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OWS: Phase II
January 12, 2012 6:45 AM   Subscribe

Class Conflict Awareness Rose Significantly From 2009 To 2011 A new Pew Research Center survey reports that "the issue of class conflict has captured a growing share of the national consciousness".
posted by Benny Andajetz (86 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
But the man on the radio said Americans are tired of class warfare.
posted by Iron Rat at 6:50 AM on January 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


We are. Just probably not the way he meant it.
posted by davidjmcgee at 6:51 AM on January 12, 2012 [22 favorites]


But what are OWS's goals?
posted by clockzero at 6:52 AM on January 12, 2012 [19 favorites]


But the man on the radio said Americans are tired of class warfare.
These are not the droids you're looking for.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:56 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Turns out that the most that anyone on top has to fear are those just below them. Those most likely to want your job, or your position in life are those who are ranked just below you, in terms of status. It's an Organizational Behavior fact. Our consumer society has done a marvelous job of convincing even the most debt-ridden, mid-to-lower economic groups that they, too, are "middle-class", and that they can, if they work (or borrow) enough, be "just like" the wealthiest among us.

Oops!
posted by Vibrissae at 7:05 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Americans are tired of class warfare and it's only a matter of time before they discover the rich are good, seared with a crust of black pepper.
posted by Tashtego at 7:08 AM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm tired of you poor people calling me rich and scheming to take my money.
posted by planet at 7:22 AM on January 12, 2012


It's interesting that the increase for Republicans was not much below the increase for Democrats, although the final totals are. I wonder what those respondents would see as an answer to the conflict....

Less heartening is the sense of conflict with immigrants, although I suppose that's to be expected. I suspect that the sense of conflict between young and old will also increase as people are hesitant to retire in the current economy, which makes jobs harder to find.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:26 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


But the man on the radio said Americans are tired of class warfare.

But he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke the same cigarettes as me.
posted by gauche at 7:28 AM on January 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Relevant story on NPR about the whole class warfare thing. Additionally, an interesting article about how people view themselves and potential catapulting into wealth. I guess that's part of the whole temporarily embarrassed millionaire thing.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 7:29 AM on January 12, 2012



But he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke the same cigarettes chew the same nicotine gum as me.


FTFY
posted by spicynuts at 7:33 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Al Franken had a bit about class warfare that I thought was pretty good.

Potentially triggering language warning.
In her book A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century, Barbara Tuchman writes about a peasant revolt in 1358 that began in the village of St. Leu and spread throughout the Oise Valley. At one estate, the serfs sacked the manor house, killed the knight, and roasted him on a spit in front of his wife and kids. Then, after ten or twelve peasants violated the lady, with the children still watching, they forced her to eat the roasted flesh of her dead husband and then killed her.

That is class warfare.

Arguing over the optimum marginal tax rate for the top one percent is not.
posted by gauche at 7:34 AM on January 12, 2012 [52 favorites]


But he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke the same cigarettes chew the same nicotine gum travel to the same third world country with a suitcase full of viagra -- as me.
posted by Trochanter at 7:37 AM on January 12, 2012


boy did I blow that formatting... (tries again)

But he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke the same cigarettes chew the same nicotine gum travel to the same third world country with a suitcase full of viagra -- as me.
posted by Trochanter at 7:39 AM on January 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Democrats are going to destroy Romney on the Bain thing in the general, I think.
posted by empath at 7:42 AM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Today is the 100th anniversary of the Bread and Roses textile strike, a formative strike for you Americans, and a huge step for working women. It probably deserves a post of its own, if somebody feels like playing labor historian today.

Cheers folks.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:44 AM on January 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


boy did I blow that formatting... (tries again)

I dunno, "But he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't" has the virtue of being succinct, and it makes as least as much sense as some political discussion on the topic. Quit while you're ahead, I say....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:46 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Democrats are going to destroy Romney on the Bain thing in the general, I think.

I doubt it. Doing that might cost them the votes of people who would never vote for them anyway.
posted by Legomancer at 7:54 AM on January 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


I doubt it. Doing that might cost them the votes of people who would never vote for them anyway.

Read up, son.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:00 AM on January 12, 2012


but everybody is middle class in the US!
posted by liza at 8:04 AM on January 12, 2012


The capitalist system--corporate that is--always moves in this 99 versus 1% direction unless restrictions are in place. In Israel and in the US, they are not in place...the gap continues to grow. Oddly a larger number of people are now becoming aware of this, though it has been evolving for some years.
posted by Postroad at 8:05 AM on January 12, 2012




The capitalist system--corporate that is--always moves in this 99 versus 1% direction unless restrictions are in place. In Israel and in the US, they are not in place...the gap continues to grow. Oddly a larger number of people are now becoming aware of this, though it has been evolving for some years.


Damn near 150 years ago when the labor movement was getting rowdy in Chicago, there was a lot of concern about that.

You'd hear two awfully familiar things from the papers and politicians:

1) Marxism died with the Paris Commune, and it's just a ghost now.
2) If we don't start regulating capitalism and do something about the disparity between haves and have-nots, we're going to have a revolution like they did in Paris.

Sounds awfully familiar.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:13 AM on January 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Obama's steel we could disdain,
Secure in obfuscation;
But Romney's gold hath been our Bain --
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

-- wi' appy polly loggies to ol' Bobby Burns
posted by Herodios at 8:19 AM on January 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm surprised that Obama's speech in Osawatomie, Kansas last month was never posted to MetaFilter. Comments from E. J. Dionne and Rush Limbaugh. From the speech:
We simply cannot return to this brand of “you’re on your own” economics if we’re serious about rebuilding the middle class in this country. We know that it doesn’t result in a strong economy. It results in an economy that invests too little in its people and in its future. We know it doesn’t result in a prosperity that trickles down. It results in a prosperity that’s enjoyed by fewer and fewer of our citizens.

Look at the statistics. In the last few decades, the average income of the top 1 percent has gone up by more than 250 percent to $1.2 million per year. I’m not talking about millionaires, people who have a million dollars. I’m saying people who make a million dollars every single year. For the top one hundredth of 1 percent, the average income is now $27 million per year. The typical CEO who used to earn about 30 times more than his or her worker now earns 110 times more. And yet, over the last decade the incomes of most Americans have actually fallen by about 6 percent.

Now, this kind of inequality — a level that we haven’t seen since the Great Depression — hurts us all. When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are selling, when people are slipping out of the middle class, it drags down the entire economy from top to bottom. America was built on the idea of broad-based prosperity, of strong consumers all across the country. That’s why a CEO like Henry Ford made it his mission to pay his workers enough so that they could buy the cars he made. It’s also why a recent study showed that countries with less inequality tend to have stronger and steadier economic growth over the long run.

Inequality also distorts our democracy. It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and it runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder. It leaves everyone else rightly suspicious that the system in Washington is rigged against them, that our elected representatives aren’t looking out for the interests of most Americans.

But there’s an even more fundamental issue at stake. This kind of gaping inequality gives lie to the promise that’s at the very heart of America: that this is a place where you can make it if you try.
posted by russilwvong at 8:19 AM on January 12, 2012 [36 favorites]


Agreed, russilwong: I think I even heard about that speech on the Marketplace radio show.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:23 AM on January 12, 2012


The Democrats are going to destroy Romney on the Bain thing in the general, I think.

The job is going to be easier, after the Republicans give it a go. Yes, Newt made a half hour long anti-Bain ad that feels more like a Kucinich ad in tone than any official Democratic production I can recall. As much as it may speak to the white Republican working class, imagine this angle has the GOP elite really creeped out.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:30 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The capitalist system--corporate that is--always moves in this 99 versus 1% direction unless restrictions are in place.

But such "restrictions" can't rise above the fray capitalist system - they'll always be eroded with time. Private power and state power will always find teaming up congenial.
posted by phrontist at 8:52 AM on January 12, 2012


Yes. The struggle is eternal. I was never a Marxist, but he's dead right about the struggle. It's' a fact of life.

Also, what should I make of that Obama speech? I guess it's well said and all, but doesn't it make you say, "Yes? And?" The fact that he can see the issue, and craft those words, and yet, as the NYT article says: "...it was lacking in specific new policy prescriptions..."

Should I be less depressed, or more?

Politics is the art of saying stuff. Governance is the art of doing stuff.
posted by Trochanter at 9:00 AM on January 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and it runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder. It leaves everyone else rightly suspicious that the system in Washington is rigged against them, that our elected representatives aren’t looking out for the interests of most Americans.

I love this. They are suspicious because bribes work. That is what you've said. If a guy votes how you want and writes the laws you want because you take him to a lot of dinners, pay for his vacations, and - most importantly - give him money to run the ads/press which are the primary method by which he keeps his job, that is bribery. And at this point it's institutionalized. This is how the system works.
posted by curious nu at 9:00 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who feels like too much attention is getting paid to the presidential race?

I think that we've learned over the last two years that congress is just as important but I have no idea what the senate or house races will look like come November.

Who wins the presidency this November will be important but the which party holds congress will be just as important to class struggles and which party holds the white house.
posted by VTX at 9:03 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised that Obama's speech in Osawatomie, Kansas last month was never posted to MetaFilter.

Obama has been engaging in class warfare for three years. On the side of Wall Street.
posted by three blind mice at 9:05 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mitt Romney: "I think it's about envy. It's about class warfare. I think when you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing American based on 99% vs 1%...that's inconsistent with 'One Nation, Under God.'"

A guy from the finance/consulting world, born to wealth, telling the vast majority of Americans that they're just being envious. Good luck with that Romney strategy.
posted by drpynchon at 9:06 AM on January 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I doubt it. Doing that might cost them the votes of people who would never vote for them anyway.

At least cost them a lot of the campaign contributions that made Obama's the biggest Presidential campaign war-chest ever in '08. But then, I heard somewhere that the Dems spent more money than the GOP in the '10 election when the Tea Party took over. So your results may vary.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:13 AM on January 12, 2012


Obama has been engaging in class warfare for three years. On the side of Wall Street.

From the E. J. Dionne piece:
There is one thing that Obama certainly does have in common with Teddy Roosevelt: Both found themselves hit from the right and the left. Obama has managed to look too close to Wall Street for the taste of progressives but too critical of business and finance for the taste of our day’s financiers. Roosevelt faced exactly the same criticism: He spoke at a time when there was a real Socialist Party in the United States — Socialist Eugene V. Debs got 6 percent of the popular vote in 1912 — and the Socialists saw TR as covertly defending the interests of capital. The most conservative among the capitalists, of course, thought TR was a socialist.

In The New Nationalism speech, Roosevelt was relaxed about this. “Here in Kansas,” he said, “there is one paper which habitually denounces me as the tool of Wall Street, and at the same time frantically repudiates the statement that I am a Socialist on the ground that that is an unwarranted slander of the Socialists.” No doubt Obama chuckled when he read that.
posted by Herodios at 9:15 AM on January 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Holy shit, 2N2222 - that Newt ad should be getting round-the-clock airplay on liberal sites. (For once, I approve of Newt's inability keep his attack-dog persona in check.)

I wish more Democrats had the balls to make an ad like that.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:22 AM on January 12, 2012


empath: "The Democrats are going to destroy Romney on the Bain thing in the general, I think."

Don't worry. Mitt Romney is already doing a great job destroying Mitt Romney over the Bain thing.

When defending his actions at Bain, Romney tacitly endorsed the Obama Administration's bailout of the auto industry. I can't possibly imagine that

And, seriously. The GOP needs to drop the "Run the government like a business" line fast. What business doesn't try to increase revenue? The government's not a business.
posted by schmod at 9:23 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


er. I cut off part of that comment.

.....I can't possibly imagine what part of the potential Republican electorate he was trying to appeal to.
posted by schmod at 9:24 AM on January 12, 2012


I can't possibly imagine what part of the potential Republican electorate he was trying to appeal to.

The kind that has no problem with cognitive dissonance and won't hear a tacit endorsement anyway.

IOKIYAR.
posted by gauche at 9:45 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


"This kind of gaping inequality gives lie to the promise that’s at the very heart of America: that this is a place where you can make it if you try."

I guess it depends on what you call making it, russilwvong. I'm living a friggin' fantasy compared to where I started.

25 years back, I was making less than $5k a year working at a bookstore parttime and living in a crappy apartment with a cheap car. I was keeping myself down - and wasn't too unhappy about it. I was getting by.

Finally decided I had enough of being poor. Talked my way into an entry level job as a computer tech - kept learning, kept making more money, met someone I clicked with and got married about 18 years back. At that point, I was making about $25k. Now I'm making about $60k. Got laid off 12 times, took shitty jobs, but kept the money coming in. Never got a degree, never got my MCSE, decided not to go the 'network administrator' route because I like my evenings and weekends off, even though I could earn probably twice what I'm making now. Quality of life vs income - I think I made good choices along the way. Could have done better - but who can say they've made the best possible choices all the way along?

Lovely bride started off as a bedpan jockey, got her BA in nursing, got her Masters in nursing, she now makes more than I do. Got a house, kid, xbox, flatscreen TVs, smartphones, one paid off car and one about two years from payoff. Only real debt left is under $10k on credit cards and (gag) the mortgage, and pretty soon we'll start paying the mortgage down in large chunks. (Bought the house around 2002, finance company said we could buy a house worth $X, we decided to go with a limit of .6($X) in case something happened to our incomes. Haven't regretted it.)

I don't see the inequality. Seriously. Yeah, some folks make more than we do. Some make less. So what? Getting pissed off at someone who makes more than I do by a lot doesn't make MY life any better. So they can lobby. Woo - again, so what?

If I hadn't gotten off my ass, I'd still be doing shitty - but that's life for you. Find what you can do, find better ways to do it, keep learning, and you'll do okay. Decide you don't want to, and accept the consequences.

So, this whole 'income inequality' stuff rings false as hell to me, like someone feeding you bullshit to keep you pissed off and unhappy, because they LIKE seeing you pissed off and unhappy.

Yes, you CAN make it if you try. You won't make it fast, you're going to have to try hard and keep your head on straight, you're going to have to suck down more ramen and cheap chicken than you want, you're not going to have 5 days a week to screw around with your friends, you're going to have to show up on time and sober to work - and it wouldn't hurt if you didn't get married fast and divorced faster.

But saying folks can't make it because of 'income inequality'- sorry, I think that's flat wrong.
posted by JB71 at 9:54 AM on January 12, 2012


facepalm.jpg
posted by Trochanter at 9:59 AM on January 12, 2012 [17 favorites]


> Obama has been engaging in class warfare for three years. On the side of Wall Street.

Did he have a choice? The gigantic financial institutions basically destroyed the world economy then rebooted it with a whole lot of back room central bank engineering. If Paulson, Geithner, Bernanke, et al. hadn't played along, where would we be? Rand wants to return to a gold standard, anarchists want decentralized systems, but who's going to load a truck with asthma medicine and drive it to my local drugstore tomorrow but pharma megacorps? Who's going to fabricate microcontrollers for process control on the pharma production line and who's going to accumulate $2 billion to buld that fab but megacorps?
posted by morganw at 10:01 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


JB71: I ended the quote there, but Obama went on to note:
And yet, over the last few decades, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity have grown farther and farther apart, and the middle class has shrunk. You know, a few years after World War II, a child who was born into poverty had a slightly better than 50-50 chance of becoming middle class as an adult. By 1980, that chance had fallen to around 40 percent. And if the trend of rising inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s estimated that a child born today will only have a one-in-three chance of making it to the middle class — 33 percent.

It’s heartbreaking enough that there are millions of working families in this country who are now forced to take their children to food banks for a decent meal. But the idea that those children might not have a chance to climb out of that situation and back into the middle class, no matter how hard they work? That’s inexcusable. It is wrong. It flies in the face of everything that we stand for.
Hard work is certainly an important factor in determining how far you get in life. Even in a society with perfect equality of opportunity, you won't have perfect equality of outcomes. But I would argue that the US is a very long way from providing equality of opportunity, considerably worse than most developed countries. It's gotten much worse even since you were born.
posted by russilwvong at 10:02 AM on January 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


Got mine, sorry, I think that's flat wrong.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 10:03 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]



Yes, you CAN make it if you try. You won't make it fast, you're going to have to try hard and keep your head on straight, you're going to have to suck down more ramen and cheap chicken than you want, you're not going to have 5 days a week to screw around with your friends, you're going to have to show up on time and sober to work - and it wouldn't hurt if you didn't get married fast and divorced faster.

But saying folks can't make it because of 'income inequality'- sorry, I think that's flat wrong.
posted by JB71 at 9:54 AM on January 12 [+] [!]


The way that ghettos form around gender, race, and regions implies otherwise. It's difficult to imagine an America where all young people work shitty jobs, and are guaranteed desirable work later in their career. There are tons of people out there struggling to keep jobs at all, and there's not a ton of room for self improvement and schooling when you're working two jobs. That's for fit, able bodied people, and doesn't even begin to account for people with disabilities, difficulty with the language, or other points against them.

Just because it worked for you doesn't mean that it scales well enough to work for the entire country. And I would never discount luck in success stories either. Some of us are lucky, some of us aren't.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:12 AM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Class War Turns: It's becoming impossible for Republicans to convince people to ignore economic reality.
posted by homunculus at 10:13 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


JR71, page 6. (pdf)

Over time the value of everyone's work has increased. Most of the gains from the last forty years have been stolen from you, especially over the last 10 or so.

That's what this is about.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 10:14 AM on January 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


I don't see the inequality. Seriously. Yeah, some folks make more than we do. Some make less. So what? Getting pissed off at someone who makes more than I do by a lot doesn't make MY life any better. So they can lobby. Woo - again, so what?

It sounds like you're doing great. While I don't know your specific situation, it does sound like you could easily be one medical disaster away from homelessness, though.
posted by odinsdream at 10:22 AM on January 12, 2012


Russilvong -

You've got some good points - hard work, luck, roll of the genetic dice - lots of factors there, and not all of them under individual control. the little guy is 13, trying to figure out what he wants to be. I'm telling him his life isn't going to be easy, but with hard work and determination, he's got a good chance of doing very well for himself.

And it's quite true. The problem that I see is that the lower schools have essentially stopped teaching that hard work is important. When a failing student gets passed along to stay with his age group - that basically dooms the kid. It doesn't matter that it's done to be socially kind, it's screwing him over educationally. Some will recover from it - but those would have done okay anyway. Some won't, and they'll be lower-class, and it doesn't matter what the intentions are, that's the result.

And that really plays hell with equality of outcomes. If you don't have a good education, you're screwed unless you can manage to educate yourself. That takes a lot of drive and hard work - and if you haven't been taught it, it's hard to learn.

Overall, I don't think 'equality of opportunity' can be guaranteed beyond a certain point. You can provide an education, you can provide health care.

Beyond that - it's up to the person, and as I said if I hadn't decided to get off the couch, I'd likely still be there. You can't provide the desire to do better.
posted by JB71 at 10:22 AM on January 12, 2012


Obama has been engaging in class warfare for three years. On the side of Wall Street.

Matt Taibbi: Obama and Geithner: Government, Enron-Style
posted by homunculus at 10:29 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Stagger Lee: "Just because it worked for you doesn't mean that it scales well enough to work for the entire country."

Let me clarify that. Just because it worked for you 25 years ago does not mean that entry-level jobs with actual career paths are even available today.

That's the whole point of the "inequality growing over time" conversation that we're having. The whole point is that things were easier 25 years ago, and that there was at least some form of meritocracy in place. Hard work generally did pay off, and led to better opportunities. Today, that illusion largely doesn't exist, and the vague notion of a career path is nonexistent to anybody who graduated in the past 5 years, unless you attended an Ivy or sold your soul to the financial industry.

To climb the corporate ladder, hard work generally doesn't pay off. Instead, climbs by projecting that hard work is something that "other people" do. It's not about how much work you do. It's about how much work you delegate.
posted by schmod at 10:34 AM on January 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


The difference is that more and more people are trying, doing everything right and still not "making it". You lifestyle, JB71 is what most people would consider "making it".

If you try you CAN make it but, more and more, trying doesn't mean you WILL make it.

Even then, income inequality has effected you greatly. In some ways, since you've worked so hard for what you have, it has affected you more. If income, as a percentage of GDP were the same today as they were in 1985, both you and your wife would be making 25-30% more each year for doing exactly what you're doing now.

To put it another way, some rich asshole has hire lobbyists to steal $15,000 from you every year and give it to him instead. It's happened slowly over time but it happened.
posted by VTX at 10:36 AM on January 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


Of course class awareness has risen. Recognition of a growing income gap, coupled with actual and dramatic economic hardship for an increasing large population, has made class alignment a powerful tool across the political spectrum. Democrats decry the victimization of poor people by wealthy corporatists, even while wooing the corporations that are raping the working class. Republicans (and Teabaggers especially) howl at the victimization of "the rest of us" by elitist liberals, energizing their populist base to push a free-market philosophy that actually endorses rape of the working class.

Both messages resonate, because more of us think of ourselves as poor---even if only there-but-for-the-grace-of-god poor---than ever before. Only the bogeyman differs. But so what? Since both parties are bought, both bogeymen are also strawmen that serve to diffuse popular discontent without disrupting the going political concerns.
posted by diorist at 10:42 AM on January 12, 2012



Both messages resonate, because more of us think of ourselves as poor---even if only there-but-for-the-grace-of-god poor---than ever before. Only the bogeyman differs. But so what? Since both parties are bought, both bogeymen are also strawmen that serve to diffuse popular discontent without disrupting the going political concerns.
posted by diorist at 10:42 AM on January 12 [+] [!]


Agreed. Voting isn't going to fix this one. There are other ways of affecting change.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:47 AM on January 12, 2012


Odinsdream -

I'm one medical disaster away from death. (Shrug.) Life's like that. No guarantees I won't be clobbered by a chunk of blue ice on the way home, or run over by some texting asshole in a Hummer. My brother came home after a day out at a lake, sat on his bed, and had a heart attack and died before he could reach the phone.

Stagger Lee -

"It's difficult to imagine an America where all young people work shitty jobs, and are guaranteed desirable work later in their career."

There's no guarantee on desireable work. There never was, there never has been. Even a college education isn't a guarantee. Even union membership isn't a guarantee - my late Father in law worked in a steel mill, union member for 30 years, good pay and benefits. Until the steel market collapsed due to imported steel - and instead of the union accepting a 20% cut in wages to keep the mill open, they held fast for the working man... and the mill went bankrupt. Union reps moved elsewhere, they had guaranteed jobs. Everyone else? not so much.

Life is what you make of it. Being pissed off at other people because they've got a fancy car, or big house, or lots of money is a fool's game. It wastes your time and energy.

Orange Pamplemousse -

"Most of the gains from the last forty years have been stolen from you, especially over the last 10 or so."

If you're talking material stuff - cell phones are cheap, TVs are cheap, appliances are better than ever - I think you're looking at graphs 6 and 9 there, and looking at the deviation, and not appreciating just how much more buying power you have now than in, say, 1980 for the same amount of money. That's enabled me to put money away I wouldn't otherwise have been able to. The question is whether you're making enough to live comfortably, not 'what might have been' if a line had continued.

It's also odd that they're not using the same time frame across all 4 graphs on that page. It'd be interesting to see graph 9 on the same timeline as graph 6.

All in all - good points. But the thing is, as I see it, at some point (like teaching a little kid how to ride a bicycle) you have to get hands off and accept there's going to be crashes and bumps and skinned knees and elbows. You can't ride their bike for them - you've got to let them go. Government can do what it can to make sure there's not concrete blocks littering the road, but they can't provide someone to steady and push the bike.
posted by JB71 at 10:52 AM on January 12, 2012


JB71: The little guy is 13, trying to figure out what he wants to be. I'm telling him his life isn't going to be easy, but with hard work and determination, he's got a good chance of doing very well for himself.

Good luck. One other thing we've tried to teach our kids (now 8 and 9) is the importance of picking a field that you're good at, and where you won't have a ton of competition. It's not intuitive that labor is a commodity, subject to supply and demand. Being smart and working hard isn't sufficient to make it. A garbageman may receive a high wage if there's not many people who want to collect garbage, while someone who spent years studying to obtain a doctorate in theology may receive a low wage if there's not many employers who need a theologian. It's supply and demand, not fairness, which determines wages.

Krugman has an interesting article where he tries to predict future trends in demand for labor: White Collars Turn Blue.
posted by russilwvong at 10:59 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


JB71:

Overall, I don't think 'equality of opportunity' can be guaranteed beyond a certain point. You can provide an education, you can provide health care.

Beyond that - it's up to the person, and as I said if I hadn't decided to get off the couch, I'd likely still be there. You can't provide the desire to do better.


I think there's merit to this. But you're making it sound like we already guarantee those two things you mentioned. We don't, not by a long shot.

There's a massive disparity, a world of difference, in the educational conditions for students across the socioeconomic spectrum. Kids in wealthy areas go to schools that are better in every way than poor kids. Also, we don't provide universal health care, and so those costs are spiraling out of control and wrecking people's lives, in addition to creating a huge policy issue w/r/t costs at the institutional level.

The point is, we haven't gotten to the provision of even that measure of equal opportunity yet. Just achieving those two criteria you mentioned would be a colossal and momentous achievement for the good of our country. Once we get those down, we can start thinking about where to stop, but let's get there at least first.

Life is what you make of it. Being pissed off at other people because they've got a fancy car, or big house, or lots of money is a fool's game. It wastes your time and energy.

It's not about being pissed off at inequality itself; it's about ensuring that the wealthy and powerful don't distort economic conditions with the collusion of unethical public servants to award themselves ever-greater portions of the proceeds of our economic output. Inequality itself isn't the problem, business isn't the problem either. It's corruption, corporatism and plutocracy, to put it briefly.
posted by clockzero at 11:00 AM on January 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


VTX -

"To put it another way, some rich asshole has hire lobbyists to steal $15,000 from you every year and give it to him instead. It's happened slowly over time but it happened."

With the complete and total acquiesence of the politician who gets bought. And re-elected, on the promise each time of making things 'fair'.

Obviously, the answer is more government control. Wait... run that by me again?

Stagger Lee -

"Today, that illusion largely doesn't exist, and the vague notion of a career path is nonexistent to anybody who graduated in the past 5 years, unless you attended an Ivy or sold your soul to the financial industry."

I'd tend to disagree with you there, somewhat. IT field, medical field, engineering - as I've said, a college degree isn't a guarantee of anything. But there's a LOT of opportunity out there.

http://www.businessinsider.com/unemployment-by-major-2012-1?op=1

Sucks to be a film major or architecture graduate, though. And you've always got to prove yourself - work your way up in whatever profession you choose.

Besides, who knows what's coming along? The work I do now would have been wild-eyed SF when I graduated from high school. I fell into my current 'career' by accident - I was willing to learn and I knew which end of a screwdriver to grab. I figured at most I'd have 4-5 years of fair pay, and then I'd be back in the bookstore. Then again, my father got into radio repair after WW2 - and dismissed learning about that 'TV crap'. He didn't figure it would ever be anything but a novelty.

Sieze the day, indeed.
posted by JB71 at 11:07 AM on January 12, 2012


"Government can do what it can to make sure there's not concrete blocks littering the road, but they can't provide someone to steady and push the bike."

Except that, per policy, the government is most likely to deregulate the road and simply hope that it indefinitely repels all environmental assaults and entropy. Kinda like what's happening with actual roads.
posted by diorist at 11:11 AM on January 12, 2012


You're putting words in my mouth and you fail to explain why government control, in and of itself, isn't the answer. I would argue that BETTER government control is the answer but we'll never get it with so much money in politics. Instant run-off voting, viable third party, publicly financed elections, etc.
posted by VTX at 11:14 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


VTX, I disagree that extending your analogy is rephrasing you, but I agree with you on IRV and the rest the list.
posted by diorist at 11:18 AM on January 12, 2012


You mis-attributed that quote to me, but that's cool.

I fell into my current 'career' by accident - I was willing to learn and I knew which end of a screwdriver to grab.

I had a similar lucky accident. But I look around at all of the brilliant, hardworking people that I know that haven't been so lucky, and it makes it awfully hard for me to take credit.

I can only speak for myself, but I'm definitely not arguing against creativity, ingenuity, hard work or anything else of that sort. I don't have faith in the free market to reward those though.

Time and again we've seen that employers will pay what they think they can get away with. Historically most of the concessions workers have grabbed have been through withdrawal of services, either through job actions, or during periods in which it was really damn hard to replace workers.

Highly skilled professionals don't get paid more because they're inherently valuable or spent a lot on education, they get paid more because they're difficult to replace if they decide to withdraw their services.

As workers, we don't get anything without a fight. You can either isolate yourself, or you can fight for concessions with the people around you.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:23 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Russilvong -

"It's supply and demand, not fairness, which determines wages."

Precisely. Little guy wants to be a pilot, I'm telling him it wouldn't hurt at all to learn aircraft maintenance and repair. That A&P ticket, I think, will be more of an income generator than a pilot's license, and cost a lot less to boot. (His eyesight won't let him be a military pilot - and getting on with any sort of airline is a difficult prospect at best without a lot of hours of flight time, which is costly to accumulate.)

Clockzero -

"I think there's merit to this. But you're making it sound like we already guarantee those two things you mentioned. We don't, not by a long shot."

Actually, we do. You can get basic health care for free at your county health clinic, including immunizations. And access to public school - but just sitting butts in a classroom isn't going to guarantee an education. Lot of kids don't see any reason at all to study, or even pay attention to the teacher. And as any teacher will tell you, if someone doesn't want to learn, they won't. Highest per-capita spending on students isn't a guarantee of good output - there's other factors than money spent involved...
posted by JB71 at 11:25 AM on January 12, 2012


Until the steel market collapsed due to imported steel - and instead of the union accepting a 20% cut in wages to keep the mill open, they held fast for the working man... and the mill went bankrupt.

Most companies are expropriating the surplus value of the labor of their work force. That's sort of the basis of capitalism as we know it. I'd argue for a more equitable distribution of that surplus.

In the case of companies that truly can't afford to pay their workers... well christ, we're not doing these jobs as charity work.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:26 AM on January 12, 2012


Gotta run, folks - you've given me a lot ot think about...
posted by JB71 at 11:30 AM on January 12, 2012


Obviously, the answer is more government control. Wait... run that by me again?

So you're an anarchist.

No, I'm serious. Your answer is very glib, but it commits you to something that you may or may not be comfortable with.

Either you agree that we, the people, get some benefit out of having a government -- in principle -- or you don't. It sounds like you don't. Maybe you do: in which case you are welcome to your anarchism: as a political philosophy it has a long and storied history, some of which is very good indeed and some of which is less good.

If you do agree, then surely you must also agree that there are better and worse governments in terms of corruption and collusion, in terms of setting rules that benefit everybody or rules that only benefit some people.

What a lot of us non-anarchists are saying is that there is empirical evidence all around us that indicates that the government we right now have -- but not all governments by definition -- has set the rules in a way that benefits the wealthy by allowing them to plunder from the poor. We are also saying -- again, because we are not anarchists -- that government doesn't have to be this way and that, very recently -- in your lifetime, in fact -- it was less this way.

That's not a more government vs less government argument at all, and your glibness indicates that you weren't really paying attention. It's a worse government vs better government argument.

on preview: and now you're leaving.
posted by gauche at 11:32 AM on January 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


JB71, graph 9 is graph six, zoomed in. It's the little orange bit in the upper right.


Your kinda conflating too unrelated points though. The gap between median income and productivity doesn't make cell phones cheap, it just makes them more profitable because now $110 of merchandise is produced per hour as opposed to $100. (Presumably, if you then sell it for $100 there's no change in productivity/hour)

To say it one more way: All of Area Man's Hard Work Finally Pays Off for Employer

posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 11:33 AM on January 12, 2012


JB71:

Actually, we do. You can get basic health care for free at your county health clinic, including immunizations. And access to public school - but just sitting butts in a classroom isn't going to guarantee an education. Lot of kids don't see any reason at all to study, or even pay attention to the teacher. And as any teacher will tell you, if someone doesn't want to learn, they won't. Highest per-capita spending on students isn't a guarantee of good output - there's other factors than money spent involved...

Perhaps you know more about health care at the county level than I do, but I'm skeptical that all counties in the US offer universal basic healthcare. I don't think they're meant to serve as primary care providers. And even if they did, the most expensive needs wouldn't be covered by "basic" healthcare, would they? The point is, we do offer many excellent services in the US, but we're simply not offering universal, comprehensive health care for all children or adults, and there are massive costs associated with failing to do so.

And you're right that simply being in a classroom doesn't guarantee an education. But that was never the issue. The point was that kids have vastly different circumstances in which to either flourish or fail, and that wealthy kids have more opportunities to flourish and more protections against failure. What they do with those chances is up to them and their parents, I agree, but we're back to the issue at hand: equal opportunity is simply not a reality in the US right now.
posted by clockzero at 11:36 AM on January 12, 2012


I have not trouble with anyone's hard work leading to success. Hail to thee, JB71.

I do have trouble with the implication that all who are not successful failed to work hard. Spend some time talking to the laid-off desperately seeking any work, those who've had their homes stolen by mortgage fraud, and those bankrupted by medical events, and you might also.

Granted, believing that all who are suffering economically in our current setup deserve their suffering (and are whiners, to boot) is easier. You'd hardly be alone in choosing that path.

You'd still be wrong though.
posted by emjaybee at 11:37 AM on January 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Anarchist is a funny word.
In this case, you really are groping more towards libertarian. (Although I still resent the right's blatant theft of that.)

The difference isn't in, "should there be a government?" the difference is, "what are we going to replace it with?"

In the case of most anarchist theory, the answer would be a society governed without hierarchy. It's a very generic and broad label, so forgive the vagueness there. Libertarians claim that the void doesn't need to be filled, but in practice the powerful step in, and in the North American context that means employers.

I like to get that stuff straight, because it really just muddies the waters.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:39 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Stagger Lee:

Except that libertarians are quite often minarchists. I'm not sure I see that in JB71's answer, and I'm not sure that what I'm saying doesn't also apply to minarchists. If you agree, in principle, that we need to have a police force, then we can talk about what makes up a good or bad police force. It's the same argumentative move.

I agree that "anarchist" should not, in precise usage, mean Horatio-Alger-Grows-Up-To-Be-Ethan-Edwards, but I didn't have another term handy.
posted by gauche at 11:48 AM on January 12, 2012


One last bit.

Gauche -

A or B the only choice? LOL. Think outside binary, 'k? What I said is what I said, your interpretation's your own.

on preview: and now you're leaving.

Life's like that. Places to go, things to do, so on.

---------

Orange - my bad - sorry, didn't catch that.

--------

emjaybee - "Granted, believing that all who are suffering economically in our current setup deserve their suffering (and are whiners, to boot) is easier." didn't say that. Said that opportunty was there, not a guaranteed outcome. Life's like that.



Stagger Lee -

"Most companies are expropriating the surplus value of the labor of their work force. That's sort of the basis of capitalism as we know it. I'd argue for a more equitable distribution of that surplus."

The mill owners wanted to keep the mill open, to provide jobs. The union wouldn't bend on what was paid - and (at least by FIL's account, they paid damn good.) - and the mill went under. Union reps moved elsewhere. He had little good to say about 'em, but it was a sweet ride while it lasted.
posted by JB71 at 11:49 AM on January 12, 2012


You won't hear me defending paid, entrenched positions for union reps.
All of my favorite models rotate them back to the shop floor or keep them there to begin with, and ensure that their wages remain consistent with the wages of workers.

Kind of the same sort of thing I'd like to see happen to employers, in my rosy imagined world. ;)
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:52 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


The glibness again.

What you said, sir, is not an argument. Indeed, much of what you have said is anecdata having the form of, "I got mine, therefore everything's fine." That you have worked hard for what you have is commendable, but your situation stops at the end of your nose.

This letter says a lot of what I want to say to you, more respectfully than I have patience to say it right now. I encourage you to consider the content of the message, and not merely the domain name that is hosting it.
posted by gauche at 12:07 PM on January 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Empath: The Democrats are going to destroy Romney on the Bain thing in the general, I think.

I'll bet you $10,000, you're entirely right.
posted by Skygazer at 12:29 PM on January 12, 2012


"Life's like that" = I am politically powerless and cannot imagine a different world.
posted by kaspen at 12:32 PM on January 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Only real debt left is under $10k on credit cards"

Behold, the hard working American. Gaze upon his works, and despair.
posted by dglynn at 12:47 PM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Has this been said yet?

HERP DERP BOOTSTRAPS
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 1:08 PM on January 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


I know several people who got into tech careers in the 90's with no college degree, and several who did it with degrees in English or philosophy.

I know no one who has gotten into a tech career in the past 5 years without a degree in the field plus extensive work experience. It is perhaps true that the technology industry has changed and bootstraps are not as useful as they once were.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:51 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think JB71 has made an honest attempt to engage in this debate and certainly represents the opinions of a good chunk of people in this country. I appreciate everyone who is similarly engaging with what he has to say because he is certainly not alone in his perspective.

From my perspective, I don't think people understand how much has changed in the past 20-30 years in terms of social mobility and inequality. The US has become less mobile and more unequal--the statistics are pretty unequivocal on that. That doesn't mean that no-one gets ahead and no-one makes it. There will always be those who do through hard work, luck and a myriad of other factors. What it does mean is that the odds of doing so have become much lower than they used to be, and I suspect it is one reason people are becoming more aware of class.
posted by idb at 2:01 PM on January 12, 2012 [4 favorites]



From my perspective, I don't think people understand how much has changed in the past 20-30 years in terms of social mobility and inequality.


Since Reagan and the air traffic controllers perhaps.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:03 PM on January 12, 2012


The funny thing is that this class discussion is so new to so many people.

"We are a classless society" is a modern meme. At the turn of the last century ( in the midst of the Gilded Age, when workers were screwed hard, long and publicly), you can bet your ass Americans understood class and class politics. It took years of struggle -many times violent struggle- and HELP FROM THE GOVERNMENT to turn the tide and create the middle class.

The right has worked very hard for the last sixty years to get us where we are today. Things have most definitely turned for the worse in my lifetime. (I'll be 51 this month.)The country is finally beginning to consider relearning what we already knew, though.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:26 PM on January 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think the thing that NB71 misses is the trends. Just look at the increase in wealth disparity. Extrapolate. With every year that passes the odds against your son achieving the level of success you've achieved get worse. Every year there will be fewer lucky/correct choices for him to make. His opportunity to succeed will be less than yours was. Is that what you want for him?

Do you believe these trends will halt, or reverse themselves? By themselves? What are your bases for that belief?
posted by Trochanter at 4:16 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I''d like to pop a quick comment on this thread hoping i will have more time to read it more later: about self reliance. I gather from a natgeo documentary, one of the very few with material on north Korea ( yes i know not the best source but bear with that for a moment) that sizable portion of the Dear Leader indoctrination was having the population believe self reliance and autharchy were the only way to survive capitalist assault.
eventually the nkorea population was completely isolated from any piece of news about different solutions, thus they still pretty much believe they live in the best possible world.

the enphasis is on self-reliance mass rethoric : we (you little people) should not complain about working 12 hours day for a pittance while Dear leader sips cognac ! you all should be proud of your self realiance , else capitalist will slain you!
similarly, you little us and euro people should work twice as hard with no insurance you'll ever be able to make ends meet... but lacking a communist evil to blame... you should just accept the overpowering reality of the all knowing market , an invisible entity that knows what's best for everybody.
posted by elpapacito at 5:06 PM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you read the Pew actual report, the subject line here is false.

"Perceptions of class conflict" and "the belief that these disputes are intense" have become more prevalent, especially since 2009.

While the survey results show a significant shift in public perceptions of class conflict in American life, they do not necessarily signal an increase in grievances toward the wealthy. It is possible that individuals who see more conflict between the classes think that anger toward the rich is misdirected. Nor do these data suggest growing support for government measures to reduce income inequality.

In fact, other questions in the survey show that some key attitudes toward the wealthy have remained largely unchanged. For example, there has been no change in views about whether the rich became wealthy through personal effort or because they were fortunate enough to be from wealthy families or have the right connections.

But please. Don't let the actual facts stop anyone from having fun.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:16 PM on January 12, 2012


But please. Don't let the actual facts stop anyone from having fun.

Your link is exactly the same as mine (although, for some reason, they are slightly different URLs).

You are pulling two paragraphs and saying we've read it wrong. I disagree.

Most Americans don't hate the rich. Nor do they begrudge them to right to get or be rich - as long as they don't game the system. This survey, and this post, are not about hating the rich.

It's about class conflict awareness, and if I may quote from your link:

"Virtually all major demographic groups now perceive significantly more class conflict than two years ago."
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:44 PM on January 12, 2012


I don't think Bain will be that useful for the democrats. Romney wasn't Gordon Gecko and ultimately he was a successful businessman which may easily become the story. Bain may help with the lefty enthusiasm gap but I can't see it swaying independents.

I hope that "release your tax returns" becomes a HUGE meme on the web and interviews and in posters in the background of speeches and tv grabs. It's the tax return issue that will CRUSH Romney because they'll show he pays less tax than the 99% because of the capital gains rates. It will destroy his credibility (well, along with all the other foot shooting, hypocritical balderdash that spills from his vicious and spiteful mouth).
posted by peacay at 8:43 PM on January 12, 2012


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