Monday, July 7, 2008

Real Elitism

Seems as if it was only a wk. ago that we reviewed a review (Were we any more "meta," we'd cease to exist.) of a book by L. A. Times national economics correspondent Peter Gosselin in the L. A. Times Book Review. Those cursed to live here in the Hot Zone, & foolish enough to purchase the frigging tree-killer, will know that in the continuing Times attempt to downsize, save paper, etc., the Book Review section is the obverse of the Opinion section. Flip the mess over & there's Opinion. Or vice versa. Had you done that this wk., you'd have noted that Mr. Gosselin is again using his employer to pimp his book, High Wire: The Perilous Financial Lives of American Families, w/ a front page Opinion article which neatly sums up his book. Ha ha, Pete, now we needn't buy it from Basic Books!! Gosselin's take on why Murkins' economic high wire act is perilous is that the "safety net" (such as it was) has been pretty well destroyed. Feudalistic corporations are not meeting the requirements that even property owners in the Dark Ages had to provide for the serfs who came w/ the land.
"People who try to claim their employer-sponsored benefits are worse off than they were two or three decades ago," said Judge William Acker Jr., who was appointed by President Reagan to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in Birmingham and who has written extensively about ERISA. "The law that was supposed to protect them has been turned on its head."
Feudal lords were also expected to provide some sort of housing for the serfs. But not in 21st century America.
On average, 60% of the value of American homeowners' possessions -- 60% of everything we own -- is accounted for by the value of our homes, according to my analysis of the Federal Reserve's most recent Survey of Consumer Finances. That means houses are a big deal for families' finances. And so therefore is what protects them -- homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance is a classic case in which people go out and try to buy their own private safety nets rather than turning to government or to their employers for security. But homeowners have not had very good luck with this do-it-yourself approach in recent years.That's because over the last two decades -- with relatively little notice and almost no awareness on the part of the buying public -- the insurance industry has changed the nature of its policies in ways that leave homeowners on the hook for vastly more than they used to be on the hook for. As recently as the early 1990s, the most widely sold type of policy, especially in the nation's most populous areas, was a "guaranteed replacement cost" policy. Under it, your insurer promised to replace your home if it burned or was destroyed by a hurricane, essentially no matter what the cost. It was up to the insurer to get the price right and keep the coverage current. However, following a rash of disasters that included the Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles, insurers phased out guaranteed replacement cost policies in favor of "extended replacement cost" policies. Under these, the insurer provides you with up to a certain fixed dollar amount of coverage, plus typically 10% to 20%. It is up to you to decide what the amount should be. It is up to you to figure out what it would cost to rebuild your home. And it is up to you to keep your policy current. Theoretically, you could do this job. But the industry's own estimates show that more than half of American homeowners simply have too much else going on in their lives to keep tabs on changing building codes, the fluctuating price of plywood or what carpenters and plumbers are making in their neighborhoods. Similar changes -- with similar shifts of economic risk from business and government to families -- have occurred in retirement, where the switch from traditional pensions to 401(k)s has left individuals largely on their own to provide for old age.
It's almost enough to make the typically sheep-like American wage-slave sit up & take notice. Except he & Mrs. Wage-Slave are being worked to an early grave in order to keep up w/ their credit card debt. At least they won't have to worry about retirement, or paying off their creditors. Gosselin, as an employee of the "objective, two sides to every story, & both of them equally valid" L. A. Times, probably wants to hold onto his his job for a while, and so, as Chris Hedges noted in last wk.'s review, he doesn't get to the underlying issues. Dig these last two paragraphs of Gosselin's piece for a lesson in weaseltry:
Some argue that in the new, globally competitive economy, U.S. business and government simply cannot afford to provide the kinds of protections against financial peril that they used to. Perhaps not. But that doesn't mean that we should automatically shunt the job of bearing these dangers to families alone. And it most assuredly doesn't mean that we should pass along the task without letting people know they've just been assigned the job of bearing a big new load of risk. But that's essentially what has happened. As a result, working Americans and their families are operating on an economic high wire -- only one or two missteps from a steep financial fall. Little wonder people are so bleak about their prospects now that times are tough.
Oh, yes, we shiould at least make it clearer to the suckers how we're conning them. Crap on a crutch, what a fucking jerk!! Listening to Thom Hartmann (0900-1200 PT on your local commercial but communist radio station) this a.m., we were presented w/ a pimping of Mr. Hartmann's new book, Screwed: The Undeclared War Against The Middle Class, in which he presents the thesis that "supply-side" rather than "demand-side" economics are essentially making the middle class live in the fear that Americans seem to welcome in virtually every aspect of their horrid existences, & that this fear, of losing their jobs & houses, among other things, makes them unable to participate in the political process, even to the extent of voting. Which goes perfectly w/ the general attitude of many of the Founding Fuckers, desirous of a republic limited to white, male, Anglo-Saxon property owners, preferably Protestant, who would be allowed to elect their state legislatures, & House members, but would leave the election of U. S. Senators & the president to the state legislators. Gawd forbid that the rabble should have a say in their gov't. The current "voodoo economics" (Extra credit if you remember who called it that. Hint: His son is running This Great Nation of Ours™ into the ground at this very moment.) then, is designed to return power & wealth to the powerful & wealthy. Hartmann mentioned that even w/ the recent loosening of credit (Remember when people saved for things, at Savings & Loans or banks that paid an observable interest rate?) to the middle & lower classes, "supply-side" just doesn't work. No matter how many new factories the rich build (and when factories are built they go up in Mexico or China to exploit the fuck out of their serfs & lax health & safety laws & enforcement) w/ their tax breaks in which to make cheap plastic crap if the consuming masses don't have any moolah, the economy isn't going anywhere. Well, now we're out of money, the dollar is worth one bucket of lukewarm urine, & about 1/150th of a barrel of light sweet crude, & Mr. & Mrs. Hard Working America are in debt up to their necks, commuting zillions of miles 7 hours a day to the ticky-tacky boxes they can (sort of) afford, far away from where they work, thinking that some bullshit "mortgage deduction" will keep their taxes low, & watching their lives wasted as they work harder & longer just to keep up, their pathetic wages eaten away by inflation & minuscule to non-existent raises. To this stirring condemnation of all that America is, we can only add that the Xtian Wrong's continual effort to reëstablish the "traditional" family of the 19th century, w/mom dropping a new piece of cannon fodder for the Hebrew war gawd as often as possible, then remaining at home to "educate" the children away from the pernicious influence of the 21st century & liberal gov't. schools, is also part of the economic plot. In a single income household, he who brings home the bacon is much less able to resist the predations of his corporate managers, go on strike or whatever, if there's no other income & the missus can't possibly get any kind of work besides cleaning up after the offspring. Works out pretty well for some people, doesn't it? So our masses are just too run-down to think about or participate in political life, & are fated to remain bent over & waiting for it for all eternity. This plays in perfectly w/ the general attitude that Republicans have about voting: "It's not for everyone!"

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