I got my first Baffler in the mail yesterday from dusty groove america, Issue No. 17, Superslayer Storybook. The cover shows an armored guy standing over another decapitated guy. Strange.
Then I started reading it, beginning with The Gilded Mean by Thomas Frank. It’s an indictment of the centrist philosophy that has strangled the Democratic Party (no, not the Democrat Party you nitwit) since Reagan was in office. Here’s a fantastic section, taken from his review of David Harvey’s Brief Review of Neoliberalism:
His new book achieves the effect it does through the simple device of speaking plainly about the momentous economic and political change that, beginning in the seventies, swept over America and then the rest of the industrialized world.
It is a story we all know instinctively, and it’s not a very centrist affair. We have loosed the forces of the market, and this is what the market has done to the United States: It has destroyed manufacturing and enthroned finance; beaten organized labor almost to death; demanded round after round of tax cuts; defunded public services while raising the price of education and health care to inaccessible levels; decoupled wages from productivity, allowing wages to erode to a level lower today than in the early seventies despite all the advances in worker efficiency. We are often told that we live in a time of otherworldly prosperity, but what has changed the most, Harvey tells us, is distribution, not production. Our new economy is a banker’s triumph, not an engineer’s. Today the nation’s affluent areas glitter, it’s blue-collar neighborhoods crumble, and its rich people are richer, as measured by their percentage of the national income, than they have been since the twenties. The class divide has returned with a vengeance, with one class consistently getting what it wants while another just as consistently loses out. (Page 7)
I haven’t read much of the second essay yet, but it’s equally strong-worded and honest about how screwed up industrialized society is today:
Consider this single fact: It took ten years, almost all of the nineties, for the median family income to get back to the same level that it was, in real terms, in 1989. But in 1999, when we got to the same income level we had in 1989, this same “median” family had to work…six more weeks a year. (Page 14)
I think I’m really going to enjoy (and really not enjoy, if you know what I mean) reading this magazine.
Michael Pollan was interviewed for the April 2007 issue of The Believer magazine. I've been a fan of his writing since The Botany of Desire, and although I haven't gotten around to reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, from reading the interview, I'm sure I'll like it.
You know, compared to the early 1960s, the percentage of our income that goes to food has fallen from 18 percent to less than 10 percent today. We're paying less for food than anyone on Earth, anyone in the history of our planet, in fact. But in that same period, the percentage of our national income that goes to health care has risen from 5 percent to 16 percent today. Some of that increase, not all of it, is the result of eating terrible, cheap food. If we spent a few more percentage points of income on food, we could surely spend a few percentage points less on health care. What I'm suggesting is that spending more on food, as a society, will not end up costing us more overall.