I’m not quite sure I buy this, but it’s an interesting idea:
As conservative strategists will tell you, there are now more of “them” than “us.” What’s more, the disparity will continue to grow indefinitely. Obama actually lost the over-45-year-old vote in 2008, gaining his entire victory margin from younger voters—more racially diverse, better educated, less religious, and more socially and economically liberal.[…]
In the long run, though, the GOP has done nothing at all to rehabilitate its deep unpopularity with the public as a whole, and has only further poisoned its standing with Hispanics. But by forswearing compromise, it opened the door to a single shot. The Republicans have gained the House and stand poised to win control of the Senate. If they can claw out a presidential win and hold on to Congress, they will have a glorious two-year window to restore the America they knew and loved, to lock in transformational change, or at least to wrench the status quo so far rightward that it will take Democrats a generation to wrench it back. The cost of any foregone legislative compromises on health care or the deficit would be trivial compared to the enormous gains available to a party in control of all three federal branches.
In other words, Chait thinks the GOP knows it’s screwed long-term and just wants to get in and wreak as much havoc as it can over the next few years. There may be some truth to that — they’ll certainly try to disassemble the safety net in a way that is hard for Democrats to ever re-assemble. But Republicans think that even if they become a minority for the next generation, they’ll find a way to fight. Conservatives don’t die, they just regroup on K Street.
Culture of Truth
PAPER OF RECORD
The New York Times
The Caucus: Obama Defends College Remarks
That’s EXACTLY what their strategic goal is, hopefully with three or four critical assists along the way by a 5-4 right-wing SCOTUS. They also know that unless this gets done within the next two to four years, the opportunity to inflict lasting structural damage will dissipate for a long time to come, perhaps forever.
Another way of saying the same thing is that the GOP is now a doomsday cult of fundamentalist evangelical Dominionist Rapture-believing global-warming-denying Christians.
And as history shows, doomsday cults tend to lash out violently when their crazy beliefs collide with reality. The Aum Shin Rikyo cult’s subway sarin attack, the Jonestown cult’s attack on a congressman…followed by mass suicide.
It does raise the question: will we see an Aum Shin Rikyo-style equivalent of the Japanese subway sarin attack but on a global scale if the Republicans gain power again?
Chiliastic cults often become wildly popular in a dying collapsing society — and since America is clearly and definitely a dying collapsing culture, this kind of violent behavior by the doomsday cult misnamed “the Republican party” represents a real danger.
@Culture of Truth:
I still can’t get over that direct quote from Santorum. “Obama wants Americans to go to college. What a snob!”
In a country that was only marginally less stupid than ours, that would be the end of his candidacy.
Carol from CO
Yesh! The gop is so unpopular it only took back one house of congress in 2010. And the odds favor them taking back the senate in 2012. Yeah. deeply unpopular.
Does Chait really think the Republicans have a shot at 60 Senate seats, or does he think that they can get 6-8 “Democrats” to go along with their proposals?
They’re going to have to back down on immigration if the want any chance of relevancy, but the ‘baggers will crucify any GOPer who dares suggest anything remotely related to amnesty. Hatred of the browns animates them more than anything.
The new young conservatism will not look like the Santorum/Romney/Gingrich triumvirate of sleazy pols, tight-assed preachers and corporate tools whose coalition gave us the now-splintering Reagan realignment.
It will look a bit like Ron Paul conservatism. Pot legal, indifferent to gays, neo-Confederate in terms of states’ rights. Authoritarian only if you’re female or an immigrant. Your cable company, insurance provider and employer are totally free to oppress you as much as you want.
A politician, D or R, who promised and made good on legalizing marijuana would secure the youth vote indefinitely. Hell, Ron Paul has a lot of young supporters who think that’s what his platform is.
Culture of Truth
@freelancer: The converse being, “I, Rick Santorum, BA, MBA, JD, do not think you are fit for college. I am not a snob!”
If the GOP runs off a cliff, money will just shift to buying Dems until the GOP or whatever rises after its demise finds a way to start winning elections.
Seeing Romney’s attack ads effectively wear down all the NotRomneys, the script for summer and fall is already written. The only question is whether there is enough money even with SuperPacs to damage Obama sufficiently. It’s going to make TV unwatchable.
Didn’t Bush already do this? Fucking amnesiacs.
Alternate Stones-related title: Exile on K-street
Economically, absolutely. Even Romney (OK, yeah, of course he’ll change his mind) is slamming raising the debt limit.
So now, no Republican president can raise the debt limit, and therefore is committed to crashing the world economy.
And to attacking Iran. We gotta keep that war machine running.
Problem is, if they ever do take over all three branches of government, there won’t be much left of America to put together again.
Bingo. This is what’s behind the sudden (within the last several years) balls-deep wingnut blitzkrieg that seems so irrational from our perspective. It’s perfectly rational if you look at it from the perspective of a cornered animal that knows it’s fucked.
General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero)
I agree with Chait in principle, and have been preaching such here for a while. Democracies are all about change, social and otherwise, toward an ideal of equilibrium and cooperation for the different minded. It isn’t so much that republicans have a last chance, as they represent the forces of status quo, a normal human desire when faced with the unknown of unstopable change.
And in this country, with the white supremacy and its majority for governance, the fear is palpable for the certainty of loss of that majority by many who enjoy it. Barack Obama has personified that fear, of inevitable change democracy demands. So the wingers are pulling out all the stops to stop it, up to and including sabotage of the very machinery that propels a democracy. Voting rights are the most obvious, but encasing their ideology from panic, in all its forms into the national fabric is most of it. The real fun begins when they have to decide to accept their demographic fate, or not.
In other words, if they can screw over the working and middle class so badly that they can never recover, it’ll be clear sailing for the Galtian overlords from here on out, no matter who technically has control of which branch of government.
And if they pull it off, it’ll be with the votes of working and middle class southern and midwestern whites voting against their own best interest after they got suckered by all that talk of gods, guns, gays, abortion, etc.
CC denialists–the sentient ones–know the jig is up insofar as the science goes, but every month they pervent anything meaningful being done about it is another month of lovely profit!
They’re becoming so good at playing the Wurlitzer, they’re beginning to believe their own song. I suspect smart Republicans know the voter demographics, but between watering down voter rights and convincing themselves they can nab the Hispanic vote because…Marco Rubio! they can keep painting that map red.
I’ve used that a bunch of times already.
Who says the GOP is going away? I noted in another thread the other day hearing a group of 30 somethings talk about how impressed they were with Santorum. And these were not typical wingnut crazies. And what to make of young Ron Paul supporters, who buy into Libertarian Fantasy Land. Or this guy:
People who expect some Great Demographic Shift to do all their work for them in decimating the GOP are going to be greatly disappointed.
I have clients and friends who say they are conservatives, a few are even hardcore. But the sheer insanity of the party is beginning to give them the shakes. A few were all in for Mitt and now they are starting to think he is a really an asshole. They think Santorom is nuts and they have never paid much attention to Paul. A couple thought Perry was the real deal and now they know he was a phoney. Where they go from here…anybody’s guess.
“In other words, Chait thinks the GOP knows it’s screwed long-term and just wants to get in and wreak as much havoc as it can over the next few years.”
I think it is more like, “Let’s see how much money we can steal from the government before we are out for good.”
Many of the young become conservative as they get older. It’s sort of a thing.
Please note the example cited of relatively young conservatism is an incredibly wealthy man — i.e, someone more likely to be radically right no matter how old they were.
Why would hateful tribalists leave the United States? It’s not like Neo-Nazis would ever make it into Israel with enough organizational ability to pull anything off.
In what ways were they impressed with him. And since you know they weren’t “typical wingnut crazies”, can you describe who they actually are? What kind of demographic? Race, gender, education, occupation, part of the country, urban, suburban, religious, non-religious? What else do you know about them?
@Brachiator: I enjoy this article from The Exiled on Thiel.
@Violet: Really really big fans of Megadeth.
@Brachiator: I’m not entirely sold on the idea that demographics are going to save us, but Thiel isn’t exactly a great example of an trend. Christian conservative gay Randian billionaire is a pretty small demographic.
@Brachiator: Honestly, where are all the lefty ultra-rich nutbags giving Democrats millions of free cash? All I ever hear about are the ‘conservative’ ones. Is Soros the only big donor out there for the ‘left’?
Culture of Truth
Survived by current Rep. Jackie Speier.
The key to that article is the Repubs can’t win after 2012 *in their current form.* It’s always possible some interest groups at the end of the Dem line cut around to the Republican side. But then they’d be a different party. Probably some kind of bullshit, but not Goldwater 100%ism.
Thing is, this has been true for years. Bush II won by making calculated appeals to Hispanics and white women.
On the other hand, what’s true on a presidential level can take decades to filter down to Congress and the state legislatures. It was 14 years after Reagan’s election until Republicans took the House. Some of the Southern state legislatures didn’t flip til TWO YEARS AGO.
Bill Maher gave a $1 million to Obama’s SuperPAC.
@Violet: Thanks. Forgot about him.
“Obama actually lost the over-45-year-old vote in 2008, gaining his entire victory margin from younger voters”
Good thing the republicans of my acquaintance keep reminding me that young people just don’t vote. The last election was just a fluke. Young people don’t vote, the boomers didn’t vote when they were young and there is no reason to believe that this generation of unemployed and desperate young adults would have any reason to behave differently. BEHOLD THE POWER OF THE BABY BOOMERS.
if they can claw out a presidential win and hold on to Congress, they will use the Justice Department, the FBI, and the courts to make sure that there is never another free election in the US as long as we live. You think state-by-state disenfranchisement of poor and minority voters is a bad thing? Wait til you see it on the federal level.
I demand we submit this controversial theory to extreme scientific testing.
We must see if Conservatives die when they are killed.
No matter how many of them we must go through, Science will prevail!
To put in personal terms, they’ve got enough time to steal every penny I’ve paid into SS and Medicare for 40 years. Just enough time to make off with it before I and the rest of the boomers, and the generations after us, are entitled to benefit from it.
Only if they were conservative rat scum to begin with.
Cross section of people who are not especially religious, and lean toward libertarian ideas or are pro business. Includes a Cuban American, a woman who runs her own business, an IT guy with a family, a Filipino American IT guy and single father.
Keep in mind this is Southern California, but only a couple of these people live in Orange County, one of the centers of conservatism.
They think Santorum is a straight shooter, especially compared to Romney. They also see Obama as a failure, and are pro deregulation. They are also deficit hawks. I don’t think that any of them are pro Tea Party, but especially here in Calfornia, they see the Democrats as only pushing the interests of uniions to the exclusion of anything else.
I know that many in the Balloon Juice commentariat are fixated on the idea of the GOP of consisting only of old angry white men, but this is little more than rhetorical fantasyland stuff.
I don’t see these people as a majority, but clearly they do not see the government as the solution to their problems.
The one thing I find interesting about Thiel is that he reminds me of a lot of geeks and tech people, who lean toward being libertarian, and who look on the government as hapless or interfering.
And again, I am not necessarily talking about a trend, just pointing out that in some ways, the standard liberal view of who is a conservative is narrow and wrong, and underestimates the appeal of some conservative ideas.
You don’t need to be convinced of some long-term loss in order to justify the switch to the new, Red Bull & Metho neo-Confederate Bircher smash & grabs:
When you get elected, you have X period of time (absent recall) to destroy anything you can try & destroy and steal anything you can manage to steal — and after that time, you risk loss due to election.
So, from now on, when the GOP takes power, it’s more likely than not that it’s going to take the attitude of the robbers inside the bank who aren’t sure if the cops are on the way or not, but who are better off not risking it.
Look, they’re heroes for God (whichever one suits, that of Mammon or Muslin-hatin’ or womenfolk chainin’), and if they have to do what’s right in a hurry, well, voters should have thought of that before sending them back into power.
I think that if they can pivot to Paulism (in a less crazy form than Paul himself presents it), they can survive and thrive. I don’t think they can make that pivot though.
Democrats (and apparently conservatives) overestimate how easy it will be to gain based on demographics alone. You already see the GOP picking up support from traditionally reliable Democratic voters–the elderly, Catholics, union members, etc. There’s a rich history of blocs of voters shifting parties on a dime and forgiving past transgressions… the GOP is terrible on issues important to Latinos, but they’re, um, somewhat better than Democrats were on issues important to African Americans. Go look up the Evangelical vote between 1976 and 1988. The GOP’s been trading short-term gain with prophecies of long-term doom for some time now, and it’s worked just fine.
Demographics shift much more slowly than political preferences. If the GOP decides that losing the votes of Latinos and people who don’t think being gay is icky is a bad idea, things can be turned around relatively quickly.
but they cant win.
they can’t get the 65% of the white vote they need to beat Obama.
its demographically impossible.
I would say that there is a fixation on the fact that the power structure for the modern Republican Party is primarily old angry heterosexual Christian white men.
I don’t think this fact can seriously be disputed.
In what world is the Republican Party going to suddenly decide that they are okay with LGBT rights and that demonizing brown people is wrong? This is not a thing that is going to happen.
Can we at least analyze the issue from a realistic perspective? Instead of discussing a political party that literally does not exist?
you have no empirical data to support this hypoth.
Well even I think Santorum is a straight shooter compared to Romney. Romney is a political weasel and bad at hiding it. Santorum is crazy, but at least you know what he thinks.
Interesting analysis. Not surprised they’re in southern California. I’ve got some relatives there and that kind of thing sounds familiar.
The “only” is obviously wrong, but if you look at who votes Republican, it’s closer to accurate than to claiming they’re a young, ethnically diverse party. Most analyses of voting patterns will back that up.
But I think that’s a different argument. Most of the older Mexican Americans I know can be described as “conservative” and the CA Republican party was making inroads for years until Pete Wilson and 187 pretty much destroyed whatever chance they had with latinos, at least for a generation, if not more. I think the techies tend to lean Paulbot, but that’s a pretty small group of people overall.
Problem is, libertarianism is inherently infantile, and insane, when it goes from conversation to actual politics.
Still, to the extent that these people are alienated from liberal Democratic Party policies, this presents a problem.
Yeah, it can. But even here, the important thing is who the GOP can get to vote for them.
@General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero):
This ascribes the current hostility to Obama to his blackness. This can’t be correct, since if it were true, we would not for example be seeing Bobby Jindal touted as a viable alternative to Obama by GOP flacks, nor would be see Michael Steele as the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Instead you’d see a chairman of the RNC who was white and southern and had a background as a klansman.
Other evidence that the GOP’s opposition to Obama and the Democrats isn’t primarily based in racism comes from the GOP’s big push against women. Why not a big push against blacks? We don’t see that. We don’t see a mass effort to roll back Brown v Board of Education — instead, we see a mass effort among Republicans to roll back Roe v Wade.
General Crackpot Fake Name has got it wrong, as usual. The evidence shows that the main opposition to Obama and Democrats from the GOP comes from the residual populist economic planks of Obama’s and the Democrats’ policies, not from racism by the GOP.
News flash, kiddo: the working and middle class is alreadyso badly screwed over that they can never recover — but it’s not just the Republicans who are responsible, it’s the entire current global economic system. The U.S. middle class is disappearing because global wage arbitrage is relentlessly driving down the wages of educated people in America while simultaneously enabling offshoring of essentially all knowledge work courtesy of the internet. This isn’t just a Republican scheme, though Republicans love and support it: Democrats are supporting it almost as much via their destructive advocacy of “free trade.” Unfortunate, abandoning free trade and locking up America behind protectionist tariff walls isn’t an option either, since in that case America could no longer afford most of its consumer goods, from iPods to iPads to computers to flatscreen TVs, all of which are now manufactured outside America, and none of which America currently has the technology to manufacture.
See Why Amazon can’t make a kindle in the USA for details.
And, no, I don’t have a solution…and neither does anyone else. Remember that 40-something engineer Barack Obama promised to find a job for at that Democratic town hall? Well, Obama hasn’t been able to find him a job, ’cause a dozen MIT-trained PhD engineers will do that American engineer’s job for $5 an hour, and all those engineers live in China.
@Brachiator: how many black, brown, or female libertarians do you know Brach?
Demographics is destiny.– nate silver
because the free market is WAI.
jobs flow to the cheapest labor source.
My sole observation lab are the teabag thingies they hold at the capitol, especially on tax day but which I don’t think they had in ’11 because they were confoozed about when the actual tax day was last year.
Anyway, the other ones I’ve…attended comprised pretty much who you’d expect. A mattering of young Paul and Rand-thumpers and a whole lot of middle and old-age white folk. Cranky, cranky white folk. I’ll defer to Taibi on descriptions, as he nails them better than I ever could.
Agree with you totally here. Romney is a weasel. I know what Santorum thinks, but to me his ideas are worthless.
This says a lot about Latinos and California politics, not so much about Latinos and national politics. Even though everything indicates that Latinos are solidly behhind Obama, their votes cannot be taken for granted.
Zach has a fair point, based on the not very recent history of the two major parties. The GOP went from running against JFK’s Catholicism in the 1960 election to picking up support from “white ethnic voters” (aka Catholics) in 1980. Conversely, African Americans went from being one of the most significant swing voter demographics in the 1960 election to soldily Democratic over that same time frame. 20 years may seem like a long time, but it really isn’t, especially in a political system as prone to gridlock as we have here in the US.
The big question is, can dramatic demographic swings like this happen without a major political event like LBJ singing into law the ca. 1964-65 civil rights legislation. My guess is, probably not.
General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero)
There is the added effect of liberalism to Obama’s blackness. But otherwise, get back to me when the wingers nominate a black man for POTUS, other than tinkering around with such ideas to show us they aren’t racist. But I don’t know why they need to with spokesman from the left, like you, giving them a hand. Just sayin”’
PS – I mean you really are from the left, aren’t you, Mclaren?
Bobbby Jindal isn’t black.
they think all blacks are interchangeable. See also Sarah Palin does not equal Hillary Clinton.
SCOTUS takes on affirmative action this year. See also attempts to cancel Voters Rights Act.
@samara morgan: I listed several examples… the Catholic vote is split ~50/50; there’s a lot of votes to win there and the general trend is already towards Republicans (gaining a point or two each election since the middle of the century, ignoring the obvious outliers w/ the Kennedy and Johnson elections). I think it’s about as effective as unleashing Palin to get women’s votes, but there’s a strategy behind this whole “we’re all Catholics now” nonsense. The passage of the civil rights acts correspond with a huge shift to Democrats (plus higher turnout; this is after the more gradual shift from the New Deal through WWII). The evangelical vote is a similar story, shifting hugely in the space of two elections.
@Midnight Marauder – I don’t think they’ll totally reverse on it, but look at how quickly demagoguing on gay marriage has gone from a winning political strategy in 2004 to a huge liability. In another ten years, gay marriages might very well be law in half the states and recognized Federally; or recognized as a right in the courts. What traction will it have as a Federal issue? My point is just that political opinion changes more quickly than demographics.
It seems to me that this really is the proverbial elephant in the living room that nobody in the mainstream on either the Left or the Right wants to talk about. We have a very stark choice ahead, either rebuild tariff walls, of the sort which we spent the 19th and early 20th Cen. hiding behind, or sit by and do nothing as the US middle class dies. There really is no third alternative. Free trade = no middle class of any size in the US, until such time as our major trading partners (e.g. China) go thru the same process of building up a powerful organized labor movement and taking political power on behalf of labor, that we did. And I don’t think global resources which constrain economic growth (e.g. oil) are going to last long enough for that to happen.
@ThatLeftTurnInABQ: If GOP Senators in AZ and TX see the writing on the wall and co-sponsor real, inevitable immigration reform, that’s debatably on par with the pre-1964 civil rights acts. I’d guess it’s more likely than not that without 9/11 (which led to GOP victories in 2002 and 2004) comprehensive immigration reform would’ve happened by now, and we’d have over 10 million more citizens with George Bush and a handful of Republican Senators getting most of the credit. Things change quickly.
Meh. People were saying similar things about McGovern and Dukakis at this point in the process.
On the other hand, these are winnable demographics for a Republicans – IT-type workers, Asian-Americans, the “whiter” kind of Hispanic. Just not this Republican party. That would require some policy pivots – maybe not even large ones – and a shift of the intra-party balance of power. Which are, as it happens, exactly the things The Base is fighting tooth and claw against this primary season.
Side note: in some East Coast and Midwestern cities, the Italians and Slavs have been traditionally Republican since the 1890’s. It wasn’t that the Republicans were especially friendly to Italians or Slavs, it’s just that the Irish were Democrats.
It wouldn’t surprise me if as the non-white population grows some sections split off and go Republican. That would still be a different kind of Republican party. Maybe equally awful, but different.
There is quite a bit of irony here. It wasn’t that long ago that China was supposedly a Marxist workers paradise in which the proletariat could find true happiness. And now, they are supposed to recapitulate the Western past and build up an organized labor movement?
Also, while we are rebuilding tariff walls, are we also going to demolish the manufacturing and assembly system which allows a company like Apple to offshore assembly of its high tech products and rack up $100 billion?
I’m really not seeing solutions in what you propose.
@zach: “If the GOP decides that losing the votes of Latinos and people who don’t think being gay is icky is a bad idea, things can be turned around relatively quickly.”
If McCain’s 45% turns into GOP 2016 nominee 40%, and they try to rebrand as the Latino friendly gay rights party in 2020 – they will lose 27% of what they already have overnight and it would take a generation for GBLTs and Latinos to give them a second look
are you for real?
White folks have always been willing to put a shnining and grinning ‘non-White’ whose willing to sell themselves to ‘ the WHITE MAN’.
NO attacks on Brown v Board?
what do you think is the point of the attacks on the 14th Amerndment vis -a-vis the ‘birth’ citizenship folks?
the CORE of Brown v Board is the FOURTEENTH amendment. they gut the 14th amendment , and the attack on BROWN which is what they’ve wanted since the moment it was decided would be in their sights.
@Brachiator: FWIW, it’s been the Communist Party of China’s argument that it’s using capitalism to develop the nation — since, pace Marx, you shouldn’t have gone straight from feudalism to communism (and thus later soshullism) without the capitalist stage.
And the Party could then govern as the bourgeoisie, the capitalist class, but with control and a developmental outlook for the people rather than as sheer exploiters.
If you take this Marxist-Leninist-Maoist-recent reformerist rhetoric seriously, though, it does suggest inevitable development of class conflict within China by the working class against the substitute bourgeoisie, i.e., the State, since the State is actively promoting itself as a substitute capitalist class, and the basic analysis they’re using posits an inevitable conflict of interests and value between the proletariat and the bourgeois capitalist class. Whether it be an actual or substitute capitalist class.
Reality is a more complicated thing, but that it is and has been directly suggested by the CCP’s updated capitalist modernization rhetoric all alogn.
Yes, and it tends to deflate the smug giggling by folks like General Crackpot Fake Name and DougJ and others about how marvelously wonderful the liberals are compared to the conservatards. Sadly, both Democrats and Rethuglicans are 100% foursquare behind unlimited free trade…which means, in effect, that both Demos and Repubs are working hard to destroy the middle class in America. And they’re succeeding. The middle class has steadily declined since the 1980s, when the first mass wave of lifetime unemployment hit factory workers and small farmers, and now the automation (via computers, expert systems, internet offshoring, AI, databases, and datamining) of white-collar middle class knowledge work like radiology (currently being offshored to expert radiologists in India who will read X-rays transmitted from our hospitals and diagnose tumors at 1/50 the cost of an America radiologist).
Source: “Europe: The Big Squeeze,” Newsweek International Edition, 30 May 2010.
Source: “Danger: America Is Losing Its Edge In Innovation,” Eric Savitz, Forbes magazine (available online, google it), 20 January 2011.
Of course the response from Democrats who advocate free trade and tax breaks for U.S. megacorps and so on is: we’re just doing the only realistic reasonable thing we can in the current global economy as it exists. Unfortunately, they’re right. Refusing U.S. megacorps tax breaks merely makes ’em offshore more jobs quicker. The best U.S. lawmakers can do right now is to slightly slow down the rate of offshoring of American high-paying high-value-added jobs, which means in effect that U.S. lawmakers can at best hope to slightly delay the destruction of the American middle class.
The choice is even starker than that. Here’s a primer of the macroeconomics of international trade: if you erect tariff barriers, other nations typically respond in kind. This reduces overall international trade, and drastically lowers American GDP because it lowers the entire world GDP. High tariff barriers on all goods hurt everyone, economically.
Source: Smoot-Hawley Tariff, Economic history services.
The prevailing view among economists today is the Smoot-Hawley tariff played a major role in making the Great Depression worse, and that it sparked considerable retalation by other nations in the form of retaliatory tariffs.
As a practical matter, since essentially all America’s consumer durable goods most of our industrial durable goods and a lot of industrial services are now manufactured outside the United States, high tariff barriers in America would have the effect of enormously raising prices on all consumer durable goods and most industrial services and manufactured goods. To give a few examples: all iPods, all iPads, all laptop computers, all DVR set-top boxes, all flatscreen TVs, all computer components except CPUs, most automobile components are now manufactured outside the United States. If you want a freighter or a commercial ship built today, you go to South Korea. If you want a deep-water drilling rig built, South Korea does it. If you want to build high-speed rail today, you go to France or Germany. America today builds very few manufactured goods other than high-end luxury specialty items like elite headphones or speakers or phonograph cartridges or hand-made furniture, and weaponry. America is where you go if you want to build a ballistic missile submarine. America is where you go if you want to build a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. America is where you go to build tanks or fighter planes or armed UAV drones or Big Dog battle robots, etc. But America is not a place you go today if you want to build giant commercial refrigerators or supertankers or drilling rigs or railway locomotives or numerically controlled machine tools, let alone TV sets or blenders or hand drills or fluorescent lightbulbs or clothing, etc.
So raising American tariff barriers on imports would instantly make most consumer goods and a lot of commercial merchandise and services unaffordable. You’d see the price of an iPod go from $200 to $700, you’d see the price of flatscreen TVs go from $895 to $2000. American cars would skyrocket in price as their components became much costliers. Everything from U.S. jetliners (most of whose components are now made abroad and merely assembled in America) to American computers (ditto) to basic items like clothing would skyrocket in price.
This would have the effect of crushing the middle class and simultaneously forcing a massive decline in the dollar, as America’s GDP dropped like a rock at the same time that ordinary goods like socks and shoes, plus all hi-tech consumer items like computers or TVs or iPods, zoomed in price.
This would leave the American middle class much worse off and far more impoverished, since they’d no longer be able to afford most of the items in stores. Food prices and basic services like hairdressing or dog grooming wouldn’t be much affected by high tariffs, but services like America’s offshored accounting and programming and so on would skyrocket in price relative to current levels, to U.S. corporations like Microsoft would have to charge much more for products like Windows to maintain their current profit levels. If American corporations refused to raise their prices, their profits would decline to the point where foreign corporations would be able to make hostile takeover offers based on their depressed stock price, and American corporations would get gobbled up by foreign megacorps. So Microsoft would be taken over by Bull (the French computer company), Boeing would get taken over by Airbus (the European conglomerate), and so on. This would bring no price relief for U.S.consumers, of course, but merely transfer ownership of America’s corporation abroad.
The next thing that would happen is that with the value of the dollar plummeting, foreign investors would not be as inclined to invest in America. This would require America to raise interest rates to maintain the current level of foreign investment. At present, America pays half a trillion dollars per year in interest payments on our debt, which is equivalent to about 1/3 of all U.S. military spending. Another way of putting this is that America finances nearly its entire official Pentagon budget with money from foreign investments (though the official Pentagon budget of 700 billion per year only accounts for about 60% of what America actually spends on its military because the “official” Pentagon budget neglects very expensive items like military satellites [50 billion], the CIA budget [60 billion], military retirement spending [73 billion], the VA hospital system [75 billion], and so on).
So the U.S. military have to be drastically cut back. But, as Graeber points out in his book Debt: The First Five Thousand Years, America currently uses its bloated outsized military to covertly force the rest of the world to kowtow to America’s economic rules. For example, America is using its military at home to enforce unenforceable copyright laws (the DHS is now effectively a set of paramilitary copyright police armed and equipped by the U.S. military) and abroad, American paramilitary units now threaten to enforce or actually do enforce America’s unenforceable copyright laws by threatening Chinese producers of pirated DVDs, Chinese manufactured of pirated Microsoft operating system software complete with undetectably perfect manufacturer’s holograms, etc.
In short, much of current American economic activity works because America has a giant military with which to threaten and bully the rest of the world. During the 1970s, American corporations made a decision to shift to so-called “knowledge work” the end product of which was bits — Microsoft’s operating systems, Apple’s iPhone which boils down mainly to clever programming in a convenient box, numerically controlled machine tools, and so on. American busiessmen congratulated themselves in the 1970s on their cleverness because in an economy based on knowledge work, the cost of product declined to near zero — it costs next to nothing to stamp out next Microsoft Windows 7 installation DVDs, once you’ve written the code for the iPhone it costs next to nothing to put the code into the ARM processor inside the iPhone, once you’ve analyzed DNA and patented the requisite alleles, it costs you next to nothing to rake in the profits for licensing that patented gene to big pharma around the world…and so on.
What the geniuses in American megacorps didn’t realize is that when you shift to an economy based on “knowledge work” in which your end product is bits, 2 things happen:
 Anybody anywhere in the world can download those bits as pirated torrents and transport or store ’em on gigabyte thumb drives; and
 Computers + databases + AI + the internet will eat your lunch, because any knowledge work an American can do, a PhD living in Buttfuckistan can do at 1/50 the cost, so there’s no reason to buy “knowledge work” from America instead of from Kleptomalia or Buttfuckistan.
This means that America is truly and comprehensively screwed. We are fucked up, down and sideways. If we erect high tariff barriers, we’re burned bad. Real bad. Our middle class declines and can’t even afford cellphones or cars or clothing.
If, on the other hand, we don’t erect high tariff barriers and instead follow Barack Obama’s foolishly ignorant nostrum of “retraining our workers and getting the American people more educated,” we’re still massively fucked. Because history shows that retraining doesn’t do much — how many of the laid-off auto factory workers of the 1980s became programmers and numerical controlled machine operators? Statistics show, almost none. These people saw their lifetime wages collapse and in most cases their marriages fell apart, they lost their houses, and now they’re living in their cars.
More education doesn’t help because the statistics also show that America currently suffers from a surplus of people with advanced degrees. There are too many people in America with masters and PhDs. And, as Barack Obama discovered to his horror when he tried to help that unemployed engineer, there’s an insuperable problem with highly educated people in America: when you’re in your 40s or 50s you cost a lot to employ because you’ve got a lot of experience, so employers prefer to high 20-somethings straight out of college with a masters — they’re much cheaper, and their skills are fresher, and more cutting-edge.
So raising high tariff barriers is not a solution either.
The claim “there is no third option” is the one I reject. At some point, we’re going to have change the entire economic system. We’re going to have move away from capitalism as we know it, or America will burn, because at some point, so many highly educated highly skilled Americans will be living in their cars or in cardboard boxes under bridges that the tax base will have collapsed to the point where things just can’t go on this way anymore.
What does “move away from capitalism” mean?
FDR proposed a guaranteed minimum income in one of his later speeches just he died. We may have to go to something like that. A lot of America’s economic activity may look more like Wikipedia than conventional corporations. Copyright and patents are going to have to go away. They will eventually anyway just because of the nature of current technology, but America’s economic collapse will speed that process up. We may see money going away. I don’t know what will replace it, but the “matching problem” can be solved with computers instead of currency. Hours banks are one option; then there are more speculative ideas like “whuffie” and so on.
I don’t pretend to know how things will shake out. What I do know is that the global economy is in the midst of a giant trainwreck, and it’s getting worse, and the solution isn’t to add more regulations or tinker around the edges, because the essential problem is in the nature of capitalism itself. Every job every American has right now is achoke point of inefficiency in the global economy, and those choke points are rapidly getting removed by the internet + offshoring + robotics + database mining + AI + expert system.
Yes, even dog grooming and house painting and illegal immigrants picking strawberries are eventually going to be replaced by robots. Stockboys, cashiers, dental assistants…they’re all going away, and now 100 years from now, but much much sooner. Google already has self-driving cars. How employable do think human truck drivers will be in 20 years?
We’re going to have to change the entire global economic system. Otherwise, the world will burn. The billionaires can try to protect themselves with armed guards and bullets, but you know what? When the human wave attacks by the mobs cause the private security guards to run out of bullets, it’s Chosin Reservoir 1950 all over again.
Am I “in need of therapy”? Am I “ranting and raving”? Am I spouting “crazy talk” when I say this stuff?
Economists like Tim Duy and Martin Ford and Umair Haque are saying the same thing. Are all these people “crazy and off their meds”? Maybe. More likely, capitalism as we know it was a passing phase in the world’s history, like hunter-gatherer societies that had no money, and now we’re heading into a new way of organizing society.
Yes, I’m for real. The overwhelming thrust of GOP voter disenfrachisement is against low-income people. In some states that’s mainly blacks, but in other states it’s single women with children. In other states it’s illegal immigrants.
Republicans care about crushing people without money. Blacks happen to form a disproportionate percentage of that group in America, but so do single women. As has been noted by front-pagers on this site, the GOP’s attacks against women have been relentless and savage, and are increasing in intensity.
It’s all about the GOP’s war on people without lots of cash. Blacks and single women are incidental targets: the real targets are anyone without beaucoup bucks.
#50 mclaren –
They are doing exactly this! Fairly quietly, the Confederate Court has indicated some question about the CRA and/or VRA and has pretty much invited a case with which to emasculate them. With this plus the effective ground game of voter suppression, this may be accomplished quietly, using noise of sexual issues to hide behind.
General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero)
Fascinating. How do you tie the war against women into gutting the VRA and CRA? It seems rather limited to me, the vagina wars, partly out of some kind of need to control women, and political to please the evangelical base. I do believe folks like Pat Buchanan and others on the right that pass as wingnut thinkers, are concerned with the lack of new born whites, to make new wingnuts. And they sometimes tie it to abortion. But the CRA and VRA? I tend to think that more broadly, the war is against secularism and the liberal ideals it promotes. Which leads to loss of white male authority and power/control, and nothing so much as losing the presidency to the rainbow coalition, if you will. And that is what it all is about when the onion is fully pealed. Economics is certainly a part of that, and consolidating pol power via consolidating wealth amongst their kind. But that is mainly just a tool to maintain pol power all around.
Davis X. Machina
The worse, the better. Nach Romney, Wir!
@Davis X. Machina:
That too is a popular meme among DougJ and General Crackpot Fake Name and others. “Bring it on! The Repubs will get so bad the American people will stampede to the Democratic party!”
Alas, history shows just the opposite effect. When economic conditions get dire, history as well as psychological studies have shown that the population overwhelmingly favors more right-wing parties and policies.
Source: “Extreme right wing voting in Western Europe,” Lubbers, Gusberts & Scheepers, European Journal of Politcal Research, Vol. 41, pp. 345-376, 2002.
The same social trend has long been observed, viz., in 1930s Germany, 1930s America with the dramatic rise of neofascists like Father Coughlin and the American Bund, etc.
The worse the economy, the better for right-wing extremists at polling booths. At least, that’s what history shows. Which is why we’d better be careful what we ask for. We’re liable to get it. And yet another reason why General Crackpot Fake Name’s fable of the inevitable rise of the Democratic party is a delusional fairytale.
General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero)
Pace yourself pumpkin, we got a long ways to go yet.
The Republicans has known for a long time that they are demographically screwed, but they have used every trick in the book to prevent it. They gave up on substance a long time ago. What they did has merely delayed the inevitable. Well, the inevitable is about to arrive.
To take a completely clinical look a the electoral competition twixt Repubs and Demos, the Repubs are demographically screwed but the Demos are economically screwed.
Can non-whites form a majority of the U.S. voting population faster than the middle class can collapse due to the impact of globalization + technology?
If the answer is yes, then the Demos will ultimately triumph as a political party. If the answer is no, then the Repubs will ultimately triumph.
These would seem to form a set of coupled differential equations in a far-from-equilibrium thermodynamic system not unlike the Lotka-Volterra model or the brusselator, which suggests the system is cyclical rather than tending toward an attractor that traps it in a single state. That does not bode well for those who hope for a final victory by either party.
General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero)
McLaren, I goddamn DO want to subscribe to your newsletter.
Keep on ‘crazy’ing, future boy. You ain’t just on something, you’re on TO something. I wonder what the real answer will be. I don’t refer to your rightwing/leftwing stuff so much as the larger economic questions regarding global capitalism itself.
I look around at my life, as a poverty-level software-business runner in America, locked out of the middle class but living in a damn palace by third world standards, and I’m thinking: I could get by on less. A lot of this is part of what I do for work, but still.
I discovered wheat/gluten allergies and rebuilt my diet and now I cook for myself instead of eating out of packages expensively provided by Big Agribusiness.
I would be stripping down my iPhone account if it were not impossible- I’m not using cellphone-ness at all, it’s like a PDA to me. It’s an older one. I can run on some of this tech for a long time without changing it. Like the home environment, I can get it to a ‘functional’ state and then keep that going for long periods without having to throw more money at it.
So much of what I do in my life is trivial now and would have cost the income of a small country to do in 1900… there are things that have really changed, in the world. I don’t know what it means, either, but I do know that we aren’t looking at quite the same flavor of economic collapse we saw in the Great Depression, or traditional famines/plagues/etc.
Communication, information, transportation- these things are unthinkably more advanced than they used to be. It’s been practical to import plastic junk into Wal-Marts from CHINA for Pete’s sake! We don’t even blink at that. What does that say about the ability to move stuff like food, resources around?
Peak OIl’s got something to say about that- but alternate energy? Even if it can’t ever replace oil (and that’s a big assumption), to get even 70%-80% of what we’ve got with oil, even at twice the price- hell, we already pay four times what we used to consider normal in living memory- to get even that is kind of unthinkable. Even to FAIL still means hanging on to big big chunks of an unthinkably futuristic world we take for granted.
These are interesting times….
@nellcote: Exactly. One of many problems with the modern GOP is that they had a huge window — 2001 through 2006 — when they really did control everything, with extra 9/11 on top. And look how that turned out. Not only did they fail to repeal Roe V Wade and fail to privatize Social Security, everything they did manage to do worked out pretty horribly.
What do they think is going to be different this time?
Which is the same question I ask to anybody considering voting for the Republican on account of the still-sucky economy. Republican policies got us into this mess, how exactly do you think Republican policies are going to get us out?
@McJulie: “Exactly. One of many problems with the modern GOP is that they had a huge window—2001 through 2006—when they really did control everything, with extra 9/11 on top.”
You can’t overemphasize this. The GOP had Congressional majorities in the 109th Congress (’05-’07) that rivaled Obama’s in the 111th, and Democrats in 2005 were much more willing to compromise than Republicans in 2009. Bush could’ve gotten a billion conservative goals passed if he’d acted quickly in 2005. Permanent tax cuts, gutting medicaid, etc. But he threw all of his effort behind privatizing social security without recognizing that it had zero chance; then Katrina happened, Iraq went further south, and the result was the least productive Congress in history. The most notable accomplishments of the 109th Congress were (1) changing daylight savings time, (2) building some border fence, and (3) going all nuts over Terri Schiavo.
It’s really incredible how badly George Bush ruined his party in all of 3 years or so… almost all of the big errors in that period trace back to horrible managerial decisions by the “CEO President.” Yet, Romney’s promoting *exactly* the same governing philosophy today.