Tuesday, 26 January 2010

On class inequality and the future of America

There are three recent observations which need to be considered.

Firstly, this:

Inequality in the US is now reaching (or even surpassing) that of the Gilded Age.

Secondly, what happened then?

Early next week, my new book It Could Happen Here will be released by HarperCollins. The book is an in-depth look , based on a historical analysis, of the implications of our historically high levels of economic inequality for the nation’s ultimate, long-term political stability. As economic inequality grows, nations invariably become increasingly politically unstable: Should we complacently believe that America will be different?

A central conclusion of the book is that once economic inequality reaches a self-reinforcing cycle it is halted only by inevitably controversial, hard-fought, bitterly opposed government action. Senator Jim Webb encapsulated this idea, when he wrote in his book, A Time to Fight: Reclaiming A Fair and Just America:

“No aristocracy in history has decided to give up any portion of its power willingly.”

In 1928, economic inequality was near today’s levels. Franklin Roosevelt succeeded in reversing the trend toward the continuing concentration of wealth, but it was a turbulent battle. In 1936, while campaigning for his second term and speaking at Madison Square Garden, FDR told the crowd:

“Never before in all our history have these forces [Organized Money] been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me and I welcome their hatred.

Thirdly, there's one huge difference between FDR's time and current America - the present American political system is dysfunctional, and unable to handle any major economic or political reforms in the face of entrenched self-interest by powerful minorities.

Simply put, there is no chance of a new New Deal. It's not going to happen. The populist swell is being captured by the Teabaggers, who are useful idiots lead by the coporations and lobbyists funding them to work against the interests of the middle- and working-classes; the Republicans are corporate whores busy sticking spanners in the works whenever they can; and the Democrats are a collection of corporate whores and ineffective blowhards who couldn't organise a piss-up with the Tui Brewery girls giving them instructions.

So where does that leave the US? I don't know, but it doesn't look good. The income equality appears to have surpassed 1927 - and is still accelerating, as seen in the recent recession. There's no room for political solutions. And populist anger is being co-opted by the right, helped by the general ignorance of the sort of people the Teabaggers appeal to and the apparent horror they have for any discussion which involves looking good and hard at income and classes in the US.

My guess is that the economic dysfunctionality will continue to deepen and hurt, but the rage it generates will be channelled towards warfare, scapegoating and still more authoritarian "solutions". Watch for Islam to be blamed for economic problems. If Obama is a one-term loser, as I suspect he will be, the next Republican President will probably be in line with Bush Jr, and the damage to the US irrevocable. I don't want to use the "f" word - but you can see the possibility looming. God knows how China or Europe will react.

Me, I'm going to go play Planetfall and pretend I never had this thought.

Monday, 25 January 2010

On the possibility of annual charity work.

Well, let's be more exact - I'm more interested in the entertainment value. But the Round The Bays event does help the Heart Foundation this year.

Over the last couple of years I've done this, and enjoyed it quite a lot. And I did a respectable time for a walker rather than a runner - getting some jogging in during the event.

I am currently healing fast, but limited at the moment to staggering for perhaps a dozen steps around the flat. Bugger.

I tell you, when this is all over, I am definitely going to take a couple of weeks off work and have my long-delayed actual vacation. and probably walk the half marathon route just to prove to myself I can do it.

Friday, 8 January 2010

On the desirability of massive retaliation

It's been nearly two months since my bosses ordered me out of the office in the hopes of recovery at home (that didn't go well, obviously).

So I have now reached the point where I can make it to the nearest busstop (slowly) and get around a bit on crutches outside, greatly increasing my independence. I don't have to rely on friends and family to get every little thing done for me. Hurts a fair bit to walk around any distance though, but between stoicism, sheer manly grit, and that sweet sweet morphine, I can cope.

Yesterday I took myself, my crutches and my horrible horrible beard - hey, I haven't mentioned the beard! It was impossible to sit up and shave while in hospital, and I now look much like Charlie Manson. Bushy untrimmed growth, wild staring eyes and uncertain personal hygiene. I was horribly surprised when part of it grew out grey. In my mind's eye, I resemble Tom Selleck of the Magnum PI days. My friends point out that my mind's eye is completely deluded.

Where was I? Oh yeah - yesterday I took myself, my crutches and my horrible horrible beard back to work to drop off some paperwork. I tried getting there late, but was still ambushed by cow-orkers who proceeded to embarass the hell out of me by pretending to be glad to see me, by being solicitious and opening doors for me, and by complimenting the face fungus.

I can't stand it. I'm going to have to shave it all off, and proceed to be as obnoxious as possible to these people in order to get my life back on its normal keel. Fear and loathing is more than just a book; it's my favourite workplace relationship mode. Besides, I've had people complain the new office is too quiet without me there.

But never mind - the weather is lovely, tomorrow is Saturday, and the bikinis are swarming on the beaches of Oriental Bay. I have no need to worry about work, and I have the perfect excuse to sit down and drool while watching - it's pain from the back, you know. That's my story and I shall stick to it.