Category Archives: economy

We Are A Lost Generation

For almost 10 years now, I have been asked by people “Why are you so angry?”

I am part of a generation that has seen, time and time again, that the ground under our feet is not solid.

I was 8 years old when the Columbine High School shooting happened. I was aware of it, but it seemed like an isolated incident that occurred far away. Nonetheless, in school we started running different types of active shooter drills. In order to avoid panic, they never told us why we were turning off the lights and hiding behind our desks. Being very young, we were mostly just happy something broke up the monotony of the classes we attended.

Even as other school shootings started to occur across the country, the threat still seemed far away.

I was 11 years old when 9-11 happened. I remember the teachers at the middle school running off to the teachers lounge to watch the shaky footage of the towers collapsing on loop. I remember them looking nervous, but we weren’t told anything until the end of the day when we were about to get on the bus to go home. The band teacher mentioned briefly in 9th period (the last class of the day) that something big had happened, but that we were going to be fine. He didn’t say what it was.

On the bus, I sat with my best friend. Neither of us really knew what the World Trade Center was or why it was important. I figured that it was where everyone traded everything. We talked about building a tunnel between our houses and pooling Capri Sun juice packs.

In the months immediately following I saw the first germs of what would eventually make the fascist uprising currently destroying the United States and killing its citizens en masse. The conservative adults started making racist claims about “towelheads”, buying Hummers, and plastering every surface they could with “I SUPPORT THE TROOPS” magnets. Business owners started building strange folk art-like shrines on their personal property deifying the dead, as we later discovered, at the expense of the living.

100,000 people protested the beginning of Afghanistan War, but it did nothing and I didn’t even hear about it until years later.

The first year I was in college, the real estate market collapsed. My parents and most of my friends’ parents lost enormous chunks of their savings, yet the federal government gifted 100s of trillions of dollars to Wall Street banks.

When I first heard about Occupy Wall Street, I went there as soon as I could. Thousands of people gathered in public spaces and stayed there in order to educate a public that didn’t understand how they’d been screwed over, just that they were hurting. Those who were in a position to deny that anything was wrong, that things weren’t going to return to normal, responded to the Occupy camps with anger and hostility. They thought that by pointing out the emperor had no clothes, we would also make them naked. Those who remembered the 60s treated Occupy with patronizing disdain-they’d abandoned their principles and “gotten that stuff out of their system” and soon would we they supposed.

My peers and I entered a perilous job market filled with “internship” scams-it was taken as a given in the journalism program where I studied that we were going to have to work multiple full time “internships” for free to fight over maybe getting a position that paid $15 dollars an hour. Most people I remember discussing it with at the time defended this practice. It taught you “hard work” or something. A bunch of people who went to college in a time when, adjusted for inflation, you could make $21/hr working at McDonalds decided their kids had it far too easy.

Slowly but surely, we, the kids, decided we didn’t care much if the real estate market crashed again as we also slowly, but surely, realized we would never be in the financial position to own a house. We carved out what space we could. We faced relentless criticism from old people, the same old people who stood by like cowards while the safety net they enjoyed was eviscerated, saying we ruined US culture because we weren’t buying enough things with the money we didn’t have.

With none of the conditions that led to the crash addressed or resolved, the economy bounced back into a hollow zombie boom for a couple years.

With the reality of climate change and the possible extinction of the human race becoming more and more a tangible reality, most people still denied it was happening with their actions, even if they paid the concept lip service. Declaring himself the messenger, Al Gore trained a generation that the proper response to climate change was to be mildly annoyed it was happening but to defend to the death the guy with 5 houses and a private jet who was its PR agent.

And now, after some of us sort of dug ourselves out of the hole, we’re facing a global pandemic set to kill millions and a second Great Depression. Hundreds of thousands will be homeless.

Those who scoffed at the people who fought to defend them now realize they’ve been sitting in boiling water when its probably too late. Those who made great sacrifices to fight back politically face a  population that by and large betrayed them in order to enjoy things “being normal” for a couple more years.

If they didn’t know it was all a ghost dance, why label their children “Generation Z”?

And it took a pandemic to underline once and for all that it was this “normal” that destroyed the hopes and futures of millennials.

Our suffering en masse was apparently the only thing that would even temporarily halt the destruction of the environment we live in and the decade long pandemic of mass shootings.

The last Great Depression lasted 12 years even with a president who (mostly) did the right things and had the realistic option of ramping up industrial production.

We are a lost generation.

That’s why I’m angry.

4/1 International Rent Strike

rent strike

Come April 1st, don’t pay jack shit on mortgages or rent until the government takes measures to make sure we don’t all die or go broke.

A one time $2000 payment isn’t gonna float anyone for 3-18 months who didn’t already have the resources in the bank.

You think cops are going to want to mass evict during a pandemic, thereby completely losing all control over said pandemic and repeatedly exposing themselves to potentially fatal illness?

You think courts are going to magically re-open to process 100s of 1000s of eviction claims?

You think the government wants the visual of 1000s of sick people being tossed in the street when you’ve already got a population that scared, anxious and pissed off?

You think if we don’t do something like this, the Senate and White House are going to magically decide to act like adults all by themselves?

We have a unique opportunity here.

And given the general disregard for human life that has been shown by our so-called leaders, I don’t think we have another option.

Yes, I Am Blaming Neoliberalism for the Florida School Shooting

The term “neoliberalism” has become super popular in the past couple of years, so I suppose a backlash against its heavy use was inevitable. Many months back, Jonathan Chait wrote a piece for NYMag bemoaning its prevalence as the left’s favorite insult. Then, of course, there was Cornel West “calling out” Ta-Nehisi Coates as “representing the neoliberal face of black activism,” which some found problematic and lead Vox (whom I, as a disclaimer, consider to be neoliberal shills) to repost Mike Konczal’s explanation for the term’s importance. Other defenders of the term had snarkier takes, and I would go ahead and include myself in this.

So I guess you can say it’s a term that I like and will continue to use as often as possible, even when 99% of the rest of my ingroup is looking in another direction. Case in point, the recent school shooting in Parkwood, Florida, or spree killings in general for that matter. It’s become an unspoken assumption that when people say we need to “do something” to stop these mass shootings, they mean that what we need to do is ban guns. A few people might chime in about mental health, but mostly it’s about guns, and while I’m all for a ban, the fact of the matter is that almost two dozen school children being massacred at Sandy Hook in 2012 did not move the needle an inch on this. In fact, as the shootings continue and the body count rises, one can even argue that we have regressed with the Republican surge into control of the Senate. That tells me that banning guns is not a useful tactic, at least for now.

So where exactly does that leave us? Like many, I feel pretty helpless when I hear about a horrific mass killing, and like many others I no longer consider that anything can be done to stop them. So when a fellow alumni from my therapeutic boarding high school posed the question on our Facebook group, I felt inspired to tackle the issue seriously. Here is what he wrote:

“I went to four different high schools and had many days when I was pissed off at a teacher or fellow student, but never thought that I was going to come in the next day and shoot everyone. I was in college when Columbine happened and thought this is so tragic, but despite how awful it was, it felt isolated. Are you aware how many school shootings happened in 2017 leading into 2018? Kids shouldn’t be afraid to go to school. Something needs to change.”

Though Columbine might have been a kind of landmark moment for schools specifically, spree killings have been going on for much longer. In the mid-’80s, workplace shootings became incredibly common, and remain so today. One of the most famous of these, the Edmond post office shooting of 1986, was the first of several USPS workplace massacres that inspired the infamous phrase “going postal.” The motives for many of these attacks were chalked up to poor working conditions as a result of then-President Reagan’s reforms to semi-privatize the government department. Since then the incidence of spree killings—at work, school or anywhere else—has risen exponentially. This points to a clear correlation with the rise of both major political parties adapting neoliberalism as their main economic philosophy.

To clarify the term—in case you didn’t read all of my links above, don’t feel like Googling, and pay zero attention to modern day political discourse (lucky you)—when I say “neoliberal,” I am referring to the dogmatic adherence to free markets as a means toward dealing with all of society’s problems. This would mean implementing ideas such as privatization, austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society. As a more derogatory synonym, some like to use the term “late capitalism,” seeing that it mostly refers to a period—from the 1970s to the current day—that constitutes the hopeful final stage of our current economic structure. I say hopeful because the results of these policies are seen today in burgeoning economic inequality along with increasing cultural anxiety and hostility. It’s lead us to an environment where mass shootings are common and merely one of the many symptoms of this sick capitalist ideology.

Of course, neoliberalism has been in effect for a long time now (little known fact: it started with Jimmy Carter, not Reagan, who merely accelerated the practice as Republicans tend to do), so why the sudden increase in the number of shootings with high fatalities? It’s kind of cliché, but I would point to the election of Trump. Not that he specifically is the reason, rather, his popularity is a manifestation of cultural anxiety and economic inequality. People see somebody acting in what used to be considered inappropriate and anti-social manners and yet he holds the most distinguished position in the country and possibly the world. They view this as kind of a “permission slip,” perhaps subconsciously, to act out their own angry impulses in the worst possible ways.

What’s ironic about this is that Trump campaigned for president on a message of economic populism: reigning in big banks while pushing protectionism and working class jobs at home. His actual governing policies, though, have been neoliberal accelerationism on steroids. In her book “No Is Not Enough,” Naomi Klein wrote:

“The goal is all-out war on the public sphere and the public interest, whether in the form of anti-pollution regulations or programs for the hungry; substituted in their place will be unfettered power and freedom for corporations.

Trump’s base doesn’t seem to notice his economic oppression against them, but his divisive rhetoric has stuck. As material conditions get worse for the so called “working class,” more people are left with nothing to lose and thus we can probably expect more and more of these deadly shooting incidents, among other kinds of violence.

How does this relate to schools? Well, the cultural tyranny of the workplace has now trickled down to education. Those well-off enough can ship their kids to private/charter schools and avoid the worst of it, in the process bleeding much needed funds from everybody else. It’s classic privatization and deregulation, which leaves little room for a quality learning environment. You get bigger classes with more overworked teachers getting paid less. These negative working conditions adversely affect how teachers and administrators treat students, which in turn affects how students treat each other. Spoiler: nobody’s treating anybody any better. You wind up with a situation where somebody can make threats, be known to stockpile guns at home, and yet come into a school and kill 17 people because nobody had the time or energy to do something to try and stop it. Call it neoliberalism or late capitalism, what we are seeing here is a sick ideology at its terminal end state.

So, what’s the solution? Ban guns? Sure, though good luck fighting the NRA’s deep pockets and the Republicans who have harnessed the hate energy of single-issue voters to keep AR-15s in wide, readily-available circulation. It’s worth noting that the drive for people to keep themselves armed is a response to the cultural and economic unrest they feel. This keeps large portions of the population very active politically on defending the second amendment. On top of that, deregulation is a feature of neoliberalism rather than a bug. In this pro-business environment, the firearms industry by default has a significant head start on fighting any possible restriction on the availability of their product. All this is to say nothing of crypto-fascist psychopaths like Cody Wilson who wants to make sure any asshole who bought enough bitcoin early enough to cash out and get access to a 3D printer can instantly manufacture their own portable lightweight death machine.

So if we can’t ban guns, how about better mental health coverage? Great! Except the ACA barely suffices for a good number of our most desperate citizens. It doesn’t suffice at all if you fall in the wrong income bracket and/or live in a state with a GOP government that won’t accept the Medicaid expansion. Meanwhile, Trump’s administration is in the process of doing everything it can to sabotage what’s left of Obamacare and defund Medicare. These are systems that serve a limited portion of the population in oftentimes barely adequate ways, and now they are under attack. Yet even somebody who has a good private health plan through their employment doesn’t escape the anxiety of losing mental health care; after all, you can always be fired for any reason as most jobs are at-will in a neoliberal system.

On top of all of this is the stigma of mental health issues, which can prevent one from getting the help they need in the rare case it’s even available. This stigma of course being yet another poisonous symptom of the neoliberal cultural doctrine that demands perfectionism and hyper-competitiveness at all times. Someday, perhaps we will implement a policy of Medicare-for-All that includes comprehensive mental health coverage. People are working on this as we speak, and it’s an important step in addressing the ills that neoliberalism brings us, spree killings just being one. If we are ever truly going to put an end to these horrors, we will need a greater shift to the economic left, and by “greater,” I mean a hard 180 degree turn from what we’ve been doing for the past several decades. We need to cut our losses and admit that free markets are not the answer to filling the vast majority of our basic needs.

If we start by improving the material conditions of working people, we can then hope—pray even—that it bleeds down into the culture and makes us all less anxious, kinder, and more compassionate toward one another. We eschew hyper-competitiveness in favor of cooperation in our daily dealings with the social world. While these are all good ideas in theory and certainly should be pursued, we must realize the task before us is daunting and maybe even impossible. There are formidable obstacles in the path of any significant left wing economic reform, even beyond the deep-pocketed neoliberal establishment machine.

Cultural unrest has given rise to a fascistic and extreme far right in America—most recently having taken the name of the “alt-right”—which insidiously enough has begun to promote left wing economics as a carrot to their traditionalist cultural stick. Their core values of divisive racism, sexism and ethno-nationalism, however, are completely at odds with meaningful leftist economic reform. It should come as no surprise to anybody that as the news trickles out about the Parkland shooter, we discover he had trained with a white supremacist group while also expressing misogynist and antisemitic views. Such hateful ideas are incredibly common in the alt-right, which of course has lead to violence time and time again: Isla Vista, Charlottesville, the Portland MAX stabbings, etc. This “movement” needs to be fought and exterminated before they can grow large enough to worm their way far enough into the popular conscience to the point that they can have influence.

Of course, saying the alt-right is bad and should be fought is not exactly a controversial take, but each group with oppressive or divisive ideas adds up as an additional obstacle. As fringe extremists continue to fester in the culture, you also have the traditional hard right libertarians—the Tea Party, the Kochs, the Mercers, etc.—whose deep pockets ensure they will be a force to be reckoned with, no matter how unappealing their ideas are to the vast majority of American citizens.

Make no mistake: the hard right is a formidable opponent with many layers, against whom we are fighting a battle against each faction as part of a larger war. Not a physical war, of course, and thank god for that: we are outgunned badly and would be slaughtered by the military and/or militia. Rather, we are fighting a war against an idea, in this case, the idea that more free market neoliberalism is what’s best for us all as individuals. Reality doesn’t seem to be working out that way and each mass spree killing is a massive alarm going off, telling us not just that we need to ban guns, but also that we have to fight to dismantle American capitalism as it stands and put something that benefits the vast majority of our citizens’ interests in its place.

You God Damn Millennials are Killing All of America’s Shittiest Businesses

fabsofNot pictured in foreground: Anything that actually does anything even remotely beneficial for your laundry.

Earlier this evening, Comrade Levine helped ease the pain by sharing this article to his Facebook wall, an otherwise routine piece of hysteria about Those Damn Millennials and all of the ways in which we are unacceptably changing society. Strangely, most of these articles seem to limit the purview of their juvenoia purely to the consumer realm, and this Business Insider shit show is no exception; it surpasses other articles waxing idiotic about The Kids These Days only in its wide assemblage of consumer examples.

Here are the industries this article says are failing because of disinterest from millennials, along with a brief overview of why I think these industries suck, for I have no job, no current classes, and nothing better to do with my time than try to waste that of others. My hypothesis: Maybe we’d stop murdering all of their beloved businesses if all of their beloved businesses weren’t total garbage.

Casual dining chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee’s: The food at these places is worse for you than fast food and is every bit as factory-cooked-and-frozen halfway across the country and microwaved in the “restaurant” as fast food. (I’ll have the #WordSalad as an appetizer, thank you.) Instead of getting your food at a dystopian counter in what feels like a mess hall, you are served at a sticky table in poorly-lit, beer-reeking, butt rock-blasting shithole with decor furnished by the nearest bottom-shelf antiques shop.

Beer: Tastes like dirty laundry smells, doesn’t get you drunk if you can hold your liquor. Pass.

Napkins: A napkin is cloth and you launder it. These are shitty little pieces of miserably flimsy paper that no sensible person should use in a world where paper towels are just as readily available.

“Breastaurant” chains like Hooters: When your business is failing, whatever you do, do not look into the politics of your youngest target demographic. That would not be rational in the least.

Cereal: I mean, I never cared for the stuff much, probably haven’t had a bowl in over a year. Not having it because you have to clean things afterward is asinine, though. Heartless Industry 1, Millennials 9,682.

Golf: Ah, yes, I’ll just have my driver take me and my caddy over to the cart rental in the Rolls Royce and we’ll cease our murder of this industry forthwith!

Motorcycles: Loud, obnoxious, dangerous, famously associated with violent criminals, horribly bigoted ones in particular. SEE: “Breastaurant” entry.

Homeownership: Hahahahahahahahaha are you fucking kidding me?

Yogurt: Anyone’s guess is as good as mine on this one.

Bars of soap: And I quote, “Almost half (48%) of all US consumers believe bar soaps are covered in germs after use, a feeling that is particularly strong among consumers aged 18-24 (60%), as opposed to just 31% of older consumers aged 65-plus.” Who are we, Howard fucking Hughes? Heartless Industry 2, Millennials 9,685. At least they didn’t try to spin this one to imply that we’re unwashed.

Diamonds: SEE: “Breastaurant” entry again. Literally involves the dismembering of small children and vicious wars.

Fabric softener: “According to Downy maker Procter & Gamble’s head of global fabric care, millennials ‘don’t even know what the product is for.'” Stupid millennials, not knowing what a pointless product is for. There’s an incredibly apt metaphor in here somewhere, but I’m too busy looking at my smartphone to notice.

Banks: I mean, I’m pretty sure I haven’t heard about millennials stuffing their cash in the mattress en masse, but perhaps this includes business lost to people who are joining credit unions that won’t gamble with their deposited money and nickel-and-dime them with fees and charges. Pah! Credit unions! Why would anybody ever join such a foolish thing?

Department stores like Macy’s and Sears: “Who could possibly want to order goods directly to their door?” ponders industry giants who made themselves into what they are by aggressively circulating mail-order catalogs. Why would I rifle through wrinkled clothes and struggle with store employees who are paid so little that it would come off as offensively desperate if they were helpful?

Designer handbags: Forget it, it’s Chinatown! If you need a magnifying glass to tell that a mainly-cosmetic item is counterfeit, then it is, for all intents and purposes, not counterfeit.

Home-improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s: SEE: “Department stores.”

Football: I won’t go into it at length here, but having read a shit-ton in the last year about the state of football’s popularity, I can say with confidence that this entry is entirely bullshit. Surely they could lament something more specific about football and of which there is more evidence of the uselessness of millennials, like not buying jerseys that cost over a hundred dollars or something.

Oil: SEE: “Breastaruants,” yet again. Also smells bad. Is hard to clean off of plants, wildlife, and out of earth and water. Continued combustion will literally make the Earth uninhabitable for humans. Procurement is ecologically harmful as well. Should be conserved as it is otherwise needed for plastics, of which advancing technology and growing populations will presumably only increase demand for.

I find it curious that all of the articles like this use an active word like “killing” to describe a trend which is defined by a lack of the relevant parties doing anything at all, in this case, engaging with these various businesses. Why, oh why, won’t the best-educated generation in human history, which is also simultaneously the worst-paid generation in the last century or so of American history, exchange money they don’t have for goods and services that make them sick, exploit others, and/or are mainly pompous, ostentatious displays of consumerism?

How can anybody seriously wring their hands in confusion at what is happening here? Businesses that don’t sell things people want aren’t logically supposed to exist in the free market, right? Well, then.

Fuck ’em all.