Robert Reich: Why American Capitalism is So Rotten

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Robert Reich: Why American Capitalism is So Rotten

Post by Res Ipsa »

Robert Reich has written a multi-part series on his Substack called "Why American Capitalism is So Rotten." I've grown to admire his analysis and his clear, no nonsense writing style. The first installment is titled "Beyond Trump" and discusses how folks need to think differently about the economy if they want to fix what's wrong with American Capitalism. Some things that caught my eye:
First, forget politics as you’ve come to see it as electoral contests between Democrats and Republicans. Think power. The underlying contest is between a small minority who are gaining power over the system and the vast majority who have little or none.

Next, forget what you may have learned about the choice between the “free market” and government. A market cannot exist without a government to organize and enforce it. The important question is whom the market has been organized to serve.

Forget the standard economic goals of higher growth and greater efficiency. The issue is who benefits from more growth and efficiency.

...

Don’t assume that we’re locked in a battle between capitalism and socialism. We already have socialism — for the very rich. Most Americans are subject to harsh capitalism.

...

Don’t assume the system is stable. It moves through vicious spirals and virtuous cycles. We are now in a vicious spiral. The challenge is to turn the vicious into the virtuous.

Don’t assume that the central problem is Donald Trump. Trump is the culmination of decades of growing distrust in the system. His followers are attracted to a neofascist strongman who they think will stick it to the establishment. They’re wrong, of course, but the larger question is why they have such distrust in the system.

Don’t believe the system is a meritocracy in which ability and hard work are necessarily rewarded. Today the most important predictor of someone’s future income and wealth is the income and wealth of the family they’re born into.

Don’t separate race from class. Racial discrimination is aggravating class divides, and wider inequality is worsening racial divides.
And perhaps the most important point:
To comprehend who has influence over the system, you’ll need to understand the role of wealth. Power and wealth are inseparable. Great wealth flows from great power; great power depends on great wealth. Wealth and power have become one and the same.

There is much more to talk about, but I don’t intend for these or other underlying realities to make you more cynical about the system or resigned to its intransigence.

To the contrary, the first step toward changing the system is to understand it. If we cannot comprehend the truth, we become entrapped in conventional falsehoods and false choices, unable to envision new possibilities. Seeing the system for what it is will empower you to join with others to change it for the better.
Reich is pushing on the edges of the Overton Window that limits how we talk about the economy. All the arguments back and forth about "Trump's Economy" and "Biden's Economy" are smoke and mirrors that conceal the large, systemic changes in how the economy works that began in 1980 and have effectively kept 99% of Americans from receiving the benefit of economic growth for the last 50 years. I think his entire series is well worth reading and discussing.
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Re: Robert Reich: Why American Capitalism is So Rotten

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https://robertreich.substack.com/p/welcome-to-my-class

I think the true challenge is to take an intellectual approach to a very complicated problem and boil it down to pithy 8-words-or-less meme-statements so the very people who are shooting themselves in their metaphorical dicks can get it. Imagery, pictures, direct comments, and flair must be combined in a manner so the proletariat can digest it. To whit:

Rich Men North of Richmond

That statement evokes powerful imagery from the working class who live, well, you know, south. All sorts of history and mind movies are played by the intended audience, very effectively. A pastiche of grievances rolled into five words, with a dash of implied fantasy violence.

So. How does one take what one reads at Reich’s site and turn it into five words, perhaps a country song, and Boomer memes?

- Doc
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Re: Robert Reich: Why American Capitalism is So Rotten

Post by Gunnar »

Doctor CamNC4Me wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2024 12:10 am
https://robertreich.substack.com/p/welcome-to-my-class

I think the true challenge is to take an intellectual approach to a very complicated problem and boil it down to pithy 8-words-or-less meme-statements so the very people who are shooting themselves in their metaphorical dicks can get it. Imagery, pictures, direct comments, and flair must be combined in a manner so the proletariat can digest it. To whit:

Rich Men North of Richmond

That statement evokes powerful imagery from the working class who live, well, you know, south. All sorts of history and mind movies are played by the intended audience, very effectively. A pastiche of grievances rolled into five words, with a dash of implied fantasy violence.

So. How does one take what one reads at Reich’s site and turn it into five words, perhaps a country song, and Boomer memes?

- Doc
Res Ipsa wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2024 7:32 pm
Robert Reich has written a multi-part series on his Substack called "Why American Capitalism is So Rotten." I've grown to admire his analysis and his clear, no nonsense writing style. The first installment is titled "Beyond Trump" and discusses how folks need to think differently about the economy if they want to fix what's wrong with American Capitalism. Some things that caught my eye:
First, forget politics as you’ve come to see it as electoral contests between Democrats and Republicans. Think power. The underlying contest is between a small minority who are gaining power over the system and the vast majority who have little or none.

Next, forget what you may have learned about the choice between the “free market” and government. A market cannot exist without a government to organize and enforce it. The important question is whom the market has been organized to serve.

Forget the standard economic goals of higher growth and greater efficiency. The issue is who benefits from more growth and efficiency.

...

Don’t assume that we’re locked in a battle between capitalism and socialism. We already have socialism — for the very rich. Most Americans are subject to harsh capitalism.

...

Don’t assume the system is stable. It moves through vicious spirals and virtuous cycles. We are now in a vicious spiral. The challenge is to turn the vicious into the virtuous.

Don’t assume that the central problem is Donald Trump. Trump is the culmination of decades of growing distrust in the system. His followers are attracted to a neofascist strongman who they think will stick it to the establishment. They’re wrong, of course, but the larger question is why they have such distrust in the system.

Don’t believe the system is a meritocracy in which ability and hard work are necessarily rewarded. Today the most important predictor of someone’s future income and wealth is the income and wealth of the family they’re born into.

Don’t separate race from class. Racial discrimination is aggravating class divides, and wider inequality is worsening racial divides.
And perhaps the most important point:
To comprehend who has influence over the system, you’ll need to understand the role of wealth. Power and wealth are inseparable. Great wealth flows from great power; great power depends on great wealth. Wealth and power have become one and the same.

There is much more to talk about, but I don’t intend for these or other underlying realities to make you more cynical about the system or resigned to its intransigence.

To the contrary, the first step toward changing the system is to understand it. If we cannot comprehend the truth, we become entrapped in conventional falsehoods and false choices, unable to envision new possibilities. Seeing the system for what it is will empower you to join with others to change it for the better.
Reich is pushing on the edges of the Overton Window that limits how we talk about the economy. All the arguments back and forth about "Trump's Economy" and "Biden's Economy" are smoke and mirrors that conceal the large, systemic changes in how the economy works that began in 1980 and have effectively kept 99% of Americans from receiving the benefit of economic growth for the last 50 years. I think his entire series is well worth reading and discussing.
Though I could not have expressed them nearly as articulately or persuasively as Robert Reich did (or, for that matter, as you could), his conclusions closely match what I have already figured out (as I am sure you already have too). To me, the most remarkable thing about his conclusions is how many people have not already come to the same conclusions. His conclusions, whether anyone likes it or not, are abundantly supported by evidence and sound reasoning. We need to combine that evidence and reason with the faith that by applying it we can work together to make a positive improvement. Too many, especially hard right, religious conservatives, place too little importance on evidence and reason whenever it conflicts with their deeply ingrained religious faith in what they already know or think they know. That is a prime example of Einstein's maxim that "faith without reason is blind."
No precept or claim is more suspect or more likely to be false than one that can only be supported by invoking the claim of Divine authority for it--no matter who or what claims such authority.
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Re: Robert Reich: Why American Capitalism is So Rotten

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I'm only a very amateur economist but I've been impressed by a large exhibit hall I saw at the Technik Museum in Speyer. The museum is an amazing destination if you're ever anywhere near it: you can climb inside and walk all through a real U-Boat, a real Russian space shuttle, and a real Boeing 747, among other things. The exhibit that so impressed me, though, was just a hall full of a few decades of models of the one standard state-produced car from Communist East Germany, the Trabant.

The Trabant was the only car you could get in East Germany. They were affordable, but the bottleneck for getting one wasn't finding the money, but waiting until one was available for you. In one way, though, the long wait didn't matter.

In that hall in Speyer there were Trabant models from a time span of something like forty years ... and they all looked just the same. While in the west BMWs and Benzes and VWs were morphing from the 50's to the 80's, the kludgy old Trabant never improved. This was a penny-dropping moment for me about Communism.

At least in East Germany, Communism worked just as advertised. It delivered a good standard of living for everyone, not just the rich. The problem, though, was what that "good standard" meant. It was a fixed standard: a good standard of living for Russian peasants in 1917, or for East German workers in 1950. The standard of living that counted as "good" didn't rise over time, the way it does in capitalist societies. If the two Germanies started from comparable levels in the 50's, by the late 1980's the eastern side of the Wall looked like a primitive wasteland compared to the affluent west.

And this wasn't a glitch. Communism right from Marx on has ignored the whole phenomenon of technological improvement. Even while actually making technological progress, to the point of building H-bombs and launching satellites, Communist countries were doctrinally committed to treating progress as a curse that could at best be endured, because the whole logic of Marxism collapses if one admits that economics is not a zero-sum game and things can keep on getting better if we find new ways to do things. Keeping the Trabant the same wasn't a Communist bug. It was an intentional, foundational feature.

Current American capitalism may be like socialism for the American rich, inasmuch as the state provides all kinds of benefits for the wealthy, but I think it may also mean Communist stagnation for the American poor. Maybe this is what gives MAGA its ugliest element, that it's not really grievance over any absolute loss, but resentment at missing out on gains made only by others.

MAGAns are conservative, not in the sense of being true capitalists, but in the Communist way of wanting to freeze everyone at the same old level. MAGAns don't want to be rich like other people, because that would require embracing all the scary modern things that have brought us from the 1960s to now. They want the other people not to be richer than them.

That's not a healthy way of dealing with the problem of having been left behind by progress, but it is a symptom of having been left behind. Maybe that didn't have to happen. Maybe there could have been a way to bring all those rural, southern Americans along across the turn of the century, if unfettered American capitalism hadn't just let the elite forge ahead on their own. I don't know. All I think I can really see is that the question of who has injured or been injured is trickier than one might think, because prosperity is a moving target. You have to think not just of what people have now, compared to what they used to have, but of what they potentially could have had now, if things had improved for them.
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Re: Robert Reich: Why American Capitalism is So Rotten

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Don’t assume that the central problem is Donald Trump. Trump is the culmination of decades of growing distrust in the system. His followers are attracted to a neofascist strongman who they think will stick it to the establishment. They’re wrong, of course, but the larger question is why they have such distrust in the system.
Maybe because Robert Reich wanted to use the partisan political justice system and US military to herd Trump voters into communist reeducation camps. Perhaps because of the lawfare the left is currently using to disenfranchise Trump voters? Or perhaps because of the lawfare waged by the justice deparatment against anyone who worked for the Trump campaign? Perhaps being lied to by the mainstream media, WHO, and Fauci during the scamdemic. Or perhaps seeing the economy trashed due to a virus that had a 99.96% survival rate for people under 70? Seeing people thrown in jail for going to work, accused of having "blood on their hand." Perhaps seeing the media repeatedly lie and cover for actual corruption and influence peddling that is likely engaged in by nearly all of our federal elected officials?

Or watching Peter Navarro and Steve Bannon marched through the airport in leg irons and imprisoned for months for refusing to testify before congress on the grounds of executive privilege. Then watching Hunter Biden blatantly defy congressional subpoenas without consequence. Then you have the nerve to ask why we think the justice system is partisan politically biased?
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Re: Robert Reich: Why American Capitalism is So Rotten

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Going back to my observation, perhaps observational process, take this:

https://robertreich.substack.com/p/first-class

which is RR’s first class about wealth inequality (Communist!). Since the truly needful audience will never 1) read that web page in full, 2) watch an hour and a half lecture video about economics and whatnot, and 3) never read the 340 comments on that page - along with clicking on links users provided, all lost on them. All of it.

Could a politician take RR’s brilliance on this one topic and boil it down to:

‘The 1% got 20% richer, you got poorer.’

Eight words! Bumper sticker! T-shirt!

I dunno. It might be too many words. It also evokes classism, which doesn’t really work for the Right since they love wealthy people. Hrm. I’ll have to think about this some more.

- Doc
Last edited by Doctor CamNC4Me on Wed Jan 17, 2024 11:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Robert Reich: Why American Capitalism is So Rotten

Post by Doctor CamNC4Me »

ajax18 wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2024 1:54 pm
Don’t assume that the central problem is Donald Trump. Trump is the culmination of decades of growing distrust in the system. His followers are attracted to a neofascist strongman who they think will stick it to the establishment. They’re wrong, of course, but the larger question is why they have such distrust in the system.
Maybe because Robert Reich wanted to use the partisan political justice system and US military to herd Trump voters into communist reeducation camps. Perhaps because of the lawfare the left is currently using to disenfranchise Trump voters? Or perhaps because of the lawfare waged by the justice deparatment against anyone who worked for the Trump campaign? Perhaps being lied to by the mainstream media, WHO, and Fauci during the scamdemic. Or perhaps seeing the economy trashed due to a virus that had a 99.96% survival rate for people under 70? Seeing people thrown in jail for going to work, accused of having "blood on their hand." Perhaps seeing the media repeatedly lie and cover for actual corruption and influence peddling that is likely engaged in by nearly all of our federal elected officials?

Or watching Peter Navarro and Steve Bannon marched through the airport in leg irons and imprisoned for months for refusing to testify before congress on the grounds of executive privilege. Then watching Hunter Biden blatantly defy congressional subpoenas without consequence. Then you have the nerve to ask why we think the justice system is partisan politically biased?
QED
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Re: Robert Reich: Why American Capitalism is So Rotten

Post by Res Ipsa »

Doctor CamNC4Me wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2024 2:44 pm
Going back to my observation, perhaps observational process, take this:

https://robertreich.substack.com/p/first-class

which is RR’s first class about wealth inequality (Communist!). Since the truly needful audience will never 1) read that web page in full, 2) watch an hour and a half lecture video about economics and whatnot, and 3) never read the 340 comments on that page - along with clicking on links users provided.

It’s all lost on them. All of it.

Could a politician take RR’s brilliance on this one topic and boil it down to:

‘The 1% got 20% richer, you got poorer.’

Eight words! Bumper sticker! T-shirt!

I dunno. It might be too many words. It also evokes classism, which doesn’t really work for the Right since they love wealthy people. Hrm. I’ll have to think about this some more.

- Doc
Maybe boil it down to a meme? I've always thought that guys like Limbaugh are performers that laugh at their audiences all the way to the bank. He and his copycats convinced half the country that they should fight with black and brown folks over a few crumbs instead of paying attention to the few who took the whole pie.
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Re: Robert Reich: Why American Capitalism is So Rotten

Post by ajax18 »

Res Ipsa wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2024 5:47 pm
Doctor CamNC4Me wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2024 2:44 pm
Going back to my observation, perhaps observational process, take this:

https://robertreich.substack.com/p/first-class

which is RR’s first class about wealth inequality (Communist!). Since the truly needful audience will never 1) read that web page in full, 2) watch an hour and a half lecture video about economics and whatnot, and 3) never read the 340 comments on that page - along with clicking on links users provided.

It’s all lost on them. All of it.

Could a politician take RR’s brilliance on this one topic and boil it down to:

‘The 1% got 20% richer, you got poorer.’

Eight words! Bumper sticker! T-shirt!

I dunno. It might be too many words. It also evokes classism, which doesn’t really work for the Right since they love wealthy people. Hrm. I’ll have to think about this some more.

- Doc
Maybe boil it down to a meme? I've always thought that guys like Limbaugh are performers that laugh at their audiences all the way to the bank. He and his copycats convinced half the country that they should fight with black and brown folks over a few crumbs instead of paying attention to the few who took the whole pie.
Robert Reich's people have gotten their way since 2020. This is the result of Bidenomics and Democrat foreign policy. The middle class is shrinking. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. That's the fruit of Democrat's in power, not Republicans.
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Re: Robert Reich: Why American Capitalism is So Rotten

Post by Doctor CamNC4Me »

ajax18 wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2024 6:05 pm
Res Ipsa wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2024 5:47 pm
Maybe boil it down to a meme? I've always thought that guys like Limbaugh are performers that laugh at their audiences all the way to the bank. He and his copycats convinced half the country that they should fight with black and brown folks over a few crumbs instead of paying attention to the few who took the whole pie.
Robert Reich's people have gotten their way since 2020. This is the result of Bidenomics and Democrat foreign policy. The middle class is shrinking. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. That's the fruit of Democrat's in power, not Republicans.
QED
Hugh Nibley claimed he bumped into Adolf Hitler, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Gertrude Stein, and the Grand Duke Vladimir Romanoff. Dishonesty is baked into Mormonism.
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