Class Warfare Blog

January 12, 2018

Oh, If Someone Else Will Pay For It, Sure

Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, said on Thursday that it would raise its starting wages, give bonuses to some employees and vastly expand maternity and parental leave benefits for its army of more than one million hourly workers. The retailer said that it would use some of the money it expects to save under the recently passed Republican tax bill to pay for the raises and enhanced benefits.

Walmart said it would increase its starting hourly wage from $9 to $11, and provide one-time cash bonuses of up $1,000 to hourly workers, depending on how long they have been with the company. The wage increase brings Walmart in line with some of its other retail-industry rivals amid a tightening labor market. Target raised its base pay to $11/hr last fall.

So, Walmart is struggling to keep up with Target? WTF?

Within hours of its self-serving announcement, Walmart undercut its triumphal message when news leaked that it was closing 63 of its Sam’s Club stores.

So, was the wage increase a smoke screen? Some “good news” to cover the “bad news” to follow? Otherwise why make the announcements on the heels of one another?

And, since Walmart is using its “tax cut” to pay for some of these employee benefit increases, how much of it we do not know, are they saying “Gee, now we can afford it?” Walmart has made huge profits for its owners and investors for decades, large enough that they could have been a leader in how to treat their employees. But no, Walmart would rather their primaries get to become billionaires than their workers to have a living wage.

And if anyone claims that Walmart is paying the “market price” for its labor, I will scream! The “market” is not magic, in fact it is a political construct that has been manipulated to create the lowest possible labor costs for its participating companies. The “market” is something that is a lousy guide for any endeavor. Worse are “free markets.” Any decent economist can tell you that unregulated markets doom the sectors they serve. In fact markets cannot thrive without regulation. So, why is one of our major political parties campaigning on a “regulations are bad, we must get rid of them” plank? Ask the people who are paying for those opinions to be espoused and actions taken. (Hint: it ain’t you or me.)

As to who will actually pay for those raises, look forward shortly to the Repubs to cut benefits to poor people. Why? Because the tax jiggering they have pull off is going to lower federal tax receipts and “we won’t have the money” to pay for such frivolous expenditures. Look for Walmart employees, a class of workers who benefit from the government programs lined up for haircuts by the GOP, even with their raises and bonuses to be less well off a year from now than they are now.

Advertisements

Three Billion = Not Enough

Today, Carrier, the profitable heating/ventilation/air conditioning company, owned by United Technologies Corporation, a federal contractor whose climate, controls, and security division, of which Carrier is a part, reported three billion dollars in operating profit in 2016—is letting go of more than two hundred employees in its second and final wave of Indiana-based layoffs, which began last July. In total, the company will be laying off more than five hundred employees as it moves manufacturing jobs to Monterrey, Mexico. Many of those employees voted for Donald Trump, who made saving Carrier’s “big, beautiful plant” one of his most repeated campaign promises. It was part of his broader pre-election claim that “A Trump Administration will stop the jobs from leaving America.”

Do realize that careful analyses of such moves often show the savings are minimal. Because the jobs are no longer near the U.S.-based managers, another level of managers has to be hired. Then there is transportation costs, and…. One thing you can be sure will be affected is their stock price. “Shareholders” love these moves, why no one knows. I suspect it is the choir praising the minister as both managers and shareholders belong to the same church, the Church of Greed.

Three billion dollars in profits in just one year and a sterling reputation for quality and … oh, we have to move to save the company? WTF?

January 7, 2018

If the Elites Might Benefit, Then Sure, They are For It

In today’s NY Times an article (Medical Research? Congress Cheers. Medical Care? Congress Brawls by Robert Pear) states that there is some bipartisan support for science in our Congress. Here’s the introduction:

“WASHINGTON — They cannot agree on subsidies for low-income people under the Affordable Care Act or even how to extend funding for the broadly popular Children’s Health Insurance Program — two issues requiring urgent attention as Congress returns to work.

“But a more exotic corner of the medical world has drawn rapturous agreement among Republicans and Democrats: the development of new treatments and cures through taxpayer-funded biomedical research.

“For the third straight year, lawmakers are planning to increase the budget of the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion. In the process, they have summarily rejected cuts proposed by President Trump.

“The push for additional funding reflects a fascination among legislators with advances in fields like molecular biology, genetics and regenerative medicine, even as they wage bitter battles over just how large a role the government should play in financing health care and providing coverage.”

When the shade the politicians have thrown is illuminated, it is clear why this support is bipartisan. New medical procedures, even those which prove to be very costly, will help keep the elites alive longer. The elites have told us over and over that “America affords us the finest medical care in the world.” What we didn’t focus on was the use of the word “us.” They were referring to the elites as only they can afford the finest. The fact that our medical care system only ranks somewhere near the middle of first world countries is irrelevant and they know it. Those results are based upon average health outcomes and the elites are paying for treatments and health outcomes that the top 1% get. They do not care much at all about the poor health outcomes that the poor and middle class can afford as those do not affect them directly. But there are many of us and few of them, which means they are more than willing to take our tax dollars to pay for their cures.

Everything you need to see is right in front of your eyes. We only need to believe what they are saying, what they actually are saying and not what we wish to hear.

January 1, 2018

Step 1: Abuse Them …

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

Step 1: Abuse them.
Step 2: Abuse them for their response to the first abuse.
Step 3: Repeat.

For the past forty or more years the rich in this country have been engaging in something they claim to despise: redistribution of wealth. The very word “redistribution” is loaded with scorn whenever spoken by one of the true elite, and even when deployed by their spin meisters. The redistribution they despise is anything that takes from the rich to give to the poor. The redistribution that they have been engaged in massively takes from the less-than-rich and gives to the rich.

For example, citing its Billionaires Index, Bloomberg reported Wednesday that the 500 richest people on the planet (most are Americans) gained almost a trillion dollars of new wealth in 2017, which is four times what they gained in 2016. That acceleration of wealth accumulation is the result of actions taken, not just chance. Apparently it is harvest time and the rich are reaping.

So, what say the rich when any of us speak up to complain of their actions? They say that we need to “get a job,” or “start a business” as they did. Being poor or any status below wealthy is our own fault. An examination of these so-called routes to riches shows that they are more than false. They tend to be closer to lies. While there are some who pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, more likely there was inherited wealth and privilege involved. Mitt Romney, for example, was famous for saying no one helped him on the way up. Apparently the two million dollars in stocks his father gave him didn’t count, nor the fancy education his father’s work afforded him counted either, nor did his access to the political acquaintances of his well-connected father. (To put this in perspective, the two million dollar gift that got Mr. Romney started equals the total amount of my wages through almost forty years of being a professor. That’s some bootstrap.)

Then we are berated for our obsessions with income and economic status as if hungry people do not obsess about food. We are berated for our focus on money, the very thing the rich have siphoned off from us making our existences precarious.

The religious elites berate us for our commercial participation in holidays they claim are primarily religious. One could claim, however, that if Christmas were not a commercial holiday, it could easily end up like All Soul’s Day (right, I had to look it up, too). They berate us on our focus on the mundane, things like making enough money to feed our kids, pay for their medical care, and even provide them with Christmas presents.

There is no mention from the voices in pulpits of how the wealthy will not get into Heaven, that the rich’s expressions of greed are unbecoming and will lead those people to disaster in the form of eons of suffering in Hell. That would not be politic, nor would it help the bottom lines of churches dependent upon the wealthy for those really yuge donations. Instead all we hear about the rich folks economic abuse of the less-than-rich is <cricket, cricket, cricket …>.

This verbal abuse of the victims of their actions is not necessarily a deliberate thing; it is more likely behavior aped from those above the rich in the pecking order, but it is part of the system, the system run by the rich in this country to ensure they stay rich and get richer and if we want to keep what little we have we should just shut up and behave (get a degree, get a job, don’t even think about forming a union, keep your head down, shut up,…).

I have a message for these people to start off 2018 and that is “Fuck you!” Every chance I get to vote or act against you, I will and I will not stop berating your behavior as being anti-social, anti-democratic, and against the best interests of not only my class but your own class as well.

December 30, 2017

We Can Trust Corporations As They Would Do Nothing to Besmirch Their Reputations, Part 298

As reported on the Naked Capitalism website:

“’A unit of Caterpillar that repaired railcars at a Los Angeles facility pled guilty last week to a federal environmental offense of dumping parts into the ocean to conceal that it was performing unnecessary and improper repairs for several railcar operators’ [Corporate Crime Reporter]. ‘As a result of illegal conduct that spanned the years 2008 through 2014 – including the unnecessary and improper repairs on railcar adapters, brake beams, grating platforms, brake shoes, friction castings, hand brakes, roof liners and side bearings – United Industries earned at least $5 million.’

 

The Only Way to Less Inequality?

Here is a devastating assessment of the actual cost of the GOP’s recent tax bill. It is by Bill Honig, who I have met and consider to be a smart and honorable man.

http://www.buildingbetterschools.com/2017/12/26/faq-for-gop-trump-tax-bill/

Much of the GOP tax bill has been labeled as “bad news,” so I do not think you will be surprised to find out the news is worse that we thought. I bring this up because a new book has come out that addresses the history of inequality and the only forces that seem to reverse it for even small periods of time. The book is “The Great Leveler” by Walter Scheidel. Here is part of the description of that book (from Amazon.com):

How only violence and catastrophes have consistently reduced inequality throughout world history
Are mass violence and catastrophes the only forces that can seriously decrease economic inequality? To judge by thousands of years of history, the answer is yes. Tracing the global history of inequality from the Stone Age to today, Walter Scheidel shows that inequality never dies peacefully. Inequality declines when carnage and disaster strike and increases when peace and stability return. The Great Leveler is the first book to chart the crucial role of violent shocks in reducing inequality over the full sweep of human history around the world.

Ever since humans began to farm, herd livestock, and pass on their assets to future generations, economic inequality has been a defining feature of civilization. Over thousands of years, only violent events have significantly lessened inequality. The “Four Horsemen” of leveling—mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues—have repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich. Scheidel identifies and examines these processes, from the crises of the earliest civilizations to the cataclysmic world wars and communist revolutions of the twentieth century. Today, the violence that reduced inequality in the past seems to have diminished, and that is a good thing. But it casts serious doubt on the prospects for a more equal future.

This book supports my view that the fundamental purpose of civilization is to create inequality of income, wealth, and opportunity, for the benefit of the elites, both secular and religious, with the costs to be born by everyone else. And I have advocated, sometimes tongue in cheek, that it was time to get out the pitchforks and torches, but if this author is correct only “mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues—have repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich” we are in quite dire straights. We have been making war on other countries for over 200 years of our existence, and it is a very rare occasion for war to intrude on our shores, and a “mass mobilization” for war means the war has to be very, very large indeed. That is a path, in this age of nuclear weapons, I do not wish to take. State collapse and catastrophic plagues aren’t appealing, so that leaves “transformative revolutions” to us. Such revolutions can be non-violent (rare) or violent and considering the polarization of the U.S. and our massive personal stockpiles of weaponry, it looks like a peaceful revolution will be a very good trick to pull off, indeed.

I do note, however, that the only way to avoid the toxic effects of wealth is to make sure great amounts of it either do not occur or are reduced when they occur. This means that a major function of a democracy is to … wait for it … wait … redistribute wealth away from the wealthy. Unfortunately, our governments have been captured by the wealthy who have been busy redistributing wealth to the wealthy for the past 40 years.

My only hope to avoid large scale violence is that the GOP’s paymasters will so overplay their hand that there will be a quasi-socialist revolution that will give power back to the people and defang the wealthy elites now running the show. My preference is for new political parties (two at least) as the ones we have have failed miserably and have too much baggage to carry into the future.

December 29, 2017

Monotheism Only an Inch Deep

I noted in my reading the other day that the Catholic Church fell all over itself finding a person named Brigit to canonize after the church took over Ireland. St. Brigit’s declared feast day just happened to coincide with the feast day of the Celtic goddess Brigit. An amazing coincidence, no? And, of course, there is some debate over whether St. Brigit was a real person. So, if you can’t find an appropriate real person to canonized, canonize a fake person.

This was the same procedure used by the Romans when they conquered a new people. All of that people’s gods were swept up into the mix of Roman gods. Some equivalences to Roman gods might be noted but if there were a passel of absolutely new ones, well, the more the merrier. The master administrators the Romans were almost guaranteed there would be an office to keep all of these gods straight, and of course there was, a significant one.

It is puzzling that the Romans eventually adopted a monotheistic religion, Christianity, because of all of the problems created by just the idea. Prior to Judaism, polytheism ruled. A few places dabbled in monotheism (Aten in Egypt, etc.) but those efforts failed. Under polytheism, people were quite tolerant of other people’s gods, which made for social harmony. The suite of gods that came with such beliefs had many benefits. While most of these systems had an over-ruling Big Kahuna god (Odin, Zeus, Jupiter, Brahman, etc.), those gods were rarely called upon for help. The lesser gods were much more approachable because they specialized. Each was the god of this or the god of that. If you wanted a good crop of olives this coming season, a believing Greek didn’t go to Ares, the God of War for that; they went to Demeter, the goddess of the harvests. So, there was a built-in incentive to learn all about the appropriate gods and how to beseech them. Also, since there were so many gods and goddesses, there was no Problem of Gender of just the one god. Both feminine and masculine qualities were recognized in gods.

And, if there was a drought, or crop failure, or devastating storm while at sea, the big god didn’t get blamed for that. The smaller gods were notoriously capricious and it never shocked anyone when one of these acted up. As a consequence, there was no “Problem of Evil” to deal with. There was little to no conflict (jealousy, yes; open conflict no) between faiths; many coexisted side-by-side. Like I said, social harmony, much valued by the Romans and all other empires.

Along comes Christianity, a form of monotheistic Judaism on steroids, and all of a sudden, things were quite different. Jews and Christians did not tolerate other religions at all. They refused to acknowledge the divinities of any of the Roman emperors, which was the primary cause of their persecutions by the Romans. The Romans thought them more than a little problematic because of this, so why embrace them?

I suspect Constantine was trying mightily to hold a shaky Roman empire together and thought that bringing Christianity into the fold might normalize their relations with the state. Basically, taking an unruly, more and more powerful group, and co-opting them. (Christianity was not adopted as the state religion of Rome until later. Constantine made it a state religion of Rome.)

The problems inherent in harmonizing a monotheistic religion, though, were quite great. As far as the people were concerned, if there were only one god, then that god was responsible for all of the bad things that happened as well as the good things (aka the Problem of Evil).

The Catholic Church (and all other Christian churches) solved this problem by making the veneer of monotheism so thin as to be almost invisible. Christians, for examples, had more than a few wars over the creation of the trinity: three gods in one! These are not three gods! There can only be one god, so these three … well, it’s complicated. There are not just three versions or manifestations or disguises of the one god. Zeus could walk the Earth as a bull or swan, and still be Zeus; now that was a disguise. The Trinity was and is … a mystery … three gods of one essence, whatever the heck that means. (I think it means “one, not three,” and nothing else.)

Because there was only one god, one had to approach the “all mighty” for even the most trivial of favors, the things always done by demigods in the polytheistic religions. So, Christianity (and Judaism) invented all kinds of god helpers. There were angels and archangels and cherubim, seraphim, and whatnot. What are these other than demi-gods? And to cover the Problem of Evil, Satan was invented. Here is a god if there ever was one. Imagine a being responsible for all of the evil, temptation, and lies, and Republican politics in the entire world … but He is not a god, nope; there is only one god. In any polytheistic suite of gods, Satan would be a major god.

Then there are the Saints. Christians scoff at Roman emperors deifying themselves. (Actually, they had to be dead first, so they had people to do that form them … there were forms to be filled out, rituals and sacrifices to do, etc.) What are saints but deified humans?

St. Brigit of Ireland is apparently a “patron” saint of Ireland, which is another way to say “important” and “popular.” Brigit started out as a Celtic god and ends up being a Catholic saint, serving the exact same purpose: providing a mechanism to appeal to the god(s) for favors. Why bother “Him” if you can pray to a saint to get a small job done.

So, Christianity is “monotheistic” in name only. In its structures, even the Protestant structures with no saints and whatnot, it is still quite polytheistic. This is why Yahweh/Jesus cannot do away with Satan, even though He created Satan. To do so would give the people no source for all of the evil in the world other than Yahweh/Jesus.

Always give the people what they want, otherwise they will turn on you. This is an inherent principle in the structure of all scams. The scam is to appear to give them what they want, without actually giving them anything. A mob “protection” racket is a prime example. For just a small or maybe large fee, the mob will protect your business. Who will they be protecting your business from? The mob, of course.

Some wonder why I spend so much time discussing religion in a class war blog. I do so because religion is one of the, if not the, primary control mechanisms by which the “elites” extract wealth from the masses (us). The current mainstream religion of the U.S. insists that each of us is weak and sinful and can only be saved by turning over all of our decisions to them. Saved from whom? Guess.

And the primary message is that when you die, you will be rewarded and your enemies punished but, whatever you do now while you are alive, just don’t rock the boat. Too may elites are dependent upon your passivity! Remember, you are unworthy … as one evangelist puts it “God only requires from you the honesty to admit that you are morally and spiritually a failure. You can come to Christ just as you are.” He will accept scum like you, but only if you accept someone else controlling your life. Their class (the religious and secular elites) are making war on our class (the hoi polloi/you and me) and their religion is a tool of the oppressors.

A Note on Original Sin Many Christians believe in Original Sin as the source of mankind’s sinfulness. Sin is defined as a transgression of the law of their god. But the Bible describes what is called the War of the Angels, who rebelled against God’s will by refusing to bow down to mankind on the occasion of the creation of man. So, how original could Adam and Eve’s sin be if there were angels transgressing God’s law well before their “fall?” For those who therefore claim that Adam’s sin must have come first; if that were so why would God demand his angels, his perfect heavenly angels, bow down to such sinful creatures? It seems a stupid idea, no?

It seems, rather, that disobedience of Yahweh’s will was commonplace, not something that was so heinous that it should become heritable by all humans … unless, unless you wanted to beat people’s spirits down so low they would jump at a chance of salvation by doing what you tell them to do. (Luigi and Salvatore, your local protection insurance payment collectors, would be proud.)

December 27, 2017

If Trump Discredits the Mueller Investigation …

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:13 pm
Tags: ,

And the investigation exonerates Mr. Trump, but the investigation is suspect, no? And it will all have to be done over.

Do over!

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first …

December 22, 2017

I Wonder … Is This Another GOP “Oops Moment”?

In the recent discussions of business taxes people kept quoting the, now old, marginal business tax rate of 35% when they compared our business taxes with those of other countries. Our marginal rate, that is our highest rate, is indeed higher than most all other comparable countries when you do that comparison. But if you compare our effective tax rates with those countries, the amounts that actually get paid (after all of the loopholes and “special tax credits” and … are factored in) we tend to be lower than most. Under the old system, the rate started at 15% and climbed to 35% as the taxable income rose. (This was exactly parallel to the personal tax bracket structure that also started at 15%, then rose up to 39.5% on income over about a quarter of a million dollars.) But do note that a business was taxed at the 35% rate only on earnings in excess of $10,000,000, so you are not talking about Mom and Pop operations paying anything at that rate. (Constantly referring to small businesses as if they were Mom and Pop businesses (they are not) and only quoting that 35% marginal rate is a form of lying, in my opinion.)

Under the new law, just passed, the business tax rate has been made a flat rate at 21%, that is anything over $1 (one dollar!) will be taxed at the single rate of 21%. I thought they had just reduced the marginal rate to 21% (from 35%) and kept the lower brackets leading up to that, which would mean the 21% only applied to earnings over ten million dollars, but apparently they did not. I am shocked at this because the effective tax rate has been lower than 21% for quite some time. For example, 288 “big and profitable” Fortune 500 corporations paid an average effective federal tax rate of just 19.4% from 2008 to 2012. This new rate of 21% represents a tax increase on those businesses (if there are no other compensating changes).

I wonder if the Repubs made a mistake in framing this that way. I wonder if they think they got a “two fer” in getting a big business tax rate deduction plus a flat tax, two Republican wet dreams of the recent past, and just fucked it up out of good, old fashioned American incompetence.

If this is true, life is good!

 

December 20, 2017

A Must Read Article

Filed under: History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:46 am
Tags: ,

The NY Times occasionally does us a service and they have by publishing “The Tax Bill Shows the G.O.P.’s Contempt for Democracy” by Will Wilkinson.

Mr. Wilkinson not only makes his point but shows where their anti-democratic thinking comes from. Here is a taste:

The hostility to redistributive democracy at the ideological center of the American right has made standard policies of successful modern welfare states, happily embraced by Europe’s conservative parties, seem beyond the moral pale for many Republicans. The outsize stakes seem to justify dubious tactics — bunking down with racists, aggressive gerrymandering, inventing paper-thin pretexts for voting rules that disproportionately hurt Democrats — to prevent majorities from voting themselves a bigger slice of the pie.

But the idea that there is an inherent tension between democracy and the integrity of property rights is wildly misguided. The liberal-democratic state is a relatively recent historical innovation, and our best accounts of the transition from autocracy to democracy points to the role of democratic political inclusion in protecting property rights.

As Daron Acemoglu of M.I.T. and James Robinson of Harvard show in “Why Nations Fail,” ruling elites in pre-democratic states arranged political and economic institutions to extract labor and property from the lower orders. That is to say, the system was set up to make it easy for elites to seize what ought to have been other people’s stuff.

In “Inequality and Democratization,” the political scientists Ben W. Ansell and David J. Samuels show that this demand for political inclusion generally isn’t driven by a desire to use the existing institutions to plunder the elites. It’s driven by a desire to keep the elites from continuing to plunder them.

It’s easy to say that everyone ought to have certain rights. Democracy is how we come to get and protect them. Far from endangering property rights by facilitating redistribution, inclusive democratic institutions limit the “organized banditry” of the elite-dominated state by bringing everyone inside the charmed circle of legally enforced rights.

Democracy is fundamentally about protecting the middle and lower classes from redistribution by establishing the equality of basic rights that makes it possible for everyone to be a capitalist. Democracy doesn’t strangle the golden goose of free enterprise through redistributive taxation; it fattens the goose by releasing the talent, ingenuity and effort of otherwise abused and exploited people.

 

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.