Broken social contract

Last night’s Law and Order episode dealt with a complicated story involving a Madoff-like figure. The episode ended with the daughter of the Madoff-like guy asking the police for protection out of a fear that she would be attacked by the victim of the Madoff-like scam. It certainly seems like the idea of retribution against the rich is in the air. Here’s the Times on what’s going on in Europe:

Tempers are flaring across Europe as the economic pain deepens and more people lose their jobs.

Just ask Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of the ailing Royal Bank of Scotland, whose house and car were vandalized early Wednesday. Or Luc Rousselet, the manager of a 3M factory in France, who was barricaded in an office for a second day by workers demanding better severance packages for 110 employees who are being laid off.

And here’s a Connecticut tv station. JMM writes:

what interests me about this meta-story is the way it shows the implicit social contract under deep strain and some people operating totally outside of it without realizing it at all.

[….]

There are real and wholly legitimate — just not always openly articulated — social bargains that explain why it is that the overwhelming number of people are content with the fact that some people make $45,000 a year and other people make $45,000,000 a year. It’s not just a given. And when parts of that bargain get upset, things can change very fast.

Personally, I don’t favor harassing, let alone attacking, the wealthy bankers and other assorted riff-raff who may have caused this financial crisis. But I do wonder what role fear of uprising plays in a society like ours. So I’m going to pose a question that some of you may know the answer to: during the Great Depression, did some wealthy interests see the New Deal as a way to keep the angry poor from rising up? Are there examples elsewhere in the world where fear of a populist uprising affected wealthy interests’ attitudes towards social programs?

Update. Chuck writes:

That is what the “social contract” is about, fear that the have nots will simply take or break.

Do others agree with this? Would this be considered a radical sentiment or is perfectly reasonable? Confucius wrote that

The prince is like the boat, the people, like the water. Water can support the boat, but can also overturn it.

Is this more or less the same thing? Should the very wealthy in our society be considered the princes, and the rest of the population the water?






113 replies
  1. 1
    Napoleon says:

    Absolutely in more enlightened circles of the wealthy they saw the New Deal as a way to cut off more radical elements at the knees before they could get the ball rolling on some big changes in society. For Christ sake, FDR himself came from a very privileged background, and was anything but a rabble rouser at any point in his life.

  2. 2
    DougJ says:

    Absolutely in more enlightened circles of the wealthy they saw the New Deal as a way to cut off more radical elements at the knees before they could get the ball rolling on some big changes in society.

    But how much of it was fear of actual uprising (a la the French Revolution on a perhaps smaller scale) and how much was just fear that Huey Long would get in and tax all their money?

  3. 3
    jibeaux says:

    Personally, I don’t favor harassing, let alone attacking

    Well, shoot. I bet Madoff’s daughter has a really nice laptop and dishwasher.

  4. 4
    Svensker says:

    I don’t know whether it affected the wealthy, but it certainly affected the Roosevelts. There’s a book whose name escapes me, of letters between Mrs. Roosevelt and a number of social work types who are visiting the hardest hit areas (rural Dakota, etc.) and who recommend that the only way to keep people from going commie is to do something for them. There was a real fear of a popular uprising, at least in the political class, something I hadn’t been aware of (not that my knowledge of history is noteworthy) until I read that book.

  5. 5
    AhabTRuler says:

    I used to like L&O, like ten years ago. Then I realized that "ripped from the headlines" meant "lazy writers who pander to your (and society’s) prejudices about the legal system."

  6. 6
    Fraud Guy says:

    On the reverse, IIRC, wasn’t the whole Marine General Smedley Butler concept, with several of the more established families seeking to coopt the armed services to oust Roosevelt in a coup because he was giving too much way, part of this?

  7. 7
    d0n Camillo says:

    I think the social contract has been broken for a long time. Median salaries have been stagnant for decades. It’s just taken the collapse of the housing market and the CDO house of cards for everybody to finally notice it.

    While the present situation sucks, at least we have a President who recognizes its essential suckiness. I shudder to think what a President McCain and Treasury Secretary Gramm woould be doing right now.

  8. 8
    CalD says:

    So I’m going to pose a question that some of you may know the answer to: during the Great Depression, did some wealthy interests see the New Deal as a way to keep the angry poor from rising up? Are there examples elsewhere in the world where fear of a populist uprising affected wealthy interests’ attitudes towards social programs?

    You mean like, give ’em Bread and Circuses?

  9. 9
    Aimai says:

    Yes absolutely. My grandfather was a new dealer– later in the office of price administration during the war. I think it us well known that eleanor Roosevelt be many others believed that the country was very close to tipping over into a populist revolution either of thevleft or the right. And forbibvious reasons– because the Russian revolution on the one hand and thebeise ofbfascism on the other showed how fragile capitalism and democracy could be. Read egan’a The worst hard time foe a riveting account of an earlier boom and bust financial bubble with ecological collapse taking place at the same time–I e. The farming and banking scandals that led to the dustbiwl.

    Remote typing by aimai

  10. 10
    AhabTRuler says:

    I bet Madoff’s daughter has a really nice laptop and dishwasher.

    Yes, and their names are Juan and Ernesto.

  11. 11
    clone12 says:

    Way before FDR

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_von_Bismarck

    The 1880s were a period when Germany started on its long road towards the welfare state it is today. The Social Democratic, National Liberal and Center parties were all involved in the beginnings of social legislation, but it was Bismarck who established the first practical aspects of this program. The program of the Social Democrats included all of the programs that Bismarck eventually implemented, but also included programs designed to preempt the programs championed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Bismarck’s idea was to implement the minimum aspects of these programs that were acceptable to the German government without any of the overtly Socialistic aspects.

  12. 12

    From what I can remember early on segments of the wealthy saw FDR as saviour of their element. I don’t have links and I’m too lazy…

    Frankly, I can’t work up to sympathy for their current fears, in fact I’d like to encourage them to be scared spitless. That is what the "social contract" is about, fear that the have nots will simply take or break. The total of all tax policies have made no downside for absolute greed and encouraged the screwing of workers. If you expect real action to discourage such, I know where there is a bridge…

  13. 13
    Dennis-SGMM says:

    Are there examples elsewhere in the world where fear of a populist uprising affected wealthy interests’ attitudes towards social programs?

    Are there no workhouses?
    /The Wealthy

  14. 14
    Stooleo says:

    It seems to me that the upper levels of society in the 30’s and before, had feelings of a certain responsibility to the poor. The idea that you give back to society. There is probably Carnegie building on every major college. Other notables are Vanderbilt, Mellon, Rockefeller. Todays wealthy don’t seem to have any notions of giving back to society.

  15. 15
    jibeaux says:

    @AhabTRuler:

    Score one for Ahab, you really are here all week, aren’t you?

  16. 16
    Napoleon says:

    @DougJ:

    From what I had read some actually feared riots, but others, perhaps a larger segment, feared that the country would turn toward an authoritarian. That was not ridiculous at the time, if you look around the world during that era at what was going on in other countries. Didn’t FDR come to power at almost the same time as Hitler and Stalin? And those 2 were hardly unique for the age.

  17. 17
    Corner Stone says:

    @DougJ

    Personally, I don’t favor harassing, let alone attacking, the wealthy bankers and other assorted riff-raff who may have caused this financial crisis.

    DougJ is objectively Pro-Bankster!

  18. 18
    [delurk]...[/delurk] says:

    Yes, FDR was afraid that the rapacity of the cannibal vampire parasites would cause a revolution, which could go either way politically (witness Russia and Germany.) He did his best to protect them from their own worst impulses and got nothing but abuse and obstruction for his pains.

    Obama is trying to do the same thing and getting the same abuse. I say hang them out to dry! Enemies of the people are what bullets and brick walls were invented for. Maybe a few salutary examples would bring them to their senses, but I don’t think they have any senses to come to.

    Yes, I ended two sentences with prepositions!

  19. 19
    gwangung says:

    Todays wealthy don’t seem to have any notions of giving back to society.

    A lot of that is because so many of them are so young and inexperienced. A lot of times people don’t get why philanthropy is good until they get to a stage in life where they can stop, look around and stop trying to make money and get their kids set up. They’re naive about the parts of society they don’t deal with as peers.

  20. 20
    AhabTRuler says:

    Score one for Ahab, you really are here all week, aren’t you?

    I’ll let you know as soon as I get a job or a life.

    I mean, would you buy a used car from this snail?

  21. 21
    Billy K (D-TX) says:

    It seems to me that the upper levels of society in the 30’s and before, had feelings of a certain responsibility to the poor. The idea that you give back to society.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noblesse_oblige

    How quaint…

  22. 22
    DougJ says:

    DougJ is objectively Pro-Bankster!

    I’m very anti-violence and even with mild harassment, I tend to think that a lot of people would be wrongly targeted. Things always work that way. Some random banker who had done nothing wrong would get spat on or taunted. Nothing good comes of that sort of thing.

  23. 23
    geg6 says:

    Oh, heavens yes, Doug. Who do you think the wealthy backers of FDR and big business supporters of the New Deal were? Most of them weren’t there backing up all those social programs, labor union legislation, and things like the FDIC because they were bleeding heart liberals. They were pragmatic and practical businessmen who wanted to continue to make lots and lots of money while still keeping their heads and their family’s heads. Gotta keep the proles from building the guillotines and such and, if it takes some compromising of "pure" capitalism? Well, it’s all worth it to keep the cash rolling in.

  24. 24
    A Mom Anon says:

    I don’t think for a second this crap will end just by asking nicely or demanding stuff from the wealthy. They are,in a large sense, daring some one to stop them. If they had any sense of decency we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.

    There’s a story about homeless Vietnam vets living in the forests of the Pacific NW. Timber companies knew they were there,and proceeded to use helicopters to dump Roundup and other crap on the forest. This is an industry practice,why I don’t know,I guess it sets up the forest floor for future monocrop planting. The vets then began making some calls to the timber company execs and the pilots. Nothing really overtly threatening,just a"we know where you live" kind of thing. After a couple of days of that,the spraying stopped.

    We’re dealing with sociopaths here. They have to hurt,directly,before any change in their behavior happens. Laws should be in place to stop this thievery and enforced,but they aren’t. They have nothing to fear,this is why things have gone as far as they have.

  25. 25
    nikkos says:

    What is this social contract you speak of? Is it like Newt’s Contract with America? I snark because I care.

  26. 26
    Jon H says:

    From I heard on the BBC last night, it seems like the French thing is kind of like a semi-amiable students-taking-over-a-college-administration-office type thing, rather than a surly-Teamsters thing. If it were likely to turn violent, they said, the police would get involved.

  27. 27
    Hawes says:

    When someone asked the head of the American Socialist Party if Roosevelt had carried out the Socialist agenda. He said, Yeah, carried it out on a stretcher.

    Lorena Hickok travelled the country for the Roosevelts keeping an eye on discontent. Her reports certainly sobered FDR. Also, FDR was most concerned about Huey Long and Douglas MacArthur challenging him from the Left and Right respectively. But tellingly, Roosevelt moved left to cut off Long, rather than Right to cut off MacArthur. Of course, Long had other things to worry about, like not being bulletproof

    I think you also see some of this thinking behind the Great Society and welfare.

    Bigger question: what will the result of this populist outrage be? I don’t think simple regulatory changes will cut it.

  28. 28
    Billy K (D-TX) says:

    Didn’t FDR come to power at almost the same time as Hitler and Stalin? And those 2 were hardly unique for the age.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_Plot

    DougJ, this is how they were going to handle a popular uprising. God Bless the Bush family.

  29. 29
    Scott Supak says:

    …I don’t favor harassing, let alone attacking, the wealthy bankers…

    How about prosecuting? Many of these people perpetrated fraud, embezzled, and the companies themselves probably violated some anti-trust laws–if we still have any of those. Their lawyers would love to claim that the prosecutors–the people–are harassing them.

    Boo frickin’ who.

    Of course, the real harassment should come from the board rooms and shareholders, but then, what good is a board or a share when there’s no money?

    If it takes some protests that inconvenience them, even if that protest leads to a barricade, then I’m all for it.

  30. 30

    In the case of Eleanor Roosevelt, I’m inclined to think that her "this is the only way to keep the poor from open revolt" argument was a cover for her actual compassion. She had been a social worker in the Lower East Side slums, she knew what poverty actually looked like, it wasn’t all theoretical to her.

    I don’t have a reference at my fingertips, but the Soviet Union was definitely at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts in the 20s and 30s. For the ruling classes, the reaction was either "we need to improve the lives of the lower classes, or they’ll go commie" or "we need to crack down on the lower classes, so they won’t go commie." IMHO the main reason the bankers etc aren’t more worried right now is the lack of a similar object lesson.

  31. 31
    Corner Stone says:

    @gwangung

    A lot of that is because so many of them are so young and inexperienced. A lot of times people don’t get why philanthropy is good until they get to a stage in life where they can stop, look around and stop trying to make money and get their kids set up. They’re naive about the parts of society they don’t deal with as peers.

    I just think this is way off base. Sure, some of the most notable philanthropists are older but that’s generally because they have all the fucking money!
    The truly wealthy are vaguely aware of an "other". And they don’t give a fuck about the other. No matter what age they are.

  32. 32
    Joshua Norton says:

    Fred Goodwin drove the Bank of Scotland into the ground and still walks off with a million dollar a year pension. Does he expect the crowds to cheer his royal coach as he delicately waves back?

    If all the bozos-in-charge are going to do is wring their hands and wail "they had contracts", instead of looking into criminal prosecution where it’s due, there’s going to be a lot more vigilante justice down the road.

  33. 33
    KRK says:

    This is maybe not directly responsive to your question, but during in the farm credit crisis of the 1980s, the desire to avoid further violence and ameliorate general unease was certainly a motivating factor for Midwestern state legislatures that enacted foreclosure moratoriums and/or mandatory mediation (i.e., cooling off) prior to foreclosure and certainly played at least a background role in federal legislation that required restructuring instead of foreclosure under the federal loan programs if the gov’t wouldn’t be any worse off. Farmers were killing lenders, farmers and lenders were committing suicide, and people were nervous. The last sentence of the legislative findings accompanying Minnesota’s 1986 mediation law states:

    "The agricultural economic emergency requires an orderly process with state assistance to adjust agricultural indebtedness to prevent civil unrest and to preserve the general welfare and fiscal integrity of the state."

  34. 34
    Roger Moore says:

    @Stooleo:

    Todays wealthy don’t seem to have any notions of giving back to society.

    I don’t know about that. Take a look at Bill Gates and Warren Buffet; they’re giving away substantial fractions of their wealth to very worthy causes. And they’re just the easiest ones to remember. There are plenty of other wealthy people who give to charity. Barron Hilton- someone I personally pay attention to because I work in a building endowed by his family- is in the process of giving 97% of his money to a charitable foundation mostly so his good-for-nothing grandchildren won’t get it.

  35. 35
    Laughingriver says:

    Doug, Not sure if you saw this article by James K. Galbraith, but he sort of touches on this a bit as it relates to democracy itself,

    The New Deal rebuilt America physically, providing a foundation (the TVA’s power plants, for example) from which the mobilization of World War II could be launched. But it also saved the country politically and morally, providing jobs, hope, and confidence that in the end democracy was worth preserving. There were many, in the 1930s, who did not think so.

    Emphasis mine.

    People like to think that the New Deal ruined America, when in fact is most likely saved America from a path to Communism. Socialism and Communism are in fact outcomes in democratic societies where people can vote and experience economic hard times and significant inequality over long periods of time.

    Its is a wonder to me why the right wing thinks that if only things will get worse for the people, the people will respond by putting in power someone who wants to give the rich more tax breaks. The opposite is true, they will want to put into power someone who will tax the shit out of them and pass that money around…

  36. 36
    jibeaux says:

    @AhabTRuler:

    Prolly not. I’d put out a nice saucer of Natty Bo for it, though.

  37. 37

    Yes, and their names are Juan and Ernesto.

    Win!

  38. 38
    les says:

    @DougJ:

    But how much of it was fear of actual uprising (a la the French Revolution on a perhaps smaller scale) and how much was just fear that Huey Long would get in and tax all their money?

    I’m not sure they saw a difference. Or do today. Nothing could be worse than loss of their wealth and position.

  39. 39
    les says:

    @Aimai:

    Remote typing by aimai

    Call it typing if you want…

  40. 40
    Michael says:

    While the present situation sucks, at least we have a President who recognizes its essential suckiness. I shudder to think what a President McCain and Treasury Secretary Gramm would be doing right now.

    Tax cuts for the Wall Street Whiz Kids.

    Eliminate regulations. All of them.

    Palin would get on TV, point to her cooter and say "Drill Here, Drill Now" to Rich Lowry and Jonah Goldberg.

    Join Israel in a joint land/sea/air assault on Iran, consequences be damned.

    Get bellicose with China over Taiwan.

    Get mouthy with Chavez.

    Treat Mexico like shit.

  41. 41
    DFH no.6 says:

    I recall being taught (no doubt in some socialist history course fronted by some pinko professor) that there were a number of business interests, among them giants of the time like John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Pierre DuPont, who came out against Prohibition during the Depression for a variety of reasons, but featuring among those reasons was fear of a populist Red uprising among the disaffected masses.

    Supposedly, allowing these masses their alcohol back was a way to diffuse their anger and save the oligopolists’ hides.

    Gotta say I bought that line way back when, but now I find it a bit of a stretch. Seems somewhat a caricature of both the Daddy Warbucks wealthy and the supposedly easily-amused working stiffs. Not the best thesis for why business support for Prohibition repeal became so strong.

    Still, the Russian Revolution was little more than a decade old at that point, so maybe there was actually something to this.

  42. 42
    AhabTRuler says:

    a nice saucer of Natty Bo

    No, I said I wanted a glass of warm piss, it tastes better.

  43. 43
    recusancy says:

    Should the very wealthy in our society be considered the princes, and the rest of the population the water?

    Yes.

    As per Atrios… Simple answers to simple questions.

  44. 44
    KRK says:

    @Napoleon:

    From what I had read some actually feared riots, but others, perhaps a larger segment, feared that the country would turn toward an authoritarian. That was not ridiculous at the time….

    The fear that a population would turn toward authoritarianism out of chaos is not ridiculous at any time, certainly not now. Al Giordano has made a good case in recent posts that there’s absolutely no reason to believe that the authoritarians wouldn’t prevail in the US in the aftermath of "let them fail."

  45. 45
    Adrienne says:

    I thought this would be an appropriate post:

    From TPM:

    Security traders groups sends typo-riddled letter to Congress saying it’s a bad idea to take away their bonuses

    If I were in Congress and received their letter I’d send back the following.

    Drae Dum-ass:

    FcUk OUy! Also.

    Signed,

    Congresswoman Adrienne

  46. 46
    Leo v.2.0 says:

    On the flip side, I believe Communists frequently took (take?) the position that moderate social programs are bad for the left because they delay the revolution.

  47. 47
    valdivia says:

    John, in South America the rise of the working class as a political force lead to two reactions one quickly following the other: first an integration of their interests through reform (Brazil under Vargas–though he was a dictator–and then his protege Kubitschek, Argentina under Peron in full populist mode, and in Chile beginning already in the 30s and through to the 70s until the fall of Allende) and when the ISI model of economic growth begins to falter and the working class begins to take to the streets the Army intervenes. so instead of a New Deal to prevent a full on revolution the Military takes over. Mexico of course is rather different since the revolution precedes the Great Depression.

    The only country where you come close to this is Chile under Frei and the Christian Democrats and their Revolution in Liberty. It is when Allende who was a socia list pushes for govt take over of the means of production that the middle classes refuse to collaborate (with a wnk and a nod from the US)

  48. 48
    cyntax says:

    So I’m going to pose a question that some of you may know the answer to: during the Great Depression, did some wealthy interests see the New Deal as a way to keep the angry poor from rising up?

    I’m sure, as others have noted, that some did. What seems more telling about the wealthy is how many of them repudiated FDR:

    He was surprised and wounded at the way the upper classes turned on him…. Consider the situation in which he came to office. The economic machinery of the nation had broken down…. People who had anything to lose were frightened; they were willing to accept any way out that would leave them still in possession…. Although he had adopted many novel, perhaps risky expedients, he had avoided vital disturbances to the interests. For example, he had passed by an easy chance to solve the bank crisis by nationalization…. His basic policies for industry and agriculture had been designed after models supplied by great vested-interest groups. Of course, he had adopted several measures of relief and reform, but mainly of the sort that any wise and humane conservative would admit to be necessary….

    Nothing that [he] had done warranted the vituperation he soon got in the conservative press or the obscenities that the … maniacs were bruiting about in their clubs and dining-rooms. Quite understandably he began to feel that the people who were castigating him were muddle-headed ingrates.

    And looking at all their complaining about giving back bonuses, the muddle-headness remains.

  49. 49
    The Moar You Know says:

    during the Great Depression, did some wealthy interests see the New Deal as a way to keep the angry poor from rising up?

    I’m probably too late to the party and possibly someone above has already stated this but:

    Eleanor Roosevelt traveled around the country in the 1930s, and she wrote letters back to Franklin. She was terrified, and constantly wrote of her fears that the nation would rise up and/or go communist. She wrote that the New Deal programs were the only thing preventing such an occurrence.

    So yeah, quite a few of the upper crust were aware of what was at stake.

  50. 50
    valdivia says:

    sorry as a sort of PS–the US had a program in latin america under kennedy called The Alliance for Progress which was like a small scale limited Marshall Plan which was proposed to prevent the example of the Cuban Revolution taking hold. Curiously it advocated all the terrible things that the US had gone to the trouble of instigating a coup in Guatemala for in 54 (ie land reform which a lot of times means expropriations)

  51. 51
    stickler says:

    Farmers were starting to take direct action during the Depression, too; when banks foreclosed on a farm, the locals would show up to the sheriff’s auction and … ahem … _encourage_ everyone gathered there to avoid bidding. Thus the bankrupt farmer could buy his property back for pennies.

    You do that enough, it gets the bankers’ attention right quick.

  52. 52
    liberal says:

    @d0n Camillo:

    While the present situation sucks, at least we have a President who recognizes its essential suckiness.

    No he doesn’t. If he did, he wouldn’t be handing hundreds of billions of dollars to the banks (from the rest of us).

  53. 53
    mmiddle says:

    Wasn’t Teddy Roosevelt’s rationale for his antitrust agenda supposed to be the dissipation of class resentment? I’m not a history major, but that was my high school impression.

  54. 54
    Zifnab says:

    Personally, I don’t favor harassing, let alone attacking, the wealthy bankers and other assorted riff-raff who may have caused this financial crisis.

    /puts away pitch forks and torches.
    You are absolutely no fun.

    The fear that a population would turn toward authoritarianism out of chaos is not ridiculous at any time, certainly not now. Al Giordano has made a good case in recent posts that there’s absolutely no reason to believe that the authoritarians wouldn’t prevail in the US in the aftermath of "let them fail."

    Yeah, but which authoritarians? You’ve got an upper class that thinks "Let them eat cake" is a valid social program. They make up the majority of the GOP glibterian elites. When the revolution comes, who do you think is going up against the wall? Micheal Moore? I doubt it.

    I’m kinda fond of our grand little experiment called Democracy, and I think it’s done an excellent job of fending off just that kind of pitch fork wielding hysteria. I’d rather stay the hell away from authoritarianism. But the GOP is (still) barking up the wrong tree.

  55. 55
    Joshua Norton says:

    Thus the bankrupt farmer could buy his property back for pennies.

    That’s not allowed anymore. They’d probably have to use a middle man who agreed to sell the property back to them.

  56. 56
    cyntax says:

    @stickler:

    Part of what earned the farmers the enmity of the Republican Party. Took ’em till Nixon appointed Butz head of Ag, but they finally got back at the farmers, not so many family farms now…

  57. 57
    Carnacki says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we – the rabble – should never have put the guilloitines away. I’m not saying we should use them, just that they should be in plain sight for the wealthy to be reminded of what can happen when social contracts are broken. I say this as someone opposed to state sponsored executions.

  58. 58
    argh says:

    I certainly hope it is not going to go this way, but just what exactly did people think was the point of demonizing protesters and lumping all non-authoritarian Righties as "The Left" over the the past 30 years?

    "Fear" of an uprising is why the armed forces are jealously propagandized with Rightwing opinion ala Limbaugh, this is why US troops are now stationed on US soil "in case" of a civil disturbance. This is why the detention camps are being built "in case" of some unnamed disaster. These are not myths.

    Why IS the military is so involved with "non-lethal" crowd control weaponry, and why have our police been armed to the teeth and trained in the fine art of hating "libruls."?

    And why was the nation was divided into Red and Blue in the 2000 election, besides divide and conquer?

    Maybe all these things are just coincidental. I hope so. But I do know that my once proud nation decided that liberalism was for pussies and turned away from it: toward what, we are now racing to find out.

  59. 59
    JL says:

    There’s a sense of entitlement among CEO’s these days. If you look at Bob Nardelli who rose through the ranks of GE and then went to HD, he did increase profit initially by decreasing full time employees and going with inexperienced sales help. Of course the in the long term he hurt HD and it will take a long time to recoup those losses. He was fired but walked away with 200 million. The HR person that he brought with him quit and walked away with 50 million. Why do we reward bad behavior for CEO’s but screw the little guy. As a nation, I’m not sure where we have gone. By the way, google those guys and they are getting paid more money now. I’m not even sure what the best and brightest means any more.

  60. 60
    David Atkins says:

    I have long called graduated income taxes "guillotine insurance".

    Without a social contract, you either get constant populist revolution, or dictatorial control of an oppressed population.

  61. 61
    Laura W says:

    @AhabTRuler:

    I’ll let you know as soon as I get a job or a life.

    Please promise that if that day should ever come, you will not stop producing riveting art like this.

    This one made me wet the couch. Seriously, dude…no such thing as "too much time on hands" for someone like you who puts it to such beneficial, inspiring use.

  62. 62
    MNPundit says:

    …during the Great Depression, did some wealthy interests see the New Deal as a way to keep the angry poor from rising up?

    Only Roosevelt. Remember the Business plot? ONLY Roosevelt, the "traitor to his class."

    It’s like the Spring of Nations revolutions (1848) where Tocqueville wrote "society was cut in two: those who had nothing united in common envy, and those who had anything united in common terror."

    Look, it boils down to this: The Rich did this to us, and the rich should suffer for it, and because they’ve been making us suffer for a long time. Do I want people like Bernie Madhoff executed? No and I’ll not lift a hand to do it.

    But I wouldn’t care one bit if they were.

  63. 63
    Corner Stone says:

    Do I want people like Bernie Madhoff executed? No and I’ll not lift a hand to do it.

    But I wouldn’t care one bit if they were.

    With a poor work ethic like this how do you expect anyone to get offed?

  64. 64
    AhabTRuler says:

    @Laura W: Yeah, well, where’s MY $700,000 bonus? Huh?

    I’m gonna go cry to the New York Times.

  65. 65
    AhabTRuler says:

    With a poor work ethic like this how do you expect anyone to get offed?

    Easy. Outsource the job to Tenguphule.

  66. 66
    Brachiator says:

    So I’m going to pose a question that some of you may know the answer to: during the Great Depression, did some wealthy interests see the New Deal as a way to keep the angry poor from rising up?

    The anger of the poor is vastly overrated. The poorest of the poor rarely have enough energy left after trying to survive to muster up anger. But the middle classes, now here is a bunch that will rise up and bite you in the butt.

    And the manipulation of the middle classes by oligarchs is a time-honored aspect of civilized society. Where do you think tyrants came from (simplified Wikipedia version):

    In ancient Greece, tyrants were influential opportunists that came to power by securing the support of different factions of a deme. The word "tyrant" then carried no ethical censure; it simply referred to anyone who illegally seized executive power in a polis to engage in autocratic, though perhaps benevolent, government, or leadership in a crisis. Support for the tyrants came from the growing class of business people and from the peasants who had no land or were in debt to the wealthy land owners. It is true that they had no legal right to rule, but the people preferred them over kings or the aristocracy. The Greek tyrants stayed in power by using mercenary soldiers from outside of their respective city state.

    Of course, the Spartans just used their non-citizen poor for target practice. Ruthless, but it minimized the hypocrisy.

    Among the causes of the French Revolution:

    Another cause was the fact that Louis XV fought many wars, bringing France to the verge of bankruptcy, and Louis XVI supported the colonists during the American Revolution, exacerbating the precarious financial condition of the government. The national debt amounted to almost two billion livres. The social burdens caused by war included the huge war debt, made worse by the monarchy’s military failures and ineptitude, and the lack of social services for war veterans. The inefficient and antiquated financial system was unable to manage the national debt, something which was both caused and exacerbated by the burden of a grossly inequitable system of taxation. Another cause was the continued conspicuous consumption of the noble class, especially the court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette at Versailles, despite the financial burden on the populace. High unemployment and high bread prices caused more money to be spent on food and less in other areas of the economy. The Roman Catholic Church, the largest landowner in the country, levied a tax on crops known as the dime or tithe. While the dîme lessened the severity of the monarchy’s tax increases, it worsened the plight of the poorest who faced a daily struggle with malnutrition. There was too little internal trade and too many customs barriers.

    Sound familiar?

  67. 67
    Cyrus says:

    @DougJ:

    But how much of it was fear of actual uprising (a la the French Revolution on a perhaps smaller scale) and how much was just fear that Huey Long would get in and tax all their money?

    You treat this like it’s a dichotomy, but I think it’s more of a continuum. Those hereditary nobility who didn’t go to the guillotine still saw their taxes go up. Confiscatory taxes by socia/ist revolutions have been enforced at gunpoint and by mobs at times.

    And as for violence or threats of violence against the rich, I choose not to care. I hope it doesn’t extend to innocent bystanders and guilt by association, but that’s it. I’m not likely to join in myself, but that’s a matter of temperament and circumstances rather than moral judgement. Do you read Andrew Sullivan? (Looking at the blogroll, that reminds me, has anyone seen Tim lately?) If so, have you noticed the posts over the past day or two linking to Ta-Nahisi Coates and his thoughts on his friend who was killed by a police officer? It is just shameful, insane what level of fear and violence we take for granted as long as it’s not aimed at rich people*.

    I know nobody here needs to be lectured on the WO(SCOPWUS)D, and I know that two wrongs don’t make a right and no one deserves to have their kids threatened and all that. But AIG employees getting death threats is so far down our list of concerns as a country that it’s not even funny.

    * "Rich people" is the wrong phrase here. My personal income is roughly average, maybe better than average for someone my age, but definitely far short of rich. But still, I can be pretty confident that I’ll never be shot for something I didn’t do and as far as I know, no one in my family has ever been homeless. "Culturally upper-middle-class or higher people," say, but that’s a mouthful.

  68. 68
    JasonF says:

    If you google "FDR saved capitalism," you will get nearly 300,000 hits, the first of which is a white paper from the Hoover Institution in support of that thesis. I don’t know if this was a common idea in the 1930s, but it certainly is today.

  69. 69
    c u n d gulag says:

    "They" are the princes, we are the "bidet!"
    We’ve let them piss and shit all over us, and now we need to back up and throw the piss and shit right back at them!!!

    Fuck them. I don’t advocate violence, by any means.
    But, the early 19th Century French peasant’s had to have a certain amount of satisfaction when they looked at their progeny and said, "See that castle over there? We took the lord’s and ladies out of there, tried them, and then watched as their lopped-off heads fell in a basket. We reminded them of who we were. Who was boss. WE did it! So can YOU!!! And don’t EVER let them forget it!"

  70. 70
    Gus says:

    Personally, I don’t favor harassing, let alone attacking, the wealthy bankers and other assorted riff-raff who may have caused this financial crisis.

    Why not? It’s not like they’ll face any legal sanctions. Should they get off scot-free? I honestly don’t think that too many plutocrats are worried about the peasants. There may be some random acts of violence, but since communism has been largely discredited, there’s no alternative political system for them to fear.

  71. 71
    Billy K (D-TX) says:

    With a poor work ethic like this how do you expect anyone to get offed?

    Ha. See, this is why we’re in this mess. The Proletariat has gotten lazy!

  72. 72
    MNPundit says:

    @Corner Stone: Sirota is happily whipping up mobs. After-which I will pick up the pieces and found a New Order.

    My Order.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

  73. 73
    DougJ says:

    You treat this like it’s a dichotomy, but I think it’s more of a continuum.

    You’re probably right about that.

  74. 74
    gwangung says:

    @Corner Stone:

    I just think this is way off base. Sure, some of the most notable philanthropists are older but that’s generally because they have all the fucking money!

    I work at a major university. I work in fundraising. I get to know a lot of the major targets for donors. There are always a lot of jerks who’ll never give away their money–but they’re indistinguishable from the folks who, later in life, realize that they need to give back.

    What’s been somewhat unique about the rich in the past few years is that there’s a great proportion who got their money relatively young–young, as in mid thirties and early forties. They’re in the stage of their life where they’re first getting married and having kids, which means financial obligations are close in. And a lot of them aren’t stopping to retire, they still want to work, It really isn’t until the kids are grown and on their own that they stop to think of where else and what else their money can go.

    There are exceptions (lots of people have started young enrepreneurs’ philanthropy groups); but it’s really not that hard to understand that if they’re in the middle of their career and just starting families, their priorities are close to home. If you want to change their focus and if they’re not irredeemable assholes, you have to take that into account.

  75. 75
    Jess says:

    It’s like the Spring of Nations revolutions (1848) where Tocqueville wrote "society was cut in two: those who had nothing united in common envy, and those who had anything united in common terror."

    Funny, I just quoted this to my class yesterday. I wonder how many other classrooms are hearing this quote in recent days…

  76. 76
    MNPundit says:

    @gwangung:Well sure but do you really need more than 100,000 a year per family member?

  77. 77
    ksmiami says:

    First of all we DID come very close to socialism during the Great Depression I. Thankfully, Roosevelt put regulations and programs in place that aimed at raising the lot of the poor and middle class. Second since the 1980s, the amount of misallocated resources as a result of greed is truly breathtaking. No health insurance for millions, but have another iPod. Again, we need to build the middle class as the great stabilizing force in our democracy. This is what our social contract is about. Prosperity and reasonable expectations of success for any willing to work for it. This meaning of success though should be less about my own boat and more about quality of life, parks, healthcare, education and not as much about fear – fear that you can’t afford dental work, fear that you will lose your job if you have to pick up your kid cause he or she is sick. The social contract should not be about the grotesque social darwinism that has infected the GOP ideologues

  78. 78
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    "…social bargains that explain why it is that the overwhelming number of people are content with the fact that some people make $45,000 a year and other people make $45,000,000 a year. It’s not just a given. And when parts of that bargain get upset, things can change very fast."

    We had a deal with the squirrels! We had a deal!

  79. 79
    Comrade Darkness says:

    @Gus, I’m open to this thinking even though in general I dislike unruly mobs. The bankers have spent 30 years gaming the system legalities to their benefit. On the upside, they made a crapload without breaking any "laws". The downside is that without a downside, the masses take matters into their own hands. They should have expected this, and if they didn’t well, they’re idiots. Or extremely shortsighted, which I guess has been established by the markets already.

  80. 80
    gwangung says:

    @MNPundit: Nah, they don’t….but most of these people aren’t unsalvageable (and we’re talking about the ones who don’t do philanthropy at all at this stage in their lives, and not the ones who are being fairly generous as they build their careers).

    I’m not saying anger at them is unreasonable; I’m saying they’re being more than a little clueless and a lot of them can be salvaged…

  81. 81
    LarryB says:

    John,

    Should the very wealthy in our society be considered the princes, and the rest of the population the water?

    If there is any purpose behind the circus surrounding Paris Hilton except that she’s what passes here for a Royal, I don’t know what it might be.

  82. 82
    gwangung says:

    @ksmiami:

    This is what our social contract is about. Prosperity and reasonable expectations of success for any willing to work for it.

    Success not being equated with having eight figures in your net worth….

    Working hard should be able to get a roof over your head, food on the table and being able to get well when you’re sick.

    That’s not the case now for an increasing number of Americans and it’s pissing me off that too many people refuse to see that.

  83. 83
    MNPundit says:

    @LarryB: It would be more approving if she was hotter.

  84. 84
    stickler says:

    @Jess:

    Funny, I just quoted a different poem to my class this week:

    "The law locks up the man or woman
    Who steals the goose from off the common
    But leaves the greater villain loose
    Who steals the common from off the goose.

    The law demands that we atone
    When we take things we do not own
    But leaves the lords and ladies fine
    Who take things that are yours and mine.

    The poor and wretched don’t escape
    If they conspire the law to break;
    This must be so but they endure
    Those who conspire to make the law.

    The law locks up the man or woman
    Who steals the goose from off the common
    And geese will still a common lack
    Till they go and steal it back."

    It was about the Enclosures in England back in the 17th century. But it has a certain resonance today.

  85. 85
    gwangung says:

    @MNPundit: She’d be hotter if she showed an IQ above room temperature…

  86. 86
    stickler says:

    Going back further than FDR, by the way, Balloonjuicians should be aware that there was real fear in the late 19th century that the urban masses might turn on their corporate masters. Most American cities still have Armory buildings constructed with Federal money in the 1880s and 1890s when Congress got very worried about worker uprisings. From the Great Uprising (national strike) of 1878, to the very nasty strikes of the steel industry in the 1890s, to the Western Federation of Miners blowing things up (even the former Governor of Idaho in 1905), there was a real fear among the ranks of the rich that the Gilded Age might come to a very bloody end.

    That’s why some rich people (Carnegie) supported Teddy Roosevelt’s Progressive agenda.

  87. 87
    Xenos says:

    The General Strike in San Francisco in 1934 was a doozy. My grandfather was nearly killed when a mob flipped his car over and set it on fire. This violence is somewhat excusable when you consider that ‘rioters’ were setting up a flaming barricade to stop armored cars with mounted machine guns from ‘dispersing’ the crowd.

    Somebody else here was arguing that the Bonus Marchers freaked out the villagers of the day, and that they began to really fear for their safety, and that Roosevelt was more acceptable to them once he showed he could calm the masses down. Maybe our modern villagers need some attitude adjustment, too.

  88. 88
    geg6 says:

    As many have mentioned here, there was plenty for the wealthy and corporatists to fear leading up to and during the Great Depression. I see someone mentioned how the farmers would show up at foreclosures, guns in hand and quite visibly so, which had the effect of ending the hope of any bids on the property. There was violence among the loggers of the northwest. One particularly interesting and relevant episode was the Bonus March. WWI vets who got screwed out of the money promised to them marched, en masse, on Washington and camped out on the Mall. It terrified the Village so that they sent the Army, led by none other than MacArthur, to disburse them. Veterans and their families were shot at and trampled by cavalry and it is a blot on our nation’s honor. When I still taught history classes, I used to assign a paper requiring an interview with someone who lived during that period and one student’s paper was about rhis very subject with a first person account by his great grandfather who was a Bonus Marcher. When I see what they’re doing to vets today, I’m not so sure this couldn’t happen again today.

  89. 89
    Xenos says:

    @Brachiator:

    Sound familiar?

    Sounds exactly like post-WWII Africa and India, including some seasoned soldiers demobbed into growing, disaffected population of despised poor. As for modern scenarios, what, China? I don’t know much about the Chinese tax structure, but the internally divided and over-regulated domestic economy looks familiar.

  90. 90
    Jamey says:

    Personally, I don’t favor harassing, let alone attacking, the wealthy bankers and other assorted riff-raff who may have caused this financial crisis.

    I do.

  91. 91
    passerby says:

    @DougJ:

    I’m very anti-violence and even with mild harassment, I tend to think that a lot of people would be wrongly targeted. Things always work that way.

    I’m 100% with you here DougJ but, regardless of how we feel about this element of society (the threateners), regardless of how loudly we decry their behavior, they are here to stay.

    And they serve a larger purpose. Something needs to get the Fat Cats’ attention and fear will work quite nicely. We have laws against assault that can be used to moderate this issue.

    Just as there is nothing I can do to eliminate ignorance, there’s nothing I can do to prevent threats from those who are unable to direct their anger appropriately.

    So, though I would never threaten to do harm and I don’t believe in doing harm, I have to admit I’m secretly grateful someone out there is forcing the issue.

    It’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it.

  92. 92
    ksmiami says:

    The wierd thing is I totally predicted that Shrub would be an economic disaster too and this would finally send the Repukes into the wilderness back in 2000. He just loved his base of fat bidness men too much. Even Reagan connected with the middle class interests better because he had lived among them.

  93. 93

    it is only when the body politic threatens to shed them that the parasite class agrees to take less of its energy and resources. it may or may not be human nature, but it is certainly the case that the incentives in our economic system encourage psychopathically selfish behavior. while the vast majority of people are capable of altruistic thought and action (indeed hold it as the highest form of humanity), those who strive to get theirs and fuck all the rest invariably require very simple and very negative cause and effect scenarios to get them to do the right thing. after all, nobody ever got their cancer to go away by asking it nicely to go into remission.

  94. 94
    Dave in ME says:

    I think we may finally be at the point where people/water decide they have had enough of the princes/rich screwing them in the ass continually. All those rich fuckers who for decades have been doling out the ass raping are about to get their comeuppance. On the one hand I feel bad, I mean they played by the rules as they were set up, but on the other they set the rules up to allow them to commit this theft for decades on end. Now they get bit in the ass and whine like little bitches.

  95. 95

    There’s a story about homeless Vietnam vets living in the forests of the Pacific NW. Timber companies knew they were there,and proceeded to use helicopters to dump Roundup and other crap on the forest. This is an industry practice,why I don’t know,I guess it sets up the forest floor for future monocrop planting. The vets then began making some calls to the timber company execs and the pilots. Nothing really overtly threatening,just a"we know where you live" kind of thing. After a couple of days of that,the spraying stopped.

    "Look, the people you are after are the people you depend on. We cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances. We guard you while you sleep. Do not… fuck with us. " – Tyler Durden.

  96. 96
    dervin says:

    Don’t forget when FDR was elected, that was less than 15 years since the Bolsheviks took power in Russia.

    Violence works.
    You might not like it, but it’s quite effective at getting one’s point across.

    What’s becoming clear to the majority of Americans is this crisis isn’t the result of a bubble, but of outright fraud. What’s the Difference between AIG and Madoff? Both took money under false pretenses.
    Americans aren’t going to let criminals go free.

  97. 97
    moe99 says:

    As the tent cities grow, particularly in the smaller towns, the possibiltiy of violence increases. I read that Olympia, WA has a growing tent city and I also read that the sheriff’s deputy union is going to sue the county there because the cutbacks have gone against their contract, and btw have made life much more dangerous for the inhabitants there. And the article describing the planned lawsuit mentioned nothing about the growing tent city.

  98. 98
    Fulcanelli says:

    @Michael:

    I shudder to think what a President McCain and Treasury Secretary Gramm would be doing right now.

    From their bunker in an undisclosed location.

  99. 99
    gerry says:

    I was led to understand in college that Bismarck’s institution of social security was to preempt social unrest by the plebs.

  100. 100
    Fulcanelli says:

    DougJ:

    Personally, I don’t favor harassing, let alone attacking, the wealthy bankers and other assorted riff-raff who may have caused this financial crisis.

    DougJ, will you come around when the economy improves, and these bastards fight new regulatory laws tooth and nail so then they can pick right up where they left off? Or will you have to be personally economically devasted before you light your torch and sharpen your pitchfork?

    I hope Obama’s and Geithner’s plan is able to revamp business regulation from the ground up and prevent this shit happening again, but we’ll see…

    One thing I do know is that if these greedy pricks can find a way to get away with it again, they will. They always find a way, and they won’t give a fuck about you or me next time either unless they wake up with a bloody horse’s head in the master’s bedroom suite.

  101. 101
    Delia says:

    @Carnacki:

    The problem with the guillotine is where the whole enterprise ends up. The mob in the French Revolution was really more the force and energy, not the source of direction in the various phases of its development. And during the Terror there were actually more peasants executed than aristocrats. Finally, it all ended up in an authoritarian dictatorship and more foreign war — Napoleon.

    On the other hand, French workers have developed a tradition of putting up with far less crap, as we see to this day.

  102. 102
    Delia says:

    @gerry:

    I was led to understand in college that Bismarck’s institution of social security was to preempt social unrest by the plebs.

    Yes. And more specifically to undermine the Social Democratic Party, which was founded on Marxist principles and represented workers’ interest in the Reichstag. He failed to weaken the party, but they did eventually change their de facto goals from revolution to social reform. Then the Marxists had to get themselves a new party.

  103. 103
    inthewoods says:

    I like to say that the reason why the rich should be happy with paying higher taxes is that it keeps the pitchforks and torches from their door. To me, that is the social contract.

  104. 104
    Seizan says:

    Social contract is simply what the Constitution is and the assumption implicit that the principles involved are agreed upon by all parties. I argue that we’ve lost such balance in this regard and that the social contract is in serious disrepair (read: warrantless wiretapping, illegal wars, an apparent installation of oligarchy vis a vis bailouts, and Obama admin’s initial refusal to address these and other violations).

    Enough to justify very scary (to the rich and those in power) and non-violent protests that would indicate to the apparent oligarchs that we’re willing to stop their machine to effect actual reform.

  105. 105
    KS in MA says:

    I’m a little surprised nobody has mentioned the nonviolent resistance practiced by King and Gandhi. That was a very effective strategy, too. Of course, it requires a lot of organizing and discipline and persistence. Still, imagine the effect of marches, demonstrations, picket lines (without the pitchforks) in Greenwich, say, or on Wall Street. Worth considering as another option?

  106. 106
    Glocksman says:

    Indiscriminate violence towards generic ‘rich folks’ is something I could never support and would help to suppress.

    Targeted violence towards the assholes directly responsible for this shit, however…..

    ‘Honest, Officer. I swear that it was a 3’11 albino monkey with a limp that shot Bernie Madoff.’ :)

  107. 107
    stickler says:

    @KS in MA: KS — you could very well make the argument that the American consumer started practicing a very effective form of "nonviolent protest" this past summer. When we stopped shopping. Auto sales went from 15 million per year to 8 million. Home sales cratered. Linens ‘N Things, Circuit City, and a thousand other crapfunnel stores went BK.

    Was that as targeted and elegant as Dr. King’s nonviolent protest? No. Was it effective?

    Well, Tom Friedman’s sugar mama (his wife’s kabillion dollar mall-owning partnership) is near financial ruin, so I’d say "yes".

  108. 108
    wilfred says:

    did some wealthy interests see the New Deal as a way to keep the angry poor from rising up? Are there examples elsewhere in the world where fear of a populist uprising affected wealthy interests’ attitudes towards social programs?

    Not some, most. Roosevelt’s job was to preserve the political economy of the US at the precise moment it began to be threatened. Unemployment probably peaked at 25-30% by the time he took office- that was a lot of pissed off men with families to contend with. Anything that could be done to prevent them from becoming more radicalized was welcome; it’s no surprise that the ’30’s was the most political period in the hx of the country. think of all those people whose communist past (gasp!) formed at that time were blacklisted in the ’50s.

    Capital did ok. Huge amounts of surplus labor helped increase productivity while reduced profit margins were offset by the peon wages paid to those who did have jobs.

    What scared the shit out of capital were the hordes of wandering adolescents and young adults – not just Okies – who seemed like a movement waiting for a leader. Hence the CCC. Huey Long was removed in the px, just in case.

    Now imagine a US of today with 30% unemployed. Remember, Materialism has thoroughly defeated the passive, quietist Idealism that was still strong in the ’30’s, the new unemployed won’t be sitting in churches.

    As for the second question – see Chartists inter alia, and the hx of Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield in the 19th century. Wealthy interests benefit the most from social programs – they just don’t want to pay for them.

    Finally, always keep in mind that urban renewal is to keep the working poor in their slums.

  109. 109
    Marshall says:

    during the Great Depression, did some wealthy interests see the New Deal as a way to keep the angry poor from rising up?

    Of course they did. Roosevelt himself saw the New Deal as heading off either a revolution or a fascist coup, and he came from wealth.

    Remember, by the way, that in the 1930’s most countries had pretty strong communist parties, with a revolutionary example in, and support from, the USSR. Wealthy right wingers in Germany saw the NSDP as a controllable alternative to a Communist revolution. (They were wrong, but that is another matter.) The Spanish Civil War was fought against a background of the execution of the wealthy on the Republican side. These fears were by no means unjustified.

  110. 110
    rumpole says:

    No princes, no water. The reason that people don’t begrudge others their success is that they believe that it’s possible either for them, or for their kids. If they come to believe that the deck is stacked, then there’s no reason to pay the game. I’d hazard a guess to say that most people (particularly in the middle class) used to believe that the game was fair–work hard in school, get good grades, work hard at your job–and things will work out because the system is generally designed to reward those efforts. If you don’t, then you won’t succeed. It’s a simple, occasionally brutal model, but it contains a certain equity.

    Now, we have a system where you work hard, get good grades, get saddled with crushing student debt and usurious credit card interest rates, and if you happen to get sick, you go bankrupt. No matter how hard you work, the company you work for will send your job to china without a second thought. Oh, and when the decisions of an elite executive corps bring down the entire company and throw you out of work, those executives are lavishly rewarded. By you. Your hard work and dedication doesn’t mean shit.

    That’s the breaking of the social contract. The perception is growing (and justifiably so) that those that climbed the ladder not only pulled it up behind them, but started throwing hot oil down on all those trying to climb up. The more people believe that the ladder’s been pulled up, the greater the chance for major social unrest. And if your average Joe the Plumber really understood how badly they’d been fucked over the last eight years, Greenspan, Paulson et al would have been in protective custody six months ago.

  111. 111
    Marshall says:

    Two observations.

    First, you would be amazed how many wealthy people think that, in the end, poorly paid people with guns will keep them safe. They may, but this has also failed rather catastrophically at times and places in the past.

    Second, in my experience most Americans have no idea how nasty this can get, and how quickly. Some very clueless people have been playing with some very hot fire.

  112. 112
    Will says:

    This shit is one of the most basic lessons of history. If you make life too hard for the masses, people revolt.

    This is where democracy came from. In ancient Athens, the system evolved where farmers had to take on debt to survive in bad years. The interest was high and custom prevented the seizure of land, so the proto-bankers seized farmers who fell behind on their debt and sold them into slavery. Then, they confiscated the land as slaves couldn’t own land.

    After a few years of this, the populace was ready to murder the wealthy. Democracy was instituted as a way to defuse the situation.

    A lot of historical unrest has debt as the primary cause. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that both Islam and, to a lesser extent, Christianity arose as protests against debt slavery.

  113. 113
    Joel says:

    First, you would be amazed how many wealthy people think that, in the end, poorly paid people with guns will keep them safe.

    Have they not heard of mutiny?.

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