File under: "Escapist literature my ass" (and crossposted from my other digs)
Written almost exactly 50 years ago, “The Day The Icicle Works Closed” is the story of the complete collapse of the economy of Altair Nine: a world sustained almost entirely by the production and export of rare and valuable pharmaceuticals.
“The Icicle Works was the most profitable corporation in the Galaxy,” our hero explains during the climactic courtroom scene.
[SPOILER ALERT (although honestly, if you haven't managed to track this obscure book down and read it in the last half century, odds are fuck-all that you're going to do it now...)]
…the people of Altair Nine start hearing through their only link to the outside world – the media, which is controlled by the Tourism Bureau – that nobody wants what they make anymore. That their markets had vanished and the good years were over.
From my own dog-eared copy:
“Worse, the jobs vanished. Pulcher [our hero] had been on the corporation’s legal staff, with an office of his own and a faint hint of a vice-presidency someday. He was out. The stenos in the pool, all but two or three of the five hundred who one had got out the correspondence and the bills, they were out. The shipping clerks in the warehouse were out, the pumphands at the settling tanks were out, the freezer attendants were out. Everyone was out. The plant was closed.”And yet somehow, the committeemen still had money. The politicians. The heads of the chamber of commerce. People whose fortunes one would have thought were most directly tied to the implosion of the industry and the sudden worthlessness of their stocks were the very ones who always seemed to have a fat wad of cash on hand.
So with the economy in the tank, our hero goes from corporate lawyer to public defender, picking up the case of a gang of young people who, not being pretty, strong and agile enough to make ends meet turn tricks, turn to kidnapping.
And how did they do it?
“…what it all adds up to, ladies and gentlemen, is that Charley Dickon, and a handful of his friends in high places – most of them right here in this room – have cut off communication between Altair Nine and the rest of the galaxy.”It is, in other words, the story of a plot hatched between local plutocrats and media moguls to deliberately crash a thriving middle class manufacturing economy and induce a Depression in order to turn a prosperous world into a feudal state divided between the super-rich and horde of desperate and permanently poor peons; people so broke in an economy so bad that they must now “rent” their bodies out to make a living, or turn and criminals.
So without being overly paranoid, I find it impossible to ruminate on this forgotten story from the golden days of pulp without also noting that, since the early days of Ronald Reagan, there has been abroad in the America a concerted and sustained effort to hard-sell the public the message that “Manufacturing is dead”.
From TPM Cafe “Missing Manufacturing Boom”:
As I have tried to point out in America Since Reagan, the 38 year trajectory of Republican political economics has hollowed out our manufacturing prowess, reduced our competitiveness, put us deeply in debt to the Chinese and the Russians and eviscerated parts of the Bill of Rights.We have all been told for 40 years that manufacturing jobs are all going, going, gone… That whatever crappy work is still left here is dirty and dangerous. That a Real Murrican should consider it an insult to suggest their son or daughter might have a bright future working in a f-a-c-t-o-r-y.
Except that message is mostly bullshit.
The ubiquitous propaganda – which I have heard everywhere from Hate Radio to NPR – was accompanied by suicidal trade, industrial and tax policies – pursued by both Republicans and DINO Democrats.
Policies that actually reward companies for shipping jobs overseas (Senator Byron Dorgan from the “Congressional Record” (PDF):
…And dole out lavish tax breaks to people for buying gas-swilling SUVs:
I have mentioned previously Huffy bicycles. They have gone to China. Do you know that little red wagon, the Radio Flyer? This one has gone to China.
The perversity of all of this is, whether it is Fig Newtons, Levis, Radio Flyers, Huffy bicycles, or Fruit of the Loom underwear, they were all rewarded for moving their jobs overseas because our Tax Code has embedded in it a special little deal: Move your jobs overseas and we will give you a special deal.
“A qualifying buyer can now deduct $106,000 of the suggested $110,000 price of a Hummer H1 SUV ($100,000 direct deduction plus $5,000, or 50 percent of the $10,000 balance, and $1,000, which is the first year of depreciation for the $5,000 balance). That would translate into a $37,100 savings on the purchase price if the taxpayer were in the 35 percent income-tax bracket.(2) Not all states have adopted the new caps, but those that have are still losing valuable tax dollars through the loophole.”Finally, under this relentless media/policy/talking-head “everyone knows” assault, all over the country, trade schools began to shut down.
Shop classes started to evaporate.
The old guy who made faucets stopped being invited to “Career Day” at the high school.
Until, at last, having been methodically stripped of our means to sustain a middle-class economy by people who have hated and feared the middle class since FDR stopped them from wiping it out once and for all 80 years ago, we find ourselves staring down the barrel of another Depression.
So where does it all end?
Well, it either ends when we take our beloved country back from the degenerates and liars in industry, politics and media who have brought us to the edge of the abyss.
Or it ends like this: (sorry, video died long ago...)