Smashing Capitalism, Not Fancy Measures

In the “Broken Capitalism” series being published over at The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/01/broken-capitalism-economy-americans-fix?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other, Heather Boushey argues that the way academics measure economic growth is outdated and doesn’t show the full picture of the wealth gap between the 1% and the rest of us. Here’s her argument:

GDP used to be a good indicator of national income. If GDP rose 2%, most gained 2% across the board. But due to the current economic separation between the 1% and the 99%, simple GDP is no longer a valid measuring tool. Boushey gives us this example:

Take 2014. While aggregate national income grew by 2.3%, after taxes and government transfer programs such as supplemental nutrition assistance, incomes for those in the bottom 90% grew by less than the average – 1.5% – while those in the top 1% saw their income grow by twice the average – about 5%.

She then argues for a new disaggregate measure made up of national income and product accounts with data from surveys and administrative sources to clear the picture. This would not only produce more representative ratios between the rich and poor, but also between race, gender, and age

That’s a great idea, but it does not get to the question of what is to be done.

Boushey offers that better published numbers will make the masses more aware of the economic canyon between those of the top SES and the rest of us:

Better, fairer growth measures are a vital step towards better, fairer growth. A clearer picture of the disconnect between overall growth and worker welfare will force a deeper examination of what’s gone wrong with the capitalist engine

Boushey goes on to argue that these new measures will give more power to the people enabling unions to rise. But that is not what I take issue with here.

I am arguing that better tools for showing the income gap between rich and poor will not fuel the smashing of capitalism. The proletariat is not concerned with new academic information to show how poor they are. What they are concerned with is putting food on the table. This is why “Peace, Land, Bread” was so effective in 1917. Lenin and the Bolsheviks didn’t lay out Marx’s material dialectic to the masses as a way to spark them to action. Not in the slightest. They got down to the brass tacks of what ailed the Russian workers and peasants at the time: the end of participation in WWI, land redistribution, and food for their families.

I am not arguing against Boushey’s proposal of how to better measure the income gap among in American society. Her methods show who is making all the money (the 1%) while the vast majority (the 99%) receive so little. Great! I love it! But don’t fool your bourgeois self into thinking that fancy numbers will serve as a catalyst for real social change, Ms. Boushey. The masses could never understand this measurement with more than a 100 years of educational development and the destruction of media power.

A “clearer picture” of the math of inequality is definitely valuable among the academy. But to the masses, it means very little. They do not understand nor are concerned with such matters. They know they are working harder to make less as they fall further and further behind. This how you fix broken capitalism. Peace, land, bread, not disaggregate GDP measures.

NYT: Many Top Corps Paying 0% Taxes Driving Some to Far Left Organization

We want what the people want:

Mr. Robertson, the carpet cleaner, has his own idea: nationalizing the companies. “I think forcing them to pay higher alone is inefficient,” he said, “and taxation alone is inefficient.”

www.nytimes.com/2019/04/29/us/politics/democrats-taxes-2020.html

Proposed Tax On Million Dollar Living Spaces Serving As Second Home

“For properties valued between $5 million and $6 million, a 0.5 percent surcharge would be added on the value over $5 million. Fees and a higher surcharge would apply to homes that sold for more than $6 million, topping out at a $370,000 fee and a 4 percent surcharge for homes valued at more than $25 million.”

This would be huge in NYC where so many high end living spaces remain empty for they are just investments.

Would be great for a subway system revamp, and any leftover for remedying the housing crisis there.

www.nytimes.com/2019/03/11/nyregion/mta-subways-pied-a-terre-tax.html

NYT: “The Making of a U.K. Millennial Socialist”

Stand with our British sisters, brothers, and comrades!!!

nyti.ms/2GEXexS

Expert on Venezuela Stand-off says Attempted Aid Delivery: “It was a farce, and it failed.”

Mark Weisbrot, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, who advocates a negotiated end to the political crisis (said),

”The ‘humanitarian aid’ this weekend was a public relations stunt, since the aid was just tiny fraction of the food and medicine that they are depriving Venezuelans of with the sanctions….As the Trump administration admitted, it was an attempt to get the Venezuelan military to disobey Maduro. It was a farce, and it failed.”

https://apnews.com/fda32cb8f5b944a989f6c2443c5c8084

Maduro Critic Even Argues A U.S. Coup Attempt is Occurring in Venezuela

A great Democracy Now! interview with a Caracas professor who, though being a Maduro critic, explains how U.S. aid is an attempt to incite the Venezuelan publics support for a Guaido/U.S. coup.

Also explains how U.S. sanctions are true cause for Venezuelan economic crisis.

Plus, for good measure, they have snippets of Trump spewing lies at one of his rallies calling Maduro a “Cuban Puppet.”

www.democracynow.org/2019/2/22/this_is_not_humanitarian_aid_a

Americans Should be Envious: “Why Infants May Be More Likely to Die in America Than Cuba”

nyti.ms/2HieZUR

A great op-Ed by Nick Kristoff at the NYT explaining how, though lacking in first rate medical technology, the infant mortality rates are actually lower in Cuba. We could take away many good practices from the Socialist, island nation so close to our shores.

Slaves for Fashion “Prison-Made Brand Carcel Reimagines Fashion From The Inside Out”

Brand CEO Veronica D’Souza on creating a ‘different ecosystem’ in fashion and the launch of a new Thai silk collection made in a maximum-security prison
— Read on www.forbes.com/sites/maryjanewiltsher/2019/01/28/prison-made-brand-carcel-reimagines-fashion-from-the-inside-out/amp/

What are so-called “fair wages”? Is there any choice not to produce clothing for the rich?

Prison work is slavery. It is not dignifying.

Communism: Learning from the Past and Present

As I have put forth in my previous posts, a socialist government is the best political system to be realized today in the interests of the 99%. But if we are going to move towards having the power taken back from the rich and given to its rightful owners, the workers, we must avoid making the mistakes made by Communist countries today and in the past.

One of the most dangerous actions taken by the radical leftist governments of the past is that they tried to realize unrealistic goals too soon. E.g., China had its “Great Leap Forward,” the Soviets under Stalin always put forth these “5 Year Plans” that hurt the Russian people at the hands of Stalin’s vain attempts at greatness, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia killed over a million of their countrymen partially due to economic reforms. And these often just occurred to catch up with capitalist countries in the areas of industry, science, military, and infrastructurevtoo fast. Foolish.

The are two reasons why this is true, namely:

  1. Revolutionaries have no idea how to run a country. This often leads to unspeakable hardships and suffering for the reasons mentioned above in the pursuit of grand ideals.
  2. The three countries outlined above, i.e., Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and the Khmer Rouge’s Cambodia, were ruled under brutal dictators, or very small groups of leaders, who ran authoritarian governments. They involved purges, gulags, and mass murders of so-called “enemies of the people.” And these things are still taking place in North Korea under the rule of the Kim family and their latest criminal, thug leader, Kim Jong Un.

But in terms of the socialist experiment in Cuba, we could learn a lot of positive things from them. The U.S. capitalist media would have you believe that the Castros are no different than Stalin or Un, but what they don’t report are the great strides towards equality taking place in the small island country. E.g., they have redistributed land to the peasants through land reform. Once the Cuban peasants were slaves to rich plantation owners, but as a result of the revolution, the land owned by the corporations and plantation owners has now been divided amongst the people who work the land. And that is just one example of the successful reforms. They have also gotten away from just being a sugar-dominated economy and even become a powerhouse in the research and development of new medicines that are often purchased, yes, by the U.S. government.

Yet this has succeeded by not having some grand goal of building a developing country into a society where they are immediately just as technologically advanced as  the U.S. These are examples of how ideas and policies could be learned from a socialist society to be translated instilled in a more equal America.

So in conclusion, the brutality of Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge is due to harsh authoritarian governments, not an attempted realization of a fully socialist society. These dictatorships had vain rulers trying to advance mostly Third-World countries into global players too fast. Yet we can look to somewhere like Cuba for positive ideas to enact here in the U.S. in pursuit of a more egalitarian society.

Social Capital and The Lack Thereof

Graduates walking towards future

I have been watching the PBS NewsHour these past few days to see their week long segment on one of the biggest problems facing American higher education today, namely, the lack of success by incoming students from lower-income households. Here’s the introduction:

More students are enrolling in college, but the percent of students who actually earn a college credential by the age of 24 has only increased significantly for families with the highest household incomes. Between 1970 and 2013, the percent of students earning college credentials from families with incomes in the top quarter of all household rose from 40 to 77 percent.

For students from families in the lowest quarter of all households, attainment of a college credential rose from 6 to just 9 percent.

So why is this occurring if the intelligence and academic proclivity of the two groups are equal through other indicators? In my analysis of the report, it is a lack of what academics call “social capital.”

Let’s have a proper definition here from Comer, 2015.

             I understand social capital as the relationships, norms, and trust acquired in meaningful networks that provide individuals and groups with the capacities to gain the training and tools, or human capital, necessary to participate in the economic and related mainstream of our society. Such participation provides productive and economic benefits to individuals; and/or social and human capital for the society (Putnam 1993, 1995; Coleman 1988; Woolcock 1998).

And to provide a little more accessible illumination of social capital’s nature:

               Individuals acquire social capital in the social and economic networks around them–family and friends, kin and meaningful contacts of the family network; the networks of school and work; economic and governance networks at all levels. Positive interactions with knowledgeable and meaningful family or caretakers in mainstream cultural environments at home facilitate the acquisition of social capital needed for school success (Comer, 2004). Reasonable economic wellbeing makes positive interactions more possible.

In Comer, 2015, he provides an autobiographical sketch that shows how he, coming from a low-income household in an economically-depressed area of Chicago, attained his social capital.

He speaks of how his mother was the housekeeper for some of the most affluent Chicago residents of the time. She would blend in through imitation the best way she could despite her lack of education (she only had 2 years of formal instruction), and Comer’s Father was a Baptist minister respected in the underdeveloped community that he resided in.

So he would have play dates at the affluent employers’ homes and would be taken to places such as museums, baseball games, and travel with social organizations through the Church and school sponsored groups.

So with his mother’s social capital gained through her employment, and his father’s provided by his position in the community, came the ability to pass it on to their children. They were taught through imitation of these other affluent peers and adults how to behave and what to like and do. They adopted much of their culture.

And as for the economic benefits of this social capital, K. Mahmood, 2015, lists that it influences career success (Burt, 1992, and Gabbay and Zuckerman, 1998) and facilitates in finding jobs (Lin and Dumin, 1996). So who you know, and who you’re like, is just as important as what you know.