Thomas Frank: America In The Age Of Hypocrisy, Hubris, And Greed

Via Jesse's Cafe Americain blog,

In 2012 I said that such unsustainable social arrangements as we have now are backed by force and fraud. And as the fraud loses its power over time, force must increase, until there is a correction of the system in genuine reform, or an eventual reset.

"The whole world wants to know about what the hell is happening with us. So let's talk about it. I live in Washington now, and the people I live among have no idea how people live here in the Midwest, not the faintest idea...

 

The last couple of years here in America have been a time of brisk prosperity according to official measurements, with unemployment down and the stock market up.

 

For Americans who work for a living however, nothing ever seems to improve. Wages do not grow, median household income is still well below where it was in 2007. Economists have a way of measuring this, they call it the 'labor share of the Gross National Product' as opposed to the share taken by stockholders. The labor share of Gross National Product' hit its lowest point since records were started in 2011, and then it stayed there right for the next couple of years.

 

In the fall of 2014, with the stock market hitting an all time high, a poll showed that nearly 3/4 of the American public believed that the economy was still in recession, because for them it was.

 

There was time when average Americans could be counted upon to know correctly whether the country was going up or down, because in those days when America prospered, the American people prospered as well. These days things are different.

 

Let's look at it in a statistical sense. If you look at it from the middle of the 1930's (the Depression) up until the year 1980, the lower 90 percent of the population of this country, what you might call the American people, that group took home 70 percent of the growth in the country's income. If you look at the same numbers from 1997 up until now, from the height of the great Dot Com bubble up to the present, you will find that this same group, the American people, pocketed none of this country's income growth at all.

 

Our share of these great good times was zero, folks. The upper ten percent of the population, by which we mean our country's financiers and managers and professionals, consumed the entire thing. To be a young person in America these days is to understand instinctively the downward slope that so many of us are on."

 

Thomas Frank, Kansas City Missouri, 6 April 2017

What shall we blame for the manner in which our economic system has gone wrong? Or will any with a public podium even admit it has gone wrong? After all, what is truth?

Is it a problem of 'fakes news sites' running contrary opinions to the established narrative?

Is it the failure of working people to rise to the occasion and elevate the 'lesser of two evils' to power so that she might further enrich herself and her supporters, whose disappointment and outrage at a missed payday knows no bounds?

Is it the impersonal forces of technology, and trade, and all of the superficially structured but high sounding economic laws that have served to promote almost every abuse of the public good that has been suffered for the past thirty years?

Or perhaps it is time for people of conscience to stop standing idly by while a powerful few are serving themselves the most of our gains, at great cost to others, and to break the silence about where we have gone wrong, and what is needed to be done to correct it.

"And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak.  We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak."

 

-Martin Luther King, 4 April 1967

 

"The problem of the last three decades is not the 'vicissitudes of the marketplace,' but rather deliberate actions by the government to redistribute income from the rest of us to the one percent. This pattern of government action shows up in all areas of government policy."

 

-Dean Baker

 

"When the modern corporation acquires power over markets, power in the community, power over the state and power over belief, it is a political instrument, different in degree but not in kind from the state itself. To hold otherwise — to deny the political character of the modern corporation — is not merely to avoid the reality. It is to disguise the reality. The victims of that disguise are those we instruct in error."

 

-John Kenneth Galbraith

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