I am an economic populist. What does that mean? According to Wiki that means
a member of a United States political party formed in 1891 primarily to represent agrarian interests and to advocate the free coinage of silver and government control of monopolies.
a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people
The year 1891 was a long time ago are there really any Populist party members still around? Most likely no, and any politician who espouses populist rhetoric is instantly shouted down in the media by the opposition and even their own political party.
So who is the economic populist today?
I am most likely over 35 y.o. and live modestly. Normally I am employed and live paycheck to paycheck. With any luck I get to save a couple dollars but not on a regular basis. In today’s economic crises I may have already been laid off, about to be laid off, or waiting for the axe to drop.
I am a proud member of Americas Middle Class
I have gone by many names through the decades. The laboring class, blue-collar, white collar, the salt of the earth, the unwashed masses and the common man. I am the hard working class that tries to make a decent living to provide for my family and me. I worry about tomorrow, how will I send my children to college, what would happen if I was injured, how would I support my family. I seem to work more, sometimes taking on a second job, but always seem to fall farther behind. I live frugal. When I have worked I pack my lunch to save money, I ride public transit not just to save money but also because I am concerned about the environment.
I was born from middle class parents, raised in middle class neighborhoods and went to public school. I look at my family tree and note that in my history my family has not changed classes… I am where my parents were before me, and theirs before them. If anything I am working harder and losing ground.
Being a member of the middle class makes me proud. There is a certain fulfillment in an honest days work that is not attained by inheritance or reaping profit from someone else’s labor. What I have is what I have earned. Sometimes things work out, sometimes things work against me.
Being in the middle means there are forces on either side constantly pulling at me. The lower class I feel for, as it could just as easily be me. One illness, a bad break, maybe a misstep or unreasoned decision could land me in their place. On the other side is the rich and powerful using their accumulated wealth to protect their interests. Buying political favors, changing laws to suit their needs and always keeping the playing field tilted to their advantage. They export my job across the oceans and wage wars for profit to enrich their friends in industry. Their arrogance and money reeks of the blood of my fellow brethren.
Throughout human history the forces of economics have pulled between the haves and have-nots. What made this country great was its middle class, but this is not something that occurs naturally. A middle class needs to be defended against these opposing forces. It needs to have a champion that legislates to protect it and laws that encourage it to grow, instead of exploiting its labors. Of the many profound institutions our founding fathers put forth, the creation of the middle class was by far what made us unique from the rest of the world.
As an economic populist I support labor unions and the right to organize. It is the only protection the working person has against the corporate greed. Unfortunately the thing we have going for us, our numbers, also works against us in our individuality. The idea of free trade, which spawned NAFTA, has all but destroyed my beloved middle class. While trade is important, the screams of “protectionism “ are yelled by the industries media outlets whenever we dare defend our jobs.
I consider myself a Social Democrat and a Fiscal Conservative. What that means is I believe that we, as a people, are only as good as the weakest link and we need to help those that want to be helped. That does not mean a hand out but a hand up. I believe in paying ones own bills and living within ones means. In that context I have no political party that really represents my values.
Wall Street has killed Main Street
Capitalism for its own sake is a self-cannibalizing institution. It devours everything in its path because of unbridled greed and endless search for higher profits. Until the day a corporation can have a proctology exam industry does not and should not garner the rights of an individual.
To use a well-worn metaphor, the way I see it our economic financial system is a four-legged table comprised of Business & Industry, Government & Media, Trade, and finally Joe and Jane Consumer.
Business is profit driven or why else would they be in business. They are an integral part of the economy that relate to all other pillars of our financial system. At the same time they use their accumulated wealth to manipulate the system and create an unbalanced playing field. I understand that the bottom line is “the bottom line” in business, but where is the moral clause? Is the profit motive all that matters? Exporting jobs to labor rich nations in order to import cheap products is short sighted to say the least.
In the race to the bottom for labor costs who will be able to afford their overpriced goods? Henry Ford understood this over 80 years ago.
that paying people more would enable Ford workers to afford the cars they were producing and be good for the economy. He labeled the increased compensation as profit-sharing rather than wages.
Trade is the foundation of all economies. From far back in human history the barter system has been used to exchange goods for goods, goods for services and it worked well. But barter had its limitations, for instance, how would one divide a cow for services to one and goods for another?
Enter the use of money.
Throughout the ages different civilization spread out across tens of thousands of miles all arrived at the use of two distinct metals. Precious metals that are essentially indestructible, portable, do not rust, and can be divided into many weights. These were used as honest money for thousands of years with sometimes capital punishments applied when someone was found debasing the monetary units.
Enter the central banking theory
Incessant greed, and the desire to make money without getting a little grime under one’s own fingernails drives this aspect of the economy. Ever notice how well bankers dress? Ever notice how they have a big monogrammed “C” (capitalism) on their designer shirts until the day comes that they have fucked up the entire system? I believe that we are witnessing the demise of the all too-longed lived theory of central banking.
An idea that is constantly swimming around my head … Why is it that banking is the only industry in which there is no overhead? Zero, none, zilch.
Compounded on top of the theory of central banking is another theory, which is dying its second death. I speak of Keynesian Economics and the idea of when markets don’t function the way they should the Government should intervene as buyer, lender and financier of last resort.
Let me just state the obvious, so there is no confusion. Government takes in taxes and it spends the money. That is it. Any problems that come its way they can, and do, only one thing, throw money at it,…. our money.
While taxes are burdensome my class carries the weight for all. The federal government continues to take more of my money meanwhile the services for them are diminished. I do not agree with the wars of aggression or preemptive strikes. The latest comes at a time when it wastes so much of our resources when the country can ill afford to.
The Fourth Estate, the MSM, no longer functions as a check on the government, nor does it function at reporting the news. The MSM has become the propaganda machine of the government and by extension corporate America.
When I relay to someone the latest heinous act committed by the FED, USG, or corporate Amerika I am told by the listener “I hadn’t heard that, where did you get this information?” and my reply is always the same from many sources. The one place I do not get the news from is the networks and cable television.
Walter Cronkite would not be caught behind a desk interviewing a freakin panel of political pundits who spin right/left/ or all agree with each other. That is not news its “Infotainment” and it’s a vial form of journalism.
The final leg of the table is Joe and Jane Consumer. Ours is the first generation that will actually be worse off than the generation before. I worry about the next generation who will have to clean up what we have left.
Gone are the days of Ward and June Cleaver. By the 1970’s it was taking two incomes to support the household. By the 1980’s it had college bound students taking out loans instead of working a summer job to pay for tuition. Reaganonmics was gutting the industrial base of the country to pay favors to foreign governments in supporting the US cold war. The white collar industry paid no attention. The 1990’s saw the internet revolution and brought about the hi-tech jobs we were promised only to see them vanish faster by the same way in which they came. Now the white collar jobs are gone to.
The genius that spawned this economy paid no attention to the fact that Joe and Jane Consumer can no longer afford those cheap imports at WalMart because all the jobs went with them.
The powers that constructed this economy forgot that consumption was only made possible by production and that credit is made possible by savings.
We have become the mouth of the world and we are about to go on a starvation diet. Our economic system is broken and we are in dire need of some populist policies. All four legs of the table we built are important but I would not hesitate to say that the strength of the economy lies with Joe and Jane middle class consumers. Without them everything else dies.