Scenes from the class war (7.30)

Scenes from the class war (7.30) July 30, 2013

“The ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay is 273-1, down from a high of 383-1 in 2000, but up from 20-1 in 1965.”

We have to speak kindly but firmly to people who we think are not being nice to other people sometimes.”

“The minute the facade cracks and reveals your struggle, no one wants to be around you. No one wants to see it.”

“Given these facts, it seems deeply questionable to extract this verse as a general principle for public policy, much less to cite it as somehow overriding the clear priority of helping the poor that is pervasively attested throughout the Hebrew Bible and New Testament.”

These are seniors. …‰ Many of them are disabled, very, very low-income.”

“Technically, downward mobility is still mobility, you see.”

“California workers recovered less than half of the $390 million employers withheld from employees from 2008-2011 …“ by failing to pay overtime, requiring off-the-clock work, or paying less than the minimum wage.”

“Wal-Mart’s labor relations practices have been so egregious that they go beyond regulatory infractions and enter the realm of human rights abuses.”

“Mexican authorities have rescued at least 275 people who were being held in slave-like conditions at a camp where tomatoes are sorted and packed for export.”

“That’s like if your neighbor invited you over for a drink and after saying ‘hi’ you pointed out that their neglect of their yard was lowering your home values.”

“Policy is no big deal: you try stuff, you fix what doesn’t work. … But that’s not really the debate here. The real debate is: they don’t deserve it.”

“The war on the unemployed isn’t motivated solely by cruelty; rather, it’s a case of mean-spiritedness converging with bad economic analysis.”

“I don’t know, and in most respects don’t care, whether Paul Ryan believes his own rhetoric. The whole point is that in terms of how it affects the objects of this love, fear or hatred, it just doesn’t matter.”

“Nothing says God Bless America like trying to balance the budget on the backs of people who live at or below 130 percent of the poverty line.”

“The Quincy Street Salvation Army builds a completed wall made of 18 tons, or 36 bales, of unwanted clothing every three days.”

“If divided evenly across Feeding America’s national network of food banks, every food bank would need to provide an additional 4 million meals each year for the next 10 years, and that is just not possible.”

“I’ve eaten government food during two periods in my life: as a child and as a soldier. The first led to the second in more ways than one, and permanently influenced the way I look at food aid.”

“Happy to take millions in farm subsidies. Not too sure about nutrition for the poor.”

“The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation.”


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  • “The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation.”

    This is especially egregious, because it leads to situations like I’ve seen noted before on this blog, where workers in dire need have had to impose on their co-workers to ask for transfers of vacation or sick days so as to not fall afoul of corporate policy.

    This is not right and it should not require a game of robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul in order to allow for a person who needs to take time off to take that time off.

  • “Technically, downward mobility is still mobility, you see.”

    Not so different from Mellon in the 1930s!

  • TheBrett

    1. What’s interesting is when that explosion happened. It had been going up gradually through the 1980s and 1990s, but the real sharp upward spike happened in the late 1990s/early 2000s, followed by another spike before the recent recession. I’m going to guess that has to do with an explosion in Financial Sector profitability, which happened over the same time period.

    Speaking of which, that Financial Sector is really screwing with the stats on corporate profitability. Take that away, and I’m guessing the rest of corporate profits aren’t too impressive in the US.

    14. Too true on the Salvation Army thing. That’s why I always try to do payment donations, since charities like the food bank and probably the Salvation Army tend to be good at turning money donations into useful goods and services for charity. So if you’ve got clothes you don’t want, you could always try to find a textile recycler to sell them to, then use the money from that to make a donation.

  • Figs

    Tangentially related, the situation with maternity and paternity leave is also pretty awful. Even in the federal government, with all its vaunted benefits, new mothers are only guaranteed the right to take 12 weeks off and still have a job waiting for them when they get back. If they want that time to be paid time off, then they’ve got to make sure they’ve got 12 weeks of paid time off saved up beforehand. There is a leave donation program, but it only kicks in after the new mother has depleted all of her personal sick and annual leave (and leave donation only allows you to accept donated leave up to 6 weeks, not the full 12; so if you’ve got only 5 weeks of leave saved up, you can only accept one week of donated leave).

    This leads to situations where a new mother has a baby at home and virtually no paid leave to handle the new baby’s inevitable illnesses. It’s really a travesty.

  • LL

    Yeah, we don’t need SNAP. Our money is better spent paying private corporations to monitor all of our electronic communications. That’s where the real ROI is.

  • The Canadian situation is analogous. Jim Stanford, in Paper Boom, showed that the vast growth in what is conventionally measured as wealth was concentrated in the stock and bond markets in the 1990s (i.e. the “paper economy”), while things like land and other fixed tangible assets largely went flat.

    I suspect that even the recent housing bubbles in Canada haven’t changed the underlying fundamentals: our economy is out of kilter and the present government is more interested in aping the USA than in actually doing anything about it.

  • Guest

    I wish I had access to a thrift store like the Quincy Street Salvation Army. Where I live, the thrift stores tend to be stuffed full of rags (“the bad and the ugly”), not wearable clothes. Maybe the amount of *good* clothes donated depends on the location, and textile companies should export their good clothes to other parts of the US as well as to Africa. The rags, of course, need to be recycled (preferable) or trashed as soon as possible. (Alternatively, good donated clothing is equitably spread across the US, and I just suck at finding them.)

  • Lori

    Location definitely makes a huge difference in the clothes you find at thrift stores. Generally speaking, more rich people in the area = better stuff. Thrifts run by the local hospital auxiliary can be really good because they get a lot of their stuff from the doctors’ families.

    And yes, someone should consider spreading the better things around the US instead of dumping it all in Africa where it destroys local clothing industries.

  • J_Enigma32

    Any direction is forward, whether it’s to 2080 or 1880…

    If you’re a member of of the Parasite Class, that is.

  • J_Enigma32

    Let me paint you a scary scenario for a second, concerning national healthcare and national security, and why the two are inexorably linked (that is, you can’t have one without the other).

    Here you have a ideologue. This gentleman is a dangerously unhinged ideologue, who hates the West in general but America in particular for whatever reason. With him in mind, let’s leave our ideologue and turn to some basic genetics and biology:

    It does not take much to alter a virus. In fact, altering a virus is relatively easy. Altering a virus to carry a payload is something we can do right now; being little more than strands of RNA, they are the ideal vector. There’s no cure for a virus, and they mutate fast – evolution favors the species fast on turn over, and viruses are amazingly quick little buggers. What’s more, you can find instructions on modifying viruses online, if you know where to look. While it takes a little more than chemistry set, modifying these things is something any reasonably well financed body or entity can do. And if you’re well connected, then you’ve got a doorway to come by this stuff.

    So let’s go back to our ideologue. He hates the United States. So looking around, you see several things that can only leave the conclusion the United States is practically begging for a bioterrorist attack:

    1. Healthcare is a joke; there’s no universal system, Obamacare isn’t even in full swing and when it gets into full swing, it won’t be universal enough to prevent something like this from impact millions of people.

    2. Lots of poor people mean lots of people under stress. Stress reduces the effectiveness of your immune system . A weak immune system means that people won’t be able to fight our new superbug off.

    3. Poorer workers cannot take time off to treat sicknesses, because if they do, they’ll lose their ability to pay for those treatments. It’s a catch-22; you go to work sick to get paid to treat the sickness or you take the day(s) off work and remain sick. Ergo, the economy encourages people to come in to work sick. This is especially true for fast food workers, who, may I remind you, handle your food.

    4. American cities are cramped places. Very cramped. Lots of potential sick people. Plenty of potential vectors.

    So, I, as the ideologue, design my superbug. I’m not getting my superbug into the country any normal way, so like any good Ideologue, I infect myself with it. Once I infect myself, all I have to do his hit the poorest neighborhoods, and the fast food joints, and other low-income places.

    I take my superbug and I design it so that the initial symptoms are something like the flu. Aches, pains, maybe a slight fever, runny nose; nothing that’ll keep you bed ridden. Because I want you to spread this thing, and you most certainly will, because you’ll be going to work instead of the doctor to pay for going to work. My superbug lies low with these symptoms for, give it 4 or 5 days, and then it hits all at once. It goes from being flu to being hemorrhagic. Think Marenberg. Think Ebola.

    I’m dead by this time, so I don’t care. But because I targeted the most vulnerable people, the poor, the disease will prove very … how shall we say “challenging” to treat. Unable to afford the basic treatments, the poor will drop like flies and as they die, they spread the infection to the middle class and the upper classes. If I’m really lucky, I may even infect a few of them superrich bastards, but I doubt that. Like I said, though; it may take months, maybe even years, before this plague wraps itself up. And even if a treatment comes up for it, and they do develop an antiviral treatment, it’ll work just like a vaccination: everyone has to have it to support herd immunity, especially with viruses, given they change so quickly. Evolution will have a hold of my superbug long before my first cough “accidentally” puts it in your face.

    A country lacking universal healthcare and PTO in a day and age of Bioterrorism is a country begging for a bioterrorist attack; universal access to biomedicine and the ability to take days off to fight off any viruses without losing pay are vital. I may have embellished a bit, but the theory remains the same: target the poor, the people who handle the food, and you can kill millions of Americans.

    America got itself worked up into a lather over 9/11. We did everything we could to make sure that would never happen again; bipartisan support for the National Security State. Protection – as a group of people we’re scared shitless by these terrorists. We’re utterly terrified of them. And yet, for all of the moves we’ve let the NSS make, we’ve never once stopped to think about the potential for a bioterrroist incident attacking and killing millions of us. It’s true that once you turn your virus loose natures takes over and nature might have better (or worse) plans for your toy. It’s possible that only you die, and your virus runs off in a field somewhere to play hopscotch with leprosy and polio.

    It’s also possible that this could happen entirely on accident. By begging for a bioterrorist attack, we’re also begging for a massive epidemic that will also likely kill millions of people.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Your mind terrifies me. What’s scarier is that you’re absolutely right. I’d never thought about it like that before. Now to share with the people who want national security without national healthcare…

  • You should read his book (The Blue Pimpernel). It took me the better part of a month to get through because I had to keep taking breaks so I wouldn’t feel the urge to go off and strangle a senator. :p

  • EllieMurasaki

    …I remember hearing about that but I do not remember where to acquire it.

  • EllieMurasaki


  • P J Evans

    and another copy of it sold. Now to find out if I can read it without wanting to pitchfork a few conresscritters.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Not sold yet, but near the top of the list to buy once I have money with which to buy things again. My budget, assuming no overtime or non-paycheck income, is a lot tighter than I like it to be. (Damn asthma meds.) But I’m expecting to be able to work a lot of overtime this week and next, assuming I’m not too tired to make the attempt–my sleep schedule’s all blown to hell these two weeks because of training on day shift when I am accustomed to working nights. So in just under four weeks I’ll have spare money. If I were a good person it would all go towards paying what I owe faster, but I am not a good person.

  • stardreamer42

    Here’s an even more frightening thought. What if your ideologue is a good enough actor to pretend that, rather than hating America, what he hates is poor people? And what if he got the ear of someone like Rand Paul, who hates poor people too and doesn’t have enough understanding of biology to know that a plague can’t be tailored to economic circumstances? He could get major neocon backing for his little bio-bomb, just by promising that it would kill all those inner-city parasites.

  • J_Enigma32

    That’s a terrifying thought, and probably more likely than my own.

    Although, since it’s more likely than my own, it’s also one fewer people will take seriously.

  • J_Enigma32

    The response you’ll get is something along the lines of “that’s just a scare story” or “they can’t do that because we’re safe”. They won’t believe until Spanish Influenza 2.0 hits the United States with unmatched fury and wracks up a very fashionable body count, including members of their own family, that they’ll start to budge, and even there would be people on that side in denial about the reality (especially if, as stardreamer42 points out above, the attack was homegrown). Expect to hear the standard tripe if something like this happens: God is expressing judgement on the United States because uppity women/teh ghey/abortion mills/Obamacare/masturbation/the Twinkie coming back/whatever.

    I hope nothing like this has to happen. I may be vastly overestimating the capability of terrorist organizations, or perhaps underestimating the capacity of our Security State, but all the security in the world can’t save you from an accidental one.

    There’s also a factor I forgot to include in the original post: anti-Vaxxers and modern science deniers. It’s fashionable in the United States to preach nonsense about vaccination and alternative forms of medicine, meaning that there will be those people in the middle class who, even if they could afford it, won’t take it because some 50,000 year old Lemurian Warrior name Ramashamalamadingdong told them, speaking through his modern day avatar, that Quantum Happiness is the key to Self-Actualization. I don’t know what the expect percentage of the population is they make up, but I expect that percentage to plummet, rapidly, in the wake of any type of plague – but only after they’ve done a lot of damage in the process.

  • J_Enigma32

    Thank you! :)

  • banancat

    I also think the problem is partially obscured by the term “vacation days”. In the jobs that I’ve worked that had any kind of leave, it was the same pool of leave whether you’re sick or going on a cruise. And that’s fine; I don’t even have a problem with that. I mean, my mom had separate “sick days” but had to prove to her employer that she was actually sick. I don’t mind have generic ones where that I can use when and how I see fit. But because they’re not called “sick days” anymore, people view it as wanting paid time to go relax on the beach or go on a safari or whatever people do on vacations. But I’d really just be happy to take off work when I have bronchitis and not see a cut in my paycheck because of it.

  • Especially because we know it’s fully plausible. Just look at the Tuskagee syphilis experiment, or the history of eugenics.

  • Also, even in countries with universal health care there are still social factors that could make an epidemic like that get worse. Homeless populations have been increasing in Vancouver over the last ten years, and not everyone thinks to go to emergency for what looks like normal aches and sniffles.

    Scary thought! But *maybe* less people would die in Canada.


    (is now uneasily looking out the window)

  • Another thing. It strikes me it might even be thought politically “acceptable” to undergo the calculus of simply waiting out the epidemic and letting all the poor people go.

    This was prompted by remembering a story someone wrote, in which the US president orders that illegal drugs be purposely spiked with killing agents to commit mass murder of drug users. Given that the War on Drugs was politically popular in the 1990s especially, the President was effectively gambling that even if the truth were made known enough people would support it as a Good Thing due to the Othering effect of political discourse in the USA.

  • What someone needs is to invent a solvent that can be be used to peel
    the decals from the losing team shirts so that those shirts can be reused here at home, rather than exported or trashed.

    Maybe another team with the same colors will be in a championship game later that same year and the shirts could be used for that game.

  • MarkTemporis

    “Efficiency and progress is ours once more, now that we have the neutron bomb. It’s nice and clean and quick and gets things done. Away with excess enemy, with no real damage to property! No sense in war but perfect sense at home…”

  • MarkTemporis

    Ah! Amazon! But then I’d need the Kindle app for just one book…
    I see the lulu link gets me epub format, which lets me use my preferred eBook software (Mantano), but Amazon already has my info, and I dislike propogating it unnecessarily.

    First world problems…

  • fredgiblet

    I might actually prefer that. I almost never take sick days so I’ve got a bunch of sick leave hours racked up that I probably can’t use without breaking my perfect attendance streak.

  • fredgiblet

    Or we can just stop making those shirts. I’m sure the merchandising hit would be survivable for the NFL, cash-strapped as they are.

  • myeck waters

    Well, you could install the Kindle app, download the book, then install the free Calibre app and use it to convert the kindle book to the e-text format of your choice, and then delete both apps…

  • Neutron. Bombs. Don’t. Work. That. Way.

  • FearlessSon

    If nothing else good comes of it, at least the pay level for employees will level back to to something reasonable due to a reduced supply of labor, like in the aftermath of the Black Plague.

    … but that is like a sweet cherry on top of a cow pie.

  • FearlessSon

    Okay, now I am having flashbacks to Deus Ex.

    But for the scenario you described to be effective, we would need multiple ideologues working together. One ideologue in one city would be serious trouble for that city, but the CDC would use emergency measures to quarantine and contain the outbreak, limiting its impact. However, multiple ideologues infecting multiple cities would be much more difficult to contain, stretching resources too thin and overwhelming any organization’s ability to effectively respond to all of it.

  • MarkTemporis

    Yeah. Jello Biafra had a pretty idiosyncratic idea of how Cassini worked too. Not big on the science, that guy. DKs still rocked back in the day, tho.

  • stardreamer42

    A late reply because I was just looking back at this thread. The solution for the obstacle you propose is easy — our ideologue also takes a trip out to the airport and wanders past the lines of travelers checking baggage, coughing and sneezing as he goes. Bingo, carriers headed to other cities all over the country!

    I can’t claim originality on this part — I read it in a story called “The Meetings of the Secret World Masters” by Geoffrey A. Landis, in an anthology called How To Save The World.

  • FearlessSon

    Very true, and I thought of that. However, it would still be easy to contain when the authorities started figuring out what the connecting factor between cases is. If several can operate in different airports simultaneously, then they not only spread the infection over a wider population but also make it even harder to contain or isolate the root of the infection.