Oprah gave a really nice speech…America, what are you doing? No, NO STOP IT!

#OPRAH2020!!!

Oprah gave a really good speech at the Golden Globes and, with that, is now the Democratic frontrunner for the presidency in 2020. I know, we’re still years off from the election and she hasn’t even announced her candidacy. Yet, somehow, this hasn’t stopped people from saying that she should run.

And with that, the head of the Executive Office is nothing more than the most popular person at the time. Qualification has nothing to do with it anymore.

About 2,300 years ago, Socrates Plato pointed out that a democracy is probably the worst form of government you can have.* The reasons were many, including that when everyone has an equal voice, no one has a voice (in a 51-49 vote, almost half the people don’t get what they want, which causes polarization), that people tend to elect fools, and so on. Early on in democracies people will choose qualified leaders who seek out the common good and seek to protect both the majority and minority. But, as time goes on, people tend to vote for whoever pleases them the most, the most entertaining, the craftiest, until one day we’re electing outright fools who aren’t qualified for the job. Then, when people get tired of the fools, they happily put a strongman into power to set the government right again and they willingly turn toward a dictatorship. Ironically, a mere 300 years after writing this the Romans went and did exactly what Plato said would happen.

In fact, every democracy since Plato has pretty much gone, “lol, ok” to his assessment and then subsequently proven his analysis true. Here we have the United States, a democratic republic that has lasted for 231 years (remember, the Constitution founded the democratic republic and that was in 1787). Seems impressive until you realize that the Roman Republic – a type of democracy – lasted 424 years. Likewise, just like the Roman Republic, our nation ran into tons of problems early on, but keeps running into problems (fun fact: the Founding Fathers actually disagreed with the Greek ideal of democracy and instead adopted the Roman ideal of having a patrician class ruling the government; so they didn’t want “freedom and justice” for all, but rather only wanted it for a landed gentry class). Many of the problems we’re facing today do echo the problems of the institution within the Roman Republic, but at an earlier stage. And while neither is analogous to each other and there are more differences than similarities, the similarities tend to prove the rule put forth by Plato; all democracies turn to shit (possibly an exact quote).

And so here we are, facing down the barrel of a loaded gun in 2020 where we’ll have Trump vs Oprah. Sweet Jesus help us now. And I don’t hate Oprah, she seems nice enough, but for the love of God what are her qualifications? At least be a governor first. Get some experience! The mere fact that so many Democrats are willing to devalue the executive office to amateurism simply to defeat Trump shows that we’re well beyond the point of, “voting for whoever promises us the most.”

How would an Oprah presidency even work? How much money could we set aside for the “You Get A Car” program? Would we start having to reach under our seats to find surprises or our tax returns? Who knows, maybe she’d pull that shit with congress. I can imagine Paul Ryan wanting to destroy our social services, only to flip and vote for universal healthcare after he reaches under his seat and sees he has a free membership to the club, provided by Oprah. Maybe she wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Ultimately, this is one billionaire vs another billionaire. Nothing would scream “out of touch” for the Democrats more than running their own billionaire. Look, giant robotic heroes fighting ugly inter dimensional monsters works for Pacific Rim (not so much Pacific Rim 2), but it doesn’t work for our elections. We need to run someone who is qualified, who’s good for the job, who’s charismatic, has experience, and that person is…oh, right, Democrats have done fuckol to cultivate talent. So…shit.

 


*Fun little side note: Plato thought that Kallipolis was the best form of government, a government ruled by reluctant philosopher kings. Men who would rather contemplate philosophy rather than rule, but who are forced into a position of ruling. While that sounds silly to us, think of all the modern films where when the hero is chosen to take charge and become the leader, he’s very reluctant to do so. While we think Plato’s idea might be silly, it plays on something within us where we want reluctant leaders, something that’s impossible to have within a democracy.

Advertisements

Rethinking everything – Part 3

Something that is incredibly surreal about New York that often goes unnoticed is the wealth disparity is constantly on display. We ignore it, we purposefully ignore it, because it’s just depressing. I walk through the wealthiest area of the city every single day. All those stores you tourists come to see and block the sidewalks so I’m late getting to the D Train, yeah, I see those every day.

What I also see is multi-millionaires shopping for watches that cost $50,000 while a homeless guy with obvious mental issues and in need of help sits outside in 18-degree temperatures. I watch as people spend thousands of dollars on shit they don’t need while the person behind the counter struggles to pay rent.

The disparity isn’t unique to New York, but it’s certainly absurdly visible. Take a subway within Midtown before or after a holiday during typical rush hour periods and it’s empty. Take that train from the Bronx into Manhattan and the train will still be crowded with people on their way to work. Why? Because the people in the Bronx mostly work service jobs, jobs that exist to serve the people in Manhattan, the people who get that time off to do whatever. And service jobs need to exist, but when you see young and old, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers all filling these jobs and not moving up the economic ladder, there’s something wrong with that picture.

The issue isn’t that we need to tweak the system or increase minimum wage or continue enacting policies that were fantastic ideas 50-60 years ago. We don’t need some Bolshevik-style revolution, rehashing and utilizing some philosophy from 100 years ago. Just as we don’t need some rehashed socialism, we don’t need to keep rehashing capitalism as though it’s some sacred cow, the arbiter of all economics and that without it we cannot exist. It’s an economic model based on Enlightenment thinking, a way of thinking that (thankfully) has slowly been fading out of our existence. So why are we still using it?

Basically, we need to rethink capitalism, we need to rethink our economy. With the rise of automation, jobs that were previously “skilled” are now “unskilled,” which has caused some to migrate over to other “skilled” positions (such as sales), driving down wages and creating a perpetual downward spiral in our economy. I know, I know, “But muh investments!” Or whatever argument you want to make. At the end of the day, the system is failing and has been failing for over 30 years. It cannot be saved, it cannot be salvaged, but it can be reformed and remade. There are some good things in capitalism that we can continue using, but overall we must use those things as tools and not as centerpieces in any new system.

Consider that we wouldn’t allow the government be run by an elite group of people who openly select a dictator for us, and then have that dictator openly admit to serving the board and not serving us. We wouldn’t allow the government to limit what we could say or do and dictate how we should live our lives the majority of the time we’re awake. I mean, we’ve basically allowed all of the above, but in theory, we wouldn’t allow it. We still have the pretense of voting and, if we honestly got serious we could overpower those that seek to influence our government. We still have a mechanism to change.

But we allow our corporations and bosses to do the above to us all the time and we think nothing of it. What is a CEO if not a dictator? What is a board of directors if not an oligarchy? We don’t like to think about these things, but they’re still true; as much as we claim to value freedom, the fact is we’re very much in favor of totalitarianism so long as it’s privatized. At its core that is the problem with capitalism, is that it took the absolutism of monarchy that existed prior to the Enlightenment experiment and instead placed that absolutism in the hands of individuals so that when one has capital producing property, one has absolute rule over that property. By necessity, those tied to the property through labor would also fall under that absolute rule.

The answer, then, is to take away the absolutism of the boardroom. Yes, it’s private property and all that, but it exists within a social sphere and the larger its influence, the larger its impact, the less “private” it really is. A company dumping toxic waste into part of a lake it owns would still be held accountable for its actions on its own private property because its actions had public ramifications. Only the most anarchist of capitalists would disagree that private companies that harm public interests ought to be punished. There’s almost universal agreement that harming public good (physically) should require the government to step in and stop it. Why, then, do we not have the same view when a corporation – or group of corporations – are harming the economic public good through selfish and greedy business practices? If we think it’s okay to stop a business from harming the public good when it comes to health, why not when it comes to the economy and the lives of others?

Thus, the idea of “private property” is a misnomer in today’s world. Yes, the lower the impact a business has, the more private it is. But the more visible and the bigger impact it is, it really ceases to be private. As such, the government is fully entitled to step in and regulate the absolute shit out of it if it’s harming the general populace or our economic output (in terms of the real economy; the market doesn’t matter). Since the central problem of our economic problem is dictatorial boardrooms, we ought to do what we can to eliminate their power. If that comes through legislation, so what? I think there are two ways – not mutually exclusive, but also not reliant upon each other – that we could remove the influence of boardrooms and stop the damage they’re causing to our economy:

First, we need to enforce a strict ratio tax on large corporations – as mom and pop stores aren’t really a threat to our economy (they can still be horribly run and mistreat employees, but they don’t have a major impact on the economy). What that means is simply don’t allow corporations to compensate (this includes stock options, cash bonuses, and salary) their highest-earning executives at more than 50:1 the average employee. While there’s no absolute number for what ratio is ideal, most economists agree that an income ratio of 100:1 is the highest you can go before you begin to see negative ramifications in the economy. Once the wealth gets to 150:1 or even 200:1, the income gap is wide enough to start putting a strain on the middle class. Right now we’re at 271:1 as an average, though some companies are obscenely higher.

Why does this cause a problem? Well, consider that since 1978 CEO pay has increased nearly 1,000%, which far outpaces the market (the S&P 500 has “only” increased 542.9%) and even the wages of the traditional 0.1% (which has increased 320.5%). In terms of actual dollars, not adjusting for inflation, the average individual income for Americans has increased 195% since 1978. However, keep in mind that $10,500 (the average annual individual income) in 1978 is equivalent to $39,415 in 2017, so with inflation modern workers are either breaking even or at a loss compared to the 70s. The reason for this is simple: if profits from actual production and investments haven’t increased as much as CEO pay has increased, it means the money for the CEOs had to come from somewhere. That somewhere is the workers. The income inequality at 271:1 means that worker pay must be cut and/or restricted in order to pay for the CEO and other executives. Since the pie can only be so big, corporations are cutting bigger and bigger pieces for the CEOs and executives and giving crumbs to their workers. This is why we’re having food drives for people because their low pay means they can’t even afford to eat an adequate meal.

Hence why income inequality must be addressed. It’s one thing if one company inflates the gap, but it’s another when it’s the common practice for all corporations in America. Placing a hard cap of 100:1 and slowly bringing it down to 25:1 (what it was in the 1950s and 60s, which created a strong and stable – apologies to Theresa May and all Brits who hate hearing that phrase now – middle class) ratio over the course of 10 years. This lessens the shock to the system but also elevates us to have a strong middle class. The boardroom still holds power, but not nearly as much. It neuters the damage they can do because they’re limited on how much they can exploit their labor.

The second thing that we should do is look at instituting worker-ownership. Admittedly, this works better as a grassroots project, but it could still be legislated to a degree. Let the workers actually own a piece of the company; if the company sees fit to give significant equity to the CEO, he should have no more than 10x what the average employee is given. After all, the company and CEO are absolutely reliant upon the labor of the worker, so why shouldn’t the worker get ownership or a profit share just like the CEO does? The implication, of course, is that if workers have part ownership in the company, they have say in who their executive board will be. If workers have complete ownership in a company, then they’d have a complete say over who the board would be and who their managers would be.

Now, we can act like that’s a bad thing, argue that workers can’t possibly know how to run a company so why let them vote on a CEO? But these are the same people we allow to vote for a person to have power to launch nuclear weapons; so we trust these people enough to vote for a person who can start WWIII, who can vote legislatures into power who will write the law, but we can’t trust them enough to know what works and what doesn’t work in their own vocation? Bollocks.

In employee-owned companies around the world, employees have actually shown that they know exactly what they’re doing in electing an executive board. Likewise, their pay ratios rarely exceed 10:1, bonuses are distributed to the worker-owners accordingly, and they don’t have food drives for their people because their people can actually afford to eat. What a shocking concept!

Those are admittedly brief, but broad enough to hopefully encourage some thinking. What is known is we can’t continue on this way. Our system is absolutely unsustainable and is headed toward a collapse from which it’ll be difficult to recover. The crashes since the 1980s have proven to be shocking to the system that we’ve yet to recover from, and it’s shaping our politics and our nation.

What is known is that if a company has to hold a food drive for its own employees, then the system is not working. We can point to multiple charts showing its working, we can point to the stock market, and we can perform amazing mathematical acrobatics to prove that the economy is actually doing well. And I will still point to the 14% of the population – the nearly 50,000,000 people – who are food insecure, I will point to the fact that 49% of our nation is low income, and I will point to companies having food drives for their own people and show that the system is absolutely broken.

Why people go hungry in America, but still, meh – Part 2

If we produce enough food to feed everyone in the US, even after our waste, why do we have such an issue with food insecurity? Why are the Republicans looking at cutting welfare programs that keep people fed, cuts that will likely harm the most vulnerable of our society (the elderly and children)? Is it because their [Republicans] mothers didn’t love them as kids? Did their fathers abuse them? Do they just hate poor people and view them as less human? The answer to all of those question is “probably,” but it ignores the core of the problem.

The problem is capitalism. I know, shocking. Capitalism is the boogeyman that comes to devour children late at night, is the cause of all the world’s problems, and without it we’d all be living better lives and on the verge of perfection. Of course, that’s not anywhere close to the case as Capitalism is merely a transitional economic method from feudalism (or types of feudalism) to industrialization. It is not, or at least it should not, be used as a permanent economic model. Why? Well, because it’s gotten us into this shit.

Everyone thinks capitalism is nothing more than an exchange of goods for a price that creates a profit for the person selling. While that is a part of capitalism, to reduce capitalism to such a simplistic definition is just idiotic. Under that definition, literally every system of economics out there has been capitalist, including the Soviet Union where vendors could still sell good for a profit.

A better understanding of capitalism is that it’ll have a few characteristics to it, such as the privatization of labor’s profits, ownership of capital producing private property, the dissuading of collective or family ownership (e.g. it’s more efficient for the capitalist to own one mega-farm than to buy from thousands of family farms; and the capital is privatized, not shared among the workers), maximizing profit in all situations, an increase of wage employment (rather than individual ownership), and having a certain segment of the population existing as spare labor.

While we could nuance the shit out of the above, those are some very broad characteristics of the various capitalist systems in existence. As it is, capitalism isn’t inherently bad or wrong. If you apply the above to a nation transitioning from an oppressive economic system that just doesn’t function, then the nation is going to be better off. All the memes and statistics showing that capitalism has helped decrease poverty around the world are mostly true; anyone with a proper understanding of Marx’s critique of capitalism would have no problem agreeing to these facts. That doesn’t mean, however, that capitalism is preferable for advanced economies, or even good for advanced economies. A kid who is child training might go from diapers to pull ups (kind of underwear, kind of diapers), but they don’t remain in them forever because they have to transition on to something better, otherwise they’re an adult who still from time to time shits their pants. In this scenario, capitalism is the adult that shits its pants from time to time.

Of all the characteristics I listed, all of them in some way contribute to the issue of food insecurity in the US, however the last one – having a certain segment of the population existing as spare labor – is without a doubt the leading cause of food insecurity. In the 1950s and 60s, the theory of having a surplus labor pool was great (if you were white…we won’t go down that path for now). Part of the reason the US did so well economically is that they produced things, and because Europe had been basically destroyed by WWII. But even prior to WWII, the US had the capacity and was outpacing Europe in terms of production.

What helped the US so much is we had a surplus labor force, a group of workers who were either unemployed or underemployed, so the moment a job or better job presented itself they could leap at it. This prevents labor shortages, which can lead to inflated wages, which can lead to overpriced goods, which can lower demand and, ironically enough, lead to layoffs. So from the 1940s all the way to the 1970s, the US had this small segment of people – typically under the age of 25 – who were underemployed or unemployed who could be called up the moment someone retired or there was a demand for more labor. The wages for the new jobs had to be higher than minimum wage and the benefits had to be better in order to entice people to take those new jobs.

It’s why we see many “progressive” economists focusing so much attention on the minimum wage. The theory is that if the minimum wage is increased for the “reserve labor force,” the wage for those working in “real jobs” will also increase so as to entice those minimum wage workers to jump on board if there’s ever a labor shortage. And in a society that produces things, this theory actually does work.

However, our economy has transitioned from the era of producing things, but our economic theories are still running off early 20th century thinking. The problem is the above theory doesn’t work in today’s economy for a few reasons:

1)      Most of our growing economy isn’t based on production in the traditional sense, but instead is based on financing (moving money around).

2)      Due to automation and an increase of efficiency, we don’t need as many workers as we did before, so our reserve labor force typically represents almost half the labor force.

This is why so many economists are baffled that even though unemployment is down, wages haven’t gone up. Typically, the more people you have employed, the more competitive it becomes for wages. In today’s economy that’s not the case because the people employed don’t really need to be employed. Why else would half the nation be classified as low income? If production is at an all-time high and corporate profits are at an all-time high, why aren’t people getting raises? The answer is because there’s so much of a surplus of unemployed/underemployed labor, there’s no need to raise wages. If 50% of your workforce would jump at even a $1 per hour raise, those currently in those positions simply won’t quit because “they’re grateful to have a job.” They’re less likely to push for a higher wage when there are 10 people in that reserve labor pool who would happily take the job for fewer dollars. And so because there’s so much reserve labor, there’s no need to increase wages; but corporate profits keep increasing.

It’s why tax cuts for businesses, while not necessarily bad, won’t find their way to employee’s pockets without regulation. Most corporations don’t need to reinvest money for production or labor; rather they reinvest in their own stock or some other company’s stock. That money goes into the market and the excesses remain in the market. The majority isn’t turned into tangible goods. In a perfect world, businesses would reinvest in their labor force to make them more productive, to motivate them, and to attract employees from other companies; in our world because wages are so low (lowest per capita since before the Great Depression) there’s simply no need to increase salaries because, honestly, where else are the workers going to go?

Thus, it’s a bit hypocritical for these major corporations to hold food drives for those in need when they’re the single biggest cause for food drives. Wages should be high enough and government protections should be in place so that there’s no need to worry about where your next meal will come from. No, not everyone should have that new TV or new computer. Not everyone needs a Mercedes. And not everyone needs a rack of lamb with Russian caviar (gross). But shouldn’t everyone in the wealthiest nation the world has ever known at least have a meal?

I’d argue that yes, yes they should. People shouldn’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. Part of this is we have to rethink how the economy works. Right now, wages are based on two things: the value the person brings and the market price of the labor. The market price for a welder might only be $20 an hour, but on certain projects his value could cause that price to go up. This is why individual contractors often charge different clients different rates, because the value they bring to that individual client might be more or less than the value to another client.  Under wage theory, the value is an estimate while the market value of the labor is almost constant. A lawyer who helps low-income residents in the city and a lawyer who helps the corporations fuck over the low-income residents of the city will work about the same hours. So the labor is equal. The value, however (and the ability to pay for that value), is drastically different. The lawyer helping average people generates no value for the company and therefore they won’t get paid. The lawyer helping the company, however, generates value and is therefore paid for his value.

This is why we have the divide between skilled and unskilled labor. A person cleaning a department store might work 10 hours a day on her feet whereas an executive manager at an investment firm will work the same amount of hours. However, the value each brings is different. The janitor has a job that (in theory) almost anyone coulddo (but won’t always do), whereas the executive manager has a job that (in theory) few could do. A specialized skill always brings more value and therefore always pays more.

In today’s economy, however, this model is broken because it’s undermining our economy. At the end of the day if an economic model brings your society closer to an economic collapse, then you should probably change that model. Both the value theory of labor and having a reserve labor force in a modernized, semi-automated economy works to crash the economy. If the majority of people lose the ability to purchase things, then capital ceases being put into the economy and eventually the economy comes to a halt.

We’re at the beginning stages, I’d argue, of a long term or even permanent stagnation. That we have food drives around Christmas to help almost 1 out of 5 citizens is nuts. We’re starting to witness the collapse of our economy to a point where it can’t be recovered without some tears and agony, or guillotines.

People go hungry in America, but meh – Part 1

I witnessed something extraordinary the other day; during a Christmas food drive, after closing hours (I happened to be that guy who was there after the place closed, but I was waiting in line for to pay, so I guess I’m justified? No, I’m still an asshole), I watched as a manager went over to where food had been collected for people in need. Very discretely he began taking the canned food and boxed cereals out of the box, putting it into a bag, and having some employees go over. There he distributed the food to the employees, many of whom were middle aged and not the typical teenage retail employees.

Now, maybe this was all an elaborate scam to get free food for the holidays. Maybe they’ve figured out a way to game the system. Or, it could be that things are just that bad. Not even 5 years ago, Walmart had egg on its face when it held a food drive for its own employees, begging the question that if you have to get food donated for your employees, shouldn’t that be a sign that you’re not paying enough? Of course, no one stops to ask that question.

Yet, there’s another question that’s important to ask: Why do we have charity during the holidays? Granted, no one in the modern industrialized world gives more than Americans (hey, we are #1 at a few things at least, right?), but that’s because no one in the industrialized world needs to give more than Americans. The idea of having a “food drive” is a foreign concept in some contemporary nations because food security isn’t an issue. Even the poor in Norway don’t have to worry about going to sleep without having a proper meal, but in the United States that’s an everyday worry. In fact, 12.3% of US households (not population, households) will experience food insecurity at some point throughout the year. With an average of 2.5 people per household (125 million households compared to 323 million people), that means approximately 45,295,200  men, women, and children are food insecure at any given moment throughout the year. That’s 14% of the US population.

It gets even more depressing when you break it down by state and county. Within the US some states, such as Mississippi, sit at a statewide average of 18%, with some counties exceeding 30%. Take Jefferson County, Mississippi, that sits at a food insecurity rate of 38% and over 70% qualifying for the SNAP program (meaning they’re below 130% of the poverty line). And it’s not just the South; Wayne County, Michigan has a food insecurity rate in excess of 20% and a whopping 85% of its residents qualify for SNAP.

But wait, there’s more!

If you look at national statistics, the national household average income is around $54,000, or about 200% of the poverty line, based on the assumption of a family of four. This makes sense considering nearly half of Americans earn less than $30,000 a year. The National Center for Children in Poverty sets the standard for “low income” at 200% of the poverty line. The reasoning behind this is that when you’re only 200% of the poverty line, you’re essentially living paycheck to paycheck. Yes, you’re not impoverished, but you can’t really save money. So if you lose your job or don’t get paid, it’s catastrophic because you likely have nothing in savings as half of Americans can’t save money. The reality, based on the previous link, is that only 19% of Americans have what we could deem a “real” savings account, that is, they could take a $1,000 hit and still have money left in savings. This also means that 50% of all children in America live near the poverty line, which of course creates massive problems in terms of health, education, and future prospects for the nation. As that study shows, having an education doesn’t really help as nearly half of all children living in poverty have a parent with a college education.

Yet, with all of this we have the Republicans –in their infinite wisdom and complete ignorance of economics, morality, and common decency – saying that in 2018 they’re going after “entitlement” programs and “welfare” programs. This after they gave the biggest hand job welfare boost to corporations and wealthy people in US history. Under the status quo we’re already looking at 14% of our population facing food insecurity and with many more on the brink of food insecurity. Making cuts to programs will only increase the number of hungry people in the US. It’s entirely plausible that cuts to SNAP and other beneficial living programs could easily see the number rise as high as 20-25% nationally.

In light of this, the United States produces enough food to feed 10 billion people. The US population is, of course, a few billion fewer than that. We produce enough food to feed people with little to no effort; we could literally give away half of the food and still not impact the profit of food production, as we waste half the food produced anyway. I’ve worked in restaurants before where we had to throw food out because we weren’t allowed to give it away or eat it as employees. How much sense does that make?

All of this leads back to the original point; we have food drives because we’re incredibly inefficient at feeding our own people. Charity work for toys, presents, clothing, and things like that can make some sense, but for food? Since when was food a “charity” item and not, you know, essential to living? What’s crazier is that this is completely artificial. We’re not in the midst of a famine, we’re not facing food shortages or export problems, and our food isn’t even overly priced when compared to other nations (such as Europe). The food insecurity in the US is completely, 100% artificial.

Dinesh D’Souza is both a horrible thinker and a horrible person or, D’Souza is a Dinesh best served trolled

I’m not one of those, “You’ll be shocked when you read THIS” or “14 Reasons Why Your Should Consider Your Opinion About Dinesh D’Souza.” I like to just get to the point, and the point is that Dinesh D’Souza is a horrible person and a horrible thinker. What do I mean by this? Well, yesterday I came home to discover a giant cockroach thinking he could stay in my apartment rent free (New York is a magical place) and after a battle, I finally killed it. It wasn’t pretty and, honestly, it was horrible, but given the option of having that cockroach in my apartment or having Dinesh D’Souza over for a conversation, I’d take the cockroach 125 times out of 10 (not a typo).

But why do I hold D’Souza in such regard? Well, look at his Twitter and you’ll see what I call “D’Souza’s Conundrum: Either D’Souza is a trash heap of a human being because he says the things he says knowing they’re false, but that they’ll make him famous OR he actually believes the stuff he says in which case he’s an idiot.” Allow me to submit my evidence:

Exhibit A: The Man Knows Fuckol about Fascism and/or the Democratic Party

D’Souza is on a big kick lately to argue that Obama was close to Fascism while Trump is the furthest thing from it.

 

 

 

There’s just so much to get through in these. So, so much. The most egregious error is even attempting to attribute the Fascist economic system of state-run corporations (or corporations heavily regulated by the State FOR THE PURPOSE OF PRESERVING THE RACE AND/OR NATION) to Obama is that Obama didn’t introduce a state-run capitalist system to the US. We don’t have a state-run capitalist system. We have a capitalist system that runs the State, but it certainly isn’t in reverse. For God’s sake, if Obama wanted to introduce such a system he could have in 2008 when everything was falling apart. He could have nationalized the banks, he could have nationalized the auto industry, he could have nationalized the oil industry towards the end of his presidency when oil prices collapsed, he could have nationalized mortgages, he could have nationalized healthcare, and the list goes on. But he didn’t do any of that. Why? Because aside from being a bad economic practice, the corporations wouldn’t allow it and because, you know, Obama wasn’t a fascist.

But this ignores the fact that D’Souza, aside from his personal hatred of Obama (we’ll get to that), doesn’t actually understand a thing about fascism. Using the State to target individuals (which didn’t happen to D’Souza, as the judge stated in his case, and it’s also why D’Souza plead guilty to the felony of election fraud; you don’t plead guilty if you’re innocent) isn’t unique to fascism, but is pretty common among all autocrats and demagogs. It’s happened in almost every nation that’s ever existed, including our own. To call it fascism because fascists did it would be the equivalent to calling George W Bush Hitler because they both liked to paint.

Regardless, D’Souza can’t even get the basics of fascism down. He consistently points to Mussolini being a socialist, but Mussolini rejected socialism after his party lost in 1919. He noticed the more nationalist and pro-war he become, the more people liked him. It’s why in his own Doctrine of Fascism, Mussolini wrote:

Continue reading →

Here Be Giants: Breaking up CVS, Aetna, and basically the entire economy

In their best Biggie (ft. Jr. M.A.F.I.A) impression, CVS (ft. A.E.T.N.A) is doing their best “Get Money” move. By attempting to buy Aetna for $69 billion…heh….they’re trying to merge one of the largest pharmacy retailers with one of the largest healthcare insurance providers. That the purchase is for $69 billion is all too perfect because the only people getting any sort of pleasure out of this will be the executives at CVS and Aetna; everyone else is left out of this little shindig.

But this is just one more merger among many since the 1980s and 90s, when the US government decided it really didn’t care about oligopolies and de facto monopolies. If you want to look at one of the biggest reasons we’ve seen profits and production increase along with he cost of living, but wages remain stagnant, you could look to the current market structure which is almost exclusively an oligopoly in every single industry. Want to go to a pharmacy? Most likely your choices are CVS, Walgreens, or maybe RiteAid (and let’s not forget Walmart). Sure, there are local pharmacies, but they represent such a small portion of sales that they hardly count. You could also go to your local grocery store, but it’s not really “local” as it’s most likely owned by Aldi, Albertson’s, Ahold Delhaize, or Kroger (or, again, Walmart). And if you want to watch the news on your phone (which is really just down to two competitors: Samsung and Apple), you’ll likely be watching or reading the news from an organization that is owned by one of six corporations (90% of the mass media in the US is owned by just 6 corporations).

The point being, it’s difficult to think of an industry where there’s robust competition free of giant competitors. Business software? Intuit and Microsoft will likely outcompete you or buy you. Oil extraction? There’s maybe 3 or 4 major companies that can accomplish this. Car production? Of major US car producers there’s three, including real worldwide competition we’re still at less than 10. In fact, if you think of common oligopolies in the US, every major industry has one: Internet service providers (which are often monopolies in smaller regions), aluminum and steel production, airlines, mass media, pharmaceuticals, music, and the list goes on. In fast food 71% of the industry is taken up by just 12 companies, though the food industry is harder to create an oligopoly due to already low margins and that different types of food can be offered to avoid competition.

Americans are always careful with monopolies, we try not to let any one company control an entire industry at a national level (though we oddly have no issue when it’s done at the local level). However, we’ve ignored that we’ve moved into an economy where each industry faces little to no competition. While there is some competition, it’s not significant nor is it enough to effectively lower prices. Likewise, when few companies compete within an industry, you not only harm the consumers, you harm the workers. Just as consumers won’t find low prices, workers won’t find higher wages because “the market” has set wages within that industry. But if you’re skilled in media and want more pay, where are you going to go if there are only 5 other options and they pay the same? “The market” has only set that pay because those 6 companies don’t have to compete against each other to gain quality workers, so they can artificially lower the wages. Multiply this across various industries and you begin to see how our obsession with large companies in industries has forced wages to remain low; when 2-10 companies control an entire industry, representing millions of workers, the companies get to dictate the market price of labor because they control the market.

See, the above isn’t a free market. A free market requires the market to, well, be free. That means free of harmful government regulations (note the use of the word “harmful” here) BUT ALSO must also have robust competition. If an industry requires large corporations with little competition in order to function, then it means that industry ought to be heavily regulated by the government because it’s not a market industry; the market can’t self-regulate the company or companies because they are the entirety of the market. If you have 100 businesses within any given industry then the market tends to self-regulate (to an extent). There’s enough competition that people will pay higher wages to attract better workers, which gives them an edge over the competition. The higher wages means the average worker can consume more, so more money is spent within the industry, which boosts other businesses. The cycle continues. If, however, you have 5 businesses within any given industry, then the market is clogged up and doesn’t exist. Here’s an example for those who follow the NBA (and if you don’t follow the NBA, there’s something fundamentally wrong with you):

In the current state of the NBA we see oligopoly in action. While there’s an entire season and 30 NBA teams competing for a title, in reality there’s only 2 teams that could possibly win it. 5 if you press it. Golden State and the Cavaliers round out the top and are realistically the only two teams who could possibly win the championship. Of course, on the wings are Houston, Boston, and maybe the Thunder (if they figure out how to play together). Of course, Boston fans would argue that Boston has the best chance, but that’s what Boston fans do. But outside of those teams, everyone is just playing to play. They don’t have a realistic chance of winning. Now imagine if the NBA came in and rather than putting a salary cap on a team, they put an All Star cap on a team, meaning you’re limited on the number of players you can have who have been named to an All Star team over the past two seasons (I’m not saying the NBA should do this; I’d hate it as a fan of the sport). Suddenly, the NBA would become VERY competitive. There’d be no way to really predict a winner; sure, there’d still be teams that you know wouldn’t win, but the list of who could win would increase to at least 10-15 teams, or half the league.

Take that analogy and compare it to the modern American economy. What if we broke up oligopolies? What if we went into industries, saw that the market was clogged like a bad artery, and cleared it up? What if in any given industry the competition went from 5 to 50? Sure, within 2-3 years it’d dwindle down again due to some companies not being able to make it, but you could see it leveling off at a much higher level than now. What’s happening in the modern age is companies are being bought out while they’re healthy. We didn’t get here because companies were failing; we got here because companies bought out their competition. And as multiple industries have seen companies clog up the market, we’ve seen prices go up for common items and wages remain stagnant because where else are you going to go?

If you look at successful economies in Europe – not just the mythical Nordic nations, but also Germany and…uh…Germany… – one of the common themes is they’re very anti-oligopoly. In industries where large corporations are required, which stifle competition, there are heavy regulations in place and the industry must function within those regulations. Those economies are doing the opposite of what the US is doing and they’re experiencing stability rather than stagnation. In fact, the great economic boom in the US in the 1950s, 60s, and early 70s occurred because most US industries were full of competition. While come industries were still oligopolies, enough industries and therefore enough of the jobs out there had enough competition that the oligopolies in other industries still had to keep higher wages in order to compete for better workers, even if from other industries. We started moving away from that in the 80s and, well, here we are now, in one giant shithole of a real economy.

The CVS and Aetna merger is just another one that’s bad for workers and bad for consumers. It won’t solve the problem of prices, but it’ll make some executives on both sides very, very wealthy (well, wealthier). In the land of giants we need a giant killer, a modern day Teddy Roosevelt to come in and break these companies up and free up the markets in these multiple industries. Merely increasing minimum wage or increasing taxes on the wealthy won’t solve it; we have to break these companies up.

We don’t want to hear about the Nazi next door because it reminds us of the Nazi in the mirror (HOT TAKE!)

Who knew that the New York Times could still offer up a hot take without actually making the take? Who knew that pointing out that a Nazi (self-avowed Nazi, not just throwing the name around here) lives a pretty normal life would be so controversial. See, they interviewed Tony Hovater, a guy who was recently interviewed, who likes to cook with garlic, lives in Ohio, is a welder, and, oh yeah, is a Nazi. Any guy who would be found around the likes of Matthew Heimbach should automatically be suspect. But even Heimbach makes an interesting statement in the article, the one I want to focus on:

“We need to have more families. We need to be able to just be normal,” said Matthew Heimbach, the leader of the Traditionalist Worker Party, in a podcast conversation with Mr. Hovater. Why, he asked self-mockingly, were so many followers “abnormal”?

Mr. Hovater replied: “I mean honestly, it takes people with, like, sort of an odd view of life, at first, to come this way. Because most people are pacified really easy, you know. Like, here’s some money, here’s a nice TV, go watch your sports, you know?”

He added: “The fact that we’re seeing more and more normal people come is because things have gotten so bad. And if they keep getting worse, we’ll keep getting more, just, normal people.”

I think this is what makes us so uncomfortable, deep down, when reading about the relatively normal life of an American Nazi. We don’t like hearing about his wedding planning, his trips to the store, or even that he’s polite. See, he’s a Nazi and therefore he’s one of “them.” He’s not part of “us.” He’s so much of an other that can’t let him be normalized, we can’t let him actually be someone who would blend in with our social circles. Nazis must remain monsters, not human beings with complexities surrounding them, and they must be purely evil.

And trust me, I’m not saying the above mockingly or trying to say, “C’mon guys, Nazis aren’t bad!” I mean, my last name is Borofsky…or (((Borofsky))) according to them. My point in the above is actually to point out something much more sinister; Nazis, both in 1937 and 2017, are relatively normal people. It’s not comforting to think that your friend, your boss, your co-worker, your firefighter, you neighbor, could be a Nazi; it’s even worse to look in the mirror and realize that you could also have those tendencies.

“NO! Not me! I’m perfect!”

Yes, you. All of us are susceptible to tribalism in one form or the other. All of us are, then, susceptible to committing ourselves to an ideology that would strip human beings of any dignity. We don’t like thinking of Nazis as being normal human beings because if they are normal human beings who have committed themselves to a disgusting ideology (one that deserves them a well-earned punch from time to time), who’s to say that we wouldn’t or haven’t?

It’s not popular to think about it, but Nazi camp guards, the people who rounded up Jews and others, were normal men. They didn’t have mental defects. They could have been your next door neighbor, your co-worker, your friend, your boss…you. And the same is true today. If the government actually took a far right turn, how many of us would actually rise up against it? How many would be upset, but would still go along, lying to ourselves that it’ll get better? Just look at the “Black Lives Matters” protests and how those have been handled. Sure, most people are sympathetic, but how many are passively sympathetic? How many just look at the systematic racism and go, “yeah, that’s wrong, it’s a shame” and then go about not doing a thing to change it. If you won’t rise up now to stop it when you have every right and the power to do so, what in God’s name makes you think you would have under Nazi Germany or under some not-so-fictional future United States? If you can’t even do the right thing when it costs you nothing, why would you do the right then when it costs you everything? And being apathetic to such actions does not absolve you of the guilt. For every German who stood guard in a death camp, how many knew of them just outside of town and did nothing?

We don’t like news articles that possibly normalize Nazis or put them in a context we’re familiar with because it makes us realize there’s a very thin line between us and them.