The Economy is Great
Except for 90% of us, that is
Bryan Zepp Jamieson
December 4th 2023
One thing I hear fairly often—and I wager you do, too—is a plaint from liberal and/or Democratic pundits that goes something like this: “The economy is doing great. Unemployment is down, inflation is down, productivity is up, and the stock market is roaring. Why doesn’t Biden get credit for that?”
That’s all true as far as it goes. Part of it is that the media doesn’t much report good news because it’s boring. Having some idiot on Faux News winge that he paid $90 for a turkey is much more entertaining than noting that turkeys cost less than they have in five years. (We paid $23 for ours, and it was a damned good turkey). It’s easier to remember what some overpriced bird cost some overstuffed and self-important pundit than what people’s own turkeys cost in the checkout—or that such things as eggs, milk, and veggies had shown similar declines.
Part of it is a historical oddity in social psychology: societies as a whole become more discontented and restive as things begin to improve. We really are making our way back from the twin disasters of COVID and Trump. The dim light of early dawn is somehow more depressing than the depth of darkness a few hours earlier.
The main part of the answer is in the part of that quote, “productivity is up, and the stock market is roaring.” Both usually come at the expense of middle class people. They aren’t good news for the very people who are most sour on the economy.
The indicators cited really don’t speak to the welfare of the working class. Yes, there are more jobs. But by the standards of other developed nations, they remain shit jobs. Minimum wage remains $7.25 an hour in the most backward states. Most jobs don’t offer health insurance (and shouldn’t—that should be a public sector function). Many offer no vacation time. Maternity benefits remain crappy even as the GOP moves to outlaw abortion and birth control. There’s no job security; in most states an employee can be laid off without warning, and for no reason given. Then there’s the sleazy low-end outfits that call their victims “independent contractors” which eliminates otherwise legally required things such as overtime, minimum wage, or scheduled hours, and the shittiest ones even require their subjects to provide and/or pay for work related items, such as computers. Because regulation was pared down beginning with Reagan, the government does little to combat such abuses as wage theft, cheating employees on overtime, and job safety and health measures. The lowest states are fighting to bring back child labor, an absolute disgrace in what is purportedly the richest country on Earth. Who can love a system that enslaves children but where plutocrats whine loudly about having to pay to provide those children with food? Even in the Confederate south, most slaveowners had more decency than that, and man, is that one fucking low bar!
Even with full employment, 80% of full-time workers have less than $400 in their bank accounts in case of emergency. Most have none, and are skipping meals to pay rent, feed the kids, and pay $150 a month for TV so rich assholes can pontificate to them about how good they have it, riding on the backs of beleaguered billionaires.
Plutocrats spend billions on that propaganda, and on the legalized bribery of elected officials to push the notion that only they are deserving and that the poor are nothing but a burden. Faux News has spent billions and billions of dollars persuading us that single mothers on welfare are the problem and carefully don’t mention the thousand or so billionaires who have been dismantling the economic system and raping it to death.
The Koch brothers tried rebranding fascism as “Libertarian Party” and when that failed, simply started taking over the once-sane GOP and populating it with the same broken and twisted creatures and fought so hard against civil rights, worker rights, compassion or fairness, beginning with Donald Trump. Those crazy bastards that have paralyzed Congress didn’t come out of nowhere; they were homegrown by the fascistic plutocracy. Most of the mainstream media is owned by corporate entities that are part of this same cabal, and they lean heavily on their “journalistic” outlets to complain that the problems are liberalism and throwing money at social problems, and not Wall Street types dismantling, destroying, and packaging out once-useful companies. Look at what Musk has deliberately done to destroy Twitter, once a semi-respectable source of information. Everyone has tales to tell of good companies that provided decent jobs and good service that fell apart after being bought out by some semi-anonymous hedge fund entity.
Most people sense the system is deeply flawed and purposefully broken. And the very worst problems remain unaddressed.
This attack on the US has been going for decades, and featured six major prongs by the interests that wanted to create a power vacuum by destroying the peoples’ government:
Deregulation: lots of whines about the burden of regulation that somehow failed to create the richest and most powerful country on Earth. Now we have deregulation. Feeling particularly rich or powerful now? Ninety-nine percent of you will say no.
Tax Reform: AKA trickle down, or supply side. Top tax brackets fell from 90% to 20%. Working people made up a bit of the difference. But we’re still $23 trillion in the hole. It wasn’t school lunches for kids that caused that: it was billionaires cheating the country.
Tort Reform: essentially makes it impossible for regular people to sue major corporations.
State’s rights: take power from the federal government and give it to corrupt, petty, venal states like Mississippi or Louisiana. Gape in amazement as civil rights vanish along with worker rights and environmental protections.
Freedom of religion: Make pets out of gullible zealots and promise to let them inflict their idolatry on others in return for their votes. Notice that you aren’t free from religions you don’t believe in any more?
Combine liberalism and social justice with communism and other authoritarian regimes in the public mind. Spend billions on propaganda to promote this and all the other prongs.
It all leads to plutocratic authoritarianism.
A lot of people, including one of the main architects of this attack, David Koch, have looked at Donald Trump and his followers, and the vicious excesses of the so-called Christian Right, and realized that, in line with historical precedent, their movement has attracted a dark element of broken and twisted creatures who revel in the suffering of others and live only to serve their masters and share a few crumbs from the table. Scratch a strutting and bellicose MAGAt and find a cold concentration camp prison guard, or the block party commissar.
Fascist regimes, like theocratic regimes, begin as cruel and incompetent, and go downhill from there.
I’m not sure it can be reversed. But it must be if we are to avoid the fate of such regimes.
But even though Biden can’t wave a magic wand and fix all these things, he at least wants to. And you can bet your life (and you probably are) that Trump and his lot in the GOP will only make things worse.
You want a decent job that pays for a good home, security and decent medical care? Reject the GOP.
And yes, that includes people who cheered for that six pronged attack and expected a sane outcome. The dream is over. Time to wake up.