Rate And Duration of Despair

“One of the most remarkable features of the unemployment figures is that both the rate and the duration of unemployment have increased during every Republican administration and decreased under every Democratic one, without a single exception.”
~James Gilligan, Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others,  Kindle Locations 704-706

This pattern has existed since records first began being kept, unemployment rate since 1900 and unemployment duration rate since 1948.

It’s not even just unemployment. The same partisan disparity is found with rates and, when applicable, durations of diverse issues: poverty and economic inequality, recessions and depressions, GDP and GNP, homicides and suicides, etc. The author further explores the broad range of studies that show various correlations between these factors, most especially how the other factors have through time-series analysis been causally linked to increasing violence.

Then Gilligan connects it all to regional partisan politics and differences of populations. He considers many angles, from crime policies to studies on authoritarianism; revealing “some very interesting inter-correlations between all three of these variables: character, party, and state” (Kindle Location 1816).

Also, he offers a thorough survey of the data on incarceration and crime rates. There is no clear, strong evidence that mass incarceration decreased crime and violence. An argument, instead, can be made that mass incarceration has been contributing to the problem.

Gilligan’s main argument is based on his accidental discovery of how the homicide and suicide rates followed party administrations. No one had noticed because the two parties were averaging each other out. No party was in power continuously for long enough to make the pattern obvious enough for a casual observation. The more the author looked at the data the stronger the correlation became and the wider set of the correlated data.

The primary conclusion is that economics is so bad during Republican administrations that an increasing number of Americans turn to violence, both against others and against themselves. Furthermore, the longer a Republican administration remains in power the worse it gets. The opposite happens with Democratic administrations. This is what the data shows.

It’s freaking mind-blowing.

He does offer a cautionary note. Even under Democrats, violence rates although lower than Republicans are still at what would be considered epidemic levels in other Western countries. Still, the pattern remains interesting.

One has to wonder what the pattern would look like if Democrats or those even further to the left had maintained political power continuously for this past century. Or imagine how our society would be transformed if ever a left-wing party came to power, as seen in other Western countries. Screw both the Republicans and Democrats! We can only take so much backlash of misery and temporary respite.

Even for someone who despises the two party system, this pattern can’t be easily dismissed or ignored. The differences between the parties are real. Politics does matter.

Many independents wish the differences were even greater, but one has to be extremely cynical to argue these differences aren’t significant enough to make a difference. If one is unemployed or at risk of unemployment, if one is poor or homeless, if one feels the shame and desperation of being deemed a loser in a society based on Social Darwinism, it certainly matters.

Nonetheless, what is an independent to do when the back and forth partisan power struggle never leads to permanent solutions that get to the root of problems? As a psychiatrist who worked for 25 years in the prison system, that is what James Gilligan wants to know (Kindle Locations 123-134):

“Given the stability of that correlation between the political parties and the violent death rates, and my inability to disconfirm it, the question that remains is: what does it mean? Why is it occurring, and doing so repeatedly? As a physician, my interest has always been in matters of life and death, not politics, and this foray into politics because of a chance discovery that implicated political actors only happened because of my attempt to learn what was causing these deaths and how we could save lives.”

Ignoring parties, how do we get positive results? How do we make the world a better place? What lesson should we learn?

I wish I knew.

25 thoughts on “Rate And Duration of Despair

  1. One has to wonder what the pattern would look like if Democrats or those even further to the left had maintained political power continuously for this past century. Or imagine how our society would be transformed if ever a left-wing party came to power, as seen in other Western countries.

    The US would probably look more like what Canada is today.

    There would be a seesaw between left and right, with left wanting a Scandinavian-like social democracy, and the right, hopefully being fiscal conservative, not far right like in the US.

    It’s interesting looking at the crime rates, the poverty rates, education, life expectancy, healthcare, etc. The US is near the bottom on pretty much every measure compared to the other developed nations. That would not be so if the US had a true left wing party.

    • Yeah, I could see a US version of Canada. I’ve wondered what it would be like if all of North America was a single country. Maybe throw in a large immigration of Scandinavians into the mix to create a better balance. That could be a fun experiment.

      • Well, there’s about 35 million Canadians and 26 million people living in the Nordic nations. Contrast this with the US population, which is about ~320 million.

        The US would dominate out of sheer numbers.

        Perhaps a better option would be to split the US into two. It would be along the blue state-red state border. It would not be that exact. Some areas like Appalachia would go to the red states. Others like Austin,Texas firmly belong in the blue state area. Problem solved.

        The red states would look a lot like the “Jesusland” cartoon after the 2004 election in the US although sans the left wing areas.

        I wonder whether Iowa if it had a referendum would choose the blue states. The urban areas are very left wing, but the rural areas are very conservative.

        • It would be an even greater experiment to split North America along regional lines.

          Parts of Canada share the same ethnic cultures and political traditions as parts of the United States. Migration patterns to the US Midwest extended up into Canada. Some of the US Northeast also has common elements with the nearby regions of Canada.

          The same is seen with the US Southwest and lower East Coast in relation to Northern Mexico. As for Southern Mexico, it is more culturally similar to Central American countries.

          As for the Deep south, that would need be its own country all by itself. The entirety of the Upper South and Appalachia probably would want to join them. Some parts of the Lower Midwest would also be more culturally aligned with the Deep South.

          All or most of the Northern states in the US could easily merge with Canada. That would make for a great society. It would be a country with great farmland, strong industry, and a tradition of tolerance and multiculturalism.

          Iowa is somewhat of a crossroads of regional cultures. But ultimately Iowa has more akin to the Upper Midwest. Most of Iowa’s population is in the urban areas which are fairly liberal and progressive. Iowa isn’t like Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana in that the Upper South influence doesn’t reach to any great extent that far North on the other side of the Mississippi river.

  2. It would still solve the majority of the problems that the northern states face, along with the cultural divide that the southern US has. It would mean that things like:

    – Better labor protection
    – Environmental laws
    – Universal healthcare
    – More generous financing for student loans (or better yet lower cost education)

    Could be established without too much disagreement.

    That being said, I would imagine that illegal immigration from the southern states to the northern ones would become a problem.

    • “That being said, I would imagine that illegal immigration from the southern states to the northern ones would become a problem.”

      There is the rub. At present. the Southern states are dependent on the funding from the federal government mostly paid for by non-Southern states. If the South lost its federal funding, the poverty of the region would suddenly become unbearable for many people. It would lead to a violently oppressive society not seen since Jim Crow or slavery. There would be a mass wave of refugees.

    • These things always get worse under Republican administrations, for as long as data has been kept. And this is the worst Republican administration in living memory, probably in the entire history of the party.

      This new Trumpcare that is replacing Obamacare is going to throw a bunch of people, including children, off of healthcare. And the tax cuts are going to defund a wide variety of social services. Under Starve the Beast, it is the average American who suffers.

      This isn’t to entirely blame Trump and Republicans. Certain demographics have been experiencing mortality rates for quite a while now. It just gets worse less slowly for those demographics under recent Democratic administrations. Besides, data like this can’t be blamed on a new administration in their first year.

    • Technically the 2016 data occurred under a time when Obama was president, although the GOP was in control of the Congress.

      That said, I have no doubt that Trump’s actions will make a bad situation worse.

  3. As I recall, James Gilligan discusses Congress in his book. And the same pattern follows. Of course, the most powerful effect is seen when both the presidency and Congress are controlled by the same party. But there are complicating factors.

    When Reagan was president, he raised taxes more than he cut them. He did this while increasing spending on military and growing the number of federal employees, despite fiscal conservative rhetoric. This then led to the creation of the US permanent debt. Conservatives like to look for excuses about this, when they acknowledge it.

    One excuse is that, during his administration, Democrats gained control of Congress. But that ignores that his party had initial control of Congress when many decisions were made. And even Democrats did gain control, there were still many Southern conservatives in the Democratic Party and they would often vote in line with Republicans. This meant that Reagan retained a conservative majority throughout his entire administration.

    That is a key factor at a time like this. The Democratic Party has become increasingly conservative. And it is an entirely new kind of right-wing conservatism that has taken hold of both parties. In the past, many conservatives were progressives, supporting trust-busting and public programs. Also, conservatives like Eisenhower and Nixon would praise liberalism in the political sphere.

    Supposed liberals in power today are economically more conservative than were conservatives prior to Goldwater and Reagan. Certainly, Obama was no paragon of progressivism and left-liberalism. It would be useful to see the same data broken down to when the political left had power vs when the political right had power, no matter which party had power.

      • Except Obama didn’t take the American center. Along with several other administrations, he helped push the establishment even further right beyond the center of the American public. In doing so, he redefined the center of power in being ever more disconnected from most Americans. This allowed the GOP to go so far right that it went over the edge. His economic policies are moderate Republican from the 1980s, but that is far far far to the right of majority opinion. And the result is a radical right-wing single party banana republic ruled by plutocracy and oligarchy. That is something Obama or any other establishment figure can’t admit.

        None of this is about polarization. A large majority of Americans agree on most central issues. That is particularly true of economic issues where even most Republican voters are more progressive than most Democratic politicians. The progressive label is the single most popular across the political spectrum. It’s not only economic issues. Most Americans on the political right, including evangelicals, have become increasingly liberal on social issues.

        The once antagonistic issues of the culture wars have essentially become non-issues and so less useful as political footballs. Most Americans in and outside both parties are largely indifferent to such things same sex marriage. Along these lines, most Americans support abortion rights as they support gun rights, but they also support basic regulations and controls of both. That is to say most Americans are moderate in not being ideologues. Even the majority left-wing economic views are about practical reality, not ideology. The Cold War rhetoric has lost its power and meaning. The fear-mongering about Godless commies is no longer a convincing boogeyman, not even on the political right and especially not for the younger generations. Trump failed even to get much of anyone to pretend to care about the bullshit war on Christmas.

        Yet Republican lite politicians like Obama are still living in the Reagan Revolution of the late Cold War, still pushing neoliberalism and neoconservatism. That is because Obama, like other Clinton Democrats, are children of the Cold War. Obama, in particular, became an adult during the 1980s. His political world coalesced during the Reagan administration and was entrenched during the Clinton administration, the latter being a continuation of the former. Obama never knew a political system that wasn’t dominated by the political right and so he considers that normal. He is a product of that system, having promoted his early career within the establishment political order.

        Obama feels comfortable in his role as a Reagan Republican. He takes it as a badge of honor, proving he is a practical and professional politician. Reagan has became the symbolic embodiment of this new corporatist age where big biz and big media captured big gov. As a Hollywood movie star and corporate spokesperson, Reagan demonstrated a new way for the ruling elite to operate. Entertainment media’s cult of personality took hold of the presidency, the idea that the leader of the “free world” should be someone you’d like to sit down to have a beer with rather than someone who took seriously the role of a public servant promoting the public good.

        All that matter is a president speaks inspiring rhetoric. That is why so many recent presidents in both parties have used progressive style rhetoric, even though we haven’t seen anything close to progressive policies since Nixon (AKA the last liberal president).

  4. Obama’s legacy is Trump. His only “disappointment” was that he was unable to get the TPP passed. He did what his donors wanted him to do for the most part. He largely deflected the anger after 2008 and did little.

    He has since cashed in:

    Obama received $400,000 for his Northern Trust appearance, according to Bloomberg News, which also reported this week that the former president had made a similar appearance this month at the private equity behemoth Carlyle Group.

    Carlye Group and Northern Trust both declined to comment when contacted by AFP. A spokeswoman for Cantor Fitzgerald confirmed that Obama would attend next week’s event but offered no additional details.

    The speeches are the first Obama has given to Wall Street since leaving the Oval Office on 20 January. Since May, Obama has made paid appearances in Italy, Germany, Scotland, Canada, Indonesia and South Korea.

    He is also due to make an appearance later this month in Toronto and to appear at a New York synagogue in January.

    “Since leaving office, President Obama has spent his time doing public and private events, both paid and unpaid, that are true to his values and his record,” Kevin Lewis, an Obama spokesman, told AFP.

    Consistent with that, his paid speeches in part have allowed president Obama to contribute $2 million (€1.66 million) to Chicago programs offering job training and employment opportunities to low-income youth.

    Don’t let the low income youth part fool you – I think that much like the Gates Foundation, this will go to neoliberal causes (Ex: the Bill Gates Foundation tries to privatize public education).

    • I never expected much from Obama. I figured he’d be more of the same. But I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I wish he had enacted policies that matched the hype, although his campaigning was always vague on the details.

      Either way, I wanted him to have a second term so that he would be held accountable, leaving no way for Democrats to honestly blame anyone else. Of course, that didn’t stop them from dishonestly blaming Republicans, poor whites, evangelicals, etc. But at least historians will know that Obama had two terms to prove himself, having started out with mass public support and a Democratic majority.

      For shits and giggles, the cynical side of my personality would like to see Clinton or a Clinton-clone run again and lose to Trump again. It would suck to have 4 more years of Trump, but at this point I’m not sure it matters. For all the real fears of world war with nuclear weapons, I still think that someone like Clinton is more dangerous in the long term.

      • You might get your wish in 2020 I’m afraid.

        They seem to be trying to find a corporate Democratic type that will serve Wall Street and try to hush it all up.

        I don’t think they care about the common citizen at this point.

        • It seems all so predictable, no matter what anyone may wish. The entire system is stuck in a pattern. And those who seem to be in power are automatons following a script. I doubt most of them could imagine anything else, as there is little incentive to cause them to think differently. The whole charade will go on until it can’t.

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