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The Decline of the American Economy

I’ve been thinking a lot about the American economy lately, and by lately I mean the last decade. I’m no economist, but I do read a lot on economics and what I’ve come to realize is just how long the actual decline has been going on. A few years ago the US Government reported that, based on its findings from the 2010 Census, the poverty rate increased, the largest such uptick in 2 decades, and is now up to 15%.

As Lew Rockwell points out in his book Fascism vs. Capitalism (a book I recommend you check out), it’s easy to dismiss this, as the poor in America today are not poor by historical standards. Let’s face it, if you are poor in America you still have access to health care, the quality of which far outdistances that which say John D. Rockefeller had access to at the dawn of the twentieth century. Most, if not all Americans, have access to smart phones, cable TV, more food than the poor of previous centuries would have dared to dream of and far more disposable income as well. Lew points out that, at the end, when politicians start “kvetching about the poor, everyone knows what you’re supposed to do: hand the government your wallet.” Indeed. Same for when they start talking about any issue really.

The real story in that Census report was the fact that since 1989, the year I graduated high school (hey, it was just a few years ago!) median family income is largely flat. And, since 1973 (the year the US completely abandoned the gold standard thanks to that “conservative” president Nixon) it has hardly risen at all. Think about that. I was 2 (3 that October) and since then, income has been flat. Even the government itself acknowledges that inflation is about 2-4%/year. If you use their numbers (which I’d suggest are bogus), then that means that we’ve seen what, 80% inflation while income has not grown? In other words, times are tough (this is why Trump won in November, by the way).

Speaking of the election, this is why American voters, since 1992, have largely looked to outsiders for president. Had Ross Perot not quit then reentered the race in 1992 he might actually have won. 2000, they picked Bush, a state governor over the sitting Vice President. 2008 the voters picked a largely inexperienced one term senator over the establishment Senator John McCain. And the same thing again this past November. Why? Because the average family knows what the establishment fails to acknowledge: times ar tough out here, and have been for DECADES. In the years after World War II, a family could survive on one income. No more. Since the 1970s more and more households have seen both parents enter the labor force. For a time this helped ease the stress on the family budget, but it only bought about two decades of relief. From 1985-2005 it seemed to work, but as we now know, the party is over. Since 1973 the government has destroyed the purchasing power of the dollar and aided and abetted the destruction of Americans savings as well as the capital base of the economy.

Need more evidence of how much the average American family has suffered? Since Nixon wrecked the dollar, instituted price and wage controls and created the EPA (none of which would have been done had he been a true “conservative”), the modern family income is only slightly above what it was. And now you have two adults contributing to the total of the family income, where in 1973 you had just one.

When Trump called out the establishment for this in his inauguration, one could be forgiven for believing he’d at least attempt to reverse the trend. Of course, if one pays any attention to this, he’d have known what was inevitably going to happen. Trump would not drain the so-called swamp. He’d be co-opted by it. The signs were already there. He’d surrounded himself with neocon establishment types and sucked up to both Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Now you see the evidence. Trump is nothing more than just another failed Republican president (failing?), who will get nothing done, unless it happens to be a. another war or two and b. something which grows the government even more than it already is.

So what is the solution? Well, you can have more of the same, but doing that is the definition of insanity. Of course that is what usually happens. The other choice is to reign in the size of the federal apparatus and, at the same time, shrink the tax burden upon the middle class. Doing so would be a step in the right direction, which means no one will seriously consider it, be they democrat or republican.

About the author, Shawn

I'm a historian, teacher, and university lecturer with a focus on militarization and empire in American history.

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