The Public Sucks. Fuck Hope.
The Public Sucks. Fuck Hope.
The data don’t lie – Americans increasingly live in communities that differ on the basis of class and wealth. Physical separation may be minimal, but differences in quality-of-life and quality of institutions mean that residents may as well be living in different worlds or at least different countries. Such an arrangement has serious negative consequences for our nation. Among the most dangerous is a form of sociological moral hazard.
In the world of economics, moral hazard results when market forces prevent natural business consequences from impacting actors in the market. Because of interventions, these actors disregard the risk of certain actions – usually negative – even when the risk is sizeable and the natural result of reckless behaviors.
The greatest contemporary example of moral hazard is the result of government action following the 2008 financial crisis. Large banks were saved from the bankruptcy court by trillion-dollar bailouts, and never experienced the severely negative but expected consequences of their reckless lending and shameful profiteering. Today, the world is left with a group of Too Big To Fail financial institutions, emboldened by the government response to continue reckless behaviors that threaten future financial crises. Applied to the national fabric of the US – especially in its increasingly unequal state – we face similar catastrophy.
The widening chasm of wealth and economic opportunity in the US can be seen in the patchwork of municipalities and cities that dot the US. The most recent Census data show increasing class-based separation of Americans in their towns and neighborhoods. Wealthier Americans and the middle and lower classes rarely call the same town “home.” In the suburbs of Philadelphia, the wealthy and middle class concentrate in outer suburbs while the poor crowd into neighborhoods in the decaying inner city or dilapidated inner-ring suburbs.
Gentrified neighborhoods and Center City census tracts may boast significant populations of the wealthy and upwardly mobile, but these enclaves pale in comparison to the sheer size Philly’s ghettos and poor suburbs that developed just outside city limits in the post-war period.
To be sure, processes like white flight and suburbanization have devastated cities for decades. If these processes are longstanding, then why should anyone care today? Besides the magnitude of today’s separation, this situation threatens the very fate of institutions that ensure the continued validity of ideals related to equality and economic opportunity.
Concentrated wealth and poverty mean concentrated educational excellence and complete decrepitude. They create areas of great services and infrastructure and areas with poor or nonexistent services (often the very locales where they are needed most).
This is disastrous, given our already desperate need for effective public policymaking. Wealthy persons with the most resources and capacity to influence public policy often in perfect communities where the importance of funding schools, social services, and public infrastructure is lost. With little evidence of the importance of these institutions in their surroundings, the wealthy become less likely to support tax expenditure on public education, social services, and mass transit. The importance of these institutions to the lives of the vast majority of Americans is largely lost.
Like the result of reckless lending, the consequences of inadequately funding these institutions has numerous negative impacts: an uneducated populace, rampant social problems like crime and disease, and further declines in economic opportunity. In this way, a sort of sociological moral hazard is the result when the geographic and class-based separation of Americans shields the most powerful, gifted, and wealthy among us from seeing the importance of public policy that funds education and supports community services. Like the banks, society is likely to continue the blunders of the past because actors with the capacity to make a difference feel no need to do so…and often commit considerable resources to defeating change agents seeking good public policy and adequate funding of public institutions.
We see that inequality threatens much more fire consequences than initial discrepancies in economic opportunity and quality-of-life. It has the capacity to snowball, preventing meaningful public policy decisions and actions that could reverse the quickly unfolding economic disaster.
Life in America ain’t what it used to be. Wages are stagnant, debt is growing, opportunities are few, and a sense of powerlessness has taken hold. Many commentators cite growing inequality as the primary catalyst. The post-1970 divergence of wealth began a long period of flat wages and less opportunity.
But decades-long economic trends like inequality are not purely random events. While there is always a possibility of “unintended consequences,” these trends are more likely the result of deep thought, planning, and the misguided actions of democratic representatives. Recent history is full of examples: the repeal of Glass-Steagall and Bush tax cuts come to mind.
But scouring the history books and pondering actions not taken are all worthless unless done within the context of the future.
The mechanism for achieving a better future is public policy that tears down the foundations of the current system. More oversight of the Federal Reserve, simplification of the tax code, effective campaign finance reform, and restoration of civil rights are obvious examples. But these common sense policies are perennially blocked by the government that’s supposed to help.
Most would agree that this is because our politicians are beholden to Wall Street and many other groups that have profited from post-1971 wage stagnation and inequality. They’re intelligent folks – they reinvested their profits in the pockets of Congressmen. This has paid off handsomely – creating a mesh of legal protections and skewed public policy obediently enacted by the “representatives of the people.” It is no surprise that used car salesman and Communism have a better approval rating than the US Congress.
Unfortunately, this is what we have to work with. Until we realize this and start engaging our elected officials and the parties, they will continue listening to Wal-mart and DC lobbyists, and that means the stakes are high. However weak and ineffective it may be, the Democratic Party has generally defended the social safety net, plus civil rights and economic protections.
At this point, continued apathy or wholesale withdrawal from their “tent” is unwise – weakening them only strengthens the defenders of corporate America, making their eventual downfall a more difficult task.
Absent some compelling reason – abandonment of Medicare, perhaps – backing party progressives sympathetic to the middle class is a great idea. A strong Democratic Party, reinvigorated by activism and broad support, can help in the struggle against our economic overlords.
Let’s start by reelecting President Obama… and putting Democrats on notice that pandering to radical right-wing policy or going along with murderous, wasteful foreign wars are no longer acceptable.
The alternative is a Romney Administration … putting middle class interests at risk and better times even further off in the future.
Some great commentary on the perversion of Objectivism brought about by the folly of backers of Wall Street’s criminal, parasitic class…
The high priestess of corporate deregulation and free markets, Ayn Rand, wrote a novella in the 1930s. It was published in the U.S. in 1946 under the title, Anthem, by a corporate front group, a precursor to today’s astroturf groups. Anthem is currently being pumped into high schools across the U.S. and Canada with financial inducements to both teachers and students by a corporate funded nonprofit that has the financial support of some of the largest hedge funds in the U.S.
The book presents a frightening dystopian world produced by the ever present Randian trademark – an out of control government. People are known by numbers instead of names; individual rights have been eviscerated. To break the will of the individual, uttering the word “I” results in being burned alive in the town square. (Charming high school literature.)
What has happened today, however, proves that in a country dominated by powerful multinational corporations, Rand not only had the wrong target of big government in her cross hairs but the despotic enemy became the very deregulated market she helped design with acolytes like former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan and her corporate cronies.
The epicenter of the “free market” – Wall Street – which has had 70 years of corporate propaganda chipping away at its government restraints, is the modern day embodiment of every demon Rand feared in her copious journals and books. Not only are Wall Street workers muzzled but they must profess written loyalty to their masters who characterize them as mere numbers rather than humans.
Employees for the major Wall Street firms must sign away their right to access the nation’s courts in any dispute with their employer. A crony-run arbitration system that relies on “equity” rather than the rule of law replaces the taxpayer supported court system where the jury is randomly selected from a large pool. The U.S. Supreme Court has enshrined Wall Street’s ability to serve as judge and jury in multiple decisions. Congress has failed to get a bill out of committee to outlaw these kangaroo courts in two decades of documented abuse.
One of the largest Wall Street firms requires workers to sign that they have read and understood the following statement in order to remain employed at the firm.
To read the rest of this piece, courtesy of CounterPunch, click the following link: Ayn Rand’s Nightmare is Today’s Wall Street » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.
Santorum aide backtracks after stating Obama administration pursuing “radical Islamic policies…” … Santorum compares Americans’ sentiments in mulling second Obama term to what US faced during rise of Adolf Hitler in Europe … follows comments questioning Obama’s spirituality & earlier incident with supporters claiming Obama is “avowed Muslim” … changing conversation from anti-Gay, anti-women’s health rhetoric to xenophobic hate language … GOP disintegrating into fundamentalist, extremist paranoia … commentators cite hate-filled talk radio and conservative echo chamber …
As a youngish person – perhaps defined as a “Millenial” – I don’t think one has to look much beyond the immediate circles of friends and family to conclude that the social contract has been shattered in the United States. It is truly a contract – and it used to say something like “work hard, get an education, follow the rules, and you have a high probability of being successful in your pursuit of happiness.” But in relative terms, I think the promises of success and happiness are no longer valid…or at least not as valid as they were for our parents and their parents before them, and members of their various generations.
Nowadays, many people my age pursue higher education and work hard. Yet they emerge from their University, Law School, or Business School with little more than limited prospects and a massive, crushing debt that hangs like a noose around their collective necks. They find that the deck has been stacked against them. Among the worst of their corporate shackles are taxation and banking systems that protect the wealthy while exacting out-of-scale income taxes and interest payments from people struggling to join the middle class.
Many young Americans will soon become aware of the fact that their plight is directly linked to a broken political system that no longer represents common interests. Instead, it is carving out special-interest protections in the tax code and regulatory frameworks. Its efforts bleed valuable social programs and allow monied interests to subject the citizenry to wage slavery, poke Swiss cheese-like holes in the social safety net, and destroy our air, land, and water with oversight-free natural resource extraction.
Normally we look to our political representatives to protect us and pass legislation that favors our interests and contributes to the common good. But in an environment of outsized corporate speech powered by unregulated and massive campaign contributions and lobbying akin to political anabolic steroids, this former bastion of protection for citizen interests is crippled, and unfit for being tasked with righting the ship.
Faced with conditions like this – whether in the the American Colonies, the Deep South before the Civil Rights Era, apartheid-ridden South Africa, the interior of the Iron Curtain, and, most recently, the Middle East and North Africa – people universally resort to popular action in the form of protest, civil disobedience, and popular action. Americans, blessed with generations of prosperity and a relatively effective representative democracy, have found it unnecessary to resort to such action, for the most part.
But the inescapable conclusion is that this existence is ending or has already ended. Left without traditional recourse, the paradigm must shift. In the face of corporate-dominated, special interest-beholden government, the only real solution is popular demonstration and protest aimed at marginalizing corrupt elements in our institutions, once and for all.
When will this position emerge as the consensus? I think the glaring erosion of our quality-of-life, opportunity, and overall happiness and well-being will soon tilt sleeping citizenry into popular action. It is true that our citizens naturally believe in our country, its democracy, and the promise of the American Dream. That’s why they traditionally look to the political system for recourse. But human history tells us that such beliefs are not perpetual. Confidence in the inherent good and benevolence of our democratic institutions will gradually melt away as individual liberty and economic freedom are destroyed and replaced with corporate oligarchy and economic serfdom.
The only question we’re left with is this: exactly how much humanity are we willing to sacrifice while we hold out for relief by our neutered political representatives and agents from our largely-compromised social and cultural infrastructure? That is anyone’s guess…but hopefully not too much, so that justice comes sooner, rather than later.
The legal basis for arguments against the federal rule mandating Catholic institutional employers provide insurance coverage for contraception doesn’t pass muster, legally or logically…except as a wedge issue designed to rally voters to flawed GOP presidential candidates.
Statements that Obama is somehow violating religious freedom are bunk, and here’s why: despite the rising crescendo of stupidity, Catholic citizens still have the right to practice their religion. They can still refuse to use contraception.
And no, by mandating coverage of critical health services, the federal government is not establishing one religion or discriminating against another. Denying employers the right to impose their views upon employees of Catholic schools and hospitals through denying coverage for widely available health services is not a Constitutional infraction. On the contrary, it has a strong foundation in current federal law and legal precedent.
If you don’t want an abortion or don’t want to go on The Pill, fine, but keep it to yourself, and stay out of the health decisions and private matters of your fellow citizens…especially if you’re not willing to give up the massive tax credits you receive for each expenditures on employee insurance coverage.