Archive for the 'Restriction of Macro-Choices' Category
Friday, April 19th, 2013
Much ado about the “outrage” of the U.S. Senate blocking a couple of extremely moderate gun control laws. As always in this society, both the corporate news and the corporate politics are confined to silliness. Hence, “In the end, the Senate voted largely along party lines this week to kill even the most modest new gun-control measures,” and so on and so forth.
Tommyrot. The Senate, which assigns Wyoming and California — with the latter having 66x the population of the former — the same voting weight, voted as it was designed to vote — in favor of the rural minority. The fact that this is not the overwhelming lead in this story tells you much about how “politics” and “journalism” happen in this market-totalitarian empire.
For those TCTers who share my interest in the continuing frequent decency and political impotence/irrelevance of the U.S. public, here is a pretty good depiction of basic facts. As usual, these opinions were forged and held with virtually no serious leadership involved, and against intense rightist flak.
Sunday, February 17th, 2013
The climate “movement” held their great rally today. Their target? A pipeline that nobody outside their PR machine seriously believes will make any major difference in the expanding extraction and combustion of Alberta tar sands. Those sands are simply going to get burnt, barring serious alteration in the demand for petroleum — meaning serious movement to end the reign of corporate capitalism’s core commodity, the private automobile.
Meanwhile, it will certainly be interesting to see what these Obama fans — dig the naked use of Obie’s marketing logos and slogans here — do when Zero, perhaps in the midst of new blowback or some newsworthy danger stemming from yet another heightening of the ongoing U.S. war against Iran, slaps them away.
The key demand in this movement is also very telling about its chances at success. You can see the core demand there on the protester’s very expensively and professionally-made placard: “clean energy.” As if there could be any such thing, without huge alterations in the infrastructure of the country, including, once again, a sharp move away from the reign of the private automobile. To call for “clean energy” without mentioning the level of energy use is like SNCC asking for “tasty lunches” while saying nothing about segregation. It is liberal practicality in all its evasive, stillborn glory.
FWIW, TCT favors approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, on the condition that it be accompanied by a huge and immediate expansion of funding for all the nation’s public transit agencies, including Amtrak, so that they might rise from their present state of near-bankruptcy and start seriously competing against car ownership.
That, of course, won’t happen without — ahem — a social movement pushing in that direction…
TCT‘s prediction? As pretty obviously signaled in this year’s State of the Union speech, Zerobama will approve the pipeline and link it to a call for more “clean energy” research and subsidy. The “movement” that met today will then face a severe crisis, and probably dissolve, having built their flimsy little tent on a hill of sand.
That, of course, may actually be less of a defeat than if Zero somehow decides to grant their wishes and block the pipeline. If he were to do so, what would the next steps of the movement be? To declare victory and start asking for “clean energy” research? At least a tasty lunch was an actual possibility in Greensboro, North Carolina…
Tuesday, April 17th, 2012
The New York Times yesterday profiled inequality researchers Saez and Piketty. In doing so, the paper of record says, regarding the country’s basic economic history, “income inequality in the United States fell after World War II.”
This familiar liberal trope is complete jive, as we TCTers know:
As this elementary graph, built from the data of none other than Saez and Picketty themselves, shows, income inequality has only ever seen a meaningful decline during, during, DURING World War II! I mean how fricking stupid can these apologists get? The basic fact literally screams in your face. Left to its own devices, corporate capitalism never equalizes the income distribution. The best it can do on that front is tread water for a couple decades after a freak intervention by the public.
This, of course, should come as no surprise. Capitalists obtained the right to run their affairs via oligopolies in order to maximize their own ROI, not to improve society.
Monday, February 21st, 2011
The Province of British Columbia provides its residents the ability to buy public, not-for-profit automobile insurance.
In the United States, where public insurance is more aggressively opposed by the overclass, publicly provided automotive coverage is entirely unavailable. Consequently, the insurance is inferior and the premiums higher. And the record profits of U.S. insurance companies, which Advertising Age reports “reached $26.7 billion in the first nine months of 2010″ — where do those go?
Largely to folks like Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway empire owns Geico.
The basis for all those private-sector profits? Sheer waste: To promote brand awareness, Geico and its “competitors” engage in saturation advertising of their private monopoly-protected inferior product. According to Ad Age, advertising expenditure by insurers more than doubled between 2000 and 2009.
The overall sales strategy in pure Pavlov. With few differences between companies’ policies and no competition from the public sector, repetition-implanted name recall is everything:
[T]he average shopper can name just four insurance brands off the top of their head, according to J.D. Power. And the way to get on that list is to advertise — all the time. “There’s enormous overlap between the companies that advertise a lot and the companies that are growing faster,” Mr. Shields said. “It seems very much to work.” (Ad Age, February 21, 2011)
Such are the glorious “efficiencies” of capitalism.
Friday, January 14th, 2011
Stuart Staniford, who tracks peak energy problems, today suggests that those of us who hope to help engineer soft landings ought to abandon socialism in favor of Al Gore. Speaking of human history, Staniford proposes that, “at least until we decide to engineer better human beings, a decent society will have an economic elite.” To try to combat elites, in Staniford’s view, is to deny human nature. The best we can do, he suggests, is to accept and nurture our overclass, in hopes of convincing “them, like Al Gore, to use a portion of their undoubted economic privilege in an attempt to move society in a direction of lower impact and less emissions.”
FWIW, I replied thusly:
If you are going to appeal to big history, I would suggest you stick with it. 5,500 years ago, permanent elites figured out how to keep surplus wealth for themselves as “property.” That, as you note, was the beginning of the end for egalitarian kinship societies.
But when did anybody start making a serious attempt to check ruling classes and their stories of biological superiority? 1776/1789. Less than 250 years ago, on a 5,500-year timeline.
And when did socialists start trying to extend democracy to economic affairs? 150 years ago. And they also did so while making the mistake of dismissing existing democracy as mere bourgeois illusion. So, socialism 2.0 has barely started, here in the latest 20 years on that 5,500-year timeline.
And here you are, talking about the naturalness of elites? I don’t buy it, either as history or strategy.
The point of leftism is not absolute monetary equality. It is the extension of democracy over macro-economic choices.
Of course, the impending energy/eco crash is going to make modern wealth levels and our range of macro-economic options a lot smaller.
Capitalists, meanwhile, are militant ostriches and obstacles, like it or not, because they are trying to retain what is utterly unkeepable. Al Gore thinks electric cars are a sufficient answer.
Friday, October 29th, 2010
In the United States in 2009, there were 151 million people who received wages. As reporter David Cay Johnston has begun to explain, there is a rather amazing collection of statistics being kept in this crucial area by the Social Security Administration.
Johnston explains some of the shocking, if not at all surprising, facts revealed by a bit of analysis:
[These statistics] do give us a stunning picture of what’s happening at the very top of the compensation ladder in America.
The number of Americans making $50 million or more, the top income category in the data, fell from 131 in 2008 to 74 last year. But that’s only part of the story.
The average wage in this top category increased from $91.2 million in 2008 to an astonishing $518.8 million in 2009. That’s nearly $10 million in weekly pay!
You read that right. In the Great Recession year of 2009 (officially just the first half of the year), the average pay of the very highest-income Americans was more than five times their average wages and bonuses in 2008. And even though their numbers shrank by 43 percent, this group’s total compensation was 3.2 times larger in 2009 than in 2008, accounting for 0.6 percent of all pay. These 74 people made as much as the 19 million lowest-paid people in America, who constitute one in every eight workers.
And remember: This comparison includes federally taxable wages only. It says nothing about stock options, expense accounts, or benefits.
And single-year wage data also say nothing about wealth distribution, which, in a capitalist paradise like the United States, is far more unequal than the income structure.
Finally, I would invite people to just goggle these stats. Contemplate, for instance, the pyramidal structure of the wage system. By far the most densely populated wage segments lie at the low end of the scale. And the slots get almost precisely less-filled as they ascend into the unconscionable stratosphere.
Likewise, one might examine these numbers and ask “our” politicians why the fuck they never shut up about the so-called “middle class.” Aren’t the bottom and the top really the overwhelmingly important issues? And, even without knowing the facts Johnston discusses, aren’t people thirsty for some leadership and meaningful choice in this area?
Alas, few topics are more off-the-table in our market totalitarian society. The mass media are owned by corporate capitalists who enrich themselves by serving the other corporate capitalists who are the sponsors of their fare. The ruling (R) v. (D) junta, the money-grubbing Business Party duo-mono-poly, a.k.a. our “serious” policians? The same.