WWII was America’s finest hour. Before that, her multitude of sins had always been covered up by her bounty of natural resources, her yet unsettled land, … her offer of opportunity. There was room to grow, chances for people to start over, … In the lead up to, and during, the War, America stepped up. Then, the situation was well defined. Usually, it’s hard to discern what is going on at a given time; what is going on ‘now’. Before the War, we sometimes got away with not knowing what was going on ‘now’; could and did attribute success or failure to fate, to an invisible hand, … . Then, working class Americans couldn’t expect much more than the ‘short brutal life’. After the War, returning veterans weren’t willing to let their government off the hook that easy. They had fought and died for their Nation; now their Nation owed them, had to do better by its people. During the War, working class Americans who had been unable to find gainful employment during the Great Depression found gainful employment; learned that they were quite capable, knew what it meant to have money to spend. A new generation of leaders who had met people from all over the world, had seen how other people lived, stood ready to take over.
During those first few years after the War, America was blessed with her industrial capacity being left intact. She was production-ready when no one else was. Working-class Americans had money in their pockets from all those wartime jobs. They were looking to buy. The world; needing everything, looked to America. In the years following the War, the wealth generated by her production was plenty enough to pay off the War Debt and have some left over for the worker’s savings.
During the 1950s, there were warning signs; like recessions and stagflation. But defense, aircraft and automobile manufacturing, and all those exports, were still generating enough wealth to go around.
By 1965, Europe and Japan were becoming more and more self-sufficient. America, manufacturer to the world, began losing her markets; That was what was going on ‘now’, then. So, what to do?
In the 1960s, it wasn’t uncommon to hear or read that the economy needed war. Business was inclined to blame it on the unions or taxes. Loss of markets was seldom heard. Meanwhile, the war in Vietnam raged on, costing dearly in ‘blood and treasure’. Then, as now, to most politicians, the economy is magic, works on fairy dust called forth with buzzwords; will self correct, …, … . LBJ may have been the best President since FDR at knowing what was going on ‘now’. He foresaw the consequences of 6.5 million southern blacks being displaced by the mechanical cotton picker. He knew that the time had come for Civil Rights, Medicare and Medicaid, The Clean Air Act, … He blew it with Vietnam; came from looking through the lens of the past, I suppose.
Like Johnson, Nixon knew how government worked. Nixon was sure that he had the answer to Vietnam and the economy. Most of all, he really wanted to be President. For Vietnam, he brought in Nelson Rockefeller’s own Henry Kissinger and started bombing the hell out of Cambodia. For the economy, he would show them how it was done; all that was needed was some Republican business know-how. First, he tried New Federalism, a kind of federalism in reverse. Then, having decided that inflation was the problem, he applied wage and price controls. When the good old didn’t work for the economy, he called on Milton Friedman. Friedman was a monetary man. When monetarism didn’t work; Nixon declared that he was now a Keynesian. The ‘now’ was what they all had missed. In 1968, economist Victor R. Fuchs spoke of the US economy as becoming a ‘service economy’. The world had changed.
In 1971, unemployment in California was at 12%. Defense spending was down. Her car plants that had once employed from 5,000 to 7,000 each were closing or automating (40% of the new cars being sold in California were made in Japan). Then, the Silicon Valley miracle happened. — It wasn’t really a miracle; it dated back to Edison and involved a lot of government-funded science.
All of a sudden, once acres of pear orchards were becoming first square miles of chip manufacturers then of manufacturers of Atari, Apple, … The jobs didn’t pay as well as the car plants had, but they were in the right location, at the right time. Saved our butts, they did. It was a time when ‘now’ was changing so fast that no one knew what ‘now’ was. Such stalwarts as Varian and Hewlett-Packard found themselves desperately playing catch-up. One such, Xerox, unknowingly, was holding a bit of ‘now’ in its hands; let it slip away.
Nixon was replaced by Gerald Ford in 1974; Ford by Jimmy Carter in 1977. Carter was a member of the Tri-Lateral Commission. He and they thought that the problem with the economy was too much regulation; they had been looking for ‘now’ but missed it completely. Again, the lens problem. We began hearing the term ‘service economy’ more and more often those days.
Reagan, originally an FDR Liberal, ran and won in 1980 on the General Electric and Nancy Davis platform as a Republican. Saying to hell with ‘now’, he was intent on returning the country to the 1950s; thinking, no doubt, that ‘now’ was surely under that street lamp. Thought that The Civil Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, … anything that increased the role of government was wrong. No big government solutions for him; said that he only liked small government. Increased defense spending and borrowed money to pay for it; hardly official Republican party policy but politically successful. Missed ‘now’ by thirty years; set the country back by forty. A Presidency awarded for oratory on nostalgia.
Clinton at least got us back to looking for ‘now’ in the right decade; though perhaps using the wrong set of eyes in Summers, Rubin et al. Smartest in a while, but how well did he, they, anyone understand the economics of the times? More of the buzzwords and politician thing? He/they understood the thing about taxes, benefited from Dot-Com, … blew it on globalization. It is possible that they caught a glimpse of ‘now’ only to make a few doctrinal mistakes. If they did in fact glimpse ‘now’, they would be the first to do so in more than forty years. All in all, they did better than anyone had in a long time; too bad about those manufacturing jobs. Under Clinton, the economy did well and they didn’t borrow to bring it about.
Bush II; Harry Golden would have loved the guy. “We can work with this guy,” George Schultz said of both Reagan and Bush II. Karl Rove showed America how it was done. With no idea as to what needed be done or how to do it; Bush II plowed ahead. He hadn’t even heard of ‘now’, but no matter. Just for form, he cut taxes for the rich and started a couple unfunded wars. By 2005, America’s economy was based almost entirely on debt. Damn, 2008 hurt. Still does.
Barack Hussein Obama inherited the worse mess of any president ever; well, at least any since President Abraham Lincoln. Upon taking over, he had no time to look for ‘now’. Didn’t need to, the mess was right there in front of god and everybody. ‘Now’ had come a visiting. An economy based on debt is a house of cards economy. History will say that he and his advisers did a good job; that righting the ship alone was good enough. Let the next President solve the ‘now’ problem.
Trump! We didn’t see that coming; did we? Since January 2017, we have a President who couldn’t even find his own ‘now’ with both hands; a buffoon straight from central casting. After decades of living on a debt and/or service-based, and, of late, more a financial-based, economy, we’ve hit bottom; splat! We should have seen it coming. Production, that wealth generating activity, had deliberately been moved offshore by our own capitalists, and our government hadn’t lifted a finger to stop it or to mitigate the damage. No doubt we will try yet another debt to bust cycle if we get the chance, but there is a limit. Will finance, the fine art of grifting, restore America to greatness? A service economy?
For years, Web, who lived in what was called ‘Jones Holler’, and Eb, who live in the adjacent ‘Henry Holler’, had met the same time of year every year and swapped the same mule for the same rifle and $5 boot. One year, Web would pick up the rifle and walk over the ridge to Eb’s, where, after a couple hours or so of jockeying, Web would agree to swap the rifle and $5 boot for the mule and then lead the mule back over to his place. The next year, Eb would pick up the rifle and walk over the ridge to Web’s place, where, after a couple hours or so of jockeying, Eb would agree to swap the rifle and $5 boot for the mule and then lead the mule back over to his place.
One year, when the time came, Eb picked up the rifle and walked over the ridge to Web’s place. But, when he got there and looked around for the mule there wasn’t hide nor hair to be seen, nor heard, of the mule nor Web. Eb yelled out couple times to see if anyone was home. After awhile, Web came around from the back of his house and mumbled. “howdy Eb.” Eb said, “There you are, howdy Web. I’m here to make a swap for your mule, but I don’t see the mule?” Web said, “Eb, I sold that mule to Hobie over in ‘Page Holler’ couple of months back. He told me that he was needing a mule real bad. Eb shuffled a bit and, after a few minutes, said, “Why, Web, you damned fool, for years we’d both been making a good living off swapping that old mule for this here rifle and $5 boot.”
For these past few decades, the failure to recognize what was happening at a given time has cost America dearly. Too many administrations could have cared less what was really going on; they had an agenda to undo something that was contrary to their ideology, one to change the Nation to one more to their liking, …, they carried their own version of ‘now’ around with them. To some, being President was little more than a feather in their cap. Fortunately for us, others spent their lifetime preparing for the job and strove to make America a stronger, better nation. Ascertaining what is going on ‘now’ is a tough, a sometimes almost impossible, task; maybe the toughest facing the world, mankind. Perhaps, if we concentrate on it a bit more, we can do better.
Just like what Billy Martin said about George Steinbrenner, America was “born on third base and thinks it hit a triple.”
Well done. THX.
No mention of women entering the workforce? In the absence of the increasing market this provided, businesses no longer find growth so easy (monopolists excluded). Now China is the one with growing markets.
The alpha dog is always the cat’s pajamas in its own time, the first to be modern, the first to be civilized, and always to last to admit its own failings or seek humility rather than embrace hubris.
In 1950s America, the golden era, White Protestant males didn’t have to compete on an even footing with non-whites, non-protestants, or women.
*Take the labor force and reduce it by that bias.
*Note that the opportunities for those that remain are much more profitable than they would be if employers treated all workers alike.
*Give credit for the golden era to the fact that Japan (et al) had yet to start exporting to America, and GOPers were in charge.
*Rinse and repeat.
Bout right, EMichael
Name Joe Bageant ring a bell?
This is indeed a crucial time. Is it already too late?
Arne, how could I have forgotten?
The Rosie The Riveter Museum is within walking distance – highly recommended. Next door to the old Ford Bomber Plant and the drydocks where they built, first the Liberty, then the Victory Ships that my father helped build. The Red Oak Victory, now a museum, is alongside.
In the future, history books will be all about China?
It JFK had never been shot, there is no civil rights. But I bet a better health care system.
Fwiw, we may be at the end of growth.
Yeah, ideology is often like a set of blinders. But over the decades, from at least the 1960s on, a driving force that seems worth mentioning was the gradual but growing flight of investment and industrial production from the US as capital moved to cheap labor markets. Ignoring that reality, which has hollowed out the core of the US economy, kinda makes identifying “Now” difficult.
I don’t agree. It was the pursuit of growth which led to the hollowing. Industry growth based on science was essentially dead by 1925. The late 20th century had the computer wave, the last capital expansion. Since then, nothing is really going on to drive spending outside debt.
Maybe, just maybe, capitalism is just a debt pyramid. Bernie Madoffism
The big problem of the industrial age has always been what to do if it was successful at eliminating scarcity. As long as enough material goods were in short supply, there was plenty of room for growth. If bulk manufacturing had stayed in the first world, it would have been even further automated. The problem has always been how to maintain demand, that is, how to make sure that most of the population could obtain their necessary goods.
Much of the third world decided to sell its cheap labor. Sometimes this involved sending people to take crappy jobs overseas, sometimes performing outsourced labor for a foreign market. Many East Asian governments imported industries of their own which works better than a purely exogenous solution. They soon run into the same problem as everyone else, growing and maintaining demand.
There’s a reason China started closing off about ten years ago. There are intense political risks when demand fails to keep up with productive capacity. “Deaths of despair” in the US are not about a lack of jobs, but a lack of jobs paying well enough to produce the necessary demand. Without that, it’s a downward spiral.
That’s been the “now” since the late 19th century. It is much easier to rule a society in the face of scarcity than in the face of prosperity, so periods of relative prosperity tend to be short.
Why is it so cheap to manufacture overseas? Been there many times and stayed for a while. China’s Communist-Capitalist ecological apocalypse It has not changed much and we keep using them.
“Barack Hussein Obama inherited the worse mess of any president ever; well, at least any since President Abraham Lincoln.”
Marduk613 — 1933 yeah, except there was Keynes, and Keynes understood his “now” and people paid attention.
Ken Melvin is right: No one since the 1950s has understood the “now”.
As one who spent most of his life in and around China, both physically and professionally, I can assure you that the country did not start closing off about ten years ago. More accurately, that would be roughly the period when it largely abandon restrictions on WFOEs selling domestically, foreign financial institutions taking stakes in local banks and insurance companies, and otherwise carrying on doing what the World Bank (i.e., Western) technocrats said was the best way to move forward.
If you think the pause in the surge in foreign capital investment into China has anything to do with closing access to the economy, I would urge you to look at the examples of Japan, Taiwan and Korea. You will find that once capital-intensive FDI is no longer the sole opportunity available, MNCs turn to services and other less capital-intensive options. The superficial flow of dollars across the border may not continue rising, but the impact of foreign know-how on the economy persists.
The attraction of overseas production is part of comparative advantage. The cost of land, regulatory compliance, sourcing and distribution channels, and even labor can be quite competitive in comparison to the protectionist notion of doing everything at home.
More, the market may well be outside the investors’ home economies, and environmentally it’s better to produce closer to where things are consumed.
Finally, there’s the sad NIMBY complex that prefers heavily polluting production be done somewhere – anywhere – else.
The attraction of overseas production is part of the cost of manufacturing sans labor, we get to shuffle off to another country. Do you really believe the cost of manufacturing would be far cheaper if the same environmental protections, the overhead we legislate in the US for Labor, and the overseas container transportation time were taken into account? How does such work? Does comparative advantage equate to social responsibility? It does not appear to do so. And such is “not” protectionism.
If the market is overseas, you build there too unless we can beam the product there. We should apply such to home base and employ labor.
I am at the end of my almost 50 years of fluttering around Thailand, Malaysia, China, Philippines, Mexico, Germany, Czech Republic, the US, etc. working and consulting-to the supply chain and manufacturing. The attraction to overseas production for me was seeing how it was done there and measuring it against how it would be done in the US. Direct labor Cost is such a small component to argue about.
Welcome to Angry Bear.
Flip that on its head.
How does the cost of production in the US stand up if producers are required to meet all Swedish tax and regulatory requirements? Personal taxes, child care provisions, paternity leave, …
Well, perhaps you’d like to identify a good reason why US standards should be applied outside US jurisdiction.
(I only spent 40 years advising MNCs, and governments, abroad. Oh, and it isn’t my first post here. Not by a long shot. Pleased to meet you!)
You are very welcome to be here.
Do I really have to define what I mean by overhead to manufacturing in the US which are attributable to Direct Labor? What do you believe the Swedes do to make up for such? I never said they had to be applied overseas. What do you believe the advantage to be? What happen to social responsibility versus comparative advantage and why should product be made overseas and sold at a lesser cost in the US if it destroys the environment there?
Except for consulting, it was a rare event for me to hobnob with the upper crust. It did occur when things went wrong and I was asked to fix it which usually takes more than a fortnight of advice. Cranking out 22 turns a year from a former 7 does attract attention when no labor is added, or minimizing the inventory in transit and on the water, or identifying the bottlenecks on the shop floor and optimizing a production quantity as close to a lot size of 1 as can be does attract attention. It is here where cost is reduced which may also cover the Overhead.
I was not a part of upper management.
The fun part of my job was asking one question to seek an answer and then a few more questions which were answered, to return to the original question which they had answered in the series.
Did you like Hong Kong? I would spend a weekend there before moving on to the next country. I was always treated well by my hosts in each country.
Hmmm, I had to approve you again.
Ah, the business-responsible-for-social-services vs. government-taxes-to-pay-for-benefits-the-entire-economy-enjoys argument. Both sides have been tried, with results up and down the spectrum.
Direct labor is rarely the deciding factor on where to locate a factory. Sure, all else being equal, but it never is. Consider the classic case of the iPhone: what’s the share of labor? I’d venture it cannot be measured because it is so small. Take away the technology, branding, and capital invested and there isn’t all that much left over. Production flexibility, on the other hand, is a very important factor.
In the antiquated US national accounts, wages and salaries to persons comprised between 41.9% and 46.7% of gross domestic income over the past 30 years. Add supplements and its 51.6% to 57.7%. But, I’m not quite willing to believe that over half of the value added to the US economy is labor. Not by a long shot.
Apply the cost of labor to Motorola, Walt Disney, Microsoft, …
The IRS would beg to differ: taxes from individuals account for an average 52.1% of all federal tax receipts since 1990, and in the national accounts taxes on corporate income a mere 2.1%. (Apples and oranges, I know, but the gap is huge nonetheless.)
Universal standards: Forgive me for misunderstanding your position; I thought you said that part of the difference in various countries’ cost of manufacturing sans labor (robotics?) was environmental and labor standards. So, I countered with the Swedish example, where such costs are higher than in the USA.
My experience advising MNCs on where to locate manufacturing facilities generally involved a long check-list of pros and cons. Is the government / society stable? How and by how much does the exchange rate move? Are labor unions proactive, reasonable, or suppressed? Can IPR be protected? Are components locally available? Is there sufficient electricity and clean water, or can it economically be provided? Is the local market attractive, and can it better be served domestically of via imports? Is corruption a hindrance or just another cost of doing business? Will local managers be capable of being promoted, so as to replace expensive expats? What’s the cost of living for those expats that cannot be replaced? The list goes on, and varies only a bit by industry.
Not once did ocean transport costs arise in those discussions, however. The competition isn’t between Texas and Tanzania. It’s between Bangladesh and Vietnam, Korea and Taiwan, or Sichuan and Hebei.
By now you should be able to come and go here as you please. Again I had to approve your comment. You never looked at the amount of time product sits in customs on both ends and the almost three weeks on the ocean? There is a cost to this besides the parts or product being shipped.
Neither am I willing to believe 40% of the product cost is due to direct labor. Perhaps they meant Labor plus Overhead attributed to Labor? Indeed we did not in consulting. When I cost modeled plastic, metal, and rubber parts, Labor was a small cost. It was the overhead and material costs that was much of the cost. (Reminds me of my Norwegian(?) friends who were in trouble with the Muslims because one author wrote a book called The Satanic Verses in which in one section of the work, a deranged man has a dream in which he mocks Mohammed and the Koran. Muslims were insulted and pledged harm to the author and Norwegians. It was not a funny situation and I asked our stampers then what they were doing for security even to go as far as to remove their Norwegian flag.) The owner of the company was older than I and we continued our discussion on the size of the blanks and how much scrap would be accrued from the stamping so as to determine part cost. I had their press sizes and overhead per machine, cost of material, production rate per tonnage, labor cost, etc. The conversation was about pricing.
I thought I revealed pretty much what I do or did. I look at production lines, how they are scheduled, capacity, and the resulting time and product costs between operations. Much of those excess costs are the result of a simple scheduling issue of production lot sizes. I (we) would look for ways to reduce setup times for cells, and old style automatics, and NC equipment. It was not difficult. What was difficult was convincing management they could change the way they planned and manufactured. To your point on Motorola, I worked in Schaumburg for a few years planning production and reduced my product responsibility costs by 25%. When I achieved my LSS black belt, I was pointed in other directions.
Perhaps I was not clear enough on the ocean transportation which consist of ~3 weeks on the ocean and one week on either side for customs. Enough time wasted which forced decisions to keep parts state side for manufacture. I watched the production of harnesses move from China or Thailand to Mexico and then back again. If you are pointing out to me product sold in Asia should be made in Bangladesh and Vietnam, Korea and Taiwan, or Sichuan and Hebei, I agree.
I sat in Shanghai outside on the worst pollution day ever there. Beijing, Shantou and even Hong Kong has its issues the same as the Philippines and Thailand. They are abandoning Jakarta to move inland. Does it make sense to dump photoelectric cell waste in agricultural fields near schools to achieve a lower cost in the US or not?
Appreciate your exchange and be safe also.
Thank you for your time.
Of course there is a cost to customs delays, particularly for perishables (big incentive for pharmaceutical companies to locate closer to the market). But, there’s also a cost arising from urban traffic. What’s the connection? Neither one was (in my experience) a major factor in most MNCs’ production location decision-making.
The die stamping issues you mention are universal; it would not (correct me if I’m wrong) matter when deciding where to locate. Skills availability and experience showing up at a factory on time would, but not stamping parameters.
My clients called in their state-side components manufacturing partners and announced that henceforth production would be in China, and given the change, would they prefer to supply them in China, at China prices, or lose a customer. Mixed responses on that one.
“…Name Joe Bageant ring a bell?…”
[No, I had to Google him. When I read his Wiki then I thought for a moment that it was about me :<) He resonates with my entire life. Thx.]
I was thinking about Joe and you and made the VA connection; decided to ask. Used to dialogue/discourse quite a lot with him on the Scot/Irish/Appalachia, … on Truthout, maybe?; not sure. Interesting fellow. A good writer. Missed.
By Joe Bageant
How can the region of America that gave us lynching, Jim Crow, Harry Byrd, George Wallace, Taliban Christianity, David Duke, the KKK, Bible hair, Tammy Fay Bakker, congregational snake handling, the poll tax, inbreeding, and chitterlings possibly take another step back down the stairs of human evolution? Beats the hell out of me. But somehow here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia we have managed it.
Like most modern Southerners who’ve fled their native states for long periods of time, I have the standard love/hate relationship with my home town — Winchester, Virginia. On one hand, it is a backward and mostly irrelevant place where the question of whether Stonewall Jackson had jock itch at the Battle of Chancellorsville still rages right alongside evolution and abortion. To be sure, it is the standard venal Southern place, where poverty and ugliness are thrust into one’s face daily, with all the gothic family melodramas of greed and intrigue so often written about Southern novels. On the other hand, it is the place that made me who I am, a moralizing, preachy and essentially lazy bastard who likes to drink. I was raised a Pentecostal Baptist, steeped in the gloomy ultra-Protestant assumption that man is a worthless, evil thing from birth and only goes downhill from there. And I still managed to become a raving, socialist heathen. Which proves there’s hope for everyone.
But something new and more ominous is afoot down here. Something that scares even a hardened tobacco-stained old toad like me — a clammy, repressive chill. One that not only dampens all political conversation not Pro-Bush, but can even cost you your job in a small town like this one. I’m serious. When I invite like-minded people for cocktails, the atmosphere is distinctly that of a “safehouse,” as the few local liberals all but whisper their opinions and eye one another, judging just how safe it is to speak one’s mind. It’s spooky, so spooky almost none of us is willing to admit it.
I can remember back in the 1960s when we still had a left, right and center in politics, even here in Virginia. Gawd I feel old. Remembering liberalism here is like being able to remember scrap paper drives and ration tickets during World War II. It feels so long ago. Anyway, contrary to neocon revisionist history, neither left, right or center was particularly seen as some sort of evil booger. The left may not have been popular, but it wasn’t particularly demonized either. My kids do not believe me when I tell them that even during the Vietnam War protests America was not so dangerously polarized as now, because there was only one issue at hand — the war. Now nearly everything is at issue. Whatever the case, today in the Shenandoah we have only a right and a far right, with some very limp moderates that pass for a left.
OK, so we do have a few liberals here — mostly transplants and retirees from “up North,” old ones whose fires have long since dimmed. They come here for the cheap historic homes and easy retirement in a low tax state where you can still get domestic “help” four times a month, four hours a crack, to clean your house for less than 180 bucks. Bear in mind, however, that we set a pretty low bar for liberalism around here. If you don’t say nigger out loud, have ever voted for a Democrat, and can spell latte, you qualify as a gold plated liberal. Unfortunately, even the miniscule new generation of Southern “liberals” cannot imagine speaking up on anything, much less taking to the streets in 1960s fashion. Hell, Southern liberals didn’t even do it back then. But these younger Virginia liberals see members of their generation who demonstrated at the WTO talks over in D.C. as dog strangling homo kooks. For the most part, their generation of Virginians has been reduced to being either brown shirts or light brown shirts. And when they see a green shirt, well … you gotta be queer to like green at all.
Ask practically any Winchester native. They’ll tell you like it is. And it’s like this: “Everyone is America’s enemy these days because we Americans have the guts to stand up for what is right.” That is the neocon party line down here, and it is served up with lots of patriot sauce and fear. Even the Europeans are now our enemies. We must become super-militarized because we have the greatest life style in the world and everyone else is jealous of our personal weaponry, our lack of health insurance and our sheer obesity. Americans love to believe that their gut level but uninformed opinions are some sort of unvarnished foundational political truths. Nowhere is this more true than here in the Valley, where the “Screw a bunch of pointy headed multi-cultural “librul types” is scriptural, and there is a special place in hell for those operating on the reckless assumption that some people are wiser than others and that their opinion just might be worth listening to.
“Europeans are gutless. The U.N. is helpless,” goeth the litany, “And it is up to us to run the world.” If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it a dozen times. Five dozen times. The real question here is whether being down-in-the-dirt ignorant makes you a bad person. It’s the never ending conundrum of the South. The jury has been out on that one for 200 years.
Longer than that in our town, which even George Washington called one of the most ignorant, mean spirited and predatory places in all the colonies. Later however, Washington rolled out the barrels of rum on main street and the same mean spirited lot who had been preying on his soldiers elected him to the Virginia House of Burgesses.
Since then, predation has been institutionalized. Down at city hall rich slumlords, which own 56% of Winchester, roam like grazing animals, picking up properties from the elderly widow or the bankrupt redneck who lost his job at the styrofoam peanut factory for mentioning the word union. We are an anti-union state, therefore we earn only three-quarters of the national average and can be fired tomorrow if we even fart wrong. Local companies maintain a pro-union blacklist. Our city and county governments consists mostly of car dealers who put their homely daughters in TV commercials, and millionaire real estate hotwires and landlords setting up fixes and business connections within the city government. All this while our girthsome, ill-educated polity hoots, cheers and guffaws at a Fox network made-for-the masses political movie called “America, the Baddest Dog on the Block,” as the power elite pick every pocket in the audience through regressive taxes, stopping only to loot the local treasury on their way out the back door to that money insulated estate they bought for a song. They are safe from prosecution because their crimes were codified into law down here during and after the reconstruction era. It’s the newest “New South” ladies and gentlemen, much like the old one, but with three more layers of lawyers and realtors. Free market capitalism, Dixie fried. Now from your vantage point up north or out west, you might well observe that we are getting exactly the government and society we deserve. But then, if we Southerners long ago got the government we deserve, the rest of America is now getting a dose of the same beefed up predatory Darwinism. Contrary to all logic, it is the blue collar NASCAR dads, the ones who get screwed at every turn on the track, who are the staunchest defenders of this feudal system. They are also the most rabid fans of our current national belligerence toward the rest of the world. Said belligerence is particularly manifest in the Virginian’s love of personal firearms. Deeply insecure because it seems we can control nothing these days, kids, job security, health care, retirement, the goddam goat roasting Mexican neighbors. Personal weaponry makes us feel at least a little more potent and able to defend against who knows what. “Long as I got my gun …”
Meanwhile, the very same polical/corporate syndicate that screws NASCAR daddy blue is also gouging him bloody for healthcare. Which is a big deal here because we are a very unhealthy people. (Ugly too, but that doesn’t count.) Our huge new regional medical center is by far the largest cause of local bankruptcies. So finally, when the local Styrofoam peanut factory — the one that makes our cancer risk over 100 times the national average — says the hell with it and cuts workers, NASCAR loses his house and the slumlord is right there at the sale. At least he managed to save the Dale Earnhardt Number 3 commemorative beer cooler and a couple of other family heirlooms.
When a local plant moves kit and kaboodle to Asia, its marginal white male employee, like a tireless but not very smart gun dog, freezes on point and barks “Asians! The sumnabitches stole our jobs!” But lest even a slow dog catch on to a bad point, the Republican politicos wave him toward Iraq: “Over there! A swarthy bad guy called Saddam done hauled off and killed all them New Yorkers!” Git ‘um boys!” HYYYYYEEEEEE! The rebel yell goes down at Bo’s Belly Barn — honest to god, it’s a real place — and the marginal white males again turn dogs of war. They didn’t do all that paintball practice in the woods for nothing.
Down here, the military is second in reverence only to Christian fundamentalism; War is an honor bound duty. In fact, the military is hardwired in with the fundamentalist Christain madrasses up and down the Shenandoah Valley cranking out 18-year-old Rambos for Jesus on a production line. These are the ones presently rotating into Iraq, who will return to get their community college certificates in law enforcement (maybe). Those like my nephews, one of whom keeps his .357 Glock in the nightstand — and the Bible on the nightstand with the personal weapons permit for the Glock inside the Bible. To him, I’m sure there is a fundamental Christian symmetry in this. Just as there is to my other nephew who just completed, along with his wife yet, study of criminology and the Bible at Bob Jones University. Like their parents, they know what has gone wrong in America, who is responsible and how to correct the situation. Just ask yourself: Who would Jesus kill? Muslims are always hollerin’ to meet Allah, and they’re more than happy to provide .45 caliber cab fare to heaven. Imagine their Christian faces when they get to heaven and find out the Muslim’s next door got all the virgins. Conversely, there are plenty of radical Muslims more than happy to help them enjoy the Rapture. Fundamentalists on both sides are apocalyptic, both pack a lot of heat.
They’ve got the heat. They’ve got the meat, they’ve got the motion. And they are going to, as one radio preacher down here says, “Put god back into the constitution.” All Virginia’s neocons lack is a truly inspired and brilliant leader. Thankfully, they elected a gibbon to the White House, because there is nearly enough politically in place down here to create a scenario such as we have not seen since 1936 Germany. Like I tell the ole boys down at the Royal Lunch Tavern: “Try not to be too impressed by the purty brown shirts when they hand them out. You ain’t seen the price tag yet.”
OK then, how to survive all this? Well, it helps to have been born here. So does age. And at my age, having seen many elections and as many wars, I no longer bother to entertain opposing views. Screw Southern politeness, most of which is just avoidance anyway. I rant my commie screed. No problemo. I don’t work in this town. Nor do I go to church, at least not frequently enough to be recognized. I have a full bar in my home, and my memory is still good. Good enough to summon up memories of old lovers and sun struck days of an LSD besotted hippie youth, when the very earth murmured its love for my sheer existence, for everyone’s really. And I would have you know that the lone brain cell I have been operating on since 1965 is still working just fine, thank you. It’s one helluva BIG cell. Doctors tell me it’s a double-yolker, weighs about two pounds and responds primarily these days to red meat, gin and sex, even the internet kind. I couldn’t be happier with the situation.
Nevertheless, I’m here to tell you this: You goddam Yankee liberals, gays and other malignant types had better get out and vote. Every last one of you. Otherwise, there’s no telling what all this beer, guns and inbreeding might lead to.
I’m done ranting. You can go now. And while you are up, fetch me my gin.
Sleepwalking to Fallujah
Deer Hunting With Jesus
Waltzing At The Doomsday Ball
A Mean and Unholy Ditch
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THX again. Joe Bageant is a F’ing riot, hilarious, candid, and honest.