Uncommon Sense

May 11, 2022

Judicial Activism Unchecked

In the 1960’s, the real conservatives of the time railed against “judicial activism” which basically meant that courts were legislating from their benches. Well, if that were true, those prior justices were pikers compared to the current Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS).

There are a number of checks on judicial power, the Congresses ability to legislate, etc., but one of the foundational checks on judicial power is the principle of stare decisis.

Stare decisis is a legal doctrine that obligates courts to follow historical cases when making a ruling on a similar case. Stare decisis ensures that cases with similar scenarios and facts are approached in the same way. Simply put, it binds courts to follow legal precedents set by previous decisions. Of course, following this principle, like so many things involving the SCOTUS, is voluntary. (Unlike all lower courts, for example, SCOTUS has no ethics code.)

Just to be complete, a precedent is a principle or rule established in a previous legal case that is either binding on or persuasive without going to courts for a court or other tribunal when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts. (Source: Wikipedia)

Now, here’s the kicker: if the wording “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start” in the leaked Alito opinion remains intact in the final opinion, it basically creates a precedent that precedent no longer exists. It would effectively kill off the legal doctrine of stare decisis as a check on judicial power. All that would be necessary for the court to take off in any direction it wants is to declare that all of the precedents are flawed.

This is not a scare tactic. The court has been blowing off precedents in droves lately. In the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which declared that corporations had the right to donate unlimited amounts of money to political entities, but not candidates or parties, and that money was a form of political speech and so is protected under the First Amendment, the court actually sought out such a case and ignored a great many precedents in ruling on it. Same goes for (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby) which added to the concept that corporations are legally people with the right of free speech, to include that they have religious rights.

Some basic impossibilities are involved here. In the Hobby Lobby decision, the religious beliefs of a corporations owners were decided to be in play. While this may be the case for private corporations, what about pubic corporations? Are not all of the shareholders co-owners of the corporation? Would not any action in this arena therefore require a poll of the shareholders? Have you heard of such a thing?

In Citizen’s United decision, what is this “person” who has these political rights? Is it the owner(s) or just the CEO? Is it the Board of Directors? And, wouldn’t those people also have personal political rights? So, they are creating a class of citizen that isn’t in the “one man, one vote” class. These citizens have multiple votes and multiple channels of free speech. Could not the corporation grant the CEO a “bonus” (for performance, of course, wink, wink, nudge, nudge) which then gets donated to this or that candidate (which the corporation cannot do directly)?

Talk about creating an unnecessary nest of snakes. A fiction created in the 19th Century to facilitate corporations (actually to privilege them) is being turned into an über-citizen creation device. The SCOTUS has been pro-business in the extreme for a long time and we have no reason to believe they will not continue on that path. So, this is by far not the limit of their activism; they are just getting warmed up.

May 9, 2022

Conservatives No More

I was reading a Medium post on the SCOTUS opinion leak and I ran across this: “In case you haven’t noticed, for the last six years, it has been conservatives consistently disrespecting all our treasured national institutions, precedents, and traditions, not liberals.”

Conservatives, going back to Edmund Burke, were originally trying to conserve things: things like foundational institutions, traditions, social structures, etc. They were inherently against change. They supported churches, the police, “Our Country Right or Wrong,” the military, prisons, schools (yes, schools). I remember arch conservative William F. Buckley saying “A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” Occasionally I miss William F. Buckley; he was an honest conservative.

But as the original quote alluded to, recent conservatives seem only to be trying to conserve their political power, and the tool of choice is “the end justifies the means.” So, Republicans stiffing President Obama’s SCOTUS nominee, Merrick Garland, for no reason other than they wanted the power to appoint that replacement, was pulled out of their hat (or ass).

Then there was the Supreme Court, not yet at its full conservative packing level, declaring a number of nonsensical things. It declared certain provisions of the Voting Rights Act were no longer necessary. Sure those states had passed racial voter restrictive policies in the past, but that was the past and this is now. We can trust those states not to do those things again, because well they haven’t done those things in a long time. (Apparently the SCOTUS conservatives were ignoring that the courts didn’t allow those states to do those things as they violated the Voting Rights Act.) So, they abolished those silly, no longer necessary rules and within just days (hours?), a number of states started restricting the voting rights of minority groups. (Texas is nothing if not dependable.) So, did SCOTUS recognize their mistake and admit “Our bad!” and promise to fix it right away? No, what we got were <crickets, crickets, crickets>. What they did was launch a nationwide voter restriction effort by the GOP.

This same court declared corporations to be persons with political rights! Corporations were declared to be corporal entities for business purposes alone (in the nineteenth century). A corporation in trouble could die, thus absolving it of all of its legal problems (oh, and labor contracts), and then be reborn as a new corporation, even though it had all of the same management, employees, etc. The court went further and declared that these corporations had the right to donate unlimited funds to political bodies, because well, money was free speech, right? Right?

So, whether it worked or not, American institutions had to cave to Republican (not conservative) ideology.

Oh, and don’t forget how the SCOTUS, in Bush v. Gore, claimed the right to declare winners of elections, even when there was no precedent and their “winner” did not win the popular vote.

SCOTUS is showing disdain for precedents, even massive ones, and is becoming quite regal in its pronouncements, something the conservatives railed against when there was a fairly liberal court. They called it “judicial activism” and called it the work of the devil. Now that the SCOTUS is packed with conservatives, I hear no complaints from the GOP about judicial activism, even though this current court is far more “judicially active” than those past courts.

And, as to the leak of the SCOTUS opinion re Roe v. Wade, the author of that quoted post felt that it will prove out to have been a conservative leak, weakening those who wanted to soften the opinion, because it would look as if the court softened it in response to public outcries, and was not independent. Sounds like something a conservative, a modern conservative, would do. The end justifies the means, the end justifies the means, repeat after me. . . .

May 5, 2022

Wage Suppression Results in . . . Inflation?

So, we are told that the current episode of significant price inflation is due to “wages being too high”?

What the fuck?

The fat cats have been suppressing wages for over four decades now, and the result is that they are too high?

All you need to look at is the relationship between the so-called inflation and corporate profits. The economist’s story, which is wearing very thin at this point, is that due to “supply chain issues,” and other “market forces,” the costs corporations have to pay for their “inputs” went up, forcing the corporations to raise their prices, aka inflate their prices, to offset those increases. (Note The War Against Ukraine had not begun until inflation was quite evident, so it can have added to rising costs of raw materials, etc. but is not the primary cause of such things.)

If this were a true story, then one would think that the price increases would offset the cost increases and the corporations profits would stay roughly the same. But they aren’t. Corporate profits are soaring, and the corporations are too full of themselves to hide why this is so. They basically admit that inflation being news means that they have cover to raise their prices whether there is a need or not. And if just a little increase is okay, why not push for a larger one and pump up our profits. And the greedy asshats are stating this publicly! (Plutocrats need to learn that gloating is unbecoming.)

I don’t know how much of the current inflation is driven by corporate greed but I suspect it is not a tiny percentage.

Suppressing peoples wages for 40+ years and then claiming that the inflation we are experiencing is due to wages being too high is asinine and clearly hubristic. We may need to start bitch-slapping these idiots into line. And that goes for their bought and paid for politicians . . . and economists.

May 3, 2022

Voters—Is This What You Want?

The consequences of voting Republican are becoming more and more obvious. It this is what you want, then keep voting Republican.

Voter Suppression
Republicans do not believe that “all men are created equal” not even close. By that, by the way, it does not mean that all mean are created with equal abilities, far from it. It means that all people want a decent life, want to have a family and protect themselves and their families from harm, etc. Basically, it means that at a ground level, we all want the same things. Beyond that, for example, only men seem to want to be “the baddest dude in town” and “the richest man in the world.” I have yet to see a woman espouse those desires. But regard the basics, we all want the same thing.
And, like I said Republicans do not believe that, at all. They think some are way better than others: they think White people are better than Black people, they think straight people are better than gay people, they think Christians are better than non-Christians, and they think that people should be treated differently because of those differences.
Do you think voter suppression would be “a thing” if the votes needing to be suppressed were White person votes and not Black and Brown person votes?

Diminishing Women’s Reproductive Rights
The Republicans staged a disingenuous process to pack the Supreme Court with shallow, doctrinaire, political thinkers, meaning the Court’s reputation will continue to sink until people will have lost any faith in its role in our government. (This undermines our democracy, because the courts were supposed to be one of the “checks and balances” on the other branches.)
There is a reason the Republicans have resisted the elimination of the filibuster in the Senate. When the Supreme Court has gone rogue, cutting its ties with prior courts and dumping precedents right and left, then legislation must be passed to make up for that. But a minority in the Senate controls whether anything gets passed and thus we will stagger forward into rule of the minority.

The Rich Getting Richer at the Expense of Everyone Else
The Republican Party used to known as the party of the wealthy, but they have actually franchised the whole party out to its rich donors. The only laws that get past are those favoring the rich. Consequently, the rich have more and more money with smaller and smaller tax bills and the rest of us end up paying for anything we collectively want to do. And the only things the GOP wants to fund are the courts/justice systems and the military. So, they keep giving the military more money than they ask for while our schools are starved for funds and our infrastructure crumbles.

No Separation of Church and State
The GOP wants to give Christians special privileges and many exemptions from our laws, becasue they are so special. If you are a Buddhist, or Muslim, or atheist, or just “spiritual, whatever the fuck that means, well get in line, behind the Christians flying first class.

The Suppression of Unions and Worker’s Rights
They have been grinding away for forty years or more and now we are seek real negative effects. If this continues, we gonna hafta tug our forelocks and address our corporate masters as “massa” and give them no lip or feel the lash.

So, if that is what you want, then continue to vote Republican. Polls of the public and voters in particular show that those things are not what they want. So, let’s take down the Republican Party. If they want our votes, they will have to change their evil ways. If they do not, there are plenty of defunct political parties in the history books they can join.

And, if we reject the Republican Party, that means we are stuck with the Democratic Party, and that is no prize. The Dems dumped their historical foundational groups: working people, minority groups, teachers, and labor unions in the late 70’s, early 80’s. They, like the GOP, only serve their rich donors now. Well, they will have an opportunity. If we take down the GOP, the Dems could wake up and reform from within, and go back to serving all of us . . . in proportion. If not, then it is time for a new party. Yes, I know some people will suggest we go back to the Republicans, claiming everybody deserves a second chance. Well, the GOP is on it’s seventeenth chance, and doesn’t deserve another. Same with the Dems. Reform now. Serve us all, proportionately (No, Repubs, not proportionate to our wealth), or enjoy the view from the dustbin of history.

Why Most Prices Will Never Come Back Down

I ran into a blog post with the title above. The answer they came up with is off the mark, however.

Prices and costs are two different things. Prices go up and continue to go up because that is the way we designed the system. If we were to have designed it differently, we could have had prices that always went down or even stayed the same.

So, why do prices go up? It is obvious that they do. I remember buying whole loaves of bread for 25 cents, even 10 cents when killer sales took place. I also bought gas for my car at 25 cents per gallon when the price wars raged. Now whole loaves of bread cost $2-6 but the pricier breads are way better than the schlock breads we had available way back when. (Our grocery was in a WW2 surplus Quonset hut.) And gas prices are spiking way up now, but were in the high $2 to low $3 range before the most recent round of price gouging began.

But, when bread was 25 cents per loaf, the minimum wage was less than $2 per hour. In other words cents then were different from cents now. I got into the habit of always bending over to pick up pennies on the floor or sidewalk; I no longer bother doing this (isn’t worth the effort).

You see, the system adjusts. The average American income is about $55,000 now. When I was a child, that income would have made you one of the “rich.” That was back when $10,000 bought you a very nice house, indeed. If you made enough in a year to buy a house in those days, well, you were doing pretty well. The average (median) house price sold around here is now $325,000. As a college professor, I never made more than $75,000 per year (corrected for inflation, that would be about $120-150,000 now, so a college professor now makes enough in a year to buy half a house.

If you go back in time, the buying power of people’s wages held fairly constant from WW2 to roughly 1980. Then the wage suppression efforts of the conservative/wealthy types kicked in and real wage increases stalled from that point onward.

It used to be the case that as price increases occurred there was pressure to raise wages. I remember when wage increases were broken down into two parts: one was for “inflation” (aka price increases) and the other was above and beyond that, aka a real increase. This was because people figured out that if their salaries were increased only enough to deal with price increases, then their “raise” was not a real raise, as their buying power was unchanged.

What is shocking to me is that the wealthy folks continue their efforts, some quite underhanded, to increase their wealth, when that “extra wealth” doesn’t affect anything other than their egos. They already have enough income, enough houses, cars, vacations, etc. Piling another billion on top of what is already in their Money Bins doesn’t change their lives in any ways, but actually . . .

Their wealth hoarding is a transfer of wealth, real wealth, not inflated wealth, from the rest of us to them. They don’t feel their increase but we feel our decrease. As our lives become more and more diminished, the lives of the wealthy become more and more precarious. Since we do not have the money to buy the goods the factories of the fat cats are making, they move their sales over seas. But those markets aren’t as favorable as our rigged markets (rigged for our wealthy, that is). China is notorious for accepting factories of American corporations, then within a few short years, there is a native Chinese production facility in competition with them, and not just in competition with yours in China but in Europe and other places as well. China backs active espionage of “intellectual properties,” and protects startups from predation as they build up speed and capacity. (Hey, don’t get snooty, we did the same to Great Britain after our Revolutionary War.)

And the fat cats can’t fall back on the American domestic market (which used to be huge) because we Americans do not have the disposable funds we used to have. What we do have is debt. It is debt that enslaves us. At least we don’t have to go to work houses anymore, but our jobs have become much like those workhouses. We work and we work and we work and we don’t get ahead.

And, of course, the conservatives (and their political party, the GOP) are Social Darwinists. That they are wealthy is an indicator of their superiority on all fronts (business, political, religious, moral, etc.). That we are poor and massively in debt is an indicator of our inferiority on all of those same fronts. And they are not inclined to serve you via our government. You are not worthy.

So, prices will continue to go up, that is the way the system works. Unfortunately, your ability to pay those prices will shrink and shrink, and shrink. The system worked somewhat better in the past, but when the plutocrats bought our governments they no longer work for us, they only work for them.

If you do not believe me, look up what the 1960’s minimum wage would be worth today if it had been corrected just for inflation. Compare that with what the minimum wage is today.

The irony, of course, is that the plutocrats do not understand that if they hadn’t transferred all that unnecessary (to them wealth) out of our pockets, we would still be buying all the things they are selling, and they could continue to be “players” in “the game.” As it is is, they seem intent on destroying the game and most of us in the process.

Afterword The people on their side of the fence believe that there are only four things that can reverse wealth inequality: mass warfare, violent revolution, lethal pandemics, or state collapses. And those aren’t guarantees! The collapse of the Soviet Union (with meddling by U.S. by the way) caused a great deal of new wealth inequality. But World War 2 wiped out a great many monarchies and fortunes of the then rich and famous.

I am not fond of any of these but if they don’t listen to common sense advice, maybe a violent revolution is a quick fix. Or maybe someone will figure out how to target the uber-wealthy with a virus.

April 26, 2022

Separation of Church and State or Separation of the Rich and Poor?

I am just finishing “. . . And Forgive Them Their Debts” by Michael Hudson which is about what its subtitle proclaims “Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year.” This is quite an academic tome and I don’t recommend it to those of you who do not enjoy reading academic works. (They can be tedious.)

After reading about our millennia long battle between the accumulators of wealth and various governments, secular and religious, opposing them, it seems clear that the U.S. founding fathers, who were so deathly afraid of religion corrupting politics, and vice-versa, that they erected a wall of separation between church and state, should have been equally concerned with separating the rapacious wealthy from the wealth of ordinary citizens.

Professor Hudson shows in meticulous detail how throughout history the wealthy have leveraged their wealth into vast holdings of land and people’s lives. The pattern is usually simple: the rich lend money to the poor, and the poor who from time to time cannot repay their loans and so their land becomes forfeit. Often enough the labor of the original landholder goes with it, including spouses and children, which is effectively slavery.

Early governments tried one solution, a royal proclamation forgiving all such debts. Originally these were debts to the government (taxes, etc.) and often enough excluded businessman to businessman debts, but these “Jubilee years” were proclaimed often enough to point out the problem. And as nongovernmental lenders became dominant, the debt forgiving included private debts.

The Bible is full of attempts to prevent the wealthy from taking control of most of the land of Judah and Israel. (Note If your version of the Lord’s Prayer includes “. . . and forgive us our trespasses . . .” realize that it originally read “. . . and forgive us our debts . . .” Uh, guess who objected to the original wording?) In fact, it is implicit in Jesus’s claim that the Kingdom of God is nigh, that there would be such a Jubilee declared (often enough these were declared every time a new king took over). So, all of the “money changers” who were also money lenders and were looking at their loan debts being canceled with no repayment had a massive reason to get rid of Jesus ASAP.

This “cycle” has happened over and over and over, yet the current powers that be are exerting themselves to make sure that the tool of “forgiveness of debts” is forgotten and stays forgotten.

Here is one of the last paragraphs in this book:

“Mainstream ideology now denies a positive role for government policy to constrain the large-scale concentration of wealth. Purporting to explain the history of inequality since the Stone Age, for instance, Stanford historian Walter Scheidel’s 2017 book The Great Leveler downplays the ability to substantially reduce it without natural disasters wiping out wealth at the top. He recognizes that the inherent tendency of history is for the wealthy to win out and make society increasingly unequal. But the only “solutions” to inequality that he finds that work are the four “great levelers”: mass warfare, violent revolution, lethal pandemics or state collapse. He does not acknowledge progressive tax policy, debt write-offs or return of land to smallholders as means to prevent or reverse concentration of wealth in the absence of external crisis.” (. . . And Forgive Them Their Debts” p. 460

Gosh, now who would benefit from the long history of debt forgiveness not being known to many? Is it the poor people? No. Is it the middle class? No. Is it the rich? Got it in three, Bubba. If the wealthy don’t like a word or term it is gone, like unearned income, or changed, like liberal and socialist. They even decry “redistribution of wealth” when they are getting richer by doing exactly that. They just don’t want their wealth to be redistributed. They don’t mind your wealth being redistributed.

The rich buy economists like candy bars and once bought they say what the rich want them to say. So, when an economist claims that wealth inequality is inevitable and “the only solutions are mass warfare, violent revolution, lethal pandemics or state collapse” and otherwise we are helpless, you now know who paid for that message. There should be a statement attached to such books with a photo and the statement “I am a wealthy person and I approve this message.”

April 25, 2022

Wanna Know What’s Wrong with the American Economy?

From “Life in the Real Economy” by Harold Meyerson, April 19, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Chrysler devoted 27 percent of its 1960 revenues to its 105,000 employees, and just 10.5 percent to its 192,000 employees in 2019, while the share going to holders of Chrysler stock increased seven-fold. The pressures presented by non-union automakers in the South and imports from lower-wage countries greatly weakened the United Auto Workers over the ensuing 60 years, which clearly is a major factor in the falling employee share.

Union Pacific Railroad had almost an identical number of employees in 2019 as it had it 1960, but the share of company revenues they received plummeted from 47 percent in 1960 to 21 percent in 2019.The share going to stockholders, by contrast, rose from 7 percent to 39 percent. The amount going to reinvestment (new equipment, R&D, etc.) fell from 6 percent to -11 percent (that’s negative 11 percent).

As more Americans traveled by air, the number of United Airlines employees rose from 22,000 in 1960 to 96,000 in 2019. The share of revenues going to employees, however, dropped from 47 percent to 21 percent over that time, while that going to shareholders rose from 7 percent to 39 percent, with a decline in reinvestment identical to that at Union Pacific.

What went wrong is American corporations became solely focused upon increasing “shareholder value.” Oh, and did I mention that CEOs began to be paid in stock and/or stock options during this period, making them shareholders? And I must note that what they were really talking about was “share value” as in shares of stock. Shareholder value would be to provide value to the holders of the stock, which is best served by a strong corporation organized to last a long time, providing benefits to the shareholders for that long time. It is relatively easy to manipulate share prices, it is very difficult to manipulate share value. Guess which ones the CEOs practice the most? (examples are rife: consider stock buybacks (which used to be illegal manipulations of stock prices but are no longer consider to be so due to helpful politicians) being used to manipulate stock prices, and corporations like the Enron scandal, a major con based upon artificial inflation of stock prices, by the simple expedient of lying.

Basically American corporations have spent decades redistributing wealth from their workers to their shareholders. And here I thought conservatives were opposed to redistributions of wealth.

What’s wrong with the American economy is that we are not part of it. It is being run by the rich, for the rich, and politicians get rich facilitating that process.

April 13, 2022

Here’s an Idea . . .

Let’s just skip the military acquisition budgets for a year . . . and then skip them every other year thereafter.

The 2022 federal budget request shows $245 billion dollars for the acquisition of new hardware (out of a total “defense” budget of  $782 billion, which is a 3.9 percent increase over the administration’s request for 2022 and a 5.6 percent increase over the 2021 appropriations). If you want to limit that trimming of our “defense” spending to just Major Hardware Acquisitions it is $175 billion. Note, this is not soldiers’ salaries, or replacement parts, or maintenance of the stuff we already have, this is for new stuff. If we were to skip a year of adding new stuff, then at the end of that year, our newest stuff would be one year old and hardly decrepit or obsolete.

Now, think about what $245 billion dollars would do for infrastructure repairs, or climate change abatement, or upgrading the electric power grid, or refurbishing decaying school buildings, or. . . . Then we do it all over, a year after that.

Currently we spend as much money on “national defense” as the next eight nations combined. And, much of this spending is at the behest of the military industrial complex and not just our military leaders. Plus we are supplying things the Pentagon hasn’t asked for. Plus we are building weapons and scrapping them before they are used, including tanks! Yes, we built tanks, surplused them, and then scrapped them without their seeing any action at all. If you are willing to scrap brand new tanks, then presumably all of the older, more dilapidated tanks were scrapped first, no? So, major upgrades are needed, no?

I know this would be going cold-turkey, but just for a year, and if we do not take on this addiction now, when will we?

April 6, 2022

You Say It is Time to Tax Churches?

You are right.

Consider this: The Mormon Church owns the most valuable property portfolio in America

At least $15,700,000,000 in holdings.

If they weren’t ashamed, why were they hiding their assets?

March 24, 2022

If Only It Were So

I am working my way through “The Dawn of Everything” which is a real eye opener. I haven’t read much that is new, but when you put them together, boy, are the facts different from what I thought they were.

For example, the idea of land as property. You are probably aware that many early peoples didn’t think that they “owned” the land, but tribes had certain feelings about their hunting range rights and whatnot. Disputes were often settled with battles, so there has always been something “there” with regard to land.

We have gotten from there to “land is the only true wealth” (aka now), but something got lost along the way. The something was what might be called “stewardship” of the land. If the land was associated with you, your family, your tribe, there were certain obligations regarding maintaining the health of the land. The land was not yours to do as you wish, but to use until it was turned over to someone else.

I was aware of this loss but Graeber encapsulated it quite nicely. Read this:

What makes the Roman Law conception of property – the basis of almost all legal systems today – unique is that the responsibility to care and share is reduced to a minimum, or even eliminated entirely. In Roman Law there are three basic rights relating to possession: usus (the right to use), fructus (the right to enjoy the products of a property, for instance the fruit of a tree), and abusus (the right to damage or destroy). If one has only the first two rights this is referred to as usufruct, and is not considered true possession under the law. The defining feature of true legal property, then, is that one has the option of not taking care of it, or even destroying it at will. (Graeber, David. The Dawn of Everything, p. 161—all emphases mine SR)

So, the modern ideas of land as property, I am thinking of Western U.S. landholders who claim the land is theirs and they can do anything they want with or to it, date back to the Romans.

Once again, civilization is over rated. Clearly the more primitive, uncivilized people had the better ideas.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if the stewardship aspect of land “ownership” had been kept? It would be a vastly different world.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.