How have they done this, you ask? Let us count the ways:
- First, our political and business leaders have cheered on the decimation of America's manufacturing industries through trade pacts that open up American workers to competition from countries where workers have no rights and are paid something like negative-five billion cents per year. This has not only led to the destruction of millions of middle-class jobs but has given America an absurd current-account deficit where we basically import cheap crap from China and don't make much of anything ourselves anymore. See this graph:
- At the same time our politicians and business leaders pursued policies that benefited the super rich at the expense of everyone else. Think income tax cuts, capital gains tax cuts, the repeal of Glass-Stegall, the deregulation of derivatives and the creation of a billion-zillion-katrillion loopholes in the tax code that let the super rich get away with paying fewer and fewer taxes. The result has, quite predictably, been a rise in income inequality See this graph:
- To cover up the stink of good jobs disappearing and real wages stagnating, our politicians and business leaders assured us not to worry since we had access to all kinds of cheap crap and, even better, we could exponentially expand our credit through the miracles of modern finance! So even if you go deeper and deeper into debt to maintain your lifestyles and to pay for college and medical expenses, don't sweat it! You can always take out a home equity line of credit to pay the bills since home prices always, always, always go upupup and you can just sell your house for a higher price if all else fails! See this graph:
- Except... ooops. Housing prices are plummeting...
...and now you're stuck with a paying a mortgage on a house that is worth far, far less than it was just last year.
(Note to my conservative friends: This isn't just a subprime problem for shifty inner-city layabouts. One-third of all prime mortgage loan borrowers are underwater as well.)
And this, then, is more or less the face of America in 2011: We're basically a nation of former factory workers who now work as Walmart greeters. As if that weren't bad enough, we are getting tossed out of our homes and are living in fear of coming down with any sort of illness because our crappy part-time job doesn't provide us with health insurance. And the reason we got ourselves into this mess in the first place is because we followed the advice of our best and brightest business and political leaders.
I mean, if you can't get pissed off about that you can't get pissed off about anything.