Class Warfare Blog

July 17, 2017

Hulk, No, God Smash!

Filed under: Morality,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:13 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I quote Persedeplume (of MyDoorIsAjar):
I’d like to meet the god who isn’t angry, or coming back angry, or about to wreak retribution on some massive scale. I’d like to think we can get along without unnecessary suffering. I’d like to think life is hard enough and the “rite of passage” where we’re all accepted as adults is to have done it with grace, dignity, help from our friends and family, and love.”

We seem to prefer such angry gods, even angry gods with the label “the god of love.” One philosopher points out that we respect power and anytime a god does something massively powerful, we respond to the exhibition of power, even if we bear the brunt of that power.

The dominant religion in this country is basically incoherent … except that the believers believe that their god has immense power to grant boons and to punish. If a boon is granted, then we are supposed to be grateful. If we suffer from some such display of power, then we are being punished for being bad. (Pat Robertson blamed the tsunami in Indonesia on homosexual sinners.) So, no matter what happens to us, it is due to their god’s actions.

This very same religion claims that a son of their god was sacrificed to absolve us of our sins (sins being disobedience of their god’s wishes). Later they claimed that the “son of god” was really their god himself (in disguise?). I have yet to see how this human sacrifice has any effect on anything. Was the suffering of the crucifixion equal to all of the suffering of all of the innocents up to that time? Apparently not. It was merely symbolic. So, how does symbolic suffering of an innocent person wipe away the criminal records of all of us? While the symbology is painted vividly (our sins were “washed away” by the blood of Christ, etc.) it still makes no sense. How did this action pay our fines, or serve our sentences for us?

And, as I have argued before, the god Jesus could not die, only his human wrapper could, and what is one more human sacrifice to the God of Abraham, who once directed King David to take a census of his men and when David did that, his god upbraids him and punishes him for counting what is not his (they were his god’s soldiers, not David’s, don’t you see). So, David is punished by his god slaughtering 70,000 of his soldiers! I suspect David also had to go to bed without supper that night. There seems to be no record of what the 70,000 felt, nor do we know what happened to them in the afterlife. (Are they still burning in the Lake of Fire or shambling around in the dark of Sheol?)

So, if David’s “crime” of following his god’s directives was salved with 70,000 deaths, what could one death do for all of humanity? Especially when you consider that neither the god nor his offspring died, just the human wrapper. Plus, even after this “real death” experience, that wrapper got to live again. What happened to it when the son of god rose to Heaven isn’t explained. Is Heaven air conditioned? Is there food for a human body? Does Jesus have to inhabit the body 24-7 and does it just stand idle when he does not? There are just so many issues not covered by scripture.

July 6, 2017

One Used to Be Able to Assume at Least as Good of a Life than One’s Parents …

Science has the unenviable position of coming along and proving what everyone already knows. I remember reading newspaper stories stating amazement that scientists would even bother proving what everyone already knows. Silly creatures.

But “what everybody knows” doesn’t turn out to be correct all of the time. This is why one constantly checks one’s assumptions, as they can turn up to bite you where it hurts.

So, a new study firmly nails down that the lifetime earnings of Americans are in decline. We are producing new generations that will not do as well as prior one’s. And those results stem not from not working hard, but from the usual culprits, largely wage suppression by the plutocrats.

Read it and weep (Lifetime Incomes in the United States over Six Decades)! (The abstract is free, the article $5.)

And regarding the various claims as to who is waging class war, let it be known far and wide: it is those with the most money.

June 24, 2017

Call Them Scum and See them Flock to Your State!

Who said “ye shall reap what ye sow?” (That particular phrase is not in the Bible, but equivalent phrases are, many times.)

Republicans have been beating on teachers for years, calling them “pigs at the public trough,” and undermining their collective bargaining rights, as well as blaming them for all of the ills of our public schools. (The last complaint is like blaming auto workers for the bad designs of General Motors cars in the late twentieth century.)

The law of unintended consequences applies, though, and Nevada, a leading Republican bastion, is facing a 22% shortage (!), that’s one in five, in qualified teachers in their schools (see here). Who needs ‘em, you ask? Ask the kids in classes that have one of the bodies plugged into place in their stead. The qualifications for teachers were not established by teachers, they were established by democratically-elected school boards and democratically-elect law makers to set minimum standards of competence for teachers. What does it say when your schools boast of having one of five teachers not up to minimum standards?

But then, many in the GOP are in favor of doing away with democratically-elected school boards anyway. Replace them with corporate boards. They are much more responsible to their communities needs.

Missing in all of this is the reason the GOP and their conservative backers have gone after unions: basically teachers tend to vote democratic and had the temerity to form unions which not only work for better benefits and rights for teachers, but also advocate for students. Them students should learn to sit down and shut up and be happy with whatever paycheck they end up with.

Too much democracy is not a good thing. This is also why GOP state governments are disempowered local jurisdictions (cities, counties, etc.) wholesale.

This is not “alt-right” stuff but alternate universe stuff. Sheesh!

June 22, 2017

Trumpcare Will Remove Drug Addiction Treatment Because …

According to Nicholas Kristof’s NY Times column today:

A Times investigation published this month estimated that more than 59,000 Americans died in 2016 of drug overdoses, in the largest annual jump in such deaths ever recorded in the U.S. One reason is the spread of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is cheap and potent, leading to overdoses.

About as many Americans are expected to die this year of drug overdoses as died in the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.”

Read that last sentence again and then line it up with the GOP plan to remove addiction treatment from insurance policy requirements.

Now you know where their hearts are: the GOP is only interested in tax cuts for the wealthy. The rest of us, very, very little.

June 6, 2017

And the Cure for Immorality … Jesus!

Over the last century and a half, the impact of evangelical protestant Christians on our culture has only grown. Their basic message was and is that the immorality riddling our society can only be cured by accepting Jesus into your heart. (Our current Vice-president and former president George W. Bush are both of this ilk.) They have risen into the political stratosphere of this country to the extent that they are determining policy efforts in major ways to put their ideology into the form of laws governing us all.

But, is their claim correct? To test it, I decided to check some numbers. If they are right, then the prisons should be populated with heathens, pagans, and members of all of those other non-Christian misbegotten religions. The wonderful people at www.fivethirtyeight.com supplied some data, to wit:

This chart compares the population of prisoners to that of the general population. For example: atheists are roughly 10 times more likely to be found in the general population than in prison. Huh, maybe being an atheist  leads to a crime-free life. With Catholics, it seems to be a push, the percent of prisoners reporting to be Catholics is the same as reported by the general populace.

Protestants, which would include the evangelicals are very close to 1:1, maybe 2:1?, indicating that, if Jesus is the cure, apparently it doesn’t work so well, certainly not as well as being an atheist. Of course, the Evangelicals have prepared spin for this situation which is that those people in prison have not truly accepted Jesus into their hearts and, thus, “are not true Christians.” This, of course, is not based upon knowing anything about the prisoners, just that their ideology proclaims that “true Christians” cannot do illegal things, by definition.

If they were looking for a cure, look at the Pentecostals. Very few of them run afoul of the law, so these Evangelicals should be selling Pentecostalism as the cure for society’s immorality, not evangelicalism.

For those wanting to paint Pagans, Muslims, and Native Americans as “real bad guys” and blame their religious affiliation, we need to look in a mirror. We have been locking up non-White people for a very long time for, well, not being white. If a white person had committed their crimes, they would more likely be in county jails for a shorter time or get off scot-free.* The surest way to avoid a murder wrap is to kill someone while wearing a policeman’s uniform. We do not want to believe our police are capable of irrational killings, so they don’t. Our faith is indeed strong.

* So as to prevent illiterate criticism of my use of the term scot-free, please be aware that “scot,” in this case, is from the Old Norse word “skot” meaning something to the effect of “payment” or “contribution.” In English, “scot” initially just meant “tax.” The phrase scot-free was first used in reference to municipal tax levies. It does not refer to a Scot, which is a person of Scottish descent. Currently, only rich Republicans seek the phrase as a descriptor.

May 20, 2017

An Argument for a Minimum Wage

There have been myriad studies about the impact of having a minimum wage. Some indicate that there is no particularly strong linkage between creating a higher wage for low wage workers and some indicate that a rise in the min wage causes unemployment.

The politicians arguing against a min wage use a very simplified argument: namely that if employers have to pay their workers more, they will only be able to hire so many workers, mostly fewer. This is way too simple in thinking this. For one, if people are paid more money, they then spend more money (what goes around, comes around) which is good for business. There are many more facets to this issue.

If labor costs go up, and they have myriad times due to labor contracts, etc. how, oh how, do companies cope? (Yes, I am being sarcastic.) The amount of money that goes to labor in any company is not a fixed amount or even a fixed percentage of the company’s budget. There are many, many ways that those increased labor costs can be offset. For one, you can raise prices for the goods created. You could decrease profits. You could find other ways to reduce operating costs (reduce energy costs by going solar, etc.).

Knee jerk responses to these actions abound, of course. “If we raise prices, we will reduce sales!” Really? Companies never raise prices, then? C’mon, get real. Just raising prices alone, of course, is the lazy way to deal with increased labor costs; a combination of actions would be better.

Most of these minimum wage discussions are shallow and politically motivated. Basically, the opponents of min wage increases give minimal arguments and only add to them if we don’t accept (aka we reject vehemently) their overly simplistic argument.

Let me explain a real reason for min wage increases. Minimum wage increases are justified for the simple reason is that business interests (aka the plutocrats) have conspired to suppress wages for a long, long time. This involves bribing politicians to undermine union powers and privileges, delaying minimum wage increases, changing the laws in favor of employers over employees, etc. They have been particularly effective over the past 40 years (see the chart below as to the effectiveness of wage suppression over the past 40 years). The only power source of ordinary people to oppose these powerful business interests is government. The cabal wants wages low (too low) and so government must set a floor on wages. It is not simple but at least that is the political dynamic.

If you want to see this playing out right now, consider the current stance of the GOP. The GOP has been the champion of local rights for a long time. Education, for example, should not be a federal issue, but should reside in the states, with the states deferring to local communities and their school boards. So, what has been the GOP response to cities who have enacted their own min wage increases? GOP dominated states are passing laws to roll back those democratically achieved minimum wage increases and to bar such local increases in the future. Local control doesn’t mean a fig when the GOP’s paymasters issue directives (You will keep wages down, or else).

May 15, 2017

Economists Fail and Fail and Fail …

I could envision a role for economists in modern society except they continue to be willfully blind. They are blind because they have their heads so far up their asses.

Follow me now. Before the Great Depression, economists were only interested in small economic exchanges. But the misery of the Great Depression created the impetus to look at the economies of entire countries, even regions. Macroeconomics was born. (The goal was to prevent depressions, even recessions from ever occurring again.)

Like the “old” economics, microeconomics, certain simplifying assumptions had to be made and like the old economics, the simplifying assumptions lead to completely false conclusions. In microeconomics we ended up with the philosophy that markets were self-correcting and created an optimal economic situation. This dogma is, in truth, a piece of wishful thinking on the part of these academics. They wanted something that seemed directed at keeping the fairy systems they created balanced and whole. This belief that markets are benign and create a natural equilibrium inside of a larger economy still exists today as a political goal of those profiting from that mistaken assumption.

Macroeconomics, not to be out done, also had to make some “simplifying assumptions,” in its quest to understand how to prevent events like large recessions and depressions. In order to make things “doable” they decided to include the role banks play in our national economy but leave out finance. For reasons strange to a casual observer to understand, they also decided to leave out private debt. So, what has been the role of finance in the last 40-50 years in the U.S.? It has been to “financialize” the economy to the point that Wall Street doesn’t serve businesses in the manner you learned in school (by providing capital for businesses to modernize, expand, etc.) but now businesses exist to serve Wall Street. The money generated through finance has created a class of oligarchs who have captured the mechanisms of government and are now running it for their own benefit. They went on to shift governmental burdens off of businesses and onto private citizens, so that private debt has ballooned mightily, leaving citizens with little to buy anything with after ordinary expenses and debt service.

And what do economists have to say? “Move along, nothing to see here,” like all good Stormtroopers. One has to wonder whether the rich of a hundred years ago, having taken such a financial beating in the Great Depression, didn’t guide the creation of modern economic theory as a way for them to get back to the top and stay there. And this time, they are serious about hanging on, no matter what it does to you, me, or the country as a whole.

We Don’ Need No Protection Cause Racism Ain’t No More

According to The Nation magazine:

“On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, ruling that states with the longest histories of voting discrimination no longer had to approve their voting changes with the federal government. A month after that decision, North Carolina – where 40 counties were previously subject to that requirement – passed the country’s most sweeping voting restrictions.

“The state required strict voter ID to cast a ballot, cut a week of early voting and eliminated same-day voter registration, out of precinct voting and pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds. On July 29, 2016, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit invalidated these restrictions, which it said targeted African Americans “with almost surgical precision” in violation of the Voting Rights Act and 14th Amendment.”

If I remember rightly, the Supreme Court argued that singling out those states for “special treatment” under the Voting Rights Act (basically requiring any changes to voting laws to be screened for approval by the Justice Department) wasn’t needed any more because, well those states had reformed and were no longer what they were. Besides there’s racism everywhere.

So, here we are just under four years later addressing racist voting regulations which “targeted African Americans ‘with almost surgical precision’ in violation of the Voting Rights Act and 14th Amendment”  in one of those very states. I am sure glad their ain’ no racists no more in No’th Carolina.

Three cheers for the Supreme Court … uh, no?

April 25, 2017

They Are Just Better Than Us … and Getting Betterer

Filed under: Economics,Morality — Steve Ruis @ 10:40 am
Tags: , , ,

Notes on How the Class War is Going (Hint: You Are Losing Worse, Much Worse.)

According to an article in Bloomberg News: “… the poorest fifth of 50-year-old American men can now expect to live just past 76, six months shy of the previous generation. The richest 50-year-olds should make it almost to 89, seven years longer than their parents’ generation.

The richest people in the U.S. aren’t just getting several years of extra life, they’re also reaping a financial reward for their longevity – courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. These trends will be crucial as the new administration and Congress consider any changes to Social Security, Medicare, and other programs. Even tweaks to these programs, from the retirement age to benefit formulas, could affect the rich and poor very differently.

Three decades ago, the richest and poorest retirees could expect about the same amount of benefits out of government programs. The richest generally got larger Social Security payouts, both by qualifying for higher checks and by living longer. The poorest got more out of other programs, such as Medicaid and Social Security disability insurance. Medicare offered about the same benefits to rich and poor.

If you believe that “things just keep getting better,” as I used to, I think you have to expand your thinking to see for whom they are getting better and for whom they are getting betterer, much betterer.

And if you think this is happening by accident, think again. Consider just the attempt to raise the retirement age of Social Security to the age of 70. This would reduce the average number of years of payout for that lower cohort to six years (zero if you are Black) but wouldn’t negatively affect the richer cohort much at all. But it would forestall the most commonsense argument: removing the cap on Social Security wages, currently at $127K and change. So, if you make millions of dollars, you pay SS tax on the first $127K and then nothing on the rest. Removing that cap would dip significantly into the pockets of the rich, something making foregoing five years of SS income pale in comparison. This is why the rich want that solution (age 70 for benefits) rather than the cap removal. So, now you know why such a poor solution to any SS problem gets so much ink. (They own the news media, too, don’t you know.)

If you don’t believe there is a class war going on, it doesn’t matter, you are still losing.

April 23, 2017

A Vision of Rational Decision Making Denied

In a comment on another site, I stated that I had an overarching goal for my teaching “career,” which was the promotion of rational decision making and that I retired from that profession a defeated man. In my last post I commented that “Currently scientists are seeing that we tend to think better in groups, that no individual has all of the puzzle pieces but in communication with others, clusters of puzzle pieces get formed, and then clusters combine to make larger clusters.” We are social animals; we work better in groups. Now we find that we even think better in groups.

My work on rational decision making lead me to this same conclusion. You see, we invested in “interest-based decision making.” This came about as an investigation of less confrontational collective bargaining processes, but we realized it applied to all collective decisions.

I will not bore you with regard to the details of this process but I will point out two of the keystones. The first is that at the beginning of every decision-making process was a complete investigation of “the problem.” Before a problem could be addressed, everyone needed to know what it was and understand it, so this took up much of the “decision-making time.” It also paid immediate benefits. Groups did come together to “address an issue” only to find out that when they tried to clarify it, all involved decided it was not a problem. In one case labor and management came together to solve a problem only to find out that for management, there was no problem, that the problem that labor had to resolve. Management offered support but felt it was not a “stakeholder” in the issue, so should not be making any decisions about it. Labor concurred.

The second keystone was before solutions to identified problems were explored, the “interests” of all of the people involved had to be shared. These were the conditions and reasons that any solution had to satisfy to be viable. Typically, all solutions had to be affordable, had to not break laws, etc. But when exploring the interests of a group, interests like “being seen to be playing fair” arose, as did “fulfilling fiduciary responsibilities,” and “displaying competence.” This part of the process was called “putting the why before the what.” This was especially important for people just “wanting to have a seat at the table,” to be involved. Many people want to be involved, but if the do not have any interests a solution needs to satisfy, they aren’t a stakeholder and do not need to be involved.

This process seems, from the outside, to be cumbersome and it can be but is actually very efficient over time. Over time, the interests of groups become clear and known. People show up to interactions having clarified their idea and have brought any data they think pertinent (usually sharing it ahead of time) as to what problems are so that phase can be addressed rapidly. The big plus is that the solutions that come out of this process are just better. they are more accepted by the decision-making group, who share their acceptance widely and that gets people on board and buying in more rapidly. And better solutions need less tweaking and last longer, a definite bonus. Plus, it was easier to recognize good solutions, because to get that label, an idea had to solve the problem and meet all of the interests of the parties involved.

One example of such a solution is that my last employer, a $150 million a year enterprise, never negotiated salaries with labor. The reason? Each labor segment of the enterprise received a percentage of the income of the business. If revenue went up, everyone got raises. If revenue went down, salaries could go down, but in reality, people were motivated to find cost savings so that did not happen but the process was in place if it had to. As a labor negotiator, I was shocked that labor gave up negotiating salary because that was our “big hammer.” We would always save salaries until last and negotiate working conditions, et. al., first. If we were denied any progress in the early stages, the wage demands would get larger and firmer. This was Negotiating 101. But here I saw management and labor jointly trying to solve problems without the “big hammer” hanging over their heads, because they honestly wanted to be good partners and be part of the solutions, not part of the problems. Go figure.

Contrast this situation with the way we “solve problems” politically. We start with a solution. This is often a proposal or a bill. Then we “score the bill,” that is try to figure out what the costs associated with the “solution” are. Then we assess the political viability of the bill. Will there be enough votes to pass it? Will the President sign it? Is a veto override possible?

At no point is there any effort made in sharing the problem or clarifying it for a wider audience. Instead, some simple homily is offered. Often the titles of the bills are telling, “The American Patriot Act” and “The Affordable Car Act,” or “No Child Left Behind.” And that is it. A great deal of scurrying around to get “support” from this group or that is done, but next a vote is taken (or not).

This is amazingly obfuscatory. Historically, communication was poor, so we assumed that our legislators had our best interests at heart and that they understood what the problem and the solution were and would do the right thing. Right. We quickly saw that political deal making and pandering and profiteering held more sway than some “having our best interests at heart.” But we still go about this in the same fashion even though mass communication is firmly embedded in our society.

Imagine that for any problem that legislation might be offered to solve, there were a period in which the problem had to be clarified and explained clearly and publicly. Plus the interests of all parties involved would have to be stated. If some private group, like the AMA wanted to chime in, it would have to state its interests. If that list did not include some obvious interests we know they held, then it would be clear to one and all that that group had “hidden agendas.” Those issues could then enter the public debate. (Anyone who thinks that the AMA does not have an agenda to protect the employment rights of certified doctors and prevent any doctor not so certified from working, needs to think again. All professional societies have these interests.) Then after these two phases have occurred a work group would be constituted to write the legislation. (We think better together than apart.) We would not have dueling bills, we would have one. That no one party would get all that they desire is probably the norm. That better solutions would be had than just taking the ideas of one or two people and ramming them through, would also be the norm.

Part of the listing of interests, of course, would be a listing of the “campaign contributions” from all parties affected by the legislation to the legislators.

I guess you can see why I feel defeated. I have participated in both processes. One builds relationships, increases job satisfaction amongst decision makers, and creates better solutions that last longer. The other … doesn’t. It is not as if we do not know how.

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