Friday, July 29, 2011

People Are Getting Angry and Joe Bageant Knew Why: Raging Inequality May Cause Unrest and Violence In America and the Rest of Western World "Jihad?"

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Chris Matthews sobers up long enough to interview current historian, Bruce Bartlett, who was a former domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan, and who tells Chris (and the awe-struck Matthews audience) that:
it was a myth that tax cuts are the key to prosperity, noting that Reagan raised the capital gains rate. He was also skeptical that Congress would be able to solve the current budget crisis.

“I think at this point, there’s nothing that can pass the House of Representatives,” he said.

“I think a good chunk of the Republican caucus is either stupid, crazy, ignorant or craven cowards, who are desperately afraid of the tea party people, and rightly so.”

And so we continue on our merry path to economic destruction at the hands of maddened kindergarteners brought to us by our system of no-checks-on-political-spending which is now magically deemed free speech sacred to corporations that are human or at least have human attributes politically. I was thinking the other day about a friend and mentor of mine who is being honored now, and what he would think about being held captive by those who most probably would qualify for large-scale mental wards in locked institutions. Joe Bageant is no longer with us physically, but he will never be far away metaphysically as he has predicted throughout his incredibly prescient journalistic career everything that we as a civilization are beset with today. I'm deep in the mysteries of his last published book, Rainbow Pie, and cannot get over how intelligent a take this very lower-class southern man brought to the teaching of all of US that enhances our understanding of our country's political history and ultimately our personal lives (and choices). From one of his fans, the late Bill Hicks:

If there is any book published in the past year that should be read far and wide in Joe's native land it is this one. For the title of subtitle of the book could just as easily be changed from "A Redneck Memoir" to "A Postwar American Memoir," so deep does it drill into the core of why America as a nation has gone so far off the rails. The "rainbow pie" of the title was a term poor working class whites in America, as Bageant was growing up, used to describe finally "making it" and achieving the American Dream. Sadly, for most like him that dream has proven just as elusive as a rainbow. The book is a memoir of Bageant's life, but only partially. He describes his childhood experiences and those of his ancestors before him to illustrate what has happened socially in America during his lifetime. The book tracks the great postwar migration of tens of millions of white subsistence farmers and their families as they were pushed off off their land in a coordinated effort by big business, academic and government elites in order to consolidate agriculture and supply a huge pool of cheap manufacturing and service labor. Bageant dramatically illustrates how people who had been accustomed for generations to providing for themselves with little money were turned into wage and debt slaves by the capitalist classes. He then shows how late in this process the politics of these very same people has come to be exploited by the very people who destroyed their livelihoods in the first place. Bageant's keen observations run the gamut from the corrosive effects of a society, especially in the South, that has effectively not educated tens of millions of citizens for generations; to how poor and working class people are taught to feel shame about their very existence and to know their proper place; to how the media subtly manipulates them into being willing tools of the empire. The book is full of witty and irreverent observations. One of my favorites, concerning affirmative action (which Bageant does NOT oppose) was that Condi Rice and Clarence Thomas are living proof that some people should NOT be educated, no matter what color they are. Grin All in all, an outstanding read...one that I would very much recommend for Bageant fans. For anyone just getting to know Joe, I would recommend they begin with his first book, Deer Hunting With Jesus, so they will have a full understanding of where he is coming from. One word of caution, though. Don't read this book looking for "solutions." In DHWJ, Bageant implored liberals to find common cause with working class whites to try and turn things around. It is pretty clear that with this work he is now acknowledging that that will never happen. As he states towards the very end about the book:

I am quite sure that it is quite illustrative of millions of once-rural Americans and their offspring who pored their sweat onto this country's soil and their blood into its wars. It is the story of the many who know they are screwed but don't know how thoroughly, and for damned sure don't understand why or by whom; the many who, no matter how much blood they gave for their country, never 'made good' in their own country, but will never get their country out of their blood.

Gee whiz. If you thought Murdoch's rape and pillage of the media world wasn't enough, guess who's organizing the jihads?

My guess is it's not many folk in the Middle East.

From our ever-vigilant source, the 13th Monkey, we learn:

Open Source "Jihad"? When you first look at this picture and article you think, well this must be a joke . . . . When you read the text of the article you affirm yes, it's certainly some kind of juvenille prank..the "ad agency graphic design is certainly a template"..and looks like a design, not to attract potential jihadists, but as a promotional picture of the opera house..like a power point presentation . . . BUT NO!! It's supposedly a "real" webzine called INSPIRE!! aimed at "jihadists" who just happen to have a great grasp of English and marketing . . . reading the article FROM HERE in it's entirety is amusing . . . HOW do they expect us to take this seriously? is more the point. Are we supposed to be fearful at this? Or is it a sublime warning from the same "open sources" that brought us 911, 7-7 and numerous other atrocities blamed on a handy DIY scapegoat? But even more interesting is the fact that the WEBZINE is published by a US CITIZEN. "Inspire is published by US citizen Samir Khan. Ms Farrall said it was still unclear what role, if any, Mr Khan had in the operational side of AQAP. ''That's the million-dollar question . . . how much [of Inspire] is being approved, and I suspect not much.'' Mr Khan and his associates behind Inspire, which first appeared in May last year, are advocates of do-it-yourself jihad, and radicalising young Muslims in the Anglophone world."
And then there's always that final solution that all possessors of authoritarian forces look forward to to clean house.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011 Raging Inequality May Cause Unrest and Violence In America and the Rest of Western World Preface: While conservatives are against redistribution of wealth and liberals want to tax the affluent, conservatives and liberals, the affluent and the less well-heeled should all agree that we have to stop the surge in inequality from rising further:
  • As Robert Shiller said in 2009:
    And it's not like we want to level income. I'm not saying spread the wealth around, which got Obama in trouble. But I think, I would hope that this would be a time for a national consideration about policies that would focus on restraining any possible further increases in inequality.
  • The father of modern economics - Adam Smith - didn't believe that inequality should be a taboo subject
  • Warren Buffet, one of America's most successful capitalists and defenders of capitalism, points out, "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war ...."
  • Conservatives - as well as liberals - are against rampant inequality. But all Americans underestimate the amount of inequality in our country

And while I am not calling for violence, I wonder if this is like South Africa at the end of the Apartheid era, where those in power had to hand over the reins to the majority to prevent violence.

Raging inequality was largely responsible for the Great Depression and for the current financial crisis.

I noted in January:

Egyptian, Tunisian and Yemeni protesters all say that inequality is one of the main reasons they're protesting.

However, the U.S. actually has much greater inequality than in any of those countries.

Is there any way that the growing inequality could cause unrest in America or the rest of the Western world?

Initially, the Greek and Spanish riots have grown out of bailouts and other windfalls for the big banks and hedge funds (see this, this and this), and austerity for the working stiff. So in a sense, they are about inequality.

Moreover, I pointed out in February:

Agence France-Press reports today:
The International Monetary Fund stands ready to help riot-torn Egypt rebuild its economy, the IMF chief said Tuesday as he warned governments to tackle unemployment and income inequality or risk war.

Forbes reported in February:

Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff, co-author of a best-selling book on financial crises, This Time It’s Different, told Forbes today in an exclusive interview, that the high unemployment rate and high levels of debt in the U.S. will sooner or later trigger serious “social unrest from the income disparities in the U.S.”

The Obama administration has “no clue,” he told me what do about this terrible disparity in the economy that is bound to erupt sooner or later, he feels.

“I don’t understand why people don’t wake up to the crisis they are creating,” he said to me just minutes after appearing at a Council on Foreign Relations round-table on “Currency Wars.”

And I wrote in June:

CNN's Jack Cafferty notes that a number of voices are saying that - if our economy continues to deteriorate (which it very well might) - we are likely headed for violence, and civil unrest is a growing certainty.

Watch the must-see CNN viewer comments on this issue: (click here for video)

Newsweek wrote two weeks ago:

Reality is beginning to break through. Gas and grocery prices are on the rise, home values are down, and vast majorities think the country is on the wrong track. The result is sadness and frustration, but also an inchoate rage more profound than the sign-waving political fury documented during the elections last fall.

***

In search of the earthly toll of this outrage, NEWSWEEK conducted a poll of 600 people, finding vastly more unquiet minds than not. Three out of four people believe the economy is stagnant or getting worse. One in three is uneasy about getting married, starting a family, or being able to buy a home. Most say their relationships have been damaged by economic woes or, perhaps more accurately, the dread and nervousness that accompany them.

Could these emotions escalate into revolt?

Why Are People So Angry?

Well, as the Newsweek article points out:
Corporate earnings have soared to an all-time high. Wall Street is gaudy and confident again. But the heyday hasn’t come for millions of Americans. Unemployment hovers near 9 percent, and the only jobs that truly abound, according to Labor Department data, come with name tags, hairnets, and funny hats (rather than high wages, great benefits, and long-term security). The American Dream is about having the means to build a better life for the next generation. But as President Obama acknowledged at a town-hall meeting in May, “a lot of folks aren’t feeling that [possibility] anymore.”
By way of background, America - like most nations around the world - decided to bail out their big banks instead of taking the necessary steps to stabilize their economies (see this, this and this). As such, they all transferred massive debts (from fraudulent and stupid gambling activities) from the balance sheets of the banks to the balance sheets of the country. The nations have then run their printing presses nonstop in an effort to inflate their way out of their debt crises, even though that effort is doomed to failure from the get-go. Quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve is obviously causing food prices to skyrocket worldwide (and see this, this and this). But the fact is that every country in the world that can print money - i.e. which is not locked into a multi-country currency agreement like the Euro - has been printing massive quantities of money. See these charts. Moreover, the austerity measures which governments worldwide are imposing to try to plug their gaping deficits (created by throwing trillions at their banks) are causing people world-wide to push back. As I warned in February 2009 and again in December of that year:

Numerous high-level officials and experts warn that the economic crisis could lead to unrest world-wide - even in developed countries:

  • Today, Moody's warned that future tax rises and spending cuts could trigger social unrest in a range of countries from the developing to the developed world, that in the coming years, evidence of social unrest and public tension may become just as important signs of whether a country will be able to adapt as traditional economic metrics, that a fiscal crisis remains a possibility for a leading economy, and that 2010 would be a “tumultuous year for sovereign debt issuers”.
  • The U.S. Army War College warned in 2008 November warned in a monograph [click on Policypointers’ pdf link to see the report] titled “Known Unknowns: Unconventional ‘Strategic Shocks’ in Defense Strategy Development” of crash-induced unrest:
    The military must be prepared, the document warned, for a “violent, strategic dislocation inside the United States,” which could be provoked by “unforeseen economic collapse,” “purposeful domestic resistance,” “pervasive public health emergencies” or “loss of functioning political and legal order.” The “widespread civil violence,” the document said, “would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security.” “An American government and defense establishment lulled into complacency by a long-secure domestic order would be forced to rapidly divest some or most external security commitments in order to address rapidly expanding human insecurity at home,” it went on. “Under the most extreme circumstances, this might include use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States. Further, DoD [the Department of Defense] would be, by necessity, an essential enabling hub for the continuity of political authority in a multi-state or nationwide civil conflict or disturbance,” the document read.
  • Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair said:
  • "The global economic crisis ... already looms as the most serious one in decades, if not in centuries ... Economic crises increase the risk of regime-threatening instability if they are prolonged for a one- or two-year period," said Blair. "And instability can loosen the fragile hold that many developing countries have on law and order, which can spill out in dangerous ways into the international community."
  • "Statistical modeling shows that economic crises increase the risk of regime-threatening instability if they persist over a one-to-two-year period."
  • “The crisis has been ongoing for over a year, and economists are divided over whether and when we could hit bottom. Some even fear that the recession could further deepen and reach the level of the Great Depression. Of course, all of us recall the dramatic political consequences wrought by the economic turmoil of the 1920s and 1930s in Europe, the instability, and high levels of violent extremism.” Blair made it clear that - while unrest was currently only happening in Europe - he was worried this could happen within the United States. [See also this].
  • Former national security director Zbigniew Brzezinski warned "there’s going to be growing conflict between the classes and if people are unemployed and really hurting, hell, there could be even riots."
  • The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff warned the the financial crisis is the highest national security concern for the U.S., and warned that the fallout from the crisis could lead to of "greater instability".
Others warning of crash-induced unrest include:
Unemployment is soaring globally - especially among youth. And the sense of outrage at the injustice of the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer is also a growing global trend. Countries worldwide told their people that bail(ing) out the giant banks was necessary to save the economy. But they haven't delivered, and the "Main Streets" of the world have suffered. As former American senator (and consummate insider) Chris Dodd said in 2008:
If it turns out that [the banks] are hoarding, you’ll have a revolution on your hands. People will be so livid and furious that their tax money is going to line their pockets instead of doing the right thing. There will be hell to pay.
Of course, the big banks are hoarding, and refusing to lend to Main Street. In fact, they admitted back in 2008 that they would. And the same is playing out globally. As I noted in February: No wonder former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski ... warned the Council on Foreign Relations that:

For the first time in human history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive. There are only a few pockets of humanity left in the remotest corners of the world that are not politically alert and engaged with the political turmoil and stirrings that are so widespread today around the world.

***

America needs to face squarely a centrally important new global reality: that the world's population is experiencing a political awakening unprecedented in scope and intensity, with the result that the politics of populism are transforming the politics of power. The need to respond to that massive phenomenon poses to the uniquely sovereign America an historic dilemma: What should be the central definition of America's global role?

[T]he central challenge of our time is posed not by global terrorism, but rather by the intensifying turbulence caused by the phenomenon of global political awakening. That awakening is socially massive and politically radicalizing.
It is no overstatement to assert that now in the 21st century the population of much of the developing world is politically stirring and in many places seething with unrest. It is a population acutely conscious of social injustice to an unprecedented degree, and often resentful of its perceived lack of political dignity. The nearly universal access to radio, television and increasingly the Internet is creating a community of shared perceptions and envy that can be galvanized and channeled by demagogic political or religious passions. These energies transcend sovereign borders and pose a challenge both to existing states as well as to the existing global hierarchy, on top of which America still perches. *** That turmoil is the product of the political awakening, the fact that today vast masses of the world are not politically neutered, as they have been throughout history. They have political consciousness. *** Politically awakened mankind craves political dignity, which democracy can enhance, but political dignity also encompasses ethnic or national self-determination, religious self-definition, and human and social rights, all in a world now acutely aware of economic, racial and ethnic inequities. The quest for political dignity, especially through national self-determination and social transformation, is part of the pulse of self-assertion by the world's underprivileged *** We live in an age in which mankind writ large is becoming politically conscious and politically activated to an unprecedented degree, and it is this condition which is producing a great deal of international turmoil. Watch an excerpt:
And in other current news we learn:
Biographer predicts News Corp. will oust Murdochs within 60 days

Global markets sinking in response to failure of GOP debt vote

Bill would force ISPs to track all Internet activity

Amid debt crisis, Senate looks to extend telco spying immunity

2 comments:

Batocchio said...

Deer Hunting With Jesus is a great book. I'll have to read Rainbow Pie.

Suzan said...

Now there's a decision no one will regret!

Congrats on your longevity.

Love you!

S