On my iPod (yes, iPod, where I can still store thousands of songs and not have to make a phone call and check my email, I listened to Simply Red’s version “Money’s Too Tight (To Mention)” (released in the US in 1986) this morning. At one point, lead singer Mick Hucknall croons, “We’re talking ’bout Reagan’omic’s,” and after hearing this song off and on for twenty-nine years (my life story’s in most of those lyrics), it hit me. Reaganomics really doesn’t do justice to what Congress and the GOP and conservatives and neocons and corporate/wealthy interests have done to the US economy in my lifetime.
It’s been the culmination of the plutocrats’ ultimate fantasy – tricking Americans into thinking that the marriage between the federal, state and local governments and rigged capitalism doesn’t actually exist. All while garnering hero status in the eyes of the majority of Americans. They now have their narcissism, and can eat it with caviar and champagne, too.
It doesn’t matter if the unemployment rate is 5.1 percent as of today. Fewer people are in the workforce now than there were when the economy cratered in 2008. Real income is 25 percent lower in 2015 than its peak in 1973. College graduates must take a job at Costco (if they are really lucky) or Starbucks to make anywhere near a living wage. There is simply not enough skilled work to employ a highly educated workforce in a nation that has moved heavily toward lower-tiered service industry work.
Yet, we continue to call this state of affairs capitalism, or unbridled capitalism, or something akin to capitalism run amok. Of course that’s true, especially for card-carrying Marxists. But psychologically, given the ability of the wealthy and the corporations they own to profit regardless of the Dow Jones or the socioeconomic status of ordinary Americans, it’s not enough to say that this is capitalism. It’s Plutonomics, the economic screwing of the bottom ninety percent (or especially, the bottom three-fifths) of Americans for the benefit of the top ten and especially the top one-percent. Plutocrats have such a hold on the American psyche, that even now, most Americans believe that Donald Trump became a billionaire through hard work. Most Americans take in the prosperity gospel the way a thirsty person drinks water after a day in the desert.
And Plutonomics has been around much, much, much longer than capitalism. Think Rome, think Han China, think slavery and the Western Hemisphere.