Two principals from the Brookings Institution are staffing a project called The Metropolitan Revolution. There is material from a book of the same name, a blog, an iPad app and more on the site which concerns itself with “how cities and metros are fixing our broken politics and fragile economy.” Top notch content as far as the governing of realities of American cities and metros are concerned. Suburban-poverty.com was impressed with this item on Denver, CO.
Rob Ford: Low-income supporters stand by their mayor. Mayor Rob Ford’s support among low-income people is a paradox to critics who say he has consistently voted against programs that would help the poor. But his supporters in Rexdale social housing complexes say they support him because he’s active in the community.
A plethora of Chevron logos on their web site makes us a little nervous for The Atlantic these days but even so we can’t usually get enough of their content when trying to figure out the big picture in North America. Today, for example, a thoughtful personal essay on Rob Ford deconstructs a simplified urban-vs-suburban explanation by pointing out non-white, suburban support for the Big Man. It tends to be assumed that well off but greedy, resentful, and anxiety-prone suburbanites are Ford’s political rocket fuel but it looks like racialized suburban poverty and a kind of newcomer conservatism are a major energy source as well.
image: Lightning strikes wealthy, liberal cesspool called Downtown via Wikimedia Commons.
Governments, universities, think tanks, large corporations and political parties generate studies and position papers as a matter of course. Sometimes they get a bit of a bounce around in the media though most remain fairly obscure. Suburban-poverty.com read recent leakage from a federal Tory document advocating American-style labour laws with concern.
Our home province, Ontario, is heading into a provincial election and so the grinding and mashing of a worn set of gears called neoconservatism is again to be heard far and wide. Progressive Conservative leader Hudak has aligned himself with his federal forefathers and their take on right-to-work legislation, minimum wages, worker safety, child labour all in the name of jobs. A claw back is what you call this. A fast ticket to the 50s people: and that’d be the eighteen fifties.
Hardly a surprise. Hopefully nobody will fall for this nonsense. Some splatter from Mayor Ford’s antics should help the voters make their minds up. Mayor Ford promised a right wing agenda and certainly delivers on the innate antipathy usually contained in them. Hudak’s interest in abusive, race-to-the-bottom American labour law grows from the same family tree that Ford’s rage and anti-social behaviour does. For both, the words of their Great Grandma Margaret Thatcher, “there’s no such thing as society”, clearly still represent the wisdom of the ages.
‘Right-to-work’ U.S. states a model for Ontario, say Tories. The Tories are launching a jobs tour to insist Ontario can be a manufacturing powerhouse again. But critics say it’s a road map to lower wages
So how do we integrate the blustery politics and crazed gyrations of the Rob Ford era with lived reality and genuine human aspiration on the ground in Toronto? The amalgamated mega-city of Toronto is, we know, home to suburban poverty. Has the nation’s largest city become a suburban project with an urban core turned politically into a fringe element? What is the role of income in determining who supports Ford? Was Ford’s ascent to power really boosted by a suburban politics of resentment that will never reconcile with the non-suburban other? If this is true does it reflect what the people want and what are the chances for a more progressive future politically and economically with a little less of the unhappiness this bipolarity seems to guarantee. It’s looking messy and interesting and messy so if suburban-poverty.com’s readers are getting frustrated and turned off, well, we don’t blame you one bit. A possible filter for some of the bullshit exists online in academic Zack Taylor’s efforts to match voting patterns and income in the 2010 election won by Ford on his simplified neoconservative platform of stopping the abusive, out of control gravy train he alleged Toronto had become. Make a coffee and sit down to Metapolis.
image: Roman coin depicting a citizen voting – via Wikimedia Commons
And so even suburban-poverty.com finds itself disturbed by the churning wake and swathes of debris from the good ship Rob Ford’s high seas distress. He and his “nation” are not fully under the waves yet but the scrambling and thrashing has begun.
The search for explanations as to why an otherwise fairly rational and comparatively happy place like Toronto is producing this kind of political phenomenon at times rests on a belated appreciation of a suburban-urban divide. Not to say this isn’t interesting and important and very real but we found the perspective in the Toronto Life opinion piece linked below adds something important.
A bit of good, old-fashioned class interpretation can enlighten just about anything. We hate to have to break this to you all but some in Toronto have and some have not and power has always been about deciding who gets what. Not to say that personality and relationships have nothing to do with this shipwreck.
Adult situations are complex and the nature of life is tragic. Tragic decisions are made every minute of the day and we can be sorry for the outcomes of such decisions. Rob was fronting for the rich and the super elites and it got to be too much for him. Substances and a very contemporary moral relativism pushed him along to where he is today and brings the voters, workers, taxpayers and the poor along for the ride. What a waste to embarrass Toronto and the rest of Canada like this.
Philip Preville: Ford Nation is not who you think it is. Crackgate revealed that the city’s crippling political divide isn’t between downtowners and suburbanites—it’s between the rich and the poor, and it’s only getting worse
UK media carried forth two interesting socio-political moments this week in the form of unexpected statements about the general state of things. First up, comedian Russell Brand, fresh from a gig guest editing The New Statesman magazine. Second, former British PM Sir John Major.
Major, now 70, hit out at his classmates running the UK who are allowing an increase in the price of natural gas. Brand, not yet 40, got emotional about the need to quit voting and ditch poisonous political systems that are wrecking the poor and the planet. Brand’s animation put a veteran journalist onto the back foot with a straightforward call for lefty revolution in consciousness and pretty much everything else from ending tax havens and curtailing corporate power and abuse to serving the poor and addicted, two states Brand knows well from experience. Sir John pointed out that the price increase for natural gas is above a reasonable reflection of gas company costs and capital needs.
Brand’s statement was custom made for the age of the Internet and social media where it is still racking up the metrics. Major’s statement is more grown up stuff: very specific, about cause and effect, delivered from the point of view of an elder statesman, successor to no less than Margaret Thatcher. Major told his Tory old boys that if the gas price increase goes forward many people in Britain will have to choose between heating and food this winter. Both men contrasting individuals yet authors of political statements with a great deal of portent. Interesting and delightful. If there was such a thing as a suburban-poverty.com lapel pin both would receive one at no cost via the freshly privatized British post office.
Russell Brand on the revolution: we no longer have the luxury of tradition
Dangerous Minds with link to Paxman interview on YouTube 10:46 and to New Statesman
Sir John Major calls for windfall tax on energy profits
BBC News with video of Sir John and a rebuttal of the windfall tax from shadow energy minister
image: via Wikimedia Commons
The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America
David A Stockman, PublicAffairs: New York, NY, 2013
“I invest in anything that Bernanke can’t destroy, including gold, canned beans, bottled water and flashlight batteries.” –David A. Stockman on CNBC in 2010
The American economy is in a bad place decades in the making. Deeply messed up macroeconomic approaches are to blame. This, the tightly coupled interplay of specific public policy and deliberate elite behaviour also helped build suburbia, the single most visible monument to the American way of doing business since the 1930s.
America’s macroeconomic policy raised up this spectacular suburban edifice and then promptly whacked it in the face with a folding chair, among other things. David A. Stockman brings us the story in one battleship of a book.
Polemical? Yes. Righteous? Yes. Objective, well, not really, but the author’s take on the whole concussed, black-eyed, nosebleeding mess that is America makes this an alarming, unputdownable blockbuster.
Apparently, the Eisenhower era was the last time there was any shred of sound fiscal policy in Washington, D.C. Since then it’s been mainly a horrifying tale of crony capitalism based on flawed, destructive Keynesian mythologies made popular in the Great Depression. Too much borrowing, too much money-printing, too little gold standard.
Stockman starts with a survey of the smoking hole that remains of America’s finances. Oh, the “wonder and plunder” he sees, this financialized End Times of red hot printing presses and liquidity injections, TARP and auto bailouts, prosperity management via rock bottom interest rates, jacked up stock markets, lobotomized stimulus spending, vast sums for welfare and warfare, green energy boondoggles, fractional reserve banking, fiat currencies, outright corruption and fraud, lawlessness in an overgrown financial sector, deindustrialization, bubble-crazed markets for commodities and real estate, leveraged buyouts and plutocratic elites.
Nixon did this, mostly. He took the US dollar off the gold standard, hoping to make recovery from the disastrous Vietnam war faster and easier. Nothing has been the same since. This was when the idea that money and prosperity are just artefacts of policies and postures at the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, the White House and on Wall Street exploded. Just as the little bungalows of the 1950s were replaced by long ranch houses in the 1960s and then the crazed monster homes of the 1980s the sound money policy of the Eisenhower era was abandoned in stages for something ever more fake and elaborate.
The result is permanent ruin. This could not have happened, argues Stockman, if the US dollar had remained attached to something real, namely gold. Carter made some efforts to cope with inflation but Reagan was very comfortable with the new regime, adding vast and unnecessary military spending to a reactionary hatred of taxation. Before anybody knew where they were a long, yet totally ersatz, boom was underway thanks to casual miracles of financial engineering. Sprawl replaced mere suburbia. Clinton took credit for the manufacturing of prosperity in turn. More tax cuts came under George W Bush, a massively idiotic president in terms of economic policy.
In 2008, it all blew its guts out. What lies ahead? A $20 trillion “tower of deficits” is what. A “fiscal doomsday machine” which has so trashed free enterprise’s best qualities that nothing can really save America now, it is, apparently, sundown over the state-wreck. Welcome to permanent fiscal cliff and permanent sequester, America.
Sure, there’s a prescriptive appendix of policies that need to be adopted yesterday which could turn things around. They are interesting, worthless and lame all at the same time. After the demolition job done on America by crony capitalism, far too little and not exactly on time. Stuff like means testing social benefit programs is weak and Tory, and won’t bring back this patient.
The wild tale of how America got where it is right now is about as big as it gets. Such as it can be held by one story teller Stockman is probably custom made to do the job. He was one of Reagan’s budget directors, a Congressman and worked for Wall Street for many years. Combine that insider perspective with his study of the Great Depression and you get a privileged viewpoint.
The reader will find a high level of detail and much colour in The Great Deformation. The vast arc of economics, mind boggling statistics and casual meetings between a handful of decision makers are handled with equal deftness. Even though the overall package is huge we never felt lost in it.
Of particular interest to suburban-poverty.com readers will be chapters 19 and 20. This is where we see the racy folly of casino capitalism finally putting American hope in the sepulchre. Fiscal policy drew everyday Americans into Wall Street’s gambling addiction and fostered the long, long boom in real estate prices. Both of which have worked out not very well for America’s working people and middle class, and most of the main institutions affecting their lives.
Wow! Suburban-poverty.com says, “read this book.”
“…a welcome thrashing of the ruling classes in both parties.” That was said of The Great Deformation by a Wall Street Journal reviewer: Bow to Our Malefactors
No less than Mitt Romney’s chief strategist, Stuart Stevens, calls out the mass media and President Barack Obama for ignoring unemployment and poverty in favour of narrowly focussed and divisive causes like gay marriage or gun control. This online mini-rant pulled in over 3000 comments in a couple of weeks. Talk about mixed signals. Mr. Stevens, do you remember the Bush era tax cuts, the reprehensible behaviour of the financial sector?
And then today a couple of New Mexico Republicans brought some static on themselves for acting like high school fools on Twitter and Facebook. Tossing commentary at a young political activist and a Democratic official. Nonsense like “bitch” and “Gestapo leader” and wisecracks about footwear, clothing and hotness were digitally proffered by actual public figures, in part as a response to activist interest in an increase to the state minimum wage (to a completely Communist $8.50 per hour!).
One official has been unable to avoid a suspension by apologizing. Seems as if vehement, indignant, polemical, overly emotional, single-sided forms of political expression are not merely one possible option in America these days but are the very coin of the realm itself.
Welcome to the 1850s time travellers…
image: 1903 train wreck, British Library/Dalhousie University via Wikimedia Commons
An arms-length sympathy is really the proper posture to have on behalf of Ayn Rand. Her hatred of the left had its origins in her family’s traumatic experience of eastern Europe’s revolutionary and wealth-confiscating Communism. She died in America in less than the best of health on social security in old age after her many years writing potboiler novels about noble people doing awesome things that people like most of the rest of us want to pull down because we are worthless and weak. Those latter years must have been truly bile-inducing for a declining Ayn. We have a hunch she might not have approved fully of those behind the variety of financial, governmental, and militaristic shenanigans of the last decade or so despite the oft-professed and truly barf-making adulation the architects of many of those events offer up to the memory of Ayn. We sense that the shallower-than-piss-in-a-frying-pan philosophy of Ms Rand is idolized by neoconservatives simply so that they may check the need for a philosophy off of their to do lists in order to return to the philosophy of having no philosophy at all except greed and rationalization. Randism appears to correctly worry the author of this piece from Alternet this week who reports to readers of his findings in Tennessee.
image: composite via Wikimedia Commons