One obvious, if little discussed, reason the progressive wave receded last week: The left’s increasingly unappealing economic agenda.
…Today, notes former Bill Clinton aide William Galston, progressives rarely promote economic growth, having developed a particular hostility to many of the industries—energy manufacturing, transportation and agriculture—that offer economic opportunity to millions of Americans. This new environmental orientation has been less than enthusiastically embraced away from the coasts, where Trump, not coincidentally, triumphed.
In contrast to the old Democratic notions embraced by the likes of Harry Truman or the late California Governor Pat Brown, today’s progressives promote social control and the consolidation of a cognitively determined world order. Its promise amounts to forging a kind of high-tech middle ages in which the new aristocracy—techies, media grandees, financial moguls, academics, high-level bureaucrats—dominate while the middle class becomes increasingly serf-like.
…There are fundamentally three forces driving our post-modern feudalization, all of them related. One is globalization, highlighted throughout the campaign, and clearly responsible for considerable job losses for certain classes and certain regions. As countries such as China and India move up the value-added chain, even higher-paid workers will face mounting economic competition. San Jose and Raleigh soon could feel some of the pain that Youngstown and Flint have absorbed for decades.
The second is immigration which, for all its many blessings, tends to depress wages for lower and middle workers. Many native-born Americans who used to enjoy steady work have joined the rapidly expanding, and economically vulnerable, precariat made up of contingent, irregularly employed workers. Both Bernie Sanders and Trump identified the problems faced by such workers by unrestricted immigration.
Undereducated whites are not the only ones who are suffering from downward mobility. Trump trailed but still considerably outperformed previous GOP nominees among both Latinos and African Americans. Increasingly, educated workers are threatened by such things as -IB visas for skilled workers, which essentially replaces indigenous skilled workers with imported indentured servants. This has already resulted in job losses among IT workers at places like the Disney Company and Southern California Edison.
The third driver of feudalization lies in the concentration of business and property ownership. Lenin once identified “small scale production” as what “gives birth spontaneously to capitalism and the bourgeoisie.” America’s small firms are in retreat while large corporations increasingly dominate everything from food to technology. For the first time in our modern history, exits from business now exceed new incorporations.
Similarly, home ownership has dropped to its lowest level in five decades, with the decline steepest among young people. More millennials now live with their parents than with a partner. And when they do move out, they are often trapped into renting, often at high rates, with little chance of ever buying a house.
…Today religion is in, pardon the pun, secular decline. Particularly in the bluest states, it has been replaced by two new faiths. One is the green religion, now focused on climate change. The other new faith is technological determinism, the idea that there is a magical, disruptive solution to any problem, including those relating to nature.
…Most critically, the theology of green progressives will do as little good for today’s middle and working class people as extreme Catholic dogma did for the medieval peasantry. Overall, according to a recent Social Science Council report, California is now the most unequal state when it comes to “well being,” combining stupendous, mostly coastal wealth with the highest rate of poverty in the nation, concentrated inland.
Neo-feudalism diminishes the property owning middle-class. In the Bay Area, regional governments are now seeking to limit all new development to a mere fraction of the area’s land mass, all but guaranteeing the future generations will face almost impossibly high housing prices. And a new set of state regulations, including a requirement that new houses have “zero” net energy use all but guarantees that houses, over time, will continue becoming ever more expensive.
The Bay Area’s regional plan also says goodbye to the American dream, suggesting that 82 percent of all new housing should be rental. Ultimately there will be little left for “little people” save for low end service jobs and benefit-less roles in the gig economy created by the oligarchs . Tech firms in the Valley employ shockingly few Latinos or African Americans, who make up barely 6 percent, for example, of Facebook’s workforce. And that’s better than the average of barely 5 percent among the leading tech firms.
Older industries do far better on these terms. In manufacturing, 16.2% of workers are Latinos and 9.7% are African America, according to 2015 data. In mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction, Latinos make up 16.9% of the workforce and African-Americans 4.8%, while in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, nearly a quarter of the workforce—23%—is Latino and 2.7 percent is African-American.
As the green ideology undermines the last bastions of the middle and working class economy, some of the most extreme “ethnic cleansing” is taking place in such cities as San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, where high prices, regulations , sometimes aided local redevelopment, have worked to push minorities to the poorer suburbs, or out of the region entirely.
…What Trump deserves credit for—perhaps the only thing he deserves credit for—is derailing the predictable transition of the same old insiders who would feed at the trough in a Clinton Inc. administration. Now it’s up to the rest of us—those who supported him and those, like me, who did not—to determine that making America “great again” also means standing up to the new feudalism, and chasing this regressive order back into the darkness of the past, where it belongs.
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