Blake Fleetwood Gun Violence Original Politics

America’s Second Civil War is Underway

Gun violence is only one symptom of American democracy's terminal illness.

By Blake Fleetwood / Original to ScheerPost

The frightening epidemic of gun violence in the US has become a commonplace reality. Easy access to firearms is an obstacle that national politicians have not been able to overcome with more than lip service. But gun violence is merely one ominous symptom of a growing social collapse that directly threatens our nearly 250-year old system of democratic capitalism. 

We begin with this: There have been 260 mass shootings so far this year, and  2022 is projected to hit an all-time record.  Mass shootings, — four or more victims shot in a single incident — are becoming so frequent that we’ve become numb. Since the 1980s, the rate has increased 90 times – from 6 to 9 a year, to more than 900 projected for 2022.  And while mass shootings occur all over the world, the United States is sadly exceptional; with only 5% of the world’s population, the US has 31% of its mass shooters.  

Increased crime in large cities led  to the recall of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin in the June election, and more recalls are looming for a dozen other progressive DAs over the issue of violent crime. Supreme Court judges are getting death threats. Thousands of Trump supporters violently stormed the Capitol building on January 6 to overthrow the results of the presidential election, a first in US history.

It doesn’t take long to connect the dots: greed by ruling American oligarchs has produced  a massive inequality over the last few decades.  This ruling elite will not allow the government to share even a little bit of vast newly created riches with the majority of Americans – people who find themselves priced out of the American Dream and cast into the American nightmare.

It is not a coincidence that this tenfold rise in mass shootings and other tumult coincides with record-level wage stagnation for the majority of Americans, without a college degree. This group lost 13% of their purchasing power between 1979 and 2017. Yet national income per head grew by 85%.

Salvador Ramos, the Uvalde killer, was working for $7.25 at a local Wendy’s. He had recently dropped out of high school. He had no chance of going to college. He had no health insurance. He had no hope and no future. This most recent school shooter would never be able to support himself, much less a wife and children. He was caught in a poverty trap, with no way out.

Ramos was not psychotic according to psychiatrists.“It drives me crazy when I hear politicians talking about mental health,” said a friend and professor of psychiatry at Columbia Medical School. “Going after mental health is a red herring. It won’t solve anything.  Psychotics suffer from hallucinations and are delusional. They are not angry. Ramos was not that. He was a loner, and obviously a very angry, confused adolescent male of which there are about a million in this country.”

According to a study of 200 mass shooters, one of the common traits of these gunmen is often a suicidal impulse that manifests outwardly, prompting them to blame others. Think of suicide by cop.

Gun Violence Archive — 2022 projected

The median household income In Uvalde, Texas is $41,683 (compared to the US median of $64,997). Uvalde has a poverty rate of 21% compared to the American poverty rate of half that –11%. The median rental costs of an apartment is $633 per month, and the median house value is $77,700.

Twice as many people in Uvalde do not have health insurance – 21.9% – as compared to 10.2% in the rest of the country, and only 17% have a college degree versus 40% of the national average.

Last year two economists from Princeton, Ann Case and her husband Angus Denton, (a 2020 Nobel Prize winner in economics), published an influential book, “Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism.”They dug into national health CDC statistics — prepandemic — and found that working age white men and women, without college degrees, were dying from suicide, drug overdoses and alcohol related liver disease at such rates that for three consecutive years, life expectancy had fallen for the first time in 100 years. The two professors documented 600,000 extra deaths beyond the predicted numbers. They called these “deaths of despair.”

The Princeton economists concluded from this economic and health data that something had gone profoundly wrong with Capitalism and the American Dream. 

In the last four decades white middle class men were losing their well-paying long-term jobs and dying off prematurely. And the cause, according to Case and Denton, can be directly tied to the loss of the middle class well–being and a growing inequality that is decimating the American majority.

In the decades between 1940 and 1980, America created the largest middle class and prosperity for all that the world has ever known. Capitalism and democracy thrived  under this rapidly growing middle class affluence. The American Dream was born. It was a  time when children could expect to  grow up to be healthier, more educated, happier, earn more, and live a better life than their parents.

But after 1980, that Dream began to crumble for an increasing majority of Americans who began to lose hope in ever buying a house, getting a college education, having decent health care or holding a long-term job. Mass shooters largely fit into this majority.  An estimated 93% of these murderers do not have a college degree, according to a study of 200 shooters by The Violence Project . Another common trait of these shooters is a history of employment troubles.

The income share of the poorest half of Americans declined while the richest have grabbed more. In Europe, that didn’t happen according to the World Inequality Database. 

See charts below:

This resulting inequality has resulted in a rapidly growing epidemic of anti-social behavior over the last 40 years:

  • Gun deaths are at record levels, up 45% from the previous decade. In 2020 there were a total of 45,222 firearm deaths in the US.
  • Suicide rates have gone up more than 30% in the last 20 years. More than 1.4 million adults attempt suicide every year in America. And 45,979 succeeded in killing themselves in 2020. The highest rate of suicide is among middle class white men.  Suicides rose to the highest in the central part of the country. In 2020, 54% of people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition. 
  • Health risks for adolescents have shifted from pregnancy, alcohol, and drug use to depression, suicide, and self harm.
  • Drug overdose data from the CDC indicates that there were an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the United States during the 12-month period ending in April 2021, an increase of 28.5% from the 78,056 deaths during the same period the year before.

So what is causing this death-dealing environment? 

Seismic economic changes — exponential technological advancements, manufacturing’s labor-free innovations, and globalization – have produced unfathomable riches for a miniscule elite.

But these newfound riches have not been passed on to the majority of  middle class Americans. The opposite is true. Instead of a rising tide lifting all boats, this new affluence has only lifted a few boats while most are still stuck in the mud.

America’s middle class has been “dealt out of the promise of America,” as President Biden put it.  They have seen the American Dream slip away over the last 40 years. And they see no way out. They can’t afford a home, or college education, or health care. They can’t get a decent job that will pay a living wage. The basics of a good life have become luxuries, except for the richest few. This is especially true after the pandemic and our rising inflation. Most Americans don’t have money. They live on the edge. 

The majority are living paycheck to paycheck and there is no way they can amass the critical amount of capital to get them out of this no-win dilemma. 

This did not used to be true. The current  middle class stagnation is in sharp contrast to the 40 year period from 1933 to 1973 when average earnings for the middle class quadrupled. Spurred on by government investments and a political will, the Gross Domestic Product grew by 5% annually, creating a broad American middle class. But during the same past period, the percentage of wealth owned by the top 1% experienced a sharp decline from 48% to 22% of the country’s total wealth. 

Since the beginning of the 20th century, our democracy and prosperity has been intrinsically tied to the expectation of a healthy, growing middle class prosperity, but it doesn’t exist anymore. There is only one giant and increasingly desperate underclass and a tight-knit elite that keeps getting richer.

A “NEW TERRIBLE” CIVIL WAR

Images from the civil war (top) juxtaposed with images from the January 6 insurrection (bottom)

Much has been written lately about American democracy and capitalism and how our free market political system is in danger. Billionaire investor Ray Dalio, founder of the giant hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, unleashed a tweetstorm warning that America is “on the brink of a terrible civil war” because of widening inequality.

Barbara F. Walter, a political scientist from UC San Diego agrees. For the last two decades she studied and predicted civil wars around the globe for the CIA.

Her new book, “How Civil Wars Start,” sounds the alarm on the increasing likelihood of a second Civil War in the United States.

Economic elites have created a pernicious partisanship that has served to divide and trivialize this angry majority – making it less able to effectively articulate its needs. 

If this state of affairs and political fracture continues unabated, Walter maintains, it may certainly turn into a second civil war. 

“A civil war today won’t look like America in the 1860s, Spain in the 1930s, or Russia in the 1920s. It will begin with sporadic acts of violence and terror, accelerated by social media. It will sneak up on us and leave us wondering how we could have been so blind.”

Walter is not alone. Stephen Marche in The Guardian writes: “The next US Civil War is already here – we just refuse to see it.”

An alarming survey by the conservative American Enterprise Institute found that 39% of Republicans support the use of violence to achieve their political goals. Many speak openly of civil war. A recent poll found a plurality of Americans (46%) believed a future civil war was likely, 43% felt it was unlikely, and 11% were not sure. Younger people, Republicans and those residing in the South, Central/Great Lakes, were firmer in this belief of a coming conflict than those in the East. Blacks and Hispanics also had a greater belief in a coming civil war than whites.

So, who — and what — is to blame for this toxic brew?

Democrats want to blame Donald Trump for the savage insurrectionist threats to democracy, while Republicans want to blame Democrats for the violent riots in the streets and for the increase in lawlessness.

But the underlying blame for America’s perilous state – a cold civil war — clearly lies in the burgeoning inequality that has grown rampant over the last 40 years. Consider: 

  •  Since 1978, real earnings for ordinary people, the 68% majority without a college degree, have declined.
  • 46 million Americans say they cannot afford health care. Even after the Affordable Care Act, 28 million Americans are left uninsured.
  • The poverty rate today is about 11%, not much improved from the 1973 rate
  •  Today 61% of Americans can’t afford $1000 for a minor emergency: an unexpected medical expense, or a broken transmission.
  • 75% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track.
  • Compared to other industrialized nations, America’s spending on health care, housing and education has been miserly. To reach the level of Canadian or European basic living standards, America needs to more than double its level of public spending. As a result, Americans are much sicker, less educated, poorer and more unhappy than citizens of all other industrialized countries.
  • The top 1% own more wealth than the bottom 92%.

These feelings of betrayal — rage and polarization — among America’s majority middle class — the Left and the Right – have been smoldering for decades, long before Donald Trump even appeared on the political scene. 

The Occupy Wall Street protesters of a few years ago and the middle-class blue-collar workers who delivered the 2016 presidency to Donald Trump, are strikingly similar in their predicament. Both groups believe that the government isn’t working for them, that they are getting the shaft. They both want their fair share. But because of America’s outdated two-party political structure, the two sides have never been able to channel their common grievances into unified demands.

Divide and conquer wins again.

Both the left and the right believe the whole system is rigged against them: the courts, elections, the economy, Big Pharma, the media, all of it. They believe that the system in place is controlled by a corporatocracy of greedy, corrupt, malicious, wealthy elites and the media who prey on them. The result is a twisting of our democratic institutions in favor of the wealthy. 

The majority of Americans – Black, white and Hispanic – who don’t have a college education, now fall into an underclass, with virtually no power or influence. 

They don’t count. 

This is not a secret. Former President Jimmy Carter said that the US is now “just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery.”

This great inequality is not anyone’s fault. Inequality has been allowed to increase under Democratic Presidents like Clinton and Obama and Biden and under Republican presidents Reagan, Bush Sr., Bush Jr. and Trump. 

The only way to  safeguard our democracy and democratic capitalism is to address the concerns of “the vast majority of Americans” for whom there is a disconnect between the realities of their lives and what goes on in Washington.

So, one must ask: What do Americans want? More gun control, universal medical care, a woman’s right to reproductive freedom, money and lobbyists out of politics, eliminating the tax loopholes that favor billionaires, better schools, fair voting laws, and a lower defense budget? 

Well, in short, yes. 

All the polls show it, (by 70% margins) but none of these desires, however popular,  hold much sway among the economic establishment in Washington. So concludes a recent study by Princeton University Professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Professor Benjamin I Page.

Capitalism is not the villain. Capitalism run amok with political power is. Businessmen and politicians are doing what they have always done. It’s just that the rules of the game changed rapidly. The top 10 percent got very rich, very quickly, and the middle class found itself in a sharp decline: increasingly ignored, irrelevant, and forgotten.

But any government that cannot keep its majority safe and secure, in other words, “keeping the trains running on time” – will inevitably lose its legitimacy.

Of course, we have never had a true democracy in the strict sense, even though America has had many democratic elements throughout its history. America ranks either 25th or 36th (University of Wurzburg) of all countries in fulfilling democratic ideals. The Economist calls the United States a “flawed democracy” while the German university scholars call America “A Deficient Democracy.”

The top democracies, in order, are Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada, Finland, and Denmark.  Not surprisingly these countries rank among the happiest countries in the world. The US ranks 16th. 

But even our “flawed” or “deficient” democracy, lasting nearly 250 years, is a blip in human history.  It will not survive if it does not deliver the goods to the majority and fails to address the basic needs of its citizens. Most people don’t really care much about political ideology like free speech or an independent court system. They care about what’s in it for them.

Average citizens are angry and left out, increasingly willing to blow up the system to see what happens. Disgruntled Americans voted left for change in 2008 (Obama) and then did a 180 degree turn, and moved right for change in 2016 (Trump). And then they reversed themselves again rejecting Trump in 2020. Three times, middle class Americans were bitterly disappointed with the little that they got: more politics of platitudes, while inequalities mushroomed.

Recent mass protests and strikes — teachers, GM workers, Amazon employees, and Kaiser healthcare workers — all embody the unhappiness of a disgruntled middle class. Since 2010, young adults, ages 18-39, overall opinion of capitalism has deteriorated to the point that capitalism and socialism are tied in popularity among millennials and Gen Z-ers. 

No wonder 50 million people believe that the 2020 election was “stolen.” And in a sense, they are right. Elections have been rigged for a long time by massive amounts of money and corporate lobbyists. Torrents of “dark money,” raised by both establishment parties, prop up a system that rewards the rich and decimates the poor and middle class. Surely there is something wrong with the fact that anonymous Corporate PACs spent $400 million last year to buy – or rather, influence – our elections. And all this bribery — the buying and selling of laws — is all perfectly legal after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010.  

The  long antiquated electoral college is a major scandal. Two recent presidents, George W. Bush (2000) and Donald Trump (2016), were not elected by popular vote. The Senate certainly does not reflect the views of most Americans. How could it?  A senator from Wyoming with a population of 291,116 has the same vote as a senator  from California who speaks for 18,832,065 people. Thus Wyoming’s political power is magnified 65 times in the Senate.

What about the fundamental principle of one man, one vote?

This is why courts, the Senate and the House and even the presidency, have not been able to operate in a way that reflects the needs and wants of the majority. 

American politics has been dominated by an elite economic oligarchy for quite some time, and has led to the political disenfranchisement of huge swaths of ordinary people both from the left and the right. It is truly a system where the majority can make a valid claim of “taxation without representation.”

And where is that money going? This year the profits of big corporations reached a 70-year high. The ratio of CEO pay to average workers expanded from 21-to-1 in the 1960s to 351-to-1 now. During the pandemic, inequality has accelerated – 130 new billionaires were born and the fortunes of America’s 745 billionaires increased to $5 trillion dollars, – while life continued to brutalize much of the rest of the population. Working Americans as a whole lost $3.7 trillion in wages during the same period.

This latest re-engineering of America  – the “Third Industrial Revolution” – and this vast new wealth has resulted in a dystopian nightmare for the majority. It has not “trickled down” and has triggered a dangerous time bomb that has broken the Golden Age promise of universal progress and dreams of middle class upward mobility.  

Democracy and free market capitalism cannot survive such inequality. Every dominant  civilization believes in the hubris that it is the last and best stage of human development and that it will endure forever. This is a fantasy. Advanced societies collapse with bewildering speed: the Mongols,  the Greeks, the Romans, the British, the Chinese, the Mayans, the Incas, and the Soviet Communists.

Strongman populism all too often replaces democracies and free markets in times of disequilibrium. Authoritarian rulers persuasively  justify their contempt for liberal niceties by claiming they represent the people against corrupt and out-of-touch economic and political elites. 

If America with its boundless wealth cannot untie this Gordian Knot, a populist backlash from inequality will slowly kill democracy and democratic capitalism as we know it. And all the King’s horses and all of the King’s men will not be able to put it back together again.

Blake Fleetwood
Blake Fleetwood

Blake Fleetwood was formerly a reporter on the staff of The New York Times and has written for The New York Times MagazineNew York MagazineThe New York Daily News, the Wall Street JournalUSA Today, the Village Voice, Atlantic, and the Washington Monthly on a number of issues. He was born in Santiago, Chile and moved to New York City at the age of three. He graduated from Bard College and did graduate work in political science and comparative politics at Columbia University. He has also taught politics at New York University. He can be reached at jfleetwood@aol.com/

45 comments

  1. Democracy? Free market capitalism? I see none.

    You can’t lose what you ain’t got.

    And Democratic Capitalism, WTF is that??? It’s an Oxymoron like Military Intelligence….

    1. Democratic capitalism ? Give me a break ! Capitalism has never been democratic and never will be. The CEO is the king !

    2. Yanis Varoufakus may be WEF, but he makes a convincing argument that we are transitioning from capitalism into technofeudalism because markets and profits don’t really exist when the Federal Reserve throws mountains of money at behemoth platforms like Amazon.
      What really annoys me about liberals like this author is that they can’t grapple with the utter depravity of the national security state. The more we hear details of the Texas school shootings, the more evident it is that this was another false flag event like 1/6, courtesy of the FBI, who has had informants involved in more than 90% of “terrorist” attacks over the past 20 years. Heh, who are the real terrorists/domestic extremists? I suspect that this civil war narrative I keep hearing about from affluent libs is another deep state creation. More people on the “right” seem to recognize that the natl security state is the real enemy, not their neighbors. You can’t confront the real danger if you continue to keep your eyes closed.

    3. Excellent analysis. The only missing, but critical, element is the influence of the Pentagon and militarism in skewing priorities. A Pentagon budget approaching a trillion dollars, higher than the next 10 countries combined, will dwarf all other spending needs.

  2. A bleakly powerful description of the tearing apart of the fabric of our society and its Author has marshaled the data into a powerful argument.

    However, on the issue of guns and mass killings there are a couple of other things to consider.

    Massive studies that look at gun violence across the globe that control for all the factors mentioned in this author’s article come to the conclusion that the main cause of so much gun violence in America is that we have so many guns.

    Two other factors seem to predominate. Gun violence is low in countries where it’s citizens have a cohesive and mutually respectful viewpoint and generally trust their government.

    None of this takes away from this authors powerful collection of data and observations.

    1. While I liked the article and agree with most of it, the guns part seems not only disingenuous, but almost comically out of place. The “Insurrection” had no guns or mass shootings, but is repeatedly brought up.
      Gun violence in the US is mostly an urban phenomenom, http://www.thetrace.org/2018/04/highest-murder-rates-us-cities-list/ ) bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/ascii/vfluc.txt#:~:text=This%20included%2018%25%20on%20probation,assault%20had%20an%20arrest%20record.
      and in the ’70s and ’80s, when the homicide rate was twice what it was a decade ago, most of the affected cities did not allow guns.
      Even today, when felons cannot legally possess guns, felons need guns to survive in the only “jobs” they can manage (drugs, gambling, prostitution, etc). The Poor and particularly the Black community (where one in three males becomes a felon) have become tragic victims of a money-making incarceration system, where non-violent drug criminals make up most of the incarcerated. Most of these people have No. Chance. at a decent life after a felony conviction. Sociologists will tell you that violent crime is linked to young males, most of whom outgrow it as they mature, yet they have no future or options after branded as FELON. Obviously their families and communities are adversely affected as well. Incarceration is an intractable, money-making problem.
      “Mass shootings” is a definition that has varied over time, mostly a journalists’ definition. The FBI used “mass murder” when four or more were killed. Some news sites have used three wounded people as a mass shooting (by this definition Chicago half way through the year has had over 45 “mass shootings” so far this year). There were 20,570 homicides in the US in 2020; despite State Media coverage, mass shootings are not a major contributor to gun deaths.

  3. An article of numbers, and sans any reference to humanity, empathy, and the commons. Completely lost me on, “Capitalism is not the villain. Capitalism run amok with political power is.” The civil war IS here, but it’s because Capitalism is working as intended. (and predicted)

  4. Of course capitalism is the villain. The system is not democratic capitalism that was somehow broken by bad men. It was established to serve the ruling classes from the beginning and it has long morphed into imperialism in search of cheap resources and labor. A good start would be transforming politics into a democracy as citizens wouldn’t vote for oligarchy. Next, abolish the profit motive and establish a resource-based economy to serve the needs of the citizens without decimating the environment.

  5. Scheerpost:

    It can’t be easy, posting articles like this week after week. It’s like reporting on the deterioration of a loved one laying in a hospice. I suppose it’s good to have a sense of humor (thanks, Mr. Fish) and be reminded of the light every now and then.

    Excellent arguments in this article, well written and researched. America’s class war is becoming visible as a low intensity, civil war, but I’d add that tribalism, racism play a big role, where affluent whites are happy to use violence and authoritarianism against non-whites, not just against the poor.

    ….

    To be part of a change to this outcome, I’m both trying to change how I live personally (giving up a consumer lifestyle, albeit with difficulty) and trying to get more involved politically. If we just change how we live, say to adopt an organic lifestyle, but do not get involved in pushing back against an indifferent, neoliberal govt and economic system , we are fighting only half the battle. I’m in a more privileged position (in material terms) than many people in the world, and have some understanding how you can live in a bubble, and try to ignore what’s happening on the edges of your consciousness.

  6. OMG! That’s the greatest article & truth that I’ve read in awhile, & I’ve read some great posts/podcast here on a daily basis. All Americans sld read this & it sld be published nationwide. But it won’t! Their loss! I’m thankful Scheyer posted it. & for Mr Fleetwood for writing it. This made my day, week, month!

  7. What a great piece! I would quibble with a few things but the gist is
    “The Occupy Wall Street protesters of a few years ago and the middle-class blue-collar workers who delivered the 2016 presidency to Donald Trump, are strikingly similar in their predicament. Both groups believe that the government isn’t working for them, that they are getting the shaft. They both want their fair share. But because of America’s outdated two-party political structure, the two sides have never been able to channel their common grievances into unified demands.
    Divide and conquer wins again.”

    So we can spend our time arguing about which side is “right” or “wrong” about any number of things or we can spend our time “channel(ing) … common grievances into unified demands.”

    The current rhetoric from BOTH sides, “conserv.”, “liber/progress” perpetuates the “divide and conquer” strategy that keeps us from forming “unified demands” – and until we do, no amount of “taking to the streets” will do – because we will be taking to the streets to – fight each other.

    And, my favorite theme, we must then go to the polls and vote en masse for a 3rd party, that by definition, is non-corp and represents those “unified demands” because that “outdated two-party political structure” has failed us over and over ….

    Thank you, Mr Scheer, for this post! – and PLEASE explore how that “outdated two-party political structure”, having failed us over and over, requires us to crack it open – and allow 3rd parties in, and how those 2 parties, who though failing us, have not failed their corp donors, are manning the barricades against any 3rd party that seeks to challenge them ….

    1. Yes, indeed! We must DEMAND a third party. Obviously, these two fraudulent ones aren’t working. DEMAND a 3rd party and don’t let anyone tell you about “splitting the vote.”
      We’ve got to start somewhere and build it. Personally, I am on board for JESSE VENTURA. He’s the only person I can think of who can bridge our deep, deep divide. Meanwhile,
      we’re just a bunch of frogs boiling in the pot of America.

      1. How about getting a 2nd party. We now only have 2 wings of a capitalist party.

  8. Sentient life is redundant unless humanity can find a way to replace this contempt with social responsibility. Western capitalist nations have created pretty monsters who disdain words like “responsibility” and “social”. Individual egos focused on winning.

  9. “It doesn’t take long to connect the dots: greed by ruling American oligarchs has produced a massive inequality…” You didn’t connect the dots correctly. We are middle class vs. poor, workers vs. those left jobless, 26 years into the Democrats’ war on the poor. We spent years pointing to the consequences, such as the fact that the life expectancy of the US poor fell below that of every developed nation. We created a country where so many people no longer have anything left to hope for, anything left to lose. We built a primitive, survival of the fittest culture. How did you think this would all turn out?

  10. Wasn’t aware that America’s first Civil War had truly ended, after all, the contributing factors to the second conflict, already long underway, are basically the same; inequitable power distribution, and racism, against a more inclusive, unified national community.
    How about another extensive explanation of what the benefits are, of the ‘democratic capitalism’ of America – the self-assumed exceptional nation, over the authoritarian ‘undemocratic capitalism’ of China for the peoples’ of the two countries?
    Take the resultant outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic that we are still going through, as but a touchstone example.
    After all, by arbitrarily designating capitalism democratic, you are conflating a purely hierarchical system as if it was a countries sociopolitical system!
    ‘If’ capitalism was truly capable of being democratic, it would be called ‘democratic socialism’, where, to start with, everyone’s vote value would be more equally weighted.

  11. I’ve never been more depressed in my 67+ years of life, having been born in the USA. I watch with abject horror as the USA continues accelerating into a bottomless pit of insanity and dystopia. And there is absolutely no stopping it now. The government was hijacked by the corporate oligarchs decades ago, and one can even argue it was founded on such a manner. Regardless this is the inevitable outcome of a nation run by and for the oligarch class while the rest of us are nothing but pawns to be sacrificed at their alter of endless greed, corruption and the very destruction of the environment upon which we depend for our fragile lives. About the only thing I can take to heart in these days of destruction is knowing that these same insane oligarchs will die off along with the rest of us as the 6th great extinction gathers ever more exponential speed.

    1. My 60th birthday was last weekend. I spent the day thinking about my 6-month-old grand niece. I was saddened to the point of tears thinking about her future life in the USA. It’s painful to watch and experience this country’s collapse. Still, I will do what I can to ease my grand niece’s pain as she grows up in a dying democracy and the end of an empire.

    2. Yes the heart can find a measure of satisfaction in revenge, but the mind and soul can’t be so easily appeased. Knowing who you are in relation to this “dream”, at a transpersonal level of being is essential to the process of equanimity. Depression is not some “thing” that happens to you, it is a response that you choose or reject.

  12. He says the in rampant inequality in the US is not anyone’s fault? And capitalism is not the villain? I beg to differ. He didn’t do a very good job of connecting the dots.

  13. “Occupy protesters, and middle class blue collar workers delivered the White House to Trump.”
    Any proof to support that conclusion?
    I smell bullshit.
    How does that translate to financially comfortable christian fascists running around killing protesters, school kids, and mostly nonwhite poor people.
    Financial inequality is a huge problem, but having money doesn’t make you virtuous, and being poor doesn’t make you treacherous.
    Everyone isn’t for sale.
    Those that aren’t may have ideas about solutions.

    1. You want proof. Occupy protesters and middle class blue collar workers did not vote for Hillary.
      Do you still smell bullshit.

      1. Hard to deny all the studies that show that HRC way underperformed among non college White voters compared with Obama and she had a drop of about 6 points with Blacks and Hispanics compared with Obama.

        The why is complicated. Bad campaign strategy is one. I think both Hilary and Obama each started 5-7 points down because he was Black and she was a woman but Obama was new, inspiring and great on the stump. Compared with him, McCaine and Romney, decent men and solid candidates, were flat.

        Hillary had a lot of baggage and had been chewed up by the press for years, deservedly so for the most part.

        On the other hand, can’t forget that she outpolled Trump by 3 million votes.

  14. only police violence jan 6–the actual violence—BLM/antifa
    “when fascism comes to USA it will be under the guise of anti-fascism”. Huey Long
    only the fascist right wing like the nazis advocate for gun control in Europe/South America; in USA the liberals despise freedom
    indeed studies find that gun ownership has declined in USA in the past 3 decades….the problem is not guns—it is amerikans
    perhaps if amerikans did not copulate with mobile phones they could comprehend reality

    1. Indeed, surveys have shown a decline in households with a gun over the last several decades but the results vary from a decline of about 50% to 45% or to 32%.

      One explanation for this is a sharp decline in the number of hunters, who were never a gun violence problem. Hardly any mass shootings involve a hunting rifle.

      Since a well maintained gun will fire for ever, where did all those guns go? There is no doubt that the number of guns in circulation has dramatically increased. The manufacture of new guns is up dramatically.

      Gun ownership now closely approaches the 80-20 rule that applies to so many things. 80% of guns are owned by 20% of the people.

      We could probably put a gun in every household in America and street gun violence would not go up, though suicides and accidental deaths from firearms would. The problem is within that group who own lots of guns.

      I would say that authoritarian regimes in general have disarmed their citizens, not just fascist.

      For example, in the 1930’s the Chinese communist disarmed their citizens. Most were rural farmers. The consequence was that they had no long guns to fend off wolves and other prey attacking their livestock. So they brought their sheep, pigs and cattle inside at night creating unsanitary conditions and the spread of much disease among humans.

      This is a consequence we would hardly think of.

      Can you tell me what it means when you spell America with a K?

      What does it mean when you copulate with your phone? How many and which Americans are you accusing of this. Maybe they are reading their SCHEERPOST.

      1. WDD, your Chinese farmers must be really dumb to take live stock into homes, but their homes are likely to be too small. These days most China farm homes are as good as ours at least.
        How did those dumb farmers cope 200 – 3000 years ago before guns and muskets??.
        Probably they used bows and arrows, so, now adays they become stupider than honorable ancestors.?
        B T W, we have mad cow disease, recently bird flu, problematic issues with fish farms, and so on but, but we have very clean, antiseptic farms.
        And, Hunting rifles are too ineffective, inefficient for mass shootings, AK 47, a weapon of war, is obviously the better choice for massacres.

      2. I don’t know why you would call these people dumb. This was in the 1930’s.

        I suspect they made the best judgment under the circumstances and were probably very resourceful, but we are probably talking about a family with one cow, goat or pig.

        During Mao’s Great Leap Forward in the 1950’s, Chinese peasants were living in fewer calories per day than a prisoner/worker at Auschwitz.

        I don’t know if Mao took away their bows

  15. Thanks, Mr. Fleetwood, for the very well-researched data and your superbly written article on the probable causes of America’s malaise.

    You have identified the true reasons for America’s decline, which has long been in the process. I note that others have disagreed with your claim that it is NOT capitalism but the inequality of the system that is (partly) to blame. I agree both with them and with your claim – it is and it is NOT capitalism.

    Capitalism left uncontrolled and allowed to build a pyramid of extremely wealthy individuals over an extreme and growing number of poor wage-earners – IS the fault. But capitalism that is allowed to work as intended and is endowed with modern concepts of equality for all – can and will work. But I think the one point of how corporations and wealthy donors use their vast resources to influence the election of friendly legislators is key to the whole problem. The American people are poorly represented – the legislators who serve this country are obviously being manipulated by the people who support their election campaigns.

    Unfortunately – as they are in control – there will be no reasonable reform. Montana will always hold an equal vote to California in spite of the population disparity; guns and its attendant violence will always be with us as long as our country’s leaders are blocked from making substantive changes to the constitution.

    We are being governed by idealogical demagogues, many of whom are Republicans – but also by Democrats who promise to make changes and then conform to the tenets that these demagogues profess.

    I see no hope for this country. As it stands now – it can only descend into eventual anarchy. The only question is WHEN will it hit bottom?

  16. I am seeing trends, such as “pop-up parties”, “organized retail thefts”and “street take overs”, where hundreds of young folk simply outnumber authorities and do as they like with no consequences. The parallel is this, we are a species in “overshoot”, that is rapidly destroying its own habitat. What often looks like revolution, is more accurately the death throes of a terminally sick, and dangerously insane species / uncivilized society. The real conflict is between the parasite and the host, we are all (rich and poor) racing toward the same event horizon.

      1. You must live in Seattle or Portland. Where “authorities”
        do nothing but destroy the quality of life there.

    1. Nice article on the Police State/ Surveillance State where dissent, political or rambling mental illness, is treated as a crime even though Freedom of speech, assembly and protest are American rights.

      I agree with many here, that INEQUALITY (which at one time was only about money) has spilled over and displaced Equality before the Law, another basic American right.

      People are being set up to be exploited. The massive caravans from Latin America, looking for better lives, are basically just another form of slavery , particularly in the border states where “Americans” cannot be bothered to cut their own grass or clean their own toilets. Both parties and their donors want cheap labor (note that FED Chairman Powell is intent on reducing wages, which with inflation are already lowest in recent American history.)

      Black communities have basically been destroyed by the massive increase in incarceration since the War on Drugs and the many Drug Crime bills of the 1980s and early 1990s. No other Western country subjects their poor and minorities to such long prison terms for non-violent drug offenses, with the “felon” tag becoming normalized in the poor communities, as getting caught, usually for a minor offense, and basically sentencing offenders to a life of either crime or exploited odd jobs, like illegal immigrants.

      Worst of all, these obvious exploitations are intentional, “just the way things are in America”.

      1. M 888,
        The incarnations are deliberate as well as the Justice and police. It is all meant to disenfranchise Black felons from voting, otherwise GOP will never be elected.
        Mass media and mainstream churches are complicit or willingly deaf/blind.
        We have a meanness to whitewash all facts relating to jailing of Browns and Blacks but distract everyone by accusing others…. Such as Venezuela, China, Burma of H R Abuses.

  17. How many of the mass shooters are in a fatherless home? The destruction of the nuclear family by progressive policies is at the center of this evil.

    1. Outlaw violent video games and we might see a few less massacres from the youth who are de-sensitized by them.

    2. The nuclear family is a pathological vestige of the former extended family. It was created by a capitalism that could thrive by splintering & Balkanizing the organic structure of preindustrial family structure.

  18. Economic inequality and hopelessness are certainly destroying this country. But, what about the f-ing endless wars and trillions spent by the US on its military?

    1. More like the trillions of taxpayer dollars given to other countries and to fight other countries wars. Instead of blaming someone else for all of our problems we should be honest with ourselves. When people are rewarded to not work(welfare recipients) why would they want to get a job. America is full of lazy greedy selfish spoiled brats who grow up to be lazy greedy selfish spoiled adults (if you want to call them adults). The American dream is not necessarily dead you just have to be willing to work for it. The majority made the rich richer because they want what the rich are providing, whether that is cheap products delivered to our doorstep or the tech products and services that we can’t seem to be able to live without. So everyone should quit listening to the corrupt liberal politicians who create issues like wealth inequality and racism to keep the masses preoccupied with hating each other so that no one will pay attention to what the corrupt politician’s real agenda is. If politicians were not allowed to have a larger net worth when they leave washington dc(or never leave in the case of some) as when they arrived then we might have a more trustworthy and honest government.

  19. California has 53 congressional seats to Wyoming’s 1. California has 55 electoral votes to Wyoming’s 3. It is disingenuous and misleading to say Wyoming has a 65 times more power than California. The House represents the population and the Senate represents the State. Every state gets equal representation. Before the 17th amendment in 1913 the people didn’t vote for the Senators but the State houses did. This is basic civics.

  20. Mr. Fleetwood did an enormous job of gathering data and putting it into an organized manner that is clear to grasp.

    Widening inequality will lead to civil war, again ?? There were tremendous economic developments prior to our Civil War, 1861 where the North became industrialized, using cheap European immigrant labor but the South remained an agricultural economy highly reliant on Black slaves. The conflicts of beliefs, culture, treatment of Blacks, taxes, and Central government power could not be resolved except thru war. Since about 25 years ago, there is another tremendous economic development as America had become a knowledge /tech economy not an industrial economy as before. The same conflicts are still simmering.
    A truism is that All wars are due to money , finances, power, and banks; so if inequality are these factors then civil war is likely to repeat…. Unless the bottom half of America gets a huge pay raise. But our gigantic corporations will not be as profitable and stock market will drop and a whole lot less $$$ for lobbyists to buy our politicians.
    Our European ancestors, in Europe, have broken up into numerous separate countries, there is no reason why we stay somewhat united. The urban VS rural division is unfixable.
    UK, conceivably, will have Ireland /Scotland bust up with only England and Wales remaining.
    There will be interesting times.

  21. The equivalent of the Attack on Ft. Sumter of the 2nd American Civil War happened on Jan 6th, 2021, when the Capitol was attacked in an attempt to overturn the election.

    What is strange is what we learn about Lincoln from this. The history books seem so clear. Sumter was attacked, Lincoln declared that the Union must be maintained, Union called for volunteers to defend the Union.

    But, you never understand that Lincoln was brilliant in that he actually understood that the attack on Ft. Sumter and the declared secession of the states was the beginning of the 1st American Civil War. Obviously, we see now that Lincoln had other options. He could have taken a nap. He could sleep through the whole meeting about Ft. Sumter. He could have made statements about how American ‘needed a Strong Democratic Party’, and expressed his friendship and hopes for unity with the people who were attacking the Union. He could have simply said that of course the rightwing slave owners in the South could have whatever they wanted, and that they could exercise a veto on his Presidency. That unity was more important.

    Its taken Joe Biden for modern Americans to truly understand how great Lincoln was for what seems obvious in a history book …. actually realizing that a Civil War was in progress.

  22. A nation founded on the genocide of its native people where social Darwinism is the rule of the land, where greed mixed with hustling is the mantra, where the defense budget is obscene as is the homeless situation. Where advanced technology coexists with Medieval attitudes toward healthcare, gun ownership and tolerance.

  23. Conclusion I’m reaching is that if you’re poor today, chances are you’ll be forever. The system is designed to do this. There is no way to regain footing and get better wages. I’ve been in construction for ten years, my current job I’ve had for four years, I’ve made this contractor a ton of money. I’ve never received insurance, a bonus, paid time off or a raise. It’s not uncommon, carpenters have the highest suicide rate because we’re used for hard labor,offered no assistance or support, body stops working, nothing to fall back on except a bullet or noose. I’m 40 and have no savings, i inky got 22 hours the past two weeks. Right now, I’m stranded in the woods with no water, food, truck battery is dead and my dog is starving. I can’t afford to fix these everyday problems because I have 5 bucks to my name, despite being up every morning, ready to work only to have permit materials issues. Life doesn’t see worth living most days, because no matter what I try to improve, there’s always some corporate term or condition preventing me from the steps necessary to hold companies accountsble for their theft, scams whatever else might be going on behind the scenes. Bank of America and wells Fargo for example. These institutions have the worst track records for how the fuck over their clients. From Wells Fargo alone I’ve been charged over 600 dollars in NSF fees over the past six months. None of them were legitimate. The bank reorganized debits so I would incur more fees, charge me fees for internal transfers from one account to another( clearly restructured because I’ve tried intentionally making a transfer that would overdraw my account and their system wouldn’t allow. Then it got even more unethical and with their overdraft protection, wells Fargo now covers the transaction that overdrafts the account, charges the account holder 35 dollars, then days later reversed the transaction, causing me to incur fees from other creditors for returned item fees or damage to credit report and Wells Fargo is never held accountable.p, and if they are it’s in a class action setting where the clients get a year of free credit monitoring and lawyers make millions. That’s if youngish even find an attorney feeling generous enough to hear you out let alone take the case. No law firms Weill help,with wells Fargo because of the arbitration clause, see see why killing myself seems beneficial. Not only does it end my personal suffering, but outs an end to enabling the greed of those who already have everything, but feel entitled to take front hose needing it most. Wells Fargo and BOfA are top of my list if I ever go postal, because god knows if shoot myself someday I’m without question needing to stop at my bank first. This isn’t a direct threat, but an example of what this does to then mind of someone who’s been labeled worthless, expendable and a loser. While I build them these multi million dollar house, I fall asleep,in the front seat of my truck, with my 80 pound dog wondering why I keep trying. Fuck the elite,the end is near for us all.

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