Class Warfare Blog

June 16, 2019

I am Shocked, Shocked I Tell You . . . Again

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:25 am

According to an article in The Guardian:

A report published on 22 May by the Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan think tank for members of Congress, found the tax cuts did not significantly affect the economy or boost wages, but benefited investors more than anyone else.

“The evidence continues to mount that the Trump-GOP tax cuts were a scam, a giant bait-and-switch that promised workers big pay raises, a lot more jobs and new investments, but they largely enriched CEOs and the already wealthy,” said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness.

He noted only 4% of the US workforce saw any sort of pay increase or bonus from the tax cuts. Meanwhile, data collected by ATF shows corporations have cut thousands of jobs since the tax cuts were passed, while using tax windfalls to buy back $1tn of their own stock, which primarily benefits corporate executives and wealthy investors since half of all Americans own no stock.

This was in the midst of an article about how AT&T has terminated 23,328 jobs since the tax bill was passed after promising to invest $1 billion in capital expenditures and create 7,000 new jobs at the company if Trump’s hugely controversial tax cut bill was passed.

Is anyone shocked? Will anyone, besides Elizabeth Warren, make this a keystone of a run for the presidency? I would.

Mr. Trump claimed that the tax bill wouldn’t help him at all, so this guarantees that we won’t see any of his tax returns before the next election.


June 11, 2019

On Purposes, Destinies, and Lots in Life

I stated something a few days ago, to which I now return. It was this: “Anyone, theist or atheist, who thinks that ‘purposes’ exist anywhere but in our imaginations is sadly poorly informed.” It must have had a bit of a ring of truth about it as it was mocked by John Branyan.

The whole idea of there being a purpose in life (Branyan’s will take eternity to fulfill, according to him) is part and parcel of a whole load of rubbish regarding what we do and why we do it.

At the top of the list is the Divine Right of Kings. Kings have fashioned themselves as having been chosen by god to be his very instrument. This was obviously part of a power play. The religious elites and secular elites contested for power (Gilgamesh, one of the oldest stories in existence, makes this clear. Gilgamesh had to seize power from the religious elites who controlled his actions.) It had to become clear to someone that these two power centers would be better off allied than enemies. So, in return for state power protections, kings were granted “divine rights.” In earlier societies that were theocracies, these two powers were often vested in one and the same person (a “god-king”) and that person could use whichever weapon that better suited a situation. One could either send in the priests or send in soldiers to resolve a “situation.”

Right next to this is being Called by God. I am sure many Popes and others of high religious office state that god has called them to their office. Obviously anyone challenging them would therefore have to be criticizing god’s decision making abilities. Another power play.

At the bottom of this hierarchy is someone’s “Lot in Life.” Basically, no one wanted to clean out the cesspool, so we drew lots and well, it was your lot in life to have to clean the cesspool. Only poor people have these. Poor people and slaves have a purpose or a calling only in fictional tales designed to give the poor hope, so they won’t riot or rebel.

In the middle of this spectrum is where we find “purposes.”

All of these designations are fictional (not actual cases of drawing lots, like drawing the short straw, but metaphor ones, in which someone is told that being a slave was their “lot in life”) and serve to flatter/appease the receiver or con the audience. These are all parts of social control mechanisms.

By having clerics declare the divine rights of secular kings, the clerics get to perform the crowning ceremony, implying they were the ones giving the office (and in the machinations of history this proved true on more than one occasion). And also, the “state” collected their tithes for them, and enforced ecclesiastical commands (e.g. the Crusades). The royals had their power reinforced from the pulpit. Every one of the elites involved acquired greater power.

Christian life purposes are part of the con, also. Christians are often told that it is their job to “spread the Good News,” that is to spread the religion. So, once you have a mark who has embraced the con, they get to spread the con to others, kind of like a multi-level marketing scheme. In return for this, Christians get pumped up by being given a purpose for their live, one provided by God! And they are saved! Their afterlife will be more clouds than barbecue. Their god has a plan for each and every one of us, don’t you know.

Since people often display photos of themselves in the presence of celebrities (as proof they have actually met them or know them?) so, I wonder whether people have such photos of themselves hanging with Jesus or Old Yahweh in heaven? To believe that a god has noticed them and written their name in a big book and knows who they are and has gone so far as to help them with a career plan, well that is the biggest puff piece of them all. (Hint: how do you get people to work for you without paying them? Flattery seems to work.)

I have done a great many things in my life. As a youth and young man I played baseball and basketball, but apparently it was not my destiny to play those professionally. At a young age (16, I think) I chose my profession that I practiced for 40 or so years. Was that my purpose in life? If so, why did I retire and stop doing it? What I am doing now is quite different from what I did for those 40 or so years, so is what I am doing now my true purpose? I became a husband and father, were those my true purpose in life? The fact that no one can tell definitively tells you that this is all make-believe. It is what we tell one another to reinforce life changes we make or are made for us.

Now, if I can only figure out a way to get Branyan to mock my analysis, I will know it is true. (See, fictional bullstuff. We all do it.)

June 9, 2019

There Is Just One Way Out

Filed under: Sports — Steve Ruis @ 1:34 pm
Tags: , ,

Welcome to the Sunday Baseball Sermon! It is baseball season and I just can’t help myself, but I will hold in my enthusiasm to just one or two posts.

A Crisis in Popularity
You are probably aware that baseball used to be called “America’s Pastime” because it was by far the most popular sport in the land. Not any more. In fact, baseball’s TV ratings have been dropping for a number of years now. A major problem identified by Major League Baseball (MLB) as a cause of this is that games are longer than ever before. I remember games in my youth which involved pitchers who worked fast and pitched the whole game that lasted an hour and a half. An average game back then involved two hours and a bit. Now an average game lasts almost four hours.

MLB is considering a number of innovations to deal with this. One is a pitch clock, with a restrictions on how many seconds a pitcher has to make a pitch. (Damned dawdling pitchers.) One is to require batters to stay in the batters box. (Damned hitters are stepping out after each pitch and fiddle with their batting gloves. ban the damned gloves!) Another involves extra inning games with one suggestion being to have each team be given a runner on second base in each half inning, to act as an icebreaker.

The problem with all of these “innovations” is that they disrupt the basic structure of the game. Baseball is an intellectual spectator sport tat has been around for over a century and there are records (oh, my there are records) that are discussed ad nauseum. I can wax poetic about all of the things going on defensively in any inning. There are nuances galore, like first basemen who chat up base runners in the hope that it will disrupt their concentration, and various forms of trash talk. There is a great deal of things to focus on between pitches, there are just too many damned pitches.

Here is What I Think has Happened
The bloated games we see today are a result of the number of pitches thrown, in effect the length of any game seems directly proportional to the number of pitches thrown. (Technically, if a pitcher through a single pitch to each batter that they hit a feeble popup or ground ball on, they could get the 27 outs need to make an ordinary game in just 27 pitches. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.) Batters are walking and striking out at unprecedented rates and walks and strikeouts require a great many pitches to be thrown. In the old days, pitchers threw the ball over the plate (or close enough) and if the batter didn’t swing at those pitches he would be “grabbing some pine” very quickly (baseball slang for returning to the bench, even though they are no longer made of wood). So, why don’t pitchers throw more strikes?

It all started to come apart with the Steroid Era. Granted the home run title competition between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa in 1998 saved baseball from a self-imposed perdition (strikes/lockouts/lost seasons aka labor disputes) but we now know that many of these performers were performing under the influence of anabolic steroids, a performance enhance drug not banned by baseball but illegal to self-administer. No pitcher likes to see his pitches crushed out of the ball park, so pitchers got cautious and a number of them started taking steroids themselves. When this issue was eventually sleuthed out and dealt with there was a bit of a power vacuum for a while. Not as many home runs were being hit and not as many pitchers were “unhittable.”

The next phase involved “swing path” changes by the hitters. Seeing a salary premium placed upon power hitting, hitters did a few things. First they changed the angles of their swings to a more upward path. (We were taught in my youth to swing “level.”) The other part was to swing for the fences, no matter the situation. (We were taught to swing away, but when you got two strikes, you were to choke up on the bat and try to put the ball “in play.”) The problem with this approach was that swinging really hard all of the time resulted in more home runs, yes, but more swings and misses, too. So, strikeouts, which used to be problematic (too many of which shamed a batter) became more frequent. Home runs became more frequent, so pitchers became more cautious and walks, aka “bases on balls,” became more frequent, too.

Pitchers didn’t stand pat in the post Steroid Era, however, they actually upped the ante and threw harder. There are more pitchers now capable of throwing 100 mph pitches than ever before. But if you are going to throw that fast, accuracy suffers and walks increase again.

Managers wouldn’t be left out of this, either. Since every damned batter in the lineup was capable of hitting the ball out of the park, starting pitches got pulled earlier and earlier. The constraints are that a pitcher has to complete five innings to qualify as a winning pitcher (and few would want to play for a manager who would not allow them to win games by pulling them earlier in the games) and by about the sixth inning, pitchers will have pitched to each batter at least twice. (At three outs per inning, batters are guaranteed one “at bat” through the first three innings and two at bats through the sixth. But, the effectiveness of most pitchers dips significantly the “third time through the batting order,” so managers are inclined to forestall any problems by bringing in a new pitcher for the seventh inning. We now have specialist pitchers for the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings, for Pete’s sake. (The first specialist “relief pitcher” was in 1948 if I remember right. Prior to that point, all pitchers were “starters,” and if one faltered, they were replaced by one of the others, one not scheduled to start for the next three days any way.)

Specialist relief pitchers have become beasts. Unlike starting pitchers who have to be able to throw pitches for five innings (more is better, of course). These relievers are out there for just one inning, and sometimes just for one batter. This means they can hump up and use all of their energy on just a few pitches. In the old days, pitchers got tired in the later innings and you might be able to “get to them” if you hadn’t before. Pitchers often threw 150-200 pitches in a game, but now when they hit the 100 pitch mark, the manager’s hook comes out and they are soon to exit the game. (Have I mentioned that pitching changes take time?)

So, what to do about this? There have been various “tweaks” made. When the pitchers got the upper hand in the 1960’s, they lowered the pitchers mound. They had “adjusted” the size of the strike zone a number of times, etc. These things worked, somewhat, but obviously not enough.

There is One Way out of this Mess, However

Deaden the ball.

If the ball was just a bit harder to hit far, there would be fewer home runs hit, pitchers would throw over the plate more, etc.

Now some purists will argue that it would change the game, invalidate records, etc. I remind them there is something in MLB called the “Dead Ball Era.” Baseballs were “livened up” considerably, thus changing the game and making Babe Ruth possible. Also, what about all of the records set in the Steroid Era? Are those valid?

I think deadening the baseball . . . just a bit . . . makes more sense than reducing the number of strikes need for a strike out to two (and balls for a walk to three) or having a pitch clock (Baseball is the only major sport with no game clock!), or requiring relief pitchers to throw to at least three batters, or any of the other “innovations” that have been proposed.

And . . . for those you who think I have beaten this subject to death, consider that the upper part of the strike zone had ceased being called for strikes, causing batters to become low ball hitters, which requires an upward swing path and . . . this is now bringing back the high strike. . . .  Oh, and did I mention how modern sports technology is helping batters and pitchers to do these things with video analysis, bat speed indicators, radar guns for pitchers, etc?

I Have Said It Before . . .

. . . and I will say it again. Say what?

The Guardian ran a story today “Can Trump win in 2020? This Pennsylvania county may be an indicator.” The subtitle for which was “Northampton county, Pennsylvania voted twice for Barack Obama before flipping for Trump – and could decide whether Trump gets a second term” What? A county in Pennsylvania voted for Barack Obama for president . . . twice . . . and then voted for Trump? What Red-Blue scenario, what White-Black scenario, what Rural-Urban scenario makes sense of that?

I’ve said it before . . .

The voters in this country were so fed up with the status quo (the rich get richer, the middle class and the poor get ground under their boot heels) that they voted in our first Black president. That should change things, no? Apparently not enough as Republican-Democrat infighting made sure “Hope” and “Change” were both little and infrequent. So, if that message didn’t get through, maybe the message of Donald Trump would.

Why don’t we try offering what the voters want? Candidates who aren’t bought and paid for by Wall Street and the major corporations and who will identify the will of the people and act upon that.

Novel idea, eh?

June 8, 2019

Let’s Use the Biblical Standard!

Recently, possibly because of GOP SCOTUS packing, any number of states have been passing egregious abortion laws. Actually, they would be better described as anti-abortion laws. I suspect that these are efforts to get one of these laws protested up to the Supreme Court to get them to reverse their Roe v. Wade decision, the one that made abortion legal in the U.S.

A mistaken notion of the anti-abortion folks centers on when an fetus can be declared to be a human being (or in some cases, they are referring to embryos, apparently from being ignorant or indifferent to human reproductive biology). Many of these people want embryos to be declared to be human beings at conception, but this is obviously not true, so is this a biological claim or just a political ruse?

I say this is a mistaken choice for the crux of the arguments because the real resistance is that these anti-abortion laws subvert a woman’s body to serve a fetus/embryo. The law currently does not allow any part of your body to be taken from you without permission, not a drop of blood or a tooth. Nor does it allow your body to be used by others without permission. You cannot be forced to donate blood, or kidneys, or any other part of your body through any legal procedure. Basically the law says your body is yours. Possibly because this is settled law, it being illegal to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term against her will, is why the “antis” don’t mention this little “fact.”

So, let’s focus on their “when does a fetus become a human being” aspect of the debate.

Since many of the “antis” claim religious motivation, why don’t we just do what the Bible says?

Since abortion is not mentioned in the New testament, we are left to the Old Testament, aka Hebrew Bible, for our guidelines. Here are some indicators of what the Bible says:

Murder in Jewish law is based upon, where it is written: “He that smiteth a man so that he dieth shall surely be put to death.” The word “man” is interpreted by the sages to mean a man but not a fetus. Thus, the destruction of an unborn fetus is not considered murder. (Exodus 21:12)

Another scriptural passage is Leviticus 24:17, where it states: “And he that smiteth any person mortally shall surely be put to death.” However, an unborn fetus is not considered a person or nefesh and, therefore, its destruction does not incur the death penalty.

Turning to Talmudic sources, the Mishnah asserts the following: “If a woman is having difficulty in giving birth [and her life is in danger], one cuts up the fetus within her womb and extracts it limb by limb, because her life takes precedence over that of the fetus. But if the greater part was already born, one may not touch it, for one may not set aside one person’s life for that of another.”

Rabbi Yom Tov Lippman Heller, known as Tosafot Yom Tov, in his commentary on this passage in the Mishnah, explains that the fetus is not considered a nefesh until it has egressed into the air of the world and, therefore, one is permitted to destroy it to save the mother’s life. Similar reasoning is found in Rashi’s commentary on the talmudic discussion of this mishnaic passage, where Rashi states that as long as the child has not come out into the world, it is not called a living being, i.e., nefesh. Once the head of the child has come out, the child may not be harmed because it is considered as fully born, and one life may not be taken to save another.

The Mishnah elsewhere states: “If a pregnant woman is taken out to be executed, one does not wait for her to give birth; but if her pains of parturition have already begun [lit. she has already sat on the birth stool], one waits for her until she gives birth.” One does not delay the execution of the mother in order to save the life of the fetus because the fetus is not yet a person (Heb. nefesh), and judgments in Judaism must be promptly implemented. The Talmud also explains that the embryo is part of the mother’s body and has no identity of its own, since it is dependent for its life upon the body of the woman. However, as soon as it starts to move from the womb, it is considered an autonomous being (nefesh) and thus unaffected by the mother’s state. This concept of the embryo being considered part of the mother and not a separate being recurs throughout the Talmud and rabbinic writings.

Extracted from Biomedical Ethics and Jewish Law

And the New Testament is silent on the issue of abortion. Jesus and Paul ignored every chance to condemn it. If abortion was an important concern, why didn’t Jesus just say so?

So, using a Biblical standard, a baby becomes a human being. with all rights and privileges of a child, when it is being born, not at conception, not when a heartbeat is detected, not any other time.

Anyone speaking against this position is definitely anti-Christian and part of the War on Christianity. They must be stopped from desecrating the Bible and the holy words it provides.


June 5, 2019

Lump It, Lump It All Together

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 1:48 pm
Tags: , ,

I have just read an argument that argues, well, “universe therefore god.” The argument lumps together the universe as if it were a single object and argues that god is the “simplest” being able to create it. (A being with infinite powers is oh, so, simpler than a being with any sort of limited powers, don’t you know. That there are no examples of such beings to point to is irrelevant.)

Philosophers acknowledge that the universe, as we know it now, is a logical extension of the universe we knew a second ago and that the transition from “then” to “now” doesn’t require any gods being involved. By lumping the universe together as a single object, however, they mask the enormity of what it is they are doing.

If what the universe is now is a logical extension of what it was a second ago, that is the Earth moves in its orbit, the Moon it its, and the Sun in the Milky way, and the Milky Way in the Universe, all ticking along with no help from any god or gods, then there are, roughly 50,000,000 billion such seconds in which one followed the other and nothing was needed other than a recognition of the laws of physics to determine the next and the next, etc.

If we track back this trail of stages in which the universe unfolded step by step according to measurable, understandable laws with no miracles needed, we get to the last second before the Big Bang.

After 50,000,000 billion steps in which one thing followed the next according to the observable laws of physics, it is at this point that the theists jump in and say “Gotcha! It had to be our god that caused the Big Bang!”

What the heck? Hello? Whatever the cause of the Big Bang was (if indeed there was a cause), why is a god with the powers claimed for the Christian god needed? To trigger the Big Band does the trigger need to be “all good?” I think not. Does the Big Bang trigger need to be all-knowing? Possibly but not necessarily. Does the Big Bang trigger need to be all-powerful? Not necessarily, whatever was there at the time may have been so unstable that a butterfly’s fart might have set it off.

Why was their god, specifically, needed at that point? <cricket, cricket, cricket> Oh, God of the Gaps again, eh?

Let me offer another possibility. A common element on this planet is uranium. The most stable isotope of this element is U-238. It isn’t really stable, it is radioactive with a half-life of 4.5 billion years. What this means is every 4.5 billion years half of all U-238 atoms radioactively decay into other elements. But half of the atoms do and half do not. After 4.5 billion years more, half of the atoms that remained after the first 4.5 billion years (one quarter of the original number) pop off radioactively and an equal number do not. After another 4.5 billion years, only about one eight of the original atoms are left. Unfortunately we have run out of time . . . literally. Three half-life periods for U-238 roughly equals the age of the universe. (Don’t worry, more U-238 is synthesized when stars go supernovae, so we won’t run out.)

My point is after an amount of time roughly equal to the age of the universe, a large number of U-238 atoms have decomposed. A smaller number have not. What is the difference between those that pop off and those that don’t? Answer: we do not know. But surely there is a reason why some do and some don’t, no? If you believe this, you will have to explain why you think there is a reason, because the greatest minds to ever have studied this problem haven’t come up with such a reason.

So, whatever existed just prior to the Big Bang, whatever it is, how long did it wait before exploding? Was it a short time? Was it billions of years? How would you tell, since time doesn’t yet exist as we know it? All of the U-238 atoms will decompose radioactively eventually? So, why is this any different than whatever existed just prior to the Big Bang? Why does it need a god to explain it?

I suggest that the person making the argument needs a god to explain it because they very much need a god to exist. Why is completely beyond me, but the desperate logic of the philosophers trying to prove our long, long passed human ancestors were right in describing a fantastic being with supernatural powers, and just this god, none of the other fantastic beings (elves, dragons, dwarves, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, oh, and all of the thousands of other gods, etc.) are included. I suggest that it is human ego that is at the fore here. Can you imagine how grateful believers would be if some philosopher proved the existence of their god? That philosopher probably couldn’t pay for a meal or a drink for the rest of their life. Babies would be named after them. Babies of the other sex would be named after them. Mothers would offer their daughters for them to impregnate (or vice versa if they were female). Rock star baby. Immortal!

But still, the arguments are lame in the extreme. Only professional philosophers are courteous when dismantling their arguments, and that is only out of professional politeness.



Abortion and the Bible

Filed under: History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:07 pm
Tags: ,

I am aware of an old Jewish tradition to not name their children (boy children anyway) until after the bris which is done on the eighth day after birth. Part of the argument, if I remember rightly, was that the boy child didn’t receive his soul until his bris was performed (or the eighth day or . . . ?).

Since so many troglodytic laws are being passed regarding abortion being supported by people who believe life begins at conception, I am wondering where the idea (life begins at conception) came from. I suspect it was invented for political and not theological reasons.

In any case, does anyone know about this Jewish tradition? Is it in, or supported by, the Jewish Bible?


June 4, 2019

Religious Experiences

I am currently reading Keith M. Parsons book “God and the Burden of Proof.” In it he discusses Alvin Plantinga’s defense of religious belief. One particular excerpt has prompted this post. Here it is:

“What, then, are the circumstances in which Plantinga regards belief in God as obviously properly basic? He gives a number of such circumstances:

“Upon reading the Bible, one may be impressed with a deep sense that God is speaking to him. Upon having done what I know is cheap, or wrong, or wicked, I may feel guilty in God’s sight and form the belief `God disapproves of what I have done’. Upon confession and repentance I may feel forgiven, forming the belief `God forgives me for what I have done’. A person in grave danger may turn to God asking for his protection and help; and of course he or she then has the belief that God is indeed able to hear and help if He sees fit. When life is sweet and satisfying, a spontaneous sense of gratitude may well up within the soul; someone in this condition may thank and praise the Lord for His goodness, and will of course have the accompanying belief that indeed the Lord is to be thanked and praised.

“Plantinga claims that it is clearly rational for persons in such circumstances to form a spontaneous belief in God.”

To me this is nonsensical. Plantinga’s “feelings” of guilt, shame, gratitude, etc. are just feelings and are not deniable. But all of the rest are interpretations of the sources of those feelings. Allow me to reframe his statement:

Upon reading the Koran, one may be impressed with a deep sense that Allah is speaking to him. Upon having done what I know is cheap, or wrong, or wicked, I may feel guilty in Allah’s sight and form the belief `Allah disapproves of what I have done’. Upon confession and repentance I may feel forgiven, forming the belief `Allah forgives me for what I have done’. A person in grave danger may turn to Allah asking for his protection and help; and of course he or she then has the belief that Allah is indeed able to hear and help if He sees fit. When life is sweet and satisfying, a spontaneous sense of gratitude may well up within the soul; someone in this condition may thank and praise Allah  for His goodness, and will of course have the accompanying belief that indeed Allah is to be thanked and praised.

In a similar fashion, could not any religious believer make the same statement, invoking whatever god they have?

William James’ definition of religion—“the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.” I emphasize “whatever they consider to be divine.”

So, basically Plantinga is arguing for polytheism because his argument is “it is clearly rational for persons in such circumstances to form a spontaneous belief in God” or rather a spontaneous belief in their god.

But I do not even accept that as a reasonable conclusion. I think those interpretations are what people are taught to make and that they do not happen spontaneously. If you have had children, you have had the experience of a child who hurts. If they can talk, you probably had to work with them to find out what was wrong: “Where does it hurt?” “Does it hurt here? . . . or here?” “Oh, you have a tummy ache!” Children are always relieved that their parent’s know what was wrong and knew what to do to make them better. I can remember being sick as a child and enjoying the extra attention I got. And we teach our children in this fashion how to interpret what they feel.

Children in religious families are indoctrinated into the religion because that is what most Abrahamic religions teach you yo do. Sometimes this indoctrination is half-hearted, as mine was, and sometimes it is full tilt boogie, which I do not wish on anyone. Seeing little children coached in how to interpret any feelings they have as communications with Jesus makes me ill. But this does happen. Parents do praise their children for saying things like “I love Jesus,” and other inanities that cannot possibly be true. They are coached to feel Jesus in their hearts, to see Jesus around them, to hear Jesus in the words of the Bible. So, is it any wonder that many natural feelings get interpreted as being sourced in their god? But just how this in any way “forms a spontaneous belief in God.” I’ll tell you; it does not.

June 3, 2019

Why Are There So Many Signs of Distress in a Supposedly Robust Economy?

Over at the Naked Capitalism website there is a post focused on the St. Louis area but I think has application all over this country—St. Louis Fed Study Shows Rising Level of Financial Desperation Among the Poor, Hidden by Aggregates by Yves Smith.

I have blogged recently on economic indicators, basically claiming that if you use indicators of economic health that basically measure the fact the “the rich are getting richer,” you aren’t looking at the right indicators. For example, using the health of the stock market as an indicator of how ell the economy is doing is ludicrous at best.

This post by the wonderful Yves Smith addresses a ZIP code by ZIP code analysis of economic measures of economic distress and wealth accumulation or the lack of it, etc. The basic point is using “aggregate” economic measures (aka averages) masks the real situation.

Also, the “traditional” (aka what has always been recommended) strategy to “get ahead” no longer works. As a youth I was told that if I worked hard, saved some money, and was careful I could achieve the American dream. Because of wage suppression, run away health care costs, and near zero interest rates on savings, this strategy is broke, busted, and we are disgusted.

People work hard, often with more than one job, but sky high rents and health care costs, suck up the majority of what is made and no savings accrue. Actually debt is increasing in the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

My first full time job made me the grand sum of $9000 per year. Today, health insurance for a family of four is around $16,000 per year. Granted that there has been a considerable amount of inflation since then, but. . . . As another comparison, if one were to work a job, full-time: 8-hours per day, 5 days per week, with 11 unpaid holidays and no vacation, you would gross around $14,400. That’s gross, not net, so taxes (little in the form of income taxes, but payroll taxes) and whatnot have to be taken out to get at the actual amount of income this job would provide. If a household had two such jobs, the total net income might reach $26,000 or about $2170 per month. If this family is four in number (kind of an average) there will be no health insurance in that budget. Even subsidized health insurance would eat up quite a bit of that. In many areas of this country, that would barely cover rent and food, with transportation in the form of a family car (insurance, gas, maintenance) being out of the question.

It seems that the majority in this country now lives pay check to paycheck (I do) and that had been the case for most of the history of this country, but we were starting to get away from that after WW2. Now we are backsliding, with the skids being greased by the greedy rich who have bought Congress and much of the judiciary.

This is an interesting post and I recommend it to any interested in our current economic system.

Postscript Any politician who runs around claiming that the economy is robust or strong and beats their chest about it will be crushed at the polls in the next election. People are hurting and having smug elites tell them they are wrong to hurt will just increase the disaffection with the status quo that got us first Barack Obama and then Donald Trump. The GOP is likely to put up Donald Trump again and if the Dems decide on an avatar of the status quo (like Joe Biden) expect the repercussions to be severe.



June 2, 2019

I Went Through Childhood Never Having Been Asked What I Wanted for Dinner

Filed under: Culture,Education — Steve Ruis @ 12:10 pm
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Last night I saw a TV commercial in which a bright and chipper Mom asked everyone what they wanted for dinner. Each kid chimed in with a different idea (pizza, spaghetti, whatever) and then Mom miraculously whipped up food that met all of these requests! I do not remember what the commercial was for (Miracle Whip?) because I had a moment of reverie trying to remember if I had ever been asked what I wanted for dinner. (When I reached a certain age it became very important for me to remember things. I have gotten to the stage in which I can remember that I once knew something but couldn’t remember what it was and sometimes I can then wrestle mightily with age and actually come up with what I thought I knew but had feared I had forgotten. Other times, of course . . . <cricket, cricket, cricket> memory gone!)

The best I can recollect, I can’t remember being asked what I wanted for dinner, at home. In very rare visits to restaurants (McDonald’s was considered a restaurant) I was allowed to select certain things but at home, nada.

In no way do I feel deprived. I had a loving and protected childhood. It took quite a while but I finally discovered that this was not the norm, TV shows like Leave It To Beaver, and Father Knows Best to the contrary. We ate dinner seated around the dining room table every evening. TV viewing was restricted to after dinner and Saturday morning cartoons. (We had but one set and it was black and white.)

I remember family meetings, around that self same table, in which we discussed where and when we were going on vacation. Us kids were not asked where we wanted to go or what we wanted to see but we still got excited about going on a trip. (I do remember being 14 and not wanting to go on vacation as it would gut my summer baseball season and I was allowed to stay home by myself for two weeks. Today that might be considered child abuse but I felt very trusted (and I got $20 to spend on groceries that, yes, I cooked myself).

It seems possible that children are now asked more often what their preferences are for such things. I don’t really know, but I suspect that this came about (if it did) based upon advertising.

In my world as a youth print and TV ads were generally not directed at children. The first of those in my recollection were Saturday morning commercials for breakfast cereals and toys. This was a time period where the audience was rather well defined (adults didn’t get up early on Saturday to watch Beanie and Cecil or Kukla, Fran, and Ollie) and it was felt that kids had some leverage in asking for sugary breakfast cereals and toys. Of course, enough whiny kids begging for such things resulted in editorials in newspapers decrying the adverts directed at children.

Soon to follow was fashion for kids. (Every boy I knew in my youth wore teeshirts and jeans or chinos, except the Catholic school kids who wore the current school uniform.)

I do not take my oft taken stance of the grumpy old man chasing the kids off of his lawn in this case, but I do wonder about consequences. Kids seems to be more focused on money and acquisitions than when I was young. My main source of income was scrounging soda pop bottles in the creek, taking them in for the deposits. (In high school I had a $2 week allowance (for dusting and vacuuming the house every Saturday on top of doing my normal chores and I felt quite flush.) Kids now seem to have more disposable income that some of their parents. They also seem to have more of everything that did we as kids.

Things change . . . often for the better and often not. Handling such changes should be given more room in our educational curricula as, for example, our political stances toward long-term phenomena, such as climate change, show we need better tools in this area.

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