Class Warfare Blog

April 19, 2017

Bashing Conservatives

I was commenting on something posted on Swarn Gill’s very good blog “Cloak Unfurled” and I thought that you, my wonderful readers (Practicing your pandering you are. Shut up, Yoda.) might like to share. The topic was “liberals bashing conservatives.”

The current liberal bashing of conservatives is, in my opinion, a delayed response to the conservative bashing that began before there was social media. The phenomenon that was Rush Limbaugh is a good marker. Prior to Mr. Limbaugh, bashing of liberals had few column inches anywhere and no distinct voice. Before the first Gulf War I found his radio show and actually enjoyed listening to it as he lambasted caricatures of liberals (Femi-Nazis, etc.). At first this seemed in good fun but then I noted a commitment to lying that caused me to turn him off. He then became almost 100% politics-focused but kept bashing the liberal side as clueless, etc. In his footsteps, there followed the Fox (sic) News hordes and Glenn Beck, etc.

There was no particular response from the left-wing media (as claiming a liberal bias has always been a lie—to true conservatives, the truth has always been left-wing).

With the advent of social media, the anonymity provided right-wingers cowed into keeping their mouths shut due to social pressure (Why can’t we call a nigger a nigger? What’s wrong with that?) now had voices not subject to social pressure, in fact they could bask in the amounts of social outrage (impotent rage) that they could provoke. And now we have liberals bashing of conservatives … anonymously and the world turns

This escalation of rage in the debate, however, serves only one group: the oligarchs already in control of the U.S. government. While our heads are spinning around, we aren’t addressing our sole problem, the one solutions to all of the other problems must lead through, … them. For them Donald Trump, the master distracter is a god send. Until we address the oligarchs and pull their fangs, swathed with money, we will not be able to get through to climate change, off shoring of jobs, the real problems we face because they will just have too many paid thugs running interference for them.

 

April 11, 2017

Find Jesus … or Not

This series is propaganda and little more. (I should write this a dozen more times but I don’t want to waste my time typing or your time reading.) This series claims to be an investigation, but they only seem to find out what they already knew. (I’m shocked, I tell you, shocked!) The series states “Finding Jesus discovers fascinating new insights into the historical Jesus, utilizing the latest scientific techniques and archaeological research.” So, in this episode (Doubting Thomas) the singular scientific attempt to gain new information is the testing of a relic thought to be an arm bone of the disciple Thomas. The interesting thing is that it was found in India. Oh, and I have yet to observe a new insight, fascinating or not, but that is just my humble opinion.

As with all of the past episodes I have seen the first half hour of this show is a restatement of the scriptural account of the characters under examination. Of course there are re-enactments. I really have sympathy for the actor chosen to play Jesus because, try as he might he does come across as smarmy from time to time. Tough role to play. (I am not a god, but I play one on TV.)

The talking heads offer such gems as “Christianity came to India … why not by St. Thomas?” I don’t know, why not Howard the Duck?

They get the sciencey question out immediately, namely will C-14 dating of a relic support the Christian tradition of St. Thomas going to India, there to create churches and baptize many Indians? This is, of course, a tease as they will not answer this question until the very end of the show.

Since the New Testament drops the disciples of Jesus like a hot rock after the resurrection narrative, the show calls upon just snippets from the Gospel of John, you know the one written a hundred years after the actual events and many decades after the first three had been in circulation. (The author of “John” had axes to grind and grind them he did.) In addition they call on the Acts of the Apostles which, if you have read it, doesn’t say much at all about the apostles/disciples unless you consider Paul to have been one. (You know Paul, the “apostle” who only met Jesus in his fevered mind.) But not to worry, just because the normal sources have little to nothing to say about the disciple Thomas, we are rescued by The Acts of Thomas, written at least two hundred years after the supposed events of the gospels. This document was in circulation in the 4th C. CE and has been dated to the 3rd C. The surviving Syriac manuscripts, however, have been edited to purge them of the most unorthodox overtly gnostic passages, so that the Greek versions reflect the earlier tradition. I take note that such documents are considered apocryphal (translation: of doubtful authenticity, spurious) by official sources, at least until they are needed to support Christian arguments and then they become “Christian traditions.”

So, we are treated to re-enactments of events described in The Acts of Thomas as if it were holy scripture. Hey, its a good story, so what the heck.

We get breathlessly interrupted with breaking news that we now have evidence that a king who was mentioned in the Acts of Thomas, but who was thought to be mythical, seems to have been a real person. The source was the discover in the 19th C of coins with his name and likeness on them. So much for the latest scientific techniques. The coins were dated to about 60 CE.

But we are told about the Christians in southern India who have been there since the 3rd C. CE and possibly could have been there as early as the 2nd C CE and, oh, what the heck, could possibly even date back to the 1st C CE. Realize that to these people a possibility is a wide-open thing. One of the talking heads chipped in with “Since many people went to India, Thomas could have, too.” Brilliant!

It turns out that the spice trade had already established a healthy degree of contact between southern India and the west. (This is common knowledge.) There was even a community of Jews in place about that time, presumably mostly merchants.

Let ’em take a moment and establish a few time markers. The gospels do not list the ages of the disciples, but since these were all working members of the local communities of the area, we assume they were not children. This would be especially true since if the disciples were to be of any use, they had to have some standing in the community. So, as a rough guess, they would be around Jesus age. This would make Thomas roughly 60 years old in 60 CE, then.

Okay, gang, back to the show!

So, according to Indian traditions, Thomas did his missionary work establishing churches and baptizing folks right and left, but because he was converting many high cast people, he started receiving some negative attention. When he converted the local king’s wife and son, the king had enough and sent a troop of men to hunt down Thomas and pierce him with spears. He was supposedly buried in 72 CE. At that time, he would have been around 70 years old, but the enactment had him still a rigorous middle aged man. Maybe he has some of Methuselah’s blood in him or maybe they did a lousy (aka dishonest) job of re-enacting the scene.

They took the time to repeat the tease again, asking whether testing of the holy relic, said to be the arm bone of St. Thomas, would lend credence to this story?

Along the way they describe how the Indian Christians claim that Thomas was their source of knowledge and that they had two songs that mention his teaching, etc. and how they preserve the practice of the time of segregating women and men in the church. Apparently they hadn’t read Acts of the Apostles because the Jerusalem church was in all kinds of hot water with the Jews for allowing women and men to mix in must public endeavors. These people had preserved the Jewish tradition, not a Christian one. (Details, details.)

If only, more of the documents from the time of Thomas were available, but … hold on moment, I have to stop laughing … okay, wait … in 1599 the Thomas Christians in India were declared heretics by the Pope and the Portuguese came around and burned all of their documents! But the irrepressible commentators responded with, well, in the absence of documents, you just have to have take the events on faith! (Okay, just breathe, slowly, catching my breath.) No sense of irony was detected.

Along the way, they pointed out that the songs of the Indian Thomas Christians had been preserved for 1800 years and that many of the traditions in the region were in almost complete agreement, something that occurred almost nowhere else. This was delivered as if it were some kind of miracle, rather than, since it was so unusual, it was probably an example of contamination. Again, no irony was detected.

They also toss out the “fact” that Thomas, upon arriving in India was given an audience with the king. This is clearly made up as there were all kinds of Jews already in residence and Thomas was not even a merchant with something to sell. he was, in fact, a nobody who didn’t even speak the local language. Why would the king want to meet with him. The document doesn’t say, so this was inserted just to establish that everyone thought that Thomas was an important person. (Realize this is just a few months after the events of the death of Jesus and Christianity didn’t take off for many, many decades, so there is no way the king would have heard of Thomas or Jesus and been curious.

They also glibly tossed out that in those pre-literate times, there were bards (I doubt the Indians called them “bards”) whose task it was to memorize and preserve the songs, so that explained why those Indian songs about Thomas had come down to us, unchanged over 1800 years. Uh, no. Studies of bards have shown a very wide range of versions of stories being told by the same bards! The gist of the stories stayed the same, but the length  and details varied a great deal. Just like musicians who know how a tune goes, will improvise it different one nigh differently from the previous, bards seem to do the same, so I doubt very much that these songs are the “same songs” created regarding Thomas in India 1800 years ago. Hell we had a debate about the lyrics of Louie, Louie that wasn’t resolved when the song was till on the radio. YouTube currently has a video up entitled “The True Lyrics of Louie, Louie.”)

They also had the audacity to claim the snippet from the Gospel of John in which the resurrected Jesus presents himself to Thomas in which Thomas greets him with the words “my lord my god” as the only time in the New Testament in which Jesus is recognized as god. In a pig’s eye. John has Jesus referring to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost as three entities within just a few pages. So, the utterance, if real could very well have been “My Lord, my God (has delivered you back to us). I am sure you can come up with myriad other insertions that would make sense. Realize that this was a community of Jews. If Thomas had claimed some man was really Yahweh, he would have been torn apart by a mob for the vilest kind of blasphemy. I can’t imagine that Jesus, even if he were god, would want anyone saying it out loud (and getting torn apart) and I am equally sure that Thomas would have swallowed his tongue before he said such a thing.

Shameless, utterly shameless.

Oh, and when Thomas is finally executed for pissing off the local king, we are treated to the usual “that’s just the cost of following Jesus” BS. But, how about arrogance, the chutzpah, the idiocy. Convert the King’s wife and son to a foreign religion? I can imagine there were warnings given, which were of course ignored, because to hell with anyone else’s sensitivities, he was on a holy mission from God! (Cue the soundtrack of The Blues Brothers.)

Oh, the C-14 testing of the arm bone of Thomas relic, remember that? The date? It came out 130-330 CE. I have to wonder if any of these supposed holy relics can pass even a basic test of authenticity. Are they all fakes?

Oh, the capper! What do you expect the researcher said upon delivering the news of the failed test? Are you sitting down? He said “Not Thomas … but it is really old, one of the oldest” (relics ever dated). “Wow, that’s great!”

Shameless, utterly shameless.

If I were a Christian, I would want these people taken out in a field and stoned.

March 6, 2017

GOP Plans to Repeal Dodd-Frank Legislation

Why do we need legislation that prevents big banks from undermining the whole world’s economy with overly risky investments? We can trust them. They are our friends.

Granted the Dodd-Frank legislation didn’t go nearly far enough (millions of dollars per day were spent lobbying against the law in the first place and weakening it and then against its implementation after it was passed). The Glass-Steagall law should have been re-enacted verbatim, plus a whole lot more, but “burdensome regulation” is undermining progress in this country (whine, whine, sniff). This is why the big banks circumvented the existing regulations, corrupted regulators, and invented unregulated shadow banking in the first place.

We will only be free when big banks can wreak havoc as much as they desire … and, of course, our government bails them out every 6-8 years when it all crashes into ruin. Heck, the last time only cost us $2,000,000,000,000 (yes, that is two trillion dollars plus or minus a few billion or so) plus several trillion more in lost property values, but that only affected ordinary citizens (they got no bailout, don’t you know).

At this point, I am starting to root for the GOP’s bad ideas. The party has so desperately wanted to do all of these things for years! And they are going to own the repercussions of each and every one of them.

March 3, 2017

The Utter Failure of Economics and Politics to Prevent the Ravaging of the Rich

I ran across this rather incredible graph recently:

20-year-annualized-productivty-growth-in-the-uk

The data are from the UK so I looked to see if I could find any similarities to data from the US, and yes, they are there.

The graph shows the growth of worker productivity from the years 1800 to 2010. Since all of the values are positive, productivity has trended upward in general. But you can see four distinct trends on this graph: first there is a strong increase in productivity from 1800 to about 1870, then a general decline in the rate from 1870 to about 1900 (while still being positive, the amount of increase dropped period by period). Then there is another long period of productivity increase improvements from roughly 1900 to the mid 1970’s, followed by another decline in the rate of increase from 1970’s to the present.

What do these periods in which productivity changes steadily decline in magnitude correlate with? Ah, the period 1870-1900 is often referred to as the “Gilded Age.” And the mid-1970’s to the present started with Reganism/Thatcherism and is the second great period of wealth transference to the few in this entire time period.

We have been told over and over that the accumulation of wealth by the few in our society is a good thing. The wealthy are the “job creators,” the movers and shakers who get things done. But the reality is exactly the opposite. The people who have been telling us that wealth inequality is a standard feature of capitalism and a “good thing” are just the PR men for the wealthy, trying to avoid pitchforks and torches showing up in the gated communities of their rich paymasters. That so many of these flacks are economists should be appalling to the intellectual community. (Maybe we should disbar them and transfer academic economic departments to become part of the marketing programs of schools of business.)

All of the data show that periods of extreme wealth accumulation by the few devastate economies instead of facilitating them. The steepest upward portion of this graph takes place between the end of World War 2 and the arrival of Reganism/Thatcherism and anti-unionism. Productivity grows the fastest when the wealth is shared more fairly.

Please note that there were rich people during this post-war period. There were many people getting rich for the first time. They weren’t, however, getting filthy rich by distorting the political systems in their favor. Becoming rich through your own skills is one thing. Becoming obscenely rich by hook or crook, though, hurts all of us.

February 27, 2017

What Are Your Views on Abortion?

A recent piece in the N.Y. Times pointed out that in a recent survey of views on abortion, just over half of all American women want to see further restrictions on abortion. The piece also chastised “feminists” for ignoring this fact.

As far as I am concerned, both parties and their opinions can go take a flying leap.

In my opinion, having an abortion … or not …. is an intensely personal decision and the opinions of the rest of society just do not matter. In order for them to matter, the issue would have to involve one in which there was a profound societal interest. We are talking about birthing new citizens here. If we had a profound worker shortage or a severe lack of people available to serve in the military, I would recognize a significant societal interest. But we are up to our assess in people and no such interest exists. The only reason there is an abortion issue is that there is a morality issue.

There is an axiom that “you cannot legislate morals,” but we keep trying, idiots that we are. The danger here is if we do insist that there is a profound societal interest, we open a box of snakes. The only form that interest could take would be a population based one (morals aren’t addressed in the Constitution). If we take “action” in the form of policy, say an anti-abortion policy, we are essentially saying we have the right to force women to bear children. A short step away are laws restricting the uses of contraception. Neither of these kinds of policies touch the American experiment where it lives. These are totalitarian policies and are supported only by totalitarian religions.

If a pregnant woman is considering an abortion, the decision is a very emotional, personal decision. She is not deciding to “never have children.” She is not deciding to restrict the number she will have. But if we collectively were to force her to have this baby after she decided she did not want it, the emotional scars from that action may affect those possibilities and how would that serve the societal interest? And who wants there to be more unwanted children in the world? The impact on the child is rarely mentioned by the anti-abortion zealots, other than to describe an abortion as a murder. Once the child is brought to term it can go fuck itself for all of the anti crowd cares.

Much of the anti-abortion fever, I believe, is fueled by people wanting “others” to be responsible for their actions. The punishment for a young girl exploring sex and getting pregnant (made unsafe by the same politics as the antis espouse) is to be forced to bear that child and raise it, possibly forestalling any hopes she had for her own life and possibly truncating any positive future for that child. “That will teach her not to be promiscuous.” (Is there any evidence that this form of “discipline” works?)

If a woman is contemplating an abortion, the best thing we can do is get out of the way. If we are close to her, offer support, share your opinion if that is requested, but get out of the way. And stop recommending laws to restrict peoples actions in these personal decisions.

How would you like it if you are told you have heart disease, but the procedure that could cure you and save your life has been condemned as immoral and made illegal. (It involves the use of stem cells.) How would you feel if laws were passed that operations were immoral as they denied the healing powers of God? Do not let totalitarian religions determine our social policies. Only when there is a demonstrated significant societal interest should we intervene. Child abuse, spousal abuse, poverty, hunger, homelessness: there are so many problems of this sort that have societal interests and citizens involved that deserve our attention. In the absence of such an interest, as in the case of the “legality” of abortions, we should get out of the way and reinforce our belief in individual action. To do otherwise is to extend the totalitarian aspects of these religions to our collective agreements with one another.

PS Pop Quiz Can you tell from the graph what year abortion was made legal in the US? (If not legal abortions do not affect population growth and there can not be a societal interest in them.)

united-states-population

(Answer to Pop Quiz: It was 1973.)

February 22, 2017

Straw Dogs to the Left of Me …

The N.Y. Times is running a series on wealth with the subtitle of “Articles on Managing Fortunes, Improving Lifestyles, and Finding Financial Security.” (Somehow sucking up to the wealthy qualifies as all of the news fit to print.) Today’s contribution is “Why You Might Not Want to Take Away a Billionaire’s Money” by Jeff Sommer.

Mr. Sommer begins his article thus:
There is a problem with billionaires: They’ve got way more money than any human deserves.

But if you were simply to take it all away from them, you would, in many cases, be doing more harm than good.

WTF? Who is calling for taking away all of the money from the rich? Anybody? Nobody I know. Then he uses John D. Rockefeller as an icon of philanthropy to support his thesis (all of those museums, and scholarships, and schools, oh my). He doesn’t mention Mr. Rockefeller’s rapacious business practices or any of his other negatives, he just mentions parks and museums and schools, etc.

His point is the same as many others: billionaires know better what to do with money than you do, no matter how they managed to acquire it. I have written about this before in “Bill Gates Ideas Are Better than Yours.” But the current point still has no basis in reality. The only way you could test this hypothesis, is to give an ordinary person a billion dollars and ask them how they would donate it to good causes, then compare the performances of the rich and poor philanthropists. Basically the article’s argument is that billionaires spend their money better than a guy who would pile it all up and burn it. (No, duh!) This argument is a version of the comedian Gallagher’s dog food commercial which goes “Look how much friskier the Alpo dog is than the dead dog over there.”

Also, it stacks museums, etc. on one side of the ledger and doesn’t place anything on the other, other than “non-museums.” I think if you were to do the most draconian thing, take away 80% of a billionaire’s money and give it to the poor, that money would vanish from human sight. (It would get spent.) But what value do you place on being able to feed your children, send them to school, or afford medical care for your spouse. No one could visit those things sometime in the future but the benefit would be very, very tangible to the people afforded those things, the hundreds of thousands of people afforded those things.

And what about the billionaires, like the Koch brothers, using their wealth to make sure that ordinary people have no say in our government, that their ideas get implemented and the poor, well they need to go get a job. These people have amassed great wealth by commercially taking small amounts of money from many, many people. Then they used that wealth to rig the game to make even more wealth. Consider the Bush tax cuts that transferred large amounts of money to the very wealthy in the form of taxes not needing to be paid, with the shortfall in federal receipts being made up by smaller amounts collected from millions of Americans. Because of this, if the wealth were to be transferred back, it would only involve a small amount to each individual American, but the point is that wealth should never have been accumulated in the first place. (I will blog about this shortly.)

And before I hear from droves of apologists for the wealthy, you can stick your globalization and free trade arguments where the sun doesn’t shine. The same factors affect all of the world’s economies and in none of those other countries has wealth inequality anything even approximating what it is in the U.S. The rich have captured our government and are running it for their own benefit, which proves my second point: the damned billionaires can’t be trusted with the power that comes with that wealth. For every benign billionaire, like Warren Buffet, there are a dozen rapacious assholes, like the Koch brothers.

Also interesting is how such poorly-argued propaganda for the rich got past the editors of the N.Y. Times. Oh, I forgot, the Times is owned by the wealthy, as are most of the rest of the news media. Sucking up to the boss is so very easy to do.

February 13, 2017

Mr. Bannon’s War

Apparently Steve Bannon, Breitbart News jefe and current Senior Advisor to the President is concerned with the coming war … with Islam. Mr. Bannon feels that Western Civilization (of which we are the peak) is almost prostrate before the ideological assault of Islam. (All of our Christian values are being abandoned; I mean, when is the last time a heretic was burned at the stake?) So, we need to gird our loins and get prepared for this religious apocalypse.

It is clear that Islam is in the same position Christianity was 1500 or so years ago, the religion of the oppressed. Now that Christianity is the religion of the oppressors, though, it is ripe for conquest. So, I do think Mr. Bannon has a point, but I think the war is ideological and he apparently wants to solve the problem militarily. Well, I offer up Afghanistan and Iraq and Somalia and ask “How’s that going for you, Steve?”

If we left the Middle East to those living there, how effectively would you think they would be in combating us? Are you afraid of an Islamic State invasion any time soon? Do you see pickup trucks with really high snorkels waving ISIS flags, coming out of the water on Florida beaches?

Please realize that This Administration is one of distraction. All of our current problems are based in the simple fact that the monied interests in this country have subsumed all of our government agencies. It is they who are running the show and we no longer have anything approximating a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” … certainly not for the people. Our government is currently being run for the plutocrats. Ordinary people need not apply.

One of the surest ways to distract people from concentrating on internal affairs is to point to foreign affairs and wars are really exciting, newsworthy, and profitable even with “enemies” half way around the world.

December 26, 2016

The Conservative Playbook: Blame Others for What You Are Doing

Conservatives have repurposed the term “fake news” to continue their effort to undermine any opposition to their own chosen narratives. A column by Jeremy W. Peters in today’s N.Y. Times (Wielding Claims of ‘Fake News,’ Conservatives Take Aim at Mainstream Media) addresses this now typical play from the conservative’s playbook.

One quote tells you everything you need to know:
Rush Limbaugh has diagnosed a more fundamental problem. ‘The fake news is the everyday news’ in the mainstream media, he said on his radio show recently. ‘They just make it up.’

Instead of fake news being politically directed disinformation, as has been the case up to this point, that is fake news is political propaganda, the conservatives are morphing this term into another cudgel to undermine the news media, so that there can be no credible opposition to conservative lies fictions narratives.fauxnews_450

Not all conservatives have bought in on this effort as indicated by this quote from the article:
‘Over the years, we’ve effectively brainwashed the core of our audience to distrust anything that they disagree with. And now it’s gone too far,’ said John Ziegler, a conservative radio host, who has been critical of what he sees as excessive partisanship by pundits. ‘Because the gatekeepers have lost all credibility in the minds of consumers, I don’t see how you reverse it.’

But, in the past, conservatives have gotten into line quickly with any promising disinformation campaign and since so much has already been invested in this effort, including an entire news network (Faux Fox News), I expect there to be unity shortly … and another pillar of democracy continues to crumble under the onslaught of the conservatives at the behest of their paymasters.

December 6, 2016

All the “Fake News” that Is Fit to Publish

Apparently the latest hot topic for political pundits to pontificate upon is the idea of “fake news,” otherwise known as lies. What they are decrying is not that lies exist or that there are so many of them, but they are so easy to “publish.” Hah!

There are more lies now than any other time in human history and I am confident in that statement because there are more people alive that ever before in human history and all humans lie. And it is also true that each of us has more reach than ever before. You are, for example, reading this blog, which in effect is my personal publication organ. This was not possible even a short time ago.

What is lacking is not control over the sources of such material, after all we do pride ourselves in having a political system that protects the freedom of speech, but that people are apparently not at all skeptical about the “information” they have available.

I must insist that all news is fake news. It is the case in which every time I have been interviewed for publication that I have felt that the interview and what was published were at odds. Local papers never seem to get it right. I have heard that same criticism over the years about larger publications.

“I must insist that all news is fake news.”

The manipulations of the Bush administration leading up to the Iraq war were willingly embraced by major “news” publications, even though they turned out to be made of whole cloth. What, the utterances of our politicians are no longer trustworthy? I’m shocked, shocked I tell you … that anyone ever thought they were. Politicians look at the “press” (now “the news media”) as something to be managed or controlled, not as something to embrace as a bulwark of democracy. The “press” no longer looks at itself as the protector of democracy, nor does it have the role of scourge of dishonest politicians.

What is needed is for all of us to be a lot more skeptical. We need to ask “Where did you hear/get that?” On Facebook? Oh, that explains a lot. Apparently many Americans get a substantial amount of their news off of Facebook. WTF? Well, Facebook has a well-known reputation for journalistic integrity I guess. (No, it does not; I am being sarcastic!)

Come on, people! Get a pair! Show the whole world that you are not the gullible idiot who thinks that “if it was on the Internet, it has to be true.”

We need more guidelines. How about “Breaking News!” — Breaking news means we got it wrong, but we got it fast! And “this was verified through a confidential source” means (a) if I told you who told me, you’d laugh at me or (b) I am willing to be manipulated by someone who is unwilling to be quoted.

Our news media were on an upward trajectory away from “yellow journalism” and toward greater integrity but that trend has been reversed. In today’s journalism, opinion is promoted as fact and to make money news organs are peddling opinions without any facts. The newspaper guideline “If it bleeds, it leads” has been replaced with the 24-hour news cycle’s “Look at the shiny object, how does it make you feel?”

November 22, 2016

Getting Some Perspective on Being Middle Class

In the last 35 years or so, the wages of middle class people have been basically stagnant. So, for a third of the last 100 years, while worker productivity and the cost of living have continued rising, the ability of middle class jobs to support a middle class lifestyle have not. The result is what we have now: a whole bunch of Americans kinda sorta hanging on to what they got.

If you go back a 100 years or so, you can get some perspective on how this came about. You will see that it is the same people who grossly inflated the cost of living in the U.S. who are currently suppressing the ability of U.S. citizens to afford a middle class life. In the 1910’s and 1920’s the vast majority of Americans did not take out a mortgage to buy their homes. There weren’t that many people who were buying their own homes, for one, and those who did often saved up the money or got it from relatives or borrowed from relatives. There was no large mortgage banking industry.

Then the Great Depression hit and home ownership got even farther from the grasp of the middle class. It was only after World War 2 that a series of factors combined to have home mortgages become a viable mechanism to acquire a domicile for those in the middle class. About a million working age American men lost their lives in the war and those who did come back wanted to resume a “normal” life as soon as was possible. Because of the manpower loss due to the war and the expanding economy, work was easy to get. There was a burgeoning industrial capacity that was turning from war material back to consumer goods and a sense of “we are all in this together,” that lead to a great deal of prosperity. Men and still some women had jobs and disposable income, so all kinds of things were made for this new market, including the development of housing developments (Levittown, etc.). The U.S. Government got in the business of helping to finance home purchases (although with built-in racist limitations for people of color) and with sureties being offered by the government, so too did a great many private lenders. So, through the rest of the 40’s and then the 50’s and 60’s, the middle class of this country boomed and the number of us in the middle class owning our own homes steadily rose.

Interestingly, during the Reagan years in California and during his presidency, things took a down turn. (You know, those family values of Republicans kicked in.) In order to support the kind of life middle class people were learning to enjoy, families had to see both Mom and Dad working. The influx of money into the family from working women helped maintain the new middle class lifestyle but also launched a housing price boom. Thanks to Elizabeth Warren’s academic research, it was discovered that when women started contributing more and more to the family’s income, they also had more say where it went and it was increasingly going for houses in “better” areas, the “better” being in school districts with good schools.

Housing prices increased rapidly, first in California and then throughout the U.S. Housing consumed more and more of the family budget, often costing up to 50% of family disposable income. Government supported these price increases by making interest payments tax deductible, which seemed like a good thing for home buyers but actually just inflated prices (“You can afford this more expensive house because of the large tax deduction you will get on the interest payments!” Remember that?) Rapidly escalating home prices lead to rapidly escalating property taxes because the rates were set “before” and the “assessed value” kept rocketing upward when each house changed hands. In California, a bellwether state, a tax payer revolt lead to a state-wide proposition that put severe limits on property taxes. Other states did something similar. These limits shifted responsibility for many services that were formerly based upon property values, like education, from those local sources of income onto other sources, often based in statewide government. This resulted in less local control and a greater tax burden on the state which doesn’t collect taxes based upon property but upon sales and income, more regressive taxes.

It was President Reagan who made sure that the wealthier citizens paid much less of those federal taxes and shifted the tax burden, especially through payroll taxes, off of the well to do and onto the middle class.

Then the federal government released the shackles of the banking industry and all kinds of high jinks take place. The final culmination is in the collapse of the housing mortgage industry in 2007-2008 based upon the ability of banks to bundle very sketchy mortgages into highly rated derivative securities, so anything went, at least until everything went up in smoke.

So, the banks got bailed out, their shareholders got bailed out, Wall Street got a minor slap on the wrist and homeowners, well they were told to suck it up and take their medicine.

So, where does this leave the middle class?

Well, with the wage suppressing activities of anti-union, anti-worker conservatives, helped by neo-liberal assholes who should have known better (when your goals align with blood sucking capitalists, you no longer have the right to call yourself a liberal, “neo” or otherwise), we have a middle class in name only. Most of us work longer hours for less compensation, have fewer government services available and less hope for the future and our children’s futures since 1950. (“You don’t need a retirement program. When you sell your house, you will have plenty to live on in your golden years.” They could have asked us to turn around and bend over because they had something to shove up our assess, but their sense of propriety didn’t allow for that.)

Those of us in the middle class who were conned into investing our futures in houses and then who lost those houses have basically had to start over. (I sold my last house in 2007, one of the very few sold in my county in that year and was very lucky to get out with my skin intact.)

Since the conservatives and neo-liberals are now in charge, I do not expect better jobs, more affordable housing, less expensive education for our kids, less expensive medical care or much of any real benefit to flow toward the middle class. I see … distractions … many, many distractions in our future. Progress? Not very much, no.

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