What Happened To Us?

Beginning in the 1970s a well-funded PR campaign convinced people to accept policies handing society’s seed corn and governance to the wealthy. It was called “neoliberalism.” People were told government is bad. They were told business & the wealthy were better at managing society. This campaign has been ongoing since.

Reagan & Thatcher were swept into power. The implemented “shock doctrine” tactics to transform their economies away from benefitting the public toward benefitting the wealthiest. Public assets were privatized – turned over to the wealthy. Investment in infrastructure, education, research & social betterment (society’s seed corn) was cut, and continued to be cut. Government protections of the public and the environment (“regulations”) were removed.

Taxes on the wealthy and their corporations were also dramatically cut, eventually resulting in massive inequality and division.

The political influence of massive wealth dramatically increased. Now governments are only able to operate if wealthy interests allow it.

And here we are.

Humans And Atrocities

People are people everywhere.

The US has its dark past. Slavery. Genocide of Native Americans. CIA coups overthrowing democracies. Invasions. Etc.

But there’s nothing special about the US and its various apartheids, genocides and atrocities. Right now it’s Israel, moving from apartheid to genocide. We all know the history of European colonialism, Germany’s genocide, the Balkans… There’s China and Tibet ad the Uyghurs. Look at Rwanda … it’s everywhere.

Human civilization is barely able to contain the underlying hatreds and violence. Certain types of people take advantage of this by inciting, stoking the hatreds to get what they want because they don’t care about the consequences to others. The current formula in the Western world is to use immigrants as the “other” to demonize. “Invasion” is the word the right is using to “other” immigrants now in the US, UK and EU. Hatred was mostly directed against Muslims for a while but now it is pretty much any immigrants. (If you think desperate, terrified people fleeing violence, extreme inequality and the climate crisis are the enemy you’d better realize that’s quite possibly you in a few years.)

Civilization doesn’t continue without leadership willing to fight that. And you can’t get and keep that kind of leadership if your system is open to corruption. This is because if corruption is enabled then the bad actors drive out the good ones who can’t compete because they won’t be corrupt. (That’s why progressives don’t win here.)

I’m not optimistic about the future.

Ignore ALL The Words

Ignore all the words. That’s just stuff said to hide what’s happening.

Just look at what is being done. That is the only truth now.

More than 2 million Palestinians are being bombed without mercy. They are being starved and treated as less than human. Their homes, hospitals, schools, etc are being destroyed to keep them from being able to return. It’s happening right there in front of us.

The billionaires around the world are growing ever more wealthy, and are using that wealth to create an unbreakable system to keep things that way. Societal systems (democracy, information, rule of law etc) that enabled people to take care of each other are being destroyed. The rest of us are left to fend for ourselves.

The climate crisis is right in front of our noses, but the polluters control the levels of societal power. They will do what they can to keep themselves on top. They don’t care what happens to the rest of us or to the future.

Ignore all the words. All of them. We live in a propaganda bath designed to keep us from acting on what we see happening to us.

Corruption And Consequences

Silicon Valley Bank fails…

Corruption allowed the finance industry to operate outside of sensible government oversight, even as the world has experienced the consequences of this over and over again. So here in Silicon Valley and around the world, tech employees are waiting to find out if they’ll get their paychecks or get laid off next week. The world is wondering if contagion will spread that fear. Again. (Last time, because of corruption, not one banker type was held accountable. Not one.)

Also here in Silicon Valley it is raining harder than almost ever – except for a couple weeks ago. Flooding everywhere. I mean, torrential, incredible rain pouring down right now. This is because corruption has caused governments to allow the industry causing this to keep putting more and more carbon into the air even as we all know what the consequences will be.

The news lately has been about train derailments devastating localities. This happens because corruption allows wealthy rail-owners to keep governments from making them operate safely.

Inequality is now completely out-of-control. 60% of Americans now live paycheck-to-paycheck, not even able to raise $500 to cover an emergency like a car breakdown. The government doesn’t raise the minimum wage or otherwise address this because of obvious corruption. Million upon millions are spent convincing these people to blame government for this and vote for those backed by that money, and abolish democracy. “I am your retribution.”

The Supreme Court “rules” that this is all OK. Any amount of secret money is allowed to influence elections. People trying to fix this face millions of dollars spent smearing them in LOCAL elections. This Supreme Court we have is the way it is because of corrupt money spent to put them there.

Is there a common theme here?

Capitalism Parts 1 and 2

Capitalism: Maintain a “reserve army of the unemployed” to keep wages low. Keep public services (the things government does to make people’s lives better) and taxes at the top down and keep the people from organizing (democracy) to protect themselves.

Capitalism part 2: As life gets worse, bathe the masses in propaganda and point them at “the other” for blame.

Austerity breeds fascism.

Budget Cuts = Eating The Seed Corn

Government budget cuts are not what they seem.

Understanding history could also be called ‘wisdom.’ Wisdom told stories about “eating the seed corn.” If you eat the seed corn you can’t plant your crops the following year and everyone eventually starves.

In the early 80s Reaganism/Thatcherism (neoliberalism) convinced the country to drastically cut taxes on the rich and “pay for” it by cutting spending. The US stopped spending on maintaining and modernizing infrastructure – especially transportation infrastructure, on education, on science … on so many things. So we lived off of prior investment for so long. But the infrastructure deteriorated and we certain never modernized it. (Just look at our rail and transportation systems, compared to the rest of the world.)

All that $$ was transferred to the already-wealthy top few who paid for the propaganda that convinced the rest to do this.

Privatization

Another piece of this scam was “saving money” through privatization. Using local trash collection as an example, cities would “save money” by getting rid of public trash collection and contracting with the “private sector” to do this more “efficiently.” What this meant was laying off the decently-paid public employees and hiring them back at minimum wage with no benefits. The infrastructure – trucks etc – to do this would receive little maintenance, collection schedules would be cut back, and people had to drag their trash to the curb instead of having it picked up at the house.

This didn’t actually save money, it shifted it. The newly minimum-wage workers would lose their houses which reduced property prices for e everyone and killed the tax base, they’d go on public assistance, schools would suffer and have higher costs, etc across the board. And poor people can’t spend much so all local businesses suffer, too.

Etc etc etc we can see it all around us now. But it is too late.

See also:

When Government ‘Saves Money’ And Gets ‘Smaller,’ We All Lose

You can “save money” by not changing the oil in your car. But have you ever seen a car that has never had its oil changed? After a while white smoke pours out the back because the rings are ruined. Other parts of the engine are also being ruined. Eventually the engine will seize up and quit and you have to either replace the engine or scrap the car. A simple and inexpensive procedure every few months would have prevented many thousands of dollars in expenses later.

After the Reagan tax cuts we “made government smaller” in several ways that are coming back to bite us now. One way we “saved money” by not “changing the oil” was by deferring maintenance of the country’s infrastructure – the water systems, levees, dams, roads, bridges, airports, ports, rails systems, electrical systems, and the rest of the things we all rely on to bring us safe water, get us to work, ship products and generally move our economy and live our lives.

Now the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) most recent “Infrastructure Report Card” estimates we need to spend $3.6 trillion just to bring the infrastructure up to where it should be, never mind catching up to the rest of the word with high-speed rail and smart electrical grid systems. The bill is getting more expensive every year, and people are dying as bridges, roads and other important infrastructure components fail. Thousands died in New Orleans when the levees failed.

5 ways privatization is fleecing American taxpayers

If people with OK public-employee jobs are replaced by lower-paid workers the community is poorer in the aggregate. More people will need public “safety-net” services. There will be foreclosures. Tax revenue drops because of lower pay but also because poorer people can’t spend as much in stores. Sales taxes drop as stores face fewer customers able to get by.

Reagan Revolution Home to Roost: America Is Crumbling

Trump Drowned The Government In A Bathtub

The goal of the anti-government “conservative movement” was to “starve the beast” by cutting spending and then cutting more and more and more. “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

It was called “strategic deficits.” The strategy was to cut taxes in order to create budget deficits. Then whip up fear that “deficit spending” would ruin the country, until the public was convinced of the need to cut government’s budget. Once that was accomplished, do it again, and then again, ad nauseum.

Since Reagan the country has not modernized or even improved its infrastructure. Scientific research was defunded. Tax cuts changed the business model from building solid businesses to quick-buck schemes because you could make a fortune overnight and keep it. The education system fell apart. Wage stagnation combined with propaganda set people against each other. Etc etc etc.

Finally Trump came along. He drowned the country in a bathtub. The America we understood is gone.

The Benefits Of Trade And Automation Were Stolen From Us

The capitalist economist’s argument for “free trade” was the Jetsons Economy argument: the future will be glorious. They explained that when you move production to places where workers were paid less, everyone here would benefit because it freed up resources that would be applied to better jobs with higher wages, more free time, etc. The resulting gains would benefit everyone. And everyone where the jobs were moved to would also benefit from climbing the same ladder.

Sounds nice. A democracy would have made sure that was written into trade agreements, for everyone on both sides: The gains must be shared by everyone.

Same for automation, technology, etc. The gains were supposed to go to everyone. A democracy would have guaranteed that’s what happened.

A democracy would certainly have outlawed what did happen: Big money used “free” trade and automation/technology to pit workers against each other to force wages and benefits DOWN, with all the gains going to the top few.

What actually happened is that the Jetsons economy was stolen from us.

The Brand-Name “NAFTA”

All of this and the consequences — the benefits of trade and automation going to the top, everyone else forced ever downward, homes lost (and bought up by private equity to rent back to the former owners), factories closed and abandoned to rot, businesses closed and replaced by private-equity-owned chains, communities destroyed, etc – is covered by the brand name “NAFTA” for voters who were affected by this. That’s a big part of what brought us Trump and destroyed the Democratic party in the minds of all those voters.

Why Blame Dems?

Those textile mills and furniture manufacturers and all the rest of the manufacturing that went away when the Jetsons Economy future was stolen, the hollowed out cities with abandoned stores & homes downtown, ringed by private equity chains in malls out by the highway, bitter people forced out of the middle class blaming Dems for what happened to them…

The dilemma: This stuff branded NAFTA was a Republican/Wall Street neoliberal project all along but some Dems went along with it. Carter with deregulation, Clinton with trade, Obama with Wall Street. Wall Street/corporate money and propaganda getting them into office. (The famous chart showing the split between productivity and wages started under Carter/Volker. Then driven home by Reagan.)

The reason it’s identified with Dems more than Republicans now is that Dems were supposed to be the party of labor. The Democrats were supposed to protect working people from the things big money wanted to do to us. So Dems get the blame for breaking that wall of solidarity.

It’s like how Dems get the blame for things every single Republican is doing. We expect Republicans to be the party of capital, not Dems. Of course it wasn’t all elected Democrats who did this, but the capital bought enough Dems to get away with it.