Uncommon Sense

June 11, 2021

The Rent’s Too Damned High

Economic myths dominate our political belief systems. Cory Doctorow recently addressed a number of them (on renting and home ownership) here.

Very much worth reading!

Here’s a taste:

The American middle class didn’t emerge thanks to property ownership — property ownership came about as the result of wage gains due to strong (and hard-fought) labor rights, and as a result of public subsidy for private homebuilding (the GI Bill). Homeownership is a good way to covert gains from the a worker-friendly labor market into something durable and insulated — but it’s no substitute for workers’ rights.

It only took a generation for the dream of homeownership to become a nightmare. Trading labor rights for asset appreciation meant that guaranteed pensions became market-based 401(k)s, turning American workers into the suckers in the financial markets’ casino. As these older workers retire, they are forced to supplement their wholly inadequate pensions by liquidating, remortgaging or reverse-mortgaging the family home. Social Security helps, but not much — without a powerful organized labor movement to defend Social Security, the program has withered, offering a sub-starvation cushion.

May 24, 2021

It is a Dirty Word! Don’t Use It!

The dirty word is “redistribution.” To the wealthy this means “rob from the rich and give to the poor.” This means “take from the deserving and give to the undeserving.” This is an abominable thing, redistribution, they say.

Of course, they have been doing it for the past 40 plus years now, and now that they have succeeded, they are, as they say, pulling the ladder up so no others can use it. The wealthy of course have been using every tool at hand to redistribute earnings from the less rich to the more rich. They have manipulated tax laws, labor legislation, social media, you name it in their quest to become even richer than they were. They have used some of their newly acquired wealth to double down and now “own” much of the legislatures and judiciaries in the U.S. Those bodies will not act in any way before running their possible actions by the rich and powerful, aka “donors.” (When the rich ask each other whether they are “donors” they are not talking about organ donations, they are talking about political donations, aka bribes.)

A recent study, however indicates that the strategies employed by the rich to get richer are counter production. They looked at an example for which there was enough data, starting in 1989, though 2019, and found that:

“Downward redistribution appears to make everyone quite a lot wealthier, faster – especially (no surprise) the bottom 80%. Economic activity, annual spending, increases even faster. Taking the leftmost bars as an example: with an annual 1.5% downward transfer, greater spending would have resulted in a 549% total wealth increase, versus actual 421%. (To put that 1.5% downward transfer in context: the compounding annual growth rate on a passive wealth holder’s 60/40 stock/bond portfolio over that thirty years was about 7.5%. That’s all unearned income, received simply for holding wealth.)

“Most of that extra wealth growth would have gone to the bottom 80% (wealth growth of 527% vs. actual 295%), while top-20% wealth growth would also have been slightly higher than actual (526% vs. 499%). The top-20% share of wealth would have remained unchanged, versus the actual share increase, from 61% to 71%.

“With 1.5% in downward redistribution, 2019’s total consumption spending — a pretty good index or proxy for GDP — would have been 52% higher. Total wealth would have been 16% higher.” (Source: How Redistribution Makes America Richer, www.nakedcapitalism.com, May 24, 2021)

Of course the wealthy deny such findings as they conflict with their worldview, “Reality, pfft, what is it really?’

September 28, 2020

When it was ’54 …

Republicans are often characterized as wishing our country would be restored to what it was like in 1954.

So do I.

 

September 3, 2020

See the Pattern?

Filed under: Culture,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 1:13 pm
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Here are two accounts from recent news stories:

Tahir Ahmad Naseem – who his daughter remembers as the kindest and most gentle of parents – was on trial in Pakistan for blasphemy when he was shot dead last month in a high-security courtroom. The teenager who pulled the trigger, Faisal Khan, was arrested after the shooting and charged with murder. But he was also feted as a “holy warrior”.

Meanwhile in Kenosha, Wisconsin, US of A . . .

But a white teenager, Kyle Rittenhouse, could walk down a public street in that same city during a chaotic protest — in violation of a curfew — with a military style semi-automatic long gun strapped over his shoulder, and police officers didn’t stop him. Instead, they tossed him a bottle of water and thanked him for his help. According to news reports, protesters actually shouted to police officers riding in armored trucks that the 17-year-old Rittenhouse had shot someone. Yet not one officer grabbed hold of him. Not one officer used a Taser. Not one officer drew a weapon.

On Friday, Daniel Miskinis, Kenosha’s police chief, told reporters, “There was nothing to suggest [Rittenhouse] was involved in any criminal behavior.”

See the pattern?

How does a man toting a gun walk into a “high security courtroom” . . . with a gun. Gosh do you think that man represented the dominant culture and that was one of his privileges?

How could a young man walk down a public street during a raucous protest, with a rifle looped around his neck, with people shouting at the police that the kid had just killed two protesters, and the police did nothing? Could it be that young man represented the dominant culture and that was one of his privileges?

Do you see the pattern?

July 25, 2020

With Apologies to Lerner and Loewe

Musical theatre for 2020 and possibly the campaign song for Donald Trump’s re-election campaign:

Why can’t the poor be more like rich?
The rich are so honest, so thoroughly square;
Eternally noble, historically fair.
Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.
Why can’t the poor be like that?

Why does every one do what the others do?
Can’t the poor learn to use their heads?
Why do they do everything their parents do?
Why don’t they grow up, well, like the rich instead?

Why can’t the poor take after the rich?
The rich are so pleasant, so easy to please.
Whenever you’re with them, you’re always at ease.

One rich man in a million may shout a bit.
Now and then, there’s one with slight defects.
One perhaps whose truthfulness you doubt a bit,
But by and large we are a marvelous sort!

Why can’t the poor take after the rich?
‘Cause the rich are so friendly, good-natured and kind.
Better companions you never will find.

Why can’t the poor be more like the rich?
The rich are so decent, such regular chaps;
Ready to help you through any mishaps;
Ready to buck you up whenever you’re glum.
Why can’t the poor be such chums?

Why is thinking something the poor never do?
And why is logic never even tried?
Applying for welfare is all they ever do.
Why don’t they straighten up the mess that’s inside?

Why can’t the poor behave like the rich?
If I were one of the poor who’d been to a ball,
Been hailed as royalty by one and by all;
Would I start whinging like a jilted lover,
Or carry on as if my home were in a tree?
Would I run off and tell no one where I’m going?
Why can’t the poor be like me?

Adapted from “Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?” from My Fair Lady by Lerner and Loewe.

June 26, 2020

Government: To Trust or Not Trust?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:27 pm
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I have written often enough that part of the Republican political strategy over the past 40 years or so has been to shrink the reach of government. They attack Big Government, while expanding it off camera. They undermine branches of the federal government as often as they can.

In the Era of Trump this has become the wholesale business of the party. They are actively undermining the military, the security agencies (CIA, FBI, NSA, etc.), the electoral process, everything they can get their grubby little hands upon. Incompetents have been placed in charge of various departments, e.g. Betsy DeVos heading the Education Department, doing their best to dismantle those departments.

The cornerstone of these activities is the placing of judges who support their worldview in various positions. Recently, the GOP has discovered that a lifetime appointment often confers immunity to further influence over those judge’s decisions, but still, their viewpoints dominate judicial proceedings all over the country.

So, Mr. Trump appears to fit into their plans to discredit government at all levels and reduce people’s belief in it’s ability to make their lives better. Although incompetence wrapped in a GOP flag may turn around and bite them, instead of just proving that “government is not competent and you can’t trust it.”

So, why is the GOP doing this? It is simple. The plutocrats have so much wealth and power, the only institution that has the ability to stand against their dominance is government, therefore it has to be brought to heel. It has been almost a century since the New Deal was implemented, a deal in which government stopped being the tail and became the dog who wagged it. The fat cats of that time are all dead at this point, but the New Deal is still mentioned with venom by the current crop of oligarchs. They are still railing against it, and still working to dismantle the governmental power that accrued behind it.

 

June 19, 2020

Once Again The Brilliant Yves Smith . . . This Time on the Police

Over at the Naked Capitalism website, the wonderful Yves Smith unpacks the propaganda “To Protect and Serve.” The Police Weren’t Created to ‘Protect and Serve.’ They Were Created to ‘Maintain Order.’ A Brief Look at the History of Police in America

Here’s a taste:

To understand the true purpose of police, we have to ask, “What’s being protected?” and “Who’s being served?”

Urban police forces in America were created for one purpose — to “maintain order” after a waves of immigrants swept into northern U.S. cities, both from abroad and later from the South, immigrants who threatened to disturb that “order.” The threat wasn’t primarily from crime as we understand it, from violence inflicted by the working poor on the poor or middle class. The threat came from unions, from strikes, and from the suffering, the misery and the anger caused by the rise of rapacious capitalism.

What’s being protected? The social order that feeds the wealthy at the expense of the working poor. Who’s being served? Owners, their property, and the sources of their wealth, the orderly and uninterrupted running of their factories. The goal of police departments, as originally constituted, was to keep the workers in line, in their jobs, and off the streets.

 

June 16, 2020

Supreme Logic

I was reading about a supreme Court’s ruling in the recent case as to whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act also protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination.

You have probably heard that according to this SCOTUS, it does. However, as one article put it: “Justice Samuel Alito wrote the dissenting opinion saying, ‘The common understanding of sex discrimination in 1964 was bias against women or men and did not encompass discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. If Congress wanted to protect gay and transgender workers, he wrote, it could pass a new law.’

The article went on to comment: “Let me break down Alito’s argument: Because homophobia was more acceptable in 1964 when the anti-discrimination act was written and the creators of that law had no intention of protecting LGBTQ people, that law should not protect LGBTQ people.”

I wonder if Justice Alito’s logic extends to the Second Amendment right to bear arms, in that the amendment was referring to smooth bore, single shot muskets and swords and “If Congress wanted to protect the right to own and bear modern firearms, it could pass a new law.” I wonder how the Justice’s NRA supporters would view throwing that idea open to Congress.

And wouldn’t it be simpler to restrict employers as to hiring and firing to “job related performance” and nothing else. This would allow firings for not having the money to pay the worker, or the job was no longer needed, or the employee stinks and refuses to bathe, or . . . etc., but shouldn’t the reasoning be related to the job and not the category one wishes to stuff the employee into?

June 15, 2020

GOP Has Been De-Funding the Police for Many Years!

Not surprisingly, anytime the federal government acted to police the activities of the rich, the GOP was there to oppose it or defund it.

Republicans are hypocrites. They happily ‘de-funded’ the police we actually need

 

 

May 29, 2020

You Might Want to Wear Asbestos Gloves While Holding This Article

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:24 am
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Regardless, the author is spot on about the “New GOP” having almost nothing to do with the “Old GOP” and now merely a subsidiary political arm of the filthy rich.

‘Here’s a bedsheet, make a parachute!’ Republicans say, pushing us out of a plane by Hamilton Nolan

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