Americans are mad as hell and we’re not going to take this anymore

Race relations are the touchstone for the current outrage. But the principle reason for the outrage has more to do with the political divide within the country after four decades of ruinous economic policies.

Yep, and if you still hold the hope that it can be “fixed” through peaceful political processes, you do not understand the problem. — jtl, 419

via Personal Liberty

angry american voter“Americans are slow to anger, but once they do get angry, they are impossible to stop.” — Kathleen Troia McFarland, former speech writer to Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger

Revolts come to a boil like water in a saucepan. At first, there are a few bubbles. And then suddenly, there’s an eruption of molecules crashing together in a furious frenzy. Vladimir Lenin said, “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” It has been so from the Bronze Age through the Arab Spring.

It is not surprising that America is on a slow simmer as mass protests break out ostensibly over the way police treat blacks. That anger is in some cases reasonable for the ongoing street demonstrations, but the actions of police in 2014 are no different than they were in 1994 or 1974.

In August, USA Today reported:

Nearly two times a week in the United States, a white police officer killed a black person during a seven-year period ending in 2012, according to the most recent accounts of justifiable homicide reported to the FBI.

On average, there were 96 such incidents among at least 400 police killings each year that were reported to the FBI by local police. …

The reports show that 18% of the blacks killed during those seven years were under age 21, compared to 8.7% of whites.

And while the data before that period hasn’t been compiled, I suspect this rate is no higher than it was in the 1990s and probably lower than it was in the 1960s.

Race relations are the touchstone for the current outrage. But the principle reason for the outrage has more to do with the political divide within the country after four decades of ruinous economic policies. Today, there are close to 50 million Americans living in poverty who need “supplemental measures,” which is government-speak for handouts.

According to Planet Money, food stamps keep 5 million people barely above the poverty line while Social Security keeps more than half of all Americans 65 and older out of poverty.

It is not just that one-sixth of Americans are poor. More than half are not doing as well as they were a decade ago, and they aren’t doing nearly as well as the average American was doing four decades ago.

Last summer, Forbes contributor Louis Efron wrote: “Despite the significant decrease in the official U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) unemployment rate, the real unemployment rate is over double that at 12.6%.”

The discrepancy comes from another polite word Washington uses, the “marginally attached,” which should be renamed the “barely surviving.” Those are Americans who want to work but have been unemployed for more than four weeks. They, along with “involuntary part-time workers” (those who want to work full time but their hours have been cut back), total almost 10 million. That is 10 million Americans who are scraping by to survive. I believe a good estimate of the number of Americans who understand that they are doing far less well than they used to do is tens of millions.

It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile

In 2009, the U.S. auto industry employed 880,000 people. That was 435,000 fewer than it employed at the beginning of the decade. The decline in the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs has continued unabated through 2014, and I know of no economist who expects that trend not to continue.

Consider that the membership in the United Auto Workers union topped out at 1.5 million in 1978 and stands today at about 400,000. Making a good living at the auto plant or any other manufacturing plant out of high school is a thing of the past. That is bad news for the ex-middle class but a bonanza for companies like Walmart, which employs 1.4 million Americans and pays the majority of them less than $12 an hour.

I, too, would be angry if my dad worked at the Oldsmobile plant back in the day and built our family a good life with a high school education while I, with a college education, lived on the edge of existence while working as a cashier. Take that anger from one person, apply it to the millions of Americans who have seen manufacturing jobs disappear over a generation and you can see why the nation could be at a tipping point.

Occupy Wall Street was the first bubble to boil

The 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was recently celebrated. While it seemed at the time to be spontaneous combustion, those who understood history saw the initial breakup of the Soviet Union beginning in Poland in 1980. It was that tiny spark from the Solidarity movement that a decade later unchained Eastern Europe.

Future writings of the American revolt may date to the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011. Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that while there were “bad actors” in those protests, he also realized they struck a nerve with many Americans. Romney later expressed sympathy for the movement, saying, “I look at what’s happening on Wall Street and my view is, boy, I understand how those people feel.” If a rich man like Romney could understand how the downtrodden feel, I suspect many millions of Americans understand how the downtrodden feel.

Nothing civil about civil war

This feeling of not being heard, of not mattering, of the country being run by corporations and of our elected representatives being bought and paid for by the mega rich is creating a rage that is leading people to protest. It would be naïve to believe it is solely happening because cops are killing blacks (and whites for that matter).

For his 1978 movie “Network,” Paddy Chayefsky famously wrote this line: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

What the protests tell me is that America is at an epochal shift. Race relations are a factor, but there are many others: anger at the president, anger at Congress and anger over taxation, as the divide grows between Americans who want to be productive and those who will enslave themselves to government in return for a welfare existence.

Soldier and diplomat Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb studied the lifecycle of empires. He found that typically empires last 250 years, or 10 generations, from the pioneers to the conspicuous takers.

The United States has existed for 240 years. The current political system of the U.S. may have a decade left or perhaps longer. But given the Internet, I would not count on it.

Yours in good times and bad,

–John Myers


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