Cliodynamics and History

Ed Raymond

What Kind of Country Will Our Grandchildren Live In?

Perhaps the developers of a new science called cliodynamics will help us find an answer. In this new field, scientists and mathematicians analyze history in the hopes they can find trends and patterns in order to predict the future. Remember the adage: “Those who don’t know history are bound to repeat it.” I wonder if they are analyzing history to see if there ever was a leader with less character than Donald Trump. The word “character” has a number of meanings, but I want the cliodynamic researchers to use this definition: “Character refers to the combined moral or ethical structure and the fortitude, integrity, and reputation of a person or group.”  Has there ever been an international leader with less character than Trump? This inquiring mind wants to know.

Trump has called dozens of leaders “dumb,” “crooked,” “little,” “no energy,” and most recently “dogs.” Evidently he views most women as Rottweilers, French poodles, black Labradors, cocker spaniels, and promiscuous bitches. But I think the best demonstration of his total lack of character is his public treatment of Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona who is dying of brain cancer. He said he never considered McCain an American hero “because he was captured and tortured.” He often ridicules McCain for casting a thumbs-down deciding vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act. But his recent failure to even mention McCain’s name in the passage of the new defense spending bill called the John S. McCain National Dense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 reveals a little man devoid of character who shouldn’t be leading any kind of reputable organization. At the signing of the bill, Trump went on and on mentioning names of other politicians who had helped pass the bill of $716 billion, but he  didn’t read the full name of the act, carefully omitting McCain’s name in his 28-minute speech.  Here was a coward golfer with five deferments because of bone spurs reacting to an American hero who spent five years in the “Hanoi Hilton” under constant torture cowardly scorn. Petty. Pathetic.

Will We Ever Recover From Trump?

I have always thought it would take ten years to recover from the George Bush Recession of 2007 and his 2003 invasion of Iraq. That recovery is way behind schedule. Now, will we be able to recover from the bad manners, vulgarity, boorishness, lies, racism and offensive, foul-mouthed diatribes in Trump’s tweets and speeches? Will we ever be “civil” with each other again? Will the press continue to be “the enemy of the people?” Last week over 300 newspapers, including large metropolitan papers such as the Boston Globe, Miami Herald, Denver Post, and the Houston Chronicle, published editorials denouncing Trump’s animosity toward newspaper and TV reporters. At his campaign and other public speeches Trump isolates journalists in a “media pen’” where reporters are jeered, cursed at, heckled, and harassed. 

We have reached the point where straight, white, cisgender men will most likely not remain the privileged group they have been for hundreds of years. Today only 31% of Americans are white men, and perhaps 10% of them are members of the LBGTQ community. Using Trump’s adjectives, “lazy” blacks, brown “rapists,” “low IQ” black women, “dumb” white women, Muslim “terrorists,” and M-13 gang members are now members of the majority. How this majority is going to govern in the future is open to question.

The cliodynamics people start their investigations of history by asking the question all historians have asked for all of history: “Why do civilizations collapse? Professor Peter Turchin of the University of Connecticut, the director of the new science project, thinks we “are due for a wave of widespread violence in about 2020, including riots and terrorism.” Will Trump run again in 2020? This organization publishes its findings in a publication called Cliodynamics: The Journal of Theoretical and Mathematical History.

The American Dream Exits Stage Right

Despite all the propaganda from the Trump administration about “full” employment, there is economic anxiety in the country because of one statistic we don’t hear enough about. Since the late 1970’s prices for essentials have risen 30% while middle class wages have not risen at all. We now have 65% of Americans reporting they are living paycheck to paycheck. Many workers have multiple jobs, now known as “side hustles,” to survive. We have the average college graduate getting his first “skill” job saddled with an average student loan debt of $33,000 he must pay off before he rents an apartment or buys a home, before he moves out of his parent’s basement, before he buys a car. The average medical doctor graduates from medical school with a $200,000 loan debt. What disease do you think the doctor is interested in curing first? We have now reached a total student loan debt of $1.5 trillion, more than auto loan or credit card debt. Educated professionals such as teachers, artists, tech writers, and museum curators are anxious about their own economic instability, at a time when average CEO pay in the United States has reached $19 million.

No wonder democratic socialism as the governing philosophy of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark is attractive to 61% of American millennial Democrats between 18 and 34, an absolutely shocking shift from capitalism in just a few years. These countries always top off happiness and equality polls of over 190 countries. In just one year membership in the Democratic Socialists of America has gone from 6,000 to 43,000. Who is creating all of these socialists? Of course, it’s American capitalists!

American Capitalists Are Doing A Great Job Creating American Socialists

The Gallup Poll has not measured interest in socialism vs. capitalism in the U.S. for a decade, but in 2010 Democrats aged 18 to 34 had a 53% approval rating for both socialism and capitalism. Young Republicans in 2010 had a 72% approval rating for capitalism and only a 17% approval rating for socialism. By 2018 there has been a significant shift in ratings. Young Democrats now have a 47% approval rating for capitalism and a 57% approval rating for socialism. Among Republicans aged 60 to 64, 60% approve of capitalism and 30% have a positive view of socialism. That’s a rather remarkable increase in ratings by the oldest group surveyed. Even Republicans are beginning to recognize that capitalism does not work well for every American. In fact, capitalism has delivered world-record wealth to the top 20% while making 600,000 Americans homeless and essentially destroying the middle class, Many millions cannot afford even basic necessities.

Michael Tomasky in his New York Times article “What Are Capitalists Thinking?” outlines several reasons why American capitalists are now the ones creating American socialists by the millions. Since Ronald Reagan and his California conservatives emphasized “Me-Me-Me” capitalism in the 1980’s, young people have seen the United States where sons and daughters will always live better than their parents changed by greed, irresponsible tax cuts for the rich, and the dramatic reductions in the social safety net. Young people with many thousands in student loans have seen all bankers walk away from the 2007 Recession with “Golden Parachutes” worth millions while other Americans lost at least $7 trillion in cash, homes, and other assets. It was a financial meltdown caused by big banks selling junk mortgages to investors out the bank’s back door as soon as they were “approved” by the front office. Although about four million Americans lost homes and ended up sleeping in cars, not a single banker has heard the clang of a jail cell door.

The Best and Worst of America

Los Angeles represents the best and worst of America. It’s a city where people speak over 200 languages-and has sections called Little Armenia, Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Little Ethiopia, and Chinatown. A metro area of over 18 million people from all over the world, it has homes on the market for as much as $500 million while over 53,000 homeless crap in wealthy gated communities and live by the fortunate so they can raid the heavily laden dumpsters of the rich and famous. Often called the wealthiest country in the world, we will lose 72,000 people by drug overdoses this year, kill 97 people a day with firearms, shoot eight children a day, and walk around 600,000 homeless Americans sleeping in shelters, under bridges, and in tiny tents in parks and on sidewalks. 

Thousands of parents will spend between $125 and $200 to buy a bulletproof backpack guard sold by Bulletproof and Guard Dog Security for their young child so he might escape a random mass school shooting. Home Depot sells a backpack guard for $147.74, making a good profit. Our capitalists have not figured out how to stop creating socialists yet. Most of the Scandinavian and European countries solved that problem decades ago.

Years ago our capitalists invested in infrastructure, education, scientific research, and regional development. Now capitalists invest huge tax cuts in stock buybacks to increase CEO and stockholder dividends. There’s no doubt that an affordable college education is an absolute necessity for a well-ordered society. So the capitalists cut support to K-12 and higher education and pocket the difference!

Bankruptcy for the Old in an Economy  Making the Rich Richer

   Trump says the economy is going great. That’s lie #4,230 since January 20, 2017. Why are 30% of elderly Republicans finally agreeing that socialism is becoming more attractive? That perhaps Medicare should be for all? Because older Americans are facing retirement with insufficient funds and are going bankrupt at an ever-increasing rate. They are waiting longer for full Social Security benefits, solid old-time pensions have been replaced by shaky 401(k) plans, and health care costs are increasing exponentially. An elderly Parkinson’s patient recently had his drugs rise from $70 every three months to $1,100! One in three older people who receive SS benefits depend upon them for 90% of their income.

Because middle-class income has not increased for at least 30 years, the rate of people over 65 filing for bankruptcy has tripled since 1991. The cost of living has increased 30% over the last three decades. Something had to give. The Consumer Bankruptcy Project reports that from February 2013 to November 2016 there were 3.6 bankruptcy filers per 1,000 people aged 65 to 74; in 1991 there were only 1.2. In 2017 12.2% of all filers were 65 or older, up from 2.1% in 1991. By 2013, the average Medicare person’s spending on health care ate up 41% of the average SS check. Roughly 40% of people over 65 still have a home mortgage, twice as much as 65 and over homeowners in 1989. The lowest-income families led by someone 55 or older now carry the heaviest debt loads relative to their incomes. More than 13% have debt payments that equal more than 40% of their income, double what it was in 1991.

No wonder the democratic socialism of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark—and their own millennials—looks very good to older Republicans! The Cliodynamics people need to put this question under their historical and mathematical microscope: Why are the streets of San Francisco, California covered in human feces?