Class Warfare Blog

September 16, 2020

So . . . Why?

A recent statement issued by the editors at Scientific American include this comment: “It wasn’t just a testing problem: if almost everyone in the U.S. wore masks in public, it could save about 66,000 lives by the beginning of December, according to projections from the University of Washington School of Medicine. Such a strategy would hurt no one. It would close no business. It would cost next to nothing. But Trump and his vice president flouted local mask rules, making it a point not to wear masks themselves in public appearances. Trump has openly supported people who ignored governors in Michigan and California and elsewhere as they tried to impose social distancing and restrict public activities to control the virus. He encouraged governors in Florida, Arizona and Texas who resisted these public health measures, saying in April—again, falsely—that ‘the worst days of the pandemic are behind us’ and ignoring infectious disease experts who warned at the time of a dangerous rebound if safety measures were loosened.”

So, my question is this: what did Mr. Trump have to gain by taking this path?

Letting a pandemic ravage the working class is certainly no aid to business and it stresses what’s left of our social safety net. What possible advantage to Mr. Trump could there be?

The only sensible interpretation I could come up with that takes into account Mr. Trump’s and his base’s characteristics is this: he is poking a finger in the eyes of the coastal elites. (Take that Libtards!) The oh-so-smart “experts” who always know what the right thing to do is, while at the same time looking down their noses at the people living in the “fly over states.”

Mr. Trump has said that he downplayed the pandemic because he didn’t want to create panic. Some have spun this by saying that he didn’t want to cause a panic in the stock market. This, of course, makes no sense whatsoever. By downplaying the problem, he in essence, gave over any control over the problem he had, leaving him a situation that would play out as it would rather than as he or anyone else would have it. And, having this disease wreak havoc on crowded workplaces in the various businesses represented on the stock markets surely is not a recipe to avoid panic in the stock market. So, this “explanation” holds no water.

But the so-called “coastal elites” are seen as the architects of the demise of the middle class and poor by many people. The economists, the politicians, the corporation executives, the “experts” who speak in gobbledygook while dressed in many thousand dollar suits, who claim to know what is best for the rest of us. These are the people who are scorned by the “deplorables” who voted Mr. Trump in, and honestly have really failed at their jobs economically, having sold their services to the very wealthy or to become one of the very wealthy. (The “new rich” are almost all corporate executives.)

But in a classic “throwing the baby out with the bath water” move, this disdain for the politicians and economists and scientists has been spread out over public health officials who have not failed in the same way. Painting with a broad brush is at the core of politics, but in this case, there are possibly 100,000 Americans now dead because of that attitude alone.

Mr. Trump is merely reinforcing a “see, they aren’t so smart” attitude that he and many of his followers hold. Some will pay for that attitude with their lives (some already have) and some will pay with their careers. It is hoped that our ship of state can be righted. I have little hope that the Democrats can do this if given power, but right now they are the only chance we have because they are the only ones who seem to want to do that. It is terribly hard to bail the water out of the boat when others are drilling holes in the bottom, chanting “Sink the ship! Sink the ship!”

I will vote for Biden and work to get a much better president to succeed him. The problem we have is the uber-wealthy are spending gobs of money to make sure that we do not have the chance of electing someone not already in their pocket. We have to learn how to counter the power of their money.

August 6, 2020

Foot, Meet Bullet

It is a good thing the modern GOP doesn’t understand or even recognize irony. Because if they did, their Irony Meters would break over this one. Apparently, President Trump has decided that the news media are to be banned from the Republican National Convention.

This comes from a president who was elected largely through billions of dollars of free advertising provided by the news media in the run-up to the 2016 election. the news media were so into being there to see what batshit crazy comments Candidate Trump would make now, that they covered every word he uttered. (MSNBC used a count-down timer on screen to time how long it was until Trump appeared again so you wouldn’t take bathroom breaks away from their channel. Yes, that MSNBC.)

Since people were in a state of “I can’t believe he said that out loud,” they tuned in for hours and both the GOP and the news media made money hand over fist.

So, Mr, Trump’s Brilliant Idea is to ban the news media from the single biggest free media event leading up to a presidential election.

Crack! Shit, there goes another Irony Meter. <sigh>

In the GOP lexicon, the antonym for greed is stupidity, I think.

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 28, 2020

Motivations According to Conservatives

Unemployment insurance has been, irrationally, deeply controversial. It has always faced bitter opposition from conservatives who claim that it would discourage workers from seeking jobs.

This is a part of their “those people are lazy” mindset which is joined with the belief that if “those people” didn’t have to work, they wouldn’t.

Let’s see how this belief plays out if taken to heart.

In our “pay as you go culture,” you have to pay for everything: you pay for the food you eat, for the shelter over your head, and you pay for the utilities to keep that space livable, you pay for health care. You pay for all of this by getting a job that pays “enough.”

Let’s do an experiment—one that actually has already been done any number of times, but hey, this might be the first time you thought this through. Let’s offer someone who has one of those “keeping body and soul together” jobs, one that pays just enough to be able to pay the rent, keep the TV on, and feed himself (no family), the same amount of income, but he doesn’t need to go to work to receive it.

The conservatives will immediately see this guy in a hammock sipping a mint julep. He just got his ticket punched to Easy Street! Well, we all now know what “staying home” is like during this pandemic. Does it feel like Easy Street? “Are we not entertained?” So, after lolling about for a bit, this “lazy bum” we are paying to do nothing gets the idea that he could get a good job and really expand his income. After all, the government is covering his nut, but not for vacations, cars, or a family. Do, you think this guy would settle for another boring dead end job like he had before? I tend to think he would aim higher. If he applies for 10 jobs but doesn’t get one of those, what has he lost? He still has food and shelter, so he is not desperate. I think we can count on human ambition being at least moderately high. Having that minimum income to backstop him, he is less likely to settle, not more likely.

And what does this say about the shit jobs people were doing for poor wages? What would happen if people said “Why should I break my back for little more than the basic income I get automatically?” Quite a number of those jobs would go wanting. Consequently . . . if you believe in market forces . . . those jobs are not worth doing, or if they are, higher wages are going to have to be paid to entice people to do them.

And, what would a lot of people opting out of the job market do for those seeking jobs? Hmmm . . . fewer applicants for the same number of jobs means higher employment rates. Conservatives can’t argue this is false because they have been claiming for years that Mexicans, illegally in the U.S., are taking jobs away from Americans. We have argued that there aren’t a whole lot of Anglos seeking work in the roofing business in the Texas summer or in the fields picking vegetables, but the conservatives insist that Mexican “illegals” are taking those jobs away from Americans. If so, it has to work both ways. If poor people stop applying for the shit jobs they have been doing, there will be more jobs for Americans who want them.

Now, small business owners will complain (they have little power otherwise) that if they have to pay higher wages to keep people in the jobs they have on offer, they will go out of business. Again, let’s consider a small thought experiment. So, you Mr. Small Business Owner advertise for an employee to fill one of your shit jobs, and several desperate people apply. You pick one and you train them. They perform in a lackluster manner and quit or get fired after a short stint “on the job.” And so, you are back advertising for a replacement . . . again, which you will hire, train, and . . . well, I think you see the cycle. If, on the other hand, the job pays well, and this owner tells an employee they have to pick up the pace, they are much more likely to do so, because the impact of losing a higher paying job is greater. Many people won’t want to lose such a job and so will try harder. Fewer adverts get put, less time is spent training new employees, less over time is paid covering for employees who got fired/quit, etc. Which process is less expensive to the SB owner? I don’t think the answer is obvious.

Conservatives seem to think the very best motivation for poor people is desperation (you have all seen the drug company commercials showing poor people unable to afford the medicine their dependents need, the problem is not invisible). They, of course, reserve special scorn (“lazy and shiftless”) for the racial minorities who are poor, but all of the poor are painted with their wide brush. (They work out their schemes on the Black and Brown poor, and then they always bring it home on the White poor . . . always). On the other hand, in their lives and the lives of other white, privileged Americans, their salaries are more than adequate to meet a family person’s nut for the whole family, and while it may not be enough to pay for a McMansion, or private schools for the kids, and a Porsche, it is enough for cars, vacations, a paid healthcare plan, and a few splurges, etc., and the motivation preferred by this class is greed, pure and simple. They laud hedge fund managers and other financial fat cats as examples of what you can do if you apply greed to your work life.

So, basically, conservatives have very low opinions of the motivations that move people and I suspect that is because they have a low opinions of people in general, other than themselves and their close associates, of course. And I wonder where they learned to have a very low opinion of people . . . religion!

July 26, 2020

Those Death Panels . . .

Those “death panels” the Republican opponents of the Obamacare legislation warned us about have finally popped up . . . in the Republican state of Texas!

Texas hospital forced to set up ‘death panel’ as Covid-19 cases surge

 

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.

July 17, 2020

Oh, Oh, Oh, the Cancel Culture

The American Right Wing has lost its mind again. And it is such a small thing it is hard to find once lost, so I feel for them. I also wonder why they call it a right wing as there is no left wing any more and a bird consisting of one wing and a body cannot fly . . . but I digress.

Regarding the “cancel culture,” the Right is decrying the few protests that have resulted in right-wing speaker’s speaking gigs getting canceled, mostly because of Internet protests.

“Ow, ow, ow,” they cry, earning a Snowflake Award.

I have commented before on the role the Internet has played in the expansion of atheism and racism in this country. The Internet provides forums which creates distance between those interacting and, in many cases, anonymity. This has allowed many people, previously squelched by public opinion, to speak there minds.

In the case of atheism this has allowed many atheists to find out that they are not alone and there are a great many other people who have the same thoughts and attitudes. Since this has expanded and reinforced people of this ilk (of which I am one) and we do no harm to our fellow citizens, I consider this a net good thing.

In the case of racism, the exact same thing has occurred. Prior to the development of Internet chatting, racists were more and more isolated and racist comments became less and less acceptable across the country. The reason was public disapproval. Gossip and shaming are social controls that evolved millennia ago to help us keep society reined in. And then came the anonymity of the Internet and racists, separated from those who would chastise them for their comments, found fellow travelers and were reinforced in their attitudes. They discovered that they weren’t as alone as they thought they were. Since racists do harm to our fellow citizens, even if minimally spreading bad attitudes toward certain groups of people, I consider this a net bad thing.

And, now we are here.

Now we are seeing public gossip and shaming catching up with the special interest groups on the Internet. We cannot be present to squelch bad behavior but we can do it via the Internet! No longer are torch lit parades necessary to flaunt one’s approval or disapproval of a social group, one can do it from the comfort of one’s home while wearing pajamas.

And, who disapproves of this esteemed social mechanism rebalancing itself from having gotten out of whack through unforeseen new technologies? The bastions of the status quo, the protectors of tradition, aka cultural inertia, the supporters of social institutions like churches, police forces, the military . . . the Grand Old Party, the Republicans.

As always, in politics in this country, it really does depend upon whose ox is getting gored.

June 26, 2020

Government: To Trust or Not Trust?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:27 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I have written often enough that part of the Republican political strategy over the past 40 years or so has been to shrink the reach of government. They attack Big Government, while expanding it off camera. They undermine branches of the federal government as often as they can.

In the Era of Trump this has become the wholesale business of the party. They are actively undermining the military, the security agencies (CIA, FBI, NSA, etc.), the electoral process, everything they can get their grubby little hands upon. Incompetents have been placed in charge of various departments, e.g. Betsy DeVos heading the Education Department, doing their best to dismantle those departments.

The cornerstone of these activities is the placing of judges who support their worldview in various positions. Recently, the GOP has discovered that a lifetime appointment often confers immunity to further influence over those judge’s decisions, but still, their viewpoints dominate judicial proceedings all over the country.

So, Mr. Trump appears to fit into their plans to discredit government at all levels and reduce people’s belief in it’s ability to make their lives better. Although incompetence wrapped in a GOP flag may turn around and bite them, instead of just proving that “government is not competent and you can’t trust it.”

So, why is the GOP doing this? It is simple. The plutocrats have so much wealth and power, the only institution that has the ability to stand against their dominance is government, therefore it has to be brought to heel. It has been almost a century since the New Deal was implemented, a deal in which government stopped being the tail and became the dog who wagged it. The fat cats of that time are all dead at this point, but the New Deal is still mentioned with venom by the current crop of oligarchs. They are still railing against it, and still working to dismantle the governmental power that accrued behind it.

 

June 16, 2020

Supreme Logic

I was reading about a supreme Court’s ruling in the recent case as to whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act also protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination.

You have probably heard that according to this SCOTUS, it does. However, as one article put it: “Justice Samuel Alito wrote the dissenting opinion saying, ‘The common understanding of sex discrimination in 1964 was bias against women or men and did not encompass discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. If Congress wanted to protect gay and transgender workers, he wrote, it could pass a new law.’

The article went on to comment: “Let me break down Alito’s argument: Because homophobia was more acceptable in 1964 when the anti-discrimination act was written and the creators of that law had no intention of protecting LGBTQ people, that law should not protect LGBTQ people.”

I wonder if Justice Alito’s logic extends to the Second Amendment right to bear arms, in that the amendment was referring to smooth bore, single shot muskets and swords and “If Congress wanted to protect the right to own and bear modern firearms, it could pass a new law.” I wonder how the Justice’s NRA supporters would view throwing that idea open to Congress.

And wouldn’t it be simpler to restrict employers as to hiring and firing to “job related performance” and nothing else. This would allow firings for not having the money to pay the worker, or the job was no longer needed, or the employee stinks and refuses to bathe, or . . . etc., but shouldn’t the reasoning be related to the job and not the category one wishes to stuff the employee into?

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

 

 

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