Class Warfare Blog

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.

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December 30, 2017

We Can Trust Corporations As They Would Do Nothing to Besmirch Their Reputations, Part 298

As reported on the Naked Capitalism website:

“’A unit of Caterpillar that repaired railcars at a Los Angeles facility pled guilty last week to a federal environmental offense of dumping parts into the ocean to conceal that it was performing unnecessary and improper repairs for several railcar operators’ [Corporate Crime Reporter]. ‘As a result of illegal conduct that spanned the years 2008 through 2014 – including the unnecessary and improper repairs on railcar adapters, brake beams, grating platforms, brake shoes, friction castings, hand brakes, roof liners and side bearings – United Industries earned at least $5 million.’

 

December 26, 2017

God, the Inspiration of Artists!

At this time of year I see many representations of artist’s glorification of the Christian god (including mundane Christmas carols that I have always loved). This treasure trove of art is used from time to time for justification (aka spin) of the existence of this or that god. “How could a god who does not exist inspire so many artists?” we are asked. “How could such great artistic expression come from less than the most holy?” (♫ Grandma got run over by a reindeer … ♫)

I think folks need to take a closer look at this. I just finished a book on the messages hidden in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by none the less than Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. Michelangelo, who only wanted to sculpt, was given the commission to paint the ceiling of a huge chapel, a facsimile of the temple of the Jews (at least part of it—which was a huge insult as the Jews forbade any such replicas being built). This was an offer he couldn’t refuse and which cost him seven years of his life, his most productive years that could have been applied to sculpture, but. . . . His commission was to paint Christian scenes upon the ceiling and then later, the far wall. This was so inspired by God (and the Pope, his patron) that Michelangelo painted that huge fresco, still one of the largest frescos ever painted, without painting a single Christian figure on the ceiling. All of the figures Michelangelo painted were Jews. There were also several insulting messages for the Pope and other prominent people of the time.

This was not a new practice invented for the occasion, Renaissance painters often painted in such “messages,” including insults for their patrons. Artists were also not allowed to sign their works, so it was often the case that a figure in a painting carried the face of the painter. Michelangelo was so insulted when he unveiled the Pieta he sculpted because the viewers insisted that the sculptor must be Roman because no one from Florence had enough skill, that he broke into the site at night and hastily chiseled his name into the statue! Similarly his face and the faces of his lovers appeared in his frescos. One of the faces on the Sistine Chapel’s surfaces is that of his lover of the time (and yes, M was gay)!

Much of this art and music was commissioned at a time when the few rich people who could afford to commission such works were either Princes of the Church or were secular leaders who needed to overlay some religious sanctity atop their secular rule. So, many of these glorious works of art (sculpture, painting, music) were commissioned on religious themes.

To claim that religion inspired these art works is disingenuous at a minimum. The ability to paint or sculpt “on spec” was limited as artists were paid very little, so if you wanted to guarantee a sale, you had better cater to the prevailing “art market.” Since the rich were constantly sucking up to the religious elites, and vice-versa, it is no surprise that many, many glorious artworks were dedicated to such people. To make an argument for the existence of god from such inspiration shows either a complete lack of understanding, a lack of other credible arguments, or both.

I am really tired of the elites pissing in our glasses and telling us it is lemonade. I would find them more honest if they were to swing a pocket watch in front of our eyes, mumbling “You are getting very sleepy, very sleepy … when you awake, you will believe….”

December 24, 2017

Effing Blundering Humans

What a perfect invention a human is, how noble in his capacity to reason, how unlimited in thinking, how admirable in his shape and movement, how angelic in action, how godlike in understanding! There’s nothing more beautiful. We surpass all other animals. (Hamlet, Shakespeare)

We use the term “civilized” as a complement and “uncivilized” as a criticism. We seem to be fans of civilization and “being civilized.” Unfortunately this is part of the self-propagating control mechanism which is culture. Culture exists so a few can control the many for the benefit of the few.

I was watching a documentary on the Americas before Columbus. I knew much of what they portrayed but to have it all thrust in my face at once made me see the big picture in alarming clarity.

The European conquest of Europe and then the Americas was a blundering, abysmal, staggeringly unenlightened display of brute force. The European’s animals and plants were brought onto this continent and then took over essentially every ecological niche available. Along with the pigs and barley and beer came European weeds and European diseases; smallpox itself was the cause of a majority of the Native Americans being killed. Native species of plants and animals died in front of a wave of horses, pigs, cattle, sheep and staple grains. The plow basically ruined the thin soil in New England that the Native Americans had been nurturing for millennia. Hogs rooted up vast acreage and spread diseases that native species had no ability to fight. Whole forests fell under the axes of the invaders.

Viewed in its entirety, this is a horror show. Genocide alongside ecological imperialism alongside greed alongside culture assassination.

And we call it civilization.

What I see is immense ignorance on display. A complete uncaring for the future of humans and a complete uncaring for anything that does not benefit humans. The definition of a “weed,” for example, is any plant unwanted by humans.

Arrogance, greed, immense ignorance, … aka civilized.

Are we any different now? Are events any different now?

Europeans used up Europe’s resources: cutting its trees, depleting its soils, spoiling its streams, and stripping its oceans of fish. Then they brought “civilization” to the Americas. And now the Americas are quite like Europe when the Americas were discovered.

Have we really learned anything?

I am not talking about academic knowledge, but cultural and political knowledge and actions. Have were learned to the “doing stage” any of the lessons we should have, lessons that will allow us to survive and other species alongside of us? If we have, I sure haven’t noticed that.

 

December 20, 2017

We Have Morons Running Our Governments

One of the responses from those in the federal government who were told they could no longer use certain wordsand terms, such as fetus, science-based, climate change, or evidenced-based, responded with “Can we still use moron?” One of the functions of a bureaucracy is to resist change. Ours seems to still be working.

The Republican Party, like the Democratic Party, has stripped away its bureaucracies in favor of … what? The GOP seems now to be run under the influence of deep thinkers, such as Murray Rothbard, an inspiration to many, including the Koch brothers. Rothbard has asked “What is the State anyway but organized banditry? What is taxation but theft on a gigantic, unchecked scale?” According to this intellectual giant, we need to finance all of our collective efforts with bake sales or maybe “I’ve got an idea, gang; let’s put on a show!”

In their world, a person works as an individual and pays all who help him/her, being indebted to no one and then accrues wealth in the form of a pile of gold in the corner of his living room. But they also believe that if they were to die unexpectedly, that their wives and children should then “own” that wealth. But the wives and children didn’t earn that wealth, why should they have any claim to it at all? These conservative savants believe in inheritance, you see, which is a legal thing and immediately their personal philosophy is in trouble. I remember a very wealthy man who left almost all of his wealth to charity when he died, because he didn’t want to deprive his children of the experience of having to work for a living.

Is there any evidence of a culture or society in which there was no form of tax or extracted labor? I do not know of one. If we have collective needs, they must be paid for collectively. Even the libertarian radicals recognize collective needs in the form of the militaries and courts, so how are we to pay for these?

The government is “us” acting collectively. In order for it to work we, collectively, have to have respect for individuals … and individuals, individually, have to have respect for “us.” One of our major political parties has bought into the first, but not the second part of that statement, which means our democracy is in peril. (Guess which one, go ahead, guess …)

December 17, 2017

Oh, Boy, Oh, Boy … We’re Number One!

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:21 am
Tags: , , , ,

The U.S. is demonstrating our exceptionalism to the rest of the wold not only by making war around the globe, but also now we are number one in income and wealth inequality.

Since 1980, when western Europe and the U.S. showed similar levels of inequality, the gap between the richest and the rest has surged in the U.S., while in western Europe it has increased only moderately.

In both regions, the top 1% of adults earned about 10% of national income in 1980. Today that cohort’s share has risen modestly to 12% in western Europe, but dramatically to 20% of all income in the US. The good times have been especially good for those at the very top in the U.S., with annual income booming by 205% since 1980 for the top 1%, and by 636% for the top 0.001%.

The American population … has it benefited from this wealth trickling down? Nope, the average annual wage of the bottom 50% has stagnated since 1980 at about US$16,000 per adult (after adjusting for inflation and before taking into account taxes and transfers). The idea of trickle down economics was a scam and still is a scam, perpetrated by the elites on the masses. It’s as it this is a tale of two countries: the top half has been growing at roughly the same rate as China, while for the 117 million American adults in the bottom 50%, income growth has been nonexistent for a generation. In western Europe, by contrast, incomes of the bottom half have matched overall economic growth over the last quarter of a century.

The takeway is very simple. For any of the sniveling, GOP dollar sucking economists who try to explain this away as due to “globalization,” or “automation,” or any other phenomenon, their arguments are bogus, because if those arguments were true, the effect on the U.S. and, say, Canada, or western Europe would be roughly similiar … and they are not. They may be having an effect, but they cannot explain the large increase in wealth and income inequality being experienced.

The real reason is class war. The wealthy have captured the mechanisms of government and have used them to benefit the wealthy above and beyond anyone else. If you desire any proof exaimne the Trump administration’s actions. Exhibit No. 1 is the tax bill currently being rammed through Congress. At least 40% of the benefits will go to the top 1%. If you look at the actions taken since its inception, the adminstration has done everything to advantage corporations and rich people and nothing to help the poor or middle class.

And they only call it “class warfare” when we fight back. When will we begin to fight? Or will we just be ground into dust as has happened so often in the history of civilization?

December 3, 2017

Senate and House Reps Meet to Reconcile their Two Tax Bills

November 24, 2017

Students as Slaves (to Debt)

I have been writing a great deal about coerced labor recently. Here is a new manifestation of it. In a “reform” of the bankruptcy laws (ca 2005, I think), it became all but impossible for students to discharge their student loans in a bankruptcy. The argument was that way too may students, especially those with lucrative incomes in their futures (doctors, lawyers, etc.), were discharging their debts through bankruptcy while they were still destitute, before their careers took off.

Well, a the Philadelphia Fed decided that claim was worth a look and so they did. Here is what they found:

Philadelphia Fed Study Debunks Main Argument for Student Debt Slavery

Basically no such pattern of such behavior can be found. So, why should such a bullshit argument be advanced in the first place?

Hello? The entire purpose of this legislation was to enslave students. Remember back in the 1970’s when students were marching in the streets against the War in Vietnam. Students! Showing no respect for their elders. And, besides they were just liberal voters in waiting. By making student loans almost impossible to discharge in bankruptcy, a sizable number of students were taught the lesson to “sit down, shut up, and do as you were told.” The elites know how to run the country better than you do, including lying and cheating to achieve their ends.

You may have also noticed absolutely no hue and cry regarding how colleges have gotten so very much more expensive coming from conservatives. Being a conservative means you do not want the riffraff elevated, disturbing the natural order of things. They need to learn their place in a stable society. The larger the student debt, the longer the period of debt slavery.

Addendum
Must reading on the Naked Capitalism site: Capitalism: Not With a Bang But With a (Prolonged) Whimper

If you want to see what we are in for, read this article. I just ordered the book mentioned.

November 22, 2017

How the Media Keep Failing Us

The Nation published an article under the miswritten title: How the State Can Make Inequality Worse by Steven Teles and Brink Lindsey. The subhead was “From zoning and licensing boards to bank bailouts, the state has often been captured by corporations and the wealthy.”

I have not read the article. (I used to subscribe but I had to trim back such expenditures.) But I am writing about the piece’s title and the mistaken impression it gives.

For one, why “can”? Why not “does.” There are myriad examples that show that the rules of our government, “the state,” have been manipulated to benefit the elites and disadvantage ordinary citizens. Can implies possibility, does implies certainty.

For another, the use of the term “the State” makes it sound as if some collective institution is responsible for the activities described. This is in the same vein as when conservatives use the word “government” as if it were some alien system imposed from outer space, instead of a stand-in for “us.”

Allow me to re-write their title to make it more clear as to what is going on. How about?

“How Corporations and the Wealthy use the State to Make Inequality Worse”
“From zoning and licensing boards to bank bailouts,
the state has often been captured by corporations and the wealthy.”

That seems to be much closer to the truth. And you can use the same subhead.

The media seem to be oh, so polite when addressing the elites. If this keeps up, soon it will be mandatory. Speaking against the elites will be made a crime. (It has been done before and is currently in use in religious hierarchies).

I hate to bash The Nation as it seems to be one of the few newspapers dedicated to publishing the truth, but if such obfuscatory journalism establishes a beach head there, we are probably all doomed to being citizens of an oligarchy.

 

 

 

November 21, 2017

Teachers Unions? Bah, Who Needs Them?

Six years ago, the state of Wisconsin passed the highly controversial 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, which virtually eliminated collective bargaining rights for most public-sector workers, as well as slashed those workers’ benefits, among other changes.

As Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) argued, “We no longer have seniority or tenure. That means we can hire and fire based on merit, we can pay based on performance. That means we can put the best and the brightest in our classrooms and we can pay them to be there.”

Well, did they?

What do you think will happen to an employer who slashes wages and benefits? People will leave their employ. Who leaves first? The people who have the most confidence they can find another job, that is the best workers. Who stays. The sluggards, the unimaginative, the fearful … not all, of course, but a higher concentration of these stay. (Studies have shown this to be the case.)

Action Reaction
An analysis of the effect of Act 10 has found:

  • In the year immediately following the law’s passage, median compensation for Wisconsin teachers decreased by 8.2 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, with median benefits being cut by 18.6 percent and the median salary falling by 2.6 percent. Median salaries and benefits continued to fall during the next four years so that median compensation in the 2015-16 school year was 12.6 percent—or $10,843 dollars—lower than it was before the passage of Act 10.

  • The percentage of teachers who left the profession spiked to 10.5 percent after the 2010-11 school year, up from 6.4 percent in the year before Act 10 was implemented. Exit rates have remained higher than before, with 8.8 percent of teachers leaving after the 2015-16 school year— the most recent school year for which data are available.
  • The percentage of teachers with less than five years of experience increased from 19.6 percent in the 2010-11 school year to 24.1 percent in the 2015-16 school year.
  • Average teaching experience decreased from 14.6 years in the 2010-11 school year to 13.9 in the 2011-12 school year, which is where it remained in the 2015-16 school year.
  • Interdistrict moves—when a teacher leaves one Wisconsin district to teach at another the next school year—has increased from 1.3 percent before the passage of Act 10 to 3.4 percent at the end of the 2014-15 school year.

Are you surprised?

The False Narrative
The core of the false narrative is in plain sight; it is “That means we can hire and fire based on merit, we can pay based on performance.” This is a business model. The problem is that in a business, the “boss” owns the company (or the boss’s boss or the …). The owner has the right to hire and fire inherent in his ownership. In a public school, the “owner” is the public, the taxpayers of the school district. There is no mechanism by which those owners can fire anyone (by state law). Prior to Act 10, the “owner” of each school district elected a school board which carried out negotiations with the employees to determine wages and working conditions. In no school district of which I am aware are teachers getting rich. When you think of employees getting rich, you think of doctors, lawyers, stock brokers, high level executives, but teachers … not so much. Having high educational attainment did not result in abnormally high wages for teachers, but there were tradeoffs: instead of higher salaries, better benefits and working conditions were offered and accepted, through negotiation. Act 10 chopped the head off of local control and took it over at the state level. (Republicans in favor of local control? Not so much.)

So, how did the minions of the schools (principals?) do in hiring the best and the brightest? How did they do in paying for performance? How did they do with getting the bums out of the racket? Aren’t these business types always talking about how important good management is? Was there any effort to improve the quality of the people in charge? No? (No.)

As usual, the actual motives for Act 10 was not in the bullshit offered by proponents. The Koch Brothers-fueled politician, Scott Walker, was executing a typical anti-union action for the billionaire class. Unions are the only organization with enough power to resist the oppression of workers by employers, hence they have to go. (Plus they tend to vote Democrat.)

But actions have reactions. Too bad Scott Walker doesn’t feel any of the reaction … just the teachers and the students and the “owners” of the school district. The Koch Brothers, in reaction, kept pouring money into Scott Walker’s presidential candidacy and into his gubernatorial re-election campaign coffers. If you want quality workers, you gotta pay them!

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