Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Where's the Outrage?

Let's see what I can do with this article by Richard Eskow entitled "Where the Hell Is the Outrage?" on Common Dreams.
From the first breaths of life to the last, our lives are being stolen out from under us. From infant care and early education to Social Security and Medicare, the dominant economic ideology is demanding more lifelong sacrifices from the vulnerable to appease the gods of wealth.
Well, harper already kiboshed the long-overdue national daycare program that Paul ("Mr. Dithers") Martin coughed up to try to preserve his government after decades of austerity. Our schools are a provincial matter and in Ontario, the Liberals did start spending money after years of Harrishithead cuts. The Canada Pension Plan has been gambled in the stock market for years and years now. The difference between our foolishness and scum-bag Obama's is that he wants people to be given their own "accounts" so that if they lose (and they will) it won't be the responsibility of the government to make up for it through deficit spending, as is the case here. harper

But Eskow's point is about the lack of US American outrage at these
Middle-class wages are stagnant. Unemployment is stalled at record levels. College education is leading to debt servitude and job insecurity. Millions of unemployed Americans have essentially been abandoned by their government.  Poverty is soaring. Bankers break the law with impunity, are bailed out, and go on breaking the law, richer than they were before.
That's about the size of it. And not too different from here.
And yet, bizarrely, the only Americans who seem to be seething with anger are the beneficiaries of this economic injustice – the wealthiest and most privileged among us.  But those who are suffering seem strangely passive.
You know, given the super-rich's total lack of awareness of how the world works, I'm starting to suspect that their well-documented anger and hysteria and paranoia stems from the dim realization that they're really just incredibly lucky, entitled frauds. As far as the passivity of the suffering goes, ... well, a lot of them are clueless about how the world works, or deluded by their attempts to get a handle on things through the corporate press. In the USA their media is an absolute disgrace. Talk radio charlatans and scum-bag propaganda on television owned and run by self-interested master criminals.
As long as they stay that way, there will be no movement to repair these injustices. And the more these injustices are allowed to persist, the harder it will be to end them.
Too true.
Where the hell is the outrage? And how can we start some?
There's actually plenty of outrage. But awareness of, and taking action in the world is and has always been the preserve of a tiny minority. I'm interested in hearing about how he expects to spread the outrage from their to the mass.

John and Paul
Paul Krugman ruminated about inflation-free unemployment the other day, and he was feeling pretty grim. Krugman is frustrated that clear prescriptions for this kind of economy – prescriptions born in John Maynard Keynes’ day – aren’t being followed. What John proposed then, Paul’s proposing now.
But he’s not optimistic.  “We can probably have high unemployment and stable prices in Europe and America for a very long time,” writes Krugman, “and all the wise heads will insist that it’s all structural, and nothing can be done until the public accepts drastic cuts in the safety net.”
That's what I'm thinking. That as long as the majority of people are "okay" the reality of 10, 20, even 30% unemployment can be weathered. There was 30-40% unemployment in the 1930s Great Depression (official statistics of 25% ignored farmers and bankrupted small businesses which both comprised a greater proportion of the labour market than is the case today) and there was no revolution. The difference between today and the 1930s is that mass democracy is over half a century old now, whereas it was fairly new back then. When it was new, elites were more afraid of it. Public relations and other forms of propaganda were developed at the same time and they're much more pervasive and sophisticated than they were then. Back then, socialism was a genuine political rival to capitalism and there were different ways of achieving this; democratically or through violent revolution. Today, we have two options; blinkered, deluded faith in "liberal" parties or completely meaningless peaceful protests.

The fact that the goddamned BANKSTERS continue to call the shots is testimony to our lack of power and our tactical ineffectiveness. No matter how transparently idiotic it might appear to us, the idea that the economic crisis is a new normal, to be met with further assaults on the spending power of the masses of people in the wealthy countries, is the official received wisdom.

One source for Krugman’s pessimism is the extensive political science research showing that “the level of unemployment matters hardly at all for elections; all that matters is the rate of change in the months leading up to the election.”

Especially since so many people are so fucking smart that they don't vote and don't do anything to improve the democracy that so evidently disgusts them.
Krugman concludes that “high unemployment could become accepted as the new normal,” and worries that we’ll come to accept “a more or less permanent depression” as the norm – adding that “we could suffer endless, gratuitous suffering, yet the political and policy elite would feel no need to change its ways.”

I said something along those lines myself:

Back to Eskow:
Quiet in the streets
He’s right. A number of studies have linked political participation with economic conditions, typically with results like those Krugman describes.  But that doesn’t explain why Brazilians took to the streets in such large numbers recently.
A majority of Brazilians believe that their economy’s improving, according to a recent Pew survey. 59 percent of Brazilians rate their economy positively and 74 percent say their personal financial situation is good.  By contrast, the same organization’s most recent US polling showed that only 46 percent of Americans said they believe the economy’s getting better, while 50 percent think it’s getting worse.
The polling says that Brazilian political unrest is driven by a divergence in goals and priorities between political leaders and the population, triggered by poor public services, bus fare increases, and the cost of hosting the World Cup.
A similar divergence of priorities exists in this country.  Washington’s been focused on deficit reduction, while the public wants more job creation and economic growth.  But Americans are quiescent.

Canadians too. Some are assholes who love this shit. Others are turned-off. And others are revolted but incapable of organizing themselves to, you know, "revolt."
US voter turnout is extremely low when compared to other developed nations, even though we rank among the highest in terms of income inequality. And other forms of political expression are also under-used. The Occupy movement was originally very popular, for example, but most people were easily persuaded to abandon it and return to a state of quiet desperation.
Wealth inequity and other economic injustices are the product of deliberate policy choices – in taxation, Social Security, health care, financial regulation, education, and a number of other policy areas.  So why aren’t Americans taking action?
The “change” theories Krugman mentioned don’t tell the whole story. For one thing, it’s not true that the lives of the majority are frozen in an ugly stasis. Conditions continue to become objectively worse for the great majority of Americans. But these ongoing changes – in actual wages, in employment, in social mobility and wealth equity – have received very little media attention or meaningful political debate.
It’s not that things aren’t changing. It’s that people don’t know they’re changing. And without that knowledge the public becomes a canary in a coalmine, only aware of its declining oxygen supply when it keels over and dies.
It's true. The corporate media writes about Royal Births, celebrity bitch-fights, lifestyles of the rich and famous, the latest threat from some tin-pot dictator somewhere, and very, very little about their own malfeasance. And why should they? Just because nobody's buying their crap anymore? The owners are still fabulously wealthy. They're diversified. Corporate propaganda media is a "loss-leader" for them.
It’s an almost classic state of alienation, in which people may be acutely aware of their own increasing difficulties (although sometimes they can be numb to that as well) but experience them in a state of isolation. That turns the anger inward, leading to crippling reactions like guilt and despair. And repeated individual failures – failures made increasingly likely in a skewed system – lead to a sense of learned helplessness.
Too true. Eskow goes on to describe things pretty much as i see them. Read the article if you haven't already. But, now, what is to be done?

Action Plan
So what do we do?
1. Expand our avenues of political expression: First, we need to remind ourselves that electoral politics is not the only productive avenue for political activism –that we need strong and independent voices and movements.
2. Refuse to let politicians use social issues to exploit us economically: We also need to reject the exploitation and manipulation of progressive values by corporatist politicians who use social issues like gay marriage and reproductive rights exactly the way Republicans do – to manipulate their own base into ignoring their own economic interests. Politicians who don’t take a stand on economic issues should be rejected, up and down the ticket.
3. Explain what is changing – and contrast what is with what should be:  We need to do a better job of explaining what’s happening, so that we can make people aware of the harmful changes taking place all around them.
And it’s not just about “change”: It’s also about contrast – between economic conditions as they are, and conditions as they should be and could be, if we can find the political will.
4. Expand the vocabulary of the possible: The “learned helplessness” outlook says “the rich and powerful always win; we don’t stand a chance.” History tells us otherwise.  From the American Revolution to the breaking up of the railroads, from Teddy Roosevelt’s trust-busting to FDR’s New Deal, from Ike’s Social Security and labor union expansion to LBJ’s Great Society victories, we need to remind ourselves of what we’ve accomplished under similar conditions.
5. Tell stories: And we need to tell stories – human stories. That’s why Tuesday night’s Bill Moyers special on PBS is so important. “Two American Families” tells the story of a white family and an African-American family in Milwaukee over two decades. Their stories bring home, in a personal way, the agony that has accompanied the destruction of middle-class jobs – a destruction that only happened because politicians made conscious policy decisions.
To explain, to provoke, to inspire, to tell stories is to begin the process of political change. As Paolo Friere said, “To speak a true word is to transform the world.”
Notice what's missing is any word about how and why FDR built the New Deal. (I should add that financial products and public deficit spending (for bankster bail-outs) have become much more sophisticated. The elites today probably believe they can weather this and upcoming storms and there'll always be exciting investment opportunities, risk-free (thanks to endless government bail-outs). Also, there's no communist threat or Hitlerian militarism to promote a genuine level of war-spending.

Beyond this vague "expand the limits of the possible" what is there? I've tried to expand the vocabulary blah, blah, blah. I either get ignored or they stare at me like cows. Our parliamentary system of party representative politics is beyond corrupt. It feels almost completely useless.

The long and the short of it is that we're great at describing reality but incapable of changing it.


Anonymous said...

You ignore the elephant in the room. COMMUNISM.

Do you think that the rich would have let Roosevelt pursue his policies if they had not been scared to death of COMMUNISM.

The great increase in the economic stability of the middle class was built solely on the new regimes in China and North Korea. Founded as COMMUNISM.

Nixon broke the threat of COMMUNISM by aligning with the Chinese.

Then the Soviet Union fell apart.

Now no one scares the 400 rich people who own 40 percent of all assets in America (control much more if the voting stocks held by mutual funds, investment banks and insurance companies are concerned.)

Shame, but there is no cudgel to use against the rich anymore.

It isn't going to change as long as the "main stream media" are 95 percent controlled by 5 (five) corporations.

So it will be the baby of the royalty that will be used to distract, while the rich plunder all of the public commons through their totally owned dogs in public office.

There are no Democratic or Republican parties. There is one party. The Democratic/Republican party that is owned by the rich.


thwap said...


Actually, I was trying to say that when I said this:

"Back then, socialism was a genuine political rival to capitalism and there were different ways of achieving this; democratically or through violent revolution. Today, we have two options; blinkered, deluded faith in "liberal" parties or completely meaningless peaceful protests."

Our left-wing parties have decided to pursue the sisyphian task of being the mitigators of capitalism, ... a less than thankless task. One that opens them up for endless abuse if anything goes wrong. (When capitalism implodes on its own, the capitalists have no end of excuses.)

Socialists of all stripes don't appear to have a clue as to how to achieve anything democratically. How to make a democratic consensus for socialism.

Owen Gray said...

What we lack, thwap, is a sense that we are all in this together.

thwap said...


That's basically it. The wealthiest forget that the starving, the homeless, the refugees, ... we're all human.

Nobody deserves to be shunted aside in preference to an inhuman economic system.