Blog #95 – Given the Electoral College, who “won” the 2016 Election


#95 – Given the Electoral College, who “won” the 2016 Election

This blog, and the blog after it, Blog #95a – Questioning “So-Called President” [1] Donald Trump’s Mandate: Immediate actions, Long-Term Possibilities, Constitutional Questions,–summarize the findings of Blogs #92a to #95. [1] on “so-called President” Donald Trump’s claim to have won the election as president of the United States, and suggests some Immediately practical reforms of the Election Process in the United States They raise some longer-term issues about the constitutionality of the Electoral College per se, issues whose results in the 2016 election deserve wide discussion

This blog argues that the figures as to who would have won the national election in 2016 if that election procedure had been fair are clear. If every vote was counted fairly, so at every non-Trump vote counted for the same Electoral College vote as every pro-Trump vote, if, for instance, the election were simply decided by the results of the present national popular ,Trump would not have won that election {See Blog #94}.

Under present procedures of the Electoral College:
For Trump, his actual popular vote 62,980,160, produced 304 Electoral College votes
Or one popular vote produced 0.0000048 Electoral College votes.
Thus it took only 207,172 actual votes to produce each of his Electoral votes.

But for Clinton, her actual popular vote, 65,845,063 produced only 227 Electoral College votes,[2]
Or one popular vote produced only 0.0000034 Electoral College votes.
Thus it took all of 290,066 popular votes to produce each of her Electoral votes.
Each of Clinton’s popular votes was worth only 34/48, or 71%, of what one of Trump’s popular votes was worth.

Result: Trump wins 2016 Electoral College vote Trump 304 Clinton 227, and gains the Presidency.

But if every actual vote cast by a voter counted for as much as every other vote, not the 34/48 ratio above,–if all persons’ votes were equal)[3] , Trump would come in a clear second, behind the first place winner by over 2,5000,000 votes. If each vote actually cast for Clinton carried the same weight in the Electoral College as each vote cast for Trump, the Electoral College vote would have been Trump 304, Clinton 314;[4]

Result: Clinton would have won the Presidency.

Trump “won” the Presidency in a procedurally unfair election. Only the distortions of the Electoral College, specifically its abandonment of the one person –one vote principle, permitted his victory.”
What difference do all these numbers (e.g, 71% weight given to a vote in one camp compared to 100% weight given to to the other) make, now that Trump has been inaugurated?
See Blog #95a – Possible Actions for Democratization and Questions of Constitutionality of Trump’s electoral “victory.”

[1 ] The six most relevant recent blogs, all at pmarcuse.wordpress.com, are:
#91 – Explaining the Election in 10 Sentences – Preliminary
#92a – Electoral Reform: Outing the 1%
#93 – Election Figures Show Trump with Only 27.2% of Eligible Voters-What Mandat
#94 – In What Ways is the Electoral College Illegitimate Today?
#95 – Given the Electoral College, who “won” the 2016 Election?
#95a – Questioning “So-Called President Donald Trump’s Mandate, Immediate Actions+
[2] Calculations based on http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/national.php?year=2016 . http://www.270towin.com/news/2017/01/06/donald-trump-officially-wins-presidency-as-electoral-votes-counted-by-congress_440.html#.WIQkTn2kyio.
[3] As they are in the popular vote .
[4] Actually, the totals have to add to 538, so this would be 45.94%*538 = 247 Trump and 48.03%*538 = 258 Clinton . In either event, Clinton would have won .I thank Aaron Marcuse- Kubitza- for the point, and help generally on the calculations

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Blog #92a – Electoral Reform: Outing the 1%


Blog #92a – Electoral Reform: Outing the 1%

Dealing with the implications of Donald Trump’s victory by pushing for reforms in the way presidents are elected may seem a very mild way to face what are certainly immediate as well as long-range problems ,. In fact, however, they are transformative demands, transformative in the sense that they both logically and politically to deeper but critically related problems, to the questioning they are related to the underlying issues of power and injustice that need to be faced. Yet they do lead straight to such further questions: does not the role of money in the electoral process need to be radically addressed, beyond the mechanics of the election process? And thus further the effects of the growing inequalities of wealth in our society? And an examination of what the results of the skewed election and Trump’s accession to power mean for democracy as a whole? Is not raising the question of a distorted electoral process an organizing issue when it is related to who benefits and who is excluded by the distortions?

For ultimately the distortions in the electoral process, and specifically the use of the Electoral College and the manner of its election to determine the outcome of the presidential election serves the 1%, not the 99% that Trump’s claims to be a populist often puts forward. Just how the electoral process is rigged in favor of the 1% is taken up in the succeeding blogs, but evidence for the rigging in favor of the existing power structure comes from two other sources: the historic origins of the Electoral College in a clear distrust of grass-roots democracy, and the policies of Trump, having used the rigging to be elected, then favoring the 1% in all his appointments and policy decisions.

The results are already very dramatically and symbolically apparent in the early conduct of Trump’s President-elect actions.

Symbolically, Trump is organizing his government, not out of public space available to him, but out  of the Trump Tower, a private 58-story luxury office/residential building on Fifth Avenue in New York City , with his name in giant letters on top of it, a dominant emblem of Lower Manhattan, a global business and financial center.. It will be retrofitted as a Presidential get-away, [1] at taxpayers’ expense, Government agencies will pay rent – to Trump — for space they need to occupy in the building. Condos, on higher floors below Trump’s own three story penthouse, go for up to $11,000,000.  Not an apt setting where ordinary people would feel they would be welcome to participate in the government, as parts of government “of the people.” Rather, homes and offices for the 1%.

But then Donald Trump is hardly himself one of the people. He prides himself on being a billionaire, is a large-scale real estate developer, had properties and investments globally, travels in is own jet, hires and fires people to serve him, some of whom he treats shabbily. He is certainly one of the 1%.

His policies, what we know of them, are largely skewed in favor of the rich: tax cuts for the rich,, insecurity and low wages for immigrants, relaxation of regulations protecting everybody’s environment, luxury resorts, casinos, branding of all sorts of luxury goods aimed at the largest ends of the  market. For the use and enjoyment of the 1%

With fully democratic elections, enabling a fully participatory popular democracy, we might be able to make America democratic again, to give it a government by the people, of the people , for the people,– and make Donald Trump’s government of the 1%, by the 1%, and for the 1% vanish from the earth.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/11/18/how-donald-trump-will-retrofit-midtown-manhattan-as-a-presidential-getaway/?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.180e8c019787

Blog #91: Explaining the Election in 10 sentences – preliminary


Explaining the election (in parentheses: to pursue):

1. A critical shift in the organization of the economy post 1968, from industrial to hi-tech capitalism (occupational structures?).
2. Leaving many dependent on the old economy hurt and at a loss, largely the white working class, hold-over racism and sexism accentuated as scapegoats. (foreclosures, evictions, bankruptcies, struggling suburban homeowners – not the really poor, homeless)
3. They reacted with anxiety and an emotional attachment to the past Deep Story (their traditional identity?)
4. They blamed, quite rightly, “the” establishment, although not clear as to its membership, pushed by media etc. to blame “government” (social media, TV, not press?)
5. Trump as politician picked up on this, despite his own membership in the new establishment (motivation? pathological egotism? Business).
6. The anxious white ex-working class built up a deep story, a vision, abetted by Trump and the media that was heavily emotional (shaping identities?)
7. That story, built on real anxiety-inducing experience, mis-interpreted history, and built a psychological/ideological barrier that facts and reason could not penetrate (high school or less education?). Trump offered the charismatic fairy tale leader, believe me, trust me, not them, they have failed you (over 30 years? 8. Since Reagan? since Johnson?)
9. Hillary offered no vision that addressed the grounded anxiety (health care costs? Real unemployment levels?).
10. But Trump’s allegiance as a businessman is and always was to the new elite establishment, and he will unify the Republican Party around it. The holdouts will be those with a personal repugnance to Trump’s personal behavior, which they will swallow. (social circles, clienteles, customers, tenants?)

The Blog #90 series will deal with some of these isssues in more detail.

Blog #76 – Donald Trump and Special Interests


Blog #76 – Donald Trump with No Special Interests? An OpEd

The idea that Donald Trump is different from everybody else in Washington because they represent special interests and he doesn’t is hard to reconcile with what we know of him. He started life with a loan of $4,000,000 from a rich father who made his money in real estate, and later gave him a $40,000,000 share of his real estate empire to help keep him doing the same. He owns casinos in Atlantic City and golf courses in Florida and Scotland, invests in hedge funds and hob-nobs with hedge fund managers, flamboyantly displays his abilities to fire people and cut jobs, and puts businesses he runs into bankruptcy when they’re no longer profitable for him. He issues 20,000 tickets to help fill an auditorium that seats 1,400, has dissenters thrown out of the audience because it’s a “private party” and wants their coats confiscated, although he says he loves the First Amendment as much as he loves the Second. He flies around in his private jet. He pays himself an annual salary from his corporations of $60 million a year. One bedroom units in his New York City condo tower sell for $2,250,000. He is worth between $4 billion and $10 billion dollars today, and brags about his wealth constantly. Banks have bailed him out when he needed to defer nearly $1 billion in debt when he was in hot water financially.

Whose interests is he likely to represent?

 

[Published as a Letter to the Editor of the Waterbury Republican and American, January 12, 2016]

More detail and discussion at

Blog 77a – The Real Trump and the Tumpeting Trump

Blog 77b –  Why is Trumpeting Trump so appealling

Blog 77c – Summary on Trump

Blog 77c -Summary to Explain Donald Trum in 5 Paragraphs


Blog 77c Explaining Donald Trump in 5 short summary points.

 

  1. There are really two consistent but separate Donald Trumps – A Real Trump, a cold-blooded, shrewd, profit-focused, businessman, logically power-seeking in his own interest, the Trump of casinos, luxury hotels and residence, exclusive golf courses, hedge funds, global investments, and on the other hand a Trumpeting Trump, vociferously projecting an image of luxury and riches, and spouting eternal verities as common sense entirely independent from his own interests, but which he is willing to share for the good of the citizenry, the Trump of walls around Mexico, freedom from government regulation, anti-foreigners, religious bigotry, nationalistic Americanism, winners and losers. How the Real Trump got his billions is however not a subject for discussion by either one.
  2. The failure of his competitors for the nomination to take his central ideas on boldly and directly, to expose his self-interest in his trumpeted ideas, arises not out of fear of combat or concern for the good of the Republican Party, but out of the realization that his ideas are in their own self-interest also, and too deep criticism would amount to self-criticism for them.
  3. The racial and ethnic and moral bigotry running through Trump’s trumpetings are functional for him in identifying a scapegoat for the ill functioning of the system he is defending and a moral justification for the harm that his ideas, if implemented, would clearly cause to many.
  4. Trump’s bigotry is bought by some of his supporters at the bottom of the economic ladder because having a prominent Presidential candidate espouse similar feelings. It is functional for them because it legitimates their own many material frustrations and insecurities. His bigotry is bought by others of his supporters high up on that ladder because it directly serves their own private material interests.
  5. In media terms, Trumpeting Trump’s bigotry affects primarily moderate Republican and Democratic voters who aren’t likely to vote for him anyway, and distracts attention and appropriate investigation from the Real Trump’s self-interest as a billionaire in avoiding discussion of his own route to his billions and the actual conflicts of interest he has with many of his supporters.

 

This summary builds on the arguments in two previous blogs as pmarcuse.wordpress.com:

Blog77a The Real Trump and the Trumpeting Trump,   and

Blog 77b Why is Trumpeting Trump so appealing?

 

Blog77a The Real Trump and the Trumpeting Trump


Blog77a The Real Donald Trump and the Trumpeting Trump

Summary

Donald Trump’s ideas, his public statements, his philosophy, such as it is, have all been widely trumpeted, and almost as widely examined, Many of his ideas have been avoided on the right and criticized on the left. The man himself, the Real Donald Trump, and his real-life business activities have not attracted as much attention as those of the other Trump, the Trumpeting Trump. Yet the ideas are not sui generis, but are very directly connected to his real personal and material interests, those activities in the pursuit of financial success that have made him the billionaire that he proudly proclaims he is, and that he maintains equip him to be President of the United States. But they deserve to be carefully examined. Do his activities as a casino magnate, a real estate speculator, an exploiter of tax loopholes, a chum of hedge fund managers, a wallower in luxuries, give him the skills and experience we want in someone entrusted with the responsibility of running our country?

***
There is a Real Donald Trump hiding behind the façade of the bombastic media-crazed bigoted
Trumpeting Trump who pushes his outlandish and apparently thoughtless views onto the American public and Republican voters. Much of the critical response to Trumpeting Trump’s statements views them simply as the result of a bigoted mindset, a lack of empathy for others, a desire to seem macho, arrogance, etc. No doubt all these are involved. Indeed in some ways he is almost pitiable in his hunger for applause and lack of self-awareness or introspection. But there is a much more materially-grounded explanation for much of what he trumpets. And the enthusiastic response of so many of his followers likewise has a largely material foundation.

The Real Trump is a very solid, material figure, constantly thinking, shrewd, targeted, down to earth, and practical. In real life, when he is not behind a microphone or being interviewed, he the very model of a modern smart capitalist, with making money, accumulating wealth, as the over -riding goal. But he seems to have a practical realization that some form of moral legitimacy is helpful in pushing raw greed to new limits; thus the creation of a quite separate façade, the Trumpeting Trump. [1]

Look at what Real Trump does in real life. Basically, he makes money. His claim to fame is that he is a billionaire. How did he get his billions? By keeping a relentless eye on his money, making it and keeping it, sometimes wisely, sometimes not. Look at how he acquired his billions.

He started out, of course, by inheriting some $250 million from his father. The evidence is overwhelming that the best way to get rich is to have rich parents, and the richer, the better. And then he invested the money he inherited, and not so profitably, after all.[2]

• Casinos – the ownership of casinos, not the playing in them. Not because he took big risks and was rewarded, but because he lured others into taking on risks in which the cards were always scientifically stacked in his favor. Casinos are not productive; they produce nothing of value except profits to their owners, and they redistribute income regressively. They produce jobs, but that is not why those like Trump invest in them; on the contrary, the less of the revenue goes to wages of workers, the better for the owner, and Trump holds wages down as much as he can Look at is history with unions of his own workers.

• Housing – the development of luxury residences for the very rich, not housing for those that need it. Trump was never concerned with affordable housing, with ending homelessness, with security of tenure, with measures to protect health or safety. The goal was always profit, not people, and the more exclusionary, the more profitable, the better.

• Financial speculation – the kind of speculation in which the hedge funds, in which a large part of Trump’s billions are invested, engage in, making super profits for those that have enough wealth to begin with, unconcerned about social consequences, not subsidizing green enterprises , no concern for environmental sustainability or social justice.

There is no evidence that he was ever socially concerned about what his investments produced, or for whom; the goal was to make money for himself in whatever way would make the most the fastest.

And look at what he is NOT investing in.

• No significant investments in, donations to, support for, environmental protection, social welfare, the Red Cross, disaster relief, police responsibility, affordable health care, affordable education, clean air, drinkable water, environmental sustainability, no evidence that black lives matter, that secure retirement for the elderly or secure futures for young people, matter.[3]

The data is all there, and needs to be examined thoroughly; a little muck-raking would probably unearth some very interesting muck. But Trumpeting Trump is not interested in talking about it. The fact that such policy proposals as Trumpeting Trump has made would all be very directly supportive of what Real Trump is about is the last thing either of the two Trumps want to have exposed. But it is not coincidence that the details of how his tax proposals would benefit himself personally or the hedge fund managers with whom he invests, or how trade proposals he supports would build markets for his luxury enclaves and players for his golf courses, have as yet to become public. What details would expose is pretty clear: the proposals are of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich. Trumpeting Trump serves Real Trump best by avoiding attention to the connection between them.[4]

Trump is not the only billionaire who is concerned with protecting his or her own interests in the arena of public policy. But he is unique in how he uses his public persona directly to promote his own financial interests. The Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson use their money to advance their own personal financial interest, but they do it from the shadows. These billionaires would rather conceal that brag about what they are promoting with their money. To the extent that Real Trump finances Trumpeting Trump’s campaign for the nomination for president, he trumpets the name “Trump” (the god of names clearly has a sense of humor), and it becomes part of the branding for his real enterprises.

And other billionaires at least try to show a real concern for those that are at the other end of the inequality scale from themselves. Warren Buffet is publicly directly concerned with inequality and sometimes acts against his own interests. By contrast, nothing Trumpeting Trump has trumpeted might harm Real Trump’s private interests.

Historically, the holders of great wealth have sometimes been public benefactors, whatever their complex motives might have been. One thinks of the Carnegies, the Rockefellers, the Roosevelts, for that matter even Gates and Zuckerman. No one has ever heard Trumpeting Trump boast about the charities Real Trump has endowed, the gifts to educational institutions, hospitals, medical research, or international peace. No donations by the Trumps show that for them black lives matter, or women’s lives, or immigrants’ lives, or the lives of the sick or the disabled or the elderly. [5]

But why do so many seem to buy the harangues that Trumpeting Trump is trumpeting? A rather speculative answer is spelled out in
Blog #77b, at pmarcuse.wordpress.com,
which scratches the surface of that argument.

———–

[1] One place where Real Trump and Trumpeting Trump seem to be together is when Donald Trump, as moderator of The Apprentice on TV, says to an unsuccessful apprentice, “You’re fired!” With glee. No human concern for the consequences. A desirable attitude for a U.S. President?

[2] According to Investment News, “Trump has not done nearly as well as other American business magnates, or even a typical middle-class retiree following sound financial advice, as a review of the numbers over the past four decades shows. He is a billionaire today despite this poor performance because when he started his career, his father had already built a colossal real-estate empire. And the wealth   Donald Trump has accumulated since then has at times come at the expense of taxpayers or the banks and investors who have lent him money.” Max Ehrenfreund, “The real reason Donald Trump is so rich,” Comments 102, The Washington Post, September 3, 2015. Available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/09/03/if-donald-trump-followed-this-really-basic-advice-hed-be-a-lot-richer/. And Max Ehrenfreund, at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/09/03/if-donald-trump-followed-this-really-basic-advice-he’d-be-a-lot-richer.

[3] These are not ordinary folks’ omissions or based on lack of funds, but omissions of someone boasting about his wealth and seeking the highest elected office of the land, based on what he can do for its citizenry,

[4] See, for instance, the data assemble at   Trevor Hunnicutt “Donald Trump’s investment portfolio a messy hodgepodge: advisers. New disclosures by the GOP presidential candidate reveal an unclear money-management strategy, say advisers” Investment News, July 23, 2015, available at http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20150723/FREE/150729940/donald-trumps-investment-portfolio-a-messy-hodgepodge-advisers. It may be because the facts referred to here can be awkward for contenders within the Republican Party who likely share many of the values that underlie Trump’s approach that they have not primary debates. They may play out differently in the general election surfaced at all prominently in the Republican campaign.

[5]These are not ordinary folks’ omissions or based on lack of funds, but omissions of someone boasting about his wealth and seeking the highest elected office of the land, based on what he can do for its citizenry,

Blog #55b – Why Does Inequality Have Popular Support?


Blog #55b – Why Does Inequality Have Popular Support?

The Agents of Inequality The Agents of InequalityThe Processes of Inequality: Exploitation, Dispossession, Incorporation

I have argue here and elsewhere[1] that

Social inequality is caused, not by any technical developments or by agreement that it is just or because the people wanted it, but because it directly serves the interest of the 1%, who have the power to impose it through the processes of exploitation, dispossession, and incorporation. Inequality is inevitably a matter of conflict, roughly between the 1% and the 99%. Any serious effort to reduce inequality must deal with this simple and obvious fact.

(It should be clear that we are talking about social inequality, inequalities in social relations reflecting hierarchies of power and wealth, not individual differences or inequalities in strength, wisdom, inherent abilities, virtues. It is of course what Jefferson meant in the Declaration of Independence’s ringing declaration: “all men are created equal.” They obviously differ in size, weight, talent, strength, desires, etc.; it’s the social relations among them that is in question.)

But what are the concrete processes that create social inequality, that permit the 1% to impose social inequality in society, to their benefit?

The answer, again, can be given in a few words: Exploitation, Historical Dispossession, Capitalist Dispossession (Expropriation), and Incorporation

Historic dispossession actually came first, in primitive societies and pre-feudal monarchies and empires and autocracies. The 1%, the established rulers, chieftains, monarchs, simply were entitled to take possession of what they wanted from anyone in their power. They did this through the exercise of brute force: slavery, where the masters took possession of anything of the slaves that they wished, war, where the spoils of the war were simply taken by the victors from the losers as their spoils.. The practice persisted well into feudalism, with the divine right of kinds (even Mozart built on its recognition in Figaro’s objection to the exercise of the Rights of the Seigneur in 1786!). And the dispossession of villagers’ use of the traditional commons for grazing, what we would now call privatization, was a significant part of the transition from feudalism to capitalism.[2]

Exploitation is a widely understood concept, and understood as a constitutive component of capitalism in the form of the wage relationship in production. , and focuses on the processes by which one person or group obtains the benefits of someone else’s labor through the payment of wages that do not equal the value of that labor. The profits accruing to the employer in that relationship accrue to capital, are a “return to capital” in Piketty’s sesnse, a conspicuously non-judgmental phrase for a relationship that could raise some questions of justice but which clearly benefit the 1% and the expense of a major part of the 99%, and contribute to a mounting inequality as capitalist forms of production expand and go global.

Capitalist dispossession, however, accompanies the drive to ever-increasing profit (what Marx calls primitive accumulation and David Harvey calls accumulation by dispossession[3]). Colonialism is its manifestation at the international level, but is paralleled by national practices. Rosa Luxemburg spoke of “The right to take possession, oppression, looting, are openly displayed without any attempt at concealment, and implemented by force if necessary.”[4] But in its mature capitalist form it is put forward as a right, and a right available to anyone, not merely of a chieftain or king exerting a hereditary or divine right to its exercise.

Foreclosing on a mortgage effectively dispossesses the “owner” of the house of his occupancy of it, and expropriates the house to the bank or financial institution that holds the mortgage. And the force behind it is state sanctioned and applied, if not under specific legislation then by execution of judgments in courts of law. The Sheriff will enforce the order of eviction a court grants, and forcefully puts the owner’s property on the street.

Contemporary dispossession (expropriation) differs from both its preceding forms, historic and capitalist, in two major ways;

  • Contemporary dispossession is much less focused on physical dispossession, and involves a whole range of broader goods and assets, including property rights in all sorts of values which are included when one speaks of inequality. Contemporary dispossession might more properly be called expropriation, the taking of some key rights in that bundle of rights called ownership, key rights that go into the composition of wealth and power that Piketty, unlike Marx, lumps together in the term capital. The most obvious, of course, is the right to income or a share in the profits from an investment. Expropriation here is not the taking of the physical stock certificate, but the justification for not honoring a supposed “right” to a proper return on the investment. The right to an education, the right to health care, the right not to be discriminated against, the right to security of the person, the right to the sanctity of the home free of trespass, the right to vote, are all rights the 1% take for granted, but that large parts of the 99% find in practice not or barely available to them. The effective elimination of those rights in practice leads directly to the relative reduced wealth and income of the 99% and the expansion of the wealth and income of the 1%, increasing inequality by the most conventional of measures, and in a quite fundamental way. As an (critical) example, every reduction in the progressivity of taxes used to make such rights meaningful goes directly in the pockets of the 1% and the expense of those in need of those rights.
  • Contemporary dispossession in fact largely creates those very rights and values it then expropriates. Ironically, when the “owner” of a home among the 99% loses it in foreclosure, his or her very ability to purchase it was enabled through high credit by the institutions of the 1%, who end up unharmed by the foreclosure. The bank owner, surely among the 1%, itself enabled the creation of the owned homes of many of the 99% which it helped finance, and then through foreclosure dispossesses the homeowner of that home to its own benefit, widening the gap between the two. The whole process of financialization, and the credit bubble it engendered has caused harm to the 99% from which the 1% have benefited, so that their share of the society’s wealth has increased while that of the 99% has decreased. It is a case of private dispossession/expropriation.

How could the 1% get away with this, in an advanced democracy? It couldn’t happen without support, including much active support, from a large part of the population, at least in the so-called “advanced democracies.”

Incorporation is the best term I can think of for the answer. Not in the sense of forming a corporation, of course, but in the sense of absorbing any potential resistance within it, making the resistance itself part of the system it attempts to criticize. Co-optation might be an easier term, but it is co-optation at a fundamental level, deliberately provoked and nurtured out of self-interest. But then internalized as natural, inevitable, and indeed desirable by the majority whose interests are in fact badly served by it. If the key cause of inequality is what was theorized at the opening here:

Social inequality is caused, not by any technical developments or by agreement that it is just or because the people wanted it, but because it directly serves the interest of the 1%; who have the power to impose it.

The question becomes how have the 1% amassed that power, and why are the 99% not able to resist it?

But that question is simply missing from mainstream discussions of inequality, and rarely raised even in critical discussions in economics even from the left, where it might be expected but where it seems to encounter a blockage that requires understanding. Instead what critical analysis exists is incorporated in a mainstream analysis that neglects fundamental conflicts and instead pokes at the edges of the problem sometimes with sensible but limited suggestions for reform that are incorporated into the mainstream of reform discussions, but shy away from even acknowledging the deeper issues of conflicts of interest that a more iconoclastic discussion would engender. And as the discussion veers away from these conflicts at the ideological level, the political attitude towards inequality likewise veers away from unsettling proposals and ends up incorporated within the mainstream in at best mild reforms at its edges and at worst celebrating its existence.

Such incorporation into the mainstream is produced by the combination of two factors:

1) at the discourse level, suppression of the acknowledgement of conflict: the domination of public discussion of the issues by ideological analysis incorporated into an acceptable mainstream blind to the conflict-laden causes and alternatives, and spread through media practices and institutional support into the popular consciousness; and

2) at the political level, consumerism leads to acquiescence: the strong lure of artificially induced consumerism, as reality and as hope, smothers criticism and incorporates the potential critic into the mainstream of acquiescence.

At the discourse level the public discussion of inequality is strangely limited. It not only circles around partial or simply wrong answers, discussed schematically in Blog 55, Inequality is indeed spoken of in public, and even makes the best seller lists, viz. Piketty, but the public discussion almost always simply fails to address the right questions, fails to push superficial if plausible answers to their roots, to consciously recognize its roots and consequences, to acknowledge the conflicts of interests and motivations.[6]. At both the discourse and the political levels, both effectively suppress or sidetrack.

Blog #55c – The unasked questions about inequality   gives three concrete examples of this blockage of the discourse.

CONCLUSION

How is the foregoing discussion relevant to a concern about inequality? If the analysis is right, a very practical political conclusion. If inequality refers to how the pie is divided, and if inequality is to be reduced, the 1% must give up some of it to the 99%. But the acknowledgement of conflict is suppressed, not because the facts aren’t clear, but because of a simple acquiescence in things as they are, a hard wall that stops both the avowedly liberal and the hard-eyed conservative from extending the implications of their own analysis to the recognition that it will take a serious thwarting of the rich to effectively reduce the inequality of the poor.

The first conclusion: remedying inequality involves a fight, before a search for broad consensus can begin. The causes of inequality are not technical failures, or found by focusing singly on action aimed at improving the lot of the poor, or by changing the poor by education, moral suasion, example, or similar measures. Inequality is the result of real conflicts of interest. In the long run it may be to everyone’s interest, in common, to reduce inequality, but certainly in the short and intermediate run, reducing inequality will involve significant conflicts. It may not be entirely a zero sum game: the advantages of reducing inequality may include greater productivity, less social tension, more effective policy making; but it will also result in some winners and some losers. So the first conclusion: be prepared to fight, challenge the means by which the !% get their greater share of the pie to begin with, seek consensus as far as possible but only around a just answer and realize consensus is not likely to happen except at a very superficial level.

The second conclusion: The forces supporting inequality not homogeneous; the majority can be converted. In the unavoidable fight, figuring out who is on what side is key. As of this writing, it seems clear that a large number of folk, not simply defined by their economic position, support measures that buttress or even promote inequality. Taking the Tea Party, and the conservative wing of the Republican Party as examples, they support lowering taxes, reducing public services, undermining unionization, avoiding minimum wage legislation, increasing security by policing and incarceration, privatizing public services from education to garbage collection to health care, indeed to anything out of which the private sector might make a profit. And in these positions they are supported by a large part of the leaders of public discourse, not only in the media but also among pundits, academics, many religious leaders, grounded in some deeply embedded racial prejudices and social mores.

 But those who objectively end up supporting inequality can be separated analytically. and some can be significantly aroused to recognize their own interests politically. They might be separated, based on the analysis here, into at least two quite different parts: those whose interest these position serve, and those who are in reality adversely affected by them but have been incorporated, willy-nilly, into a pattern contrary to those own interests. In the first group, of which the Koch brothers are perhaps the most conspicuous example, their very material interests are served by inequality: they benefit from the inequality of the others. The 1% benefit directly from the inferior position of the 99%. But they are seduced into supporting the 1%, not only by the media and the doyens of public opinion, but also by their own benefits – their fear of losing those benefits which they already have, even with their limits, in favor of an alternative that is hardly visible on the horizon. They have been incorporated into a system harmful to their own interests by the various processes discussed in this piece. The challenge therefore is to break through those processes and convert even the bulk of the Tea Party supporters into supporters, rather than opponents, of greater equality.

Blog #55a gives an outline answer to why is there inequality.

This #Blog 55b explains why Inequality has so much Popular Support

Blog #55c gives examples of the blockage of key questions.

 

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[1] Blog #55

[2] Marx spoke of dispossession of the commons in the transitional phase from feudalism to capitalism as “primitive accumulation,” essentially the same thing.

[3]What Marx included under the concept, n Harvey’s summary, is included in Appendix A. Harvey’s trenchant discussion of its new form is in Harvey, D. 2004. “The ‘new’ imperialism: accumulation by dispossession.” Socialist Register 40: p. 73..

[4] The Accumulation of Capital, Rosa Luxemburg, quoted by Harvey, D. 2004. p. 73..

[6] Freud can be helpful here, but going beyond the general concept of mass psychology. See Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization