• Robert Gordon and The End of the American Economy

    August 4, 2013

    Posted in: #99Percent

    My next book, Ghosts of Tom Joad, A Story of the #99Percent (March 2014) deals with the changes to our American society and economy over the last fifty years, primarily the dilution of the Middle Class, replaced increasingly by the Working Poor, what people call the 99 percent. Though my book is ostensibly a work of fiction, telling the story through the experiences of one family, nearly everything in the book is based on fact. As you can guess from the title, my touchstone is Steinbeck’s masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck told the true story of American’s whose lives were destroyed by the Dustbowl and the Depression, through the lives of the fictional Joad family.

    Here’s a new video to give you a preview of my book.

    Direct link to the video.

    A Nation at Risk

    Our society is fatally at risk from growing economic disparity. The risk is more than the cold realities of poverty, hunger, and lack of medical care. Those are symptoms. The true risk is that along with the loss of jobs that paid a living wage, America has lost its and soul. A nation of broken people, forced to sell their self-respect to stay alive, is poor footing for a democracy.

    The Industrial Revolution, which our grandpa’s rode up and our mom’s and dad’s caught the tail of, was the first time in our history that masses of Americans could get ahead simply by virtue of their skills and labor, without having to own land or be from a gilded family. Whereas since the abolition of slavery the system provided some avenues of growth and betterment to workers (albeit either grudgingly given or simply the overflow of mad growth), we are reaching now for a zero-sum point where wealthy people have come to believe that to gain anything requires them to take it from someone else. As an example, though Wal-Mart already makes billions in profits, it still fights even tiny increases to the minimum wage aggressively, and to the detriment of our society, effectively.

    Grey Fades to Black

    Much of the intellectual underpinning for these conclusions comes from the work of historian Morris Berman, cited previously on this blog.

    However, if Berman paints a dim picture of our future, Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon paints it black.

    Gordon calls himself a “declinist,” positing that the U.S.’ economic growth spurt from the Industrial Revolution through the 1970s was a once-in-a-millenium event not to be repeated. No TV pundit or warrior in the liberal-conservative culture wars, Gordon is an academic economistusing extraordinary scholarship to arrive at the conclusion that the assumption that economic growth is a continuous process that will persist forever is simply wrong. America has had its (albeit 200 year) moment and has rolled over the top of the roller coaster hill. As if drawn by gravity, the only path ahead is down.

    But the Internet Will Save Us, Right?

    Wrong. Gordon is particular answers those who claim the internets represent a second (third, fourth, eighth…) Industrial Revolution. Gordon writes:

    The computer and Internet revolution began around 1960 and reached its climax in the dot.com era of the late 1990s, but its main impact on productivity has withered away in the past eight years. Many of the inventions that replaced tedious and repetitive clerical labor by computers happened a long time ago, in the 1970s and 1980s. Invention since 2000 has centered on entertainment and communication devices that are smaller, smarter, and more capable, but do not fundamentally change labor productivity or the standard of living in the way that electric light, motor cars, or indoor plumbing changed it.

    Learn more about Ghosts of Tom Joad, A Story of the #99Percent (March 2014).

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Recent Comments

    • meloveconsullongtime said...


      Evolutionary mutations will save you. FF Richard Dawkins to 4:46:


      08/4/13 11:51 PM | Comment Link

    • grayslady said...


      Thanks for the Robert Gordon link. His conclusions are compelling.

      08/5/13 3:27 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Let them eat(yellow)cake

      08/5/13 3:28 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Gordon of Northwestern knows something about dying industries -journalism and economics. The biggest challenge is to eliminate the popular perception that economists don’t have anything useful to say.

      08/5/13 3:59 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...



      In contrast to “flash old news” Gordon, one percent of your book should be devoted to the known knowns of our economic abyss and 99 percent on how we get out of it like Denmark.

      08/5/13 6:11 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Speaking of dying industries, Bezoz bought the Washington Post – the newspaper will be used as packing by Amazon.

      08/5/13 9:11 PM | Comment Link

    • Eric Hodgdon said...


      There never will an equatable economic system. Someone will always skew some element or factor of an economic system to their advantage – hoarding or limiting availability.

      Costs of disposal is something else not considered enough, along with the sheer numbers of people on the planet. The World is still finite.

      Sorry folks the equation is like plotting the wind.

      What must be done is only allow a person to live a few hours a day and the rest of the time they get turned off. Time-Share living is the way of the future. Hibernation must be inserted into humans so we can sleep 16 hours a day. This way the population can double without adding to consumption.

      A second method is to breed smaller people. Say, one meter tall humans. They people will consume about one fourth current amounts.

      So, eventually with one meter people sleeping 16 hours a day, there can be, what, 8 times the population. And, with greater numbers, the odds of a very smart person being born who can figure out a better solution than the ever smaller person sleeping even more.

      08/6/13 7:17 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      “A second method is to breed smaller people.”

      We already have in this country when it comes to brains. America, you are so fucked.

      08/6/13 4:20 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      “Ghosts of Tom Joad”

      Yesireebob…I know them well. In fact..I am one of them. And in 5 days, I’ll be leaving from the Oregon coast on a trip, reliving the trip my father made in 1931..only in reverse. With 5 siblings and my grandparents, they embarked on a 6 month journey from Oaklahoma to the “land of milk and honey” in a 1920’s Model T pickup, loaded to the gills..exactly like Grapes of Wrath.
      Only to find..there wasn’t any milk and honey. Only itenerate camps, near starvation, misery and poverty. Until..WW11.

      And now, I’m doing the same. After spending 10yrs trying to survive here..we gave up. With 5 houses for sale on my short street, we aren’t even trying to sell our home. Just walking away from it. Sold everything we could to make this trip, leaving only that which we could put in a 22′ rental truck. We’re leaving on a wing and a prayer, as we’ve calculated the cost down to the penny, saving what little is left over to survive the month once we arrive at our destination.

      So yes..the Ghosts of Tom Joad are alive..but not well. And neither is this country. After 68 yrs of survival, watching this country slip into tyranny, I can only blame my generation for being so stupid. We could have made things better. But we didn’t. And now..we will suffer the consequences ….forever. The death of America will be slow and painful, but I can only pray that as each USG abomination unfolds, it wakes more and more of the pitiful, dumb, ignorant masses to the reality unfolding before their very eyes, to the point..they no longer believe this government is legitimate. And then…march on WDC by the millions, to drag these motherfuckers out of their granite palaces..and BURN THEM ALIVE.

      So farewell my friends. I doubt if I will be back, as I am going offline. FUCK the NSA, FUCK OBAMA AND FUCK THIS GOVERNMENT. I pray you suffer a painful and slow death like you did to my country. And may your children watch your demise.
      Good bye America. The Ghosts of Tom Joad will haunt you forever…and I will be one of them.

      08/7/13 3:04 PM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...


      Travel safely Pitch, and drop by the blog here when you can.

      08/7/13 4:42 PM | Comment Link

    • Eric Hodgdon said...


      @ pitchfork
      Blame not a generation as they are mythical creations of minds in decay.

      For someone who grew up in the South Bay Area of California, I’ve seen what it is like when trying to enlarge a freeway while there is traffic on it. So,
      Deconstructing the evil of current society is required in order to build a new mutual one.

      “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present, and we must rise to the occasion…”

      08/7/13 6:13 PM | Comment Link

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