The Disenchantment of American Politics

Considering the problems we face as a nation, the torpor and lassitude of current politics in America seems like a kind of offense against history. What other people have allowed circumstances to run over them like so many ‘possums sleeping on the highway?

The financial disturbances of recent years especially have trashed millions of households, yet the fat middle (no pun intended) of the broad public (ditto) seems strangely content with all the tawdry sideshows of the day — Black Thursday, the Kardashians, the NFL playoffs, Twitter, texting, twerking, side boobs — taking little-to-no interest in politics while their prospects for a habitable future swirl around the drain. How might we account for such supernatural passivity?

And, since human affairs don’t remain static indefinitely, in what direction might things go when the political mood finally heaves and shifts? The possibilities are unsettling.

A Failure to Lead

If you care about poll numbers, they tell a simple story of contempt for the current crop of US political leaders. Congress rates a 12 percent approval rating and President Obama, at 35 percent, scores lower than Richard Nixon did in the midst of the Watergate fiasco. I’m surprised that Obama’s numbers aren’t lower (and I voted for him, twice). After all, few American lives were actually touched by the lies and shenanigans that spun off of Watergate, and money was an inconsequential part of it. But a whole lot of people were affected by Obama’s dissimulations around the Affordable Care Act, while his tragic failure to reestablish the rule of law in banking from the get-go in 2009 probably amounts to impeachable malfeasance. Add to this the NSA domestic spying operations revealed by Edward Snowden plus the troops indefinitely garrisoned in Asian countries and you have a portrait of a creeping Orwellian contagion.

The only whiff of rebellion in the air lately has emanated from the so-called conservative end of the political spectrum: the Tea Party. Its complaints mainly range around the offenses of Big Government, though a certain incoherence pervades its agenda as a whole. (I will get to that presently.)  I am sympathetic to gripes against the size and reach of government but I’m convinced that the swerve of US politics in the not-distant future will hinge on the failure of government at this scale to conduct any business competently. Anyway, as a veteran of the hippie uprising of the 1960s, when the Left was insurgent against an obdurate “establishment,” it’s interesting to observe the perverse flip-flop of history that has now put the Tea Party in charge of rebellion central.

The failures of the Left these days are pretty obvious and awful. They got their storybook change-agent elected president and he hasn’t done a darn thing in five years to halt the wholesale racketeering that pervades our national life. Obama’s Department of Justice is home to more zombies than the Grand Cemetery of Port-Au-Prince. The Attorney General’s office essentially signed off on prosecuting bank fraud when Lanny Breuer, chief of the Criminal Division, declared some banks too big to jail. End of story, as Tony Soprano used to say.


Obama promised to brick up the revolving door between Wall Street and the federal agencies and he only added more turnstiles to the gate. Most of the government officials involved in the 2009 TARP program and related crisis management operations are now pulling in six figure salaries at the banks and hedge funds they formerly regulated, while a veteran fixer (Mary Jo White) from the whitest white shoe fixit law shop in the land (Debevoise & Plimpton) was appointed to head the SEC a year ago.

The Left, as represented by President Obama and a majority in the US Senate, did nothing to arrest the ongoing corporate hijacking of the USA. When the Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case (2010) that corporations could buy elections via unlimited campaign contributions under the free speech clause of the constitution, Obama had the chance to propose new legislation or a constitutional amendment to redefine the distinction between human persons and corporate “persons.” You’d think that as a constitutional lawyer, he would have been eager to lead on this. But he just ignored the historic opportunity and, anyway, he was on the receiving end of gobs of corporate “free speech” money to run his reelection campaign.

Apart from its pitiful roll-out bugs, the Affordable Care Act has the odor of the biggest insurance scam in history. People joke these days about Obama serving George W. Bush’s fourth term. The internal contradictions of Democratic Party behavior under Obama have only driven political cynicism to new heights. The millennial generation must feel horribly swindled by it.

A Paucity of Good Options

As for the rebellious conservative Tea Party faction, it is hard for me to square their umbrage at Big Government with their avidity for foreign wars (and support for the military-industrial rackets behind them), their failure to oppose the security-state activities of the NSA (while branding whistleblower Snowden “a traitor”), their love of corporate commercial tyranny a la Wal-Mart, their devotion to economically suicidal suburban sprawl, their zeal to control the social and sexual conduct of their fellow citizens, and their efforts to impose religion in civic affairs — all of which is to ask, what do they mean when they shout about “liberty?”

These contradictions probably seem abstruse compared to the gritty plight of ordinary citizens getting monkey-hammered in an economy that can provide neither decent incomes nor dignified, meaningful social roles for classes of people who could be earnest, honest, and enterprising given the chance. This gets to a more general failure across the political spectrum to apprehend the larger changing dynamics of our time — resource scarcity, capital impairment, contraction, environmental collapse, population overshoot — and to frame a coherent response to these developments. In short, the politicians seem to have no idea where history is taking us, and no road-map to prepare for the journey to get there.

There will probably always be some alignment of Left and Right in politics, but from time to time the packages they come in and the ideologies they contain are in desperate need of either rehabilitation or dissolution. I’d bet that we may soon see the demise of both the Democratic and Republican parties as they are currently structured. They’ve been around an awful long time now, and their presence probably provides a certain reassuring familiarity, but that is also the same growth medium as contempt. The useless and tiresome public quarrels they spawn these days, the kabuki theater debt ceiling showdowns, the can-kickings, and other evasions of responsibility, erode basic institutional trust to a dangerous degree; the people lose faith in the courts, the news media, the banks, the value of their money, and eventually all authority. The two major parties function as mere conduits for all the racketeering operations that define life in this nation today. The mature two-party system may prove to have been a transient product of America’s industrial heyday, which is now over despite the euphoria over stock bubbles, shale oil, computers and other new technology. If the two old parties dry up and blow away, will anyone shed a tear for them? When that happens, there may not be enough political vitality left at the federal level to reconstitute them in new packaging.

Trouble Brewing

If party politics are weak, muddled, and contradictory, the divisions between Americans are starkly clear: wealth in America has never been so unevenly distributed — the fabled one percent versus everyone else. Despite the election of a mixed-race president, and the wish-fulfillment fantasies of Hollywood, race relations in the USA remain tense. 2013 was the year of the “knockout” game for black teenagers randomly targeting “woods” (i.e. non-black “peckerwoods”), some of whom died. It was the year of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the Trayvon Martin case and the echoing recriminations.

Divisions between men and women are tragically compounded by the dangerous dynamics of work in America that leave many men (especially men) in a vacuum of purpose, meaning, and potency. It is almost impossible these days for low-skilled men to support a family. The indignity of this thunders through broken communities and the penitentiary cellblocks. But the anomie is also expressed in the higher ranks of an economy where office work can be done by anybody, and gender confusion lately has been valorized as a compensating mechanism for the marginalization of men and the failure of manhood. The political blowback from this, when it comes, is apt to be fierce. Look no further than Duck Dynasty.

The ongoing national culture war pits the “traditional values” faction against the sexual libertarians; the red states against the blue states; urban against the conflated suburban and rural; the Christian fundamentalists against an array of other positions and belief groups; the entitlement “socialists” against the “free market” conservatives.

Perhaps most divisive of all will be the schism between the young and the old over the table scraps of the dying industrial economy.

These tensions will not remain unresolved indefinitely.

In Part II: Get Ready For Strange Days, we'll forecast the direction that this resolution may follow. The last time the USA faced a comparable political convulsion was the decade leading into the Civil War, but this time it will be more complex and confusing and it will have a different ending. A dominant theme will be a continued loss of faith in the Federal government to solve our ills, and a re-emergence of reliance on local support networks at the state, municipal, community and family levels.

This devolution will likely play out very differently across the major regions of the US. And most will follow this course unwillingly.

Strange days are coming.

Click here to access Part II of this report (free executive summary; enrollment required for full access).

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I often refer to the aftermath of the 2008 crash in terms of Carl Icahn exclaiming that when they saw the numbers of the derivatives they freaked out. "Nobody ever saw numbers like that". So whatever Obama thought his mission was for running for presidency, things took a life of their own.
Short and sweet. In the 1980's we had a quiet coup to change the economy from demand side to supply side and in that, we can look at a strong economy with a strong middle class, unions and functioning factories with innovation, btw. The CEO's and banks wanted to take advantage of the global economy so we went off the gold standard and worked up arcane money schemes.

They turned our economy into a giant grab bag or pinata for a small group of winners. They turned Wall street into the only game in town and forced many with different personality types into casino players at the craps table. Our homes were turned into mini-banks so we could keep the appearance of doing well, when in reality people were struggling. Combine that with the extreme ideologies that keep money in the hands of a few and you've got —well what we have now.—And its global. It's regressive, selfish and suggests something very ugly and cruel to those who had no hand in this debacle and there are ideas that would help if our leadership were allowed to play chess instead of chinese checkers.

Now with all that at stake and the fear that the whole global economy could sink Obama made a deal with the devils to get those 401k's and IRA's back in business. I would say very simply that when you get a group of proven bad actors to do your bidding, it isn't easy to arrest them and put into jail.

Justice in the US will not be served.


One has to wonder if we aren't well into the first three stages of collapse as defined by Dimitry Orlov in his collapse scheme: we have, or are, losing faith and trust in the financial, corporate, and political systems. Once these systems fail to retain the trust of the majority/core, rather than just a growing number on the periphery, then it will be just a matter of time until we fall in to his stage 4 collapse scenario: social collapse. One never knows, however, how long the elite can continue to kick-the-can-down-the-road and keep the masses stupified...or what will be the tipping point, that final snowflake to start the cascade of failures through our complex, globalised world?


US Debt Problem - 40 Clip Movie Mashup

"We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd be millionaires and movie gods and rockstars…but we won't" -Tyler Durden

I like some of the work that JHK does, mostly the fiction. However, his predictions remind me of the opening monologue from the movie the Road Warrior.

I'm in the greater Los Angeles area right now for a few days and I've always wondered what they produce here that people outside of the region would want, for trade. I've only been able to come to the conclusion that they produce movies and entertainment. The whole area is built around consumption, and not much else. I shudder to think what will happen here when the trade deficit ends. 20 million people stuffed into a frying pan who don't actually "produce" anything tangible. I want to be far far away when it happens. I'm trying to convince my friend that he needs to have a fast escape plan. Today I was explaining to him the numbers behind the gold flows to China. He didn't seem to be in denial, maybe he'll come around.

The comments from Texas sure seem to support Kunstler's humorous depiction of that great state.
While Texas may have enough oil to limp along, I wonder about water, food and electricity.  I wonder how Texas plans to feed Houston and Dallas/Ft Worth.  Also, will San Antonio wind up with Texas or Mexico.

I doubt it will be a fun place to live when central air conditioning becomes a luxury or non existent.

We are all faced with interesting challenges.  Texas may very well have to trade oil refinery production with the Midwest in order to buy food.  Some form of extra regional cooperation will be necessary for comfortable survival anywhere in the US.

One of my big concerns in Wisconsin is the winter.  How do we heat our homes if the natural gas stops flowing.  Also, we have been closing down nuclear and coal fired power plants right and left, replacing them with gas powered plants.  It may be good for CO2 output, but we are placing all our eggs in one basket.  If the Canadians stop selling us natural gas, things will get interesting here.

We are all in for interesting times.

It's ridiculous to blame the utter collapse of democracy in the US on a lack of leadership by President Obama.  The Republican party has offered NOTHING of value during the Obama administration.  Their ONLY objective has been to block everything the Democrats have tried to accomplish.  A democracy cannot survive without a healthy give and take between those with differing opinions.  Between 2007 and 2012 there were 380 filibusters by the Republicans versus 130 by the Democrats.  Republicans rant and rave about the "tyranny of the majority."  Majority rule is the cornerstone of a democracy.  What kind of government do they want?

 its what the majority wants by definition.

I'd settle for a Constitutional Republic.

TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) is another tool being developed - I heard its already fast tracked by Congress without the knowledge of public at large - by corporates through their 'salesman' Obama to get an effective workaround for benefitting:

  • Sales of unhealthy GMO food across the world,
  • Cos. that overlook the Illegalities of child/cheap labour to manufacture goods cheaply,
  • Firms that go for false accounting with the help of the big audit-cum-consulting firms to ensure that the US$ stays prominent
and to muzzle in all other gullible (read:corrupt) governments to okay this treaty.

All of this will be used to reduce US debt but at the what cost?? Obama makes George W Bush Jr. look amateurish by a long margin. Hail Hustler Obama!

Is the definition of majority rule writ large in the constitution and the law of the land to be interpreted by the right wing as collectivist? Is this movement so puritanical that it sees anything that isn't neo feudalism communist?What's the option? Oligarchy? Plutoracy? and finally Kleptocracy? cause that's what we've  got and the Republicans are fighting tooth and nail for this crew. Get ready for Dickensian conditions, if you accept the direction they're going in.

I've largely remained quiet on these types of threads and discussion because there is absolutely nothing to be gained by participating in them. 
With that said, these types of articles are situated entirely around illiciting a knee-jerk type of response by threatening peoples' comfort zones. Trying to "jolt" them into seeing how 'screwed' they are. OK - point taken. We are screwed. 
…Now, comes the predictable degeneration into petty ideological squabbling. 
Instead of bickering and arguing about who killed America, we need to recognize that:
a. It's not dead yet, so let's stop acting like the commoners living in despotism means the "end" of America. We might be screwed, but the political elite (on both sides of the damned isle) are professional bureaucrats. They're using this time as an opportunity to concrete their places in whereever this turning places America… as a whole. 
b. It's likely to drag on for at least another 20-30 years. Historically extrapolated, it's much more likely that it'll last several hundred. 
c. All the pedantic back-and-forth about whose bigger car did more damage, and who perpetuated the problem by eating too many cheeseburgers is not in the least productive. All societies fail eventually. The Ailments are entirely similar. Complaining about the excesses that caused them is like bitching about ice on the Titanic. Yes, it's partially to blame. But your ship is also sinking into the ocean. There are more pressing matters at hand.
d. The intellectual infighting has to end. There is an entire section of this site that shows you how to do the things needed for living a resilient life. Why aren't there more posts there? 
Increasingly, intellectual means 'academic'. Academia benefits from producing a sort of social stasis, in which their only real job is handing down academia. There are plenty of intellectuals here who are capable of doing something about the deterioration of Americana. To use an analogy, America is in it's "autumn". Now is the time to start preserving seeds, the bounty of what America generated and bundling up for a long winter. The last thing we need to do is complain about how cold it's getting.

A constitutional republic sounds good to me.On the other hand, it's doubtful that the federal system can remain in one-piece.  Figure it has about two and a half years before a meaningful implosion.

The options include locally controlled political entities.  The USA is not too big to fail.

As a fairly liberal voter, I agree with Aaron that it is pointless to lay blame on either party. Both parties have had moments of idiocy, both have corrupted their original ideals (and members), and both have more bureaucrats than actual "peoples-people" in office. While I believe that the Republican party has shown more pettiness of late, I'd be a hypocrite and fool to ignore times when the Democrats have done the same. Both parties have contributed to the mess we are in. Pointing out which one is most to blame at this juncture is a waste of energy and time. As I've quietly sat in the shadows on this site and read many, many articles and posts, I've become convinced that this site - and the people on it - are better than this. In the coming crises, whether a person was a democrat or republican will matter less than whether they can contribute meaningfully to the communities in which they find themselves. Like "ethnicity/race," politics will be a moot point when and if the shit hits the fan.
It's time to figure out a way to save as many lives on the Titanic as we can.

a poor and reluctant typist who is too busy with farm family and friends to enter into debate, I'll offer an apology for involving myself at all.Robie

I've read Kunstler for over 10 years now, and I have to say that early on I was pretty hooked on a lot of his stuff.  Especially The Geography of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere.  I found both of those works to be extremely insightful critiques of the utter soullessness of our living arrangements.  They put into words much of what I had been feeling for some time, looking out across a landscape designed for cars, not human beings.
A lot of his earlier blog work, and The Long Emergency helped turn me on to peak oil.  For that, I definitely owe Jim a debt of gratitude.

However, I find myself growing tired of a lot of his work nowadays.  This article left me exceptionally tired.  It's not that Jim isn't a good writer – he's an exceptionally good writer.  It's that the theme of the work is something that I've become so aware of that to go there even more just doesn't serve any purpose anymore.  It's a restatement of facts that have become completely obvious to anyone who's been paying the least bit of attention.  In fact, I find that to be the case with almost anything I read these days that chronicles the fecklessness, greed, and corruption that characterizes the overarching institutions of American society.  In this regard, I have some respect for the tack taken by Dmitry Orlov in just not having anything more to say about it, and moving on to other things – even though I'm going to miss reading his insights and dry wit on the subject of collapse.

Currently, I'm reading The Resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk of Whole Systems Design, LLC in the Mad River Valley of Vermont.  It's an excellent book.  But where it ties into this conversation is that it (in my opinion) places things in their proper context.  In the only reference to anything approaching the political in this book (at least what I've read so far), Ben wrote the following on page 6:

"A self-reliant nation is built upon a citizenry living in resource-producing and relatively self-reliant communities.  Self-reliant, tenable communities are composed of self-reliant households.  And relatively self-reliant households are the basic building block of any culture that is viable over the long term without requiring war (stealing of resources) to sustain itself.  No democratic civilization can last long if it is built upon a citizenry that consume more than they produce; that's debt and debt is inherently unsustainable and undemocratic.  If our goal is a peaceful, just society, self-reliance at the home and community levels must be a central focus of our lives."
Now, I'm fully aware that Jim has personally taken this to heart in his own life on his Washington Co., NY homestead.  I'm also aware that, if we're going to be successful in our efforts to increase our own self-reliance, we need to maintain awareness of what people in power are doing and how that can affect our efforts.  However, at a certain point it just reaches saturation mass.  I, personally, feel that I reached that point some time back, and that continuing to go back to that place has more of a negative than positive impact on my outlook and, more importantly, my action.  Plus, as Aaron pointed out above, pieces like this tend to push people's hot buttons and move them more toward false divisions than any kind of meaningful action.

As Chris Hedges says in this clip, US politics has devolved into political theater, as it did during the decline of the Roman empire - an intentionally distracting circus battle of a false left against a false right while all the chattering classes waste time yipping about it on cable TV and talk radio.  In reality, it's just a holding action for the status quo of corrupt power, a circus that generates propaganda meant to divide people into a quarreling "right" and "left".  Meanwhile, it disrupts cooperation of people across the spectrum on powerful issues they actually hold in common and should fight for together - like individual civil liberties and the need to eliminate corruption in order to restore rapidly disappearing democracy in the US, even if they disagree on other specifics.   
The main "mission accomplished" of current politics is that it helps substitute a false and often comic, low IQ "discussion" and phony power gridlock for having an intelligent long-view based on real data, having a real discussion on that and taking real actions on behalf of citizens.  As we know, this permits the corrupt rich in business and government to keep their revolving door spinning, and keeps laws passing that let them line their own nests, and keeps campaign funds rolling in to control their political fiefdoms.  You only need to know that Clinton appointed the first Goldman Sachs CEO as Treasurer, Bob Rubin who set up one of the biggest fraud/rip-offs/financial busts in history by eliminating Glass-Steagall restrictions, and G.W. Bush appointed the second Goldman CEO, Paulson, who then rammed through the TARP bail out the criminals firms and careers of those who pulled off the scam, including paying his beloved Goldman 100% on the worthless AIG bet they lost - and that  Bush and Obama both protected the firms and individuals across the board from meaningful criminal prosecution and jail time.   That tells you that while the two political parties have some surface differences, in the end, they all work for the same folks rather than the public.   

I don't agree with Hedges that change can only come from outside the system, (or with everything else he says), but I agree with his main messages.   I still vote, donate funds to specific politicians I think who speak the truth and try to break through the corruption, and write emails to representatives.  But successful change via the system is extremely tough, and like Chris and others, I don't think it's the most likely outcome at this point and don't spend a great deal of time and money on it.   There are now many judges in the US court system actively supporting mass corruption via Citizens United, and a boat load of corrupt and anti-Constitutional rulings have come down from key judges/courts in the judicial hierarchy.

Among other things, Hedges describes what happened when he sued the Obama administration claiming one of its law violated citizens' constitutional civil rights to due process and won.   He says that the Obama has taken more aggressive action against individual civil rights than Bush.