NY Post: The Complacent Class

Editor’s Note:  This article fails to mention that record-numbers of Americans who have been victimized by creditors no longer participate.  Borrowers have been shafted by bankers, credit card companies, student loan servicers, auto lenders, insurers and the credit reporting industry.  People are fed up with the lack of accountability and the inability to correct issues when they occur.  Anyone who has experienced a mortgage servicing issue or foreclosure is likely terrified of the entire lending and credit reporting industry.  It would be fair to say you are never a customer, you are an opportunity to exploit.

It is a traumatic experience to feel you are powerless when dealing with a company with the ability to destroy your credit and adversely impact your life.  Many hard-working Americans have figured out that it is empowering not to rely heavily on credit.  Anyone who has ever tried to correct a billing error or a mistake on their credit report understands that the experience can scar you for life.

If people have become complacent it is because when everything you do becomes a battle- inertia sets in.  Today everything we do requires so much complexity and bureaucracy that it sometimes feels is easier to just throw in the towel.  It is too hard to understand the tax code, too complicated to start a business, and too invasive to get a mortgage.  People are stuck, but it is often a deliberate choice to stop participating in an industry where creditors can make more money if they push a customer into default than if they make their monthly payment.  The system is rigged.

By Kyle Smith


Americans are stuck. Locked into our jobs, rooted where we live, frozen at our income levels. More than at any previous point in our history, we’ve stopped moving — whether moving up the income ladder or packing up a truck and finding another home. We’ve grown ossified, rigid.

The flip side is that we’re stable. If we weren’t so content, we’d be more willing to gamble, to shake things up, to start a new firm or join one. Maybe we’re fine where we are. But maybe this period of stasis cannot last. Maybe it even portends a period of massive disruption.

In “The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream,” economist Tyler Cowen presents an X-ray of societal sclerosis. This isn’t merely another exercise in nostalgia, a sentimental yearning for a bygone era (when, for instance, crime and pollution were higher, people were highly likely to marry someone who lived within five blocks and you would buy an album containing 10 lousy songs because you liked one track). Something has changed in the American character and in the American economy, and the two seem to be reinforcing each other.

For instance, parts of the country (New York City, Silicon Valley, Texas) are doing extremely well, yet able-bodied adults sit idle in other areas. Why don’t the unemployed, and the large numbers who have dropped out of the labor force, move to the boom towns? Wouldn’t it be better to drive an Uber in Brooklyn than to get by on welfare in West Virginia?

Yet labor mobility is in a funk. Especially after WWII, millions of Americans with limited resources — southern blacks — moved hundreds of miles from home to take up industrial jobs in the north. At the peak, more than 30 percent of southern-born blacks moved north, from 1920 through the 1960s. Even when technological limitations made long-distance travel extremely onerous, in the late 19 century, we were willing to travel in search of opportunity. In the second half of the 1800s, more than two-thirds of US men over 30 had moved away from their hometowns, and more than a third of those moves were for more than 100 miles.


Nowadays, moving from one state to another has dropped 51 percent from its average in the postwar years, and that number has been decreasing for more than 30 years. Black Americans, once especially adventurous, are now especially immobile. A survey of blacks born between 1952 and 1982 found that 69 percent had remained in the same county and 82 percent stayed in the same state where they were born.

This is especially troubling in context: Studies show major benefits for the children of poor people who move to better-off neighborhoods via, for instance, a program called Moving to Opportunity. If a poor child from a bad neighborhood moved to a middle-class neighborhood at age 8, his expected lifetime income would be $302,000 higher than if he stayed put. Still, the bias toward inertia is so strong that 52 percent of impoverished black families told about Moving to Opportunity declined offers to participate.

One reason people don’t move where the jobs are is because of real-estate prices — which in turn are kept at high levels by regulatory restrictions and NIMBY-ism. In New York City in the 1950s a typical apartment rented for $60 a month, or $530 today if you adjust for inflation. Two researchers found that if you reduced regulations for building new homes in places like New York and San Francisco to the median level, the resulting expanded workforce would increase US GDP by $1.7 trillion. That won’t happen, though: More homes would diminish the property values of existing homeowners.

When we lose the ability to pay for stuff, the poorest and least powerful will be the first and worst hurt.

That locked-in syndrome is a factor in economic stagnation, too: A recent Wells Fargo survey found that white-collar office productivity growth was zero. As the economy was supposedly recovering from the financial crisis, from 2009 to 2014, American median wages fell 4 percent. Men’s median incomes today are actually below 1969 levels. Had we retained our pre-1973 rates of productivity growth, the typical household would earn about $30,000 a year more than it does.

Despite all the hype attached to a few tech companies, far fewer companies are being formed than in the 1980s, and fewer Americans are working for startups. Such new companies are linked with rapid job creation. We’re coming close, Cowen says, to realizing the 1950s cliche (not really true then) of everyone clinging to a job at a handful of huge, soul-crushing companies.

So where is all this heading? “Ultimately peace and stability must be paid for,” writes Cowen. Sluggish growth, diminished productivity, unwillingness to move to a better job and fewer entrepreneurs taking risks to create fortunes adds up to less tax revenue. When we lose the ability to pay for stuff, the poorest and least powerful will be the first and worst hurt. They won’t like it.

The social, economic and political disruption represented by the ascent of President Trump is one of the early warning signs, Cowen says, that the tectonic plates of our society are rumbling. When they start to move, a lot of complacency will be destroyed in the quake.

4 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on California freelance paralegal.

  2. More like destruction of the American Dream by the Corrupt Class.

  3. we are being forced into complacency because the law is meaningless and anyone that lost a home in the foreclosure crisis knows what that means. any wealth and stability i had was lost in the 2008 crisis. forced into bk because fear of banks and their crooked attorneys taking what little wealth (if you want to call it that) left. Take that d*** house that caused me so much pain(financially and mentally) bank reneged on 2 loans mods (complete breach of contract) and nothing was done, completely ignored by courts. We are being bullied by the wealthy bankers, etc. . I wanted to believe in Trump, but imo, his priorities seem to be out of whack now. I wrote to him about my house. It appears he is for the crooked bankers and a war with N. Korea, what will this accomplish except maybe what you are referring to as the “shake up” that we need to stop being so comfortable with our living situation. I am NOT comfortable with mine. I know I could be doing better, but as you say, stuck at the moment but I fully intend to change my situation. Frankly, letting the bank have my house after 7 years of fighting has given me alot of wisdom that I will NEVER forget!

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  4. Could it be an economy based on inflation as an indication of economic health,
    banks and Wall Street manipulations, by psychopatic corporations? We will get more of the same, heir trumpeter of doom is a direct result. Time for a paradigm shift, do you think?

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