Class Warfare Blog

May 26, 2020

Who Suffers?

We all tend to think of what is normal for us economically is the way it has always been, but today the economic deck is stacked, possibly more so than in any previous time. And it is not stacked in your favor. It is stacked in favor of those who lend capital.

For someone to lend you money, there has to be an almost iron clad guarantee that the lender will be paid back. You almost always have to put up collateral for your loan. Fail to pay the loan back and the lender takes the collateral. So, if you buy a house, the house becomes the collateral. If you fail to pay the mortgage payment for a few months and Wham! The lender forecloses on the loan and repossesses the collateral, aka your house. All of the payments you made now count as nothing. It does not have to be this way. The “collateral” could be held by a court and put up for sale and the proceeds of the sale be split  between the two actors: the lender and buyer with the split determined by how much money had been put up so far.

But that is not the way it is. In our culture, the lender has all of the cards with almost no risk.

Consider the “Great Recession” ca. 2008. The housing market collapsed due to bad behavior on the part of realtors and lenders and suddenly mortgages that could not be paid resulted in repossessions of collateral worth far, far less that the amounts owed. So lenders bore some risk, then . . . except they used a powerful Washington, D.C. lobby to get bailed out so that they did not lose any money (or at least not so much). Were the people buying the homes also bailed out? Silly person, of course, they were not.

Lenders are so used to not having any risk associated with lending that corporations are currently awash in bad debt. They know they are okay because if anything goes wrong their “friends” in Congress and the White House, Democrat or Republican, will bail them out again. This is why economists invented the term “moral hazard,” but they do not apply it to those who line their pockets.

I have been slowly working my way through Michael Hudson’s book on how debt was handled in days long gone. I will give a larger book review (I have offered tidbits before) when I finish it.

To hold you over, here are some tidbits of Michael Hudson’s research and thinking:

“The pedigree for “act-of-God” rules specifying what obligations need not be paid when serious disruptions occur goes back to the laws of Hammurabi c. 1750 BC. Their aim was to restore economic normalcy after major disruptions. §48 of Hammurabi’s laws proclaim a debt and tax amnesty for cultivators if Adad the Storm God has flooded their fields, or if their crops fail as a result of pests or drought. Crops owed as rent or fiscal payments were freed from having to be paid. So were consumer debts run up during the crop year, including tabs at the local ale house and advances or loans from individual creditors. The ale woman likewise was freed from having to pay for the ale she had received from palace or temples for sale during the crop year.

“Whoever leased an animal that died by an act of God was freed from liability to its owner (§266). A typical such amnesty occurred if the lamb, ox or ass was eaten by a lion, or if an epidemic broke out. Likewise, traveling merchants who were robbed while on commercial business were cleared of liability if they swore an oath that they were not responsible for the loss (§103).

“It was realized that hardship was so inevitable that debts tended to accrue even under normal conditions. Every ruler of Hammurabi’s dynasty proclaimed a Clean Slate cancelling personal agrarian debts (but not normal commercial business loans) upon taking the throne, and when military or other disruptions occurred during their reign. Hammurabi did this on four occasions.

“In an epoch when labor was the scarcest resource, a precondition for survival was to prevent rising indebtedness from enabling creditors to use debt leverage to obtain the labor of debtors and appropriate their land. Early communities could not afford to let bondage become chronic, or creditors to become a wealthy class rivaling the power of palace rulers and seeking gains by impoverishing their debtors.

“Yet that is precisely what is occurring as today’s economy polarizes between creditors and debtors.”

I think you will find that some of this applies to our current situation, no?

May 9, 2020

The Royals v. The Tabloids

Filed under: Culture,History — Steve Ruis @ 8:48 am
Tags: , , , ,

It seems the main reason to have royals of the British sort now is so the tabloids have something to publish about this or that tiff in their weird social club.

I find the whole idea of royals to be absurd in the first place. Consider the British Royals Harry and William. So, what do they bring to the table? Why are they so “special?” Well, they are special because they were born of “special parents.” Those parents were Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spenser. Lady Diana Spenser was “special” because she was born of “special parents,” and more so because she married a “very special” person, Prince Charles, heir to the British throne. Prince Charles was special because he was born of “special parents,” too. And those parents were special because they were born of “special parents,” and on and on. Most of these people have done nothing to merit their “special” claim, albeit one or another does something charitable from time to time, but so do many other people.

When you get back to “special people” who actually did things to merit their specialness, we find that the main skills of these people were: spending other peoples money in large quantities. One was to lavish expensive gifts upon themselves: jewels, clothes, houses, land (lots of land), food, wine, . . . there really was almost no limit. And of course, lavishing gifts and “grants of specialness,” aka titles, on their friends and relatives. The other main activity was unnecessary wars.

Imagine what would have happened if each of the wars initiated by British royals had been forgone. What would have changed? How would people’s lives have been different? Obviously if someone else brings war to your land, someone needs to lead a response, but this doesn’t seem to be all that common.

Consider the back and forth wars with the continent made by British monarchs. What were these about? Mostly they were about who was to be the most “special” where. The tussles over who ruled Normandy were incredibly destructive but the claims of both sides were equally ridiculous. The royals were motivated by ego, greed, vengeance, etc. none of which had anything to do with the future of the British realm.

And at one point more than half the countries in Europe were ruled over by people from one family. Now, that’s special.

Think about all of the times people have done wonderful things for you. Doctors, dentists, car mechanics, plumbers, you name it. You remembered their effort with a gift or a Christmas card come that season. You didn’t worship them as a monarch.

Well, those are small things, what about the big things?

Ah, you mean like Abraham Lincoln did in preserving the union or Franklin Roosevelt in fighting the Second World War and helping to win it? Did we kneel down to any of those? Did we acknowledge that they were divinely inspired agents of God? It seems that this divine right of kings bullshit was made up as a way that religions could support monarchies giving the religions some say as to which monarch would rule. (How many European monarchs got excommunicated because of their bad behavior, eh?)

If at one time in our development, we may have need a war leader who we gave some authority over us to. But we didn’t have to go whole hog (as the Vikings proved) as we acceded to most everywhere.

History is a story in which human beings think way too much of themselves. I call it the Great Man Theory of History.

September 11, 2019

Socialism Bad, Capitalism Good

I am not going to state anything novel here but will reinforce things already said. Currently there is an aspect of our political discourse that is summed up by the title of this post. It is, of course, false. What the “defenders of capitalism” are arguing for is the status quo in which we have a quasi-capitalist system, but one that protects the rich and screws the poor.

Think back on the Great Recession of 2008. If you are a pure capitalist, then a great many financiers, bankers, investors, and brokers should have lost all their money (everything but the bare minimums allowed in bankruptcy proceedings). Through greed they backed the wrong horses.

But the word “bailout” then comes to mind. To coin a phrase “there are no bailouts in capitalism” just as “there is no crying in baseball.” If you have taken college-level courses in capitalism, nowhere will you find governmental bailouts as a structural part of capitalism. These sweet deals are brokered by rich people with the people who serve them to protect their wealth.

It was argued that “we couldn’t let such-and-such a bank or insurance company fail.” Wha? Failures is what capitalists brag about. It is what keeps them sharp. It is the leading edge of “competition.” Without failure, just what is capitalism? All of those people should have failed and learned from the experience . . . or not. So, what did they learn instead? A sucker is born every minute?

So, when you hear anti-socialist rhetoric realize that it is from the wealthy, or paid for by the wealthy, to protect the good deal they have going, nothing more and nothing less. And this is actually rebounding upon the rich. Younger Americans hear the anti-socialism rhetoric and they think “Ah, this is what we need to counter those greedy ass hats.” The young are embracing socialism more and more as the rhetoric against it is ramped up. And the harder the rich squeeze the poor and middle class, the more these younger Americans are embracing some form of democratic socialism.

They also aren’t stupid. They see countries like Sweden which are capitalist, just not capitalist as we are. They have a form of democratic socialism, in which the inherent negatives associated with capitalism are suppressed. The government acts on behalf of the people and offers basic services that seem to be the norm in civilized countries. They recognize, as do all thinking people except captured economists and bought politicians, that capitalism is self-destructive unless it is controlled significantly. In this country, the wealthy have turned phrases such as “government regulation” and “unearned income” into either non-terms or epithets. Why would they want there to be no controls on capitalism? Because in this country, when things go well, they profit enormously, and when the crashes inevitably happen, their paid-for politicians step in and the “public” bails them out. This heads I win, tails you lose system benefits only the wealthy, so their support of it is no surprise. The actual surprise is the support existing in the general population for this robber baron mentality.

August 16, 2019

The Family: A Start

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 7:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

I watched the first episode of The Family, a Netflix documentary on a shadowy group called “The Family” or “The Fellowship.” This group is a quasi-religious cult with the stated purpose of, well let one character explain it as he explained why the central character was been proselytized: “You are here to learn how to rule the world.” The first episode is set in a stately mansion near Washington, D.C. and power brokers from there and around the world “stop by” for discussions with the leaders of The Family.

The documentary assumes a pattern that I assume will be carried through. Stitched between statements made by real players in this organization and its investigation are enacted scenes of events as described by an insider who lived through them. I can’t say how much research is behind verifying the claims of the main character, who wrote a book about it, etc.

Ever wonder where is came from in a “separation of church and state” country?

I did get a frisson of anxiety when a leader in the group hands out to our man a copy of their guidebook. It is entitled “Jesus” and consists of the four New Testament gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, that’s it. (To quote Astro, the dog, “Ruh roh.”) Later a female character (all females are quite subservient so far) says “Jesus is a real person, a real person, not some abstract idea and He wants you to know Him.” (Of course the only books of the New Testament which speak of Jesus being a real character and not an abstract idea are the four New Testament gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.)

We are then introduced to Doug Coe, the leader of the Family, whose main contribution (at this early point) is to establish his main point, that of “The more invisible you can make your organization, the more influence you will have.”

In a “dorm room” discussion between the young men (the women are housed elsewhere) the discussion comes around to King David and how he had more than a few character deficits. The point to the Family group, however, was that “God chooses people and whatever you do, God will stick by you.” (Ooh, ooh, ooh, can I be the one to tell them what God wants? Can I, can I?)

I was about to write a piece on the Book of Daniel when this viewing happened. That book is very “prophetic,” but that may be because it was written 400+ years after when it claims to have been written. Events that have already happened are really easy to prophesy. (Try it, you’ll like it.) But the key element of that book and one that is glossed over (and over and over) is that Yahweh’s promise to the Chosen People is that they will have dominion over all of the other peoples of the Earth. That is the end game, that the Hebrews, and now the Christians by inheritance, will be rulers of the world including you, me . . . everybody. This is the core message of Christianity. Christians too often stop short at the coming of Jesus and the creation of the New Paradise on Earth and in Heaven, but the narrative goes on with the entire Earth under Yahweh’s thumb, in the form of a global theocracy. (Power to the Chosen People!) If you haven’t yet found a reason to oppose Christianity, maybe the Family’s clearly stated purpose is that thing. And there are good reasons that Christians don’t emphasize that purpose which, of course, they criticize Islam for. (Only in the movies does the villain take the time to explain that global domination is his goal, bwah, hah, ha! This is because it scares the shit out of the rest of us.)

It seems as if “the Family” is an organization dedicated to that end. And there are clearly no democratic principles behind this organization. It is a “Christian” organization, therefore totalitarian through and through.

To see just how different this theocratic vision of the future is from, say, Greek philosophy, consider Aristotle’s idea of the driving force behind societies. According to him, virtue is the prime focus of a well-lived life (seems Aristotle was a bit of a Stoic). To him, “ethical virtue was a habit disposed toward action by deliberate choice, being at the mean relative to us, and defined by reason as a prudent man would define it.” Virtue is not simply an isolated action but a habit of acting well. For an action to be virtuous a person must do it deliberately, knowing what he is doing, and doing it because it is a noble action. In each specific situation, the virtuous action is a mean between two extremes. Finally, prudence is necessary for ethical virtue because it is the intellectual virtue by which a person is able to determine the mean specific to each situation (from a summary of Nicomachean Ethics, the emphases are mine).

I don’t thin civic virtue is mentioned in the Bible; just submission to the will of Yahweh/Jesus; conform, don’t rebel, etc.

The American Constitutional founders were highly focused upon building a secular government that evoked civic virtue from its citizens, so that they (We the people . . .) were constantly balancing their individual welfare with the welfare of the common good.

I do not know whether I can stomach viewing more episodes of this documentary . . . I probably will . . . in small doses, because, well, know your enemy! These people are clearly not supporters of a democratic future for this country. They are accruing power for a reason. It can’t be good, no matter how much Jesus they slather upon themselves.

 

 

August 6, 2019

The Effing Elites, Part . . . I’ve Lost Track . . .

I am reading a lot of history of the Biblical era and I ran across one very interesting take on the elites we refer to as “royals” today. It is from the Book of Samuel in the OT/Hebrew Bible. (I know the two are not identical, the HB being hijacked and edited by Christians to make the OT, but close enough here.)

4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead[b] us, such as all the other nations have.”

6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” 19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” 21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

So, ole Samuel understood rightly that kings were bad news, but was overruled by Ole Yahweh. Yahweh certainly is in favor of totalitarianism, so why would he have an opposition to kings? And in this case, Yahweh is clearly issuing a punishment on his people for being disobedient to their true king, himself. And, as an exercise, consider what would have happened had Yahweh thundered “Absolutely Not!” At least a human king gives a bit of cover to a totalitarian theocracy (aka someone to blame other than Yahweh).

Any way, my point is this: royals are a pain in the ass and should be dispensed with. They are relic elites at best. Think about how they came about. (Really!)

Typically, some local bully accrues enough muscle to confiscate anything he desired. Part of the crops were confiscated. The most attractive mates were confiscated. The best property was confiscated. And if anyone complained they got hit in the mouth if not worse.

Over time, one or more of these bullies became ambitious and gathered together a war band and took over the other bullies in their neighborhood. Not wanting to actually stay in place and do the work of oppressing the locals, the resident bully was sworn to fealty to the overbully, or if his fealty was suspect, his head was lopped off and another promoted to that office, with the fear of that happening to him supporting his fealty. The local bully then paid tribute to the overbully.

Now, I am not saying that these overlords served no purpose. They did, on occasion, defend the people under their oppression from invading other bullies, but their record in doing this was mixed at best. And, over time, the divine rights of bullies got amplified. The bullies claimed to own all of the land, without purchasing it or establishing ownership by working the land, or . . . just “Mine!” And if anyone complained they got hit in the mouth if not worse. Many also claimed to own the people residing on the land, who became de facto slaves, again by no other expedient than “Mine!”

Collusion between the religious elites and the secular elites gave ordinary people no place to go for alternatives.

Effing elites.

Today’s elites are money enabled. Their power is not divine, although they bribe religious elites to support their secular notions. They bribe politicians to make sure that governmental power is theirs and not “the people’s.” The jigger the rules of wealth acquisition so that their money/power ever increases. For example, Trump’s tax cut for the wealthy and businesses? Capital investment has dipped to a new low just recently. So much for the argument that businesses would invest that money in expanded productivity, jobs, etc. Oh, yeah, jobs were eliminated by those businesses, too. Those businesses did exactly what was predicted: stock by-backs to enrich their shareholders and executives, and more money injected into politics to improve their lot even more.

Effing elites.

My fear is that the only option left to ordinary people involves torches and pitchforks. We seem to be closer and closer to such responses.

Even that old troglodyte Henry Ford knew that enriching his workers just a bit gave him more customers, but the modern elites aren’t willing to share any of their ill gotten gain. They believe they earned it. The divine right of the rich is to believe that they are rich because they are better than you or me. They even have a prosperity gospel now. Effing religious elites.

 

 

 

 

Make America Hate Again

Donald Trump has encouraged certain collective hatreds in this country, but he didn’t invent them. I think there are two interconnect streams of influence in the rise of hate in this country.

The Republican Party (Before Trump)
If you look back at the Republican Party over the past 50 years or so (and their enablers, e.g. conservative intellectuals, etc.), you will find that they have been mining pools of the country’s hate the whole time. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the South became much less Democrat and far more Republican. It wasn’t that the Democrats didn’t have their own racists (look up the Dixiecrats, if you need an example) but politicians down South voted with their feet and the GOP embraced them with open arms. Reagan’s “Southern Strategy” is another example and there are many, many more.

In addition, Republicans launched a propaganda campaign against the “liberal media” sowing distrust in people’s information sources and then embraced their own biased media in the form of Rush Limbaugh on the radio and Fox “News” on TV (should have been named Faux News). This wasn’t possible until the act requiring balance when using the public airwaves was repealed, under Reagan (of course). The whole campaign was a smear campaign because evaluations of the media showed no such glaring bias, but when it appears that when “facts have a clear liberal bias” is used as a criterion, I can see how they arrived at their conclusion.

Then another propaganda program was advanced by the same crew to turn “liberal” into an epithet, which it is today. This is why the term “progressive” was resurrected, after having fallen into disuse, as a replacement for liberal. Anyone calling themselves a progressive today would have called themselves a liberal thirty years ago.

The Republican Party selling its soul to Trump became easier because of the practice they got in selling it for “winning.”

The Internet
Enabling hate to grow, as if in an incubator, was caused by the ability of people to publish anonymously on the Internet. The incredible growth of that medium (being used to create this post, right now!) has short circuited the social approbation of public displays of hatred and prejudice. Where we used to shame those who said such things in polite company, now they are blared at high volume on the Internet by anonymous speakers and no shaming conduit is available.

And the Collateral Damage . . .
What is being lost is the absolutely required continual promotion of public virtue. The Grand American Experiment in ruling ourselves (instead of letting the rich elites continue to lord it over us) requires each and every one of us to balance our individual interests with our collective interests. Each citizen needs to think about our collective welfare simultaneously with his individual welfare and strike a balance between the two. This needs to be explained to each generation and promoted and reinforced continuously. We are losing this battle as the wealthy elites promote individualism over collectivism. In fact they are executing a propaganda campaign besmirching collectivism as I write this. They, of course, go to extremes by arguing that “big government” wants to make all of the decisions, therefore collectivism bad, very bad! These people, who are all in favor of more and more spending on the military make arguments like “its your money, the government (aka “us” collectively) shouldn’t be confiscating it (in taxes).” They do indeed want it both ways and seem to have no shame in arguing this way.

As our civic virtue goes, so goes the republic.

January 10, 2019

They Want It Both Ways

A common trope among the vocal rich is that handing out money to the “poor” will make them lazy. “Handing out” and “handouts” refer to welfare, food stamps, a higher minimum wage, you name it. On the flip side, they also claim that “redistributing” money from the rich to other where through higher progressive taxation will remove all of the incentive to invest and innovate.

So, at one end of the spectrum, allowing the poor to keep more of what they make or bumping their wages up to a bare subsistence level will result in them opting out of their jobs (more money = laziness) but allowing the rich to keep more of their income will encourage them to work harder, innovate more (more money = initiative).

Obviously this is merely a reflection of the class disdain the rich have for the poor. The poor are poor because of character flaws, moral weakness, lack of intelligence. The rich are rich because of their sterling character, moral strength, and brilliance. (Donald Trump … uh, is the exception that proves the rule?)

Also, is there any indication either of these “narratives” has any merit?

There is a well known phenomenon in business that as businesses grow and become larger, they tend to grow stagnant. They innovate less and their managers become more interested in milking the cow they have rather than finding new cows. In the recent tax giveaway to businesses, were the billions saved in taxes used to innovate, used to upgrade production, used to compensate workers, any of the things it was claimed it would do? Apparently, the funds were mostly used to buy back stock, which drives up the price of the stock, enriching shareholders and executives with stock options (you do get what you pay for).

Another economic “natural experiment” was the 1950’s and 1960’s economies. Marginal tax rates were sky high from the necessity to acquire funds to pursue World War 2. President Eisenhower refused to lower them, even in the peacetime following. Unions were empowered and laws were passed to provide some leveling of the playing field between labor and capital. So, were people enjoying the good times on welfare? Was there any laziness to be observed? Was innovation stifled because the rich were starved of the funds they needed to fuel the innovations? I think you know the answers to all of these (no, no, no).

So, what is with these narratives?

They aren’t new, they have been around for a century or more. They are, like religious apologies, arguments that sound reasonable but have no basis in reality. They have become memes among the rich folks, repeated often enough to be transferred from generation to generation. They are even sold to ordinary working people because they do sound reasonable and are repeated over and over. The rich are the job creators! Bah, customers create demand, demand creates jobs, and demand in our economy is mostly domestic demand which is stifled due to wage suppression activities on behalf of the rich.

The code word in use is “redistribution,” by which they mean that the rich are taxed and that money is “given” to the poor. The fact that much of the wealth the rich have accumulated is due to “redistribution” through other means is never mentioned. (Look up the history of the oil depletion allowance to see where the majority of the oil barons in this country came from.) The rich are in the business of bribing their politicians (not ours, we can’t afford them) to pass laws that benefit them. Our “representatives” do favors for the rich and nothing for the poor. For example, President Trump’s lackeys rolled back Obama-era regulations that prohibited coal companies from dumping toxic waste into the streams and rivers we draw our drinking water from, redistributing the consequences from the coal company executives to ordinary people. (1. Don’t get sick. 2. Die quickly.)

July 21, 2018

Things to Consider When Selecting Another Supreme Court Justice

This is not yet another post about who should be selected or how, but some background on how the SCOTUS fits into our system of government.

In a quite brilliant post [Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton by Paul Street (July 13, 2018)] at www.counterpunch.org the author points out quite clearly that the Constitutional Authors were more than fearful of popular democracy, that they felt the “natural” leaders were people like themselves, wealthy landowners who had the time and education and sensibilities (Sniff!) to lead well.

Here are a few telling quotes:

At the Constitutional Convention, Madison backed an upper U.S. legislative assembly (the Senate) of elite property holders meant to check a coming “increase of population” certain to “increase the proportion of those who will labour under all the hardships of life, and secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessings” [emphasis added]. “These may in time outnumber those who are placed above the feelings of indigence. According to the equal laws of suffrage, the power will slide into the hands of the former.”

In Federalist No. 35, the future first U.S. secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, argued that the common people found their proper political representatives among the small class of wealthy merchant capitalists. “The idea of an actual representation of all classes of people by persons of each class,” Hamilton wrote, “is altogether visionary.” The “weight and superior acquirements of the merchants render them more equal” than the “other classes,” Hamilton proclaimed.

Mr. Street goes on to say this:

Checkmating Popular Sovereignty
The New England clergyman Jeremy Belknap captured the fundamental idea behind the U.S. Founders’ curious notion of what they liked to call “popular government.” “Let it stand as a principle,” Belknap wrote to an associate in the late 1780s, “that government originates from the people, but let the people be taught…that they are unable to govern themselves.”

It wasn’t just about teaching “the people” that they were incapable of self-rule, however. The Constitution was designed to make sure the popularity majority couldn’t govern itself even if it thought it could. The rich white fathers crafted a form of “popular government” (their deceptive term) that was a monument to popular incapacitation.

The U.S. Constitution divided the federal government into three parts, with just one-half of one of those three parts (the House of Representatives) elected directly by “the people”—a category that excluded blacks, women, Native Americans and property-less white males (that is, most people in the early republic). It set up elaborate checks and balances to prevent the possibility of the laboring multitude influencing policy. It introduced a system of intermittent, curiously time-staggered elections (two years for the House, six years for the Senate, and four years for the presidency) precisely to discourage sweeping popular electoral rebellions It created a Supreme Court appointed for life (by the president with confirmation power restricted to the Senate) with veto power over legislation or executive actions that might too strongly bear the imprint of the “secretly sigh[ing]” multitude.

It sanctified the epic “un-freedom” and “anti-democracy” of black slavery, permitting slave states to count their disenfranchised chattel toward their congressional apportionment in the House of Representatives.

The Constitution’s curious Electoral College provision guaranteed that the popular majority would not directly select the U.S. president—even on the limited basis of one vote for each propertied white male. It is still in effect.

U.S. Americans did not directly vote for U.S. senators for the first 125 years of the federal government.  The Constitution said that senators were to be elected by state legislatures, something that was changed only by the Seventeen Amendment in 1913.

It is true that the Constitution’s Article V provided a mechanism technically permitting “We the People” to alter the nation’s charter. But the process for seriously amending the U.S. Constitution was and remains exceedingly difficult, short of revolution and/or civil war.

I know this is a lot to absorb, so I recommend you read the entire article. I will add a couple of comments.

Regarding the quotation from New England clergyman Jeremy Belknap “Let it stand as a principle,’ Belknap wrote to an associate in the late 1780s, ‘that government originates from the people, but let the people be taught…that they are unable to govern themselves (my emphasis).’” I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that a clergyman would oppose people thinking and acting for themselves! Realize that in the New Testament, the only descriptions of how Christians practiced their religion were very democratic. There were no clergy per se, unless you think wandering guides such as “Paul,” qualified. Congregations of Christians met in homes and “shared” with one another with no middlemen involved. But if there are no middlemen, there is no power structure and the early days of Christianity (first three-four centuries) was all about creating a power structure … by those wanting the power.

So, to hear that some clergy, although I suspect close to all clergy, believed that people could not rule themselves is hardly a revelation. In their religion, the people could not govern themselves, they needed “guidance,” otherwise they might believe the wrong things (“wrong” as determined by those in power).

Regarding “The Constitution was designed to make sure the popularity majority couldn’t govern itself even if it thought it could.” This is a stunning revelation to me. I knew quite a bit of this background and the attitudes of the “Founding Fathers,” but I had not had this point made so clearly and forcibly before.

Regarding “The Constitution’s curious Electoral College provision guaranteed that the popular majority would not directly select the U.S. President.” Isn’t it curious that the Electoral College was the instrument that got a populist President elected in 2016. The “best laid plans of mice and men,” indeed!

Oh, and on which side of this argument do you think Judge Kavanaugh is on?

 

 

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

The Effing Elites Do Not Care About You or Me … Unless We are Making them Money … and Possibly Not Even Then

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:25 pm
Tags: , ,

Read it and weep.

https://www.propublica.org/article/how-the-epa-and-the-pentagon-downplayed-toxic-pfas-chemicals?utm_source=pardot&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dailynewsletter

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