Which Came First, the Failed Ideology or the Spiking Mortality Rates?

One of the things that drives me nuts about the obsessive focus on Russia right now is the claim that Vladimir Putin is the biggest risk to America, to the EU, to western civilization. That claim ignores that — to the extent Putin is engaged in policies to maximize his advantage vis a vis American hegemony right now — the opportunity to do so has been created by the failure of American hegemony. The biggest threats to the EU, for example, stem from the idiotic policies “technocrats” enacted after America crashed the global economy and a refugee crisis caused, in part, by the chaos America has sown in the Middle East over the last 15 years (and to some degree manipulated by “allies” like Turkey). Sure, Putin is making the most of the American failures, but the underlying causes that make right wing populists popular, here and in Europe, can be significantly blamed on America. Significantly, that’s about a failure of the policies dictated by American ideology to deliver on what it promises — peace, democracy, prosperity.

Which brings me to this passage from a WSJ article on the latest installment of Anne Case and Angus Deaton’s documentation of a big spike in mortality among white people in America.

“For many Americans, America is starting to fail as a country,” said James Smith, chair in labor markets and demographic research at the Rand Corp., who wasn’t involved in the paper and said he was struck that mortality rates are rising for young working-class adults. “The bad things that are going on in America do not appear to be going on in Western European countries, and that’s a big deal.”

The spike in mortality, Case argues, is not about existing life conditions, but rather about “accumulating despair.”

The increase in mortality rate for working-class whites can’t be explained by declining income prospects alone. Blacks and Hispanics face many of the same income struggles but have experienced declines in mortality over the same period, the two economists argued, though their findings reveal more recent troubles for blacks, with gains stagnating the past couple of years amid an increase in drug overdoses and stalling progress against heart disease.

“This doesn’t seem to be about current income,” Ms. Case said in a call with reporters. “It seems to be about accumulating despair.”

The rising mortality of working-class white adults appears to be rooted both in worse job opportunities and increasing social dysfunction, following generations of relatively stable lives that involved job advancement and an expectation of living better than one’s parents, the researchers said.

As a number of people have noted, both today and after earlier releases of Case and Deaton’s data, one of the few precedents for such a spike is the rise in mortality in Russia leading up to and after the fall of the Soviet Union. Addiction and other despair-related health problems were significant in both.

Which got me wondering: to the extent this is driven by a failure in ideology — by the failure of the American dream — which comes first, the failed ideology or the rising mortality rates? That is, are people dying of despair in response to the recognition the American dream doesn’t deliver for people like them anymore (which, it should be said, has always involved white Americans benefitting from the unequal treatment of brown people both in the US and around the globe)? Or did a worsening lifestyle lead to a spike in mortality that has contributed to despair and the collapse of ideology?

I don’t know the answer — and admit it might be more closely tied to policy outcomes than ideology. But as we try to figure it out, we ought to be focusing at least as much on how to roll out life and meaning that can sustain Americans again as we are on blaming Putin for our recent failures to do that.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

47 replies
  1. Desider says:

    I wouldn’t overexaggerate the effects of Mideast crises on Europe. The # of refugees allowed in have been relatively small, despite some border tensions & some visible issues of refugee camps and attempts to primarily get to Germany, UK or America (who wants to settle for Romania?)

    Europe’s primary issues are about local populism (as always) and jobs (note that East Europe is siphoning jobs from West Europe, and still offshoring has some effect as UK among others allows Chinese goods to come in sans tariffs.)

    Greece is separate because they had complete economic irresponsibility. Other countries have largely followed the rules and still found themselves in hot water. Tough times on the global circuit for sure. How to grow jobs? Not an easy question to answer in the age of Uber and downsizing and everything virtual, along with tax scams like Apple not paying taxes in New Zealand for years.

    One good thing about fracking and the decline of oil prices is that Russia’s stopped holding the EU hostage to yearly/biannual threats to cut off all gas,while Donbas has turned out less explosive than once feared. So Russia has to stay relevant in other ways – say getting involved in Syria and Libya to try to pick up any advantage. Still, there’s only so far you get when your key industry is fading with none really growing, and you’re living on assassinations, money laundering, hacking,intervening in civil wars, and making grotesque displays of faux wealth such as Sochi. Yes, their society is basically unhealthy, and there’s no longer the budget surplus to throw money at public services (not that Putin wasn’t already docking those to pay for a growing military & intelligence capability).

    But the US will be facing many of the same jobs pressures that the EU and others have to deal with – the democratization since 1980 & 1989 & 1992 of China & East Europe and the Soviet Union along with other communist or marginalized countries has created a huge labor surplus with little to sustain salaries and traditional demands, as a variety of industries go through optimizations & downsizing. The cluster sites like Silicon Valley don’t hurt so badly because business still flows to them, even if more tenuous and overpriced than before, but the “heartland” or basically anyplace that’s a backwater is having to deal with a lot of doing without & come up with new ways to stay relevant and employed. I suspect we’ll eventually have to take up a living baseline income for everyone as some in EU are already testing, perhaps along with shorter hours to encourage wider employment, but seeing as how fitful transition to more complete healthcare has been, I doubt that conservatives will go willingly, preferring to see say truck drivers freeze to death as Gorsuch defended just yesterday, vs. surviving the transition as any with a heart might back.

  2. Kathleen says:

    I sometimes think of Ken Galbraith’s formulation at the beginning of _The Affluent Society_: ideas (maybe also ideologies) are not so much discredited as much as they become irrelevant; not overturned or argued as much as rendered no longer persuasive in their reach.
    He didn’t say so, but I think the truth of this observation lies in the fact that any given power structure is not an honest broker, or hospitable host, of dissent. Seems like the American dream is no longer persuasive in its reach, and some of the despair is driven by this and also the fact that this has yet to register in a meaningful way on the powers that be. I think there are several dimensions to this crisis, holding many implications for the institutions of our national life, but the “deaths of despair” remains the most profound and undeniable.

  3. peonista says:

    Nice to someone in the “liberal” blogosphere getting this.  I would add the other thing Russia is doing besides capitalizing on western policy failures is protecting itself. You do not have to be an Einstein to see the handwriting on the wall. If any nation that the west does not like or has resources the west would like to control, doesn’t take steps to protect itself then that nation will be the next to experience a color revolution and regime change. Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Ukraine, are not positive poster children for the western “humanitarian war”, democracy building regime change. No sovereign nation that can resist this chaos is going sit complacently by and wait to be next.

    When the media starts calling your government a regime, and especially a regime prefaced by the name of your current president (the Saddam regime, the Gaddafi regime, the Assad regime, the Chavez regime, etc) watch out. You are next.

     

  4. trevanion says:

    Interesting question. After moving to such a rural area (where that big spike in mortality lives and breathes) one quickly becomes struck by the cold stranglehold of (1) market concentration among those who supply goods, services, and employment along with (2) control over everyday transactions coming via a “policy” by someone far away. Far more so than in an urban area.

    From opioids to banking to the types of groceries available to internet access to sick leave, the manifestations would take pages to list, and out here you can watch it eat away at the souls of those trying to stay ahead of things. Talking to folks yields the impression that this element of ruthlessness or lost sovereignty (for want of a better word) in the everyday basic transactions of life is at a level that is something new, creeping in over the past 15 years or so.

  5. seedeevee says:

    Putin invented vodka as a false flag operation to convince America that Russia was drunk and hopeless.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    a failure of the policies dictated by American ideology to deliver on what it promises — peace, democracy, prosperity.

    Indeed.  America’s aspirations are denied by its actions.  America is not built on peace; it was and is built on war and deprivation.  (Ask any Native American, ask any person not blessed with pale skin, or scan the American “defense” budget.) 

    America is a declining democracy owing to a narrowing of prosperity and political weight to the upper, upper tier, a decades long phenomenon built on neoliberal policies expressed as corporate and government conduct. 

    Much of the world sees this, certainly Putin and those living in America’s greatest war zones: the Middle East now, SE Asia a generation ago, Africa and Latin America forever. As you say, it is the disconnect between the benevolence of our oft-touted aspirations and the cruelty of our conduct that is America’s greatest export, an American mission civilisatrice that carries on the behavior of earlier empires.  It provides the combustible fuel for many of the world’s problems.

    • Charles says:

      As long as we remember that the Russian and Chinese plutocracies–indeed the empires of any Great Power– are malign, it’s fine to remember America’s sin as well. But Russia–“the prisonhouse of nations”–was built on war, and China has recently waged war against Vietnam and Tibet. To the extent that America is worse, it is because it is more powerful. Into the vacuum of American decline will advance powers no less ruthless.

       

      American decline is harmful to the world. What is needed is American transformation and renewal…an end to the corruption and abuse of power by elites. There is a great deal of idealism in this country–much more so than anywhere else, I believe– and it needs to be recognized and encouraged.

      • seedeevee says:

        “American decline is harmful to the world.”

        Nahh.  American Ascendancy and Supremacy has caused untold horrors on this world.  Our entire history is one of belligerence, subjugation and anti-human rights actions.

        • DW says:

          Why, if the US has nothing to offer than “anti-human rights actions” was it a big deal when we recently refused to show up at an international human rights forum?

          “Nothing but” is a wide, wide brush.

  7. Charles says:

    I think the obsessive focus on Russia is just fine, as long as it ends up in illuminating international financial corruption.

     

    Remember that the endpoint of investigating Russian interference in our election and likely ties to Trump is not arresting Vladimir Putin or any other Russian. It is in exposing and punishing the corruption of Americans, and especially Donald Trump.  This is a man whose friendships and business dealings with mobsters were written about decades before he became a candidate, a family that boasts about receiving a large portion of his income by apparently laundering dirty money from abroad into real estate, a man who has swindled customers and employees alike.

     

    Who cares if (within limits) Donald Trump is a Russophile? What matters is all the criminality swirling around him. And this represents corruption not just in Russia–though corruption is choking that country–but corruption by wealthy elites all over the world.  Exposing and prosecuting this network of sketchy money, much of which has probably evaded just taxation, is a favor to all the people of this world.

     

    One more point: part of the Trump corruption seems to have to do with ending sanctions on Russia that would facilitate the extraction of Arctic Oil. At the very least, it most definitely involves refusing to admit the reality of global warming and slowing the implementation of alternatives that would slow the onset of catastrophe.

     

    I see good investigative journalists, people I respect and trust, agonizing about the over-the-top rhetoric used by some of those going after the president. There is hand-wringing that this is a “coup” by the “Deep State”.  The absurdity of thinking that Democrats– who have no power in Congress or the Executive and are about to hand the keys to the Supreme Court to far-right partisans–are conducting a coup is laughable. And to imagine that the national security apparatus, which did everything over decades that it could to undermine both of the Clintons, right down to the Comey statement that caused an apparent 2-3% shift in the national polls against Hillary Clinton, is in the bag for them… it is to laugh and cry at the same time.

     

    What we need–what I rely on Marcy for– is dispassionate analysis that tells us who is saying what, who is dissembling, and what is going on.  Let the truth come out and let the chips fall where they may, because if the extent of international financial corruption is exposed, I have no doubt that the Earth and its peoples will be much the better for it.

  8. SpaceLifeForm says:

    The ideology comes first.  Money.

    Society was doing pretty damn well across the planet until 1963-11-22.  People had jobs and disposible income.  Then the income tax structure started to change.  The rich got richer.  Then inflation and gas shortages, and other economic machinations that lead to zero disposible income.  People divided between rich and poor.

    No progress in sight.

    The love of money is the root of all evil.

    And the rich are blinded by the wealth and can not see that it is a losing outcome.  For everyone including the rich.

     

     

     

     

     

  9. PeasantParty says:

    I just don’t know other than we are going to have to learn to live like the Pioneers, or first Nations. I would suggest storing enough food/supplies for a month or longer. If it is not needed, fine. If so, then you have at least something to go on.

    I have been trying to keep up the best I can on the cashless society they have installed in India. People are starving to death there because money has been cut off, with only small allowances daily. They also threw Bill and Melinda Gates out of the country, which some news reports say is due to Vax issues, but I am learning that they helped to usher in the removal of money with the Bankers. It appears that Greece and India are trial balloons.

    I’ve also been trying to watch the Fed and banksters as they just finished up their spring Jackson Hole meet-up. Not much is coming out in the Finance publications, and that is a red flag for me. Yes, we are due for another recession. I think this one whenever it finally shows itself is going to be horrid. If I find anything of value I will share.

    OT: The Wikileaks Press Conf. today was hacked on three venues. I have found one link which I will share:

  10. jonf says:

    Our economic well being has been contracting for decades now. You can pick the time it started as around the 70s or perhaps a little later, maybe with that trickle down economic crap. But there came a time when gains in productivity all went to the top, when we seemed to give up on unions and the working man.  But we all bought into it, to an ideology of profit and then global trade and the inability of government to do anything right. Hell, who needs that socialism shit. Some call it neoliberalism. I don’t know what to call it, but we collectively thought it was ok that business should run the world. It was ok that the gains went to the top and that business could pursue profits on the world markets.

    In time it resulted in less opportunity for the working man and lower wages for the wage earner. And college proved to be a bridge too far for many. But what the hell. That’s on you, right? There followed the despair of alcohol and drugs.

    So, yeah, our ideology making business supreme, the government small  and the commons a thing to be privatized is behind it. I saw Sanders as a hope to break this cycle  with lessening of inequality, higher wages, universal health care and free education.  Now we have an administration who will make it all the worse. And still too many of us vote to continue with the insanity. I suppose not enough of us have been infected to make a change.  It is too complicated.

     

    • p says:

      So very well said!  History shows us that in Germany in the 1930’s the Gvt. began privatizing all the public entities, and infrastructure.  Today we have that hidden behind witty words like Public/Private Partnerships.  There will be a Toll Road fee to pay to get to anywhere in the future.

    • RUKidding says:

      Many of us have been fighting against the rising tide that you depict in your comments, but I agree that far too many US citizens agree with this nonsense.  And, at any rate, every time there’s been a thin sliver of hope that maybe there might be some changes for the better for the commoners, we get crushed under by someone like Obama who was clearly sent in to continue the cycle of Reaganomics, to prop up the banks, the wealthy, Wall St, etc, while grinding the proles under.

      Sanders presented another ray of hope, the DNC put paid to that right quick.  Now we’re adjured that it was all the fault of the Russians that all the dirty tricks that the DNC did to keep Sanders on the ropes, while Clinton got to sashay to her resounding and well-deserved defeat.  We would be in almost the same place today with Clinton at the helm as we are with Trump.  Frankly the D party doesn’t really care that Trump is in, and that there are far fewer D pols in both houses.  What?  Me worry?  Just more payola for me to play my role in the Kabuki Theatre of pretending to “care” about my worthless disgusting horrible constituents.

      It’s all about money and greed anymore.  It usually does end up that way if you read your history books and review what happened to all of the great empires over time.

  11. SpaceLifeForm says:

    OT:  More retroactive cover for third party records being sold for profit.  About a decade ago it was call records.   Now it is DNS lookup records  (easily intercepted).

    The SPIN is, well, creative.

    https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/03/senate-votes-to-let-isps-sell-your-web-browsing-history-to-advertisers/

     

    The Senate today used its power under the Congressional Review Act to ensure that the FCC rulemaking “shall have no force or effect” and to prevent the FCC from issuing similar regulations in the future.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Neoliberals do not want small government.  They want a narrowly focused government, one that supports only the concerns of the top one or two percent.

    Neoliberals do not want government to oppose corporate interests, whether it be by restricting predatory pricing and other predatory behavior, or by improving pricing, improving health and safety for workers, communities and the environment.  In short, they do not want government exercising its ability to oppose corporate power.

    Neoliberals do want fewer social programs so that people are more vulnerable to corporate influence.  They do want society to have no memory of government successfully working for the many instead of the few.

    • RUKidding says:

      Agreed.  That’s where it’s at, especially at erasing the memories of when things did actually and truly work better for the commoners. Can’t have that anymore.

  13. greengiant says:

    Ideology failure precedes the rise in the death rate. Real wage earnings fall since the 70’s in the US. Hegemony runs out of foreign victims and turns to tax the 99.9 percent through government mandated monopolies. Exponential growth runs out of resource “discoveries” and technological advances. William K. Black’s “control fraud” and deepcapture.com expose of Russian oligarch/mafia ( is there a difference? ), WSJ’s Enron post mortem of how Arthur Anderson partnership went from hiring by CPA test scores to “rainmaker” golf scores as the villains Accenture made their escape. How big oil management selection schemes crashed with the BP exec who stopped maintenance at the Houston refinery and killed north of 20 people in time to be promoted for Deepwater Horizon and sending contract divers to early deaths by exposing them to diluted Corexit. Add the forever wars and government subsidized monopolized opiates, increases in costs of education and employment destructive “optimization”, it starts to show up in death rates.

    • John Casper says:

      “Real wage earnings fall since the 70’s in the US.”

      Well said.

      “National income and its distribution is the ‘rock’ upon which the capitalist financial structure rests.”  Unfortunately, that rock is holding up a huge financial structure, and the trend toward concentration of income and wealth at the top makes it ever more difficult to support the trend toward concentration of income and wealth at the top makes it ever more difficult to support the weight of the debt.

      Tymoigne, Eric; Wray, L. Randall. The Rise and Fall of Money Manager Capitalism: Minsky’s half century from world war two to the great recession (Routledge Critical Studies in Finance and Stability) (p. 222).

  14. Bob In Portland says:

    Read this: https://thebaffler.com/salvos/from-russia-with-panic-levine

    The whole “Russia hack/Trump traitor” meme was originally created as false flag, undoubtedly with US intelligence and Ukrainian intelligence help, last year. There was little doubt then that Clinton would be the next President. It was created with the purpose of giving Clinton the “self-righteous posture” of Clinton going to war with Russia as the Defender of American Democracy. Unfortunately for the war hawks in the Deep State Trump won.

    What is the one thing that the Deep State wants that Trump won’t give that Clinton was falling all over herself to give them? A war with Russia.

    Why are so many “progressives” ready to gobble each bit of unsubstantiated gossip against Trump (I am not a Trump supporter, mind you) and not look at the whole “elephant”? It’s part of a CIA pre-war propaganda campaign. And now, if Trump won’t give him that war, then President Pence will.

    • RUKidding says:

      Yes, exactly.  But my D voter friends are in a frenzy with hair on fire to dump Trump. They have drunk deeply the Kool Aid that Pence – Pence!! – will be “better.”  I’ve had discussions with other sane individuals on blogs who have similar experiences to mine.  The D voters have really been heavily propagandized, just like any good Fox watching Tea Bagger, and they simply cannot be reasoned with.  No amount of facts will sway them.

      I don’t like Trump much either and didn’t vote for him.  But I’d rather cast my lot with Trump than with Pence.  It’s not a great choice, but the better option seems clear to me.   Sadly not so much for most D voters.

      The other side of this Dump Trump idiocy is that what’s going to happen with the next election and the one after that and the one after that……???  Are we going to have the “opposing” side constantly engaged in some “Gotcha” investigations in order to dump the winner because the opposition are mad about it??  This is an extremely dangerous game, imo, yet D voters are blissfully ignoring this at their peril.  Fools.

  15. Evangelista says:

    “which comes first, the failed ideology or the rising mortality rates? …are people dying of despair in response to the recognition the American dream doesn’t deliver for people like them anymore…Or did a worsening lifestyle lead to a spike in mortality that has contributed to despair and the collapse of ideology?”

    As in so many polls and surveys ‘the’ answers are provided, and those ‘answers’ reference the pollster’s/surveyor’s perspective, spuring on tangent from some minor cord of the question being used to initiate and direct the ‘discussion’.

    I will suggest reading some histories of peoples in eras of mortality spikes (and spikes of suicide, and looking for factors that may be reduced to common denominators. Failures fo ideals are not among reduce-able factors. The reducible factors are more basic.

    A good source for reading in this area is Howar Zinn’s “Peoples History”. Begin with the peoples of ‘Hispaniola’, who are today extinct. Continue forward to the indigenous peoples of the Americas, from whose mortalities (as also in the Hispaniola case) disease, murderings and bio-terroristic elements have to be removed. Continue to other cultures, e.g., the Chinese, whose cultures were dominated through colonial impositions. Continue to the people of the United States the last time current conditions prevailed, when a monied elite’s colonizing tactics reduced the population to the kind of common helplessness you find a factor in all such cases, in the 1920’s and 1930’s before the ‘Roosevelt Revolution’, which averted, or is asserted to have averted, depending on political point of view, violent revolution (by introduction of ‘socialisms’, which put the welfare of ‘the people’ ahead of the monied elite, and imposed rules that forced 1. sharing of money across the society and 2. rules to govern manipulations of monies by the elite, in their inter-elite manipulations and ‘dealings’ with those of ‘the people’ they inveigled into dependencies as ‘debtors’).

    Recently, if you review rationally, you will notice that trade policies moved manufacturing to low-cost exo-United States locations, removing the ‘economic engines’ that circulated money in large segmental areas of the United States population (you might notice that the removers continued to anticipate economic circulation between themselves and the population whose economic engines they ‘stalled’, and you might notice that their doing so ‘bled out’ that population, and induced ‘national debt’ as the ‘public sector’ borrowed, from, of course, the monied elite, to fund the stalled and supply the ‘economic blood’ the monied elite sought, portions of which were then going overseas to build thriving economies in the low-cost manufacturing areas this circulatory scheme depended on).

    You might also notice that social utopiation scheming amongst a sub-elite of social-system manipulators generated a bi-lingual social mapping scheme in the United States. If you have quicker intelligence than social utopiators have you might also recognize that the United States was, when this mapping was introduced, predominantly mono-lingual, and that where bi-lingual was literately so, with little vernacular bilinguality in the population (and what there was of that scattered amongst a variety of ‘home-spoken’ languages). You might, under these conditions recognize that the policies of utopiative social ‘engineering’ (apologies to real engineers) introduced by this social-sub-elite (sometimes called ‘progressives’ or ‘liberals’) created a social situation where favored alternate vernacular speaking bilinguals were favored in employment situations, reducing the monolingual population to unable to compete. You might also have noticed that no, or very few, efforts were made to provide bi-linguality to the major population, while efforts to make alien favored-alternative language speakers bilingual were aggressively pursued.

    If you are able to put all of this togetherr you might be able to develop for yourself a perspective of what has brought the United States to the state it is now in, which is reaching toward a cusp of upheaval and violence. The crux of such cusps, for those who have not time nor stomach for study of revolts and revolutions, especially the very vicious and bloody ones, is failure of the monetary system the location is dependent on, with a subsequent degenereation into chaos. Especially where debt has been encouraged, for which failures of incomes seque into losses of basic necessities, shelter, food, security, and especially where the losses of those are for takings away, episodes of chaos tend to be violent, and divisive.

    That is the bad news for the United States.

    The good news is that through the efforts of the monied elite and their dependents who govern to secure themselves and their securities,paranoia has been wiped out in the United States! As St. Orwell may have stated, perhaps in verse 1884 of his Scriptures, “When they really are spying on you everywhere, there ain’t no paranoia no more.”

  16. Charles says:

    Bob in Portland says,

    “The whole “Russia hack/Trump traitor” meme was originally created as false flag, undoubtedly with US intelligence and Ukrainian intelligence help, last year. ”

    Having read Yasha Levine’s article, I came to no such conclusions, and neither should anyone.

    What he was saying was that the evidence that the hacks against the DNC were Russian is hardly conclusive. That’s the case with most hacks.

    However, it’s ludicrous to imagine that there is a “Deep State” brilliantly plotting to install Clinton with a casus belli and then putting out through the FBI a faux scandal that would cost Clinton 2-3% of the vote, enough to give Trump the presidency. What geniuses!

    The reality is that the law enforcement/intelligence services have long hated and sabotaged the Clintons (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/03/fbi-leaks-hillary-clinton-james-comey-donald-trump) , and this despite the Clintons desperately courting them. True, a few Obama figures (e.g. Mike Morell) were in Hillary’s camp, and she did her best to drape herself in American uniforms. But given the choice of a traditional hawk like Clinton and a lunatic like Trump, what were they supposed to do? Trump got the cranks, people like James Woolsey and Michael Flynn.

    There are three facts that should be central to any understanding of the events of the election:
    * The principal beneficiary of the DNC leaks and of Comey’s statement about the Weiner/Abedin computer was Donald Trump
    * Donald Trump and many of his foreign associates, including a remarkable number of Russians, are corrupt on a heretofore unimaginable scale
    * Some of the corrupt oligarchs are in the Russian government

    I also think it’s telling that the tone at Wikileaks has changed in the last few years. It used to be a site that exposed all governments and released information that helped human rights organizations confront those governments. As of today, the front page is all NATO members. The leaks no longer are of much help to human rights defenders.

    And yet China is engaged in illegal and dangerous actions in the China Sea. Russia has deployed a hypersonic missile that could destabilize the “balance of terror”, setting off a new arms race and greatly narrowing the decision time before a counter-launch. Neither Russia nor China are benevolent. They are aggressive empires. Yes, the US is also an aggressive empire.

    But Wikileaks is, strangely, focused in one direction only. I get it that Julian Assange blames the US, and Hillary Clinton especially, for his imprisonment. But if Wikileaks is more than Julian Assange, it should reflect more than his anger against the US.

  17. lefty665 says:

    Failure in ideology has led the parade, by around forty years, and it is a bi-partisan failure.  “rising mortality of working-class white adults …following generations of relatively stable lives that involved job advancement and an expectation of living better than one’s parents, the researchers said.”  That fails to understand that model of advancement and stability ended long ago. It has not existed since the late 1970’s for between 80% and 90% of the population.

    We have a multi generational failure to thrive. It is not a surprise that life expectancy is going down. It is profoundly ironic, if you have the luxury of irony, that the fat cats and professional class just below them have proposed things like raising the SS retirement age because their life expectancies are going up, seemingly unaware that is not happening for the majority of the country.

    There have been no real wage gains for 80%+ of the country since 1978.  That is now coming up on three generations, grandparents who stalled, children who did no better, and now their children with no hope for a better future.  America has failed them. Jimmy Carter throttled them in the process of slowing inflation, Reagan screwed them over on general principles, and the Clinton right wing, DLC, “New Democrats” abandoned them in 1992. The political party that had brought them hope, advancement and security since 1932 bailed on them.  Duhbya doubled down for the rich, and Obama’s neo-Liberalism and government for, by and of the fat cat elites was icing on the cake. Is it any wonder the masses who have been screwed extended a middle finger to the people who screwed them, both parties, for about the last forty years, and voted for someone who said he was going to help them, to “Make America Great Again”?

    Some of it goes back to policy in the ’65-’67 period.  LBJ decided to finance the Vietnam war on credit.  We could have guns and butter, no tax increases to pay for war, perhaps the first time in our history that has happened. By the late ’70’s inflation was in the 15-20% range and out of control. Fed chair Volker tightened the screws to stop the inflationary spiral, and in the process real wages for most of the country stopped growing and jobs disappeared. It was all down hill from there. Along with no real wage growth benefits eroded too. Pension plans changed from defined benefit to defined contribution and many were underfunded.  Health benefits became more stingy and health care costs soared.  All the while the fat cats continued to extract the lions share of the wealth and left workers with less, less and still less.

    Mainstream Repubs have never been interested in the well being of the masses, and the Dems gave up caring in 1992. Bill may have been able to feel peoples pain, but he didn’t give a shit about it. The crashes of the dot com bubble and subsequent housing/derivatives crash in ’08 destroyed household net worth, jobs and prospects for the future. Black household net worth eroded to just about $0 after 2008 and white households net value fell by half. Neo-Liberal Obama’s “stimulus” was half tax cuts for the rich, and enough real spending to stop the economic free fall, but not nearly enough to restore prosperity. The Treasury and Fed poured trillions into the fat cats while using real Americans to “foam the runway” for the TBTF banks. Cooking of the jobs numbers has created a fantasy land of “happy days are here again”. Real people know it ain’t so. Employment as a percentage of the workforce continues to bounce around record lows.

    The Dems continue to rant hysterically and throw tantrums because they was robbed, never thinking of their decades old abandonment of the people who were the foundation of their party and of prosperity in this country. People who finally in 2016 said they’d had enough. There is no hope the Repubs will change, and until the Dems purge the fat cat, neo-lib, elites that have brought them down there is no hope they will change either.  If Trump fails to make things better for the people who elected him, as seems likely, 2020 will be a humdinger of an election for those who are still around. Trump may end up considered a compassionate sweetheart compared to what comes next. The swing will not be, as neo-lib elites seem to think, back to one of their own. Forty years of rust, corrosion, increasing desperation and despair mean those days are gone.

    Tell us Dems, have you had enough fun yet? Are you ready to get over angst and self pity and embrace an honest ideology?  Getting reacquainted with the first principles of the party, aka the New Deal, and respect for all citizens is where to start. It is not a mystery. The party has collapsed so far that the re-building has to begin at the local and state levels. The loss of almost a thousand state legislative seats since 2009 is profound. Rebuilding will take time, and Repub majorities in mostly Repub state legislatures will re-district even more Repubs into safe districts in 2021. You’ve already wasted 1/3 of a year shrieking and rending your hair. Will you ever settle down and get to work?

    • John Casper says:

      lefty665,

      Not what you said last month.

      “Trump seems to be making a few good appointments. Mattis at Defense is head and shoulders a better choice than Obama holding over Gates at the beginning or Carter at the end – bookends, and not so great in between either. McMaster as national security advisor is also arguably far better than Rice (either one). Gorsuch would never be my choice for the court, but he appears to be a decent human being and a big step up from Scalia. It will not be hard for Tillison to be a better Secretary of State than either of Obama’s choices. Trump can hardly make worse economic advisor choices than Summers, Geithner and the whole Rubin Citi crew, although he seems to be trying with the Goldman gang. The point being that not all of Trump’s choices are Bonkers Betsys, and in many ways (some better, some worse) this is just another presidential transition, the 43rd since Washington handed the reins to Adams.”
      https://www.emptywheel.net/2017/02/21/ask-uncle-ed-3a/#comment-711144

      Yesterday, you stood behind it.

      “That was a pretty nice ‘graph, nice to see it reprinted.”

      https://www.emptywheel.net/2017/03/20/fbi-delayed-telling-the-gang-of-four-about-trump-related-investigation/

      You’re welcome.

      Based on what you wrote yesterday in the link above, do you owe this site $100 for “tantrum?”

      “Nah, ‘ya gotta get the Dems to contribute for each hysterical squeal and a hundred bucks for a tantrum.”

      Will you join the Democratic party in Virginia?

      Will you join the Green Party?

      • lefty665 says:

        Hey Twit, inane and wrong once again. Sad when you can’t stick to the current post. Seems your learning curve runs the wrong way. Better get your twit race application in.

        • John Casper says:

          “Hey Twit, inane and wrong once again. Sad when you can’t stick to the current post. Seems your learning curve runs the wrong way. Better get your twit race application in.”

          What about contributing $100 to this site every time you write any variation of these words “tantrum, hysteria, bonkers, delirium, twit?”

          • lefty665 says:

            Nice that you quote me and put your twittiness right there next to your name. Your learning curve really does run the wrong way doesn’t it? Too funny. How do you do in the experiments where they put a bunch of twits in front of keyboards to see if they will eventually produce the great American novel? Do you get an award if you rise to inane?

            • John Casper says:

              “Your learning curve really does run the wrong way doesn’t it? Too funny. How do you do in the experiments where they put a bunch of twits in front of keyboards to see if they will eventually produce the great American novel? Do you get an award if you rise to inane?”

    • greengiant says:

      What Dems Lefty?   I don’t think you can get onto the precinct committee without being a made member of the hegemony.   Local politics seem more corrupt than even national politics.  The so called Dems that were for the TPP?   Not very many true democrats out there.   I understand Rayne and others in the purple states worked hard in the election.  As far as hysterical rants,  I assume those are false flag operations,  otherwise as you say,  some neo-****** nonsense.  Until money don’t count as in Sanders or Trump’s campaign those neo-********* with the purse are running the show whether Dem or Republican.

      • John Casper says:

        Yep.

        Somehow lefty665 didn’t have room in 900 words to mention collective bargaining–unions–TPP, and fair trade.

        Reagan slammed the Air-Traffic Controllers, but he would never have been elected if unions hadn’t trusted him. Nice 90-second video of his speech in front of the Statute of Liberty.

        “These are the values inspiring those brave workers in Poland, the values that have inspired other dissidents under communist domination, who have been willing to go into the gulag and suffer the torture of imprisonment, because of their dissidence. They remind us that where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost… They remind us that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. You and I must protect and preserve freedom here, or it will not be passed on to our children and it will disappear everywhere in the world. Today, the workers in Poland are showing a new generation how high is the price of freedom, but also how much, it is worth that price. I want more than anything I’ve ever wanted, to have an administration that will through its actions, at home and in the international arena, let millions of people know, that Miss Liberty, still lifts her lamp beside the golden door.”

        http://bloggingblue.com/2015/03/ronald-reagan-collective-bargaining-freedom-video/#comment-146867

        Think lefty665 also left out natural capital–the environment.

      • lefty665 says:

        Hi GG, The roughly half who supported Sanders and Ellison for DNC chair would qualify as paleo-Dems. You are absolutely right, neo-lib elites, not real Dems  are running the party. My experience was that the local committees were more clubs and popularity contests than real political operations.  I’d call them mostly more inept and naive than corrupt, a lot of local folks meant well. You’re also right, the neo-Libs and “New Dems” don’t really qualify as Dems. You can sort them out on issues like TPP and NAFTA among other positions.

        Not so sure it’s a false flag operation. It seems a lot of Dems are sincere, they were so sure Hillary was going to win they have not gotten over the shock. They are so traumatized they can’t do anything but scream hysterically and throw tantrums. Reminds me of my kids when they were around two or three.  At least the kids did not have a nationwide echo chamber to amplify and reinforce the nonsense. I do think the hysterical ones serve like Stalin’s “useful idiots” for the elites running the show, which is not far from your false flag comment.

        Sanders showed a different way to raise real money, so there’s a model out there that doesn’t sell out to the fat cats. The Dems did not reinstate Obama’s ban on lobbyist money that Wasserman-Schultz rescinded. That was telling.

        My concern with local and state parties is that they have been in a 25 year decline, and that has accelerated in the last 9 years with almost a thousand state seats lost.  There are only 6 states with Dem Govs and Leges. That is a lot fewer than there were in ’11 for the last redistricting. If the Dems do not turn it around dramatically and in a hurry, the Repubs will hold such an overwhelming majority of states the ’21 redistricting will create a monster of safe Repub seats, both at the state level and in Congress. The Dems can effectively put themselves out of business. They have gotten a good start on the process, and they can’t blame Comey and the Russians.

        The local level, positions like board of supervisors, planning commissions, school boards are the party farm teams. They are where candidates come from. As local Dem presence ebbs they loose folks able to move up the elective ladder. We can see it in Congress now. There are not many bright young faces pressing for the opportunity to move into leadership positions. Instead we get ancient hacks like Pelosi and Hoyer.  I’ve been advocating that the Dems trade their Donkey for the Cheshire Cat, soon nothing will be left but the smile.

        Dunno what replaces it.  The Repubs are not any more interested in the deplorables than the Dems. As this thread was about, shortening lifespans are an indicator that things are seriously wrong. 80%+ of the country is not thriving. There are limits how long that can go on.

    • jonf says:

      Lefty, I have one comment. Inflation in the 70s had a lot to do with oil and was a supply shock. When you buy your oil from the ME and the supplier (OPEC) decides to increase the price you don’t have much of an option other than to pay what he wants or stop using it. Volcker screwed up big time IMO by raising interest rates to try and stop inflation under that circumstance. Hard to,figure what he had in mind. But if you had money to invest it was a good time. Anyway in time inflation came down as the higher price worked its way through the economy. We have high oil prices yet today but decidedly less than the $147 a barrel around 2008. As an aside, you would maybe think that a nation facing those problems would decide to exert a hell of a lot more influence in energy.

      There was also the Powell memorandum in the 70s that started business down the path of taking it all for themselves and that merged into Reagans trickle down economics. You know,  let business invest  and we will all be better off. Problem is who wants to invest when there is no demand or why not invest overseas? And on it went- sort of bad to worse. We no longer think unions matter and when did we last raise the minimum wage? Poor people have little representation. And they are poor for a reason and dying for a reason. And it affects us all lest we all face the same future.  And as bad as the dems are these days ( and yes, they suck) if you think them other folks will help or make America great again like going back to the old days, I have a bridge to sell you. That is the very last thing they want.

      • John Casper says:

        “But if you had money to invest it was a good time.”

        Excellent point. Thank you.

        Savers were rewarded with banks competing for their dollars with interest payments. Businesses don’t survive without customers.

        “Without spending–there are no sales;
        Without sales–there are no profits;
        Without profits–there is no demand for workers;
        Without demand for workers–there is no job creation;
        and without job creation–there is no recovery!”

        I got this from economist @ptcherneva . Not sure where it originated.

        • jonf says:

          Yep. Funny how that simple sequence eludes so many. And the reverse happens too. In fact some of it is automatic and results in a higher deficit. But some hate deficits and try to stop it. Idiots.

          • John Casper says:

            Agree.

            We can run out of drinkable water, safe food, sustainable energy, some metals, minerals, and medicines. We can’t run out of dollars. What matters is the real economy, the part that makes stuff. Finance has to be in service of that. We’ve got it backwards.

      • lefty665 says:

        Hi jonf, You’re right, OPEC and the oil shocks certainly did play a role in the inflation of the late ’70s – early 80s. Several things played into it including Nixon pulling us off the gold standard. However, I’d be reluctant to discount the role of LBJ’s fiscal policy, guns and butter, screw up. In addition, we were flirting with “stag-flation”, a stagnant economy and high inflation. At around 15% annual inflation you can almost feel prices going up daily, and we had a couple of years like that. It was a scary time, people had visions of Weimar Germany and runaway hyper inflation. Volker did what he had to do. No mystery about it, he was pretty blunt, he was going to strangle inflation, and he did. We disagree on oil prices. Crude today, in inflation adjusted dollars, is about twice what it was after WWII.  That is not a huge price increase over more than 70 years.  If we were counting inflation honestly today current crude prices would be cheaper compared to past prices, current wages would be even lower in comparison to past wages too. But that’s a different discussion.

        From my post you responded to, you know we agree that the Repubs are hopeless.  Currently the Dems are too. My hope is that by identifying current Dem behavior for what it is, hysteria and tantrums, they can be helped to regain their senses, purge the corrupt neo-lib elites and re-form a party based on New Deal first principles.

  18. David says:

    We went to the finance economy, and away from the real economy (per Michael Hudson). In the real economy there was identity and meaning. The finance economy is an unfortunate permutation. In the finance economy it’s information that matters. People must believe it’s abundant living that delivers them special information, what’s valid IOW. They have to believe something about it, because information is so dry…whereas, for example, offset printing is not “dry” in this way. In the finance economy you have to be proud of the information you have. Being all in the head, it’s subject to bad moods, tiredness, sickness. What’s left when you’re sick? What if you’re a lathe operator though? You can look over at the little anvil ornament you made when you spent some time across the room at the miller for a while during lunch. The worst thing about information defining identity is that it’s so malleable. If a trendy person claims thus and such you can adopt it instantly. You can assume you know this information as well as Bannon himself or Ron Paul himself; but then you find these ideas of theirs are such indefinite things that others have assumed they know them as well as you do. The unmitigated gaul! Yes, and the unmitigated gaul not to have the sense to go beyond Robert Mercer and at least allow a little walnut of a government. The same goes for taste in art. It’s really information…so and so’s art is cooler than John Legend’s, etc. Information isn’t tied down enough, and thus one viewpoint will not easily seek similarities with another. Sets of facts tend to vie with one another over correctness. Whereas for quilt makers there’s no correctness involved.

  19. John Casper says:

    @lefty665 at 12:55 a.m.

    You wrote, “My experience was that the local committees were more clubs and popularity contests than real political operations.”

    What “local committees?” Please be specific.

    Any chance you impose a moratorium on yourself wrt use of “tantrums, hysteria…,” until after you’ve donated a couple $100?

    • lefty665 says:

      Your learning curve really does run the wrong way doesn’t it? Too funny. How do you do in the experiments where they put a bunch of twits in front of keyboards to see if they will eventually produce the great American novel? Do you get an award if you rise to inane?

      • John Casper says:

        “Your learning curve really does run the wrong way doesn’t it? Too funny. How do you do in the experiments where they put a bunch of twits in front of keyboards to see if they will eventually produce the great American novel? Do you get an award if you rise to inane?”

  20. erichwwk says:

    MK Bhadrakumar: “American civil war is good for world peace”

    “To my mind, this is about the appropriate time to begin pondering about a world sans America. That is to say, an international system where America has taken “time out”. Is it a good thing to happen? Well, it is already having some salutary effect on the international climate. The global tensions have noticeably eased. If it was commonplace during the Obama era to discuss a potential war between Russia and the US, including a nuclear war, no one wastes breath over such things anymore.
     
    “As the saying goes, dogs bark but the caravan moves on. The world community cannot possibly ask for more.”

  21. Mitchell says:

    You now have fifty-odd years of conservative types electing liars who, once elected on the basis of their flaunted patriotism — screws them and the nation. (Sort of like the Dems have been doing, but for a much shorter period of time, and with much less betrayal.) Now that they’re first getting a clue, of course it would mess people up to realized how awfully they’ve been played. And thanks to the World’s Greatest Healthcare System, opioids are just about the easy addiction to commit to these days.

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