Class Warfare Blog

August 4, 2020

A Pandemic Rude Awakening?

The GOP and to some extent the Democrats have been suppressing wages of working people for decades now. Worshiping at the altar of profits, the route to greater and greater profits has been to lower taxes on businesses (in essence transferring them onto individuals) and reducing the cost of production, which is dominated by wages paid to workers. So, wage suppression has become a fine art in corporate circles.

A consequence of this approach is that people, aka “consumers,” have less and less disposable income to buy the output of American businesses. American companies have taken the strategy to the max. Many jobs that could be kept here have been exported to “low wage” countries, which now turn out to be not so low wage because the wages in those countries have been rising (It’s the demand, idiot!) and transportation costs, obviously, went up a great deal, management, too.

The Pandemic Recession, looking to morphing into the Pandemic Depression, is showing the short-sidedness of the short-term pursuit of profits, profits, profits. Here is an excerpt from a Naked Capitalism post on small businesses:

“It’s depressing, but not exactly surprising, to see a major New York Times story about one-third of the small businesses in the city have died or expected to shutter. Needless to say, it’s not just restaurants.” How’s Your Economy, Small Businesses Death Watch Edition

Small businesses in NY City, it is reported, constitute 98% of the employers and account for 3 million jobs in the city. The businesses close, the employees are without jobs, and while jobless, they will be having trouble paying their bills. This will crater other small businesses and away we go . . . spiraling down the economic toilet.

So, I am told (by Dwight Eisenhower, no less) that one shouldn’t criticize unless one has a better alternative. (It is far too easy to tear something down and much harder to build something up. Take that you “creative destruction” purveyors.) So, what is the alternative? Easy peasy. Be patriotic. Keep jobs here, pay higher wages, make less profits.

What was that? I just saw a Republican running past me with his hair on fire, sputtering “Higher wages . . . less profits . . . Arggghhh!” Please do realize that many believe that in our “pay as you go culture,” a business must make a profit to continue to exist. But even this dictum is soft. I had a fellow professor leave teaching to set up his own business. His first major mistake was he didn’t pay himself enough. At the end of his first year, he had profits, which he paid business taxes on, which he then paid to himself, which he then paid income taxes on and thus got double taxed on what he had made. He learned to pay himself everything that might be considered to be a business profit, and paid income taxes on those sums but no business taxes. His business happily perked along make no profits to speak of . . . but I digress.

The titans of commerce have taken the “We have to make a profit,” an acceptable dictum, to “we have to maximize our profits over every other consideration we can conceive of.” This is dubious at best. There is no limit to how much profit can be extracted from a business (as a percentage, not in absolute terms) consequently using “we have to maximize profits” as a motivation is an incentive without any boundaries whatsoever. This is a fatal flaw of capitalism: there is no limitation on greed.

What if corporations considered one of their “products” to be “reliably good jobs for people in our community,” or “creating healthy lives for our employees,” or even “creating happiness for our employees.” Don’t laugh, all of these have been stated by corporations as goals in the past (or their equivalents).

No one begrudges companies or corporations reasonable profits. Everyone should begrudge corporations who make obscene profits by grinding their employees under their heels to make them.

March 15, 2020

The Triumph of the Anti-Collectivists

A Robert Reich column on the Coronavirus pandemic contained this little nugget.

While we’re at it, let’s admit something more basic. The system would be failing even under a halfway competent president. The dirty little secret, which will soon become apparent to all, is that there is no real public health system in the United States.”

And Robert Reich is no one’s apologist for the Trump administration.

I have never felt that our public health system here in the U.S. was particularly robust. And I am old enough to remember standing in line on our high school football field as we were to receive the polo vaccine, along with everyone else in the country. And I do perceive that we have slid a bit during my life, more so in the last few decades.

This is hardly a surprise when one of our two, count ‘em just two, major political parties is adamantly anti-collectivist. The Republican Party, so you don’t have to guess which one, is against any and all collective actions of our people and especially our governments, except in a few small areas: national defense, police, and courts of law (primarily on contract law, property rights, criminal law, etc.). They are against all other collective actions. So far, they want Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to be privatized. They want the postal service to be privatized, they want the health care system to be entirely private, they want our public education system to be privatized, etc.

They want to do away with environmental protections, all regulation of businesses, everything they consider to be “red tape” limiting the actions of men of commerce. No minority protection laws, no legal social reforms, no labor laws, etc.

The motivation for this is simple. If people can bond together to form, say, labor unions, then many weaker people can become as strong or stronger than a few powerful people. If such collective actions be not allowed, then the strong can lord it over the weak, forever and ever, amen.

Remember President Obama’s “You didn’t build that (alone)” comment, alluding to the vast public contribution to all businesses in this country? (The public provides the roads, the power grid, sewers, water on demand, and other infrastructure, the court system, the permitting systems, etc.) Do you remember the scorn that comment was received with by GOP stalwarts. They immediately responded with incredulity because they believe in the “special man of history” theory, that history is created by special individuals, individuals like Napoleon, George Washington, and Hitler. Likewise, all business would not exist except for some, obviously smaller in scale, special person, the “Job Creator” who started the business up. No one was trying to deny that those people were key people in those efforts, but imagine what kind of businesses those would be if the owners had to train all of their workers in basic literacy, because the public schools didn’t exist. Imagine if they had to train even the most basic skills (typing, using hand tools, etc.) because workers did not come to them already prepared for such work. You do not have to imagine these situation because we can learn all about how workers were treated by studying labor history. Oh, you didn’t learn labor history in school? Hmm, could it be that efforts to include labor history in state school curricula have been blocked for at least half of a century? (It be.) I wonder who would do such a thing? Oh, and if you haven’t studied any labor history, it wasn’t pretty. (For a short course, just listen to Tennessee Ernie Ford’s rendition of the song “16 Tons,” the 16 tons alluding to a daily quantity of coal needed to be dug by a single coal miner to get paid.)

The GOP is against any expansion of collective action of private citizens and certainly government and is actively working to contract the rights to so act, because in a one-on-one battle between a rich man and a poor man, the rich man wins every time.

The GOP is a political party bought and paid for by the wealthy. The sad thing is that the Democratic Party, which used to be only partially bought by the wealthy, isn’t really far behind. If you want evidence for this, look to the recent rallying of support for Joe Biden against Bernie Sanders in the current presidential race. Which one of those two candidates threatens the status and power of the wealthy more (or at all)? Are you surprised that so many Democratic candidates cut and ran away all of a sudden, endorsing Biden as they exited the stage? I’m not. Threatening the wealthy is not an easy path to power. Sucking up to them is.

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?

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.

 

 

 

August 5, 2018

Politics is Never Having to Say “I’m Sorry”

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:50 am
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A commentary at The Guardian blared “Democrats can be ‘party of white and black working class’, says Elizabeth Warren”

A good place to start is to explain why it is that the Democratic Party used to be that party but is no longer.

July 27, 2018

The Problem with Bases

No this is not about baseball. It is about our two main political parties and their “bases.”

The Republicans have sold their souls to the Religious Right, neoliberals, and reactionaries of the fringe of the right wing of American politics to get and stay elected, no matter the damage done. They haven’t dumped the rich as a core base element for who else would they serve? The Democrats have dumped their historic base of labor (working class people), minorities, and the less wealthy for the professional class, only to find out there aren’t enough of those to win them elections.

When I was young (I first showed an interest in politics when Eisenhower was president.) Republicans were stabilizers. They supported the institutions that kept out society stable (in their HO, of course). They supported the schools, the police, the military, the government (Right or Wrong!), the church, law and the courts, and so on. The complained when political or judicial opinions went the other way, but they didn’t threaten to take their ball and go home.

When I was young, the Democrats stood for fairness, helping the poor, balanced taxation, labor unions, and they were far from anti-war (both Kennedy and Johnson expanded the Vietnam War tremendously on specious grounds at best).

Neither party was worth a damn when it came to international relations. There was a small fringe who complained loudly about foreign aid, which has always been a spit in the bucket financially. (Somewhere along the line instead of giving technical aid and money to other countries, we now give them discounts on buy the weapons of war. Apparently as far as the U.S. goes peace and freedom don’t go together.)

Politically there was as much corruption then as is the standard now, but the stakes were smaller as were the amounts grafted by our politicians. But each party had some principled actors who kept the others in line. Often the “line” was racist or sexist, but there were lines and you could, as ordinary citizens, see them and attack them or try to move them.

Now, what I see is cowardice and incompetence (to he left of me, to the right of me, …) in our political bodies. Leadership? Not to be found? Intelligence? So little that the political class cannot evaluate whether their intelligence experts are to be trusted. Political astuteness? I can’t even find a politician who can define it. Deft policy drafters? Give me a break.

If we were to have a parliamentary system as has been suggested, these two parties would dwindle away to nothing and newer, more robust, more coherent parties would take their places. But as I have posted before, our political system is rigged. As much as the Founders feared political parties, they created a system that allowed two of those parties to hijack the system. (Our winner take all elections doom us to having just two dominant parties.) And, it is clear that the Founders feared true democracy, so they structured the Constitution against that.

I am absolutely gob smacked that the “press” still posts articles addressing the public will. They tell us, for example, that the Roe v. Wade SCOTUS decision has never been so popular. So? Since when has public opinion been a determining factor in anything governmental? Large majorities of citizens want background checks for all firearms sales; does that matter? A large majority of people want corporations to pay more in taxes; does that matter? If you are poor or middle class you have zero chance of affecting legislation. If you are rich and a campaign donor, then you have some chance. If you are a rich corporate lobbyist and have donated large sums, then you have not only a chance to affect the outcome, you may be invited in to help write (or write completely) the text of the bill.

If the Republican Party of my youth or the Democratic Party of my youth were still in existence, I could vote for the kinds of candidates either party proffered. As they are now, I cannot vote for either party as they both are embarrassments and anti-democratic and need to go.

January 7, 2018

If the Elites Might Benefit, Then Sure, They are For It

In today’s NY Times an article (Medical Research? Congress Cheers. Medical Care? Congress Brawls by Robert Pear) states that there is some bipartisan support for science in our Congress. Here’s the introduction:

“WASHINGTON — They cannot agree on subsidies for low-income people under the Affordable Care Act or even how to extend funding for the broadly popular Children’s Health Insurance Program — two issues requiring urgent attention as Congress returns to work.

“But a more exotic corner of the medical world has drawn rapturous agreement among Republicans and Democrats: the development of new treatments and cures through taxpayer-funded biomedical research.

“For the third straight year, lawmakers are planning to increase the budget of the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion. In the process, they have summarily rejected cuts proposed by President Trump.

“The push for additional funding reflects a fascination among legislators with advances in fields like molecular biology, genetics and regenerative medicine, even as they wage bitter battles over just how large a role the government should play in financing health care and providing coverage.”

When the shade the politicians have thrown is illuminated, it is clear why this support is bipartisan. New medical procedures, even those which prove to be very costly, will help keep the elites alive longer. The elites have told us over and over that “America affords us the finest medical care in the world.” What we didn’t focus on was the use of the word “us.” They were referring to the elites as only they can afford the finest. The fact that our medical care system only ranks somewhere near the middle of first world countries is irrelevant and they know it. Those results are based upon average health outcomes and the elites are paying for treatments and health outcomes that the top 1% get. They do not care much at all about the poor health outcomes that the poor and middle class can afford as those do not affect them directly. But there are many of us and few of them, which means they are more than willing to take our tax dollars to pay for their cures.

Everything you need to see is right in front of your eyes. We only need to believe what they are saying, what they actually are saying and not what we wish to hear.

December 15, 2017

God is No Democrat

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:07 am
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There is a bit of word play in the title of this post, but the core meaning is clear. There is no place for democracy in the Bible. Adam Nicolson says in his book God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible, “The condition in Eden had been one of obedience; a steeply raked social structure was ordained by God; and so crawling to the great could be holy in England too.”

This is not just a remnant of the Old Testament replaced by the New Testament by Christians. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans says quite straightforwardly: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers for there is no power but of God. The powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist, shall receive to themselves damnation.” It is obedience all the way down. (If it were not, would Rome have made Christianity its state religion?)

There is no greater authoritarian than God himself. His will be done. Obey or suffer. There is no place for “one man, one vote.” Men do not get a vote, they get judged.

So, why do I bring this up now? There is talk about declaring this nation a “Christian Nation” and claims that “it always has been.” Evangelical Christians came within an eyelash of getting a completely reprehensible Republican elected Senator from Alabama. They did manage, again by another eyelash, to get a completely reprehensible Republican elected President of the United States. But Christianity and Democracy do not mix. Something has to give, and right now it is democracy that is giving. Our current federal administration wants to do away with the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits religious leaders from politicking from their pulpits. This sounds innocuous enough, but it violates a basic political principle, namely that political money is money that is subject to taxation. If religious organizations are allowed to politic and are exempt from taxation, what do you think is going to happen? (Why the religious cannot see the potential corruption of their churches is completely beyond me.)

Christianity is authoritarian by its very nature. The Grand American Experiment in Democracy eschews authority by requiring the rule of law (the law being the authority, not the law enforcer), by electing rather than appointing its leaders, and eschewing the inheritance of any office, and myriad other ways, of course. But what happens when the lawmakers are captured by Christian authoritarians?

God is surely no democrat, nor should He be a Republican or Democrat. The question now is “Are Republicans democrats?”

 

November 28, 2017

Why Republicans are Republicans and Democrats are Democrats

When this country was created “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” it was created by a fairly elite group of men. They made sure that a stable society and government was provided for by making sure that Indians, slaves, and women did not get to vote, nor did poorish men. You needed land to qualify to vote, meaning you had to be an elite or near-elite member of society to cast a ballot.

The Founders felt that the very best people to run the government were people just like themselves: well-educated, wealthy men who had the leisure time to reflect on the issues of the day and didn’t have to devote every waking moment to find food and shelter.

They were worried about the affect of wealth on their new government, so this reinforced their suitability for leadership as they were already wealthy and would, therefore be hard to bribe. (Ha! Just raises the price in my estimation.) They were concerned that the “middling” sorts (merchants, tradesmen,, craftsmen, etc.) would get involved and that they could be bought. (They would be proud to know that Congress is literally stuffed with millionaires now!)

In other words they were elitists. They created a government “of the elites, by the elites, and for the elites,” no question.

Those of a conservative bent ended up forming political parties (the Whigs, the Republicans, etc.) that wanted to preserve society’s institutions and hence ensure a stable, secure society. They, like the Founders, thought that this would be achieved by the wealthy being wealthy and the poor being poor, and as long as everyone accepted his lot in life, all would be well. Since the poor were poor and had very few needs, they focused on serving the wealthy as their needs were so much greater. The wealthy needed a court of law and a set of laws to govern their business contracts. They needed trade laws and other laws of commerce. They needed government regulations of banks and markets. The poor made no such demands.

The Democrats had to necessarily differentiate themselves from these conservatives, so they had to adopt stances less favorable to the elites and more egalitarian, just to be different enough to attract votes.

Now I know that this is much more complicated, that there are and were cliques, and factors, and movements, oh my! But at the core, this is what the two major parties in this country stand for. (Or stood for, before the Democrats began selling out to wealthy interests.) If you look at any issue now, you can parse it for these stances. Take the current “Net Neutrality” issue. Current the Internet is quite egalitarian, on a first-come, first-serve basis. There is a movement afoot, to drop this policy so that certain streams of information can be favored while others disfavored. (Guess who gets to choose!). The people behind this are the wealthy leaders of the giant telecom industries. The people against are net rights activists, aka the Internet masses.

So, now that I have given you this information, which party is against net neutrality, in your opinion? If you guessed the GOP, you got it in one! Another way to look at this is, if the GOP is for it, it serves to maintain the elite in their current, or even elevated, status. The elites are the business owners, not its workers.

The founders believed in providence, that is if they were wealthy it was because they were superior to the others and the cause was divine providence. (God controls all things and wouldn’t make an asshole wealthy, now would he?) Today’s elites still have this belief: their wealth identifies them superior (even when they inherit it!) and if they are superior, who better to run things?

The secular and religious elites promote only programs/legislation that enhances their status and positions as elites. They are able to con ordinary folks into voting with them by advancing dishonest campaigns (They want to take away your guns! They are baby murderers! There is a war on Christmas!).

Consider the current administration’s “tax reform” plan. They started out saying they were going to simplify the tax structure and then offered a plan that made it more complex and, by all accounts, advantages the wealthy. (If the GOP is for it … duh.) Plus, they are willing to lie and cheat to get the bill passed, which the elites have always been willing to do, because, well, they know better what is needed.

So, pick any particular issue you want: if the GOP is in favor, then it favors the elites; if the Democrats are in favor, it disfavors the elites. It is that simple because the core motivations are that simple. This is changing as I write this as more and more Democrats are captured by the wealthy class to serve their interests. If the elites capture the Dems, then we might as well carve “of the elites, by the elites, and for the elites” in stone in the capital and have done with it.

 

September 7, 2017

Clinton Versus Sanders, Round 2

In Secretary Clinton’s new book, she takes on Bernie Sanders as a source of her loss in the 2016 presidential election, “(Sanders) didn’t get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House, he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party.” So? Did you get the message? Did you incorporate his policy suggestions? Did you co-opt his campaign? No? Oh.

People seem to be ignoring the obvious with regard to the election outcome. For one, Secretary Clinton indeed won the popular vote by a considerable margin, so it was not the total vote that caused her loss but the distribution of votes. This suggests her campaign did not emphasize the importance of a few states that could have won the day for her.

But the overwhelming elephant in the room is how a dirt bag like Donald Trump could even get close to a seasoned professional politician in the first place. The reason is obvious: under presidents Democratic and Republican for the last forty years, the middle class has been decimated over and over. The election provided a choice between “more of the same” and “something different.” While “more of the same” won the popular vote, “something different” pulled well enough that with strategic campaigning the Electoral College delivered the presidency to someone as ill-suited to the office as has ever been elected.

What would cause people to come out and vote for a clown, rather than just stay home and not vote, the traditional way to vote one’s displeasure or despair? There were a fair number of people who opted out of voting, especially young people who liked neither candidate, but the election was determined by a simple vote of “no mas,” against the status quo that had served ordinary Americans so poorly.

It doesn’t require a large stretch of the imagination to see Barrack Obama’s election to the office as another vote against the status quo. Mr. Obama ran as someone who would change Washington for the better, as someone who actually saw poor people, and middle class people, and spoke to them rather than around them. But the desire for hope and change turned fairly quickly into “more of the same,” resulting in an even larger vote against the status quo. If voting in a Black man to the office, in a nation still substantial afflicted with racism, didn’t work, how about a clown?

Get the message?

In Secretary Clinton’s case, the answer is “apparently not.”

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