Servants of the rich

That’s our future — unless we change direction
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  November 7, 2012

Jeff Faux's new book, The Servant Economy, doesn't exactly bubble with Hope — that politically abused and worn-out word.

But this book's bitter medicine is good for you. It's good to have your eyes opened, even if the prospect is appalling. Sometimes we need less hope and more realism in order to bring about change.

Founder emeritus of Washington's Economic Policy Institute, Faux has wide-open eyes. Indeed, he's a proven prophet. In his previous book, The Global Class War, published in 2006, he predicted a financial crisis — soon. It occurred two years later, although for a somewhat different cause than he foresaw.

The Global Class War's principal subject was how our globalizing investor and corporate overlords were tearing apart the great economic and political achievement of the United States: a broad, thriving middle class.

In The Servant Economy: Where America's Elite Is Sending the Middle Class, he continues his examination of the mistreatment of most Americans by the ever-stronger economic elite. In a brisk, confident style, Faux presents an even bleaker picture of our future.

After an excellent 140-page economic history of the resurrection of laissez-faire, the financialization of the economy, the 2008 financial collapse, and the Obama administration's weak reaction to it, Faux focuses on the question of jobs: Given the way things are going, just where are they going to come from?

He leads up to his answer by describing the unwavering kid-glove treatment of Wall Street by political figures, Democratic or Republican. Even after 2008, the "markets were left in the hands of the speculators" who had dropped the economy over a cliff.

More absurd still, with the country in the Great Recession, our new president, Barack Obama, didn't push Congress to stimulate the economy enough to make his re-election a sure thing.

Obama was "more concerned with offending the financial markets than offending the electorate," Faux writes. Rich bond-holders had to be protected against ill-founded inflation fears more than workers had to have jobs.

Faux's bottom-line explanation of Wall Street's and corporate America's domination of Washington — he's not alone in this account — is that economic and political choices are limited because, Republican or Democratic, politicians get their campaign money (and many other bennies) from the rich. The system is rigged by and for what Faux calls in a recent magazine article "Big Dollar."

Because Big Dollar is oriented toward investing overseas, it has little incentive to finance politicians who might help American workers. Thus, American jobs in the future necessarily will be scarce.

And they'll be poorly paying. Where are our jobs going to come from? Faux foresees the service economy morphing into the servant economy for the rich (think, at the high end: personal trainer, personal shopper, tutor), if you are lucky enough to get a job above the McDonald's level.

Where is America's elite sending the middle class? On TheServant Economy's cover is a golden dustpan, but dustpan-wielders don't make golden wages.

Contrary to what many politicians claim, including Obama, the future economy won't require lots of better-educated people. Why hire an educated American when you can hire an educated Indian for one-third the wage? And personal trainers don't need a college degree.

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