The “New Class Elite” demographic that Obama relies on for campaign funds are the mortal enemies of America’s middle class and working poor.
This leftist/pro-jihadi/radical-eco elite are the ones perpetrating class warfare, and they consider themselves accountable to no one. As members of this elite see it, their quality of life and, indeed, their continued existence, depend on their use of government power to deny opportunities to the rest of us. They have become America’s Soviet-style nomenklatura.
They are killing the American Dream.
Kenneth Anderson • October 31, 2011 11:27 am
Glenn Reynolds is correct in his weekend post to point to the social theory of the New Class as key to understanding the convulsions in the middle and upper middle class; I’ve written about it myself here at VC and in a 1990s law journal book review essay. The angst is partly income, of course — but it’s also in considerable part, as Glenn notes, “characterized as much by self-importance as by higher income, and is far more eager to keep the proles in their place than, say, [Anne] Applebaum’s small-town dentist. It’s thus not surprising that as its influence has grown, economic opportunity has increasingly been closed down by government barriers.” [emphasis added]
The problem the New Class faces at this point is the psychological and social self-perceptions of a status group that is alienated (as we marxists say) from traditional labor by its semi-privileged upbringing — and by the fact that it is actually, two distinct strands, a privileged one and a semi-privileged one. It is, for the moment, insistent not just on white-collar work as its birthright and unable to conceive of much else. It does not celebrate the dignity of labor; it conceived of itself as existing to regulate labor. So it has purified itself to the point that not just any white-collar work will do. It has to be, as Michelle Obama instructed people in what now has to be seen as another era, virtuous non-profit or government work. Those attitudes are changing, but only slowly; the university pipelines are still full of people who cannot imagine themselves in any other kind of work, unless it means working for Apple or Google. [emphasis added]
The New Class has always operated across the lines of public and private, however, the government-university-finance and technology capital sectors. It is not a theory of the government class versus the business class — as 1990s neoconservatives sometimes mistakenly imagined. As Lasch pointed out, it is the class that bridges and moves effortlessly between the two. As a theory of late capitalism (once imported from being an analysis of communist nomenkaltura) it offers itself as a theory of technocratic expertise first – but, if that spectacularly fails as it did in 2008, it falls back on a much more rudimentary claim of monopoly access to the levers of the economy. Which is to say, the right to bridge the private-public line, and rent out its access. [emphasis added]
In social theory, OWS is best understood not as a populist movement against the bankers, but instead as the breakdown of the New Class into its two increasingly disconnected parts. The upper tier, the bankers-government bankers-super credentialed elites. But also the lower tier, those who saw themselves entitled to a white collar job in the Virtue Industries of government and non-profits — the helping professions, the culture industry, the virtueocracies, the industries of therapeutic social control, as Christopher Lasch pointed out in his final book, The Revolt of the Elites.
The two tiers of the New Class have always had different sources of rents, however. For the upper tier, since 1990, it has come through its ability to take the benefits of generations of US social investment in education and sell that expertise across global markets — leveraging expertise and access to capital and technological markets in the 1990s to places in Asia and the former communist world in desperate need of it. As Lasch said, the revolt and flight of the elites, to marketize themselves globally as free agents — to take the social capital derived over many generations by American society, and to go live in the jet stream and extract returns on a global scale for that expertise. But that expertise is now largely commodified — to paraphrase David Swenson on financial engineering, that kind of universal expertise is commodified, cheaply available, and no longer commands much premium. As those returns have come under pressure, the Global New Class has come home, looking to command premiums through privileged access to the public-private divide — access most visible at the moment as virtuous new technology projects that turn out to be mere crony capitalism. [emphasis added]
“Crony capitalism” is nothing more than a euphemism for government pork-barrel corruption. “Green jobs” were a scam from the get-go. For just one example, see: Big Government: George Soros Helped Craft Stimulus, Then Invested in Companies Benefiting.
The lower tier is in a different situation and always has been. It is characterized by status-income disequilibrium, to borrow from David Brooks; it cultivates the sensibilities of the upper tier New Class, but does not have the ability to globalize its rent extraction. The helping professions, the professions of therapeutic authoritarianism (the social workers as well as the public safety workers), the virtuecrats, the regulatory class, etc., have a problem — they mostly service and manage individuals, the client-consumers of the welfare state. Their rents are not leveraged very much, certainly not globally, and are limited to what amounts to an hourly wage. The method of ramping up wages, however, is through public employee unions and their own special ability to access the public-private divide. But, as everyone understands, that model no longer works, because it has overreached and overleveraged, to the point that even the system’s most sympathetic politicians understand that it cannot pay up.
Read it all here.
Neither the working poor, nor the middle class, are to blame for perpetrating class warfare during the run-up to the 2012 elections. The blame for that belongs to Barack Hussein Obama and his many supporters among the leftist power elite:
December 01, 2011
RUSH: James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal. He’s got a great blog called The Best of the Web Today, and he wrote about this yesterday.
This New York Times story, this column by Thomas Edsall on Monday where the regime, the Obama campaign says to white working class families: We’re not interested in your votes; we don’t care. Now, Taranto’s point yesterday was (summarized): “Okay, fine. If after election strategery, why advertise it? Why talk about it? Why assign one of your minions to go out and write an op-ed about it in the New York Times? Why get people like Limbaugh talking about this?” And, frankly, it’s a great point, and I, El Rushbo, I must admit, I hadn’t considered that angle. I did raise a question: Imagine if the Republicans had done something similar. Imagine if whoever the Republican nominee is, after securing the nomination, says, “You know what? To hell with the Hispanic vote! We don’t care. We’re not interested in it. We’re gonna win this election without them.” Can you imagine the hell that would rain down on the Republican Party and that nominee?
Here you’ve got an assigned editorial, no doubt from the White House or Plouffe or whoever is running the campaign for Obama. They put it in the op-ed page of the New York Times, which guarantees it gets out. It guarantees it gets discussed just like remember that picture of Hillary and Bill dancing on the beach down at the Virgin Islands somewhere in their swimsuits a couple of weeks before the Monica Lewinsky story hit? The picture ran in one paper. It ran on the cover of the LA Times. At the press briefing somebody stands up and asks McCurry, “Wa, wa, what’s the story behind that picture?”
Everybody said, “What picture?”
That’s how they got it out. They wanted that picture out, and it was later discovered that Bill and Hillary were dancing with no music. The whole thing was staged just like the rocks on the beached at Normandy. It was all staged. So here you have this guy Thomas Edsall, he used to write to for the Washington Post, now writes for the Huffing and Puffington Post, and whatever liberal publication will have him. He’s out there saying, “We’re gonna win this election without white working-class voters.” Why advertise it? Why advertise that? Well, the theory to explain it, the theory in answer to the question is that Obama’s in such bad shape with his base that that’s how he’s going to rally them.
He is in such bad shape, they’ve got to roll the dice. In order to secure the base — the takers, the people who aren’t doing diddly-squat, the people who have been made dependent on government for everything — he has to run against the bitter clingers; keeping his coalition of artists and professors and professor assistants, so forth, all that intact (plus the 47% that don’t pay taxes and all the people on welfare to one degree or another). The theory is that it’s so bad you advertise that as a way of getting the minorities that make up your base locked in. It’s another example of division, of course: Promoting hatred, resentment, envy, all of that.
Now, you stop and think of it. Insane? It is. I’ve thought it’s stupid from the get-go. I never did understand why advertise it. That was part of my incredulity. I just never expressed it ’til I saw Taranto wrote about it, but that was the one thing about it that had me curious. Aside from the act itself. I mean, the idea that they really don’t think they can win if they pursue policies that will be supported by white working class voters? Imagine that, just by itself, and then they go out and advertise it.
Environmentalism has turned out to be not only a scam and a vehicle for corruption and government tyranny, but also one more club that the leftist elite can use to hit the middle class and working poor over the head. After all, they are not the ones who will be freezing in the dark.
By William Tucker on 1.20.12 @ 6:08AM
This week President Obama handed down what may prove to be one of the most fateful decisions of his entire administration when he rejected the plan to build the Keystone XL Pipeline carrying oil from the tar sands of Canada to the refineries of Houston. The decision did not win him one new vote but was crucial in protecting his environmental flank. The movie stars and Sierra Club contributors were getting restless and had drawn the line in the sand.
In turning down Keystone, however, the President has uncovered an ugly little secret that has always lurked beneath the surface of environmentalism. Its basic appeal is to the affluent. Despite all the professions of being “liberal” and “against big business,” environmentalism’s main appeal is that it promises to slow the progress of industrial progress. People who are already comfortable with the present state of affairs — who are established in the environment, so to speak — are happy to go along with this. It is not that they have any greater insight into the mysteries and workings of nature. They are happier with the way things are. In fact, environmentalism works to their advantage. The main danger to the affluent is not that they will be denied from improving their estate but that too many other people will achieve what they already have. As the Forest Service used to say, the person who built his mountain cabin last year is an environmentalist. The person who wants to build one this year is a developer. [emphasis added]
Environmentalism has spent three decades trying to hide this simple truth. How can environmentalists be motivated by self-interest when they are anti-business? Doesn’t that align them with the working classes? Well, not quite. You can be anti-business as a union member trying to claim higher wages but you can also be anti-business as a member of the aristocracy who believes “trade” and “commercialism” are crass and not attuned to the higher things in life. Environmentalism is born from the latter, not the former. It has spent decades trying to pretend it has common cause with the working people. With the defeat of the Keystone Pipeline, this is no longer possible. Too many blue-collar and middle-class jobs have been sacrificed on the altar of carbon emissions and global warming.
In 1977, I wrote a cover story for Harper’s called “Environmentalism and the Leisure Class,” my first story for a national magazine. Environmentalism was very young at the time — born supposedly on Earth Day in 1970 — but had already achieved a seat in the upper echelons of the Carter Administration. These freshly appointed bureaucrats began canceling dams, preaching the sins of fossil fuels, and raising obstacles to nuclear power. In its place they promised distant, over-the-horizon technologies of wind and solar energy. I remember one iconic photograph of Andrew Young, Carter’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, holding a pyramid over his head on Earth Day in the fashionable superstition that pyramids had mysterious powers to concentrate the sun’s rays.
My story in Harper’s was built around the devastating 1977 New York City blackout (the subject of the book The Bronx is Burning) and the almost forgotten fact that Con Edison had been trying for 15 years to construct an upstate power plant designed to prevent blackouts. The Storm King Mountain facility was a pumped storage plant 40 miles up the Hudson that stored power overnight by pumping water uphill and then releasing it the next day to generate hydroelectricity. The idea was to avoid building more coal plants in New York City. As an added attraction, the utility never failed to mention, the floodgates could be opened in an instant to provide power in the event of an emergency, while ordinary generators took the better part of an hour to get up to speed.
Pumped storage was considered an engineering marvel of the time and many were built. There are now about 30 around the country. In the Hudson Highlands, however, Con Ed had unwittingly disturbed a nest of New York aristocrats who had escaped from the city in the 19th century. As Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (who now lives in the area) would write 30 years later without a trace of irony:
The committee [the Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference] quickly found support among the well-heeled residents of the Hudson Highlands. Many of its founding members were the children and grandchildren of the Osborns, Stillmans, and Harrimans, the robber barons who had laid out great estates amid the Highlands’ spectacular scenery and whose descendants had fought fiercely since the turn of the century to preserve the views for themselves and the public. [John Cronin and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., The Riverkeepers,Scribner, 1997.]
Well-connected both in New York society and the editorial pages of the New York Times, Scenic Hudson began an opposition campaign that eventually engulfed the entire city. The battle to “Save Storm King” was the nation’s first great environmental crusade, becoming a legal landmark when the Federal District Court allowed Scenic Hudson to intervene on environmental grounds for the first time in history. The case is still cited. Several Scenic Hudson members went on to found the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Throughout the campaign Scenic Hudson insisted they were not opposed to electricity but only this particular way of generating it…What became obvious, however, was that at bottom they were opposed to everything. Industrial progress itself was the enemy…
What finally focused my attention on the aristocratic roots of environmentalism, however, was a chapter in Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class. Although the book is justly famous for coining “conspicuous consumption” and “conspicuous waste,” there is a lesser-known chapter entitled “Industrial Exemption” that perfectly describes the environmental zeitgeist. Veblen posed the question, why is it that people who are the greatest beneficiaries of industrial society are often the most passionate in condemning it? He provided a simple answer. People in the leisure class have become so accustomed affluence as the natural state of things that they no longer feel compelled to embrace any further industrial progress… [emphasis added]
My article generated 150 letters, including a response from a member of the Federal Power Commission who said that construction of new power plants wasn’t necessary. I was often criticized, however, for claiming only affluent people are concerned about the environment. The one response I ever got from the press was in the middle of Three Mile Island when National Public Radio called to ask, “What do you say about all those farmers worried about radiation? They’re not aristocrats, are they?”
But that was not the point. It is not that the average person is not concerned about the environment. Everyone weighs the balance of economic gain against a respect for nature. It is only the truly affluent, however, who can be concerned about the environment to the exclusion of everything else. Most people see the benefits of pipelines and power plants and admit they have to be built somewhere. Only in the highest echelons do we hear people say, “We don’t need to build any pipelines. We’ve already got enough energy. We can all sit around awaiting the day we live off wind and sunshine.” [emphasis added]
Environmentalists have spent decades trying to disguise these aristocratic roots, even from themselves. They work desperately to form alliances with labor unions and cast themselves as purveyors of “green jobs.” But the Keystone Pipeline has brought all this into focus. As Joel Kotkin writes in Forbes, Keystone is the dividing line of the “two Americas,” the knowledge-based elites of the East and West Coasts in their media, non-profit and academic homelands (where Obama learned his environmentalism) and the blue-collar workers of the Great In-Between laboring in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, power production and the exigencies of material life. [emphasis added]
It’s going to be very difficult to erase that line during the election.
Update: Great minds think alike…
- Jeffrey Klein: Obama Preventing Our Catalyst to Exit Recession Now
(h/t: Noisy Room)
President Obama’s refusing to permit the Keystone XL Pipeline last week has nothing to do with “environmental concerns” arising from it crossing the Ogallala Aquifer, and everything to do with an even more sinister agenda that could keep the middle class in economic straits for a generation or more.
First, he wants to keep [fossil fuel] energy prices high, according to Thomas J. Pyle, CEO of the American Energy Alliance, in his January 20, 2012 FOXNews article.
“The reality at the White House has nothing to do with protecting the environment — it’s about reinforcing a myth of energy scarcity on the United States and driving up the price of energy…
- Sultan Knish: Food Fights and Class Warfare
…Conspicuous conservationism has made America a poorer country, destroyed millions of jobs and outsourced them overseas. Now it’s beginning to make America a hungrier country. In a moment of horrifying tone deafness that makes Marie Antoinette seem enlightened, the left is cheering that fewer Americans are eating meat, without seeming to understand that it’s because fewer Americans are able to afford it because of their economic policies.
What the left’s food police can’t accomplish with nudges and shaming, they can finish off with policies and regulations that end up raising the price of food or by making it too difficult to sell. As the left tries and fails to sell the general public on conservation as a status symbol, it moves in the heavy bureaucratic artillery.
It isn’t unusual for elites to use the legal system to enforce their own values on the general public, though it was the kind of thing that the universal franchise was supposed to put a leash on, but there is something grim about their growing preoccupation with the habits and mortality of the population. It’s the kind of concern that has a habit of ending in eugenics and the more medicine is universalized, the easier it is to start cutting off access to medical treatment for those who haven’t been nudged far enough in the right direction.
Social medicine politicizes food consumption and a globalized economy politicizes food production. And the politicized American plate has less on it and at a higher price. While the left obsessively pursues its mission of destroying fast food in the name of lowering social medicine costs and being fairer to farmers, what they are truly accomplishing is to take affordable and filling food off the shelves, as they have done with countless other products that they have targeted.
By the time the left was done with Russia, it had gone from a wheat producer to a wheat importer and many basic food staples were hard to come by even in a country filled with collective farms. Finding modern day examples of that isn’t hard. We only have to look as far south as Venezuela to see empty store shelves under the weight of government food policies. But one day that may be the local grocery store if the left gets its way.
- Angelo M. Codevilla: America’s Ruling Class – and the Perils of Revolution
As over-leveraged investment houses began to fail in September 2008, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, of major corporations, and opinion leaders stretching from the National Review magazine (and the Wall Street Journal) on the right to the Nation magazine on the left, agreed that spending some $700 billion to buy the investors’ “toxic assets” was the only alternative to the U.S. economy’s “systemic collapse.” In this, President George W. Bush and his would-be Republican successor John McCain agreed with the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. Many, if not most, people around them also agreed upon the eventual commitment of some 10 trillion nonexistent dollars in ways unprecedented in America. They explained neither the difference between the assets’ nominal and real values, nor precisely why letting the market find the latter would collapse America. The public objected immediately, by margins of three or four to one.
When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term “political class” came into use. Then, after those in power changed their plans from buying toxic assets to buying up equity in banks and major industries but refused to explain why, when they reasserted their right to decide ad hoc on these and so many other matters, supposing them to be beyond the general public’s understanding, the American people started referring to those in and around government as the “ruling class.” And in fact Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.
Although after the election of 2008 most Republican office holders argued against the Troubled Asset Relief Program, against the subsequent bailouts of the auto industry, against the several “stimulus” bills and further summary expansions of government power to benefit clients of government at the expense of ordinary citizens, the American people had every reason to believe that many Republican politicians were doing so simply by the logic of partisan opposition. After all, Republicans had been happy enough to approve of similar things under Republican administrations. Differences between Bushes, Clintons, and Obamas are of degree, not kind. Moreover, 2009-10 establishment Republicans sought only to modify the government’s agenda while showing eagerness to join the Democrats in new grand schemes, if only they were allowed to. Sen. Orrin Hatch continued dreaming of being Ted Kennedy, while Lindsey Graham set aside what is true or false about “global warming” for the sake of getting on the right side of history. No prominent Republican challenged the ruling class’s continued claim of superior insight, nor its denigration of the American people as irritable children who must learn their place. The Republican Party did not disparage the ruling class, because most of its officials are or would like to be part of it.
Never has there been so little diversity within America’s upper crust. Always, in America as elsewhere, some people have been wealthier and more powerful than others. But until our own time America’s upper crust was a mixture of people who had gained prominence in a variety of ways, who drew their money and status from different sources and were not predictably of one mind on any given matter. The Boston Brahmins, the New York financiers, the land barons of California, Texas, and Florida, the industrialists of Pittsburgh, the Southern aristocracy, and the hardscrabble politicians who made it big in Chicago or Memphis had little contact with one another. Few had much contact with government, and “bureaucrat” was a dirty word for all. So was “social engineering.” Nor had the schools and universities that formed yesterday’s upper crust imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, about American history, and about how America should be governed. All that has changed.
Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters — speaking the “in” language — serves as a badge of identity. Regardless of what business or profession they are in, their road up included government channels and government money because, as government has grown, its boundary with the rest of American life has become indistinct. Many began their careers in government and leveraged their way into the private sector. Some, e.g., Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, never held a non-government job. Hence whether formally in government, out of it, or halfway, America’s ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not oriented to government.