Class Warfare Blog

May 22, 2017

Terrorism: A Battle Between Good and Evil?

Filed under: History,Morality,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 1:13 pm
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Recently President Trump characterized the terrorism surrounding the disputes between the West and Muslim countries this way: “This is a battle between good and evil.” I guess I should confess that I do not believe there are such things as good and evil, other than as amorphous words we use to vaguely describe how we feel about events.

And terrorism is not such a battle, terrorism is a tool used by the weak against the strong, just like guerrilla warfare. In the American Revolutionary War, we Americans used Guerrilla warfare because we were weak and England was strong. You use the tools you have.

Terrorism is not something used by the strong. Strong entities use overwhelming force (Shock and awe, baby! Shock and awe.) and even brutality to impress their will. This is not an option for weaker countries or weaker groups. So, they use terrorism and guerrilla warfare to intimidate and dissuade. The Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War was a clear indication of the threat that no one could be safe anywhere in the country, a brilliant tactic by a weaker country against a more powerful one. “You have B-52 bombers, Agent Orange, and Vulcan cannons; we have soldiers with a rifle and a few rounds of ammunition and you will never be safe.”

So, is terrorism a “battle between good and evil”?

No.

Actually, anyone who uses that phrase, “a battle between good and evil,” is being manipulatory and disingenuous. They are trying to lay the mantle of “good” on their shoulders and the mantle of “evil” on the other guy’s. They are inviting simplistic thinking in the extreme. Me good, you bad; that kind of thinking.

When you hear that phrase, hold on to your wallet and back away; the person uttering it is not to be trusted.

May 20, 2017

An Argument for a Minimum Wage

There have been myriad studies about the impact of having a minimum wage. Some indicate that there is no particularly strong linkage between creating a higher wage for low wage workers and some indicate that a rise in the min wage causes unemployment.

The politicians arguing against a min wage use a very simplified argument: namely that if employers have to pay their workers more, they will only be able to hire so many workers, mostly fewer. This is way too simple in thinking this. For one, if people are paid more money, they then spend more money (what goes around, comes around) which is good for business. There are many more facets to this issue.

If labor costs go up, and they have myriad times due to labor contracts, etc. how, oh how, do companies cope? (Yes, I am being sarcastic.) The amount of money that goes to labor in any company is not a fixed amount or even a fixed percentage of the company’s budget. There are many, many ways that those increased labor costs can be offset. For one, you can raise prices for the goods created. You could decrease profits. You could find other ways to reduce operating costs (reduce energy costs by going solar, etc.).

Knee jerk responses to these actions abound, of course. “If we raise prices, we will reduce sales!” Really? Companies never raise prices, then? C’mon, get real. Just raising prices alone, of course, is the lazy way to deal with increased labor costs; a combination of actions would be better.

Most of these minimum wage discussions are shallow and politically motivated. Basically, the opponents of min wage increases give minimal arguments and only add to them if we don’t accept (aka we reject vehemently) their overly simplistic argument.

Let me explain a real reason for min wage increases. Minimum wage increases are justified for the simple reason is that business interests (aka the plutocrats) have conspired to suppress wages for a long, long time. This involves bribing politicians to undermine union powers and privileges, delaying minimum wage increases, changing the laws in favor of employers over employees, etc. They have been particularly effective over the past 40 years (see the chart below as to the effectiveness of wage suppression over the past 40 years). The only power source of ordinary people to oppose these powerful business interests is government. The cabal wants wages low (too low) and so government must set a floor on wages. It is not simple but at least that is the political dynamic.

If you want to see this playing out right now, consider the current stance of the GOP. The GOP has been the champion of local rights for a long time. Education, for example, should not be a federal issue, but should reside in the states, with the states deferring to local communities and their school boards. So, what has been the GOP response to cities who have enacted their own min wage increases? GOP dominated states are passing laws to roll back those democratically achieved minimum wage increases and to bar such local increases in the future. Local control doesn’t mean a fig when the GOP’s paymasters issue directives (You will keep wages down, or else).

May 15, 2017

We Don’ Need No Protection Cause Racism Ain’t No More

According to The Nation magazine:

“On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, ruling that states with the longest histories of voting discrimination no longer had to approve their voting changes with the federal government. A month after that decision, North Carolina – where 40 counties were previously subject to that requirement – passed the country’s most sweeping voting restrictions.

“The state required strict voter ID to cast a ballot, cut a week of early voting and eliminated same-day voter registration, out of precinct voting and pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds. On July 29, 2016, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit invalidated these restrictions, which it said targeted African Americans “with almost surgical precision” in violation of the Voting Rights Act and 14th Amendment.”

If I remember rightly, the Supreme Court argued that singling out those states for “special treatment” under the Voting Rights Act (basically requiring any changes to voting laws to be screened for approval by the Justice Department) wasn’t needed any more because, well those states had reformed and were no longer what they were. Besides there’s racism everywhere.

So, here we are just under four years later addressing racist voting regulations which “targeted African Americans ‘with almost surgical precision’ in violation of the Voting Rights Act and 14th Amendment”  in one of those very states. I am sure glad their ain’ no racists no more in No’th Carolina.

Three cheers for the Supreme Court … uh, no?

May 3, 2017

This Is Ridiculous!

Filed under: Education,Morality,Sports — Steve Ruis @ 9:23 am
Tags: ,

The University of Alabama has just given its football coach a three-year extension on his current contract with a price tag of $65,000,000 additional in salary. This is ridiculous.

If said coach worked as many hours as an average worker, this means he would be making $11,500 per hour, that’s right per hour.

This means that said coach would make more than the average worker in the U.S. makes in a year in one afternoon.

This is madness. This is not for some life-saving surgeon or freedom-ensuring lawyer, this is for an effing football coach, a coach of amateur football.

Do we need any more evidence that capitalism is broken?

April 27, 2017

Good and Evil? Meh.

I find the ideas of good and evil puzzling. In a world of almost infinite variation, these two absolutes continue to exist in people’s minds, often as an unnecessary dichotomy. Of course, there are organizations dedicated to their continued existence but, really, they are not useful terms, at least not to us. Mostly they show a lack of imagination or a desire to manipulate.

We are always trying to quantify things; that is normal for us. But we also tend to play one-upmanship in contests for status. There is a PGA commercial running now with famous golfers talking about how early they get to the practice range. The times quoted get earlier and earlier in response to what the others claimed until they are completely ridiculous. It was designed to show how competitive the golfers are and serves that purpose. It works, of course, because we have all played the game. (And please do not respond that this is a hyper-competitive, male-only game. Just listen to a group of mothers talking about their children and you will see the same process.)

So, when someone asks you “how bad was it?” There is a tendency to exaggerate. (I thought I was dying. Excruciating—worst hangnail I have ever had. etc.)

But like most things, these are just gradations on a scale. There is, for example, no “tall” or “short” or a clean dividing line between them. (I am tall enough to be in the top 3% of Americans in height, but when I played center in basketball in college, I was a puny shrimp.) Similarly, where are the dividing lines between “bad” and “evil” or between “good” and “bad?” These do not exist, for good reason. There are gradations of good and bad like there are of tall and short, but no absolutes.

What happens when we use absolutes, though, is we fall down a rabbit hole out of ordinary discourse. These absolutes do not acknowledge that there is a bit of everything in each of us. For example, by all accounts, Hitler was good to his mother.

By labeling things as “good” or “evil” we create categories based upon similarities that are not close to being exact. For example, do Adolph Hitler and Jeffrey Dahmer belong in the same box?. Certainly not based upon their body counts. But both are simply labeled “evil.” Remember the “Evil Axis” of G.W. Bush? Such characterizations set people up for overly simplistic “solutions” to problems. As examples: We must oppose evil (because we are the good guys). We must oppose ISIS, it is evil. And, the ultimate: we must make war on terrorism! WTF? This makes no sense at all.

The terms good and evil exist as manipulators of human emotions and for no other reason. They are vague and unhelpful terms designed to be vague and helpful to those using them, to manipulate their hearers into doing their bidding.

When you next hear the term “all-good” or “ultimate evil,” think “all tall” or “ultimate short.” Those are about as useful as descriptors as the former.

April 26, 2017

Dishonesty About Taxes

The Current Administration wants to cut business taxes. They say the current rate, 35%, is too high and a 15% rate would be better for one and all.

Ah, please cut the crap.

When you add up all of the corporate taxes and income for 2016, it turns out that corporations paid about 14% as an effective tax rate. Individuals paid an effective rate of about 13.5%.

The reason these actual tax rates are much lower than the statutory marginal tax rate, is the rate most often stated is the maximum rate which doesn’t kick in until you have made a shitload of money. Even the 28% personal marginal rate doesn’t even begin until you make just under $92,000 dollars in any particular year. On the first bit you pay 10%, the next bit, you pay 15%, after that you pay a 25% on the amount above that amount up to about $91,000, as mentioned. Everybody pays this way. The only way someone can pay close to the maximum rate is to make a shitload of money … and have no deductions.

“‘In each year from 2006 to 2012, at ‘least two-thirds of all active corporations had no federal income tax liability.’ So much for corporations paying their fair share.”

The US Tax Code is a bloated document, not because of statutes that address personal income but because of the myriad tax breaks that sometimes only single companies get. This is why businesses spend money lobbying Congress, it really pays off in tax perks. Somebody recently calculated that for each $1 a company spent in lobbying Washington, it got a return of $28. That is one hell of an investment! According to the GAO “In each year from 2006 to 2012, at least two-thirds of all active corporations had no federal income tax liability.” So much for corporations paying their fair share.

There used to be a tax principle that said that people who make money by investing money (the “you know who”) should pay more in taxes than people who made money by the sweat of their brow. This has been reversed so that if you work for a living, you pay more in taxes than those who simply move money around (proportionately, not absolutely). Another tax dishonesty: “The rich pay more in taxes that you!” yeah, 10% of 100 million dollars is a lot more money than 10% of $50,000 but it is still 10%.

It used to be the case that companies paid more tax than individuals. That was back before the companies realized that they could buy the government and stack the deck in their favor.

These are same people who back the claim that corporations are people. Now they want to establish that corporations are better than people. (They worship them and want us to also.)

April 25, 2017

They Are Just Better Than Us … and Getting Betterer

Filed under: Economics,Morality — Steve Ruis @ 10:40 am
Tags: , , ,

Notes on How the Class War is Going (Hint: You Are Losing Worse, Much Worse.)

According to an article in Bloomberg News: “… the poorest fifth of 50-year-old American men can now expect to live just past 76, six months shy of the previous generation. The richest 50-year-olds should make it almost to 89, seven years longer than their parents’ generation.

The richest people in the U.S. aren’t just getting several years of extra life, they’re also reaping a financial reward for their longevity – courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. These trends will be crucial as the new administration and Congress consider any changes to Social Security, Medicare, and other programs. Even tweaks to these programs, from the retirement age to benefit formulas, could affect the rich and poor very differently.

Three decades ago, the richest and poorest retirees could expect about the same amount of benefits out of government programs. The richest generally got larger Social Security payouts, both by qualifying for higher checks and by living longer. The poorest got more out of other programs, such as Medicaid and Social Security disability insurance. Medicare offered about the same benefits to rich and poor.

If you believe that “things just keep getting better,” as I used to, I think you have to expand your thinking to see for whom they are getting better and for whom they are getting betterer, much betterer.

And if you think this is happening by accident, think again. Consider just the attempt to raise the retirement age of Social Security to the age of 70. This would reduce the average number of years of payout for that lower cohort to six years (zero if you are Black) but wouldn’t negatively affect the richer cohort much at all. But it would forestall the most commonsense argument: removing the cap on Social Security wages, currently at $127K and change. So, if you make millions of dollars, you pay SS tax on the first $127K and then nothing on the rest. Removing that cap would dip significantly into the pockets of the rich, something making foregoing five years of SS income pale in comparison. This is why the rich want that solution (age 70 for benefits) rather than the cap removal. So, now you know why such a poor solution to any SS problem gets so much ink. (They own the news media, too, don’t you know.)

If you don’t believe there is a class war going on, it doesn’t matter, you are still losing.

March 15, 2017

Apparently It Is Never Enough

The oligarchs running our government could just rest on their laurels as they have won on every front, but apparently that is not enough. If you think things could not get worse, read this “Right-Wing Billionaires Have a Project to Rewrite Our Constitution, and They Are Shockingly Close to Pulling It Off.”

March 13, 2017

We Have Met the Enemy … and It Isn’t Us

We have met the enemy and it is … our corporations. Consider first a couple of examples:

You have heard, I am sure, of the so-called “skills gap,” which is that American workers just do not have the skills needed for “today’s marketplace,” so we need to issue more foreign worker visas to fill the necessary jobs. One of the fields clamoring for more of these visas has been Information Technology (IT). IBM, a quintessential American IT company, hid the facts for many years but now it is clear. Between 2003 and 2010, IBM fired so many American IT professionals and hired so many engineers and computer programmers in India that the workforce of IBM India is now larger than that of IBM USA. IBM India had a mere 6,000 workers in 2003 but by 2010 had somewhere in the range of 100,000-130,000 workers. How did IBM manage this into the teeth of the worst global recession ever? It did it by firing over 30,000 workers here in the U.S.

IBM calls this “cross border job shifting,” which sounds ever so much more like a transfer than people getting fired here and others getting hired there. And IBM is not alone in doing this, so how can there be a shortage of IT workers in the US when there are so many Americans who used to hold the very same jobs that are claimed are “going wanting?” What is the real rationale for the demand to be issuing more visas for foreign workers? There is no shortage of highly qualified IT workers. This is simply a classic wage-suppression tactic. Bring in foreign workers and pay them less than you would American workers with the same qualifications. This makes it very much harder for Americans to get wage increases here and also harder to form unions that would look into such practices. Foreign workers do not want to anger their employers because if they lose their job, they lose their job sponsor, and it is back to India for them. They will not join a union, period.

Now, consider another quintessential American company, Ford. Can there be a more American story involving business that the creation of the Ford Motor Company from scratch? But in the late 1990’s, Alex Trotman, Ford’s then CEO, admitted “Ford isn’t even an American company, strictly speaking; we’re global.”

And if American companies like these do not consider themselves “American companies,” how much can we expect them to act on our behalf? When I was a young man, many corporations had multiple stakeholders. These corporations considered their customers to be one, along with their workers as another, and their communities, too. And, of course, also their shareholders. Modern business practices, spurred along by quack economists like Milton Friedman, had reduced the number of corporate stakeholders to one: the shareholders. Well, just one stakeholder if you do not count the executive’s self-interest in their own remuneration, which has skyrocketed while worker wages have been experiencing trickle-up growth.

As a union officer in the 1980’s and 90’s I participated in an experiment with management of our enterprise ($150 million annual budget) on creating a more cooperative governance structure. Part of that effort was coming to an understanding of relationships between and among the two groups. One facet of that learning was that “workers” (we all worked for the company) we all tended to imbue our work relationship with trust, that is we put our trust into our employer to some extent. This was not earned trust but, basically, we trusted our employer because we wanted to have a job in which we could trust our employer. This wishful thinking trust usually had no repercussions, but when something happen that a worker or workers did not like, they felt betrayed by someone they had trusted (trusted to do what was never specific, usually it was “the right thing”). Such “betrayals” existed in collective memory for decades. (I know this as when I was hired into this company I heard “stories” from other employees. I found out later that some of them were almost 30 years old.)

We are making that mistake now. We are told by representatives of these “American companies” that we should “trust the marketplace” and “trust them.” But their actions indicate that not only are they untrustworthy but they are not even American companies. Imagine how you would feel if a foreign company, say from China, wanted to come into your community and build a plant, one with a bit of pollution associated with it. Then think how you would view that intention were is an American company? Would your response be the same? Yet, these American companies no longer consider themselves to be American, and have acted accordingly for decades now, but we still “trust” them more than we do others.

These companies have no issue with firing you and hiring a replacement from overseas and ask you to train your cheaper replacement (happens all the time, happened to my ex-wife). These companies have no problem with going through bankruptcy to eliminate their obligation to pay into their worker’s pensions. These companies have no problem with manipulating our tax laws so that they pay no taxes, with the burden to make up the difference shifted to you and me. These companies have no problem in bribing our public officials to do their bidding instead of the people’s. And if you want to know why our recovery from the Mother of all Recessions was so weak, with employment struggling to get back to anything approximating normal, realize that business leaders see every crisis as an opportunity and in this crisis they used the opportunity to outsource even more jobs. They were hiring, just not in the U.S. That is how much loyalty they have to their bottom line and how much they have to you and me.

Ironically, we have just elected a corporate businessman President to fix this mess (drain the swamp). If this were not so ironic, so funny, I would be crying. When are we going to wake up? When are we going to invest our passion and our votes in organizations, like labor unions, that have proven track records for countering these un-American corporate interests?

Wake up people! It is very close to “too late.”

March 7, 2017

The GOP on the Move!

Slow to begin, the GOP legislative onslaught is picking up steam. Here is a partial list of some of their coming hits:

HR 610 Vouchers for Public Education — (The bill also repeals basic nutrition standards for the national school lunch and breakfast programs.)
HR 899 Terminate the Department of Education
HR 785 National Right to Work (aimed at ending unions, including teacher unions)
HR 861 Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency
HJR 69 Repeal Rule Protecting Wildlife
HR 370 Repeal Affordable Care Act
HR 354 Defund Planned Parenthood
HR 83 Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Bill
HR 147 Criminalizing Abortion (“Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act”)
HR 808 Sanctions against Iran

Actually, I can get behind the HR 899 effort. The Federal Department of Education has been either an embarrassment or a front for the privatization of public education (Arnie Duncan!). So this is no great loss. But what do the other bills have in common? Oh, if the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

HR 610 Vouchers for Public Education The rich have been trying for decades to get the private religious school educations they provide their children and currently pay for out of pocket to be paid for by the public. That and they also want to send their kids to lily white schools, preferably one with Country Day School in its name. And even the little touches are precious: with the repeal of the basic nutrition standards for school meals, ketchup is finally a vegetable again.
If the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

HR 785 National Right to Work This is famously anti-union legislation. The GOP is financed by corporate employers who wish to suppress worker’s wages. They have been doing a fabulous job of just that for the past 40 years, but still any opposition to their wage suppression scams is not to be countenanced. The plutocrats have pulled the fabulous rhetorical trick of getting their white, working class base to hate unions, the sole power player that can help them against the tyranny of the corporations.
If the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

HR 861 Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency Who needs the EPA? Clearly businesses do. When Ronald Reagan called in William Ruckelshaus to tame the EPA’s burgeoning bureaucracy, Mr. Ruckelshaus was astonished to receive encouragement to strengthen the EPA from none other than several chemical industry chief executives. Their message was that “the public, they told me, was spooked about the turmoil at E.P.A. Americans didn’t believe anything was being done to protect their health and the environment. They didn’t believe the E.P.A., and they didn’t believe the chemical industry. These executives had concluded that they needed a confident, fair and independent E.P.A. They knew that an environmental agency trusted by the public to do its job gave their businesses a public license to operate.” But the GOP just can’t help themselves, can they? All of those burdensome regulations hinder the American genius for making money (for plutocrats). Who needs air to breath and water to drink, we need jobs! (Remember the Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs?)
If the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

HJR 69 Repeal Rule Protecting Wildlife Hey, they have tooth and claw and don’t they have their own law about those? Let ‘em protect themselves. Under other new GOP legislation they will be allowed to buy firearms with no background checks, just like everybody else.
If the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

HR 370 Repeal Affordable Care Act The rich get a tax cut, the poor get early graves, a “win-win” situation for the GOP.
If the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

HR 354 Defund Planned Parenthood First they complain that people of color are having too many babies, now they want to make it so they have to have them. Don’t expect any consistency here. This was a campaign promise (not of Donald Trump’s) and a promise is a promise, even if the Planned Parenthood “issue” is another straw dog, like “Acorn.”
If the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

HR 83 Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Bill Hey, we said “state’s rights” not “cities’ rights.” Local control? Nope, not while the local control guys are in power.
If the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

HR 147 Criminalizing Abortion “Doctors, lock ‘em up!” According to the GOP, those babies must be born before they can be abused and legally executed. It is a matter of the rule of law.
If the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

HR 808 Sanctions against Iran The GOP cannot help itself, it has to “poke the bear.” The Big Bear is Russia but Iran is an ally of Russia, so close enough. The neocons and apocalyptic proselytizers (Steve Bannon, et. all.) want war now because it will only get harder to wipe out those enemies of Christ as time goes on and the MIC says “There are no profits like war profits.”
Oh, and, if the GOP is suggesting it, it favors the rich!

 

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