Monday 25th of May 2020

the great divide...


America’s Apartheid of Dollars

Forget race: the real dividing line is class, with identity politics there to distract us into submission.


“See, in America we have this thing about ‘people of color.’ POC. I think you’re one.” That was me explaining all things American to a visitor. He was actually from Spain, so he was Spanish, not Hispanic. We were trying to figure out whether he was a POC.

This was not some sort of intellectual Sudoku to pass the time; this POC idea underpins the core strategy of the Democratic Party. The U.S. is poised to become a non-majority nation (“minority white”) within 25 years, meaning about half of the country will be POC. The Democratic Party believes these POC will vote for their candidates, while the Republican Party withers away cherry picking votes from the dwindling basket of deplorable whites.

My Spanish friend considered himself European. “So I guess I am white, yes?” he offered. His skin was clearly a few shades darker than mine, though he pointed out that was only because my relatives came from the cold part of Europe and he came from the sunny part. But he spoke Spanish. At least in America, my new friend qualified as a POC.

His Seamless order arrived. He said gracias to the delivery guy and handed over a one dollar tip. “What do I have in common with him?” the Spaniard asked, “except the rudimentary ability to speak the same language, same as 560 million others?” I rolled my eyes at the delivery guy, a universal gesture of “people don’t tip, right?” solidarity.

I noted to my friend as I pulled into traffic, heading back to his hotel, that the Democrats in 2020 would likely have at least a POC vice presidential candidate, one who “looked like him.” But the whole POC thing did not sit well. Why, he asked, do Americans want leaders who physically look like them? “Didn’t it used to be wrong to judge people by the color of their skin?” he said. “Why is it okay to choose someone because they’re black but racist to choose someone because they aren’t?” I noted that in 2019, a candidate named Richard who graduated from Columbia needed to go around saying “call me Beto” to lighten his whiteness.

Things really got confusing when I explained that a newly arrived Chinese migrant and a 70-year-old Mexican American CEO and people from Trinidad, Ghana, and the Bronx with three different levels of education were all seen as having something inherently in common. And they all had something inherently not in common with everyone tainted by various shades of pink.

I mentioned reparations. Until slavery was ended in the United States, human beings were legally considered capital, just like owning stocks and bonds today. But the Spaniard knew enough about history to wonder what reparations would be offered to the thousands of Chinese treated as animals to build the railroads or the 8,000 Irish who died digging the New Basin Canal or the whole families of Jews living on the Lower East Side of New York who were forced to employ their children to make clothing for uptown “white” stores. Later in the same century, wages were “voluntarily” cut to the bone at factories in Ohio to save jobs that disappeared anyway after the owners had wrung out the last profits.

The more we talked, the more it all seemed to be about labor, low paid or never paid (economically, they exist on a spectrum), rather than the C of the P doing the work. Whatever racial inequality exists today, that doesn’t change the fact that for 90 percent of us, race isn’t a major issue. It was like we were missing the thing behind the thing. Or someone was trying to hide it.

“I think,” my friend said, “Americans spend so much time worried about race they miss what we Europeans understand in our bones. It is class which divide societies. Look at Britain, once nearly 100 percent white, yet a person had to say just a few words before you knew who worked for who by the accent. Or India, where everyone is a POC as you Americans would say, and where they created a caste system that survived the departure of the white people.”

It does seem silly to think a Caucasian on food stamps in West Virginia has more in common with a Caucasian in Los Angeles producing multimillion-dollar movies than a black person on food stamps in, say, West Virginia again. “No, your Democrats are drawing the lines the wrong way,” said the Spaniard. “It is about money, not melanin.” We had to look up the last word from the Spanish melanina.

After driving for a while, we arrived at The Plaza. My Spanish friend paid me for the ride through the Uber app, but with a generous cash tip. Privilege, I guess. I pocketed the $10.**

As I set off to my other job, the idea of money as a dividing line started to make more sense and the idea of POC started to make less. Color masks the lines that really matter, and those lines are all colored green.

Since 1980, the incomes of the very rich (the .1 percent) have grown faster than the economy, about a 400 percent cumulative increase. The upper middle class (the 9.9 percent) kept pace with the economy. The other 90 percent fell behind. Race? You can be confident that the .1 percent are mostly white; likely the 9.9 percent, too. But the other 90 percent of America is every color. Whether your housing is subsidized via a mortgage tax deduction or Section 8, you’re still depending on the people in charge to allow you a place to live.

The birth lottery determines which of those three bands we’ll sink or swim together in, because there is precious little mobility. In that bottom band, 81 percent face flat or falling net worths (40 percent of Americans make below $15 an hour) and so aren’t going anywhere. Education, once a vehicle, is now mostly a tool for the preservation of current statuses across generations, to the point that it’s worth paying bribes for. Class is sticky.

Money, not so much. Since the 9.9 percent have the most (except for the super wealthy at least), they have the most to lose. At their peak in the mid-1980s, the managers and technicians in this group held 35 percent of the nation’s wealth. Three decades later, that fell 12 percent, exactly as much as the wealth of the .1 percent rose. A significant redistribution of wealth—upwards—took place following the 2008 market collapse, as bailouts, shorts, repossessions, and new laws helped the top end of the economy at cost to the bottom. What some label hardships are to others business opportunities.

The people at the top are throwing nails off the back of the truck to make sure no one else can catch up with them. There is a strong zero sum element to all this. The goal is to eliminate the competition. They’ll have it all when society is down to two classes, the .1 percent and the 99.9 percent, and at that point we’ll all be effectively the same color. The CEO of JP Morgan called it a bifurcated economy. Historians will recognize it as feudalism.

You’d think someone would sound a global climate change-level alarm about all this. Instead we divide people into tribes and make them afraid of each other by forcing competition for limited resources like health care. Identity politics sharpens the lines, recognizing increasingly smaller separations, like adding letters to LGBTQQIAAP.

Failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, herself with presidential ambitions, is an example of the loud voices demanding more division. Contrast that with early model Barack Obama at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, who pleaded, “There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”

The divisions can always be jacked up. “My opponent is a white nationalist!” and so he doesn’t just think you’re lazy, he wants to kill you. Convince average Americans to vote against their own interests by manipulating them into opposing any program that might benefit black and brown equally or more than themselves. Keep the groups fighting left and right and they’ll never notice the real discrimination is up and down, even as massive economic forces consume all equally. Consumption becomes literal as Americans die from alcohol, drugs, and suicide in record numbers.

Meanwhile, no one has caught on to the fact that identity politics is a marketing tool for votes, fruit flavored vape to bring in the kiddies. Keep that in mind as you listen to the opening cries of the 2020 election. Listen for what’s missing in the speeches about inequality and injustice. Whichever candidate admits that we’ve created an apartheid of dollars for all deserves your support.


**The author doesn’t really drive for Uber but his conversation with the Spaniard was real.

Peter Van Buren, a 24-year State Department veteran, wrote We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99%


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"Whichever candidate admits that we’ve created an apartheid of dollars for all deserves your support?" As long as the candidates don't just do lip service in promising to fix the difference of potential. The only way to sort this out is to bring some "socialist" inspired solutions in the system...


buying junior and juniorette an expensive education...

"Even though people cannot preserve their children's place in the social hierarchy through bequests of financial assets, it is still possible for a well-off couple to maintain their children's status by giving them an expensive education."



Thoughts and prayers. Zero tolerance. Free gifts. All of it, naturally, “going forward.” And it’s all a con.

Even fortune cookies have replaced practical messages with nonsense. Today we read, “The cocoon becomes the grandmother who flutters above our universe,” when they used to read, “Watch out or you’ll be hit by a truck.”

The University of Southern California, nailed in a national payola scandal to allow the recruitment of “athletes” who never played the sport — “We have a beach hockey team? — inspired a modern con job of shameless denial that would send an 8-year-old to bed with no TV.

USC president Wanda Austin, after five current or former USC athletic department staffers were arrested:

“The federal government has alleged that USC is a victim in a scheme perpetrated against the university,” adding, “The government has repeatedly informed us that it views USC as a victim and that these employees purposefully deceived USC.”

It did? In the sworn affidavit explaining the arrests submitted by FBI special agent Laura Smith, who led the multiple schools investigation, not a single mention of USC, Yale, Texas, Stanford, UCLA or Georgetown as a victim.

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Maintaining privilege and adding to the disparity...

the class war against the poor...


From Yanis Varoufakis (December 2017)


ATHENS, Greece (Project Syndicate) — The Anglosphere’s political atmosphere is thick with bourgeois outrage. In the United States, the so-called liberal establishment is convinced it was robbed by an insurgency of “deplorables” weaponized by Vladimir Putin’s hackers and Facebook’s sinister inner workings. In Britain, too, an incensed bourgeoisie are pinching themselves that support for leaving the European Union in favor of an inglorious isolation remains undented, despite a process that can only be described as a dog’s Brexit.

The range of analysis is staggering. The rise of militant parochialism on both sides of the Atlantic is being investigated from every angle imaginable: psychoanalytically, culturally, anthropologically, aesthetically, and of course in terms of identity politics. The only angle that is left largely unexplored is the one that holds the key to understanding what is going on: the unceasing class war unleashed upon the poor since the late 1970s.

In 2016, the year of both Brexit and Trump, two pieces of data, dutifully neglected by the shrewdest of establishment analysts, told the story. In the United States, more than half of American families did not qualify, according to Federal Reserve data, to take out a loan that would allow them to buy the cheapest car for sale (the Nissan Versa sedan, priced at $12,825). Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, over 40% of families relied on either credit or food banks to feed themselves and cover basic needs.

William of Ockham, the 14th century British philosopher, famously postulated that, when bamboozled in the face of competing explanations, we ought to opt for the one with the fewest assumptions and the greatest simplicity. For all the deftness of establishment commentators in the U.S. and Britain, they seem to have neglected this principle.

Loath to recognize the intensified class war, they bang on interminably with conspiracy theories about Russian influence, spontaneous bursts of misogyny, the tide of migrants, the rise of the machines, and so on. While all of these fears are highly correlated with the militant parochialism fueling Trump and Brexit, they are only tangential to the deeper cause — class war against the poor — alluded to by the car affordability data in the US and the credit-dependence of much of Britain’s population.


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This was befoe the Yellow Vests...

manipulative and dishonest tactics...

The fossil fuel industry regularly deploys manipulative and dishonest tactics when engaging with communities of color, often working to co-opt the respect and authority of minority-led groups to serve corporate goals. That is according to a new report, “Fossil Fueled Foolery,” published today by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which outlines the top 10 manipulation tactics that the group’s members and partners routinely observe.

Some of the tactics are broad and political, like investing in efforts to undermine democracy through voter suppression and other means, or like financing political campaigns and “investing in” politicians at local, county, and state levels. Other tactics are even more discreet and deceitful, like claiming that regulations that would benefit heavily polluted communities will cause these same communities economic harm.

Or, in other instances, denying the reality of air and water pollution, or even shifting the blame for this pollution to those disadvantaged communities that are suffering the impacts of fossil fuel projects.

“One of the most duplicitous strategies of the fossil fuel industry is manipulating messaging which feigns concern for the welfare of low income and communities of color. This is a self-serving effort to maintain their wealth,” said Kathy Egland, Chair of the NAACP National Board Committee on Environmental and Climate Justice, in a statement.


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