Article 43


Friday, September 25, 2020

Republican Redux 19 - Figuring Out Trump Supporters

image: fuehrer

The hallmark of fascist collectivism in international history is totalizing loyalty to The Leader, which, in a foreign but familiar turn-of-phrase, would be translated to Der Fhrer. That fuhrer, when it comes to the Republican Party, is Donald Trump. The former president insists he defeated Joe Biden. He insists everyone in the GOP believe and repeat the same lie. Anyone who does not believe and repeat the same lie is quickly identified as insufficiently loyal. This is how fascist collectivism works. The sky isn’t green because the fuhrer says it is. It’s green after everyone agrees. If that sounds like mass delusion is the heart of fascism collectivism, that’s because it is.
- The GOP is Falling Into Mass Delusion

Americans who experience IDENTITY FUSION - a psychological phenomena that occurs when people have a “visceral feeling of oneness” with another person or group with U.S. President Donald Trump are more likely to commit political violence.... [P]eople who have fused” with Donald Trump were more willing to violently challenge election results, to personally protect the border from an immigrant caravan and to perpetuate violence against Iranians, Muslims and immigrants.
- Identity fusion may fuel followers to engage in political violence, Yale News 2019

They just want to “watch the world burn”
Psychological analysis reveals 14 key traits that explain Trump supporters

By Bobby Azarian
Raw Story
September 23. 2020

As he HIMSELF SAID even before he won the presidential election in 2016, I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters. Unfortunately for the American people, this wild-sounding claim appears to be truer than not, at least for the majority of his supporters, and that is something that should disturb us. It should also motivate us to explore the science underlying such peculiar human behavior, so we can learn from it, and potentially inoculate against it.

In all fairness, we should recognize that lying is sadly not uncommon for politicians on both sides of the political aisle, but the frequency and magnitude of the current presidents lies should have us all wondering why they haven’t destroyed his political career, and instead perhaps strengthened it. Similarly, we should be asking why his inflammatory rhetoric and numerous scandals haven’t sunk him. We are talking about a man who was caught on tape saying, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy.” Politically surviving that video is not normal, or anything close to it, and we can be sure that such a revelation would have been the end of Barack Obama or George Bush had it surfaced weeks before the election.

Some of the explanations come from a 2017 REVIEW PAPER published in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology by the psychologist and UC Santa Cruz professor Thomas Pettigrew. Others have been put forth as far back as 2016 by myself, a cognitive neuroscience and psychology researcher, in various articles and blog posts for publications like PSYCHOLOGY TODAY. A number of these were inspired by insights from psychologists like Sheldon Solomon, who laid the groundwork for the influential TERROR MANAGEMENT THEORY, and David Dunning, who did the same for the DUNNING-KRUGER EFFECT.

This list will begin with the more benign reasons for Trump’s intransigent support, and as the list goes on, the explanations become increasingly worrisome, and toward the end, border on the pathological. It should be strongly emphasized that not all Trump supporters are racist, mentally vulnerable, or fundamentally bad people. It can be detrimental to society when those with degrees and platforms try to demonize their political opponents or paint them as mentally ill when they are not. That being said, it is just as harmful to pretend that there are not clear psychological and neural factors that underlie much of Trump supporters’ unbridled allegiance.

1. Practicality Trumps Morality

For some wealthy people, its simply a financial matter. Trump offers tax cuts for the rich and wants to do away with government regulation that gets in the way of businessmen making money, even when that regulation exists for the purpose of protecting the environment. Others, like blue-collared workers, like the fact that the president is trying to bring jobs back to America from places like China. Some people who genuinely are not racist (those who are will be discussed later) simply want stronger immigration laws because they know that a country with open borders is not sustainable. These people have put their practical concerns above their moral ones. To them, it does not matter if he’s a vagina-grabber, or if his campaign team colluded with Russia to help him defeat his political opponent. It is unknown whether these people are eternally bound to Trump in the way others are, but we may soon find out if the Mueller investigation is allowed to come to completion.

2. The Brains Attention System Is More Strongly Engaged by Trump

According to a SOURCE that monitored brain activity while participants watched 40 minutes of political ads and debate clips from the presidential candidates, Donald Trump is unique in his ability to keep the brain engaged. While Hillary Clinton could only hold attention for so long, Trump kept both attention and emotional arousal high throughout the viewing session. This pattern of activity was seen even when Trump made remarks that individuals didnt necessarily agree with. His showmanship and simple language clearly resonate with some at a visceral level.

3. America’s Obsession with Entertainment and Celebrities

Essentially, the loyalty of Trump supporters may in part be explained by America’s ADDICTION with entertainment and reality TV. To some, it doesn’t matter what Trump actually says because hes so amusing to watch. With the Donald, you are always left wondering what outrageous thing he is going to say or do next. He keeps us on the edge of our seat, and for that reason, some Trump supporters will FORGIVE anything he says. They are happy as long as they are kept entertained.

4. “Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn.”

Some intelligent people who know better are supporting Trump simply to be rebellious or to introduce chaos into the political system. They may have such distaste for the establishment and Democrats like Hillary Clinton that their support for Trump is a symbolic middle finger directed at Washington. These people do not have their priorities straight, and perhaps have other issues, like an innate DESIRE TO TROLL OTHERS, or a deranged obsession with SCHADENFREUDE.

5. The Fear-Factor: Conservatives Are More Sensitive to Threat

Science has unequivocally shown that the conservative BRAIN has an exaggerated 2008 STUDY in the journal Science found that conservatives have a stronger physiological reaction to startling noises and graphic images compared to liberals. A BRAIN-IMAGING STUDY published in Current Biology revealed that those who lean right politically tend to have a larger amygdala - a structure that is electrically active during states of fear and anxiety. And a 2014 FMRI STUDY that it is possible to predict whether someone is a liberal or conservative simply by looking at their brain activity while they view threatening or disgusting images, such as mutilated bodies. Specifically, the brains of self-identified conservatives generated more activity overall in response to the disturbing images.

These brain responses are automatic, and not influenced by logic or reason. As long as Trump continues his fear mongering by constantly portraying Muslims and Hispanic immigrants as imminent dangers, many conservative brains will involuntarily light up like light bulbs being controlled by a switch. Fear keeps his followers energized and focused on safety. And when you think you’ve found your protector, you become less concerned with offensive and divisive remarks.

6. The Power of Mortality Reminders and Perceived Existential Threat

A well-supported theory from social psychology, known as TERROR MANAGEMENT THEORY, explains why Trumps fear mongering is doubly effective. The theory is based on the fact that humans have a unique awareness of their own mortality. The inevitability of oneҒs death creates existential terror and ANXIETY that is always residing below the surface. In order to manage this terror, humans adopt cultural worldviews - like religions, political ideologies, and national identities - that act as a buffer by instilling life with meaning and value.

Terror Management Theory predicts that when people are reminded of their own mortality, which happens with fear mongering, they will more strongly defend those who share their worldviews and national or ethnic IDENTITY, and act out more aggressively towards those who do not. Hundreds of studies have confirmed this hypothesis, and some have specifically shown that triggering thoughts of death tends to shift people towards the right.

Not only do death reminders INCREASE NATIONALISM, they influence actual VOTING HABITS in favor of more conservative presidential candidates. And more disturbingly, in a study with American students, scientists found that making mortality salient increased support for EXTREME MILITARY INTERVENTIONS by American forces that could kill thousands of civilians overseas. Interestingly, the effect was present only in conservatives, which can likely be attributed to their heightened fear response.

By constantly emphasizing existential threat, Trump creates a psychological condition that makes the brain respond positively rather than negatively to bigoted statements and divisive rhetoric. Liberals and Independents who have been puzzled over why Trump hasnt lost supporters after such highly offensive comments need look no further than Terror Management Theory.

7. The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Humans Often Overestimate Their Political Expertise

Some support Donald Trump do so out of ignorance basically they are under-informed or misinformed about the issues at hand. When Trump tells them that CRIME is skyrocketing in the United States, or that the economy is the worst itגs ever been, they simply take his word for it.

The Dunning-Kruger effect explains that the problem isnt just that they are misinformed; itҒs that they are completely unaware that they are misinformed, which creates a double burden.

STUDIES have shown that people who lack expertise in some area of knowledge often have a COGNITIVE BIAS that prevents them from realizing that they lack expertise. As psychologist David Dunning puts it in an OP-ED for Politico, The knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task - and if one lacks such knowledge and INTELLIGENCE, one remains ignorant that one is not good at the task. This includes political judgment.Ӕ These people cannot be reached because they mistakenly believe they are the ones who should be reaching others.

8. Relative Deprivation A Misguided Sense of Entitlement

Relative deprivation refers to the experience of being deprived of something to which one believes they are entitled. It is the discontent felt when one compares their position in life to others who they feel are equal or inferior but have unfairly had more success than them.

Common explanations for Trumps popularity among non-bigoted voters involve economics. There is no doubt that some Trump supporters are simply angry that American jobs are being lost to Mexico and China, which is certainly understandable, although these loyalists often ignore the fact that some of these careers are actually being lost due to the accelerating pace of automation.

These Trump supporters are experiencing relative deprivation, and are common among the swing states like Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. This kind of deprivation is specifically referred to as “relative,” as opposed to “absolute,” because the feeling is often based on a skewed perception of what one is entitled to.

9. Lack of Exposure to Dissimilar Others

INTERGROUP CONTACT refers to contact with members of groups that are outside ones own, which has been experimentally shown to REDUCE PREJUDICE. As such, itҒs important to note that there is growing evidence that Trumps white supporters have experienced significantly less contact with minorities than other Americans. For example, a 2016 STUDY found that “҅the racial and ethnic isolation of Whites at the zip-code level is one of the strongest predictors of Trump support.” This correlation persisted while controlling for dozens of other variables. In agreement with this finding, the same researchers found that support for Trump increased with the voters physical distance from the Mexican border. These racial biases might be more implicit than explicit, the latter which is addressed in #14.

10. Trump’s Conspiracy Theories Target the Mentally Vulnerable

While the conspiracy theory crowd - who predominantly support Donald Trump and crackpot allies like Alex Jones and the shadowy QANON - may appear to just be an odd quirk of modern society, the truth is that many of them suffer from psychological illnesses that involve paranoia and delusions, such as schizophrenia, or are at least vulnerable to them, like those with SCHIZOTYPY PERSONALITIES

The LINK between schizotypy and belief in conspiracy theories is well-established, and a RECENT STUDY published in the journal Psychiatry Research has demonstrated that it is still very prevalent in the population. The researchers found that those who were more likely to believe in outlandish conspiracy theories, such as the idea that the U.S. government created the AIDs epidemic, consistently scored high on measures of “odd beliefs and magical thinking.” One feature of magical thinking is a tendency to make connections between things that are actually unrelated in reality.

.Donald Trump and his media allies target these people directly. All one has to do is visit alt-right websites and discussion boards to see the evidence for such manipulation.

11. Trump Taps into the Nations Collective Narcissism

Collective narcissism is an unrealistic shared belief in the greatness of ones national group. It often occurs when a group who believes it represents the “true identity” of a nation - the “ingroup,” in this case White Americans - perceives itself as being disadvantaged compared to outgroups who are getting ahead of them “unrightfully.” This psychological phenomenon is related to relative deprivation (#6).

A STUDY published last year in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found a direct link between national collective narcissism and support for Donald Trump. This correlation was discovered by researchers at the University of Warsaw, who surveyed over 400 Americans with a series of questionnaires about political and social beliefs. Where individual narcissism causes aggressiveness toward other individuals, collective narcissism involves negative attitudes and aggression toward outsiderђ groups (outgroups), who are perceived as threats.

Donald Trump exacerbates collective narcissism with his anti-immigrant, anti-elitist, and strongly nationalistic rhetoric. By referring to his supporters, an overwhelmingly white group, as being true “patriots” or real “Americans,” he promotes a brand of populism that is the epitome of “identity politics,” a term that is usually associated with the political left. Left-wing identity politics, as misguided as they may sometimes be, are generally aimed at achieving equality, while the right-wing brand is based on a belief that one nationality and race is superior or entitled to success and wealth for no other reason than identity.

12. The Desire to Want to Dominate Others

SOCIAL DOMINANCE ORIENTATION (SDO) - which is distinct but related to authoritarian personality syndrome (#13) - refers to people who have a preference for the societal hierarchy of groups, specifically with a structure in which the high-status groups have dominance over the low-status ones. Those with SDO are typically dominant, tough-minded, and driven by self-interest.

In Trumps speeches, he appeals to those with SDO by repeatedly making a clear distinction between groups that have a generally higher status in society (White), and those groups that are typically thought of as belonging to a lower status (immigrants and minorities). A 2016 SURVEY STUDY of 406 American adults published last year in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that those who scored high on both SDO and authoritarianism were those who intended to vote for Trump in the election.

13. Authoritarian Personality Syndrome

Authoritarianism refers to the advocacy or enforcement of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom, and is commonly associated with a lack of concern for the opinions or needs of others. AUTHORITARIAN PERSONALITY SYNDROME - a well-studied and globally-prevalent condition - is a state of mind that is characterized by belief in total and complete obedience to one’s authority. Those with the syndrome often display aggression toward outgroup members, submissiveness to authority, resistance to new experiences, and a rigid hierarchical view of society. The syndrome is often triggered by fear, making it easy for leaders who exaggerate threat or fear monger to gain their allegiance.

Although authoritarian personality is found among liberals, it is MORE COMMON AMONG THE RIGHT-WING around the world. President Trumps speeches, which are laced with absolutist terms like “losers” and “complete disasters,” are naturally appealing to those with the syndrome.

While research showed that Republican voters in the U.S. scored higher than Democrats on measures of authoritarianism before Trump emerged on the political scene, a 2016 POLITICO SURVEY found that high authoritarians greatly favored then-candidate Trump, which led to a correct prediction that he would win the election, despite the polls saying otherwise

14. Racism and Bigotry

It would be grossly unfair and inaccurate to say that every one of Trumps supporters have prejudice against ethnic and RELIGIOUS minorities, but it would be equally inaccurate to say that many do not. It is a well-known fact that the Republican party, going at least as far back to Richard NixonҒs “southern strategy,” used tactics that appealed to bigotry, such as lacing speeches with “dog whistles” - code words that signaled prejudice toward minorities that were designed to be heard by racists but no one else.

While the dog whistles of the past were subtler, Trumps signaling is sometimes shockingly direct. ThereҒs no denying that he routinely appeals to racist and bigoted supporters when he calls Muslims dangerousӔ and Mexican immigrants rapistsӔ and murderers,Ӕ often in a blanketed fashion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a recent study has shown that SUPPORT FOR TRUMP IS CORRELATED WITH A STANDARD SCALE OF MODERN RECISM.

Bobby Azarian is a neuroscientist affiliated with George Mason University and a freelance journalist. His research has been published in journals such as Cognition & Emotion and Human Brain Mapping, and he has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Psychology Today, and Scientific American. Follow him on Twitter [at] BobbyAzarian.



New Research Explores Authoritarian Mind-set of Trump’s Core Supporters

By Christopher Ingraham
Washington Post
October 12, 2020

Data reveal high levels of anti-democratic beliefs among many of the president’s backers, who stand to be a potent voting bloc for years to come

And yet, despite the tumult of the past eight months, President Trump’s favorability numbers have barely budged: His approval rating hovers in the low 40s, just as it has most of his presidency. As the economy cratered and covid-19 mortality skyrocketed, the Trump faithful stuck with him, lending credence to his infamous 2016 campaign boast that he “could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and not lose any support.”

Why is that?

A new book by a PSYCHOLOGY PROFESSOR and a former lawyer in the Nixon White House argues that Trump has tapped into a current of authoritarianism in the American electorate, one that’s bubbled just below the surface for years. In AUTHORITARIAN NIGHTMARE, Bob Altemeyer and John W. Dean marshal data from a previously unpublished nationwide survey showing a striking desire for strong authoritarian leadership among Republican voters.

They also find shockingly high levels of anti-democratic beliefs and prejudicial attitudes among Trump backers, especially those who support the president strongly. And regardless of what happens in 2020, the authors say, Trump supporters will be a potent pro-authoritarian voting bloc in the years to come.

Altemeyer and Dean define authoritarianism as “what happens when followers submit too much to the authorities in their lives.” They measure it using a tool Altemeyer developed in the early 1980s, called the RIGHT-WING AUTHORITARIAN (RWA) scale.

The “right-wing” label refers not to left and right political leanings as they’re popularly understood today, they write, but rather to a more legalistic sense of “lawful, proper, and correct.” It’s used to identify authoritarian tendencies among people of any political persuasion - supporters of the Communist Party in the former Soviet Union, for instance, would have scored high on the scale despite having decidedly leftist economic and political views. The scale remains one of the most WIDELY USED MEASURES of authoritarianism to this day.

Altemeyer’s scale measures respondents agreement or disagreement with 20 statements, such as: “Our country desperately needs a mighty leader who will do what has to be done to destroy the radical new ways and sinfulness that are ruining us” and “It is always better to trust the judgment of the proper authorities in government and religion than to listen to the noisy rabble-rousers in our society who are trying to create doubt in peoples’ minds.”

For each statement, a respondent can select an answer on a sliding scale ranging from 1 (total disagreement) to 9 (total agreement). The final score on the 20-question survey ranges from 20 (total opposition to authoritarianism) to 180 (total support).

The authors enlisted the help of the Monmouth University Polling Institute to POSE THE QUESTION TO 990 AMERICAN VOTERS IN FALL 2019. They asked participants to answer the questions on the RWA scale, as well as some separate measures of authoritarian beliefs and prejudice toward minority groups.

They found a striking linear relationship between support for Trump and an authoritarian mind-set: The stronger a person supported Trump, the higher he or she scored on the RWA scale. People saying they strongly disapproved of Trump, for instance, had an average RWA score of 54. Those indicating complete support of the president, on the other hand, had an average score of 119, more than twice as authoritarian as Trump opponents.

Many fervent Trump supporters, Altemeyer and Dean write, are submissive, fearful, and longing for a mighty leader who will protect them from life’s threats. They divide the world into friend and foe, with the latter greatly outnumbering the former.

Trump’s personal authoritarian bona fides are well-established, with experts across NUMEROUS ACADEMIC FIELDS warning that his attacks on basic democratic principles PRESENT A CLEAR DANGER TO THE AMERICAN POLITICAL SYSTEM. But his beliefs and actions are toothless without the support of millions of followers.

“Donald Trump only has the power to flaunt American institutions, treaties, and laws because he has a large, dedicated base who will believe whatever he says and do whatever he wants,” Altemeyer and Dean explain.

Other researchers have reached similar conclusions using very different methods. Vanderbilt political scientist Larry Bartels, for instance, RECENTLY USED YOUGOV SURVEY DATA to find that many Republican voters hold strong authoritarian and anti-democratic beliefs, with racism being a key driver of those attitudes. Researchers have also consistently found that separate measures of authoritarian belief, such as a short survey of attitudes toward child-rearing, are reliable predictors of Trump support.

Not all of the presidents supporters fall into the “authoritarian” category, however. Monmouth’s polling director Patrick Murray, who administered the survey, RECENTLY WROTE that about 23 percent of strong Trump supporters scored in the middle or bottom of the authoritarian scales used in the survey. Moderate Trump supporters, meanwhile, are split roughly 50/50 between “high” and “moderate to low” on the scales.

Many, however, express extremely authoritarian viewpoints. Roughly half of Trump supporters, for instance, agreed with the statement: “Once our government leaders and the authorities condemn the dangerous elements in our society, it will be the duty of every patriotic citizen to help stomp out the rot that is poisoning our country from within,” which Altemeyer and Dean characterize as practically a “Nazi cheer.”

Among people who disapproved of Trump, just 12 percent agreed with that statement.

“Trump’s supporters are much more inclined to stomp out the people they dislike than Trump’s opponents are,” Altemeyer said in an email. “This reflects the authoritarian aggression that is a central part of the RWA personality.”

One common criticism of the RWA scale is that it could simply be a proxy for generic conservative or religious beliefs, such as respect for tradition or a deference to religious authority. Murray TESTED THIS IDEA by running the scale without questions touching on religious identity and sexual norms. He found the different versions of the scale produced findings that were nearly identical to the original 20-question battery, suggesting the scale is measuring a distinct psychological attribute that can’t be explained away by religiosity or political ideology.

Contemporary discussions on authoritarian backsliding in the United States tend to focus on Trump and his allies in Congress. But Altemeyer and Dean’s work is a reminder that his followers will remain a potent force in American politics for years to come.

“Even if Donald Trump disappeared tomorrow,” they write, “the millions of people who made him president would be ready to make someone else similar president instead.”


How to Win a Debate With a Bully

Joe Biden should simply name what is true and what most Americans intuit about the president: He is a terribly broken man.

By Peter Wehner
Contributing writer at The Atlantic and senior fellow at EPPC
September 24, 2020

I’m used to bullies.

That’s a line Joe Biden has used several times during his run against Donald Trump, and he said it again recently in talking about the first presidential debate.

“I hope I don’t take the bait, because hes going to say awful things about me, my family, et cetera,” Biden said at a virtual fundraiser. “I hope I don’t get baited into getting into a brawl with this guy, because that’s the only place he’s comfortable. Biden expects to be able to keep his cool because, he said, “I’m used to dealing with bullies.”

The challenge for Biden isn’t simply that he’ll be facing a bully on the debate stage in Cleveland on Tuesday; its that he’ll be facing a man who is shameless and without conscience, a shatterer of norms and boundaries, a liar of epic proportions, a conspiracy-monger who inhabits an alternate reality. President Donald Trump operates outside any normal parameters.

If one is not used to dealing with someone like that, it can be utterly disorienting. Just ask the 2016 GOP primary field, or Hillary Clinton.

“We were on a small stage,” Clinton said about her second debate with Trump, “and no matter where I walked, he followed me closely, staring at me, making faces. It was incredibly uncomfortable. He was literally breathing down my neck. My skin crawled.”

She went on to describe what went through her mind: Should she keep her calm and carry on as if he weren’t repeatedly invading her space, or should she turn to him, look him in the eye, and say, Back up, you creep. Get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women, but you can’t intimidate me, so back up? Clinton chose the first option, but in retrospect, she wonders whether she should have chosen the second.

What might Vice President Biden do to prepare for his debates with President Trump?

For starters, I hope the former vice president’s campaign team has consulted psychologists who can help prepare Biden to deal with Trumps disordered personality.

A second thing Biden can do is put Trump’s words within a larger context. For example, the president is a profligate liar; we know that in the course of the debates the president will tell an avalanche of falsehoods. It might therefore be useful for Biden, early in the debate, to warn viewers what will happen - Trump will lie, and lie again, and lie again. The former vice president should put a frame around those claims, so people understand what’s happening in real time.

In February, a friend pointed out to me that years ago Donald Trump lied about the size of Trump Towers, claiming he lived on the 66th to 68th floors. Here’s the thing: Trump Tower has only 58 floors, according to New York City documents. So Trump lied about even this, as he lies about virtually everything else. (In fact, Trump has lied about the height of several of his buildings, including Trump World Tower, which he claimed has 90 floors. In fact, it has 70.)

If Biden were to use this story at the beginning of a debate, perhaps even before Trump’s first lie, the former vice president, when hearing a lie, could simply say, Donald, we’re at the 66th floor again. This response would certainly be more effective than repeatedly calling Trump a liar and serving as a fact-checker for the entire debate. Biden has to find a way to quickly name what’s happening and move on.

When its his turn to respond to a comment by Trump, the former vice president should confidently name each strategy Trump attempted. “That was a deflection… That was a hoax… That was scapegoating… We’re at the 66th floor again.” By quickly and succinctly answering any question after naming the strategy, Biden will appear controlled, reasonable, and intelligent; Trump will feel dismissed and mocked. This will enrage the president, especially if his attempts to engage in argument are ignored, and Biden refuses to look at him.

Beyond that, as one clinical psychologist I consulted for this piece suggested, Biden should simply name what is true and what most Americans intuit about the president: He is a terribly broken man. Money and privilege spared him from the consequences that might have helped him develop a conscience. He does not show remorse or guilt, because he does not feel it. Decency and honesty yield no reward for Trump; indecency and lying yield no consequences. He doesn’t apologize to others, because he doesn’t feel the pain of others. He does not have the capacity for empathy and authentic relationships; all his relationships are conditional. He knows only pleasure and pity for himself. He perseverates on the wounds to his ego. Telling the truth, when its not Trump’s truth, is viewed as a betrayal by the president, because he always places his interests above truth.

Such a damaged individual may deserve some measure of pity as well as some measure of contempt; but in either case, such a person should not be the president of the United States.

Yet the reality is that such a man is the president, and with every passing day, his pathologies grow worse, his instability becomes more apparent, the danger he poses to American democracy more undeniable. Yesterday, he once again signaled that he has no interest in accepting the election results if he loses. In the summer of 2016, I said of Trump, with him there’s no bottom. We’re now seeing what no “bottom” looks like.

The investigative reporter Bob Woodward, whose book Rage is just the most recent, scathing indictment of the Trump presidency, said that historians, looking back at this period, are going to ask, “What the F happened to America?”

The answer is that Donald J. Trump happened to America.

Joseph R. Biden is the only person who can keep Trump to a single term and stop this ongoing American carnage. And that, in turn, could depend in large part on how the former vice president does during the first debate.

I’m a conservative who served in the Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush administrations. I’m also wishing Joe Biden very well on Tuesday evening. Its less for his sake than for the sake of the country I love.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or writeto letters at

Peter Wehner is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He writes widely on political, cultural, religious, and national-security issues, and he is the author of The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump.



Were at the Threshold of a Fascist Authoritarian Takeover & January 6th Was Our Kristallnacht
The work of 245 years & millions of lives dedicated or given to defend the American ideal could vanish

By Thom Hartmann
January 27, 2021

Today is the anniversary of the LIBERATION OF AUSCHWITZ, and is also the day after 45 Republicans in the Senate voted that Trump’s attempt to turn America into a fascist state was just fine with them.

How does this kind of horror happen in otherwise civilized, advanced countries?

Back in the 1980s, my family and I lived in Germany doing international relief work. I knew and worked with several Germans, then in their 60s, whod been soldiers in Hitler’s army.

A close friend and colleague of mine, ARMIN LEHMANN, was the 16-year-old courier who brought Hitler the news that the war was lost, and stood outside his door while Hitler committed suicide; we traveled the world together and I encouraged him to get his autobiography into print.

My mentor Gottfried Mueller, ABOUT WHOM I WROTE A BOOK, had been such a true believer that he parachuted into the Kurdish area of Iraq to help the Kurds seize the oil fields for Hitler (and designed the flag still used by the Kurdish resistance); he spent the rest of the war in a British prison cage in the desert waiting to be executed, and when he escaped at the wars end became a vegetarian and committed his life to peace, as had Armin.

People wonder how the Nazis took over that country so rapidly, just like they wonder how Republicans in the US Senate could justify Donald Trump whipping up a crowd to go kill five people and try to overthrow the US government.

Turns out, in both cases, itҒs the seductive lure of authoritarianism.

All of us have, to a greater or lesser extent, a deep-seated, childhood-rooted need to be taken care of. To have somebody else make sure that we are safe. For some its a faint whisper; for others, itҒs the force that drives their lives.

It apparently comes out of the developmental stage of childhood when were completely dependent upon our parents; some of us didn’t feel completely safe through childhood, and when such people grow up they spend their adulthood looking for parent-like figures who promise to protect them and guarantee them safety.

Such people are called “authoritarian followers,” and they just want the world to be safe, predictable, and orderly. No ambiguity or complexity; these people want simple answers, a strong leader, the reassurance of weaponry and macho symbology, and swift and harsh “justice” for those who frighten them or they don’t understand. Thus, they’re open and vulnerable to authoritarian leaders.

And its not just limited to “average” people or even those suffering poverty or oppression; even billionaires are vulnerable to authoritarianism.

This doesn’t just explain why Germans would follow Hitler; it also explains why Americans would follow Charles Manson and Jim Jones. And Donald Trump.

Were all capable of following characters who play the role of parent figures who’ll take care of all the crises, solve the problems, and make everything better, whether for good or for ill, whether George Washington (The Father of Our Country) or Donald Trump.

This is not a novel idea. Entire books have been written about it, like Robert Altmeyers The Authoritarians, Hannah Arendts The Origins of Totalitarianism, and John Dean’s Conservatives Without Conscience.

Authoritarianism, the impulse at the core of fascism, is simple, and that very simplicity is what makes it so seductive.

Democracy, on the other hand, can be frightening. Its messy. It’s not always under control. The majority who make the decisions in a functioning democracy may not look or think like us, which adds to our confusion.

For a person frightened by uncertainty, a person whose childhood fears turned them into authoritarian followerӔ adults, democracy seems unnecessarily complex and dysfunctional; just putting an authoritarian strongman in charge is such a straightforward solution.

He will protect them, restore order, and make sure that everything in the future is consistent, predictable and safe. He will give them the comfortable, secure world theyve craved their entire lives. (Authoritarian leaders in modern society are almost always men.)

Nazism built slowly for a decade, and then swept Germany when enough Germans became convinced that HitlerҒs simple answers, clear definitions of the villains, and assertion of their victimhood was correct. In just a short year or so, the country flipped from a fully functioning democratic republic into an authoritarian nightmare.

It only took authoritarian-friendly German media (Hitler used rightwing talkӔ radio and the conservativeӔ German press very effectively) to convince enough German people to buy his siren song of authoritarianism. Once that tipping point was reached, Nazism flowed across the country like a tsunami. It was unstoppable.

Today were watching in real time as that very process plays out within our body politic and among right wing movements whoҒve adopted Trump as their leader and authoritarianism as their ideal.

Including, apparently, the majority of Americas Republicans. Most of today’s GOP no longer believes in democracy; the party of Dwight Eisenhower is nearly dead.

If today’s Republicans did believe in democracy, they wouldn’t go out of their way to sabotage it so effectively year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation.

We see it in Carl Roves 2010 REDSTATE gerrymandering program; in Mitch McConnell packing the courts with young neofascists; in Republican officials sabotaging the electoral process in neighborhoods filled with minorities, college students or Social Security voters by selectively closing polling places, reducing the number of voting machines in certain neighborhoods, and aggressively purging voting rolls in those same communities.

Joe Lockhart, Bill ClintonҒs former Press Secretary, yesterday tweeted: @joelockhart Being a Republican Senator now means nothing matters. Nothing matters. Not the storming of the Capitol, not an attempted coup, not trying to overturn a free and fair election. Nothing matters. The party of Trump. Nothing matters.Ӕ

Joe’s onto something, but to say “nothing matters about these people” is not quite true. The power, control, orderliness, predictability, and safety that Trump’s simple lies, convenient scapegoats, and easy solutions offer are what matters.

We are at the threshold of a fascist authoritarian takeover. America is rapidly turning toward oligarchy. January 6th was Americas Kristallnacht.

The cowardice of Senate Republicans voting to not hold Trump responsible for five deaths and the sacking of the US Capitol should shock and chill us all. They are our Neville Chamberlains.

Democracy must reassert its power and moral authority with investigations and prosecutions of the traitors who tried to kill our Vice President and Speaker and take over our country.

Thought and economic leaders in our nation must step forward and unequivocally condemn not only the fascist leaders who’ve taken over the GOP but also the fascist media supporting and encouraging them.

Our press must explicitly point out the difference between the American invention of a democratic republic and Trumps 21st century neofascism, and tell our citizens in blunt terms what the end point of the direction were heading could be.

Congress and the Biden administration must make America work again, and protect and restore to safety and prosperity those Americans who are today experiencing fear, uncertainty, unemployment and even hunger in ways we haven’t seen in a century.

And Republicans must drop their “voter fraud” big lie and replace their voter suppression campaigns with serious policy considerations, rejecting demagoguery and running on issues again.

If these things don’t happen now, we will soon see political violence on a scale resembling Europe’s in the 1930s or Chile’s in the 1970s. And the work of 245 years, the millions of lives dedicated or given to defend the American ideal, will die.


Posted by Elvis on 09/25/20 •
Section Dying America
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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Bad Moon Rising Part 81 - Oceania

image: chinese flag

The United States and China in Oceania: the Showdown Is Heating Up

By Petr Konovalov
New Eastern Outlook
September 23, 2020

During the modern stage in the geopolitical rivalry among world powers to gain influence in the Asia-Pacific, where it shows up most vividly is in the southern part of the Pacific Ocean: Australia, China, the United States, and Japan are all trying hard to become chummy with the countries in Oceania, but each of those is pursuing its own objectives. Australia is struggling to keep its dominant position in Oceania by strengthening its position in Melanesia; China is standing for expanding its political, economic, and possibly even military role throughout the region; the United States, whose largest Pacific bases are concentrated in Micronesia, is trying to put up resistance to the Chinese by bolstering its own defense capabilities.

Back in 2019, during his visit to Guam, where the most strategically important American military base in the Pacific Ocean is located, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the start of negotiations on the Compact of Free Association with the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau, which Washington intends to use to counter China’s growing influence in Oceania. In this regard, in September 2020 relations with Palau, which is a small country with a population of 18,000 that has a compact of free association with the United States, gained an impetus to develop further in the form of a 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), or about 630,000 square kilometers, which is comparable to twice the area occupied by Germany. The Compact of Free Association between the US and Palau was signed in 1986, and this means that for 50 years the American side has borne (and will continue to do so) responsibility for the country’s security, and, stemming from that, was permitted to deploy its military bases there.

For a long time, the United States did not take advantage of that opportunity, but now, against the backdrop of its struggle with China for influence in the Pacific Ocean, the situation has radically changed. At the end of August 2020, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper made a visit to Palau in the framework of a tour around the Pacific Ocean, and proclaimed China’s “malign influence” in the area. What is noteworthy is that China, unlike the United States, has invested about $ 1.6 billion in Oceania over the past decade while being a relatively “new actor” in the region, whereas the United States has invested $ 1.19 billion. This fact is already calling into question how “harmful” Chinese influence is: after all, Beijing is not spending money on military bases, but on infrastructure and social projects.

In any case, during the visit by the US Secretary of Defense the Palauan President, Thomas Remengesau, Jr., proposed that Washington could deploy a military base in his country along with the ancillary infrastructure in the form of ports and airfields, and provide assistance patrolling the waters of its enormous EEZ. It is important to note that Palau is still one of four countries throughout Oceania that diplomatically recognizes Taiwan. Among other things, one of the reasons for Palau turning to Washington for help could be the economic problems inflicted on it by suspending air travel during the pandemic, given that the tourism industry is the main source of profit for the Micronesian country.

Despite the fact that the US has ramped up its activities in the southern part of the Pacific Ocean, China not only maintains its interest, but is showing markedly increased interest in cooperating with the island countries throughout Oceania, which hold appeal for Beijing for many reasons. First of all, this means the desire for “true friendship, implementing practical cooperation, and achieving mutually beneficial results,” which was personally stated by the PRCs General Secretary, Xi Jinping. Second, this means commercial interests, including access to the resources possessed by several states in Oceania: gas, oil, nickel, gold, copper, and many fishery resources. Finally, this means logistics routes, and the vast exclusive economic zones in the southern part of the Pacific; these will permit China to take a more active part in the local fishing grounds there.

While the United States is vigilantly guarding Micronesia from “malign” Chinese influence, China is ratcheting up its presence in the countries throughout both Melanesia (Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, etc.) and Polynesia (Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, etc.). For example, in 2019 Beijing managed to “woo over” a country right in the heart of Polynesia to its side, Kiribati, which used to diplomatically recognize Taiwan. There is no doubt that Kiribati is a unique country, which is located in all four of the Earth’s hemispheres at once, and has both extensive reserves of fish and a gigantic EEZ of 3.5 million square kilometers. At the same time, Kiribati is very active in drawing the world community’s attention to the issue of climate change, since its inhabited atolls are gradually being absorbed by the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Beijing has responded to the calls for help from the Polynesian state, and is now planning to reclaim the land that the country has lost by raising and reinforcing the atolls that have sunken beneath the water. Moreover, China has extensive experience doing this kind of work in the South China Sea. Beijing also intends to build two massive ports in Kiribati, which, along with the rebuilt atolls, could have a positive impact on the local economy. Chinese projects are expected to help attract fishing companies and tourist cruise liners, and provide Kiribati residents with new jobs. It is fairly hard to call this influence “malign,” especially taking into account the fact that for a long time Australia and the United States paid little attention to the impact that climate change has been having on the countries in Oceania. It is worth noting that China is one of the world leaders in the field of green energy: at the end of last year, China produced roughly one-third of the world’s volume of solar energy, and kept its leading position in terms of its number of wind turbines. This kind of cooperation between China and Kiribati is well-suited to the One Belt, One Road Initiative, and the Oceanic state joined this in January 2020.

In response to Beijing’s plans, some Western experts have started to sound the alarm about the Chinese presence in KIRIBATI, and are specifically expressing their concerns that Chinese military bases could potentially be deployed in Polynesia and control logistics routes in the center of the Pacific Ocean, as well as around Kiribati itself, which is rich in water and mineral resources. The Polynesian state truly does have an important geostrategic position in the South Pacific due to its proximity to the US military bases in Hawaii and the Marshall Islands, but, on the other hand, all the rumors about the Chinese setting up military bases in Oceania have not yet been confirmed.

In either case, this kind of struggle for influence in Oceania between China and the US for opportunities to gain footholds in the region, and the talk about bolstering the presence of armed forces there, is a significant indication that in the future Oceania will likely become militarized. The ways of implementing these plays adopted by Washington and Beijing also stand in stark contrast to each other: the former is directly proclaiming its intentions to deploy military bases on the islands, while the latter is providing financial assistance where it is needed. Nonetheless, despite these different approaches, both world giants are pursuing the same goal in Oceania, and achieving that means that the struggle between them will be growing more severe.

Petr Konovalov, a political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”


Posted by Elvis on 09/24/20 •
Section Bad Moon Rising
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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Democracy Hollowed Out Part 36 - End Times For Democracy

dying america

The America we once knew is gone forever. The 21st century has dawned just as the true light of liberty fades into shadow. The sooner the world recognizes this, the better off humankind will be.
- End of Empire 2

[O]ur political system has become the major barrier to solving nearly every important challenge our nation needs to address. This was the unexpected conclusion of the multiyear Project on U.S. Competitiveness at Harvard Business School, established in 2011 to understand the causes of America’s weak economic performance and rising inequality that predated the Great Recession.

The starting point for understanding the problem is to recognize that our political system isn’t broken. Washington is delivering exactly what it is currently designed to deliver. The real problem is that our political system is no longer designed to serve the public interest, and has been slowly reconfgured to benefit the private interests of gain-seeking organizations: our major political parties and their industry allies.
- Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America [.pdf]
- The U.S. Political System Has Been Hijacked

[I]gnorance can often be propagated under the guise of balanced debate. For example, the common idea that there will always be two opposing views does not always result in a rational conclusion.

This balance routine has allowed the cigarette men, or climate deniers today, to claim that there are two sides to every story, that experts disagree - creating a false picture of the truth, hence ignorance.
- Agnotology

The biggest con beyond the obvious criminal actions of our non-elected leaders lies in the fantasy of an active democracy and the illusion of a choice between two political parties that purportedly ‘oppose’ each other
- The Big Con

This complacency by governments who are cowed by big business and big finance means a cocktail of increasing inequality, joblessness and informality with little or no change in the volatility of the financial sector as serious financial regulation gets pushed into the medium term at best.
- Corporate Power Rules

Empires in decay embrace an almost willful suicide. Blinded by their hubris and unable to face the reality of their diminishing power, they retreat into a fantasy world where hard and unpleasant facts no longer intrude. They replace diplomacy, multilateralism and politics with unilateral threats and the blunt instrument of war.
- End of Empire

And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.

And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.  For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
- Revelation 17:12-13, 16-17

End times for American democracy? An interview with Chris Hedges

By Bruce Livesey
National Observer
September 10, 2020

Is the United States, as the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek once wrote, living in the End Times? Are these the empires last days, its moral authority to claim pre-eminence withered and gone?

It certainly seems so: A staggeringly high pandemic death toll, race riots, rampant police brutality, a political class locked in a vicious knife fight with itself, and a mainstream media egging on the whole circus. Prevailing over the mess is a president whose incompetence is shocking to behold.

Canada’s National Observer spoke about it with Chris Hedges, 63, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author who was a foreign correspondent for 15 years for the New York Times, where he served as the paper’s Middle East and Balkan bureau chiefs. The interview was edited for length.

If Trump wins, expect naked and frightening authoritarianism

Q: In regards to Trump’s term in office, how would you characterize it? Has it surprised you?

A: Well, (Donald) TRUMP is a daily surprise. Just when you think he can’t sink any lower, he does. The kinds of policies and even statements that he’s engaging in are just wilfully self-destructive. He’s a prisoner of his own megalomania and his own narcissism. So in that sense, I think, like most Americans, we’ve all been surprised at that how far worse (it is) than we suspected.

Q: If Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election, would the outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic been any different than under Trump given America’s structural problems?

A: It would have been very different, and I am not fan of the Clintons. They were architects of the neo-liberal policies that have plunged this country into such distress. However, they remain rooted in verifiable fact and science in a way that Trump and his millions in the CHRISTIAN RIGHT do not.

And I think the way to look at it is the difference between the lies - and the Clintons lie like they breathe in the same way Trump does. But those were tactical lies. For instance, (Bill) Clinton lied about all the great jobs he created I think he threw out a number of four million new jobs under NAFTA, but he didn’t continue to lie about NAFTA AFTER IT WAS CLEAR that it was probably the worst assault on the American working class since the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act.

The same way with George W. Bush: He lied about weapons of mass destruction, but when the weapons of mass destruction were not uncovered in Iraq, he didn’t continue to lie about that they were there.

That’s the difference between Trump and the Christian right, which is, in essence, his base. That’s the “permanent lie” - a fact, verifiable fact, evidence - none of that matters.

So, yes, I think it would be different.

Q: In regards to Trump getting re-elected or stealing the election, as it has been suggested he might, or not going anywhere, what will happen if he somehow remains in office?

A: Don’t put anything past him. I don’t think anyone is, including the Democratic leadership. He will do anything: Whether that’s voter manipulation - the Republican Party has long had a history of pretty egregious voter manipulation, erasing people from the rolls.

They’ve got this program where if you don’t vote in the last election, you’ll show up at the polling place and you have been erased from the voter rolls because you didn’t vote, or you won’t get your mail-in ballot, which is not even legal.

So, yeah, there are a series of mechanisms that they’ve already used and set in place, which Trump will attempt to employ.

If Trump wins, then I think you will see a very naked and frightening AUTHORITARIANISM. Trump already functions for his followers as a cult leader. And remember, Trump gets a lot of money from the OLIGARCHS because he carries water for them.

The American political system before Trump took office was a KLEPTOCRACY, but now you will see just wanton, undisguised pillage, which I think is already pretty evident within the Trump White House given the PERSONAL ENRICHMENT that he and his family have made off of the office and his catering to his fellow billionaire class without any kind of restraint.

Q: Have you been surprised at how little it seems that the Republican Party has done to try to control him?

A: No, because the policies of both parties, and we know this from the polls, they are wildly unpopular - the tax cuts, the catering to the oligarchic and the CORPORATE ELITE, the endless wars, the destruction or assault on social services - none of it has any popularity. So politics has devolved in the United States to cultural wars, and the Republican Party long tied themselves, starting with Reagan, to this retrograde neo-Confederate, white nativist Christian right.

The party hierarchy, the Bushes, the Cheneys, look at (the Christian right) as the useful idiots. But what they didn’t realize is that (the Christian right) have the numbers and that one day the useful idiots will take over. And that’s exactly what happened.

Pandemic shows American model doesn’t work

Q: In the background is the health of the American empire and what Trump and the Republicans represent in regards to its health. How is the empire doing?

A: The fatal mistake on the part of the empire was the invasion of Iraq. Now we have nearly 20 years of warfare in the Middle East, which has cost tremendous suffering, hundreds of thousands of dead, millions displaced, seeing the creation of failed states, whether in Libya or northern Syria. And that’s characteristic of all late empires, that they embrace or engage in military fiascos in a kind of desperate attempt to recover a lost glory or a lost hegemony.

I also think what’s happening now in the United States around the pandemic is that it has exposed to the rest of the world that the American model doesn’t work. We are unable to cope. There are very few countries, maybe Brazil, that have a worse track record than we do. We cant cope with the pandemic.

So we can cope neither with a pandemic because of our for-profit health-care system, which is not about delivering health, but of course gouging the public. And we can’t cope with the economic fallout, which is going to be - even by the government’s figures - extremely severe. So as this pandemic continues to hit us in wave after wave and just spirals out of control, we’re now facing an estimated 300,000 American dead by December and 400,000 by January.

Tens of millions of people have already been thrown into destitution, the ruling elites are bickering over an extension of unemployment insurance, the moratorium on evictions has been lifted, which means that some 40 million Americans are at risk of being thrown out of their homes by the end of the year. Twenty-seven million Americans are expected to lose their health insurance because health insurance in the United States is tied to employment; it is employer-sponsored. And real figures of unemployment are probably 20 per cent, because they fix the figure.

The system was hollowed out anyway by corporations and oligarchic elite so that it couldn’t withstand any stress, and that I think has been exposed (by the pandemic).

So the credibility of the American empire is embodied in a figure like Trump, embodied in the inability of the United States to cope with a pandemic.

Q: You mentioned the Iraq War, which brings up the issue of defence spending, which is now in excess of $738 billion US a year. How much of the fact that so much of the Treasury is spent on defence and not on infrastructure and health care plays a role in all of this chaos?

A: Huge, huge. This again is a characteristic of late empires. Go back and look at the Roman Empire, there was a one-million men standing army, and all of your resources are being funnelled into it.

The military in the United States is beyond control, it’s not even audited. (Editor’s note: Since 1990, the Pentagon was audited twice - and failed both times.) Back in the 1960s, and early 70s, you had liberals within the Democratic Party, which would fight against wasteful weapon systems. That is completely gone. They are completely subservient to the MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX that is hollowing out the country from the inside - our bridges, our roads, our public transportation, our utilities. I live in Princeton, N.J., which is an enclave of the one per cent, and when it rains, the power goes out, and not only that, but the phone lines go down. It’s all falling apart.

And it’s all falling apart to feed essentially this rapacious military complex and defence contractors. The only thing we make any more are weapons, and that’s because it’s not capitalism

Democrats were never going to allow Bernie Sanders to win nomination

Q: With the Democratic Party, you’ve seen the emergence of a left represented by BERNIE SANDERS and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a few others. But once more, an establishment candidate, Joe Biden, was chosen as the party’s nominee. What do you suppose happened and did the left ever really have a shot this time around?

A: No. The Democratic Party was never going to give Sanders the nomination, and the largest and most important Democratic donors and leaders had made that publicly clear - people like Lloyd Blankfein, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, who had said several times quite openly that if Sanders got the nomination, which wasn’t going to happen, he and the rest of the donor class of the Democratic Party were going to support Trump.

So they had fixed it so the super delegates, which are appointed by the Democratic National Committee and are composed of lobbyists and the Democratic Party leadership, could vote on the second round. So Sanders if had gotten enough votes on the first round, he would have been trounced in the second

So it was organized to push out the other candidates and leave Biden alone. There were all sorts of tricks they used in 2016 that they used again in 2020.

But Sanders winning was never going to happen, and I think all the publicity around AOC obscures the fact that these people (on the left) are utterly irrelevant, both within Congress and within the Democratic Party.

Again, THE TWO RULING PARTIES AGREE ON FAR MORE THAN THEY DISAGREE ON - whether it’s on trade agreements or defence spending or austerity programs or tax cuts.

Biden essentially functions for the Democratic liberal elite as a kind of symbol of nostalgia for a return to what I call the “pantomime of democracy.” But the political rot that is now eating away at the nation is not going to be solved by elections.

And, by the way, (the political class has) already instituted all sorts of totalitarian forms of control, from wholesale government surveillance to the revoking of civil liberties, to the use of paramilitaries on the streets of our cities - these are all part of the twisted pathologies of all civilizations sputtering towards oblivion. And I saw this in the old communist regimes I covered in Eastern Europe and later in Yugoslavia.

So the removal of Trump isn’t going to do anything. In fact, it’ll probably exacerbate the lust for racial violence and WHITE NATIONALISM, because both parties have built a mafia economy and out of that, a mafia state. And that’s going to continue under Biden as it did under Trump, under Barack Obama, under George W. Bush, under Bill Clinton, under Ronald Reagan to give essentially carte blanche to corporations and oligarchs to pillage and loot.

Even if Biden wins, underlying problems in U.S. will remain

Q: If Biden wins in November, what does that mean?

A: It will restore the decorum of our version of monarchy, and it will restore the civic religion that is built around our government power. That’s all. It may also bring with it a rational response to the pandemic. But remember, the pandemic may be beyond control by then.

The militarized police that terrorize people in poor neighbourhoods aren’t going away. The endless wars, they’re not going to end. The bloated military budget we just saw passed is not going to be reduced. The world’s largest prison system - 2.3 million people incarcerated with four per cent of the world’s population, we hold 25 per cent of the world’s prison population - that will remain, along with militarized police, which are the two bulwarks of social control.

The MANUFACTURING JOBS are NOT GOING TO RETURN, the social inequality is already growing exponentially, the FOR-PROFIT-HEALTH-CARE-SYSTEM, which are huge donors to the Biden campaign, will continue to GOUGE THE PUBLIC and PRICE MILLIONS of people OUT OF THE HEALTH-CARE SYSTEM.

The language of hate and bigotry has already been normalized as the primary form of communications. So I think that what has happened in the United States is not solvable by an election, and my last book, America: The Farewell Tour, which comes out of (French sociologist mile) Durkheim’s great work on his book on suicide, where Durkheim examined what drove individuals and societies to carry out acts of self-destruction and self-annihilation. And that’s where you get his term “anomie.” Anomie is a rupturing of those social bonds, the bonds that give individuals a sense of having a place in a collective, in being engaged in a project that’s bigger than the self.

And you find that once you consider yourself part of this collective and valued by this collective, you express it through rituals, elections, democratic participation, patriotism, all these shared national beliefs. And these bonds, as Durkeim writes, provide meaning, they give a sense of purpose, they give status, they give dignity. In essence, they offer psychological protection from the meaningless that comes with being isolated and abandoned, as well as impending mortality. And once you break these bonds, you push individuals and societies into very deep and self-destructive psychological distress. And that is writ large across the United States.

The self-destructive pathologies of opioid addiction, gambling, suicide, sexual sadism the rise of armed white hate groups. Durkheim wrote that people who seek the annihilation of others, are driven by desires for self-annihilation, nihilistic mass shootings - this is all a product of this anomie, as is our political dysfunction. And that’s not going away with Biden.

Police violence against African-Americans reveals system is beyond reform

Q: On top of all this, you’ve had the George Floyd murder and other African-Americans killed by the police. Youve had the emergence of Black Lives Matter. What is the significance of the reaction to this police brutality?

A: Well, again, that’s a product of this dislocation, this anomie, this shunting aside of poor people of colour and AFRICAN-AMERICANS and having a state that treats them as human refuse. And the two forms of social control, as I mentioned before, the prison system and these militarized police, what you’ve seen is a gaslighting on the part of the elite.

So you will have the police take the knee or NASCAR and the U.S. Marine Corps ban the display of Confederate flags, and Nancy Pelosi don a kente scarf and Biden meets with George Floyd’s family at his funeral, or the mayor of Washington, Muriel Bowser, has the words “Black Lives Matter” painted in 35-foot tall letters on a street near the White House. But at the same time, of course, she’s proposed a $45 million increase to the police budget and the construction of a $500-million jail.

(But) I think that the gaslighting isn’t working. It worked in the past, but it’s not working anymore, and my sense is that those who are in the streets have come to the realization, the correct realization, that the system is beyond reform, that we can’t reform the police. All these tricks more body cameras, consent decrees, revised use of force policies, banning chokeholds, civilian review boards, banning no-knock search warrants, training de-escalation tactics - they’ve all been proposals that have been proffered in the past, and in several cases, have been adopted in the wake of other police murders, like the killing of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

So again, it’s the structure. Police unions are very powerful because they are big donors to political campaigns. And they have been able to push aside any reformers within the system, like community review boards, even mayors and police chiefs who are reformers.

So these are all smoke and mirrors, it’s a pantomime of a faux anguish and empathy by the ruling elites. But I don’t think people are buying it. I think my sense is that in the street, there’s a kind of political sophistication, and that’s why you see people calling for the abolition of police, not the reforming of police.

Q: The mainstream media, and especially outlets like FOX News, how are they covering all of this? Are they doing an adequate job, or does it depend? Or are they doing a terrible job?

A: They’re not covering it. They cover the eruption of a crisis, but don’t cover the issues. And that doesn’t matter which wing of the media landscape you’re in, including the New York Times.

I worked there for 15 years. It doesn’t cover day in and day out the suffering and humiliation and economic distress that is now visited on half the country, and, in particular, poor people of colour in urban areas. And that’s because of their advertisers, they’re catering to their advertisers.

I think it’s important to note that the media landscape has changed from when Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky wrote Manufacturing Consent (in 1988). It’s changed quite radically.

You don’t need the old print media to connect sellers with buyers. Sellers can go directly to buyers, they have all of our profiles, courtesy of our digital platforms. And so that whole notion of faux objectivity and impartiality is gone, and the media landscape is splintered into people who seek out their particular demographic, whether it’s MSNBC or whether it’s FOX News or Breitbart or whatever.

And in order to solidify that demographic, they have become purveyors of hate.

So you have a media that still, as Chomsky and Herman pointed out, manufactures consent, but it does this by setting group against group. And it does this by catering to the particular opinions and prejudices of that group, which are reinforced and then sold back to us. So it’s kind of packaged anger just for us.

MSNBC does this, CNN does this, Fox does this.

And the danger is that as those divides widen, you can’t communicate across them. And that’s how you have huge sections of the country essentially cut off from each other, unable to communicate and entranced by the fake dissent of the cultural wars and conspiracy theories. Its all become, especially the electronic media, kind of a tawdry reality show. Politics is reduced to political personality, civil discourse is defined by insults and invective, and meanwhile, the superstructure of power, of corporate power, is never examined and never challenged, and that creates political impotence among the populous.

So the media is a junior partner in the destruction of American democracy, and, of course, we’re a huge factor in publicizing Trump җ because he’s good for profits. And that kind of moral swamp that the media has created is a very fertile place for demagogues like Trump.

America’s billionaires are clueless of what is going on

Q: Do you think the corporate elites, the billionaire class - are they worried about what’s happening to the United States in any regard?

A: The billionaire class doesn’t live in the United States, it lives in its self-created entity, as a writer for New Yorker magazine once called it, Richistan. They don’t fly commercial airlines, they only hang out with other billionaires. You know, its like Versailles or the Forbidden City - they’re just utterly disconnected from what’s happening around them. They make insane amounts of money, and this pandemic has made them even wealthier.

So I think they’re fairly clueless. I think they think Biden is the solution. They don’t have any contact with the working class other than the people who serve them. So that’s again, always very dangerous when you allow an elite to essentially seize complete political and economic power, and they are utterly disconnected from the reality around them.

If you read Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies, where he looks at 24 civilizations that collapsed, he actually uses that phenomenon as one of the major reasons of collapse - the elite is essentially able to hoard so much. American billionaires have gotten almost $500 billion richer since the pandemic. And, of course, they’re driving all the policies, and yet they really are clueless about what they’re doing and where we’re going.

Q: All of which leads to one question: Is America a failed state?

A: AMERICA IS A FAILED STATE, and it is what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls the system of “inverted totalitarianism.” And by that he means it’s not a classical totalitarian society like fascist Germany or Stalinism, it’s more like the end of the Roman Republic where you still have the old language, the old institutions, the old iconography and symbols, but they’re rendered meaningless. Even under Nero and Caligula there was still a Senate.

So that’s what’s happened. The facade has remained, but our democracy seized up and stopped functioning, beginning in the early 1970s, but certainly, I would say, going all the way back to Clinton. That’s when it really kind of stopped working completely.

So you had Clinton - and Biden was at the epicentre of this - speaking in the traditional feel-your-pain language of the Democratic Party while assiduously serving corporate power. That was done, as I mentioned, through NAFTA, it was done through the 1994 OMNIBUS CRIME BILL that militarized the police and exploded the prison population, the deregulation of the Federal Communications Commission, which allowed a half-dozen corporations to seize control of the airwaves. The destruction of welfare was done under Clinton - and under the old welfare system, 70 per cent of the recipients were children - the ripping down of the firewalls between commercial and investment banks, which was the revoking of GLASS-STEAGALL ACT, all of this came under the Democratic Party.

So I think part of the problem was that betrayal by the Democratic Party elite saw the white working class gravitate towards the worst elements of the Republican Party - because that betrayal cuts so deep. And then we have the assault on unions. Only 11 per cent of the American workforce is unionized, and I think six per cent of them are in public sector - and most of them CAN’T USE the only weapon that workers have to further their interests, which is to strike.

So America has long been a failed state, and I’ve written book after book Death of the Liberal Class, Empire of Illusion, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt - which were all reported all over the country essentially talking about the dangers of where we’re headed. And, of course, now we’re there.


Posted by Elvis on 09/22/20 •
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NWO - Is Covid Killing Capitalism

image: global reset

Capitalism isn’t working anymore. Here’s how the pandemic could change it forever.

By Anneken Tappe
September 21, 2020

New York (CNN Business) Capitalism is in crisis. The pandemic could change it forever, in favor of workers and those in greatest need.

Covid has put a magnifying glass over the many inequalities of the US economy and society. Millions of Americans are STILL OUT OF WORK. WOMEN and CHILD CARE or the TECHNOLOGY their children need for distance learning at school.

The playing field wasn’t level before, and the virus has shone a new light on the shortcomings of today’s economic and social systems, said Paul Collier, economics and public policy professor at Oxford. The World Economic Forum has ALREADY CALLED FOR A “GREAT RESET” OF CAPITALISM.

It’s emblematic of today’s capitalist society that groups of people get left behind, and it’s the job of policy makers to try to fix that.

This isn’t the first time capitalism is in crisis. In the 1950s America’s so-called golden age ח there were concerns about automation eliminating jobs and people falling through the cracks of the government’s safety net (sound familiar?). And in 2008, corporate greed came under the microscope following the financial crisis.

In modern history, only the Great Depression was more economically devastating than Covid-19. The aftermath of the Great Depression relief, recovery, and most of all, reform - may once again be necessary to create a better economy for the future, said Larry Glickman, professor of American studies at Cornell.

It will be hard to sweep all of America’s economic issues under the rug again when the pandemic is over.

“We are pregnant with change,” said MIT economics professor Daron Acemoglu.

Here are three ways the pandemic might change capitalism forever:

A new social safety net

The pandemic exposed the cracks in America’s social safety net. Enter the welfare state 2.0, which could be more attuned to workers’ needs, experts said.

“We’re in a moment where the pendulum is [swinging] towards a more favorable view of what government can do,” Glickman said.

Better-designed unemployment benefits, programs to help people back into the workforce and more affordable housing could help ease the burden of this crisis for the weakest members of the economy.

Millions have lost their jobs in the pandemic, but regular unemployment benefits are often NOT ENOUGH TO MAKE ENDS MEET, while rents eat up a large chunk of incomes across the country. As the pandemic drags on, HUNGER IS AN INCREASING PROBLEM, too.

On top of that, workers in mostly lower-paid jobs have found themselves at risk for contracting the virus at their workplace, including CASINOS, MEAT PROCESSING PLANTS and SHIPPING WAREHOUSES.

Paying to replace these workers’ wages won’t come cheap, and will likely mean that taxes will have to rise while still staying low enough not to stifle business, economists agree. It’s a tightrope

Globalization and automation challenge the manufacturing sector

Globalization goes hand in hand with capitalism. It has changed the way money and people move around the world.
A big challenge for policy makers is to deal with how that has affected workers.

In today’s capitalism, money is, for the most part, considered more important than workers: If moving jobs elsewhere, or USING ROBOTS SAVES DOLLARS, it’s done.

For workers on the wrong side of these trends, things haven’t improved, and this has exacerbated inequality, Federal Reserve Chairman JEROME POWELL SAID EARLIER THIS YEAR. The pandemic has provided a real-life example that robots don’t get sick, but human workers do.

Welfare isn’t only about benefits. It also extends to education and health care. In a world where machines increasingly take over people’s jobs, educating the next generation so their skills match what’s needed is important.

More debt than ever before

Capitalism isn’t only about how a country treats its people and workers, it’s also about how it treats its money.

Covid has brought on government spending like never before and deficits are burgeoning around the world. The Congressional Budget Office predicts the US FERDERAL BUDGET DEFECIT WILL BE $3.3 TRILLION AT TH END OF THE YEAR more than triple of what it was in 2019.

“Debt might be one of the most prominent characteristics of today’s capitalism,” said Christine Desan, professor of law at Harvard.

In the post-pandemic world, policy makers will either have to accept living with enormous debt burdens or address a complete overhaul of the system in place.


Posted by Elvis on 09/22/20 •
Section Revelations • Section NWO • Section Dying America • Section Next Recession, Next Depression
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Monday, September 21, 2020

Inequality 2020

image: shoshine boy and rich guy

[O]ur political system has become the major barrier to solving nearly every important challenge our nation needs to address.
- The U.S. Political System Has Been Hijacked

Over the past four years of financial collapse, many of us have come to view markets as a fantastical scam: a giant mechanism geared to transfer our hard-earned dollars into the hands of a few select bankers. And when it comes to the Wall Street markets we rely on to trade our equities and debt and commodities, this sentiment is not all wrong.
- Killing the competition:  How the new monopolies are destroying open markets, Harpers Magazine, 2012

For some long time now, our political economy has been driven by investment banks, hedge funds, private equity firms, real estate developers, insurance goliaths, and a whole menagerie of ancillary enterprises that service them.  But high times in fire land have depended on the downward mobility of working people and the poor, cut adrift from more secure industrial havens and increasingly from the lifelines of public support. They have been living instead in the “pit of austerity.” Soon many more of us will join them.
- The Archeology of Decline, Toms Dispatch

Men of the professional-managerial class are the big winners in this transformation of work. For them,"insecurity" can look like “flexibility,” as they jump from company to company in search of a better match for their skills.

Highly educated workers are less likely than blue-collar or low-level service workers to suffer job displacement, and when they do, they experience less of a pay loss.
- Desperate Men

The rupture of social bonds, caused by the breakdown of society, income inequality, social stagnation and the disempowerment of the working class, is expressed in innumerable dark pathologies. A fractured public carries out self-destructive behaviors, out-of-control gun violence, opioid addiction, and sexual sadism - in an attempt to cope with dislocation, impotence and pain. Moral crusades are an expression of this cultural sickness. They are emblematic of a society in deep distress, unable to cope rationally with the problems besetting it. These crusades always make things worse, for once they are exposed as ineffectual they invariably breed a frightening fanaticism.
- The Curse of Moral Purity

The Top 1% of Americans Have Taken $50 Trillion From the Bottom 90% - And That’s Made the U.S. Less Secure

By Nick Hanauer and David M. Rolf
September 14, 2020

Like many of the virus’s hardest hit victims, the United States went into the COVID-19 PANDEMIC wracked by preexisting conditions. A fraying public health infrastructure, inadequate medical supplies, an employer-based health insurance system perversely unsuited to the moment these and other afflictions are surely CONTRIBUTING TO THE DEATH TOLL. But in addressing the CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF THIS PANDEMIC - and its cruelly uneven IMPACT - the elephant in the room is extreme income inequality.

How big is this elephant? A staggering $50 trillion. That is how much the upward redistribution of income has cost American workers over the past several decades.

This is not some back-of-the-napkin approximation. According to a groundbreaking NEW WORKING PAPER BY CARTER C. PRICE AND KATHRYN EDWARDS OF THE RAND CORPORATION, had the more equitable income distributions of the three decades following World War II (1945 through 1974) merely held steady, the aggregate annual income of Americans earning below the 90th percentile would have been $2.5 trillion higher in the year 2018 alone. That is an amount equal to nearly 12 percent of GDP - enough to more than double median income - enough to pay every single working American in the bottom nine deciles an additional $1,144 a month. Every month. Every single year.

Price and Edwards calculate that the cumulative tab for our four-decade-long experiment in radical inequality had grown to over $47 trillion from 1975 through 2018. At a recent pace of about $2.5 trillion a year, that number we estimate crossed the $50 trillion mark by early 2020. That’s $50 trillion that would have gone into the paychecks of working Americans had inequality held constant - $50 trillion that would have built a far larger and more prosperous economy - $50 trillion that would have enabled the vast majority of Americans to enter this pandemic far more healthy, resilient, and financially secure.

As the RAND report [whose research was funded by the FAIR WORKS CENTER which co-author David Rolf is a board member of] demonstrates, a rising tide most definitely did not lift all boats. It didn’t even lift most of them, as nearly all of the benefits of growth these past 45 years were captured by those at the very top. And as the American economy grows radically unequal it is holding back economic growth itself.

Even inequality is meted out unequally. Low-wage workers and their families, disproportionately people of color, suffer from far higher rates of asthma, hypertension, diabetes, and other COVID-19 comorbidities; yet they are also far less likely to have health insurance, and far more likely to work in “essential” industries with the highest rates of coronavirus exposure and transmission. It is no surprise then, ACCORDING TO THE CDC, that COVID-19 inflicts a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups.Ӕ But imagine how much safer, healthier, and empowered all American workers might be if that $50 trillion had been paid out in wages instead of being funneled into corporate profits and the offshore accounts of the super-rich. Imagine how much richer and more resilient the American people would be. Imagine how many more lives would have been saved had our people been more resilient.

It is easy to see how such a deadly virus, and the draconian measures required to contain it, might spark an economic depression. But look straight into the eyes of the elephant in the room, and it is impossible to deny the many ways in which our extreme inequality - an exceptionally American affliction - has made the virus more deadly and its economic consequences more dire than in any other advanced nation. Why is our death toll so high and our unemployment rate so staggeringly off the charts? Why was our nation so unprepared, and our economy so fragile? Why have we lacked the stamina and the WILL to contain the virus like most other advanced nations? The reason is staring us in the face: a stampede of rising inequality that has been trampling the lives and livelihoods of the vast majority of Americans, year after year after year.

Of course, America’s CHRONIC case of extreme inequality is OLD NEWS. Many other studies have documented this trend, chronicled its impact, and analyzed its causes. But where others have painted the picture in terms of aggregate shares of GDP, productivity growth, or other cold, hard statistics, the RAND report brings the inequality price tag directly home by denominating it in dollars - not just the aggregate $50 trillion figure, but in granular demographic detail. For example, are you a typical Black man earning $35,000 a year? You are being paid at least $26,000 a year less than you would have had income distributions held constant. Are you a college-educated, prime-aged, full-time worker earning $72,000? Depending on the inflation index used (PCE or CPI, respectively), rising inequality is costing you between $48,000 and $63,000 a year. But whatever your race, gender, educational attainment, urbanicity, or income, the data show, if you earn below the 90th percentile, the relentlessly upward redistribution of income since 1975 is coming out of your pocket.

As Price and Edwards explain, from 1947 through 1974, real incomes grew close to the rate of per capita economic growth across all income levels. That means that for three decades, those at the bottom and middle of the distribution saw their incomes grow at about the same rate as those at the top. This was the era in which America built the worlds largest and most prosperous middle class, an era in which inequality between income groups steadily shrank (even as shocking inequalities between the sexes and races largely remained). But around 1975, this extraordinary era of broadly shared prosperity came to an end. Since then, the wealthiest Americans, particularly those in the top 1 percent and 0.1 percent, have managed to capture an ever-larger share of our nation’s economic growth - in fact, almost all of it - their real incomes skyrocketing as the vast majority of Americans saw little if any gains.

What if American prosperity had continued to be broadly shared how much more would a typical worker be earning today? Once the data are compiled, answering these questions is fairly straightforward. Price and Edwards look at real taxable income from 1975 to 2018. They then compare actual income distributions in 2018 to a counterfactual that assumes incomes had continued to keep pace with growth in per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - a 118% increase over the 1975 income numbers. Whether measuring inflation using the more conservative Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index (PCE) or the more commonly cited Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U-RS), the results are striking.

image: income distribution all adults

At every income level up to the 90th percentile, wage earners are now being paid a fraction of what they would have had inequality held constant. For example, at the median individual income of $36,000, workers are being shortchanged by $21,000 a year - $28,000 when using the CPI - an amount equivalent to an additional $10.10 to $13.50 an hour. But according to Price and Edwards, “this actually understates the impact of rising inequality on low- and middle-income workers, because much of the gains at the bottom of the distribution were largely driven by an increase in hours not an increase in wages.” To adjust for this, along with changing patterns of workforce participation, the researchers repeat their analysis for full-year, full-time, prime-aged workers (age 25 to 54). These results are even more stark: “Unlike the growth patterns in the 1950s and 60s, writePrice and Edwards, the majority of full-time workers did not share in the economic growth of the last forty years.”

image: income chart 2

On average, extreme inequality is costing the median income full-time worker about $42,000 a year. Adjusted for inflation using the CPI, the numbers are even worse: half of all full-time workers (those at or below the median income of $50,000 a year) now earn less than half what they would have had incomes across the distribution continued to keep pace with economic growth. And that’s per worker, not per household. At both the 25th and 50th percentiles, households comprised of a married couple with one full-time worker earned thousands of dollars less in 2018 dollars than a comparable household in 1975 - and $50,000 and $66,000 less respectively than if inequality had held constant - a predicament compounded by the rising costs of maintaining a dignified middle-class life. According to Oren Cass, executive director of the conservative think tank AMERICAN COMPASS, the median male worker needed 30 weeks of income in 1985 to pay for housing, healthcare, transportation, and education for his family. By 2018, that ”COST OF THRIVING INDEX” had increased to 53 weeks (more weeks than in an actual year). But the counterfactual reveals an even starker picture: In 2018, the combined income of married households with two full-time workers was barely more than what the income of a single-earner household would have earned had inequality held constant. Two-income families are now working twice the hours to maintain a shrinking share of the pie, while struggling to pay housing, healthcare, education, childcare, and transportation’s costs that have grown at two to three times the rate of inflation.

This dramatic redistribution of income from the majority of workers to those at the very top is so complete that even at the 95th percentile, most workers are still earning less than they would have had inequality held constant. It is only at the 99th percentile that we see incomes growing faster than economic growth: at 171 percent of the rate of per capita GDP. But even this understates the disparity. “The average income growth for the top one percent was substantially higher,” writePrice and Edwards, “at more than 300 percent of the real per capita GDP rate.” The higher your income, the larger your percentage gains. As a result, the top 1 percent’s share of total taxable income has more than doubled, from 9 percent in 1975, to 22 percent in 2018, while the bottom 90 percent have seen their income share fall, from 67 percent to 50 percent. This represents a direct transfer of income - and over time, wealth - from the vast majority of working Americans to a handful at the very top.

image: taxable income 1975 - 2018

But given the changing demographic composition of the U.S. workforce, these topline numbers can only tell part of the story. The U.S. workforce is now better educated and more urban than it was in 1975. It is also far less white and male - with white men falling from over 60 percent of the prime-aged workforce in 1974 to less than 45 percent by 2018. These changes are important, because while there was far more equality between the income distributions in 1975, there was also more inequality within them - notably in regard to gender and race.

For example, in 1975, the median income of white women was only 31 percent of that of white men; by 2018 white women were earning 68 percent as much. Likewise, the median income of Black men as a share of their white counterparts earnings rose from 74 percent in 1975, to 80 percent in 2018. Clearly, income disparities between races, and especially between men and women, have narrowed since 1975, and that is a good thing. But unfortunately, much of the narrowing we see is more an artifact of four decades of flat or declining wages for low- and middle-income white men than it is of substantial gains for women and nonwhites.

image: median income for adults by race

Much has been made about WHITE MALE GRIEVANCE in the age of Trump, and given their falling or stagnant real incomes, one can understand why some white men might FEEL AGGRIEVED. White, non-urban, non-college educated men have the slowest wage growth in every demographic category. But to blame their woes on competition from women or minorities would be to completely miss the target. In fact, white men still earn more than white women at all income distributions, and substantially more than most non-white men and women. Only Asian-American men earn higher. Yet there is no moral or practical justification for the persistence of any income disparity based on race or gender.

The counterfactuals in the table above appear vastly unequal because they extrapolate from the indefensible 1975-levels of race and gender inequality; they assume that inequality remained constant both between income distributions and within them - that women and nonwhites had not narrowed the income gap with white men. But surely, this cannot be our goal. In an economy freed from race and gender bias, and that shares the fruits of growth broadly across all income distributions, the most appropriate counterfactual for all the groups in this table would be the aggregate counterfactual for All Groups: a median income of $57,000 a year for all adults with positive earnings ($92,000 for full-time prime-age workers). That would be the income for all workers at the 50th percentile, regardless of race or gender, had race and gender inequality within distributions been eliminated, and inequality between distributions not grown. By this measure we can see that in real dollars, women and nonwhites have actually lost more income to rising inequality than white men, because starting from their disadvantaged positions in 1975, they had far more to potentially gain. Per capita GDP grew by 118 percent over the following four decades, so there was plenty of new income to spread around. That the majority of white men have benefited from almost none of this growth isn’t because they have lost income to women or minorities; its because they’ve lost it to their largely white male counterparts in the top 1 percent who have captured nearly all of the income growth for themselves. According to economist Thomas Piketty, men accounted for 85 percent of the top income centile in the mid-2010sand while he doesnt specify, these men are overwhelmingly white.

Thus, by far the single largest driver of rising inequality these past forty years has been the dramatic rise in inequality between white men.

The data on income distribution by educational attainment is equally revealing, in that it calls the lie on the notion of a “skills gap” - a dominant narrative that has argued that rising inequality is largely a consequence of a majority of American workers failing to acquire the higher skills necessary to compete in our modern global economy. If workers were better educated, this narrative argues, they would earn more money. Problem solved.

Indeed, at every income distribution, the education premium has increased since 1975, with the income of college graduates rising faster than their less educated counterparts. But this growing gap is more a consequence of falling incomes for workers without a college degree than it is of rising real incomes for most workers with one - for not only have workers without a degree secured none of the gains from four decades of economic growth, below the 50th percentile theyve actually seen their real incomes decline. College educated workers are doing better. The median real income for full-time workers with a four-year degree has grown from $55,000 a year in 1975 to $72,000 in 2018. But that still falls far short of the $120,000 theyԒd be earning had incomes grown with per capita GDP. Even at the 90th percentile, a college educated full-time worker making $191,000 a year is earning less than 78 percent what they would have had inequality held constant.

The reality is that American workers have never been more highly educated. In 1975, only 67 percent of the adult US workforce had a high school education or better, while just 15 percent had earned a four-year college degree. By 2018, 91 percent of adult workers had completed high school, while the percentage of college graduates in the workforce had more than doubled to 34 percent. In raw numbers, the population of adult workers with a high school education or less has fallen since 1975, while the number of workers with a four-year degree has more than quadrupled.

image: income by education

It is impossible to argue that a skills gapӔ is responsible for rising income inequality when the rate of educational attainment is rising faster than the rate of growth in productivity or per capita GDP. Yes, workers with college degrees are doing better than those without; the economy weve built over the past 45 years has been more unequal to some than to others. But below the 90th percentile, even college graduates are falling victim to a decades-long trend of radical inequality that is robbing them of most of the benefits of economic growth.

The iron rule of market economies is that we all do better when we all do better: when workers have more money, businesses have more customers, and hire more workers. Seventy percent of our economy is dependent on consumer spending; the faster and broader real incomes grow, the stronger the demand for the products and services American businesses produce. This is the virtuous cycle through which workers and businesses prospered together in the decades immediately following World War II. But as wages stagnated after 1975, so too did consumer demand; and as demand slowed, so did the economy. A 2014 report from the OECD estimated that rising income inequality knocked as much 9 POINTS OFF U.S. GDP GROWTH over the previous two decades - a deficit that has surely grown over the past six years as inequality continued to climb. That’s about $2 trillion worth of GDP thats being frittered away, year after year, through policy choices that intentionally constrain the earning power of American workers.

COVID-19 may have triggered our current crisis, but it wasn’t its only cause. For even had our political leaders done everything right in the moment, our response to the pandemic would still have been mired in the footprint of extreme inequality: a $50 trillion upward redistribution of wealth and income - $297,000 per household - that has left our families, our economy, and our democracy far less capable of fighting this virus than in other advanced nations. This is the America that stumbled into the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic catastrophe it unleashed: An America with an economy $2 trillion smaller and a workforce $2.5 trillion a year poorer than they otherwise would be had inequality held constant since 1975. This is an America in which 47 percent of renters are COST BURDENED, in which 40 percent of households CAN’T COVER a $400 emergency expense, in which half of Americans over age 55 have NO RETIREMENT SAVINGS at all. This is an America in which 28 MILLION have no health insurance, and in which 44 MILLION UNDERINSURED Americans CAN’T AFFORD the DEDUCTABLES OR COPAYS to USE THE INSURANCE THEY GAVE. This is an America that recklessly rushed to reopen its economy in the midst of a deadly pandemic because businesses were too fragile to survive an extended closure and workers too powerless and impoverished to defy the call back to work.

There are some who blame the current plight of working Americans on structural changes in the underlying economy- on automation, and especially on globalization. According to this popular narrative, the lower wages of the past 40 years were the unfortunate but necessary price of keeping American businesses competitive in an increasingly cutthroat global market. But in fact, the $50 trillion transfer of wealth the RAND report documents has occurred entirely within the American economy, not between it and its trading partners. No, this upward redistribution of income, wealth, and power wasnt inevitable; it was a choice - a direct result of the trickle-down policies we chose to implement since 1975.

We chose to cut taxes on billionaires and to deregulate the financial industry. We chose to allow CEOs to manipulate share prices through stock buybacks, and to lavishly reward themselves with the proceeds. We chose to permit giant corporations, through mergers and acquisitions, to accumulate the vast monopoly power necessary to dictate both prices charged and wages paid. We chose to erode the minimum wage and the overtime threshold and the bargaining power of labor. For four decades, we chose to elect political leaders who put the material interests of the rich and powerful above those of the American people.

Other nations are suffering less from COVID-19 because they made better choices, and the good news is that America can, too. Economics is a choice. We could choose to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 or $20 an hour and peg it to productivity growth like in the decades before 1975. We could choose to revalue work so that the majority of Americans once again earn time-and-a-half pay for every hour worked over 40 hours a week. We could choose to provide affordable high-quality healthcare, childcare, and education to all Americans, while modernizing our social insurance and retirement systems so that contract and gig workers aren’t left out and left behind. We could choose to make it easier for workers to organize, and to defend the rights and interests of those who cant. We could choose to build a more equitable, resilient, and prosperous America - an America that grows its economy by intentionally including every American in it. But given our nations radical redistribution of wealth and power these past 40 years, it won’t be easy.

What American workers need are multiple simultaneous experiments in rebuilding worker power, from tweaking existing labor laws to sectoral bargaining to the creation of whole new trade associations and broad-based not-for-profit organizations. For example, imagine an AARP for all working Americans, relentlessly dedicated to both raising wages and reducing the cost of thrivinga mass membership organization so large and so powerful that our political leaders wonגt dare to look the other way. Only then, by matching power with power, can we clear a path to enacting the laws and policies necessary to ensure that that trickle-down economics never threatens our health, safety, and welfare again.

There is little evidence that the current administration has any interest in dealing with this crisis. Our hope is that a Biden administration would be historically bold. But make no mistake that both our political and economic systems will collapse absent solutions that scale to the enormous size of the problem. The central goal of our nation’s economic policy must be nothing less than the doubling of median income. We must dramatically narrow inequality between distributions while eliminating racial and gender inequalities within them. This is the standard to which we should hold leaders from both parties. To advocate for anything less would be cowardly or dishonest or both.

Nick Hanauer is an entrepreneur and a venture capitalist, the founder of the public-policy incubator Civic Ventures, and the host of the podcast Pitchfork Economics.

Rolf is Founder and President Emeritus of SEIU 775 and the author of The Fight for Fifteen (New Press, 2016)


Posted by Elvis on 09/21/20 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America
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