Uncommon Sense

March 15, 2021

The Anti-American Big Corporations

When it became clear to corporate leaders that the rest of the manufacturing world was catching up, what was their response? If you believed their rhetoric, it would have been to double down on American workers. These leaders would have reached out to labor unions and partnered with them to devise ways to shove American productivity, then the highest in the world, even higher. This was necessary, it is said, because while other workforces were nowhere near as productive as ours (most were not even close), the low cost of the labor in many of those countries allowed for that lack of productivity and still allowed for very healthy profit margins.

So, the segment of our society we call “corporate leaders” saw the writing on the wall and did . . . what? They lifted up themselves on their own ideology (“My Country Right or Wrong” “This is the greatest country in the world!” “American exceptionalism is what guides commerce.” etc.), rolled up their sleeves . . . and moved their factories to countries with cheaper labor.

Not long after this “movement” swept the bulk of American manufacturing jobs overseas, it was shown that the lower productivities, the difficulty of managing factories from far away, and the increased transportation costs (for both raw materials and finished goods) ate up all or most of the so-called savings harvested by moving production facilities overseas.

So, why did they do it? Mostly, it was for purposes of tax avoidance. Tariffs were low, so not much had to be paid to import those “American Made” goods (yes, they still claimed they were American made because they were made in American owned factories). But by running their “earnings” through shell corporations in low tax countries they could reduce the taxes they paid substantially.

So, this country was still their country, right or wrong, but they didn’t want to pay for any of it in either case.

We tend to exalt these corporate tycoons, but based upon their behaviors, they should be seen as pariahs instead. The taxes they avoided have been picked up by others (the rest of us and in the form of national debt). They have used political power, through bribes, er campaign donations, to gut American labor laws even after hiring new labor forces in other countries. They hate unions, just hate them. It used to be that corporate power was opposed only by labor unions and the government (remember anti-trust actions?). They eliminated the labor unions by changing the laws protecting them and protecting workers. They eliminated the government opposition by bribery, er campaign donations, and co-opting regulators (who often go to nice jobs in the industries they regulated after they leave government).

We could eliminate tax havens with a stroke of a pen, by changing the tax laws that allow for them. That does not happen because the legislators have been bought off. We could disadvantage companies who move overseas, but we don’t (guess why).

All we have the power to actually do is to change their social standing. Instead of idolizing the Jeff Bezoses and Elon Musks of this country, we should call them out on their abuses of their workers and our tax laws. These are far from nice people, we shouldn’t give them elevated social status to further inflate their already inflated egos. We should, instead, elevate what they owe to the culture and country that made what they have done possible. We should demand a higher level of civil virtue the bigger they get (. . . from those according to their ability . . . , btw this is not just to be found in Marx, but also Christian scripture). Instead we expect them to only manifest the worst of us . . . greed. Corporations have been sold the bogus idea that they should direct their efforts only to maximizing shareholder value. (Gee, I wonder who promoted that bogus idea? Step One: Find an economist needing a bit of money. Step Two: have them promote your bogus idea. Step Three: Spread a bit more cash around in economic circles to get the idea discussed. Done.)

These are the same corporations that have been making money hand over fist during the pandemic and who supported a government approach to the problem that guaranteed that the pandemic would last longer than anyone thought. Never let a good catastrophe, er opportunity, go to waste.

We are reaping what we have allowed to be sown.

May 28, 2014

Aw, shit!

According to the AP:

The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday that it had reached an enforceable deal with Duke Energy to clean up its mess from a huge coal ash spill into the Dan River. The Feb. 2 spill coated 70 miles of the river in North Carolina and Virginia with toxic gray sludge. The E.P.A. will oversee the cleanup in consultation with federal wildlife officials under provisions in the Superfund law. Duke will reimburse the federal government for its oversight costs, including those incurred in the emergency response to the spill. Coal ash, the byproduct left behind when coal is burned to generate electricity, contains numerous toxic substances, including arsenic, selenium, chromium, thallium, mercury and lead. The agreement makes no mention of any fines imposed against Duke.

The key words are “Duke will reimburse the federal government for its oversight costs” (my emphasis) meaning that others will pay for the actual cleanup costs, while Duke, which caused the mess, will pay whoever watches the cleanup to make sure it is done right.

Crony capitalism wins again!

September 7, 2013

We Don’t Have an Educational Crisis, We Have a Poverty Crisis

The current crop educational “reformers” have used “evidence” to make their case that our public schools are failing our children. Not only are they wrong, one has to question their motives for making a false case against our schools.

The evidence consists of two kinds: evidence of what are now called “failing schools” (the term didn’t exist before the reformers propaganda machine cranked up) and “international benchmarking test scores.” The evidence for schools doing really poor jobs is not hard to find. Here is why. In the U.S. as of the 2009-2010 school year, there were 98,817 public schools. Of these 67,140 were elementary schools, 24,651 were secondary schools, and the rest were “others.” In addition, we had 33,366 private schools operating that year (federal statistics). This is a huge endeavor, massive, larger than any other effort we make collectively. With this many schools operating under mostly local control with some guidance from state and federal education officials, if you couldn’t find an entire gamut of performance, you wouldn’t be trying. There are amazingly successful schools and schools so dangerous you wouldn’t want to send your kids there. There are schools with beautiful campuses and schools that look like slums because they are slums. You can find anything with this many examples. So, arguments from example allows cherry picking and is unlikely to give anyone a true indication of the status of public schools as a whole.

“When you correct for socioeconomic status, private schools perform no better than
public schools, charter schools perform no better than public schools, and test scores
on international benchmarking tests show us at or near the top.
So what is the problem, really?”

This is where the international testing schemes come into play. The U.S. is listed far down the list of performances on math and English and science they say. This is actually true. But at one point the U.S. was ranked far down the list of science performance yet the team from the U.S. won the Science Olympiad, a worldwide competition. These students must have all attended tony prep schools, you say. Nope. The contradiction is explained in that the U.S. has greater economic inequity than any other developed country. Poverty has been proven to be a cause of poor academic performance (proven, not suggested or suspected) and when you select out American students who share the same economic characteristics as the top performers in those other countries, the U.S. is right at the top with them. (The U.S. built the world’s largest economy after WW2 with lower international test score performances, by the way.)

“The real problem is poverty. And the solutions offered by the education “reformers”
which are to apply business principles to education, don’t even work in business
situations, have no research showing they will work in our educational system, and
are designed to fix a problem that does not exist.”

So, what is the real problem? When you correct for socioeconomic status, private schools perform no better than public schools, charter schools perform no better than public schools, and test scores on international benchmarking tests show us at or near the top. So what is the problem, really?

The real problem is poverty. And the solutions offered by the education “reformers” which are to apply business principles to education, don’t even work in business situations, have no research showing they will work in our educational system, and are designed to fix a problem that does not exist.

Blaming teachers for poor educational performance when the educational performance in question isn’t poor is irrational. Blaming schools for poor educational performance when the educational performance in question isn’t poor based on anything in control of the school is irrational.

So, why are they doing this? The evidence is rolling in now about large charter school operations making very large amounts of money delivering education to our children. The education they are delivering shows no improvements over the public schools they replaced, so why are we rewarding them with profits for doing the same job they claimed was mediocre? The answer comes down to lobbyists, corruption, and political money . . . again.

Stop the “reformers” before they ruin the foundation of our democracy, our public education system, a system doing far better than their propaganda would have you believe.

January 24, 2012

Until Then, Just Stop!

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:55 am
Tags: , , , ,

If you aren’t mad as Hell about how the rich and our financial institutions have been corrupting our democracy, I recommend you watch Moyers & Company on PBS. Bill Moyers has been interviewing people who have looked in detail at how the monied interests in this country have captured our government to serve them instead of us. The first two programs in the series can be seen on http://www.BillMoyers.com.

Most of Mr. Moyers guests have concluded that corporate political power must be curbed and it likely will involve a constitutional amendment. David Stockman, former Budget Director under Ronald Reagan, thinks that corporations should not be able to contribute any money at all to political candidates or measures.

A constitutional amendment will take time, quite a bit of it actually, and meanwhile further damage is being done to our democracy. So, in the meantime I recommend that we must exert people power to compensate for the power of corporations and billionaires to spend and spend. As a first step I strongly recommend that we:

Stop watching political advertisements.

If one comes on TV while you are watching, change the channel or go to the bathroom or go get a snack, whatever, just don’t watch. For one, these ads are very poor sources of information. They regularly contain falsehoods and outright lies. They are also a way that political money gets leveraged. For a real person, candidate or surrogate, to talk to a great many people requires a great deal of time and money. Why do all that hard work when you can reach millions with a TV ad? But, we can’t ask questions of TV ads. We can’t challenge a view of a TV ad. TV ads are poor communication and since corporations and billionaires have lots of money, but few people behind them, why let them leverage their influence by absorbing the messages of their ads.

Let them spend their money to no effect.

It is easy to do this, just click on the TV’s remote and voila, the ad is gone. They have spent their millions and gotten nothing out of it. If you like watching what passes for debates today, by all means do so. Read about the candidates and issues, watch serious discussions about candidates and issues on TV. Just make sure that the millions and millions of dollars spent for ads by big sources of political money are wasted by not watching those ads!

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