Class Warfare Blog

April 17, 2018

Taxing the Rich: A Good Idea or Not?

To those whom much is given, much is required.

The standard narratives regarding not taxing the rich are quite bankrupt but are still used, much like the tired old arguments of religious apologists (there is always a new audience to whom these arguments make sense). The usual thing touted is that the rich are the job creators and if you tax them (at all?) they won’t take risks and start new companies which hire workers and we all suffer thereby.

As a counter narrative consider the story of Toys R Us, a huge entrepreneurial success story, which ended in a financial meltdown. The company, however, made its owner rich when individual and corporate taxes were ever so much higher and met its demise in a time when those taxes became ever so much lower.

Read this fascinating story here.

The “standard narrative” of the rich about the rich is they made their money “themselves,” so they “deserve” the rewards. But in reality, does anyone make it themselves? Or is it like personal gifts one is born with and developed, in which we deserve some credit for the development but much of what happens to us and because of us depends upon things like genetics, luck, externalities (like available electricity and good roads provided to all), circumstances of birth (being born into a rich family is a strong marker for “becoming” rich)?


November 21, 2017

Teachers Unions? Bah, Who Needs Them?

Six years ago, the state of Wisconsin passed the highly controversial 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, which virtually eliminated collective bargaining rights for most public-sector workers, as well as slashed those workers’ benefits, among other changes.

As Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) argued, “We no longer have seniority or tenure. That means we can hire and fire based on merit, we can pay based on performance. That means we can put the best and the brightest in our classrooms and we can pay them to be there.”

Well, did they?

What do you think will happen to an employer who slashes wages and benefits? People will leave their employ. Who leaves first? The people who have the most confidence they can find another job, that is the best workers. Who stays. The sluggards, the unimaginative, the fearful … not all, of course, but a higher concentration of these stay. (Studies have shown this to be the case.)

Action Reaction
An analysis of the effect of Act 10 has found:

  • In the year immediately following the law’s passage, median compensation for Wisconsin teachers decreased by 8.2 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, with median benefits being cut by 18.6 percent and the median salary falling by 2.6 percent. Median salaries and benefits continued to fall during the next four years so that median compensation in the 2015-16 school year was 12.6 percent—or $10,843 dollars—lower than it was before the passage of Act 10.

  • The percentage of teachers who left the profession spiked to 10.5 percent after the 2010-11 school year, up from 6.4 percent in the year before Act 10 was implemented. Exit rates have remained higher than before, with 8.8 percent of teachers leaving after the 2015-16 school year— the most recent school year for which data are available.
  • The percentage of teachers with less than five years of experience increased from 19.6 percent in the 2010-11 school year to 24.1 percent in the 2015-16 school year.
  • Average teaching experience decreased from 14.6 years in the 2010-11 school year to 13.9 in the 2011-12 school year, which is where it remained in the 2015-16 school year.
  • Interdistrict moves—when a teacher leaves one Wisconsin district to teach at another the next school year—has increased from 1.3 percent before the passage of Act 10 to 3.4 percent at the end of the 2014-15 school year.

Are you surprised?

The False Narrative
The core of the false narrative is in plain sight; it is “That means we can hire and fire based on merit, we can pay based on performance.” This is a business model. The problem is that in a business, the “boss” owns the company (or the boss’s boss or the …). The owner has the right to hire and fire inherent in his ownership. In a public school, the “owner” is the public, the taxpayers of the school district. There is no mechanism by which those owners can fire anyone (by state law). Prior to Act 10, the “owner” of each school district elected a school board which carried out negotiations with the employees to determine wages and working conditions. In no school district of which I am aware are teachers getting rich. When you think of employees getting rich, you think of doctors, lawyers, stock brokers, high level executives, but teachers … not so much. Having high educational attainment did not result in abnormally high wages for teachers, but there were tradeoffs: instead of higher salaries, better benefits and working conditions were offered and accepted, through negotiation. Act 10 chopped the head off of local control and took it over at the state level. (Republicans in favor of local control? Not so much.)

So, how did the minions of the schools (principals?) do in hiring the best and the brightest? How did they do in paying for performance? How did they do with getting the bums out of the racket? Aren’t these business types always talking about how important good management is? Was there any effort to improve the quality of the people in charge? No? (No.)

As usual, the actual motives for Act 10 was not in the bullshit offered by proponents. The Koch Brothers-fueled politician, Scott Walker, was executing a typical anti-union action for the billionaire class. Unions are the only organization with enough power to resist the oppression of workers by employers, hence they have to go. (Plus they tend to vote Democrat.)

But actions have reactions. Too bad Scott Walker doesn’t feel any of the reaction … just the teachers and the students and the “owners” of the school district. The Koch Brothers, in reaction, kept pouring money into Scott Walker’s presidential candidacy and into his gubernatorial re-election campaign coffers. If you want quality workers, you gotta pay them!

October 20, 2017

The Brilliant Ian Welsh

I have recommended Ian Welsh’s work to you before. This follows on the topic of my post “Everything is Coming Together, and It Does Not Look Good” but was originally written four years ago.

How Our Everyday Life Creates Our Character and Our Destiny

October 17, 2017

The MOTB, Another Billionaire Sponsored Culture Abuse

In a review of the soon-to-open Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. a reviewer in The Guardian said “More unexpectedly, a display on the Bible’s influence around the world makes claims for links between science and the Bible and contains statues of Galileo Galilei, whose claim that the earth revolved around the sun was challenged by the church, Isaac Newton, a devoted student of the Bible, and George Washington Carver, who rose from slavery to become a scientist, botanist and inventor and regarded the Bible as a guide to the natural world. Likely to raise eyebrows, an information panel states: ‘Are the Bible and science mutually exclusive? There is broad agreement today among historians that modern science owes a great deal to the biblical worldview. The idea that the natural world is orderly springs from the Bible. As the biochemist and Nobel laureate Melvin Calvin said, the conviction that “the universe is governed by a single God … seems to be the historical foundation for modern science”.’”

Many modern Christian spin doctors also claim the Bible as the source of inspiration and knowledge for all of science … but (you were waiting for that but, weren’t you) … you won’t find mention of it in history of science classes. Once again, we must look into Christian history to find why this impression exists at all. There were two famous Christian spin doctors, possibly the most famous of all (although there were others), so famous they are referred to as Doctors of the Church (Spin Doctors of the Church?), Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas. The Church “fathers,” meaning the prominent politicians of the early church, knew that they had a handle on the theological end of the faith (although they fought wars over it for about 1500 years—yes, actual wars with millions being killed and dying from associated causes) but they didn’t have levers to control all of society. So, Augustine folded a great deal of Greek philosophy into Christianity for them, as one would fold whipped egg whites into a soufflé. Greek ideas of politics and economics and whatnot became Christian doctrine, if not supported even vaguely by scripture, then by “tradition.” (The Catholic Church is very big on “tradition” as it allows them to invent their own history and then claim it has always been done that way or it was passed down to them from disciples of Jesus, even though there is no independent corroboration such people even existed.) So, now Christians had support for their efforts to control politics and economics, etc. (Remember it is all about control fueled by greed for wealth and power.)

Thomas Aquinas became a Church Doctor predominantly by folding in science, mostly the science of Aristotle, which is why most of the science in the Bible is wrong. The influence of Aquinas on science was so strong that people who subscribed to his ideas were referred to as Thomists.

According to the Christian spin doctor Aquinas, while you live on this earth, you belong to a single natural order, and you must conduct yourself in accordance with its laws. The presence of the natural law in all men also meant that there must exist a community of all men. Aquinas should have patented Natural Law or trademarked it; we still have Supreme Court justices referring to “natural law” for Pete’s sake. Will someone please tell those people that the idea of natural law is spin, sheesh!)

The Thomists then developed a very complex set of explanations that underpinned what had by then become the orthodox definition of humanity. But their basic claim was that natural law was made accessible to all humans, no matter what their origins, by means of what they called “first precepts” that had been inscribed in the minds of all human beings—hard-wired, so to speak—by God at the creation.

These “first precepts” were not simple instincts, such as animals (and humans) possessed. They constituted what were called “innate ideas” or “innate senses.” They allowed humans to see the world God had created as it really was, which meant that they allowed the rational human animal to recognize God’s existence and then to distinguish between good and evil and to act accordingly.

Brilliantly, they went on to describe moral instincts the same way: the first precepts of the natural law, they thought, allowed you to know that killing, theft, rape, incest, the eating of human flesh, and so on were all unnatural. They could be summed up in the commandment “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” These same people, though, could not offer much guidance about all the myriad codes of conduct, the habits and customs of which all societies are composed. They did not tell you that modesty and the wearing of clothes was natural, as was offering hospitality to strangers. This was where reason came in. The rational mind, acting on the innate first precepts, could deduce what codes were natural and what were contrary to nature. The problem was that the further you traveled from the initial “innate” idea, the more specious the idea became. You could, therefore, only be certain that your particular deductions were correct if they coincided with those of your fellows. This “common persuasion,” as it was called, was your sole guarantee, not because the community must always be right, but because God had created all men’s minds alike. Ta da! As we now know, morals are human constructs created to mutual advantage through human interaction. Aquinas highjacks this real source of morals and co-opts it into his faith so that people who know the truth cannot wedge it between the faithful and their faith because they already have a built-in source for where morals come from. (These Christian spin doctors (at least of old, the moderns are lame in comparison), were very clever in making up stuff to please their sponsors and help them control us “farmer-types” for century after century.)

The same happened with the science of Aquinas; it was highjacked for Jesus. Unfortunately Aquinas didn’t have high quality science to highjack, but he did have a complaint culture, one in which “universities” were for example run by clerics, selling the company line every day of every academic term. (Ordinary people didn’t concern themselves with such weighty matters, they were too concerned where their next meal might come from.) It became a matter of common knowledge that all of nature was created by the Christian god and all physical laws were manifestations of the same god. So, it is no surprise that scientists like Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, George Washington Carver, and Melvin Calvin assumed that their god was behind it all, as that’s what the propaganda had been for hundreds of years prior. They have also since been proven wrong in that assumption, but that is okay, being wrong is part of science, we just make corrections and move on. It is a shame the same is not true of religion as this museum is telling the same lies that have been told for thousands of years now.

The statement on their placard “There is broad agreement today among historians that modern science owes a great deal to the biblical worldview” is a lie. There is no such broad agreement. In fact, if you laid out all of the science in the Bible, you couldn’t read as much as part of a page without bursting out laughing. The Earth is flat, supported on pillars, the stars are on the firmament (a dome over the flat Earth). The earth is the center of the universe and the Sun and other planets and all of the stars rotate around it. Rabbits chew their cud, like cows do. Serpents talk. Disease is caused by demons possessing the afflicted. Pigs can be stampeded by demons. Fig trees will die if cursed. People are resurrected from the dead. There is so much nonsense one is really hard pressed to find any scientific sense at all. The billionaire-funded Bible museum may know their “broad agreement” claim is a lie or is suffering from confirmation bias and is repeating someone else’s lie, but it is a lie.

At one point in time, the church was the fount of all true knowledge because they incorporated all they could find into their dogma. But when real science, begun about 400 years ago, started contradicting everything the Bible claims as a scientific truth, the church has excommunicated, imprisoned, or executed scientists for their contradictions, finally succumbing to the truth, leaving only a few pathetic fundamentalist Protestant sects fighting the Evolution War and Islam, being Islam, yearning for the seventh century. (Note: Excommunication in the mind of the church is a sentence to the Lake of Fire for ever and ever, amen. Its use was coercive, designed to get the miscreant back into the fold but if not, meh.)

And if you aren’t convinced, consider that during Gallileo’s heresy trial, the Vatican’s own astronomer had confirmed Galileo’s findings as being true, but as Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino stated in private: although he agreed with Galileo, if the rulings of the Church were to be refuted by direct observation on this issue—even if it was not, as he recognized, a matter of faith—they might be refuted on others, which were. (Gallileo, then, was just collateral damage, I guess.)

Note: Many of these insights on Gallileo, Augustine, and Aquinas came from Anthony Pagden’s The Enlightenment: and Why It Still Matters (Random House Publishing Group—Kindle Edition).






Coming Together, Coming Together, Things are Coming Together

My recent posts on greedy elites and education “reform,” led me to Bertrand Russell. (Don’t ask how. I read too much, understand too little, and make connections endlessly.) A book of Russell’s still worth reading is Free Thought and Official Propaganda, written I believe in 1922. Propaganda, the term, had just been invented and modern propaganda, to which Russell refers, was also recently born. Here are a few juicy tidbits:

“It must not be supposed that the officials in charge of education desire the young to become educated. On the contrary, their problem is to impart information without imparting intelligence. Education should have two objects: first, to give definite knowledge—reading and writing, languages and mathematics, and so on; secondly, to create those mental habits which will enable people to acquire knowledge and form sound judgments for themselves. The first of these we may call information, the second intelligence. The utility of information is admitted practically as well as theoretically; without a literate population a modern State is impossible. But the utility of intelligence is admitted only theoretically, not practically; it is not desired that ordinary people should think for themselves, because it is felt that people who think for themselves are awkward to manage and cause administrative difficulties. Only the guardians, in Plato’s language, are to think; the rest are to obey, or to follow leaders like a herd of sheep. This doctrine, often unconsciously, has survived the introduction of political democracy, and has radically vitiated all national systems of education.

Ah, Russell points out the current effort in education reform is to confine public education to depart only information, for the sole purpose of getting a job, but not to get citizens who think for themselves, because that undermines the urge to obey the elites and we just cannot have that. (Remember this is 1922.) He also says:

We are faced with the paradoxical fact that education has become one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought. This is due primarily to the fact that the State claims a monopoly; but that is by no means the sole cause.”

Russell was concerned that the state, the “government,” as an instrument of the elite rather than the people, might follow totalitarian aims and reduce education to the “acquiring of job skills” or as Russell states, mere information. (The Republicans then current were not like the Republicans now or he would have been running around with his hair on fire.)

Bertrand Russell is also concerned about government by the big lie, fueled by big money.

“The art of propaganda, as practised by modern politicians and governments, is derived from the art of advertisement. The science of psychology owes a great deal to advertisers. In former days most psychologists would probably have thought that a man could not convince many people of the excellence of his own wares by merely stating emphatically that they were excellent. Experience shows, however, that they were mistaken in this. If I were to stand up once in a public place and state that I am the most modest man alive, I should be laughed at; but if I could raise enough money to make the same statement on all the busses and on hoardings along all the principal railway lines, people would presently become convinced that I had an abnormal shrinking from publicity.”

He “caps” these comments with “Propaganda, conducted by the means which advertisers have found successful, is now one of the recognized methods of government in all advanced countries, and is especially the method by which democratic opinion is created.” and “There are two quite different evils about propaganda as now practised. On the one hand, its appeal is generally to irrational causes of belief rather than to serious argument; on the other hand, it gives an unfair advantage to those who can obtain most publicity, whether through wealth or through power.

You can see that religion does not get off of Russell’s hook (its (propaganda’s) appeal is generally to irrational causes of belief rather than to serious argument). If these statements don’t describe the situation we are in currently, I don’t know what would. And, remember, he said these things almost 100 years ago.

The public school propaganda campaign has led people to believe the schools are failing (they aren’t. That teachers are failing to serve their students well (they aren’t). That poverty is not a barrier to accomplishment in school (it is). All of these lies were generated by propaganda machines with programs to sell.

Wake up people, before it is too late. The clarion call was sounded long ago. Awake! Awake!

October 16, 2017

What Ever Happened to the Scathing Putdown?

The was a political kerfuffle recently when Louise Linton, the wife of our current Secretary of the Treasury, posted a photo of herself (see below) and the Secretary exiting a government airplane on Instagram with the caption: “Great #daytrip to #Kentucky! #rolandmouret, #hermesscarf, #tomford and #valentino,” the culminating hashtags apparently referring to various pieces of her very expensive wardrobe.

A commenter then upbraided Ms. Linton for using a taxpayer-supported plane for what appeared to be a personal trip. Others criticized the flaunting of her wealth. Ms. Linton, in perfect The Empire Strikes Back form, lashed out at her critics. Much frivolity followed.

But whatever happened to the scathing putdown … the withering putdown … the blistering putdown? (Where is Dorothy Parker, now that we need her?) Is this the best we can do, people?

A quick check of Ms. Linton’s Wikipedia page shows she has either inherited or married into her wealth and hence has no “street cred” amongst her class. Her main accomplishments have been in minor roles as an actor, a skill she picked up through private tutorials. Wikipedia says:

“Louise Hay was born in the Murrayfield area of Edinburgh, Scotland, the youngest of three children of William and Rachel Hay. Her family owns Melville Castle outside Edinburgh, where she used to spend weekends.”
“Linton was educated at St George’s School for Girls and Fettes College. According to Linton, she trained in Edinburgh with a private coach from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, from which she gained honours after an exam.”

So, we can do better, people. Where is your scorn?

How about:
So, your main life skill is … what … shopping?” or
Did you major in college in marrying well?” or
Where did you pick up your skill in spending other people’s money?”
Did you need coaching in being an asshat or did that come naturally?”

Obviously the wimpy ass critiques of the Instagram comments made no dent in this woman’s sense of privilege, we need to provide higher quality feedback if we are going to bring these people to their senses if not their knees, at least out of their sense of entitlement.












The Political-Economic Elites

I made the point in a recent post (It All Is Starting to Come Together … and It Does Not Look Good, October 15, 2017) that civilization was created by elites coercing “citizens” into doing work that then supplied the elites with enough food and more. The methods of coercion were by means of physical force and through religious threats and promises. In our current world, the physical threats are less often delivered by thugs/warriors and more often delivered through politics, that is through rules, laws, and the threats of legal and police actions. For example, the rich think nothing of lowering their own tax burdens and shifting that burden onto the farmer class. What are we for, otherwise?

All of this comes from greed on the part of the elites. Greed causes the amassing of great wealth and then the wealth is used as a status symbol, even a symbol of cultural superiority. The old saw was that the rich were born on third base, thinking they hit a triple.

A classic example is available to us now in the form of our current federal Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Like all such secretaries, she was appointed by a rich and powerful person, and then confirmed by another set of rich and powerful persons (just barely, being confirmed in a “tie-breaker”).

You can find much of what you need to know from Mrs. DeVos’s Wikipedia page:

Elisabeth Dee DeVos (/dəˈvɒs/; née Prince; born January 8, 1958) is an American businesswoman, politician, and the 11th and current United States Secretary of Education.

Her credentials as a rich person are also evident:

DeVos is married to Dick DeVos, the former CEO of the multi-level marketing company Amway, and is the daughter-in-law of Amway’s billionaire co-founder, Richard DeVos. Her brother, Erik Prince, a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, is the founder of Blackwater USA. Their father is Edgar Prince, founder of the Prince Corporation. In 2016, the DeVos family was listed by Forbes as the 88th richest family in America, with an estimated net worth of $5.4 billion.

Since, when describing her wealth they refer to her relatives, we suspect that it was acquired through inheritance and/or marriage, but there is a reference to her being a “businesswoman,” so maybe she has acquired some of her wealth through skill, so back to Wikipedia:

DeVos is chairwoman of the Windquest Group, a privately held operating group that invests in technology, manufacturing, and clean energy. DeVos and her husband founded it in 1989.

An investment group, not a real business, and with her rich husband … so, her wealth was not acquired through her own skill, but like all rich people of this ilk “her” wealth translates into an attitude of wanting to reshape the world to their liking, in this particular case, through education.

So, politics provides the physical force to coerce the “farmer” class into doing what the elites wish … still. I wonder about whether the religion coercion will be there, too. Ah … again according to Wikipedia:

DeVos in 2001 listed education activism and reform efforts as a means to “advance God’s Kingdom.” In an interview that year, she also said that “changing the way we approach … the system of education in the country … really may have greater Kingdom gain in the long run.”

Apparently God’s Kingdom on Earth involves many, many serfs working frantically to make wealth for the already wealthy.

And the agenda being promoted by Secretary DeVos? It seems to be the defunding and/or destruction of our current public schools system, which despite the current massive negative propaganda campaign, is working better than ever (the corporate media won’t run a story counter to the narrative that the schools are failing) and replacing those schools with charter schools and educational vouchers. The public schools are being run by the, well, public, so are not really under the control of the elites, so, reform is necessary (Sarcasm alert!). The charter schools can be large profit-extraction businesses, even when run as a non-profit (by paying large management fees to corporations owned by the charter operators to supply “management” and through real estate scams, amongst others) and the vouchers can be used to funnel public funds to religious schools.

There seems to be this hesitance in this country to provide tax revenues to support religious schools. Apparently it has to do with some vague church-state separation principle. So, if the outright support of religious schools (to, you know, “advance God’s Kingdom”—I wonder if she has a particular god in mind, hmmm …) through the front door won’t fly now, then maybe funding them through the back door will work (it is not public money, it is just a voucher).

Also, it has been a stick in the craws of the rich for a long time that they send their children to private schools but still have to pay taxes to send the unwashed children to public schools. The fact that they can afford this without stint is irrelevant; it is the principle of the thing. School vouchers is a way to get the public to pay for their children’s private educations.

And, as good Christians, there is no limit to the lies they are willing to tell, as long as it advances their religious jihad. At least the Muslims had the decency to put this rule in writing for their adherents. Yes, it is allowed to lie to infidels in Islam (taqiyya) and “allowed” in religions is a euphemism for “recommended.”

October 15, 2017

Sunday Religion Tidbit: Jesus Hates Fags?

The problem with Christianity is Christians. The most obvious idiots that prove this point are the members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, KS. (Remember Fred Phelps, their pastor? Surely he is burning in Hell right now … if he was right about all of that.) These are the lovely people with the God Hates Fags posters. They clearly don’t know their scripture because in Mark 11:13 it clearly shows that God hates figs. Figs, people, not fags.


October 14, 2017

God is Punishing …

After every recent natural disaster (or man-made one for that matter) some religious asshole gets up and claims that the disaster occurred because God is punishing the area because of … <fill in the blank here>. Usually the punishment is for the endorsement of gay lifestyles or abortions or whatever. For example, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans 12 years ago, some from the Religious Right blamed the storm on a woman’s right to choose whether or not she will have an abortion, and as HIV/AIDS ravaged scores of people, religious leaders from the Right said the disease was the judgment of God. Some religious leaders said that the tragedy at Sandy Hook, where little children were blown to bits by a mad gunman, was God punishing gay people and for tolerance of gay rights.

(I can just hear Jesus saying, “When I said ‘suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God’, I didn’t mean they were supposed to actually suffer … certainly not while blaming me as the source of the suffering.” Note Imagining what Jesus would say or do is easy. Since he is a fictional character, anyone can put words in his mouth, including Christian Right assholes.)

But we recently have had hurricanes ravage Texas and Florida and I haven’t heard a peep as to why God was punishing those people. I suspect that since the Christian Right is very well represented in those states that He is punishing them for being assholes for inventing such self-righteous nonsense.

The fires in California are his punishment for abiding the presence of gays there.

October 12, 2017

Pass It On

Filed under: Culture,Race — Steve Ruis @ 12:38 pm
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