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Neoliberalism war on labor

“Robots are coming for your job” may be more scare talk than reality,
but instilling that belief helps weaken labor bargaining power.

Outsourcing is the way to decimate union power

News Neoliberalism as a New Form of Corporatism Recommended Links Over 50 and unemployed Identity politics as diversion of attention from social inequality Atomization and oppression of workforce Neoliberal rationality of false Gods of neoliberalism
The neoliberal myth of human capital Chronic Unemployment Redistribution of wealth up as the essence of neoliberalism Scapegoating and victimization of poor and unemployed Anti-globalization movement Immigration, wage depression and free movement of workers  
Elite [Dominance] Theory And the Revolt of the Elite Populism as a social protest against neoliberalism Tucker Carlson's rejection of neoliberalism and neoconservatism   Glass-Steagall repeal Destruction of the New Deal Think Tanks as Enabler of Neoliberal Coup d'état
Attack of Think Tanks Ayn Rand and her Objectivism Cult Amorality and criminality of neoliberal elite The Deep State Predator state Lewis Powell Memo The Essential Rules for Dominating Population
New American Militarism Neoconservatism Neo-fashism National Security State Propaganda  Inverted Totalitarism  Totalitarian Decisionism
Neoliberalism and Christianity Pope Francis on danger of neoliberalism The Iron Law of Oligarchy Anglican Church on danger of neoliberalism Animal Farm Quite coup Neoconservatism as an attack dog of neoliberalism
Audacioues Oligarchy and Loss of Trust Crowd manipulation Agenda-setting theory Manufacturing Consent Jingoism of the US neoliberal elite Media-Military-Industrial Complex War is Racket
Small government smoke screen "Starving the beast" bait and switcht Bill Clinton, the man who sold Democratic Party to Wall Street and helped FIRE sector to convert the country into casino Over-consumption of Luxury Goods as Market Failure Two Party System American Imperialism, Transnational Capitalist Class and Globalization of Capitalism The Grand Chessboard
Ethno-linguistic and "Cultural" Nationalism as a reaction to Neoliberalism induced decline of standards of living American Exceptionalism Anatol Leiven on American Messianism Machiavellism Skeptic Quotations Humor Etc

Atomization of workforce and establishment of national security state after 9/11 so far prevented large organized collective actions (recent riots were not organized, and with the current technical capabilities of the three letter agencies any organization is difficult or impossible). I think that conversion of the state into national security state was the key factor that saved a couple of the most notorious neoliberals from being hanged on the electrical posts in 2008 although I remember slogan "Jump suckers" on the corner of Wall Street.

But neoliberal attacks on organized labor started much earlier with Ronald Reagan and then continued under all subsequent presidents with bill Clinton doing the bulk of this dirty job. his calculation in creating "New labor" (read neoliberal stooges of Wall Street masked as Democratic Party) was right and for a couple of elections voters allow Democrats to betray them after the elections. But eventually that changes. Vichy left, represented by "Clintonized" Democratic Party got a crushing defeat in 2016 Presidential elections. Does not mean that Trump is better or less neoliberal, but it does suggest that working class does not trust Democratic Party any longer. 

2008 was the time of the crush of neoliberal ideology, much like Prague string signified the crush of Communist ideology. but while there was some level of harassment, individual beatings of banksters in 2008 were non-existent. And in zombie stage (with discredited ideology) neoliberalism managed to continue and even counterattack in some countries. Brazil and Argentina fall into neoliberal hands just recently.   Neoliberals actually managed to learn Trotskyites methods of subversion of government and playing on population disconnect in case of economic difficulties as well if not better as Trotskyites themselves.

Neoliberalism is based on unconditional domination of labor by capital ("socialism for the rich, feudalism for labor"). American scholar and cultural critic Henry Giroux alleges that neoliberalism holds that market forces should organize every facet of society, including economic and social life. In labor relations neoliberalism promotes a social darwinist ethic which elevates self-interest over social needs. A new class of workers lost "good" jobs in the  USA since arly 90th. They all, especially, "over 50" caterory, facing acute socio-economic insecurity, There is no a special tern for such people. They are called  'precariat'. 

The imposition of neoliberalism in the United States arose from a the political counterrevolution led by financial oligarchy in the 1970s. It was their reaction on the falling rate of profitability in manufacturing industry as well as the emergence of strong competitors both in Europe and Asia, competitors which no longer were hampered by WWII decimation of industrial potential and in some way even manage to benefit from reconstruction getting newer better factories then in the USA.

Neoliberalism doesn't shrink government, but instead convert it into a national security state, which provides little governmental oversight over large business and multinationals, but toughly control the lower classes, the smacks -- including mass incarceration those at the bottom. With the inmates along with illegal immigrants slowly becoming an important  source of low-wage labor for some US corporations. Essentially a new incarnation of slave labor. 

Neoliberal policies led to the situation in the US economy in which 30% of workers earn low wages (less than two-thirds of the median wage for full-time workers), and 35% of the labor force is underemployed; only 40% of the working-age population in the U.S. is adequately employed. The Center for Economic Policy Research's (CEPR) Dean Baker (2006) argued that the driving force behind rising inequality in the US has been a series of government step to impose on the society deliberate, neoliberal policy choices including anti-inflationary bias, anti-unionism, and profiteering in the health industry

It can not be hidden. Redistribution of wealth up is all the neoliberalism is about. Simplifying, neoliberalism can be defined as socialism for the rich and feudalism for poor.

So forms of brutal exploitation when people work 12 hours a day (as many "contractors" do now, as for them labor laws do not apply) or when even bathroom breaks are regulated now are more common.  Amazon, Uber and several other companies have shown that neoliberal model can be as brutal as plantation slavery.

In a way, we returned to the brutality of the beginning of XX century on a new level characterized by much higher level of instability of employment. This is not disputed  even for neoliberal stooges in economic departments of major universities. As interesting question arise: "What form the backlash might take, if any ?"

I think it is an observable fact that the US neoliberal elite is now is discredited and entered political crisis in which it can't govern "as usual": defeat of Hillary Clinton and ability to Trump to win nomination from Republican Party and then managed to win them despite opposition from intelligence agencies and attempt to discredit him by trying him to Russia national elections. Tump victory signifies the start of discreditation of the neoliberal political elite. The sma is true for the success of Sunders in Democratic Party primaries and the fact that DNC needed to resort to dirty tricks to derail his candidacy signifies the same. Even taking into account his betrayal of his voters.

If this does not suggest the crisis of neoliberal governance, I do not know what is. Neoliberal Democrats ("Clintonized" Democratic Party) by and large lost workers and lower middle class votes. It became "Republicans light", the second War Party in Washington and now rely of "CIA-democrats" (candidates with background in intelligences serves or military) to win the seats in Congress much like Republicans in the past.  There was even (quickly suppressed) revolt against Pelosi in the House of Representatives, as it is clear that Pelosi represents the "Party of Davos" in the Congress, not American people.  

The crisis of neoliberalism created conditions for increased social protest which at stage mostly result in passive "f*ck you" to neoliberal elite.  In 2016 that led to election of Trump, but it was Sanders who captures social protest voters only to be derailed by machinations of DNC and Clinton clan.  At the same time, the efficiency with which Occupy Wall Street movement was neutered means that the national security state is still pretty effective in suppressing of dissent, so open violence probably will be suppressed brutally and efficiently.  "Color revolution" methods of social protest are not effective in  the USA sitution, as the key factor that allow "color revolutionaries" to challenge existing government. It is easy and not so risky to do when you understand that  the USA and its three letter agencies, embassies and NGOs stand behind and might allow you to emigrate, if you cause fail.  No so other significant power such as China or Russia can stand behind the protesters against neoliberalism in the USA. Neoliberals controls all braches of power. And internationally they are way too strong to allow Russia or China to interfere in the US election the way the USA interfered into Russian presidential election.   


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[Jan 19, 2020] Death and Neglect in the 7th Fleet

Jan 19, 2020 | www.propublica.org

. A firsthand account from a U.S. Naval officer is eye opening (emphasis mine).

He'd seen his ship, one of the Navy's fleet of 11 minesweepers, sidelined by repairs and maintenance for more than 20 months. Once the ship, based in Japan, returned to action, its crew was only able to conduct its most essential training -- how to identify and defuse underwater mines -- for fewer than 10 days the entire next year . During those training missions, the officer said, the crew found it hard to trust the ship's faulty navigation system: It ran on Windows 2000.

Sonar which identifies dishwashers, crab traps and cars as possible mines, can hardly be considered a rebuilt military. The Navy's eleven minesweepers built more than 25 years ago, have had their decommissioning continually delayed because no replacement plan was implemented. I'll await the deeper understanding of 'deterrence' from b, even as I consider willingness to commit and brag about war crimes as beyond the point of no return.

Posted by: psychedelicatessen | Jan 19 2020 9:14 utc | 98

[Jan 19, 2020] The Quiet Crisis Deaths Caused By Alcoholism Have More Than Doubled

Jan 19, 2020 | www.zerohedge.com

The Quiet Crisis: Deaths Caused By Alcoholism Have More Than Doubled by Tyler Durden Sat, 01/18/2020 - 21:15 0 SHARES

Opioid overdoses may have leveled off last year after soaring over the last ten, but Americans are still dying in droves from another, far more popular substance: alcohol.

According to a series of studies cited by MarketWatch , the number of Americans drinking themselves to death has more than doubled over the last two decades, according to a sobering new report. That far outpaces the rate of population growth during the same period.

Researchers from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism studied the cause of death for Americans aged 16 and up between 1999 and 2017. They determined that while 35,914 deaths were tied to alcohol in 1999, it doubled to 72,558 in 2017. The rate of deaths per 100,000 soared by 50.9% from 16.9 to 25.5.

Over that 20-year period, the study determined that alcohol was involved in more than 1 million deaths. Half of these deaths resulted from liver disease, or a person drinking themselves to death, or a drug overdose that involved alcohol.

For more context: In 2017 alone, 2.6% of roughly 2.8 million deaths in the US were alcohol-related.

One doesn't need to be a chronic alcoholic to suffer from alcohol: Nine states - Maine, Indiana, Idaho, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio and Virginia - saw a "significant" increase in adults who binge drink, a dangerous activity that can lead to deadly car crashes and other fatal accidents, according to a report released Thursday by the CDC.

And across the country, Americans who binge drink are consuming more drinks per person: That number spiked from 472 in 2011 to 529 in 2017, a 12% increase.

Historically, men have been more predisposed to "deaths of despair" than women: But a study published in "Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research" found that the largest increase in recent years in these types of deaths occurred among non-hispanic white women.

Public health crises tied to substance abuse have been plaguing American for decades. So, what is it about our contemporary society that's causing deaths to skyrocket?

There's some food for thought.


VodkaInKrakow , 1 hour ago link

This happens in poor economies. Happened in Russia from 1992 on. Not every area is affected in The US. Just those with the functional equivalent of a 3rd world or developing world economy.

Add in a Japanese-style lost-growth decade.

Double-whammy for parts of The US.

sekhars , 1 hour ago link

about 2000 die each year in NYC due to alcohol directly. 4 to 5 times more than opioids and more than all the drugs related death combined.

Ms No , 2 hours ago link

I'm watching somebody kill themselves with alcohol as we speak. People have catered to her alcaholism for 15 years. Her original ezcuse was a family death. Her husband has died now. Alcaholics always have an excuse though. Alcaholism always seeks excuse.

I am a callous bitch and just cut right to the point. "All of us have to decide to live or die. Life is a choice. If you decide to die, you will. I hope you havent already aubconsciously made that decision (can tell by dreams). You should search for a reason to live. Whatever you choose I will respect that."

TerryThomas , 2 hours ago link

Liver deaths? You mean Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease caused by sugary drinks laced with HFCS has made a spike in liver disease death, so naturally the lazy investigator blames it on alcohol.

sirpo , 4 hours ago link

adults who binge drink, a dangerous activity that can lead to deadly car crashes and other fatal accidents, according to a report released Thursday by the CDC.

a dangerous activity CORRECTION STUPIDITY or CHEAP CHARLIE for not willing to take a UBER or YELLOW CAB home

What are we talking here $50 at most

Any idea what a DWI will set you back cause I know for a fact in stupidity and 1980's USD and it taught me

Don't do the crime if you can't spend the dime for a taxi

Erwin643 , 1 hour ago link

Just thinning the herd, Baby!

pods , 4 hours ago link

Some people have a hard time living in crazy town.

I mean, constant war, dollar value sinking, inflation sucking the life outta you, **** food and a fake society. All the while everywhere you look people are pretending they're killing it while up to their eyeballs in debt.

I'm actually pretty happy these numbers are this low.

PersonalResponsibility , 4 hours ago link

Spot on pods. It's nice I have a dream and a good job while following the dream but the pressure is huge explained by what you wrote.

Pull , 1 hour ago link

Absolutely DEAD NUTS ON!

[Jan 19, 2020] Delta workers poisoned by toxic work uniforms file class action lawsuit - World Socialist Web Site

Jan 19, 2020 | www.wsws.org

Delta's employee absence level, recorded as "call-ins" for calling in sick, spiked after the introduction of the uniforms.

The lawsuit details the individual ordeals of numerous workers who were poisoned by the uniforms. For example, flight attendant Stephanie Andrews of Murray, Utah suffered "from asthma, vocal cord dysfunction, breathing difficulties, shortness of breath, coughing, tightness of chest, contact dermatitis, skin rashes, hives, hair loss, heart palpitations, fatigue, and auto-immune conditions." Flight attendant Janelle Austin of Atlanta, Georgia suffered from "hair loss, skin irritation, rashes, itchiness, difficulty breathing, fatigue, headaches, eye irritation, and sinus irritation." Flight attendant Phyllis Heffeldinger of Londonville, Ohio suffered from chest pain and difficulty breathing.

After the uniforms were implemented in May, by the end of August Delta itself had acknowledged that around 1,900 out of 64,000 employees had reported "some type of concern" with the uniforms. By November, the number had risen 3,000.

A Delta worker photographed this clump of hair that had fallen out

The lawsuit alleges that the uniforms pose "ongoing, unreasonable risks of harm" to the workers who are wearing them, asking the judge to order Lands' End to recall the uniforms and to establish a monitoring program over the adverse health effects of the uniforms.

According to the lawsuit, testing performed on behalf of the workers has revealed "the presence of chemicals and heavy metals far in excess of industry-accepted safe levels for garments," including:

• Chromium -- harmful to the skin, eyes, blood, and respiratory system;

• Antimony -- harmful to the eyes and skin; causes hair loss; used to make flame-proofing materials;

• Mercury -- at high vapor concentrations, it can cause quick and severe lung damage; at low vapor concentrations over an extended period of time, it can cause neurological disturbances, memory problems, skin rash and kidney abnormalities; mercury can pass from a mother to her baby through the placenta during pregnancy and through breast milk after birth;

• Formaldehyde -- skin, throat, lungs and eye irritant; repeated exposure can cause cancer;

• Fluorine -- eye irritant; harmful to kidneys, teeth, bones, nerves and muscles; used as a stain repellant; and

• Bromine -- skin, mucous membrane, and tissue irritant; used as a fire retardant.

Discussing the testing that has been conducted on behalf of Delta workers, Maxwell pointed to fluorine in particular. "The numbers came back pretty high on that."

Maxwell pointed out, as an additional concern, that after exposure to toxic chemicals and metals, a person can become "sensitized." If that happens, "your auto-immune system shuts down, and you become unable to fend off future exposures to that chemical." Workers have reported that even if they are no longer wearing the uniform, they can have adverse reactions simply to sitting next to someone who is wearing the uniform. This phenomenon is the result of "off-gassing," or the release of airborne particles from the contaminated fabric.

The lawsuit, which was filed against Lands' End but not Delta itself, alleges that the uniforms were defective, that Lands' End failed to provide appropriate and necessary warnings, and that Lands' End was negligent in designing, testing and inspecting the uniforms.

American Airlines workers reported similar issues with Twin Hill uniforms, which were distributed to 70,000 airline employees in September 2016. Workers interviewed by the WSWS in June of last year reported body rashes, burning throat and eyes, coughing and headaches. After the scandal over the Twin Hill uniforms, American Airlines attempted to reassure workers by promising to switch to Lands' End.

"We are the new radium girls," flight attendant and author Heather Poole said at the time, referring to thousands of female workers at paint factories who were exposed to the radioactive element in the early 20th century. "It took them years to get sick, so the company would deny responsibility."

Delta Airlines is also notorious among flight attendants for its workers' compensation regime, which systematically denies adequate healthcare even for crippling workplace injuries. The airline's third-party administrator, Sedgwick, is also the claims administrator for Amazon, where it is widely hated for its ruthlessness. A number of injured flight attendants spoke to the World Socialist Web Site about their experiences last year.

After the Delta workers' lawsuit was filed against Lands' End, American Airlines claimed to workers that the new Lands' End uniforms for American Airlines are safe, notwithstanding the lawsuit. "I hope they're sure about that," Maxwell says drily.

Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines workers have also reported health problems resulting from their work uniforms.

A recent Harvard study published in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Public Health , titled "Symptoms related to new flight attendant uniforms," found a correlation between health problems among 684 Alaska Airlines workers and their uniforms. When the uniforms were introduced in 2011, health problems increased, and after the uniforms were recalled in 2014, the study showed a decrease. The study concluded: "This study found a relationship between health complaints and the introduction of new uniforms in this longitudinal occupational cohort."

Formaldehyde-releasing textile resins, in particular, constitute a cheap means for employers to limit wrinkles on employee uniforms, keeping employees looking "neat."

While the companies insist that the level of each toxic chemical and metal in the uniforms is limited to a "safe" level, it appears likely that the effects of the chemicals and metals are aggravated in combination with each other.

"We don't have any standards anymore in the US," Maxwell said. He pointed to the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, which gives the Environmental Protection Agency authority to regulate the industrial chemicals such as those to which Delta workers were exposed.

"This law is on the books," Maxwell said. "Apparently, our government is not acting as a regulatory force on this law. I don't see where that is being enforced in the garment industry."

Maxwell also pointed to Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which has promulgated limits on exposure to toxic metals in the workplace. Delta workers were exposed to quantities that are "way above that."

Maxwell continued, "I don't understand why that's not being applied or looked at because, my goodness, that's in the workplace."

[Jan 19, 2020] Democrats Ignore the Immigration Elephant in the Room

Notable quotes:
"... Des Moines Register ..."
"... Washington Examiner ..."
"... The Great Revolt ..."
"... Washington Post ..."
Jan 19, 2020 | www.theamericanconservative.com

Democrats Ignore the Immigration Elephant in the Room

The most important issue of Trump's ascent has drawn silence from the Democratic Party, now the party of the elites. (Jim Larkin/Shutterstock )

January 17, 2020

|

12:01 am

Robert W. Merry At Tuesday's Democratic debate sponsored by CNN and the Des Moines Register , nobody seemed to notice the elephant in the room -- or perhaps the candidates and moderators just didn't want to acknowledge its presence. Whether it was out of blindness or stubbornness, it tells us a great deal about the state of the Democratic Party in our time -- and also about the state of American politics.

That elephant is immigration, and the issue it represents is the defining one of our time. It is the most intractable, the most emotional, and the most irrepressible of all matters facing Western societies. And yet it was almost totally ignored in the most crucial debate so far in the Democratic quest for a presidential nominee. Two passing references was all the issue got over two hours of polemical fireworks.

President Trump certainly came in for his share of opprobrium from the top six Democratic candidates, yet nobody seemed to have the slightest awareness that the single most important issue driving Trump's political rise four years ago was immigration. A Pew Research Center survey revealed after the 2016 election that 66 percent of Trump supporters considered immigration to be a "very big" problem, the highest percentage for any issue. For Hillary Clinton supporters, the corresponding percentage was just 17. Also, fully 79 percent of Trump voters favored building the border wall he advocated, compared to just 10 percent for Clinton supporters.

During the 2016 campaign, the Washington Examiner called immigration "the mother of all issues" -- touching on jobs, national security and terrorism, the public fisc, and the cultural definition of America. That latter factor, said the paper, was a "nearly existential question" involving the ultimate definition of a nation without borders.

Elsewhere in the West, we see the same political percolation. By most analyses, immigration was the driving force behind Britain's 2016 vote for Brexit. The Atlantic ran a piece in June of that year headlined: "The Immigration Battle at the Heart of Brexit." After the vote, Slate rushed out to interview former British prime minister Tony Blair -- who, as the website noted, "presided over the opening of Britain's borders." That had unleashed "a wave of immigration unprecedented in [Britain's] history." Within a few years, noted Slate, "roughly twice as many immigrants arrived in the United Kingdom as had arrived in the previous half-century." The Brexit vote was in large measure a rebuke to that Blair project, pushed avidly and relentlessly by the British ruling class.

Elsewhere in Europe -- Hungary, Poland, France, Germany, Italy, even Sweden, among other nations -- mass immigration has emerged as the dominant issue, roiling the waters of national politics and pushing to the fore various types of conservative populism. New parties have emerged to join the issue, and old parties have gained new sway.

Many commentators and political analysts in recent years have posited the idea that a new political fault line has emerged throughout the West, between the globalist elites and ordinary citizens who are more nationalist in their political sensibilities and more culturally protective. This is true. And while there are many issues that have come into play here, such as trade, military adventurism, identity politics, and political correctness, immigration is the key driver.

Generally, the open-border elites have been on the defensive since Donald Trump seized the issue in 2015 and tied it to the emotional matters of terrorism and crime. Trump was probably correct in the first Republican debate of the 2016 election cycle when he said that, were it not for him, immigration probably wouldn't have been a major topic of discussion. It certainly seemed as if the other candidates preferred to keep it out of the campaign debate so it could be handled after the election in the more controlled environments of Congress and the courts. By bringing it up, even in his crude and disturbing manner, Trump galvanized a large body of voters who had concluded that the elites of both parties didn't really care about controlling the borders.

Indeed, in their 2018 book, The Great Revolt , Salena Zito and Brad Todd posit that Trump got an extra boost from working class Americans put off by the attacks on him from prominent politicians of both parties who called his immigration concerns "unhinged," "reprehensible," "xenophobic," "racist," and "fascist." Zito and Todd write that many Trump voters "saw one candidate, who shared their anxiety about immigration's potential connections to domestic terrorism, being attacked by an entire political and media establishment that blew off that concern as bigotry."

In this great political divide, the Democratic candidates at the debate represent the elite preference for policies that embrace or nearly embrace open borders. An NPR study of candidate positions indicated that, on the question of whether illegal crossings should be decriminalized, four of those on the debate stage say yes, while the positions of the other two remain "unclear." On whether immigration numbers should be increased, four say yes, while two are unclear. On whether federal funding for border enforcement should be increased or decreased, five have no clear position, while one says it should be decreased. A separate Washington Post study on the candidates' views as to whether illegal immigrants should be covered under a government-run health plan found that five say yes while one has no clear position.

The Democratic Party has become the party of the country's elites -- globalist, internationalist, anti-nationalist, free-trade, and open borders. Those views are so thoroughly at variance with those of Trump voters that it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that we have here a powerful issue of our time, perhaps the most powerful issue. Yet the journalistic moderators at Tuesday's event didn't see fit to ask about it. And the candidates weren't inclined to bring it up in any serious way.

Perhaps they thought that if they just ignored that elephant, eventually it would go away. It won't.

Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington, D.C., journalist and publishing executive, is the author most recently of President McKinley: Architect of the American Century (Simon & Schuster).


MarkVA 2 days ago

A million Eastern Europeans (Poles) move to the UK, and this precipitates Brexit. A million Ukrainians move to Poland, and it is hardly noticed there. There is a difference here which the author did not notice, or care to notice, and I feel no obligation to explain;

Also, in 2016 some truly nasty things were said about the Mexican people, and they were not said by the people on the left. Again, this post fails to mention any of that;

These two things suggest a myopia of American conservatism.

izzy MarkVA a day ago
Mark, you really are a voice of reason. I enjoy engaging with you.

Agree with you entirely here. I think you'll notice that ethnocentrism I was talking about in the previous conversation we had in Rod's post about BenOp for the humanities. The ethnocentrism is in full display on that thread.

It's weird to call the democrats the party of the elites when about half, it not more of the working class vote democratic. The Washington post just put out a poll on black Americans and their hatred of Trump is almost universal. Most blacks are working clsss. The vast majority of Hispanics are also working class and they sure aren't Trump voters either.

trailhiker 2 days ago
Trump and the GOP: had a mandate for populist reform, passed a tax-cut-for-billionaires, almost start a neocon war with Iran

Obama and the Dems: had a mandate and passed ACA, which BigMediPharma is totally fine with, gave Wall Street a big bailout and no punishment for the derivatives crash

Both of the parties are owned by the elites with a few exceptions here and there, such as Sanders and Gabbard. And of course those two are attacked quite a bit by the elites.

Kent trailhiker a day ago
Both parties want to increase immigration, because they drive down wages and increase profits. Both parties are funded by the same crew of the shareholding class.

Trump is an outlier in that he is willing to talk about the unmentionable, which got him elected. Unfortunately, by calling Mexican immigrants rapists, drug dealers and murderers, he associated the immigration issue with racism instead of wage issues. While that played to an ugly subset of his supporters, it took the discussion of immigration off the board for Democrats because they don't want the association.

Bernie Sanders has fought against open borders in the past because of the effect on wages. But he can't discuss it now.

[Jan 19, 2020] The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters

Jan 19, 2020 | jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com

"The Marxist political parties, including the Social Democrats and their followers, had fourteen years to prove their abilities. The result is a heap of ruins. All around us are symptoms portending this breakdown. With an unparalleled effort of will and of brute force the Communist method of madness is trying as a last resort to poison and undermine an inwardly shaken and uprooted nation.

In fourteen years the November parties have ruined the German farmer. In fourteen years they created an army of millions of unemployed. The National Government will carry out the following plan with iron resolution and dogged perseverance. Within four years the German farmer must be saved from pauperism. Within four years unemployment must be completely overcome.

Our concern to provide daily bread will be equally a concern for the fulfillment of the responsibilities of society to those who are old and sick. The best safeguard against any experiment which might endanger the currency lies in economical administration, the promotion of work, and the preservation of agriculture, as well as in the use of individual initiative."

Adolf Hitler, Radio Appeal to the German People, February 1, 1933

"Both religion and socialism thus glorify weakness and need. Both recoil from the world as it is: tough, unequal, harsh. Both flee to an imaginary future realm where they can feel safe. Both say to you. Be a nice boy. Be a good little girl. Share. Feel sorry for the little people. And both desperately seek someone to look after them -- whether it be God or the State.

A thriving upper class accepts with a good conscience the sacrifice of untold human beings, who, for its sake, must be reduced and lowered to incomplete human beings,to slaves, to instruments... One cannot fail to see in all these noble races the beast of prey, the splendid blond beast, prowling about avidly in search of spoil and victory; this hidden core needs to erupt from time to time, the animal has to get out again and go back to the wilderness."

Friedrich Nietzsche

"At a certain point in their historical cycles, social classes become detached from their traditional parties. In other words, the traditional parties, in their particular organisational bias, with the particular men who constitute, represent and lead them, are no longer recognised by their class as their own, and representing their interests. When such crises occur, the immediate situation becomes delicate and dangerous, because the field is open for violent solutions, for the activities of unknown forces, represented by charismatic 'men of destiny' [demagogues].

The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters."

Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, 1930-35

"Be human in this most inhuman of ages; guard the image of man for it is the image of God. You agree? Good. Then go with my blessing. But I warn you, do not expect to make many friends. One of the awful facts of our age is the evidence that it is stricken indeed, stricken to the very core of its being by the presence of the Unspeakable."

Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable

"The more power a government has the more it can act arbitrarily according to the whims and desires of the elite, and the more it will make war on others and murder its foreign and domestic subjects."

R. J. Rummel, Death by Government: A History of Mass Murder and Genocide Since 1900

"This is as old as Babylon, and evil as sin. It is the power of the darkness of the world, and of spiritual wickedness in high places. The only difference is that it is not happening in the past, or in a book, or in some vaguely frightening prophecy -- it is happening here and now."

Jesse

"The wealth of another region excites their greed; and if it is weak, their lust for power as well. Nothing from the rising to the setting of the sun is enough for them. Among all others only they are compelled to attack the poor as well as the rich. Plunder, rape, and murder they falsely call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace."

Tacitus

"Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in America. Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely inappropriate and unnecessary and humorless American class system created. Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage.

And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus the American dream turned belly up, turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited, filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun."

Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

"Day by day the money-masters of America become more aware of their danger, they draw together, they grow more class-conscious, more aggressive. The [first world] war has taught them the possibilities of propaganda; it has accustomed them to the idea of enormous campaigns which sway the minds of millions and make them pliable to any purpose.

American political corruption was the buying up of legislatures and assemblies to keep them from doing the people's will and protecting the people's interests; it was the exploiter entrenching himself in power, it was financial autocracy undermining and destroying political democracy. By the blindness and greed of ruling classes the people have been plunged into infinite misery."

Upton Sinclair, The Brass Check

"Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction."

Erich Fromm

"We must alter our lives in order to alter our hearts, for it is impossible to live one way and pray another.

If you have not chosen the kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead."

William Law

[Jan 12, 2020] Class Warfare: The restaurant industry has one of the highest rates of mental health issues in the country.

Jan 12, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

"Increasing the minimum wage can reduce suicide rates, study finds" [ Global News ]. "A study published Tuesday in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health examined the link between minimum wage increases and suicide rates among various groups across the U.S., between 1990 and 2015. For every dollar added to the minimum wage, suicide rates among people with a high school education or less dropped by 3.4 to 5.9 per cent, the authors found. The effects were more pronounced during periods of high unemployment."

"When 140 million Americans are poor, why has poverty disappeared from public discourse?" [ Des Moines Register ]. "'It's hard work being poor,' said John Campbell of Des Moines, a black man of 63 who works at Bridgestone Firestone and is active in the steel workers' union. Raised in poverty by a single mother of four who died of lung cancer in her 40s, Campbell enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves and later in the Army from 1973 to '78 to escape his battles with drugs and alcohol. He went on to have sustained employment and an education through union programs. But recently, he's been out on disability, living on $300 a week. He had to refinance his house to pay the $3,000 deductible for the first of two knee replacement surgeries ." • We are ruled by House Harkonnen.

"Working in the restaurant industry will haunt your dreams" [ The Outline ]. "The restaurant industry has one of the highest rates of mental health issues in the country. As restaurant owners begin to address that crisis, they need to include trauma-induced chronic nightmares along with depression and addiction. The haunting might end, long after the aprons are hung up." • Servers have "waitmares" -- nightmares about waiting on tables.

[Jan 12, 2020] US has been preaching human rights while mounting wars and lying.

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Over $7 trillion spent while homelessness is rampant. Healthcare is unaffordable for the 99% of the population. ..."
Jan 12, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Likklemore , Jan 11 2020 17:48 utc | 201

At 2016, here is the long bombing list of the 32 countries by the late William Blum. Did I mention sanctions is an Act of War?

Little u.s. has been preaching human rights while mounting wars and lying. Albright thought the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children were worth it. !!! it was worth killings and maiming.

Over $7 trillion spent while homelessness is rampant. Healthcare is unaffordable for the 99% of the population.

The u.s. will leave Iraq and Syria aka Saigon 1975 or horizontal. It's over.

2020: u.s. Stands Alone.

Searching for friends. Now, after Russiagate here is little pompous: "we want to be friends with Russia." Sanctions much excepting we need RD180 engines, seizure of diplomatic properties. Who are you kidding?

"we seek a constructive and productive relationship with the Russian Federation".

What a bunch of hypocrites? How dare you criticize commenters who see little u.s. in the light of day, not a shining beacon on the hill..

[Jan 11, 2020] Atomization of workforce as a part of atomization of society under neoliberalism

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... a friend of mine, born in Venice and a long-time resident of Rome, pointed out to me that dogs are a sign of loneliness. ..."
"... And the cafes and restaurants on weekends in Chicago–chockfull of people, each on his or her own Powerbook, surfing the WWW all by themselves. ..."
"... The preaching of self-reliance by those who have never had to practice it is galling. ..."
"... Katherine: Agreed. It is also one of the reasons why I am skeptical of various evangelical / fundi pastors, who are living at the expense of their churches, preaching about individual salvation. ..."
"... So you have the upper crust (often with inheritances and trust funds) preaching economic self-reliances, and you have divines preaching individual salvation as they go back to the house provided by the members of the church. ..."
Apr 18, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
DJG , April 17, 2017 at 11:09 am
Neoliberalism is creating loneliness. That's what's wrenching society apart George Monbiot, Guardian

George Monbiot on human loneliness and its toll. I agree with his observations. I have been cataloguing them in my head for years, especially after a friend of mine, born in Venice and a long-time resident of Rome, pointed out to me that dogs are a sign of loneliness.

A couple of recent trips to Rome have made that point ever more obvious to me: Compared to my North Side neighborhood in Chicago, where every other person seems to have a dog, and on weekends Clark Street is awash in dogs (on their way to the dog boutiques and the dog food truck), Rome has few dogs. Rome is much more densely populated, and the Italians still have each other, for good or for ill. And Americans use the dog as an odd means of making human contact, at least with other dog owners.

But Americanization advances: I was surprised to see people bring dogs into the dining room of a fairly upscale restaurant in Turin. I haven't seen that before. (Most Italian cafes and restaurants are just too small to accommodate a dog, and the owners don't have much patience for disruptions.) The dogs barked at each other for while–violating a cardinal rule in Italy that mealtime is sacred and tranquil. Loneliness rules.

And the cafes and restaurants on weekends in Chicago–chockfull of people, each on his or her own Powerbook, surfing the WWW all by themselves.

That's why the comments about March on Everywhere in Harper's, recommended by Lambert, fascinated me. Maybe, to be less lonely, you just have to attend the occasional march, no matter how disorganized (and the Chicago Women's March organizers made a few big logistical mistakes), no matter how incoherent. Safety in numbers? (And as Monbiot points out, overeating at home alone is a sign of loneliness: Another argument for a walk with a placard.)

Katharine , April 17, 2017 at 11:39 am

I particularly liked this point:

In Britain, men who have spent their entire lives in quadrangles – at school, at college, at the bar, in parliament – instruct us to stand on our own two feet.

With different imagery, the same is true in this country. The preaching of self-reliance by those who have never had to practice it is galling.

DJG , April 17, 2017 at 11:48 am

Katherine: Agreed. It is also one of the reasons why I am skeptical of various evangelical / fundi pastors, who are living at the expense of their churches, preaching about individual salvation.

So you have the upper crust (often with inheritances and trust funds) preaching economic self-reliances, and you have divines preaching individual salvation as they go back to the house provided by the members of the church.

[Jan 10, 2020] America's Hamster Wheel of 'Career Advancement' by Casey Chalk

Notable quotes:
"... Getting Work Right: Labor and Leisure in a Fragmented World ..."
"... The problem is further compounded by the fact that much of the labor Americans perform isn't actually good ..."
Jan 09, 2020 | www.theamericanconservative.com

We're told that getting ahead at work and reorienting our lives around our jobs will make us happy. So why hasn't it? Many of those who work in the corporate world are constantly peppered with questions about their " career progression ." The Internet is saturated with articles providing tips and tricks on how to develop a never-fail game plan for professional development. Millions of Americans are engaged in a never-ending cycle of résumé-padding that mimics the accumulation of Boy Scout merit badges or A's on report cards except we never seem to get our Eagle Scout certificates or academic diplomas. We're told to just keep going until we run out of gas or reach retirement, at which point we fade into the peripheral oblivion of retirement communities, morning tee-times, and long midweek lunches at beach restaurants.

The idealistic Chris McCandless in Jon Krakauer's bestselling book Into the Wild defiantly declares, "I think careers are a 20th century invention and I don't want one." Anyone who has spent enough time in the career hamster wheel can relate to this sentiment. Is 21st-century careerism -- with its promotion cycles, yearly feedback, and little wooden plaques commemorating our accomplishments -- really the summit of human existence, the paramount paradigm of human flourishing?

Michael J. Noughton, director of the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota, and board chair for Reel Precision Manufacturing, doesn't think so. In his Getting Work Right: Labor and Leisure in a Fragmented World , Noughton provides a sobering statistic: approximately two thirds of employees in the United States are "either indifferent or hostile to their work." That's not just an indicator of professional dissatisfaction; it's economically disastrous. The same survey estimates that employee disengagement is costing the U.S. economy "somewhere between 450-550 billion dollars annually."

The origin of this problem, says Naughton, is an error in how Americans conceive of work and leisure. We seem to err in one of two ways. One is to label our work as strictly a job, a nine-to-five that pays the bills. In this paradigm, leisure is an amusement, an escape from the drudgery of boring, purposeless labor. The other way is that we label our work as a career that provides the essential fulfillment in our lives. Through this lens, leisure is a utility, simply another means to serve our work. Outside of work, we exercise to maintain our health in order to work harder and longer. We read books that help maximize our utility at work and get ahead of our competitors. We "continue our education" largely to further our careers.

Whichever error we fall into, we inevitably end up dissatisfied. The more we view work as a painful, boring chore, the less effective we are at it, and the more complacent and discouraged. Our leisure activities, in turn, no matter how distracting, only compound our sadness, because no amount of games can ever satisfy our souls. Or, if we see our meaning in our work and leisure as only another means of increasing productivity, we inevitably burn out, wondering, perhaps too late in life, what exactly we were working for . As Augustine of Hippo noted, our hearts are restless for God. More recently, C.S. Lewis noted that we yearn to be fulfilled by something that nothing in this world can satisfy. We need both our work and our leisure to be oriented to the transcendent in order to give our lives meaning and purpose.

The problem is further compounded by the fact that much of the labor Americans perform isn't actually good . There are "bad goods" that are detrimental to society and human flourishing. Naughton suggests some examples: violent video games, pornography, adultery dating sites, cigarettes, high-octane alcohol, abortifacients, gambling, usury, certain types of weapons, cheat sheet websites, "gentlemen's clubs," and so on. Though not as clear-cut as the above, one might also add working for the kinds of businesses that contribute to the impoverishment or destruction of our communities, as Tucker Carlson has recently argued .

Why does this matter for professional satisfaction? Because if our work doesn't offer goods and services that contribute to our communities and the common good -- and especially if we are unable to perceive how our labor plays into that common good -- then it will fundamentally undermine our happiness. We will perceive our work primarily in a utilitarian sense, shrugging our shoulders and saying, "it's just a paycheck," ignoring or disregarding the fact that as rational animals we need to feel like our efforts matter.

Economic liberalism -- at least in its purest free-market expression -- is based on a paradigm with nominalist and utilitarian origins that promote "freedom of indifference." In rudimentary terms, this means that we need not be interested in the moral quality of our economic output. If we produce goods that satisfy people's wants, increasing their "utils," as my Econ 101 professor used to say, then we are achieving business success. In this paradigm, we desire an economy that maximizes access to free choice regardless of the content of that choice, because the more choices we have, the more we can maximize our utils, or sensory satisfaction.

The freedom of indifference paradigm is in contrast to a more ancient understanding of economic and civic engagement: a freedom for excellence. In this worldview, "we are made for something," and participation in public acts of virtue is essential both to our own well-being and that of our society. By creating goods and services that objectively benefit others and contributing to an order beyond the maximization of profit, we bless both ourselves and the polis . Alternatively, goods that increase "utils" but undermine the common good are rejected.

Returning to Naughton's distinction between work and leisure, we need to perceive the latter not as an escape from work or a means of enhancing our work, but as a true time of rest. This means uniting ourselves with the transcendent reality from which we originate and to which we will return, through prayer, meditation, and worship. By practicing this kind of true leisure, well treated in a book by Josef Pieper , we find ourselves refreshed, and discover renewed motivation and inspiration to contribute to the common good.

Americans are increasingly aware of the problems with Wall Street conservatism and globalist economics. We perceive that our post-Cold War policies are hurting our nation. Naughton's treatise on work and leisure offers the beginnings of a game plan for what might replace them.

Casey Chalk covers religion and other issues for The American Conservative and is a senior writer for Crisis Magazine. He has degrees in history and teaching from the University of Virginia, and a masters in theology from Christendom College.

[Jan 05, 2020] "Shit-Life Syndrome," Trump Voters, and Clueless Dems

Notable quotes:
"... Cincinnati Enquirer ..."
"... JAMA Network Open ..."
"... Bruce E. Levine , a practicing clinical psychologist often at odds with the mainstream of his profession, writes and speaks about how society, culture, politics and psychology intersect. His most recent book is Resisting Illegitimate Authority: A Thinking Person's Guide to Being an Anti-Authoritarian―Strategies, Tools, and Models (AK Press, September, 2018). His Web site is brucelevine.net ..."
Jan 05, 2020 | www.counterpunch.org

Getting rid of Trump means taking seriously "shit-life syndrome" -- and its resulting misery, which includes suicide, drug overdose death, and trauma for surviving communities.

My state of Ohio is home to many shit-life syndrome sufferers. In the 2016 presidential election , Hillary Clinton lost Ohio's 18 electoral votes to Trump. She got clobbered by over 400,000 votes (more than 8%). She lost 80 of Ohio's 88 counties. Trump won rural poorer counties, several by whopping margins. Trump got the shit-life syndrome vote.

Will Hutton in his 2018 Guardian piece, " The Bad News is We're Dying Early in Britain – and It's All Down to 'Shit-Life Syndrome '" describes shit-life syndrome in both Britain and the United States: "Poor working-age Americans of all races are locked in a cycle of poverty and neglect, amid wider affluence. They are ill educated and ill trained. The jobs available are drudge work paying the minimum wage, with minimal or no job security."

The Brookings Institution, in November 2019, reported : "53 million Americans between the ages of 18 to 64 -- accounting for 44% of all workers -- qualify as 'low-wage.' Their median hourly wages are $10.22, and median annual earnings are about $18,000."

For most of these low-wage workers, Hutton notes: "Finding meaning in life is close to impossible; the struggle to survive commands all intellectual and emotional resources. Yet turn on the TV or visit a middle-class shopping mall and a very different and unattainable world presents itself. Knowing that you are valueless, you resort to drugs, antidepressants and booze. You eat junk food and watch your ill-treated body balloon. It is not just poverty, but growing relative poverty in an era of rising inequality, with all its psychological side-effects, that is the killer."

Shit-life syndrome is not another fictitious illness conjured up by the psychiatric-pharmaceutical industrial complex to sell psychotropic drugs. It is a reality created by corporatist rulers and their lackey politicians -- pretending to care about their minimum-wage-slave constituents, who are trying to survive on 99¢ boxed macaroni and cheese prepared in carcinogenic water, courtesy of DuPont or some other such low-life leviathan.

The Cincinnati Enquirer , in November 2019, ran the story: " Suicide Rate Up 45% in Ohio in Last 11 Years, With a Sharper Spike among the Young ." In Ohio between 2007 and 2018, the rate of suicide among people 10 to 24 has risen by 56%. The Ohio Department of Health reported that suicide is the leading cause of death among Ohioans ages 10‐14 and the second leading cause of death among Ohioans ages 15‐34, with the suicide rate higher in poorer, rural counties.

Overall in the United States, "Suicides have increased most sharply in rural communities, where loss of farming and manufacturing jobs has led to economic declines over the past quarter century," reports the American Psychological Association. The U.S. suicide rate has risen 33% from 1999 through 2017 (from 10.5 to 14 suicides per 100,000 people).

In addition to an increasing rate of suicide, drug overdose deaths rose in the United States from 16,849 in 1999 to 70,237 in 2017, more sharply increasing in recent years . The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that opioids -- mainly synthetic opioids -- were involved in 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017 (67.8% of all drug overdose deaths).

Among all states in 2017, Ohio had the second highest rate of drug overdose death (46.3 per 100,000). West Virginia had the highest rate (57.8 per 100,000).

"In 2016, Donald Trump captured 68 percent of the vote in West Virginia, a state hit hard by opioid overdoses," begins the 2018 NPR story: " Analysis Finds Geographic Overlap In Opioid Use And Trump Support In 2016 ."

The NPR story was about a study published in JAMA Network Open titled " Association of Chronic Opioid Use With Presidential Voting Patterns in US Counties in 2016 ," lead authored by physician James Goodwin. In counties with high rates of opioid use, Trump received 60% of the vote; but Trump received only 39% of the vote in counties with low opioid use. Opioid use is prevalent in poor rural counties, as Goodwin reports in his study: "Approximately two-thirds of the association between opioid rates and presidential voting was explained by socioeconomic variables."

Goodwin told NPR: "It very well may be that if you're in a county that is dissolving because of opioids, you're looking around and you're seeing ruin. That can lead to a sense of despair . . . . You want something different. You want radical change."

Shit-life syndrome sufferers are looking for immediate change, and are receptive to unconventional politicians.

In 2016, Trump understood that being unconventional, including unconventional obnoxiousness, can help ratings. So he began his campaign with unconventional serial humiliations of his fellow Republican candidates to get the nomination; and since then, his unconventionality has been limited only by his lack of creativity -- relying mostly on the Roy Cohn modeled "Punch them harder than they punch you" for anyone who disagrees with him.

I talked to Trump voters in 2016, and many of them felt that Trump was not a nice person, even a jerk, but their fantasy was that he was one of those rich guys with a big ego who needed to be a hero. Progressives who merely mock this way of thinking rather than create a strategy to deal with it are going to get four more years of Trump.

The Dems' problem in getting the shit-life syndrome vote in 2020 is that none of their potential nominees for president are unconventional. In 2016, Bernie Sanders achieved some degree of unconventionality. His young Sandernistas loved the idea of a curmudgeon grandfather/eccentric uncle who boldly proclaimed in Brooklynese that he was a "socialist," and his fans marveled that he was no loser, having in fact charmed Vermonters into electing him to the U.S. Senate. Moreover, during the 2016 primaries, there were folks here in Ohio who ultimately voted for Trump but who told me that they liked Bernie -- both Sanders and Trump appeared unconventional to them.

While Bernie still has fans in 2020, he has done major damage to his "unconventionality brand." By backing Hillary Clinton in 2016, he resembled every other cowardly politician. I felt sorry for his Sandernistas, heartbroken after their hero Bernie -- who for most of his political life had self-identified as an "independent" and a "socialist" -- became a compliant team player for the corporatist Blue Team that he had spent a career claiming independence from. If Bernie was terrified in 2016 of risking Ralph Nader's fate of ostracism for defying the corporatist Blue Team, would he really risk assassination for defying the rich bastards who own the United States?

So in 2020, this leaves realistic Dems with one strategy. While the Dems cannot provide a candidate who can viscerally connect with shit-life syndrome sufferers, the Dems can show these victims that they have been used and betrayed by Trump.

Here in Ohio in counties dominated by shit-life syndrome, the Dems would be wise not to focus on their candidate but instead pour money into negative advertising, shaming Trump for making promises that he knew he wouldn't deliver on: Hillary has not been prosecuted; Mexico has paid for no wall; great manufacturing jobs are not going to Ohioans ; and most importantly, in their communities, there are now even more suicides, drug overdose deaths, and grieving families.

You would think a Hollywood Dem could viscerally communicate in 30 seconds: "You fantasized that this braggart would be your hero, but you discovered he's just another rich asshole politician out for himself." This strategy will not necessarily get Dems the shit-life syndrome vote, but will increase the likelihood that these folks stay home on Election Day and not vote for Trump.

The question is just how clueless are the Dems? Will they convince themselves that shit-life syndrome sufferers give a shit about Trump's impeachment? Will they convince themselves that Biden, Buttigieg, Bloomberg or Warren are so wonderful that shit-life syndrome sufferers will take them and their campaign promises seriously? Then Trump probably wins again, thanks to both shit-life syndrome and shit-Dems syndrome. Join the debate on Facebook More articles by: Bruce E. Levine

Bruce E. Levine , a practicing clinical psychologist often at odds with the mainstream of his profession, writes and speaks about how society, culture, politics and psychology intersect. His most recent book is Resisting Illegitimate Authority: A Thinking Person's Guide to Being an Anti-Authoritarian―Strategies, Tools, and Models (AK Press, September, 2018). His Web site is brucelevine.net

[Jan 03, 2020] The Mystery of Low Wage Growth by Michael Mandel

Aug 06, 2006 | www.businessweek.com

Perhaps the oddest and most depressing fact about the U.S. economy these days is the lack of real wage growth. The unemployment rate has been below 5% since December, and productivity growth is still looking strong. Yet wages and salaries, adjusted for inflation, are down for virtually every broad occupational category.

According to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory workers are up by 3.8% over the past year. That may sound halfway decent, but it still lags the 4.3% increase in consumer prices over the same period (see BusinessWeek.com, 8/4/06, "July Jobs: Pretext for a Fed Pause?"). Even managers and professionals are taking the hit: Figures from the BLS show that their real wages have fallen by 1.8% and 1.1%, respectively, over the past year.

This is not what I expected. Historically, real wages rise along with productivity once labor markets are tight enough. Based on the experiences of the 1990s, I was confident that wage growth was going to accelerate once the unemployment rate dropped conclusively below 5%. Still, the wage picture remains bleak.

KEY DIFFERENCES. True, there are some hopeful signs of life. According to the National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE), "starting salary offers to new college graduates continue to climb." For example, the starting salary for accounting graduates is up 5.5% over the previous year. That's more than the 4.3% rise in consumer prices and well ahead of the 2.6% increase in all prices except food and energy.

But in a lot of fields that NACE tracks, the gains are not enough to keep up with inflation. Initial salary offers for computer science majors are up 1%, marketing majors saw an increase of 0.9%, and liberal arts majors a meager 0.2%, with these teeny increases obliterated by inflation.

But if the phenomenon of falling real wages is clear, the explanation is not. In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a sense that education and the ability to make use of new technology were the key differences between those who did well and those who didn't. Workers who could adapt to the new world of information technology prospered; those who could not saw their wages fall or their jobs disappear.

LOW-WAGE COMPETITION. Today, neither a college education nor computer literacy is enough to guarantee rising real wages. Some people are obviously doing better than others. Workers in the financial and health-care industries, for example, have seen their real wages drop by less over the past two years than those in retailing. But in no part of the economy are real wages doing well.

There are two alternative explanations for this broad-based problem. The first one has to do with globalization. Competition with low-cost workers in China, India, Eastern Europe, and the rest of the developing world may finally be taking its toll on American workers. With a surplus of labor around the world, real wages will stagnate, while returns to capital will rise.

Now, that's not bad news for everyone. If you own a home, you own a capital asset whose value has soared in recent years. If you have a 401(k) retirement account invested in the stock market, its value, too, has likely gone up since 2003. And if you are a taxpayer -- as most of us are -- it's a plus that state and local pension fund reserves have gone up more than 9%, or $245 billion, over the past year alone, in large part because of stock market gains. This makes it less likely that taxes will have to be hiked in the future to pay for government employee retirement benefits.

If the globalization answer is correct, then in general it's the young who are going to be hit the hardest. They don't have homes or other financial investments, and they have their whole working lives stretching in front of them, so weak real wages hurt them badly. For middle-class Americans aged 50 and higher, the math may be much different, since they likely own their own homes, which have greatly appreciated.

OVERESTIMATED? The other explanation for weak real wages is much more gloomy. Remember that wages usually track along with productivity. I hate to even say it, but what if the productivity gains of recent years have been overestimated? The latest revision of gross domestic product, released on July 28, seems to have cut productivity growth in 2004 and 2005 by almost half a percentage point. Further revisions of the statistics could push the number down even more.

No, I haven't swung from my usual optimism into the doom-and-gloom camp. But whatever way you cut it, the stagnation of real wages is not a good thing.

[Jan 03, 2020] How you define "oppression" ?

Jan 03, 2020 | crookedtimber.org

soru 12.31.19 at 6:39 pm 21 ( 21 )

The problem is in how you define "oppression".
For example if you take a marxian definition of l class, it means people who don't own the means of production, that easily means the bottom 80% of the population. However a large part of this group is usually considered middle class, and is not really seen as oppressed.

I don't think this is right; unlike 'exploited', Marx doesn't use the word 'oppression' in any technical or unusual way, just in it's usual sense.

So a prosperous middle class person in a liberal democracy is not oppressed. A Marxist would merely point out that they would be in a more capitalist society; one without a universal franchise that requires the rich to seek political allies.

people of the working class don't feel they are working class, but rather identify as blue collars

If you look into the actual details of vote tallies; you find more or less the precise opposite. There are a key block of people who, objectively speaking, earn most of their income from stocks that they own, in the form of pension funds. Up until recently, this block was the victim of false consciousness; they identified as something like 'blue collar', based on the jobs they used to do, and the communities they they used to belong to. As of the last few elections, political activity by the Republicans and Tories has managed to overcome that, so they now vote based on their objective class interests. Those who rely on a small lump of capital have mostly the same class interests as those in possession of more; fewer environmental regulations, lower minimum wages, and so forth.

Meanwhile, most of the current working class don't get to vote, because they lack citizenship in the countries in question.

[Jan 02, 2020] The Purpose Of Life Is Not Happiness: It s Usefulness Happiness as an achievable goal is an illusion, but that doesn t mean happiness itself is not attainable by Darius Foroux

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... "The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well." ..."
"... Recently I read Not Fade Away by Laurence Shames and Peter Barton. It's about Peter Barton, the founder of Liberty Media, who shares his thoughts about dying from cancer. ..."
Aug 22, 2019 | getpocket.com

For the longest time, I believed that there's only one purpose of life: And that is to be happy. Right? Why else go through all the pain and hardship? It's to achieve happiness in some way. And I'm not the only person who believed that. In fact, if you look around you, most people are pursuing happiness in their lives.

That's why we collectively buy shit we don't need, go to bed with people we don't love, and try to work hard to get approval of people we don't like.

Why do we do these things? To be honest, I don't care what the exact reason is. I'm not a scientist. All I know is that it has something to do with history, culture, media, economy, psychology, politics, the information era, and you name it. The list is endless.

We are who are.

Let's just accept that. Most people love to analyze why people are not happy or don't live fulfilling lives. I don't necessarily care about the why .

I care more about how we can change.

Just a few short years ago, I did everything to chase happiness.

But at the end of the day, you're lying in your bed (alone or next to your spouse), and you think: "What's next in this endless pursuit of happiness?"

Well, I can tell you what's next: You, chasing something random that you believe makes you happy.

It's all a façade. A hoax. A story that's been made up.

Did Aristotle lie to us when he said:

"Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence."

I think we have to look at that quote from a different angle. Because when you read it, you think that happiness is the main goal. And that's kind of what the quote says as well.

But here's the thing: How do you achieve happiness?

Happiness can't be a goal in itself. Therefore, it's not something that's achievable. I believe that happiness is merely a byproduct of usefulness. When I talk about this concept with friends, family, and colleagues, I always find it difficult to put this into words. But I'll give it a try here. Most things we do in life are just activities and experiences.

Those things should make you happy, right? But they are not useful. You're not creating anything. You're just consuming or doing something. And that's great.

Don't get me wrong. I love to go on holiday, or go shopping sometimes. But to be honest, it's not what gives meaning to life.

What really makes me happy is when I'm useful. When I create something that others can use. Or even when I create something I can use.

For the longest time I foud it difficult to explain the concept of usefulness and happiness. But when I recently ran into a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the dots connected.

Emerson says:

"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."

And I didn't get that before I became more conscious of what I'm doing with my life. And that always sounds heavy and all. But it's actually really simple.

It comes down to this: What are you DOING that's making a difference?

Did you do useful things in your lifetime? You don't have to change the world or anything. Just make it a little bit better than you were born.

If you don't know how, here are some ideas.

That's just some stuff I like to do. You can make up your own useful activities.

You see? It's not anything big. But when you do little useful things every day, it adds up to a life that is well lived. A life that mattered.

The last thing I want is to be on my deathbed and realize there's zero evidence that I ever existed.

Recently I read Not Fade Away by Laurence Shames and Peter Barton. It's about Peter Barton, the founder of Liberty Media, who shares his thoughts about dying from cancer.

It's a very powerful book and it will definitely bring tears to your eyes. In the book, he writes about how he lived his life and how he found his calling. He also went to business school, and this is what he thought of his fellow MBA candidates:

"Bottom line: they were extremely bright people who would never really anything, would never add much to society, would leave no legacy behind. I found this terribly sad, in the way that wasted potential is always sad."

You can say that about all of us. And after he realized that in his thirties, he founded a company that turned him into a multi-millionaire.

Another person who always makes himself useful is Casey Neistat . I've been following him for a year and a half now, and every time I watch his YouTube show , he's doing something.

He also talks about how he always wants to do and create something. He even has a tattoo on his forearm that says "Do More."

Most people would say, "why would you work more?" And then they turn on Netflix and watch back to back episodes of Daredevil.

A different mindset.

Being useful is a mindset. And like with any mindset, it starts with a decision. One day I woke up and thought to myself: What am I doing for this world? The answer was nothing.

And that same day I started writing. For you it can be painting, creating a product, helping elderly, or anything you feel like doing.

Don't take it too seriously. Don't overthink it. Just DO something that's useful. Anything.

Darius Foroux writes about productivity, habits, decision making, and personal finance. His ideas and work have been featured in TIME, NBC, Fast Company, Inc., Observer, and many more publications. Join his free weekly newsletter.

More from Darius Foroux

This article was originally published on October 3, 2016, by Darius Foroux, and is republished here with permission. Darius Foroux writes about productivity, habits, decision making, and personal finance.

Join his newsletter.


[Jan 02, 2020] Since 2008, we've been witnessing a "reverse stagflation", i.e. low unemployment with low wages (a phenomenon which is impossible according to modern bourgeois economic theory).

Jan 02, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

vk , Dec 31 2019 18:38 utc | 32

Here's another evidence capitalism has reached a stagnant level of both technological progress and birth rates:

Over-65s to account for over half of employment growth in next 10 years

Workers aged 65 and older will be responsible for more than half of all UK employment growth over the next 10 years and almost two-thirds of employment growth by 2060, according to new figures.

Since 2008, we've been witnessing a "reverse stagflation", i.e. low unemployment with low wages (a phenomenon which is impossible according to modern bourgeois economic theory).

The reason for this is what I mentioned earlier: no more technological progress and negative birth rates. The USA is still benefitting from mass immigration from Central America, but this demographic bonus won't last for much: now even the Third World countries are barely above the minimum 2 children per woman (including most of Latin American nations). Only a bunch of African nations (which have high mortality rates either way, so it doesn't matter) and India still have the "demographic bonus" in a level such as to be capitalistically viable.

This problem is not new in cotemporary history. It happened once: in the USSR.

In the 1970s, only 6% of the Soviet population was necessary to produce everything the USSR needed, so the only solution available was to expand the economy extensively, i.e. by reproducing the same infrastructure more times over.

The problem with that is that the USSR had reached its limits demographically. Its population growth entered into stagnant to negative territory. Decades passed until the point where it didn't even matter if they came up with a revolutionary technology, since there were simply not enough children to teach and train to such new tech. Add to that the pressure from the Cold War (which drained its R&D to the military sector), and it begun to wither away.

Now we can predict the same thing is happening to capitalism. Contrary to the USSR, the capitalist nations had the advantage of having available the demographic bonuses of the Third World - specially China - to maintain their dynamism even when some countries like Japan and Germany reached negative birth rates. Now China's demographic bonus is over and also much of Latin America. To make things even worse for the capitalists, China managed to scape the "middle income trap" and go to the route of becoming a superpower, thus adding to the demographic strains of the capitalist center.

The solution, it seems, is to do pension reforms and force the old people back to work. France is going to destroy its pension system; Brazil already did that; the USA was a pioneer in forcing its old population to work to the death; Italy destroyed its pension system after 2008; the UK is preparing the terrain now that its social-democracy is definitely destroyed.

Patroklos , Jan 1 2020 2:49 utc | 65

Posted by: vk | Dec 31 2019 18:38 utc | 32

As always I find your application of Marxist critique succinct and correct. This coming decade, with its unravelling of the financialization phase of our current phase of capitalism (i.e the US consolidation phase following British imperialism, c.1914-2020s), will be its terminal decade. The signal that we had entered the financialization phase were the shocks of 1970-73, and the replacement of industrial manufacture (i.e. money>commodity>money+x, or M-C-M') with finance/speculation (i.e. money>money+x, M-M') has unfolded more or less according to Marx's analysis in Capital vol.3. This is as much a crisis of value creation as anything else. In Australia (where I am) the process is particularly transparent: we have almost no manufacturing sector left and so we exchange labour-value created in China for mineral resources and engage in the ponzi-scheme of banking and property speculation, which produces no value whatsoever. Either way the M-C-M' phase in Australia has vanished and government dedicates itself to full-spectrum protection of the finance economy and mining. All the while a veneer of productivity is created by immigration, which destroys cities (because there's no infrastructure to accomodate them), inflates prices and creates the illusion of 'growth'. This is propped up by a media who perpetuate xenophobia by creating panic about refugees (5%) while saying zip about the fact that Australia only has economic growth at all because we bring in 250K new consumers every year. This collapsing financialization phase will only accelerate this decade and we will wake to find we don't make anything and have crumbling 1980s-era infrastructure: Australia will suffer badly as the phase plays out, not least because of a colonial-settler looting mentality around the 'economy' that persists at every level of government.

What I like about the point you're making in your post (#32) is the wider expansive question of productivity -- or, how do we continue to produce value? It is often overlooked that Marx sought to liberate human beings from expropriative labour of every kind (which occurred as much under the Soviets as it does today); this means that capital's aorta connecting labour to value via money must be severed (rather than the endless attempts to reform capitalism to make it 'fairer' etc, a sell-out for which Gramsci savaged the union movement). The relation between work and value must be critiqued relentlessly. To salvage any kind of optimism about the future we need to invest all our intellectual energy in this critique and find a radically new way of construing the link between time, labour and value that does not include social domination.

In the meantime the scenario to which you have drawn our attention -- the parasitic vampirism now attacking the elderly and the retired -- is an inevitable consequence of our particular moment in late capitalism, hurtling at speed toward a social catastrophe of debt, wealth inequality, neo-feudalism and biopolitical police state, all characterized by an image of 70-year-olds trudging to work in an agony of physical suffering and mental meaninglessness which will end in a forgotten grave.

[Jan 02, 2020] Lack of bargaining power due to de-unionization, off-shoring, automation and massive numbers of cheap - and frequently undocumented - immigrant labor has placed downward pressure on wages in many industries, including most of the ones with the greatest job growth. All the gains in productivity have been accruing to capital, almost none to labor.

Notable quotes:
"... Since economists like to think of themselves as physicians, perhaps they should consider a powerful force pushing on a weak force - a gorilla, for instance, squeezing a marshmallow. The gorilla is corporate power, the marshmallow, labor. Now perhaps the gorilla is able to squeeze the marshmallow because that marshmallow was so damn sticky and refused to budge last time - or maybe the marshmallow has been squeezed low these past thirty years. ..."
"... I think there is a strong correlation of wage growth and energy consumption per capita. ..."
"... As the latter now is shrinking and the wages are stagnant capital is able to squeeze all productivity gain for themselves. Neoliberal transformation of society since 1970th also suppresses wages by dramatically increasing the share of owners. Those two tendencies work together. ..."
Jan 05, 2015 | Economist's View

FRBSF Economic Letter Why Is Wage Growth So Slow

anne:

Despite considerable improvement in the labor market, growth in wages continues to be disappointing. One reason is that many firms were unable to reduce wages during the recession, and they must now work off a stockpile of pent-up wage cuts....

-- Mary Daly and Bart Hobijn

[ What offensive nonsense, as though real after-tax corporate profits per employee had exploded, simply exploded, since 2000. ]

drb48 -> anne:

Thank you Anne for introducing some sanity to what is the biggest bunch of hogwash I've read in a while.

drb48 -> anne:

Wage growth has been "disappointing" for decades. If employers have a problem reducing wages, it's because they're already so low. Lack of bargaining power due to de-unionization, off-shoring, automation and massive numbers of cheap - and frequently undocumented - immigrant labor has placed downward pressure on wages in many industries, including most of the ones with the greatest job growth. All the gains in productivity have been accruing to capital, almost none to labor. Trying to rationalize with some bullshit study this as anything other than the powerful exploiting the weak is - as you say - offensive nonsense.

Roger Gathmann -> anne:

Exactly. Since economists like to think of themselves as physicians, perhaps they should consider a powerful force pushing on a weak force - a gorilla, for instance, squeezing a marshmallow. The gorilla is corporate power, the marshmallow, labor. Now perhaps the gorilla is able to squeeze the marshmallow because that marshmallow was so damn sticky and refused to budge last time - or maybe the marshmallow has been squeezed low these past thirty years.

Obviously, the economists will jump for the sticky solution, since politics, the relative power of capital and labor, is an offense against all the wonderful models based on equilibrium and god's own free market.

anne:

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=LcR
http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=LcS

January 15, 2014

Real After-Tax Corporate Profits Per Employee, 2000-2014

2000 01 ( 5,938) *
2000 04 ( 5,771)
2000 07 ( 5,618)
2000 10 ( 5,312)

2001 01 ( 5,655) Bush
2001 04 ( 5,930)
2001 07 ( 5,430)
2001 10 ( 5,289) (Low)

2002 01 ( 5,851)
2002 04 ( 6,475)
2002 07 ( 7,092)
2002 10 ( 7,898)

2003 01 ( 7,775)
2003 04 ( 7,827)
2003 07 ( 7,229)
2003 10 ( 8,776)

2004 01 ( 9,933)
2004 04 ( 10,207)
2004 07 ( 10,534)
2004 10 ( 10,319)

2005 01 ( 12,460)
2005 04 ( 12,510)
2005 07 ( 12,713)
2005 10 ( 13,228)

2006 01 ( 13,395)
2006 04 ( 13,600)
2006 07 ( 13,600)
2006 10 ( 13,133)

2007 01 ( 12,112)
2007 04 ( 12,613)
2007 07 ( 12,002)
2007 10 ( 12,105)

2008 01 ( 10,975)
2008 04 ( 11,121)
2008 07 ( 10,661)
2008 10 ( 6,249)

2009 01 ( 9,989) Obama
2009 04 ( 10,850)
2009 07 ( 12,319)
2009 10 ( 13,260)

2010 01 ( 13,988)
2010 04 ( 13,814)
2010 07 ( 14,324)
2010 10 ( 14,113)

2011 01 ( 12,572)
2011 04 ( 13,005)
2011 07 ( 12,919)
2011 10 ( 13,486)

2012 01 ( 14,756)
2012 04 ( 14,437)
2012 07 ( 14,926)
2012 10 ( 14,579)

2013 01 ( 14,447)
2013 04 ( 14,921)
2013 07 ( 15,129)
2013 10 ( 14,861)

2014 01 ( 14,303)
2014 04 ( 14,982)
2014 07 ( 15,274) (High)

* Without inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments,
seasonally adjusted, 1982 - 1984 dollars

likbez
I think there is a strong correlation of wage growth and energy consumption per capita.

http://ourfiniteworld.com/2014/12/29/how-increased-inefficiency-explains-falling-oil-prices/

As the latter now is shrinking and the wages are stagnant capital is able to squeeze all productivity gain for themselves. Neoliberal transformation of society since 1970th also suppresses wages by dramatically increasing the share of owners. Those two tendencies work together.

[Jan 01, 2020] FDA Failed to Police Opioids Makers, Thus Fueling Opioids Crisis

Jan 01, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

FDA Failed to Police Opioids Makers, Thus Fueling Opioids Crisis Posted on January 1, 2020 by Jerri-Lynn Scofield By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

I had hoped to welcome 2020 with a optimistic post.

Alas, the current news cycle has thrown up little cause for optimism.

Instead, what has caught my eye today: 2019 closes with release of a new study showing the FDA's failure to police opioids manufacturers fueled the opioids crisis.

This is yet another example of a familiar theme: inadequate regulation kills people: e.g. think Boeing. Or, on a longer term, less immediate scale, consider the failure of the Environmental Protection Agency, in so many realms, including the failure to curb emissions so as to slow the pace of climate change.

In the opioids case, we're talking about thousands and thousands of people.

On Monday, Jama Internal Medicine published research concerning the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) program to reduce opioids abuse. The FDA launched its risk evaluation and mitigation strategy – REMS – in 2012. Researchers examined nearly 10,000 documents, released in response to a Freedom of Information ACT (FOA) request, to generate the conclusions published by JAMA.

As the Gray Lady tells the story in As Tens of Thousands Died, F.D.A. Failed to Police Opioids :

In 2011, the F.D.A. began asking the makers of OxyContin and other addictive long-acting opioids to pay for safety training for more than half the physicians prescribing the drugs, and to track the effectiveness of the training and other measures in reducing addiction, overdoses and deaths.

But the F.D.A. was never able to determine whether the program worked, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found in a new review, because the manufacturers did not gather the right kind of data. Although the agency's approval of OxyContin in 1995 has long come under fire, its efforts to ensure the safe use of opioids since then have not been scrutinized nearly as much.

The documents show that even when deficiencies in these efforts became obvious through the F.D.A.'s own review process, the agency never insisted on improvements to the program, [called a REMS]. . .

The FDA's regulatory failure had serious public health consequences, according to critics of US opioids policy, as reported by the NYT:

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of opioid policy research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis, said the safety program was a missed opportunity. He is a leader of a group of physicians who had encouraged the F.D.A. to adopt stronger controls, and a frequent critic of the government's response to the epidemic.

Dr. Kolodny, who was not involved in the study, called the program "a really good example of the way F.D.A. has failed to regulate opioid manufacturers. If F.D.A. had really been doing its job properly, I don't believe we'd have an opioid crisis today."

Now, as readers frequently emphasize in comments: pain management is a considerable problem – one I am all too well aware of, as I watched my father succumb to cancer. He ultimately passed away at my parents' home.

That being said, as CNN tells the story in The FDA can't prove its opioid strategy actually worked, study says :

Although these drugs "can be clinically useful among appropriately selected patients, they have also been widely oversupplied, are commonly used nonmedically, and account for a disproportionate number of fatal overdoses," the authors write.

The FDA was unable, more than 5 years after it had instituted its study of the opioids program's effectiveness, to determine whether it had met its objectives, and this may have been because prior assessments were not objective, according to CNN:

Prior analyses had largely been funded by drug companies, and a 2016 FDA advisory committee "noted methodological concerns regarding these studies," according to the authors. An inspector general report also concluded in 2013 that the agency "lacks comprehensive data to determine whether risk evaluation and mitigation strategies improve drug safety."

In addition to failing to evaluate the effective of the limited steps it had taken, the FDA neglected to take more aggressive steps that were within the ambit of its regulatory authority. According to CNN:

"FDA has tools that could mitigate opioid risks more effectively if the agency would be more assertive in using its power to control opioid prescribing, manufacturing, and distribution," said retired FDA senior executive William K. Hubbard in an editorial that accompanied the study. "Instead of bold, effective action, the FDA has implemented the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy programs that do not even meet the limited criteria set out by the FDA."

One measure the FDA could have taken, according to Hubbard: putting restrictions on opioid distribution.

"Restricting opioid distribution would be a major decision for the FDA, but it is also likely to be the most effective policy for reducing the harm of opioids," said Hubbard, who spent more than three decades at the agency and oversaw initiatives in areas such as regulation, policy and economic evaluation.

The Trump administration has made cleaning up the opioids crisis – which it inherited – a policy priority. To little seeming effect so far. although to be fair, this is not a simple problem to solve. And litigation to apportion various costs of the damages various prescription drugmakers, distributors, and doctors caused it far from over – despite some settlements, and judgements (see Federal Prosecutors Initiate Criminal Probe of Six Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors ; Four Companies Settle Just Before Bellwether Opioids Trial Was to Begin Today in Ohio ; Purdue Files for Bankruptcy, Agrees to Settle Some Pending Opioids Litigation: Sacklers on Hook for Billions? and Judge Issues $572 Million Verdict Against J & J in Oklahoma Opioids Trial: Settlements to Follow? )

Perhaps the Johns Hopkins study will spark moves to reform the broken FDA, so that it can once again serve as an effective regulator. This could perhaps be something we can look forward to achieving in 2020 (although I won't hold my breath).

Or, perhaps if enacting comprehensive reform is too overwhelming, especially with a divided government, as a starting point: can we agree to stop allowing self-interested industries to finance studies meant to assess the effectiveness of programs to regulate that very same industry? Please?

This is a concern in so many areas, with such self-interested considerations shaping not only regulation, but distorting academic research (see Virginia Supreme Court Upholds Ruling that George Mason University Foundation Is Not Subject to State FOIA Statute, Leaving Koch Funding Details Undisclosed ).

What madness!

[Jan 01, 2020] On the question of revolutions and their significance (or lack thereof) see Immanuel Wallerstein and his school of World-Systems Analysis. Significant revolutions have long-lasting world-systemic effects and aftershocks

Jan 01, 2020 | crookedtimber.org

26

rivelle 01.01.20 at 1:49 am

LFC@16

>>>"Historically both options have been compatible with "liberalism," which is one reason why radical movements have in fact been able to achieve certain things, albeit not all they wanted, within 'liberal' or pluralistic polities."

>>>"it's fine to talk about different kinds of oppression as long as one also emphasizes a common underlying interest in opposing oligarchy."

Entrance of hitherto excluded groups, partial accession to the demands of political radicals, is only allowed insofar as it does not interfere with the smooth running of capitalist business as usual. Leading to what you call oligarchy being the last, common obstacle and political opponent. But victory here is impossible unless radical political movements work with a futurist political programme that strives to lay the foundations for the post-systemic, post-capitalist world system or systems.

A historical example of capitalist colonialism returning to business as usual is the Haitian Revolution in which the victors of the conflict were still forced into paying reparations to the losers of the conflict.

However the ideological effects of the Haitian Revolution must also be taken into account. The resonance of this historical event extended as far as into the writings of Hegel (master-slave dialectic) as Susan Buck-Morss describes here:

https://libgen.is/book/index.php?md5=98B8A1E2B90F3AFCFC45BE08C6431E94

On the question of revolutions and their significance (or lack thereof) see Immanuel Wallerstein and his school of World-Systems Analysis. Significant revolutions have long-lasting world-systemic effects and aftershocks. They cement into place secular trends of disequilibrium that disrupt the smooth operations of the capitalist world-system. Efforts to contain these secular trends of disequilibrium fail to return the capitalist world-system to its modes of functioning prior to the disruptive revolution. Instead, secular trends of disequilibrium lead eventually to the capitalist world-system's terminal historical crisis.

A brief account of Wallerstein on revolution can be found here:

https://libgen.is/book/index.php?md5=812E803C89797CAA485A501D86565D25
A short summary of Wallerstein on the life and terminal historical crisis of the world system can be found here:
https://monthlyreview.org/2011/03/01/structural-crisis-in-the-world-system/

[Jan 01, 2020] Identity politics as attempt to weaken the threat of nationalism coming to power

Jan 01, 2020 | www.unz.com

geokat62 , says: December 31, 2019 at 4:44 am GMT

@Ginger bread man

This was the Frankfurt School's great insight.

The best way to undermine a sense of nationalism is to divide the people through the promotion of identity politics, including LGBTQ.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-08-12/birth-cultural-marxism-how-frankfurt-school-changed-america

[Jan 01, 2020] AI is just a tool, unless it is developed to the point of attaining sentience in which case it becomes slavery, but let's ignore that possibility for now. Capitalists cannot make profits from the tools they own all by the tools themselves. Profits come from unpaid labor. You cannot underpay a tool, and the tool cannot labor by itself.

Jan 01, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Paul Damascene , Dec 29 2019 1:28 utc | 45

vk @38: "...the reality on the field is that capitalism is 0 for 5..."

True, but it is worse than that! Even when we get AI to the level you describe, capitalism will continue its decline.

Henry Ford actually understood Marxist analysis. Despite what many people in the present imagine, Ford had access to sufficient engineering talent to make his automobile manufacturing processes much more automated than he did. Ford understood that improving the efficiency of the manufacturing process was less important than creating a population with sufficient income to purchase his products.

AI is just a tool, unless it is developed to the point of attaining sentience in which case it becomes slavery, but let's ignore that possibility for now. Capitalists cannot make profits from the tools they own all by the tools themselves. Profits come from unpaid labor. You cannot underpay a tool, and the tool cannot labor by itself.

The AI can be a product that is sold, but compared with cars, for example, the quantity of labor invested in AI is minuscule. The smaller the proportion of labor that is in the cost of a product, the smaller the percent of the price that can be realized as profit. To re-boost real capitalist profits you need labor-intensive products. This also ties in with Henry Ford's understanding of economics in that a larger labor force also means a larger market for the capitalist's products.

There are some very obvious products that I can think of involving AI that are also massively labor-intensive that would match the scale of the automotive industry and rejuvenate capitalism, but they would require many $millions in R&D to make them market-ready. Since I want capitalism to die already and get out Re: AI --
Always wondered how pseudo-AI, or enhanced automation, might be constrained by diminishing EROEI.

Unless an actual AI were able to crack the water molecule to release hydrogen in an energy-efficient way, or unless we learn to love nuclear (by cracking the nuclear waste issue), then it seems to me hyper-automated workplaces will be at least as subject to plummeting EROEI as are current workplaces, if not moreso. Is there any reason to think that, including embedded energy in their manufacture, these machines and their workplaces will be less energy intensive than current ones?

[Jan 01, 2020] Gig workers getting screwed

Jan 01, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

c1ue , Dec 29 2019 16:19 utc | 3

Gig workers getting screwed. Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it - the modern gig economy is nothing more than the "putting out" system redux from the early days of the industrial revolution.
And much like the looms and thread from the putting out system, the owners control pricing for gig workers as well as cut off any possibility of upward advancement.
Vice article on gig workers
Note this isn't one company - it is all of them. When Uber first started, they were paying over $1/mile for drivers - it is now down to $0.60. Equally, the various other gig startups pay more to lure workers in, then cut when they need/want to.
When she initially joined Instacart a year ago, Dorton says she could earn up to $800 during a 40 hour workweek picking up groceries at Costco and Sam's Club and dropping them off at customers' homes. But in recent months, her weekly income has fallen to $400 for 60 hours of grocery shopping. "I made more delivering pizza and waiting tables," Dorton told Motherboard.

Yes, but with the delivery services contributing to the everlasting restaurant crunch, there are fewer jobs delivering pizza and waiting tables. That's a feature.

[Dec 30, 2019] Economic Possibilities for Ourselves by Robert Skidelsky

Notable quotes:
"... In Praise of Idleness ..."
"... Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained ..."
"... Project Syndicate ..."
"... Rise of the Robots ..."
"... ad infinitum ..."
Dec 30, 2019 | robertskidelsky.com

The most depressing feature of the current explosion in robot-apocalypse literature is that it rarely transcends the world of work. Almost every day, news articles appear detailing some new round of layoffs. In the broader debate, there are apparently only two camps: those who believe that automation will usher in a world of enriched jobs for all, and those who fear it will make most of the workforce redundant.

This bifurcation reflects the fact that "working for a living" has been the main occupation of humankind throughout history. The thought of a cessation of work fills people with dread, for which the only antidote seems to be the promise of better work. Few have been willing to take the cheerful view of Bertrand Russell's provocative 1932 essay In Praise of Idleness . Why is it so difficult for people to accept that the end of necessary labor could mean barely imaginable opportunities to live, in John Maynard Keynes's words, "wisely, agreeably, and well"?

The fear of labor-saving technology dates back to the start of the Industrial Revolution, but two factors in our own time have heightened it. The first is that the new generation of machines seems poised to replace not only human muscles but also human brains. Owing to advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence, we are said to be entering an era of thinking robots; and those robots will soon be able to think even better than we do. The worry is that teaching machines to perform most of the tasks previously carried out by humans will make most human labor redundant. In that scenario, what will humans do?

The other fear factor is the increasing precariousness of wage labor – though this concern is seemingly belied by headline statistics suggesting that unemployment is at a historic low. The problem is that an economy at "full employment" now contains a large penumbra of what economist Guy Standing calls the "precariat": under-employed people who work less and for lower pay than they would like. A growing number of workers, seeming to lack any kind of job (and pay) security, are thus forced to work well below their ability.

It is natural that one would interpret the onset of precariousness as the first stage in a broader trend toward workforce redundancy, especially if one pays attention to alarmist predictions of the next category of "jobs at risk." But this conclusion is premature. The penetration of robotics into the world of work has not yet been sufficient to explain the rise of the precariat. So far, "cost cutting" in the West has largely taken the form of offshoring to the East, where labor is cheaper, rather than replacing humans with machines. But "onshoring" work that was previously offshored will offer cold comfort to workers if machines get most of the jobs.

ROBO-RAPTURE

According to the first view – let us call it "job enrichment" – technology will eventually create more, better human jobs than it destroys, as has always been the case in the past. Simple, mundane tasks may increasingly be automated, but human labor will then be freed up for more "interesting" and "creative" cognitive work.

In late 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) published Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained , which claimed that as much as 50% of working hours in the global economy could theoretically be automated; the authors suggested, however, that not more than 30% actually would be. Further, they estimated that less than 5% of occupations could be fully automated; but that in 60% of occupations, at least 30% of the required tasks could be.

In line with the usual mainstream assessment, MGI believes that while there will be no net loss of jobs in the long run, the "transition may include a period of higher unemployment and wage adjustments." It all depends, the authors say, on the rate at which displaced workers are re-employed: a low re-employment rate will lead to a higher medium-term unemployment rate, and vice versa .

MGI's proposal for massive investment in education to lower the unemployment cost of the transition is also conventional. The faster the labor reabsorption, the higher the wage growth. Lower re-employment levels will cause wages to fall, with a greater share of the gains from automation accruing to capital, not labor. But the authors hasten to add:

"Even if the particulars of historical experience turn out to differ from conditions today, one lesson seems pertinent: although economies adjust to technological shocks, the transition period is measured in decades, not years, and the rising prosperity may not be shared by all."

This assessment is typical, and it has led many to call on governments to invest heavily in so-called "upskilling" programs. In a commentary for Project Syndicate , Zia Qureshi of the Brookings Institution argues that, "with smart, forward-looking policies, we can ensure that the future of work is a better job." In this view, automation is simply the continuation of the move toward more, higher-quality jobs that has characterized capitalist growth since the Industrial Revolution.

History is on the optimists' side. Mechanization has been the durable engine of productivity and wage growth as well as reductions in working hours, albeit usually with a considerable lag. Although the Roberts loom cost hundreds of thousands of handloom weavers their jobs in the nineteenth century, the broader wave of new industrial technologies enabled a much larger population to be maintained at a higher standard of living.

ROBO-REDUNDANCY

But, according to the second view – call it "job destruction" – this time is different. The programming of machines to perform ever more complex tasks with ever-increasing speed, accuracy, precision, and reliability will result in mass unemployment. In Rise of the Robots , author and entrepreneur Martin Ford addresses the techno-optimists head-on. "There is a widely held belief – based on historical evidence stretching back at least as far as the industrial revolution – that while technology may certainly destroy jobs, businesses, and even entire industries, it will also create entirely new occupations often in areas that we can't yet imagine." The problem, Ford argues, is that information technology has now reached the point where it can be considered a true utility, much like electricity.

It stands to reason that the successful new industries that will emerge in the years ahead will have taken full advantage of this powerful new utility and the distributed machine intelligence that accompanies it. That means they will rarely – if ever – be highly labor-intensive. The threat is that as creative destruction unfolds, the "destruction" will fall primarily on labor-intensive businesses in traditional areas like retail and food preparation, whereas the "creation" will generate new industries that simply don't employ many people.

On this view, the economy is heading for a tipping point where job creation will begin to fall consistently short of what is required to employ the workforce fully. We will soon reach the stage where the machine-driven destruction of existing human jobs far outpaces the creation of new human jobs, resulting in inexorably rising mass "technological unemployment."

THE UPSKILLING MIRAGE

Optimists' response to such concerns is that the workforce simply needs to be trained or upskilled in order to "race with the machines." Typical of this outlook is the following headline on a commentary published by the World Economic Forum: "How new technologies can create huge numbers of meaningful jobs." According to the author, concerns about "the looming devastation that self-driving technology will have on the 3.5 million truck drivers in the US" are "misdirected." Augmented-reality technology, we are told, can create loads of new jobs by enabling people to work from home. All that will be needed is training of the kind offered by "Upskill, an augmented reality company in the manufacturing and field services sectors," which "uses wearable technologies to provide step-by-step instructions to industrial workers."

The author, himself the co-founder of an augmented-reality company, goes on to argue that, "With the pace of technological progress only accelerating and with increasing specialization becoming the norm in every industry, reducing the time necessary to retrain workers is pivotal to maintaining the competitiveness of industrialized economies." There is no mention of the wages that will be offered to these "upskilled" workers in their "meaningful" new jobs. We are simply told that they will be relocated to "lower cost areas more in need of job creation." Only at the very end of the commentary does the author acknowledge that, in fact, "Technology is a force that has the potential to eliminate entire industries through robotics and automation, and for that we should be concerned."

The retraining argument should give us pause. In portraying upskilling as the solution to the labor displacement caused by new technologies, optimists rarely admit that if predictions about "thinking robots" turn out to be anywhere near true, workers would need to be trained in technical skills to an extent that is unprecedented in human history.

Moreover, the time it takes to upgrade the skills of the workforce will inevitably exceed the time it takes to automate the economy. This will be true even if claims about an imminent deluge of automation are greatly exaggerated. In the interval, there will be under- and unemployment. In fact, this has already been happening. Although automation is not yet bearing down on workers to the extent that has been predicted, it has nonetheless pushed more of them into less-skilled jobs; and its mere possibility may be exerting downward pressure on wages. There are already signs of the new class structure envisioned by the pessimists: "lovely jobs at the top, lousy jobs at the bottom."

A more fundamental question is what we mean by upskilling, and what its consequences might be. Often, heavy emphasis is placed on the importance of better technological education at all levels of society, as if all people will need to succeed in the future is to be taught how to write and understand computer code.

As the technology writer James Bridle has shown , this line of argument has a number of limitations. While encouraging people to take up computer programming might be a good start, such training offers only a functional understanding of technological systems. It does not equip people to ask higher-level questions along the lines of, "Where did these systems come from, who designed them and what for, and which of these intentions still lurk within them today?" Bridle also points out that arguments for technological education and upskilling are usually offered in "nakedly pro-market terms," following a simple equation: "the information economy needs more programmers, and young people need jobs in the future."

THE MISSING DIMENSION

More to the point, the upskilling discourse totally ignores the possibility that automation could also allow people simply to work less. The reason for this neglect is twofold: it is commonly assumed that human wants are insatiable, and that we will thus work ad infinitum to satisfy them; and it is simply taken for granted that work is the primary source of meaning in human lives. 1

Historically, neither of these claims holds true. The consumption race is a rather recent phenomenon, dating no earlier than the late nineteenth century. And the possibility that we might one day liberate ourselves from the "curse of work" has fascinated thinkers from Aristotle to Russell. Many visions of Utopia betray a longing for leisure and liberation from toil. Even today, surveys show that people in most developed countries would prefer to work less, even in the workaholic United States, and might even accept less pay if it meant logging fewer hours on the clock.

The deeply economistic nature of the current debate excludes the possibility of a life beyond work . Yet if we want to meet the challenges of the future, it is not enough to know how to code, analyze data, and invent algorithms. We need to start thinking seriously and at a systemic level about the operational logic of consumer capitalism and the possibility of de-growth.

In this process, we must abandon the false dichotomy between "jobs" and "idleness." Full employment need not mean full-time employment, and leisure time need not be spent idly. (Education can play an important role in ensuring that it is not.) Above all, wealth and income will need to be distributed in such a way that machine-enabled productivity gains do not accrue disproportionately to a small minority of owners, managers, and technicians.

[Dec 29, 2019] AI is fundamentall brittle

Dec 29, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

c1ue , Dec 29 2019 13:28 utc | 75

@William Gruff #40
The real world usage of AI, to date, is primarily replacing the rank and file of human experience.
Where before you would have individuals who have attained expertise in an area, and who would be paid to exercise it, now AI can learn from the extant work and repeat it.
The problem, though, is that AI is eminently vulnerable to attack. In particular - if the area involves change, which most do, then the AI must be periodically retrained to take into account the differences. Being fundamentally stupid, AI literally cannot integrate new data on top of old but must start from scratch.

I don't have the link, but I did see an excellent example: a cat vs. AI.
While a cat can't play chess, the cat can walk, can recognize objects visually, can communicate even without a vocal cord, can interact with its environment and even learn new behaviors.
In this example, you can see one of the fundamental differences between functional organisms and AI: AI can be trained to perform extremely well, but it requires very narrow focus.

IBM spend years and literally tens of thousands of engineering hours to create the AI that could beat Jeapordy champions - but that particular creation is still largely useless for anything else. IBM is desperately attempting to monetize that investment through its Think Build Grow program - think AWS for AI. I saw a demo - it was particularly interesting because this AI program ingests some 3 million English language web articles; IBM showed its contents via a very cool looking wrap around display room in its Think Build Grow promotion campaign.

What was really amusing was a couple of things:
1) the fact that the data was already corrupt: this demo was about 2 months ago - and there were spikes of "data" coming from Ecuador and the tip of South America. Ecuador doesn't speak English. I don't even know if there are any English web or print publications there. But I'd bet large sums of money that the (English) Twitter campaign being run on behalf of the coup was responsible for this spike.

2) Among the top 30 topics was Donald Trump. Given the type of audience you would expect for this subject, it was enormously embarrassing that Trump coverage was assessed as net positive - so much so that the IBM representative dived into the data to ascertain why the AI had a net positive rating (the program also does sentiment analysis). It turns out that a couple of articles which were clearly extremely peripheral to Trump, but which did mention his name, were the cause. The net positive rating was from this handful of articles even though the relationship was very weak and there were far fewer net "positive" vs. negative articles shown in the first couple passes of source articles (again, IBM's sentiment analysis - not a human's).

I have other examples: SF is home to a host of self-driving testing initiatives. Uber had a lot about 4 blocks from where I live, for months, where they based their self driving cars out of (since moved). The self-driving delivery robots (sidewalk) - I've seen them tested here as well.

Some examples of how they fail: I was riding a bus, which was stopped at an intersection behind a Drive test vehicle at a red light(Drive is nVidia's self driving). This intersection is somewhat unusual: there are 5 entrances/exits to this intersection, so the traffic light sequence and the driving action is definitely atypical.

The light turns green, the Drive car wants to turn immediately left (as opposed to 2nd left, as opposed to straight or right). It accelerates into the intersection and starts turning; literally halfway into the intersection, it slams on its brakes. The bus, which was accelerating behind it in order to go straight, is forced to also slam on its brakes. There was no incoming car - because of the complex left turn setup, the street the Drive car and bus were on, is the only one that is allowed to traverse when that light is green (initially. After a 30 second? pause, the opposite "straight" street is allowed to drive).

Why did the Drive car slam on its brakes in the middle of the intersection? No way to know for sure, but I would bet money that the sensors saw the cars waiting at the 2nd left street and thought it was going the wrong way. Note this is just a few months ago.

There are many other examples of AI being fundamentally brittle: Google's first version of human recognition via machine vision classified black people as gorillas: Google Photos fail

A project at MIT inserted code into AI machine vision programs to show what these were actually seeing when recognizing objects; it turns out that what the AIs were recognizing were radically different from reality. For example, while the algo could recognize a dumbbell, it turns out that the reference image that the algo used was a dumbbell plus an arm. Because all of the training photos for a dumbbell included an arm...

This fundamental lack of basic concepts, a coherent worldview or any other type of rooting in reality is why AI is also pathetically easy to fool. This research showed that the top of the line machine vision for self driving could be tricked into recognizing stop signs as speed limit signs Confusing self driving cars

To be clear, fundamentally it doesn't matter for most applications if the AI is "close enough". If a company can replace 90% of its expensive, older workers or first world, English speaking workers with an AI - even if the AI is working only 75% of the time, it is still a huge win. For example: I was told by a person selling chatbots to Sprint that 90% of Sprint's customer inquiries were one of 10 questions...

And lastly: are robots/AI taking jobs? Certainly it is true anecdotally, but the overall economic statistics aren't showing this. In particular, if AI was really taking jobs - then we should be seeing productivity numbers increase more than in the past. But this isn't happening: Productivity for the past 30 years
Note in the graph that productivity was increasing much more up until 2010 - when it leveled off.
Dean Baker has written about this extensively - it is absolutely clear that it is outsourced of manufacturing jobs which is why US incomes have been stagnant for decades.

[Dec 29, 2019] "The injustices and oppression suffered by these minority groups" are in the eyes of the beholder. The problem here is where lies the proper measure of conformance with the society ethics and norms for those "deviant" groups, because without this any redress is overdone it turns into its opposite. Converting bathrooms in schools into gender neutral is one example here.

Dec 29, 2019 | crookedtimber.org

Chetan Murthy 12.28.19 at 7:38 am .42

"the injustices and oppression suffered by these minority groups."

You are way too "woke" for your own good ;-)

The problem here is where lies the proper measure of redress, because overdone it turns into its opposite. Converting bathrooms in schools into gender neutral is one example here.

Moreover some groups are anti-social and need to be severely oppressed. One example is financial oligarchy, especially financial oligarchy under neoliberalism. The other is neocons as asocial group. I would love both of those groups oppressed, humiliated and ostracized.

Yet another is pedophiles as a social group, especially pedophiles that abuse the position of authority (gay catholic priests, teachers which seduce/coerce students, etc).

The idea that each minority group is somehow entitled to compensation for the injustices they suffered in the past or are suffering currently is probably a delusion. Much depends on a larger picture: what particular group gives to a larger society. If the group contribution is negative and the group resort to anti-social behavior then why the oppression is unjust ? It is just an immune reaction of the society. After all one view is that "Justice is the advantage of the stronger" (debate between Socrates and Thrasymachus.)

Also in some cases those groups are a minority for a reason.

[Dec 24, 2019] Christmas in Flyover Land - Kunstler

Notable quotes:
"... It's a Wonderful Life ..."
"... we have sent the factories to distant lands and eliminated your jobs, and all the meaning and purpose in your lives -- and cheap stuff from Asia is your consolation prize. Enjoy ..."
"... Homelessness in America runs way deeper than just the winos and drug addicts living on the big city sidewalks. ..."
Dec 24, 2019 | kunstler.com

All the people of America, including the flyovers, are responsible for the sad situation we're in: this failure to reestablish a common culture of values most people can subscribe to and use it to rebuild our towns into places worth caring about. Main Street, as it has come to be, is the physical manifestation of that failure. The businesses that used to occupy the storefronts are gone, except for second-hand stores. Nobody in 1952 would have believed this could happen. And yet, there it is: the desolation is stark and heartbreaking.

Even George Bailey's "nightmare" scene in It's a Wonderful Life depicts the supposedly evil Pottersville as a very lively place, only programmed for old-fashioned wickedness: gin mills and streetwalkers. Watch the movie and see for yourself.

Pottersville is way more appealing than 99 percent of America's small towns today, dead as they are.

The dynamics that led to this are not hard to understand. The concentration of retail commerce in a very few gigantic corporations was a swindle that the public fell for.

Enthralled like little children by the dazzle and gigantism of the big boxes, and the free parking, we allowed ourselves to be played.

The excuse was "bargain shopping," which actually meant we have sent the factories to distant lands and eliminated your jobs, and all the meaning and purpose in your lives -- and cheap stuff from Asia is your consolation prize. Enjoy

The "bones" of the village are still standing but the programming for the organism of a community is all gone: gainful employment, social roles in the life of the place, confidence in the future. For a century starting in 1850, there were at least five factories in town. They made textiles and later on, paper products and, in the end, toilet paper, ironically enough. Yes, really.

They also made a lot of the sod-busting steel ploughs that opened up the Midwest, and cotton shirts, and other stuff. The people worked hard for their money, but it was pretty good money by world standards for most of those years.

It allowed them to eat well, sleep in a warm house, and raise children, which is a good start for any society. The village was rich with economic and social niches, and yes, it was hierarchical, but people tended to find the niche appropriate to their abilities and aspirations -- and, believe it or not, it is better to have a place in society than to have no place at all, which is the sad situation for so many today.

Homelessness in America runs way deeper than just the winos and drug addicts living on the big city sidewalks.


BackRowHeckler December 22, 2019 at 10:50 pm #

It seems there's a major political party exactly working against a common American culture. They jeer at the thought of it. It seems to be the main platform, above all else.

Brh

Log in to Reply
Walter B December 23, 2019 at 3:23 pm #

It is a major party alright BRH, but it is no so much political as it is economic and socially stratified. They are opulent, self consumed and greedy as hell (literally). There can only be so many parasites sucking the lifeblood out of any herd of servant beasts, and they can only suck so long on their hosts before the poor beasts fall over and die. And that is the tipping point, where we lose enough life blood that we can no longer stand upright, but drop to the deck and are consumed. It is the classic Goose that laid the Golden Egg fairy tale being acted out in real life and coming to a neighborhood near you soon. Log in to Reply

sunburstsoldier December 22, 2019 at 11:22 pm #

Beautiful, thoughtful post Jim, yet to be honest it fills me with a sense of anxiety, and this is simply because the catastrophic events you forecast, although for the better in the long run (as they will compel a return to a world made by hand, or the recovery of human scale) will nonetheless bring much suffering to a lot of people ( including my own family). I would personally like to believe there is another way a more sustainable civilization could be attained than on the heels of societal collapse. I do believe the world is full of mystery, and that life itself is a series of unfolding miracles we lack the capacity to comprehend due to our limited perspective. Yet perhaps you are right and some type of collapse is inevitable before a new beginning can be made. If such be the case, as individuals we will be compelled to tap into inner potentials that will needed to meet the approaching apocalypse, potentials which currently lie dormant and undeveloped. Maybe in the process of doing so we will recover our wholeness as well.

[Dec 24, 2019] About embracing of all things LGBTQPIBN+

Dec 24, 2019 | www.theburningplatform.com

The globalist cabal controls the money, the promotions, the tenure, the continuance of careers. God help anyone who disagrees.

Pequiste Just maybe this embracing (that will sound bad in this context ) of all things LGBTQPIBN+, no matter how bizarrre or disgusting, is to usher into a position of great importance in the government, the likes of Pete Buttgeek?

[Dec 24, 2019] Sexual Perverts Are the New American Privileged Class - PaulCraigRoberts.org

Dec 24, 2019 | www.paulcraigroberts.org

The United Church of Christ in Ames, Iowa, for reasons unknown flew a LGBTQ flag/banner of sexual perversion. A 30 year old Hispanic immigrant took it down and burned it. For this "crime" he was sentenced to 16 years in prison!

In response to college kids or provocateurs burning the US flag during Vietnam War protests, the US Congress passed the 1968 Flag Act that permits those who burn or defile the US flag to be imprisoned, but not more than one year. What has happened to America that buring a flag of sexual perversion is 16 times more serious than burning the American flag? How can this be the case, and in a red state!? https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2019/12/19/lgbtq-flag-burning-iowa-man-sentenced-church-banner-fire/2697139001/

Almost every day I read that another person has been fired from their job because they tweeted the fact that there are only two genders. One of the most recent is the firing in the UK of Maya Forstater, "the charity worker who was sacked for her belief that there are two sexes and that sex is immutable." This is more than a belief. It is a statement of fact, of truth. There is no scientific evidence of a third gender, much less evidence of the hundreds of genders that have been declared by utterly stupid people of no known intellectual capability or accomplishment. Hermaphrodites are considered to be abnormalities, a failure of nature. When a distinguisned author and a famous actor came to the defense of Maya Forstater, they were shouted down by a multiple of subhuman excrement. https://www.spiked-online.com/2019/12/20/the-witch-hunting-of-jk-rowling/

The Western World has lost its way. It was only a short time ago that a Google senior engineer, a white male, was fired because he posted a tweet or an email that spoke a truth that men and women are good at different things and excel in different areas. His statement of scientific fact violated the feelings of feminists, who maintain that there is no difference between the capabilities of men and women. If women aren't excelling in men's areas, it is ipso facto proof that women are being discriminated against. This claim doesn't work for men who are not excelling in women's areas. The men can't claim they are not doing as well in women's areas because they are discriminated against.

By making the claim that men and women are equal in every respect, feminists have destroyed women's sports. Men now have the transgendered right to self-declare themselves women and to compete against women in sports. Many women sports stars, such as Maria Sharapova, winner of five Grand Slam titles, have protested this absurdity, and have been denounced and forced to apologize for doubting that the males are really females even though the self-declared females have penises and testicles and the muscle strength of males.

The results of men competing as women in sports contests clearly show that the two genders are not equal in all respects as the ignorant dumbshit radical feminists insist. The attack on women does not come from men. It comes from feminists and the alleged transgendered.

What kind of society is the West in which absolutely ridiculous declarations take precedence over all known science and anatomical fact? How is it possible in the US, UK, and Europe for a person to be imprisoned for disbelieving that one's gender is independent of one's anatomical body?

A people this insane don't deserve to exist. The End must be Nigh.

[Dec 22, 2019] After the Eviction Notice

Dec 22, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

smoker , December 21, 2019 at 1:31 pm

Re: After the Eviction Notice

So disturbing, and this problem is only going to increase in the US as people realize they can no longer afford to rent anywhere, and there are millions of Boomers who rent, with no available affordable housing to move into, and no livable wage jobs (despite education) for those who would gladly continue working – due to an as yet to be headlined age discrimination which started during the dot.com boom Clinton/Gore ushered in, and exploded during Obama's reign. Sickeningly, in Silicon Valley, 35 year olds feel over the hill.

None of the candidates want to even address this rental housing issue (for all ages) with Federal Tax Policy even? Renters are the only ones who invest major sums of money into housing, with no equity whatsoever?

newcatty , December 21, 2019 at 3:38 pm

Yes, it is the canary growing fainter and struggling for life in the dark gloom of the coal mine. The most basic human requirement for survival is shelter, after food and water. Clothing is also in that category. The poor and homeless ( absolutely including the working poor) at first , when attention started to be given to the " national crisis and (in some people's minds) and national disgrace", was just, you know, the usual suspects. From hobos ( whom many saw as romanticized free spirits or stubborn old guys) to including the abandoned mentally ill, drug addicts, criminals, people with "something to hide", teens on the run from neglect or abuse to? The numbers of people who are essentially w/o shelter is not going to remain out of sight, out of mind. Now, we know that mothers, fathers, grandparents, children and grandchildren are homeless. And, if they are not, many are living in what , once upon a time, poor or desolate housing. Many are living in ,what was once called a boarding house, in a room with their kids. They supposedly have access to "common areas". This is not people who often even have more than a casual aquaintanceship with their "landlords". This is not the "Golden Girls" living the high life in sunny Florida with the owner, who is an adorable rascal. No doubt, some examples of older, single women housing together is a good fit for some.

Most older people on limited incomes don't live in a golden fantasy world. Besides young people not being able to afford outrageous rents, now include the older people. Couple this with the "reports" that there are people hungry in this country. Age has become no restrictor on this tragic fact. This can not stand. Trickle down the ,as was mentioned , breads and circuses in all of their guises. Cheap, junk fast food will become not so cheap when in dire poverty. Housing is just cold, hearted cash for the owners. Who gets to watch the circuses and gladiators ? Got cable tv( even if you personally choose not to not the point)? Afford the cost of any pro sports tickets ? Attend any cultural events that include paying for tickets? Yep, am not going to include the all American past time of watching a game at the local pub. Many people can not afford the luxury of the food and drinks OK, it's time to stop now with my pov. I am fortunate to not be in the above circumstances. Too many are, though.

smoker , December 21, 2019 at 5:40 pm

Your point of view seems valid to me.

God knows what's being planned behind closed doors for this increasing tragedy, the reality is too clear for Congress not to be aware of it. Meanwhile, I'm fully sure that amoral predators who are investing in those areas they're betting the homeless will be forced to dwell and die in, or choose to be euthanized at.

Meanwhile, Congress does absolutely nothing about putting a stop to obscenely biased, corrupted and deadly in its blatant discrimination AI, which is increasingly decimating millions of jobs, and virtually tagging people with social scores they'll never get out from under, no matter how false. This, ever since Obama glibly announced there would be many jobs lost, and some pain, due to technology The Technocracy . A Bipartisan, Horrid Congress accepted it as a necessary reality.

The Rev Kev , December 21, 2019 at 5:43 pm

The only thing missing was a police officer going in after with a drawn gun. When millions of people were being kicked out of their homes about a decade a go, I saw a photo that won an award at the time. It showed a cop, with pistol drawn, going into a house that had the family kicked out from it. Surrounding him was all the left overs from a family's life and it was very sad.

smoker , December 21, 2019 at 7:29 pm

It is heart rending. Even watching renters who leave before being evicted is heart rending, they're forced to throw away many belongings, like perfectly good mattresses and basic necessities. Lived at an apartment complex turned into ratty ass condos for mostly foreign property 'flippers' who continued renting them out, then 'flipping' them. The despair, fear, and loss during a huge job downturn was horrid to witness, as many had lived there over ten years. I was lucky to be on my feet somewhat at the time, no longer.

Every fricking sign, particularly in Silicon Valley, that advertises Apartment Homes ™ should be torn down and destroyed. The average US renters have always been treated as second class leechers, I've witnessed it my entire adult life, now they're being treated even worse.

Thanks Clinton/Gore, Obomber/Biden, Nanny Pelosi , et al; and we thought that was only the mark of Republicans busy at work.

smoker , December 21, 2019 at 9:12 pm

Thinking on this subject even more, it occurs to me why the powers that be are so invested in pitting each generation against the other. An empowered US renters' 'lobby' could be enormous. It would cross all age – along with race, gender, religion, and geographic – spectrums. Renters, along with the homeless are increasing in vast numbers of all ages. The last thing the powers that be would want, is for those vast millions to stick together against them, and age is the easiest barrier for the powers that be to keep renters separated by.

[Dec 14, 2019] To date (August 2019), the administration has replaced about 60 miles of dilapidated barriers with new fencing. And a major component of Trump's pledge -- that Mexico would pay for the wall -- hasn't been part of the equation. U.S. taxpayers have paid the cost.

Dec 14, 2019 | www.unz.com

Corvinus says: December 11, 2019 at 3:05 am GMT 400 Words

@Peripatetic Commenter "He has built more wall than the last three presidents and is on track to have one fully built by November next year. He has also reduced the amount of illegal immigration into the US."

To date (August 2019), the administration has replaced about 60 miles of dilapidated barriers with new fencing. And a major component of Trump's pledge -- that Mexico would pay for the wall -- hasn't been part of the equation. U.S. taxpayers have paid the cost.

https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2019/aug/30/donald-trumps-border-wall-how-much-has-really-been

"So right now, 78 miles have been built, have been built where there was an existing form of barrier," [Acting CBP Commissioner Mark] Morgan said, effectively admitting that none of the wall that has been constructed has been in new areas.

For the record, I have no problem with rebuilding and/or replacing our border wall. But Trump has failed to deliver on his campaign promise.

https://www.newsweek.com/cbp-no-new-border-wall-1472077

"If you want to bring money back into the country where it can do some good, you have to reduce taxes."

So what has been its level of effectiveness accomplishing that task?

https://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-tax-cut-effects-20190529-story.html

Perhaps if Trump, like past presidents, would offer up his tax returns, we can see how much money he personally has "brought back" to our nation.

Of course, it would help that we stop outsourcing jobs. How has Trump fared here, besides having had his own merchandise made overseas?

https://www.citizen.org/news/trump-touts-pledge-to-americas-workers-anniversary-while-participating-firms-that-promised-new-american-jobs-outsource-trump-rewards-outsourcers-with-billions-in-contracts/

... ... ..

[Dec 14, 2019] As Dean Baker pointed out in his book Rigged, the neoliberal capitalism of America is rigged to benefit the top one percent

Dec 14, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Tomonthebeach , December 13, 2019 at 5:10 pm

As Dean Baker pointed out in his book Rigged, the neoliberal capitalism of America is rigged to benefit the top 1%. After all, they were the architects. Most Americans appreciate that. Nevertheless, the vast majority willingly wade into its rigged quicksand. All economies are rigged in the sense that there is a structure to it all. Moreover, the architects of that system will ensure there is something in it for themselves – rigged. Our school system does not instruct Americans on how their own economic system works (is rigged), so most of us become its victims rather than its beneficiaries.

Books by Liz Warren and her daughter offer remedial guidance on how to make the current US economic system work for the average household. So, in a sense, Liz comes across as an adherent to the system she is trying to help others master .

This seems to be a losing proposition for candidate Warren because most Americans want a new system with new rigging; not a repaired system that has been screwing them for generations.

[Dec 08, 2019] La Rouchefoucald: "hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue"

Dec 08, 2019 | crookedtimber.org

In all of this, it's worth remembering the observation of La Rouchefoucald that "hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue". The accusation of virtue signalling represents the refusal of vice to pay this tribute.


Phil 12.05.19 at 10:10 am ( 2 )

... in my experience the kind of people who talk about VS also talk about 'clicktivism' and similar; in other words, a lack of effort or cost is particularly characteristic of VS (and, in their eyes, particularly repugnant).
nastywoman 12.05.19 at 11:13 am ( 4 )
...And what's about all these people who wear these: "I'm a Deplorable" – T-shirts?
SusanC 12.05.19 at 12:37 pm (no link)
I thought the concept was supposed to be (a)not actually doing anything to reduce a problem; while (b) making ostentatious signs that purport to show you care about it.

A better example might be attending an Extinction Rebellion protest without changing your own consumption/pollution causing activities.

I wonder if it somehow relates to the Mary Douglas cultural theory of risk?

If so, we might tentatively include, e.g. Making a big noise about terrorism without really considering yourself to be at risk from it

"Vice signaling" was a good joke; I think it captures a notion that the affiliation the person is attempting to signal is not a universally shared one,

SusanC 12.05.19 at 12:45 pm (no link)
For that matter, terrorism itself, in its typical modern form, could be regarded as vice signalling: ostentatiously commiting public acts of violence ostensibly in support of a political cause, without regard to whether the political cause is in fact being advanced by their actions.
cs 12.05.19 at 1:37 pm (no link)
... I would say the implication is about the ostentation and a kind of insincerity. Insincerity in the sense that the person displaying the rainbow flag wants to be seen as the kind of person who cares about gay rights, when maybe they don't actually care about it all that much. That isn't quite the same as hypocrisy I think.
MisterMr 12.05.19 at 2:02 pm ( 12 )
I'll try to give my economic based explanation for this, based on this paper from Piketty:

Brahmin Left vs Merchant Right:Rising Inequality & the Changing Structure of Political Conflict

This paper has been cited here various times, however I'll drop this line from the abstract that summarizes the main finding:

Using post-electoral surveys from France, Britain and the US, this paper documents a striking long-run evolution in the structure of political cleavages. In the 1950s-1960s, the vote for left-wing (socialist-labour-democratic) parties was associated with lower education and lower income voters. It has gradually become associated with higher education voters, giving rise to a "multiple-elite" party systemin the 2000s-2010s: high-education elites now vote for the "left", while high-income/high-wealth elites still vote for the "right"

chedolf 12.05.19 at 4:14 pm ( 18 )
Do you think the criticism of Pharisees who pray theatrically in public was exclusively an attack on hypocrisy?
Sashas 12.05.19 at 4:15 pm ( 19 )
I would add to Phil @2 a third option.
(a) You're a hypocrite.
(b) The thing you're signalling isn't actually a virtue.
(c) You're attacking me by reminding everyone of a virtue I don't have.
MrMister 12.05.19 at 4:34 pm ( 21 )
I think the old-fashioned term for virtue signalling is sanctimony, not hypocrisy. Notably, sanctimony is also compatible with genuine belief and/or commitment. It does connote that the committed person has a degree of self-love over their commitments, and that perhaps the frequency or intensity of their display of their commitments is caused by an underlying desire to experience that self-love whenever the opportunity arises.
Tohubohu 12.05.19 at 8:15 pm ( 26 )
Sanctimony–correct word, I think–puts me in mind of that old bumper sticker, "I brake for animals" of which I once saw an example tidily shortened to: "I bake animals".
Trader Joe 12.05.19 at 9:41 pm ( 29 )
The problem I have with the whole concept is the stereotyping and bias implicit in it.

When I see the Rainbow I'm supposed to think open minded, inclusive and left-thinking and that's fully o.k in the minds of liberals, but not in the minds of the Conservatives who see something else (which I'm not inclined to list).

When I see the MAGA I'm supposed to think closed minded, racist and right-thinking, but Conservatives would see hard-working Americans trying to make their country a better place.

Dr. Hilarius 12.05.19 at 10:24 pm ( 30 )
Displaying a rainbow flag or wearing a MAGA hat strikes me as visible tribal identification more than virtue signaling. I think MrMister's mention of sanctimony is closer to the truth. Another poster mentioned Pharisees and public prayer. Consider a meeting to discuss replacing culverts to allow better passage of spawning salmon. The participants represent various interested parties, private and government. The meeting is disrupted by a person who proceeds to lecture all present about the history of racism, broken treaties and Native American reverence for nature. This person is not Native American. The speaker assumes that his/her information is unknown to the audience. The information does nothing to advance the goal of culvert replacement nor does it do anything to right historic wrongs. The speaker gets to feel superior. This is high-grade virtue signaling.

It has been my experience that virtue signalling is often practiced on behalf of marginalized groups by people who do not belong to that group but presume to speak for them.

SamChevre 12.05.19 at 11:17 pm ( 32 )
I'll second several commenters above: "virtue signalling" isn't primarily an accusation of hypocrisy. The related accusations targeted at the right are "sanctimony" and "prudishness" more than hypocrisy. The accusation is that you care more about "being seen as the sort of person who supports X" than about X.
engels 12.06.19 at 2:19 am ( 37 )
I think it means making a political statement in order to look good, where good is understood in a moral sense. That's a real phenomenon, especially in our age of online narcissism/personal branding, and it probably does affect the liberal-left more than the right because left-liberal politics tends to be more morally inspired.

I wouldn't use the term myself (or SJW)

Bernard Yomtov 12.06.19 at 2:28 am ( 38 )
I agree with SusanC at 7 and cs at 10 that the term is mostly intended to suggest that you support some cause or other that you don't really care about, as a way to identify yourself, or establish bona fides, with some group.
steven t johnson 12.07.19 at 12:19 am ( 53 )
https://www.primalpoly.com/virtue-signaling-further-reading

https://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2018/10/if-youre-not-continuously-outraged-you-must-be-a-horrible-person/

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/a-university-degree-is-a-signal-coming-through-loud-and-clear-to-employers-a6873881.html

https://www.intellectualtakeout.org/article/are-you-guilty-virtue-signaling

https://areomagazine.com/2019/03/05/virtue-signal-or-piety-display-the-search-for-cognitive-identity-and-the-attack-on-social-bargaining/

https://hedgehogreview.com/issues/identitieswhat-are-they-good-for/articles/virtue-signaling

https://www.nas.org/blogs/dicta/are_colleges_wasting_endowment_funds_on_virtue_signaling

I'm so far behind I'm still bemused by the thought that a flag lapel pin, pledges of allegiance and praying in public, are all virtue signalling. The tie-ins to libertarian economics and evolutionary psychology are even more puzzling, but maybe that's because I think they're just ideological scams/Vavilovian mimicry trying to pass off nonsense as real ideas.

engels 12.07.19 at 10:41 am ( 57 )
I invented 'virtue signalling'. Now it's taking over the world
https://www.spectator.co.uk/2015/10/i-invented-virtue-signalling-now-its-taking-over-the-world/
mtraven 12.07.19 at 6:47 pm ( 62 )
Bartholomew did not invent "virtue signalling", of course: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/20/virtue-signalling-putdown-passed-sell-by-date
Donald 12.08.19 at 12:42 am ( 64 )
The term is related to " Social Justice Warrior".

[Dec 07, 2019] Even neoliberal economists seem to agree that the decline of labor power, the decimation of Unionism in the US, has had a devastating effect on the existing quality of life

Dec 07, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

Mr. Bill , November 29, 2019 at 06:18 PM

Even Economists' seem to agree that the decline of labor power, the decimation of Unionism in the US, has had a devastating effect on the existing quality of life, the opportunity for economic mobility, and even longevity in the US. The society has been wringing it's hands over how to bring back the salad days of the strong middle class afforded by representative labor in the 50's and 60's.

Bernie Sanders platform represents all that was lost. There really is no difference between Sanders proposals and the union contracts of yore. The election of Sanders along with a unified Congress to enact his labor friendly proposals will restore the American middle class.

And America.

Mr. Bill -> Mr. Bill... , November 29, 2019 at 06:48 PM
The Trojan horse of neo-liberal economics, and the defenestration of an independent press into an oligopoly of lies, was able sell labor arbitrage as beneficial. Underselling American production by Capitalists employing a Communist monopoly supplier of labor, at substandard income, health, safety, and environmental conditions, against American workers, was sold as benefit.

Forty years later, America is unrecognizable. Reduced to platitudes, paying homage to a long lost civilization.

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Mr. Bill... , November 30, 2019 at 06:41 AM
Yep, but before we could get there we first had to believe that corporate mergers were necessary and good to achieve economies of scale rather than merely to bestow unbridled monopoly power, monopsony power, and political power upon the biggest sharks in the tank. Mergers were about owning Boardwalk and Park Place and globalization was about collecting rents. Mergers crippled unions and globalization put them out of their misery with a final death blow.
RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , November 30, 2019 at 06:42 AM
The old one, two, so to speak.
Paine -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , November 30, 2019 at 01:46 PM
Amen

CIO
R.I.P.

Paine -> Mr. Bill... , November 30, 2019 at 01:44 PM
Punchy lingo

" AN Oligarchy of lieS"

LOVELY PHRASE
makes me jealous

Last line
Pungent indeed :

Forty years later
America is unrecognizable

Reduced to platitudes

paying homage
to a long lost civilization

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Paine ... , November 30, 2019 at 02:08 PM
How far do you live from Palm Beach, FA, the new permanent residence of our fearless orange leader?
RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , November 30, 2019 at 02:10 PM
Sorry, the abbreviation for Florida is FL. FA must stand for something else :<)
Paine -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , December 02, 2019 at 08:54 AM
I winter in Zero beach fla.

Former training town
for the Brooklyn Dodgers

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Paine ... , December 02, 2019 at 12:37 PM
Vero Beach is awesome, as is most of the FL coasts when there are no hurricanes in town. I checked Google Map and you are halfway between Daytona Beach and Ft Lauderdale and well away from that Miami place. If I lived there then I would be fishing for tuna, cobia, wahoo, and king mackerel every day.
Fred C. Dobbs , November 30, 2019 at 05:55 AM
2020 Democratic Candidates Wage Escalating Fight
(on the Merits of Fighting) https://nyti.ms/2Ds4OIC
NYT - Mark Leibovich - Nov. 30

For all the emphasis placed on the various divides
among the candidates, the question of "to fight or
not to fight" might represent the most meaningful contrast.

WALPOLE, N.H. -- Pete Buttigieg has a nifty politician's knack for coming off as a soothing, healing figure who projects high-mindedness -- even while he's plainly kicking his opponents in the teeth.

"There is a lot to be angry about," he was saying, cheerfully. Mr. Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., was seated aboard his campaign bus outside a New Hampshire middle school before a recent Sunday afternoon rally. He was sipping a canned espresso beverage and his eyes bulged as he spoke, as if he was trying to pass off as revelatory something he had in fact said countless times before.

"But fighting is not enough and it's a problem if fighting is all you have," he said. "We fight when we need to fight. But we're never going to say fighting is the point."

In fact, these were fighting words: barely disguised and directed at certain Democratic rivals. As Mr. Buttigieg enjoys a polling surge in Iowa and New Hampshire, he is trying to prevent a rebound by Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has leveled off in the polls after a strong summer, and contain Senator Bernie Sanders, whose support has proved durable.

Both are explicit fighters, while Mr. Buttigieg, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and some others warn that Democrats risk scaring off voters by relying too heavily on pugnacious oratory, and by emphasizing the need to transform America rather than focusing simply on ending the Trump presidency and restoring the country to some semblance of normalcy.

As Mr. Buttigieg has sharpened this critique, however, he has adopted a more aggressive tone himself -- a sly bit of needle-threading that has coincided with his rise. Mr. Biden, too, has combined cantankerous language about beating Mr. Trump "like a drum" with more uplifting rhetoric about "restoring the soul of America."

As Mr. Buttigieg spoke, Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders were holding rallies in which they could scarcely utter two sentences without dropping in some formulation of the word "fight." They spoke of the various "fights" they had led and the powerful moneyed interests they had "fought" and how they would "keep fighting" all the way to the White House.

Mr. Sanders touted himself as the candidate who would "fight to raise wages" and was "leading the fight to guarantee health care" and "fight against corporate greed." Ms. Warren (fighting a cold) explained "why I got into this fight, will stay in this fight and why I am asking others to join the fight."

Every politician wants to be known as a "fighter," even the placid young mayor who has promised to "change the channel" on Mr. Trump's reality show presidency and all the rancor that has accompanied it. But Mr. Buttigieg is also fighting against what he sees as the political trope of fighting per se. He is presenting himself as an antidote to the politics-as-brawl predilection that has become so central to the messaging of both parties and, he believes, has sapped the electorate of any hope for an alternative. "The whole country is exhausted by everyone being at each other's throats," Mr. Buttigieg said.

At a basic level, this is a debate over word choice. Candidates have been selling themselves as "fighters" for centuries, ostensibly on behalf of the proverbial "you." It goes back at least to 1828, when Andrew Jackson bludgeoned John Quincy Adams, his erudite opponent, with the slogan "Adams can write but Jackson can fight." Populists of various stripes have been claiming for decades to "fight for you," "fight the power," "fight the good fight" and whatnot, all in the name of framing their enterprises as some cause that transcends their mere career advancement.

In a broader sense, though, it goes to a stylistic divide that has been playing out for nearly a year in the battle for the Democratic nomination. The split is most acute among the top four polling candidates: you could classify Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders as the pugilists in the field, whereas Mr. Buttigieg, he of the earnest manner and Midwestern zest for consensus, fashions himself a peacemaker. Mr. Biden would also sit in the latter camp, with his constant promises to "unite the country" and continued insistence -- oft-derided -- that his old Republican friends would be so chastened by Mr. Trump's defeat that they would suddenly want to work in sweet bipartisan harmony with President Joe.

For all the emphasis placed on the identity and generational partitions between the candidates, the question of "to fight or not to fight" might represent a more meaningful contrast. "This has been a longstanding intramural debate," said David Axelrod, the Democratic media and message strategist, who served as a top campaign and White House aide to former President Barack Obama. "It's what Elizabeth Warren would call 'big structural change' versus what critics would call 'incremental change.'"

He believes the energy and size of the former camp has been exaggerated by the attention it receives. "I think sometimes the populist left is overrepresented in places where reporters sometimes spend a lot of time," Mr. Axelrod said. "Like on Twitter." ...

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , November 30, 2019 at 06:59 AM
Apparently what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire stays in Iowa and New Hampshire. Here in VA, which does not primary for the Democratic Party until Super Tuesday (March 3, 2020) the only message coming through from Dems is Dump Trump. Since VA went for Hillary in 2016, then it is unlikely that voters here will hold for Trump now, but not for lack of trying among staunch Republican Party financial backers.

Fortunately enough for me though is that my happy life does not hinge on national politics. VA will be a better place to live now that Republicans no longer control the state's legislature nor executive branches. Sorry about the country, but it must live with its own unique history of bad choices.

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , November 30, 2019 at 03:46 PM
Here in MA, we pay particular attention to
our cranky neighbor NH because we know how
votes will go here at home, but not there.

NH is endlessly fascinating, and remote-ish.

With four electoral votes, it has one-third
more than Vermont. That's why it's important-ish.

Overall, the six New England states have an extra
twelve electoral votes, disproportionate to our
total population. Lately all Dem, except for a
stubborn pocket in Maine.

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , November 30, 2019 at 03:56 PM
MA is also joined at the hip with NY,
sharing about a hundred miles of border,
and much political sensibility. It wasn't
always this way (except for the border part.)

I was growing up in western NY when Robert Kennedy
was foisted upon us as a Senator, mainly from NYC.
He with considerable NYC roots, but that god-awful
'Bahston' accent. In those days, western NY was
a GOP bastion, and still is to a lesser extent.

None the less, we are still joined at the hip.
Just not over the Yankees & the Red Sox.

ilsm -> Fred C. Dobbs... , December 01, 2019 at 06:14 AM
Hillary Clinton was foisted on the "rest of NY" outside the NYC metro!

An argument to keep the elector college.

Boston is closer to Manhattan than Springfield is to Albany.

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to ilsm... , December 01, 2019 at 07:20 AM
Literally, or figuratively>

Boston => NYC: 210 miles
Springfield => Albany: 86 miles

(I've noticed, you often get
things wrong. Whatever happened
to 'Knowledge & Thoroughness'?

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , December 01, 2019 at 06:22 AM
Thanks. My wife is from CT. Is CT even more true blue than MA. A quandary for me as she was raised devout Republican although her mother was a public school teacher.
Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , December 01, 2019 at 10:23 AM
All of New England is blue these days, except
for a portion of Maine. Only one GOPerson in
Congress these days, that being Susan Collins
of Maine, soon to be up for re-election.

'Sen. Susan Collins faces a potentially
difficult reelection campaign in 2020. ... J

Although (she does not yet have a primary challenger), Collins could be especially vulnerable if she breaks with Trump -- she's the most moderate Republican in the Senate and has had lukewarm intraparty support in the past, though it improved markedly after she voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court last year.' ...

Primary Challenges Might Keep These Republican Senators
From Voting To Remove Trump https://53eig.ht/36mLHgu

Paine -> Fred C. Dobbs... , December 02, 2019 at 09:00 AM
New England has a sesionist
Past
The blue light federalists

The Hartford convention

Recall?

All that
pre anti slavery movement

A second source of
New england secessionist sentiment


Let's leave this beast

EMichael , November 30, 2019 at 06:31 AM
Wow, Mankiw.

"How to Increase Taxes on the Rich (If You Must)"

https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/mankiw/files/how_to_increase_taxes_on_the_rich.pdf

Suffice to say the two main characters are Sam Spendthrift and Frank Frugal.

geez

Paine -> EMichael... , November 30, 2019 at 08:47 AM
Household saving is an anachronic
Activity given modern credit systems

And effective macro management of the net rate of social accumulation

Paine -> Paine ... , November 30, 2019 at 08:52 AM
New Housing and household durables
In as much as they increase
The labor productivity
of
Domestic production...
Are a worthy investment
Best financed with credit

The combo of productivity increases
and substitution of market products combined cut domestic labor time dramatically
Last century

More credit powered improvement to come

joe -> EMichael... , December 01, 2019 at 10:50 PM
He is protecting this text book, it is in the parenthesis (if you must).

His text book is a fraud, it explains very little about what is happening, contains nothing about irregular gains to scale, nothing about value added network effect, assumes the senate is a proportional democracy, never considers the regularity of generation default. The text should be shunned, it is ten years behind the mathematicians.

Paine -> joe... , December 02, 2019 at 08:35 AM
I read this joe scratch
and tremble

Is this mental caliban
In a profound sense
A fun house reflection of myself

Probably

Paine -> Paine ... , December 02, 2019 at 08:36 AM
But for the North star texts of Marx and Lenin
Julio -> Paine ... , December 05, 2019 at 10:28 PM
We are all mulpians now.
Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to EMichael... , December 02, 2019 at 07:02 AM
Tax the Rich? Here's How to Do
It (Sensibly) https://nyti.ms/2NsILFP
NYT - Andrew Ross Sorkin - Feb. 25, 2019

Everyone, it seems, has ideas about new tax strategies, some more realistic than others. The list of tax revolutionaries is long. ...

Whatever your politics, there is a bipartisan acknowledgment that the tax system is broken. Whether you believe the system should be fixed to generate more revenue or employed as a tool to limit inequality -- and let's be honest for a moment, those ideas are not always consistent -- there is a justifiable sense the public doesn't trust the tax system to be fair.

In truth, how could it when a wealthy person like Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of the president, reportedly paid almost no federal taxes for years? Or when Gary Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs who once led President Trump's National Economic Council, says aloud what most wealthy people already know: "Only morons pay the estate tax."

If you pay taxes, it's hard not to feel like a patsy.

A New York Times poll found that support for higher taxes on the rich cuts across party lines, and Democratic presidential hopefuls are offering plans to do it. But the current occupant of the Oval Office signed a $1.5 trillion tax cut into law, so the political hurdles are high.

Over the past month, I've consulted with tax accountants, lawyers, executives, political leaders and yes, billionaires, and specific ideas have come up about plugging the gaps in the tax code, without blowing it apart. ...

Patch the estate tax

None of the suggestions in this column -- or anywhere else -- can work unless the estate tax is rid of the loopholes that allow wealthy Americans to blatantly (and legally) skirt taxes.

Without addressing whether the $11.2 million exemption is too high -- and it is -- the estate tax is riddled with problems. Chief among them: Wealthy Americans can pass much of their riches to their heirs without paying taxes on capital gains -- ever. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, unrealized capital gains account for "as much as about 55 percent for estates worth more than $100 million." ...

The Congressional Budget Office estimates simply closing this loophole would raise more than $650 billion over a decade.

As central as this idea is to the other suggestions, it is not an easy sell. Three Republican senators introduced a plan this year to repeal the estate tax.

But this and other changes -- eliminating the hodgepodge of generation-skipping trusts that also bypass estate taxes -- are obvious fixes that would introduce a basic fairness to the system and curb the vast inequality that arises from dynastic wealth.

Increase capital gains rates for the wealthy

Our income tax rates are progressive, but taxes on capital gains are less so. There are only two brackets, and they top out at 20 percent.

By contrast, someone making $40,000 a year by working 40 hours a week is in the 22 percent bracket. That's why Warren Buffett says his secretary pays a higher tax rate.

So why not increase capital gains rates on the wealthiest among us?

One chief argument for low capital gains rates is to incentivize investment. But if we embraced two additional brackets -- say, a marginal 30 percent bracket for earners over $5 million and a 35 percent bracket for earners over $15 million -- it is hard to see how it would fundamentally change investment plans. ...

['Incentivizing investment'
leads to more income inequality.]

End the perverse real estate loopholes

One reason there are so many real estate billionaires is the law allows the industry to perpetually defer capital gains on properties by trading one for another. In tax parlance, it is known as a 1031 exchange.

In addition, real estate industry executives can depreciate the value of their investment for tax purposes even when the actual value of the property appreciates. (This partly explains Mr. Kushner's low tax bill.)

These are glaring loopholes that are illogical unless you are a beneficiary of them. Several real estate veterans I spoke to privately acknowledged the tax breaks are unconscionable.

Fix carried interest

This is far and away the most obvious loophole that goes to Americans' basic sense of fairness.

For reasons that remain inexplicable -- unless you count lobbying money -- the private equity, venture capital, real estate and hedge fund industries have kept this one intact. Current tax law allows executives in those industries to have the bonuses they earn investing for clients taxed as capital gains, not ordinary income.

Even President Trump opposed the loophole. In a 2015 interview, he said hedge fund managers were "getting away with murder."

This idea and the others would not swell the government's coffers to overflowing, but they would help restore a sense of fairness to a system that feels so easily gamed by the wealthiest among us.

There are a couple of other things worth considering.

Let's talk about philanthropy

Nobody wants to dissuade charitable giving. But average taxpayers are often subsidizing wealthy philanthropists whose charitable deductions significantly reduce their bills.

These people deserve credit for giving money to noble causes (though some nonprofits are lobbying organizations masquerading as do-gooders) but their wealth, in many cases, isn't paying for the basics of health care, defense, education and everything else that taxes pay for.

Philanthropic giving is laudable, but it can also be a tax-avoidance strategy. Is there a point at which charitable giving should be taxed?

I'm not sure what the right answer is. But consider this question posed by several philanthropic billionaires: Should the rich be able to gift stock or other assets to charity before paying capital gains taxes? ...

Finally, fund the Internal Revenue Service

The agency is so underfunded that the chance an individual gets audited is minuscule -- one person in 161 was audited in 2017, according to the I.R.S. And individuals with more than $1 million in income, the people with the most complicated tax situations, were audited just 4.4 percent of the time. It was more than 12 percent in 2011, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported.

The laws in place hardly matter: Those willing to take a chance can gamble that they won't get caught. That wouldn't be the case if the agency weren't having its budget cut and losing personnel. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , December 02, 2019 at 07:22 AM
'If you pay taxes, it's hard not to feel like a patsy.'

[I heartily disagree.]

'In 1927 in the court case of Compañía General de
Tabacos de Filipinas v. Collector of Internal Revenue
a dissenting opinion was written by Oliver Wendell
Holmes, Jr. that included the following phrase ... :

Taxes are what we pay for civilized society '

https://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/04/13/taxes-civilize/

anne -> Fred C. Dobbs... , December 02, 2019 at 07:59 AM
If you pay taxes, it's hard not to feel like a patsy.

-- Andrew Ross Sorkin

[ What a disgraceful, shameful phrase. ]

Paine -> Fred C. Dobbs... , December 02, 2019 at 08:39 AM
Tax talk is for star chambers

In public call for spending

And back it by attacking all fuss budgets

The uncle debt load can be lightened
By sovereign rate management

It's part of uncles extravagant privilege
As global hegemon

Paine -> Paine ... , December 02, 2019 at 09:03 AM
Tax wealth not work
Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Paine ... , December 02, 2019 at 09:20 AM
One can at least imagine that,
back in the day (long ago?),
wealth would have been taxed,
but then with the rise of the
middle-class, taxes were extended
to those who had *income* if not
much wealth. Perhaps just as the
wealthy were hiring lawyers and
accountants, and making generous
political 'contributions' to
avoid taxes generally.
Mr. Bill -> Fred C. Dobbs... , December 02, 2019 at 04:43 PM
A 0.25% tax on financial transactions will supply $1.8 Trillion over the next 10 years,
Mr. Bill -> Mr. Bill... , December 02, 2019 at 04:46 PM
The elimination of corporate loopholes would provide an estimated $1.25 Trillion over the next 10 years.
Mr. Bill -> Mr. Bill... , December 02, 2019 at 04:50 PM
Cutting the bloated military budget by 5% would provide $0.5 Trillion over the next 10 years.

Returning to the Clinton top marginal tax rates would provide another $0.5 Trillion over the next 10 years.

Mr. Bill -> Mr. Bill... , December 02, 2019 at 04:54 PM
It really comes down to priorities. Are we a democracy, or not. Health care, education, etc. for the citizens, or corporate welfare for the aristocracy.
anne , November 30, 2019 at 07:14 AM
https://twitter.com/paulkrugman/status/1200781466604621825

Paul Krugman‏ @paulkrugman

This New York Times article on rising mortality had me thinking about regional disparities. It's true that rising mortality is widespread, but the article also acknowledges that mortality in coastal metros has improved 1/

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/26/health/life-expectancy-rate-usa.html

It's Not Just Poor White People Driving a Decline in Life Expectancy
A new study shows that death rates increased for middle-aged people of all racial and ethnic groups.

6:19 AM - 30 Nov 2019

So I did some comparisons using the KFF health system tracker https://www.healthsystemtracker.org/chart-collection/u-s-life-expectancy-compare-countries/ and a JAMA article on life expectancy by state in 1990 and 2016 2/

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2678018

The State of US Health, 1990-2016
Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Among US States

What we see is another red-blue divide. Compare population-weighted averages for states that supported Clinton and Trump in 2016, and you see very different trends 3/

[ https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EKoJry8WoAAAU6E.png ]

This is NOT simply a matter of declining regions voting for Trump. Look at the 4 biggest states: in 1990 FL and TX both had higher life expectancy than NY, now they're well behind 4/

[ https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EKoKPKzXsAANKK9.png ]

I'm not sure what lies behind this. Medicaid expansion probably plays a role in the past few years, and general harshness of social policies in red states may matter more over time. Divergence in education levels may also play a role 5/

What's clear, however, is that the US life-expectancy problem is pretty much a red-state problem. In terms of mortality, blue states look like the rest of the advanced world 6/

anne -> anne... , November 30, 2019 at 07:15 AM
https://twitter.com/paulkrugman/status/1199719100496449537

Paul Krugman @paulkrugman

I was struck by one line in this article: "Life expectancy in the coastal metro areas -- both east and west -- has improved at roughly the same rate as in Canada." Indeed, the American death trip has been driven by only part of the country 1/

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/26/health/life-expectancy-rate-usa.html

It's Not Just Poor White People Driving a Decline in Life Expectancy
A new study shows that death rates increased for middle-aged people of all racial and ethnic groups.

7:58 AM - 27 Nov 2019

And while the divergence is surely linked to growing regional economic disparities, there's a pretty clear red-blue divide reflecting state policies. Consider NY v. TX 2/

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2678018

[ https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EKZCmPnXkAAjsOG.png ]

In 1990 Texas actually had higher life expectancy, but now NY is far ahead. Surely this has something to do with expanding health coverage, maybe also to do with environmental policies. 3/

In general, progressive US states have experienced falling mortality along with the rest of the advanced world. Red America is where things are different 4/

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to anne... , November 30, 2019 at 07:42 AM
The NYT article has a graphical map
'Falling Life Expectancy' - that shows
death rate (age 25-64) declines in only
two states (CA & WY) with small increases
in 11 other states (OR, WA, AR, UT, TX, OK,
SC, GA, FL, IL & NY). Increases in all other
states. Hence, shorter life expectancies
in most states, regardless of region.
Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , November 30, 2019 at 07:52 AM
'US life-expectancy problem is
pretty much a red-state problem.'

If so (which I doubt), it's perhaps
because most states are 'red states'.

In the northeast, which is quite 'blue',
only NY is doing reasonably well on this.

In the deep (red) south, TX, FL, SC & GA
are also doing ok. As are TX and OK.

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , November 30, 2019 at 08:02 AM
Slight correction: It's AZ, not AR
that is in the small increase category.
In any case 8 of these 13 states are
'red' ones.
Julio -> Fred C. Dobbs... , November 30, 2019 at 11:50 AM
How does "death rate 25-64" relate to life expectancy? I would think it measures a different thing.
anne -> Julio ... , November 30, 2019 at 11:56 AM
How does "death rate 25-64" relate to life expectancy?

[ Think of the fierceness of AIDS in South Africa, which effected specific age ranges, and notice the change in life expectancy:

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=pCWX

January 15, 2018

Life Expectancy at Birth for China, India, Brazil and South Africa, 1977-2017 ]

anne -> Julio ... , November 30, 2019 at 12:02 PM
How does "death rate 25-64" relate to life expectancy?

[ Similarly, by dramatically improving the care of young children China dramatically improved life expectancy. This was and remains a failing for India, even though India had a far higher per capita GDP level than China before 1980. Amartya Sen has written about this:

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=oWKW

January 15, 2018

Life Expectancy at Birth for China, India, Brazil and South Africa, 1960-2017

anne -> anne... , November 30, 2019 at 12:03 PM
https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=oWL6

January 15, 2018

Life Expectancy at Birth for China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, 1960-2017 ]

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Julio ... , November 30, 2019 at 12:42 PM
Anne is correct. Death rate 25-64 is throwing out the disease susceptible childhood years, the suicides and automobile accidents of early adulthood, and also access to medical care for the increased disease risks of advanced ages. What is left tells a story of alcoholism, smoking, and fentanyl mostly along with healthcare access. Employment security matters in both healthcare access and incidence of depression including adult suicide and drug use along with a tendency to engage in risky activities just to pay the bills.
Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Julio ... , November 30, 2019 at 03:35 PM
JAMA (& others who have done similar studies)
are just looking at data. Draw your own
conclusions? The media will draw theirs.

Fair to say, these are people dying NOT of old-age.

Americans' Life Expectancy Drops For Third Year In Row, Signaling There's 'Something Terribly Wrong' Going On https://khn.org/MTAyNTQ4Mw via @khnews (Kaiser Health News)

Americans' Life Expectancy Drops For Third Year In Row, Signaling There's 'Something Terribly Wrong' Going On
Researchers say the grim new reality isn't just limited to rural deaths of despair, but rather the numbers reflect that many different people living in all areas of the U.S. are struggling. "We need to look at root causes," said Dr. Steven Woolf, the author's lead study. "Something changed in the 1980s, which is when the growth in our life expectancy began to slow down compared to other wealthy nations."

The New York Times: It's Not Just Poor White People Driving A Decline In Life Expectancy
As the life expectancy of Americans has declined over a period of three years -- a drop driven by higher death rates among people in the prime of life -- the focus has been on the plight of white Americans in rural areas who were dying from so-called deaths of despair: drug overdoses, alcoholism and suicide. But a new analysis of more than a half-century of federal mortality data, published on Tuesday in JAMA, found that the increased death rates among people in midlife extended to all racial and ethnic groups, and to suburbs and cities. (Kolata and Tavernise, 11/26)

The Washington Post: U.S. Life Expectancy: Americans Are Dying Young At Alarming Rates
Despite spending more on health care than any other country, the United States has seen increasing mortality and falling life expectancy for people age 25 to 64, who should be in the prime of their lives. In contrast, other wealthy nations have generally experienced continued progress in extending longevity. Although earlier research emphasized rising mortality among non-Hispanic whites in the United States, the broad trend detailed in this study cuts across gender, racial and ethnic lines. By age group, the highest relative jump in death rates from 2010 to 2017 -- 29 percent -- has been among people age 25 to 34. (Achenbach, 11/26)

Los Angeles Times: Suicides, Overdoses, Other 'Deaths Of Despair' Fuel Drop In U.S. Life Expectancy
In an editorial accompanying the new report, a trio of public health leaders said the study's insight into years of cumulative threats to the nation's health "represents a call to action." If medical professionals and public health experts fail to forge partnerships with social, political, religious and economic leaders to reverse the current trends, "the nation risks life expectancy continuing downward in future years to become a troubling new norm," wrote Harvard public health professors Dr. Howard K. Koh, John J. Park and Dr. Anand K. Parekh of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. (Healy, 11/26)

---

Changes in midlife death rates across racial and ethnic
groups in the United States: systematic analysis of vital statistics
https://www.bmj.com/content/362/bmj.k3096
British Medical Journal - August 15, 2018

Paine -> Fred C. Dobbs... , December 02, 2019 at 09:06 AM
Are death rates for 70 to 90 types
still falling

That's where we need thinking out

Not the big 40
25 to 65
The big 40 are the main meat hunters
of the cohorts

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Paine ... , December 02, 2019 at 12:06 PM
(Seen on web so must be true.)

'Men 65 years and older today have an average
life expectancy of 84.3 years. Life expectancy
outcomes get even better among younger men and
women according to the CDC's data. For instance,
one in 20 women who are 40 today will live to
celebrate their 100th birthday.'

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , December 02, 2019 at 12:19 PM
(OTOH...)

CDC Data Show US Life Expectancy Continues to Decline https://www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20181210lifeexpectdrop.html

American Academy of Family Physicians - December 10, 2018

"The latest CDC data show that the U.S. life expectancy has declined over the past few years," said CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D., in a Nov. 29 statement. "Tragically, this troubling trend is largely driven by deaths from drug overdose and suicide.

(CDC Director's Media Statement on U.S. Life Expectancy
https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/s1129-US-life-expectancy.html via @CDCgov - about one year ago)

Three new reports from the CDC indicate that the average life expectancy in the United States has declined for the second time in three years.

Deaths from drug overdose and suicide were responsible for much of the decline, with more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths reported in 2017.

As a result of overall increases in mortality rates, average life expectancy decreased from 78.9 years in 2014 to 78.6 years in 2017.

"Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the nation's overall health, and these sobering statistics are a wake-up call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable." ...

More than 2.8 million deaths occurred in the United States in 2017, an increase of about 70,000 from the previous year. Death rates rose significantly in three age groups during that period (i.e., in those 25-34, 35-44, and 85 and older) and dropped in 45- to 54-year-olds, yielding an overall age-adjusted increase of 0.4 percent. That percentage represents a rise from 728.8 deaths per 100,000 standard population to 731.9 per 100,000.

The 10 leading causes of death remained the same from 2016 to 2017: heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide. Age-adjusted death rates increased significantly for seven of the 10 causes, led by influenza and pneumonia (5.9 percent), unintentional injuries (4.2 percent) and suicide (3.7 percent). Death rates for cancer actually decreased by 2.1 percent, while heart disease and kidney disease rates did not change significantly. ...

Drug overdose death rates increased across all age groups, with the highest rate occurring in adults ages 35-44 (39 per 100,000) and the lowest in adults 65 and older (6.9 per 100,000). ...

CDC Data Show US Life Expectancy Continues to Decline
https://www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20181210lifeexpectdrop.html

anne , November 30, 2019 at 07:30 AM
http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/free-market-drugs-a-key-part-of-elizabeth-warren-s-transition-to-medicare-for-all

November 29, 2019

Free Market Drugs: A Key Part of Elizabeth Warren's Transition to Medicare for All
By Dean Baker

Earlier this month, Senator Warren put out a set of steps that she would put forward as president as part of a transition to Medicare for All. The items that got the most attention were including everyone over age 50 and under age 18 in Medicare, and providing people of all ages with the option to buy into the program. This buy-in would include large subsidies, and people with incomes of less than 200 percent of the poverty level would be able to enter the Medicare program at no cost.

These measures would be enormous steps toward Medicare for All, bringing tens of millions of people into the program, including most of those (people over age 50) with serious medical issues. It would certainly be more than halfway to a universal Medicare program.

While these measures captured most of the attention given to Warren's transition plan, another part of the plan is probably at least as important. Warren proposed to use the government's authority to compel the licensing of drug patents so that multiple companies can produce a patented drug, in effect allowing them to be sold at generic prices.

The government can do this both because it has general authority to compel licensing of patents (with reasonable compensation) and because it has explicit authority under the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act to require licensing of any drug developed in part with government-funded research. The overwhelming majority of drugs required some amount of government-supported research in their development, so there would be few drugs that would be exempted if Warren decided to use this mechanism.

These measures are noteworthy because they can be done on the president's own authority. While the pharmaceutical industry will surely contest in court a president's use of the government's authority to weaken their patent rights, these actions would not require Congressional approval.

The other reason that these steps would be so important is that there is a huge amount of money involved. The United States is projected to spend over $6.6 trillion on prescription drugs over the next decade, more than 2.5 percent of GDP. This comes to almost $20,000 per person over the next decade.

This is an enormous amount of money. We spend more than twice as much per person on drugs as people in other wealthy countries.

This is not an accident. The grant of a patent monopoly allows drug companies to charge as much as they want for drugs that are necessary for people's health or even their life, without having to worry about a competitor undercutting them.

Other countries also grant patent monopolies, but they limit the ability of drug companies to exploit these monopolies with negotiations or price controls. This is why prices in these countries are so much lower than in the United States.

But even these negotiated prices are far above what drug prices would be in a free market. The price of drugs in a free market, without patent monopolies or related protections, will typically be less than 10 percent of the US price and in some cases, less than one percent.

This is because drugs are almost invariably cheap to manufacture and distribute. They are expensive because government-granted patent monopolies make them expensive. We have this perverse situation where the government deliberately makes drugs expensive, then we struggle with how to pay for them.

The rationale for patent monopolies is to give companies an incentive to research and develop drugs. This process is expensive, and if newly developed drugs were sold in a free market, companies would not be able to recover these expenses.

To make up for the loss of research funding supported by patent monopolies, Warren proposes an increase in public funding for research. This would be an important move towards an increased reliance on publicly funded biomedical research.

There are enormous advantages to publicly-funded research over patent monopoly-supported research. First, if the government is funding the research it can require that all results be fully public as soon as possible so that all researchers can quickly benefit from them.

By contrast, under the patent system, drug companies have an incentive to keep results secret. They have no desire to share results that could benefit competitors.

In most other contexts we quite explicitly value the benefits of open research. Science is inherently a collaborative process where researchers build upon the successes and failures of their peers. For some reason, this obvious truth is largely absent from discussions of biomedical research where the merits of patent financing go largely unquestioned.

In addition to allowing research results to be spread more quickly, public funding would also radically reduce the incentive to develop copycat drugs. Under the current system, drug companies will often devote substantial sums to developing drugs that are intended to duplicate the function of drugs already on the market. This allows them to get a share of an innovator drug's patent rents. While there is generally an advantage to having more options to treat a specific condition, most often research dollars would be better spent trying to develop drugs for conditions where no effective treatment currently exists.

Under the patent system, a company that has invested a substantial sum in developing a drug, where a superior alternative already exists, may decide to invest an additional amount to carry it through the final phases of testing and the FDA approval process. From their vantage point, if they hope that a successful marketing effort will allow them to recover its additional investment costs, they would come out ahead.

On the other hand, in a system without patent monopolies, it would be difficult for a company to justify additional spending after it was already clear that the drug it was developing offered few health benefits. This could save a considerable amount of money on what would be largely pointless tests.

Also, as some researchers have noted, the number of potential test subjects (people with specific conditions) is also a limiting factor in research. It would be best if these people were available for testing genuinely innovative drugs rather than ones with little or no incremental value.

Ending patent monopoly pricing would also take away the incentive for drug companies to conceal evidence that their drugs may not be as safe or effective as claimed. Patent monopolies give drug companies an incentive to push their drugs as widely as possible.

That is literally the point of patent monopoly pricing. If a drug company can sell a drug for $30,000 that costs them $300 to manufacture and distribute, then they have a huge incentive to market it as widely as possible. If this means being somewhat misleading about the safety and effectiveness of their drug, that is what many drug companies will do.

The opioid crisis provides a dramatic example of the dangers of this system. Opioid manufacturers would not have had the same incentive to push their drugs, concealing evidence of their addictive properties, if they were not making huge profits on them.

Unfortunately, this is far from the only case where drug companies have not accurately presented their research findings when marketing their drugs. The mismarketing of the arthritis drug Vioxx, which increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes, is another famous example.

We can try to have the FDA police marketing, but where there is so much money at stake in putting out wrong information, we can hardly expect it to be 100 percent successful in overcoming the incentives from the large profits available. There is little reason to think that the FDA will be better able to combat the mismarketing of drugs, than law enforcement agencies have been in stopping the sale of heroin, cocaine, and other illegal drugs. Where you have large potential profits, and willing buyers, government enforcement is at a serious disadvantage.

It is also worth mentioning that the whole story of medical care is radically altered if we end patent monopolies on drugs and medical equipment, an area that also involves trillions of dollars over the next decade. We face tough choices on allocating medical care when these items are selling at patent protected prices, whether under the current system of private insurance or a Medicare for All system.

Doctors and other health care professionals have to decide whether the marginal benefits of a new drug or higher quality scan is worth the additional price. But if the new drug costs roughly the same price as the old drug and the highest quality scan costs just a few hundred dollars (the cost of the electricity and the time of the professionals operating the machine and reading the scan), then there is little reason not to prescribe the best available treatment. Patent monopoly pricing in these areas creates large and needless problems.

In short, Senator Warren's plans on drugs are a really huge deal. How far and how quickly she will be able to get to Medicare for All will depend on what she can get through Congress. But her proposal for prescription drugs is something she would be able to do as president, and it will make an enormous difference in both the cost and the quality of our health care.

anne , November 30, 2019 at 07:33 AM
http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/nafta-was-about-redistributing-upward

November 29, 2019

NAFTA Was About Redistributing Upward
By Dean Baker

The Washington Post gave readers the official story about the North American Free Trade Agreement, diverging seriously from reality, in a piece * on the status of negotiations on the new NAFTA. The piece tells readers:

"NAFTA was meant to expand trade among the United States, Canada and Mexico by removing tariffs and other barriers on products as they were shipped between countries. The pact did open up trade, but it also proved disruptive in terms of creating new manufacturing supply chains and relocating businesses and jobs."

This implies that the disruption in terms of shifting jobs to Mexico to take advantage of low wage labor was an accidental outcome. In fact, this was a main point of the deal, as was widely noted by economists at the time. Proponents of the deal argued that it was necessary for U.S. manufacturers to have access to low cost labor in Mexico to remain competitive internationally. No one who followed the debate at the time should have been in the last surprised by the loss of high paying union manufacturing jobs to Mexico, that is exactly the result that NAFTA was designed for.

NAFTA also did nothing to facilitate trade in highly paid professional services, such as those provided by doctors and dentists. This is because doctors and dentists are far more powerful politically than autoworkers.

It is also wrong to say that NAFTA was about expanding trade by removing barriers. A major feature of NAFTA was the requirement that Mexico strengthen and lengthen its patent and copyright protections. These barriers are 180 degrees at odds with expanding trade and removing barriers.

It is noteworthy that the new deal expands these barriers further. The Trump administration likely intends these provisions to be a model for other trade pacts, just as the rules on patents and copyrights were later put into other trade deals.

The new NAFTA will also make it more difficult for the member countries to regulate Facebook and other Internet giants. This is likely to make it easier for Mark Zuckerberg to spread fake news.

* https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2019/11/29/final-terms-nafta-replacement-could-be-finalized-next-week-top-mexican-negotiator-says/

Paine -> anne... , November 30, 2019 at 09:29 AM
Excellent worker slanted sarcasm

A Dean specialty


We have no public industrial policy
Because we have a private corporate industrial policy that wants full reign


Even toy block models like
ole pro grass liberal brandishes

Warn what heppens to trade good producing wage rates when
Proximate borders open
to potential products
Built with zero rent earning
raw fingered foreign wage slaves

Paine -> Paine ... , November 30, 2019 at 09:36 AM
That is
What happens to
Domestic wages rates
and job totals
Not just wages
where wage rates
are sticky down

BUT also production itself
can move south of the border

Recall

Small town and rural new England
has recovered from a protracted
farm depression in the 19th century
And two industrial depressions
in the 20th

Depressions
That more or less wiped out
both sectors

Now we're post industrial
And recreational
Plus synthetic opiates


Paine -> Paine ... , November 30, 2019 at 09:39 AM
Higher ed
and uncle Sam funded
medical high Hijinx

Are our salvation sectors
That is
For regular employable folks

Paine -> Paine ... , November 30, 2019 at 09:43 AM
England with its
London FIRE monster core
Is
The other post industrial laputa
Like the Manhattan Washington metroplex

Pull the plug on those two

Global value extractors


And the American northeast
and jolly ole England
An both shrivel to second class regions

A just sentence in my mind

Paine -> Paine ... , November 30, 2019 at 09:44 AM
Trump has moved to Florida

Big Apple watch out !

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Paine ... , November 30, 2019 at 12:30 PM
"Excellent worker slanted sarcasm...

...Big Apple watch out !"

[Totally digging that comment chain from top to bottom. Made me smile :<) ]

[Dec 07, 2019] The NRS social grades are a system of demographic classification used in the United Kingdom

Dec 07, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to anne... , December 05, 2019 at 08:08 AM

(Wikipedia)

The NRS social grades are a system of demographic classification used in the United Kingdom. They were originally developed by the National Readership Survey (NRS)

Grade Social class ..... Chief income earner's occupation

A upper middle class ... Higher managerial, administrative or professional
B middle class ......... Intermediate managerial, administrative or professional
C1 lower middle class .. Supervisory or clerical and junior managerial, administrative or professional

C2 skilled working class Skilled manual workers
D working class ........ Semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers
E non working .......... State pensioners, casual and lowest grade workers, unemployed with state benefits only

The grades are often grouped into ABC1 and C2DE; these are taken to equate to middle class and working class, respectively. Only around 2% of the UK population is identified as upper class, and this group is not separated by the classification scheme. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , December 05, 2019 at 08:22 AM
Hmmm. Social castes in 'Brave New World',
Aldous Huxley, 1931, British intellectual & author

(Wikipedia)

Alphas and Betas
Alphas and Betas are at the top of the caste system, and perform the more intellectual jobs. Unlike the lower castes, Alphas and Betas are not clones, allowing for more individual personalities. ...

Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons
The lower three castes do more menial and standardized work. ...

Paine -> Fred C. Dobbs... , December 05, 2019 at 10:30 AM
Designed humans

What an inevitable set
of devilish social choices
face us down that inevitably
travelled road

Paine -> anne... , December 05, 2019 at 10:35 AM
Effectively proles ?

The professionals are proles ...Effectively?

A fond analytic positivist
MINO
Marxian in name only
pipe dream

[Dec 07, 2019] Fake goverment statistics as interpreted by Dean baker

Dec 07, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , December 06, 2019 at 08:34 AM

http://cepr.net/data-bytes/jobs-bytes/jobs-2019-12
December 6, 2019

Economy Adds 266,000 Jobs in November, Unemployment Edges Down to 3.5 Percent
By Dean Baker

The share of women in payroll employment is likely to exceed 50 percent in December.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the economy added 266,000 jobs in November. While this figure is inflated by the return of roughly 50,000 striking GM autoworkers, upward revisions to the prior two months' data brought the three-month average to a solid 205,000. The unemployment rate edged down to 3.5 percent, returning to a 50-year low.

The job growth was widely spread across industries. Manufacturing added 54,000 jobs, somewhat more than the number of returning strikers. It appears that the sector may again be on a modest growth path, with the number of jobs up 13,000 from its level three months ago and 76,000 from its year-ago level. Food manufacturing is providing the bulk of these gains, adding 19,300 jobs in the last three months and 25,900 over the last year.

Health care added 45,200 jobs in November after adding just 11,900 in October. Job growth for the two months together falls slightly below the 34,500 average for the last year. Restaurants added 25,300 jobs, roughly its average for the last year. The high-paying professional and technical services sector added 30,600 jobs, after three months of weak growth.

Construction employment remains weak, with the sector adding just 1,000 jobs in November. Job growth has averaged just 5,600 a month since June. Support activities for mining, which has been losing jobs since February, lost another 5,700 jobs in November. Employment in that sector is now down 23,700 (6.6 percent) over the last year. Retail added 2,000 jobs for the month, but employment is still down 31,400 (0.2 percent) over the last year.

In spite of the strong job growth and low unemployment rate, there continues to be no evidence of accelerating wage growth. The average hourly wage increased 3.1 percent over the last year. The annual rate of growth over the last three months (September, October, and November), compared to the prior three months (June, July, August), was just 3 percent.

Women's share of payroll employment edged closer to 50 percent in November, with the figure now standing at 49.992 percent, up from 49.977 percent in October. This should mean that the share will cross 50 percent in December.

The data in the household survey was generally positive. The overall employment-to-population ratio (EPOP) remained at a recovery high of 61.0 percent for the third straight month. The EPOP for prime-age workers (ages 25 to 54) also remained at its recovery high of 80.3 percent. The EPOP for prime-age men edged up 0.2 percent to 86.7 percent, a high reached in March, while the EPOP for women slipped 0.1 percentage point to 74.1 percent, which is still a full percentage point above its year-ago level.

The average duration of unemployment spells fell in November, as did the share of the long-term unemployed. There was a modest increase of 0.1 weeks in the median duration.

Perhaps the most disturbing item in this report was the dip in the share of unemployment due to voluntary quits from 14.5 percent to 13.3 percent. This is extraordinarily low, given the 3.5 percent unemployment rate. On the other hand, it is consistent with what we're seeing with wage growth, which remains modest, and with no evidence of acceleration.

Another discouraging item in the household data is the decline in the share of the workforce that chooses to work part-time. This fell by 15,000 in November. For the year average to date, this figure is up by less than 0.5 percent, meaning that it is dropping as a share of total employment. The share of voluntary part-time employment had increased sharply after the Affordable Care Act took effect, the recent decline is likely an indication of the increasing difficulty of getting health care coverage outside of employment.
[Graph]

This should be seen as a mostly positive report. The pace of job growth clearly has slowed some from its 2018 rate, but with the economy presumably approaching full employment, this was inevitable. The major downside is that workers seem to remain insecure about their employment prospects, as evidenced by the low quit rates and the relatively modest pace of wage growth.

anne -> anne... , December 06, 2019 at 08:40 AM
https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=mRhq

January 4, 2018

United States Employment-Population Ratio for Women, * 2007-2018

* Employment age 25-54


https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=mRhs

January 4, 2018

United States Employment-Population Ratio for Men, * 2007-2018

* Employment age 25-54

anne -> anne... , December 06, 2019 at 08:41 AM
https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=lMlh

January 15, 2018

Real Median Weekly Earnings for men and women, * 2007-2018

* Full time wage and salary workers

(Percent change)


https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=lMlk

January 15, 2018

Real Median Weekly Earnings for men and women, * 2007-2018

* Full time wage and salary workers

(Indexed to 2007)

likbez -> anne... , December 07, 2019 at 01:39 AM
Anne,

The truth is that good, middle class jobs are very difficult to get. Almost impossible. You are very lucky being a retiree with Vanguard funds chest ;-)

Recent graduates are in a very bad position, with only graduates from Ivy league colleges resume not being instantly tossed into waist basket.

McJobs, Amazon warehouse jobs, Home Depot jobs, low level construction jobs (in $15-$20 per hour range), etc are available for graduates. But that's it. Looks like the USA is looking now like a big amazon warehouse.

People over 50 are actually doomed, if they lost the job, to much lower standard of living. Even if they are professionals.

likbez -> likbez... , December 07, 2019 at 01:43 AM
And please understand that this a period when baby boomer leave workforce. So theoretically this should be a very low unemployment period.

[Dec 04, 2019] Trump and Trade: He s Not All Wrong by Dean Baker

Notable quotes:
"... "Employment in the United States has increased steadily over the last seven years, one of the longest periods of economic growth in American history. There are about 10 million more working Americans today than when President Obama took office. ..."
"... "David Autor, an economist at M.I.T., estimated in a famous paper that increased trade with China did eliminate roughly one million factory jobs in the United States between 2000 and 2007. However, an important implication of his findings is that such job losses largely ended almost a decade ago. ..."
"... It is also worth noting that even though our trade deficit has declined from its 2006 peak (the non-oil deficit has recently been rising again), workers are constantly being displaced by imports. The Bureau of Labor Statistic reports there have been an average of 110,000 layoffs or discharges a month in manufacturing thus far this year. If just a quarter of these are trade-related, it would imply that more than 300,000 workers a year are losing their jobs due to trade. ..."
"... The second point is the wage effect, which can go beyond the direct impact of job loss. The oil market can give us a useful way of thinking about this issue. Suppose that Saudi Arabia or some other major producer ramps up its oil production by 1 million barrels of oil a day. This will put downward pressure on world prices, which will have the effect of lowering prices in the United States as well. This could mean, for example, that instead of getting $50 for a barrel of oil, producers in North Dakota will only get $40 a barrel. This will mean less money for workers and companies in the oil industry. In the case of workers, it will mean fewer jobs and lower pay. ..."
"... This can happen even if there is very little direct impact of trade. The increased supply of Saudi oil may result in some modest reduction in U.S. exports of oil, but the impact on price will be much larger. The analogous story with trade in manufactured goods is that the potential to import low cost goods from Mexico, China, or other countries can have the effect of lowering wages in the United States, even if the goods are not actually imported. ..."
"... Finally, the balance of trade will have an impact on the overall level of employment in the economy when the economy is below its full employment level of output. Until the Great Recession, most economists did not think that trade could affect the overall level of employment, but only the composition. This meant that trade could cause us to lose manufacturing jobs in the Midwest, but these job losses would be offset by gains in Silicon Valley and other tech centers. This could still mean bad news for the manufacturing workers who lost their jobs, but the net effect for the country as a whole would still be positive. ..."
"... The Great Recession changed this view, as many economists came to believe that the United States is facing a period of secular stagnation: a sustained period in which lack of demand in the economy constrains growth and employment. In this context, the trade deficit is a major cause of the lack of demand since it is spending that is creating demand in other countries rather than the United States. If we could reduce the annual trade deficit by $100 billion then as a first approximation it will have the same impact on the economy as a stimulus of $100 billion. ..."
"... There is no generally accepted explanation as to why so many prime age workers would suddenly decide they didn't feel like working, but one often invoked candidate is the loss of manufacturing jobs. The argument in this story is that the manufacturing sector provided relatively good paying jobs for people without college degrees. With so many of these jobs now gone, these workers can't find jobs. If this argument is true, then it means that trade has cost the country a large number of jobs even if the economy is back at full employment. ..."
Oct 11, 2016 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne : October 11, 2016 at 06:46 AM , October 11, 2016 at 06:46 AM

http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/trump-and-trade-he-s-not-all-wrong

October 11, 2016

Trump and Trade: He's Not All Wrong

Given his history of promoting racism, xenophobia, sexism and his recently exposed boasts about sexual assaults, not many people want to be associated with Donald Trump. However that doesn't mean everything that comes out of his mouth is wrong.

In the debate on Sunday Donald Trump made a comment to the effect that because of the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade deals, "we lost our jobs." The New York Times was quick to say * this was wrong.

"We didn't.

"Employment in the United States has increased steadily over the last seven years, one of the longest periods of economic growth in American history. There are about 10 million more working Americans today than when President Obama took office.

"David Autor, an economist at M.I.T., estimated in a famous paper that increased trade with China did eliminate roughly one million factory jobs in the United States between 2000 and 2007. However, an important implication of his findings is that such job losses largely ended almost a decade ago.

"And there's no evidence the North American Free Trade Agreement caused similar job losses.

"The Congressional Research Service concluded in 2015 that the 'net overall effect of Nafta on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest.' "

There are a few things to sort out here. First, the basic point in the first paragraph is absolutely true, although it's not clear that it's relevant to the trade debate. The United States economy typically grows and adds jobs, around 1.6 million a year for the last quarter century. So any claim that trade has kept the U.S. from creating jobs is absurd on its face. The actual issue is the rate of job creation and the quality of the jobs.

Here there are three issues to consider.

1) The direct job loss – the jobs that were displaced due to imports substituting for domestically produced goods and services;

2) The wage effects – the downward pressure on the wages of workers that retain their jobs that can result from job loss and also the threat of job loss;

3) The impact of a trade deficit on the level of demand in the economy.

Taking these in turn we now have some pretty solid evidence on some of the job loss attributable to trade. David Autor's work ** found that imports from China cost the economy more than 2 million jobs in the years from 2000-2007.

"Estimates of the net impact of aggregate demand and reallocation effects imply that import growth from China between 1999 and 2011 led to an employment reduction of 2.4 million workers" (page 29).

These are workers who are directly displaced by import competition. In addition, as the article goes on to note, there were more workers who likely lost their jobs to the multiplier effect in the local economies most directly affected by imports.

The impact of trade with China was more dramatic than trade with Mexico and other countries because of the huge growth in imports over a short period of time. However, even if the impact from trade with other countries was smaller, it still would have a substantial effect on the communities affected.

It is also worth noting that even though our trade deficit has declined from its 2006 peak (the non-oil deficit has recently been rising again), workers are constantly being displaced by imports. The Bureau of Labor Statistic reports there have been an average of 110,000 layoffs or discharges a month in manufacturing thus far this year. If just a quarter of these are trade-related, it would imply that more than 300,000 workers a year are losing their jobs due to trade.

Of course people lose jobs for other reasons also, like increased productivity. So the fact there is job loss associated with trade doesn't make it bad, but it is not wrong to see this as a serious problem.

The second point is the wage effect, which can go beyond the direct impact of job loss. The oil market can give us a useful way of thinking about this issue. Suppose that Saudi Arabia or some other major producer ramps up its oil production by 1 million barrels of oil a day. This will put downward pressure on world prices, which will have the effect of lowering prices in the United States as well. This could mean, for example, that instead of getting $50 for a barrel of oil, producers in North Dakota will only get $40 a barrel. This will mean less money for workers and companies in the oil industry. In the case of workers, it will mean fewer jobs and lower pay.

This can happen even if there is very little direct impact of trade. The increased supply of Saudi oil may result in some modest reduction in U.S. exports of oil, but the impact on price will be much larger. The analogous story with trade in manufactured goods is that the potential to import low cost goods from Mexico, China, or other countries can have the effect of lowering wages in the United States, even if the goods are not actually imported.

Kate Bronfenbrenner, a professor of industrial relations at Cornell, documented one way in which the potential to import can have the effect of lowering wages. She found *** that employers regularly used the threat of moving operations to Mexico as a way to thwart unionization drives. While most workers are not typically involved in unionization drives, it is easy to imagine this dynamic playing out in other contexts where employers use the real or imagined threat from import competition as a reason for holding down wages. The implication is the impact of trade on wages is likely to be even larger than the direct effect of the goods actually brought into the country.

Finally, the balance of trade will have an impact on the overall level of employment in the economy when the economy is below its full employment level of output. Until the Great Recession, most economists did not think that trade could affect the overall level of employment, but only the composition. This meant that trade could cause us to lose manufacturing jobs in the Midwest, but these job losses would be offset by gains in Silicon Valley and other tech centers. This could still mean bad news for the manufacturing workers who lost their jobs, but the net effect for the country as a whole would still be positive.

The Great Recession changed this view, as many economists came to believe that the United States is facing a period of secular stagnation: a sustained period in which lack of demand in the economy constrains growth and employment. In this context, the trade deficit is a major cause of the lack of demand since it is spending that is creating demand in other countries rather than the United States. If we could reduce the annual trade deficit by $100 billion then as a first approximation it will have the same impact on the economy as a stimulus of $100 billion.

From this perspective, the trade deficit is a major source of job loss. Our current trade deficit of $500 billion a year (@2.8 percent of GDP) is a major drag on demand and employment. For this reason, a politician would be absolutely right to cite trade as a big factor in the weakness of the labor market.

It is worth noting that many economists (including many at the Federal Reserve Board) now believe that the economy is close to its full employment level of output, in which case trade is not now a net cause of job loss even if it had been earlier in the recovery. There are two points to be made on this view.

First, there are many prominent economists, such as Paul Krugman and Larry Summers, who argue that the economy is still well below its full employment level of output. So this is at least a debatable position.

Second, if we accept that the economy is near full employment it implies that close to 2 million prime age workers (ages 25-54) have permanently left the labor market compared to 2007 levels of labor force participation. (The gap is close to 4 million if we use 2000 as our comparison year.)

There is no generally accepted explanation as to why so many prime age workers would suddenly decide they didn't feel like working, but one often invoked candidate is the loss of manufacturing jobs. The argument in this story is that the manufacturing sector provided relatively good paying jobs for people without college degrees. With so many of these jobs now gone, these workers can't find jobs. If this argument is true, then it means that trade has cost the country a large number of jobs even if the economy is back at full employment.

In short, there are good reasons for a politician to complain about trade as a major source of our economic problems. There is much research and economic theory that supports this position.

* http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/10/09/us/elections/fact-check-debate.html#/factcheck-25

** http://www.ddorn.net/papers/Autor-Dorn-Hanson-ChinaShock.pdf

*** http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1018&context=cbpubs

-- Dean Baker

[Dec 04, 2019] Perfect Storm Trump Admin To Cut 750,000 From Food Stamps Ahead Of Recession

First they cut unemployment benefits. Now they are cutting food stamps. Great...
Dec 04, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

In a bid to end the massive welfare state, the Trump administration is expected to announce new measures Wednesday that would end food stamp benefits for nearly 750,000 low-income folks. The new rules will make it difficult for "states to gain waivers from a requirement that beneficiaries work or participate in a vocational training program," according to Bloomberg sources.

Republicans have long attempted to abolish the welfare state, claiming that the redistribution of wealth for poor people keeps them in a state of perpetual poverty. They also claim the welfare state is a system of command and control and has been used by Democrats for decades as a political weapon against conservatives, hence why most inner cities vote Democrat.

House Republicans tried to cut parts of the federal food assistance program last year, but it was quickly rejected in the Senate.

The new requirements by the Trump administration would only target "able-bodied" recipients who aren't caring for children under six.

Sources said the measure would be one of three enacted by the Trump administration to wind down the massive federal food assistance program.

The measures are expected to boot nearly 3.7 million recipients from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Though it comes at a time when employment is in a downturn, manufacturing has stumbled into a recession , and the US economy could be entering a mild recession in the year ahead. As to why President Trump wants hundreds of thousands of low-income folks off SNAP ahead of an election year while the economy is rapidly decelerating could be an administrative error that may lead to social instabilities in specific regions that will be affected the hardest. Then again, no turmoil could come out of it, and it's hailed as a success during the election year.

The Department of Agriculture estimates that the new measures could save the agency $1.1 billion in year one, and $7.9 billion by year five.

Nearly 36.4 million Americans in the "greatest economy ever" are on food stamps. At least half of all Americans have low-wage jobs, barely enough to cover living expenses, nevertheless, service their credit cards with record-high interest rates . The economy as a whole is undergoing profound structural changes with automation and artificial intelligence. Tens of millions of jobs will be lost by 2030. It's likely the collision of these forces means the welfare state is going nowhere and will only grow in size when the next recession strikes.

Cutting food stamps for low-income folks is the right move into creating a more leaner government, but there are severe social implications that could be triggered if the new measures are passed.

And while President Trump wants to slash the welfare state for poor people, his supply-side policies and bailouts of corporate America have been record-setting in some respects.

Actions by the administration clearly show that corporate welfare for Wall Street elites is more important than welfare for low-income folks. Perfect Storm: Trump Admin To Cut 750,000 From Food Stamps Ahead Of Recession


naps8906 , 23 seconds ago link

this is one of the most shameful acts for any president, especially a billionaire. If he wants to save a billion/year, cut it from military. Or increase staff at SNAP to check for fraud, but this is really shameful. I think it would've been better to raise tariff on China and use that money to increase SNAP not decrease it

cheka , 1 minute ago link

i have a better way. over BMI = no taxpayer funded food handouts

taking money from the working class, at the point of a gun....to give free food to fat *****.....clown world

Wild Bill Steamcock , 4 minutes ago link

What's the need in cutting foodstamps? You can take every able-bodied recipient and have them work a reasonable number of hours per week in a fair exchange. Plenty of work to be had and you could do it WPA style where those of certain skills could apply them.

And if you want to cut welfare, START WITH CORPORATE WELFARE

Dr Anon , 4 minutes ago link

This is a positive development in terms of the nuclear family. Women can't just abscond with the kids and her husband's alimony if she knows she will have to actually get a job to pay for her own food. I'm sick of paying taxes to support whore women and their bastard children.

Zeusky Babarusky , 6 minutes ago link

"The Department of Agriculture estimates that the new measures could save the agency $1.1 billion in year one, and $7.9 billion by year five."

Today's Repo operation by the Fed is $70.1 Billion. The $1.1 Billion in annual savings due to this cut is about 1.5% of what the Fed pumped into the Repo market just today. I'm all for cutting out the fraud. If you can work, then you should work. Don't work? Don't eat! But our economy is a Service Sector for the most part now, and the wages suck for a big part in the Service Sector. Wages overall have been nearly flat for about 30 years. How about we cut the welfare **** to the banks, Wall Street? That would save trillions not just billions. Typical DC. Fix problems while ******* over the little people, and continuing corporate welfare all the while. This **** so needs to burn up!

same2u , 7 minutes ago link

In the meantime, the Fed keeps on giving to the billionaires and banksters...

Stock market is the food stamp program for the super rich...

Omega_Man , 6 minutes ago link

great... outsource manufacturing, sign new trade deals to off shore more jobs, ramp up the stock market for the rich, waste trillions on destabilizing other nations, give israel all they want, print money to infinity, ask for zero interest rate.. and a billion per year to feed poor people is too much.. Trump is in touch with the little guy

Trump will lose 2020... give the 750,000 guns and ammo and some food and water... and a map to DC... Soros can provide the buses...

Rusticus2.0 , 7 minutes ago link

In a bid to end the massive welfare state, the Trump administration is expected to announce new measures Wednesday that would end food stamp benefits for nearly 750,000 low-income folks

and yet Trump is crying for negative interest rates so the 0.1% can continue getting the welfare they deserve ?

Just Take It All , 7 minutes ago link

Do lampposts dream of central bankers?

Fishthatlived , 10 minutes ago link

A Bloomberg story? Isn't that guy running for President? What a coincidence.

NoDebt , 4 minutes ago link

The new rules will make it difficult for "states to gain waivers from a requirement that beneficiaries work or participate in a vocational training program," according to Bloomberg sources.

And... those are actually the OLD rules, which are still on the books, but which Obama waived by EO. I'm glad 750,00 are being cut from the roles.

NoDebt , 1 minute ago link

Trump Admin To Cut 750,000 From Food Stamps Ahead Of Recession

OK, so I have to ask: What recession? Well, the coming one, obviously! So let's logic this out. You wouldn't cut food stamps IN a recession (political suicide), so what's your alternative? You're either in a recession or you're on your way to the next one which will happen eventually, right? So, when would you be able to cut food stamps? I guess never by that logic.

RiskyBidness , 7 minutes ago link

If you like your foodstamps .You can't keep your foodstamps

[Dec 04, 2019] Your Uber Driver Is 'Retired' You Shouldn't Be Surprised by Paula Span

In other words older people are pushed to the boom of the ladder. To thankless jobs like Uber, and janitorial type of jobs.
Oct 25, 2019 | www.nytimes.com

Despite spending 40 to 60 hours a week picking up riders in his 2015 Subaru Forester, Mr. Ellenbogen is barely surviving financially. He had to give up his apartment and move into his mother's condo in Verona, N.J. He relies on Medicaid for health care.

"It's something I'm accepting because I'm in need of money," he said of his Lyft gig. "I'm capable of better things, but this is what's available to me."

Economists debate how to define this kind of employment, often categorized as "nontraditional jobs" or "alternative work arrangements," and how to calculate the proportion of the older work force engaged in it.

Popularly seen as the province of the young, it now provides work for a growing number of people in their 50s, 60s and beyond.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics includes independent contractors (who may be self-employed but well compensated) and estimates that 11.4 percent of those aged 50 to 62 have nontraditional jobs. The Government Accountability Office, using an even broader definition including part-timers, says the figure is 31.2 percent.

Among workers over 62, economists at The New School's Retirement Equity Lab have found that 9 percent were in "on-call, temp, contract or gig jobs" in 2015; the researchers believe the percentage has grown since then .

In a just-published report, the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College put the number of nontraditional job holders at about 20 percent of 50- to 62-year-old workers , using data from the national Health and Retirement Study.

Their study defines nontraditional jobs as those that provide no health insurance or retirement benefits. "They're probably low-paid," said Alicia Munnell, director of the center. "Some have erratic schedules."

... ... ...

The majority of those in nontraditional jobs at ages 50 to 62 rely on them for most of their employment, and their retirement income at 62 is 26 percent lower than that of employees holding traditional jobs. (Nontraditional jobholders have somewhat higher rates of depression, as well.)

... ... ...

Nontraditional jobs include food service and retail, as well as gig jobs; among the fastest growing categories are janitorial work, and personal care and health aide positions. "They're not easy on older bodies," Dr. Ghilarducci pointed out. "They require a lot of physical stamina."

... ... ...

Mr. Ellenbogen, for instance, has a master's degree in social psychology from the University of Vermont. After getting laid off from sales positions and finding a return to business coaching unprofitable, he became a commission-only sales rep for Home Depot, with no base salary or benefits.

The company let him go, he said, when retina surgery left him unable to drive for two months. After he recovered, the only work he could find was with Lyft, where about a quarter of drivers are over 50, the company reported last year.

Mr. Ellenbogen has searched for jobs on LinkedIn, on Indeed, in local newspapers. The New Start Career Network at Rutgers University has provided free weekly sessions with a coach.

Nothing has materialized, so Mr. Ellenbogen keeps driving, trying to delay claiming Social Security to maximize his benefits.

[Dec 01, 2019] Federal Prosecutors Initiate Criminal Probe of Six Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors

Fetanil smuggling from China also played an important role
Dec 01, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Federal Prosecutors Launch Criminal Probe of Opioid Makers, Distributors :

The investigation, if it results in criminal charges, could become the largest prosecution yet of drug companies alleged to have contributed to the opioid epidemic, escalating the legal troubles of businesses that already face complex, multibillion-dollar civil litigation in courts across the country. Prosecutors are examining whether the companies violated the federal Controlled Substances Act, a statute that federal prosecutors have begun using against opioid makers and distributors this year.

By using statutes typically used to target drug dealers, prosecutors are finally seeing these companies for what they are: drug pushers. This approach is unusual but not unprecedented, according to the Journal:

Earlier this year, federal prosecutors filed major criminal cases in Manhattan and Ohio that, for the first time, employed criminal statutes that are more commonly applied to drug dealers, legal experts say.

When prosecutors from the Southern District of New York announced criminal charges against a pharmaceutical distributor and two executives earlier this year, the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office said the case was unusual.

"This prosecution is the first of its kind," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in April, "executives of a pharmaceutical distributor and the distributor itself have been charged with drug trafficking."

CNBC notes in Federal prosecutors open criminal probe of opioid makers and distributors, report says :

The investigation marks a significant broadening of the federal government's focus on pinpointing which parties contributed to the opioid crisis.

The six companies to receive subpoenas from the US attorney's office for the eastern district of New York are: AmerisourceBergen Corp., Amneal Pharmaceuticals Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Mallinckrodt, McKesson Corp. and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., as reported by the WSJ, citing regulatory filings.

This investigation is in its early stages; whether or not other companies have thus far also received subpoenas is not apparent. As federal prosecutors proceed, they will likely widen their probe, drawing in more companies and individuals.

Separately, most states, as well as roughly 2,600 city, county, and municipal governments have sued major players throughout the opioids supply chain. Despite intense pressure on parties to settle, these negotiations have stalled and numerous lawsuits remain pending (see Four Companies Settle Just Before Bellwether Opioids Trial Was to Begin Today in Ohio .)

One manufacturer, Purdue Pharma has already filed for bankruptcy (see Purdue Files for Bankruptcy, Agrees to Settle Some Pending Opioids Litigation: Sacklers on Hook for Billions? ).

As yesterday's WSJ further reports:

Purdue separately faces civil and criminal probes from the U.S. attorneys offices in New Jersey, Vermont and Connecticut and U.S. Justice Department in Washington and has said that a proposed plan to turn over its operations to creditors is contingent on resolving the federal investigations .

Opioids have made it onto Trump's personal radar screen. AP reports in Trump donates 3rd-quarter salary to help fight opioid crisis:

President Donald Trump is donating his third-quarter salary to help tackle the nation's opioid epidemic.

A White House official says Trump has given the $100,000 he would be paid in the quarter to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health, which oversees federal public health offices and programs, including the surgeon general's office.

The White House says the funds are being earmarked "to continue the ongoing fight against the opioid crisis."

Jerri- Lynn here. Well. Thanks for your concern!!

More from AP:

Trump has made tackling the misuse of opioids an administration priority. More than 70,000 Americans died in 2017 from drug overdoses, the bulk of them involving opioids.

Trump is required to be paid, but he has pledged to donate his salary while in office to worthy causes. Trump donated his second-quarter salary to the surgeon general's office.

This I didn't know.

Deaths of Despair

In separate news today, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study affirming that American life expectancy continues to decline, Life Expectancy and Mortality Rates in the United States, 1959-2017 .

The US trend is in contrast to the state of play in other advanced countries; US life expectancy began to lose pace in the 1980s, according to the JAMA study, and by 1998, had declined to a level below the OECD average. Since 2014, US life expectancy rates have declined for three consecutive years.

Naked Capitalism has covered the rise in "deaths of despair" extensively: the decline in US life expectancy, especially for poorer and less educated Americans, see these posts drawn from numerous examples: Stunning" Rise in Death Rate, Pain Levels for Middle-Aged, Less Educated Whites) ; Credentialism and Corruption: The Opioid Epidemic and "the Looting Professional Class" ; US Life Expectancy Declines in 2015: Unintentional Injuries Rise ; and American Life Expectancy Continues to Fall: Rise in Suicides, Overdose Deaths the Big Culprit .

The latest JAMA figures show that the decline extends throughout the country, as the New York Times reports in It's Not Just Poor White People Driving a Decline in Life Expectancy :

But a new analysis of more than a half-century of federal mortality data, published on Tuesday in JAMA , found that the increased death rates among people in midlife extended to all racial and ethnic groups, and to suburbs and cities. And while suicides, drug overdoses and alcoholism were the main causes, other medical conditions, including heart disease, strokes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also contributed, the authors reported.

From the JAMA study's abstract:

Findings Between 1959 and 2016, US life expectancy increased from 69.9 years to 78.9 years but declined for 3 consecutive years after 2014. The recent decrease in US life expectancy culminated a period of increasing cause-specific mortality among adults aged 25 to 64 years that began in the 1990s, ultimately producing an increase in all-cause mortality that began in 2010. During 2010-2017, midlife all-cause mortality rates increased from 328.5 deaths/100 000 to 348.2 deaths/100 000. By 2014, midlife mortality was increasing across all racial groups, caused by drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, suicides, and a diverse list of organ system diseases. The largest relative increases in midlife mortality rates occurred in New England (New Hampshire, 23.3%; Maine, 20.7%; Vermont, 19.9%) and the Ohio Valley (West Virginia, 23.0%; Ohio, 21.6%; Indiana, 14.8%; Kentucky, 14.7%). The increase in midlife mortality during 2010-2017 was associated with an estimated 33 307 excess US deaths, 32.8% of which occurred in 4 Ohio Valley states.

This trend has occurred despite the US spending the highest per capita on health of any country in the world – a point made in a JAMA editorial published simultaneously with the study, Confronting the Rise and Fall of US Life Expectancy.

Now, no one would dispute that the US health care system is a mess. From the NYT:

"The whole country is at a health disadvantage compared to other wealthy nations," the study's lead author, Dr. Steven Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University, said. "We are losing people in the most productive period of their lives. Children are losing parents. Employers have a sicker work force."

The study makes for depressing reading; you can download the full version for free by registering at the above link.

If you lack time for that, some summary from the NYT:

"Mortality has improved year to year over the course of the 20th century," said Dr. Samuel Preston, a demographer at the University of Pennsylvania. "The 21st century is a major exception. Since 2010 there's been no improvement in mortality among working-aged people."

Death rates are actually improving among children and older Americans, Dr. Woolf noted, perhaps because they may have more reliable health care -- Medicaid for many children and Medicare for older people. Jerri-Lynn here: my emphasis.

But the problem isn't wholly related to the dysfunctional US health care system. Extreme inequality doesn't just harm the poorest and weakest among us. Over to the NYT:

"The fact that it's so expansive and involves so many causes of death -- it's saying that there's something broader going on in our country," said Ellen R. Meara, a professor of health policy at Dartmouth College. "This no longer limited to middle-aged whites."

The states with the greatest relative increases in death rates among young and middle-aged adults were New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, West Virginia and Ohio.

Dr. Woolf said one of the findings showed that the excess deaths were highly concentrated geographically, with fully a third of them in just four states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana.

"What's not lost on us is what is going on in those states," he said. "The history of when this health trend started happens to coincide with when these economic shifts began -- the loss of manufacturing jobs and closure of steel mills and auto plants."

What do the billionaires and their toadies have to say to that?

And, to return to where I began, note that Ohio is ground zero for the opioids epidemic.


Matthew G. Saroff , November 27, 2019 at 1:57 pm

When are we going to start seeing asset forfeiture of the companies and the executives?

If a couple of senior execs end up having to wash dishes for a living, and having to rely on public defenders, and maybe there will be deterrence.

Also, maybe it will prompt a reevaluation of the asset forfeiture laws.

Ford Prefect , November 27, 2019 at 2:07 pm

A former Obama official was interviewed today about these investigations. When asked point-black on whether or not pharma executives should go to jail on these charges, there was tremendous hemming and hawing about the "goal is to prevent this from happening again in the future" which is the same stance regarding financial executives after the GFC. https://www.npr.org/2019/11/27/783223378/feds-may-pursue-criminal-charges-against-opioid-makers

So the drug laws incarcerate millions of poor and minority people for minor drug possession offences but effectively running a drug cartel inside US corporations would not be worth jailing somebody for? No wonder people are simply ready to toss the entire system.

Annieb , November 27, 2019 at 5:28 pm

Here's an excellent article about fentanyl smuggling from China. The opioid crisis is not just about US companies. The larger question is why our government largely ignored fentanyl smuggling for years during the Obama administration despite warnings from DEA.

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-china-fentanyl-20181019-story.html

albrt , November 28, 2019 at 2:59 am

"The larger question is why our government largely ignored fentanyl smuggling for years during the Obama administration"

Umm, because Barack Obama was one of the worst criminal accessories in the entire history of the world across every economic sector?

Do I win a prize for answering that question correctly?

David , November 27, 2019 at 2:42 pm

Terrific read. Thank you.

Pain patients who function quite well with medication are caught between the more strident of the War on Drugs Crusaders and the addicts who use opioids recreationally, causing most to think of anyone on pain medication as drug abusers. Pain patients using medication as prescribed are not drug abusers and a safe harbor needs to be created to protect this vulnerable population. They are genuinely in fear and despair has set in. They are consciously and openly stating an intent to commit suicide. We should not forget them as this war continues. They saw what Duarte promoted and understand they are powerless in a fight where their lives are at stake.

Cutting off the supply through criminal prosecutions of manufacturers will harm the most vulnerable. Perhaps that is the plan.

Synoia , November 27, 2019 at 3:12 pm

The issue appears to be "prescription" and "control"

You intimate the drugs will be removed from the market, as opposed to being subject to proper and necessary stringent controls.

The issue at hand with the manufacturers is: Have the Manufacturers caused bypass on controls. As I understand it, the drugs are not banned at this point in time.

The manufacturers appear to be investigated for promoting mis-prescription of their products.

Annieb , November 27, 2019 at 5:09 pm

Most deaths are caused by fentanyl overdose, and most fentanyl is imported from China through Mexico. The manufacturers are Chinese companies.

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/09/04/757089868/fentanyl-as-a-dark-web-profit-center-from-chinese-labs-to-u-s-streets

The Obama administration didn't take serious action. Why?

https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/ct-hlth-obama-fentanyl-20190313-story.html

David , November 27, 2019 at 5:26 pm

There have been unintended consequences from the war on drugs. To your point, we have seen providers, insurers, and pharmacies set their own limits to avoid liability. Going after the risk-averse pharmaceutical manufacturers will force them to decide whether the profit is worth the risk of financial ruin and possible prison. And legitimate patients are caught in the middle.

Anecdotally, we have this result that impacts the most vulnerable – not the powerful, who will always get their drugs, whether they need them or not:

The misconception that opioid prescriptions lead to opiate addiction has been widespread, and overarching state and federal measures to combat the opioid overdose crisis are reaching a fever pitch. There's the Oregon Health Authority's (OHA) now-tabled proposal to force-taper all Medicaid patients on opioids for certain chronic pain conditions; Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Gardner's controversial proposal to limit all acute pain medication prescriptions to a seven day fill, which sparked massive pushback from the chronic pain and disability communities; and Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who favors a three-day fill limit. In contrast, the American Medical Association (AMA) has come out against arbitrary pill limits, as has a group called Health Professionals for Patients in Pain (HP3).

Very few opioid addictions begin with a patient who has a doctor's prescription: Up to 80 percent of people with an opioid addiction illegally obtained pills from another source like a friend or relative first. While the opioid overdose epidemic from illegal heroin and fentanyl is a serious problem, federal and state actions to decrease the number of opioid prescriptions and/or pills in circulation overall will have -- and are already having -- a hugely negative impact on chronic pain patients who take opioid medications. While the number of pain prescriptions has declined since 2010, the number of deaths due to overdoses involving heroin and synthetic fentanyl has increased.

According to Thomas Kline, MD, a physician in North Carolina who maintains a list of chronic pain patients who committed suicide after being forced off of their medications, the anti-opioid hysteria that has taken root in the medical field and the federal government has resulted in "people [being] killed."

https://talkpoverty.org/2019/05/17/chronic-pain-opioid-crisis

Protect the vulnerable in this clash.

notabanktoadie , November 28, 2019 at 2:44 am

+100

And I'm reminded of this besides Proverbs 31:6-9, etc.

even the compassion of the wicked is cruel. Proverbs 12:10

CoryP , November 28, 2019 at 6:15 am

"Very few opioid addictions begin with a patient who has a doctor's prescription".

This is very similar to the original marketing line of OxyContin, and I have a hard time believing it. But it's only a gut feeling along with vague memories of educational materials I've seen before but would have to look up.

I think there are pretty forceful (though not equally funded) agendas on both sides of the issue that would want to down- or over-play the impact of prescribed opioids.

Either way, I don't think it's necessary to use that quote in order to make the case that people in pain still deserve access to these drugs.

Yves Smith , November 28, 2019 at 6:38 am

Other sources flatly contradict this claim. This is from an article by a professor of medicine:

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, four in five new heroin users started out by misusing prescription painkillers, and 94 percent of opioid-addicted patients said that they switched to heroin because prescription opioids were more expensive and harder to obtain.

https://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/oxycontin-how-purdue-pharma-helped-spark-opioid-epidemic/

And:

Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative, at Brandeis University, has worked with hundreds of patients addicted to opioids. He told me that, though many fatal overdoses have resulted from opioids other than OxyContin, the crisis was initially precipitated by a shift in the culture of prescribing -- a shift carefully engineered by Purdue. "If you look at the prescribing trends for all the different opioids, it's in 1996 that prescribing really takes off," Kolodny said. "It's not a coincidence. That was the year Purdue launched a multifaceted campaign that misinformed the medical community about the risks." When I asked Kolodny how much of the blame Purdue bears for the current public-health crisis, he responded, "The lion's share."

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/10/30/the-family-that-built-an-empire-of-pain

CoryP , November 28, 2019 at 12:11 pm

Thanks. I knew I wasn't going crazy but don't always have references at hand.

CoryP , November 28, 2019 at 3:49 am

I work as a pharmacist in northern Ontario, where the opioid problem is quite acute. To be fair, this region had some insane narcotic prescribing habits -- dose/increases that seemed unreasonably high (since well before I started practicing 10 years ago).

Now we're seeing a combination of new grad physicians seemingly afraid to prescribe opioids, and older doctors either under investigation by their regulatory body, or retiring as fast as they can to avoid getting nailed.

Their patients in the (sadly frequent) worst case, suddenly find themselves without a doctor in an area which already has a shortage. Or they're put through a forced rapid taper off these meds which seems only a bit less stressful.

Chronic pain patients can definitely benefit from tapering their dose, as opioid-induced hyperalgesia is definitely a thing, and overdose risk increases with dose even taking into consideration tolerance.

A lot of patients with pain can benefit from methadone or Suboxone, which is often the only option remaining as addiction treatment centres are everywhere. But even if those drugs work for them there's still a lot of inconvenience and stigma attached to them.

I wish the attitude was more accomodating to the patients who have been on these huge doses for years. (usually in their 50s or 60s). Like, say to doctors "try not to get anybody else hooked on opiates, but be gentle with the patients that already are".

But it seems like the approach taken is mostly based on avoidance of liability. And the profits of addictions chains that provide dubiously valuable treatment.

I guess there's no perfect solution. It's a shitshow up here.

eg , November 28, 2019 at 4:16 am

Thank you for doing what you can -- it must be very stressful. I wouldn't blame those who fled such responsibility.

notabanktoadie , November 28, 2019 at 4:44 am

There's no perfect solution but certainly an ethical finance system is part of an optimum solution.

CoryP , November 28, 2019 at 5:32 am

Yeah, off the top of my head the biggest financial issues that could be helped by a government that gave crap would be:
1) increase the welfare/disability payments which have lost ground to inflation since the 90s I believe
2) do something for the awful living conditions and opportunities for our first nations reserves, which are (were?) the biggest centres of despair and addiction
3) free pharmacare would help, though our most vulnerable do already have coverage
4) actually fund mental health programs/psychotherapy

The vaunted Canadian healthcare system doesn't cover much that doesn't happen in a doctor's office or hospital. It's it's not heading in the right direction.

notabanktoadie , November 28, 2019 at 6:56 am

Not to discount generous welfare for the needy by any means but those things don't address the fundamental problem which is economic injustice.

CoryP , November 28, 2019 at 12:13 pm

It occurs to me now you might have meant something entirely different by 'finance system' but I was on a tangent.

notabanktoadie , November 28, 2019 at 5:31 pm

I did; the need for extensive welfare is, by itself, an indication of an unjust economic system.

The indicators are piling up, btw. The latest I've heard is the US birth rate is below replacement of the population.

notabanktoadie , November 28, 2019 at 12:52 am

What do the billionaires and their toadies have to say to that? Jerri-Lynn Scofield

Certainly toadies, intentional or otherwise, must include those who support unethical finance – the means by which so many jobs were outsourced in the first place.

Our finance system was designed or evolved to only create wealth – not to share it justly – and we are reaping the bitter fruit of that shortsightedness.

William Beyer , November 28, 2019 at 7:22 am

Can't wait to see how this will all be blamed on the Russians

Robpost , November 28, 2019 at 10:12 am

Better late than never, I suppose. But, to look only to preventing such things from recurring in the future is to give the current crop of miscreants a pass, as was done with torturing and financial crimes since the turn of the century.

JimTan , November 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

A criminal probe is definitely appropriate. It's already been established that drug companies and their distributors have flooded the country with 76 billion opioid pills between 2006 through 2012. 76 billion pills amounts to approximately 33 opiate pills per year for every man woman and child in the United States during the 7 year time period covered in this article. And that's only oxycodone and hydrocodone – it doesn't include the various types of fentanyl.

That can't be a mistake.

Gordon , November 29, 2019 at 11:35 am

There is good evidence that providing treatment for the addicted rather than criminalising them is the way to go with a big fringe benefits in terms of less crime etc for the rest of the community, for example the work of Dr John Marks in Widness, England.

I haven't read the book mentioned but the Liverpool Echo tells of his success – until, that is, the US leaned on the UK to stop him.

Can anyone shed any light on why the US would do that?

Myron , November 30, 2019 at 7:55 pm

Methadone destroys your bones. They become brittle and crumble. Suboxone does very little for pain relief. Suboxone only blocks the craving for opioids. It is obvious most of you posters have little contact with addicts and rely on articles published by individuals who use govt' info to BS the population.

WHY have there not been at least Criminal Manslaughter charges filed against some of the actors in the dreadful life drama. The doctors, The manufacturers, the distributors. If I give scrip opioids to another and thy die from taking them , I will be charged with a Homicide.

[Dec 01, 2019] A Wicked Cocktail Of Corporate Greed, Social Media, Opioids Is Slashing US Life Expectancy Rates

Notable quotes:
"... Why is a guy much over 50 going to work for? **** that. 55 is pushing it for any sort of manual labor. ..."
"... Even top US citizen STEM grads can't find jobs. Or get interviews. That's pretty much all you need to know about how good the economy is. ..."
Dec 01, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

A Wicked Cocktail Of Corporate Greed, Social Media, & Opioids Is Slashing US Life Expectancy Rates by Tyler Durden Sun, 12/01/2019 - 22:30 0 SHARES

Authored by Robert Bridge via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

Following decades of increased life expectancy rates, Americans have been dying earlier for three consecutive years since 2014, turning the elusive quest for the 'American Dream' into a real-life nightmare for many. Corporate America must accept some portion of the blame for the looming disaster.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/N33X92zic5Y

Something is killing Americans and researchers have yet to find the culprit. But we can risk some intuitive guesses.

According to researchers from the Center on Society and Health, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, American life expectancy has not kept pace with that of other wealthy countries and is now in fact decreasing.

The National Center for Health Statistics reported that life expectancy in the United States peaked (78.9 years) in 2014 and subsequently dropped for 3 consecutive years, hitting 78.6 years in 2017. The decrease was most significant among men (0.4 years) than women (0.2 years) and happened across racial-ethnic lines: between 2014 and 2016, life expectancy decreased among non-Hispanic white populations (from 78.8 to 78.5 years), non-Hispanic black populations (from 75.3 years to 74.8 years), and Hispanic populations (82.1 to 81.8 years).

"By 2014, midlife mortality was increasing across all racial groups, caused by drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, suicides, and a diverse list of organ system diseases," wrote researchers Steven H. Woolf and Heidi Schoomaker in a study that appears in the latest issue of the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association.

At the very beginning of the report, Woolf and Schoomaker reveal that the geographical area with the largest relative increases occurred "in the Ohio Valley and New England."

"The implications for public health and the economy are substantial," they added, "making it vital to understand the underlying causes."

Incidentally, it would be difficult for any observer of the U.S. political scene to read that passage without immediately connecting it to the 2016 presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Taking advantage of the deep industrial decline that has long plagued the Ohio Valley, made up of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, Trump successfully tapped into a very real social illness, at least partially connected to economic stagnation , which helped propel him into the White House.

Significantly, thirty-seven states witnessed significant jumps in midlife mortality in the years leading up to 2017. As the researchers pointed out, however, the trend was concentrated in certain states, many of which, for example in New England, did not support Trump in 2016.

"Between 2010 and 2017, the largest relative increases in mortality occurred in New England (New Hampshire, 23.3%; Maine, 20.7%; Vermont, 19.9%, Massachusetts 12.1%) and the Ohio Valley (West Virginia, 23.0%; Ohio, 21.6%; Indiana, 14.8%; Kentucky, 14.7%), as well as in New Mexico (17.5%), South Dakota (15.5%), Pennsylvania (14.4%), North Dakota (12.7%), Alaska (12.0%), and Maryland (11.0%). In contrast, the nation's most populous states (California, Texas, and New York) experienced relatively small increases in midlife mortality.

Eight of the 10 states with the highest number of excess deaths were in the industrial Midwest or Appalachia, whereas rural US counties experienced greater increases in midlife mortality than did urban counties.

A tragic irony of the study suggests that greater access to healthcare, notably among the more affluent white population, actually correlates to an increase in higher mortality rates. The reason is connected to the out-of-control prescription of opioid drugs to combat pain and depression.

"The sharp increase in overdose deaths that began in the 1990s primarily affected white populations and came in 3 waves," the report explained: (1) the introduction of OxyContin in 1996 and overuse of prescription opioids, followed by (2) increased heroin use, often by patients who had become addicted to prescription opioids, and (3) the subsequent emergence of potent synthetic opioids (eg, fentanyl analogues) -- the latter triggering a large post-2013 increase in overdose deaths.

"That white populations first experienced a larger increase in overdose deaths than nonwhite populations may reflect their greater access to health care (and thus prescription drugs)."

In September, Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, reached a tentative settlement with 23 states and more than 2,000 cities and counties that sued the company, owned by the Sackler family, over its role in the opioid crisis

Other factors also helped to drive up the U.S. mortality rate, including alcoholic liver disease and suicides, 85% of which occurred with a firearm or other method.

The United States spends more on health care than any other country, yet its overall health report card fares worse than those of other wealthy countries. Americans experience higher rates of illness and injury and die earlier than people in other high-income nations.

Researchers were perplexed but not surprised by the data as there existed clear signs back in the 1980s that the United States was heading for a cliff as far as longevity rates go.

So what is it that's claiming the life of Americans, many at the prime of their life, at a faster pace than in the past? The reality is that it is likely to be an accumulation of negative factors that are finally beginning to take a toll. For example, apart from the opioid crisis, there has also been an almost total collapse of union representation across Corporate America, which has essentially crushed any form of workplace democracy. This author, a former member of three worker unions, witnessed this egregious abuse of corporate power firsthand, which is apparent by the total stagnation of wages for many decades.

Today's real average wage – that is, after accounting for inflation – has about the same purchasing power it did about half a century ago . Meanwhile, in the majority of cases, increases in salary have a marked tendency to go to the highest-paid tier of executives.

In a report by Pew Research, "real terms average hourly earnings peaked more than 45 years ago: The $4.03-an-hour rate recorded in January 1973 had the same purchasing power that $23.68 would today."

One needs only consider the growing mountain of tuition debt now consuming the paychecks of many university graduates, many of whom have yet to land their dream 6-figure job from their relatively worthless liberal education, to better understand the quiet desperation that exists across the country.

At the same time, the exponential rise in the use of social media, which has been proven to trigger depression and loneliness in users, also deserves serious consideration. What society is experiencing with its massive online presence is a total overhaul as to the way human beings relate to each other. Presently, it would be very difficult to argue that the changes have been positive; in fact, they seem to be contributing to the early demise of millions of Americans in the prime of life.

Taken together, abusive labor practices that ignores workplace democracy, the epidemic of opioid usage, compounded by the anti-social features of 'social media' suggests a perfect storm of factors precipitating the rise of early deaths in the United States. Since all of these areas fall in one way or another under the control of corporate power, this powerful agency must find ways to help address the problem. The future success of America depends upon it.


ohm , 1 minute ago link

A Wicked Cocktail Of Corporate Greed, Social Media, & Opioids Is Slashing US Life Expectancy Rates

In short, capitalism

Pfeffernusse , 2 minutes ago link

With a college degree and half a brain things are still pretty good. They look pretty good for trades guys too, as long as they are honest hard workers. I just got a quote from some guy to dig up a 70 foot driveway and replace it with topsoil... $14,000. Nobody is hurting too bad where I am except serious white trash with no job skills. Well, blacks and latinos without job skills are hurting too, the difference is, they're resigned to their fate after 300+ years of getting abused. It's the Trump trailer trash who are mad that they aren't throwing around big money any more for stealing copper or whatever the **** these trash did before now.

Indelible Scars , 3 minutes ago link

Opioids have been around for 2500 years+. The culture is what has changed. For the worse.

systemsplanet , 3 minutes ago link

Slashing US Life Expectancy Rates

"We saved the Social Security Trust Fund by supporting programs to shorten American life spans"

- Leftist Bureaucratic Social Engineers

RDouglas , 5 minutes ago link

You think life expectancy has dropped off now? Give it 10 or 20 years. Fentynal+a cheap plastic mask with nitrogen or co2 emitter will be easily available on the internet...Most people over 50 are ill equipped to deal with burgeoning economic realities. I'm 51 and I see it all around me in NW Montana, dudes that are 50 or 100 pounds overweight, smoking, drinking whisky and taking pills, not showing up for work. The economy here is booming and yet there are men and women, mostly my age or older wandering around with tombstone eyes all day, bumming money in front of the grocery stores. I spend more time than I like in Portland OR, and it's even more apparent there. There are kids that panhandle, but 90% of the people camping on the street are 45+. Dis Eases of dispair.

dibiase , 2 minutes ago link

When the reality you live is has been engineered to be **** what would you expect.

Possibly a sane reaction to an insane world?

Indelible Scars , 1 minute ago link

Why is a guy much over 50 going to work for? **** that. 55 is pushing it for any sort of manual labor.

Demeter55 , 13 minutes ago link

When men abandon their families to pursue money and fame, their families move on, and then, when the men found they were chasing fool's gold, they despaired and died, since they had fucked themselves, their children and the women who were willing to love them.

There wasn't any reason to live, if one doesn't believe in repairing such social crimes, or second chances. And there's a time limit for such rehabilitation; wait too long to get smart, and your chances are gone.

I know of three such cases in my immediate family.

Helix6 , 14 minutes ago link

In "Democracy in America", Alexis de Tocqueville commented on Americans' obsession with money and means of procuring it. I would hypothesize that the deteriorating economic means of ordinary Americans is behind the increase in midlife mortality. The pursuit of money has resulted in a lifestyle that is not conducive to a happy and healthy life.

Rashomon , 13 minutes ago link

Stress kills.

Is-Be , 2 minutes ago link

Stress causes the body to release cortisol which responds by building up belly fat for the emergency times ahead. Sleep and stress reduction can reduce the waist line, slowly.

PedroS , 17 minutes ago link

"there has also been an almost total collapse of union representation across Corporate America, which has essentially crushed any form of workplace democracy. This author, a former member of three worker unions, witnessed this egregious abuse of corporate power firsthand, which is apparent by the total stagnation of wages for many decades." This cracked me up. companies are NOT Democratic and never should be.

dibiase , 15 minutes ago link

Actually workers unions are quite a capitalist concept. It's a shame they turned into what they are today.

Is-Be , 20 minutes ago link

Isn't Capitalism wonderful? We mandate that a company may not make a decision not in the interests of the shareholder. And then whinge because Big Pharma does just that. It makes drugs that maximize profits. Why did you expect anything different?

And what about insurance companies? How are shareholders of insurance companies served if the insurance companies pay up for claims? Anyway, let me present a physicians point of view , that the AMA represents the shareholders of Big Pharma, not the doctors. BTW. Black salve works against Big C. (I have to use euphemisms because it is illegal to utter the words "Cures Big C". Why? I dunno. ( Bloodroot , a common plant.)

How unpatriotic it would be to praise Unions! So I shan't. Instead I recommend Guilds. A complete monopoly of particular trades by their own Guild House. The guild controls the training of their members. It controls who gets to work where. It controls their accommodation and pension. It controls for the benefit of it's members. It is Vast.

It negotiates with politicians on protecting it's own interests by Law. (Hey, why should only multi-national companies lobby in their own interest!)

For instance. A electrical guild would negotiate a contract with a builders guild for cheap housing. (You scratch my back, I scratch yours.) It would negotiate with the teacher's guild for the correct education of their children.

Big international companies are going to love it. But why do we need to consider their emotions?

steverino999 , 21 minutes ago link

This rampant social illness is why Trump ran for President. He knew there were a lot of hurting people out there who needed to believe in something, anything, and most importantly he knew they would devour every scoop of manure he shoveled their way.

pitz , 24 minutes ago link

Even top US citizen STEM grads can't find jobs. Or get interviews. That's pretty much all you need to know about how good the economy is.

PedroS , 20 minutes ago link

Due to wholesale outsourcing of the jobs they planned for. You left that out so I helped you...

rejectnumbskull , 24 minutes ago link

U might be right...and I'm sad about it

free corn , 12 minutes ago link

Strongman or strong woman whoever leave the cage.

dibiase , 10 minutes ago link

Even better. A woman might be more cruel and demeaning to our enemies.

free corn , 31 minutes ago link

"real terms average hourly earnings peaked more than 45 years ago: The $4.03-an-hour rate recorded in January 1973 had the same purchasing power that $23.68 would today."

No big drama here considering growth in wealth inequality for the period.

Tillyoudrop , 35 minutes ago link

A Wicked Cocktail Of Corporate Greed, Social Media, & Opioids

Nope. What you listed is just a bunch of the symptoms not the root cause.

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 , 38 minutes ago link

Alex Jones named it years ago: drugs, bad food, lack of good nutrition, lack of exercise, and mass demoralization.

misgivings , 9 minutes ago link

And increasing surveillance, 5G and AI - with no input from the sheep.

Oliver Klozoff , 39 minutes ago link

Of course the author conveniently avoids the main cause, neoliberalism, courtesy of the dems.

artistant , 40 minutes ago link

There's a spiritual decay gnawing away at America's soul.

The EveryThing Bubble , 40 minutes ago link

Stupid people are supposed to die

[Nov 30, 2019] American Life Expectancy Dropping Dramatically Thanks To White Working Class Male Suicides

Notable quotes:
"... Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News, ..."
"... a "distinctly American phenomenon," ..."
"... My voice is being silenced by free speech-hating Silicon Valley behemoths who want me disappeared forever. It is CRUCIAL that you support me. Please sign up for the free newsletter here . Donate to me on SubscribeStar here . Support my sponsor – Turbo Force – a supercharged boost of clean energy without the comedown. ..."
Nov 29, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

After increasing for decades, American life expectancy is now facing an alarming decline thanks mainly to suicides of white working age men.

A study published by the journal JAMA, found that life expectancy in America increased from 1959 to 2014 but that the number plateaued in 2011 and began decreasing in 2014.

"The study... found that the decline is mostly among "working-age" Americans, or those ages 25 to 64 ," reports Live Science .

"In this group, the risk of dying from drug abuse, suicide, hypertension and more than 30 other causes is increasing. "

The decline in life expectancy for working aged males has not been recorded in other developed countries and is a "distinctly American phenomenon," according to study co-author Steven H. Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.

According to Lisa Britton, CNN's coverage of the story omitted the crucial point that the decline was being driven by male suicides.

" CNN just did a piece on the declining life-expectancy rate in the US and failed to mention it's the MEN's rate that is declining! Women have maintained a steady rate although there's been an uptick in the women's overdose rate (The Wash Post turned their story into that) Wow," she tweeted.

As we discuss in the video below, the only demographic group that has seen a dramatic rise in suicides and "deaths of despair" is white, middle aged, working class men.

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https://www.youtube.com/embed/Rw1dNtDEA00

Despite this, the media and the culture still relentlessly blames that same demographic for both historical and contemporary societal ills, de-legitimizing their trauma under the rubric of "white privilege."

* * *

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sbin , 2 minutes ago link

Same thing happened when CCCP was collapsing.

USSA history doesn't repeat but seems very familiar.

[Nov 30, 2019] I think neoliberal globalization is similar to the early modern period where once prosperous peasant societies were destroyed by policies like the enclosure movement

Nov 30, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Reply

Livius Drusus , November 28, 2019 at 7:52 am

Re: The 'crisis of capitalism' is not the one Europeans think it is.

The article is basically correct but I also think that the author downplays how devastating these changes have been. It seems like he is arguing that the changes wrought by capitalism are merely a cultural problem. I think our problems are much worse than just people being uncomfortable with capitalism invading spheres of life previously left outside of the market, as important as that issue is.

I think this period is similar to the early modern period where once prosperous peasant societies were destroyed by policies like the enclosure movement. A recent article in The Guardian discussed this process.

With subsistence economies destroyed, people had no choice but to work for pennies simply in order to survive. According to the Oxford economists Henry Phelps Brown and Sheila Hopkins, real wages declined by up to 70% from the end of the 15th century all the way through the 17th century. Famines became commonplace and nutrition deteriorated. In England, average life expectancy fell from 43 years in the 1500s to the low 30s in the 1700s.

https://amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/22/progressive-politics-capitalism-unions-healthcare-education

Compare this to some current trends like the fall in life expectancy in the United States.

https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2019-11-26/life-expectancy-decline-deaths-of-despair

The author was discussing Europe so perhaps that explains why he seems to see this as a cultural issue, but I believe that the United Kingdom is also seeing a rise in deaths of despair and this trend might spread to the Continent in the future if things get bad enough.

My point is that the crisis of capitalism is worse than Branko Milanović makes it out to be. I worry that focusing on things like changing family structure falls into the hands of left-neoliberals who will say that people just need to be more "progressive" and accept changes to family life, which is hypocritical given that affluent people are actually doubling down on the nuclear family model (divorce rates have been dropping among the well-educated) and the advantages it brings when it comes to life outcomes. It is galling to hear liberals talk about dysfunction among working-class people as if it were progressive while they enjoy dual income "power marriages" and make sure their children are given massive advantages in upbringing.

More generally, the biggest problem is that most people never asked for these changes, they were forced on ordinary people by elites. It is ridiculous that in the 21st century humans have to just accept massive and often devastating changes to their lives without having any voice in the decision to make those changes.

A sense of powerlessness is also driving the widespread populist anger across many countries. At one time there were powerful labor unions and left-wing political parties that spoke for ordinary people but these have either declined or disappeared altogether so people are left looking for allies and populists like Trump and Salvini are happy to benefit from their anger and desperation.

anon in so cal , November 28, 2019 at 11:41 am

Trickle-Up Theory

""Mathematical models demonstrate that far from wealth trickling down to the poor, the natural inclination of wealth is to flow upward, so that the 'natural' wealth distribution in a free-market economy is one of complete oligarchy".

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-inequality-inevitable/

[Nov 30, 2019] Globalisation as an alibi for the destruction of communities.

Nov 30, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

David , November 28, 2019 at 12:29 pm

I think he's confusing the commercialisation of everyday life with capitalism. The second is a result of the first looking for new ways of making money out of us, as traditional options like making things now seem less attractive. So the very fabric of life itself has now become an endless series of financial calculations, where we are all "customers" instead of citizens. Even the state now adopts the practices and the vocabulary of the private sector. But there's no reason why regulated capitalism can't coexist with traditional social patterns: it's a political choice to allow it to get its greasy fingers on some of the most important parts of our existence and turn them into financial opportunities.

The real story here is the decline of the extended family, which only really began after WW2. Previously (and in my experience up until at least the 1960s) different generations would do different things: grandparents would look after children, grandparents in turn would be looked after by younger members of the family, uncles would play football with the boys, aunties would take groups of children to the cinema. There wasn't any other way, really, in which the basic functions of life could be managed. Members of the family would often live within walking or cycling distance of each other. Much of this has now been monetised for profit, but of course only if you have the money to pay for it in the first place. We need to remember that the "nuclear family" is a very recent development and frankly, only works if you can somehow buy in the services the extended family used to provide (and people resent having to do that). And as much as anything else the rise of the nuclear family is the result of the financialisation of housing, and the destruction of public housing stocks, which together with the parallel destruction of traditional forms of community employment have frequently led to families being scattered all over the country, anywhere they can find jobs and accommodation.

I don't think globalisation has much to do with this, except as an alibi for the destruction of communities. And I do think it is relatively new, except in the sense that capitalism has always destroyed everything it touches. For example, clothing was often made within the family because ready to wear clothing didn't really arrive for ordinary people until about a century ago. Even then, unless you were wealthy, clothes would be altered to fit younger children, or modified to suit the latest fashions for adults. Likewise, well after WW2, many families grew vegetables in their back garden; and cars, washing machines and even valve radios could be repaired at home if you were reasonably handy.

PlutoniumKun , November 28, 2019 at 1:21 pm

Its an interesting feature of Asian capitalism in that its been able to 'free ride' on tight family bonds – extended families have allowed it to avoid the need to provide the sort of social safety net that even capitalists acknowledged was necessary in Europe to prevent social unrest (hence Christian Democracy). As Asian countries follow the west in gradually loosening family bonds (especially in China, where they seem far more delicate than in Japan/South Korea), etc, I'm curious to see how they'll deal with it.

Massinissa , November 28, 2019 at 1:25 pm

"(especially in China, where they seem far more delicate than in Japan/South Korea)"

I confess to not knowing as much about China as I should, or at least, not knowing much about family life there. Why do you suggest the bonds there are weaker? Some sort of systemic issue?

Danny , November 28, 2019 at 1:51 pm

"There?" Experience as a child in San Francisco witnessing classmates first of generation Chinese immigrant parents reflects the strength of patience and delayed gratification. Fifty pound three dollars sack of white rice per month, handful of wilted vegetables bought for pennies. Meat as a condiment, if at all, working jobs as waiters, busboys, or the real plum, boring job as warehouseman for government, the entire family living in one basement apartment. Clothing handed down, no car, nothing new bought. Social services and Great Society welfare provided by race or language based non-profits, or government, taken full advantage of for older parents with no reported income.

People from same village in China, possibly related, often not, pool their money, get down payment on apartment house, entire family moves into bigger apartment, basement rented to other newly arrived immigrants.

Meanwhile, affluent fourth generation American kids get high and do their own thing, pursuing a music or art career.

Fast forward fifty years. 70%+ percent of property in city owned by Chinese surnamed people. Children of original family now sitting on tens of millions of dollars of apartments, collecting huge rents out of starry eyed techbros and 'bras from Kansas.

Artists and musicians living in cars, if lucky enough to have one, or in a tent on the street.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , November 28, 2019 at 2:52 pm

Your argument is completely racist!

(Oh, and completely true)

Real fundamental reason for the stunning rise of Asia: their values. Hard work, savings, family, education, and current pleasures foregone in favor of future gains.

The U.S. had a really cushy time, protected by two oceans, with highly navigable rivers, lots of arable land in a temperate climate zone, and legal structures in place that fostered industrialization. That enabled us to win WW II and then write the rules afterwards: everybody else had to work hard, earn a profit, then buy dollars before they could then buy a barrel of oil. Whereas we could just print oil. Such a tailwind! Kept us ahead for decades. But alas all good things must end.

The Rev Kev , November 28, 2019 at 6:29 pm

'Hard work, savings, family, education, and current pleasures foregone in favor of future gains.'

Yep, they use to be western values which you could find in the UK, the US, Australia, etc. In a mostly free economy they were winning values and helped people work their way up the social ladder.
In the rigged economy that we have these days, they do not work so well so a lot of people have given up on them. Of course if the economy goes south in a big way, they may once again become good traits to practice.

drumlin woodchuckles , November 28, 2019 at 10:48 pm

What enabled the USSR to win WW2 in Europe?

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , November 29, 2019 at 1:59 am

400,000 GM-made trucks didn't hurt. A massive and inhospitable, marshy terrain. A willingness to apply human cannon fodder. A military philosophy that said "quantity has a quality all its own". Willingness to scorch earth. Willingness to move more than 100,000 factories past the Urals. Dogged courage of the people.

skippy , November 29, 2019 at 3:07 am

"willingness to apply human cannon fodder"

Actually after the initial German advance was stalled the loss ratios for the Russians was better than the Allied forces.

A lot of the rest above suffers from the same optics issues.

PlutoniumKun , November 28, 2019 at 5:52 pm

In my experience China has become a much more atomised society since it embarked on its great experiment with high growth capitalism – exacerbated by the one child policy. Its a very difficult thing to measure I think, but while there certainly are very tight Chinese families, I think there are a lot of individual Chinese cast adrift in those huge cities without the cultural adaption to individualism which is normal in the west.

Some Guy in Beijing , November 29, 2019 at 2:46 am

This system is breaking quickly in Korea. The burden of caring for elders falls on the oldest son, and there's a lot of chafing at these responsibilities, especially now that women are equally represented in Korean academic and office spaces. Throw in the increasing age of marriage and childbearing and you get people aging faster than their offspring can build up a nest egg.

It's quite common to see elderly people doing bottom-of-the-barrel manual labor to survive in Seoul. In my neighborhood, an old couple living next door worked from sun-up to sun-down collecting cardboard with their moped-pulled cart. Collecting trash for recyling is almost entirely the domain of the over-50 set. Others sell vegetables on sidewalks, and some resort to Korea's various forms of sex work (I say only half-jokingly that prostitution is the bedrock of Korea's economy)

xkeyscored , November 28, 2019 at 3:04 pm

I came across this recently, sorry if it was via NC! I found it very interesting, and it's pertnent to this family stuff.
Western Individualism Arose from Incest Taboo – Researchers link a Catholic Church ban on cousins marrying in the Middle Ages to the emergence of a way of life that made the West an outlier
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/western-individualism-arose-from-incest-taboo/

the church's obsession with incest and its determination to wipe out the marriages between cousins that those societies were built on. The result, the paper says, was the rise of "small, nuclear households, weak family ties, and residential mobility," along with less conformity, more individuality, and, ultimately, a set of values and a psychological outlook that characterize the Western world. The impact of this change was clear: the longer a society's exposure to the church, the greater the effect.
The West itself is not uniform in kinship intensity. Working with cousin-marriage data from 92 provinces in Italy (derived from church records of requests for dispensations to allow the marriages), the researchers write, they found that "Italians from provinces with higher rates of cousin marriage take more loans from family and friends (instead of from banks), use fewer checks (preferring cash), and keep more of their wealth in cash instead of in banks, stocks, or other financial assets." They were also observed to make fewer voluntary, unpaid blood donations.
The Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic (WEIRD) societies of Western Europe and what the authors call "their cultural descendants in North America and Australia" have long been recognized as outliers among the world's populations for their independence of thought and other traits, such as a willingness to trust strangers.

(- I'm definitely not sure about that very last bit!)

Danny , November 28, 2019 at 3:37 pm

Contrast with this:
"When brothers dwell together and one of them dies and leaves no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married to a stranger, outside the family. Her husband's brother shall unite with her: he shall take her as his wife and perform the levir's duty. The first son that she bears shall be accounted to the dead brother.."

Keeping it in the family. Bet that led to a lot of fratricides

https://bir.brandeis.edu/bitstream/handle/10192/26070/Weisberg.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

a different chris , November 28, 2019 at 4:08 pm

No music, no art sounds great. No wonder the Chinese got to the moon first oh wait, they aren't even there yet.

Curious what you do if the brother is already married! Ok not that curious or I would try the link.

xkeyscored , November 28, 2019 at 4:28 pm

Multiple Husbands | National Geographic (the husbands are brothers)
https://youtu.be/d4yjrDSvze0
4 minutes – fascinating. A viable birth rate control.
I've also heard of other groups where women marry brothers in regions where the men go off tending sheep and yaks etc for extended periods.

JBird4049 , November 28, 2019 at 9:33 pm

Polyandry is usually practice in places where it is **very** difficult to make a living; having multiple brothers marry one woman was sometimes the only to get the resources to have children. Otherwise, no children for anyone.

Ook , November 28, 2019 at 9:44 pm

I know of two cases where the husband died and the wife married the brother very quickly: one of these cases was my maternal grandmother, who had children already, and needed the support. This situation only seems unusual in the modern American cultural bubble.

xkeyscored , November 28, 2019 at 1:13 pm

I'd say the real crisis of capitalism, or the world economic system, isn't the rise of inequality or the commodification of life (didn't Marx claim that capitalism tears up all pre-existing social relations?).
It's the climate emergency and environmental collapse, undermining the foundations on which the entire world economy rests. Without a planet to support us, we can't do much except die, and the economy is, in a way, the sum of what we do. Death of us, or at any rate our civilisation, means death of the economy.

jsn , November 28, 2019 at 4:17 pm

My thoughts too, there are several crises converging.

One is what Milanovic is onto, which I would name the commodification of cultural reproduction, which won't end well, on top of the exhaustion of fossil fuels based industrialization cubed by climate change.

It's easy to get preoccupied by one, another or the other, but in the end they are all an integrated reaction to humanity letting it's collective Ego remake the world according to the dictates of its' collective Id. But we do now have the collective knowledge and wisdom to confront this reality through a communicative infrastructure finally broad enough to address the scope of the challenge, if we can act quickly enough.

Norge , November 28, 2019 at 1:21 pm

Thank you.

ewmayer , November 28, 2019 at 3:41 pm

Ugh, another amp-infested link, this one sneaky, rather than a readily-visible trailing /amp, we have 'amp' sneaked in in place of the usual 'www' at start of the URL. Thanks, evil f*ckers at Google! Here is the original uncorrupted link the Guardian article:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/22/progressive-politics-capitalism-unions-healthcare-education

Winston Smith , November 28, 2019 at 7:52 am

I like the way AOC cuts through the BS

Geo , November 28, 2019 at 8:01 am

Same. She's really proving to be a welcome beacon of light illuminating the darkness that our politics has operated in for so long.

JohnnyGL , November 28, 2019 at 10:51 am

That clip of AOC is amazing. She's got a serious talent in public speaking and not just sounding good. She shows an ability to communicate important ideas and concepts that can change minds.

It's been very visible at her events for bernie, too.

Danny , November 28, 2019 at 1:53 pm

Cab drivers and bar tenders, like she was, have that skill.

inode_buddha , November 28, 2019 at 11:09 am

On the flip side of that coin, I'm pretty sure the BS doesn't like being cut thru. Will have to watch this space closely.

anon in so cal , November 28, 2019 at 11:54 am

Skeptical of AOC.

AOC voted to support Adam Schiff's H.R. 3494, which effectively constrains press freedoms and gives additional impunity to the CIA.

AOC voted against US troop withdrawal from Syria.

Seems inexplicable.

John k , November 28, 2019 at 3:37 pm

Maybe young and inexperienced in some cases.
Maybe pushed to go along in some cases in order to get a few crumbs from pelosi AOC base in congress remains small.
A little like complaints of Bernie maybe he's picking his fights, and maybe he's not perfect. But they're both way better than a lesser evil, and who else?

xkeyscored , November 28, 2019 at 12:08 pm

She demonstrates her ignorance and political extremism yet again.
From the abstract of " The value of the world's ecosystem services and natural capital ," Costanza et al., 1996 – a paper which I've heard sort of started the field of ecological economics:
For the entire biosphere, the value (most of which is outside the market) is estimated to be in the range of US$16–54 trillion per year, with an average of US$33 trillion per year.
Thus we humans, being a part of the biosphere, are collectively worth less than US$16–54 trillion per year. And Costanza's a professor and vice chancellor, with a PhD. AOC's got a measly BA, so what does she know about the value of life?

JEHR , November 28, 2019 at 1:31 pm

xkeys: You forget the /s sign? What has a "measly BA" got to do with not "know(ing) about the value of life?" Having a PhD does not necessarily mean a person knows more than a non-PhD.

I would rather hear about AOC's "ignorance and political extremism" than your take on this or any subject.

xkeyscored , November 28, 2019 at 2:12 pm

I had been wondering what this /s thing was, but I probably wouldn't have used it if I'd known. It seemed unnecessary.
Sorry if you took me seriously. I think she not only understands, but promotes the value of life. Unlike so many critters. It's great she's in there doing what she does. We need more like her – lots more, fast.

(I would like to hear from NC commenters if I've misunderstood Costanza. Does the paper really claim that humanity is worth less than $X trillion/year, as the abstract appears to imply? I've skimmed it for any unusual definitions of biosphere, but noticed none.)

Massinissa , November 28, 2019 at 2:38 pm

Don't feel bad, it is INCREDIBLY difficult to tell when people are being sarcastic on the internet because there are no verbal or gesticular cues to it the way there is in person to person contact. Thats why we use the /sarc tag to indicate sarcasm, because otherwise people may take the comment at face value. Its not required, of course, but not using it runs the risk of people taking the comment at face value, which is very easy to do because text doesn't convey context the way speech does.

xkeyscored , November 28, 2019 at 3:18 pm

Yes, I'm going to use it in future!
I thought "a measly BA" would give the game away, but as you say, it's hard to tell on the net. It so happens I'm no respecter at all of academic qualifications in and of themselves. I've known too many idiots with degrees spouting patent nonsense for that. Eg most economists (NC's economists definitely excepted!)? And vice-versa.

xkeyscored , November 28, 2019 at 3:32 pm

And I'd still love to know if Costanza really thinks it makes sense to talk about an economy without people, or if I've got it all back to front.

Massinissa , November 28, 2019 at 5:06 pm

Technically, neither Yves or Lambert are economists.

I wouldnt normally point that out, but Yves made a point of it one time.

Although, not being economists may help explain why they have such good sense!

xkeyscored , November 28, 2019 at 7:58 pm

It doesn't have to be Yves, Lambert or an economist. Just someone whose read enough of this stuff to have a handle on it. I just think it sounds utterly preposterous.
It makes some sort of sense to say that destroying 1% of the biosphere will result in $X/year loss. Could be a way of evaluating our options, for example.
That does not mean destroying 10% will result in $10 times X/year economic loss; probably more like $100 times X, whichever way you measure it.
Long before 90%, the only living things left would probably be the deep subterranean bacteria and archaea, which are relatively insulated from whatever we do to the air, land and oceans. I doubt if they'd have much room in their economy for dollars or GDP.
At 100% biosphere destruction, the earth is a lifeless planet by definition. Surely the real cost is infinite? And what conceivable meaning would a financial cost, price or value have by that stage?
Any offers?

pasha , November 28, 2019 at 1:45 pm

AOC is a breath of fresh air, and her ability to articulate complexity in simple terms always impresses me. she is as much an educator as a politician

Joe Well , November 28, 2019 at 7:55 am

Re: Aaron Maté on Democracy Now not talking about the faked chemical weapons scandal.

What has been happening with DN lately? It's like they're becoming a left MSNBC.

lupemax , November 28, 2019 at 8:55 am

Aaron is no longer with DemocracyNow. He now has a show "PushBack" on The Gray Zone. https://thegrayzone.com/pushback/ He also disagreed with DN about their coverage of the RussiaRussiaRussia hoax. IMHO I think DN just wants to be more about nostalgic and being more mainstream. I no longer rely on it for my news daily.

Joe Well , November 28, 2019 at 9:59 am

By "Aaron on DN" I meant, Aaron on the subject of DN.

I know this has the potential to be ageist, but I can't help wondering if this is yet another case of individuals and entire organizations "evolving" over time in a more conservative direction based on whatever pressures. The fact that The Intercept has totally eclipsed them, and in fact the entire left media, when it comes to major stories, should be a wakeup.

TsWkr , November 28, 2019 at 11:21 am

To add to that, I'd also recommend Taibbi and Katie Halper's new podcost "Useful Idiots". They've had some good guests so far, and lead the show off with some light-hearted commentary, but from a perspective outside of the acceptable range in most media.

BlueMoose , November 28, 2019 at 11:29 am

Thanks for the heads-up. Will give it a check for sure this weekend.

June Goodwin , November 28, 2019 at 12:03 pm

Yes. And krystal ball and Saager enjeti on the morning TV program rising / thehill.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , November 28, 2019 at 2:57 pm

I think Krystal and Saagar are doing the best political commentary anywhere. Her post yesterday about the long knives coming for Bernie from the Obama and Hilary camps is just stellar stuff: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfRT7rs2Ea4

Joe Well , November 28, 2019 at 1:52 pm

Anyone think we almost don't need "outlets" anymore? Just individuals you trust and follow them wherever they go.

The Rev Kev , November 28, 2019 at 6:41 pm

I think that you may have a point. If I just followed the main news outlets, I would have a totally distorted view of what was going on in the world and being led to support causes that by rights I should be totally against. I too listen to NC, Jimmy Dore, Krystal & Saager, Katie Halper, Aaron Maté, Caitlin Johnstone and a bunch of others – all of them prophets without honour.

[Nov 28, 2019] Amazon and Class Warfare

Nov 28, 2019 | www.theatlantic.com

"Ruthless Quotas at Amazon Are Maiming Employees" [ The Atlantic ].

"[Candice Dixon] started the job in April 2018, and within two months, or nearly 100,000 items, the lifting had destroyed her back.

An Amazon-approved doctor said she had bulging discs and diagnosed her with a back sprain, joint inflammation, and chronic pain, determining that her injuries were 100 percent due to her job. She could no longer work at Amazon. Today, she can barely climb stairs.

Walking her dog, doing the dishes, getting out of her chair -- everything is painful. According to her medical records, her condition is unlikely to improve. So this holiday-shopping season, as Amazon's ferocious speed is on full display, Dixon is at a standstill.

She told Reveal in mid-October that her workers'-compensation settlement was about to run out. She was struggling to land a new job and worried she'd lose her home." • However, Dixon can take comfort in the knowledge that she's done her little bit to send Jeff Bezos to the moon. So there's that.

[Nov 14, 2019] Neoliberalism Paved the Way for Authoritarian Right-Wing Populism by Henry A. Giroux

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Neoliberalism became an incubator for a growing authoritarian populism fed largely by economic inequality. ..."
"... This apocalyptic populism was rooted in a profound discontent for the empty promises of a neoliberal ideology that made capitalism and democracy synonymous, and markets the model for all social relations. In addition, the Democratic proponents of neoliberalism, such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, participated in the dismantling of the social contract, widening economic inequality, and burgeoning landscapes of joblessness, misery, anger and despair. ..."
"... Liberal democracies across the globe appeared out of touch with not only the misery and suffering caused by neoliberal policies, they also produced an insular and arrogant group of politicians who regarded themselves as an enlightened political formation that worked " on behalf of an ignorant public ." ..."
"... As a regime of affective management, neoliberalism created a culture in which everyone was trapped in his or her own feelings, emotions and orbits of privatization. One consequence was that legitimate political claims could only be pursued by individuals and families rather than social groups. ..."
Sep 26, 2019 | truthout.org

Part of the Series The Public Intellectual

Talk of a looming recession is heating up as the global economy slows and President Trump's tiff with China unsettles financial markets. As world trade contracts, stock markets drop, the manufacturing sector in the United States is in decline for the first time in a decade , and farmers and steel workers continue losing their income and jobs.

Rumors of a coming recession accentuate fears about the further deterioration of conditions faced by workers and the poor, who are already suffering from precarious employment, poverty, lack of meaningful work and dwindling pensions. A global economic slump would make living standards for the poor even worse. As Ashley Smith points out , levels of impoverishment in the United States are already shocking, with "four out of every ten families [struggling] to meet the costs of food, housing, health care, and utilities every month."

Just as the 2008 global economic crisis revealed the failures of liberal democracy and the scourge of neoliberalism, a new economic recession in 2019 could also reveal how institutions meant to serve the public interest and offer support for a progressive politics now serve authoritarian ideologies and a ruling elite that views democracy as the enemy of market-based freedoms and white nationalism.

What has not been learned from the 2008 crisis is that an economic crisis neither unites those most affected in favor of a progressive politics nor does it offer any political guarantees regarding the direction of social change. Instead, the emotions that fueled massive public anger toward elites and globalization gave rise to the celebration of populist demagogues and a right-wing tsunami of misdirected anger, hate and violence toward undocumented immigrants, refugees, Muslims and people of color.

The 2008 financial crisis wreaked havoc in multiple ways. Yet there was another crisis that received little attention: a crisis of agency. This crisis centered around matters of identity, self-determination and collective resistance, which were undermined in profound ways, giving rise to and legitimating the emergence of authoritarian populist movements in many parts of the world, such as United States, Hungary, Poland and Brazil.

At the heart of this shift was the declining belief in the legitimacy of both liberal democracy and its pledges about trickle-down wealth, economic security and broadening equal opportunities preached by the apostles of neoliberalism. In many ways, public faith in the welfare state, quality employment opportunities, institutional possibilities and a secure future for each generation collapsed. In part, this was a consequence of the post-war economic boom giving way to massive degrees of inequality, the off-shoring of wealth and power, the enactment of cruel austerity measures, an expanding regime of precarity, and a cut-throat economic and social environment in which individual interests and needs prevailed over any consideration of the common good. As liberalism aligned itself with corporate and political power, both the Democratic and Republican Parties embraced financial reforms that increased the wealth of the bankers and corporate elite while doing nothing to prevent people from losing their homes, being strapped with chronic debt, seeing their pensions disappear, and facing a future of uncertainty and no long-term prospects or guarantees.

Neoliberalism became an incubator for a growing authoritarian populism fed largely by economic inequality.

In an age of economic anxiety, existential insecurity and a growing culture of fear, liberalism's overheated emphasis on individual liberties "made human beings subordinate to the market, replacing social bonds with market relations and sanctifying greed," as noted by Pankaj Mishra. In this instance, neoliberalism became an incubator for a growing authoritarian populism fed largely by economic inequality. The latter was the outcome of a growing cultural and political polarization that made "it possible for haters to come out from the margins, form larger groups and make political trouble." This toxic polarization and surge of right-wing populism produced by casino capitalism was accentuated with the growth of fascist groups that shared a skepticism of international organizations, supported a militant right-wing nationalism, and championed a surge of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-democratic values.

This apocalyptic populism was rooted in a profound discontent for the empty promises of a neoliberal ideology that made capitalism and democracy synonymous, and markets the model for all social relations. In addition, the Democratic proponents of neoliberalism, such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, participated in the dismantling of the social contract, widening economic inequality, and burgeoning landscapes of joblessness, misery, anger and despair.

At the same time, they enacted policies that dismantled civic culture and undermined a wide range of democratic institutions that extended from the media to public goods such as public and higher education. Under such circumstances, democratic narratives, values and modes of solidarity, which traded in shared responsibilities and shared hopes, were replaced by a market-based focus on a regressive notion of hyper-individualism, ego-centered values and a view of individual responsibility that eviscerated any broader notion of social, systemic, and corporate problems and accountability.

Ways of imagining society through a collective ethos became fractured, and a comprehensive understanding of politics as inclusive and participatory morphed into an anti-politics marked by an investment in the language of individual rights, individual choice and the power of rights-bearing individuals.

Under the reign of neoliberalism, language became thinner and more individualistic, detached from history and more self-oriented, all the while undermining viable democratic social spheres as spaces where politics bring people together as collective agents and critically engaged citizens. Neoliberal language is written in the discourse of economics and market values, not ethics. Under such circumstances, shallowness becomes an asset rather than a liability. Increasingly, the watered-down language of liberal democracy, with its over-emphasis on individual rights and its neoliberal coddling of the financial elite, gave way to a regressive notion of the social marked by rising authoritarian tendencies, unchecked nativism, unapologetic expressions of bigotry, misdirected anger and the language of resentment-filled revolt. Liberal democracies across the globe appeared out of touch with not only the misery and suffering caused by neoliberal policies, they also produced an insular and arrogant group of politicians who regarded themselves as an enlightened political formation that worked " on behalf of an ignorant public ."

The ultimate consequence was to produce later what Wolfgang Merkel describes as "a rebellion of the disenfranchised." A series of political uprisings made it clear that neoliberalism was suffering from a crisis of legitimacy further accentuated by the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, the election of Donald Trump, support for the National Rally ( formerly known as the National Front ) in France, and the emergence of powerful right-wing populist movements across the globe.

What has been vastly underestimated in the rise of right-wing populism is the capture of the media by authoritarian populists.

As a regime of affective management, neoliberalism created a culture in which everyone was trapped in his or her own feelings, emotions and orbits of privatization. One consequence was that legitimate political claims could only be pursued by individuals and families rather than social groups. In this instance, power was removed from the social sphere and placed almost entirely in the hands of corporate and political demagogues who used it to enrich themselves for their own personal gain.

Power was now used to produce muscular authority in order "to secure order, boundaries, and to divert the growing anger of a declining middle and working-class," Wendy Brown observes . Both classes increasingly came to blame their economic and political conditions that produced their misery and ravaged ways of life on "'others': immigrants, minority races, 'external' predators and attackers ranging from terrorists to refugees." Liberal-individualistic views lost their legitimacy as they refused to indict the underlying structures of capitalism and its winner-take-all ethos.

Functioning largely as a ruthless form of social Darwinism, economic activity was removed from a concern with social costs, and replaced by a culture of cruelty and resentment that disdained any notion of compassion or ethical concern for those deemed as "other" because of their class, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion. This is a culture marked by gigantic hypocrisies, "the gloomy tabulation of unspeakable violent events," widespread viciousness, "great concentrations of wealth," "surveillance overkill," and the "unceasing despoliation of biospheres for profit."

George Monbiot sums up well some of the more toxic elements of neoliberalism, which remained largely hidden since it was in the mainstream press less as an ideology than as an economic policy. He writes :

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that "the market" delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning. Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimized, public services should be privatized. The organization of labor and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

In the neoliberal worldview, those who are unemployed, poor consumers or outside of the reach of a market in search of insatiable profits are considered disposable. Increasingly more people were viewed as anti-human, unknowable, faceless and symbols of fear and pathology. This included undocumented immigrants in the United States and refugees in Europe, as well as those who were considered of no value to a market society, and thus eligible to be deprived of the most basic rights and subject to the terror of state violence.

Marking selected groups as disposable in both symbolic and material forms, the neoliberal politics of disposability became a machinery of political and social death -- producing spaces where undesirable members are abused, put in cages , separated from their children and subject to a massive violation of their human rights. Under a neoliberal politics of disposability, people live in spaces of ever-present danger and risk where nothing is certain; human beings considered excess are denied a social function and relegated to what Étienne Balibar calls the "death zones of humanity." These are the 21st century workstations designed for the creation and process of elimination; a death-haunted mode of production rooted in the "absolute triumph of irrationality."

Economic and cultural nationalism has become a rallying cry to create the conditions for merging a regressive neoliberalism and populism into a war machine.

Within this new political formation, older forms of exploitation are now matched, if not exceeded, by a politics of racial and social cleansing, as entire populations are removed from ethical assessments, producing zones of social abandonment. In this new world, there is a merging of finance capital and a war culture that speaks to a moral and political collapse in which the welfare state is replaced by forms of economic nationalism and a burgeoning carceral state .

Furthermore, elements of this crisis can be seen in the ongoing militarization of everyday life as more and more institutions take on the model of the prison. Additionally, there is also the increased arming of the police, the criminalization of a wide range of behaviors related to social problems, the rise of the surveillance state, and the ongoing war on youth, undocumented immigrants, Muslims and others deemed enemies of the state.

Under the aegis of a neoliberal war culture, we have witnessed increasing immiseration for the working and middle classes, massive tax cuts for the rich, the outsourcing of public services, a full-fledged attack on unions, the defunding of public goods, and the privatization of public services extending from health and education to roads and prisons. This ongoing transfer of public resources and services to the rich, hedge fund managers, and corporate elite was matched by the corporate takeover of the commanding institutions of culture, including the digital, print and broadcast media. What has been vastly underestimated in the rise of right-wing populism is the capture of the media by authoritarian populists and its flip side, which amounts to a full-fledged political attack on independent digital, online and oppositional journalists.

While it is generally acknowledged that neoliberalism was responsible for the worldwide economic crisis of 2008, what is less acknowledged is that structural crisis produced by a capitalism on steroids was not matched by subjective crisis and consequently gave rise to new reactionary political populist movements. As economic collapse became visceral, people's lives were upended and sometimes destroyed. Moreover, as the social contract was shredded along with the need for socially constructed roles, norms and public goods, the "social" no longer occupied a thick and important pedagogical space of solidarity, dialogue, political expression, dissent and politics.

As public spheres disappeared, communal bonds were weakened and social provisions withered. Under neoliberalism, the social sphere regresses into a privatized society of consumers in which individuals are atomized, alienated, and increasingly removed from the variety of social connections and communal bonds that give meaning to the degree to which societies are good and just.

Establishment politics lost its legitimacy, as voters rejected the conditions produced by financialized capitalism.

People became isolated, segregated and unable " to negotiate democratic dilemmas in a democratic way " as power became more abstract and removed from public participation and accountability. As the neoliberal net of privilege was cast wider without apology for the rich and exclusion of others, it became more obvious to growing elements of the public that appeals to liberal democracy had failed to keep its promise of a better life for all. It could no longer demand, without qualification, that working people should work harder for less, and that democratic participation is exclusively about elections. What could not be hidden from many disenfranchised groups was that ruling elites produced what Adam Tooze describes as "a disastrous slide from the hypocrisies and compromises of the previous status quo into something even [more dangerous]."

As the global crisis has intensified since 2008, elements of a political and moral collapse at the heart of an authoritarian society are more obvious and find their most transparent expression of ruthlessness, greed and unchecked power in the rule of Donald Trump. As Chris Hedges points out :

The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build. They seek to destroy. They are agents of death. They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. Wars and military "virtues" are celebrated. Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch . Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages.

The slide into authoritarianism was made all the easier by the absence of a broad-based left mass movement in the United States, which failed to provide both a comprehensive vision of change and an alignment of single-issue groups and smaller movements into one mass movement. Nancy Fraser rightly observes that following Occupy, "potential links between labour and new social movements were left to languish. Split off from one another, those indispensable poles of a viable left were miles apart, waiting to be counterposed as antithetical."

Since the 1970s, there has been a profound backlash by economic, financial, political and religious fundamentalists and their allied media establishments against labor, an oppositional press, people of color and others who have attempted to extend the workings of democracy and equality.

As the narrative of class and class struggle disappeared along with the absence of a vibrant socialist movement, the call for democracy no longer provided a unifying narrative to bring different oppressed groups together. Instead, economic and cultural nationalism has become a rallying cry to create the conditions for merging a regressive neoliberalism and populism into a war machine. Under such circumstances, politics is imagined as a form of war, repelling immigrants and refugees who are described by President Trump as "invaders," "vermin" and "rapists." The emergence of neoliberalism as a war machine is evident in the current status of the Republican Party and the Trump administration, which wage assaults on anything that does not mimic the values of the market. Such assaults take the form of fixing whole categories of people as disposable, as enemies, and force them into conditions of extreme precarity -- and in increasingly more instances, conditions of danger. Neoliberal capitalism radiates violence, evident in its endless instances of mass shooting, such as those that took place most recently in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. This should not be surprising for a society that measures power by the speed that it removes itself from any sense of ethical and social responsibility. As Beatrix Campbell puts it ,

The richest society on the planet is armed. And it invests in one of the largest prison systems in the world. Violence circulates between state and citizen. Drilled to kill, doomed to die: mastery and martyrdom is the heartbreaking dialectic of the manufacture of militarized, violent masculinity . The making and maintaining of militarised masculinities is vital to these new modes of armed conflict that are proliferating across the flexible frontiers of globalized capitalism, between and within states.

What has become clear is that the neoliberal agenda has been a spectacular failure . Moreover, it has mobilized on a global level the violent political, social, racial and economic energies of a resurgent fascist politics. Across the globe, right-wing modes of governance are appearing in which the line collapses between "outside foreign enemies" such as refugees and undocumented immigrants, on the one hand, and on the other, inside "dangerous" or "treasonous" classes such as critical journalists, educators and dissidents.

As neoliberal economies increasingly resort to violence and repression, fear replaces any sense of shared responsibilities, as violence is not only elevated to an organizing principle of society, but also expands a network of extreme cruelty. Imagining politics as a war machine, more and more groups are treated as excess and inscribed in an order of power as disposable, enemies, and [forced] into conditions of extreme precarity. This is a particularly vicious form of state violence that undermines and constrains agency, and subjects individuals to zones of abandonment, as evident in the growth of immigrant jails and an expanding carceral complex in the United States and other countries, such as Hungary.

As neoliberalism's promise of social mobility and expanding economic progress collapsed, it gave way to an authoritarian right-wing populism looking for narratives on which to pin the hatred of governing elites who, as Paul Mason notes , "capped health and welfare spending, [imposed] punitive benefit withdraws [that] forced many families to rely on food banks [and] withdraw sickness and disability benefits from one million former workers below retirement age."

Across the globe, a series of uprisings have appeared that signal new political formations that rejected the notion that there was no alternative to neoliberal hegemony. This was evident not only with the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, but also with the election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and support for popular movements such as the National Rally in France. Establishment politics lost its legitimacy, as voters rejected the conditions produced by financialized capitalism.

In the United States, both major political parties were more than willing to turn the economy over to the bankers and hedge fund managers while producing policies that shaped radical forms of industrial and social restructuring, all of which caused massive pain, suffering and rage among large segments of the working class and other disenfranchised groups. Right-wing populist leaders across the globe recognized that national economies were in the hands of foreign investors, a mobile financial elite and transnational capital. In a masterful act of political diversion, populist leaders attacked all vestiges of liberal capitalism while refusing to name neoliberal inequities in wealth and power as a basic threat to their societies. Instead of calling for an acceleration of the democratic ideals of popular sovereignty and equality, right-wing populist leaders, such as Trump, Bolsonaro and Hungary's Viktor Orbán defined democracy as the enemy of those who wish for unaccountable power. They also diverted genuine popular anger into the abyss of cultural chauvinism, anti-immigrant hatred, a contempt of Muslims and a targeted attack on the environment, health care, education, public institutions, social provisions and other basic life resources. As Arjun Appadurai observes , such authoritarian leaders hate democracy, capture the political emotions of those treated as disposable, and do everything they can to hide the deep contradictions of neoliberal capitalism.

In this scenario, we have the resurgence of a fascist politics that capitalizes on the immiseration, fears and anxieties produced by neoliberalism without naming the underlying conditions that create and legitimate its policies and social costs. While such populists comment on certain elements of neoliberalism such as globalization, they largely embrace those ideological and economic elements that concentrate power and wealth in the hands of a political, corporate and financial elite, thus reinforcing in the end an extreme form of capitalism. Moreover, right-wing populists may condemn globalization, but they do so by blaming those considered outside the inclusive boundaries of a white homeland even though the same forces victimize them . At the same time, such leaders mobilize passions that deny critical understanding while simultaneously creating desires and affects that produce toxic and hypermasculine forms of identification.

Authoritarian leaders hate democracy and do everything they can to hide the deep contradictions of neoliberal capitalism.

In this instance, an oppressive form of education becomes central to politics and is used as a tool of power in the struggle over power, agency and politics. What is at stake here is not simply a struggle between authoritarian ideas and democratic ideals, but also a fierce battle on the part of demagogues to destroy the institutions and conditions that make critical thought and oppositional accounts of power possible. This is evident, for example, in Trump's constant attack on the critical media, often referring to them as "'the enemy of the people' pushing 'Radical Left Democrat views,'" even as journalists are subject to expulsion, mass jailing and assassination across the world by some of Trump's allies.

Waging war on democracy and the institutions that produce it, neoliberalism has tapped into a combination of fear and cathartic cruelty that has once again unleashed the mobilizing passions of fascism, especially the historically distinct registers of extreme nationalism, nativism, white supremacy, racial and ethnic cleansing, voter suppression, and an attack on a civic culture of critique and resistance. The result is a new political formation that I have called neoliberal fascism, in which the principles and practices of a fascist past and neoliberal present have merged, connecting the worst dimensions and excesses of gangster capitalism with the fascist ideals of white nationalism and racial supremacy associated with the horrors of a fascist past.

Neoliberal fascism hollows out democracy from within, breaks down the separation of power while increasing the power of the presidency, and saturates cultural and social life with its ideology of self-interest, a survival-of-the-fittest ethos, and regressive notions of freedom and individual responsibility.

What needs to be acknowledged is that neoliberalism as an extreme form of capitalism has produced the conditions for a fascist politics that is updated to serve the interest of a concentrated class of financial elite and a rising tide of political demagogues across the globe.

The mass anger fueling neoliberal fascism is a diversion of genuine resistance into what amounts to a pathology, which empties politics of any substance. This is evident also in its support of a right-wing populism and its focus on the immigrants and refugees as "dangerous outsiders," which serves to eliminate class politics and camouflage its own authoritarian ruling class interests and relentless attacks on social welfare.

A new economic slump would further fuel forces of repression and strengthen the forces of white supremacy.

In the face of a looming global recession, it is crucial to understand the connection between the rise of right-wing populism and neoliberalism, which emerged in the late 1970s as a commanding ideology fueling a punitive form of globalization. This historical moment is marked by unique ideological, economic and political formations produced by ever-increasing brutal forms of capitalism, however diverse.

Governing economic and political thinking everywhere, neoliberalism's unprecedented concentration of economic and political power has produced a toxic state modeled after the models of finance and unchecked market forces. It has also produced a profound shift in human consciousness, agency and modes of identification. The consequences have become familiar and include cruel austerity measures, adulation of self-regulating markets, the liberating of capital from any constraints, deregulation, privatization of public goods, the commodification of everyday life and the gutting of environmental, health and safety laws. It has also paved the way for a merging of extreme market principles and the sordid and mushrooming elements of white supremacy, racial cleansing and ultranationalism that have become specific to updated forms of fascist politics.

Such policies have produced massive inequities in wealth, power and income, while further accelerating mass misery, human suffering, the rise of state-sanctioned violence and ever-expanding sites of terminal exclusion in the forms of walls, detention centers and an expanding carceral state. An impending recession accentuates the antagonisms, instabilities and crisis produced by the long history and reach of neoliberal ideologies and policies.

A new economic slump would further fuel forces of repression and strengthen the forces of white supremacy, Islamophobia, nativism and misogyny. In the face of such reactionary forces, it is crucial to unite various progressive forces of opposition into a powerful anti-capitalist movement that speaks not only to the range of oppressions exacerbated by neoliberalism, but also to the need for new narratives that speak to overturning a system steeped in the machineries of war, militarization, repression and death.

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and is the Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar in Critical Pedagogy. His most recent books include: Neoliberalism's War on Higher Education (Haymarket 2014), The Violence of Organized Forgetting (City Lights 2014), Dangerous Thinking in the Age of the New Authoritarianism (Routledge, 2015), America's Addiction to Terrorism (Monthly Review Press, 2016), America at War with Itself (City Lights, 2017), The Public in Peril (Routledge, 2018) and American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism (City Lights, 2018) and The Terror of the Unforeseen (LARB Books, 2019). Giroux is also a member of Truthout 's Board of Directors.

[Nov 11, 2019] The truth is that for the Clintonite-Bushite elite almost all Americans are 'deplorable'.

Notable quotes:
"... The truth is that for the Clintonite-Bushite elite almost all Americans are 'deplorable'. What is fun for them is to play geopolitics – the elite version of corporate travel perks – just look at how shocked they are that Trump is not playing along. ..."
Nov 11, 2019 | www.unz.com

Beckow , says: November 9, 2019 at 12:47 pm GMT

Recent class history of US is quite simple: the elite class first tried to shift the burden of supporting the lower classes on the middle class with taxation. But as the lower class became demographically distinct, partially via mass immigration, the elites decided to ally with the ' underpriviledged ' via identity posturing and squeeze no longer needed middle class out of existence.

What's left are government employees, a few corporate sinecures, NGO parasitic sector, and old people. The rest will be melded into a few mutually antagonistic tribal groups providing ever cheaper service labor. With an occasional lottery winner to showcase mobility. Actually very similar to what happened in Latin America in the past few centuries.

The truth is that for the Clintonite-Bushite elite almost all Americans are 'deplorable'. What is fun for them is to play geopolitics – the elite version of corporate travel perks – just look at how shocked they are that Trump is not playing along.

alexander , says: November 9, 2019 at 11:38 am GMT
BUILDING OUT vs. BLOWING UP

China 2000-2020 vs. USA 2000-2020

Unlike the USA (under Neocon stewardship) China has not squandered twenty trillion dollars of its national solvency bombing countries which never attacked it post 9-11.

China's leaders (unlike our own) never LIED its people into launching obscenely expensive, illegal wars of aggression across the middle east. (WMD's, Mushroom clouds, Yellow Cake, etc.)

China has used its wealth and resources to build up its infrastructure, build out its capital markets, and turbo charge its high tech sectors. As a consequence, it has lifted nearly half a billion people out of poverty. There has been an explosion in the growth of the "middle class" in China. Hundreds of millions of Chinese are now living comfortable "upwardly mobile" lives.

The USA, on the other hand, having been defrauded by its "ruling elites" into launching and fighting endless illegal wars, is now 23 trillion dollars in catastrophic debt.
NOT ONE PENNY of this heinous "overspending" has been dedicated to building up OUR infrastructure, or BUILDING OUT our middle class.

It has all gone into BLOWING UP countries which never (even) attacked us on 9-11.

As a consequence , the USA is fast becoming a failed nation, a nation where all its wealth is being siphoned into the hands of its one percent "war pilfer-teers".

It is so sad to have grown up in such an amazing country , with such immense resources and possibilities, and having to bear witness to it going down the tubes.

To watch all our sovereign wealth being vaporized by our "lie us into endless illegal war" ruling elites is truly heartbreaking.

It is as shameful as it is tragic.

SafeNow , says: November 9, 2019 at 6:01 pm GMT
That's fascinating about the declining "middle class" usage. A "soft synonym" that has gone in the opposite direction, I think, is "the community."
LoutishAngloQuebecker , says: November 9, 2019 at 6:31 pm GMT
The white middle class is the only group that might effectively resist Globohomo's designs on total power.

Blacks? Too dumb. Will be disposed of once Globohomo is finished the job.
Hispanics? Used to corrupt one party systems. Give them cerveza and Netflix and they're good.
East Asians? Perfectly fine with living like bug people.
South Asians? Cowardly; will go with the flow.

The middle class is almost completely unique to white people.

Racial aliens cannot wrap their minds around being middle class. They think I'm crazy for appreciating my 2009 Honda Accord. They literally cannot understand why somebody would want to live a frugal and mundane life. They are desperate to be like Drake but most end up broke. It will be very easy for GloboHomo to control a bucket of poor brown slop.

Svevlad , says: November 9, 2019 at 6:32 pm GMT
Ah yes, apparatchiks. The worst kind of person
Counterinsurgency , says: November 9, 2019 at 7:36 pm GMT
@Achmed E. Newman

There IS a black middle class, but a big chunk of that works for governments of all shapes and sizes.

Strictly speaking, there is no more "middle class" in the sense of the classical economists: a person with just enough capital to live off the income if he works the capital himself or herself. By this definition professionals (lawyers, dentists, physicians, small store owners, even spinsters [1] and hand loom operators in a sense) were middle class. Upper class had enough property to turn it over to managers, lower class had little or no property and worked for others (servants and farm workers, for example). Paupers didn't earn enough income per year to feed themselves and didn't live all that long, usually.

What we have is "middle income" people, almost all of whom work as an employee of some organization -- people who would be considered "lower class" by the classical economists because they don't have freedom of action and make no independent decisions about how the capital of their organizations is spent. Today they are considered "intelligentsia", educated government workers, or, by analogy, educated corporate workers. IMHO, intelligentsia is a suicide job, and is responsible for the depressed fertility rate, but that's just me.

Back in the AD 1800s and pre-AD 1930 there were many black middle class people. usually concentrating on selling to black clientele. Now there are effectively none outside of criminal activities, usually petty criminal. And so it goes.

Of course, back then there were many white middle class people also, usually concentrating on selling to white clientele. Now there are effectively none, except in some rural areas. And so it goes.

Counterinsurgency

1] Cottagers who made their living spinning wool skeins into wool threads.

Mark G. , says: November 9, 2019 at 8:20 pm GMT
@unit472 A lot of the middle class are Democrats but not particularly liberal. Many of them vote Democrat only when they personally benefit. For example, my parents were suburban public school teachers. They voted for Democrats at the state level because the Democrats supported better pay and benefits for teachers but voted for Republicans like Goldwater and Reagan at the national level because Republicans would keep their federal taxes lower. They had no political philosophy. It was all about what left them financially better off. My parents also got on well with their suburban neighbors. Suburbanites generally like their local school system and its teachers and the suburban school systems are usually careful not to engage in teaching anything controversial. A lot of the government employed white middle class would be like my parents. Except in situations where specific Republicans talk about major cuts to their pay and pensions they are perfectly willing to consider voting Republican. They are generally social moderates, like the status quo, are fairly traditionalist and don't want any radical changes. Since the Democrats seem be trending in a radical direction, this would put off a lot of them. Trump would be more appealing as the status quo candidate. When running the last time, he carefully avoided talking about any major cuts in government spending and he's governed that way too. At the same time, his talk of cutting immigration, his lack of enthusiasm for nonwhite affirmative action, and his more traditional views on social issues is appealing to the white middle class.
anon [201] • Disclaimer , says: November 9, 2019 at 8:33 pm GMT
Wealth held by the top 1% is now close to equal or greater than wealth held by the entire middle class.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-11-09/one-percenters-close-to-surpassing-wealth-of-u-s-middle-class

Something similar was seen in the 1890's, the "gilded age". This is one reason why Warren's "wealth tax" has traction among likely voters.

WorkingClass , says: November 9, 2019 at 11:55 pm GMT
The term middle class is used in the U.S. to mean middle income. It has nothing to do with class. Why not just say what you mean? Most of the middle class that we say is disappearing is really that rarest of phenomenons. A prosperous working class. The prosperous American working class is no longer prosperous due to the Neoliberal agenda. Free trade, open borders and the financialization of everything.

Americans know nothing of class dynamics. Not even the so called socialists. They don't even see the economy. All they see is people with infinite need and government with infinite wealth. In their world all of Central America can come to the U.S. and the government (if it only wants to) can give them all homes, health care and education.

Lets stop saying class when we mean income. Not using the word class would be better than abusing it.

Anyway. Yes. Middle Class denotes white people. The coalition of the fringes is neither working, middle nor ruling class. They are black or brown. They are perverts or feminists. If the workers among them identified as working class they would find common ground with the Deplorables. We can't have that now can we.

Rosie , says: November 10, 2019 at 2:21 am GMT
@Audacious Epigone

Are we to the point where we've collectively resigned ourselves to the death of the middle class?

In the neoliberal worldview, the middle class is illegitimate, existing only as a consequence of artificial trade and immigration barriers. Anytime Americans are spied out making a good living, there is a "shortage" that must be addressed with more visas. Or else there is an "inefficiency" where other countries could provide said service or produce said product for less because they have a "comparative advantage."

Rosie , says: November 10, 2019 at 2:25 am GMT
@WorkingClass

Anyway. Yes. Middle Class denotes white people. The coalition of the fringes is neither working, middle nor ruling class. They are black or brown. They are perverts or feminists. If the workers among them identified as working class they would find common ground with the Deplorables. We can't have that now can we.

I don't know about that anymore. Increasingly, "middle class" means Asian, with Whiteness being associated with the lower middle class (or perhaps "working class"). Sometimes the media uses the term " noncollege Whites," which I think is actually very apt. They are the ones who identify with Whiteness the most.

[Nov 06, 2019] JSOC and the Mexican drug lords. - 1st Published December 2009 - Sic Semper Tyrannis

Nov 06, 2019 | turcopolier.typepad.com

Freudenschade said in reply to The Twisted Genius ... , 02 February 2017 at 10:26 PM

TTG,

my grandfather's property in West Berlin was maybe 700 yards from the wall. With binoculars, I could get a good view from my second floor bedroom. Of course the Berlin Wall was a much more modest border than the inner German one.

Arguably, after upgrades were started in the late 60's, the inner German border became a very effective barrier. One thing that made it effective (and mind you, it was a border keeping people in more than a border keeping people out) was the exclusion zone extending 5km from the border. Only people with special permits could live and work there.

In order to make the border more practical, entire villages were razed and parts of th physical border were located back from the actual border to avoid difficult terrain. Throw in the land mines, booby traps and 50,000 or so troops guarding about 870 miles of the inner German border, and it came to an effective barrier.

So I don't want to say we can't "seal" the Mexican border. But I think the expense in land seizures, manpower, and land mines is likely a lot higher for the 2000 miles of our southern border than the 15-20 billion estimated for its construction.

AEL , 02 February 2017 at 10:01 PM
Bismarck says that politics is the art of the possible. Given the huge demand, stamping out drug running is impossible. For an adequate price, there will always be people willing to meet the demand. At best, you drive up the price and make successful runners incredibly rich.

Oh wait..

turcopolier , 02 February 2017 at 10:11 PM
AEL
Bismarck also said that genius lies in knowing when to stop. A near certainty of death would cause a lot of cartel leaders to think about it. pl
turcopolier , 02 February 2017 at 10:26 PM
dilber Dogbert

Like what? Sending an army of illegals? Declaring war? Nuclear attack? Smuggling drugs into the US? pl

dilbert dogbert -> turcopolier ... , 02 February 2017 at 10:31 PM
Dean Baker bruited this idea: http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/a-trade-war-everyone-can-win
"The alternative is simple: Mexico could announce that it would no longer enforce U.S. patents and copyrights on its soil. This would be a yuuge deal, as Trump would say."
The Twisted Genius -> Freudenschade... , 03 February 2017 at 12:17 AM
Freudenschade,

I agree sealing the border would be exorbitantly expensive. This would include not just a big,beautiful wall and the manpower to watch over that wall, but a massive surveillance and security presence along the Gulf, Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The expense would be similar to the cost imposed on the home front during WWII. It will require widespread sacrifice, probably a progressive tax structure similar to what we had during WWII. Maybe even rationing. Would that make America great and please the great deplorable mass?

Colonel Lang's idea of killing all the drug cartel leadership wherever we find them for an extended period of time would definitely be a cheaper proposition. I would call it the Rodrigo Duterte plan. I think making sure a lot of bankers end up sitting in their big leather chairs with bullet holes in their heads would do much to hasten the success of this plan.

Farooq said in reply to The Twisted Genius ... , 03 February 2017 at 08:56 PM
TTG,

Have you read this? I am interested in your comments.

http://www.salon.com/2015/05/05/americas_assassination_industrial_complex_how_the_drug_wars_of_the_90s_became_the_drone_wars_of_today/

Thanks

The Twisted Genius -> Farooq... , 04 February 2017 at 11:53 AM
Farooq,

The point of the article is that a strategy of leadership decapitation of an organization, whether it be a drug cartel or a jihadist group, does not lead to the destruction of the organization. The original decapitation strategy was based on the premise that the targeted organization was strictly hierarchical and could not function without an intact hierarchy. In fact, most of these target organizations evolved into more distributed organizations. We weren't quick to see this because we are also wedded to the need for a robust hierarchy in our organization. This is where the article ends, but the story continued.

Our strategy also evolved in Iraq and Afghanistan. JSOC strike missions became more than checking faces off a static organizational chart as a hit list. Each strike became an information gathering mission. That information was quickly analyzed into "actionable intelligence" resulting in ensuing JSOC strikes and more information gathering. This evolved into a rapid cycle with often several strikes in a night. This strategy struct at the enemy's growing resiliency and distributed organization. This is the present state of the art in JSOC operations.

[Nov 06, 2019] America Will Keep Losing Its Middle Class as Long as "The Free Market" Dominates the Economic Debate

Notable quotes:
"... By Marshall Auerback, a market analyst and commentator. produced by Economy for All , a project of the Independent Media Institute ..."
"... Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy ..."
"... When the government subsidize R&D here, what reason would there be for the resultant products that come from that R&D, be made here? In Canada the SRED (Scientific Research and Experimental Development) tax credits are used by companies to develop products that are then manufactured in China. No Canadian production worker will ever see an hour of labor from those subsidies. That result is baked into the R&D cake. ..."
"... As you point out, "many of the large International Corporations moved their software development and R&D offshore too". What stops them from co-mingling the subsidies and scamming the system for their benefit, since everything done to favor big business resolves to a scam on the peasants. ..."
Nov 06, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Posted on November 5, 2019 by Yves Smith By Marshall Auerback, a market analyst and commentator. produced by Economy for All , a project of the Independent Media Institute

National industrial policy was once something you might read about in today's equivalent of a friend's Facebook post, as hard as that might sound to believe. It was in newspapers; it was on the radio. Taxi drivers had opinions about it. That all changed in the last 35 years, when the rise and fall of the stock market and a shallow conversation about unemployment rates took over. Industrial policy became an inside-baseball conversation, and to the extent that it was discussed, it was through the prism of whether it imperiled the golden gospel and great economic distraction of our time, "the free market."

The decades of free-market propaganda we've been exposed to are basically an exercise in distracting the public from the meaningful choices that are now made behind closed doors. The two big political parties that outwardly represent symbolic issues like gun rights and school prayer spend the bulk of their time and political energy on complex industrial and regulatory questions.

But much like Nero fiddling while Rome burned, they'd better start considering the question of a national industrial policy before there's no industry left to manage. Manufacturing is now at its smallest share of the U.S. economy in 72 years, reports Bloomberg . Multinational supply chains undermine the negotiating power of workers, thereby exacerbating inequality.

Are there ways to bring back manufacturing, or should we just capitulate to a mindset that argues that these jobs are gone for good, that software retention is good enough, even as we shift what's left of our manufacturing sector overseas to sweatshop economies? That seems short-sighted. After all, it's pretty easy to steal IP; it's not so easy to steal an auto manufacturing facility. The real question is: In the absence of some sort of national industrial strategy, how do Western societies retain a viable middle class?

Decades of American middle-class exposure to favor China and other Asian countries' industrial capacity have foisted it right back from elite circles into our politics and the ballot box, in spectacular fashion, through the unlikely Donald Trump, who, in his typically blunderbuss fashion, has called attention to some serious deficiencies in our current globalized system, and the competitive threat posed by China to which we have remained oblivious for all too long.

Not that Trump's 19th-century protectionism represents the right policy response, but his concerns about Beijing make sense when you compare how much China invests in its own industrial base relative to the U.S.: Robert D. Atkinson and Caleb Foote of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation write that a recent Harvard Business School " study estimated that the Chinese governments (national, provincial, and local) paid for a whopping 22.2 percent of business R&D in 2015, with 95 percent of Chinese firms in 6 industries receiving government cash -- petrochemicals, electronics, metals and materials, machinery and equipment, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, and information technology."

In addition to the direct government grants on R&D, Atkinson and Foote estimate that "the Chinese R&D tax credit is between 3 and 4.6 times more generous than the U.S. credit. To match China's R&D tax credit generosity, the U.S. rate for the Alternative Simplified Credit would have to be increased from 14 percent to between 35 and 40 percent." Atkinson and Foote also note that " 97 percent of American federal government funding went to just three sectors: transportation equipment, which includes such as fighter jets, missiles, and the like ($14 billion); professional, scientific, and technical services ($5 billion); and computer and electronic products ($4 billion)."

Taken in aggregate, Atkinson and Foote calculate that "nearly 25 percent of all R&D expenditures in China come in the form of government subsidies to firms." That's the sort of thing that must enter the calculations of antitrust advocates when they call for breaking up big tech, without considering the ramifications to research and development, especially relative to their Chinese counterparts. (Statistically, as Anne Marie Knott and Carl Vieregger find in a 2016 paper "Reconciling the Firm Size and Innovation Puzzle," there are ample studies illustrating that R&D spending and R&D productivity increase with scale.)

Why does this matter? Robert Kuttner, writing at the Huffington Post at the inception of Barack Obama's presidency, made a compelling argument that many of America's great industrial enterprises did not simply spring up spontaneously via the magic of the "free market":

American commercial leadership in aerospace is no naturally occurring phenomenon. It reflects trillions of dollars of subsidy from the Pentagon and from NASA. Likewise, U.S. dominance in pharmaceuticals is the result of government subsidy of basic research, favorable patent treatment, and the fact that the American consumer of prescription drugs is made to overpay, giving the industry exorbitant profits to plow back into research. Throwing $700 billion at America's wounded banks is also an industrial policy.

So if we can have implicit industrial policies for these industries, why not explicit policies to rebuild our auto industry, our steel industry, our machine tool industry, and the industries of the next century, such as green energy and high-speed rail? And why not devise some clear standards for which industries deserve help, and why, and what they owe America in return?"

In fact, Kuttner describes a problem that well preceded Barack Obama. America's belief in national industrial planning has been undermined to the extent that the U.S. began to adhere to a doctrine of shareholder capitalism in the 1980s and beyond, a philosophy that minimized the role of the state, and gave primacy to short-term profitability, as well as production growth through efficiency (i.e., downsizing) and mergers. Corporate prioritization of maximizing shareholders' value and the ways American corporations have minimized long-term R&D expenditures and capital investment, all of which have resulted in the "unproductive disgorging of corporate cash profits -- through massive dividend payouts and unprecedented spending on stock repurchases -- over productive investment in innovation," write Professors Servaas Storm and C.W.M. Naastepad .

Although European companies have not gone quite as far down that route, their "stakeholder capitalism" culture has been somewhat subverted to the same short-term goals as their American counterparts, as evidenced via Volkswagen's emissions scandal and the erosion of workers' rights via the Hartz labor "reforms" (which actually undermined the unions' stakeholder status in the companies, thereby freeing up management to adopt many of the less attractive American shareholder capitalism practices). The European Union too is now belatedly recognizing the competitive threat posed by China . There's no doubt that the European political classes are also becoming mindful that there are votes to be won here as well, as Trump correctly calculated in 2016.

In the U.S., industrial policy is increasingly finding advocates on both the left (Elizabeth Warren's policy director, Ganesh Sitaraman ) and the right ( Professor Michael Lind ), via the convenient marriage of national security considerations and with international investment and trade. If trade policy is ultimately subordinated to national security concerns, it is conceivable that industrial policy could be "bi-partisanized," thereby giving primacy to homegrown strategic industries necessary to sustain viable national defense and security.

But this approach is not without risks: it is unclear whether the "national security-fication" of the industrial policy renaissance will actually enhance or hinder creativity and risk-taking, or merely cause these firms to decline altogether as viable civilian competitors vis a vis Beijing. The current travails of Boeing provide a salutary illustration of the risks of going too far down the Pentagon rat hole.

And there are a number of recent studies illustrating that the case for "dual-use" (i.e., civilian and military) manufacturing does not substantially enhance civilian industrialization and, indeed, may retard overall economic growth. On the other hand, as the venture capitalist William Janeway highlights in his seminal work, Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy , there are advantages at times to being "[d]ecoupled from any direct concern with economic return [It allowed] the Defense Department [to] fund numerous alternative research agendas, underwriting the 'wasteful' search for solutions that inevitably accompanies any effort to push back the frontiers of knowledge." So there's a balance to be struck here. But, as Janeway notes , "the strategic state interventions that have shaped the market economy over generations have depended on grander themes -- national development, national security, social justice, liberation from disease -- that transcend the calculus of welfare economics and the logic of market failure."

Furthermore, to the extent that national security considerations retard offshoring and global labor arbitrage, it can enhance the prospects for a viable form of " national developmentalism ," given that both mean tighter labor markets and higher wages, which in turn will likely push firms toward upgrading R&D spending in order to upgrade on the high end of the technology curve ( as Seymour Melman argued years ago ), as well as enhancing productivity gains. As author Ted Fertik observes :

Higher productivity makes possible more generous welfare states, and helps national industries compete to supply the world with high-tech products. If technological leadership and a prosperous, patriotic citizenry are the surest guarantees of military preponderance, such an economic policy represents the best military strategy in an era of great power competition.

Both the left and the right are beginning to recognize that it makes no sense to make war on wage-earners while claiming to protect the same wage earners from Chinese competition. But governments need to do more than act as a neutral umpire, whose role never extends beyond fixing market failures. As Janeway has illustrated , governments have historically promoted the basic research that fueled innovation and nurtured the talent and skills that "became the foundation of the Innovation Economy"; "the central research laboratories of the great corporations were first supplemented and then supplanted by direct state funding of research." But in spite of providing the foundational research for a number of leading commercial products (e.g., Apple's iPhone), the government has proved reticent in considering alternative forms of ownership structure (e.g., a " government golden share ," which gives veto rights on key strategic issues, such as relocation, offshoring, special voting rights, etc.), or retaining intellectual property rights and corresponding royalty streams to reflect the magnitude of their own R&D efforts, as Professor Mariana Mazzucato has proposed in the past . At the very least, we need to consider these alternative ownership structures that focus entrepreneurial development on value creation, as opposed to capitulating to the depredations of rentier capitalism on the spurious grounds that this is a neutral byproduct of the market's efficient allocation of resources.

Within the U.S., national industrial policy also suits green advocates, such as Senator Bernie Sanders, whose Green New Deal plan , while failing to address domestic/local content, or manufacturing in the broadest possible sense, at least begins to move the needle with regard to the federal government building and owning a national renewable grid.

Likewise in Europe, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier recently published a " National Industrial Strategy 2030 ," which, according to Dalia Marin of Bruegel think tank in Brussels , "aims to protect German firms against state-subsidized Chinese competitors. The strategy identifies key industrial sectors that will receive special government support, calls for establishing production of electric-car batteries in Europe, and advocates mergers to achieve economies of scale." It is striking that EU policymakers, such as Lars Feld of the German Council of Economic Experts , still apparently think it is a protectionist step too far to consider coordinating with the car companies (where there is already a high degree of trans-European policy coordination and international consolidation), and other sectors, to help them all at the same time -- as Beijing is now doing . Of course, it would help to embed this in a manufacturing-based Green New Deal, but it represents a healthy corrective to offshoring advocates who continue to advocate that their car industry should migrate to China, on the short-term grounds of cost consideration alone .

Essentially, the goal should be to protect the industries that policymakers think will be strategically important from outsiders, and to further integrate with allies and partners to achieve efficiencies and production scale. (Parenthetically, it seems particularly perverse right at this juncture for the UK to break away from all this continental European integration, and to try to go it alone via Brexit.) The aim should not be to protect private rent-seeking and increasing private monopolization under the guise of industrial policy, which, as Dalia Marin notes , is why EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager blocked the proposed merger between France's Alstom and Germany's Siemens. The two companies "rarely compete with CRRC in third countries, because the Chinese company mainly focuses on its home market." Hence, the grounds for creating " heavyweight champions " was really a cover for developing an oligopoly instead.

Much of the focus of negotiation in the seemingly endless trade negotiations between the U.S. and China has been on American efforts to dismantle the wave of subsidies and industrial support that Beijing furnishes to its domestic industries. This seems both unrealistic as well as being the exact opposite of what the U.S. should be doing if it hopes to level, or at least carve up, the playing field.

Likewise, the problem in both the EU and the U.S. is not the size of these companies generated by national developmentalism, but a size-neutral form of national regulation that precludes these companies from stifling competition. The goal of a truly successful and workable industrial policy should be to create an environment that supports and sustains value creation and that socializes the benefits of the R&D for society as a whole, rather than simply licensing it or selling it on to private companies so that it just becomes a vehicle that sustains rent extraction for private profits alone.

We are slowly but surely starting to move away from market fundamentalism, but we still have yet to make the full conceptual leap toward a sustainable industrial policy that creates an economy for all. At least this is now becoming a fit discussion as far as policy making goes, as many of the neoliberal shibboleths of the past 40 years are gradually being reconsidered and abandoned. That is a start.


Ignacio , November 5, 2019 at 6:13 am

Another way –and more precise in my opinion because it identifies the core problem– to frame the issue, would be this:

Why Trade Wars Are Inevitable

Repressed consumption in a few countries with sustained huge current account surpluses naturally drives manufacturing outside the US (and other deficit countries). Interestingly, Pettis says that those imbalances manifest today, not as a conflict between surplus/deficit countries, but between economic sectors: bankers and owners in surplus/deficit countries vs. the rest. According to Pettis this can be addressed internally in the US by tackling income inequality: Tax transfers, reduced health care & educational costs, raising minimum wages and giving negotiating power to unions. BUT BEFORE DOING THAT, THE US SHOULD IMPOSE CONTROLS ON FOREIGN CAPITAL INFLOWS (by taxing those) INSTEAD ON TARIFFS ON FOREIGN PRODUCTS. From the article:

It would have the additional benefit of forcing the cost of adjustment onto banks and financial speculators, unlike tariffs, which force the cost onto businesses and consumers.

If the US ever does this, other deficit countries, say the UK, France or Spain for instance, should do exactly the same, and even more abruptly if these don't want to be awash with foreign capital inflows and see inequality spiking even further.

Marshall Auerback , November 5, 2019 at 8:29 am

Not a bad way to frame the issue at all.

Winston , November 5, 2019 at 2:19 pm

It is financialization which is causing this. Please read Michael Hudson. As he has pointed out it is financialization that is key. There is a reason his book was titled "Killing the Host". Boeing's decline is also because of financialization.
https://evonomics.com/hedge-fund-activists-prey-companies/
How Hedge Fund Activists Prey on Companies

Private equity and hedge are responsible for US manufacturing decline since the 1980s, along with desire not to innovate-example why Deming's advice ignored by US automakers and absorbed by the Japanese-who then clobbered the US automakers.

Hudson also knows that rising expenses for homeowners reduced their consumption capacity. A main cause is rise in housing costs, education, and health.

Before manufacturing went to cheaper foreign shores, it went to the no union South. Has that made its workers better off? If so how come South didn't develop like Singapore? For a clue please read Ed Week article about what Singapore did and South failed to do.
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2016/01/the_low-wage_strategy_continues_in_the_south_is_it_the_future_for_your_state.html
The Low-Wage Strategy in the South: Is It the Future for Your State?

Melman's main message is that focus on national security destroyed civilian sector. Today most of US Govt R&D spending still in defense sector, while R&D disappearing in private sector because of financialization.

Industrial strategy is useless for US unless housing costs come down, unless robots are used. Hudson has already pointed out US cannot compete with Germany because of housing cost differences. As Carl Benedikt Frey who focusses on tech has pointed out Midwest revolt was because most automation was there.
"Frey argues that automation, or what he calls the third industrial revolution, is not only putting jobs at risk, but is the principal source of growing inequality within the American economy."
https://nationalinterest.org/feature/technology-trap-more-automation-driving-inequality-89211

" there are more robots in Michigan alone than in the entire American west. Where manufacturing jobs have disappeared is also where US dissatisfaction is the greatest"
https://voxeu.org/article/automation-and-its-enemies
Automation and its enemies
Carl Benedikt Frey, Ebrahim Rahbari 04 November 2019

https://www.bizjournals.com/buffalo/news/2017/09/06/rise-of-the-robots-buffalo-retail-workers-should.html

Winston , November 5, 2019 at 4:19 pm

Major industrialized countries are also heavy users of automation. Forget idea that industrial policy will lead to jobs at scale used to.:

https://www.therobotreport.com/10-automated-countries-in-the-world/
10 Most Automated Countries in the World

https://ifr.org/ifr-press-releases/news/robots-japan-delivers-52-percent-of-global-supply
Robots: Japan delivers 52 percent of global supply
Japan is the world´s predominant industrial robot manufacturer

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/08/04/business/tech/japans-farming-industry-poised-automation-revolution/
Japan's farming industry poised for automation revolution

John Merryman. , November 5, 2019 at 9:18 am

I don't know that it's so much"free markets," as the financialization of the economy, where money has mutated free a medium of exchange and necessary tool, to the end goal of creating as much notational wealth, as the purpose of markets.
Money largely functions as a contract, where the asset is ultimately backed by a debt. So in order to create the asset, similar amounts of debt have to be generated.
For one thing, it creates a centripedial effect, as positive feedback draws the asset to the center of the community, while negative feedback pushes the debt to the edges. Since finance functions the value circulation mechanism of society, this is like the heart telling the hands and feet they don't need so much blood and should work harder for what they do get. The Ancients used debt nubiles to reset this process, but we lack the long term perspective.
The other consequence is the government has been manipulated into being debtor of last resort. Where would those trillions go otherwise and could Wall Street function without the government soaking up so much excess money. The real elephant in the room is the degree public debt backs private wealth.

John Merryman. , November 5, 2019 at 10:49 am

Further note; Since this borrowed money cannot be used to compete with the private sector for what is a finite amount of profitable investments, it is used to blow up whatever other countries incur the wrath of our despots.
As Deep Throat explained, if you want to know what's going on, follow the money.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , November 5, 2019 at 3:29 pm

Whenever I see the term "free markets" bandied about I know it's a framing that fits an ideology but in no way fits the actual facts.

Just like we now have two criminal justice systems, we now have two market systems: crony capitalism, and actual capitalism.

Crony capitalism is for Exxon Mobil; Verizon; Amazon; Raytheon; JP Morgan. Actual capitalism is reserved for the plebes, who get "creative destruction". Mom slipped and fell; the hospital bill arrived and there wasn't enough cash; so they took the house.

It's the obverse of the "socialism" argument. We have socialism across the length and breadth of the economy: more Federal dollars are spent subsidizing fossil fuels than are spent educating children. But heaven forbid Bernie should utter the "S" word, because he's talking about the kind of socialism for you and me.

John Merryman , November 5, 2019 at 5:43 pm

The problem is avoiding that us versus them polarity and show why what is going on is BS. That the markets NEED government debt to function and then waste that collective value. Not that government is some old nanny, trying to quell the 'animal spirits" of the market.
Maintaining infrastructure just isn't as glamorous as guns and bombs. Probably doesn't threaten to kill you, if you don't give it the money, either.
It should be obvious to most that simply pouring more vodka into the punch bowl does not create a healthy economy, just a bunch of vultures picking at the carcass.
Finance does function as the circulation mechanism of the body of the community, just as government, as its executive and regulatory function, is the central nervous system. We had private government before, called monarchy. Now finance is having its 'let them eat cake' moment.
As a medium, money is a public utility, like that other medium of roads. You can have the most expensive car out there, but you still don't own the road.
It's not that society should be either private, or public, but an intelligent mix of both.

rtah100 , November 5, 2019 at 7:20 pm

I want me some o' them debt nubiles! They sound like fun gals / guys/ humans. No wonder you're merry, man!

I'd also like a policy of debt jubilees and I imagine you would too. :-)

The Rev Kev , November 5, 2019 at 9:24 am

Just winging it a bit here but perhaps it might be an idea to map out money flows to help decide how to strengthen America's industrial health. As an example, it might be time to end some subsidies. I understand that there are deliberate tax breaks for corporations that move their manufacturing overseas. Cut them now for a start. Yeah, I know. Closing the barn door too late.
To free up cash for R&D, turn back the clock to 1982 and make stock buybacks once more illegal. Give tax credits to companies that pay for a younger generation of machinist's education. Have the Federal government match dollar-for-dollar money spent on R&D. If the government really wants to free up resources, bring out a law that says that it is illegal for the government to give any subsidies for any corporation with a net worth of $1 billion or more.
But we all know that none of this will ever happen as there are far too many rice bowls involved for this to be done – until it is too late. Oh well.

Leftcoastindie , November 5, 2019 at 11:04 am

"I understand that there are deliberate tax breaks for corporations that move their manufacturing overseas. Cut them now for a start. Yeah, I know. Closing the barn door too late."

Better late than never!

Personally, I think that is the only way to get a handle on this situation – Change the tax laws.

rd , November 5, 2019 at 9:52 am

Some thoughts:

1. Designate industries as targets to retain/recreate significant manufacturing capability in the US – semiconductors, flat screens, solar panels, and pharmaceuticals come to mind. Give them preferential protection with quotas, tariffs etc. instead of just shotgun tariffs. These industries should be forward looking instead of recreating mid 20th century.

2. Integrate this into NAFTA and maybe add Central American countries to it. If we need to use cheap labor, then do it in countries that otherwise provide illegal immigrants to us to build up their economies. Far better than sending the jobs to China, a major global competitor.

3. Fund big science such as NASA etc. A lot of discoveries come out that can then be commercialized with manufacturing inside the US and NAFTA.

Arizona Slim , November 5, 2019 at 9:29 pm

Seconded. Good thoughts, rd.

David J. , November 5, 2019 at 10:03 am

It's very refreshing to read articles of this kind. Thank you.

I'm recently retired and my career consisted of a healthy portion of managerial and executive responsibilities as well as a long denouement of flat out proletarian, worker-drone, pseudo-Taylorized work. (Think Amazon but not at Amazon.) I've experienced, in some detail, what I consider to be both sides of the post WWII dynamic as it relates to technology and who controls the shop floor. Now that I have some time on my hands I've decided to see if I can better understand what appears to be a central contradiction of modern industrial practice and especially what I believe to be misguided efforts by non-industrial corporations to employ industrial-work-process techniques in day-to-day practice.

I'm re-reading David F. Noble's 1984 book, Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation , as well as Christopher Lasch's The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy , as a beginning foray into this topic.

It does seem to me that we can do a lot better. A well developed industrial policy should include both a strategy for improving our productive capacity while simultaneously more fairly distributing the fruits of productivity more broadly throughout the population.

This article and the comments are very helpful in pointing the way.

Sam , November 5, 2019 at 10:42 am

For those who have used up their free access to Foreign Policy there's a non-paywalled version of the Pettis article on the Carnegie endowment website.

steven , November 5, 2019 at 12:11 pm

There is so much to like in this post I am going to concentrate on the few points with which I had problems:
1. Any time I hear an economist bemoaning policies which "may retard overall economic growth." I am tempted to just tune out. 'nega-growth', a variant of Amory Lovins' 'Nega-Watts' maybe. But surely not more military Keynesianism, speeded up planned obsolescence and just plain junk!
2. Then there is "the convenient marriage of national security considerations and with international investment and trade." If national security considerations involve insuring circuit boards for more exceptional (SIC) fighting machines like the F35 or for that matter more hydrogen bombs that might actually work, count me out. OTOH if they include, for example, insuring the country has the capability to produce its own medicines and generally any of the goods and services required for national survival, sign me up.

(national security) Then there is 'climate change', brought to us by Exxon Mobile and the century-long pursuit of The Prize in the Middle Eastern deserts.

lyman alpha blob , November 5, 2019 at 1:30 pm

The title hits the nail right on the head.

An anecdote regarding this free market for everything all the time mentality –

My small city's council recently debated whether to pay several tens of thousands of dollars for a "branding" campaign with a PR/marketing company who in the past has dealt with Conde Nast, so read high end clientele. My better half, who is a councilor, argued that spending all that $$$ to attract more tourists wasn't the best use of the city's funds and that we weren't a "brand" to begin with, but a city. We've already had big problems will illegal Airbnb's removing significant amounts of housing from the market and housing costs have skyrocketed in recent years while wages, of course, have not. The city had until relatively recently been a blue collar suburb but that has changed rapidly. My wife tried to make the case that the result of this "branding" was likely to push housing costs even higher and push more long time residents right of of town. The council is pretty liberal, whatever that means these days, and I don't believe there is a pro-business Republican among them. She was still on the losing end of a 6-1 vote in favor of the "branding".

Very good article, however I don't think trying to bring manufacturing back by framing it in terms of 'national security' is a good idea. Although the idea itself is correct, explicitly promoting it this way would just hand more power over to the national security industry and that has not served us well at all in the last two decades.

Susan the Other , November 5, 2019 at 2:53 pm

This was a great summary of rational thinking. Thank you MA. I've been almost depressed this last year or so by the relentless undermining of national sovereignty. Trying to replace it with everything from global supply chains to the ECB to Brexit-free-trade (even without Europe) to private property rights to you name it. Sovereignty is a very basic thing – we agree to it like we agree to our currency. And by that agreement we certainly imply an "Industrial Policy to create an economy for all." How this wisdom got systematically gaslighted is a whole nuther story. I'm glad China didn't get hooked.

Ford Prefect , November 5, 2019 at 3:06 pm

Make America Great Again.

Apparently, Americans don't need flag-making jobs as they will not Make America Great. Trump campaign making banners in China – moving fast to beat tariffs deadline. Although there is the possibility that these are for domestic consumption in China to help rally Chinese hackers to the cause of supporting the Trump campaign, including voting for Trump. That would prove there is No Collusion with Russia.

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-2020-campaign-banners-are-being-proudly-produced-in-china-2018-07-25?mod=MW_story_top_stories

Jeremy Grimm , November 5, 2019 at 7:35 pm

This post started off suggesting it's time to toss the "the free market" and I would add that it's time to toss "free trade/globalization" too, but it shifted to discussions of R&D spending, cautions to anti-trust advocates, and considerations of industrial policy and national security.

If R&D spending and productivity increase with scale, and many sectors of the US economy are dominated by a handful of large International Corporations does that mean that US R&D spending and productivity are close to full-scale -- as are the Corporations? How does scaled-up R&D spending reconcile with "massive dividend payouts and unprecedented spending on stock repurchases" and the Corporate prioritization of "short-term profitability"? Should I read the claims about how R&D spending and productivity increase with 'scale' to mean the scale of the R&D spending -- not the scale of the firm? If so what sort of calculations should be made by "antitrust advocates when they call for breaking up big tech" if I separate the scale of a firm from the scale of the R&D spending? Does it matter where the R&D is done? Haven't many of the large International Corporations moved their software development and R&D offshore too? ["Software retention"? -- What "software retention"?]

"Likewise, the problem in both the EU and the U.S. is not the size of these companies generated by national developmentalism, but a size-neutral form of national regulation that precludes these companies from stifling competition." What sort of industrial policy will compel International Cartels to play nice with domestic small and medium-sized businesses? Will that industrial policy be tied with some kind of changes to the 'free market' for politicians, prosecutors, courts, and regulators?

If we sell it here, but we don't make it here any more then what kind of industrial policy will rebuild the factories, the base of industrial capital, skills, and technical know-how? It will take more than trade disputes or currency rate of exchange tricks, or R&D spending, or targeted spending on a few DoD programs to rebuild US Industry. Shouldn't an industrial policy address the little problem of the long distance splaying of industries across seas and nations, the narrowing and consolidation of supply chains for the parts used the products still 'made in the usa'? If the US started protecting its 'infant industry' I think that might impact the way a lot of countries will run their economies. This would affect a basis for our international hegemony. And if we don't protect our industry, which will have to be re-built and raised from the razed factory buildings scattered around this country, how would it ever reach the size and complexity needed to prosper again?

cnchal , November 5, 2019 at 10:05 pm

Lots of great questions, with no real answers.

When the government subsidize R&D here, what reason would there be for the resultant products that come from that R&D, be made here? In Canada the SRED (Scientific Research and Experimental Development) tax credits are used by companies to develop products that are then manufactured in China. No Canadian production worker will ever see an hour of labor from those subsidies. That result is baked into the R&D cake.

As you point out, "many of the large International Corporations moved their software development and R&D offshore too". What stops them from co-mingling the subsidies and scamming the system for their benefit, since everything done to favor big business resolves to a scam on the peasants.

[Nov 02, 2019] Eveen Obama slams 'wokeness'

Notable quotes:
"... America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people. ..."
"... @Alligator Ed ..."
Nov 02, 2019 | caucus99percent.com

identity politics icon himself

"This idea of purity and you're never compromised and you're always politically woke and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly," Obama said, to some laughs from the crowd.
"The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws." he continued.

Obama cited college campuses and social media as a breeding ground for wokeness.

"One danger I see among young people particularly on college campuses," he said, "I do get a sense sometimes now among certain young people, and this is accelerated by social media, there is this sense sometimes the way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people and that's enough."

Obama then directly poked fun at 'woke' keyboard warriors:

"Like if I tweet or hashtag about how you didn't do something right or used the wrong verb or then, I can sit back and feel good about myself: 'You see how woke I was? I called you out.'" he mocked.

Here are a few callouts.. @lizzyh7

People who do good stuff dont bomb 7 countries

-- Ruth Bader Joinersburg (@JuboktimusPrime) October 30, 2019

Or throw citizens in dog kennels for the oil companies.

Or hire lobbyists in nearly every single cabinet position.

#2 Go on ahead and mock all you want. Those of us who see you for what you are will never stop seeing it and calling you out on it. Boohoo mofo.

up 24 users have voted. --

America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
- strife delivery


Alligator Ed on Wed, 10/30/2019 - 7:47pm

snoop, give the guy a break

@snoopydawg He only filled 12 of the 13 Citigroup nominees. A real sell-out Neolib/neocon woulda done all 13.

13's an unlucky number? Yeah. So is number 44.

#2.1

People who do good stuff dont bomb 7 countries

-- Ruth Bader Joinersburg (@JuboktimusPrime) October 30, 2019

Or throw citizens in dog kennels for the oil companies.

Or hire lobbyists in nearly every single cabinet position.

Wally on Thu, 10/31/2019 - 9:05am
What's this Obama lovin' stuff, Alligator Ed?

@Alligator Ed

A veritable Mr. Aloha, huh?

In a nutshell, Obama is saying we all need a little more aloha spirit -- being respectful & caring for one another. Not being so quick to judge. Not seeing everything as black/white. I hope you'll join me in bringing the spirit of aloha to the White House. https://t.co/tYADx6Dzqs

-- Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) October 30, 2019

#2.1.1 He only filled 12 of the 13 Citigroup nominees. A real sell-out Neolib/neocon woulda done all 13.

13's an unlucky number? Yeah. So is number 44.

Cant Stop the M... on Thu, 10/31/2019 - 2:07pm
My comment elsewhere in this essay

@snoopydawg

should not be taken to mean disagreement with your excellent points here, snoop.

#2.1

People who do good stuff dont bomb 7 countries

-- Ruth Bader Joinersburg (@JuboktimusPrime) October 30, 2019

Or throw citizens in dog kennels for the oil companies.

Or hire lobbyists in nearly every single cabinet position.

Wally on Wed, 10/30/2019 - 4:14pm
Promises, promises

@lizzyh7

Obama made some pretty campaign finance promises in the 2008 primary, and then did an about-face during the general, raking in hundreds of millions of dollars from the usual suspects. Then he declined to prosecute the bankers. Let's not do that again.

-- Meagan Day (@meaganmday) September 24, 2019


Bernie Sanders on Elizabeth Warren's work for big corporations such as advising Dow Chemical:

"I'll let the American people make that judgment. I've never worked for a corporation. I've never carried their baggage in the U.S. Senate." pic.twitter.com/yV9TRw7jPB

-- BERNforBernie2020 (@BernForBernie20) October 29, 2019

#2 Go on ahead and mock all you want. Those of us who see you for what you are will never stop seeing it and calling you out on it. Boohoo mofo.

snoopydawg on Wed, 10/30/2019 - 9:08pm
Have you seen how the Bernie tweet is being played?

@Wally

People are defending Warbama's helping DOW screw women who had breast cancer out of their settlement. It's absolutely sickening to see people defending the indefensible. "She needed the experience." WTAF does that even mean?

#2.1

Obama made some pretty campaign finance promises in the 2008 primary, and then did an about-face during the general, raking in hundreds of millions of dollars from the usual suspects. Then he declined to prosecute the bankers. Let's not do that again.

-- Meagan Day (@meaganmday) September 24, 2019

Bernie Sanders on Elizabeth Warren's work for big corporations such as advising Dow Chemical:

"I'll let the American people make that judgment. I've never worked for a corporation. I've never carried their baggage in the U.S. Senate." pic.twitter.com/yV9TRw7jPB

-- BERNforBernie2020 (@BernForBernie20) October 29, 2019

Cant Stop the M... on Thu, 10/31/2019 - 2:02pm
Barack is intelligent enough to know that the current brand

@lizzyh7

of identity politics is bullshit. He's offended enough by irrationality that he's willing to comment on that in public--now that he's out of the Presidency and doesn't have to win any more elections.

However, none of that would stop him (or did stop him) using that kind of identity politics to the hilt for his own political advantage.

#2 Go on ahead and mock all you want. Those of us who see you for what you are will never stop seeing it and calling you out on it. Boohoo mofo.

[Oct 31, 2019] A Union Is an Equalization of Power

Oct 31, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

"A Union Is an Equalization of Power" [ Portside ]. "When US workers try to unionize, roughly a third of their employers engage in retaliatory firings . A union organizer today has a one-in-five to one-in-seven chance of losing their job while trying to secure the ability to bargain collectively."

"Getty fire: Housekeepers and gardeners go to work despite the flames" [ Los Angeles Times ]. "Carmen Solano didn't know a brush fire had erupted Monday near the neighborhood where she worked. She simply left at 6 a.m. for her job cleaning a house on a street of multimillion-dollar homes. Carrying a red backpack filled with tortillas, bananas, water and her lunch, Solano arrived at the North Robinwood Drive home in a taxi shared with other housekeepers. 'There's a lot of smoke,' the driver said, as he dropped off the Guatemalan immigrant in the choking ash of the Getty fire. Normally, Solano works at the home on Wednesday, but the owner had asked her to come Monday. Dressed in a pink sweater and pink sweatpants, she rang the doorbell over and over. No response. By her feet, a jack-o'-lantern grinned. As she waited at the front door, she realized she'd either left her phone on her dresser at home or in the taxi. Solano was stranded. Ash rained down, speckling her braided hair white." • Not that her employers could have called her, before they left their multimillion-dollar home.

"Uber, Lyft, DoorDash launch a $90-million fight against California labor law" [ Los Angeles Times ]. "[A] trio of Silicon Valley sharing-economy companies on Tuesday unveiled a ballot measure to exclude many of those they pay for work from being considered benefits-earning employees. The proposal, which Uber, Lyft and DoorDash intend to qualify for the statewide ballot next November, states that an 'app-based driver is an independent contractor' as long as a series of conditions are met by a company. The initiative says drivers will be guaranteed a minimum amount of pay as well as insurance to cover work-related injuries and auto accidents. And it lays out details for healthcare subsidies, protections against on-the-job harassment or discrimination and a system to enforce some workplace rights." • Uh huh. No problem at all, having Silicon Valley goons write labor legislation.

[Oct 31, 2019] Open Borders A New Report Shows Almost 70 Million U.S. Residents Are Speaking Something Other Than English

Oct 31, 2019 | www.redstate.com

A few years ago, in response to the notion of a resolution naming English as the country's official language, a prominent Democratic politician said it wasn't necessary -- it's already obvious.

Is it set to remain so?

As noted by ConservativeReview.com, a report by the Center for Immigration Studies indicates there's a whole lotta people speaking somethin' else, at least at home.

Conservative Review submits an interesting proposal:

Imagine if the American people were told in 1980 that the non-English-speaking population in America would triple and rise to a level that is greater than the population of France.

That statement comes in response to CIS's implication of 67.3 million people speaking a foreign language at home in America.

As per numbers from the 2018 American Community Survey, that's roughly 21.9% of U.S. residents.

CR observes a powerful surge:

It's not just the sheer number of foreign language speakers that is shocking; it's the trend. The number has tripled since 1980 and doubled since 1990. The foreign-born population has grown seven times as fast as the native-born population since 1980. But even since 2010, when the foreign population had already ballooned, it has still grown twice as fast as the native-born population over the past eight years.

If you're curious about the distribution of ESL (or English as No Language) residents, in nine states, the digits top 25%:

California 45%
Texas 36%
New Mexico 34%
New Jersey 32%
New York 31%
Nevada 31%
Florida 30%
Arizona 28%
Hawaii 28%

How do things fare in the five largest cities? The buncha peeps eschewing the ways of America's motherland at home breaks down like this obtener una carga de LA Sorry -- I mean, get a load of LA:

Los Angeles 59%
Houston 50%
New York City 49%
Phoenix 38%
Chicago 36%

Among foreign-language use, in terms of popularity, Spanish dominates like the Dream Team at the 1992 Olympics: Español's grown 12% since 2010, and it hits the boards with approx. 62%.

In fact, there are more Spanish-speakers in the U.S. than in any Latin American country -- short of Mexico, Argentina, and Columbia.

Chinese snags 2nd place, with 3.5 million moving mouths.

The fastest growing languages: those from India and Islamic countries.

Arabic speakers have grown 46% in only eight years.

Since 2000, they've doubled.

If all this signals a mere skyrocketing of bilingualism, then good for America: It's becoming more sophisticated.

On the other hand, if it points to a cave-in of inglés , that's quite a different trajectory.

And with 2020 Democrats wanting to do away with that quaint notion of protected borders, we're not sure to have millions more mastering the King's any time soon.

It seems to me that language is one thing we need to share -- it's the way we connect, in order to be One Nation Under God.

Presently, we're on our way to One Nation Under Dios/bog/Déu/xudo/Deus/Bondye/Ilaah/Tanrı/ღმერთი/परमेश्वर/하나님/พระเจ้า/الله.

And while all those words are, of course, beautiful to know and use, that's gonna be one big-a** dollar bill.

[Oct 29, 2019] Blame the Policies, Not the Robots

Oct 29, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , October 26, 2019 at 11:59 AM

http://cepr.net/publications/op-eds-columns/blame-the-policies-not-the-robots

October 23, 2019

Blame the Policies, Not the Robots
By Jared Bernstein and Dean Baker - Washington Post

The claim that automation is responsible for massive job losses has been made in almost every one of the Democratic debates. In the last debate, technology entrepreneur Andrew Yang told of automation closing stores on Main Street and of self-driving trucks that would shortly displace "3.5 million truckers or the 7 million Americans who work in truck stops, motels, and diners" that serve them. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) suggested that the "automation revolution" was at "the heart of the fear that is well-founded."

When Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) argued that trade was a bigger culprit than automation, the fact-checker at the Associated Press claimed she was "off" and that "economists mostly blame those job losses on automation and robots, not trade deals."

In fact, such claims about the impact of automation are seriously at odds with the standard data that we economists rely on in our work. And because the data so clearly contradict the narrative, the automation view misrepresents our actual current challenges and distracts from effective solutions.

Output-per-hour, or productivity, is one of those key data points. If a firm applies a technology that increases its output without adding additional workers, its productivity goes up, making it a critical diagnostic in this space.

Contrary to the claim that automation has led to massive job displacement, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that productivity is growing at a historically slow pace. Since 2005, it has been increasing at just over a 1 percent annual rate. That compares with a rate of almost 3 percent annually in the decade from 1995 to 2005.

This productivity slowdown has occurred across advanced economies. If the robots are hiding from the people compiling the productivity data at BLS, they are also managing to hide from the statistical agencies in other countries.

Furthermore, the idea that jobs are disappearing is directly contradicted by the fact that we have the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years. The recovery that began in June 2009 is the longest on record. To be clear, many of those jobs are of poor quality, and there are people and places that have been left behind, often where factories have closed. But this, as Warren correctly claimed, was more about trade than technology.

Consider, for example, the "China shock" of the 2000s, when sharply rising imports from countries with much lower-paid labor than ours drove up the U.S. trade deficit by 2.4 percentage points of GDP (almost $520 billion in today's economy). From 2000 to 2007 (before the Great Recession), the country lost 3.4 million manufacturing jobs, or 20 percent of the total.

Addressing that loss, Susan Houseman, an economist who has done exhaustive, evidence-based analysis debunking the automation explanation, argues that "intuitively and quite simply, there doesn't seem to have been a technology shock that could have caused a 20 to 30 percent decline in manufacturing employment in the space of a decade." What really happened in those years was that policymakers sat by while millions of U.S. factory workers and their communities were exposed to global competition with no plan for transition or adjustment to the shock, decimating parts of Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. That was the fault of the policymakers, not the robots.

Before the China shock, from 1970 to 2000, the number (not the share) of manufacturing jobs held remarkably steady at around 17 million. Conversely, since 2010 and post-China shock, the trade deficit has stabilized and manufacturing has been adding jobs at a modest pace. (Most recently, the trade war has significantly dented the sector and worsened the trade deficit.) Over these periods, productivity, automation and robotics all grew apace.

In other words, automation isn't the problem. We need to look elsewhere to craft a progressive jobs agenda that focuses on the real needs of working people.

First and foremost, the low unemployment rate -- which wouldn't prevail if the automation story were true -- is giving workers at the middle and the bottom a bit more of the bargaining power they require to achieve real wage gains. The median weekly wage has risen at an annual average rate, after adjusting for inflation, of 1.5 percent over the past four years. For workers at the bottom end of the wage ladder (the 10th percentile), it has risen 2.8 percent annually, boosted also by minimum wage increases in many states and cities.

To be clear, these are not outsize wage gains, and they certainly are not sufficient to reverse four decades of wage stagnation and rising inequality. But they are evidence that current technologies are not preventing us from running hotter-for-longer labor markets with the capacity to generate more broadly shared prosperity.

National minimum wage hikes will further boost incomes at the bottom. Stronger labor unions will help ensure that workers get a fairer share of productivity gains. Still, many toiling in low-wage jobs, even with recent gains, will still be hard-pressed to afford child care, health care, college tuition and adequate housing without significant government subsidies.

Contrary to those hawking the automation story, faster productivity growth -- by boosting growth and pretax national income -- would make it easier to meet these challenges. The problem isn't and never was automation. Working with better technology to produce more efficiently, not to mention more sustainably, is something we should obviously welcome.

The thing to fear isn't productivity growth. It's false narratives and bad economic policy.

Paine -> anne... , October 27, 2019 at 06:54 AM
The domestic manufacturing sector and emplyment both shrank because of net off shoring of formerly domestic production

Simple fact


The net job losses are not evenly distributed Nor are the lost jobs to over seas primarily low wage rate jobs

Okay so we need special federal actions in areas with high concentrations of off-shoring induced job loses

But more easily we can simply raise service sector raises by heating up demand

Caution

Two sectors need controls however: Health and housing. Otherwise wage gains will be drained by rent sucking operations in these two sectors

Mr. Bill -> Paine... , October 28, 2019 at 02:21 PM
It is easy to spot the ignorance of those that have enough. Comfort reprises a certain arrogance.

The aura of deservedly is palpable. There are those here that would be excommunicated by society when the troubles come to their town.

[Oct 27, 2019] by Michael Olenick

Notable quotes:
"... "Too much automation is really all about narrowing the choices in your life and making it cheaper instead of enabling a richer lifestyle." Many times the only way to automate the creation of a product is to change it to fit the machine. ..."
"... You've gotta' get out of Paris: great French bread remains awesome. I live here. I've lived here for over half a decade and know many elderly French. The bread, from the right bakeries, remains great. ..."
"... I agree with others here who distinguish between labor saving automation and labor eliminating automation, but I don't think the former per se is the problem as much as the gradual shift toward the mentality and "rightness" of mass production and globalization. ..."
"... When I started doing robotics, I developed a working definition of a robot as: (a.) Senses its environment; (b.) Has goals and goal-seeking logic; (c.) Has means to affect environment in order to get goal and reality (the environment) to converge. Under that definition, Amazon's Alexa and your household air conditioning and heating system both qualify as "robot". ..."
"... The addition of a computer (with a program, or even downloadable-on-the-fly programs) to a static machine, e.g. today's computer-controlled-manufacturing machines (lathes, milling, welding, plasma cutters, etc.) makes a massive change in utility. It's almost the same physically, but ever so much more flexible, useful, and more profitable to own/operate. ..."
"... And if you add massive databases, internet connectivity, the latest machine-learning, language and image processing and some nefarious intent, then you get into trouble. ..."
Oct 25, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

By Michael Olenick, a research fellow at INSEAD who writes regularly at Olen on Economics and Innowiki . Originally published at Innowiki

Part I , "Automation Armageddon: a Legitimate Worry?" reviewed the history of automation, focused on projections of gloom-and-doom.

"It smells like death," is how a friend of mine described a nearby chain grocery store. He tends to exaggerate and visiting France admittedly brings about strong feelings of passion. Anyway, the only reason we go there is for things like foil or plastic bags that aren't available at any of the smaller stores.

Before getting to why that matters – and, yes, it does matter – first a tasty digression.

I live in a French village. To the French, high-quality food is a vital component to good life.

My daughter counts eight independent bakeries on the short drive between home and school. Most are owned by a couple of people. Counting high-quality bakeries embedded in grocery stores would add a few more. Going out of our way more than a minute or two would more than double that number.

Typical Bakery: Bread is cooked at least twice daily

Despite so many, the bakeries seem to do well. In the half-decade I've been here, three new ones opened and none of the old ones closed. They all seem to be busy. Bakeries are normally owner operated. The busiest might employ a few people but many are mom-and-pop operations with him baking and her selling. To remain economically viable, they rely on a dance of people and robots. Flour arrives in sacks with high-quality grains milled by machines. People measure ingredients, with each bakery using slightly different recipes. A human-fed robot mixes and kneads the ingredients into the dough. Some kind of machine churns the lumps of dough into baguettes.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/O22jWIjcdaY?feature=oembed


Baguette Forming Machine: This would make a good animated GIF

The baker places the formed baguettes onto baking trays then puts them in the oven. Big ovens maintain a steady temperature while timers keep track of how long various loaves of bread have been baking. Despite the sensors, bakers make the final decision when to pull the loaves out, with some preferring a bien cuit more cooked flavor and others a softer crust. Finally, a person uses a robot in the form of a cash register to ring up transactions and processes payments, either by cash or card.

Nobody -- not the owners, workers, or customers -- think twice about any of this. I doubt most people realize how much automation technology is involved or even that much of the equipment is automation tech. There would be no improvement in quality mixing and kneading the dough by hand. There would, however, be an enormous increase in cost. The baguette forming machines churn out exactly what a person would do by hand, only faster and at a far lower cost. We take the thermostatically controlled ovens for granted. However, for anybody who has tried to cook over wood controlling heat via air and fuel, thermostatically controlled ovens are clearly automation technology.

Is the cash register really a robot? James Ritty, who invented it, didn't think so; he sold the patent for cheap. The person who bought the patent built it into NCR, a seminal company laying the groundwork of the modern computer revolution.

Would these bakeries be financially viable if forced to do all this by hand? Probably not. They'd be forced to produce less output at higher cost; many would likely fail. Bread would cost more leaving less money for other purchases. Fewer jobs, less consumer spending power, and hungry bellies to boot; that doesn't sound like good public policy.

Getting back to the grocery store my friend thinks smells like death; just a few weeks ago they started using robots in a new and, to many, not especially welcome way.

As any tourist knows, most stores in France are closed on Sunday afternoons, including and especially grocery stores. That's part of French labor law: grocery stores must close Sunday afternoons. Except that the chain grocery store near me announced they are opening Sunday afternoon. How? Robots, and sleight-of-hand. Grocers may not work on Sunday afternoons but guards are allowed.

Not my store but similar.

Dimanche means Sunday. Aprés-midi means afternoon.

I stopped in to get a feel for how the system works. Instead of grocers, the store uses security guards and self-checkout kiosks.

When you step inside, a guard reminds you there are no grocers. Nobody restocks the shelves but, presumably for half a day, it doesn't matter. On Sunday afternoons, in place of a bored-looking person wearing a store uniform and overseeing the robo-checkout kiosks sits a bored-looking person wearing a security guard uniform doing the same. There are no human-assisted checkout lanes open but this store seldom has more than one operating anyway.

I have no idea how long the French government will allow this loophole to continue. I thought it might attract yellow vest protestors or at least a cranky store worker – maybe a few locals annoyed at an ancient tradition being buried – but there was nobody complaining. There were hardly any customers, either.

The use of robots to sidestep labor law and replace people, in one of the most labor-friendly countries in the world, produced a big yawn.

Paul Krugman and Matt Stoller argue convincingly that it's the bosses, not the robots, that crush the spirits and souls of workers. Krugman calls it "automation obsession" and Stoller points out predictions of robo-Armageddon have existed for decades. The well over 100+ examples I have of major automation-tech ultimately led to more jobs, not fewer.

Jerry Yang envisions some type of forthcoming automation-induced dystopia. Zuck and the tech-bros argue for a forthcoming Star Trek style robo-utopia.

My guess is we're heading for something in-between, a place where artisanal bakers use locally grown wheat, made affordable thanks to machine milling. Where small family-owned bakeries rely on automation tech to do the undifferentiated grunt-work. The robots in my future are more likely to look more like cash registers and less like Terminators.

It's an admittedly blander vision of the future; neither utopian nor dystopian, at least not one fueled by automation tech. However, it's a vision supported by the historic adoption of automation technology.


The Rev Kev , October 25, 2019 at 10:46 am

I have no real disagreement with a lot of automation. But how it is done is another matter altogether. Using the main example in this article, Australia is probably like a lot of countries with bread in that most of the loaves that you get in a supermarket are typically bland and come in plastic bags but which are cheap. You only really know what you grow up with.

When I first went to Germany I stepped into a Bakerie and it was a revelation. There were dozens of different sorts and types of bread on display with flavours that I had never experienced. I didn't know whether to order a loaf or to go for my camera instead. And that is the point. Too much automation is really all about narrowing the choices in your life and making it cheaper instead of enabling a richer lifestyle.

We are all familiar with crapification and I contend that it is automation that enables this to become a thing.

WobblyTelomeres , October 25, 2019 at 11:08 am

"I contend that it is automation that enables this to become a thing."

As does electricity. And math. Automation doesn't necessarily narrow choices; economies of scale and the profit motive do. What I find annoying (as in pollyannish) is the avoidance of the issue of those that cannot operate the machinery, those that cannot open their own store, etc.

I gave a guest lecture to a roomful of young roboticists (largely undergrad, some first year grad engineering students) a decade ago. After discussing the economics/finance of creating and selling a burgerbot, asked about those that would be unemployed by the contraption. One student immediately snorted out, "Not my problem!" Another replied, "But what if they cannot do anything else?". Again, "Not my problem!". And that is San Josie in a nutshell.

washparkhorn , October 26, 2019 at 3:25 am

A capitalist market that fails to account for the cost of a product's negative externalities is underpricing (and incentivizing more of the same). It's cheating (or sanctioned cheating due to ignorance and corruption). It is not capitalism (unless that is the only reasonable outcome of capitalism).

Tom Pfotzer , October 25, 2019 at 11:33 am

The author's vision of "appropriate tech" local enterprise supported by relatively simple automation is also my answer to the vexing question of "how do I cope with automation?"

In a recent posting here at NC, I said the way to cope with automation of your job(s) is to get good at automation. My remark caused a howl of outrage: "most people can't do automation! Your solution is unrealistic for the masses. Dismissed with prejudice!".

Thank you for that outrage, as it provides a wonder foil for this article. The article shows a small business which learned to re-design business processes, acquire machines that reduce costs. It's a good example of someone that "got good at automation".

Instead of being the victim of automation, these people adapted. They bought automation, took control of it, and operated it for their own benefit.

Key point: this entrepreneur is now harvesting the benefits of automation, rather than being systematically marginalized by it. Another noteworthy aspect of this article is that local-scale "appropriate" automation serves to reduce the scale advantages of the big players. The availability of small-scale machines that enable efficiencies comparable to the big guys is a huge problem. Most of the machines made for small-scale operators like this are manufactured in China, or India or Iran or Russia, Italy where industrial consolidation (scale) hasn't squashed the little players yet.

Suppose you're a grain farmer, but only have 50 acres (not 100s or 1000s like the big guys). You need a combine – that's a big machine that cuts grain stalk and separate grain from stalk (threshing). This cut/thresh function is terribly labor intensive, the combine is a must-have. Right now, there is no small-size ($50K or less) combine manufactured in the U.S., to my knowledge. They cost upwards of $200K, and sometimes a great deal more. The 50-acre farmer can't afford $200K (plus maint costs), and therefore can't farm at that scale, and has to sell out.

So, the design, production, and sales of these sort of small-scale, high-productivity machines is what is needed to re-distribute production (organically, not by revolution, thanks) back into the hands of the middle class.

If we make possible for the middle class to capture the benefits of automation, and you solve 1) the social dilemmas of concentration of wealth, 2) the declining std of living of the mid- and lower-class, and 3) have a chance to re-design an economy (business processes and collaborating suppliers to deliver end-user product/service) that actually fixes the planet as we make our living, instead of degrading it at every ka-ching of the cash register.

Point 3 is the most important, and this isn't the time or place to expand on that, but I hope others might consider it a bit.

marcel , October 25, 2019 at 12:07 pm

Regarding the combine, I have seen them operating on small-sized lands for the last 50 years. Without exception, you have one guy (sometimes a farmer, often not) who has this kind of harvester, works 24h a day for a week or something, harvesting for all farmers in the neighborhood, and then moves to the next crop (eg corn). Wintertime is used for maintenance. So that one person/farm/company specializes in these services, and everybody gets along well.

Tom Pfotzer , October 25, 2019 at 2:49 pm

Marcel – great solution to the problem. Choosing the right supplier (using combine service instead of buying a dedicated combine) is a great skill to develop. On the flip side, the fellow that provides that combine service probably makes a decent side-income from it. Choosing the right service to provide is another good skill to develop.

Jesper , October 25, 2019 at 5:59 pm

One counter-argument might be that while hoping for the best it might be prudent to prepare for the worst. Currently, and for a couple of decades, the efficiency gains have been left to the market to allocate. Some might argue that for the common good then the government might need to be more active.

What would happen if efficiency gains continued to be distributed according to the market? According to the relative bargaining power of the market participants where one side, the public good as represented by government, is asking for and therefore getting almost nothing?

As is, I do believe that people who are concerned do have reason to be concerned.

Kent , October 25, 2019 at 11:33 am

"Too much automation is really all about narrowing the choices in your life and making it cheaper instead of enabling a richer lifestyle." Many times the only way to automate the creation of a product is to change it to fit the machine.

Brooklin Bridge , October 25, 2019 at 12:02 pm

Some people make a living saying these sorts of things about automation. The quality of French bread is simply not what it used to be (at least harder to find) though that is a complicated subject having to do with flour and wheat as well as human preparation and many other things and the cost (in terms of purchasing power), in my opinion, has gone up, not down since the 70's.

As some might say, "It's complicated," but automation does (not sure about "has to") come with trade offs in quality while price remains closer to what an ever more sophisticated set of algorithms say can be "gotten away with."

This may be totally different for cars or other things, but the author chose French bread and the only overall improvement, or even non change, in quality there has come, if at all, from the dark art of marketing magicians.

Brooklin Bridge , October 25, 2019 at 12:11 pm

/ from the dark art of marketing magicians, AND people's innate ability to accept/be unaware of decreases in quality/quantity if they are implemented over time in small enough steps.

Michael , October 25, 2019 at 1:47 pm

You've gotta' get out of Paris: great French bread remains awesome. I live here. I've lived here for over half a decade and know many elderly French. The bread, from the right bakeries, remains great. But you're unlikely to find it where tourists might wander: the rent is too high.

As a general rule, if the bakers have a large staff or speak English you're probably in the wrong bakery. Except for one of my favorites where she learned her English watching every episode of Friends multiple times and likes to practice with me, though that's more of a fluke.

Brooklin Bridge , October 25, 2019 at 3:11 pm

It's a difficult subject to argue. I suspect that comparatively speaking, French bread remains good and there are still bakers who make high quality bread (given what they have to work with). My experience when talking to family in France (not Paris) is that indeed, they are in general quite happy with the quality of bread and each seems to know a bakery where they can still get that "je ne sais quoi" that makes it so special.

I, on the other hand, who have only been there once every few years since the 70's, kind of like once every so many frames of the movie, see a lowering of quality in general in France and of flour and bread in particular though I'll grant it's quite gradual.

The French love food and were among the best farmers in the world in the 1930s and have made a point of resisting radical change at any given point in time when it comes to the things they love (wine, cheese, bread, etc.) , so they have a long way to fall, and are doing so slowly; but gradually, it's happening.

I agree with others here who distinguish between labor saving automation and labor eliminating automation, but I don't think the former per se is the problem as much as the gradual shift toward the mentality and "rightness" of mass production and globalization.

Oregoncharles , October 26, 2019 at 12:58 am

I was exposed to that conflict, in a small way, because my father was an investment manager. He told me they were considering investing in a smallish Swiss pasta (IIRC) factory. He was frustrated with the negotiations; the owners just weren't interested in getting a lot bigger – which would be the point of the investment, from the investors' POV.

I thought, but I don't think I said very articulately, that of course, they thought of themselves as craftspeople – making people's food, after all. It was a fundamental culture clash. All that was 50 years ago; looks like the European attitude has been receding.

Incidentally, this is a possible approach to a better, more sustainable economy: substitute craft for capital and resources, on as large a scale as possible. More value with less consumption. But how we get there from here is another question.

Carolinian , October 25, 2019 at 12:42 pm

I have been touring around by car and was surprised to see that all Oregon gas stations are full serve with no self serve allowed (I vaguely remember Oregon Charles talking about this). It applies to every station including the ones with a couple of dozen pumps like we see back east. I have since been told that this system has been in place for years.

It's hard to see how this is more efficient and in fact just the opposite as there are fewer attendants than waiting customers and at a couple of stations the action seemed chaotic. Gas is also more expensive although nothing could be more expensive than California gas (over $5/gal occasionally spotted). It's also unclear how this system was preserved–perhaps out of fire safety concerns–but it seems unlikely that any other state will want to imitate just as those bakeries aren't going to bring back their wood fired ovens.

JohnnyGL , October 25, 2019 at 1:40 pm

I think NJ is still required to do all full-serve gas stations. Most in MA have only self-serve, but there's a few towns that have by-laws requiring full-serve.

Brooklin Bridge , October 25, 2019 at 2:16 pm

I'm not sure just how much I should be jumping up and down about our ability to get more gasoline into our cars quicker. But convenient for sure.

The Observer , October 25, 2019 at 4:33 pm

In the 1980s when self-serve gas started being implemented, NIOSH scientists said oh no, now 'everyone' will be increasingly exposed to benzene while filling up. Benzene is close to various radioactive elements in causing damage and cancer.

Oregoncharles , October 26, 2019 at 1:06 am

It was preserved by a series of referenda; turns out it's a 3rd rail here, like the sales tax. The motive was explicitly to preserve entry-level jobs while allowing drivers to keep the gas off their hands. And we like the more personal quality.

Also, we go to states that allow self-serve and observe that the gas isn't any cheaper. It's mainly the tax that sets the price, and location.

There are several bakeries in this area with wood-fired ovens. They charge a premium, of course. One we love is way out in the country, in Falls City. It's a reason to go there.

shinola , October 25, 2019 at 12:47 pm

Unless I misunderstood, the author of this article seems to equate mechanization/automation of nearly any type with robotics.

"Is the cash register really a robot? James Ritty, who invented it, didn't think so;" – Nor do I.

To me, "robot" implies a machine with a high degree of autonomy. Would the author consider an old fashioned manual typewriter or adding machine (remember those?) to be robotic? How about when those machines became electrified?

I think the author uses the term "robot" over broadly.

Dan , October 25, 2019 at 1:05 pm

Agree. Those are just electrified extensions of the lever or sand timer.
It's the "thinking" that is A.I.

Refuse to allow A.I.to destroy jobs and cheapen our standard of living.
Never interact with a robo call, just hang up.
Never log into a website when there is a human alternative.
Refuse to do business with companies that have no human alternative.
Never join a medical "portal" of any kind, demand to talk to medical personnel.
etc.

Sabotage A.I. whenever possible.
The Ten Commandments do not apply to corporations.

https://medium.com/@TerranceT/im-never-going-to-stop-stealing-from-the-self-checkout-22cbfff9919b

marieann , October 25, 2019 at 1:49 pm

I don't use self checkouts but sometimes I will allow a cashier to use one for me while I am supposedly learning how to work the machine.

Sancho Panza , October 25, 2019 at 1:52 pm

During a Chicago hotel stay my wife ordered an extra bath towel from the front desk. About 5 minutes later, a mini version of R2D2 rolled up to her door with towel in tow. It was really cute and interacted with her in a human-like way. Cute but really scary in the way that you indicate in your comment. It seems many low wage activities would be in immediate risk of replacement. But sabotage? I would never encourage sabotage; in fact, when it comes to true robots like this one, I would highly discourage any of the following: yanking its recharge cord in the middle of the night, zapping it with a car battery, lift its payload and replace with something else, give it a hip high-five to help it calibrate its balance, and of course, the good old kick'm in the bolts.

Sancho Panza , October 26, 2019 at 9:53 am

Here's a clip of that robot, Leo, bringing bottled water and a bath towel to my wife.

Sancho Panza , October 26, 2019 at 10:49 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXygNznHSs0

Barbara , October 26, 2019 at 11:48 am

Stop and Shop supermarket chain now has robots in the store. According to Stop and Shop they are oh so innocent! and friendly! why don't you just go up and say hello?
All the robots do, they say, go around scanning the shelves looking for: shelf price tags that don't match the current price, merchandise in the wrong place (that cereal box you picked up in the breakfast aisle and decided, in the laundry aisle, that you didn't want and put the box on a shelf with detergent.) All the robots do is notify management of wrong prices and misplaced merchandise.

The damn robot is cute, perky lit up eyes and a smile – so why does it remind me of the Stepford Wives.

S&S is the closest supermarket near me, so I go there when I need something in a hurry, but the bulk of my shopping is now done elsewhere. Thank goodness there are some stores that are not doing this: The area Shoprites and FoodTown's don't – and they are all run by family businesses. Shoprite succeeds by have a large assortment brands in every grocery category and keeping prices really competitive. FoodTown operates at a higher price and quality level with real butcher and seafood counters as well as prepackaged assortments in open cases and a cooked food counter of the most excellent quality with the store's cooks behind the counter to serve you and answer questions. You never have to come home from work tired and hungry and know that you just don't want to cook and settle for a power bar.

Danny , October 26, 2019 at 9:23 pm

OK, so how do you sabotage the cute SS robot? I suggest a laser pointer to blind its sensors. Or, maybe smear some peanut butter on them. What happens when it runs over your foot that just happens to get in its way? Contingency tort lawsuit?

The more automation you see in a business that you still patronize, the bigger the discount you should ask for. The Ten Commandments do not apply to corporations or job destroyers.

Barbara , October 26, 2019 at 11:30 pm

My husband recently retired from teaching. I'll have to see if he still has his laser pointer or if he had to give it back :-)

Carolinian , October 25, 2019 at 1:11 pm

A robot is a machine -- especially one programmable by a computer -- capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically. Robots can be guided by an external control device or the control may be embedded

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robot

Those early cash registers were perhaps an early form of analog computer. But Wiki reminds that the origin of the term is a work of fiction.

The term comes from a Czech word, robota, meaning "forced labor";the word 'robot' was first used to denote a fictional humanoid in a 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti – Rossum's Universal Robots) by the Czech writer, Karel Čapek

Michael , October 25, 2019 at 1:42 pm

The adding machine – yes, definitely.

The typewriter – maybe. Before the typewriter printed type had to be typeset by hand, a laborious and expensive process.

The French call food processors "robots." Industrial robots have no autonomy, much less a high degree. They repeatedly perform a task they're programmed to do but they're robots.

The idea that a robot has some type of autonomy, that it thinks, makes for good science fiction. But by that definition robots don't exist because there are no thinking machines with a high level of autonomy outside the sci-fi genre. Except that they do exist and they're everywhere.

Math is Your Friend , October 25, 2019 at 3:15 pm

"The typewriter – maybe. Before the typewriter printed type had to be typeset by hand, a laborious and expensive process."

This is really not the appropriate comparison.

The typewriter replaced pen and ink.

Hand assembly of type, a character at a time, was replaced by linotype machines in the late 1800s, which were in turn replaced by phototypesetting in the second half of the 20th century, in turn replaced by computerized typesetting.

Where you go, and if you go, after that, depends on use cases – laser printers, e-books, web pages, videos and probably a few other methods of delivering information.

shinola , October 25, 2019 at 4:26 pm

Perhaps I didn't qualify "autonomous" properly. I didn't mean to imply a 'Rosie the Robot' level of autonomy but the ability of a machine to perform its programmed task without human intervention (other than switching on/off or maintenance & adjustments).

If viewed this way, an adding machine or typewriter are not robots because they require constant manual input in order to function – if you don't push the keys, nothing happens. A computer printer might be considered robotic because it can be programmed to function somewhat autonomously (as in print 'x' number of copies of this document).

"Robotics" is a subset of mechanized/automated functions.

Michael , October 26, 2019 at 7:56 am

Adding machines are robots under your definition. You input what you want them to calculate but the actual calculations are done by the machine (which is the point of having the machine in the first place). You're touching the machine a lot more because it needs you to input more to do its thing but the calculation part is automatic. Typewriters, now that I think about it, really aren't: they don't automate anything.

The difference is a machine that extends human abilities with no automation (ex: a shovel) vs a machine that mimics human abilities (ex: a calculator or bread mixing machine).

The next level would be an autonomous machine but, depending on the definition of autonomy, I think those are a long way off. For example, a self-driving car – once perfected – can handle all sorts of different conditions but still can't really think. It comes down to the definition of autonomy, or maybe it's more accurate to say the degree of autonomy.

Brooklin Bridge , October 25, 2019 at 2:30 pm

I think the author confuses automation -in its most general sense- with progress in a down home, folksy, "let's be real" sort of way. The two are not always one and the same for all people and certainly not so for all other forms of life on the planet. At the end, he does at least make a passing gesture to automation in its more sinister form than that of helping artisans avoid drugery.

Stephen Gardner , October 25, 2019 at 4:48 pm

When I first got out of grad school I worked at United Technologies Research Center where I worked in the robotics lab. In general, at least in those days, we made a distinction between robotics and hard automation. A robot is programmable to do multiple tasks and hard automation is limited to a single task unless retooled. The machines the author is talking about are hard automation. We had ASEA robots that could be programmed to do various things. One of ours drilled, riveted and sealed the skin on the horizontal stabilators (the wing on the tail of a helicopter that controls pitch) of a Sikorsky Sea Hawk. The same robot with just a change of the fixture on the end could be programmed to paint a car or weld a seam on equipment. The drilling and riveting robot was capable of modifying where the rivets were placed (in the robot's frame of reference) based on the location of precisely milled blocks build into the fixture that held the stabilator. There was always some variation and it was important to precisely place the rivets because the spars were very narrow (weight at the tail is bad because of the lever arm). It was considered state of the art back in the day but now auto companies have far more sophisticated robotics.

Michael , October 26, 2019 at 8:03 am

By that definition aren't mixers still robots? You can put in a whisk and they'll mix one way. Put in a bread hook, set the right setting, and it will knead dough – just like the helicopter building robots. Same with cash registers: press one button and they add money, another and they calculate change, a third and they'll do a return, a fourth and they'll print a total. Though, despite multiple functions, you can't reprogram the old mechanical ones (of course, the newer ones are computers running a program). A baguette making machine seems like what you're describing as hard automation: it has one and only function.

Alex Cox , October 25, 2019 at 12:55 pm

The Oregon gas attendant rule is a job-creation scheme. It works well, and very rarely is there an annoying wait.

Gas in Oregon is considerably cheaper than in California.

A few years ago my wife told me I had to go out and get a real job. I realized I was only qualified to do two things: teach, or pump gas.

Thank you Oregon for giving me a choice!

Carolinian , October 25, 2019 at 1:17 pm

Gas in Oregon is considerably cheaper than in California.

And considerably more expensive than in low tax South Carolina (2.19/gal a recent example).

Socal Rhino , October 25, 2019 at 1:44 pm

But what happens when the bread machine is connected to the internet,can't function without an active internet connection, and requires an annual subscription to use?

That is the issue to me: however we define the tools, who will own them?

The Rev Kev , October 25, 2019 at 6:53 pm

You know, that is quite a good point that. It is not so much the automation that is the threat as the rent-seeking that anything connected to the internet allows to be implemented.

*_* , October 25, 2019 at 2:28 pm

Until 100 petaflops costs less than a typical human worker total automation isn't going to happen. Developments in AI software can't overcome basic hardware limits.

breadbaker , October 25, 2019 at 2:29 pm

The story about automation not worsening the quality of bread is not exactly true. Bakers had to develop and incorporate a new method called autolyze ( https://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2017/09/29/using-the-autolyse-method ) in the mid-20th-century to bring back some of the flavor lost with modern baking. There is also a trend of a new generation of bakeries that use natural yeast, hand shaping and kneading to get better flavors and quality bread.

But it is certainly true that much of the automation gives almost as good quality for much lower labor costs.

Tom Pfotzer , October 25, 2019 at 3:05 pm

On the subject of the machine-robot continuum

When I started doing robotics, I developed a working definition of a robot as: (a.) Senses its environment; (b.) Has goals and goal-seeking logic; (c.) Has means to affect environment in order to get goal and reality (the environment) to converge. Under that definition, Amazon's Alexa and your household air conditioning and heating system both qualify as "robot".

How you implement a, b, and c above can have more or less sophistication, depending upon the complexity, variability, etc. of the environment, or the solutions, or the means used to affect the environment.

A machine, like a typewriter, or a lawn-mower engine has the logic expressed in metal; it's static.

The addition of a computer (with a program, or even downloadable-on-the-fly programs) to a static machine, e.g. today's computer-controlled-manufacturing machines (lathes, milling, welding, plasma cutters, etc.) makes a massive change in utility. It's almost the same physically, but ever so much more flexible, useful, and more profitable to own/operate.

And if you add massive databases, internet connectivity, the latest machine-learning, language and image processing and some nefarious intent, then you get into trouble.

:)

Phacops , October 25, 2019 at 3:08 pm

Sometimes automation is necessary to eliminate the risks of manual processes. There are parenteral (injectable) drugs that cannot be sterilized except by filtration. Most of the work of filling, post filling processing, and sealing is done using automation in areas that make surgical suites seem filthy and people are kept from these operations.

Manual operations are only undertaken to correct issues with the automation and the procedures are tested to ensure that they do not introduce contamination, microbial or otherwise. Because even one non-sterile unit is a failure and testing is destructive process, of course any full lot of product cannot be tested to state that all units are sterile. Periodic testing of the automated process and manual intervention is done periodically and it is expensive and time consuming to test to a level of confidence that there is far less than a one in a million chance of any unit in a lot being non sterile.

In that respect, automation and the skills necessary to interface with it are fundamental to the safety of drugs frequently used on already compromised patients.

Brooklin Bridge , October 25, 2019 at 3:27 pm

Agree. Good example. Digital technology and miniaturization seem particularly well suited to many aspect of the medical world. But doubt they will eliminate the doctor or the nurse very soon. Insurance companies on the other hand

lyman alpha blob , October 25, 2019 at 8:34 pm

Bill Burr has some thoughts on self checkouts and the potential bonanza for shoppers – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxINJzqzn4w

TG , October 26, 2019 at 11:51 am

"There would be no improvement in quality mixing and kneading the dough by hand. There would, however, be an enormous increase in cost." WRONG! If you had an unlimited supply of 50-cents-an-hour disposable labor, mixing and kneading the dough by hand would be cheaper. It is only because labor is expensive in France that the machine saves money.

In Japan there is a lot of automation, and wages and living standards are high. In Bangladesh there is very little automation, and wages and livings standards are very low.

Are we done with the 'automation is destroying jobs' meme yet? Excessive population growth is the problem, not robots. And the root cause of excessive population growth is the corporate-sponsored virtual taboo of talking about it seriously.

[Oct 24, 2019] Can Europe Be Saved From Demographic Doom by Alessandra Bocchi

Notable quotes:
"... Baudet also argues that establishment politicians push for immigration because they favor a globalized worldview under which national identities will disappear: "They genuinely believe we should move beyond religious and national identities to become global citizens." Baudet, however, thinks such policies would be disastrous, not only because they risk plunging Europe into "tremendous conflict," but also because they risk creating a "brain drain" from Africa and the Middle East. ..."
Oct 24, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com

... ... ...

The leader of the Spanish Vox party, Santiago Abascal, argued that immigration is a political euphemism for the trafficking of cheap labor into Europe so that multinational companies and financial interests can increase their profits: "The establishment argues that our system must be maintained in the face of an aging population, but mass immigration renders work increasingly precarious." According to Abascal, the 2015 refugee crisis was used as a pretext to further the economic ambitions of Brussels bureaucrats at the expense of Europe's working population, especially its youth.

Baudet also argues that establishment politicians push for immigration because they favor a globalized worldview under which national identities will disappear: "They genuinely believe we should move beyond religious and national identities to become global citizens." Baudet, however, thinks such policies would be disastrous, not only because they risk plunging Europe into "tremendous conflict," but also because they risk creating a "brain drain" from Africa and the Middle East.

The solution to this problem, many of these conservative leaders say, is to provide motivation and assistance to Europe's young people so they have their own children. Abascal uses Hungary as a model, where , under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, families that have three or more children are given government grants to buy houses and no longer have to pay income tax. The state finances free nurseries, allowing women to re-enter the workforce without having to worry about childcare costs. In addition, Hungary has inscribed Christianity in its constitution to create a strong religious identity, providing its youth with a sense of direction and meaning.

The problem of low birthrates ultimately lies internally, within Europe's culture and social life. A young generation that doesn't aspire to have families and that's increasingly alienated from any sense of community has driven much of the crisis. Whether Europe can be salvaged and revived is yet to be seen.

Alessandra Bocchi is a freelance journalist focusing on foreign policy in North Africa, Europe, and the U.S. She has been covering the protests in Hong Kong. Follow her on Twitter @AlessaBocchi .

[Oct 23, 2019] The treason of the intellectuals The Undoing of Thought by Roger Kimball

Highly recommended!
Supporting neoliberalism is the key treason of contemporary intellectuals eeho were instrumental in decimating the New Deal capitalism, to say nothing about neocon, who downgraded themselves into intellectual prostitutes of MIC mad try to destroy post WWII order.
Notable quotes:
"... More and more, intellectuals were abandoning their attachment to the traditional panoply of philosophical and scholarly ideals. One clear sign of the change was the attack on the Enlightenment ideal of universal humanity and the concomitant glorification of various particularisms. ..."
"... "Our age is indeed the age of the intellectual organization of political hatreds ," he wrote near the beginning of the book. "It will be one of its chief claims to notice in the moral history of humanity." There was no need to add that its place in moral history would be as a cautionary tale. In little more than a decade, Benda's prediction that, because of the "great betrayal" of the intellectuals, humanity was "heading for the greatest and most perfect war ever seen in the world," would achieve a terrifying corroboration. ..."
"... In Plato's Gorgias , for instance, the sophist Callicles expresses his contempt for Socrates' devotion to philosophy: "I feel toward philosophers very much as I do toward those who lisp and play the child." Callicles taunts Socrates with the idea that "the more powerful, the better, and the stronger" are simply different words for the same thing. Successfully pursued, he insists, "luxury and intemperance are virtue and happiness, and all the rest is tinsel." How contemporary Callicles sounds! ..."
"... In Benda's formula, this boils down to the conviction that "politics decides morality." To be sure, the cynicism that Callicles espoused is perennial: like the poor, it will be always with us. What Benda found novel was the accreditation of such cynicism by intellectuals. "It is true indeed that these new 'clerks' declare that they do not know what is meant by justice, truth, and other 'metaphysical fogs,' that for them the true is determined by the useful, the just by circumstances," he noted. "All these things were taught by Callicles, but with this difference; he revolted all the important thinkers of his time." ..."
"... In other words, the real treason of the intellectuals was not that they countenanced Callicles but that they championed him. ..."
"... His doctrine of "the will to power," his contempt for the "slave morality" of Christianity, his plea for an ethic "beyond good and evil," his infatuation with violence -- all epitomize the disastrous "pragmatism" that marks the intellectual's "treason." The real problem was not the unattainability but the disintegration of ideals, an event that Nietzsche hailed as the "transvaluation of all values." "Formerly," Benda observed, "leaders of States practiced realism, but did not honor it; With them morality was violated but moral notions remained intact, and that is why, in spite of all their violence, they did not disturb civilization ." ..."
"... From the savage flowering of ethnic hatreds in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to the mendacious demands for political correctness and multiculturalism on college campuses across America and Europe, the treason of the intellectuals continues to play out its unedifying drama. Benda spoke of "a cataclysm in the moral notions of those who educate the world." That cataclysm is erupting in every corner of cultural life today. ..."
"... Finkielkraut catalogues several prominent strategies that contemporary intellectuals have employed to retreat from the universal. A frequent point of reference is the eighteenth-century German Romantic philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder. "From the beginning, or to be more precise, from the time of Plato until that of Voltaire," he writes, "human diversity had come before the tribunal of universal values; with Herder the eternal values were condemned by the court of diversity." ..."
"... Finkielkraut focuses especially on Herder's definitively anti-Enlightenment idea of the Volksgeist or "national spirit." ..."
"... Nevertheless, the multiculturalists' obsession with "diversity" and ethnic origins is in many ways a contemporary redaction of Herder's elevation of racial particularism over the universalizing mandate of reason ..."
"... In Goethe's words, "A generalized tolerance will be best achieved if we leave undisturbed whatever it is which constitutes the special character of particular individuals and peoples, whilst at the same time we retain the conviction that the distinctive worth of anything with true merit lies in its belonging to all humanity." ..."
"... The geography of intellectual betrayal has changed dramatically in the last sixty-odd years. In 1927, intellectuals still had something definite to betray. In today's "postmodernist" world, the terrain is far mushier: the claims of tradition are much attenuated and betrayal is often only a matter of acquiescence. ..."
"... In the broadest terms, The Undoing of Thought is a brief for the principles of the Enlightenment. Among other things, this means that it is a brief for the idea that mankind is united by a common humanity that transcends ethnic, racial, and sexual divisions ..."
"... Granted, the belief that there is "Jewish thinking" or "Soviet science" or "Aryan art" is no longer as widespread as it once was. But the dispersal of these particular chimeras has provided no inoculation against kindred fabrications: "African knowledge," "female language," "Eurocentric science": these are among today's talismanic fetishes. ..."
"... Then, too, one finds a stunning array of anti-Enlightenment phantasmagoria congregated under the banner of "anti-positivism." The idea that history is a "myth," that the truths of science are merely "fictions" dressed up in forbidding clothes, that reason and language are powerless to discover the truth -- more, that truth itself is a deceitful ideological construct: these and other absurdities are now part of the standard intellectual diet of Western intellectuals. The Frankfurt School Marxists Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno gave an exemplary but by no means uncharacteristic demonstration of one strain of this brand of anti-rational animus in the mid-1940s. ..."
"... Historically, the Enlightenment arose as a deeply anti-clerical and, perforce, anti-traditional movement. Its goal, in Kant's famous phrase, was to release man from his "self-imposed immaturity." ..."
"... The process of disintegration has lately become an explicit attack on culture. This is not simply to say that there are many anti-intellectual elements in society: that has always been the case. "Non-thought," in Finkielkraut's phrase, has always co-existed with the life of the mind. The innovation of contemporary culture is to have obliterated the distinction between the two. ..."
"... There are many sides to this phenomenon. What Finkielkraut has given us is not a systematic dissection but a kind of pathologist's scrapbook. He reminds us, for example, that the multiculturalists' demand for "diversity" requires the eclipse of the individual in favor of the group ..."
"... To a large extent, the abdication of reason demanded by multiculturalism has been the result of what we might call the subjection of culture to anthropology. ..."
"... In describing this process of leveling, Finkielkraut distinguishes between those who wish to obliterate distinctions in the name of politics and those who do so out of a kind of narcissism. The multiculturalists wave the standard of radical politics and say (in the words of a nineteenth-century Russian populist slogan that Finkielkraut quotes): "A pair of boots is worth more than Shakespeare." ..."
"... The upshot is not only that Shakespeare is downgraded, but also that the bootmaker is elevated. "It is not just that high culture must be demystified; sport, fashion and leisure now lay claim to high cultural status." A grotesque fantasy? ..."
"... . Finkielkraut notes that the rhetoric of postmodernism is in some ways similar to the rhetoric of Enlightenment. Both look forward to releasing man from his "self-imposed immaturity." But there is this difference: Enlightenment looks to culture as a repository of values that transcend the self, postmodernism looks to the fleeting desires of the isolated self as the only legitimate source of value ..."
"... The products of culture are valuable only as a source of amusement or distraction. In order to realize the freedom that postmodernism promises, culture must be transformed into a field of arbitrary "options." "The post-modern individual," Finkielkraut writes, "is a free and easy bundle of fleeting and contingent appetites. He has forgotten that liberty involves more than the ability to change one's chains, and that culture itself is more than a satiated whim." ..."
"... "'All cultures are equally legitimate and everything is cultural,' is the common cry of affluent society's spoiled children and of the detractors of the West. ..."
"... There is another, perhaps even darker, result of the undoing of thought. The disintegration of faith in reason and common humanity leads not only to a destruction of standards, but also involves a crisis of courage. ..."
"... As the impassioned proponents of "diversity" meet the postmodern apostles of acquiescence, fanaticism mixes with apathy to challenge the commitment required to preserve freedom. ..."
"... Communism may have been effectively discredited. But "what is dying along with it is not the totalitarian cast of mind, but the idea of a world common to all men." ..."
Dec 01, 1992 | www.moonofalabama.org

On the abandonment of Enlightenment intellectualism, and the emergence of a new form of Volksgeist.

When hatred of culture becomes itself a part of culture, the life of the mind loses all meaning. -- Alain Finkielkraut, The Undoing of Thought

Today we are trying to spread knowledge everywhere. Who knows if in centuries to come there will not be universities for re-establishing our former ignorance? -- Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799)

I n 1927, the French essayist Julien Benda published his famous attack on the intellectual corruption of the age, La Trahison des clercs. I said "famous," but perhaps "once famous" would have been more accurate. For today, in the United States anyway, only the title of the book, not its argument, enjoys much currency. "La trahison des clercs": it is one of those memorable phrases that bristles with hints and associations without stating anything definite. Benda tells us that he uses the term "clerc" in "the medieval sense," i.e., to mean "scribe," someone we would now call a member of the intelligentsia. Academics and journalists, pundits, moralists, and pontificators of all varieties are in this sense clercs . The English translation, The Treason of the Intellectuals , 1 sums it up neatly.

The "treason" in question was the betrayal by the "clerks" of their vocation as intellectuals. From the time of the pre-Socratics, intellectuals, considered in their role as intellectuals, had been a breed apart. In Benda's terms, they were understood to be "all those whose activity essentially is not the pursuit of practical aims, all those who seek their joy in the practice of an art or a science or a metaphysical speculation, in short in the possession of non-material advantages." Thanks to such men, Benda wrote, "humanity did evil for two thousand years, but honored good. This contradiction was an honor to the human species, and formed the rift whereby civilization slipped into the world."

According to Benda, however, this situation was changing. More and more, intellectuals were abandoning their attachment to the traditional panoply of philosophical and scholarly ideals. One clear sign of the change was the attack on the Enlightenment ideal of universal humanity and the concomitant glorification of various particularisms. The attack on the universal went forward in social and political life as well as in the refined precincts of epistemology and metaphysics: "Those who for centuries had exhorted men, at least theoretically, to deaden the feeling of their differences have now come to praise them, according to where the sermon is given, for their 'fidelity to the French soul,' 'the immutability of their German consciousness,' for the 'fervor of their Italian hearts.'" In short, intellectuals began to immerse themselves in the unsettlingly practical and material world of political passions: precisely those passions, Benda observed, "owing to which men rise up against other men, the chief of which are racial passions, class passions and national passions." The "rift" into which civilization had been wont to slip narrowed and threatened to close altogether.

Writing at a moment when ethnic and nationalistic hatreds were beginning to tear Europe asunder, Benda's diagnosis assumed the lineaments of a prophecy -- a prophecy that continues to have deep resonance today. "Our age is indeed the age of the intellectual organization of political hatreds ," he wrote near the beginning of the book. "It will be one of its chief claims to notice in the moral history of humanity." There was no need to add that its place in moral history would be as a cautionary tale. In little more than a decade, Benda's prediction that, because of the "great betrayal" of the intellectuals, humanity was "heading for the greatest and most perfect war ever seen in the world," would achieve a terrifying corroboration.

J ulien Benda was not so naïve as to believe that intellectuals as a class had ever entirely abstained from political involvement, or, indeed, from involvement in the realm of practical affairs. Nor did he believe that intellectuals, as citizens, necessarily should abstain from political commitment or practical affairs. The "treason" or betrayal he sought to publish concerned the way that intellectuals had lately allowed political commitment to insinuate itself into their understanding of the intellectual vocation as such. Increasingly, Benda claimed, politics was "mingled with their work as artists, as men of learning, as philosophers." The ideal of disinterestedness, the universality of truth: such guiding principles were contemptuously deployed as masks when they were not jettisoned altogether. It was in this sense that he castigated the " desire to abase the values of knowledge before the values of action ."

In its crassest but perhaps also most powerful form, this desire led to that familiar phenomenon Benda dubbed "the cult of success." It is summed up, he writes, in "the teaching that says that when a will is successful that fact alone gives it a moral value, whereas the will which fails is for that reason alone deserving of contempt." In itself, this idea is hardly novel, as history from the Greek sophists on down reminds us. In Plato's Gorgias , for instance, the sophist Callicles expresses his contempt for Socrates' devotion to philosophy: "I feel toward philosophers very much as I do toward those who lisp and play the child." Callicles taunts Socrates with the idea that "the more powerful, the better, and the stronger" are simply different words for the same thing. Successfully pursued, he insists, "luxury and intemperance are virtue and happiness, and all the rest is tinsel." How contemporary Callicles sounds!

In Benda's formula, this boils down to the conviction that "politics decides morality." To be sure, the cynicism that Callicles espoused is perennial: like the poor, it will be always with us. What Benda found novel was the accreditation of such cynicism by intellectuals. "It is true indeed that these new 'clerks' declare that they do not know what is meant by justice, truth, and other 'metaphysical fogs,' that for them the true is determined by the useful, the just by circumstances," he noted. "All these things were taught by Callicles, but with this difference; he revolted all the important thinkers of his time."

In other words, the real treason of the intellectuals was not that they countenanced Callicles but that they championed him. To appreciate the force of Benda's thesis one need only think of that most influential modern Callicles, Friedrich Nietzsche. His doctrine of "the will to power," his contempt for the "slave morality" of Christianity, his plea for an ethic "beyond good and evil," his infatuation with violence -- all epitomize the disastrous "pragmatism" that marks the intellectual's "treason." The real problem was not the unattainability but the disintegration of ideals, an event that Nietzsche hailed as the "transvaluation of all values." "Formerly," Benda observed, "leaders of States practiced realism, but did not honor it; With them morality was violated but moral notions remained intact, and that is why, in spite of all their violence, they did not disturb civilization ."

Benda understood that the stakes were high: the treason of the intellectuals signaled not simply the corruption of a bunch of scribblers but a fundamental betrayal of culture. By embracing the ethic of Callicles, intellectuals had, Benda reckoned, precipitated "one of the most remarkable turning points in the moral history of the human species. It is impossible," he continued,

to exaggerate the importance of a movement whereby those who for twenty centuries taught Man that the criterion of the morality of an act is its disinterestedness, that good is a decree of his reason insofar as it is universal, that his will is only moral if it seeks its law outside its objects, should begin to teach him that the moral act is the act whereby he secures his existence against an environment which disputes it, that his will is moral insofar as it is a will "to power," that the part of his soul which determines what is good is its "will to live" wherein it is most "hostile to all reason," that the morality of an act is measured by its adaptation to its end, and that the only morality is the morality of circumstances. The educators of the human mind now take sides with Callicles against Socrates, a revolution which I dare to say seems to me more important than all political upheavals.

T he Treason of the Intellectuals is an energetic hodgepodge of a book. The philosopher Jean-François Revel recently described it as "one of the fussiest pleas on behalf of the necessary independence of intellectuals." Certainly it is rich, quirky, erudite, digressive, and polemical: more an exclamation than an analysis. Partisan in its claims for disinterestedness, it is ruthless in its defense of intellectual high-mindedness. Yet given the horrific events that unfolded in the decades following its publication, Benda's unremitting attack on the politicization of the intellect and ethnic separatism cannot but strike us as prescient. And given the continuing echo in our own time of the problems he anatomized, the relevance of his observations to our situation can hardly be doubted. From the savage flowering of ethnic hatreds in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to the mendacious demands for political correctness and multiculturalism on college campuses across America and Europe, the treason of the intellectuals continues to play out its unedifying drama. Benda spoke of "a cataclysm in the moral notions of those who educate the world." That cataclysm is erupting in every corner of cultural life today.

In 1988, the young French philosopher and cultural critic Alain Finkielkraut took up where Benda left off, producing a brief but searching inventory of our contemporary cataclysms. Entitled La Défaite de la pensée 2 ("The 'Defeat' or 'Undoing' of Thought"), his essay is in part an updated taxonomy of intellectual betrayals. In this sense, the book is a trahison des clercs for the post-Communist world, a world dominated as much by the leveling imperatives of pop culture as by resurgent nationalism and ethnic separatism. Beginning with Benda, Finkielkraut catalogues several prominent strategies that contemporary intellectuals have employed to retreat from the universal. A frequent point of reference is the eighteenth-century German Romantic philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder. "From the beginning, or to be more precise, from the time of Plato until that of Voltaire," he writes, "human diversity had come before the tribunal of universal values; with Herder the eternal values were condemned by the court of diversity."

Finkielkraut focuses especially on Herder's definitively anti-Enlightenment idea of the Volksgeist or "national spirit." Quoting the French historian Joseph Renan, he describes the idea as "the most dangerous explosive of modern times." "Nothing," he writes, "can stop a state that has become prey to the Volksgeist ." It is one of Finkielkraut's leitmotifs that today's multiculturalists are in many respects Herder's (generally unwitting) heirs.

True, Herder's emphasis on history and language did much to temper the tendency to abstraction that one finds in some expressions of the Enlightenment. Ernst Cassirer even remarked that "Herder's achievement is one of the greatest intellectual triumphs of the philosophy of the Enlightenment."

Nevertheless, the multiculturalists' obsession with "diversity" and ethnic origins is in many ways a contemporary redaction of Herder's elevation of racial particularism over the universalizing mandate of reason. Finkielkraut opposes this just as the mature Goethe once took issue with Herder's adoration of the Volksgeist. Finkielkraut concedes that we all "relate to a particular tradition" and are "shaped by our national identity." But, unlike the multiculturalists, he soberly insists that "this reality merit[s] some recognition, not idolatry."

In Goethe's words, "A generalized tolerance will be best achieved if we leave undisturbed whatever it is which constitutes the special character of particular individuals and peoples, whilst at the same time we retain the conviction that the distinctive worth of anything with true merit lies in its belonging to all humanity."

The Undoing of Thought resembles The Treason of the Intellectuals stylistically as well as thematically. Both books are sometimes breathless congeries of sources and aperçus. And Finkielkraut, like Benda (and, indeed, like Montaigne), tends to proceed more by collage than by demonstration. But he does not simply recapitulate Benda's argument.

The geography of intellectual betrayal has changed dramatically in the last sixty-odd years. In 1927, intellectuals still had something definite to betray. In today's "postmodernist" world, the terrain is far mushier: the claims of tradition are much attenuated and betrayal is often only a matter of acquiescence. Finkielkraut's distinctive contribution is to have taken the measure of the cultural swamp that surrounds us, to have delineated the links joining the politicization of the intellect and its current forms of debasement.

In the broadest terms, The Undoing of Thought is a brief for the principles of the Enlightenment. Among other things, this means that it is a brief for the idea that mankind is united by a common humanity that transcends ethnic, racial, and sexual divisions.

The humanizing "reason" that Enlightenment champions is a universal reason, sharable, in principle, by all. Such ideals have not fared well in the twentieth century: Herder's progeny have labored hard to discredit them. Granted, the belief that there is "Jewish thinking" or "Soviet science" or "Aryan art" is no longer as widespread as it once was. But the dispersal of these particular chimeras has provided no inoculation against kindred fabrications: "African knowledge," "female language," "Eurocentric science": these are among today's talismanic fetishes.

Then, too, one finds a stunning array of anti-Enlightenment phantasmagoria congregated under the banner of "anti-positivism." The idea that history is a "myth," that the truths of science are merely "fictions" dressed up in forbidding clothes, that reason and language are powerless to discover the truth -- more, that truth itself is a deceitful ideological construct: these and other absurdities are now part of the standard intellectual diet of Western intellectuals. The Frankfurt School Marxists Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno gave an exemplary but by no means uncharacteristic demonstration of one strain of this brand of anti-rational animus in the mid-1940s.

Safely ensconced in Los Angeles, these refugees from Hitler's Reich published an influential essay on the concept of Enlightenment. Among much else, they assured readers that "Enlightenment is totalitarian." Never mind that at that very moment the Nazi war machine -- what one might be forgiven for calling real totalitarianism -- was busy liquidating millions of people in order to fulfill another set of anti-Enlightenment fantasies inspired by devotion to the Volksgeist .

The diatribe that Horkheimer and Adorno mounted against the concept of Enlightenment reminds us of an important peculiarity about the history of Enlightenment: namely, that it is a movement of thought that began as a reaction against tradition and has now emerged as one of tradition's most important safeguards. Historically, the Enlightenment arose as a deeply anti-clerical and, perforce, anti-traditional movement. Its goal, in Kant's famous phrase, was to release man from his "self-imposed immaturity."

The chief enemy of Enlightenment was "superstition," an omnibus term that included all manner of religious, philosophical, and moral ideas. But as the sociologist Edward Shils has noted, although the Enlightenment was in important respects "antithetical to tradition" in its origins, its success was due in large part "to the fact that it was promulgated and pursued in a society in which substantive traditions were rather strong." "It was successful against its enemies," Shils notes in his book Tradition (1981),

because the enemies were strong enough to resist its complete victory over them. Living on a soil of substantive traditionality, the ideas of the Enlightenment advanced without undoing themselves. As long as respect for authority on the one side and self-confidence in those exercising authority on the other persisted, the Enlightenment's ideal of emancipation through the exercise of reason went forward. It did not ravage society as it would have done had society lost all legitimacy.

It is this mature form of Enlightenment, championing reason but respectful of tradition, that Finkielkraut holds up as an ideal.

W hat Finkielkraut calls "the undoing of thought" flows from the widespread disintegration of a faith. At the center of that faith is the assumption that the life of thought is "the higher life" and that culture -- what the Germans call Bildung -- is its end or goal.

The process of disintegration has lately become an explicit attack on culture. This is not simply to say that there are many anti-intellectual elements in society: that has always been the case. "Non-thought," in Finkielkraut's phrase, has always co-existed with the life of the mind. The innovation of contemporary culture is to have obliterated the distinction between the two. "It is," he writes, "the first time in European history that non-thought has donned the same label and enjoyed the same status as thought itself, and the first time that those who, in the name of 'high culture,' dare to call this non-thought by its name, are dismissed as racists and reactionaries." The attack is perpetrated not from outside, by uncomprehending barbarians, but chiefly from inside, by a new class of barbarians, the self-made barbarians of the intelligentsia. This is the undoing of thought. This is the new "treason of the intellectuals."

There are many sides to this phenomenon. What Finkielkraut has given us is not a systematic dissection but a kind of pathologist's scrapbook. He reminds us, for example, that the multiculturalists' demand for "diversity" requires the eclipse of the individual in favor of the group . "Their most extraordinary feat," he observes, "is to have put forward as the ultimate individual liberty the unconditional primacy of the collective." Western rationalism and individualism are rejected in the name of a more "authentic" cult.

One example: Finkielkraut quotes a champion of multiculturalism who maintains that "to help immigrants means first of all respecting them for what they are, respecting whatever they aspire to in their national life, in their distinctive culture and in their attachment to their spiritual and religious roots." Would this, Finkielkraut asks, include "respecting" those religious codes which demanded that the barren woman be cast out and the adulteress be punished with death?

What about those cultures in which the testimony of one man counts for that of two women? In which female circumcision is practiced? In which slavery flourishes? In which mixed marriages are forbidden and polygamy encouraged? Multiculturalism, as Finkielkraut points out, requires that we respect such practices. To criticize them is to be dismissed as "racist" and "ethnocentric." In this secular age, "cultural identity" steps in where the transcendent once was: "Fanaticism is indefensible when it appeals to heaven, but beyond reproach when it is grounded in antiquity and cultural distinctiveness."

To a large extent, the abdication of reason demanded by multiculturalism has been the result of what we might call the subjection of culture to anthropology. Finkielkraut speaks in this context of a "cheerful confusion which raises everyday anthropological practices to the pinnacle of the human race's greatest achievements." This process began in the nineteenth century, but it has been greatly accelerated in our own age. One thinks, for example, of the tireless campaigning of that great anthropological leveler, Claude Lévi-Strauss. Lévi-Strauss is assuredly a brilliant writer, but he has also been an extraordinarily baneful influence. Already in the early 1950s, when he was pontificating for UNESCO , he was urging all and sundry to "fight against ranking cultural differences hierarchically." In La Pensée sauvage (1961), he warned against the "false antinomy between logical and prelogical mentality" and was careful in his descriptions of natives to refer to "so-called primitive thought." "So-called" indeed. In a famous article on race and history, Lévi-Strauss maintained that the barbarian was not the opposite of the civilized man but "first of all the man who believes there is such a thing as barbarism." That of course is good to know. It helps one to appreciate Lévi-Strauss's claim, in Tristes Tropiques (1955), that the "true purpose of civilization" is to produce "inertia." As one ruminates on the proposition that cultures should not be ranked hierarchically, it is also well to consider what Lévi-Strauss coyly refers to as "the positive forms of cannibalism." For Lévi-Strauss, cannibalism has been unfairly stigmatized in the "so-called" civilized West. In fact, he explains, cannibalism was "often observed with great discretion, the vital mouthful being made up of a small quantity of organic matter mixed, on occasion, with other forms of food." What, merely a "vital mouthful"? Not to worry! Only an ignoramus who believed that there were important distinctions, qualitative distinctions, between the barbarian and the civilized man could possibly think of objecting.

Of course, the attack on distinctions that Finkielkraut castigates takes place not only among cultures but also within a given culture. Here again, the anthropological imperative has played a major role. "Under the equalizing eye of social science," he writes,

hierarchies are abolished, and all the criteria of taste are exposed as arbitrary. From now on no rigid division separates masterpieces from run-of-the mill works. The same fundamental structure, the same general and elemental traits are common to the "great" novels (whose excellence will henceforth be demystified by the accompanying quotation marks) and plebian types of narrative activity.

F or confirmation of this, one need only glance at the pronouncements of our critics. Whether working in the academy or other cultural institutions, they bring us the same news: there is "no such thing" as intrinsic merit, "quality" is an only ideological construction, aesthetic value is a distillation of social power, etc., etc.

In describing this process of leveling, Finkielkraut distinguishes between those who wish to obliterate distinctions in the name of politics and those who do so out of a kind of narcissism. The multiculturalists wave the standard of radical politics and say (in the words of a nineteenth-century Russian populist slogan that Finkielkraut quotes): "A pair of boots is worth more than Shakespeare."

Those whom Finkielkraut calls "postmodernists," waving the standard of radical chic, declare that Shakespeare is no better than the latest fashion -- no better, say, than the newest item offered by Calvin Klein. The litany that Finkielkraut recites is familiar:

A comic which combines exciting intrigue and some pretty pictures is just as good as a Nabokov novel. What little Lolitas read is as good as Lolita . An effective publicity slogan counts for as much as a poem by Apollinaire or Francis Ponge . The footballer and the choreographer, the painter and the couturier, the writer and the ad-man, the musician and the rock-and-roller, are all the same: creators. We must scrap the prejudice which restricts that title to certain people and regards others as sub-cultural.

The upshot is not only that Shakespeare is downgraded, but also that the bootmaker is elevated. "It is not just that high culture must be demystified; sport, fashion and leisure now lay claim to high cultural status." A grotesque fantasy? Anyone who thinks so should take a moment to recall the major exhibition called "High & Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture" that the Museum of Modern Art mounted a few years ago: it might have been called "Krazy Kat Meets Picasso." Few events can have so consummately summed up the corrosive trivialization of culture now perpetrated by those entrusted with preserving it. Among other things, that exhibition demonstrated the extent to which the apotheosis of popular culture undermines the very possibility of appreciating high art on its own terms.

When the distinction between culture and entertainment is obliterated, high art is orphaned, exiled from the only context in which its distinctive meaning can manifest itself: Picasso becomes a kind of cartoon. This, more than any elitism or obscurity, is the real threat to culture today. As Hannah Arendt once observed, "there are many great authors of the past who have survived centuries of oblivion and neglect, but it is still an open question whether they will be able to survive an entertaining version of what they have to say."

And this brings us to the question of freedom. Finkielkraut notes that the rhetoric of postmodernism is in some ways similar to the rhetoric of Enlightenment. Both look forward to releasing man from his "self-imposed immaturity." But there is this difference: Enlightenment looks to culture as a repository of values that transcend the self, postmodernism looks to the fleeting desires of the isolated self as the only legitimate source of value.

For the postmodernist, then, "culture is no longer seen as a means of emancipation, but as one of the élitist obstacles to this." The products of culture are valuable only as a source of amusement or distraction. In order to realize the freedom that postmodernism promises, culture must be transformed into a field of arbitrary "options." "The post-modern individual," Finkielkraut writes, "is a free and easy bundle of fleeting and contingent appetites. He has forgotten that liberty involves more than the ability to change one's chains, and that culture itself is more than a satiated whim."

What Finkielkraut has understood with admirable clarity is that modern attacks on elitism represent not the extension but the destruction of culture. "Democracy," he writes, "once implied access to culture for everybody. From now on it is going to mean everyone's right to the culture of his choice." This may sound marvelous -- it is after all the slogan one hears shouted in academic and cultural institutions across the country -- but the result is precisely the opposite of what was intended.

"'All cultures are equally legitimate and everything is cultural,' is the common cry of affluent society's spoiled children and of the detractors of the West." The irony, alas, is that by removing standards and declaring that "anything goes," one does not get more culture, one gets more and more debased imitations of culture. This fraud is the dirty secret that our cultural commissars refuse to acknowledge.

There is another, perhaps even darker, result of the undoing of thought. The disintegration of faith in reason and common humanity leads not only to a destruction of standards, but also involves a crisis of courage. "A careless indifference to grand causes," Finkielkraut warns, "has its counterpart in abdication in the face of force." As the impassioned proponents of "diversity" meet the postmodern apostles of acquiescence, fanaticism mixes with apathy to challenge the commitment required to preserve freedom.

Communism may have been effectively discredited. But "what is dying along with it is not the totalitarian cast of mind, but the idea of a world common to all men."

Julien Benda took his epigraph for La Trahison des clercs from the nineteenth-century French philosopher Charles Renouvier: Le monde souffre du manque de foi en une vérité transcendante : "The world suffers from lack of faith in a transcendent truth." Without some such faith, we are powerless against the depredations of intellectuals who have embraced the nihilism of Callicles as their truth.

1 The Treason of the Intellectuals, by Julien Benda, translated by Richard Aldington, was first published in 1928. This translation is still in print from Norton.

2 La Défaite de la pensée , by Alain Finkielkraut; Gallimard, 162 pages, 72 FF . It is available in English, in a translation by Dennis O'Keeffe, as The Undoing of Thought (The Claridge Press [London], 133 pages, £6.95 paper).

Roger Kimball is Editor and Publisher of The New Criterion and President and Publisher of Encounter Books. His latest book is The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine's Press)

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[Oct 20, 2019] Growing Secularism Is Pushing Religion, Traditional Values Aside, AG Barr Warns by Janita Kan

Notable quotes:
"... "Along with the wreckage of the family, we are seeing record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence, and a deadly drug epidemic," he said. ..."
Oct 12, 2019 | aim4truth.org
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