Uncommon Sense

March 5, 2022

The Real Reason Teachers Are Leaving the Profession

Filed under: Business,Culture,Education,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:54 am
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I just finished reading yet another article on why teachers are leaving the profession in record numbers. It is an oversimplification, but not much of one, that the job has become untenable for many: too much work, too little reward, too little social approval. It is my opinion that teaching is a lower pay profession because it attracts people who do not want to fight for their positions. They are in authority in their classrooms because the system placed them there with those powers. The pay was low, sure, but the benefits were secure, and the social standing of teachers was high. This is no longer the case.

And, it is a standard business practice, when confronted with an employee that the company wanted to get rid of, but couldn’t fire for reasons of face, or relationships with customers, or whatever, was that you made the person’s job untenable and they quit.

I suggest that while it is not the primary tool in use in many of the efforts now being attempted to take over public education, it is part of the pattern: make teachers quit and then they will have to be replaced by temporary workers, or Teach for America dupes, or heaven forbid, computer software. (Those parents trolling their kid’s school libraries for books they don’t like should really be looking at these software packages. A simple examination would leave one with the thought that there is no way I would allow my kid to be “taught” by such drivel.) Each of these elements of “the plan” enhances the potential profits to be made.

An Aside And, I do not believe there is an actual plan, sitting on a table in a secret Colorado mountain retreat used by the plutocrats. This is as much of a plan as there is for a feeding frenzy of sharks. Once the plutocrats scent blood (aka easy money), they all want in on the action, inventing ways to “get them some of that” before it is all gone.

This whole thing has arisen because the plutocrats have gotten their way to lower tax rates, better legal protections, and rule changes (bye-bye Glass-Steagall Act), and those changes have lead them to dominant positions in finance, the markets, weapons procurements, etc. and there just weren’t any additional horizons to conquer. But, then someone looked at the immense pool of money spent on public schools every year and said “I want me some of that!” and the games began. Public Sector Unions got banned. Teachers were blamed for the lack of learning in many schools, ignoring the obvious roles of poverty, hunger, crime, violence, and drugs in the student’s neighborhoods, politicians were enrolled in cockamamie “reform” plans (No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, etc.) in the belief that incentives and punishments would cause improvements (which cannot be proved even in business), and so on. The Charter School Movement was morphed into a vehicle for setting aside union contracts and public regulations.

That teachers are leaving the profession in large numbers shouldn’t come as a surprise, as it is part of the plan of the scum-sucking greedy plutocrats who can’t seem to get enough money, when they already have many millions or even billions and can’t or won’t spend those.

I do not suggest violence against these plutocrats, yet, but the next time you see Bill Gates or any of that ilk pontificating on education, how about we chant “Shut the fuck up; shut the fuck up!”

August 22, 2021

Make Earth Sacred Again

Note—It is Sunday Sermon Time again, boys and girls! S

The title above is a proposed solution to greedy capitalists processing everything we need to live into profits. The Medium.com post was “Make Earth Sacred Again” with the subtitle “Reverence for Nature could stop Big Money’s destroying the world.” (Note I wish these people would stop saying “destroying the world/planet.” It is us they are destroying, not the world. The world will still be spinning on this same path long after humans are all dead.)

I have to assume that some sort of Native American religion is going to be involved in such an effort, because the dominant religions in the U.S. today don’t seem to possess this attribute.

Devout Christians often do say foolish things like this, “the Earth is sacred; we have the stewardship of the entire planet on our shoulders” and, my favorite “life is sacred.” (No, it is not.)

First “life is sacred.” Really? Says who? Certainly not the God of the Bible, responsible for killing millions upon millions of humans and at one point 99.99999+% of the plants and animals in the entire world.

To show you how far we have come from our hunter-gatherer roots as a family or at most a small tribe (<100 humans), consider this: is your life sacred? Sure. How about your spouse and children, your immediate family? Yeah, right on! How about your neighbors on your block? Well, kind of, I guess. How about all God-fearing Americans? Yeah, damned straight. How about Canadians? Well, I guess? How about Mexicans? Hell, no! The Taliban? The Chinese?

Basically, the farther a person gets from being a part of your family, by being adopted or born into, the less sacred their lives seem, no? So, since our hunting and gathering phases, we have changed not at all in this, other than in the capacity to know that other people exist quite a few kilometers away (and farther away). They are still “others” and are categorized as such, and they are not on the same level as you and your family. Moving back to the “Make Nature Sacred Again” bit . . . was it ever sacred? Certainly not to any of the imported Americans. One could argue that many native Americans had a concept like this but that also might just be a way of expressing what they knew to be pragmatic: take care of your environment and it will take care of you.

In my native state of California, archeologists dug up immense mounds of mollusk shells near the S.F. Bay. What they finally concluded was that a tribe of Native Californians would move to the area and eat everything in sight and then would move to another location to do the same there. While they were gone, the oyster beds and mussel beds recovered so that when they came back years later they could do it all over again, and being pragmatic, they always discarded the shells in the same place, which grew to the size of small hills. Not exactly careful husbanding of nature, but not totally destructive, either.

In the New England states, the Native New Englanders were careful to husband their crops. They would burn off the weeds and shrubs in controlled burns which encouraged grass and trees to grow and deer and other game to congregate to eat their produce. The Native Americans and the deer and whatnot ate a lot of mast, nuts from the trees, and whatever grew in the layer at the base of the tree (mushrooms, etc.). By being careful, they could make it through even a harsh winter, by losing a few pounds before things harvestable started to grow again and deer and other game came looking for the grasses and mast they could gorge upon in their hunting grounds.

Then came the “new” Englanders. Told that the streets were “paved with gold,” usually in the form of being able to hunt deer and moose out your back door, and harvest nuts and wild fruits a short walk away, more than a few “Christians” set up lodgings there. They didn’t do controlled burns and objected when the natives did. They over hunted, over fished, and over harvested and, within just a year or two, the entire regional system collapsed.

And the reason they did this is they believed their fucking God “would provide.”

The Native Americans new that the land was to be taken care of if they wanted it to take care of them. They thanked their prey when they shot a deer and used every tiny bit of it to honor the sacrifice of that animal. The Anglos, on the other hand, slaughtered millions of bison to provide lap robes for rich English people.

This solution to our existential problem will not work because the concept of sacred doesn’t exist in the American mind, especially the Christian mind. And there is no vehicle, that is no religion, that enough people subscribe to that can implement that concept. And, even if there were, the fucking greedy capitalists would allow it free rein, as it would hurt their bottom lines. They would mobilize the Evangelicals against the “pagan religions” that could save our asses and that, would be the end of that.

Whatever happened to the inventive capitalists who looked to the future and anticipating change, embraced it to make new profits. Today’s capitalists have no creativity, no imagination, and are sitting where they are like the buggy whip manufacturers when automobiles began to take over, wringing their hands and using their fortunes to prevent anything from changing. They, like the buggy whip makers before them, will have no luck in those endeavors. The future belongs to the prepared.

April 26, 2021

The Flaws of Capitalism

Filed under: Business,Economics,Morality,Politics,Reason,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 11:09 am
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The major flaw of capitalism, that it has no limit of even a brake on greed, I have pointed out before, but there are others. Here are a few.

It is claimed that capitalism provides the most efficient distribution of resources. That may or may not be true, but capitalism sure doesn’t do diddly-squat for the distribution of production wastes. There are a spare few examples in which capitalism did have an effect upon waste. A steel company was drawing some heat from the amount of waste they were producing. This waste stemmed from the “pickling acid” (actually hydrochloric acid) used to reduce corrosion of newly poured iron ingots. The acid “passivated” the iron but it also dissolved a bit of the iron and so “wore out” its ability to perform that task. They were dumping that liquid waste, some legally, other not so much and were drawing heat from the federal government (too much regulation, my ass). A consultant told them that their “spent” pickling acid contained a great deal of iron(III) chloride which could be sold on the market and much of the unused acid could be recycled. The sale of the iron(III) chloride and reuse of the acid reclaimed paid for the processing and, in fact, made a profit. Ta da! A capitalism success story. Unfortunately such stories are rare. Dumping of waste is the lazy and cost effective way to deal with it and has been for a very long time.

A capitalism horror story involved a battery recycling plant near Oakland, CA. This plant took car batteries, broke them down, and recycled the lead in them to make new car batteries. Sounds cool, no? Well, part of the process involved emptying the old batters of the fluid in them which was heavily acidic (sulphuric acid, stronger even than hydrochloric acid) and had a great deal of dissolved lead in it as well. So, how did they dispose of this nasty liquid? They poured out on a bare patch of ground out back behind their buildings . . . for decades. Evidence of this waste process was discovered many tens of miles (hundreds even) away as the ground water system spread it out to cover a large part of central California. We do not possess the resources or the techniques to clean this up. The company? Oh, they declared bankruptcy to avoid any liability on the part of those who did the deed.

Basically, capitalism abuses “the commons,” that is those things we hold in common: the air, our waterways, the ground and all of the systems operating therein. Capitalists pollute it, we clean it up. (We are still spending tax money to clean up Superfund sites from decades ago.)

Capitalism does a lousy job of distributing wages. As a prime example, CEOs in the 1950’s made 20-30 times what their average worker made. Today, more than a few CEO’s make 300-400X what their average worker makes. Wow, did CEOs increase productivity, knowledge, customer satisfaction, anything that much? Nope. If one could track CEO productivity (and that would be hard to do), I am sure that CEO salaries have rocketed ahead of any productivity measurement you could some up with. How is this so? It is so because the CEOs packed their own boards of trustees with friendly faces and when the issue of “CEO salary” came up they vote for “raise” every damned time. Some of these CEOs return the favor by serving on their friend’s boards so they could get unwarranted raises, too. Unwarranted salaries paid out to CEOs doesn’t end up in shareholder’s pockets, so how could this happen? Capitalism basically doesn’t care.

In this country we have come to view capitalism as a thing in itself, rather than a tool we wield. We think “it” does this and “it” does that when it is we who do everything. It is very, very (very) clear that unregulated capitalism is disastrous. So, why does one of our two major political parties campaign all of the time on a “less regulation” is better and “no regulation” is best platform? Shouldn’t we be searching for the best regulation and if not that, better regulation? Why would capitalists campaign against the thing that makes capitalism viable? Oh, it’s the greed thing again. Even rabid anti-socialist politicians will vote for corporate socialism almost every time and the reason they do? They are being paid generously, by capitalists, to do so. Apparently politics doesn’t limit greed either.

April 23, 2021

Greed, Capitalism, and Fixing It

I will start by quoting myself:

The Achilles Heel of capitalism is that there is no limit to greed. (Me)

This is hardly a novel position. As evidence I offer:

“No bound is set on riches for men” (Solon)

“Money is like sea water: The more you drink, the thirstier you get.” (a Roman proverb)

“Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

The problem at the core of this problem is that wealth translates into political power. People with great wealth can use their wealth to buy political attention to their needs. Those needs always address their interests, the primary of which is maintaining and expanding their wealth.

So the big question is: “How do we fix this flaw” in the grand American experiment in self-governance? If greed results in the collapse of our society, as history shows that it will, how do we address it?

At first I was thinking of a bottom-up solution constructed of social pressures. One idea was that when people earn certain levels of wealth we would slap titles on them. Say, one a millionaire we would refer tot hem with the title of A Really Big Deal or Fat Cat. As their wealth increased with would come up with more and more disparaging titles that we would use publicly. Maybe at the ten million dollar wealth plateau, they would be Rich Assholes. At the Jeff Bezos level, maybe Filthy Rich Money-grubbing Obnoxious Asshole.

I have decided this won’t work as people have the attention spans of gnats nowadays and would be distracted by Brittany Spears news or something equally irrelevant, and stop following through.

There is a method that has worked for us and could work again and that is progressive taxation. During World War 2 the highest income tax bracket was close to 100%. Now, to clarify, that taxation rate was on earnings over $100,000 dollars when the average worker was making about $1885 per year (1942 figure). So, two points: this tax rate didn’t kick in until one had made $100,000 and only applied to the money earned after that $100,000 was earned. And $100,000 represented 53 times what the average worker made!

We generally craft tax brackets so there are small jumps in the tax rate between any two categories but that isn’t necessary. It could be 39% and then after $250,000 it could jump to 95%.

The consequences of doing this were made obvious when we had this system deployed. One consequence was that CEO salaries were about 20 time that of the average worker in their corporations instead of the 250-350 times we see now. And, instead of paying their CEOs ever more money, stock options, etc. They were treated with the trappings, or as they called them the perquisites, of their offices. They had lavishly decorated offices, with very expensive art work on the walls. They had company cars and trips on company airplanes, clothing budgets, and on and on. Many of these are now necessary to be declared as “income” for tax purposes, but they were not necessarily back then.

Of course to change the tax codes along these lines we would need to take back control of our Congress, but no matter what solution we come up with that task will be at the core, otherwise the wealth of the rich will result in laws undermining any system we set up.

And as part of the results of that “natural experiment” in economics that were our progressive tax rates after WW2, we found out that American corporations could be lead by leaders to become pre-eminent in the world without making 200 times or even 50 times, what their average worker made. CEOs have gamed the system to their benefit, not their corporations and not ours.

And, as you might not know, President Franklin Roosevelt brought the “captains of industry” and their ilk to the White House to strong arm them into accepting the high marginal tax rates with little to no protest using the scare of the Socialist Party of America, then one of the the largest socialist organizations in the world, and Labor Unions to make his point. They had to be given something otherwise labor chaos would result. (No business type likes labor chaos.).

Of course, priority one for the fat cats after WW2 was the destruction of the Socialist Party of America, which ceased operations on December 31, 1972 (and not because their goals had been met—Note another Socialist party rose from the ashes, in 1973, but it was and still is much smaller and almost entirely without political influence). And, as you probably know, union jobs in the US have shrunk from about a third in the 1950’s to around 7% today. This is due to a concerted effort on the part of the rich to de-fang labor unions, Our neighbor Canada still has the same level of union jobs as they had in the 1950’s, likewise about 33%, but they had no organized political effort to disempower their unions.

April 7, 2021

And Now You Know Why the Rich Defend the Status Quo

This blog was named the Class Warfare Blog for a reason. I will be renaming it because that war is over . . . and we lost. If you weren’t paying attention, the status quo ante just prior to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic that is threatening millions of jobs and millions of people’s lives has resulted in tremendous wealth gains for the very rich.

Form an article in The Guardian on Forbes magazine’s latest list of billionaires:

“Forbes annual billionaire poll includes a record-breaking 2,755 billionaires, with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos once again topping the list. Elon Musk, zoomed into second place with a $151bn fortune, up $126.4bn from a year ago, when he ranked No 31 and was worth “just” $24.6bn.”

“Elon Musk, zoomed into second place with a $151bn fortune, up $126.4bn from a year ago.”

“Together the plutocrats added $5tn to their wealth for a combined fortune of $13.1tn, up from $8tn on the 2020 list. A record 493 people joined the list this year – one new billionaire every 17 hours. The majority, 205, were in China. But the gains were widespread with gains across the world.”

“But it was the incredibly wealthy who made the biggest gains. The 0.001% did even better than their lesser peers. The top 10 richest people on the list are worth $1.15tn, up from $686bn last year.”

Gee, do you think the time is ripe for a wealth tax? Well, that won’t happen because the very rich own our Congress. Every fat, white ass in a seat in Congress knows which side of the bread the butter is on and will not betray their rich paymasters.

“ . . . up $126.4bn from a year ago.”

And as I continue to remind you, to spend a billion dollars in any year, one has to spend $532,000 per hour of every working day, of every work week of that year. For Elon Musk to spend off half of his gain from the past year, he would have to spend $33,000,000 every working hour of every working day of a year.

The flaw of capitalism is that there is no limit upon greed. The only check on greed is from governments and people power (labor unions, mostly) and the rich have defanged labor unions and captured the government. So, Gordon Gecko has proved to be a prophet: Greed is Good, at least for now.

April 5, 2021

Why Are the Rich So Hot For School Choice?

Everywhere in this land the rich, the 1%, are finagling for more charter schools, more vouchers, more support for private schools and less, ugh, public schools. Why?

I think the answer is multifaceted.

Back when I was a youngin’ it was an unvarnished truth that free public schooling was a pillar of our democracy. What would we have if citizens went uneducated? By this logic we accepted public schooling as a “collective responsibility,” not just an individual responsibility. But, also in my childhood, I heard from people arguing: “I don’t have any children, so why should I be paying school taxes?” This argument confused individual and collective responsibilities. We all benefit from the education of the citizenry, so we all pay for it (unless you are a church). Some of the rich expanded upon this argument and asked “I pay a great deal of money to have my children educated in the finest private schools, so why should I also have to pay for the public schools. Again, this argument confuses individual and collective responsibilities. I do not actually think they were confused on that issue, I think they were just making an argument, any argument, that might reduce their taxes. (It is interesting that those with the most money, worry about how much money they have more than others do.)

Some of the very richest consider all taxes to be “theft.” These extremists got their wish when a town out in the boondocks (of Montana? Idaho?) voted in a cadre of people who thought like that. They thought being a low tax zone would attract all kinds of businesses, but when they reduced or eliminated the vast majority of taxes, they lost their police department, their fire department, their road maintenance department, and even their city hall. (The town council, in fact the whole city government, now works out of a single wide trailer.) Businesses not only didn’t flock to their city they ran, screaming, the other way.

More recently, the filthy rich have recognized that they have cornered almost all of the sources of wealth in this country: mineral extraction, construction, communications, financial “instruments,” etc. and then turned their gaze upon the pile of money spent every year on public schools. This amount of money dwarfs the revenues of many of the other wealth sources in the US combined. So, there was money to be made in supplanted the “public schools.” They even figured out how to extract large profits from “non-profit charter schools.” It was ridiculously easy. First create a school. Then hire a “management company” to run it, a company which has no restrictions on making profits at all. Often the two entities were the same people. Have you ever wondered why there are so may charter school scandals? The answer is easy: the founder’s motivation was greed and with little to no oversight (aka guvmint regulayshun) greed overwhelmed any restraint every time.

It is somewhat amazing how it is that ordinarily intelligent business people can decide to create a business in a certain place because it has a “large pool of quality workers” and then turn around and undermine the process that produces those workers.

I think all this is based upon the rich man’s fallacy: namely that their wealth is a sign of their superiority. That they were able to become rich is their qualification. The “other people” are lesser beings, not worthy of their attention. This meme is so entrenched in the minds of the rich that they all consider themselves to be “self-made men.” I laughed at Mitt Romney making this claim. You see when Mitt graduated from college, his father gave him $2,000,000 of seed money and access to all of his contacts (his father was President of American Motors and a heavy hitter in the Republican party). Do you know how much money I made in my almost 40 years as a college professor (at about the same time span)? It was $2,000,000. Mitt Romney was given, in effect, the amount of my career earnings to “get started” in business. But Mitt Romney did it all himself. He even dialed his own phone from time to time, I am sure.

February 27, 2021

Made You Look—A Documentary

Filed under: Art,Business,Culture — Steve Ruis @ 8:33 am
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Last night I watched an interesting documentary about a massive art fraud in New York City. In the late 1990s and much of 2000s $80 million of fake paintings were sold as if legitimate. The pieces had sketchy provenance, so they were often “authenticated” by experts.

This is a fascinating documentary, well done, but a number of points were never mentioned or were glossed over.

The Authenticating “Experts” Were Full of Shit
Various experts were asked to “authenticate” these paintings and often did so wholeheartedly, even though they turned out to be fakes. This process has been shown to be flawed over and over but keeps being used. If a new painting is discovered, one not seen in catalogues of the artist’s works, an expert should go no further than to comment something along the lines of “It appears to be in this artist’s style and the painting appears to be of an appropriate age.” That’s it. But these “experts” were stumbling all over themselves to state that the paintings were authentic, something that couldn’t be told without extensive testing. When the extensive testing was done, some of the pigments hadn’t been invented until after the artist died, which is kind of a clue, don’t you think?

The experts basically should limit there comments on a previously unknown painting to “is worth further testing.”

Collectors were Glowing About the Fakes
When the fakes were purchased, the new owners loved those paintings, gushed about how beautiful they were, etc. so they were good art, no? But when they were proved to be fakes the collectors were outraged. Clearly they were not buying art for the sake of the art. They, instead, wanted to brag about how much money it cost, or that it was painted by a famous painter, or looked at it as an investment, but these people never say things like: ”It was such a good bargain, I could see myself selling it for a nice profit is just a few years.” or “I wanted to snatch this up before a bidding war started. It will be much more valuable in time.” So, these hypocrites gush over the quality of the painting but are outraged when they find out that it was faked. Apparently they can distinguish between fake beauty and real beauty . . . not.

This Has Been Going On for Years
This was mentioned a couple of times. It was not a surprise to find out that the forger/painter was a Chinese gentleman. Whether he was a willing participant in the fraud was not determined because there is a tradition in China of copying other works (and not just China). These copies are often sold quite cheaply to people who could not come close to affording the real thing. Much like we have posters of famous art works to hang on our plebian walls. It was suspicious, of course, the lengths gone to to use period and artist correct materials, which would not be necessary for “decorative art pieces.”

Art students are often seen in museums copying masterworks as exercises. And when the originals are being sold for millions, the temptation is there. In this case the works copied were those of American Expressionists (not my cup of tea) which are random enough to be more easily copied, also materials of the age these were created (1950s and 1960s) are still available.

Fueling all of this were prices of hundreds of thousands paid by the art dealer for paintings that sold for much more, even millions. This was a point critics say should have cause alarms to go off, but since greed is the driving force of this age, no one noticed anything sketchy for over a decade.

December 11, 2020

The Numbers Don’t Lie

Filed under: Culture,Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:30 am
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The numbers don’t lie, at least this time. I ran across the following example, which kind of tells you that the rich are too rich for everyone’s own good. It goes like this:

If you were to deposit $2000 (current value) into a bank vault every day, day after day, year after year, for 2000 years, basically from what is called “the time of Jesus” until now (you’d probably need family help in this), you will have accumulated almost 1.5 billion dollars. Jeff Bezos in substantially less time has accumulated $117 billion.

I know it is sacred ideology in this country that the rich have “earned” their loot. They created the businesses, the jobs, yada, yada, yada. And that might even have been true 75 years ago. But as the wealthy accumulated money, they realized that they were also accumulating potential power . . . and they decided, some of them anyway, to exercise that power. They are now running the entire country. Whatever they want, they get. They have changed the rules of business and politics to favor them. They get the big tax cuts. They get the tax havens (legal!), they get the tax breaks to move a business, etc.

But is this the kind of country we want to live in? A country in which great wealth can be accumulated (most think that is kind of cool) but those with great wealth can then take over the gears of government and shift them any way they want to? A country in which it is looking more and more like a plutocracy, one in which the great masses of people grind away, working to make their masters even richer, while experiencing an ever declining standard of living? Over half of the jobs in the USA are now poorly paying “service” jobs. Is this what you saw in your future? The life expectancy of Americans is dropping! Is this the “things keep getting better” America you expected or expected to leave your children?

If Jeff Bezos wanted to spend down his fortune in just one year, he would have to spend $162,000,000 per hour of every working day in that year. No one person has needs that require the accumulation of such a fortune.

The fatal flaw of capitalism is that it places no limits upon greed.

Will this also be the fatal flaw of the US? That we failed to put limits upon greed and so passed control of the country to a tiny minority of wealthy citizens, who ran it into the ground . . . for a profit?

November 19, 2020

Think About It

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:41 am
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As reported on the Nautilus website Aleksandra Cichocka, a political psychologist at the University of Kent, wrote recently in Nature. “Conspiracy beliefs have also been linked to feelings of powerlessness, anxiety, isolation and alienation. Those who feel that they are insignificant cogs in the political machinery tend to assume that there are nefarious influences at play.”

Gosh, do you see conspiracy beliefs around? If not, you haven’t had your eyes open. So, since these stem from the sources indicated, doesn’t that indicate that we are actually suffering from significant feelings of “powerlessness, anxiety, isolation and alienation?”

The grinding of the middle class and the poor under the heels of both parties at the behest of the plutocrats of this country as produced a high degree of such feelings, and they aren’t just resident in “those others” over there, they are in all of us.

If something isn’t done to improve the lot of the poor and the middle classes, and soon, expect our governmental institutions to continue to crumble at a rapid clip. The American experiment in self-government will be over. Long live the clueless.

October 16, 2020

They Will Have to Pry the Money Out of My Cold, Dead Hands

Filed under: Economics,History,Politics,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 1:01 pm
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You may remember when Charlton Heston was president of the National Rifle Association (NRA). He is famous for delivering, quite theatrically, the old saw “They will have to pry my gun out of my cold, dead hands.” Basically he was stating that he would defend, even violently, his right to “bear arms.” But physical violence is on the decline and now it has been replaced by economic violence. The rich have acquired more wealth (as a percentage) than they possessed in the previous greatest episodes of U.S. history. The Robber Barons had less, the Gilded Age tycoons had less.

A major book by Walter Scheidel, The Great Leveler, claims that there are but four causes of reversals of this trend: mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues. These are the only thing that have reversed the “normal” trend of wealth accumulation by the wealthy, by the simple expedient of repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich and, well, the rich themselves.

The 20th century, with two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the immense communist revolution created the greatest redistribution of wealth (and power) ever seen. Unfortunately, all of the wealth redistribution that occurred after WW2 has been reversed at this point and the “normal” state of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer has been reinstated.

What is at work here is greed, pure and simple.

Before you start to believe that there is some “invisible hand” at work here, there is not. What is at work here is greed, pure and simple. The dynamics at play here are these: the rich are few and the rest of us are many. This gives the rich a large advantage in organization. The power of the rich’s money is leveraged by buying politicians. I am sure that you have seen the studies that show that the rich get the attention of politicians to a very large degree, despite they being few and the poor get zero attention from politicians despite they being many. Apparently votes do not matter and money does. This is because money buys votes and the system is biased toward the elites. The two party, winner take all, system requires that the rich only need to influence, aka bribe, the two leading candidates for any office. Both current candidates for President, for example, are both acceptable to the rich as they have been vetted and supplied with suitable leashes. (Those of you who think that Mr. Trump’s wealth insulates him from their greed need to examine his tax returns. Mr. Trump only appears to be wealthy. There are lots of people, as Chris Rock says, who are rich, but few who are wealthy. Basically, star athletes and star performers, are rich . . . the people who sign their paychecks are wealthy.

The only way to solve this problem is for the many to tax the few: that is tax the rich so that they do not accumulate distorting amounts of wealth. The problem, of course, is this is a political solution, and they are few and we are many. Of the four actual forces that affect the wealthy the only that is even mildly attractive is “transformative revolutions.” Maybe we can learn from South Africa and do this bloodlessly, with a “forgive them they know not what they have done” attitude. But I suspect they know full well what they are doing, certainly the Koch Brothers did, so this will be a hard sell at best. Maybe lynching the uber-wealthy is the way to go, but that isn’t exactly non-violent.

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