Class Traitors: How Ideological Brainwashing Gets Rich and Ordinary Americans to Undermine Their Economic Interest

Linda Beale, of ataxingmatter, has written forcefully and persuasively about some of the propagandizing-accepted-as-gospel that the well-heeled use to advocate policies that advance their economic interests. For instance, as most Naked Capitalism readers appreciate, but a remarkably large swathe of the US population does not, tax cuts for big corporations are simply a transfer to the rich. From a post last year:

I’ve argued frequently in the past that there is no there there–i.e., that lowering corporate tax rates will do nothing to create jobs. Instead, I’ve said, it will simply deliver an even higher profit margin to be skimmed off by the highest paid executives and, possibly, shareholders. The higher profit margins are unlikely even to be used to increase workers’ shares of the corporate revenues through higher wages, a place where they could most help the economy other than new jobs created. Thus, the drive for “revenue neutral” corporate tax reform (cut corporate taxes, cut expenditures elsewhere to make up for the decreased corporate tax revenues) is just another example of corporatism as an engine of the modern form of US class warfare

Beale takes up a different theme today: how the rich and poor act against their economic interest. For many in middle and lower income strata in red states,  hostility to the government is an article of faith even though those states (and many of those same govement-hating citizens) are significant beneficiaries of Federal programs.

But less well recognized are the ways that the wealthy are undermining themselves. They’ve taken the “increase our distance from everyone else” experiment well beyond its point of maximum advantage, not just to the society around them but also in terms of the costs to the class warriors.

As we’ve pointed out, highly unequal societies have lower lifespans, even among the rich; the shallower social networks of stratified societies and the high cost of losing one’s perch, in terms of loss of friends and status, creates an ongoing level of stress that has a longevity cost. Beale points out something we’ve mentioned occasionally in the past, that creating an underclass with inadequate access to medical services is a great breeding ground for public health problems. The fact that many low income Americans can’t afford to take sick days and health plans generally have high deductibles, which discourage individuals from getting treated until they are sure they are really sick, isn’t a great program design if you want to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

By Linda M. Beale, a professor of law at Wayne State University. Cross posted from ataxingmatter

There is class warfare going on, right now, all across this country.  It’s highlighted by the election gimmicks and gambits of those on the right who claim to be supporting ordinary Americans but whose real intentions show in the results. And it is ultimately a sad statement about Americans’ understanding of what is required for a sustainable economy that supports decent lifestyles for all.

Let’s start by looking at the maps resulting from studies of well-being that identify the states where people are not at all well-off, such as the 2013 survey done by Gallup Healthways, available here.  Those poor states are the reddest of the red belt in Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida and elsewhere across the Deep South–places where I grew up in a decidedly Republican household that bought the GOP economic fallacies hook, line and sinker, and places where today’s populations are worse off in terms of the various measures of economic well-being and happiness than the more progressive northeast and west.

Isn’t it likely that the anti-government, low-tax and pro-wealthy/pro-big business policies of the GOP politicos that have run these states for several decades have something to do with these negative results, and that the more progressive policies in the northeast and northwest are reflected in the much more positive results in those areas?

Yet rural, southern populations continue to proudly proclaim their allegiance, against their own economic interest,  to ill-fated Reaganomics that favors tax cuts (for the wealthy and big business) coupled with  use of  old-time, regressive consumption taxes (toll roads, sales taxes and property taxes),  privatization of public functions (e.g., charter schools managed by for-profit, nontransparent corporations), socialization of losses, militarization, and de-regulation.

The results are harmful at national and state levels, as those same right-leaning voters suffer from poor K-12 education, low-quality public services including neglected roadways, nonexistent or outdated public transportation systems, inferior safety nets, inferior health results, lower literacy rates, higher teenage birth rates, less access to universities, and, yes, fewer and lower-paying jobs.

Of course, those in the top 5% like to think of themselves as suffering, and therefore see any demands for increased minimum wages (that they consider cutting into their ability to capture more and more (rentier)  profits beyond their already unreasonable percentages) as “class warfare.”  See, for instance, this Wall Street Journal video “Do You Make $400,000 a Year But Feel Broke?” from September 5, 2014 depicting the purported hard times for a couple in Chicago making $400,000 a year, buying a $60,000 car every four years, paying a mortgage on a $1.2 million house along with $25,000 a year in maintenance and , entertainment ($10,000 a year) going on vacations ($25,000 a year), club dues ($12,000 a year), and paying for their children’s sports ventures ($10,000 a year). These and other  “necessities” and (purportedly reasonable) discretionary expenditures take all of their after-tax money.

Given that perspective, no wonder those in the top have so little consideration and sympathy for ordinary Americans who have incomes in the $50,000 to $60,000 range, much less for the poor who struggle to put food on the table and heat in the furnace!  They can’t even imagine such limited lives. With the growing inequality in this country, the gap between the upper class and the rest of us is increasingly wider.

The broad trend is clear from a diverse set of data. Median household income growth has badly lagged per capita GDP growth, corporate profits as a share of national income have risen, and stock markets have reached record highs.

Outside the sphere of political debate, you also see the real world impact of inequality. Merrill Lynch recommends an investment strategy to its clients based on the growing economic clout of plutocrats, Singapore Airlines is now selling $18,400 first class cabin tickets, and observers think Apple is going to start selling a $10,000 watch. Conversely, Walmart is now primarily worried about competition from dollar stores. The executives at these companies are not hysterical liberals trying to drum up paranoia about inequality, they are trying to respond to real economic conditions — conditions that have entailed very poor wage growth paired with decent returns for those proserous enough to own lots of shares of stock.

 Matt Iglesias, Vox.

The ability to care about those so distant from the well-heeled in-group appears to be diminishing as the gap between the well-heeled and the rest of us widens.  Those super-wealthy corporate managers and CEOs and super-rich shareholders are not likely to recognize in themselves the greed and exploitation of others that their excess returns on capital represent.  As Mitt Romney made so clear, rich folks (i) think of themselves as “meriting” their outsized incomes, in spite of the fact that they often start out with silver spoons and garner greater returns than ordinary folks simply because they have larger capital portfolios to start with and can’t possible achieve a level of productivity of 100s times that of ordinary workers, as current CEO pay-levels claim under “free market” theory; and (ii) find it much easier to blame the misfortune of ordinary Americans on their purported laziness and “lack of personal responsibility.”  (See earlier Taxing Matter posts on Romney’s self-justifying 47% remarks during his presidential campaign.)

But that means the rich (and the GOP most closely aligned with big business and big capital) often support policies that can only lead to greater income and wealth inequality, fewer and fewer Americans able to enjoy a decent, sustainable lifestyle, and the growth of a very small oligarchic elite.  Those policies include making it harder for poor people to vote (justified on the basis of non-existent voter fraud), making it harder for middle class and poor people to go to college (less state monies to universities, less grants and more (profitable-for-big-banks) loans), making it harder to support a family (less public transportation, lower wages, more jobs outsourced, refusal to fund Medicaid expansion, yammering for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act even though the US’s market-based health care system is less efficient, more costly, and lower quality than single-payer systems in most other advanced countries), etc.  The long-run result of these pro-elite pro-corporate policies may well be social chaos, as the rich oligarchy faces off against a suffering and shrinking middle class and a grievously disadvantaged lower class.  That may not be so far away as many of us once thought, given the rapidly growing wealth inequality and the more radical right-wing policies that have moved into the GOP mainstream in the form of Rand Paul and other free-marketarian extremists who denigrate government and want to remove the social-economic safety nets put in place under the New Deal.

They denigrate government, that is, except when they recognize that they need it, such as when the ebola crisis erupted.  Suddenly, they want a Center for Disease Control that really functions well, even though they have pushed government spending down. And they want a TSA that can screen arriving passengers, even though they hated the TSA before.  And they wanted the President to appoint an “Ebola Czar”, even though they scoffed at the idea of administrative officials appointed to oversee important areas before.  They want a vaccine for ebola, but they have made it much harder to accomplish because of their constant push for “reducing government” and cutting research funding (making one of their pet projects to seek out what they think are silly projects that have been funded by the federal agencies).

The free market, in other words, is claimed to be the be all and end all — until push comes to shove and it is obvious that market forces require government intervention.

Consider the compaign for governor here in Michigan.  In his ads, current GOP governor Rick Snyder claims to be a hands-on non-partisan fiscally responsible type who cares about everybody in Michigan.  Those ads brag about how Snyder cares about senior citizens and education –using the (meager) increases in “meals on wheels” to claim that Snyder has made life better for senior citizens, and the state’s increase in support for purportedly public charter schools.  Behind that facade of political PR is a deeply partisan governor who has consistently supported the elite rich capitalists over the majority of Michiganders who are ordinary salary earners working hard (or working hard to find work).

  • Snyder signed a “free rider/right to freeload” bill permitting non-union workers in a unionized environment to free-ride on union contracts without paying their share of the costs of the contracts they benefit from and prohibiting unions from using paycheck deductions to collect union dues.  That kind of legislation, sought by the elite owners of capital who benefit from paying lower non-union wages, is (mis)labelled by the pro-wealthy right as “right to work”.  It is really a “right to freeload” law since the union rules it replaces never required anyone to join a union and always allowed workers who benefitted from a collective bargaining agreement to pay only the ‘fair share’ payment of the considerable costs of negotiating an agreement and supporting workers in grievances rather than support all union activities.  As a result, workers can now pay nothing yet call on the union whenever they have a grievance against their employer.  The goal of such laws is to eliminate union support for workers and thereby increase the power of capital owners, so it is particularly sad to see how many workers are fooled into supporting these “right to freeload” laws.
  • Snyder supported Michigan legislation that gave big businesses a huge tax cut, while supporting another bill that gave seniors a huge tax increase by taxing their (often meager) pensions.  No wonder the wealthy who own most of the financial assets in the country and benefit from the decades of lobbying by right-wing propaganda tanks against buinsess and capital taxation think he’s a good friend.
  • And of course, much of Snyder’s ‘support’ for education has been cuts to state funding for Michigan universities (especially Wayne State, which serves the predominately Democratic southeastern region of the state) that has affected the state’s economy in real ways, as students have to pay more of the cost and universities have less funding for research that directly impacts economic development.  Snyder has also supported an unprecedented increase in charter schools in a system that provides no accountability, doesn’t provide improved educational results, and siphons off public dollars for private profits, through the mechanism of private charter management corporations that run the purportedly “public” charter schools.
  • Snyder doesn’t think we need increases in the minimum wage, and his administration has generally shown little interest in figuing out how to help minimum wage workers revive from the Great Recession.  For example, his administration has done nothing to deal with the myriad fly-by-night companies that cheat workers coming and going on wages.

ASIDE:   Here’s one real-life tale illustrating the problem.   I know personally of a man in Michigan hired by a Michigan-registered cleaning corporation that had contracts with at least  two major national corporations to clean stores in southeast Michigan.  The cleaning company claimed that the man was “in training” and therefore not required to be compensated after two weeks of full-time working for the company, including being locked inside a cavernous store overnight to do a major cleaning job. The company refused to pay for the next two weeks, claiming that “corporate headquarters” had made an error and would straighten it out in the next paycheck a month later.  The man ultimately was paid only  a couple of hundred dollars for that entire month, because the company  produced a purported check stub showing a paycheck even when the man representing the company acknowledge that paycheck had never been issued to the man.  The company paid the man on a “piecework” basis for cleaning stores, claiming that a 30,000 square foot store with public restrooms could and should be cleaned for $25(that’s mopping, vacuuming, and cleaning toilets) and that the work could be done in one hour!  The company required the man to pick up cleaning equipment and the company van at the “corporate headquarters” (many miles from his home and many miles from each of the stores to be cleaned) but claimed that it did not have to pay the man for the 3-4 hours per day that he had to spend to drive the company van and equipment to and from various worksites.   The man quit, but has never gotten the company to issue the paycheck that he never received and has never received pay for the many hours spent working for the company moving its van and equipment.

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  1. cwaltz

    Part of the problem seems to be this absurd idea that the government is supposed to act like a household or a business. It’s supposed to consistently be looking at profitability. It isn’t. It’s supposed to act when it makes no fiscal sense for business to act. It’s supposed to invest in possibilities. The reason that businesses can go just about anywhere in this country is because government invested in infrastructure like roads, water, or electricity back when a business would have scoffed at the idea that they spend money on an undeveloped region. It’s kind of sad that the idea that the government exists to promote the common good has become a quaint idea and because of underfunding and incompetence that at times seems almost deliberate the government is viewed as a meddling bureaucracy that hinders people.

    1. Louis

      Indeed the idea that government should be run like a business is laughable—no business would survive long if they kept cutting revenue, though for some reason a considerable number of people still have this asinine idea that cutting taxes (revenue) will generate more revenue. Let’s also not forget that one of the reasons the private-sector is more efficient is that there is, generally speaking, considerably less transparency required in decision-making.

      I’m not arguing for less transparency in government by any means–to the contrary a free and democratic society mandates a considerable amount of transparency to keep the process as equitable as possible. However, greater transparency tends to slow the decision-making process down, so comparing the public-sector and private-sector as if they’re on equal footing isn’t really fair or accurate.

      1. DJG

        Excellent point about transparency. I often say that we don’t want government to be run like U.S. businesses, with their strong tendencies toward herd decisions, departments as little fiefdoms, passive boards of directors that decamp from oversight, and overpayment of the (generally mediocre) executive corps. Just as there has to be separation of church and state, we have to insist on separation of business and state. Who wants the country to be run like WalMart? (Not exactly the epitome of business effectiveness.)

        1. Louis

          Another key point is civil-service versus at-will.

          Prior to the civil-service system, people were hired based on belonging to the right political party and fired when a different administration came to power. Furthermore, promotion was often based on how well you were on raising money or getting out the vote, not on competency.

          The civil-service system in its current form has some shortcomings; however, the solution is not to scrap the civil-service laws entirely—moving to an at-will system in government would almost certainly lead to a patronage system in some form or other—but make tweak it a bit to better ensure accountability (i.e. more timely dismissal of bad employees) while continuing to minimize the influence of politics in hiring decisions.

          1. Ray Phenicie

            The pay for government workers needs to go up several steps as well. Ironically at the high end, pay is very low compared to equivalent private sector positions. No high end executive vice president would accept the pay that is doled out to upper level management in the civil service. The top pay looks to be about $130,000 for a cabinet post. The equivalent position in a large corporation (say Exec. VP for finance) would range from $450k to over $900k/yr.
            I don’t buy the common excuse for this ‘it’s a position of power and prestige, filled by an elite from the private sector.’ That is to say we recognize up front that the idea of being a sycophant of the well heeled corporate world is a prerequisite for latching onto a high end government position. We should instead expect that promotion from within the ranks would be the norm.

      2. Lois

        I’ve worked in private industry for 17 years. They aren’t more efficient, there’s waste EVERYWHERE, especially at the top. They just are able to get their customers to pay for it!

        1. armchair

          Airlines have an entire elite class devoted to business travelers. How many rounds of golf and bottles of champagne have been bought in service to business? I don’t know if this is still true, but I knew an IRS employee who reported they couldn’t have an office microwave, because taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay to heat up an IRS employees meal. Meanwhile, former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain had an $1,100 wastebasket.

      3. cwaltz

        Cutting taxes can and does work as long as the people who would have spent the money on those taxes spend it elsewhere in the economy. The problem is that the people the government keeps cutting taxes on already have the money to spend on things they want so they use their tax savings to a) buy politicians and b) hoard it in a bank. The downside of cutting taxes, as is so aptly pointed out though, is that it means you have less to spend on nice things like social safety nets or enough government employees to actually perform a department function effectively. Ineffective government actually feeds into that idea that because government doesn’t work now that it can’t do things well as the incredibly rigged market that our kleptocrats have created.

        One of the great conservative Republican pitches was selling the idea of small unintrusive government. It galls me to no end that the so called “left” side of the aisle- otherwise known as Democrats- never bothered to counter that frame with the idea that what Americans really should be looking at wasn’t really about reducing size as much as it should have been about improving efficiency. If you ask most Americans to choose between small government and effective government, I’m betting they’d choose effective. As it stands right now, thanks to the Uniparty, we have neither nor are we being told to do anything other than to partner up with private industry and the pickpockets who inhabit it.

        We’re in complete agreement on transparency. Our government and the private entities it supports are out of control. Real health care, energy and trade policy discussions are being held behind closed doors by a select few with vested interests. The rest of us are being treated like wallets. We get no say and we’re supposed to blindly trust despite mis step after mis step and repeated appearances of the Who Could Have Imagined chorus. That isn’t the sign of a healthy democracy at all.

        1. Left in Wisconsin

          Effective government often requires standing up to big business. That’s what the Democrats are afraid to do.

          1. Carla

            And just wonderin’, what is it the Democrats are not afraid to do?

            Oh, maybe sellout the country.

            Sorry, just answered my own question.

        2. Jack King

          “The problem is that the people the government keeps cutting taxes on already have the money to spend on things they want so they use their tax savings to a) buy politicians and b) hoard it in a bank.

          The rich cannot possibly spend all their income. They save some of it, but most want a return that they just won’t get in a savings account. Ergo, they invest it. They are the risk takers whose investing ultimately create jobs. This country needs more saving and investing, not less. If you punish people for risking their capital by taking it from them, there will be less risk taking. The ones who are really hurt are not the rich, but the middle class.

          1. abynormal

            They are the risk takers whose investing ultimately create jobs.
            Friends…Jack King is the purist example for the dangers of synthetic marijuana!

            Risk-taking? These guys aren’t risk-takers. Think of the founders of Google. They came from middle-class families and went to Stanford. Short of inheriting the crown of England, there’s nobody in this life less exposed to risk than a Stanford Ph.D. in computer science. They had a business idea. They didn’t put up their own money. They used other people’s money—venture capital. And the venture capital company wasn’t using its own money either. They were investing other people’s money too—and taking fees of 2% on principal and 20% of profits for their trouble. You know the only people at risk in this deal? The teachers and university professors whose pension money would have been lost if the business had failed. Pension funds and insurance companies: they’re the source of almost all our domestic investible funds. It’s the middle-class and working-class people whose wages go into those funds who are at risk, not the rich—and especially not a chop shop like Bain, where they buy a company, lever it up, charge huge fees, and then sell the parts.

            1. Jack King

              Are people who invest their money in, say, start-ups wealthy? Most likely. They are the investment class. Their marginal propensity to consume is very low. This means they have a lot left over which can be invested in the economy. They are the ones who can afford to take a loss. They are the ones who take a chance on the potential Steve Jobs types who are toiling in their garage. Most of the time these start-ups are larks that go nowhere. But every once in a while they hit pay dirt resulting in great products and many well paying jobs.

          2. cwaltz

            The idea that investment creates jobs is a fallacy that the rich have promoted. The reality is the need for a good or service or demand creates jobs, not capital investment. Capital helps build businesses by providing seed money ONLY AFTER it’s been demonstrated there is a solid demand for a good or service more often than not(because investors want a return)but it by no means is any more important than labor. As a matter of fact I’d argue it’s less important because an effective government can and does fund important demands. It will cover capital costs if the need for a good or service is of benefit to the people it represents. I actually used the example above of electricity. If it had been up to the electric companies there’d be no investment in electric in regions where it isn’t heavily populated and there was no means to create a profit. However, government intelligently recognizes that things like a developing region can make the difference between businesses and people locating itself somewhere. Considerations like can I get the internet or is there access to electricity factor into decisions on where to build something.

            Just like the wrong people are getting tax breaks, the wrong people are saving. When trilions of dollars are just sitting, that isn’t saving as much as it is hoarding. Additionally business models seem to be mindlessly looking to capture market share without any regard to future costs. It’s incredibly short sighted to build yet another McDonalds when the business model you are using is already telling you that you can’t afford pay for the employees you already have in a responsible manner. If you are struggling to cover the costs associated with 300,000 people then building another 36 structures that requires you to employ more people and pay the costs associated with them isn’t very smart. Then again, it’s understanding this that also leads to hoarding the money instead of placing it into the economy. Heaven forbid the freaking economic market that used to tell people that EVERYONE is supposed to benefit from productivity and profitability actually deliver that to the plebes who help keep the system running by providing resources to the businesses. The market is off kilter because right now only capital investors and owners are being rewarded for their part in the economic model. Labor has actually LOST out in the last couple of decades.

            1. Jack King

              “The idea that investment creates jobs is a fallacy that the rich have promoted.”

              Tell me….what does the “I” stand for in GDP = C+I+G.

          3. Ben Johannson

            Capitalist economies do not distribute based on risk. “Risk-taker” is a meaningless term in this context.

      4. Jacob

        “Indeed the idea that government should be run like a business is laughable . . .”

        It’s laughable to the right-wing politicos who employ experts in the use of deception to win votes from the masses of voters, most of whom are politically ignorant and highly susceptible to propaganda. Most voters are not rich, so the politicians (aided by the “culture industry”) who serve the rich have to convince the ordinary people to vote rich while living in debt, i.e., by instilling false consciousness in the minds of the masses so that they will vote against their own best interests.

    2. washunate

      I’m not sure what that has to do with it? Households and businesses use debt in particular and financial plans more generally that extend well beyond artificial 12 month time periods.

      1. cwaltz

        And let me say THAT has worked out swimmingly for the millions that lost their houses when the economy crashed and it’s working equally as well for the large number of individuals who now have trillions of dollars worth of college debt. Yeah, I’m not a huge fan of individual debt and even less of a fan when you get into projecting what will happen 20 years out.

        Large businesses have fared better because Uncle Sugar has vested interest in bailing them out. The reality is that the optics of letting a business that employs thousands go under is not good. Additionally, businesses tend to have deep enough pockets to buy representation (Hooray for crony capitalism!) while individuals don’t seem to have a large number of altruistic public servants to choose from.

        What amuses me most though is how rigged the game is and how obvious its become. You don’t hear the Republicans extolling how giving tax breaks or subsidies is “socialism” or income redistribution. No they only trot out their aversion to government intervention when it means those at the bottom of the economic food chain might get something then all of a sudden we must be vigilant against market intervention otherwise we might become Communist China.

    3. Rosario

      Not to mention nearly every technology in use today. Note where government research funding (used to go) goes. To every technology that has no immediate/apparent capacity to create profit. Let it bake for 10 years then out comes the next big advance in medicine, computers, transportation, etc. To a certain extent companies like Google try to take on this role, but even with their enormous operating income they can’t crank out anything beyond what has already been developed with government funds (Google car -> DARPA research, Google glasses -> DARPA/University grants in computer vision labs, machine intelligence, and so on). Having worked in a university research lab I’ve seen how government funding operates versus private funding. Government funding allows more freedom and less oversight (contrary to what many Libertarians will tell you) and private funding shackles the lab to the benefactors demands (they want a product/idea to sell). If you want new technologies that will progress society and prove extremely useful in the future the profit incentive must be removed. The motivation must be pure curiosity.

      1. cwaltz

        That’s the beauty of government investment. In private investment there is the expectation that there WILL BE financial gain at some point. Investors don’t mindlessly spend on ideas that won’t create profit at some point. The government has no such motivation. It can provide something simply because it’s the right thing to do and the best thing to do for the majority of us. It’s part of their mission statement. Somehow though that’s been lost in all the “the government needs to balance it’s budget like you and me or the government needs to have every function either work out to zero cost or generate a profit to pay for itself and any growth(which conveniently doesn’t apply to the security state apparatus or the DoD, two expenditures so large they can’t even be reviewed by unbiased third parties right now.) It’s another perfect example of how manipulative this particular market is.

    4. Code Name D

      I am going to disagree here. The notion that government should be run like a business is not absurd at all. It is still wrong of course, but reality is seldom intuitive.

      Put yourself in the shoes of the believer. Business has to earn money first before they can spend it, just as dose you’re household. All of the 50 states must do the same. Why would you suspect the federal government is governed by different rules?

      It’s also important to remember that it’s still technically true. The US treasury doesn’t have the power to create money. That power resides with the Federal Reserve. Of course the treasury is essentially barrowing its own money and paying interest to itself, but that is a detail not often shared with the general public. As I always say, the power in propaganda resides not in the lies they would tell you, but in the truth they will not.

      This “technically true” detail is also consistent with the typical libertarian world view that governments can not create wealth, only investment can. The world view has been made true by the fiat of the state. So it’s true by definition that the US government can not create currency – and thus abides by the rule that it must first acquire money before it can spend it.

      This is not an absurd belief – this is a religion onto itself.

      1. cwaltz

        Here’s a paradox for you. How does a business that doesn’t exist earn money in order to become a business that makes money? Hint: It doesn’t unless you consider coming up with a sellable business plan to pitch at potential investors like banks or the government “earning money.”

        Libertarians are funny little souls. They really seem to believe that the free market fairy will regulate soulless entities while often supporting people who would place restrictions on personal freedoms for the good of us all(wouldn’t want to catch gay cooties or heaven forbid that unborn soul go Home instead of being used as an excuse to whine about the cost of social obligations.)

        I guess the money utilized by investors comes from magical fairy dust as well since it isn’t created by the government and it’s usage isn’t sanctioned by government’s to facilitate trade. LOL Let me just pull out some of my Confederate money backed by the Confederate government that created it and utilize it here in good ol’ Dixie. Whoopsie! It isn’t backed by a government anymore. I guess no one wants to trade in pretty pieces of paper even if I call it investment money. Investors are delusional and egocentric. It’s actually costing them big time because they don’t appear to recognize you can have all the investment money in the world but unless there is DEMAND for your good or product it just won’t matter.

      2. cnchal

        Business has to earn money first before they can spend it,. .

        Think about the steps to starting a business. An idea or concept gets worked over to see if it’s viable, and if it is, resources are brought to bear first, and you haven’t sold anything. and no money has come in yet.

        All of the 50 states must do the same. Why would you suspect the federal government is governed by different rules?

        The federal government is a currency issuer, the states are not.

  2. Dino Reno

    Who cares? The strategy is working. The middle class hate the working poor and the working poor hate minorities. When I find the guy who is stealing my crumbs left behind by the 1%, I want him put in prison or deported. And it helps if I have a carry permit to protect my family from that low life scum while the government dithers about enforcing the law. This is called acting in your self-interest in America.

    1. Nathanael

      The strategy is working worse and worse every year. It was spectacularly and frighteningly effective in the 1980s, and it’s really not very effective any more, probably due to the destruction of the middle class.

      I could give a long historical discussion here on the circumstances where the duping / pit-the-middle-class-against-the-poor strategy stops working, but the fact is that the plutonomist overlords have gone well past the point where the strategy stops working. There is unfortunately a lag time before the revolution; you have to wait for a couple of generations to grow up with the ‘new normal’ first.

      The problem is the next stage. The plutonomist overlords could cement their power by switching strategies to a deliberate feudalist coup, eliminating democracy in the US. This has happened before.

  3. Left in Wisconsin

    1. Real life man should sue for wage theft. I’m sure there is a worker center in Michigan that will help represent him.
    2. So why is (are?) certain propaganda-accepted-as-gospel accepted as such despite being repeatedly disproven? (We all know there are no such things as “free markets,” but the one that really kills me is the notion that giant corporations are in favor of limited government.) And blaming TPTB doesn’t count, since they profit from this delusion and thus have no interest in a more realistic alternative narrative.

    1. aidannira

      I don’t know of any workers centers in Michigan, but here should be a local or federal Department of Labor office where he can file a wage theft claim – it can be a frustrating process, but hopefully he won’t let employer get away with it. He has 2 years under federal law.

    2. armchair

      I’m sure there is a worker center in Michigan that will help represent him.
      I was once involved in a volunteer program to assist people with wage claims. Guess what? The program dissolved in a post financial crisis funding meltdown. My state does have some good rules on the books that allow for attorney fees to be collected in wage claims, but I can’t speak for Michigan. Besides the threat of attorney fees is what usually brings about a pre-litigation settlement, because the defendant wants to avoid a judgment that includes legal fee, so you need to find a big-hearted attorney with extra time who is willing to forgo legal fees to settle the case. If you think every state is out there funding tons of free civil legal service then you’re entering Marie Antoinette territory. “Let all the pro bono attorneys solve the problem!”

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        I couldn’t agree more. I should have said “I would guess…” but perhaps even that is optimistic.

        1. armchair

          It’s funny. I was at a volunteer legal clinic just yesterday where we were speculating about what percent of the population might believe that representation in civil matters is generally available for low and modest income people. I had this foolish dream many years ago that a tiny portion of the economic stimulus could be used to get out-of-work attorneys and social workers to meet the vast unmet needs in our society.

  4. washunate

    I agree this line of inquiry is quite interesting. A couple points to add to the debate:

    1) ‘Economic’ interests are just one component of political preferences. This is a good thing. It is anti-economic to ban child labor. We do it because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do. This is true from the most egregious issues, like murder, to the rather mundane, like R-rated movies. That doesn’t mean we all agree on what is right – we don’t even all agree on the definition of murder – but we do (almost) all agree that what is right is what ought to govern society.

    2) The red vs. blue divide is a tribal divide, not a substantive policy one. In fact, even within the tribal system, if you look at voting patterns in the ‘red’ states, lower-income individuals within those states tend to vote more Democratic. The problem is not that idiots are voting for Republicans. Rather, the problem is that Democrats stab their own constituents in the back.

    I think these are particularly hard pills for educated liberals to swallow, because they indict all of us. The problem is not ignorant voters Somewhere Else. The problem is us. Those of us with enough time and education and means to read websites and work at universities and not be constantly harassed by law enforcement and so forth.

    Generally speaking, the ‘lower classes’ know they’re getting screwed. That a small minority of them prefer a more honest and open theocratic or corporate state to the hypocrisy of our present system is not a failing on their part, nor is it more largely representative of the feelings of their class overall.

    1. James

      Generally speaking, the ‘lower classes’ know they’re getting screwed. That a small minority of them prefer a more honest and open theocratic or corporate state to the hypocrisy of our present system is not a failing on their part, nor is it more largely representative of the feelings of their class overall.

      Very true. I remember my mom when I was growing up always saying, “Don’t trust the Democrats! They’ll disappoint you every time!” Now after 8 years of Obama and the prospect of 8 more under Team Clinton, I’ve come to appreciate those words. I won’t vote either D or R in 2016, but my feeling now is better the devils we know in the Rs, than the devils who pretend that we don’t know in the Ds. Most of the working poor know full well they’re screwed either way, so the fall back position is which party will at least tell you the truth, or failing that, at least cater to your values. Even if that truth is simply that “You’re screwed either way!” Obama especially, with all of his weaselly, high-brow rhetorical flourishes, has re-poisoned the words liberal and intellectual for another generation or two at least, a task he was more than likely specially selected to perform. If that was the case, it worked splendidly!

      1. Nathanael

        I’ve voted for plenty of decent Democrats, but mostly at the local level (occasionally the state level). There’s a lot to be said for voting Green Party or other third party, and I’ve done that too. The Democratic Party needs an opposition party, and the Republican Party, who are just stooges for would-be aristocrats, is not an opposition party.

        1. susan the other

          Good CSPAN yesterday covering the conventions of both the CPUSA and The New Populists. They were so down to earth and talked so straight I almost signed up. And the audiences were fairly large so their followers are growing. Also a documentary on PTV called “Growing Cities” about a road trip to see which cities do city gardening and it was a pleasure to see so many sane people taking it up. There are lotsa people out there who reject the status quo.

          1. jrs

            One thing is about the CP is they are young and ethnically diverse (yea it stands out if your protest movement is otherwise mostly older and well whiter … not that there’s anything wrong with that).

    2. Deaf Smith County

      “…more honest and open theocratic and corporate state…” ? Is that the newest spin at Fox News?

      1. cwaltz

        I’m sure a rape victim forced to risk her life to give birth will totally be okay with it as long as the theocracy is honest and open about the fact that they’re essentially forcing her to relinquish her free will-AGAIN. Because God totally doesn’t know what He’s doing when he gives somebody cancer or a bacterial infection but He’s all up in the idea of forcing 12 year olds to give birth or die trying. He’s random like that.

        1. James Levy

          I’m with you here cwaltz, although I’ve been lambasted for it (especially by Working Class Nero): if I am a woman or black (i.e. roughly 60% of the population) having most Democrats in office is better than having most Republicans. The Republican Party is out to disenfranchise blacks and subordinate women by making abortion (and in many cases birth control) illegal or unobtainable. Unless we acknowledge this, and stop telling women and blacks what their “real” interests are (as opposed to talking to them about how other issues can be as important as the ones I mentioned above) we will be stuck with the less evil madness we have today. This will be a process of persuasion. What I hear too often is a contemptuous demand that blacks and women “stop their identity nonsense” and support Left economic programs. If I were black or a woman, this would only infuriate me, as I’ve been condescended to for too many centuries to want to listen to this kind of crap again.

          1. LifelongLib

            They may be infuriated, but if (say) it’s part of your politics that CEOs are the enemy, a black woman CEO is as much the enemy as a white male one. Everyone wants their fair share of the pie, but if the pie is rotten we also have to look at getting a better one.

          2. Vatch

            I repetitiously ask people to vote for third party candidates, but in some races, especially at the state and local levels, there is only a choice between a Republican and a Democrat. In such a case, it’s perfectly appropriate to choose the lesser evil, who is usually the Democrat. If we’re lucky, that person might actually be rather good!

          3. Andrew Watts

            The purpose of identity politics as envisioned by the New Left is to foment dignity and pride among socially oppressed groups through the creation of sectarianism. How is that currently working out for Sunni Arabs and their neighbors? What made Occupy Wall Street’s “99%” slogan simple yet elegant was that it did away with these arbitrary differences no matter how mathematically incorrect it was. With the enormous economic divide we face already I question the intelligence and sanity of those individuals who want to contribute to the circumstances which further undermine social cohesion.

            In any case the people of Ferguson are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. Access to abortion isn’t going to alleviate this economic condition. The Democrats will learn that they can only ride the black / gay / women pony so long before it’s turned into glue. I mean say what you want about the imperfection of the New Deal. At the very least it spared the United States from a fascist coup, a domestic insurrection, a race war, and/or a violent class struggle.

          4. Oregoncharles

            Feminism (including abortion rights) and racial equality are foundational tenets of the Green Party – feminism is one of the 10 Key Values that are the foundation of the US party. They’d be essential to any other left-wing party, too.

            We’re really talking about the “spoiler” effect, the fear that voting for the person you want will allow the one you fear to gain office; or about an actual absence of left choices on the ballot – some states make 3rd-party ballot access very difficult if not impossible.

            IOW, the hidden topic here is a corrupt, undemocratic electoral system. Of course, that’s hard to address if you can’t even get your candidates on the ballot, unless you also have the initiative. And so on.

            1. Andrew Watts

              “IOW, the hidden topic here is a corrupt, undemocratic electoral system. Of course, that’s hard to address if you can’t even get your candidates on the ballot, unless you also have the initiative. And so on.”


              I think we both know what this is really about. An open primary system is democratic regardless of whether the Pacific Green candidate makes it to the general election or not. If anything having two Democrats run against each other would cause them to seek alternative party support in the general election which would only increase the influence of third parties/factions on the political process at the expense of the Republicans.

              When the Democratic and Republican party are united in opposition against a certain Oregon ballot measure the Greens aren’t doing themselves any favors by openly allying themselves with those two parties. Particularly on a measure that is attempting to reduce the importance of money on politics and the dominance of the two major parties.

              1. jrs

                It will lead to no 3rd party candidates in the general election, that’s what it leads to. You might want to look into how it has worked in California.

                1. washunate

                  Yeah, that’s my understanding as well.

                  Not that the current system elects a lot of third party candidates. It’s just that open primaries don’t appear to actually solve that particular problem of ‘dominance of the two major parties’.

                  This link is pretty interesting.


                2. Andrew Watts


                  How many third party candidates get elected to anything other then local offices? We’ve lived under a two party system since George Washington was president.

                  I’m going to ignore your comparison of Oregon with California. I don’t think you were actually trying to be insulting. Suffice to say, different state, political culture, and more importantly individuals.


                  Oh, I don’t know about that. This ballot measure has been a good opportunity to register discontentment with both parties. How often have you heard something on the along lines of “If the Democrats and Republicans are both against it, I’m for it?”. That’s putting points on the board.

          5. cwaltz

            There is a tipping point though. At some point you actually have to look at the record of the Democratic Party. Truthfully, a lot of what we have today is the result of Democratic behavior. The truth is democrats helped pass partial birth. It’s the democrats who helped codify Hyde. And essentially it is the fact that the democrats can’t stand firm that has led us to a point where we are now left to arguing that birth control isn’t an abortion.

            For a lot of Democratic men it may seem to be no big deal. However, for a woman being forced to carry a pregnancy can result in job loss in a right to work state or loss of life. Reproductive autonomy is paramount for my half of the species in order to achieve equality. Then again I suspect those that are working to hinder it, I suspect, understand that completely. The Republican males in Congress have figured out how to make sure that women have it lose lose. If you choose autonomy and petition for services like abortion or birth control then you’re a slutty baby killer. However, if you choose to bring a helpless life into the world (at your own health expense I might add) then you’re a drain on the system and the proverbial welfare mother because children need things like food, clothing and shelter and really for many years don’t have the means to help pay for these items. So lucky you, you get all the responsibility for a choice that these days you might not have even had an opportunity to make(because don’t even get me started on these ridiculous laws that essentially require women to guess they might be pregnant to meet a deadline that borders on absurd.)

            Oh and let’s not leave the Democratic men out because those that don’t buy into the Republican lose-lose model are not necessarily much better in the big scheme of things. If you fail to actually bring the argument to the table because you are afraid your opponent might call you a heartless baby killer then you are as much of a problem to the female half of the species as the lose lose group even if on the surface you appear more benign. It’s this that got us to this point. Quite frankly, I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve become a bit sexist. I consider Democratic females more heavily because I feel that unless we have women who understand the female experience we’re going to continue to lose ground. However, if you’re a Democratic male I’m less inclined to support you because experience tells me that when push comes to shove you won’t support the things important to me. As a matter of fact, you’ll cave at the first sign that your self interest might be jeopardized.

            1. Lambert Strether

              Marcy Kaptur was great on foreclosure; her district was an epicenter. She’s also a pro-lifer. And the Democratic women are going to be more than party loyalists, they need to get a lot more serious on this issue. As so often, they talk a good game. It’s as if the Republicans handle the war on women, but the Democrats handle the diplomacy. But the objectives look pretty much the same, if you look at outcomes.

              1. cwaltz

                I get that there are women out there that disagree with me on choice. I can even to some extent respect someone like Sarah Palin for her choice to choose life and for her support for things like the Elizabeth Cady Stanton or Domestic violence Act even as I disagree with her. I just want the conversation to be had in an honest way. The reality is that not everyone that finds themselves pregnant with a Downs syndrome baby has the support network Mrs. Palin has. I want the anti choice crowd to acknowledge that. In DC things are painted as black and white when reality is way more complicated then that. As it is right now, the right paints women into the martyr corner and the left’s party line appears to be to accept it rather than offer up another viewpoint or frame.

            2. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

              Diane Feinstein. Hillary Clinton.

              They’re not any different than the He-Dems.

        2. jrs

          I’m sure the Syrian kids lying in a bloody pulp, their lives extinguished because my@#$# DEM @#$# reps voted for it, will be just fine with lesser evilism.

          1. washunate

            My thoughts exactly.

            It’s pretty funny that the specific issues the article highlights about why the Republican Snyder is a problem – harsher working conditions, more tax cuts, and undermining public education – are consistent with the Democratic party of the past couple decades.

            1. cwaltz

              It’s sad actually. I don’t feel like I’ve ever had representation in Congress. I’ve consistently had to watch the options be austerity or less austerity or war or slightly less war. Options like ensure every child has enough to eat or pay for a health care system that benefits Americans even if it costs us the same as what we’d spend on a buttload of f 35s never seem to be part of the debate and even asking they be included is considered pie in the sky idealism.

      2. bdy

        That line jumped out at me too. Much too smart for the f*&ckers-at-Fox, as it actually describes the middle-class-right Zeitgeist we prefer to dismiss as astro-turf.

        Kudos to washunate for a pragmatic objectivity the left tends to reject out of hand.

      3. washunate

        I guess you don’t follow reproductive health issues much? The theocrats are quite open and honest about their intentions of reducing access to abortion, contraceptives, IVF, embryonic stem cell research, and so forth. There are lengthy discussions about personhood. And non-lengthy signs about praying to end abortion. This allows people to decide, democratically, whether they like or dislike the theocratic approach.

        The Democrats, though, use reproductive health as a campaign issue. They talk and talk and talk, and then don’t do anything. Or worse, do something that’s kinda the opposite of being open and honest about what they spent all that time blathering about.

        My favorite example is probably the laughably hilarious move when the Obama Administration maintained the status of emergency contraception as requiring a prescription even when the FDA’s own scientists were ready to give up the charade and acknowledge it should be sold over the counter. The beginning of this article is blisteringly enjoyable:

        “In what can only be called an astounding move by an Administration that pledged on inauguration day that medical and health decisions would be based on fact not ideology and for which women are a major constituency, today Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) overruled a much-awaited decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make emergency contraception (EC) available over-the-counter (OTC) to women of all ages.

        According to the New York Times, “no health secretary has ever [overruled an FDA decision] before.””

        1. Carla

          “In what can only be called an astounding move by an Administration”… well here’s another:

          According to Frederick vom Saal, Curators’ Professor, Division of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia, speaking on Science Friday today, the EPA wanted to declare BPA a chemical of concern in 2010 and the Obama Office of Budget and Management blocked that attempt. 15 billion lbs. of the stuff was produced in 2013.

          The verbiage of the link below soft-pedals the issue. Vom Saal has no doubt: hand-sanitizers (also hand creams, suncreens, and other “personal care products”) increase the absorption of BPA and some other chemicals into the human body 100-fold. Von Saal says that BPA, an endocrine disrupter, has been linked to obesity, hypertension, Type II diabetes, heart disease, liver and kidney malfunction, reduced fertilization, reduced embryo quality and more…

          Here’s the study:

          1. beene

            Which go’s to the point their is no lessor evil; only democrat’s never campaign the way they vote when elected.

  5. Vatch

    I like the references to ebola in the article. Right wing Texas governor Rick Perry has made a lot of noise about increasing the government’s role in the ebola situation, which of course contradicts just about everything else that he has ever said and done.

    1. cwaltz

      Well to be fair, I’m sure he totally plans on bashing the government after the fact and telling us how much better he would have been at coordinating things. :/

    2. JEHR

      When the Ebola case was first mentioned in Dallas, I saw Gov. Rick Perry give a speech on TV about the high merits of the US health care system. The truth soon surfaced.

  6. TheMotherload

    Dear Staff Members of the National Democratic Committee:
    I have in the past been a donor to the Democrat Party, but no longer.

    It is your party’s own fault. The issues Dems (overall) have directly ignored concern millions of Americans. This Congress and the current executive administration has addressed the elite and big business and protected the criminal financial CEOs. They could have protected both – but they gladly ignored the frauds committed against the American homeowners. The party unity has crumbled by putting wannabe elitists into the political mix and in essential administrative positions – making VERY bad decisions, allowing violations of the rules of law and committing calculated incompetent errors of judgment – leaving the average homeowner with gaping wounds from the frauds, destroying property titles and knowingly fabricating fraudulent breeder assignment documents that will haunt the United States land and property rights and records for eons to come. This is immoral behavior.

    If the Dems win in this next election, it will be because they squeaked by. But please start looking beyond the constituency as to why your approval ratings and donations are so dismal.

    In addition, the Democrats are losing a major issue based on the right to due process to protect their property under the 14th Amendment. Republicans have polled and tested the water for over 4 years and as they use the 14th Amendment for right to life issues – they now want to own the entire Amendment including “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

    Western states’ GOP candidates (seeing how David Brat won) are organizing the older portion of the GOP to embrace protecting the MULTI-MILLIONS of American homeowners that have been defrauded by the Wall Street banks – and taking this issue over, making it their own. As Barry Goldwater pointed out in 1964, “The right to vote, to equal treatment before the law, to hold property, and to the protection of contracts are clearly guaranteed by the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. These rights should be rigorously enforced. Existing law demands it.” Upholding the Constitution is what the Democrat Party has always claimed as their party mantra, yet the Democrats have fallen on the sword of the bankers when it comes to upholding the American homeowner’s right to due process regarding the unwinding of these sham foreclosures.

    This Congress and this administration has done virtually nothing to recognize the bank frauds on homeowners and the courts. They have failed to enforce the findings in the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission – and how it affected millions of homeowners (only recognizing “responsible homeowners” – as if those who didn’t work for the government with a continued paycheck were not worthy of protection or capable of being scammed – and were not worth caring about).

    The Democrats are too worried that the people will find out that the pension funds have evaporated and left in its place is a $700 TRILLION brick of debt from loans being sold multiple times (FCIC Report, pg. 407) like “The Producers”… all while your party was on watch. The Democrats controlled the Whitehouse and the Senate when real decisions were to be made regarding who to save in the financial crisis…..and it was obvious who was chosen.

    I know that the next 2 years will dramatically define the 2016 election and the party that embraces and protects the public will rise to the top.

    Yours truly,
    A Former Democrat turned “Voting the Incumbent Out” Voter

    1. susan the other

      Great stuff. Funny how Obama couldn’t sweep it under the rug. I hope this becomes one of the defining issues not just for 2016 but for writing up a new constitution, which might be done more efficiently by starting over and just using the old one as a footnote. Definitely keep the Bill of Rights.

    2. James

      Trouble is, they’ve long since told their old base to take a hike. They’re courting moderate R’s now afraid of the Radical Right and Tea Party wing. The D’s are just another commodity on the street now, offering their thoroughly corrupted allegiance to the highest bidder on the political open market.

  7. DJG

    The Aside reminded me, too, of the whole free-internship scam, which, contrariwise, is designed so that rich people can support their kids during a semester or summer of unremunerative work that may turn into a job offer. The rest of the country can’t afford to keep their kids in suspended animation as the students angle for that groovy job.

  8. PaulHarveyOswald

    I live in Milwaukee County, so I hear about lower government spending constantly: teachers’ salaries, health care, public sector pensions, the list goes on… but not when it comes to professional basketball. The new owners of the Milwaukee Bucks (hedge fund billionaires Marc Lasry and Wes Edens) are demanding a new, taxpayer subsidized stadium or they will take their ball and walk away. Both candidates for Governor here are considering the proposal. Who pays? Who benefits? The hypocrisy is phenomenal.

    1. RUKidding

      I hear you! I live part time in Sacramento CA, where we have former NBA “star” Kevin Johnson as mayor (and his execrable Charter Schools R US wife Michele Rhee). Johnson grew up poor in Sacramento; made it big in the NBA; has basically thrown his people under the bus and is busy out there sucking up to big corporations right, left and center.

      We have no money for services for the underserved in Sacramento, including winter shelters for the homeless (what exists are funded by area churches, and they aren’t raising enough for this winter via donations). I see letters to the Editor all the time whining and crying about public servant salaries, their horrible unfair egregious CalPers pensions, etc etc.

      Yet when Mayor KJ pushed and screamed about “needing” a new basketball arena for the crummy Kings team, somehow he got it – yeah, we taxpayers are on the hook so some crummy NBA team owned by billionaires get a new arena. The current arena is just fine and not that old and has good parking, but noooo we need to build a new fancy dancy arena in downtown Sacramento. I see loads of Letters to the Editor – undoubtedly some by the same people whining and crying about school teacher salaries – shouting Hooray for this Arena, which allegedly will do nothing but be a fountain of jobs, Jobs, JOBS forevah!!! Amen.

      Johnson found it in his shriveled black heart to close 7 public schools last year, mostly in his old poor neighborhoods. Charter schools are multiplying here because their teachers aren’t unionized, so it must be good. Well I’ll stop now.

      Why citizens are so easily duped is beyond me. But Sacramento (which is mostly a working class town) citizens are on the hook to pay for this new arena, and Mayor KJ (pay attention to his name bc he’s the next Cory Booker and you will see him rise in the “Democratic” party, believe me. he’s got corp sponsors out the whazoo) will bask in the glow of all of those “jobs.” More for KJ, less for the rest of serfs.

    2. GuyFawkesLives

      The voters of Seattle voted down a new baseball stadium THREE times. That’s right. Not once, not twice, but THREE times. And then the Governor told the voters “Your wishes don’t matter!” And he built the goddamn stadium and told the homeowners of Seattle that they would take it up the a$$ and like it and then jacked the property taxes up on constituents who voted the stadium down. We should have revolted then and properly tarred and feathered the Governor.

  9. bmeisen

    good piece, going at the heart of the matter – that it’s essentially a question of ideology, though there are certainly rascals out there and they ain’t little. but the most repressive issue is in the head. the author gets somewhat specific touching on anti-gov orthodoxy (until you get to your own gov paycheck) and the belief widespread among the rich that they have earned their wealth.
    the author could have been more specific and listed in detail the elements in the ideology. the ideology is “the american way of life” and its primary characteristic is a once naive, now cancerous individualism. gov is evil because it hampers the individual from going out there and cutting down trees. the rich deserve their wealth because they worked for it – individually. sickness and disease are private risks. education is a investment in your individual earni g power. these are fundamental beliefs among millions of americans, and they aren’t just wrong: they are corrosive and destabilizing. add to this malignant individualism a heavy dose of exceptionalism – america is great! our way of life isn’t just free and democratic, it’s the best freedom and the best democracy (are there other forms of democracy? who cares!) heck it’s a universal truth and we’re all nice people, we even saved the world back in the 40s. put it all together and you have poor and oppressed people rushing to give their oppressors more of their negative worth.

    1. Nathanael

      The only reliable way I know to eliminate deranged fundamental beliefs like this from the body politic is *mockery*. It doesn’t change the minds of the adults with the beliefs, but it makes their children reject the idiotic beliefs.

    2. susan the other

      One person’s freedom is another’s inequality. Our constitution, and more and more our “justice” system, is riddled with contradictions. No justice system could ever be designed to handle every complaint on a case by case basis but that is what our government leaves us to do. The land of the free – free to sue each other.

    3. jrs

      Individualism makes sense on an individual level. People are often mocked for thinking they will become millionaires if they work hard enough etc.. Of course the odds of this are extremely low (and it helps to a whole lot to already be privileged) but working hard (or smart) and applying oneself is more likely to lead to a better outcome for the individual than well what exactly does anyone who would criticize for this have to offer? Not that the poster is saying that but I do think a lot of critics who would criticize people for believing in “hard work and education” or something have even less too offer than the advice to “work hard and go to college”. Ranting on internet discussion boards? Wishing for a revolution? What exactly is the plan? Voting a lesser evil that gets more evil by the day? The article makes it seems like the Dems will only lose because of delusion republican voters, but what if they also lose because they suck so fricken much? (I’m not absolutely opposed to lesser of two evils (LOTE) by the way, it’s just I can seldom stomach how evil the particular LOTEs I face are). And of course workers might gain far more from unionization than trying to deal with things individually but it often isn’t much of an option in their work situations, because the union movement is so small these days.

      “add to this malignant individualism a heavy dose of exceptionalism – america is great! our way of life isn’t just free and democratic, it’s the best freedom and the best democracy (are there other forms of democracy? who cares!) heck it’s a universal truth and we’re all nice people, we even saved the world back in the 40s”

      THIS *IS* PUBLIC EDUCATION! Or it was the an underlying story of public education when I attended it K-12 (I’m on the younger end of Gen X and this was California). Was is so *extreme*: America is only the best bestest? Perhaps not. And no one would have used the term “American exceptionalism” back then and extreme jingoism wasn’t looked favorably upon. But it was America as basically good with it’s ideals in the constitution etc. – the good guys (Vietnam was a crime? no it was an unfortunate mistake …). Were the slaughter of Indians and slavery mentioned? Of course they were. But the U.S. was still basically good – and always making progress – flawed back then sure, but always getting better, improving morally, slavery and segregation a thing of the past. Then you blame people for being indoctrinated in what they were indoctrinated in for most of their formative years? Sure some get far more extreme and end up following some right wing ideologue, but it is so natural because of the omissions in their education. So blame people for being ignorant but their education made them so (and a lack of learning beyond that, fair enough, but if they weren’t privileged enough to go to college or decided to major in some practical thing that left them little time to question that, this requires individual learning as an adult. I don’t really think we live in a culture that values that, but of course some individuals (excuse my language?) do).

      1. cwaltz

        I honestly think the two ideologies of creating a viable third party option AND supporting more and better Democrats through primaries could be utilized in tandem. The caveat is that the two ideologies have to come to some sort of understanding about undermining each other. Enough already with the ” your support for so and so is irresponsible because it means the Republican will win.” Guess what? It’s your candidate’s fault, not the electorate. It’s his/her job to appeal to voters. The reality is that electing a particular party should be a means, not an end. If the objective is equality it shouldn’t matter if it is a Democrat or a Green candidate, what should matter is where they stand on an issue like equality. I should be able to pick the best candidate, and not be peppered with “it’s on YOU when the Republicans win” for choosing that candidate.

        I’m also bored to tears with the whole entire “third parties can’t win” meme. Of course they can. Sanders won as an Independent. Lieberman won as an Independent. Angus King won as an Independent. Third parties can win. However, they can’t if you don’t support them. No it isn’t easy to get someone good on a ballot that doesn’t have the Big Twos seal of approval. The fact that it wouldn’t be easy however shouldn’t implicitly mean that it isn’t worthwhile. If nothing else a candidate fielded from the left that doesn’t come from the Democratic Party may force the Democratic candidate to acknowledge some of the left’s ideas and complaints. I fail to see how getting ideas like expanding Social Security on the playing board through a third party is a bad thing. It’s got to be better than choosing between vanilla and French vanilla.

  10. impermanence

    It would seem that the way most species go about life is considerably more reasonable than the human way, that is, using our limited intellect to bullshit constantly.

  11. Ulysses

    Very interesting post! I’m intrigued by Yves’ prefatory remark that : “the shallower social networks of stratified societies and the high cost of losing one’s perch, in terms of loss of friends and status, creates an ongoing level of stress…”

    It is very true that we live in a highly stratified society with shallow social networks, yet I’m not sure the shallowness stems from the stratification. Medieval Siena was a highly stratified society, with a small handful of elite merchants, clergy, and nobles possessing nearly all of the power and wealth. Yet the social networks were very deep indeed, with people of all classes very much identified with their own particular contrada, and intimately aware of everything that went on within all families of that small neighborhood.

    I think the shallowness of our social networks today has more to do with the extreme mobility of people, and less to do with class stratification. Wealthy people especially suffer from the fear of being too provincial and insular if they have maintained deep roots anywhere. Most of the billionaires in the Hamptons have no particular family history in Long Island, and most of the Silicon Valley billionaires have no roots in that area.

    One thing that really struck me in Rhode Island, as compared to New York, California, or many other places in America, is that working-class people were extremely rooted in particular neighborhoods– supporting each other in their struggles to survive the harsh consequences of de-industrialization. Middle-class and wealthy professional people, on the other hand, will leave in a heartbeat if an economic opportunity presents itself anywhere else in the world. The old blueblood families with inherited wealth are like the working classes in not abandoning their homes and families in Little Compton, the East Side of Providence, or other wealthy enclaves.

    Strong local communities can help mitigate some of the most harmful effects of class stratification, yet they can also perpetuate situations where the same few families remain rich and powerful for many generations. For every country squire who did right by “his” peasants from a sense of noblesse oblige, there were more who were eager to pack them all off to slave in the pits or at the mill.

    1. Nathanael

      “For every country squire who did right by “his” peasants from a sense of noblesse oblige, there were more who were eager to pack them all off to slave in the pits or at the mill.”

      This is our current problem. The squire who does right by “his” peasants has successful descendants for generation upon generation. And when war breaks out he has his own army.

      The one who tries to pack them off to slave in the pits… well, he is probably going to have to move to escape the murderous mob, isn’t he? He’d better have some roots elsewhere…

      The former is long-term thinking, the latter is short-term thinking. We have an epidemic of short-term thinking among our elites.

      1. Ulysses

        Short term thinking does seem ubiquitous. The tone is set by our corporate “leadership,” most of whom care nothing for the long-term viability of the enterprises they supposedly manage, but only for the immediate huge payout to them, personally, right now. “Faithful stewardship” seems to have gone the way of the dodo bird.

  12. scraping_by

    You ever notice how these anti-government slogans are never spoken in a reasonable, discussion-oriented tone of voice? They are always shouted, barked, sneered, snickered, bellowed, screamed, or pontificated, usually out of the blue, as a total non sequitur to whatever’s being discussed or as a Pavlovian response to any mention of government.

    The loud minority uses anti-government as an excuse for a little petty bullying, a move in a conversational game. This momentary thrill in otherwise dull lives when they can use tough talk on someone without risking physical reprisal is squalid but attractive. Pathetic chest-pounding for pathetic lives. Kleptocratic public policy and business practices are eased considerably when some of the victims content themselves by the comfort of a shocked response they can reinterpret as cowering.

    My own response is to silently say, “Dolt!” since no amount of discussion can rescue them from the Right-Wing Alternative Universe. Sometimes I mention an contradicting fact, in hopes they find their way home own their own.

  13. susan the other

    So one take away about the rich is that they are suffering high levels of anxiety because our country is going through some changes, mostly to their own benefit but still they seek to protect themselves. Like a hedge fund of social behavior and manipulation. Because they know their own ilk and it is a foregone conclusion that if they aren’t quite rich and powerful enough they too will be eaten alive. And they will. Financialism as the New Capitalism really only serves the top 1%. It’s really going to be a food fight up there.

  14. Chris in Paris

    I’m beginning to think that a denial of legitimacy movement might be effective à la Russell Brand (please G-d save me for that reference). Abstention from voting, en masse would throw the whole system into disarray. It has to be total though.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Or against all incumbents.

        The problem with not voting is that it fits all too readily into the “voter apathy” frame. Voting third party, or voting for the challenger, or write-ins, or spoiled ballots all get included in the count.

        1. GuyFawkesLives

          Voting out incumbents is the best message there is.
          We don’t like what’s going on, but are so afraid to say “GET OUT!”
          Get those do-for-nothings out of office. If bullies control the playground, it takes the entire school yard to cling together to fight back. If we only knew the power of our VOTE.
          Cross the party lines. What does it matter anymore? And soon enough, the candidates would start listening.

  15. joey

    The corporate threat is outsourcing. We should do a reverse threat wherein if one, on aggregate of all stocks own over x % of corporate interests headquartered overseas or y % of corporate interests employment overseas one loses citizenship.

    X could be as low as 15. Y as high as 90. Both numbers negotiable.

  16. Nate

    As to taxes, the underlying issue is how taxes ought to be established in the first instance, as a general matter. I tend towards the view that all taxes are inherently unfair and unjust, UNLESS the tax is applied uniformly to all similarly situated persons/entities/objects to the greatest extent humanely possible. IMO the only justified reason for differential (“progressive”) tax rates, is (1) an individual poverty exemption, and (2) where a particular class of persons/entities disproportionately use the services funded by a particular tax. By the same token, taxes should only be justified for revenue purposes, and no other purpose.

    1. Nathanael

      Wrong. Learn why here:

      There’s another important, basic use for taxes — discouraging societally damaging behavior. This is why we have fees for dumping garbage. This is why there is a tax for pumping sulfur dioxide into the air. This is also (more controversially) why tobacco is taxed.

      Billionaires who can buy Congress and buy the courts are also a societally damaging problem. So they need to be taxed (90% rates seemed to work well) to prevent them from buying Congress and to prevent them from buying the courts.

      These taxes are not for revenue; if they collect no revenue, it’s great because it means the bad behavior has stopped. We still need these taxes. If you prefer, you can call them fines, but it seems to get more compliance to call them taxes.

      1. Nate

        I would strongly disagree that coercively-imposed taxes should ever be used to discourage socially undesirable behavior; I tend toward the libertarian view, which is the clear “minority” position. Many people believe taxes should be used for a large variety of non-revenue purposes, and the issue is a “first principles” political question intrinsically tied to one’s political philosophy. This issue is fundamental to the perennial “tax reform” debate, namely defining the a priori purposes that “taxes” ought to serve in the first instance.

        1. Chris in Paris

          Nate – under your philosophy I’m sure there’s room for government coercion to prevent anti-social behavior, e.g. criminal and civil penalties under law. So what happens when unfettered capital accumulation allows a small group to effectively avoid any consequences under the laws, or worse, to rewrite laws to suit their own needs? Why not use taxation to prevent this?

        2. Ben Johannson

          Taxation is no more or less coercive than private property laws. Why does one get a pass and not the other?

    2. Lambert Strether

      We should tax the rich heavily to:

      1) Prevent the formation of an aristocracy of inherited wealth;

      2) Prevent the rich from buying the government with their loose cash;

      3) Enhance the health of the children of the rich, since unearned wealth is often psychologically harmful to them.

      None of these are about raising revenue. All are about public purpose.

      * * *

      #3 does have the merit of being true, but it’s also too delicious to deploy “for the children” in this context.

      1. Ulysses

        I can’t understand how anyone could oppose very heavy estate taxes. That anyone should inherit more than they could possibly spend in a lifetime is just insane.

    3. cwaltz

      The thing is that to some extent taxes are applied uniformly. As much as people like Romney bray about the unfairness of the system the guy at McDonald’s is doing EXACTLY what he does. The only difference is that when the final line is compiled the guy who makes $20,000 a year makes it to zero when all his deductions are taken into consideration. Meanwhile Romney has 3 extra zeros at the end of his income. Even with a stacked deck that allows him to pay less for his “investment” in other people’s labor or a system that allows him to deduct Anne’s pretty ponies and the interest on house number he’s still got so much money that he has to pay. My proposition to people like Romney is if they’re so sure that those workers that can get to zero liability are living the high life then go ahead and give your money away and get a job at your local BK then you can pay ZERO too. Barring that they should be grateful that they’ve gotten to the point where they’ve made so much and done so well that they are being taxed(disclosure I’ve been on both sides of the line in terms of being taxed. While taxes aren’t fun I refuse to resent something that helped us get to the point where we are today.)

      1. jrs

        The guy making 20,000 will only make it to zero if he has deductions (read: kids, as earned income alone won’t cut it). I have no doubt there are people earning 20k in this country paying federal income taxes, although many people probably think they aren’t.

        1. cwaltz

          Oh absolutely(I actually have 2 taxpayers in this situation in my household.)That’s my point. Romney is whining that the people on the bottom have the same opportunity to deduct things that he does. In his mind a fair system allows him to deduct massive amounts of wealth but disallows those at the bottom the same opportunity to take deductions if it gets them to zero liability. How in the world is THAT fair?

          1. Nate

            Under my ideal tax system virtually all tax exemptions/deductions would be gone, including Romney’s. However, the rate would be so low that people wouldn’t care that much about losing deductions/exemptions.

      2. cnchal

        I have a friend that says “I wish my tax bill this year were a million bucks.”

        The reason? It means he would have made a shit load of money.

  17. Jack King

    “The higher profit margins are unlikely even to be used to increase workers’ shares of the corporate revenues through higher wages, a place where they could most help the economy other than new jobs created.”

    Wage rates are determined by the supply/demand for labor. In North Dakota, for example, which has the lowest
    unemployment rate in the country (2.8%), McDonalds workers are starting at $15/hr.

    1. cwaltz

      This isn’t entirely true. Labor is a part of the market and yet somehow or another they are being portrayed as the bad guys for asking for $15 in many markets. Even more disturbing is the propaganda put out by business owners that the labor line item is somehow responsible for pricing decisions rather than profit margins and the strength of the demand for your good or service. We’re definitely talking about aspects of a market that has no problem manipulating the truth for it’s own means. It’s funny because I never hear these same business owners publically proclaim that farmers should never be allowed to raise the prices of their goods or that utilities be forced to accept the same rate forever to keep the price of their products the same. It’s only when uppity workers ask for their share of profitable ventures that all of a sudden a bump in pay leads to pricing apocalypses. Had the market been doing what it says by rewarding labor for its contribution to record breaking profits I daresay we’d even be having this conversation. However, this misguided belief that workers are little better than trained monkeys and capital is the almighty job creator myth have led us to a point where frankly it’s ignorant for the government NOT to intervene. The health of the economy depends upon money moving and flowing and it can’t do that if the only people with money are parking it in a bank because they already have gobs of it.

      1. Jack King

        No one forced employers of entry-level employees in North Dakota to pay them $15/hr. The market determined that based on supply/demand factors. Wages are just another price which is determined by ever changing market conditions.

        1. Ben Johannson

          Jack, before commenting again on this sort of thing you would do well to discover what a market actually is. As homework, examine the last twenty-four quarters and discover in how many have total hourly wages have fallen. You’ll discover that nominal wages rarely do so, which precludes the existence of anything resembling a labor market.

          1. Jack King

            Wages have remained flat in some sectors and in some regions. It basically tracks to the strength of the local economy. Where the demand for labor is high, wages are high. We need government policies that expand these local success stories to the national level. By the same token, there is another problem also. Structural unemployment. I.E there is a mismatch of skill sets to jobs. The job market is shifting very fast because of technology. It is estimated that 80% of today’s fifth graders, as adults will be working in jobs that do not yet exist today. This puts added pressure on our education system to keep up with the times.

            1. Ben Johannson

              Wages have remained flat in some sectors and in some regions.

              Thid is an acknowledgment that wage levels do not follow market-based rules.

              It basically tracks to the strength of the local economy. Where the demand for labor is high, wages are high.

              You wrote before that wages were a function of supply and demand but now you claim wages are solely a function of demand. If the latter is the case then there is no labor market.

              By the same token, there is another problem also. Structural unemployment. I.E there is a mismatch of skill sets to jobs.

              An increase in unemployment across all industries, skill-sets and education levels does not result from structural unemployment but from lack of effective demand.

              The job market is shifting very fast because of technology. It is estimated that 80% of today’s fifth graders, as adults will be working in jobs that do not yet exist today. This puts added pressure on our education system to keep up with the times.

              Which does nothing to explain increased unemployment across all sectors in a country with one of the most highly educated workforces in the world. Millions of Americans returned to school after the GFC to upgrade their knowledge and skills, with little to show for the investment.

              1. Jack King

                “Thid is an acknowledgment that wage levels do not follow market-based rules.”

                Really?! Look, let’s take the fast food worker. These jobs where traditionally populated by teens in school and living in middle class homes. Now we are getting 30 year olds taking most of these jobs. The supply of labor for these positions has profoundly increased. So my question for you is, if we increase the supply of labor will this result in downward pressure on wages or upward pressure?

                “You wrote before that wages were a function of supply and demand but now you claim wages are solely a function of demand. If the latter is the case then there is no labor market.”

                “Supply” just doesn’t disappear. If you don’t see supply mentioned assume stasis.

                “An increase in unemployment across all industries, skill-sets and education levels does not result from structural unemployment but from lack of effective demand.”

                Unemployment rate was 10%. It is now down to 5.9%. The economy is certainly sluggish, but unemployment is not increasing.

            2. cwaltz

              I’d like a link please to substantiate what you are saying because it is contrary to what many economists are saying.

              Additionally, if what you were saying were true we’d be seeing a rise in pay in the service sector across the board which has grown exponentially(greater demand for workers) and that hasn’t happened. You just see plenty of Now Hiring signs. I suggest the oligarchy get used to “the mismatch in skill sets.” They might want to consider what was done in the good ol days and actually TRAIN people instead of expecting them to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get that training for them or attempting to pawn the cost off onto taxpayers.

              1. Jack King

                “I’d like a link please to substantiate what you are saying because it is contrary to what many economists are saying.”

                A link? Look, everything I have stated can be found in a college level econ text. Nothing new here. I must say that it is hard to communicate ideas when one is straining to force some sort of understanding into a vacuum.

                “dditionally, if what you were saying were true we’d be seeing a rise in pay in the service sector across the board which has grown exponentially(greater demand for workers) and that hasn’t happened.”

                Which service sector? Trade, finance, insurance, banking, retail, travel, delivery, education, healthcare, entertainment, legal, etc etc etc.

    2. Ben Johannson

      You’ve been told before there is no labor market, which requires that wages adjust continuously to equilibrate cost with labor supply. This does not happen in the real world.

  18. nothing but the truth

    this constant ad hominem kind of attacks in democrat leaning sites is becoming not only predictable but also tiring.

    if you want to solve a problem you have to investigate its cause. attacking your favorite enemies wont help.

    so why is healthcare in the US so expensive compared to other developed countries? (some 18% of GDP compared to 7%)

    And the percentage of healthcare GDP will rise now because of the ACA because a large number of people were priced out of the healthcare.

    1. cwaltz

      Obama screwed the pooch on health care. He trusted the industry in discussions behind closed doors. How’s that working out for President ” If you like your health care you can keep it?” He should have treated industry in an adversarial manner and as the profit seeking entity that it is. He didn’t. So we’re all screwed-again. I can hardly wait to see what the heck he screws up next with his constant need for approval from those that I doubt would spit on him if he were on fire. I kinda feel sorry for him. I just feel sorrier for the country since he’ll probably land on his feet like Bill and the Bushes and the rest of the oligarchy who served before him.

  19. not_me

    Here’s some ideological brainwashing: “Money must be debt” when anyone familiar with Assets = Equity + LIabilities should recognize that money can also be shares in Equity, ie. common stock.

    But why share equity when it’s much more profitable to loot the poor by using that equity to borrow new purchasing power into existence from a government subsidized credit cartel and thereby steal by dilution?

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