “The One Percent at State U: How University Presidents Profit from Rising Student Debt and Low-Wage Faculty Labor,” examined the relationship between executive pay, student debt and low-wage faculty labor at the 25 top-paying public universities.

The co-authors, Andrew Erwin and Marjorie Wood, found that administrative expenditures at the highest-paying universities outpaced spending on scholarships by more than two to one. And while adjunct faculty members became more numerous at the 25 universities, the share of permanent faculty declined drastically.

“The high executive pay obviously isn’t the direct cause of higher student debt, or cuts in labor spending,” Ms. Wood said. “But if you think about it in terms of the allocation of resources, it does seem to be the tip of a very large iceberg, with universities that have top-heavy executive spending also having more adjuncts, more tuition increases and more administrative spending.”

... ... ...

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual survey of public university presidents’ compensation, also released Sunday, found that nine chief executives earned more than $1 million in total compensation in 2012-13, up from four the previous year, and three in 2010-11. The median total compensation of the 256 presidents in the survey was $478,896, a 5 percent increase over the previous year.

... ... ...

As in several past years, the highest-compensated president, at $6,057,615 in this period, was E. Gordon Gee, who resigned from Ohio State last summer amid trustee complaints about frequent gaffes. He has since become the president of West Virginia University.

This trick requires dramatic raising of tuition costs. University bureaucracy also got taste for better salaries and all those deans, etc want to be remunerated like vice presidents. So raising the tuition costs became the key existential idea of neoliberal university. Not quality of education, but tuition costs now are the key criteria of success. And if you can charge students $40K per semester it is very, very good. If does not matter that most population get less then $20 an hour.

The same is true for professors, who proved to be no less corruptible. And some of them, such as economic departments, simply serve as prostitutes for financial oligarchy. So they were corrupted even before that rat race for profit. Of course there are exceptions. But they only prove the rule.

As the result university tuition inflation outpaced inflation by leaps and bounds. At some point amount that you pay (and the level of debt after graduation) becomes an important factor in choosing the university. So children of "have" and "have nots" get into different educational institutions and do not meet each other. In a way aristocracy returned via back door.

Neoliberal university professes "deep specialization" to create "ready for the market" graduates. And that creates another problem: education became more like stock market game and that makes more difficult for you to change you specialization late in the education cycle. But early choice entail typical stock market problem: you might miss the peak of the market or worse get into prolonged slump as graduates in finance learned all too well in 2008. That's why it is important not to accumulate too much debt: this is a kind of "all in" play in poker. You essentially bet that in a particular specialty there will be open positions with high salary, when you graduate. If you lose this bet you are done.

As a result of this "reaction to the market trends" by neoliberal universities, when universities bacem appendixes of HR of large corporations students need to be more aware of real university machinery then students in 50th or 60th of the last century. And first of all assume that it is functioning not to their benefits.

One problem for a student is that there are now way too many variables that you do not control. Among them:

On the deep level neoliberal university is not interested to help you to find specialization and place in life where can unleash your talents. You are just a paying customers much like in McDonalds, and university interests are such they might try to push you in wrong direction or load you with too much debt.

If there is deep mismatch as was with computer science graduates after crash of dot-com boom, or simply bad job market due to economy stagnation and you can't find the job for your new specialty (or if you got "junk" specialty with inherent high level of unemployment among professionals) and you have substantial education debt, then waiting tables or having some other MacJob is a real disaster for you. As with such selaries you simply can't pay it back. So controlling the level of debt is very important and in this sence parents financial help is now necessary. In other words education became more and more "rich kids game".

That does not mean that university education should be avoided for those from families with modest means. On the contrary it provides unique experience and help a person to mature in multiple ways difficult to achieve without it. It is still one of the best ways to get vertical mobility. But unless parents can support you you need to try to find the most economical way to obtain it without acquiring too much debt. This is you first university exam. And if you fail it you are in trouble.

For example, computer science education is a great way to learn quite a few things necessary for a modern life. But the price does matter and prestige of the university institution that you attend is just one of the factors you should consider in your evaluation. It should not be the major factor ("vanity fair") unless your parents are rich and can support you. If you are good you can get later a master degree in a prestigious university after graduation from a regular college. Or even Ph.D.

County colleges are greatly underappreciated and generally provide pretty high standard of education, giving ability to students to save money for the first two years before transferring to a four year college. They also smooth the transition as finding yourself among people who are only equal or superior then you (and have access to financial respource that you don't have) is a huge stress. The proverb say that it is better to be first in the village then last in the town has some truth in it. Prestigious universities might provide a career boost (high fly companies usually accept resumes only from Ivy League members), but they cost so much that you need to be a son or daughter of well-to-do parents to feel comfortably in them. Or extremely talented. Also amount of career boost that elite universities provide depends on whom your parents are and what connections they have. It does not depend solely on you and the university. Again, I would like to stress that you should resist "vanity fair" approach to your education: a much better way is to try to obtain BS in a regular university and them try to obtain MS and then, if you are good, PHD, in a prestigious university. Here is a fragment of an interesting discussion that covers this topic (Low Mobility Is Not a Social Tragedy?, Feb 13, 2013 ; I recommend you to read the whole discussion ):

kievite:

I would like to defend Greg Clack.

I think that Greg Clack point is that the number of gifted children is limited and that exceptionally gifted children have some chance for upper move in almost all, even the most hierarchical societies (story of Alexander Hamilton was really fascinating for me, the story of Mikhail Lomonosov http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Lomonosov was another one -- he went from the very bottom to the top of Russian aristocracy just on the strength of his abilities as a scientist). In no way the ability to "hold its own" (typical for rich families kids) against which many here expressed some resentment represents social mobility. But the number of kids who went down is low -- that's actually proves Greg Clack point:

(1) Studies of social mobility using surnames suggest two things. Social mobility rates are much lower than conventionally estimated. And social mobility rates estimated in this way vary little across societies and time periods. Sweden is no more mobile than contemporary England and the USA, or even than medieval England. Social mobility rates seem to be independent of social institutions (see the other studies on China, India, Japan and the USA now linked here).

Francisco Ferreira rejects this interpretation, and restates the idea that there is a strong link between social mobility rates and inequality in his interesting post.

What is wrong with the data Ferreira cites? Conventional estimates of social mobility, which look at just single aspects of social status such as income, are contaminated by noise. If we measure mobility on one aspect of status such as income, it will seem rapid.

But this is because income is a very noisy measure of the underlying status of families. The status of families is a combination of their education, occupation, income, wealth, health, and residence. They will often trade off income for some other aspect of status such as occupation. A child can be as socially successful as a low paid philosophy professor as a high paid car salesman. Thus if we measure just one aspect of status such as income we are going to confuse the random fluctuations of income across generations, influenced by such things as career choices between business and philosophy, with true generalised social mobility.

If these estimates of social mobility were anywhere near correct as indicating true underlying rates of social mobility, then we would not find that the aristocrats of 1700 in Sweden are still overrepresented in all elite occupations of Sweden. Further, the more equal is income in a society, the less signal will income give of the true social status of families. In a society such as Sweden, where the difference in income between bus drivers and philosophy professors is modest, income tells us little about the social status of families. It is contaminated much more by random noise. Thus it will appear if we measure social status just by income that mobility is much greater in Sweden than in the USA, because in the USA income is a much better indicator of the true overall status of families.

The last two paragraphs of Greg Clark article cited by Mark Thoma are badly written and actually are somewhat disconnected with his line of thinking as I understand it as well as with the general line of argumentation of the paper.

Again, I would like to stress that a low intergenerational mobility includes the ability of kids with silver spoon in their mouth to keep a status close to their parent. The fact that they a have different starting point then kids from lower strata of society does not change that.

I think that the key argument that needs testing is that the number of challengers from lower strata of the society is always pretty low and is to a large extent accommodated by the societies we know (of course some societies are better then others).

Actually it would be interesting to look at the social mobility data of the USSR from this point of view.

But in no way, say, Mark Thoma was a regular kid, although circumstances for vertical mobility at this time were definitely better then now. He did possessed some qualities which made possible his upward move although his choice of economics was probably a mistake ;-).

Whether those qualities were enough in more restrictive environments we simply don't know, but circumstances for him were difficult enough as they were.

EC -> kievite...

"the number of gifted children is limited"

I stopped reading after that. I teach at a high school in a town with a real mix of highly elite families, working class families, and poor families, and I can tell you that the children of affluent parents are not obviously more gifted than the children of poor families. They do, however, have a lot more social capital, and they have vastly more success. But the limitations on being "gifted" are irrelevant.

According to an extensive study (Turkheimer et al., 2003) of 50,000 pregnant women and the children they went on to have (including enough sets of twins to be able to study the role of innate genetic differences), variation in IQ among the affluent seems to be largely genetic.

Among the poor, however, IQ has very little to do with genes -- probably because the genetic differences are swamped and suppressed by the environmental differences, as few poor kids are able to develop as fully as they would in less constrained circumstances.

kievite -> EC...

All you said is true. I completely agree that "...few poor kids are able to develop as fully as they would in less constrained circumstances." So there are losses here and we should openly talk about them.

Also it goes without saying that social capital is extremely important for a child. That's why downward mobility of children from upper classes is suppressed, despite the fact that some of them are plain vanilla stupid.

But how this disproves the point made that "exceptionally gifted children have some chance for upper move in almost all, even the most hierarchical societies"? I think you just jumped the gun...

mrrunangun:

The early boomers benefitted from the happy confluence of the postwar boom, LBJ's Great Society efforts toward financial assistance for those seeking to advance their educations, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act which opened opportunities for marginalized social groups in institutions largely closed to them under the prewar social customs in the US.

The US Supreme Court is made up of only Jews and Catholics as of this writing, a circumstance inconceivable in the prewar America. Catholics were largely relegated to separate and unequal institutions. Jews' opportunities were limited by quotas and had a separate set of institutions of their own where their numbers could support such. Where their numbers were not sufficient, they were often relegated to second rate institutions.

Jewish doctors frequently became the leading men in the Catholic hospitals in Midwestern industrial towns where they were unwelcome in the towns' main hospitals. Schools, clubs, hospitals, professional and commercial organizations often had quota or exclusionary policies. Meritocracy has its drawbacks, but we've seen worse in living memory.

College textbook publishing became a racket with the growth of neoliberalism. That means at least since 1980. And it is pretty dirty racket with willing accomplishes in form of so called professors like Greg Mankiw. For instance, you can find a used 5th edition Mankiw introductory to Microeconomics for under $4.00, while a new 7th edition costs over $200. An interesting discussion of this problem can be found at Thoughts on High-Priced Textbooks'

See Slightly Skeptical View on University Education

New generation of robber barons: US oligarchy never was so audacious

As Jesse aptly noted at his blog post Echoes of the Past In The Economist - The Return of the Übermenschen the US oligarchy never was so audacious.

And it is as isolated as the aristocracies of bygone days, isolation reinforced by newly minted royalty withdrawal into gated estates, Ivy League Universities, and private planes.

They are not openly suggesting that no child should rise above the status of parents, presumably in terms of wealth, education, and opportunity. But their policies are directed toward this goal. If you are born to poor parents in the USA, all bets are off -- your success is highly unlikely, and your servile status, if not poverty is supposedly pre-destined by poor generic material that you got.

This is of course not because the children of the elite inherit the talent, energy, drive, and resilience to overcome the many obstacles they will face in life from their parents. Whatever abilities they have (and regression to the mean is applicable to royalty children too), they are greatly supplemented, of course, by the easy opportunities, valuable connections, and access to power. That's why the result of SAT in the USA so strongly correlated with the wealth of parents. And a virtual freedom from prosecution does not hurt either, in case they have inherited a penchant for sociopathy, or something worse, along with their many gifts.

The view that the children of the poor will not do well, because they are genetically inferior became kind of hidden agenda. These are the pesky 99% just deserve to be cheated and robbed by the elite, because of the inherent superiority of the top one percent. There is no fraud in the system, only good and bad breeding, natural predators and prey.

This line of thinking rests on the assumption that I succeed, therefore I am. And if you do not, well, so be it. You will be low-paid office slave or waiter in McDonalds with a college diploma as it is necessary for the maximization of profits of the elite. There is no space at the top for everybody. Enjoy the ride... Here is an typical expression of such views:

"Many commentators automatically assume that low intergenerational mobility rates represent a social tragedy. I do not understand this reflexive wailing and beating of breasts in response to the finding of slow mobility rates.

The fact that the social competence of children is highly predictable once we know the status of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents is not a threat to the American Way of Life and the ideals of the open society

The children of earlier elites will not succeed because they are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and an automatic ticket to the Ivy League.

They will succeed because they have inherited the talent, energy, drive, and resilience to overcome the many obstacles they will face in life. Life is still a struggle for all who hope to have economic and social success. It is just that we can predict who will be likely to possess the necessary characteristics from their ancestry."

Greg Clark, The Economist, 13 Feb. 2013

Mr. Clark is now a professor of economics and was the department chair until 2013 at the University of California, Davis. His areas of research are long term economic growth, the wealth of nations, and the economic history of England and India.

And another one:

"During this time, a growing professional class believed that scientific progress could be used to cure all social ills, and many educated people accepted that humans, like all animals, were subject to natural selection.

Darwinian evolution viewed humans as a flawed species that required pruning to maintain its health. Therefore negative eugenics seemed to offer a rational solution to certain age-old social problems."

David Micklos, Elof Carlson, Engineering American Society: The Lesson of Eugenics

If we compare this like of thinking with the thinking of eightieth century and you will see that the progress is really limited:

“With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment.

There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man.

It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, if so urged by hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with a certain and great present evil.

Hence we must bear without complaining the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely the weaker and inferior members of society not marrying so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased, though this is more to be hoped for than expected, by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage.”

Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

So all this screams of MSM about dropping consumer spending is just a smoke screen. In oligarchic republic which USA represents, consumption is heavily shifted to top 20% and as such is much less dependent of the conditions of the economy. And top 20% can afford $8 per gallon gas (European price) without any problems.

John Barkley Rosser, Jr. With Marina V. Rosser and Ehsan Ahmed, argued for a two-way positive link between income inequality (economic inequality) and the size of an underground economy in a nation (Rosser, Rosser, and Ahmed, 2000).

Globally in 2005, top fifth (20%) of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption (20:80 Pareto rule). The poorest fifth just 1.5%. I do not think the USA differs that much from the rest of the world.

Citigroup Plutonomy Research reports

There was two famous Citigroup Plutonomy research reports (2005 and 2006) featured in in Capitalism: A Love Story . Here is how Yves Smith summarized the findings (in her post High Income Disparity Leads to Low Savings Rates)

On the one hand, the authors, Ajay Kapur, Niall Macleod, and Narendra Singh get some credit for addressing a topic surprisingly ignored by mainstream economists. There have been some noteworthy efforts to measure the increase in concentration of income and wealth in the US most notably by Thomas Piketty and Edmund Saez. But while there have been some efforts to dispute their findings (that the rich, particularly the top 1%, have gotten relatively MUCH richer in the last 20 years), for the most part discussions of what to make of it (as least in the US) have rapidly descended into theological debates. One camp laments the fall in economic mobility (a predictable side effect), the corrosive impact of perceived unfairness, and the public health costs (even the richest in high income disparity countries suffer from shortened life spans). The other camp tends to focus on the Darwinian aspects, that rising income disparity is the result of a vibrant, open economy, and the higher growth rates that allegedly result will lift help all workers.

Yet as far as I can tell, there has been virtually no discussion of the macroeconomy effects of rising income and wealth disparities, or to look into what the implications for investment strategies might be. One interesting effect is that with rising inequality the share of "guard labor" grows very quickly and that puts an upper limit on the further growth of inequality (half of the citizens cannot be guards protecting few billionaires from the other half).

Now the fact that the Citi team asked a worthwhile question does not mean they came up with a sound answer. In fact, he reports are almost ludicrously funny in the way they attempt to depict what they call plutonomy as not merely a tradeable trend (as in leading to some useful investment ideas), but as a Brave New Economy development. I haven't recalled such Panglossian prose since the most delirious days of the dot-com bubble:

We will posit that:

1) the world is dividing into two blocs – the plutonomies, where economic growth is powered by and largely consumed by the wealthy few, and the rest. Plutonomies have occurred before in sixteenth century Spain, in seventeenth century Holland, the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties in the U.S.

What are the common drivers of Plutonomy? Disruptive technology-driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation, capitalist-friendly cooperative governments, an international dimension of immigrants and overseas conquests invigorating wealth creation, the rule of law, and patenting inventions. Often these wealth waves involve great complexity, exploited best by the rich and educated of the time…..Most “Global Imbalances” (high current account deficits and low savings rates, high consumer debt levels in the Anglo-Saxon world, etc) that continue to (unprofitably) preoccupy the world’s intelligentsia look a lot less threatening when examined through the prism of plutonomy. The risk premium on equities that might derive from the dyspeptic “global imbalance” school is unwarranted – the earth is not going to be shaken off its axis, and sucked into the cosmos by these “imbalances”. The earth is being held up by the muscular arms of its entrepreneur-plutocrats, like it, or not..

Yves here. Translation: plutonomy is such a great thing that the entire stock market would be valued higher if everyone understood it. And the hoops the reports go through to defend it are impressive. The plutomony countries (the notorious Anglo-Saxon model, the US, UK, Canada and Australia) even have unusually risk-seeking populations (and that is a Good Thing):

…a new, rather out-of-the box hypothesis suggests that dopamine differentials can explain differences in risk-taking between societies. John Mauldin, the author of “Bulls-Eye Investing” in an email last month cited this work. The thesis: Dopamine, a pleasure-inducing brain chemical, is linked with curiosity, adventure, entrepreneurship, and helps drive results in uncertain environments. Populations generally have about 2% of their members with high enough dopamine levels with the curiosity to emigrate. Ergo, immigrant nations like the U.S. and Canada, and increasingly the UK, have high dopamine-intensity populations.

Yves here. What happened to “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore”? Were the Puritans a high dopamine population? Doubtful. How about the Irish emigration to the US, which peaked during its great famine?

Despite a good deal of romanticization standing in for analysis, the report does have one intriguing, and well documented finding: that the plutonomies have low savings rates. Consider an fictional pep rally chant:

We’re from Greenwich
We’re invincible
Living off our income
Never touch the principal

Think about that. If you are rich, you can afford to spend all your income. You don’t need to save, because your existing wealth provides you with a more than sufficient cushion.

The ramifications when you have a high wealth concentration are profound. From the October 2005 report:

In a plutonomy, the rich drop their savings rate, consume a larger fraction of their bloated, very large share of the economy. This behavior overshadows the decisions of everybody else. The behavior of the exceptionally rich drives the national numbers – the “appallingly low” overall savings rates, the “over-extended consumer”, and the “unsustainable” current accounts that accompany this phenomenon….

Feeling wealthier, the rich decide to consume a part of their capital gains right away. In other words, they save less from their income, the wellknown wealth effect. The key point though is that this new lower savings rate is applied to their newer massive income. Remember they got a much bigger chunk of the economy, that’s how it became a plutonomy. The consequent decline in absolute savings for them (and the country) is huge when this happens. They just account for too large a part of the national economy; even a small fall in their savings rate overwhelms the decisions of all the rest.

Yves here. This account rather cheerily dismisses the notion that there might be overextended consumers on the other end of the food chain. Unprecedented credit card delinquencies and mortgage defaults suggest otherwise. But behaviors on both ends of the income spectrum no doubt played into the low-savings dynamic: wealthy who spend heavily, and struggling average consumers who increasingly came to rely on borrowings to improve or merely maintain their lifestyle. And let us not forget: were encouraged to monetize their home equity, so they actually aped the behavior of their betters, treating appreciated assets as savings. Before you chide people who did that as profligate (naive might be a better characterization), recall that no one less than Ben Bernanke was untroubled by rising consumer debt levels because they also showed rising asset levels. Bernanke ignored the fact that debt needs to be serviced out of incomes, and households for the most part were not borrowing to acquire income-producing assets. So unless the rising tide of consumer debt was matched by rising incomes, this process was bound to come to an ugly end.

Also under Bush country definitely moved from oligarchy to plutocracy. Bush openly claimed that "have more" is his base. The top 1% of earners have captured four-fifths of all new income.

An interesting question is whether the extremely unequal income distribution like we have now make the broader society unstable. Or plebs is satisfied with "Bread and circuses" (aka house, SUV, boat, Daytona 500 and 500 channels on cable) as long as loot from the other parts of the world is still coming...

What is the upper limit of inequality?

Martin Bento in his response to Risk Pollution, Market Failure & Social Justice — Crooked Timber made the following point:

Donald made a point I was going to. I would go a bit further though. It’s not clear to me that economic inequality is not desired for its own sake by the some of the elite. After all, studies suggest that once you get past the level of income needed for a reasonably comfortable life – about $40K for a single person in the US - the quest for money is mostly about status.

Meeting your needs is not necessarily zero sum, but status is: my status can only be higher than yours to the extent that yours is lower than mine.

The more inequality there is, the more status differentiation there is. Of course, there are other sources of status than money, but I’m talking specifically about people who value money for the status it confers. This is in addition to the “Donner Party Conservatism” calls to make sure the incentives to work are as strong as possible (to be fair, I think tolerating some inequality for the sake of incentives is worthwhile, but we seem to be well beyond that).

For example currently the USA is No.3 in Gini measured inequality (cyeahoo, Oct 16, 2009), but still the society is reasonably stable:

Gini score: 40.8
GDP 2007 (US$ billions): 13,751.4
Share of income or expenditure (%)
Poorest 10%: 1.9
Richest 10%: 29.9
Ratio of income or expenditure, share of top 10% to lowest 10%: 15.9

What is really surprising is how low the average American salary is: just $26,352 or ~$2,200 a month. This is equal approximately to $13 an hour.

At the same time:

Some interesting facts about upper class (top 1% of the US population). First of all this is pretty self-isolated group (a nation within a nation). They associate almost exclusively with members of their own social and economic standing, few members of the bottom 90% of Americans have ever even personally met a member of the upper class.

Now about top 400:

Here are some interesting hypothesis about affect of inequality of the society:

Higher inequality is somewhat connected with imperial outreach. As Kevin de Bruxelles noted in comment to What collapsing empire looks like - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com

I’m surprised a thoughtful guy like Glenn Greenwald would make such an unsubstantiated link between collapsing public services for American peasants and a collapse of America’s global (indirect) imperial realm. Is there really a historic link between the quality of a nation’s services to its citizens and its global power? If so the Scandinavian countries would have been ruling the world for the past fifty years. If anything there is probably a reverse correlation. None of the great historic imperial powers, such as the British, Roman, Spanish, Russian, Ottoman, Mongolian, Chinese, Islamic, or Persian, were associated with egalitarian living conditions for anyone outside of the elite. So from a historic point of view, the ability to divert resources away from the peasants and towards the national security state is a sign of elite power and should be seen as a sign increased American imperial potential.

Now if America’s global power was still based on economic production then an argument could be made that closing libraries and cancelling the 12th grade would lower America’s power potential. But as we all know that is no longer the case and now America’s power is as the global consumer of excess production. Will a dumber peasantry consume even more? I think there is a good chance that the answer is yes.

Now a limit could be reached to how far the elite can lower their peasant’s standard of living if these changes actually resulted in civil disorder that demanded much energy for American elites to quell. But so far that is far from the case. Even a facile gesture such as voting for any other political party except the ruling Republicrats seems like a bridge too far for 95% of the peasants to attempt. No, the sad truth is that American elites, thanks to their exceptional ability to deliver an ever increasing amount of diverting bread and circuses, have plenty of room to further cut standards of living and are nowhere near reaching any limits.

What the reductions in economic and educational options will result in are higher quality volunteers into America’s security machinery, which again obviously raise America’s global power potential. This, along with an increasingly ruthless elite, should assure that into the medium term America’s powerful position will remain unchallenged. If one colors in blue on a world map all the countries under de facto indirect US control then one will start to realize the extent of US power. The only major countries outside of US control are Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela. Iraq and Afghanistan are recent converts to the blue column but it far from certain whether they will stay that way. American elites will resist to the bitter end any country falling from the blue category. But this colored world map is the best metric for judging US global power.

In the end it’s just wishful thinking to link the declining of the American peasant’s standard of living with a declining of the American elite’s global power. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this proven in an attack on Iran in the near future.

High inequality and organized crime

Higher pay inequality feeds organized crime (and here we assume that banksters are different from the organized crime, which is probably a very weak hypothesis ;-). That's why Peter Drucker was probably right. He thought that top execs shouldn't get more than 25 times the average salary in the company (which would cap it around $2 millions). I would suggest a metric based on multiple from the average of lower 50% full time jobs for a particular firm (for example in Wal Mart that would cashers and cleaners, people who are living in Latin American style poverty, if they are single mothers as many are). One of the particular strengths of the idea of the maximum wage base on average of lower 50% of salaries is that if senior managers want to increase their own pay, they have to increase that of the lower-paid employees too.

And in a way financial industry itself became an organized crime. The notion of exorbitant wages prevalent in financial industry (and, before it, pioneered by in high-tech companies during dot-com boom via stock options) is based on the idea that some people are at least hundred times more productive then the others. In some professions like programming this is true and such people do exists. But any sufficiently large company is about team work. No matter what job a person does and no matter how many hours they work, there is no possible way that an single individual will create a whole product. It's a team effort. That means that neither skill nor expertise or intelligence can justify the payment of 200, 300 or even 400 times the wages of the lowest-paid 20% workers in any large organization.

This is especially questionable for financial professionals because by and large they are engaged in non-productive. often harmful for the society as whole redistribution activities, the same activities that organized crime performs. Moreover, modern traders are actually play a tremendously destructive role as subprime crisis (and before it saving and loans debacle) aptly demonstrated. which make them indistinguishable in this societal roles from cocaine pushers on the streets.

Drucker's views on the subject are probably worth revisiting. Rick Wartzman wrote in his Business Week article Put a Cap on CEO Pay' that "those who understand that what comes with their authority is the weight of responsibility, not "the mantle of privilege," as writer and editor Thomas Stewart described Drucker's view. It's their job "to do what is right for the enterprise—not for shareholders alone, and certainly not for themselves alone."

Large pay also attracts sociopathic personalities. Sociopathic personalities at the top of modern organizations is another important but rarely discussed danger.

"I'm not talking about the bitter feelings of the people on the plant floor," Drucker told a reporter in 2004. "They're convinced that their bosses are crooks anyway. It's the mid-level management that is incredibly disillusioned" by CEO compensation that seems to have no bounds. " This is especially true, Drucker explained in an earlier interview, when CEOs pocket huge sums while laying off workers. That kind of action, he said, is "morally unforgivable." There can be exceptions but they should be in middle management not in top management ranks.

Put it all together, and the picture became really discouraging. We have an ill-informed or misinformed electorate, politicians who gleefully add to the misinformation, watchdogs who are afraid to bark and guards on each and every corner. Mousetrap is complete.

Recommended Books

Winner-Take-All Politics How Washington Made the Rich Richer -- and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class by Paul Pierson, Jacob S. Hacker

Henry J. Farrell

Transforming American politics, September 16, 2010

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover) This is a transformative book. It's the best book on American politics that I've read since Rick Perlstein's Before the Storm. Not all of it is original (the authors seek to synthesize others' work as well as present their own, but provide due credit where credit is due). Not all of its arguments are fully supported (the authors provide a strong circumstantial case to support their argument, but don't have smoking gun evidence on many of the relevant causal relations). But it should transform the ways in which we think about and debate the political economy of the US.

The underlying argument is straightforward. The sources of American economic inequality are largely political - the result of deliberate political decisions to shape markets in ways that benefit the already-privileged at the expense of a more-or-less unaware public. The authors weave a historical narrative which Kevin Drum (who says the same things that I am saying about the book's importance) summarizes cogently here. This is not necessarily original - a lot of leftwing and left-of-center writers have been making similar claims for a long time. What is new is both the specific evidence that the authors use, and their conscious and deliberate effort to reframe what is important about American politics.

First - the evidence. Hacker and Pierson draw on work by economists like Picketty and Saez on the substantial growth in US inequality (and on comparisons between the US and other countries), but argue that many of the explanations preferred by economists (the effects of technological change on demand for skills) simply don't explain what is going on. First, they do not explain why inequality is so top-heavy - that is, why so many of the economic benefits go to a tiny, tiny minority of individuals among those with apparently similar skills. Second, they do not explain cross national variation - why the differences in the level of inequality among advanced industrialized countries, all of which have gone through more-or-less similar technological shocks, are so stark. While Hacker and Pierson agree that technological change is part of the story, they suggest that the ways in which this is channeled in different national contexts is crucial. And it is here that politics plays a key role.

Many economists are skeptical that politics explains the outcome, suggesting that conventional forms of political intervention are not big enough to have such dramatic consequences. Hacker and Pierson's reply implicitly points to a blind spot of many economists - they argue that markets are not `natural,' but instead are constituted by government policy and political institutions. If institutions are designed one way, they result in one form of market activity, whereas if they are designed another way, they will result in very different outcomes. Hence, results that appear like `natural' market operations to a neo-classical economist may in fact be the result of political decisions, or indeed of deliberate political inaction. Hacker and Pierson cite e.g. the decision of the Clinton administration not to police derivatives as an example of how political coalitions may block reforms in ways that have dramatic economic consequences.

Hence, Hacker and Pierson turn to the lessons of ongoing political science research. This is both a strength and a weakness. I'll talk about the weakness below - but I found the account of the current research convincing, readable and accurate. It builds on both Hacker and Pierson's own work and the work of others (e.g. the revisionist account of American party structures from Zaller et al. and the work of Bartels). This original body of work is not written in ways that make it easily accessible to non-professionals - while Bartels' book was both excellent and influential, it was not an easy read. Winner-Take-All Politics pulls off the tricky task of both presenting the key arguments underlying work without distorting them and integrating them into a highly readable narrative.

As noted above, the book sets out (in my view quite successfully) to reframe how we should think about American politics. It downplays the importance of electoral politics, without dismissing it, in favor of a focus on policy-setting, institutions, and organization.

In Hacker and Pierson's account, these three together account for the systematic political bias towards greater inequality. In simplified form: Organizations - and battles between organizations over policy as well as elections - are the structuring conflicts of American politics. The interests of the rich are represented by far more powerful organizations than the interests of the poor and middle class. The institutions of the US provide these organizations and their political allies with a variety of tools to promote new policies that reshape markets in their interests. This account is in some ways neo-Galbraithian (Hacker and Pierson refer in passing to the notion of `countervailing powers'). But while it lacks Galbraith's magisterial and mellifluous prose style, it is much better than he was on the details.

Even so (and here begin the criticisms) - it is not detailed enough. The authors set the book up as a whodunit: Who or what is responsible for the gross inequalities of American economic life? They show that the other major suspects have decent alibis (they may inadvertently have helped the culprit, but they did not carry out the crime itself. They show that their preferred culprit had the motive and, apparently, the means. They find good circumstantial evidence that he did it. But they do not find a smoking gun. For me, the culprit (the American political system) is like OJ. As matters stand, I'm pretty sure that he committed the crime. But I'm not sure that he could be convicted in a court of law, and I could be convinced that I was wrong, if major new exculpatory evidence was uncovered.

The lack of any smoking gun (or, alternatively, good evidence against a smoking gun) is the direct result of a major failure of American intellectual life. As the authors observe elsewhere, there is no field of American political economy. Economists have typically treated the economy as non-political. Political scientists have typically not concerned themselves with the American economy. There are recent efforts to change this, coming from economists like Paul Krugman and political scientists like Larry Bartels, but they are still in their infancy. We do not have the kinds of detailed and systematic accounts of the relationship between political institutions and economic order for the US that we have e.g. for most mainland European countries. We will need a decade or more of research to build the foundations of one.

Hence, while Hacker and Pierson show that political science can get us a large part of the way, it cannot get us as far as they would like us to go, for the simple reason that political science is not well developed enough yet. We can identify the causal mechanisms intervening between some specific political decisions and non-decisions and observed outcomes in the economy. We cannot yet provide a really satisfactory account of how these particular mechanisms work across a wider variety of settings and hence produce the general forms of inequality that they point to. Nor do we yet have a really good account of the precise interactions between these mechanisms and other mechanisms.

None of this is to discount the importance of this book. If it has the impact it deserves, it will transform American public arguments about politics and policymaking. I cannot see how someone who was fair minded could come away from reading this book and not be convinced that politics plays a key role in the enormous economic inequality that we see. And even if it is aimed at a general audience, it also challenges academics and researchers in economics, political science and economic sociology both to re-examine their assumptions about how economics and politics work, and to figure out ways better to engage with the key political debates of our time as Hacker and Pierson have done. If you can, buy it.

Great Faulkner's Ghost (Washington, DC)

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover) Many people have observed that American politics and the American economy reached some kind of turning point around 1980, which conveniently marks the election of Ronald Reagan. Some also pointed to other factors such as the deregulation of stock brokerage commissions in 1975 and the high inflation of the 1970s. Other analysts have put the turning point back in 1968, when Richard Nixon became President on the back of a wave of white, middle-class resentment against the 1960s. Hacker and Pierson, however, point the finger at the 1970s. As they describe in Chapter 4, the Nixon presidency saw the high-water market of the regulatory state; the demise of traditional liberalism occurred during the Carter administration, despite Democratic control of Washington, when highly organized business interests were able to torpedo the Democratic agenda and begin the era of cutting taxes for the rich that apparently has not yet ended today.

Why then? Not, as popular commentary would have it, because public opinion shifted. Hacker and Pierson cite studies showing that public opinion on issues such as inequality has not shifted over the past thirty years; most people still think society is too unequal and that taxes should be used to reduce inequality. What has shifted is that Congressmen are now much more receptive to the opinions of the rich, and there is actually a negative correlation between their positions and the preferences of their poor constituents (p. 111). Citing Martin Gilens, they write, "When well-off people strongly supported a policy change, it had almost three times the chance of becoming law as when they strongly opposed it. When median-income people strongly supported a policy change, it had hardly any greater chance of becoming law than when they strongly opposed it" (p. 112). In other words, it isn't public opinion, or the median voter, that matters; it's what the rich want.

That shift occurred in the 1970s because businesses and the super-rich began a process of political organization in the early 1970s that enabled them to pool their wealth and contacts to achieve dominant political influence (described in Chapter 5). To take one of the many statistics they provide, the number of companies with registered lobbyists in Washington grew from 175 in 1971 to nearly 2,500 in 1982 (p. 118). Money pouring into lobbying firms, political campaigns, and ideological think tanks created the organizational muscle that gave the Republicans a formidable institutional advantage by the 1980s. The Democrats have only reduced that advantage in the past two decades by becoming more like Republicans-more business-friendly, more anti-tax, and more dependent on money from the super-rich. And that dependency has severely limited both their ability and their desire to fight back on behalf of the middle class (let alone the poor), which has few defenders in Washington.

At a high level, the lesson of Winner-Take-All Politics is similar to that of 13 Bankers: when looking at economic phenomena, be they the financial crisis or the vast increase in inequality of the past thirty years, it's politics that matters, not just abstract economic forces. One of the singular victories of the rich has been convincing the rest of us that their disproportionate success has been due to abstract economic forces beyond anyone's control (technology, globalization, etc.), not old-fashioned power politics. Hopefully the financial crisis and the recession that has ended only on paper (if that) will provide the opportunity to teach people that there is no such thing as abstract economic forces; instead, there are different groups using the political system to fight for larger shares of society's wealth. And one group has been winning for over thirty years.

Citizen John (USA)

In Winner-Take-All Politics, two political science professors explain what caused the Middle Class to become vulnerable. Understanding this phenomenon is the Holy Grail of contemporary economics in the U.S.

Some may feel this book is just as polarizing as the current state of politics and media in America. The decades-long decline in income taxes of wealthy individuals is cited in detail. Wage earners are usually subjected to the FICA taxes against all their ordinary income (all or almost their entire total income). But the top wealthy Americans may have only a small percentage (or none) of their income subjected to FICA taxes. Thus Warren Buffett announced that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Buffett has cited income inequality for "poisoning democracy."

When you search the Net for Buffett quotes on inequality, you get a lot of results showing how controversial he became for stating the obvious. Drawing attention to the inequity of the tax regime won him powerful enemies. Those same people are not going to like the authors for writing Winner-Take-All. They say these political science people are condescending because they presume to tell people their political interests.

Many of studies of poverty show how economic and political policies generally favor the rich throughout the world, some of which are cited in this book. Military spending and financial bailouts in particular favor the wealthy. Authors Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson document a long U.S. policy trend favoring wealthy Americans. This trend resulted in diminished middle class access to quality healthcare and education, making it harder to keep up with the wealthy in relative terms. Further, once people have lost basic foundations of security, they are less willing and able to take on more risk in terms of investing or starting a business.

The rise of special interests has been at the expense of the middle class, according to the authors. Former President Carter talked about this and was ridiculed. Since then government has grown further from most of us. Even federal employees are not like most of us anymore. In its August 10, 2010 issue, USA Today discussed government salaries: "At a time when workers' pay and benefits have stagnated, federal employees' average compensation has grown to more than double what private sector workers earn, a USA TODAY analysis finds."

An excellent documentary showing how difficult it is to address income inequality is One Percent, by Jamie Johnson of the Johnson & Johnson family. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Pulitzer Prize-winner Jared Diamond Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed shows examples of what can happen when a society disregards a coming disaster until too late. I hope that Winner-Take-All will prompt people to demand more of elected officials and to arrest the growing income gap for the sake of our democracy.

Michael Emmett Brady "mandmbrady" (Bellflower, California ,United States)

4.5 stars-Wall Street speculators control both parties, September 19, 2010 See all my reviews

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover)

This book basically argues that Wall Street controls both political parties through the use of massive campaign contributions and lobbyists who buy off both the Republicans and Democrats in the White House,Senate and House.This is essentially correct but obvious.Anyone can go back to the 1976 Jimmy Carter campaign and simply verify that the majority of his campaign funds and advisors came from Wall Street.This identical conclusion also holds with respect to Ronald Reagan,George H W Bush,Bill Clinton,George W Bush and Barack Obama. The only Presidents/Presidential candidates not dominated by Wall Street since 1976 were Gerald Ford, Walter Mondale, Ross Perot, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan.

For instance,it is common knowledge to anyone who carefully checks to see where the money is coming from that Wall Street financiers, hedgefunds, private equity firms and giant commercial banks are calling the shots. For example, one could simply read the July 9,2007 issue of FORTUNE magazine to discover who the major backers of John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were. One could also have read Business Week(2-25-2008) or the Los Angeles Times of 3-21-2008.Through February, 2008 the major donors to the McCain campaign were 1)Merrill Lynch, 2) Citigroup, 3)Goldman Sachs, 4)J P Morgan Chase and 5)Credit Suisse

The major donors to the Hillary Clinton campaign were 1)Goldman Sachs, 2)Morgan Stanley, 3)Citigroup, 4)Lehman Brothers and 5)J P Morgan Chase.

Guess who were the major donors to the Obama campaign ? If you guessed 1)Goldman Sachs,2)UBS Ag,3)J P Morgan Chase ,4)Lehman Brothers and 5)Citigroup, then you are correct.

It didn't matter who became President-Hillary Clinton,Barack Obama or John McCain.All three had been thoroughly vetted by Wall Street. The campaign staffs of all three candidates ,especially their economic and finance advisors, were all Wall Street connected. Wall Street would have been bailed out regardless of which party won the 2008 election.

Obama is not going to change anything substantially in the financial markets. Neither is Rep. Barney Frank, Sen. Chris Dodd, Sen. Kerry or Sen. Schumer, etc. Nor is any Republican candidate going to make any changes, simply because the Republican Party is dominated even more so by Wall Street(100%) than the Democratic Party(80%). The logical solution would be to support a Third Party candidate, for example, Ross Perot .

One aspect of the book is deficient. True conservatives like Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan and Lou Dobbs have been warning about the grave dangers of hallowing out and downsizing the American Manufacturing -Industrial sector, with the consequent offshoring and/or loss of many millions of American jobs, for about 20 years at the same time that the " financial services " sector has exploded from 3% of the total service sector in 1972 to just under 40% by 2007. This is what is causing the great shrinkage in the middle class in America .

Matt Milholland (California)

An Important Book, October 9, 2010 See all my reviews

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover)

This is a phenomenal book and everyone interested in how American politics works (or more accurately, doesn't work) should pick it up. It's both really smart and really accessible to a lay audience, which is rare for a political science book.

Extreme economic inequality and the near paralysis of our governing institutions has lead to a status-quo that is almost entirely indifferent to the needs of working families. Hacker & Pierson chronicle the rise of this corrupt system and the dual, yet distinct, roles the Republican and Democratic Parties have played in abetting it.

Seriously, it's top-notch. Read this book.

Loyd E. Eskildson "Pragmatist" By(Phoenix, AZ.)

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Timely, but Also Off-Base in Some Regards, September 15, 2010 See all my reviews

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover) The thirty-eight biggest Wall Street companies earned $140 billion in 2009, a record that all taxpayers who contributed to their bailouts can be proud of. Among those, Goldman Sachs paid its employees an average $600,000, also a record, and at least partially attributable to our bailout of AIG, which promptly gave much of the money to Goldman. Prior to that, the top 25 hedge fund managers earned an average of $892 million in 2007. "Winner-Take-All Politics" is framed as a detective story about how we got to inequality levels where the top 300,000 (0.1%) receive over 20% of national income, vs. 13.5% for the bottom 180 million (60% of the population).

Between 1947 and 1973, real family median income essentially doubled, and the growth percentage was virtually the same for all income levels. In the mid-1970s, however, economic inequality began to increase sharply and middle-incomes lagged. Increased female workforce participation rates and more overtime helped cushion the stagnation or decline for many (they also increased the risk of layoffs/family), then growing credit card debt shielded many families from reality. Unfortunately, expectations of stable full-time employment also began shrinking, part-time, temporary, and economic risk-bearing (eg. taxi drivers leasing vehicles and paying the fuel costs; deliverymen 'buying' routes and trucks) work increased, workers covered by employer-sponsored health insurance fell from 69% in 1979 to 56% in 2004, and retirement coverage was either been dropped entirely or mostly converted to much less valuable fix-contribution plans for private sector employees. Some exceptions have occurred that benefit the middle and lower-income segments - Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Medicaid, and Medicare were initiated or expanded, but these have not blunted the overall trend. Conversely, welfare reform, incarceration rates rising 6X between 1970 and 2000, bankruptcy reform, and increased tax audits for EITC recipients have also added to their burden, Social Security is being challenged again (despite stock market declines, enormous transition costs, and vastly increased overhead costs and fraud opportunity), and 2009's universal health care reform will be aggressively challenged both in the courts and Washington.

Authors Hacker and Pierson contend that growing inequality is not the 'natural' product of market rewards, but mostly the artificial result of deliberate government policies, strongly influenced by industry lobbyists and donations, new and expanded conservative 'think tanks,' and inadequate media coverage that focused more on the 'horse race' aspects of various initiatives than their content and impact. First came the capital gains tax cuts under President Carter, then deregulation of the financial industry under Clinton, the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, and the financial bailouts in 2008-09. The authors contend that if the 1970 tax structure remained today, the top gains would be considerably less.

But what about the fact that in 1965 CEOs of large corporations only earned about 24X the average worker, compared to 300+X now? Hacker and Pierson largely ignore the role of board-room politics and malfeasance that have mostly allowed managers to serve themselves with payment without regard to performance and out of proportion to other nations. In 2006, the 20 highest-paid European managers made an average $12.5 million, only one-third as much as the 20 highest-earning U.S. executives. Yet, the Europeans led larger firms - $65.5 billion in sales vs. $46.5 billion for the U.S. Asian CEOs commonly make only 10X-15X what their base level employees make. Jiang Jianqing, Chairman of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (world's largest), made $234,700 in 2008, less than 2% of the $19.6 million awarded Jamie Dimon, CEO of the world's fourth-largest bank, JPMorgan Chase.

"Winner-Take-All Politics" also provides readers with the composition of 2004 taxpayers in the top 0.1% of earners (including capital gains). Non-finance executives comprised 41% of the group, finance professionals 18.4%, lawyers 6%, real estate personages 5%, physicians 4%, entrepreneurs 4%, and arts and sports stars 3%. The authors assert that this shows education and skills levels are not the great dividers most everyone credits them to be - the vast majority of Americans losing ground to the super-rich includes many well-educated individuals, while the super-rich includes many without a college education (Sheldon Adelson, Paul Allen, Edgar Bronfman, Jack Kent Cook, Michael Dell, Walt Disney, Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Wayne Huizenga, Steve Jobs, Rush Limbaugh, Steve Wozniak, and Mark Zuckerberg).

Authors Hacker and Pierson are political science professors and it is understandable that they emphasize political causes (PACs, greater recruitment of evangelical voters, lobbying - eg. $500 million on health care lobbying in 2009, filibusters that allow senators representing just 10% of the population to stop legislation and make the other side look incompetent, etc.) for today's income inequality. However, their claim that foreign trade is "largely innocent" as a cause is neither substantiated nor logical. Foreign trade as practiced today pads corporate profits and executive bonuses while destroying/threatening millions of American jobs and lowering/holding down the incomes of those affected. Worse yet, the authors don't even mention the impact of millions of illegal aliens depressing wage rates while taking jobs from Americans, nor do they address the canard that tax cuts for and spending by the super-wealthy are essential to our economic success (refuted by Moody's Analytics and Austan Goolsbee, Business Week - 9/13/2010). They're also annoyingly biased towards unions, ignoring their constant strikes and abuses in the 1960s and 1970s, major contributions to G.M., Chrysler, and legacy airline bankruptcies, and current school district, local, and state financial difficulties.

Bottom-Line: It is a sad commentary on the American political system that growing and record levels of inequality are being met by populist backlash against income redistribution and expanding trust in government, currently evidenced by those supporting extending tax cuts for the rich and railing against reforming health care to reduce expenditures from 17.3+% of GDP to more internationally competitive levels (4-6%) while improving patient outcomes. "Winner-Take-All Politics" is interesting reading, provides some essential data, and point out some evidence of the inadequacy of many voters. However, the authors miss the 'elephant in the room' - American-style democracy is not viable when at most 10% of citizens are 'proficient' per functional literacy tests ([...]), and only a small proportion of them have the time and access required to sift through the flood of half-truths, lies, and irrelevancies to objectively evaluate 2,000+ page bills and other political activity. (Ideology-dominated economic professionals and short-term thinking human rights advocates are two others.) Comments (2)

Brian Kodi

"Americans live in Russia, but they think they live in Sweden." - Chrystia Freeland, March 26, 2011 See all my reviews

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover)

No one should doubt the rising income inequality in America, which the authors trace back to the late 1970s since the latter part of Carter's presidency in what they call the "30 Year War". Zachary Roth, in a March 4th Time magazine article stated "A slew of conservative economists of unimpeachable academic credentials--including Martin Feldstein of Harvard, Glenn Hubbard, who was President Bush's top economic adviser, and Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke--have all acknowledged that inequality is on the rise."

And why should we care that most of the after tax income growth since 30 years ago has gone the way of the richest Americans in a "winner-take-all" economy? Because as Supreme Court justice biographer Melvin Urofsky stated, "in a democratic society the existence of large centers of private power is dangerous to the continuing vitality of a free people." (p. 81) Because if unchecked, a new economic aristocracy may replace the old hereditary aristocracy America's Founders fought to defeat (p. 298). Because unequal societies are unhappy societies, and inequality can foster individual resentment that may lead to a pervasive decline in civility and erosion of culture.

And why should we be concerned that this trend in rising inequality may not experience the period of renewal the authors are optimistic about? Because unlike the shock of the 1930s' Great Depression that served as the impetus for the politics of middle class democracy, the potential shockwaves of the 2008 Great Recession were tempered by massive government stimulus, resulting in no meaningful financial reform, and an extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy. And because of the lottery mentality of a large swath of the population which opposes tax increases on the rich. One day, they or their children too can share in the American dream. According to an October 2000 Time-CNN poll, 19 percent of Americans were convinced they belonged to the richest 1 percent. Another 20 percent thought they'd make the rank of the top 1 percent at some point in their lives. That's quite a turnover in the top 1 percent category to accommodate 20 percent of the population passing through.

Mr. Hacker and Mr. Pierson have put together powerful arguments on the root causes of income inequality in the U.S., its political and economic ramifications, and to a lesser extent, a roadmap to returning democracy to the masses. This is an eye opening and disturbing, yet informative book, even for readers who may disagree with their opinions.

J. Strauss (NYC)

3.0 out of 5 stars great history of big money influence on policy but needs more analysis of the ways policy affects the winner-take-all economy, September 21, 2011 See all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover)

Writing:

A bit hokey and repetitive for the first couple chapters. Much better after that. Stick with it if you're interested in the subject.

Content:

This book does a very good job explaining how and why certain special interest groups (notably those that represent the wealthiest .1%) have come to have such a stranglehold on government, particularly Congress. I come away with a clear understanding of how the wealthiest citizens are able to exert their influence over legislative policy and enforcement at the federal level.

What I would have liked more of are better explanations of the mechanisms through which government policies exacerbate the winner-take-all economy. Tax policy (rates and loopholes) is the most obvious answer, and the book provides plenty of stats on the regression of tax policy over the past 30 years.

But complicated, interesting, and largely missing from public discourse is why PRE-TAX incomes have become so much more radically skewed during that time. This is certainly touched on - the authors are deliberate in saying it's not JUST tax policy that's contributing to increased inequality - but I would've liked much more analysis of the other policy-driven factors. "Deregulation" is too general an explanation to paint a clear picture.

The authors make it clear that they believe the increasing divide in pre-tax incomes (the winner-take-all economy) is not the inevitable result of technological changes and of differences in education ("the usual suspects"), but of policy decisions made at the state and, especially, federal levels. Personally, I wasn't fully convinced that technological change has little or nothing to do with the skew (though I agree that while education goes a long way toward explaining the gap between poor and middle class, it doesn't explain much of the gap between middle class and super rich). But I do believe, as they do, that public policy plays a large role in influencing the extent of inequality in pre-tax incomes, even beyond more obvious market-impacting factors like union influence, and mandates including the minimum wage, restrictions on pollution, workplace safety and fairness laws, etc.

Off the top of my head, here are some regulatory issues that affect market outcomes and can influence the extent of winner-take-all effects in the marketplace (a few of these may have been mentioned in the book, but none were discussed in detail):

And many more. I know regulatory issues like that play huge roles in the distribution of pre-tax "market" incomes, but I'd like to have a better understanding of how, and also to be better able to articulate how in response to those who seem to believe taxes (and perhaps obvious restrictions, such as on pollution or the minimum wage) are the only significant means through which governments influence wealth disparities.

There wasn't a whole lot of discussion of these or similar regulatory issues in the book. I would like to see another edition, or perhaps another book entirely, that does. Please let me know if you have any recommendations.


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[Feb 07, 2018] Capitalism Collapsing from Inequality... Blame Russia! by Finian CUNNINGHAM

Nov 11, 2017 | www.strategic-culture.org

New figures published this week on obscene inequality show how the capitalist economic system has become more than ever deeply dysfunctional. Surely, the depraved workings of the system pose the greatest threat to societies and international security. Yet, Western leaders are preoccupied instead with other non-existent threats – like Russia.

Take British prime minister Theresa May who this week was speaking at a posh banquet in London. She told the assembled hobnobs, as they were sipping expensive wines, that "Russia is threatening the international order upon which we depend". Without providing one scrap of evidence, the British leader went to assert that Russia was interfering in Western democracies to "sow discord".

May's grandstanding is a classic case study of what behavioral scientists call "displacement activity" – that is, when animals find themselves in a state of danger they often react by displaying unusual behavior or making strange noises.

For indeed May and other Western political leaders are facing danger to their world order, even if they don't openly admit it as such. That danger is from the exploding levels of social inequality and poverty within Western societies, leading to anger, resentment, discontent and disillusionment among increasing masses of citizens. In the face of the inherent, imminent collapse of their systems of governance, Western leaders like May seek some relief by prattling on about Russia as a threat.

This week European bank Credit Suisse published figures showing that the wealth gap between rich and poor has reached even more grotesque and absurdist levels. According to the bank, the world's richest 1% now own as much wealth as half the population of the entire planet. The United States and Britain are among the top countries for residing multi-millionaires, while these two nations have also emerged as among the most unequal in the world.

The data calling out how dysfunctional the capitalist system has become keeps on coming. It is impossible to ignore the reality of a system in deep disrepair, yet British and American politicians in particular – apart from notable exceptions like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders – have the audacity to block out this reality and to chase after risible phantoms. (The exercise makes perfect sense in a way.)

Last week, a report from the US-based Institute of Policy Studies found that just three of America's wealthiest men – Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett – own the same level of wealth as the poorest half of the entire US population. That is, the combined monetary worth of these three individuals – reckoned to be $250 billion – is equivalent to that possessed by 160 million citizens.

What's more, the study also estimates that if the Trump administration pushes through its proposed tax plans, the gap between rich elite and the vast majority will widen even further. This and other studies have found that over 80% of the tax benefits from Trump's budget will go to enrich the top 1% in society.

All Western governments, not just May's or Trump's, have over the past decades overseen an historic trend of siphoning wealth from the majority of society to a tiny elite few. The tax burden has relentlessly shifted from the wealthy to the ordinary workers, who in addition have had to contend with decreasing wages, as well as deteriorating public serves and social welfare.

To refer to the United States or Britain as "democracies" is a preposterous misnomer. They are for all practical purposes plutocracies; societies run by and for a top strata of obscenely wealthy.

Intelligent economists, like the authors at the IPS cited above, realize that the state of affairs is unsustainable. Morally, and even from an empirical economics point of view, the distortion of wealth within Western societies and internationally is leading to social and political disaster.

On this observation, we must acknowledge the pioneering work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels who more than 150 years ago identified the chief failing of capitalism as being the polarization of wealth between a tiny few and the vast majority. The lack of consumption power among the masses owing to chronic poverty induced by capitalism would result in the system's eventual collapse. Surely, we have reached that point in history now, when a handful of individuals own as much wealth as half the planet.

Inequality, poverty and the denial of decent existence to the majority of people stands out as the clarion condemnation of capitalism and its organization of society under private profit. The human suffering, hardships, austerity and crippled potential that flow from this condition represent the crisis of our time. Yet instead of an earnest public debate and struggle to overcome this crisis, we are forced by our elites to focus on false, even surreal problems.

American politics has become paralyzed by an endless elite squabble over whether Russia meddled in the presidential elections and claims that Russian news media continue to interfere in American democracy. Of course, the US corporate-controlled news media, who are an integral part of the plutocracy, lend credibility to this circus. Ditto European corporate-controlled media.

Then we have President Donald Trump on a world tour berating and bullying other nations to spend more money on buying American goods and to stop cheating supposed American generosity over trade. Trump also is prepared to start a nuclear war with North Korea because the latter is accused of being a threat to global peace – on the basis that the country is building military defenses. The same for Iran. Trump castigates Iran as a threat to Middle East peace and warns of a confrontation.

This is the same quality of ludicrous distraction as Britain's premier Theresa May this week lambasting Russia for "threatening the world order upon which we all depend". By "we" she is really referring to the elites, not the mass of suffering workers and their families.

May and Trump are indulging in "perception management" taken to absurdity. Or more crudely, brainwashing.

How can North Korea or Iran be credibly presented as global threats when the American and British are supporting a genocidal blockade and aerial slaughter in Yemen? The complete disconnect in reality is testimony to the pernicious system of thought-control that the vast majority of citizens are enforced to live under.

The biggest disconnect is the obscene inequality of wealth and resources that capitalism has engendered in the 21 st century. That monstrous dysfunction is also causally related to why the US and its Western allies like Britain are pushing belligerence and wars around the planet. It is all part of their elitist denial of reality. The reality that capitalism is the biggest threat to humanity's future.

Do we let these mentally deficient, deceptive political elites and their media dictate the nonsense? Or will the mass of people do the right thing and sweep them aside?

[Jan 16, 2018] Angry Bear " Does the United States Have A "Poland Problem"

Notable quotes:
"... As it is, the "middle" 59% can replenish their pockets at the expense of top 1% income whose share has ballooned from 10% to 22.5% over recent (de-unionizing) decades. Just reintroduce confiscatory taxation of the kind existing in the Eisenhower era. Say, 90% over $2 million income -- and this time we really mean it -- very top incomes (CEOs, news anchors, er, quarterbacks) now 20X what they were since per capita income only doubled. I predict any social inertia (it's only human nature) on the part of the 59% to jack upper taxes up will be overcome by the friendly persuasion on the part of the 40% -- who want to jack up the price of that burger just a bit more. ..."
"... NY Times' Nate Cohn found that Trump won by trading places with Obama. Obama ran as the black guy (presumably working folks oriented -- were we wrong) against Wall Street Romney; Trump ran as blue collar-acting guy against Wall Street Hillary. True progressive Bernie would have stomped Trump. (Bernie hasn't caught on to re-stocking union density as the only real way to help working people yet -- but at least he won't get in the way while waiting to catch on.) ..."
"... I remember reading an interview of an older person. The interviewer asked what life was like during the Great Depression. And they replied that it wasn't bad if you had a job. ..."
"... This is similar to our situation today. It is not bad if you have a good paying full time job. In that case you have almost no understanding of what some others are complaining about. Income inequality is a sterile term for what happens to other people ..."
"... Candidate Trump addressed the major concern of those 'others', which was their declining spending power. He did that by addressing the economic threats posed by illegal immigration and free trade treaties which allowed companies to move production overseas. ..."
"... The businessman Mohamed El-Erian rejects the populist label for the current multi national voter rebellions, he prefers anti-establishment. And so do I. ..."
Jan 16, 2018 | angrybearblog.com

Denis Drew, January 11, 2018 10:25 am

"We all know that that the widely touted unemployment rate overstates the strength of the labor market given so many having dropped out of the labor force, and upward pressure on wages has remained weak, despite some improvement on that front recently."

Barkley, this understates (too typically I'm afraid) the depth of the "Great Wage Depression." Everybody (everybody progressive anyway) eternally points to economic growth benefiting only the upper few percent for decades -- then -- whenever they assess the effect of the economy upon voters (not you here) they skip right over sink hole wage rates and keyhole focus right on the unemployment rate (or if we're lucky the real employment rate) when what voters want is $20/hr jobs plain and simple: high (or at least really livable) wages.

[cut-and-paste]
Simply put, if fast food can pay $15/hr at 33% (!) labor costs, then, other retail should be able pay $20/hr at 10-15% labor costs, and, Walmart (God bless it) may be able to pay $25/hr at 7% labor costs. If this means shifting 10% of overall income to the bottom 40%, that means scratching 14% of their income from the "middle" 59% (who get roughly 70% of overall income) -- in higher prices. Which may mean we have been paying the 40% too little for too along. But if the 40% get labor union organized (where this little speech is going) we may find ourselves willing to up if we want them to show up at work.

I have always been willing to tell any gang banger (not that I ever run into any) that side-ways guns and gang signs and all that would look pretty funny in, say, Germany where they pay people to work. And, that if Walmart were paying $25/hr we wouldn't be hearing about any of this here.

As it is, the "middle" 59% can replenish their pockets at the expense of top 1% income whose share has ballooned from 10% to 22.5% over recent (de-unionizing) decades. Just reintroduce confiscatory taxation of the kind existing in the Eisenhower era. Say, 90% over $2 million income -- and this time we really mean it -- very top incomes (CEOs, news anchors, er, quarterbacks) now 20X what they were since per capita income only doubled. I predict any social inertia (it's only human nature) on the part of the 59% to jack upper taxes up will be overcome by the friendly persuasion on the part of the 40% -- who want to jack up the price of that burger just a bit more.

* * * * * *

Super easy way back [ONLY WAY BACK] is restoring healthy labor union density (6% unions outside gov equates to 20/10 bp). When Democrats take over Congress, we must institute mandatory union certification and re-certification elections at every work place (stealing a page from the Republican's anti-union playbook -- see Wisconsin gov workers). I would add the wrinkle of making the cycle one, three or five years -- plurality rules -- take a lot of potential rancor out of first time votes in some workplaces.

Why Not Hold Union Representation Elections on a Regular Schedule?
November 1st, 2017 – Andrew Strom
https://onlabor.org/why-not-hold-union-representation-elections-on-a-regular-schedule/

WHICH IS WHERE I CAME INTO THIS MOVIE

PS. NY Times' Nate Cohn found that Trump won by trading places with Obama. Obama ran as the black guy (presumably working folks oriented -- were we wrong) against Wall Street Romney; Trump ran as blue collar-acting guy against Wall Street Hillary. True progressive Bernie would have stomped Trump. (Bernie hasn't caught on to re-stocking union density as the only real way to help working people yet -- but at least he won't get in the way while waiting to catch on.)

JimH , January 11, 2018 10:39 am

First, I agree with your assessment that President Trump is claiming credit for things which he has not caused. But this economy is awful for those at the low end of the income scale. Low pay, high rent, and rising food costs. (Sometimes by subterfuge.)

I remember reading an interview of an older person. The interviewer asked what life was like during the Great Depression. And they replied that it wasn't bad if you had a job.

This is similar to our situation today. It is not bad if you have a good paying full time job. In that case you have almost no understanding of what some others are complaining about. Income inequality is a sterile term for what happens to other people.

And others, like all of the above, who see the prices of the things that they consume going up while the CPI is showing little inflation.

Some of those others live in the rust belt states where they have seen an extended economic decline.

Neither of the two major political parties addresses those 'others' issues. And because they are almost completely disconnected from their voters' issues, they did not perceive the building anger.

Candidate Trump addressed the major concern of those 'others', which was their declining spending power. He did that by addressing the economic threats posed by illegal immigration and free trade treaties which allowed companies to move production overseas.

President Trump lost in the polls and won the election. It doesn't really surprise me that he is continuing to score low in the polls.

Of course, the two major parties can continue on their current paths. And they can blame their losses on flawed voters. And eventually they will do their complaining from their homes.

The businessman Mohamed El-Erian rejects the populist label for the current multi national voter rebellions, he prefers anti-establishment. And so do I.

Varsovian , January 11, 2018 12:14 pm

Oh no, not another extrapolation based on the false economic stats Poland pumped out pre-2015!!

No-one takes the drastic choice of emigration lightly – especially if you know you're going to be bottom of the heap in the new country. Can't you find an American to talk about his forbears escaping poverty in Europe only to face hard times in the New World?

Two million Poles fled Poland's much touted "Economic Miracle". Funnily, they stopped emigrating when REAL economic growth, wage growth and the setting up of a welfare state started!

Hard Right crony capitalism with illegal fuel import deals with Putin and falsified public accounting didn't cause happiness. Despite the figures, Poland wasn't a world leader in the export of cellphones, for example.

Rosser continues to bark up the wrong tree! Worse – he's making some sort of social philosophy out of it.

Barkley Rosser , January 11, 2018 3:28 pm

Denis and Jim,

Generally agree.

Dave V.,

You and I have already been around on this, but I shall point out that the credibility of sources in Poland that you like to cite have collapsed since the Law and Justice Party you shill for took over.

The most believable data is that there has been no major economic change in the state of the Polish economy from before and after the political change, although some minor changes (which you have hyped while ignoring others not fitting your party line). The big bottom line is no noticeable change in overall GDP growth in Poland, basically chugging along unspectacularly in the 1-2% annual range with mild quarterly fluctuations.

So, sorry, I am going to stick with calling this the Poland problem." You folks are the poster boys for this. Tough, and good luck getting any world leader not also an authoritarian liar supporting your embarrassing government.

[Dec 28, 2017] Working Class w- No Living Wage The Absurd Math of US Income

Notable quotes:
"... less than $100 ..."
"... the International Institute for Sustainable Development ..."
"... gross domestic product ..."
"... GDP ..."
"... employment-rate ..."
"... gross national income ..."
"... (total employed) × (mean-average wages per-year) = 140,400,040 × $49,630 = $6,968,053,985,200 or ..."
"... ~$7 trillion ..."
"... managers, janitors, lawyers, nurses, librarians, bartenders, and everyone else who had a job in 2016 ..."
"... Total US Income = $18,750,000,000,000 Combined Wages & Salaries of All Employed Folks = $6,968,053,985,200 Income from Federal Social Benefits = $2,039,300,000,000 ..."
"... Total Income - (Wages & Salaries + Benefits) = $9,763,546,014,800 ..."
"... every commodity ..."
"... every last grain ..."
"... every waste bin ..."
"... every single cappuccino ..."
"... Property income ..."
"... unearned income ..."
"... interest ..."
"... interest, rent, and corporate profits ..."
"... with ..."
"... just as valuable ..."
"... honest work ..."
"... In solidarity, John Laurits ..."
"... If you enjoy these posts, consider buying the writer a cup of coffee ..."
"... or making a monthly donation ..."
"... --  it's like a voluntary subscription directly to an artist & journalist ..."
"... I'm all about it! ..."
Dec 28, 2017 | extranewsfeed.com

Working Class w/ No Living Wage: The Absurd Math of US Income

As the stock market gleefully claws its way to more record-breaking highs, Forbes reports a full 56% of US Americans now have less than $1,000 to their names  --  and 25% have less than $100 . But the economy, as they say, is booming. Even with 165 million on the breadline and an hourly minimum wage of only $7.25 nationally, surging Amazon share prices have added $13 billion to Jeff Bezos' net-worth since mid-September. For perspective, $13 billion is enough to pay the student-loan debts of 432,000 millennials. It's also plenty to end world hunger for a year, according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development . And Bezos  --  now the world's richest man  --  smashes a bottle of organic champagne to celebrate his new wind-farm. The question is  --  how do markets grow as the wealth of the people shrinks and wages fall? What do the commentariat mean by "economic growth" when the nation's income can hardly keep half of its people's heads above water?

The National Income:
How Much Value is Created by the US Economy?

There are a lot of ways to measure economies  --  for example, gross domestic product or GDP is the value of everything a country produces ( minus the cost to produce it ) and the employment-rate measures the number of paying jobs. The gross national income or GNI is what you get after adding up all of the income earned by everyone. GNI includes every citizen ( even in other countries ) and every kind of income from wages or salaries to social security and unemployment benefits, investment returns, or the sale of assets like houses and cars.

GNI is basically the total value of all money paid to everyone, minus the expenses of doing the business everyone is getting paid for. According to the macroeconomic accounts on the Federal Reserve's website, the GNI was about $18.7 trillion dollars in 2016 for the US.

Gross National Wages:
Every Paycheck Combined

Now, how much of America's multi-trillion-dollar paycheck ends up in the pockets of people who work in the US? Since the "gross national wage" is apparently not as important to US media-outlets as Jeff Bezos' latest earnings or the many triumphs of the Dow Jones, this number is a bit more camouflaged. Luckily, the total number who are employed by all industries and their average wages or salaries can be found in the bowels of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' website. Multiplying these two numbers  --  the total employed by all industries and their mean-average yearly wages  --  gives the combined wages and salaries of everyone with a job in the US, from the clerks and mechanics to the brain-surgeons and corporate executives.

(total employed) × (mean-average wages per-year) =
140,400,040 × $49,630 = $6,968,053,985,200 or
~$7 trillion

$7 trillion dollars to split between all employed people in the United States. Everyone who built everything and provided every service  --   managers, janitors, lawyers, nurses, librarians, bartenders, and everyone else who had a job in 2016   --  collectively earned about $7 trillion of the $18.7 trillion national paycheck.

But who gets the remaining $11,781,946,014,800?

Federal Benefits & Social Welfare

The national income also includes money received from government benefits, such as disability, retirement, and social security. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the 2016 total federal benefits received at $2.0393 trillion.

Total US Income = $18,750,000,000,000
Combined Wages & Salaries of All Employed Folks = $6,968,053,985,200
Income from Federal Social Benefits = $2,039,300,000,000
Total Income - (Wages & Salaries + Benefits) = $9,763,546,014,800

And about $9.8 trillion is still missing.

Literally All Working People Combined
Earn Less Than Half of American Income

According to the BLS data, there are an estimated 146 million people who hold some sort of job in the US. These 146 million workers create every commodity , serve every meal , harvest every last grain , empty every waste bin , teach every student , build every house , and pour milk into every single cappuccino in the nation. And together they take about 37.2% of the American pie. All of the so-called "handouts" from the federal government  --  social security, retirement, disability, and other benefits  --  only amount to another 10.8% of the GNI.

The combined income from all employment and federal benefits still only adds up to 48% of America's paycheck. And that means that the other 52% must be paid to someone  --  or some thing   --  without a job.

Unearned Income: Landlords, Industrial Capitalists, & Wall Street Investors

Property income   --  or, as the classical economists knew it, unearned income   --  is earned through ownership ( rather than wages , which are earned by time spent working ). There are three basic types of unearned income. Rent is paid to owners of land or other natural resources, profit is paid to owners of capital ( like factories, equipment, machines, etc. ), and interest is paid to owners of financial assets ( like stocks, securities, debt, etc. ). The $13 billion Jeff Bezos made when Amazon share prices increased, for example, was "earned" by owning something rather than creating something or providing some service.

This type of income is a bit harder to keep track of  --  especially considering that the wealthy seem to be in the habit of using offshore tax-havens and shell companies ( like those revealed in the Panama and Paradise Papers ) to stash their fortunes. With that being said, the US Department of Commerce's accounts show nearly $7 trillion   --  or about the same as 146 million working people made combined  --  paid out for interest, rent, and corporate profits . Another trillion and a half or so was paid to "proprietors" or, more colloquially, the owners.

And now we have a rough sketch of the great American paycheck:

Are Workers Worthy of Their Wages?
Not in the United States of America!

There are two basic components to the whole economic activity and wealth of human civilization  --   capital and labor . On one hand there is capital  --  all of the natural resources, materials, lands, machines, and everything that everything is made of and made with   --  and, on the other hand, there are the countless workers whose labor-power transforms that stuff into the societies we live in.

Without the time, energy, creativity, and sacrifices made by the 146 million human beings who make everything and offer every service, the wealth of people like Jeff Bezos would not exist. Business magnates like Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates need working classes  --  working classes do not need them . And yet Bezos, Buffet, and Gates now possess more wealth than the bottom 50% of the nation combined. Through the prism of the American economy, people like Bezos, Buffet, and Gates are just as valuable as the poorest 160 million of the working classes who collectively labor billions of hours each week.

And that is unfair  --   that doesn't add up. The "American Dream"  --  the whole idea about how anyone willing to work hard should be able to prosper or, at the very least, make ends meet  --  is objectively untrue . The truth is  --  if you want to earn wealth in the US or even if you only want to earn enough to pay the bills on time  --   honest work is not a very good strategy.

In solidarity,
John Laurits

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    the same political rants you see on Facebook, but they're well written.

  • More on Bernie Sanders from Extra Newsfeed The Day the Russians made Donna Brazile expose Hillary Clinton & the Democratic Party Go to the profile of CharliePeach🍑 CharliePeach🍑 Related reads 7 Effective Communication Techniques That Will Make You Excellent Go to the profile of Karim Elsheikh Karim Elsheikh Also tagged Politics Don't Count America Out Go to the profile of John McCain John McCain Responses Conversation between Martha Menard, PhD and John Laurits . Go to the profile of Martha Menard, PhD Martha Menard, PhD Dec 6

    Interesting article, John. I work for a financial tech company that provides personal financial planning to employees as part of their benefits package. A lot of people are struggling  --  about 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, 50% of people can't handle a $500 unexpected expense without putting it on a credit card, and about 33% have saved 1 response Go to the profile of John Laurits John Laurits Dec 6


    Yes! Thank you for mentioning unpaid domestic labor, as well as the roles that racism and patriarchy play in the awful saga of inequality  --  these are more than crucial to any real class analysis. My biggest regret about this article is that I was unable to include a discussion of unpaid domestic labor and how it contributes to the greater picture of Conversation with John Laurits . Go to the profile of LaMar Going LaMar Going Nov 30


    I am weary of half-truths, lies and ignorance from writers like this.
    3 responses Go to the profile of John Laurits John Laurits Nov 30

    1. False dichotomy. Option C: In the haste of your search for some technicality to use in your attempt at attacking the article's credibility, you did not consider that the second half of my casual description of GDP as "value of everything a country produces minus the cost to produce it" refers to the exclusion of the value of intermediate goods 2 responses Conversation between Joshua Shepard and John Laurits . Go to the profile of Joshua Shepard Joshua Shepard Dec 1


    Great breakdown! This is something I could see myself busting out with some investigative reporting. You took the macro budget and broke it down into the major segments and the makeup of each segment  --  wouldn't it be a great college project to have students across the country further breakdown each segment, using tools to find the inefficiencies? We 1 response Go to the profile of John Laurits John Laurits Dec 7


    Hi! Thanks & I'm glad you found the article useful :)

    In response to your question about what I think about using tech to hold them accountable, I say  --  : I'm all about it! In my humble (yet frequently accurate) opinion, one of Marx's most important insights about how revolutionary change occurs was his description of new Conversation between Joe Psotka and John Laurits . Go to the profile of Joe Psotka Joe Psotka Dec 5


    I would like to see how this comparison of GNI into capital and wages has changed historically, and how it might continue to change with automation overwhelming us.

    However, I can't agree completely that the capitalists do nothing to merit their work. They too should be paid wages, just not the obscene one that they get now 1 response Go to the profile of John Laurits John Laurits Dec 5


    I'll be writing about automation and the US workweek in my next post :) And to clarify my position  --  as a Marxist libertarian-socialist, I have zero problems with the idea of people accumulating wealth created by their own efforts/labor (which I'd roughly define as the sacrifice of a person's time to create value). When Bezos or any human being 1 response Applause from John Laurits (author) Go to the profile of Allyson Saad Allyson Saad Nov 29


    Substantive piece. Applause from John Laurits (author) Go to the profile of Elsie Brown Elsie Brown Dec 6 interest is paid to owners of financial assets ( like stocks, securities, debt, etc. ). The $13 billion Jeff Bezos made when Amazon share prices increased, for example, was "earned" ...


    Those who own enough money get paid just for holding onto it. That seems deeply wrong. If money could decay in some way no one would hoard it. You'd rather have someone owe you $100 than have $100 in your pocket. 3 responses Conversation with John Laurits . Go to the profile of Regina Bash-Taqi Regina Bash-Taqi Dec 6


    Good information but I don't agree with your description of 'honest' work. The world is changing, so we all need to change with it. There will always be people who are ahead of the curve such as Gates, Bezos and Buffet, but I believe if all of us change our game -- we'll get our share and things will shift. 1 response Go to the profile of John Laurits John Laurits Dec 6


    So your solution is for the vast majority of the world's population, the working poor, to just 'change [their] game?' Applause from John Laurits (author) Go to the profile of alex carter alex carter Dec 2


    Great article. This is boiling up to some kind of a head.

    In other words, Got Guillotine? Conversation with John Laurits . Go to the profile of Rod Ruger Rod Ruger Dec 6


    If someone has an idea for a product or service and employs members of the working class to implement that idea, what portion of the resulting income does the dude with the idea get? No ideas/innovation means a stone age existence. 1 response Go to the profile of John Laurits John Laurits Dec 6


    Intellectual labor is totally a thing and people ought to be paid for doing that as well  --  and I'm curious as to which part of the post led you to think I might advocate withholding compensation from creatives, inventors, or idea-people? The BLS statistics I use in the post include everyone who sacrifices time from the 24 hours they all have each day Conversation with John Laurits . Go to the profile of Sceptical Meerkat Sceptical Meerkat Dec 9


    Why would somebody me pay more for an American worker if one can hire a Mexican illegal immigrant? 1 response Go to the profile of John Laurits John Laurits Dec 9


    Yeah, I'm sure the economic system will somehow result in a different and better outcome if we can only find a way to oppress the poorer, browner workers a bit more 1 response Go to the profile of Sceptical Meerkat Sceptical Meerkat Dec 9 Yeah, I'm sure the economic system will somehow result in a different and better outcome if we can only find a way to oppress the poorer, browner workers a bit more


    Depends better for whom.

    The low qualified qualified workers' wages are undercut by competition from cheaper immigrant workers, so they will win if immigration is controlled while would be immigrant will lose.

    Just wishful thinking and empty talk about the need to increase wagers from people who don't pay those wages is meaningless. 1 response Go to the profile of John Laurits John Laurits Dec 9


    Just wishful thinking and empty talk about the need to increase wagers from people who don't pay those wages is meaningless.

    Yep, that's what Czar Nicholas II kept thinking, too 1 response Conversation with John Laurits . Go to the profile of Rick Fischer Rick Fischer Dec 9


    Mr. Laurits slips a few things past us in all his details. His "worth it" criterion is a valid one, in my opinion. Income from doing something that is of value to society does make the income "worth it". (I'm really over-simplifying here. Try not to search too hard for some exception or other.) 1 response Go to the profile of John Laurits John Laurits Dec 9


    You wrote:

    "His descriptions of the red slice, about half the total income, are skimpy, and his examples leave the reader with the vague feeling that that half is not "worth it". Which I surmise is his intent. But it's not entirely true; mostly not true, in fact."

    [Dec 25, 2017] American Carnage by Brad Griffin

    Notable quotes:
    "... It tells me that the bottom line is that Christmas has become a harder season for White families. We are worse off because of BOTH social and economic liberalism which has only benefited an elite few. The bottom half of the White population is now in total disarray – drug addiction, demoralization, divorce, suicide, abortion, atomization, stagnant wages, declining household income and investments – and this dysfunction is creeping up the social ladder. The worst thing we can do is step on the accelerator. ..."
    Dec 24, 2017 | www.unz.com

    As we move into 2018, I am swinging away from the Republicans. I don't support the Paul Ryan "Better Way" agenda. I don't support neoliberal economics. I think we have been going in the wrong direction since the 1970s and don't want to continue going down this road.

    1. Opioid Deaths: As we all know, the opioid epidemic has become a national crisis and the White working class has been hit the hardest by it. It is a "sea of despair" out there.
    2. White Mortality: As the family crumbles, religion recedes in his life, and his job prospects dwindle, the middle aged White working class man is turning to drugs, alcohol and suicide: The White suicide rate has soared since 2000:
    3. Median Household Income: The average household in the United States is poorer in 2017 than it was in 1997:
    4. Real GDP: Since the late 1990s, real GDP and real median household income have parted ways:
    5. Productivity and Real Wages: Since the 1970s, the minimum wage has parted ways with productivity gains in the US economy:
    6. Stock Market: Since 2000, the stock market has soared, but 10% of Americans own 80% of stocks. The top 1% owns 38% of stocks. In 2007, 3/4th of middle class households were invested in the stock market, but now only 50% are investors. Overall, 52% of Americans now own stocks, which is down from 65%. The average American has less than $1,000 in their combined checking and savings accounts.

    Do you know what this tells me?

    It tells me that the bottom line is that Christmas has become a harder season for White families. We are worse off because of BOTH social and economic liberalism which has only benefited an elite few. The bottom half of the White population is now in total disarray – drug addiction, demoralization, divorce, suicide, abortion, atomization, stagnant wages, declining household income and investments – and this dysfunction is creeping up the social ladder. The worst thing we can do is step on the accelerator.

    Paul Ryan and his fellow conservatives look at this and conclude we need MORE freedom. We need lower taxes, more free trade, more deregulation, weaker unions, more immigration and less social safety net spending. He wants to follow up tax reform with entitlement reform in 2018. I can't but see how this is going to make an already bad situation for the White working class even worse.

    I'm not rightwing in the sense that these people are. I think their policies are harmful to the nation. I don't think they feel any sense of duty and obligation to the working class like we do. They believe in liberal abstractions and make an Ayn Rand fetish out of freedom whereas we feel a sense of solidarity with them grounded in race, ethnicity and culture which tempers class division. We recoil at the evisceration of the social fabric whereas conservatives celebrate this blind march toward plutocracy.

    Do the wealthy need to own a greater share of the stock market? Do they need to own a greater share of our national wealth? Do we need to loosen up morals and the labor market? Do we need more White children growing up in financially stressed, broken homes on Christmas? Is the greatest problem facing the nation spending on anti-poverty programs? Paul Ryan and the True Cons think so.

    Yeah, I don't think so. I also think it is a good thing right now that we aren't associated with the mainstream Right. In the long run, I bet this will pay off for us. I predict this platform they have been standing on for decades now, which they call the conservative base, is going to implode on them. Donald Trump was only the first sign that Atlas is about to shrug.

    (Republished from Occidental Dissent by permission of author or representative)

    [Dec 22, 2017] Beyond Cynicism America Fumbles Towards Kafka s Castle by James Howard Kunstler

    Highly recommended!
    Notable quotes:
    "... With the election of 2016, symptoms of the long emergency seeped into the political system. Disinformation rules. There is no coherent consensus about what is happening and no coherent proposals to do anything about it. The two parties are mired in paralysis and dysfunction and the public's trust in them is at epic lows. Donald Trump is viewed as a sort of pirate president, a freebooting freak elected by accident, "a disrupter" of the status quo at best and at worst a dangerous incompetent playing with nuclear fire. A state of war exists between the White House, the permanent D.C. bureaucracy, and the traditional news media. Authentic leadership is otherwise AWOL. Institutions falter. The FBI and the CIA behave like enemies of the people. ..."
    "... They chatter about electric driverless car fleets, home delivery drone services, and as-yet-undeveloped modes of energy production to replace problematic fossil fuels, while ignoring the self-evident resource and capital constraints now upon us and even the laws of physics -- especially entropy , the second law of thermodynamics. Their main mental block is their belief in infinite industrial growth on a finite planet, an idea so powerfully foolish that it obviates their standing as technocrats. ..."
    "... The universities beget a class of what Nassim Taleb prankishly called "intellectuals-yet-idiots," hierophants trafficking in fads and falsehoods, conveyed in esoteric jargon larded with psychobabble in support of a therapeutic crypto-gnostic crusade bent on transforming human nature to fit the wished-for utopian template of a world where anything goes. In fact, they have only produced a new intellectual despotism worthy of Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot. ..."
    "... Until fairly recently, the Democratic Party did not roll that way. It was right-wing Republicans who tried to ban books, censor pop music, and stifle free expression. If anything, Democrats strenuously defended the First Amendment, including the principle that unpopular and discomforting ideas had to be tolerated in order to protect all speech. Back in in 1977 the ACLU defended the right of neo-Nazis to march for their cause (National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, 432 U.S. 43). ..."
    "... This is the recipe for what we call identity politics, the main thrust of which these days, the quest for "social justice," is to present a suit against white male privilege and, shall we say, the horse it rode in on: western civ. A peculiar feature of the social justice agenda is the wish to erect strict boundaries around racial identities while erasing behavioral boundaries, sexual boundaries, and ethical boundaries. Since so much of this thought-monster is actually promulgated by white college professors and administrators, and white political activists, against people like themselves, the motives in this concerted campaign might appear puzzling to the casual observer. ..."
    "... The evolving matrix of rackets that prompted the 2008 debacle has only grown more elaborate and craven as the old economy of stuff dies and is replaced by a financialized economy of swindles and frauds . Almost nothing in America's financial life is on the level anymore, from the mendacious "guidance" statements of the Federal Reserve, to the official economic statistics of the federal agencies, to the manipulation of all markets, to the shenanigans on the fiscal side, to the pervasive accounting fraud that underlies it all. Ironically, the systematic chiseling of the foundering middle class is most visible in the rackets that medicine and education have become -- two activities that were formerly dedicated to doing no harm and seeking the truth ! ..."
    "... Um, forgotten by Kunstler is the fact that 1965 was also the year when the USA reopened its doors to low-skilled immigrants from the Third World – who very quickly became competitors with black Americans. And then the Boom ended, and corporate American, influenced by thinking such as that displayed in Lewis Powell's (in)famous 1971 memorandum, decided to claw back the gains made by the working and middle classes in the previous 3 decades. ..."
    "... "Wow – is there ever negative!" ..."
    "... You also misrepresent reality to your readers. No, the black underclass is not larger, more dysfunctional, and more alienated now than in the 1960's, when cities across the country burned and machine guns were stationed on the Capitol steps. The "racial divide" is not "starker now than ever"; that's just preposterous to anyone who was alive then. And nobody I've ever known felt "shame" over the "outcome of the civil rights campaign". I know nobody who seeks to "punish and humiliate" the 'privileged'. ..."
    "... My impression is that what Kunstler is doing here is diagnosing the long crisis of a decadent liberal post-modernity, and his stance is not that of either of the warring sides within our divorced-from-reality political establishment, neither that of the 'right' or 'left.' Which is why, logically, he published it here. National Review would never have accepted this piece ..."
    "... "Globalization has acted, meanwhile, as a great leveler. It destroyed what was left of the working class -- the lower-middle class -- which included a great many white Americans who used to be able to support a family with simple labor." ..."
    "... Young black people are told by their elders how lucky they are to grow up today because things are much better than when grandpa was our age and we all know this history.\ ..."
    "... It's clear that this part of the article was written from absolute ignorance of the actual black experience with no interest in even looking up some facts. Hell, Obama even gave a speech at Howard telling graduates how lucky they were to be young and black Today compared to even when he was their age in the 80's! ..."
    "... E.g. Germany. Germany is anything but perfect and its recent government has screwed up with its immigration policies. But Germany has a high standard of living, an educated work force (including unions and skilled crafts-people), a more rational distribution of wealth and high quality universal health care that costs 47% less per capita than in the U.S. and with no intrinsic need to maraud around the planet wasting gobs of taxpayer money playing Global Cop. ..."
    "... The larger subtext is that the U.S. house of cards was planned out and constructed as deliberately as the German model was. Only the objective was not to maximize the health and happiness of the citizenry, but to line the pockets of the parasitic Elites. (E.g., note that Mitch McConnell has been a government employee for 50 years but somehow acquired a net worth of over $10 Million.) ..."
    Dec 12, 2017 | www.theamericanconservative.com

    On America's 'long emergency' of recession, globalization, and identity politics.

    Can a people recover from an excursion into unreality? The USA's sojourn into an alternative universe of the mind accelerated sharply after Wall Street nearly detonated the global financial system in 2008. That debacle was only one manifestation of an array of accumulating threats to the postmodern order, which include the burdens of empire, onerous debt, population overshoot, fracturing globalism, worries about energy, disruptive technologies, ecological havoc, and the specter of climate change.

    A sense of gathering crisis, which I call the long emergency , persists. It is systemic and existential. It calls into question our ability to carry on "normal" life much farther into this century, and all the anxiety that attends it is hard for the public to process. It manifested itself first in finance because that was the most abstract and fragile of all the major activities we depend on for daily life, and therefore the one most easily tampered with and shoved into criticality by a cadre of irresponsible opportunists on Wall Street. Indeed, a lot of households were permanently wrecked after the so-called Great Financial Crisis of 2008, despite official trumpet blasts heralding "recovery" and the dishonestly engineered pump-up of capital markets since then.

    With the election of 2016, symptoms of the long emergency seeped into the political system. Disinformation rules. There is no coherent consensus about what is happening and no coherent proposals to do anything about it. The two parties are mired in paralysis and dysfunction and the public's trust in them is at epic lows. Donald Trump is viewed as a sort of pirate president, a freebooting freak elected by accident, "a disrupter" of the status quo at best and at worst a dangerous incompetent playing with nuclear fire. A state of war exists between the White House, the permanent D.C. bureaucracy, and the traditional news media. Authentic leadership is otherwise AWOL. Institutions falter. The FBI and the CIA behave like enemies of the people.

    Bad ideas flourish in this nutrient medium of unresolved crisis. Lately, they actually dominate the scene on every side. A species of wishful thinking that resembles a primitive cargo cult grips the technocratic class, awaiting magical rescue remedies that promise to extend the regime of Happy Motoring, consumerism, and suburbia that makes up the armature of "normal" life in the USA. They chatter about electric driverless car fleets, home delivery drone services, and as-yet-undeveloped modes of energy production to replace problematic fossil fuels, while ignoring the self-evident resource and capital constraints now upon us and even the laws of physics -- especially entropy , the second law of thermodynamics. Their main mental block is their belief in infinite industrial growth on a finite planet, an idea so powerfully foolish that it obviates their standing as technocrats.

    The non-technocratic cohort of the thinking class squanders its waking hours on a quixotic campaign to destroy the remnant of an American common culture and, by extension, a reviled Western civilization they blame for the failure in our time to establish a utopia on earth. By the logic of the day, "inclusion" and "diversity" are achieved by forbidding the transmission of ideas, shutting down debate, and creating new racially segregated college dorms. Sexuality is declared to not be biologically determined, yet so-called cis-gendered persons (whose gender identity corresponds with their sex as detected at birth) are vilified by dint of not being "other-gendered" -- thereby thwarting the pursuit of happiness of persons self-identified as other-gendered. Casuistry anyone?

    The universities beget a class of what Nassim Taleb prankishly called "intellectuals-yet-idiots," hierophants trafficking in fads and falsehoods, conveyed in esoteric jargon larded with psychobabble in support of a therapeutic crypto-gnostic crusade bent on transforming human nature to fit the wished-for utopian template of a world where anything goes. In fact, they have only produced a new intellectual despotism worthy of Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot.

    In case you haven't been paying attention to the hijinks on campus -- the attacks on reason, fairness, and common decency, the kangaroo courts, diversity tribunals, assaults on public speech and speakers themselves -- here is the key take-away: it's not about ideas or ideologies anymore; it's purely about the pleasures of coercion, of pushing other people around. Coercion is fun and exciting! In fact, it's intoxicating, and rewarded with brownie points and career advancement. It's rather perverse that this passion for tyranny is suddenly so popular on the liberal left.

    Until fairly recently, the Democratic Party did not roll that way. It was right-wing Republicans who tried to ban books, censor pop music, and stifle free expression. If anything, Democrats strenuously defended the First Amendment, including the principle that unpopular and discomforting ideas had to be tolerated in order to protect all speech. Back in in 1977 the ACLU defended the right of neo-Nazis to march for their cause (National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, 432 U.S. 43).

    The new and false idea that something labeled "hate speech" -- labeled by whom? -- is equivalent to violence floated out of the graduate schools on a toxic cloud of intellectual hysteria concocted in the laboratory of so-called "post-structuralist" philosophy, where sundry body parts of Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Judith Butler, and Gilles Deleuze were sewn onto a brain comprised of one-third each Thomas Hobbes, Saul Alinsky, and Tupac Shakur to create a perfect Frankenstein monster of thought. It all boiled down to the proposition that the will to power negated all other human drives and values, in particular the search for truth. Under this scheme, all human relations were reduced to a dramatis personae of the oppressed and their oppressors, the former generally "people of color" and women, all subjugated by whites, mostly males. Tactical moves in politics among these self-described "oppressed" and "marginalized" are based on the credo that the ends justify the means (the Alinsky model).

    This is the recipe for what we call identity politics, the main thrust of which these days, the quest for "social justice," is to present a suit against white male privilege and, shall we say, the horse it rode in on: western civ. A peculiar feature of the social justice agenda is the wish to erect strict boundaries around racial identities while erasing behavioral boundaries, sexual boundaries, and ethical boundaries. Since so much of this thought-monster is actually promulgated by white college professors and administrators, and white political activists, against people like themselves, the motives in this concerted campaign might appear puzzling to the casual observer.

    I would account for it as the psychological displacement among this political cohort of their shame, disappointment, and despair over the outcome of the civil rights campaign that started in the 1960s and formed the core of progressive ideology. It did not bring about the hoped-for utopia. The racial divide in America is starker now than ever, even after two terms of a black president. Today, there is more grievance and resentment, and less hope for a better future, than when Martin Luther King made the case for progress on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. The recent flash points of racial conflict -- Ferguson, the Dallas police ambush, the Charleston church massacre, et cetera -- don't have to be rehearsed in detail here to make the point that there is a great deal of ill feeling throughout the land, and quite a bit of acting out on both sides.

    The black underclass is larger, more dysfunctional, and more alienated than it was in the 1960s. My theory, for what it's worth, is that the civil rights legislation of 1964 and '65, which removed legal barriers to full participation in national life, induced considerable anxiety among black citizens over the new disposition of things, for one reason or another. And that is exactly why a black separatism movement arose as an alternative at the time, led initially by such charismatic figures as Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael. Some of that was arguably a product of the same youthful energy that drove the rest of the Sixties counterculture: adolescent rebellion. But the residue of the "Black Power" movement is still present in the widespread ambivalence about making covenant with a common culture, and it has only been exacerbated by a now long-running "multiculturalism and diversity" crusade that effectively nullifies the concept of a national common culture.

    What follows from these dynamics is the deflection of all ideas that don't feed a narrative of power relations between oppressors and victims, with the self-identified victims ever more eager to exercise their power to coerce, punish, and humiliate their self-identified oppressors, the "privileged," who condescend to be abused to a shockingly masochistic degree. Nobody stands up to this organized ceremonial nonsense. The punishments are too severe, including the loss of livelihood, status, and reputation, especially in the university. Once branded a "racist," you're done. And venturing to join the oft-called-for "honest conversation about race" is certain to invite that fate.

    Globalization has acted, meanwhile, as a great leveler. It destroyed what was left of the working class -- the lower-middle class -- which included a great many white Americans who used to be able to support a family with simple labor. Hung out to dry economically, this class of whites fell into many of the same behaviors as the poor blacks before them: absent fathers, out-of-wedlock births, drug abuse. Then the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 wiped up the floor with the middle-middle class above them, foreclosing on their homes and futures, and in their desperation many of these people became Trump voters -- though I doubt that Trump himself truly understood how this all worked exactly. However, he did see that the white middle class had come to identify as yet another victim group, allowing him to pose as their champion.

    The evolving matrix of rackets that prompted the 2008 debacle has only grown more elaborate and craven as the old economy of stuff dies and is replaced by a financialized economy of swindles and frauds . Almost nothing in America's financial life is on the level anymore, from the mendacious "guidance" statements of the Federal Reserve, to the official economic statistics of the federal agencies, to the manipulation of all markets, to the shenanigans on the fiscal side, to the pervasive accounting fraud that underlies it all. Ironically, the systematic chiseling of the foundering middle class is most visible in the rackets that medicine and education have become -- two activities that were formerly dedicated to doing no harm and seeking the truth !

    Life in this milieu of immersive dishonesty drives citizens beyond cynicism to an even more desperate state of mind. The suffering public ends up having no idea what is really going on, what is actually happening. The toolkit of the Enlightenment -- reason, empiricism -- doesn't work very well in this socioeconomic hall of mirrors, so all that baggage is discarded for the idea that reality is just a social construct, just whatever story you feel like telling about it. On the right, Karl Rove expressed this point of view some years ago when he bragged, of the Bush II White House, that "we make our own reality." The left says nearly the same thing in the post-structuralist malarkey of academia: "you make your own reality." In the end, both sides are left with a lot of bad feelings and the belief that only raw power has meaning.

    Erasing psychological boundaries is a dangerous thing. When the rackets finally come to grief -- as they must because their operations don't add up -- and the reckoning with true price discovery commences at the macro scale, the American people will find themselves in even more distress than they've endured so far. This will be the moment when either nobody has any money, or there is plenty of worthless money for everyone. Either way, the functional bankruptcy of the nation will be complete, and nothing will work anymore, including getting enough to eat. That is exactly the moment when Americans on all sides will beg someone to step up and push them around to get their world working again. And even that may not avail.

    James Howard Kunstler's many books include The Geography of Nowhere, The Long Emergency, Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation , and the World Made by Hand novel series. He blogs on Mondays and Fridays at Kunstler.com .

    Whine Merchant December 20, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    Wow – is there ever negative!
    Celery , says: December 20, 2017 at 11:33 pm
    I think I need to go listen to an old-fashioned Christmas song now.

    The ability to be financially, or at least resource, sustaining is the goal of many I know since we share a lack of confidence in any of our institutions. We can only hope that God might look down with compassion on us, but He's not in the practical plan of how to feed and sustain ourselves when things play out to their inevitable end. Having come from a better time, we joke about our dystopian preparations, self-conscious about our "overreaction," but preparing all the same.

    Merry Christmas!

    Fran Macadam , says: December 20, 2017 at 11:55 pm
    Look at it this way: Germany had to be leveled and its citizens reduced to abject penury, before Volkswagen could become the world's biggest car company, and autobahns built throughout the world. It will be darkest before the dawn, and hopefully, that light that comes after, won't be the miniature sunrise of a nuclear conflagration.
    KD , says: December 21, 2017 at 6:02 am
    Eat, Drink, and be Merry, you can charge it on your credit card!
    Rock Stehdy , says: December 21, 2017 at 6:38 am
    Hard words, but true. Kunstler is always worth reading for his common-sense wisdom.
    Helmut , says: December 21, 2017 at 7:04 am
    An excellent summary and bleak reminder of what our so-called civilization has become. How do we extricate ourselves from this strange death spiral?
    I have long suspected that we humans are creatures of our own personal/group/tribal/national/global fables and mythologies. We are compelled by our genes, marrow, and blood to tell ourselves stories of our purpose and who we are. It is time for new mythologies and stories of "who we are". This bizarre hyper-techno all-for-profit world needs a new story.
    Liam , says: December 21, 2017 at 7:38 am
    "The black underclass is larger, more dysfunctional, and more alienated than it was in the 1960s. My theory, for what it's worth, is that the civil rights legislation of 1964 and '65, which removed legal barriers to full participation in national life, induced considerable anxiety among black citizens over the new disposition of things, for one reason or another."

    Um, forgotten by Kunstler is the fact that 1965 was also the year when the USA reopened its doors to low-skilled immigrants from the Third World – who very quickly became competitors with black Americans. And then the Boom ended, and corporate American, influenced by thinking such as that displayed in Lewis Powell's (in)famous 1971 memorandum, decided to claw back the gains made by the working and middle classes in the previous 3 decades.

    Peter , says: December 21, 2017 at 8:34 am
    I have some faith that the American people can recover from an excursion into unreality. I base it on my own survival to the end of this silly rant.
    SteveM , says: December 21, 2017 at 9:08 am
    Re: Whine Merchant, "Wow – is there ever negative!"

    Can't argue with the facts

    P.S. Merry Christmas.

    Dave Wright , says: December 21, 2017 at 9:22 am
    Hey Jim, I know you love to blame Wall Street and the Republicans for the GFC. I remember back in '08 you were urging Democrats to blame it all on Republicans to help Obama win. But I have news for you. It wasn't Wall Street that caused the GFC. The crisis actually had its roots in the Clinton Administration's use of the Community Reinvestment Act to pressure banks to relax mortgage underwriting standards. This was done at the behest of left wing activists who claimed (without evidence, of course) that the standards discriminated against minorities. The result was an effective repeal of all underwriting standards and an explosion of real estate speculation with borrowed money. Speculation with borrowed money never ends well.

    I have to laugh, too, when you say that it's perverse that the passion for tyranny is popular on the left. Have you ever heard of the French Revolution? How about the USSR? Communist China? North Korea? Et cetera.

    Leftism is leftism. Call it Marxism, Communism, socialism, liberalism, progressivism, or what have you. The ideology is the same. Only the tactics and methods change. Destroy the evil institutions of marriage, family, and religion, and Man's innate goodness will shine forth, and the glorious Godless utopia will naturally result.

    Of course, the father of lies is ultimately behind it all. "He was a liar and a murderer from the beginning."

    When man turns his back on God, nothing good happens. That's the most fundamental problem in Western society today. Not to say that there aren't other issues, but until we return to God, there's not much hope for improvement.

    NoahK , says: December 21, 2017 at 10:15 am
    It's like somebody just got a bunch of right-wing talking points and mashed them together into one incohesive whole. This is just lazy.
    Andrew Imlay , says: December 21, 2017 at 10:36 am
    Hmm. I just wandered over here by accident. Being a construction contractor, I don't know enough about globalization, academia, or finance to evaluate your assertions about those realms. But being in a biracial family, and having lived, worked, and worshiped equally in white and black communities, I can evaluate your statements about social justice, race, and civil rights. Long story short, you pick out fringe liberal ideas, misrepresent them as mainstream among liberals, and shoot them down. Casuistry, anyone?

    You also misrepresent reality to your readers. No, the black underclass is not larger, more dysfunctional, and more alienated now than in the 1960's, when cities across the country burned and machine guns were stationed on the Capitol steps. The "racial divide" is not "starker now than ever"; that's just preposterous to anyone who was alive then. And nobody I've ever known felt "shame" over the "outcome of the civil rights campaign". I know nobody who seeks to "punish and humiliate" the 'privileged'.

    I get that this column is a quick toss-off before the holiday, and that your strength is supposed to be in your presentation, not your ideas. For me, it's a helpful way to rehearse debunking common tropes that I'll encounter elsewhere.

    But, really, your readers deserve better, and so do the people you misrepresent. We need bad liberal ideas to be critiqued while they're still on the fringe. But by calling fringe ideas mainstream, you discredit yourself, misinform your readers, and contribute to stereotypes both of liberals and of conservatives. I'm looking for serious conservative critiques that help me take a second look at familiar ideas. I won't be back.

    peter in boston , says: December 21, 2017 at 10:48 am
    Love Kunstler -- and love reading him here -- but he needs a strong editor to get him to turn a formless harangue into clear essay.
    Someone in the crowd , says: December 21, 2017 at 11:07 am
    I disagree, NoahK, that the whole is incohesive, and I also disagree that these are right-wing talking points.

    The theme of this piece is the long crisis in the US, its nature and causes. At no point does this essay, despite it stream of consciousness style, veer away from that theme. Hence it is cohesive.

    As for the right wing charge, though it is true, to be sure, that Kunstler's position is in many respects classically conservative -- he believes for example that there should be a national consensus on certain fundamentals, such as whether or not there are two sexes (for the most part), or, instead, an infinite variety of sexes chosen day by day at whim -- you must have noticed that he condemned both the voluntarism of Karl Rove AND the voluntarism of the post-structuralist crowd.

    My impression is that what Kunstler is doing here is diagnosing the long crisis of a decadent liberal post-modernity, and his stance is not that of either of the warring sides within our divorced-from-reality political establishment, neither that of the 'right' or 'left.' Which is why, logically, he published it here. National Review would never have accepted this piece. QED.

    Jon , says: December 21, 2017 at 11:10 am
    This malaise is rooted in human consciousness that when reflecting on itself celebrating its capacity for apperception suffers from the tension that such an inquiry, such an inward glance produces. In a word, the capacity for the human being to be aware of his or herself as an intelligent being capable of reflecting on aspects of reality through the artful manipulation of symbols engenders this tension, this angst.

    Some will attempt to extinguish this inner tension through intoxication while others through the thrill of war, and it has been played out since the dawn of man and well documented when the written word emerged.

    The malaise which Mr. Kunstler addresses as the problem of our times is rooted in our existence from time immemorial. But the problem is not only existential but ontological. It is rooted in our being as self-aware creatures. Thus no solution avails itself as humanity in and of itself is the problem. Each side (both right and left) seeks its own anodyne whether through profligacy or intolerance, and each side mans the barricades to clash experiencing the adrenaline rush that arises from the perpetual call to arms.

    Joe the Plutocrat , says: December 21, 2017 at 11:27 am
    "Globalization has acted, meanwhile, as a great leveler. It destroyed what was left of the working class -- the lower-middle class -- which included a great many white Americans who used to be able to support a family with simple labor."

    And to whom do we hand the tab for this? Globalization is a word. It is a concept, a talking point. Globalization is oligarchy by another name. Unfortunately, under-educated, deplorable, Americans; regardless of party affiliation/ideology have embraced. And the most ironic part?

    Russia and China (the eventual surviving oligarchies) will eventually have to duke it out to decide which superpower gets to make the USA it's b*tch (excuse prison reference, but that's where we're headed folks).

    And one more irony. Only in American, could Christianity, which was grew from concepts like compassion, generosity, humility, and benevolence; be re-branded and 'weaponized' to further greed, bigotry, misogyny, intolerance, and violence/war. Americans fiddled (over same sex marriage, abortion, who has to bake wedding cakes, and who gets to use which public restroom), while the oligarchs burned the last resources (natural, financial, and even legal).

    The scientist 880 , says: December 21, 2017 at 11:48 am
    "Today, there is more grievance and resentment, and less hope for a better future, than when Martin Luther King made the case for progress on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963."

    Spoken like a white guy who has zero contact with black people. I mean, even a little bit of research and familiarity would give lie to the idea that blacks are more pessimistic about life today than in the 1960's.

    Black millenials are the most optimistic group of Americans about the future. Anyone who has spent any significant time around older black people will notice that you don't hear the rose colored memories of the past. Black people don't miss the 1980's, much less the 1950's. Young black people are told by their elders how lucky they are to grow up today because things are much better than when grandpa was our age and we all know this history.\

    It's clear that this part of the article was written from absolute ignorance of the actual black experience with no interest in even looking up some facts. Hell, Obama even gave a speech at Howard telling graduates how lucky they were to be young and black Today compared to even when he was their age in the 80's!

    Here is the direct quote;

    "In my inaugural address, I remarked that just 60 years earlier, my father might not have been served in a D.C. restaurant -- at least not certain of them. There were no black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Very few black judges. Shoot, as Larry Wilmore pointed out last week, a lot of folks didn't even think blacks had the tools to be a quarterback. Today, former Bull Michael Jordan isn't just the greatest basketball player of all time -- he owns the team. (Laughter.) When I was graduating, the main black hero on TV was Mr. T. (Laughter.) Rap and hip hop were counterculture, underground. Now, Shonda Rhimes owns Thursday night, and Beyoncé runs the world. (Laughter.) We're no longer only entertainers, we're producers, studio executives. No longer small business owners -- we're CEOs, we're mayors, representatives, Presidents of the United States. (Applause.)

    I am not saying gaps do not persist. Obviously, they do. Racism persists. Inequality persists. Don't worry -- I'm going to get to that. But I wanted to start, Class of 2016, by opening your eyes to the moment that you are in. If you had to choose one moment in history in which you could be born, and you didn't know ahead of time who you were going to be -- what nationality, what gender, what race, whether you'd be rich or poor, gay or straight, what faith you'd be born into -- you wouldn't choose 100 years ago. You wouldn't choose the fifties, or the sixties, or the seventies. You'd choose right now. If you had to choose a time to be, in the words of Lorraine Hansberry, "young, gifted, and black" in America, you would choose right now. (Applause.)"

    https://www.politico.com/story/2016/05/obamas-howard-commencement-transcript-222931

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_58cf1d9ae4b0ec9d29dcf283/amp

    Adam , says: December 21, 2017 at 11:57 am
    I love reading about how the Community Reinvestment Act was the catalyst of all that is wrong in the world. As someone in the industry the issue was actually twofold. The Commodities Futures Modernization Act turned the mortgage securities market into a casino with the underlying actual debt instruments multiplied through the use of additional debt instruments tied to the performance but with no actual underlying value. These securities were then sold around the world essentially infecting the entire market. In order that feed the beast, these NON GOVERNMENT loans had their underwriting standards lowered to rediculous levels. If you run out of qualified customers, just lower the qualifications. Government loans such as FHA, VA, and USDA were avoided because it was easier to qualify people with the new stuff. And get paid. The short version is all of the incentives that were in place at the time, starting with the Futures Act, directly led to the actions that culminated in the Crash. So yes, it was the government, just a different piece of legislation.
    SteveM , says: December 21, 2017 at 12:29 pm
    Kunstler itemizing the social and economic pathologies in the United States is not enough. Because there are other models that demonstrate it didn't have to be this way.

    E.g. Germany. Germany is anything but perfect and its recent government has screwed up with its immigration policies. But Germany has a high standard of living, an educated work force (including unions and skilled crafts-people), a more rational distribution of wealth and high quality universal health care that costs 47% less per capita than in the U.S. and with no intrinsic need to maraud around the planet wasting gobs of taxpayer money playing Global Cop.

    The larger subtext is that the U.S. house of cards was planned out and constructed as deliberately as the German model was. Only the objective was not to maximize the health and happiness of the citizenry, but to line the pockets of the parasitic Elites. (E.g., note that Mitch McConnell has been a government employee for 50 years but somehow acquired a net worth of over $10 Million.)

    P.S. About the notionally high U.S. GDP. Factor out the TRILLIONS inexplicably hoovered up by the pathological health care system, the metastasized and sanctified National Security State (with its Global Cop shenanigans) and the cronied-up Ponzi scheme of electron-churn financialization ginned up by Goldman Sachs and the rest of the Banksters, and then see how much GDP that reflects the actual wealth of the middle class is left over.

    One Guy , says: December 21, 2017 at 1:10 pm
    Right-Wing Dittoheads and Fox Watchers love to blame the Community Reinvestment Act. It allows them to blame both poor black people AND the government. The truth is that many parties were to blame.
    LouB , says: December 21, 2017 at 1:14 pm
    One of the things I love about this rag is that almost all of the comments are included. You may be sure that similar commenting privilege doesn't exist most anywhere else.

    Any disfavor regarding the supposed bleakness with the weak hearted souls aside, Mr K's broadside seems pretty spot on to me.

    tzx4 , says: December 21, 2017 at 1:57 pm
    I think the author overlooks the fact that government over the past 30 to 40 years has been tilting the playing field ever more towards the uppermost classes and against the middle class. The evisceration of the middle class is plain to see.

    If the the common man had more money and security, lots of our current intrasocial conflicts would be far less intense.

    Jeeves , says: December 21, 2017 at 2:09 pm
    Andrew Imlay: You provide a thoughtful corrective to one of Kunstler's more hyperbolic claims. And you should know that his jeremiad doesn't represent usual fare at TAC. So do come back.

    Whether or not every one of Kunstler's assertions can withstand a rigorous fact-check, he is a formidable rhetorician. A generous serving of Weltschmerz is just what the season calls for.

    Wezz , says: December 21, 2017 at 2:44 pm
    America is stupefied from propaganda on steroids for, largely from the right wing, 25? years of Limbaugh, Fox, etc etc etc Clinton hate x 10, "weapons of mass destruction", "they hate us because we are free", birtherism, death panels, Jade Helm, pedophile pizza, and more Clinton hate porn.

    Americans have been taught to worship the wealthy regardless of how they got there. Americans have been taught they are "Exceptional" (better, smarter, more godly than every one else) in spite of outward appearances. Americans are under educated and encouraged to make decisions based on emotion from constant barrage of extra loud advertising from birth selling illusion.

    Americans brain chemistry is most likely as messed up as the rest of their bodies from junk or molested food. Are they even capable of normal thought?

    Donald Trump has convinced at least a third of Americans that only he, Fox, Breitbart and one or two other sources are telling the Truth, every one else is lying and that he is their friend.

    Is it possible we are just plane doomed and there's no way out?

    John Blade Wiederspan , says: December 21, 2017 at 4:26 pm
    I loathe the cotton candy clown and his Quislings; however, I must admit, his presence as President of the United States has forced everyone (left, right, religious, non-religious) to look behind the curtain. He has done more to dis-spell the idealism of both liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican, rich and poor, than any other elected official in history. The sheer amount of mind-numbing absurdity resulting from a publicity stunt that got out of control ..I am 70 and I have seen a lot. This is beyond anything I could ever imagine. America is not going to improve or even remain the same. It is in a 4 year march into worse, three years to go.
    EarlyBird , says: December 21, 2017 at 5:23 pm
    Sheesh. Should I shoot myself now, or wait until I get home?
    dvxprime , says: December 21, 2017 at 5:46 pm
    Mr. Kuntzler has an honest and fairly accurate assessment of the situation. And as usual, the liberal audience that TAC is trying so hard to reach, is tossing out their usual talking points whilst being in denial of the situation.

    The Holy Bible teaches us that repentance is the first crucial step on the path towards salvation. Until the progressives, from their alleged "elite" down the rank and file at Kos, HuffPo, whatever, take a good, long, hard look at the current national dumpster fire and start claiming some responsibility, America has no chance of solving problems or fixing anything.

    Slooch , says: December 21, 2017 at 7:03 pm
    Kunstler must have had a good time writing this, and I had a good time reading it. Skewed perspective, wild overstatement, and obsessive cherry-picking of the rare checkable facts are mixed with a little eye of newt and toe of frog and smothered in a oar and roll of rhetoric that was thrilling to be immersed in. Good work!
    jp , says: December 21, 2017 at 8:09 pm
    aah, same old Kunstler, slightly retailored for the Trump years.

    for those of you familiar with him, remember his "peak oil" mania from the late 00s and early 2010s? every blog post was about it. every new year was going to be IT: the long emergency would start, people would be Mad Maxing over oil supplies cos prices at the pump would be $10 a gallon or somesuch.

    in this new rant, i did a control-F for "peak oil" and hey, not a mention. I guess even cranks like Kunstler know when to give a tired horse a rest.

    c.meyer , says: December 21, 2017 at 8:30 pm
    So what else is new. Too 'clever', overwritten, no new ideas. Can't anyone move beyond clichés?
    Active investor , says: December 22, 2017 at 12:35 am
    Kunstler once again waxes eloquent on the American body politic. Every word rings true, except when it doesn't. At times poetic, at other times paranoid, Kunstler does us a great service by pointing a finger at the deepest pain points in America, any one of which could be the geyser that brings on catastrophic failure.

    However, as has been pointed out, he definitely does not hang out with black people. For example, the statement:

    But the residue of the "Black Power" movement is still present in the widespread ambivalence about making covenant with a common culture, and it has only been exacerbated by a now long-running "multiculturalism and diversity" crusade that effectively nullifies the concept of a national common culture.

    The notion of a 'national common culture' is interesting but pretty much a fantasy that never existed, save colonial times.

    Yet Kunstler's voice is one that must be heard, even if he is mostly tuning in to the widespread radicalism on both ends of the spectrum, albeit in relatively small numbers. Let's face it, people are in the streets marching, yelling, and hating and mass murders keep happening, with the regularity of Old Faithful. And he makes a good point about academia loosing touch with reality much of the time. He's spot on about the false expectations of what technology can do for the economy, which is inflated with fiat currency and God knows how many charlatans and hucksters. And yes, the white working class is feeling increasingly like a 'victim group.'

    While Kunstler may be more a poet than a lawyer, more songwriter than historian, my gut feeling is that America had better take notice of him, as The American ship of state is being swept by a ferocious tide and the helmsman is high on Fentanyl (made in China).

    JonF , says: December 22, 2017 at 9:52 am
    Re: The crisis actually had its roots in the Clinton Administration's use of the Community Reinvestment Act

    Here we go again with this rotting zombie which rises from its grave no matter how many times it has been debunked by statisticians and reputable economists (and no, not just those on the left– the ranks include Bruce Bartlett for example, a solid Reaganist). To reiterate again : the CRA played no role in the mortgage boom and bust. Among other facts in the way of that hypothesis is the fact that riskiest loans were being made by non-bank lenders (Countrywide) who were not covered by the CRA which only applied to actual banks– and the banks did not really get into the game full tilt, lowering their lending standards, until late in the game, c. 2005, in response to their loss of business to the non-bank lenders. Ditto for the GSEs, which did not lower their standards until 2005 and even then relied on wall Street to vet the subprime loans they were buying.

    To be sure, blaming Wall Street for everything is also wrong-headed, though wall Street certainly did some stupid, greedy and shady things (No, I am not letting them off the hook!) But the cast of miscreants is numbered in the millions and it stretches around the planet. Everyone (for example) who got into the get-rich-quick Ponzi scheme of house flipping, especially if they lied about their income to do so. And everyone who took out a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) and foolishly charged it up on a consumption binge. And shall we talk about the mortgage brokers who coached people into lying, the loan officers who steered customers into the riskiest (and highest earning) loans they could, the sellers who asked palace-prices for crackerbox hovels, the appraisers who rubber-stamped such prices, the regulators who turned a blind eye to all the fraud and malfeasance, the ratings agencies who handed out AAA ratings to securities full of junk, the politicians who rejoiced over the apparent "Bush Boom" well, I could continue, but you get the picture.

    We have met the enemy and he was us.

    kevin on the left , says: December 22, 2017 at 10:49 am
    "The Holy Bible teaches us that repentance is the first crucial step on the path towards salvation. Until the progressives, from their alleged "elite" down the rank and file at Kos, HuffPo, whatever, take a good, long, hard look at the current national dumpster fire and start claiming some responsibility, America has no chance of solving problems or fixing anything."

    Pretty sure that calling other people to repent of their sin of disagreeing with you is not quite what the Holy Bible intended.

    [Dec 19, 2017] Do not Underestimate the Power of Microfoundations

    Highly recommended!
    Nice illustration of ideologically based ostrakism as practiced in Academia: "Larry [Summers] leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice. I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don't listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People - powerful people - listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: they don't criticize other insiders."
    Notable quotes:
    "... A more probable school of thought is that this game was created as a con and a cover for the status quo capitalist establishment to indulge themselves in their hard money and liquidity fetishes, consequences be damned. ..."
    "... The arguments over internal and external consistency of models is just a convenient misdirection from what policy makers are willing to risk and whose interests they are willing to risk policy decisions for ..."
    "... Mathematical masturbations are just a smoke screen used to conceal a simple fact that those "economists" are simply banking oligarchy stooges. Hired for the specific purpose to provide a theoretical foundation for revanschism of financial oligarchy after New Deal run into problems. Revanschism that occurred in a form of installing neoliberal ideology in the USA in exactly the same role which Marxism was installed in the USSR. With "iron hand in velvet gloves" type of repressive apparatus to enforce it on each and every university student and thus to ensure the continues, recurrent brainwashing much like with Marxism on the USSR universities. ..."
    "... To ensure continuation of power of "nomenklatura" in the first case and banking oligarchy in the second. Connections with reality be damned. Money does not smell. ..."
    "... Economic departments fifth column of neoliberal stooges is paid very good money for their service of promoting and sustaining this edifice of neoliberal propaganda. Just look at Greg Mankiw and Rubin's boys. ..."
    "... "Larry [Summers] leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice. I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don't listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People - powerful people - listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: they don't criticize other insiders." ..."
    Apr 04, 2015 | Economist's View

    Darryl FKA Ron -> pgl...

    At the risk of oversimplifying might it not be as simple as stronger leanings towards IS-LM and kind are indicative of a bias towards full employment and stronger leanings towards DSGE, microfoundations, and kind are indicative of a bias towards low inflation?

    IN general I consider over-simplification a fault, if and only if, it is a rigidly adhered to final position. This is to say that over-simplification is always a good starting point and never a good ending point. If in the end your problem was simple to begin with, then the simplified answer would not be OVER-simplified anyway. It is just as bad to over-complicate a simple problem as it is to over-simplify a complex problem. It is easier to build complexity on top of a simple foundation than it is to extract simplicity from a complex foundation.

    A lot of the Chicago School initiative into microfoundations and DSGE may have been motivated by a desire to bind Keynes in a NAIRU straight-jacket. Even though economic policy making is largely done just one step at a time then that is still one step too much if it might violate rentier interests.

    Darryl FKA Ron -> Barry...

    There are two possible (but unlikely) schools of (generously attributed to as) thought for which internal consistency might take precedence over external consistency. One such school wants to consider what would be best in a perfect world full of perfect people and then just assume that is best for the real world just to let the chips fall where they may according to the faults and imperfections of the real world. The second such school is the one whose eyes just glaze over mesmerized by how over their heads they are and remain affraid to ask any question lest they appear stupid.

    A more probable school of thought is that this game was created as a con and a cover for the status quo capitalist establishment to indulge themselves in their hard money and liquidity fetishes, consequences be damned.

    Richard H. Serlin

    Consistency sounds so good, Oh, of course we want consistency, who wouldn't?! But consistent in what way? What exactly do you mean? Consistent with reality, or consistent with people all being superhumans? Which concept is usually more useful, or more useful for the task at hand?

    Essentially, they want models that are consistent with only certain things, and often because this makes their preferred ideology look far better. They want models, typically, that are consistent with everyone in the world having perfect expertise in every subject there is, from finance to medicine to engineering, perfect public information, and perfect self-discipline, and usually on top, frictionless and perfectly complete markets, often perfectly competitive too.

    But a big thing to note is that perfectly consistent people means a level of perfection in expertise, public information, self-discipline, and "rationality", that's extremely at odds with how people actually are. And as a result, this can make the model extremely misleading if it's interpreted very literally (as so often it is, especially by freshwater economists), or taken as The Truth, as Paul Krugman puts it.

    You get things like the equity premium "puzzle", which involves why people don't invest more in stocks when the risk-adjusted return appears to usually be so abnormally good, and this "puzzle" can only be answered with "consistency", that people are all perfectly expert in finance, with perfect information, so they must have some mysterious hidden good reason. It can't be at all that it's because 65% of people answered incorrectly when asked how many reindeer would remain if Santa had to lay off 25% of his eight reindeer ( http://richardhserlin.blogspot.com/2013/12/surveys-showing-massive-ignorance-and.html ).

    Yes, these perfect optimizer consistency models can give useful insights, and help to see what is best, what we can do better, and they can, in some cases, be good as approximations. But to say they should be used only, and interpreted literally, is, well, inconsistent with optimal, rational behavior -- of the economist using them.

    Richard H. Serlin -> Richard H. Serlin...
    Of course, unless the economist using them is doing so to mislead people into supporting his libertarian/plutocratic ideology.

    dilbert dogbert

    As an old broken down mech engineer, I wonder why all the pissing and moaning about micro foundations vs aggregation. In strength of materials equations that aggregate properties work quite well within the boundaries of the questions to be answered. We all know that at the level of crystals, materials have much complexity. Even within crystals there is deeper complexities down to the molecular levels. However, the addition of quantum mechanics adds no usable information about what materials to build a bridge with.

    But, when working at the scale of the most advanced computer chips quantum mechanics is required. WTF! I guess in economics there is no quantum mechanics theories or even reliable aggregation theories.

    Poor economists, doomed to argue, forever, over how many micro foundations can dance on the head of a pin.

    RGC -> dilbert dogbert...

    Endless discussions about how quantum effects aggregate to produce a material suitable for bridge building crowd out discussions about where and when to build bridges. And if plutocrats fund the endless discussions, we get the prominent economists we have today.

    Darryl FKA Ron -> dilbert dogbert...

    "...I guess in economics there is no quantum mechanics theories or even reliable aggregation theories..."

    [I guess it depends upon what your acceptable confidence interval on reliability is. Most important difference that controls all the domain differences between physical science and economics is that underlying physical sciences there is a deterministic methodology for which probable error is merely a function of the inaccuracy in input metrics WHEREAS economics models are incomplete probabilistic estimating models with no ability to provide a complete system model in a full range of circumstances.

    YOu can design and build a bridge to your load and span requirements with alternative models for various designs with confidence and highly effective accuracy repeatedly. No ecomomic theory, model, or combination of models and theories was ever intended to be used as the blueprint for building an economy from the foundation up.

    With all the formal trappings of economics the only effective usage is to decide what should be done in a given set of predetermined circumstance to reach some modest desired effect. Even that modest goal is exposed to all kinds of risks inherent in assumptions, incomplete information, externalities, and so on that can produce errors of uncertain potential bounds.

    Nonetheless, well done economics can greatly reduce the risks encountered in the random walk of economics policy making. So much so is this true, that the bigger questions in macro-economics policy making is what one is willing to risk and for whom.

    The arguments over internal and external consistency of models is just a convenient misdirection from what policy makers are willing to risk and whose interests they are willing to risk policy decisions for.]

    Darryl FKA Ron -> Peter K....

    unless you have a model which maps the real world fairly closely like quantum mechanics.

    [You set a bar too high. Macro models at best will tell you what to do to move the economy in the direction that you seek to go. They do not even ocme close to the notion of a theory of everything that you have in physics, even the theory of every little thing that is provided by quantum mechanics. Physics is an empty metaphor for economics. Step one is to forgo physics envy in pursuit of understanding suitable applications and domain constraints for economics models.

    THe point is to reach a decision and to understand cause and effect directions. All precision is in the past and present. The future is both imprecise and all that there is that is available to change.

    For the most part an ounce of common sense and some simple narrative models are all that are essential for making those policy decisions in and of themselves. HOWEVER, nation states are not ruled by economist philosopher kings and in the process of concensus decision making by (little r)republican governments then human language is a very imprecise vehicle for communicating logic and reason with respect to the management of complex systems. OTOH, mathematics has given us a universal language for communicating logic and reason that is understood the same by everyone that really understands that language at all. Hence mathematical models were born for the economists to write down their own thinking in clear precise terms and check their own work first and then share it with others so equipped to understand the language of mathematics. Krugman has said as much many times and so has any and every economist worth their salt.]

    likbez -> Syaloch...

    I agree with Pgl and PeterK. Certain commenters like Darryl seem convinced that the Chicago School (if not all of econ) is driven by sinister, class-based motives to come up justifications for favoring the power elite over the masses. But based on what I've read, it seems pretty obvious that the microfoundation guys just got caught up in their fancy math and their desire to produce more elegant, internally consistent models and lost sight of the fact that their models didn't track reality.

    That's completely wrong line of thinking, IMHO.

    Mathematical masturbations are just a smoke screen used to conceal a simple fact that those "economists" are simply banking oligarchy stooges. Hired for the specific purpose to provide a theoretical foundation for revanschism of financial oligarchy after New Deal run into problems. Revanschism that occurred in a form of installing neoliberal ideology in the USA in exactly the same role which Marxism was installed in the USSR.
    With "iron hand in velvet gloves" type of repressive apparatus to enforce it on each and every university student and thus to ensure the continues, recurrent brainwashing much like with Marxism on the USSR universities.

    To ensure continuation of power of "nomenklatura" in the first case and banking oligarchy in the second. Connections with reality be damned. Money does not smell.

    Economic departments fifth column of neoliberal stooges is paid very good money for their service of promoting and sustaining this edifice of neoliberal propaganda. Just look at Greg Mankiw and Rubin's boys.

    But the key problem with neoliberalism is that the cure is worse then disease. And here mathematical masturbations are very handy as a smoke screen to hide this simple fact.

    likbez -> likbez...

    Here is how Rubin's neoliberal boy Larry explained the situation to Elizabeth Warren:

    "Larry [Summers] leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice. I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don't listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People - powerful people - listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: they don't criticize other insiders."

    Elizabeth Warren, A Fighting Chance

    Syaloch -> likbez...

    Yeah, case in point.

    [Dec 19, 2017] Mark Ames Kathy Lally Was Caught Trying To Censor Journalism In Russia and Now Deceitfully Claims She's a Victim

    Dec 19, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

    We accompanied that with a prank in which we posed as Potanin calling the Washington Wizards for courtside seats, Harvard University business school to purchase a degree, and the Augusta National Golf Club -- brandishing Hiatt's article for access:

    eXile : I am Russian banker, so-called robber baron capitalist, am interested in purchasing your degree.

    Harvard : ( pause ) Uh, sir, you can't buy the degree, but you can enroll in our program. It's an intensive 9 week program, and you receive a certificate, not a degree.

    eXile : No, this is no good. Do you realize who I am? Fred Hiatt wrote about me in today Washington Post, that I am not typical robber baron. I am ze baby billionaire.

    Harvard : We read a lot about Russia and it sounds very exciting.

    eXile : Of course it exciting. Now I vant Harvard degree.

    Harvard : You can't buy a degree.

    eXile : Maybe instead I build nice cafe for you on campus. Or I can donate small nightclub for Harvard degree.

    Harvard : Sir, Harvard is a 350-year-old institution. It's not all just about money. We've turned down princes.

    eXile : NOT ABOUT MONEY? Hah!

    [Dec 15, 2017] The Crisis Ahead The U.S. Is No Country for Older Men and Women

    Notable quotes:
    "... The U.S. has a retirement crisis on its hands, and with the far right controlling the executive branch and both houses of Congress, as well as dozens of state governments, things promise to grow immeasurably worse. ..."
    "... It wasn't supposed to be this way. Past progressive presidents, notably Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, took important steps to make life more comfortable for aging Americans. FDR signed the Social Security Act of 1935 into law as part of his New Deal, and when LBJ passed Medicare in 1965, he established a universal health care program for those 65 and older. But the country has embraced a neoliberal economic model since the election of Ronald Reagan, and all too often, older Americans have been quick to vote for far-right Republicans antagonistic to the social safety net. ..."
    "... Since then, Ryan has doubled down on his delusion that the banking sector can manage Social Security and Medicare more effectively than the federal government. Republican attacks on Medicare have become a growing concern: according to EBRI, only 38 percent of workers are confident the program will continue to provide the level of benefits it currently does. ..."
    "... As 2017 winds down, Americans with health problems are still in the GOP's crosshairs -- this time because of so-called tax reform. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (both the House and Senate versions) includes provisions that would undermine Obamacare and cause higher health insurance premiums for older Americans. According to AARP, "Older adults ages 50-64 would be at particularly high risk under the proposal, facing average premium increases of up to $1,500 in 2019 as a result of the bill." ..."
    "... Countless Americans who are unable to afford those steep premiums would lose their insurance. The CBO estimates that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would cause the number of uninsured under 65 to increase 4 million by 2019 and 13 million by 2027. The bill would also imperil Americans 65 and over by cutting $25 billion from Medicare . ..."
    "... Analyzing W2 tax records in 2012, U.S. Census Bureau researchers Michael Gideon and Joshua Mitchell found that only 14 percent of private-sector employers in the U.S. were offering a 401(k) or similar retirement packages to their workers. That figure was thought to be closer to 40 percent, but Gideon and Mitchell discovered the actual number was considerably lower when smaller businesses were carefully analyzed, and that larger companies were more likely to offer 401(k) plans than smaller ones. ..."
    "... Today, millions of Americans work in the gig economy who don't have full-time jobs or receive W2s, but instead receive 1099s for freelance work. ..."
    "... The combination of stagnant wages and an increasingly high cost of living have been especially hellish for Americans who are trying to save for retirement. The United States' national minimum wage, a mere $7.25 per hour, doesn't begin to cover the cost of housing at a time when rents have soared nationwide. Never mind the astronomical prices in New York City, San Francisco or Washington, D.C. Median rents for one-bedroom apartments are as high as $1,010 per month in Atlanta, $960 per month in Baltimore, $860 per month in Jacksonville and $750 per month in Omaha, according to ApartmentList.com. ..."
    "... yeah, Canada has a neoliberal infestation that is somewhere between the US and the UK. France has got one too, but it is less advanced. I'll enjoy my great healthcare, public transportation, and generous paid time off while I can. ..."
    "... Europeans may scratch their heads, but they should recall their own histories and the long struggle to the universal benefits now enjoyed. Americans are far too complacent. This mildness is viewed by predators as weakness and the attacks will continue. ..."
    "... Not sure if many of the readers here watch non-cable national broadcast news, but Pete Peterson and his foundation are as everpresent an advertiser as the pharma industry. Peterson is the strongest, best organized advocate for gutting social services, social security, and sending every last penny out of the tax-mule consumer's pocket toward wall street. The guy needs an equivalent counterpoint enemy. ..."
    "... The social advantages that we still enjoy were fought in the streets, and on the "bricks" flowing with the participants blood. 8 hr. day; women's right to vote; ability and right for groups of laborers to organize; worker safety laws ..and so many others. There is no historical memory on how those rights were achieved. We are slowly slipping into an oligarchy greased by the idea that the physical possession of material things is all that matters. Sheeple, yes. ..."
    "... Mmm, I think American voters get what they want in the end. They want their politicians because they believe the lies. 19% of Americans believe they are in the top 1% of wealth. A huge percentage of poor people believe they or their kids will (not can, but will) become wealthy. Most Americans can't find France on a map. ..."
    "... I may have been gone for about thirty years, but that has only sharpened my insights into America. It's very hard to see just how flawed America is from the inside but when you step outside and have some perspective, it's frightening. ..."
    "... Our government, beginning with Reagan, turned its back on promoting the general welfare. The wealthy soon learned that their best return on investment was the "purchase" of politicians willing to pass the legislation they put in their hands. Much of their investment included creating the right wing media apparatus. ..."
    "... The Class War is real. It has been going on for 40 years, with the Conservative army facing virtually no resistance. Conservatives welcome Russia's help. Conservatives welcome barriers to people voting. Conservatives welcome a populace that believes lies that benefit them. Conservatives welcome the social and financial decline of the entire middle class and poor as long as it profits the rich financially, and by extension enhances their power politically. ..."
    "... "Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of the day, but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing [a people] to slavery" Thomas Jefferson. Rights of British America, 1774 ME 1:193, Papers 1:125 ..."
    "... yes, my problem with the post as well, completely ignores democrat complicity the part where someone with a 26k salary will pay 16k in insurance? No they won't, the system would collapse in that case which will be fine with me. ..."
    "... As your quote appears to imply, it's not a problem that can be solved by voting which, let's not forget, is nothing more than expressing an opinion. I am not sticking around just to find out if economically-crushed, opiod-, entertainment-, social media-addled Americans are actually capable of rolling out tumbrils for trips to the guillotines in the city squares. I strongly suspect not. ..."
    "... This is the country where, after the banks crushed the economy in 2008, caused tens of thousands to lose their jobs, and then got huge bailouts, the people couldn't even be bothered to take their money out of the big banks and put it elsewhere. Because, you know, convenience! Expressing an opinion, or mobilizing others to express an opinion, or educating or proselytizing others about what opinion to have, is about the limit of what they are willing, or know how to do. ..."
    Dec 14, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

    Yves here. I imagine many readers are acutely aware of the problems outlined in this article, if not beset by them already. By any rational standard, I should move now to a much cheaper country that will have me. I know individuals who live most of the year in third-world and near-third world countries, but they have very cheap ways of still having a toehold in the US and not (yet or maybe ever) getting a long-term residence visa. Ecuador is very accommodating regarding retirement visas, and a Social Security level income goes far there, but yours truly isn't retiring any time soon. And another barrier to an international move (which recall I did once, so I have some appreciation for what it takes), is that one ought to check out possible destinations but if you are already time and money and energy stressed, how do you muster the resources to do that at all, let alone properly?

    Aside from the potential to greatly reduce fixed costs, a second impetus for me is Medicare. I know for most people, getting on Medicare is a big plus. I have a very rare good, very old insurance policy. When you include the cost of drug plans, Medicare is no cheaper than what I have now, and considerably narrows my network. Moreover, I expect it to be thoroughly crapified by ten years from now (when I am 70), which argues for getting out of Dodge sooner rather than later.

    And that's before you get to another wee problem Lambert points out that I would probably not be happy in a third world or high end second world country. But the only bargain "world city" I know of is Montreal. I'm not sure it would represent enough of an all-in cost saving to justify the hassle of an international move and the attendant tax compliance burdens .and that charitably assumes I could even find a way to get permanent residence. Ugh.

    By Alex Henderson, who has written for the L.A. Weekly, Billboard, Spin, Creem, the Pasadena Weekly and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson. Originally published at Alternet

    Millions can no longer afford to retire, and may never be able when the GOP passes its tax bill.

    The news is not good for millions of aging Baby Boomers and Gen Xers in the United States who are moving closer to retirement age. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute's annual report on retirement preparedness for 2017, only 18 percent of U.S.-based workers feel "very confident" about their ability to retire comfortably ; Craig Copeland, senior research associate for EBRI and the report's co-author, cited "debt, lack of a retirement plan at work, and low savings" as "key factors" in workers' retirement-related anxiety. The Insured Retirement Institute finds a mere 23 percent of Baby Boomers and 24 percent of Gen Xers are confident that their savings will last in retirement. To make matters worse, more than 40 percent of Boomers and over 30 percent of Gen Xers report having no retirement savings whatsoever .

    The U.S. has a retirement crisis on its hands, and with the far right controlling the executive branch and both houses of Congress, as well as dozens of state governments, things promise to grow immeasurably worse.

    It wasn't supposed to be this way. Past progressive presidents, notably Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, took important steps to make life more comfortable for aging Americans. FDR signed the Social Security Act of 1935 into law as part of his New Deal, and when LBJ passed Medicare in 1965, he established a universal health care program for those 65 and older. But the country has embraced a neoliberal economic model since the election of Ronald Reagan, and all too often, older Americans have been quick to vote for far-right Republicans antagonistic to the social safety net.

    In the 2016 presidential election, 55 percent of voters 50 and older cast their ballots for Donald Trump against just 44 percent for Hillary Clinton. (This was especially true of older white voters; 90 percent of black voters 45 and older, as well as 67 percent of Latino voters in the same age range voted Democratic.)

    Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) economic proposals may have been wildly popular with millennials, but no demographic has a greater incentive to vote progressive than Americans facing retirement. According to research conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons, the three greatest concerns of Americans 50 and older are Social Security, health care costs and caregiving for loved ones -- all areas that have been targeted by Republicans.

    House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, a devotee of social Darwinist Ayn Rand , has made no secret of his desire to privatize Social Security and replace traditional Medicare with a voucher program. Had George W. Bush had his way and turned Social Security over to Wall Street, the economic crash of September 2008 might have left millions of senior citizens homeless.

    Since then, Ryan has doubled down on his delusion that the banking sector can manage Social Security and Medicare more effectively than the federal government. Republican attacks on Medicare have become a growing concern: according to EBRI, only 38 percent of workers are confident the program will continue to provide the level of benefits it currently does.

    The GOP's obsession with abolishing the Affordable Care Act is the most glaring example of its disdain for aging Americans. Yet Obamacare has been a blessing for Boomers and Gen Xers who have preexisting conditions. The ACA's guaranteed issue plans make no distinction between a 52-year-old American with diabetes, heart disease or asthma and a 52-year-old who has never had any of those illnesses. And AARP notes that under the ACA, the uninsured rate for Americans 50 and older decreased from 15 percent in 2013 to 9 percent in 2016.

    According to the Congressional Budget Office, the replacement bills Donald Trump hoped to ram through Congress this year would have resulted in staggering premium hikes for Americans over 50. The CBO's analysis of the American Health Care Act, one of the earlier versions of Trumpcare, showed that a 64-year-old American making $26,500 per year could have gone from paying $1,700 annually in premiums to just over $16,000. The CBO also estimated that the GOP's American Health Care Act would have deprived 23 million Americans of health insurance by 2026.

    As 2017 winds down, Americans with health problems are still in the GOP's crosshairs -- this time because of so-called tax reform. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (both the House and Senate versions) includes provisions that would undermine Obamacare and cause higher health insurance premiums for older Americans. According to AARP, "Older adults ages 50-64 would be at particularly high risk under the proposal, facing average premium increases of up to $1,500 in 2019 as a result of the bill."

    The CBO estimates that the bill will cause premiums to spike an average of 10 percent overall, with average premiums increasing $890 per year for a 50-year-old, $1,100 per year for a 55-year-old, $1,350 per year for a 60-year-old and $1,490 per year for a 64-year-old. Premium increases, according to the CBO, would vary from state to state; in Maine, average premiums for a 64-year-old would rise as much as $1,750 per year.

    Countless Americans who are unable to afford those steep premiums would lose their insurance. The CBO estimates that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would cause the number of uninsured under 65 to increase 4 million by 2019 and 13 million by 2027. The bill would also imperil Americans 65 and over by cutting $25 billion from Medicare .

    As morally reprehensible as the GOP's tax legislation may be, it is merely an acceleration of the redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top that America has undergone since the mid-1970s. (President Richard Nixon may have been a paranoid right-winger with authoritarian tendencies, but he expanded Medicare and supported universal health care.) Between the decline of labor unions, age discrimination, stagnant wages, an ever-rising cost of living, low interest rates, and a shortage of retirement accounts, millions of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers may never be able to retire.

    Traditional defined-benefit pensions were once a mainstay of American labor, especially among unionized workers. But according to Pew Charitable Trusts, only 13 percent of Baby Boomers still have them (among millennials, the number falls to 6 percent). In recent decades, 401(k) plans have become much more prominent, yet a majority of American workers don't have them either.

    Analyzing W2 tax records in 2012, U.S. Census Bureau researchers Michael Gideon and Joshua Mitchell found that only 14 percent of private-sector employers in the U.S. were offering a 401(k) or similar retirement packages to their workers. That figure was thought to be closer to 40 percent, but Gideon and Mitchell discovered the actual number was considerably lower when smaller businesses were carefully analyzed, and that larger companies were more likely to offer 401(k) plans than smaller ones.

    Today, millions of Americans work in the gig economy who don't have full-time jobs or receive W2s, but instead receive 1099s for freelance work. Tax-deferred SEP-IRAs were once a great, low-risk way for freelancers to save for retirement without relying exclusively on Social Security, but times have changed since the 1980s and '90s when interest rates were considerably higher for certificates of deposit and savings accounts. According to Bankrate.com, average rates for one-year CDs dropped from 11.27 percent in 1984 to 8.1 percent in 1990 to 5.22 percent in 1995 to under 1 percent in 2010, where it currently remains.

    The combination of stagnant wages and an increasingly high cost of living have been especially hellish for Americans who are trying to save for retirement. The United States' national minimum wage, a mere $7.25 per hour, doesn't begin to cover the cost of housing at a time when rents have soared nationwide. Never mind the astronomical prices in New York City, San Francisco or Washington, D.C. Median rents for one-bedroom apartments are as high as $1,010 per month in Atlanta, $960 per month in Baltimore, $860 per month in Jacksonville and $750 per month in Omaha, according to ApartmentList.com.

    That so many older Americans are renting at all is ominous in its own right. FDR made home ownership a primary goal of the New Deal, considering it a key component of a thriving middle class. But last year, the Urban Institute found that 19 million Americans who previously owned a home are now renting, 31 percent between the ages of 36 and 45. Laurie Goodman, one of the study's authors, contends the Great Recession has "permanently raised the number of renters," and that the explosion of foreclosures has hit Gen Xers especially hard.

    The severity of the U.S. retirement crisis is further addressed in journalist Jessica Bruder's new book "Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century," which follows Americans in their 50s, 60s and even 70s living in RVs or vans , barely eking out a living doing physically demanding, seasonal temp work from harvesting sugar beets to cleaning toilets at campgrounds. Several had high-paying jobs before their lives were blown apart by the layoffs, foreclosures and corporate downsizing of the Great Recession. Bruder speaks with former college professors and software professionals who now find themselves destitute, teetering on the brink of homelessness and forced to do backbreaking work for next to nothing. Unlike the big banks, they never received a bailout.

    These neo-nomads recall the transients of the 1930s, themselves victims of Wall Street's recklessness. But whereas FDR won in a landslide in 1932 and aggressively pursued a program of progressive economic reforms, Republicans in Congress have set out to shred what little remains of the social safety net, giving huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires . The older voters who swept Trump into office may have signed their own death warrants.

    If aging Americans are going to be saved from this dystopian future, the U.S. will have to forge a new Great Society. Programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will need to be strengthened, universal health care must become a reality and age discrimination in the workplace will have to be punished as a civil rights violation like racial and gender-based discrimination. If not, millions of Gen Xers and Boomers will spend their golden years scraping for pennies.

    Expat , , December 14, 2017 at 6:29 am

    I certainly will never go back to the States for these and other reasons. I have a friend, also an American citizen, who travels frequently back to California to visit his son. He is truly worried about getting sick or having an accident when he is there since he knows it might bankrupt him. As he jokes, he would be happy to have another heart attack here in France since it's free!

    For those of you who have traveled the world and talked to people, you probably know that most foreigners are perplexed by America's attitude to health care and social services. The richest nation in the world thinks that health and social security (in the larger sense of not being forced into the street) are not rights at all. Europeans scratch their heads at this.

    The only solution is education and information, but they are appalling in America. America remains the most ignorant and worst educated of the developed nations and is probably beaten by many developing nations. It is this ignorance and stupidity that gets Americans to vote for the likes of Trump or any of the other rapacious millionaires they send to office every year.

    A first step would be for Americans to insist that Congress eliminate its incredibly generous and life-long healthcare plans for elected officials. They should have to do what the rest of Americans do. Of course, since about 95% of Congress are millionaires, it might not be effective. But it's a start.

    vidimi , , December 14, 2017 at 6:40 am

    France has its share of problems, but boy do they pale next to the problems in America or even Canada. Life here is overall quite pleasant and I have no desire to go back to N.A.

    Marco , , December 14, 2017 at 6:46 am

    Canada has problems?

    WobblyTelomeres , , December 14, 2017 at 7:47 am

    Was in Yellowknife a couple of years ago. The First Nations people have a rough life. From what I've read, such extends across the country.

    vidimi , , December 14, 2017 at 8:03 am

    yeah, Canada has a neoliberal infestation that is somewhere between the US and the UK. France has got one too, but it is less advanced. I'll enjoy my great healthcare, public transportation, and generous paid time off while I can.

    JEHR , , December 14, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    The newest neoliberal effort in Canada was put forward by our Minister of Finance (a millionaire) who is touting a bill that will get rid of defined benefit pension plans given to public employees for so-called target benefit pension plans. The risk for target plans is taken by the recipient. Morneau's former firm promotes target benefit pension plans and the change could benefit Morneau himself as he did not put his assets from his firm in a blind trust. At the very least, he has a conflict of interest and should probably resign.

    There is always an insidious group of wealthy people here who would like to re-make the world in their own image. I fear for the future.

    JEHR , , December 14, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Yes, I agree. There is an effort to "simplify" the financial system of the EU to take into account the business cycle and the financial cycle .

    Dita , , December 14, 2017 at 8:25 am

    Europeans may scratch their heads, but they should recall their own histories and the long struggle to the universal benefits now enjoyed. Americans are far too complacent. This mildness is viewed by predators as weakness and the attacks will continue.

    jefemt , , December 14, 2017 at 10:02 am

    We really should be able to turn this around, and have an obligation to ourselves and our 'nation state' , IF there were a group of folks running on a fairness, one-for-all, all-for-one platform. That sure isn't the present two-sides-of-the-same-coin Democraps and Republicrunts.

    Not sure if many of the readers here watch non-cable national broadcast news, but Pete Peterson and his foundation are as everpresent an advertiser as the pharma industry. Peterson is the strongest, best organized advocate for gutting social services, social security, and sending every last penny out of the tax-mule consumer's pocket toward wall street. The guy needs an equivalent counterpoint enemy.

    Check it out, and be vigilant in dispelling his message and mission. Thanks for running this article.

    Running away: the almost-haves run to another nation state, the uber-wealthy want to leave the earth, or live in their private Idaho in the Rockies or on the Ocean. What's left for the least among us? Whatever we create?
    https://www.pgpf.org/

    Scramjett , , December 14, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    I think pathologically optimistic is a better term than complacent. Every time someone dumps on them, their response is usually along the lines of "Don't worry, it'll get better," "Everything works itself out in the end," "maybe we'll win the lottery," my personal favorite "things will get better, just give it time" (honestly it's been 40 years of this neoliberal bullcrap, how much more time are we supposed to give it?), "this is just a phase" or "we can always bring it back later and better than ever." The last one is most troubling because after 20 years of witnessing things in the public sphere disappearing, I've yet to see a single thing return in any form at all.

    I'm not sure where this annoying optimism came from but I sure wish it would go away.

    sierra7 , , December 14, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    The "optimism" comes from having a lack of historical memory. So many social protections that we have/had is seen as somehow coming out of the ether benevolently given without any social struggles. The lack of historical education on this subject in particular is appalling. Now, most would probably look for an "APP" on their "dumbphones" to solve the problem.

    The social advantages that we still enjoy were fought in the streets, and on the "bricks" flowing with the participants blood. 8 hr. day; women's right to vote; ability and right for groups of laborers to organize; worker safety laws ..and so many others. There is no historical memory on how those rights were achieved. We are slowly slipping into an oligarchy greased by the idea that the physical possession of material things is all that matters. Sheeple, yes.

    Jeremy Grimm , , December 14, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    WOW! You must have been outside the U.S. for a long time. Your comment seems to suggest we still have some kind of democracy here. We don't get to pick which rapacious millionaires we get to vote for and it doesn't matter any way since whichever one we pick from the sad offerings ends up with policies dictated from elsewhere.

    Expat , , December 14, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    Mmm, I think American voters get what they want in the end. They want their politicians because they believe the lies. 19% of Americans believe they are in the top 1% of wealth. A huge percentage of poor people believe they or their kids will (not can, but will) become wealthy. Most Americans can't find France on a map.

    So, yes, you DO get to pick your rapacious millionaire. You send the same scumbags back to Washington every year because it's not him, it the other guys who are the problem. One third of Americans support Trump! Really, really support him. They think he is Jesus, MacArthur and Adam Smith all rolled up into one.

    I may have been gone for about thirty years, but that has only sharpened my insights into America. It's very hard to see just how flawed America is from the inside but when you step outside and have some perspective, it's frightening.

    Disturbed Voter , , December 14, 2017 at 6:29 am

    The Democrat party isn't a reform party. Thinking it is so, is because of the "No Other Choice" meme. Not saying that the Republican party works in my favor. They don't. Political reform goes deeper than reforming either main party. It means going to a European plurality system (with its own downside). That way growing Third parties will be viable, if they have popular, as opposed to millionaire, support. I don't see this happening, because of Citizens United, but if all you have is hope, then you have to go with that.

    Carolinian , , December 14, 2017 at 8:05 am

    Had George W. Bush had his way and turned Social Security over to Wall Street, the economic crash of September 2008 might have left millions of senior citizens homeless.

    Substitute Bill Clinton for George Bush in that sentence and it works just as well. Neoliberalism is a bipartisan project.

    And many of the potential and actual horrors described above arise from the price distortions of the US medical system with Democratic acquiescence in said system making things worse. The above article reads like a DNC press release.

    And finally while Washington politicians of both parties have been threatening Social Security for years that doesn't mean its third rail status has been repealed. The populist tremors of the last election -- which have caused our elites to lose their collective mind -- could be a mere prelude to what will happen in the event of a full scale assault on the safety net.

    KYrocky , , December 14, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    Substitute Obama's quest for a Grand Bargain as well.

    Our government, beginning with Reagan, turned its back on promoting the general welfare. The wealthy soon learned that their best return on investment was the "purchase" of politicians willing to pass the legislation they put in their hands. Much of their investment included creating the right wing media apparatus.

    The Class War is real. It has been going on for 40 years, with the Conservative army facing virtually no resistance. Conservatives welcome Russia's help. Conservatives welcome barriers to people voting. Conservatives welcome a populace that believes lies that benefit them. Conservatives welcome the social and financial decline of the entire middle class and poor as long as it profits the rich financially, and by extension enhances their power politically.

    If retirees flee our country that will certainly please the Conservatives as that will be fewer critics (enemies). Also less need or demand for social programs.

    rps , , December 14, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    "Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of the day, but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing [a people] to slavery" Thomas Jefferson. Rights of British America, 1774 ME 1:193, Papers 1:125

    tegnost , , December 14, 2017 at 8:59 am

    yes, my problem with the post as well, completely ignores democrat complicity the part where someone with a 26k salary will pay 16k in insurance? No they won't, the system would collapse in that case which will be fine with me.

    Marco , , December 14, 2017 at 6:55 am

    "President Richard Nixon may have been a paranoid right-winger with authoritarian tendencies, but he expanded Medicare and supported universal health care."

    "Gimme that old time Republican!"

    One of the reasons I love NC is that most political economic analysis is often more harsh on the Democrats than the Repubs so I am a bit dismayed how this article is way too easy on Team D. How many little (and not so little) knives in the back from Clinton and Obama? Is a knife in the chest that much worse?

    OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , December 14, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    This entire thread is simply heartbreaking, Americans have had their money, their freedom, their privacy, their health, and sometimes their very lives taken away from them by the State. But the heartbreaking part is that they feel they are powerless to do anything at all about it so are just trying to leave.

    But "People should not fear the government; the government should fear the people"

    tagio , December 14, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    It's more than a feeling, HAL. https://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/is-america-an-oligarchy Link to the academic paper embedded in article.

    As your quote appears to imply, it's not a problem that can be solved by voting which, let's not forget, is nothing more than expressing an opinion. I am not sticking around just to find out if economically-crushed, opiod-, entertainment-, social media-addled Americans are actually capable of rolling out tumbrils for trips to the guillotines in the city squares. I strongly suspect not.

    This is the country where, after the banks crushed the economy in 2008, caused tens of thousands to lose their jobs, and then got huge bailouts, the people couldn't even be bothered to take their money out of the big banks and put it elsewhere. Because, you know, convenience! Expressing an opinion, or mobilizing others to express an opinion, or educating or proselytizing others about what opinion to have, is about the limit of what they are willing, or know how to do.

    [Dec 13, 2017] A stunning 33% of job seekers ages 55 and older are long-term unemployed, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute

    Notable quotes:
    "... And, recent studies have shown, the longer you're out of work - especially if you're older and out of work - the harder it becomes to get a job offer. ..."
    Dec 13, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

    Livius Drusus , December 13, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    I thought this was an interesting article. Apologies if this has been posted on NC already.

    A stunning 33% of job seekers ages 55 and older are long-term unemployed, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute. The average length of unemployment for the roughly 1.2 million people 55+ who are out of work: seven to nine months. "It's emotionally devastating for them," said Carl Van Horn, director of Rutgers University's John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, at a Town Hall his center and the nonprofit WorkingNation held earlier this year in New Brunswick, N.J.

    ... ... ...

    The fight faced by the long-term unemployed

    And, recent studies have shown, the longer you're out of work - especially if you're older and out of work - the harder it becomes to get a job offer.

    The job-finding rate declines by roughly 50% within eight months of unemployment, according to a 2016 paper by economists Gregor Jarosch of Stanford University and Laura Pilossoph of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. "Unemployment duration has a strongly negative effect on the likelihood of subsequent employment," wrote researchers from the University of Maryland and the U.S. Census Bureau in another 2016 paper.

    "Once upon a time, you could take that first job and it would lead to the next job and the job after that," said Town Hall panelist John Colborn, chief operating officer at the nonprofit JEVS Human Services, of Philadelphia. "The notion of a career ladder offered some hope of getting back into the labor market. The rungs of the ladder are getting harder and harder to find and some of them are broken."

    In inner cities, said Kimberly McClain, CEO of The Newark Alliance, "there's an extra layer beyond being older and out of work. There are issues of race and poverty and being defined by your ZIP Code. There's an incredible sense of urgency."

    ... ... ...

    Filling a work gap

    If you are over 50, unemployed and have a work gap right now, the Town Hall speakers said, fill it by volunteering, getting an internship, doing project work, job-shadowing someone in a field you want to be in or taking a class to re-skill. These kind of things "make a candidate a lot more attractive," said Colborn. Be sure to note them in your cover letter and résumé.

    Town Hall panelist Amanda Mullan, senior vice president and chief human resources officer of the New Jersey Resources Corp. (a utility company based in Wall, N.J.), said that when her company is interviewing someone who has been out of work lately, "we will ask: 'What have you done during that time frame?' If we get 'Nuthin,' that shows something about the individual, from a motivational perspective."

    ... ... ...

    The relief of working again

    Finally finding work when you're over 50 and unemployed for a stretch can be a relief for far more than financial reasons.

    "Once I landed my job, the thing I most looked forward to was the weekend," said Konopka. "Not to relax, but because I didn't have to think about finding a job anymore. That's 24/7 in your head. You're always thinking on a Saturday: 'If I'm not doing something to find a job, will there be a posting out there?'"

    Full article: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/jobs-are-everywhere-just-not-for-people-over-55-2017-12-08

    [Dec 13, 2017] Stress of long-term unemployment takes a toll on thousands of Jerseyans who are out of work by Leslie Kwoh

    Notable quotes:
    "... Leslie Kwoh may be reached at lkwoh@starledger.com or (973) 392-4147. ..."
    Jun 13, 2010 | www.nj.com

    At 5:30 every morning, Tony Gwiazdowski rolls out of bed, brews a pot of coffee and carefully arranges his laptop, cell phone and notepad like silverware across the kitchen table.

    And then he waits.

    Gwiazdowski, 57, has been waiting for 16 months. Since losing his job as a transportation sales manager in February 2009, he wakes each morning to the sobering reminder that, yes, he is still unemployed. So he pushes aside the fatigue, throws on some clothes and sends out another flurry of resumes and cheery cover letters.

    But most days go by without a single phone call. And around sundown, when he hears his neighbors returning home from work, Gwiazdowski -- the former mayor of Hillsborough -- can't help but allow himself one tiny sigh of resignation.

    "You sit there and you wonder, 'What am I doing wrong?'" said Gwiazdowski, who finds companionship in his 2-year-old golden retriever, Charlie, until his wife returns from work.

    "The worst moment is at the end of the day when it's 4:30 and you did everything you could, and the phone hasn't rung, the e-mails haven't come through."

    Gwiazdowski is one of a growing number of chronically unemployed workers in New Jersey and across the country who are struggling to get through what is becoming one long, jobless nightmare -- even as the rest of the economy has begun to show signs of recovery.

    Nationwide, 46 percent of the unemployed -- 6.7 million Americans -- have been without work for at least half a year, by far the highest percentage recorded since the U.S. Labor Department began tracking the data in 1948.

    In New Jersey, nearly 40 percent of the 416,000 unemployed workers last year fit that profile, up from about 20 percent in previous years, according to the department, which provides only annual breakdowns for individual states. Most of them were unemployed for more than a year.

    But the repercussions of chronic unemployment go beyond the loss of a paycheck or the realization that one might never find the same kind of job again. For many, the sinking feeling of joblessness -- with no end in sight -- can take a psychological toll, experts say.

    Across the state, mental health crisis units saw a 20 percent increase in demand last year as more residents reported suffering from unemployment-related stress, according to the New Jersey Association of Mental Health Agencies.

    "The longer the unemployment continues, the more impact it will have on their personal lives and mental health," said Shauna Moses, the association's associate executive director. "There's stress in the marriage, with the kids, other family members, with friends."

    And while a few continue to cling to optimism, even the toughest admit there are moments of despair: Fear of never finding work, envy of employed friends and embarassment at having to tell acquaintances that, nope, still no luck.

    "When they say, 'Hi Mayor,' I don't tell a lot of people I'm out of work -- I say I'm semi-retired," said Gwiazdowski, who maxed out on unemployment benefits several months ago.

    "They might think, 'Gee, what's wrong with him? Why can't he get a job?' It's a long story and maybe people really don't care and now they want to get away from you."


    SECOND TIME AROUND

    Lynn Kafalas has been there before, too. After losing her computer training job in 2000, the East Hanover resident took four agonizing years to find new work -- by then, she had refashioned herself into a web designer.

    That not-too-distant experience is why Kafalas, 52, who was laid off again eight months ago, grows uneasier with each passing day. Already, some of her old demons have returned, like loneliness, self-doubt and, worst of all, insomnia. At night, her mind races to dissect the latest interview: What went wrong? What else should she be doing? And why won't even Barnes & Noble hire her?

    "It's like putting a stopper on my life -- I can't move on," said Kafalas, who has given up karate lessons, vacations and regular outings with friends. "Everything is about the interviews."

    And while most of her friends have been supportive, a few have hinted to her that she is doing something wrong, or not doing enough. The remarks always hit Kafalas with a pang.

    In a recent study, researchers at Rutgers University found that the chronically unemployed are prone to high levels of stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness and even substance abuse, which take a toll on their self-esteem and personal relationships.

    "They're the forgotten group," said Carl Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, and a co-author of the report. "And the longer you are unemployed, the less likely you are to get a job."

    Of the 900 unemployed workers first interviewed last August for the study, only one in 10 landed full-time work by March of this year, and only half of those lucky few expressed satisfaction with their new jobs. Another one in 10 simply gave up searching.

    Among those who were still unemployed, many struggled to make ends meet by borrowing from friends or family, turning to government food stamps and forgoing health care, according to the study.

    More than half said they avoided all social contact, while slightly less than half said they had lost touch with close friends. Six in 10 said they had problems sleeping.

    Kafalas says she deals with her chronic insomnia by hitting the gym for two hours almost every evening, lifting weights and pounding the treadmill until she feels tired enough to fall asleep.

    "Sometimes I forget what day it is. Is it Tuesday? And then I'll think of what TV show ran the night before," she said. "Waiting is the toughest part."


    AGE A FACTOR

    Generally, the likelihood of long-term unemployment increases with age, experts say. A report by the National Employment Law Project this month found that nearly half of those who were unemployed for six months or longer were at least 45 years old. Those between 16 and 24 made up just 14 percent.

    Tell that to Adam Blank, 24, who has been living with his girlfriend and her parents at their Martinsville home since losing his sales job at Best Buy a year and half ago.

    Blank, who graduated from Rutgers with a major in communications, says he feels like a burden sometimes, especially since his girlfriend, Tracy Rosen, 24, works full-time at a local nonprofit. He shows her family gratitude with small chores, like taking out the garbage, washing dishes, sweeping floors and doing laundry.

    Still, he often feels inadequate.

    "All I'm doing on an almost daily basis is sitting around the house trying to keep myself from going stir-crazy," said Blank, who dreams of starting a social media company.

    When he is feeling particularly low, Blank said he turns to a tactic employed by prisoners of war in Vietnam: "They used to build dream houses in their head to help keep their sanity. It's really just imagining a place I can call my own."


    LESSONS LEARNED

    Meanwhile, Gwiazdowski, ever the optimist, says unemployment has taught him a few things.

    He has learned, for example, how to quickly assess an interviewer's age and play up or down his work experience accordingly -- he doesn't want to appear "threatening" to a potential employer who is younger. He has learned that by occasionally deleting and reuploading his resume to job sites, his entry appears fresh.

    "It's almost like a game," he said, laughing. "You are desperate, but you can't show it."

    But there are days when he just can't find any humor in his predicament -- like when he finishes a great interview but receives no offer, or when he hears a fellow job seeker finally found work and feels a slight twinge of jealousy.

    "That's what I'm missing -- putting on that shirt and tie in the morning and going to work," he said.

    The memory of getting dressed for work is still so vivid, Gwiazdowski says, that he has to believe another job is just around the corner.

    "You always have to hope that that morning when you get up, it's going to be the day," he said.

    "Today is going to be the day that something is going to happen."

    Leslie Kwoh may be reached at lkwoh@starledger.com or (973) 392-4147.

    DrBuzzard Jun 13, 2010

    I collect from the state of iowa, was on tier I and when the gov't recessed without passing extension, iowa stopped paying tier I claims that were already open, i was scheduled to be on tier I until july 15th, and its gone now, as a surprise, when i tried to claim my week this week i was notified. SURPRISE, talk about stress.

    berganliz Jun 13, 2010

    This is terrible....just wait until RIF'd teachers hit the unemployment offices....but then, this is what NJ wanted...fired teachers who are to blame for the worst recession our country has seen in 150 years...thanks GWB.....thanks Donald Rumsfeld......thanks Dick Cheney....thanks Karl "Miss Piggy" Rove...and thank you Mr. Big Boy himself...Gov Krispy Kreame!

    rp121 Jun 13, 2010

    For readers who care about this nation's unemployed- Call your Senators to pass HR 4213, the "Extenders" bill. Unfortunately, it does not add UI benefits weeks, however it DOES continue the emergency federal tiers of UI. If it does not pass this week many of us are cut off at 26 wks. No tier 1, 2 -nothing.

    [Dec 13, 2017] Unemployment health hazard and stress

    The longer you are unemployed, the more you are effected by those factors.
    Notable quotes:
    "... The good news is that only a relatively small number of people are seriously affected by the stress of unemployment to the extent they need medical assistance. Most people don't get to the serious levels of stress, and much as they loathe being unemployed, they suffer few, and minor, ill effects. ..."
    "... Worries about income, domestic problems, whatever, the list is as long as humanity. The result of stress is a strain on the nervous system, and these create the physical effects of the situation over time. The chemistry of stress is complex, but it can be rough on the hormonal system. ..."
    "... Not at all surprisingly, people under stress experience strong emotions. It's a perfectly natural response to what can be quite intolerable emotional strains. It's fair to say that even normal situations are felt much more severely by people already under stress. Things that wouldn't normally even be issues become problems, and problems become serious problems. Relationships can suffer badly in these circumstances, and that, inevitably, produces further crises. Unfortunately for those affected, these are by now, at this stage, real crises. ..."
    "... Some people are stubborn enough and tough enough mentally to control their emotions ruthlessly, and they do better under these conditions. Even that comes at a cost, and although under control, the stress remains a problem. ..."
    "... One of the reasons anger management is now a growth industry is because of the growing need for assistance with severe stress over the last decade. This is a common situation, and help is available. ..."
    "... Depression is universally hated by anyone who's ever had it. ..."
    "... Very important: Do not, under any circumstances, try to use drugs or alcohol as a quick fix. They make it worse, over time, because they actually add stress. Some drugs can make things a lot worse, instantly, too, particularly the modern made-in-a-bathtub variety. They'll also destroy your liver, which doesn't help much, either. ..."
    "... You don't have to live in a gym to get enough exercise for basic fitness. A few laps of the pool, a good walk, some basic aerobic exercises, you're talking about 30-45 minutes a day. It's not hard. ..."
    Dec 13, 2017 | www.cvtips.com

    It's almost impossible to describe the various psychological impacts, because there are so many. There are sometimes serious consequences, including suicide, and, some would say worse, chronic depression.

    There's not really a single cause and effect. It's a compound effect, and unemployment, by adding stress, affects people, often badly.

    The world doesn't need any more untrained psychologists, and we're not pretending to give medical advice. That's for professionals. Everybody is different, and their problems are different. What we can do is give you an outline of the common problems, and what you can do about them.

    The good news is that only a relatively small number of people are seriously affected by the stress of unemployment to the extent they need medical assistance. Most people don't get to the serious levels of stress, and much as they loathe being unemployed, they suffer few, and minor, ill effects.

    For others, there are a series of issues, and the big three are:

    Stress

    Stress is Stage One. It's a natural result of the situation. Worries about income, domestic problems, whatever, the list is as long as humanity. The result of stress is a strain on the nervous system, and these create the physical effects of the situation over time. The chemistry of stress is complex, but it can be rough on the hormonal system.

    Over an extended period, the body's natural hormonal balances are affected, and this can lead to problems. These are actually physical issues, but the effects are mental, and the first obvious effects are, naturally, emotional.

    Anger, and other negative emotions

    Not at all surprisingly, people under stress experience strong emotions. It's a perfectly natural response to what can be quite intolerable emotional strains. It's fair to say that even normal situations are felt much more severely by people already under stress. Things that wouldn't normally even be issues become problems, and problems become serious problems. Relationships can suffer badly in these circumstances, and that, inevitably, produces further crises. Unfortunately for those affected, these are by now, at this stage, real crises.

    If the actual situation was already bad, this mental state makes it a lot worse. Constant aggravation doesn't help people to keep a sense of perspective. Clear thinking isn't easy when under constant stress.

    Some people are stubborn enough and tough enough mentally to control their emotions ruthlessly, and they do better under these conditions. Even that comes at a cost, and although under control, the stress remains a problem.

    One of the reasons anger management is now a growth industry is because of the growing need for assistance with severe stress over the last decade. This is a common situation, and help is available.

    If you have reservations about seeking help, bear in mind it can't possibly be any worse than the problem.

    Depression

    Depression is universally hated by anyone who's ever had it. This is the next stage, and it's caused by hormonal imbalances which affect serotonin. It's actually a physical problem, but it has mental effects which are sometimes devastating, and potentially life threatening.

    The common symptoms are:

    It's a disgusting experience. No level of obscenity could possibly describe it. Depression is misery on a level people wouldn't conceive in a nightmare. At this stage the patient needs help, and getting it is actually relatively easy. It's convincing the person they need to do something about it that's difficult. Again, the mental state is working against the person. Even admitting there's a problem is hard for many people in this condition.

    Generally speaking, a person who is trusted is the best person to tell anyone experiencing the onset of depression to seek help. Important: If you're experiencing any of those symptoms:

    Very important: Do not, under any circumstances, try to use drugs or alcohol as a quick fix. They make it worse, over time, because they actually add stress. Some drugs can make things a lot worse, instantly, too, particularly the modern made-in-a-bathtub variety. They'll also destroy your liver, which doesn't help much, either.

    Alcohol, in particular, makes depression much worse. Alcohol is a depressant, itself, and it's also a nasty chemical mix with all those stress hormones.

    If you've ever had alcohol problems, or seen someone with alcohol wrecking their lives, depression makes things about a million times worse.

    Just don't do it. Steer clear of any so-called stimulants, because they don't mix with antidepressants, either.

    Unemployment and staying healthy

    The above is what you need to know about the risks of unemployment to your health and mental well being.

    These situations are avoidable.

    Your best defense against the mental stresses and strains of unemployment, and their related problems is staying healthy.

    We can promise you that is nothing less than the truth. The healthier you are, the better your defenses against stress, and the more strength you have to cope with situations.

    Basic health is actually pretty easy to achieve:

    Diet

    Eat real food, not junk, and make sure you're getting enough food. Your body can't work with resources it doesn't have. Good food is a real asset, and you'll find you don't get tired as easily. You need the energy reserves.

    Give yourself a good selection of food that you like, that's also worth eating.

    The good news is that plain food is also reasonably cheap, and you can eat as much as you need. Basic meals are easy enough to prepare, and as long as you're getting all the protein veg and minerals you need, you're pretty much covered.

    You can also use a multivitamin cap, or broad spectrum supplements, to make sure you're getting all your trace elements. Also make sure you're getting the benefits of your food by taking acidophilus or eating yogurt regularly.

    Exercise

    You don't have to live in a gym to get enough exercise for basic fitness. A few laps of the pool, a good walk, some basic aerobic exercises, you're talking about 30-45 minutes a day. It's not hard.

    Don't just sit and suffer

    If anything's wrong, check it out when it starts, not six months later. Most medical conditions become serious when they're allowed to get worse.

    For unemployed people the added risk is also that they may prevent you getting that job, or going for interviews. If something's causing you problems, get rid of it.

    Nobody who's been through the blender of unemployment thinks it's fun.

    Anyone who's really done it tough will tell you one thing:

    Don't be a victim. Beat the problem, and you'll really appreciate the feeling.

    [Dec 13, 2017] Being homeless is better than working for Amazon by Nichole Gracely

    Notable quotes:
    "... According to Amazon's metrics, I was one of their most productive order pickers -- I was a machine, and my pace would accelerate throughout the course of a shift. What they didn't know was that I stayed fast because if I slowed down for even a minute, I'd collapse from boredom and exhaustion ..."
    "... toiling in some remote corner of the warehouse, alone for 10 hours, with my every move being monitored by management on a computer screen. ..."
    "... ISS could simply deactivate a worker's badge and they would suddenly be out of work. They treated us like beggars because we needed their jobs. Even worse, more than two years later, all I see is: Jeff Bezos is hiring. ..."
    "... I have never felt more alone than when I was working there. I worked in isolation and lived under constant surveillance ..."
    "... That was 2012 and Amazon's labor and business practices were only beginning to fall under scrutiny. ..."
    "... I received $200 a week for the following six months and I haven't had any source of regular income since those benefits lapsed. I sold everything in my apartment and left Pennsylvania as fast as I could. I didn't know how to ask for help. I didn't even know that I qualified for food stamps. ..."
    Nov 28, 2014 | theguardian.com

    wa8dzp:

    Nichole Gracely has a master's degree and was one of Amazon's best order pickers. Now, after protesting the company, she's homeless.

    I am homeless. My worst days now are better than my best days working at Amazon.

    According to Amazon's metrics, I was one of their most productive order pickers -- I was a machine, and my pace would accelerate throughout the course of a shift. What they didn't know was that I stayed fast because if I slowed down for even a minute, I'd collapse from boredom and exhaustion.

    During peak season, I trained incoming temps regularly. When that was over, I'd be an ordinary order picker once again, toiling in some remote corner of the warehouse, alone for 10 hours, with my every move being monitored by management on a computer screen.

    Superb performance did not guarantee job security. ISS is the temp agency that provides warehouse labor for Amazon and they are at the center of the SCOTUS case Integrity Staffing Solutions vs. Busk. ISS could simply deactivate a worker's badge and they would suddenly be out of work. They treated us like beggars because we needed their jobs. Even worse, more than two years later, all I see is: Jeff Bezos is hiring.

    I have never felt more alone than when I was working there. I worked in isolation and lived under constant surveillance. Amazon could mandate overtime and I would have to comply with any schedule change they deemed necessary, and if there was not any work, they would send us home early without pay. I started to fall behind on my bills.

    At some point, I lost all fear. I had already been through hell. I protested Amazon. The gag order was lifted and I was free to speak. I spent my last days in a lovely apartment constructing arguments on discussion boards, writing articles and talking to reporters. That was 2012 and Amazon's labor and business practices were only beginning to fall under scrutiny. I walked away from Amazon's warehouse and didn't have any other source of income lined up.

    I cashed in on my excellent credit, took out cards, and used them to pay rent and buy food because it would be six months before I could receive my first unemployment compensation check.

    I received $200 a week for the following six months and I haven't had any source of regular income since those benefits lapsed. I sold everything in my apartment and left Pennsylvania as fast as I could. I didn't know how to ask for help. I didn't even know that I qualified for food stamps.

    I furthered my Amazon protest while homeless in Seattle. When the Hachette dispute flared up I "flew a sign," street parlance for panhandling with a piece of cardboard: "I was an order picker at amazon.com. Earned degrees. Been published. Now, I'm homeless, writing and doing this. Anything helps."

    I have made more money per word with my signs than I will probably ever earn writing, and I make more money per hour than I will probably ever be paid for my work. People give me money and offer well wishes and I walk away with a restored faith in humanity.

    I flew my protest sign outside Whole Foods while Amazon corporate employees were on lunch break, and they gawked. I went to my usual flying spots around Seattle and made more money per hour protesting Amazon with my sign than I did while I worked with them. And that was in Seattle. One woman asked, "What are you writing?" I told her about the descent from working poor to homeless, income inequality, my personal experience. She mentioned Thomas Piketty's book, we chatted a little, she handed me $10 and wished me luck. Another guy said, "Damn, that's a great story! I'd read it," and handed me a few bucks.

    [snip]

    [Dec 12, 2017] Can Uber Ever Deliver Part Eleven Annual Uber Losses Now Approaching $5 Billion

    Notable quotes:
    "... Total 2015 gross passenger payments were 200% higher than 2014, but Uber corporate revenue improved 300% because Uber cut the driver share of passenger revenue from 83% to 77%. This was an effective $500 million wealth transfer from drivers to Uber's investors. ..."
    "... Uber's P&L gains were wiped out by higher non-EBIDTAR expense. Thus the 300% Uber revenue growth did not result in any improvement in Uber profit margins. ..."
    "... In 2016, Uber unilaterally imposed much larger cuts in driver compensation, costing drivers an additional $3 billion. [6] Prior to Uber's market entry, the take home pay of big-city cab drivers in the US was in the $12-17/hour range, and these earnings were possible only if drivers worked 65-75 hours a week. ..."
    "... An independent study of the net earnings of Uber drivers (after accounting for the costs of the vehicles they had to provide) in Denver, Houston and Detroit in late 2015 (prior to Uber's big 2016 cuts) found that driver earnings had fallen to the $10-13/hour range. [7] Multiple recent news reports have documented how Uber drivers are increasing unable to support themselves from their reduced share of passenger payments. [8] ..."
    "... Since mass driver defections would cause passenger volume growth to collapse completely, Uber was forced to reverse these cuts in 2017 and increased the driver share from 68% to 80%. This meant that Uber's corporate revenue, which had grown over 300% in 2015 and over 200% in 2016 will probably only grow by about 15% in 2017. ..."
    "... Socialize the losses, privatize the gains, VC-ize the subsidies. ..."
    "... The cold hard truth is that Uber is backed into a corner with severely limited abilities to tweak the numbers on either the supply or the demand side: cut driver compensation and they trigger driver churn (as has already been demonstrated), increase fare prices for riders and riders defect to cheaper alternatives. ..."
    "... "Growth and Efficiency" are the sine qua non of Neoliberalism. Kalanick's "hype brilliance" was to con the market with "revenue growth" and signs ..."
    Dec 12, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

    Uber lost $2.5 billion in 2015, probably lost $4 billion in 2016, and is on track to lose $5 billion in 2017.

    The top line on the table below shows is total passenger payments, which must be split between Uber corporate and its drivers. Driver gross earnings are substantially higher than actual take home pay, as gross earning must cover all the expenses drivers bear, including fuel, vehicle ownership, insurance and maintenance.

    Most of the "profit" data released by Uber over time and discussed in the press is not true GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) profit comparable to the net income numbers public companies publish but is EBIDTAR contribution. Companies have significant leeway as to how they calculate EBIDTAR (although it would exclude interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization) and the percentage of total costs excluded from EBIDTAR can vary significantly from quarter to quarter, given the impact of one-time expenses such as legal settlements and stock compensation. We only have true GAAP net profit results for 2014, 2015 and the 2nd/3rd quarters of 2017, but have EBIDTAR contribution numbers for all other periods. [5]

    Uber had GAAP net income of negative $2.6 billion in 2015, and a negative profit margin of 132%. This is consistent with the negative $2.0 billion loss and (143%) margin for the year ending September 2015 presented in part one of the NC Uber series over a year ago.

    No GAAP profit results for 2016 have been disclosed, but actual losses likely exceed $4 billion given the EBIDTAR contribution of negative $3.2 billion. Uber's GAAP losses for the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2017 were over $2.5 billion, suggesting annual losses of roughly $5 billion.

    While many Silicon Valley funded startups suffered large initial losses, none of them lost anything remotely close to $2.6 billion in their sixth year of operation and then doubled their losses to $5 billion in year eight. Reversing losses of this magnitude would require the greatest corporate financial turnaround in history.

    No evidence of significant efficiency/scale gains; 2015 and 2016 margin improvements entirely explained by unilateral cuts in driver compensation, but losses soared when Uber had to reverse these cuts in 2017.

    Total 2015 gross passenger payments were 200% higher than 2014, but Uber corporate revenue improved 300% because Uber cut the driver share of passenger revenue from 83% to 77%. This was an effective $500 million wealth transfer from drivers to Uber's investors. These driver compensation cuts improved Uber's EBIDTAR margin, but Uber's P&L gains were wiped out by higher non-EBIDTAR expense. Thus the 300% Uber revenue growth did not result in any improvement in Uber profit margins.

    In 2016, Uber unilaterally imposed much larger cuts in driver compensation, costing drivers an additional $3 billion. [6] Prior to Uber's market entry, the take home pay of big-city cab drivers in the US was in the $12-17/hour range, and these earnings were possible only if drivers worked 65-75 hours a week.

    An independent study of the net earnings of Uber drivers (after accounting for the costs of the vehicles they had to provide) in Denver, Houston and Detroit in late 2015 (prior to Uber's big 2016 cuts) found that driver earnings had fallen to the $10-13/hour range. [7] Multiple recent news reports have documented how Uber drivers are increasing unable to support themselves from their reduced share of passenger payments. [8]

    A business model where profit improvement is hugely dependent on wage cuts is unsustainable, especially when take home wages fall to (or below) minimum wage levels. Uber's primary focus has always been the rate of growth in gross passenger revenue, as this has been a major justification for its $68 billion valuation. This growth rate came under enormous pressure in 2017 given Uber efforts to raise fares, major increases in driver turnover as wages fell, [9] and the avalanche of adverse publicity it was facing.

    Since mass driver defections would cause passenger volume growth to collapse completely, Uber was forced to reverse these cuts in 2017 and increased the driver share from 68% to 80%. This meant that Uber's corporate revenue, which had grown over 300% in 2015 and over 200% in 2016 will probably only grow by about 15% in 2017.

    MKS , December 12, 2017 at 6:19 am

    "Uber's business model can never produce sustainable profits"

    Two words not in my vocabulary are "Never" and "Always", that is a pretty absolute statement in an non-absolute environment. The same environment that has produced the "Silicon Valley Growth Model", with 15x earnings companies like NVIDA, FB and Tesla (Average earnings/stock price ratio in dot com bubble was 10x) will people pay ridiculous amounts of money for a company with no underlying fundamentals you damn right they will! Please stop with the I know all no body knows anything, especially the psychology and irrationality of markets which are made up of irrational people/investors/traders.

    JohnnySacks , December 12, 2017 at 7:34 am

    My thoughts exactly. Seems the only possible recovery for the investors is a perfectly engineered legendary pump and dump IPO scheme. Risky, but there's a lot of fools out there and many who would also like to get on board early in the ride in fear of missing out on all the money to be hoovered up from the greater fools. Count me out.

    SoCal Rhino , December 12, 2017 at 8:30 am

    The author clearly distinguishes between GAAP profitability and valuations, which is after all rather the point of the series. And he makes a more nuanced point than the half sentence you have quoted without context or with an indication that you omitted a portion. Did you miss the part about how Uber would have a strong incentive to share the evidence of a network effect or other financial story that pointed the way to eventual profit? Otherwise (my words) it is the classic sell at a loss, make it up with volume path to liquidation.

    tegnost , December 12, 2017 at 9:52 am

    apples and oranges comparison, nvidia has lots and lots of patented tech that produces revenue, facebook has a kajillion admittedly irrational users, but those users drive massive ad sales (as just one example of how that company capitalizes itself) and tesla makes an actual car, using technology that inspires it's buyers (the put your money where your mouth is crowd and it can't be denied that tesla, whatever it's faults are, battery tech is not one of them and that intellectual property is worth a lot, and tesla's investors are in on that real business, profitable or otherwise)

    Uber is an iphone app. They lose money and have no path to profitability (unless it's the theory you espouse that people are unintelligent so even unintelligent ideas work to fleece them). This article touches on one of the great things about the time we now inhabit, uber drivers could bail en masse, there are two sides to the low attachment employees who you can get rid of easily. The drivers can delete the uber app as soon as another iphone app comes along that gets them a better return

    allan , December 12, 2017 at 6:52 am

    Yet another source (unintended) of subsidies for Uber, Lyft, etc., which might or might not have been mentioned earlier in the series:

    Airports Are Losing Money as Ride-Hailing Services Grow [NYT]

    For many air travelers, getting to and from the airport has long been part of the whole miserable experience. Do they drive and park in some distant lot? Take mass transit or a taxi? Deal with a rental car?

    Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are quickly changing those calculations. That has meant a bit less angst for travelers.

    But that's not the case for airports. Travelers' changing habits, in fact, have begun to shake the airports' financial underpinnings. The money they currently collect from ride-hailing services do not compensate for the lower revenues from the other sources.

    At the same time, some airports have had to add staff to oversee the operations of the ride-hailing companies, the report said. And with more ride-hailing vehicles on the roads outside terminals,
    there's more congestion.

    Socialize the losses, privatize the gains, VC-ize the subsidies.

    Thuto , December 12, 2017 at 6:55 am

    The cold hard truth is that Uber is backed into a corner with severely limited abilities to tweak the numbers on either the supply or the demand side: cut driver compensation and they trigger driver churn (as has already been demonstrated), increase fare prices for riders and riders defect to cheaper alternatives. The only question is how long can they keep the show going before the lights go out, slick marketing and propaganda can only take you so far, and one assumes the dumb money has a finite supply of patience and will at some point begin asking the tough questions.

    Louis Fyne , December 12, 2017 at 8:35 am

    The irony is that Uber would have been a perfectly fine, very profitable mid-sized company if Uber stuck with its initial model -- sticking to dense cities with limited parking, limiting driver supply, and charging a premium price for door-to-door delivery, whether by livery or a regular sedan. And then perhaps branching into robo-cars.

    But somehow Uber/board/Travis got suckered into the siren call of self-driving cars, triple-digit user growth, and being in the top 100 US cities and on every continent.

    Thuto , December 12, 2017 at 11:30 am

    I've shared a similar sentiment in one of the previous posts about Uber. But operating profitably in decent sized niche doesn't fit well with ambitions of global domination. For Uber to be "right-sized", an admission of folly would have to be made, its managers and investors would have to transcend the sunk cost fallacy in their strategic decision making, and said investors would have to accept massive hits on their invested capital. The cold, hard reality of being blindsided and kicked to the curb in the smartphone business forced RIM/Blackberry to right-size, and they may yet have a profitable future as an enterprise facing software and services company. Uber would benefit from that form of sober mindedness, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

    David Carl Grimes , December 12, 2017 at 6:57 am

    The question is: Why did Softbank invest in Uber?

    Michael Fiorillo , December 12, 2017 at 9:33 am

    I know nothing about Softbank or its management, but I do know that the Japanese were the dumb money rubes in the late '80's, overpaying for trophy real estate they lost billions on.

    Until informed otherwise, that's my default assumption

    JimTan , December 12, 2017 at 10:50 am

    Softbank possibly looking to buy more Uber shares at a 30% discount is very odd. Uber had a Series G funding round in June 2016 where a $3.5 billion investment from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund resulted in its current $68 billion valuation. Now apparently Softbank wants to lead a new $6 billion funding round to buy the shares of Uber employees and early investors at a 30% discount from this last "valuation". It's odd because Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund has pledged $45 billion to SoftBank's Vision Fund , an amount which was supposed to come from the proceeds of its pending Aramco IPO. If the Uber bid is linked to SoftBank's Vision Fund, or KSA money, then its not clear why this investor might be looking to literally 'double down' from $3.5 billion o $6 billion on a declining investment.

    Yves Smith Post author , December 12, 2017 at 11:38 am

    SoftBank has not yet invested. Its tender is still open. If it does not get enough shares at a price it likes, it won't invest.

    As to why, I have no idea.

    Robert McGregor , December 12, 2017 at 7:04 am

    "Growth and Efficiency" are the sine qua non of Neoliberalism. Kalanick's "hype brilliance" was to con the market with "revenue growth" and signs of efficiency, and hopes of greater efficiency, and make most people just overlook the essential fact that Uber is the most unprofitable company of all time!

    divadab , December 12, 2017 at 7:19 am

    What comprises "Uber Expenses"? 2014 – $1.06 billion; 2015 $3.33 billion; 2016 $9.65 billion; forecast 2017 $11.418 billion!!!!!! To me this is the big question – what are they spending $10 billion per year on?

    ALso – why did driver share go from 68% in 2016 to 80% in 2017? If you use 68% as in 2016, 2017 Uber revenue is $11.808 billion, which means a bit better than break-even EBITDA, assuming Uber expenses are as stated $11.428 billion.

    Perhaps not so bleak as the article presents, although I would not invest in this thing.

    Phil in Kansas City , December 12, 2017 at 7:55 am

    I have the same question: What comprises over 11 billion dollars in expenses in 2017? Could it be they are paying out dividends to the early investors? Which would mean they are cannibalizing their own company for the sake of the VC! How long can this go on before they'll need a new infusion of cash?

    lyman alpha blob , December 12, 2017 at 2:37 pm

    The Saudis have thrown a few billion Uber's way and they aren't necessarily known as the smart money.

    Maybe the pole dancers have started chipping in too as they are for bitcoin .

    Vedant Desai , December 12, 2017 at 10:37 am

    Oh article does answer your 2nd question. Read this paragraph:-

    Since mass driver defections would cause passenger volume growth to collapse completely , Uber was forced to reverse these cuts in 2017 and increased the driver share from 68% to 80%. This meant that Uber's corporate revenue, which had grown over 300% in 2015 and over 200% in 2016 will probably only grow by about 15% in 2017.

    As for the 1st, read this line in the article:-

    There are undoubtedly a number of things Uber could do to reduce losses at the margin, but it is difficult to imagine it could suddenly find the $4-5 billion in profit improvement needed merely to reach breakeven.

    Louis Fyne , December 12, 2017 at 8:44 am

    in addition to all the points listed in the article/comments, the absolute biggest flaw with Uber is that Uber HQ conditioned its customers on (a) cheap fares and (b) that a car is available within minutes (1-5 if in a big city).

    Those two are not mutually compatible in the long-term.

    Alfred , December 12, 2017 at 9:49 am

    Thus (a) "We cost less" and (b) "We're more convenient" -- aren't those also the advantages that Walmart claims and feeds as a steady diet to its ever hungry consumers? Often if not always, disruption may repose upon delusion.

    Martin Finnucane , December 12, 2017 at 11:06 am

    Uber's business model could never produce sustainable profits unless it was able to exploit significant anti-competitive market power.

    Upon that dependent clause hangs the future of capitalism, and – dare I say it? – its inevitable demise.

    Altandmain , December 12, 2017 at 11:09 am

    When this Uber madness blows up, I wonder if people will finally begin to discuss the brutal reality of Silicon Valley's so called "disruption".

    It is heavily built in around the idea of economic exploitation. Uber drivers are often, especially when the true costs to operate an Uber including the vehicle depreciation are factored in, making not very much per hour driven, especially if they don't get the surge money.

    Instacart is another example. They are paying the deliver operators very little.

    Jim A. , December 12, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    At a fundamental level, I think that the Silicon Valley "disruption" model only works for markets (like software) where the marginal cost for production is de minimus and the products can be protected by IP laws. Volume and market power really work in those cases. But out here in meat-space, where actual material and labor are big inputs to each item sold, you can never just sit back on your laurels and rake in the money. Somebody else will always be able to come and and make an equivalent product. If they can do it more cheaply, you are in trouble.

    Altandmain , December 12, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    There aren't that many areas in goods and services where the marginal costs are very low.

    Software is actually quite unique in that regard, costing merely the bandwidth and permanent storage space to store.

    Let's see:

    1. From the article, they cannot go public and have limited ways to raise more money. An IPO with its more stringent disclosure requirements would expose them.

    2. They tried lowering driver compensation and found that model unsustainable.

    3. There are no benefits to expanding in terms of economies of scale.

    From where I am standing, it looks like a lot of industries gave similar barriers. Silicon Valley is not going to be able to disrupt those.

    Tesla, another Silicon Valley company seems to be struggling to mass produce its Model 3 and deliver an electric car that breaks even, is reliable, while disrupting the industry in the ways that Elon Musk attempted to hype up.

    So that basically leaves services and manufacturing out for Silicon Valley disruption.

    Joe Bentzel , December 12, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    UBER has become a "too big to fail" startup because of all the different tentacles of capital from various Tier 1 VCs and investment bankers.

    VCs have admitted openly that UBER is a subsidized business, meaning it's product is sold below market value, and the losses reflect that subsidization. The whole "2 sided platform" argument is just marketecture to hustle more investors. It's a form of service "dumping" that puts legacy businesses into bankruptcy. Back during the dotcom bubble one popular investment banker (Paul Deninger) characterized this model as "Terrorist Competition", i.e. coffers full of invested cash to commoditize the market and drive out competition.

    UBER is an absolute disaster that has forked the startup model in Silicon Valley in order to drive total dependence on venture capital by founders. And its current diversification into "autonomous vehicles", food delivery, et al are simply more evidence that the company will never be profitable due to its whacky "blitzscaling" approach of layering on new "businesses" prior to achieving "fit" in its current one.

    It's economic model has also metastasized into a form of startup cancer that is killing Silicon Valley as a "technology" innovator. Now it's all cargo cult marketing BS tied to "strategic capital".

    UBER is the victory of venture capital and user subsidized startups over creativity by real entrepreneurs.

    It's shadow is long and that's why this company should be ..wait for it UNBUNDLED (the new silicon valley word attached to that other BS religion called "disruption"). Call it a great unbundling and you can break up this monster corp any way you want.

    Naked Capitalism is a great website.

    Phil in KC , December 12, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    1. I Agree with your last point.

    2. The elevator pitch for Uber: subsidize rides to attract customers, put the competition out of business, and then enjoy an unregulated monopoly, all while exploiting economically ignorant drivers–ahem–"partners."

    3. But more than one can play that game, and

    4. Cab and livery companies are finding ways to survive!

    Phil in KC , December 12, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    If subsidizing rides is counted as an expense, (not being an accountant, I would guess it so), then whether the subsidy goes to the driver or the passenger, that would account for the ballooning expenses, to answer my own question. Otherwise, the overhead for operating what Uber describes as a tech company should be minimal: A billion should fund a decent headquarters with staff, plus field offices in, say, 100 U.S. cities. However, their global pretensions are probably burning cash like crazy. On top of that, I wonder what the exec compensation is like?

    After reading HH's initial series, I made a crude, back-of-the-envelope calculation that Uber would run out of money sometime in the third fiscal quarter of 2018, but that was based on assuming losses were stabilizing in the range of 3 billion a year. Not so, according to the article. I think crunch time is rapidly approaching. If so, then SoftBank's tender offer may look quite appetizing to VC firms and to any Uber employee able to cash in their options. I think there is a way to make a re-envisioned Uber profitable, and with a more independent board, they may be able to restructure the company to show a pathway to profitability before the IPO. But time is running out.

    A not insignificant question is the recruitment and retention of the front line "partners." It would seem to me that at some point, Uber will run out of economically ignorant drivers with good manners and nice cars. I would be very interested to know how many drivers give up Uber and other ride-sharing gigs once the 1099's start flying at the beginning of the year. One of the harsh realities of owning a business or being an contractor is the humble fact that you get paid LAST!

    Jan Stickle , December 12, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    We became instant Uber riders while spending holidays with relatives in San Diego. While their model is indeed unique from a rider perspective, it was the driver pool that fascinates me. These are not professional livery drivers, but rather freebooters of all stripes driving for various reasons. The remuneration they receive cannot possibly generate much income after expenses, never mind the problems associated with IRS filing as independent contractors.

    One guy was just cruising listening to music; cooler to get paid for it than just sitting home! A young lady was babbling and gesticulating non stop about nothing coherent and appeared to be on some sort of stimulant. A foreign gentleman, very professional, drove for extra money when not at his regular job. He was the only one who had actually bought a new Prius for this gig, hoping to pay it off in two years.

    This is indeed a brave new world. There was a period in Nicaragua just after the Contra war ended when citizens emerged from their homes and hit the streets in large numbers, desperately looking for income. Every car was a taxi and there was a bipedal mini Walmart at every city intersection as individuals sold everything and anything in a sort of euphoric optimism towards the future. Reality just hadn't caught up with them yet .

    [Dec 09, 2017] November Jobs Report: good month, same caveats

    Notable quotes:
    "... U6 underemployment rate rose +0.1% from 7.9% to 8.0% ..."
    Dec 09, 2017 | bonddad.blogspot.com

    So U6 is almost 10% of population. Scary...

    HEADLINES : Here are the headlines on wages and the chronic heightened underemployment: Wages and participation rates Holding Trump accountable on manufacturing and mining jobs

    Trump specifically campaigned on bringing back manufacturing and mining jobs. Is he keeping this promise?

    September was revised upward by +20,000. October was revised downward by -17,000, for a net change of +3,000.

    1. likbez December 9, 2017 7:52 pm

      There are now large categories of jobs, both part-time and full time, that can't provide for living and are paying below or close to minimum wage (plantation economy jobs). it looks like under neoliberalism this is the fastest growing category of jobs.

      Examples are Uber and Lift jobs (which are as close to predatory scam as one can get) . Many jobs in service industry, especially retail. See for example

      https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/16/jobs-earn-less-than-minimum-wage_n_2689419.html

      They should probably be calculated separately as "distressed employment", or something like that.

      Also in view of "seasonal adjustments" the number of created jobs is probably meaningless.

    [Dec 03, 2017] Business Has Killed IT With Overspecialization by Charlie Schluting

    Highly recommended!
    Notable quotes:
    "... What happened to the old "sysadmin" of just a few years ago? We've split what used to be the sysadmin into application teams, server teams, storage teams, and network teams. There were often at least a few people, the holders of knowledge, who knew how everything worked, and I mean everything. ..."
    "... Now look at what we've done. Knowledge is so decentralized we must invent new roles to act as liaisons between all the IT groups. Architects now hold much of the high-level "how it works" knowledge, but without knowing how any one piece actually does work. In organizations with more than a few hundred IT staff and developers, it becomes nearly impossible for one person to do and know everything. This movement toward specializing in individual areas seems almost natural. That, however, does not provide a free ticket for people to turn a blind eye. ..."
    "... Does your IT department function as a unit? Even 20-person IT shops have turf wars, so the answer is very likely, "no." As teams are split into more and more distinct operating units, grouping occurs. One IT budget gets split between all these groups. Often each group will have a manager who pitches his needs to upper management in hopes they will realize how important the team is. ..."
    "... The "us vs. them" mentality manifests itself at all levels, and it's reinforced by management having to define each team's worth in the form of a budget. One strategy is to illustrate a doomsday scenario. If you paint a bleak enough picture, you may get more funding. Only if you are careful enough to illustrate the failings are due to lack of capital resources, not management or people. A manager of another group may explain that they are not receiving the correct level of service, so they need to duplicate the efforts of another group and just implement something themselves. On and on, the arguments continue. ..."
    Apr 07, 2010 | Enterprise Networking Planet

    What happened to the old "sysadmin" of just a few years ago? We've split what used to be the sysadmin into application teams, server teams, storage teams, and network teams. There were often at least a few people, the holders of knowledge, who knew how everything worked, and I mean everything. Every application, every piece of network gear, and how every server was configured -- these people could save a business in times of disaster.

    Now look at what we've done. Knowledge is so decentralized we must invent new roles to act as liaisons between all the IT groups. Architects now hold much of the high-level "how it works" knowledge, but without knowing how any one piece actually does work. In organizations with more than a few hundred IT staff and developers, it becomes nearly impossible for one person to do and know everything. This movement toward specializing in individual areas seems almost natural. That, however, does not provide a free ticket for people to turn a blind eye.

    Specialization

    You know the story: Company installs new application, nobody understands it yet, so an expert is hired. Often, the person with a certification in using the new application only really knows how to run that application. Perhaps they aren't interested in learning anything else, because their skill is in high demand right now. And besides, everything else in the infrastructure is run by people who specialize in those elements. Everything is taken care of.

    Except, how do these teams communicate when changes need to take place? Are the storage administrators teaching the Windows administrators about storage multipathing; or worse logging in and setting it up because it's faster for the storage gurus to do it themselves? A fundamental level of knowledge is often lacking, which makes it very difficult for teams to brainstorm about new ways evolve IT services. The business environment has made it OK for IT staffers to specialize and only learn one thing.

    If you hire someone certified in the application, operating system, or network vendor you use, that is precisely what you get. Certifications may be a nice filter to quickly identify who has direct knowledge in the area you're hiring for, but often they indicate specialization or compensation for lack of experience.

    Resource Competition

    Does your IT department function as a unit? Even 20-person IT shops have turf wars, so the answer is very likely, "no." As teams are split into more and more distinct operating units, grouping occurs. One IT budget gets split between all these groups. Often each group will have a manager who pitches his needs to upper management in hopes they will realize how important the team is.

    The "us vs. them" mentality manifests itself at all levels, and it's reinforced by management having to define each team's worth in the form of a budget. One strategy is to illustrate a doomsday scenario. If you paint a bleak enough picture, you may get more funding. Only if you are careful enough to illustrate the failings are due to lack of capital resources, not management or people. A manager of another group may explain that they are not receiving the correct level of service, so they need to duplicate the efforts of another group and just implement something themselves. On and on, the arguments continue.

    Most often, I've seen competition between server groups result in horribly inefficient uses of hardware. For example, what happens in your organization when one team needs more server hardware? Assume that another team has five unused servers sitting in a blade chassis. Does the answer change? No, it does not. Even in test environments, sharing doesn't often happen between IT groups.

    With virtualization, some aspects of resource competition get better and some remain the same. When first implemented, most groups will be running their own type of virtualization for their platform. The next step, I've most often seen, is for test servers to get virtualized. If a new group is formed to manage the virtualization infrastructure, virtual machines can be allocated to various application and server teams from a central pool and everyone is now sharing. Or, they begin sharing and then demand their own physical hardware to be isolated from others' resource hungry utilization. This is nonetheless a step in the right direction. Auto migration and guaranteed resource policies can go a long way toward making shared infrastructure, even between competing groups, a viable option.

    Blamestorming

    The most damaging side effect of splitting into too many distinct IT groups is the reinforcement of an "us versus them" mentality. Aside from the notion that specialization creates a lack of knowledge, blamestorming is what this article is really about. When a project is delayed, it is all too easy to blame another group. The SAN people didn't allocate storage on time, so another team was delayed. That is the timeline of the project, so all work halted until that hiccup was restored. Having someone else to blame when things get delayed makes it all too easy to simply stop working for a while.

    More related to the initial points at the beginning of this article, perhaps, is the blamestorm that happens after a system outage.

    Say an ERP system becomes unresponsive a few times throughout the day. The application team says it's just slowing down, and they don't know why. The network team says everything is fine. The server team says the application is "blocking on IO," which means it's a SAN issue. The SAN team say there is nothing wrong, and other applications on the same devices are fine. You've ran through nearly every team, but without an answer still. The SAN people don't have access to the application servers to help diagnose the problem. The server team doesn't even know how the application runs.

    See the problem? Specialized teams are distinct and by nature adversarial. Specialized staffers often relegate themselves into a niche knowing that as long as they continue working at large enough companies, "someone else" will take care of all the other pieces.

    I unfortunately don't have an answer to this problem. Maybe rotating employees between departments will help. They gain knowledge and also get to know other people, which should lessen the propensity to view them as outsiders

    [Dec 03, 2017] Nokia Shareholders Fight Back

    On the topic of outsourcing, IMO it can be cheaper if done right. On paper it always seems like a great idea, but in practice it's not always the best idea financially and/or getting the same or better result in comparison to keeping it in-house. I've worked for companies where they have outsourced a particular department/function to companies where I am the one the job is outsourced to. My observation has been the success of getting projects done (e.g.: programing) or facilitating a role (e.g.: sys admin) rely on a few factors regardless of outsourcing or not.
    Notable quotes:
    "... On the topic of outsourcing, IMO it can be cheaper if done right. On paper it always seems like a great idea, but in practice it's not always the best idea financially and/or getting the same or better result in comparison to keeping it in-house. I've worked for companies where they have outsourced a particular department/function to companies where I am the one the job is outsourced to. My observation has been the success of getting projects done (e.g.: programing) or facilitating a role (e.g.: sys admin) rely on a few factors regardless of outsourcing or not. ..."
    Slashdot

    noc007 (633443)

    On the topic of outsourcing, IMO it can be cheaper if done right. On paper it always seems like a great idea, but in practice it's not always the best idea financially and/or getting the same or better result in comparison to keeping it in-house. I've worked for companies where they have outsourced a particular department/function to companies where I am the one the job is outsourced to. My observation has been the success of getting projects done (e.g.: programing) or facilitating a role (e.g.: sys admin) rely on a few factors regardless of outsourcing or not.

    The first is a golden rule of sorts on doing anything:

    You can only pick two; NO exceptions. I've encountered so many upper management types that foolishly think they can get away with having all three. In my experience 9/10 of the time it turns out a lack of quality bites them in the butt sometime down the road when they assumed they somehow managed to achieve all three.

    The second is communication. Mostly everyone in at least the US has experienced the pain of being subjected to some company's outsourced customer service and/or tech support that can't effectively communicate with both parties on the same page of understanding one another. I really shouldn't need to explain why communication, understanding one another is so important. Sadly this is something I have to constantly explain to my current boss with events like today where my non-outsourced colleague rebooted a number of production critical servers when he was asked to reboot just one secondary server.

    Third is the employee's skill in doing the job. Again, another obvious one, but I've observed that it isn't always on the hiring menu. Additionally I've seen some people that interview well, but couldn't create a "Hello World" HTML page for a web developer position as an example. There's no point in hiring or keeping a hired individual to do a job that they lack the skill to do; even if it's an entry-level position with training, that person should be willing to put for the effort to learn and take notes. I accept that everyone has their own unique skills that can aide or hinder their ability to learn and be proficient with a particular task. However, I firmly believe anyone can learn to do anything as long as they put their mind to it. I barely have any artistic ability and my drawing skills are stick figures at best (XKCD is miles ahead of me); if I were to put forth the effort to learn how to draw and paint, I could become a good artist. I taught an A+ technician certification class at a tech school a while back and I had a retired Marine that served in the Vietnam War as one of my students. One could argue his best skill was killing and blowing stuff up. He worked hard and learned to be a technician and passed CompTIA's certification test without a problem. That leads me to the next point.

    Lastly is attitude of the end employee doing the actual work. It boggles my mind how so many managers loose the plot when it comes to employee morale and motivation. Productivity generally is improved when those two are improved and it usually doesn't have to involve spending a bunch of money. The employee's attitude should be getting the work done correctly in a reasonable amount of time. Demanding it is a poor approach. Poisoning an employee will result in poisoning the company in a small manner all the way up to the failure of the company. Employees should be encouraged through actual morale improvements, positive motivation, and incentives for doing more work at the same and/or better quality level.

    Outsourcing or keeping things in house can be successful and possibly economical if approached correctly with the appropriate support of upper management.

    Max Littlemore (1001285)

    How dramatic? Isn't outsourcing done (like it or not) to reduce costs?

    Outsourcing is done to reduce the projected costs that PHBs see. In reality, outsourcing can lead to increased costs and delays due to time zone differences and language/cultural barriers.

    I have seen it work reasonably well, but only when the extra effort and delays caused by the increased need for rework that comes from complex software projects. If you are working with others on software, it is so much quicker to produce quality software if the person who knows the business requirements is sitting right next to the person doing design and the person cutting code and the person doing the testing, etc, etc.

    If these people or groups are scattered around the world with different cultures and native languages, communication can suffer, increasing misunderstanding and reducing the quality. I have personally seen this lead to massive increase in code defects in a project that went from in house development to outsourced.

    Also, time zone differences cause problems. I have noticed that the further west people live, the less likely they are to take into account how far behind they are. Working with people who fail to realise that their Monday morning is the next day for someone else, or that by the time they are halfway through Friday, others are already on their weekend is not only frustrating, it leads to slow turn around of bug fixes, etc.

    Yeah, I'm told outsourcing keeps costs down, but I am yet to see conclusive evidence of that in the real world. At least in complex development. YMMV for support/call centre stuff.

    -- I don't therefore I'm not.

    [Nov 29, 2017] Secular Stagnation: The Time for One-Armed Policy is Over

    Highly recommended!
    Stagnation that is gripping several of the world's largest economies should be viewed as a secular, long term phenomenon, not something transient. It is connected with the neoliberalism entering a new phase of its development, when New Deal was already devoured, 90% or so of population standard of living slides and thus there are no direct mechanisms to increase consumer demand.
    Notable quotes:
    "... Stagnation is gripping several of the world's largest economies and many view this as secular, not transient. ..."
    "... Above all, ideology must conceal, denigrate, diminish, slander and distract from the ONE effective strategy that workers collectively have. This is the spectre that haunts all economics. ..."
    "... For many of those who consume the bottom layers of it, what they are ingesting is a barbarous Pink Slime cultural sludge that makes them stupid, frivolous, dependent, impulsive and emotionally erratic – something like perpetual 15 year olds. ..."
    "... In the center, we have the neoliberals, who are convinced that our world will spontaneously and beneficially organize itself if only we turn the macroeconomic tumblers and stumble on the right interest rate, or inflation rate, or some other version of the One Parameter to Rule Them All mindset. They are also too devoted to the religion of demand-goosing: the idea that everything will be all right as long as we generate enough "demand" – as though it makes no difference whether people are demanding high fructose cotton candy or the collected works of Shakespeare. ..."
    "... Profits and income share at the top soared; wages and income share at the bottom fell, and employment was maintained by speculative bubbles and increasing debt until the last bubble burst, and the system collapsed. ..."
    "... How is an increasing deficit and QE supposed to solve our problems in this situation other than by propping up a failed system that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer by increasing government debt? ..."
    "... It seems quite clear to me that it is going to take a very long time for the system to adjust to this situation in the absence of a fall in the value of the dollar and the concentration of income. That kind of adjustment means reallocating resources in a very dramatic way so as to accommodate an economy in which resources are allocated to serve the demands of the wealthy few in the absence of the ability of those at the bottom to expand their debt relative to income. ..."
    "... It was the fall in the concentration of income that led to mass markets (large numbers of people with purchasing power out of income) that made investment profitable after WW II in the absence of speculative bubbles, and it was the increase in the concentration of income that led to the bubble economy we have today that has led us into the Great Recession. ..."
    "... I think neoliberalism naturally leads to secular stagnation. This is the way any economic system that is based on increasing of inequality should behave: after inequality reached certain critical threshold, the economy faces extended period of low growth reflecting persistently weak private demand. ..."
    "... The focus on monetary policy and the failure to enact fiscal policy options is structural defect of neoliberalism ideology and can't be changed unless neoliberal ideology is abandoned. Which probably will not happen unless another huge crisis hit the USA. 2008 crisis, while discrediting neoliberalism, was clearly not enough for the abandonment of this ideology. Like in most cults adherents became more fanatical believers after the prophecy did not materialized. ..."
    "... In a way behaviour of the USA elite in this respect is as irrational as behavior of the USSR elite. My impression is that they will stick to neoliberal ideology to the bitter end. But at the same time they are much more reckless. Recent attempt to solve economic problems by unleashing a new wars and relying of war time mobilization so far did not work. Including the last move is this game: Russia did not bite the offer for military confrontation that the USA clearly made by instilling coup d'état in Ukraine. ..."
    Jun 05, 2015 | economistsview.typepad.com
    Willem Buiter, Ebrahim Rahbari, Joe Seydl at Vox EU:

    Secular stagnation: The time for one-armed policy is over: Stagnation is gripping several of the world's largest economies and many view this as secular, not transient.

    This column argues that many economies need both demand-side stimulus and supply-side reform to close the output gap and restore potential-output growth. A combined monetary-fiscal stimulus – i.e. helicopter money – is needed to close the output gap, and this should be accompanied with extensive debt restructuring, policies to halt rising inequality, and additional public infrastructure investment.

    Selected Skeptical Comments

    Sandwichman -> anne:

    Workers, collectively, have a single, incontrovertible lever for effecting change -- withholding their labor power. Nothing -- not even imprisonment or death -- can prevent workers from withholding their labor power! Kill me and see how much work you can get out of me.

    This is the elementary fact that the elites don't want workers to know. "It is futile!" "It is a fallacy!" "You will only hurt yourselves!"

    Once one comprehends the strategic importance of making the withholding of labor power taboo, everything else falls into place. Economics actually makes sense as a persuasive discourse to dissuade from the withholding of labor power.

    Above all, ideology must conceal, denigrate, diminish, slander and distract from the ONE effective strategy that workers collectively have. This is the spectre that haunts all economics.

    Dan Kervick:

    Good stuff by Buiter et al, but here are some suggested additions to the litany of supply side woes:

    1. Ineffective economic organization, both inside corporate firms and outside of them.

    a. Many corporations are now quite dysfunctional as engines of long-term value creation – but not dysfunctional as vehicles of short-term value extraction for their absurdly over-incentivized key stakeholders.

    b. The developed world societies are facing an extreme failure of strategic economic leadership, at both the national and global level, and at both the formal level of government and the informal level of visionary public intellectuals and industrial "captains". There is no coherent consensus on which way lies the direction of progress. Since nobody is setting the agenda for what the future looks like, risk trumps confidence everywhere and nobody knows what to invest in.

    2. Dyspeptic dystopianism. The intellectual culture of our times is polluted by obsessive, nail-biting negativity and demoralizing storylines preaching hopelessness: the robots are going to destroy all the jobs; the Big One is going to bury everything, the real "neutral" interest rate is preposterously negative, etc. etc. etc. With so much doom and gloom in the air, there is no reason to invest wealth, rather than consume it. Robert Schiller touched on this at a recent talk at LSE.

    3. The popular culture of 2015 America is – as in so many other areas - a tale of two cultural cities. For many of those who consume the bottom layers of it, what they are ingesting is a barbarous Pink Slime cultural sludge that makes them stupid, frivolous, dependent, impulsive and emotionally erratic – something like perpetual 15 year olds. People like this can be duped by the most shallow demagoguery and consumerist manipulation, and can't organize themselves to pursue their enlightened self-interest. Enlightened artists and cultural custodians need to step up, organize and find a way to seize the American mind back from the clutches of consumer capitalist garbage-mongers and philistine society-wreckers.

    4. Laissez faire backwardness. We are struggling under left-right-center conspiracy of Pollyanna freedom fools, who despite their constant kvetching at one another all share in common the view that progress is self-organizing.

    On the left we have the Chomsky and Graeber-style "libertarian socialists" who are convinced we could have a functioning and prosperous society in which seemingly every action is voluntary and spontaneous, nobody is ever compelled to do anything that their delicate little hearts don't throb to do, and who seemingly have no idea of what it takes even to run a carrot farm.

    On the right, we have the clueless paranoid libertarians who think the whole world should revolve around their adolescent desire not to be "tread on", and seem to have no idea of what it takes – and what it took historically - to build a livable civilization.

    In the center, we have the neoliberals, who are convinced that our world will spontaneously and beneficially organize itself if only we turn the macroeconomic tumblers and stumble on the right interest rate, or inflation rate, or some other version of the One Parameter to Rule Them All mindset. They are also too devoted to the religion of demand-goosing: the idea that everything will be all right as long as we generate enough "demand" – as though it makes no difference whether people are demanding high fructose cotton candy or the collected works of Shakespeare.

    5. I'm an optimist! This is all going to change. We have nearly reached Peak Idiocracy. We're on the verge of a new age of social organization and planning and a return to mixed economy common sense and public-spirited mobilization and adulthood. This will happen because ultimately all of those teenagers will stop denying reality, and stop struggling to escape the realization that a more organized and thoughtfully planned way of life is the only thing that will work in our small, resource strapped, crowded 21st century planet.

    George H. Blackford:

    Since the 80s, US companies have been buying abroad to sell at home as foreign countries used our trade deficits to depress their exchange rates. Profits and income share at the top soared; wages and income share at the bottom fell, and employment was maintained by speculative bubbles and increasing debt until the last bubble burst, and the system collapsed.

    There seem to be no more bubbles in the offing. The dollar is overvalued. Debt relative to income is unprecedented, and the concentration of income has created stagnation for lack of investment opportunities.

    How is an increasing deficit and QE supposed to solve our problems in this situation other than by propping up a failed system that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer by increasing government debt? Does anyone really believe this sort of thing can go on forever in the absence of a fall in the value of the dollar and in the concentration of income? Who's going to be left holding the bag when this system collapses again?

    It seems quite clear to me that it is going to take a very long time for the system to adjust to this situation in the absence of a fall in the value of the dollar and the concentration of income. That kind of adjustment means reallocating resources in a very dramatic way so as to accommodate an economy in which resources are allocated to serve the demands of the wealthy few in the absence of the ability of those at the bottom to expand their debt relative to income.

    We didn't smoothly transition from an agricultural economy to one based on manufacturing. That transition was plagued with a great deal of civil unrest, speculative bubbles, booms and busts that eventually led to a collapse of the system and the Great Depression.

    And we didn't smoothly transition out of the Great Depression. That was ended by WW II and dramatic changes in our economic system, the most dramatic changes being the role and size of government and the fall in the concentration of income for thirty-five years after 1940.

    It was the fall in the concentration of income that led to mass markets (large numbers of people with purchasing power out of income) that made investment profitable after WW II in the absence of speculative bubbles, and it was the increase in the concentration of income that led to the bubble economy we have today that has led us into the Great Recession.

    What this means to me is that we are not going to get out of the mess we are in today in the absence of some kind of catastrophe comparable to WW II if we, and the rest of the world, do not come to grips with the fundamental problem we face in this modern age, namely, the trade deficit and the concentration of income.

    See:

    likbez:

    I think neoliberalism naturally leads to secular stagnation. This is the way any economic system that is based on increasing of inequality should behave: after inequality reached certain critical threshold, the economy faces extended period of low growth reflecting persistently weak private demand.

    An economic cycle enters recession when total spending falls below expected by producers and they realize that production level is too high relative to demand. What we have under neoliberalism is kind of Marx constant crisis of overproduction.

    The focus on monetary policy and the failure to enact fiscal policy options is structural defect of neoliberalism ideology and can't be changed unless neoliberal ideology is abandoned. Which probably will not happen unless another huge crisis hit the USA. 2008 crisis, while discrediting neoliberalism, was clearly not enough for the abandonment of this ideology. Like in most cults adherents became more fanatical believers after the prophecy did not materialized.

    The USA elite tried partially alleviate this problem by resorting to military Keynesianism as a supplementary strategy. But while military budget was raised to unprecedented levels, it can't reverse the tendency. Persistent high output gap is now a feature of the US economy, not a transitory state.

    "Top everything" does not help iether (top cheap oil is especially nasty factor). Recent pretty clever chess gambit to artificially drop oil price playing Russian card, and sacrificing US shall industry like a pawn (remember that Saudi Arabia is the USA client state) was a very interesting move, but still expectation are now so low that cheap gas stimulus did not work as expected in the USA. It would be interesting to see how quickly oil will return to early 2014 price level because of that. That will be the sign that gambit is abandoned.

    In a way behaviour of the USA elite in this respect is as irrational as behavior of the USSR elite. My impression is that they will stick to neoliberal ideology to the bitter end. But at the same time they are much more reckless. Recent attempt to solve economic problems by unleashing a new wars and relying of war time mobilization so far did not work. Including the last move is this game: Russia did not bite the offer for military confrontation that the USA clearly made by instilling coup d'état in Ukraine.

    Now it look like there is a second attempt to play "madman" card after Nixon's administration Vietnam attempt to obtain concession from the USSR by threatening to unleash the nuclear war.

    [Nov 29, 2017] The week after Open Access week by Ingrid Robeyns

    Notable quotes:
    "... knowledge is for sharing ..."
    Oct 30, 2017 | crookedtimber.org

    It was Open Access week last week, but I was too busy trying to meet the deadline today for submitting my book manuscript to Open Book Publishers . That sounds like a good excuse if one cares about open access, right? I slept too little for too many days, so don't expect any creative thoughts or subtle analyses from me tonight. But here's two interesting things I discovered while having a look on the web figuring out whether anything interesting happend during Open Access week.

    First, Cambridge University digitalised the PhD dissertation of Stephen Hawking and put it online. Apparently the website crashed when that got announced. Any Cambridge University alumni who want to make their PhD dissertation Open Access are invited doing so (no more need to go to the reading room and sign a fat notebook that one has accessed a particular PhD dissertation, as I once did. Although, I should confess, it felt like an adventure. But it's highly inefficient obviously).

    Second, for some weeks now, Open Book Publishers has been offering the PDFs of all of their books open access, to celebrate the 100th book they published (their regular regime is to have the books as html open access and selling the PDFs for a few pounds, or else the author can pay a fee for making the PDF open access).

    Importantly, this may only last for another a day or two (I am drawing from my memory when I saw a tweet on that about two months ago), so while it lasts it may be worth checking out their collection of books in the humanities and the social sciences, such as Naom Chomsky's Delhi Lectures , Ruth Finnegan's book on Oral literature in Africa or textbooks on maths for university .

    All for nothing. Because, as their slogan goes, knowledge is for sharing .

    ccc 10.30.17 at 10:54 pm ( 1 )

    Worth mentioning in this context: the CORE project released the final version of their impressive economics textbook "The Economy", freely (as in CC by-nc-dd licensed) available at http://www.core-econ.org/the-economy/

    A great writeup about it by Samuel Bowles and Wendy Carlin (two of the authors) is here
    http://voxeu.org/article/new-paradigm-introductory-course-economics

    Ingrid Robeyns 10.31.17 at 7:25 am ( 2 )
    thanks ccc! I didn't know about this and it looks great.

    Anyone should feel free to post other major "Open Access week additions" in this thread.

    Steve 10.31.17 at 11:32 am ( 3 )
    I think that having open access publishers is great, and I would love to have books published this way. Here's the concern: I suspect that my University's promotions committee, etc, will view this kind of publication as "inferior" to one with some snazzy University Press.

    I was wondering whether anyone has any advice about how to handle the fact that there are perverse incentives to publish your work in a format which will cost someone £70, rather than for free?

    Harry 10.31.17 at 1:23 pm ( 4 )
    I don't see a way of changing the situation Steve mentions except by having well established scholars who don't need to worry about those kinds of thing take the lead. Eg, Ingrid. and David Velleman (who has two books with Open Book, which I greedily downloaded). And Sam Bowles! -- thanks for the tip ccc, I knew about this from Bowles and had seen parts of it, but not the whole thing which looks great!
    Ingrid Robeyns 10.31.17 at 6:31 pm ( 5 )
    Steve, I fully understand the worry – and even for me (tenured full professor) there is a "status cost" to be paid by not publishing with an established University Press. But it's a vicious circle that has to be broken – and I agree with Harry, that those of us who can "afford" to publish Open Access, should do so, in order to try to contribute to the status of the Open Access Press.

    I should say that in terms of refereeing – I've published two co-edited books, one with OUP, one with CUP – and the refereeing process at Open Books was the same, if not better. And a very important advantage of publishing with a publisher such as Open Books is the much shorter time between delivering the final manuscript and publication – if you do all your work properly, it's a matter of weeks or a few months, not, as with the established University Presses, (almost) a year (I've always wondered what the hell happens in that year, especially if they turn back the proofs which are full with typo's!)

    I've been thinking someone should write a paper with the title: "If you have tenure, why don't you publish Open Access?"

    SusanC 10.31.17 at 7:45 pm ( 6 )
    @3,4: Possibly the switch to open access needs to be done at an institutional level, rather than by individuals.

    e.g. A declaration by government evaluations such as the REF that publications won't be counted unless they are open access, followed by a declaration by your department that publications from now onwards won't be counted for promotions unless they are open access, might create the right incentives.

    [There are potential issues regarding fairness towards academics who are moving between universities . how do you fairly compare job candidates when one is from a university that demanded open access publication, and another is from a university that didn't?]

    John Quiggin 11.02.17 at 7:46 am ( 7 )

    Not to make too much of the obvious, given that I'm writing a blog comment, but blogs offer some great opportunities here.

    CT readers got to see nearly all of Zombie Economics before the book appeared, and if I ever finish Economics in Two Lessons it will be long after much of it was posted here.

    [Nov 28, 2017] The Stigmatization of the Unemployed

    "This overly narrow hiring spec then leads to absurd, widespread complaint that companies can't find people with the right skills" . In the IT job markets such postings are often called purple squirrels
    Notable quotes:
    "... In particular, there seems to be an extremely popular variant of the above where the starting proposition "God makes moral people rich" is improperly converted to "Rich people are more moral" which is then readily negated to "Poor people are immoral" and then expanded to "Poor people are immoral, thus they DESERVE to suffer for it". It's essentially the theological equivalent of dividing by zero ..."
    "... That said, the ranks of the neoliberals are not small. They constitute what Jonathan Schell calls a "mass minority." I suspect the neoliberals have about the same level of popular support that the Nazis did at the time of their takeover of Germany in 1932, or the Bolsheviks had in Russia at the time of their takeover in 1917, which is about 20 or 25% of the total population. ..."
    "... The ranks of the neoliberals are made to appear far greater than they really are because they have all but exclusive access to the nation's megaphone. The Tea Party can muster a handful of people to disrupt a town hall meeting and it gets coast to coast, primetime coverage. But let a million people protest against bank bailouts, and it is ignored. Thus, by manipulation of the media, the mass minority is made to appear to be much larger than it really is. ..."
    Mar 20, 2011 | naked capitalism

    Spencer Thomas:

    Very good post. Thank you.

    Over the past three decades, large parts of our culture here in the US have internalized the lessons of the new Social Darwinism, with a significant body of literature to explain and justify it. Many of us have internalized, without even realizing it, the ideas of "dog eat dog", "every man for himself", "society should be structured like the animal kingdom, where the weak and sick simply die because they cannot compete, and this is healthy", and "everything that happens to you is your own fault. There is no such thing as circumstance that cannot be overcome, and certainly no birth lottery."

    The levers pulled by politicians and the Fed put these things into practice, but even if we managed get different (better) politicians or Fed chairmen, ones who weren't steeped in this culture and ideology, we'd still be left with the culture in the population at large, and things like the "unemployed stigma" are likely to die very, very hard. Acceptance of the "just-world phenomenon" here in the US runs deep.

    perfect stranger:

    "Religion is just as vulnerable to corporate capture as is the government or the academy."

    This is rather rhetorical statement, and wrong one. One need to discern spiritual aspect of religion from the religion as a tool.

    Religion, as is structured, is complicit: in empoverishment, obedience, people's preconditioning, and legislative enabler in the institutions such as Supreme – and non-supreme – Court(s). It is a form of PR of the ruling class for the governing class.

    DownSouth:

    perfect stranger,

    Religion, just like human nature, is not that easy to put in a box.

    For every example you can cite where religion "is complicit: in empoverishment, obedience, people's preconditioning, and legislative enabler in the institution," I can point to an example of where religion engendered a liberating, emancipatory and revolutionary spirit.

    Examples:

    •Early Christianity •Nominalism •Early Protestantism •Gandhi •Martin Luther King

    Now granted, there don't seem to be any recent examples of this of any note, unless we consider Chris Hedges a religionist, which I'm not sure we can do. Would it be appropriate to consider Hedges a religionist?

    perfect stranger:

    Yes, that maybe, just maybe be the case in early stages of forming new religion(s). In case of Christianity old rulers from Rome were trying to save own head/throne and the S.P.Q.R. imperia by adopting new religion.

    You use examples of Gandhi and MLK which is highly questionable both were fighters for independence and the second, civil rights. In a word: not members of establishment just as I said there were (probably) seeing the religion as spiritual force not tool of enslavement.

    Matt:

    This link may provide some context:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosperity_theology

    In particular, there seems to be an extremely popular variant of the above where the starting proposition "God makes moral people rich" is improperly converted to "Rich people are more moral" which is then readily negated to "Poor people are immoral" and then expanded to "Poor people are immoral, thus they DESERVE to suffer for it". It's essentially the theological equivalent of dividing by zero

    DownSouth:

    Rex,

    I agree.

    Poll after poll after poll has shown that a majority of Americans, and a rather significant majority, reject the values, attitudes, beliefs and opinions proselytized by the stealth religion we call "neoclassical economics."

    That said, the ranks of the neoliberals are not small. They constitute what Jonathan Schell calls a "mass minority." I suspect the neoliberals have about the same level of popular support that the Nazis did at the time of their takeover of Germany in 1932, or the Bolsheviks had in Russia at the time of their takeover in 1917, which is about 20 or 25% of the total population.

    The ranks of the neoliberals are made to appear far greater than they really are because they have all but exclusive access to the nation's megaphone. The Tea Party can muster a handful of people to disrupt a town hall meeting and it gets coast to coast, primetime coverage. But let a million people protest against bank bailouts, and it is ignored. Thus, by manipulation of the media, the mass minority is made to appear to be much larger than it really is.

    The politicians love this, because as they carry water for their pet corporations, they can point to the Tea Partiers and say: "See what a huge upwelling of popular support I am responding to."

    JTFaraday:

    Well, if that's true, then the unemployed are employable but the mass mediated mentality would like them to believe they are literally and inherently unemployable so that they underestimate and under-sell themselves.

    This is as much to the benefit of those who would like to pick up "damaged goods" on the cheap as those who promote the unemployment problem as one that inheres in prospective employees rather than one that is a byproduct of a bad job market lest someone be tempted to think we should address it politically.

    That's where I see this blame the unemployed finger pointing really getting traction these days.

    attempter:

    I apologize for the fact that I only read the first few paragraphs of this before quitting in disgust.

    I just can no longer abide the notion that "labor" can ever be seen by human beings as a "cost" at all. We really need to refuse to even tolerate that way of phrasing things. Workers create all wealth. Parasites have no right to exist. These are facts, and we should refuse to let argument range beyond them.

    The only purpose of civilization is to provide a better way of living and for all people. This includes the right and full opportunity to work and manage for oneself and/or as a cooperative group. If civilization doesn't do that, we're better off without it.

    psychohistorian:

    I am one of those long term unemployed.

    I suppose my biggest employment claim would be as some sort of IT techie, with numerous supply chain systems and component design, development, implementation, interfaces with other systems and ongoing support. CCNP certification and a history of techiedom going back to WEYCOS.

    I have a patent (6,209,954) in my name and 12+ years of beating my head against the wall in an industry that buys compliance with the "there is no problem here, move on now" approach.

    Hell, I was a junior woodchuck program administrator back in the early 70's working for the Office of the Governor of the state of Washington on CETA PSE or Public Service Employment. The office of the Governor ran the PSE program for 32 of the 39 counties in the state that were not big enough to run their own. I helped organize the project approval process in all those counties to hire folk at ( if memory serves me max of $833/mo.) to fix and expand parks and provide social and other government services as defined projects with end dates. If we didn't have the anti-public congress and other government leadership we have this could be a current component in a rational labor policy but I digress.

    I have experience in the construction trades mostly as carpenter but some electrical, plumbing, HVAC, etc. also.

    So, of course there is some sort of character flaw that is keeping me and all those others from employment ..right. I may have more of an excuse than others, have paid into SS for 45 years but still would work if it was available ..taking work away from other who may need it more .why set up a society where we have to compete as such for mere existence???????

    One more face to this rant. We need government by the people and for the people which we do not have now. Good, public focused, not corporate focused government is bigger than any entities that exist under its jurisdiction and is kept updated by required public participation in elections and potentially other things like military, peace corps, etc. in exchange for advanced education. I say this as someone who has worked at various levels in both the public and private sectors there are ignorant and misguided folks everywhere. At least with ongoing active participation there is a chance that government would, once constructed, be able to evolve as needed within public focus .IMO.

    Ishmael:

    Some people would say I have been unemployed for 10 years. In 2000 after losing the last of my four CFO gigs for public companies I found it necessary to start consulting. This has lead to two of my three biggest winning years. I am usually consulting on cutting edge area of my profession and many times have large staffs reporting to me that I bring on board to get jobs done. For several years I subcontacted to a large international consulting firm to clean up projects which went wrong. Let me give some insight here.

    1. First, most good positions have gate keepers who are professional recruiters. It is near impossible to get by them and if you are unemployed they will hardly talk to you. One time talking to a recruiter at Korn Fery I was interviewing for a job I have done several times in an industry I have worked in several times. She made a statement that I had never worked at a well known company. I just about fell out of my chair laughing. At one time I was a senior level executive for the largest consulting firm in the world and lived on three continents and worked with companies on six. In addition, I had held senior positions for 2 fortune 500 firms and was the CFO for a company with $4.5 billion in revenue. I am well known at several PE firms and the founder of one of the largest mentioned in a meeting that one of his great mistakes was not investing in a very successful LBO (return of in excess of 20 multiple to investors in 18 months) I was the CFO for. In a word most recruiters are incompetent.
    2. Second, most CEO's any more are just insecure politicians. One time during an interview I had a CEO asked me to talk about some accomplishments. I was not paying to much attention as I rattled off accomplishments and the CEO went nuclear and started yelling at me that he did not know where I thought I was going with this job but the only position above the CFO job was his and he was not going anywhere. I assured him I was only interested in the CFO position and not his, but I knew the job was over. Twice feed back that I got from recruiters which they took at criticism was the "client said I seemed very assured of myself."
    3. Third, government, banking, business and the top MBA schools are based upon lying to move forward. I remember a top human resource executive telling me right before Enron, MCI and Sarbanes Oxley that I needed to learn to be more flexible. My response was that flexibility would get me an orange jump suit. Don't get me wrong, I have a wide grey zone, but it use to be in business the looked for people who could identify problems early and resolve them. Now days I see far more of a demand for people who can come up with PR spins to hide them. An attorney/treasurer consultant who partnered with me on a number of consulting jobs told me some one called me "not very charming." He said he asked what that meant, and the person who said that said, "Ish walks into a meeting and within 10 minutes he is asking about the 10,000 pound guerilla sitting in the room that no one wants to talk about." CEO do not want any challenges in their organization.
    4. Fourth, three above has lead to the hiring of very young and inexperienced people at senior levels. These people are insecure and do not want more senior and experienced people above them and than has resulted in people older than 45 not finding positions.
    5. Fifth, people are considered expendable and are fired for the lamest reasons anymore. A partner at one of the larger and more prestigious recruiting firms one time told me, "If you have a good consulting business, just stick with it. Our average placement does not last 18 months any more." Another well known recruiter in S. Cal. one time commented to me, "Your average consulting gig runs longer than our average placement."

    With all of that said, I have a hard time understanding such statements as "@attempter "Workers create all wealth. Parasites have no right to exist." What does that mean? Every worker creates wealth. There is no difference in people. Sounds like communism to me. I make a good living and my net worth has grown working for myself. I have never had a consulting gig terminated by the client but I have terminated several. Usually, I am brought in to fix what several other people have failed at. I deliver basically intellectual properties to companies. Does that mean I am not a worker. I do not usually lift anything heavy or move equipment but I tell people what and where to do it so does that make me a parasite.

    Those people who think everyone is equal and everyone deserves equal pay are fools or lazy. My rate is high, but what usually starts as short term projects usually run 6 months or more because companies find I can do so much more than what most of their staff can do and I am not a threat.

    I would again like to have a senior challenging role at a decent size company but due to the reasons above will probably never get one. However, you can never tell. I am currently consulting for a midsize very profitable company (grew 400% last year) where I am twice the age of most people there, but everyone speaks to me with respect so you can never tell.

    Lidia:

    Ishmael, you're quite right. When I showed my Italian husband's resume to try and "network" in the US, my IT friends assumed he was lying about his skills and work history.

    Contemporaneously, in Italy it is impossible to get a job because of incentives to hire "youth". Age discrimination is not illegal, so it's quite common to see ads that ask for a programmer under 30 with 5 years of experience in COBOL (the purple squirrel).

    Hosswire

    Some good points about the foolishness of recruiters, but a great deal of that foolishness is forced by the clients themselves. I used to be a recruiter myself, including at Korn Ferry in Southern California. I described the recruiting industry as "yet more proof that God hates poor people" because my job was to ignore resumes from people seeking jobs and instead "source" aka "poach" people who already had good jobs by dangling a higher salary in front of them. I didn't do it because I disparaged the unemployed, or because I could not do the basic analysis to show that a candidate had analogous or transferrable skills to the opening.

    I did it because the client, as Yves said, wanted people who were literally in the same job description already. My theory is that the client wanted to have their ass covered in case the hire didn't work out, by being able to say that they looked perfect "on paper." The lesson I learned for myself and my friends looking for jobs was simple, if morally dubious. Basically, that if prospective employers are going to judge you based on a single piece of paper take full advantage of the fact that you get to write that piece of paper yourself.

    Ishmael:

    Hosswire - I agree with your comment. There are poor recruiters like the one I sited but in general it is the clients fault. Fear of failure. All hires have at least a 50% chance of going sideways on you. Most companies do not even have the ability to look at a resume nor to interview. I did not mean to same nasty things about recruiters, and I even do it sometimes but mine.

    I look at failure in a different light than most companies. You need to be continually experimenting and changing to survive as a company and there will be some failures. The goal is to control the cost of failures while looking for the big pay off on a winner.

    Mannwich:

    As a former recruiter and HR "professional" (I use that term very loosely for obvious reasons), I can honestly say that you nailed it. Most big companies looking for mid to high level white collar "talent" will almost always take the perceived safest route by hiring those who look the best ON PAPER and in a suit and lack any real interviewing skills to find the real stars. What's almost comical is that companies almost always want to see the most linear resume possible because they want to see "job stability" (e.g. a CYA document in case the person fails in that job) when in many cases nobody cares about the long range view of the company anyway. My question was why should the candidate or employee care about the long range view if the employer clearly doesn't?

    Ishmael:

    Manwhich another on point comment. Sometimes either interviewing for a job or consulting with a CEO it starts getting to the absurd. I see all the time the requirement for stability in a persons background. Hello, where have they been the last 15 years. In addition, the higher up you go the more likely you will be terminated sometime and that is especially true if you are hired from outside the orgnanization. Companies want loyalty from an employee but offer none in return.

    The average tenure for a CFO anymore is something around 18 months. I have been a first party participant (more than once) where I went through an endless recruiting process for a company (lasting more than 6 months) they final hire some one and that person is with the company for 3 months and then resigns (of course we all know it is through mutual agreement).

    Ishmael:

    Birch:

    The real problem has become and maybe this is what you are referring to is the "Crony Capitalism." We have lost control of our financial situation. Basically, PE is not the gods of the universe that everyone thinks they are. However, every bankers secret wet dream is to become a private equity guy. Accordingly, bankers make ridiculous loans to PE because if you say no to them then you can not play in their sand box any more. Since the govt will not let the banks go bankrupt like they should then this charade continues inslaving everyone.

    This country as well as many others has a large percentage of its assets tied up in over priced deals that the bankers/governments will not let collapse while the blood sucking vampires suck the life out of the assets.

    On the other hand, govt is not the answer. Govt is too large and accomplishes too little.

    kevin de bruxelles:

    The harsh reality is that, at least in the first few rounds, companies kick to the curb their weakest links and perceived slackers. Therefore when it comes time to hire again, they are loath to go sloppy seconds on what they perceive to be some other company's rejects. They would much rather hire someone who survived the layoffs working in a similar position in a similar company. Of course the hiring company is going to have to pay for this privilege. Although not totally reliable, the fact that someone survived the layoffs provides a form social proof for their workplace abilities.

    On the macro level, labor has been under attack for thirty years by off shoring and third world immigration. It is no surprise that since the working classes have been severely undermined that the middle classes would start to feel some pressure. By mass immigration and off-shoring are strongly supported by both parties. Only when the pain gets strong enough will enough people rebel and these two policies will be overturned. We still have a few years to go before this happens.

    davver:

    Let's say I run a factory. I produce cars and it requires very skilled work. Skilled welding, skilled machinists. Now I introduce some robotic welders and an assembly line system. The plants productivity improves and the jobs actually get easier. They require less skill, in fact I've simplified each task to something any idiot can do. Would wages go up or down? Are the workers really contributing to that increase in productivity or is it the machines and methods I created?

    Lets say you think laying off or cutting the wages of my existing workers is wrong. What happens when a new entrant into the business employs a smaller workforce and lower wages, which they can do using the same technology? The new workers don't feel like they were cut down in any way, they are just happy to have a job. Before they couldn't get a job at the old plant because they lacked the skill, but now they can work in the new plant because the work is genuinely easier. Won't I go out of business?

    Escariot:

    I am 54 and have a ton of peers who are former white collar workers and professionals (project managers, architects, lighting designers, wholesalers and sales reps for industrial and construction materials and equipment) now out of work going on three years. Now I say out of work, I mean out of our trained and experienced fields.

    We now work two or three gigs (waiting tables, mowing lawns, doing free lance, working in tourism, truck driving, moving company and fedex ups workers) and work HARD, for much much less than we did, and we are seeing the few jobs that are coming back on line going to younger workers. It is just the reality. And for most of us the descent has not been graceful, so our credit is a wreck, which also breeds a whole other level of issues as now it is common for the credit record to be a deal breaker for employment, housing, etc.

    Strangely I don't sense a lot of anger or bitterness as much as humility. And gratitude for ANY work that comes our way. Health insurance? Retirement accounts? not so much.

    Mickey Marzick:

    Yves and I have disagreed on how extensive the postwar "pact" between management and labor was in this country. But if you drew a line from say, Trenton-Patterson, NJ to Cincinatti, OH to Minneapolis, MN, north and east of it where blue collar manufacturing in steel, rubber, auto, machinery, etc., predominated, this "pact" may have existed but ONLY because physical plant and production were concentrated there and workers could STOP production.

    Outside of these heavy industrial pockets, unions were not always viewed favorably. As one moved into the rural hinterlands surrounding them there was jealously and/or outright hostility. Elsewhere, especially in the South "unions" were the exception not the rule. The differences between NE Ohio before 1975 – line from Youngstown to Toledo – and the rest of the state exemplified this pattern. Even today, the NE counties of Ohio are traditional Democratic strongholds with the rest of the state largely Republican. And I suspect this pattern existed elsewhere. But it is changing too

    In any case, the demonization of the unemployed is just one notch above the vicious demonization of the poor that has always existed in this country. It's a constant reminder for those still working that you could be next – cast out into the darkness – because you "failed" or worse yet, SINNED. This internalization of the "inner cop" reinforces the dominant ideology in two ways. First, it makes any resistance by individuals still employed less likely. Second, it pits those still working against those who aren't, both of which work against the formation of any significant class consciousness amongst working people. The "oppressed" very often internalize the value system of the oppressor.

    As a nation of immigrants ETHNICITY may have more explanatory power than CLASS. For increasingly, it would appear that the dominant ethnic group – suburban, white, European Americans – have thrown their lot in with corporate America. Scared of the prospect of downward social mobility and constantly reminded of URBAN America – the other America – this group is trapped with nowhere to else to go.

    It's the divide and conquer strategy employed by ruling elites in this country since its founding [Federalist #10] with the Know Nothings, blaming the Irish [NINA - no Irish need apply] and playing off each successive wave of immigrants against the next. Only when the forces of production became concentrated in the urban industrial enclaves of the North was this strategy less effective. And even then internal immigration by Blacks to the North in search of employment blunted the formation of class consciousness among white ethnic industrial workers.

    Wherever the postwar "pact of domination" between unions and management held sway, once physical plant was relocated elsewhere [SOUTH] and eventually offshored, unemployment began to trend upwards. First it was the "rustbelt" now it's a nationwide phenomenon. Needless to say, the "pact" between labor and management has been consigned to the dustbin of history.

    White, suburban America has hitched its wagon to that of the corporate horse. Demonization of the unemployed coupled with demonization of the poor only serve to terrorize this ethnic group into acquiescence. And as the workplace becomes a multicultural matrix this ethnic group is constantly reminded of its perilous state. Until this increasingly atomized ethnic group breaks with corporate America once and for all, it's unlikely that the most debilitating scourge of all working people – UNEMPLOYMENT – will be addressed.

    Make no mistake about it, involuntary UNEMPLOYMENT/UNDEREMPLYEMT is a form of terrorism and its demonization is terrorism in action. This "quiet violence" is psychological and the intimidation wrought by unemployment and/or the threat of it is intended to dehumanize individuals subjected to it. Much like spousal abuse, the emotional and psychological effects are experienced way before any physical violence. It's the inner cop that makes overt repression unnecessary. We terrorize ourselves into submission without even knowing it because we accept it or come to tolerate it. So long as we accept "unemployment" as an inevitable consequence of progress, as something unfortunate but inevitable, we will continue to travel down the road to serfdom where ARBEIT MACHT FREI!

    FULL and GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT are the ultimate labor power.

    Eric:

    It's delicate since direct age discrimination is illegal, but when circumstances permit separating older workers they have a very tough time getting back into the workforce in an era of high health care inflation. Older folks consume more health care and if you are hiring from a huge surplus of available workers it isn't hard to steer around the more experienced. And nobody gets younger, so when you don't get job A and go for job B 2 weeks later you, you're older still!

    James:

    Yves said- "This overly narrow hiring spec then leads to absurd, widespread complaint that companies can't find people with the right skills"

    In the IT job markets such postings are often called purple squirrels. The HR departments require the applicant to be expert in a dozen programming languages. This is an excuse to hire a foreigner on a temp h1-b or other visa.

    Most people aren't aware that this model dominates the sciences. Politicians scream we have a shortage of scientists, yet it seems we only have a shortage of cheap easily exploitable labor. The economist recently pointed out the glut of scientists that currently exists in the USA.

    http://www.economist.com/node/17723223

    This understates the problem. The majority of PhD recipients wander through years of postdocs only to end up eventually changing fields. My observation is that the top ten schools in biochem/chemistry/physics/ biology produce enough scientists to satisfy the national demand.

    The exemption from h1-b visa caps for academic institutions exacerbates the problem, providing academics with almost unlimited access to labor.

    The pharmaceutical sector has been decimated over the last ten years with tens of thousands of scientists/ factory workers looking for re-training in a dwindling pool of jobs (most of which will deem you overqualified.)

    http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2011/03/03/a_postdocs_lament.php

    Abe, NYC:

    I wonder how the demonization of the unemployed can be so strong even in the face of close to 10% unemployment/20% underemployment. It's easy and tempting to demonize an abstract young buck or Cadillac-driving welfare queen, but when a family member or a close friend loses a job, or your kids are stuck at your place because they can't find one, shouldn't that alter your perceptions? Of course the tendency will be to blame it all on the government, but there has to be a limit to that in hard-hit places like Ohio, Colorado, or Arizona. And yet, the dynamics aren't changing or even getting worse. Maybe Wisconsin marks a turning point, I certainly hope it does

    damien:

    It's more than just stupid recruiting, this stigma. Having got out when the getting was good, years ago, I know that any corporate functionary would be insane to hire me now. Socialization wears off, the deformation process reverses, and the ritual and shibboleths become a joke. Even before I bailed I became a huge pain in the ass as economic exigency receded, every bosses nightmare. I suffered fools less gladly and did the right thing out of sheer anarchic malice.

    You really can't maintain corporate culture without existential fear – not just, "Uh oh, I'm gonna get fired," fear, but a visceral feeling that you do not exist without a job. In properly indoctrinated workers that feeling is divorced from economic necessity. So anyone who's survived outside a while is bound to be suspect. That's a sign of economic security, and security of any sort undermines social control.

    youniquelikeme:

    You hit the proverbial nail with that reply. (Although, sorry, doing the right thing should not be done out of malice) The real fit has to be in the corporate yes-man culture (malleable ass kisser) to be suited for any executive position and beyond that it is the willingness to be manipulated and drained to be able to keep a job in lower echelon.

    This is the new age of evolution in the work place. The class wars will make it more of an eventual revolution, but it is coming. The unemployment rate (the actual one, not the Government one) globalization and off shore hiring are not sustainable for much longer.

    Something has to give, but it is more likely to snap then to come easily. People who are made to be repressed and down and out eventually find the courage to fight back and by then, it is usually not with words.

    down and out in Slicon Valley:

    This is the response I got from a recruiter:

    "I'm going to be overly honest with you. My firm doesn't allow me to submit any candidate who hasn't worked in 6-12 months or more. Recruiting brokers are probably all similar in that way . You are going to have to go through a connection/relationship you have with a colleague, co-worker, past manager or friend to get your next job .that's my advice for you. Best of luck "

    I'm 56 years old with MSEE. Gained 20+ years of experience at the best of the best (TRW, Nortel, Microsoft), have been issued a patent. Where do I sign up to gain skills required to find a job now?

    Litton Graft :

    "Best of the Best?" I know you're down now, but looking back at these Gov'mint contractors you've enjoyed the best socialism money can by.

    Nortel/TRW bills/(ed) the Guvmint at 2x, 3x your salary, you can ride this for decades. At the same time the Inc is attached to the Guvmint ATM localities/counties are giving them a red carpet of total freedom from taxation. Double subsidies.

    I've worked many years at the big boy bandits, and there is no delusion in my mind that almost anyone, can do what I do and get paid 100K+. I've never understood the mindset of some folks who work in the Wermacht Inc: "Well, someone has to do this work" or worse "What we do, no one else can do" The reason no one else "can do it" is that they are not allowed to. So, we steal from the poor to build fighter jets, write code or network an agency.

    Hosswire:

    I used to work as a recruiter and can tell you that I only parroted the things my clients told me. I wanted to get you hired, because I was lazy and didn't want to have to talk to someone else next.

    So what do you do? To place you that recruiter needs to see on a piece of paper that you are currently working? Maybe get an email or phone call from someone who will vouch for your employment history. That should not be that hard to make happen.

    Francois T :

    The "bizarre way that companies now spec jobs" is essentially a coded way for mediocre managers to say without saying so explicitly that "we can afford to be extremely picky, and by God, we shall do so no matter what, because we can!"

    Of course, when comes the time to hire back because, oh disaster! business is picking up again, (I'm barely caricaturing here; some managers become despondent when they realize that workers regain a bit of the higher ground; loss of power does that to lesser beings) the same idiots who designed those "overly narrow hiring spec then leads to absurd, widespread complaint that companies can't find people with the right skills" are thrown into a tailspin of despair and misery. Instead of figuring out something as simple as "if demand is better, so will our business", they can't see anything else than the (eeeek!) cost of hiring workers. Unable to break their mental corset of penny-pincher, they fail to realize that lack of qualified workers will prevent them to execute well to begin with.

    And guess what: qualified workers cost money, qualified workers urgently needed cost much more.

    This managerial attitude must be another factor that explain why entrepreneurship and the formation of small businesses is on the decline in the US (contrary to the confabulations of the US officialdumb and the chattering class) while rising in Europe and India/China.

    Kit:

    If you are 55-60, worked as a professional (i.e., engineering say) and are now unemployed you are dead meat. Sorry to be blunt but thats the way it is in the US today. Let me repeat that : Dead Meat.

    I was terminated at age 59, found absolutely NOTHING even though my qualifications were outstanding. Fortunately, my company had an old style pension plan which I was able to qualify for (at age 62 without reduced benefits). So for the next 2+ years my wife and I survived on unemployment insurance, severance, accumulated vacation pay and odd jobs. Not nice – actually, a living hell.

    At age 62, I applied for my pension, early social security, sold our old house (at a good profit) just before the RE crash, moved back to our home state. Then my wife qualified for social security also. Our total income is now well above the US median.

    Today, someone looking at us would think we were the typical corporate retiree. We surely don't let on any differently but the experience (to get to this point) almost killed us.

    I sympathize very strongly with the millions caught in this unemployment death spiral. I wish I had an answer but I just don't. We were very lucky to survive intact.

    Ming:

    Thank you Yves for your excellent post, and for bringing to light this crucial issue.

    Thank you to all the bloggers, who add to the richness of the this discussion.

    I wonder if you could comment on this Yves, and correct me if I am wrong I believe that the power of labor was sapped by the massive available supply of global labor. The favorable economic policies enacted by China (both official and unofficial), and trade negotiations between the US government and the Chinese government were critical to creating the massive supply of labor.

    Thank you. No rush of course.

    Nexus:

    There are some odd comments and notions here that are used to support dogma and positions of prejudice. The world can be viewed in a number of ways. Firstly from a highly individualised and personal perspective – that is what has happened to me and here are my experiences. Or alternatively the world can be viewed from a broader societal perspective.

    In the context of labour there has always been an unequal confrontation between those that control capital and those that offer their labour, contrary to some of the views exposed here – Marx was a first and foremost a political economist. The political economist seeks to understand the interplay of production, supply, the state and institutions like the media. Modern day economics branched off from political economy and has little value in explaining the real world as the complexity of the world has been reduced to a simplistic rationalistic model of human behaviour underpinned by other equally simplistic notions of 'supply and demand', which are in turn represented by mathematical models, which in themselves are complex but merely represent what is a simplistic view of the way the world operates. This dogmatic thinking has avoided the need to create an underpinning epistemology. This in turn underpins the notion of free choice and individualism which in itself is an illusion as it ignores the operation of the modern state and the exercise of power and influence within society.

    It was stated in one of the comments that the use of capital (machines, robotics, CAD design, etc.) de-skills. This is hardly the case as skills rise for those that remain and support highly automated/continuous production factories. This is symptomatic of the owners of capital wanting to extract the maximum value for labour and this is done via the substitution of labour for capital making the labour that remains to run factories highly productive thus eliminating low skill jobs that have been picked up via services (people move into non productive low skilled occupations warehousing and retail distribution, fast food outlets, etc). Of course the worker does not realise the additional value of his or her labour as this is expropriated for the shareholders (including management as shareholders).

    The issue of the US is that since the end of WW2 it is not the industrialists that have called the shots and made investments it is the financial calculus of the investment banker (Finance Capital). Other comments have tried to ignore the existence of the elites in society – I would suggest that you read C.W.Mills – The Power Elites as an analysis of how power is exercised in the US – it is not through the will of the people.

    For Finance capital investments are not made on the basis of value add, or contribution through product innovation and the exchange of goods but on basis of the lowest cost inputs. Consequently, the 'elites' that make investment decisions, as they control all forms of capital seek to gain access to the cheapest cost inputs. The reality is that the US worker (a pool of 150m) is now part of a global labour pool of a couple of billion that now includes India and China. This means that the elites, US transnational corporations for instance, can access both cheaper labour pools, relocate capital and avoid worker protection (health and safety is not a concern). The strategies of moving factories via off-shoring (over 40,000 US factories closed or relocated) and out-sourcing/in-sourcing labour is also a representations of this.

    The consequence for the US is that the need for domestic labour has diminished and been substituted by cheap labour to extract the arbitrage between US labour rates and those of Chinese and Indians. Ironically, in this context capital has become too successful as the mode of consumption in the US shifted from workers that were notionally the people that created the goods, earned wages and then purchased the goods they created to a new model where the worker was substituted by the consumer underpinned by cheap debt and low cost imports – it is illustrative to note that real wages have not increased in the US since the early 1970's while at the same time debt has steadily increased to underpin the illusion of wealth – the 'borrow today and pay tomorrow' mode of capitalist operation. This model of operation is now broken. The labour force is now being demonized as there is a now surplus of labour and a need to drive down labour rates through changes in legislation and austerity programs to meet those of the emerging Chinese and Indian middle class so workers rights need to be broken. Once this is done a process of in-source may take place as US labour costs will be on par with overseas labour pools.

    It is ironic that during the Regan administration a number of strategic thinkers saw the threat from emerging economies and the danger of Finance Capital and created 'Project Socrates' that would have sought to re-orientate the US economy from one that was based on the rationale of Finance Capital to one that focused in productive innovation which entailed an alignment of capital investment, research and training to product innovative goods. Of course this was ignored and the rest is history. The race to the lowest input cost is ultimately self defeating as it is clear that the economy de-industrialises through labour and capital changes and living standards collapse. The elites – bankers, US transnational corporations, media, industrial military complex and the politicians don't care as they make money either way and this way you get other people overseas to work cheap for you.

    S P:

    Neoliberal orthodoxy treats unemployment as well as wage supression as a necessary means to fight "inflation." If there was too much power in the hands of organized labor, inflationary pressures would spiral out of control as supply of goods cannot keep up with demand.

    It also treats the printing press as a necessary means to fight "deflation."

    So our present scenario: widespread unemployment along with QE to infinity, food stamps for all, is exactly what you'd expect.

    The problem with this orthodoxy is that it assumes unlimited growth on a planet with finite resources, particularly oil and energy. Growth is not going to solve unemployment or wages, because we are bumping up against limits to growth.

    There are only two solutions. One is tax the rich and capital gains, slow growth, and reinvest the surplus into jobs/skills programs, mostly to maintain existing infrastructure or build new energy infrastructure. Even liberals like Krugman skirt around this, because they aren't willing to accept that we have the reached the end of growth and we need radical redistribution measures.

    The other solution is genuine classical liberalism / libertarianism, along the lines of Austrian thought. Return to sound money, and let the deflation naturally take care of the imbalances. Yes, it would be wrenching, but it would likely be wrenching for everybody, making it fair in a universal sense.

    Neither of these options is palatable to the elite classes, the financiers of Wall Street, or the leeches and bureaucrats of D.C.

    So this whole experiment called America will fail.

    [Nov 27, 2017] College Is Wildly Exploitative Why Arent Students Raising Hell

    Highly recommended!
    Notable quotes:
    "... By David Masciotra, the author of Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky). He has also written for Salon, the Atlantic and the Los Angeles Review of Books. For more information visit www.davidmasciotra.com. Originally published at Alternet ..."
    "... Robert Reich, in his book Supercapitalism, explains that in the past 30 years the two industries with the most excessive increases in prices are health care and higher education. ..."
    "... Using student loan loot and tax subsidies backed by its $3.5 billion endowment, New York University has created a new administrative class of aristocratic compensation. The school not only continues to hire more administrators – many of whom the professors indict as having no visible value in improving the education for students bankrupting themselves to register for classes – but shamelessly increases the salaries of the academic administrative class. The top 21 administrators earn a combined total of $23,590,794 per year. The NYU portfolio includes many multi-million-dollar mansions and luxury condos, where deans and vice presidents live rent-free. ..."
    "... As the managerial class grows, in size and salary, so does the full time faculty registry shrink. Use of part time instructors has soared to stratospheric heights at NYU. Adjunct instructors, despite having a minimum of a master's degree and often having a Ph.D., receive only miserly pay-per-course compensation for their work, and do not receive benefits. Many part-time college instructors must transform their lives into daily marathons, running from one school to the next, barely able to breathe between commutes and courses. Adjunct pay varies from school to school, but the average rate is $2,900 per course. ..."
    "... New York Times ..."
    "... to the people making decisions ..."
    "... it's the executives and management generally. Just like Wall Street, many of these top administrators have perfected the art of failing upwards. ..."
    "... What is the benefit? What are the risks? ..."
    "... Sophomore Noell Conley lives there, too. She shows off the hotel-like room she shares with a roommate . ..."
    "... "As you walk in, to the right you see our granite countertops with two sinks, one for each of the residents," she says. A partial wall separates the beds. Rather than trek down the hall to shower, they share a bathroom with the room next door. "That's really nice compared to community bathrooms that I lived in last year," Conley says. To be fair, granite countertops last longer. Tempur-Pedic is a local company - and gave a big discount. The amenities include classrooms and study space that are part of the dorm. Many of the residents are in the university's Honors program. But do student really need Apple TV in the lounges, or a smartphone app that lets them check their laundry status from afar? "Demand has been very high," says the university's Penny Cox, who is overseeing the construction of several new residence halls on campus. Before Central Hall's debut in August, the average dorm was almost half a century old, she says. That made it harder to recruit. " If you visit places like Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama," Cox says, "and you compare what we had with what they have available to offer, we were very far behind." Today colleges are competing for a more discerning consumer. Students grew up with fewer siblings, in larger homes, Cox says. They expect more privacy than previous generations - and more comforts. "These days we seem to be bringing kids up to expect a lot of material plenty," says Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and author of the book "Generation Me." Those students could be in for some disappointment when they graduate , she says. "When some of these students have all these luxuries and then they get an entry-level job and they can't afford the enormous flat screen and the granite countertops," Twenge says, "then that's going to be a rude awakening." Some on campus also worry about the divide between students who can afford such luxuries and those who can't. The so-called premium dorms cost about $1,000 more per semester. Freshman Josh Johnson, who grew up in a low-income family and lives in one of the university's 1960s-era buildings, says the traditional dorm is good enough for him. ..."
    "... "I wouldn't pay more just to live in a luxury dorm," he says. "It seems like I could just pay the flat rate and get the dorm I'm in. It's perfectly fine." In the near future students who want to live on campus won't have a choice. Eventually the university plans to upgrade all of its residence halls. ..."
    "... Competition for students who have more sophisticated tastes than in past years is creating the perfect environment for schools to try to outdo each other with ever-more posh on-campus housing. Keeping up in the luxury dorm race is increasingly critical to a school's bottom line: A 2006 study published by the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers found that "poorly maintained or inadequate residential facilities" was the number-one reason students rejected enrolling at institutions. PHOTO GALLERY: Click Here to See the 10 Schools with Luxury Dorms ..."
    "... Private universities get most of the mentions on lists of schools with great dorms, as recent ratings by the Princeton Review, College Prowler, and Campus Splash make clear. But a few state schools that have invested in brand-new facilities are starting to show up on those reviews, too. ..."
    "... While many schools offer first dibs on the nicest digs to upperclassmen on campus, as the war for student dollars ratchets up even first-year students at public colleges are living in style. Here are 10 on-campus dormitories at state schools that offer students resort-like amenities. ..."
    "... Perhaps some students are afraid to protest for fear of being photographed or videographed and having their face and identity given to every prospective employer throughout America. Perhaps those students are afraid of being blackballed throughout the Great American Workplace if they are caught protesting anything on camera. ..."
    "... Mao was perfectly content to promote technical education in the new China. What he deprecated (and fought to suppress) was the typical liberal arts notion of critical thinking. We're witnessing something comparable in the U.S. We're witnessing something comparable in the U.S. ..."
    "... Many of the best students feel enormous pressure to succeed and have some inkling that their job prospects are growing narrower, but they almost universally accept this as the natural order of things. Their outlook: if there are 10 or 100 applicants for every available job, well, by golly, I just have to work that much harder and be the exceptional one who gets the job. ..."
    "... I read things like this and think about Louis Althusser and his ideas about "Ideological State Apparatuses." While in liberal ideology the education is usually considered to be the space where opportunity to improve one's situation is founded, Althusser reached the complete opposite conclusion. For him, universities are the definitive bourgeois institution, the ideological state apparatus of the modern capitalist state par excellance . The real purpose of the university was not to level the playing field of opportunity but to preserve the advantages of the bourgeoisie and their children, allowing the class system to perpetuate/reproduce itself. ..."
    "... My nephew asked me to help him with his college introductory courses in macroeconomics and accounting. I was disappointed to find out what was going on: no lectures by professors, no discussion sessions with teaching assistants; no team projects–just two automated correspondence courses, with automated computer graded problem sets objective tests – either multiple choice, fill in the blank with a number, or fill in the blank with a form answer. This from a public university that is charging tuition for attendance just as though it were really teaching something. All they're really certifying is that the student can perform exercises is correctly reporting what a couple of textbooks said about subjects of marginal relevance to his degree. My nephew understands exactly that this is going on, but still . ..."
    "... The reason students accept this has to be the absolutely demobilized political culture of the United States combined with what college represents structurally to students from the middle classes: the only possibility – however remote – of achieving any kind of middle class income. ..."
    "... Straight bullshit, but remember our school was just following the national (Neoliberal) model. ..."
    Jun 26, 2015 | naked capitalism

    Yves here. In May, we wrote up and embedded the report on how NYU exploits students and adjuncts in "The Art of the Gouge": NYU as a Model for Predatory Higher Education. This article below uses that study as a point of departure for for its discussion of how higher education has become extractive.

    By David Masciotra, the author of Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky). He has also written for Salon, the Atlantic and the Los Angeles Review of Books. For more information visit www.davidmasciotra.com. Originally published at Alternet

    Higher education wears the cloak of liberalism, but in policy and practice, it can be a corrupt and cutthroat system of power and exploitation. It benefits immensely from right-wing McCarthy wannabes, who in an effort to restrict academic freedom and silence political dissent, depict universities as left-wing indoctrination centers.

    But the reality is that while college administrators might affix "down with the man" stickers on their office doors, many prop up a system that is severely unfair to American students and professors, a shocking number of whom struggle to make ends meet. Even the most elementary level of political science instructs that politics is about power. Power, in America, is about money: who has it? Who does not have it? Who is accumulating it? Who is losing it? Where is it going?

    Four hundred faculty members at New York University, one of the nation's most expensive schools, recently released a report on how their own place of employment, legally a nonprofit institution, has become a predatory business, hardly any different in ethical practice or economic procedure than a sleazy storefront payday loan operator. Its title succinctly summarizes the new intellectual discipline deans and regents have learned to master: "The Art of The Gouge."

    The result of their investigation reads as if Charles Dickens and Franz Kafka collaborated on notes for a novel. Administrators not only continue to raise tuition at staggering rates, but they burden their students with inexplicable fees, high cost burdens and expensive requirements like mandatory study abroad programs. When students question the basis of their charges, much of them hidden during the enrollment and registration phases, they find themselves lost in a tornadic swirl of forms, automated answering services and other bureaucratic debris.

    Often the additional fees add up to thousands of dollars, and that comes on top of the already hefty tuition, currently $46,000 per academic year, which is more than double its rate of 2001. Tuition at NYU is higher than most colleges, but a bachelor's degree, nearly anywhere else, still comes with a punitive price tag. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2014–2015 school year was $31,231 at private colleges, $9,139 for state residents at public colleges, and $22,958 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.

    Robert Reich, in his book Supercapitalism, explains that in the past 30 years the two industries with the most excessive increases in prices are health care and higher education. Lack of affordable health care is a crime, Reich argues, but at least new medicines, medical technologies, surgeries, surgery techs, and specialists can partially account for inflation. Higher education can claim no costly infrastructural or operational developments to defend its sophisticated swindle of American families. It is a high-tech, multifaceted, but old fashioned transfer of wealth from the poor, working- and middle-classes to the rich.

    Using student loan loot and tax subsidies backed by its $3.5 billion endowment, New York University has created a new administrative class of aristocratic compensation. The school not only continues to hire more administrators – many of whom the professors indict as having no visible value in improving the education for students bankrupting themselves to register for classes – but shamelessly increases the salaries of the academic administrative class. The top 21 administrators earn a combined total of $23,590,794 per year. The NYU portfolio includes many multi-million-dollar mansions and luxury condos, where deans and vice presidents live rent-free.

    Meanwhile, NYU has spent billions, over the past 20 years, on largely unnecessary real estate projects, buying property and renovating buildings throughout New York. The professors' analysis, NYU's US News and World Report Ranking, and student reviews demonstrate that few of these extravagant projects, aimed mostly at pleasing wealthy donors, attracting media attention, and giving administrators opulent quarters, had any impact on overall educational quality.

    As the managerial class grows, in size and salary, so does the full time faculty registry shrink. Use of part time instructors has soared to stratospheric heights at NYU. Adjunct instructors, despite having a minimum of a master's degree and often having a Ph.D., receive only miserly pay-per-course compensation for their work, and do not receive benefits. Many part-time college instructors must transform their lives into daily marathons, running from one school to the next, barely able to breathe between commutes and courses. Adjunct pay varies from school to school, but the average rate is $2,900 per course.

    Many schools offer rates far below the average, most especially community colleges paying only $1,000 to $1,500. Even at the best paying schools, adjuncts, as part time employees, are rarely eligible for health insurance and other benefits. Many universities place strict limits on how many courses an instructor can teach. According to a recent study, 25 percent of adjuncts receive government assistance.

    The actual scandal of "The Art of the Gouge" is that even if NYU is a particularly egregious offender of basic decency and honesty, most of the report's indictments could apply equally to nearly any American university. From 2003-2013, college tuition increased by a crushing 80 percent. That far outpaces all other inflation. The closest competitor was the cost of medical care, which in the same time period, increased by a rate of 49 percent. On average, tuition in America rises eight percent on an annual basis, placing it far outside the moral universe. Most European universities charge only marginal fees for attendance, and many of them are free. Senator Bernie Sanders recently introduced a bill proposing all public universities offer free education. It received little political support, and almost no media coverage.

    In order to obtain an education, students accept the paralytic weight of student debt, the only form of debt not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Before a young person can even think about buying a car, house or starting a family, she leaves college with thousands of dollars in debt: an average of $29,400 in 2012. As colleges continue to suck their students dry of every dime, the US government profits at $41.3 billion per year by collecting interest on that debt. Congress recently cut funding for Pell Grants, yet increased the budget for hiring debt collectors to target delinquent student borrowers.

    The university, once an incubator of ideas and entrance into opportunity, has mutated into a tabletop model of America's economic architecture, where the top one percent of income earners now owns 40 percent of the wealth.

    "The One Percent at State U," an Institute for Policy Studies report, found that at the 25 public universities with the highest paid presidents, student debt and adjunct faculty increased at dramatically higher rates than at the average state university. Marjorie Wood, the study's co-author, explained told the New York Times that extravagant executive pay is the "tip of a very large iceberg, with universities that have top-heavy executive spending also having more adjuncts, more tuition increases and more administrative spending.

    Unfortunately, students seem like passive participants in their own liquidation. An American student protest timeline for 2014-'15, compiled by historian Angus Johnston, reveals that most demonstrations and rallies focused on police violence, and sexism. Those issues should inspire vigilance and activism, but only 10 out of 160 protests targeted tuition hikes for attack, and only two of those 10 events took place outside the state of California.

    Class consciousness and solidarity actually exist in Chile, where in 2011 a student movement began to organize, making demands for free college. More than mere theater, high school and college students, along with many of their parental allies, engaged the political system and made specific demands for inexpensive education. The Chilean government announced that in March 2016, it will eliminate all tuition from public universities. Chile's victory for participatory democracy, equality of opportunity and social justice should instruct and inspire Americans. Triumph over extortion and embezzlement is possible.

    This seems unlikely to happen in a culture, however, where even most poor Americans view themselves, in the words of John Steinbeck, as "temporarily embarrassed millionaires." The political, educational and economic ruling class of America is comfortable selling out its progeny. In the words of one student quoted in "The Art of the Gouge," "they see me as nothing more than $200,000."

    washunate June 26, 2015 at 10:07 am

    Awesome question in the headline.

    At a basic level, I think the answer is yes, because on balance, college still provides a lot of privatized value to the individual. Being an exploited student with the College Credential Seal of Approval remains relatively much better than being an exploited non student lacking that all important seal. A college degree, for example, is practically a guarantee of avoiding the more unseemly parts of the US "justice" system.

    But I think this is changing. The pressure is building from the bottom as academia loses credibility as an institution capable of, never mind interested in, serving the public good rather than simply being another profit center for connected workers. It's actually a pretty exciting time. The kiddos are getting pretty fed up, and the authoritarians at the top of the hierarchy are running out of money with which to buy off younger technocratic enablers and thought leaders and other Serious People.

    washunate June 26, 2015 at 10:17 am

    P.S., the author in this post demonstrates the very answer to the question. He assumes as true, without any need for support, that the very act of possessing a college degree makes one worthy of a better place in society. That mindset is why colleges can prey upon students. They hold a monopoly on access to resources in American society. My bold:

    Adjunct instructors, despite having a minimum of a master's degree and often having a Ph.D., receive only miserly pay-per-course compensation for their work, and do not receive benefits.

    What does having a masters degree or PhD have to do with the moral claim of all human beings to a life of dignity and purpose?

    flora June 26, 2015 at 11:37 am

    There are so many more job seekers per job opening now than, say, 20 or thirty years ago that a degree is used to sort out applications. Now a job that formerly listed a high school degree as a requirement may now list a college degree as a requirement, just to cut down on the number of applications.

    So, no, a B.A. or B.S. doesn't confer moral worth, but it does open more job doors than a high school diploma, even if the actual work only requires high school level math, reading, science or technology.

    Ben June 26, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    I agree a phd often makes someone no more useful in society. However the behaviour of the kids is rational *because* employers demand a masters / phd.

    Students are then caught in a trap. Employers demand the paper, often from an expensive institution. The credit is abundant thanks to govt backed loans. They are caught in a situation where as a collective it makes no sense to join in, but as an individual if they opt out they get hurt also.

    Same deal for housing. It's a mad world my masters.

    What can we do about this? The weak link in the chain seems to me to be employers. Why are they hurting themselves by selecting people who want higher pay but may offer little to no extra value? I work as a programmer and I often think " if we could just 'see' the non-graduate diamonds in the rough".

    If employers had perfect knowledge of prospective employees *and* if they saw that a degree would make no difference to their performance universities would crumble overnight.

    The state will never stop printing money via student loans. If we can fix recruitment then universities are dead.

    washunate June 26, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Why are they hurting themselves by selecting people who want higher pay but may offer little to no extra value?

    Yeah, I have thought a lot about that particular question of organizational behavior. It does make sense, conceptually, that somebody would disrupt the system and take people based on ability rather than credentials. Yet we are moving in the opposite direction, toward more rigidity in educational requirements for employment.

    For my two cents, I think the bulk of the answer lies in how hiring specifically, and management philosophy more generally, works in practice. The people who make decisions are themselves also subject to someone else's decisions. This is true all up and down the hierarchical ladder, from board members and senior executives to the most junior managers and professionals.

    It's true that someone without a degree may offer the same (or better) performance to the company. But they do not offer the same performance to the people making decisions, because those individual people also depend upon their own college degrees to sell their own labor services. To hire significant numbers of employees without degrees into important roles is to sabotage their own personal value.

    Very few people are willing to be that kind of martyr. And generally speaking, they tend to self-select away from occupations where they can meaningfully influence decision-making processes in large organizations.

    Absolutely, individual business owners can call BS on the whole scam. It is a way that individual people can take action against systemic oppression. Hire workers based upon their fit for the job, not their educational credentials or criminal background or skin color or sexual orientation or all of the other tests we have used. But that's not a systemic solution because the incentives created by public policy are overwhelming at large organizations to restrict who is 'qualified' to fill the good jobs (and increasingly, even the crappy jobs).

    Laaughingsong June 26, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    I am not so sure that this is so. So many jobs are now crapified. When I was made redundant in 2009, I could not find many jobs that fit my level of experience (just experience! I have no college degree), so I applied for anything that fit my skill set, pretty much regardless of level. I was called Overqualified. I have heard that in the past as well, but never more so during that stretch of job hunting. Remember that's with no degree. Maybe younger people don't hear it as much. But I also think life experience has something to do with it, you need to have something to compare it to. How many times did our parents tell us how different things were when they were kids, how much easier? I didn't take that on board, did y'all?

    sam s smith June 26, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    I blame HR.

    tsk June 27, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    For various reasons, people seeking work these days, especially younger job applicants, might not possess the habits of mind and behavior that would make them good employees – i.e., punctuality, the willingness to come to work every day (even when something more fun or interesting comes up, or when one has partied hard the night before), the ability to meet deadlines rather than make excuses for not meeting them, the ability to write competently at a basic level, the ability to read instructions, diagrams, charts, or any other sort of necessary background material, the ability to handle basic computation, the ability to FOLLOW instructions rather than deciding that one will pick and choose which rules and instructions to follow and which to ignore, trainability, etc.

    Even if a job applicant's degree is in a totally unrelated field, the fact that he or she has managed to complete an undergraduate degree–or, if relevant, a master's or a doctorate – is often accepted by employers as a sign that the applicant has a sense of personal responsibility, a certain amount of diligence and educability, and a certain level of basic competence in reading, writing, and math.

    By the same token, employers often assume that an applicant who didn't bother going to college or who couldn't complete a college degree program is probably not someone to be counted on to be a responsible, trainable, competent employee.

    Obviously those who don't go to college, or who go but drop out or flunk out, end up disadvantaged when competing for jobs, which might not be fair at all in individual cases, especially now that college has been priced so far out of the range of so many bright, diligent students from among the poor and and working classes, and now even those from the middle class.

    Nevertheless, in general an individual's ability to complete a college degree is not an unreasonable stand-in as evidence of that person's suitability for employment.

    Roland June 27, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    Nicely put, Ben.

    Students are first caught in a trap of "credentials inflation" needed to obtain jobs, then caught by inflation in education costs, then stuck with undischargeable debt. And the more of them who get the credentials, the worse the credentials inflation–a spiral.

    It's all fuelled by loose credit. The only beneficiaries are a managerial elite who enjoy palatial facilities.

    As for the employers, they're not so bad off. Wages are coming down for credentialled employees due to all the competition. There is such a huge stock of degreed applicants that they can afford to ignore anyone who isn't. The credentials don't cost the employer–they're not spending the money, nor are they lending the money.

    Modern money makes it possible for the central authorities to keep this racket going all the way up to the point of general systemic collapse. Why should they stop? Who's going to make them stop?

    Bobbo June 26, 2015 at 10:19 am

    The only reason the universities can get away with it is easy money. When the time comes that students actually need to pay tuition with real money, money they or their parents have actually saved, then college tuition rates will crash back down to earth. Don't blame the universities. This is the natural and inevitable outcome of easy money.

    Jim June 26, 2015 at 10:54 am

    Yes, college education in the US is a classic example of the effects of subsidies. Eliminate the subsidies and the whole education bubble would rapidly implode.

    washunate June 26, 2015 at 11:03 am

    I'm very curious if anyone will disagree with that assessment.

    An obvious commonality across higher education, healthcare, housing, criminal justice, and national security is that we spend huge quantities of public money yet hold the workers receiving that money to extremely low standards of accountability for what they do with it.

    tegnost June 26, 2015 at 11:38 am

    Correct, it's not the universities, it's the culture that contains the universities, but the universities are training grounds for the culture so it is the universities just not only the universities Been remembering the song from my college days "my futures so bright i gotta wear shades". getting rich was the end in itself, and people who didn't make it didn't deserve anything but a whole lot of student debt,creating perverse incentives. And now we all know what the A in type a stands for at least among those who self identify as such, so yes it is the universities

    Chris in Paris June 26, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    I don't understand why the ability to accept guaranteed loan money doesn't come with an obligation by the school to cap tuition at a certain percentage over maximum loan amount? Would that be so hard to institute?

    Ben June 26, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    Student loans are debt issuance. Western states are desperate to issue debt as it's fungible with money and marked down as growth.

    Borrow 120K over 3 years and it all gets paid into university coffers and reappears as "profit" now. Let some other president deal with low disposable income due to loan repayments. It's in a different electoral cycle – perfect.

    jrd2 June 26, 2015 at 11:50 am

    You can try to argue, but it will be hard to refute. If you give mortgages at teaser rates to anybody who can fog a mirror, you get a housing bubble. If you give student loans to any student without regard to the prospects of that student paying back the loan, you get a higher education bubble. Which will include private equity trying to catch as much of this money as they possibly can by investing in for profit educational institutions just barely adequate to benefit from federal student loan funds.

    jrs June 26, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    A lot of background conditions help. It helps to pump a housing bubble if there's nothing else worth investing in (including saving money at zero interest rates). It helps pump an education bubble if most of the jobs have been outsourced so people are competing more and more for fewer and fewer.

    Beans June 26, 2015 at 11:51 am

    I don't disagree with the statement that easy money has played the biggest role in jacking up tuition. I do strongly disagree that we shouldn't "blame" the universities. The universities are exactly where we should place the blame. The universities have become job training grounds, and yet continue to droll on and on about the importance of noble things like liberal education, the pursuit of knowledge, the importance of ideas, etc. They cannot have it both ways. Years ago, when tuition rates started escalating faster than inflation, the universities should have been the loudest critics – pointing out the cultural problems that would accompany sending the next generation into the future deeply indebted – namely that all the noble ideas learned at the university would get thrown out the window when financial reality forced recent graduates to chose between noble ideas and survival. If universities truly believed that a liberal education was important; that the pursuit of knowledge benefitted humanity – they should have led the charge to hold down tuition.

    washunate June 26, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    I took it to mean blame as in what allows the system to function. I heartily agree that highly paid workers at universities bear blame for what they do (and don't do) at a granular level.

    It's just that they couldn't do those things without the system handing them gobs of resources, from tax deductability of charitable contributions to ignoring anti-competitive behavior in local real estate ownership to research grants and other direct funding to student loans and other indirect funding.

    Jim June 26, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    Regarding blaming "highly paid workers at universities" – If a society creates incentives for dysfunctional behavior such a society will have a lot of dysfunction. Eliminate the subsidies and see how quicly the educational bubble pops.

    James Levy June 26, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    You are ignoring the way that the rich bid up the cost of everything. 2% of the population will pay whatever the top dozen or so schools will charge so that little Billy or Sue can go to Harvard or Stanford. This leads to cost creep as the next tier ratchet up their prices in lock step with those above them, etc. The same dynamic happens with housing, at least around wealthy metropolitan areas.

    daniel June 26, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    Hi to you two,

    A European perspective on this: yep, that's true on an international perspective. I belong to the ugly list of those readers of this blog who do not fully share the liberal values of most of you hear. However, may I say that I can agree on a lot of stuff.

    US education and health-care are outrageously costly. Every European citizen moving to the states has a question: will he or she be sick whilst there. Every European parent with kids in higher education is aware that having their kids for one closing year in the US is the more they can afford (except if are a banquier d'affaires ). Is the value of the US education good? No doubt! Is is good value for money, of course not. Is the return on the money ok? It will prove disastrous, except if the USD crashed. The main reason? Easy money. As for any kind of investment. Remember that this is indeed a investment plan

    Check the level of revenues of "public sector" teaching staff on both sides of the ponds. The figure for US professionals in these area are available on the Web. They are indeed much more costly than, say, North-of-Europe counterparts, "public sector" professionals in those area. Is higher education in the Netherlands sub-par when compared to the US? Of course not.

    Yep financing education via the Fed (directly or not) is not only insanely costly. Just insane. The only decent solution: set up public institutions staffed with service-minded professionals that did not have to pay an insane sum to build up the curriculum themselves.

    Are "public services" less efficient than private ones here in those area, health-care and higher education. Yep, most certainly. But, sure, having the fed indirectly finance the educational system just destroy any competitive savings made in building a competitive market-orientated educational system and is one of the worst way to handle your educational system.

    Yep, you can do a worst use of the money, subprime or China buildings But that's all about it.

    US should forget about exceptionnalism and pay attention to what North of Europe is doing in this area. Mind you, I am Southerner (of Europe). But of course I understand that trying to run these services on a federal basis is indeed "mission impossible".

    Way to big! Hence the indirect Washington-decided Wall-Street-intermediated Fed-and-deficit-driven financing of higher education. Mind you: we have more and more of this bankers meddling in education in Europe and I do not like what I see.

    John Zelnicker June 27, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    @washunate – 6/26/15, 11:03 am. I know I'm late to the party, but I disagree. It's not the workers, it's the executives and management generally. Just like Wall Street, many of these top administrators have perfected the art of failing upwards.

    IMNSHO everyone needs to stop blaming labor and/or the labor unions. It's not the front line workers, teachers, retail clerks, adjunct instructors, all those people who do the actual work rather than managing other people. Those workers have no bargaining power, and the unions have lost most of theirs, in part due to the horrible labor market, as well as other important reasons.

    We have demonized virtually all of the government workers who actually do the work that enables us to even have a government (all levels) and to provide the services we demand, such as public safety, education, and infrastructure. These people are our neighbors, relatives and friends; we owe them better than this.

    /end of rant

    Roland June 27, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    Unionized support staff at Canadian universities have had sub-inflation wage increases for nearly 20 years, while tuition has been rising at triple the rate of inflation.

    So obviously one can't blame the unions for rising education costs.

    Spring Texan June 28, 2015 at 8:03 am

    Thanks for your rant! You said a mouthful. And could not be more correct.

    Adam Eran June 26, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    Omitted from this account: Federal funding for education has declined 55% since 1972. Part of the Powell memo's agenda.

    It's understandable too; one can hardly blame legislators for punishing the educational establishment given the protests of the '60s and early '70s After all, they were one reason Nixon and Reagan rose to power. How dare they propose real democracy! Harumph!

    To add to students' burden, there's the recent revision of bankruptcy law: student loans can no longer be retired by bankruptcy (Thanks Hillary!) It'll be interesting to see whether Hillary's vote on that bankruptcy revision becomes a campaign issue.

    I also wonder whether employers will start to look for people without degrees as an indication they were intelligent enough to sidestep this extractive scam.

    washunate June 26, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    I'd be curious what you count as federal funding. Pell grants, for example, have expanded both in terms of the number of recipients and the amount of spending over the past 3 – 4 decades.

    More generally, federal support for higher ed comes in a variety of forms. The bankruptcy law you mention is itself a form of federal funding. Tax exemption is another. Tax deductabiliity of contributions is another. So are research grants and exemptions from anti-competitive laws and so forth. There are a range of individual tax credits and deductions. The federal government also does not intervene in a lot of state supports, such as licensing practices in law and medicine that make higher ed gatekeepers to various fiefdoms and allowing universities to take fees for administering (sponsoring) charter schools. The Federal Work-Study program is probably one of the clearest specific examples of a program that offers both largely meaningless busy work and terrible wages.

    As far as large employers seeking intelligence, I'm not sure that's an issue in the US? Generally speaking, the point of putting a college credential in a job requirement is precisely to find people participating in the 'scam'. If an employer is genuinely looking for intelligence, they don't have minimum educational requirements.

    Laughingsong June 26, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    I heard that Congress is cutting those:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/12/10/congress-cuts-federal-financial-aid-for-needy-students/

    different clue June 28, 2015 at 3:06 am

    Why would tuition rates come down when students need to pay with "real money, money they or their parents have actually saved. . . " ? Didn't tuition at state universities begin climbing when state governments began boycotting state universities in terms of embargoing former rates of taxpayer support to them? Leaving the state universities to try making up the difference by raising tuition? If people want to limit or reduce the tuition charged to in-state students of state universities, people will have to resume paying former rates of taxes and elect people to state government to re-target those taxes back to state universities the way they used to do before the reductions in state support to state universities.

    Jesper June 26, 2015 at 10:29 am

    Protest against exploitation and risk being black-listed by exploitative employers -> Only employers left are the ones who actually do want (not pretend to want) ethical people willing to stand up for what they believe in. Not many of those kind of employers around . What is the benefit? What are the risks?

    Tammy June 27, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    What is the benefit? What are the risks?
    I am not a progressive, yet, there is always risk for solidary progress.

    Andrew June 26, 2015 at 10:53 am

    The author misrepresents the nature and demands of Chile's student movement.

    Over the past few decades, university enrollment rates for Chileans expanded dramatically in part due to the creation of many private universities. In Chile, public universities lead the pack in terms of academic reputation and entrance is determined via competitive exams. As a result, students from poorer households who attended low-quality secondary schools generally need to look at private universities to get a degree. And these are the students to which the newly created colleges catered to.

    According to Chilean legislation, universities can only function as non-profit entities. However, many of these new institutions were only nominally non-profit entities (for example, the owners of the university would also set up a real estate company that would rent the facilities to the college at above market prices) and they were very much lacking in quality. After a series of high-profile cases of universities that were open and shut within a few years leaving its students in limbo and debt, anger mounted over for-profit education.

    The widespread support of the student movement was due to generalized anger about and education system that is dearly lacking in quality and to the violation of the spirit of the law regulating education. Once the student movement's demands became more specific and morphed from opposing for profit institutions to demanding free tuition for everyone, the widespread support waned quickly.

    And while the government announced free tuition in public universities, there is a widespread consensus that this is a pretty terrible idea as it is regressive and involves large fiscal costs. In particular because most of the students that attend public universities come from relatively wealthy households that can afford tuition. The students that need the tuition assistance will not benefit under the new rules.

    I personally benefited from the fantastically generous financial aid systems that some private American universities have set up which award grants and scholarships based on financial need only. And I believe that it is desirable for the State to guarantee that any qualified student has access to college regardless of his or her wealth I think that by romanticizing the Chilean student movement the author reveals himself to be either is dishonest or, at best, ignorant.

    RanDomino June 27, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    The protests also involved extremely large riots.

    The Insider June 26, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Students aren't protesting because they don't feel the consequences until they graduate.

    One thing that struck me when I applied for a student loan a few years back to help me get through my last year of graduate school – the living expense allocation was surprisingly high. Not "student sharing an apartment with five random dudes while eating ramen and riding the bus", but more "living alone in a nice one-bedroom apartment while eating takeout and driving a car". Apocryphal stories of students using their student loans to buy new cars or take extravagant vacations were not impossible to believe.

    The living expense portion of student loans is often so generous that students can live relatively well while going to school, which makes it that much easier for them to push to the backs of their minds the consequences that will come from so much debt when they graduate. Consequently, it isn't the students who are complaining – it's the former students. But by the time they are out of school and the university has their money in its pocket, it's too late for them to try and change the system.

    lord koos June 26, 2015 at 11:42 am

    I'm sure many students are simply happy to be in college the ugly truth hits later.

    optimader June 26, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    http://www.marketplace.org/topics/life/education/compete-students-colleges-roll-out-amenities

    Sophomore Noell Conley lives there, too. She shows off the hotel-like room she shares with a roommate.

    "As you walk in, to the right you see our granite countertops with two sinks, one for each of the residents," she says.

    A partial wall separates the beds. Rather than trek down the hall to shower, they share a bathroom with the room next door.

    "That's really nice compared to community bathrooms that I lived in last year," Conley says.

    To be fair, granite countertops last longer. Tempur-Pedic is a local company - and gave a big discount. The amenities include classrooms and study space that are part of the dorm. Many of the residents are in the university's Honors program. But do student really need Apple TV in the lounges, or a smartphone app that lets them check their laundry status from afar?

    "Demand has been very high," says the university's Penny Cox, who is overseeing the construction of several new residence halls on campus. Before Central Hall's debut in August, the average dorm was almost half a century old, she says. That made it harder to recruit.

    "If you visit places like Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama," Cox says, "and you compare what we had with what they have available to offer, we were very far behind."

    Today colleges are competing for a more discerning consumer. Students grew up with fewer siblings, in larger homes, Cox says. They expect more privacy than previous generations - and more comforts.

    "These days we seem to be bringing kids up to expect a lot of material plenty," says Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and author of the book "Generation Me."

    Those students could be in for some disappointment when they graduate, she says.

    "When some of these students have all these luxuries and then they get an entry-level job and they can't afford the enormous flat screen and the granite countertops," Twenge says, "then that's going to be a rude awakening."

    Some on campus also worry about the divide between students who can afford such luxuries and those who can't. The so-called premium dorms cost about $1,000 more per semester. Freshman Josh Johnson, who grew up in a low-income family and lives in one of the university's 1960s-era buildings, says the traditional dorm is good enough for him.

    "I wouldn't pay more just to live in a luxury dorm," he says. "It seems like I could just pay the flat rate and get the dorm I'm in. It's perfectly fine."

    In the near future students who want to live on campus won't have a choice. Eventually the university plans to upgrade all of its residence halls.

    So I wonder who on average will fair better navigating the post-college lifestyle/job market reality check, Noell or Josh? Personally, I would bet on the Joshes living in the 60's vintage enamel painted ciderblock dorm rooms.

    optimader June 26, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Universities responding to the market

    http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2012/08/29/10-Public-Colleges-with-Insanely-Luxurious-Dorms

    Competition for students who have more sophisticated tastes than in past years is creating the perfect environment for schools to try to outdo each other with ever-more posh on-campus housing. Keeping up in the luxury dorm race is increasingly critical to a school's bottom line: A 2006 study published by the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers found that "poorly maintained or inadequate residential facilities" was the number-one reason students rejected enrolling at institutions.

    PHOTO GALLERY: Click Here to See the 10 Schools with Luxury Dorms

    Private universities get most of the mentions on lists of schools with great dorms, as recent ratings by the Princeton Review, College Prowler, and Campus Splash make clear. But a few state schools that have invested in brand-new facilities are starting to show up on those reviews, too.

    While many schools offer first dibs on the nicest digs to upperclassmen on campus, as the war for student dollars ratchets up even first-year students at public colleges are living in style. Here are 10 on-campus dormitories at state schools that offer students resort-like amenities.

    Jerry Denim June 26, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    Bingo! They don't get really mad until they're in their early thirties and they are still stuck doing some menial job with no vacation time, no health insurance and a monstrous mountain of debt. Up until that point they're still working hard waiting for their ship to come in and blaming themselves for any lack of success like Steinbeck's 'embarrassed millionaires.' Then one day maybe a decade after they graduate they realize they've been conned but they've got bills to pay and other problems to worry about so they solider on. 18 year-olds are told by their high school guidance councilors, their parents and all of the adults they trust that college while expensive is a good investment and the only way to succeed. Why should they argue? They don't know any better yet.

    different clue June 28, 2015 at 3:09 am

    Perhaps some students are afraid to protest for fear of being photographed or videographed and having their face and identity given to every prospective employer throughout America. Perhaps those students are afraid of being blackballed throughout the Great American Workplace if they are caught protesting anything on camera.

    Today isn't like the sixties when you could drop out in the confidence that you could always drop back in again. Nowadays there are ten limpets for every scar on the rock.

    seabos84 June 26, 2015 at 11:16 am

    the average is such a worthless number. The Data we need, and which all these parasitic professional managerial types won't provide –
    x axis would be family income, by $5000 increments.
    y axis would be the median debt level
    we could get fancy, and also throw in how many kids are in school in each of those income increments.

    BTW – this 55 yr. old troglodyte believes that 1 of the roles (note – I did NOT say "The Role") of education is preparing people to useful to society. 300++ million Americans, 7 billion humans – we ALL need shelter, reliable and safe food, reliable and safe water, sewage disposal, clothing, transportation, education, sick care, power, leisure, we should ALL have access to family wage jobs and time for BBQs with our various communities several times a year. I know plenty of techno-dweebs here in Seattle who need to learn some of the lessons of 1984, The Prince, and Shakespeare. I know plenty of fuzzies who could be a bit more useful with some rudimentary skills in engineering, or accounting, or finance, or stats, or bio, or chem
    I don't know what the current education system is providing, other than some accidental good things for society at large, and mainly mechanisms for the para$ite cla$$e$ to stay parasites.

    rmm.

    Adam Eran June 26, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    Mao was perfectly content to promote technical education in the new China. What he deprecated (and fought to suppress) was the typical liberal arts notion of critical thinking. We're witnessing something comparable in the U.S.

    This suppression in China led to an increase in Mao's authority (obviously), but kept him delusional. For example, because China relied on Mao's agricultural advice, an estimated 70 million Chinese died during peacetime. But who else was to be relied upon as an authority?

    Back the the U.S.S.A. (the United StateS of America): One Australian says of the American system: "You Yanks don't consult the wisdom of democracy; you enable mobs."

    Tammy June 27, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    Mao was perfectly content to promote technical education in the new China. What he deprecated (and fought to suppress) was the typical liberal arts notion of critical thinking. We're witnessing something comparable in the U.S. We're witnessing something comparable in the U.S.

    Mao liked chaos because he believed in continuous revolution. I would argue what we're experiencing is nothing comparable to what China experienced. (I hope I've understood you correctly.)

    Ted June 26, 2015 at 11:20 am

    I am pretty sure a tradition of protest to affect political change in the US is a rather rare bird. Most people "protest" by changing their behavior. As an example, by questioning the value of the 46,000 local private college tuition as opposed the the 15k and 9k tiered state college options. My daughter is entering the freshman class next year, we opted for the cheaper state option because, in the end, a private school degree adds nothing, unless it is to a high name recognition institution.

    I think, like housing, a downstream consequence of "the gouge" is not to question - much less understand - class relations, but to assess the value of the lifetyle choice once you are stuck with the price of paying for that lifestyle in the form of inflated debt repayments. Eventually "the folk" figure it out and encourage cheaper alternatives toward the same goal.

    Jim June 26, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    There's probably little point in engaging in political protest. Most people maximise their chances of success by focusing on variables over which they have some degree of control. The ability of most people to have much effect on the overall political-economic system is slight and any returns from political activity are highly uncertain.

    jrs June 26, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    How does anyone even expect to maintain cheap available state options without political activity? By wishful thinking I suppose?

    The value of a private school might be graduating sooner, state schools are pretty overcrowded, but that may not at all be worth the debt (I doubt it almost ever is on a purely economic basis).

    RabidGandhi June 27, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    Maybe if we just elect the right people with cool posters and a hopey changey slogan, they'll take care of everything for us and we won't have to be politically active.

    jrs June 26, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    Of course refusal to engage politically because the returns to oneself by doing so are small really IS the tragedy of the commons. Thus one might say it's ethical to engage politically in order to avoid it. Some ethical action focuses on overcoming tragedy of the commons dilemmas. Of course the U.S. system being what it is I have a hard time blaming anyone for giving up.

    chairman June 26, 2015 at 11:37 am

    The middle class, working class and poor have no voice in politics or policy at all, and they don't know what's going on until it's too late. They've been pushed by all their high school staff that college is the only acceptable option - and often it is. What else are they going to do out of high school, work a 30 hour a week minimum wage retail job? The upper middle class and rich, who entirely monopolize the media, don't have any reason to care about skyrocketing college tuition - their parents are paying for it anyway. They'd rather write about the hip and trendy issues of the day, like trigger warnings.

    Fool June 26, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    To the contrary, they're hardly advised by "their high school staff"; nonetheless, subway ads for Phoenix, Monroe, etc. have a significant influence.

    Uncle Bruno June 26, 2015 at 11:58 am

    They're too busy working

    Fool June 26, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Also Tinder.

    collegestudent June 26, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Speaking as one of these college students, I think that a large part of the reason that the vast majority of students are just accepting the tuition rates is because it has become the societal norm. Growing up I can remember people saying "You need to go to college to find a good job." Because a higher education is seen as a necessity for most people, students think of tuition as just another form of taxes, acceptable and inevitable, which we will expect to get a refund on later in life.

    Pitchfork June 26, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    I teach at a "good" private university. Most of my students don't have a clue as to how they're being exploited. Many of the best students feel enormous pressure to succeed and have some inkling that their job prospects are growing narrower, but they almost universally accept this as the natural order of things. Their outlook: if there are 10 or 100 applicants for every available job, well, by golly, I just have to work that much harder and be the exceptional one who gets the job.

    Incoming freshmen were born in the late 90s - they've never known anything but widespread corruption, financial and corporate oligarchy, i-Pads and the Long Recession.

    But as other posters note, the moment of realization usually comes after four years of prolonged adolescence, luxury dorm living and excessive debt accumulation.

    Tammy June 27, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    Most Ph.D.'s don't either. I'd argue there have been times they have attempted to debate that exploitation is a good–for their employer and himself/herself–with linguistic games. Mind numbing . To be fair, they have a job.

    Gottschee June 26, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    I have watched the tuition double–double!–at my alma mater in the last eleven years. During this period, administrators have set a goal of increasing enrollment by a third, and from what I hear, they've done so. My question is always this: where is the additional tuition money going? Because as I walk through the campus, I don't really see that many improvements–yes, a new building, but that was supposedly paid for by donations and endowments. I don't see new offices for these high-priced admin people that colleges are hiring, and in fact, what I do see is an increase in the number of part-time faculty and adjuncts. The tenured faculty is not prospering from all this increased revenue, either.

    I suspect the tuition is increasing so rapidly simply because the college can get away with it. And that means they are exploiting the students.

    While still a student, I once calculated that it cost me $27.00/hour to be in class. (15 weeks x 20 "contact hours" per week =
    300 hours/semester, $8000/semester divided by 300 hours = $27.00/hour). A crude calculation, certainly, but a starting point. I did this because I had an instructor who was consistently late to class, and often cancelled class, so much that he wiped out at least $300.00 worth of instruction. I had the gall to ask for a refund of that amount. I'm full of gall. Of course, I was laughed at, not just by the administrators, but also by some students.

    Just like medical care, education pricing is "soft," that is, the price is what you are willing to pay. Desirable students get scholarships and stipends, which other students subsidize; similarly, some pre-ACA patients in hospitals were often treated gratis.

    Students AND hospital patients alike seem powerless to affect the contract with the provider. Reform will not likely be forthcoming, as students, like patients, are "just passing through."

    Martin Finnucane June 26, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Higher education wears the cloak of liberalism, but in policy and practice, it can be a corrupt and cutthroat system of power and exploitation.

    I find the "but" in that sentence to be dissonant.

    Mark Anderson June 26, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    The tuition at most public universities has quadrupled or more over the last 15 to 20 years precisely BECAUSE state government subsidies have been
    slashed in the meantime. I was told around 2005 that quadrupled tuition at the University of Minnesota made up for about half of the state money that the legislature had slashed from the university budget over the previous 15 years.

    It is on top of that situation that university administrators are building themselves little aristocratic empires, very much modeled on the kingdoms of corporate CEOs
    where reducing expenses (cutting faculty) and services to customers (fewer classes, more adjuncts) is seen as the height of responsibility and accountability, perhaps
    even the definition of propriety.

    Jim June 26, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    Everyone should read the introductory chapter to David Graeber's " The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy."

    In Chapter One of this book entitled "The Iron law of Liberalism and the Era of Total Bureaucratization" Graeber notes that the US has become the most rigidly credentialised society in the world where

    " in field after field from nurses to art teachers, physical therapists, to foreign policy consultants, careers which used to be considered an art (best learned through doing) now require formal professional training and a certificate of completion."

    Graeber, in that same chapter, makes another extremely important point. when he notes that career advancement in may large bureaucratic organizations demands a willingness to play along with the fiction that advancement is based on merit, even though most everyone know that this isn't true.

    The structure of modern power in the U.S., in both the merging public and private sectors, is built around the false ideology of a giant credentialized meritorcracy rather than the reality of arbitrary extraction by predatory bureaucratic networks.

    armchair June 26, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    Anecdote: I was speaking to someone who recently started working at as a law school administrator at my alma mater. Enrollment is actually down at law schools (I believe), because word has spread about the lame legal job market. So, the school administration is watching its pennies, and the new administrator says the administrators aren't getting to go on so many of the all expense paid conferences and junkets that they used to back in the heyday. As I hear this, I am thinking about how many of these awesome conferences in San Diego, New Orleans and New York that I'm paying back. Whatever happened to the metaphorical phrase: "when a pig becomes a hog, it goes to slaughter"?

    Another anecdote: I see my undergrad alma mater has demolished the Cold War era dorms on one part of campus and replaced it with tons of slick new student housing.

    MaroonBulldog June 26, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    No doubt those Cold War era dorms had outlived their planned life. Time for replacement. Hell, they had probably become inhabitable and unsafe.

    Meanwhile, has your undergraduate school replaced any of its lecture courses with courses presented same model as on-line traffic school? I have a pending comment below about how my nephew's public university "taught" him introductory courses in accounting and macroeconomics that way. Please be assured that the content of those courses was on a par with best practices in the on-line traffic school industry. It would be hilarious if it weren't so desperately sad.

    Roquentin June 26, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    I read things like this and think about Louis Althusser and his ideas about "Ideological State Apparatuses." While in liberal ideology the education is usually considered to be the space where opportunity to improve one's situation is founded, Althusser reached the complete opposite conclusion. For him, universities are the definitive bourgeois institution, the ideological state apparatus of the modern capitalist state par excellance. The real purpose of the university was not to level the playing field of opportunity but to preserve the advantages of the bourgeoisie and their children, allowing the class system to perpetuate/reproduce itself.

    It certainly would explain a lot. It would explain why trying to send everyone to college won't solve this, because not everyone can have a bourgeois job. Some people actually have to do the work. The whole point of the university as an institution was to act as a sorting/distribution hub for human beings, placing them at certain points within the division of labor. A college degree used to mean more because getting it was like a golden ticket, guaranteeing someone who got it at least a petit-bourgeois lifestyle. The thing is, there are only so many slots in corporate America for this kind of employment. That number is getting smaller too. You could hand every man, woman, and child in America a BS and it wouldn't change this in the slightest.

    What has happened instead, for college to preserve its role as the sorting mechanism/preservation of class advantage is what I like to call degree inflation and/or an elite formed within degrees themselves. Now a BS or BA isn't enough, one needs an Master's or PhD to really be distinguished. Now a degree from just any institution won't do, it has to be an Ivy or a Tier 1 school. Until we learn to think realistically about what higher education is as an institution little or nothing will change.

    Jim June 26, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    Any credential is worthless if everybody has it. All information depends on contrast. It's impossible for everybody to "stand out" from the masses. The more people have college degrees the less value a college degree has.

    sid_finster June 26, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    When I was half-grown, I heard it said that religion is no longer the opiate of the masses, in that no one believes in God anymore, at least not enough for it to change actual behavior.

    Instead, buying on credit is the opiate of the masses.

    MaroonBulldog June 26, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    My nephew asked me to help him with his college introductory courses in macroeconomics and accounting. I was disappointed to find out what was going on: no lectures by professors, no discussion sessions with teaching assistants; no team projects–just two automated correspondence courses, with automated computer graded problem sets objective tests – either multiple choice, fill in the blank with a number, or fill in the blank with a form answer. This from a public university that is charging tuition for attendance just as though it were really teaching something. All they're really certifying is that the student can perform exercises is correctly reporting what a couple of textbooks said about subjects of marginal relevance to his degree. My nephew understands exactly that this is going on, but still .

    This is how 21st century America treats its young people: it takes people who are poor, in the sense that they have no assets, and makes them poorer, loading them up with student debt, which they incur in order to finance a falsely-so-called course of university study that can't be a good deal, even for the best students among them.

    I am not suggesting the correspondence courses have no worth at all. But they do not have the worth that is being charged for them in this bait-and-switch exercise by Ed Business.

    MaroonBulldog June 27, 2015 at 1:39 am

    After further thought, I'd compare my nephew's two courses to on-line traffic school: Mechanized "learning" – forget it all as soon as the test is over – Critical thinking not required. Except for the kind of "test preparation" critical thinking that teaches one to spot and eliminate the obviously wrong choices in objective answers–that kind of thinking saves time and so is very helpful.

    Not only is he paying full tuition to receive this treatment, but his family and mine are paying taxes to support it, too.

    Very useful preparation for later life, where we can all expect to attend traffic school a few times. But no preparation for any activity of conceivable use or benefit to any other person.

    Spring Texan June 28, 2015 at 8:07 am

    Good story. What a horrible rip-off!

    P. Fitzsimon June 27, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    I read recently that the business establishment viewed the most important contribution of colleges was that they warehoused young people for four years to allow maturing.

    Fred Grosso June 27, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Where are the young people in all this? Is anyone going to start organizing to change things? Any ideas? Any interest? Are we going to have some frustrated, emotional person attempt to kill a university president once every ten years? Then education can appeal for support from the government to beef up security. Meanwhile the same old practices will prevail and the rich get richer and the rest of us get screwed.

    Come on people step up.

    Unorthodoxmarxist June 27, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    The reason students accept this has to be the absolutely demobilized political culture of the United States combined with what college represents structurally to students from the middle classes: the only possibility – however remote – of achieving any kind of middle class income.

    Really your choices in the United States are, in terms of jobs, to go into the military (and this is really for working class kids, Southern families with a military history and college-educated officer-class material) or to go to college.

    The rest, who have no interest in the military, attend college, much like those who wanted to achieve despite of their class background went into the priesthood in the medieval period. There hasn't been a revolt due to the lack of any idea it could function differently and that American families are still somehow willing to pay the exorbitant rates to give their children a piece of paper that still enables them to claim middle class status though fewer and fewer find jobs. $100k in debt seems preferable to no job prospects at all.

    Colleges have become a way for the ruling class to launder money into supposed non-profits and use endowments to purchase stocks, bonds, and real estate. College administrators and their lackeys (the extended school bureaucracy) are propping up another part of the financial sector – just take a look at Harvard's $30+ billion endowment, or Yale's $17 billion – these are just the top of a very large heap. They're all deep into the financial sector. Professors and students are simply there as an excuse for the alumni money machine and real estate scams to keep running, but there's less and less of a reason for them to employ professors, and I say this as a PhD with ten years of teaching experience who has seen the market dry up even more than it was when I entered grad school in the early 2000s.

    A Real Black Person purple monkey dishwasher June 28, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    "Colleges have become a way for the ruling class to launder money into supposed non-profits and use endowments to purchase stocks, bonds, and real estate. "

    Unorthodoxmarxist, I thought I was the only person who was coming to that conclusion. I think there's data out there that could support our thesis that college tuition inflation may be affecting real estate prices. After all, justification a college grad gave to someone who was questioning the value of a college degree was that by obtaining a "a degree" and a professional job, an adult could afford to buy a home in major metropolitan hubs. I'm not sure if he was that ignorant, (business majors, despite the math requirement are highly ideological people. They're no where near as objective as they like to portray themselves as) or if he hasn't been in contact with anyone with a degree trying to buy a home in a metropolitan area.

    Anyways, if our thesis is true, then if home prices declined in 2009, then college tuition should have declined as well, but it didn't at most trustworthy schools. Prospective students kept lining up to pay more for education that many insiders believe is "getting worse" because of widespread propaganda and a lack of alternatives, especially for "middle class" women.

    Pelham June 27, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    It's hard to say, but there ought to be a power keg of students here primed to blow. And Bernie Sanders' proposal for free college could be the fuse.

    But first he'd have the light the fuse, and maybe he can. He's getting huge audiences and a lot of interest these days. And here's a timely issue. What would happen if Sanders toured colleges and called for an angry, mass and extended student strike across the country to launch on a certain date this fall or next spring to protest these obscene tuitions and maybe call for something else concrete, like a maximum ratio of administrators to faculty for colleges to receive accreditation?

    It could ignite not only a long-overdue movement on campuses but also give a big boost to his campaign. He'd have millions of motivated and even furious students on his side as well as a lot of motivated and furious parents of students (my wife and I would be among them) - and these are just the types of people likely to get out and vote in the primaries and general election.

    Sanders' consistent message about the middle class is a strong one. But here's a solid, specific but very wide-ranging issue that could bring that message into very sharp relief and really get a broad class of politically engaged people fired up.

    I'm not one of those who think Sanders can't win but applaud his candidacy because it will nudge Hillary Clinton. I don't give a fig about Clinton. I think there's a real chance Sanders can win not just the nomination but also the presidency. This country is primed for a sharp political turn. Sanders could well be the right man in the right place and time. And this glaring and ongoing tuition ripoff that EVERYONE agrees on could be the single issue that puts him front-and-center rather than on the sidelines.

    Rosario June 28, 2015 at 1:18 am

    I finished graduate school about three years ago. During the pre-graduate terms that I paid out of pocket (2005-2009) I saw a near 70 percent increase in tuition (look up KY college tuition 1987-2009 for proof).

    Straight bullshit, but remember our school was just following the national (Neoliberal) model.

    Though, realize that I was 19-23 years old. Very immature (still immature) and feeling forces beyond my control. I did not protest out of a) fear [?] (I don't know, maybe, just threw that in there) b) the sheepskin be the path to salvation (include social/cultural pressures from parent, etc.).

    I was more affected by b). This is the incredible power of our current Capitalist culture. It trains us well. We are always speaking its language, as if a Classic. Appraising its world through its values.

    I wished to protest (i.e. Occupy, etc.) but to which master? All of its targets are post modern, all of it, to me, nonsense, and, because of this undead (unable to be destroyed). This coming from a young man, as I said, still immature, though I fear this misdirection, and alienation is affecting us all.

    John June 28, 2015 at 10:42 am

    NYU can gouge away. It's filled with Chinese students (spies) who pay full tuition.

    [Nov 27, 2017] How a half-educated tech elite delivered us into chaos by John Naughton

    This is about neoliberalism, not about the structure of the university education and the amount of social courses required to get an STEM degree. The article is a baloney in this sense. And because neoliberalism defy regulation Google and Facebook were able to built " amazingly sophisticated, computer-driven engines for extracting users' personal information and data trails, refining them for sale to advertisers in high-speed data-trading auctions that are entirely unregulated and opaque to everyone except the companies themselves."
    Notable quotes:
    "... Put simply, what Google and Facebook have built is a pair of amazingly sophisticated, computer-driven engines for extracting users' personal information and data trails, refining them for sale to advertisers in high-speed data-trading auctions that are entirely unregulated and opaque to everyone except the companies themselves. ..."
    "... Democracy in America ..."
    "... All of which brings to mind CP Snow's famous Two Cultures lecture, delivered in Cambridge in 1959, in which he lamented the fact that the intellectual life of the whole of western society was scarred by the gap between the opposing cultures of science and engineering on the one hand, and the humanities on the other – with the latter holding the upper hand among contemporary ruling elites. Snow thought that this perverse dominance would deprive Britain of the intellectual capacity to thrive in the postwar world and he clearly longed to reverse it. ..."
    "... Lack of education in the humanities is not the reason for misuse of the tech giant's products, as the author so emphatically states. It simply comes down to greed. That human drive to make more, more and more leads them to overlook things for the sake of making more. A class in political science or sociology is not going to change that. ..."
    "... Zuckerberg and similar folks are guilty of the same thing that most people are - greed. Monetary greed is just one part. ..."
    "... As for education, it's not easy to get an engineering or comp sci degree. But while you are getting hammered in classes that are far more complex than most other things taught on the campus, you do indeed have to take a variety of other non-technical electives outside of your technical major to complete the overall curriculum. ..."
    "... This likely has been pointed out already, but the American University system requires all students to take a core of humanities classes regardless of major. SO they actually have been exposed to, most likely, a fair number of Western Civ, History, and Literature courses. Their deficiency I think lays more in the utopian roots of the internet and technology development of the 1990s. They have been strangely naive and ruthless at the same time, and its changing human interactions and society sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. ..."
    "... Wow, if there ever was an example of why Trump won, the utter and complete self righteousness of the American liberal, this post is it. Congratulations. ..."
    "... If you've every hung out in Silicon Valley with techies you'd know that mild sociopathy is indeed likely part of the problem. ..."
    "... Capitalists will do what capitalists do. So ignoring social consequences in the pursuit of money is baked-in. Doesn't matter what your education is. In fact, class has more to do with their blindness than the lack of a liberal arts education. ..."
    "... It ties in with what many of the fake-news-complainers are reluctant to discuss: there is an ocean of sociological/economic 'facts' that exist somewhere between 'easily-provable lie' and 'this may be a lie to the elite, but it is a true fact for the unwashed masses'. and in tandem with that: the uneasy questions about censorship that come with *any* attempt at regulating the press. ..."
    "... This is too simple. The development of critical thought is the key thing and it isn't monopolized by any discipline. People without any qualifications and without much education can - and do - exercise critical ability. The problem is a cultural one. Consumerism and the pretend world in which people 'think' they can be what they want and live in make believe soaps is the problem. ..."
    "... "If you have an issue with tech giants messing around with your personal data, don't give them your personal data." They'll take your personal data, regardless. Because they make money from selling it. ..."
    Nov 19, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

    One of the biggest puzzles about our current predicament with fake news and the weaponisation of social media is why the folks who built this technology are so taken aback by what has happened. Exhibit A is the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg , whose political education I recently chronicled . But he's not alone. In fact I'd say he is quite representative of many of the biggest movers and shakers in the tech world. We have a burgeoning genre of " OMG, what have we done? " angst coming from former Facebook and Google employees who have begun to realize that the cool stuff they worked on might have had, well, antisocial consequences.

    Put simply, what Google and Facebook have built is a pair of amazingly sophisticated, computer-driven engines for extracting users' personal information and data trails, refining them for sale to advertisers in high-speed data-trading auctions that are entirely unregulated and opaque to everyone except the companies themselves.

    The purpose of this infrastructure was to enable companies to target people with carefully customised commercial messages and, as far as we know, they are pretty good at that. (Though some advertisers are beginning to wonder if these systems are quite as good as Google and Facebook claim.) And in doing this, Zuckerberg, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and co wrote themselves licenses to print money and build insanely profitable companies.

    It never seems to have occurred to them that their engines could be used to deliver ideological and political messages

    It never seems to have occurred to them that their advertising engines could also be used to deliver precisely targeted ideological and political messages to voters. Hence the obvious question: how could such smart people be so stupid? The cynical answer is they knew about the potential dark side all along and didn't care, because to acknowledge it might have undermined the aforementioned licenses to print money. Which is another way of saying that most tech leaders are sociopaths. Personally I think that's unlikely, although among their number are some very peculiar characters: one thinks, for example, of Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel – Trump's favourite techie; and Travis Kalanick, the founder of Uber.

    So what else could explain the astonishing naivety of the tech crowd? My hunch is it has something to do with their educational backgrounds. Take the Google co-founders. Sergey Brin studied mathematics and computer science. His partner, Larry Page, studied engineering and computer science. Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard, where he was studying psychology and computer science, but seems to have been more interested in the latter.

    sWhy Facebook is in a hole over data mining | John Naughton

    Now mathematics, engineering and computer science are wonderful disciplines – intellectually demanding and fulfilling. And they are economically vital for any advanced society. But mastering them teaches students very little about society or history – or indeed about human nature. As a consequence, the new masters of our universe are people who are essentially only half-educated. They have had no exposure to the humanities or the social sciences, the academic disciplines that aim to provide some understanding of how society works, of history and of the roles that beliefs, philosophies, laws, norms, religion and customs play in the evolution of human culture.

    We are now beginning to see the consequences of the dominance of this half-educated elite. As one perceptive observer Bob O'Donnell puts it, "a liberal arts major familiar with works like Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America , John Stuart Mill's On Liberty , or even the work of ancient Greek historians, might have been able to recognise much sooner the potential for the 'tyranny of the majority' or other disconcerting sociological phenomena that are embedded into the very nature of today's social media platforms. While seemingly democratic at a superficial level, a system in which the lack of structure means that all voices carry equal weight, and yet popularity, not experience or intelligence, actually drives influence, is clearly in need of more refinement and thought than it was first given."

    All of which brings to mind CP Snow's famous Two Cultures lecture, delivered in Cambridge in 1959, in which he lamented the fact that the intellectual life of the whole of western society was scarred by the gap between the opposing cultures of science and engineering on the one hand, and the humanities on the other – with the latter holding the upper hand among contemporary ruling elites. Snow thought that this perverse dominance would deprive Britain of the intellectual capacity to thrive in the postwar world and he clearly longed to reverse it.

    Snow passed away in 1980, but one wonders what he would have made of the new masters of our universe. One hopes that he might see it as a reminder of the old adage: be careful what you wish for – you might just get it.

    John Dumaker , 20 Nov 2017 18:26

    Lack of education in the humanities is not the reason for misuse of the tech giant's products, as the author so emphatically states. It simply comes down to greed. That human drive to make more, more and more leads them to overlook things for the sake of making more. A class in political science or sociology is not going to change that.
    Laney65 -> Dan Campbell , 20 Nov 2017 17:55
    Middle and high school in the US need to tackle more philosophy, history and other humanities instead of force feeding kids test material for them to simply memorize. Then, lo and behold, by the time kids get into university, they may already have grasped the basics of human analytical skills. Why wait till further education?
    capatriot -> Zenovia Iordache , 20 Nov 2017 17:34
    Wtf? All this hue and cry that Facebook has "ruined" democracy ... and I see you've actually bought into it. Holy cow, who knew a few hundred thousand $$ gets Brexit and Trump done while $1 billion in actual adverts cannot elect Clinton?

    Goodness, that's some powerful analytica, no? You guys should really hear yourselves ... you sound utterly deranged by this Trump thing!

    Rita Ihly -> Declawed , 20 Nov 2017 17:24
    If we are all concerned, we can remedy 'the problem'. Chuck Cable, ( I did 7 years ago), get off facebook, twitter and the like. We are all subject to the marketing, the allure of 'like' thinking, etc. Yet we need to 'grow up' mature, and be concerned about this path. Our youth is our hope, but if they are indoctrinated and sucked into the social network mess, I do not see a future or much hope. Yes, it is all about marketing, greed, and ego. Pretty difficult to overcome. Soul searching, integrity, and sincere concern for democracy is crucial.
    Hallucinogen , 20 Nov 2017 17:18

    It never seems to have occurred to them that their advertising engines could also be used to deliver precisely targeted ideological and political messages to voters. Hence the obvious question: how could such smart people be so stupid?

    So stupid? Is the author claiming to have known this in advance of it happening?
    Dizzy123 , 20 Nov 2017 17:17
    A yes...science. "Once they go up, who cares where they come down, that's not my department, says Werner Von Braun" (Tom Leher) Man kind has always been willing to subjugate it's essential humanity for the elusive goal of "progress". The computer age is no different.
    Dizzy123 -> AsboSubject , 20 Nov 2017 17:14
    Well, actually , they did. Slaves were not allowed to vote in the UK either. And, one must remember, it was the UK that introduced slavery to North America which was, after all, a British colony ruled by British courts and British jurisprudence at that juncture.
    Dan Campbell -> funcrew , 20 Nov 2017 16:27
    Anyone who finishes engineering cannot be classified as a dim bulb. It's only understood by those that go through it how difficult it is in comparison to other things. The complexity is hard to explain to anyone outside of it. Most people fail out or quit, literally, and those are the ones that at least gave it a try. I watched many such people go on to the business or other schools and rush a frat and barely study and ace their courses. They said straight up that it wasn't even close.
    Dan Campbell , 20 Nov 2017 16:25
    Zuckerberg and similar folks are guilty of the same thing that most people are - greed. Monetary greed is just one part. Additionally, there's a ton of ego there to want to do things others haven't done or can't do or aren't doing, but ego is not exclusive to the tech industry. They were negligent in looking the other way while their products were exploited and they hid under freedom of speech, providing a functionality that isn't necessarily tied with or promotes nefarious conduct so they aren't responsible when it does. There's no shortage of this through years - radio, TV, nuclear power, guns, drug paraphernalia, chemicals, photo copiers, MP3 players and file copying services like Napster, on and on. It's not just technical items.

    It's all about making money. Twitter is sitting back absolutely loving every Trump tweet, while individually at least some or many of the people there hate the actual tweets themselves or at least think the POTUS should be communicating in a better manner and put this ad hoc approach aside. I don't know of too many that think he's doing good things for the country or world or even his self image and reputation with it and should continue. But for Twitter it promotes their product and service and stock and pay check and bonus and livelihood. So the greed wins out.

    As for education, it's not easy to get an engineering or comp sci degree. But while you are getting hammered in classes that are far more complex than most other things taught on the campus, you do indeed have to take a variety of other non-technical electives outside of your technical major to complete the overall curriculum. But there's only so much you can do, only so much time and interest. You can't necessarily expect each and everyone to be incredibly well rounded without at least sacrificing their ability to focus and specialize in their strength and interest. Pretty much every doctor I've met is aloof to some degree. Accountants have trouble thinking outside the strict confines of the accounting box. I know plenty of lawyers who aren't great with technology or computers. And few people in those professions that are also incredibly versed in the things the author mentions. Few have time to be once life and family kicks in.

    ChinaDoubter , 20 Nov 2017 16:05
    This likely has been pointed out already, but the American University system requires all students to take a core of humanities classes regardless of major. SO they actually have been exposed to, most likely, a fair number of Western Civ, History, and Literature courses. Their deficiency I think lays more in the utopian roots of the internet and technology development of the 1990s. They have been strangely naive and ruthless at the same time, and its changing human interactions and society sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.
    Dan Campbell -> LuvvleeJubblee , 20 Nov 2017 15:44
    He said he was "half educated" not because he finished only half of his comp sci degree (or even psychology) but because he wasn't educated in other subjects that may have given him insight into human behavior and sociology. There may be some truth to that but it seems kind of a stretch since pretty much most people are as he describes; he just seems to be picking on Zuckerberg since he developed something with such huge influence and is now on the hot seat for being at least naive if not deliberately looking the other way while his platform was used in ways he probably didn't envision or want but made them a ton of money. Most people aren't really that educated or versed in the things the author mentions, and that includes many people outside of the tech industry who could never accomplish what Zuckerberg or others have accomplished.
    funcrew , 20 Nov 2017 15:26
    A 4-year engineering degree already takes 5 years to complete (at least for a dim bulb like myself). We already have to take a bunch of non-technical social science, history, and English "core" classes.
    David -> LuvvleeJubblee , 20 Nov 2017 15:23
    Way to miss the point. Zuckerberg is poorly educated in understanding human behavior. I could've told these tech yokels exactly what was becoming of their practices.
    Declawed -> Tersena , 20 Nov 2017 15:21

    It's no coincidence that the people I know who eschew things like Twitter and Facebook are the techy people who can remember the internet in the good ol' days when the maxim was "don't tell anyone anything about anything".

    God, I remember that feeling. Still on a modem and proudly watching people excitedly get into the Internet. And then I watched on in utter horror as they give away their real names. I didn't understand why people didn't understand. You can discard a mask - you can't discard your face!
    uberkunst -> capatriot , 20 Nov 2017 14:59
    And you fail to realize that your existence is not, never has and never will be an island that removes you from the rest of humanity. It is irrelevant to the rest of us if you volunteer to be ignorant of the rest of us, and yet you think that only if everyone else was like you the problem would be solved.

    Sorry but, our existence is inherently governed by the fact that we are social animals and part of an Earth based biosphere and politically that requires we show more than smug diffidence. I realise that religions have spent the last 2000 years or so trying to separate us from each other and nature, by pretending we have individual souls far more important than our collective being, but that's not an excuse either.

    Declawed , 20 Nov 2017 14:52

    "While seemingly democratic at a superficial level, a system in which the lack of structure means that all voices carry equal weight, and yet popularity, not experience or intelligence, actually drives influence, is clearly in need of more refinement and thought than it was first given"

    Erm. The inevitable effect of connection-seeking in a low friction environment is called The Singularity and people have been warning about it for at least the last couple of decades now.

    Congratulations. You've recognized the Problem. Now, if you really want to look smart, explain why nobody involved wants to implement the Solution...

    Zenovia Iordache -> capatriot , 20 Nov 2017 14:43
    I have a feeling your poor friends get the Big picture while you dont. Trumps get elected while you are offline. Brexit happens while you are offline cause Cambridge Analytica and Farage .. well they work hard at protecting certain interests. And so on.. is about information wars and power. And their consequences on democracy. And you might not be immediately affected If you are white male and from an OK bakground. If you are privileged and well off maybe even your children will make it in the offline bubble.
    But what about the rest?
    AsboSubject -> capatriot , 20 Nov 2017 14:28
    The UK history on democracy isn't exactly a roll call of enlightened thinking either. The only gains were made by often violent demonstrations by The Chartists and Suffragettes. But at least the UK never banned black people from voting.
    AsboSubject -> blandino , 20 Nov 2017 14:19
    You are not a nice person. Thinking that people you imagine aren't as intelligent or don't see the world the way you see it deserve dieing from poverty or opioid overdoses is quite unpleasant.
    rogerfgay , 20 Nov 2017 13:52
    Sure, pick on the engineers. They make more money than you do. But if your half-courage took a leap forward, you'd target the quarter-educated people who are driving this because they control the spending. But then, they're also the people you're asking for a job aren't they?
    capatriot -> blandino , 20 Nov 2017 13:41
    Wow, if there ever was an example of why Trump won, the utter and complete self righteousness of the American liberal, this post is it. Congratulations.

    You never had a "democracy" ... or if you had one, it was in the very dim past and limited to propertied men ... in recent times, you've had a two-party oligarchy managed by military-tech corporations. Oh, those good old days of limited choice and Vietnam, how can we ever go back to those, amirite?

    capatriot , 20 Nov 2017 13:32
    Gosh, I guess they were not joking when they talked about the "global village" ... and anyone knows a village is full of gossip and half-truths.

    I feel like almost every other day i need to point out to my hyperventilating Russia-fearing friends that you all do realize that all of this online-ness is voluntary, right? That a person can have a complete and real existence with no Facebook profile, not Tweet, none of that? I'm one such person, and I work in tech.

    tommydog -> pipspeak , 20 Nov 2017 13:27
    Are media companies prevented by regulation from reporting "fake news". In any supermarket you'll spot newspapers with headlines to the effect that "My Mother-in-Law is a Space Alien". Now, while I'd guess that is true some of the time, I have a hard time believing that there are really that many space aliens around harassing their earthling inlaws. I'm not aware that that reporting is regulated. Are you saying it is?
    blandino , 20 Nov 2017 12:53
    The vow claimed by Brin and other Google founders, "Do No Evil," should have been a warning. In a New Yorker piece on tech's influence on the election last summer, a Facebook employee was quoted as saying, "We joke about who we should give the election to." It has recently come out that as Apple, the most traitorous of all the giant tech corporations that are a product of the American educational system (before it was strangled by Republicans like Trump and Betsy DeVos), traitorous because they pay no corporate taxes in the U.S., had an opportunity to choose between making phones and PDAs addictive pleasure machines or responsible news devices. They chose addictive pleasures, because it's obviously more profitable, like McDonald's supersizing its French fries and sugary drinks.

    They've created a generation of Americans who will swallow anything that's fed to them ("It must be true. I read it on the Internet."). These are the people who love Trump, who don't understand or care about the Constitution or the Bill of Rights and would probably vote against them in a referendum (which some Republicans have promoted as a new Constitutional Convention). Their minds have become morbidly obese, filled with Angry Birds and empty Twitter posts that leave them unable to comprehend ideas that take more than 140 characters to express.

    Such people deserve their fate (poverty, death by opioids), but it's tragic and evil that they are wrecking the planet with climate change denial (which, of course, justifies unregulated pollution), science denial (in which Evangelical Christians commit the child abuse of denying evolution and trying to prohibit its teaching.Such Fake Christians also reject most of Jesus' liberal teachings.)

    Here in the SF Bay Area it's hard to avoid knowing some of these techies. They aren't all clueless about social interaction, arrogant, selfish, and contemptuous of other people--only 90% of them. The remainder scratch their heads, smile, cash their paychecks and stock options, and retire to multimillion dollar ranches to write cookbooks and make wine.

    So now we have a population of tech geeks who don't know much but think they know everything, who spout "Do No Evil," while doing the ultimate evil--making a world unsafe for democracy but a pleasure palace for the rich, using a technology that is a uniquely American product of an educational system that was once a shining example and is now in shambles to destroy the dream of democracy that America used to champion, but does no longer.

    It makes the coming Chinese domination of the world seem like cosmic justice, doesn't it?

    McNameeRing , 20 Nov 2017 12:42
    More degrees in the humanities is no antidote to or remedy for amoral/harmful tech and those who create and market it. Nor is this a problem of white privilege and lack of inclusiveness -- minorities run after tech goodies with the same glee as everyone else.

    Schools and just about everyone are promoting STEM degrees as the way to a good job and prosperity, and I don't foresee anybody creating jobs for philosophers to warn us against new tech developments.

    This is one of those dangers that people don't foresee. They only see it when it's happened. Now it has; depending on how bad the fallout, the pushback and regulation will follow. Not sure if it will be sufficient, though. Especially under an Administration with little respect for facts or truth while it pursues the maximum dollar gain from the government before skedaddling.

    pipspeak , 20 Nov 2017 12:41
    If you've every hung out in Silicon Valley with techies you'd know that mild sociopathy is indeed likely part of the problem. But the argument that it's because their education lacked learning about history or society is a bit silly when you consider the bulk of the population has probably not studied such disciplines beyond high school and some of the greatest engineers who invented or built some of the most important creations in history lacked a degree in the humanities.

    What differentiates past engineering eras from present is political and societal will to ensure inventions are used for the good of humanity. In short, a lack of regulation in the face of rampant neo-liberal capitalism that has enthralled the politicians who should be looking out for the public, not themselves and their cronies.

    Facebook et al should long ago have been classified as media companies and regulated as such. Start hitting Zuckerburg with billions in fines and/or the threat of regulating him out of business and you'd very quickly see those much vaunted algorithms and engineering prowess spring into action to tackle the fake news and propaganda epidemic.

    LuvvleeJubblee -> Arular , 20 Nov 2017 12:40
    Ahh, yeah Aruler...thanks for that....I think....!

    If you read this article and his former article on the subject(a big if), then you would be able to enlighten us on exactly what Laughton means by such comments as below. I actually completed my degree and so am 'fully educated but still struggle with the logic:-

    "the hero's education rendered him incapable of understanding the world into which he was born. For although he was supposed to be majoring in psychology at Harvard, the young Zuckerberg mostly took computer science classes until he started Facebook and dropped out

    LibertarianLeaning -> Dylan , 20 Nov 2017 12:39

    Your post referenced economics, not social issues.

    It seems that once the State expands to the size it is now (~43% of GDP is directly spent by government) then virtually everything becomes political: economics, politics, social.

    (ps if i've got this horribly wrong and libertarianism as a word has just been coopted to mean 'minarchist' i apologise)

    I suppose it depends on how you define "libertarian". I, and most of the theorists I read, see it as a quite broad label which stretches from anarchism at one (extreme) end, to small-state minarchism at the other.

    And yes, I am "right-wing" in terms of economics (though fascism, typically described as a "far-right" movement, is actually quite far-left in terms of economics, which is why I try to avoid debating these matters in terms of left/right. But when people self-describe that way, one doesn't have much choice).

    So, yes, I prefer no (or minimal) State involvement in areas of the economy that it is possible to have private suppliers compete against each other. So that includes healthcare (but not all healthcare; the time-critical nature of A&E services means they are not amenable to real competition), education, and various other things most people are used to having provided by their governments.

    But the "natural monopolies" (things like roads/railways/pipelines/sewers) can't really be provided by competing suppliers, so it's reasonable that they are owned (but not necessarily run) by the State. So taxes need to be raised to pay for those things.

    Unlike most minarchists, though, I see outright, allodial land ownership as unjustifiable (it's a capital good that no one created, and thus no-one can claim rightful ownership). So in that regard also I'm quite left-wing.

    ElyFrog , 20 Nov 2017 12:26
    Capitalists will do what capitalists do. So ignoring social consequences in the pursuit of money is baked-in. Doesn't matter what your education is. In fact, class has more to do with their blindness than the lack of a liberal arts education.
    Arular -> LuvvleeJubblee , 20 Nov 2017 12:15
    yeah, but if you read this article (big if) he's calling him 'half-educated' because he has a shoddy background in social systems that has left him ignorant of a vast body of historical knowledge and political theory, not because he didn't finish his degree. maybe you should try reading the article and/or writing comments relevant to it...
    TheNuclearOption , 20 Nov 2017 12:12
    If it were the Iate 15th century there would be a similar article decrying the printing press and if the 19th, the postage stamp. Newspapers have been targeting a partisan readership long before social media came along and all controlled & managed by humanities graduates. Conrad Black & Boris Johnson hardly exemplars of a solid grounding in humanities leading to informed decision making overcoming self interest.
    LuvvleeJubblee , 20 Nov 2017 12:08
    In a previous article, Naughton wrote:-

    this half-baked education has left him bewildered and rudderless

    He is now claiming that Zuckerberg is 'half-educated'. Just because he did not complete his degree?! This surely does not make him half-educated? Does that mean that those who do not have a degree are not educated? This smells a little of scholastic snobbery from our former Cambridge University graduate and Vice President !
    Joy Dot -> CharleyTango , 20 Nov 2017 11:57
    it's possible. it's also possible you choose to work for dummies... raise your game
    WalkAmongUs -> rahs24 , 20 Nov 2017 11:56
    What's so appalling is that I don't even think they have the slightest inkling that what you've just posted is the absolute reality of these types.

    They are so convinced they're right, and that everything they think must prevail, that they simply ignore democracy and anything else that shows that they're actually completely wrong.

    Dylan -> LibertarianLeaning , 20 Nov 2017 11:54
    You mean you're not economically right wing? Minimal taxes, less state intervention in the economy (including health), etc? Your post referenced economics, not social issues. Socially we agree on a lot, probably nearly everything to be honest - I'm all for legalising based on harm caused by drugs, less military, anti snooper's charter/surveillance, etc, but I like taxes and I like the NHS, and that is where I think you're right wing and I am left! (ps if i've got this horribly wrong and libertarianism as a word has just been coopted to mean 'minarchist' i apologise)
    JumpingSpider -> Joy Dot , 20 Nov 2017 11:53
    No, I dislike prejudice wherever I see it. It's destructive and it never helps.
    Clytamnestra Selena Dungen -> ViolaNeve , 20 Nov 2017 11:48
    ....Yes, to a certain extent that can happen via reading, but the biggest check on privilege and self-satisfaction is actually engaging with actual other people who don't share that privilege. And that just isn't happening at Stanford and Harvard....

    As someone who grew up both first-world-poor and a nerd i cannot expres in words how much i hate that 'the elite' keeps insisting that *the truth* about life and love and everything can only be found in a mixture of greec classics and trips to india. You are only 'enlightened' if you have the time and money to read those books and make those trips and most importantly: if you come home from all that with the right opinions about detesting money, detesting xenophobia, etc.
    they pat themselves on the back any time they listen to what they insist is 'an outsider' but is just someone of a different gender/color parroting back their own believes.

    It ties in with what many of the fake-news-complainers are reluctant to discuss: there is an ocean of sociological/economic 'facts' that exist somewhere between 'easily-provable lie' and 'this may be a lie to the elite, but it is a true fact for the unwashed masses'. and in tandem with that: the uneasy questions about censorship that come with *any* attempt at regulating the press.

    ... ... ...

    ID507599 , 20 Nov 2017 11:39
    This is too simple. The development of critical thought is the key thing and it isn't monopolized by any discipline. People without any qualifications and without much education can - and do - exercise critical ability. The problem is a cultural one. Consumerism and the pretend world in which people 'think' they can be what they want and live in make believe soaps is the problem.
    samuelrgates -> ianhurley17 , 20 Nov 2017 11:39
    Right? Wolfowitz was a student of Leo Strauss, Kissinger was a Kantian, Zuckerberg reportedly quotes Virgil in meetings, and Jonah Peretti wrote this piece of Marx-ish critical theory: http://www.datawranglers.com/datawranglers.com/negations/issues/96w/96w_peretti.html

    We must reckon with the obviousness that the humanities are in no way an armor against "evil."

    ParisHiltonCommune -> Uncle_Paulie , 20 Nov 2017 11:20
    "If you have an issue with tech giants messing around with your personal data, don't give them your personal data." They'll take your personal data, regardless. Because they make money from selling it.
    ParisHiltonCommune -> Edna Lora , 20 Nov 2017 11:18
    "A "liberal arts" education is now a selling point in some schools." Presumably schools from families so wealthy, the children will never have to worry about competing with 6 billion other people for a job someday.

    [Nov 24, 2017] The battle between STEM and Humanities is mostly fake. The real problem is neoliberal indoctrination -- the MBA, Master of Business Administration are just tools. Neoliberals are the ones who control everything now

    The author concerns are naive and misplaced (although he probably advocated the interests of the group to which he belongs). MBA, Master of Business Administration gradates are indoctrinated neoliberals. This is about neoliberalism, not about the structure of the university education and the amount of social coursers required to get an STEM degree.
    Notable quotes:
    "... First off, full disclosure: I'm in tech, so I'm an insider. I also absolutely agree that tech has a huge, huge problem with understanding the consequences of our actions. But it's a little bit naïve to act as though taking another year or two of humanities classes would magically prevent tech leaders from making antisocial products. ..."
    "... Trump is the quintessential Exceptional American, weaponized. The Trump Organization constructed more than 180 skyscrapers and major properties worldwide within every cesspool of political, military, religious, organized crime, and civil corruption. Trump is the toughest SOB on the planet - and the most experienced. And he's ours. I stand with Trump. ..."
    "... "It never seems to have occurred to them that their advertising engines could also be used to deliver precisely targeted ideological and political messages to voters." That was supposed to be reserved for exclusive use of the Democratic Party. ..."
    "... The writer clearly does not know much about the US higher education system where engineers and scientists cannot get away without taking humanities courses, unlike the UK. ..."
    Nov 24, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com

    ParisHiltonCommune , 20 Nov 2017 11:08

    Power and influence are not just a battle between STEM and Humanities, though. You've missed the MBA, Master of Business Admistration. They are the ones who control everything now.

    It may have been the case some decades ago, but now it is Managerialism, in the guise of a whole ideology that has sprung from MBA's, that rules over both the STEM and Humanities workers.

    From mid- and large- private companies, to the public sector, they all speak the same language and it is the language of the MBA. Corporate visions of embracing customer focused cost control while empowering our core mission values.

    Time for an article on Managerialism, as it is the air we breathe these days.

    LibertarianLening -> Dylan , 20 Nov 2017 10:58

    Your username rather contradicts the assertions you make about your political orientation..

    Well let's have a look at some typical libertarian policies. Recreational drugs decriminalised. The dismantling of the surveillance State. Stop covering for Israel's crimes in the UN. A much-reduced military that was for purely defensive purposes. How're they "right-wing", exactly?

    ParisHiltonCommune -> VermontBede , 20 Nov 2017 10:55
    My recent example is saying "It's like Quixote tiltiing at windmills" only to find the others, 6 or 7 people all with Firsts in STEM had no idea what I was on about. Also saying "It's far too Heath-Robinson" had the same effect.

    It does dismay me how clever many of my colleagues are, but how painfully narrow their knowledge is. They study their subject (and I suspect most of that is just for career development i.e. love of money rather than knowledge) but little else.

    Our culture has a bad attitude to wisdom in general. Each generation is taught to disregard the old timers, what can they possibly know about anything?

    I guess it's all how the plutocracy like it. Their media can tell us that the Crusades were a defensive war and nobody knows enough to disagree. They can continually role out nonsense about the "good guys and the evil guys" to explain world problems and again, nobody knows anything other than that.

    LibertarianLeaning -> Vigil2010 , 20 Nov 2017 10:54

    Democracy is a political philosophy. Socialism is an economic theory.

    Socialism is not an "economic" theory. Socialism (and I use the term in its original, Marxist sense: State ownership & control of the means of production, distribution, and exchange) has absolutely no economic theory behind it. Nowhere did Marx tell his followers how to run their economies; after they'd won, the Bolsheviks and Maoists were on their own. No wonder millions starved. It's impossible to make rational economic calculations in a socialist commonwealth because there is no price signal mechanism. Hence communist countries' famous gluts and shortages.

    At its height, despite the fact its economy was much simpler than any here in the West's, economists of the USSR were setting the prices of more than 5 million items, and even they admitted it would have been impossible without knowing (and copying) the prices that arose in our (relatively) free-market economies.

    In fact, they joked that once "the revolution" was complete and communism had taken over the world, they'd be required to have some small country remain free-market capitalist so they could have some clue about what prices should be.

    And I have no idea of who concocted the "famous quote".

    Lulz. You walked into that one: Alexis de Tocqueville

    cguardian -> Travis , 20 Nov 2017 10:52
    I can't up-vote this enough. MIT, for example, requires eight semesters of humanities for all undergraduates, regardless of major. If you talk to the faculty in the humanities dept, they'll tell you how much they enjoy teaching there, because they get really intelligent students who can think rigorously. (And also because they're almost all tenured professors -- not underpaid "adjuncts".)

    Yes, there are a certain percentage of students who meet the stereotype of being socially awkward and not very interested in thinking about things outside of their science and technology focus, but they're not the majority and are more than balanced by the bulk of the student body who could hold their own in any liberal arts program in the world.

    ParisHiltonCommune -> ViolaNeve , 20 Nov 2017 10:45
    Great comment!

    We live in a plutocracy and we get the tech that the plutocrats want us to have. Drives on diversity aren't working because those non-white-upper-middle-class-males who get the roles, are those who behave exactly the same as the white-upper-middle-class elite. So the changes are literally skin deep.

    CharleyTango -> Joy Dot , 20 Nov 2017 10:41
    Sadly, most of the women I've encountered at the top of the corporate tree have either been there through nepotism (e.g. MD's daughter or mistress) or been promoted way beyond their level of competence and have compensated for that with drink, drugs or appalling bullying.
    The educated, savvy women all seem to baled out long before they reach that level!
    ianhurley17 , 20 Nov 2017 10:40
    Harvard required class of 1964 freshmen to read the published version "The Two Cultures" the summer before they matriculated. The general knowledge of college friends who were scientists and mathematicians (and went on to become university professors) was at least equal to other friends specializing in social sciences and humanities, because suburban American high schools in wealthy communities provide a good general education up to age 18, not 16 as in British public, comprehensive and grammar schools, and because American university courses require a large fraction of a student's course work lie outside their department of specialization.

    Snow wrote about the British system. He deplored the willful scientific ignorance of many members of the British Civil Service of this acquaintance. His comments were not intended for or relevant to the American experience. A bright American student, as these computer tech executives' work histories show they must have been, will have gained familiarity with both "cultures" by the time they started their college courses. Their college experiences will have built upon this familiarity.

    In my opinion It is inappropriate to blame the failure to regulate internet speech properly upon the education of American tech leaders. Corbyn and whoever replaces Trump will remedy theunderlying issues because they know unregulated capitalism cannot be trusted to act responsibly.

    CharleyTango -> davidc929 , 20 Nov 2017 10:35

    But often the customers don't know exactly what they want and constantly want to make changes.

    True. "It's just what we asked for, but it's not what we want!", viz. Nimrod. And sometimes a supplier provides a system that they say is perfect for the task required, yet once it's installed it clearly is nothing of the sort. The customer's ex-MD retires to the sun, counting his backhander and giggling hysterically. I've encountered that more than once during my career, too.
    ID597727 , 20 Nov 2017 10:31
    "A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any other invention with the possible exceptions of handguns and Tequila." 
    --  Mitch Ratcliffe
    Themroc5 , 20 Nov 2017 10:30
    So what about those teaching and learning 'digital humanities', is this subject then a contradiction in terms? Surly these divides are redundant as subjects become multi disciplinary in our digital age, each will influence the other in new and interesting ways. There is no uninventing available to us here only the effort in rebalancing in how we value what it is to be human.
    Alonso Schneeweiss , 20 Nov 2017 10:25
    Oh, my - technology run amuck! So what's the solution? Oh yeah - more government.
    ViolaNeve , 20 Nov 2017 10:08

    First off, full disclosure: I'm in tech, so I'm an insider. I also absolutely agree that tech has a huge, huge problem with understanding the consequences of our actions. But it's a little bit naïve to act as though taking another year or two of humanities classes would magically prevent tech leaders from making antisocial products.

    For one thing, more people in tech have humanities backgrounds than you might think (I do--I'm a software developer and educator with a BA from Stanford and am finishing an MSEE, and I have a fair number of colleagues with similarly mixed educational backgrounds). For another, Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook when he was was what, 20? It's foolish to act like you can turn a 20-year-old, *any* 20-year-old, into a wise and thoughtful human who can understand all the consequences of their actions by sticking them in a classroom for another year or two. I certainly was a moron when I was 20. Shockingly, I was also a moron when I was 22. College kids just still have a lot of growing up to do.

    Don't get me wrong, I work a lot with high schoolers and university students, and I'm a very big proponent of education. But the thing that makes the biggest difference in knocking adolescent heads is exposing kids to people that aren't like them. Yes, to a certain extent that can happen via reading, but the biggest check on privilege and self-satisfaction is actually engaging with actual other people who don't share that privilege. And that just isn't happening at Stanford and Harvard.

    I'm white and the child of college-educated parents; at Stanford I still felt out of place, weird, and poor. I was surrounded by people who went to skiing in Switzerland at Christmas and had boats; it wasn't a world I was familiar with or understood. That effect is only magnified for kids of color or from more marginalized backgrounds, sprinkled lightly across classrooms that are overwhelmingly white and privileged. The idea that a white, middle-class kid -- even a gay female kid like me -- would be right near the bottom of the privilege scale I think tells you just about everything about that university culture that you need to know.

    What's happening in tech is part of the sickness of our entire social and economic system; it's a toxic mixture of privilege perpetuating privilege, in terms of race and class and gender and money and access. Tech doesn't create antisocial products by itself. Having a lot of rich white kids sitting around discussing Plato in a classroom might make them more well-rounded on paper, but if you then still funnel them then into a money sea dominated by bro culture and VCs, with no necessity or encouragement to engage with people who live outside that bubble, you're still going to get people who are shocked, shocked!! to learn that their products have negative consequences for the lives of the people on the other side of the screen. Lots of *workers* in tech do partially bridge that gap, in one way or another. But the people at the top, making the decisions, are selected overwhelmingly by being white dudes who fit the "poorly socialized iconoclast" mold that VCs understand and then massively isolated by the enormous *heaps of cash* that investors have thrown at them to make something the investors think will get them the best return on their investment. *No part* of that is good for society writ large, beginning to end, in very large part because investors have no reason to care what happens to anyone else.

    Here's an example! At this stage, anyone in tech who doesn't think that they're working on making every worker in the world, *including themselves*, obsolete, is deluding themselves. But most of us *do* know that and keep showing up for work, because we don't know any other way of paying our bills. We know that social and political action is needed, a lot of us are agitating for precisely that, but we can't do it on our own, and we have a pretty realistic idea about what kind of future lies for us and our families if we just decide to walk away from the industry. I'm a little too old to really be a millennial, but this is the rock and the hard place, for people even 3 years younger than I am, who graduated from college just in time for the crash: if you're in tech, you're keeping your head above water, barely. If you're not, you're working constantly with no benefits or security, just so you can live with your parents and form a punchline about avocados.

    If you want to check tech, you need *political will.* You have to check the money, because it's never going to check itself. And if you want to make Silicon Valley actually become capable of making the utopian tech it likes to believe it can produce, it also wouldn't hurt to check the *overwhelming* bias in tech hiring and in elite education towards people who are white, privileged, and just like everybody else who's already there.

    Peter Cini -> phubar , 20 Nov 2017 10:01
    No obligation to vote for the array of muts on the ballot. The last guy I voted for is Nader and he was kicked off the ballot in the 2004v election
    Bill Longenecker -> toomuch9 , 20 Nov 2017 10:00
    I once met a man in a Texas prison who was incarcerated for programming a banks software to divert small fractions of (rounded off) pennies to his personal account. Those added up fast enough to get noticed.
    Uncle Al Schwartz , 20 Nov 2017 10:00
    Trump is the quintessential Exceptional American, weaponized. The Trump Organization constructed more than 180 skyscrapers and major properties worldwide within every cesspool of political, military, religious, organized crime, and civil corruption. Trump is the toughest SOB on the planet - and the most experienced. And he's ours. I stand with Trump.
    Vigil2010 -> LibertarianLeaning , 20 Nov 2017 09:55
    Democracy is a political philosophy. Socialism is an economic theory. The two are not mutually exclusive. And I have no idea of who concocted the "famous quote".
    VermontBede , 20 Nov 2017 09:48
    When you refer to someone as "Machiavellian" does an engineer understand? In the US there used to be a required college course entitled "The History of Western Civilization". It formed a common bond somewhat like serving in the military.
    LibertarianLeaning , 20 Nov 2017 09:43

    "a liberal arts major familiar with works like Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, or even the work of ancient Greek historians, might have been able to recognise much sooner the potential for the 'tyranny of the majority' or other disconcerting sociological phenomena that are embedded into the very nature of today's social media platforms..."

    Such a person would most have likely held their nose and voted for Trump, knowing the appalling damage Hillary had done during her tenure in the State department.

    The usual Graun assumption that it's only ignorance or selfishness that makes people eschew Leftists and their policies.

    Sorry. Progressives are actually more ignorant about politics, economics and history, in my experience. I'm not "right-wing" myself but far more of my right-leaning friends are likely to know who de Tocqueville was and what he wrote than my Lefty friends.

    And most of them will know this rather famous quote:

    "Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom, socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude."

    Mirelle , 20 Nov 2017 09:37
    Up to a point, Lord Copper.

    The old "two cultures debate", which in my student days was conducted between FR Leavis and CP Snow, has not advanced very far. There is certainly something in it, but I suspect that the intellectuals of the sixteenth century, most of whom could be found in monasteries, complained that Gutenberg would never have pressed ahead so carelessly with printing using moveable type if he had had a proper grounding in Rhetoric and in Theology, instead of blacksmithing and goldsmithing...

    After all... we went from Gutenberg printing in Strasbourg in 1445 to Martin Luther printing his 95 Theses in 1522...

    I think we are seeing a similar democratisation of information today.

    We can no more put the genie back in the bottle than could Sir Thomas More. If Zuckerberg, Page and Brin had not invented their money machines, someone else might have done so.

    The only political leader who is actively trying to control the genie is Xi Jinping, and he may not be entirely successful in keeping up the Great Firewall of China.

    I think we have to ride the wave, and keep in mind that political power itself is a matter of technology, as I am sure Marshal McLuhan would point out.

    The Great Dictators of the last century were creatures of the radio and the cinema, which allowed them a one sided conversation with every household and made them bestride the silver screen.

    Television replaced radio and cinema and with its more domestic scale it cut the monsters down to size and promoted democracy.

    The social media have galvanised authoritarianism at the moment, but the wheels will continue to turn..

    HiramsMaxim , 20 Nov 2017 09:34
    Old model: People who disagree with me are wrong.

    New Model: People who disagree with me are stupid.

    Oh, and a column in The Guardian defending Mill's On Liberty ? Priceless.

    By the way, the entire premise of the column is flawed. Harvard, like all US colleges, has requirements that students take classes outside their major, including humanities. My tech prowess allowed to me find that out. :)

    rahs24 , 20 Nov 2017 09:31
    Translation/TL;DR version:
    > Trump won despite the amount of shameless fear-mongering and short-selling we in the MSM did for Hillary and Dems.
    > Tech companies did not do their part in preventing Trump victory by actively censoring everyone WE disagree with.
    > We need OUR (SJW/Humanities/Marxist/LiberalArts) people to MANAGE/WATCHOVER these tech guys.
    > Guys like Zucker/Brin/Page are not essentially evil, they are just not educate ENOUGH in SJW/Marxist agenda.
    > Guys like Thiel are pure evil.
    > WE KNOW BEST, hence, we must be allowed to control and manipulate what people think and how they act.
    JayThomas , 20 Nov 2017 09:30

    So what else could explain the astonishing naivety of the tech crowd? My hunch is it has something to do with their educational backgrounds. Take the Google co-founders. Sergey Brin studied mathematics and computer science. His partner, Larry Page, studied engineering and computer science. Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard, where he was studying psychology and computer science, but seems to have been more interested in the latter.

    Science should left in the hands of the political elite, who know what's best for the people.

    Buck Brogan -> AVBrown , 20 Nov 2017 09:28
    People need not be good at math to know when a politician is lying. By the humanities, they know a politician is lying because their lips are moving. lol
    Joe Applegate , 20 Nov 2017 09:23
    Every click we make, we are being gamed. We know it. And so we are partly to blame.
    Art Glick -> griz326 , 20 Nov 2017 09:11
    Head transplants? What news have you been watching?
    fortysomethingpa , 20 Nov 2017 09:07
    Said this before in a reply: Isn't there some responsibility on the part of the Humanities to give a more accurate portrayal of history and society? For example, shouldn't we all be well aware that the success of these tech giants is built on state-funded innovation? Shouldn't we all be less blind to how markets work? A stronger left might provide a clearer vision of how power works, but we have been silencing that hard left for years.
    fortysomethingpa -> HardWater , 20 Nov 2017 09:03
    Agree. But how about the fact that many educated people do not know that much of the technology and innovation behind this wealth was state-funded and not "sexy" Isn't it the job of the liberal arts - history, sociology, government classes to address the role of the state in innovation? We are blinded by a worshipful attitude toward the market. Without a strong left it seems we have lost sight of reality. Isn't this partially the fault of Humanities departments?
    LibertineUSA , 20 Nov 2017 09:03
    Normally I don't single out greedy business leaders to take the blame for society's woes. It is the fault of our political leaders for allowing them to damage society in their chase for the almighty dollar (or billions of them)...Libertarians, conservatives and centrist Dems to be exact.

    But in this case I think the criticism is spot on since these tech nerds keep on claiming their products will make the country and world a better place. Time to kill the meme that capitalists and business people are bested suited morally to lead the world in the 21st Century.

    Joy Dot -> JumpingSpider , 20 Nov 2017 09:02
    as men have ignored their own unpleasant prejudice for EVER i have no doubt it'll be easy for you to ignore mine

    both are a factor. main obstacle here and now being the appalling behaviour of the low-road lesser half

    JayThomas , 20 Nov 2017 08:59

    "It never seems to have occurred to them that their advertising engines could also be used to deliver precisely targeted ideological and political messages to voters." That was supposed to be reserved for exclusive use of the Democratic Party.

    fortysomethingpa -> Gwyndaf , 20 Nov 2017 08:56
    One of the changes (still happening) in literature, psychology, sociology, and philosophy departments is a focus on privilege, "the other", subjugation, the power of elites . . . So studying the humanities may involve a critique - at least a consciousness - of one's privilege. Not familiar with Snow but there is plenty of lit crit and theory to dismantle or at least challenge the canon.
    threesheds -> Uncle_Paulie , 20 Nov 2017 08:52
    I guess the problem being referred to in this article that there are negative implications for all of us because many people's opinions are shaped by what they read on social media. What all of us read is biased in ways that it is difficult to trace the source of that bias. In "the good old days" at least most people tended to know the biases of the newspapers and TV news that you consumed, but now you can be biased by what your friends share with you on social media, or what google choses to show you in search results but there is no way of knowing the source of those biases. The problem therefore goes far beyond the risks of sharing personal data.
    maricaangela -> SardinesForDinner , 20 Nov 2017 08:45
    Yes, I agree and I wasn't disparaging the STEM subjects at all or equating them in some way with capitalist interests. Both can have that criticism applied to them - for instance, historians can definitely twist facts and more or less propagandise events. Both are necessary, but I was thinking that both need to have at least a grasp of the influence and range of the other and be better educated to do that.
    Alex Newman , 20 Nov 2017 08:44
    Ditto bankers, doctors, lawyers and journalists.... The world (and particularly the US) is full of specialists. The author's assertions are naive and half-educated.
    griz326 , 20 Nov 2017 08:41
    Nonsense! You were just filling your word count with provocative poo.

    Every technology has a good side and a bad one - including and especially the medical arts. Consider the recent news regarding successful head transplants and face transplants; where will that takes us when humanitarian uses fail to pay the bills???

    Edna Lora -> mollypicon , 20 Nov 2017 08:34
    One book does not make the man. The point is many private and public schools focus on STEM to the detriment of humanities. A "liberal arts" education is now a selling point in some schools.
    toomuch9 -> gordonashworth , 20 Nov 2017 08:21
    Totally understand your point. As a non-tech individual who has been hostile to this massive organization of information and its consequent requirements to alter human thought and social patterns to use systems, it is certainly expected that designers would demand compliance from all parties for their own purposes. Even in the SF Chronicle, i often read quips about programmers disguising coding for their own private use. In SF some loose canon but brilliant guy was asked to redesign the city's computer systems. He had total mental breakdown and was jailed for some sort of bizarre infraction that had something to do with unauthorized personal use. I can't quite remember details. The Chron offered to the public that the City may never know what this guy designed into the systems. Bottom line was the city employees were totally delighted about their new programs and the programmer wouldn't talk. If i remember correctly he was this eccentric, well liked gay guy.
    mollypicon , 20 Nov 2017 08:16
    Horseshit! I read De Toqueville in high school. There are required humanities courses at good universities. And anyone can read a book on one's own time.
    harshlight , 20 Nov 2017 08:16
    I agree with your overall assessment of the tech owners. However, blaming their academic discipline is short sighted. I suggest you get to know some math and computer science majors. Many are well versed in the humanities. Not everyone needs a degree in liberal arts to understand the human race.

    Perhaps you are referring to the culture of technology that bred a lack of insight into human behavior.

    There are also people with degrees in the liberal arts who go into technological fields. I agree with your views on the naïveté of the tech leaders, but blaming a college degree strikes me as looking for a parallel that doesn't exist.

    chingpingmei , 20 Nov 2017 08:02
    The writer clearly does not know much about the US higher education system where engineers and scientists cannot get away without taking humanities courses, unlike the UK.
    Joseph_Ryan , 20 Nov 2017 08:02
    I would say that a deep study of the humanities can impart the kind of pessimism about human nature that animated Madison, Jefferson and the other Framers of the Constitution. Their pessimism, unlike the unrestrained optimism of their counterparts in France, is what enabled this country to be one of the few to survive a revolution without descending into mass murder and tyranny. But given their fundamental pessimism, the founders of this country would probably be surprised that the governmental structure they designed had endured this long.
    Uncle_Paulie , 20 Nov 2017 08:00
    Many of today's 'tech-elite' are sons of rich, establishment types who only have one interest: making more money. By the time reports leek this appear, they already have a private island and a few billion in the bank. If you have an issue with tech giants messing around with your personal data, don't give them your personal data.
    gitsumomma , 20 Nov 2017 07:55
    I would like to congratulate the vast majority of the people posting here on producing possibly the most thoughtful and considered set of comments I have read on a Guardian Article.

    I will give the Article credit for stimulating the debate but I do think the discussion BTL has been far more interesting than the original.

    richardmuu -> Alison Cartwright , 20 Nov 2017 07:48
    Alison I agree, but because the number of arts and sciences students is declining, arts and sciences faculty try to isolate integrated studies (often called general studies or, at my university, the core curriculum) from professional studies. They do this to try to save their jobs so it's understandable. The end results are sporadic, half-hearted attempts at integration that don't exactly foster aha moments. Rather they cultivate thinking such as we see in this article.
    Mujokan -> worried , 20 Nov 2017 07:46
    The original backers of the "wired" world (such as Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly who founded Wired, but one could list dozens of tech legends) were utopian thinkers who were very well versed in history and philosophy. Unfortunately but probably inevitably, the whole thing was corrupted by corporations as it became part of mainstream consumer society.

    [Nov 22, 2017] Unemployment is Miserable and Doesn't Spawn an Upsurge in Personal Creativity

    Notable quotes:
    "... By Bill Mitchell, Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Originally published at billy blog ..."
    "... The overwhelming importance of having a job for happiness is evident throughout the analysis, and holds across all of the world's regions. ..."
    "... The pattern of human concerns ..."
    "... The pattern of human concerns ..."
    "... Journal of Happiness Studies ..."
    "... The results show the differences between having a job and being unemployed are "very large indeed" on the three well-being measures (life evaluation, positive and negative affective states). ..."
    "... Psychological Bulletin ..."
    "... 1. "unemployment tends to make people more emotionally unstable than they were previous to unemployment". ..."
    "... 2. The unemployed experience feelings of "personal threat"; "fear"; "sense of proportion is shattered"; loss of "common sense of values"; "prestige lost in own eyes and as he imagines, in the eyes of his fellow men"; "feelings of inferiority"; loss of "self-confidence" and a general loss of "morale". ..."
    "... in the light of the structure of our society where the job one holds is the prime indicator of status and prestige. ..."
    "... Psychological Bulletin ..."
    "... Related studies found that the "unemployed become so apathetic that they rarely read anything". Other activities, such as attending movies etc were seen as being motivated by the need to "kill time" – "a minimal indication of the increased desire for such attendance". ..."
    "... In spite of hopeless attempts the unemployed continually look for work, often going back again and again to their last place of work. Other writers reiterate this point. ..."
    "... The non-pecuniary effects of not having a job are significant in terms of lost status, social alienation, abandonment of daily structure etc, and that has not changed much over history. ..."
    "... I think what is missing from this article is the term "identity." If you meet new people, often the conversation starts with what you do for a living. Your identity, in part, is what you do. You can call yourself a plumber, a writer, a banker, a consultant, a reporter but the point is this is part of your identity. When you lose your job long term, your identity here loses one of its main anchor points. ..."
    "... This is a crucial point that UBI advocates often ignore. There is a deeply entrenched cultural bias towards associating our work status with our general status and prestige and feelings of these standings. ..."
    "... When unemployed, the stress of worry about money may suppress the creative juices. Speaking from experience. People may well 'keep looking for jobs' because they know ultimately they need a job with steady income. The great experience of some freelancers notwithstanding, not all are cut out for it. ..."
    "... When considering the world's population as a whole, people with a job evaluate the quality of their lives much more favorably than those who are unemployed. ..."
    "... Data like that provided by Mitchell is important to demolishing the horrid "economic anxiety" frame much beloved by liberals, especially wonkish Democrats.* It's not (a) just feelings , to be solved by scented candles or training (the liberal version of rugged individualism) and (b) the effects are real and measurable. It's not surprising, when you think about it, that the working class is about work . ..."
    Nov 22, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

    Posted on November 21, 2017 by Yves Smith Yves here. Reader UserFriendly sent this post with the message, "I can confirm this." I can too. And before you try to attribute our reactions to being Americans, note that the study very clearly points out that its finding have been confirmed in "all of the world's regions".

    By Bill Mitchell, Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Originally published at billy blog

    Here is a summary of another interesting study I read last week (published March 30, 2017) – Happiness at Work – from academic researchers Jan‐Emmanuel De Neve and George Ward. It explores the relationship between happiness and labour force status, including whether an individual is employed or not and the types of jobs they are doing. The results reinforce a long literature, which emphatically concludes that people are devastated when they lose their jobs and do not adapt to unemployment as its duration increases. The unemployed are miserable and remain so even as they become entrenched in long-term unemployment. Further, they do not seem to sense (or exploit) a freedom to release some inner sense of creativity and purpose. The overwhelming proportion continually seek work – and relate their social status and life happiness to gaining a job, rather than living without a job on income support. The overwhelming conclusion is that "work makes up such an important part of our lives" and that result is robust across different countries and cultures. Being employed leads to much higher evaluations of the quality of life relative to being unemployed. And, nothing much has changed in this regard over the last 80 or so years. These results were well-known in the 1930s, for example. They have a strong bearing on the debate between income guarantees versus employment guarantees. The UBI proponents have produced no robust literature to refute these long-held findings.

    While the 'Happiness Study' notes that "the relationship between happiness and employment is a complex and dynamic interaction that runs in both directions" the authors are unequivocal:

    The overwhelming importance of having a job for happiness is evident throughout the analysis, and holds across all of the world's regions. When considering the world's population as a whole, people with a job evaluate the quality of their lives much more favorably than those who are unemployed. The importance of having a job extends far beyond the salary attached to it, with non-pecuniary aspects of employment such as social status, social relations, daily structure, and goals all exerting a strong influence on people's happiness.

    And, the inverse:

    The importance of employment for people's subjective wellbeing shines a spotlight on the misery and unhappiness associated with being unemployed.

    There is a burgeoning literature on 'happiness', which the authors aim to contribute to.

    They define happiness as "subjective well-being", which is "measured along multiple dimensions":

    life evaluation (by way of the Cantril "ladder of life"), positive and negative affect to measure respondents' experienced positive and negative wellbeing, as well as the more domain-specific items of job satisfaction and employee engagement. We find that these diverse measures of subjective wellbeing correlate strongly with each other

    Cantril's 'Ladder of Life Scale' (or "Cantril Ladder") is used by polling organisations to assess well-being. It was developed by social researcher Hadley Cantril (1965) and documented in his book The pattern of human concerns .

    You can learn more about the use of the 'Cantril Ladder' HERE .

    As we read, the "Cantril Self-Anchoring Scale consists of the following":

    Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time? (ladder-present) On which step do you think you will stand about five years from now? (ladder-future)

    [Reference: Cantril, H. (1965) The pattern of human concerns , New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press.]

    Christian Bjørnskov's 2010 article – How Comparable are the Gallup World Poll Life Satisfaction Data? – also describes how it works.

    [Reference: Bjørnskov, C. (2010) 'How Comparable are the Gallup World Poll Life Satisfaction Data?', Journal of Happiness Studies , 11 (1), 41-60.]

    The Cantril scale is usually reported as values between 0 and 10.

    The authors in the happiness study use poll data from 150 nations which they say "is representative of 98% of the world's population". This survey data is available on a mostly annual basis since 2006.

    The following graph (Figure 1 from the Study) shows "the self-reported wellbeing of individuals around the world according to whether or not they are employed."

    The "bars measure the subjective wellbeing of individuals of working age" by employment status .

    The results show the differences between having a job and being unemployed are "very large indeed" on the three well-being measures (life evaluation, positive and negative affective states).

    People employed "evaluate the quality of their lives around 0.6 points higher on average as compared to the unemployed on a scale from 0 to 10."

    The authors also conduct more sophisticated (and searching) statistical analysis (multivariate regression) which control for a range of characteristics (gender, age, education, marital status, composition of household) as well as to "account for the many political, economic, and cultural differences between countries as well as year-to-year variation".

    The conclusion they reach is simple:

    the unemployed evaluate the overall state of their lives less highly on the Cantril ladder and experience more negative emotions in their day-to-day lives as well as fewer positive ones. These are among the most widely accepted and replicated findings in the science of happiness Here, income is being held constant along with a number of other relevant covariates, showing that these unemployment effects go well beyond the income loss associated with losing one's job.

    These results are not surprising. The earliest study of this sort of outcome was from the famous study published by Philip Eisenberg and Paul Lazersfeld in 1938. [Reference: Eisenberg, P. and Lazarsfeld, P. (1938) 'The psychological effects of unemployment', Psychological Bulletin , 35(6), 358-390.]

    They explore four dimensions of unemployment:

    I. The Effects of Unemployment on Personality.

    II. Socio-Political Attitudes Affected by Unemployment.

    III. Differing Attitudes Produced by Unemployment and Related Factors.

    IV. The Effects of Unemployment on Children and Youth.

    On the first dimension, they conclude that:

    1. "unemployment tends to make people more emotionally unstable than they were previous to unemployment".

    2. The unemployed experience feelings of "personal threat"; "fear"; "sense of proportion is shattered"; loss of "common sense of values"; "prestige lost in own eyes and as he imagines, in the eyes of his fellow men"; "feelings of inferiority"; loss of "self-confidence" and a general loss of "morale".

    Devastation, in other words. They were not surprised because they note that:

    in the light of the structure of our society where the job one holds is the prime indicator of status and prestige.

    This is a crucial point that UBI advocates often ignore. There is a deeply entrenched cultural bias towards associating our work status with our general status and prestige and feelings of these standings. That hasn't changed since Eisenberg and Lazersfeld wrote up the findings of their study in 1938.

    It might change over time but that will take a long process of re-education and cultural shift. Trying to dump a set of new cultural values that only a small minority might currently hold to onto a society that clearly still values work is only going to create major social tensions. Eisenberg and Lazarsfeld also considered an earlier 1937 study by Cantril who explored whether "the unemployed tend to evolve more imaginative schemes than the employed".

    [Reference: Cantril, H. (1934) 'The Social Psychology of Everyday Life', Psychological Bulletin , 31, 297-330.]

    The proposition was (is) that once unemployed, do people then explore new options that were not possible while working, which deliver them with the satisfaction that they lose when they become jobless. The specific question asked in the research was: "Have there been any changes of interests and habits among the unemployed?" Related studies found that the "unemployed become so apathetic that they rarely read anything". Other activities, such as attending movies etc were seen as being motivated by the need to "kill time" – "a minimal indication of the increased desire for such attendance".

    On the third dimension, Eisenberg and Lazersfeld examine the questions – "Are there unemployed who don't want to work? Is the relief situation likely to increase this number?", which are still a central issue today – the bludger being subsidized by income support.

    They concluded that:

    the number is few. In spite of hopeless attempts the unemployed continually look for work, often going back again and again to their last place of work. Other writers reiterate this point.

    So for decades, researchers in this area, as opposed to bloggers who wax lyrical on their own opinions, have known that the importance of work in our lives goes well beyond the income we earn. The non-pecuniary effects of not having a job are significant in terms of lost status, social alienation, abandonment of daily structure etc, and that has not changed much over history. The happiness paper did explore "how short-lived is the misery associated with being out of work" in the current cultural settings.

    The proposition examined was that:

    If the pain is only fleeting and people quickly get used to being unemployed, then we might see joblessness as less of a key public policy priority in terms of happiness.

    They conclude that:

    a number of studies have demonstrated that people do not adapt much, if at all, to being unemployed there is a large initial shock to becoming unemployed, and then as people stay unemployed over time their levels of life satisfaction remain low . several studies have shown that even once a person becomes re-employed, the prior experience of unemployment leaves a mark on his or her happiness.

    So there is no sudden or even medium-term realisation that being jobless endows the individual with a new sense of freedom to become their creative selves, freed from the yoke of work. To bloom into musicians, artists, or whatever.

    The reality is that there is an on-going malaise – a deeply entrenched sense of failure is overwhelming, which stifles happiness and creativity, even after the individual is able to return to work.

    This negativity, borne heavily by the individual, however, also impacts on society in general.

    The paper recognises that:

    A further canonical finding in the literature on unemployment and subjective wellbeing is that there are so-called "spillover" effects.

    High levels of unemployment "increase fear and heighten the sense of job insecurity". Who will lose their job next type questions?

    The researchers found in their data that the higher is the unemployment rate the greater the anxiety among those who remain employed.

    Conclusion

    The overwhelming conclusion is that "work makes up such an important part of our lives" and that result is robust across different countries and cultures.

    Being employed leads to much higher evaluations of the quality of life relative to being unemployed.

    The unemployed are miserable and remain so even as they become entrenched in long-term unemployment. They do not seem to sense (or exploit) a freedom to release some inner sense of creativity and purpose.

    The overwhelming proportion continually seek work – and relate their social status and life happiness to gaining a job, rather than living without a job on income support.

    Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) allows us to understand that it is the government that chooses the unemployment rate – it is a political choice.

    For currency-issuing governments it means their deficits are too low relative to the spending and saving decisions of the non-government sector.

    For Eurozone-type nations, it means that in surrendering their currencies and adopting a foreign currency, they are unable to guarantee sufficient work in the face of negative shifts in non-government spending. Again, a political choice.

    The Job Guarantee can be used as a vehicle to not only ensure their are sufficient jobs available at all times but also to start a process of wiping out the worst jobs in the non-government sector.

    That can be done by using the JG wage to ensure low-paid private employers have to restructure their workplaces and pay higher wages and achieve higher productivity in order to attract labour from the Job Guarantee pool.

    The Series So Far

    This is a further part of a series I am writing as background to my next book with Joan Muysken analysing the Future of Work . More instalments will come as the research process unfolds.

    The series so far:

    1. When Austrians ate dogs .
    2. Employment as a human right .
    3. The rise of the "private government .
    4. The evolution of full employment legislation in the US .
    5. Automation and full employment – back to the 1960s .
    6. Countering the march of the robots narrative .
    7. Unemployment is miserable and does not spawn an upsurge in personal creativity .

    The blogs in these series should be considered working notes rather than self-contained topics. Ultimately, they will be edited into the final manuscript of my next book due in 2018. The book will likely be published by Edward Elgar (UK).

    That is enough for today!

    divadab , November 21, 2017 at 6:11 am

    Perhaps I'm utterly depressed but I haven't had a job job for over 5 years. Plenty of work, however, more than I can handle and it requires priorisation. But I am deliberately not part of the organized herd. I stay away from big cities – it's scary how managed the herd is in large groups – and I suppose that unemployment for a herd animal is rather distressing as it is effectively being kicked out of the herd.

    Anyway my advice, worth what you pay for it but let he who has ears, etc. – is to go local, very local, grow your own food, be part of a community, manage your own work, and renounce the energy feast herd dynamics. "Unemployment", like "recession", is a mechanism of control. Not very practical advice for most, I realize, trapped in the herd as they are in car payments and mortgages, but perhaps aspirational?

    The Rev Kev , November 21, 2017 at 6:35 am

    I think what is missing from this article is the term "identity." If you meet new people, often the conversation starts with what you do for a living. Your identity, in part, is what you do. You can call yourself a plumber, a writer, a banker, a consultant, a reporter but the point is this is part of your identity. When you lose your job long term, your identity here loses one of its main anchor points.

    Worse, there is a deliberate stigma attached with being long term unemployed. In that article you have seen the word bludger being used. In parts of the US I have read of the shame of 'living off the county'. And yes, I have been there, seen that, and got the t-shirt. It's going to be interesting as mechanization and computers turn large portions of the population from workers to 'gig' workers. Expect mass demoralization.

    nonclassical , November 21, 2017 at 10:24 am

    yes the lives many of us have lived, no longer exist though we appear not notice, as we "can" live in many of same "ways" ..rather well known psychologist defined some 40 years ago, best to "drop through cracks"

    jrs , November 21, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    Well, you also lose money, maybe you become homeless etc. as you have nowhere else to turn (if there are kids involved to support it gets even scarier though there are some programs). Or maybe you become dependent on another person(s) to support you which is of course degrading as you know you must rely on them to live, whether it's a spouse or lover when you want to work and bring in money, or mom and dads basement, or the kindest friend ever who lets you sleep on their couch. I mean these are the things that really matter.

    Privileged people whose main worry in unemployment would be losing identity, wow out of touch much? Who cares about some identity for parties, but the ability to have a stable decent life (gig work hardly counts) is what is needed.

    sgt_doom , November 21, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    I believe your comment sums up the situation the best -- and most realistically.

    jgordon , November 21, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    I normally wouldn't comment like this, but you have brought up some extremely important points about identity that I would like to address.

    Recently I had the most intense mushroom experience of my entire life–so intense that my identity had been completely stripped and I was left in a formless state, at the level of seeing my bare, unvarnished animal neural circuitry in operation. Suddenly with a flash of inspiration I realized that the identity of everyone, all of us, is inextricably tied up in what we do and what we do for other people.

    Following from that, I understood that if we passively rely on others for survival, whether it be relying on friends, family, or government, then we do not have an identity or reason for existing. And the inner self, the animal core of who we are, will realise this lack of identity (even if the concious mind denies it), and will continually generate feelings of profound depression and intense nihilism that will inevitably destroy us if the root cause is not addressed.

    Before this experience I was somewhat ambivalent about my politics, but immediately after I knew that the political right was correct on everything important, from attitudes on sex to economic philosophy. People need a core of cultural stability and hard work to grow and become actualized. The alternative is rudderless dissatisfaction and envy that leads nowhere.

    On the topic of giving "out of kindnes and goodwill", giving without demanding anything in return is a form of abuse, as it deprives those who receive our feel-good generosity the motivation to form a coherent identity. If the parents of a basement-dweller were truly good people, instead of supporting said dweller they'd drag her out by the ear and make her grow food in the yard or some such. Likewise, those who have supported you without also giving concrete demands and expecations in return have been unkind, and for your own good I hope that you will immediately remove yourself from their support. On the other hand, if you have been thoughtlessly giving because it warms the cockles of your heart, then stop it now. You are ruining other people this way, and if your voting habits are informed by this kind of malevolence I'd encourage you to change those as well.

    Anyway the original poster is right about everything. Working and having a purpose in life is an entirely different animal from making money and being "successful" in the government-sponsored commercial economy. Society and government deliberately try to conflate the two for various reasons, primarily graft of labor and genius, but that is only a deliberate mis-framing that needlessly harms people when the mainstream economic system is in catastrophic decline, as ours is today. You should try to clear up this misconception within yourself as a way of getting better.

    Well, I hope this message can give you a few different thoughts and help you find your way out of the existential angst you're caught in. Don't wallow in helplessness. Think of something useful to do, anything, whether it earns you money or not, and go out and start doing it. You'll be surprised at how much better you feel about yourself in no time.

    skippy , November 22, 2017 at 12:45 am

    The problem is you said – I – had an extreme experience [burning bush], the truth was reviled to – I – and I alone during this extreme chemically altered state. Which by the way just happens to conform to a heap of environmental biases I collected. This is why sound methodology demands peer review. disheveled some people think Mister Toads Wild ride at Disneyland on psychotropics is an excellent adventure too.

    Jeremy Grimm , November 21, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    I think your observation about the importance of work to identity is most perceptive. This post makes too little distinction between work and a job and glosses over the place of work in defining who we are to ourselves and to others. I recall the scene in the movie "About a Boy" when the hero meets someone he cares about and she asks him what he does for a living.

    I believe there's another aspect of work -- related to identity -- missing in the analysis of this post. Work can offer a sense of mission -- of acting as part of an effort toward a larger goal no individual could achieve alone. However you may regard the value in putting man on the moon there is no mistaking the sense of mission deeply felt by the engineers and technicians working on the project. What jobs today can claim service to a mission someone might value?

    Henry Moon Pie , November 21, 2017 at 7:00 am

    Agreed on your points. Wage slavery is nothing to aspire to. Self-determination within a context of an interdependent community is a much better way to live. We do our thing in the city, however.

    ambrit , November 21, 2017 at 8:29 am

    Finding that "interdependent community" is the hard part. My experience has been that this endeavour is almost chance based; Serendipity if you will.
    Here Down South, the churches still seem to have a stranglehold on small and mid scale social organization. One of the big effects of 'churching' is the requirement that the individual gave up personal critical thinking. Thus, the status quo is reinforced. One big happy 'Holy Circlejerk.'

    UserFriendly , November 21, 2017 at 10:10 am

    from the article

    This is a crucial point that UBI advocates often ignore. There is a deeply entrenched cultural bias towards associating our work status with our general status and prestige and feelings of these standings.

    That hasn't changed since Eisenberg and Lazersfeld wrote up the findings of their study in 1938. It might change over time but that will take a long process of re-education and cultural shift. Trying to dump a set of new cultural values that only a small minority might currently hold to onto a society that clearly still values work is only going to create major social tensions.

    FelicityT , November 21, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    I would agree about the entenched cultural norms, etc. But not the pessimism and timeline for change. An individual can communicate a complex idea to millions in seconds, things move fast these days.

    For me, it seems that what we (we being UBI/radical change proponents) are lacking is a compelling easily accessible story. Not just regarding UBI (as that is but one part of the trully revolutionary transformations that must occur) but encompassing everything.

    We have countless think pieces, bits of academic writing, books, etc that focus on individual pieces and changes in isolation. But we've largely abandoned the all-encompassing narrative, which at their heart is precisely what religion offers and why it can be so seductive, successful, and resilient for so long.

    The status quo has this type of story, it's not all that compelling but given the fact that it is the status quo and has inertia and tradition on its side (along with the news media, political, entertainment, etc) it doesn't have to be.

    We need to abandon the single narrow issue activism that has become so prominent over the years and get back to engaging with issues as unseparable and intimately interconnected.

    Tinkering around the edges will do nothing, a new political religion is what is required.

    Yves Smith Post author , November 21, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    Sorry, I disagree vehemently. Deeply held cultural attitudes are very slow to change and the study found that work being critical to happiness examined a large number of societies.

    Look at feminism. I was a half-generation after the time when women were starting to get a shot at real jobs. IIRC, the first class that accepted women at Harvard Law School was in the 1950 and at Harvard Business School, 1965. And the number of first attendees was puny. The 1965 class at HBS had 10 8 women out of a graduating class of over 800; my class in 1981 had only 11% women.

    In the 1980s, you saw a shift from the belief that women could do what men could do to promotion of the idea that women could/should be feminine as well as successful. This looked like seriously mixed messages, in that IMHO the earlier tendency to de-emphasize gender roles in the workplace looked like a positive development.

    Women make less than 80% of what men do in the US. Even female doctors in the same specialities make 80% of their male peers.

    The Speenhamland in the UK had what amounted to an income guarantee from the 1790s to 1832. Most people didn't want to be on it and preferred to work. Two generations and being on the support of local governments was still seen as carrying a stigma.

    More generally, social animals have strongly ingrained tendencies to resent situations they see as unfair. Having someone who is capable of working not work elicits resentment from many, which is why most people don't want to be in that position. You aren't going to change that.

    And people need a sense of purpose. There are tons of cases of rich heirs falling into drug addiction or alcoholism and despair because they have no sense of purpose in life. Work provides that, even if it's mundane work to support a family. That is one of the great dissservices the Democrats have done to the citizenry at large: sneering at ordinary work when blue-collar men were the anchors of families and able to take pride in that.

    FelicityT , November 21, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    So a few points.

    Regarding the large number of societies, we often like to think we're more different than we actually are focusing on a few glaringly obvious differences and generalizing from there. Even going back a few hundred years when ideas travelled slower we were still (especially the "west" though the "east" wasn't all that much more different either) quite similar. So I'm less inclined to see the large number of societies as evidence.

    Generally on societal changes and movements: The issue here is that the leadership has not changed, they may soften some edges here or there (only to resharpen them again when we're looking elsewhere) but their underlying ideologies are largely unchanged. A good mass of any population will go along to survive, whether they agree or not (and we find increasing evidence that many do not agree, though certainly that they do not agree on a single alternative).

    It may be impossible to implement such changes in who controls the levers of power in a democratic fashion but it also may be immoral not implement such changes. Of course this is also clearly a similar path to that walked by many a demonized (in most cases rightfully so) dictator and despot. 'Tread carefully' are wise words to keep in mind.

    Today we have a situation which reflects your example re: social animals and resentment of unfairness: the elite (who falls into this category is of course debatable, some individuals moreso than others). But they have intelligently, for their benefit, redirected that resentment towards those that have little. Is there really any logical connection between not engaging in wage labor (note: NOT equivalent to not working) and unfairness? Or is it a myth crafted by those who currently benefit the most?

    That resentment is also precisely why it is key that a Basic income be universal with no means testing, everyone gets the same.

    I think we should not extrapolate too much from the relatively small segment of the population falling into the the inherited money category. Correlation is not causation and all that.

    It also seems that so often individuals jump to the hollywood crafted image of the layabout stoner sitting on the couch giggling at cartoons (or something similarly negative) when the concept of less wage labor is brought up. A reduction of wage labor does not equate to lack of work being done, it simply means doing much of that work for different reasons and rewards and incentives.

    As I said in the Links thread today, we produce too much, we consume too much, we grow too much. More wage labor overall as a requirement for survival is certainly not the solution to any real problem that we face, its a massively inefficient use of resources and a massive strain on the ecosystems.

    Yves Smith Post author , November 21, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    I am really gobsmacked at the sense of entitlement on display here. Why are people entitled to an income with no work? Being an adult means toil: cleaning up after yourself, cleaning up after your kids if you have them, if you are subsistence farmer, tending your crops and livestock, if you are a modern society denizen, paying your bills and your taxes on time. The idea that people are entitled to a life of leisure is bollocks. Yet you promote that.

    Society means we have obligations to each other. That means work. In rejecting work you reject society.

    And the touting of "creativity" is a top 10% trope that Thomas Frank called out in Listen, Liberal. It's a way of devaluing what the bottom 90% do.

    WobblyTelomeres , November 21, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    My argument with the article is that, to me, it smacks of Taylorism. A follow-on study would analyze how many hours a laborer must work before the acquired sense of purpose and dignity and associated happiness began to decline. Would it be 30 hours a week of backbreaking labor before dignity found itself eroded? 40? 50? 60? When does the worker break? Just how far can we push the mule before it collapses?

    The author alludes to this: "The overwhelming proportion relate their social status and life happiness to gaining a job"

    Work equals happiness. Got it.

    But, as a former robotics instructor, and as one who watches the industry (and former students), I see an automated future as damn near inevitable. Massive job displacement is coming, life as a minimum wage burger flipper will cease, with no future employment prospects short of government intervention (WPA and CCC for all, I say). I'm not a Luddite, obviously, but there are going to be a lot of people, billions, worldwide, with no prospect of employment. Saying, "You're lazy and entitled" is a bit presumptuous, Yves. Not everyone has your ability, not everyone has my ability. When the burger flipping jobs are gone, where do they go? When roombas mop the floors, where do the floor moppers go?

    flora , November 21, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    "WPA and CCC for all, I say. "

    +1

    We could use a new Civilian Conservation Corps and and a Works Progress Administration. There's lots of work that needs doing that isn't getting done by private corporations.

    nihil obstet , November 21, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    The outrage at non-work wealth and income would be more convincing if it were aimed also at owners of capital. About 30% of national income is passive -- interest, rents, dividends. Why are the owners of capital "entitled to an income with no work?" It's all about the morality that underlies the returns to capital while sugaring over a devaluation of labor. As a moral issue, everyone should share the returns on capital or we should tax away the interest, rents, and dividends. If it's an economic issue, berating people for their beliefs isn't a reason.

    WobblyTelomeres , November 21, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    Why are the owners of capital "entitled to an income with no work?"

    THIS!!!! So much, THIS!!!! But, what else is a Wobbly to say, eh?

    Yves Smith Post author , November 22, 2017 at 2:27 am

    The overwhelming majority do work. The top 0.1% is almost entirely private equity managers who are able to classify labor income as capital gains through the carried interest loophole. Go look at the Forbes 400.

    The 1% are mainly CEOs, plus elite professionals, like partners at top law and consulting firms and specialty surgeons (heart, brain, oncology). The CEOs similarly should be seen as getting labor income but have a lot of stock incentive pay (that is how they get seriously rich) which again gets capital gains treatment.

    You are mistaking clever taking advantage of the tax code for where the income actually comes from. Even the kids of rich people are under pressure to act like entrepreneurs from their families and peers. Look at Paris Hilton and Ivanka as examples. They both could have sat back and enjoyed their inheritance, but both went and launched businesses. I'm not saying the kids of the rich succeed, or would have succeed to the extent they do without parental string-pulling, but the point is very few hand their fortune over to a money manager and go sailing or play the cello.

    IsotopeC14 , November 22, 2017 at 2:58 am

    Isn't the brother of the infamous Koch duo doing exactly that? Actually, if all the .001%ers were like him, we'd all be better off

    IsotopeC14 , November 22, 2017 at 1:34 am

    What's your take on Rutger Bergman's ted talk? i think most jobs aren't real jobs at all, like marketing and ceo's. why can't we do 20 hour work weeks so we don't have huge amounts of unemployment? Note, I was "unemployed" for years since "markets" decide not to fund science in the US. Yay Germany At least I was fortunate enough to not be forced to work at Walmart or McDonalds like the majority of people with absolutely no life choices. Ah the sweet coercion of capitalism.

    flora , November 21, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    Your hopes for a UBI are undone by some of the real world observations I've made over many years, with regard to how a guaranteed income increase, of any measure, for a whole population of an area, affects prices. Shorter: income going up means prices are raised by merchants to capture the new income.

    Your assumption that any UBI would not be instantly captured by raised prices is naive, at best. It's also naive to assume companies would continue to pay wages at the same level to people still employed, instead of reducing wages and letting UBI fill in the rest. Some corporations already underpay their workers, then encourage the workers to apply for food stamps and other public supports to make up for the reduced wage.

    The point of the paper is the importance of paid employment to a person's sense of well being. I agree with the paper.

    Andrew Dodds , November 22, 2017 at 2:48 am

    For the vast majority, a UBI would be income-neutral – it would have to be, to avoid massive inflation. So people would receive a UBI, but pay more tax to compensate. The effect on prices would be zero.

    The advantage of a UBI is mostly felt at the lower end, where insecure/seasonal work does now pay. At the moment, a person who went from farm labourer to Christmas work to summer resort work in the UK would certainly be working hard, but also relentlessly hounded by the DWP over universal credit. A UBI would make this sort of lifestyle possible.

    jsn , November 21, 2017 at 11:28 am

    Davidab, Good for you, but your perspicacity is not scalable. People are social animals and your attitude toward "the herd", at least as expressed here, is that of a predator, even if your taste doesn't run toward predation. Social solutions will necessarily be scalable or they won't be solutions for long.

    Lambert Strether , November 22, 2017 at 1:44 am

    > the organized herd a herd animal trapped in the herd

    I don't think throwing 80% to 90% of the population into the "prey" bucket is especially perspicacious politically (except, of course, for predators or parasites). I also don't think it's especially perspicacious morally. You write:

    Not very practical advice for most, I realize, trapped in the herd as they are in car payments and mortgages, but perhaps aspirational?

    Let me translate that: "Trapped in the herd as many are to support spouses and children." In other words, taking the cares of the world on themselves in order to care for others.

    BJ , November 21, 2017 at 6:37 am

    Unemployed stay at home dad here. My children are now old enough to no longer need a stay at home dad. Things I have done: picked up two musical instruments and last year dug a natural swimming pond by hand. Further, one would need to refute all the increased happiness in retirement (NBER). Why social security but not UBI? I get being part of the precariat is painful and this is a reality for most the unemployed no matter where you live in the world. A UBI is unworkable because it will never be large enough to make people's lives unprecarious. Having said that, I am almost positive if you gave every unemployed person 24 k a year and health benefits, there would be a mass of non working happy creative folks.

    divadab , November 21, 2017 at 7:41 am

    UBI seems to me to encourage non-virtuous behavior – sloth, irresponsibility, fecklessness, and spendthriftness. I like the Finnish model – unemployment insurance is not limited – except if you refuse work provided by the local job center. Lots of work is not being done all over America – we could guarantee honest work to all with some imagination. Start with not spraying roundup and rather using human labor to control weeds and invasive species.

    I do agree that universal health insurance is necessary and sadly Obamacare is not that.

    ambrit , November 21, 2017 at 8:34 am

    The crux of this problem is the definition used for "non-virtuous behaviour." A new CCC is a good place to start though. (Your Tax Dollars At Work! [For some definition of tax dollars.]) As for BJ above, I would suppose that child rearing was his "employment" for years. good so far, but his follow-up is untypical. The 'Empty Nester' mother is a well known meme.

    a different chris , November 21, 2017 at 9:19 am

    Spendthriftness on 24K a year? Seriously? If we are disgorging unprofessional opinions, I will add my own: sloth and irresponsibility are more signs of depression rather than freedom from having to work. In fact, I believe (and I think much of the stuff here) supports the idea that people want to be seen as useful in some way. Doesn't include me! :) .. unfortunately, I have the charmingly named "dependents" so there you have it.

    BJ , November 21, 2017 at 11:18 am

    I lived 6 years as a grad student on 24k a year and would say it was easy. Only thing I would have to had worried about was awful health insurance. A two household each with 24k would be even easier, especially if you could do it in a low cost area. So I am not sure what you mean by spendthrift. But again it will never happen, so we will be stuck with what we have or most likely an even more sinister system. I guess I am advocating for a JG with unlimited number of home makers per household.

    roadrider , November 21, 2017 at 9:23 am

    except if you refuse work provided by the local job center

    And who's to say that the local "job center" has work that would be appropriate for every person's specific talents and interests? This is no better than saying that you should be willing to go work for some minimum-wage retail job with unpredictable scheduling and other forms of employer abuses after you lose a high-paying job requiring special talents. I have to call bullshit on this model. I went through a two-year stretch if unemployment in no small part because the vast majority of the available jobs for my skill set were associated with the MIC, surveillance state or the parasitic FIRE sector. I was able to do this because I had saved up enough FY money and had no debts or family to support.

    I can also attest to the negative aspects of unemployment that the post describes. Its all true and I can't really say that I'e recovered even now, 2.5 years after finding another suitable job.

    Jesper , November 21, 2017 at 10:55 am

    The job center in the neighbouring Sweden had the same function. Had is the important word. My guess is that the last time someone lost their unemployment insurance payout due to not accepting a job was in the early 1980s. Prior to that companies might, maybe, possibly have considered hiring someone assigned to them – full employment forced companies to accept what was offered. Companies did not like the situation and the situation has since changed.

    Now, when full employment is a thing of the past, the way to lose unemployment insurance payouts is by not applying to enough jobs. An easily gamed system by people not wanting to work: just apply to completely unsuitable positions and the number of applications will be high. Many companies are therefore overwhelmed by applications and are therefore often forced to hire more people in HR to filter out the unsuitable candidates.
    People in HR tend not to know much about qualifications and or personalities for the job so they tend to filter out too many. We're all familiar with the skills-shortage .
    Next step of this is that the companies who do want to hire have to use recruitment agencies. Basically outsourcing the HR to another company whose people are working on commission. Recruiters sometimes know how to find 'talent', often they are the same kind of people with the same skills and backgrounds as people working in HR.

    To even get to the hiring manager a candidate has to go through two almost identical and often meaningless interviews. Recruiter and then HR. Good for the GDP I suppose, not sure if it is good for anything else.

    But back on topic again, there is a second way of losing unemployment insurance payout: Time. Once the period covered has passed there is no more payouts of insurance. After that it it is time to live on savings, then sell all assets, and then once that is done finally go to the welfare office and prove that savings are gone and all assets are sold and maybe welfare might be paid out. People on welfare in Sweden are poor and the indignities they are being put through are many. Forget about hobbies and forget about volunteering as the money for either of those activities simply aren't available. Am I surprised by a report saying unemployed in Sweden are unhappy? Nope.

    nonclassical , November 21, 2017 at 10:42 am

    meanwhile NYTimes testimonials Friday, show average family of 4 healthprofit costs (tripled, due to trump demise ACA) to be $30,000. per year, with around $10,000. deductible end of any semblance of affordable access, "murKa"

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/16/us/politics/obamacare-premiums-middle-class.html

    Jeremy Grimm , November 21, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    What do you mean by virtuous behavior?

    Where does a character like Bertie Wooster in "Jeeves" fit in your notions of virtuous behavior? Would you consider him more virtuous working in the management of a firm, controlling the lives and labor of others -- and humorously helped by his his brilliant valet, Jeeves, getting him out of trouble?

    For contrast -- in class and social status -- take a beer-soaked trailer trash gentleman of leisure -- and for sake of argument blessed with less than average intelligence -- where would you put him to work where you'd feel pleased with his product or his service? Would you feel better about this fellow enjoying a six-pack after working 8 hours a day 5 days a week virtuously digging and then filling a hole in the ground while carefully watched and goaded by an overseer? [Actually -- how different is that from "using human labor to control weeds and invasive species"? I take it you're a fan of chain-gangs and making the poor pick up trash on the highways?]

    What about some of our engineers and scientists virtuously serving the MIC? Is their behavior virtuous because they're not guilty of sloth, irresponsibility [in executing their work], fecklessness, and spendthriftness? On this last quality how do you feel about our government who pay the salaries for all these jobs building better ways to kill and maim?

    Bill Smith , November 21, 2017 at 8:01 am

    How big is the swimming pool and how long did it take? Where did you put the dirt?

    BJ , November 21, 2017 at 11:07 am

    It is a design by David Pagan Butler. It is his plunge pool design, deepend is 14 by 8 by 7 deep. I used the dirt to make swales around some trees. Win win all around.

    tegnost , November 21, 2017 at 9:32 am

    curious to know whether you are married to someone with a job?

    BJ , November 21, 2017 at 11:25 am

    The answer is yes my spouse works. So I do have a schedule of waking up to make her lunch everyday, meeting her at lunch to walk, and making dinner when she gets home, but we do all those things on her days off so .

    But again we would need to explain away, why people who are retired are happier? Just because they think they payed into social security? Try explaining to someone on the SS dole how the government spends money into existence and is not paid by taxes or that the government never saved their tax money, so there are not entitled to this money.

    David Kane Miller , November 21, 2017 at 6:55 am

    I hated working for other people and doing what they wanted. I began to feel some happiness when I had a half acre on which I could create my own projects. Things improved even more when I could assure myself of some small guaranteed income by claiming Social Security at age 62. To arise in the morning when I feel rested, with interesting projects like gardens, fences, small buildings ahead and work at my own pace is the essence of delight for me. I've been following your arguments against UBI for years and disagree vehemently.

    a different chris , November 21, 2017 at 9:23 am

    I feel I would behave the same as you, if I had the chance. *But* no statements about human beings are absolute, and because UBI would work for either of us does not mean it would work for the majority. Nothing devised by man is perfect.

    Mel , November 21, 2017 at 9:42 am

    It's not you; it's not me. It's those deplorable people.

    tegnost , November 21, 2017 at 9:37 am

    first you had to buy the half acre in a suitable location, then you had to work many years to qualify for social security, the availability of which you paid for and feel you deserve. You also have to buy stuff for fences gardens and small buildings. At most that rhymes with a ubi but is significantly different in it's make up.

    Lambert Strether , November 22, 2017 at 1:56 am

    > when I had a half acre on which I could create my own projects

    That is, when you acquired the half acre, which not everyone can do. It seems to me there's a good deal of projecting going on with this thread from people who are, in essence, statistical outliers. But Mitchell summarizes the literature:

    So for decades, researchers in this area, as opposed to bloggers who wax lyrical on their own opinions, have known that the importance of work in our lives goes well beyond the income we earn.

    If the solution that works for you is going to scale, that implies that millions more will have to own land. If UBI depends on that, how does that happen? (Of course, in a post-collapse scenario, the land might be taken , but that same scenario makes the existence of institutions required to convey the UBI highly unlikely. )

    Carla , November 21, 2017 at 7:16 am

    Very glad to hear that Bill Mitchell is working on the "Future of Work" book, and to have this post, and the links to the other segments. Thank you, Yves!

    Andrew , November 21, 2017 at 7:25 am

    I don't agree with this statement. Never will. I'm the complete opposite. Give me more leisure time and you'll find me painting, writing, playing instruments and doing things that I enjoy. I recall back to when I was a student, I relished in the free time I got (believe me University gave me a lot of free time) between lectures, meaning I could enjoy this time pursuing creative activities. Sure I might be different than most people but I know countless people who are the same.

    My own opinion is that root problem lies in the pathology of the working mentality, that 'work' and having a 'job' is so engrained into our society and mindset that once you give most people the time to enjoy other things, they simply can't. They don't know what to do with themselves and they eventually become unhappy, watching daytime TV sat on the sofa.

    I recall back to a conversation with my mother about my father, she said to me, 'I don't know how your father is going to cope once he retires and has nothing to do' and it's that very example of where work for so many people becomes so engrained in their mindset, that they are almost scared of having 'nothing to do' as they say. It's a shame, it's this systemic working mentality that has led to this mindset. I'm glad I'm the opposite of this and proud by mother brought me up to be this way. Work, and job are not in my vocabulary. I work to live, not live to work.

    I_Agree , November 21, 2017 at 11:26 am

    I agree with Andrew. I think this data on the negative effects says more about how being employed fundamentally breaks the human psyche and turns them into chattel, incapable of thinking for themselves and destroying their natural creativity. The more a human is molded into a "good worker" the less they become a full fledged human being. The happiest people are those that have never placed importance on work, that have always lived by the maxim "work to live, not live to work". From my own experience every assertion in this article is the opposite of reality. It is working that makes me apathethic, uncreative, and miserable. The constant knowing that you're wasting your life, day after day, engaged in an activity merely to build revenue streams for the rich, instead of doing things that help society or that please you on a personal level, is what I find misery inducing.

    nycTerrierist , November 21, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    I agree. If financial insecurity is removed from the equation -- free time can be used creatively for self-actualization, whatever form that may take: cultivating the arts, hobbies, community activities, worthy causes and projects. The ideology wafting from Mitchell's post smells to me like a rationale for wage slavery (market driven living, neo-liberalism, etc.)

    jrs , November 21, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Besides how are people supposed to spend their time "exploring other opportunities" when unemployed anyway? To collect unemployment which isn't exactly paying that much anyway, they have to show they are applying to jobs. To go to the movies the example given costs money, which one may tend to be short on when unemployed. They probably are looking for work regardless (for the income). There may still be some free time. But they could go back to school? Uh in case one just woke up from a rock they were under for 100 years, that costs money, which one may tend to be short on when unemployed, plus there is no guarantee the new career will pan out either, no guarantee someone is just chomping at the bit to hire a newly trained 50 year old or something. I have always taken classes when unemployed, and paid for it and it's not cheap.

    Yes to use one's time wisely in unemployment in the existing system requires a kind of deep psychological maturity that few have, a kind of Surrender To Fate, to the uncertainty of whether one will have an income again or not (either that or a sugar daddy or a trust fund). Because it's not easy to deal with that uncertainty. And uncertainty is the name of the game in unemployment, that and not having an income may be the pain in it's entirety.

    FelicityT , November 21, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    Sadly this breaking down into a "good worker" begins for most shortly after they begin school. This type of education harms society in a myriad of ways including instilling a dislike of learning, deference to authority (no matter how irrational and unjust), and a destruction of a child's natural curiosity.

    Yves Smith Post author , November 21, 2017 at 5:21 pm

    I don't buy your premise that people are "creative". The overwhelming majority do not have creative projects they'd be pursuing if they had leisure and income. Go look at retirees, ones that have just retired, are healthy, and have money.

    Yves Smith Post author , November 21, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    You are really misconstruing what the studies have found and misapplied it to your situation. Leisure time when you have a job or a role (being a student) is not at all the same as having time when you are unemployed, with or without a social safety net.

    Summer , November 21, 2017 at 6:25 pm
    jrs , November 21, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    one often has a role when unemployed: finding work. But it's not a very fulfilling one! But if one is trying to find work, it's not exactly the absence of a role either even if it still leaves significantly more free time than otherwise, maybe winning the lottery is the absence of a role.

    But then it's also not like we give people a UBI even for a few years (at any time in adult life) to get an education. Only if they take out a student loan approaching the size of a mortgage or have parents willing to pony up are they allowed that (to pay not just for the education but to live because having a roof over one's head etc. is never free, a UBI via debt it might be called).

    Lambert Strether , November 22, 2017 at 2:00 am

    > Give me more leisure time and you'll find me painting, writing, playing instruments and doing things that I enjoy.
    Nothing to breed resentment of "the creative class" here! Blowback from Speenhamland brought on the workhouses, so be careful what you wish for.

    Jesper , November 21, 2017 at 7:47 am

    Again the UBI vs JG debate .

    UBI won't happen and JG has been tried (and failed).

    The argument that JG would allow the public sector to hire more people is demeaning to people already employed in the public sector and demonstrably false – people are hired into the public sector without there being a JG. It is most certainly possible to be against a JG while wanting more people working in the public sector.

    The way forward is to have a government acting for people instead of for corporations. Increase the amount of paid vacations, reduce the pension age and stop with the Soviet style worship of work: While some people are apparently proud of their friends and relatives who died while at work it is also possible to feel sad about that.

    diptherio , November 21, 2017 at 10:00 am

    JG has been tried (and failed).

    When and where? The NCCC seemed to work pretty good here in the Western US.

    Jesper , November 21, 2017 at 10:27 am

    The JG was tried in Communist countries in Europe, Asia and Americas. The arguments then and there were the same as here and now, made by the same type of social 'scientists' (economists).

    Would a JG be different here and now as the Republicans and Democrats are representing the best interests of the people? Or are they representing the same kind of interests as the Communist parties did?

    Yves Smith Post author , November 21, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    Data, please. The USSR fell because it was spending on its military to keep up with the US, a much larger economy. Countering your assertion we have this:

    tegnost , November 21, 2017 at 10:00 am

    As long as people argue that "it's not fair" to fix the inequality issue and employ things like debt jubilee or student loan forgiveness, or if we fix the ridiculous cost of health care what will all those insurance agents do then we will wind up with the real kind of class warfare, rather than the current punching from the top down, the punching will come from the bottom, because the situation is not fair now, it's just TINA according to those who profit from it. In my own life there is a balance of creativity and work, and I find work enables my creativity by putting some pressure on my time, i.e., I get up earlier, I practice at 8:30 am instead of sleeping til 10 and winding up with S.A..D., I go to bed rather than watch tv or drink to excess.. in other words i have some kind of weird schedule, I have days off sort of When I've been unemployed I feel the way s described in the article. I find the arguments in favor of ubi tend to come from people who already have assets, or jobs, or family who they take care of which is actually a job although uncommonly described as such. The only truth I see in real life is that the unemployed I am intimately familiar with first are mentally oppressed by the notion that to repair their situation will require they work every waking hour at substandard wages for the rest of their life and that is a major barrier to getting started, and that is a policy choice the gov't and elite classes purposefully made which created the precariat and will be their undoing if they are unable to see this.

    tegnost , November 21, 2017 at 10:15 am

    Hey look, even the msm is looking at it
    https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/is-uprising-the-only-way-out-of-gross-inequality-maybe-so/

    j84ustin , November 21, 2017 at 10:08 am

    As someone who works in the public sector I never quite thought of it like that, thanks.

    hunkerdown , November 21, 2017 at 7:53 am

    Disappointing that there's no analysis in this context of less employment, as in shorter work weeks and/or days, as opposed to merely all or none.

    nonclassical , November 21, 2017 at 10:45 am

    see – hear

    (but no possibility without healthcare access, rather than healthtprofit)

    Vatch , November 21, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Interesting point. I read a science fiction story in which the protagonist arrives for work at his full time job at 10:00 AM, and he's finished for the day at 4:00 PM. I can't remember the name of the story or novel, unfortunately.

    jrs , November 21, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    Agreed. And they already have it in places like Denmark. Why don't we talk about that? It actually exists unlike utopian schemes for either total UBI or total work guarantee (government job creation is not utopian, but imagining it will employ everyone is, and I would like the UBI to be more widely tried, but in this country we are nowhere close). Funny how utopia becomes more interesting to people than actual existing arrangements, even though of course those could be improved on too.

    The Danish work arrangement is less than a 40 hour week, and mothers especially often work part-time but both sexes can. It's here in this country where work is either impossibly grueling or you are not working. No other choice. In countries with more flexible work arrangements more women actually work, but it's flexible and flexible for men who choose to do the parenting as well. I'm not saying this should be for parents only of course.

    Lambert Strether , November 22, 2017 at 2:02 am

    Because the JG sets the baseline for employment, which private companies must meet, the JG (unlike the UBI) can do this.

    Otis B Driftwood , November 21, 2017 at 7:58 am

    My own situation is that I am unhappy in my well-paying job and would like nothing more than to devote myself to other interests. I'm thirty years on in a relationship with someone who grew up in bad financial circumstances and panics whenever I talk about leaving my job. I tell her that we have 2 years of living expenses in the bank but I can't guarantee making the same amount of money if I do leave my job. She has a job that she loves and is important and pays barely 1/2 of my own income. So she worries about her future with me. She worries about losing her home. I suppose that makes me the definition of a wage slave. And it makes for an increasingly unhappy marriage. I admire those who have faced similar circumstances and found a way through this. Sorry to vent, but this topic and the comments hit a nerve with me and I'm still trying to figure this out.

    ambrit , November 21, 2017 at 8:38 am

    Otis; We are presently going through a period where that "two year cushion" has evaporated, for various reasons. We are seeing our way through this, straight into penury and privation. Take nothing for granted in todays' economy.

    jrs , November 21, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    yes find the lower paying job that you like more first. If you just quit for nothing in the hopes of finding one it might not happen. Of course unemployment also happens sometimes, whether we want it or not.

    bronco , November 21, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    The newer generations are worse when it comes to lifestyle. Those of that are older can at least remember a time without cellphones internet streaming services leasing a new car every 2 years etc.

    What about the young? My niece and her husband should be all set , his mom sunk money into a home on the condition she moved into a mother in law apartment. So far so good right? 2 years in they are imploding even with the free child care she provides. Combined their wireless bill a month is over $300. The sit on the couch side by side and stream netflix shows to dueling iphones in front of a 65 inch tv that is not even turned on. Wearing headphones in silence.

    Both driving new vehicles , both have gym memberships they don't use . They buy lattes 3 or 4 times a day which is probably another 500 a month.

    My uncle passed away recently and my niece asked if she was in the will. It was literally her only communication on the subject. They are going under and could easily trim a few thousand a month from the budget but simply won't. No one in the family is going to lift a finger for them at this point they burned every possible bridge already. I have seen people living in cars plenty lately but I think these will be the first I see to living in brand new cars .

    Somewhere along the line they got the impression that the american dream was a leased car a starbucks in one hand and an iphone in the other .

    Confront them with the concept of living within a paycheck and they react like a patient hearing he has 3 months to live.

    Lambert Strether , November 22, 2017 at 2:03 am

    Ah. Reagan's "welfare queens" updated. Kids these days!

    JBird , November 22, 2017 at 3:00 am

    Yeah being poor, never mind growing up poor, just well and truly sucks and it can really @@@@ you up. Gives people all sorts of issues. I'm rather like her, but I have had the joy of multi-hour commutes to unexciting soul crushing work. Happy, happy, joy, joy! However don't forget that with the current political economy things are likely to go bad in all sorts of ways. This whole site is devoted to that. My suggestion is to keep the job unless you have something lined up. Not being able to rent has it own stresses too. Take my word for it.

    Thuto , November 21, 2017 at 8:00 am

    I may be engaging in semantics but I think conflating work and jobs makes this article a bit of a mixed bag. I know plenty of people who are terribly unhappy in their jobs, but nonetheless extract a sense of wellbeing from having a stable source of INCOME to pay their bills (anecdotally speaking, acute stress from recent job losses is closely linked to uncertainty about how bills are going to be paid, that's why those with a safety net of accumulated savings report less stress than those without). Loss of status, social standing and identity and the chronic stress borne from these become evident much later I.e. when the unemployment is prolonged, accompanied of course by the still unresolved top-of-mind concern of "how to pay the bills".

    As such, acute stress for the recently unemployed is driven by financial/income uncertainty (I.e. how am I going to pay the bills) whereas chronic stress from prolonged unemployment brings into play the more identity driven aspects like loss of social standing and status. For policy interventions to have any effects, policy makers would have to delineate the primary drivers of stress (or lack of wellbeing as the author calls it) during the various phases of the unemployment lifecycle. An Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) like we have here in South Africa appears to address the early stages of unemployment, and the accompanying acute stress, quite well by providing the income guarantee (for six months) that cushions the shock of losing a job. What's still missing of course are interventions that promote the quick return to employment for those on UIF, so maybe a middle of the road solution between UBI and a jobs guarantee scheme is how policy makers should be framing this, instead of the binary either/or we currently have.

    TroyMcClure , November 21, 2017 at 9:19 am

    Lots' of people think they're unhappy with their jobs. Let them sit unemployed for 9 months and ask them if they want that job back. The usual parade of anecdata is on display here in the comments. Mitchell's real data and analysis in the article above still stand.

    Thuto , November 21, 2017 at 10:06 am

    If you'd read through my comment, and not rushed through it with a view of dishing out a flippant response, you'd have seen that nowhere do I question the validity of his data, I merely question how the argument is presented in some areas (NC discourages unquestioning deference to the views of experts no??). By the way, anecdotes do add to richer understanding of a nuanced and layered topic (as this one is) so your dismissal of them in your haste to invalidate people's observations is hardly helpful.

    jrs , November 21, 2017 at 1:15 pm