I saw a thing on TV last night about a company that's buying up foreclosed homes dirt-cheap, fixing them up, and renting them out. Basically, they're making a bunch of money capitalizing on working Americans' misfortunes at both ends: first by buying homes Americans have lost to foreclosure, second by renting them to Americans who can no longer buy homes because of poor credit, often caused by losing good jobs -- and the foreclosures that resulted from those job losses. In other words, the richies are doing well during the recession, and will do even better when it ends. You may be hurt by this entire economic roller-coaster thing, but don't think for a second that the 1% dislikes it. In many ways, boom-bust cycles are good, not bad, for the people at the top of the world's economic pyramid.
The company you work for has problems. You get laid off. Sucks to be you. But Mitt Romney's friends at Bain Capital and similar firms see that company as an acquisition candidate they can pick up on the cheap. So they do. And they jack its balance sheet by laying off your cousin Larry and six other guys you know from church. Suddenly it sucks to be any or all of you.
But Bain is either going to recapitalize the company and sell it at a profit, sell off pieces of it that may be worth more than the whole, shift some of the remaining jobs to China or do other razzle-dazzle tricks that will increase the company's "worth" in the Wall Street sense, but which may not have anything to do with its underlying value, a concept that only participatory economics believers seem to understand these days.
And at worst, Bain can wait until the recession abates and sell the company then. And maybe, just maybe, you'll get your old job back -- but at $12 an hour instead of $24.
So the richies do well. And you, my friend, are screwed.
And often, the people in the Mexican or Chinese plant where the job you once held moved to are screwed, too, when the richies who bought the company find cheaper labor in Vietnam or Laos or Swaziland.
We all love to see people move from total poverty up to $2 or even a munificent $4 a day, but at the same time life gets real rough for Americans who don't have college degrees -- and with the continued outsourcing of office work to India and The Philippines, Americans with college degrees aren't safe, either.
And every time the cycle comes around, more houses move from owner-occupied to richie-owned rentals, and a few million more "good" jobs (the kind that provide a living wage, health insurance, and paid vacations) go away and get replaced with retail or service jobs that will barely pay rent and utilities for a two bedroom apartment. Let alone food or clothing. That takes a second job. And medical care? Two or three MORE jobs, maybe five or six with a pre-existing condition (or children).
The only thing that breaks this cycle is fear. The 1% need to be scared that Americans will become communists and shoot or guillotine all the rich people -- or won't fight a war with a nasty foreign power to keep the richies' stuff safe. Then, and only then, do the richies grudgingly treat the working people better.
What's our next move?
We Americans have been losing to the richies for about forty years now. In my parents' time it was unusual for a wife to work full-time. Husbands' incomes floated the entire household. And jobs were easy to find. Businesses put "Help Wanted" signs in their windows, and if you seemed like a decent person they'd give you a chance and maybe even train you.
Now? More people per household work. And (sadly) we have way too many one-adult households. We have cuter gadgets and cars that don't need to be tuned up as often as in The Old Days, but the number of hours we work per household has increased far beyond the value of the new toys.
We are losing the class war.
But maybe we have just begun to fight.
The Occupy movement is an opening salvo that is now dying out. Expect to see something less non-violent replace it before long, especially if Republicans win more than a little in the November elections and put their anti-worker programs into effect.
And that Occupy-replacement movement will get beaten down, only to be replaced by an even stronger and more violent reaction to the Republican ruination. And sooner or later, either because a strong (and probably NOT benevolent) leader emerges or simply out of spontaneous disgust with how things are going, there will be an American Spring.
So far, the Arab Spring isn't working out all that well. Do we want something like that here?
If you are either wealthy or someone who, as a Republican or Tea Party person, does the 1%'s bidding, you may want to think very carefully about what you are doing to America.
You may even want to start investing in this country instead of looting it.
Doing anything else helps produce a positive feedback loop, and you really don't want that to happen -- unless you are suicidal, which for all I know you very well may be.