Forsaken

I think my grandfather would have been furious.

Don’t get me wrong. I remember him as a generous man. He would have dug in his wallet and ponied up.

But I was stunned today when a firefighter was walking between the lanes holding a boot. He was raising funds. Begging on the street.

I’m already irritated that so many firefighters are volunteers. They provide an essential service. They should be paid.

In California, I’d gotten used to seeing pancake breakfasts to raise funds for volunteer fire departments. Frankly, I saw them not only as fundraising efforts but as community get-togethers. I didn’t attend because I was vegan, but I saw them as a way for firefighters to connect with the communities they serve. These I felt I could respect.

But here, volunteer fire companies (they’re not called departments here, but companies) have to beg on the streets.

I’m horrified. And I can’t imagine my grandfather approving.


Poverty

I gather that Newstart is an important part of Australia’s neoliberalized social safety net. I see it’s been attracting some controversy lately for its paucity, its sheer meanness.

Brigid Delaney writes about going from a well-paid position to Newstart.[1] She didn’t like it. Note that the dollar amounts in the following will be in Australian dollars, which are worth considerably less (as I write this, Google says 0.68) than U.S. dollars:

One of the most isolating things about being on Newstart was being priced out of my social group. Before I lost my job I was earning $100,000. After on Newstart and bits and pieces, it was around $27,000. I wore rich person’s clothes while walking everywhere because I couldn’t afford the tram.[2]

Delaney was, nonetheless, fortunate. Her friends helped her get a job within six months. And now, she writes for the Guardian.[3]

But that’s Australia, where people apparently still recognize the humanity in their fellow human beings. Where mistreatment of human beings, as on Manus Island, remains controversial.

In the U.S., I was not so lucky even though I had friends who were making much more[4] than Delaney when she found herself on the wrong side of a line between even reasonable prosperity and poverty:[5]

The line is the thing that separates those with good financial padding, who might not think much about the $30 taxi or the unexpected bill, or $70 meal in a restaurant or putting a round of drinks on their cards – and those who are fearful when the bill comes, when the groceries are rung up, when opening the mail. On the other side of that line there are no shock absorbers. And of course, the journey is more jarring and perilous.[6]

My human rights continue to be violated, in effect denying that I am even human.[7] And my friends really were indifferent. Which is why I remain furious with them,[8] over two years now since I begged them for help.

They couldn’t even be bothered to read that I wasn’t just asking for a job per se but rather for help making sense of where I am, what I have accomplished—a Ph.D. for crying out loud—and then a job.[9] I still desperately need that help.

They dared to tell me after sixteen years of failure, after having returned to school, finished a B.A., an M.A., and a Ph.D., that “[applying] doesn’t work until it does.”[10] Sixteen fucking years. Now over eighteen.

Yes, you could have raised a kid in the time since I last had a real job.

I can’t care about their excuses. I can’t care about anyone’s excuses. I especially can’t care about politicians’ excuses. Excuses don’t pay the rent. Excuses don’t pay the bills. What they are excusing themselves from is the responsibility we all share as human beings of compassion and care for our fellows.

Posting on Facebook and Twitter about how social injustice is wrong, how politicians are derelict, and especially about how, if only we could elect a Democrat to the presidency (they have forgotten Barack Obama already), doesn’t pay the bills either. I needed, and still need, real, substantive action. They refused.

As evil as Donald Trump is—I see him as comparable to Adolf Hitler[11]—what the Democratic Party does with its likely nomination of Joe Biden is compel me to choose between the authoritarian populist fascist and the neoliberal fascist. I cannot support neoliberalism, which makes it extremely unlikely I can support the Democratic Party (the neoliberal party) in 2020. Because their political gains have come at the expense of the poor,[12] including me.

I have updated my ethics page largely based on Jason Hickel’s article, adding to the corpus that, intellectually, utterly discredits neoliberalism.[13]

Jason Hickel, “Progress and its discontents,” New Internationalist, August 7, 2019, https://newint.org/features/2019/07/01/long-read-progress-and-its-discontents

Brigid Delaney, “I was poor while all of my friends were rich – the hardest part was the lack of freedom,” Guardian, August 8, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/09/i-was-poor-while-all-of-my-friends-were-rich-the-hardest-part-was-the-lack-of-freedom


Brexit

British businesses appear not to be buying Boris Johnson’s bullshit.[14]

Tim Wallace, “‘Very real’ recession risk as economy contracts for first time in seven years,” Telegraph, August 9, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2019/08/09/recession-risk-now-real-economy-contracts-first-time-seven-years/


Recession

The Sydney Morning Herald is full of economic gloom lately. Yes, it’s an Australian paper but it’s talking about the global economy:

A number of experts have also shuddered as the most dreaded four words in investing start cropping up in conversation: “this time is different”.

In his recent memo to clients with those four words as its heading, [Howard] Marks noted that in the world of investing, perception often swings from the polar extremes of ‘flawless’ to ‘hopeless’ with little time spent in the happy medium.

“Widespread attaching of ‘the four words’ to bullish propositions suggests that the environment is being perceived as flawless. When and if that swings to hopeless, the result is pain for investors.”[15]

If, as some suggest,[16] we are indeed in another tech bubble, you can just about take it to the bank that Uber, whose spin disappointed,[17] will be taken out when it pops. And Lyft, whose spin met with approval,[18] is on thin ice.

Donald Trump is standing next to the bubble, if it is indeed a bubble, with a pin. Investors are already nervous about the trade war[19] he stupidly pursues against China.[20] Then there’s fucking Brexit.[21] Then there’s just the fact that this economic so-called ‘expansion’ has gone on for so long and that the Federal Reserve doesn’t have much stimulus left in its bag of tricks.[22] Oh, and looky here: Another—are you fucking kidding me?—potential housing crash. Not so much in the U.S. apparently, but “house prices in China, Canada, Australia, the UK and large swathes of Europe and Asia are far higher than before the financial crisis, building up serious risks, according to economists at IHS Markit.”[23]

It just wouldn’t take much.

Tim Wallace, “World economy faces a risk that’s far bigger than Trump’s trade war,” Sydney Morning Herald, August 9, 2019, https://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/world-economy-faces-a-risk-that-s-far-bigger-than-trump-s-trade-war-20190809-p52ffs.html

Colin Kruger, “‘Insane levels’: Can a world where profitless companies are flying last?” Sydney Morning Herald, August 10, 2019, https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/insane-levels-can-a-world-where-profitless-companies-are-flying-last-20190808-p52f3d.html


  1. [1]Brigid Delaney, “I was poor while all of my friends were rich – the hardest part was the lack of freedom,” Guardian, August 8, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/09/i-was-poor-while-all-of-my-friends-were-rich-the-hardest-part-was-the-lack-of-freedom
  2. [2]Brigid Delaney, “I was poor while all of my friends were rich – the hardest part was the lack of freedom,” Guardian, August 8, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/09/i-was-poor-while-all-of-my-friends-were-rich-the-hardest-part-was-the-lack-of-freedom
  3. [3]Brigid Delaney, “I was poor while all of my friends were rich – the hardest part was the lack of freedom,” Guardian, August 8, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/09/i-was-poor-while-all-of-my-friends-were-rich-the-hardest-part-was-the-lack-of-freedom
  4. [4]David Benfell, “To my friends,” Not Housebroken, April 7, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/2017/04/01/to-my-friends/
  5. [5]Brigid Delaney, “I was poor while all of my friends were rich – the hardest part was the lack of freedom,” Guardian, August 8, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/09/i-was-poor-while-all-of-my-friends-were-rich-the-hardest-part-was-the-lack-of-freedom
  6. [6]Brigid Delaney, “I was poor while all of my friends were rich – the hardest part was the lack of freedom,” Guardian, August 8, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/09/i-was-poor-while-all-of-my-friends-were-rich-the-hardest-part-was-the-lack-of-freedom
  7. [7]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  8. [8]David Benfell, “To my friends,” Not Housebroken, April 7, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/2017/04/01/to-my-friends/
  9. [9]David Benfell, “To my friends,” Not Housebroken, April 7, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/2017/04/01/to-my-friends/
  10. [10]David Benfell, “To my friends,” Not Housebroken, April 7, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/2017/04/01/to-my-friends/
  11. [11]David Benfell, “Heil Trump,” Not Housebroken, July 24, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/22/heil-trump/
  12. [12]Peter Edelman, “The Worst Thing Bill Clinton Has Done,” Atlantic, March, 1997, http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/97mar/edelman/edelman.htm; Herbert J. Gans, The War Against The Poor: The Underclass And Antipoverty Policy (New York: Basic, 1995); Alana Semuels, “The End of Welfare as We Know It,” Atlantic, April 1, 2016, http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/04/the-end-of-welfare-as-we-know-it/476322/
  13. [13]Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, UK: Oxford University, 2013); Jason Hickel, “Progress and its discontents,” New Internationalist, August 7, 2019, https://newint.org/features/2019/07/01/long-read-progress-and-its-discontents; Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 2012); Robert Kuttner, “Austerity never works: Deficit hawks are amoral — and wrong,” Salon, May 5, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/05/05/austerity_never_works_deficit_hawks_are_amoral_and_wrong/; Dennis Loo, Globalization and the Demolition of Society (Glendale, CA: Larkmead, 2011); Thomas Piketty, Jeffrey Sachs, Heiner Flassbeck, Dani Rodrik and Simon Wren-Lewis, “Austerity Has Failed: An Open Letter From Thomas Piketty to Angela Merkel,” Nation, July 6, 2015, http://www.thenation.com/article/austerity-has-failed-an-open-letter-from-thomas-piketty-to-angela-merkel/; John Quiggin, “Austerity Has Been Tested, and It Failed,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 20, 2013, http://chronicle.com/article/Austerity-Has-Been-Tested-and/139255/; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “How Austerity Kills,” New York Times, May 12, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/13/opinion/how-austerity-kills.html; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “Paul Krugman’s right: Austerity kills,” Salon, May 19, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/05/19/paul_krugmans_right_austerity_kills/
  14. [14]Tim Wallace, “‘Very real’ recession risk as economy contracts for first time in seven years,” Telegraph, August 9, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2019/08/09/recession-risk-now-real-economy-contracts-first-time-seven-years/
  15. [15]Colin Kruger, “‘Insane levels’: Can a world where profitless companies are flying last?” Sydney Morning Herald, August 10, 2019, https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/insane-levels-can-a-world-where-profitless-companies-are-flying-last-20190808-p52f3d.html
  16. [16]Colin Kruger, “‘Insane levels’: Can a world where profitless companies are flying last?” Sydney Morning Herald, August 10, 2019, https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/insane-levels-can-a-world-where-profitless-companies-are-flying-last-20190808-p52f3d.html
  17. [17]Eliot Brown, “Uber Posts Its Largest Quarterly Loss,” Wall Street Journal, August 8, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-posts-its-largest-ever-quarterly-loss-11565295373
  18. [18]Eliot Brown, “Lyft Raises 2019 Revenue Outlook and Sees Smaller Annual Loss,” Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/lyfts-raises-2019-revenue-outlook-and-sees-smaller-annual-loss-11565208387
  19. [19]Colin Kruger, “‘Insane levels’: Can a world where profitless companies are flying last?” Sydney Morning Herald, August 10, 2019, https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/insane-levels-can-a-world-where-profitless-companies-are-flying-last-20190808-p52f3d.html
  20. [20]Stephen Bartholomeusz, “Trump is escalating a trade war he isn’t winning,” Sydney Morning Herald, August 5, 2019, https://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/trump-is-escalating-a-trade-war-he-isn-t-winning-20190805-p52dxf.html
  21. [21]Tim Wallace, “‘Very real’ recession risk as economy contracts for first time in seven years,” Telegraph, August 9, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2019/08/09/recession-risk-now-real-economy-contracts-first-time-seven-years/
  22. [22]Jon Hilsenrath, “After Record-Long Expansion, Here’s What Could Knock the Economy Off Course,” Wall Street Journal, June 3, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/after-record-long-expansion-heres-what-could-knock-the-economy-off-course-11559591043
  23. [23]Tim Wallace, “World economy faces a risk that’s far bigger than Trump’s trade war,” Sydney Morning Herald, August 9, 2019, https://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/world-economy-faces-a-risk-that-s-far-bigger-than-trump-s-trade-war-20190809-p52ffs.html

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