Class Warfare Blog

August 9, 2017

A Modern Quandary

I have been reading “Sociology is a Martial Art: Political Writings by Pierre Bourdieu.” This is puzzling to me because I haven’t been having any trouble sleeping, so why would I want to read a sociology text? (Sorry, old joke.)

In a context different from the one I will address in this post ( his was the impact of television), Professor Bourdieu wrote “How can I reconcile the exigency of ‘purity’ inherent in scientific and intellectual work, which necessarily leads to esotericism, with the democratic interest in making these achievements available to the greatest number?” His concern was that the primary function of television seemingly was to dumb down even simple discussions. Here I want to address the topic of the anti-evolution crowd and the anti-climate change crowd.

Without specialized training, it is hard to follow the science in these fields. I have a graduate degree in chemistry and I am not versed in the nuances of either subject (although I guess I could create a small summary of each). So, without esoteric training, how are the citizens in a democracy supposed to assess the validity of such concepts.

We could start with having better basic education, explaining that a scientific theory is a mechanism that explains a great many facts as well as makes predictions available to expand out knowledge. Currently people use the word theory as a synonym for “wild ass guess.” “I have a theory about that …” they will say. No, they don’t. At best they have an hypothesis and more likely they have a guess that is poorly substantiated at best. To say one has a “theory” makes one sound better than to say “I have a guess as to….”

It also does not help that each topic has a cadre of sociopolitical opponents. If the Theory of Evolution is correct, all of fundamentalist Christianity and most of doctrinaire Christianity is off to a rubbish heap somewhere. Basically, if God didn’t created humanity magically, we couldn’t have “rebelled” against his authority, so there was no original sin, and hence nothing for the human sacrifice that was Jesus to absolve. (Bye, bye!)

Climate change has political opponents who have economic stakes at risk. The Koch brothers fund anti-climate change efforts to protect their oil refining, oil pipeline, and other industries, while David Koch supports NOVA science education programs on PBS, including programs on climate change (possibly as a suppressing maneuver?).

So, ordinary citizens are left to evaluate what appears to them to be a propaganda war. “Scientists” have lied to them before as have businessmen, so it is hard to decide which side of either of these debates is trustworthy.

I find the argument that climate change was invented for scientists to be able to secure grants for their work (It is a hoax!). Whoever invented this red herring obviously has never interacted with scientists, each of which has a big ego, and the first of them to discover such a plot would gleefully expose his colleagues to shame and humiliation for participating in it. Most scientists minored in gloating in college.

So, what’s a citizen to do?

I think part of the problem has to do with the evidence not being on display. I hear Christian apologists often ask the question: Where are the transitional fossils? This questions goes back to the time of Charles Darwin when there was a very sparse fossil record. The key facts that the public needs to know is that fossils do not form all that often, so are passably rare and that with regard to transitional fossils, fossils that show one species transitioning to another, there are large numbers of them available. Maybe a video (to reach the masses) needs to me made of the amount of evidence underlying the Theory of Evolution. The amount of evidence, from many, many different and unrelated fields of science is incredibly vast. Just a list of peer-reviewed articles supporting the theory scrolling on like the credits of a Hollywood movie (like they do on TV, at super high speeds) would take hours. Flashing photos of all of the fossils that apply to animals no longer in existence but which fit into the evolutionary family tree of Earth, would also take quite a long time (blink, blink, blink, maybe a running counter would help: 1, 2, 3, …, 3008, 3009, …).

The same could be true for Climate Change. We could run publicity shots of the smiling faces of the scientists in the field who support the tentative conclusion that humanity is contributing to the current round of climate change (blink, blink, blink, maybe a running counter would help: 1, 2, 3, …, 178, 179, …). Then the photos of those reputable scientists who oppose the current consensus on climate change could have their photos flashed (blink, blink, blink).

There is no way ordinary citizens could be brought up to speed on these topics through educating them, because even with the head start in such training I have, I do not want to put in the effort. Instead, I trust the scientists in their field to represent their findings correctly (to the best of their ability) and I trust the egos of their colleagues to prick any intellectual bubbles that are flimsy or unfounded.

Another route might be to create an independent evaluation board to provide basic explanations of science topics to legislators and citizens. The Town of Brisbane, Australia did this a while back (don’t know whether they still do) when they created the office of Town Scientist whose job it was to explain scientific topics to the town governing board and citizens of the Town of Brisbane. For the longest time the State of California had an independent political official whose job was to explain issues voters needed to address and that office was never politicized or demeaned, and it worked really well for quite some time (don’t know whether it still does).

This is a modern problem, because back when “governance” was by autocrats/monarchs, they didn’t give a fig about whether the people understood or not. Ironically, it was the advent of merchants (aka business people) who accumulated wealth (aka power) enough to make it important that a wider swath of a country’s population be made to understand governmental decisions. With the advent of modern democracy, issues are now submitted to the ballot and candidates for office are voted upon, too. We need to figure out how to “reconcile the exigency of ‘purity’ inherent in scientific and intellectual work, which necessarily leads to esotericism, with the democratic interest in making these achievements available to the greatest number” and we need to do it fast. Life ain’t gonna get simpler.

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August 6, 2017

The Invisible Lesson of Martin Shkreli

The New Yorker described Mr. Shkreli as “A former hedge-fund entrepreneur and drug-company C.E.O., Shkreli came to prominence while he was running a company called Turing Pharmaceuticals. During his tenure, Turing bought a drug called Daraprim, which is used to treat rare but serious parasitic infections in AIDS patients, and Shkreli raised the price per pill from thirteen dollars and fifty cents to seven hundred and fifty dollars, sparking public condemnation and outrage.”

That guy. He just lost a lawsuit, brought by the government, that accused him of fraud.

What’s missing here is something you should not mistake. In all of the current discussions regarding freedom, religious freedom, political freedom, campaign finance freedom, etc., Mr. Shkreli’s was the freedom they were talking about, not your idea of freedom.

The plutocratic cabal, now in charge of our governments, by and large wants the freedom to pursue their interests (primarily involving getting as rich as they may) without collective opposition. They do not want laws being passed, or movements recognized, or any group activity whatsoever being recognized. They want labor unions gone, they want government limited to very basic basics, they want their right to do business as they see fit unfettered. If indentured servitude were to be promoted now, they would not be opposed.

According to them, Mr. Shkreli’s freedom to change the price of a pill from $13.50 to $750 is his and his alone and everybody else should butt out. For some of this, I tend to agree. I do not think people should be sent to jail for being assholes (too expensive, would need to build too many prisons, etc.) but capitalism is and has been our problem for a very long time. Unregulated, capitalism leads to doom, just like any other economic ideology (communism, socialism, etc.). The people collectively need to confine ideas that have this much scope and reach.

The idiots promoting this “freedom” think that competition is an absolute good, yet they do not really believe this, otherwise their children would be thrown into the public schools to compete and excel and survive and not sent to “country day” schools and then Harvard and then given a lofty position in their family’s company.

The plutocrats are definitely in a “this is good for us but not you” cadre and they need to be restrained from harming the rest of us. Instead they have gotten the upper hand in restraining us from causing them any harm. Look to see Mr. Shkreli’s verdict overturned in a higher court. (The plutocrats own the Supreme Court and a few of the federal circuit courts at this point.)

August 2, 2017

Shareholder Value Supremacy … Put a Fork in It

In this article over at Naked Capitalism, Michael Olenick devastates the idea of corporations functioning with the sole goal of increasing shareholder value, arguing that social responsibilities play a role as they have in the past.

I love Naked Capitalism (Yves Smith)!

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).

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!

 

March 3, 2017

The Utter Failure of Economics and Politics to Prevent the Ravaging of the Rich

I ran across this rather incredible graph recently:

20-year-annualized-productivty-growth-in-the-uk

The data are from the UK so I looked to see if I could find any similarities to data from the US, and yes, they are there.

The graph shows the growth of worker productivity from the years 1800 to 2010. Since all of the values are positive, productivity has trended upward in general. But you can see four distinct trends on this graph: first there is a strong increase in productivity from 1800 to about 1870, then a general decline in the rate from 1870 to about 1900 (while still being positive, the amount of increase dropped period by period). Then there is another long period of productivity increase improvements from roughly 1900 to the mid 1970’s, followed by another decline in the rate of increase from 1970’s to the present.

What do these periods in which productivity changes steadily decline in magnitude correlate with? Ah, the period 1870-1900 is often referred to as the “Gilded Age.” And the mid-1970’s to the present started with Reganism/Thatcherism and is the second great period of wealth transference to the few in this entire time period.

We have been told over and over that the accumulation of wealth by the few in our society is a good thing. The wealthy are the “job creators,” the movers and shakers who get things done. But the reality is exactly the opposite. The people who have been telling us that wealth inequality is a standard feature of capitalism and a “good thing” are just the PR men for the wealthy, trying to avoid pitchforks and torches showing up in the gated communities of their rich paymasters. That so many of these flacks are economists should be appalling to the intellectual community. (Maybe we should disbar them and transfer academic economic departments to become part of the marketing programs of schools of business.)

All of the data show that periods of extreme wealth accumulation by the few devastate economies instead of facilitating them. The steepest upward portion of this graph takes place between the end of World War 2 and the arrival of Reganism/Thatcherism and anti-unionism. Productivity grows the fastest when the wealth is shared more fairly.

Please note that there were rich people during this post-war period. There were many people getting rich for the first time. They weren’t, however, getting filthy rich by distorting the political systems in their favor. Becoming rich through your own skills is one thing. Becoming obscenely rich by hook or crook, though, hurts all of us.

February 23, 2017

Why Do Conservatives Want to “Let the Markets Rule?”

It is axiomatic that conservatives want there to be as little government regulation of economic markets as possible, because they claim that “the Invisible Hand of the Marketplace (Adam Smith)” guarantees the best possible outcome and the more we interfere with that, the poorer the outcome will be.

Conservatives say this as if it were a fundamental truth of economics.

Recently a prominent economist died (Kenneth Arrow) and his work is often held up as part of said proof of the infallibility of markets. As the obituary writer put it “Professor Arrow proved that their system of equations mathematically cohere: prices exist that bring all markets into simultaneous equilibrium (whereby every item produced at the equilibrium price would be voluntarily purchased). And market competition puts society’s resources to good use: Competitive markets are efficient, in the language of economists.” (Amen!)

But to prove that particular economic theorem a certain number of “assumptions” had to be made. Here are some of those:
•  all markets are perfectly competitive (all buyers and sellers have perfect information, no buyer or seller is big enough to influence prices)
•  markets in different locations are different/separate markets (so the market for milk in California doesn’t affect the market for milk in Illinois)
•  all markets contain “forward markets” as futures markets in which you can contract to buy anything, for example pork bellies (to make bacon, we hope), for any future year … forever
•  plus, of course, everyone has perfect foreknowledge of those futures markets, too.

This work is considered foundational in economics, earning the authors Nobel Prizes, etc.

Now, what that work actually proves is exactly the opposite of what is claimed. The work shows that markets are perfect and benefit society only with those pre-conditions. Of course, no such markets exist or can exist with those elements in play. What they proved was that the conditions for the trust people place in markets to “do the right thing” are only available in Never-Never Land.

Think about it. If one had perfect information of the future of the prices of pork bellies or any other commodity, why would trades be made? Currently, futures buyers buy future goods because of price uncertainty. The thinking is “I am going to buy now when the price is reasonable because I think the price is going to go up.” You certainly wouldn’t “buy now” if you knew the price was going to go down. And why would a seller sell to you at the current low price if he knew he could get a higher price by just waiting?

All of these assumptions are bogus. You cannot say that the local market for celery in California is unconnected with the local market for celery in Illinois when virtually all of the celery in the U.S. is grown in California. Similarly (and if you hadn’t been around for the past 50 years or so) we couldn’t get tomatoes or fresh fruit in the winter months (or lettuce, etc.) and we made do with substitutes (cabbage for lettuce, etc.) until the fresh, local harvest came in. Now, all winter long we get produce from Mexico, Peru, Southeast Asia, etc. We can have tomatoes and lettuce all winter long. Many of these markets are global making them most definitely not local.

And, then we have advertising to make sure that seller and buyer do not have the same information. (If you think advertisers are trying to share information, wake up!) And so, in no market is there “perfect information” for both buyer and seller.

So, getting back to the original question: why do conservatives want to “let the markets rule?” They actually do not want this. What they want is minimal or, better, no regulation of what they are allowed to do to make money. The “free markets” economics is just a smokescreen for “Do not tell me what I can do!” Further proof of this is the fact that these same people are trying to get advantages for their business written into law: tax breaks, labor favors (labor unions are disadvantaged in “right to work” states), and if they can pull it off: monopolies. Of course, these people say “competition is good,” but basically they want none of it.

If you want a case history of this in action, look at the U.S. automobile industry over the last 50 years or so (post WW2). At the beginning of that period the U.S. car market was dominated by Detroit Iron, mostly in the form of huge, heavy vehicles that got very poor gas mileage (even into the single digits of mpg). Foreign imports began to trickle in in the form of small, gas thrifty cars like the Volkswagen of Germany and Japanese imports (Honda, Subaru, Suzuki, etc.). The major U.S. manufacturers looked down their noses at these vehicles: they were small, had little power, and even less chrome details. But then there were the gas crises of the early 1970’s. All of a sudden, having a gas thrifty car was quite desirable. Sales of “imports” skyrocketed and American manufacturers started bringing out “economy models” to compete. But if “competition was good” Detroit was having none of it. It sought and got protection from the federal government which limited the numbers of cars that could be imported. Japan, previously content to be sending smaller, cheaper cars to the U.S. saw an opportunity. If it could import only so many cars, those cars should provide more profit than the small economy models, so they started importing higher end vehicles (still not luxury models, like the Lexus, but higher end vehicles). These vehicles were much better made that U.S. vehicles and offered much better gas mileage, too, so people snapped them up in droves. Having their numbers restricted also drove up prices because there were only so many around. (This resulted in the cars available being snapped up close to ports of entry, so people in Middle America didn’t notice this at first, but the coasts were bristling with imports.

So, the reaction of Detroit? Going back to Congress and asking for more protection.

At the same time, automotive safety standards were being introduced at the federal level. I remember watching the hearings regarding having a “5 mph bumper.” Detroit’s “Big Three” auto makers said such a requirement (that a car would survive a 5 mph collision with little or no damage—5 mph is a brisk walking speed) would bankrupt them. All of these manufacturers supported this claim. Then a witness, a “shade tree mechanic,” testified that he had a 5 mph bumper, all tested, and available for license that he had made that cost just about the same as what Detroit was paying for bumpers then. These whinging, uncooperative titans of industry certainly lost credibility in front of Congress, which hurt their efforts to get protection from their competition.

So, these claims of markets and competition are “good” are just smokescreens for what they really want: a guaranteed path to make as much money as they wanted to with no interference, certainly not regulations on fuel economy or safety. They preferred to compete on the basis of which cars had the most shiny bits, so as to impress your neighbors when the car sat in the driveway.

Granted, there are some conservatives who probably believe the economic BS (they aren’t a particularly bright group) but that doesn’t make their beliefs true. The real problem is the public has been brought to a similar belief because of the repetition of the false claims over and over and over. I used to carry a spray can of bullshit repellent for just such utterances, maybe I should produce those for sale. The market should be strong.

February 17, 2017

So, Now It Is Obvious?

From the Naked Capitalism web site (“Grantham: ‘Twas Capitalism That Killed Capitalism” posted by Yves Smith, text attributed to Jeremy Grantham):

An extraordinary, large exit poll run by Reuters/Ipsos in which 45,000 people participated took place in the early evening on election day in the US. To say this was a detailed poll is an understatement. The spreadsheet for each question in small print runs the length of a generous dining room table, 11 feet! … The critical statement polled, in my opinion, was this: ‘America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful.’”

The response to that question: 74% agreed.

“The lack of class war or economic war in the US has always been a fiction,
but it has been mostly hidden, and deliberately so,
by the side so completely winning the undeclared war.”

By this time some readers may be asking for a profile of the 74% of the final 45,000 who voted against the rich and powerful. Who are these people? Well, they are us. All of us. I have never heard of a vote so uniform: whether Republican 72% or Democrat 77%; Male 74% or Female 75%; White 75% or Black 74%; Rich 70% or Poor 79%; Christian 74% or Muslim 72%; Graduates 68% or not 76%; they all agreed. They have all had it with the rich and powerful. And as for me, I don’t blame them. I think capitalism has lost its way. And has badly diluted the value of democracy along the way. We can only hope it is very temporary.

“I think capitalism has lost its way.
And has badly diluted the value of democracy along the way.
We can only hope it is very temporary.”

The lack of class war or economic war in the US has always been a fiction, but it has been mostly hidden, and deliberately so, by the side so completely winning the undeclared war.

This is what got us our current President. It was either him or Mrs. Status Quo. Unfortunately the biased selection process got us the wrong man. We needed Bernie Sanders to even begin the correction process.

If our current President believes he has a mandate, can you see anything in the actions of the current administration that equates to “taking the country back from the rich and powerful?”

No? Neither do I.

February 12, 2017

Why Are We Still Legislating Religion?

The talking heads crowd is predicting that we will shortly see new legislation that will expand “religious freedom” in the U.S. This is shocking to say the least since we have had religious freedom for quite some time. Apparently “religious freedom” doesn’t mean what the words say. (Not quite equally shocking is that there will be legislation and not just executive orders.)

My guess is that the “new” legislation will expand the “right” of religious people to discriminate against people who they are doing business with. The highlighted case so far that has become an iconic example is the poor baker who didn’t want to make wedding cakes for gay couples getting married.

I can understand churches refusing to host gay marriages and I respect their right to do that, but a bakery? It seems now that many “Christians” are claiming that they are running “Christian businesses.” This is a smokescreen at best. I suggest to you that all businesses are secular in nature, that they have nothing to do with religion. And in this I include stores that sell religious artifacts and books, e.g. Christian bookstores, etc. They are not religious activities, they are commercial activities. They offer goods and services for sale in simple commercial exchanges. I have gone into religious bookstores and purchased items. As an avowed atheist, shouldn’t they have refused me service? Actually, the law prevents them from even asking me if I am an atheist, ironically under the religious freedom provisions of our laws, so I suspect they are ignorant to this day that they served a raving atheist. (It is hard to tell us apart from “true Christians,” is it not? They even elected one of us President.)

Any business claiming to be a Christian business had better show me they really mean it. In their incorporation by-laws I expect to see policies like “all debts will be forgiven on New year’s day” and “if we are robbed, we will turn the other cheek,” and “when it comes to paying our business taxes, we will render unto Caesar, that which is Caesars.”

If they can show that their business is truly linked to their religion, then the laws protecting religious activities should be triggered. Otherwise they are just selling cupcakes like every other baker.

It looks, though, that the current administration is seeking to sell indulgences, in this case a get out of jail free card for denying service to customers you do not approve of religiously. This is fascinating in that one of the core causes that resulted in the Protestant Reformation (which was a precursor to the formation of Evangelical Christianity) was the abhorrence for the corruption in the Catholic Church, including the selling of indulgences. The Catholics were selling “get out of purgatory” cards and “get into heaven” cards, which makes the current suggested sale of indulgences seem almost trivial, but it does seem as if we have come full circle.

 

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