Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Angry White Male: It's Mostly About Money, But With A Spin


The modern American political phenomenon of "the angry white male" has baffled me for a long time. These are working-class and lower-middle-class guys, age ranging from around 25 to 55, who vote overwhelmingly Republican, against their true economic interests. These aren't men who own hedge funds, and it's been shown repeatedly that supply-side tax cuts at best do nothing for them, and at worst shift the burden to them in insidious ways. For them, voting GOP is like being chickens for Colonel Sanders.

But after reading a recent Associated Press report on income trends in America, comparing 1974 earnings to the most recent available census stats, I think I understand this a little better. It's mostly about wages and salaries -- but with an ironic demagogic spin.

From AP's report:

"New analysis of census data challenges the historical presumption that each American generation will be wealthier than the one before, according to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts' Economic Mobility Project.

"A generation ago, American men in their 30s had median annual incomes of about $40,000. Men of the same age today ... make only about $35,000 a year, adjusted for inflation.

"That's a 12.5 percent drop between 1974 and 2004, according to the report."

It's not easy for me to relate to the men who have been most profoundly affected by this trend. I've been in the work force since the late '70s. It wasn't hard for me to do a little better than my parents did, because we were a relatively poor family. At the time I came of age, poor kids like me were getting help that isn't so available anymore, so I got to go to a good college and graduated in 4 years.

But the following decades weren't kind to working-class, and even middle-class, white guys. A lot of the bread-and-butter blue-collar jobs were exported -- from places like Flint, Michigan, to places like Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. As more women, often with college degrees, entered the work force, and more minorities finally began climbing the ladder, The Angry White Male suddenly had competition that Pops never faced. That big promotion, or even the gold watch at 65, were no longer givens.

At the risk of seeming "illiberal" for just a moment, I have seen, and have been personally affected by, all the things that the pissed-off white dudes complain about. I've seen people hired in haste for jobs they were unprepared for, and unable to perform -- but they were still tolerated. I've seen people get promotions they weren't ready for -- but, true to The Peter Principle, they stayed there. I've seen mistakes swept under the rug time after time.

But, Angry White Dudes, let's be honest. Was it really different in 1950? If you were able to talk to the vanguard of women and minorities who were trying to break through an almost impregnable glass ceiling back then, wouldn't they be expressing the same frustrations, only worse?

But, back to the report. Upon closer examination, what becomes clear is that the puppetmasters are getting you fellas, y'all Angry White Males, to blame people who are largely in the same predicament you're in. Someone I know told me that he walked into a 7-Eleven one day and heard Rush Lardbaugh on a radio, railing against "Feminazis" and such, and the guy who had the radio on was a fortyish man in a red smock who was probably making eight bucks an hour. And he was grooving to the bashing.

The report suggests that, instead of listening to Lardbaugh's rant, this guy should have been checking out what his company's CEO makes. In the same period, from the '70s to the most recent stats:

"Chief executives' pay surged to 262 times the average worker's pay in 2005, up from 35 times in 1978, according to the report's analysis of Congressional Budget Office statistics."

A coincidence? "Free market" fundamentalists would have us believe so. The market is supposed to be some kind of primal force that, like the Ned Beatty character in Network says, mustn't be meddled with. But it's funny; they meddle with it in other countries, and to general good effect. Back to the report:

"The Pew report also found that in many countries, including Denmark, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Germany and France, there is more economic mobility than in the U.S. when measuring by the income differences between generations."

OK, thirtysomething white males, go on being angry. But please, redirect the anger at those who really deserve it. You've got some pretty corpulent swine getting a free ride on your shoulders. It's time to start blaming them, and not your co-workers who happen to be of a different race or gender. Stop listening to the demagogues.

Manifesto Joe is an underground writer living in Texas. Check out his blog at Manifesto Joe's Texas Blues.


Anonymous said...

Although they'd strongly deny it: a large part of the popularity of Limbaugh, Beck, and the rest of hate radio comes from stirring up Angry White Males over divisive racial issues. People like Rush know exactly the right emotional hot buttons to press to get his audience angry. It's because of Rush's lies and disinformation that a lot of Angry White Males believe that the government spends more money on welfare programs for minorities than it does on the Pentagon.

Anonymous said...

Here's a fascinating and thought-provoking view of this topic from white anti-racist activist Tim Wise:
It's well worth a read.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, white males have lot to be angry about.

I mean, just take a look at Congress. Take a look at the photos of every U.S. president in history. Take a look at the CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations. Take a look at photos of of America's rich and powerful people.

In all these photos, you rarely see the face of a single white male these days.

If you're born a white male, you hardly have any opportunity to get ahead in society these days. White males are really repressed by our society.

Anonymous said...

"These are working-class and lower-middle-class guys, age ranging from around 25 to 55, who vote overwhelmingly Republican, against their true economic interests."

Conservatives have an ideology that rises above personal self interest. The voters you are so confused about vote for what they believe is the best for their nation in the long term, not for what they can shake down their neighbors for in the guise of government. You will never understand this because you want what you have not earned. You should be ashamed of yourself. You have a four year degree from a good college (paid for by your neighbors against their will,) you live in the richest country in the world, you have greater opportunity than 99 percent of the population of the planet, and you still whine on and on because someone makes more money than you.

With liberals it is always about the money, isn't it...someone else's money. You are no better than a thief, and you should be ashamed. You have reduced yourself to begging when you could actually be producing something of value and making yourself and your family proud.

It is a little ironic; I surfed into this blog looking for examples of liberals creating examples of class warefare that do not exist, and you actually tagged your blog with that key phrase. Thanks for making it so easy. You will be credited in my essay.

Manifesto Joe said...

Hi, Anonymous, this is Manifesto Joe:

Your comment would be laughable if it weren't representative of many millions of dupes. I don't know your socio-eocnomic status; maybe I hit too close to home. Let me discuss a few points about income redistribution, which seems to be your main "argument" in rebuttal.

The rich are much, much better at redistributing income (in their direction), and well they should be. They've been at it since antiquity. It's only been the past couple of centuries or so that they've had any serious competition at it.

We'll do this dissection point by point: (1) "Conservatives have an ideology that rises above personal self interest"???? Did you go to college? Maybe you were dozing on the day the economics prof talked about Adam Smith. He's the patron saint of laissez-faire, the bedrock of modern conservative economic thought. He argued that self-interest produces unintended consquences that produce good results for the economy as a whole. I don't always agree, but we'll put that aside for a moment. The point is that this shows a rather gaping hole in your background.

(2) "The voters you are so confused about vote for what they believe is the best for their nation in the long term, not for what they can shake down their neighbors for in the guise of government." This is actually an alarming aspect of this. They voted for a government that started an expensive elective war, so now Halliburton can shake me down for tax money for their no-bid contracts. And it's against my will, neighbor.

(3) "You should be ashamed of yourself. You have a four year degree from a good college (paid for by your neighbors against their will,)"
Your arrogant presumptions aside, let me point out that I repaid my govt. loans to the penny, and that much of the help I got was from academic merit scholarships. The taxpayers were ultimately out very little on me. And since I've made my way into a higher tax bracket over the years than I might have otherwise, the investment likely paid off, and then some. Now I am paying taxes to help some kid who was like I was -- I hope. (After Halliburton takes their cut).

(4) "With liberals it is always about the money, isn't it...someone else's money. You are no better than a thief, and you should be ashamed. You have reduced yourself to begging when you could be producing something of value and making yourself and your family proud."

You are either very disingenuous or very naive. Let me discuss a few points about redistribution of income:

What is the business of lobbyists? They crowd Washington and the state capitols in search of tax shelters, depletion allowances, investment incentives, contracts, etc.

What is the business of tax lawyers? They seldom work for ordinary people. Their main job is to minimize the tax bill for big corporations and wealthy individuals, and they are extremely well-paid. And, when you examine IRS stats, it's clear that they get results.

Among the rich, opportunism is expected. Among the poor, it suddenly becomes an intolerable vice. On occasions when income is redistributed to the poor, fools like you regard it as no better than theft. But when big corporations shake down states and localities for tax abatements, seed grants and the like, a kind of legal bribery, it's called "job creation" and "incentives" and ultimately, "smart business." You people don't get worked up about any of that, it seems, even though it is probably costing many of you a lot. The taxes they don't pay, you and I do.

Your ad hominem attacks (that thar college do come in handy, even fer us po' hillbillies!) I will mostly ignore, but allow one more point. Former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm, R of my home state, went to college the same way I did -- on a combination of public assistance, merit scholarships, loans, etc. He spent most of his adult life on the public payroll, first as a state college professor, and then for many years as a legislator. But he saw fit to vote repeatedly to slash funding for the kinds of programs that helped him get his degrees -- it was like, I'm at the top of the ladder now, and so I'm going to pull it up. Describing this as a double standard doesn't remotely do it justice. I'm happy to have any tax money from me go to help some smart, disadvantaged kid, because it's an investment in the future.

What is more than a "little" ironic is that you came here hunting for class "warefare" (is that something like pottery?) and found it. Let me assure you that it is very real, and you'll see more before you will see less.

Credit this in your "essay," please. And I'll leave you with a paraphrased quotation from John Stuart Mill: Not all conservatives are stupid; but most stupid people are conservatives.

If you are one of the disingenuous types who actually have a trust fund, enjoy it. If not, well, have a great time in your fool's paradise.

Postscript: You just gave me one of my next posts for my blog!

Anonymous said...

OK, I am not trying to offend you here, this is an honest you consider yourself a Marxist? Your arguments sound like you are; however, I think I should let you respond before I make assumptions.

Anonymous said...

Your point about Adam Smith’s unintended consequences made very little sense. That's understandable when you consider most college economics courses are taught by Marxists. I thought conservatives wanted small government? The Bush administration has increased the size and scope of government way beyond my liking. Therefore, I’m left wondering what it means to be a “conservative”. I am against corporate welfare as well as social welfare. Where does that leave me? Not to worry though, the socialist-multicultural-relativist meteor hit the US and has begun to wipe out the AWM-neocon-dinosaurs. Minority special interest species will soon be left to fight amongst themselves for control of the trough.

Unknown said...

I am not necessarily mad... but let's look at it from my perspective. When I file my tax return, I get little to nothing.

When someone with children, etc files, they get thousands.

So yeah, having to pay a crapload of taxes to have it handed back to corporate execs and lazy people who have multiple children (among other exploits) to milk the government coffers... yeah, it makes me mad.

So here's a deal for you; You get our taxes... and we get to treat you like garbage you are in public/society. I mean total dirt. I think that's a fair tradeoff.

Anonymous said...

Some thoughts about anger: anger can be an addictive altered state of conciousness (a drug).When you're angry the primative, mostly reptilian part of your brain is in charge, your "thinking" will be simplistic, black and white and often mirky.

Men(like me, I'm one) have done most of the fighting throughout history and prehistory, a brain wired for anger and war probably evolved when we were living in isolated communities competing for game. Today such a brain seems more and more irrelevent in a globally connected world.

It seems to be almost impossible for AWM to see that equal opportunity is a respectful attempt to share power and responsibility, not an attempt to kill and eat them. As long as they continue to abuse anger they never will.

Anonymous said...

Well Marxist Joe, Karl only had 9 people at his funeral I expect a similar occurance from you. Keeping rubbing Keynesian bull crap all over your body. Your not smart just a whiney pawn used for the most evil agenda known to man. I have my masters in Economics and I know everything I learned is utter nonsense. Look up Austrian economics....your so close minded such ideals are to advanced for filth like you. I'm glad to know that your beliefs will never come to pass in my life time. :)