Home > Critical Thinking, Current Affairs, Dystopia, Links, Reason, Secular Religions > Interesting Links: Apr 19, 2016

Interesting Links: Apr 19, 2016

Here are links to a few interesting articles I came across recently. They are all about how neoliberalism aka late-stage capitalism is busy killing its host.

Link 1: The Mental Disease of Late-Stage Capitalism

Seriously though, we should have seen this coming. Build an economic system based on wealth hoarding and presumed scarcity and you’ll get what was intended. The system is performing exactly as it was designed to. That is why wages have stagnated in the West for 30 years. It is why 62 people are able to have the same amount of wealth as 3.7 billion. It is why politicians are bought by the highest bidders and legislation systematically serves the already-rich at the expense of society. A great irony of this deeply corrupt system of wealth hoarding is that the “weapon of choice” is how we feel about ourselves as we interact with our friends. The elites don’t have to silence us. We do that ourselves by refusing to talk about what is happening to us. Fake it until you make it. That’s the advice we are given by the already successful who have pigeon-holed themselves into the tiny number of real opportunities society had to offer. Hold yourself accountable for the crushing political system that was designed to divide us against ourselves.

Link 2: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans Important – ignore all popup messages from this site requesting you to whitelist it on Adblock Plus!

I know what it is like to have to juggle creditors to make it through a week. I know what it is like to have to swallow my pride and constantly dun people to pay me so that I can pay others. I know what it is like to have liens slapped on me and to have my bank account levied by creditors. I know what it is like to be down to my last $5—literally—while I wait for a paycheck to arrive, and I know what it is like to subsist for days on a diet of eggs. I know what it is like to dread going to the mailbox, because there will always be new bills to pay but seldom a check with which to pay them. I know what it is like to have to tell my daughter that I didn’t know if I would be able to pay for her wedding; it all depended on whether something good happened. And I know what it is like to have to borrow money from my adult daughters because my wife and I ran out of heating oil.

Financial impotence goes by other names: financial fragility, financial insecurity, financial distress. But whatever you call it, the evidence strongly indicates that either a sizable minority or a slim majority of Americans are on thin ice financially. How thin? A 2014 Bankrate survey, echoing the Fed’s data, found that only 38 percent of Americans would cover a $1,000 emergency-room visit or $500 car repair with money they’d saved. Two reports published last year by the Pew Charitable Trusts found, respectively, that 55 percent of households didn’t have enough liquid savings to replace a month’s worth of lost income, and that of the 56 percent of people who said they’d worried about their finances in the previous year, 71 percent were concerned about having enough money to cover everyday expenses. A similar study conducted by Annamaria Lusardi of George Washington University, Peter Tufano of Oxford, and Daniel Schneider, then of Princeton, asked individuals whether they could “come up with” $2,000 within 30 days for an unanticipated expense. They found that slightly more than one-quarter could not, and another 19 percent could do so only if they pawned possessions or took out payday loans.

Link 3: Why Are Voters Angry? It’s the 1099 Economy, Stupid.

Meanwhile, in my time as a freelancer I could never access health-care or pension-benefit plans. If production took a day off for a holiday, nobody got paid. If you set up a gig and the production schedule got pushed back a week, so did your opportunity to earn money. Sick days and personal days didn’t exist. I remember once being sick but still coming in for a late-night editing shift, taking medication to get me through the evening. I didn’t notice that the cold medicine I took was Tylenol PM until I fell asleep in my chair. I played loud music with the windows down on my more-treacherous-than-it-needed-to-be drive home late that night. But I got paid. These are sadly typical stories of those disempowered at work, with all the risks put on their shoulders. “Angry” voters may simply be angry workers tossed into the Darwinian world of the modern economy, operating without any fallback support from their employers or their government. This was bound to find its way into our politics, but though solutions for these workers exist, nobody is talking about them.

The way the 1099 economy is sold, with airy platitudes about freedom and being your own boss, doesn’t correspond to the very real anxiety of this type of arrangement. You’re cut off from any safety net that relies on employers. You have an unpaid, part-time job consisting of getting your next job and making sure you get paid for your last job. Your taxes are a nightmare to unravel. You have no advocates for you in the workplace, and little bargaining power to improve your lot. The fact that this shift toward the 1099 economy occurred mostly during a terrible labor market suggests it was never a matter of worker choice, but an exercise of employer power. And it’s become a frustration for millions, a confirmation of the rigged economy that places more of a burden on ordinary people. It certainly informs this anti-establishment, anti-business-as-usual political moment.

Link 4: The New Astrology

But despite the funding crunch, it’s a bull market for academic economists. According to a 2015 sociological study in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, the median salary of economics teachers in 2012 increased to $103,000 – nearly $30,000 more than sociologists. For the top 10 per cent of economists, that figure jumps to $160,000, higher than the next most lucrative academic discipline – engineering. These figures, stress the study’s authors, do not include other sources of income such as consulting fees for banks and hedge funds, which, as many learned from the documentary Inside Job (2010), are often substantial. Ben Bernanke, a former academic economist and ex-chairman of the Federal Reserve, earns $200,000-$400,000 for a single appearance. Unlike engineers and chemists, economists cannot point to concrete objects – cell phones, plastic – to justify the high valuation of their discipline. Nor, in the case of financial economics and macroeconomics, can they point to the predictive power of their theories. Hedge funds employ cutting-edge economists who command princely fees, but routinely underperform index funds.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. P Ray
    April 19, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    Will just write some quick comments on all the 3 articles – your summaries / selection of passages have chosen the most salient points.

    The Mental Disease of Late-Stage Capitalism – relies on the “don’t be a whiner” mentality … the same way a confidence trickster gets away since the people cheated believe in “meritocracy”(you are solely in charge of everything that happens to you” and “don’t be a whiner” …

    The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans – in most places around the world now, a decent slim majority or sizable minority do not have enough money saved to tide them over with their current financial commitments, if the period exceeds 6 months.

    The New Astrology – you can’t dispute the predictions of respected astrologers, to do so is blasphemy. Reminds me of how people talk about their “experience” in companies where their superiors have 0 technical qualifications, 0 training is provided and the work is full-time … so what exactly and how did they learn? Via “under 1 week” courses, with a certificate at the end, they lead others to believe that they learnt a complete undergraduate, masters or postgraduate qualification in a time that is exponentially shorter than at a university – wtf is this, “flash cloning of memories” ala Star Wars episodes 1 and 2?
    It’s actually an entrenched system of cartelisation and ganging-up: each person in the scheme supports the other, so they all look like they’re of the same mind – but the goal is the same: you overpay for “soothsayers” who don’t do any of the work, but make promises.

  2. P Ray
    April 19, 2016 at 10:43 pm

    Whoops, looks like I missed a link:
    Why Are Voters Angry? It’s the 1099 Economy, Stupid. – casualisation and zero-hours contracts are actually sweeping the whole world, whether in Asia or the West.
    Examples in Asia include people working at computer stores (paid by the hour) or fast food joints (this happens in the West too).
    In the West, this also includes people who work in student support services.
    Of course, what is not mentioned is … the people getting ahead while firstly in the entry level positions … are those who can either shmooze or perform anal osculation (they are typically young, female, attractive and “single”(only towards the people that can help them advance, though!)

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