Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Six Narratives on the Ascendancy of Trump

Perhaps the masses have (finally!) reached the point where the pain of maintaining the status quo now exceeds that of breaking it.
A remarkably diverse array of "explanations" of Donald Trump's presidential election victory have been aired, representing both the conventional political spectrum and well beyond.
Let’s start with the conventional mainstream media “explanations”:
#1: Trump was elected by intolerant Americans, i.e. “deplorables” who are intolerant of immigrants, Muslims, women’s rights, gays, etc. while being overly attached to firearms and the Christian religion.
This sort of broad-brush slander is emotionally appealing to those who lost the election, as it enables the losing party to claim the high moral ground. (It’s also classic propaganda, a topic Chris addressed in a recent series.) But it overlooks the many Progressives who voted for Trump but did not dare announce their choice to their hysterically intolerant Democratic loyalist friends. For example, consider this female voter’s account: Liberals Should Stop Ranting And Seek Out Silent Trump Voters Like Me.
This "explanation", though satisfying in terms of self-righteousness, has no credible explanatory value.
#2: Trump didn’t win the election, Hillary Clinton lost it.
This “explanation” constructs a narrative from polling data: African-American voters did not turn out for Hillary in the same high percentages as they did for President Obama, a surprising number of higher income households voted for Trump, etc.  If Hillary had drawn the expected percentages of voters, she would have won.
This “explanation” explains nothing, as it ignores the larger issues that drove voters to vote or not vote.
#3: The unprotected Americans (to use Peggy Noonan’s term) who have seen their incomes and security decline in the age of neoliberal globalization voted for Trump to reject globalism, unfettered immigration and free trade.
This narrative is ably dissected in this 5-part series from Spiegel.de: Inequality, Market Chaos and Angry Voters: A Turning Point for Globalization
In the U.S. media, this narrative is typically characterized as a sports event: the “losers” of neoliberal globalization struck back at the “winners.”
This explanation draws upon well-established economic trends: sharply rising inequality, the hollowing out of the Rust Belt and rural economies in “flyover” America, etc.
#4: Trump’s victory is another manifestation of the global revolt against elites.  
Defenders of the status quo—broadly speaking, neoliberalism’s financial “winners” and the ruling elites—are quick to equate outbreaks of populism with the dreaded scourge of fascism. In the defenders’ accounts, the rightist, nationalistic populism of the 1930s led directly to fascism.
The article titles in the December 2016 issue of Foreign Affairs summarize the conventional characterization of populism as reactionary and dangerous--never mind that populism can also be leftist (look at the anti-globalist movement) or largely apolitical:
-- Populism on the March: Why the West Is In Trouble
-- Trump and American Populism: Old Whine, New Bottles
-- Populism Is Not Fascism, But It Could Be a Harbinger
There are few if any positive words for populist movements in these essays, and precious little recognition of populism’s potential to upend a grossly corrupt, inefficient and self-serving global elite—an elite that richly deserves to be cashiered.
While the mainstream media grudgingly admits that the ruling elites paid little attention to soaring income and wealth inequality, or to globalism’s “losers,” the answer to defenders of the status quo is the usual grab-bag of policy tweaks that leave the ruling elites and their media apologists firmly in charge.
#5: Trump has been set up as the fall-guy for an economy that is teetering on the edge of recession or even depression. The coming recession/depression will discredit Trump and the populist/nationalist movement, setting the stage for the neoliberal globalists to return triumphantly to power in four years.
While many of us wouldn’t put such nefarious scheming past the globalist elites, this doesn’t quite align with the reality that virtually everyone, mainstream or alternative, left or right, dismissed Trump’s presidential campaign as a media-circus sideshow staged by a narcissist.
Since virtually no one expected him to win when he entered the race, why would globalists support him when their candidate, Hillary Clinton, was a shoo-in? Rather than pick him as a fall-guy for an economic depression, the claim that he was picked by globalists as an easy target for defeat (another alternative media narrative) makes more sense.
But the reality is nobody could predict Trump’s victory, and theories based on the idea that he was set up as a fall-guy presume the globalists rigged the election for their candidate (Hillary) to lose.  Why install a “dangerous” populist when you could install your candidate?
#6: The Clinton campaign was a “quiet coup” of corrupt elites intent on solidifying the merger of private-sector/philanthro-capitalist pay-for-play and government functions.  A “counter-coup” staged by elements of the Deep State (i.e. the unelected permanent government that remains in power regardless of which party is in office) foiled Clinton’s quiet coup.
As farfetched as this might sound, Clinton insider Sidney Blumenthal accused the FBI of staging a “coup” by reopening the investigation into Clinton’s emails.
While I didn’t use the inflammatory word “coup,” I have outlined the possibility that more forward-looking elements of the Deep State concluded neoliberalism, neoconservative intervention (i.e. endless wars of choice) and institutionalized pay-to-play corruption threatened the security of the nation and had to be thwarted at the ballot box: Why the Deep State Is Dumping Hillary.
While there is little public evidence of this power struggle—the Deep State doesn’t operate in the public gaze—there are plenty of circumstantial clues that the Deep State is not a monolith of neocon neoliberalism.
Conclusion (to Part 1)
Can we summarize these narratives (some competing, some overlapping) in any instructive fashion? I think we can roughly divide them into three categories:
1. Moral claims: the neoliberal “progressives” are morally superior to the “deplorables” and so the neoliberals (the remarkably intolerant “tolerants”) deserved to win on moral grounds; alternatively, the pay-to-play Clinton camp is ethically bankrupt and its claims to the moral high ground are hypocritical.
2. Elite machinations: insiders either set up Trump as the easy-to-beat opponent or as the fall-guy for the coming depression; alternatively, the Deep State was split into two camps, the neocons who backed Hillary and the insurgents who saw Hillary as a threat to national security.
3. Structural economic/social issues: rising wealth/income inequality and the decline of the bottom 95% finally had political consequences.
In Part 2: Why The Ruling Elite Are Becoming Frightened, we examine a hybrid argument that synthesizes these categories into a single narrative that explains what is likely truly going on: The masses have (finally!) reached the point where the pain of maintaining the status quo now exceeds that of breaking it. A People's Coup has been set in motion, of which the election of Trump is just an early example of the unexpected and jarring surprises that lie ahead.
What will this coup look like? Will it succeed?
Click here to read Part 2 of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access)
This essay was first published on peakprosperity.com, where I am a contributing writer.


For what it's worth, my copy editor reckons Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege($3.95 Kindle ebook, $8.95 print edition) is my best book. It is, if nothing else, highly relevant to today's economic/social schisms.


Join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.
Check out both of my new books, Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege ($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print) and Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform ($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print). For more, please visit the OTM essentials website.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

The Corporate Media's Gulag of the Mind

Your crime, as it were, need not be substantiated with evidence; the mere fact you publicly revealed your anti-Establishment thought convicted you.
One of the most remarkable ironies of The Washington Post's recent evidence-free fabrication of purported "Russian propaganda" websites (including this site) is how closely it mimics the worst excesses of the USSR's Stalinist era.
Those unfamiliar with the Stalinist era's excesses will benefit from reading Solzhenitsyn's three-volume masterpiece The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956The Gulag Archipelago 2 and Gulag Archipelago 3.
One episode is especially relevant to the totalitarian tactics of The Washington Post's evidence-free accusation. Solzhenitsyn tells the story of one poor fellow who made the mistake of recounting a dream he'd had the previous night to his co-workers.
In his dream, Stalin had come to some harm. In Solzhenitsyn's account, the fellow was remorseful about the dream.
Alas, mere remorse couldn't possibly save him. He was promptly arrested for "anti-Soviet thoughts" and given a tenner in the Gulag--a tenner being a ten-year sentence in a Siberian labor camp.
The Washington Post's accusation is based on a "behavioral analysis"--in other words, publicly sharing "anti-Soviet thoughts"--in our era, the equivalent is sharing anti-Establishment thoughts.
Your crime, as it were, need not be substantiated with evidence; the mere fact you publicly revealed your anti-Establishment thought convicted you.
This is the Corporate Media's Gulag of the Mind. We'll tell you what's "true" and what is correct to think and believe. Any deviation from the party line is a threat and must be discredited, marginalized or suppressed.
Where is the Post's hard evidence of Russian ties or Russian influence? There isn't any--but like Stalin's henchmen, the Post has no need for evidence: merely going public with an anti-Establishment thought "proves" one's guilt in the kangaroo court of America's corporate media (a.k.a. mainstream media or MSM).
While The Washington Post is owned by billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the vast majority of what we read, watch and hear is controlled by a handful of corporations loaded with cash and connections to the ruling elite.
This concentration of media control creates the illusion of choice-- the same elite-propaganda spin is everywhere you look; our "choice" of "approved" (i.e. corporate) media is roughly the same as that offered the Soviet citizenry in the old USSR.
This is why the billionaire/corporate media is so desperate to discredit the non-corporate media: if an alternative to the corporate media's elite-propaganda catches on, the corporate media will lose its audience, its advert revenues and a substantial measure of its influence.
The cornered elite-propaganda beast is lashing out, undermining its waning credibility with every attack on an independent free press. As I noted in a recent conversation with Max Keiser, democracy requires the citizenry to sort out who benefits from whatever narrative is being pushed.
That's what terrifies the elite-propaganda mainstream media: the status quo narrative they've spewed for years doesn't benefit the bottom 95%-- rather, it actively impoverishes and disempowers the bottom 95%--and the citizenry is slowly awakening to this reality.
So for goodness sakes, if you have an anti-elitist dream, keep it to yourself or you'll end up on the ruling elite's "enemies list."
The final irony in all this: the real enemy of democracy and freedom of the press is The Washington Post and the rest of the billionaire/corporate media. The only way to escape the Corporate Media's Gulag of the Mind is to stop watching their TV channels, turn off their radio stations and stop reading their print/digital propaganda--except of course if you have a taste for dark humor.
For what it's worth, my copy editor reckons Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege($3.95 Kindle ebook, $8.95 print edition) is my best book. It is, if nothing else, highly relevant to today's economic/social schisms.


Join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.
Check out both of my new books, Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege ($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print) and Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform ($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print). For more, please visit the OTM essentials website.

NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Engine of Inequality: Privilege

This is what we're up against: a status quo that has institutionalized soaring inequality and rising poverty as the only possible output of defending the privileged few at the expense of the many.
We all know wealth/income inequality is soaring. I've published many entries on this topic (please see the three charts below as a refresher), and it's clear there are multiple sources of rising inequality: globalization and technology, which concentrate gains in relatively few hands, and inflation, which reduces the purchasing power of stagnating real wages.
But the dominant source of inequality is privilege--specifically, privilege that is institutionalized by the status quo.
This engine of inequality--institutionalized privilege--is the topic of my new book,Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege($3.95 Kindle ebook, $8.95 print edition).
The word "privilege" is tossed around rather loosely. What does it mean in economic and social terms? I differentiate between privilege, which is unearned, and advantaged, which is earned.
To reverse rising inequality, we must dismantle the institutionalized power of privilege and create universally accessible pathways to the advantages of building capital. A key part of my analysis is causally linking rising inequality, poverty and privilege.
Here is an excerpt of the book:
What Is Poverty?
That poverty is the lack of the material necessities of life is self-evident. The problem with this definition of poverty is that it naturally leads to the idea that the solution to poverty is to give people either material necessities and/or money to buy them. But this transfer is not a systemic solution to poverty, for it is based on a faulty understanding of poverty.
To understand poverty, we must first understand that an economy can be distilled down to two systems: ownership of income streams and the distribution of those income streams. Income flows from productive assets, i.e. the engines of wealth/value creation. Net income is simply the surplus between the cost of production (the inputs) and the value of what has been produced (the output).
There are various means of distributing this net income to participants in the economy: wages paid by owners of an income stream, income earned by individuals who own an engine of wealth, profits paid as dividends by owners of income streams, and wages paid by the State (i.e. government) from tax revenues collected from private income.
Productivity is a measure of how much output is generated from inputs. While there are various measures of wealth, the kind of wealth that matters in solving poverty are the engines of wealth that can be made more productive with investment, knowledge and innovation.
If we imagine the wealth in a pirate’s treasure chest—gold coins, precious stones, etc.—we find that this wealth is based on the relative scarcity of the items, not on their productivity. The precious stones are inert and do not generate goods and services. The productivity of precious stones is zero. These scarce items can act as money, but outside of an economy that generates and distributes income, their value is decorative.
In contrast, farmland and tools are productive assets, i.e. engines of wealth. The inputs of capital (land, tools, etc.) and labor yield an output with an economic value. Productive innovations leverage the inputs into higher yields. This increases the income and thus the value of the system of production.
This brief overview enables us to discern the systemic outlines of inequality and poverty: Economies with large surpluses but highly uneven distribution of the surplus will have relatively few very wealthy people and a much larger mass of poor people.
So what makes the distribution of income uneven? There are two basic dynamics:
1) the ownership of productive assets (the engines of wealth) is highly concentrated in a few powerful hands, or
2) the State harvests most of the economy’s surplus and distributes it to a small circle of politically powerful cronies.
In other words, poverty is the result of a highly asymmetric distribution of income from an equally asymmetric allocation of political power and productive capital.
We have seen that whenever ownership of the engines of wealth creation is concentrated in the hands of a few, the inevitable result is poverty. And if the State has unlimited power to expropriate private income streams, the result is highly unequal distribution of wealth as the State’s insiders scoop up the wealth.
Thus solving poverty distills down to (a) distributing new capital to disadvantaged households and their communities, and (b) then boosting the productivity of that capital.
This leads to two profound conclusions:
1) To solve poverty, ownership of the engines of wealth creation must be broadly distributed as new capital, and
2) The income generated by this broad ownership must be beyond the reach of an oligarchic State of entrenched cronies.
A systemic solution to inequality and poverty therefore has two parts: widely distribute the tools to build productive capital, and encourage innovation that boosts the productivity of those broadly distributed engines of wealth creation.
Historically, redistributive schemes to reduce poverty simply call for taking productive capital away from one person and giving it to another person. That these schemes fail is self-evident. A better, systemic solution to poverty is to distribute new capital—capital that has been created by the work and innovation of newly enfranchised owners.
As we see on a daily basis, technology is enabling the low-cost distribution of digital (intangible) capital that enables other forms of productive capital.
Tangible capital can be confiscated by the State. But intangible capital is less accessible, especially if it is distributed and held in highly decentralized and encrypted forms.
A just, transparently governed State will naturally earn the trust of its citizenry who will then voluntarily pay taxes to support the State’s functions. But poverty is not associated with just, transparently governed states; it is associated with exploitive autocracies, oligarchies and monopolies/cartels dominated by parasitic, privileged elites.
Poverty is permanent unless income-producing capital can be held by individuals, households and communities in forms that cannot be easily confiscated by a State that enforces the privileges of the few at the expense of the many.
(end of excerpt)
This is what we're up against: a status quo that has institutionalized soaring inequality and rising poverty as the only possible output of defending the privileged few at the expense of the many:
The institutionalized impoverishment of unprivileged students:
The institutionalized transfer of wealth to the top 0.1%:
The institutionalized decline of real income of the bottom 95%:
For what it's worth, my copy editor reckons this is my best book. It is, if nothing else, highly relevant to today's economic/social schisms. Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege ($3.95 Kindle ebook, $8.95 print edition).


Join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.
Check out both of my new books, Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege ($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print) and Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform ($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print). For more, please visit the OTM essentials website.

NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.
 
Thank you, Chad D. ($50), for your outstandingly generous contribution to this site-- I am greatly honored by your steadfast friendship, wisdom, support and readership.
 

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Washington Post: Useful-Idiot Shills for a Failed, Frantic Status Quo That Has Lost Control of the Narrative

Don't you think it fair and reasonable that anyone accusing me of being a shill for Russian propaganda ought to read my ten books in their entirety and identify the sections that support their slanderous accusation?
I was amused to find my site listed on the now-infamous list of purportedly Russian-controlled propaganda sites cited by The Washington Post. I find it amusing because I invite anyone to search my 3,600-page archive of published material over the past decade (which includes some guest posts and poems) and identify a single pro-Russia or pro-Russian foreign policy entry.
If anything, my perspective is pro-US dollar, pro-liberty, pro-open markets, pro-local control, pro-free-press, pro-innovation, and pro-opportunities to rebuild America's abandoned, decaying localized economies: in other words, the exact opposite of Russian propaganda.
My "crime" is a simple one: challenging the ruling elite's narrative. Labeling all dissent "enemy propaganda" is of course the classic first phase of state-sponsored propaganda and the favorite tool of well-paid illiberal apologists for an illiberal regime.
Labeling everyone who dissents or questions the ruling elite's narrative as tools of an enemy power is classic McCarthy-era witch-hunting, i.e. a broad-brush way of marginalizing and silencing critics with an accusation that is easy to fabricate but difficult to prove.
Such unsupported slander is a classic propaganda technique. It has more in common with Nazi propaganda than with real journalism.
The real useful-idiot shills are the editors and hacks paid by the Washington Post, who are busy penning articles such as "Why the electoral college should choose Hillary Clinton". Isn't this fundamentally a call to over-ride the Constitutional framework of the republic's democracy?
In other words, the ruling elite's candidate lost, so let's subvert democracy to "right this terrible wrong" that was wrought by fed-up debt-serfs.
Substitution is a useful technique to reveal propaganda: if Trump had lost by a thin margin, would the The Washington Post publish an article "Why the electoral college should choose Donald Trump"?
Any site suggesting such an outlandish subversion of American democracy would of course by labeled Russian-controlled propaganda by The Washington Post. In other words, it's OK for the organs of Imperial Propaganda to call for the subversion of the Constitution, but if someone else dares to do so, you know the drill: they're labeled a tool of Russian propaganda.
Just as a reminder, this is the status quo / ruling elite's handiwork The Washington Post shills/propagandists support: a status quo of institutionalized privilege, corruption and systemically soaring wealth and income inequality:
The institutionalized impoverishment of non-elite students:
The institutionalized impoverishment of the bottom 99.9%:
The institutionalized impoverishment of everyone below the protected technocrat-insider class of shills, apparatchiks and professionals:
This is what The Washington Post is pushing: a parasitic, predatory, exploitive, ruinously corrupt and venal ruling class and its army of apologists/lackeys/factotums.
The fundamental source of the Post's hysterical accusations is the ruling elite has lost control of the narrative. This is the source of the mainstream media's angst-tinged hysteria and frantic efforts to marginalize and discredit any dissenting narratives that undermine or question the power of a corrupted, self-serving ruling elite that has failed the nation and its citizens.
This is why Donald Trump was routinely labeled a Russian shill by the mainstream media during the campaign. Regardless of what you think of Trump or Clinton, what can we say about a supposedly responsible media that so cavalierly spews fact-free accusations of foreign control? This is the height of irresponsible propaganda being passed off as "journalism."
Free speech implicitly carries the responsibility of the reader/listener/viewer to make a critical assessment of the content, its source and its aim: who benefits if we accept the narrative being pushed?
The delicious irony of The Washington Post's hysterical campaign to smear dissenters as tools of Russian propaganda is that it only serves to discredit the Post itself. For my part, I invite you to read all ten of my books and make your own critical assessment of the content and answer these questions:
1. Did you find even a single passage in the thousands of pages that favored Russian policies?
2. Did you find any passages that favored domestic resilience and self-reliance, localized economic development, and the promotion of innovations that favored the many rather than the few?
3. Don't you think it fair and reasonable that anyone accusing me of being a shill for Russian propaganda ought to read my ten books in their entirety and identify the sections that support their slanderous accusation?
If they can't support it, then isn't their accusation the very propaganda they claim to be identifying?
Just as a reminder: here's my chart of the Ministry of Propaganda (from 2007):
My new book is #8 on Kindle short reads -> politics and social science: Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform ($3.95 Kindle ebook, $8.95 print edition) For more, please visit the book's website.

NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.
Thank you, Dave B. ($10/month), for your fabulously generous pledge to this site-- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

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