Trump tapped into a class insurrection among employees left behind our the post-industrial, asset-inflated new economy. It remains to be seen if he’s up to the task of fixing it. “>
One obvious, if little discussed, reason the progressive wave receded last week: The lefts increasingly unappealing economic agenda. In the past, progressives focused on improving conditions for working and middle class Americans through economic growth, home ownership and expansive infrastructure projects.
Today , notes former Bill Clinton aide William Galston, progressives rarely promote economic growth, having developed a particular resentment to many of the industriesenergy manufacturing, transportation and agriculturethat 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, todays progressives promote social control and the consolidation of a cognitively determined global order. Its promise amounts to forging a kind of high-tech middle ages in which the new aristocracytechies, media grandees, fiscal mogul, academics, high-level bureaucratsdominate while the middle class becomes increasingly serf-like.
In this new neo-feudalism, its ownership, like power, is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.
Trumpism as anti-feudalism
The Trump victory tapped into a class insurrection among middle- and working-class voters who feel the most alienated and pessimistic about the future. The post-industrial, asset-inflated world so beneficial to the Apples, Googles, media starrings and the trustifarians in glamour cities has been less kind to the middle and working class, whose incomes have dropped or stagnated over the past decade and a half.
While some percentage of Trumps supporters were fundamentally deplorable, this wasnt the KKK triumph imagined by scriptwriter Adam Sorkin. Instead, he won with the subsistence of many people who had previously voted for Barack Obama.
White working class voters, endless mocked and sometimes even demonized in the media, were massively underestimated by the pollsters, as well who utilized 2012 exit poll that undercounted as many as 10 million white voters over 45 to construct their models for who would turn out in 2016.
And Trump dominated those voters, winning them by 40 percentage points a 15 point improvement over Mitt Romneys margin. Trumps opponent, it should be noted, was also white.
It remains to be seen how Trumps voters will feel about their choice in the years to come, but the basic incoherence of his world-view, along with the corporatist tilted of the Republican majority in Congress, could undermine any attempt to restore upward mobility
There are fundamentally three forces driving our post-modern feudalization, all of them pertained. 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 employees 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 bless, tends to depress wages for lower and middle employees. Many native-born Americans who used to enjoy steady work have joined the steadily increasing, and economically vulnerable, precariat made up of contingent, irregularly hired employees. Both Bernie Sanders and Trump identified their own 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, trained employees are threatened by such things as -IB visas for skilled worker, which essentially replaces indigenous skilled worker with imported indentured maids. This has already resulted in job losses among IT employees 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 dedicates birth spontaneously to capitalism and the bourgeoisie. Americas small firms are in retreat while large firms increasingly predominate everything from food to technology. For the first time in our modern history, exits from business now surpass new incorporations.
Similarly, home ownership has dropped to its lowest level in five decades, with the decline steepest among young people. More millennialsnow 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.
The Religious Slant of Ecotopia
The first feudal era was characterized by constrained class mobility, a decline of middle orders and a persistent concentration of power, first in feudal lords and later monarches. But what held Medieval society together was an attachment to common articles of religion. Catholic dogma defined and justified the ascension of the gentry and royalty, and explained in theological words both why the poor should accept their fate, and why middle-class aspirations were a threat to the moral order.
Today religion is in, pardon the pun, secular decline. Particularly in the bluest nations, it has been replaced by two new faiths. One is the green religion , now focused on climate change. The other new religion is technological determinism, the idea that there is a magical, disruptive solution to current problems, particularly with regard to nature.
Nowhere are these two religions more commingled than in Americas Ecotopia, which extends from Northern California to the Pacific Northwest and is both the home to our leading tech companies and birthplace of modern environmentalism.
Structural changes help explain this melding. Today Silicon Valley earnings have become more centered on software and media than hardware, so the constraints associated with environmental regulations, such as high energy and water expenses, had now become less important to oligarchs. At the same day many Silicon Valley companies notably Tesla/ Solar City have sought to profit from the shifting to green energy, feeding on the beneficent federal subsidies attached to it.
For these interests, the GOPs great sweep represents a bit of an unexpected setback. The federal subsidies driving some of these industries are likely to be scaled back. Used to a cozy relationship with the White House, the tech elite, with the notable exception of Peter Thiel, discovers itself on the outside appearing in.
Acolytes of the technocratic green ideology, hostile to Trump, geographically and ideologically removed from the rest of the nation and already functioning as a kind of wealthy, cossetted alt-nation, are now talking vaguely about succession. That dialogue is driven in part by apocalyptic predictions about climate change generally accepted without skepticism in media, academic and political circles.
Although couched in scientism, green politics should be seen as somewhat faith-based, a craving more about piety than practical reality. Both Bjorn Lomborg and NASAs Richard Hansen, one of a very early heralds of climate change, doubt that the measures embraced by the Paris accords will prove remotely effective in reducing temperature rise. California, a recent report demonstrates. could literally fall into the ocean with no appreciable impact on global temperature, particularly given that countries like China continue to boost their coal capacity.
Most critically, the theology of green progressives will do as little good for todays 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 country 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 areas land mass, all but ensure the future generations will face almost impossibly high housing prices. And a new define of state regulations, including a requirement that new homes have zero net energy use all but guarantees that homes, over day, will continue becoming ever more expensive.
The Bay Areas regional plan also says goodbye to the American dreaming, is recommended that 82 percentage 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 percentage, for example, of Facebooks workforce. And thats better than the average of barely 5 percentage among the leading tech firms.
Older industries do far betteron these terms. In manufacturing, 16.2% of employees 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, angling and hunting, nearly a quarter of the workforce2 3% is Latino and 2.7 percentage 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 suburbiums, or out of the region entirely.
Oligarchs and Alms for the Poor
Silicon Valleys answer to this to this reality is scarcely reassuring. At a conference on environmental economics several years back, I discussed with a prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist potential impacts of these policies on homeownership and family formation. A low birthrate didnt faze him because he believed we really dont need people now, at least not those without special skills. Ultimately robots will do most of the basic work, he explained.
Of course, if the largely childless hipsters on of San Francisco may accede to this view, its unlikely that many others, including the poor and undocumented immigrants, will embrace the post-human perspective at the heart of Silicon Valley. Of course the oligarchs have a solution to the marginalization of the masses: a pool of subsidies to help cover artificially inflated housing and energy costs. Elon Musk and other valley heavyweights support a government-sponsored minimum income for what they regard as an increasingly redundant population.
The oligarchs do not want risk a insurrection from below; the Trump victory demonstrates that potential. Yet dont fret much about their being burdened by their call for societal generosity. Skilled at tax avoidance, theyll pass the bill on to the remaining middle and working class residents, while the regulatory clerisy, both in government and the universities, enjoy pensions and other protections unavailable to the masses.
Trump and the New Feudalism
For all the awfulness associated with Trump, his election stemmed from a disinclination among Americans to accept their place in the new technocratic order. Trump is best praised for some of the enemies he has mademovie stars and hierarch of the environmental left, the racial grievance industry, the high-tech oligarchs, the bureaucracy and colleges and universities system that serves largely as a giant re-education camp. Not surprisingly, those enemies are having a collective fit about his victory.
Yet for all the pleasure one can derive from this sight, its dubious that Trump, himself the licker off a silver spoon, will be effective at slackening Americas slide towards neo-feudalism. After all, his basic policy instincts tend to be wrong: cut taxes on the rich is not what the middle and working classes need. And banning illegal immigration and engaging in trade wars may help some industries, but will certainly hurt others. By themselves, theres no chance that those steps will restore prosperity to so many Americans.
But Trumps working-class-fueled victory should ultimately convince the spies in both parties that restoring upward mobility constitutes our great political challenge. There could be some common ground in public policies that embrace things like expanding abilities education and economically useful infrastructure, relaxing federal regulation and reducing taxation of small enterprise.
What Trump deserves credit forperhaps the only thing he deserves credit foris derailing the predictable transition of the same old insiders who would feed at the trough in a Clinton Inc. administration. Now its up to the rest of usthose who supported him and those, like me, who did notto determine that constructing 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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