Uncommon Sense

December 1, 2022

Democrats are Pro-Labor . . . Aren’t They?

Not for the last 40 years or so, no. I remember when Mr. Obama was elected. A piece of legislation dearly sought by unions had been stalled and when he was elected, well, it would be pushed through by the Dems, right? The legislation was to go back to the labor law when a union could essentially gather membership cards from a majority of a workplace’s workers and that would give the union standing to represent those workers in negotiations. Card campaigns were cards that stated that a worker wanted a union to represent them, just as a lawyer has a client sign a contract that states that they are representing them as a client. That was the law for many, many years. Mr. Obama ignored that legislation and it died on the vine.

Many other instances of labor being ignored have occurred, I am sure, but most recently President Biden showed the Dems true colors by forcing a labor settlement to avoid a railroad strike. The railroad workers were negotiating to get paid sick leave. Do you have paid sick leave? Can you imagine what your life would be without it? Railroad workers were told they could use paid vacation time if they needed to see a doctor or had to go to hospital. How would you feel if that were the case in your job?

President Biden, along with all of the other Dems, has stated clearly that the Dems, like the Repubs, are behind their rich donors and not you and not me.

As one wag put it, the Dems look union people straight in the eye and say “You’ll never get anything you want if I don’t win; but once I win, I can’t do the things you need, because then I wouldn’t be able to win again.” (Hamilton Nolan in The Guardian) Gosh, they couldn’t possibly offend the rich, now, could they?

* * *

Last year, adjusted operating margins for the five largest US railroads were 41 percent. Ten years ago, they were 29 percent. Two decades ago, they were 15 percent. Even compared with other transportation companies (which are doing extremely well)— trucking, parcel, air freight, maritime shipping, airlines – today’s railroad profits are humongous. (Robert Reich)

Railroad workers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in fact, railroad employees are approximately twice as likely to die on the job as the average American worker. The risk is shared by conductors, signalmen, track laborers and others, and even non-fatal injuries can be serious, leading to chronic pain and other debilitating issues. (Arvin J. Perlman)

November 29, 2022

Wow, Just Wow

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:28 am
Tags: ,

Altogether, the top 25 richest Americans had a collective net worth of $1.1 trillion, for which they paid $1.9 billion in federal taxes (that’s less than 1%). They pumped $1-billion of that into the recent federal election. It wasn’t to protect your interests. (Barry Gander)

The Education Voucher Program Scam

Filed under: Business,Education — Steve Ruis @ 9:04 am
Tags: , , , ,

There is a rule of thumb I apply when researching over-the-counter drugs and medical devices. I do an Internet search basically asking “does XYZ really work?” or the equivalent. If the top ten hits are mostly websites clearly sponsored by the creators, I know it is a scam. Those sites are part of their marketing plan. If the reviews by the general public are largely negative, these “positive” reviews dilute them down. They basically are guaranteeing that positive “reviews” are the first thing that comes up in such a search.

If you do a similar search for information on educational voucher programs, you will get a similar response, all heavily positive data and reviews. Unfortunately, the vast bulk of the “data” and reviews are bogus, paid for by the rich assholes taking financial advantage through such programs. (It sure isn’t the students because independent research shows that students using vouchers perform more poorly that students who do not. “There is credible research on one side—that vouchers are largely a negative force for student outcomes—and politically oriented reports on the other. That’s it.”—Josh Cowen)

If this is a topic that interests you, here are the specifics:

Josh Cowen: A Citizen’s Guide to the Researchers and Funders Behind Vouchers

November 22, 2022

Which Issue is the Newly Republican House Be Most Focused Upon?

Republicans were elected to office promising to do something about crime, inflation, high taxes, etc. but the first thing announced to be at the top of their agenda, is . . . well, you guess, from this list:
1. crime
2. inflation
3. high taxes
4. abortion
5. Russian war sanctions
6. the new IRS hires
7. the President’s son, Hunter Biden.

Well, what do you think? Yes, it is Hunter Biden! If you correctly guessed that is the case, your winner’s prize will be shipped to you within the next 30 days. This is the greatest issue on the Republican political radar facing this country.

But Republicans are multi-taskers! While they are busy investigating a private citizen, they will also be busy trying to rescind the funding for the 87,000 new IRS agents recently authorized. So, their first crime legislation is making it easier for tax cheats to evade paying taxes. (And since those new agents were to specifically target rich tax evaders, we are not at all surprised, are we?) I am sure those rich criminals will be grateful and pony up campaign donations with the money they save from cheating on their taxes.

Oh, remember the rapid anti-communists of the GOP’s past? The “New Republicans” will also try to prevent any more aid being provided to Ukraine in its defense against invading Russian armies. I guess they learned that “Aid to Putin” was a good thing from Donald Trump.

November 16, 2022

Won’t Voters Ever Ask Government to LEAVE PEOPLE ALONE?

The above question was used as a title for a online column by a Mr. John Stossel on Nov 9, 2022. I assume he is a right-wing commentator as he states that he is “the author of Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media.”

His post doesn’t have much to say about answering that question, it was more about wanting Republicans to defeat Democrats and “take control.” And, as we all know, Republicans are renowned for getting government to leave people alone.

The passion shown in the question, indicated by all caps being used (which is shouting in print), indicates a heartfelt desire to be left alone by government. But that is rather stupid. Allow me to explain.

We are what biologists call a social species. We bunch together in groups to our advantage. So, over the years we created things like fire departments to assist us when fires attack our homes or places of business. We created police departments to handle sociopathic members of our societies. We established rules under which people can do business so that people aren’t cheated or businesses unfairly competed with. We established . .  . I think you get the idea.

The “government” has been turned into some sort of bogyman that came from Mars to attack us by these very same people, or they are trying to convince us that is so. Instead, government is “We the People” acting collectively. None of us would survive more than a few weeks entirely on our own. Without using banks, paper money, credit cards or any of the other systems created by “government,” how would you acquire food to eat? Would you try to barter with the clerk at your local supermarket? Would you go hunting in your nearby national park? Would you gather nuts and berries from your local parks? Fish in the local streams?

How would you get around? Surely you wouldn’t deign to use “government roads” to drive on, besides how would you pay for gas to operate your vehicles?

The “government,” aka We the People, is interwoven in our culture and society. The people bemoaning this fact are actually bad actors who want to take advantage of the absence of government. Business are hell-bent on creating monopolies, so that they will dominate the markets they are invested in, and thus make all the money they want screwing over their “customers.” They don’t want government anti-monopoly functions interfering. They want “free markets,” which is code for markets free of government manipulations, so that they are the only ones manipulating them. They want government to “leave them alone,” but are working assiduously to get government officials to grant them special privileges, subsidies, special tax statuses, etc.

We are a social species. We thrive when we take care of one another. The only discussion should be “how” and not whether to do that or not.

These people are telling us who they are. We need to listen to them and act accordingly.

November 15, 2022

School Voucher Systems—Another Subsidy for the Rich

I am sure you have heard of the various school voucher systems being implemented around the country. In them, parents of school-aged children can opt out of the public school system in their community and receive a voucher they can use to have their child attend the private school of their choice. How can this not be a good thing? Sounds like a win-win-win all the way around, except it is just another boondoggle used by the wealthy to their advantage.

For example, 80% of the “voucher students” in Arizona were already enrolled in a private school, so there is not much choice involved in the voucher as the choice had already been made. The voucher was just a way to recoup some of the tuition they were already paying. Oh, In New Hampshire, the number was 89%; in Wisconsin it was 75%.

To make things worse, students who were formerly in public schools and left to go to a private school with their “voucher,” generally did substantially poorer academically than they did before. How much poorer? On par with the education impact of having a disaster hit their community, like a hurricane or a pandemic (yes, worse than the COVID shutdown of the schools impact).

So, why are these programs so popular? Well, they are very popular with people who already have their children in private schools, aka the wealthy. (When we moved to Chicago, our first condo was butted up against Chicago Day School. Tuition for the primary school children going there was in the neighborhood of $40,000 per year. I am sure it helped those little nippers get a good job later in life. And they didn’t have to rub elbows with “ordinary” children!)

School voucher programs could have been structured to help the poor (as they are claimed to do but don’t) or any number of configurations, but the vast majority of them are structured to line the pockets of wealthy people.

I am old enough to remember the arguments back in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Wealthy people whined that they had to pay taxes to support the educational system, and they also had to pay tuition at their kid’s private schools. It is unfair, they said! Their arguments were summarily dismissed at the time with the counter argument of “we all benefit from having an educated citizenry.” In addition, childless couples pay education taxes, and they have no children who will take part in the public school system. The taxes paid are not to educated one’s own children, but to educate all children.

The wealthy and their primary political party (hint—The GOP) are working hammer and tongs to support the current status quo (No change, no change, no change . . . starting to sound like a Conservative Woodstock!) because the current status quo is slanted so heavily to benefit the already wealthy. And the Democrats are buying into the same program, trailing the Republicans in just small ways now.

Support the Rich! Provide School Vouchers Now! (Repeat after me!)

Want more details? See here (The Hechinger Report)

November 12, 2022

Contrary to the Evidence

You thought this was going to be about religion, didn’t you?

Actually it is more about economics and other things. The theoretical structure of economics is built mostly out of self-serving bullshit. For example, they refer to the human beings interacting in our economy as a particular kind of human: Homo economicus. Homo economicus is an hypothetical person who behaves in exact accordance with their rational self-interest. Using rational assessments, Homo economicus attempts to maximize utility as a consumer and economic profit as a producer. Ta da. Recent studies show that such beings do not exist and never have. (Think of economic Vulcans.)

Economists also base their theoretical structures on “economic transactions” involving buyers and sellers who both have complete information. Have you ever heard of such a ridiculous thing? If this were ever the case economists would be advising clients that not only is advertising not needed, but that it was a distortion of the economic system and should not be done.

In the U.S. we are obsessed with having a pay-as-you-go culture. Everyone needs to pay for everything as you proceed through life. Anything that is just handed to you is “Socialism!” leading to the destruction of freedom, motherhood, Chevrolets, and apple pie. A consequence of this is that 40% of all jobs are “bullshit jobs.”

A bullshit job is “a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though, as a part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend this is not the case.” David Graeber

According to economic theory, at least, the last thing a profit-seeking firm is going to do is shell out money to workers they don’t really need to employ. Still, somehow, it happens.” David Graeber

What is doubly ironic about this is that the bullshit jobs rarely pay a living wage. Living wages and minimum wages, etc. are Socialism! In order for us to have a pay-as-you-go culture, people have to make enough money to pay for their needs (not necessarily their wants, but food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, etc.). That is what a living wage is. If you are making a living wage, you can “afford” to live; if not you are dying or at a bare minimum spiraling down to an early death. All to maintain the illusion of a “pay-as-you-go culture.”

The cost of everyone receiving a living wage for their labor is that there may be a few fewer billionaires and the billionaires still in existence may have a few less billions of dollars in their money bins. But this cannot be because . . . Capitalism, the only god Americans actually worship.

Even that social troglodyte Henry Ford understood this. He paid his workers almost a dollar more per day than other manufacturers. This caused workers to flock to the Ford plants and those already there worked hard to keep their jobs as they paid so much better than elsewhere. But was that Ford’s reasoning? No, he wanted his workers to make enough money to be able to buy a Ford car. And they did, with money Ford paid them as wages. So, he got “his” money back. If he had starved his workers, like his fellow plutocrats, he wouldn’t have sold near as many cars.

November 10, 2022

If You Aren’t Yet Convinced that Our Enemy is the big Money Corporations and the Uber-rich . . .

Please read this:

Amazon and Apple have an illegal price-fixing conspiracy

November 5, 2022

How Can You Atheists Be Moral Without God?

Catholic Diocese Totally Screws Up Handling Sexual Abuse

Get back to us when you have figured out how to be moral with your god.

October 24, 2022

The Right Wing’s Pitch

From the US to the UK to Italy, their pitch is the same:
If you work ridiculously hard for significantly less wealth than you create for your corporate overlords, we’ll do our best to devalue your money, cut the public services you’re paying for, sell off all your public assets, cut taxes on your bankers and land-lorders, let monopolies spawn like mold spores, and ensure your children have absolutely zero hope of owning a home or ever being free of colossal amounts of compounding interest-laden debt.” (Jared A. Block)

Nail, meet hammer!

The writer is a Brit, I suspect, but it seems that he understands American politics better than many of us.

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