Class Warfare Blog

August 12, 2017

I Don’t Get It

If you look at the updated somewhat notorious graph below, you can see that worker productivity has been detached from worker wages starting in the 1970’s. This was the result of a concerted campaign by the very wealthy to suppress wages by suppressing labor unions, getting tax code changes in their favor which transfer tax liabilities off of them and onto other Americans, even by suppressing voting.

This has created a great deal of economic distress in the bottom 90% of economic Americans and will result in a backlash. What I do not understand is the strategy. Going from astonishingly rich to fucking rich changes the lifestyles of those rich people exactly how? Is it just getting their way, at least for the while until the backlash, that makes this worth doing?

Even Henry Ford understood that if you paid better wages, you would get much of that back through one’s employees becoming one’s customers. Hell, these rich people invented the company store, where laborer’s wages got sucked back to the employer through required purchasing of the goods to survive. Those stores are no longer allowed, but Henry Ford knew that his employees, once they had the wherewithal to purchase a car, were going to buy one of his because of loyalty generated through his paying better than normal wages to his workers. (It is called gratitude.)

But, the current crop of rich bastards would rather strip away the ability to buy the goods their companies produce and, what, sell those goods overseas? When the pitchforks and torches finally end up circling their gated communities, will the plutocrats wonder why their employees aren’t more loyal to them? Are they that stupid? Do they think we do not see what they are doing?

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February 26, 2017

The Real Danger from Association with Steve Bannon

Steve Bannon is a close advisor to President Trump. He has a very impressive résumé and he is clearly “one of the smartest guys in the room,” any room. Lately he has been characterized as being all kinds of things: a while supremacist, an anti-Semite, etc. All of these characterizations miss the point. Mr. Bannon does pose a threat, but not in the ways these authors propose. It stems from Mr. Bannon’s idée fixe that Western Civilization is facing an ideological showdown, including war … with Islam.

It is unfortunate that also on Mr. Bannon’s team are the likes of Betsy DeVos, who along with Ted Cruz’s father and host of others, have the idea that the best way to forestall such a future is to marry Christianity with our government. Those of us who think that secularism and assimilation are desirable are, I guess, just wrong-headed. These people like to claim that this is the only way to head off Sharia law and Islamism building up in our society. I guess those Muslims are following the same playbook the Irish followed when they took over the U.S. in the 1800’s. The same plan was followed by the Germans, and then the Chinese and the Japanese and then Hispanics. It is a tried and true approach to subversion of the country. Move in and then take over. Apparently these “Christian nation” people don’t have enough faith in the corrupting power of Coca-Cola, blue jeans, and iPhones.

But Mr. Bannon is truly dangerous. He, like many others of his ilk, is focused on external enemies. Those “others” are easy to characterize as “bad guys.” Consider ISIS/ISIL. This group is absolutely no threat to the U.S. but people are running around screaming “We have to do something; we have to do something!” because any bad guy is too precious of an opportunity to waste.

The problem with these external threats is they ignore the greatest threat to our democracy, greater than all of the external threats combined: the total capture of the reins of government by plutocrats, basically the rich, corporate and otherwise.

By the time Islam gets around to storming our borders, the pickings will be nonexistent because the plutocrats have picked over the carcass of the Great American Experiment in democracy until it is almost clean. Both major political parties represent only the interests of the rich. As do the courts and the military, which doesn’t seem to have a mission but to protect the plutocrats foreign economic interests. The Islamist invading forces will have to storm the tax havens to get at the wealth of Americans as the plutocrats will have almost all of it.

I wonder if the conservatives opposition to alternative energy sources simply stems from the fact that if we kick our addiction to oil, what use will we then have for the military.

February 22, 2016

The New Slavery

The goal of the plutocrats now running U.S. society, including our governments, is now abundantly clear: they endeavor to institute a new age of slavery. This was made evident in an editorial in today’s N.Y. Times with the compelling title of “A Rising Call to Promote STEM Education and Cut Liberal Arts Funding” By Patricia Cohen (Feb. 21, 2016).

Wait, that doesn’t sound so radical, does it? It does if you know a few facts. For one there is no reason to favor STEM education over any other. There is no shortage of qualified applicants for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) jobs. The unemployment statistics show this in the numbers of recent graduates who cannot get jobs in their fields as does the basic fact of economics that if there is a shortage of workers of a particular type, their wages increase (to attract the few that are available). Wages in this field are changing no faster than the others. The “shortage” of STEM job candidates and STEM college graduates was cooked up by plutocrats to support their demands for more visas to allow STEM foreign workers into the U.S. Recently Disney was caught laying off 20 of its I.T. employees to be replaced by foreigners on work visas, for example. There was no “shortage” other than the one created by the firing of the current workers who, by the way, were earning performance bonuses so it is hard to argue they were substandard.

The plutocrats really like these workers on visas, as they work for less, which drives down wages for all of the other workers in their category and they don’t complain, because if they lose their job they lose their visa and “bye-bye U.S.”

“Welcome to the new slavery. The chains are invisible but real. Sit down and shut the fuck up.”

What is telling are the arguments being used, basically “STEM good, humanities bad.” They argue that public money shouldn’t be spent on students who would be working at the lower paying jobs that a humanities education affords. (I hear echoes of “effing hippies” from the 60’s.) This argument is, of course, bogus. Currently humanities college graduates in the U.S. have starting salaries that are roughly equal to the median salary of all Americans. This means those humanities grads, all things being roughly the same as they have been in the past, will be earning above average wages for the rest of their lives, which means they will pay above average taxes and the taxes in excess of the average amount repay the public for the education expenditure several times over. So, guarding the public coffers is a bogus argument.

Also, the plutocrats are basically saying that we should use data regarding what people are making now to focus our attention regarding what is important in an education. This makes no sense in an economy in which people’s jobs are changing so fast that the average worker can expect to have seven different jobs in their working life, many of which have not yet been invented. (If you used the job description “social media consultant” ten years ago, what would people have thought?)

It is clear the kind of future the plutocrats plan. They expect citizens to “sit down and shut the fuck up” while they run the country however they wish. If citizens are to have choices of political candidates it is only ever between candidates that offer no threat to the status quo. If a candidate does offer a threat, say recommending free education and higher taxes on the rich (Go, Bernie!), he is to be quashed as strongly as possible by a candidate propped up by the plutocrats.

To enforce this vision of the future, the plutocrats are using chains of debt. For example, many political upheavals in this country have been supported by college students. A few changes in the tax code and voilà now total college student debt exceeds total credit card debt (think about that). A student looking at a mountain of debt that needs to be paid off cannot afford to blemish his ability to get a good paying job with an arrest record, etc. so, college students have been defanged.

Additionally, teachers and teachers unions have opposed plutocrats (even to the point of voting for Democrats), so now they are demonized and beleaguered on all sides and are no longer a political force.

Welcome to the new slavery. The chains are invisible but real. Sit down and shut the fuck up.

March 29, 2014

RIP—Political Parties

This weekend marks the beginning of the end of the political parties as we knew them. In the past, any potential political candidate had to solicit the help of one of the political parties to have any chance of success. The usual path for a candidate was to run for local office and make him- or herself known to the local political party officials. Then additional offices were attempted forming a ladder to higher office with closer and closer involvement with the party and more and more support from the party. Party officials introduced “up and coming,” promising new candidates to the various power brokers in the party. They arranged for fundraisers and provided funds from general accounts. They provided expertise that would have otherwise cost a candidate a great deal to purchase.

All of that is now on the edge of being gone.

Good riddance you say? Also going with the party is any influence the parties had over candidates to form their platforms or, really, anything else.

Replacing all of that will be the private “political conventions” put on by billionaires. This weekend in Las Vegas, most of the major Republican players in the 2016 presidential sweepstakes are meeting with billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. In the 2012 election cycle Mr. Adelson spend a pittance, a mere $90 million on presidential candidates (less than 0.5% of his wealth I am told). That kind of money will take a candidate as far as they want to go in any election. So, gone is the influence of the parties to get candidates to “toe the party line” only to be replaced by whatever it is the billionaires want as a “return on their investment.” And I do not believe the American Plutocrats will be publishing their “platform,” that is the list of the things they want of their candidate gets elected.

Candidates for sale! Candidates for sale! Git yer candidate!

February 17, 2014

When You Have More Money, You are More Secure . . . Right?

When people have more money, they are said to be more economically secure. But are they more secure or less? Do they feel secure? Recently we read that there has been a substantial increase in what is called “guard labor.” This includes private security guards (which now outnumber all high school teachers), but also police officers, members of the armed forces, prison and court officials, civilian employees of the military, and those producing weapons: a total of 5.2 million workers in 2011. That is a far larger number than we have of teachers at all levels.

Last week Noam Chomsky participated in a question and answer session via Skype with a group of students that might shed some light about this phenomenon. (Hint It isn’t just about all of the Scrooge McDucks fortifying their vaults against the Beastie Boys.) Here’s the transcript from just one of the questions (This might sound kind of random, but I would really like to ask your opinion on why you think there’s this preoccupation with the apocalypse and with zombies right now in our culture.):

Noam Chomsky
I’ve never seen a real study, but my guess is that it’s a reflection of fear and desperation. It’s a very frightened country. The United States is an unusually frightened country. And in such circumstances, people concoct either for escape or maybe out of relief, fears that terrible things happen.

Actually, the fear of the United States is a pretty interesting cultural phenomenon. It actually goes back to the colonies. There are some good studies out there. A very interesting book by a regular literary critic, Bruce Franklin. It’s called War Stars. You might want to take a look at it. It’s a study of popular literature, the kind of literature that most people read from the earliest days to the present. When it gets to the present it switches to television, things like that. Just kind of popular culture.

There are a couple of themes that run through it that are pretty striking. For one thing, one major theme in popular literature is that we are about to face destruction from some terrible, awesome enemy. And at the last minute we are saved by a superhero or a super weapon, or in recent years high school kids going to the hills to chase away the Russians, things like that. That’s one theme that runs through constantly. And there’s a sub-theme. It turns out this enemy, this horrible enemy that’s about to destroy us, is somebody we’re crushing.

So you go back to the early years, the terrible enemy was the Indians, who were going to destroy us. The colonists were, of course, invaders. They were invading the continent. Whatever you think about the Indians, they were defending their own territory. There’s a scene in the Declaration of Independence, people read it every July 4th, but not many people pay attention to what they’re reading. It’s kind of like a prayer book, you move on somewhere else. But if you read it and pay attention, there are some pretty remarkable passages. So one passage is a list of a bill of indictment against King George the Third of England explaining why the colonists were revolting. One of them is “He unleashed against us the merciless Indian savages, whose known way of warfare is torture and destruction” and so on. Well, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote that and is a very great thinker of the Enlightenment, knew perfectly well that it was the merciless English savages whose known way of warfare was destruction and murder and were taking over the country and driving out or exterminating the natives. But it’s switched in the Declaration of Independence and nobody comments on it for years. That’s another sign of the same concern.

After that it became the slaves. There was going to be a slave revolt, a terrible slave revolt, and the slave population, the black population was going to rise up and kill all the men, rape all the women, destroy the country, something like that. Then it goes on through the centuries. It becomes modern times, Hispanic narco-traffickers are going to come in and destroy the society. One thing after another. And these are real fears.

That’s a lot of what lies behind the extremely unusual gun culture in the United States. It’s quite unique. Homicides, deaths by guns in the United States are way outside—there’s a kind of hysteria about having guns. A large part of the population believes they just have to have them to protect themselves. From who? From the United Nations. Or from the federal government. From aliens. Maybe from zombies. Whoever it is. We just have to have guns to protect ourselves. That’s not known elsewhere in the world. Maybe in, say, Syria, a country that’s warring you might find something like that. But in a country that’s not only at peace but has an unusual security and a great degree of freedom, that’s quite remarkable.

I suspect that what you’re bringing up is part of that. I think it’s, much of it is kind of just a recognition, at some level of the psyche, that if you’ve got your boot on somebody’s neck, there’s something wrong. And that the people you’re oppressing may rise up and defend themselves, and then you’re in trouble. And another is strange properties the country has always had of fear of invented dangers. There is a kind of paranoid streak in the culture that’s pretty unusual.

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