Chickens Coming Home to Roost? A New Look at an Old Post


I’m closing in on five years writing here at BfAZ. So I was curious. What was I saying back then and does it make any sense today? I’m sure there were later posts that have no relevance today (and probably never did), but my first substantive post, Atlas Shrugged Upside Down,  may be more timely now than when I wrote it. Reading that post makes me wonder if the chickens are coming home to roost.

At the time I wrote Atlas Shrugged Upside Down, I’d just forced myself to read Atlas Shrugged, which I’d somehow managed to avoid while in high school. But I wanted to understand better the philosophy to which so many right wingers subscribed. So I endured Rand’s thousand page gem.

Five years ago, you may recall, Occupy had just happened and reducing extreme economic inequality finally was gaining traction as an issue.

A thought, which became the subject of the post, occurred to me:

We were verging on a transformation almost exactly the opposite of what Rand predicted in Atlas Shrugged, but with a similarly dystopian endpoint. That was before the 2012 election. It turned out that Obama won re-election and our march to even more extreme inequality slowed. But it didn’t stop and it certainly didn’t go into reverse.

With the election of Trump and the appointment of billionaires to top administration posts, the specter of Atlas Shrugged Upside Down seems more real now than when I wrote the post. If you’re with me this far, there’s no need to read the entire post. The heart of it is in these concluding paragraphs:

Since reading Atlas Shrugged, and hearing so frequently about “Ayn Randers” like Paul Ryan, Ron Paul, and Alan Greenspan, I’ve noticed this seemingly surreal irony that in reality we’re living through Atlas Shrugged Upside Down — the exact opposite of the story line from Atlas Shrugged. Rand spends 1000 pages railing against a world where liberal, socialist policies are taken to absurd extremes. But while right-wingers worship at the altar of Rand, and aggressively fight for her crazy ass principles, the cold reality is that we’re living in a world where conservative policies are being taken to absurd extremes. No matter how much taxes are cut, there’s a push to cut them further. Virtually any government function, including national defense, is fair game for privatization. Any form of regulation is anathema, even if the intent is to prevent the planet from burning. We have open discussion about rolling back child labor laws. The strength of organized labor, and the middle class along with it, is in freefall. Trial lawyers are vilified for, God forbid, representing otherwise defenseless victims of reckless corporate greed.

The horrible result of Atlas Shrugged Upside Down is mass suffering, while the opulence and profligacy of Rand’s heroes knows no limit. But there’s another ironic twist to Atlas Shrugged Upside Down. The selfish, greedy heroes in Atlas Shrugged were true producers, like Hank Reardon, who sacrificed every waking hour for ten years to develop a new metal alloy superior to steel. In today‘s Atlas Shrugged Upside Down, however, the top one percenters, so often exalted as “job creators,” largely consist of unproductive Wall Street bankers, who make fortunes skimming money out of the general economy, and coupon clippers like Paris Hilton, who made money the old fashioned way by inheriting it. Amazingly, fully fifty percent of all income from capital gains and dividends, the income one makes without lifting a finger, flows to the top one tenth of one percent, about three hundred thousand lucky souls in a country of three hundred million. And, of further irony, those members of the elite who actually are heroes in the Randian sense, true producers like Bill Gates and many of the Silicon Valley success stories, rail against Atlas Shrugged Upside Down.

I don’t consider myself especially astute in making these observations. I’m sure anyone whose given any thought to the matter and who isn’t riding the Limbaugh-Hannity-Paul Ryan crazy train would reach the same conclusions. But it’s disappointing that this Atlas Shrugged Upside Down phenomenon is not recognized more often and derided more effectively. Because, ultimately, Atlas Shrugged and Atlas Shrugged Upside Down arrive at the same destination — the elite living in their own comfort and security, with the masses mired in poverty and hopelessness. Here’s hoping 2012 is the year we turn back the clock on Atlas Shrugged Upside Down. Occupy!!!

Yes, Atlas Shrugged Upside Down seemingly is upon us. But there is a possible silver lining. The New Deal likely wouldn’t have happened without the Great Depression. The progressive policies we so desperately need, the ones to which Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein spoke, may not be achievable unless preceded by Atlas Shrugged Upside Down. Here’s hoping.


  1. Just because you might get Claudius after Caligula that doesn’t mean you should hope for Caligula in the first place!

    Here you are hoping to blow the country up with a new Depression, just because you *might* get a New New Deal afterward? How cruel to put people through that! People DIED during the Depression as a direct result of it. Do you really think killing Medicare will somehow make what happens after it automatically better? In the meantime how do you help the people who go into poverty, who can’t get insurance, who due because in order to do what they want the Republicans allow insurers to charge people with pre-existing conditions more than their annual salaries? And what about the devastation to the environment, to civil rights, to voting rights, to ALL the progressive legislation that has come about in the last 100 years?

    • Where do you come off ascribing motives like that, TS? I’m just commenting on the reality of the situation. If I reported on a fire, would you call me an arsonist?

    • It doesn’t have to be the reality, Bob. What we don’t know right now is how much people are willing to tolerate. And what will be Trump’s response to dissent, because there is likely to be a lot of it unless it turns out he was just kidding.

      Personally, I’m preparing for the worst while being fully aware that I probably can’t even imagine the worst.

      But I will say this one thing. We are living in the 1940s or the 1950s. And we sure as hell aren’t living in the 1920s. No one is going to walk with their head down afraid of getting lynched for making eye contact with a white supremacist. And folks aren’t going to organize protests and then get the hell beat out of them in a bus station in Birmingham or walking across the Edmund Pettus bridge. And no one is going to be singing “We shall overcome” on their way to jail.

      It’s going to be different this time.

      • Liza, in a sense, you’re saying the same thing I am, although in a different context. My post went more to the economic injustice I see associated with a Trump Presidency, whereas your comment seems more directed at social injustice. But consider your second sentence: “What we don’t know right now is how much people are willing to tolerate.” I think you’re saying that there is a point at which people will rise up. Which is the point I was making in the closing sentences of my post, which TS used as the basis for accusing me of rooting for mass suffering.

      • Bob, there are those who disagree with me, but I see economic justice and social justice as being closely intertwined. I go back a ways, but in the Deep South racial injustice and extreme poverty almost always coexisted. Rarely would you see one without the other. There were poor white folks, but the poorest people were black, and they were poor for different reasons.

        And, of course, impoverishment is a necessary tool of systemic oppression. That and extreme brutality. Brutality with impunity, I should say.

        Even in these times I don’t believe there is a great divide between economic justice and social justice. And I don’t think there is actually a point where people say enough is enough and pick up torches and pitchforks and head for the White House or Trump Tower or wherever DT is holed up.

        It will be more like a wave. It happens when I realize that my own interests are best served by finding common ground with others who are on the losing end of the “new” reality. In today’s world with instantaneous communication and well developed social media systems, that is more powerful than ever.

        Yet, I agree that history has a way of repeating itself. It’s just that it doesn’t have to. And one would hope and pray that the times have changed and people have changed in ways that mean we don’t have to hit rock bottom or go backwards and lose all that people have struggled to achieve every time we have outgrown the status quo.

        • I agree. I actually started to note the connection between economic justice and social justice in my comment, but I didn’t want to dilute the point I was trying to make.

    • And, of course, there is the remote possibility that the Democratic Party will grow a spine. Assuming that they have the ability to recognize what just happened to them and they are willing to change, maybe they will mobilize to take back the House and the Senate in 2018. Drastic changes are needed of course, but right now they would have a lot of support. But the ideas must come first, and whatever replaces the House of Clinton must have a true progressive agenda. With every year that passes the electorate is younger, more diverse, and more liberal.

      It’s a long shot, to be sure.

      • That would involve the Democrats breaking their addiction to corporate money from the likes of Big Oil, Wall St., Big Pharma, Big Military, Big Ag, and pretty much every other lobby you can think of. Nader, to bring up the spectre that is his name, was right when he said that the modern Democratic Party ‘fakes left, and moves right’.

        Whether they want to remain where they are and become a walking hypocritical melding of corporate and populist interests doomed to the same fate as the Whigs, or want to become either an actual party of the 90% or merge with the Republicans to make way for the same, I don’t care. Just figure it out so we can actually move this country forward.

        • They have to decide pretty soon, Edward. In addition to losing the presidency and not controlling the House or the Senate, they have 18 governors and 13 state legislatures. This is a moment of truth for the Democrats, and honestly, I don’t think they’re ready to step up. They were 100 percent certain of Hillary and they banked on that. Now what?

          • Given the rhetoric out of the DNC and their media mouthpieces in various media (NYT, CNN, Huff Post, Kos, etc.), I don’t expect the reckoning to ever come. Seems like they are content in their own sense of superiority, and intend to blame anyone and everyone they can think of (Comey, Stein, Johnson, Sanders, Snowden, Putin, etc.) rather than ask the serious questions about what the American electorate truly wants, and why their message failed to resonate so much, doing an especially poor job among rural America and the left.

            It’s gotten so bad, I have my own little satirical Wheel of Blame to bring up every time one of the DNC’s apologists chooses to blame an external force rather than do critical introspection.


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