Monday, July 23, 2012

Developing Into Decline

The Elites Are Unanimous: Lower Everyone's Wages and Standard of Living -- Except They Don't Say it Out Loud

America's 1% are in harmony on the matter that concerns them most -- who gets the biggest slice of the pie. 
By Jeff Faux, Alternet July 19, 2012
Editor's note: This essay is derived from Jeff Faux's new book, The Servant Economy: ​Where America's Elite is Sending the Middle Class, which William Greider calls a "really important book" that tells the "astonishing story of how class works."

  I wouldn't presume to give economic predictions myself, but I can offer up some ruminations on how those of us in the working poor -formerly known as the lower middle class- already know and feel what the author presumes the power elites do. 
  That "two earner" family has been struggling for decades, not only recently, buying "McMansions" with family rooms that no one has ever used because they're never home and work themselves to the bone doing overtime and/or several jobs to maintain, and even less reason to use them after all these new electronics have taken away any family time left. The new "toys" are wonderful distractions, but perpetuate that "keep up with the Jones" consumerism.

  Those "summer jobs" we used to work as teenagers no longer exist, and young people of college age have been unable to find any meaningful work before, during, and even in some cases after graduation. For those who do have jobs, productivity has reached the saturation point as the managerial class has kept their companies' labor pool to a minimum. The bulk of "burbs" and rural area jobs have been paying minimum wages for decades, and not everyone can work at Walmart, drive a truck, or get one of those temp jobs as an admin assistant. Not to mention that the temporary agencies exploit their employees like developing country remitters. Or worse:

  The financialization of  the "Wall Street" that has been preying on "Main Street" for many, many years has led to now a complete lack of ethics in trading and banking,  promoted CEO worship and promulgated such ruthless corporate raiders as Willard "Mittens" Romney (he sounds so much "sexier" as a gangster) as the new role models for the one percenters. One percenters, that even sounds like a gang !

  The author and others complain about a credit crunch, but consumer saving has been on the upswing for awhile now, business debt as well as inventories held down, and credit has eased. The hoarding of cash is now the problem that the Wall Steet crowd AND the financiers have created to further obfuscate matters. It's true that the financiers and I'm sure some others are overjoyed to just sit on their own respective piles of currency collecting the interest on those high yield bonds, but that's nothing compared to what they could be reaping from normal capitalistic spending.

  What both disappoints and surprises me is the manufacturers'  timidity and alledged hesitation to invest in our future. "Uncertainty" is no excuse for supposed risk taking capitalists, so of more concern is the perceived lack of consumer demand, which is true in most economists' eyes that I've read, so perhaps industy is examining the very same reading.

  We now resemble a developing country in many ways. One reason to say this is because along with our current extremes of inequality, the complexity of the tax code and all it's pecularities favoring corporatism at the expense of public works and policy facilitates tax evasion and avoidance. The refusal to tax fairly the wealhiest sections of our society supplemented by voter repression and the lack of a reasonable immigration policy come together to suppress the growing ethnic minorities in favor of the power elites that constitute the controlling political minority. These lax tax policies are simply a cost-effective way to control populist challenges to the then dominant minority's power base.

  What is happening now can be adequately described by the British historian Arnold J. Toynbee, who theorized that all civilizations pass through several distinct stages: genesis, growth, time of troubles, universal state, and discintegration. Toynbee argues that societies that develop great expertise in problem solving simply become incapable of solving new problems by overdeveloping their structures for solving old ones. Thus, the "creative minority" degenerates into the dominant minority that fails to recognize new ways of thinking due to a worship of their "former self", becoming prideful and unable to adequately address further challenges ( Arnold J. Toynbee, "A Study of History" 1961).

  Toynbee (1961) then states that the ultimate sign that a civilization is disintegrating is when the dominant minority forms a "Universal State", which stifles political creativity. He states:
"First the Dominant Minority attempts to hold by force - against all right and reason - a position of inherited privilege which it has ceased to merit; and then the Proletariat repays injustice with resentment, fear with hate, and violence with violence when it executes its acts of secession".

  Toynbee (1961) argues that as civilizations decay, they form an "Internal Proletariat" and an "External Proletariat". The Internal proletariat is held in subjugation by the dominant minority inside the civilization, and grows bitter; the external proletariat exists outside the civilization in poverty and chaos, and grows envious. He further argues that as civilizations decay, there is a "schism in the body social...". Doesn't this sound like the rich, the middle class, and the working poor ?  Sound familiar ? No, I don't mean simply the words as if they were Marxian, because they're not, this is from a comparative history study in complexity science terms, don't let it scare you. But it should ring some bells in some belfries and have some resonance with the present day OWS movement, relevancy to this election year, and to  American society in general.

 All in all, our incomes and standard of living are not what worry me, it's this developing decline of our society, and just as trying to predict the stock market, we can't be sure of when it's actually going to be disintergrating. I relate our societal fissures to the actual decline of the West in general, since these are clearly global trends, primarily in Europe and other developed countries. North American political polarization has come full measure into various large electorates becoming dissassociated with our original U.S. Constitutional intentions of procedure. Our 112th Congress is reported to be the most polarized since the reconstruction. The Republican base that has become so radicalized and so ignorant of the actual Bill of Rights that it now makes up the largest portion of those who unwittingly point towards parlimentarisnism, although once they realize what they're asking for, it might be a unicameral one. And that would be un-American.


  1. The Chris Hedges interview by Bill Moyer's & Company was recommended viewing last evening by a member of a group that I belong to. His name is Tie Dye Clay and he works in drug addiction rehabilitation. It was also posted on a face book group that I am a member of that was originally set up to document and support the Occupy movement.

    At our meeting last night we had representatives from several different organizations. The head of the local Center for Peace and Justice, a principal of the local Head Start, a clerical worker from the local university, students, nurses from both private and public facilities, a drug rehab social worker and the State Chair of the Democratic Party. I hosted the event and we discussed ways to make a change within our community to battle poverty, poor health, improve education, and fight economic injustice that we see in our daily interaction with people who are also our neighbors.

    We hope to begin the reparation with education on the importance of good health and education. From that beginning we hope to move on to actively changing how our government is controlled by the super-national corporations who have no allegiance to a government other than to wield the power of armed resistance to suppress the citizenry when they become outraged by their corruption.

    After viewing the Bill Moyer's episode I have a clearer picture of what is truly wrong. It is that people are complicit in the usurpation of our democracy by actively supporting the oligarchs in their quest to entangle all of the rest of society to their oppressive need of servitude.

  2. "All politics is local" ~ Speaker Tip O'Neill
    Thank you SO much, and what a wonderful comment, Downriverdan ! Please come again, you're welcome anytime.
    And we're so proud of what you do.