Class Warfare Blog

September 21, 2017

Wealth Concentration Has Consequences, Severe Ones

I guess I can’t recommend to economic good sense of Yves Smith enough. In her latest post, Insanely Concentrated Wealth is Strangling our Prosperity she makes the simple point, and backs it up with irrefutable evidence, that the biggest problem with wealth concentration is that the wealthy don’t spend their wealth. As they accumulate more and more, that is wealth taken out of circulation, and becoming idle it does no one else any good. Job Creators, my ass.

Advertisements

September 19, 2017

Drowning in a Sea of Bullshit

William Mathis is Vice-Chairman of the Vermont Board of Education and Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center. He recently wrote “Losing our Purpose, Measuring the Wrong Things.” Here are a couple of quotes from that document:

Having high test scores was falsely linked to national economic performance. In hyperbolic overdrive, the 1983 Nation at Risk report thundered, ‘the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people.’

After 35 years of this same Chicken Little jeremiad, the nation is still the premier economy of the world, leads the world in patents, registers record high stock prices, and is second in international manufacturing. (For the nation as a whole, the independent Bureau of Labor Statistics demonstrates that we do not have a math and science shortage).

By declaring schools ‘failures,’ public monies were increasingly diverted to private corporations. Yet, after a half-century of trials, there is no body of evidence that shows privatized schools are better or less expensive. Large-scale voucher programs actually show substantial score declines. The plain fact is that privatization, even at its best, does not have sufficient power to close the achievement gap—but it segregates. It imperils the unity of schools and society. This proposed solution works against the very democratic and equity principles for which public systems were formed.

Spot on. How many truth tellers will it take to get people off of the current set of false narratives? I cannot answer that question, except to say “more.”

September 18, 2017

I Will Repeat This as Often as is Necessary

On the latest episode of Bill Maher’s program (Real Time on HBO), both the host, Mr. Maher, and his two guests: Salmon Rushdie and Fran Leibowitz collectively missed the point over and over as to why the Democrats don’t have their act together. They pointed to Democrats trying to play fair when the Republicans don’t bother with the niceties, and complained that there is a branch of the Democratic Party that wants true leftist ideology in their candidates, and then there is racism.

Hello? Wrong. Wrong. Partially wrong. Donald Trump won the last election because the American people are fed up with the status quo … period.

This indelibly racist country went so far as to elect a Black man president as a statement that we were fed up with the status quo. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama cast his lot with the corporate Democrats and what we got, with or without GOP opposition, was essentially more of the same.

So, we grabbed the biggest monkey wrench available, Mr. Trump, and cast it into the gears of the government.

And, yet, the pundits still don’t get it. Neither, of course, do the politicians.

The Democrats started the process of “losing their grip on reality” in the 1970’s. They felt their coalition of working people, teachers, unions, and racial minorities wasn’t strong enough for the new America being created. So, they distanced themselves from unions, racial minorities, and working people and embraced their new core constituency: professionals. This started pretty much under Bill Clinton. Remember the Clintons and their movement to the center? Oh, that’s right, they are both still around peddling the kinds of things that have been gutting the middle class for the last, say, 50 years! Bill was for NAFTA, Hillary was for TPP (and on and on …).

So, in the last election, the Democrats couldn’t have picked a candidate more representive of the status quo than Hillary Clinton. Her new book (I haven’t read it but people are falling all over themselves quoting it to me) proves that she doesn’t “get it” either.

The American middle class, once the biggest segment of the American economic spectrum, has been decimated over and over again. Individual workers today make less than they did 50 years ago when adjusted for inflation. No part of the American Dream included that little fact. The only reason that American families have made any headway at all is because millions of American women took jobs … not because they wanted to, but because they had to establish a decent standard of middle class life for their children.

With the Great Recession of 2008, a lot of people, unable to find decent work, have dropped out of the job market, moving us more toward the 1970’s in that regard, too.

The middle class is hurting. Consider Donald Trump to be a howl of anger and pain. If we don’t “get the message” soon, what will be the next signal sent? I shudder to think.

September 14, 2017

Racism is as American as Baseball

Filed under: Culture,Race,Sports — Steve Ruis @ 10:53 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Some baseball fans unfurled a banner with the above printed on it at last night’s Red Sox baseball game. Of course they were ejected … for telling the truth. (Actually there is a team policy forbidding “signs of any kind to be hung or affixed to the ballpark,” but I was feeling snarky writing this.)

Actually I believe this statement is true but baseball may show us the way forward. Baseball had a racist past. Early on, people of color played but soon enough, Backs and Hispanics were banned from the professional game. (There were still plenty of “colored” baseball players, but they usually were relegated to playing on and against teams made up of just Black and Brown players in front of Black and Brown audiences.)

In 1942, as almost everyone knows, the “color barrier” in white, major league baseball was broken by Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey. Robinson, the player, took the abuse on the field while Rickey, the schemer behind the effort, took the abuse from other baseball executives and from fans in his mail.

Many brave actions were taken by players supporting members of their own team and many despicable actions were taken by players not supporting members of their own team but eventually everything was sorted out. I saw my first major league professional game in 1958 and by then there were quite a number of Black and Brown players. What I did not know was that even my team, the S.F. Giants, had a self-segregated clubhouse. The Blacks kept to themselves, the Hispanic players kept to themselves, and the whites kept to themselves, mostly.

Fast forward to now and you see major league teams in which Black, Brown, and White players mingle, enjoy each other’s company off of the field, support one another when they have family issues, etc. It isn’t a perfect world, but it is far, far better than where it began.

Sports teams, in general, have embraced Rodney King’s plea of “Can’t we all just get along?”

The U.S. is not the last bastion of racism. Racism is a live and well elsewhere around the world. But racism is a smear on a facade of a country claiming to be a better place, an exceptional place. It is time we address our racist past and our racist present and make ourselves an exception, rather than a manifestation of the rule.

September 9, 2017

NRA Quietly Backing Democratic Presidential Candidates

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:43 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

The NRA has been quietly funding some Democratic candidates for president for the 2020 election, noted an inside source. The election of Donald Trump has been a disaster for the guns and ammunition manufacturers. Without the threat of a progressive administration “taking away our guns,” there has been no impetus to stock up and guns and ammo sales have plummeted.

While Mr. Obama was president, gun sales soared as repeated NRA campaigns focused on plans of the Obama administration to confiscate Americans’ guns. During Mr. Obama’s time, of course, no such plans were made, neither were there actions taken, with only a few mild suggestions to Congress for reforms. Mandatory background checks at gun shows or universal background checks were recommended, even a one gun per month limit on sales was suggested but none of these were acted upon. Still the threat of confiscation was a constant topic in the circle of gun owners.

Since the election of Mr. Trump, the sales of guns and ammunition have fallen dramatically. While the NRA will not admit it publicly, privately officials are saying that a Democratic president will be much better for business, hence the attempts to support candidates now. Early money is like yeast, our source told us.

August 27, 2017

Correct Religious Belief … or Not?

Filed under: History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:31 am
Tags: , , , , ,

All three Abrahamic religions seem to be worshiping the same god, just in different ways, so why is there strife between them? Why doesn’t one see any “Isn’t that cute?” attitudes or attitudes of “Isn’t that interesting, they do it differently.” Such attitudes abound in cooking, fashion design, home design, and myriad other endeavors such that “cultural appropriation” has become a topic being discussed because people borrow so much.

Why do religions condemn other practices as incorrect beliefs? On the surface they seem to be warning others that (a) those beliefs are wrong and will get you in trouble and (b) our beliefs are right and will lead you to salvation. But even fundamentalist Christian sects who believe that all you need to be saved is to “accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior” and voila! you are saved have this same behavior. Those sects have differences with other sects making the same claims.

These differences have led to and continue to lead to wars and war-like attitudes and activities. Wars broke out between Catholics and Protestants (kind of the Empire and the Rebel Alliance of Christianity) in the sixteenth century and the Sunni-Shia battles continue to this day and have lasted for over a thousand years. (The Catholic-Protestant wars lasted only a paltry century and a half for comparison.)

These facts seem to suggest that the differences between disputed are really important, but are they? If such differences were something other than the squabbles of small-minded people, that is they were really important, would not modern churches have education programs explaining the differences and why they are important to their own parishioners as well as to prospective new ones? I do not see a whole lot of “why we are different” or “why we are better” campaigns being voiced by churches. At the other end of the spectrum, I don’t see a lot of local programs addressing how “we are all one” or “we are all in this together” either. It is as if, all of these religious sects were in … wait a minute …

… it seems as they are all in competition with one another.

Competition for membership, competition for wealth, competition for political power. As in advertising, you never mention the name of your competitors (although that rule is breaking down a bit now) because you don’t want to bring other options up in the minds of potential customers. These sects don’t make comparisons, at least not often, with other sects because one would have to explain who they were, what they believed, how many of them there were, etc. Usually the are just dismissed out of hand (They are not True Christians™!). The goal is definitely not to convince others of what the right beliefs are so that we all will be saved, their goals are much more parochial.

I suggest that if these myriad religious sects were to actually try to convince people openly of the rightness of their beliefs, the differences being focussed upon would rather quickly become equivalent to the discussion regarding how many angels might dance on the head of a pin. They would appear silly and small-minded. It would bring ridicule into play and rather quickly.

The religious sphere seems to be drifting inexorably into postmodernism in which all beliefs need to be respected because they are all “sincere” and equally valid thereby. Each sect has it’s market share and the promise, false or true, of more membership in the near future.

If actual competition for “who has the correct beliefs” were to occur, who knows how that would go? Better to stick with the safe present rather and a possibly dim future, they think. (This thinking is the same as the thinking of the churches debating whether there should be separation of church and state during the debate over the U.S. Constitution. The evangelicals, including the ones calling for a Christian Nation designation now, were all for the separation because they could see themselves being losers in the battle for state recognition as the “official religion” of this or that state or the U.S. as a whole.)

Currently, the religions in this country enjoy tax relief (even the fucking Scientologists!), they are mostly respected (why I am not sure, other than it is traditional), and the know the rules of the game they are in. It would be a hard sell to get them to shove “all in” to try to win the biggest hand they would ever play.

Anybody can open a church with little forethought, and if they can garner enough support from those who live nearby, can make a go of it. Some of these entrepreneurial churches then seek affiliation with larger bodies for the same reason unions and other collective efforts affiliate with “parent organizations.” But a quick trip to perdition awaits those who do not play by the rules. They will be hassled to death by other sects and by the governments we have created. There is a definite “don’t rock the boat” message implying a “we have a good thing here, don’t mess it up” attitude. Even so, there seems to be a lot of room in the Abrahamic god’s tent, because otherwise, how does one explain “prosperity gospel” churches. (“Sure, Jesus said rich people don’t have a hope in Hell of making it into Heaven, but join us and we’ll explain what He really meant!”)

But it is key to note that to open a new church, you have to be offering something different from the competition, so this current system encourages increasing diversity in the religious message, so rather than bringing us all to the same correct belief, it is expanding the possible number of beliefs, each of which is almost guaranteed to be at least partly wrong.

Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue if a church or denomination were to announce a conclave to determine which beliefs are indeed correct and lead to salvation? Who would get a seat at that table? How many representative voices would each entity get? (Giving one seat to the Catholic Church and one seat to the Church of What’s Happening Now would seem to be not balanced.) How would decisions be made? (Voting doesn’t seem very religious. Maybe on each item each stakeholder could light a candle and the one that burned longest would indicate God’s will? This is a tough one.) And, the really big one: if this conclave actual determined what the correct beliefs were, how many regular people would be convinced? I suspect there would be a wholesale retreat to the hills by guerrilla churches to continue the war. (Imagine them ending up going: “Dang, Islam was right all along.”)

Even if the correct beliefs have already been listed somewhere, what is the chance they would be recognized as correct? Since every danged sect has its adherents, it seems that there is no set of beliefs that will get some people to sign on to. There seems to be no way out of this trap, except for a lucky few, who I am sure when they got to Heaven would say, “Hey, where is everybody?” Maybe this is just another reason not to believe at all: there is no way to determine if what you believe is effective. In most cases, we don’t even know why it is we believe what we believe, so going the next step in correcting our beliefs, that is to make them more correct until one has perfected them, seems a hopeless task. (Hint: it is.)

August 17, 2017

Moving from Making War For the People to Making War On the People

As the Republicans are busy shrinking government until it is left with just two functions: making war/protecting borders and protecting contracts (especially corporate ones, but not labor ones), we would do well to understand how they got to their current position.

In 1994 John Ehrlichman, President Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser and a Watergate co-conspirator, confessed this to the author Dan Baum:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

The strategy, particularly of locking up Black people for drug offences, continues to this day. Convicted criminals lose the right to vote in many states. Convicted criminals lose most if not all job opportunities. Convicted criminals lose their voice. All good for Republicans, who are making war on the people, not for the people.

The Republican Party:
Systematically Disenfranchising Black Voters Since 1968

(Actually much earlier, but that didn’t make for a snappy slogan. S)

August 12, 2017

I Don’t Get It

If you look at the updated somewhat notorious graph below, you can see that worker productivity has been detached from worker wages starting in the 1970’s. This was the result of a concerted campaign by the very wealthy to suppress wages by suppressing labor unions, getting tax code changes in their favor which transfer tax liabilities off of them and onto other Americans, even by suppressing voting.

This has created a great deal of economic distress in the bottom 90% of economic Americans and will result in a backlash. What I do not understand is the strategy. Going from astonishingly rich to fucking rich changes the lifestyles of those rich people exactly how? Is it just getting their way, at least for the while until the backlash, that makes this worth doing?

Even Henry Ford understood that if you paid better wages, you would get much of that back through one’s employees becoming one’s customers. Hell, these rich people invented the company store, where laborer’s wages got sucked back to the employer through required purchasing of the goods to survive. Those stores are no longer allowed, but Henry Ford knew that his employees, once they had the wherewithal to purchase a car, were going to buy one of his because of loyalty generated through his paying better than normal wages to his workers. (It is called gratitude.)

But, the current crop of rich bastards would rather strip away the ability to buy the goods their companies produce and, what, sell those goods overseas? When the pitchforks and torches finally end up circling their gated communities, will the plutocrats wonder why their employees aren’t more loyal to them? Are they that stupid? Do they think we do not see what they are doing?

August 8, 2017

So What?

There is a major climate change report out (and it ain’t good news) that is awaiting approval by various agencies. The draft document has been leaked to the NY Times, if not other sources, and in a NYT report the following was stated: “The E.P.A. is one of 13 agencies that must approve the report by Aug. 18. The agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt, has said he does not believe that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.”

“The agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt, has said he does not believe that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.” Interesting. My response is “So what?”

Is Mr. Pruitt even qualified to have such an opinion? Let’s see … Mr. Pruitt was trained as a lawyer before he went into politics. Well, he might have specialized in environmental law, so … according to Wikipedia Mr. Pruitt “entered into private practice in Tulsa where he specialized in constitutional law, contracts, insurance law, labor law, and litigation and appeals.” Hmmm, no mention of environmental law. Maybe he has undertaken an extensive review of the scientific literature on climate change, you know, read a few thousand journal articles, attended conferences, that kind of thing? Anybody got a guess as to how likely that was? Yeah, I came up with zero percent, too. He has no training, has put in no study, so he knows squat of that which he judges.

Mr. Pruitt has no basis for his opinion other than political ideology, so his opinion is irrelevant at best. I suggest he may be making the same mistake as the Kim Davis of 15-minute fame. She confused her job as one of exercising her personal judgment instead of determining whether all laws were complied with in the issuance of a marriage license. Mr. Pruitt may think that his opinion has merit. It does not. His job is to ascertain whether departmental protocols were followed in the creation of the report, and if so, sign the damned thing.

Apparently President Trump also has an opinion … <sigh> … okay, Mr. Trump was trained, er, graduated from the Wharton School of Business at the U. of Pennsylvania….

August 6, 2017

The Invisible Lesson of Martin Shkreli

The New Yorker described Mr. Shkreli as “A former hedge-fund entrepreneur and drug-company C.E.O., Shkreli came to prominence while he was running a company called Turing Pharmaceuticals. During his tenure, Turing bought a drug called Daraprim, which is used to treat rare but serious parasitic infections in AIDS patients, and Shkreli raised the price per pill from thirteen dollars and fifty cents to seven hundred and fifty dollars, sparking public condemnation and outrage.”

That guy. He just lost a lawsuit, brought by the government, that accused him of fraud.

What’s missing here is something you should not mistake. In all of the current discussions regarding freedom, religious freedom, political freedom, campaign finance freedom, etc., Mr. Shkreli’s was the freedom they were talking about, not your idea of freedom.

The plutocratic cabal, now in charge of our governments, by and large wants the freedom to pursue their interests (primarily involving getting as rich as they may) without collective opposition. They do not want laws being passed, or movements recognized, or any group activity whatsoever being recognized. They want labor unions gone, they want government limited to very basic basics, they want their right to do business as they see fit unfettered. If indentured servitude were to be promoted now, they would not be opposed.

According to them, Mr. Shkreli’s freedom to change the price of a pill from $13.50 to $750 is his and his alone and everybody else should butt out. For some of this, I tend to agree. I do not think people should be sent to jail for being assholes (too expensive, would need to build too many prisons, etc.) but capitalism is and has been our problem for a very long time. Unregulated, capitalism leads to doom, just like any other economic ideology (communism, socialism, etc.). The people collectively need to confine ideas that have this much scope and reach.

The idiots promoting this “freedom” think that competition is an absolute good, yet they do not really believe this, otherwise their children would be thrown into the public schools to compete and excel and survive and not sent to “country day” schools and then Harvard and then given a lofty position in their family’s company.

The plutocrats are definitely in a “this is good for us but not you” cadre and they need to be restrained from harming the rest of us. Instead they have gotten the upper hand in restraining us from causing them any harm. Look to see Mr. Shkreli’s verdict overturned in a higher court. (The plutocrats own the Supreme Court and a few of the federal circuit courts at this point.)

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.