Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wake Me When It's Over

I'm going to stick this Bob Herbert column on Reviving The Dream away in a corner of The Hive for future reference. Herbert sums up the political and economic history of the last 40 years from the viewpoint of the middle and lower economic "classes" pretty well. It might have been helpful during the election if Herbert had pointed out the dangers inherent in Democratic candidates kow-towing to the Reagan myth instead of confronting Reaganism directly as Jesse Jackson, followed by Bill Clinton, did. But that's water under the bridge, and, clearly, Herbert had a different agenda back then.

Now, with the economy in free fall and likely to get worse, Americans — despite their suffering — have an opportunity to reshape the society, and then to move it in a fairer, smarter and ultimately more productive direction. That is the only way to revive the dream, but it will take a long time and require great courage and sacrifice, Herbert says.

I wonder what that mumbo jumbo is code for. What's the esoteric message, the dog whistle everybody but me can hear?


Decidere said...

It's American myth #1, that during tough times we pull together and it brings out the best in us. Funny, during the Depression is when we pistol-whipped suspected commies and broke up organizers and preyed on the homeless and desperate. We did have some communal cheerleading from the top starting in 1933, after the "pull yourselves up, by gumption" talk of the previous 3 years had failed, but there was certainly some questionable actions that didn't make the white-washed retro-version.

But there are so many areas we can't even start to talk about, and I don't think Obama's equipped or willing to talk about them as he backs down from AIPAC on one side, Republicans on another, and preparing to give up on Cuba. Is our Hispanic-tilted immigration profile good public policy, is a 70% out-of-wedlock birth rate for blacks sustainable or healthy, where do I find Israel in our Constitution, why are football stadiums proper government functions and not health care, how can we engage a Libya that bombed Americans and deal with China and Russia with their serious problems, but not talk to a Cuba that never attacked and has been harmless for 2 decades, how do we get our human rights cred back so we can actually non-laughably talk about human rights outside our own bathroom, how can we put "opportunity" back into the American lexicon without it meaning the negative illegal type, how do we get the 4th Estate back to some kind of useful rather than predatory role, what are the real volumes of energy a new solution has to be capable of to not be laughable, now that stocks and housing have tanked what besides large mattresses will we trust next, how much more American inanity is required before indecisive but effective European leadership becomes the preferred model, how come centuries after Elizabeth I a strong female leader scares the shit out of us, how come liberals can't get over Che Guevera and Salvador Allende, how come with ever-increasing wealth we have shallower and shallower education, and how come digital medical records still remains an oo-aah-what-if topic after 15 years of discussion? So many questions, so little time. Maybe if someone unplugs our internets we'll start to think again and figure it out.

Decidere said...

Meant to say on good-ol' Bob is that if bad times were so good at pulling us together, then our ghettos would have been the center for enlightenment and creative invention. The reality is that bad times usually reduces us to marginal activity from which we eventually stumble out, which could be centuries if the Middle Ages are any guide, but in modern times isn't so hard because of easier resources and less catastrophic diseases. Imagine we faced something like the 1918 Spanish Flu or the Bubonic Plague - would we be able to stop talking tax cuts long enough to deal with it? But then we invented the car so I guess we can do anything.

Decidere said...

Bob Herbert's such a selective liar.

There were about 1.3 million legal immigrants in 2007, triple the average in the 1970's. 70% of those were family reunions - economically (job) justified immigrants are on the downswing. 70% of the immigrants are from Latin America, with the new #2 country being China (knocking out the India software class). 16% of the nation is now foreign born, compared to 4% in 1970. You can imagine the downward pressure on those income statistics - it's not like the typical Latino family-reunion immigrant is likely to
come in at the highest quintile. Primarily this site

Single parent households went from 3 million in 1970 to 13 million in 2006, 5/6 headed by those single moms Herbert acclaims entering the workforce in droves. Yes, women make about 2/3 of what men make for a variety of reasons, including missing work to take care of kids, part-time or alternate work arrangements, discrimination, lack of experience, fields that traditionally pay less, et al. There are now more women working than men, and that will depress those household income figures as well.

And if you take a look at education & pay correlation, well, that bachelor's degree still pays off big time. Wonder what percentage of those immigrants have bachelor's degrees? What percentage are in the lowest 1 or 2 quintiles?

But Herbert, ever the joker, likes to ignore all these complications in his grand treatise, that the right-wingers have a successful formula to make sure low-income people (especially minorities) make less. Oh yes, Bob also habitually wishes away the 90's as he disappears the Clintons when he's not smearing them. As far as he can see it's been a trail of tears since 1970 and the Year of Obama. Class warfare but run by a superficial goofball. "They were never reasonably protected against the savage dislocations caused by revolutions in technology and global trade." Oh yes, the typical global worker is protected from the "savage dislocations" caused by these revolutions? Sorry, bozo, but the IT revolution created jobs, and many of the workers hammered in 2000 were exactly the inexperienced overpaid wannabees that you would expect to get hammered - read their blogs - and most of the serious ones quite well recovered within a year. Manufacturing? Oh, sob, our rosy Robert DeNiro career in the steel foundry just ain't there no more? Stagnant wage - is worse than unemployment and no wage like many will achieve now? I grant that Bush made of a mess of the last 8 years, but with someone else at the helm, the story would have been very different by now, even with those awful 1973-2001 times. Oh, and does Herbert address purchasing power at all? Well, of course not. He's just slapping the same old shit together and calling it a Reuben.

quinn the eskimo said...

I love this bit, "Now, with the economy in free fall and likely to get worse...." You know, what's the "worse" part that usually follows "free fall?"

I guess he's saying that if anyone survives the fall, gets up & staggers off into the brush, and manages to reinvent fire... official productivity measures will be up almost 100%.

'Course I loaded up on Fire Futures back in '06. I own that f*ckers ass.

Billy Glad said...

Thanks for the immigration statistics, especially Latin America.

My mind isn't together right now. Coping with the loss of the blue guy, but I seem to recall that Reagan or Bush I actually boasted about the poverty line moving up during their administration. Something like used to be you were poor if you made under $10,000. Now you're poor if you make under $15,000. I don't have the energy to pull the data together and figure out what that implies about standards of living and so on, but maybe I'll get around to it when I revisit this Herbert thing some day. Maybe it was a macho thing, country to country. Our poor make more money then your poor do?

Decidere said...

Price Purchasing Parity is always important. In countries where you see $30/month income, they're certainly getting more actual value than that compared to an American $30. And if you compare say the kind of computer you can buy for $1000 in the US vs. Eastern Europe, you know the US is ahead. Between adjusted monthly cost of cars and rent and corn flakes and IT/telecom and travel and what all, what's the real comparison, including the factor of choice - color, quality, size, etc. A 2009 skateboard ain't a 1973 one, unless you're Bob Herbert.

gasket said...

Herbert pins America's "free fall" entirely on Reagan (he says 30 years ago, not 40, which is what I think you meant to write, BG), and he references union-busting, deregulation, supply-side economics, and eviscerating government programs (he only dares to mention Medicare, but he really means welfare).

The dog whistle is for Great Society true-believers, wherever they are.

But I'm interested this paragraph:

As hard as it may be to believe, the peak income year for the bottom 90 percent of Americans was way back in 1973, when the average income per taxpayer, adjusted for inflation, was $33,000. That was nearly $4,000 higher, Mr. Johnston pointed out, than in 2005.

I was 11 in 1973, so the American Dream was an endangered species before I reached adulthood. First time I voted was 1980.

I wish Herbert were just a little smarter. He only mentions how hard it is these days for men in their 30s. Meanwhile, the American Dream for my generation is to own a big, beautiful tent.

quinn the eskimo said...

Check the hat. And the hattitude.

Look like anyone we know?

Hey Karl, whaddya think?

Decidere said...

Isn't he the son of Ernst and Young? Hasn't he defaulted or been bailed out yet?