Thursday, April 2, 2015

(#181-1) April 2015. To hell with being scared. It is time to act. But are we too scared to act—or too ignorant?








From NYT April 1 2015 by Thomas B. Edsall

Over the past three decades, the American economy has become less vigorous. An extensive body of evidence shows that the public focus on the success of high-tech companies like Apple and Google masks an overall downward trend in key measures of business vitality.

“Business deaths now exceed business births for the first time in the thirty-plus year history of our data,” note Ian Hathaway and Robert E. Litan, economists at the Brookings Institution, in a May 2014 essay, “Declining Business Dynamism in the United States.”

There is widespread support for their assertion. Jim Clifton, chairman and C.E.O. of Gallup, wrote in a January 2015 essay, “American Entrepreneurship: Dead or Alive?”:

Until 2008, start-ups outpaced business failures by about 100,000 a year. But in the past six years, that number has suddenly turned upside down. There has been an underground earthquake.

I seem to be running into more and more frightened people these days—and frightened people do not behave well. The solutions are straightforward, but are blocked by the Right Wing (Republicans)  who simply do not want to govern (and aren’t very good at it when they try).  

They are also blocked by the Left Wing (Democrats) who have become so addicted to being funded by Big Business (particularly the financial sector) that they are are very reluctant to do anything which might threaten that cozy situation. In fact, they refuse to discuss the failings of the American Business Model with the clarity required. They more nibble around the edges.

What do the Democrats stand for? I’m damned if I know.

The people who are closest to getting to grips with the issues are the Progressives—who are more or less (open to debate) a subset of the Democrats. By and large, they have good policies—somewhat akin to those of European Social Democrats—but, so far, have not succeeded in resonating adequately with the American public.

One exception is Senator Elizabeth Warren—an extremely effective and articulate woman—whose main problem is that she suffers from that most serious of American maladies, lack of name recognition.

It is my belief that Americans, despite being seriously uninformed about the economic forces at work—not entirely surprising given who owns and controls the media—are far more frightened than either the media, or people in general, are prepared to admit.

Of course we don’t admit to being scared out of our minds. Our self image is of relentlessly optimistic rugged individuals—entirely indifferent to facts—but guided by ‘gut feel.’

Most Americans have good reason to be afraid. Many of the assumptions that have underpinned the American Way of Life have proved to be no more than myths, the current American Business Model is corrupt, predatory, and clearly not delivering, and the trend lines are ominous.

A good friend of mine argues that the U.S., right now, is in a state of ‘moral panic.’

Wikipedia defines ‘moral panic’ as:

an intense feeling expressed in a population about an issue that appears to threaten the social order.[1]Moral panics are in essence controversies that involve arguments and social tension, and in which agreement is difficult because the matter at its centre is taboo.[2] The media are key players in the dissemination of moral indignation, even when they do not appear to be consciously engaged in crusading or muckraking. Simply reporting the facts can be enough to generate concern, anxiety or panic.[3]

I like the phrase, though I’m not entirely happy with the definition. But, one characteristic is that people’s behavior deteriorates when in such a state—as it does when the word ‘panic’ alone is considered adequate to describe the situation.

Is our behavior deteriorating—particularly within economic parameters?

It seems self-evident that it is—and the increasing lack of trust in almost everything except the military (about which most Americans know impressively little) suggests that most Americans know it.

The next stage, if we were a Latin American Banana Republic (one of those countries exploited by a few ultra-rich people, without a middle class, and with most people poor—which the U.S. regards with some contempt) would suggest a coup might be in order.

That is unlikely to happen—because it already has. The ultra-rich have the controls—the rest of us are locked out—and they are flying us straight into a mountain.

The good news? It is an American mountain. This is an exercise in self-destruction.

Who knew that ending up owning all the marbles would be so depressing?

VOR words c.400.


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