I am a professional analyst of society; my training is in social research, my primary employment – my bread and butter so to speak – requires me to engage in ongoing research and analysis of social, economic, environmental and political trends. So what follows are not the observations of your ordinary citizen observer or even of a journalist (not at all sure why so many people these days accept journalists – such as Thomas Friedman – as experts on social and economic trends). I spend my days immersed in data, examining the nitty-gritty of income distribution, education attainment, crop reports, tuition costs, energy production figures, employment trends, Arctic melt patterns and extreme weather events, economic investment patterns.

What I see emerging from all this data is stark and disturbing for advanced capitalist industrial nations, but more so for the United States than countries that have made an effort to blunt the contradictions of industrial capitalism with social policy.  We are simply running out of places into which to “bury” the toxic effects of industrial capitalism.  Two types of contradictions exist within industrial capitalism: one has to do with the fact that every single successful capitalist enterprise must draw in more revenue than it gives out in wages/salaries and other costs; the second with the impossibility of the constant growth in production required by industrial capitalism meeting the barrier of finite resources.

For two hundred and fifty years we managed to avoid the first problem by finding sources of revenue that were outside the realm of industrial capitalist societies (undeveloped or underdeveloped nations), and avoid the second problem because we had yet to come close to the limits of key resources like petroleum and natural gas, or the limits of sinks for waste products like carbon dioxide and toxic chemicals. But today, there is no country where capitalist industrial enterprise has not taken hold and converted nations of peasants and artisans into wage earning laborers. And today the limits of resources like petroleum are all too visible, as are the limits of sinks for carbon dioxide and other wastes.

The United States is heading straight for an economic, social and ecological brick wall. To all those Tea Partiers who “want my country back,” I’m sorry, but your country is gone, irretrievably broken and disintegrated, and even if the majority of Americans actually wished to return to days of racial, ethnic and gender inequality that you hold with such great reverence it cannot be recovered. To all the liberals who have “Hope” for the future based on “Change,” sorry, the course is set, there’s not enough resources left to pull us out of the dive we began more than a generation ago.  The next several generations of Americans will have less in the way of material goods, less time, less energy, less ease, less of everything.  There is no changing this. Conservatives who want to reclaim the past can’t stop this from happening. Liberals who want to subsidize the future can’t stop it from happening either.

We are in the condition of “overshoot” warned against by Meadows, Randers and Meadows in their 1972 The Limits to Growth, and then again in the 1992 follow-up Beyond the Limits, and yet again in their Limits to Growth: Thirty Year Update in 2004. Industrial capitalism is the 52,000 ton Titanic. The iceberg is right in front of us. There’s no way to steer a ship of that size around the obstacle. We are going to “crash.” There’s no avoiding it.

So why not give up? Why vote? If the course is set, the disaster is unavoidable, decline is inevitable, why does it matter who wins in 2012? It does matter. Because every disaster, including the Titanic can have survivors. It matters, because the two parties have very different views on how many “lifeboats” and “life preservers” there should be and who should have access to them. I’m going to vote for the party and the candidate, that is going to do its best to make sure that both rich and poor have a chance at surviving. The party that will provide enough life boats for everyone, and won’t be excluding people because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or income. Life boats may not be a luxury liner, but they are the difference between death and survival. Not everyone will survive, but I intend to vote for the party and the candidate that’s going to do it’s best to make sure that the cards aren’t stacked against those in “steerage” and in favor of those with “first class tickets.”  If you can’t figure out for whom I’m going to vote you aren’t paying attention to this election.

I’m really sick of all the bumper stickers from “Friends of Coal” and telling me that if I don’t like Coal, I shouldn’t use electricity.  This came to me in the middle of the night as the logical extension of that sentiment:

Fiends for Coal

Moto: “Electricity from Coal – Use It or Else!”

  • Make burning wood for heat instead of paying for coal fired electricity a felony.
  • Ban all Energy Star appliances, compact florescent and LED light bulbs from homes in the coal fields.
  • Pass an ordinance that requires all thermostats to be set at 65 degrees in the summer and 78 degrees in the winter.
  • Create an energy monitoring police force to ferret out any attempts to save electricity.

Reading all the criticism from the conservative, Tea Party, and Republican commentators (or all those the same thing?), is enough to make one dizzy. On one hand all the protestors are all jobless, lazy bums who are unwashed with long hair, and on the other hand all the protestors are union workers who are getting paid to protest…come on guys they can’t be both of those things!! And in reality of course they are neither.

But it occurred to me today, why the Tea Party protestors were the darlings of the right-wing media, and the 99% folks who are protesting corporate control of our society are not — the 99%-ers don’t carry guns. Of course that’s because the 99%-ers are mostly non-violent, pacificist types, so they’re not going to cotton to my suggestion. But dang it guys, you could get some really solid support here from the NRA if you’d all just openly carry rifles! The Tea Partiers proved that you could do that legally in public during demonstrations.

The 99%-ers just need to look for a Second Amendment Solution to this. They don’t have to fire the weapons, just carry hunting rifles openly. Just think of all the Republicans that would suddenly have to support them — because my gosh, arresting them if they were openly carrying guns would be an assault of the Second Amendment, and no conservative who wishes to get re-elected (or have the support of the NRA) could allow that to happen.

Just saying….

Only half of students who receive a high school diploma in the United States are academically prepared for post secondary education. A recent study of high school juniors and seniors taking the ACT college entrance exam confirms this; half of the students were ready for college-level reading assignments in core subjects like math, history, science, and English. Yet two-thirds of high school graduates head to post-secondary institutions to continue their education.

Most four year colleges and universities deny admittance to students who do not attain college level readiness as evidenced by tests like the ACT and the SAT. So those students unprepared for college, but desiring a college education any way, head for the nations community colleges where all comers (with a high school diploma or GED) are welcome. Ill-prepared students feel the need for a college degree because American businesses rely on formal educational credentials to narrow their applicant pool, and because bottom-line oriented businesses have decided that they no longer want to waste their resources with on-the-job training, more and more occupational specific training has been pushed to community colleges. More and more blue-collar, construction, manufacturing and even service industry jobs are requiring community college certification as a minimum occupational entrance requirement.

Consequently community colleges are flooded with students lacking basic reading, writing and mathematical skills – students that require developmental (what we used to call “remedial”) education in multiple areas.

The failure of American high schools to prepare students, to actually educate students in the basic skills and knowledge expected of a high school graduate much less of a college entrant, is widely recognized in the United States. In recent years a deluge of money, from government agencies, corporations, and charitable foundations (such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), has been directed to programs to better provide developmental/remedial education.

One might think that this flood of funding to provide students with high school level skills and knowledge would go to high schools. This is after all high school topics that students are failing to master. But that is not where the money is going. Instead, the grant funding is sloshing into the doors of Adult Education programs and especially community colleges. So that students, their families and society end up paying twice (taxes for high schools and taxes and tuition for community colleges) to education students to the level of a high school diploma. [See “Paying Double: Inadequate High Schools and Community College Remediation”]

The key question is why? Why does the funding go to community colleges and adult education programs instead of high schools. The answer, I believe, is quite simple. It is that in the United States, high schools, like all public education is locally controlled by local political entities, and therefore subject to all the abuses and corruption of local politics. Local schools may be constrained to hire only teachers with a college degree and a teaching certificate, but from the pool of all possibles it is the rare locality that doesn’t place kinship, friendship and political patronage above skills, knowledge and even subject matter certification when hiring teachers.

There are outstanding elementary and secondary schools in the United States – in communities made up of upper middle class families, where parents are all college educated and very knowledgeable of what is required for their own children to enter the nations top colleges and universities. Local control works in these communities to insure high quality secondary education – at least for those in the college preparatory tracks of the school. But in most of the country, high school education is in the control of an electorate and their political representatives who care more about the quality of their athletic fields and protecting their babies from being infected by heretical ideas like evolution, than they do for actual education.

I’ve personally known school boards and many working class and lower middle class parents, who want their children to have access to jobs, but are quite clear that they don’t want those children to be contaminated by education. They want degrees without all that troublesome knowledge.

The funders of developmental/remedial education know this about American secondary education. They know that the schools that would actually use funding to raise the skill and knowledge level of students don’t really need the funds, and that the schools that need the funds won’t be able to use them appropriately. So they turn to community colleges, which are generally governed by state-wide bodies and accountable to regional accrediting agencies, and are therefore more likely to actually provide the needed developmental/remedial education. Moreover, high schools are motivated to get rid of poor students students quickly, while colleges who receive tuition payments, are motivated to hang on to poor students as long as the possibly can.

There are an alarming number of folks on the right in American Politics who are willing to fail to raise the debt ceiling because they believe that the vast majority of what government does is unnecessary and indeed “evil.” These are people many of whom do think that it would be a good thing for government to disappear, and that nothing seriously bad will happen if the August 2 deadline passes and the debt ceiling is not raised. They (wrongly) believe that a capitalist economy works best without government involvement, and so they apparently believe that rather than destroying our economy, crippling government by failing to raise the debt ceiling will free it to soar.

I have come to believe in recent days that it is necessary for those of us on the left to let them have their way. Let it fail. Let all those freshman, Tea Party Republicans have their way, let them block the raising of the debt ceiling. I believe it is time that the American people learn how much they really need government, how bad things can get if government is starved of funding.

The American people have been fed so much crap about the evils of government since 1980, that its time for a very serious, deadly object lesson; a lesson that is unmistakable in its dire consequences.

Once the lesson has sunk in, the debt ceiling can always be raised again. Yes, that will still result in the down grading of U.S. credit ratings, and that will cause some pain in increased interest rates among other things. But I’m beginning to think that it would be a small price to pay for the American electorate to learn that government is very necessary to the survival of the economic system of which they are so enamored.

Let it fail.

Better to let it fail, that to sacrifice bit by bit the programs like social security, medicare and medicaid that have provided a small bulwark against the complete disintegration of the American Middle Class.

Both right-wing and left-wing extremes (I’m part of the latter) do agree on one thing, we’re “on the wrong track” and going “to hell in a handbasket” if we don’t make some serious changes. Other than that basic agreement these two ends of the political continuum fail to agree on anything else — such as what the wrong track is, why it is wrong, and who is responsible for us being on that mistaken track, and what we should do about it. This is why the typical opinion poll which simply asks the bald question “is America on the right track?” gives us such a deceptively high percentage of people (64 percent in a March Ipsos’s poll) saying that we’re on the wrong track.

As a left winger, I think we’re on the wrong track because: 1) we keep reducing taxes on the rich and corporations when we ought to be increasing them, 2) we keep cutting programs for the poor, disabled, elderly, students and children, when we ought to be increasing them, 3) we keep giving subsidies to gas, oil and coal companies when we should be eliminating them and investing heavily in hydro, wind, solar, and everything else renewable, 4) the rich are getting richer while the poor (and the middle class and, well, everybody except the very rich) keep getting relatively poorer, 5) we’re not closing the Guantanamo Bay prison, and we’re not getting out of Afghanistan, and 6) we’re letting evangelical Christians impose their version of Biblical law on us. And the cause of all these problems is unrestrained, unregulated capitalism, and unfettered capitalism is beginning to collapse from its own internal contradictions, just like Marx said it would (he was only wrong about the timing).

Anyone with half a brain knows that the right-wing version of we’re going down the wrong track is almost exactly the opposite of every point on my list.

Saw this data on another blog and checked out the data myself at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where you can choose any range of years to examine.

Under Reagan unemployment rates rose higher and stayed there for longer than under Obama. Here’s the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Ronald Reagan, President
Recession of 1982-83



Total number of months unemployment was above 9% under Reagan was 19, number of months unemployment was above 10% under Reagan was 10 months.

Barack Obama, President
Recession of 2008-2010


Total number of months unemployment was above 9% under Obama so far has been 14, number of months unemployment was above 10% under Obama was only 3 months, less than one-third the number of months above 10% under Reagan.

So my question is, why isn’t anyone reporting on this? Who’s conspiracy of silence is this? Even the Obama administration themselves aren’t making enough of this information. Yeah, I know, no one should be bragging about unemployment rates of 9.5%, but still, this is far better than the Reagan record on unemployment.