Let’s do something about this

This video seems to be everywhere. It needs to be everywhere.

YouTube Preview Image

If you’re wondering about the validity of the numbers cited — if the situation is as massively skewed as the video portrays, then let me assure you the numbers check out. The facts are factual. The video is true.

This viral video is right,” Ezra Klein writes, giving it the Wonk Seal of Approval. “We need to worry about wealth inequality,” Klein says.

Well, yes, we need to “worry” about this. But worry isn’t really a substantial response, and a substantial response is what is needed here.

Just consider all the breath and ink and time wasted fretting over budget deficits and the clumsy, crude responses to deficit-panic, like “sequestration.” Then watch that video again, or look at the graph below. The massive concentration of wealth they illustrate tells you all you need to know about those deficits — that most of the wealth is piling up beyond the reach of taxation. More and more of our allegedly “runaway spending” is flowing to the 1 percent,  while less and less of our revenue is being supplied by the 1 percent.

That’s an unsustainable situation and an unsustainable trend. It calls for a response.

It requires a policy response — steps that citizens must demand and elected officials must implement. It also calls for a moral response — this is something that prophets, preachers and pundits need to be condemning. And it calls for a cultural response — from storytellers, artists, songwriters, jesters and clowns.

We’ll return to this later, but here let’s just make this an open thread to discuss potential responses — “if … then” responses. Consider that video above to be the “whereas” of our resolution. Given what that “whereas” clause tells us, what should be included in the “therefore be it resolved” section of our resolution?

Worry is appropriate but inadequate. What should we try to do about this? What can be done?

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  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    I see no reason to worry about rising wealth inequality. The matter of runaway government spending might become important within a few generations. One’s knee-jerk response to rising wealth inequality should not be “there should be an intervention with the use of government force!”, but, rather, to question “what is causing this?”.

  • SergeantHeretic

    Are you freaking kidding me?

    The wealthiest one percent of Americans is systematically bleeding the rest of us to financial death and your first response is, “Oh don’t let the ebbil gubbermint get involved, cuz that would be RAW-ung”.

    Jesus whept.

  • DCFem

    Don’t feed the trolls. If you do, they will multiply.

  • SororAyin

    Are troll related to tribbles?  /treknerd

  • Magic_Cracker

    Not tribbles, per se — they’re more like that alien that feds off of phasers in “Skin of Evil.”

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    I was thinking, but EH isn’t a troll, technically speaking. I think he really believes what he says and has good intentions. He’s just almost unbelievably ignorant and therefore obnoxious.

    Then I thought about the effect of his comment. It has been to draw all attention to him and away from “what do we do next”. So in effect, if not in intent (and we can never truly know the intent of another person), he is a troll, and I apologize for not ignoring him.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Some parts of the top three million are bleeding net tax-paying Americans (though not to financial death) by means of bailouts, government contracts, and subsidies. 

  • Morilore

    And what do you think is causing this?  Because it sure looks like a basic feature of capitalism to me, which will always move in this direction unless policies specifically resisting it are enacted with “government force.”

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    I see no inherent reason for wealth to continuously move from the poorer to the richer in a capitalist society. 

  • histrogeek

     That’s the awesome thing about reality, you don’t have to see a reason for it to be true. Maybe there is no supreme abstract reason, BUT every time in the modern era (see 16th century land reforms, 19th century laissez-faire, 1920s trickle down, 1980s to present Reaganomics)  that restrictions are removed from the wealthy, the national wealth goes shooting upwards. Any economic gains in national terms ends up almost exclusively in the hands of the wealthy.

  • EllieMurasaki

    What mechanism prevents wealth from moving from the poor to the rich in a capitalist society, or makes sure that wealth moves from the rich to the poor just as freely as vice versa? Because the only things I can think of are called ‘paychecks’ and ‘taxes’, and the rich folk around here have put considerable effort into making sure the net wealth going into those two things is much smaller than the net wealth coming out of their recipients in the forms of loan interest and taxpayer-funded tax breaks and subsidies. So I don’t think they count.

  • Jim Roberts

    Then you are blind. Your question is the opposite of what it should be: what is the inherent reason why wealth should move continuously from the wealthy to the poor, or that the distribution of wealth should remain constant in a capitalist society? There is none, or at least none that is maintained by market forces.

    What reasons are there for wealth to continuously move from the poorer to the richer? Because the richer are better positioned and better able to take more than the poorer, and choose to do so.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    There is none, or at least none that is maintained by market forces.

    Nonsense. Competition between employers for workers is (mainly) that reason.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Competition between employers for workers

    Only applicable if there’s at least as many jobs as there are workers. If there’s a lot fewer jobs than workers, people will kill each other over that nickel. (Read Steinbeck sometime, it’s enlightening.)

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    At present, there are more unemployed than there are job openings. This is because wages need to drop (even more than they have already) so employers can afford to pay a greater number of employees. Thus, my first step to increasing the employment rate would be to abolish the minimum wage.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Because *one- to two-thirds of enough to live on* is *too much*?

    What in the FUCK.

    Spend a few months on minimum wage, Enopoletus, no other support except what you can persuade the government to give you (if your political views permit you to accept government aid), and then tell me minimum wage is too high. For bonus points, do this experiment on tipped employee minimum wage of $2.13/hr, not nontipped employee minimum wage of $7.25/hr.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    At present, there are more unemployed than there are job openings. This is because wages need to drop (even more than they have already) so employers can afford to pay a greater number of employees. Thus, my first step to increasing the employment rate would be to abolish the minimum wage.

    Sadly, even at the minimum wage we have now, it is difficult or impossible to meet living expenses even working full-time.  How do you propose fixing that?  

  • http://twitter.com/shay_guy Shay Guy

    They can already afford it. That’s not what’s stopping them. What’s stopping them is lack of demand — they don’t need more workers than they have, so they have no reason to hire more.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

     I thought

    Sadly, even at the minimum wage we have now, it is difficult or impossible to meet living expenses even working full-time. (FearlessSon)

    -It would certainly help an entrepreneur to make cheaper goods&services for the minimum-wage-employee demographic. Lowering the minimum wage will, all things being equal, lower the cost of goods and services for the minimum-wage-employee demographic. Thus, in this case, an expanding supply of goods&services would create its own demand.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I have a hundred widgets. Doesn’t matter what they are except that you don’t want one and couldn’t afford one if you did. Buy one?

    No?

    Now I have two hundred such widgets. Buy one?

    But the expanding supply creates its own demand, right? BUY ONE.

    …nope, can’t imagine why that isn’t working.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

     I’m talking about goods & services that are actually in demand. See my responses to Shay Guy.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Producing more food still doesn’t increase demand for food, even among hungry people, if nobody can AFFORD THE FUCKING FOOD.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Greater supply=lower price.
    (all things being equal)

  • EllieMurasaki

    Lower price != increased demand WHEN NOBODY HAS MONEY BECAUSE FUCKWITS LIKE YOU INSIST ON KEEPING MINIMUM WAGE BELOW POVERTY LINE.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

     In the case of something as basic as food, lower price probably does =increased demand.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You keep on telling yourself that. Meanwhile, wake up, smell the coffee, and realize that less expensive food, while good for those who have money for food, is a wash for those who don’t–and with slashed minimum wage or none at all, ‘those who don’t’ will be a whole hell of a lot more people than now. And it’s far too many now.

  • http://twitter.com/shay_guy Shay Guy

    Uh, that literally makes no sense. Food is a necessity. Everyone needs it. Lowering the price of food might decrease the proportion of their budget they have to commit to it, but they still need the same amount of food.

    Seriously, where is your economics coming from?

  • Lori

     

    Everyone needs it. Lowering the price of food might decrease the
    proportion of their budget they have to commit to it, but they still
    need the same amount of food.  

    Sadly, we have millions of people in this country who need more food than they have. Hidden hunger is a huge problem, especially amoung children. Some truly horrifying percentage of American kids are food insecure and spend at least part of their growing up years without enough to eat on a regular basis.

    There are many more people who have enough food, but it’s of poor quality. If the cost of higher quality food was lower they’d likely buy more of it.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Greater supply=lower price. (all things being equal)

    True, but that is not always a good thing. 

    Consider for a moment the Great Depression.  Industrial advances in agriculture and transportation, combined with massive land grabs and consolidation as the “taming of the west” was wrapping up, drove the prices of food way down.  Unfortunately, it drove the prices of food too far down.  Traditionally one makes ones product more appealing by undercutting one’s competitor’s prices, which the food distributes were doing.  However the combination of low prices with cheap products left so little profit margin that many farmers were going out of business.  They simply could not make enough money from their own produce to keep their farms operational.  In the end, there were people who were starving because food was too cheap to be worth selling.  

  • Consumer Unit 5012

      In the end, there were people who were starving because food was too cheap to be worth selling. 

    I think ‘offshoring’ has done the same thing to labor in this country.

  • http://twitter.com/shay_guy Shay Guy

    …Are you seriously pulling out Say’s law? Dude, that was debunked before my parents were alive.

  • The_L1985

     Do you live on the same planet Earth as the rest of us?  We already get cheaper goods than were available 30 years ago, in both the costs-less sense and the made-poorly-and-easily-broken sense.  Food also costs less than it ever has at any point in human history.

    The reason non-food goods are so fucking inexpensive is because we outsourced almost ALL of our manufacturing to China, where people work 16-hour days for maybe $2 a day.  We’re saving money by using what basically amounts to slave labor, but since we don’t have to actually see the slaves day in, day out, we are that much more blind to the horrible, horrible thing we are doing.

    I spend half of my monthly income on rent.  This is not an amount of money that would decrease if goods and services were less expensive.

    I spend $250 per year on my car registration.  This is not an amount of money that would decrease if goods and services were less expensive.

    And food in your supermarket already is as inexpensive as it can possibly GET.

  • Beroli

     

    This is because wages need to drop (even more than they have already) so
    employers can afford to pay a greater number of employees.

    And what would you suggest on Planet Earth, where most employers could perfectly well afford to pay their employees more than they do, but prefer to pocket as much of the profits as they can, and will respond to not being required to pay their workers as much by pocketing more than they currently are, not by hiring more people for the same net wages?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

     If employers could get even higher profits by selling cheaper goods or services by hiring more people to produce these goods or services, they would gladly do so.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Hiring more people = money goes out.

    Making same number of people do the work of more people = money comes in.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    If wages drop to market rates, money can, in some cases, actually come in (relative to the arrangement under the minimum wage) by hiring more people.

  • Wingedwyrm

    Your position assumes that employers want to, by nature, hire more than the minimum necessary number of employees.  This completely ignores the motivation behind hiring.  If more people have money, but all of them have signifigantly less money, that’s still people without enough money per person to be worth the investment to get to.  So, you stick to hiring enough people and keeping prices to the rate that will be the max-profit.

    Part of the reason that we are where we are is that prices aren’t set by the poorest or even necessarily by the middle class, but by what the wealthy are willing to pay.  And, they tend to be willing to pay more than people who, by reason of limited income, need to maintain low standards.

    Raising minimum wage would mean that more people have more money with which to purchase.  Thus, they would be able to purchase, thus giving business owners not only more income (good for struggling businesses) but also more *motivation* to hire.

    This, by the way, is backed up with an experiment known as The New Deal.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

     Most of the New Deal made the Depression worse. The bank holiday did prepare conditions for an economic recovery (whether sustainable or not), but I see no evidence that the minimum wage of the 1930s helped lead to recovery.

  • Wingedwyrm

    You see no evidence that a wider number of people with the funds to purchase provided any boost in hiring from people that now have reason to hire more people necessary to target a larger number of people capable of purchasing?

    I think that says pretty much everything about your economic philosophy.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding
  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Take out the word “Politically” and the title becomes a lot more accurate.

  • Lori

    Yeah, anything with the term “politically incorrect” in the title, at least in a non-ironic way, is pretty much guaranteed to be idiotic. The fact that there are people who do not realize this is distressing, but not surprising.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    It’s worse than that: The “Politically Incorrect Guide to X” is a line of books by Regnery specializing in parroting the libertarian-right party line. The company appears to be run by theocratic libertarians (who are pretty odd ducks) and, randomly, Pat Sajak (who is far too nice — and Canadian — to be so ultra-right). 

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regnery_Publishing
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Politically_Incorrect_Guide

  • Lori

     

    The “Politically Incorrect Guide to X” is a line of books by Regnery   

    This of course being the other big red flag waving in the breeze. I don’t think Regnery has ever put out anything that wasn’t trash.

  • http://snarkthebold.blogspot.com/ Edo

    It bears repeating that “politically incorrect” is PC for “asshole.”

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Have you read at least the Amazon preview?

  • P J Evans

     OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE.
    That is a lie. Talk to anyone who ACTUALLY LIVED THROUGH IT. If you can find one.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Dood, “market rates” are, what?  Five cents a day for an Indonesian ten-year-old?

  • AnonymousSam

    Employers are moving operations overseas where they can pay slaves a nickle a day to assemble electronics that they turn around and sell for hundreds of dollars here. What part of this benefits the slaves? What makes you think they don’t fully understand what kind of life they’re subjecting people to, and simply don’t care as long as it makes them more money?

    You’re banking on the goodness of their heart leading them to repay us for our generosity in laying down and letting them bury us.

    I’m looking at the fact that they employ slaves as all the argument I need for this to be bullshit and you to be full of the same.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

     “Slaves”? [citation needed]. I’m not banking on “the goodness of their heart”; I’m banking on their rational self-interest.

  • AnonymousSam
  • The_L1985

     Corporate self-interest IS NOT RATIONAL.  It literally does not extend beyond the next month or so.  This is a large part of the problem.

  • Lori

     

    I’m not banking on “the goodness of their heart”; I’m banking on their rational self-interest.   

    I do not think that means what you think it means.

    You need to just stop now.

  • The_L1985

     No they wouldn’t. We know this because if it were true, employers would already be hiring more people.

    Corporations are extremely short-sighted.  The CEOs of the world do not view their employees as people anymore, but as an expense to be cut as far as possible.  Hiring more people costs them money.  Duh.

  • P J Evans

     WTF kind of ‘logic’ is that?
    Do you really, serious, expect people to work for less money than they need to live on, so that the guys at the top can maintain their lifestyles?
    Do you even understand that minimum wage is less than poverty level?

  • Lori

     

    This is because wages need to drop (even more than they have already) so
    employers can afford to pay a greater number of employees.   

    Yes, employment is low because employers can’t afford more employees. The fact that corporate profits are at an all-time high is not part of this equation at all.

    We get it. You don’t know anything about how the economy actually functions. No need to continue to demonstrate.

  • The_L1985

     Wages need to DROP?  When the average Wal-Mart employee is already paid so little money that half of their income comes from welfare, so that they can actually survive, your solution is to LOWER wages?

    That is the most horrifyingly cruel and disgusting thing I’ve ever read, and I’ve read the fanfics My Immortal and HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.  We’re trying to solve problems here, not actively try to make them worse.

  • depizan

    This is because wages need to drop (even more than they have already) so
    employers can afford to pay a greater number of employees

    Who then have to work multiple jobs in order to live.  Wow, that solves everything.  Wait, no, that doesn’t help at all.  I’m gonna guess you’ve either never worked for a living or are fortunate enough not to be poor or anywhere close to it.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Nonsense. Competition between employers for workers is (mainly) that reason.

    Like Ellie said, that only happens when unemployment is very low or negative.  When unemployment is high, employers can afford to be very selective and offer very little incentives to applicants.  After all, there are other people waiting in line who would love to have that opportunity  and if someone insists on more they can just hire the next person with the same skills but lower standards.  It drives down all the averages for the people on the lower rungs of the ladder.  This kind of thing is why recovery is so slow, there is little incentive in the market forces themselves for employers to hire more people more quickly.  

    I suppose if a lot of potentially employable people engaged in a mass-suicide of sufficient magnitude to reduce the workforce to where employers would have to start competing for workers again that would solve the issue, but (and I am just speculating here) one would have a lot of difficulty convincing enough people to go along with this plan for the sake of the job market.  (e_e)

  • EllieMurasaki

    FearlessSon, next time you have the bright idea to suggest people commit suicide, TRIGGER WARNING THAT SHIT.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    FearlessSon, next time you have the bright idea to suggest people commit suicide, TRIGGER WARNING THAT SHIT.

    My apologies Ellie.  I thought my eye-roll was an indication that I was being facetious.   

  • EllieMurasaki

    I missed the eyeroll. It’d be beside the point anyhow. Suicide gets a trigger warning. Full stop.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    My intention was to describe more of a “Soylent Green” scenario.  But given that we have a representative democracy, I doubt many people would voluntarily vote for a policy that requires their death.  I apologize if that was unclear or triggering.  

  • EllieMurasaki

    “If” it was triggering? Didn’t I just tell you in so many words that yes it is fucking triggering? Fortunately for me, I’m in good mental health this month and I wasn’t triggered. I have been triggered by similar things before.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    With respect, the vehemence of your response was both unexpected and triggering to me (I would have put a tag if I did expect it.)  I will not share the thoughts that went through my head at that time for being another triggering issue, suffice to say that they were self-destructive in a manner that worries my family and my roommates.  

    Fortunately I too am in good enough mental health to keep it under wraps without hurting myself.  I hope we can agree that I spoke carelessly and that I apologize for doing so.  I pray you can accept that apology.  

  • EllieMurasaki

    Shit. Sorry. And your apology is accepted.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Thank you, I appreciate that.  I am genuinely sorry for triggering.  I have a lot of shame on my shoulders whether rightly or wrongly.  So when I realize I have done something shameful, well, the results are often upsetting to the people who care about me.  I do not want to inflict that on anyone else, so I regret the lapse in mindfulness.  

  • EllieMurasaki

    Since it clearly wasn’t deliberate, I would characterize it as ‘careless’, not as ‘shameful’.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Since it clearly wasn’t deliberate, I would characterize it as ‘careless’, not as ‘shameful’.

    Triggers are… not always rational, and my own sense of shame certainly is not.  Hence why I said “whether rightly or wrongly”.  Part of it is an impossibly high standard for behavior that, while I know is damaging and I cannot consistently meet, I cannot find myself able to disregard either, and I cannot help but feel like violations of those standards should carry the harshest possible punishment.  

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Are you the other person who’s ever seen “Whoops Apocalypse”!?

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Are you the other person who’s ever seen “Whoops Apocalypse”!?

    I have not but you are making me think that I should.  

  • Jim Roberts

    There can only be meaningful competition when there is a limited supply of workers. That isn’t a problem in most fields, and where it is a problem, the work can typically be outsourced.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I see no inherent reason for wealth to continuously move from the poorer to the richer in a capitalist society.

    The 1800s called, they want you back.

    Seriously, the structure of the capitalist economic system we employ in the West is not a natural phenomenon. It is maintained by a legal framework put in place as a consequence of political decisions that affect the distribution of wealth and income.

    Paul Krugman made this point quite well in one of his recent books. You would do well to read it.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Reality called. It’s really tired of the “out of control government spending” bullshit that only seems to matter when the person in the White House doesn’t have an R after their names.

    Especially in light of the fact that government spending and the debt have gone down under Obama, he’s signed several pieces of legislation that are due to lower it even more, and the people crying about the “out of control spending” are hypocritical Fucks who support it with abandon when they’re in charge, but right now are stonewalling everything that’s being tried to implement real fixes simply because they don’t like the scary black man that the country voted for. 

    Also, those of us who don’t like being pissed on by the rich would like you to take your fake concern and shove it up your ass. “Small government” is a lie. Nobody wants small government. They just want the government not doing things they don’t approve of. But, hey. Since you’re sitting comfy and don’t have to worry about stretching your paychecks, screw the rest of us right?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    As long as the U.S. government has a budget deficit, I shall call government spending “out of control”. I think a Democratic president with a Republican-controlled Congress is the best possible arrangement for the U.S. government to begin to get its spending in control.

  • Baby_Raptor

    You’re joking, right? On the entirety of your post…Hell, the majority of your posts.

    The government cannot be run like a household budget. There will *always* be some sort of deficit. It might not be as big as it is now, but there will always be one. Further, the deficit really isn’t anywhere near as important as the talking heads of the Right want you to think it is. It’s just a talking point they use to rile the base. 

    A Democrat president with a Republican Congress would just be more of what we have right now: Nothing getting done because a bunch of children are throwing fits that the other side of the aisle won’t let them completely screw the country. 

    And you’ve posted two completely contradictory statements RE the actual topic of the post: In your first comment you said you saw no reason to do anything about it, and further below you said you saw no reason to continue allowing it to happen. Make up your mind.

    And then there’s your statements that basically amount to bloody victim blaming…Remind me again where the magical remote is that forces politicians to vote the way their electors want them to once elected? And while you’re at it, find the one that stops the constant misinformation in the media, so the voting public is actually educated when they vote? Again, the Republicans are a perfect example. They ran on creating jobs, and are still whining about how Obama supposedly has done nothing to get people back to work, and yet what have they done in the states where they’re in power? Abortion bills, forcing Creationism into the classroom and busting unions. None of those creates jobs. In fact, they all actively *hurt* the economy. 

    Please…Just let the adults talk. You clearly have no idea how reality actually works. 

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

     Why, then, do some governments have budget surpluses? I see no reason for why the government cannot be run like a household budget. Gridlock makes a good climate for spending cuts-look at the sequester. Quotations from my comments, please. I see no contradictions in my comments. I see absolutely nothing in your last large block of text that even remotely relates to my comment. “Creating jobs” and “helping the economy” are not the same thing.

  • Beroli

     

    As long as the U.S. government has a budget deficit, I shall call government spending “out of control”.

    Such a typical right-wing attitude. The Department of Defense can have as much money as it says it needs; every other government department, we can do without.

    I see no inherent reason for wealth to continuously move from the poorer to the richer in a capitalist society.

    And yet we can observe it happening. So your argument is that capitalism is the ideal form of government because it works on paper (at least if you’re doing the calculations; I get different numbers m’self) and reality is unimportant. Looks familiar, somehow.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Such a typical right-wing attitude. The Department of Defense can have as much money as it says it needs; every other government department, we can do without.

    In fairness, there is a lot that the Department of Defense has determined it does not need, and recommends not adding any more of.  However, they are not the ones who control the budget, and their recommendations can get overruled and the military over-supplied.  Ostensibly the reasoning from those who vote to increase military spending is as a jobs stimulus, since a lot of those voting to over-supply the military have home districts that manufacture military hardware and thus those dollars come home.  

    However, the issue is that many of those same people who vote for increased military spending under the reasoning of stimulating jobs seem to think that any other kind of government jobs stimulus is not only ineffective, but immoral, the money siphoned off the makers given to the takers, etc.  

    I would have more sympathy for them if their outlook was not so myopic.  They see the benefits that the government spending brings to them, but they cannot see the benefit it brings to others and the economy in general.  Perhaps they see it as a zero-sum kind of thing, the government having a finite amount of resources and they want to absorb as much as possible.  However, letting the wealth be more widely distributed grows the economy as a whole, which in turn increases the total amount of government resources to distribute.  

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

     Not to worry; I support large cuts to the military as well. I see no reason for the U.S. government to have a long, large, and expensive military presence in Afghanistan unless it is fighting a war of conquest, which it isn’t.

  • Carstonio

    No one is proposing that we, say, use the military to seize mansions and private jets. There are plenty of things that government can and should do to halt rising income inequality.

    If you want to look at it pragmatically, halting the trend promotes greater social stability. Oligarchical societies become weak and unstable over time, as everything in the society becomes geared to propping up the tiny wealthy elite. These societies end up sacrificing intellectual life, scientific progress, robust economies, even military strength.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

     One’s knee-jerk response to rising wealth inequality should not be “there should be an intervention with the use of government force!”, but, rather, to question “what is causing this?”

    Fortunately, we know what’s causing rising inequality: a lack of government intervention!

    The top marginal tax rates are at an 80-year low. The capital gains tax rates are less than half the earned income tax rates. The corporate tax rates are similarly lower than individual income tax rates. Income over $113k is not subject to SSI taxes. 

    The IRS budget for enforcement is less than 5% of it’s total operations, and it’s being cut every year; because of legal costs and the ability to delay trials, it’s no longer cost-effective to prosecute tax cheats that are wealthy enough to afford lawyers. 

    The SEC has around 3,000 employees to track over 10,000 publicly traded stocks, and over 200,000 mutual funds. 

    The banking and finance industries were deregulated by the Glass-Segal act, and the Republicans have fought every effort at banking reform or oversight, including repeated attempts to kill the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Meanwhile, every session, Republicans make a push to repeal the Estate Tax even though that tax applies only to inheritances over $1M. 

     The matter of runaway government spending might become important within a few generations. 

    The matter of “runaway government spending” is, in all reality, an issue of runaway health care costs in general. Not just for the government, but for everyone. All of the pre-Obamacare projections for health care costs showed it to be utterly unsustainable. Conversely, once health care reform is implemented and costs controlled, the issue of government spending becomes a non-issue. 

    Meanwhile, the problem with income inequality is that when dis-empowered individuals accept that the structures of government no longer help them but instead work to keep them dis-empowered, you see a clear trend towards lawlessness. Look at Brazil in the 1980’s: the wealthy lived in walled-off fortresses, travelling in convoys with armed security guards because the only routes out of poverty were kidnapping, theft, and other violent crimes. A society that fails to benefit 99% of it’s population is doomed to an ugly, violent collapse. 

  • The_L1985

     We already KNOW what’s causing the inequality, and have for YEARS now.  Corporate greed is causing it.  Corporations systematically BREAK LABOR LAWS, and get away with it.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Greed exists both among the stockholders and the employees. “Corporate greed” is not an explanation. 

  • Jim Roberts

    Not sure I’m following you here – because those who have the power to abuse others by their greed aren’t the only greedy people, the greed of the powerful isn’t sufficient to explain why they’re greedy?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    My comment was a response to

    We already KNOW what’s causing the inequality, and have for YEARS now. Corporate greed is causing it.
    -The_L1985

  • Jim Roberts

    Yes, and that is, in fact, what’s causing it. People in power – corporate power – realized that they could take more, and more than they needed, at the expense of others. That’s greed. And then they did so. And, so, inequitable distribution of wealth.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    As I have already stated, the fact greed is universal makes this explanation untenable and ridiculous. In any case, it is impossible to get rid of greed. What is “need”?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Greed is not universal–some people do actually know what ‘enough’ means, and are content with enough, or seek more only in order to get to enough. Power is most certainly not universal, and it’s greed plus the power to acquire wealth that’s dangerous.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

     Thank you for clarifying.

  • arcseconds

    Yes indeed.

    However, while not universal in the sense that everyone is really greedy, it does seem universal in the sense that there’s always going to be a few individuals around that are going to do their best to climb any ladder that happens to be around.

    That can be minimized by having it run against social expectations (rather than kind of with social expectations).  The impact can be minimized by getting rid of ladders or reducing their height. 

    Also, corporations are functionally limitlessly greedy.

    But here’s the rub.   Hobbes’s best argument for the state of nature being all against all is not that everyone is naturally inclined to gain as much power as they can for its own sake, but rather in a condition where it’s reasonable to believe that at least some people really are out to get you, you need to acquire power simply for your own protection.

    Which I think is somewhat similar to the situation we’re in.  Society allows corporations to practically do as they please, which means we get hammered.   We are going to have to seek power to change this, and this is inevitably going to be attractive to people who want power and control.

    That’s always been a problem for political movements. 

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     I was just thinking about how Wall Street needs to be destroyed.

    When a corporation goes public-traded, its driving motivation changes from ‘survive, make goods/services’ to ‘MAXIMIZE SHAREHOLDER VALUE’.  And the price of stock has only a vague relationship to the actual health of the company, but it’s the driving motivator behind every decision the CEO makes.  So stock corporations are legally REQUIRED to act like greed-crazed psychopaths.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    I see no reason to worry about rising wealth inequality.

    Hah! That’s the funniest thing I’ve read all week. Thanks for the laugh. For your next act, can you do “let them eat cake”?

  • Runnadaroad

    Runaway government spending?  Government spending which has gone down as a portion of GNP over the last 10 years?  Which in the US runs about 22% of GNP where other civilized nations tend to run up to 40%?  How about the fact that the top 1% has taken for themselves 12o some % of the increase of the productivity of labor over the past decade…while impoverishing the workers themselves–driving wages down?

    Do you find nothing to be concerned about when the Walton family (who inherited & did not build the company) reap billions in profits from the largest and most profitable business while their AVERAGE (not their lowest paid but the AVERAGE) Walmart employee typically feeds her family on Food Stamps and if her child gets sick can only take him for treatment with Medicaid’s assistance?  Do you really find nothing to be concerned about?

  • histrogeek

     Rising income inequality is sustainable. It’s called feudalism and our lords have been busy putting the instruments in place to insure their feudal rule for some time now.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    America is a democracy. If it has lords, it’s the majority’s fault for placing them into positions of power. 

  • histrogeek

     No disagreement here. Trouble is when the serfs start to get wise to their plight, the lords insist that their “rights” to bleed their workers white trumps the right of the majority to rule themselves.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    America is a democracy. If it has lords, it’s the majority’s fault for placing them into positions of power. 

    I agree with you on this point.  It does make me go “What were these voters thinking?” when they elect a “lord” who is going to screw them over. When a person runs on a platform of “Everyone for themselves, no one tells others what to do, and let the chips fall where they may come hell or highwater,” then is anyone surprised that they enact policies that benefit them and their friends at the expense of other people they do not care about?  

  • EllieMurasaki

    Wait wait what? Who elected the Koch brothers to anything?

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Wait wait what? Who elected the Koch brothers to anything?

    This, exactly.

    Another thing that desperately needs to be done is to remove the inordinate amount of power rich people have over elections. I’m not sure how to do this — figuring it out will take professional analysts, I think. I like the idea of completely removing campaign contributions altogether, and having a certain percentage of ad space set aside for campaigns instead, but really I don’t know how it would work.

    One important thing, though: enforce the laws. All the laws. A rich person should not be allowed to get away with stealing millions of dollars when a poor person can’t get away with stealing a hundred. And white collar crimes on a large scale should have serious jail time in maximum security prison, along with (maybe more importantly) actually taking away the stolen money from the criminals, as well as anything else they’ve gotten because of said stolen money, and an extremely hefty fine based on percentage of wealth. They’ve ruined the lives of hundreds of people; justice and practicality both demand an accounting.

  • Carstonio

    I believe that prison facilities should be only for offenders whose crimes indicate that they pose a physical danger to others. While it might be rewarding to see the Bernie Madoffs do hard time, I think the interests of society would be better served if they simply had their fortunes taken away instead, partly to pay back their victims. Perhaps if they had to work late-night shifts at 7-Elevens to support themselves.

  • P J Evans

    No more settlements that don’t require admission of wrongdoing, or small fines for actual crimes. Because those businesses will never learn to not do those things.

  • Jim Roberts

    This. A choice between the guy who cozies up to the Koch brothers in private and in public and a guy who cozies up to the Koch brothers in private and excoriates them in public is, functionally, not a choice.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Wait wait what? Who elected the Koch brothers to anything?

    People who do not educate themselves on politicians’ lists of campaign contributors   Look for the largest sources of funding in their campaign, and trace the money back to their controlling interest.  If most of their money comes from big “dark” sources which do not report their contributors  take that as a bad sign.  

    The politicians are just the representatives of those interests, and the public needs to look beyond the figurehead to the people standing behind the throne.  Further, the public needs to continue to demand that there is no curtain behind that throne for the other figures to hide behind.  

  • other lori

    It is long past time for “worrying” about this. We should have been worried about growing wealth inequality for the last four decades, but we weren’t. Now, I have no idea what we can do. There are so many problems so entangled up with each other that truly radical, systematic changes are needed, but political power is so tied up in the hands of the few who are benefiting from the system that they won’t willingly make those changes. 

    Maybe I’m just cynical, but I think, at this point, things are going to just have to play out. The system is unsustainable, and at some point in the near future, things will collapse, and then we’ll be forced to change. 

  • http://snarkthebold.blogspot.com/ Edo

    Maybe I’m just cynical, but I think, at this point, things are going
    to just have to play out. The system is unsustainable, and at some point
    in the near future, things will collapse, and then we’ll be forced to
    change.

    Maybe. But if it’s cynicism, it’s my cynicism too.

    Fixing America in a timely manner is as hard as reforming the Vatican, for roughly the same reasons: power stratified enough that no low-tier action can reach high enough. Authority so concentrated that approaching it involves a lifelong commitment that makes you, and everything you do, complicit and accessory to the very problems that moved any would-be reformer to commit in the first place – with absolutely no guarantee that it’ll ever pay off, or that you’ll still care by the time you get a chance. And shepherds at the top who simply do not care about the complaints of the sheep they’re screwing, even if those complaints are oddly in human language.

    This is a time for prophetic language because the contracts/covenants that bind Above to Below are no longer in effect, and when Above and Below go separate ways the world comes apart.

  • http://Yamikuronue.wordpress.com/ Yamikuronue

    I recommend mass rioting. It’s a lot harder to focus on building your personal fortune when your stores are burning to the ground and your customers are being arrested en masse.

  • P J Evans

     The people with the wealth aren’t the ones with stores that can be burned, they’re the ones with corporations: banks and oil companies, for example.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Yeah, turn America into the late 90s/early 2000s DRC or early 90s Somalia. That will work wonders for the economy.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    There are two serious problems with riots: 1) They end up hurting the wrong people. 2) They give the government an excuse to double down on oppression. 

    Mass civil protests are a good idea. Sit-ins. Flooding government offices with petitions. And, more than anything else in this country, getting people to vote at every single election. We need to make voting very very easy for everyone, and we need to make it illegal not to vote. 

  • http://snarkthebold.blogspot.com/ Edo
  • stardreamer42

    Heavy taxes on outsourcing jobs and manufacturing overseas. Tax breaks for creating American jobs that are not minimum-wage service-sector positions.  Higher taxes on corporate income which is not reinvested into the company — and by “reinvested”, I don’t mean buying stock, I mean capital improvements. Return to the income-tax structure as it stood at the end of the Reagan administration.

    We’ve had 40 years’ worth of proof that “trickle-down” does no such thing; the money just keeps piling up and up and up at the top. Let’s give them a clear-cut choice: “Either YOU invest your money in America, or WE will.” And the only way to do that is by government intervention, because they don’t recognize anything else.

  • The_L1985

     Why stop at Reagan-era taxes?  I want the income-tax structure to be the way it was in the Eisenhower administration.

    It speaks volumes that the Republicans only want to bring back the aspects of the 50’s that sucked (racism, sexism, homophobia, tactless displays masquerading as Christian piety) and not those that would actually make life better.

  • The_L1985
  • stardreamer42

    I won’t argue with you about that. However, invoking Reagan is turning their own Magic Word against them. If things were so great during the Reagan era, what’s wrong with returning to that tax structure?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Insert rant about how Obama’s political positions are similar to Reagan’s…or rather, what Reagan’s actually were in office, not what Reagan’s are now he’s dead…

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    You have to be careful to say prior to 1986.

  • Magic_Cracker

    One’s knee-jerk response to rising wealth inequality should not be “there should be an intervention with the use of government force!”

    Why not? What other institution or organization has the financial ability and legal authority to do it? Should we just call up Robin Hood and ask for some wealth redistribution?

    …but, rather, to question “what is causing this?”

    What is causing it is that a caste of takers (who imagine that they are makers) have captured government and skewed the laws, regulations, and enforcement thereof to favor passive income (carried interest, capital gains) over work income with the concomitant effect of defunding the physical and social infrastructure that allows people to escape poverty or maintain a middle class lifestyle without borrowing money from that same caste of takers.

  • Le Sigh…

    Just be careful not to mix up inequalities of wealth with inequalities of income.  The video, at least to me, isn’t really clear on which it is describing as the major problem.  One way to deal with severe wealth inequality is to lower taxes on income, making it easier for people to acquire wealth.  By contrast, higher, progressive  income taxes can help to lower income inequality by redistributing income and by deterring exorbitant salaries.  

    Honestly, the fact that the richest X percent have disproportionate amounts of “wealth” isn’t really that troublesome to me.  It seems like it would have to be true almost by definition (if they didn’t own a larger share of the nations wealth, than how would they be wealthier?).  Even if it wasn’t, whether or not someone has inhereted money and owns more things seems easy to blunt through other laws regulating behavior (like you can’t discriminate when you hire people for the company you own, or you can’t  kick people out of the building you own because you don’t like their politics.)

    Extreme income inequality, on the other hand, does actually seem to strike at the heart of the system, and of fairness. If the top 1% make 50% of the income, then that means they will be vastly disproportionate in shaping how society is ordered and what gets built and made and sold.  It also means that the bottom 99% will have less of a chance to actually accumulate things like tangible wealth or invest in the training and capital they need to increase their income.

  • EllieMurasaki

    if they didn’t own a larger share of the nations wealth, than how would they be wealthier?

    The wealthiest twenty percent of the country would, if they only owned thirty percent of the wealth, still be wealthier than any other twenty percent of the country. That wouldn’t be a problem. The problem is that the top ONE percent of the country owns FORTY percent of the wealth.

  • http://twitter.com/upsidedwnworld Rebecca Trotter

    What difference does it make if it’s income or other forms of wealth? Money is money. If a very small number of people have enough money to buy the government, control the terms of employment for the rest of us and otherwise bend the system to their will, it makes not one bit of difference if they are using income from working, from investments, from inherited wealth or lottery winnings or whatever to do it!

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    What difference does it make if it’s income or other forms of wealth? Money is money.

    Not necessarily.  Not all income is liquid and able to be parlayed into influence or other things.  For example, if my parents were to liquidate all their assets, they would be millionaires, but only just.  However, that would also mean giving up their home (which they lived in for over three decades, invested a lot in to expand and make more comfortable, and raised two children in) and their investments (which are long-term, low but guaranteed return ones) and somehow remove all the money they saved and put into trust funds for retirement or their children’s education.  

    They have a lot of wealth tied up in various worthwhile places, but their income is still pretty strictly middle class, and they had to work pretty long hours and have an austere lifestyle while I was growing up just to get what built-up wealth they do have.  It helps that they were finance-savvy and had the opportunities they did to build assets for the future, but unfortunately such opportunities are not as easy to come by these days.  

  • http://twitter.com/upsidedwnworld Rebecca Trotter

    Raise minimum wage and peg it to inflation, of course.

    Impliment a small fee on every stock purchase/sale. Mark Cuban claimed a while back that something as small as a penny would change market dynamics away from a casino ethos towards longer term investment.

    Simplify the tax code so that different amounts of money made get taxed at every increasing rates. So maybe the first 25k is tax free. 25k to 45k gets taxed at 3%. Set the top tax rate as something like 70% on income earned over 10 million. Treat all income – investment, earned, inherited, etc the same. Set a formula to adjust the income thresholds according to changing cost indexes or inflation or something. Then get this formula passed as a constitutional amendment. Take the power to change it away from the politicians.

    Set term limits which can be overridden by obtaining a super-majority of the popular vote. This will increase turn-over, make it less profitable for money interests to invest heavily in sitting politicians and encourage politicians to be more responsive to their constituency. A more responsive, less stagnant political body would probably encourage more people to participate as well. Right now a lot of people don’t care because they rightly believe their vote doesn’t matter and that politicians answer to the people with money – not them.

    Remove the income threshold on Social Security contributions. This would do away with long-term solvency issues.

    Activists could also start a certification program for businesses that want to be certified as practicing policies which fight rather than contribute to inequality. They could set standards for best practices and businesses would open their books for examination for things like the differences between the highest and lowest compensated employees, having decent sick leave and maternity policies in place, etc. Companies that met the standards would be able to advertise their certification. It would be like what we do with coffee, seafood and wood already.

    Reform business taxes so that they pay less for employing people and more for cash kept in reserve above a certain percentage of income.

    Use business taxes rather than property taxes to fund schools. Funding should be set at the state level rather than locally with allowances for different levels of services required by different populations. If parents in wealthy areas want more for their kids, they can organize together to make that happen outside of school rather than creating super schools a few miles away from schools without playgrounds.

    After WWII, the US made a priority of training large numbers of mental health specialists to deal with the exploding mental health problems of veterans. We need to do this again with the goal of providing mental health services to people living in high risk environments. In some urban areas of this country, it is estimated that 40% of residents have PTSD. People with PTSD have a harder time obtaining an education, parenting, keeping a job and all the rest. Obviously, there are economic and structural problems, but healthy people can often find ways to create opportunities for themselves. We need to take people’s mental health issues more seriously.

    Oh – and ban sitting politicians and their families from investing while in office. No stock purchases. No business investments. Their financial world gets frozen while in office.

  • Magic_Cracker

    But requiring my employer to pay me a living wage robs me of my freedom to take a starvation wage instead!

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    If your market wage is a “starvation wage”, you would certainly become unemployed if a “living wage” was required.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Do you seriously not see the problem with requiring people to earn a maximum of *not enough to pay all three of food, rent, and transportation*? Never mind all the nonessentials such as toilet paper, clothes, and health care…

  • AnonaMiss

     

    If your market wage is a “starvation wage”, you would
    certainly become unemployed if a “living wage” was
    required.

    /facepalm

    OK let’s describe this in market terms

    Corporation
    A makes $100m gross. $20m of that is profit, which is paid out to high
    management and shareholders. Of the remaining $80m, $10m goes to paying
    starvation wages to the required employees. The company already runs on a
    skeleton crew, after decades of streamlining to eke out as much as
    profit as they can manage.

    The government
    doubles the minimum wage. Assume for the purposes of
    this exercise that none of the jobs are outsourceable.

    Is
    Corporation A going to fire half of its workforce, in order to keep its
    personnel expenses even? No! It’s already running on a
    skeleton crew. If it loses any more employees, it will be unable to
    function anymore and produce its goods/services. It will pay its
    employees out of what were formerly profits. Shareholders and high-level
    executives will be annoyed, but the low-level employees will no longer be starving. Which is rather more important.

    Corporation
    A’s profits will go down, yes; but as you might have heard,
    corporate profits recently reached an all-time high
    in the US. So I’m not super worried about the major corporations.

  • Kirala

     Yeah, my school system fired a bunch of people a few years back when the budget was cut “to save money”. Funnily enough, they had to recreate those positions the following year – because those positions were needed. It ended up costing the system many experienced, formerly loyal teachers for whom this was the last straw. (It can be so hard convincing someone you’ve fired to come back.)

    But they don’t add extra positions when the budget increases. They add shiny iPads for executive staff. Teaching positions are added when there are 45 students to one teacher. Janitorial positions are added when the trash is overflowing. Secretarial positions are added… actually, pretty much never. It’s one secretary per school, period.

    … Okay, there are plans to use the iPads in ways that might mean it’s a wise investment rather than a luxury. But the point is, the money goes to labor if and only if circumstances demand, not because circumstances allow.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

     This is one of the few comments I have seen here that actually try to make sense. However, it must be remembered that it is not the rate of profit that matters to a business, but total profit in units of currency. Thus, if there is incentive for Corporation A to expand production by hiring more workers (which there probably is, if people who cannot afford its products exist), it would probably do so.
    Also, a minimum wage might make Corporation A less competitive globally.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So what is your explanation for Costco making more profit per employee than Walmart while paying considerably more wages per employee than Walmart?

  • AnonaMiss

    EH, please understand: the point which my example was getting at has been made by others a number of times already in these comments. The reason why you perceive the others as not “actually try[ing] to make sense,” I suspect, is that you and I have similar cultural backgrounds, and so I can reach out and make my points using conventions you’re comfortable with.

    To some of the people in these threads, your arguments are counter to everything they have ever experienced. If someone came into a thread about stop signs and began to argue that stop signs are, in fact, green, it would probably be difficult for the majority of the thread to speak to his objections in a way that he would understand. It would probably take someone with experience with colorblindness to make any sense at all to him.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Then how did you get the job in the first place?

    Employers don’t employ people out of the goodness of their hearts. THey employ them because they need the job done. If they can do without you, they’ll fire you now rather than pay you a starvation wage.

    Employers already don’t employ any more people than the absolute minimum number of people required to do the work they have. If they fired all their underpayed employees, the work would not get done.  If they could do the work without those people, they wouldn’t have hired them in the first place.

    Businesses don’t say “Well, I only need 100 employees, but I’ll hire 150 and pay that last 50 of them less than a living wage,” they say “I only need 100 employees, so I’ll hire 100 employees and see if I can get away with paying them less than a living wage.”

  • depizan

    If your market wage is a “starvation wage”, you would certainly become unemployed if a “living wage” was required.
    Huh.  So that would magically eliminate the need for food service workers, janitors, retail sales associates, warehouse workers, day care workers, etc, etc?  I wonder how restaurants, retail outlets, and all would work then?  Or would they all just close their doors, leaving us in a world without those services?

    Or, far more likely, they’d suck it up and pay their staff a little more.  Would some people be laid off?  Possibly.  Though most minimum wage employers get by on having as few employees as possible already, so I suspect most people would remain employed.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

     I love how this whole argument is going on while Costco is posting record profits and bragging about how well it pays its employees.

    There is nothing more expensive to any company than a disgruntled employee.

  • depizan

    Yet, strangely, Costco is one of the few places that actually seems to realize this.

    Though I do feel good about shopping at Costco when I can.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

     It wouldn’t eliminate the need; it would just lower their number. Restrictions on labor and capital flow prevent single market wages from becoming universal.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

     And again, what evidence do you have for this other than citing ideas from your butt? 

    San Francisco has a living wage higher than the rest of the US and a lower unemployment rate, though according to you, they shouldn’t.

    Costco is posting profits in average of $10,000 per employee, over Walmart’s average of $7400, even though Costco pays an average salary of $45,000/yr, provide health insurance and is unionized.  HOW?? 

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

     All my remarks on prices and price controls are with an implied or explicit “all things being equal”. All things are never equal.

  • EllieMurasaki

    In other words, all your remarks are wrong. Or, at best, rough approximations of reality that may be vastly different from reality depending on the variables you haven’t taken into account.

    Why are you making your remarks, then?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    It is legitimate to say “all things being equal, smoking increases one’s risk of lung cancer” when this is, at best, a rough approximation of reality that may be vastly different from reality depending on variables not taken into account.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You say that as though these things are equivalent somehow. How do you come by that impression?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Wait, no, I think I understand. Paying one’s employees shit increases one’s likelihood of high profits, and the fact that Costco makes better profits than Walmart while paying its employees more is an outlier, just as someone who smokes a pack a day and never develops respiratory problems is an outlier.

    Do I have it right?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Yes.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The thing is, they’re still not equivalent. We know the mechanism by which cigarette smoke causes respiratory problems. By what mechanism does paying starvation wages increase societal benefit, unless societal benefit is measured solely in terms of the bank account balances of the richest single percentage point (or tenth of a percentage point) of society’s members? To whom the good of people, y’know, starving, while there’s more than enough resources to make sure everyone’s fed?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Something I’m curious about, Enopoletus:

    For what reason does or should one work? Is it solely for individual benefit, or for one’s household’s benefit, or for one’s society’s benefit, or two of the three, or all three? If only one or two, which ones? How do you define the benefit(s) in question?

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

     OK then, so we can both agree that you are here talking out your ass about “hypotheticals” when there are actual consequences to the bullshit your spouting in the lives in actual people.  

    Yes, things are not equal.  Know why?  That runaway income inequality you’re SO unconcerned about.  The regulatory capture by the FIRE industries, allowing them to run amok playing Monopoly with OUR pensions, OUR safety nets, OUR infrastructure repairs, OUR educations.  The rightward drift of both political parties that now makes Richard fucking Nixon more liberal than our “Mooslim Soshalist” president. 
     

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceteris_paribus
    Learn to understand phrases in their context before typing comments showing your misunderstanding of them. Do you deny that single variables are important?
    I have never called Obama a Muslim, and if he is a socialist, he has certainly acted like a reluctant one.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

     Oh, I understood your context, I was doing this thing, called “a play on words”, because the whole conversation with you started because you stated your unconcern over inequality. 

    And I’m glad you’ve never called Obama a Muslim and understand he is not a socialist, because I was being facetious, demonstrating the cognitive dissonance exemplified by many people who share your positions.  If the shoe doesn’t fit you stop trying to wear it. 

  • depizan

    Restrictions on labor and capital flow prevent single market wages from becoming universal.
    What does this sentence mean in English?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    What does this sentence mean in English?

    FWIW, I understood it to mean that because people and stuff can’t move from place to place without transport/opportunity costs and other “friction”, they cost different things from place to place.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    That’s actually true.

    What Empoletus is getting at is that governments which keep people from easily entering or leaving the country, as well as keeping money from easily entering or leaving the country, can change the market for capital and labor to its advantage.

    Of course for folks like Empoletus that’s BAD, because it means intefering with the almighty free market in the form of immigration quotas, a minimum wage, requirement to report $10000+ of currency in or out, transfer taxes on money moving in and out, and so forth.

  • fredgiblet

    All of the above.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

     Some good here (“Implement a small fee on every stock purchase/sale”‘, “Oh – and ban sitting politicians and their families from investing while
    in office. No stock purchases. No business investments. Their financial
    world gets frozen while in office.”), some bad (“Raise minimum wage and peg it to inflation”). http://www.aei-ideas.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/minwage1.jpg

  • http://twitter.com/shay_guy Shay Guy

    Except it doesn’t work that way. There’s no actual evidence that raising the minimum wage to $9 or $10 an hour will increase unemployment, and people have studied that quite a bit.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    There is no need for studies here-there are often too many variables in economics for studies to be of any use in many situations. In any case, some empirical evidence does suggest that a state minimum wage higher than the Federal one does increase teen umemployment: http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2013/02/i-get-empirical-on-minimum-wage.html

  • EllieMurasaki

    Who gives a fuck about TEEN unemployment? I am perfectly fine with paying TEENS (whose income is not supplementing the household income) less than the minimum wage applicable to eighteen-pluses. It’s adults trying to support themselves on the minimum wage, or, worse, adults trying to support *families* on the minimum wage, that concern me.

  • The_L1985

    TEEN unemployment.  As in, the kind that doesn’t generally cause people to starve to death.

    I do not give a rat’s ass about whether or not a suburban 17-year-old can get a part-time job to pay for plastic jewelry or pop music or whatever it is that kids spend their money on these days.  I care far more for the 18-to-65-year-old unemployed people, and for the already-employed people who can’t afford to eat.

    Besides, 14-to-16-year-olds don’t have to be paid minimum wage, and 16-to-18-year-olds aren’t allowed to work during school hours, so it’s not like you can really argue that this is a vital need for the sake of the economy or something.

  • P J Evans

     Raising the minimum wage might even increase employment levels. Because people would have money to spend, instead of having to decide which bills they can pay this month.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

     Doubtful. Though the minimum wage certainly has an effect on the purchasing power of particular employees, I don’t see how it can increase the purchasing power of the employee class as a whole.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Interestingly enough, the employee class tends to be made up of employees. Affect enough employees, and the employee class will be affected.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Yes; it could also drive some employees out of the labor force. 

  • depizan

    Deird: Interestingly enough, the employee class tends to be made up of
    employees. Affect enough employees, and the employee class will be
    affected.

    You: Yes; it could also drive some employees out of the labor force.

    Is that a pretty euphemism for kill them?  Because that’s what it sounds like.  On account of people already struggle and work multiple jobs to make ends meet – even when working for somewhat more than minimum wage.

  • http://twitter.com/shay_guy Shay Guy

    Uh, because lots of people work live on minimum wage?

  • The_L1985

    That’s because you know absolutely nothing about economics.

    …You’re 15 years old, aren’t you?  That’s the only reason I can think of for you to be so naively trusting of corporate CEOs and so concerned with unemployment rates among teenagers.

  • Figs

     I agree with most of what you said, but how would term limits with the option of a popular vote supermajority to override possibly be workable? If the incumbent doesn’t get 60% of the vote, then what, the other guy just wins?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Say term limit twelve years for US Senate. A senator therefore cannot run for a third Senate term, unless a supermajority (of the registered voters, not of the people who vote) say she can in a special election occurring sometime in the declare-candidacy period for the election for that third term.

  • http://twitter.com/upsidedwnworld Rebecca Trotter

    I’m not sure if it would have to go to a run off or what. But actually, just letting the other guy win might be the best solution. It would make it risky to try and hang onto office without really solid backing of your constituents. And that guy would either have to step up and win over the people or be booted next time around. Or what if the ballot was a two question deal. First question being whether you want the person currently in office to remain in office. Second question if the person in office is not re-elected with a super-majority, which of the following candidates get your vote. It would create a situation where one party might have both an encumbant and a challenger on the ticket. But again, it would encourage those without the support to get out.

    I haven’t thought it through completely, but the weakness of term limits is that they can have the effect of forcing effective people with valuable experience out of office. And they can also encourage very short term thinking – “let’s do as much as we can, while we can.” So, I think that the combination of term limits with a way for someone who is really doing a solid job to stay on longer is a good idea. It seems like we should be able to figure out the logistics with a little thought.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Impliment a small fee on every stock purchase/sale. Mark Cuban
    claimed a while back that something as small as a penny would change
    market dynamics away from a casino ethos towards longer term investment.

    This idea I like.

    Set term limits which can be overridden by obtaining a super-majority of the popular vote.

    This idea I don’t.  If this existed, Ronald Reagan’s Festering Corpse would STILL be President.

  • Lori

     

    This idea I don’t.  If this existed, Ronald Reagan’s Festering Corpse would STILL be President.   

    Nope. Blessed St Ronnie did not get a super majority in either of his elections. He was under 51% in 80 and under 59% in 84. (Obama out-performed him in popular vote percentage.)

  • AnonymousSam

    Given that the biggest stock traders use supercomputers to perform hundreds of trades per second, that would have interesting effects on the stock market. They rely on making money incrementally with thousands of seemingly inconsequential trades.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-6936075.html

  • Don Gisselbeck

    If the members of predator class work as hard as an average goat farmer, they should make as much. As for “solutions”, microdrones in the hands of an enraged under class will probably make short work of these feudal lords in a decade or so.

  • Quixote

    Everything Rebecca Trotter said above.  Also:

    1) Break up “too big to fail” corporations.  If they’re too big to fail, they’re too big to allow to live.

    2) Companies that break the law should have their profits from the law-breaking period confiscated.  Take away the incentive to break the law.

    3) Make sure that Federal prosecutors have the resources to accomplish #1 and #2.

    4) Bring back the New Deal (with modern improvements).  There’s a lot of infrastructure that needs fixing/replacing.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Something I’d love to see happen as part of a revamped Works Progress Administration: making ALL THE THINGS accessible. Transcripts of video and audio, so that visually-impaired people can consume the videos and hearing-impaired people can consume the audio. Image descriptions, see also visual impairment. Sidewalks that don’t go bumpity such that wheeled conveyances have to go in the street. Sidewalks at all, in some places. Ramps and/or elevators as applicable to allow mobility-impaired people access to places that can only be got to by stairs. List goes on and on and on. I imagine these done by federal funding to state and local governments and to businesses already required to be ADA-compliant, with strings on the money so that it must be used to hire new people to make and keep the institution accessible in all these ways that go beyond the remit of the ADA. (Unless the ADA already requires them and just doesn’t have an enforcement mechanism? If so, what shitbrain wrote that law?)

    And while we’re at it, a public education campaign, including but not limited to how to HTML for maximum accessibility.

  • The_L1985

    The sidewalk thing is a bigger deal than many people realize.  I have lived in many neighborhoods over the years, for people with income levels varying from “low end of the working class” to “pretty darn wealthy,” but until I was 22, I had never lived in a neighborhood with sidewalks, nor did I have any friends who lived in a neighborhood with sidewalks.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Like #s 2 and 3, agree with #1 (though simply allowing too-big-to-fail businesses to break themselves during crises up is even easier).

  • Ethics Gradient

    Set the capital gains tax rates  to the same as income tax (or even income tax plus payroll tax rates). Make inheritance tax as least as aggressive as the highest rates its had in the past 50 years. NEVER contemplate allowing ‘tax holidays’ for the rich, or corporations, to repatriate money from abroad – these are just temporal loopholes, giving them a year to move around money they’ve been hoarding overseas, and they won’t suddenly start paying tax on it in future years out of the goodness of their hearts. Any time a tax accountant has the chance to plan for an upcoming rule change, they will do so to screw the IRS out of revenue. It’s their job, and they do it for wealthy people.

  • AnonymousSam

    Things like this are one of those really big neon-red glowing signs that this is anything but a Christian nation.

     Proverbs 21:13 Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.

    Proverbs 22:16 One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich–both come to poverty.

  • Lori

    As long as the U.S. government has a budget deficit, I shall call government spending “out of control”.  

    Shorter  Enopoletus Harding: I know nothing and no one should waste any time on my comments.

  • banancat

    We should have a 90 percent federal income tax for anything above 75k that doesn’t come directly from productive labor. Normal salaries could still be taxed at current rates, even for CEOs and the like, but any income that isn’t directly from a job would be subject to this tax, including inheritance, interest on investments, bonuses, etc.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Just to be clear, a consequence of this would be that you wouldn’t be able to pass your house to your children.

  • The_L1985

     Inheritance taxes have already existed in this country, and weren’t abolished until the GWB administration.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    And those were “a 90% federal income tax on anything over $75k”?

  • The_L1985

     I seem to recall that non-monetary inheritance isn’t subject to income tax.  Under the old inheritance tax, however, you were taxed for anything you inherited beyond $5 million.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    I seem to recall that non-monetary inheritance isn’t subject to income tax.

    That would be most unlikely. It certainly isn’t the case in any inheritance tax system I’m aware of.

    Under the old inheritance tax, however, you were taxed for anything you inherited

    Which isn’t the system Ross was criticising.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    It requires a policy response — steps that citizens must demand and elected officials must implement. It also calls for a moral response — this is something that prophets, preachers and pundits need to be condemning. And it calls for a cultural response — from storytellers, artists, songwriters, jesters and clowns.

    I thought that Occupy Wall Street was one such response.  And it did succeed in bringing wealth disparity into the public conversation.  Unfortunately, once the protests got eventually kicked out by fed up city officials pressured by moneyed interests uneasy at the extra attention, the issue gradually faded from the public discourse, so that the wealthy interests could focus on what matters to them instead: knocking down any future threats to their continued monopoly on capital.  

  • AnonymousSam

    Self-demonstrating article: http://thinkprogress.org/education/2013/03/08/1691491/kansas-republicans-wants-to-cut-college-aid-for-the-poor-to-pay-for-more-tax-breaks/

    Short form: Kansas governor calls for elimination of college savings plan for poor families to pay for tax cuts to rich families.

  • SergeantHeretic

    Austerity doesn’t work. Deficit fretting doesn’t work. deregulation doesn’t work all three  things actually HURT the national economy and PREVENT prosperity and economic growth.

    The kinds of people who fret over the supposedly dire national debt are the kinds of people who do not understand how national economies work. We can watch in real time as these deficit fretters dismantle and destroy the national economy and cause recessions, depressions, and everything that goes with it and then pat themselves on the back because they’re “Being tough” and “Doing the responsible thing” and “Making the tough calls.”

    The resultant flaming wreckage that was once a national economy is then blamed on “Someonelsenotthemwhomadethemessdon’tblamethem”

    And what are the things they want to do to “Fi” the mess caused by austerity, economic lawlessness by deregulation and deficit fretting?”

    Why, funny you should ask,

    tHEY WANT TO ELIMINATE ASUTERITY AND DEFICIT FRETTING AND DEREGULATION.

    ARRRRGGGGGHHHHH!

  • fredgiblet

    I think making it illegal to not vote is just as dangerous as having people not voting.  We want informed voters, not people running down the list flipping coins, or people who only pay attention to the surface arguments and never look into the reality of the issues under debate.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Australia’s democracy must have crashed and burned, then, because voting’s mandatory there.

    What’s that? It hasn’t?

  • fredgiblet

    How vigorously is that enforced?  How many people still don’t vote?  Not trying to argue, honestly interested.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Paging the resident Australians.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart
    How vigorously is that enforced? How many people still don’t vote? Not trying to argue, honestly interested.

    Paging the resident Australians.

    At the last Federal election, turnout was 94% of eligible voters for the Senate and 93% for the House. That was the lowest turnout we’ve had in more than 20 years. Most commonly, 95% of eligible voters participate in the elections for both chambers.

    http://aec.gov.au/Elections/Australian_Electoral_History/Voter_Turnout.htm

    Compare to your 57%. Who is more enfranchised, the “greatest democracy on earth” (sic.) or my lawless, unfree* backwater?

    *according to Fred

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Everyone votes. Not voting isn’t something that even seems to occur to people down here. We all go and vote, and most of us pay a great deal of attention to whom we’re voting for.

  • AnonymousSam

    Australia has compulsory voting without the chaos of randomly elected officials and laws. *Whistles*

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Does Australia also have a two-party system where one party has given up on objective reality altogether and has adopted an institutional policy based on vote suppression and a lot of ending sentences with “Or the hostage gets it”?

  • AnonymousSam

    They do have one insane party. My attention was called to it when a member of said party campaigned to make taking pictures of your own children in a public place a felony because it would be possible that a pedophile would get their hands on said pictures and treat them as child porn.

    Not sure if they have the same issues with passing a budget, but I don’t think they have the same allowance for unlimited filibuster as we do.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    No, we don’t have a two-party system. You know why? Because when you have preferential voting, two-party systems don’t keep happening so much.

    Seriously, guys – change to a preferential, compulsory voting system, and a lot of your electoral problems would slowly fade away…

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Or we could fix the underlying problems first, and then it wouldn’t matter whether or not we had a compulsory voting system.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Actually, to a large extent the voting system IS the underlying problem. The UK and Canada are very fortunate that the first-past-the-post system hasn’t polarized the electorate and squashed the ideological spectrum to a tiny sliver the way it has in the USA.

    Even in Canada and the UK we tend to develop effective two-party-dominant structures. For example in Canada for the longest time the NDP was never considered a serious contender, leading to an effective two-party system between the Liberals and the Conservatives.

    A mixed-member or a single transferable vote system would be a lot less likely to favor long stretches of majority-government rule in Canada’s parliamentary system.

  • http://snarkthebold.blogspot.com/ Edo

    I think making it illegal to not vote is just as dangerous as having
    people not voting.

    I think it’s worse. We’re a two-party system, one of which is openly willing to actively interfere with the voting process where they imagine it would go against them – hell, Fred wrote about it here.

    If not voting had legal consequences, does anybody here seriously think that kind of obstructionism would stop? I think it’d skyrocket.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Which is why we get the obstacles out of place before we start putting penalties into effect–or we make the penalties nominal, say a twenty-dollar fine, and anybody caught obstructing someone’s vote has to face a stiff penalty, say a two-thousand-dollar fine. That ought to make people think twice about obstructing the vote.

  • Lori

     

    or people who only pay attention to the surface arguments and never look into the reality of the issues under debate. 

    Because of course people never do this in a voluntary voting system.

  • AnonymousSam

    Hell, we’ve got people doing this even when they agree with the other side’s positions, because loyalty to the base trumps functional economy any day of the week.

  • Wingedwyrm

    The problem with this issue of “informed voters” vs “uninformed voters” is that information does not make the difference as to whether or not someone votes.  In fact, low information makes one more easily manipulated.

    So, a law demanding people vote wouldn’t increase the percentage of uninformed voting.  It would, however, increase the number of people elected officials have to deal with in order to get elected.

    As it stands, anyone seeking either election or re-election has to please the likely voters.  The less likely you are to vote, the less insentive they have to help you out.  And, the less help they have in helping you out, because even when those who actually desire to help the powerless get into office, they’re surrounded by those who know that it’s helping the powerful that keeps them their jobs.

    By eliminating the “not-likely to vote” category, you eliminate the “safe to ignore and/or spit upon” category.

  • fredgiblet

    “The problem with this issue of “informed voters” vs “uninformed voters” is that information does not make the difference as to whether or not someone votes. ”

    I would expect more informed people to trend more towards voting since you usually have to specifically seek out information and the effort involved implies an interest in the system.  Do you have any studies about this you can link to?

  • fredgiblet
  • fredgiblet

    The problem with simply taking away the fortune is that the Old Boys Club will get them right back up soon enough.  I believe that the sentences handed down by courts should be for rehabilitation rather than punishment, but sometimes punishment is required for rehabilitation.  If you get caught committing white collar crime and all that happens is your cash is taken away it’s really not that bad, all that means is that next time you’ll be better about hiding the cash.  I feel that white collar crime, particularly crime by people who would be rich anyway, needs a response that will leave a lasting impression that deters the criminal.  I’m not entirely certain what the best route for that is, but I expect that putting them in a REAL prison with the people who can’t be allowed out during rehab may be effective.

  • AnonymousSam

    I see a problem with wanting to criminalize violence, murder and rape while relying on violence, murder and rape to exist in prisons.

  • fredgiblet

    Well in a system focused on rehab instead of punishment the number of people in prison would be drastically reduced, in my ideal (though half-formed) system there would likely be far less of those things in prisons, the punishment I was referring to was more being taken out of the lap of luxury for an extended period and less about casting them into the rape den.

  • AnonymousSam

    You can take them out of the lap of luxury more effectively by putting them to work in the kind of circumstances the average worker has to live in — but I’m wary of that as a punishment because historically enforced work tends to become prison slavery for the poor and “cruel punishment for men who already work so hard” for the rich.

  • P J Evans

     Therefore, we shouldn’t do anything to fix the very real problems?

  • fredgiblet

    I’m not sure where you’re getting that.  Care to elaborate?  I’ll be leaving for work shortly but I’ll answer when I get back.

  • Carstonio

    Fair point. Prison space is expensive, and personally it rankles me that the state pays for room and board for people who steal millions and billions. My alternative would probably involve a legal prohibition on them obtaining a business license or borrowing money or even holding a bank account. Some way of preventing their old cronies from helping them.

  • fredgiblet

    The problem I see with that is that generating wealth isn’t a bad thing, the people who are good at white-collar theft can also be good at legitimate business, many of them started that way.  Preventing them from ever holding positions of power in business again prevents them from contributing as well.  As for the cost of imprisonment that can be paid with the seized money or by making the cost of imprisonment a loan (with reasonable and negotiable repayment plans) rather than a gift.

  • Carstonio

    I hadn’t thought about the contributions they could make. What about a supervised public works program where they put those skills to use? That could be problematic, with Henry Hill continuing to commit credit card fraud while under witness protection.

  • depizan

    I’m not entirely certain what the best route for that is, but I expect
    that putting them in a REAL prison with the people who can’t be allowed
    out during rehab may be effective.

    Why?  There’s little evidence it deters any crime.  Last I knew, studies showed that prison just made people more effective criminals.  (Also more dangerous.)

    That’s not to say that I think white collar criminals shouldn’t suffer consequences of their actions.  I’m just not sure prison is a good idea for anyone, except the aforementioned dangers to society*.  Which, if we were honest about it, wouldn’t be that many people.

    *Now, one could argue that white collar criminals are dangers to society.  But their kind of danger is best addressed by figuring out how to keep them away from power, not their fellow humans.

  • Dogfacedboy

    What about a “wealth” tax in addition to an income tax?  

  • MaryKaye

    A decade ago I put some of my savings into CREF’s investment program.  As a result, one year I had some capital gains–less than a dollar.

    I did my taxes, working diligently through the worksheet for capital gains, and found out that that $0.85 in capital gains would save me over $200 in taxes.  Then I threw the worksheet away and paid the $200.

    The IRS kindly wrote to me to tell me I had done my taxes wrong, and sent back the $200.  I donated it to the reduce-the-debt fund.

    Something is HORRIBLY wrong with our tax structure.

  • mud man

    Like the Roman Empire … when the endgame of the Republic played out, Augustus owned the whole thing, personally. After that, it was bread and circuses. Don’t you like circuses? 

  • Figs

     I think there is a problem with the advantages of incumbency and name recognition, but I’m against term limits because if a population wants to vote somebody in for another term because they think they’re doing a good job, I see no reason why they should be disallowed from doing so.

    The problem with a sort of confidence vote, like you propose, would be turnout, which is notoriously low at any point that isn’t in November, and in a year that’s divisible by four.

    I guess I just have a hard time painting with such a broad brush as term limits do. At least this tries to mitigate that, but it seems like it’d be a very easily gamed half-solution (and are these rolling supermajorities, so that it gets harder to run for every successive term?).

  • AnonymousSam

    Aren’t there several products which are so overproduced that government subsidies are the only thing even keeping their prices stable? I’m looking at corn at the very least.

  • P J Evans

     Sugar, too.
    I wish they’d subsidize fruit and vegetable production, so that the might cost less than junk food.

  • Lliira

    I feel like crying.

    Two pages yelling at an ignoramus. How many actual ideas do we have here? We should be arguing and brainstorming with each other over all our new and amazing and old and amazing and some weird and some workable and some non-workable ideas, and MOVING THE FUCK ON.

    Wanna know why we’re stuck, as a society? THIS is why. We sit around getting outraged over ignoramuses who have empathy and whose ideas are both laughably stupid and evil, spending all our attention on them, rather than sending them to the back of the class and MOVING THE FUCK ON. They’ve figured out how to stop us forever and ever, and we keep playing their game.

    That’s it, I’m done.

  • Wingedwyrm

    I’d say the answers were pretty basic.

    1.  Increase minimum wage.

    2.  Make use of the over-abundance of labor otherwise rotting on the vine (IOW, unemployed people) to repair roads, bridges, and other necessary infrastructure items that are needed to lower the cost of business for everybody (thus getting more people with an income and achieving a necessary end at the same time).

    3.  Decrease funding in unnecessary weapons (those items that are deemed by the DoD to be unneeded and/or blatantly useless) and reallocate that funding to long-term necessties with long-term advantages.  These include preschools, head start programs, and education in general.

    In other words, Keynsian economics and just being more strategic with the pork.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Basically, what we need is the WPA back.  But we won’t get it, since Republicans believe anything that’s not done for corporate profit is not worth doing. 

    Brad Hicks:  “Yes We Can Put Americans Back to Work. We Probably Won’t, Though

    One idea I’ve had for slooowly getting us out of the mess we’re in:  Congresspeople are forbidden from working as lobbyists for at least one decade after holding office.

  • P J Evans

    repair roads, bridges, and other necessary infrastructure
    THIS. Because people over 60 can do the desk work, or even run the equipment. You don’t have to be young to help.

    I’d like to see groundbreaking and ribbon-cutting ceremonies for infrastructure repairs. I’d even say that they’re more important that for most new construction.

  • Jim Roberts

    Was just going to comment in a similar manner – the solutions are known and were brought up on the first page. There isn’t even really a question on how to implement them, other than, “How do we get politicians elected who aren’t bought and paid for?”

  • http://snarkthebold.blogspot.com/ Edo

    I think you meant “no empathy” there, but you’re right. And a bigger problem is that not only can’t we send them to the back of the class, they won’t leave.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It is indeed vexing when people who’ve never learned how to walk forwards (TM FDR) decide to also keep the rest of us from doing so.

  • http://snarkthebold.blogspot.com/ Edo

    NO. No, it is not “vexing.” It is enraging.

    I walked to the place that I’m typing from, and I’m going to walk home when it closes. I will walk streets without craters and sidewalks without bloodstains. And I should be thankful that there are no craters, no bloodstains, that I’m in a place where I can leave my car unlocked and unattended and just walk – but I’m not sure if I will.

    Or if instead I will walk these unscarred streets and unstained sidewalks wishing that I could instead walk to an ancient altar atop an ancient mountain, and throw my head back, and laugh with a tongue that blisters from forbidden words as I sing down fire on the valley.

    One of the other commenters here (forget your name, sorry) has said in the past that Fred’s good faith and graciousness is why they can’t be Christian. Whoever said that, you have my empathy tonight. Facing things like this, I remember that the Christian story I’ve embraced is one of salvation – and want to wish it wasn’t.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    If the members of predator class work as hard as an average goat farmer, they should make as much. As for “solutions”, microdrones in the hands of an enraged under class will probably make short work of these feudal lords in a decade or so.

    Where are you going to get microdrones, let alone the expertise to make/operate them?

    Such a typical right-wing attitude. The Department of Defense can have as much money as it says it needs; every other government department, we can do without.

    Correction: The Department of Defense can have roughly as much money as the defense contractors say it needs.  Seriously, the budget is roughly twice what the Pentagon actually wants.

    However, the issue is that many of those same people who vote for increased military spending under the reasoning of stimulating jobs seem to think that any other kind of government jobs stimulus is not only ineffective, but immoral, the money siphoned off the makers given to the takers, etc.  

    Well duh.  Government stimulus only works when it’s spent on killing people.  We learned this from World War II.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Where are you going to get microdrones, let alone the expertise to make/operate them?

    A drone is basically an RC Airplane that does stuff other than fly. You can get one at your local Radio Shack and the skills required to make one are possessed by any reasonably talented auto mechanic. As far as operating them, children have flown RC planes for years. The actual military drones might be more sophisticated than that, but really all we need here is a model airplane or RC car stuffed with Semtex. 

  • Lori

     

    really all we need here is a model airplane or RC car stuffed with Semtex.    

    And with this Marc Mielke went on a watch list. I’m pretty sure I’m on that same list. Some of my Google searches during grad school were a little out there.

    (Our current security state is such that I’m mostly but not entirely kidding.)

  • AnonymousSam

    *Nods* Me too. And I’ll compound that by noting that to a person under the right kind of tyrannous oppression, all it takes is a little ingenuity. In that world, prison and freedom are nearly the same thing and death may be even more preferable.

    Here’s where I’ll try to assuage Big Brother’s fears: Most of us, at least, don’t want this to happen and view it as our responsibility to keep things from ever getting to that point.

    Big Brother, I’m a pacifist sociopath. No need to watch me. The worst I’ll do is put your cat on his back and attack his tummy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Bmhjf0rKe8

  • http://snarkthebold.blogspot.com/ Edo

    Thank you, Mark, Lori, AnonymousSam. It’s good to know that I’m in good company.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Yeah, probably. Friend of mine got on a watchlist for making pipe bombs in school. Somehow he managed to persuade the FBI he really just wanted to see how they work — he did. 

    I will point out that my RC Car scenario was done in “The Dead Pool” circa 1988.

  • P J Evans

     “Hi, NSA guy!”

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I think one positive aspect of this thread is that it’s practically an instruction manual on the basic problems with capitalist economies – in particular the fundamental flaw in the belief that a high quantity of output and employment is the natural tendency rather than repeated cycles of boom and bust.

    It all boils down to what I like to colloquially term “Keynes’s Law”: Demand generates its own supply.

    The simplest proof of it is in World War 2, but beyond that, the peacetime economic expansion of the early 1960s.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    The thread is far more instructive than your average troll debate because  one side is more or less quoting pure capitalist theory — the way I learned it in High School, and is being countered with how stuff works in the real world. 

    No economic or philosophical model I’ve seen manages to deal with widespread, endemic cheating to any real degree. This makes them all useless. I remember debating socialism with a very brilliant college professor, and his sole response to my question about people gaming the system was that in a socialist society there would be no reason and thus no appeal to doing so. 

  • banancat

    I’m still unsure about compulsory voting, but I would like to see massive money dumped into protecting the right of people to vote if they want to.  It’s our most basic right and it’s worth ensuring that everyone has it.  We should standardize voting systems nationally, and do extensive testing to ensure that they work correctly every time.  I work in the pharmaceutical industry and the FDA makes sure we validate every single thing that we use, which means we challenge the system or process way beyond the worst case it would encounter and prove that it still works even then.  My point is, if the FDA can force this kind of accuracy on one industry, a similar agency can certainly enforce it on voting systems.

    Election day should be a national holiday and employers should have to pay everyone during that day.  There should be government-provided transportation for anyone who wants it, without having to prove that they need it.  There should be a required minimum of resources (polling stations, workers, room) in every district.  Poll workers should be paid for their work.  Polling hours should be longer and possibly span several days.  Absentee voting should be easy.  We should pay as much money as we need to to ensure that nobody who wants to vote misses out on their right because of any obstacle.  And this should be enshrined into our Constitution with an amendment.  Without a meaningful right to vote, the rest doesn’t mean as much.

    If we had all that, I would probably get on board with compulsory voting (with “none of the above” a legitimate option).  But if we started compulsory voting now, I wonder if it would drive those changes to be made.

  • Magpie

    Aussie lurker here.  About compulsory voting – I forgot to vote once, all that happened was they sent me a letter asking why not.  I sent them back a stat dec explaining.  They must have been happy with it because I didn’t get another letter asking for the $20 fine.

    If you’re interested, this might be helpful:  http://www.aec.gov.au/FAQs/Voting_Australia.htm#compulsory

  • Magpie

    Aussie lurker here.  About compulsory voting – I forgot to vote once, all that happened was they sent me a letter asking why not.  I sent them back a stat dec explaining.  They must have been happy with it because I didn’t get another letter asking for the $20 fine.

    If you’re interested, this might be helpful:  http://www.aec.gov.au/FAQs/Voting_Australia.htm#compulsory

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    I once got a letter about my failure to vote in council elections. I wrote back and said that my neighbour was senile and kept stealing my mail, so I hadn’t got the voting form – they seemed happy with my explanation. :)

    One of the good things about compulsory voting is that we seem to end up with politicians being less extreme than they are in America. When you don’t have to “rally the troops” by making your voters pissed off enough to get motivated, it’s easier to deal with real issues rather than going as extreme as possible.

  • Magpie

     Also, I reckon it’s harder to cheat, because you would need such a big number to sway the vote. 
    A couple of commenters were worried about voters who don’t research who to vote for – they seem to cancel each other out, voting for both big parties.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Q: Why do transplant recipients prefer hearts from Republicans?

    A: They’ve never been used.

  • EllieMurasaki

    That is nasty, cruel, and untrue.

    Hearts from Republicans get plenty of use. The problem is they’re several sizes too small.

  • AnonymousSam

     From the Book of AntiSeuss…

    The ‘pubs hate the poor! The whole dead-broke nation!
    Now, please don’t ask why you can’t keep your food ration.
    It could be that they’re simply too greedy to share.
    It could be they think generosity should be rare.
    But I think that the most likely reason of all
    May just be that their hearts are two sizes too small.

  • Sixes_are_Sevens

    So, what can WE, THE PEOPLE do? Until after the 2014 election, and probably  not until after the 2016 election, it is very unlikely that WE, THE PEOPLE can do anything. I’m talking, of course, about our government taking action, which, in the U.S., is US.

    What can we all do in the meantime? In a word, disinvest. Stop giving money to the Waltons, to Target, to any big corporation invested in sending OUR jobs overseas. Don’t buy anything new made in China, if you can find any alternative, including buying it used. Borrow it from a friend. Where are all those fatcat motherfuckers getting their money going into their sweet, sweet troughs? US. Let’s starve them. NOW.

    Instead, we can work to create the kind of economy that benefits US. Shop with locally-owned stores. Shop on Etsy. Take the time to figure out where your money goes when you buy a product. Grow more of your own food. Tell your local stores that you want goods made in the US. Bike, walk, take public transit more, drive less.

    Support local makers, independent bookstores, local coffee shops and restaurants. Keep your money in your own community as much as you can. Hell, do what you can without using money. Barter your time and used goods or see if you can build a local currency to exchange for goods and services. It’s been done. Support responsible corporations, like Costco, who treat their employees like valuable partners in the business.

    Get creative. Are there no locally owned grocery stores in your town? How about the next town over? Talk to your friends, family, community, about forming a mini co-op, where you drive to the next town to shop for everyone in the co-op, taking turns to go. Do whatever you can to KEEP YOUR MONEY OUT OF THE PLUTOCRATS’ HANDS.

    Yes, it’s sometimes (but not always!) more expensive to shop at smaller, local businesses, but at least they’re less likely to be taking your money and stabbing you in the back with it. Every dollar you spend is a VOTE. And every dollar you spend at places like Walmart is a VOTE for exactly what we have now. Yes, it’s going to take hard work and sacrifice to get out of the mess we’re in. This is how we do it. We stop giving them our money. We support our neighbors instead and demand change in our own communities, starting with US.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’m still going to Walmart tonight after work. Know why? Because that gets me relatively fresh fruit with a minimum of fuss and a minimum of impact on my checking account. It sucks. I hate it. But I do not make enough money to financially support the companies I would prefer to financially support without making drastic cuts to parts of my life that I’ve already cut to the bone in order to work my way out of debt.
    Also I work second shift and Safeway’s closed by now.

  • Sixes_are_Sevens

    You’re talking to someone who has never made more than $24k in a year, and most years, less than that. Somehow, my household and I have managed to survive without shopping at Walmart. Your own personal answer to the question the Slacktivist asked is apparently “nothing.” I’m sorry, but I’m not hugely sympathetic when your response to a list of practical suggestions is to say “that’s too hard, I’m not going to do that” because it’s too much “fuss” to do anything different.

    There’s no way around it. Either we work to build up our local economies, or nothing changes. This is one of those times when government action alone isn’t going to cut it, as long as we’re all voting with our dollars against our own interests.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Let me clarify: when I say ‘fuss’, I mean ‘I have social anxiety and shopping in the daytime is invariably a trial. Do you know of anywhere but Walmart that’s open at one in the morning?’

    When I say ‘fuss’, I mean ‘all my attempts at gardening have died. Do you know of any way I can grow any quantity of my own food when my plants keep dying?’ (The bamboos that live on my desk at work are still alive, but they also don’t need anything but periodic refills of water, and it’s really hard to drown them.)

    When I say ‘fuss’, I mean ‘the nearest bus stop is at Walmart, five miles away on the far side of a four-lane road, and even if it were practical to take the bus to work, I work second shift. Public transport in this town does not account for second-shifters, and I ain’t biking any fifteen miles one way. Do you know of any way I can reduce my miles driven per day when I hardly go anywhere but work anyway?’

    When I say ‘fuss’, I mean ‘the independent bookstore in town has shit for selection and doesn’t want to order any books they aren’t fairly confident they’ll be able to sell more than one of. Do you know of any way I can simultaneously patronize the independent bookstore and buy the books I’m after?’

    When I say ‘fuss’, I mean ‘I’m an Etsy seller too–have fun figuring out who’s bought their supplies from places where the supply manufacturers make at least US minimum wage! Ain’t nobody labels where their supplies come from! And nobody wants to pay a retail price that includes at least US minimum wage for the Etsy seller’s labor! Etsy selling is a good way to make a bit of pocket change off a hobby, but it’s not a substitute for, uh, anything.’

    When I say ‘fuss’, I mean ‘no, there really aren’t any locally owned grocery stores in town. There is one two towns over, but they are, one, two towns over, and not in the same direction as anything else I might go to so a shopping trip there is invariably a special trip, and two, expensive as fuck. Do you know of any way I can patronize the locally owned grocery store without running up my food bill and my gas bill, spending an extra forty minutes just on driving there and back, and shopping in the daytime?’
    When I say ‘fuss’, I mean ‘I only make $26K and absolutely every possible penny of that has to go to getting me out of debt. Do any of your suggestions save me any money?’

    This isn’t about ‘too hard’. This is about ‘not actually fucking possible’.

  • Sixes_are_Sevens

    26K? You’re making $2000 more than I have at my peak income, including the years in which I’ve been the sole breadwinner for my household, and I repeat, I have NEVER had to shop at Walmart to get by, so don’t you dare tell me it’s not fucking possible because IT IS. I’ve done it for years. 

    Shopping in the daytime is a trial? Same here. I still do it. Having problems with your attempts to grow food?  Seek out some assistance; there are almost always resources in your community, like community garden talks, fairly low cost community college classes, and so on. Hell, what about your local library? Or the internet.

    Problems with the local bookstore? Have a chat with them about how you’d like to support them instead of Amazon. I know a indy bookstore owner and she is happy to place small orders, she wants the business so much.
    Buying local and not running up your gas bill? As I said in my original comment, “talk to your friends, family, community, about forming a mini co-op, where you drive to the next town to shop for everyone in the co-op, taking turns to go.”And yes, I didn’t say it was easy, and I did say it could be more expensive. My suggestions that save you money are buying used, borrowing from friends, bartering. If you’ve got an Etsy store, you’ve probably got a skill that some people in your community are going to value. 

    If you want to see change, you have to DO SOMETHING. You can either feed the beast or starve the beast. Maybe, at the very least, if you don’t personally think you can do anything differently, maybe you could not try to discourage those who might be able to. I’d suggest that you start looking at what you CAN do, rather than what you can’t. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    You must be a fucking wizard, then, because I CANNOT do what you are asking me to do. Not without saying, okay, I am going to be in debt for the rest of my fucking life and that’s all right. Or saying, okay, freaking out every minute of every day over the sheer volume of People I Must Interact With is a necessary thing and that’s all right.

    And you wanna know something really fucking discouraging? Being told that Of Course You Can Do It You Just Have To Try Harder. You know, just like you’re doing right now.

  • Sixes_are_Sevens

    Yeah, not a wizard. Pretty ordinary, in fact. I’m not asking anyone to do anything I can’t/haven’t done myself, with limited resources. And I’m not interested in playing the competitive suffering game with you.

    Let’s depersonalize this for a moment: what do you think that individuals can do to help make the economy more equitable? How can the middle class disinvest in the economy that has most of us struggling? Is there anything we can do besides sitting and waiting for the government to take action?

  • arcseconds

    You seem to have bought into the idea, much beloved of fans of the free market, that the correct response to social issues is for individuals to try to influence demand by changing where they shop.

    I doubt this will achieve much, at least in the utilitarian sense.  Almost all significant progress on these issues has come from legislation, including, but not limited to:

    – abolition of slavery
    – civil rights
    – worker’s rights – minimum wage, safety standards, annual leave (the French get 5 weeks!)
    – environmental issues (CFCs being a great case in point)

    None of these were achieved by boycotts or by choosing to deal with companies that care about their workers or the environment.

    Also, one very important point is that developed nations all have pretty similar distribution of market income (pre-tax and transfer).   So the way more egalitarian nations achieve their equality is largely through tax and transfer, not from the little people helping each other or anything like that.

    Arguably a better plan than ‘shop local’ would be to shop wherever is convenient and cheapest, and spend the time and money you save by doing that on political action.

    No need to ‘wait for the government to do something’  or until 2016 and passively cast your vote.  Demand that they do something!   The government in all the above cases only performed the final act: they put it into legislation.  They did that because little people forced them to.

    (Unfortunately the USA has an especially alienating political environment, which is very discouraging, but you guys have managed to beat it in the past.)

    Apart from not being the route to lasting improvements, there are other worries I have about the ‘ethical consumer’ stuff.   There seems to be a large aspect of keeping one’s hands clean and sanctimony about it (you’re kind of in sanctimonious overdrive at the moment, for example). 

    I agree with keeping one’s hands clean (I’m not a utilitarian, after all), but I worry it ends up being largely an illusion.  The local bookseller is still ordering from large distribution networks, for example.  Do they treat their workers any better than Amazon?  Also, unless you’re actually living on a self-sustaining farm and touch no electronic devices (join the Amish, maybe?), you’re still benefiting from fossil fuels, environmental degradation, and  third-world labour.

    I’m also not suggesting ethical consumerism does no good whatsoever.  It does help the local community and support companies and groups that have better values, and it can be quite fun. 

    The sanctimony, though, we can all live happily without.

    (so quit it!)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I would make the case that boycotts are more about sending a message as part of a larger strategy than a successful tool by itself.

    To use a military analogy, boycotts are like air support for ground troops. Used together, both can be very effective at combatting the opposing forces. But alone, they become less effective or even in the long run, ineffective.

  • Sixes_are_Sevens

    “You seem to have bought into the idea, much beloved of fans of the free market, that the correct response to social issues is for individuals to try to influence demand by changing where they shop.”
    Well, not really. I’m thinking less about influencing demand on a macro scale and more about investing in our neighbors’ businesses and our local economies, with the idea being that spending money locally is going to ultimately benefit us individually through stronger neighborhoods and economy. 

    It’s not really about keeping my hands clean, it’s about working and sacrificing for the kind of strong local economy that I think is going to benefit me more than what we have. Spending my money with the people who aren’t working against my political interests. When you talk about shopping “wherever is convenient and cheapest, and spend the time and money you save by doing that on political action”, you are, I think, making it harder on yourself because some businesses will use a portion of every dollar you spend with them will use it to fight you politically. How do you get around that?

    I’d love to “demand” political action from the government. The guys I vote for are already doing what they can, and the guys I don’t vote for are ignoring any input from anyone not in their party. Have you seen the nasty responses people are reporting when they try writing to their elected reps? It’s not inspiring, to say the least. American politics are profoundly broken. The Occupy movement was driven off the streets. Some people are still dealing with grand jury BS over it. So, with the GOP ignoring (or outright deriding) input from people who didn’t vote for them, the media playing the “plague on both their houses” game, and Occupy defunct, what do you suggest?

  • EllieMurasaki

    When you talk about shopping “wherever is convenient and cheapest, and spend the time and money you save by doing that on political action”, you are, I think, making it harder on yourself because some businesses w ill use a portion of every dollar you spend with them will use it to fight you politically. How do you get around that?

    With AT&T, at twenty cents a minute and twenty-five a text and the money comes out of my prepaid account, I spend a hundred dollars a year for mobile phone usage and donations to random charities (mostly the Red Cross) that accept donations through text message. I know that fairly precisely because $100 is the amount I have to feed the phone once a year, and there’s always money left on the account when the year runs out, which I donate wherever since I know I won’t use it for phone service and I have no intention of letting AT&T hold on to it indefinitely.

    The only mobile phone provider I know of that donates to progressive causes is CREDO Mobile. Their cheapest plan is like thirty dollars a month. I believe their donations are ten percent of their income.

    There is absolutely no way I can justify getting my cell service through CREDO instead of through AT&T. I don’t have to like that AT&T donates to causes that hurt me. But I cannot afford to spend $360 a year on something that costs me $100 a year if I go for the less desirable option.

  • arcseconds

    Well, I guess what I’d ask is who are you doing this for, and what benefits are they getting, or are you expecting them to get?

    Also, how much does the benefit depend on just you doing it, and how much depends on large numbers of people doing it?

    I mean, you say ‘sacrificing’, which suggests that you’re doing it for other people, but you also say ‘benefit me more than what we have’, so it sounds like it’s largely about benefiting you? But then you say ‘benefit us individually’ which suggests collective action.

    If it’s mainly about benefiting you personally and you expect that your actions (alongside those with whom you are coöperating) are enough to secure those benefits to a substantial degree, then ‘investing’ sounds like a better term than ‘sacrificing’.  If you gain net benefits from this immediately (I mean, some of it sounds fun!) then maybe it’s more that on a day-to-day level, it’s the best way to spend your time.

    But if that’s the case, then what you’re offering EllieMurasaki is kind of prudential advice — their life will go better, you think, if they do things your way, but we’ve already heard they don’t agree that this is the best way of spending their time and money for them.

    (You’re not so insistent that your was is best any more, so I don’t want to harp on about this, but I’m still trying to work out why you’re recommending what you’re recommending. )

    If it’s more in the nature of that this is the best way of improving society, and you’re encouraging people to take a hit for the sake of that aim,  then I think that’s very much open to question, along the lines I’ve already suggested.  It does practically nothing to address the systemic issues.

  • arcseconds

      When you talk about shopping “wherever is convenient and cheapest, and spend the time and money you save by doing that on political action”, you are, I think, making it harder on yourself because some businesses will use a portion of every dollar you spend with them will use it to fight you politically. How do you get around that?

    OK, let’s say I have the option of buying a book from an independent bookstore for £15, or the same book from a faceless multinational online bookstore for £11.

    Let’s assume that the faceless multinational online bookstore doesn’t treat their workers very well, and donates a substantial portion of their profits to the Eternal Servitude Party.

    Let’s also say it will take me an hour to travel to the independent bookstore and pick it up and get back.  (Maybe your actual bookstore delivers, but I want to show how convenience can factor into this.)

    I’m going to donate any time and money saved to the All Manner of Good Things Society, which does all manner of good things for ordinary people, including protecting their working rights, and fighting the Eternal Servitude Party.

    Let’s assume that I already donate £5 a week and 1 hour’s work, just so I don’t seem like a tight bastard.

    case 1: I buy from Faceless Multinational Books.

    I save £4, and an hour, which I donate to AMGTS. Let’s value my volunteer work at a paltry £5/hour.  AMGTS therefore gets £19.

    How much does the Eternal Servitude Party get? Well, how much profit do Faceless Multinational make? Not much, I presume, because they keep their profit margins very small, which is how they can undercut everyone else, and make money off the volumen.  Let’s say they make £1 profit.  I think that’s on the high side, but nevermind.  Let’s say they donate a mammoth 50% of their profits to the Eternal Servitude party.  So the Eternal Servitude Party is £0.5 up on the deal.

    case 2: I buy from the independent bookstore.
    This might look like the forces of evil get nothing, and the forces of good get nothing extra.  

    But that’s not necessarily true, because we’re worried about what the supply chain might do with their money.

    OK, let’s assume that the bookstore owner is a generous filthy pinko like me, and donates half their profits from the sale to AMGTS.   Let’s say their costs end up being the same as FM Books, i.e. £10. So they donate £2.5 to AMGTS for a total of £11.5 to go towards good things.

    But they’re buying from Big Publishers and Distributors, Inc, who aren’t much better than FM Books. BPD also donates half of their profits to the Eternal Servitude party.  Let’s say they make considerably less profit than FM Books for some reason, and say it’s £0.5, so the ES party gets £0.25.

    I’ve made some fairly generous assumptions here that weight it in favour of shoping at the local business (I’m assuming a very generous business owner, and that FM Books is also very generous towards Servitude to make it particularly undesirable to shop with them).   I’m also not weighting my time very highly, so that hour I save just gets AMGTS whatever they could pay someone something like minimum wage to perform.

    But AMGTS still does very well out of the deal.  They get £8 more if I shop with Faceless Multinational.  Eternal Servitude only get £0.25 more that way.  If you were a general at war and you saw something that would benefit your enemy a little bit, but benefitted you 32× as much, you should definitely take it!

    If everyone in town who shops local because they think it’s better for their communities decided to shop with evil-but-cheap companies instead and donate the difference, you can see that the local AMGTS branch could become very well-funded.

    It’s also worth pointing out that if you’ve got special skills to offer AMGTS, the situation tips even more in favour of doing whatever you can to save time so you’ve got more time to donate.  A laywer doing pro-bono work for the forces of good, insofar as they’re interested in getting the greatest utility bang for their buck, should be really interested in saving as much time as possible to free up as much time for that work as they can.  

    OK, so it’s a cartoony example I’m essentially just making up as I go, and the real world is messier than this. Perhaps it’s better that your local stores survives than the local AMGTS does well. On the other hand, if AMGTS wins and you end up with Sweden+ at the end of 20 years, a few local businesses is a small price to pay.

     All the same, I don’t think this is all that unrealistic, and it should serve to show that even if you and I are both reasonable people with similar goals, there’s not necessarily an obvious best strategy for how we spend our time.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Your suggestions are good ones. Your problem is that you’re insisting your suggestions are mandates. Just because it is possible for you does not mean it is possible for any specific other person. For many generic other people, sure. But when you try to get specific (and you did), you run into trouble.

    As arcseconds pointed out, though, your suggestions being good ones to reduce our personal connection to the megarich doesn’t mean they’re good ways to reduce income inequality. The thing to do would be study what worked to get income-inequality-reduction legislation passed in other countries and replicate it here. Or grow our own ways of getting such legislation passed here–Occupy, for all its problems, did get the nation talking about the problem.

  • Sixes_are_Sevens

    Occupy was great for that. It was one of the most effective movements I’ve seen in my lifetime. My neighborhood had a group that spent a pretty decent amount of time focusing on issues in the neighborhood and boosting local businesses, which is when I began to think that what Acrseconds describes as “ethical consumerism” might be the best way to recreate an economy that benefits people like you and me. 

    I’m sorry that I came across as being sanctimonious and condescending. Basically, I’ve kind of given up on politics (for the time being) as being able to accomplish anything, in favor of what we can do individually and communally. Other countries don’t have the structural and social problems that we do, so I’m not sure that what was successful elsewhere would work here. Writing to my state’s one GOP US congress critter would do no good. As long as the GOP is obstructing any hint of progress at the national level, there’s no way of getting legislation passed. So, I think we have to do things at the real grass roots. 

  • Kirala

     You know, most people in America are far more impacted by local politics than by national. If you want to help develop healthy communities, you might consider seeing what impact you can have on local policies.

    This is just a suggestion, though, if you hadn’t considered it. As I said earlier, no one has enough resources to do Every Good Thing, and if all formal politics are grown loathsome to you, I heartily endorse allocating energies elsewhere.

  • depizan

    I don’t know how you manage on so little, especially supporting a family.  Perhaps you have advantages I don’t (and that EllieMurasaki doesn’t) – part of the country one lives in can make a big difference on how possible gardening is and on how high the cost of living is, as well as whether public transit is available, and a million other things.

    Also, telling people WITH FUCKING MENTAL ILLNESSES to just get over it is really a jerkoff thing to do, FYI.  You might go farther getting people to make small changes if you didn’t frame it as all or nothing and didn’t ignore that there are real problems that many poor people face in avoiding shopping at Volde*mart or otherwise supporting big business.

    (Though perhaps you’re shouting past each other.  What is possible for you may not be possible for everyone and what is impossible for Ellie, or for other people may be possible for others.  I didn’t get the impression she was saying it was impossible for everyone, just for her.  You, on the other hand, seem to be saying that we all can and should do this.  Not everyone can.  Survival has to come first.)

  • Sixes_are_Sevens

    Where did I tell her to just get over it? I certainly didn’t suggest that she do anything that I’m not willing to do, and I have similar issues with anxiety and crowds. Did you see the part where I mentioned that daytime shopping was a trial for me as well? I DO tell myself to get over it. It may not be the best way to deal with my challenges, but it’s what I’ve got. 

    I’m not sure where you’re getting that  I framed my suggestions for disinvestment as all or nothing. They’re not, although obviously the more we can disinvest in the corporate economy, the more likely we’ll be able to build an alternative. I did say “do whatever you can”. 

    And I do think we all can and should do something. If you want to have locally-owned stores in your neighborhoods, you have to support them. If you want living wage jobs in your community, you have to support the businesses that provide them. I hear what you’re saying about survival, but we have to look at the bigger picture too. 

  • depizan

    You don’t know anyone else’s circumstances. You cannot make the call about what another person can or cannot do. (Well, one can, verbally speaking, but it makes one an asshole and doesn’t change the fact that saying “I can do X” does not actually mean that the person you’re addressing can.)

    You made a suggestion. You chose to argue with someone who said they couldn’t do your suggestion and kept insisting that they could. She never said no one can do what you were suggestion, she said she couldn’t. You could have clarified, well, if people can do these things, it would be a good idea instead of arguing with someone who was saying only that -they- could not do what you suggested.

    And I don’t think you are hearing what I’m saying about surviving, not when your response is that we need to look at the big picture. If people do not survive physically, they are dead. If people do not survive mentally, in this country, they are probably going to end up on the street and still die much younger than they otherwise would have. Are you really advocating that people -who are already being shit on by our society and struggling to get by at all – should sacrifice their mental health and quite possibly their lives so that society can be improved for other people?

    It’s great that you’ve mastered poverty and can support a family on a few grand more than I make. Sell the book on how to do it. Give classes. Don’t be nasty to people who are not as [fill in words of your choosing here: strong, clever, self-sacrificing, skilled with people…] as you are.

    Yell at me for a change. I’m flat out unwilling to sacrifice my mental health or life to save the country. Nor would I ask it of anyone else.

  • Kirala

     In addition to the fact that you’re being incredibly presumptuous about what Ellie can or can’t do (as others have addressed), there’s the question of whether she should do so. Or rather, whether she should devote resources that way. I will likely never eat with optimal nutrition, environmental concern, and animal ethics concern, because to do so would take all my time/energy resources for probably a few days and hours per week of keeping up with latest info thereafter. Add economic incentives into the mix, and I’m going to be fudging around the corners because I have to devote some time to sleep and exercise. Political research would be right out. Personal finance management would be out. And then there would be relationships with friends, family, students…

    … oh, wait…

    …I’d have to do my job, too. The 35 hours a week I have to be clocked in, the 30-odd extra hours I put in because it’s the only way to do the proper planning and grading and tutoring for my students.

    I avoid Wal-Mart because I can afford to, because it’s convenient. But if it comes to spending hours finding a good substitute for Target and Office Depot or spending hours finding ways to benefit my students, I know where my resources will have the greatest impact. And it ain’t being the perfect consumer. (Heck, I even stooped to buying on Amazon for my kids last week, because the local bookstore didn’t have what I needed. And Amazon doesn’t know or care that they’re a last resort for me – they still got the money.)

    Everyone should do all convenient good. Everyone should strive to do merely-inconvenient good. No one should be responsible for every possible good. No one is capable of it.

    But seriously, it’s a moot point in Ellie’s case, because as she said, she can’t avoid Wal-Mart, and unless you are living with her life every day, you have less than zero grounds to say she’s wrong.

  • EllieMurasaki

    If y’all don’t mind, my pronouns are ze/zir, not she/her. Thanks.

  • Kirala

     Apologies! I’ll try to remember in the future.

  • depizan

    My bad. I’ll remember that in the future.

  • other lori

    I’m not buying it. Even when we cut ALL non-essential spending from our budget, feed our family of 5 on $100/week (which includes extras and toiletries), keep our heat at 62 during the day and 58 at night, and drive as little as possible, we can *just* get through the month on my husband’s salary. (When I’m teaching a couple of classes, we have more wiggle room.) We literally could not do it on less income without assistance. 

    And, FWIW, my husband has a doctorate. Some of the work he’s done at his current research job has been presented at a UN panel on driving safety. And he’s still making just $800/year over what we’d need to qualify for food stamps. I’m not sure whether that says more about the sorry state of academia or the sorry state of the country.

  • Sixes_are_Sevens

    I kind of think the sorry state of one reflects the sorry state of the other. Someone who worked their ass off for a doctorate especially deserves better in the way of security and prosperity. Given where things are, though, we all do. I’m guessing he’s teaching at a public university? Probably no tenure?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Huh. That’s strange. Where I live, the Wal-Mart closes at 11 and all the grocery stores are 24-hour.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Good point. In my immediate area, the Walmart’s the 24-hr place. Well, that and a couple gas station convenience stores.

  • Madhabmatics

     Same here, it’s a 30 minute drive just to get to the Walmart. Everywhere else closes at 8:00.

  • AnonymousSam

    The Safeway in my neighborhood is open 24 hours too. It all depends on how much money they think they can make by staying open that long. Ours gets away with it by having two or three employees run the entire store all night.

    (And by “entire” I do mean “the ENTIRE” store. They do cleaning, stocking, cash registers and customer service desk.)

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

     I liked your first comment, but this shit just got condescending.

    You are exhorting individuals to find solutions to systemic problems.  Knock it off, that’s the identifier of an asshole. 

    Yes, people should try to do all the things you suggested that they are capable of, and yes a significant portion of the population doing those things would help, but you DO NOT get to condescend to people who this system has shit all over, and scream BOOTSTRAPS! 

  • Sixes_are_Sevens

    I’m actually one of those people, Aeryl, and this is how I’m choosing to fight back against the system. I absolutely don’t think of myself as anything special, and I certainly haven’t been successful in bootstrapping myself up the way conservatives talk about bootstraps. I’ve managed to survive without shopping at Walmart, that’s all, and found ways to keep my money local when I can. I just happen to think that we have some power to unrig the system. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    Awesome. You fight through not giving money to places you despise. I’ll fight by making art to raise awareness about the problems inherent in massive income inequality and other forms of privilege and discrimination.
    I won’t criticize you for not doing it my way and you don’t criticize me for not doing it yours, mmkay?

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

     It’s all well and good that that’s how you’ve chosen to fight. 

    But the fact that you chose that method, does not give you the right to condescend to others about their methods of activism, mkay? 

    You’ve managed to survive w/out Walmart, but because of the business practices, a large portion of the US cannot do that.  Sometimes, Walmart is the only place to shop, sometimes it’s the closest, most convenient, has the best food(I’m sure we all agree that people shouldn’t buy out of date food, just to satisfy someone’s measure of idealogical purity, right?).  Sometimes, it’s just because it’s cheaper.  And you know what, that’s fine!  We all have to try and make the world better, but we also have responsibilities to ourselves and others, and that means sometimes those metrics win out over the desire to impact our communities. 

    Instead of condescending to absolute strangers online, instead spend your time making your dreams a reality in your community.  Make sure that the programs you are so blithely recommending other people take advantage of, exist and are helpful in your own community. 

  • Sixes_are_Sevens

    “Instead of condescending to absolute strangers online, instead spend your time making your dreams a reality in your community.”

    Kind of like you’re doing to me, huh. 

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

     No, I only did that after you started condescending to absolute strangers who circumstances you had no knowledge of yet still felt perfectly valid in telling them what they SHOULD be doing(and how failing to do that meant they were failing their beliefs).

    See, I already had the knowledge that you’re an asshole.  So that makes it two different things. 

  • P J Evans

     For some people, WalMart is the nearest place that sells food, period. (My siuter goes there because it’s within walking distance, and also between her home and work. For her to get to a regular supermarket – or a drug store – requires either getting a ride or at least half an hour on the bus each way, plus the time to get to the bus.)

  • EllieMurasaki

    Oh, it’s that too. If Safeway were open after work, it’s only a mile or so farther from home than work is, but it’s not and it’s more expensive than Walmart (which is on the way home if I take the one route instead of the other route) and that’s that.

  • depizan

     This is a lovely idea.  Assuming one has the surplus in one’s own budget to do so.  A great many of us don’t.  Or don’t have the surplus to do much.

    I’m not saying it’s a bad idea – it’s not.  It’s a great idea.  Just don’t be too hard on the people who don’t have the money or energy to do it. (And, yes, I think this is a perk as far as the plutocrats are concerned, but it’s also quite real.) 

  • AnonaMiss

    Preferential voting would do far more for us than mandatory voting. Mandatory voting wouldn’t break up the 2-party system without preferential voting, and preferential voting would break up the 2-party system without mandatory voting.

    The really great thing about preferential voting is that it punishes politicians for further alienating people who were already not going to vote for them.

    Of course, Australia has both.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Speaking of. I just got a bit of a zinger a while ago.

    The BC minimum wage is now $10.25 an hour.

    That’s $21320 a year, and Canadian taxes on that work out to around $2000, so that’s $19k a year after tax.

    I’m making less than that as a graduate student.

    Just two or three years ago the minimum wage was $7-$8 an hour, so I made more than that.

    Why am I even doing a doctorate, again?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Why am I even doing a doctorate, again?

    You like college, maybe?

    Which reminds me, I was talking to two people I know who could get PhDs, but decided not to go for them for fear that having one would make it _harder_ to find a job.

    So this is what it feels like to live in a declining empire….

  • AnonymousSam

    I can definitely believe that. Every job application I’ve ever turned in that actually got a response in rejection was, in summary, “You’re overqualified.”

  • Madhabmatics

     DISQUS apparently ate my post, but this happens to me all the time too. I’ve literally had people crumble up and throw away my resume in front of me because “lol college boy you’d get a better offer and quit in a week.”

  • P J Evans

     The only people I’ve seen quit (or get fired) in a week were (a) really not good at their job or (b) teenagers in their first job. (I’ve seen college graduates who would have trouble reasoning their way out of a wet paper bag, too.)

  • Madhabmatics

     That doesn’t stop it from being a widely held myth. I had an interview for a secretary job just a few weeks ago and one of the first questions they asked was “How do we know that you aren’t going to get a job offer to be a teacher a month in and quit for a better job? You are overqualified.”

    I don’t know why you are trying to take a dig at me over this

  • EllieMurasaki

    My reading of PJ is that the dig is at the people who think you quitting in a week to take a better offer is plausible.

  • Madhabmatics

     I may be misreading the “I’ve seen college graduates who would have trouble reasoning their way out of a wet paper bag” comment.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Frankly, if it wasn’t for that about half my income is considered tax-free under current Canadian tax law, and that I can claim a disability credit against the other half, I’d be all like that overturning-the-table “fuck this shit” meme.

  • other lori

    *Why am I even doing a doctorate, again?*

    Hopefully not for the money.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Ottawa imposes strict conditions on Air Canada pension plan reprieve

    This is actually rather surprising, but nice. The federal government has set ground rules:

    – Executive pay is limited under these rules
    – The company is blocked from paying dividends

    So Air Canada has to actually put profits into the pension plan, not try to use the deferral so the executives can strip the company’s assets for their own benefit. (by limiting exec pay and blocking dividends, the government has prevented the two easiest ways to strip-mine the company for a quickie golden parachute)

    Too bad this is on the scale of “man bites dog” in the rarity of a government actually forcing a company to do right by the people it employs.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    You know, isn’t Henry Ford anecdotally said to have decided to pay Ford workers high wages for the time on the grounds that he needed somebody other than a handful of rich people to buy the cars they were making?

  • EllieMurasaki

    He is said to have said that, yes, and I am inclined to believe he did in fact say it. Made him a rich man, too.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Know what, who cares if he said it. He did it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Ford#Labor_philosophy and all its citations.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    And when he announced the $5 a day wage, lots of people declared that it would swiftly drive him out of business – pretty much all the same things that they are saying now about raising the minimum wage.

    Or have said in the past about establishing minimum wage, or abolishing slavery, or eliminating child labor, or workplace safety laws, or… well, every government intervention ever, pretty much. It’s a very old song.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Yeah, I know about the history – it’s just that some things like that are so popularly told and retold that they shift in the retelling. Wanted to make sure I wasn’t saying something different. :)

    Kalecki is an interesting figure in economics. He did an analysis of fixed capital investment and spending, and came to a conclusion, rather aptly summed up colloquially as:

    “The workers spend what they get and the capitalists get what they spend”.

    In effect, wages and capital spending form the two halves of a whole.

    He even predicted that Keynesian economic management by itself would not persist permanently. Krugman, another Keynesian, has since written how it has become clear that the slowdown in productivity since 1973 and wage stagnation since then were both the result of deliberate political decisions to favor rentiers over workers – in effect the very capture of government by business interests predicted by Kalecki so long ago.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Here is a good collection of posts on the minimum wage: http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2013/03/great-posts-on-the-minimum-wage.html
    Robert P. Murphy is the author of the Best Economic History Book Ever (The PIG to the Great Depression).

  • Ethics Gradient

    The simplest answer: enact the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget.


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