Trends in America

Written By: - Date published: 8:45 am, April 6th, 2015 - 29 comments
Categories: capitalism, class war, Deep stuff, us politics - Tags: ,

Here’s some slow Monday reading to ponder, on political trends in America:

7 of the Biggest Reasons America Is Screwed

Why the wealthy and the right always prevail.
By Robert Kuttner / The American Prospect

Reason One. The Discrediting of Politics Itself. The Republican Party has devised a strategy of hamstringing government and making any remediation impossible. …

Reason Two. Compromised Democrats. But the Democrats are hardly blameless. Instead of seizing on the collapse of 2008 as a disgrace for laissez-faire economics, deregulation, Wall Street and the Republican Party, Barack Obama tried to make nice with the GOP, refrained from cleaning out the big banks that caused the mess, and drank the Kool-Aid of budget balance. …

Reason Three. The Reign of Politicized Courts and Big Money. The Supreme Court’s usual majority has become an opportunistic subsidiary of the Republican Party. Two key decisions, reflecting outrageous misreading of both the Constitution and the abuses of recent history, undermined citizenship and entrenched the rule of big money. …

Reason Four. The Collapse of Equalizing Institutions. During the postwar boom, America actually became more equal. The bottom quarter gained more income share than the top quarter. This was no historical or technological accident. Shared prosperity was built on government activism promoting opportunity, strong unions providing decent wages even for the less educated, enforcement of other labor laws, debt-free public higher education, well-regulated financial institutions, a genuinely progressive income tax, and a trading system that did not promote outsourcing. Politics — not technology — caused the evisceration of these instruments. Politics could take back a fairer America.

Reason Five. Bewildering Changes in How Jobs Are Structured. In the past couple of decades, regular payroll jobs with career prospects have increasingly been displaced by an economy of short-term gigs, contract work, and crappy payroll jobs without decent pay and benefits, or even regular hours. This shift often gets blamed on technology or education, but that’s malarkey. …

Reason Six. The Internalization of a Generation’s Plight. Compared to my age cohort, Millennials are the screwed generation. The dream of homeownership has been undercut; good jobs with career prospects are in short supply; young adults begin economic life saddled with student debt; the pension system has been blown up; and if you want to have kids, society doesn’t do anything to help the work-family straddle. …

Reason Seven. The Absence of a Movement. In the face of all these assaults on the working and middle class, there are many movements but no Movement. The Occupy movement, which gave us the phrase, “The One Percent,” was too hung up on its own procedural purity to create a broad movement for economic justice. …

Read the full piece for more. We don’t have all of these problems in NZ, but we have most of them. Kuttner concludes:

This vicious circle — really a downward spiral about depressed expectations and diminished participation — can be reversed, as it has been reversed at moments in the American past. As that noted political consultant Joe Hill put it, as they were taking him to the gallows, “Don’t mourn, organize.”

29 comments on “Trends in America ”

  1. RedBaronCV 1

    At the last election there were some serious rises in the minimum wage on offer but somehow it didn’t seem to get through to the voters many of whom turned down/ ignored a substantial weekly rise.

  2. And all of this emerged out of nowhere. No conspiracies, not faux money creation out of thin air by a small privately owned banking cartel, no giant arms deals made by the very same people who already own most of the world.

    Nope our governments love us and would never do anything detrimental to us. We are a real democracy! And 3 buildings collapsed/exploded into themselves into the path of most resistance in free fall speed after two planes flew into them losing most of their fuel in the impact implosion!

  3. Paul 3

    Almost all these apply to NZ as well.
    Maybe not number 3

    • Lanthanide 3.1

      #1 doesn’t really apply, and the thrust behind #2 is correct – but of course in our case we had the right-wing in power anyway.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        I’d say that #1 does apply. The RWNJs and a few on the Left as well have been telling us that government is bad for as long as I can remember.

        • Lanthanide

          It is nothing like the partisan gridlock in the US. Our government can and still does pass legislation.

          Whether the legislation is appropriate or addressing the right things is a separate matter.

      • Once was Tim 3.1.2

        Not only is the thrust behind #2 correct, but its a big reason things are as fucked as they are. I’ve oft pondered whether or not someone has something over Obama (but I’ve come to the conclusion that altho’ they probably do), the guy is just an egotistical bag of wind who sees himself as the great orator & who thought he was going to make a difference simply because he was different.
        The guy’s not stupid – he must have known that by keeping on half the people he has, and making the appointments he has that he’d be pushing shit uphill. He must also have known what he faced – the racism, the Republicans doing an Abbott-like no no no routine.
        I’m afraid Obama’s CV has been more important to him than all that Hope & Change you can believe in ever was going to be.
        Yankee doodles are however now waking up (slowly) – not unlike sleepy hobbits

        • Lanthanide

          The US government isn’t like the Vatican, where a new pontiff (president) can come in and sweep everything aside like a new broom.

          The US presidency is very deliberately constrained by two other houses.

        • hoom

          I think its that he was simply lying on campaign.

          I remember reading an article about his connections & voting record (no idea where or title) during the campaign & coming to the conclusion that he was a Wolf in Sheeps clothing.

          And as soon as he got in power he kept the worst of the Bush cabal in power which confirmed it.

          He makes nice sounding speeches sometimes but his actions are full neocon extremist.

  4. Another American trend; desertification. California’s Central Valley is swiftly returning to its original state and farmers are drilling deeper and deeper to find water. On the upside, climate change deniers are looking pretty damn stoopid.

  5. RedLogix 5

    The absence of a Movement? But what movement are you asking for? Evolution or Revolution?

    When we attempt for evolutionary change we’re emasculated by ‘procedural purity’ – and yet almost by definition revolution throws it under the bus completely. One achieves little, the other undoes everything.

    The moment you turn it into a ’cause’ you have sown the seeds of failure. A cause demands uniformity of thought, imposed either by procedure or failing that – violence.

    Only ‘communities’ succeed. They are imperfect, they are diverse, they have conflicting agenda’s, they are challenging. Communities require civilised behaviour to function, demanding courtesy, integrity and trust to function. They are frustrating and force compromises in order to achieve unity of purpose and action – without imposing uniformity. It is only strong, vital, well-organised, well-lead communities which ever make a positive durable difference. But where are they?

    There are three fundamental actors in a nation – the state, the individual and the community. Examine all seven of these reasons and the effect has been to undermine and diminish the role of community – rendering us collectively helpless.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      There are three fundamental actors in a nation – the state, the individual and the community. Examine all seven of these reasons and the effect has been to undermine and diminish the role of community – rendering us collectively helpless.


      It is this effect that puts the lie to Individualism as advanced by Act and National.

      • RedLogix 5.1.1

        For instance – here in Australia the big mining companies have strongly encouraged FIFO workers while winding back on local mining towns.

        Superficially FIFO looks good – your family gets to live in a larger center with better access to facilities. More individual choice about where and how you live.

        But then there is the separation – and that comes with it’s own price for many families. And the isolation – mining camps are not social places. The constant turnover of people results in a jumble of personalities – but no lasting connections.

        And it destroys any sense of community – which in turn prevents mine workers from forming the solidarity essential to effective union action. As a result conditions are being rapidly eroded and diminished at many sites.

        The past 40 years has seen this fundamental pattern repeated – the breaking up of communities of interest by selling us ‘individual choices and freedoms’ most of which turned out to be either worthless or toxic.

    • Lindsey 6.2

      Yes, the article leaves out the Christofascism and the Dominionism which permeates the right wing of American politics.

    • joe90 6.3

      And there’s always the odd spurious correlation.

      Neil Irwin writes about migration patterns within the United States, and points out that they overwhelmingly reflect just two factors. Most important, people are moving to places with mild winters:


      And as I also pointed out, the search for mild winters can lead to a lot of spurious correlations. With the exception of California — which has mild winters but also, now, has very high housing prices — America’s warm states are very conservative. And that’s not an accident: warm states were also slave states and members of the Confederacy, and a glance at any election map will tell you that in US politics the Civil War is far from over.

      The point, then, is that these hot red states also tend to be low-minimum-wage, low-taxes-on-the-wealthy jurisdictions. And that opens the door to sloppy and/or mendacious claims that low wages and taxes are driving their growth.

  6. adam 7

    This is from a conservative – I thought it was interesting. This is a middle of the road conservative, not a Beck or some other loopy.

    • Sable 7.1

      I think there is a difference between the traditional conservatism of the kind you see in people like Winston Peters and the nasty reactionary conservatism you see from Keys and his little pals.

      • weka 7.1.1

        Key’s not a conservative, he’s a radical neoliberal.

        • adam

          Spot on Weka – conservatives are slowly waking up to the fact they have been duped. It’s interesting to watch.

        • Hanswurst

          I think Key is naturally a (small “c”) conservative. He fronts neo-liberal policies because that is the current orthodoxy. If he had been around during the Muldoon years, I imagine he would have toed that line as well.

          • Molly

            If he had been around during the Muldoon years, the politics wouldn’t have appealed to his ego.

    • Olwyn 7.2

      I think that similar cracks have occurred on the right side of the spectrum as on the left since the idea of the public good was severed from economics. It is not so obvious because there are more wealthy people on the right and they are the beneficiaries of the current system.

      During the years when the country’s economic life was subject to the public good, the left was not unreasonably part of the establishment, and able to argue its case from that position. However, with economics having slipped the “public good” harness, you end up with politics, in common with most journalism, becoming a path into what now passes for an establishment, on condition that you do not seriously challenge it. Meanwhile, on both the left and the conservative right, the social “victories” become thinner and less broadly relevant, since the bit that would make a real difference is regarded as being beyond the scope of politics.

      Here is a rather long but interesting read Chris Trotter put up on fb:

  7. Sable 8

    And the pathetic losers we call a government want these creeps to come in and ruin our lives too.

    • The Murphey 8.1

      John Key was ‘put’ into politics like a futures trade by the controllers and he is simply the latest version of the hedge

      Making a list of politicians who have sold out NZ over the past 50 years paying attention to some of the less obvious examples and it looks very ugly

  8. adam 9

    Oh ahhhh.

    Good to See John Oliver on Fire –

    One video spin off.

    Just remember


  9. Murray Simmonds 10

    Well worth reading:

    Ellen Brown: How America became an Oligarchy.

    Opening quotes:

    “The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. . . . You have owners.” —George Carlin, The American Dream

    According to a new study from Princeton University, American democracy no longer exists. Using data from over 1,800 policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page concluded that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of – or even against – the will of the majority of voters. America’s political system has transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where power is wielded by wealthy elites.”

  10. Murray Simmonds 11

    And further down in the same article, there is this comment on globalisation:

    “The final blow to democracy, says Dr. Cobb, was “globalization” – an expanding global market that overrides national interests:

    [T]oday’s global economy is fully transnational.  The money power is not much interested in boundaries between states and generally works to reduce their influence on markets and investments. . . . Thus transnational corporations inherently work to undermine nation states, whether they are democratic or not.

    The most glaring example today is the secret twelve-country trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If it goes through, the TPP will dramatically expand the power of multinational corporations to use closed-door tribunals to challenge and supersede domestic laws, including environmental, labor, health and other protections.”

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