Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Donald Trump and the Politics of Resentment

Of all the predictions I made for the new year in my post two weeks ago, the one that seems to have stirred up the most distress and derision is my suggestion that the most likely person to be standing up there with his hand on a Bible next January, taking the oath of office as the next president of the United States, is Donald Trump. That prediction wasn’t made to annoy people, entertaining as that can be from time to time; nor is it merely a reaction to Trump’s meteoric rise in the polls and the abject failure of any of his forgettable Republican rivals even to slow him down.

The rise of Donald Trump, rather, marks the arrival of a turning point I’ve discussed more than once in these essays already. Like the other turning points whose impending appearance on the stage of the future has been outlined here, it’s not the end of the world; it’s thus a source of amusement to me to recall all those Republicans who insisted they were going to flee the country if Obama won reelection, and are still here, when I hear Democrats saying they’ll do the same thing if Trump wins. Still, there’s a difference of some importance between the two, because in terms of the historical trajectory of the United States, Trump is a far more significant figure than Barack Obama will ever be.

Despite the empty rhetoric about hope and change that surrounded his 2008 campaign, after all, Obama continued the policies of his predecessor George W. Bush so unswervingly that we may as well call those policies—the conventional wisdom or, rather, the conventional folly of early 21st-century American politics—the Dubyobama consensus. Trump’s candidacy, and in some ways that of his Democratic rival Bernard Sanders as well, marks the point at which the blowback from those policies has become a massive political fact. That this blowback isn’t taking the form desired by many people on the leftward end of things is hardly surprising; it was never going to do so, because the things about the Dubyobama consensus that made blowback inevitable are not the things to which the left objects.

To understand what follows, it’s going to be necessary to ask my readers—especially, though not only, those who consider themselves liberals, or see themselves inhabiting some other position left of center in the convoluted landscape of today’s American politics—to set aside two common habits. The first is the reflexive resort to sneering mockery that so often makes up for the absence of meaningful political thought in the US—again, especially but by no means only on the left. The dreary insults that have been flung so repetitively at Donald Trump over the course of his campaign are fine examples of the species: “deranged Cheeto,” “tomato-headed moron,” “delusional cheese creature,” and so on.

The centerpiece of most of these insults, when they’re not simply petulant schoolboy taunts aimed at Trump’s physical appearance, is the claim that he’s stupid. This is hardly surprising, as a lot of people on the leftward end of American culture love to use the kind of demeaning language that attributes idiocy to those who disagree with them. Thus it probably needs to be pointed out here that Trump is anything but stupid. He’s extraordinarily clever, and one measure of his cleverness is the way that he’s been able to lure so many of his opponents into behaving in ways that strengthen his appeal to the voters that matter most to his campaign. In case you’re wondering if you belong to that latter category, dear reader, if you like to send out tweets comparing Trump’s hair to Cheese Whiz, no, you’re not.

So that’s the first thing that has to be set aside to make sense of the Trump phenomenon. The second is going to be rather more challenging for many of my readers: the notion that the only divisions in American society that matter are those that have some basis in biology. Skin color, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability—these are the lines of division in society that Americans like to talk about, whatever their attitudes to the people who fall on one side or another of those lines. (Please note, by the way, the four words above: “some basis in biology.” I’m not saying that these categories are purely biological in nature; every one of them is defined in practice by a galaxy of cultural constructs and presuppositions, and the link to biology is an ostensive category marker rather than a definition. I insert this caveat because I’ve noticed that a great many people go out of their way to misunderstand the point I’m trying to make here.)

Are the lines of division just named important? Of course they are. Discriminatory treatment on the basis of those factors is a pervasive presence in American life today. The facts remain that there are other lines of division in American society that lack that anchor in biology, that some of these are at least as pervasive in American life as those listed above—and that some of the most important of these are taboo topics, subjects that most people in the US today will not talk about.

Here’s a relevant example. It so happens that you can determine a huge amount about the economic and social prospects of people in America today by asking one remarkably simple question: how do they get most of their income? Broadly speaking—there are exceptions, which I’ll get to in a moment—it’s from one of four sources: returns on investment, a monthly salary, an hourly wage, or a government welfare check. People who get most of their income from one of those four things have a great many interests in common, so much so that it’s meaningful to speak of the American people as divided into an investment class, a salary class, a wage class, and a welfare class.

It’s probably necessary to point out explicitly here that these classes aren’t identical to the divisions that Americans like to talk about. That is, there are plenty of people with light-colored skin in the welfare class, and plenty of people with darker skin in the wage class.  Things tend to become a good deal more lily-white in the two wealthier classes, though even there you do find people of color. In the same way, women, gay people, disabled people, and so on are found in all four classes, and how they’re treated depends a great deal on which of these classes they’re in. If you’re a disabled person, for example, your chances of getting meaningful accommodations to help you deal with your disability are by and large considerably higher if you bring home a salary than they are if you work for a wage.

As noted above, there are people who don’t fall into those divisions. I’m one of them; as a writer, I get most of my income from royalties on book sales, which means that a dollar or so from every book of mine that sells via most channels, and rather less than that if it’s sold by Amazon—those big discounts come straight out of your favorite authors’ pockets—gets mailed to me twice a year. There are so few people who make their living this way that the royalty classlet isn’t a significant factor in American society. The same is true of most of the other ways of making a living in the US today. Even the once-mighty profit class, the people who get their income from the profit they make on their own business activities, is small enough these days that it lacks a significant collective presence.

There’s a vast amount that could be said about the four major classes just outlined, but I want to focus on the political dimension, because that’s where they take on overwhelming relevance as the 2016 presidential campaign lurches on its way. Just as the four classes can be identified by way of a very simple question, the political dynamite that’s driving the blowback mentioned earlier can be seen by way of another simple question: over the last half century or so, how have the four classes fared?

The answer, of course, is that three of the four have remained roughly where they were. The investment class has actually had a bit of a rough time, as many of the investment vehicles that used to provide it with stable incomes—certificates of deposit, government bonds, and so on—have seen interest rates drop through the floor.  Still, alternative investments and frantic government manipulations of stock market prices have allowed most people in the investment class to keep up their accustomed lifestyles.

The salary class, similarly, has maintained its familiar privileges and perks through a half century of convulsive change. Outside of a few coastal urban areas currently in the grip of speculative bubbles, people whose income comes mostly from salaries can generally afford to own their homes, buy new cars every few years, leave town for annual vacations, and so on. On the other end of the spectrum, the welfare class has continued to scrape by pretty much as before, dealing with the same bleak realities of grinding poverty, intrusive government bureacracy, and a galaxy of direct and indirect barriers to full participation in the national life, as their equivalents did back in 1966.

And the wage class? Over the last half century, the wage class has been destroyed.

In 1966 an American family with one breadwinner working full time at an hourly wage could count on having a home, a car, three square meals a day, and the other ordinary necessities of life, with some left over for the occasional luxury. In 2016, an American family with one breadwinner working full time at an hourly wage is as likely as not to end up living on the street, and a vast number of people who would happily work full time even under those conditions can find only part-time or temporary work when they can find any jobs at all. The catastrophic impoverishment and immiseration of the American wage class is one of the most massive political facts of our time—and it’s also one of the most unmentionable. Next to nobody is willing to talk about it, or even admit that it happened.

The destruction of the wage class was largely accomplished by way of two major shifts in American economic life. The first was the dismantling of the American industrial economy and its replacement by  Third World sweatshops; the second was mass immigration from Third World countries. Both of these measures are ways of driving down wages—not, please note, salaries, returns on investment, or welfare payments—by slashing the number of wage-paying jobs, on the one hand, while boosting the number of people competing for them on the other. Both, in turn, were actively encouraged by government policies and, despite plenty of empty rhetoric on one or the other side of the Congressional aisle, both of them had, for all practical purposes, bipartisan support from the political establishment. 

It’s probably going to be necessary to talk a bit about that last point. Both parties, despite occasional bursts of crocodile tears for American workers and their families, have backed the offshoring of jobs to the hilt. Immigration is a slightly more complex matter; the Democrats claim to be in favor of it, the Republicans now and then claim to oppose it, but what this means in practice is that legal immigration is difficult but illegal immigration is easy. The result was the creation of an immense work force of noncitizens who have no economic or political rights they have any hope of enforcing, which could then be used—and has been used, over and over again—to drive down wages, degrade working conditions, and advance the interests of employers over those of wage-earning employees.

The next point that needs to be discussed here—and it’s the one at which a very large number of my readers are going to balk—is who benefited from the destruction of the American wage class. It’s long been fashionable in what passes for American conservatism to insist that everyone benefits from the changes just outlined, or to claim that if anybody doesn’t, it’s their own fault. It’s been equally popular in what passes for American liberalism to insist that the only people who benefit from those changes are the villainous uber-capitalists who belong to the 1%. Both these are evasions, because the destruction of the wage class has disproportionately benefited one of the four classes I sketched out above: the salary class.

Here’s how that works. Since the 1970s, the salary class lifestyle sketched out above—suburban homeownership, a new car every couple of years, vacations in Mazatlan, and so on—has been an anachronism: in James Howard Kunstler’s useful phrase, an arrangement without a future. It was wholly a product of the global economic dominance the United States wielded in the wake of the Second World War, when every other major industrial nation on the planet had its factories pounded to rubble by the bomber fleets of the warring powers, and the oil wells of Pennsylvania, Texas, and California pumped more oil than the rest of the planet put together.  That dominance went away in a hurry, though, when US conventional petroleum production peaked in 1970, and the factories of Europe and Asia began to outcompete America’s industrial heartland.

The only way for the salary class to maintain its lifestyle in the teeth of those transformations was to force down the cost of goods and services relative to the average buying power of the salary class.  Because the salary class exercised (and still exercises) a degree of economic and political influence disproportionate to its size, this became the order of the day in the 1970s, and it remains the locked-in political consensus in American public life to this day. The destruction of the wage class was only one consequence of that project—the spectacular decline in quality of the whole range of manufactured goods for sale in America, and the wholesale gutting of the national infrastructure, are other results—but it’s the consequence that matters in terms of today’s politics.

It’s worth noting, along these same lines, that every remedy that’s been offered to the wage class by the salary class has benefited the salary class at the expense of the wage class. Consider the loud claims of the last couple of decades that people left unemployed by the disappearance of wage-paying jobs could get back on board the bandwagon of prosperity by going to college and getting job training. That didn’t work out well for the people who signed up for the student loans and took the classes—getting job training, after all, isn’t particularly helpful if the jobs for which you’re being trained don’t exist, and so a great many former wage earners finished their college careers with no better job prospects than they had before, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loan debt burdening them into the bargain. For the banks and colleges that pushed the loans and taught the classes, though, these programs were a cash cow of impressive scale, and the people who work for banks and colleges are mostly salary class.

Attempts by people in the wage class to mount any kind of effective challenge to the changes that have gutted their economic prospects and consigned them to a third-rate future have done very little so far. To some extent, that’s a function of the GOP’s sustained effort to lure wage class voters into backing Republican candidates on religious and moral grounds. It’s the mirror image of the ruse that’s been used by the Democratic party on a galaxy of interests on the leftward end of things—granted, the Democrats aren’t doing a thing about the issues that matter most to you, but neither are the Republicans, so you vote for the party that offends you least. Right? Sure, if you want to guarantee that the interests that matter most to you never get addressed at all.

There’s a further barrier, though, and that’s the response of the salary class across the board—left, right, middle, you name it—to any attempt by the wage class to bring up the issues that matter to it. On the rare occasions when this happens in the public sphere, the spokespeople of the wage class get shouted down with a double helping of the sneering mockery I discussed toward the beginning of this post. The same thing happens on a different scale on those occasions when the same thing happens in private. If you doubt this—and you probably do, if you belong to the salary class—try this experiment: get a bunch of your salary class friends together in some casual context and get them talking about ordinary American working guys. What you’ll hear will range from crude caricatures and one-dimensional stereotypes right on up to bona fide hate speech. People in the wage class are aware of this; they’ve heard it all; they’ve been called stupid, ignorant, etc., ad nauseam for failing to agree with whatever bit of self-serving dogma some representative of the salary class tried to push on them.

And that, dear reader, is where Donald Trump comes in.

The man is brilliant. I mean that without the smallest trace of mockery. He’s figured out that the most effective way to get the wage class to rally to his banner is to get himself attacked, with the usual sort of shrill mockery, by the salary class. The man’s worth several billion dollars—do you really think he can’t afford to get the kind of hairstyle that the salary class finds acceptable? Of course he can; he’s deliberately chosen otherwise, because he knows that every time some privileged buffoon in the media or on the internet trots out another round of insults directed at his failure to conform to salary class ideas of fashion, another hundred thousand wage class voters recall the endless sneering putdowns they’ve experienced from the salary class and think, “Trump’s one of us.”

The identical logic governs his deliberate flouting of the current rules of acceptable political discourse. Have you noticed that every time Trump says something that sends the pundits into a swivet, and the media starts trying to convince itself and its listeners that this time he’s gone too far and his campaign will surely collapse in humiliation, his poll numbers go up?  What he’s saying is exactly the sort of thing that you’ll hear people say in working class taverns and bowling alleys when subjects such as illegal immigration and Muslim jihadi terrorism come up for discussion. The shrieks of the media simply confirm, in the minds of the wage class voters to whom his appeal is aimed, that he’s one of them, an ordinary Joe with sensible ideas who’s being dissed by the suits.

Notice also how many of Trump’s unacceptable-to-the-pundits comments have focused with laser precision on the issue of immigration. That’s a well-chosen opening wedge, as cutting off illegal immigration is something that the GOP has claimed to support for a while now. As Trump broadens his lead, in turn, he’s started to talk about the other side of the equation—the offshoring of jobs—as his recent jab at Apple’s overseas sweatshops shows. The mainstream media’s response to that jab does a fine job of proving the case argued above: “If smartphones were made in the US, we’d have to pay more for them!” And of course that’s true: the salary class will have to pay more for its toys if the wage class is going to have decent jobs that pay enough to support a family. That this is unthinkable for so many people in the salary class—that they’re perfectly happy allowing their electronics to be made for starvation wages in an assortment of overseas hellholes, so long as this keeps the price down—may help explain the boiling cauldron of resentment into which Trump is so efficiently tapping.

It’s by no means certain that Trump will ride that resentment straight to the White House, though at this moment it does seem like the most likely outcome. Still, I trust none of my readers are naive enough to think that a Trump defeat will mean the end of the phenomenon that’s lifted him to front runner status in the teeth of everything the political establishment can throw at him. I see the Trump candidacy as a major watershed in American political life, the point at which the wage class—the largest class of American voters, please note—has begun to wake up to its potential power and begin pushing back against the ascendancy of the salary class.

Whether he wins or loses, that pushback is going to be a defining force in American politics for decades to come. Nor is a Trump candidacy anything approaching the worst form that could take. If Trump gets defeated, especially if it’s done by obviously dishonest means, the next leader to take up the cause of the wage class could very well be fond of armbands or, for that matter, of roadside bombs. Once the politics of resentment come into the open, anything can happen—and this is particularly true, it probably needs to be said, when the resentment in question is richly justified by the behavior of many of those against whom it’s directed.


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buddhabythelake said...


Despite my initial skepticism, I have found myself telling my coworkers, "If it's not Trump this cycle, it will be someone like him next cycle." And in the back of my mind, I see a young, charismatic veteran of one or more of our imperial wars stepping up to a podium to announce his candidacy...

It should be noted that the Republican party failed in its presidential debut (John Fremont in 1856), but succeeded on the second attempt. Then all hell broke loose. 2020? 2024? We are getting awfully close to Twilight's timeline.

William Church said...

Music to my ears John. It is so refreshing to finally hear someone put it out there without the preening and posturing so common today.

These resentments spring from very real class warfare. They are not imagined slights. But it is amazing how many folks are blinded by identity politics such that they cannot see it.... or admit it in any event.

The fact is that Trump tapped into these resentments. He most certainly did not invent them. Win or lose the working class is going to be heard going forward. Bank on it.

Immigration and trade have been used by both parties to destroy the middle class. An old phrase about reaping the whirlwind comes to mind.


John Michael Greer said...

Buddha, no argument there. If it isn't Trump this time, it could well be Fred Halliot in 2020.

Will, exactly. The sooner people start talking about it without the posturing and preening -- if that's even still an option at this point -- the greater our chances, which are not good anyway, of avoiding a really ugly explosion.

Alex said...

So, he's sort of like "Joe the plumber" (millionàire probably) or Mike Rowe (multi millionàire) who puts himself across as being working class.

Hitler could pull this off because he had literally fought in the trenches, and for that matter he was a decent artist, capable of hard work, and was no dummy.

Living on ten grand a year in the wasteland that is silicon valley, I really don't care how much money someone has or supposedly has. We've become a caste based society and individual effort or capability are meaningless.

It's just a matter of making yourself comfortable at whatever level your parents landed you on.

none said...

From a far left cartoonist:

Leah Gayle said...

First, I would like to repost this from the tail end of last week's comments:
"Blogger Eric Backos said...

Hi Shane
Congratulations on the inaugural meeting of GWB&PA No. 859!
We at Tower 440 extend full recognition and privileges to Tower 859.
PS – Love the motto. Should we have heraldry?"

Yes, I think heraldry is a lovely idea. I made a logo, but I can't figure out how to post graphics on these comments. Instead I put an announcement with the logo here:

Since this is horse country, it had to have a horse - but ours had to be a magical flying horse with a wand, so to speak. :) I suppose I can put it on a shield, but I'm not lettered in the niceties of heraldry. (My attempt at latin was bad enough.) Perhaps we ought to adopt an "official" shield blank for everyone to put their spirit animal or iconic figure or whatever on?"

We thank Tower 440 for recognizing us.

Second, I would like to say that Trump is far more scary to me than comical. Once the "average joe" figures out that there is not going to be any action taken by govt on their hot button issues like immigration and tolerance of other religions, their patience (so to speak) will expire and they will decide to solve the "problems" the old fashioned wild west way, which they have secretly always wanted to do. They know now from those Bundy guys that they will be treated with kid gloves because they represent the desired voting block of the GOP. And once they get started they won't stop with Muslims. They will decide "now" is the time to ideologically purge the US of all "evildoers."

I don't know how long it will take for this to happen, but it seems inevitable. There is nothing else that will satisfy or placate them. Eventually that will figure out that the GOP doesn't really want anything to change and they'll feel betrayed and flip out.

pygmycory said...

A lot of what you said this week rings true for me, little thought I like the fact. This set of interlocking problems isn't restricted to the US. Here's a particularly egregious example of media hating on Trump that I happened to be reading just before I read this week's article. It's from the Guardian, a british newspaper:

I can't stand Trump, but that doesn't mean the people of the USA won't choose him.

Tom Hopkins said...

Arise like lions from slumber
In unvanquishable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep were put upon you
Remember, we are many
They are few

pygmycory said...

There's also the question of the SIZE of the classes you mentioned. How have they changed in size over the years?

Gee said...

Long time lurker, and plan to post more soon. I do believe your investment class is the group of people I and others I know tend to refer to as the "rentier" class. Not an exact overlap, but I think very similar.

My opinion, which I admit has been reinforced since my coming to your blog a good while back, is that we have always been on our way to a Trump-like leader. Pretty much since I've been voting in the mid-80s and becoming more and more disillusioned the more I learn about the real history of this country (as opposed to the brainwashing via whitewashing of history I was brought up on, and this in one of the top public schools in the country-yikes), where power resides and how it operates, how broken most of the institutions are by a refined sort of corruption.

Trump is a manifestation, via opportunism, of who "we" collectively are : the angry masses, that are so confused they aren't even quite sure who or what they are angry with, since so much of their ability to discern this has been eroded by misinformation, propaganda or simply outright falsehoods. He is the current incarnatiuon of how clever but cruel leaders feed their megalomaniacal tendencies. In a just society, the too big to fail Trump would have been near the door of debtor's prison decades ago. But he is a product of both inherited wealth, ignorance, greed, and the compromised systems we have inherited which have only grown more crafty via financialization, at fleecing the masses in the name of serving them. (See housing bubble, student loan bubble, and now, new and improved charter school bubble.) These types of people prey on our hopes and fears. And yet, when people point it out, it means nothing. The anger overrides the dangers our anger invites, or the fear makes them too gullible, and unable to see the real motives behind at work.

I could ramble all night, but let me just give you a huge thank you for sticking with this blog. I've been turning as many people as I can on to it, and I am finding its themes resonating more and more. I just fear that the efforts to build a group of people that can understand what is happening is being overwhelmed by the forces of ignorance. But I'll keep trying.

Regards, G

Juandonjuan said...

In the age of limits, the fact that for one (or several) class(es) get more, one class first will be getting less. And if that less is not in a low cost nation, the working class will be demonized, marginalized or ignored in their plight until they flock to the strange bright banners of a cornpone hitler. H/T JMG &JHK
My late wife's family were union second generation immigrants Coal&steel, garment workers. Solid working class, raised their children to move up and on. His job downsized/outsourced/sold in 1977, hers in 1982. the debates over sunday dinner were informative, even if they didn't understand all the factors coming into play. Industry went south(SC,NC,ARK. etc.) until it went further south (and east). I live in NC-a "Right to Work" state- haha -Since 1982. I listened to the locals bitch about the textile jobs leaving in the 80s,Bigtime gone under Clinton. They were very cocky back in 82-86 about those g&%*D@#N union workers not knowing a good thing, lazy etc.
Until their jobs went south too. Greed and capital know no loyalties, but they control the information flow so the betrayal was never explicit. All it takes is a talented demagogue and the whole world is upside down. And when the next big one hits I would not want to be in between the takers and the taken

whomever said...

Wow. I have to say, this is something I agree with 200%, even though there is no way in hell I'd ever vote Trump. But it's tricky to discuss because class is an absolutely taboo subject in the US. (I should mention I'm not American by birth though have live here since teenager hood, so certain American weirdnesses are probably more visible to me). I actually wish we could have real dialog about class, it would probably be healthy, but America clings to the mythology of the "classless society" (despite all the actual evidence pointing the other way).

I do have a comment and a question. Firstly, the comment: I'm firmly in the Salary class, being a very well paid computer programmer, but at the same time the Salary class isn't quite as comfortable as you portray. Oh, sure, we have our trips to Europe and houses and such, and I certainly wouldn't say we are as badly off as the wage class, but we aren't exactly smug. I've been to our Indian office and met my counterparts there: They are smarter, work longer hours and are paid less. We see the future. We know we are next. I suspect part of the current dynamic is precisely because of that. And don't forget: We are also acutely aware that WE are the ones being hooked by the AMT at 35% while somehow Mitch Romney manages a 14.1% tax rate and a theoretically impossibly large tax-free IRA. So, frankly the more thoughtful ones I've talked to in my class are firmly in the "Hey, I'll seriously help build the guillotines when it comes time". No disagreements about the snobbishness though, curse the culture wars and the people who profit off them.

Second is more a question: I've read a lot of analysis about the South in particular that the ruling classes spent the last 100 years carefully playing the race card to keep the wage earners voting against their own interests. It matches what I've see of the south, but at the same time does come across as exactly the snobbery you describe. As someone who is technically south of the Mason-Dixon line, though barely, I'd be interested in explicitly what you are seeing down there. I've heard from multiple Southerners that that particular tactic doesn't work anymore.

David Henry said...

A fascinating take on things; as a member of the salary class I think you may have put your finger on a blind spot of mine (ours), and in a way that really helped me understand Trump's popularity for the first time. So...what do you make of Bernie Sanders read against this same backdrop of the 4 classes you mentioned?

Justin said...

JMG, as a longtime reader, this post is a candidate for your best 5. Your most salient point, in my humble opinion, is that if we don't get a Trump (or maybe a Sanders) this time, we will get, to use a Kunstler phrase, a corn-pone Hitler 4 years later. It's worth remembering that if Hitler had an aneurysm in 1935, Germany would likely today celebrate Hitler Day with pride, and people everywhere else would likely lament the burst blood vessel that enabled the dictator that plunged Eurasia into war and hatred in World War 2, which raged from 1942 to 1949.

As a member of the salary class that used to spend a lot of time working and socializing with higher-paid wage class members, I can only imagine what they are saying about Trump. Sanders might tap into some of the anger in America today, but Trump has a giant borehole right into the mainstream of anger.

Something I've noticed in a few corners of the Internet is the notion that it is worthwhile to support Trump simply because he damages the status quo. His racist policies (which I expect will get toned down to capture the Black and Hispanic vote anyway) are seen as irrelevant. America has a nihilistic streak these days. When roadside bombs make their way to America, there will be no shortage of volunteers to set them.

Juandonjuan said...

And for those who seem to think that a living wage and humane secure working conditions were gifts from the investment/capitalist class I recommend the movie -Matewan

Unknown said...

I've long told my friends that there was a class war and we lost. Your essay is spot on; thank you.

My life, following in my father's footsteps, shows just how far we've fallen. His one job supported a wife, four kids, house and the accouterments; without two working adults, my much more meager living is impossible.

My question is: do you think Trump, if elected, will actually do or propose anything which will help the wage-earning(or formerly wage-earning) people who voted for him?

Gee said...

I really do hate to come right back with a second comment before my first has even posted, but I must.

Alongside offshoring and immigration as a way to lose jobs and debase the wages of the ones we have, you absolutely cannot ignore what happened in the 80s under Reagan, the move to say F-you to the antitrust laws, and how that continued on under the neo-liberal administrations to follow. The massive consolidation of corporate power via mergers was a direct assault on unions and the power of wage earners. This in my view is part in parcel to the immigration issue, because the jobs were made to be low skilled via the production line, and high turnover was essential to keep labor costs down, because you didnt want to train, you didnt want to pay for health insurance, and you didnt want anyone to stay long enough to earn vacation time. These models are made for profit, not for any type of just distribution of the rewards for the combination of capital and labor.

I will agree that the salary class has benefited via the low cost of labor, but the rentier or investment class benefits more. It's just more concentrated. This you see via the clubby boardroom deals that have raised ceo x wage earner ratios to the moon, and created massive inequality. But you also see it via the Fed's economics "management" of the economy, inducing one bubble after the next to burst, only to make whole the creators of the destruction, lay waste to the people that didnt know any better being caught up in it by the machinations of the bankers, and then allowing the recovery to proceed via looting by the ones that were already on top.

And we're getting set to go through it again in the oil patch. Unreal...

Leah Gayle said...

Also, I would like to announce the next meeting of the Green Wizards Benevolent & Protective Assn., Tower 859, and Ruinmen's Guild, Local 859 of the Bluegrass, Lexington, KY, will be @ Common Grounds coffeehouse on High Street, 7:00pm, on Thursday, January 28th. in servitio libertas! All are welcome.

A Post-Millennial said...

Your use of four classes rather than the traditional Marxist two or liberal three is quite illuminating. One thing that occurred to me about our current predicament while reading your article is the way that legal structures work to bind or divide classes. The investment and salaried classes have been bound together since the 1970s by stock options, financial devices which give salaried professionals a taste of life as an investor. Meanwhile, wage earners and welfare recipients are divided by their relationship to the state. Wage earners lose money to the government through taxes while welfare recipients are reliant on government transfers. Obviously, the structure breeds resentment in wage earners towards welfare recipients.

If anything, these structures reinforce for me the idea that the government is the tool of the ruling class. Perhaps that's obvious, but I find it worth stating. Unfortunately, it's quite difficult for me to believe the anarchist vision of the lower classes uniting in opposition to the elites (investment and salaried classes). I've just about resigned myself to continued class warfare as we slide down the hill towards complete collapse.

Steve D said...

Wow, dead on.

I'm reminded of the saying that the American poor don't revolt against the American rich because they think they can become rich themselves. That never quite rang true to me, though I could never put my finger on why. But, stated in terms of wage-earners thinking they could become salaried, it makes total sense. I've known and worked with hundreds of people who fit that to a tee, and at least some of whom are currently under the very college debt you described even now (could've been me - I came perilously close to going to grad school on a couple of occasions - much happier learning to grow veggies, thanks).

You've also put Sarah Palin's recent endorsement of His Donaldness in a new light, as I think in retrospect she too rose to fame upon the same blowback of the wage-class.
Anyway, another great post - thanks for the insights.:)

Shane W said...

Wow, amazing. So true. I was on a permaculture farm this summer, and the woman that ran it, along with others, were sneering at their working class neighbors for tilling and spraying and making fun of their "puny garden". It was very distasteful. I kept thinking, "why don't you share your knowledge with them." This whole valley in Appalachia was riven by a class divide between the "green intentional community people" and the native mountain folk. The permaculture farmer sneered at going to a funeral at the Baptist church, acting as though there were racist & homophobic "cooties" that she would "catch" just from being there. Watch how uncomfortable salary class people get in working class environs, like the laundromat & the dollar store! The same thing has repeated itself in the community gardens I've volunteered with in urban areas, along with the gentrification of those urban neighborhoods by trendy members of the salaried or rentier class.
For me, I just can't do it anymore. It's just a cheap shot I won't take anymore, and I'm not really willing to deny their humanity anymore, and, personally, "they" seem a lot nicer, more real, more down to earth than the members of the salary class I used to think were my peers when I get to know them and relate to them one on one, and secondly, as a downwardly mobile person, I just don't think that there's really that much that separates me from "them" anymore...

Matt Miles said...

Interesting analysis, John.

Did anyone else notice this article in the New York Times a couple months ago? Apparently Trump's core electorate of ex-wage earners are doing themselves in--through alcoholism, overdoses, and suicide--at a rate not seen since the late '90s in Russia.

It took two economists--not doctors, epidemiologists, or healthcare researchers--to even pick up on this sad and disturbing epidemic, which is occurring to this demographic group that has been ill-treated or ignored by the other two socio-economic groups you mention.


Andy said...

JMG - again you've given me something that'll take more than one read to grok fully. Normally I'd thank you for that. This time around I'm not so sure. (grin)

I think you called the terms of our current president correctly. I didn't vote for him first time around. I did, however, at his re-election, as I realized that he's one of the best moderate Republicans we've had in this country since before Reagan was elected.

I'd be interested in your take on this piece from Politico. My gut suggests it's part of the mix, especially as politics in the US continues it's rapid slide into the upper right corner of the Political Compass.


Compound F said...

I'm reminded of Ursula LeGuin's Omelas, only on a scope and level of deterioration one may not have imagined in Archie Bunker's Seventies. The failures appear globally comprehensive. I personally don't see the salaried class becoming more sympathetic as they lose their house-cleaners, and they appear oblivious to the knotted relations between the cluster...headaches (population, energy use, GDP, environmental toxication, war, slavery...). I believe G.W. Bush was correct at least once: This Sucker could go down!

Robert Mathiesen said...

I think this is spot on, JMG. I drew a salary all my working life, but every one of my relatives in the generatons before me was a wage-earner (or poorer), and my instincts and resentments and unconscious attitudes were formed in their mold when I was young. Class warfare is old and very real in this country, as real as anything there is. I saw it start to heat up in the later 1960s -- slowly at first, but ever more rapidly. By now it's at a rolling boil. Trump is just the first petrel that announces the coming storm by its flight. (Sorry for mixing the metaphors here.)

siliconguy said...

The best thing about your writing is that you make me think from time to time. The sneering class; here I thought I was the only one that thought of the left that way. But no. Although I officially fit the salary class you describe it has never been a good fit, as I grew up thoroughly blue collar. Some of my not the first generation to go to college co-workers think I'm just a bit rough around the edges.

Some of your comments about the working class don't seem to fit very well, but on reflection, my reference may be skewed. I work at a chemical plant, and that is high-end subset of hourly. It's common for the senior operators to reach six- figure incomes, in fact they often make more than I do. The difference is that I do not work a rotating shift, and I spend less time wearing nomex. And I don't get paid for my overtime, grump, grump.

The perception at work is that Trump is putting the unpleasant truth ahead of political correctness and even people that think he would be a lousy president give him credit for that.

Steve Thomas said...

I'm grateful for this post, which put into words a lot of stuff that's been on my mind and I think a lot of peoples' minds-- and which no one is talking about in public. A few thoughts...

First, I appreciate your description of America's class divisions, which are more succinct than those I've tried to use in the past. The destruction of what you're calling the wage class is something I've been trying to talk about with my left-leaning friends for years, and is a major part of the reason I abandoned radical politics. I remember saying to a radical friend of mine about 3 years ago, when the current wave of neo-Stalinist identity politics were being rolled out in earnest, that I didn't believe leftwing "antiracism" but that I thought it was actually a cover for old-fashioned bourgeois class hatred. He was incredulous, and asked why.

I'm from rural Western Pennsylvania, an area very similar to where you currently live in Cumberland. (I was born in Johnstown, PA, which I think mirrors Cumberland's demographics and geographics almost exactly). I explained to my friend that if I took him or most of our other radical colleagues to the area I grew up in, they would dismiss most of the people they met as appalling bigots, sexists, homophobes, etc. And they would completely fail to notice that the people they were describing as oppressors lived in a region with enormous poverty, unemployment, drug addiction, suicide and despair. And this is commonplace throughout rural America. Everywhere in this country between the elite coastal enclaves and a few cities in Texas is an absolute catastrophe, and no one talks about it, least of all our self-appointed guardians of the downtrodden on the Left.

Second thought, somewhat unrelated--

"The result was the creation of an immense work force of noncitizens who have no economic or political rights they have any hope of enforcing, which could then be used—and has been used, over and over again—to drive down wages, degrade working conditions, and advance the interests of employers over those of wage-earning employees."

I think that this sentence by itself illustrates one of the major problems with our political system. It's self-evidently true, but I cannot imagine a Republican or a Democrat writing it, or a committed Republican or Democrat being able to understand it. The Republican would stop at the part where you seem to be showing a little too much sympathy for illegal immigrants, what with mentioning their "economic or political rights." The Democrat will be on board for that part and then blow his top when you mention the unbearably obvious fact that vastly increasing the supply of labor reduces the price of ... labor.

Ugh. Presidential elections are frustrating by their nature, but this one seems to be more frustrating than most, and it hasn't technically started yet. At the same time, there's the hope that the Trump-Sanders phenomenon will shake up the system. And at the same, same time, there's the realization that just because a bad system gets shaken up doesn't mean that a good system must turn up to replace it... usually the opposite happens.

Mr. Bystander said...

Mr. Greer, another brilliant post. I've noticed the same thing that you've described. Most notably I think we got a glimpse of this when Scott Brown was elected in my home state a few years back instead of the entitled "my turn" candidate that everyone assumed would win. I believe Brown said "It's not the Kennedy seat, it's the people's seat". I saw lifelong liberals in my family vote for him because of thay. For an overwhelming majority of working class people in a Blue state to vote for the Red candidate was thought of as impossible. I don't think Trump is doing anything much different but the response is way more potent on the national scale. He will win just like Scott Brown and most recently our Republican governor in MA for similar reasons. The wage class is powerful. You are absolutely right.

I happen to make a salary but I'd hardly consider myself a member of that class given my struggles to even live a modest life within my means. I've actually been having conversations with some friends recently about a trend we've noticed. A trend where our employer basically converts us to salary from hourly at the same pay rate and asks for more hours. Basically eliminated overtime compensation for their benefit.

No doubt a sleeping dragon is awakening.

look sie said...

Long time reader, first time commenter here. I've read all of your books and I find your presentation well-reasoned and so refreshingly free of the knee-jerk bias that is so prevalent on the right and, most especially, on the lib-left. Although I am a member of the salaried class here in Canada, I was born into the working class in Hamilton, Ontario - Canada's one-time answer to Pittsburgh. As such, I'd like to think I can see both sides. I am also a Gay man and I can tell you that most Gay men on both sides of the border are poster boys for the kind of blinkered thinking you've described in this post. At a recent holiday gathering, the talk turned to politics and I commented that I thought Trump would win, citing many of the same points you've made above. I also expressed my dismay at the results of our recent election of a prime minister who is a slightly dumber (but white!) version of Obama. You would of thought I was cheerleading for Hitler. These men simply refused to consider any argument that might have proved my points. Surprisingly, I don't think they actually disagreed with the arguments but to admit they could have some validity would have been tantamount to admitting that maybe, just maybe, some of their deeply held beliefs are wrong. And, for this class, that can JUST NOT BE. I told one of my friends afterwards that this refusal to face the facts on the ground will be a disaster for us all in the West - gay, straight and otherwise, in North America and in Europe because the mindset is the same. Liam

Steve Thomas said...

Oh, and I almost forgot. Did you happen to read Obama's final State of the Union address? It's simultaneously the greatest sermon in the Religion of Progress's recent history and the most profound statement of elite cluelessness regarding the processes you're talking about here that I can imagine. I don't suppose you knew that people who object to the Trans Pacific Partnership are morally identical to those who opposed the civil rights movement, and that the obvious solution to the "inevitable" new economy that the Washington elite created on purpose is more student loans and mandatory preschool, did you? But that's what the president is for, to teach us these things.

Patricia Mathews said...

Incidentally, not just the blue collar workers, but the pink collar workers, have been just as badly gutted. Young women who thought their college degrees could at least get then an office job are flipping burgers, bartending, stripping, or flatly supplementing their income - surviving, in many cases, by selling the one thing there's a market for in the worst of times. Which I realize goes back, not just to SISTER CARRIE and LA TRAVIATA, but to the apes, and earlier. And who do you think they'll vote for? Unless they have a salary class sugar daddy on whose fortunes they depend. I just told my "Women For Hillary" friend that, too.

And my leftist friends, both salary class and barely scraping by (a preschool teacher, a massage therapist, a retired bookstore clerk, etc) are placing all their hopes on Bernie Sanders.

Eric Backos said...

Dear Mr. Greer and assembled Wizardren
Painesville, Ohio: There is NO meeting of the Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 440, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 440 this week.
We apologize for the inconvenience.
Splendorem Lucis Viridis!
Tower 440

Mark said...

Very helpful framework. When I moved here from the UK in the early 90s it was striking how Americans liked to pretend there was no economic class tension going on here, while happily engaging in very vicious cultural class war. But then of course dividing people via culture war hot buttons was the purpose I suppose. I still wonder if Trump isn't just another version of the right wing radio/evangelical pastor axis that helped get enough of the wage class to vote Republican over the last twenty or so years. I can see him riding these resentments all the way to the White House, but I have trouble seeing him actually doing anything about them. Because if he did, even if it is practically possible, he'll have hell to pay from his own class of plutocrats. The big question to me is whether he really intends to make major economic changes, or whether he is another hope and change jockey aiming to just manage and deflate the pressures in the system.

I'd like to say it's gonna be interesting and fun to watch - it will be, but it's also getting pretty real now. Feels like we're moving into new territory.

Abelardsnazz said...

A fascinating and insightful post. Sitting half the world away, I must admit I've found it hard to figure out why The Donald appeals to so many and how at each outrageous remark his poll percentages go shooting up. I certainly feel I've a better understanding of the actual dynamics of the situation now that I've read your analysis. You almost make him sound like a Christ-like figure, suffering the attacks of the liberal intelligentsia on behalf of His People.

jonathan said...

on the mark. the investment class cares not at all about immigration. capital is fungible and, the occasional capital control aside, is readily movable. investors can, therefore, play wage arbitrage anywhere in the world. the salaried class is the beneficiary of immigration and off-shoring as every attorney with a smart phone and a nanny can readily tell you.
i don't know if trump can actually become president, but, if we combine the polling numbers of trump, sanders and cruz (who taps into many of the same voters as trump) it's clear that a very significant part of the electorate is ready for something well outside of the political mainstream.
in this respect, the u.s. is following the lead of europe where nigel farrage, marine le pen, beppe grillo etc. are challenging the neoliberal and euro integration consensus from both the left and the right. some sense of how the political elite see these events can be gleaned by observing the eviseration of greece after the tsipras election. our political elite is at least as sociopathic as their european counterparts. it will be most interesting to see how extreme the reaction becomes if trump appears to be winning the nomination. i would not rule out a contrived emergency that required the election to be delayed, perhaps indefinitely.

234567 said...

Having been in both salary and wage classes off and on over my career, I will assert you hit this one pretty squarely, JMG - at least as far as Trump and the coming turmoil post-election.

I don't see anything coming in the immediate future to help wageclass, except maybe one more run-up of the market before the big swirl. But that will be only a sideband benefit to the wageclass - primarily investorclass and salaryclass will be temporary beneficiaries. Even this is likely to end in 2017. The massive global debt, wherein this country figures prominently, is soon to become untenable. That unwind will not be stopped - the question is, what will it precipitate and what will replace it?

The anger that rises when either the new prez or congress do their about face on election issues will likely be quite a kitchen match... said...

The framework of investment class, salary class, wage class, and welfare class makes perfect sense. And you've mentioned a couple of small classlets — the Royalties classlet, and the Profit classlet. Two questions of course arise: 1) What other classlets are there, and 2) which of these classlets are relatively well-positioned for the future?

I can answer that first one a bit. There's the artist classlet, and the artisan classlet. The one makes useless-but-beautiful objects, the other makes useful and beautiful but expensive/handmade objects. They have skills that they might be able to trade for pay, but usually they're working hard all the time and not getting much in return. There's the consultant classlet, of people with highly specialized skills or knowledge that get paid to move around; and a medicinal classlet, of medical technical professionals — some doctors, but mostly nurses and nursing assistants and technicians, who sort of straddle the wage/salary divide.

It's easy to see which kinds of classlets provide niche survival skills... and it's equally easy to see that ANY of these classlets could become targeted and made miserable in a more generalized conflict. The modern American empire is going to make a messy hash of the lower layers of its investment class on the way down, it seems to me. And the salary class is going to get clobbered in a traditional pincer move, between the wage earners who know how to do stuff, and the investors who know how to pay big for big stuff like propaganda. But the salary class doesn't really know how to do anything — and that's part of the reason why I've been shifting my classroom work toward Maker education these last six or eight years; and why I'm shifting my own skills toward Maker work.

One of the insights I had a bout Trump, though, you didn't touch on at all. The Republican Party has done a fairly good job of training the wage class to respond to 'dog whistle language', and one of the things which must be terrifying to the leadership of the GOP is that Trump is much better at whistling to 'their dogs' without using their Official GOP Dog Whistle™. His words, his phrases, his communications, his rallies — all of his efforts are geared toward 'stealing their voter base' right out from under them. They've gotten very used to being able to use coded language... and Trump isn't coding his language at all. He's just talking.

Jason Fligger said...

Hi JMG: Very insightful blog. A couple of comments: (1) The salaried class has been tapped by the banks and upper classes and it is doing what is necessary to maintain its standard of living. Salary growth since 1970 has been much slower than in the early years post WWII but more importantly, the share of salary spent on debt service has skyrocketed. Salaried class families did not borrow money for the purchase of cars until the mid 1970's and, with large down payments and modest growth in housing prices, large loans were not necessary for the purchase of homes during that time period either. The salaried class was squeezed and, since they wield more power than the wage class, they took the relatively easier route of squeezing the wage class rather than taking on the investment class. It would require much more thought and social coordination with the wage class for the salaried class to successfully push back against the more powerful investment class. Also, the investment class tied the fate of salaried class pensions to their own success. Who is going to push back against the holder of their pension money? Finally, many salaried class people aspire to ascend into the investment class they don't want to reduce their chances of "making it". Many of the salaried class came out of wage class families and their parents were proud that their sons and daughters had gotten more wealthy than they had. From what I can tell, this idea that the children should be more successful than the parents is taken as a law of nature for many Americans. We all want our children to be successful but whatever happened to just raising our children to be honest, hard-working and competent at whatever they do? When I was growing up, I had many friends who wanted to be farmers but their parents (who were farmers) discouraged them from farming. Instead, they sent their kids to college to be business people. My own son wants to be a mechanic. I will support his decision to be a mechanic.

Bike Trog said...

A mistake I made a few times is clicking ebay's Add to Cart before I look down to the shipping cost. With your publisher's free shipping it's close enough to the same price.

Armbands are easier to wear than neckties and would cost less. A tie could just as well be a fascist symbol.

Blueback said...

The mindset of the salary class and the investor class really reminds me of the French aristocracy before 1789. I think at this point, roadside bombs, barricades and guerrilla warfare are merely a question of how soon, not when. The Feds are widely hated in the West and the South as evidenced by recent events in Nevada and Oregon and there is a lot of pent-up rage in the African-American community, as evidenced by events in Ferguson and Baltimore.

If I were a Russian, Chinese or Iranian intelligence operative, I would be quietly stoking the flames of revolt in hopes of getting the American Empire to blow up when things finally hit a boiling point.

If Trump loses by electoral fraud or gets bumped off like RFK, you can pretty much guarantee either a Fred Halliot or a full-blown civil war within a decade. Either way, things are going to get a lot uglier.

Eric S. said...

I'm pretty sure that the way the current economic crisis is unfolding and some of the key driving factors that it'd be easy pickings for a candidate who is placing decoupling America's economy from China's at the core of his campaign. I also get the feeling that if we do get Trump, he may well be the same disappointment to his working class backers that Obama was to the people who rallied behind him in '08... Could the next step be the rise of an "American Populist" party that promises the return of American industry, the higher tariffs, stronger borders, and decoupling of the US from the global economy that gives Trump his populist edge in addition to the banking regulation, public healthcare, minimum wage hikes, and student loan reform that gives Sanders his? It seems like once that movement took hold and got the right voice, that's where we'd get our Fred Halliot and the rise of a single party system in America.

Grebulocities said...

When I read your articles on Fred Halliot in 2014, it immediately struck me as something that could easily happen. Though I'm thoroughly a product of the educated class, I've still lived in Midwestern towns and small cities most of my life and have seen enough to know that the working class has been thoroughly crushed and is justifiably very angry about it. But I took issue with the timeline - it didn't seem like something that could happen so soon. Trump helped to show me that this is a phenomenon that has already arrived, and will be here in some form or another for the foreseeable future.

In a strange way, the Trump campaign along with the success of right-wing populist movements in Europe has given me some hope that the current neoliberal order actually can be changed by popular will. But it is a little, shall we say, inconvenient that the people most likely to overthrow it are the 21st century equivalent of fascists.

Harry Lerwill said...

As a member of the 'salary class', I agree with many of your points. I have kept my lifestyle by eliminating "working class" jobs via automation. I justify my staff's position by how much they continue to save the company though productivity increases. Interestingly, jobs that were forced offshore years ago by the race to the bottom are now being automated out of existence, with the running of the 'automation' creating a yet smaller number of jobs back here in the US. I can see one job in thirty coming back as this trend develops, mainly desk jockey positions, but it allows the technology branch of the salary class to cling on a little longer to their lifestyle.

I will disagree with one point: I have never heard the salaried people talk about the hourly paid people in a derogatory manner. It's one of the reasons I'm still at the same company after 16 years, some workplaces are still stuck in the culture of the 60's and 70's.

Trump is where I would place my money this November, if he runs as expected. The ridicule he received from the British Parliament will have reminded 'those good folks' that they rebelled against those same British snobs before - and won! I expect it to rile up the trumpen-proletariat --a term I was sad to see has not caught on --some of whom had jobs, until the tech sector of the salary class automated those jobs out of existence.

The loss of the working class is Catabolic collapse in action, with even the offshored jobs now being cannibalized. It appears to be a slow collapse when it's happening to others - but it becomes a fast collapse when it happens to you.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla said...

Here in Australia the wage class has been kept quiet with the promise of ever increasing wealth via the property bubble. With the bubble set to burst in the next 18 months a whole lot of "cashed up bogans" eill become overnight debt slaves. Our politics is already caught in a pattern of wild swings and instability. I suspect any further crisis will see it spin out of control.

Esquon said...

A thought provoking analysis for sure and a framework for political action. The remaining question I have is simple. What does Trump get for all his efforts and expenditure?

Purple Tortoise said...

A comment from a member of the salary class who over the years has grown increasingly sympathetic to the wage class...

I'm not convinced by your thesis that the destruction of manufacturing in America has been driven by the desire of the salary class for cheap electronic toys. My first reason is that it is corporate sellers to the wage class that are doing much of the offshoring and employment of immigrants -- the higher up you go on the salary scale, the more likely you are to buy American from a boutique sort of outfit. My second reason is that the cost of manufactured goods are not a big part of the salary class budget -- the salary class would gladly pay double the price for electronic toys if they could pay half the cost for housing or college.

I think it may be useful to distinguish between the upper part and lower part of the salary class (not necessarily divided into equal halves). The lower part of the salary class is getting squeezed as the cost of housing soars in the regions of the country where salary class jobs are. It used to not be the case that both parents had to work to make ends meet in the salary class, and getting a good salary class job depends much more on getting into elite colleges than it used to. My salary class colleagues are driving themselves crazy trying to keep their heads above water and help their kids stay at the same socioeconomic level. I don't think they give much thought to the cost of manufactured goods -- that's a wage class concern. It's the upper part of the salary class shading into the investment class that is benefiting from the current arrangement.

Bryan L. Allen said...

Ah, thank you John Michael, for crystallizing a feeling I've had for a while: I think Donald Trump winning the Presidency would be the preferred outcome in our collective short term. Any other outcome seems like it would just increase the resentment and the divisive forces that are afoot. And I say this as a member of the salaried class, having through a combination of good fortune and Aspergian hyper-focus climbed up from the strata of the wage earners, where I even dipped briefly into the welfare class (wow, I disliked the indignities of being on unemployment!) Allowing the wage-earners to have their say, and their champion, seems to me a gentler way towards the longer-term hard landing we are headed towards. "Any landing you can walk away from is a good one", as my pilot friends used to say. Struggling to keep an aircraft, or a society, in the air when it has lost its capability for staying aloft just makes it more likely that your energy management situation will end in too much altitude and too little ability to lessen your final rate of descent. Don't misunderstand me; I'm not pleased at the notion of a President Trump, for numerous reasons, but it really feels like the alternatives get us more quickly to a Fred Halliot acendency, a harder landing that I hope we can avoid.

Thank you so much for your thoughts, the generosity of your dialog, and your fearless and indomitable spirit. I will be VERY interested to see if this week's comments are more aligned with your thoughts or are in loud disagreement!

Lucretia Heart said...

I'm in a weird position socially, with torn loyalties, as I have about half my friends who are wage class and LOVE Trump and half who are Urban West Coast liberals and LOATHE the guy...

Mystified by my very down-to-earth and sensible (and, yes, struggling to make enough while working 2 jobs) friends, I set aside my own feelings regarding Trump and sat in for one of the Republican debate fiasco-fests with them. (I admit to avoiding watching the debates due to personal disgust.) I thought instead of judging, I'd just ask them questions while we watched together and try to figure it out. Because I was genuinely perplexed, baffled, bewildered...

Turned out I didn't have to ask any questions. I watched with them, and-- being from the wage class myself, though surrounded by educated liberals-- I GOT IT. I totally could see the appeal. Trump smacked the other "business as usual" candidates around about the very things that so frustrate my friends. He was actually funny! I laughed aloud several times (and almost felt the need to genuflect to some deity somewhere to cleanse my soul afterwards!)

Sanders appeals to some of the same frustrations, but he refuses to address the illegal immigration side of things that so incenses the wage class (who are being run out of their rural towns by hoards of illegals, and who DO indeed drive down wages for everyone, etc.) SO he's more acceptable from one point of view but misses several massive points that are politically incorrect from the wage class view.

And then I could no longer laugh AT Trump. Nor sneer in derision. I continue to feel uneasy, leery, because I know he'd be a disaster at foreign relations just at a point where we can't really afford to rile our many enemies, not to mention those hints of extremism that could explode from his followers (they really are very angry, and yes, justifiably so.) A Trump presidency could bring out some deep, dark things that have been successfully suppressed for several decades--

-- but I can see it happening now. We have a wild ride coming, no question.

Chris Smith said...

JMG, you wrote "If Trump gets defeated, especially if it’s done by obviously dishonest means, the next leader to take up the cause of the wage class could very well be fond of armbands or, for that matter, of roadside bombs."

I concur 100%. I am a legal aid attorney. This puts me in the odd position of being part of the salary class* but with daily contact with the wage class and the welfare class. Funny thing though, a lot of the welfare class I help used to be part of the wage class. They are exceedingly pissed off about this and they know damn well electoral politics in this country are rigged to ignore them.

My prediction: Bernie Sanders wins the general election if he gets the Democratic nomination, Trump wins if Hillary Clinton gets the nomination. Alternatively, some crooked things happen and neither Sanders not Trump is allowed to win, and the next election cycle will feature a candidate with really cool armbands.

*and I got really lucky here. I started off as a machinist in the 1990s.

Repent said...

Perfect summary. I was in the wage class for most of my working years, until very recently where I have been fortunate enough to work my way into a low level salary job. I can see both sides of the coin which you have described, the sneering, holier than thou attitude of anyone with a university degree and a professional job title. Exactly this, also the crude vulgar culture of those less fortunate who continue to make the 'wrong' choices, these people are getting desperate.

Still as I'm written before, as a Canadian, I would remark that the reality is, for all of us outside of the United States, that none of us have any say whatsoever on who will be the next world emperor/ despot. (Really not fair) I'm cynical, if not for rigged elections, then Ron Paul clearly won the last Republican nomination by a landslide. The very fact that he's not the current president, shows that the whole game is rigged and the 'winner' of the 2016 election has already been chosen by the ruling elites. That the whole election is just political theatre, and more bread and circuses to distract people from the real truth of fascism.

Lucretia Heart said...

Quick follow-up to my last comment:

I feel I should clarify. I said I found Trump funny. I meant I laughed at what he said about several things that were true but that no one dares to say, including what he said about several other candidates. But I laughed WITH him, not at him.

And some of his foreign policy stuff sounds right on the ball, but then in places he goes right off the rails. Same for domestic policies he's suggested. If he's pandering, then he's not doing it in a way I've seen other politicians do it-- except in some historical films, maybe..?

I think you could say I find I'm in a state of cognitive dissonance and can't quite find a comfortable place for my mind to go as of yet. However, I have stopped reflexively dismissing Trump, much as a part of me would like to do just that.

John Michael Greer said...

Alex, if that's all you care about, sure.

None, and right there you see the substantive points Trump is slipping into his narrative to attract the undecided voters once he's got a lock on the GOP nomination. As I noted, the guy is very, very smart.

Leah, have you met these people? Do you know what they think, what their dreams are, how they look at the world -- or are you viewing them through a filter of fear you've been handed by others? I recommend getting to know them, as you'll find that a lot of your fears are overblown -- and are very likely being used, by others, to manipulate you.

Pygmycory, I hadn't read that particular diatribe, but it's par for the course. Thanks for passing it on! As for the size of the various classes, that's a good question -- I'll have to look into it.

Tom, it's a great poem; the downside comes when the guillotine rolls out.

Gee, it's not an exact overlap, because these days a lot of people who would have been in the rentier class in a previous era draw very large salaries -- large enough that they arguably belong to the salary class instead.

Juan, divide and conquer was used systematically on the working class, no question.

Whomever, no argument there -- the lower-to-middle echelons of the salary class are beginning to feel the pinch, which is why there's been all the yelling in recent years about a "war against the middle class" et al. As for youer question, I live all of five miles south of the Mason-Dixon line, in a town where interracial marriages and mixed-race kids are commonplace, so I'm not the right person to ask about that. Do any of my readers further south have comments?

David, I haven't done a close analysis of Sanders' following yet -- though that will have to change, since he's running a very competent campaign, and Clinton is not -- I didn't think she could do worse than she did in 2008, but she's proven me wrong. A campaign pitting Sanders against Trump would be quite the spectacle!

Justin, I won't argue. Business as usual has gotten so bad for so many people that anyone and anything else has a rapidly rising appeal.

Unknown, heck of a good question. He could, you know; all he'd have to do is get rid of the trade treaties that facilitate offshoring jobs, and enforce immigration laws -- including steep financial penalties against anyone who employs illegal immigrants -- and wages would head up.

Unknown said...

Hmm.... Sure Trump gets old angry white people in fly over states excited but turns off just about every other voting block. You know the under 35 crowd is the largest single voting block out there and they overwhelmingly (by a HUGE! (to turn a Trumpism) margin) support Sanders and then there are women which Trump has grossly offended and Trump's rhetoric is thinly veiled racism so there goes the minority vote and I'm sure sometime this week Trump will run his mouth and offend gay voters.
So I do see Trump getting the republican nomination but losing by a very wide margin in the general election.
I agree with you classism is the driving factor on both sides of the red/blue rift this election cycle. AND A VERY LARGE Change (HUGE!) is coming, I think what we're seeing is the natural evolution of capitalism to socialism Marx spoke of.
And wouldn't you know it a socialist is running go figure.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160121T045035Z

@JMG: Heavens, what a dark, and as far as I can see accurate, analysis. It reminds me of one the most frightening afternoons in my life - an afternoon in 2006 spent simply walking the streets of downtown Detroit, inspecting tall abandoned buildings.

@Everyone: It is helpful in the context of JMG's analysis to remind ourselves of what the USA once was, in the context of something from last week - Moshe Braner's map of the Ohio rail network from around 1950, in his blog posting timestamped by the blogging software as "1/18/16, 7:57 PM". Mr Braner's map can be viewed at What is striking is that hardly any small Ohio town was at that time without rail service. When one thinks of this, so many other things that are now gone come to mind also: not the efficient public transit and freight service alone, but additionally the efficient, no-nonsense telephone service (telephones available in any colour at all, provided they were black), the efficient postal service, university education readily accessible to ex-soldiers, the fraternal organizations, the culture of municipal libraries and 4-H Clubs and Scouts and YMCA - in short, an abundance of community amenities and community engagement. The Nova Scotia of the late 1950s and the 1960s, which I remember clearly, was similar, even as regards its railways. A lot of this was due to the existence of a strong, conservative, pragmatic wage-earner class, which in the last 30 years has (as JMG stresses in his current dark posting) withered.


PS: Dear Leah Gayle,

Thanks very much for update on your heraldry, in your posting timestamped "1/20/16, 12:45 PM", in last week's crop of blog comments. Your revised Latin looks fine! :-)

Chris Farmer said...

Great Post. Thanks for your insights into Trump's bullet-proof popularity
American politics in a nutshell:
You have two choices - 1) to be reamed up the rear by a big red, white and blue elephant member, or 2) to be reamed up the rear by a big red, white and blue donkey member.
Now, roughly half of Americans prefer the donkey member, because they feel that the elephant member just reams them too hard.
Whereas roughly the other half of Americans actually prefer the elephant member, because, well, the donkey member is a little squirrelly, if you know what I mean.

Bill Pulliam said...

Hmmm, I'm gonna have to diverge from the fawning sycophany here, not about Trump, but about the class division you use as the framework. Because I see a whole lot of people around me who seem to not fit in any of those classes. These are people who grab work where it comes, are not dependent on welfare, but have neither a wage nor a salary. Some of these people are tradesmen, some are oddjobbers, some are artists. Indeed, this is really the class I would say you belong in, and I think it is significantly bigger than you appreciate. Perhaps this is an adaptation of the former wage class to the new realities of work. These are the folks who populated the Man Camps in the Bakken, and just as quickly depolulated them when oil prices tanked. But they are also the people who are becoming Uber drivers, attempting to run small non-franchise businesses, etc.

This segment of the populations might be especially obvious here in a small town 40 miles from the nearest interstate highway. Most people here live in the Check Republic, waiting for their Government Check every month (your welfare class, if you also include retirees in that). For the rest, wage and salary jobs are scarce or far away, and many people are getting by on what is essentially piece work, odd jobs, contracts, etc.

You may say that these people are just the shattered remains of the wage class and therefore you did include them. But I see a pretty fundamental difference between the person who works at Mall*Wart for $10/hr versus the person who grabs any construction, lawn care, or whatever job he might be able to hunt down, for a day or a week or a month, with Blue Sky always looming in front of him.

Another group that is missing dfrom your analysis for obvious reason is what was once our largest sector, what you might call the primary producer class. This would more generally be known as the farming class. Even in Iowa they are hardly pandered to anymore.

As for Trump, I'll just repeat my sentiment from two weeks ago, that I think the party establishment still probably has enough control to keep both him and Sanders away from the nomination. And if they do succeed at that, I think it is an open question as to whether in 2020 the establishment is challenged even more vigorously, or the Trump/Sanders voters are so disgusted they don't even bother trying to overturn the apple cart until 2024. By which time global macroeconomics will have done gods-only-knows-what to the economic and political playing field.

Tennessee has an open primary, meaning I don't have do decide until I step up to the clerk at the polling place whether I am going to vote in the Dem or Rep primary. I am starting to envision a scenario in which I might actually vote for Trump just to try to block Cruz...

Shane W said...

@jondonjuan & whomever,
Per I'll Take My Stand, the South transferred European feudalism to America intact, New England looked to England and the Old World, the South WAS the Old World. The Old South had an explicit class structure, unlike the rest of the US. People in the South have always regarded the rest of the nation (the Yankees) as hypocritical on issues of race & class, until recently, when halfhearted attempts to "progress" under the New South banner brought industrialism, & the "classless" & "non racist" society created the same hypocrisy in the South that exists elsewhere. I don't know about JMG, but I'll say right here, the South is the most integrated, most culturally homogenous amongst the races, of any region. There's one culture and three races in the South. Even the Latinos from Latin America share more in common with white & black people in the South than is true elsewhere--the cultural similarities & histories are striking.
I forget that study JMG cited that stated that while a rising tide lifts all boats, a falling tide is more selective, throwing ever higher classes under the bus until the system fails altogether. The reason the sneering class is so outraged is because they know they're next--I don't think we'll get full-blown fascism until significant numbers of the salary class get thrown under the bus--they'll be the source of intellectual fodder for the fascism.

william fairchild said...


Ooohh, class distinctions? Now THAT is a verboten subject in polite circles. I like your terms investment, salary, wage, and welfare. It makes it easier to discuss the subject. If you use the old terms (rentier/bourgeoise, petite bourgeoisie, proletariat, lumpenproletariat) a sudden mental block goes up.

I would push back just a little on the idea that the salary class and welfare class has stayed the same. The lower end of the salary class (teachers, police, and such) have a terrible time maintaining the perks without incurring a mountain of debt. When I was a youngun in the 70s Dad (a schoolteacher) provided a nice middle class living (cars, vacations, college tuitions, and such) on just his income. Now, that is impossible. The same lifestyle now requires two such salaries, and dipping into either credit cards or home equity loans.

The welfare class is pretty well non-existant with a few exceptions, SSDI for example. The Clinton welfare reforms created a sort of wage/welfare hybrid. And that sucker is growing. Most welfare recipients actually work a crappywage job and receive subsidies in the form of Medicaid, SNAP, LIHEAP, etc.

But you are absolutely right that the wage class has been destroyed. And a very large percentage of them must now take SNAP, and so on. It is demeaning and crushes the soul.

As to immigration, we have a Cargill meat plant in the area. It used to be a good union job with bennies. Then the plant was sold and the union broken. They actively recruited legal Mexican immigrants to replace the old union workforce. A few years ago, I noticed an influx in Congolese immigrants. Apparently the Mexicans are now too expensive, so they import Congolese.

The local university has gotten into the act. Just before each semester, dozens of Indian students fly in to go to school. They want them because they pay full sticker price for their degree.

And the Donald has tapped into that simmering fury. So has Sanders in many ways.

As to whether he can win, well yes. Watch South Carolina, that may be the critical contest. And even if he loses, he might rack up enough delegates to force a brokered convention. Wouldn't that be fun?

James M. Jensen II said...

This was an eye-opening post for me. I'm decidedly a member of the salary class, and have been since my mid-teens when my mother got a job as a university instructor. I realize now that this has colored my view of things quite a bit.

It's funny, though. I've preferred Sanders from the start, but, and despite all the crazy things he's said, I've never shaken the feeling that Trump might be second-best, certainly better than Hillary, at least since my interests lie in avoiding a civil war or insurrection cutting off the supply-lines to the medications that keep me alive.

This post validates that intuition quite a bit, and gives me a new way to think and talk about it.

Stacy said...

An observation: a number of salaried commenters have gone out of their way to say that they weren't really from the salary class after all. I thought that was interesting, and I wonder how that'll play down the road a bit.

team10tim said...

Hey hey JMG,

I'm glad you said this: "enforce immigration laws -- including steep financial penalties against anyone who employs illegal immigrants -- and wages would head up."

It's been clear to me for at least a decade that all the political talk about immigration is just that, talk. It exists to make the electorate think that a candidate is serious about immigration without actually effecting it. Talk about borders (a wall along the border) and deportation sounds serious, but it has virtually no effect. If you actually want to effect immigration then 'steep financial penalties against anyone who employs illegal immigrants' would do the trick nicely.

The politicians don't actually want to stop cheap labor from coming into the country because prices would go up, they just want to sound tough on the issue. It is nicely underscored when a hardliner on the immigration issue gets caught employing an illegal immigrant as a groundskeeper or a maid.

It's strange that I never hear it discussed, even in the informal, off the beaten path blogs I frequent. I expect it not to be in the corporate news, but it's weird that it's never talked about anywhere.


ps I don't have a dog in this fight, I'm not pro or anti immigration. I just find it strange that for all of the yelling about it the policy changes that would actually effect it are never even mentioned.

Shane W said...

I must agree with you regarding the LGBT community--as class riven as any in the US. I remember reading about Edie Windsor of US v. Windsor fame, thinking, "this woman and her late wife are way too wealthy for me to relate to. I can't imagine worrying about inheritance taxes from a wealthy estate." Same is true when I get the LA Vanguard in the mail and look at the wealthy Hollywood benefits. I don't relate to these people at all, they're not of my class, LGBT or not...

Shane W said...

Sigh, Trump w/Sanders as Veep. Has a ring to it...

HalFiore said...

Your reply to my comment to the Halliot post:

"Hal, the major parties are pretty well insulated against pressure from the grassroots just now -- though that may change."

Nice call. I guess they changed at least somewhat on the Republican side, though it hasn't been a willing change for the party leadership. Do you still think a third party is worth any effort?

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

Leah Gayle, is that motto intended to mean "Freedom through service"? Sounds even worse in the original German.

If the intended meaning is "In the service of liberty", I think that would be rendered "In servitio (ablative case) libertatis (genitive case, I hope if memory serves)."

Bill Pulliam said...

Whomever -- first, racism in the south or the rest of the U.S. does not follow class boundaries. Slavery and Jim Crow segregation were both products of the upper classes, they did not evolve from the working class. Atticus Finch's people are the ones who promoted and sustained racism, not the Ewells, which is why I am one of the few people who thinks "Go Set a Watchman" went too easy on Atticus.

I'm not sure why people think that the use of demagogeury to get working class people to vote against their interests is a unique or universal southern phenomenon. The south supported and greatly benefitted from the New Deal, and rewarded Roosevelt by voting democratic straight through the 1970s.

Now in the 21st century it is hardly just the south that is susceptible to demagogeury. Traditional racism seems to have been supplanted here and elsewhere by a more generalized demagogeury and especially by an absurd amount of pseudoreligious pandering. And it escapes me why people still think this is just a southern thing. Have they not been to Iowa? Or Idaho? Or anywhere in Oregon more than 10 miles away from I-5?

White people in much of the country are freaking out as they are seeing more and more people who are not of their same "race," whatever that means. White people in the south have been living in close association with non-white people for generations, it's nothing new here.

Leah Gayle said...

I certainly hope my concerns are unfounded. Just this week a young girl died in police custody, an African American girl in Louisville. The police aren't relaying any info, of course, but the vitriol online against this poor child just because of her race (and her class) is vile. The hate and anger against the poor, people of color, and non-Christians does not seem to be in any danger of dissipating. Of course there is manipulation on all sides. But a lot of people are not interested in being reasonable or logical anymore, or maybe just can't be since they are so emotionally invested in the stories they tell themselves as to why nothing is their own fault. They probably do know, somewhere deep down, that their own choices and actions (or inactions) created the current economic situation. They might even realize that we can't go on exploiting the rest of the world or the wage class here forever. But somehow that isn't translating into constructive action. The cognitive dissonance must be mind-boggling. It's like climate change - it takes a lot of work to ignore the reality but they would rather do that than confess their own culpability. And they'll give up their privilege and entitlement when...well, they won't, actually. Yes, I do know plenty of people like that - people who are intelligent enough to know better but just don't care about other people if it means lowering their own standard of living. That's really what all the hate is about, and yes, it is engineered. But that doesn't make it less real. The people inside the fake habitat don't necessarily acknowledge how fake it is, even if they really do know. They have built their image of themselves in their own minds (as we all have) and it takes something strong to dislodge that image. Trump et al tells them they don't have to change, that others must change instead. It's just what they want to hear so they aren't going to examine that message too closely. It becomes a self-reinforcing loop, and it projects all their anger and frustration outward.

Bill Pulliam said...

Those of you who are wondering how these classes will fare projected off into the future, let me ask you this about the present-day U.S.:

Where is the agrarian class? Where is the aristocracy? Where is the slave class?

In the U.S., all are gone. Why would you think the classes JMG outlined will fare any better in the next 100 years?

Mister Roboto said...

I can see your point. I recall reading an article online associated with some high-falutin mainstream publication, and it was about the rise of Donald Trump's political fortunes. It was so filled with utter snot-nosed know-it-all liberal east-coast elitism that I couldn't help but wonder if the The Donald himself paid the author to write it!

william fairchild said...


It kinda depends where you are. A cosmopolitan center like Atlanta may well be innoculated to those tactics, but as you move into the smaller cities and the hinterland (mainly wage class areas), yes it works. And it is not just racial, but cultural (anti-gay and so on).

I live in downstate IL, which is quite Southern culturally. Several folks in town openly fly the Battle Flag on their houses. Believe me the race card is played to great effect.

They just do it by using "coded" language.

Helix said...

@ShaneW: You should have heard what the working class neighbors were saying about the Permaculture Farmers! The sneering goes both ways. Dehumanizing the enemy is universal in all forms of warfare, class warfare included.

JMG: Maybe I'm different than the typical salaried worker because I come from a farming background, but my sense is that the victimization of wage earners was effected mainly by the entrepreneurial class and its political allies, especially the congress. I know of almost no middle-class liberals of any stripe - salaried or otherwise - who think offshoring of America's industrial base or uncontrolled illegal immigration are good for the country. It seems to me that the impetus for these trends can be laid squarely at the feet of our elected officials and their supporters among the financial and corporate class. So while salaried workers have personally benefited from these trends, the only ones I know who blather on about the stellar benefits of "free-trade" and the like are conservatives almost to a man (or woman as the case may be). I would be interested to hear if others have had similar experience.

Bill Hicks said...

On the contrary--the blowback IS taking place on the left as well when you consider that a 73-year-old white guy who was little known outside Vermont and wonk circles now has a real chance of denying Queen Hillary the nomination. Just because the corrupt mainstream press won't take Bernie Sanders seriously until such time as he wins New Hampshire by a 2 to 1 margin as the polls now suggest he may doesn't mean their isn't a political tsunami ALSO crashing down on the Democratic Party.

Not saying Sanders will win or that he'll be able to make that much of a difference if he does--I'm saying that the Sanders phenomenon is in its own way even more remarkable than what is happening with Trump--and is happening for the same reasons.

aiastelamonides said...


Have you read Scott Adams' blog posts on Trump's persuasion skills? You might not like everything about him, but some of his thoughts would definitely interest you.

When you first predicted a Trump victory some months ago, I estimated that he wouldn't be able to consistently break 35% among Republicans. For a while he did hover at almost exactly 35%, but it's pretty clear now that he is headed for the White House. The degree to which the mainstream media has derided him has done him a double favor: not only has it made him more appealing to the despised working class, it has also put his actual success in high relief. If they had treated him like Clinton he would look less like a miraculous underdog, but as it is his continued rise has the appearance of the inevitable, ordained by the Fates. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of Democrats stay home on election day out of premature (and self-fulfilling) despair.

Gary Shannon said...

Thursday through the following Tuesday I get caught up in the media circus and lose touch with reality. Then comes Wednesday, and after reading JMG I once again come down off the ledge and touch base with reality. I just need to remind myself through the rest of the week not to go off the deep end with my reactions to the daily drama, and maintain the longer perspective that I know, deep in my heart, makes so much more sense. Thank you, oh masterful archdruid, for this vital weekly reminder. :)

Thomas Daulton said...

Howdy JMG! It's an excellent piece of analysis this week which illuminates much that the binary, dualist political discourse seeks to obscure. Four classes, as opposed to just two (rich vs. poor with a "neutral" Middle Class; haves vs. have-nots; urban vs. rural etc., all binary thinking.) Thanks!

On reading, I immediately noted something subtle, and if you haven't spent much time yourself in the "salaried class", you might not even be aware. Even highly paid members of the "salaried class" are not paid per week or per month anymore, these days. Everyone has an hourly rate nowadays. As a member of the salaried class, for most of my professional career now I have (along with everyone else) had to fill out a weekly timecard to account for my time in 15-minute increments (sometimes even less), and the total is supposed to come out to 40 hours. Ostensibly this is so that the accountants can bill clients at my hourly rate for the actual hours spent on each of several different projects.

It has the effect of blurring the line between the salaried class and the wage class, and for that reason many Americans don't understand the distinction and the different problems each class faces. At first glance one might think such a blurring of the lines would create solidarity between classes. But the attack on the wage classes has been underway for over 30 years now, it is deeply ingrained, so the hourly timecard report makes our situation feel more precarious, like we have no authority over our time, and we could slip right down the wage ladder and join the burger-flippers. This brings out our competitive edge and it's every man for himself.

There is certainly a difference of kind, not degree, between the salaried and the wage laborers, as you say. If you are a member of the salaried class, and you're sitting at your desk for the whole week but you can't explicitly document and justify at least 40 hours on your timecard -- which often happens because plans are never perfect, there is downtime and wastage etc. -- then you are nevertheless confident that you will work something out with your boss and your HR managers, to bill any missing hours to some bullsh#t category such as "Marketing" or "Overhead". If you are a member of the wage class, you have no such confidence, and if you don't have evidence that you were working hard for X number of hours, then you are not paid for X number of hours.

As I say, this business practice makes people on the mid-to-lower end of the salaried class feel more precarious, and ironically enough it stokes class divisions instead of creating solidarity by blurring the divisions. A salaried man filling out an hourly timecard inevitably thinks about how he's just scraping by, his purchasing power is diminishing like you say, he needs to collect more hours just like a wage earner (for ease of filling out his timecard, because you can only bill to bullsh#t categories for so long before you're fired). But since he imagines that the wage class are in basically the same situation, he ends up congratulating himself for facing the same problems as the wage class but making / "earning" a better living than them. "Well those lower-wage guys have to fill out a timecard too, and if _I_ can cobble together 40 hours on a timecard from fairy farts and bullsh#t marketing, then it's _their_ own fault when they can't get enough work and can't get ahead. That's why I get paid the big bucks, per hour, and they don't; my wage bargain is the same as theirs, it's just that I get a higher wage as compensation for my smarts and schooling, which they don't have."

Because the salaried class and the wage class ostensibly have the same compensation structure -- hourly -- many people even to this day make the mistake of thinking America is a classless society. It isn't, it's just that the division is more subtle than that.

John N. said...

I've been following the Trump campaign with much interest since it started, and I think I'll have to read The Art of the Deal to get a better grasp on how he communicates. It's not only entertaining, but eye-opening to watch his genius in playing the media and taunting the GOP establishment. They're so blinded by their disgust of working class Americans they can't tell what he's doing, so how could they possibly counter him? It's like trying to win a sword fight blindfolded. They will nonetheless die trying, and it's going to get ugly.

I see a kind of cognitive dissonance when liberals say that Trump supporters are just racist/sexist/cold-prickly, they're duped into voting against their interests, and should keep voting for people who were complicit in off-shoring jobs and opening the floodgates of immigration. And check your white privilege while you're at it.

Same when some conservatives claim Trump is not a "real" conservative. Even Reagan was a former Democrat, who I recall wasn't big on going to church. The usual captive constituency issues have been, uh, trumped.

Slightly off-topic:

I look at the slogan "Make America great again" and see the perhaps the most public signs of strain in the myth of progress I've seen so far. It'll probably take a while yet before it dawns on them that no one can make America great again.

Regarding the Trump Wall, didn't Toynbee say that that is one of the signs of an imploding empire?

HalFiore said...

JMG to unknown: "...all he'd have to do is get rid of the trade treaties that facilitate offshoring jobs..."

Not without a constitutional crisis. As treaties, those are the supreme law of the land. The people, both human and corporate, here and abroad who benefit f4rom those laws are quite lawyered up. He would have to get, at a minimum, support from Congress to even begin the process of overturning those laws, and good luck with that.

Mike said...

Do you have any data to back up the idea that immigration hurts the wages or employment of American workers? Or is it just something that seems obvious? Certainly, it's intuitively plausible and I'm not dismissing the idea; but all the economists and experts I can find on the interwebs seem to say it has no or a very minimal effect – and even, possibly, a positive effect on the wages of some workers. I've only skimmed their writings and not really analyzed their arguments. Wondering if you have?

Cherokee Organics said...


I 100% agree with your analysis. I reckon the policies being pursued have diminishing returns in that it is eating into the bottom of the salaried class right now. What do you think about that point?

Like you, I am self-employed - incidentally I ordered a copy of your latest book ;-)! - and when decided to become self-employed I looked back historically to see what form my profession took and then pursued that avenue and so I now work with small business. Because I do things on the smell of an oily rag, I keep my costs way down so I'm cheap and in demand. It also allows me to have a good rapport with the business owners and they get to ask pressing questions that matter to them and I can respond knowing their day to day problems. Few people in my profession leave their offices, but I'm always getting my hands dirty in the small businesses because that is what they need.

But you know what really annoys me the most about the situation? People in my profession when they don't outright pretend that I don't exist (or am something of an embarrassment that won't go away) they gently mock me. And the professional body - which takes my money and is meant to represent me - sends me information on how to get the best out of offshoring arrangements. It makes my blood boil because I saw the end of some manufacturing here - and not many in my profession have even the slightest idea about manufacturing issues nowadays - and it was then that I realised deep down what it meant for the long term.

Plenty of salaried jobs are in the process of being offshored here right now as the economy slips into decline. The rentier class are in for a big surprise too because the share market has really taken a hiding. There is no getting around that one. Property is, I reckon, the next domino to fall - unless the flow of money from offshore can be sustained, which I doubt. Oh by the way, did you see my comment last week about the distressed debt fund managers buying up big in the fracking bubble?

I had a score for a prediction today too. I called this one: Treasurer Scott Morrison urged to let students pay off study debt with super. All for a few dollars more! Superannuation refers to a person’s retirement funds (sort of like a 401K but with differences – in that it is not a defined benefit arrangement which appears to be a Ponzi scheme if ever I’ve seen one). Next it will be proposed to be channelled into the owner occupied housing market to keep it afloat.



PS: I've got a new blog entry up: A day at the beach which isn't actually about a day at the beach, it is about providing water to the bees during this long and ongoing hot spell (which may possibly be the new normal). Anyway, it was a cool photo. I show how some fairly basic products have changed over the years so that the quality for purpose has been reduced. I did a huge amount of digging and then cleaning up an area (despite the ongoing heat). Plus I've begun storing firewood for the winter. Lots of cool photos too! Enjoy.

William Hays said...

JMG, I will echo an earlier poster and say that your excellent essay helps me understand Sarah Palin's endorsement and speech on Tuesday even better. She mentioned that Trump contacted her soon after her nomination in 2008 at the time when she was being ridiculed by the elite in the media. Your insights make that event much more understandable.

Alhough recently retired from the "salary class" my roots are in a Tennessee tobacco farm. I understand some of the sense of rejection and certainly recognize the diminished income of the wage class. Thanks for a very helpful and graceful article.

Unknown said...

One of the first time I really noticed this "class" difference was in school, around ages 13-18, when I elected to take woodworking classes and did not take some "proper" elective like AP History. Most of the kids in the woodworking classes were from the welfare or salary class backgrounds and, I'm sad to say, mainly loafed in class when we had all kinds of equipment and artistic possibilities. What surprised me even more was the disdain my fellow college bound classmates had for such shop classes. I still treasure a few pieces I made in those classes---I have my feet propped up on one as I type on this laptop.

I'm a second generation college grad and clergyman.

Recently, I was reminded of these class differences when we had to have a plumber unclog the pipes of the home. I treated the fellow like he was a human with real worth and that there was a dignity in what he was doing---he had skills and tools I don't and who wants to be unable to wash dishes or have sewage back up into the house? I even took an interest into how he was trained or otherwise found his way to driving a truck full of interesting tools and helping all these otherwise (mechanically) incompetent suburbanites. It was pretty obvious this wa the sort of reception he was used to.

The other way this class difference expresses itself in my life lately is the dawning realization that at least one of my kids is just not the college type and now what are we going to do? There's the temptation to regard us as failures as parents because we couldn't make him into college material. That's crazy, but an easy trap for parents to fall into. Better is to try to help him identify strengths and help him play to those strengths. Especially with college loan burdens figured in, if he were to identify areas in which he can excel, he might financially outperform his over educated and over-debt-burdened peers. Further, he might just have a good quality of life, contribute to society etc.

Ron said...

Oww... that must hurt to many of the folks over there.
A very clear, but also very painful analyses of a carefully hushed up, buried subject, brought out into the open.
You'll be getting flak for this one, sir, but I guess you're used to that by now. It only goes to prove your point.

However I am waiting for some "Trump" to rise on this side of the Large Pond. An already overburdened indigenous people, being flooded by yet another wave of non-natives, with totally, incompatibly different cultures and beliefs (or agendas) has made Europe a witch's brew, where impudent politicians show levels of corruption and incompetence that would make any mediterranean official blush (sorry for the comparison, but that's what they have been known for. No worries; their northern counterparts are doing their very best to catch up.... and succeeding!!), thus heating up that bubbling concoction.
The general population is getting restless, angry.... no furious! And that is saying something, considering Swedes are bred and raised to be docile, uncritical and quiet. And now they are getting a very rude awakening to find that their trusted leaders have been failing them, cheating on them, lying to them... The hideous beast of racism has been awoken again and it is rearing it's ugly head once more. We all (should) know the consequences of similar events roughly 80 years ago, but school does not teach about that anymore.
I am seeing many parallels with 1920's and 1930's Europe and especially Germany, here; completely and utterly failing, lying, cheating upper class and politicians, without any feeling for the grim reality of everyday life, a furious and frustrated nation deprived of pride and future, a very handy scapegoat.... All we need now is a massive financial crisis.. Oh wait, there's one lining up just now. Pop the cork, gents! We're going to have a party!

John Michael Greer said...

Gee, have you noticed that many of those CEOs now make most of their annual income by way of salaries and bonuses rather than returns on investment? That puts them in the salary class -- at the very top, granted. A strong case could be made that the upper end of the salary class has staged a coup against the investment class, resulting in the current culture of exexcutive kleptocracy and the collapse of shareholder influence on big corporations.

Leah, so noted!

Post-Millennial, good. Another way to see that is that a loose alliance of power centers in the upper ends of the salary and investment class controls the government, and uses that control to advance their own interests to the detriment of others.

Steve, got it in one.

Shane, trust me, I've heard exactly the same thing far too often for my taste.

Matt, I did indeed. It's worth noting that suicide very often comes out of anger and violent urges that can't be directed outwards, and so end up being directed in at the self. If something convinces those people that there's a different target for their violence, things can heat up *very* fast.

Andy, it's a source of wry amusement that so many people on the left try so hard to insist that anyone who disagrees with them must suffer from some kind of personality disorder or mental illness. It's much easier than addressing the possibility that, say, Trump's supporters might have reasons to vote for him!

Compound F, even a blind mouse finds a broken clock, or what have you.

Robert, oh, I can easily imagine a petrel circling a boiling cauldron. ;-)

Silicon, every statement about a social class is a vast generalization. Of course there are still wage earners who make decent money -- there are just far, far fewer of them than there were fifty years ago!

Steve, two for two. It's always amusing to watch privileged coastal liberals love the working class in the abstract and despise them in person. As for my comment, well, that's one of the benefits of being a retired archdruid and author of books on topics that respectable people won't discuss -- I can say things that those who want to be acceptable can't say.

Mr. B, no question, it's getting under way in various parts of the country.

Jerry Silberman said...

Excellent post as usual. The class division is very much on point, with a few tweaks from my position as a union organizer (how's that for an anachronistic job, despite the continued self-delusion of remaining union leaders about their relevance to social justice and "progress") There remain a significant number of self-employed people, remnant of the profit class you talk about having declined (it has), or people who believe they are self employed, despite their bondage to corporations, the sole remnant of their self-employment being their assumption o risk. This includes franchise "owners" and most farmers. Their economic decline has mirrored that of hourly workers, and their resentment mirrors them as well. The slightly different origin of their resentment provides part of the margin that Donald holds over Bernie.

Some of the current salaried class have made the transition from the profit class almost seamlessly, protecting their privileges for the most part, doctors, and large number of lawyers who have successfully landed as in house liars for corporate America.

There is also what used to be called the labor aristocracy....certain classes of workers that receive salaries that put them in the salaried tier, including corporate military employees (e.g., Boeing), some construction workers, and the RNs that I represent. They are a not insignificant bulwark of the Democratic Party, which by pretending they are the hourly class, can gain some cover for its narrative, but in the larger picture further distracts this group from identifying the real dynamics of decline and transition away from industrial civilization.

The willingness of the Republican elites to recognize that Donald is their best bet, is easy to understand. The refusal of the Dems to recognize that Bernie is their best shot against him, simply as a matter of winning the chess game on the deck of the Titanic, is more mystifying.

John Michael Greer said...

Look sie, exactly. If you bury your head in the sand, your rear end is a better target.

Steve, no, the thought of listening to Obama spouting whatever self-justifying drivel his speechwriter happened to have come up with was more than I could take.

Patricia, no argument there. The weakness of the whole "Women for Hillary" business is that American women are not a single voting bloc with one set of interests, what helps white salary class women with comfortable incomes emphatically does not advance the interests of all women -- and a growing number of women outside the category just named are increasingly aware of it.

Eric, so noted -- but please do fix that Latin!

Mark, and of course that's the big question, isn't it? There are things he could do that would take some of the pressure off the wage class without loading too much burden on the plutocrats, but we'll see what comes of it.

Abelardsnazz, I admit that when I think of Christlike figures, Donald Trump is not the first thing that comes to mind!

Jonathan, it interests me that every four years people start predicting that this time the election will be postponed. Nope -- they didn't postpone the 1864 election even though a civil war was being fought at the time. If Trump wins the election, the various power centers will work out some kind of deal with him -- and he's smart enough that he's probably laying the groundwork for that already.

234567, a U-turn could indeed set a match to some very fast fuses. The other possibility is that Trump could actually look at the situation and try to do something about it. Anyone's guess what that might be, and it might make things even worse, but the attempt may be made.

Andrew, you're straying from a focus on what form the money arrives in, to what skills are needed to get it -- that has its own value but it's not the point I'm trying to make. Artists, artisans, and other people who produce goods for sale directly to the public are part of the profit classlet, since they live on the difference between the sale price and the cost of production, i.e., the profit.

Jason, your son will probably do much better as a mechanic than his peers who go to college, because (a) your son won't have student loans to pay off, and (b) mechanics provide a service people actually need, which isn't true of many of the things colleges train you to do. Good for you for supporting him!

Trog, no doubt, but it's easier to march if you don't have a tie around your neck restricting your breathing -- and there will, I'm sorry to say, be plenty of marching in the years ahead.

Blueback, I've been saying for years that the Russians, Chinese, Iranians, and an assortment of other powers would be idiots not to be putting serious money into fueling antigovernment activism in the US, with an eye toward setting off a domestic insurgency that would cripple the capacity of the US to do anything at all on the international stage -- and I see no reason to think that they're idiots. Given that the US has tried to stage color revolutions in all three countries, there's also a matter of old grudges...

John Michael Greer said...

Eric, whether or not it was explicitly populist, yes, that's certainly one of the places where Fred Halliot could come from -- and if China suffers the kind of serious economic implosion it seems to be facing just now, that could replace an intentional decoupling tolerably well.

Grebulocities, granted -- there are so many better choices! It's just that so many of them have been foreclosed by bad decisions already made.

Harry, I wasn't talking about salaried people talking about the hourly employees of their own company, but American working class people in general. It may be that you have to get into the more snotnosed end of the salary class to hear that at full bore.

Lucius, oh man. It's going to get *really* ugly, then.

Esquon, in a word: power. He's got money, he's got fame, what's next on the list for an ambitious man?

Tortoise, I mentioned the electronic toys as an example, but I also explicitly said it was the entire salary class lifestyle that was at issue. Of course a fair amount of the lower end of the salary class has been losing ground, especially of late -- as I noted above, that's where all the shrieking about "the war on the middle class" has been coming from.

Bryan, I really have no idea if a Trump presidency would be a good thing or not, all things considered. A Clinton presidency would probably see the US slam into crisis sooner and more completely -- the combination of absolute allegiance to the continuation of business as usual and a painfully evident inability to learn from mistakes is one of those classic combinations that bring empires down in flames in short order -- but that has its advantages, as the sooner the crisis comes, the sooner some kind of rebuilding can get under way. Sanders? Could be the next Roosevelt, could be the next Obama. One way or another, though, we'll see.

Lucretia, you get tonight's gold star for doing the thing that most people on the left will not do, no matter what: sitting down with people you disagree with and trying to learn where they're coming from. Well done; I only wish more people would do the same thing.

Chris, based on current polls, if Sanders can get past the Democratic establishment and get the nomination, he can beat Trump. No one else can -- certainly not Clinton, who is distrusted by most voters and seems incapable of running a competent campaign to boot. So you may well be right!

Repent, I think it's much more complex and more nuanced than that, for reasons I've discussed here at length already.

Lucretia, good. That discomfort and uncertainty is a useful skill, as it makes it possible to get a rounded picture when everyone's trying to push two-dimensional images at you!

CWT said...

Hi, I am wondering how Trump's nationalistic bent fits into your analysis here. Do you think that European style far right parties follow a simmilar partern?

Stoneleigh said...

This dynamic is exactly why Rob Ford was elected mayor of Toronto. Trump is Rob Ford on steroids.

Jason Renneberg said...

Funny how someone who's famous catch phrase is "You're Fired" would end up the pick of the wage class.

John Michael Greer said...

Unknown, those "voting blocs" you mention are nothing of the kind. American women, for example, don't all vote the same way -- and if you've been paying attention, you'll notice that there are plenty of women at Trump rallies. That's exactly the sort of mistake that the fixation on biologically linked categories tends to produce.

Toomas, well, basically, I was taking my readers on a walk through the abandoned ruins of American democracy, so the comparison works!

Chris, has it occurred to you that that rather unfunny joke partakes of the sneering mockery I mentioned in the post?

Bill, hmm. Under most circumstances, if somebody used snarl words like "fawning sycophancy" in an attempted comment here, I'd have deleted it out of hand as an attempt at flamebaiting. It so happens that a lot of readers seem to find my analysis more useful than some of the others in circulation. Do you consider it fawning sycophancy when listeners applaud a musician or a speaker they enjoy?

William, there are always people who are sliding toward the bottom of the class they're in, and others who are rising to the top and preparing to claw their way into a wealthier class. Equally, of course, all this is happening in a society in decline, and while a falling tide doesn't lower all boats equally, it affects everyone in one way or another.

James, just one of the services I offer! ;-)

Stacy, yes, I noticed that, and smiled. I bet that gets said a lot as things continue down their present path.

Tim, exactly. Nobody wants to talk about it, so everything gets said in roundabout ways -- rather like sex in Victorian England.

Hal, depends on what happens during the rest of the election process.

Leah, that is to say, no, you don't actually know the people about whose psychology you're speculating -- you're simply reacting to media portrayals and internet hate speech, a fair bit of which may be coming from agents provocateurs. When you're finished using those people as scapegoats, please do consider talking to them as human beings and finding out what they're actually thinking.

Mister R., I wouldn't put it past him!

Helix, of course you won't hear anybody publicly defend those policies. You won't publicly hear them discuss those policies at all, in most cases. The facts are, though, that the salary class profited hugely by them, and did absolutely nothing -- not even a pro forma boycott or letter writing campaign -- when they were enacted.

Bill, so noted. I've made a note to start tracking Sanders' following in the weeks and months to come.

John Michael Greer said...

Aias, no, I don't follow Adams -- not enough hours in the day. You're right, of course, that the media's opposition just makes him look stronger.

Gary, you're welcome and thank you.

Thomas, I've never been in the salaried class -- I went from college into wage jobs, and worked in the wage economy until I finally broke into print -- so thanks for the details. Most interesting!

John, exactly. I wonder just how explicitly Trump is going to bring the doubletalk of the establishment into the light of day. As for your off topic comments, they're both on topic for this blog and both square on target. "Make America Great Again" is the most explicit admission in my time that America isn't great, and yes, Toynbee talks at length about what happens when the limen becomes a limes and the wall goes up, and the fall of the empire is one of the things that follows in due time.

Hal, the last five presidents have routinely used executive orders to enact the equivalent of laws by decree, without the least concern for the constitution. I expect that to go into overdrive no matter who takes office next; a set of executive orders suspending US participation in trade treaties would be no more unconstitutional than some of the things Dubya and Obama have done.

Mike, it's not just intuitively plausible, it's a straightforward application of that most basic economic principle, the law of supply and demand. As I recall, Adam Smith discusses it: when the supply of laborers goes up and the demand for them goes down, wages fall. Q.E.D!

Cherokee, indeed I did -- and anybody who buys into the fracking bubble at this point deserves the whopping losses he or she is going to get. Congrats on the successful prediction! The politicians here have tried on several occasions to turn Social Security into a stock-investment program, but they've been stymied by the need to keep tax income from becoming too small a fraction of total government outlays.

William, you're welcome and thank you.

Unknown, your child who "isn't college material" won't have to start off adult life with a crushing burden of debt, and can take up a career providing actual goods or services to actual people, thus will be far more likely to have a steady income.I'd say that's cause for celebration.

Ron, yes, I've been watching that. I'd be astonished if European neofascism on the grand scale is more than a decade away.

Jerry, thank you for this! A useful addition to the model. As for the Dems' frantic circling of wagons around Clinton, no question, it's fascinating to watch -- and I wonder what exactly is behind it.

CWT, Trump's nationalism is very much in the classic middle American model. Have you noted his insistence that the US needs to get out of the Middle East and reestablish friendly ties with Russia? The US is a very different kind of nation than the nations of Europe, with a radically different history, and so I'm far from sure there's much to compare between Trumpismo and the European new right.

Stoneleigh, welcome to the blog! Yes, and one question is whether Trump can dodge the kind of traps that were used to do in Ford.

Jason, it's very simple: a lot of people want to see him say "You're fired!" to the current American political establishment. I confess to a sneaking fondness for the thought myself.

Nicholas Colloff said...

You can see a similar dynamic in Europe. The traditional left has imploded because it has pursued policies of globalization that has eviscerated the very wage earning workers that it was purporting to represent; thus, breaking open an opportunity for 'a statist right' (though I think these categories grow increasingly unhelpful) as most recently in the election in Poland where the PiS pledged to defend the nation both socially and economically and 'restore' it (to a place to which, in fact, it has never been). They played brilliantly on both resentment and insecurityand, as you note, very few of the people in opposition to this trend actually wanted to think and engage with why it is so, they simply resort to knee jerk condemnation, bluster and sarcasm. Donald T is playing in this space with consumate inteligence and guile - the analysis is spot on - the outcome wholly unpredictable because if he were to win what he might actually seek to do is, I think, anybody's guess (including possibly his own)!

ed boyle said...

I would be inteested to read a political analysis after the fact in ten years. The next depression is at our doorstep. Fascism vs. communism everywhere due to the purposeful use of foreign workers either abroad orlocally to destroy jobs in local country. Drive up debt to keep consumption rolling anyway and then all 4 classes are in deep debt(banks and billionaires have derivatives, consumers and poor have debt, govts. have bonds due). As you once analyzed national socialism I would see sanders or Trump winning and taking on the other in cabinet.

War or civil unrest could be result of global dedollarization, derivatives and banking crash. A bail in could wipe out savers globaly to save TBTF banks but govts. could go broke as currencies become worthless and bonds are unsellable. So from top to bottom everyone goes broke and this will be global. Restartbutton push like bretton woods. Stalemate in war situation due to china russia diplomatic military financial manoeuvering forcing western alliance to accept new system. US base reduction, dollar hegemony gone allows focus on Trump/sanders priorities for local population over profit through global trade, automation tricks. PO and climate change will go into next phase tearing down industrialism, forcing localization some day and population will fall. This perhaps in 10-20 years. I hope next prez can bring congress with him but I presume a deadlock leading to calls for term limits, constitutional convention as they are creatures of business lobbies. Electoral and perhaps geographical reform is needed.

Yossi said...

I think that the late great Joe Bageant said much the same thing as you in "Deerhunting with Jesus".
Another major factor in the impoverishment of the wage class was/is automation. Have you noticed that this factor is now beginning to affect salaried jobs in the 'professions' like law, medicine, education, middle management, etc. I suspect that as these jobs are replaced by computers the wage and welfare class will grow significantly.

Avery said...

We say "if not Trump, then someone worse," but who else could run in his place? He played a millionaire on television; are there many others with that qualification? I think the answer to this can be found in Oswald Spengler, and the theme he discusses tells us what age we are living in now. Spengler wrote:

"In the form of democracy, money has won. There has been a period in which politics were almost its preserve. But as soon as it has destroyed the old orders of the Culture, the chaos gives forth a new and overpowering factor that penetrates to the very elementals of Becoming — the Caesar men. Before them the money collapses. The Imperial Age, in every Culture alike, signifies the end of the politics of mind and money." (There's more, but this is enough to interpret.)

Trump is not himself a Caesar; he is the final stage of "destruction of the old orders of the Culture", and JMG's post shows precisely why these "old orders" are seen as being in need of destruction.

Since the 1970s, American democracy has been in a weird intermediate state. After Carter, who was perhaps a bit too honest in his "politics of the mind," genuine debate over the direction of the country was increasingly passed up. What persisted was this class warfare, a giveaway of the country's industrial wealth far more hypocritical and pernicious than actual European-style socialism. Everyone knows politicians are bought and paid for, but nobody acted on this, other than a bunch of hot air. Why not, if we were benefiting from it?

But that era is now over. By showing that a certain amount of cash is all you need to stop caring about the elite attacks raining down on you, Trump has permanently exposed the role of money-power in campaigning. If he is elected and happily talks his mouth off at G7 summits and formal press conferences (can you imagine this?) all of the kings of money-power would be shown to have no clothes. Even if he is not elected, his example will stand, and there are plenty of American billionaires who are watching his example closely.

What happens next? Well, Bernie Sanders is one response: his rise in popularity, despite his saying the S-word over and over on the public airwaves, reflects an awareness among young people of a desire for greater honesty. JMG indicated a few months ago that Jeremy Corbyn falls into this group as well. But this is an attempt at return to the politics of mind in an age when it has already passed (Carter). Sanders has more leadership qualities that Corbyn, but neither man could permanently disturb the legislative process in the way Trump would.

The actual arrival of Caesarism will mean the destruction of money and democracy alike. We have put trust in America's democratic leaders because they follow the rules and act like they will be responsible with our power. But after years of life experience, or much faster in the case of economic devastation, we realize that they were not responsible; they simply wanted affection and fame, and are slaves to the greedy money-society that promises it to them. So we elect instead rude rich guys who openly profess that they don't care about those things. But resorting to money and rudeness as a bulwark against moral evil is a pretty severe acknowledgment that democracy has failed. So eventually something happens that is likely not an election.

Avery said...

I made a mistake in my last comment. Where I wrote, "So we elect instead rude rich guys who openly profess that they don't care about those things." -- that clearly doesn't make sense to anyone who has ever read about Trump or heard one of his speeches. So I suppose I should instead write that he openly admits that affection and fame are all that matters.

Wait a minute, maybe Trump is a near-Caesar after all...

Robert Honeybourne said...

I'm in the salary class in the UK, and voted for Corbyn in the Labour leadership election

I couldn't understand why the media all hated him, including the left
I felt he was the right leader but didn't really grasp why, so went with my feeling

I think that was an excellent post of yours, its clarified both some of my confusion, and weaknesses

Thank you

Bill Blondeau said...

Another thought-changer, JMG. Thanks. Just a couple of days ago I mentioned to a friend that I thought Trump was very clever but not fundamentally serious, therefore less dangerous than someone like Ted Cruz who seems to be far more invested in racism, hatemongering, and class warfare for their own reptile-brain sakes.

This post turns my whole premise inside out. I will need to think about this. And probably buy my friend a drink and tell her that I was probably significantly wrong.

With respect to the changes in the distribution of economic and political power by class: have you, or has anyone else here, read Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil, by Timothy Mitchell? The premise, which seems well supported, is that the very different physical characteristics of coal and oil gave rise to very different structures of political power.

It's a short but thought-dense read, and seems to me to dovetail neatly with the project of this blog.

Rebecca said...

Well, thank you, JMG, for explaining why this podcast made me (at the time) unaccountably nervous:

In it, The New Yorker magazine writer, Chris Singer, reads a series of letters he and Donald Trump exchanged after Singer wrote an expose of Trump back at the beginning of Trump's rise to real estate power. The readings, with commentary, were apparently performed in front of a live, paying audience. They giggle, snicker, and roar with laughter as Singer gets the best of the literarily-bumbling Trump. The audience just as well have started stamping their feet and chanting, "We Are Smart. They Are Dumb".

As I thought about it, I realized the thing that made me nervous (besides the fact that victors in public battles of rudeness and mockery are always temporary) was the dismissiveness of Singer and his audience. As though someone - and his supporters - who doesn't write an elegant letter couldn't possibly be a serious consideration on the public stage. That kind of smugness is what I call dumb.

Phil Harris said...

JMG wrote "John, exactly. I wonder just how explicitly Trump is going to bring the doubletalk of the establishment into the light of day. As for your off topic comments, they're both on topic for this blog and both square on target. "Make America Great Again" is the most explicit admission in my time that America isn't great, and yes, Toynbee talks at length about what happens when the limen becomes a limes and the wall goes up, and the fall of the empire is one of the things that follows in due time."

It seems a bit unfair though I hope it might encourage people to buy your book if they read your very cogent page or so of further explanation quickly just now online. I googled:

limen limes latin roman toynbee arnold

The page in your book 'Decline & Fall ... ' is instantly available.

Thank you!

Mark Hines said...

John great post as usual.It occurs to me that it may not take a political movement to change the country in favor of the wage class. As the energy crisis and resource depletion continues at some point it may be less expensive to hire people to do the work than to utilize technical and hightly specialized machines. You made this point very well in your book, "The wealth of Nature," and I think it is a very valid point. The priamry and secondary economies may win out despite what all the clever politicians say or do.
Keep up the good work.

Kevin Warner said...

Always a pleasure to read one of your analytical essays as the truth speaks its own logic. My main takeaway to your essay is that the two political parties in the US, who have spent the past forty years gutting the wages class, should have remembered that old saw of never cheating someone who has nothing else to lose.
I do not know how much wages America identifies with Donald Trump, but I am beginning to suspect a bit of the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend syndrome going to work here. When it is seen that both political parties, the media pundits, salaried America and most of what was once called 'the establishment' are being driven to distraction by his success, then if I was an American, I might be tempted to say screw them and throw some support his way. After all, these were the very same groups that gutted wages America. Interesting times ahead!

Scotlyn said...

A truly excellent post, which throws light on a lot of my despair at the disrespectful "sneering" tradition.

I am a wage earner and farmer and precariously pursue a self-employed profession, my mother's people are wage earners and non-landowning cotton pickers from Alabama, and my father's people are farmers, preachers and small business people from Nova Scotia (they arrived there on a historical wave, mentioned a couple of weeks ago in comments, of people chased out of New England in the 1770's for "loyalism").

I suspect that the class of people earning a living from the land is now among the tiny, politically inconsequential ones, along with Main Street type profit-earners, but it was once a very significant one.

When my parents courted and married in the late 50's, my father's grocer/small business family distrusted my mother's working class sensibilities, and tried hard to "civilise" her. I was given a "salary class" Ivy League education, supported by scholarships, but it never landed me a salary, just a love of libraries and books, and an over-exposure to the sneering classes.

I think your class analysis nails it, and is actually quite intuitively correct, once you get past the total dearth of discourse on the phenomenon. Thanks very much for the resounding pushback against the totally useless sneering tradition!

Scotlyn said...

Regarding the new demographic trend highlighted by Bill Pulliam, Barbara Ehrenreich's take on it is thoughtful and supports your points very well:

Greg Belvedere said...

Excellent post!

I think at this point Sanders is capitalizing on a similar populist swell in this country. I'm curious which will win out, everyday it looks like he has a better chance against Hillary. In many ways it seems that like Trump the more the media tries to marginalize him the more it emboldens his supporters and grows his appeal.

I like your analysis of the class structure of this country. I realize you have only sketched out the largest groups, but I would like to add one that overlaps with salaried workers. People who work on commissions whether this makes up all of their income, or they make it on top of a salary. I feel this is a huge part of the economy that often gets overlooked in such analysis. I think a good portion of these workers support Trump. I also think a lot of people who have recently become salaried workers support him as do those who see things getting worse for salaried workers. Some of them represent the kind of nouveau riche aesthetic that defines Trump.

. said...

Is there anything that can be done to stop the rise of European neofascism do you think?


Mikep said...

Dear Sir, I wish to complain! You appear to have been reading my mind and publishing its contents on the internet!
But seriously, well done Mr Greer. You have succeeded in hitting the nail squarely on the head again this week. Of course over here in Blighty the details are different but the basic story is the same. If you think that your manufacturing sector has been hammered in recent decades, then please spare a thought for the Workshop of the World. Our economy is now little more than an empty shell kept inflated by our pathetic addiction selling our houses to each other for more than we paid for them and claiming this as an increase in real wealth, rather than being an exercise in accounting fraud!
However things are now starting to come unstuck. What I think of as the “unholy alliance” between the “Business first” Right and the “Internationalist” left that has dominated politics for years is starting to break down. What the consequences of this will be are unclear to me but they are likely to be interesting.
We won’t be having a General Election for over four years and no doubt David (any way the wind blows) Cameron is grateful for that mercy. If only he hadn’t rashly promised a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU back when he was expecting to lead another coalition Government and wouldn’t have to act on it. Oh cruel fate that gave him a small working majority instead.

ProvidenceMine said...

I like what you said about Donald Trump's hair. However, as a life-long New Yorker I can tell you without hesitation that it is not a ploy on his part to wear his hair like that. He's worn his hair in that style since the 1980s. I think he just likes it that way.

As for the rise of Trump, I really don't understand why people think that this man would be any worse than Clinton. HRC to me is a far more frightening figure than Trump. There is even a book by Doug Henwood about HRC called It's My Turn which goes into her dark past. Remember she's also married to the man who destroyed Glass-Steagall, ended "welfare as we know it', and who ushered in both NAFTA and GATT(the reason why you have so many Mexicans in the US now is because their livelihood was wrecked by NAFTA). She is far more capable of causing damage, and she will use sexism as her shield in case anyone dare call her to task as Clarence Thomas used racism as his shield when he was the subject of those hearings with Anita Hill.

mayland said...

Leah Gayle wrote "Once the "average joe" figures out that there is not going to be any action taken by govt on their hot button issues like immigration and tolerance of other religions, their patience (so to speak) will expire and they will decide to solve the "problems" the old fashioned wild west way, which they have secretly always wanted to do. They know now from those Bundy guys that they will be treated with kid gloves because they represent the desired voting block of the GOP."
Most likely only the white male contingent will be treated with kid gloves, everyone else will be killed immediately.

Odin's Raven said...

Perhaps a potentially more explosive line of division may be that between tax-payers and tax-consumers( many of the latter in the arrogant lefty salariat),especially as the economy continues to decline.

Trump and Sanders may be safety valves to let off steam and preserve the current dispensation. However if say, Trump, picks up a head of steam, but is derailed by murky shenanigans, 'We wuz Robbed' may become a literal war-cry for enraged followers. I guess that the 'horny handed sons of toil' might be more effective wielders of weapons than those who sneer at them. Trump is just a pussycat compared to the Tiger who may follow him. Will he perhaps be able to 'ride the tiger'? He is a very smart man with a huge ego. One idea as to his motivation is that he seeks revenge for Obama (a not-so-smart man with a huge ego), having sneered at him to his face at some gathering of the rich and famous. If it comes to drawing up a proscription list to get the wealth to pay his followers, he will know exactly whom to list.

That of course would be on the other side of a civil war, the possibility of which is as yet merely a small cloud on the horizon. As proprietor of 'The Apprentice', I wonder if he compares to Milo, the trainer of gladiators? Will he or some 'community organizing' Clodius get to burn the American Senate House or Reichstag? Interesting times are developing.

William Church said...

A couple things I'll throw into the mix:

1) NAFTA and most other trade agreements aren't proper treaties. They did not have the support to get the 2/3 of the Senate. Most are agreements and can legally be kicked to the curb. The SC has said so in rulings touching on the subject.

2) Regarding economics admitting that immigration hurts wages... Well on that one you'll have to wait. It took them about 30 years on to admit that globalization had anything to do with the decimation of the middle class. Just now a few recent studies are showing with real data that immigration has done the same. In both cases look to the underlying assumptions. When you assume that the guy who loses his job finds another, better job it is hard to show him getting harmed. BTW I am not kidding, this has been done on some studies. On immigration and trade the assumptions are incredible and I mean that as in almost impossible to read without laughing out loud.

To a guy who's seen the factories shut down, his friends in the carpenters and laborers unions get thrown out of work permanently? He ain't buying.

I maintain my long held position that economics departments should be disbanded and/or consolidated with political science departments. These coin operated charlatans are worse than useless, they are actively harmful.


carol.b said...

I'd like to add to the voices commenting on the changes at the lower end of the salaried class by noting that it is a very successful strategy to persuade workers that the prestige of their job is in itself a benefit that justifies low salaries. So encouraging snobbery is not a byproduct, in my view, but a conscious tactic. I think the lower end of the salaried class is slipping into the quicksand that has already consumed much of the wage class, but we can't see it because we are so sure we're different. Second, I know a lot of people who aren't really in the formal economy at all, as others have mentioned, but by and large, they don't vote, so I think the four categories proposed can stand for the purpose of talking about politics. Third, any thoughts on what the chances are that anything Trump is proposing (which is what, incidentally? it's a lot easier to figure out what he is against than what he is FOR) would actually benefit the wage class he is courting so assiduously?

Bill Pulliam said...

JMG, apologies, I thought you would have heard the sarcastic tone in my voice. I should also note that two weeks ago you put through a couple of comments that were nothing but personal vitriol directed at me, so perhaps I was still a bit annoyed at that.

As for the content of the comment, no comment?

Phil Harris said...

As an outsider but still living in shaky modernity in Britland, I was going to ask about US drug addiction. Well, Matt & Steve pretty much answered the question, and your point is relevant. JMG wrote: “Matt, I did indeed. It's worth noting that suicide very often comes out of anger and violent urges that can't be directed outwards, and so end up being directed in at the self. If something convinces those people that there's a different target for their violence, things can heat up *very* fast.”

The older guys are so medically and physically unfit I wonder about the explosive potential in the US. They tended just to die in the old FSU, though there is clearly a legacy in Western Ukraine. But do the younger persons with serious potential for rage in USA actually vote?

I can imagine drugs especially the illegal ones must still pay in USA and thus provide a target for alert violence across the ‘limes’? (There appear to be a few war bands already in that equation). But regarding national internal social dynamics I notice here in Britland that traditional drug users like heroin addicts have become a target for many of our ‘teens-without-prospects’ demographic. One strand apparently during the iconic Weimar-replacement was an appeal to a puritanism of fitness freaks and various health restorations. Is there much scope for a US national program rolled out for such as the Cumberland Jugend?

Can I imagine the two aspects in the above paragraph being rolled into a Trump program?


Ien in the Kootenays said...

Interesting! The inability of the American working class to recognize its own existence has always baffled me. But then I am a Canadian whose formative years were spent in the Netherlands. I believe it was Barabara Ehrenreich who pointed out decades ago that the crisis of illegal immigration should be tackled at the employer end. During the Reagan years either the law or its enforcement was relaxed to facilitate the hiring of desperate people without papers. I do believe you overestimate both the security and the agency of most salaried workers. As one of the commentators pointed out, they are next and they know it. Also, many people would be quite happy to pay more for better products made by well paid labour, witness the popularity of "fair trade" agricultural products. But apart from insanely expensive artisanal things, where are those choices? I have been predicting for years that manufacturing jobs will keep moving from one desperate area to the next untill at last Africa is a sweat shop. By the time workers there get uppity people in the previously rich world will be desperate enough to take over. Wait. Wasn't there a dangerous idea floating around about Workers of the World Uniting? Meanwhile, no matter who wins elections, international trade agreements are being signed that undermine the sovereignty of any nation. Good luck untangling that mess. And last but not least, who owns the land? Things don't look good there. Interesting times indeed.

redoak said...

Best analysis I've yet read on the appeal of Trump.

An analysis of Sanders' attempted populism along this same class division would be a great follow-up post! Sanders is avoiding the obvious sources of resentment available to the left. I wonder if he is being cautious about how well that would play in Peoria, or if he simply doesn't see the political energy there, or perhaps he sees it and wants to keep a lid on it? The salaried class has become pretty cautious (terrified) by that energy. I'm guessing that explains Clinton's strategy and failure to excite.

Lou Nelms said...

For an economy that derives such a large share of GDP from consumption, the plight of the wage class has been a major concern for at least a couple of decades. The rise of Donald Trump has not suddenly brought the issue of the huge skewing of income to the upper class into the light. This was a major factor in undermining the candidacy of Romney, an icon of the 1%, in 2012.

I must disagree with your prediction that Trump will be the next president. The numbers for him simply are not there.
Please consider that Trump's favorable rating among general election voters sits at about 37%. While his unfavorable ratings are about -56%. His net rating of about -25% is the lowest of all GOP candidates.

"This is not just a recent phenomenon; Trump’s favorability ratings have been consistently poor. It’s true that his favorability numbers improved quite a bit among Republicans once he began running for president. But those gains were almost exactly offset by declines among independents and Democrats. In fact, his overall favorability ratings have been just about unchanged since he began running for president in June"

I would agree that Trump's support has perhaps been strongest among at least the white working class, they are far from forming any kind of majority that might lead to a Trump presidency.

I also add that Trump still does not have a single endorsement of any US representative, senator or state governor. This will likely change once Trump wins an early primary. I am not saying this as any defense of the establishment, but in power politics, this means something.

Leah Gayle said...

Shall I name names? Ok. Steve Caller, developer & die hard Republican - one of many. Stephen Goldstein, who literally got up & left the dinner table to go sit somewhere else when he asked my husband where he went to college & was informed he had nothing but a high school diploma. Fran Friedman, who loudly asked "Who's the schwartze?" When my dear friend Renee first came to shul. As the person responsible for putting on the lunch after services every week, I have to deal with these people who brag about exploiting their employees, complain about having to obey environmental regulations, look down on wage earners, laugh at stories in the news about joblessness and foreclosures, & yes, some are frankly racists. The ones I sit with? Working class ordinary people who can't believe those people are in charge, & who hope things will get economically better so the problems will just go away & don't want to hear it when you say it isn't. They aren't going to be the ones who rise up & change anything.

I know these people well - & their interfaith counterparts I deal with in my day job is a low wage nonprofit administrator. Lex society is extremely stratified by class & race. Commerce Lex (the local chamber) thinks $10 an hour is too much to pay workers. They only cleaned up the waterways when the EPA sued the heck out of them & extorted a consent decree (after which they prompt raised water & sewer rates on residences but not businesses).

They tore down affordable housing units, & shut down a homeless shelter which had to wage a battle to reopen. The mass transit system here is a joke that raises rates even though their costs are covered by dedicated taxes & they run a budget surplus - while still cutting routes & limiting the service to where they think poor people live & work, because, you know, real people don't take the bus.

Alan Stein, a member of our congregation, is now head of Commerce Lex & has fought against both a living wage ordinance and other things like paid sick leave that would benefit the working class. There was a free trolley on a grant that circulated to downtown neighborhoods & they let it get cancelled rather than fund it because mostly "those People" were using it, not the wealthy tourists they wanted. And Lex wins awards as a "great place to live."

The contempt & derision for the poor is palpable here. An infux of people from exclusively red counties in eastern & southern KY to Lex looking for work or going to UK has added more angry, armed, nearly desperate people to the mix. They come here looking for social services that have been decimated by cuts in their home counties, but they still intend to vote Republican because their hatred of immigrants & non-Christians is more compelling to them than their own economic self interest.

That's why Bevin is now governor - whose first act was to announce he will be rolling back Mcaid expansion & dismantling KYnect - and the Steve Callers and Alan Steins & people who use the n-word in any language are cheering Bevin on, because they don't believe the poor & minorities DESERVE help. They don't believe that they should have to pay 50¢ more for a burger for living wages, or give their employees regular schedules & days off. I see it every day in my work trying to fundraise & find resources for those in need. There mood out here is ugly on every side, and the tension has nowhere to go.

Mark said...

Regarding members of the salaried class commentariat emphasizing wage class roots: When I was a kid in the UK in the 60s and 70s the country was leaning well left and the popular youth movements had disrupted the old victorian class balance a good bit. It quickly became very lame to be middle class and there was all kinds of amusing downwardly mobile behavior going on. Members of the upper and middle class would suddenly develop convincing cockney or other working class accents and everyone was emphasizing their street credibility. Mick Jagger in the 60s was one fine example; many Labor politicians as well. I'm sure it will start to happen here, if the balance of power does shift more to the wage class. In the UK one's accent was the single most obvious and immediate signifier of class belonging. Not sure what it is here: choice of clothing, haircut, automobile maybe? So will we see more college professors with chin strap beards and driving pickup trucks? Lawyers looking awkward in tractor supply camo? If nothing else the next few years will be fertile ground for amateur sociologists.

Eric S. said...

Regarding both the discussion on the appropriateness of the term “wage class” (personally, I think the already long established and storied term “working class” does a fair job of catching the odd jobbers, contractors, and farmers out there.), after college and a few internships, I did a year of grad school in sustainable development, concentrating on regional studies before running through the last of my savings and deciding to cut my losses for the first wage job I could find (as happened to most people who finished college in ‘08/’09).

During my studies there, I vividly recall one presentation from someone who was presenting research for a doctoral dissertation he’d been doing on the Tobacco industry in the South. It was a really thorough examination, and he’d been studying on various tobacco plantations all over the Carolinas. One of the key factors was the way big Tobacco conglomerates, particularly Phillip Morris had swept through the region, bought out independent farms, and imposed production quotas, price restrictions, and other measures that made it pretty much impossible for farmers to make a profit through legal hiring. The rest of the presentation examined the vast, complicated underground economy fueled by undocumented migrant workers, which in function basically worked as an underground human trafficking operation. The threat of arrest or deportation, and the illegal status of the workers themselves, as you pointed out above basically meant any concern for basic human rights was tossed out the window, with some of the facilities he studied housing workers in large unmarked warehouses with mattresses laid out on the floor and a single toilet for all the residents. I’m sure the same sorts of practices would be revealed through a thorough look at other industries fueled by itinerant workers. The interviews, photographs, and data charts from that presentation stuck with me more than anything I learned in classes that year, and really opened my eyes to just how complicated an issue illegal immigration in the US is.

On one hand, it very definitely leads to loss of jobs among the people who formerly took that sort of work, and on the other hand, the immigrants in question have essentially fallen into a massive underground economy that our culture turns a blind eye to and are victims of it. But it also shows the complexity of solving the problem. On one hand, the working class is right that the underground economy of undocumented labor plays every bit as big of a role in the loss of certain jobs (particularly in the realm of what some people above were calling “primary producer” jobs) of the South and West in the same way that outsourcing, globalization, and American imperialism have played a role in gutting American factory life in the Rust Belt. However, in the case of immigration, the usual solution offered by the right wing of cracking down on immigrants, mass deportations, and policies that target anyone who has the wrong color skin, speaks the wrong language, or practices the wrong set of religions and customs only serves to drive the underground economy further underground, makes them cleverer at evading the system, and makes the problem worse. In a lot of ways it resembles the manner in which cracking down harder on the war on drugs only serves to make the cartels more violent. It seems like the road that makes the most sense is to either make undocumented labor less attractive economically, or to make the path to legal immigration less of a quagmire and work to get undocumented workers on the books and on the same playing field in terms of wages and worker’s rights as nationalized citizens which would make American workers less unattractive economically. But tightening our grip on the borders strikes me as a surefire way to let the whole thing slip through our fingers (and Toynbee’s critique of border fortifications has already been brought up a few times this week:

barrymelius said...

If Trump were elected I suspect the existing power structure would swallow him without a hiccup and no perceptible change in core policy. While the elite is so busy making sure nothing changes more and more people like the ones commenting here are slowly day by day building an alternate system that will take the slack when the external one collapses. Good work,folks.

Leo Knight said...

Another provocative essay as usual. Most of the sneering at wage workers I've heard has come from fellow wage workers. I've heard firemen, policemen, electricians, etc. hourly wage one and all, protected by unions one and all, sneer at fellow wage workers, especially union protected teachers, because "unions are the worst!"

Chris Burch said...

Thank you very much for the thought-provoking post, I enjoy your writing every week!

I just have a personal anecdote that came to mind as I read this. I'm a wage earner, but (fortunately for me) at the higher end of that group. I work with salaried people. One day, one of the salaried folks, someone who I know appreciates my work, and I entered the building together after lunch. As we chatted, I made a quick stop at the time clock to punch back in. The look of shock on her face was almost comical. "Oh no, not you!" she exclaimed.

At the time, I was inwardly perplexed and a bit peeved. Reading your essay really illuminated her reaction for me. Thanks again!

Pinku-Sensei said...

"Even the once-mighty profit class, the people who get their income from the profit they make on their own business activities, is small enough these days that it lacks a significant collective presence."

The odd thing is that the small business owner still plays an important political and cultural role, even if they don't actually have much political clout. Lots of politicians craft the appeals for their policies as promoting "small business," even if they don't really do anything of the sort. There's also the repeated fantasy of running a business, such as a restaurant or store, as a way of achieving independence. The reality is that it's usually the interests of the investment class that get promoted when politicians talk about policies that are "good for business," not the profit class. Also, running a small business is much more work than people realize. In the current system, it's a lot more remunerative for less work to be a member of the salary class.

"Consider the loud claims of the last couple of decades that people left unemployed by the disappearance of wage-paying jobs could get back on board the bandwagon of prosperity by going to college and getting job training."

There is also the recruitment of people from the wage class into the lower rungs of the salary class, where there are still jobs. However the net result is that the people earn more on paper, but get the increase sucked up into paying off student loans. They're not much better off than they were before, but the same culprits you identified, the banks and colleges, come out ahead.

donalfagan said...

Good post and good comments. I was reminded of a novel, The Dogs of March, by Ernest Hebert, in which a working class New Hampshire guy used to hear the noise from the machines he used as, 'work-for-pay, work-for-pay'. He was beset by a Masshole neighbor who bought the land around him as a getaway from her yuppie life, and resented his junk car landscape.

Anyway, I suspect the wage group also includes a lot of millennials who are over educated (and indebted) for their current jobs, and will probably lean towards Sanders. Such people can ignite revolutions. If they can find common ground with the less educated wage earners, they could really start something. NY Review of Books has one interesting article, Bernie Sanders: The Quiet Revolt, claiming that he may be able to unite the factions.

Another article, The New Politics of Frustration, has both candidates riding a desire for change.

Nate Silver and his crew are still citing to Trump's unfavorables in the general populace, but a coworker made me wonder if those polls are accurate.

patriciaormsby said...

Brilliant essay, JMG! I am reminded of an article I read last year written by Andre Vltchek about the killing fields in Cambodia. For decades I puzzled over what could lead a such large number of people to follow such an insane monster into such a phenomenal killing spree.
The Cambodian massacre was spurred by a situation similar to what has developed in America, though much more severe. The intellectual class was collaborating with America, and the rural classes were under bombardment. These people were forced to flee for their lives every time they heard the sound of an airplane--the sort of lifestyle that leaves emotional scars. Their helplessness and resentment grew to a boiling point.
Vltchek had a chance to talk with the engineers of the genocide some decades after the event. Pol Pot, he says, was an idiot who learned his ideology in French cafes. When he returned home he went to the seething mob of displaced victims and said, "Let's kill the intellectuals for communism!" and they said, "Arghhhh!" In truth, he could have said (and the other people involved confirmed this), "Let's kill the intellectuals for the Manchester rugby team!" and they would have said, "Arghhh!"
That explanation finally made real sense to me.
I don't know what I'd be thinking if I lived in America and listened daily to the propaganda and had to deal constantly with the propagandized, but at a distance, I've developed a visceral dislike of the Democratic party, and in particular, Mrs. Clinton. I still consider myself "liberal" for my stand on most social issues. I prefer tolerance of differences. Yet I feel so much more in common with the average American right winger these days. I wouldn't vote for Trump for dog-catcher, but I might just vote for that wolverine living atop his head (God Bless James Howard Kunstler) for President.

Nastarana said...

Dear Mr. Greer, This week's analysis was most interesting. For my part, I spent all my working life in wage earning positions, and low wages at that, and I emerged with my own set of resentments, though not necessarily the same resentments as those displayed by Trump voters. I would add to your analysis the observation that it is members of the salary class who delight in erecting barriers to self employment, such as excessive fees and such, and self reliance, see for example the attacks across the country on home gardens.

I agree with your assessment of Mr. Trump's cleverness. Nevertheless, I consider him a creature of Wall Street, notice how carefully selected are the targets of his outrage. Unlike Sanders, from Trump there are no attacks on banks and banking, no interest in reviving the firewall between savings banks and investment banking, and has he proposed any sort of transaction tax? Or increase in capital gains taxes? I must have missed it if he did. I also tend to doubt that a real estate guy has any intention of doing anything which might depress housing prices, the one thing which might in part alleviate the plight of the wage earning class. Large numbers of working guys and gals have good skills which could be turned to self employment if only they could hope to earn enough to pay for housing and utility costs.

I am convinced that foreign money is already at work in our elections; do you really imagine that it is his own money which the Macau magnate Adelson has been spending? Chinese officials are on record stating their preference for Republican administrations in Washington. I also note that Bill Clinton seems to have over the last decade and a half been spending a lot of time in the KSA.

Mr. Silberman, Democrats are not and have not for some time been interested in winning elections, merely in preserving their salaryman positions and perks.

I consider the career of former Gov. Palin to be one of the great tragedies of modern American politics. There was a time when the Republican party devoted care and attention to the bringing along of its' rising stars. Mrs. Palin's only real weakness is her astonishing ignorance which might have been easily remedied had anyone in the Republican upper echelons been paying attention and taken her in hand when she was first elected. Lost opportunities, if only Republican operatives had cared as much about the content of her mind--and I think she is quite intelligent, as well as charismatic and even sensible--as they did about her wardrobe.

John Crawford said...

It takes a massive amount of ignorance, ill-logic to believe a billionaire will in anyway bring any kind of action to support the wage class. However, it only takes a small amount of manipulation to empower anger and not a lot of effort to direct it toward a specific outcome. This is a real danger in the ongoing political activity we are witnessing. If Trump wins, and it is a distinct possibility, and he does not come up with a viable plan to assuage the anger he has generated the real possibility exists that we will indeed have the very violence we has dismissed as implausible for such a long time.

There is a reason our National Guards and Army reservists are having extensive training in crowd control. Look at the response in Fergueson or Occupy and you can see the real purpose for the militarization of our police. It's not paranoia over a government conspiracy it is the expected, and predicted, response to the chaotic reaction to the stresses of a rapidly transitioning world.

Will Trump be president? I think as Hillary is the chosen child of the Democratic overlords. The electorate has her number as well as Bill's. Bernie, nice guy with great ideas and lots of hope but he won't will the nomination because the same Democratic party overlord's see him as a danger to their power. In any event he would be pilloried because he says, in some form of truth, that he is a "Socialist." That form of "evil" will never fly with the angry and disenfranchised - this time. But, the next time - don't make bets on which way it will go. Fascist, Socialist, Communist, military junta - chaos - eventually it's all on the table.

It will surely be an interest year. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

RogerCO said...

Probably too late for a response from JMG this week, but to Ron I would comment that here in UK you can see the popularity of both Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage in much the same light as JMG outlines. Sort of proto-Trumps if you will.

Boris is clearly very clever, but seen (on the street) as somewhat more embedded in the Establishment than Farage. Both make much of the sort of man-in-pub/man-on-the-clapham-omnibus appeal that JMG identifies Trump tapping in to.
Neither are doing quite as well as Trump, they haven't quite cracked it yet, but fairly soon someone will rise to do it.

I think the French are also quite far down this particular line with the rise of le Pen fille.

In the UK the organised far right as visible to a salariat greenie like me has temporarily imploded. It will surely rise again and if it can find a leader who projects a connection with the wage class (proletariat) it will be a force to be reckoned with. The impending referrendum on eU membership could provide a seed.

I wonder if JMG is still here this week whether you think it feasible for a leader of the wage class to arise with a "left" anti-neo-liberal viewpoint. Is this what Bernie Sanders is attempting to do - and is he doomed to fail simply because he is more acceptable to the salariat and so will be seen as compromising with the suits?

Shane W said...

I wouldn't be surprised if in 100 years, if we're lucky, we don't have an agrarian and aristocratic class once more as the 20th century reverses itself. That is, if we're lucky and retrieve what was lost. We won't have a slave class because there won't be a labor shortage for a long time to come. You're spot on on the South, but, you must remember that the South serves an important need for the rest of the country as scapegoat for its bigotry--they need the South as other to avoid facing their own complicity in racism, homophobia, etc.--so they can be the "shining city on the hill" That's why they get so apoplectic over secession & dissolution--they can't dare look in the mirror and face the void.
Regarding Trump & Ford, Trump is way more intelligent than Ford, and doesn't seem to have a substance abuse problem. Trump's "outrageous" statements are clearly calculated, I simply cannot envision a time when he would ever look into the cameras, wife at his side, and say "I get enough to eat @ home."
Regarding the "tillers" of the "puny garden"--I once met the kid as I was walking down the road. Impeccable manners such that you hardly find amongst English speaking people here anymore. Everything was "Yes, Sir, No, Sir". I was kinda baffled at the disregard by the green non-locals...
I'm reading Overshoot right now, and JMG, I must say, I now realize that a lot of your ideas aren't as original as I once thought. ;) One of the unmentionables is the ecology behind the destruction of the wage class that you alluded to. Ever since the 70s, which started with Limits to Growth and ended with Overshoot, the growth limits predicament was swept under the carpet. Carter was widely panned for his "malaise" speech, and no politician dared question the American dream after that. But clearly, we've been in decline ever since I was born in '75, if not before, as evidenced by the fate of the wage class. But no one can question the American dream or progress, even less so now than in the 70s. It's basically a Bateson type double bind for the wage class, that they can't clearly express that the American dream died for them. So, it only makes sense that if a Bateson type double bind causes mental illness in an individual, that the same double bind for a whole class causes an equivalent sociological problem.
BTW, fawning sycophant here. If only everyone were discussing the issues in the way you discuss them, then it wouldn't be so unique or refreshing...

aunteater said...

Speaking from the increasingly desperate wage-earning trenches here: bullseye. My dad is voting for him(but doesn't like him), and expects him to win (unless voter fraud or aircraft mishaps get the upper hand). The way he figures it, this is the last gasp of democracy in the US: this time, we're electing a dictator... and if we're electing a dictator, we may as well have one who doesn't openly despise us.

I'm job-hunting, and the prospects are not bleak: they're terrifying. OTJ training no longer exists: employers across the board expect employees to show up fully trained and licensed at their own expense, with their own expensive equipment, and two years of experience. And this is not for good-paying jobs: it's for everything above Waffle-House waitress. Where one is supposed to get this experience remains a mystery. I'm not proud, I figured if nothing else I could clean hotel rooms under the table like all my friends did summers in high school... nope: these days, you have to be fluent in Spanish to get that job. We're scraping by with whatever we can get: an embarrassing amount of help from extended family is the only reason we're not living in our car. At our current trajectory, we'll qualify for medicaid by next year. But(if friends' experience is any gauge) we won't be able to get it, because the state's budget is limited, the waiting list is long, and we are not the appropriate color. We are in the hands of God.

I don't like Trump, but I can sure see why so many do.

Joe Roberts said...

I noted my somewhat panicky initial reaction to this post, which you might find instructive. I earn a wage, but the fact that I do so is a quirk of my company's classification system; it's deemed important that my immediate co-workers and I be available to work overtime during deadlines, but members of the rest of my department at my white-collar job earn salaries (and, though it's the ultimate taboo to ask, I believe make broadly similar annual amounts as I do). In my last job I did make a salary, even though I earned about 25% less than I do now.

But my first reaction your post was: What! Am I a member of the wage class? I wanted more than anything to find a justification to distance myself from that possibility. In part I suppose it has to do with my own general feelings of career underachievement relative to my expensive education and early familial hopes for me, but it has even more to do with growing up and living in a country, the USA, where class may indeed be a taboo topic but is ever-present, like the constant hum of a nearby interstate highway.

Regarding Trump, I cop to schadenfreude around seeing how thoroughly some self-identified "true conservative," salary-class Republicans dislike him. That feeling is exemplified by the editors at sites like (beware, all who venture there), who lament that "We had so many good candidates, and Trump is sucking up all the oxygen!" When you play with angry populist rhetoric as a means to attract voters, as establishment Republicans have done for decades, you get to live with the result.

On another note, did you see the editorial "What If?" by Thomas Friedman in yesterday's New York Times? It was rather incredible for Friedman, who has spent his career arguing for bright futures and global technological interconnectedness as a panacea. In yesterday's editorial he takes an entirely different tone, only a few steps behind the Archdruid Report at points! Really worth a read, to see the shifting zeitgeist.

Shane W said...

I think it's indicative of Canada's small-c conservative nature than when non-mainstream candidates on both sides of the aisle in the US, Canada just returned "Canada's natural governing party" to Parliament with large majorities. With Trudeau, hot as he may be, Canada seems to have gone in the exact opposite direction the US is heading this year. A lot depends on how bad the Canadian economy gets pummeled by the oil glut, and how much this brings out unconventional politics in Canada.
I'm not so sure that Trump would be so bad for foreign affairs, if Farage, Le Pen, Wilders, and other neo right populists get elected to office in Europe, I could see them all, along with Putin & Trump, getting along swimmingly and agreeing on a lot of policies.

Stuart Cram said...

From the perspective of a Canadian living in the Rust belt of North East Ohio I can see Trump’s appeal. My neighbor worked 30+ years at Hoover, now manufactured in China. She struggles to hold her four generations of family together given the lack of options they have in this part of the country. The Lakeland republic will have some serious work cut out for it! She says she could never have had seven kids today. She also lost her house in the subprime crisis. Generous to a fault she’s a wonderful lady and I’m so lucky to have her as a neighbour.

My Muslim (also Canadian) wife is very worried about Trump, not just because he’s uncool with millennial women but because of his no Muslims allowed policy. If she can’t complete her residency here in Ohio she may never be able to be a doctor. That would put us massively in debt with no income, as I don’t have a work permit in the US and would struggle to find engineering work back home given the commodity prices today and years spent as a stay-at-home dad.

One would just say to lie about your religion, as shitty as that would be, but she’s already been asked at the border if she is a Muslim. This makes one wonder what list that puts her (plus my daughter, a US citizen, and my agnostic self) on. My gut feeling is that Trump would try to forbid entry based on Religion, knowing that the legislative and judicial branches would band together and stop him. That way he’d have the ability to say to his base that he tried but was stopped by people his base probably already mostly hates. So I truly hope in my heart that he does not win, or moderates his position vis-à-vis Muslims as time goes on.

That being said I totally agree with your assessment of his intelligence. His hair is like a peacock’s tail, it’s to get attention and distract you from the claws down low. Forged in the world of NYC real-estate he’s no dummy, a few bankruptcies notwithstanding. Frankly Trump is the bitter medicine America needs at this point, keeping the real corn-pone Hitler from coming to power next cycle. Although I do feel that Bernie could beat him It seems like a sort-of a rock-paper-scissors situation where the Trumpenkrieg beats Hitlery who beats Bernie who beats Trump. Hitlery is the worst possible option so I guess I’m a Bernie fan.

As for the class war aspects I think the foundation of the American class war is the pretense that there is no class. One cannot be a victim of something that doesn’t exist, no?

Andy Brown said...

A fascinating and convincing analysis. The only reason I think Clinton will win over Trump doesn't have to do with your political economic argument, which I think is entirely valid. It has to do with the way in which the wage-earning class has been so successfully divided by race. Eventually, the Democrats won't be able to keep their own wage earners in line, just by pointing at racist Republican bogeymen, but I think it's still got another election cycle or two before the Democrats collapse in the face of their own disruptive "rabble rouser."

Carl Dolphin said...

Dear JMG, good luck to you and Sarah with the approaching snow storm. It sounds like you'll get many feet of snow. Get out the shovels, Carl

Howard Skillington said...

In retrospect it seems remarkable how long it took for me to become aware of class in America. As a boy on our family farm I recognized that we had a good deal less than the doctor’s family, and a good deal more than the families of migrant workers who harvested our crops seasonally, but I attached no particular significance to that arrangement. After all, we were taught in school that America is a classless society – why would our textbooks and teachers lie to us?

When I went away to college the cinder block dorm rooms at our state university would have made Motel Six look pretty fancy, and Fraternity Row looked like the neighborhood where old money lives in any city, yet still I did not recognize this state of things as a class system.

Despite my impractical choice of a liberal arts education I managed to make my way into the class of salaried employees, though at a couple of points of career transition that status became rather insecure. At one such juncture, as a furniture designer, I found myself working on both sides of the wall that separated the factory floor from the administrative offices. Those offices had carpeted floors and air conditioning, while the line workers endured seasonal extremes of temperature and the incessant din of dangerous machinery, but the line foremen took home more money than the support staff in the offices. I never heard anyone on the quiet side of the wall speak disparagingly about the factory workers, but it was always clear that no one from the other side of the wall should consider himself welcome in the salaried employees’ domain.

I had the good fortune of escaping that environment for a small design firm safely removed from the factory realm by the time those manufacturing jobs began their rapid transfer first to Mexico, and then to China. Most of those hard-working, skilled factory workers are probably now in the class that waits for a government welfare check each month, but I fear some are standing at street intersections holding cardboard signs, hoping for charity from those fortunate enough still to have salaries.

I doubt that many of those unemployed wage earners are much impressed with the Clintons’ persistent devotion to the benefits of “free trade.” Regarding Trump vs the herd of establishment Republican candidates, isn’t the enemy of my enemy my friend?

As for Trump’s successor, what’s so bad about armbands – as long as the troops keep the stream of refugees out of our neighborhood, and keep delivering those pallets of emergency food rations.

None of Your Business said...

I suppose I would qualify as "salary class". I work for a small, family owned business that manufactures the majority of our products here in the USA. Our company also sells products produced by a multitude of other manufacturers, here and abroad. My work consists largely of engineering type duties. Over the years I have witnessed the business owner, who also does our purchasing, increasingly begin to use overseas suppliers to lower the company's component costs. He has been forced to do this, as a few competitors have entered our niche market and driven prices down by doing the same. It's been a race to the bottom, where nobody really wins. I just shake my head every time I hear about it. Until the government forces this to stop, it simply won't. I would happily pay higher prices for better quality stuff made by my fellow citizens.

pyrrhus said...

Excellent piece JMG. It is telling that exactly the same people who sneered at the laboring class are sneering at Trump,

Shane W said...

You're right, JMG, about Trump's power. A man who can take Reagan's famed "three-legged stool" and smash it to bits is powerful indeed, and that's what he's done. There's now an outright schism among the religious right (leg number one), he's smashed the neoconservative consensus on defense (leg number two), and he's smashed the neoliberal consensus on the economy (leg number three)

Karl said...

You did a great job explaining the appeal of Trump. There is one other group of people very much opposed to Trump - what's left of the GOP establishment and their spin doctors, consultants etc. And they are going stark raving bananas btw.

In related news (tongue in cheek), Scientists this week say they have proof of the existence of "Planet X" aka Nemesis. Coincidence?

Mary said...

I've been in the salary class, the wage class and now fully dependent on social security, am in the welfare class. Do not underestimate Sanders. The Democratic Party officials made that mistake, and are now in full-fledged panic mode. Schultz's careful plan to hide the debates backfired and they have now scheduled, with just a few days notice, a weekday prime time "Town Hall" for the 3 candidates to take questions from audience and callers. How much do you want to wager that Clinton's "spontaneous" questions will come from pre-vetted, likely paid, audience members? Sanders, on the other hand, will get the "gotcha" and hardball questions. But that, too, will backfire. Every time they launch an underhanded, dirty attack, his supporters cough up another million or two. Every time. Even the main stream media smells blood and is starting to call out Clinton's lies. Sanders is within inches of taking both Iowa and NH. And while all eyes are focused on those two, he is again gaining strength under the radar in Nevada and S. Carolina. And he, too, is tapping into the rage of the wage class and disenfranchised.

Mark Chapman said...

In a word, remarkable. I never really understood the difference between the salaried class and the wage class, but you're absolutely right that they are completely different. I still don't think it's going to be Trump - for the record, I think it's going to be Rubio - but I base that on a belief that the Republican establishment will not let it be Trump, because he is beyond their reach and could not be controlled. It's early days yet, but we have already reached a point where Trump can say virtually anything and get away with it, which is in itself remarkable in an age in which debate at that level is a minefield, and you can feel yourself rotting and dying even as the fateful slip leaves your lips.

Frankly, I think American politics is doomed, and it does not matter much who is elected; he or she is not going to be able to arrest the downward slide. There's going to be a major global check and reorganization, and I don't think America is going to come out of it in the pole position as it is used to doing. But when Trump first declared his candidacy, I laughed like all the rest, and said, here we go again. Remember the Republican race in 2008, and how candidates would take a decisive lead for about a week, only to vanish in ignominy? Trump has been well in lead for, like, forever. A phenomenon, at the very least.

JessicaYogini said...

Excellent description of the relationship between the salary class and the wage class.
I would contend that the class above the salary class is something more than an investor class. It includes folks that just collect their dividends, but it also includes people who run the major economic institutions and who make the large-scale decisions.
The most significant feature of the salary class in past decades has been its total and unwavering loyalty to that class above it. This looks different on the left and the right, but the essence is the same. Perhaps the most important task for the salary class in the eyes of the class above it has been the role of the salary class in making the class cleansing of the once prosperous wage class undiscussable.
A lot about the performance of the Democratic Party makes sense when we understand that much of the salary class needs politics that absolve it of guilt but without making it pay any real penance. So the salary actually wants (unawares of course) politics that talk a lot about social issues but don’t actually do anything.
I suspect that a lot of what is driving the Sanders campaign is that a significant and increasing portion of the salary class, especially the younger members and aspirants, are now being treated the way the wage class has long been treated. This has created a faction within the salary class who are willing, who actively need to have the taboo on discussing class be broken. A key to how the Sanders campaign plays out is whether it actually works for the wage class (and thus has a broad base) or peters out into just another case of the salary class using the suffering of the wage class to create benefit only for the salary class (and thus becomes another peripheral feel-good clean politics, reform movement).
Oh, one other odd feature of the salary class: the lower in the salary class a person is, the more likely they are underpaid for doing something of actual social benefit (think adjunct teachers at universities and community colleges) and the higher in the salary class a person is, the more likely they are overpaid for doing something useless or actively socially harmful (think university presidents or most of the financial sector).
Thank you for the encouragement and respect you give to people taking on the task of mastering traditional but neglected working class skills. This shift in values is worthwhile even if the deindustrial future you foresee does not come to pass.

Dammerung said...

Thanks you so much for this post! I've dealt with so many "liberal" salary-class cretins who regard the wage class as beneath their contempt, to the point that they literally invent and trade memes making fun of of garbagemen; sanitary workers; clerical workers, et al for making their lifestyle remotely possible. It's about time somebody with punch took them to task for their arrogant idiocy. I doubt I'll be able to get any of them to read this essay much less understand it, but you laid out the problem in terms of stark reality.

Bruce Turton said...

From the outside, but with a realistic view to accommodate U.S. immediate hegemony, I find the Trump phenomenon a two-edged sword: as a working stiff who is now physically stiff too, I can resonate with your wage class folks who see him as a champion for their 'crash'. This crash you described very well. The other edge is Mr. Trump himself, and, I am sure, people who work for him. He is a salesperson; that is his game. He does it very well. He knows that to sell what he has for sale (him) requires that those he wants to buy (him) believe that he has what they need. Feeding on the generations of working stiffs and our demise is brilliant, and using language that is heard in the bars, and... (actually, there are not many other places where the wage classes do get to meet)is going to put Mr. Trump in good stead with a lot of people.
Interesting that you keep mentioning that your respondents actually meet working stiffs. Right there at the check-out counter for groceries (or take-out, or hardware) are real people with real lives who really do want to say more than the formulaic "have a good day".

matilda said...

As a former, marginal-leftie, as well as a salaried fool with an investment class family background that grew up with the children of the wage-earners and whose children will be fortunate if they end up with a living wage of any sort, I am having an absolute blast pointing out “The Donald’s” appeal to all my leftie acquaintances – thanks for the ammo!

My only “cynical” concern – is Trump running to put Hillary in office?

Grim said...

Very astute observations this week. I particularly liked your class definitions.

I live in New Hampshire so I get the privilege(??)of hearing the candidates in local interviews months before the national media wakes up and starts covering them. Last spring, before Trump jumped on the xenophobia bandwagon, he did an interview where his main issue was restoring the manufacturing base to the US. He kept repeating that he would "bring the jobs back".

The interviewer never bothered to ask how he would do it. My thoughts were: Would he pull us out of the WTO? Cancel NAFTA? Nuke the Foxcon plant in Longhua? Have corporate management sent to Gitmo if they don't immediately open factories in the US?

Anyway, even knowing that his promise was impossible, something in the reptilian part of my brain reacted positively to this. Therefore, even though I'm in "the salaried class", and do not support Trump, I have no trouble understanding his appeal.

I like to equate him to a snake charmer who knows his audience better than they know themselves and keeps them fascinated. I'm not so sure he won't be the next president. The last time I saw voters so fascinated was during Reagan's first election. I'm not even sure that the Trump fear factor will bring out the Democrats and independents to vote for a 7th term of the Clinton/Bush/Obama administration.

shhh said...

While I agree with most of your conclusion, and I believe I understand why you pitched it this way, I find myself critiquing the way you ascribe intent to the agency of "the salary class." While certainly useful in constructing the appearance of rational dialectic, it wholly obviates the real dynamic underlying pretty much everything i.e. the intertwined facts that people: a) create beliefs based on precognitive emotional states and build "logic" from unquestioned assumptions which may be biologically coded, b) are symbiots whose emotions are respondent to both the bacteria in their gut and the select group of individuals around them, both in short term and long term contexts, and c) just want to "feel" safe.

So, for all of the wonderful analysis, I'm not sure what you hope to achieve with this sort of thing. The problem isn't a political one, it's a philosophical one.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160121T162921Z

Thanks, JMG, for your posting timestamped by the software as "1/21/16, 12:20 AM", in which you raise the matter of correct Latinity at Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 440, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 440.

Quail though I must at giving even the appearance of being discourteous to Mr Backos, I nevertheless do have to make sure that the Latinity problem gets analyzed. It may well be that Mr Backos's eye inadvertently skipped over my flagging of the problem (in an ADR posting timestamped by the blogging software as "1/14/16, 9:19 AM" - "9:19 AM" in what timezone, and "1/14/16" on what side of the International Dateline? - and headed in my own, ISO-compliant, Universal Coordinated Time timestamping formalism as "20160114T170906Z"). For convenience, I reproduce here my analysis from 20160114T170906Z:

Vot meenz "Splendorem lucis viridis"? Could Eric Backos give us the intended meaning? Unless I am missing something here, this /.../ is ungrammatical. If the intention is to say "The splendor of a green light" (a laudable idea), then we need "Splendor lucis viridis." Since "splendorem" is in the accusative, we look in vain in the offered motto for a verb for which that accusative noun is the object. - Admittedly, we could go on to supply a verb: "Demonstremus splendorem lucis viridis" is probably correct for "Let us show forth, let us exhibit, let us make-manifest, the splendor of green light." - The motto could, alternatively, be changed a bit, putting "splendor" into the nominative, and making it the subject (not the object) of an explicit verb: "Splendor lucis viridis luceat" would mean "Let the splendor of a green light shine forth," "May the splendor of a green light shine forth."

I stress here that I am by no means wishing to denigrate Mr Backos, but only to defend standards. We need to stick to standards always. Most particularly do we need to stick to standards in a time of decline or collapse. It is a bit like that training vid put out by HM Government in 1942 or so in the UK, explaining how to make tea. As we see from the YouTube upload (the suddenly homeless being handed their steaming mugs from the counter of a portable canteen, which has diligently driven up to the rubble), HM Govt considered it important to ensure that people who were bombed out got their cuppa. Indeed HM Govt was careful to urge, though much footage featuring an eloquent, white-coated, mildly sinister "scientist", that the cuppa be made with a good grade of leaf and the correct choice of steeping time.

Thanks, Deborah (Deborah Bender at "1/20/16, 9:42 PM") for your critique of the other Latin motto under recent discussion. This is Leah's motto, which now reads, correctly, in Leah's adopted revision, "In servitio libertas". You ask about its meaning, while yourself translating it correctly. I think your concerns are addressed by my posting of 20160114T170906Z. But do please e-mail me privately if I have overlooked something.

On the matter of broad literary connotation, as opposed to strict and narrow meaning, I would like to cast my timidly respectful vote against Deborah, and for Leah: "In servitio libertas" does not, to my ear, have any really clear resonance with the unacceptable "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work renders one free" - a slogan erected by the Reich over the gates of Auschwitz). What would, admittedly, be unacceptably resonant would be an actual translation of "Arbeit macht frei", namely, "In labore libertas" (or, staying still closer to the notorious German, "Ex labore libertas" or "Ex labore fit libertas").

Tom = Toomas(dot)Karmo(at)gmail(dot)com

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160121T170902Z

PS to posting of 20160121T162921Z (immediately above): As we struggle with mottoes and the like, changing and fine-tuning and editing from week to week, we can console ourselves with John Henry Cardinal Newman's dictum, "To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often."

Tom = Toomas(dot)Karmo(at)gmail(dot)com

Brian Kaller said...


Thank you for articulating what I’ve been saying to friends of mine for some time now. You seem more certain than I am that he will be the candidate – the powers that run the GOP have some power, after all – but we’ll see how that turns out. I agree that the important thing is the effect he’s having on such a large swath of voters, and I cringe when so many people I otherwise respect – Republican and Democrat, American and European – dismiss him as a clown while giving him all the publicity he wants.

There are a few other points I would add:

1) Trump ran a campaign like this in 2000, and no one seems to remember it, or that he promised things like universal health care. It came and went without a trace, without the surge of interest we see here. He hasn’t changed, but the fortunes of most people in the country have.

2) As I think I mentioned when we met in London, politics in the USA looks baffling to many people because they think of a left-right spectrum, with one party on each side. Most of the mass protests and third parties are either branded as “far-left” – Occupy Wall Street, Bernie Sanders’ campaign, the Green Party, and Black Lives Matter – or “far-right,” as in the Tea Party, the various militia uprisings, and the Trump campaign.

In fact, it makes a lot more sense if you pull down the two sides into a triangle; the two main parties serve elite interests, and anything that percolates up from the people is referred to as “far” or “extremist.” But Sanders and Trump actually have a great deal in common that neither does with the more establishment candidates.

The same was true in 2000 – Nader was referred to as far-left, and Buchannan as far-right, but both spoke admiringly of the other. As someone who has campaigned for Green Party candidates and writes for Pat Buchannan’s magazine, I can attest that they have a lot more common ground than people realise.

3) Looking at most of my friends, I find that most of them do most of their conversing over social media – of course, I’m writing this on your blog, so I can’t judge them too harshly – and most of them link to others of their same class, subculture, age group and political allegiance.

Me, I link to a variety of people – both Trump and Sanders fans, for example. (No other candidates seem to have “fans,” per se, just reluctant allies.) I occasionally ask basic questions politely, or point out ways that people have common ground – but on social media, this is considered being a “troll.” Frankly, I’ve never seen such insularity, or such spite, on all sides in my lifetime, and while I don't think it has to devolve into violence, it's becoming a real possibility.

Peter VE said...

It strikes me that the current news about the poisoning of the Flint water system is a perfect symbol of the contempt of the manager class for the wage class.

Kevin Anderson K9IUA said...

Thank you for this week's post. As one who grew up in a salaried household (my father was a small-town bank executive, although never a president/owner of a bank), and someone who has essentially always worked as a salaried employee (if you ignore the few high school and college temporary wage jobs), I guess I have always sensed being part of a somewhat privileged class. At the same time, as you correctly pointed out, I feel like I have blinders on and can't really see or understand the issues being faced by others in say the wage or welfare categories, except by my own error-prone filtering.

Reading the post, however, I couldn't help but think of the current ACA/Obamacare insurance system as implemented as another example of "sticking it to the wage class." As a salaried person, I'm largely protected from this through employers handling the implementation and cost coverage. I presume the wage class is clearly more exposed and vulnerable, being forced/coerced to participate, yet not having the financial means to do so. I am seeing that through my daughter, will shortly turn 26 and be forced to roll off of the extended coverage that the ACA has provided her to continue as a dependent under mine and my wife's health coverage (combined because we both work under the same umbrella employer). My daughter, as an essentially full-time employee, but not declared as such by her employer, in her wage job. There is no way that my daughter can pay for her own insurance with what she makes, even with government tax incentives, without my wife and I still stepping in to pay a large part of the premium and continuing to pay for most charged medical expenses. The same mental decisions that others are having to make in having to navigate this quagmire, wanting her to be insured to the same level of care that my wife and I have access to. And this is with my daughter living at home with us, not owning a car, and walking to work instead.

What a mess our country has gotten into. As an Iowa resident, I wish we had a primary system instead of the caucuses. I have all kinds of pollsters and candidate supporters constantly calling me, trying to get me to commit to their candidate and attending the caucus. But I don't know if outsiders realize that a caucus is a two-hour commitment (as you have to be there at the beginning to sign in and participate and stay to the very end to be counted), most of the time sitting around getting instructions, then an hour facing people trying to convince you to join one candidate or another, or this issue group or another, and then waiting while the counts are taken and verified. It is easier to stay home than go through this. I've done it twice in my life, and in the end you still feel like the time is wasted because it doesn't end the politics (as November is still months and months away) and your choice of the night probably doesn't really matter.

Grandmom said...

Ah, so this explains why Trump doubles-down on what he says (what for other people are media gaffs). He's not just against illegal immigration, he's building a wall and having Mexico pay for it. Every time he talks back he's doing exactly what the wage class wishes they could at work.

I had a conversation with a Trump supporter yesterday, a college graduate who runs a non-profit. I've known this man for years and was actually surprised how strong his support is for Trump, and only Trump. He expressed a frustration with the lack of direction of our country, our lack of pride and inability to basically get our act together. So many people complain all the time about everything. Trump's straight-forwardness and simple sorting into "classy" and "stupid" has an appeal.

Dan L. said...

"Mike, it's not just intuitively plausible, it's a straightforward application of that most basic economic principle, the law of supply and demand. As I recall, Adam Smith discusses it: when the supply of laborers goes up and the demand for them goes down, wages fall. Q.E.D!"

I'm a little surprised to see you making errors in argumentation you so frequently point out in others!

Problems with this argument:
-it implicitly relies on the validity of Smith's economic theory
-it rejects the notion that empirical evidence has any bearing on whether Smith's economic theory and its implications are true
-it ignores the fact that real-world applications of the law of supply and demand are almost always complicated by external factors

Since I do agree that the law of supply and demand is valid, I think the third point is the most relevant. For example, take minimum wage: a straight-forward application of the law of supply and demand implies that increasing minimum wage should also increase unemployment, but the empirical evidence for this is highly equivocal. My conjecture here is that minimum wage increases cause demand increases which balances out the pressure towards unemployment to some extent.

It seems reasonable to me to suppose that similar feedback effects could take place with respect to immigration and unemployment -- immigrants need food, shelter, and clothing as much as anyone else! And so I think it is reasonable to ask for empirical evidence rather than argument from theory for claims about economics and economic policies, as the application of theory to real life is fraught in economics.

As for the post itself: great stuff! The four-class model is a useful one and I'll no doubt use it in my discussions with others on these topics. Thanks!

MIckGspot said...

JMG posted "For the banks and colleges that pushed the loans and taught the classes, though, these programs were a cash cow of impressive scale, and the people who work for banks and colleges are mostly salary class."

I believe Trumps primary function in his role (apparent firebrand as is cast) is to continue BAU particularly credit expansion through whatever means possible. Whomever wins the presidency will have the task of credit expansion on the board or economic collapse.

More loans are needed to keep the financial system "growing". The farther this system diverges from physical reality the greater the need for it to grow to continue thus it will be continued at all costs as members of many classes get tossed under the bus to keep the wheels greased.

TY JMG for a great job of modeling. Your lenses help me make sense of things. Of course I am likely wrong in my views but that is better to my mind than having no view at all.

Grandmom said...

What your explanation for Sarah Palin - her continued existence in the public eye, her endorsement of Trump?

Laylah said...

I haven't seen anybody link it here yet, so thought I'd point you at this piece:

She doesn't use the phrase "the senility of the elite" but she's discussing a strikingly clear example of the phenomenon. Goodness, why aren't the little people sitting quietly and letting their betters buy the correct presidential candidates? What could be making them so restless?

william fairchild said...

I reread your essay, and a I think that if the Donald has a weakness, it is that his appeal to the wage class is almost exclusively to blue collar whites. It all comes down to the electoral map. Can he win VA, NV,NM, CO, or even FL or OH. Maybe. What the Dubbyobama consensus (establishment politics) really fears is a candidate who can speak to the wage class as a whole and bypass the coded racism. So far, no one has fit the bill. If someone ever does the investment and salary classes will shudder in fear.

Clay Dennis said...

It seems to me that the political break between the salaried class and the wage class and the attendent resentment is more a function of the inevitable decline of empire and less about the misbehaviour and poor attitude of what remains of the salaried class. As you have written extensively, John Michael, the U.S. empire has essentially been a wealth pump which sucks up resources and cheap labor from the rest of the world to benefit those at the center of empire. In the "good old days" this benefited the wage class as well as the salaried class. Now that the empire is in decline and the "vig" from the hinterlands is coming up short, the empire ,does what empires always do, and begins to consume the the lower classes to keep the wealth flowing to those closest to the centers of power. The portions of the Salaried class that are still the recipiants of this wealth pump are what some observers (Charles Hugh Smith is one I think) term the high caste technocracy, and are the workers who run what remains of the imperial machine for the ownership class. Over time this high caste technocracy has found itself seperated from the wage class via school, neighborhood, workplace etc. and eventually they were embeded with a class conciousness that put them moraly, and culturaly above they wage class. This was on purpose, as it was necessary for the continuation of the empire for these people too see the wage class as "the other" just like enemies in war are dehumanized to make them moral targets for destruction. So the sneering attitude is on purpose. The senile elites tend to take things too far and this process leads to a backlash which tends to make things unwind faster than they planned, and an opportunistic but clever politician like Trump is ready, just as such people always pop up in history.

Roger said...

JMG, A great, incisive and insightful post.

In Canada we see a lot of the same. The manufacturing heartland in Ontario and Quebec has been gutted. They say that, in Ontario alone, 10,000 factories closed up and/or moved offshore. My home-town was one of the casualties.

You also see the northern version of Derangement Syndrome. Here it was Harper Derangement, particularly in some parts of the feminist and gay communities who were convinced of the most astonishing things. No matter, Harper is gone and none of the paranoid scenarios remotely came to pass.

And, here we too have "dog-whistle" politics. One example, if you're a current or former member of the wage earning class you're described by the Illuminati as 1) rural 2) older 3) white 4) less educated 5) fearful

- which translates to the properly attuned ear as

1) ignorant 2) ignorant 3) bigoted 4) ignorant 5) ignorant.

In short, to the urban clerisy, the small-town Canadian wage earner is a stupid racist, living in the past, clinging to, well, not guns and religion, but rather sepia-tinted memories of thankfully bygone times when dad went to work and mom stayed home and took care of the family.

Make no mistake, in the intelligentsia's collective opinion, an economic re-set was past-due, the wage earner never having deserved such a prosperous state, not with his intellectual and educational and cultural and attitudinal deficiencies. About time he was taken down a peg.

So now we have the telegenic Justin Trudeau. A new day, sunny ways, yes, no more of this unbearable Tim Horton's, flag-waving patriotism. The day of the hockey bag hoser is done, now it's wine-sipping intellectuals who are unembarrassed to be seen in Starbucks.

Again, make no mistake, it's business as usual, the only difference being that if Harper's priorities were elite interests from the West, Justin's priorities are elite interests in the East.

avalterra said...

I have an old friend who is *very* smart and has a deep background in game theory. He is convinced (enough to actually make it a public statement) that Trump will get around 10% in Iowa and quickly fade after that. His theory is that the people who support Trump are only giving him lip service and will not turn out for him in a caucus. And once he is seen as vulnerable the aura that he has as a "winner" will fade and with it will go his support.

I think he is wrong but I never discount him as he is very often right. But we will see.

I posted on your predictions blog that I though Trump would either take the GOP nomination or he would spoil the GOP candidates chance at winning and we would have Hilary as the next president. I still think I'm going to be right but my confidence is narrowing.

Roger said...

BTW, you have Trump, we had Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, the alcoholic and drug addict.

There was a good reason Ford was elected in the first place, that being much the same wage earner discontent and disconnect from the insider game played at City Hall. Say what you like about Ford but he always returned the voters' telephone calls. And he would clean up the City Hall gravy train.

So Rob Ford said he would clean up corruption. Obviously, with so many snouts in the trough, this couldn't be allowed. But Rob Ford's main sin IMO is that he wasn't the candidate of the establishment who supported a gay, former Ontario cabinet minster for mayor. I mean, the optics were everything a modern city could want, the prospective mayor and his husband, two white men, married with an adopted black baby. It showed the world what was possible.

Didn't pan out. The city's unwashed weren't having it. They wanted Ford, the ranting fat-man, they saw themselves in him, the outsider that challenged for power and managed to earn the establishment's animus.

Personally, I don't care if Ford was a drunk. He actually got some things done despite the media circus around him. Besides, we have a long and noble tradition of drunks in politics, from Sir John, who was Canada's founding father, to Ralph Klein who against all expectations managed to become premier of Alberta and clean up a festering financial mess when oil was ten bucks a barrel. Hurrah for the drunks.

As far as sneering goes, I've seen Ruth Marcus and Eleanor Clift do it and IMO nobody does it better. If there was a sneering Olympics they'd get gold and silver.

TJ said...

Shane W -
I've come to the exact same conclusion. I followed the "collapse now and avoid the rush" advice and left the corporate world to start my own permaculture farm. It's tough, because I knew next to nothing about farming except for what I read in books and watched on youtube. But every time I call on someone out here in the country and they meet me with a mouth full of tobacco and overalls covered in s**t, I find they are friendly, helpful, and just generally accepting of me - despite my ignorance of the work they do and the culture I've invaded. And much like JMG says of Trump, these people aren't dumb at all. At least not dumb at a higher rate than the wealthy folk in the corporate world.

Meanwhile, if someone from this wage-earning backcountry world decided to buck everything and enter suburbia and try to get a salary job... Well, I think we know how that would go. They would not be as welcomed as I've found myself here, that's for sure.

onething said...

Excellent, excellent.

I wish I could have read this 30 years ago.

Thoughts, quibbles and questions:

*But is there any chance at all of Trump doing anything significant if elected, and does he in fact have even a shred of sincerity in his cares for the working class? If not, imagine the rage when his voters get the kind of disappointment that Obama gave to his?

*I've been told that Sanders is also saying some rather pointed things. For me at least, this is significant in my opinion money corruption is cause behind these manifestations. I was told that he said to Clinton that she had received 600 K from Goldman Sachs, and what did she think they were expecting in return?

*I'd say that sneering mockery inflicts both sides and I have to say, that it is made easier by the fact that people in general have foolishnesses that they do not see but that others do. Making fun of Trump's hair may be simply juvenile, but there are barbs of truth in many of the mockeries. Both have large factions that are ignorant, gullible and blind and each sees the other.

*Somewhat disagree that the salary class is getting the main benefit from the demise of the wage class. After all, the 1% is getting incredibly enriched since it is they who own the companies that went overseas. Deals like NAFTA were not conceived by the salaried class.

*On the idea that everyone must go to college, here I am going to wholeheartedly agree it is the salaried class, the MBA's to be specific, who have somehow managed to implement endless ironclad new requirements for various types of jobs. If you could have been trained on the job, you must now have an AA, if an AA would do, now a bachelor's is a must. Jobs long done by those with a bachelor's now need a master's. And you can't get out without huge debt.

Sven Eriksen said...

I must confess I find myself rooting for Trump, if mainly for the reason that official decision making over here consists of duplicating whatever is done in the U.S. with an average lag time of 20 years, and as such anything that upsets the current trajectory (and preferably makes some noise while doing it) would be most welcome. There was a poll carried out a few days ago where members of the national parliament were asked who they expected to win the election. The poll was almost unanimously in favor of Clinton (they declared that Donald doesn't stand a chance...). It is disturbing enough that the people tasked with planning the nation's future are serenly oblivious with regards to what actually goes on in the country upon whom they made themselves helplessly dependent (and to which they have outsourced their own thinking capacity). It is actually even more disturbing that most of them couldn't seem to distinguish between "Who do you think will win?" and "Who would you like to win?"

I profecise that the current comments record will be shattered this week. Is it, by the way, too much to ask for "The Politics of Resentment part II: Hillary" next Wednesday?

Bill Pulliam said...

Shane -- Oh yes the fact that the rest of the US uses us as scapegoats to avoid dealing with their own deep bigotry was made vividly clear to me when I first moved away from the south to the "Left Coast" in 1979. That it has not gotten better in the intervening 37 years still disappoints me. A friend from Oregon (of all places, the state whose constitution forbade non-whites from living there until the 1920s...) complains about the right-wingishness when he visits here; but when I go to Oregon I see the same thing in the rural areas, and downtown Nashville is like Portlandia on the Cumberland (hipster with a twang) but with a LOT more ethnic and cultural diversity.

Re: snooty greenies, I was surprised when I first moved back to the rural south how the Greenies (nearly all fairly recent transplants) utterly ignored the ways that the long-time locals did things. Interestingly, the locals did not feel the same way, and if they saw a greenie with a good idea that demonstrably worked they would adopt it right away. The greenies may have taken this as validation of their superiority; what I see in reality is that the locals care what works, not what the philosophy behind it is. For example, every hillbilly seemed to know how to make a ram pump from stuff at the local hardware store; none of the greenies had ever even heard of one.

I'm afraid the disdain towards the wage earner and the tradesman goes vertically upwards as well, children to parents. Boys around here may worship their dads, but they dont want to have to work like he did, they want something "better." When I come across young guys (sometimes now as old as 40) who can't even change a tire, much less prime a carburator when the truck runs out of gas, I think about how sad this must make their fathers...

Varun Bhaskar said...


Thank you for this post, over the past year I've been struggling to find the words that define the culture of Madison. We are a city where the majority of people are in the wage class, and yet the majority of the city's resources are spent on development for the salary and welfare classes. I hold little objection to support for the welfare classes since they have hard lives already, but it is ridiculous for so much to be spent on the people who already have property and comfort while the rest of us struggle. Since 2008 the city's housing development has been almost exclusively high-end condos and apartments, which is priced far out of the range of wage earners. Not surprisingly most of the development is debt financed. So when the economic crisis gets worse the wage earners will have to bear the brunt of the pain. It makes me angry, but at least I now have words to put to my anger.



Coboarts said...

I want to thank you for the effort you consistently make to address a response to all of the comments that come into your blog, obviously no small effort and a useful extension of the original post.

Dave Ruggiero said...

Another reason that the salary class tends to align its interests with the investment class is that, at least in the US, it's no longer possible to retire at a middle-class income on Social Security alone. Salary-class workers now have to carefully cobble together a retirement fund from IRAs and 401ks, inevitably tying their long-term interests to the performance of the stock market.

In fact, now that I think about it much of the difference between the wage and salary classes seems to be not necessarily in cash income ($50,000/year could land you in either camp) but in - I guess you could say how stable your economic situation is. The salary class is likely to have a better health insurance policy, a better retirement package, and to be better able to take advantage of tax policies and financial planning. And of course, they can sit down at the beginning of the year and think, "as long as I'm not laid off, I'll make $50,000 this year", while a wage earner is more likely to think "I'll make $40,000 this year, and take as much overtime as I can get, and I'll probably end up between 45-55 again." The wage earner may own a house, but the salary earner is likely to be very concerned with the "housing market." All these things combine to make the salary earner less likely to rock the boat - which can be a good thing, if it means avoiding electing a demogogue, but can also mean they're less likely to give up their luxuries and make changes that are actually necessary. The feeling of stability comes with a parallel sense of entitlement.

Glenn said...


Your analysis of Mr. Trump's appeal seems accurate. There are some factors that will make it difficult for him to benefit personally from it though.

One is demographics. He's appealing to a small group of angry white men who are losing ground and blaming other victims rather than those actually responsible. But his very public racism and misogyny lose him a far larger group.

Another is that most of the people who attend his speeches and rallies are not actually registered to vote.

One of the most important is that he does not actually have a ground game, i.e. an organization in each state or even each region. His campaign is clearly being done on the cheap, but it makes it hard for him to follow through. He might change this if conditions warrant later this year though. One of the most effective things he could do is address my second point by hiring people to register the attendees of his events and their friends and neighbors.

But whether Mr. Trump benefits or not, he has driven a wedge between the GOP base and the party's leaders. I suspect the GOP will self-destruct before the Democrats do; though both like ChinAmerica, are joined at the hip and will collapse at _nearly_ the same time.


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

rising-moon said...

[For simplicity's sake, does it make sense to include union members in the "salary class"? I'm thinking of the army of workers technically making hourly wages but contractually guaranteed a 35-45 hour workweek and benefits.]

Your argument is spot-on, and its implications chilling. Like the climate, this is weather that everyone talks about but nobody's willing to change.

I'm taking it personally and, I think, in exactly the ways you intend. Now I'm wondering how to help. I'm a salaried suburbanite, and I try to improve relationships in my vicinity: pay more to people who perform work for me; buy, use, and give things made by humans I've met and talked to; shop where I walk; etc. This in addition to following the sound house and home precepts laid out in your Green Wizardry series.

Baby steps, I know, and unlikely to affect national politics, but, like the guy throwing a starfish into the ocean...

What behaviors do you hope to see in the salaried class? Not to stem the tide, impossibly, but to help speed equilibrium in some way?

Hubertus Hauger said...

At this very moment Trump and sanders are forerunners. Yet, as I agree with JMG that the ever greater tension allover is going to be released. I wouldn´t want to be president at such a time. The USA is a overburdened vehicle on the road of time, doomed for breakdown. Honestly, I´d rather Trump to be blamed for that, than Sanders.

Either of them will be overhelmed anyway. Collapse is inevitable and regress irreversable. I see no chance for a soft landing, which Sanders aims at. Due to the tabu adressing the end of wealth due to peak everything, that most pressing issue keeps piling up over our head, till all will snowball on us down.

All we can do is simplyfy our material life and enlarge our social networks (plus, as JMG often says, our practical survival skills)

The election process is entertaiment for our leisure time, with no real impact on the thundering wave of time, which is draging us along.

rising-moon said...

This topic is chilling and spot-on. Thank you for pointing out the obvious, which is that Trump's support comes from _somewhere_, but, as the TED Talk speaker might have pointed out, nobody I know supports him.

For the simplicity's sake, should we group union wage-earners in with the salaried class? I'm thinking of the army of administrative staff who make hourly wages but are contractually guaranteed 35-45 hours and benefits.

As a salaried suburbanite, I took this argument personally. Which, I hope, was your intent. I've long been committed to paying more for people to perform work for me, to buying, using, and giving things made by people I have talked to personally, and to paying more for the objects I own. This in addition to following the sound house and home guidance you laid out in the Green Wizardry series.

All of these are small steps, but I hope they help.

What behaviors would help more? Not to stem the tide, impossibly, but to bring on equilibrium faster?

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160121T195353Z

Oh fine, fine, fine: in giving a Latin advisory regarding the Reich on this page (i.e., in giving an example of a motto which, in contrast with Leah's revised good choice, would be bad), I meant to write "E labore libertas" and "E labore fit libertas." That's what I meant to write. What I in fact wrote was "Ex labore libertas" and "Ex labore fit libertas." I had therewith forgotten the difference between a vowel and a consonant. Correct is "E labore libertas", since the letter ell is a consonant - in contrast with, for example, "Ex audacia calamitas," since the letter a is a vowel.

I committed the error in a posting timestamped "1/21/16, 9:08 AM" by the ADR blogging software, and more adequately timestamped, in the first line of the posting, by my own Debian GNU/Linux setup as "20160121T162921Z". I correct the error in anxiety, wondering if anyone else has already posted a correction of his or her own.

This kind of thing causes strong men either to weep or else, should their French be up to the task, to join the Foreign Legion.



pygmycory said...

One thing I notice is that a lot of younger-folk are coming out of university with expectations of salaries and it's generally not happening in anything like a reasonable time-frame.

A lot are working piecemeal or at jobs far below their skill level. I'm not the only person at the petstore I work at who has a degree in biology, and how silly is that? We're make minimum wage, for crying out loud, and my coworker doesn't even have my barriers.

It's also precious hard for younger people with disabilities to get into the work force at all. Where employers are supposedly legally bound (here in Canada anyway) to make accommodations, in my experience you just aren't going to get hired if you've got issues and no experience.

I understand the labor force in the USA is shrinking, which suggests that non-salary, non-working classes must be growing. Some of it is just people retiring, but there's a lot of prime-age people leaving the labor force too.

Are you sure that the situation of the welfare class isn't getting worse? Obviously I can't speak to direct experience of the US system, but here in BC minimum wages have risen in nominal terms about $2.45/hr since 2007 while welfare/disability hasn't increased a cent for anyone except single parents (who get $20/month more). In both cases inflation in food, housing, and utilities has increased faster than their income, but the fall in buying power has fallen faster for people receiving welfare/disability than those on minimum wage.

SunsetSu said...

I like your analysis of the four classes. In Seattle, where I live, there is a huge gap between the salary class, such as Amazon workers (called “Amholes” by some) and wage workers providing services (child care, food service, yard work, etc). But you left out another class, the rapidly-growing economic refugees (also known as the homeless) which has almost no chance of earning a living anymore. There are more than 4,000 men, women and children living on the streets of Seattle, camping under bridges and along freeways and in the newly-authorized (but entirely inadequate) homeless encampments. They are former members of the wage class who are scrambling for survival and are just as desperate as the Syrian refugees pouring into Europe.

Since my university purged large numbers of adjunct faculty in 2008, I’ve struggled to stay in the salary class. Piecing together alimony, (which will end in a few months) Social Security, wages from contract legal piece-work and income from renting out extra bedrooms in my house, I have a foot in three of the four classes. I spend a lot of time volunteering with the refugee class at a local soup kitchen, food bank and nearby tent encampment. This work makes me feel intensely grateful for everything I have.

I’m grateful to be in my 60s, with a house that is nearly paid-off and government benefits like Social Security and Medicare. This is a tough time to be young, with the enormous student-loan scam and few, if any salaried jobs even for the college-educated. It’s an even tougher time to be an economic refugee in a fabulously wealthy city like Seattle, which views economic refugees as “human garbage.”

pygmycory said...

I think one of the reasons Trump scares me is that he seems to be casually cruel verbally to assorted people who are different from himself. I am scared of what he'd do in a position of major power like the US presidency, if he backs up his words with actions.

I like the idea of not outsourcing work - that seems like an excellent idea to me. The mistreatment of working americans is wrong.

But some of the other stuff... not worth it. I don't want people being attacked or mistreated because of their religion or some other difference, and I honestly wonder if Trump would actually do a thing for working people once he got into power. He seems as much a base opportunist as the rest of them.

I like what I've seen of Sanders, for the most part.

Obviously I don't have a horse in your race, but I am stuck living next door so I still hear all the yelling and smell the manure.

Bill Pulliam said...

There's a guy who drives around town here with a banner across the top of his windshield that reads "EQUAL RIGHTS FOR WHITES" He's a white dude, probably 40-ish, groomed and dressed like the typical white country boy of that age and race. Many would probably see that and autimatically think racist, white supremacist.

I am not fond of his banner, but the thing is, I understand where he is coming from. He does not feel like a member of a privileged class. His jobs are gone, he never had access to education beyond high school, he has barely had a spare dime at the end of the month in his life probably. The trappings of "white privilege" are invisible to him, but he feels like he is being blamed for the ills of society.

Many would of course point out that he still benefits from white privilege in such things as employment, law enforcement, and criminal justice. Employment? I dunno, the unemployment rate in this 95% white county and the surrounding 95% white counties is among the highest in the state. I might oughta add that this county is not 95% white because of white flight. It's because it is rural and was not slave country. The white folk here are descended from the white folks who were here 100 years ago. Same for the small number of black families, they have also been here for more than 100 years.

Law enforcement? I have never known personally so many guys who have spent time in jail anywhere else I lived. DUI, drugs, domestic, etc. And these are white guys. The guys in the orange shirts picking up garbage? White guys. Rich man goes to college, poor man goes to jail, seems to apply regardless of race. Police-involved shootings? We had a fatal one just a few months ago. Young white guy (he shot first).

And FYI, some of these guys voted for Obama in 2008. Hope and Change sounded good to them, and torture fundamentally offended them. Hope? Not so much. Change? Yeah there's a few dimes in the floorboards of the truck.

My donkey said...

I think the presidential race is one giant distraction.
It's a grand puppet show designed to keep the masses alternately entertained or arguing/fighting among themselves or simply whining to the wind. The idea is to keep people busy, because when members of the ruled class are mentally occupied by distractions, they're not taking action against the ruling class.
This country - and industrial society - is on a path whose trajectory is not dependent on which puppet gets to play the role of president. Far better to ignore the entire puppet show and instead work on local initiatives with family, friends, and neighbors. That's what will make a difference in your life.

Friction Shift said...

Thank you for identifying another critical issue. You have revived a meme that the late Joe Bageant so brilliantly detailed in his book Deerhunting with Jesus,in which he wrote insightfully and respectfully about "the great beery, NASCAR-loving, church-going, gun-owning America that has never set foot in a Starbucks." Note the ringing similarities between Bageant's description and the rhetoric Sarah Palin used in her Trump endorsement speech, although the two people couldn't be more different. Bageant, too, took the liberal class(es) to task for their sneering dismissal of the wage class that has been so brutally beaten down since the 1970s -- and by the time Bageant wrote about them could accurately be described as an underclass.

I grew up in a well-to-do suburb of an industrial midwestern city. In my youth the income disparities between skilled working class people and (to use your term) salaried people were much narrower. In fact, many of my friends' fathers were tradesmen with high school diplomas who made quite a bit more than my father, a university professor with a doctorate. I don't remember the level of disdain toward these working class people (with admittedly middle class incomes) that one sees today toward the working class. Now, the income disparities are much, much greater. Perhaps this 1960s-70s-era income distribution helped form the foundation of the pernicious myth of America as a "classless" society.

I also remember that in the 1970s most of my middle class friends had decidedly working class summer jobs where, for a time, they had to share the lives of those who subsisted on those wages. I worked as a dishwasher, construction grunt, farm grunt, and pushed a hand truck around a liquor warehouse. A close friend of mine, who is of my generation, had a summer job all through high school picking beans in the fields outside Portland, Oregon. Those jobs would all be seen as far beneath a middle class white kid in 2016.

I do have to echo a couple of other comments regarding your assertion that the salaried class has allowed the working class to be hollowed out in order to keep those flat screens coming from China. I think it's much more complex than that, since the salaried class could include both the highest ranking members of the corporatocracy as well as fairly low level public employees. For example, my wife, a high school teacher, probably has more in common with working class earners than she does with a high-salaried hedge fund leech. She and her colleagues labored for an entire decade without a penny in raises (and with annually eroding benefits), and finally her union had to go on strike just to claw a 2% raise for its members. In her school the administration treats its teachers like wage slaves. I often tell her that the administration will soon change her title from teacher to education associate.

Because the subject of class has been stuffed for so long into a dank little locker of American public discourse, I am not sure we know, really, how to talk about its complexities yet. So, thanks for shedding some light there and reopening a critical discussion. And although I have always found Donald Trump to be an execrable human being, he, wittingly or not, is also pushing the issue onto the stage. About time.

One final thought. I agree wholeheartedly with your characterization of Obama as a continuation of Bush II, but the most thorough and brutal betrayal of the wage class was perpetrated by Bill Clinton. That makes many Americans wary of giving Hillary Clinton the opportunity to serve as an accessory after the fact.

Justin W. McCarthy said...

I watched with horror and fascination as the neteratti responded to the ranchers desperation to make a living with conspicuous displays of wealth to humiliate them... ( people sent dildos to the building they occupy, and some guy in Chicago sent a 55 gallon drum barrel of lube. I think the dye is cast on that, thought your Trump prediction was spot on even before this.. people so soon forget silent majorities.

Kendo Von Beerdrinker said...

An interesting breakdown, JMG. Trying to define class in America is always tough, in part because we like to pretend we are a classless society – a myth that likely took root in response to the stratified society of England, against which we had revolted in the 18th century, and which gained a second useful life during the battle against Marxism (it’s far easier to convince your working classes to reject Marxist arguments about class solidarity if you successfully convince your citizens that we are a democratic, classless society – or that our one, broad “middle class” has made historical class distinctions moot). I think your broad lines of class demarcation are both reasonable and useful, and I agree that Trump has successfully played the class resentment card to his advantage, aiming at an audience primarily of wage earners.

But I’m curious as to what you make of Bernie Sanders. Where Trump’s resentment goes in two directions - up, towards the investment class (and their bought-and-paid-for politicians), and down, towards the welfare class (whose perceived laziness costs the wage-earners through higher taxes) – Sanders only looks up, attacking the corrupting influence of Wall Street and corporate America on our political system and the policy choices that politicians have made (Trump nominally alludes to this when he points out that he donates money and as a result gets access to pols, but when he does it, the focus seems to be more on personal character – “see they’re corruptible! I’m so rich I can’t be corrupted!” – than a class-based attack on the wealthy or corporate America). Sanders, an avowed socialist, probably feels a lot more comfortable talking about class resentments and anger directly – again, focusing that anger upwards – while Trump takes what is both a more nuanced and scattershot approach at the same time when it comes to the class issue (the ability to pull that off may be the best evidence of Trump’s political brilliance). But do you think Sanders can also be successful with his more overt references to class and attacks on the wealthy, investment class? Moreover, suppose Bernie wins the Democratic nomination and Trump wins the GOP – which do you think the investment class would find more troubling, a President Bernie, who’s vowed to tax Wall Street to pay for social programs for the welfare and wage-earning classes? Or a President Trump, whose visceral, emotional connection with the wage earners could pose more of an existential threat to the “establishment” if he can successfully direct that anger upwards?

Unknown said...

If you haven't read "It Can't Happen Here" by Sinclair Lewis it may be time to do so. Think of Trump or the clever manipulator who follows him as Buzz Windrip.

I would fall into the definition of the salary class by source of income. But I don't really fit neatly into characterization presented here. My father was a very small businessman running a tiny retail store. My take away from his career is that I would rather pay more for something so that more wealth remains in my local community. I have lived in a large city and have seen that people of all kinds can live and work together, but during my lifetime we have unfortunately become more geographically segregated. I have live in farm country and have come to despise an industrial food system that punishes agricultural practices that allow small farmers to thrive while taking care of their land and livestock. When I was young I worked for wages and found the men and women to spent all their lives in those kinds of jobs to be people that I prefer over many with salaried careers. I spent the last of my working years at technical college in Wisconsin that did not exploit its students in the ways as the for profit scam artists. I suspect or at least hope there are many in the salaried class that share some of my experiences and attitudes. The problem is that except for those individuals with the drive to lead the opposition to the current system, it is tough for the rest of us to give more than lip service. We hate the system but don't see enough benefit from bucking the system unless there are enough other people who are also willing to buck the system. That might mean I have taken the easy way, or the rational way. But I also think we are also finally seeing enough change that a tipping point may still come during my lifetime.

Patricia Mathews said...

ed boyle said "The next depression is at our doorstep. "

That's odd. I thought we've been in it for the past 7-8 years already!

Debra Johnson said...

JMG, you wrote: “It’s worth noting… that every remedy that’s been offered to the wage class by the salary class has benefited the salary class at the expense of the wage class.”

My personal example: At the turn of the millennium I chaired an employee group at a university. We represented over 2,000 wage and salaried employees. I appointed myself the group’s representative on the university’s Insurance and Benefits Committee where I spearheaded a movement to reduce the cost of health insurance for the lower paid employees.

We succeeded, resulting in a 3-tiered system, employees paying 20, 30, or 40 percent of their premiums, based on salary. The university, of course, covered the difference.

Several employees thanked me for my efforts, indicating that insurance cost savings made a welcome addition to their salaries. (Technically, we were all salaried employees although many would fit better in your wage category.)

After about a year, however, the university outsourced the custodial staff – the largest single category of employees. This meant the custodians lost several benefits in addition to a great medical plan: sick leave, vacation time, and a paycheck for the 2-week Christmas break. What their new employer offered I don’t know, but I do know they were unhappy about the change.

Our housekeeping services also changed in that we no longer had a regular employee working our building. A regular custodian was no longer a part of our work family who came to Christmas parties and other functions. We no longer collected money to give to our custodian at Christmas.

Financially, the rest of us gained since there was no longer a need to provide salary and benefits to a large group of “wage” employees.

Debra Johnson said...

Point deux: Femaleness: biological in nature. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, most women stayed home to raise children and keep house. These women were well respected for that choice. When a woman had a career, she tended to be either a teacher or a nurse. I had a professor in the 70’s that had been the first woman to graduate from U of Pennsylvania (if I remember right). Now it’s common for women to be professors, CEO’s, senators, governors, presidential candidates.

What I observe as a result of this “liberation of women” is a loss of respect toward women who stay home to care for the home and children, particularly children beyond a certain age. Today we’re (somewhat) glorified when we compete successfully in the workplace but get the dismissive sneer should we fail to achieve some minimal level in our chosen fields.

PS Thanks for swivet – a new word to add to my vocabulary!

Ed-M said...

186 comments already! Wow. I've only read the first two sentences and already I have to comment on your splendid, popular post.

"[T]he most likely person to be standing up there with his hand on a Bible next January, taking the oath of office as the next president of the United States, is Donald Trump."

Unless Bernie Sanders gets the Democratic Party's nomination. Of course, that's a VERY big "unless." Because the way things look right now, the Democrats are going to nominate someone who is an old reliable but who possesses huge negatives about her. Yes, Hilary: that one. Just like the Massachusetts Democrats nominated Martha Ann Coakley for two statewide offices (Junior US Senator in 2010, Governor in 2014) and got soundly defeated at the polls both times. This time around is going to be such a HUGE trainwreck! And I prefer my trainwrecks to be on a model railroad made famous by the Addams Family.

Kyoto Motors said...

Okay. I do agree that Trump is efficient, and that it appears as tho' he could well rise to power. It is arguable that it's from the wage class that he gets most of his support (I have no way of knowing) But I have my doubts as to whether he is appealing to the wage class on their behalf, or just using them to leverage popular support...
Sanders at least appears to be arguing for policy that would truly raise the standard of living for wage-earners. Of course that too may be superficial...
Anyway, as an observer north of the border, well, what do I know. I appreciate your distinctions, as always. And I'm enjoying my popcorn!

Carl Blaise said...

I'm a sometime reader of this blog and enjoyed this commentary. I think, however, I've gotten more from the comments, especially from those who seem to be just now aware of class in America and those whose changing economic situations has them questioning the American narrative regarding its robust middle class. The “white” working class or lower middle class worker has historically allowed race to mute or weaken his/her complaints against owner class.

I grew up in the deep South in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement and I was always aware of class. Class sat right across the table from race because I'd see working class whites and working class blacks and the similarities and common interests were obvious even to me as a 6-year old: both groups punched a clock, wanted education for their children, wanted security for their family, et cetera. Unlike many other areas in the country, black and whites have lived in the closest of proximities to one another, but the racial line has been used to exercise control over both but in different ways. The control over blacks was obvious and brutal and no need (or space) to recount all that here. But there was control over whites, too, because one of the bones thrown to working class whites was that no matter how much they were screwed over at least they weren’t black. And being poor and white provided some benefits – tangible and psychological – that blacks couldn’t get (for example, the Federal Housing Authority, from 1934 to 1968, refused to guarantee mortgages for blacks or refused to guarantee loans for blacks or other people who lived near black people; Social Security exempted coverage for farmworkers and domestics and this hit blacks particularly hard; public housing in its early years was almost exclusively for whites; and the right to vote, sit on juries, blah, blah, blah). So, while the working white might amongst his peers complain about his class status he really didn’t/couldn’t because there was a racial component to his status and a racial component to his relationship to capital. He had to be careful about his complaints, and as the 60s came he had to think that equity and justice would literally come out of his pockets. Even today, when there are a range of initiatives that could be undertaken to improve the quality of life of many working people, the perception among some is that the underserving are getting free benefits; for whatever problems or imperfections the ACA has, it’s 100 percent more health care access than before for a lot of people. Any discussion of class in America that can’t/won’t account for the role that race played and continues to play won’t really be a discussion about class. The workers are not united and, as someone said, go watch the movie Matewan.

I, too, cautioned my liberal friends not to dismiss Trump. I don’t really like to dwell in labels too often, but the liberals and some conservatives dismiss him at their peril. As some of you have noted, Trump isn’t even about Trump; irony aside, he’s a representation of a lot of changes that have worked to the disadvantage of the working person. The working person in America is afraid to ask hard questions of capitalism (except when he’s being laid off) and, even now, doesn’t press for an explanation of how Trump is going to bring those jobs back or prevent capital from seeking its own level, so to speak. But the working person finally feels someone is at least asking the question in dinner-conversation-terms rather than cable tv jargon – even if the questions are greatly oversimplified (e.g., all that illegal immigration? well, that was the owner class drinking that cheap labor and the owner class that did very little to verify the status of the workers … owner class is political party independent).

Cherokee Organics said...


Oh my goodness! 186 comments by Friday morning. Well done.

Speaking of investment, I took the train into the big smoke last night and enjoyed a meal out whilst waiting and it gave me a whole lot of time to read the comments and then ponder their meaning. ;-)!

It surprises me to see the potent emotional investment that people have in the outcome of this whole situation. It shines through to me in the comments here. But then, I had to balance off that surprise with the knowledge that there is a real payoff for people to invest in the situation.

As a third option, the reason I wrote my folksie story about my personal response to these sorts of issues is that well, there are other options. And distancing oneself seems like the least worst option to me at this stage.

So I pulled out my crystal ball, muttered a few incantations and studied the results intensely and an answer became clear which I will now try and elucidate for yourself and the readers in simple English...

Deep in the crystal ball a couple of quotes shone through:

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." and also

"Do unto others"

I'm not of the Christian faith and neither are the deities I called on for insight and assistance, so I had to ponder why I saw these messages and that is where conjecture comes in (a lost art that one!).

I said to you a few weeks back that the system will do whatever it takes to avoid the impacts of inflation (i.e. generally rising prices) because it cannot withstand the consequences of that. It is not possible to hold off that forever given the sheer enthusiasm put into the printing press in your country, but there is still a lot that can be done to hold the shaky thing together.

The whole Trump thing is another step along the road to collapse, because his game will be that of throwing a large portion of the salaried class under the bus in order to keep prices down. And he will maintain that position by gaining and trying to hold the support of the wages class as an effective and strong bulwark. And the salaried class can hardly complain about it because they stood by and benefitted from the policies that threw the wages class under the bus. Pretty clever huh? ;-)! The wages class may have to be thrown some bones too because vitriol and revenge does not put food upon the table although it feeds base desires in humans. I can almost hear him now saying how it will be done because: It is good for consumers.

Once you understand peoples motivations – and I’m only guessing here – you understand the situation better. The problem is that these days people have forgotten to not try and project their own desires onto others. But then the whole places stinks of magic, so I guess that’s sort of what you get.

I'd also like to point out that the emotional investment is only given - and I find it personally awful to read it here - because there is a pay back on that investment. The funny thing is that people fail to realise that some investments lose.



Larry Barber said...

Wow, have you seen this:

"The fact of the matter is, most of them are childless single men who masturbate to anime. They’re not real political players. These are not people who matter in the overall course of humanity," Wilson said of Trump supporters on MSNBC's "All In with Chris Hayes."

Hard to imagine such contempt for what are supposed to Republicans.

Agent Provocateur said...


Initially I thought you were going to explicitly demonstrate why Donald Trump is Fred Halliot.

Instead you exposed a truth that dare not be spoken (till now) and showed how smart the man is to exploit it. This is the sort of surprise that makes you such a delight to read. Thank you. Before reading your essay Trump just baffled me.

Now a question: Is there enough evidence right now to suspect that Trump is indeed the "expected one" or is this too early in the game? Perhaps we need to wait for Trump's next book (to be written in prison during the next presidential election) to be sure?

Andy said...

John Michael Greer said... "Andy, it's a source of wry amusement that so many people on the left try so hard to insist that anyone who disagrees with them must suffer from some kind of personality disorder or mental illness. It's much easier than addressing the possibility that, say, Trump's supporters might have reasons to vote for him!"

Hmmm...didn't see that coming! I'm very surprised, especially in light of recent discussions of the education system and recognition that the US is passing through oligarchy and probably into fascism, that you saw a poll that examined authoritarian tendencies across the spectrum - progressive and conservative alike - and decided that it's nothing more than some liberal in denial.

One of the very strong indicators I've been watching across US society since returning from Europe is the disconnect between what's essentially propaganda and reality. An example - the very authoritarian/far right Koch brothers, through a couple of degrees of separation, start an astroturf movement in order to push politics in a direction that serves their bottom line. Through careful use of propaganda and information warfare techniques, the groups co-opt populist discomfort/discontent and lead it in a direction that has no way of solving the membership's concerns even though the rank and file membership believes that to be the case. Behold the power of propaganda.

So...Trump may win the Republican nomination. While the Democratic establishment still appears to be in deep denial, I expect to see Sanders knock Clinton out on that side. If current polling and analysis is accurate, then Sanders will beat Trump. Will that bring in a revolution? No more likely than Obama's. After all, the Republican system, when they met the night of Obama's inauguration to use all methods at their disposal including "Taliban-like insurgency tactics" according to Pete Sessions, has developed a process that has already successfully controlled a president and the majority party in the Senate. The Republicans have stayed on message and on task, and they've managed to create the most dysfunctional environment we've yet seen in this country as a result.

(Part 1 of 2)

Andy said...

(Part 2/final)

But for a group that sees a military solution to everything, and has continued to voice the need to fight terrorism (just the enemies outside the borders, thank you very much), they've triggered an 'as you think so shall it be' backlash that takes us to today's news about the armed insurrection in Oregon. The armed mob that left a legit 1st Amendment peaceful protest and started racking up daily felonies continues to spout the same message the Republicans have used since 2008 - they believe the President's a Muslim from Kenya, they believe he's issued more executive actions than anyone and is thus "King Obama". They are violating the US Constitution (while believing to be protecting it), those affiliated with the military are violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) while believing they're acting legally ("oathkeepers"), they're striking out against 'government owned land' (land held in trust for ALL citizens that actually belongs to the Paiute tribe by treaty), and say they're fighting 'overreach' (another oft-repeated message from the Caucus Room conspirators) by people that are doing their jobs per law written by Congress and signed by a prior President. They believe they're doing right, but are absolutely disconnected from reality.

And so we're back around. So many people have been fed so much disinformation - disguised as either marketing or political 'fact' - for so long that they're failing to identify fact even when it's right in front of them.

"A responsible consumer would be a critical consumer, would refuse to purchase the less good...People whose governing habit is the relinquishment of power, competence, and responsibility, and whose characteristic suffering is the anxiety of futility, make excellent spenders. They are the ideal consumers. By inducing in them little panics of boredom, powerlessness, sexual failure, mortality, paranoia, they can be made to buy (or vote for) virtually anything that is "attractively packaged."
Wendell Barry, The Unsettling of America, (1977) P26/27

Trump's quite the package, that's for sure...


Andy said...

Justin W. McCarthy said...
I watched with horror and fascination as the neteratti responded to the ranchers desperation to make a living with conspicuous displays of wealth to humiliate them... ( people sent dildos to the building they occupy, and some guy in Chicago sent a 55 gallon drum barrel of lube. I think the dye is cast on that, thought your Trump prediction was spot on even before this.. people so soon forget silent majorities."
Justin, with much respect, you've just absolutely nailed what I was trying to express in my earlier post. For some reason, you think the take-over of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is about ranchers trying to make a living, and then call the dildos sent in protest "conspicuous displays of wealth..."

Let's get this clear from the start: Ammon Bundy is not a rancher - he runs a small business (auto detailing?) in Arizona. His 'bodyguard' "Fluffy Unicorn" - a man that claimed to be a US Marine was never in the service - he's a tattoo artist with multiple arrests for DUI. One of the other insurrectionists is a gent from CA that killed his father - he's not an rancher either. None of the rump-militia gents are ranchers.

As for the Hammonds - claimed to be the 'reason' for the takeover (again - because the anti-government crowd see government overreach under every bush) were convicted of criminal arson after intentionally setting fires on land owned by the Department of the Interior (not BLM) to cover up deer poaching - even though the three earlier fires they intentionally set did not result in prosecution. The Hammonds told Bundy and the rump-militia they did NOT want or need their help.

Bottom line here - this is an illegal armed insurrection - this is full-on Insurrection per the US Constitution and the definition of Treason per the UCMJ (for those involved in national guard or that are still in the real 'unorganized militia' by virtue of active military service). This is not an 'occupation', this is not 'a protest', this is not about 'ranchers fighting for their livelihoods'. This action has been disavowed by all major rump-militia groups, Oathkeepers, the Mormon church (Bundy claims God told him to do this), and even Ted Cruze.

If we end up in a civil war, since I'm one of the former active duty folks in the 'real' militia, can we not start one on a lie? Pretty please?


Shane W said...

most of the people you mention seem to be of the salary or investment class, not the wage class. Am I missing something?
the amazing thing for me, is that once the North abolished slavery (yes, they had it, for over 200 years), they expelled their rural black population, and IT NEVER RECOVERED TO THIS DAY. Vermont is still whiter now than it was in colonial times--the vestiges of this expulsion lasts to this day.
What concerns me is the logical need to find the scapegoat you CAN punish, when the real culprit is just too powerful. We see this in the rise of the Klan in the South after Reconstruction. The true source of all their misery were the Yankees, who had just defeated them in war and during the humiliating Reconstruction, so their rage was diverted to the scapegoats, black people, who suffered. Now, we have the same issue with immigrants--the REAL culprits are the members of the salaried & investment classes who create the conditions, both here & in Latin America, that favor mass illegal immigration. But they're too powerful, so the immigrants get the brunt of the rage, even though in most cases they're wonderful people who have a lot in common culturally with people in the South. It concerns me because the US is long overdue for an implosion into smaller nations, and Mexico & Latin America are in line to benefit from that, and be the next regional powers, and treating their citizens poorly will be shooting ourselves in the foot diplomatically.

Iuval Clejan said...

What is Trump going to do to help the wage earning class? Probably nothing. So more resentment and more displacement of that population into the welfare class. Unless they can organize themselves to be more independent of the mainstream economy, and become part of the peasant and craft class. But not the kinds of peasants and craftspeople who sell to the investment and salaried classes, but the kinds who trade with each other.

Tidlösa said...

The best analysis of the Trump phenomenon I´ve seen. But then, I haven´t seen any other analysis of said phenomenon. Which in itself might tell us something...

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