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Stealth Target of Defense Spending Cuts: America’s Highly Effective Socialized Medicine Provider, the VA System, and Military Benefits Generally

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One element of the coming budget pact that is not getting the attention it warrants is a covert effort to gut military benefits by privatizing them. Privitization has rarely delivered on its promise of delivering better performance and/or lower costs. Indeed, in the military, it has served as an egregious ground for looting. And curiously the officialdom has chosen to turn its eyes to it. In the Iraq war, for instance, contract drivers allege that trucks that were used for moving corpses and body parts, which decomposed rapidly in the desert heat, were, in violation of regulations, then used for transporting food, such as ice in bulk, without so much as a hosedown in between. The forms of war profiteering have been numerous as the traditional protections against abuses in contracting, such as not allowing the firm that designed a contract to bid on it, have either been eroded through a misguided vogue for deregulation or simply ignored. And in Iraq, the use of sub-contractors, with as many as five or six layers, each taking a cut, means that as much as 50% of the value of a contract ends up being fraudulent through one ruse or another.

The manufactured fiscal cliff crisis means that more profiteering is coming to the military, this by fundamentally changingthe relationship of soldiers to the armed forces. An article in Open Democracy describes how servicemembers were once assured of a high level of benefits in return for the sacrifices made. But the military, which resisted the blandishments of neoliberals, started to succumb in the 1990s. Tellingly, the Army changed its logo from “The Army Takes Care of Its Own” to ““The Army Takes Care of its Own so that They Can Learn to Take Care of Themselves.” This reflected a basic change in attitude:

The contracting out of the Pentagon’s support coincided with neoliberal efforts to combat “dependency” in the military. Policies forcing recipients of public assistance programs to achieve “independence” – largely through mandating employment requirements – had been gaining ground in conservative and neoliberal policy debates in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They also took hold in the military, where in the early 1990s the military retrenched its support for soldiers and their families. As the Army pulled back on spending for support services and contracted out services, for example, it also instituted programs to teach soldiers and their spouses “self-sufficiency.”

The plum for privatizers is the healthcare and pension budgets:

Instead of using the current government-contracted HMO/PPO model, called TriCare, military personnel and their families would receive health care vouchers allowing them to either purchase whatever health care plan they chose from an array of private sector providers. Instead of earning defined retirement benefits – pensions – soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines would each pay into privately held 401K programs – or simply take a lump sum of cash. In a win-win for corporate advocates, cuts to what they call the “excessive” and “burdensome” human side of the military will simultaneously fund greater spending on expensive weapons and communications systems. And under the pretext of providing “choice” to military personnel, the programs decrease total benefits and increase private sector access to government funds and the money of military personnel.

On the healthcare side, this is simply an excuse for the medical industrial complex to get its blood suckers into the huge military budgets, for the VA system is vastly more efficient than private sector providers. From a 2012 post, “‘Socialized’ or Not, We Can Learn from the VA,” on the Rand Corporation’s blog:

RAND’s [2004] study, led by Dr. Steven Asch, found that the VA system delivered higher-quality care than the national sample of private hospitals on all measures except acute care (on which the two samples performed comparably). In nearly every other respect, VA patients received consistently better care across the board, including screening, diagnosis, treatment, and access to follow-up.

Asch and his team also found that VA patients were more likely to receive recommended care than patients in the national sample. VA patients received about two-thirds of the care recommended by national standards, compared with about half in the national sample. Among chronic care patients, VA patients received about 70 percent of recommended care, compared with about 60 percent in the national sample. For preventive care, the difference was greater: VA patients received 65 percent of recommended care, while patients in the national sample received recommended preventive care roughly 45 percent of the time.

Other studies have generated similar findings. In 2010, an interdisciplinary team of researchers published a systematic review of prior research that compared the quality of surgical care provided by the VA with that provided by relevant non-VA hospitals and healthcare systems. Based on the available evidence, the authors determined that VA and non-VA settings generally provided comparable surgical care and achieved similar outcomes. What differences the team did find favored VA care in 3 instances and non-VA care in 5. In 15 comparisons, care was not different.

The following year, this team published a second systematic review, this time focusing on how well VA and non-VA facilities deliver medical and non-surgical care. After examining 36 high-quality studies, the team concluded that the VA almost always came out on top when the study examined how well health systems follow recommended processes of care. When the study compared mortality rates, VA and non-VA facilities generally achieved similar outcomes…

“Government health care” is often characterized as wasteful and inefficient. But here too the VA’s experience suggests otherwise. In 2007, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report (PDF) that concluded that the VA is doing a much better job of controlling health care costs than the private sector. After adjusting for a changing case mix as younger veterans return from Iraq and Afghanistan, the CBO calculated that the VA’s average health care cost per enrollee grew by roughly 1.7% from 1999 to 2005, an annual growth rate of 0.3%. During the same time period, Medicare’s per capita costs grew by 29.4 %, an annual growth rate of 4.4 %. In the private insurance market, premiums for family coverage jumped by more than 70% (PDF), according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The VA delivers high quality medical care at a more favorable cost than the private sector, meaning veterans will get a double whammy if the neoliberals succeed: lower health care allotments by virtue of spending reductions, with the impact made more severe by the use of vouchers rather than relying on the established, effective VA system. And there’s no reason to hope for better with the contracting of other social services provided by the military. In the UK, outsourcing has led to various contract service providers achieving “too big to fail” status. From the New Statesman:

If the company were to go under, it would cause severe disruption to public services. The growth of such contractors that are “too big to fail” began under New Labour and has continued apace. Why did it happen? In the report, Matthew Taylor, former director of policy for the Labour Party, provides a clue: “One of the funny stories I heard about this is that the government wanted to move into agile commissioning. And immediately, all the large providers employed a Head of Agile. Of course, smaller providers can’t afford a Head of Agile.” The biggest companies are best placed to meet Government guidelines.

In the early years of outsourcing under New Labour, the commissioners at local and national level lacked experience and confidence, so they went with the biggest firms, whom they felt they could trust. Rather than tear up these contracts, in recent years they simply expanded them with “bolt-ons”, in many cases due to fear of litigation. It’s an understandable fear – the larger the corporation, the more litigious it’s likely to be…

I could cite the catalogue of failures I wrote about prior to the G4S debacle. Or the £529,770 that was lost from staff fraud or abuse from the Flexible New Deal 2010-11. Or the clinical failures that saw London hospitals being forced to lend money to Serco. Or the chaos that followed the privatisation of our court translation services. Or A4E’s company director payments, which saw the-then CEO Emma Harrison pay herself £8.6m, in a year when fewer than 4 in every 100 unemployed people seen by the firm managed to secure jobs for longer than 13 weeks. Or the nine prisons put out to tender in November in 2011 in spite of high-profile failings in the private sector (as the report says, in the very same bidding round the Wolds was returned to the public sector following the expiration of G4S’s contract, having seen poor inmate behaviour and high levels of drug abuse). Or the closure of Southern Cross as a result of complex financial deals designed to maximise financial gain, which left taxpayers picking up the pieces. Or…

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a market. But cases like these show that we’re getting all the downsides of privatisation – the stripping away of money through profits, above all – and none of the upsides, because there isn’t genuine competition. This is market failure, pure and simple.

The US has exhibited a similar degree of failure-blindness in the way the promoters of “market” solutions are given undue deference in policy debates, in large measure because they spend lavishly on lobbyists and public relations. For instance, consider the charter schools movement. Bear in mind that charter schools can produce better-looking performance out of the box simply by virtue of being able to turn down applicants, while public schools take all comers. From Bloomberg:

As many as one in five U.S. charter schools should be shut down because of poor academic performance, according to a group representing states, districts and universities that grant them permission to operate…

A 2010 survey by the consulting company Mathematica Policy Research compared students enrolled at charters with those who applied but weren’t admitted. It found that performance was similar in reading and in math, though there were wide variations across schools. A 2009 Stanford University study found that charter students fared worse.

Poor and low-achieving students at charters showed significant gains over peers at traditional public schools, the Mathematica study found. Charters in large urban areas helped students’ math achievement. Outside those regions, they had a negative effect.

One has to wonder how much of the improved results in urban settings was due to being able to shunt students who might present discipline problems.

And the overall issue remains: deficit scaremongering is being used to attack successful Federal programs since any and every government expenditure is an opportunity for private sector profiteering. It’s one thing to try to reap a peace dividend by reducing the number of active duty personnel (although our adventurism in the Middle East gets in the way) and rein in the tendency of the armed services to spend willy-nilly on new toys, quite another to gut demonstrably effective programs. And that’s before we get to how soldiers who have often risked their lives and mental health will be shafted by these changes. It’s increasingly evident that the social contract, American style, is bait and switch.

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58 comments

  1. Calgacus

    Great article! If there is anyone, any place that people can count on to spotlight ignored, but crucially important issues that can be battlegrounds for successful struggles, it is Yves Smith & Naked Capitalism. Too tired to say anything with content, but had to say something nice — and true.

  2. Middle Seaman

    As a layman, our current move to cut all and every benefit provided to Americans looks very much like hi-tech feudalism but feudalism nevertheless.

    Anyone has better diagnosis?

    1. Larry Barber

      It’s not feudalism. In feudalism there were limits to what the could be taken from you. Only a third of your labor or produce for instance. You also had a right to a job (shades of MMT!), serfs had a right to work the land and could not be denied it. As a result feudal societies were better at distributing scarce goods during times of drought or famine. What we’re seeing is actually more classical than medieval, where the right of property is absolute, where there are no social obligations attached to having property, not even the obligation to preserver it for following generations (What has posterity ever done for me?).

      1. Nathanael

        Classical society had a set of rules and obligations too.

        What we’re looking at is more like the kleptocratic period during the downfall of Rome but before the rise of its feudal successors.

        Note that the current kleptocrats will get their comeuppance, guaranteed; if not at the hands of anyone else, at the hands of the new feudal warlords, who have no use for the kleptocrats.

    2. Nathanael

      I call it “neo-feudalism”, because there’s a big difference between this and real feudalism.

      In real feudalism, the feudal lords know that they have obligations to the serfs.

      Here, the kleptocratic would-be feudal lords don’t seem to realize that. This is the arrogance of Louis XVI, and it is a recipe for destruction.

      1. DANNYBOY

        So, it all works out in the end.

        As my Great-Grandaddy used to tell me, as I sat on his knee, watching him smoke his corn-cob pipe, and listening to the birds sweetly singing: “Sonny, the meek shall inherit the earth.”

        I can still hear his words.

        And smell his pipe

        And

        1. Procopius

          Sounds like the old hardware hacker joke: “Gallium arsenide, the material of the future. Always has been, always will be.”

      1. Nathanael

        And any clever hacker will be able to hijack these. So who’s the government NOW?

        The US military, being run by morons, thinks that technology will magically work in their favor. It won’t.

        1. Procopius

          Same unenlightened self-interest as Wall Street. IBG, YBG. I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone. Billions are being wasted to ensure retiring general officers will have six-figure retirement incomes.

    1. Massinissa

      Unfortunately, there will always be enough poor and lower middle-class Americans with few opportunities who will join the military even if they only receive the barest minimum of payment and benefits.

      And besides, even if noone wanted to join the military, the US gov could just privatize the military too. We already have the foot in the door for that, with Blackwater (Or whatever theyre called now. Are they still called Academi or did they change it again?) and similar groups.

      1. Larry Barber

        Of course, it’s not just gratuitous cruelty that compels our government to create a permanent underclass. Somebody has to supply the cannon fodder to keep the Military-Industrial complex fed. Since the draft is no longer politically feasible, this means a large enough pool of people to supply military needs must be kept in a condition where signing up to be shot at in imperial wars looks like a good deal. The lesson that the elites learned from Vietnam was to not use draftees to fight foreign adventures, not that foreign adventures were bad and immoral.

      2. Cynthia

        I say we privatize the ENTIRE military, from the four-star Generals on down to lowly boots on the ground. Let them ALL feel what it’s like to compete for jobs against brave and fearless warriors from war-torn and impoverished countries, who are extraordinarily proficient at killing and blowing things up and will do so for nothing more than three hot meals and a place to sleep.

        1. LucyLulu

          “I say we privatize the ENTIRE military”

          +1
          They wars of the 1%, on terrorism, ME, and drugs, must be fixed so they are fiscally sustainable into the infinite horizon just like the other “entitlements”.
          Super Grand Bargain Savings: $10T over 10 years (conservative estimate), chained CPI for SS looks like nickel and diming

          1. Procopius

            All well and good, but let’s really privatise. Instead of the government letting contracts to the lowest bidder, completely abolish the military and let private corporations compete for the business. Maybe they could operate on a subscription basis? You know, if your neighborhood is invaded and you’ve paid for our service we’ll come to your aid, or at least avenge your death. If you don’t subscribe we won’t help. Something like the “volunteer” fire departments some places. If Congress wanted a foreign war they could have the various companies bid and choose the lowest bidder. Of course, as a retired soldier I don’t want to see veterans’ benefits reduced, but the 14th Amendment was meant for exactly this kind of situation. The clause that the debt of the United States will not be questioned was put in there because of the way Congress screwed veterans out of promised bonuses, land grants, and pensions after the Revolution, War of 1812, and Mexican War of 1843. After the Indian Wars, too but those soldiers were furrin immigrants and niCLANG.

  3. Max424

    “One has to wonder how much of the improved results in urban settings was due to being able to shunt students who might present discipline problems.”

    50%, is my guess. The other 50% is being able to shunt students who aren’t likely to score well.

    1. Thorstein

      Perhaps, but a nice touch in this Rand study was that it “compared students enrolled at charters with those who applied but weren’t admitted”. This controls for parental involvement–all were involved enough in their children’s education to apply to the alternative school. Of course the charter still could have been shrewd enough to winnow out residual problem students from this sample…

      1. LucyLulu

        Yes. Occasionally charters will use a lottery system. More often though the charters, or any school that uses applications, choose the best of the applicants, whether using grades, behavior, extracurricular activities or talents, or some other criteria, or most likely combination of criteria to choose who they admitted. They want their school to succeed, which means doing well on performance testing.

  4. Jim Haygood

    All these words, and not one citation of the annual total cost of VA health care, nor its per capita cost in comparison to other public and private plans. Ten seconds of Googling reveals that the CBO, oft quoted here, said:

    Under two scenarios that CBO examined, the total real resources (in 2010 dollars) necessary to provide health care services to all veterans who seek treatment at VA would range from $69 billion to $85 billion in 2020, representing cumulative increases of roughly 45 percent to 75 percent since 2010.

    http://www.cbo.gov/publication/21773

    Probably the only motivator here is a kind of budget triage, in which the most vital objective (global military domination) and the second most vital (keeping defense contractors fat and happy) leave ‘everything else’ to be squeezed.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The CBO healthcare forecasts are bunk. See this post, which links to a Fed paper shredding it. It implausibly assumes (among other things) that costs of government funded programs will rise faster (a LOT faster) than private sector programs. In general, that has not been true, and it has been particularly not true with the VA, as the Rand post points out.

      http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/11/fed-budgetary-experts-demolish-cbo-health-cost-model-the-lynchpin-of-budget-hysteria.html

      The CBO is not acting as an honest broker in this debate.

    2. LucyLulu

      Per capita, veterans would represent a high cost sector. They have a disproportionate number of elderly with the long lapse in wars since Vietnam (and perhaps demographics in general). Vets from the recent wars have high rates of long term war-related morbidities with multiple deployments. Traumatic brain injuries have seen significant increases, linked to long term disabilities. Veterans now, per my observations, are utilizing care at high rates compared to past years. They are also encountering more delays and backlogs, I’m unsure if due to higher demand or resources being cut, or maybe both.

      A lot of vets aren’t happy with TriCare and prefer private if they can get it. TriCare has its perks, cost being a big one, second benefit being that one WILL get needed treatment, but the bureaucracy can be mind-boggling and consumer choices are basically non-existent. Phone calls get menus and a college degree may be required to find a live person. Here, one must travel 80 miles to the closest VA hospital to get care. I live in a city of ~300K in N.C., not in the middle of Wyoming. Plan on spending the day if have a couple of appts scheduled. Transportation will be provided if needed, but isn’t always reliable. Another six weeks to reschedule if van doesn’t show up. In KY, it was similar except the facility was local, increasing convenience. I’m in favor of single-payer universal health care and am quite happy with Medicare. I’m glad I don’t have Tricare.

      1. Nathanael

        Single-payer sounds good, but I’d rather have the NHS the way Clement Atlee implemented it.

        Maybe people will get mad enough to actually elect an Atlee-style government. We need one.

  5. Norman

    Hasn’t it always been the case that the military has been the tool of the private industrial complex, the junk yard dog so to speak? And just what is that same private industrial complex doing today with the civilian population in its employ? The time is now, to break up the behemoths, for the survival of the country/mass population. The TBTF of the banks has also captured the private industrial complex, looting being the top priority that drives them. It’s also time to reform the tax structure so all and I mean all pay to play, especially at the top, bar none.

      1. Procopius

        Yes, but through most of our history the military was kept too small for industry’s needs. Hence the need for things like the Pennsylvania Coal & Iron Police, Henry Ford’s Service Department, and General Motors’ Black Legion. Of course the mine owners had their own, smaller, forces.

  6. upstater

    I think it is great to privatize VA health services and benefits.

    By degrading benefits to the warrior class will almost certainly shine a light on the whole BS of private insurance and providers.

    1. citalopram

      I think so too, especially considering that so many of these guys and gals are right wingers.

      Yes, please give them a dose of their own medicine.

      1. Cynthia

        I agree, Citalopram. VA recipients as well as VA employees are next in line, and hopefully last in line, to become hapless victims of America’s privatization scam. I say, bring it on, and the sooner the better, especially given that the VA health system is exempt from any sequestration cuts, thus it has nothing to fear in terms of falling off the Fiscal Cliff.

        http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2012/12/how-the-fiscal-cliff-affects-health-care-six-questions.html

        1. LucyLulu

          I think VA employees have already taken big hits. At one time the benefits were great to work there, 5 weeks vacation to start, and with competitive pay, at least for nurses.

    2. LucyLulu

      The best plan of all is for our lawmakers to get the same healthcare and retirement as they are assigning to the rest of us peasants.

  7. Tom

    The drooling privatization vultures have been using the same game plan since the beginning. The vultures know that they can’t compete with government instituted infrastructure and service products in efficiency or cost. To justify their interests, they set about to deliberately mislead the public, actively support laws that hamper the public service, or grease the skids to get no bid contracts – etc. etc.. See the postal service for the game plan exposed there – burden with costs, break the union, choke the funding, propagandize government waste, lobby for laws that hamper the public to skew the playing field, then jump in with no scientific benchmarks or justified parameter sets to allow private plundering of the public works.

    As Simon Patten, the first economics professor at the nation’s first business school (the Wharton School) explained, public infrastructure investment is a “fourth factor of production.” It takes its return not in the form of profits, but in the degree to which it lowers the economy’s cost of doing business and living.

    What gets under my craw is that I can’t seem to get away from the idea that these privatization folks are practicing sedition, constitutional subversion and incitement of discontent to lawful authority. The gravity that pulls me toward my conclusions are the revelations that banks were committing treasonous acts by: aiding and abetting and, providing material support to our enemies through our monetary mechanisms.
    Really, I was not surprised in any way that financial services institutions were committing these crimes.
    My point is, the conduit by which crimes of high treason and, the seditious actions by privatization vultures are one and the same – The conduit is through corporations that have committed the higher crimes using the same broad political connections and disguised practices that allowed the the pernicious violations to emerge in the first place.

    1. nonclassical

      ..as exposed ny Naomi Klein, “The Shock Doctrine-rise of disaster capitalism”, and Perkins’, “Confessions of An Economic Hit Man”…or William Blum’s, “Killing Hope”….

    2. LeonovaBalletRusse

      Tom, right: ARREST and detain these TRAITORS immediately: Citizens’ Arrest!
      We have nothing more to lose.

      Their subversion of our Constitution, the Law, the Nation, the Government of/by/for the People, and our Law of the Land has been accomplished by their SUBSTITUTION of the “Internationalist/Globalist” LAW MERCHANT and MARITIME LAW for our LAW OF THE LAND (Jefferson’s fight for the 7th Amendment).

      PROSECUTE the Principals and Agents of the BIS GLOBAL FOURTH REICH for TREASON and for ORGANIZED CRIME under the LAW OF THE LAND of We the People/the Nation of the United States. Prosecute them under the NUREMBERG Laws for their “Conspiracy” to “Rule the World” and for engaging in “Pre-Emptive Wars”–which are “War Crimes” and “Crimes Against Humanity–in order to accomplish their Imperial purpose. Be CERTAIN to include the carriers of the “Blood Royal” and of the Global FIRE sector this time, as well as of the “usual suspects” of the M-I and Political sectors.

      CITIZENS! We have nothing more to lose.

  8. Tiercelet

    The thing that’s always mystified me is why anyone would ever think privatization can decrease costs without decreasing services.

    It’s obvious. And definitional. The difference between a private company doing x and the government doing the exact same x is that the private company has to take a profit cut. If the privates actually found a way to improve efficiency, the right thing to do would be just have the government adopt that best-practice. Then bam, even more efficiency.

    1. psychohistorian

      Of course the benefits of privatization are totally oversold.

      It is called the Big Lie technique and the global inherited rich and their minions have perfected it. Mass brainwashing using the TV works folks…..in case you haven’t noticed.

      1. hunkerdown

        I suppose I haven’t because I don’t really own one. The housemate contributed one, but it’s analog and there’s no cable TV service. Video-on-demand and torrents beat having my eyeballs sold to advertisers.

    2. LifelongLib

      When it comes to (say) hiring, firing, and contracts the government agency I work for has to go through a lot of rigamarole that private companies could probably avoid. However what we don’t have is the requirement to maximize monetary return to investors. The latter may well suck up whatever efficiency gains come from the former.

    3. NotTimothyGeithner

      “…why anyone would ever think privatization…”

      This is one of the problems the sane have when trying to deal with the stupid. They don’t think. They believe. There is no reasoning beyond “this could make me rich, and I’m a good person” or “that rich guy is friendly and gave a whole $20 in the collection plate, he must be good.”

      Economics as its presented in almost any setting in the mainstream media is two slightly different cults* chewing at each other over who should get the better tee times. Greed is certainly an element, but don’t underestimate the importance of belief in what people say or do.

      *Just to be clear, Obama’s “best” offer thus far is still a tax cut on the wealthy. No one has proposed a tax increase on the wealthy. The Bush tax cuts couldn’t be made permanent when the GOP ran Washington officially because they were that unpopular.

      1. psychohistorian

        Ding, Ding, Ding!!!

        We have a winner!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        (sic from above) The difficulty of dealing with the stupid is that they don’t think, they believe.

        So, so, so fucking true. You can see the FAITH glaze come into their eyes.

  9. PaulArt

    I would suggest that the privatizing of medical care begin with people in the VFW and/or currently on Medicare. Lets start by pushing these fellows into the voucher system and see how they like it. Most of these guys are the ones who sit in the front rows with rapt attention and soak it up when Dick Cheney is up on the platform addressing them. Male Caucasians in their late 60s onwards in their silly uniforms and hats with smug expressions on their faces recommending cuts to Medicaid and increasing the eligibility age for everyone else.

  10. Nathanael

    Don’t any of these morons realize how *incredibly stupid* it is to mistreat your *military*?

    The Burmese Junta knows better than this. *North Korea* knows better than this!

    1. Nathanael

      The upside of this is that the more abusively the elite 0.1% treats the military, the more military units will be on the side of the good guys when the class war turns into a revolution.

      Remember the USSR; the right-wing leaders of the coup against Gorbachev suddenly found that the military wasn’t backing them, and whoopsie-daisie the USSR dissolves.

  11. JTFaraday

    “soldiers who have often risked their lives and mental health will be shafted by these changes. It’s increasingly evident that the social contract, American style, is bait and switch.”

    From the linked Open Democracy article:

    “if even vaunted soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines – the “heroes” who “fight for our freedoms” in the words of American presidents – can have their benefits outsourced and privatized, what will become of the social programs protecting civilians?… How will the elderly or poor children resist the privatization of the programs they rely on if military personnel cannot?”

    Well from SS and Medicare discussions, apparently the elderly think they are going to claim “they earned it” and/or “they already paid for that.”

    And if that works in the face of 40 some odd years of the systematic undermining of the rest of our employment compensation, well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.

  12. Ray Duray

    Discussion of feudalism leads me to recall an incident cited by Al Franken in “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them”.

    Here’s the quote:

    Any time that a liberal points out that the wealthy are disproportionately benefiting from Bush’s tax policies, Republicans shout, “class warfare!”

    In her book A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century, Barbara Tuchman writes about a peasant revolt in 1358 that began in the village of St. Leu and spread throughout the Oise Valley. At one estate, the serfs sacked the manor house, killed the knight, and roasted him on a spit in front of his wife and kids. Then, after ten or twelve peasants violated the lady, with the children still watching, they forced her to eat the roasted flesh of her dead husband and then killed her.

    That is class warfare.

    Arguing over the optimum marginal tax rate for the top one percent is not.

    ***
    More about the Jacquerie here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacquerie

    1. JTFaraday

      Yeah, I always find the sort of assertions we see on this thread about how great teh feudalism was a little implausible in light of the fact that we have a list of peasant revolts as long as my arm.

      I suspect the perpetrators of this story are of the same scholarly cohort as those “liberal historians” of American political history that William Hogeland, who has guest posted here, wishes would just stop talking–completely:

      “The historians I criticize most thoroughly in Founding Finance, the ones who have overlooked and marginalized the things I’m trying to talk about, the consensus I’m targeting—it’s largely liberal… I would really prefer that they stop talking about history.”

      http://www.bostonreview.net/BR37.6/william_hogeland_founding_finance_fathers_constitution_democracy.php

      Even Marxist historians, who have every incentive to build up the evils of capitalism, don’t smile on the feudal prep work for the capitalist exploitation of the laboring classes the way our enlightened liberal historians do.

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