Where do you think the US is headed?

by 2pink 64 Replies latest social current

  • J. Hofer
    J. Hofer

    los angeles was a 100% spanish-speaking immigrant town once. in fact they founded it.

    and politicians are corrupt assholes everywhere on earth. that said, it's always nice to have a few options to go to when hell breaks lose - and you never know...

  • saltyoldlady

    I have to agree - I think the US is heading down the tube and fast! But frankly it doesn't appear to me any place else has it any better than we do - where is it that you would propose we all emigrate to? Ended my sentence with a preposition - OMG. I'm doomed! I have some friends who decided to go to the South Sea Islands - Vanuatu but the volcanic activity in that area doesn't lure me there. I suggested to my kids we all go to New Zealand - at least they speak a form of English there - and then shortly after that brainstorm (one week I think it was) they had that big earthquake in Christchurch and then another big one in Auckland. That didn't encourage us much. Earthquake possibilities are the factor scaring us here in the Pacific Northwest - doesn't make sense to move to another earthquake zone and New Zealand is way more seismically active than here (right now at least?) The appeal of that place to me is fact it resembles the Northwest for its beautiful mountains and scenery. So tell me where to head - I like the simple life, can live without a lot of the modern day gadgets (not my laptop tho? please) LOL

  • Iamallcool

    to the new world?

  • ballistic

    Well, I think it's a shame you think the USA will be no good if it's not no. 1. It's not about being best. Great Britain hasn't ruled the world since God Knows when but for a tiny island it still holds great influence in the world and I'm sure America will too for many years to come. That all being said, I am genuinely worried about western economies, but speaking for England, we have a market dominated by high taxation, high regulation, miniumum wage, health and safety, interferance by government, all the time, while we are happy for paying 10 dollars for something like a pair of jeans transported half way round the world at the detriment of the environment, from a worker paid 10c per hour, breathing in sulphites by spraying stone washed jeans with chemicals. Maybe we exported our ethical problems for cash.

  • FlyingHighNow

    Welcome to the new gilded age that began to be ushered in under Ronald Reagen over 30 years ago. AKA known as plutocracy.


    The new Gilded Age

    Nancy Goldstein - Raw Story Columnist

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    In the summer of 1863, Lincoln's enactment of the draft--the first federal conscription in America--set off widespread rioting in the streets of New York City. The mandate's most reviled feature was a "commutation" rule that allowed sons of privilege to buy their way out of enlistment for the 21st century equivalent of $6,000. For the northern European immigrants who comprised over half of the city's population, starving cheek-to-jowl in the corroding tenements of the Lower East Side, the rule proved that Lincoln's "rich man's war" against the South had become a fight for poor, and thereby expendable, men to resolve.

    Nearly a century and a half later, the wealthy don't even have to pay for the privilege of sending less well connected sons and daughters off to war to die in their stead. The draft has been rendered unnecessary by the tens of thousands of young men and women--disproportionately low income or working-class, over a third of them people of color--who "choose" to enlist while the children of better-off folk, who have other viable options for educational and professional advancement, are able to choose lines of work where they're less likely to be killed.

    Welcome to the new Gilded Age. Once more, a small number of individuals have exploited the latest technology and their powerful personal connections to amass incredible wealth at the expense of an exploited majority.


    Like its earlier incarnation at the end of the 19th century, the new Gilded Age is marked by huge discrepancies in income between a minority of very rich people and the majority of the rest of us (even Alan Greenspan says so), a tendency to make underprivileged people do all the dirty work, widespread abuse of corporate and political power, and profligate spending in the face of increasing national poverty. The same mass media that used to naively assert that every man could become an Andrew Carnegie now makes the same implicit claim through "The Apprentice."

    Yet the excesses of this latest iteration, made possible by the take-from-the-poor-and-give-to-the-rich policies of the Bush administration, have not led to any of the upheavals that marked the end of the first Gilded Age--strikes, riots, the creation of labor unions, legislation to rein in the excesses of big business--or any of the attempts to protect the rights of consumers, workers, immigrants, or the poor that followed, during the Progressive era.

    For this new Gilded Age is made palatable by the illusion that people "choose" to be either rich or poor. That they "choose" to be either captains of Wall Street or foot soldiers in Iraq. That they "choose" to be safe and sound in Crawford or shivering awaiting rescue on their rooftops in New Orleans.

    In the new Gilded Age, no powerful government ever fails its citizenry and there are no catastrophes in the lives of low-income people--only lucky loafers enjoying the benefits of noblesse oblige. Or, as Barbara Bush said of the thousands of evacuees huddled in the Astrodome: "This is working very well for them."

    The tranquility of this new Gilded Age is secured by the substitution of consumer choice for genuine political choice, and abetted by a lazy, corporate-run media. John Berger, the brilliant British Marxist art historian of the 60s, was right: give the people enough kinds of ketchup to choose from and they'll be too busy wandering the supermarket aisles to ever stop and contemplate whether they enjoy the same degree of variety or agency regarding their government.

    The less privileged are lulled into fantasies of choice, power, and control by cheap, "personalized" consumer goods secured by easy credit. But lose your job and blow your "interest only" mortgage, and neither your special ring tone nor your personally programmed iPod will protect you from the brutal realities of this time.

    Because despite all the talk about "personal responsibility" and an "ownership society," the golden insignia of the new Gilded Age is a double standard that allows the wealthy and powerful to network, plea bargain, or buy their way out of their obligations while holding the feet of less privileged people to the fire at every turn.

    Consider the difference in accountability between individuals unable to pay their debts and corporations that default on their pension plans.

    Under the new bankruptcy law enacted last year by a Congress eager to reward their campaign contributors in the credit industry, the vast majority of common folk saddled by unmanageable debt--usually because of severe misfortune, such as medical emergencies, job loss, or divorce - will be deemed to be in possession of "excess income" and will no longer be permitted to wipe the slate clean. Instead, they'll be put on an accelerated payment schedule for a 3-5 year period at a much higher rate of interest and forced to pay for "fiscal management" classes in addition to lawyers' fees.

    How poor will you have to be to avoid this fate? Let's put it this way. A couple each earning measly minimum wage for a total of $21,840 per year with no dependents? According to the new "means test," that couple is $9,720 over the so-called poverty threshold, or stated similarly, earning 80.2% "excess" annual income. Those sluggards will just have to pay up.

    But it's an entirely different story when corporations fail to meet their financial obligations to their workers--which is increasingly the case. As Roger Lowenstein notes in a recent article on the end of pensions, "Corporations were happy to offer rich retirement plans to their workers as long as accounting tricks and federal insurance made it easy to delay the day of reckoning."

    And why not? When the day of reckoning comes, the firm won't sell off its assets to pay for the failed plan or garnish the wages of the CEO (who, on average, earned $9.84 million, or 358 times the average worker's pay last year). Debt from the failed plan becomes the responsibility of the government's pension insurer, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC)--currently in the red to the tune of $23 billion (and estimated to bloom to $200 billion within two decades). Which means that average taxpayers like you and me will pay the corporation's debts while it goes merrily on its way.

    Because that's what "personal responsibility" really means to this administration. When it comes to covering bad debt from corporations that underestimate how much they need to put away to keep their commitments, it's on us. Ditto for when businesses game the system by exploiting lax rules that allow them to get away with inadequately funding their pension plans. Or promise the world to their workers, knowing that there's a safety net if they ever get in too deep. And when it comes to shouldering debt from bad individual luck, that's on us too.

    Welcome to the new Gilded Age. It's back and it's better than ever - if you're one of the gilded.


    Nancy Goldstein can be reached at [email protected]. Her next column will appear on Thursday, January 19th.

  • FlyingHighNow

    Welcome also the class war.


    Decline of the Empire


    America's New Gilded Age

    There's a "new" kind of class warfare being waged in in the United States, but you have to look very closely to find it. Perhaps "warfare" is the wrong word, for a war must have two sides in active opposition to each other, whereas this time around we only have two sides. This "warfare" is creating conditions that more and more resemble those of the late 19 th century when America did not yet have an extensive Middle Class. Mark Twain dubbed this corrupt era the "Gilded Age."

    The great egalitarian (socialist) movements of the 20 th century are long gone. In the decades after the Great Depression and World War II, the Democrats assimilated some of the socialist agenda, which faded away during the Cold War. In the 1960s, Lyndon Johnson could still wage a war on poverty. When I was growing up, Democrats stood for labor unions and rights of working people. Republicans ... did not. For years and years, everybody understood that this was how things worked.

    In 2010 no political party or faction represents working Americans. However, the wealthy are very well represented on both sides of political aisle because they have the ability to pay the bribes the politicians depend on for their election. Robert Reich has noted that campaign spending in this year's election is completely out of control. This is the first election (of many to come) taking place after the Supreme Court lifted restrictions on campaign donations—

    Hundreds of millions of dollars are pouring into advertisements for and against candidates — without a trace of where the dollars are coming from. They’re laundered through a handful of groups. Fred Malek, whom you may remember as deputy director of Richard Nixon’s notorious Committee to Reelect the President (dubbed Creep in the Watergate scandal), is running one of them. Republican operative Karl Rove runs another. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a third.

    The Supreme Court’s Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission made it possible. The Federal Election Commission says only 32 percent of groups paying for election ads are disclosing the names of their donors. By comparison, in the 2006 midterm, 97 percent disclosed; in 2008, almost half disclosed.

    We’re back to the late 19th century when the lackeys of robber barons literally deposited sacks of cash on the desks of friendly legislators. The public never knew who was bribing whom.

    Reich refers obliquely to the Gilded Age in his remarks. In our comtemporary version of late 19 th century class conflict, the wealthy are quietly taking over the country without opposition, a trend which has been going on for 25 years. Not only does the public not know who is bribing the politicians, they are long past caring who is bribing them. They might care if some vocal political faction represented them, but none do. Here is a description of the actual Gilded Age

    During the "Gilded Age," every man was a potential Andrew Carnegie, and Americans who achieved wealth celebrated it as never before. In New York, the opera, the theatre, and lavish parties consumed the ruling class' leisure hours. Sherry's Restaurant hosted formal horseback dinners for the New York Riding Club. Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish once threw a dinner party to honor her dog who arrived sporting a $15,000 diamond collar.

    While the rich wore diamonds, many wore rags. In 1890, 11 million of the nation's 12 million families earned less than $1200 per year; of this group, the average annual income was $380, well below the poverty line. Rural Americans and new immigrants crowded into urban areas. Tenements spread across city landscapes, teeming with crime and filth. Americans had sewing machines, phonographs, skyscrapers, and even electric lights, yet most people labored in the shadow of poverty.

    To those who worked in Carnegie's mills and in the nation's factories and sweatshops, the lives of the millionaires seemed immodest indeed. An economist in 1879 noted "a widespread feeling of unrest and brooding revolution." Violent strikes and riots wracked the nation through the turn of the century. The middle class whispered fearfully of "carnivals of revenge."

    For immediate relief, the urban poor often turned to political machines. During the first years of the Gilded Age, Boss Tweed's Tammany Hall provided more services to the poor than any city government before it, although far more money went into Tweed's own pocket. Corruption extended to the highest levels of government. During Ulysses S. Grant's presidency, the president and his cabinet were implicated in the Credit Mobilier, the Gold Conspiracy, the Whiskey Ring, and the notorious Salary Grab.

    I was reminded of all this by some recent articles and last night's 60 Minutes report The 99ers (video below). The income inequality data I've cited in the past has been updated to include 2008 tax returns—

    • The average income of the top 1 percent of households fell by 20 percent from 2007 to 2008, after adjusting for inflation, wiping out almost half of the gains this group achieved between 2002 and 2007 (see the graph below).
    • The average income of the bottom 90 percent of households fell 7 percent from 2007 to 2008, in inflation-adjusted dollars, the largest one-year drop for this group since 1938. The loss in 2008 more than wiped out the increase from 2002 to 2007, leaving the average income for the bottom 90 percent of households at its lowest level since 1996.
    • Income remained highly concentrated, with the top 1 percent of households receiving 21 percent of total income, which is somewhat below recent peaks but still among the highest percentages since the late 1920s.


    The "Great" recession has wiped out the paltry incomes gains made by the lower 90% of Americans during the economic "expansion" made possible by the Housing Bubble. The top 1% took a hit, but Fed policy has insured that this reversal is only temporary. During the original Gilded Age there was little doubt about who was rich and who was not, but that has changed in the early 21 st century. The first row below shows the actual distribution of the wealth, while the second row shows what Americans think the distribution of the wealth is. The third row illustrates what Americans view as an "ideal" distribution of the wealth.

    The actual United States wealth distribution plotted against the estimated and ideal distributions across all respondents. Note: Because of their small percentage share of total wealth, both the “4th 20%” value (0.2%) and the “Bottom 20%” value (0.1%) are not visible in the “Actual” distribution. From Building a Better America – One Wealth Quintile at a Time by Michael I. Norton of the Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely of Duke University

    As I've said before, I don't expect to see real class "warfare" in the United States anytime soon. However, that may change if living conditions for many more millions of Americans deteriorate as badly as I expect them to over the next decade. In the 60 Minutes video below, you will not find any revolutionaries. Instead, you'll see shocked, formerly Middle Class Americans trying to cope with the Awful Thing that just happened to them. For these 99ers who have maxed out their benefits, there is only the abyss unless caring people come to their aid.

  • FlyingHighNow


    Published on Friday, February 8, 2002 by Common Dreams
    The New Gilded Age
    by Marty Jezer
    For another writing project I am reading about the Gilded Age, that period after the Civil War when corporations first established themselves as the principle engines of economic growth and the United States became the most powerful industrial nation in the world.

    Reading about this period, between 1865 and 1896, is like reading about Enron, politics and corporate America. ?Everywhere there was close alliance between corrupt financiers and corrupt public officials, the historian James Truslow Adams wrote about the Gilded Age.

    In his 217-page report on Enron?s internal management, William C. Powers, Dean of the University of Texas law school, condemned the senior management of the bankrupt company as well as its lawyers and accountants for ?self-enrichment? at the expense of its shareholders, and for ?over-reaching in a culture that appears to have encouraged pushing the limits.?

    Is Enron an exceptional case of corporate greed? Or is it a more generalized example of how corporate managers manipulate the legal system to enrich themselves at the expense of their shareholders and workers even as they run their company into the ground?

    The problem is bigger than Enron, but don?t expect Congressional investigators to explore the corrupt relationship between politicians and the corporate world. The members of Congress going after Enron now are the very same people who happily took its money and also its advice. There?s nothing illegal about that; for Congress has also passed legislation making bribery legal and influence- peddling the-way-work-gets-done.

    What?s happening in Washington tells us a lot about political friendship and the power of money. Ken Lay, Enron?s fallen chief, was George W. Bush?s great pal ?Kenny boy? when Ken was giving him money. But now Bush doesn?t want to admit that he even knew him. This is the pattern across the board. Corporate managers ply politicians with money, wine, dine, and play golf with them, and give them use of their corporate jets. But its friendship based on the favors they get in return. Shallow friendships reflect shallow values, shallow politics, shallow people, shallow thinking.

    We live in a new Gilded Age with bought politicians and greedy corporate managers. We no longer have a government by and for the people; hell, we don?t even have honest debate. Bush?s $378 billion military budget, for example, needs to be scrutinized. Most of it is going to stop the Russians from invading Europe, a threat that no longer exists. But don?t expect the merits of the military budget to be discussed at all. The defense industry gives politicians millions of dollars to prevent such a debate. Ultimately it will be money rather than merit that carries the day.

    The same is true regarding health care and every other social program. National health insurance was first proposed by Teddy Roosevelt. FDR, Truman, LBJ and many members of Congress have taken up its cause. It?s not simply a matter than Congress has ever voted it down; it?s never been fairly discussed. When Hillary Clinton met in secret with lobbyists from the insurance industry to draft her ?health reform? bill, her husband, the President, told an advocate of universal health insurance (i.e., a single-payer system), ?you win the debate, but I?m going with these guys,? meaning the insurance company lobbyists and other opponents of universal coverage, who between 1979 and 1992, plied members of Congress with more than $79 million. And they are still giving!

    But it?s in the area of tax legislation that the system is really corrupt. Daniel Mitchell, a senior fellow at the right-wing Heritage Foundation, argues for a lower tax rate because high rates give wealthy taxpayers ?the incentive to hide, shelter and underreport income.? In other words, if the rich aren?t given legal tax breaks they?ll cheat on their tax returns. And they?ll get away with it too! For campaign contributions also buy protection. A 1999 study shows that there is a greater chance of being audited if your income is under $25,000.

    Top executives are now making two and three million dollars a year over and above stock options, company jets, tickers to the Super Bowl, golden parachutes, and other perks. Athletes and entertainers make even more. If they were to give up just one million dollars a year in earnings, one thousand working people would be able to earn one thousand dollars more. If free market economics dictate high salaries, as those who get them insist, then some of their earnings ought to be returned to the public in the form of taxation. And now here is the Bush Administration wanting to cut the taxes of these millionaires even more.

    Tax-cuts for the rich are just another form of political payback for campaign contributions. In 1998, 234 major corporations, including Enron, not only paid no federal taxes but got a tax rebate of $1.3 billion.

    Abraham Lincoln predicted the Gilded Age and would not be surprised to see how money continues to corrupt our political system. Noting that the North had become an industrial power during the Civil War, he said, "I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."

    Honest Abe called it right. The corporate elite has been enriching itself at the expense of the rest of us for a good portion of the past 135 years. Isn't it time we did something about it?

    Marty Jezer writes from Brattleboro, Vermont and welcomes comments at [email protected].

    Copyright ? 2002 by Marty Jezer


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  • FlyingHighNow
    Why are people still trying to get into this U.S.A. so much still?

    Ever see the movie El Norte? It's because they are very misinformed about how things truly are here.

    The most wealthy of the wealthy? They have it set up so their money is not here. Their companies are mostly overseas. They, themselves can leave as the US economy collapses.

    There are still blessings here, but we are fast losing them.

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  • ballistic

    Sorry Flying high now, but I don't mean to be rude and I know we go a long way back, but I can't read pages and pages of information like that, I'm just not cut out for it.

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