Class Warfare Blog

September 9, 2020

Trickle Down Economics . . . and What to Do About It

I begin with an interesting quote:

Williams Jennings Bryan said: “There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.”

He said this in 1896. Eighteen effing ninety-six!

Trickle down economics was not a new invention during the Reagan presidency, it is the tried and true instrument of the rich to retain and expand their wealth and also, they believe, their status in society.

We are in yet another Gilded Age of wealth accumulation. The filthy rich have bought the courts, the governments, and the news media and now those instruments of our society only bleat what they are told to bleat. And what they bleat is support for the position of the plutocrats, the wealthy elites.

Those elites have sold the idea that how much wealth you have is a measure of your social status, your worth as a person, so much so that religions have cropped up to support just that, e.g. featuring prosperity gospel preachers of the like of Joel Osteen and the perfectly named Creflo Dollar.

If we are to ever have a chance at real democracy, on in which “you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it,” then we need to take action. One thing under our control is to socially ostracize the very wealthy.

Is there any good reason that Jeff Bezos should have $200+ billion dollars of wealth? Could that degree of wealth be accumulated without the rules being bent to allow it? Think about this. If Mr. Bezos were to give you one billion dollars . . . if . . . if you could spend it in one calendar year, do you think you could do it? To do this, you would have to spend an average amount per hour of every eight-hour day, five days a week, fifty weeks in that year. (You’d get two weeks vacation, after all what good is being rich if you don’t get to enjoy it?) Do you know what that amount would be? It is $532,000 per hour! Think about how hard you’d have to work to spend just $532,000! Sure, you could go out and buy a house. So, now you have a house and you need to spend 532,000 more dollars in the next hour, and the next, and the next.

And Mr. Bezos has accumulated over two hundred billion dollars for himself.

Do you think Mr. Bezos thinks this is enough, that from now on he will take whatever he earns and share it with all of the Amazon workers who work so hard under trying conditions? Gratitude is important, right? Plus Mr. Bezos could spend $532,000 per hour of every working day for the next 200 years and not spend all of his accumulated wealth . . . not making one more penny.

Do you think he thinks enough is enough? No?

I do not, either.

Start the shame campaign. Impugn the patriotism of the uber-rich. Impugn their commitment to democracy. Shame them for their Greed. Unleash the Lash of the Mortal Sin of Greed upon their backsides.

Being wealthy is fine. Being filthy rich no longer is. Stop looking up to them, admiring them. Stop thinking of the Mitt Romneys and Donald Trumps of the world as “self-made men” when their fathers gave them millions of dollars of seed money. (I worked almost forty years as a college professor and earned about two million dollars of salary. Donald Trump was given five million dollars to “get started.”)

Repeat after me: Boo! Hiss! Every time one of the uber-rich appears in public, let them know their true social status: as greedy bastards who will grind armies of ordinary people under their heels to make themselves richer than Croesus.

Need Ammunition?
So, Bill Gates is a nice guy, right? Personally I think this is correct. Professionally not so much. Consider all of the lawsuits over shady business practices that Microsoft lost. The Internet Explorer scandals. The European anti-trust prosecutions, in essence, etc.

Jeff Bezos created and owns a large part of Amazon.com and all of its spin-offs. Amazon has been running commercials lately, highlighting employees who think working for Amazon is just swell. Have you seen these?

Have you seen similar commercials for Costco? No? That’s because they don’t exist. All you need to know what working for Costco is like you can see on the badges of its workers. many say “Employee since 1997,” others show 10 and five years served. People don’t stay with an employer unless they are treated . . . and paid . . . fairly. Costco has a reputation of being a good, even a very good employer. People stay with them. (And no, they are not perfect, just good.)

Amazon runs commercials to offset the bad press they have gotten from mal-treated and disgruntled employees. You, know, for canceling the health insurance of part-time employees at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, things like that. The amount of money saved doing that to be put in Jeff Bezo’s pocket wouldn’t make a rounding error in his net worth. That’s how Mr. Bezos thinks wealth is created.

Do your research. Every time you feel yourself slipping into admiration for a very wealthy plutocrat, do some research and find out how they got all of that money. If they appear on a radio show, call in and tell them what you really think. If they appear on a TV show, change channels, so their ratings will go down. If a local news program shows a gushing puff piece for one of these bastards, call in and give them a piece of your mind.

I hope that booking an uber-rich asshole in the future will be about as popular as booking an avowed racist is now. Make ‘em bleed.

September 3, 2020

The Free Market Debate (sic)

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 1:06 pm
Tags: , , ,

I am sure you have heard of this debate before, so I won’t be explaining just what it is. But I do have a question: what in your opinion is the biggest roadblock to having free markets? I am going to step out on a ledge and claim that you immediately thought of government intervention. It is the intervention of governments into free markets that messes them up and prevents them from doing what they do so well.

Am I right?

If I am, I think you now have proof of the manipulation of a public debate.

Think back to any financial crash you want. All the way back to 1929. Maybe the Savings and Loan Debacle. Or the Great Recession of 2008. Or the several times the Stock Market went haywire and we had a mini-crisis lasting just a few days. Were any of those caused by government oversight or government intervention? Any? Hmm, that’s interesting. If government intervention doesn’t cause financial panics or crashes, then what does? Let’s see, in 1929 it was runaway speculation by people playing the market to make easy money. In 2008, a major cause was the selling of bogus “financial instruments,” bundling lousy mortgages together and calling them Triple-A investments. Also, lenders were scheduling iffy housing loans based upon those faulty financial instruments.  There was an element of governmental controls during the S&L crisis as those regulations put many S&Ls into a box.

But, by and large, most of the financial crises have occurred because of market manipulation by market participants, not by government intervention.

For example, it was not long ago that corporations were not allowed to buy their own stock. It was thought that that would lead to stock price manipulation. But in the Clinton administration the business sector offered “campaign donations” to one and all if they would accept the reforms they thought were needed. One of those was to allow corporations to buy their own stock. At the same time regulations were passed to encourage corporations to pay their executives in stock options, rather than cash, to “give them a stake in the company.” You will have noticed that the majority of American corporations took their Trump administration tax cuts and used then to . . . create jobs, modernize their infrastructure, develop new products . . . uh, no, just kidding; they bought stock with the money, often their own stock. By executives deciding to buy their own stock, they drove up the price of their own stock, which made their shareholders happy, and made their salary payment in stock more remunerative for themselves. Do the right thing for their employees and society at large? Not on the agenda.

The “free market debate” isn’t a debate, it is a false dichotomy. The people promoting that this as an actual debate want there to be just two sides: one where the government messes things up, which it rarely does and one in which free markets, without any manipulation work like miracles. Somehow they always seem to leave out the markets as they really are: markets manipulated up the yin-yang by participants in the markets themselves.

Oh, and the days in which government dreamt up regulations on its own are long past. All new regulations are proposed by the industries being regulated themselves and is it any wonder those regulations seem to favor certain things?

July 28, 2020

Motivations According to Conservatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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.

July 13, 2019

Does This Blog Need a Different Title?

When I began this blog, mainstream opinions regarding there being a class war in the U.S. were little better than scoffing at the idea. It seems now that most people accept this class war as a fact. I began this blog with the intent of just establishing the war is real, but I could continue, focusing on the conduct and disposition of the class war.  Of late, I have been writing more frequently about religion (specifically Christianity as that is the religion I know most about) in that I believe the religion plays a role in the class war.

Religion, specifically Christianity in the U.S., plays a role in our current class war because mainstream religions have always worked hand in hand with secular state power for their own benefit. Religions that do not accrue state power have a hard time surviving. And a religion acquires state power is by exhibiting practices of which the secular powers approve. The example I use often is that Christianity supported the institution of slavery (scripture still does!). Had it not, it never would have been adopted as the state religion of Rome and would not have had Rome’s power to expand the church’s power for over a century. (Does no one else find the name of the Roman Catholic Church ironic? The Messiah (Jesus?) was supposedly coming to remove Rome’s boot heel from the necks of the Jews, then under occupation by Rome. Some actually called them the enemy! Apparently the enemy won.)

Some may argue that the history of the United States belies my conclusion. That in the U.S. state power is forbidden to be used to support or oppose any church. Ah, that explains the tax free status of churches and all of the other laws exempting churches and church leaders from having to comply with state or federal laws. Discriminate against women in your hiring practices? This is fine if you are a church. Discriminate against people of other faiths or—gasp—no faith at all, in your hiring practices? This is fine . . . if you are a church. Discriminate against gays and lesbians in your hiring? This is fine if you are a church. A governmental position of neutrality with regard to churches would mean they would all be taxed the same, not “not taxed at all.” There are many other laws that churches violate with impunity just because they can.

So, I still hold that churches support the status quo when it comes to the secular leaders as they have accrued some political power and they do not want to lose it. And, in reality, some of these churches have gone on the offensive, wanting more power than they have now, trying to make the case that we are a Christian nation, a ludicrous claim. (The Bible does not support any kind of democracy in any way, shape, or form. Nor does it support the forbidding of cruel and unusual punishments or any other of the cornerstone concepts of the Constitution. Sheesh.) They have also arranged to have legislation introduced exempting churches from more and more of our laws.

So, if you have an opinion, does this blog need a new title? (And if you say “yes” do you have any suggestions? I suspect JB would call it “Steve’s Snark” or “Steve’s Ignorance.”)

June 9, 2019

I Have Said It Before . . .

. . . and I will say it again. Say what?

The Guardian ran a story today “Can Trump win in 2020? This Pennsylvania county may be an indicator.” The subtitle for which was “Northampton county, Pennsylvania voted twice for Barack Obama before flipping for Trump – and could decide whether Trump gets a second term” What? A county in Pennsylvania voted for Barack Obama for president . . . twice . . . and then voted for Trump? What Red-Blue scenario, what White-Black scenario, what Rural-Urban scenario makes sense of that?

I’ve said it before . . .

The voters in this country were so fed up with the status quo (the rich get richer, the middle class and the poor get ground under their boot heels) that they voted in our first Black president. That should change things, no? Apparently not enough as Republican-Democrat infighting made sure “Hope” and “Change” were both little and infrequent. So, if that message didn’t get through, maybe the message of Donald Trump would.

Why don’t we try offering what the voters want? Candidates who aren’t bought and paid for by Wall Street and the major corporations and who will identify the will of the people and act upon that.

Novel idea, eh?

June 3, 2019

Why Are There So Many Signs of Distress in a Supposedly Robust Economy?

Over at the Naked Capitalism website there is a post focused on the St. Louis area but I think has application all over this country—St. Louis Fed Study Shows Rising Level of Financial Desperation Among the Poor, Hidden by Aggregates by Yves Smith.

I have blogged recently on economic indicators, basically claiming that if you use indicators of economic health that basically measure the fact the “the rich are getting richer,” you aren’t looking at the right indicators. For example, using the health of the stock market as an indicator of how ell the economy is doing is ludicrous at best.

This post by the wonderful Yves Smith addresses a ZIP code by ZIP code analysis of economic measures of economic distress and wealth accumulation or the lack of it, etc. The basic point is using “aggregate” economic measures (aka averages) masks the real situation.

Also, the “traditional” (aka what has always been recommended) strategy to “get ahead” no longer works. As a youth I was told that if I worked hard, saved some money, and was careful I could achieve the American dream. Because of wage suppression, run away health care costs, and near zero interest rates on savings, this strategy is broke, busted, and we are disgusted.

People work hard, often with more than one job, but sky high rents and health care costs, suck up the majority of what is made and no savings accrue. Actually debt is increasing in the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

My first full time job made me the grand sum of $9000 per year. Today, health insurance for a family of four is around $16,000 per year. Granted that there has been a considerable amount of inflation since then, but. . . . As another comparison, if one were to work a job, full-time: 8-hours per day, 5 days per week, with 11 unpaid holidays and no vacation, you would gross around $14,400. That’s gross, not net, so taxes (little in the form of income taxes, but payroll taxes) and whatnot have to be taken out to get at the actual amount of income this job would provide. If a household had two such jobs, the total net income might reach $26,000 or about $2170 per month. If this family is four in number (kind of an average) there will be no health insurance in that budget. Even subsidized health insurance would eat up quite a bit of that. In many areas of this country, that would barely cover rent and food, with transportation in the form of a family car (insurance, gas, maintenance) being out of the question.

It seems that the majority in this country now lives pay check to paycheck (I do) and that had been the case for most of the history of this country, but we were starting to get away from that after WW2. Now we are backsliding, with the skids being greased by the greedy rich who have bought Congress and much of the judiciary.

This is an interesting post and I recommend it to any interested in our current economic system.

Postscript Any politician who runs around claiming that the economy is robust or strong and beats their chest about it will be crushed at the polls in the next election. People are hurting and having smug elites tell them they are wrong to hurt will just increase the disaffection with the status quo that got us first Barack Obama and then Donald Trump. The GOP is likely to put up Donald Trump again and if the Dems decide on an avatar of the status quo (like Joe Biden) expect the repercussions to be severe.

 

 

May 19, 2019

We Are Using the Wrong Economic Indicators

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:08 pm
Tags: , , ,

Currently our “news media” (whatever the heck that is now) are trumpeting things like the US GDP (Gross Domestic Product), unemployment statistics, average wages, and Dow Jones stock index levels as indicators of the “health” of the economy. And, boy is the economy strong!

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

These indicators were chosen by the elites to serve the elites.

Consider the Gross Domestic Product, a measure of how much we produce in goods and services. How does that reflect on the welfare of the nation’s citizens? It doesn’t. It indicates how “productive” the economy was . . . but in service to whom? If all of the nation’s output was shipped overseas, the GDP wouldn’t change, but the indicator would indicate how well we were serving overseas customers, not Americans. Shouldn’t economic indicators indicate how well our economy is serving our citizens? (We the people, etc.)

Maybe a Gross Consumption Index would be a better measure. No matter how much we are producing, Americans won’t buy things when they are feeling economically insecure. So, it is more important how much Americans are consuming than they are producing. Is there such an index? If so, you couldn’t tell from the news organizations.

And don’t get me started about unemployment statistics. The number of full-time jobs with benefits is still shrinking, only to be replaced by part-time jobs with no benefits and shit wages. But unemployment is at a record low! Oh, and we don’t count people who have officially stopped looking for a job.

Average wages? Give me a break! Median wages, the wage at the exact middle of the wage spectrum has been decreasing! This means that there are more people making less and just a few making much, much more than that number.

The whole purpose of these misleading “economic indicators” is to convince us that the politicians are doing their jobs. Unfortunately, they are doing it for only the wealthiest among us.

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.)

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