08 June 2012

Stagnation inexorable?

To many, the parasite class's victory in Wisconsin this week was all about Citizens United -- the new power of big money, completely unfettered, to manipulate the political process (as the saying goes, "The Republicans did not steal this election -- they paid good money for it!").  Others blame a lack of resources and commitment from the national Democratic party to a fight where the enemy had all the out-of-state help it needed.  To me, it exemplified the "divide and conquer" (to use Walker's own phrase) tactics which have served the parasite class so well for decades -- by keeping working people divided against themselves on whatever basis is available (white vs. black or, as in this case, non-unionized against unionized) they can keep those working people fighting each other over the crumbs instead of seeing their common interest.

There's value in all these perspectives, but we also need to be looking at the unexamined assumptions about reality which form the backdrop against which these battles take place.  This article from The New Republic will show what I mean:

.....at a time when resources flowing into state coffers are limited and demands on the public sector are rising, the salaries and benefits of government workers are bound to come under pressure.....

.....Curbing wages and benefits rather than services is often the most attractive political choice.....

.....As defined-benefit pensions and generous health insurance plans have become scarcer in the private sector, the more generous plans in the public sector have become especially vulnerable politically. Workers in the private sector..... are unwilling to pay higher taxes to sustain better benefits for public sector workers than they themselves enjoy.....

.....Those days are over, and the risks of depending on the good will of hard-pressed middle class taxpayers are becoming more apparent.....

Notice the backdrop assumption:  we 99% had better get used to fighting over an ever-diminishing supply of crumbs because we've entered an era in which that's all there can be.  Something must be cut, it's just a question of what. Stagnation and decline -- shrinking government revenues, shrinking or stagnant incomes for the non-wealthy, ever-more-meager pensions and other benefits, cuts, cuts, cuts -- those things are just there, they're an inexorable fact about reality or about the present era or whatever.  Our thinking has been carefully framed to avoid considering or even imagining that those trends are, in fact, the result of policies designed and implemented by specific people with the specific aim of bringing about precisely this result -- that, in fact, it doesn't have to be this way at all.  The article does cite the intensity of international competition, but it is possible to succeed in that competition while defying the laissez-faire paralysis of "inevitable" stagnation for the 99%.

The enemy has convinced us that, even if we can fight, the fight must be waged within a context of overall decline because that's the only framework that can possibly exist.  In fact, the framework is of their own construction, and the barrier to replacing it with something else exists mainly in our own heads.


Blogger Green Eagle said...

"The enemy has convinced us that, even if we can fight, the fight must be waged within a context of overall decline"

But not of course for the rich, who are making out mightily in this time of "shared" sacrifice. Yes, the powers that be (and this includes the Obama administration) have pretty much succeeded in convincing people that everyone needs to give up a large part of what they have earned, so the hyper rich can go on gambling with the national wealth, pocketing the profits and having us pay for their losses.

It no longer means a thing that we kept our part of the bargain, paying into Social Security, pension funds, etc. our whole working lives- it is now just fine to break their side of the deal, and take the money to pay for the "mistakes" of people who are still paying themselves millions of dollars to gamble with our wealth.

Honesty, decency, morality- all sucker's games for the non-rich.

09 June, 2012 06:38  
Blogger mendip said...

An excellent analysis and response - thanks for posting. And my complements on getting through an article from the New Republic - I've not been able to stomach them for decades....

10 June, 2012 02:36  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

GE: It no longer means a thing that we kept our part of the bargain, paying into Social Security, pension funds, etc. our whole working lives

This is a particularly egregious part of the attack on public-sector unions. Public employees usually earn less than they could make, with the same qualifications, in the private sector, but get better retirement plans to make up for it. If one generation is screwed out of that bargain, it's going to be very hard to recruit the best people in the future. Not that the Republicans care if it gets more difficult to get good people to work in government.

Mendip: Thanks. Ah, the sacrifices I make for this blog.....

10 June, 2012 05:19  
Blogger Robert the Skeptic said...

I retired from state government the year Oregon switched (due to political pressure) from a Defined Benefit plan to a Defined Contribution plan. For many of my fellow union members who remained in the workforce, the distinction wafted over them like Home Simpson when he would say "The what with the what now?" - They don't understand the profound differences between the two retirement plans.

Yes, in Oregon, 6% of the contribution to their retirement plans by the employer continues... BUT it now goes into a the Defined Contribution plan. What this specifically means is their retirement plan now has a BALANCE. When you retire, you draw on that balance UNTIL IT IS DEPLETED. This is unlike the original Defined Benefit plan (with no balance) but which provided an annuity income FOR LIFE.

Governments and paivate companies all over the nation are switching to Defined Contribution plans. The burden is on the employee to sock away enough additional money to live off of in retirement. If the company with whom your retirement is invested fritters the money away (like they did in 2008 with Credit Default Swaps)... oh well, you lose!

The point I am trying to make, as alluded to in your post, is that people generally lack the level of strategic thought to understand the adroit skill with which the sheep are being shorn.

10 June, 2012 16:06  

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