The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Periods of Popular Political Change Happen When…

…people recognize that their problems aren’t personal, but social.

Oh this isn’t the only requirement for change, but it is one of the requirements.

In “normal” times most people see their problems as personal: if they’re poor it’s because of something they did or didn’t do, or is related to people around them. “That damned boss.” It isn’t seen as political or structural. The line for much of the 80s-2000s was that Americans saw themselves as “temporarily embarrassed rich people.” If they weren’t making it, the problem wasn’t the politics but theirs. The perception was that anyone could make it. Maybe the system was unfair, but not prohibitively so.

Of course, not all people thought this way (there’s never universal groupthink) but enough did that there was no widespread push for serious changes.

What has changed recently is that people no longer think “its me, not you.” They think, “it’s you, not me” where “you” = society and politics. They may have taken the student loans, but they know boomers paid nothing or a nominal amount for university. They know they can’t afford a home or apartment, not because they don’t earn enough, but because wages have effectively gone down and real home prices have gone up vastly compared to what they were when their parents or grandparents bought up. They know medical care is too expensive and that drugs didn’t used to cost nearly this much.

People, especially young people, are getting that the problem is the system, not them. It’s a game of musical chairs and the people in the good chairs never stand up.

This isn’t, again, sufficient by itself for political change, but it is one of the necessary first steps: people must understand that without political change their lives aren’t going to get better and will probably get worse.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 24, 2021


How To Predict If The Shortages Will Be A Priority To Fix


  1. Plague Species

    Politics eviscerates any possibility of change.

  2. bruce wilder

    what ps said: do people see the “solutions” as political or blocked by politics?

  3. Ché Pasa

    Our political system does not allow certain kinds of change to take place, but it enables other sorts of change all the time.

    In other words, our politics is amenable to and sometimes eager to serve some kinds of change — usually not what most people want or what the planet needs — and strictly circumscribes or outright prohibits other kinds of change — such as what most people want and the planet needs.

    Been this way quite a long time now, and it doesn’t look to be changing for the better even among the young and increasingly dispirited.

    The longer we rely on the System to save us, the farther we will be from Salvation.

    The System has to change or it will self destruct. It’s very resistant to change, and there is no real political will at any level to change it anyway.

    What we need to do is develop an alternative comprehensive System that some significant portion of the population can buy into. It doesn’t have to be everyone, far from it, but it has to be appealing, nay compelling to at least a 10% segment which can then influence the other 90% to go along with it. This is what the Trumpish cultists and other authoritarian populists have attempted and continue to try to make work. So far, its appeal is to about 20% of the population, and in some areas the resistance is so weak there really isn’t any to speak of. The other 80% essentially silence themselves and put up with the rigmarole of the nascent authoritarians. They might have the power to thwart them, but if they do they don’t use it.

    The political cultists are the ones with the energy. They want power whether or not they can use it appropriately. They don’t care. They want to rule, believe they have the right to, and in much of the world they have been successful in seizing and holding on to power which they are more than happy to use against selected scapegoats or the literally anyone who does not yield to them promptly and completely.

    They do what they believe they have to do to dominate and control — and at times eliminate — the rest of us.

    That’s the political reality. So far, pretty much all that’s done about it is arguing about who’s worse.

    Surprisingly, it gets us nowhere.

    The System, however, pretty much ensures that will be the case.

  4. Jason

    One should learn to code, or become a budtender at a cannabis dispensary. Yoga will help with stress, and you can make friends at the tattoo parlor a few storefronts down.

    There is a movement against oil you can join.

    Remember to hate the haters while you’re saving the whales.

    Vote harder!

  5. Plague Species

    Of course, when I say change, I mean REAL RADICAL CHANGE, not changing the drapes or the counter tops or replacing the floor with something more fashionable.

    To lick COVFEFE-45 and end the pandemic, REAL RADICAL CHANGE is mandatory but it will not be forthcoming and that’s because, you guessed it, politics.

    Politics is like a black hole that’s consumes everything including pandemics and any existential crisis really. Nothing, aside from the status quo (the rich get richer and the poor get poorer), can be accomplished because of this massive black hole that eliminates all our possible futures if only change could flourish.

  6. Plague Species

    Vote harder!

    Thanks for the laugh. I needed that. No doobie needed.

    Your exhortation reminds me of this scene from a rather iconic movie.

    More Feeling

  7. Willy

    Even the functional sociopath Steve Bannon knows that change has to happen culturally first, that the culture has to want it or allow it. I try to learn from people like that. Not how to be, but about the way things really work.

    But then there’s the hitting bottom, or fear thereof. Half of Americans living paycheck to paycheck and half of young American women said to be fraught with anxiety and depression and all. As our old friend Ten Bears used to say, whatever we’re doing isn’t working. Steve Bannon also perceived that and is trying to exploit it for whatever it’s worth. The only direction there, which benefits he and appears to benefit they, seems to be bringing forth the authoritarian demagogue. It’s worked in the past.

  8. Hugh

    In the US, our foundational law is the Constitution. It still has mythic, religious status, but it was written to defend slavery, limit the power of the military, and keep power in the hands of the haves and out of the hands of the rest of us, the have-nots. When you take women, slaves, and whites who did not qualify to vote (did not own property, were indentured, etc.) out of the equation, only about 15% of the population was eligible to vote for or against it. We the People started with the cards stacked against us, You can can add in other significant events to keep it that way: the creation of the Fed in 1913; a huge never ending military establishment with WWII, the rise of neoliberalism in the 1970s, the moves to institute minority rule (McConnell, Trumpism, we don’t need no elections, voter suppression, etc.).

  9. different clue

    The United States’s first self-governing charter was not the Constitution. It was the Articles of Confederation. The Constitutional Conventioneers felt that the Articles of Confederation permitted too much democracy and too much social inter-class fairness.
    They designed the Constitution to stop all that.

    Perhaps we should return to a fresh re-reading and re-thinking of the Articles of Confederation. Perhaps we should study up on how the Americans of that day achieved the too-much-democracy and the too-much-social-interclass-fairness which the Constitutional Conventioneers were so afraid of.

    I agree with Willy that at least sometimes a culture-change has to be set in motion first before a political change can be built the foundation of the culture change. The multi-tribal-origin African slaves and their descendants first evolved their Black Church and its Black Church Culture which they could then use as a foundation to build various civil and human rights revolution movements upon.

    People who think that could be a viable Theory Of Change ( TOC) should decide or feel their way towards what they think a “better culture” would be like, and then try to help eachother and themselves to grow that “better culture” into existence in the teeth of establishment culture suppression. Once they get their “better culture” big enough and strong enough and deep-rooted enough, they can erect movements for politics-their-way upon that “better culture” foundation.

    People who agree with that particular Theory Of Change ( TOC) can take actions guided by that theory. They can become a Theory Action Group ( TAG) pursuing their “better culture” TOC and building a “better culture” fortress from which they can begin launching political lightning-raids when they feel ready.

    So far most of the first comments here have represented the school of ” The future is hopeless. All is lost –all is lost.” Hopefully commenters favoring other schools of thought and possibility will also comment here.

  10. different clue

    Here is a website I will offer again from time to time offering some readings pointing to a possible ” better culture” and some whys and hows of possibly growing it into existence.

    Here’s another much smaller one.

    Here’s an inspiring little you tube cultural artifact called ” The Dirty Fucking hippies were right”.

    there must be others in this vein.

  11. Plague Species

    The multi-tribal-origin African slaves and their descendants first evolved their Black Church and its Black Church Culture which they could then use as a foundation to build various civil and human rights revolution movements upon.

    Yes, and the crowning glory emblematic of that “change” is Colin Powell.

    Museum Statement On The Passing Of Secretary Colin Powell

    The National Civil Rights Museum expresses deep sorrow in the passing of 1997 Freedom Award honoree, Secretary Colin L. Powell.

    Throughout Powell’s life, he emphasized the importance of education, leadership, and mentorship to younger generations. He demonstrated a commitment to country, dignity, and honor, and nonpartisan duty to uphold the ideals of our nation. Holding fast to his values, he spoke his truth in times of controversy to fulfill a greater purpose for a better humanity.

    Our sincere condolences to his family, friends, and our nation for whom he served so earnestly.Thank you, Secretary Powell, for your exemplary leadership, love, and legacy to which we all can aspire. Rest in eternal peace.

  12. different clue

    Sometimes change of some kind happens when a critical tipping-point massload of people are driven to a level of rage and hatred which can no longer be contained.

    In that vein, I notice that Neera Tanden has very recently been made Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff. She will probably inspire enough rage and hate among the DemProgs that they and the still-embittered Sanderbackers will become enraged enough and hate-filled enough to drop their current approach of tolerance towards a DemParty which would make the vile Clintonite filth Neera Tanden into a President’s Chief of Staff.

  13. NR

    I notice that Neera Tanden has very recently been made Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff.

    Staff Secretary, not Chief of Staff. A different (and much less important) position, thankfully.

  14. NR

    The problem currently is that even if more people start to think their problems are social and not personal, the right wing has a pervasive and very effective propaganda machine that is dedicated to deflecting people’s attentions away from the real causes of their problems and onto convenient scapegoats. This insulates the rich people who pay their bills from popular anger and diffuses attempts to take action that might impact their bottom line.

    For example, the right will admit that workers are overworked and underpaid. But they’ll say the solution isn’t unionization, it’s to deport the brown people who are taking the jobs.

    The right will admit that concentration of wealth means a tiny percentage of people have vastly more power and influence than anyone else. But they’ll say the problem isn’t capitalism, it’s “the Jews.”

    As long as this propaganda exists and is as pervasive as it is, taking positive action about the source of societal problems is going to be much more difficult.

  15. Hugh

    Agree with Plague. The Staff Secretary manages the paper flow to the President. The Chief of Staff per wiki “oversees the actions of the White House staff, manages the president’s daily schedule, and decides who is allowed to meet with the president.”

  16. Trinity

    “I agree with Willy that at least sometimes a culture-change has to be set in motion first before a political change can be built”.

    I agree, too, and with all the other comments here. It’s the culture, and the existing culture is based on a specific set of values. That’s what we are dealing with, a culture that values greed and power and control over other people’s lives. As someone earlier said, the managers are carefully selected by passing specific “tests”, etc. So I would argue a new culture is built from a different set of values. Insisting on a different set of values is something we can all do as individuals and collectively.

    On the lighter side, PS, I think it should be “more cowbell” instead.

  17. different clue


    If you are correct about that, then that is a good thing. And hopefully the “staff secretary” will have less power than the “chief of staff”.

    But Neera Tanden is known to be a smooth operator and a cynical power player and she will try to make the “staff secretary” into the power position just like Dick Cheney made his Vice Presidency into the power position within the Cheney (bush) Administration.

    So it is unfortunate that Tanden was allowed any post at all.

  18. different clue

    @Plague Species,

    If we accept your logic about where the Civil Rights Revolution ended up, then Obama was at least as much a crowning glory as Powell was.

    It is regretable that so many Black people decided that Powell Obama was indeed the achievement of Dr. King’s dream. I don’t think Dr. King would have agreed, but we will never know. After all, he was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, acting ALONE, and don’t you forget it.

  19. Plague Species

    I don’t think Dr. King would have agreed, but we will never know. After all, he was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, acting ALONE, and don’t you forget it.

    And here I thought it was Sirhan Sirhan who assassinated MLK.

  20. different clue

    That’s what they want you to believe.

    Actually, Sirhan Sirhan assassinated President James Garfield. Acting, as everyone knows, alone.

  21. NL

    “… it is one of the necessary first steps: people must understand that without political change their lives aren’t going to get better and will probably get worse.”

    Well, seems to me people do understand this — that’s why a majority still passionately votes every election, except people simply just want more money without any fundamental change in the ‘system’. That’s why we are so passionate about raising governmental spending — spending on us! but shy away from supporting any meaningful reforms. Sure, most are ideologically self-encapsulated and hopelessly entangled in what used to be called ‘false consciousness’. But that’s precisely because we do not want real change and would rather jostle with one another on inconsequential matters. We love money — this feeling stems from the innate connections of our neurons in the brain, from the oscillations of electrical currents running up and down our bodies. A majority of us does have a stake in the present ‘system’, even if it is only a dollar or a stock share in our retirement accounts — we love to see that share go up in price and feel good watching Dow and S&P go up, up and away. Or watching a 0.0000… fraction of a bitcoin rise.

    Plus, we don’t really know how the system works. Here for Hugh from a previous thread:
    “Don’t forget that the FED does not merely lend, it lends for collateral, which is certain commercial paper. In this way, it takes something that is not money and gives you a type of money (reserves). Let’s say you have a CD in a bank but don’t have enough cash to pay for rent this months before payday. You could sell your CD at a penalty and ‘crash’ a bit the CD marker or, if you could access FED, you would borrow from the FED to pay your rent using the CD as a collateral, when the payday comes, you give FED the borrowed money and get your CD back — you still lose a bit of money on the interest, but not as much as if you sold the CD. And that is how the FED supports whole assets classes.”

  22. Hugh

    The Fed can support inflated prices for asset classes simply by accepting the inflated valuation in its operations. If the Fed says it is going to treat your pile of junk as if it were a gold mine, then it effectively is a gold mine, even if it never produces anything including a profit. On the other hand, if it decides not to extend credit or only recognizes a fraction of your valuation, the market will follow it, not you.

  23. NL

    You misunderstand things again, Hugh. FED taking your junk at par does not fool anyone about the quality of your collateral. And your collateral will go back to you, like that CD, and you would have to deal with it. This does not apply to mortgage-backed securities — but guess what — when FED stops buying those outright from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, those poor people you claim to care about will never be able to afford a house. In this way, FED has taken on a responsibility to support the poor by providing housing — what an amazing tern of events for all of you bashers of FED.

    Our economy is a MARKET economy, and therefore it is the job of the market to decide what you paper is worth. I repeat it is NOT the job of the FED to “recognizes a fraction of your valuation” and lead the market — that would be in effect a socialist system. FED sees to it that your liquidity problems did not become solvency problems and in the process crashed security prices. If you value your turd for a zillion, FED will take your turd and give you a zillion in reserves for a short period of time (weeks to months), then it will give your turd back to you and take its money back. When the matures and you are left with a pile of …. that is your problem.

  24. Plague Species

    Actually, Sirhan Sirhan assassinated President James Garfield. Acting, as everyone knows, alone.

    I thought Hinckley assassinated Garfield was Jodie Foster’s great great grandfather.

    Anyway, I’m not so sure changing the culture first is the solution. The context in which culture emanates should be the focus but no one will ever see it this way and the context will ensure that remains the case.

  25. someofparts

    Tanden is awful, but she is a piker compared to Susan Rice or Samantha Power, so it’s not as if she will be the only devil in a house full of angels.

  26. Chiron


    Biden administration is full of Neocons, his envoy to Russia was Victoria “Fuck the EU” Nuland.

  27. at thehighwire dot com, there’s an article (‘WE WILL NOT COMPLY!’: NYC POLICE, FIREFIGHTERS, MUNICIPAL WORKERS PROTEST VAX MANDATE – MARCH ACROSS BROOKLYN BRIDGE) about the thousands who marched across the Brooklyn Bridge, yesterday, protesting vaccine mandates and medical tyranny. It was their “damned boss” who ordered this, but I doubt there was a single soul there who didn’t think it was about the “political and structural”, and not just deBlasio and Hochul being ornery, in a way that imitates authoritarian freaks.

    If they had any doubts, they were probably dispelled by the most recent revelations by Project Veritas that NJ governor Murphy is going to spring vaccine mandates on us, but after the election. Also, presumably everybody has seen videos of Biden, Pelosi and Fauci saying that vaccine mandates wouldn’t or couldn’t happen. And yet, here we are. Does anybody in their right mind think that “the science” all of a sudden made mandates inescapable, and that these jackasses weren’t going to go along with whatever was planned, from the get-go, science or no science? Nuremberg code or no Nuremberg code?

    I will probably give notice on my job, today, and leave for FL in 14 days, or so. I wish the remainers good luck, and will still try to aid reformist efforts from my new state. But, as I told my mother, “It’s better to be a year early than a day too late”. Within the last week or so, demented Prz Biden has likened the unvaccinated – such as myself – to terrorists. The people who planned to cross into West Berlin the day after the Berlin Wall became impenetrable had a 28 year wait to see the light of freedom. I don’t plan to imitate them.

    To anybody familiar with the thesis of Naomi Wolf’s “The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot”, this isn’t hard to figure out. Not at all. And we even have the examples of Australia and New Zealand to make even clearer what the elites are aiming for.

    Governor deSantis is making it easier for fired police officers to move to Florida, by offering a $5,000 moving bonus. I don’t qualify; but then, again, I don’t put my life on the line every day, pandemic or no pandemic. So, good on deSantis. I actually have a high opinion of Murphy’s intelligence, and even consider him likable. I heard him speak in a small setting in Aspbury Park, NJ, when it was still a rumor that he would be the next governor. But personalities and talent don’t count when you’re a willing part of an evil machine. I used to like Fauci, too, until I saw what he was doing with hydroxychloroquine.

  28. Hugh

    What we are seeing now is millions of Americans having to make real life decisions and changes in their lives because of the covid pandemic. Even though we are nearly two years into it, much of our media and politics continue to treat it as a temporary inconvenience because that’s how it affects, or rather doesn’t affect, them. That’s one kind of noise that gets in the way of political change. Another is illustrated by our very own metamars whose view of the world is as an upside down, non-stop series of crackpot conspiracy theories. Real popular political change needs a certain coherence, real people solving real problems. And it occurs outside of, and despite, the noise machines.

  29. Willy

    Are you better off today than you were four years ago? How about than 40 years ago?

  30. NL

    “non-stop series of crackpot conspiracy theories”

    Hugh, you have your own conspiracy theories about the FED.

  31. Mary Bennett

    Hugh, your comment, the accuracy of which I do not doubt, about the execrable Ms. Tanden’s new position is quite alarming. “Agree with Plague. The Staff Secretary manages the paper flow to the President” So, Tanden’s job is to control information going to the president on behalf of her real backers, the Clintonistas. Progressives dare not complain because… diversity. Nice.

  32. Hugh

    NL, most people don’t understand the Fed, what it does and how it does it. So you have lots of company. While the amounts the Fed deals with are astronomical, they are small change compared to the size of the markets they are guaranteeing and juicing. As long as the rich continue to see the willingness of the Fed to cycle money into their casino, they will continue to play there and keep their prices jacked.

  33. NL

    Hugh, of course it is you who does not understand. Just listen to your own language that you use – “juicing”, “their casino”, “jacked” – language of a trickster playing to imagination. You’re right “most people don’t understand the Fed”, or care to understand, including you. Not that I am about to embark on a campaign of explaining to people how their FED and their money work. They don’t need to know how money work to love money. Mystic of money makes their love fonder.

  34. Hugh

    Thank you, NL, for running away. I remember John Jay Chapman in his 1900 classic Practical Agitation talk about one of the major barriers to change was generational. One group of reformers would come in, press for some changes, and then stop or be stopped. And it would be up to the next group of reformers to push through and beyond them. So on the one hand, it was important to recognize the contributions of past reformers but also their limitations and that they could get in the way of further reform.

    I was thinking about this because Naked Capitalism continues to post material from Glenn Greenwald who did good work back in the day but now has joined the ranks of the other has-beens from the Bush years. In his most recent effort, he rails against Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, except his criticism isn’t very clear or even that much about her, her views, or even Facebook. Glenn’s upset that she took money from a “multi-billionaire” to help pay for her expenses associated with her testimony in DC and London. The multi-billionaire in question is Pierre Omidyar and rather than investigate any links between Haugen and Omidyar, Greenwald digresses into a long explanation for why it was OK for him to accept money from Omidyar in which Haugen gets nearly forgotten. And he goes on about how no one at the Intercept would cross Omidyar because Omidyar paid them obscenely high wages –never really explaining how those obscene wages he got from Omidyar for six or seven years didn’t corrupt him. Then he throws in a couple more lines about the dangers of multi-billionaires and their funding. But the supposed topic here was Facebook and last I checked it is no mom and pop affair run by Zuckerberg and Sandberg barely able to rub a few dimes together. In other words, there are topics here: Facebook, free speech and its limits, the power of billionaires, but what Greenwald delivers to us instead is an unholy, incoherent mess. He is a guy who has stayed past his time. He should have quietly retired instead of stayed on as a hack.

  35. NL

    “Thank you, NL, for running away.” says Hugh, while himself actually running away, after being overpowered and destroyed in a discussion about FED, then talks about a pair of random things, including wasting space discussing someone named Glenn or something — don’t consume what you don’t want to become.

  36. Hugh

    In one of those odd cases of serendipity, I see that Project Gutenberg added Practical Agitation yesterday. The snippet of it that I was thinking of is at the beginning. The first chapter is the best. About the previous generation of reformers “a generation of educated and right-minded men, who accomplished in their day much good, and left the country better than they found it, but are floating to-day like hulks in the trough of the sea of politics, because all their mind and all their energy were exhausted in discovering certain superficial evils and in fighting them. Their analysis of political elements left the deeper causes mysterious. They did not see mere human nature. They still treated Republicanism and Democracy—empty superstitions—as ideas, and they handled with reverence the bones of bogus saints, and the whole apparatus of clap-trap by which they had been governed.” Still as relevant as ever.

  37. bruce wilder

    Hugh was insistent that the Dems, whatever their shortcomings, would save us from the dire threat of Trumpian “fascism” and here we are: Dems, the party of the Russiagate hoax, want Facebook and Google to censor while they mandate an experimental vaccine of decidedly limited efficacy for six-year-olds.

    It was only a few weeks ago that Hugh was spinning out a Manichean fairy tale about how the vaccine-hesitant were selfishly subjecting the rest of us to another pandemic wave. metamars called him on it, but Hugh and his sockpuppet scoffed at the early evidence from the UK and Israel. Turns out the vaccines have near-zero effect on infectivity and contagion; the vaccinated catch COVID19 and pass it on, but are somewhat less likely to get seriously ill — a good, selfish reason to get vaccinated — to protect yourself! but, not as the Biden Administration would have it, either a get-free-of-masks golden ticket or a gesture of socially conscious altruism that makes anyone superior to the deplorables.

    Oh yeah and Fauci likes to torture helpless dogs! — let’s make Fauci humanitarian of the year! Follow the science.

  38. Hugh

    Bruce Wilder, no. Stop making sh–t up. I oppose fascism and I oppose Trumpism because it is stupid and fascist. You “hate all Democrats and give Trump a pass” types always are trying to turn everything in to some kind of simplistic binary. Trump or the Democrats. Unlike you, I have been an independent all my life. I don’t have your hang-ups. I think the Democrats are bad and the Republicans are awful. Just because I don’t like what the Democrats are doing doesn’t mean I’m going to run to the Republicans. And just because I criticize Republicans doesn’t make me a Democrat. I would say grow up but it is clearly too late for that with you.

  39. different clue

    People who think changing the culture first is a viable theory of change should get together with others who think the same thing. They could for a Theory Action Group to do thing in line with their Theory Of Change.

    People who think the context of the culture needs changing first also have a Theory Of Change. If they can get enough like-minded people together into a Theory Action Group, they can do things in line with their Theory Of Change.

    Different TAGs can do things in line with their different TOCs and see what happens.

    Somebody may be right, and somebody may achieve something.

    As to DeSantis offering a $5,000 moving expense to fired police in other states to come police in Florida, this is an opportunity for other states and substate jurisdictions to begin purging and disinfecting their police forces of habitual bad actors of various kinds and let them all drain into Florida.

    Those non-Floridians who approve of that kind of policing can move to Florida. Those Floridians who disapprove of that kind of policing can move to the states which most thoroughly disinfect themselves from that kind of policing.

    Maybe Florida can become the nation’s sump, into which all the Trumpolice and all the Trumpanons drain and settle.

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