In my last blog I spent a lot of words shitting on Socialism Sucks, a book certainly worthy of a good shitting on. Like anyone else who uses writing as a labor of love I typically don’t get in front of a computer screen unless I’m inspired. While reviewing Socialism Sucks absolutely qualified as something I was inspired to do, in a way it was a huge waste of my time.
Think what you will about my politics, my sports opinions, or my many personal decisions I’ve shared on here, but what you get on this blog is honesty. Everything I write can in some way be justified, whether it’s with empirical data (when it comes to sports and politics) or a window into my thought process (when it comes to my life). The reason my review of Socialism Sucks was a waste of time is because I used honesty to trash on a book that was constructed dishonestly by intention. I could have reduced those 2,000 words into something that more closely resembles that last sentence.
As some elixir to the free-market trutherism of Socialism Sucks I recently bought another Thomas Frank book, titled Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right (2012). After reading other books of his, such as What’s The Matter With Kansas?, Listen, Liberal, and Rendezvous with Oblivion, Frank has turned into something of a moral compass of mine. He’s the ultimate authority of my favorite subject — organized labor — and as with my other favorite writer, Christopher Hitchens, he doesn’t play favorites with regard to Democrats and Republicans. He makes clear the fact that both parties have abandoned the working class.
In my last blog I mentioned how the writers classified the 2008 financial crises as the fault of too much government regulation, which is absurd. In the forward of Pity the Billionaire Thomas Frank gets us back on track, and puts an end to any such notion (emphasis mine):
In 2008, the country’s financial system suffered an epic breakdown, largely the result — as nearly every credible observer agrees — of the decades-long effort to roll back bank supervision and encourage financial experimentation. The banks’ stumble quickly plunged the nation and the world into business-cycle downturn. Millions of Americans, and a large number of their banks, became insolvent in a matter of weeks. Sixteen trillion dollars in household wealth was incinerated on the pyre Wall Street had kindled. And yet, as I write this, the main political response to these events has been a campaign to roll back regulation, to strip government employees of the right to collectively bargain, and to clamp down on federal spending.
We are more than a decade removed from that sad saga, and another seven years clear from when Frank wrote this book, but you can see the process to further enrich the already insanely wealthy, and make more miserable the lives of the poor and disenfranchised, is a completely bipartisan arrangement. It happened under Barack Obama, who didn’t prosecute any of the bankers that destroyed the economy, it’s happening under Donald Trump, and it will continue in perpetuity unless a legitimate champion of the working class has power. Dream on, they tell me.
So while you are sitting there thinking I’m some broken record who has basically been writing the same story on repeat for the last four years, you would be right. But it isn’t because I don’t have better things to do with my time, and it clearly doesn’t have anything to do with people giving a shit about this issue. Most don’t, really. I keep writing about it because it’s literally the only story that matters. It affects you and yours, me and mine, and everyone any of us have ever known.
You see, some helpless, pudding-brained rubes might be convinced that the government is trying to take their guns away. They might post some dumbass, bullshit memes on Facebook about how taxation is theft. They might think Russia is the reason Hillary Clinton lost in 2016, or that everything bad that’s happening in the world is due to Donald Trump. But all these motherfuckers are wrong, and all these motherfuckers are missing the point.
The only thing that matters, and affects all of us, is class struggle. The wealthy — and I don’t mean that dude who lives across the street with a boat, I’m talking about billionaires with private jets — are robbing us blind. They don’t live by the same rules as the rest of us. They are hell-bent on wrecking the economy, again, and when they do it’s going to be us — the taxpayers — who will be responsible to pay the bill.
I mentioned Christopher Hitchens earlier, and back in April of last year I quoted something he wrote while he was still alive about the bank bailouts:
In a statement on the huge state-sponsored salvage of private bankruptcy that was first proposed last September, a group of Republican lawmakers, employing one of the very rudest words in their party’s thesaurus, described the proposed rescue of the busted finance and discredited credit sectors as “socialistic.” There was a sort of half-truth to what they said. But they would have been very much nearer the mark — and rather more ironic and revealing at their own expense — if they had completed the sentence and described the actual situation as what it is: “socialism for the rich and enterprise for the rest.”
This is the reality we are living through. Whenever someone like Bernie Sanders comes around and starts saying we need Medicare for All, or free public college, the billionaire class (through their millionaire media mouthpieces) ask “Who’s going to pay for it?” When the banks ruin the economy, again, and there’s another trillion dollar tab that needs to get paid, that question never gets asked. You already know who’s going to pay for it. We (the poor) (the workers) (the taxpayers) are.
That’s why Hitchens’ statement, “socialism for the rich and enterprise for the rest,” couldn’t be more true. In 2008 the banks knew what they were doing was risky, they knew what they were doing was wrong, and they did it anyway. Why could that be? It’s because they are who fund our politicians. They are who write our legislation. And they knew, even if the economy went bust, that they wouldn’t be held to account. The ordinary, everyday taxpayer, like you and I, were the ones who would pay for their sins.
Another decade and another long line of banking deregulation and what do you think happens next? Don’t fret, if you don’t know I’ll tell you: the economy is going to crash again. None of those responsible are going to be punished. And you and I, and yours and mine, and everyone we’ve ever known, will pay for it. It’s socialism for the rich, and enterprise for the rest.
We live our lives going through the motions of work, and we go home to the distractions of music and sports and Netflix shows and video games. It’s how we stay sane. But every so often — and for me it’s more of a constant — it’s necessary to pick up a book like any of Frank’s that I’ve mentioned, just to keep you pissed off. Just to remind you that it doesn’t matter how you feel about the culture wars that are meant to divide us, or the political parties that basically represent the same side of the coin. Protect the rich, damn the rest of us.
I can’t predict the future. If I could I would put my powers to good use and make all kinds of money betting on sports. But I do feel I have a pretty good idea of how things are going to go, and if you don’t like spoilers then I would stop reading now.
When the economy crashed in 2008, $16 trillion in household wealth went away. Regular people lost everything in savings, they lost houses, millions lost their jobs, many small businesses went belly up. Barack Obama, despite his mishaps in not doing the popular thing and taking to task the bankers, ended up getting the country out of it.
Since that time matters have slowly gotten worse. When Donald Trump took office he deregulated the banks and gave a trillion dollar tax cut to the wealthy. He gutted numerous public sectors and bloated the military budget by another ho-hum hundred billion dollars. His conservative Supreme Court voted to help further destroy unions of public jobs. This is what they do, baby.
What I’m curious about is what happens when the economy crashes again. I’m not sure if it happens six months from now, or two years from now, but it’s going to happen. Last time it happened some people lost everything, but then there were many others who still had something to lose. Next time around I’m not certain that second part will be true. This economy can’t absorb another million-plus jobs being lost, or another several trillion dollars in household wealth going the way of the dodo.
I still can’t predict the future, but I’m guessing the public outrage won’t be as benign as it was in 2008. When people have nothing to lose, they take to the streets. That’s a dangerous situation for the bankers, and the wealthy, to be in. Because despite the amazing power of the United States military or local police forces, I’m not sure there’s enough government-sponsored-goon manpower to go around to squash the amount of regular people who literally have nothing to lose. This isn’t the scenario I want to see play out, but it’s also not something I would be terribly upset to see. Real change will never take place in America until there’s a credible threat in the streets brought by ordinary people.
I love this country, but I also realize the road we’re currently on is not sustainable. When the rich continually take from the poor, eventually there is nothing left to take. And once there is nothing left to take, there’s going to be a revolt. This type of thing doesn’t happen overnight, but unless something changes it’s going to happen. It just can’t not.
I want this story to end peacefully. The further we go, however, the more I’m convinced such a prospect is impossible.