Summer Under the Lily Moon
So. The Republican critique looks at the failing European states and the creaks and groans of our own economy and concludes that the culprit is the liberal welfare state. Interesting.
Here’s what I appreciate about their analysis. They have nailed a high level of angst; the contagion exists in Europe and if we knew more of the mind of the average Chinese citizen, I imagine we’d find it there, too. The Japanese perhaps have lived through the economic angst and become inured, but have had to add nuclear anxiety. So, almost nobody’s good.
The demagogue is the political figure most apt to emerge in times of extreme angst. I heard Rush Limbaugh yesterday screech on a clip played by NPR, “Why can’t we get justices who once we get them appointed do what we want them to do?” Why indeed? In a puppetocracy that would follow, perhaps, but in a representative democracy it had better not and on in a branch of government with lifetime appointments to allow freedom of thought and action such doing would violate the compact. Though it happens all the time.
How you define is how you solve. In that case, let’s take another look at the symptoms, Dr. Brooks, and see if our differential diagnosis might lead us to a different spot.
As I scan the US, my impression is that job loss, inability to get a first or new job and the longitude of current unemployment lie at the base of our collective fears. I say collective for even those employed and adequately-cared for must worry about the health of a nation unable to optimally employ its citizens and worry even more if it finds itself unable to employ them even sub-optimally.
The slow moving and long running financial calamity that surfaced in 2008 had been building for years. Financial institutions had depleted their capital reserves by increasingly lending and investing money in exotics; surprisingly, many of them backed by subprime mortgages created and bundled by banks and mortgage brokers.
At the same time, what I’ll call late stage capitalism had begun to fonder on one of its predicted icebergs. That is, as productivity gains began to come increasingly from robotics and other computer assisted processes, the good jobs for the blue collar folk, the ones that had employed 98% of the people in my hometown of Alexandria, Indiana in post WW II America, began to disappear.
This process has been underway in a fashion felt at home (Alexandria) as early as 1974. The insistence on union busting and the exportation not of goods and capital, but of jobs, reinforced and accelerated the trend.
These trends make good economic sense. Reduce the cost of labor. But, there’s a problem here. What is the engine of the American economy? The consumer. That is, somebody like you or me who buys things. If your job is now in China or Mexico or Thailand, you might find a job at a reduced wage, after all that’s the point of this exercise, but you won’t be able to stoke that engine nearly as well.
Then, imagine a large number of the folks negatively effected by those same smart economic moves saddled with unusual debt instruments known as subprime loans. Can you see where this is heading?
If you accept that the financial institutions and corporate decision makers (all people now under the difficult to make sense of Citizens United ruling.), have done the things I have outlined above and that they have effected people in the manner I suggest, then you might go somewhere else for your solution than unburdening Gulliver.
The Gulliver I see has a smirk on his face since all the while he’s been held down by the chains of regulation, his ally Clever has sent his business overseas while concocting a way to suck the most out of the poor folks left at home.
If you find this line of analysis closer to your own, let’s look later in the week at how we might start to solve the very real anxiety here and abroad.
Hint: one aspect of this solution would be removing health care from the list of things people have to worry about.