Some loosely connected thoughts I had this evening:
1. I prefer the tea party to the GOP establishment, because at least they’re sincere.
2. In 1960, 58% of Americans believed that “most people can be trusted.” In 1993, only 37% did. Using coded language that appeals to people’s anxieties about other races or communities can only exacerbate this problem. And yet it seems to me to be central to what Conservatives talk about when they talk about “restoring America,” taking such statements at face value.
3. I’m optimistic about the current paralysis of our government, because I believe that what we are seeing is the break down, for a variety of reasons, of the neoliberal consensus that has dominated American politics since Reagan. Although the grassroots right has struck many of the opening blows, this may well create real opportunities for change. Not the ordered, technocratic change that Obama promised, which was always going to be limited by its place within the context of a globalized neoliberal order, but real, messy, surprising change.
4. That said, global warming gives me the heebie-jeebies. Seriously.
5. To put it differently, I’m pessimistic about the American economy not because the government is inept, but because even when the government was functioning normally, it was pursuing goals and policies which have had, and continue to have, the ultimate effect of making the country as a whole poorer, limiting opportunities, and generally shitting on our collective economic future.
6. Clinton led us here. Going back to the policies and practices of the Clinton era, ecstatic though it might make many liberals, will not get us out of this mess. This mess being the toxic combination of de-industrialization, the casualization of labor (meaning the replacement of full-time workers with contractors, adjuncts, temps, part-timers, interns, etc.), increasing un- and under-employment, the financialization of the economy, and the globalization of labor markets.
7. In a global market for labor, there will always be people to exploit. There will always be someone willing to work for less. The idea that we can compete by being “flexible” and “smart” and creating a leaner, better educated workforce, able to “compete in the global economy” is a fallacy. There is only one way for Americans to compete in a global market for labor, and that is to lower our standard of living and accept lower wages. You can educate a person anywhere. Every person on the planet is capable of doing higher level work. The legacy of the industrial revolution and the prestige of American research universities will only get us so far, and so far will not be nearly far enough.
8. It scares me that our government is not facing these problems. But it scares me more to know that, were our government open for business and functioning normally, it would almost certainly be taking a counterproductive approach. For example, continuing to push free trade agreements that benefit international capital first and foremost, and do as much harm as good to the countries involved.
9. There’s a great Fleetwood Mac song called “what makes you think you’re the one.” This should be our anthem as Americans. We are not the one. We are just one fairly large country among many, burning through the accumulated wealth of the “American century” – a century which we spent obsessing over a Cold War bogeyman, but which nonetheless looks eminently sane compared to the war on terror. Globalization almost certainly means the end of American exceptionalism. This is a fact which pundits and politicians would do well to note.
10. Americans are obsessed with the idea of being able to buy happiness because they’ve bought into the idea that work is the ultimate path to fulfillment, only to find that all their work really gives them is money. Money may well be an important prerequisite for happiness, but it won’t get you all the way, will it?
11. Is there really anyone in America who values work compared to family, friends, and hobbies by the ratio of 9:4 (hours) or 5:2 (days) or 49:3 (weeks)? Anyone? If we’re a democracy, shouldn’t our economy reflect our values?
12. It’s bedtime for me. Happy Wednesday, and it looks like this ol’ blog still has some life in it.
PS: Comments in list form earn extra points!