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Why the 99 Percent Keeps Losing


Why the 99 Percent Keeps Losing

Robert Kuttner

Our current political situation is unprecedented. The vast majority of Americans keep falling behind economically because of changes in society's ground rules, while the rich get even richer -- yet this situation doesn't translate into a winning politics.

If anything, the right keeps gaining and the wealthy keep pulling away. How can this possibly be?

Let me suggest seven reasons:


Though the situation is not entirely hopeless, the past advances from the likes of Roosevelt and Johnson occurred in a time when the 1% hadn’t mastered control of the media or government yet. Now all mainstream media is corporate dependent and all politicans require corporate backing to get elected. As third party’s slowly get phased out all together in the U.S., people will be permanently stuck with the two corporate party’s resulting in the 1% getting richer by the second and the 99% slowly returning to the days of slavery and indentured servitude. While it is easy to pretend that we have a democracy (we can vote, right?), the truth is that this is no more a democracy than Joseph Stalin’s USSR in which everyone could vote for Joseph Stalin, but no one else. Here you can vote corporate, or no one else. The Pepsi versus Coke debate (Republicans versus Democrats) is framed in such a way that any other option like a glass of water (Third Party) is simply not up for discussion. We have only two soft drinks to choose from and both will give us diabetes. The brainwashing is complete as evidenced by Americans voting constantly for the two Party’s, our unconditional fawning over the military and the deep resentment Americans feel for any other system offerred out there.


“Reason Four. The Collapse of Equalizing Institutions. During the postwar boom, America actually became more equal. The bottom quarter gained more income share than the top quarter. This was no historical or technological accident. Shared prosperity was built on government activism promoting opportunity, strong unions providing decent wages even for the less educated, enforcement of other labor laws, debt-free public higher education, well-regulated financial institutions, a genuinely progressive income tax, and a trading system that did not promote outsourcing.”

Good analysis as far as it went. However-

The 0.01% may have been temporarily chastened by the 1929Crash/Depression and the reordering via WW2, but they had rebounded very quickly postWW1 without giving up much to the working class.

The difference is that the newly anointed US-centric Bretton Woods-class feared the returning veterans, who thought they had fought to secure and fulfill the democratic/social rites their fathers striven for in the War To End All Wars. The returning WW2 vets would not be denied, and the investor/political class found themselves looking across the bargaining tables, townhall meetings and campaign rallies at fearless, determined and organizationally-skilled men who had killed, watched comrades in arms die and whose families had sacrificed at home for the promise of the American Dream.

The keepers of the cashbox and manipulators of political levers found themselves facing the demise of their power. The US public would have readily followed a New Bonus Army to unseat the Wizards of Oz. So the 0.01% set about ensuring the “Greatest Generation” was bought-off and rendered quiescent with higher wages and the bounty of US corporate expansionism. The revolution was postponed, then rendered impotent in the 1960’s when the comfortable crew-cut WW2 vets sided with the vested interests against “those damn hippies” and their peace/social movements.

The 0.01% and their political/militarist/corporate enabler class no longer fears the public, as what remains of the Greatest Generation is either fertilizing the soil or drooling in old-folks homes, more concerned about their pensions than saving the world from fascism… again.


Maybe it’s just me, but it seems the African American population is much more effective with their protests and methods than the White community…one persists, mostly peacefully, and can claim some major victories. The other seems to drop the ball time and again. Am I wrong?


Have to ask yourself who has the least to lose.


There is no doubt some truth to this facet of the big socio-economic political puzzle. However, FAR more striking was the fact that Socialism had a following up until the McCarthy purges turned it into a dirty word. And unions became strong as a result of New Deal ideals working to spread more prosperity around. Ideals ran high and with university education costs accessible to many middle class families, and the G.I bill extending higher education returned to Vets, the population as a whole became better educated.

In this interim, universities were full of anti-war professors and radical thinkers; and media featured a much broader array of perspectives.

Student protests, the Civil Rights marches, women’s equality as organized movement, gay rights, and environmental activism ALL surged.

That was before 911 caused a lockdown, and Citizens United freed the 1% to own it all, and the negation of Glass-Steagal turned taxpayers into the unwitting beneficiaries of bad bankers’ big bets, and media was not owned by 5 major corporations, and through this control of message… so much pro-war inverted patriotism promulgated 24/7.

So your argument is but ONE part of a far more complex puzzle.

It’s interesting what posters always leave out. In the case of Space Cadet, I notice he’s integrated into his post, at least 4 points that I make often… and done this to conclude with the idea I most vehemently challenge–that all of these inversions come down to voters. As if the problem of centralized state-bank-military power is not THE STORY of history, itself… and thus ongoing.(That is, until patriarchy’s HIS-tory is replaced with a genuinely more egalitarian and universal OUR-story.)


It’s true enough that gridlock, as a political tool has been the domain of the Republicans; but I think the Democrat’s political tool–misdirection-- has been much more “effective” (damaging) in promulgating corporatism/neo-feudalism as the new status quo. As troubling as it is to see conservatives so easily manipulated into actively supporting policies that oppose their own self-interest, I find it much more disturbing to witness liberals using mental self-compartmentalization to, in effect, passively promote their own debasement. The buffoonery on the right is such an easy target at this point, and has become such a distraction, that we’ve lost sight of the fact that it is the Democrats and liberal rank and file who are really doing the heavy lifting in undermining the future of society and quality of individual life.


The article, ostensibly attempting to address a perspective on the crisis, is loaded with the very tropes on which the conundrum is based.

“a winning politics” is actually a mis-rendering of “The Discrediting of Politics Itself”.–this as erasure of the concept of participatory governance, informed consent of the governed

“regular working people” - ‘Regular working people’ should perhaps be ‘regulated’ working people. As the corporate ‘person’ is decidedly not regulated

“-- who see the Dream getting away from them and government not helping”. You have to be asleep to believe the “Dream”, as one wag put it. Oooh yes, lets chase the media manufactured dream that is “getting away”, quite literally, with murder.

“economic backsliding” – how about actually addressing the modes of application of theories of economic metrics that very pointedly and aggressively exclude the actual costs of the extractive model being applied to social/ecological/ equilibrium?

The Reign of Politicized Courts and Big Money – This is not new, but rather the feudal thread that has been assiduously maintained on the 15th century assumptions that 1) the planet is an inert and endless thing to be extracted from; 2) that if the ruling effete say that any given people are sub-human, the system can at the point of a weapon, reinforce the intended corralling; 3) by exclusion and killing, any evolution aside from that of an anti-evolutionary extractive construct dependent on usurpation can have a mask of legitimacy glued to the real face of the onstruct; 4) that 3 can be applied like a bludgeon when the theater of media wears thin. To really take the gloves off and play god.

In other words, the theories cum ‘politics’ that have for centuries manipulated and wasted, by hook or by crook, is confronted with the reality of what has been denied, lied about, and is in the process of hitting the aggregate wall of its own destructive failings.

Simply consider the social organizational acumen required for millions of us to address the scope of failings, and you see the actual societal profile of an already functioning alternative.


Reason Five. Bewildering Changes in How Jobs Are Structured. This otherwise skillful diagnosis of our economic straightjacket denies the powerful impact that computer/robotic technology has had, starting around 1980.

But, we still have a chance. We can rally behind the new “People’s Budget” published by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which provides for new tax brackets for the very wealthy and enhancement of the Earned Income Tax Credit - or other wage supplements.

And we have leaders, such as Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who proposes a simple, realistic Carbon Tax to moderate global warming, around whom we can rally.

Things seem impossible, until they happen. Let’s drop the cynicism and defeatism and make real change happen!


Bernie Sanders could run as an independent for the 99%.


Yes, you point out many results/symptoms of this key post-WW2 power mechanism reveal.

Think about it this way. When the corporate/political elite “normally” sit across a table in a negotiation (large or small), they can act with relative impunity because they know the police/courts/military will back them up if the individual/labour-group/social movement refuses to limit their tactics to a narrow range of “acceptable” options, which amount to systemic, incremental inter-generational capitulation. This affects such a wide scope of interactions as to set the social/political/workplace landscape on a very pronounced slope.

The police forces of the late 1940’s-to-1950’s would be reticent to persecute, let alone be violent against otherwise respectable returned vets. Even private security would have been staffed by a high % returned vets, equally unlikely to beat up their former comrades in arms at the behest of those “suits” who had stayed behind minding the cashbox.

The unions WERE strong post-Depression. But without the participation and militant-organizing backing of returning vets who would not back down to the corporates, they would not have won such massive justice in wages, workplace safety and the social safety net.

My argument is ignored by “permissible dissent” intellectuals as it sheds light on the key source of the enabler class’s power. The co-opted police/courts/military that backstops the ubiquitous arrogance that cannot be confronted without fear of retaliation and prosecution. The post-WW2 working class gains show that when faced with an implacable opposition, the 0.01% will patiently wait until they can manipulate yet another Golden Age, where Robber Barons reappear in philanthropic and benign-despot clothes.

You are correct, only so much of the “change” required can come at the ballot box. We must EACH take the lessons of Milgram and Zimbardo and refuse to “push the button” or play “prison guard” on each other. We must challenge at every turn the “authority” that tells us there is no alternative to beggaring our neighbour in every interaction.

Simply try to treat those you interact with by altruism, fair exchange, respecting genuine legitimate/intellectual authority and by refusing to cooperate with, be a silent party to or acquiesce to illegitimate authority ans its actions.


If he didn’t support the MIC and Israel’s “right to defend” BS.


" Sometimes that movement gets lucky and finds a rendezvous with a sympathetic national leader."

I think that is what happened with JFK. He was selected, but turned on his selectors after he was in office and became a sympathetic national leader which was an anathema to the economic elite that selected him.

So, I would argue that even if the 99% gets lucky again and somehow gets a President that is empathetic to our causes, he will be assassinated like JFK and the whole sordid affair will be covered up again by a compliant MSM because the Amerikan Government being the most corrupt of criminal cabals, will not allow any potential threat to their power and wealth.

That is why the 99% will keep losing no matter whom they elect… until there is a non-violent regime change in Washington De…Ceit, where the 99% control the MIC and their political quislings and Congressional, criminal cabal… I do not see the 99% not losing.


No, simply voting in yet another set of 0.01% enablers will bring no more “Hope and Change” that the last round of corporate shills.

US wars are mostly oil wars.

If the "“progressive caucus” actually voted/lobbied against and LOUDLY spoke out in the MSM as opposing US wars/sanctions world wide, you may have something. But they didn’t they don’t and never will.

The Carbon Tax is a canard for allowing the pollution to continue, merely making THE CONSUMER/TAXPAYER foot the bill. IF and ONLY IF those Carbon Taxes are levied on the off-shore accounts of the 0.01%/oil corporations with strict controls to prevent the reclaiming of those “taxes” through sales/tax-loopholes, then those who have benefited most from destroying the environment will be made to pay. Otherwise, it’s just you the 99% paying. Again.

And nothing in the Carbon Tax BS provides real disincentives to force oiligarchs to leave even the dirtiest, nastiest to extract “oil” in the ground. Fracking and Tar Sands will spike again once the artificial “low price” has served its purposes.


During the 1930s not only had “the 1% not mastered control” but nearly 10% of US voters voted for socialist or communist candidates, thereby giving the Democrats and even some GOP Congresscritters cover to vote in favor of tossing the 99% a few crumbs (in the form of the New Deal) under the guise of keeping the US from going commie.

With 98% of US voters voting corporate Dim or corporate GOP in recent presidential elections, while the two socialist candidates garnered less than 1% of votes (combined) the Democrats have no incentive to toss any crumbs to the 99%. Since Clinton and others reinvented the Party to maximize corporate contributions when they formed the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) in 1985, the Democrats have every incentive to withdraw whatever crumbs the New Deal tossed to the 99%.


Blacks focus upon racial inequality which is one of the MANY results of the systemic income and resource inequality promulgated by the 1%. The 1% has always been tolerant of protesting racism because it distracts most of the 99% from focusing on the root cause of racism…income and resource inequality. Throughout history racism rises in tandem with income and resource inequality.

The 1% have proven they have no tolerance for those who challenge their plundering of the 99%.
Example 1:
the author’s assertion that OWS’s demise resulted from “procedural purity” is total BS. The NYC and US Governments destroyed the organization and Obama expedited trade deals with Panama, Colombia and South Korea to further exacerbate harm to the 99% that OWS had articulated.
Example 2:
the 1% tolerated Martin Luther King’s civil rights efforts. It was only when he started questioning the military industrial complex’s profitable Viet Nam occupation and corporate control of government that he was added to the 1%'s hit list.


The 1% or 1/100th of 1% (whatever) are far and away winning the struggle. After significant gains, the lot of ordinary people has been in decline for 4 decades. Indications that the trend will change are hard to find. I largely agree with the reasons Mr Kuttner offers for this. I am not going to quibble with him over the points I think deserve more emphasis (I think social issues have taken most of people’s energy for decades, but that is another topic). He presents a framework for understanding what is happening in the United States today. That is useful. Most who have posted so far generally agree with him. We need to stop sniping at each others’ opinions or impugning a poster’s character. Better that we discuss what measures are needed to once again begin to overcome the power amassed by the political and economic elites in our society. This everlasting struggle has only ever been waged within the political system, whether peacefully or violently. All the Common Dreamers here are distressed that the United States has not become more the nation we think it should be and could be. The struggle continues and the fight is not lost, yet.


It’s curious (but of course, not surprising) that Logan Act charges aren’t being brought against the 47 Repug
senators that signed the letter to Iran. Yet another way the 99% keeps losing.


P.S. Yet another way it loses is that it takes seriously persons running for office who state that government is the problem. “If you elect me, I will represent your dislike of government in the best way I can.” And that’s exactly what they do.


I felt as if you had been reading my mail and precisely why I doubt the likelihood of ever again possessing a glass half full…