Donald Trump: "Make America Great Again!": The Trump Campaign and the Republican Party in Perspective (Part P)
Today I want to talk a little bit about what I consider to be economic justice. What I mean by the term is that everyone gets what is coming to them, both a market return and a moral return.
What I mean by that is this: 1) Everybody gets the "market" return on whatever it is they do for a living, their job, their entrepreneurship, playing poker professionally, whatever. You get the "going rate," as it were, "what the market will bear," and all that; 2) Every taxpayer gets a moral return, a proper societal return, if you will.
Point #2 is still unclear, isn't it?
Don't worry, all will be revealed.
Savannah Morning News September 6, 2016
In this issue of the paper there is a story, appearing under the byline of Sarah Skidmore Sell of The Associated Press. The story is titled: No-tipping trend now at more restaurants, with mixed results.
The representative photo shows a young woman called Caroline Pond, "who serves as sous chef, server and bartender," talking "with customers at their table in Park Kitchen restaurant in Portland, Ore." That's the great Northwestern Pacific state of Oregon.
Mrs. Sell's statement of the problem proceeds like so:
"A small but growing number of restaurants are doing away with the tipping model that's long been the norm in the United States. It's an effort to even the disparate pay among restaurant staff and offer them more predictability, as well as a means to cope with rising minimum wages and other industry changes. While restaurants that have eliminated the entrenched practice have seen mixed results --- and some ended up abandoning the experiment --- a number of restaurants are still trying it."
"Le Pigeon," for example, "raised its prices an average of 20 percent and now compensates workers with a mix of base pay and a percentage of the night's food and beverage sales. Cooks, dishwashers and other 'back of the house' employees got a slight pay increase, and waitstaff, bartenders and other 'front of the house' staff took a small cut, but everyone shares in the success of a busy night."
Of course, on the other hand...
"Chefstable, which runs several Portland restaurants, tested a no-tipping model at its bar Loyal Legion more than a year ago. But owner Kurt Huffman said he realized it was a mistake after watching customer after customer push cash toward his staff and them having to refuse it.
"'It didn't just not work,'" he said. It was a revelation as to what a terrible idea it is to begin with.'
"After tipping returned, Huffman said the average pay for front-oh-house staff jumped from $18 an hour to more than $30 an hour and service improved. He kept the higher wages for kitchen workers.
"'It was clearly an idiotic business model,' he said. "The people who really lose out are the servers, they are just going to get less and less and less."
That's enough. By the way, don't forget to tip the young man who helps you with your groceries to your car, at the supermarket!
That is basically the point.
Question: How are jobs in the "service sector" to be made into good, or at least decent-paying employment, which enables workers to actually live on what they make?
This is not a problem that can be solved in the restaurant industry. It cannot be solved by America's supermarkets. it cannot be solved by America's coffee houses. It cannot be solved by America's malls.
Etc., etc. So on and so forth.
Answer: What is needed is a federally-funded guaranteed minimum income, which even Richard Nixon proposed (Wikipedia). The government must collect the money by properly taxing the rich and corporations (especially corporations) at whatever rate is necessary.
We know the standard conservative arguments against:
- Its un-American; it puts the country on the slippery slope to collectivism and socialism.
- Such a measure is a "handout," as opposed to a "hand up," as it were.
- Such measures are inflationary.
- "Entitlements" are already "out of control; they're breaking the bank.
- The priority must be balancing the budget.
- Such measures cuts against the grain of American "rugged individualism." I worked hard and got mine. You get yours. But keep your hands out of my pockets!
- If people are making enough money at their jobs, they are always "free" to quit and get another one.
But the federal government needs to do this, in my opinion --- especially since it has, apparently, given up on the idea of directly creating employment (a la Franklin Roosevelt's Public Works Administration).
But there is also the matter of economic justice, I introduced earlier: a moral return for a moral investment.
What I'm saying is this: How did the rich become rich?
As we're going to see, in a moment, the government distributed wealth to make the rich, rich; and it can distribute it again, or "redistribute" it to make a more equal society.
Let me give you a tiny, tiny fragment of the picture.
Question: How did the rich become rich?
Answer: Government, or public subsidy.
Question: How so?
Item: Where did computers and the Internet come from? How did these marvels come into existence?
Pennsylvania's Army Ballistics Research Laboratory
By 1943 the wartime mathematicians, here, found themselves falling behind in meeting the military's need for analyzing trajectories and computing artillery firing tables; and, apparently, that's not a good thing (1).
Army Ordnance funded a crash program to produce ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer). It was completed in 1945 and is generally regarded as the world's first electronic computer. It was wall-sized with 18,000 vacuum tubes. It spent a few weeks calculating firing tables before the Los Alamos mathematicians were allowed to use it for calculating the hydrodynamics of hydrogen bombs (2).
EDVAC followed soon thereafter. It is considered to be the first stored-memory computer. Its details were so widely disseminated that Army lawyers ruled that they had passed into the public domain. The next group of computers, funded or commissioned by the government were as follows: SEAC (1949) for the Bureau of National Standards; IAS (1951) for the Army, Navy, and RCA; Whirlwind (1949) for the SAGE strategic air-defense system; UNIVAC (1953) by Remington-Rand for the Census Bureau, other government agencies, and business buyers; and IBM701 (1953) for the Defense Department. By this time commercial demand was catching hold (3).
In 1949 the transistor had been invented at the American Telephone & Telegraph Company's Bell Laboratories. Because of a federal antitrust suit filed the same year, AT&T was "encouraged" to disseminate information spurring development (4).
In 1954 the silicon junction transistor was produced for the U.S. military for use in radar and missile applications. In 1958 the integrated circuit (IC) was invented; this was a breakthrough that combined a number of transistors on a single silicon chip. That particular project had not been initially undertaken for the military, but federal military and space applications became IC's "market and proving ground" (5).
U.S. antitrust officials were always there, pushing for the diffusion of critical technology. It seems that the Department of Defense thought it was a good idea to have a second source of the technology they would eventually purchase (6) --- bringing the process full circle.
"Compliance," wrote economic historian Kevin Phillips, "meant that firms had to exchange designs and share enough process knowledge to ensure that the components would match" (7).
The invention, in 1971, of the microprocessor, which led to computers and work stations "owed less to Washington," but the same cannot be said for the software (8).
Again Kevin Phillips: "Antitrust pressure induced IBM to 'unbundle' its hardware and software, opening up space for independent software producers" (9).
It turns out that the major growth in custom software firms, from 1969 to 1980, reflected the expansion of federal demand, which was driven by Department of Defense demand (10).
Where did the Internet come from?
Well, the Internet began as a project of DARPA, the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency. By 1969 the idea of a network got $1 million budget, and by the early 1970s the "ARPANET" was wired to twenty-three sites, with some connection to government-funded computer research (11).
The ARPANET was later taken over by the National Science Foundation and had 10,000 sites when it was shut down in 1989. Its sites became part of other networks, which, collectively, took the name of the "Internet" (12).
Now then, in 1993 Marc Andreessen, a code writer at the federally-funded National Center for Supercomputing Applications, came up with the "vernacular protocol" for Web access by the masses. That year, 1993, the number of commercial sites jumped from 50 to over ten thousand. Mr. Andreessen and some friends went on to found Netscape (13).
By the way, you know how the U.S. government are not allowed to negotiate directly with the big pharmaceutical companies, on drug prices? (14).
Here's a small factoid that might be of interest.
By 1965 Washington accounted for nearly two-thirds of all spending on biomedical research. And even in the mid-1990s, 40 percent of all national biomedical research was still being underwritten by the feds" (15).
The Human Genome
"When the mapping of the human genome was announced in 2000," Kevin Phillips wrote, "much of the credit went to the federally-sponsored Human Genome Project, the biotech equivalent of the half-century earlier Manhattan Project to split the atom" (16).
Now, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, notwithstanding, this is the true picture; and as I said, this is but a tiny, tiny fragment of the scenario. The same story goes for just about anything that is "dynamic"---to borrow a term from the great Noam Chomsky---in the American economy.
But I want to move on to something else.
There are many American families that can produce a narrative that goes something like this: "My uncle Stanislaus came to America, from his native Poland, with only five dollars in his pocket........"
And so on and so forth. What follows is a tale about how a freedom-seeking fifteen-year old, armed with nothing but his own intelligence and gumption, animated by a dream --- of some kind --- came to the United States and pulled himself up by his bootstraps and became a tremendous success --- one of America's most dynamic and not to mention richest entrepreneurs.
Yada, yada, yada...
The other part of that is that this kind of narrative is often used to bash African-Americans over the head, to suppose that they look bad in comparison with the uncle Stanislauses of the world. Such a tour de force tale is made to emphasize the supposed laziness, welfare dependence, and criminal mindedness of the U.S. black population.
One even sees a little of this here, on Hub Pages, if you can believe that. Therefore I want to take a closer look at how Uncle Stanislaus might have pulled it off.
I don't pretend that I'm giving a complete and definitive answer. But I think the fragment I will provide begins to help us crack the code.
We return to World War Two, ten weeks after its outbreak. On Feburary 19, 1942, the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, signed Executive Order 9066. This order authorized the Secretary of War to "exclude" any persons from designated areas in order to secure national defense (17).
The order mandated the "detaining' of all persons believed to be a possible danger, especially the Japanese-Americans living on the west coast of the country (the so-called "Nisei"), all 120,000 of them. They were all placed in temporary facilities and given less than two weeks to make arrangements for the sale of their property, before being transported to other holding facilities in the southwest desert, where they would spend the next three and a half years (18).
To say that the Nisei sold off their property, under these circumstances, at "fire sale" prices, is a cruelly gross understatement. Let me give three quick examples of the kind of deals available in this incredibly fortuitous "buyer's market."
- You could get a virtually new pickup truck for $125 (the tires alone were worth the $125) (19).
- A Japanese-American strawberry farm for $2,000. The purchaser resold it for more than $10,000 (20).
- The Japanese owners of an ice cream parlor had $10,000 in inventory and $8,000 in equipment. But they sold it all, kit and kaboodle, for $1,000 (21).
Another important date: March 11, 1942. FDR signed Executive Order #9095, establishing the Office of Alien Property (OAP), under the umbrella of the Justice Department. This office spent the next five years seizing, inventorying, and finding buyers for millions of dollars worth of property, taken not only from the Japanese, but also from some German nationals living in the United States (22).
Much of it was sold by no-contest sealed bids, overseen by a key appointee of President Truman (23). The OAP seized 415 businesses with a valuation of $290 million in tangible assets alone. The office also took over six thousand German patents,---which were worth exponentially more than the businesses---and "redistributed" them to American businesses (24).
Uncle Stanislaus. Stanislaus Dmitri Lubochenko. Yes, that's our fictional uncle's name.
The first thing Uncle Stanislaus would have learned was that he was "white" and what that meant (25).
Let's say that Uncle Stanislaus ended up in California in the 1940s. He finds a little rooming house to hang his hat and gets himself a job. The defense industries are hiring!
After a couple of weeks, if not sooner, Uncle Stanislaus can get himself some wheels. Hey look, a brand new pickup truck, dirt cheap (say, $125?). At the missile-making plant Uncle Stanislaus meets a girl, who happens to have been raised in a village just ten miles away from where he went to school as a boy. Small world!
Driving back from a movie, one evening, Uncle Stanislaus and his date see a sign in the window. Why, its a franchise for sale! He and his date go in and look around. Nice little ice cream shop!
Uncle Stanislaus asks to see the manager; and when he sees who it is... well, our friend Stan thinks he's about to cut himself a mighty fine deal. Mighty fine! The two engage in some pro forma "haggling," but the pressure really is on the owner.
Stan low-balls him, offering an outrageously low figure, muttering something about the huge amount of "remodeling" that would have to be done. As a matter of fact, Uncle Stanislaus isn't quite sure about the location of the business. Looks like the places services a pretty downscale clientele, if the dingy-looking neighborhood is any indication.
Uncle Stanislaus finally offers a thousand bucks, as though it is a terrible imposition. The owner, beaten down, demoralized, psychically crushed, has no choice but to accept. Stan pays the man, right then and there.
He has more than that in his pockets. You see, Uncle Stanislaus has been putting in the overtime at the missile plant, and with rationing going on there isn't much to fritter his money away on and... Keep this under your hat, but about seven months ago he bought this strawberry farm for just under two thousand dollars, and resold it for almost twelve grand to this expanding agribusiness firm based in Nebraska.
Its almost like stealing!
Uncle Stanislaus and the small world girl, from the village just ten miles away from where he went to school as a boy, get married. Having ditched his old country Catholicism, Stan is now a rock-solid Presbyterian in good standing at his church.
He has made a lot of friends now. They play cards, drink beer, and do other kinds of manly things together. One of his friends, a Ralph Camden, or something like that, has put his name up for membership at his club: The Raccoon Lodge!
Uncle Stanislaus already had an "in" without knowing it. It turns out that the Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler of the Raccoons is his supervisor at the missile plant. Stan and the Mystic Ruler would become close personal friends over the succeeding years --- each becoming godfather to each other's children.
And then, praise be to the Lord, one day Uncle Stanislaus would make the breathtaking ascent to breath the rarified air of the Grand High Exalted Mystic Rulership of the Raccoons himself!
Uncle Stanislaus---now known as Stanley D. Lubbock (his closest friends call him 'Stan the Man')---sees his business empire move from strength to strength. And just think, it all started with that little ice cream shop stole...er, uh, that is, bought --- bought for a thousand bucks.
Let's pause here to take note of two things. American business owners, in 1945, would have been poised to take advantage of two developments.
- Returning American soldiers and their families, anxious to start living life to the fullest again, with their money burning a hole in their pocketbooks because of four years of rationing, will unleash an onslaught of consumer spending.
- There will be a "baby boom" between 1946 and 1964. Lots and lots and lots and lots of babies were conceived and born. Children need things: food, clothing, shelter, education, toys, ice cream, and so on.
- These growing families need more space. So, Uncle Stan the Man and many of his contemporaries move out of their cramped apartments and move to a place called --- wait for it --- The Suburbs, where each family will have a whole house of their own!
- And of course they'll all need automobiles to traverse all the big, wide open spaces!
It is important to pause and recognize a few things.
- That the policies enacted by the federal government, from the mid-1930s through, say, the 1950s, accounted for the greatest downward shift of wealth ever known in American history, before or since.
- That this top-down redistribution of wealth was so dramatic, that the period is termed "The Great Compression" by economic historians.
- That the American middle class was created, quite abruptly, in this period.
- That, as we have seen, there was a dramatic lateral shift of wealth during World War Two, through the auspices of the Office of Alien Property --- from the incarcerated and dispossessed west coast Japanese-Americans (Nisei) and from German nationals, who had six thousand patents repossessed by the federal government, to be redistributed to American firms.
- That both the lateral and top-down shift of wealth overwhelmingly benefitted "white" Americans, to the deliberate exclusion of "non-white" Americans with catastrophic social and economic consequences for communities "of color."
No twentieth-century historian with any competence deviates from any of this. The question is: How am I going to support that last bullet point?
For that, I like to turn to another resource, a book published in 2005, written by Ira Katznelson when he was the Ruggles Professor of History and Political Science at Columbia University. The book is When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History Of Racial Inequality In Twentieth-Century America.
The very first paragraph on the inside jacket cover summarizes Dr. Katznelson's thesis very nicely. We read:
"In a revisionist work that fundamentally recasts our understanding of twentieth-century American history, Ira Katznelson conclusively demonstrates that are the economic policies enacted during the Great Depression and the ensuing decades not only excluded African Americans from attaining social parity but actually widened the gap between white and black living standards. Given this history of discriminatory legislation, it is no accident that more than forty years after Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, and more than one hundred and forty years since the abolition of slavery, the average black family in America still holds just one-tenth the assets of the average white family."
Let us go deeper into the text, because what we want to try to find out is this: Was there any reason why African Americans could not duplicate the heroic, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, rugged individualist adventure.
Let's see... just picking a spot at random....
Oh, here we go:
"In this period, most blacks, some three in four, lived in the South," wrote Dr. Katznelson. "As a whole, the region was poor, often desperately so, for whites as well as blacks," (26).
Note: We should never forget how closely race and class are associated in the United States. They overlap at many points.
"On the eve of the Great Depression, southerners in all pursuits earned average incomes less than half those received by Americans in the rest of the country. Most, nearly 16 million, worked the land in the 1930s and early 1940s. Farm labor dominated the economy of the South as in no other region of the country. Of all people engaged in agricultural labor nationwide, 53 percent worked in the South in 1930, and 50 percent in 1940. Of this massive southern agricultural labor force, 40 percent of those classified by the U.S. Bureau of the Census as 'laborers' were black in 1940, as were 55 percent of the region's sharecroppers" (27).
Numbers to keep straight:
- 75% of the black population located in the South.
- 16 million people worked the land in the 1930s and early 1940
- 53 percent of these farm laborers were in the South in 1930 and 50 percent in 1940
- Of this 50-53 percent, 40 percent were black; blacks made up 55 percent of the country's sharecroppers
Therefore, any legislation aimed farm workers, in either a positive or a negative way should have an outsized effect on blacks in the South.
Let's keep reading:
"From today's vantage, it is difficult to convey the extent of black deprivation. Despite the large number of black agricultural workers, just 8 percent of southern farm land was operated by black owners, tenants, and sharecroppers; and only a small proportion of black farmers, about one in ten, owned their own land. Short of capital, limited in their access to banks, and often taxed disproportionately on their holdings, these proprietors, less insulated from adversity, had a tenuous hold on their property. In the 1920s, many barely held on during the epidemic of the boll weevil. Overall, black, as well as white, ownership declined. In the 1930s, buttressed by federal agricultural assistance, white ownership trends reversed, increasing sharply, but black ownership again declined. The holdings of black farmers, furthermore, were much smaller than white holdings---63 acres in 1935, compared to 145 on average for whites---and their acreage was worth 20 percent less. Thus the average value of a black farm that year was $1,864 compared to $5,239 for whites" (28).
I'm not seeing that "level playing field" yet, that America is so famous for; and remember, seventy-five percent of the black population is located in the South, making up more than half of the region's agricultural workforce.
Let's have a little more, to get a full picture. Still quoting Dr. Katznelson:
"The vast majority of black farmers were even more marginalized, working in the main on white farms as terribly compensated workers of one kind or another. They were in the greater part tenants or sharecroppers. Of the tenants, a small percentage, not more than 10 percent, rented land and thus, in effect, were independent farmers but not owners. Most tenants were supervised workers, often in work groups, whose 'wages, however, are not determined according to supply and demand in a free labor market' because the supply was overwhelming and mobility almost entirely absent. They faced a good deal of intimidation, including beatings and sexual coercion. Sharecroppers were even more dependent and ordinarily immobile" (29).
Same long paragraph. Still quoting:
"Debt tied them to a particular planter who provided the loans for rent, food, seed, and farm implements without which these farmers could not subsist. Rather than being paid in wages, they received a share of the product, and thus were vulnerable to drops in price for the commodities they farmed. When the year closed with the cropper in debt to the farmer (a calculation based on accounting the cropper had little knowledge of and even less control), he and his family faced long months of acute destitution. Black tenants lived on the edge. The availability of food varied by the season, peaking in the fall when they were paid for their cotton and other crops and in the spring when they were extended credit by their landlords. 'During the other four to six months of the year,' Allison Davis reported in his classic study, Deep South (1941), 'most tenant families... between 1933 and 1935, lived in semistarvation,' subsisting mainly on bread and milk" (30).
Still not seeing the level playing field. Now that we have a general picture in mind: What about government programs for relief during the Great Depression?
Well, "[d]espite efforts by Washington administrators, neither the size of benefits nor the pattern of distribution was standardized across the country" (31).
"Although the Emergency Relief Act of 1933 furnished considerable powers to Harry Hopkins, the administrator of FERA, he soon discovered that 'he had to tailor relief... to accommodate the demands of southern plantation owners for cheap farm labor by curtailing [the level of] relief payments to agricultural laborers and sharecroppers'" (32).
Let's keep going because I want you to "hear" this from the experts.
Dr. Katznelson wants us to know that:
"By 1935, ten southern states had lower relief rates for rural blacks than whites, representing not actual need 'but discrepancies in administrative practices and standards' in situations where there was wide local discretion. In some Georgia counties, for example, federal relief monies excluded all blacks; in Mississippi, relief was limited to under 1 percent. 'The lack of uniformity cannot be explained,' and early 1940s report found, 'by differences in financial resources of the communities as the financial burden was largely carried by the federal government.'" (33).
Can't stop, won't stop.
"Where landlords customarily had a paternalistic relationship with their tenants, particularly with sharecroppers, they possessed a strong impulse to prevent 'their' black farmers from forging a direct relationship with federal relief" (34).
I'm just going to keep on letting Dr. Katznelson break it down in his own words, as I could not improve upon them.
"These unequal patterns reflected two powerful features in the southern scene. The first was the low earning power of blacks. Relief payments were calibrated not to undercut the labor market. Recipients were not to receive more money on the dole than they would be earning if they had a job. Because the South remained so poor and its rural and urban workers were paid so little by national standards, relief rates were deliberately kept low.
"The second, even more important mechanism was the discretionary power available to state and local officials, virtually all white, to maintain this differentiated system of payments. Though many executive decisions about broad rules and spending decisions lay in Washington, their execution was local, placing federal relief initiatives in the hands of the various states" (35).
And the beat goes on.
By the way, as I said, many of Uncle Stan the Man's neighbors, out in the suburbs, were in the military and are enjoying the fruits of the G.I. Bill. Let's take a look at that.
Well, Chapter Five of Dr. Katznelson's book is titled, "White Veterans Only," which immediately raises a red flag!
"No other New Deal initiative had as great an impact on changing the country as the Selective Service Readjustment Act," Dr. Katznelson wrote. "Aimed at reintegrating 16 million veterans, it reached eight of ten men born during the 1920s. Even today, this legislation, which quickly came to be called the GI Bill of Rights, qualifies as the most wide-ranging set of social benefits ever offered by the federal government in a single, comprehensive initiative. Between 1944 and 1971, federal spending for former soldiers in this 'model welfare system' totaled over $95 billion. By 1948, 15 percent of the federal budget was devoted to the GI Bill, and the Veterans Administration (VA) employed 17 percent of the federal workforce" (36).
This is good. We have President Bill Clinton weighing in on this legacy.
"Fifty years after the death of Franklin Roosevelt, Bill Clinton affectionately recalled these accomplishments at a commemorative conference in Warm Springs, Georgia. FDR's 'most enduring legacy,' he contended, was not Social Security or any other landmark bill, but the 'vision most clearly embodied in the G.I. Bill which passed Congress in June 1944, just a few days after D-Day,' which 'gave generations of veterans a change to get an education, to build strong families and good lives, and to build the nation's strongest economy ever, to change the face of America.... The G.I. Bill helped to unleash a prosperity never before'" (37).
"The entire nation?" asks Dr. Katznelson. "This oft-repeated claim is remarkably misleading. To be sure, the GI Bill did create a more middle-class society, but almost exclusively for whites. Written under southern auspices, the law was deliberately designed to accommodate Jim Crow. Its administration widened the country's racial gap. The prevailing experience for blacks was starkly differentiated treatment" (38).
I will quote one more relatively short passage before putting away Dr. Katznelson's book, because I cannot possibly do it justice in this essay.
"It did not take long for reports of obstacles based on race to appear. 'The discharged negro GI who returns to Lubbock [Texas] is having difficulty securing a home loan,' one such story reported, in June 1945. Another from Los Angeles recounted how nineteen black Seabees who had been discharged without a hearing after complaining about 'intolerable Jim Crow conditions at the Caribbean bases' had written to the secretary of the Navy 'to ask for 'rights' under the G.I. Bill.' A third from Atlanta described how a delegation 'told the Veterans Administration on Friday that discharged Negro soldiers in the South are discouraged from enjoying the benefits of the GI Bill of Rights.' They are voicing the views of more than a million Negro servicemen and women, the majority of whom came out of the South'" (39).
And so on and so forth. The point is that we are talking about processes which are, to this day, responsible for the one-to-ten black-to-white wealth gap. Remember, we are talking about processes that not only failed to ameliorate racial prosperity disparities, but actually widened them.
In fact, before the 2008 crisis and recession, black to white wealth (of average families) was one-to-ten. After the 2008 economic crisis and ensuing recession, that ratio is more like one-to-twenty in favor of white families (one-to-eighteen as against Hispanic families) (40).
Anyhoo... let's look in again at Uncle Stan in Suburbia.
And speaking of Heaven on Earth for White American Families, I should just note, in passing, an interesting correlation between white American prosperity and black American misery.
I'm sorry to be so bleak, but anti-racism activist and author, Tim Wise, made this observation in one of his books. What was a major consequence of the "urban renewal" of the 1950s and 1960s?
Well, hundreds of thousands of homes, which represented one-fifth of all black housing in the United States of America, were destroyed to make way for office buildings, shopping centers, and parking lots. Afterward, only one-tenth of the property destroyed was replaced, thereby forcing displaced families to move into crowded apartments, homes of relatives, or run-down public housing (41).
This destruction of housing is serious. The house is the number one source of wealth in the country. From houses come property taxes. As you know, property taxes are how we fund public education in America.
Tim Wise wrote: "Interstates were built through the heart of black communities in city after city, impacting not only housing but economic vitality as well, leaving a congested, loud, disorganized space behind. It is doubtful that the combined amount of property destroyed by blacks in urban riots comes anywhere near the amount of property destroyed by urban renewal, for the benefit of whites" (42).
Certain consequences for public education seem to follow logically:
- That the average white student, in the United States, goes to school with half as many poor students as the average black or Latino student (43).
- That schools with high concentrations of students of color, are 11-15 times more likely than most predominantly white schools to have high concentrations of student poverty (44).
- That this has a direct impact on student performance, since low-poverty schools have more resources available for direct instruction (45).
- That white students are therefore twice as likely as black and Latino students to be taught by the most qualified teachers, and only half as likely to have the least qualified teachers in the classroom (46).
- That whites are twice as likely to be placed in honors or advanced placement courses, as black students; and that even when academic performance would justify a lower placement for whites and a higher placement for blacks, it is, nevertheless, black students who are disproportionately tracked low and whites who are tracked higher (47).
- That, according to the Harvard Civil Rights Project, schools serving mostly white students have three times as many honors or advanced placement courses on offer, per capita, as those serving mostly students of color (48).
Hmmm! Smell that grilled meat! It looks like Uncle Stan's little corner of Heaven on Earth are having a neighborhood block party. Stan the Man himself is on the grill, an impossibly massive, space age-looking thing that looks like it can launch a small missile: The Torquemada 5000 Blastmaster Grill Baby. That's what its called.
Uncle Stan is doing up everything at once: steak, chicken cutlets, hamburgers and hot dogs, of course, several kinds of fish, deer meat, rabbit meat, turtle meat. If it walks, crawls, swims, climbs, or flies, its not safe.
Last month the neighborhood had a birthday party for one of Suburbia's kids. Uncle Stan had baked the cake himself, using the Torqemada 5000! That grill can do anything. Uncle Stan can do anything. He was Stan the Man.
Friends and neighbors were always coming to him, asking for favors. Uncle Stan, sitting behind the desk in his study, with his fingers steepled, looking like a Don, inevitably says, "I'll see what I can do." And in no time at all, "it" gets done.
There is a line Uncle Stan has perfected, for those many occasions when people come up to him, gushingly expressing their gratitude. With outstretched arms and a big smile on his face, he says, "Who's your Uncle?"
There is no trace of the young innocent he had once been, an immigrant from Eastern Poland, from a village so small that it didn't appear on any map.
A few days later, a man from the Government came to talk to their neighborhood improvement association, of which Uncle Stan is President, naturally. Basically, the Government man wanted to gauge their reactions to this new mode of living. He and others were going around the country in this strange kind of "Is Everybody Happy?" tour.
The Government man talked about taxes and account management and investment strategy; and he answered questions about the GI Bill of Rights. Oh and uh... he did have a few pointers as to how they could "keep their property values high."
He reeled off a number of things in an almost perfunctory way. But he really sat down on his punches when it came to the importance of "welcoming the right people" into the neighborhood and "discouraging the wrong sort" from settling in and, frankly, "compromising" the futures of themselves "and your children."
Uncle Stan said nothing. He didn't have to. He knew all about it, seasoned race-baiter that he was.
Does this shock you? No matter, his descendants would never learn anything about it. When the time came, his past would be carefully scrubbed, carefully... uh, what's the word he's looking for?.... edited!
A friend of his, another big businessman with his fingers in many pies, recently bought a movie studio. What appears on the big screen is only what they want the public to see. The rest gets disposed of on the cutting room floor. Just the way it should be.
Yes, Uncle Stan was content to just sit there with an evil grin on his face. When he was just starting out, he had lived in an immigrant neighborhood. It was run by people who, similarly, knew how to "keep property values high." Democratic machine politics had been the order of the day. They hadn't been gangsters, but the next best thing. Stan the Man had learned a lot --- not least of which was "discouraging" the settlement of "undesirables" (49).
Government rewarded the diligence of citizens who "kept property values high" (see Wikipedia: "Redlining"). This is how Uncle Stan had been able to pull off one of his earliest business deals. You see, while still working at the missile manufacturing plant, Stan the Man had secured a bank loan for two thousand dollars --- so that he could move quickly on a business deal that had opened up, so that he could strike while the iron was hot.
That's the two thousand dollars that he had used to hijack.... Uh, I mean purchase... the strawberry farm, remember? The strawberry farm which he turned around and sold for nearly twelve grand to the agribusiness firm out of Nebraska. Remember?
Uncle Stan's story ends with a white-haired old man living in a grand mansion, the kind that cannot be seen from the street. Its ends with Uncle Stan enjoying a cigar and a cognac, by himself, watching videos of his great grandchildren in his study.
It ends with a mighty wall of friendships having been formed, which often fulfilled the dual purposes of gladdening his heart and furthering his business interests. It ends with an even greater pile of enemies confronted, vanquished, and buried --- figuratively speaking for the most part.
It ends with a reputation as a smiling, grandfatherly benefactor of humanity, and a closet full of plaques and trophies to prove it. It ends with a formidable and profitable legacy of political kingmaking. For decades he donated lavishly to both the Republican and Democratic parties, reaping rewards in equal measure from both divisions.
Not surprisingly, his family, all of its branches in America, have done alright for themselves as well. Two of his greatest descendants are a brother and sister pair, co-founders of Floogle, a trillion dollar Internet search engine. The corporation bestrides the Earth like an Olympian descendant of the Titans.
Why did I write this hub?
Well, first of all, this is Part P of my series putting the Trump campaign, and the Republican party more broadly, into historical perspective. The reason I do this is to try to show that there is nothing necessarily new about the Trump candidacy. We're talking about fairly standard, so-called right-wing populism.
In this particular installment I was interested in confronting a conservative notion about "the size of government." The present conservative assessment about the size of government, especially the federal American government, is that it is too big.
I am talking about the particular branch of this conservative assessment, that views government as presently too big because of out of control spending on "entitlements." We are, therefore, talking about white Americans and black Americans.
We are talking about the notion that black Americans are supposedly coddled, pampered, and overindulged with wildly disproportionate and unfairly generous welfare benefits (and though we didn't discuss it in this essay, Affirmative Action), which exempts them, as a group, from the rigors of American meritocracy.
And this alleged African-American exemption from American meritocracy is depicted as coming at the expense of white Americans --- toiling and martyred white Americans.
Sorry, that was sarcastic. I apologize.
Okay, I've gotten the giggles out of my system. We are, once again, stone-faced, sober, and serious!
We're also talking about the corporate rich, of which Mr. Trump is an exemplar, of course. We're roughly talking about the so-called "one percent and the rest of us."
What I'm saying is this: If Government is "big" for racial minorities, including African-Americans, government subsidy has been, and continues to be to this day, an even bigger presence undergirding the prosperity of white Americans and the corporate rich --- by an order of magnitude (to be modest, thinking particularly of the latter).
The reason that white Americans and the corporate rich don't seem to widely grasp this, is because of a process of what we might think of as a kind of "naturalization."
What I mean by "naturalization" is this: Government subsidy for white Americans and the elite, who would become the corporate rich, was folded into the very structure of the society, from the very inception of the American republic --- if not even earlier, say, a century before with the very creation of the "white" race (50).
If you ask a fish what the most obvious feature of his environment is, water is the last thing he would say. Its all-pervasive, so he doesn't even think about it. Similarly, then, government subsidy for white Americans and the corporate rich is like the air they breathe. It only becomes noticeable for them when they see minorities getting some, minor, increasingly begrudging welfare relief.
What about the corporate stuff I've discussed in this essay?
I was trying to give some indication (again, barely skimming the surface) of the utter centrality and indispensability of the state in economic growth and corporate enrichment. The Bill Gateses, Jack Welches, Warren Buffets, and Donald Trumps of the world owe their success, to an extremely large measure, to the society in which they were born, raised, educated, and worked in.
They ought to gladly give back to the society, the public sector (meaning the American taxpayers) that did so much to elevate them. This corporate indebtedness to the American public sector (meaning the American taxpayers) makes the "redistribution" of wealth a matter of economic justice, to improve life for everyone.
Thank you for reading!
References and Notes
1. Phillips, Kevin. Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich. Broadway Books, 2002. 245
6. ibid, 247
14. Krugman, Paul. The Conscience of a Liberal. W.W. Norton & Company, 2007. (page number pending)
15. ibid, 248
17. Russo, Gus. SuperMob: How Sidney Korshak And His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power Brokers. Bloomsbury, 2006. 102
19. ibid, 105
22. ibid, 106
24. ibid, 110
25. The first thing to know is that the designation of "white" was something invented in British colonial America, in the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth century. Before this time, Europeans had never referred to themselves as "white." They called themselves French, English, Italian, Swedish, Dane, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, etc. They may have called themselves Protestant or Catholic, or just "Christian" for short, which was meant to indicate European.
"Whiteness" is a particular creation, at a particular time and place, for a particular reason.
But what we need to be concerned about, here, as it relates to the adventures of Uncle Stanislaus, let me just mention two historians: Thaddeus Russell (A Renegade History of The United States: Free Press, 2010) and Nell Irvin Painter (A History of White People: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010).
They both deal with four ethnic groups, the Irish, Italians, Germans, and Jews, and how they became "white." They both deal with what Dr. Painter refers to as the four "Enlargments of American Whiteness."
They both discuss how becoming "American" entailed becoming "white" first; and how this "whiteness" was defined in specifically anti-black terms.
As far as I know, the definitive and most comprehensive discussion of this topic is to be found in a two-volume work by Theodore Allen: The Invention of the White Race.
Volume One: Racial Oppression and Social Control.
Volume Two: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America. Published by Verso.
26. Katznelson, Ira. When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History Of Racial Inequality In Twentieth-Century America. W.W. Norton & Company, 2005. 30
29. ibid, 30-31
30. ibid, 31
31. ibid, 37
34. ibid, 37-38
35. ibid, 38-39
36. ibid, 113
37. ibid, 114
39. ibid, 122
40. Kochhar, R., Fry, R., & Taylor, P. (2011, July 26). Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks, Whites, Hispanics. Retrieved September 9, 2016, from pewsocialtrends.org
41. Wise, Tim. Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections From An Angry White Male. Soft Skull Press, 2008. (paperback). 304
43. ibid, 197
44. ibid, 198
45. ibid, 197-198
46. ibid, 198
49. First of all, as for my reference to "machine" politicians being the next best thing to gangsters, let me just say this: As you know, politics during the Tammany Hall era, was not exactly played by the Queen of Marquesberry rules.
Second: I'm obviously having a little fun with my fictional adventures of Uncle Stan. Nevertheless there is a solid core of historical truth behind the idea of "discouraging undesirables" from settling in certain neighborhood, even to the point of violence.
One example was delivered to us by veteran jouranlist and author, who had studied the American Mafia for a long time. The writer is Selwyn Raad; and the book is Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires. St. Martin's Press, 2005.
We're going to see an example of how racism actually aided and abetted organized crime, in connection with a concept of neighborhood "protection."
The period is the 1970s, and, in Mr. Raab's opinion, neither the media nor officialdom were taking the Mob as seriously as they should have. On page xiv, in the introduction we read:
"For too long, the majority of media editors were of a similar mind with officialdom. They preferred reporting on the occasional sensational homicides or internecine Mob wars in place of costly long-range inquiries to document Cosa Nostra economic clout and its manipulation of municipal agencies."
This opened the door for the following:
"Despite their criminal records and suspected participation in multiple murder, John Gotti, Joey Gallo, and Joe Columbo were accorded celebrity status and often portrayed not as merciless killers but as maverick, antiestablishment folk heroes.
"indeed, a commonly recycled story by newspapers and television subtly praised the Mafia, citing its formidable presence for low street crime rates in predominantly Italian-American sections. With predatory crime soaring, two Mafia strongholds, Manhattan's Little Italy and Brooklyn's Bensonhurst, were presented as safe havens to live in. Unreported and underemphasized were the factors behind the statistics. Significantly, the gangsters relied on sympathetic neighborhood residents to alert them to the presence of probing law enforcement agents and suspicious outsiders trying to encroach on their bastions. These watchdogs helped turn their neighborhoods into xenophobic enclaves, sometimes resulting in violence against stangers, especially African-Americans and Hispanics."
50. Let me just quote from Howard Zinn's A People's History of The United States. Dr. Zinn quoted another historian, Edmund Morgan.
This is Dr. Edmund Morgan talking about African slaves and British indentured servants.
'There are hints that the two despised groups initially saw each other as sharing the same predicament. It was common, for example, for servants and slaves to run away together, steal hogs together, get drunk together. It was not uncommon for them to make love together. In Bacon's Rebellion, one of the last groups to surrender was a mixed band of eighty Negroes and twenty English servants' (p.37).
According to Morgan, masters 'initially at least, perceived slaves in much the same way they had always perceived servants... shiftless, irresponsible, unfaithful, ungrateful, dishonest...' And 'if freemen with disappointed hopes should make common cause with slaves of desperate hope, the results might be worse than anything Bacon had done' (ibid).
In order to break up the "common cause" of African slaves and British indentured servants, steps were taken.
Edmund Morgan again:
'Virginia's ruling class, having proclaimed that all white men were superior to black, went on to offer their social (but white) inferiors a number of benefits previously denied them. In 1705 a law was passed requiring masters to provide white servants whose indenture time was up with ten bushels of corn, thirty shillings, and a gun, white women servants were to get 15 bushels fo corn and forty shillings. Also, the newly freed servants were to get 50 acres of land' (ibid).
This was followed by the development of a white "middle class" of small planters, independent farmers, city artisans, who, given certain material rewards for throwing in the lot with the Euro-American merchant and planter elite, would provide a solid social buffer, protecting this elite from black slaves, frontier Indians, and very poor whites (p.56).
Dr. Morgan sums up:
'Once the small planter felt less exploited by taxation and began to prosper a little, he became less turbulent, less dangerous, more respectable. He could begin to see his big neighbor not as an extortionist but as a powerful protector of their common interests' (p.38).
The book is published by Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2003. (paperback).