Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


The death of the Western middle class

posted by Rod Dreher

John Robb says that’s the real social and economic story now. The postwar creation of a broad middle class in America allowed for stability because it provided a broad base for prosperity and creativity. But that’s going away, he believes. Excerpt:

The social contract that enabled this success, particularly the post WW2 social contract that shared the increases in wealth generated by improvements in productivity with the more productive workers that enabled it, ended with the financialization of economic activity and globalization (and governments that facilitated and catalyzed the process). In sum, the increase in wealth the western middle class produced over the last three decades has been transfered to global financial elites (who misspent it) and mercantilist nations (China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, etc.). We can see the result of this. It’s tangible: The median income (the best measure of the health of the middle class) of the western middle class today is less than it was in 1974, despite massive top line GDP and productivity growth (both global and national) during the same period.

What’s this going to mean for us? Robb predicts:

•Economic stagnation/depression. An ever increasing loss of vibrance. Shrinkage, across the board. Wealth destruction.
•Inevitable government bankruptcy. An ongoing and inexorable reduction in the bulk of the tax base that funds government activities. Government’s become slaves to global bond markets.
•Political instability. Increasingly fractious political discourse. Increasing violence. A rise in criminality and corruption.

Read the whole thing.



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Franklin Evans

posted July 1, 2010 at 12:24 pm


Robb makes a compelling case, from my POV, because middle-class economic stagnation has been a fact of life for several decades.
The “empathy” tangent at the end of the pron-sexuality thread informs my view on this topic. My personal experience of that social contract from the business owners’ side indicates a strong thread (on their side) of “there but for the grace of accident of birth or serendipitous opportunity, go I.” That seems to have been gradually replaced by “I got/am getting mine, I’m getting it because I can, and I’m getting it because it’s no longer going to them (middle-class).”
In reading this over before posting, it occurs to me that by implication I’m degrading the value of hard work. To clarify: No amount of hard work makes one immune to calamity, and can’t compete with that serendipity. The best it can do is echo this (yet another) fictional reference, this time from the movie “The Incredibles”. Edna Mode (to Helen/Elastigirl): “Luck favors the prepared, dahling.” ;-)
It’s a broad view, no arguing that. It does seem to work, in the abstract and in a practical way. The views of others gratefully anticipated… :-)



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Clare Krishan

posted July 1, 2010 at 12:42 pm


There never was a social contract: those with a low time preference ( the proles ie, bearers of children) were powerless against the ‘democrats’ with a high time preference (the predominant cultural preference for alternative non-family communities maintained via a contraceptive mindset) – the terms weren’t bilateral but unilateral, in other words one-sided, a covenant granted by a grantor to grantees, ie your government fiefdom grants you the serf certain indulgences which you have no permanent or objective claim in law, ie no stakeholder status (why do so many of our impoverished seniors prefer the subjective marginal utility of living in sin? They’re not stupid, their claim to purchasing power of two single pensions — privatised gain — is greater than the diminished purchasing power of the value ascribed to conjugal union — socialized losses — by the powers of the reigning fiduciary actuaries aka US SSI bureacrats). This is the legitimacy argument of theology’s natural law: illegitimate powers have no hold on anyone’s loyalty. So long as the State controls the purchasing power of the legal tender we’re all serfs at the mercy of mercantilist relationships contracted by our “betters” in the G20 halls of oligarchs and autocrats… aka the “mature civility” aka “grown-up politics” favored by Gerson, Brooks, Dionne, McArdle et al… conservative patriarchy at its best? [forgive me ... upchuck...] not!
American “Federal Reserve currency status” economic interests amount to teenagers let loose without supervision…
…reflected in manifest foreign policy mishaps our grandchildren will still be paying for (much as Germans have only recently paid off the reparitions of WWI)…
“Children have very high time preferences, living “day to day and from one immediate gratification to the next,” Hopper explains. As we become adults, our time preferences fall as we save for future obligations. Old folks have higher time preferences, because they have little time left. ”
http://www.lewrockwell.com/french/french39.html
It might behove the downtrodden to relearn a philosophy of covenant…
http://www.stephankinsella.com/2010/05/26/hoppe-on-covenant-communities/
starting with the Divine Patriarchy of Moses perhaps… ? We are Children of God, and the sooner we start acting like it the better!!



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stari_momak

posted July 1, 2010 at 12:56 pm


I don’t know how you can leave immigration out of this equation. Even leaving race aside, mass immigration has eroded the working classes wages. A family member, long time construction worker, tells me he is getting the same hourly rate, in nominal terms, as he did in 1990. Construction foremen in SoCal are getting $25.00 , no benefits. That is, a skilled worker with something on the ball smarts-wise, and around 10 years experience, earns about $50,000 a year, or around $4200 a month. That is nothing in Southern California — to buy a house in a decent neighborhood with decent schools you still are going to need $300,000+, a single earner at a foreman’s wages will not qualify for a mortgage.
No wonder the ‘middle class’ — really the well paid working class, is dwindling in California. Of course, a lot of those folks are whites, and I really believe we have an elite that wants to see white gentiles dwindling — from the president to Eric Holder to Hilda Solis to Barbara Boxer.



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Clare Krishan

posted July 1, 2010 at 1:04 pm


More on the economic warping effect of time preference: while the media obsesses over the geopolitics of gas prices climbing above $2 per gallon, there’s an eery broadcast silence re: the printer ink selling at $4000 per gallon:
http://www.thebuzzmedia.com/hp-printer-ink-class-action-lawsuit/
or the legality of commerce in malfunctioning laptops:
http://consumerist.com/2010/06/dell-knew-its-computers-would-go-kaput.html
Why?
We’ve been lulled into behaving as “sheeple” (John Medaille considers this an unfitting insult for an RC like me to use, but I disagree, its apt in that its evil to act as docile sheep towards anyone else other than our Divine Shepherd corralled by fences other than His heavenly-destined sheep pen, Mother Church. The corrupting influence of a Great Deceiver may be at play here… )
How to sue in small claims court or assert one’s rights via class action lawsuit aren’t taught in high-school. (The authorities aren’t stupid either, they know to subsidize something means you’ll get more of it… aka moral hazard)
Our education is in the hands of the oligarchs also, far better to teach the wee ones about pairs of daddy penguins right… NOT!



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stari_momak

posted July 1, 2010 at 1:07 pm


e Krishnan is precisely wrong — the ‘proles’, presumably meaning the working class — adopted the deferred gratification message, at least where having children is concerned. But that had two bad effects for our economic masters — scarce labor means rising wages, and few people means less demand for housing (a disaster for the ‘land wealthy’ and developers). So, instead of accepting ‘the proles’ choice and adjusting to the new reality of low to no population growth, the elites through open the immigration gates — both de jure and de facto (the latter through none enforcement of our laws). In effect, our immigration policy second-guesses our high-time preference ‘proles.’ Its no accident that both the Bush clan and Obama are open-borders zealots.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted July 1, 2010 at 1:09 pm


Bless your heart Clare, your writing style reminds me of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap labels.



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My Name

posted July 1, 2010 at 1:11 pm


I completely, totally, 100% disagree. I’m not saying that we’re in some kind of economic paradise right now. That said, take a look at some of the numbers. Sure, full-time male wages (you have to look past a link or two to find out that this is the measure used in the excerpted part) have not risen in median terms since the early 70s. Should they have done so? It seems like a foolish question, but think about the following questions: In the early 70s, what proportion of full-time workers were women? Now? In the early 70s, what proportion of the family income came from the man of the house? Now? In the early 70s, what was the average family size that this money went to support? Now? As the workforce becomes more open to women (and don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that it did), then the pool of labor rose dramatically, and demand slackened for male workers. Of course wages didn’t keep going up for full-time male workers, since many entering the labor market had some kind of competitive advantage in many types of work. The main competitive advantage was of course that they would work for less money. I sure don’t want to send women back to the point where their options are barefoot or pregnant, so I’m not arguing against it. But the fact is that when women started pouring into the full-time labor force, men were bound to suffer some. As a testament to the resilience of our system, male full-time wages didn’t actually decrease in real terms, even with the influx of women into the workforce and peeling of a lot of jobs into the part-time market.



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the stupid Chris

posted July 1, 2010 at 1:40 pm


We shredded the post WWII social contract with the rise of Reaganism, which delivered prosperity by running massive government deficits (a lesson there for the “austerity” crowd today).
Problem is, what replaced it was a return to the social contract of the Robber Barons, without the charitable largesse.
It is no surprise that this leads inevitably to the destruction of the middle class, as sharing the wealth is not part of the programme and, indeed, is considered “slavery” by some ideologues.



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stari_momak

posted July 1, 2010 at 1:41 pm


The problem, My Name, is that for working and middle class americans, the entry of women into the workforce was a ‘wash’ as far as real, disposable income was concerned. Worse, it made their financial situations more precarious, as households now rely on two incomes, thus (approx.) doubling the chances a catastrophic financial event (accident, layoff, illness) will occur.
Elizabeth Warren explains it all here, if you have an hour to spare.
Moreover the mass immigration effect is probably as strong the demographic effect of women entering the market.
PS Warren is at least as accomplished as E. Kagan, and her name was bandied about briefly for POTUS. Strange indeed she wasn’t nominated.



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Scott Lahti

posted July 1, 2010 at 1:50 pm


John E.’s quip was priceless. I wish I had said that.
As for the other John, Robb: beware of gurus, all of them, especially those addicted to buzzwords, and more especially still those with crystal balls (mine are Of Steel, ever since I got the workout tape, then the DVD). When dead men at their own open-casket services sit bolt upright to attention at the merest word-to-the-wise whispers of their prognosticating names, after the old Carson-sketch spoofing of E.F. Hutton spots, maybe I’ll call my imaginary broker and invest my even more imaginary dollars accordingly. Until then, I am grateful for the free entertainment as I enact a one-man climate change in the direction of global chilling, sustain my lifelong preference for the study of history rather than the wholly imaginary future, and prepare to laugh as the latter unfolds in ways destined to surprise all of us, our hothouse futurologists even more than most, never letting us see them sweat thought they will.



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stari_momak

posted July 1, 2010 at 1:52 pm


Warren was bandied for SCOTUS, not POTUS, of course.



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celticdragonchick

posted July 1, 2010 at 2:12 pm


Problem is, what replaced it was a return to the social contract of the Robber Barons, without the charitable largesse.
But…but…they told us that free markets solve every problem!
God loves rich people more, and poor people are losers who deserve it and should get out of the way…or something like that.
Guess it isn’t quite working out.



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Scott Lahti

posted July 1, 2010 at 2:13 pm


[Elizabeth] Warren was bandied for SCOTUS, not POTUS, of course.
My laughing over that – POTUS emotus.
My laughing over that in the Coliseum (I col ‘im as I se um, said the roamin’ umpire) – POTVS EMOTVS.
Elizabeth as POTUS, declaring herself emperor: Pax Warrenicus, or the Warren Peace.
SCOTUS with her as Chief Justice: the Warren Court.
Her bench divided against itself: the Warrin’ Warren Court.



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Coldstream

posted July 1, 2010 at 2:51 pm


I’ve always wondered if this postwar middle class was a one-shot kind of deal, a situation that could only exist due to the peculiar circumstances of the time. For example, Post-World War II the US was the only major nation relatively untouched by the war, which gave us unprecedented advantages over the rest of the world economically speaking. Rebuilding the world ensured a constanstly growing economy and productivity.
Also, I would imagine there is something behind the expansion of the labor force and the stagnation/decline of wages. The postwar middle class was generally built on a much smaller labor market. Look at “Mad Men”…were women, minorities or (non-western) immigrants much in play in the higher paying jobs? No, they were secretaries, elevator operators, maids or what have you. Open the labor market to all of them, and wages would likely have downward pressure on them.



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My Name

posted July 1, 2010 at 3:17 pm


stari said: Worse, it [entry of women into the workforce] made their financial situations more precarious, as households now rely on two incomes, thus (approx.) doubling the chances a catastrophic financial event (accident, layoff, illness) will occur.
Is this a joke? Seriously? I’m never going to say that a wage earner losing his or her job does not cause financial difficulty for a faimly. But… You are technically correct that the chances of economic difficulties due to accident, layoff or illness double if two people are working instead of one, but what are the consequences that catastrophe? As the sole wage earner in my family, if we lose my earnings, then we’re screwed. Totally and completely. If my dad loses his job, my parents will also be hurt. But since my mom also works, the impact won’t nearly be as much as it would be for my family. Imagine that we’re talking about building walls that support a roof. Is it safer to support the roof with two walls or four? Your argument suggests that two walls are better because, since there are only half as many studs in two walls, there’s half the chance that you’ll end up with broken studs. Of course, any broken stud in your two-walled structure is going to cause twice the stress on the overall structure as a broken stud on my four-walled structure.
I know Warren talks about some of these things, but that debate is much bigger than this post. Suffice it to say that I would have many bones to pick with how she does her data analysis.



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Marie

posted July 1, 2010 at 3:35 pm


I swear the middle class has been in danger of disappearing for the past 10-20 years based on some old books I’ve got.
Captcha “optimist Life”



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Naturalmom

posted July 1, 2010 at 4:26 pm


My Name — it depends on the family, of course, but if a one-income family has an able-bodied, educated stay-at-home partner, they may indeed be better able to handle a lay-off or injury of the wage-earner. Assuming the 2 income family is living fully on both incomes (as most families are), rather than socking away one salary, then the loss of one income can be difficult to over-come. The still-working partner is not easily able to make up the difference in income since they are already occupied with their own employment.
Let’s assume that the one-income family is also living fully one the one salary and that both families have a few months cushion in a bank account somewhere. The one-income family immediately has 2 people seeking employment and each can take part-time or low wage jobs if necessary to make up a decent portion of the lost wage. As an able-bodied stay-at-home mom with a college degree, I could not immediately replace my husband’s salary due to the lapse in my employment history, but I could qualify for a job that would cover about 70% of it, probably — more than the share I would be making if we both worked for pay. In the mean time, we could both be flipping burgers if necessary to feed our family. Between the two of us, even low-paying jobs would replace more than half of his lost salary. Once either one of us found a job, we could breathe a little because our family expenses are geared toward only one income. We could both work for a while to get back on top of things.
All that said, it greatly depends on the specific family situation. A two-income family might have been able to save more for a rainy day (but did they?), or a one-income family might be that way because one partner is unable to work or is completely unskilled. I don’t think it’s fair to say that two income families are *more* vulnerable in general, but it’s also not a given that a one income family is doomed.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted July 1, 2010 at 4:44 pm


One other thing to consider about the one income vs. two income scenario is how employer provided health insurance plays into the mix.
Assuming both wage earners work for companies that provide health insurance, then if the wage earner that had the insurance lost his/her job, that would be a ‘qualifying event’ under which the still employed wage earner could get on that company’s health plan.



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Naturalmom

posted July 1, 2010 at 4:44 pm


On the main topic, Like Franklin Evans, this idea that the broad middle class may be coming to an end makes intuitive sense to me. It also worries me, of course. I hope it’s wrong…
Oh and my comment at 4:26 should in *no way* be taken as support for the idea that women should never have entered the work force. On the contrary, whatever negative effects this shift may have had (and I concede that there probably are some), I think the positive effects out-weigh them. Although I care for my family full time right now, it would chafe greatly if I felt I had no other option. I love knowing that I can someday pursue something else, or that if — God forbid — something were to happen to my husband, I would be able to have more than 3 career choices to support my family. Besides that, I love having a woman doctor and female principles of schools and female judges. I can’t imagine the world my grandmother grew up in where men were in virtually *every* position of authority. Don’t want to go back to that, thank you very much!



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Coldstream

posted July 1, 2010 at 5:23 pm


Taking a further look at the data leads me to question his premise. Robb says that median income has stagnated and if you look at his linked chart, it has…but the chart is only for men.
http://www.census.gov/prod/2009pubs/p60-236.pdf
Overall median household income has not stagnated since 1974 (See the chart on page 7). It does fluctuate, but it definitely higher than it was in 1974. Looking at the chart on page 11, men’s wages have held flat, but women’s have made steady gains.



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MWorrell

posted July 1, 2010 at 5:31 pm


I grew up between Akron and Pittsburgh. Even as I graduated in 1986, many kids went straight from school to the factory. If they landed the right (largely) unskilled job, they’d earn enough money to buy a decent home, drive a new car or two, and eventually (if they were careful), own a boat for the weekends and retire fairly comfortably. I knew many families who pretty much fit this description.
That road is gone, and all those people and everyone like them are screwed. I’m not sure they realize how screwed they are, actually.
But for many others, today represents an amazing time when you can start a business for the cost of a URL and a few weeks dorking with a website. I’m making more money than I ever have. And I can pretty much make all the money I have time to go after. I’m not getting rich, but I’m getting by.
It could all end tomorrow. Scary stuff.



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Pat

posted July 1, 2010 at 5:42 pm


You’ve often posted that current society was squandering a priceless asset in letting christianity decline. I wonder how much of what you attribute to a loss of christian mores is actually a loss of the middle class and the middle class’s acceptance of the social contract.
When we have neither trust in the fairness of society, nor fear of eternal punishment to constrain people, life may become very interesting, in the sense of the old curse. I think it will be easier to rebuild the social contract than to reinvigorate belief in a vengeful deity, absent any attempt to follow his edicts on the part of the powerful.



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Indy

posted July 1, 2010 at 6:47 pm


When I read Clare’s post from 12:42 pm, my mind flashed to that old sitcome, Third Rock From the Sun, where aliens “studied” earthlings. I’m fascinated by how people can live among human beings, with all their quirks and individualism and the breathtaking variety among them, and write about them as low-time and high-time bearers of children or non-bearers of children observed from thousands of miles away. Wow. I’ve always imagined most Christians were like me in their faith in a strong focus on self-examination and struggle with humanity (our own and those of others we try to help). That stems from the crowd I hang with. That there are Christians who write about their fellow countrymen as if they were alien, monolithic bloc-groups has been a revelation for me at this blog over the last year.
As to the problem of the middle class, the disappearance of factory jobs obviously is a factor. There’s an inherent conflict between some business goals (increase profit, reduce overhead) and national goals (“buy American”). So some of this in due to the working of a free market. Many consumers flock to places like Walmart with their inexpensive, foreign made goods. Entire industries have died out (when’s the last time you were able to buy a radio or tv made in the USA?) And then there are the voters, who often have voted for more or continued government services but who have punished those who sought to raise taxes or increase revenue streams. Right now, there’s less money coming in to the Treasury due to the recessionh. Banks still aren’t lending to any degree. And the middle class will continue to be squeezed. Some may be thinking about their own choices (personal or political) but many aren’t. People just aren’t geared towards thinking about the interconnectedness of some of these things.



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Jon

posted July 1, 2010 at 7:49 pm


Re: The still-working partner is not easily able to make up the difference in income since they are already occupied with their own employment.
A stay-at-home spouse who has been out of the workforce for years is unlikely to be hired for more than a fraction of what the breadwinner was making– and in a recession the lack of a recent resume may doom such a job hunt entirely.
Re: Even as I graduated in 1986, many kids went straight from school to the factory.
In Michigan this was called graduating to 13th grade at GM (or Ford), though that career track pretty much died with the 70s.
On the larger topic, Robb does not really consider the massive political consequences. Government enslaved to the bond market– um, that’s like someone taking on a full-grown tiger as a pet and practicing corporeal punishment well– a situation that will not end well. And a frustrated middle class is like a lake of gasoline just waiting for a stray spark. They tore Charles I from his throne and cut his head off, hanged aristocrats from the lamp-posts in Paris and then went on a rampage across Europe, sent the Romanovs to die in a basement, installed a Fuehrer and raised a swastika, and sent a Shah into exile replaced with fanatical theocrats.
I shudder to think what what the American middle class might be capable of if sufficiently angry. The bond vigilantes will be lucky to keep their hearts beating their chests, and God help the rest of the planet.



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Scott Lahti

posted July 1, 2010 at 8:28 pm


Beheadings. Hangings from lampposts. Lakes of gasoline sparked to kaboom. Cromwell, Robespierre, Lenin, Himmler, the Ayatollah, oh my! We DID start the fire!
Yawn. Whatever sells burning newspapers, I guess.
Thank G-d the rest of us have engagements back on planet Earth, he said moonwalking suavely backward with a feigned smile.



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Auntiegrav

posted July 1, 2010 at 8:33 pm


There is no such thing as a ‘middle’ class. You either have to work to eat or you never have. The rest is just people trying to be like the upper class, believing they are in some upper class, and being used by the upper class. They used to call this bourgeois: the suck-ups to royalty.
The loss of the ability to mature (look up neotony) went hand-in-hand with marketing and the 20th century’s ‘breaking the rules’ type of competition with no holds barred behaviors. Whether you use God or the social contract, you have to instill in people at a young age that they need to grow up sometime, and the defining point is when they know how to follow the rules of living properly. Confirmations, bah mitzvahs, etc., were ceremonies to celebrate maturity and becoming part of society with common decency rules.
Now, it’s all about letting the money make the decisions and screw any concept of real response-ability.



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Indy

posted July 1, 2010 at 8:40 pm


If a frustrated middle class goes up in flames, that’ll tell us something about how deep their Christian faith was, won’t it? Although it is true that when people are cornered with some of their choices (how they voted, what the results were in terms of fiscal discipline, buy in to minimal regulation, inability or reluctance to educate themselves as to the consequences of what they have demaded politically, including generational transfers of burdens, whatever), many do choose to do anything but accept their own part in it. Just like some couples facing divorce where it always is made to seem the fault of one side, and oh no, not ever the other.



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Jon

posted July 1, 2010 at 9:12 pm


I don’t sell newspapers, Mr Lahti. I only watch the world go by.
Fortunately there’s no such thing as “the future”, only “futures” plural, and nothing’s a done deal until you read about it in history books. Still, as my mother warned me many years ao, playing with fire, you are apt to get burned– or burn down the house.



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Scott Lahti

posted July 1, 2010 at 9:17 pm


Once again on this blog, I am reminded of a set-piece from one of those disaster movies that were all the nine-days’-wonder c. 1973-1975. A group of B-list actors hoping it will be career spring again are trapped in a confined space*
*[I'm surprised no one did one called Elevator! or the more anodyne PBS Kids version, (See You Later) Escalator? (it stops, suddenly, chillingly, as trapped "passengers" walk either up or down and out to their waiting cars: America loves itself its happy endings)]
and facing for reasons known only to the scriptwriters the tick-tock of impending doom no later than 100 minutes from the opening of the first box of Jujubes. An older woman, her fears stoked past the point of endurance and with a decidely warped sense of stoic esprit de corps, sets to shrieking and wailing, “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!”
Then some guy does the right thing and cold-cocks her.
That was always my favorite bit.
If the comments in any of the last 99 threads at this blog are any indication, the role of the hysterical bitch in the remake will be subject to open casting gerderwise.
That was always



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Clare Krishan

posted July 1, 2010 at 10:55 pm


Glad to oblige in the levity dept. even if it was not my intent to earn a ‘Rabbit and Stars’ award (evidently my soapbox hogwash not having been animal[spirits] tested before posting)
Re: lack of “interconnectedness” of my personal perspective of the historicity of certain sociological observations of our blog host, please excuse my appeal to the behavioral sciences. Let me connect then Indy’s “generational transfers of burdens” to Robb’s “shunting of capital” by means of Hoppe’s example of the ideal liberty of an angel with no time preference on YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skDwtaRArr0
Using one’s house as an ATM counts as capital consumption not capital accumulation, the civilian governanance policies of the last two decades have NOT been pro-middle class but decidely anti-middle class (traditionally business or land owners as astutely observed by one of ‘global guerilla’ reader-commentators)
Cui bono? A transfer of wealth has taken place in our lifetime but completely contrary to the purported common good (ie from the haves to the have-nots) ie instead of producers aiding consumers now the asset management classes loot our aggregate assets under management (via arbitrary QE of our legal tender) treating our savings deposits as their petty cash.



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Indy

posted July 2, 2010 at 6:34 am


More generalities, meh.



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Roger

posted July 2, 2010 at 7:52 am


This was not some kind of inevitable natural event which we must watch impotently unfold and crush us.
What Americans rather misleadingly call the middle class was created by activist liberal and social-democratic policies voted for and implemented by the ‘great generation’ who knew what hunger and sacrifice meant.
Their selfish baby boomer children then sold that precious birthright to the banks and megacorporations in the 80s and 90s and are now busily sacrificing the life prospects of their own children to pay for their own comfortable retirement.
The answer is simple – break out the pitchforks and hunt down the guilty.



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Indy

posted July 2, 2010 at 7:58 am


Roger and Clare, I do not accept your approaches. You are trying too hard to force fit people of various generations and types into neat little piegonholes that fit your existing theories. Why not go the other way, examine the myriad motivations and actions taken by individuals non-monolothic groups and suss out the various factors? To do otherwise is to ignore individuality, personal responsibiity, and accountability as they apply to humans rather than blocs or groups.



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Rick Road Rager

posted July 2, 2010 at 2:55 pm


Some possible contributing factors to this decline?
(1) The decline in productivity as workers sought more and better benefits, time off, etc. while America’s national businesses and industries began to face increased competition from foreign businesses; especially those whose workers were willing to work for minimal wages and few, if any benefits???
(2) A Craze of Consumption era, when Americans spent themselves into bankruptcy in order to get more and more and more STUFF, regardless of what they really needed it or not. In turn, far too few people saved and invested even a reasonable share of their incomes into savings.
EXAMPLE: Appointed to my first major civilian management job at age 30. A very good investment sales rep with Investors Diversified sold me on beginning a long-range savings & investment program. It was a tough go during my 30′s when my young family was growing, but it became easier during the next few decades. Enabled me to help all my children graduate from college without any debts as well as set aside a very nice nest egg for retirement. But I must admit it was sometimes galling to restrict our family’s spending at a time when friends and neighbors were buying bigger and better houses, as well as lots of expensive “boy toys” (sailboats, powerboats, snowmobiles, etc.). Not to mention the fancy (and expensive) remodeling their wives were doing in their homes.
Now, as a retiree, I keep urging my own adult children (and now my grandchildren) to begin saving as early as possible and build up their own estates, especially now when pension plans are declining.
Regrettably, Americans have been conditioned (and conned!) in thinking, as the TV ad said, to “have it ALL, and RIGHT NOW!!! (This includes a subliminal message to avoid thinking about paying for all these things, except by credit cards).
PS: Rod, really great to hear the positive news about your sister Ruth! Prayers, good doctors and advanced medical technology are powerful allies, especially in the fight against cancer!!!



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Karl G

posted July 2, 2010 at 4:44 pm


RRR:
#1 Can’t be it because personal productivity is at all time highs, especially in the wake of the recession- businesses are squeezing more work out of fewer people, and automation magnifies individual productivity as well.
If anything we need to rescale our overall productivity and compensation to account for the fact that one person’s work can now provide for 1000 people instead of 10 people as it did 200-300 years ago.
Instead of the overproduction that results from such high levels of productivity, (and thus serves as a key driver of consumption culture) we should be looking to take the next step from the 40 hour work week down to 30 or even 20 and giving people more time to devote to more meaningful and enriching pursuits than struggling to make their rent payments.



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