Uncommon Sense

June 2, 2022

The GOP’s Climate Change Strategy

The GOP has a simple strategy regarding any action to be taken to stem climate change: it is too expensive! Basically, they claim it will cost too much (and besides the scientific data are weak). Well, the scientific data are not weak. And, yes it will be expensive. But allow me an analogy to explain why “it will cost too much” is not an adequate defense.

Let us say that you noticed a strange odor in your basement and when you investigated you found what looked like a leak in your sewage pipes. So, you called a plumber and got an estimate and who boy! That was way too much money to pay for a repair. So, you decided that you would do nothing and hope for the best.

I assume you can guess what happens, sooner or later. A major sewage leak causes your entire basement to need cleaning by a professional service, along with an even higher plumbing bill.

Dealing with climate change now will be expensive. It will require some changes in our lives. But it will never be cheaper in the future. And, if you think that a techno-fix will solve the problem easily in the future, you haven’t been paying attention. Any number of techno-fixes have been suggested to date. None have been implement. Why? Take a guess . . . they were too expensive.

Remember the car repair commercial in which the greasy mechanic drops the line “Well, you can pay me now or pay me later”? The implication is that if you don’t fix your car now, it will cost more later. A transmission service now could stave off a transmission replacement later. A valve job now may stave off an engine replacement later, etc.

The cost of dealing with climate change just keeps going up. Waiting will not make dealing with it any less expensive.

So, the GOP’s rational for doing nothing is bogus, so why are they doing it? Well, their paymasters are making so much money under the current system to allow the boat to be rocked. So, like the NRA, they nix any legislation that will fix all or part of the problem.

May 5, 2022

Wage Suppression Results in . . . Inflation?

So, we are told that the current episode of significant price inflation is due to “wages being too high”?

What the fuck?

The fat cats have been suppressing wages for over four decades now, and the result is that they are too high?

All you need to look at is the relationship between the so-called inflation and corporate profits. The economist’s story, which is wearing very thin at this point, is that due to “supply chain issues,” and other “market forces,” the costs corporations have to pay for their “inputs” went up, forcing the corporations to raise their prices, aka inflate their prices, to offset those increases. (Note The War Against Ukraine had not begun until inflation was quite evident, so it can have added to rising costs of raw materials, etc. but is not the primary cause of such things.)

If this were a true story, then one would think that the price increases would offset the cost increases and the corporations profits would stay roughly the same. But they aren’t. Corporate profits are soaring, and the corporations are too full of themselves to hide why this is so. They basically admit that inflation being news means that they have cover to raise their prices whether there is a need or not. And if just a little increase is okay, why not push for a larger one and pump up our profits. And the greedy asshats are stating this publicly! (Plutocrats need to learn that gloating is unbecoming.)

I don’t know how much of the current inflation is driven by corporate greed but I suspect it is not a tiny percentage.

Suppressing peoples wages for 40+ years and then claiming that the inflation we are experiencing is due to wages being too high is asinine and clearly hubristic. We may need to start bitch-slapping these idiots into line. And that goes for their bought and paid for politicians . . . and economists.

April 29, 2022

Elon Musk’s Twitter Buy Puts Free Speech on Sale

Filed under: Business,Culture,Politics,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 10:22 am
Tags: , ,

I just saw a piece on a local e-newspaper with the above title and my immediate response was WTF?

People, let’s get this straight! “Freedom of speech” is a promise made in the first amendment of the federal constitution. Other amendments extend it to all of the state governments in the union. What is says is that the “government” can pass no law restricting the freedom of speech. The purpose of this law was to protect political speech in our democratic process, not to make sacred the utterings and opinions of every moron in the country.

Twitter is a private corporation and it is not subject to restrictions placed upon the government. There are laws, here and in other countries, that Twitter does need to conform with but “freedom of speech” isn’t one of them.

And for those over eight years old, remember when we talked to one another, in person? That is still an option. If you want to spread your message wide, you can rent a hall and announce your presentation as being a free event! You are sure to draw a large crowd, so be sure to get a public address system.

You can also go on numerous TV channels, podcasts, YouTube, etc. to “share” your wisdom.

If Twitter were to go away tomorrow it wouldn’t make a ripple in the stream of our free speech. In fact, since the medium demands shallow communication, that is the best thing Elon Musk could do.

April 27, 2022

Respect is Earned, No?

In the ongoing drama between liberals and conservatives, we seem to be imposing our own definitions on each no matter what they have been historically. This can all be resolved by a quite straightforward expedient.

First, I invite you to read this.

I find Benjamin Cain a quite profound thinker and I think he is spot on in this article. We are in a situation politically in which a number of foxes have glued a few feathers on themselves and have gotten quite a few of the chickens to claim: “No, they are really chickens, silly!”

But liberals are operating from a humanist perspective and, as Mr. Cain suggests conservatives are arguing from an animalist perspective. Now, I am sure some people will think it insulting to call conservatives “animals” but that is not what is being said. It is saying that theu have a perspective of animals. They believe that the strong prey upon the weak (often eaten them before they have died) and that if you are at the top of the social pyramid, it is because you are a top predator, er, top competitor. They believe in charter schools because they think that their children are naturally superior and they need a structure in which to compete and show how superior they and their schools are. The limp-wristed liberals think that every child is entitled to a quality education. Conservatives think that their children are entitled to an education superior to that of the hoi polloi, and if, through a voucher system, they can get the whole population to help them pay for that all the better.

Conservatives use terms like “it is a dog-eat-dog world” showing that they are Social Darwinists (the survival of the fittest in society). Yet, we live in a country established along liberal lines, giving equal rights to people when the conservatives are more likely to claim you have all of the rights you can earn.

As Mr. Cain summed it up in that article:

Nevertheless, by tolerating conservatism as an outlook that’s supposed to make sense as a viable option within modernity, as opposed to regarding conservatism as a radical, reactionary repudiation of modernity itself, liberals are inviting foxes into the henhouse.

How should liberals handle this massive confusion or fraud which is “conservatism”? They might begin by dropping the face-saving formulations, cutting through the conservative’s sanctimonious and obscurantist salesmanship, and speaking more bluntly about the political and economic options and stakes.

To wit, it’s only humanists versus animalists. Period.

April 26, 2022

Separation of Church and State or Separation of the Rich and Poor?

I am just finishing “. . . And Forgive Them Their Debts” by Michael Hudson which is about what its subtitle proclaims “Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year.” This is quite an academic tome and I don’t recommend it to those of you who do not enjoy reading academic works. (They can be tedious.)

After reading about our millennia long battle between the accumulators of wealth and various governments, secular and religious, opposing them, it seems clear that the U.S. founding fathers, who were so deathly afraid of religion corrupting politics, and vice-versa, that they erected a wall of separation between church and state, should have been equally concerned with separating the rapacious wealthy from the wealth of ordinary citizens.

Professor Hudson shows in meticulous detail how throughout history the wealthy have leveraged their wealth into vast holdings of land and people’s lives. The pattern is usually simple: the rich lend money to the poor, and the poor who from time to time cannot repay their loans and so their land becomes forfeit. Often enough the labor of the original landholder goes with it, including spouses and children, which is effectively slavery.

Early governments tried one solution, a royal proclamation forgiving all such debts. Originally these were debts to the government (taxes, etc.) and often enough excluded businessman to businessman debts, but these “Jubilee years” were proclaimed often enough to point out the problem. And as nongovernmental lenders became dominant, the debt forgiving included private debts.

The Bible is full of attempts to prevent the wealthy from taking control of most of the land of Judah and Israel. (Note If your version of the Lord’s Prayer includes “. . . and forgive us our trespasses . . .” realize that it originally read “. . . and forgive us our debts . . .” Uh, guess who objected to the original wording?) In fact, it is implicit in Jesus’s claim that the Kingdom of God is nigh, that there would be such a Jubilee declared (often enough these were declared every time a new king took over). So, all of the “money changers” who were also money lenders and were looking at their loan debts being canceled with no repayment had a massive reason to get rid of Jesus ASAP.

This “cycle” has happened over and over and over, yet the current powers that be are exerting themselves to make sure that the tool of “forgiveness of debts” is forgotten and stays forgotten.

Here is one of the last paragraphs in this book:

“Mainstream ideology now denies a positive role for government policy to constrain the large-scale concentration of wealth. Purporting to explain the history of inequality since the Stone Age, for instance, Stanford historian Walter Scheidel’s 2017 book The Great Leveler downplays the ability to substantially reduce it without natural disasters wiping out wealth at the top. He recognizes that the inherent tendency of history is for the wealthy to win out and make society increasingly unequal. But the only “solutions” to inequality that he finds that work are the four “great levelers”: mass warfare, violent revolution, lethal pandemics or state collapse. He does not acknowledge progressive tax policy, debt write-offs or return of land to smallholders as means to prevent or reverse concentration of wealth in the absence of external crisis.” (. . . And Forgive Them Their Debts” p. 460

Gosh, now who would benefit from the long history of debt forgiveness not being known to many? Is it the poor people? No. Is it the middle class? No. Is it the rich? Got it in three, Bubba. If the wealthy don’t like a word or term it is gone, like unearned income, or changed, like liberal and socialist. They even decry “redistribution of wealth” when they are getting richer by doing exactly that. They just don’t want their wealth to be redistributed. They don’t mind your wealth being redistributed.

The rich buy economists like candy bars and once bought they say what the rich want them to say. So, when an economist claims that wealth inequality is inevitable and “the only solutions are mass warfare, violent revolution, lethal pandemics or state collapse” and otherwise we are helpless, you now know who paid for that message. There should be a statement attached to such books with a photo and the statement “I am a wealthy person and I approve this message.”

What Economics Gets Wrong

Filed under: Business,Culture,Economics,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 8:42 am

Another brilliant post by Ian Welsh! Why economics, the study and practice need to be shut down. They get almost everything wrong! Here’s a few particulars.

What Economics Gets Wrong (Almost Everything)

April 25, 2022

Wanna Know What’s Wrong with the American Economy?

From “Life in the Real Economy” by Harold Meyerson, April 19, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Chrysler devoted 27 percent of its 1960 revenues to its 105,000 employees, and just 10.5 percent to its 192,000 employees in 2019, while the share going to holders of Chrysler stock increased seven-fold. The pressures presented by non-union automakers in the South and imports from lower-wage countries greatly weakened the United Auto Workers over the ensuing 60 years, which clearly is a major factor in the falling employee share.

Union Pacific Railroad had almost an identical number of employees in 2019 as it had it 1960, but the share of company revenues they received plummeted from 47 percent in 1960 to 21 percent in 2019.The share going to stockholders, by contrast, rose from 7 percent to 39 percent. The amount going to reinvestment (new equipment, R&D, etc.) fell from 6 percent to -11 percent (that’s negative 11 percent).

As more Americans traveled by air, the number of United Airlines employees rose from 22,000 in 1960 to 96,000 in 2019. The share of revenues going to employees, however, dropped from 47 percent to 21 percent over that time, while that going to shareholders rose from 7 percent to 39 percent, with a decline in reinvestment identical to that at Union Pacific.

What went wrong is American corporations became solely focused upon increasing “shareholder value.” Oh, and did I mention that CEOs began to be paid in stock and/or stock options during this period, making them shareholders? And I must note that what they were really talking about was “share value” as in shares of stock. Shareholder value would be to provide value to the holders of the stock, which is best served by a strong corporation organized to last a long time, providing benefits to the shareholders for that long time. It is relatively easy to manipulate share prices, it is very difficult to manipulate share value. Guess which ones the CEOs practice the most? (examples are rife: consider stock buybacks (which used to be illegal manipulations of stock prices but are no longer consider to be so due to helpful politicians) being used to manipulate stock prices, and corporations like the Enron scandal, a major con based upon artificial inflation of stock prices, by the simple expedient of lying.

Basically American corporations have spent decades redistributing wealth from their workers to their shareholders. And here I thought conservatives were opposed to redistributions of wealth.

What’s wrong with the American economy is that we are not part of it. It is being run by the rich, for the rich, and politicians get rich facilitating that process.

April 6, 2022

You Say It is Time to Tax Churches?

You are right.

Consider this: The Mormon Church owns the most valuable property portfolio in America

At least $15,700,000,000 in holdings.

If they weren’t ashamed, why were they hiding their assets?

March 31, 2022

A Must-See Documentary

Currently playing on Amazon Prime is a documentary entitled Billions in Change. At first I was thinking quarters, dimes, nickels, etc. but that was not the case (you’ll understand what it stands for below). The documentary is about Manoj Bhargava, the inventor of the 5-Hour Energy drink. As he tells it he had this idea, pursued it, and poof, he was worth over four billion dollars. So, what was he to do with his money, he thought. He started out funding various worthy projects but it felt like throwing sand in the ocean, unlikely to make a difference anywhere. So, build a space rocket to take his friends into space? No, that would be silly. What he did was buy an industrial park and create Innovations Ventures, LLC, in an attempt to solve major problems facing the whole world, especially focused upon the poor.

I won’t provide spoilers regarding the inventions he and his teams have been coming up with, but they are spectacular.

You probably know that I am of the opinion that we do not need billionaires. But if we are to have them, Mr. Bhargava is the kind we should have. Brilliant. Life changing. Watch it! I will watch it again tonight!

That is one of his inventions–a one hour stint on the recumbent bicycle generators produces enough electricity to power a poor household for 24 hours (no fossil fuels, air pollution, etc. involved).

March 24, 2022

If Only It Were So

I am working my way through “The Dawn of Everything” which is a real eye opener. I haven’t read much that is new, but when you put them together, boy, are the facts different from what I thought they were.

For example, the idea of land as property. You are probably aware that many early peoples didn’t think that they “owned” the land, but tribes had certain feelings about their hunting range rights and whatnot. Disputes were often settled with battles, so there has always been something “there” with regard to land.

We have gotten from there to “land is the only true wealth” (aka now), but something got lost along the way. The something was what might be called “stewardship” of the land. If the land was associated with you, your family, your tribe, there were certain obligations regarding maintaining the health of the land. The land was not yours to do as you wish, but to use until it was turned over to someone else.

I was aware of this loss but Graeber encapsulated it quite nicely. Read this:

What makes the Roman Law conception of property – the basis of almost all legal systems today – unique is that the responsibility to care and share is reduced to a minimum, or even eliminated entirely. In Roman Law there are three basic rights relating to possession: usus (the right to use), fructus (the right to enjoy the products of a property, for instance the fruit of a tree), and abusus (the right to damage or destroy). If one has only the first two rights this is referred to as usufruct, and is not considered true possession under the law. The defining feature of true legal property, then, is that one has the option of not taking care of it, or even destroying it at will. (Graeber, David. The Dawn of Everything, p. 161—all emphases mine SR)

So, the modern ideas of land as property, I am thinking of Western U.S. landholders who claim the land is theirs and they can do anything they want with or to it, date back to the Romans.

Once again, civilization is over rated. Clearly the more primitive, uncivilized people had the better ideas.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if the stewardship aspect of land “ownership” had been kept? It would be a vastly different world.

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