Class Warfare Blog

August 4, 2020

A Pandemic Rude Awakening?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 25, 2020

With Apologies to Lerner and Loewe

Musical theatre for 2020 and possibly the campaign song for Donald Trump’s re-election campaign:

Why can’t the poor be more like rich?
The rich are so honest, so thoroughly square;
Eternally noble, historically fair.
Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.
Why can’t the poor be like that?

Why does every one do what the others do?
Can’t the poor learn to use their heads?
Why do they do everything their parents do?
Why don’t they grow up, well, like the rich instead?

Why can’t the poor take after the rich?
The rich are so pleasant, so easy to please.
Whenever you’re with them, you’re always at ease.

One rich man in a million may shout a bit.
Now and then, there’s one with slight defects.
One perhaps whose truthfulness you doubt a bit,
But by and large we are a marvelous sort!

Why can’t the poor take after the rich?
‘Cause the rich are so friendly, good-natured and kind.
Better companions you never will find.

Why can’t the poor be more like the rich?
The rich are so decent, such regular chaps;
Ready to help you through any mishaps;
Ready to buck you up whenever you’re glum.
Why can’t the poor be such chums?

Why is thinking something the poor never do?
And why is logic never even tried?
Applying for welfare is all they ever do.
Why don’t they straighten up the mess that’s inside?

Why can’t the poor behave like the rich?
If I were one of the poor who’d been to a ball,
Been hailed as royalty by one and by all;
Would I start whinging like a jilted lover,
Or carry on as if my home were in a tree?
Would I run off and tell no one where I’m going?
Why can’t the poor be like me?

Adapted from “Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?” from My Fair Lady by Lerner and Loewe.

June 19, 2020

Once Again The Brilliant Yves Smith . . . This Time on the Police

Over at the Naked Capitalism website, the wonderful Yves Smith unpacks the propaganda “To Protect and Serve.” The Police Weren’t Created to ‘Protect and Serve.’ They Were Created to ‘Maintain Order.’ A Brief Look at the History of Police in America

Here’s a taste:

To understand the true purpose of police, we have to ask, “What’s being protected?” and “Who’s being served?”

Urban police forces in America were created for one purpose — to “maintain order” after a waves of immigrants swept into northern U.S. cities, both from abroad and later from the South, immigrants who threatened to disturb that “order.” The threat wasn’t primarily from crime as we understand it, from violence inflicted by the working poor on the poor or middle class. The threat came from unions, from strikes, and from the suffering, the misery and the anger caused by the rise of rapacious capitalism.

What’s being protected? The social order that feeds the wealthy at the expense of the working poor. Who’s being served? Owners, their property, and the sources of their wealth, the orderly and uninterrupted running of their factories. The goal of police departments, as originally constituted, was to keep the workers in line, in their jobs, and off the streets.

 

June 15, 2020

GOP Has Been De-Funding the Police for Many Years!

Not surprisingly, anytime the federal government acted to police the activities of the rich, the GOP was there to oppose it or defund it.

Republicans are hypocrites. They happily ‘de-funded’ the police we actually need

 

 

May 29, 2020

You Might Want to Wear Asbestos Gloves While Holding This Article

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:24 am
Tags: , , , ,

Regardless, the author is spot on about the “New GOP” having almost nothing to do with the “Old GOP” and now merely a subsidiary political arm of the filthy rich.

‘Here’s a bedsheet, make a parachute!’ Republicans say, pushing us out of a plane by Hamilton Nolan

May 23, 2020

GOP Thinking—Fast and Slow

Maybe it is a fluke, but I think not, that some part-time workers who are now able to apply for unemployment insurance whereas before they were not and so are making more on unemployment than they were working.

Republicans are worried, deathly worried, that we are encouraging sloth. They are worried that people will not want to go back to work. Such are the moral hazards in the Republiverse.

These same people don’t seem to worry about the moral hazards when we bail out banks or shaky corporations, like Boeing. They don’t seem to worry that those companies would rather suck off the government teat than make good products. They also love to bail out stockholders who are elevating rent extraction above honest work as a profession.

Okay, I can solve this problem for my Republifriends. I start with a fable, maybe even a parable . . .

Let’s say that a friend, a good friend, of yours tells you about a job offer. “Dude, there is this job I think you ought to apply for. It is right up your alley . . . except, well, you will be working harder and get paid less than you are now. What do you think?” I know what you would think: “Are you effing crazy?”

If the GOP is worried that people are making more money off of unemployment insurance than working, the solution is obvious—pay better wages! Pay workers more than they can make off of unemployment payments (which are effing temporary in any case!).

If people were losing significant money while on unemployment, they would be dying to get back to their regular job. In fact, many, many problems would be solved if wages were to go up substantially. There would be less need of food stamps, other forms of welfare, charity, food banks, etc. People would pay more in taxes, lowering the annual budget deficit we always seem to run.

See, it is simple. Except there is this teeny-tiny bias the GOP has. It worries about moral hazards only when they involve the poor or middle class. That the billionaire class and corporations are raking in huge windfall profits from the government’s efforts to ameliorate the pandemic are just something that does not interest them, at least not after the scheme to funnel all of that wealth toward the billionaire class has been accomplished.

Mission accomplished! GOP!

May 9, 2020

John Adams . . . Prophet?

Filed under: History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:36 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty.” (Emphasis mine. SR)
John Adams (1735 – 1826), who was one of the more conservative Founding Fathers, written in a letter to John Taylor dated December 17, 1814

Donald Trump

Vain . . . Check!

Proud . . . Check!

Selfish . . . Check!

Ambitious . . . Check!

Avaricious . . . Check!

Maybe the extremist evangelicals are correct, maybe these are the End Times, the end times for our democracy

May 7, 2020

We Need to Unleash Businesses!

In the never ending battle with industry stifling red tape, only the GOP is seen as a stalwart in the effort to deregulate our industries. In the latest wave of deregulation by the GOP, they have decided the rules on where and how to dispose of radioactive waste are choking the nuclear industry.

What the flaming fuck?

Right, if it weren’t for those pesky regulations, our nuclear industry would be surging ahead. Forget about the Colorado corporation which disposed of tons of radioactive waste by just spreading it out on the ground instead of following those pesky regulations. That was clearly an example of why those regulations aren’t needed, because people aren’t obeying them. The fact that that corporation went belly up before their novel disposal techniques were discovered, leaving us with the cleanup bill, is irrelevant. In this day and age, corporations wouldn’t do something like that because it would damage their good reputation.

The GOP has given us so much. By demonizing young black males (thank you Dick Nixon, Ronald Reagan, etc.) we now apparently have an open season to hunt and kill young, male black joggers.

By demonizing regulations of all kinds, we now have the GOP lifting child labor laws and now radioactive waste disposal regulations. “Uh, regulation . . . bad,” one GOP politician was quoted as saying.

By demonizing taxes, the GOP has ballooned the budget deficit and therefore the national debt hugely, biggly even. This followed, of course, several efforts of the GOP to shut the federal government down because the deficit/debt was getting too high. That that was not a moral or even a principled stand has now been laid bare.

No one is in favor of unnecessary regulation of our society. That the GOP has declared that all regulation is unnecessary should chill you to the bone.

Oh, and you thought this would be about loosening pandemic business restrictions. Well, ’tis not.

March 22, 2020

Killed by Greed

I was looking up the career stats of baseball immortal (at least in Japan if not here) Ichiro Suzuki. (Don’t ask.) And baseball-reference.com provided something unexpected, Ichiro’s cumulative salaries. Now Ichiro played in Japan and didn’t come to MLB until he was 27 and still had a Hall of Fame career. He was a spectacular four tool player, who will end up in the Hall of Fame, I am sure.

So, even playing in Japan until he was 27, in his 19 seasons in American professional baseball, Ichiro accumulated $167,181,483 in salary. These are contract numbers and not corrected for inflation, so if they were that number would even be greater.

Even though that is a mind-boggling amount of money, it is not extreme. Alex Rodriguez, then of the Texas Rangers, had a single contract (for 10 years which as very long then and very, very long now) for $252 million. Of course you cannot just settle for old money so he had a later contract for $275 million. The top MLB contract, so far, is a 13-year $325 million contract of Giancarlo Stanton, an oft injured “star.”

Now, in comparison, I was a college professor and I totaled up my salaries over a roughly 40 year career and it came to around $2 million dollars. If adjusted for inflation, it is about $4 million. Now, Ichiro played in 2653 MLB games, so he made $6302 per game. So, he made as much as I did in my entire career in 317 games, or a just a little under two seasons.

All of this is just chump change, of course.

As I have mentioned before dozens of people have reported more than one billion dollars in earnings for a single tax year, some over two billion in a single year. And as I have also mentioned before, if you assume eight hour workdays, two weeks of paid vacation, and the normal federal holidays, those making one billion dollars per year were making $532,000 per hour. Those making two billion dollars per year made $1,064,000 per hour. These people “made” as much as my career earnings in one afternoon of “work.” And they made as much as Ichiro in his MLB career in about 157 hours or 20 work days, basically in a little less than one month.

Now, I don’t think of being a college professor is in any way an exalted job, but it wasn’t a shabby one either. These comparisons show there is something seriously out of whack in our capitalist economy. I am sure the capitalism defenders will rush to say, but they earned that money legitimately! And, I agree that that is true, but what is “legitimate” is determined by the system. Is it legitimate that the hedge fund manager making that two billion dollars in a single year paid a lower tax rate than I did? Why was that? I will tell you. It is because the “system” is rigged by the people benefiting the most from the system. So what is legitimate or legal isn’t really a justification.

The problem with capitalism is that greed has no controls over it. The countries currently making capitalism work better for their entire populations are social democratic countries with high taxes and large benefits associated with those taxes. We had a similar system for a short period after World War II. Taxes were sufficiently high that CEOs, movie stars, athletes, and the like were dissuaded from making obscene amounts of money. And, still, there were still plenty of rich people walking around. Rich working people had to settle for perks (aka perquisites) to show off their value to their employers (large offices, corner offices for lawyers working in skyscrapers, large desks, artwork in the waiting rooms, corporate cars, etc.). Now, status is determined by earnings, earnings, earnings and little else. In fact, the system now encourages greed.

So, if you were wondering why it costs over $200 for two of you to attend a MLB baseball game, now you know. To create large pools of wealth, “small” amounts from the many must be funneled to the few. And there is, of course, a limit to how many want an entertainment product, so the “how much” each of the many has to transfer to the few keeps going up, reducing the number of the many who can or are willing to afford those purchases. (I have stopped attending my beloved baseball games, for example.) A number of sports in the US are finding those limits: baseball for sure and surprisingly NFL football, too.

Our current electoral process seems hell bent in excluding any candidate for high office who would challenge the legitimacy of our economic system, which is quite predictable. Our plutocrats went to a lot of work and paid a lot of money to create a system to their liking, so why should they even consider any candidate who might upset their apple cart.

Why indeed?

We seem to have democracy only in being able to select from a small set of candidates acceptable to the plutocrats actually running the country. The American Experiment in democracy is definitely past its peak and now heading downhill. On its gravestone, its epitaph will surely include the phrase “killed by greed.”

Now if we only had a goose that laid golden eggs to use as a moral focus of a story. . . .

March 15, 2020

The Triumph of the Anti-Collectivists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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