Yesterday, Bernie Sanders’ claim that Donald Trump was “delusional” made world headlines. Fair cop, too. The President does tend to prefer pulling “facts” from his own arse to a more reputable kind of national registry; the Senator makes a good case.
The Senator has long been in the habit of making good cases. He made one against the Iraq War. He proposed that monies from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and other post-crash bailouts, find a way to imperiled mortgage holders before landing back in Wall St –why not save homes and banks? Throughout the presidential campaign, Sanders, a noble American liberal, made plenty of good cases to plenty of fascinated crowds. Not that media were there to report it. Democracy Now once measured more televised minutes of an empty podium waiting to be filled by Trump than those given, in total, to coverage of Sanders’ all-policy speech.
As was evident throughout the election, press remains uncritical of policy and critical only of political personalities. Nothing of the valuable contribution Bernie continues to make in political discussion is reported; he’s gotta call the President names to get any coverage at all. So we don’t get why Trump is a liar. All we get is the declaration that he is.
The continued failure of press to provide any scintilla of policy analysis is what, in great part, led to that liar’s election. If just one outlet of note had really examined just one of the Insane Clown President’s ways to Make America Great Again, America would not now be headed so quickly to history’s latrine. It’s not enough to call, as The Washington Post, The New York Times, MSNBC, Vox, CNN et al did, someone vulgar, unqualified and stupid — a “post-fact” habit if ever there were. It might have been enough to say why his isolationism, so popular with so many US citizens on declining wages, was a bad idea.
Trump is a liar, of course. And one of the biggest lies he told was that he would “bring the jobs back” to the USA. The case he made to voters, 51% of whom now live on under US$30,000 per annum, was that he would apply big, big tariffs to overseas goods, making the national economy TREMENDOUS by restoring manufacturing jobs.
To a person who doesn’t understand the cycles of capitalism, i.e. most of us, this sounds good. Economies, very complex systems, are opaque to most voters, and it should be the job of press to shed a little light. It’s surely not so hard to explain to people that the US, a net importer, has become reliant on the cheap labour of the Global South; that these jobs, some of which will soon be done by robots, are never coming back; that a tariff on imports will raise the prices of everyday goods and cause many US companies to flee to another nation. “Bring the jobs back” was a lie, but it’s a very appealing one whose faults were never explained to voters.
It was also — I hate to concede — a lie that Bernie told. You can kind of understand how Trump, a genuine thicko, could promise the impossible return to the time of Fordism — local goods and local jobs. Bernie is a bright guy who understands that the late period of intense capital accumulation has changed the Western labour market for good. It doesn’t take long to learn that Bernie has advocated for that solution growing in popularity to Western underemployment, Basic Income Guarantee (BIG). Even the Bernie Bro must concede that their man was, if not as “delusional” as Trump, then certainly deluding the faithful.
But, then again, everyone is. Western labour is in crisis, and the best anyone can come up with is BIG, a temporary fix, initially proposed by Milton Friedman, which will create a new zero, raise everyday prices for the poor and sit as capital in the portfolios of the rich, accumulating interest and creating more wealth inequality — not just a problem on moral grounds but an actual problem for the health of capitalism.
Economists like Steve Keen or Yanis Varoufakis are tolerably temperate on the matter of BIG, describing it as something that will work OK for a while. Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, much more likely to have influence than guys who actually know something, take more of a “hack” attitude to BIG — it’s this One Weird Trick that will fix everything forever!
The C-suite of Uber, also influential, doesn’t even bother to read up on BIG. They say that they have the future of work “hacked” simply by being Uber. Board member David Plouffe claims that his company is “boosting the incomes of millions of American families”, and is the future model for all work, etc. Which is a bit rich, considering that Uber makes no secret of the fact that its business plan is headed toward a driverless future.
To give Hillary Clinton her due, she didn’t even really bother to tell lies about the future of employment. Instead of describing an economic vision that would meet the basic needs of Americans, she just talked a lot about the need for us all to be nicer. Nice, unfortunately, don’t pay the bills of people who vote. BIG might pay them for a while through a crisis cycle. What won’t pay them is some Uber bullshit about a “sharing” economy, and I can’t see how a proposal, famously made by the “elephant graph” guy Branko Milanovic, will work either.
Milanovic suggests that one way to prop up a job market and make room for migrants is to strip job-seeking migrants of some of their citizenship rights. The guy means well, but this latter day Snowy Mountains Hydro plan stinks of fascism and failure. Isn’t taking away the rights of workers, both migrant and non-migrant, what got us into this wealth inequality mess in the first place?
That there are so few thinkers and leaders prepared to candidly discuss the future of work, both in the West and Global South, is a terrible worry. If I were a Millennial facing a driverless, wage-less future, I’d either be stuffing myself with brunch or screaming at the ALP, “LABOR IS IN YOUR NAME, YOU DOUCHES. DO SOMETHING”.
Or, maybe I’d just be stuffing myself with the paralysing equivalent of brunch over at News Corp. This piece yesterday typifies the refusal by all press to talk about how kids are actually going to survive a workless future. Meet Anna! She’s fuelled by passion and the entrepreneurship! Meet Alisha! She follows her dreams! Meet our thicko journalists, who regurgitate promotional reports from one of the big banks, right in the middle of the finance pages.
I’d find this “self-employment is great!” naivety more repulsive if it were not just one more repulsive response to the urgent question of all our incomes. When not even Bernie can outrun the “delusion” of which he rightly accuses Trump, the future of work looks pretty bleak.