Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Waning Days of the First Republic

It's not difficult to conclude we are witnessing the rise of pre-revolutionary America.   From the ravages of globalization and the offshoring of the nation's manufacturing base which once nurtured America's middle class to still rapidly growing inequality that is the worst, by far, in the developed world and marked by poverty levels now encroaching on segments of the population that were once securely middle class to the decline of American democracy and the rise in its stead of authoritarian oligarchy and corporatism, the country has become a pressure cooker with no functioning safety valve.

Consider this observation from David Cay Johnston, researcher and author of books such as Perfectly Legal, Free Lunch and The Fine Print:

From 1966 – when Lyndon Johnson was president -- to 2011, 45 years later, the bottom 90 percent of Americans’ average income, as reported on tax returns, went up by a stunning $59 -- almost no change at all. If you measure that $59 increase for the vast majority of Americans as one inch, then on the same scale, the incomes of those in the top ten percent went up by 168 feet. The top one percent, 888 feet. The plutocrats -- the Mitt Romney crowd, the top one percent of the top one percent? Their incomes rose by almost five miles relative to that one inch.

We are falling behind left and right. We have a Congress that just cut money for scientific research. We’ve got people who are idiots. I mean that word very clearly, “idiots”, like Sarah Palin going around saying, “Why are we paying for fruit fly research?” Anybody who understands science knows that massive advancements in human knowledge – knowledge that has saved lives -- have come from studying fruit flies. If you’re an idiot like Sarah Palin, if you’re Donald Trump, if you’re Senator Cruz from Texas, then you don’t get it.

We really have to get a society that’s based on science and knowledge (sound familiar?), that has an economic system that’s based on competitive markets with protections for consumers. While the rest of the world’s going to run right by us, we’re falling behind!

America doesn't have all that many options remaining to its people. They can stage Tea Party rallies while essentially doing nothing to forestall their decline.  They can harness their grievances and discontent to drive a new progressive era to restore their democracy and reclaim their civil, political, human and economic rights.  Or, as Chris Hedges writes, they can endure revolution and run the risk of all the uncertain and usually awful ordeals that follow in the wake of revolt.

Perhaps within a decade or two we will see the end of the first American Republic and the birth of the Second Republic. 


Dana said...

Millions of fat people running amok in the streets? :-)

I find it really hard to believe that the citizens of the "greatest nation in the history of the world" would forswear that belief to take back something they have no active memory of either having or losing.

The Mound of Sound said...

Dana, you might be right. In that case we may witness America's descent into some form of economic feudalism in which political power quietly drifts to the oligarchs.

Dana said...

I think that's much more likely and in fact is what is happening now.

Sometime in the near future I expect soma to be legalized.

Elliott Taylor said...

I think we may already be there. Until recently, the concept of inverted totalitarianism was unknown to me. Yet here we are.

I don't think that Canada has reached the tipping point yet, but the US almost certainly has. Citizens United removed the mask. If we're wondering how Canadian society could become so much less just in less than ten short years, look no further than the oligarchs to the south. Then look to Ottawa and Bay Street and see if you can spot any congruence.

Anonymous said...

"The public clash between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO underscored the high stakes involved in legislation that would dramatically reshape the U.S. immigration and employment landscape, putting 11 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship while allowing tens of thousands of new high- and low-skilled workers into the country.

The chamber and AFL-CIO, negotiating through the so-called Gang of Eight senators, had reached significant agreement on a new visa program to bring up to 200,000 lower-skilled workers a year to the country.

In the case of housekeepers, for example, the chamber proposal would mean $8.44 per hour, which falls below the federal poverty level for a family of four, while the AFL-CIO position was $11.39 per hour, according to one official familiar with the labour perspective who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the delicate negotiations.

The eight senators in the negotiating group, including Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and John McCain, R-Ariz.,"

Recently discovered some interesting things on the political history of John McCain. In short, his current wife's father was a WW2 war hero, who returned to the US and became involved with some seedy characters. Without going into too much detail and connecting the dots between Montreal's whiskey barons from the prohibition era, and the likes of Meyer Lanskey, suffice to say John's father in law took a bullet for the organization, did time for it and was subsequently rewarded for his loyalty.

John's political achievements and his presidential bid were financed with and or by said gains, according to those who study such things. The Barry Goldwater link is interesting.

End of day, I struggle with the idea that a family of four can stay above the poverty line with an income of $11.39 per hour, even in the US.

The Mound of Sound said...

I think that's true, Elliott. It's a concept I have usually associated with the rise of corporatist government and a socio-economic plutocracy. "Inverted totalitarianism" is an apt label.

@ Anon 9:38. This account squares quite well (albeit depressingly so) with Paul Craig Robert's "The Failure of Free Market Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West" that I reviewed a few days ago here:

At times I believe the audacity and enormity of what is being inflicted on our societies is simply too overwhelming for people to accept. They don't believe it, they can't, and so fall into a mass, catatonic state.

DavidCayJohnston said...

Thanks for citing the interview about my latest book, THE FINE PRINT, hwich I hope your followers read because it is full of information my fellow journalists have utterly failed to report about how the rules of commerce are being quietly rewritten in Washington and, more importantly, the state capitals.

Your headline is factually off, BTW.

The First Republic was the Articles of Confederation government, which failed because it lacked the power to tax or to regulate interstate commerce.

Americans now live in the Second Republic, the Constitutional government that began operating in 1789, and which grants to Congress as its first power an almost unlimited power to tax (Art I, Sec 8, Cl 1).

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi David. I'm hoping to get a copy of THE FINE PRINT in the coming months.

These rules of commerce you reference, how many of them are being rewritten to suit ALEC or at the organization's behest?

Can you see a future for your country that doesn't entail upheaval or suppression or, perhaps, both? The latest Brookings report on the permanence of today's American inequality is not encouraging for those hoping for a progressive renaissance.

Now that the Precariat is not merely acknowledged but being declared "dangerous" is the state basically aligning itself against the great majority of its own people?