Class Warfare Blog

July 13, 2019

Does This Blog Need a Different Title?

When I began this blog, mainstream opinions regarding there being a class war in the U.S. were little better than scoffing at the idea. It seems now that most people accept this class war as a fact. I began this blog with the intent of just establishing the war is real, but I could continue, focusing on the conduct and disposition of the class war.  Of late, I have been writing more frequently about religion (specifically Christianity as that is the religion I know most about) in that I believe the religion plays a role in the class war.

Religion, specifically Christianity in the U.S., plays a role in our current class war because mainstream religions have always worked hand in hand with secular state power for their own benefit. Religions that do not accrue state power have a hard time surviving. And a religion acquires state power is by exhibiting practices of which the secular powers approve. The example I use often is that Christianity supported the institution of slavery (scripture still does!). Had it not, it never would have been adopted as the state religion of Rome and would not have had Rome’s power to expand the church’s power for over a century. (Does no one else find the name of the Roman Catholic Church ironic? The Messiah (Jesus?) was supposedly coming to remove Rome’s boot heel from the necks of the Jews, then under occupation by Rome. Some actually called them the enemy! Apparently the enemy won.)

Some may argue that the history of the United States belies my conclusion. That in the U.S. state power is forbidden to be used to support or oppose any church. Ah, that explains the tax free status of churches and all of the other laws exempting churches and church leaders from having to comply with state or federal laws. Discriminate against women in your hiring practices? This is fine if you are a church. Discriminate against people of other faiths or—gasp—no faith at all, in your hiring practices? This is fine . . . if you are a church. Discriminate against gays and lesbians in your hiring? This is fine if you are a church. A governmental position of neutrality with regard to churches would mean they would all be taxed the same, not “not taxed at all.” There are many other laws that churches violate with impunity just because they can.

So, I still hold that churches support the status quo when it comes to the secular leaders as they have accrued some political power and they do not want to lose it. And, in reality, some of these churches have gone on the offensive, wanting more power than they have now, trying to make the case that we are a Christian nation, a ludicrous claim. (The Bible does not support any kind of democracy in any way, shape, or form. Nor does it support the forbidding of cruel and unusual punishments or any other of the cornerstone concepts of the Constitution. Sheesh.) They have also arranged to have legislation introduced exempting churches from more and more of our laws.

So, if you have an opinion, does this blog need a new title? (And if you say “yes” do you have any suggestions? I suspect JB would call it “Steve’s Snark” or “Steve’s Ignorance.”)

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June 19, 2019

Check It Out—The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:59 am
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Every once in a while I run across a truly remarkable web site that I just have to share. Such is The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser. Bruce was an evangelical minister for a very long time (25 years) and has quite some stories to tell. He has become an atheist, not from some intellectual effort so much as by just realizing that he had lost his faith. He is honest to a fault and calls a spade a spade. Here’s a taste from:

Understanding Evangelical Christianity: It’s All About the Benjamins:

Evangelicals love to tout the notion that they give more money to charitable causes than secular people do. Take that, Bruce! Well, here’s the problem with this “fact: Evangelical charitable contributions include the money they donate to their churches and other religious organizations. If, as I assert, Evangelical churches are fundamentally clubs, and that congregations pay their membership fees weekly by giving money to their respective churches, then most of the “dues” stay inside the church. Take a look at the average church’s financials. Not the annual generic bullshit summary they put out, but the actual income/expense statements. What you will find is the most church income goes towards buildings, utilities, insurance, salaries, benefits, equipment, and programs that typically only benefit club members. It is not uncommon to find that a church spends less than ten percent of its income on actual ministry outside of the four walls of their sanctuary. The bigger the church, the less percentage-wise that is spent on doing meaningful work in the community. A megachurch might talk up the fact that they spent $1 million helping the “least of these” — laudable, to be sure — but $1 million out of a $25 million budget is what? Four percent of the church’s budget. In other words, ninety-six percent of the church’s income is spent in-house. Which is their right to do. Clubs have a right to spend their monies as they see fit. After all, clubs exist to benefit members, not people outside of their memberships. The issue I have is the unwarranted trumpeting of all the “good” Evangelical churches purportedly do in their communities. (If you are inclined to fire off an angry email to me that says your church and pastor are “different,” please send me copies of your church’s income/expense statements — full statements, not a summary. So far, not one Evangelical has done so, but, hey, maybe you’ll be the first.)

I highly recommend his site to you if you have an interest in this topic.

June 9, 2019

I Have Said It Before . . .

. . . and I will say it again. Say what?

The Guardian ran a story today “Can Trump win in 2020? This Pennsylvania county may be an indicator.” The subtitle for which was “Northampton county, Pennsylvania voted twice for Barack Obama before flipping for Trump – and could decide whether Trump gets a second term” What? A county in Pennsylvania voted for Barack Obama for president . . . twice . . . and then voted for Trump? What Red-Blue scenario, what White-Black scenario, what Rural-Urban scenario makes sense of that?

I’ve said it before . . .

The voters in this country were so fed up with the status quo (the rich get richer, the middle class and the poor get ground under their boot heels) that they voted in our first Black president. That should change things, no? Apparently not enough as Republican-Democrat infighting made sure “Hope” and “Change” were both little and infrequent. So, if that message didn’t get through, maybe the message of Donald Trump would.

Why don’t we try offering what the voters want? Candidates who aren’t bought and paid for by Wall Street and the major corporations and who will identify the will of the people and act upon that.

Novel idea, eh?

June 3, 2019

Why Are There So Many Signs of Distress in a Supposedly Robust Economy?

Over at the Naked Capitalism website there is a post focused on the St. Louis area but I think has application all over this country—St. Louis Fed Study Shows Rising Level of Financial Desperation Among the Poor, Hidden by Aggregates by Yves Smith.

I have blogged recently on economic indicators, basically claiming that if you use indicators of economic health that basically measure the fact the “the rich are getting richer,” you aren’t looking at the right indicators. For example, using the health of the stock market as an indicator of how ell the economy is doing is ludicrous at best.

This post by the wonderful Yves Smith addresses a ZIP code by ZIP code analysis of economic measures of economic distress and wealth accumulation or the lack of it, etc. The basic point is using “aggregate” economic measures (aka averages) masks the real situation.

Also, the “traditional” (aka what has always been recommended) strategy to “get ahead” no longer works. As a youth I was told that if I worked hard, saved some money, and was careful I could achieve the American dream. Because of wage suppression, run away health care costs, and near zero interest rates on savings, this strategy is broke, busted, and we are disgusted.

People work hard, often with more than one job, but sky high rents and health care costs, suck up the majority of what is made and no savings accrue. Actually debt is increasing in the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

My first full time job made me the grand sum of $9000 per year. Today, health insurance for a family of four is around $16,000 per year. Granted that there has been a considerable amount of inflation since then, but. . . . As another comparison, if one were to work a job, full-time: 8-hours per day, 5 days per week, with 11 unpaid holidays and no vacation, you would gross around $14,400. That’s gross, not net, so taxes (little in the form of income taxes, but payroll taxes) and whatnot have to be taken out to get at the actual amount of income this job would provide. If a household had two such jobs, the total net income might reach $26,000 or about $2170 per month. If this family is four in number (kind of an average) there will be no health insurance in that budget. Even subsidized health insurance would eat up quite a bit of that. In many areas of this country, that would barely cover rent and food, with transportation in the form of a family car (insurance, gas, maintenance) being out of the question.

It seems that the majority in this country now lives pay check to paycheck (I do) and that had been the case for most of the history of this country, but we were starting to get away from that after WW2. Now we are backsliding, with the skids being greased by the greedy rich who have bought Congress and much of the judiciary.

This is an interesting post and I recommend it to any interested in our current economic system.

Postscript Any politician who runs around claiming that the economy is robust or strong and beats their chest about it will be crushed at the polls in the next election. People are hurting and having smug elites tell them they are wrong to hurt will just increase the disaffection with the status quo that got us first Barack Obama and then Donald Trump. The GOP is likely to put up Donald Trump again and if the Dems decide on an avatar of the status quo (like Joe Biden) expect the repercussions to be severe.

 

 

May 31, 2019

Joe Biden—Just Say No

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:50 am
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The current front runner for the Democratic nomination for the office of president is former senator and vice-president Joe Biden. Nominating him would be a horrible mistake, so why is he a front runner?

The talking heads all mention the “electability” of Joe Biden. How they make this determination is not shared and it is very, very flawed. Joe Biden is not electable, even with Donald Trump as his opponent.

Think about it. In 2008, this very racist country elected its first black president. Why? I say “hope and change.” Ordinary Americans have become very, very tired of the elites saying things are just hunky dory when their lives are swirling down the toilet. The status quo is very nice for the elites as they are reaping almost all of the benefits of society and government but that status quo represents lower wages, insecure jobs, part-time employment instead of full-time and fewer fringe benefits if you are lucky enough to acquire a full-time job for the rest of us.

Mr. Obama runs for re-election in 2012 and who do the Republican choose but a smarmy rich guy, a more obvious icon of the former status quo as you can get and he loses, of course. But Mr. Obama promised hope and change and partially because of Republican intransigence and their own commitment to the status quo, the status quo gets disrupted very, very little and income and wealth disparities continue to rise. It also didn’t help that the Obama administration decided to bail out banks and their effing shareholders but not ordinary Americans from the ravages of the Great Recession.

So, then we arrive at the 2016 election and we have a choice between Hillary Clinton, another avatar of the status quo, and Donald Trump and we elect the execrable Donald Trump. Was there ever a greater statement of dissatisfaction with the way things were going than the election of Donald Fucking Trump to be President of the United States?

And people are now talking seriously about running Joe Biden for president. If he is selected as the Democratic nominee, expect four more years of Donald Trump. If you can say anything positive about our current POTUS is that he is definitely not acting like the people who got us into this mess in the first place. That he is acting in a very negative way doesn’t seem to matter to many voters who want ever so much something other than the status quo created by the post Viet Nam war era political parties.

 

 

 

May 26, 2019

The Law of Unintended Consequences, Still Unsurpassed

As conservative American politicians are doing their damnedest to pound a square peg into a round hole with regard to any issue involving women, they are accomplishing the exact opposite of what they want. They are undermining the societal structure they most value: the family. An article in The Guardian indicates why (Women are happier without children or a spouse, says happiness expert). Here’s an excerpt:

We may have suspected it already, but now the science backs it up: unmarried and childless women are the happiest subgroup in the population. And they are more likely to live longer than their married and child-rearing peers, according to a leading expert in happiness.

Speaking at the Hay festival on Saturday, Paul Dolan, a professor of behavioural science at the London School of Economics, said the latest evidence showed that the traditional markers used to measure success did not correlate with happiness – particularly marriage and raising children.

“Married people are happier than other population subgroups, but only when their spouse is in the room when they’re asked how happy they are. When the spouse is not present: fucking miserable,” he said.

“We do have some good longitudinal data following the same people over time, but I am going to do a massive disservice to that science and just say: if you’re a man, you should probably get married; if you’re a woman, don’t bother.”

Men benefited from marriage because they “calmed down”, he said. “You take less risks, you earn more money at work, and you live a little longer. She, on the other hand, has to put up with that, and dies sooner than if she never married. The healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women who never married or had children,” he said.

As the benefits of family and children have shrunk substantially, the “duties” of the position of “wife” have escalated. Not only are they still obligated to all or most of the household management choirs and child rearing chores but are also expected to bring in a full-time salary. Would any man get married if they were offered the same “bargain”?

The “bargain” when I was a child was the wife stayed home and worked while the husband went out to work and “brought home the bacon.” This arrangement was reinforced by women being excluded from most jobs as being “unsuitable” or incompetent. The fact that women are doing all of those jobs now and just as competently as men or more so, gives the lie to that prejudice. It was also largely reinforced through societal memes: the bride as princess, mothers as Madonnas, the “fulfillment of marriage,” the wedding ceremony as mini-coronation, etc.

So, why would women take such a bad deal? Apparently, they are beginning to no longer do so in numbers. Their reward? Greater happiness, less strife; less pressure, longer life. If they choose to have children, there no longer is much of a stigma attached to single parenting and while raising a child by yourself might be daunting, it is certainly easier than raising a child while serving a man as maid, cook, errand runner, etc. and working a full-time job at the same time.

There is an axiom in politics that when a politician is undermining himself, don’t interrupt. Go, GOP, go!

May 23, 2019

What, The Huge Trump Tax Cut Didn’t Prevent This?

Filed under: Business,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:44 pm
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In the category of we all have short memories (and much of that is taken up by bullshit comments by our current POTUS):

Ford Begins Final Round of US Layoffs

Ian Thibodeau, The Detroit News on May 21, 2019

DETROIT — The first of 500 U.S. Ford Motor Co. salaried employees are expected to be notified in meetings Tuesday that they’re being let go.

. . .

CEO Jim Hackett notified employees in an email Monday that Ford was nearing the end of its months-long bout of white-collar layoffs that would eliminate 7,000 jobs globally, roughly 10% of the automaker’s global salaried workforce. When the U.S. layoffs wrap by June, Ford would have cut around 800 jobs in addition to 1,500 buyouts that occurred late last year, or around 7% of its U.S. salaried workforce.

The layoffs come months after General Motors Co. cut 15% of its global salaried workforce. Both sets of layoffs are largely a result of a slowing auto market and looming economic recession. Ford’s layoffs are part of a $25.5 billion pool of cost cuts expected to roll out over the next few years.

* * *

Gee, I thought those huge … permanent … business tax cuts were going to allow them to hire more workers and raise their wages? Hunh! Since that tax cut didn’t work, expect the Trump administration to ram through another tax cut for these poor, suffering corporations.

May 19, 2019

Hello? What About the Emoluments Clause?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:11 pm
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When he issued a subpoena week before last, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal said he was seeking six years of President Trump’s personal and business tax returns to aid a committee investigation into whether the IRS was doing its job properly in auditing a sitting president and whether the law governing such audits needed to be strengthened.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin denied the “request” saying that the subpoena was “unprecedented” and “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”

Hello?

First of all, the Treasury Secretary does not have a say in this. He does get to decide whether a congressional subpoena is appropriate or not. The law simply says such returns will be provided upon being subpoenaed.

Second, audits? WTF? What about the emoluments clause of the Constitution, also called the foreign emoluments clause, which is a provision of the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 8) that generally prohibits federal officeholders from receiving any gift, payment, or other thing of value from a foreign state or its rulers, officers, or representatives? If Mr. Trump has been making money off of his presidency, and he apparently has, and the sources of those funds are foreign, wouldn’t his tax returns show that income? Wouldn’t this be a way for Congress to exercise its oversight responsibilities as no other body has that responsibility?

Hey, they got Al Capone on tax fraud, didn’t they? Might work again!

May 10, 2019

Trump’s Business Losses

Filed under: Business,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:22 pm
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The New York Times is reporting that IRS records show Donald Trump’s businesses lost approximately $1.15 billion dollars during the decade from 1985 to 1994. That sounds like a lot of money and was. But it is not in current terms. I picked the year 1990 at the center of this period as a form of averaging and used an inflation calculator to convert those dollars into what they would be today.

In today’s dollars, Trump’s losses would be . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . .

$2,240,000,000.

This raises schadenfreude to whole new levels!

May 8, 2019

The Bullshit Scam that Are FICO Scores

We have all been told that FICO credit assessment scores are important. There are even services that will help you improve your FICO score, so you will have more credit opportunities.

It is all bullshit and a scam on the public.

I am a responsible person (IMHO of course). I pay my bills on time with rare exceptions, usually based upon forgetfulness. In any case, I have run up quite a bit of credit card debt, not unlike many Americans. But I was paying them down assiduously. I paid off one card and closed the account, a sign of a good faith borrower, I thought . . . and then my FICO score went . . . down. WTF? I still have plenty of accounts, but if I close one I am less credit worthy? WTF? How does that make sense?

I then paid off a car loan! Woo hoo, I paid off my car and I owned it free and clear . . . and my FICO score went . . . down! Again, WTF?

All of the signs of being an honorable borrower cause my credit score to be decreased?! So, I kept my head down and just paid down what I owed. I paid more than the minimum payment on my credit cards every month, and my FICO score climbed up to 700 and beyond! I was so proud!

But, I wasn’t making enough progress on reducing my credit card dept, so I applied to my Savings and Loan for a signature loan (that had a lower interest rate than my credit cards) and paid off my all of my credit cards (Balance = $0)! Note that I replaced my CC debt with an unsecured loan debt of the exact same amount in this process, so my indebtedness did not change even $1. So what happened?

My FICO score soared from ca. 700 to ca. 800! I was now much more credit worthy than I was before, even though my indebtedness was exactly the same! Also, I did not prove my ability to pay off loaned funds at all! But, now I was an “excellent” credit risk where before I was only a “good” credit risk.

Ironically, my S&L checked my FICO score to assess whether I was worthy of the signature loan (aka no collateral loan) when they processed my loan application.

So, what do I conclude from all of this?

I conclude we have been conned. FICO scores (created by a private credit scoring concern . . . I wonder what their corporate values are?) are part of an institutional effort to make sure we are indebted to the system to the max. They are designed to make sure that we can borrow much more than we are prepared to repay in any one year or even one decade. They are a tool of the lending institutions and the financial elites who are now running the whole fucking show!

That Donald Trump is one of their minions doesn’t help one fucking bit. I feel I want to go around the world apologizing to people in all of the countries of the planet for electing the abomination who is Donald Trump and for supporting an American system that oppresses so many people, including our own.

 

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