Class Warfare Blog

September 21, 2017

Wealth Concentration Has Consequences, Severe Ones

I guess I can’t recommend to economic good sense of Yves Smith enough. In her latest post, Insanely Concentrated Wealth is Strangling our Prosperity she makes the simple point, and backs it up with irrefutable evidence, that the biggest problem with wealth concentration is that the wealthy don’t spend their wealth. As they accumulate more and more, that is wealth taken out of circulation, and becoming idle it does no one else any good. Job Creators, my ass.

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September 19, 2017

Drowning in a Sea of Bullshit

William Mathis is Vice-Chairman of the Vermont Board of Education and Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center. He recently wrote “Losing our Purpose, Measuring the Wrong Things.” Here are a couple of quotes from that document:

Having high test scores was falsely linked to national economic performance. In hyperbolic overdrive, the 1983 Nation at Risk report thundered, ‘the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people.’

After 35 years of this same Chicken Little jeremiad, the nation is still the premier economy of the world, leads the world in patents, registers record high stock prices, and is second in international manufacturing. (For the nation as a whole, the independent Bureau of Labor Statistics demonstrates that we do not have a math and science shortage).

By declaring schools ‘failures,’ public monies were increasingly diverted to private corporations. Yet, after a half-century of trials, there is no body of evidence that shows privatized schools are better or less expensive. Large-scale voucher programs actually show substantial score declines. The plain fact is that privatization, even at its best, does not have sufficient power to close the achievement gap—but it segregates. It imperils the unity of schools and society. This proposed solution works against the very democratic and equity principles for which public systems were formed.

Spot on. How many truth tellers will it take to get people off of the current set of false narratives? I cannot answer that question, except to say “more.”

September 18, 2017

I Will Repeat This as Often as is Necessary

On the latest episode of Bill Maher’s program (Real Time on HBO), both the host, Mr. Maher, and his two guests: Salmon Rushdie and Fran Leibowitz collectively missed the point over and over as to why the Democrats don’t have their act together. They pointed to Democrats trying to play fair when the Republicans don’t bother with the niceties, and complained that there is a branch of the Democratic Party that wants true leftist ideology in their candidates, and then there is racism.

Hello? Wrong. Wrong. Partially wrong. Donald Trump won the last election because the American people are fed up with the status quo … period.

This indelibly racist country went so far as to elect a Black man president as a statement that we were fed up with the status quo. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama cast his lot with the corporate Democrats and what we got, with or without GOP opposition, was essentially more of the same.

So, we grabbed the biggest monkey wrench available, Mr. Trump, and cast it into the gears of the government.

And, yet, the pundits still don’t get it. Neither, of course, do the politicians.

The Democrats started the process of “losing their grip on reality” in the 1970’s. They felt their coalition of working people, teachers, unions, and racial minorities wasn’t strong enough for the new America being created. So, they distanced themselves from unions, racial minorities, and working people and embraced their new core constituency: professionals. This started pretty much under Bill Clinton. Remember the Clintons and their movement to the center? Oh, that’s right, they are both still around peddling the kinds of things that have been gutting the middle class for the last, say, 50 years! Bill was for NAFTA, Hillary was for TPP (and on and on …).

So, in the last election, the Democrats couldn’t have picked a candidate more representive of the status quo than Hillary Clinton. Her new book (I haven’t read it but people are falling all over themselves quoting it to me) proves that she doesn’t “get it” either.

The American middle class, once the biggest segment of the American economic spectrum, has been decimated over and over again. Individual workers today make less than they did 50 years ago when adjusted for inflation. No part of the American Dream included that little fact. The only reason that American families have made any headway at all is because millions of American women took jobs … not because they wanted to, but because they had to establish a decent standard of middle class life for their children.

With the Great Recession of 2008, a lot of people, unable to find decent work, have dropped out of the job market, moving us more toward the 1970’s in that regard, too.

The middle class is hurting. Consider Donald Trump to be a howl of anger and pain. If we don’t “get the message” soon, what will be the next signal sent? I shudder to think.

September 17, 2017

Why We Do and They Don’t Want National Health Care System

We are talking here about the healthcare systems such as Canada and France have as examples, you know, all of the other advanced western nations. Names such as Medicare For All have been bandied about for such a system here in the U.S., which is just one such option.

Here in a nutshell is why we want to do this and the conservatives and their paymasters do not:

Per Capita Spending Health Care 2015
United States: $9451
Canada: $4608
France: $4407
Japan: $4150
United Kingdom: $4003
Miraculous Finland: $3984

When we see this list, we see “Gosh, we could have quality healthcare for only about half of what we are spending now!” and “We could use some of what we save to make sure that all Americans are covered.”

When they see this list, they see “Oh my gosh, look at the profits we will lose under national healthcare.”

We spend twice what most other countries spend on healthcare and only the very rich get a commensurate healthcare outcome. Most people spend more and get less than they get in other countries. For those of you who think Canada and France do not have quality healthcare systems, you might want to consider how you learned that … Fox (sic) News, maybe? We have a higher rate of infant mortality than most of those other countries. We have shorter life spans than people in those other countries. The middle class incomes in those other countries often exceed ours, especially when you include the fact that we pay so much for healthcare. We also have millions of people with no health insurance at all, who simply go to a county hospital when they are very, very ill and plead for charity care. In the meantime, those sick people spread diseases and die much younger than they could have.

Whatever your position, do realize that the opposition to “socialized medicine” comes from those making megabucks off the current system: doctors (lead by the AMA, so their faces don’t get shown), Big Pharma (surprise, surprise) and, of course, the health insurance industry.

The insurance companies are playing a game. Through accounting procedures, they are claiming big losses through Obamacare. These losses are being used to argue for large premium increases under the system. But if you look closely, these very same corporations are claiming record profits and their CEO’s are receiving big bonuses. There stocks have soared even higher than the record stock price surges under President Obama. Huge losses, record profits, skyrocketing share prices! Some companies made so much profit that they exceeded the 20% allowed under Obamacare and had to issue refunds! This can be compared to the 3% total overhead for Medicare.

Look at that list again and ask yourself, as Ian Welsh has over and over: why don’t we see those numbers on the news over and over and over again … instead of never. Who controls the news?

September 14, 2017

How Will We Pay for It?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:58 am
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Now that healthcare as a right of citizens is becoming viable, there is much public hand wringing along the lines of the question “How will we pay for it?”

Hello? This is a stupid question.

Currently, people’s health insurance is provided by:
Employer  49%
Medicaid  20%
Medicare  20%, and
Other Public  2%.
Add all of those up and you get 91%

The 49% provided by employers (actually almost always a negotiated fringe benefit, so this is part of their employee’s compensation, so it is the employee’s money being spent by the employers) is provided through insurance companies which extract profits from the system. In a national system, the monies currently going to profits, can go to cover the 9% not currently covered. The only political problem is the redistribution of those monies.

The money formerly paid out as a employee fringe benefit to insurance companies, will be paid instead to the employees who will, in turn, pay taxes sufficient for their coverage. Considering the amount of waste, fraud, abuse, and profit taking in the private health insurance business, after their taxes are paid, there will be money left over in their household budgets. The only people who do not benefit in this are the insurance companies currently making too much money for processing too little paper. The people actually delivering the medical services will not change. (It’s called cutting out the middle man, people.)

To those who argue that this gives government too much control over people’s healthcare, tell that to the people getting Medicare and Medicaid, who are all happier with their coverage than other folks. And if you are going to make that argument, then you have to agree that the militaries of this country are socialist and we give too much control over the military to the government, and….

The government is “us,” people, just “us.” It is as good as us, as corrupt as us, as well-meaning as us.

September 13, 2017

No, You Can’t Ask Questions

Filed under: Politics,Science — Steve Ruis @ 7:35 am
Tags:

S.E. Cupp was on Bill Maher’s show (Real Time) the other night in her usual role of defender of conservatism/conservative apologist. I like S.E. Cupp, she usually defends her points well, she’s articulate, witty, has a sense of humor, and stands her ground. The ground she took on that show, though, was on climate change and she picked a patch of quicksand to stand on.

Mr. Maher began the segment claiming that only 9% of Republicans in a survey had attested to the reality of man-made climate change and then pointed to the size and energy of the hurricanes in this season as a manifestation of the effects of climate change/global warming. He then asked, basically, what is wrong with those people?

Ms. Cupp was having none of it because she claimed “scientists” hadn’t drawn that conclusion yet, and, well, “she had questions.” Another guest pointed out that scientists were not quick to draw conclusions, but one climate scientist stated the case for the energy and size of hurricanes getting bigger back in 2006 and what he had predicted came true down the line. The argument is that one consequence of the atmosphere heating up is that the surface waters of the globe will also heat up and much of the energy of a hurricane comes from the heat in those waters. (FYI The total energy in Hurricane Irma alone exceeded that of 14 entire hurricane seasons (aka all hurricanes that year) for which we have satellite data.)

Ms. Cupp persisted in her attack that she was allowed to ask questions, wasn’t she?

The answer is “no,” you are not allowed to ask questions, not serious ones anyway.

If you want to play the game of science, you have to play the game, you cannot just sit on the sidelines and ask questions, certainly not questions that are ideologically motivated. If you want to ask serious questions, you have to study the topic, the science, and then ask a question based upon evidence you find. As an example, consider the following subject: the health consequences of smoking tobacco. An enterprising reporter delved into the research and discovered, to no one’s particular surprise, that the only scientific papers published claiming that tobacco use was benign was paid for by the tobacco industry (The Tobacco Institute, etc.). This is an actual basis to question that research, but just the research so sponsored. When research is paid for by a private agency, that agency controls whether or not the work gets published and later investigations showed that the tobacco companies either didn’t publish any negative results or commissioned other work to include with the negative work to make it seem a “push” when it came to health effects. So, questions by people outside of the field can be valuable if they are based upon an examination of the research.

“If you want to play the game of science, you have to play the game,
you cannot just sit on the sidelines and ask questions.”

This, by the by, is the reason we need to have a stout public presence in researches that are important to all of us. “Privatizing” scientific research would be turning over the chicken coup to the foxes, not just asking them to tend it. Plus corporations aren’t interested in doing research that doesn’t make them money.

When it comes to the political question: what do we do collectively about climate change, we all get to ask questions because we are all political actors in the game of American politics (we get to vote).

I would like to see one reporter, just one, ask the follow-up question to the next person claiming that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by scientists to get grants: “That is a serious allegation. You do have evidence to back up that claim don’t you? What is it? When will you produce this evidence?” There isn’t much difference between a corporation that stands to make money from denial of tobacco science and a politician who stands to make money (campaign contributions, jobs after “retiring” from public office, etc.) from denial of climate science. This “fraud” is a serious claim (which will be proved to be frivolous, if not spurious) and serious claims demand serious evidence.

Pony up, climate change deniers.

Pony up or shut up. Those are your options.

 

 

September 11, 2017

Let’s Bring Back Public Humiliations

Every school child can tell you about an Early American tradition of public humiliations in which people were locked into stocks and pillories with a small sign indicating how their behavior was detrimental to the community. People would then through words and actions (pelting the miscreants with rotten vegetables, spit, etc.) share their disgust with the miscreant so displayed.

While I don’t know if I want to go that far, I do think it is past time we bring back public humiliations. I would start with Rush Limbaugh. Mr. Limbaugh shared with his greatly shrunken radio audience that he thought about Hurricane Irma. Here’s a taste:

“So there is a desire to advance this climate change agenda, and hurricanes are one of the fastest and best ways to do it. You can accomplish a lot just by creating fear and panic. You don’t need a hurricane to hit anywhere. All you need is to create the fear and panic accompanied by talk that climate change is causing hurricanes to become more frequent and bigger and more dangerous, and you create the panic, and it’s mission accomplished, agenda advanced.
“Well, the TV stations begin reporting this, and the panic begins to increase. And then people end up going to various stores to stock up on water and whatever they might need for home repairs and batteries, and all this that they’re advised to get, and a vicious circle is created. You have these various retail outlets who spend a lot of advertising dollars with the local media.”

Much of what Mr. Limbaugh says is implied rather than spoken outright (he does have lawyers advising him), so he didn’t outright say that the authorities and news media are lying to you, but he heavily implied just that, which leads to people having less respect for the recommendations of those very same authorities.

So, Hurricane Irma was blown up by the desire of media outlets (boo, hiss) to bolster the sales of bottled water and the like sold by their advertisers (Limbaugh). This, of course, is side-by-side with satellite photos showing Irma to be four times the diameter (8X the area!) of the incredibly destructive Hurricane Andrew, that created billions of dollars of destruction in Florida as well as quite a number of deaths.

Shortly before the hurricane hit, Mr. Limbaugh exited the state of Florida to safety, making him the biggest hypocrite on our airwaves. Mr. Limbaugh will not own that he was wrong, or that he might have cost people their lives through his “advice” which he claims is based upon “data” from the National Weather Service and other reputable sources (… right …).

I suggest that Mr. Limbaugh be the inaugural subject to a new public humiliation ritual for the sin of feeding his fat ego at the expense of his fellow citizen’s lives.

 

September 9, 2017

NRA Quietly Backing Democratic Presidential Candidates

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:43 am
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The NRA has been quietly funding some Democratic candidates for president for the 2020 election, noted an inside source. The election of Donald Trump has been a disaster for the guns and ammunition manufacturers. Without the threat of a progressive administration “taking away our guns,” there has been no impetus to stock up and guns and ammo sales have plummeted.

While Mr. Obama was president, gun sales soared as repeated NRA campaigns focused on plans of the Obama administration to confiscate Americans’ guns. During Mr. Obama’s time, of course, no such plans were made, neither were there actions taken, with only a few mild suggestions to Congress for reforms. Mandatory background checks at gun shows or universal background checks were recommended, even a one gun per month limit on sales was suggested but none of these were acted upon. Still the threat of confiscation was a constant topic in the circle of gun owners.

Since the election of Mr. Trump, the sales of guns and ammunition have fallen dramatically. While the NRA will not admit it publicly, privately officials are saying that a Democratic president will be much better for business, hence the attempts to support candidates now. Early money is like yeast, our source told us.

September 7, 2017

Clinton Versus Sanders, Round 2

In Secretary Clinton’s new book, she takes on Bernie Sanders as a source of her loss in the 2016 presidential election, “(Sanders) didn’t get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House, he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party.” So? Did you get the message? Did you incorporate his policy suggestions? Did you co-opt his campaign? No? Oh.

People seem to be ignoring the obvious with regard to the election outcome. For one, Secretary Clinton indeed won the popular vote by a considerable margin, so it was not the total vote that caused her loss but the distribution of votes. This suggests her campaign did not emphasize the importance of a few states that could have won the day for her.

But the overwhelming elephant in the room is how a dirt bag like Donald Trump could even get close to a seasoned professional politician in the first place. The reason is obvious: under presidents Democratic and Republican for the last forty years, the middle class has been decimated over and over. The election provided a choice between “more of the same” and “something different.” While “more of the same” won the popular vote, “something different” pulled well enough that with strategic campaigning the Electoral College delivered the presidency to someone as ill-suited to the office as has ever been elected.

What would cause people to come out and vote for a clown, rather than just stay home and not vote, the traditional way to vote one’s displeasure or despair? There were a fair number of people who opted out of voting, especially young people who liked neither candidate, but the election was determined by a simple vote of “no mas,” against the status quo that had served ordinary Americans so poorly.

It doesn’t require a large stretch of the imagination to see Barrack Obama’s election to the office as another vote against the status quo. Mr. Obama ran as someone who would change Washington for the better, as someone who actually saw poor people, and middle class people, and spoke to them rather than around them. But the desire for hope and change turned fairly quickly into “more of the same,” resulting in an even larger vote against the status quo. If voting in a Black man to the office, in a nation still substantial afflicted with racism, didn’t work, how about a clown?

Get the message?

In Secretary Clinton’s case, the answer is “apparently not.”

September 6, 2017

On Dependency

He’s a good boy and a better science writer than I ever was. Go buy a copy!

I am reading my son’s new book (Eating to Learn, Learning to Eat by A.R. Ruis) which addresses the history of school lunch programs in the U.S. One of the “concerns” that comes up frequently in the political debates is the “fear of dependency” if kids were to receive a free lunch at school everyday. (Yes, I know. It just goes to show you how many fucking morons there are.) This was not much of a debate for parents but was for the rich (White) power structures of American cities.

The evidence that children showed up at school either malnutritioned or just plain hungry were readily available. Kids were also diseased and pest ridden back in the day. That many men couldn’t pass a physical to be inducted into the Army for World War I made school lunches a national issue as well.

This is not my topic. My topic is the “dependency” claim made by conservatives and conservative interests. The conservatives have used loaded and coded language for all of my life in these debates. The “dependency” fear mongering is steeped in racism and politics.

The reason conservatives eschew giving “handouts” to poor people is not that such will make them dependent, although they hammer on that drum insistently. Their real fear is that poor people will become politically dependent on the people who are providing the assistance and then will vote for them. Conservatives do not want to get into a competition as to which political party, say, can be in charge of the “handouts” because that will just inflate the size of the assistance through competition, so they do not want to play that game. But neither do they want the Democrats, say, to become the party that provides the assistance and then gets the votes. It is not about dependency but to whom they would be dependent.

On top of that they believe that the votes of poor people will be for ever increasing “handouts” that will then require increased tax revenues from the rich to support them. So, they fear monger: such assistance promotes “dependency, is “socialism,” etc. Actually they also believe that the poor are not worthy. The Black and Brown poor are obviously not worthy, but neither are the White poor, even the working White poor. In the mind of Conservatives, if those people were worthy, they wouldn’t need assistance! Talk about a prosperity gospel … in reverse.

We are all familiar with the parental advice to not feed stray cats and dogs as the family will soon have a new pet to feed. I spin this when visiting old friends or relatives I haven’t seen in a while when the topic of their children comes up. They are invariably bigger than the last time I saw them so I say “I warned you what will happen if you fed them!”

If you feed a child or a hungry adult, all you are doing is reducing the amount of hunger in the world and allowing them to grow or live normally. You do not draw the line there. If your Vegan neighbor crashes your barbecue party and complains to you about the menu … that’s where you draw the line.

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