Debt peons, unite! - Page 2

Author David Graeber talks about capitalism, solidarity, and the war on the imagination

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David Graeber: "Some members of the ruling class actually talk to me and even ask for my advice."
PHOTO BY ADAM PEERS

I've been trying to figure out just what percentage of the average American's income is simply extracted every month by the finance sector. ...You count mortgages, you count credit card debt, loan debt, all the fees and penalties that you don't notice... all that stuff put together comes to about 20 percent at least, and probably higher. For example, families that are in their early 30s, it's often 40 percent. ... I saw a poll the other day that said, for the first time since they've been taking statistics, a majority of Americans don't consider themselves middle class. ... And I think the reason for this is because it really never was an economic category. It has to do with how you feel you relate to basic institutions. What middle class first and foremost means is, if you see a policeman, do you feel safer, or do you feel less safe? ... Then there's more going on. For the first time, we found that there is incredible solidarity between students and workers, which have traditionally not been friends — go back to the 60s and it's hard-hats beating up hippies. Now, the transit workers in New York are suing the police over taking their buses to arrest us [occupiers].

SFBG: How would you reflect on the economic condition that workers are facing, compared with how things were historically over the last several decades?

DG: It's atrocious. One thing that's happened is there's been this disconnect between productivity and wages. This is kind of the deal they struck at the end of World War II in most of the North Atlantic countries: It used to be that you work harder, you produce more, you get a share of the profits. And that was worked out through mass unionization, it was worked out through negotiations, and it was tacit somewhat, but you know, it was understood.

Since the '70s, that deal is off. So, productivity goes up, wages stay flat. So that's why they say all profits have now gone to one percent of the population. So workers are working harder and harder, more and more hours, under more and more stress. ...It's all the more difficult because of education, because now it's gotten to the point where if you don't have a college degree, your chance of having any benefits at work is basically nil. If you want to have health care, you need to go to college. At the same time, if you want to go to college, you need to pay student loans. So you're double damned. ... You have all these people who are sort of trapped: I'd like to finish, I'm still going, I'll take night classes — for five or ten years, while you have a working class job. So the line between the students and the proletariat blurs, and this is one of the reasons why the student loan issue actually spoke to people in unions.

And there's also a shift in the type of work. Did you ever see the "We are the 99 percent" tumblr page? It was all these people talking about their jobs... their debts and difficult medical problems.... One of the things that fascinated me about that was that like 80 percent of the people on that page were women. ...They were all doing something where the work was clearly to the benefit of someone else. And I think that those are the people who are the most screwed right now, ironically. The more obviously your work benefits other human beings, the less you're paid.

SFBG: Going back to this idea of debt — your book [Debt: The First 5,000 Years] looks at debt through the ages of human history. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on debt as it relates to personal freedom.

Comments

Interviewee David Graeber says he resides in UK most of the time and that austerity, understood, Neoliberalism, forces “Whitehall” to “prioritize the political advantage.” This, in contrast to the US Congress, which prioritizes the “economic advantage.”

Economics, relational arts and not pure science, are social tools that prescribe methods to achieve orderly investment, productivity, trade, staffing, maintenance and distribution in a complex human systems comprised of a particular political capital. Since globalized neoliberalism falls outside the pale of “a political capital” not only is it not 'an economic ideology” it is an aberration mentored by the late Friedrich Hayak (then called classical liberalism) and Milton Friedman (neoliberalism). The human world should hope that this monster self-destructs soon or becomes able to abort it.

Posted by Awayneramsey on May. 01, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

Gobbledygook much?

Posted by Guest on May. 06, 2013 @ 7:37 pm

while post modernism is a good way to look at the world?

Posted by Matlock on May. 06, 2013 @ 11:22 pm

Wow, did Graeber pay you to make that comment ? He points out how ridiculous the "only alternatives" arguments are, so you offer us neo-liberalism and post modernism as the only alternatives.

Posted by kyoung on May. 07, 2013 @ 10:12 am

@Matlock: I only intend to admonish others of what I believe is the destructive nature of neoliberal capitalism that began as a callous social experiment and venture in the 1980s destroying the lives of many in developing countries (Brazil, Paraguay, Poland etc.) that were types of social democracies. Infiltration, subversion, (I know this word is suspect in our 21st Century, but it is relevant), co-optation, economic shocks, expropriation of land resources via 1) government realignment, 2) privatization and 3) deregulation, to over-simplify, yielded financial bounty to rent-seeking capitalists at the expense of mass devastation to others. A more recent example might be the corn ethanol trade-offs in Guatemala that cause hardship to many who rely on corn as a daily staple as ethanol is grown on valuable land and exported for profits and growth expectations—not development ad infinitum.

Posted by Awayneramsey on May. 08, 2013 @ 2:15 pm

Occupy had it's 15 minutes of fame, and then fizzled out as soon as winter arrived.

No stamina, today's revolutionaries.

Posted by Guest on May. 07, 2013 @ 6:05 am

troll barrier

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 11, 2013 @ 6:08 am

Really I think most people want to make money, enough to live on, retire and not to worry about being homeless. We have a drive to work, we have a drive to get better not everyone wants to be on welfare, food stamps or live in substandard housing.

We aren't producing jobs that are really honest work, you can't even afford a home in the bay area, starting a business here is a joke. The property taxes won't kill you, it is what you pay for and then pay taxes on the sale price. 1.3 million dollars for a 900 square foot home, the only people that can afford that are the educated class.

I am for national healthcare, for SSI, for food programs, senior programs, for helping people out, job training, taxes breaks to bring work, real WORK. Not what the Repubs are pushing, for open space, clean air and water. The stock market, the smart middle class investors, the working poor to get ahead in life. Rewards for honest work, good citizens, good family units, even if the family unit is a same sex couple with no kids.

Posted by Garrett on May. 07, 2013 @ 11:13 am

because every home for sale gets quickly sold, and each vacant rental gets filled.

What you are really saying is that YOU cannot afford the average Bay Area home and, while that might be true, that is your problem and not ours.

Posted by Guest on May. 07, 2013 @ 11:43 am

The problem is systemic and promoted by those who are of a similar mind-set that your comment suggests. Countries are built by those deceived by it and there are many of us who are the "unsung heroes," such as Garrett.

Posted by Awayneramsey on May. 08, 2013 @ 9:04 am

The simple fact is that lots of people can afford SF homes. If that were not the case, many of them would be vacant and probably no more would be being built. Neither of those are true, ergo, SF homes are affordable. Just not be you.

Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2013 @ 10:06 am

1. "Lots of people can afford SF homes,"
2. Guest can afford an SF home,
3. Guest is "lots of people."

My best attempt at "refutation." I'm not a rhetorician, but this is a syllogism.

Posted by Awayneramsey on May. 08, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

Hardly any, right?

So obviously they are affordable, because people afford them.

Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

There are many vacancies, but most are not affordable. I think it relevant to note that the stats are provided by the industry and industry speculators, meaning that the industry can manipulate the numbers as they choose.

Posted by Awayneramsey on May. 08, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

It's typically reckoned to be about 1%. Can you show otherwise? Or are you just blowing hot air?

Every home around where i live is clearly occupied. Meaning that lots of people can afford SF, even if you cannot.

Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2013 @ 3:35 pm

Looking out your window into your upper middle class neighborhood is a ridiculous method for determining vacancies.

Here's an article I found in less than 60 seconds in a web search, which shows that there are an outrageous 30,000 home vacancies in San Francisco; this according to the U.S. Census.

http://blog.sfgate.com/ontheblock/2011/03/30/why-so-many-vacant-homes-in...

It is unacceptable that speculators are holding tens of thousands of units off the market in order to drive up housing prices by artificially limiting supply, and thereby pricing hundreds of thousands of middle and lower class San Franciscans out of an affordable place to live.

It is unacceptable that only 'lots of people' can afford a home in San Francisco. Everyone, should be able to afford their own home.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 11, 2013 @ 6:26 am

responding to it for fear of being discovered.

Many of the homes held vacant in SF are because of rent control. Owners would rather leave a home empty than risk tangling with tenants who may never leave and who may prove impossible to evict.

So it is progressive policies that lead to vacant homes.

There is no evidence that anyone leaves a place vacant for years just to enjoy the price inflation. More likel they just parcel the place up as TIC's and sell them.

Vacancy rate is extremely low in Sf nonetheless. Places like Houston have vacancy rates of 10% to 20%. Not here, not a chance.

Posted by anon on Sep. 11, 2013 @ 7:00 am

troll barrier

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into nonsensical, petty, mean spirited, irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 11, 2013 @ 7:28 am

In a city with at least 300,000 homes, that is about 3% - perfectly acceptable.

Perhaps a more significant figure is the estimated 40,000 illegal units in SF that are used as a home. If all illegal units were demolished and every currently vacant unit was filled, the housing situation would be much worse.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 11, 2013 @ 8:37 am

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 11, 2013 @ 9:12 am

The census number seems much too high. There are certainly no vacant residential buildings near me (94114) although there are a few commercial units.

Posted by anon on Sep. 11, 2013 @ 9:32 am

which are created under the current schema.

So many professions are based on scamming value from others or the environment; getting away with theft as opposed to actually creating value.

Examples of this are in much of the insurance industry, securities traders, advertising, energy sectors. Most of this "work" represents a net cost to human society and rates below that of telephone psychics in its import.

Humanity needs to figure out how to have a functional planned economy because the current situation has us spiraling down the drain.

The dramatic upsurge in the suicide rate among baby boomers in this country is a testament to how disfunctional our economy is. Even this reported rate is far below the true rate since most cases are not included in the statistics, but it's currently at 3 in 10,000 for boomer men each year and exceeds deaths from car accidents for the population at large for the first time ever.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/03/health/suicide-rate-rises-sharply-in-u...

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 08, 2013 @ 10:21 am

Either adopt and accept it, or become doomed to irrelevance.

And luckily for the rest of us, these new jobs pay better.

Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2013 @ 11:04 am

Enjoy your wealth while you can. An unexpected game-changer is forthcoming.

Posted by Awayneramsey on May. 08, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

And if you could foretell the future, you'd be rich, and you're not.

Any savvy market participant can make money out of down markets, so why fear them?

Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

Markets are manipulated and insider trading is (intended). One would realize more profit by playing a one-hand game of Blackjack than risking a lifetime of wages in Wall Street's ponzi.

Posted by Awayneramsey on May. 08, 2013 @ 3:27 pm

Evidently you do not, and so deem it a lottery, when in fact it is laregly predictable, but only by a few.

Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2013 @ 3:42 pm

@Guest: You underestimate the complexity of human contingencies on which that casino, Wall Street operates. I hope your glibness does not cause you ruin.

Posted by Awayneramsey on May. 09, 2013 @ 9:16 am

Seems you merely fear them, because you do not.

Posted by Guest on May. 09, 2013 @ 9:53 am

troll barrier

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 11, 2013 @ 6:30 am

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Please substantiate this claim.

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