... there are a number of economic, social and political factors that have brought us here, toward a cycle of violence that seems unlikely to stop no matter what way America votes in November.
This wasn't supposed to be what this column is about. I was supposed to be writing about the crisis of irreproducible results in science and the dangers of scientism and technocracy. But then I checked my Twitter timeline.
These aren't ginned up stories from fringe sites looking to stir the pot and start the next race war. This is mainstream reporting from the bland, milquetoast MSM. So how did we get here? Let's break it down:
The “everything is awesome!” economy is, as readers of this column already know, a transparent sham. It's a paper boat on a wild water rapid kept afloat on leftover hope-ium from 2008. It's a junkie licking the bottom of the spiked punch bowl the next morning looking for his next fix. It's a...well, you get the idea.
Proof #3289 of this fact came in the form of yesterday's Employment Situation Report.
It's not just that last month was the weakest month of job "growth" in six years.
It's not just that the 38,000 new jobs last month missed expectations by a mind boggling 122,000.
It's not just that the B.S....er, sorry, the B.L.S. wants us to believe that the unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level (4.7%) since 2007 while the number of Americans not in the labor force has simultaneously surged to a record high of 94.7 million.
It's not just that the 312,000 full time jobs lost in the last two months have been "offset" by 118,000 part time jobs.
It's that the jobs report is one of the key metrics the Fed is examining to determine whether they're ready to ratchet up the Federal Funds Rate target again this month. Although this month's hike has obviously been scuttled by this jaw droppingly bad jobs report, the fact that the Fed is using nonsensical, contradictory and clearly cooked numbers like these to gauge their next steps shows how screwed the economy really is.
As Pete Santelli memorably ranted yesterday:
"Ten more months of thirty something thousand and we'll be under 3% unemployment! This totally summarizes the disconnect between good jobs, the jobs number, the unemployment rate and what motivates the fed and its dual pillars.
"The future president, whoever that may be, if you're running on this record on jobs and you look at that 4-handle on the unemployment rate, the only thing you should be able to discern is that if the fed uses any of this in their model as a high priority, it explains why policy is just so horrible."
If only he would tell his audience that the Fed is not headed by angels descended from the clouds to act as faithful stewards of the money supply but part of the many-headed central banking hydra that has engineered this collapse and stands to benefit from bringing order to the chaos.
But in the year of the Emotional Con Game 2016™, this is about so much more than the stock market or the next rate hike. The jobs report is just one symptom of the squeeze that is occurring in the American economy at the moment. This squeeze is forcing more and more people out of the once-majority middle class and into the ranks of the upper or (vastly more likely) lower classes.
Late last year Pew Research revealed that for the first time middle-income American families were no longer in the majority. The December poll showed that 120.8 million adults fell into the middle-income category compared to 121.3 million in the upper- and lower-income brackets, a sharp contrast to the 1971 figures of 80 million and 51.6 million respectively. Further Pew research from last month shows that this change is not regional or isolated; almost 90% of metropolitan areas saw a decrease in middle-class households.
When talking about median incomes and regional averages and nonfarm payroll data it can be easy to forget that we are not talking about numbers and statistics here. We are talking about living, breathing, flesh-and-blood human beings, a record number of which are not in the labor force at the moment. This is leading to worrying trends across the board.
In 2015 the violent crime rate began rising again, reversing a long term trend that has seen a sharp drop in violent crime in the US since the early 1990s. Also reversing course: the American death rate, which began rising again last year after over half a century of steady decline. The death rate spiked on the back of an increase in deaths from firearms, drug overdoses, accidental injuries, suicides, Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension and stroke.
The suicide story is particularly telling. The latest CDC data shows a steady increase in the suicide rate from 2000 to 2014, the most recent year that data was available. The fastest growing segment of that increase were white, non-Hispanic, non-Latino males, who committed suicide at a rate of 25.8 per 100,000 in 2014, the highest by far of any of the demographics listed. That, combined with skyrocketing drug and alcohol abuse means that white males are lagging behind all other groups when it comes to increasing life expectancy.
There are a number of factors that play into this, but the economic and political factors of the past 15 years cannot be discounted. As more formerly comfortably middle-class Americans see their American Dreams shattered around them, more are turning to drugs and alcohol or even suicide as a way of coping with their diminished expectations. Perhaps even more depressing is the realization that this phenomenon has less of an effect on already-impoverished minority groups and low-income Americans because they didn't have high expectations to be shattered.
Cue the Emotional Con Game 2016™. This is not going to be an election about policies, budget proposals or rational discussion. Look at me, unable to even write a column about the technocratic smart grid society and the future of humanity because the violence of this election cycle demands my attention.
This is an election that plays directly into the public's existential dilemmas. Who am I? What is my place in society? Will I have a future at all? And smack dab in the middle of that existential crisis are two of the worst political candidates in living memory (and that's saying something). And both sides see the potential victory of the other side as The End of the World As We Know It.
It is not at all surprising that things are getting violent. As the saner voices on the left are finally beginning to note, you can't go around calling your opponents the embodiment of evil without expecting that deranged thugs (not to mention agents provocateurs) will start using violence to stop them.
This is the part where I'd like to say exactly how to put the brakes on the spiral of violence we see shaping up in the long hot summer of 2016...
But I can't. Once people start cold-cocking and throwing eggs at political opponents simply for being political opponents, the cycle of violence has started and it's almost impossible to stop. The only way to win this game, as usual, is not to play. But it's easy enough to say that non-violence is the answer when you're not seeing that violence all around you. Or seeing it come to your door.
I guess what I'm saying is: there are a number of economic, social and political factors that have brought us here, toward a cycle of violence that seems unlikely to stop no matter what way America votes in November. And they are coming to a head. America's second civil war is coming, and the chances of it remaining civil are declining almost as quickly as the economy.