Subtext & The Econ Crisis

I tell you, this job just gets harder and harder. By job I mean reporting on the wildly blooming blossom of misogyny unleashed by the campaign last year, which is in reality just a long crazy growth on an already hearty rosebush. Everywhere I turn these days I see it, because I can’t unsee it. Today I was checking out The Confluence and ran across this Odiot’s article about how Obama is still like totally awesome, but said Odiot is now a little worried. The apologies were bad enough, but then Odiot quoted Robert Reich, whom you may recall as Clinton’s Secretary of Labor. His quote is the most discombobulating sentiment to my sensibilities as a feminist with Marxist tendencies that I have read in a while. I was utterly flabbergasted, caught in a true dichotomy between agreeing with half of what he said and also being pissed off as hell at his re-framing of the second wave. Check this shit out:

The bursting of the housing bubble caused the current crisis, but the underlying problem began much earlier — in the late 1970s, when median U.S. incomes began to stall. Because wages got hit then by the double-whammy of global competition and new technologies, the typical American family was able to maintain its living standard only if women went into the workforce in larger numbers, and later, only if everyone worked longer hours.

That’s the part where I’m seeing red. What does Reich–former Secretary of Labor–mean? Women entered the workforce in droves because the economy tanked at the end of the 70s? WTF?

See, sir, a funny thing happened on the way the 1970s, namely a feminist awakening.  An expansion of educational opportunity in higher education helped. Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique in 1963, and many of the baby boom’s daughters–then accounting for half their numbers–were raised by women resentful that they’d had jobs and benefits for a while during WWII and then had all that yanked from them so they could go be baby factories in the suburbs. Do you think, sir, that that might have anything at all to do with the wave that was building in 1963, and which by 1973 had managed to secure the ultimate right for women–the right to control our own bodies?

Sir, women were entering the workforce in droves by 1965 (long before you claim, ftr) because they wanted to, not because economic burdens forced them too. Look at the data (page two; PDF) yourself: there is no huge increase in women participating in the workforce during the 1970s, just the slow steady crawl of statistics as women continued their march toward equal employment opportunity. They sought work because they found work rewarding, and felt compelled to contribute to their communities and world in the same way men had been entitled to for millenniums. I resent that Reich failed to recognize that, and that he sought to reduce a generation of hard-won feminine agency to reactions to crises.

I have no idea why no one else caught that or commented on it yet, but I no longer have any doubt why women still suffer all the indignities they do with regard to employment, when supposedly enlightened men like Reich think like that and are given the power to keep it that way.

But then he goes on to say this:

What happened to the money? According to researchers Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, since the late 1970s, a greater and greater share of national income has gone to people at the top of the earnings ladder. As late as 1976, the richest 1 percent of the country took home about 9 percent of the total national income. By 2006, they were pocketing more than 20 percent. But the rich don’t spend as much of their income as the middle class and the poor do — after all, being rich means that you already have most of what you need. That’s why the concentration of income at the top can lead to a big shortfall in overall demand and send the economy into a tailspin. (It’s not coincidental that 1928 was the last time that the top 1 percent took home more than 20 percent of the nation’s income.)

And that is true, and it is the right frame. Rich people in this country are on a binge and they have been for more than 35 years. I don’t even know why he pulled that crap about women in the workforce when this is clearly the problem. It’s not just that more people had to share the pie (which was only fair), it’s that the pie has been surely shrinking (decidedly unfair). This is what happens when greed goes unchecked, and it has. The middle class has barely managed to survive, and as long as it could, nothing was going to change, because they accept the looting that rich folks do because they are paid to do so. That’s what disposable income is all about. It’s a pay off to silence people. It’s insurance against the masses rebelling, the ultimate divide and conquer. Now that the middle class is collapsing, maybe we’ll see the pitchforks come out, maybe we’ll see them driven to the kind of desperation we routinely see in the poor class.

I sure hope so, because I still cannot believe the citizens of this country quietly handed over 750 billion dollars last year to the most well-off people in the country. It was, as I said at the time, a money grab. It continues to be a money grab, as anything that benefits the poor or the struggling middle class is teasingly stripped from the stimulus package. They’ve wrecked millions of retirement accounts  in the process of their Great Money Grab, quite intentionally. Those people with those retirement accounts to protect stubbornly refused to accept that truth in October when it was staring them in the face. I wonder where they are with it now?

Now we’ll all have to try to fight off the bloated two-headed beast that is Wall Street and business interest, which is going to go after the weakened prey that was our great system. They took retirement money so they could manufacture the crisis that will lead to the stock marketization of Social Security, and there isn’t an innocent person in all of Capital Hill or the White House. They’re all guilty as hell, on both sides of the aisle. Meanwhile, Cabinet picks continue to be busted not paying taxes while we go to H&R Block and eat those thousands of dollars in tax liability. I know I did. And I’m pissed off that the Obama administration is riddled with tax cheats and swindlers.

But riddle me this, Joker: Why the hell do I keep seeing this Hirsch article cited by all manner of self-described liberals at the liberal echo-chambers I ‘ve visited recently? The frame is usually Teh Obama Fails! But goodness, Hirsch is of that greedy club I’ve been speaking about in this post, and his thesis, in his second paragraph, and admittedly shrouded in language that makes it appear as an aside, is clear:

Yes, there are still some very legitimate issues with a bill that’s supposed to be “temporary” and “targeted”—among them, large increases in permanent entitlement spending, and a paucity of tax cuts that will prompt immediate spending. … This is an emergency; the normal rules do not apply.

Writers have to consider who they’re using to support their arguments. It’s like bloggers aren’t even reading whole articles; they just come across criticism of Obama and BAM–let’s post about it! This argument of his is a Republican power-player* frame job, period. It’s a call to employ the shock doctrine. That poisons the well, and I don’t care if he was critical of Obama. That wasn’t the point of the article. The point was to push this idea that the thesis cited above is the only reasonable compromise, and it must be reached pronto. Unless bloggers want to help push that frame, they should consider their sources fully before using them. I know subtext is hard, but it’s worth it to take the time to discern it, especially in journalism.

*a decidedly different animal than the Republican’s constituency players

Postscript: If you’re interested in the truth, Sirota is telling it: Team of Zombies.


4 comments on “Subtext & The Econ Crisis

  1. Cyn NY says:

    Excellent read, Anna Belle. You deserve a standing ovation for this.

  2. Anna Belle says:

    Thank you Cyn! What a compliment!

  3. bluelyon says:

    Thank you for this. As hard as it is for me to say this, given David Sirota’s full-throated thrashing of HRC in the primaries, he’s dead-on. Hammer. Nail.

  4. Anna Belle says:

    Oh, he’s got CDS pretty bad, BL, but he is telling the truth here. You’re welcome, btw. 🙂

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