Back in the USSR: Yes, Democrats, there is a working class


There’s really not much to say at the moment. At least I can’t think of much after staring at my screen for the last few hours. The only positive outcome of this depressing election, other than the massive comeuppance to the clueless media elite, is the destruction of the Clinton political dynasty.

It’s fitting that Hillary lost because she couldn’t win over a tiny number of working class voters in the Midwest. She might have had better luck if the Democrats hadn’t worked so hard for the past 40 years to undermine the union movement in order to court corporate money, a strategy that dates to the Jimmy Carter years.

Anyway, I’m surrendering for today but if you’re looking for an interesting post-mortem, here’s one of the best, from Juan Cole.

A year ago Anne Case and Angus Deaton, Princeton University economists, published a study with the startling finding that since 1999 death rates have been going up for white Americans aged 45-54. It is even worse than it sounds, since death rates were declining for the general population.

One of the big reasons for this increased death rate has been increased use of opiods and other drugs, leading to overdoses, along with liver disease from drinking too much alcohol and increased suicide rates. The problems were especially acute among working class and rural whites with only high school or less, and later studies found that they extended to younger members of this social class in their 20s and 30s. Loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs was clearly a primary reason for this despair.

The only comparison I can think of to this situation is what happened to Russians in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Russian Federation had a population of nearly 150 million in 1990 and thereafter fell to about 144 million. The end of the Soviet Union caused their confidence in the future to collapse and the end of the old economic system created very high unemployment. They stopped having children and drank themselves to death.

Neoliberalism– putting the market in charge of social policy and actually encouraging industries to move abroad for higher profit margins (but for fewer industrial jobs at home)– had much the same effect on the white working class as the fall of the Soviet system had on the Russian working class.

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