Class Warfare Blog

December 5, 2018

The Rich, They Are Not Like Us

The Republicans like to frame the rich as “job creators.” Well, one of the very rich, Alice Walton, reclaimed the crown as the richest woman in the world, as her fortune leapt from $33.8 billion to $46 billion over the past year. In September 2016, she was reported to own over US $11 billion in WalMart shares alone.

So, did she earn that money? Did she make that money? What did she contribute to society that so much money came to her? Is she creating jobs?

Owning stocks and investing in stocks has been shown to be the sham it really is. We are taught in school that selling stock is a way for businesses to finance their growth. This is clearly poppycock. Stocks are purely speculative instruments. The Apple corporation acquired $95 million in its initial stock offering. It hasn’t issued stock or gotten money from a new sale since. It has paid out billions to its stock holders in dividends. Imagine a bank load for $95 million that required billions of dollars to be paid back and the loan is still out!

Alice’s father, Sam Walton (founder of WalMart) made the money, she has simply played money games to expand the quantity.

The Founding Fathers comment often and long, as have many other prominent Americans since, that allowing accumulated wealth to accumulate by inheritance is un-American and counter to democratic principles. Yet, our inheritance taxes have been reduced to pure vapor under the guidance of bribes from rich people to Republican and Democrat politicians. This is what the rich like to call a “good investment.” They offer bribes of a few hundred thousand dollars here and there and they benefit by the many millions, if not billions.

Did you notice that Alice Walton’s net worth went up $12.2 billion in just one year? The Republican tax cuts played a big part in that. And, in case you are wondering, to spend that additional $12,200,000,000 in one year, she would have to spend $6,500,000 every hour of every work day of the year! How much money is enough? Apparently in a capitalist system there is no upper limit.

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November 19, 2018

The Mass Media Are Giving Capitalism a Bad Name

Last night on television, one could watch a couple of documentaries. One was The Clinton Affair, an account of a presidential impeachment from 20 years ago. The other was an MSNBC “special” called Betrayal, The Plot That Won the White House, an act of treason by a GOP candidate for president from 50 years ago. Apparently we now have red and blue entertainments.

Other than treason being a mainstay in GOP national politics, both of these seem to be aimed at making money off of our political divide. There are enough Clinton haters to acquire a substantial audience for the first and enough Nixon haters to acquire a similar audience for the second.

This, of course, is as we are undergoing a major challenge to our fundamental system of government and there are topics galore that the public needs to become informed about. I do not see what benefit rehashing either of these stories has for people now. Nixon’s treason was undermining the Vietnam peace talks as a private citizen, is of a pattern. Ronald Reagan committed his treason in the Sandinista Affair and earlier in undermining Jimmy Carter’s negotiations to free our captives in Iran (in order to get elected). The details of Mr. Trump’s treason(s) have not been elucidated as yet. (I also have my suspicions about G.W. but that is another story. None of these have stopped or even slowed down people voting for these or other candidates from that party.

And, clearly, the more our “mass media” are asked to conform to the “standards” of capitalism, the more they become rootless seekers of profit. At one time the head of CBS News said something alike to “The news division doesn’t need to make a profit; I have I Love Lucy for that.” Today’s “news media” are scrambling for “revenue streams” to stay afloat and under such conditions will succumb to the dictates of survival of the profitable. Pandering to “red” and “blue” audiences comes natural as does ignoring the role a free press plays in holding our leaders to account. (Doing it after they are dead is a tad late.)

November 4, 2018

Life in the Alternate Universe

Politics today seems to be based almost entirely upon straw man arguments. In such an argument, one creates a “straw man” in the form of a political opponent or political idea and then attacks it. The straw man, of course, does not exist, and so anything you say about it cannot be wrong.

The “migrant march” currently making its way through Mexico is the source of many of these things. Setting aside the ridiculous claim that it is in invasion, there are some really strange political stances being taken. Quite a few Republicans are arguing forcefully against the idea of “open borders.” Of course, there is no one making this proposal. Nobody wants open borders with no controls as to who passes and who does not. No body. But by attacking the promoters of “Open Borders!” the idea that there actually are some people recommending this crazy idea. Then the Open Borders “movement” is stood up as what is being battled with whatever our immigration policy is now. (Does anyone really know? Is it just whatever the president wants today?)

Consider the following argument by the ever vicious Michelle Malkin:

It’s insane to argue we should turn a blind eye to the health status of law-breaking aliens (Michelle Malkin on Oct 31, 2018) “We live in bizarro times. Suddenly, it is controversial to state obvious, neon-bright truths. This week, it has become newsworthy to observe that illegal border-crossers who circumvent required medical screenings are a threat to America’s public health and safety.”

This is a valid point, but this was in the context of the “Migrant March,” and I don’t think any of those people are planning to sneak in as “illegal border crossers.” If they are, they are doing a lousy job of being invisible so as to not be caught trying to sneak in. (Elmer Fudd had more subtlety than that: “Be wery, wery, quiet … there’s a wabbit around here!”)

I suggest that those people will present themselves at the border and apply for asylum. If they do that, they will be processed according to the protocols established, which includes a health assessment. So, is the “Migrant March” a cause of concern regarding communicable diseases? The answer is a clear no, as they present no greater danger than any other crowd of people of equal size. But raising the specter of a disease ridden horde approaching our borders, who are going to just run across does have a certain affect on public opinion. GOP allied pundits and the President have an agenda. It is fear. A fearful polity is a manipulable polity, plain and simple.

So, when the President says that the “horde” approaching our southern border is an invasion of ISIS members, rapists, robbers, and disease carriers, and maybe the woeful Cleveland Browns, we have to take it as another brick in the wall he is building around any coherent thinking. He should have a button on his desk which screams “Fear, fire, foes, awake! Fear, fire, foes, awake!” any time the button is pressed … and he would be pressing it many times a day.

October 28, 2018

So Is Trump Responsible … for Anything?

In an article in The Guardian, Heather Cox Richardson compares the recent attempted bombings with the political atmosphere at the end of the Civil War which lead to assassination attempts on leading politicians. Here are some excerpts:

When Trump demonises opponents, unhinged partisans take their cues
by Heather Cox Richardson

“When a president, as Trump does, demonises opponents as an un-American mob trying to destroy the country, it is not a lunatic who tries to harm them, it is a patriot.”

“By the 1990s, Republicans held on to power by manipulating the system. They claimed Democrats won elections through “voter fraud” and that they were protecting democracy. They deliberately kept Democrats from the polls.

“Voter suppression in Florida in 2000 helped put Republican George W Bush into office despite losing the popular vote and the targeting of state legislative elections in 2010 enabled Republicans to gerrymander states out of Democrat reach.

“Meanwhile, from the 1980s, Republicans insured themselves against Democratic legal challenges by packing the courts. Always, they argued that their machinations were simply protection against Democratic plotting with undeserving minorities to destroy America. By 2018, the Republicans’ president had demonised minorities as criminals and rapists and had embraced the idea that America was a white man’s land.

“Since 1980, Republicans have monopolised resources for a few wealthy Americans and have retained power by skewing the media, manipulating the system and convincing white followers that dangerous minorities threatened their very existence.”

“When a president, as Trump does, demonises opponents as an un-American mob
trying to destroy the country, it is not a lunatic who tries to harm them, it is a patriot.”

 

July 27, 2018

The Problem with Bases

No this is not about baseball. It is about our two main political parties and their “bases.”

The Republicans have sold their souls to the Religious Right, neoliberals, and reactionaries of the fringe of the right wing of American politics to get and stay elected, no matter the damage done. They haven’t dumped the rich as a core base element for who else would they serve? The Democrats have dumped their historic base of labor (working class people), minorities, and the less wealthy for the professional class, only to find out there aren’t enough of those to win them elections.

When I was young (I first showed an interest in politics when Eisenhower was president.) Republicans were stabilizers. They supported the institutions that kept out society stable (in their HO, of course). They supported the schools, the police, the military, the government (Right or Wrong!), the church, law and the courts, and so on. The complained when political or judicial opinions went the other way, but they didn’t threaten to take their ball and go home.

When I was young, the Democrats stood for fairness, helping the poor, balanced taxation, labor unions, and they were far from anti-war (both Kennedy and Johnson expanded the Vietnam War tremendously on specious grounds at best).

Neither party was worth a damn when it came to international relations. There was a small fringe who complained loudly about foreign aid, which has always been a spit in the bucket financially. (Somewhere along the line instead of giving technical aid and money to other countries, we now give them discounts on buy the weapons of war. Apparently as far as the U.S. goes peace and freedom don’t go together.)

Politically there was as much corruption then as is the standard now, but the stakes were smaller as were the amounts grafted by our politicians. But each party had some principled actors who kept the others in line. Often the “line” was racist or sexist, but there were lines and you could, as ordinary citizens, see them and attack them or try to move them.

Now, what I see is cowardice and incompetence (to he left of me, to the right of me, …) in our political bodies. Leadership? Not to be found? Intelligence? So little that the political class cannot evaluate whether their intelligence experts are to be trusted. Political astuteness? I can’t even find a politician who can define it. Deft policy drafters? Give me a break.

If we were to have a parliamentary system as has been suggested, these two parties would dwindle away to nothing and newer, more robust, more coherent parties would take their places. But as I have posted before, our political system is rigged. As much as the Founders feared political parties, they created a system that allowed two of those parties to hijack the system. (Our winner take all elections doom us to having just two dominant parties.) And, it is clear that the Founders feared true democracy, so they structured the Constitution against that.

I am absolutely gob smacked that the “press” still posts articles addressing the public will. They tell us, for example, that the Roe v. Wade SCOTUS decision has never been so popular. So? Since when has public opinion been a determining factor in anything governmental? Large majorities of citizens want background checks for all firearms sales; does that matter? A large majority of people want corporations to pay more in taxes; does that matter? If you are poor or middle class you have zero chance of affecting legislation. If you are rich and a campaign donor, then you have some chance. If you are a rich corporate lobbyist and have donated large sums, then you have not only a chance to affect the outcome, you may be invited in to help write (or write completely) the text of the bill.

If the Republican Party of my youth or the Democratic Party of my youth were still in existence, I could vote for the kinds of candidates either party proffered. As they are now, I cannot vote for either party as they both are embarrassments and anti-democratic and need to go.

July 17, 2018

The Monty Pythonesque Administration

Comments have been flying fast and furious regarding the meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Comments ranges from:

One of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory,” Sen. John McCain’s description of the news conference.

to:

(What) the American people saw is that President Donald Trump will always put the prosperity and security of America first.” (VP Mike Pence)

That the two polarities, including the ones evinced here, are coming from Republicans; well at least this is new.

I am reminded of a Monty Python sketch, “Argument Clinic” from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, written by John Cleese and Graham Chapman. Graham Chapman enters the office of the Argument Clinic looking for a good argument. John Cleese complies but no matter what is said to him, his response is “No, it is not.” or “No, you didn’t. (I am working from memory here, so if I am off on the details, no problem, it is the gist of the sketch I am getting at.)

Finally the paying customer complains that they were not having a proper argument as Cleese was just gainsaying everything sent his way. Cleese’s response was “No, I’m not.” No resolution occurs because they run out of their allotted time.

This, apparently, is the Republican strategy to run the Oval Office. No matter what anyone says, the answer is “No. it is not.” or “You are wrong.” If someone quotes sources, the response is “Fake news!” No matter what happens, the first things out of their mouths are outrageous lies.

Backing all of this up is Fox (sic) News propaganda machine and the various Internet “news” sites who back Trump’s version of reality. As a consequence, we have a significant portion of the American polity who believe Mr. Trump’s version of reality. Hell, quite a few of them even believe Mr. Trump is a Christian, all evidence to the contrary. (Jesus said it is okay to grab women by the pussy, if you are famous. Two Corinthians 6:66)

Then the talking heads lump it all together as us being a “Divided Nation,” as if we were the cause and not the lying, mealy mouthed politicians.

Mr. Trump is transforming American politics … and you are not going to like what you get. Whoever is in power just has to tell “the people” things that back up their performance (e.g. “The GDP has doubled on my watch.” DJT … when it has gone up 6% at most.) and then their propaganda machine goes into action to back it up or muddy the waters to make it seem that opinion is divided on the truth of that statement. (“After all, they will say anything to “prove” their point.” (stated by both sides).)

So, okay, conservatives. You have seen the way the Republicans have acted when they got back into power (and even before, refusing to address the nomination of a Supreme Court justice, for over a year). What will the country be like when the liberals get into power (the pendulum always swings back) … if they follow the same play book? Are you going to like it? Are you?

Or would you rather have the old, dull, grind it out politics that served us fairly well for quite some time. You know, the one in which if someone were caught in a massive lie they were expected to resign. (Compare Richard Nixon (then) and the still Senator David Vitter (now). You know Senator Vitter, the family values Republican who was a frequent client of the D.C. Madam’s whorehouse.)

July 16, 2018

SCOTUS: Fair and Balanced?

Since the Supreme Court is floating in the discussion air, I am reading more and more comments like this:

And just when we thought SCOTUS was done trying to unravel the moral fabric of America, Justice Kennedy gently whispered, “Hold my beer” and announced his upcoming retirement, thus simultaneously signaling the end of an era of a [kind of] fair and balanced Supreme Court. I won’t use his name.

Fair and balanced my ass.

Again, reasonable journalists are giving sops to the status quo to suck up to all segments of their potential audience and doing us all a disservice. Judge Kennedy is being called a “moderate,” because he voted with the liberal wing a couple of times. But he is solely responsible for the “Citizens United” ruling and voted with the conservative wing far more often (way more often) than he voted with the liberals. That makes him a milder conservative, but in no way was he a moderate.

And, “fair and balanced?”

The current court, minus Justice Kennedy, has 4.5 Catholics on it (Gorsuch was raised a Catholic but now is part of an Episcopal church. Episcopalians consider Catholics to be catholic in name only, they being considered back sliders.)

Three of Trump’s four finalists for Kennedy’s seat on the court were Catholic as is the one he finally “chose,” Brett Kavanaugh. The remaining three Justices are Jewish. So, if Kavanaugh gets confirmed that will make three Jews and six Catholics as the representation of the court. Fair? On occasion. Balanced? In no way.

Catholics represent 22% of the U.S. population and Jews represent 2%. What about the other 76% of Americans? The Protestants, the Atheists, the Agnostics, the Muslims? What about them? And please don’t try to tell me that their religious worldviews have no effect on their decisions. Give me a break. (Freaking Scalia believed in the literal existence of the Devil!)

I guess candidates from the “out groups,” don’t get chosen off of lists created by the like of The Federalist Society, the strongly Catholic organization that prepared the list from which Trump got to choose “his nominee.” (The Federalist Society is already responsible for placing three justices: Alito, Roberts, and Gorsuch on the high court.)

Fair and balanced my ass.

And, if you are wondering why so many Republicans are scoffing at the idea of the “Deep State,” you might want to consider that they are protecting their benefactors, like the Federalist Society, part of the Deep State.

July 11, 2018

It Figures

When the Trump tax cuts were imposed (you remember don’t you: the small temporary tax cuts for us and the large permanent tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy) it was claimed by the Repubs that the money saved by the corporations would end up spurring growth, even result in raises for workers. (Right, those results were to be delivered via unicorn, I believe.)

It was pointed out that the last time such a tax cut was implemented, corporations spent the bulk of the savings in buying back shares of their own companies. Well, surprise, surprise, the same thing happened this time. (Who’d have known it could be this complicated?) In a post on the Naked Capitalism web site (Michael Olenick: Update Confirms That Share Buybacks Are Still Corporate Suicide) extensive studies on the effects of such buybacks show that “not only do buybacks not lead to growth in a company’s market value, they are strongly correlated to a declining market value.”

In other words, the effect of their behaviors is not to “grow” the companies but actually to “shrink” them! To quote from the piece:

Corporate executives and directors are apparently bereft of ideas and the confidence to make long-term investments. Rather than using record profits, and record amounts of borrowed money, to invest in new plants and equipment, develop new products, improve service, lower prices or raise the wages and skills of their employees, they are “returning” that money to shareholders. Corporate America, in effect, has transformed itself into one giant leveraged buyout….

And since “everyone” is doing it …

The most significant and troubling aspect of this buyback boom, however, is that despite record corporate profits and cash flow, at least a third of the shares are being repurchased with borrowed money, bringing the corporate debt to an all-time high, not only in an absolute sense but also in relation to profits, assets and the overall size of the economy.

This not only burdens those corporations, but also drags down the entire economy.

So, if these buybacks are not what anyone might call the best use of those tax savings, why are they being done?

Okay, boys and girls, whenever anything political happens what are we supposed to do? (Follow the money!) That’s right! So, who benefits from these buybacks the most? It turns out that … wait for it … it is the corporation executives who actually benefit the most. You see the buybacks inflate the prices for the corporation’s stock. CEO’s and their ilk are now being remunerated largely via stock options. And, corporation executives constitute the largest segment of the 0.1% of “earners.” And that class of “earners” is the one making the bulk of political contributions currently. Does the picture now come together for you?

Think of the corporation executives as sort of modern pirates. (Can you see the eye patches and hear the “aaaarghs”?) These executives started out as treasure ship captains but, well the temptation was too great, and they stole their own ships. Well what is the government’s politicians to do? When they sailed into action to recapture the ill gotten gains, they received handsome “gifts” from the pirates to the extent that they have become dependent upon those “gifts” and now seek to facilitate the pirate’s behaviors. The government stopped pursuing the pirates for taxes and actually invited them to submit their ideas on how the government could be run better.

And all of the rich assholes lived happily ever after.

When are we going to wake up? Stock buybacks should be illegal or strictly regulated (as they used to be). They are tools to manipulate the stock market by insiders, for Pete’s sake! But when we ask our politicians what the intend to do all we get is “Arrgh!” and a wink from under an uplifted eye patch.

July 10, 2018

How Stupid Are We?

Are teachers taking “penny wise, pound foolish” to a new extreme? Not long ago we were treated to a display of anti-worker politics in the state of Wisconsin by its newly elected Republican governor and its republican dominated state houses. According to OurFuture.org, there were consequences for state workers “One Wisconsin labor organization representing teachers lost 60 percent of its members. Overall in Wisconsin, the percentage of union members in the workforce declined from 14.1 percent in 2011 to 9 percent in 2016. Simultaneously, pay and benefits declined. For teachers, salaries sank 2.6 percent and benefits dropped 18.6 percent.”

Now, consider that union dues are somewhere around $100 per month, working ten months per year so the total cost is about $1000. By “saving” that money by dropping their union membership or refusing to pay “fair share fees” (which BTW by law cannot include charges for political representation, which makes the SCOTUS ruling based upon free speech a farce), this is what the total cost was: apparently those unions lost $3000 per year in fringe benefits right away (https://money.cnn.com/2017/11/17/news/economy/wisconsin-act-10-teachers/index.html) and then they lost even more in salary reductions and missed salary increases. Save $1000 to lose $6000-$10,000 or possibly your job! What a bargain! Sign me up … not!

Boy, all of you teachers fleeing your unions or refusing to pay fair share fees are really showing them!

Politically teachers need to wake up. The people behind these political moves are anti-union, pro-business plutocrats. They are not your friends. You do not have access to them. Your union, on the other hand, is made up of your colleagues, who you do have access to, and if you do not like the direction your union is going, you can run for office and change it from within!

I learned this lesson the hard way also … but I did learn it.

Support your local union or start counting your food stamps because that is where you are going.

 

 

 

July 4, 2018

Republicans (Gasp!) Tax Churches!

Well, the Tax and Spend Republicans are at it again, this time accompanied by the howling from their evangelical Christian supporters. In their latest omnibus tax bill, you know the one in which they gave temporary small tax breaks to you and me and permanent large tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations, they also included this tidbit: churches, hospitals, orchestras and other historically tax-exempt organizations are to begin paying a 21 percent tax on some types of fringe benefits they provide their employees!

I am sure the Republicans will blame this on the Democrats because those organizations don’t pay income taxes, consequently lawmakers couldn’t take away fringe-benefit deductions, so instead they created a 21 percent tax on the value of some of nonprofit employees’ benefits.

The main benefits affected are transportation-related, like free parking in a lot or a garage and subway and bus passes. It also targets meals provided to workers and, in some circumstances, may affect gym memberships.

Apparently this is just the camel’s nose under the tent. Next up the major fringe benefits of parsonages, vehicles, and other benefits provided to clergy. And then, churches will have to pay property taxes because, well, fires aren’t satanic, so there is no freedom of religion distinction applicable to fees needed to support fire departments as well as police departments (needed to protect Christians from atheists and lesbians trying to take away their religious freedoms).

Ah, sweet progress! Let the sacred cow harvest begin!

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