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Thomas Frank: The Inequality Sweepstakes
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Reading Thomas Frank’s new book, Listen, Liberal, or What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?, I was reminded of the snapshot that Oxfam offered us early this year: 62 billionaires now have more wealth than the bottom 50% of the global population, while the richest 1% own more than the other 99% combined. And in case you’re wondering in which direction inequality is trending on Planet Earth, note that in 2010, it took 388 of the super-rich to equal the holdings of that bottom 50%. At this rate in the inequality sweepstakes, by 2030, just the top 10 billionaires might do the trick. Let me just add that, as Frank makes clear in his brilliant new work, Donald Trump doesn’t have to win the presidency for billionaires to stand triumphant on the American part of our planet. Hillary Clinton will do just fine, thank you.

Listen, Liberal is, in a sense, a history of how, from the Clintonesque 1990s on, the Democratic Party managed to ditch the working class (hello, Donald Trump!) and its New Deal tradition, throw its support behind a rising “professional” and technocratic class, and go gaga over Wall Street and those billionaires to come. In the process, its leaders fell in love with Goldman Sachs and every miserable trade pact that hit town, led the way in deregulating the financial system, and helped launch what Frank terms “the greatest wave of insider looting ever seen”; the party, that is, went Silicon Valley and left Flint, Michigan, to the Republicans. Only a few years after Bill Clinton vacated the Oval Office the financial system he and his team had played such a role in deregulating had to be rescued, lock, stock, and barrel from ultimate collapse. Quite a record all in all. Put another way, as Frank makes clear, in these years the Democrats (with obvious exceptions) became a more or less traditional Republican party. And if the Democrats are now the party of inequality, then what in the world are the Republicans? Don’t even get me started on the cliff that crew walked off of.

In the following post, adapted from his new book, Frank does a typically brainy thing. Since we’ve all heard for years about how the Democrats have been stopped from truly pursuing their political program by Republican experts in political paralysis, he turns to a rare set of places where, in fact, the Republicans were incapable of getting in the way and… well, let him tell the story.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
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  1. Yup. We have had one party rule since Bill Clinton kicked Labor out of the Democratic coalition. And the one party is owned and operated by the .01%. What you see now is the result of 20 years of zero representation for the working class. The white part of the working class was not poor 20 years ago. Now, finally, the white working class (especially the men) have found a lightning rod in Donald Trump for their anger at being ripped off. Ripped off by free trade, open borders and endless war. The corporate media and the entire political class is loudly proclaiming that millions of white working class people are merely racist scum. That they are vulgar barbarians just like Donald Trump.

    The time has come for choosing sides. We, the white working class, are taking note of everyone who is vilifying us. We are the only demographic capable of taking matters into our own hands. A movement is forming to liberate this country and it is led by us. The rest can join us or get out of our way.

    • Replies: @Eustace Tilley (not)
  2. Eustace Tilley (not) [AKA "Schiller/Nietzsche"] says:

    Ditto Yup. It hurts like hell to have the super-rich gazing cynically down at WorkingClass and me from their Olympian apex, as they progressively (pun intended) erode not only our standard of living but our freedoms and sense of personal security as well, all the while financing a media/government/academic campaign of racial guilt and legalized AA discrimination.

    If we work and save to flee to the suburbs, Section 8 Untermenschen may follow us. If one of them walks a few blocks and burglarizes our modest home, and we shoot him, we may be in legal trouble in some jurisdictions. If we have children, they will be members of a shrinking and, yes, legally persecuted minority. If we don’t have children, our line will go extinct. Meanwhile, it’s harder and harder to find a woman who hasn’t imbibed the globalist kool-aid. makes this crystal clear.

    Trump said that if he is cheated of the GOP nomination, there will be riots. Count me out if that is the case. I will have given up on trying to save this ex-republic.

  3. peterike says:

    The Democrats ditched the white working class long before the Clinton years. They signed its death warrant with the 1965 Immigration Bill, and “civil rights” posturing plus Democratic Warren Court legal decisions made the lives of the white poor and middle class hell as black crime exploded. It would be an interesting academic study to tout up just how many whites were killed, raped, robbed, beaten, etc. all in direct response to Democrat policies. But no one will ever conduct this study.

  4. OutWest says:

    And the enemy is us.

    The 1950/60’s U.S. industrial system was aged out and due to die. Workers in hellhole paint booths, 115° work areas, and with asbestos and silicate atmospheres were not worth saving. It wasn’t just low offshore wages that attracted manufacturing. The Chinese were also willing and able to supply the capital investment for new plants and equipment. It may not have been the deciding factor but the tax burden on new industrial plants in the U.S. was certainly a disincentive to reindustrializing here. But it’s not a problem for the Chinese government.

    Trump’s biggest challenge will be to get us to buy American. The marketing and distribution system –as opposed to the actual manufacturing effort- is firmly set in the buy-offshore mode. There’s no use making stuff here if the distribution system can’t be cracked.

    • Replies: @dc.sunsets
  5. One thing I never see is a breakdown by socio-economic class and race, of who the hell pays most of the taxes in the USA.

    My guess: It is the 80th to 99th percentile in income, overwhelmingly white subset of Americans paying for most of this circus.

    The Bernie people seem to think the bills can be handed to the 99th percentile (and up) class, but that fails on simple mathematics. The bulk of the income of Americans is the managerial class (mostly white) and working wealthy (i.e., doctors, lawyers, financiers, etc., also mostly white.)

    Yes, the 80th percentile-plus had better buy a clue…, at least those not in the tax-eater class.

    Now that the tax eaters (welfare recipients, government employees and those who are de facto government contractors, e.g., those paid by Medicaid, Medicare, the DoD, and the armies of NGO social workers, etc.) outnumber the evaporating pool of truly private producers/taxpayers, we must expect gravity to rapidly multiply political support for ever more political parasitism.

    The USA will inevitably follow Europe’s welfare-state Poseidon Adventure.

    Nothing, not a President Trump, a resurrection of Ronald Reagan or a lurch to the Right can prevent the capsizing of this mathematically impossible political economy.

  6. @OutWest

    OutWest, the drive is to eliminate the “people” involved in manufacturing. As manufacturing returns to the USA, it will do so in highly automated factories. Humans are likely now the main source of variation (and unit failure) in manufacturing. We rapidly approach a point where only the very brightest among us will actually be “employable.”

    The “buy American” theme sounds good, but it does not address the wrenching structural problems that are inevitable in an increasingly automated world.

    The developed world is on the brink of a transition at least as difficult as that of the Industrial Revolution. It remains to be seen how all this will shake out, but we can be sure that attempts to mandate outcomes will fail persistently and catastrophically.

    Only those capable of being 140 IQ, highly motivated engineers will be…engineers. That leaves far too many people without work as we know it. Work as we don’t yet know it must be discovered.

    • Replies: @OutWest
  7. OutWest says:

    It’s been a long time but if I recall correctly Marx wrote on this very problem. The Luddite solution doesn’t seem viable. In even the more advanced production facilities there’s a need for dependable labor with ad hoc expertise relative to the unique problems of a particular production line. So I think the U.S. can manufacture and provide some jobs. But like the agrarian work force of the late nineteenth century, the worker dense factory has been now bypassed. But that actually argues in favor of U.S. manufacture since we have both artisan and technical talent that could be brought to bear.

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