Class Warfare Blog

January 10, 2019

They Want It Both Ways

A common trope among the vocal rich is that handing out money to the “poor” will make them lazy. “Handing out” and “handouts” refer to welfare, food stamps, a higher minimum wage, you name it. On the flip side, they also claim that “redistributing” money from the rich to other where through higher progressive taxation will remove all of the incentive to invest and innovate.

So, at one end of the spectrum, allowing the poor to keep more of what they make or bumping their wages up to a bare subsistence level will result in them opting out of their jobs (more money = laziness) but allowing the rich to keep more of their income will encourage them to work harder, innovate more (more money = initiative).

Obviously this is merely a reflection of the class disdain the rich have for the poor. The poor are poor because of character flaws, moral weakness, lack of intelligence. The rich are rich because of their sterling character, moral strength, and brilliance. (Donald Trump … uh, is the exception that proves the rule?)

Also, is there any indication either of these “narratives” has any merit?

There is a well known phenomenon in business that as businesses grow and become larger, they tend to grow stagnant. They innovate less and their managers become more interested in milking the cow they have rather than finding new cows. In the recent tax giveaway to businesses, were the billions saved in taxes used to innovate, used to upgrade production, used to compensate workers, any of the things it was claimed it would do? Apparently, the funds were mostly used to buy back stock, which drives up the price of the stock, enriching shareholders and executives with stock options (you do get what you pay for).

Another economic “natural experiment” was the 1950’s and 1960’s economies. Marginal tax rates were sky high from the necessity to acquire funds to pursue World War 2. President Eisenhower refused to lower them, even in the peacetime following. Unions were empowered and laws were passed to provide some leveling of the playing field between labor and capital. So, were people enjoying the good times on welfare? Was there any laziness to be observed? Was innovation stifled because the rich were starved of the funds they needed to fuel the innovations? I think you know the answers to all of these (no, no, no).

So, what is with these narratives?

They aren’t new, they have been around for a century or more. They are, like religious apologies, arguments that sound reasonable but have no basis in reality. They have become memes among the rich folks, repeated often enough to be transferred from generation to generation. They are even sold to ordinary working people because they do sound reasonable and are repeated over and over. The rich are the job creators! Bah, customers create demand, demand creates jobs, and demand in our economy is mostly domestic demand which is stifled due to wage suppression activities on behalf of the rich.

The code word in use is “redistribution,” by which they mean that the rich are taxed and that money is “given” to the poor. The fact that much of the wealth the rich have accumulated is due to “redistribution” through other means is never mentioned. (Look up the history of the oil depletion allowance to see where the majority of the oil barons in this country came from.) The rich are in the business of bribing their politicians (not ours, we can’t afford them) to pass laws that benefit them. Our “representatives” do favors for the rich and nothing for the poor. For example, President Trump’s lackeys rolled back Obama-era regulations that prohibited coal companies from dumping toxic waste into the streams and rivers we draw our drinking water from, redistributing the consequences from the coal company executives to ordinary people. (1. Don’t get sick. 2. Die quickly.)

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December 25, 2018

Plutocrats! You Have to be Really Dense to Not Understand This!

Filed under: Culture,Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:35 pm
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Happy holidays, y’all! This is my gift to you on this Christmas day!

I have lauded Sam Pizzagati’s book “The Rich Don’t Always Win” already and have a fuller comment to make based upon things found in that book (highly recommended by me!).

Basically, what needs to be done is rather simple, but the plutocrats don’t see it this way. Here are a couple of quotes to get the ball rolling: “The outstanding faults of the economic society in which we live are its failure to provide for full employment and its arbitrary and inequitable distribution of wealth and income.”

I am sure the plutocrats would label this speaker as a communist if not a socialist. I am willing to bet that all of the plutocrats think that capitalism is the best economic system known/available/possible and are committed to it 100%. I also believe that almost all of these people believe in a “pay as you go” society. People should work, earn money, and pay for all that they need or want that way. Period.

Given those two beliefs allow me to state my second quote “Let us suppose that 1 percent of the population were to receive 95% of our entire national income, with the remaining 5 percent spread among the rest of us. Could our system—any system—work on that basis? One percent of the people couldn’t possible consume 95 percent of all of the goods and services which the rest of us could produce.” And failing to consume all of that output “they would have no reason to use their savings to produce more and more goods that they couldn’t consume either.” In such an unequal, unbalanced economy we would never see enough jobs for people to pay as they go, a consequence that “demonstrates the nonsense of the contention that the way our national income is divided among us has nothing to do with how much we produce or how many of us have jobs.”

Not to keep you on pins and needles, the first quote is from John Maynard Keynes, a mainstream economist … in 1936 … and the second was from Chester Bowles, a wealthy business man … in 1946.

Now, the plutocrats will counter argue that people paid “too much” according to their lights will become shiftless and lazy. Let’s see if that happened. After World War II, the American middle class burgeoned. More people had more disposable income than ever before. More owned houses, etc. Did you notice anyone buying hammocks for the long haul? Was there a run on foot stools for people to put their feet up? I was alive then and I didn’t see any of that. It always shocks me that plutocrats assume that when “ordinary people” get enough to live on they will become lazy and stop working. Of course, this is coming from a class of people who thought when they made their first million dollars, “How am I going to make the second?” This disdain for the motivations of ordinary people is larded throughout their positions.

Plutocrats also argue against equal distribution of wealth and income, saying that do not have enough wealth to make everyone rich. This is being willfully obtuse. The word “equal” should only be used with opportunity. In the 1950’s did you see people rioting or striking because they were not getting “equal” incomes to those of rich people? The idea is ludicrous. What is wanted is a fair distribution of the wealth created. Nobody is advocating equal distribution of wealth or income, so this is a straw dog argument.

The so-called “Great Compression” occurred after WW2 due to high marginal tax rates on the most wealthy and union power, and governmental power improving the lot of those at the bottom (hence the compression—economic forces applied downward from on top, upward from the bottom). This was fought tooth and nail by the rich and, after WW1, the plutocrats managed to reverse all of the “similar corrections” made to the system during that war. But after WW2 the plutocrats didn’t succeed in rolling back all of the New Deal and other wealth redistribution mechanisms (they do, however and after all of these years, still speak scornfully of the New Deal as a marker of their social class). Why was that? Simply put, the plutocrats were scared stiff with regards to the communistic “workers’ revolts” in Russia and elsewhere. If keeping an underclass under their thumbs could lead to that kind of revolt, well…. So, they were inclined to live with high marginal income tax rates and with unions. (But not the U.S. Socialist and Communist political parties. After WW1 they were decimated over and over and then obliterated after WW2 by using Red Scare tactics.)

That was then, this is now. The problem is endemic as we are back where we started  at the beginning of the twentieth century (Thanks capitalism!) and we may have to find another way to deal with plutocrats. They get Donald Trump in the White House and the biggest item on their agenda is a huge tax cut, that they claimed would help ordinary people but by and large went into the pockets of the plutocrats. (I’m shocked, shocked I tell you! Have I mentioned that their tax cuts are permanent and our, much smaller, ones are temporary?)

This is so incredibly stupid that I am flabbergasted. These people are making so much money that they are giving it away or promising to give it away when they die. So, why do they so desperately need it while they are alive? They can’t spend but a fraction of it on themselves or their families. Were they to increase the wages of the workers they employ they would reap many benefits, help create a world they feel is the best (a “pay as you go” capitalistic society), and be appreciated far more than they are now. Why do they continuously rig the rules of the game to favor themselves and make sure that the bulk of new wealth flows into their pockets? The only answer that comes to mind involves dogs and mangers.

 

 

November 7, 2018

Sometimes You Don’t Have to Even Read the Book! Part 3

Filed under: Culture,Morality,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:07 am
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Subtitle: Making My Point For Me

Yet another Amazon listing provides all one needs to know about a book without reading it, this time with a nod to one of my main theses. The book is Straight to Hell by John LeFevre. Here’s the blurb:

“Straight to Hell pulls back the curtain on a world that is both hated and envied, taking readers from the trading floors and roadshows to private planes and after-hours overindulgence. Full of shocking lawlessness, boyish antics, and win-at-all-costs schemes, this is the definitive take on the deviant, dysfunctional, and absolutely excessive world of finance.

“‘LeFevre’s workplace anecdotes include tales of nastiness, sabotage, favoritism, sexism, racism, expense-account padding, and legally questionable collusion.”’ —The New Yorker

This book is a collection of stories focused on the bad behaviors of the Masters of the Universe-types, you know, Wall Street money grubbers.

The book’s title tells you about the main role religion has in America, that of forestalling any action against such miscreants. These bad boys are going straight to Hell, so what do we need do now … nothing, of course. Anything we could do pales in comparison to what is going to happen to them in the Afterlife™. It is all taken care of, don’t bother getting up from your Barcalounger.

That would be quite reassuring if the whole afterlife punishment scenario were not a fairy tale.

 

 

February 16, 2018

The “Right-to-Try” Scam

There seems to be a movement to disrupt or remove “regulations” on pharmaceuticals. I mean why should those poor companies have to jump through all of those hoops to get a drug to market? This is called the “right-to-try” movement. Even President Trump has heard of it (ergo Fox (sic) News reported on it).

So, would people who are in need of some medical help be given the right to try unproven pharmaceuticals? This has been on option for richer citizens for quite some time. At the peak of the AIDS epidemic, people who could afford the effort were heading for Asia and Mexico to try all kinds of “therapies” to save their lives. I am unaware if any of these proved a source of drugs that ended up actually helping people so afflicted.

Or, is this just a cynical scam of “let’s try out drugs on desperate poor people?”

I’ll guess I’ll believe it when these assholes suggesting this shortcut to the clinical trials needed to verify a drug’s effectiveness line up to test out those drugs themselves. I suggest that what they see in this future is unproven pharmaceuticals are “tried” and then anecdotal evidence of cures is available (or fabricated) and sales soar through the roof. When problems occur (ineffectiveness, horrific side effects, deaths, etc.), the companies can pleas “How could we have known? They had a “right-to-try” and exercised it. We thought it would work. It is sad; our thoughts an prayers go out to the afflicted.” Typical of plutocrats it is: heads I win, tails you lose.

Assholes.

(Try a key word search for thalidomide.)

 

 

January 12, 2018

Three Billion = Not Enough

Today, Carrier, the profitable heating/ventilation/air conditioning company, owned by United Technologies Corporation, a federal contractor whose climate, controls, and security division, of which Carrier is a part, reported three billion dollars in operating profit in 2016—is letting go of more than two hundred employees in its second and final wave of Indiana-based layoffs, which began last July. In total, the company will be laying off more than five hundred employees as it moves manufacturing jobs to Monterrey, Mexico. Many of those employees voted for Donald Trump, who made saving Carrier’s “big, beautiful plant” one of his most repeated campaign promises. It was part of his broader pre-election claim that “A Trump Administration will stop the jobs from leaving America.”

Do realize that careful analyses of such moves often show the savings are minimal. Because the jobs are no longer near the U.S.-based managers, another level of managers has to be hired. Then there is transportation costs, and…. One thing you can be sure will be affected is their stock price. “Shareholders” love these moves, why no one knows. I suspect it is the choir praising the minister as both managers and shareholders belong to the same church, the Church of Greed.

Three billion dollars in profits in just one year and a sterling reputation for quality and … oh, we have to move to save the company? WTF?

January 1, 2018

Step 1: Abuse Them …

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:10 am
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Step 1: Abuse them.
Step 2: Abuse them for their response to the first abuse.
Step 3: Repeat.

For the past forty or more years the rich in this country have been engaging in something they claim to despise: redistribution of wealth. The very word “redistribution” is loaded with scorn whenever spoken by one of the true elite, and even when deployed by their spin meisters. The redistribution they despise is anything that takes from the rich to give to the poor. The redistribution that they have been engaged in massively takes from the less-than-rich and gives to the rich.

For example, citing its Billionaires Index, Bloomberg reported Wednesday that the 500 richest people on the planet (most are Americans) gained almost a trillion dollars of new wealth in 2017, which is four times what they gained in 2016. That acceleration of wealth accumulation is the result of actions taken, not just chance. Apparently it is harvest time and the rich are reaping.

So, what say the rich when any of us speak up to complain of their actions? They say that we need to “get a job,” or “start a business” as they did. Being poor or any status below wealthy is our own fault. An examination of these so-called routes to riches shows that they are more than false. They tend to be closer to lies. While there are some who pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, more likely there was inherited wealth and privilege involved. Mitt Romney, for example, was famous for saying no one helped him on the way up. Apparently the two million dollars in stocks his father gave him didn’t count, nor the fancy education his father’s work afforded him counted either, nor did his access to the political acquaintances of his well-connected father. (To put this in perspective, the two million dollar gift that got Mr. Romney started equals the total amount of my wages through almost forty years of being a professor. That’s some bootstrap.)

Then we are berated for our obsessions with income and economic status as if hungry people do not obsess about food. We are berated for our focus on money, the very thing the rich have siphoned off from us making our existences precarious.

The religious elites berate us for our commercial participation in holidays they claim are primarily religious. One could claim, however, that if Christmas were not a commercial holiday, it could easily end up like All Soul’s Day (right, I had to look it up, too). They berate us on our focus on the mundane, things like making enough money to feed our kids, pay for their medical care, and even provide them with Christmas presents.

There is no mention from the voices in pulpits of how the wealthy will not get into Heaven, that the rich’s expressions of greed are unbecoming and will lead those people to disaster in the form of eons of suffering in Hell. That would not be politic, nor would it help the bottom lines of churches dependent upon the wealthy for those really yuge donations. Instead all we hear about the rich folks economic abuse of the less-than-rich is <cricket, cricket, cricket …>.

This verbal abuse of the victims of their actions is not necessarily a deliberate thing; it is more likely behavior aped from those above the rich in the pecking order, but it is part of the system, the system run by the rich in this country to ensure they stay rich and get richer and if we want to keep what little we have we should just shut up and behave (get a degree, get a job, don’t even think about forming a union, keep your head down, shut up,…).

I have a message for these people to start off 2018 and that is “Fuck you!” Every chance I get to vote or act against you, I will and I will not stop berating your behavior as being anti-social, anti-democratic, and against the best interests of not only my class but your own class as well.

December 17, 2017

The Insanity of the New Tax Bill

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:23 am
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In the GOP’s new tax bill (they wrote it; they own it) there is an attempt to diminish or eliminate the current federal tax subsidies for wind and solar power. One must ask why they are doing this as it is particularly insane.

The GOP is not against such subsidies. In 1918, the federal government created subsides for the then new petroleum extraction and refining industry. Those subsidies are still going, to the tune of 8+ billion dollars a year, to … what, help a struggling new industry develop? This is one of the most profitable industries worldwide at this point and we are still subsidizing them? Attempts to repeal them have been voting down over and over, alwasy with the help of the GOP.

The current wind and solar tax credits were introduced in 1992 and those industries are still getting their legs under them.

The GOP also wants to slash tax credits for electric vehicles. I wonder if they also want to bring back coal-fired train locomotives? Maybe coal-fired automobiles are in our future?

November 24, 2017

Harari Infuriates Again

I am working my way through “Sapiens” by Yuval Harari and I apologize for posting about it over many moons, but when I read something profound (or profoundly upsetting) I set aside the book for a bit to let the ideas percolate and see what gestates from that. (We do not create our thoughts, although we do give words to them to be able to communicate them.)

I have mentioned before what I perceived as perversity in Mr. Yuval’s book. This is another example.

He was pointing out that no one has natural rights, which is why we claim they come from some god or other. He quotes Voltaire (“There is no God, but do not tell my servant lest he murder me at night.”) and others as to the role religion plays in controlling the masses. He goes on to quote Talleyrand on why physical coercion alone won’t be enough to control people (“You can do many things with bayonets, but it is rather uncomfortable to sit on them.” and “A single priest does the work of a hundred soldiers, far more cheaply and effectively.”) and that religion is as or more useful than physical threat. Yuval concludes that some beliefs/memes, etc. are needed to keep people functioning as soldiers, e.g. honor, country, manhood, God (On our side!), motherhood, etc. and by extension as participating members of a stable society.

But then he goes on to consider the people at the top of the pyramid, the elites. He asks: “Why should they wish to enforce an imagined order if they themselves do not believe in it?” Okay, now we are cooking! He continues in the next sentence: “It is quite common to argue that the elite may do so out of cynical greed.”

Bingo … but …

Yuval then continues to dismiss this statement implicitly by perversely arguing that it could not be “cynical” because the Cynic philosophers had no ambition, and the elites do. This has to be willful obtuseness on the author’s part. Any dictionary would have told him that when ordinary people use the word cynical they are referring to it being “contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives,” not some harkening to the Greek philosophical school of the Cynics. He then goes on to conclude that the elites have to have their beliefs, too.

Argh!

The key word in “cynical greed” is greed, not cynical. And he sloughs off the greed aspect because, well, what? Getting too close to criticizing the elites can be dangerous? He just leaves it hanging.

Of course, the elites have their beliefs and memes. This is how they communicate without having a Central Committee somewhere issuing orders. The elites believe: that because they are wealthy (or pious) they are special; they are better than the hoi polloi because they show mastery over their environment (through their wealth and power it gives them); because they are better, who better to determine the course of society, to lead. Their wealth is a manifestation of their innate abilities in all things, even if they inherited their wealth. Obviously, the elites have their beliefs and memes.

But beliefs and memes aren’t motives. Greed is a motive. It needs no beliefs or memes to support it. Why do you think it is that religions condemn greed? Because this is what the elites want the masses to believe. First, they do not want competition. If religions preached “Greed is Good!” (The Church of Gordon Gecko?), more people would practice it and the ranks of the elites would swell and there would be less wealth in a share. Second, the elites do not believe greed is bad and they want the masses to think that if the elites appear to be greedy, that they will be punished … by the god(s). As long as the masses take no action upon themselves, the elites are good with that. Accepting divine punishment is perfectly fine if you don’t believe in divines.

The correct follow-up to “It is quite common to argue that the elite may do so out of cynical greed” is “This is indeed the simplest answer … but the elites need a way to communicate with others in their class, so beliefs and memes are shared as a form of signaling.”

 

November 21, 2017

We’re No. 1 … We’re No. 21! Wait … WTF?

The new 2017 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report helpfully calculates median net worths of countries. Switzerland and Australia top the global list. (Reminder: a median is the value in the middle, not an arithmetic average.) The median Swiss adult has a net worth of $229,000. The typical Australian, $195,400. And the typical American? A mere $55,876. Twenty nations in all have higher median adult net worths than the United States. So, we are No. 21.

Wait, we’re the richest country in the world, how come we are 21st in median wealth?

The really rich, those with at least $50 million in net worth, have multiplied five-fold since the year 2000 globally. About half of these, 49 percent, reside today in the United States. Credit Suisse counts 72,000 of these ultra-rich Americans. In context: China, the host to the world’s second-highest collection of $50 million-and-up personal fortunes, has only 18,100. The United States hosts more ultra-rich individual fortunes than the nations with next nine highest ultra-rich totals combined.

So, here in the U.S. the rich are getting richer, but the rest of us are falling very far behind.

Let’s consider the Australians, as we have a bit in common.

Australians used to see their nation as a relatively equal society. They don’t anymore. Rising inequality has become a major Australian political issue. But Australia remains far more equal a society than the United States. The top 1 percent in Australia only holds an estimated 15 percent of the nation’s wealth. (In the US, it is 38.6%.) So we are the wealthiest country in the world but we don’t have the wealthiest citizens as most of the wealth has flown into the pockets of a very few people.

And this is not a matter of that they are wealthy, it is what they do with the wealth they have accumulated. Basically, they don’t spend it. Poor people spend all of their money. Middle class people spend almost all of their money. That money goes to buying things from companies who provide jobs for people. The rich don’t spend anywhere near as much of their income. If they buy anything, it is investments which increase their wealth even more. None of that activity positively affects the economy.

November 12, 2017

To Kneel or Not to Kneel During the Anthem? WTF?

In an article entitled “Star-Spangled Banner: how the anthem became central to the story of American sports” a number of very interesting points were made by the author Bryan Armen Graham.

Here are just a few:

“Professional sports needed to define themselves as patriotic in order to be seen as part of the war (WW1) on the home front and center for morale rather than as an expendable entertainment which is how they were initially,’ says Mark Clague, an associate professor of musicology at the University of Michigan who is one of the nation’s foremost experts on The Star-Spangled Banner, lest we believe anything but the owners’ self-interest made the anthem into the ubiquitous tradition we know today.

“Clague says the development and proliferation of stadium technology enabling the playing of pre-recorded music combined with a groundswell of patriotism during and after the second world war has given the anthem an almost continuous place in baseball in the years since. Football was similarly keen to wrap itself in the flag with NFL commissioner Elmer Layden in 1945 calling for a league-wide adoption of the anthem, saying: ‘The national anthem should be as much a part of every game as the kick-off. We must not drop it simply because the war is over. We should never forget what it stands for.’

“Oh, it was all about money! I’m shocked, shocked I tell you!”

“Says Clague: ‘When world war two happened, professional sports had really figured out that patriotism was good for their business and it protected them against this question of being defined as a non-essential occupation.’”

and

“The bombastic pre-game spectacles of patriotism that had become commonplace at NFL games began to make sense in 2015, after a report by Republican senators John McCain and Jeff Flake revealed the Department of Defense had spread $6.8m of taxpayer money among more than 50 professional teams across the NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS and NASCAR. In return, the teams promised organized displays of national pride including the honoring of members of the armed forces, surprise military homecomings and on-field color guard and reenlistment ceremonies. The co-opting of America’s most popular institutions as recruiting tools went by an easy-to-remember name: paid patriotism.”

Oh, it was all about money! I’m shocked, shocked I tell you!

And as usual, the gullible rubes are brainwashed into enforcing the will of the elites, to make them even more money.

Oh, who created this article?  It was created for The Guardian, in the U.K., of course. Nothing like this would be produced by a U.S. news organ … that would be telling, now wouldn’t it.

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