Saturday, January 30, 2016

Saturday Tweet Storms

Two Saturday tweet storms for today.

From Propane Jane, who describes herself as "Wife. Mother. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Doctor. Christian. Longhorn. Liberal. Democrat. Activist. Scorpio. Recycler. Politics Junkie. Proverbial Firestarter":

This anti-socialist propaganda [against Bernie Sanders] is effective precisely because it's tailored towards people whose bigotry prevents them from sharing and caring. Y'all are pretending the issue is that no one ever effectively sold socialism to America, when really bigots just prefer racist capitalism.
Do us all a favor and read up on Social Security and how it almost never was because folk didn't want Blacks to have it. Understand that every social program in America, be it schools, water regulation, or health care, has been hampered by racist selfishness. For the umpteenth time, systemic racism is the number-one reason why we don't have socialism in America. It ain't the banks or the 1 percenters.

How we, as liberals, expect to counter that level of animosity by shying away from explicitly discussing and denouncing racism is beyond me. If you aren't starting from the basic premise that deep-seated American distrust of government is rooted in racism, you're doing it wrong.

I come from a place where White people make it no secret that they've hated the Feds ever since Lincoln freed the slaves. Why not believe them? In other words, they hate/distrust the government precisely because it took drastic action to improve the lives of Black people relative to Whites.
From Toronto-based futurist/urban thinker Richard Florida:
It's ironic that there's so much declinism and stagnationism about the United States. The U.S. is relatively more economically powerful today than at virtually any time save for immediate period after WWII. In the early 20th century, the U.S. faced a formidable UK, Germany, Japan etc. all industrial powers. In the '50s & '60s, one could argue the USSR was a significant super-power. In the '80s, Japan and Germany were industrial behemoths as the U.S. deindustrialized.

What is the U.S.'s economic competition today, the BRICs — all in difficult shape? Western Europe? The U.S. is far and away the world's leader in technological innovation and venture-capital-financed startups, accounting for roughly half. What other nation boasts any place that can compete with Silicon Valley, never mind NYC tech, L.A., Austin, Boston-Cambridge, Seattle. The U.S. thoroughly dominates innovative and tech industries much more thoroughly than it previously did in autos, electronics, chemicals, or steel. The U.S. attracts the best and the brightest, the most entrepreneurial, innovative and creative from Europe, the BRICs, etc.

The problem is not U.S. innovativeness or relative economic power, but the growing divide between knowledge workers and the rest falling behind. And the particularly precarious situation of working class men. The conservative Right offers us back-to-the-'50s, the glory days of the old, the vanished order. The Left is incapable of articulating a progressive agenda for inclusion and shared prosperity in the new knowledge economy.

Which single presidential candidate is even willing to talk about the two central issues for rebuilding the U.S. middle class:
1. The need to upgrade 70 million low-wage jobs into higher paying family-supporting jobs, like we did before with factory jobs.
2.  the development of an urban policy that spurs greater density, invests in transit, and creates affordable urban housing.

When all is said and done, the U.S. has improved its economic position vis a vis the rest of the world. The problem is, a huge chunk of its own population feels as if it is (and in many ways, it is) falling behind and becoming increasingly anxious and angry. And it wants to lash out as those it sees as privileged or taking something from them.

Simply, the issue is less one of innovation or productivity and much more about building new institutions for more inclusive distribution.
I've just been watching the PBS American Experience show called Mine Wars, about the literal battles between West Virginia miners and mine-owners in the 1910s and '20s. Richard Florida's insistence that current employers could pay service workers a lot more and create family-supporting jobs is no more pie-in-the-sky than the idea that the mine owners could pay miners decently back in the day. The mine owners didn't start paying better because mining creates a physical product or because they had money lying around to share; they started paying better because the workers organized.

No comments: