Friday, January 17, 2014

The 'R' Word

This extraordinary article appeared on NPR of all places! Interesting to note that the original title, preserved in the URL, Reinventing the Middle Class May Take a Revolution, was retitled to the more acceptable and tame Dwindling Middle Class Has Repercussions For Small Towns:
Richard Longworth, a fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, wrote a book about the struggling Midwest called Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism. He says America's declining middle class means small towns are starting to have a lot more in common with crime-prone neighborhoods in big cities.

He also says towns like Lincoln need to realize this is not just about the recession. This is about a long, slow decline. "The earth isn't going to open up and swallow them," he said. "They'll survive, but they'll be backwaters, getting ever more what you saw: shrinking in population, population older, young families not moving in, high school grads like yourself moving away to seek their fortune somewhere else."

Longworth says for communities to survive in this new reality, they'll have to reinvent themselves — try to keep the factory alive, attract people who are willing to work the lower-wage jobs. Otherwise, what happens to towns like Lincoln will be just another episode in what he says is a major societal upheaval.

"I grew up in a middle-class America where we pretty much knew life was an escalator," he said. "You got on the bottom step, and if you behaved yourself, paid your dues, went to work, worked hard — you'd end up at the top of the escalator. And I think that escalator's broken now. It's a tougher scramble."

How to cover that upheaval, I ask?

"You've covered revolutions before," he said. "Treat it like just another damn revolution."

Sounds like a plan.
This the the hidden America of flyover country that the media in their bicoastal Ivory towers pretend doesn't exist. And then there's this:
Joe and his wife, Josie, have three teenage girls between them. They say they worry about the drugs and the crime in Lincoln. I ask them how they try to keep their kids safe.

"We teach 'em how to shoot," Josie said.

"I have 35 guns in my house. Every one of my daughters, and my wife, know how to handle a weapon as well as anybody could handle one," Joe said.

Joe takes me to the firing range where he teaches his girls to shoot rifles like an AR-15 and an AK-47 that he keeps locked in a safe at home — and a handgun he keeps in his bedside table.
On a similar note, from last year:
The feeling I have is that of heightened generalized tension, the social/political equivalent of the sort of disturbance that animals detect in advance of earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, of pressure building up along major fault lines. The other way to articulate this vibe is that it is as if events are being influenced by a large unseen gravitational or magnetic force, as if a black hole had moved into the ‘hood. We can’t see the hidden superdense object, but we can infer that it’s distorting the space around it.

Now if you just want to go with the “maybe this is just your neurosis” view, we are in the midst of a counterrevolution, and it’s not exactly cheery to be watching its progress on a daily basis.

It isn’t just that the economic rights for ordinary workers and the social safety nets of the New Deal and the earlier labor movements here and abroad are being demolished. Major elements of a broad social and political architecture that served as the foundation for the Industrial Revolution are being torn apart: the Statute of Fraud (essential to give people of every level of society decent protection of property rights) and access to legal remedies; basic protection of personal rights (habeas corpus, due process, protection against unlawful search and seizure); local policing (as in policing being accountable to local governments). Decent quality public education and the freedom of the press are also under assault. People here have used various terms for this new political order that is being put in place; neofeudalism works as well as any, but it looks intended to dial the clock back on many economic and civil rights of ordinary people, not back to the Gilded Age, but to before the French and American Revolutions.
A Disturbance in the Force? (Naked Capitalism) Here's a comment from a New York Times article "A Permanent Slump":
Better hurry up, because change is in the air. Revolutions start in dribs and drabs. Wage slaves are walking out of Walmart and fast food gulags. Teachers are marching with immigrants on the streets of Chicago to protest the neoliberal takeover of schools and infrastructure. When United Airways kicked a blind man off a plane last week because of an "unruly" guide dog, every single passenger walked off the flight in solidarity.

“When we revolt it’s not for a particular culture. We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe”
- Frantz Fanon.
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/18/opinion/krugman-a-permanent-slump.html?comments#permid=10542499

Michael Klare: A Climate Change-Fueled Revolution? (Naked Capitalism)

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