People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy
a book by Robert W McChesney and John Nichols
(our site's book review)
Humanity is on the verge of its darkest hour—or its greatest moment, say the authors. Hyperbole? Yes. But the book is worth reading for its healthy humanistic perspective.
The consequences of the technological revolution are about to hit hard: unemployment will spike as new technologies replace labor in the manufacturing, service, and professional sectors of an economy that is already struggling. The end of work as we know it will hit at the worst moment imaginable: as capitalism fosters permanent stagnation, when the labor market is in decrepit shape, with declining wages, expanding poverty, and scorching inequality. Only the dramatic democratization of our economy can address the existential challenges we now face. Yet, the US political process is so dominated by billionaires and corporate special interests, by corruption and monopoly, that it stymies not just democracy but progress. See Democracy—an American Delusion, Shadow Elite: How the World's New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market, and When Corporations Rule the World.
The canyon between rich and poor continues to widen
The great challenge of these times is to ensure that the tremendous benefits of technological progress are employed to serve the whole of humanity, rather than to enrich the wealthy few. Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols argue that the United States needs a new economy in which revolutionary technologies are applied to effectively address environmental and social problems and used to rejuvenate and extend democratic institutions. Based on intense reporting, rich historical analysis, and deep understanding of the technological and social changes that are unfolding, they propose a bold strategy for democratizing our digital destiny—before it’s too late—and unleashing the real power of the Internet, and of humanity.
The corporatocracy rules, and our democracy erodes worse by the week
The book does an excellent job articulating the need for “government for the people, of the people and by the people,” because right now the neocon elites and greedy oligarchs of the shadow government run it by telling elected leaders what to do, and no one has come up with realistic ways to take it back. The corporatocracy rules, and democracy erodes. We need concrete solutions, and this book is good at drawing our attention to the dilemma, but weak at outlining concrete solutions.
The authors say that new technologies will replace labor in the manufacturing, service, and professional sectors of an economy that is already struggling:
“As this lucid and informed study explains, digital technology is a reality that will lead to grim dystopia in the hands of concentrated economic and political power, but can also move us toward 'utopian dreams' in the hands of an informed and engaged public. The authors provide guidelines for understanding the evolving world, and for shaping it to deter the worst outcomes and to attain promising goals that are within reach, if the opportunities are grasped.”—Noam Chomsky
McChesney and Nichols are the swinging banjo in the movie Deliverance, warning of a citizen-less democracy, in which politicians pander only to the needs of a few wealthy donors, leaving the majority in the dust
"No one has a plan to resolve this looming so-called jobless economy, not even the big tech companies that helped create the situation. Moreover, the authors find that historically, the U.S. government does not take action until faced with catastrophe. McChesney and Nichols warn of a “citizen-less democracy,” in which politicians pander only to the needs of a few wealthy donors, leaving the majority in the dust and excluding them from the process of worldbuilding. This necessary if unsettling read is not an attack on tech, but on dangerous, unchecked capitalism." (Source: People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy, Publishers Weekly)
McChesney is a Professor of Economics and Politics
This book is written by Robert W. McChesney, a Professor of Economics and Politics, and John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, and it will help guide you by explaining why the whole world is changing and how it is changing, and he will tell you how to adapt and cope and change in a way that helps you and your family. It tells you how an engaged public is the only way to take back our democratic process from the elites. Reviewers found it either half-backed, impractical, naive, or simply dripping with utopian idealism or inspiring, innovative, helpful, enlightening, and scary. When the governed are passive, distracted, and demoralized, political and economic elites prosper, the authors tell us. See Get Up Stand Up: Uniting Populists Energizing the Defeated and Battling the Corporate Elite.
Here is one of the greedy, rich elites burying American democracy since they get richest if democracy gets out of their way
The authors tell us that “The United States retains the façade of democracy. It remains a democracy on paper and in our hearts. But ours is, increasingly, a citizenless democracy…Oligarchs and their servants call the shots for the feudal serfs of corporate capital.” Young workers are the hardest hit, buried under student debt with few good job options. That will continue as technology automates and eliminates more jobs, unless an engaged citizenry grabs the reins and places technology in service to humanity. See Get Up Stand Up: Uniting Populists Energizing the Defeated and Battling the Corporate Elite, The Quickening of America: Rebuilding Our Nation, Remaking Our Lives, and 8 Reasons Young Americans Don't Fight Back: How the U.S. Crushed Youth Resistance.
Ours is, increasingly, a citizenless democracy: Oligarchs and their servants call the shots for the feudal serfs of corporate capital
Hope for the return of democracy is the optimistic part of the book: "The authors cite nationwide grassroots movements that are rising above the cacophony of corporate-funded astroturf groups: the growing $15 an hour minimum wage movement (Fight for $15), the Retail Workers Bill of Rights, the mushrooming campaign to overturn Citizens United, the Black Lives Matter movement, sustainable farming, manufacturing co-ops, climate justice activists and, now, an unprecedented outpouring of both financial and volunteer response to the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. . . . Young workers – the 'Generation Screwed,' as Newsweek characterized them—are the most hard hit, buried under student debt with few good job options." (Source: ‘Generation Screwed’ Gets a Political Organizing Primer, Just in the Nick of Time)
‘Generation Screwed’ Gets a Political Organizing Primer, Just in the Nick of Time hopes we overturn that horrible Citizens United decision
Will digital communication aid us in rebuilding a more effective democracy, or will it simply cement corporate control? The answer to that question depends on whether "we the people" can organize to build a new economy that democratizes what should be a shared technological inheritance, rather than letting the forces of monopoly control reappropriate the digital commons. See Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Google, Privacy, and Anonymity.
"Avoiding the bleak future that McChesney and Nichols describe will require a sustained social movement to turn the United States in a more democratic, just, equal direction. Addressing extreme income inequality is a paramount first step. As McChesney and Nichols note, 'Dramatically lessening economic inequality is required to have a functional democracy; there is no two ways about it.'" (Source: ‘People Get Ready’ Is a Call to Arms) However, "dramatically lessening economic inequality" by taking money out of struggling and hard-pressed small businesses and giving it to workers sounds great until you actually talk to such businesses and find out the real truth of the short-sighted policy of suddenly making small businesses pay a whole lot more than they can afford for workers. Read on . . .
The authors don't seem to realize it, but the problem with addressing income inequality by raising the minimum wage is this: For consumers, higher unemployment and a higher cost of living as prices rise. As small businesses have to pay more for workers, they either fire some of their people or go out of business. It is estimated that the new minimum wage in Oregon will put up to 40,000 Oregonians out of work and it is estimated that the new minimum wage in California will put up to 700,000 Californians out of work and it will kill many small businesses or make them move over the state line. Those who've looked at the balance sheets of a lot of small businesses see they all have in common: a courageous desire to keep the business going at all costs. So they operate at break even or even at a loss for a bit, taking out second mortgages or borrowing from relatives. They are often on the edge, and big box stores and chains and franchises keep making the small business enterprises compete against unfair advantages of scale and political clout.
When liberal do-gooders that have never had the slightest experience of trying to keep a small business alive come along with utopian ideas of "living wages," we all agree we'd like to see it happen, including the small business owners. But adding this burden to already struggling businesses will push many over the edge or make owners that worked 40-hour weeks start working 70 hours a week to make up for the workers they had to fire to keep from going under, eliminating their family life. Will the do-gooders come work for free or contribute free money so these people will be able to go back to having time for families? Not a chance. And if the little companies are forced to raise prices to survive, the big box stores' unfair advantages of scale and political clout will send more customers away from their higher prices and towards the big box behemoths. See The Faces of $15.
Rather than adding millions more to the unemployment roles and killing tens of thousands of businesses and causing lots of price increases on top of inflation by employing a minimum wage increase, utilize progressive taxation
The only fair way to handle the matter is—rather than adding millions more to the unemployment roles and killing tens of thousands of businesses and causing lots of price increases on top of inflation—through progressive taxation. There are thousands of rich oligarchs finding ways to avoid taxes with offshore accounts, loopholes in laws put there just for them, creative accounting, using foundations and charities as tax shelters, etc. Take away all these tax avoidance tactics and force them to pay the 39.6% they are supposed to be paying. Give this to the small business owners, according to payroll sizes, to pay the extra $5/hour to their hourly workers.
Technically, this is money the oligarchs are cheating us out of anyway, one way or another, since the taxes the rich do not pay due to their avoidance tacics get wrung out of the rest of us and that is not fair. Or up the top rate to 50% and close some loopholes. Bottom line? Robbing middle class small business owners so they become lower class or unemployed is stupid. Take the money from bigger businesses that can afford it, or oligarchs who are cheating us all out of tons of money—that makes a whole lot more sense. The authors are against the way we are getting screwed by rich elites, but their $15 minimum wage is more pain for the little guy, as well as less employment opportunities. That is not well thought out.
To support the $15 minimum wage, take the money from bigger businesses that can afford it, or oligarchs who are cheating us all out of tons of money—that makes a whole lot more sense
“The authors show ways out of this dictatorial compression chamber. Assuming that is, you become indignant enough.” —Ralph Nader