Philip Reed is a man after my own heart (and a professor at Canisius College in Buffalo to boot), a man who refuses to be bullied by omnipresent, inescapable, modern mobile technology:
It is mildly subversive and perhaps a little quaint when someone clings to their flip phone and refuses a smartphone. Refusing both kinds of phones is viewed as downright lunacy, especially if the person refusing was born after the mid-1970s. But I’ve never had a cellphone and I’m not going to get one.
The remainder of the piece contains Professor Reed’s various explanations and justifications for his stubborn refusal to get in step with the technological zeitgeist. My favorite part is this:
The decisive reason, however, for me to refuse a cellphone is the opposite of everyone else’s reason for having one: I do not want the omnipresent ability to communicate with anyone who is absent. Cellphones put their users constantly on call, constantly available, and as much as that can be liberating or convenient, it can also be an overwhelming burden. The burden comes in the form of feeling an obligation to individuals and events that are physically elsewhere. Anyone who has checked their phone during a face-to-face conversation understands the temptation. And anyone who has been talking to someone who has checked their phone understands what is wrong with it.
Need I point out, dear reader, that this includes you?
Marc Levinson, in “End of a Golden Age,” explains why all the Trump’s horses and all the Trump’s men will not be able to put the post-WWII economy back together again. The so-called “Golden Age” of prosperity (1948-1973) was the result of a confluence of factors that no longer exist, claims Levinson, and we would be wise to recognize that:
For much of the world, the Golden Age brought extraordinary prosperity. But it also brought unrealistic expectations about what governments can do to assure full employment, steady economic growth and rising living standards. These expectations still shape political life today. Between 1979 and 1982, citizens in one country after another threw out the leaders who stood for the welfare state and voted in a wave of more Right-wing politicians – Margaret Thatcher, Reagan, Helmut Kohl, Yasuhiro Nakasone and many others – who promised to tame big government and let market forces, lower tax rates and deregulation bring the good times back. Today, nearly 40 years on, voters are again turning to the Right, hoping that populist leaders will know how to make slow-growing economies great again.
More than a generation ago, the free-market policies of Thatcher and Reagan proved no more successful at improving productivity and raising economic growth than the policies they supplanted. There is no reason to think that the populists of our day will do much better. The Golden Age was wonderful while it lasted, but it cannot be repeated. If there were a surefire method for coaxing extraordinary performance from mature economies, it likely would have been discovered a long time ago.
Victor Tan Chen’s “All Hollowed Out” also analyzes the economic and cultural malaise of the past forty years and, in particular, its effects on the white working-class men whose champion now resides in the White House. Tan Chen gives us the bad news right up front:
Problems of mental health and addiction have taken a terrible toll on whites in America—though seemingly not in other wealthy nations—and the least educated among them have fared the worst.
Meanwhile, other recent research has piled on the bad news for those without college degrees. A Pew study released last month found that the size of the middle class—defined by a consistent income range across generations—has shrunk over the last several decades. In part, this is because high-paying jobs for the less educated are vanishing. The study builds on other recent research that finds that almost all the good jobs created since the recession have gone to college graduates…rising inequality and greater risk of unemployment and financial insecurity have become features of today’s economy [and] the economy and culture have become more hostile to workers not lucky enough to be working in posh offices on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley.
Mr. Tan Chen is hardly alone in noting these developments, but unlike many analysts, he recognizes the role that organized labor played in building the middle class and supporting the working class:
When it comes to explaining American economic trends, it is important to remember how critical a role manufacturing and unions have played in the building—and now dismantling—of a strong middle class. For generations, factories provided good jobs to people who never went to college, allowing families—first white ethnic immigrants, and then others—to be upwardly mobile. Bringing together large numbers of people under a single roof, factory jobs were also relatively easy to organize. As the sociologists Bruce Western and Jake Rosenfeld have argued, unions at their prime helped create a “moral economy” in which wages rose both in firms with unions and those without them, and in which the average worker had a notable voice—however compromised back then by nativism and other exclusionary tendencies—lobbying on their behalf in Washington.
But in the late ’90s…the number of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. dropped dramatically. Intensified by free-trade deals such as NAFTA, the hollowing-out of American industry then was much greater, in terms of the absolute number of jobs lost, than what the country experienced during its first wave of deindustrialization.
Twenty years ago, union membership—in decline since the ’60s—fell to a level not seen since the Great Depression. For various reasons, it became much harder to pursue the sorts of collective action that unions once cultivated throughout the economy—that is, banding together to convince companies and governments to treat employees better. Free trade and automation undercut the bargaining positions of the working class. Political leaders, bankrolled by the wealthy, rolled back the interventionist policies of the New Deal and postwar period. Corporations, once relatively tolerant of unions, tapped a cottage industry of anti-union consultants and adopted unseemly tactics to crush any organizing drives in their workplaces.
As organized labor in this country has withered, an extreme individualism has stepped in as the alternative—a go-it-alone perspective narrowly focused on getting an education and becoming successful on one’s own merit. This works well for some, but for others—especially the two-thirds of Americans over the age of 25 who don’t have a bachelor’s degree—it often means getting mired in an economy of contract work, low pay, and few, if any, benefits. These prospects suggest that this is an age of diminished expectations for the working class.
One can quarrel with Mr. Tan Chen’s timeline; I think that the “hollowing” began under Ronald Reagan, only to be exacerbated by the centrist Democrats’ (i.e. Clinton/Gore) embrace of neoliberal economics. Regardless, it’s clear that the message sent to America’s industrial workers was very similar to the famous New York Daily News headline about Gerald Ford’s refusal to provide federal assistance to New York City: “Ford to City: ‘Drop Dead’”. As unions were hamstrung and factories shuttered, the pink slips might as well have read “You’re on your own, buddy.”
It’s one of history’s ironies that conservatives who celebrated the liberation of capital and the dismantling of unions now claim to champion the forgotten working men and women. Victor Tan Chen, at least, seems to know better.
Finally: Donald Trump says news organizations should not use anonymous sources: if they won’t name the source, they shouldn’t be allowed to publish the story.
And yet, our so-called "President" has a well-documented habit of invoking unnamed sources:
Many people are saying that the Iranians killed the scientist who helped the U.S. because of Hillary Clinton's hacked emails.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 8, 2016
This was hardly a one-time glitch on Trump's part:
Trump frequently relies on this vague construction [“many people are saying”] both to promote his own products and to air far-fetched conspiracies while distancing himself from the source. He claimed in 2013 that “many people have claimed” his cologne “Success” was “the best scent,” and in early 2015 that “so many people” have told him he should replace Chuck Todd as the host of NBC’s “Meet the Press.” In May, he used the wording to suggest that there was something “very fishy” about the suicide of former Clinton administration counsel Vince Foster.
Anonymous sources abound in Trumpland:
"I was given that information," Trump said, before quickly moving onto another questioner. "Actually, I've seen that information around."
Trump relies heavily on the opinions and wisdom of "a lot of people" whom he never names:
Following the country’s most deadly mass shooting, Donald Trump was asked to explain what he meant when he said President Obama either does not understand radicalized Muslim terrorists or “he gets it better than anybody understands.”
“Well,” Trump said on the “Today Show” Monday morning, “there are a lot of people that think maybe he doesn’t want to get it. A lot of people think maybe he doesn’t want to know about it. I happen to think that he just doesn’t know what he’s doing, but there are many people that think maybe he doesn’t want to get it. He doesn’t want to see what’s really happening. And that could be.”
Trump refutes criticism by citing (but not naming) the "many people" who agree with him:
President Donald Trump on Sunday maintained that voter fraud is still a major issue though he has not provided evidence to back up the claim, saying "many people have come out and said I'm right."
Trump's policies and opinions are confirmed by "people" with whom he has spoken but whose names he can't seem to remember:
"I have spoken with people at the highest level of intelligence and I asked them the question 'Does it work? Does torture work?' and the answer was 'Yes, absolutely'."
All of which is to say that many people believe Donald Trump has no more business condemning "anonymous sources" than the well-known pot has in impugning the kettle; and I know that's true because I read it somewhere.