Class Warfare Blog

November 21, 2019

Stupid Watergate II

Comedian John Oliver has tagged the current goings on in the White House as “Stupid Watergate II” and it seems fitting. I mean, if you get conned by an expert, there is some respect for the finesse used to con you. Being conned by idiots allows no such ego protection.

In any case, I remember the televised Senate Watergate hearings (begun May 17, 1973 . . . remember Nixon resigned August 9, 1974, so this was a long process). What I do not remember is the denigration of the process and character assassinations that we are now hearing. It seemed that the hearings were run with some effort to simply discover the truth. The committee chair, Sam Ervin of North Carolina and ranking member Howard Baker of Tennessee seemed not to be at loggerheads all of the time, but worked together quite well.

(Possibly that four of the seven members were from the South may have brought some Southern manners to the affair, but . . . or that those were Senate hearings while we are now watching House proceedings . . . or . . .)

Are my memories just really cloudy or was there just more decorum back then?

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.

September 11, 2019

Socialism Bad, Capitalism Good

I am not going to state anything novel here but will reinforce things already said. Currently there is an aspect of our political discourse that is summed up by the title of this post. It is, of course, false. What the “defenders of capitalism” are arguing for is the status quo in which we have a quasi-capitalist system, but one that protects the rich and screws the poor.

Think back on the Great Recession of 2008. If you are a pure capitalist, then a great many financiers, bankers, investors, and brokers should have lost all their money (everything but the bare minimums allowed in bankruptcy proceedings). Through greed they backed the wrong horses.

But the word “bailout” then comes to mind. To coin a phrase “there are no bailouts in capitalism” just as “there is no crying in baseball.” If you have taken college-level courses in capitalism, nowhere will you find governmental bailouts as a structural part of capitalism. These sweet deals are brokered by rich people with the people who serve them to protect their wealth.

It was argued that “we couldn’t let such-and-such a bank or insurance company fail.” Wha? Failures is what capitalists brag about. It is what keeps them sharp. It is the leading edge of “competition.” Without failure, just what is capitalism? All of those people should have failed and learned from the experience . . . or not. So, what did they learn instead? A sucker is born every minute?

So, when you hear anti-socialist rhetoric realize that it is from the wealthy, or paid for by the wealthy, to protect the good deal they have going, nothing more and nothing less. And this is actually rebounding upon the rich. Younger Americans hear the anti-socialism rhetoric and they think “Ah, this is what we need to counter those greedy ass hats.” The young are embracing socialism more and more as the rhetoric against it is ramped up. And the harder the rich squeeze the poor and middle class, the more these younger Americans are embracing some form of democratic socialism.

They also aren’t stupid. They see countries like Sweden which are capitalist, just not capitalist as we are. They have a form of democratic socialism, in which the inherent negatives associated with capitalism are suppressed. The government acts on behalf of the people and offers basic services that seem to be the norm in civilized countries. They recognize, as do all thinking people except captured economists and bought politicians, that capitalism is self-destructive unless it is controlled significantly. In this country, the wealthy have turned phrases such as “government regulation” and “unearned income” into either non-terms or epithets. Why would they want there to be no controls on capitalism? Because in this country, when things go well, they profit enormously, and when the crashes inevitably happen, their paid-for politicians step in and the “public” bails them out. This heads I win, tails you lose system benefits only the wealthy, so their support of it is no surprise. The actual surprise is the support existing in the general population for this robber baron mentality.

August 22, 2019

What Motivates Trump’s Supporters?

Like many of you, I felt that the primary motivation of Trump voters was the economic stagnation of the middle class and middle America. The elites were getting richer, hand over fist, while we were getting squeezed by employers and creditors, and that left us with the only option of getting mad. That may not have been the primary motivation, however. This a “must read” article from The Guardian.

A New Poll Shows What Really Interests ‘Pro-Lifers’: Controlling Women by Jill Filipovic.

The subtitle is “According to their own survey responses, anti-abortion voters are hostile to gender equality in practically every aspect” (I assume they meant “every respect” at the end there.)

And, of course, at the source of all of this misogyny? Well, you figure it out.

August 13, 2019

Kitchen Knife v. Semiautomatic Weapons

Gun advocates here in the U.S. usually speak with disdain of Australia which had the temerity to enact significant gun control laws. Well, The Guardian has reported on a killing rampage by a man in Sydney (Sydney Stabbing: One Woman Killed and One Injured In ‘Terrifying Carnage’ in CBD). As I understand it, CDB stands for “Central Business District” in that bustling metropolis.

According to the article “A man who allegedly stabbed a woman to death in Sydney’s central business district before attacking others on a busy city street with a butcher’s knife was arrested carrying information about terrorist attacks and extremist ideologies on a USB drive.”

So, a killing rampage (one dead) and “terrifying carnage” (one dead, one wounded) and the Aussies are shocked.

What a bunch of pikers! Can you imagine that happening here in the U.S.? Wouldn’t even make the back page of the front section of the newspaper and maybe not even the 6 o’clock news on the telly.

All those people and the wanker didn’t even have a semi-automatic weapon. He could have mowed down dozens, if not more. And the two “heroes” who stopped this lunatic, with a chair and a milk crate, wouldn’t have had a chance. They would have needed, at a minimum, a “good guy with a gun.” Milk crate . . . pft!

What is wrong with Australia? Don’t they even have Wal-Marts? Clearly their deranged gun policies aren’t working.

Have You Ever Heard of Unearned Income?

How do you describe “pure” socialism? For most people it is “the government” (aka “We The People” in the US) owns the “means of production.” So, the government owns all of the businesses, factories, etc. and we all work together to benefit one another. Unfortunately, this ideal too often became totalitarian socialism, in which a political elite took over the system and it served the elite much more than it served the people as a whole. In some modern countries, the idea of democratic socialism seems to be working better.

What brought this to mind is I was reading an interview of an author on the Naked Capitalism website and the interviewer, John Siman, stated and asked the following:

John Siman: You have got me thinking about what economics—political economy—was originally supposed to be: a liberation from feudalism, from greedy rentiers and so the freedom for the common man to enjoy the fruits of his own labor and for the enterprising man to undertake great business projects. We should tax only unearned income!—that’s what the classical economists taught, right? So my deep worry: Are our academic neoclassical economists really latter-day medieval theologians, using arcane learning to uphold the privileges—specifically, to protect the unearned income—of a corrupt elite? After two or three centuries is the Enlightenment over as we enter a new feudalism? (It seems to me that we are already in a new Gilded Age.)

To unpack this (there is a lot going on) you need to know a few things. For one “rentiers” are not “renters” or even landlords per se, they are “people living on income from property or investments.” A good example of such are shareholders in a corporation. They receive dividends or profit on sales from that stock and that money was, for a very long time, referred to as “unearned income,” money earned by means other than the “sweat of one’s brow.” And, “political economy” was the original name for the study of economics, politics referring to interactions of people and economy being “involving money.”

You probably learned about feudalism in school. This was a system whereby “royals” owned the land and, basically, the people who worked it (serfs). They didn’t claim absolute ownership, but serfs were not free to pack up and leave, they were “tied to the land.” And even if they did pack up and leave, there were no “jobs” to be had in nearby locations. It strikes me that feudalism was a form of socialism. “The government” absolutely owned the means of production (including the serfs). This was not benign socialism, this was totalitarian socialism. (Not that the “rulers” didn’t ever do anything for the “ruled.” There were limits to what the “rentiers” could extract. Abuse your serfs/slaves too much, e.g. starve them by confiscating too much of the crops they raised, and they wouldn’t be able to work. And, please, do not try to convince me that having a local “central committee,” as in modern socialism, is substantially different from having a local earl or duke, the “government” in feudal times. “Remote and autocratic” describes both.)

So, as feudalism broke down, capitalism was created. And so was “economics” whose first fruits, apparently, were to craft a “liberation from feudalism, from greedy rentiers and so the freedom for the common man to enjoy the fruits of his own labor and for the enterprising man to undertake great business projects.” (Merchants were the first members of the “middle class,” that is between rich and poor, and widely despised by the elites.) And one of their first ideas was that “We should tax only unearned income!”

This practice balances the playing field, economically, between the rentiers and people who worked for a living. Selling one’s labor is a fine idea, but there is a limit: you only have so much labor to sell. But rentiers are unlimited in the amount of property or investments they can accrue. The well-to-do can become wealthy, the wealthy can become rich, millionaires can become billionaires and I assume we will soon see billionaires become trillionaires. Since wealth can be converted into political power, the scales of politics are tilted heavily in favor of the wealthy. To balance the scales, the early “political economists” established the idea of only taxing that rentier income and not taxing honest labor.

I have written recently (at least I think it was recently) on the disappearance of the term “unearned income” from public economics discourses. (Economists may still use it privately; I don’t know.) The term has basically vanished. And, out of sight, out of mind. The term is obviously connected to the core idea of those early economists, to only tax unearned income, and it flies in the face of the narrative of the wealthy that “they built it,” that they earned everything they have. My favorite example of this thinking was Mitt Romney, who claimed to have earned everything he owns, while at the same time his rich and powerful father (George Romney: chairman and president of American Motors Corporation from 1954 to 1962, the 43rd Governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969, and the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1969 to 1973, etc.) gave him two $2,000,000 “to get started” and access to his influential and wealthy colleagues. (I remember this figure because during my almost 40 years of work as a teacher, I earned about $2,000,000 (both numbers are uncorrected for inflation). If I had been given $2,000,000 to “get started” I would not have had the gall to make the claim Romney does.)

The disappearance of the term “unearned income” from public discourse was no accident. And, if you use the term now, most people will be confused by it. The elites have scammed the system so well, that they have managed to get earned income taxed at a higher rate than unearned income (through the capital gains tax and others)!

So, capitalism was created to protect us from “feudal socialism.” What now can we get to protect us from capitalism and its captive economists? (Economists aren’t evil people, but their field has been captured by the rich. Oppose the rich strongly enough and you will no longer have either a reputation or a college professorship. Economists do know which side of the bread the butter is on.)

August 10, 2019

Book Report—The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American

I am trying to catch up on reporting on books I have read and can recommend to you. The latest is The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American by Andrew L Seidel.

I highlighted all kinds of paragraphs to use in this review, but there were just too many of them. I’d end up quoting the entire book. So, I decided to offer you just a bit of the concluding chapter. The author starts by explaining that he had taken an elderly relative to a Catholic mass. The quote beings with some ruminations on that event.

“The last mass I witnessed was during a full Catholic wedding. The priest mentioned the happy couple about sixty times—a respectable number, given that we had gathered together to celebrate them. But the priest was also able to mention his church and god more than 235 times. This four-to-one ratio of church over couple has held at the two other Catholic weddings I’ve attended. The Catholic Church is co-opting the prestige of more illustrious events, people, and moments for itself. Two people dedicate their lives to each other, and religion injects itself in the middle. Christian nationalism excels at this type of piracy and imposition. It attempts, like the Catholic priest at those weddings, to bask in unwarranted glory. It seeks to co-opt undeserved greatness, accolades, and credit. It claims a nation dedicated to the freedom of and from religion, for one particular religion. It insists that a nation with a godless Constitution is dedicated to one particular god. A religion that demands fearful, unwavering obedience takes credit for a rebellion and revolution in self-government. It declares that that revolution was the brainchild of a few Christians rather than of a group of unorthodox thinkers testing Enlightenment principles. It even claims universal human morality as its own invention. Christian nationalism also contends that the United States of America is exceptional because the nation was chosen by a god, not because the founders’ enlightened experiment was successful. Christian nationalists sometimes misconstrue a 1983 Newsweek quote: ‘Historians are discovering that the Bible, perhaps even more than the Constitution, is our founding document.’ Ken Woodward and David Gates’s full quote is more interesting, and, as one would imagine, more reflective of reality: “Now historians are discovering that the Bible, perhaps even more than the Constitution, is our founding document: the source of a powerful myth of the United States as a special, sacred nation, a people called by God to establish a model society, a beacon to the world. Biblical America is indeed a myth, a powerful one (emphasis mine SR).

“The sad irony of the myths of the Christian nation, biblical America, and Judeo-Christian principles is that they are born out of a misplaced zeal to revive or extend American exceptionalism. Trump and his Christian nationalist brethren want a return to a Christian nation; they want to “make America great again.” But religion did not make the United States, let alone make it great. ‘We the People’ make America exceptional. Religion is the millstone around the neck of American exceptionalism because religious faith denies experience and observation to preserve a belief. It is for this reason that it is unlikely to contribute to progress, though it will take credit for what science, rationality, experience, and observation have accomplished. America succeeded as an experiment because it was based on reason. If we abandon reason in favor of faith—or if our elected leaders commit this sin—we are asking to regress. Not to some golden age, but to a time ‘when religion ruled the world . . . called the Dark Ages . . .’”

It is abundantly clear that the idea of a Christian Nation is a power play, an attempt to grasp power for a “special” group of people. Unfortunately, the thinking behind this movement is roughly: Christianity good, America good. Christian America . . . double good. Christianity has no elements in it that are at all democratic. If you believe that it does, please explain that to the Pope. Declaring this nation to have an official religion would gut the Constitution and create religious strife like no attack from our enemies could conceive.

This book dismantles all such claims and efforts in this vein and is high recommended to those of you who wish to preserve the Constitution and the Grand American Experiment in self-governance.

August 6, 2019

The Effing Elites, Part . . . I’ve Lost Track . . .

I am reading a lot of history of the Biblical era and I ran across one very interesting take on the elites we refer to as “royals” today. It is from the Book of Samuel in the OT/Hebrew Bible. (I know the two are not identical, the HB being hijacked and edited by Christians to make the OT, but close enough here.)

4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead[b] us, such as all the other nations have.”

6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” 19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” 21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

So, ole Samuel understood rightly that kings were bad news, but was overruled by Ole Yahweh. Yahweh certainly is in favor of totalitarianism, so why would he have an opposition to kings? And in this case, Yahweh is clearly issuing a punishment on his people for being disobedient to their true king, himself. And, as an exercise, consider what would have happened had Yahweh thundered “Absolutely Not!” At least a human king gives a bit of cover to a totalitarian theocracy (aka someone to blame other than Yahweh).

Any way, my point is this: royals are a pain in the ass and should be dispensed with. They are relic elites at best. Think about how they came about. (Really!)

Typically, some local bully accrues enough muscle to confiscate anything he desired. Part of the crops were confiscated. The most attractive mates were confiscated. The best property was confiscated. And if anyone complained they got hit in the mouth if not worse.

Over time, one or more of these bullies became ambitious and gathered together a war band and took over the other bullies in their neighborhood. Not wanting to actually stay in place and do the work of oppressing the locals, the resident bully was sworn to fealty to the overbully, or if his fealty was suspect, his head was lopped off and another promoted to that office, with the fear of that happening to him supporting his fealty. The local bully then paid tribute to the overbully.

Now, I am not saying that these overlords served no purpose. They did, on occasion, defend the people under their oppression from invading other bullies, but their record in doing this was mixed at best. And, over time, the divine rights of bullies got amplified. The bullies claimed to own all of the land, without purchasing it or establishing ownership by working the land, or . . . just “Mine!” And if anyone complained they got hit in the mouth if not worse. Many also claimed to own the people residing on the land, who became de facto slaves, again by no other expedient than “Mine!”

Collusion between the religious elites and the secular elites gave ordinary people no place to go for alternatives.

Effing elites.

Today’s elites are money enabled. Their power is not divine, although they bribe religious elites to support their secular notions. They bribe politicians to make sure that governmental power is theirs and not “the people’s.” The jigger the rules of wealth acquisition so that their money/power ever increases. For example, Trump’s tax cut for the wealthy and businesses? Capital investment has dipped to a new low just recently. So much for the argument that businesses would invest that money in expanded productivity, jobs, etc. Oh, yeah, jobs were eliminated by those businesses, too. Those businesses did exactly what was predicted: stock by-backs to enrich their shareholders and executives, and more money injected into politics to improve their lot even more.

Effing elites.

My fear is that the only option left to ordinary people involves torches and pitchforks. We seem to be closer and closer to such responses.

Even that old troglodyte Henry Ford knew that enriching his workers just a bit gave him more customers, but the modern elites aren’t willing to share any of their ill gotten gain. They believe they earned it. The divine right of the rich is to believe that they are rich because they are better than you or me. They even have a prosperity gospel now. Effing religious elites.

 

 

 

 

Make America Hate Again

Donald Trump has encouraged certain collective hatreds in this country, but he didn’t invent them. I think there are two interconnect streams of influence in the rise of hate in this country.

The Republican Party (Before Trump)
If you look back at the Republican Party over the past 50 years or so (and their enablers, e.g. conservative intellectuals, etc.), you will find that they have been mining pools of the country’s hate the whole time. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the South became much less Democrat and far more Republican. It wasn’t that the Democrats didn’t have their own racists (look up the Dixiecrats, if you need an example) but politicians down South voted with their feet and the GOP embraced them with open arms. Reagan’s “Southern Strategy” is another example and there are many, many more.

In addition, Republicans launched a propaganda campaign against the “liberal media” sowing distrust in people’s information sources and then embraced their own biased media in the form of Rush Limbaugh on the radio and Fox “News” on TV (should have been named Faux News). This wasn’t possible until the act requiring balance when using the public airwaves was repealed, under Reagan (of course). The whole campaign was a smear campaign because evaluations of the media showed no such glaring bias, but when it appears that when “facts have a clear liberal bias” is used as a criterion, I can see how they arrived at their conclusion.

Then another propaganda program was advanced by the same crew to turn “liberal” into an epithet, which it is today. This is why the term “progressive” was resurrected, after having fallen into disuse, as a replacement for liberal. Anyone calling themselves a progressive today would have called themselves a liberal thirty years ago.

The Republican Party selling its soul to Trump became easier because of the practice they got in selling it for “winning.”

The Internet
Enabling hate to grow, as if in an incubator, was caused by the ability of people to publish anonymously on the Internet. The incredible growth of that medium (being used to create this post, right now!) has short circuited the social approbation of public displays of hatred and prejudice. Where we used to shame those who said such things in polite company, now they are blared at high volume on the Internet by anonymous speakers and no shaming conduit is available.

And the Collateral Damage . . .
What is being lost is the absolutely required continual promotion of public virtue. The Grand American Experiment in ruling ourselves (instead of letting the rich elites continue to lord it over us) requires each and every one of us to balance our individual interests with our collective interests. Each citizen needs to think about our collective welfare simultaneously with his individual welfare and strike a balance between the two. This needs to be explained to each generation and promoted and reinforced continuously. We are losing this battle as the wealthy elites promote individualism over collectivism. In fact they are executing a propaganda campaign besmirching collectivism as I write this. They, of course, go to extremes by arguing that “big government” wants to make all of the decisions, therefore collectivism bad, very bad! These people, who are all in favor of more and more spending on the military make arguments like “its your money, the government (aka “us” collectively) shouldn’t be confiscating it (in taxes).” They do indeed want it both ways and seem to have no shame in arguing this way.

As our civic virtue goes, so goes the republic.

July 24, 2019

We Don’t Need Regulators, Corporations Would Never Do Anything to Harm Their Reputations

Filed under: Business,Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 8:47 am
Tags: , , ,

The Big Lie is a lie so obviously untrue that people would not accept it unless it became “common knowledge” which it does if the BL is repeated over and over and over.

We have been told by the “De-Regulators” that all of these regulations and regulators are unnecessary, that “The Market™” will take care of all of the bad actors. And, certainly major corporations would never, ever do anything to harm their reputations.

How many times do we need to see this is not only not true, but very, very false?

Read this!

Capitalism gone wrong: how big pharma created America’s opioid carnage

The biggest drug epidemic in the U.S. created not by human weaknesses but by the profit motive. (Read this sentence again!)

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