Class Warfare Blog

May 29, 2020

You Might Want to Wear Asbestos Gloves While Holding This Article

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:24 am
Tags: , , , ,

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

May 26, 2020

Who Suffers?

We all tend to think of what is normal for us economically is the way it has always been, but today the economic deck is stacked, possibly more so than in any previous time. And it is not stacked in your favor. It is stacked in favor of those who lend capital.

For someone to lend you money, there has to be an almost iron clad guarantee that the lender will be paid back. You almost always have to put up collateral for your loan. Fail to pay the loan back and the lender takes the collateral. So, if you buy a house, the house becomes the collateral. If you fail to pay the mortgage payment for a few months and Wham! The lender forecloses on the loan and repossesses the collateral, aka your house. All of the payments you made now count as nothing. It does not have to be this way. The “collateral” could be held by a court and put up for sale and the proceeds of the sale be split  between the two actors: the lender and buyer with the split determined by how much money had been put up so far.

But that is not the way it is. In our culture, the lender has all of the cards with almost no risk.

Consider the “Great Recession” ca. 2008. The housing market collapsed due to bad behavior on the part of realtors and lenders and suddenly mortgages that could not be paid resulted in repossessions of collateral worth far, far less that the amounts owed. So lenders bore some risk, then . . . except they used a powerful Washington, D.C. lobby to get bailed out so that they did not lose any money (or at least not so much). Were the people buying the homes also bailed out? Silly person, of course, they were not.

Lenders are so used to not having any risk associated with lending that corporations are currently awash in bad debt. They know they are okay because if anything goes wrong their “friends” in Congress and the White House, Democrat or Republican, will bail them out again. This is why economists invented the term “moral hazard,” but they do not apply it to those who line their pockets.

I have been slowly working my way through Michael Hudson’s book on how debt was handled in days long gone. I will give a larger book review (I have offered tidbits before) when I finish it.

To hold you over, here are some tidbits of Michael Hudson’s research and thinking:

“The pedigree for “act-of-God” rules specifying what obligations need not be paid when serious disruptions occur goes back to the laws of Hammurabi c. 1750 BC. Their aim was to restore economic normalcy after major disruptions. §48 of Hammurabi’s laws proclaim a debt and tax amnesty for cultivators if Adad the Storm God has flooded their fields, or if their crops fail as a result of pests or drought. Crops owed as rent or fiscal payments were freed from having to be paid. So were consumer debts run up during the crop year, including tabs at the local ale house and advances or loans from individual creditors. The ale woman likewise was freed from having to pay for the ale she had received from palace or temples for sale during the crop year.

“Whoever leased an animal that died by an act of God was freed from liability to its owner (§266). A typical such amnesty occurred if the lamb, ox or ass was eaten by a lion, or if an epidemic broke out. Likewise, traveling merchants who were robbed while on commercial business were cleared of liability if they swore an oath that they were not responsible for the loss (§103).

“It was realized that hardship was so inevitable that debts tended to accrue even under normal conditions. Every ruler of Hammurabi’s dynasty proclaimed a Clean Slate cancelling personal agrarian debts (but not normal commercial business loans) upon taking the throne, and when military or other disruptions occurred during their reign. Hammurabi did this on four occasions.

“In an epoch when labor was the scarcest resource, a precondition for survival was to prevent rising indebtedness from enabling creditors to use debt leverage to obtain the labor of debtors and appropriate their land. Early communities could not afford to let bondage become chronic, or creditors to become a wealthy class rivaling the power of palace rulers and seeking gains by impoverishing their debtors.

“Yet that is precisely what is occurring as today’s economy polarizes between creditors and debtors.”

I think you will find that some of this applies to our current situation, no?

May 23, 2020

GOP Thinking—Fast and Slow

Maybe it is a fluke, but I think not, that some part-time workers who are now able to apply for unemployment insurance whereas before they were not and so are making more on unemployment than they were working.

Republicans are worried, deathly worried, that we are encouraging sloth. They are worried that people will not want to go back to work. Such are the moral hazards in the Republiverse.

These same people don’t seem to worry about the moral hazards when we bail out banks or shaky corporations, like Boeing. They don’t seem to worry that those companies would rather suck off the government teat than make good products. They also love to bail out stockholders who are elevating rent extraction above honest work as a profession.

Okay, I can solve this problem for my Republifriends. I start with a fable, maybe even a parable . . .

Let’s say that a friend, a good friend, of yours tells you about a job offer. “Dude, there is this job I think you ought to apply for. It is right up your alley . . . except, well, you will be working harder and get paid less than you are now. What do you think?” I know what you would think: “Are you effing crazy?”

If the GOP is worried that people are making more money off of unemployment insurance than working, the solution is obvious—pay better wages! Pay workers more than they can make off of unemployment payments (which are effing temporary in any case!).

If people were losing significant money while on unemployment, they would be dying to get back to their regular job. In fact, many, many problems would be solved if wages were to go up substantially. There would be less need of food stamps, other forms of welfare, charity, food banks, etc. People would pay more in taxes, lowering the annual budget deficit we always seem to run.

See, it is simple. Except there is this teeny-tiny bias the GOP has. It worries about moral hazards only when they involve the poor or middle class. That the billionaire class and corporations are raking in huge windfall profits from the government’s efforts to ameliorate the pandemic are just something that does not interest them, at least not after the scheme to funnel all of that wealth toward the billionaire class has been accomplished.

Mission accomplished! GOP!

May 11, 2020

Texas Governor Declares Texans Fit for Guinea Pig Role

The Governor of the State of Texas is allowing businesses, including barber shops, to reopen. Since barber shops can scarcely function with distancing controls in place, I assume this means without any such controls. Other states are to follow.

I guess we should thank the Republican governors supporting Donald Trump for volunteering to be guinea pigs for this pandemic.

Since (a) we still do not have enough test kits available to determine an accurate count of such cases and (b) I do not trust these shitweasel politicians to report accurate counts even if they were, we will only have the numbers of deaths in Texas as a measure of their success or failure. Shitweasel politicians are always willing to send the able-bodied into wars, disease hotbeds, etc. as long as they themselves and their families are not at risk.

Interestingly, someone looked up the normal range of deaths for the months of the pandemic, nationwide, and that number is definitely not normal, that is it isn’t in the range of the numbers of people who would die over such a period. Interestingly the “overage” is about twice the number of COVID-19 deaths, so either those deaths are being under reported or there are secondary causes for these “extra” deaths, such as medical facilities being full of coronavirus patients and not enough care is available to go around to everyone.

May 9, 2020

The Royals v. The Tabloids

Filed under: Culture,History — Steve Ruis @ 8:48 am
Tags: , , , ,

It seems the main reason to have royals of the British sort now is so the tabloids have something to publish about this or that tiff in their weird social club.

I find the whole idea of royals to be absurd in the first place. Consider the British Royals Harry and William. So, what do they bring to the table? Why are they so “special?” Well, they are special because they were born of “special parents.” Those parents were Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spenser. Lady Diana Spenser was “special” because she was born of “special parents,” and more so because she married a “very special” person, Prince Charles, heir to the British throne. Prince Charles was special because he was born of “special parents,” too. And those parents were special because they were born of “special parents,” and on and on. Most of these people have done nothing to merit their “special” claim, albeit one or another does something charitable from time to time, but so do many other people.

When you get back to “special people” who actually did things to merit their specialness, we find that the main skills of these people were: spending other peoples money in large quantities. One was to lavish expensive gifts upon themselves: jewels, clothes, houses, land (lots of land), food, wine, . . . there really was almost no limit. And of course, lavishing gifts and “grants of specialness,” aka titles, on their friends and relatives. The other main activity was unnecessary wars.

Imagine what would have happened if each of the wars initiated by British royals had been forgone. What would have changed? How would people’s lives have been different? Obviously if someone else brings war to your land, someone needs to lead a response, but this doesn’t seem to be all that common.

Consider the back and forth wars with the continent made by British monarchs. What were these about? Mostly they were about who was to be the most “special” where. The tussles over who ruled Normandy were incredibly destructive but the claims of both sides were equally ridiculous. The royals were motivated by ego, greed, vengeance, etc. none of which had anything to do with the future of the British realm.

And at one point more than half the countries in Europe were ruled over by people from one family. Now, that’s special.

Think about all of the times people have done wonderful things for you. Doctors, dentists, car mechanics, plumbers, you name it. You remembered their effort with a gift or a Christmas card come that season. You didn’t worship them as a monarch.

Well, those are small things, what about the big things?

Ah, you mean like Abraham Lincoln did in preserving the union or Franklin Roosevelt in fighting the Second World War and helping to win it? Did we kneel down to any of those? Did we acknowledge that they were divinely inspired agents of God? It seems that this divine right of kings bullshit was made up as a way that religions could support monarchies giving the religions some say as to which monarch would rule. (How many European monarchs got excommunicated because of their bad behavior, eh?)

If at one time in our development, we may have need a war leader who we gave some authority over us to. But we didn’t have to go whole hog (as the Vikings proved) as we acceded to most everywhere.

History is a story in which human beings think way too much of themselves. I call it the Great Man Theory of History.

March 22, 2020

Killed by Greed

I was looking up the career stats of baseball immortal (at least in Japan if not here) Ichiro Suzuki. (Don’t ask.) And baseball-reference.com provided something unexpected, Ichiro’s cumulative salaries. Now Ichiro played in Japan and didn’t come to MLB until he was 27 and still had a Hall of Fame career. He was a spectacular four tool player, who will end up in the Hall of Fame, I am sure.

So, even playing in Japan until he was 27, in his 19 seasons in American professional baseball, Ichiro accumulated $167,181,483 in salary. These are contract numbers and not corrected for inflation, so if they were that number would even be greater.

Even though that is a mind-boggling amount of money, it is not extreme. Alex Rodriguez, then of the Texas Rangers, had a single contract (for 10 years which as very long then and very, very long now) for $252 million. Of course you cannot just settle for old money so he had a later contract for $275 million. The top MLB contract, so far, is a 13-year $325 million contract of Giancarlo Stanton, an oft injured “star.”

Now, in comparison, I was a college professor and I totaled up my salaries over a roughly 40 year career and it came to around $2 million dollars. If adjusted for inflation, it is about $4 million. Now, Ichiro played in 2653 MLB games, so he made $6302 per game. So, he made as much as I did in my entire career in 317 games, or a just a little under two seasons.

All of this is just chump change, of course.

As I have mentioned before dozens of people have reported more than one billion dollars in earnings for a single tax year, some over two billion in a single year. And as I have also mentioned before, if you assume eight hour workdays, two weeks of paid vacation, and the normal federal holidays, those making one billion dollars per year were making $532,000 per hour. Those making two billion dollars per year made $1,064,000 per hour. These people “made” as much as my career earnings in one afternoon of “work.” And they made as much as Ichiro in his MLB career in about 157 hours or 20 work days, basically in a little less than one month.

Now, I don’t think of being a college professor is in any way an exalted job, but it wasn’t a shabby one either. These comparisons show there is something seriously out of whack in our capitalist economy. I am sure the capitalism defenders will rush to say, but they earned that money legitimately! And, I agree that that is true, but what is “legitimate” is determined by the system. Is it legitimate that the hedge fund manager making that two billion dollars in a single year paid a lower tax rate than I did? Why was that? I will tell you. It is because the “system” is rigged by the people benefiting the most from the system. So what is legitimate or legal isn’t really a justification.

The problem with capitalism is that greed has no controls over it. The countries currently making capitalism work better for their entire populations are social democratic countries with high taxes and large benefits associated with those taxes. We had a similar system for a short period after World War II. Taxes were sufficiently high that CEOs, movie stars, athletes, and the like were dissuaded from making obscene amounts of money. And, still, there were still plenty of rich people walking around. Rich working people had to settle for perks (aka perquisites) to show off their value to their employers (large offices, corner offices for lawyers working in skyscrapers, large desks, artwork in the waiting rooms, corporate cars, etc.). Now, status is determined by earnings, earnings, earnings and little else. In fact, the system now encourages greed.

So, if you were wondering why it costs over $200 for two of you to attend a MLB baseball game, now you know. To create large pools of wealth, “small” amounts from the many must be funneled to the few. And there is, of course, a limit to how many want an entertainment product, so the “how much” each of the many has to transfer to the few keeps going up, reducing the number of the many who can or are willing to afford those purchases. (I have stopped attending my beloved baseball games, for example.) A number of sports in the US are finding those limits: baseball for sure and surprisingly NFL football, too.

Our current electoral process seems hell bent in excluding any candidate for high office who would challenge the legitimacy of our economic system, which is quite predictable. Our plutocrats went to a lot of work and paid a lot of money to create a system to their liking, so why should they even consider any candidate who might upset their apple cart.

Why indeed?

We seem to have democracy only in being able to select from a small set of candidates acceptable to the plutocrats actually running the country. The American Experiment in democracy is definitely past its peak and now heading downhill. On its gravestone, its epitaph will surely include the phrase “killed by greed.”

Now if we only had a goose that laid golden eggs to use as a moral focus of a story. . . .

February 19, 2020

Whoa! Really … Whoa!

An article in the most recent issue of Scientific American had this title and subtitle: Will Past Criminals Reoffend? Humans Are Terrible at Guessing, and Computers Aren’t Much Better A new study finds algorithms’ predictions are slightly superior but not under all circumstances

I don’t give a rat’s ass about the predictability of recidivism. Even if we had perfect predictions, what would we do with those predictions? Keep someone in jail because our AI says that he is just going to go out and commit another crime? Is it no longer “three strikes and you are out?” Is it is one strike and a computer’s say so?

So, a person gets picked up for littering or vagrancy and the judge was feeling grumpy and sentences them to a month in county jail. Then the counties AI says there is a 100% chance this guy will go out and commit another crime. Then what? Then fucking what?

Why is any one investigating this ability? Are we going to go all in with precogs like in the Tom Cruise movie The Minority Report?

Where are the small government people screaming to get the government out of our lives? Is this another situation like the anti-abortion people being also pro-death penalty? Life is sacred until somebody pisses me off? We’re in favor of small government except. . . .

Does anyone seriously want this ability?

January 8, 2020

New AP Poll Shows White Evangelicals . . .

Polls, being what they are, are more than a little problematic. But I guess it is not all that strange that a poll would find white evangelicals to be the least Christ-like of the groups polled (including the “Nones”!) and . . . well, here is a comment:

Compared to Catholics and mainstream protestants, white evangelicals oppose helping the poor, protecting minority groups, supporting children, and reject Biblical admonitions to avoid hoarding wealth. Non-religious people scored the highest when it came to supporting the basic tenets of Christianity actually.” (LGBTQ Nation)

“Non-religious people scored the highest when it came to supporting the basic tenets of Christianity actually.” Sheesh. Says a lot, but a poll like this cannot be used to make general conclusions, but the results are intriguing.

* * *

The AP-NORC poll of 1,053 adults was conducted Dec. 5-9 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points. Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods and later were interviewed online or by phone.

December 3, 2019

What You Oppose You Make Stronger

I cannot find a source for the quote used as the title of this post but it has been rattling around in my head for a very long time (it might be a Go aphorism). It came to me as I was reading these paragraphs in an article in The Atlantic:

“But the liberal politics of young people brings us to the first big reason to care about rising (religious) non-affiliation. A gap has opened up between America’s two political parties. In a twist of fate, the Christian right entered politics to save religion, only to make the Christian-Republican nexus unacceptable to millions of young people—thus accelerating the country’s turn against religion.

“Although it would be wrong to call Democrats a secular party (older black voters are highly religious and dependably vote Democratic), the left today has a higher share of religiously unaffiliated voters than anytime in modern history. At the same time, the average religiosity of white Christian Republicans has gone up, according to Robert P. Jones, the CEO of the polling firm, Public Religion Research Institute, and the author of The End of White Christian America. Evangelicals feel so embattled that they’ve turned to a deeply immoral and authoritarian champion to protect them—even if it means rendering unto an American Caesar whatever the hell he wants. American politics is at risk of becoming a war of religiosity versus secularism by proxy, where both sides see the other as a catastrophic political force that must be destroyed at all costs.”

I could almost hear the pieces clicking together in my mind. Follow me now. For the last half century, the wealthy elites in this country have engaged in a class war, although all they were doing was trying to reassert the control they used to have over the economy and culture, at least they claim that is what they were doing. They wanted: social stability, lower restrictions upon their ability to make money (lower taxes, less regulation, etc.), and a small grab bag of other things they thought were all to the good for “ordinary people,” of whom they knew none.

As part of that social stability, they saw strong corporations, strong families, and a dominant religion as parts (our dominant religion is “Christianity,” whatever the heck that is).

Their strategy was to control elections and government, something the wealthy elites were used to doing in the past, although they did it socially. It was considered unseemly and “beneath their station in life” to participate in politics. But that changed with the Powell Memo and a new breed of wealthy businessmen (yes businessmen, few women were involved as they were seen as a pillar of families, so they belonged in the home bringing order to that chaos).

In order to expand and protect their wealth, it was necessary to effect wealth transfers, from the poor and middle class to them. This was effected mostly through tax revisions; for example, tax cuts were good so small tax cuts for the poor and middle class (throw them a bone) and large tax cuts for the wealthy were, and still are, the order of the day. Many of the wealthy were shocked at how effective their political spending was. ROIs of over 20:1 were seen (for every dollar they spent on politicking/lobbying, $20 came back to them or their corporations). This was too easy.

But eviscerating the poor and middle class by making them politically impotent and economically disadvantaged, had consequences. By making them less secure, they also were being made less religious. Religious leaders were seen to be as corrupt as the political leaders. This was topsy-turvy to the wealthy; usually insecurity raised religiosity. People turned to God when their needs were not being met. But in this case, people were seeing religions forming coalitions with politicians and religious scandals were undermining people’s acceptance of their religion as being separate from and different from their politicians.

The economic uncertainty has weakened the state of marriage, weakened the hold of religion on people’s thinking, and undermined the social stability these fat cats were trying to effect.

They are now riding the tiger of the populous sentiments that have risen in response to their actions.

Well, it least they got richer.

November 17, 2019

Are “Young People Ignorant of Socialism”?

In a recent column on the ArcaMax network . . . well, here it is: Young people ignorant of socialism “From the Right” by Walter Williams on Nov 13, 2019
“A recent survey conducted by the Victims of Communism and polled by YouGov, a research and data firm, found that 70% of millennials are likely to vote socialist and that one in three millennials saw communism as ‘favorable.’”

As you might expect, the columnist decries the ignorance of young people with regard to history that they have never seen nor been taught, but . . . he also misses the point by a mile. To him, socialism and communism are bad, bad, failed ideologies, etc. And that young people do not recognize this indicates their ignorance. What he is missing is that these young people, in spite of all of the positive propaganda in its favor, are disenchanted with capitalism.

What he is missing is that these young people, in spite of all of the positive propaganda in its favor, are disenchanted with capitalism.

Hell, I am disenchanted with capitalism, because of all of the bullshit that was claimed for it that turned out not to be true. In addition, there has never been a “pure” socialist, communist, or capitalist state (or any other economic system) in the history of mankind. One look around the world shows this to be the case. Take Finland, often held up to be a “socialist” state (or democratic socialist). It is neither. Socialist activities account for a little over one fifth of Finland’s GDP. The rest is capitalist. Take the U.S. (Please!): the military is socialist, as are parts of the postal service, and any other government-owned enterprise (as the government represents “the People”). And then there is Medicare, Social Security, etc. The U.S. is not a “pure” capitalist country. It is part socialist, so what is being debated is actually just how much of each should there be?

The U.S. is not a “pure” capitalist country. It is part socialist, so what is being debated is actually just how much of each should there be?

And, really, the right wing of this country has been claiming that any collective approach to problem solving is “Socialism!” for centuries now, and now they are blaming young people for not understanding what socialism is. Another case of blind “blame the victim” politics.

Is it really shocking that young people are against the current status quo, being that they are one of the first generations in a very long time to have prospects dimmer than their parents’?

And, it is not just the young who are disenchanted. Consider that this very racist country elected a Black president . . . twice . . . in a “well, we haven’t tried this yet” manner. In each case, the opposing candidate was much more of a representative of the status quo. Then we had the election of the current president. Which of the two candidates represented the status quo more: Trump or Clinton? And which one got elected?

It is not just the young who are fed up with the status quo. The bottom 95% of us socioeconomically are, too.

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