My alleged friends

It’s hard for me to have much sympathy for those who are suffering the travails of stock market performance since last Thursday, August 20. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down, if I have added correctly, 1,682.29 points over those four trading days.[1] Nor have I much sympathy for my high tech friends whose start-ups may now face greater difficulty raising money.[2]

I’ve been frozen out of alleged economic recoveries since 2001, unable to find gainful employment in a world where job-hunting appears increasingly to be an insider’s game, where applications and resumés overwhelmingly wind up in the trash (or, if you’re of a technological inclination, /dev/null, otherwise known as the “bit bucket”), and interviews are mostly conducted as a means of going through the motions necessary to hire already-selected candidates. My alleged friends have been no help—only two friends have ever, in that time, lifted a finger to help me find work—one came up entirely empty and the other referred me to an interview where the department had—surprise!—already selected someone else. I have had a grand total of three interviews in those fourteen years despite submitting thousands of resumés and hundreds of on-line applications. I have done everything I can do, to no avail.

Obviously, I cannot find employment on my own. And equally obviously, my alleged friends couldn’t care less.

So as far as I’m concerned, all of my alleged friends with their high-tech start-up stock options have it coming. May they suffer as I have these last fourteen years. Especially after one of them had the gall to tell me my problem was my attitude. There is surely a special place in hell for everyone who subscribes to any version of the “Law of Attraction,” whether so named or not, that serves to blame victims for their suffering.

And as for the rich, they have long benefited—and will presumably continue to benefit—from a scheme of exchange that inherently favors the rich over the poor. As Max Weber explained roughly 100 years ago, any system of exchange serves to favor whomever has the greater ability to say no.[3] As he put it,

the mode of distribution monopolizes the opportunities for profitable deals for all those who, provided with goods, do not necessarily have to exchange them. It increases, at least generally, their power in the price struggle with those who, being propertyless, have nothing to offer but their labor or the resulting products, and who are compelled to get rid of these products in order to subsist at all.[4]

Moreover, as Weber also explained, these privileges and handicaps accrue[5]: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. But my alleged friends continue to celebrate capitalism or at least to prefer it to a cooperative system.

My alleged friends seem to hope that we can return to a less inequitable variation of capitalism, like the one in which, perhaps, an elite terror of communism restrained the rich from letting inequality become so extreme that workers might turn red.[6] Within the realm of the politically possible, which my alleged friends all insist upon, any hope of this evaporated with the fall of the Berlin Wall, which was taken by capitalism’s fans as an affirmation of so-called “free trade,”[7] which of course isn’t very free at all. Especially if you’re frozen out like I am. Rather, the elite benefit from my condition. I, and others like me, serve as a warning to those who are still getting by that they must conform,[8] that they must not agitate for a more equitable distribution of prosperity or improved working conditions because there are so many like me (figure 1) who would replace them.[9]

Fig. 1. Employment to Population Ratio, not seasonally adjusted, from Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

But my alleged friends, at some level, believe with Warren Buffett that “the rich are not undeserving and that ‘most of them have contributed brilliant innovations or managerial expertise,’ to America’s economy.”[10] This along with their general trust of an authoritarian system of social organization, of course, is absolute nonsense. It’s the kind of thinking that, perhaps most notably with our woefully inadequate response to climate change, may very well get us all killed.[11]

Bernie Sanders, running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, represents much far too little a step in the right direction, far too late. Even if—and yes, I do see an outside chance that this might happen—he manages to win the presidency, he will be up against an entrenched elite that is determined to protect its own privilege.[12] But my alleged friends cheer him on regardless, just as many of them continue to celebrate the incumbent, Barack Obama, who appeals to progressive principles when he wants the progressive vote, and “hippie punches” at all other times and in all other ways,[13] while pursuing a war criminal and neoliberal agenda that, along the way, excused bankers and the Bush administration even as it left the unemployed and underwater homeowners to twist in the wind.[14]

But despite all this, my alleged friends would have me believe that they care. In case they haven’t figured it out by now, I’m calling them out on their bullshit. No one who thinks this status quo is in any way good enough or that it can be ‘reformed’ cares. They simply carry on in their comfortable lives complaining about my attitude whenever it intrudes upon their magical thinking.

But now there’s this problem in China that has the stock market all upset. Oh, and stocks are over-valued. And traders may be more cautious for a while (that is, until they once again become ‘irrationally exuberant’). And here’s a great one: Maybe the economy isn’t so wonderful after all.[15]

  1. [1]Wall Street Journal to Major Indexes: Closing Snapshot list, August 20, 2015, http://online.wsj.com/mdc/page/marketsdata.html; Wall Street Journal to Major Indexes: Closing Snapshot list, August 21, 2015, http://online.wsj.com/mdc/page/marketsdata.html; Wall Street Journal to Major Indexes: Closing Snapshot list, August 24, 2015, http://online.wsj.com/mdc/page/marketsdata.html; Wall Street Journal to Major Indexes: Closing Snapshot list, August 25, 2015, http://online.wsj.com/mdc/page/marketsdata.html
  2. [2]Katie Benner, “Hot Tech Start-Ups May Face a Long and Bumpy Fall,” New York Times, August 24, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/25/technology/hot-tech-start-ups-may-have-higher-funding-hurdles.html
  3. [3]Max Weber, “Class, Status, Party,” in Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings, ed. Charles Lemert, 4th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010), 119-129.
  4. [4]Max Weber, “Class, Status, Party,” in Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings, ed. Charles Lemert, 4th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010), 120.
  5. [5]Max Weber, “Class, Status, Party,” in Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings, ed. Charles Lemert, 4th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010), 119-129.
  6. [6]Branko Milanovic, “Did socialism keep capitalism equal?” Global Inequality, August 22, 2015, http://glineq.blogspot.com/2015/08/did-socialism-keep-capitalism-equal_52.html
  7. [7]Melvyn P. Leffler, “The Free Market Did Not Bring Down the Berlin Wall,” Foreign Policy, November 7, 2014, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/11/07/berlin_wall_fall_25_anniversary_reagan_bush_germany_merkel_cold_war_free_market_capitalism
  8. [8]Herbert J. Gans, The War Against The Poor: The Underclass And Antipoverty Policy (New York: Basic, 1995).
  9. [9]George Kent, Ending Hunger Worldwide (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2011).
  10. [10]Alexander Ward, “Warren Buffett thinks the poor should stop blaming inequality on the rich,” Independent, May 23, 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/warren-buffett-thinks-that-the-poor-need-to-stop-blaming-inequality-on-the-rich-10271780.html
  11. [11]Christopher Hayes, Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy (New York: Crown, 2012); Edward “Rocky” Kolb et al., “Three minutes and counting,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 19, 2015, http://thebulletin.org/three-minutes-and-counting7938; Mark McDonald, “U.N. Report from Rio on Environment a ‘Suicide Note’,” New York Times, June 24, 2012, http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/24/u-n-report-from-rio-on-environment-a-suicide-note/; Arthur Neslen and Karl Mathiesen, “Paris climate pledges ‘will only delay dangerous warming by two years’,” Guardian, June 3, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/03/paris-climate-pledges-will-only-delay-dangerous-warming-by-two-years; Eugene Robinson, “Our politicians are flunking the vision test,” Washington Post, November 3, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/eugene-robinson-our-politicians-are-flunking-the-vision-test/2014/11/03/2776c154-639e-11e4-836c-83bc4f26eb67_story.html; Roberto Savio, “The Future of the Planet and the Irresponsibility of Governments,” InterPress Service, November 21, 2014, http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/the-future-of-the-planet-and-the-irresponsibility-of-governments/; Roberto Savio, “The Sad Future of Our Planet,” InterPress Service, December 15, 2014, http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/the-sad-future-of-our-planet/
  12. [12]Christopher Hayes, Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy (New York: Crown, 2012); C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite (1956; repr., New York: Oxford University, 2000).
  13. [13]Blue Texan [pseud.], “Ed Rendell Tells Democratic Base to “Get Over It” on Rachel Maddow,” Firedoglake, September 23, 2010, http://firedoglake.com/2010/09/23/early-morning-swim-ed-rendell-tells-democratic-base-to-get-over-it-on-rachel-maddow/; Blue Texan [pseud.], “Stop Whining, Liberals!” Firedoglake, September 27, 2010, http://firedoglake.com/2010/09/27/late-night-stop-whining-liberals/; Michael Falcone, “Opposite Day On The Campaign Trail?” ABC News, September 21, 2010, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2010/09/election-2010-opposite-day-on-the-campaign-trail/; Glenn Greenwald, “Obama’s view of liberal criticisms,” Salon, September 17, 2010, http://www.salon.com/2010/09/17/obama_139/; David Neiwert, “President Obama lashes out at his liberal critics: Choice is to ‘get things done’ or feel ‘sanctimonious’,” Crooks and Liars, December 7, 2010, http://crooksandliars.com/david-neiwert/president-obama-lashes-out-his-liber; Heather Digby Parton, “‘It’s always the hippies’ fault’: Why the left treats its idealists all wrong,” Salon, February 5, 2015, http://www.salon.com/2015/02/05/its_always_the_hippies_fault_why_the_left_treats_its_idealists_all_wrong/; Greg Sargent, “Liberal blogger directly confronts David Axelrod, accuses White House of ‘hippie punching’,” Washington Post, September 23, 2010, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/09/liberal_blogger_directly_confr.html; Sam Youngman, “White House unloads anger over criticism from ‘professional left’,” Hill, August 10, 2010, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/113431-white-house-unloads-on-professional-left
  14. [14]Neil Barofsky, Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street (New York: Free Press, 2012); Kevin Drum, “10 Reasons That Long-Term Unemployment Is a National Catastrophe,” Mother Jones, December 23, 2013, http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/12/10-reasons-long-term-unemployment-national-catastrophe; Thomas Frank, “Cornel West: ‘He posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency’,” Salon, August 24, 2014, http://www.salon.com/2014/08/24/cornel_west_he_posed_as_a_progressive_and_turned_out_to_be_counterfeit_we_ended_up_with_a_wall_street_presidency_a_drone_presidency/; Glenn Greenwald, “Obama’s justice department grants final immunity to Bush’s CIA torturers,” Guardian, August 31, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/31/obama-justice-department-immunity-bush-cia-torturer; Tom Hamburger, Carol D. Leonnig and Zachary A. Goldfarb, “Obama’s record on outsourcing draws criticism from the left,” Washington Post, July 9, 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/obamas-record-on-outsourcing-draws-criticism-from-the-left/2012/07/09/gJQAljJCZW_story.html; Annie Lowrey, “It’s Still Bad for the Long-Term Unemployed,” New York Times, April 4, 2014, http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/04/its-still-bad-for-the-long-term-unemployed/; Christopher Matthews, “Long-Term Unemployment: A Weak Link in a Fragile Recovery,” Time, August 20, 2013, http://business.time.com/2013/08/20/long-term-unemployment-a-weak-link-in-a-fragile-recovery/; Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Compilation prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in accordance with paragraph 15 (b) of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 and paragraph 5 of the annex to Council resolution 16/21: United States of America,” May, 2015, http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G15/039/92/PDF/G1503992.pdf?OpenElement; Matthew O’Brien, “Who Are the Long-Term Unemployed?” Atlantic, August 23, 2013, http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/08/who-are-the-long-term-unemployed/278964/; Andrew O’Hehir, “Obama’s ‘Dirty Wars’ — and a soiled presidency,” Salon, June 9, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/06/09/obamas_dirty_wars_and_a_soiled_presidency/; Norman Pollack, “Obama’s Militarism-Imperialism Lite,” Counterpunch, May 27, 2013, http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/27/obamas-militarism-imperialism-lite/; Eric Posner, “Obama’s Drone Dilemma: The killings probably aren’t legal—not that they’ll stop,” Slate, October 8, 2012, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/view_from_chicago/2012/10/obama_s_drone_war_is_probably_illegal_will_it_stop_.single.html; James Rosen, “Obama’s bid to squeeze Social Security enrages his core backers,” McClatchy, May 2, 2013, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/05/02/190228/obamas-bid-to-squeeze-social-security.html; Matt Taibbi, “Yes, Virginia, This Is Obama’s JOBS Act,” Rolling Stone, April 12, 2012, http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/yes-virginia-this-is-obama-s-jobs-act-20120412; Matthew Yglesias, “Statistical Discrimination Against the Long-Term Unemployed,” Slate, April 23, 2013, http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/04/23/long_term_unemployed_face_ferocious_statistical_discrimination.html
  15. [15]Jennifer Ablan, “DoubleLine’s Gundlach says U.S. equity markets face another major leg down,” Reuters, August 24, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/24/us-doubleline-gundlach-stocks-idUSKCN0QT24420150824; Peter Eavis, “Stocks Plunge Sharply for a Second Day on Wall Street,” New York Times, August 21, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/22/business/dealbook/global-markets-fall-for-second-day.html; Matt Egan, “After historic 1,000-point plunge, Dow dives 588 points at close,” CNN, August 24, 2015, http://money.cnn.com/2015/08/24/investing/stocks-markets-selloff-china-crash-dow/index.html; Drew Harwell, “Global sell-off turns to chaos in rocky day for financial markets,” Washington Post, August 24, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2015/08/24/new-day-of-carnage-for-financial-markets-amid-global-selloff/; Ken Sweet, “Dow drops 358 points after China fears spur global sell-off,” Seattle Press-Intelligencer, August 20, 2015, http://www.seattlepi.com/business/energy/article/US-stocks-lower-in-late-morning-trade-as-global-6453114.php

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