Posts Tagged ‘Neoliberalism’

On Long Term Social, Economic and Cultural Effects of Job Insecurity: 3

January 7, 2018 10 comments

In the previous part of this series, I talked about how the upper-middle class and the aspirational types (the main lay supporters of neoliberalism) are now getting screwed over by the very ideology they enthusiastically supported. Now some of you might say.. “I have not seen that yet” or “I still see people in STEM getting good jobs, marrying, having kids” etc. To which I say, enjoy that delusion while you can still afford to bask in its fake promise of maintaining the status quo.

While believers in the old status quo might wish to continue in their belief that not much has changed, the reality is far different. There are however a couple of caveats we need to address. Firstly, the effects of job and career insecurity are not obvious if you look at the 65-and-over group within the upper-middle class. Most people in this group have good pensions, fully paid-off houses (often more than one) and other investments as they were the main beneficiaries of income and asset inflation which we saw until 2008.

The second group which has still not experienced the full assault of neoliberalism are credentialed professionals in certain areas such as medicine, older upper and middle management types etc. They have so far been partially protected from income and career instability because of their cartel-type behavior or residual usefulness to super-rich. The most important words in the previous sentence are “so far”. This will almost certainly change for credentialed professionals and many older management-types within the next decade for reasons beyond their control.

Of course, as many of you realize, the upper-middle class is larger than licensed doctors and the alumni of 10-15 business and law schools. Which brings us to other previously upper-middle class or inspirational type careers. Let us start by talking about professors (of all types) who work and teach at universities or colleges. Have you ever wondered how many of those who perform the jobs of professors (research or teaching) in such institutions are permanent employees and how many are casual or contract employees? And why does that matter?

The simple answer to that question is that between 70-90 % of those who perform that tasks traditionally associated with being a professor in post-secondary educational institutions are underpaid and overworked temporary employees. In teaching, this takes the form of ‘adjuncts’ who are hired each term and paid wages typically associated with janitorial staff. In research, this takes the form of post-docs, graduate students and research associates who have a slightly more secure income stream than adjuncts but almost no real chance for the promised upward career (and income) mobility.

But the ‘work’ is getting done.. right? Well.. not quite. Academic areas which have the worst degree of such neoliberal exploitation, such as biomedical research, also have the most amount of unreproducible research. As I might have mentioned in the past, the vast majority of biomedical research produced today is either the result of extreme cherry-picking, outright fraud, pedantry or clever rewriting of the obvious. There is a very good reason that progress in the sciences, as measured by products or services that improve the quality of your life, has gone down to almost zero over the last two decades- inspite of breathless fake press releases which suggest otherwise.

Ask yourself.. which great breakthrough benefiting the lives of more than a handful has come about from all the money ‘invested’ in biomedical scientific research over the last two decades?

Do you see any radically new or better drugs for diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, pain, alzheimers, schizophrenia, depression, various types of kidney failure, coronary and cerebrovascular disease.. you know, the sort of diseases that affect and kill most people. The conventional ‘explanation’ for this state of affairs is that all the ‘low lying fruit have been picked’. But is that really so? And how did people in previous decades go about finding effective treatments for diseases when they often “knew” much less about those diseases than we do today?

For all the hype about targeted genetic engineering through zinc finger nucleases, CRISPR/Cas9, TALEN, Gene Drive etc- how many people have been successfully cured of any disease with such methods? Now some of you might say.. “it is because of excessive regulatory or ethical considerations”. Sadly, that is not the case. Most human diseases (by number of affected people) with known genetic predispositions are not single or even ‘few’ gene diseases. To make a long story short, most disease conditions with a hereditary component are basically impossible to treat without highly risky large-scale genetic tinkering.

And this brings me to the issue of income and career security in the pharmaceutical industry. As some of you might remember, many hundreds of thousands in that corporate sector have lost their jobs and often their careers over the last decade. Even the most optimistic propaganda about the fate of these people has to acknowledge that things have been pretty bad for most people laid off during those years. But why did that happen in the first place? Why were there very few large layoffs in that sector for almost 50-60 years and why did so many of them occur between 2005-2013?

How could a corporate sector legendary for providing stable and well-paying jobs and careers for many decades start to resemble the american manufacturing sector after “free trade agreements” within less than eight years? Interestingly, I tackled this particular issue in one of my earliest posts on this blog. The short version of the story is the financialization, “new” management techniques and the obsession with productivity and metrics killed the proverbial goose who laid golden eggs. Nowadays pharma makes money by yearly increases on drug prices, stopping or co-opting generics after patents run out and a whole host of other “legal” shenanigans.

Who needs to develop new drugs when you can sell old stuff at increasingly higher prices. Also selling expensive niche and often barely effective drugs (aka most newer anti-cancer drugs) is another way to pad the financial spreadsheet. But have you ever wondered what happened to the lives and mental world of the couple hundred thousand people who got have had to abandon that field or even worse, swing from one insecure job in that area to the next? Before this happened, they used to be solidly upper-middle class and often spouted distinctly neoliberal beliefs about “competition”, “meritocracy” and other assorted BS.

Nowadays, the general sentiment among that group is that they were scammed. Some are more forgiving than others, but the dominant feeling among most of them is that they were exploited and abused. Oddly enough, you never heard sentiments like these from them before 2005-2008. I wonder why.. Even the ones who are still employed in that area after going through multiple layoff cycles have become extremely cynical people who now are more focused on pretending to work as expected than do anything innovative or profitable for their employers. It will be a long time, if ever, before the pharma sector recovers its ability to develop truly revolutionary new drugs.

Did I also mention that the demographic profile of western countries is also highly unfavorable for any spontaneous recovery in that area. The point I am trying to make here is that the two areas which I am most familiar with have undergone highly damaging and essentially irreversible changes with regards to income and career security. In the next part of this series, I will talk about the deleterious effects of neoliberalism on the income and career prospects of people in the area of general areas of information technologies and computer programming.

What do you think? Comments?

On Long Term Social, Economic and Cultural Effects of Job Insecurity: 2

January 1, 2018 2 comments

In the previous post of this series, I wrote about one of the many reasons why neoliberalism-fueled capitalism lacks the ability to survive past a decade or so. The main point made, in that post, was that embrace of the neoliberal ideology causes extremely low, to zero, fertility in its most devout foot-soldiers (the credentialed classes, professionals and aspiring types). In other words, those most likely to explicitly, or implicitly, support neoliberalism do not produce enough offspring to continue their parent’s ideological belief system.

But why should that matter in the first place? Isn’t neoliberalism attractive enough to gain new followers? Didn’t neoliberal political leaders such as Reagan, Thatcher, Blair, Clinton, Bush43, Obama etc once win elections in western countries? Why were people once enthusiastic about neoliberal ideas such as “efficiency”, “reform”, “innovation” and “free trade” in the 1980-2008 timespan? Well.. the simple answer to that question is that most people are willing to go along with bad ideas as long as they are not personally hurt by it and receive a few trinkets in exchange for support.

People kept on electing neoliberal politicians for a couple of decades as there was no immediate downside for doing so in that timespan. Some also did so because they thought it would hurt racial minorities and poor people. In exchange for that support, they saw their house prices go up, the “stock market” boom etc. They were also able to buy inexpensive stuff manufactured in other countries and for a time, things looked good. It should also be noted that neoliberalism did not initially “disrupt” things such as healthcare, education, housing, pensions or affect job security to anywhere near the levels seen today.

And this brings us to focus of this post, namely the issue of job and career security (or the lack thereof) under neoliberalism. One of the major, if not main, factor responsible for the extremely low fertility rates among neoliberal-ideology worshiping classes is the lack of job and career insecurity. Now some of you might find this a bit puzzling. Shouldn’t job and career insecurity cause fewer poor people to have children than the upper-middle class and aspiring types? Others might also point out to anecdotal examples of upper-middle class types having more than one or two kids.

Anecdotes and exceptions do not negate an obvious statistical trend. The simple fact is that upper-middle class (or aspirational types) under 45-50 with few exceptions have no kids, one token kid or less frequently two kids. Contrast this to the rest of the population which seems to be doing noticeably better in that regard. But why? A simplified answer is as follows: People with mediocre job or career prospects are mentally prepared for more of the same in the future, and therefore keep on living out the rest of their lives. People from the upper-middle class (or aspirational types) recognize the instability of their currently well-paying jobs and careers and are far more obsessed with maintaining what they ‘have’ than living out the rest of their lives.

But just how stable (or unstable) are the jobs and careers which provide income levels or a social standing typically associated with the upper-middle class? The answer to that question partially depends on which country you live in, but in the case of USA the vast majority of such jobs and careers are now highly unstable. But how do you define who is an upper-middle class or an aspirational type in 2017, especially since the definition of that term has changed over the decades? So let us talk about a bit about the role of class as opposed to income in determining who is upper-middle class.

Social class has far more to do with factors beyond income. For example- certain occupations such as police, prison guards or people who work in other unionized, well paid but manual jobs will never be part of the upper-middle class. On the other hand, even an associate professor at some poorly known university will always be part of the upper-middle class or at least credibly aspire to belong to that class. To put it another way, social class is about a combination of education, lifestyle, mores and aspirations rather than just income. But what does any of this have to with the long-term social, economic and cultural effects of job and career insecurity?

Part of the answer to that question lies in one of my older posts- The Upper Middle Class will be the Big Losers in Class Warfare. The main point I made in that post was that class warfare would be far more disastrous for the top 2-10% of society largely because they are the public face of rent seeking behavior, inequality, elitism, snobbery and fraud. While they might justify their behavior by saying that they were “just doing their job” or “following orders”, the rest simply don’t care for those explanations. Whichever way you look at it, the upper-middle class types are the enablers and enforcers of all abuses perpetrated by elites.

So why do they do it? Well.. there are many reasons but it mostly comes down to an expectation of reciprocity from the elites. The ‘deal’ as seen by most upper-middle class and aspirational types is as follows: they do the dirty and disgusting work of maintaining the position of elites in society for which they are rewarded with better paying and significantly more secure jobs and careers. Now, this ‘deal’ worked out pretty well in USA from the mid-1940s to somewhere between 2005-2008 (though the cracks were obvious as far back as the mid-to-late 1990s). But then it fell apart and has since shown no signs of even partial revival.

We are now in an era where a smart person with a degree or two in subjects such engineering, chemistry, or any other area of science or technology has the same job stability as a person working at Wal-Mart for a year or two. And this problem extends well beyond STEM. Consider the fact that programmers making 200-500k a year in any given corporation in Silly Valley dread turning 40 years old because of age discrimination. Or consider the fact that most law graduates from universities that are not in the ‘Top 10’ or 15 have career prospects only marginally better than paralegals.

Even a degree which require more “soft skills” and once promised decent jobs such as an MBA is no longer a guarantee of getting a decent and relatively stable job unless you graduate from one the ‘Top 8’ or 10 programs. I could write entire books on the situation of those who were planning for a career in academia or even teaching in schools. To make a long story short, most jobs which require a degree or two (or more) have become as insecure, unpleasant and unstable as poorly paid jobs which require a high school diploma.

And then there is the issue of career stability. A lot of people who fall out of one of these higher paying jobs never seem to get a better or equivalent one in their area of competence. Many have to eventually abandon the field they spent half their lives working to get inside, in the first place. Some of you might, quite justifiably, see the plight of these people as an example of ‘the chickens coming home to roost’. But we also have to consider that this state of affairs is a marked and highly destabilizing shift in the relationship between elites and upper-middle class as it has existed for most of post-WW2 era.

In the next post in this series, I will try to explore how these destabilizing changes are manifesting themselves in various corporate and industrial sectors- especially as it concerns age related differences in attitudes towards the status quo.

What do you think? Comments?

On Long Term Social, Economic and Cultural Effects of Job Insecurity: 1

December 26, 2017 30 comments

A couple of weeks ago, an older acquaintance casually asked me about whether I intended to “settle down” someday soon. While that question was not unusual coming from somebody of her generation, it got me thinking about what it means to be able to “settle down” in the current era. I have a feeling that many, if not all, of you have been in a similar conversation with somebody a few decades older than yourself. As some of you might also know, well-paying and stable jobs with nice pensions used to be the norm in western countries since the end of WW2 till sometime in the mid-1980s. However the old ways continued for white-collar jobs, such as the one she had, right until the late 1990s-early 2000s.

In other words, career and income stability was the default state of affairs for most of the time since 1945. Now some of you might say that things used to be bad in even earlier eras such as the 1880s-1920s etc. My counterpoint is that there is a reason why life in those eras was so unstable and uncertain for everybody and is ultimately the reason why we had two world wars, multiple bloody revolutions and civil wars in the half century before WW2 ended. That is also why people like Hitler, Mussolini, Franco etc ascended to power and why right-wing militarism was ascendant in countries such as Japan during that era. Let us just say that there is as reason why so many developed countries implement sweeping socialist reforms in the aftermath of WW2.

The point I am trying to make is that previous experiments with laissez-faire capitalism have reproducibly lead to similar results across a number of countries and cultures. To put this in a contemporary perspective, there is a reason why Trump won the presidential election in 2016, the ‘leave’ side won in the 2015 Brexit referendum and so many European countries have seen the resurgence of right-wing nationalist parties. Anybody with more than half a brain can now see that Fukuyama’s “End of History” was just another example of the delusional ivy-league fantasy of power and control. All these warning signs have, however, not had much of an impact on those who are pushing for more neoliberalism. All these visible signs of public dislike for their policies, has if anything, increased their enthusiasm for furthering them.

But how does any of this play out at the level of the individual, family, society, nation-state etc? As many of you know, I have written many posts in the past about issues related to these changes such as spread of social atomization (link 1, link 2), collapse of normal relations between the sexes (link 3), loss of the normal life cycle of people and families (link 4), widespread mercenary attitudes among people (link 5, link 6), loss of public faith in institutions (link 7) etc. Most of what I have written on this topic thus far is, however, mostly about how people react to neoliberalism as state policy and some short and medium scale social changes. What about long-term changes? What would be the potential long-term social, economic and cultural effects of income and career insecurity?

Well.. as you must have realized by now, this is a large topic which cannot be adequately addressed in two or three posts, let alone a single one. Furthermore many potential long-term effects cannot be neatly characterized into distinct categories, since there is a lot of feedback and cross-talk among various aspects of these effects. So let me start by making the most obvious observation about the future of neoliberalism. Based on what I have seen to date, it is unlikely that neoliberalism (in any of its flavors) can be reformed into something gentler and less rapacious. The biggest beneficiaries and supporters of neoliberalism will keep on pushing it till they cease to exist- and you can read that statement in more than one way.

As a corollary, neoliberalism (in any form) is not sustainable beyond the next decade (at most)- but not because of its negative effects on the environment or some similar delusional reason. The real reason behind the unsustainability of that ideology has to do with its effect on society aka the host. Neoliberalism, you see, is a lot like a parasite or cancer in that it requires a host or system which operate on very different principles than itself. However every increase in its numbers and extent of spread compromises the normal functioning of the very system and environment which make its “success” possible.

Let us start by talking about one of the most obvious effects of neoliberalism, but one that is seldom connected to it- extreme sub-replacement fertility. While there has been a consistent worldwide reduction in rates of fertility over the last few decades, even in traditionally high fertility countries, the sub-replacement and still dropping rates of fertility in “developed” countries stand apart from the rest due to a number of factors. Firstly, the rate drop in those countries is due to factors beyond elimination of excessive childhood mortality. To be more precise, financial and career costs of having children combined with negative utility of having them are, by far, the main reasons for persistently sub-replacement fertility rates seen in “developed” countries.

Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, the most significant drops are seen in those who are actively engaged in neoliberal “competition”- either for jobs and career or money. While people with this profile were once the minority, the increase in neoliberal-style “competition” for things as basic as jobs which pay a decent wage and are fairly stable has made this particular type of childlessness very common in younger sections of the population. There is of course, the irony, that those who are most invested in furthering their career through the neoliberal paradigm (and thus its most loyal foot soldiers) often have no children or one token child conceived when they are in their 40s.

While my views on having or not having children are neutral, it is worthwhile to note that part of reason neoliberalism will fail is that its most devout foot-soldiers (credentialed classes, professionals, aspiring types) will be neither truly rich nor capable of producing enough devout new worshipers of that ideology. To put it another way- even without other factors, neoliberalism as an ideology will decline as the number and influence of its most devout followers falls with every passing year. In contrast to this, blue-collar workers and not-so-connected white-collar types have no vested interest in supporting neoliberalism- irrespective of their fertility rates. To make a long story short, neoliberalism (like parasites and other ideologies) cannot survive the demise of their vectors.

In the next part of this series, I will try to focus on a related problem- namely, the fact that all those aspiring and credentialed/professional types who worship neoliberalism will themselves never have a secure livelihood or become truly rich.

What do you think? Comments?

How to Recognize ‘Massey Sahibs’ in USA: Dec 17, 2017

December 17, 2017 6 comments

About three years ago, I wrote a couple of posts (link 1, link 2) about a category of people of Indian descent who I refer to as “Massey Sahibs”. In case you have not come across particular term before- it is the name of the central character in an Indian film of the same name, who while displaying considerable intelligence and competentence, also shows a systemic inferiority complex vis-a-vis white people and is comically subservient to them. The white people in that movie, British colonial officers to be exact , use his eagerness to please them to perform illegal activities on their behalf and make him the fall guy once the scheme is uncovered. However Massey, till the very end, exhibits a child-like belief in ability of his white supervisors (and white people in general) to save him from judicial prosecution.

In other words, a ‘Massey Sahib’ is a well-educated, upwardly mobile person of Indian descent who will go to ridiculous and often comical extents to attempt ingratiating themselves to colleagues and supervisors who are white. They will go to ridiculous attempts to play down their ancestry, even when their looks won’t allow them. These include constant attempts to deflect any conversations which might even obliquely reaffirm their non-white ancestry. One of the more comic examples of this behavioral quirk can be seen in Piyush ‘Bobby’ Jindal (middle mug in the graphic) who tries to deflect every conversation about his early life to one about his conversion to some form of evangelical Christianity. He even went so far as to have his official governor’s portrait done to make him look almost ‘white’.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that somebody like him should fixate on his ethnicity at every available opportunity- but attempts to deflect attention from it in an ineffectual manner serve the opposite purpose. A more polished attempt to deflect attention from his ancestry can be seen in the case of Satya Nadella (right mug in the graphic). His brand of distractions, in contrast to Piyush Jindal’s, are based in attempts to validate his possession of secular markers of ‘whiteness’. If you have seen any interviews with him, he never misses an opportunity to talk about his thoughts on the works of semi-famous white writers and philosophers. He also goes to great lengths to put forth the tone, mannerisms and body language of an extra-liberal white CEO with just enough exoticness to make him a valuable marker of multiculturalism.

And this brings us to the most ridiculous one of the three shown in the graphic… aka Ajit Pai (left mug in graphic). His shtick, in contrast to the other two examples, is just simple and plain corporate prostitution. He does not even bother to address the issue of ethnicity and simply advertises himself as a corporate crack-whore who will suck any cock for the right amount of compensation (immediate or delayed). Some of you might say that his behavior sounds like another white guy in his position- and that is partially correct. So let us talk about whether his ethnicity had anything to do with his career trajectory. Do you think that his being non-white had nothing to do with rise in public positions, both at the telecom oligopolies he worked and his appointment and rise at the FCC? Face it, a republican non-white guy who is willing to be enthusiastic public face of corporate fuckery is an asset.

In that respect, he is just a miniature and shoddy version of Obama- another obviously non-white guy who was willing to take the blame for perpetuating corporate fuckery in exchange for money after retiring from that post. The neoliberal gimmick of appointing a few obviously non-white people into positions of some power is that criticism of them will inevitably result in disingenuous counter-accusations of racism. So what makes the three people I have talked about in this post “Massey Sahibs” as opposed to generic “Corporate Climbers” or “Careerists”? What are the differences between those categories? Well.. it comes down to motivations and behavior in non-work related situations. The generic corporate climber or careerist is into brown-nosing and prostituting himself/herself for future money and power. They are not doing it to be “let into” a group outside of work. Nor are they positioning themselves to be the fall guy if things go bad.

Contrast that to the behavior patterns of people like Ajit Pai, Piyush “Bobby” Jindal and Satya Nadella. These people are willing to debase themselves far more and take on significantly more personal loss than the generic careerist. But why would they do that? Well.. as I previously mentioned, their non-work related behavior clearly shows that they have a significant inferiority complex and desire to be accepted as at least second-class whites. To this end, they are willing to take on far more personal degradation and risk for the benefit of already well-off whites who they believe will recognize their sacrifice and reward them later. Their white supervisors are quite OK with dropping a few breadcrumbs and tantalizing hopes of acceptance into their group as long as they keep doing the dirty work for them. Of course, these “Massey Sahibs” are left to their own devices after they have no further utility or become a liability- and this is what makes people in that category so more pathetic than generic careerists, who have a far stronger sense of self-preservation.

What do you think? Comments?

On the Connection Between ‘Hollywood’ and Establishment Democrats

November 8, 2017 7 comments

One interesting feature of the so-called “#resistance” formed in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral victory concerns its highly skewed membership composition. Most readers might have noticed that almost every single person associated with that useless hashtag is from either the entertainment industry and mainstream media or is a political consultant of some sort.

While it is easy to figure out why opportunistic cocksuckers.. I mean political consultants.. have jumped on the “#resistance” bandwagon, the extensive support for such useless “activism” within the ranks of the entertainment industry and mainstream media is a bit harder to understand- especially since their fortunes have not been negatively affected by Trump’s election.

And yet, not a day (or hour) goes by without some “celebrity” from one of those two industries making some negative or controversial statement about Trump which is then widely circulated on Twitter, FaceBook and other social media platforms. This is followed by another “celebrity” doing something similar resulting in another wave of worthless online activism, seemingly ad infinitum.

To be clear, Donald Trump is a shitty president. However his actions and decisions to date have not been significantly different from his equally shitty predecessors such as Clinton42, Bush43 and Obama44, to name a few. He has yet to pass sweeping neoliberal “reforms” like Clinton42, start large disastrous wars like Bush43 or enable systemic abuses of the 99% by the 1% like Obama44.

So what is the real source of the profound hatred towards Trump from members of the entertainment industry and mainstream media? Why are they so anti-Trump? Also, why are they still pro-HRC and supportive of democratic party establishment? And why were so few of them pro-Bernie during the democratic party primaries or even after Trump defeated their anointed candidate aka HRC.

Now, it is well-known that the entertainment industry aka ‘Hollywood’ has always been a strong supporter of the post-1940s democratic party. But why is that the case? And has the nature of that support changed over time? Conventional explanations for this phenomena have ranged from percentage of Jewish people in that sector, the high degree of unionization within some parts of that industry to the republican party supporting socially regressive causes since 1968.

While there is some truth to all those common explanations, they cannot explain the incredibly high levels of support for the democratic party establishment (especially the establishment) within that industry. This level of support is especially apparent once you start looking at the amount of money contributed by people within that sector to the democratic party establishment. So why is that industry so eager and willing to support the democratic establishment?

In my opinion, a comprehensive explanation for this phenomena can be divided into two components. So let us begin with the first and easier component of the answer, namely why the industry favors the democratic party over its republican counterpart. The answer to that question is fairly easily and comes down to the profile of those who vote for republicans and the type of people they elect.

Simply put, average republican voters (despite what they might themselves believe) are not the sharpest tool in the shed. Almost nobody who works in an industry that is highly image conscious wants to be associated with fat, bland and mediocre white working class types or suburbanites. This is doubly so if the group in question also openly professes to belief in traditional religion, white supremacy and other retrograde beliefs.

The people elected by republican voters are no better. Have a look at both elected establishment republicans and tea-party types. Would anybody possessing even a moderate degree of image consciousness want to hang out with them? And what would you talk about with them, anyway? How about crowd pleasers such “jesus wants to ban abortion” or “let people die on the street because medical care is a privilege, rather than a right (as it is in every other developed country)”.

My point is that associating with republican voters or elected representatives is bad for your image especially in a sector as heavily dependent on image projection and public personas as the entertainment industry. So that explains why the entertainment industry does not spend much time trying to appeal to republicans. But why are they so willing to support the democratic party establishment?

One of the more amusing features of the 2016 presidential election was the degree to which “celebrities” supported the stale and unpopular neoliberal aka HRC over the democratic socialist aka Bernie Sanders. While it is true that a few celebrities did support Sanders the bulk of such endorsements and more importantly fundraising by Hollywood-types was directed towards the spectacular failure of the HRC campaign. But why did that occur? What did so many Hollywood types see in an unpopular neoliberal politician?

Alternatively, why were Hollywood types still so eager to promote the presidencies of Clinton42 and Obama44? Why did HRC have no problems raising tons of money from the entertainment industry? Why were so many Hollywood-types despondent after she lost on Nov 8, 2016? As I have pointed out in previous posts, the policies and actions of neoliberal democrats have not significantly better than their republican counterparts. Why the love for establishment democrats?

Well.. it comes down the fact that the entertainment industry aka ‘Hollywood’ was always a fair neoliberal place and has become more so in the previous two decades. The structure of that industry- from a few powerful gatekeepers, their flunkies, good unions for a small percentage of people in that industry on top of a large and poorly paid workforce which does most of the real work is a microcosm of neoliberal society.

The entertainment industry also promotes the false ideology of meritocracy, when in fact sucking the cock of somebody like Harvey Weinstein is what really makes your career. The neoliberal ideology of democratic party establishment is, therefore, a perfect mental fit for people who run ‘Hollywood’. Their mutual association allows for many cross promotion opportunities and allow both to feel important, current and popular. Because, let us face it, both groups are into promoting and celebrating neofeudalism which is a little less socially regressive than their competition.

What do you think? Comments?

The Obama Presidency was a Disaster for Establishment Democrats: 2

September 9, 2017 19 comments

In the previous post of this series, I pointed out that Barack Obama’s two terms as president was one of major non-systemic reason for the repeated and sustained electoral losses suffered by the democratic party. While the general public disdain about decisions and policies during his term are often attributed to racism, it is also true that he won both the popular vote and electoral college in 2008 and 2012. So clearly, something else is at work. I mean.. he did win many mid-western states with a pretty high percentage of whites in both 2008 and 2012.

In my opinion, public disdain of Obama’s two terms was largely due to the fact that he turned out to be just another empty suit whose decisions and policies helped the rich and corporations at the expense of everybody else. In fact, he was reelected in 2012 only because Mitt Romney was a bigger corporate shill than him. Obama’s popular vote margin did decrease from 10 million in 2008 to 5 million in 2012, as did his margin in electoral college from 365-173 in 2008 to 332-206 in 2012. Having said that, he won fair and square on both occasions- which is what matters in the end.

But that still leaves us with the question as to how Obama got reelected in 2012, after the dismal performance of democrats in 2010 midterm. Also, why he remained somewhat “popular” even though the democratic party suffered further losses in 2012 and 2014. Part of his “popularity” might be due to the fact that few wanted to call out the first black president for being an empty suit shilling for corporations. But the other part of his “popularity” is largely due to the fact that he was not Bush43. As many of you know, Bush43’s second term was such an unmitigated disaster that Obama could look competent just by not repeating any of the large screw-ups of his predecessor.

Accordingly, he was able to restrain himself from overtly invading other countries in the middle-east and making extremely poor personel choices (remember “brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”) and being generally free of serious scandals and charges of overt corruption. Now you might say that this is a very low bar for somebody elected to the office of president. Then again, just look at the guy before him (Bush43) and the one after him (Trump45). Obama remained somewhat popular by simply following the neoliberal script- which is to appear erudite and competent, not make too many big short-term mistakes and cultivate rich elites and lapdog media types who will sing his praises.

The generic neoliberal script did not, however, work for the democratic party for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is much easier for one nominally powerful person at the national level like the president to cultivate his public image and elites. Presidential elections are usually about who is the lesser and more presentable crook to assume the post of chief executive of USA. Most people do not expect the president to be involved in the day-to-day running of the city, town or state of residence. Therefore, public expectations about him (or her) are very different from those of lower level elected representatives.

Elections at the level of representatives for national or state legislatures, in contrast, are often driven by partisan voters who believe that their choice will validate their beliefs. Since the majority of people correctly assume that electing democrats or republicans will not make their lives any better, it comes down to people who vote to validate their beliefs. That is why elections in USA tend to be driven by bullshit issues such as access to abortion, war on drugs, war on crime, welfare for non-white etc. That is also why “culture issues” dominated american politics and elections from mid-1980s to 2008.

But what does any of this have to with neoliberalism not working for democrats? Weren’t they able to win in states like West Virginia a couple of decades ago? Well.. they were able to win such “red” states as late as the early 2000s, but not because of espousing neoliberal ideas. Democrats, you see, were able to win all those so-called “red” states as long as their candidates promoted populist causes- specifically of the economic variety. As many of you know, establishment democrats became republican-lite by the early-1990s and their candidates either stopped being economic populists or were replaced by more corporate friendly figureheads.

It is therefore not surprising that those who voted in many parts of the country most hurt by all those “free trade” agreements and other neoliberal policies were increasingly of the type driven by “cultural issues”. To make a long story short, democrats abandoned people in ‘flyover’ states and those people then stopped supporting that party. At the same time, ranks of establishment democrats were increasingly filled with credentialed professional types who could care less about people who were not like them.

But what does any of this have to do with why the Obama presidency was so disastrous to democrats?

The short answer is that it was similar to the captain of the Titanic not altering course or reducing speed in a known iceberg field. The somewhat longer answer is that the ability of Obama to get elected, and the reelected, convinced establishment democrats that identity-driven neoliberal politics was sufficient to win against republican candidates. The two terms of Obama convinced them that they could sell a neoliberal turd covered by a thin layer of social justice issues and identity politics.

It is therefore not surprising that a lot of the so-called rising stars of the democratic party (Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Joaquim Castro, Gavin Newsom etc) are poor clones of Obama. They are all “properly educated”, photogenic, “properly pedigreed”, “media-savvy” people with handlers who feed them the right sound and media bites and who can deliver empty carefully-lawyered speeches with lots of fake conviction. While that strategy sorta worked for Obama in 2008 and even 2012, it is doubtful if it would work today.

You see, until 2008 many people in USA believed that their economic situation would keep on getting better, regardless of occasional and temporary setbacks. A number of events and structural shifts within the previous 8-9 years have totally changed that, especially for people under the age of 40-45. Today, most people (especially young) in USA simply do not believe in the system and its various “credentialed experts”. That is why somebody like Bernie Sanders got so much support among younger voters. Obama and his poor clones belong to the pre-2008 era.

Now this does not mean that they cannot win election in any state. Indeed, Obama clones can (and do win) elections in certain coastal states like California, Massachusetts and New York. However, it is also clear that such creatures are incapable of winning elections against even mediocre republican candidates in non-coastal states. But why? Well.. it comes down to the fact that Obama clones are unable to motivate voters who sit out elections because they correctly believe that democrats are basically republican-lite. In contrast, republican candidates can motivate their core ideology-based voters by spouting nonsense about “cultural issues”.

But what does any of this have to do with Obama’s position on “illegal immigration” and “free trade”? As it turns out, a lot..

While establishment democrats are busy expressing outrage about Trump’s plans to deport millions of “illegal immigrants” and “build that wall” between Mexico and USA, they forget that the policies of the Obama administration were responsible for more deportations (often under pretty atrocious circumstances) than Trump has manged to in an equivalent period of time. That is correct, Barack Obama’s administration started the current mass deportation machine with its private prisons, arbitrary powers and flagrant abuses of power. Is it any wonder that many citizens of Hispanic descent were not particularly enthusiastic about voting for a third Obama term under HRC?

Some of you might wonder why ivy-league educated “policy wonks”, such as those employed by the HRC campaign, could not figure out that many “illegal immigrants” frequently had relatives in USA who had become citizens- through naturalization or birth. Did they not realize that pissing upon voter groups who might otherwise be very sympathetic to your cause was a bad idea. Did they not realize that Obama’s deportation crusades had already put the democratic party on pretty shaky ground with Hispanics in USA- most of whom are Mexicans. Here is what I think.. establishment democrats did not care about what Hispanic voters thought because they believed that they had no option. While it is true that most Hispanics who voted still voted for democrats- a large number who could have simply chose not to vote for either party.

Let us now turn our attention to how the Obama administration’s support for various “free trade” policies and treaties as well as increased levels of job outsourcing hurt the democratic party. While Obama was not the first american president to pimp “free trade” and outsourcing, it is notable that a majority of job losses in sectors of economy with previously well-paying and stable jobs occurred during the 2nd term of Bush43 and two terms of Obama44. While the events which started that process occurred in the 1990s and early-2000s, it is noteworthy that Obama was far more vocal about his support for “free trade” agreements and outsourcing. Perhaps more problematically, many democratic candidates for national and state legislatures kept on repeating official party positions about “free trade”, education, skills, retraining and other assorted neoliberal lies even after it was obvious that most voters could see their bullshit.

It is therefore not surprising that many working-class people did not bother voting for them- as evidenced by low turnout levels in the 2010 and 2014 (and to a lesser extent in 2012) elections. In 2016, more than a few of them voted for Trump. It is important to realize that the democratic establishment willfully ignored the needs of the working class just like it did for Black and Hispanic voters. I should also point out that most Black and Hispanic voters are part of the working class. To make a long story short, establishment democrats took the support of their core voter constituencies for granted and then proceeded to ignore and humiliate them. While this behavior has been part of establishment democrat behavior for over two decades now- the two terms of Obama in combination their hubris led them to greatly speed up the process of alienating their key voter constituencies.

In the upcoming part of this series, I will talk about how the rise of “identity politics”, “culture wars 2.0” and SJW-ism during the two terms of Obama44 further doomed electoral prospects of the democratic party.

What do you think? Comments?

The Obama Presidency was a Disaster for Establishment Democrats: 1

September 6, 2017 28 comments

One of the more peculiar fact about contemporary american politics is that approval numbers for the democratic party are still slightly worse than for Trump. Let me rephrase that.. one of the two main political parties in USA has lower approval ratings than a rich asshole turned reality star who has flipped on almost every single electoral promise he made to this supporters. To be fair, the other political party (aka the republicans) is not doing any better and we seem to living in a very partisan era. But that still does not help explain why the democratic party has not been able to capitalize on the insane levels of incompetence and corruption displayed by the Trump administration since it took office in late January 2017.

So, how can the main (and only) opposition party in USA not gain any extra public support at a time when the ruling party and its titular leader are busy screwing themselves in public? Why is widespread public disgust towards Trump and republicans not translating into increased support for the democratic party? Why are so many voters, especially those from non-white communities, just not that enthusiastic about the democratic party? And why is the only generally popular national level politician a 75-year-old Jewish guy from Vermont who joined the democratic party about two years ago?

I have explored some of the many interconnected reasons for this failure in a previous series of posts. The main points I made in that series were as follows: a] democratic party establishment has become too incestuous, sclerotic and generally resistant to any type of change. b] It is almost completely funded, controlled and run by neoliberal corporate interests who try to hide their economically regressive policies behind token identity politics. c] The party bureaucracy and primary system is almost completely dominated by a bunch of corrupt assholes and hyperpartisan idiots. Also, there is no accountability for repeated failures. d] The major financiers, supporters and top-level cadre of the democratic party is almost exclusively derived from the rich and professional class- two groups with little, if any, real connection to the rest of the population.

There are of course other related reasons for the shockingly low approval ratings of democrats. The desire of coastal elite within that party to push gun control has not helped its cause in non-coastal states. Similarly, ad nauseam repeating of the “russian interference in our elections” trope since Trump got elected in Nov 2016 has not helped their overall public credibility. The point I am trying to make the democratic party establishment has done an incredibly good job of sabotaging its own electoral prospects. It is almost as if they are intentionally and systematically trying to lose public relevance. Even their new crop of leaders are full of photogenic, insipid and obvious fakes such as Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and Joaquim Castro. I can go on about the many other structural reasons that the democratic party, in its current form, is doomed- but that is best left for future posts.

Instead I will focus of one of non-systematic reasons behind the failure of democrats as a party. I am certainly not the first to point out that Barack Obama’s two terms as president have seen a considerable diminution of the power of the democratic party on both the national and state level. His tenure as president has seen the democratic party lose control of the house, senate, over 1000 seats in state legislatures, multiple state governorships to the point where republican are the ruling party in almost 2/3rd of the states. The establishment democrat response to these massive electoral setbacks have mostly consisted of them saying that all those setbacks occurred happened because majority of the american electorate is irremediably racist. Of course, that does not explain how Obama got elected in 2008 and then re-elected in 2012.

I have a better theory to explain why the rise of Obama and his two terms as president have contributed to the ongoing collapse of the democratic party. My theory is largely based in how that rise shaped the democratic party- specifically its institutions and strategy. This is not to say that other factors such as increasing use of internet and social media by general public were without effect in that process. However, the more we look at all the facts over a longer time span, the more it becomes obvious that the rise of Obama and his style of politics was extremely damaging to the electoral prospects of the democratic party. But before we do that, we have to first understand Obama’s style of politics and its ideological underpinnings.

Barack Obama, for the lack of a better description, is a Reagan-era Republican. There.. I said it and you knew it too! The problem with his politics and its ideological underpinnings is that it is basically 1980-1990 era republican with a veneer of coolness and “inclusivity”. Also, since he is black, few people dare to say it aloud on any corporate mainstream media outlet- even Fox news. While he may not talk and act like a republican, almost every single policy decision (domestic and foreign) made by him is almost identical to what your average 1980s-1990s era republican would make. But don’t just believe my assertion without considering the evidence..

1] For a person who made his pre-political career as a “community organizer” in the black community of Chicago, it is remarkable how little Obama did to combat racism (overt or systemic) when he became president. As I pointed out in a previous post, it was smartphones with HD cameras and social media platforms which created public awareness about murders by police and other legalized atrocities against black people. Even the two biggest achievements of the Obama administration in that area (overview of some police departments and stopping police from getting military grade equipment) were insipid and in response to massive public outcry and demonstrations against murders by police and other flagrant violations of laws. To put it bluntly, Barack Obama did not care about black people.

We cannot also forget the harmful effect of deliberately rigged foreclosure assistance programs, created in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, on the black community. While these banker-friendly programs hurt homeowners of many ethnicities, the black community was (as often is the case) disproportionately hurt by them. We can only imagine the effect that this had on the lives of many hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of black people who were the subject for sneaky and unfairly foreclosure on their homes. It is no wonder that HRC, running for the 3rd term of Obama, had such a lukewarm response among the younger members of the black community. Simply put, Obama’s two terms were quite disappointing for the black community and has affected their enthusiasm for the democratic party.

2] The supposedly most important legacy of the Obama administration, aka “Obamacare”, was a massive public disappointment. While it did provide some improvement over the previous patchwork of rules and laws, it has not been able to tackle the issue of rising costs or provide universal health coverage. We can spend hours discussing how Obama killed the ‘public option’ in Obamacare and basically rejected universal healthcare coverage for a frankenstein which appealed to all the corporate interest donating to his election and re-election campaigns. Obama’s greatest achievement, then, is pushing out a ‘healthcare’ program modeled on the beliefs of some conservative think tank from 1993. If you call that an achievement, well.. perhaps your standards are really low.

It also did not help that the rollout of “Obamacare” was an epic public relations disaster. While the law is popular enough for republicans to be unable to repeal it today, its appeal mainly lies in being not as shitty as the alternatives- which is a very low bar. The point I am trying to make is that “Obamacare” is a microcosm of what is unpopular with the Obama school of neoliberal policies and its ideological underpinnings. It contains, within it, an example of every problematic aspect of his policies- from supporting corporate oligopolies and monopolies over public interest, unnecessarily complicated regulations meant to confuse and rob its users, broken promises about something as important as health care coverage, “credentialed experts” and other assorted conmen (and conwomen) padding their already fat paychecks to neglecting public concerns about the system.

In the upcoming part of this series, I will talk about how the Obama administration policies of immigration and deportation dis not help democrats increase enthusiasm among Hispanics for their party. I will also talk about the enthusiastic promotion of various “free trade” agreements and other secret corporate backed “trade agreements” by Obama over his two terms hurt the democratic party.

What do you think? Comments?