Tag Archives: capitalism

The Economy or The People?

Watching parts (I have a weak stomach) of the GOP debate on the “economy” I think I finally figured out the problem. I am slow, I admit.

The first question by the Fox Business/ Wall Street Journal panel exposed the issue pretty clearly. Should the minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour? Which is about $31,000 per year according to the panelist.

The answer, across the board, was NO. It would hurt “the economy” to raise the wages of people now making maybe 7 or  10 or 12 bucks an hour. It would devastate the economy to have poor working people making a little more to spend.

Trump, by is own admission a billionaire, sees nothing but ruin if a fast food worker were to get a few more bucks. And Carson agrees.  The end of the US “economy” as we know it. Catastrophe.

Another question asked by the panelists was about the great disparity between a CEO average pay and that of one of his workers. It used to be 20 to 1. Now it is 300 to 1. I don’t think any candidate ever actually responded to that one. The non answers were clear. No problem.

So, what seems clear to me now (as I said, I am slow) is that the GOP candidates have a completely distorted world view of what an “economy” is and what an “economy” does. Or is supposed to do.

Simply put, an economy is how goods and services are organized and distributed in a given society. The purpose of an economy should be what? To be organized so all members of a society have a chance to benefit from the wealth of that society. If not, then we must assume the “economy” has, as it’s central purpose, the organization of goods and services to benefit only a portion of the society.

The GOP concept of an “economy” seems to accept the second concept, that the economy should be organized to help only portions of society.. The economy to them seems to mean only one thing. How much profit is generated for the investor class. While they talk about “job creation” they are really talking about cheap labor so that investor profits will be higher. Not job creation so workers can have a decent life. Or participate in the overall economy in the broadest sense.

Now there is nothing wrong with investors making a profit. That is how the capitalist system (flawed though it is)  works. Since investors are allowing others to use their money  they deserve a reasonable return. But what is not reasonable is defining the “economy” ONLY in terms of investor profits. It skews the argument and is not a realist view of what an economy is all about.

When the GOP candidates say that a higher wage for workers hurts the “economy’, what they mean is a higher wage for workers cuts into investor profits. Which is true. Of course, taken to it’s logical conclusion one could argue that slavery is the best system for the “economy” because it reduces all labor costs for the investor. Hence, a slave economy, by definition, would be the “strongest” economy under the GOP world view. Tried that once, if I recall.

The GOP candidates, with real concern for the plight of poor Americans, pointed out that 1 in 5 kids now live in poverty. But their solution to this is NOT to raise the minimum wage so these children and their parents can escape poverty. Somehow, this system of keeping poor people underpaid is “good” for the economy. And it is, if you define the economy as the GOP does. A system designed to promote investor profits.

For the Democrats the challenge is simple. Help folks understand that the GOP definition of the economy is narrow and incomplete. Not evil. Not anti- poor.  Not racist. But simplistic and wrong. An economy is more than profits for investors. It is a system that is supposed to work for ALL members, not just a few.

A productive economy is one that is balanced so that workers who provide the labor to create profits benefit from that labor. And they benefit to such an extent that they can take advantage of the wealth they create. Investors also benefit by making a reasonable rate of return on their investments. A balanced system that recognize both halves of the equation.

Back in the days when the CEOs made only 20 times as much as the average worker the economy was better than it is today.  Investors made good profits and paid their fair share of taxes. Guess what? The economy worked for most people. Yes, some were poor. But the investor class did ok.  Not a single member needed food stamps.

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Happy Labor Day. Now Get back to Work.

Wages in the US are at a 40 year low when compared to investor profits.  And average workers today make less than workers 40 years ago adjusted for inflation. The capitalist revolution has largely succeeded. Convincing workers that they are indeed undeserving of a decent wage.

So, let’s celebrate Labor Day.

The labor of the slaves was responsible for the southern economy. Free labor, of people stolen from their homes in Africa,  was the driving force behind the plantation system that south fought so hard to maintain. It is hard to fail when you have free labor at your disposal. Easy to build a “good life” for the master and his household. So, the economy of the south was built on free labor. Happy labor Day

The labor of the “white slaves”, the indentured servants, was hardly different. Indentured labor was slavery of a different sort. English and Irish “peasants” or “criminals” stolen from their homeland. Some by force, others by the force of the English law. Taken to America where they labored for 7 or 11 or more years to pay off debts. And to pay for their own passage to slavery. Many died before their indenture was over. No recourse to the law. Happy Labor Day.

The labor of the Chinese came next. Railroad builders of the great transcontinental rail system. Stolen from their homes in China or “shanghaied” from the ports of China. Sold by their families into indenture. They built the railroads and for many the rail sidings were their graves. Mass graves when the work was done and they were no longer welcome. Happy Labor Day.

The labor movement of the early 20th century saw a massive number of workers seeking to unite. The US government called it treason. Any strikes for better wages were met with government and company violence. Workers were required to live and pay rent to their employer. To buy everything at the “company store” Were paid in scrip rather than dollars. Any organizer was labeled a “communist” or a “traitor”. Eugene Debs,when he became too powerful, found himself behind bars. Happy Labor Day.

The post -WW2 labor union boom. Wages increased. Working conditions became safer. benefits were seen as an integral part of the labor contract. And as union wages increased, the wages of non-union workers went up as well due to the upward pressure of job mobility. And corporations thrived . Millions were made. And workers could buy homes and save for the future. Then came the Reagan years and  the worker became evil. A parasite on the “job creators”. Mr Reagan’s first act (after ripping the solar panels from the White House roof) was to bust the traffic controllers union. The trend was set. Government was once more the enemy of labor. Union busting was the goal of government. Happy Labor Day.

The Mexican and Guatemalan and Honduran immigrant labor. Doing jobs no US citizen will do. For low wages. No benefits. No protection from the boss if he decides not to pay. Picking grapes. Washing dishes. Busing tables. Doing construction. Weeding lettuce. Cheap labor. And in return they are blamed for wanting to work. For doing jobs that US citizens refuse to do. they keep food cheap and profits high. Happy Labor Day.

Happy Labor Day. Remember the slaves, the Chinese, the white slaves, the wobblies, the unionists, the immigrant. All of whom have made America what it is. No matter how much “capital” is invested, nothing happens without labor. Nothing gets built. No one gets arrested. No computers are programmed. No one is taught. No garbage gets picked up. No potholes get filled. No electric lines get repaired. No one is cured. No packages are delivered. No food is grown.

Happy Labor Day. Now get back to work.

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Filed under Chinese, Debs, immigrants, slavery, United States

May Day 2040

May 1st. May Day. A celebration of the working people of the world. A celebration of worker’s rights. Passing largely unnoticed. A peek into  the future…Here is May Day, 2040.

Little Bobby and Little Suzie: Tell us a story Grandpa. A story.

Grandpa: Well. Today is May Day. So let me tell you about it. Once there was a time when unions and….

Bobby: (interrupting)..what’s a union?

Grandpa: A  union was an organization of working people. They got together to try to get good wages and working conditions and things like that.

Suzie: But isn’t that illegal, Grandpa?

Grand: NOW it is. But then it wasn’t. You see in the Bill of Rights every person had the right to “free association”. That meant that he could form unions. So workers did just that. Back then it wasn’t illegal.

Bobby:  But workers aren’t persons, Grandpa. I learned that in my “America is For Christians” History class.

Grandpa: That is true. But, once upon a time workers WERE considered to be persons. Then the Supreme Court said that corporations were persons. Then another Supreme Court said that ONLY corporations were persons. So that’s why workers are no longer persons.

Suzie: Grandpa. were YOU ever a person?

Grandpa: Oh yes. I was a person for a long time. And I worked as a union member until they were made illegal by President Rand Cruz.  And I paid Social Security…

Bobby: Social what, Grandpa?

Grandpa: Social Security. It was a little bit of money you paid every paycheck and then when you retired you would get some money to live on. But that is all gone now. Many corpora..er..persons…had religious objections to paying any tax. So that ended.

Suzie: What’s “retired”?

Grandpa: Retirement? It used to be that when you were 55 or 60 or 65 you could quit working and just live on pensions and social security. back when people were persons.

Bobby: But grandpa you are almost 90 and you are still working. When will you retire?

Grandpa: No one retires any more, Bobby. It is bad for corporate investment. When they eliminated the minimum wage they eliminated retirement. BUT, in the good old days, people could relax a little as they got older. Those days are gone.

Bobby: But Grandpa, our history teacher told us that only lazy people retire and want money for working. Anyway, she said that only persons have rights, not people.

Grandpa: Well, Bobby, she is right that people are no longer persons under the law. The  Supreme Court has ruled that there are only 3 categories of legal “persons”. No one else has any rights.

Suzie: What are the three categories, Grandpa?

Grandpa: Let me see if I remember. Who now has rights…Corporations, of course…and Born Again Christians…and the third…I remember now…fetuses and embryos. No one else has rights.

(Dad, Bobby and Suzie’s father enters.)

Dad: Okay kids, time to let Grandpa go to bed. He has a 10 hour shift tomorrow.

(Grandpa trudges off to his cot in the basement.)

Suzie: I like Grandpa’s stories.

Dad: Well, honey, remember Grandpa doesn’t always remember things correctly. He was what they used to call a “socialist”. He still thinks that people should be persons. He thinks that ppeople are more important than corporations. But he is old, so, we can humor him.

Bobby: Can we stay up late and watch the hologram?

Dad: Nope, You both need to study. I looked at your test schedule and there is a very important Science test tomorrow. You know what that means, don’t you?

Bobby and Suzie in unison: Memorize Leviticus.

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Filed under economics, May Day, pensions, retire, Social Security, workers

Bibi and Obamacare

The GOP has bypassed traditional protocol and allowed Bibi Netanyahu to make a political speech before Congress. Now one wonders what Boehner and company will do next. Perhaps they need to ask Bibi some tough questions while he is here. But don’t count on it. It’s a veritable love fest of anti-Iranian propaganda.

But, if the GOP was not so crassly cynical in it’s approach to politics,  they might consider the following.

Since WW2 the US has given more aid to Israel than to any other nation… over $121,000,000,000.

And we are in the middle of a long term deal which gives Israel at least $3,000,000,000 each year…ad infinitum. Of course, much of that aid goes to the US arms industry.

Oddly, while Bibi was here, no one in the GOP threatened to cut off funding. Let us recall that the GOP has attempted at least 57 times  to cut off funding to Americans who now have health care. On principle. The principle being that health care guaranteed by the government is communism. Evil. According to the GOP it is more important to stick to the principle than to actually help our own citizens.

Back to Bibi. While Congress continues to fund Israel (while trying to defund US unemployment benefits, education, SSI disability, etc.) they are oddly silent about the Israeli COMMUNIST system.

You see,  Israeli citizens have  a GUARANTEED health care system. By law, every citizen must participate in the system and employers are required to participate. COMMUNISM run amok. An Israeli citizen is entitled to health care, free of any pre-existing conditions and even free hospitalization.

While not perfect the Israeli health care system is certainly “communist” according to the criteria governing current GOP political thought.

Since a national health care system is inherently evil, why does Congress continue to support Israel? After all, by providing $ 3,000,000,000 per year aren’t we helping to subsidize this communist program. Why , after voting over 57 times and shutting down the US government to oppose the ACA is Congress blind to the  socialist/communist system imposed by Bibi on innocent Israeli citizens?

If the GOP was anything other than a bunch of hypocrites here is what they would do. Demand a cut off of all aid to Israel until the Israelis cancel their current socialized health care system and go to a “free market” model.  Think that is likely to happen ? At least not before they vote for the 58th time to end Obamacare?

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Filed under ACA, foreign aid, Foreign policy, government, healthcare, Israel

Thank you Mr Yoder

Congress recently passed a giganormous spending bill. It was for over 1.1 trillion US dollars. That’s a lot of paper. In numbers it looks like this 1,100,000,000,000. That is more M and M’s than you can shake a stick at.
A lot of that loot goes to luxuries like food stamps, housing for the poor, homeland security, etc. But thanks to Congressman Yoder of Kansas, a fiscal conservative, some of that loot may be coming my way. Kansas, as you may or may not know, is now facing millions of dollars in debt as a result of the “Tax Cuts for Billionaires” program instituted by GOP governor Brownback. Have no fear, like Christie of New Jersey, Brownback intends to raid the public employees pension plans to make up the difference. It worked for Christie. Fiscal conservatism at its best.
But, back to Yoder.
Congressman Yoder was able to slip the Citibank bailout provision into the new budget. Written by Citibank and debated by …well…by no one. No time to debate. It was slipped in at the last minute. (Where are the howlers who were screaming at Obamacare because they only had 6 months to read it before the vote?) This provision allows Citibank (and others) to make those risky bets on certain derivatives and have those bets covered by the US taxpayer if they go bad. The same risky bets that helped lead to the financial meltdown and bailouts of..oh..many, many years ago. I can’t remember. Was it 1929 or something like that. Ancient history. Couldn’t happen again.
At any rate, I assume that because corporations are people that means people are corporations. Makes sense to me. Right?
So, as a corporate entity I plan to fly to Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.
I will take my life savings (too embarrassed to give you the amount) and place is all on number 43 . One spin of the roulette wheel. Win and I am a millionaire. (Well, maybe if I win 8 times in a row). All my money. One risky bet. What could be better? This….
And the best part is this. If I win, I get to keep my winnings. Hurrah!. If I lose I will claim I am a bank. I will claim I made a risky bet. The taxpayers will cover my losses. Then, guess what ? I can simply bet again.
So, thank you, Mr Yoder of the bankrupt state of Kansas. Thank you for looking out for the little guy.
Las Vegas, here I come.

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Filed under Christie, Conservatives, Debt, Economy, Neoconservative, neoconservatives, obama, Politics, Republicans

Soccer, The All-American Game

The upcoming soccer World Cup in Brazil got me to thinking. Always a mistake. There is no sport that more fully embraces American values than soccer. What the rest of the world calls football. It is strange that the “typical” American sports fan rejects this sport. Usually for two reasons.

First, it is low scoring. Can’t deny that. Second, it is low scoring. Can’t deny that, either.

Yet, if an unbiased anthropologist from Mars visited Earth she would come to the conclusion that soccer is an all-American sport. If she had studied the  values that “real” Americans articulate regularly.  Sports like baseball and American football, on the other hand, would be seen as throwbacks to the pre-democratic days of authoritarian rule. Likened to a Dickensian vision of America.

Some examples.

American value:  Freedom and individualism. There is no sport in which an individual is expected to act on his own more than soccer.  Every soccer player constantly adjusts during the match. Sometimes playing offense, switching back to defense, then offense again…oops, back to defense. Constantly. For 90 plus minutes. While you have a formation , that formation is in constant flux. Fluidity. Personal freedom abounds. Thinking is essential. Making the right decision on your own. What is more American that that?

Compare with baseball. Every pitch is dictated by a catcher or manager. Every at bat is proscribed by the coaches. Take a pitch. Bunt. Swing away. Hit and run. For the pitcher. Throw a curve ball. A slider. An intentional walk. The manager decides each minute detail. Signals are given to the players to tell them exactly what to do. Authoritarian to the extreme. Make no decisions on your own.

Or football. Every play is called by the coach. Every defense is called by the coach. Even when the quarterback calls an “audible” it is still a play that was practiced and practiced before the game. A play determined by the coach. And after each play we stop. Get a new play from the coach. Then play on. Authoritarianism run amok. Do not deviate.

In the two most popular American sports thinking is discouraged. The manager or coach has the brains. The players have the brawn. Cogs in the system. Don’t deviate. Do your job. The boss knows best. Do as you are told. We don’t pay you to think.  Freedom ? Not if you want to play.

American value: Fair play. While every sport has its poor sportsmanship issues, there is a custom in soccer that emphasizes fair play. It has to do with injury. A  casual observer might conclude that in American football the attempt to injure an opponent is, in fact, an essential  part of the game! During a play if a player gets injured he is run over and ignored. The cornerback pulls a muscle and writhes in pain on the ground. That is an opportunity to score a touchdown.  The game goes on. We will pick him up later. Same in baseball. Two fielders collide  and knock each other out. That is an opportunity to score a run. It is considered a lucky break. Fair play?

But not in soccer. If an opponent is hurt (really hurt, not diving) the opposing team will intentionally kick the ball out of play. They stop the match even though they have the advantage. And when play continues, the other team will kick the ball back to them. Sportsmanship. This occurs even in championship games. With millions of dollars at stake. In fact, if a team breaks this unwritten rule they will be roundly booed by their own fans. Fair play.

American value: Hard work. Let’s look at soccer. 90 plus  minutes of running, jumping, kicking, jogging. Almost continuous action. Players do take breaks within the game, but only for a few seconds when the ball is not near them. No time outs. No rest periods. One 15 minute half-time. No substitutions. You play offense . You play defense. You play the entire match. Three substitutions. Period. Eight players on each team play the entire match.

Let’s look at baseball. YAWN. Each player stands at his position when on defense. He waits. And waits. And waits. Maybe the ball will come to him, but probably not. The catcher and pitcher do most of the work. And the pitcher seldom plays all nine innings. Too tiring ! Then after standing around for three outs the team jogs to the dugout and…sits. And waits. And waits. For one turn at bat. Usually 4 times a game. And if  you do get on base you may get a chance to run or jog 360 feet ! Hard work ? Hardly work.

Now football is a bit more brutal.  After all, you are trying to decapitate your opponent. (The death penalty…that IS an American value). But each player only plays about one-third of the time or less. That amounts to about  20 minutes of real activity. Twenty minutes of hard work.  Oops. I forgot. Most of those 20 minutes are taken up in the huddle. Where you are being told what to do. The actual physical activity for the average player is about 10 minutes a game. Hard work ?

So, why do Americans hate soccer? It seems to encompass the American values of hard work, fair play, individualism and freedom. Must be something else. Maybe it is because soccer is a “communist” sport played in “socialist” leagues?

After all, an American value is capitalism. The best get ahead. The losers fall behind. Life is tough that way. Except in professional sports. In the rest of the world if a pro soccer team does not do well they get “relegated” That means kicked out of the league and another team takes their place.  Raw capitalism. Succeed or die !

But look at US pro sports. Even the worst teams get to stay in the league year after year. No  matter how incompetent. No matter how lowly. There is no real incentive to do better. There is always next year. Meet the Chicago Cubs. 100 years of futility. And still in the major leagues. The US pro sports system is actually socialistic to the extreme! Maybe communistic. No one gets demoted. In soccer, on the other hand, succeed or be gone!

So, why then is this” beautiful game” which exemplifies all of the best American “values” castigated in the USA? Baseball is supremely authoritarian. Football is minimally active for the individual player.  Neither punishes the least successful teams.

An anthropologist from Mars would say this: Don’t always listen to what folks CLAIM about their values, look at what they actually admire . Study how their sports reflect society. Authoritarian or democratic?  Take advantage of an injury or fair play? Talk about hard work or actually work hard? Success based on performance or guaranteed by a rigged system? Take orders or engage in free thinking?

Soccer: the all-American sport. Now…if they would only score more goals………

 

 

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The Worst Communist Ever

Karl Marx had been caught in a time warp. You know, the ones we see on old Star Trek episodes. He was “beamed” into the 21st century.  I heard he was recuperating at a local hospital . I managed to get in and find his room. As I walked in I noticed he was grinning with delight and nodding his head in agreement to some TV show.

Me: Hello,  Karl. What do you think of the 21st century?

Marx: Excellent (laughing). Finally. Finally the worker’s paradise has arrived ! The capitalist behemoth of the USA has a real communist leader. At last.

Me: Karl, why do you say that ?

Marx: Look. Look. At this Fox News . I have been watching for two days. This President Barack Obama is a communist. Thank god…oops..there is no god…thank the proletariat for electing this communist ! Workers of the world unite!

Me: Well,  Karl, I wouldn’t get too excited.

Marx: Capitalist stooge! Look at this Obama and what he has done for communism. No  more wars of imperial domination ! He is afraid to use military force. No more using the proletariat for capitalist wars!

Me: Well. He did bring most of the troops back  from Iraq. But,  he also sent even more to Afghanistan. And the US does have military bases in about 100 countries around the world.

Marx: Oh…well..but now all the “means of the production” are in the hands of the people. The workers control the banks. The bankers no longer gouge the proletariat.

Me: Uh…well,  Karl. Not exactly. There was a depression caused by the financial  sector. True.  So, Obama and Congress did give billions of tax dollars to save the economy.

Marx: Yes.  A classic “redistribution of wealth ” from the bankers to the workers! Communism triumphs. As I predicted.

Me:  Actually,  Karl. It was a “redistribution of wealth”, but it went the other way. The tax dollars from the workers went to bail out the bankers who then took that money and loaned it back to the workers at a profit. Banking profits at an all time high. Wages very low.

Marx:  OK.  But now the people  own the factories,  not the bourgeoisie. I saw on Fox News that the government bought the auto industry. For the people !

Me: Yeah…about that one Karl. The US taxpayers DID bail out the auto industry. But then Obama gave it back to the private sector. Another “redistribution of wealth” thing. From the proletariat to the capitalists.

Marx (getting a little glum): At least in the area of health care the people are now in power. Since this communist Obamacare, like they call it on Fox News,  is now the law. Everyone gets free health care. And the proletariat  government controls hospitals, doctors and all medical facilities. All are equal at least in that regard. All paid for with higher taxes on the wealthy.

Me:  Sorry, Karl. But while  the ACA did bring more of the …uh…proletariat into  the health care system, millions are still not covered. And the government does not control health care. Another “redistribution of wealth”…from the working taxpayer to the health  insurance companies.

Marx: …So…there has been no people’s revolution? No equality ? This Obama has not taken money from the wealthy and given it to the worker? “To each according to his needs” ? But Fox News says that Obama is taxing the rich out of existence. Power to the people !

Me:  Actually Karl,  the income disparity between the workers and the elites is greater than ever.  About one-third of the major corporations pay no tax at all. But the workers still have taxes deducted automatically from their checks. And the part about “according to their needs” ?  Well,  you know, maybe the Koch Brothers just NEED more than a single mother working at Wendy’s ? Maybe?

Marx: So, this Fox News tells me Obama is a communist. Yet he redistributes wealth the wrong way. Are there other TV channels I can watch to get a more accurate picture?

Me: If you want a more accurate picture of politics than offered on Fox News,  I suggest you start with the Cartoon Channel.

Marx:  Hmmm…The wealthy are wealthier than ever. Obama bails out bankers. Gives the car factories to the capitalists. Sends billions of tax dollars to health insurance companies.  Continue wars of imperialistic aggression ….One last thing. Can you get me back into the time warp.  I want out of here.  This President Obama…The Worst Communist Ever !

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Filed under ACA, Economy, Foreign policy, healthcare, Obamacare, Politics, Society, Taxes