Economic anger and political madness

Written By: - Date published: 7:28 am, March 11th, 2016 - 66 comments
Categories: activism, capitalism, class war, economy, us politics - Tags: , , , , ,

Yesterday I wrote about intergenerational theft, the way that “the millineials” are getting systematically screwed by economic factors such as unemployment, debt, rising house prices, and static incomes. In comments Olwyn objected to the generational framing, arguing that “what we are looking at is the war of international capital against all”. I don’t think it is “either / or”, I think both factors are in play.

Coincidentally yesterday the Washington Post ran this interesting piece (by Jared Bernstein, a former chief economist to Vice President Biden):

Real earnings, real anger

It is pretty widely agreed upon that a good chunk of the electorate is angry.

The electorate’s anger is also fueled by a more basic manifestation of the inequitable economy that even Donald Trump has lamented: the long-term stagnation of wages for various groups of workers. Tom Edsall argues that “[T]he economic basis for voter anger has been building over forty years.” Bill Galston stresses that when the “implicit bargain between average citizens and their leaders” — you work hard, you get ahead — “breaks down because leaders don’t live up to their side of the bargain, all bets are off.” A group of Washington Post reporters contends that the anger behind Trump’s ascendancy “is more than just anger at the political class or rebellion against political correctness. It reflects decades of lost jobs and falling wages for a swath of blue-collar Americans, who saw their opportunities diminish and developed a sense that someone has stolen something from them.”

Bernstein digs in to the data (see graphs in the full article).

Both pictures clearly support the above assertions connecting anger to paychecks: decades of stagnant earnings for blue-collar factory workers and sharp declines in the real earnings of middle- and low-wage white men. … There is a demonstrable link between real earnings and real anger.

History clearly shows us that when people are economically stressed they turn to extreme action and extreme leaders. Bernstein is arguing that the Trump ascendancy is another example of this. Given the massively increasing inequality in the world, and the way that the 99% (especially the younger generations) are treated economically, I guess we can expect a whole lot more anger, and a whole lot more political madness ahead.

66 comments on “Economic anger and political madness”

  1. Ad 1

    If it really was purely earnings-related anger Bernie would be as popular as Trump.

    It’s just too economically deterministic.

    • Andre 1.1

      Bernie is more popular than Trump, both by vote share in primaries, and by head-to-head polls. It’s just that Hillary is almost as popular as Cruz+Kasich+Rubio combined.

      • Ad 1.1.1

        It’s too simple to rely on the “economic basis for voter anger” as Trump’s Secret Sauce. He has particular political skills that so far only he is prepared to deploy.

        I’m very surprised that the left can’t deploy a more nuanced analysis of his attractions and skills after two decades of exploration of gender theory, race theory, identity theory, sexuality theory, cultural criticism, postcolonial analysis, and economic geography.

        Try any one specialist in those fields: How would Camille Paglia or David Harvey analyse Trump’s success and rise?

        It’s a different analysis to Sanders.

        • r0b 1.1.1.1

          I agree there are other factors in play for Trump, but I think the economic anger is a necessary and significant factor.

          • Ad 1.1.1.1.1

            I’m not even sure it’s a strong factor.

            The disenfranchised have consistently voted against reparing the “broken contract” since Carter have gone harder right for Senate, President, even Congress.

            The trend is a weakening economic factor, and a strengthening of other factors.

            That’s true of left and right.

            • Colonial Viper 1.1.1.1.1.1

              The disenfranchised have consistently voted against reparing the “broken contract” since Carter have gone harder right for Senate, President, even Congress.

              That’s because the political elite and the corporate media have consistently and continuously misinformed the American electorate about what is needed to fix their economic malaise.

              Can you not see that NAFTA was promoted by Clinton and the US power elite as a way to boost the US economy just as the TPP and TTIP are?

              Deregulation of the financial markets and privatising pension funds – all sold to the American public as ways to wealth.

              Guess what.

              Americans are now waking up to the fact that their leaders, and their media, and their big corporations/banks have lied and lied and lied to them.

              And they ain’t fucking happy about it.

            • Crashcart 1.1.1.1.1.2

              I think it is more of an issue of people who are angry and they don’t exactly know who to blame. They live in a country and follow a party that has told them their whole lives that opportunity is there if you just take it. They work as hard as they can and they don’t see the gains.

              Their party doesn’t want to admit that it is a systematic problem. There are two ways that can be handled. You can deny the problem exists and tell people every thing is actually fine. Or you can find a scapegoat.

              Trump is scapegoating like crazy. Its the fault of Mexicans, its the fault of Muslims. Here is where he beats out the other candidates he is against. He can also get away with saying it is the fault of politicians. This rings true and so those on the right flock to him.

              • Colonial Viper

                I think it is more of an issue of people who are angry and they don’t exactly know who to blame.

                But they do know that the Establishment Players are the centre of it all, hence going for candidates that are unsupported by the establishment and the establishment media machine.

        • Andre 1.1.1.2

          When it comes to Trump, it looks to me like whatever your worldview may be you can find nuanced reasoned analyses that seem to make sense. And are totally different to the next nuanced reasoned analysis that comes along. Whenever I start spending too much time thinking about the Trump phenomenon, I end up in some pretty ugly speculation about his fans’ motives and thought processes, so I back out pretty quickly. I figure, just enjoy the clown show and hope like hell he doesn’t actually end up in the White House, or do too much damage before November.

          However, what I haven’t seen is nuanced reasoned analyses of why Hillary is so much more popular than Bernie among blacks, Hispanics and most other minorities. Everything I’ve seen so far looks pretty superficial and condescending.

          • Macro 1.1.1.2.1

            My thoughts entirely!
            Can’t for the life of me see why Hillary is more popular than Bernie within the Black American population.

            • mosa 1.1.1.2.1.1

              Clinton has big name recognition with African Americans going back years
              Clinton would have won in 2008 had the desire to vote for Barack Obama a winnable black candidate not been a factor.
              I think Sanders would deliver more for that community than Clinton if they could have just broken the Bill- Hillary spell and thought outside the square

              • Ad

                If Sanders gets close in Florida I’d agree that they are getting it.
                Clinton would be in real trouble at that point.

              • Colonial Viper

                All I can figure is that the Blacks who vote Democratic are way more middle class than is representative of the overall Black population in the US.

                Especially given that Bill Clinton signed the Omnibus Bill which criminalised a whole lot of until then minor crimes. Which consequently exploded the Black prison population.

                And when those millions of Blacks are released, most of the time, they are never ever allowed to vote again.

                • greywarshark

                  That’s a great point CV. Centre attention on black crime, manufacture it by making regular minor habits unlawful, and fill the prisons. It creates a feeling of continual attack requiring defence by what should be peaceful happy communities, with the large numbers in prison being like a waiting shadow of to-be released men who are dangerous. Gun purchase goes up, despite all the bad publicity. Attacks on blacks are justified in the attackers minds by the Jungian shadow. The blacks in prison are the bad people, being held in custody to keep the good folks from being overwhelmed, they are the scapegoats for the ills of society. That means an easy target for people’s hates and fear.

                  And then once they have been imprisoned, these pariahs can no longer vote, they are disenfranchised.

                  I have been reading a not pleasant book about a vulnerable man and son trying to get established in a British city. The son eventually kills himself largely as a result of the father’s efforts to smooth the way for him in that society, but not succeeding, being further victimised until the father arranges a retaliatory professional hit on the other. But an interesting point is that the boy’s aunt realises that the father is getting the same treatment meted out to a Romany family with numbers of children, who were driven out of the housing estate by hostility. And when it happens also to her brother, she realises that she accepted it at that time. Now she lacks wisdom and the ability to communicate and support the father and son, not enough charity or love for her brother to help him through his trauma. (Neil Cross ‘Always the Sun’.)

                  It all has become groupthink, and each tragedy has an outpouring of emotion, but no effort to resolve the almost primitive responses that seem to arise involuntarily to long-held prejudices allowed to fester in society. That is why we have to break the intolerance cycle regularly. It doesn’t make people change deeply held prejudices but it stops them being spread without let or hindrance, to gather steam and spread or to continue on inter-generationally.
                  edited

                • weka

                  Who could they have voted for instead?

            • Crashcart 1.1.1.2.1.2

              A combination of an image created for Bill glossing on to Hilary and powerful backing in the Blakc community. Remember that cool Sax playing Pres? you add into this respected African American politicians backing her and going as far as flat out denying Sanders civil rights record and you can get a picture of why low information voters vote the way they do.

            • Anno1701 1.1.1.2.1.3

              “Hillary is more popular than Bernie within the Black American population.”

              because her husband is known as the first black president…

              After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of “blackness”: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.

      • aerobubble 1.1.2

        Bernie did not inherit through the hard work of parent selection and family, social networking that Trump has. Thats why its framed as anger that Trump is picking up on, I mean he’s worked hard to be given so much so quickly. Its hard work being born with a silver spoon shine out of ones arse. Bernie was lazy all his life, lazily joining with black protesters, lazily sitting in Congress, people like him who have a history of service, to principles, its not work. Work is churning paper debts over, keeping the soft leathery seat warm and moist takes real work.

    • Olwyn 1.2

      The piece doesn’t say it’s all earnings related. This is the telling bit: when the “implicit bargain between average citizens and their leaders”….“breaks down because leaders don’t live up to their side of the bargain, all bets are off.” The loss of real wages is one manifestation of this breakdown, as is the attendant scorn for political correctness – there are few things more irritating than a self-satisfied, patronising face when you are at the end of your rope. And this state of affairs explains both the support for Bernie and Trump. Of the two, Bernie is the one that wants to renew the social contract – Trump appeals more to the anarchic streak that is also part of the US.

      • s y d 1.2.1

        Exactly Olwyn..the deal is off. And indeed ” there are few things more irritating than a self-satisfied, patronising face when you are at the end of your rope”
        The image that popped into my head was Sir Michael Cullen.

      • Colonial Viper 1.2.2

        “anarchic streak” – in the US that is foundational, meaning not wanting to be ruled over by a tyrannical government, whether that government is in England or in Washington DC.

        • Olwyn 1.2.2.1

          There’s a moment in Arthur Miller’s autobiography, “Timebends” when the HUAC hunt him down in Reno, where he has been obliged to stay for six weeks to get a divorce. Both his John Birch Society-member lawyer and a right wing Texan rancher offered him escape routes – they were of course opposed to Communism, but even more opposed to the government telling you what to do. Their descendants are probably now cheering for Trump.

    • AmaKiwi 1.3

      It is not “economically” deterministic.

      It is how all higher animals behave. Fear (fight or flight) overrides all rational thinking.

      Anger is not disappointment or displeasure or some such less consuming emotion. Anger comes from FEAR.

  2. vto 2

    Agree.

    But not sure why you call it political madness. It is not madness at all is it, from your very own logic…

    It is a clear and logical political outcome.

    The madness is in fact what has been going on the last “forty years” because it is that which has led to the destruction of the values and lives these voters have.

    It is in fact “the end of political madness”

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      BINGO

      It’s like the kind of establishment logic which calls Trump and Sanders “extremists.”

      In fact it was Clinton, Bush and Obama who were the extremists.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.2

      +1

      People are getting pissed off with politicians who are obviously owned by the corporates.

      • AmaKiwi 2.2.1

        +1

        Near the end of his life Milton Friedman admitted he had been wrong about totally free market capitalism. He saw the abuses and concluded the marketplace needs some government regulation.

        But let’s just keep Friedman’s discovery a secret between your unregulated media monopoly and mine. No need to confuse the public. /sacr/

  3. Sanctuary 3

    The liberal left political class should look at Trump and Sanders, buy a revolver, book into a hotel room and do the decent thing.

  4. linda 4

    I wonder if we will see foreclosed framers. On picket line outside dear leaders house but in all serious debt ، houseing bubble pop cant. Be far away

    • Stuart Munro 4.1

      We should see their tractors on the steps of parliament – but I imagine Bill’s brother will try to talk them into losing everything without protest.

  5. esoteric pineapples 5

    The lower middle (white) classes in the United States have been voting against their own best economic interests for nearly 40 years now, basically because they have supported right wing Presidents since Ronald Reagan who have appealed to their prejudices against liberals, gays, black people etc. They may have been manipulated by the Republican leadership but they have to accept a good portion of the blame themselves.

    Incidentally, the “Disco Sucks” phenomenon which coincided with the election of Reagan is now being viewed as a reactionary movement against blacks, gays and other minorities.

  6. pat 6

    it is indeed a war…but not generation against generation….the gameplan is longer than that…it is the age old capital vs labour battle…..what is occuring is a simple equalising of the cost of labour throughout the world, which is demonstrated by the falling real wages in the advanced economies and the raising in the developing.
    An inevitable result of the globalisation strategy….is anyone surprised? is also why the powers that be fear the isolationist backlash, which brings its own problems….as with the worlds economic sysytem it is an oxymoronic situation…the solution is the problem.

    • Stuart Munro 6.1

      It will turn when the right have a well-founded fear of serious consequences.
      No-one in parliament is offering to punish them yet – they won’t stop stealing until they get their fingers burnt.

    • Colonial Viper 6.2

      pat – the “capital versus labour” battle is a war of the 19th and 20th century.

      Labour lost.

      The current fight is against neo-feudalism.

      • pat 6.2.1

        a turd by another name….

        • Colonial Viper 6.2.1.1

          not true.

          If you aren’t aware of what battle and what enemy you are fighting, and what their new objectives are, you will end up using old techniques and old strategies, trying to fight the last war.

          This is what the Left has been doing now for 2 decades, and losing ground all throughout.

      • AmaKiwi 6.2.2

        CV,

        I think your point about neo-feudalism is worth a discussion on The Standard.

        You and I work to enrich multi-national corporations who are beyond the control of any national governments. Through financial contributions and lobbyists, they control national governments who, in theory, are supposed to do what is best for us, the people. Instead, national governments serve corporation’s agendas. (TPPA)

        You’re on to a central issue.

        We cannot solve a problem until we have correctly defined it

  7. katipo 7

    Long but worth a read…

    http://www.vox.com/2016/3/1/11127424/trump-authoritarianism

    “…..MacWilliams studies authoritarianism — not actual dictators, but rather a psychological profile of individual voters that is characterized by a desire for order and a fear of outsiders. People who score high in authoritarianism, when they feel threatened, look for strong leaders who promise to take whatever action necessary to protect them from outsiders and prevent the changes they fear….”

    • Gristle 7.1

      IMO the basis for authoritarism as per MacWilliams et al has better predictive power than purely an economic view. I am surprised that this article was not referred to earlier.

      • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1

        /shrug

        I’ve been linking to this page for quite some time. It clearly describes a lot of National Party and even some Act Party adherents quite clearly. The above article and mentioned research is following the same line.

        • ropata 7.1.1.1

          Scary shit, and sadly very accurate. Have hung around with these types quite a lot and was aligned with much of their perspective ~ they are right about the current power structures stealing from the masses and spreading poverty. But their ‘solutions’ are worse than the problem, these ignorant fools in their poverty, values warped by unquestioning obedience to religious figures, and lack of education, are a fantastic voter pool and source of young soldiers to advance the Empire

  8. Ad 8

    Right on queue for me, Camille Paglia comes out changing her mind and just loving Trump:

    http://www.salon.com/2016/03/10/i_was_wrong_about_donald_trump_camille_paglia_on_the_gop_front_runners_refreshing_candor_and_his_impetuousness_too/

    She gets that Trump has hold of something deep in the US, and is amplifying it all he wants. And no, it’s not a class, income, or “economic contract” thing for her.

  9. whateva next? 9

    another post coherently articulates same thing, shame it’s not played on NZ news at 6.00 pm so everyone can wake up to this, instead of going on, and on about Trupm, who is merely a symptom, not the actual problem.
    http://gu.com/p/4fh3v/sbl

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