Class Warfare Blog

May 10, 2019

Trump’s Business Losses

Filed under: Business,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:22 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

The New York Times is reporting that IRS records show Donald Trump’s businesses lost approximately $1.15 billion dollars during the decade from 1985 to 1994. That sounds like a lot of money and was. But it is not in current terms. I picked the year 1990 at the center of this period as a form of averaging and used an inflation calculator to convert those dollars into what they would be today.

In today’s dollars, Trump’s losses would be . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . .


This raises schadenfreude to whole new levels!


April 21, 2019

Jail Birds Fly Free … Well Some Do

One of the parents who conspired to get their kid into an elite college the old fashioned way (cheating, bribery, influence, etc.) has been on trial and that trial is in the sentencing phase. The prosecution wants something a little less than a year in prison and the defense wants something closer to a month in prison.

So, this is the justice system we have. People go to jail for cheating on college admissions requirements, for possession of small amounts of marijuana, etc. but if you do something really big, like bring down the financial system of the U.S. and the world, or defy the orders of a federal judge, you get swept under the rug as being “too big to fail” or, gosh, you get a presidential pardon. I understand that some banks might be too big to fail but are they too big to be broken up and sold off? Are the executives too big to go to jail? Do we need bigger jail cells? We used to send bankers to jail and did so as recently as the savings and loan debacle in the 1980’s. But now, gosh, it would be just so sad to do that, so let’s just give those executives a bonus and let them retire or, heck, just let them keep doing what they have been doing.

Obviously justice in this country has always been predicated upon the color of your skin and your socioeconomic status. If Bernie Maddoff had bilked a bunch of poor people or a bunch of people of color, would he have gone to jail? He had the bad taste to bilk white people who had been rich, so his fate was sealed.

This is sad.

January 10, 2019

They Used to Hijack Airplanes, Now It Is The Government

President Trump is trying to hijack Congress. Congress was given the purse strings of the nation, not the Executive branch. This was one of those old-fashioned “checks and balances” things. But Mr. Trump is telling Congress, pass the legislation I want (authorizing the expenditures I want) or suffer the consequences, Basically he is saying that he won’t do his job (faithfully execute the laws of the US of A) unless Congress gives him what he wants. “So, give me I want or I shut the government down.” <signed> Donald J. Trump If this were being done by a foreign agency, it would be considered an act of war.

I wonder where he got the idea?

Oh, I remember, it was back when the Republican Congress tried to hijack Mr. Obama’s Presidency. Basically they said “give us what we want or we will not extend the national debt limit.” The consequences of not extending that limit was that the government couldn’t pay its bills and employees and could default on the payment of its debt obligations, ruining our credit rating. The final such tantrum by the GOP cost many billions of dollars as I suspect that Mr. Trump’s tantrum will, too.

Does no one else see this as an infringement on the powers granted the Congress by the Constitution? Does no one else see that refusing to “faithfully execute the laws of the US of A” is an offense that could result in the removal of Mr. Trump from office?

I mean, there is a saying that “all is fair in love and politics,” but it is just a saying. It isn’t the Constitution, for pity’s sake. Mr. Trump seems to think that not paying “his employees” is an ordinary bargaining position. If would be is he were still a scummy slum lord in New York, but now he is playing with the big boys and I hope someone hands his head to him.

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.)

December 27, 2018

Fear Mongering for Fun and Profit

The Atlantic magazine published an article this last April with the intriguing title “The Last Temptation,” subtitled “How evangelicals, once culturally confident, became an anxious minority seeking political protection from the least traditionally religious president in living memory.”

I didn’t finish the article but it started in the same vein as so many others, with Donald Trump and his high percent of the evangelical vote. The article did suggest, though, that there had been some kind of sea change in evangelical attitudes over the past half century. One paragraph summed up their opinion:

“The moral convictions of many evangelical leaders have become a function of their partisan identification. This is not mere gullibility; it is utter corruption. Blinded by political tribalism and hatred for their political opponents, these leaders can’t see how they are undermining the causes to which they once dedicated their lives. Little remains of a distinctly Christian public witness.”

Finally, we get to the crux of the matter. Things changed when some “elites” decided to convert Christian conservatives into a political force. Believe it or not, early on most American Christians thought that the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling was a good thing, that such decisions should be left to families in consultation with clergy and health professionals, that government shouldn’t be involved. Abortion did not become a “wedge issue” until it was forged into one.

Similarly, as in all other political “mood shifts,” the usual motives involved were: money, power, and fear. In the case of mobilization of evangelicals as a political force, fear was the chosen tool. Evangelicals were and are taught that the world is becoming an ever more sinful place, when that conclusion is far from the truth. They are taught that there is a “war on Christianity,” that morals are sinking fast and that something must be done! Older citizens living in suburbs came to fear Black criminals over the much greater threats to their safety.

All of this was perpetrated, of course, by religious and secular elites, to serve their interests, not the interest of ordinary citizens, Christians or not. George W. Bush is famous (infamous?) for brushing off the Religious Right’s demands for “more” from him by saying “those people are never satisfied.” All they had gotten was a paltry office and a president-appointed officer.

The only resolution of this awful set of circumstances is for all of us to admit that we have been “played” by our political leaders. They all need to be replaced, based upon their records. While it may not be possible to expect complete honesty (within some limits) from our leaders, wouldn’t it be refreshing if we got some? Certainly fear mongering and lying continuously need to be shamed out of existence.

November 4, 2018

Life in the Alternate Universe

Politics today seems to be based almost entirely upon straw man arguments. In such an argument, one creates a “straw man” in the form of a political opponent or political idea and then attacks it. The straw man, of course, does not exist, and so anything you say about it cannot be wrong.

The “migrant march” currently making its way through Mexico is the source of many of these things. Setting aside the ridiculous claim that it is in invasion, there are some really strange political stances being taken. Quite a few Republicans are arguing forcefully against the idea of “open borders.” Of course, there is no one making this proposal. Nobody wants open borders with no controls as to who passes and who does not. No body. But by attacking the promoters of “Open Borders!” the idea that there actually are some people recommending this crazy idea. Then the Open Borders “movement” is stood up as what is being battled with whatever our immigration policy is now. (Does anyone really know? Is it just whatever the president wants today?)

Consider the following argument by the ever vicious Michelle Malkin:

It’s insane to argue we should turn a blind eye to the health status of law-breaking aliens (Michelle Malkin on Oct 31, 2018) “We live in bizarro times. Suddenly, it is controversial to state obvious, neon-bright truths. This week, it has become newsworthy to observe that illegal border-crossers who circumvent required medical screenings are a threat to America’s public health and safety.”

This is a valid point, but this was in the context of the “Migrant March,” and I don’t think any of those people are planning to sneak in as “illegal border crossers.” If they are, they are doing a lousy job of being invisible so as to not be caught trying to sneak in. (Elmer Fudd had more subtlety than that: “Be wery, wery, quiet … there’s a wabbit around here!”)

I suggest that those people will present themselves at the border and apply for asylum. If they do that, they will be processed according to the protocols established, which includes a health assessment. So, is the “Migrant March” a cause of concern regarding communicable diseases? The answer is a clear no, as they present no greater danger than any other crowd of people of equal size. But raising the specter of a disease ridden horde approaching our borders, who are going to just run across does have a certain affect on public opinion. GOP allied pundits and the President have an agenda. It is fear. A fearful polity is a manipulable polity, plain and simple.

So, when the President says that the “horde” approaching our southern border is an invasion of ISIS members, rapists, robbers, and disease carriers, and maybe the woeful Cleveland Browns, we have to take it as another brick in the wall he is building around any coherent thinking. He should have a button on his desk which screams “Fear, fire, foes, awake! Fear, fire, foes, awake!” any time the button is pressed … and he would be pressing it many times a day.

November 1, 2018

#3 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A few days back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #3!

  1. Objective Morality (Moral Argument). Leaving the scientific realm for the philosophical and ethical, objective morality argues for an Objective Lawgiver. God is the best explanation for why objective morality exists. As Brian Manuel, a good friend of mine, said recently, “We can just know certain things to be right and wrong without even being taught.” He is absolutely right! People have an innate sense of morality. That comes from a Moral Lawgiver who we know to be God.

This argument, of course is not new; none of them are, even though the premises refer to things newer. This one is even incoherent. If morals are dictated by gods then they are hardly objective. This is the very definition of subjective (“Behave the way I tell you because I said so … or I will punish you.”)

An obvious argument is there have been so many gods, if the same morals are dictated, then there is some source for those morals higher than the various gods. For those who wish to claim the Abrahamic god as this source, the other gods do not acknowledge that authority, so such a claim is unsubstantiated. We could just as easily claim that morals that evolved naturally from societal structures are that “authority.”

And just what are these vaunted god morals? Many Christians point to the ten commandments, eschewing the other 600 or so from the Old Testament. (There are two lists of the ten to add to the confusion.) And, of course, there are obvious things missing from both lists. Maybe if there had been a commandment forbidding the sexual molestation of children, the Catholic Church might be a less deplorable institution right now. In fact, there are no commandments protecting children and women from molestation. There is no commandment against slavery in scripture. So, where does the general disapproval of slavery now in existence come from? Even if you claim that your god changed his mind about slavery, this is hardly becoming of an entity claimed to be omniscient. Can an omniscient being change its mind, without being perfidious or worse?

This is another argument that has premises and a conclusion, but nothing really connecting them.

October 28, 2018

So Is Trump Responsible … for Anything?

In an article in The Guardian, Heather Cox Richardson compares the recent attempted bombings with the political atmosphere at the end of the Civil War which lead to assassination attempts on leading politicians. Here are some excerpts:

When Trump demonises opponents, unhinged partisans take their cues
by Heather Cox Richardson

“When a president, as Trump does, demonises opponents as an un-American mob trying to destroy the country, it is not a lunatic who tries to harm them, it is a patriot.”

“By the 1990s, Republicans held on to power by manipulating the system. They claimed Democrats won elections through “voter fraud” and that they were protecting democracy. They deliberately kept Democrats from the polls.

“Voter suppression in Florida in 2000 helped put Republican George W Bush into office despite losing the popular vote and the targeting of state legislative elections in 2010 enabled Republicans to gerrymander states out of Democrat reach.

“Meanwhile, from the 1980s, Republicans insured themselves against Democratic legal challenges by packing the courts. Always, they argued that their machinations were simply protection against Democratic plotting with undeserving minorities to destroy America. By 2018, the Republicans’ president had demonised minorities as criminals and rapists and had embraced the idea that America was a white man’s land.

“Since 1980, Republicans have monopolised resources for a few wealthy Americans and have retained power by skewing the media, manipulating the system and convincing white followers that dangerous minorities threatened their very existence.”

“When a president, as Trump does, demonises opponents as an un-American mob
trying to destroy the country, it is not a lunatic who tries to harm them, it is a patriot.”


October 17, 2018

Holy Shit (Bull Variety)

Filed under: Morality,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:37 am
Tags: , , , , ,

On my Quora feed the following paid advert was posted:

Where did the four gospels in the Bible come from?
The Church of Jesus Christ
“As Jesus taught, His disciples wrote what He said. Order a free Bible to learn what He taught.”

And here I thought that lying was a deadly sin.

It is a scholarly conclusion that we do not know who wrote the gospels that were included in the Bible. None of the earliest manuscripts we have of those works has an author listed. All seem to have had multiple authors. Most of the gospels seem to have been written at a point in time that all or most of the disciples claimed to have followed Jesus would have died.

I wonder if Donald Trump got his ability to string lies one after the next from his religious training?

September 15, 2018

Ethics and Morality without God

In a recent post on Daily Kos I read the following:

“I once said to a Native American friend that I thought that the Golden Rule was a perfect expression of social ethics, and before I could put the period on my sentence, he shot back, ‘No, it’s not … because if you’re a misanthrope who hates people and just wants to be left alone, you can behave that way in clear conscience. In my tribe, I have responsibilities to widows, orphans, and the ill. I have to hunt for those who can’t. That’s mutuality.’” (sfzendog)

This attitude toward the collective responsibility we all have, as well as individual responsibility, might be summed up in “love thy neighbor as thyself” but it isn’t made at all explicit in Christian ethics/morality.

Many people do not know that the “tithe” which has morphed into a fundraiser to support the church building fund and minister’s and staff’s salaries, was originally a tax. The Jews had a theocracy. Even when outsiders came in and established a new ruling structure, the Temple kept its own governing structure and the tithe/tax was a way to support widows, orphans, and the afflicted. That is what it was for, explicitly. The Jews had a structure in place regarding the collective responsibility of all to support those in need.

Christian ethics/morality on the other hand stops at “love they neighbor” and “turn the other cheek,” with little parsing of those instructions. There are clear signs that early Christians were communal (that means communists, Comrade). As Christianity was rewritten by pagans, that collectivism was written out. The Republicans are doing their damndest to wipe out collectivism in the U.S. right now, so this “battle” is quite longstanding.

We still haven’t answered the question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We are still trying to address mutuality.

Many studies on democratic socialist states show that as they collectively (through government) care for those less fortunate or less capable and just ordinary citizens, the less the need for religion in their population. It therefore seems that religion has a vested interest in opposing government providing basic support for their people. The widespread evangelical support for the current administration therefore is less perplexing looked at in this light.

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