Friday, January 6, 2012

Will Americans Ever Get It? They Will NEVER Get Ahead!

In his recent blog (‘Our Suicidal Ruling Class’) Ted Rall noted:

"To be poor in the United States is not unusual. Half of Americans live under two times the poverty line. But the depth and persistence of poverty in America is unique among developed industrialized nations. The gap between the poor and the rich is bigger. Mobility--access to the American Dream--is less.

Born rich? You'll more likely to die rich in the U.S. than in other countries. Born poor? You're likelier to die poor."

This is a statement that no one in his or her right mind should quarrel with. For example, in an earlier blog:

I noted how a majority of Americans has been duped by a sustained false consciousness implanted by the elites (including the media and political elite) into believing America is a “classless” society and upward mobility still exists. This is mostly horse manure, and a merely consistent observer can show it doesn’t hold up. For example, as Rall observes, Miles Corak, an economist at the University of Ottawa, found that just 16 percent of Canadian men raised in the bottom tenth of incomes stayed there as adults, compared with 22 percent of Americans. Similarly, 26 percent of American men raised at the top tenth stayed there, but just 18 percent of Canadians. In other words economic status is much more birth-determined in the U.S. than in Canada.

An earlier, more concrete study of class in relation to income level in the U.S. was a (2003) survey conducted by The Economic Policy Institute. It asked generally where people thought they were in the economic spectrum: upper 1% (earning $320,000 year or more); upper 5% (> $80,000) or where?A full 19% in this random survey claimed they were in the privileged class of the top 1%. A virtual statistical impossibility in any random study.

In fact, internal survey cross-check questions on income category showed many of these working at a little above minimum wage, and even the highest were at barely $44,000/yr. Nowhere near the 1% threshold! Other commentators on this study (e.g. Froma Harrop, Ellen Goodman) pointed to this ignorance as a basis for supporting such crap as the Bush tax cuts, which overwhelmingly favored the rich elites. Thus, these befuddled workers who fancied themselves statistical hotshots were in reality carrying grist for the 1% even as they likely toiled in crap jobs that provided no potential for enhancement.

In fact, they were deliriously out of touch with reality. As author Michael Parenti has noted ('The Dirty Truth') 94% of all wealth comes by way of inheritance, not paid work. So, they are fooling themselves.

Or to put in much more blunt fashion, as the author of the new piece in Esquire does (‘We Are Not All Created Equal’, January, p. 54):

Nobody wants to admit: if your daddy was rich, you’re gonna stay rich and if your daddy was poor you’re gonna stay poor.”

As the author then elaborates, correctly based on my earlier blog (see link above) on False Consciousness and Class Consciousness’:

Every instinct in the American gut, every institution, every national symbol, runs on the idea that anyone can make it; the only limits are your own limits.

Which is an amazing idea, a gift to the world- just no longer true. As Americans continue to glide through a ghostly land of opportunity they can’t bear to tell themselves it isn’t real. It’s the most dangerous lie the country tells itself.

More than anything else, class now determines Americans’ fates

Bingo! But why don’t Americans get it? Why do they lack the moxie to accept that an Overclass will determine how far they get and nothing else? Several reasons!

1) Americans are obdurate and perennial optimists. Unlike Germans whose native instincts are always to perceive the economic downsides of situations – so they’re more like to detect how they’re being gamed or suckered – Americans typically put the blinkers on. No where is this more evident than in how both sexes approach the stock market. Most American males, raised in hubris and bravado, believe they can beat the market by multiple trades and end up losing most of the time (more than 70%). Women, trained to be more cautious, trade much less and in more conservative outlets and gain more consistently. This same false optimism of most males, especially white, makes them disavow how they’re getting their asses kicked by a gamed economic system. No wonder then, that 63% of white males voted against Obama in 2008. Hell if they were going to buy into a “socialist” equalizer’s “dependency”. But….they bet against their own welfare.

2) Americans more often fall prey to the fundamental attribution error ( which reinforces inequality in society) because of their over-optimism. This error is such that (‘Maxine Baca- Zinn and D. Stanley Eitzen, In Conflict and Order, 1991):

It tends to credit or blame individuals for their level of failure or success without considering the aspects of the social structure that impel or impede their progress. Thus, it results in praise of the system and condemnation of individuals who are defined as losers.”

Thus, the fundamental attribution error (mostly made by working class whites) works to perfect effect and in favor of the American Overclass because it causes an entire dispossessed electoral segment to screw themselves so the Overclass needn’t fret over their rage. They simply redirect that rage at minorities (immigrants, blacks, or women) while they stick with the political rascals (GOP) that did them in the first time.

This in turn leads to workers who are prepared to tolerate any amount of systematic abuse from a corrupt system, because they lay the blame on their own "lack of ambition" or some other false excuse contrived by the corporate thought controllers to deflect blame from their own greed.

This may well be at the heart and core of why so many of the working and middle classes vote against their own best interests: Precisely because they blame all or most of their failures to get ahead on themselves, instead of the vicious system of economic tyranny (described as “brutal economics’ in the Esquire piece) that was originally devised by Vilfredo Pareto (Pareto Optimality) and continues to be advocated by American economists with few exceptions (e.g. Paul Krugman)

Meanwhile, the evidence is abundantly around us – for those who have eyes to see- that we are in a society at least three times more unequal than that which existed in the 50s. Back then only one spouse needed to work, bank interest at 4-5% kept passbook savings flush and the middle class had the potential for growth.

Now, all of that is inverted: both spouses usually need to work, often at two jobs each, bank passbook interest is near zero percent so people either have next to nothing or chase risky yield in the stock market, and the middle class numbers are crashing as the Gini coefficient and index (the prime measure of inequality) approaches values peculiar to the Philippines and Mexico.

Meanwhile, as the attached graphic shows, hourly compensation costs - for manufacturing- have absolutely plummeted in the U.S. relative to the OECD countries (the other developed industrialized nations) and Canada. In 2010, for example, wage and benefits costs in the U.S. were barely one half what they were in Canada. As Canadian workers demand higher wages now, their bosses point to the U.S. and say: "You want us to move there for our labor?" In other words, like China and India the U.S. has become another weapon by the Overclass to leverage a race to the bottom for everyone else!

Do credentials or education matter? Not in the U.S. class system whose overseers determine a priori who they will admit through the gates and who gets left back.

In 2011 alone, roughly 85% of college grads in the U.S., according to the Esquire piece, moved back home “where they sit with an average debt of $27,200”. Is this a formula for upward mobility? Hardly, especially when most will likely achieve jobs vastly below their educational levels.

But….this is how the Overclass elites want it. They prefer the rarefied economic stratosphere of very few competitors at the upper reaches of already dwindling wealth (as the planet's finite resources are consumed and commodities prices soar). The less to compete the more for them….and they can continue to enjoy their rose wine wraps, foie gras and endless 18 holes at St. Kitts.

Maybe they never heard of what befell the likes of Marie Antoinette after she told one of her advisors, who warned of mass unrest:

Let them eat cake!”

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