The Irony of It All

Here we are, with a restive and angry populace in the US (and across Europe), looking for someone to blame for the lack of jobs, the absence of wage growth, the withdrawal of critical services to the underprivileged.

Seemingly miraculously, the very agents who created the circumstance are on the brink of  managing to pin the blame on others, and to convincing those harmed that more of what they have been imposing will somehow create a solution.

Truly amazing, but you have to give it to them for creativity (and for the power of their big money to cleverly make their case). Helping this along is the reduced level of investment in education in the US. This creates a larger blue collar citizenry who are vulnerable to the rhetoric of the Right and have not the educational tools to break it down and see through it.

The making of the case has been ingeniously woven into a cocktail of appeals to the undereducated (and, of course, in a different way to the wealth interests of those who have not suffered, but indeed have prospered due to these policies, at the expense of the lesser privileged). The cocktail includes fear of loss of gun rights, fear of threats to religious “freedom” (such as anti-abortion), blaming the illegal immigrants for wage and jobs problems, blaming other nations, stoking fear that our national debt is soon going to sink us, and blaming the Democratic leadership of the last 7 years. None of these are relevant to the essential frustration of the disappointed, whose central frustration is economics–jobs and wages.

I was planning to make a regularly demanded acknowledgment at the end of this post, but I know my conservative friends will only read on if I put it here: There is certainly blame to be placed on Democrats as well–on the Clinton administration and also the Obama administration. Both administrations have been part of the advancing trajectory of neoliberal economics since Reagan and Thatcher. They have also resisted and succeeded in many cases, against the growing force of big money and a Congress with a Right wing determination to allow nothing to be done to reverse the trend. The Affordable Care Act was achieved against great Republican resistance. A number of smaller accomplishments could be listed for the Democratic administrations, but nothing in the way of significant spending, not even for our aging infrastructure.

Those who have not had the opportunity to study economics cannot easily see that the advancement of conservative economic policies has been so relentless and so successful. Take a look at the thorough overviews provided by Robert Reich in his Saving Capitalism (2015)  and Joseph Stiglitz in his The Price of Inequality (2012)Among other studies, these books lay out the whole problem, which has seen the tentacles of Right wing economic policies extend deep into legislative, legal, and regulatory changes which are driven to benefit the wealthy who fund the media campaigns to advance the program. Reich does an excellent job of explaining why the “culprit” is not the one the Right targets. The government is not the culprit. In fact, the government is nothing more than the set of laws and rules that are advanced, and the changes advanced have largely created a “government” under control of big money.

Here again is the irony of our ignorance: The Right claims government is the problem, while in fact the government as designed is actually advancing inequality to the benefit of the wealthy. But creating this myth enables successful continuous campaigns to reduce taxes, and the reduction is more significant for the wealthy than for the underprivileged. The cuts in government come mostly in services which would have benefitted those of lesser incomes, such as public education. How ironic!

So, now it’s only 69 days in the US to see what the next era of life here will be like. Will it be “pull up the ladders,” build walls, threaten our global neighbors, promise solutions and find ways to blame others for lack of delivery? Or, will we manage to put down the demagogue Trump and his powerful backers and have a chance to truly address that which is at the root of the problem?

It won’t be easy. Even if Hilary Clinton wins, there will be continued Right wing resistance to any form of redistribution, even to such as infrastructure improvement. Infrastructure improvement which, ironically, benefits both the underprivileged and also the wealthy. Ironic.

The powers of resistance to slowing the advance of inequality (much less reducing inequality) are the moneyed interests who benefit at the expense of others, but there are other contributing factors. Two of those are globalization and technology.

Globalization: Briefly, promises to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US face the economic reality of lower costs and wages elsewhere. That won’t change.

Technology: See my previous post in which I provide guesstimates of 4 million US jobs at risk as drivers eventually yield to self driving vehicles. This is only one of many employment sectors that will suffer as technology advances.

Another is the slowing growth of the world economy. See Thomas Piketty’s Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century for a good understand of the impact of this on wealth distribution.

Neither the Right nor the Left can stop these forces, notwithstanding  rhetoric to the contrary.

I’m with Joseph Stiglitz and Robert Reich, whose research finds that the greatest economic growth (promised by both parties) will occur only with reduced inequality–more equality. One way or another, I can only see redistribution as the solution. The good news is that there are many forms of redistribution and they don’t have to be dramatic. Cost to the wealthy can be modest, incentive to invest and take risk remain high, and a better (and safer) world for all.

Otherwise, the ultimate solution can only be revolution. Let’s not allow that.