“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.” – Thomas Paine
Back in 1991 two sagacious Southern gentlemen, professors at the University of South Carolina School of Law, realized there was something radically wrong with the way things were going. Duly alarmed, they wrote a book about it entitled Abandoned: The Betrayal of the American Middle Class Since World War II. Their book chronicled how an elite globalist agenda was supplanting democracy, with profound ramifications for families:
…Since 1972 workers’ average real wages have run steadily down… Families have kept up the appearance of prosperity by a tremendous increase in borrowing and by having two breadwinners instead on one. But, right now, the children of the middle class are falling out of it and the parents can’t help because they’re just hanging on themselves. [emphasis added]
Government, once it overthrew the democracy, was able to pursue policies its allies in the universities and media liked but that the people hated…
Truer words have never been written. Professors William J. Quirk and R. Randall Bridwell were prophets in their own time.
How did this unhealthy situation come about?
As the only major industrial power left standing after World War II, America morphed from a democratic republic into an empire. The lack of post-World War II competition and global dollar dominance stoked a mighty welfare-warfare state. Rather than expanding and defending America’s domestic market and industrial capacity, the powers-that-be instead decided that the US would be king of a global economy. Money-making mania, always a doubled-edge sword, took hold as never before.
Global economic dominance fuelled productivity and profit at the expense of American families. Open-borders immigration drove down wages at home – at the expense of American families. “Free-trade” arrangements such as NAFTA and most favoured nation agreements were a boon for big business. Corporate profits and share prices were boosted by relocating manufacturing to cheap-labour locales such as Mexico and China.
At first all this worked like a charm. Easy money changed the thinking of people, fuelling materialism and consumerism, addictions that in turn fuelled debt financing. As a boomer myself, I’ve lost count of the number of times folks in my cohort ridiculed the penny-pinching and risk-averse ways of their parents who had lived through the Great Depression. “Whattya mean, ‘saving up’ for something? You can get it now!”More and more Americans followed their government’s lead and accumulated unprecedented amounts of personal debt, manna from heaven for the financial sector.
While big business profited, wages stagnated at home. Soon enough the American economy shifted from industrial (productive) capitalism to financial capitalism, a rentier economy heavily dependent on revenue from property, securities and financial services, aka FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate).
Twenty-five years after Abandoned hit the shelves, the Harvard Business Review published “Why Wages Aren’t Growing in America:”
The majority of Americans share in economic growth through the wages they receive for their labour, rather than through investment income. Unfortunately, many of these workers have fared poorly in recent decades. Since the early 1970s, the hourly inflation-adjusted wages received by the typical worker have barely risen, growing only 0.2% per year. In other words, though the economy has been growing, the primary way most people benefit from that growth has almost completely stalled.
It wasn’t just Harvard. The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University published “What’s Causing Wage Stagnation in America?” stating that “U.S. workers have grappled with wage stagnation for several decades… Since the 1970s, growth in “real wages” (that is, the value of the dollars paid to employees after being adjusted for inflation) has slowed compared to overall economic productivity.” Joe Sixpack figured this out long ago.
One thing that set America apart in the post-war world was a huge, hearty middle class that delivered the baby boom. Boomers had a standard of living that was the envy of the world. Such prosperity depends on consumer confidence (spending), which is fading fast. So many consumers, consciously or not, live for today and trust that tomorrow will be a continuation of the present. Good times made them gullible.
Now yours truly is not an economist. But I see what I see. Rather than address falling fertility in the US, the powers-that-be sought to sustain the labour force through immigration, even turning a blind eye to illegal immigration. That was easier than doing something for families. Western Europe, prosperous post-war adjunct of the American empire, followed suit.
Back in 1940, after eleven years of the Great Depression with no end in sight, the US fertility rate plummeted from 1930’s 2.7 to below-replacement level 2.06 in 1940 – a 24 percent drop. World War II lifted the US out of the Depression, and fertility climbed to 3.6 by 1960. Then it declined to 1.77 by 1980, and recovered to around 2.0 in the early 2000s, mostly from the higher fertility of recent immigrants and their families. Today, the families of those recent immigrants have joined the baby bust, and the overall American fertility rate is the lowest it has ever been.
A major problem for the American family is today’s materialist, consumerist, politically correct ethos. By putting prosperity before family, we have a situation that endangers both.
Can it be fixed? That will require a sea-change in how people think. With generations of indoctrination through advertising, out-for-number-one thinking and radical social engineering, we have lost our way. If the elites who call the shots can’t be bothered to get around to it (they won’t), then the rest of us should do something that used to be considered thoroughly American: think and act for ourselves and prioritize the future.
Doing so will involve sacrifice and inconvenience, virtues not celebrated in today’s world where feeling trumps thinking. We had it easy for a long time and grew soft. But with social collapse underway in the US, there’ll be a mass attitude adjustment when folks rethink the colossal bill of goods we’ve been sold over the last several decades.
We are human beings first, not producers and consumers. We are families, tribes, nations and people of faith who can yet build a better world when we stop prioritizing creature comforts and start thinking straight.