Saturday, November 16, 2013

Anti-Miminum Wage Contra Statism?

Originally posted at dpsst25.

I recently had a chance to observe some comments on social media when someone posted something supporting an increase in the national minimum wage in the United States. The reactions included claims of socialism as well as fears of creeping statism in the name of compassion.

Rather than getting into an extended debate over the issue, which rarely has any potential or opportunity for serious or legitimate discussion on places like Facebook, I chose to pose the following questions instead:

1A: Is anything that questions neoclassic economic theory and neoliberal economic policy automatically now labeled "socialist", and, is that supposed to be a warning or fear marker rather than a policy critique?

2A: Is the potential loss of jobs for youth entering the workplace worth more than the well-being and dignity of those who need to support themselves and their families at minimum wage jobs?

2B: As a corollary to the last question, is the only money in play from a low wage worker-vs low wage worker in a zero sum game, or is it OK to look at the money in CEO salaries and corporate profits as part of the equation as well?

3A: Does anyone disagree that the current legal and cultural climate sets up corporations as somewhat amoral "persons" whose primary overriding goal and responsibility is to increase the monetary value of the business to shareholders?

3B: Do the potential employee and employer represent two individuals with equal power who meet face to face to discuss the social and monetary value of the employee's labor, the value of the employer's business, capital, and product, and what a fair and livable arrangement would be in terms of work schedule, salary, benefits, and so on until a mutually satisfactory arrangement is reached and legally bound in a contract?

3C: If not, what forms of recourse should a current or potential employee have to counter the ability of the employer to demand more value from the worker's labor than the worker receives in useful compensation? To arbitrate a fair and livable arrangement?

3D: Is not the goal of immediate, short-term corporate profit and the power of the employer relative to the worker going to tend toward lower wages, fewer benefits, and an unfair and unlivable arrangement?  Do not labor unions and legal protections help to balance out the interests of such myopic profit motives?

3E: Are there not corporations and cooperative-based businesses that pursue long-term benefit to community and worker above the profit motive yet still make money? If so, why shouldn't the legal and cultural climate favoring the less generous and sustainable business practices be criticized, restricted, and ultimately replaced?

3F: For those who favor the libertarian style solution to corrupt and unfair business practice, do you assume that employee and employer have equal power? That the employee has multiple readily available options of equal value to choose from? That these choices, if they exist, do not carry additional burdens? That being fired (for objecting to workplace conditions or questioning compensation) or quitting in protest has no social repercussions and no effect on gaining future employment (especially in the same industry)? And even if these things were true, is there no ethical obligation to those who must suffer until the situation resolves itself by such Laissez-faire principles?

3G: If, based on the last question, workers do not have the social, cultural, and economic freedom to choose their way out of a bad employment situation (either doing so with great difficulty or peril or simply lacking any viable options), or if it is not ethical to let people suffer until Laissez-faire principles eventually intercede and improve working conditions and employment options, does not the government have the obligation to intervene? Especially since the welfare of the people is one the primary duties of government in the US Constitution?

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Liberty and justice for all?

Originally posted at dpsst25.

At the end of a recent blog post I briefly mentioned ENDA, the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, which is making it's way through the US Senate. As the title of the bill suggests, the law prohibits workplace discrimination because of factors such as gender-identity and sexual orientation.

While the bill is going to pass the Senate and the President is ready to sign it, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, released a statement through a spokesperson last week declaring that he "believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs." Later his office added that Boehner believes the bill is unnecessary because such workplaces protections are already protected under existing law.

The claim that federal law already guarantees such protections is not tenable, and most states don't have such explicit protections. If such legal protections already existed, then the possibility of lawsuits for unfair labor practices based on gender and sexual orientation would also exist. So the two statements eat each other.

But let's get back to the initial press release. There are two important things that are being explicitly said.

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An Introductory Critique of Current Economic Philosophy

Originally posted at dpsst25.

Current economic philosophy is rooted in large measure in debates about human nature that took place between Scottish, English, French, and German philosophers between two and three hundred years ago.

Those individuals were echoing debates that have been going on for much longer, debates about whether humans are intrinsically "good" (caring, empathetic, generous, cooperative, altruistic, etc) or "evil" (indifferent, cruel, selfish, greedy, manipulative, etc), and to what degree external circumstances and choice could draw out or strengthen different social qualities.

Whether intentionally or accidentally evolved or imbued by some unseen force, humans have a capacity for various social states and qualities. In adaptive terms, this can be cast a conflict between gene-centric selection (focused on the immediate benefit of the individual) versus group-centric selection (focused on the benefit of individuals as part of a larger social collective).

Contemporary postmodern industrial societies tend to construct their economic perspective on 1) status/wealth as reward, 2) uncertainty of worthiness, 3) scarcity of virtue, 4) abundance of resources, and 5) belief in meritocracy. I'll review these briefly before challenging their effectiveness at creating a just society full of actualized and productive citizens.

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Monday, August 12, 2013

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Greatness has Left the Plantet: George McGovern Dies


In Memory George McGovern (July 19,1922-Oct 21, 2012)
"the Senator"

That's all my brother and I ever had to call him. We knew which Senator we meant. His ill fated Presidential bid in 1972 was our baptism of fire into the world of politics. No more egar, idealistic, stary eyed kids ever burned up the spare time of their sophomore high school year than us. My first crushing political defeat, so devastating it led to my first drunk (the defeat party) and my first hang over (which felt like death).

From the defeat party they dorve me to the home of some guy they knew in the Hill Crest area of Dallas. Upper middle class homes. I'm left in the car while they do in. This guy has an Eastern European name which I wont say but that night I was so drunk I could not say it. So I began wondering the neighborhood knocking on doors and going "is this Less snlorebloxk bosh kie house?" They had to track me down several houses down the way from where they left me.

McGovern was born July 19th, that day day keeps popping up in m life. Herbert Marcuse, another hero died on July 19th and that same July 19, 1979 the Nicaraguan revolution triumphed.


He was a bomber pilot in WWII, he flew a B-24 and was decorated for valor.. Elected to the senate from his native South Dakota in early 60s, he pushed a program of "food for peace," fighting communism by feeding the third world. The Senator was one of the first to speak against the war in Vietnam, a courageous pioneer who was mocked and ridiculed, labeled a communist but who stuck to his guns. When Robert Kennedy was assassinated McGovern was ask to stand in as the replacement candidate for his campaign.

He ran for President again in 84 or 88. and of cousre lost in the primaries and fairly early. He spent his last years in Eruope working for United Nations. See Los Angles Times coverage. McGovern was a Methodist when to a Wesleyan college on the GI bill after the war. He was an avid reader of philosophy and in his college days was taken with the works of Walter Rauschenbusch a leader in the "social Gospel" the forerunner movement of liberation theology.

 His 72 Campaign got off to a rocky start then went down hill. He said he was behind Egalton "a thousand percent." Then dropped him form the ticket when it was revealed he had been in a mental institution. He chose Kenndy bother-in-law R.Sargent Shriver (father of Maria) to replace Egalton. Everyone  began to say "O he just flip flopps all the time and can't make up his mind." Nixon, the master of atheist style campaigning, branded him a communist. People said "he's a wild eyed radical it would be a disaster if he was in." They never read his campagin literature, they didn't know his popsitons on anything. They were certain he was a dangerous radical. He changes his mind all the time. I had debats in every calss I was in. The other side was always stunned with how rational he sounded when I got through. No one changed their minds.

During the campaign I couldn't keep track of how many people said "it doesn't matter, that Watergate thing is no big deal." That next year after Watergate summer everyone said "O guess you were right." some said 'I guess I should have voted for McGovern after all." I lost count of how many people said I see you were right after all.

Just the way people are. they don't reason, they don't bother to learn the facts they just go along get along until it's too late then look to the past and go "we should have listened." But we are not going to listen now!

I think McGovern appealed to the Texan upbringing of my brother and I. We raised to admire the Alamo and the fight-to-the-death-for-your-beliefs mentality. That's what McGovern always symbolized for me. He was a symbol of my youthful idealism, my compassion or the oppressed, and the never say die fighting spirit that's willing to risk and lose all for higher beliefs.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What's the Matter with White People: Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was


A book by Joan Walsh. This is an excellent book. Walsh argues that government action built the American middle class in the years after world war II. The things government did to create a strong middle were not available to blacks and Hispanics, until the social action of the 60's opened them up to minorities through the civil rights act. From that point on the Republican propaganda merchants begin selling the white middle class on  a mythical golden age and feeding them the line they did it all themselves by their own worthiness as superior people. They totally forgot about the G.I. Bill, legislation that fair housing possible controlled lending, created cheap housing for middle class families, medicare which freed people from huge expense being wiped by illness in their "golden years."

Walsh, who is white, daughter of a Steam Fitter and union man, traces the rise of the American middle class from the New deal. Republicans in the Reagan era spread about the myth that Roosevelt didn't do anything. By the time that happened most of the old Roosevelt supporters and the adults of the depression who weathered the storm and aw what he did for them, were old and dying and not longer taken seriously by their children. So no on Remembers what Roosevelt did. The New deal a life saver for millions of people. It put the country back to work at a time when unemployment was 30% (we think we have trouble when it's at 8%--it just fell below 8% but no one cares). Even before the new deal American society was a fudealistic culture with the Rich ruling like monarchs in an unoficial capacity and whole states living in darkness with no electricity. Rural electrification was one of the major things that created the middle class, it gave people lights and telephone labor saving devices like washing machines. The old rich monarch of the community is seen, although most people probably don't know it, in the character of Mr. Burns on the Simpsons who is patterned after characters on Orson Well's film "the Magnificent Ambersons." (see about novel) The joke is Burns is so old he's a hold over from a past age int eh 19th century; the old money families are still in charge, as robber barons they ran coal mines, how they run the nuclear power plant.

The Tennessee valley authority is an example of the kind of government help that got the American middle class on its feet. This problem would be called "socialism" by tea party types it's what up American into the 20th century. About the time programs like fair housing started being administered to minorities, Republican pitch began laying the ground work for the Reagan era by spinning myths of a golden age when conservative Christianity was the norm and everyone was a republican and all white Americans pulled themselves up by their own boot straps. That was the major propaganda line for Reagan. The "America is Back" theme harkened unto that non existent golden age. On Tavis Smiley (the dreaded PBS) Walsh talked about how modern conservatives will speak of "getting government out of medicare" as though medicare is not a government program or an entitlement. It is both. It was major thing that made economic independence of the middle class possible.

SF GATE: Book Review

'What's the Matter With White People?'Joel Whitney

Updated 3:16 a.m., Monday, August 27, 2012

Reagan wielded the phrase "welfare queens," and pushed a false view that most recipients were black, lazy and happy not to work. This helped galvanize a false sense among working-class whites that they themselves had never received government help on their way to the middle class. "I once blamed the conflict solely on wealthy capitalists and their politician-servants such as Nixon and [Pat] Buchanan," Walsh writes, "pitting the two groups at the bottom against each other." No more. Her own side, including the race-obsessed left, played, and plays, into this.

In a sense, Walsh sees herself taking up the actual "sweet, reasonable middle." She describes a whiplash, "one day calling out the racism of the president's worst critics, the next day being accused of racial bias by Obama's defenders if I described his disturbingly centrist political maneuvering."Read more:

 Now the myth is that government is always bad, it's destroyed our way of life. what's destroyed the prospects of the middle class is Bush's policies, before him Reaganomics. The Republicans billed the poor "a special interest" while maintaining that the true special interstates (the 1%) are escaping the rising tide of taxes on the middle class. The label democrats "tax and spend" while they themselves are the one's whose tax cuts were primarily for the rich. Rowney's policies put the tax burden squarely on the backs of the middle class while allowing the rich to escape. Obama's tax policy would give the middle class the break and put the burden on the 1% who have 90% of the wealth and don't pay taxes. While middle class feels ignored because Republican rhetoric has made them feel that regulation is to blame for all their problems. It was the destruction of regulation that allowed the near economic collapse at the end of the Bush years, the need for the big bail out of banks. Despite what Romney said in the debate he had campaigned all along on a formula of decreasing revenue and cutting social program (such as medicare which he would replace with a voucher system). So he's just continuing the policies and the myth of the golden age and the self reliant self made boot strap white people who never had relied on government and are now oppressed by too much government. what they really mean by "too much government" but less protection from rip off and more burden on the middle class, few social programs.

 Walsh's book is also a personal memoir of her family. I traces where they came from and what they've been through. This helps the reader relate and to puts our own experiences and our own family histories into focus.


I looked up "what was he accomplishment of the new deal on Yahoo just to see what the popular misconception is:

best answer chosen by voters
The purpose was to give the economy a boost. It's major accomplishment though was to keep us stuck in the Great Depression for years longer while the rest of the world was already recovering and out of their depressions.

Primarily, it tried to put unemployed people to work rather than creating jobs for them to get. The difference being that the jobs created by the New Deal were similar to paying some homeless guy to clean your dining table. Sure it's a nice gesture to help out that person, but it's not any sort of real job that impacts the economy. All it does is end up keeping millions of people dependent on the government so they can keep their pseudo-job since no one else would pay them to do that job.
They didn't create any jobs and it was the New Deal that kept us in the depression. those who lived through unanimous to the least 1% new it saved their lives. The know nothing doesn't even realize the rest of the world was coming out of it because they were trying similar things to the new deal.

 The New deal created millions of jobs. So that perception of it is a total lie. one can find it being taught in economists class all over the country.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Add one seven foot tall yellow chicken to the endange species list


Don't be surprised if we soon see Big Bird of Sesame Street on the corner holding a sign that says "will work for pledges." Romney promised to eliminate funding to PBS. How musch does PBS drain on the budget? Even right wing source like MRC News bulletin shows that PBS is not burden to the budget.

Noel Sheppard
Oct. 4.2012
The federal investment in public broadcasting equals about one one-hundredth of one percent of the federal budget. Elimination of funding would have virtually no impact on the nation’s debt. Yet the loss to the American public would be devastating. [...]

According to Corporation for Public Broadcasting they get about 445 million a year from the government. 

A nuclear air craft carrier costs more, the Nimitz class carriers are about 675 million. New Ford Class carriers will cost 9 billion. So for the price of one of the older style carriers each year we can  fund PBS. So why the big urge to get rid of it? 

Right  wingers have hated PBS for decades. PBS is the ny source of counter information that actually speaks with authoritative research and counters what Republican Presidents have done. It's the bastion of liberal knowledge so republicans hate it. Shows like Frontline and Bill Moyers are Just about the only journalistic efforts that really expose the corruption in American politics. Getting rid of PBS would be a major step toward controlling the news and information.

Nixon tried to cut funding of PBS in retaliation for WGBH of Boston and their failure to report favorably upon his campaign. One of the people who helped save it was Mr. Rogers (yes the really nice guy). Here are some quotes:

  • "We deal with such things as the inner drama of childhood. We don't have to bop someone over the head to make drama...We deal with such things as getting a haircut. Or the feelings about brothers and sisters, and the kind of anger that arises in simple family situations. And we speak to it constructively."
  • "We've got to have more of this neighborhood expression of care.  This is what I give.  I give an expression of care everyday to each child to help him to realize that he is unique."
  • "And I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear  that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health."

Rogers's address to the hearing was really moving  even the chairman commented on it. (see Video)

Alternative Soruces of Funding for PBS
a research document by CPB (summary p 45)

 A reduction or elimination of CPB funding will put a 63% (251) of radio stations and 67% (114) of television stations in the public broadcasting system at risk:
–19% (76) of radio stations and 32% (54) of TV Stations that currently operate at a minimum practical cost level, and would be at a high risk of closing
–44% (175) of radio stations and 35% (60) of TV stations have a history of operating deficits and would suffer reduced effectiveness or closure under increased financial pressure
These numbers are expected to increase over time:
–Under an optimistic scenario, an additional 3 TV stations and 2 radio stations would not be able to cover minimum practical costs in 2015
–Under a pessimistic scenario, an additional 5 TV stations and 17 radio stations would not be able to cover minimum practical costs in 2015

If Romney is willing to but PBS funding when it is inexpensive compared to other projects, how safe will social programs such Social Security Disability be? If he uses the opportunity to knock off a major source of information that might expose corruption in government, what does say about the kinds of things he might pursue as policy? What does that say about his commitment to an informed citizenry?