Monthly Archives: January 2017

“Progressives” vs. Populists

The “progressive” label is affixed to public figures just as dishonestly as “liberal” is. Truly progressive thinking is obviously a good thing. But as used by the establishment, the label instead indicates the kind of narrow-minded authoritarianism most modern “liberals” are renowned for.

The easiest way to distinguish a true progressive or a true liberal from a fake one is to study their views on war and peace. The court historians tell us that Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt were the ultimate “good guys,” deeply concerned for their fellow human beings and only driven to war by despicable foes.

Study the actual historical record, not the widely publicized propaganda pieces written by well-publicized establishment historians. Wilson obeyed his masters and steered America into a disastrous foreign conflict that changed the world forever, in a very bad way. As a true progressive, General Smedley Butler described it, “war is a racket.” Butler detailed the incredible fortunes that were made just from “the war to end all wars.”

Franklin Roosevelt did everything in his power behind the scenes to move America into Europe’s new conflict, and succeeded when Japan launched a “sneak” attack on Pearl Harbor. But anyone who even suggests that FDR had prior knowledge of the attack risks the kind of scorn the mainstream media and court historians direct to those who question the divinity of the establishment’s secular saint, “Honest” Abe Lincoln.

Looking at establishment “progressives” today, the one thing that distinguishes them from actual progressives or populists is their persistent support for any and every war the United States involves itself in. Virtually any Democratic party nominee since LBJ fits this profile perfectly. They bought into the Gulf “war,” and every subsequent excursion into the middle east. Even more laughably, they support this undefinable “war on terror,” and the restrictions of civil liberties that go along with it.

Genuine populists like William Jennings Bryan, Robert LaFollette and Huey Long are generally ignored by the court historians. If Bryan is mentioned, it’s to inaccurately ridicule him as a Bible-thumping clown who made a fool of himself at the Scopes trial. He isn’t associated with “peace,” despite resigning in protest from Wilson’s cabinet over American involvement in WWI. Long, of course, is labeled a “demagogue” and accused of corruption, based exclusively on second-hand accounts of a “deduct box.”

It is hard for those who are not fully awake to understand the differences between a Howard Dean and a Dennis Kucinich, for instance. It’s the same kind of difference that existed in the 1968 campaign, regarding a Hubert Humphrey and a Robert F. Kennedy. The Democratic Party has always stayed away from any true populist presidential candidates. They had a great populist in Congress, James Trafficant, and railroaded him into prison on truly absurd criminal charges.

Donald Trump is not my idea of a populist. But he has taken stances on vital issues that border on the subversive, in the eyes of our corrupt establishment. His boldest move, and one of the boldest nominations any president has made in modern times, was tapping Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to head a commission studying the impact of vaccines. This was a revolutionary middle finger to the state; not only has RFK, Jr. been vocal about the connection between vaccines and autism, he is a Kennedy. He’s the son of JFK’s brother, Attorney General and right-hand man. The establishment doesn’t want him near any lever of power.

Establishment “progressives” like FDR, Harry Truman, LBJ, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama delivered speeches about alleviating poverty. Their rhetoric has never come close to matching their record. Huey Long (an entire chapter will be devoted to the Kingfish in my upcoming book Survival of the Richest) actually made the lives of the poor in Louisiana demonstrably better. If Americans had elected RFK in 1968, or Cynthia McKinney or Dennis Kucinich in more recent years, they would almost certainly have taken real, direct action against poverty.

“Liberal” Bill Clinton’s push for mandatory sentencing and “three strikes you’re out” policies didn’t help the poor. On the contrary, it resulted in far more poor people doing to prison, for much longer sentences, than ever before. “Liberal” Barack Obama’s “affordable” health care act provided free health care to no one, except perhaps for illegal immigrants, which is probably a fitting epitaph for his administration. Real populists recognize that our healthcare system is beyond repair in its present state, and advocate for a single-payer system. They certainly wouldn’t support Obamacare’s mandate that forces everyone to purchase insurance or face exorbitant penalties.

The establishment Left, like the establishment Right, supports every horrific measure proposed, from NAFTA to TPP to corporate welfare, which creates the sinful disparity of wealth we see in America, and around the world today. It’s impossible to effectively solve this problem without focusing on where all the money is going, which I do in Survival of the Richest. Just during the course of writing that book, the already incomprehensible statistic that the 80 richest individuals in the world have more wealth than half of the world’s population, fell further to 62 individuals.

Unless America wants to become a card-carrying member of the Third World brigade, we absolutely have to narrow the unprecedented gap between the haves and the have nots. We not only have to deal with outsourcing, immigration and foreign visa workers; mass automation will eliminate an untold number of jobs as well. Increasingly, I am thinking that some kind of guaranteed income is the only viable solution here, but I don’t expect that idea to fly in this country, until we experience a total collapse and are fighting in the streets over food.

Where is any “progressive” leader in America, calling for a guaranteed annual income? It’s doubtful our always inept leaders have any idea of how to deal with the birth of automation, much as they never dealt intelligently with immigration, trade, healthcare, foreign policy, or any other critical issue. Their approach to the inevitable Social Security crisis is to keep raising the retirement age, which perfectly reflects the short-sided perspective that has all but destroyed this nation.

We need a new generation of populists like Huey Long and William Jennings Bryan. There is no real alternative when the establishment “left” is just as hawkish on war and disinterested in civil liberties as the establishment “right.” This is again why Donald Trump has incurred the wrath of the entire establishment. He isn’t a Reagan opposing “liberalism.” He has ranted specifically against “globalism.” Virtually every major political figure of the past fifty years has been a die-hard globalist. This is why they agreed not to disagree on foreign policy, to make it “bipartisan.” In other words, to never speak out against the continuous wars.

Huey Long’s “Share the Wealth” society attracted millions of members.  As I hope to show in my book, he was assassinated by powerful forces because of the tremendous threat he represented. Despite all the talk about eradicating poverty in the decades that followed, including LBJ’s ridiculous “war” on it, which was just as unsuccessful as Reagan’s “war” on drugs, not a single politician ever thought to pick up Huey Long’s mantle, and demand redistribution of the wealth. Not even a true demagogue, exploiting the poor for his own purposes, appeared on the scene. Even Long’s own son, Russell, never made it an issue in all his years in the U.S. Senate.

Our corrupt establishment needs a substantial underclass as much as it needs perpetual war, in order to maintain its illegitimate power. Even a few populist stances, such as Trump has taken, threaten this criminal state to its core. Take away the massive illegal immigration and awful trade deals, and a crucial plank of globalism is destroyed. Merely rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure is Populism 101, because it represents an expenditure that directly benefits all the people, not just the plutocratic elite.

Establishment “progressives” appear to define “progress” as a draconian Banana Republic-type of world, where austerity and authoritarianism reign together. Huey Long spoke of sharing the blessings with everyone, while “progressives” today advise “sacrifice” and dramatically lowered expectations and standards of living. The “new normal” is an ever widening disparity in wealth, no pay raises, benefits or retirement for the great mass of workers, and the death of both empathy and idealism.

John F. Kennedy’s idealistic speeches would be appreciated by very few in our cynical modern world. Establishment “progressives” appear to be restricting their idealism to increasing the number of transgender bathrooms. No one talks of the simple solution Huey Long advocated; to take from those who have too much and give to those who have too little. The legend of Robin Hood resounded with the public for a good reason; most people recognized that he was a hero, not a villain.

No honest system permits such a concentration of wealth as we see today. Survival of the Richest will examine this dishonest system in depth. It is indeed rigged against the common people, and in favor of the wealthy. No one honestly “earns” billions. As the great socialist Eugene Debs put it a century ago: “I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.”

To paraphrase what was once said about slavery; if this kind of distribution of wealth isn’t wrong, then nothing is wrong. If only we had some true progressives, some high profile populists, to point the obvious out to the people.

 

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Crushing the Dreams of the “Snowflakes”

Ross Perot warned Americans, during his 1992 presidential campaign, that if present trends continued, we were about to become the first generation whose children have a lower standard of living than their predecessors. His prediction has come true in spades.

Reports surfaced in mid-2016 that, for the first time in 130 years, more young people aged 18-34 lived with their parents than in any other living arrangement. In 1960, 62% of that demographic lived with a spouse or romantic partner, but by 2014 the number had dipped to 31.6%, as opposed to 32.1% residing with their parents. In 1960, 84% of young males were employed. By 2014, only 71% were.

These are alarming but predictable statistics. The cost of housing, combined with a bleak employment market, made this situation inevitable. One of the primary reasons home-ownership in America is at a 26 year low of 64% is the undeniable fact that Millennials simply can’t afford to buy real estate. Home ownership rates for those aged 18-34 fell 7.3%  from 2005 to 2015. In a recent survey, 80% of Millennials reported that it was hard for them to find affordable housing.

For those Millennials that are lucky enough to have a full-time job, upward mobility is difficult. One ugly aspect of the “new normal” was reflected in a recent Bloomberg headline: “Say Goodbye to the Annual Pay Raise.” The fortunate souls in the Top 20 percent of wage earners are given bonuses and other perks that the mass of employees can only dream about. All of these mind-boggling disparities will be discussed in depth in my upcoming book Survival of the Richest. 

The traditional pension is going the way of the annual pay raise as well. As another recent article stated, “Will the Youngest Ever Get to Retire?” We’re all familiar with the impossible financial logistics involved in Social Security. As huge numbers of Baby Boomers begin collecting their benefits, the system will become more overdrawn than ever. As usual, our clueless leaders can only push “solutions” like raising the retirement age again. No one seems to want means-testing, or taxing all income, not just the first $119,000 as under the present regressive system.

We know from polls released last year that some 62% of Americans have less than $1000 in savings. In a less reported poll, it was discovered that Americans under 35 have a collective savings rate of negative 2%. With only a slight possibility of a 401K plan (which they largely fund themselves), no yearly raises and no traditional pension, how can Millennials ever hope to advance in life? Like most Americans, they aren’t being paid enough to save anything. Without savings, not only are inevitable emergency expenses problematic, but home ownership is a virtual impossibility.

Millennials on average are 29% less likely to buy a car than those in Gen X. The average cost of an engagement ring these days is nearly $5,000. The average wedding costs $26,645.  This is just part of the reason why marriage rates in America hit a record low in 2015. Based on current trends, about one fourth of all Millennials will forego marriage. Just from 2008-2015, the marriage rate for young women with only a high school diploma or less dropped 13%. Meanwhile, the marriage rate for young women with a college degree rose 6% over the same time period. I think we’re confronting financial reality here more than a massive cultural shift.

While the disparity of income and wealth in America continues to grow, this gap is especially noticeable among Millennials. While so many of these younger Americans are unemployed or underemployed, one third of those who make over $500,000 a year are Millennials. That is startling, considering that 90% of Millennials make less than $60,000 annually. While many Google employees start at six figures and get free organic meals, free haircuts, nap pods and other incredible amenities, numerous Millennial peers are filling out vague psychological questionnaires online just to be considered for an $8 hourly retail job.

Student debt has overtaken credit card debt in America. Young people are paying exorbitant tuition fees and not receiving their money’s worth. The job market has changed dramatically in the past twenty five years or so. Many of the jobs that used to require only a high school degree now demand at least a Bachelor’s. Not only this, but they pay less than they used to. And, of course, the benefits have been slashed across the board for working-class people.

As I will detail in my book, the poorer you are, the more you pay for nearly everything. If you fall behind on your credit card payments, your interest rate goes up. Your credit score will impact your ability to get a job, and if it’s too low, you’ll pay more for things like insurance. If you’re rich enough, you get incomprehensible amounts of corporate welfare, from lucrative contracts and tax breaks, to valuable swag bags for celebrities. The average celebrity gets $100,000 in free stuff every year.

We all should want our children to do better than us. Too many of my fellow Baby Boomers have faulty memories, and ascribe to the popular mantra that they worked especially hard, walked fifteen miles to school every day, etc. I was there. We had it easy compared to the situation most Millennials must deal with today. A college degree was worth something then. Yearly raises were a reality for nearly all workers. And it was much easier to earn promotions and move onto other jobs than it is now.

Society responds to any valid complaints by Millennials by calling them “Snowflakes,” and joking about them “living in their parents’ basement.” The selfishness and greed on the part of too many old people now is uglier than it has ever been. I know Baby Boomers who’ve written their adult children off for no good reason, for making the same kinds of mistakes our generation made. They’ve disowned them, and appear to have forgotten all the illicit sex they engaged in, and all the rampant drug and booze- fueled parties they regularly attended in the 1970s and 1980s.

It’s sobering to think of what the generation after the Millennials- their children- will face. Unless Donald Trump can stop the approaching tidal wave of draconian austerity, they will be full-fledged citizens of a Third World nation that resembles the historical United States little more than a colony on Mars would.

Ralph Waldo Emerson offered this timeless gem: “To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived- that is to have succeeded.” In his greatest speech, John F. Kennedy said “we all cherish our children’s futures.” Does it really seem at this point in time that older Americans are concerned with making anyone breathe easier, or that all of them cherish their children’s futures?

If older Americans truly cared about the world they are leaving to their children, their grandchildren and future generations beyond that, then they’d be enacting policies that reflected that concern. They’d educate themselves on the current job market, the relative worthlessness of many college degrees, the limited path to upward mobility, and start showing some empathy for the younger generation. None of them would bark, “You’re out the door when you turn eighteen” or similar remarks.

I used to worry about how I’d react to having an empty nest. I don’t think about that very often now, because fewer empty nests are a part of the “new normal” world we’ve created. My generation grew up spoiled, in an unusual era where jobs were plentiful and opportunities were greater. America is morphing into a Waltons-style system of living, wherein 3 or even 4 generations living together under one roof is becoming more commonplace. Families being driven closer through financial necessity is perhaps the only bright spot in this “new normal” set of circumstances.

As far back as 1999, the head of the Australian Human Rights Commission called Baby Boomers “the most selfish generation in history.” Polls show that while Baby Boomers label themselves responsible and self-sufficient, Millennials have negative self-images and feel pressured by expectations that are becoming increasingly hard to meet. In a word, our children by and large consider themselves failures. Not only have autism-spectrum diagnoses soared among Millennials, a full quarter of them struggle with mental illness.

Successful Baby Boomers swear by the essentials that brought them their secure standard of living, and especially place great value on a college education. Mention the “college conspiracy” or crushing student loan debt to them, and you’ll get the kind of vacant look most human beings have always been known for. They’ll brag about working in a restaurant or at construction when they were young, and bemoan how little they were paid, without the least bit of knowledge of the present employment market. They act, much as their own parents did, as if the world hasn’t changed dramatically in the last fifty years.

I’m impressed by how insightful so many Millennials are. They question everything, as young people should. But unlike previous generations, I don’t think most of them will outgrow this intellectual curiosity. In the past, when people attained a level of financial security, they stopped questioning the system that granted it to them. The undeniable reality is that, for an alarming number of Millennials, they will continue to see themselves as existing outside a system where opportunities are shrinking daily.

If “Snowflakes” are not maturing into adults, accepting responsibility and paying their fair share of taxes, it’s largely because our collapsing economy has forced them into their parents’ basements. If they spend inordinate amounts of time playing video games or smoking dope, can we blame them? They understand how bleak the future is for them. What else would we expect them to be, other than perpetual adolescents?

Love your children. If you treat them the way you should, maybe they’ll take care of you in your old age, instead of dumping you into one of our odious nursing homes. Take the time to learn about our present economic reality. Most of the hard-nosed Baby Boomers are completely unfamiliar with the “new normal” in even applying for a job. They are anxiously looking forward to a leisurely retirement, and their attitude appears to be that the “Snowflakes” are lazy and entitled.

Our leaders love to advise us to “think of the children.” Is life about dying with the most toys, or leaving the world a better place for our descendants?