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The Rising Middle Finger

by epochepoque Mon Jul 11th, 2016 at 12:13:47 AM EST

Brexit, Populism, Inequality, and the Precariat

Since the 1980s the elites in rich countries have overplayed their hand, taking all the gains for themselves and just covering their ears when anyone else talks, and now they are watching in horror as voters revolt. It seems in both cases (Trumpism and Brexit), many voters are motivated not so much by whether they think the projects will actually work, but more by their desire to say FUCK YOU to people like me (and probably you).

Vincent Bevins - LA Times

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

I'm inclined to accept the new narrative that the 'losers of globalization' who have been stripped off dignity by offshoring and outsourcing are triggering the populist upheavals of today. That this is a socioeconomic conflict that is coming to a head in the questions of trade and immigration. It probably portends the end of a certain phase of globalization that has run its course.

But this is not the whole story. It's not just the allegedly xenophobic irrational underclass that's voting Brexit and Trump. Those two phenomena have significant support in the affluent classes as well. Does this point to a cultural and political malaise? As a columnist said "if politicians tell people that the world is full of roses while the people themselves view their world as grey, then they are bound to vote for politicians who tell them the world is black."

I've not completely wrapped my head around the latter part of this populist uprising. So let's start with the first part.

As the Middle of Society Goes Down, the Middle Finger Goes Up

Inequality has been rising since at least the eighties (see Piketty and others). However, the defining events of this generation that have upended the political process as we know it are recent. The Iraq war and its subsequent carnage, and the financial crisis of 2008 and its subsequent carnage have eroded trust in institutions that manifestly failed in the eyes of the world. Regular party politics and the mainstream press are on the defensive. Rising in its place are the populists ("the world is black") and (anti)social networks. All for a failure to prevent or properly process said events. This has led to a puncturing of myths that used to provide stability in the political process. Social democrats left, conservatives right, a free flow of capital, products, and people always good, EU provides peace and prosperity and so on. It's all not working anymore.

Brexiters' Rage against the Elites - The National Interest

Repeat after me: The status quo in the West is not working. . . . The status quo in the West is not working. ... Globalism is out. Nationalism is in. ... part of the same Western phenomenon--a gathering backlash against globalism and the antinationalist forces that dominate elite institutions such as big news organizations, universities, think tanks, NGOs and governmental bureaucracies.

I walked from Liverpool to London. Brexit was no surprise - Guardian

the immense social changes wrought by Thatcherism are still having a profound effect on communities all over England. It also meant that when I awoke last Friday to the result of the EU referendum, I wasn't remotely surprised. ... "We've been left behind," a white, middle-aged man told me at a bus stop as I rested in Hemel Hempstead. "Those politicians don't care about us. Immigration has ruined this country."

Pressing Self Destruct A Brief History of the End of Extreme Capitalism - Umair Haque

Let us assume you are one of those people. What is your best choice? To let this game go on, and meekly accept sure ruin? Of course not. You might as well push self-destruct. Your income, savings, etc, is not growing anyways. So what difference does self-destruction make to you? You are being destroyed either way, right? But only by pushing self-destruct can you wipe out the people at the top who are responsible for this mess. Or at least you have a chance to. So self destruction is both rational and straightforward.

Brexit is the Rejection of Globalisation - Guardian

In the age of globalisation, the idea was that a more integrated Europe would collectively serve as the bulwark that nation states could no longer provide. ... That dream is now over. ... The reason is obvious. Europe has failed to fulfil the historic role allocated to it. Jobs, living standards and welfare states were all better protected in the heyday of nation states in the 1950s and 1960s than they have been in the age of globalisation. Unemployment across the eurozone is more than 10%.

The world's losers are revolting, and Brexit is only the beginning - Washington Post

For another, global capitalism didn't always work so well for workers in the United States and Europe even as -- or, in some cases, because -- it pulled hundreds of millions of people out of poverty everywhere else. In fact, the working class in rich countries have seen their real, or inflation-adjusted, incomes flatline or even fall since the Berlin Wall came down and they were forced to compete with all the Chinese, Indian and Indonesian workers entering the global economy. ...

Globalization didn't create a lot of losers, but the ones it did were concentrated in the countries that were the driving force behind it. ...

The E.U. may certainly seem to deserve this fate. It has let an economic fire burn across Southern Europe for nearly eight years, its only response to that has been to pour some gasoline on it, and it seems to think it has done its job now that that is down to just a smolder. ...

History doesn't always move forward.

Brexit: a disaster decades in the making - Guardian
This was the wolf we were warned about. ... When leaders choose only the facts that suit them, people don't stop believing in facts - they stop believing in leaders ... The second is a fracturing in political allegiance. For most of the postwar period, British electoral politics was effectively a duopoly. In 1951, 97% of votes were cast either for Conservatives or Labour. By last year, the combined total was 67%. ... The coalition of metropolitan liberals, city-dwellers, ethnic minorities, union members, working-class northerners and most of Scotland slowly began to fray.
Brexit Is Only the Latest Proof of the Insularity and Failure of Western Establishment Institutions - Glenn Greenwald - The Intercept
Of course, it is the case that some, perhaps much of the support given to these anti-establishment movements is grounded in those sorts of ugly sentiments. But it's also the case that the media elites' revered establishment institutions in finance, media, and politics are driven by all sorts of equally ugly impulses, as the rotted fruit of their actions conclusively proves. ...

self-critique in elite circles is more vital than anything. But, as usual, that's exactly what they most refuse to do. Instead of acknowledging and addressing the fundamental flaws within themselves, they are devoting their energies to demonizing the victims of their corruption

The reactions to Brexit show its true significance - Fabius Maximus
Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept gives a more detailed analysis ... I am a fan, and agree with his overall analysis -- but he imposes his values and concerns onto those of the British "leave" voters. Most importantly, immigration was one of key issues (or perhaps the top one). But Greenwald never mentions it. His blindness is understandable. Support for mass immigration is a defining characteristic of the Left today; Greenwald cannot fairly speak of it.
The Collapse of the Liberal World Order - Foreign Policy
The first problem was that liberalism's defenders oversold the product. We were told that if dictators kept falling and more states held free elections, defended free speech, implemented the rule of law, and adopted competitive markets, and joined the EU and/or NATO, then a vast "zone of peace" would be created, prosperity would spread, and any lingering political disagreements would be easily addressed within the framework of a liberal order.

Fast Forward - The Burning Twilight of the Elites?

So now that there is some sort of consensus that the heady intoxication with globalization has given us a hangover, what will happen? Is there a way to avoid a historical train wreck? Maybe Brexit will start a productive train of reflection in e.g. the EU leadership circles or even American ones?

Here are some articles to illustrate the challenge. Is violence inevitable? Scary stuff indeed.

The Cult of Smartness: How Meritocracy Is Failing America - The Atlantic

Aside from "The Cult of Smartness," why are present arrangements -- lets call ourselves an "aspirational meritocracy" -- failing us? ... Institutions designed to reward merit are being gamed by the privileged, who create a self-perpetuating elite. ... More broadly, inequality begets more inequality. ... The intense competition inherent in meritocracy creates powerful incentives to cheat ... When elites break the rules they aren't punished like regular people. .... There is too much social distance separating the people in charge with the folks subject to their decisions.
What ancient Roman history and `elite overproduction' tell us about near-future doom
Comparisons between 21st century America and the late [Roman] republic are a bit of a cliché, and frequently overwrought. But there's one choice Sulla made that has a direct parallel in modern politics. ... Sulla doubled the size of the Senate, from about 300 men to roughly 600. As Cambridge classics scholar Mary Beard detailed in her recent book "SPQR," this had the side effect of burdening Rome's political system with a bigger elite than it could possibly handle.

... In the decades that followed, competition for political advancement became increasingly desperate and savage -- until a series of grisly civil wars ended with the collapse of the republic, resolving the mismatch between supply and demand.

... As America has become more unequal over the last few decades, the top echelon of politically active billionaires and multimillionaires has grown. Classic elite overproduction. ... In Turchin's cliodynamics model, "absolute immiseration" is the flip side to elite overproduction. ... More and more people also fall to the bottom rungs of the economic ladder, where they become angry and disaffected with the political process. Frustrated elite aspirants are well placed to harness that anger.

This just reminds me of wild-eyed true believers like Michael Gove. Talks a good game about slapping down the elites while holding his own aspirations paramount.

Blame Rich, Overeducated Elites as Our Society Frays - Bloomberg

destabilizing historical trends develop slowly, last many decades, and are slow to subside. ...

We now see the same forces in the contemporary U.S. Of about 30 detailed indicators I developed for tracing these historical cycles (reflecting popular well-being, inequality, social cooperation and its inverse, polarization and conflict), almost all have been moving in the wrong direction in the last three decades.

... Yet the supply of political offices has stayed flat. ... In technical terms, such a situation is known as "elite overproduction." ... But a common thread in the eras we studied was elite overproduction. The other two important elements were stagnating and declining living standards of the general population and increasing indebtedness of the state. ... Elite overproduction generally leads to more intra-elite competition that gradually undermines the spirit of cooperation, which is followed by ideological polarization and fragmentation of the political class.

... The Great Compression unraveled in the late 1970s, when workers' wages stagnated. We are living in a new cycle of growing inequality, elite overproduction, ideological polarization and political fragmentation.

... In some cases, however, societies come through relatively unscathed, by adopting a series of judicious reforms, initiated by elites who understand that we are all in this boat together. This is precisely what happened in the U.S. in the early 20th century.

[More background at the evolution institute]

So failure is not predetermined, just probable with the current course of politics.

Other alternatives that have materialized are underwhelming. Hugo Chavez's project is collapsing just as the orange-haired North-American version is trying to gain a foothold. The radical scorched earth policy which leaves things worse off after it had its day is very frightening.

Donald Trump Isn't the Presidential Candidate We Should Be Worried About - The Nation

The real danger is the smarter, more capable neo-fascist politician who will inevitably rise in his wake.

...They were disgusted with the liberal direction of the previous administration. They were anti-abortion and pro-religion. They were suspicious of immigrants, haughty intellectuals, and intrusive international institutions. And they very much wanted to make their nation great again. They'd lost a lot of elections. But this time, they won. In Poland, that is.

... this wasn't just a victory for PiS. It was a victory for Poland B. Since its post-Communist transition, that country is often described as having cleaved into two parts, commonly known as "Poland A" and "Poland B." Poland A links together an archipelago of cities and their younger, wealthier inhabitants. Poland B encompasses the poorer, older parts of the population

... The real change will come when a more sophisticated politician, with an authentic political machine, sets out to woo America B. Perhaps the Democratic Party will decide to return to its more populist, mid-century roots. Perhaps the Republican Party will abandon its commitment to entitlement programs for the 1 percent.

More likely, a much more ominous political force will emerge from the shadows. If and when that new, neo-fascist party fields its charismatic presidential candidate, that will be the most important election of our lives....  Then it will matter little how much both liberals and conservatives rail against "stupid" and "crazy" voters. Nor will they have Donald Trump to kick around any more. In the end, they will have no one to blame but themselves.

The word "archipelago" in that article stirred memories of a manifesto that I read years ago. Reading it again, this time it didn't produce interesting insights as it had then but a terrifying realization. The scenarios laid out in the Nation article can and will happen to some extent in all Western countries.

Precariat, Unnecessariat, and Everyone Else under Algorithmic Dictatorship

Compounding the issue, with a loss of empathy in our narcissistic times, are developments on the technology front. Just today I read that the CEO of the Deutsche Post said "we should at least think about a robot tax". Silicon Valley VC scions while still caught up in their 'world-changing' narcissistic trance, are generally supportive of a universal basic income. So if even the guys who stand to benefit enormously from the brave new technology world advocate such redistribution schemes then it is probable that social combustibles are being stacked up. Going back to a comment I posted a few weeks ago, it's not the potential Terminator Robots that will be the problem, but the potential historical disaster of a 'useless class' of human beings that is being turned from a 'precariat' into a 'unnecessariat'.

AI will create 'useless class' of human, predicts bestselling historian - Guardian

Harari calls it "the rise of the useless class" and ranks it as one of the most dire threats of the 21st century. In a nutshell, as artificial intelligence gets smarter, more humans are pushed out of the job market. No one knows what to study at college, because no one knows what skills learned at 20 will be relevant at 40. Before you know it, billions of people are useless, not through chance but by definition.

... Harari, it turns out, has a specific definition of useless. "I choose this very upsetting term, useless, to highlight the fact that we are talking about useless from the viewpoint of the economic and political system, not from a moral viewpoint," he says. Modern political and economic structures were built on humans being useful to the state: most notably as workers and soldiers, Harari argues. With those roles taken on by machines, our political and economic systems will simply stop attaching much value to humans, he argues.

So what now? One quality that seems lacking is empathy and sympathy. Left politics can't just play identity politics. Identity politics has its place, as long as the identity and interests of the dislocated majority is represented as well. But boutique lifestyle politics has reached its sell-by date when the town starts burning and young lefty activists are simply not working enough on questions of redistribution - the days of gay activists marching alongside coal workers long gone. The illusions of a global cosmopolitan win-win that is also moral are withering away. In its place must come practical solutions for livable near-range empathy which will require tackling some ingrained privileges in housing, jobs, etc. and chucking some received wisdoms. Which may not be enough to calm the political malaise but there is a chance.

Why We Need to Pick Up Alvin Toffler's Torch - NY Times
More than 40 years ago, Alvin Toffler, a writer who had fashioned himself into one of the first futurists, warned that the accelerating pace of technological change would soon make us all sick. He called the sickness "future shock," ...

"unless intelligent steps are taken to combat it," he warned, "millions of human beings will find themselves increasingly disoriented, progressively incompetent to deal rationally with their environments."

... it seems clear that his diagnosis has largely panned out, with local and global crises arising daily from our collective inability to deal with ever-faster change. ... It's not just future shock; we now have future blindness.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Mon Jul 11th, 2016 at 12:30:26 AM EST
Alvin Toffler Saw The Future Before It Arrived

Alvin Toffler, the noted futurist, passed away last week. He was 87. Toffler saw it all before it happened. Through his seminal books, Future Shock (1970) and The Third Wave, (1980)  he accurately predicted the trajectory technology and society would take -- from centralized, mass industrial institutions to de-centralized, "de-massified," customized niches and networks. He saw that knowledge would replace labor and capital as the key driver of wealth creation and called this new era The Information Age. And he worried that the accelerated pace of change could well overwhelm us and precipitate "wave conflict" between different speeds of change. In short, he got the big picture right.

If what he said in the 1970s and 1980s turned out to be right by the first decades of the 21st century, are his prognostications from 2006 about the times ahead panning out now? I interviewed him then about his last book, Revolutionary Wealth, written with his wife and muse Heidi. Below are excepts of that interview in which Toffler talked about the "outside brain" of big data, how companies "outsource labor" to the consumer, desktop manufacturing and the unworkability of the European Union, among other topics.

iPods, cloning, outsourcing, Googling. All these disparate changes and breakthroughs are not only transforming our lives; you argue they are converging into "a new wealth system." How is this new system a departure from the economics we're familiar with? In two ways: First, knowledge is now the key driver of wealth creation, and, second, the radical fusion of production and consumption will lead to the explosion of the "non-money" economy.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jul 11th, 2016 at 03:11:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock, dies aged 87
In Future Shock Toffler also speculated that the rising general prosperity of the 1960s would continue indefinitely.

"We made the mistake of believing the economists of the time," Toffler told Wired magazine in 1993. "They were saying, as you may recall, `We've got this problem of economic growth licked. All we need to do is fine-tune the system.' And we bought it" [...]

Toffler, a native of New York City, was born on 4 October 1928 to Jewish Polish immigrants. He graduated from New York University, was a Marxist and union activist in his youth, and continued to question the fundamentals of the market economy long after his politics moderated. He knew the industrial life firsthand through his years as a factory worker in Ohio.

This problem of economic growth... So Toffler did not take planetary limitations seriously. Knowledge economy is infinite, so no worry about nutrition, social satisfaction of presumed knowledge takers.

For the middle and lower classes, prosperity limitations are pressing hard for decades already. They know on their skin that customary American Dream aspirations are neither enough for comfortable future, nor achievable to everyone. That is why they do not trust "rational" progressives. They would rather protect the subsistence they have, even if that looks racist, xenophobic, ignorant.

In the meantime, the 20th century infrastructure is crumbling, and no one seems to care. The global elites must be just busy with managing an inevitable deep decline.

by das monde on Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 05:33:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for this extensive compendium of journalism critical of the current status quo. None can say that there as been NO notice of the middle finger represented by Brexit. In fact I called it just that here back in late June, I believe, and noted that many of this game's losers would prefer to take down parts of the City than to continue a status quo from which they ostensibly benefit to some degree.

This reminds me of studies of primate behavior regarding acceptable choices. If a chimpanzee sees an offer as too unfair it will refuse the offer even if there is a small reward. Perhaps our primate instincts will save us?

We will know if elite awareness of this 'problem' has reached critical mass when Thomas Friedman writes a column suitable for inclusion in your list. I am not holding my breath.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jul 11th, 2016 at 03:33:50 AM EST
IMHO even the recent ugly and sad events in Dallas, Texas represent part of the raising of the middle finger. The establishment elites are unable or unwilling to acknowledge any responsibility for pushing their agenda too far on the weakest in our society, or both. When this happens the weakest links break. That is, I believe, what happened with the shooter.

That he shot officers serving one of the police forces best responding to the need for more outreach and community policing is an ironic irrelevance. This US Army trained marksman simply broke and took out his anger on the nearest available target, police protecting marchers who were protesting the same thing he claimed to protest. This will increasingly be par for the course.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jul 11th, 2016 at 03:59:35 AM EST
If society is a system into which is poured garbage, eventually common sense will be over-ruled, and more garbage will result.

Hundreds of thousands of years of mostly co-operative living within ecological limits has given us common sense.

Competition-fetishisation continues to take its terrible toll on the global psyche.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jul 11th, 2016 at 11:25:44 AM EST
[LSE blog] It's NOT the economy stupid: Brexit as a story of personal values

Figure 2. Right-wing authoritarian personality disorder and Brexit

Invisible attitudes are more powerful than group categories. If we know whether someone supports UKIP, Labour or some other party, we increase our score to over 70 percent. The same is true for a person's immigration attitudes. Knowing whether someone thinks European unification has gone too far takes us close to 80 percent accuracy. But then, this is pretty much the same as asking about Brexit, minus a bit of risk appetite.

Source: British Election Study 2015 Internet Panel, waves 1-3

For me, what really stands out about figure 2 is the importance of support for the death penalty. Nobody has been out campaigning on this issue, yet it strongly correlates with Brexit voting intention. This speaks to a deeper personality dimension which social psychologists like Bob Altemeyer - unfortunately in my view - dub Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA). A less judgmental way of thinking about RWA is order versus openness. The order-openness divide is emerging as the key political cleavage, overshadowing the left-right economic dimension. This was noticed as early as the mid-1970s by Daniel Bell, but has become more pronounced as the aging West's ethnic transformation has accelerated.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Jul 11th, 2016 at 05:31:50 PM EST
I don't know the demographics of Brexit well enough to really pass judgment on the narratives, but as to Trump:

For the bajillionth time, Trump's voters are not economically anxious.  We have mountains of polling data on this at this point.  Trump voters are quite well to do -- They make significantly more money than Clinton or Sanders voters -- and are not generally centered in parts of the country where economic anxiety issues tend to be the driving forces.

His own voters responses on issue polling make this clear.

They are culturally anxious and largely centered in areas of the country where diversity has been rising.

It's racism and xenophobia.  It was always racism and xenophobia.  Anyone who tells you it's not racism and xenophobia is either too lazy to read a the polling or too dishonest to let the polling conflict with their narratives about struggling Rust-Belters sticking it to The ManTM over trade.

Trump is actually underperforming both Romney and McCain in those areas as well as the South while overperforming the two in the Southwest and Northeast.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Jul 11th, 2016 at 08:59:14 PM EST
I'm aware of all that. See this fine example of effluent Trumpism. But I'm still not so sure where it all comes from. Could it just be privileged boomer narcissism combined with nostalgia? (going head to head against millenial narcissism - feel the Bern).

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Mon Jul 11th, 2016 at 10:47:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gut feelings here, but ...

The racist sentiment has always been there, but it's been bubbling to the surface lately. Racist political speech has encouraged people to channel latent racism into political thought and action.

I don't know about Europe and can't speak to the situation there.  Europe and the US are very different.  But in the US, it's straight up racism, and too many in the political class are desperate to pretend otherwise because they have made their careers on racist dogwhistling, and Trump has not only stolen their thunder, but is threatening to get them un-invited from the best cocktail parties.

by Zwackus on Mon Jul 11th, 2016 at 11:50:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wasn't shouting at you, just for the record.  It's the press treatment.

It's a frustration thing, I think.  Lots of scared, old white folks seeing a lot of black and brown folks moving into the neighborhoods.  Black president.  Woman looking to win the presidency.  Possible Latino VP.  Getting older, and having younger people calling them out for bigoted opinions ("anti-PC" and all that).

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 12:02:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The One Weird Trait That Predicts Whether You're a Trump Supporter And it's not gender, age, income, race or religion. - Politico
Indeed, 49 percent of likely Republican primary voters I surveyed score in the top quarter of the authoritarian scale--more than twice as many as Democratic voters.

Political pollsters have missed this key component of Trump's support because they simply don't include questions about authoritarianism in their polls.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Thu Jul 14th, 2016 at 06:05:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the best inoculations against future authoritarians may well be the increased emphasis on preventing child abuse. So much of what was once considered acceptable, or even manditory, child rearing practices can now get one a visit from the police and social services. If we only had less dysfuncional child protective and foster care programs...

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jul 17th, 2016 at 01:18:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a friend who just did several years in social services in the UK.
He had to quit because it was so heartbreaking he saw a nervous breakdown not far ahead.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jul 17th, 2016 at 08:35:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sweden is quite extreme in international measurements of values and I think one part is disdain with which physical punishment of children is viewed. Physcal punishment in schools was abolished in 1958. The right to hit your own child was abolished in 1966 and a outright ban was instituted in 1979. I believe that was an international first, and now we have several generations where hitting kids is seen as abuse, no matter the relation between adult and child.

So when a couple of years ago a visiting Italian MP struck his kid in the middle of Stockholm, he was promptly hauled into court, creating much interest from Swedish and Italian media alike.

by fjallstrom on Sun Jul 17th, 2016 at 09:08:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is there any polling/other evidence that the portion of those with 'authoritarian attitudes' has decreased as many whould expect?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jul 18th, 2016 at 12:38:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good question.

Unfortunately, the study of authoritarianism in Sweden appears to be a small field, and I can't find any long time studies.

by fjallstrom on Tue Jul 19th, 2016 at 07:32:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Retiring Yuppies are likely a major Trump constituency.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 12:55:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mostly true. However how far up the income distribution do you have to be in order to have seen real improvements in the last 15 years, two decades? 20%? 30%? And how low do you have to be to see the impacts coming closer?
And if you are white and male as nearly all Trump voters are there is no narrative for how things could conceivably get better in our "liberal" elites bag of tricks. For anyone else there is at least diversity as a clear offer, even if it is often honoured more in the breach than in fact. But for people who already had all those opportunities TM it's compete or die, no excuses. So I wouldn't say the narrative that this is about globalisation's losers is entirely nonsense, just vastly oversold.

They are culturally anxious and largely centered in areas of the country where diversity has been rising.
This however I find genuinely scary. At least from Europe I am used to a lot of the racist base coming from regions that only get to see foreigners on TV. Once you live next to each other you tend to get used to it. Or rather all the tabloid stories get balanced by the daily experience of not getting robbed by a Turk.
Is that US car culture striking again?

by generic on Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 08:31:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think those in the top 15% of annual incomes have benefited. The next decile is teetering and everyone below the 75th has to feel like they have lost ground. There are a lot of people, like myself, who have tasted six figure incomes, but not to the end of their careers. Economically, they/we have fallen from grace. I am glad to have what I have, but many are bitter about lost opportunities and are misdirected as to how this happened and who is to blame. I had to wait until retirement to have the time to figure out something about what has happened, but it wasn't easy.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 03:43:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Trump is actually underperforming both Romney and McCain in those areas as well as the South while overperforming the two in the Southwest and Northeast"

Let us assume this trend is persistent at least until the November.  What are the implications for the electoral college and for Senate and congressional races?

At a first glance it seems as if Trump is doing slightly better in areas where he is not going to win anyway, and worse in states he absolutely has to win to be competitive.

"Trump voters are quite well to do"

To what extent is this simply a function of the bulk of the Republic base rowing in behind him?  Was his voter base also primarily well to do in the early weeks of his insurgency?

Finally, how does this all map onto competitive Senate and Congressional races?

(If you feel a diary coming on to answer those questions, Drew, don't hold back... I'm holding the front page for you!)

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 01:02:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
National election polls are a mess right now and won't improve until mid-August after both conventions and the immediate affects of the conventions.

As of today (July 12) it looks like the Senate will flip back to Democratic Party control.  We're 118 days out so it is possible this could change.  I note that scum-sucker, conservative Dem, Evan Bayh has decided to jump into the Indiana senate race indicating the Smart Money© is on a Dem take-over.

House?  Who knows and no way of telling today.  Utterly depends on the Dem candidate for the position.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 03:12:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Trump voters are quite well to do -- They make significantly more money than Clinton or Sanders voters...
If that be the case then they are not numerous enough to win an election by themselves unless there is a massively disproportionately turn-out of Trumps supporters.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 05:38:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Energy limits: Why we see rising wealth disparity and low prices -- by Gail Tverberg

  1. Why we are right now seeing so many problems with respect to wealth disparity and low commodity prices (Answer: World per capita energy consumption is already falling, and the energy/economy system needs to reflect this problem somehow.)

  2. Why the quest for growing technology leads to growing wealth disparity (Answer: The economy must be configured in more of a hierarchical pattern to support growing "complexity." Growing complexity is the precursor to growing technology.)

  3. Why rising debt is an integral part of the energy/economy system (Answer: We could not pay workers for making long-lasting goods and services without using debt to "pull forward" the hoped-for benefit of these goods and services to the present, using debt and other equivalent approaches.)

  4. Why commodity prices can suddenly fall below the cost of production for a wide range of products (Answer: Prices of commodities depend to a significant extent on debt levels. A major problem is that when commodity prices rise, wages do not rise in a corresponding manner. Rising debt levels can mask the growing lack of affordability for a while, but eventually, debt levels cannot be raised sufficiently, and commodity prices fall too low.)

  5. The Brexit vote may be related to falling energy per capita in the UK. Given that this problem occurs in many countries, it may be increasingly difficult to keep the Eurozone and other similar international organizations together.
by das monde on Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 06:03:27 AM EST
... This is simply a leftist way to buy into TINA. Rising inequality, or hell, the low growth in much of the first world has nothing to do with impersonal economic or technological forces.

It's class warfare from the top down. Typical wages are stagnant because politicians and central banks have expended enormous amounts of effort on keeping them low or dropping.
Wealth is concentrating because politicians and central banks expend enormous effort on concentrating it.

Rising trade only matters to the extent that politicians often go out of their way to write the treaties governing that increase in ways that deliberately fuck over labor (ISDS. The emphasis on IP over tax enforcement, ect.)

TINA is a lie. All variants on TINA is a lie.

Every time you hear a new narrative why the way the suffering of the workers and little people of the world is necessary and unavoidable, remember - it is a lie.

There is nothing except malice preventing us from having a rising standard on living and employment based on improved recycling and manufacturing techniques. Atoms are infinitely recyclable, and energy is not scarce.

by Thomas on Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 07:56:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed I had followed the link and was very unimpressed. Lots of confusion, someone clearly going way out of the field of competence...

As ever, it's not that it's 100% wrong of course. But even some of the things that are right come from non sequiturs, which does not exactly fill you with confidence.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 08:30:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can agree that there are no direct economic-technological forces pushing the elites to lie, implement destructive austerity, wage this class war fully. We could indeed have had social democratic societies, Keynessian economics, merry growth... for another 20-50 years perhaps!

Imagine this: Some captivated Elites take the Club of Rome Report seriously, and decide that global consumption of resources has to be reduced, even the global population perhaps. They literally see no alternative. Why would they have to discuss this thorny topic with masses in all countries? So they tell governments intimately: all ideologies, welfare aspirations,  social values, human rights are nothing compared to having an inhabitable planet. And so the TINA reversal towards a Hobbessian struggle begins. The USSR block is quickly dismantled, the Western politics is slowly but consistently pushed by transparently mean conservative governments and charismatic Third Way moles. How it come that TINA forces emerged (and strengthened unopposed) since 1970-80s while the social, democratic post-WWII values were totally betrayed?

Surely, destruction of the environment is seemingly only accelerating in these last decades. Contrary to perceptible evidence and parsimonious logic, I have to assume here uncanny planning, obfuscation. Some people like to do whatever it takes, if the goal is inescapable. Ain't economic depressions more human than world wars? The disregard towards the long term sustainability is too comprehensive to be true, no? Would we here know limits of misdirection for that purpose?

Whatever the timeline for real results, social-economic policies have clearly shifted, and Tverberg's graphs depict that energy consumption is decreasing in UK, Spain, Japan, etc.

by das monde on Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 10:44:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or, they could have, you know, pushed for investment in technological and economic policies that addressed the problems directly - dealing with trash problems, addressing water pollution directly, pushing for alternative energy in 1980 instead of 2000, etc.

Now, if the motive was, "The world is screwed, so I'm going to steal as much as possible so that in the future, I know that I will live, and have the pick of the remaining plebes to be my slaves."  But as far as a "save the Earth with a backhanded slap" narrative, neoliberalism makes no sense.

by Zwackus on Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 12:38:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Again, composition matters. Is energy consumption declining because of increased energy efficiency or because of economic depression/recession? And how has the composition of that energy supply changed? The more renewables the better. The lower the carbon footprint the better.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 04:05:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Several years ago I was informed of a discussion with a Silicon Valley VC to the effect that, by 1980, it was no longer profitable to manufacture in the USA due to wages and benefits, so the wealthy were shifting their efforts off shore and planned to just grab as much as they could from the US economy, essentially switching from building wealth in the US to extracting wealth from the US. This seems to have been independent of peak oil or climate change concerns. But the plan described certainly seems to be what has unfolded.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 04:11:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I saw that personally, too.

Not all wealthy Americans think that way. But. Some do.

by John Redmond on Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 05:03:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the 1980s the US plant was obsolete and needed to be replaced.  Plant cost was the same no matter where they parked it so they went off-shore to be able to buy labor in a low wage rate environment, e.g., Indonesia, and sell in high wage rate markets and pocket the difference.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 06:29:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
More than systemic under-investment, computerization and robotisation were also creating a whole new generation of manufacturing capabilities which were very capital intensive and which required changed work practices and extensive re-training which are often easier to implement in a green field environment rather than with expensive 50+ aged workers. Labour costs actually became a smaller fraction of the total cost of production, but it was the willingness of (say) Chinese workers to work all hours, learn new skills quickly, and the lack of unionisation which made the move overseas attractive.

Of course once they had acquired the skills, the Chinese set up their own factories with the same technology and the "borrowed" intellectual capital to effectively compete with the original out-sourcers. Too late, the out-sourcers realized their own technologies where being used to compete against them, and in many cases, sought to insource again or transfer to a less entrepreurial culture with less availale capital to replicate the technology.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 13th, 2016 at 10:13:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the old German phrase, the outsourcers 'grew too soon old and too late wise.'

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jul 13th, 2016 at 03:05:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the relevant factor in that analysis is energy return on energy invested, and two factors are currenly helpful. The cost of energy has dropped which makes complexity more affordable - at least for the present, and we are rapidly building the most energy efficient renewable source of electricty currently available - wind, followed by solar. If we continue on the current path we may lock in enough sustainable, renewable energy to make un-affordable fossil fuels irrelevant as an energy source. And, while EROIs of 100 are no longer attainable, the EROI of wind and solar seems just adequate to our needs and to support complexity close to what we have.

Mostly we just have to stop being so stupid in how we use our resources. That is the real challenge, along with appropriate distribution of wealth. And overriding all of this is the importance of climate change - which has to be slowed and then reversed.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 03:58:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would say that the removed linch-pin was not globalisation, computerisation, robotisation or elite over-production but the removal of full employment.

With full employment, cheap goods means more workers for social services like education, research, culture, care for the sick and elderly etc. So that covers the first three. Also with full employment of academics, using all that education to make as many researchers as possible the elite production is steered into a field that benefits from more production instead of the win-lose of politics. Or to quote a friend "I woulld llike to do phD, but the field I am interested in is so meager, so I think I should get into parliament first", in effect using post-parliament priviledges to launch an academical career.

by fjallstrom on Sun Jul 17th, 2016 at 09:18:01 PM EST
The world is taking its revenge against elites. When will America's wake up? | Thomas Frank | Opinion | The Guardian

Ordinarily a dealer in witty aphorisms and upper-crust humor, Brooks now wrote a column entitled "Are We On the Path to National Ruin?" in which he speculated darkly about the possibility of fascism in America. "The crack of some abyss opened up for a moment by the end of last week," he wrote. "It's very easy to see this country on a nightmare trajectory."

Brooks-in-despair is a pitiful sight, and one can't help but sympathize. But what's really remarkable about the response to these shocks of people like him has been their inability to acknowledge that their own satisfied white-collar class might be part of the problem. On this they are utterly in denial and whatever the disaster, the answer they give is always ... more of the same. More "innovation". More venture capital. More sharp young global Stanford entrepreneurs. There is no problem that more people like they themselves can't solve.

Consider the New York Times think-piece on the Brexit that ran on 7 July. It mocked the British government for being dominated by a tiny, incestuous circle of friends, but then reassured readers that things simply aren't like that here in the USA: "It's as if President Obama's inner circle consisted almost entirely of his friends, neighbors and fellow Harvard graduates," supposedly an impossibility. I had to read that passage over again and again to understand it, so great was the cognitive dissonance. President Obama's inner circle does consist of his fellow Harvard graduates; encouraging Obama to appoint such people and documenting their adventures in government has been a pundit obsession for years. Applauding Bill Clinton for doing the same with his Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law friends was also once a standard journalistic trope.

by Bernard (bernard) on Tue Jul 19th, 2016 at 08:40:29 PM EST
good article, but just reading it reveals the vast screaming howl of a chasm that exists between current politics and any policy that might help

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jul 20th, 2016 at 08:51:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The global parasites: the 1% and their flunkies, hirelings, tick birds, and toadies, exist in a Semantic World that runs along a scale of:

Out of Touch <-------------> Not Even Wrong

The result is their mouths keep a'flappin but what comes out doesn't make any sense.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Jul 21st, 2016 at 06:51:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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