Monday, July 18, 2016

Dissidents in American Politics 1: "Left", "Right", "Conservative" and "Liberal" are Meaningless Labels


"Dissidents" are people who actively challenge established doctrine, policy, or institutions. This post is the first in a series of 10 posts regarding the confusing "revolutions" of the 2016 Presidential Election.


The political terms Left and Right were coined during the French Revolution (1789–1799), referring to the seating arrangement in the Estates General:
  • Those who sat on the left generally supported the revolution including the creation of a republic and secularization;
  • Those who sat on the right were supportive of the traditional institutions of the Old Regime including the monarchy and a strong belief structure derived from a revered book of beliefs we call "religious."
In other words, the terms were based on an 18th Century French seating chart.



In many ways it was weird that those terms were incorporated into the political language of the United States; after all, the American Revolution created a secular republic.

If that isn't bad enough, we English speakers then divided into "left" and "right" the two extreme 20th Century implementations of tyrannical, totalitarian dictatorships - Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union - both of which embraced a strong, religious-like belief structure derived from a revered book.

It is even harder to understand logically how we got from there to a broad acceptance of the idea that...
  • the American right is laissez-faire capitalism based on the reactionary writings of Russian immigrant Ayn Rand (Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum. a member of a Jewish bourgeois family born in 1905 and raised in Russia who, after the Russian Revolution opened universities to women, was in the first group of women to enroll at Petrograd State University) and who in her later years was a lecturer at Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and Harvard; and
  • the American left is libertarian socialism based on the reactionary writings of Noam Chomsky (born in the United States of Eastern European immigrant Ashkenazi Jewish parents) who was educated at the University of Pennsylvania
 ...both of whom embrace an economic philosophy that abhors centralized state control of the economy. If both had held public office they would have been in America's Academic Oligarchy by virtue of university affiliations, as that term is explained later in these posts.

What is odd is that politics and economics as academic studies somehow became separated in the minds of serious, but confused, people. Perhaps it is time we Americans remind ourselves of something:


In the 21st Century, as it was in the 20th Century and half of the 19th Century, paper (and now digital) money is a central government created commodity.

For our first 65 years, from the founding of the United States to the passage of the National Banking Act, some 8,000 different entities - mostly state charted banks - engaged in the highly profitable business of issuing currency. In addition to encouraging rampant counterfeiting, this created an unreliable money supply as frequently these banks would fail. It also created a multitude of local economies, interfering with travel even between cities, much less between states.

Without going into all the complexities, by establishing a single national currency during the Civil War, the National Banking Act eliminated the overwhelming variety of paper money circulating throughout the country thereby facilitating a true national economy.

To put it as simply as possible, the central government controls the supply of money through  monetary policy and assures its acceptance as "legal tender" so that payment for labor and goods can be accomplished reliably. Further, the value of an asset - property - is measured by what someone would pay for it in dollars - federal reserve notes - not in pumpkins or "Bank of Nome Alaska" notes.

(As a side comment, Brexit is about money. It is no coincidence the United Kingdom never substituted the Euro for the Pound. The UK was only "sort of half in" when it came to the European Union. Thus in part the Brexit vote ironically reflected the reluctance of those who opposed Brexit to be a full participant in the first place.)

By definition, an economy depends upon the money supply and in the 21st Century it is the government's responsibility to see that an economy works. Government is controlled by politics. Therefore, politicians facilitate the economy. Remember this fact - politicians facilitate the economy, economists ruminate on the idea of an economy, businesses take advantage of the economy.

On the other hand, a government has a hard time coping with the impact of what people do with the money they are allowed to keep - after taxes sends some of that money back to its creator. Not to be repetitive, money is a government created commodity in the first place.

It is the dispute over how much wealth (measured in money) individuals and corporations can control versus how much the government controls that supposedly is reflected in the popular labels  "left" and "right."

What that has to do with gay marriage and being "liberal" or "conservative" demonstrates just how confusing these labels are and how little we understand the role of government in our society.

With the advent (the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event) of Brexit into British politics and Donald Trump into American politics, it's time for English speakers to toss the political terms "left" and "right" into the scrap heap of history. And based upon the vote in Britain and the weakness of the parties in the United States, we should reconsider our use of the labels "liberal" and "conservative" in politics.

In the second post of this series, I will discuss proper labels for people actively participating in politics and the economy either as members of "The Establishment" or as "dissidents."

Dissidents in American Politics 2: 21st Century Political Divisions


"Dissidents" are people who actively challenge established doctrine, policy, or institutions. This post is the second in a series of 10 posts regarding the confusing "revolutions" of the 2016 Presidential Election.


In the 21st Century, our nation, if not the world, has clarified how to classify people in the context of the political and economic milieu. People engaged in the political/economics milieu fall into one of two divisions and one of four classifications:
  • An Establishment including
    1. Shareholder Capitalists who run the world's economy, and
    2. Academic Oligarchists who run the national governments;
  • Authoritarian Revolutionary dissidents opposing "The Establishment" including
    1.  Romantic Populists who believe that the "virtuous" citizens are being mistreated by a small circle of elites and favor the "proper" division of economic resources through government action to implement a sharing society, and
    2. Mythical Reactionaries who believe that "once upon a time" there was a state of society which possessed characteristics such as discipline, respect for authority, etc., that are absent from contemporary society and favor a government imposed return to that state of society.
Politically disengaged persons, typically about 40% of the adult population in the United States, are not relevant to these classifications. Their disengagement becomes relevant only when a revolution is attempted.

In the 21st Century world through experience we have learned that the likelihood of a successful peaceful democratic - non-authoritarian - revolution is slim mostly because of that disengagement. The idea of successful democratic revolutions through violence offered by the American Revolution is a delusion as the French learned when their revolution culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon.

As we shall explore later, the division of powers within the American Constitution creating a strong central government was necessarily to replace a weak, failing national government established under the Articles of Confederation and one of those divisions created the position of President in which intuitive authoritarian powers were vested.

In response to the rise of Donald Trump, early on in this Presidential Election cycle we began to be offered in news commentary and in-depth articles on the 1990's-2000's research of political scientists who have defined "authoritarianism" as a psychological profile of people. Under the right conditions, people will desire certain kinds of extreme policies and will seek or favorably respond to strongman leaders - demagogues - to implement them.

This year the rabid supporters of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have made it clear that a large number of voters desire an authoritarian revolution, though they are somewhat divided in orientation between over-40 reactionary ultra-nationalists (Trump supporters) and the under-40 populist multi-culturalists (Sanders supporters).

From the beginning it rapidly became clear that the rabid Trump supporters are supporters of authoritarian government. It wasn't until the majority of Democratic Party voters selected Hillary Clinton that the rabid Sanders supporters indicated they are also supporters of authoritarian government when they clearly rejected the democratic outcome in favor of imposing their own sense of order and correctness on the majority.

We also saw that generally the younger the voter age, the more likely a dissident will embrace populist multi-culturalism. Generally, the older the voter age, the more likely a dissident will embrace reactionary ultra-nationalism.

This is at least partially the result of two terms seemingly with a common root - communications and community. (After all, "commune" has two different definitions: (1) a noun, a group of people who live and work together and share responsibilities; (2) a verb, to converse or talk together, usually with profound intensity, intimacy, etc.)

The younger the voter's age, the more likely the voter will have embraced the early 21st Century communications system - the internet and text messaging - which creates a sense of participation in a broad multi-cultural, even international, community, but without actually contacting another human where "contact" is traditionally defined as "the act or state of touching; immediate proximity or association."

In addition, their heavy personal device use reduces direct human interaction within the local geographic community creating a sense of isolation from groups, clubs, organizations, such as the political party system which is structured from local party "central committees" which participate creating the national party.

This has created a misuse of the word "community" where people think a community exists because of interactions on Facebook and the like - where participants have interactions with others for whom they have no responsibility for their well-being as breathing mammals.

The older the voter's age, the more likely the voter does not use the internet or text messaging, or does not use it extensively. In the 21st Century it supports a continued sense of participation in a geographic community of friends, family, and older co-workers - people they know in person from direct face-to-face interaction.

On the other hand, these older voters are more isolated from the rapidly changing broader American community and the very foreign international community. It creates a sense of isolation from the late 20th Century political party systems where national leaders in both the Democratic and Republican parties had a strong sense of internationalism.

Most of these older voters do understand that the grassroots "Tea Party" Mythical Reactionaries have impacted on the Republican Party. However. most Americans do not know that since the 1992  a well-financed sophisticated organization of extremely conservative Shareholder Capitalists - the State Policy Network - has successfully implemented a specific goal of taking over the state governments and Congress using those "tea party" folks.

While age and other factors may tend to divide dissidents into Romantic Populists and Mythical Reactionaries, we need to acknowledge something simply expressed by one American stock market analyst:
There are a lot of angry people almost anywhere you care to look, and that anger isn't simply going to blow over. That's what happened in the late ‘60s and all of the 1970’s, and that is what's happening again now.
Age difference has not created an anger divide; they are all equally angry at "The Establishment" even if for different reasons. An increase in mass anger means an increase in the number of people who become avid Romantic Populists and Mythical Reactionaries as the number of politically disengaged become angry.

This isn't limited to the United States, as observed by a New York Times Editorial Board Opinion Piece which described the Brexit vote results:
It was a cry of anger and frustration from more than half the country against those who wield power, wealth and privilege, both in their own government and in Brussels, and against global forces in a world that they felt was squeezing them out.
The important fact to understand is that most of these angry dissidents are not avid ideologues - most of the large numbers of Romantic Populists and Mythical Reactionaries in the U.S. aren't advocates for some esoteric communist or fascist philosophies which they've studied in detail.

But they do feel the need to immediately and significantly disrupt the complex status quo created by the Shareholder Capitalists who run the world economy as facilitated by Academic Oligarchists who run the national governments. And they want it done by an authoritarian President.

The disengaged really don't care about their country being ruled by an authoritarian President ... until they do. For ordinary people in Nazi Germany life was comfortable, and in the period from 1950-1990 many disengaged Germans looked back and remember accurately their years before 1939 as good years, much better than pre-1932 years. After 1939 each day they began to care a bit more.

Since many Americans do not understand the historical legitimacy of the authoritarian President, we will explore that subject next.

Dissidents in American Politics 3: The Authoritarian U.S. President


"Dissidents" are people who actively challenge established doctrine, policy, or institutions. This post is the third in a series of 10 posts regarding the confusing "revolutions" of the 2016 Presidential Election.

The Whiskey Rebellion, also known as the Whiskey Insurrection, was a tax protest in the United States beginning in 1791, during the presidency of George Washington. Throughout counties in Western Pennsylvania, protesters used violence and intimidation to prevent federal officials from collecting the tax.

It ended when President Washington rode at the head of an army 12,950 militiamen provided by the governors of Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania effectively suppressing the insurgency. Because relatively few men volunteered for militia service, a draft was used to fill out the ranks. Draft protests were widespread, and conscription efforts resulted in protests and riots, even in eastern areas. That was handled in a clearly authoritarian, violent manner.

Click on image to see a larger version!


For example, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, two civilians were killed by the federalized militia, an unarmed boy was shot by an officer whose pistol accidentally fired and a man was stabbed to death by a soldier while resisting arrest. Eventually, a federal grand jury indicted 24 men for high treason, ten men stood trial for treason in federal court, only two were convicted and sentenced to death by hanging, but were pardoned by President Washington. Pennsylvania state courts were more successful in prosecuting lawbreakers, securing numerous convictions for assault and rioting.

President Andrew Jackson began the Indian Removal Policy which as continued by President Martin Van Buren led to the "Trail of Tears." Subsequent Presidents, as Commander in Chief, continued the genocide of Native Americans over the next 70 years. But the Native Americans weren't the only ones who experienced this fun side of traditional American bigotry.

Click on image to see a larger version!

Religious discrimination has been supported by the authoritarian use of power by a President. The Mormons are well aware of the tradition of authoritarian Presidents as their forebears experienced it as religious discrimination.  The religion's Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois, and the alleged murderers were found not guilty by a trial jury was composed exclusively of non-Mormons after the judge dismissed the initial jury, which included Mormons.

Click on image to see a larger version!


To make a long story short, the Mormons moved to the Utah Territory and established a territorial government. Because of a great deal of rumor and innuendo, in 1857 U.S. President James Buchanan sent an army to Utah resulting in the Utah War.

(President's George W. Bush and Barack Obama both worked to avoid the rapid expansion of this kind of religious bigotry toward Muslims.This contrasts with Donald Trump's successful effort to capitalize on the bigotry within America using a promise that isn't far from Buchanan's attitude - a traditional American attitude of religious bigotry that, right behind racial bigotry and ethnic bigotry, has always been the third core element of the American truth, as opposed to the American myth)

When does the use of violent force by the established government become authoritarian in conduct. Juan Linz's influential 1964 description characterized authoritarian political systems by four qualities:
  1. limited political pluralism; that is, such regimes place constraints on political institutions and groups like legislatures, political parties and interest groups;
  2. a basis for legitimacy based on emotion, especially the identification of the regime as a necessary evil to combat "easily recognizable societal problems" such as underdevelopment or insurgency;
  3. minimal social mobilization most often caused by constraints on the public such as suppression of political opponents and anti-regime activity;
  4. informally defined executive power with often vague and shifting powers.
Abraham Lincoln's Republican Presidency clearly fit that description. So let's take a look at the Civil War, not as Northern lefty intellectuals nor Southern Klan members, but as open minded truth seekers.

The U.S. Civil War produced at least 1,030,000 casualties (3 percent of the population), including about 620,000 soldier deaths. Based on 1860 census figures, 8 percent of all white males aged 13 to 43 died in the war, including 6 percent in the North and 18 percent in the South.

It could have have been avoided, but Americans in the North had latched onto a goodness versus evil belief system about the institution of slavery that ignored the Three-Fifths Compromise part of the U.S. Constitution permitting states to maintain the legality of slavery.

(As an aside, if you think the rule of law is critical, than you would have supported slavery. If you believe in the recently invented moral absolute that human slavery is unacceptable even though we know it was a continuously accepted human condition dating back to at least 8000 BC, than you would have supported killing 1 million Americans to free 4 million slaves. Absolutes in morality are such fun things.)

As is always the case, when a large minority of the U.S. population embraces beliefs contrary to the status quo beliefs of another large minority of the U.S. population, a high level of fear for personal wealth and well-being is created, in this case within The Establishment in the South.

(As an aside, today we have anger because a large minority of the U.S. population embraces beliefs contrary to the status quo beliefs of another large minority of the U.S. population which has created a high level of fear for personal wealth and well-being is created. The solution, of course is for these folks to defend their beliefs irrationally in some manner comparable to the 1860's, justifiably killing 10 million Americans at random.)

Prior to Lincoln assuming the office of President, negotiations over the issues were moving forward. On December 18, 1860, the Crittenden Compromise was proposed to re-establish the Missouri Compromise line by constitutionally banning slavery in territories to the north of the line while guaranteeing it to the south. Here is the map they were arguing over. Red states were slave states, blue states were free states, the green line is the Missouri Compromise line. The gray indicates territories that would become states.

Click on image to see a larger version!

The adoption of this compromise likely would have prevented the secession of every southern state apart from South Carolina, but Lincoln and the Republicans rejected it.

It was then proposed to hold a national referendum on the compromise. The Republicans again rejected the idea, perhaps because they knew a majority of both Northerners and Southerners would have voted in favor of it. (This self-righteous minority group also self-swaddled themselves in ignorance choosing to believe that even if there was a Civil War it would be over in months - something anyone informed about the other side would never have believed.)

Click on image to see a larger version!

By the definition discussed in a previous post, Lincoln's Republicans were Romantic Populists who believed "virtuous" people were being mistreated by a small circle of elites wrongly holding economic power.

History has been so twisted that it is not bothersome to most Americans that with an 82.2% voter turnout, Lincoln won with only 39.9% of the popular vote but still led Americans into a Civil War assuming authoritarian powers and refusing compromise.

Lincoln is an American hero who could be a model for authoritarian action for Donald Trump's deportation program.  In case you didn't know this, here is a history lesson:
In 1861, John Merryman, a state legislator from Maryland, was arrested for attempting to hinder Union troops from moving from Baltimore to Washington during the Civil War and is held at Fort McHenry by Union military officials. His attorney immediately sought a writ of habeas corpus so that a federal court could examine the charges. However, on May 25, 1961, President Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus in the United States, and the general in command of Fort McHenry refused to turn Merryman over to the authorities.

The chief justice of the Supreme Court
Roger Taney issued a ruling that President Lincoln did not have the authority to suspend habeas corpus. Lincoln didn’t respond, appeal, or order the release of Merryman. But during a July 4 speech, Lincoln was defiant, insisting that he needed to suspend the rules in order to put down the rebellion in the South.

Five years later, a new Supreme Court essentially backed Chief Justice Taney’s ruling. In an unrelated case, the Court held that only Congress could suspend habeas corpus and that civilians were not subject to military courts, even in times of war.

This was not the first or last time that a U.S. President imprisoned Americans at will. Pursuant to Executive Order 9066 issued by another revered President, Franklin Roosevelt, hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps and denied the right to
a writ of habeas corpus.
Indeed if a President Trump were to imprison Muslim Americans after persuading Congress to declare war on ISIS, he could become a revered hero like the extremely authoritarian Presidents Lincoln and Roosevelt.

Looking at the Crittenden Compromise map, in hindsight many argue that slavery would have ended without the Civil War but not for a number of decades. If so do you think those decades were worth the 1+ million casualties? Without arguing about what the people thought at the time, what does it say about you if you believe the Civil War was justified?

It doesn't matter because a minority Party of an authoritarian President rejected compromise thereby initiating the killing 620,000 soldiers and tens of thousands of others, all Americans fighting because of the true believers and the truly fearful.

By the time the Civil War was over, authoritarian actions of Presidents had been validated beginning with Washington and continuing until Lincoln who gave a permanent home in the Presidency for what is clearly defined as authoritarianism.

Of course, in the end the Civil War was a testing ground for modern total warfare. Total war is warfare that is not restricted to purely legitimate military targets, and can result in massive civilian or other non-combatant casualties. Americans perfected it in WWII.

Feeling a bit guilty about mass casualties in the Vietnam War, we've recently applied technology to our warfare with President's authorizing the use of drones to kill evil radical Muslim terrorists foreigners and even evil radical Muslim American terrorists in foreign lands.

Since that worked so well, following the model of the authoritarian U.S. Presidency, domestic police forces now use a variation on that technology (robots carrying small bombs) within the United States to kill alleged terrorists. It's far less of a video media embarrassment than all those police in body army carrying assault weapons riding around suburban Boston in armored military vehicles.

Just think. Instead of shooting all those holes in that bystanders boat and not killing the suspect, resulting in a long expensive trial, they could have just blown up the suspect and the boat. Soon we won't need to worry about all those Constitutional rights. After all, the Presidents don't.

The authoritarian U.S. Presidency has become an accepted tradition. Since the Civil War, as examples we've had:
  • the Pullman Strike of 1894 with military and U.S. Marshal intervention ordered by President Grover Cleveland:
  • the 1902 Coal Strike in which President Theodore Roosevelt fearing that the "attitude of the operators" would "double the burden" of those who stood against "Socialistic action" continued the practice of intervention in labor disputes though this time achieving success with on the threat of using force; 
  • the 1932 Bonus Army incident of President Herbert Hoover;
  • the 1942 internment of Japanese Americans ordered by Franklin Roosevelt; 
  • in 1950, in anticipation of a crippling strike by railroad workers, President Harry S. Truman issued an executive order putting America’s railroads under the control of the U.S. Army; 
  • and more.
Perhaps one thing needs to be made clear. An Authoritarian Revolution strikes at the heart of a democratic republic government which depends upon compromise in the recognition that the give-and-take in such a political system is a substitute for violence being used to secure a preferred outcome (such as killing a million people in the Civil War).

In the United States there usually is a block of reasonable citizens, about 40% of the voters, who at some level understand and prefer that give and take decision-making system. A problem arises, however, when the system is hijacked and brought to a halt.

In the past 20 years the Mythical Reactionaries, never representing more than a small minority of Americans, frequently have succeeded in bringing that give-and-take system to a halt. At that point, the patience of the reasonable citizen erodes, and some of those 40% of the voters become unenthusiastic Mythical Reactionaries or Romantic Populists.

A further review of the four groups of people can help understand our political system. But first, we need to examine recent developments in our economy that have amplified the likelihood of an authoritarian Presidency.

Dissidents in American Politics 4: Who are we angry at?


"Dissidents" are people who actively challenge established doctrine, policy, or institutions. This post is the fourth in a series of 10 posts regarding the confusing "revolutions" of the 2016 Presidential Election.

As previously noted, people are angry...well, some people are angry.

Certainly, not the rich, whoever they are. They are who the angry are angry at or angry about. Maybe we need to know who the rich are.

Recently, we've begun to talk about the 1% . But we tend to get lost in discussions about income and wealth which are two different things. Wealth, or net worth, is the sum of all assets minus the sum of all liabilities.

Sometimes it's easy to think of the rich in terms of Forbes 400 wealthiest individuals. According to an Economic Policy Institute report The State of Working America’s Wealth, 2011: Through volatility and turmoil, the gap widens: "In 2009, the price of admission to the Forbes 400 was just short of $1 billion, and the collective net worth of these 400 individuals was $1.3 trillion."

But this isn't reflective of the 1%, even though the 400 are in the 1%. In 2009, when The Great Recession impacted personal wealth the most ("recession" ...uh... more about that later),  the report tells us: "Average wealth of the top 1% was close to $14 million in 2009..."

That pretty much defined the top 1% in terms of wealth in 2009 - a household net worth that can be rounded to a number that exceeds $10 million. That's substantially less wealth than that $1 billion mark.

It is important to keep in mind that if we use wealth (net worth) as the measurement, the impact of The Great Recession was somewhat uneven according to that report:
On average, the top 20% lost 16.0% and the bottom 80% lost 25.1% of their total wealth in 2008 and 2009. Average wealth of the bottom 80% was just $62,900 in 2009...slightly less, in inflation-adjusted terms, than it was more than a quarter-century ago in 1983.... The lowest 20% had -$27,200 of wealth in 2009. Since 2001 there has been a continual erosion of wealth for this class regardless of cyclical timing.
Of course, most of the loss in The Great Recession was housing value with many homes "under water", meaning that the value of the house was less than the mortgage.

As you might guess, many of those angry folks are in the bottom 80% whose average net worth dropped from almost $105,000 at the peak to about $63,000 as the result of The Great Recession.

In terms of income, the 1% are not the same folks as those with 1% of the wealth. In a 2010 piece titled The United States of Inequality we learned:
The American aristocracy is less different from you and me than it was in Fitzgerald's day. ...The top of the heap are overwhelmingly job-holders deriving most of their income from their wages. Did it become posh to have a job? Not exactly. Having a job—the right job, anyway—became the way to get posh. That's encouraging in one sense: To roll in the dough you now have to work for a living. But it's discouraging in another sense: You can't blame enormous income disparities on non-working coupon-clippers who exist outside the wage structure (and reality as most of us understand it). The wage structure itself is grossly misshapen.
The author divided the rich into three groups, "Sort of Rich, Rich, and Stinking Rich." And he explained that "it’s useful to think of the top 10 percent as the 'sort of rich,' the 1 percent as the straightforward 'rich,' and the 0.1 percent as the 'stinking rich.' "

In a more recent article Who Gets to Be “Rich”? And why do most people seem to think they are “middle class”? we are offered this piece of information: "...A household income of about $113,000 lands you at the top 10th, while $394,000 makes you a bona fide member of the 1 percent." What he then goes on to explain is:
...More than 76 percent of Americans get to experience the joys of a six-figure household income for at least one year, just more than half will make $150,000 or more at some point, and about 20 percent hit the $250,000 mark at least once, which these days would put them within the top 2 percent of earners.

... Just half of Americans hit six figures for five or more years, and only one-third manage it for a decade total. Meanwhile, less than 2 percent cross the quarter-million-dollar threshold for at least 10 years of their lives. Just 1 percent do it for 10 consecutive years.

Why do our incomes rise and fall so much? People get sick and leave work. They get bonuses. They spend a year pulling enormous amounts of overtime. Parents leave their careers to care for children or cut down to part-time hours. Life isn’t a steady march, and nor are our incomes. This, I think, should complicate our idea of class. Quite a few of us get our 15 minutes of affluence, but sustaining it is hard.
And yet we're told "the bottom 60 percent earned a maximum of $59,154 in 2010, the bottom 40 percent earned a max of $33,870, while the bottom 20 percent earned just $16,961 at maximum" in Who are the 1 percent?

To confuse matters more, we are offered this chart in How Much Income Puts You in the 1 Percent if You're 30, 40, or 50?:

Click on image to see a larger version!

The point is that if you make $135,000 a year and your age 27-31, you are in the top 1% of your age group. If you are 50+ you need to make $340,000±.

From all this, what we know is that if you are 40 making $285,000 a year, you're in the top 1%. Likely you'll be in that group for no more than five years of your life.

Then you may slip into the group of angry people.

You could easily find yourself making 30% of that and still be in the upper 40% income group - a middle class income.

And you might retire in the bottom 40% income group earned a max of $33,870 but still middle class. And still angry.

So who is this 1% we're angry at? The Forbes 400? People with a household net worth of more than $10 million.  Or a 30-year-old techie making $135,000 a year. Heck, they are all in some version of the 1%.

Are we angry at them or angry at "The Establishment" because these 1% folks exist without "me" being among them?

Are we angry at Congress and the state legislatures because they don't tax these people enough?

Are we angry, really? Yes we are.

As I wrote here in the post The effect of the white white-collar Democrats' class war against white blue-collar American women there was The Great Recession and afterwards government and corporations "didn't do much to help restore to their prior status predominately white unionized blue collar age 40+ industrial workers who were used to making upper middle class incomes."

Here is where things get confusing. Economists have created lots of interesting terms about the ups and downs of an economy.  We have economic downturns, recessions, and depressions.

An economic downturn is a general slowdown in economic activity over a sustained period of time in a specific region  or on a global scale. It's a little hard to distinguish an economic downturn from a recession. The key features of an economic downturn include:
  • Negative or very low economic growth
  • Rising unemployment
  • Falling asset prices – shares and house prices
  • Low consumer confidence and falling investment.
  • Rising spare capacity (negative output gap)
  • Increasing government borrowing due to higher government spending on benefits and lower tax revenue.
Usually economic downturns are temporary and part of the economic cycle.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) defines an economic recession as "a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales."

All member states of the European Union including the United Kingdom define an economic recession as two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth, as measured by the seasonal adjusted quarter-on-quarter figures for real GDP.

A severe recession (GDP down by 10%) or prolonged recession (three or four years) is referred to as an economic depression.

According to the US National Bureau of Economic Research (the official arbiter of US recessions) The Great Recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, thus extending over 19 months. By virtue of the way they measure "economic growth" which includes the flow government spending including the bank and GM bailouts, The Great Recession never became a depression.

Sure, as explained in economist talk in Wikipedia:
The distribution of household incomes in the United States has become more unequal during the post-2008 economic recovery, a first for the US but in line with the trend over the last ten economic recoveries since 1949. Income inequality in the United States has grown from 2005 to 2012 in more than 2 out of 3 metropolitan areas. Median household wealth fell 35% in the US, from $106,591 to $68,839 between 2005 and 2011
In other words, as measured the GDP quit declining, the banks finished foreclosing on family homes and sold them to corporate landlords and real estate flippers, and some people found jobs at much lower wages than before causing the unemployment rate to drop.

 As I explained in the post here The inane bigotry of the educated is the reason why Trump's “I love the poorly educated!” is a winner, construction employment is still 1.6 million jobs short of its 2007 level, manufacturing has 1 million fewer jobs than it did before the recession, and, compared to pre-recession employment levels, office and administrative support occupations have experienced the second-highest decline in jobs - 1.4 million.

Evidence is mounting as explained in Is the Middle Class Being “Disrupted” Into Extinction? that educated professionals of all types - tech, legal, education, journalists, nurses, "are falling prey to an unstable new America." Recently a study indicated that the leading tech companies expect that in the next three years automation and machine learning will replace 5% of their workforce.

The author has coined a new term derived from combining "proletariat" and "precarious" - the Middle Precariat. We all know what that "precarious" as defined by Dictionary.com (first definition) means "dependent on circumstances beyond one's control; uncertain; unstable; insecure.". The "proletariat" is a term  in a capitalist society for the class of wage-earners whose only possession of significant material value is their labor-power, their ability to work.

Which brings us back to the anger. GDP means Gross Domestic Product. It measures productivity in terms of the value of output of goods and services. It doesn't measure whether workers contribute to or share in the wealth created by that output.

That's ok for economists to talk about. But it's not ok in real life for real people, particularly including politicians.

You see economists may think The Great Recession didn't turn into a depression because GDP stopped falling in less than two years. But when median household wealth fell 35% in the US between 2005 and 2011, that's six years. And when in 2013, real median household income was 8.0 percent lower than in 2007 that's six years.

The reality to be faced by the Shareholder Capitalists and the Academic Oligarchists - and by Congress and state officials - is that in 2008 for somewhere between 60% to 80% of American households a recession began that has not ended. For real people, not economists, in fact The Great Recession turned into a depression because real people don't care what happens to corporations, they care about what happens to people.

To give the situation a term, what happened in 2008 was an Economic Collapse built upon an earlier economic decline for which according to Wikipedia "there is no precise definition." Instead, Wikipedia offers a description of symptoms (emphasis added):
The term has been used to describe a broad range of bad economic conditions, ranging from a severe, prolonged depression with high bankruptcy rates and high unemployment (such as the Great Depression of the 1930s), to a breakdown in normal commerce caused by hyperinflation (such as in Weimar Germany in the 1920s), or even an economically caused sharp rise in the death rate and perhaps even a decline in population (such as in countries of the former USSR in the 1990s).
The crux of the matter is that an Economic Collapse means a period of a few months that results in the long term significant loss (greater than 10%) of personal wealth (net worth) for the 80% of the households having the lowest wage income. That means most of the people.

As indicated in Wikipedia "often economic collapse is accompanied by social chaos, civil unrest and sometimes a breakdown of law and order."

As discussed in posts here, we not only have had prolonged unemployment and other symptoms of an Economic Collapse that really began with the collapse of the dot-com bubble which took place during 1999–2001, but we now know that we likely have an economically caused sharp rise in the death rate as "white women have been dying prematurely at higher rates since the turn of this century, passing away in their 30s, 40s and 50s in a slow-motion crisis driven by decaying health in small-town America."

And that is what the election of 2016 is all about - ignorance among the best educated people among us about the 21st Century Economic Collapse. They have been literally Economic Collapse deniers because it really didn't impact them for any length of time.

So let's take a deeper look at the four groups, particular the Shareholder Capitalists and Academic Oligarchists who I think the rest of us are angry at.

Dissidents in American Politics 5: The Shareholder Capitalist Class


"Dissidents" are people who actively challenge established doctrine, policy, or institutions. This post is the fifth in a series of 10 posts regarding the confusing "revolutions" of the 2016 Presidential Election.



A "Shareholder Capitalist" is the year 2000 version of the year 1900 "Robber Baron." Robber Barons were business leaders in the United States, avaricious rascals who for personal gain habitually cheated and robbed workers, investors and consumers, corrupted government, fought ruthlessly among themselves, and in general carried on predatory activities comparable to those of the robber barons of medieval Europe but without violent armies.

Shareholder Capitalists are more removed from their business behavior than the Robber Barons of 1900. Shareholder Capitalists depend upon and reinforce the beneficial effectiveness and sanctity of the faceless "corporation" which:
  • exists independently of its owners for the primary purpose of accumulating unlimited corporate wealth (not wealth for its owners, hence the reluctance to pay significant dividends);
  • exists within a capitalist economic system and within an infinite time structure removed from the limits of a human life spans;
  • operates worldwide without regard to international boundaries seeking to maximize revenue while minimizing the cost of productive labor and taxes; and 
  • combines with others of its kind when needed for purposes of efficiency and market domination.
Shareholder Capitalists include people or families who own or control (sometimes through an investment business) hundreds of millions of dollars of corporate stock and who likely serve on the board of directors of a number of corporations. Typically, the corporations involved employ more than 3,000 people.

A true shareholder capitalist within the corporation looks to achieve corporate profit goals without regard to the well-being of persons. Minimized compensation is made for the use of individual abilities required to further corporate goals. Since corporations have no personal prejudices, a true shareholder capitalist also ignores any and all labels that may apply to other persons related to nationality, religion, politics, race, ethnic group, class, age, gender, sexual preference, etc. Assets are assets and as the graphic above says "people are assets" like machinery and furniture.

Any "people" - person - can choose to be affiliated with Shareholder Capitalists by working as senior management within a corporate organization or by acquiring stock in corporations at share ownership quantities that have no meaningful impact on shareholder voting. If you are among either of those two groups and your personal situation has not led you to anger, you may choose to see your interests as coinciding with the interests of Shareholder Capitalists. Occasionally they are, but not always and not forever. And about outrage over CEO pay, you may want to read this election year article Beware big talk about the tax code.

Beyond becoming affiliated, the only way to share in the benefits of corporate success is to be an employee of a corporation or a vendor of supplies or services purchased by a corporation, but with the understanding that the corporation's goal will be to compensate you the least it can consistent with its goals and to that end may, and likely will, terminate your relationship at any time because of its goals - nothing personal, you understand, you're an asset and there's nothing "personal" about machinery or furniture or you. You may see yourself as affiliated with Shareholder Capitalists, but they rightly know you are delusional.

For Shareholder Capitalists there is little meaning in an Economic Collapse as defined in the previous post. In recessions where the GDP drops, Shareholder Capitalists worry and so economists also wring their hands and opine. But where you have an Economic Collapse meaning the net worth of the lower paid 80% dropped significantly, if the GDP comes back who cares?

Primarily driven by the profit motive, today Shareholder Capitalists manipulate the world's economy and ours.

Successful entrepreneurs are Shareholder Capitalists who have capacity and willingness to develop, organize, and manage a new business venture along with any of its risks in order to make a profit. Usually the most successful are seen as "innovative" meaning they bring some new product or service into the marketplace. Some attempt to mitigate the depersonalizing impact of Shareholder Capitalism through charitable activities.

We may need them to do more charitable work, because in a recent report about the tech industry KPMG stated (emphasis added):
...As part of this strategic priority to successfully integrate disruptive technologies to create unique customer value propositions and new ways to compete, tech CEOs say they are investing heavily in talent development, workforce automation and machine learning. The majority of technology companies plan to increase their human workforce at least 6 percent over the next three years while adding cognitive systems to create a new class of digital labor that can enhance human skills and expertise, allowing employees to innovate constantly.
Despite plans to grow their companies' worldwide human workforce 2% a year for the next three years, as expressed in this graphic the ultimate goal is to reduce the number of people with whom they share the revenue by automating as much of the tech industry as possible replacing workers with "digital" labor.

Click on image to see a larger version!


They've already been very successful doing that for the manufacturing of their tech devices as they did for other manufacturing corporations and within their administration support workforce and they did for other corporations generally.

Given the report's comment that "U.S. Tech CEOs indicate India and the U.S. have the greatest potential for new market growth over the next three years followed by Brazil and China" it is unclear where the 5% of the workforce will be replaced and the 6% growth will occur. But it is clear that the greatest savings would come from reducing their U.S. workforce.

For a more extensive review of workforce impacts of Shareholder Capitalists in recent decades read the posts


There are some parts of the economy that are outside that world controlled by Shareholder Capitalists. Small businesses, typically those that cannot become an employer of more than 3,000 people, are outside that world. Shareholder Capitalists, for instance those who control the banking system, do interface with these small business owners. And to an extent they attempt to persuade the small business owner that they all function in the same environment - capitalism. But they don't.

Agriculture is a peculiar sector of the economy. Only in recent times have Shareholder Capitalists managed to gain control in this sector. Despite the Industrial Revolution, the agrarian system  - which values rural society as superior to urban society, the independent farmer as superior to the paid worker, and sees farming as a way of life that can shape the ideal social values - resisted the Shareholder Capitalist. In the 20th Century, that changed, partly as a result of government policies established by Academic Oligarchists who found it easier to deal with Shareholder Capitalists than individual farmers.

Historically Shareholder Capitalists refrained from involvement in the political system except for lobbying.  They would work with the Academic Oligarchists in the executive branches of national and state governments and use the court system as needed.

That has changed. We will explore the change after reviewing the Academic Oligarchists class.

Dissidents in American Politics 6: The Academic Oligarchist Class


"Dissidents" are people who actively challenge established doctrine, policy, or institutions. This post is the sixth in a series of 10 posts regarding the confusing "revolutions" of the 2016 Presidential Election.


Academic Oligarchists advocate control of government executive and judicial power by people who can be trusted to act on behalf of the "common good." They can be trusted because they have shared ties and knowledge gained through higher education, meaning colleges and universities they have attended.

Membership into the American Academic Oligarchy can automatically derive from holding a degree from an American Ivy League school (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale) plus a few others (College of William and Mary, University of Chicago, Duke, Georgetown, Stanford, Wellesley, and the three military academies).

It is important to recognize that Academic Oligarchists are not employed by a university or college, except on a temporary basis or when semi-retired. Rather they work as elected or appointed public officials.

While the focus here is on the latter half of the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21st Century, the American Academic Oligarchy assumed control at the beginning. Of course our first six Presidents attended one of those colleges:
  • George Washington - College of William and Mary
  • Thomas Jefferson - College of William and Mary
  • John Adams - Harvard
  • James Madison - University of Pennsylvania
  • James Monroe - College of William and Mary
  • John Quincy Adams - Harvard
And among the Supreme Court Justices appointed by those Presidents were:
  • John Jay - Columbia
  • Oliver Ellsworth - Yale, Princeton
  • William Paterson - Princeton
  • William Cushing - Harvard
  • John Blair, Jr. - College of William and Mary
  • Bushrod Washington - College of William and Mary
  • John Marshall - College of William and Mary
  • William Johnson - Princeton
  • Henry Brockholst Livingston - Princeton
  • Joseph Story - Harvard
  • Smith Thompson - Princeton
In reality it began with the Declaration of Independence as the signers included:
  • John Hancock - Harvard
  • William Hooper - Harvard
  • Samuel Adams - Harvard
  • Robert Treat Paine - Harvard
  • Elbridge Gerry - Harvard
  • William Ellery - Harvard
  • William Williams - Harvard
  • Oliver Wolcott - Yale
  • Philip Livingston - Yale
  • Lyman Hall - Yale
  • Carter Braxton - College of William and Mary
  • Benjamin Harrison V - College of William and Mary
  • Benjamin Rush - Princeton
  • Joseph Hewes - Princeton
  • Thomas McKean - Princeton, Dartmouth, University of Pennsylvania
  • Francis Hopkinson - University of Pennsylvania
  • James Smith - University of Pennsylvania
  • James Wilson - University of Pennsylvania
  • William Paca - University of Pennsylvania
It's even more complicated than that.

We all know that Benjamin Franklin, like so many of his time, was educated more informally. That might make you think he wasn't involved in the Academic Oligarchy. What you may not know is the Academy and College of Philadelphia located in Philadelphia was founded in 1749 by a group of local notables that included Benjamin Franklin. Franklin, the first president of the board of trustee, drew up the constitution for the academy, which was notable for its emphasis on modern languages and science in place of Latin and Greek. It was reorganized in 1791 as the University of Pennsylvania.

Twenty-one members of the Continental Congress were graduates of Benjamin Franklin's school, and nine signers of the Declaration of Independence were either alumni or trustees.

Given the times, as we might expect many signers not listed were educated in Great Britain. As an example, John Witherspoon attended the University of Edinburgh but emigrated from Scotland to New Jersey in 1768 to become the sixth President of the College of New Jersey, later known as Princeton University.

While holding a degree from any university, any person can become affiliated with American Academic Oligarchists by working in a senior position for a President, or Cabinet Member, or even a State executive official who is an Academic Oligarchist.

Most significantly, the American Academic Oligarchy controls the U.S. Presidency and Supreme Court. Oh. And did I say that they believe they work to achieve "the common good" which in the 20th Century was defined by The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a documents most Americans don't even know exists. On other hand, how to achieve "the common good" is the subject of political disputes.

Here is a list of the American Presidents who first entered the office after the adoption of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and their alma maters:
  • Barack Obama - Columbia and Harvard Law School
  • George W. Bush - Yale and Harvard Business School
  • Bill Clinton - Georgetown, Oxford, and Yale Law School
  • George H. W. Bush - Yale
  • Ronald Reagan -  Eureka College
  • Jimmy Carter -  U.S. Naval Academy
  • Gerald Ford -  Yale Law School
  • Richard Nixon -  Duke University School of Law
  • Lyndon B. Johnson - Texas State University
  • John F. Kennedy -  attended Stanford and graduated from Harvard
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower - United States Military Academy (West Point)
Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson were not automatic members of the American Academic Oligarchy.

As we know, Lyndon Johnson accidentally became President after the assassination of Jack Kennedy and immediately was surrounded by members of the American Academic Oligarchy who were part of the Kennedy administration. Ironically, because of timing the American Academic Oligarchy in 1964 had to use Johnson, whose leanings were toward being a Romantic Populist, to stop a Mythical Reactionary movement led by  Barry Goldwater. Johnson only recently has been posthumously "embraced" by Academic Oligarchs.

By the time Ronald Reagan entered the Office of the President he too was surrounded with automatic members. But he had served two terms as Governor of California 1967–75 with Ed Meese as his Chief of Staff.  Meese was a Yale graduate. It is in examining the people like Meese around Reagan's political career that we can gain a clearer picture of what it means to be an Academic Oligarchist.

For instance, a classic example of an Academic Oligarchist associated with Reagan was Caspar Weinberger, who held a BA and a law degree from Harvard.
  • Governor Ronald Reagan named Weinberger chairman of the Commission on California State Government Organization and Economy in 1967 and appointed him State director of finance early in 1968. 
  • Two years later Weinberger became chairman of the Federal Trade Commission where is credited for having revitalized the FTC by enforcing consumer protection. 
  • Weinberger subsequently served under President Richard Nixon as Director of the Office of Management and Budget and Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. 
  • Weinberger then became vice president and general counsel of the Bechtel Corporation in California directly working in the world of Shareholder Capitalists for what is today the largest construction and civil engineering company in the United States, ranking as the 5th-largest privately owned company in the United States; it was and is a major contractor working for the U.S. Government which, as of July 2015, leads a consortium that manages three national security-related facilities in the U.S.: the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the combined Y-12 National Security Complex/Pantex Plant..
  • Weinberger then served as Secretary of Defense for the first six years of Reagan's Presidency. 
  • Afterwards Weinberger joined Forbes, Inc., in 1989 as publisher of Forbes magazine, and in 1993 he was named chairman. 
  • In he early 21st Century Weinberger was a member of the Founding Council of the Rothermere American Institute of Oxford University.
Regarding Ronald Reagan as California's most conservative Governor, the presence of Academic Oligarchy thinking in him or around him led to some rather non-conservative policies:
  • In 1968, he signed the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act, establishing collective bargaining for California's municipal and county employees which is consistent with his history as a union leader;
  • During his term as Governor, he oversaw adoption of sweeping tax packages at least four times larger than the previous record California tax increase obtained by Governor Brown in 1959;
  • In 1970 he signed the landmark California Environmental Quality Act; he worked with Nevada Republican Governor Paul Laxalt to establish the Lake Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to protect the Lake from irresponsible development; he signed the bill that created the California Air Resources Control Board; and he opposed a major federal highway construction project through the southern Sierras, literally putting on his cowboy hat and riding his horse through the John Muir Wilderness to publicize his opposition;
  • He signed the Therapeutic Abortion Act, making California the third and largest state to allow for abortion in cases such as rape, incest, or where pregnancy would impair the physical or mental health of the mother, though he did struggle with this bill personally as explained in this story.
By the time his term as Governor ended, Academic Oligarchists accepted him one of their own. As a Presidential candidate, Reagan was an experienced union executive and governor who throughout his life regularly sought the advice and counsel of automatic Academic Oligarchists.

In terms of the future of the Presidency we have a strong challenge to the Academic Oligarchist tradition:
  • Hillary Clinton is the model Academic Oligarchist who graduated from Wellesley in 1969 and received a Juris Doctor degree from Yale in 1973, and has held the positions of U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. Her Vice-Presidential nominee Tim Kaine also is a model Academic Oligarchist who holds a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard, has specialized training as an Academic Oligarchist from the Coro Foundation, and has held the positions of City Council Member, Mayor, Lieutenant Governor, Governor, and U.S. Senator.
  • The challenge comes from Donald Trump who did graduate from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, Penn's business school, but has never held any governmental office having always been a Shareholder Capitalist. His Vice-Presidential nominee Mike Pence is an anti-Academic Oligarchist as a long-time member of the State Policy Network (we will discuss that further in the next post) who has held the position of the president of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, a conservative talk radio show host, Congressman and Governor.
Regarding the Supreme Court, here is a list of the current Supreme Court:
  • John Roberts - Harvard and Harvard Law School
  • Anthony Kennedy - Stanford and Harvard Law School
  • Clarence Thomas -Yale Law School
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg - Cornell University, Harvard Law School, and Columbia Law School
  • Stephen Breyer - Stanford University, Oxford University, and Harvard Law School
  • Samuel Alito - Princeton and Yale Law School
  • Sonia Sotomayor - Princeton and Yale Law School
  • Elena Kagan - Princeton, Oxford University, and Harvard Law School
You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to look at the lists above and think: "Yes, the evidence indicates that the American Academic Oligarchy dominates the  U.S. Presidency and Supreme Court."

However, Academic Oligarchists do not dominate the law-making or budget-adoption roles in the United States. That function is left to Congress and the state legislatures, members of which are directly elected and are therefore responsible to the voters.

If members of the public do not like our laws and budgets, they need only look in the mirror to find someone to blame. Academic Oligarchists only have review and veto power. However, they do try to influence the direction of policy-making pursuant to those laws and, most importantly, control the administration of those laws.

The views of  Academic Oligarchists, particularly in the context of seeking a common good as defined by The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, frequently do conflict with those of Shareholder Capitalists. We need to examine that conflict and how resolution is achieved.

But first we need to look at the other two classes - the dissidents.

Dissidents in American Politics 7: The Romantic & Mythical in Politics


"Dissidents" are people who actively challenge established doctrine, policy, or institutions. This post is the seventh in a series of 10 posts regarding the confusing "revolutions" of the 2016 Presidential Election.


Romantic Populists

Populism is a political position which holds that the "virtuous" citizens are being mistreated by a small circle of elites, who can be overthrown if the people recognize the danger and work together. The elites (aka The Establishment) are depicted as trampling in illegitimate fashion upon the rights, values, and voice of the "legitimate" people.

One of the reasons as an American I call it "romantic" populism is that most of the American adherents, who appear out of the ether every four years, seem to believe that by winning the Presidency they will solve all their problems by having overthrown the Academic Oligarchists in a revolution.

The followers of Bernie Sanders primarily fall into that category (as do many of those who voted for Brexit) because the bulk of financial benefits of 21st Century economic growth have gone to upper middle class (in terms of per person income over $80,000 a year) and wealthy (in terms of asset value per owner over $10 million).

Romantic Populists are, of course, delusional dissidents when they see Academic Oligarchists as the primary part of The Establishment that has brought about the dysfunctional growth of economic inequality by its failure to restrain the Shareholder Capitalists.

To understand how that inequality came about they would need to take a quick look in the mirror, then in recognition of the truth turn off their iPhones and contemplate them. They should see in their phones the $181 billion held offshore by Apple to avoid taxes on wealth accumulation by the corporation, wealth from profits not distributed to shareholders. They should see the manipulation of consumers by Steve Jobs.

If they thought about it, even that lack of distribution of profits may seem illogical based on theoretical capitalism. But remember that a true Shareholder Capitalist within the corporation looks to advance corporate wealth without regard to the well-being of persons. And, after all, the shareholders are the owners of the $181 billion which has been set aside to assure longer term corporate goals which will enrich the corporation they own, so its all good.

Romantic Populists think the Academic Oligarchists controlling the power of the Presidency could correct this situation. But in fact that kind of governmental policy must come from laws passed by Congress which, as we know, is not controlled by Academic Oligarchists. Rather it is controlled by other people elected to their positions by voters who were persuaded to elect them by publicity and advertising bought by Shareholder Capitalists.

The key elections regarding that kind of governmental policy occur two years after each Presidential election when the Romantic Populists seem to disappear, even from the voting booth.

Through their ignorance of American history, Romantic Populists seem to forget that at the beginning of the 20th Century, the Robber Barons were the target of a number "progressive" changes to be instituted by Academic Oligarchists (Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, Harvard) which, of course, the new Shareholder Capitalists had rolled back or bypassed with the cooperation of Congress and the state governments by the end of the 20th Century.

For American Romantic Populists to achieve economic egalitarian change without a violent socialist revolution, they would have to never again buy an iPhone, symbolically rejecting the current world of Shareholder Capitalists and particularly the current world of entrepreneurial Shareholder Capitalists. They would have to spend much of their time every day working to elect new members of Congress and state legislatures, new members who also reject the current world of Shareholder Capitalists.

Or they can pretend it is enough to get enthused about a Presidential candidate once every four years and spend the rest of their time streaming "Game of Thrones" on their Apple TV, which is certainly ironic.

Mythical Reactionaries

A reactionary is a dissident who holds political views that favor a return to a previous political state of society, which they believe possessed characteristics (discipline, respect for authority, etc.) that are negatively absent from the contemporary society.

Those who voted for Brexit to "take back" Britain - mostly white folks - did have a real time to remember. At least those over 500 years old had a real time to remember. It was before the British Empire. Britain was just a little island with no significant wealth, generally fighting wars with the French and each other. What they think they remember is a time that was before the industrial revolution and before immigration from the colonies.

The followers of  Donald Trump primarily fall into that category also. The reason I call them "mythical" reactionaries is the previous political state of American society with the characteristics they long for never existed.

In some cases American Mythical Reactionaries believe that there was the "Leave It to Beaver" 1950's  - when "fairly" paid hard working men went home to a three bedroom, two bath home they owned where their homemaker wives and 2.6 children greeted them. Their economic situation was the result of their hard work and adherence to values. In this mythical time all that happened without unions and without having had The New Deal government intervention or the myth wouldn't be mythical enough.

In other cases, American Mythical Reactionaries believe that there was a time like the 1880's in the West where brave hardworking pioneers made it on their own. This was achieved without having the government pushing in railroad capitalism and pushing out the Native Americans using genocide when necessary or the myth wouldn't be mythical enough.

The problem is at that time governmental intervention was necessary, of course, to offer government benefits to the European immigrant ancestors of the Mythical Reactionaries. The benefits were the various Homestead Acts giving those immigrants land specifically to take pressure off an economic unstable Eastern United States, a time in which immigration was a significant disruptive force.

Mythical Reactionaries among the general population too suffer the delusion that by overthrowing the Academic Oligarchists through winning the Presidency, some outsider will solve all their problems.

However, over the past two decades, unlike the Romantic Populists who are too busy to be bothered with uninteresting people like members of Congress and their state legislatures, some Mythical Reactionaries have been effective in electing a Congress and state legislatures that push for social policies they think will return America to one of those mythical previous state of society.

Unfortunately for the Mythical Reactionaries from the general populace,  members of Congress and the legislatures they have elected are catering to the economic interests of Shareholder Capitalists. This is not an accident. Their success was facilitated by the State Policy Network, a consortium of conservative and libertarian groups which focus on state-level politics funding a successful ongoing coordinated strategy across 34 states (the other 16 states are pretty much blue despite their best efforts) which was a blueprint for the Mythical Reactionary conservative political success.

In December 2013, The Guardian, in collaboration with The Texas Observer and the Portland Press Herald, obtained, published and analyzed 40 grant proposals from SPN regular member organizations. The grant proposals sought funding through SPN from the Searle Freedom Trust. According to The Guardian, the proposals documented a coordinated strategy across 34 states, "a blueprint for the conservative agenda in 2014." The reports described the grant proposals in six states as suggesting campaigns designed to cut pay to state government employees; oppose public sector collective bargaining; reduce public sector services in education and healthcare; promote school vouchers; oppose efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions; reduce or eliminate income and sales taxes; and study a proposed block grant reform to Medicare.

A month earlier, the State Policy Network was tied to the billionaire Shareholder Capitalists Koch Brothers.

But this year their candidate to replace the Academic Oligarchists in the Executive and Judicial Branches is Donald Trump, a Shareholder Capitalist who ironically qualifies as an automatic Academic Oligarchist.
He will be helped by his Vice-Presidential Candidate Mike Pence who in 1991 became president of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, an organization that is part of the State Policy Network. Pence was placed in the Vice-President candidate position under confusing circumstances and generally dismissed by the press as there to appeal to the religious right. Of course he will appeal to the religious right, but he likely will have a significant role in facilitating the State Policy Network agenda with support from Congress and the States.

As a Shareholder Capitalist Trump has embraced some of the worst abuses and misuses of the corporation, turning the impersonal into personal, and showcasing it on television. It's hard to imagine how he and Pence will perform where up to now the standard is how best to achieve the goals of the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but it is an entirely different role.

It would, of course, be against the wishes of a substantial majority of Americans. Protests movements can easily be shut down by an authoritarian President, however.

Let's now take a look at how the Shareholder Capitalists and Academic Oligarchists struggle with issues that place them on opposite sides.

Dissidents in American Politics 8: Shareholder Capitalists versus Academic Oligarchists


"Dissidents" are people who actively challenge established doctrine, policy, or institutions. This post is the eighth in a series of 10 posts regarding the confusing "revolutions" of the 2016 Presidential Election.


Shareholder Capitalists and Academic Oligarchists together make up a group all others can despise called "The Establishment." Shareholder Capitalists manipulate our economy and Academic Oligarchists control key facets of our national government including monetary policy.

Whenever Academic Oligarchists determine that shareholder capitalism is not sufficiently benefiting the common good, the two groups can get into conflict. Whenever Shareholder Capitalists determine Academic Oligarchists are standing in the way of positive economic change,  the two groups can get into conflict

In the middle of those conflicts are Congress and state legislatures led by people who are normally not automatic members of the Academic Oligarchy nor true Shareholder Capitalists.

The conflicts traditionally have been fought within the framework of political parties, elections, and legislative bodies that rely upon negotiations and compromise.

But, as previously discussed, during the past 30 years within the United States some wealthy Shareholder Capitalists becoming a subgroup of  dissidents themselves using the State Policy Network have successfully bypassed the norms of the process by investing large sums of money in Congressional and legislative candidates and in the news media.

The Koch brothers are the best known example. This is not unusual in the U.S. Henry Ford was probably the most notorious because of his active support of the rise of Hitler. "I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration,"  said Adolph Hitler in 1931. It is the extreme extension of the corporate view that people are unimportant.

This change has allowed Shareholder Capitalists to operate with far fewer restrictions created by Academic Oligarchists. During the past 30 years, the Academic Oligarchists have become complacent permitting the undoing of changes made earlier in the 20th Century to avoid an Authoritarian Revolution.

In the process, they've allowed the word compromise to become an anathema to be despised. The fact that an effective democratic republic can only work if the players can find a middle ground on complicated issues is lost, or that fact specifically has been suppressed.

You only had to look at the candidates in this year's primary (or in the Brexit vote) to find examples of Romantic Populist and the Mythical Reactionary movements opposing the developments of the past 30 years.

What Romantic Populist and Mythical Reactionary dissidents typically don't understand is that Shareholder Capitalists need and use strong central governments (which they don't want to try to manage on a day-to-day basis):
  • to assure a stable currency, with minimal restrictions on how that government-created commodity is used;
  • to protect property rights including everything from real estate ownership to patents;
  • to maintain borders safely open to trade; and
  • to provide and protect transportation infrastructure such as roads, ports, and airports.
Simply, to accomplish corporate goals Shareholder Capitalists don't hold political office as their power is found in financial success based upon a lifetime of focus on work.

Academic Oligarchists assure this framework for them, arguing only over the details based upon perceived impacts of monetary policy on the rest of us. Without the reasonable support of Congress and the state legislatures along with the concurrence of the majority of the Supreme Court, Academic Oligarchists are at a major disadvantage. Unless of course they use military force in an Authoritarian Revolution.

A true peaceful total revolution by populists or reactionaries is a mythical, romantic fantasy which is exactly what our founding fathers intended.

Yes, there have been some peaceful policy successes by Romantic Populists and Mythical Reactionaries. Within the American Congress and the state legislatures, both Romantic Populists and Mythical Reactionaries occasionally win some policy battles through legislation. Then the Shareholder Capitalists adapt (or sometimes thwart) those policies by working with the Academic Oligarchists to fine tune how the new rules are administered and/or by allowing variations where Shareholder Capitalists control state governments.

As a group neither Academic Oligarchists nor Shareholder Capitalists embrace a particular "ideology". Neither is rigidly "left" or "right", "liberal" or "conservative" because those labels have no real world meaning beyond political spin. Most understand that if you get caught up in an ideological myth, you are inside a bubble that prevents your meaningful participation in the world. They let the rest of us argue over ideology.

Let's take a look at some examples of  issues of  concern to 21st Century Americans because they have contributed to the Economic Collapse and which Academic Oligarchists and Shareholder Capitalists have struggled with.

Example #1 - Housing Costs

That 2016 housing costs are the source of voter anger in the U.S. is a no brainer.

Most Americans Think the Housing Crisis Never Ended written in 2016 tells us:
The Great Recession rewrote the American dream. Millions of Americans who thought they’d captured the flag instead got swallowed up by a national mortgage-foreclosure crisis. Many of those former homeowners are now renters, competing in ever-more concentrated job markets for ever-scarcer affordable housing.

So perhaps it comes as no surprise that most Americans say that the housing crisis never ended. In fact, one in five Americans say that the worst is yet to come....
In a 2008 article in the Village Voice we were told:
Perhaps the only domestic issue George Bush and Bill Clinton were in complete agreement about was maximizing home ownership, each trying to lay claim to a record percentage of homeowners, and both describing their efforts as a boon to blacks and Hispanics. HUD, Fannie, and Freddie were their instruments, and, as is now apparent, the more unsavory the means, the greater the growth. But, as Paul Krugman noted in the Times recently, "homeownership isn't for everyone," adding that as many as 10 million of the new buyers are stuck now with negative home equity—meaning that with falling house prices, their mortgages exceed the value of their homes. So many others have gone through foreclosure that there's been a net loss in home ownership since 1998.
We have, of course, been deluged with news stories, books and movies about the whole mortgage scam that created The Great Recession. Articles such as Home Insecurity 2013: Foreclosures and housing in Ohio indicated the situation in a "swing" state:
Ohio foreclosures are at crisis levels, with more than 70,000 new foreclosures filed in 2012. This was about the same as in 2011 when the state experienced 71,556 foreclosures. What began as mostly an urban problem in the mid-1990s later erupted into a statewide epidemic. Levels have been, for the past three years, below the peak level of 89,000 in 2009. Despite these recent declines, last year’s rates were still two times higher than they had been a decade before in every Ohio county. The high foreclosure numbers persist despite national, state, and local efforts to stem new filings.

Foreclosures represent a major and ongoing blow against families’ main source of savings and against stability. This report analyzes the new foreclosure filings statistics in Ohio along with some of the latest developments in foreclosure prevention efforts. To add context to the foreclosure numbers, the report provides updates on mortgage defaults and negative equity. It ends with recommendations to better assist individuals, families and communities in becoming more stable.
While the number foreclosures have declined since then, a new problem has developed as explained in The financial pain of middle- and low-income renters:
Even as home prices continue to recover from the last decade's housing collapse, there's another crisis developing: sky-high rent burdens.

About 11.4 million American households are paying more than half of their incomes to afford their rent, a record high, according to a new report from Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies. Rent burdens are especially widespread in moderate-income households in the 10 most expensive housing markets, where the report notes that three-quarters of renters earning less than $45,000 pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

Younger Americans are also struggling with a decline in real incomes, with 25 to 34 year olds coping with an 18 percent slump in real incomes, which has added to the difficulties of saving for a down payment.

With homeownership declining, the rental market is where the housing market is shining. More than 36 percent of U.S. households were renters last year, the highest share in five decades.

"Rental demand has risen across all age groups, income levels, and household types, with large increases among older renters and families with children," the report noted.

That's also prompted a rise in households who are cost-burdened, or paying more than 30 percent of their incomes to their landlords. About 21.3 million American households are now considered cost-burdened, an increase of 3.6 million from 2008.
The anger of many Mythical Reactionaries supporting Trump begins with the disappointment brought about  by George Bush and Bill Clinton advocating maximizing home ownership (part of the ownership society Bush talked about which dates back to Margaret Thatcher's administration in the United Kingdom).

It also is of serious concern to the Romantic Populist Millennials whose concerns range from never being able to buy a home to high rents leading to articles like The American housing crisis threatening to put us all on the streets which emphasizes action taken by the Administration of New York Mayor and Academic Oligarchist Bill de Blasio (alma mater Columbia):
On Monday, New York City took a dramatic step that highlights just how out of control rental housing costs have become in the Big Apple and in many cities nationwide. For the first time, New York froze rents for one-year leases on a million rent-stabilized apartments.

“Today’s decision means relief,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters. “We know tenants have been forced to make painful choices that pitted ever-rising rent against necessities like groceries, child care and medical bills.”

Landlords balked and criticized City Hall, calling the move an “unconscionable, politically driven decision.” But Rent Board chair Rachel Godsil was having none of it. Her staff had found that landlord incomes had grown for nine years in a row, including by 3.4 percent last year, while costs only grew by 0.5 percent. In contrast, a majority of most stabilized renters faced continuing income stagnation.
Some, but not all, landlords are Shareholder Capitalists and this is an example of conflict with Academic Oligarchists.

But the fact is that in many regions, particularly in California, Academic Oligarchists have supported policies that create housing shortages. The reasons are complex and include popular environmental rationales. They are, of course, part of a sales pitch hiding economic impacts by diverting attention, much like gay marriage as an issue diverts attention. This drives up the cost of housing as thoroughly explained by the California Legislative Analyst in a 2015 report California’s High Housing Costs: Causes and Consequences. Yet, Mythical Reactionaries and Romantic Populists for different reasons are going to find it difficult to support the recommendation of the California Legislative Analyst:
We advise the Legislature to change policies to facilitate significantly more private home and apartment building in California’s coastal urban areas. Though the exact number of new housing units California needs to build is uncertain, the general magnitude is enormous. On top of the 100,000 to 140,000 housing units California is expected to build each year, the state probably would have to build as many as 100,000 additional units annually—almost exclusively in its coastal communities—to seriously mitigate its problems with housing affordability. Facilitating additional housing of this magnitude will be extremely difficult. It could place strains on the state’s infrastructure and natural resources and alter the prized character of California’s coastal communities. It also would require the state to make changes to a broad range of policies that affect housing supply directly or indirectly—including policies that have been fundamental tenets of California government for many years.
Those "fundamental tenets" - mostly environmentalism - curiously had the side effect of creating a housing shortage inflating the value of existing homes to the benefit of homeowners. They then also apply additional pressure on California's Academic Oligarchists.

To date no possible compromise has been achieved, though the recent termination of the Executive Director of the California Coastal Commission Academic Oligarchist Charles Lester (Columbia) was attributed in part to pressure from "some of the state's most powerful lobbyists, representing some of the state's wealthiest people and corporations" or Shareholder Capitalists.

Example #2 - Student Loans

If housing costs are a 21st Century issue, student loans are not, as explained in Wikipedia:
U.S. Government-backed student loans were first offered in the 1950s under the National Defense Education Act (NDEA), and were only available to select categories of students, such as those studying toward engineering, science, or education degrees. The student loan program, along with other parts of the Act, which subsidized college professor training, was established in response to the Soviet Union's launch of the Sputnik satellite, and a widespread perception that the United States was falling behind in science and technology, in the middle of the Cold War. Student loans were extended more broadly in the 1960s under the Higher Education Act of 1965, with the goal of encouraging greater social mobility and equality of opportunity.
In 1987, President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of Education William Bennett raised the issue underlying expanding student debt in a New York Times Opinion Piece titled Our Greedy Colleges. A Harvard Law graduate and automatic Academic Oligarchist, Bennett is  ignored by the public and considered a conservative by those who like to use meaningless labels.

At the time Bennett wrote his opinion piece the Reagan Administration was trying to minimize the future impact of the student debt problem by creating Income Contingent Loans which would permit repayment schedules to be tailored to a student's income.

As Bennett explained it in the context of the time when graduates would likely get good jobs: "A graduate's payments would never have to exceed 15 percent of his adjusted gross income, and he could have as long as necessary to repay."

But Bennett was angry at what he was seeing and wrote:
Many of our colleges are at it again. As they have done annually for the past six years, they have begun to unveil tuition increases that far outstrip the inflation rate. Next year, tuition is expected to rise 6 percent to 8 percent - even though inflation during 1986 was about 1.8 percent.

...Since 1982, money available through Federal student aid programs has increased every single year. Overall, Federal outlays for student aid are up 57 percent since 1980. Since 1980, inflation has been just 26 percent....

If anything, increases in financial aid in recent years have enabled colleges and universities blithely to raise their tuitions, confident that Federal loan subsidies would help cushion the increase. In 1978, subsidies became available to a greatly expanded number of students. In 1980, college tuitions began rising year after year at a rate that exceeded inflation. Federal student aid policies do not cause college price inflation, but there is little doubt that they help make it possible.

 At the same time that higher education has been cutting a bigger piece of the Federal pie, it has also received huge infusions of cash from state governments, from corporations, from foundations and from loyal alumni. The total increase in higher education spending from all these non-Federal sources is staggering. Spending for higher education now consumes about 40 percent of all money spent in America for education.

It is by no means clear that the performance of many of our colleges and universities justifies this level of expenditure. As I said on the occasion of Harvard's 350th anniversary, too many students fail to receive the education they deserve at our nation's universities. The real problem is not lack of money but failure of vision. 
While Bennett and other members of the Reagan Administration in the context of the time they were in attempted to make the impact of the student loan program less onerous, Bennett was attempting to get future Academic Oligarchists and Congress to deal with the underlying problem - greedy colleges and universities which he felt were not offering a good product and were beginning to look a lot like institutions operated by Shareholder Capitalists.

It is more than ironic that by the 21st Century Shareholder Capitalists, including Donald Trump, were actually running colleges for profit. And, of course, by the 21st Century students from all types of colleges and universities were saddled with high debt while the number of employment opportunities for new graduates that were typical from 1950-1990 declined.

The Bernie Sanders Romantic Populist movement used student debt as one of its key issues but presented the solution as "free tuition" for everyone. This is, of course, consistent with the delusional nature of the movement. As explained by a federal pamphlet on student loans:
You may use the money you receive only to pay for education expenses at the school that awarded your loan. Education expenses include school charges such as tuition; room and board; fees; books; supplies; equipment; dependent childcare expenses; transportation; and rental or purchase of a personal computer.
This would, of course, pay for costs calculated like this from a California university's website:

Click on image to see a larger version!

When I say that the "free tuition" for everyone as being presented is a delusional solution, it is because as you can see from this website without tuition a four year program still would cost about $80,000.

Having the government fund tuition at California's state colleges would cover an additional $20,000. (Vermont, on the other hand, has its state colleges charge students double that because Bernie and his fellow false-Progressive Vermonters won't subsidize college like California taxpayers do.)

Sure, it would help to have free tuition. But it wouldn't come close to keeping students out of debt. That the  Sanders Romantic Populists aren't well enough informed to understand this reinforces William Bennett's comment: "It is by no means clear that the performance of many of our colleges and universities justifies this level of expenditure."

Still, the Shareholder Capitalists and Academic Oligarchists together have failed to devise a compromise to minimize this debt problem.

Further, the Shareholder Capitalists - particularly the tech sector innovators - are the ones demanding this additional education/training. Many have been hiring immigrants from Asia rather than funding adequate education.

This has resulted in the political backlash from both Romantic Populists saddled with the debt and Mythical Reactionaries objecting to immigration.

Example #3 - Net Neutrality

It is still possible for the Academic Oligarchists to devise solutions to problems even with resistance from Shareholder Capitalists, particularly when the latter group is divided on an issue.

No one thought about the internet in ideological terms when it was being developed in the framework of the Department of Defense and cooperating universities - both stable institutional environments mostly controlled by Academic Oligarchists.

Then the internet was broadly implemented by Shareholder Capitalists in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Following broad implementation, however, America was confronted with a populist uprising over net neutrality with Shareholder Capitalists disagreeing with each other because of contrary interest - internet service providers versus web site operators. In this case Academic Oligarchists devised the adaptation.

Academic Oligarchists this past year set some operational rules within a framework of encouraging the profitable consolidation of internet service providers by Shareholder Capitalists and the profitable operation of popular web sites by new Shareholder Capitalists. It also assures a mix of Shareholder Capitalist beneficiaries such as cloud service providers ranging from the venerable IBM to Jeff Bezos' Amazon.

This is a good example of adaptation by Academic Oligarchists and Shareholder Capitalists. But it is also an example of how what is a public utility - in terms of a historical understanding of that term - typically heavily regulated to achieve egalitarian economic goals, can become something else just by administrative actions of Academic Oligarchists. It was necessary because of gridlock in Congress.

The rules will avoid any continuing threat of revolution from tech Romantic Populists, who were focused not on rates charged to American families, but on making sure the entertainment website corporations didn't get reduced speeds or have to pay "fast lane" charges to the internet service corporations.

The issue of net neutrality appears to have been resolved by a policy decision from a government bureaucracy the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In the process,  two automatic Academic Oligarchists - Jessica Rosenworcel,  Wellesley, for neutrality regulation (see How Jessica Rosenworcel Is Shaping Our Digital Future) and Ajit Pai, Harvard and University of Chicago, against neutrality regulation (see - Net neutrality's chief critic)  - played key roles in the debate.

The net neutrality policy approved by a 3-2 Commission vote orders what tech nerd Romantic Populists believe is beneficial true net neutrality. (The policy might be reviewed by the Supreme Court though they may pass on taking up the appeal of the appeals court decision approving the new policy written by Appellate Court Judges Sri Srinivasan, Stanford, and David Tatel, University of Chicago.) Within this discussion, the FCC has assured all Shareholder Capitalists that it will not get involved in their routine setting of rates for internet activity.

The sad fact is, of the three examples, the first two matter in people's lives but the Academic Oligarchists failed miserably. Even Net Neutrality will not assure internet affordability nor universal high speed internet for ordinary folks.

In 2016 it appears we have reached a point that the Academic Oligarchists and Shareholder Capitalists may face a serious revolution.