Why Bob Lefsetz Hates What He Does About America

Music blogmeister Bob Lefsetz has rarely been short of opinions, distributed in daily bursts on everything from what’s wrong with the music business to which Elton John album is most essential. Today he surpised me with a powerful socio-political column – in fitting with his politics – put with a rare sustained accuracy point after point.

Read it now: http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/index.php/archives/2014/08/19/hate-america/

I responded, after compliments and pleasantries, thus: 

From conformity to Ferguson, the breakdown of actual community has allowed 80% of the issues plaguing society to flourish. Community in America did not breakdown simply because of demographics and the ravages of emerging technologies. Community and capitalism had co-existed for decades.

Rather the deregulation largely associated with Reagan, but continued enthusiastically under Clinton, especially with NAFTA, removed a series of protections. Those prophylactics kept local economies functioning and geographic communities relatively staple, while placing a governor on capitalism’s engine. The effect proved similar to the way a healthy Arctic ice cap keeps the Jet Stream in check. In order to unchain capitalism, these essential policies disappeared.

  • Airlines and buses no longer had to serve smaller towns and cities that did not make economic sense.
  • Union rights won in long strikes and pitched battle eroded.
  • Savings and Loans ran amok as soon as unchained.
  • Banks could expand into other financial services that connected them to international markets.
  • Industries no longer tied themselves to communities but moved wherever labour costs were lowest and tax payer funded incentives the greatest.
  • Radio and TV stations and newspapers no longer had to have local ownership and one entity could own multiple properties.

The most damaging blows of all to the health of main street America culminated in Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994. That completed a 15 or so year process during which state banking regulations collapsed and regional and national banks like BOA ($50B in losses on its brilliant Countrywide acquisition) and Wells Fargo to evolve.

The lesson I learned in coal country was that local control of a community’s economic destiny forms the essence of community health. The more insulated from the global marketplace, the more stable and self-sustaining the community. When banking is not local, valuing community over participation in a global financial marketplace for multiple instruments, our communities become mere pawns in the game. The message becomes consumption is good, making money is good, and only individuals matter, not communities.

This brings us back to issues with art today. My colleagues in the Voices From the Cultural Battlefront offer a surprising simple analysis. When money matters more than culture, communities die.

That is what is happening to America, my America, and I hate it.

Count me as an extremely radical localist.