“What the term ‘new economy’ really describes is not some novel state of human affairs but the final accomplishment of the long-standing agenda of the richest class.
“Once, Americans imagined that economic democracy meant a reasonable standard of living for all – that freedom was only meaningful once poverty and powerlessness had been overcome. Today, American opinion leaders seem convinced that democracy and the free market are simply identical.
“There is little that is new about this idea, either: for nearly a century, equating the market with democracy was the familiar defence of any corporation in trouble with union or government. What is new is this idea’s triumph over all its rivals; the determination of American leaders to extend it to all the world; the belief among opinion-makers that there is something natural, something divine, something inherently democratic about markets.”
– Thomas Frank, New Statesman,
January 8, 2001
North and south
“How did the Democrats go from being the southern party in 1900 to being the northern party in 2000? Beginning in the 1960s, as a result of the civil rights revolution, a weird realignment took place in US politics, in which the two parties switched constituencies.
“Democrats, historically the more racist of the two parties, took up the cause of civil rights under the leadership of Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey. In response, white southerners left the party, becoming mostly Republican by the 1990s. Many of the leaders of the hard right in the Congressional Republican party began their careers in politics as conservative Democrats.
“Meanwhile, liberal Yankee and Germanic Republicans in the north and midwest and on the Pacific coast, appalled by the influx of drawling right-wing Dixiecrats into what had once been the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, migrated into the Democratic Party. One of them was Hillary Clinton, a Yankee Methodist raised as a Republican in Illinois. The descendants of progressive Lincoln and La Follette Republicans from the Germanic prairie states also tend to be liberal Democrats nowadays. The names of the midwestern leaders of the Democratic party in the House and the Senate, respectively, are Teutonic patronyms: Gephardt and Daschle. Conversely, there are a growing number of Republicans – such as New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani and New York state governor George Pataki – from a once-solid constituency for the old Democratic party: Americans whose last names end in vowels.
“This realignment of constituencies has given each of the two parties an identity crisis. The Republicans claim to be the party of Lincoln, although most of their present-day constituents descend from people who fought for the Confederacy – or at least supported it – and thought Lincoln was a tyrant. For their part, contemporary Democrats, based in the old Federalist, Whig and Republican strongholds of the northeast and midwest, are embarrassed by institutions such as the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, which celebrates the southern slaveholders who are the patron saints of states’ rights (Jefferson) and the ethnic cleansing of the Cherokee Indians (Jackson). In 1996, the Democrat Bill Clinton won – and lost – almost exactly the same states which were won – and lost – by the Republican William McKinley in 1896. Confused? If you ignore the labels, however, the two parties are pretty much what they have always been – a southern-Catholic coalition against a Yankee-black coalition, enlarged by Germanic and Jewish Americans.
“The fissures in US culture parallel those in US politics. To put the matter simply, America’s elite culture is north-eastern; its popular culture is southern and western.”
– Michael Lind, Prospect,
Signs of the times
* In the five years to 1998-99, CPI inflation rose 10 per cent, but household income rose 22 per cent and household expenditure on goods and services rose 16 per cent.
* Private consumption expenditure per person is a measure of well-being. In real terms it is now two-and-a-quarter times the 1959-60 level. Real GDP per person is 2.38 times the 1959-60 level.
* The average household’s spending on food has fallen over 25 years from 25 per cent to 18 per cent of its spending , and from 12 per cent to five per cent for clothing and footwear.
* The net worth of households has increased in the last 10 years by 47 per cent.
* The reason for the recent fall in teenage smoking may be the rise in teenage use of mobile phones – a switch from one status symbol to another.
* The gambling industry spends $573 million a year on promotion.
* The number of heroin addicts has more than doubled in the last ten years to between 67,000 and 92,000 adults using the drug daily. 75 per cent are in NSW and Victoria. The prevalence rate is the same as in the UK.
* The ratio of Chief Executive Officer pay to average wages is 475 times for the USA, UK 24, Australia 23, France 15, Germany 13, Japan 11.
– Australian Economic Trends prepared by Emeritus Professor A.H. Pollard for the Lumley Corporation (December, 2000)