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Lazy Saturday Morning Incoherent Ramblings

Good Morning Conflucians!! I’m being lazy again this morning. I’m trying to shake off a cold, and I’m moving more slowly than usual. I’ve been falling asleep at 9PM and then not wanting to get up in the morning. Today I got up at 6:00, but here it is 9:15, and I’ve wasted more than 3 hours just surfing around the ‘net. Here are some of the things I’ve been reading about.

This story really startled me: Only 21% Say U.S. Government Has Consent of the Governed

The founding document of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, states that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Today, however, just 21% of voters nationwide believe that the federal government enjoys the consent of the governed.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 61% disagree and say the government does not have the necessary consent. Eighteen percent (18%) of voters are not sure.

However, 63% of the Political Class think the government has the consent of the governed, but only six percent (6%) of those with Mainstream views agree.

Seventy-one percent (71%) of all voters now view the federal government as a special interest group, and 70% believe that the government and big business typically work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors.

I can’t help but feel we are headed for civil unrest if the Obama administration and Congress don’t start doing something about jobs and the disastrous economic situation that the bottom 90% of the people in this country can see, but those at the top either can’t see or don’t care about.

In my spare time I’ve been reading a book called It Could Happen Here, by Bruce Judson, who is a “Senior Faculty Fellow” at the Yale School of Management. Judson argues that economic inequality in the U.S. has reached the point where we are very close to meeting all the historical markers that lead to the overthrow of governments.

Judson writes that the disparity between rich and poor is now the greatest since the early 20th century, and most of this disparity has built up over the last 30 years. From the book (no link available):

The top earning 10 percent of U.S. families receive 49.3 percent of all U.S. household income, including capital gains. By comparison, this top 10 percent received a substanially lower 34.2 percent of the nation’s total household income in 1979. The comparison is far starker for the super-rich, the top 1 percent….In 1979 the top 1 percent of American received 10 percent of the nation’s total income, by 2006 this figure had more than doubled, to over 22.8 percent. The top 1 percent of American families now take home one-quarter to one-fifth of all of the household income generated by society.

Judson says that “extreme economic inequality ultimately leads to political instability and often revolution.” He says that historically revolutions have been set off when the middle class begins to feel that government no longer serves their needs. As long as a society has a thriving middle class, it is protected from such upheavals.

Now we have the case of Joseph Stack, who flew his private plane into a government building, claiming he was acting out of desperation. Will we see more such incidents as the middle class continues to suffer and the super-rich continue to be propped up by our government with our tax money? Yves at Naked Capitalism asks whether this is the beginning of a “violent backlash.” I was struck by this exchange she had with a commenter on her post:

Brian says:
February 18, 2010 at 8:03 pm
Your post seems unnecessarily partisan and mean-spirited. Do you find it ironic that you are contributing to the general level of anxiety and anger? The pitting of the people against each other using generic labels to divide and conquer?

◦ Yves Smith says:
February 18, 2010 at 8:14 pm
Wake up and smell the coffee. We’ve had 30 years of stagnant real worker wages, rising levels of consumer debt to cover that fact and buy social assent, and a grotesque increase in income inequality (our income distribution is now the most extreme of any advanced economy).

If the folks at the top of the food chain were suffering along with the general populace, it would be a completely different story. To pretend that people are not angry, and worse, to pretend that the anger is not justified, is wrongheaded. Saying that does not constitute support for random acts of violence. But a normally complacent American populace is increasingly roused by the spectacle of continued, unabashed looting.

Judson also points out that collapse doesn’t have to come from revolution. If we continue spending all our money on wars and letting our infrastructure deteriorate and our industrial base be destroyed, we may still collapse like the Soviet Union did or we could end up in a dictatorship as Germany did after the country was devastated by World War I.

Judson started a website, Americans for Economic Equality to support the information in his book with background information and links to new articles that related to the case he is trying to make. From what I can tell, it appears that Judson is no liberal–he is trying to warn the powers that be that they are headed for a fall.

At this link you can listen to an interview with Judson on NPR’s On Point, and here is a Huffpo piece by Judson in which he includes a transcription of a part of that interview.

I didn’t read Stack’s suicide note until yesterday, so I had gotten an impression that the guy must have been mentally ill. When I read what he wrote, I wasn’t so sure. I didn’t really think he sounded “incoherent” and “rambling,” as so many reports were claiming.

There have been a number of interesting reactions to Stack’s manifesto. Lambert had an interesting take on it. I liked Glenn Greenwald’s piece on it also. Like me, Lambert and Greenwald didn’t find the manifesto incoherent–Greenwald called it “perfectly cogent.”

This morning I came across this piece in Slate by Dave Cullen, who spent years researching the Columbine massacre: Seven Deadly Traits – Decoding the confession of the Austin plane bomber. Cullen finds similarities between in Stack’s manifesto and that of Eric Harris, one of the Columbine shooters; he also finds differences between the two suicidal killers:

I’ve spent 11 years studying routes to mass murder, in particular for a book on the Columbine school shootings, and it’s startling how similar all the manifestos sound. Many of Stack’s passages were practically lifted right out of the diatribes of Eric Harris, the Columbine mastermind. Yet while the notes are the same, the tune is not. Harris was a textbook psychopath, and Stack doesn’t read that way at all. Stack has more empathy, less callousness, and none of the vicious desire to torment others for enjoyment. There are echoes of Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-Hui here, but Stack forms coherent thoughts and speaks rationally. He gives no indication of insanity. Instead, Stack shares Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh’s disgust with intrusive government and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski’s angry frustration at “the system.”

Each of those killers were [sic] driven by different motives. Yet they shared hallmark traits of a man headed off the rails. I spoke with several experts in mass murder Thursday, and we identified seven deadly traits of impending danger in Stack’s manifesto.

In the end, I’m not sure that all these “scientific” classifications of people’s motives will matter. If we get enough of them, we will be in the state of social unrest that Bruce Judson warns of. And then what? We could get a violent crackdown by the government. We could get a new new Deal {dreaming….}. We could get governmental collapse. We certainly do live in interesting times.

So what are you all reading this morning? Please share in the comments.