Monday, May 2, 2016

U.S. Society - Why Such A Toxic Effect On Families, Workers?

Yesterday, 'May Day' or International Workers Day in much of the rest of the world, is often called the "Socialist's Labor Day". It is a day for many in socialist nations to reflect on the meaning of work, and whether it is still possible to have purposeful paid work in globalized, capitalist mercantile societies that often value profits over people.

As author Michael Parenti has noted ('America Besieged'), at its best work is ennobling and also humane, allowing families and individuals to live in some degree of relative comfort - as opposed to depredation and deprivation. That doesn't mean living the life of Riley but it does mean being able to afford the basic necessities:  sufficient food, adequate clothing, housing and health care. The problem is that outside the socialist nations, citizens are too often either not able to earn the living wages needed for life's necessities or - if they do - these are only attained at enormous social and psychological cost (i.e. working 2 or 3 low wage jobs).. This dual deficit has led to stupendous suicide rates, mental illness (1 of 10 Americans), startling homicide frequency,  as well as other manifestations of a toxic social fabric. One is thus led to inquire into the factors giving rise to such societal toxicity

As we near the end of the political primary season, faced with two of the worst presidential candidates ever- in terms of their negatives - one must ask if either of them can convert the U.S. into a less toxic society. The answers, alas, are not designed to inspire confidence, and the choice between a bombastic proto-fascist billionaire and a war hawk Neoliberal who fetishizes Netanyahu and Israel, may well turn into what might be called a "Hobson's choice".  Point being, either one of these two as President has the potential to render this nation even less hospitable for many, and intolerable for more than a few. See, for example, William Rivers Pitt's take here:

Quoting blogger David Swanson:

"If you've just seen Michael Moore's movie and are wondering how in the world the United States got diverted into the slow lane to hell, go watch Noam Chomsky's movie. If you've just seen Noam Chomsky's movie and are wondering whether the human species is really worth saving, go see Michael Moore's movie. If you haven't seen either of these movies, please tell me that you haven't been watching presidential debates. As either of these movies would be glad to point out to you, that's NOT HOW YOU CHANGE ANYTHING"

This elicits the question of what exactly needs to be changed. For a frame of reference see the Wall Street Journal piece from 6 weeks, ago, 'Populists Reject Economic Orthodoxy'. You will agree it is the economic orthodoxy inherent in Neoliberal capitalist dogma. As author Greg Ip notes, for most election cycles Wall Street and the economic elites don't worry because "once in office presidents of both parties tend to hew to economic orthodoxy".

So to the economic orthodoxy bunch,  a choice between Hillary and the Donald is really between Tweedledee and Tweedledum given both are in the pockets of Wall Street.

True, for a time these wizards of Wall Street and highbrow media overlords were terrified because well, Bernie Sanders appeared quite serious in his determination to break up the big banks, assure free public college and establish a universal health care standard like many civilized nations of Europe. And he was, despite the skinny circulated by the MSM that he "lived in fantasy land'  and "didn't know what he was talking about". The fact is he DID know, and THAT is what terrified the living fuck out of them. This had all of them (especially the Neolibs ensconced at the WaPo)  grabbing their balls because Bernie's prescriptions threatened the speculator-debt model of Neoliberalism. As Ip quoted one analyst at Cornerstone Marco:

"A President Sanders could 'beat the tar' out of banks" i.e. using everything from regulatory executive orders to the bully pulpit.

Well, that's because the Neoliberal order needs to be changed. Because unless it is, Americans and their nation will be hurled pell mell into an economic shit pit. This is no lie.  Working parents now more than ever say they feel stressed, tired, rushed and short on quality time with their children, friends, partners or hobbies, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

That tension is negatively affecting American family life, Pew found. Fifty-six percent of all working parents say the balancing act is difficult, and those who do are more likely to say that parenting is tiring and stressful, and less likely to find it always enjoyable and rewarding. For example, half of those who said the work-family balance was not difficult said parenting was enjoyable all the time, compared with 36 percent of those who said balance was difficult.

In a 1989 book called “The Second Shift,” the sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild described the double burden employed mothers face because they are also responsible for housework and child care. Last year she said that despite some changes in society, the workplace had not changed enough to alleviate the problems. In a book last year, “All Joy and No Fun,” the journalist Jennifer Senior described how little had improved: Working parents face similar stresses, but they are now exacerbated by inordinate tensions affecting American family life, Pew found.

Fifty-six percent of all working parents say the balancing act is difficult, and those who do are more likely to say that parenting is tiring and stressful, and less likely to find it always enjoyable and rewarding. For example, half of those who said the work-family balance was not difficult said parenting was enjoyable all the time, compared with 36 percent of those who said balance was difficult.

Of full-time working parents, 39 percent of mothers and 50 percent of fathers say they feel as if they spend too little time with their children. Fifty-nine percent of full-time working mothers say they don’t have enough leisure time, and more than half of working fathers say the same. Of parents with college degrees, 65 percent said they found it difficult to balance job and family; 49 percent of nongraduates said the same. Pew did not investigate why, but one reason might be that professional workers are more likely than hourly workers to be expected to work even after they leave the office. However, they also tend to have more flexibility during the day.

The survey also found that white parents were more than 10 percentage points more likely to express stress than nonwhite parents. Historically, white and black mothers have been more likely to work outside the home than Asian and Latina mothers, and foreign-born mothers have been particularly likely to stay home, Pew has found.

In 46 percent of all two-parent households, both parents work full-time, according to Pew, up from 31 percent in 1970. The share of households with a mother who stays home has declined to 26 percent from 46 percent. Pew surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,807 parents in every state on both landlines and cellphones.

Other data also show that working parents are the new norm. Sixty percent of children now live in households where all the parents at home work at least part time, up from 40 percent in 1965, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
The shift has economic implications. The median household income for a family in which both parents work full time is $102,400, according to Pew, compared with $84,000 when mothers work part time and $55,000 when they stay home. The data highlight the complicated trade-offs that working families make. 
Forty-one percent of working mothers said being a parent made it harder to advance in their careers, compared with 20 percent of fathers. Men’s careers took priority more often than women’s did, though the majority said they were equal. Fathers earned more than mothers in half of full-time working families, the same as mothers in about a quarter and less than mothers in a quarter.

Add to that the new evidence that the quantity and quality of sleep one gets is directly dependent on one's income level, and you have the basis for why many of the middle and working class are fed up, and gravitate to outsiders like Sanders and Trump. They understand the whole system is rigged against them and on their daily "gerbil wheel" they are likely to have more health problems - including mental - and also more likely to lose it. See more on this aspect here:

Michael Parenti  (America Besieged), highlighted the origin of many of these toxic elements more than 20 years ago. He showed the country's social welfare and economic indicators disclose it's not the "land of opportunity" portrayed by the Neoliberal elites and political class.   In his chapter 'Hidden Holocaust, USA' ,  Parenti demolishes the myth that the country is on an ever upward path - and instead we have an insidious, media-inserted embolism of false consciousness and delusion mind-fucking the majority. He cites a typical year’s statistics to start, showing how these vary little year to year in the US of A:

Amongst the items noted then (ibid., pp. 3-6):

- 27,000 commit suicide each year

-23,000 murdered each year

-5.5 million arrested each year

- 25 million seek mental health assistance

-6.5 million use crack, speed, heroin, PCP or some other hard drug on a regular basis each year

- 37 million use emotion-controlling or numbing drugs, to face reality. Their own false optimism and delusions aren't enough to get them through the day

- 1.3 million suffer permanent kidney damage from treatments received at hospitals each year

-80 million go to some type of psychological counselor each year

- Up to 4 million women are beaten, battered

- More than 30,000 children are left permanently disabled each year from neglect and battering

- One woman is raped every 45 seconds throughout the year (700,000 in all a year)

-14,000 are killed on the job each year

- 60,000 are killed directly by toxic, environmental pollutants each year, 300,000 more get cancer from environmental toxins each year and die

- 5 million workers injured seriously on the job each year

Is this a country on a path of enhanced social advancement or improved national integrity? Hardly!  Now, the SPI stats confirm it.  The results also confirm eco-economist Herman Daly's assertion that GDP is a poor barometer to measure national health.    Thus, while the U.S. sports the second highest per capita GDP of $45,336, it ranks in an underperforming 16th place overall. It gets worse. The U.S. ranks 70th in health, 69th in ecosystem sustainability, 39th in basic education, 34th in access to water and sanitation and 31st in personal safety.

In other words, we're bordering on the conditions of a third world country. Allow a few more years of mass fracking to continue, despoiling our water sources (especially out here in the drought prone West) and we will likely join the likes of Malawi and Mauritania.   Allow the intolerable existing economic inequality to metastasize and we will - as a nation - soon sport a murder rate higher than Jamaica's.

Will either a President Hillary Clinton or a President Donald Trump reverse the destructive trends and provide the hard solutions needed to become a more humane and responsible society and nation? The indicators all show this is about as likely as an advanced race of aliens landing from the 3rd planet of Tau Ceti and taking over, since we've made such a mess of this planet.

Evidently neither the Hillary Cult or the Donald Cult see this and care. They'd rather retain the status quo with all that implies: More 'Holocaust USA'.   They'd also rather make sundry specious excuses for not acting and simply doing the same things we have been over and over again: keeping a minimum wage below survival levels when it ought to be at least $22/ hr (taking into account the rate of inflation since 1960), disallowing paid leave for illness or sick family members, and dispatching all the best paying jobs and benefits to foreign lands where cheap labor reigns - as Carrier recently announced (sending 1,400 jobs from Indiana to Mexico where the pay rate is $6/hr instead of $34/hr).

Fulfilling the very definition of insanity given by Einstein "doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result". In this case, a better, more improved America. Sorry, not going to happen!

See also:

No comments: