Thursday, January 7, 2021

Slouching towards the abyss

The Political Class combines cluelessness and rapaciousness in a way that would have 18th Century French aristocrats scribbling notes:

For decades now, across the board, nearly every policy that’s been pushed by the establishment here in the US and in most other industrial nations has benefited the middle classes at the expense of the working classes. That’s why we’ve gone from the situation in 1960, when one working class income could support a family comfortably, to the situation in 2020, when one working class income won’t keep a family off the street.  Those changes weren’t accidental, nor were they inevitable; they were the results of readily identifiable policies pushed by a bipartisan consensus, and defended by government, corporate, and media flacks with a disingenuousness that borders on the pathological.

The difficulty we’re in now, of course, is that a very large number of people are aware of this, and they’re far from happy about it. Here in the United States, a vast number of citizens—quite probably a majority—believe that they live under a senile kleptocracy propped up by rigged elections and breathtakingly dishonest media, in which their votes do not count and their needs will not be addressed by those in power. What’s more, they have more than a little evidence to support these beliefs, and strange to say, another round of patronizing putdowns by the mouthpieces of the well-to-do is unlikely to change their minds. The resulting crisis of legitimacy has become a political fact of immense importance.

A few years back, my fellow blogger and more than occasional debating partner Dmitry Orlov wrote a series of essays (later collected into his book Reinventing Collapse) pointing out that the United States is vulnerable to the same sort of sudden political implosion that overtook the Warsaw Pact nations of eastern Europe in 1989 and the Soviet Union in 1991. His point has lost none of its sharpness since then. When political theorists of an earlier generation noted that governments exist by the consent of the governed, they were stating a simple fact, not proposing an ideal; a government, any government, survives solely because most of the people it rules play along, obeying its laws and edicts no matter how absurd those happen to be.  If they withdraw that consent, the existing order of things comes tumbling down.

As we saw some thirty years ago, the most effective way to get people to withdraw their consent from the government that claims to rule them is to show them, over and over again, that their needs and concerns are of no interest to a self-aggrandizing elite, and that they have nothing to hope for from the continuation of the present system and nothing to lose if it falls. A very substantial share of Americans, and a significant number of people in other Western industrial countries, have already had that experience and come to those conclusions—and the enthusiasm displayed by the comfortable classes for shoving off the costs of change on the impoverished majority while seizing the benefits for themselves has played a huge role in that state of affairs.

As a result, it’s entirely possible that at some point in the near future, when next the United States faces a serious crisis, most Americans will shrug and let it fall, as most Soviet citizens did when the Soviet Union hit its final crisis in 1991. Keep in mind that the vast majority of active duty US police and military personnel—the final bulwark of any regime in crisis—voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020, and might not be in any hurry to come to the rescue of a system that treats them with the same casual contempt it turns on everyone outside the circles of privilege. It’s entirely possible, in other words, that ten years from now people will talk about the former United States the way they talk about the former Soviet Union.

A number of folks have pointed out that most cops and military will follow orders, because of the paycheck.  History shows that unpopular orders are followed without enthusiasm, and often without rigor.  We'll see.  But there's very little doubt that there's a Bad Moon rising, and political leadership to slow this is in very short supply.


Divemedic said...

Anytime I see the trope of "a family used to be able to live on one income, but now they can't" advanced, I disregard anything that comes after because the person saying it is either foolish or dishonest.

A family in 1960 who was surviving on one income did so because there are a number of things that the current families overlook. In 1960:

The family owned one car, not one for dad, one for mom, one for each child over the age of 16, a boat, and two ATV's to use as toys.
Mom stayed home and cooked all of the meals at home. Dining out was something that almost never happened.
Mom made her own clothes, and those of the children. Dad was the only one who had store bought clothes, because they were for wearing to work. Even then, the wife also repaired dad's socks and underwear. Shoes were handed down from one sibling to the other, until they wore out. Children certainly didn't go to school wearing one of the two dozen or so designer outfits, a couple of gold chains, and brand new Air Jordans that cost a week's pay.
Seventeen percent of homes didn't own a TV, and of those who did, 90 percent of them only had one.
Only 75% of homes had a telephone, and there was no cable TV or Internet bill.
Everyone didn't have their own cell phone that, along with the monthly service, cost a two weeks' wages.
The average home was 1600 square feet, in 2018, that had grown to 2400 square feet.
If people in this nation still lived at the standard of living from 1960, they still could live on a single income.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

I do not think that disregarding the argument completely is necessarily correct. I can give an example which is, to be fair, a single data point: my parents house (the one I grew up in) was built in the 1960's. 1200 Square feet, expanded to about 1500 square feet when I was in high school. It was owned by my parents for over 30 years before it was sold (is has sold once since then). In the 1960's I believe it sold for $15,000. Current value of the home is listed at ~$430,000.

This is not a fancy home. It has not been significantly improved. It is not in an urban area. But those are the same prices one would pay for a new home in many developments.

I think it is a fair statement to say that even with all of the items listed - many of which were true; they were true in my household - a single income for most "average" working folks will not cover living expenses.

Jonathan H said...

I agree. In most cities, a single person has trouble living on a "working class income", which I'll set at $30,000 a year (because I have known people living on that). It is also approximately the currently pushed $15/hour.
I do know of a couple of small cities where it can be done, but even eating in, having 1 car (or none), no home internet or cable, etc it is still VERY difficult most places - prices have risen too much.

Jonathan H said...

Oh, and as far as the military and police go? Yes, they'll obey - but most won't try hard.
We know that because of how the police in Seattle, Minneapolis, and numerous other Liberal cities are only doing what they are directly asked to do, and even then doing the minimum, as crime and trouble surrounds them.
I can see military personnel spending lots of time on base and having lots of breakdowns and logistics problems that hamper them doing unwanted anti-civilian tasks, among other tactics to avoid getting involved.

Will said...


The biggest factor you overlooked is taxes. Up until the early 60's, income taxes and other taxes didn't amount to much. Now, it is estimated that about 70%+ of income goes to taxes. Some of that is taxes on taxes, what with the huge expanse of LBJ's Great Society.
When my parents married around 1950, The exemptions for children pretty much wiped out income taxes for most non-wealthy families. by the time my siblings hit our teens, my mother, and all my aunts were working at least a part-time job to make ends meet. My parents generation all owned their homes, but that isn't true of their kids. Most all of them had lots of children, but their kids had very few, as that got very expensive.
Around 1970, I began to see efforts to work under the table to avoid the tax situation. Earlier, that sort of effort seemed to primarily be those who dealt in criminal actions, but it became more and more the average person who looked for tax relief that way. Btw, the .gov estimates the underground economy to now be 3X the documented one, and they are desperate to get their hands on that money. That is the main reason they are pushing for a cashless economy, but they are too stupid to understand that a lot of that will dry up if it gets taxed, and it might crash the economy if that business goes away.
Sure, this is a very simplified look at it, but I'm not writing a book, just highlighting some of the basic factors.

Aesop said...

"slow this"??

Good God, man, people will be pushing with all 4 limbs and using literal dynamite if they can get their hands on it, just to send it over the cliff with all dispatch.

Nothing less seems to be getting the attention of TPTB, so they may as well ride the fuselage all the way into the smoking hole in the ground they obviously long for.

Richard said...

@Divemedic and Will. Absolutely taxes are a huge factor and the middle class is disproportionally whacked by them. Poor people don't pay Federal income tax though they do pay FICA and most state and local tax. Rich people have the resources to avoid a lot of taxation or for the superrich they have so much that they just don't care. That leaves the middle class to haul the freight. Or our grandchildren.

Glen Filthie said...

Another interesting point, parallel to Dive Medic:

My grandparents voted for politicians that fought pitched battles about how to best build a nation and invest in their kids and secure the future. My leading edge baby boomer parents voted for politicians that wanted to take mom out of the home and put her in the workplace to compete with dad. They voted for politicians that wanted to off shore my job, and import boatloads of third world trash because they thought it would lower manpower costs. They were right too, and they got all that. My parents got jobs in the managerial class, lifetime snivel servants that did well for themselves. They have the palatial home, the big RV, the vacation property in Arizona, the gold plated pensions. Dad started with a grade 10 education and mom had grade 12. Their view is that good smart folk work for the gubbimint, and dummies and dirt people go into the private sector. Only dummies and losers get laid off; and they live in squalid homes ... like my 1600 ft. hovel. They have what they have because they worked hard and were smart! Dirt people like me just have to get along as they can. 😆

Those people believe they are better than you and that they deserve their lot in life as you deserve yours. They’re better than you and they expect you to agree.

It isn’t an abyss, BP. It’s a much needed reckoning. America is creating recreating the exact type of diseased class society that spawned it. It boggles the mind when you think about it. We have the same thing going on here in Canada too.

LSP said...

"The Political Class combines cluelessness and rapaciousness in a way that would have 18th Century French aristocrats scribbling notes."