Facing Reality in America
We are dangerously stuck and our political system is only a distraction
by Mike Meyer
Let’s stop pretending. In the sixteen months of Trump rule we have become exhausted by failures, denials, wild accusations, threats, white supremacist terrorism, indictments, high level executive resignations sometimes within days of appointment, and infinite scandals large and small. The only moderately normal administrative act was a very abnormal tax bill, barely passed even with Republican Congressional domination, that is not even mentioned given its failure to do anything but slow economic growth in the first quarter. Given our days, now defined and bracketed by weekend tweet storms of lies and denials, no one even mentions the growing economic problems. What? The market is booming! Perhaps a bad choice of words.
We are now too worried by Trump’s discovery of cruise missile attacks in Syria as a means to pump up his remaining, hard core supporters. No one complains about a few dozen dead Syrian families and even Putin is only perfunctorily threatening. But we are very use to that as Trump carefully backs down with Putin and quickly removes any sanctions a few days after imposing them. Trump’s Russian loyalty is so obvious it is not worth talking about.
It doesn’t matter that major intelligence officials both US and European publicly outline the fact that Trump is a traitor with evidence dating back years. That doesn’t mean anything. It’s just another form of corruption and no one worries about that anymore. At least not since Trump’s resort is now the “southern White House” and US official business is limited to Trump properties. This is all business as usual.
But wait, North Korea is now talking to South Korea all because of Trump. There may be something to this. Even Kim Jong Un can recognize a dangerous incompetent with nuclear missiles. There is not much pretense here except for Trump who sees only his own brilliance. Kim left his country for the first time since 2011 to go to Beijing to place himself carefully under the protection of President Xi. This is now a Chinese game. There is little or nothing that Trump can do except beg or go crazy. We all fear that.
We now have a new phase in the planetary response to Trump. As noted above adult advisers have been removed from the White House. Trump can be himself. No more pretense, the US government has failed. The decades of destruction driven by conversion of the Republican Party to a criminal organization cannot be hidden. The collapse of the two party system has left a completely powerless, corrupt, and incompetent Democratic Party to fight the oligarchic authoritarian control of the US by the billionaire elite. This failure now requires other governments to step in and attempt to control the growing danger.
Macron is now in Washington, the only state visit Trump has ever had. In Europe he is known as the Trump Whisperer building on his control of Trump in the very limited missile response in Syria. It is critical that the Iranian nuclear arms agreement remain fully supported as there is nothing to be gained in messing with that. Of course anything that Barrack Obama was able to do Trump must destroy. Macron is attempting to lead the child away from danger.
Just as Xi has stepped into the mess created by Trump with wild threats at North Korea, Macron is attempting to control a major danger to the volatile middle east. America has abdicated. We have failed and are now dependent on others to save the situation. What an amazing end to the American Experiment.
We must drop the pretense
We are not going to be saved, somehow, by a sudden take over of Congress by the other half of a corrupt and failed governmental system. There is no guarantee that the takeover will be complete, in fact that is almost impossible. How much can be reversed?
Just to put this in perspective, some 35% of the population has been turned loose to their worst characteristics, decades of economic exploitation have been turned against minorities and immigrants by the actual creators of the hyper capitalist destruction.These are the billionaires that finally bought the Republican Party because they knew they needed political power to protect themselves from climate impact and mass migrations. Decades of lies, reinforced by the practical takeover of state governments to implement large scale gerrymandering and voter suppression to assert control in enough states to block change, were successful.
Congress has been increasingly powerless and helpless in the face of both parties consolidating power in the executive branch over the last forty years. This was part of several overlapping plans confusingly identified as neoliberal and neo conservative, but the fundamental plan was what we are now seeing, authoritarian oligarchic rule. The real key has always been the federal judiciary with life time appointments and the Supreme Court as the capstone. That is nearly done.
While Trump shouted and swaggered he was told to just turn over judicial appointments to the private organizations representing the oligarchy, the Heritage society and Federalist Foundation. And it was done. With the federal government crippled by lack of appointments and staff under Trump, a record breaking rate of federal judge appointments has created the real control. Many of those appointed are clearly unqualified as federal judges. They are the best as they know their life time sinecure is in exchange for what their owners demand. How do we evaluate and remove these life time appointments? Our future has been stolen.
The turning point
This is very hard. It may not even be possible. We need to figure this out and that needs to be done against the growing chaos of the Trump insanity and against the underlying agenda of the billionaire oligarchs who control the groups that managed this coup. All of this needs to be done in a world that is accelerating into full paradigmatic and economic change driven by the need to slow climate collapse.
This is not an argument over political options. This is about protecting the planet and its people and insuring that the tremendous successes built over the last two hundred years are equitably distributed to all the people of this planet. We cannot survive this century with eight people owning half the wealth of the planet and Forbes 1,890, primarily male, billionaires owning 70%.
This is resulting in accelerating economic collapse. We are faced with an era in which the word “accelerating” is unavoidable. To look just at the US situation, this economic collapse that has been used to give us Trump and his chaotic cover for a far darker conversion to authoritarian rule, is best illustrated by the elimination of the middle class. And that is a complex process that is, what can I say, accelerating because of paradigmatic social changes driving economic change.
We have lived through a tremendous improvement of life for nearly all the people of this planet in the last two hundred years. American and Western European societies were the leaders and first to benefit. In a quest for wealth under the efficiency of early capitalism they spread markets and technology around the planet. Despite the brutal disaster of two western wars in the first half of the twentieth century, this produced a post colonial world that exploded into wealth, nutrition, technology, and education expanding for the last sixty years. This has continued for the post colonial world but has stalled in many post industrial societies.
The two biggest problems
The realization and scientific confirmation of global warming and its effects on our climate made it obvious that a critical assumption of capitalist economics was completely unacceptable. Growth cannot be infinite if we are to survive on this planet. Capitalist economics requires infinite growth. We must convert to carefully controlled growth and quickly begin to reverse the effects of two hundred years of uncontrolled industrialization. Failure to do that may well mean the end of civilization as we know it within this century. This will be due to climatic disaster and massive human migration with resulting wars and destruction. We must change.
Uncontrolled capitalism produces wealth that increases for all in an environment of expanding markets and growth. As limits are reached this converts to monopolization and consolidation of wealth in fewer and fewer hands. Wealth destroys competitive opportunity. The only hope in a hypercapitalist world is innovation that will be purchased by the large corporations or stardom of one form or another to attract money from the masses. This is very limited. The result can be, as it has been in the US, exploitation of the middle class in the interest of profit by the use of automation to replace expensive, skilled, human workers. This has stopped wage growth for forty years in the US.
The expansion of information and process technology now is replacing people completely in middle class jobs while starting to eliminate the cheaper lower skilled jobs. At the stage we have now the middle class has been moving steadily downward while the bottom economic groups have held steady and the very poor have moved up. The result is a very small super wealthy class and a rapidly growing financially limited class with few options. And these people then have a lot of anger as they remember their youth and their parent’s expectation of continued economic growth now, obviously, denied.
Who took our jobs and the wealth that we were promised? No one. Those jobs were eliminated in the interest of profit to the super wealthy. But the lies that have been told hide that reality and a generation is being destroyed as a result.
So what do we do here?
There is no easy answer and, as stated above, this is going to be hard but it will be impossible unless we give up the pretenses that are blocking real change. I think there are only a few options left. I will suggest what I think are the best choices at this point. Time is not on our side, however, and failure to begin the change now will only reduce our options in the next months and years.
Sometime between 2010 and 2015, for the first time in history, half of the human population lived in cities. It is estimated that about 3,000 people per day now move to cities and the percentage of urban residents will be over 70% within twenty years. Without any value judgement being made the future is in metropolitan complexes.
There are strong arguments that Jeffersonian agrarianism strongly distorted the American political system to agrarian populations. The striking failure of the 2016 election was most notable in voting split between rural and urban populations. To a large extent Trump is a product of a rapidly declining population oriented to small town and rural life. The very nature of Trumpistan is the most rural and least urbanized states. It now appears that differences in education and socioeconomic status are primarily secondary to the rural versus urban divide.
At the human level the divide that has been created, primarily by the Republican Party to gain power at all costs and for the benefit of the super rich, is already insurmountable. This is not permanent but it is only going to go away with the death of the boomer generation outside of the major urban regions. They are people that are easily manipulated by mythological religions, dogmas of various kinds, racism, and the tradition of anti-intellectualism that has troubled the US throughout its’ history.
So be it. In a digital world with vast social networks there is little value in very large nation states. In fact these appear to be simply redundant and dangerous artifacts of early ages. Our world is structured by cities or metropoles that most of us live in and travel between. This has obviously created the connection of Trumpistan with Fly-over Country. There are many places now that have larger metropoles that function as provinces or are similarly independent as well as international city states such as Singapore.
By devolving political authority to these, and this is already rather awkwardly the case in Honolulu with 90% of Hawaii’s population, we can break the tension and conflict over contending incompatible social standards. With metropoles as independent political entities with greater control over their structure these units can be natural sanctuaries cities that is the historical role of growing cities. The propaganda based distortions common to Trump’s followers will not go away and outrage would continue to pour from these people but they would not have any effect on the political life of the metropoles and could inflict whatever laws they could pass on their fellow rural and small city populations.
This would also need to reduce the role of the federal government that has become politically corrupt and grossly distorted in executive authority. Devolution to local rule would need to convert federal laws and rights to a minimum standard that could be expanded at the metropolitan level while national and rural human rights are reduced if those populations so desired. Again metropoles provide close sanctuaries for people discriminated against because of rights infringement and racist actions.
This would allow and encourage cities, the new metropoles, to become increasingly international as that is happening already. This would then fit with the emerging pattern of urban life for the great majority while preserving another form of society in rural and small cities for those most comfortable with that.
This would, eventually, require a constitutional change but might be setup first as set of special administrative areas for the first metropoles. This could be roughly modeled on China’s establishment of Hong Kong as such an independent area. This would reduce federal costs with more infrastructure costs being handled by the metropoles themselves in exchange for greater independence.
Another more interesting possibility could be the designation of metropoles as indigenous population centers on the model of Tribal Nations. This could be done with minimal structural change but may be more contentious given the failure of the US government to support indigenous populations.
The point is that what we have is broken and does not fit the future that is forcing us to change quickly in order to survive. How else could we make this work?