Global Independent Analytics
Danny Haiphong
Danny Haiphong

Location: USA

Specialization: War, Racism, Capitalist exploitation, Civil rights

Are Americans Happy with Capitalist Crisis? The New York Times Thinks So

The majority of people in the US are sick and tired of a bipartisan consensus that has only brought misery and poverty for the many and great riches for the few.

Introduction

Five corporations control nearly all of the media consumed in the US. The same capitalists that profit from monopolized media also control Washington. Washington’s imperial interests thus shape the information disseminated in the corporate media. The 2016 elections have sharpened the contradictions of capitalism. The New York Times, as an appendage of capitalism has intensified its efforts to confuse the masses about the true condition of the US capitalist economy and how it affects the working class. According to the Times, popular anger in the US is a reflection of political divides rather than economic ones. 

In an article published April 2nd, the Times made a pitch sell this point. According to the piece, the misery index in the US as measured by unemployment and inflation is as low as it's been since the 1950s. Consumers are relatively happy about the state of the economy. If people in the US are happy about the economy, then the anger present in this election cycle must be due to dissatisfaction with the "other" political party. In other words, people in the US are harboring hostilities toward members of the opposing party from which they are affiliated.

These arguments are not uncommon and have characterized US capitalism's "neo-liberal" period. Since the early 1980's, the US working class has been bombarded with the message that the economic system is not to blame for its problems. President Reagan blamed "Welfare Queens", Clinton blamed “illegal immigrants,” and the last two Presidents have scapegoated "terrorists" to explain the growing impoverishment of the US working class. In this same period, the media was deregulated in the US. The capitalist class utilized media monopolies to condition workers into satisfaction with declining living standards.

The monopolization of the corporate media has coincided with the fracturing of US society. Neo-liberal capitalism has decimated labor unions and public sector institutions. Society has become more automated and individualized than ever before. This has only fueled and reproduced the isolation so commonly experienced by the working class and poor. And isolation has left working class people in the US more likely to blame themselves for their plight rather than the economic conditions of capitalism.  

Popular sentiment is directly connected to the material conditions of society. The 2016 elections are a perfect example. Two of the most popular candidates in the race, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, also happen to be the only candidates that have openly and consistently criticized economic policies such as free trade agreements and bank bailouts. The recent New York Times article on “American anger” is an attempt to suppress the structural causes of the growing unrest in the US. One only needs to analyze the factual basis behind the arguments made in the Times article to figure this out.

Dissecting the Arguments

The Times article claims that unemployment numbers have lowered due to the economic “recovery” that began in 2010. However, unemployment measures in the US are misleading. The US government does not count workers who have given up on finding a job or work in part-time/temporary positions. In 2015, the year of most the article’s data, two polls from Gallup and Pew Research expose the "recovery" fallacy.  When workers who have stopped searching for employment are taken into consideration, the unemployment rate is closer to ten percent. This does not take into account that only 44 percent of available jobs for the adult population in the US can be considered full-time, living wage employment. The vast majority of workers in the US are thus either working part-time, for low wages, or both.

Furthermore, Pew Research found that much of the job growth in the US occurred in low-wage private sector areas such as food service while higher wage, public sector jobs contracted. The National Employment Law Project confirmed this trend in 2014. Low-wage industries accounted for 44 percent of job growth from 2009-2014. Over 634,000 public sector jobs were lost over this same period. So while unemployment may appear to be down by the US government's standards, this has not meant that economic conditions have improved for the vast majority of the population.

The Times article suggests that the US population is by and large happy with the capitalist crisis. The author argues that the gap between the sentiments of the lower third and upper third of the US income distribution have reached a low point since the Reagan era. What the author fails to mention is how the US ranks 15th in general happiness around the world despite being one of the largest economies. The New York Times is a master spin artist. Its so-called journalists work solely for profit and are trained in the art of manipulation. The author makes it appear that conditions are improving in the US when in fact they have either worsened or remained stagnant since the late 70’s.

The Times would like readers to believe that the capitalist economy is on the path to recovery. It claims that American anger can be fully explained by factors such as "racial attitudes" among the political parties. The US is becoming less white and the Democratic Party and Republican Party are more hostile toward each other than ever before. According to the article, this helps explain the palpable popular anger reflected in this election period. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Where Has the Recovery Gone?

As I have written in prior articles (see here and here), the capitalist economy is no longer able to recover from its self-induced crises. US capitalism is a global system that has outgrown itself. The cost of production, through the rapid development of advanced technology, has risen immensely. Advanced technology has replaced much of the industrial working class in the US, which happens to be the only real source of "good jobs" for the worker and profit for the capitalist. This has led to a race to the bottom for the entire working class and a deep stagnation in the US economy. 

Technological advancements under capitalism have greatly increased the productivity of the system and forced wages into a downward spiral. Since 1948, productivity in the US has increased 180 percent. Wages have stagnated at 60 percent in 1973 and have plunged ever since. In order to compete, investors have spent more and more on technology in order to replace workers and speed up production. But because incomes have plunged, many capitalist investors have stopped investing in their businesses and instead funneled their profits into finance capital instead. Revelations such as the Panama Papers should thus come as no surprise. When the capitalist isn't squeezing every dime of profit from the working class, it is moving its gains to offshore accounts or speculative schemes. 

The results of this have been truly disastrous for the masses. One out of every two people in the US live in poverty and 80 percent are "near poor." Across racial lines, Black Americans have suffered the worst from capitalist crisis. Black Americans own just a mere 1.5 percent of the median wealth of White Americans. However, white workers have also been hit hard. Four of every ten poor Americans are White. The decline in unions, industrial jobs, and farm labor has decimated the living standards of the white working class. While the total white population in the US enjoys lower rates of poverty than the Black population, it has by no means escaped capitalism's downward trajectory.

Conclusion

The New York Times has concluded that the 2016 elections present a real threat for its corporate masters. Since 2009, the liberal corporate media has silenced critics of the Democratic Party and fueled popular fear of the Republican Party. According to the conclusion of the April 2nd Times piece, 

"Democrats and Republicans like each other a lot less now than they did 60 years ago, in part because they have sorted into parties based on attitudes of race, religion, and ethnicity . . . Add to this the fact the country is becoming less white and that non-whites are disproportionately more likely to be Democrats, and an explanation for anger emerges."

What the author infers is that the 2016 elections are nothing but a mere reflection of the political differences within the population. For eight years, the Democratic Party establishment has advocated cooperation with the Republican Party for the sake of "getting things done." The two biggest proponents of this have been the Obama and Clinton regime. Now that the US population is becoming a non-white majority, the Republican Party's uncooperative nature and overt racism must be to blame for the polarization of US society. 

Yet what the New York Times doesn't explain is the reality of life under a two-party corporate dictatorship in the US. The Republican and Democratic Party have worked together nicely over the last eight years. Both Parties agreed to bail out Wall Street, privatize public education, and institute a mass surveillance state. The two parties also voted in concert to continue the occupation of Afghanistan and deny the US population universal healthcare. These are the facts that the New York Times doesn't want its readers to know.

The 2016 elections have struck a nerve in the US capitalist order. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump's popularity is a product of popular anger toward both corporate parties. The majority of people in the US are sick and tired of a bipartisan consensus that has only brought misery and poverty for the many and great riches for the few. This anger has yet to develop a well-defined political language. It has also remained within the two-party corporate duopoly. The New York Times, as a servant of the Democratic Party and its corporate masters, hopes to reel the population back from discontent with the prevailing conditions of capitalism. But the New York Times is powerless over the objective crisis of the system, so expect popular anger to continue to grow as the 2016 elections conclude the primary season.

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