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Why So Many Americans Feel So Powerless


Why So Many Americans Feel So Powerless

Robert Reich

A security guard recently told me he didn’t know how much he’d be earning from week to week because his firm kept changing his schedule and his pay. “They just don’t care,” he said.

A traveler I met in the Dallas Fort-Worth Airport last week said she’d been there eight hours but the airline responsible for her trip wouldn’t help her find another flight leaving that evening. “They don’t give a hoot,” she said.


I so agree. As with most political arguments uttered by Democrats, he refuses to admit the party’s, and more specifically HIS role, as enabler. “Glass Steagall”. say it Reich. What a pup.


And yet most Dems despised the Occupy movement (as well as most other forms of activism) for not working “within the system” by just voting for or writing a strongly-worded letter to some corporate-funded Democrat.

We already see the same pattern taking place–the inevitable demand that Hillary Clinton be nominated because she’s “electable,” while perpetrating the farce that we can “hold her feet to the fire,” a strategy that has done almost nothing to alter the course of Obama’s militaristic, pro-corporate agenda.


One word for Reich–Duh!


I think Mr. Reich makes significant points. I would like to add the medical-psychological component to this “powerlessness.”

The 3rd widest selling drug today is anti-depressants. I’ve long argued two things:

First, that when millions of people feel they must medicate their minds in order to maintain their lives, a gigantic social-engineering experiment is underway.

Second, this muting of so much angst is like silencing the canaries that would otherwise shriek inside coal-mines.

Instead of responding to this “alarm” by fixing what’s broken, the voices are silenced. Note how this same protocol operates to silence today’s foremost whistle blowers. TRUTH is the great taboo and it’s just plain not allowed into The Public Conversation.

Also, when people carry 30 or more extra pounds around, they tend to feel lethargic, literally weighed down by their own bulk.

Companies like Monsanto which are POURING corn syrup into food products are part of the Obesity epidemic.

Add in Fracking and the detritus of a vast chemical overload and Cancers are spreading so that it’s estimated that one in 2 persons will face some kind of Cancer during their existence.

The lack of genuine health–be it psychological or physical–is a HUGE component of the lack of energetic citizen “blowback.”

Also, when both parents are forced to work (if there are 2 parents at home) to balance the FACT that costs of living have skyrocketed while wages have remained depressed, then between maintaining the home, getting the kids to school and back, shopping, cooking, cleaning, helping with homework, and often taking care of aging relatives, very little JUICE is left.

All of this is as calculated as implementing the Turner system within the manufacturing realm. Forcing workers to repeat redundant tasks rather than build an entire product wears down souls in subtle ways.

What the 1% is using its clout, financial muscle, and legal privilege to enact is a CRIME against humanity.


Reich always impresses me as a great capitulator. The terminology of “feel” is completely misplaced. There is a reality under George Herbert Walker Bush’s “new world order”. From the police state to black box voting citizens are being oppressed. We are way beyond the “feeling” of the heavy hand of a corrupt federal government. There is no difference between some tin horn third, world dictator savaging his population and Obama’s burgeoning authoritarian society.


Canaries in coal mines did not shriek. They died.

When the canary stopped singing, the miners knew that there was a problem.



Reich tells us “The consumer movement has been muted” without providing the explanation why.

Expanding upon the work of the Roosevelts, Upton Sinclair and other muckrakers, Ralph Nader during the 60s spearheaded the consumer movement as we know it. The movement was very successful until the corporations and their puppets in the media and Congress systematically destroyed Nader during the 70s, putting the consumer movement into a downward spiral.

It really was that simple.


“As I travel around America, I’m struck by how utterly powerless most people feel”.

Really now, Robert? Just now getting it, are you?


people are powerless and dont vote or if do vote vote based on whatever soundbite they heard right before heading into voting booth and espec those trained on trusting ‘nightly news’ now also becoming corporate echo chamber devoid of context i.e.faux news have lost all fa!th in all institutions.

In US, everything happens in a vacuum magically for no reason. the deepest thoughts will still just finally result in ‘something something thugs’.

OF COURSE decades of stagnation beginning w/trickle down reaganomics created envir for this kind of thing. powder keg was pol!ce rac!sm. it will keep gett!ng worse b/c our current econ is unsustainable.

100 yrs ago it was !rish vs !talians. before that our ancestors BRUTA!~!Y exterm!nated natives.

we have cognitive dissonance in US now only b/c reagan elim ‘truth in journalism’ so faux news was born. then despite FCC forc!ng faux news to be reclassified as ‘enterta!nment’ this salient point isnt going to be broadcast in giant neon letters before each ‘broadcast’ that it is for entertainment purposes only…all the sh89&t spewed daily on faux news is regurgitated over and over like gospel.

therein lies the crux of our inability to deal with climate catastrophe unfolding, total RW befuddlement over ‘unrest’ and ME ‘instability’ etc. i.e. garbage in garbage out.

maybe if Obama is truly progressive as a lame duck he can reinstitute truth in journalism as well as reinstate glass-steagall…either would be an important bookend to his presidency which had high aspirations but obstructed by more filiibusters by most obstructionist sc90rched earth congress in our short term history which would shut down govt in ONE SECOND just to make obama ‘!ook bad’.

for f89Ck sakes dont elect any more tea partiers unless YOU are going to be fighting in coming RW war RW have promised OPENLY.

even record tornadoes in LA yesterday for instance cant even make dedicated denialist like j!ndal ‘rethink’ his denialism b/c big oil has such a v!ce gr!p on his state (like many others).

denialism isnt JUST denying SIMPLE basic fifth grade science such as fossil fuel emissions and inexorable warming and climatic instability which can’t be denied in a rational world where science isnt the ‘ant!christ’ and congress isnt owned by corporations…

apparently corinthian college is just gone all of a sudden and doesnt even MAKE actual news which might actually impact people actual lives…got to focus on r!oting and ignore root causes!! carry on!!!


“First, that when millions of people feel they must medicate their minds in order to maintain their lives, a gigantic social-engineering experiment is underway. Second, this muting of so much angst is like silencing the canaries that would otherwise shriek inside coal-mines”.

As a liberal long obsessed with our one-party government’s increasing patronage and blatant enabling of corporations, our options for a working democracy have all but disappeared. Much like our military forces who return to civilian life with serious physical and mental disorders, I admit to feelings of loss of power with severe and deepening depression, based on reality, to friends, family and personal physicians. The solution offered for both armed forces and civilians is that “there is a pill for that”. My ready answer for that is “no”!

Any logical soul must find it impossible to keep a Pollyanna attitude as our dystopian future draws near. Reacting to serious threats is a survival necessity. Anesthetizing the fighting mode with drugs or alcohol, while creating profit for Big Pharma and compliance with our corporate rulers does nothing to keep us whole.


And most importantly, there was a press that supported the muckrakers - and also kept all sorts of movements for change on the front pages - building popular indignation until the powerful knew they had to do something to keep the situation from exploding.

Now we are told that we have to keep our protests “peaceful and nonviolent” and then we are (more accurately, so that we can be) utterly ignored and disappeared by the media. If Martin Luther King and the SNCC were around today, they would be reduced to standing on street corners with signs, regarded as harmless kooks to ignore by passers-by, after a year or so, they would give up and that would be that.

So when angry young people resort to rioting such as in Baltimore right now, what other, for fucking crying out loud, choice did they have??? Their choices are:

  1. Nonviolence - and be utterly ignored, disregarded and forgotten.

  2. Engage in so-called “violence” (I don’t consider smashing unliving matter to be violence) and get attention. Sure, it is negative attention but at least it is attention - with the possibility of some sympathetic attention by powerful people like the incredibly spot-on tweets the Orioles GM broadcast yesterday in support of the Baltimore black community.


Yup. Professor Reich is an amazing clueless guy. That is what happens when you are an ivory tower proffer in a university in the center of an area of stupefying wealth (the SF Bay Area), where practically nobody knows what things are like in the rest of the USA.


In today’s media environment publicity is indeed hard to obtain if you are not an insider (meaning part of, or gunning for the 1%) thereby making the frequently echoed observation in Hollywood that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS BAD PUBLICITY more applicable than ever for anybody hoping to spread their message.


I see hints that their monopoly on media is in decline. But, those thoughts only happen on days when I’m not feeling like a freak cause I don’t buy in. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. Which may not be an option anymore if it doesn’t start raining in California.


"Question: What Is Learned Helplessness?

Answer: Learned helplessness occurs when an animal is repeatedly subjected to an aversive stimulus that it cannot escape. Eventually, the animal will stop trying to avoid the stimulus and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation. Even when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness will prevent any action.

While the concept is strongly tied to animal psychology and behavior, it can also apply to many situations involving human beings. When people feel that they have no control over their situation, they may also begin to behave in a helpless manner. This inaction can lead people to overlook opportunities for relief or change."


I don´t know much about Reich, but i will tell you this with regard to the lack of direct suggestions concerning how to change, alter, or improve our life threatening situation as a species:

It is probably too terrifying to admit, for most people, the reality we are facing; a planet entirely controlled by corporate criminals.

It goes without saying that “politics” is irrelevant in a global society mismanaged by criminal interests and their willing hirelings.

The “suggestion” you are, many of you, looking and waiting for, has been staring back at you for years, even decades now.

We are now and have been engaged in a war, a global war, a war between barbarity and semblances of coherent rationality. The enemy, as it were, is not being addressed, is not being removed, is not being suppressed, by normal interaction, as witnessed by the continually worsening strategic situation locally and globally.

It is a social war at the same time, between those who (the vast majority of us) believe in and try to progress, and those who (a pathetic few) attempt to maintain an ethically and intellectually … stunted … state of human development.

The enemy, as it were, will not relent and life is soon over. The suggestion is as simple as it is expedient to the need; the enemy must be suppressed, locally and globally.