Why aren't Americans rioting?

Joshua Holland asks a very interesting question.

Explosive anger is spilling out onto the streets of Europe. The meltdown of the global economy is igniting massive social unrest in a region that has long been a symbol of political stability and social cohesion.

It's not a new trend: A wave of upheaval is spreading from the poorer countries on the periphery of the global economy to the prosperous core.
Notably absent from the list of countries where the economic crunch is rending the social fabric is the good ole US of A, a state with the greatest level of economic inequality in the wealthy world.

Outside of a few scattered and quickly contained protests, the citizens of the U.S. -- a country born of revolution, but with an elite that's been terrified of that legacy since immediately after its founding -- have been calm, despite opinion polls showing that Americans are more dissatisfied with the direction in which the country has been headed since they began measuring such things.

It's a baffling disconnect, considering that real wages for all but the top 10 percent of the economic pile haven't increased in 35 years.

It's more bizarre still when you consider that while European governments have handled their own bailouts relatively transparently, the U.S. government has doled out close to $10 trillion in bailouts, loan guarantees and fiscal stimulus -- if there were a million-dollar bill, that would be a stack of 10 million of them -- with a stunning lack of oversight or accountability.

Even the congressional commission charged with overseeing key parts of the banking bailout can't get answers to basic questions like "who's getting what?"

Americans are rightfully angry about that state of affairs, but with a few small exceptions, quietly so. Why?

What is wrong with America? Why are we so beaten down that we won't stand up for ourselves even when we are being robbed blind?

I know this isn't a strictly economic article, but its ramifications are.

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cause we're all typing away on the Internets!

Rioting, public protests, hitting the streets when economic policy is positively insane, ripping off the taxpayer, stupid, destroying the nation....seems like an economic topic to me!

When Bruce Springsteen played the half time show I started to cry because I felt I was watching a hollow shell of American culture that is being destroyed and will be no more.

He represents blue collar, middle class America...basic, pick up truck, beer drinking, hard working regular folk....

It's like it's all being destroyed and while I think now most people are aware of it....we still cannot get policy, government, officials to stop doing it.

Dude, it's winter. Where's your sense of history?

"Long Hot Summer of ..." Ring any bells?

Americans do not tend to riot during the winter months. Rioting is more a summer thing in our cultural history.

Bruce, I agree with you...

and I said as much on a couple of blogs yesterday. I think if the weather were a bit warmer in the Northeast, we would see more protests in the Capital and New York. I believe it will take massive citizen protests in both our political and financial capitals to get the attention of these weasels. But, it cannot be understated that we do live in a quasi-police state and union membership is the lowest it has been in almost a century. Hard to foresee mass outrage like the late 60s but it is most definitely warranted, IMHO!!

union membership increased

mentioned here.

silver lining, not enough of course but nice sign.

When you can't feed your kids

it doesn't matter what the weather is like. The hunger marches in 1931-33 happened in the winter.

Nevertheless, I think that by this summer things are going to be so bad that we might actually see some social unrest for the first time since the late 60's.
Except this time it might be with guns.

It won't be pretty.

Chris Hedges,the pullitzer prize winning journalist, has shown a definite apocalyptic view since the financial crisis broke last fall. He recently wrote an article forecasting our impending demise which included the following:

There are a few isolated individuals who saw it coming. The political philosophers Sheldon S. Wolin, John Ralston Saul and Andrew Bacevich, as well as writers such as Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, David Korten and Naomi Klein, along with activists such as Bill McKibben and Ralph Nader, rang the alarm bells. They were largely ignored or ridiculed. Our corporate media and corporate universities proved, when we needed them most, intellectually and morally useless.

Wolin, who taught political philosophy at the University of California in Berkeley and at Princeton, in his book “Democracy Incorporated” uses the phrase inverted totalitarianism to describe our system of power. Inverted totalitarianism, unlike classical totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader. It finds its expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. It purports to cherish democracy, patriotism and the Constitution while cynically manipulating internal levers to subvert and thwart democratic institutions. Political candidates are elected in popular votes by citizens, but they must raise staggering amounts of corporate funds to compete. They are beholden to armies of corporate lobbyists in Washington or state capitals who write the legislation. A corporate media controls nearly everything we read, watch or hear and imposes a bland uniformity of opinion or diverts us with trivia and celebrity gossip. In classical totalitarian regimes, such as Nazi fascism or Soviet communism, economics was subordinate to politics. “Under inverted totalitarianism the reverse is true,” Wolin writes. “Economics dominates politics—and with that domination comes different forms of ruthlessness."

Wolin's article was published in 2003!

Except this time it might be with guns.

I think we've already seen the first of that, in Portland.  But it's completely politically incorrect to mention that Mr. Ayala had been unable to find a job in his chosen profession and had been "temping" (underemployed) for a year before his spectacular suicide.


Maximum jobs, not maximum profits.

I say it's really one of three things

Either you earn over $250,000/year and all the recession has done to you is given you some Fed Insurance bailouts at a quarter million per bank account, OR you're keeping your nose to the grindstone trying to pay off your own bad debt OR you're working 80 hours a week trying to find a job in this horrid labor market.

With all of that, who the hell has time to riot?

Maximum jobs, not maximum profits.

There's an easy cure for that

10% unemployment would change that scenario. When working class people don't have a job, or a reasonable job prospect, then they tend to have more time to think and talk to other unemployed people.
The one thing the ruling class doesn't want is for a working class to have time on its hands to think about how badly it is being screwed.

oh yeah!

idle hands are the devil's workshop....

When the 2000-2004 tech depression happened (it's still going on really for Americans) that is precisely when I said to myself "what is all of this free trade stuff" I was hearing all of the time but didn't have enough time to check out.

That started the entire economic activity for me. I do have pretty much a minor in Econ from college....so of course i could crack the books and do self-study....

and what I found was the free trade rhetoric was pure corporate lobbyist bullshit and had nothing to do with the theory...

when I was focused on other things...ya know, took those courses, immediately moved onto other topics...heard the rancor about WTO/NAFTA...raised an eyebrow for about 30 seconds and went onto my next thing...
all the while witnessing a movement to labor arbitrage the entire STEM occupational career areas, all around me...
like time stopped and I was standing in a sea of absolutely misery and even worse, it was like their cries were silenced, muffled.

wala, here we are and I'm disgusted...but people are probably like me, they have not had the time to really take action or understand the issues fully....but they sure can if they cannot find a job for a period!

I disagree

10% is what we got now if you use the original formula for unemployment (and not the stupid made-to-look good one revised twice by the GOP and Clinton!). You want people in the streets?

1) Wait for unemployment to reach the official rate of 11-12%.

Because by then, the real number will be double that, and almost a quarter-to-a-third of the nation if one includes underemployment. By that point, everyone will have known someone who either is not working or not working enough to even put enough on the table and make rent.

2) Bar their access to consumption of trinkets/kill their cards

I know this may sound dumb, but even as the economy winds down and people pare back, we're still consumers. You have banks ban them from using their cards, cards with balances that they still have to pay on, then you will see an upset group.

3) Little Johnny can't go to his school

You close down the local elemntary school because of budget concerns and force the kids to bus out further will anger many. Now we don't like to think of ourselves as racists, but let me ask you this. How do you think a white mother in the exurbs or even suburbs will react if they have to send their kids to a designated school in the city, especially if that means at least an hour ride on the bus?

4) Rationing of utilities

Americans are used to having what they want, as much of it, and at a cheap cost. You take away that in the form of electricity and water, and we get upset. We're not used to inconveniences. If the local electric co-op or private firm has to cut back on services because of this or that, then you got problems. Secondly, when the average family is hit economically and have to have their power rationed because they can only pay a portion of the bill, people will only take that for so long. Don't laugh at this part, it's already happening across the country. The same will go for water, but that could be because lack of supply in many cases.

5) When a quarter of your groceries has to come from a soup kitchen

Recently I saw a CBC 60 minutes piece on the closure of a DHL shipping center. Everyone had good paying jobs, then DHL started winding down operations. Well towards the end, there was a part on the soup kitchen, and how families are coming in there. Now project that nationally. They only give you so much for food stamps, trust me I've been on them; grocery stores are very expensive. Folks who are still working will be afraid to spend, so they will buy what's on sale or have coupons for. Eventually though, they will have to make a trip to that soup kitchenm it will be an unpleasant experience for them at first. Why that first trip? Because as people pair back, stores will begin to react by only stocking cheaper goods, you may even hear of stores shutting down. People will hoard some food because they are afraid of worse days to come. I have a parent of the Depression, and what I am hearing, I suspect will be repeated.

4) Have the ATMs shut down...plus the debit cards

Folks can't get access to cash after a prolonged period will raise anxiety. How will they pay the rent? Pay the utility bill...especially if they're on some rationed plan?

5) When foreigners replace Americans in both job and home

Imagine if you will, as Rod Sirling used to say, an America where the average worker has to retrain his replacement and then is laid off. Now extend that to homes, where our Dollar has collapsed and so have home prices, yet folk are being evicted by larger numbers than even that at the heigh of the Great Depression. Now add an emerging trend of foreigners coming in and buying up such property, and have most of them over here as replacement workers on a visa or soemthing. Sounds crazy? Not possible? Then go visit California and visit places like Silion Valley, it's already happening.

6) When even local municipalities cannot respond to even their basic duties.

7) We get a natural disaster or terrorist strike and the government's response actually makes things worse!

8) Finally...when the fear reaches such a point where the average person just can't take it anymore.

Wait awhile....

....it just hasn't started YET.



"....under Capitalism, man exploits man. Under Communism it's just the opposite..." ---John Kenneth Galbraith


"....under Capitalism, man exploits man. Under Communism it's just the opposite..."

---John Kenneth Galbraith

Two Reasons

The first reason we Americans aren't rioting is because we're constantly fed TV shows and movies and newscasts about how powerful the police and the military are, and how these guys wouldn't blink at mowing down a crowd with machine guns. People are terrified of the authorities.

The second reason is that we've lived so easy for so long that most of us still have our heads in the sand, hoping all this will blow over so we can get back to our favorite cops TV show (see above). We're soft, and we're so used to having our thoughts fed to us that it doesn't even occur to us that things could be different and that the government can be opposed. Land of the Free, Home of the Brave? More like Land of the Sheep, Home of the Slaves.

But don't worry, people will wake up when they've lost their jobs, lost their homes, and the government starts trying to cover deficits with taxes. So pretty soon, then.