Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Watching the donut turn into a hole....

This started life as a comment at Salon, so it may seem to need a bit more context than it has now.  The original context was a post about the Census Bureau figures and Obama's touting, at a Clinton rally yesterday, the improving economy; and why those figures refute the anger of Trump supporters.  They do, in way; in another way, though, our economy has deep problems which aren't corrected by rising employment relative to the unemployment following 2010.

I was watching a Frontline documentary on for-profit schools last night; in the beginning of it, to explain why so many people turn to very-expensive (and very predatory) for profit colleges (which take your money but don't educate), they showed a graph pointing out how productivity has risen since 1979, but middle-class incomes have been flat since 1979 (productivity rocketed off the chart; income crawled along with little change), and the minimum wage has failed to provide enough income to even pay the bills.

So, yeah, things are better; then again, they've been bad for three decades now.  This ain't the economy of our parent's generation (not for Boomers, anyway), and that trend shows no signs of changing.  So maybe the resentment (misplaced as it may be) has roots other than in the latest economic figures, or in problems going back only 6 years.

After all, there was a reason a lot of people couldn't afford houses back then, and were led into creating the bubble that finally burst all over the industrialized world.  Come to think of it, those same reasons are why so many for-profit schools have gone out of business, leaving students with no education, huge debts, and the managers of those corporations with golden parachutes (i.e., they took advantage of the poorest and weakest, and really did nothing substantive for the economy as a whole)..

In the documentary, a homeless couple came across a for-profit college website while looking for work or opportunities to educate themselves and better their lives.  What they wound up with was a high-pressure salesperson who got them $28.000 in debt after only 3 semesters.  Three other students, who trained to be LVN's, recounted how their "education" involved going to a Scientology Museum on Psychology as part of their training.  One of those nurses, in a follow-up, attended a community college, paid less than 1/3rd of what she'd paid the for-profit college, and spent a month (or more) at a psychiatric hospital, following nurses and seeing patients.  None of the 3 nurses had been able to get a job with their degrees, because the education they got was worthless.  The nurse who paid again for community college did get a job, because she had the training she needed.

It made me think of the people in "The Big Short," just trying to pay their bills, put in houses they couldn't afford but were given NINJA loans just so the mortgage could back a security instrument on Wall Street; or the renters who found the home they were renting had been foreclosed on, because the owner owned properties he couldn't afford, again because of unsustainable loans.  How many of those people were responsible for the housing bubble?  ITT was just shut down by the Department of Education, which refused to give it any more student loan money.  For-profit colleges were literally making money off federal student loans, and without that money ITT shut down immediately.  The community colleges here in Houston are taking on as many of those students as they can, but I wonder what education they got, and what they were paying for it.

This has been a predatory economy for almost 4 decades now.  If there is a surprise that people are angry (Bernie supporters were angry, too; but he's gone now), perhaps it's the surprise that anyone is angry.  Then again, that anger only matters every two years; the rest of the time, we are complacent.  And that anger only seems to matter when it's wealthy white people who are angry.  The accepted statistic is that Trump supporters have an average income of $72,000; Clinton supporters average $53,000.  I suspect that's more because there are so many more of the latter than the former, but Trump's support heavily skews towards money.  Obama's supporters were predominantly black, but nobody focused on their anger, largely because blacks aren't allowed to be angry in America (witness the reactions to Black Lives Matter).

I still think Hillary was being accurate, not "classist" or eveb stereotyping. to label Trump's supporters as "deplorable."  As Josh Marshall points out:

...Trump's white nationalism and embrace of dominance politics is both what gives his campaign fuel and keeps it locked at about 40% support nationwide. The racist demons Trump has brought openly into the public square are a major liability for him.
Trump has to dance with the ones what brung him; and pointing out who those are is not stereotyping, because their attitudes are deplorable.  But we can go in the other direction, and decide with Jared Bernstein that everything is beautiful and nothing hurts. Yes, in the short term, things are materially improving.  But in the longer view, twice nothing is still nothing.

And even supporters of Hillary Clinton should be keenly aware of that.

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