What Will Spark Real Change?

We know that great, revolutionary social movements are sparked by extreme discontent surrounding a variety of maladies. Yet many also often surround a single, large disaster that pushes the people over the edge.

The Russian Revolution was tipped off by the exceeding losses that the Russians were suffering on the eastern front during the first World War. The French Revolution was inflamed by the high prices of bread in Paris due to monarchy mismanagement (This was even somewhat due to the investment Louis 16th made into our cause in the American War for Independence.

What am I getting at? The question I am proposing is if there are any calamities in the foreseeable future that may push capitalist countries over the edge?

Sure, we have growing inequality which has exploded ever since 1975 (the end of the post WWII period) that is only going to get worse and worse according to Thomas Piketty’s work Capital in the 21st Century (this link is to a free.pdf copy of the book; It’s a must read if you are concerned with issues of economic inequality). But will that be enough or does one single event have to occur to move the people toward real change?

A few ideas I have is maybe a skyrocketing of fuel prices due to some foolish military action in the Middle East that everyone perceives as folly. Or perhaps a constitutional crisis, such as a U.S. President refusing to leave office after a lost election, or after his/her two terms are up. Perhaps, as Piketty also predicts, there will be a cycle of recession/depression after recession/depression occurring now that the golden years of 1913 to 1975 are over. But that one would be more of a gradual change unless one economic downturn would reach the level of the one of Weimar Germany.

Anyhow, I am not sure.

I invite the readers of this piece to offer up, first, if you think my theory is valid, and then if there is any form of disastrous phenomenon you see as a catalyst for real, radical change in the future? I look forward to your comments.

After “Baby Bonds”: Next Steps Towards The Revolution

Democratic Sen., and Presidential candidate, Cory Booker is proposing a new “Baby Bond” program to help ease the state of inequality in America (read details below). If received well, and though not a true redistribution of wealth, us radical leftists should jump on the opportunity to push it even further.

www.nytimes.com/2019/04/06/us/politics/cory-booker-2020-baby-bonds.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

Yes, Ms. Burns, Let’s Tax the Hell Out of the Rich!

The headline reads above an article from the leftist publication “In These Times”, published on February 8th, 2019, by Rebecca Burns, “Tax the Hell Out of the Rich, When They’re Alive and When They’re Dead.” Without saying, I was already on-board.

What the article outlines is a comparison of the three proposed ways that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Sen. Bernie Sanders want to create a fairer tax system for the 99%. Here’s the rundown:

First Warren’s plan

…(A) 1 percent tax on the wealthiest 0.1 percent, or those with assets of over $20 million. Warren’s proposal would tax fewer people—those with more than $50 million in assets, an estimated 75,000 families—but she would bump up the rate to 2 percent. Households with more than $1 billion in assets would get a 3 percent rate.

Yet,

Where Warren’s proposal would probably be insufficient on its own is that it wouldn’t offer a particularly aggressive corrective to inequality over time. It would raise trillions for social programs, which is crucially important and would certainly have other beneficial political effects. But, as a result of the tax, the fabulously wealthy would be only slightly less fabulously so.

But right now, correcting the immense rate of economic inequality in American society is not going to fix itself with one tax plan. So, don’t get down, writer Rebecca Burns. That’s going to take something truly radical to happen (hint, hint).

Second, AOC’s plan as outlined in a “60 Minutes” interview,

“You look at our tax rates back in the ’60s and when you have a progressive tax rate system. Your tax rate, you know, let’s say, from zero to $75,000 may be ten percent or 15 percent, et cetera. But once you get to, like, the tippy tops—on your 10 millionth dollar—sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent.”

But,

By even the most optimistic estimates, this would bring in only a quarter of the revenues Warren’s plan would generate.

So, once again, it will not cure the economic inequality in our society as Warren’s will neither. Yet, it is a starting point and one that may be more palatable to everyday-progressives.

And lastly, the Sander’s plan,

Bernie Sanders’ plan involves restoring top marginal tax rates on inheritances to where they were in the 1970s: 77 percent for estates over $1 billion.

The plan would also decrease the threshold for the inheritance tax from $11.18 million to $3.5 million and impose a 45 percent rate on this lower (but still very rich by any normal standard) tier. Even with this new threshold, just 0.2 percent of Americans would ever pay an estate tax. Thus, in the style of Occupy, the plan is called “For the 99.8 Percent Act.”

Yet,

Again, Sanders’ plan would probably raise less revenue than Warren’s: About $315 billion over a decade.

Then it continues,

But by taking aim at the ultra-rich as a class, it also singles out the kind of dynastic wealth that allows a few families to wreak havoc on our political system. Just three families with multi-generational wealth—the Waltons, the Kochs, and the Mars—have a combined fortune of $343 billion, more than 3.5 million times the median wealth of U.S. families. And they use that wealth to fund all manner of right-wing policies.

The Sanders plan makes the least revenue for the government and will not even come within seeing distance to the eradication of the exspanse of inequality in the United States. But it could be the most acceptable not only to progressives but even centrists if the argument is framed properly by Sanders.

What I am trying to do up above is, first and foremost, to educate everyone on the strides made by modern politicians (two of the three deeming themselves so-called “socialists”) towards income equality which would have been unimaginable 10 years ago. It’s almost amazing, when you really think about it.

Yet my main point comes out of the analysis of the Warren plan, namely, that her plan is the most effective regarding a shrinking of the income gap in this country, but it does not really even make a scratch. As Burns was writing above, “the fabulously wealthy would be only slightly less fabulously so.” That’s all. And this is the reason why we need real change in this nation. We need real radical leftists in power, not just democratic socialists, but real revolutionary thinkers. That is the only way to get any immediate help with the income gap in the U.S. and, later, around the world.

So, I am greatly impressed with the ITT article by Burns in that, first, it has a cool title and, secondly, she respects that even these so-called sweeping tax plans will not truly affect the disparity between the rich and the poor in this nation.

But it’s a start…now let us take advantage of it.

Some Lessons Society Still Hasn’t Learned From Martin Luther King, Jr.

As I listened to the newly discovered recording of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech from December 7, 1964 in London, I couldn’t help but notice how many different lessons from his speech we still haven’t learned as a society.  It’s a little more than 50 years later and we still struggle to get over so many hurdles that should have been accomplished so long ago.  Here’s a few instances from the speech that jump out for me.

With the growth of slavery, it became necessary to give some justification for it. You know, it seems to be a fact of life that human beings cannot continue to do wrong without eventually reaching out for some thin rationalization to clothe an obvious wrong in the beautiful garments of righteousness.

While slavery is obviously an evil of the distant past, as it was at the time of the speech, there are still instances where wrongs are thinly justified by almost irrational justifications.  What has really struck me lately has been the white justification of recent police killings of African-American men and children.  One of the commonly shared themes on social media I have witnessed by white posters has been the sharing of horrific stories of African-American men committing crimes against white people and asking, “Where’s the media on this?”  “Where’s the public outcry?”  “Where’s the protest?”  “Where’s Al Sharpton?”

The problem with this, obviously, is it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison.  Criminals are criminals and they will commit horrific acts that are unacceptable to society, regardless of the color of their skin or the color of the victim’s skin.  Police officers, however, are supposed to be highly trained peace officers that keep the public safe and respect the rights of all, also regardless of skin color.  There have been some clear instances where this hasn’t been happening and for white people to justify the criminal actions of those that have been trained to act within the law (and have paid no price for it) by posting stories of black-on-white crime is despicable.  This is the definition of “reaching out for some thin rationalization to clothe an obvious wrong”.

The Negro in the United States turned his eyes and his mind to Africa, and he noticed the magnificent drama of independence taking place on the stage of African history…And with this new sense of dignity and this new sense of self-respect, a new Negro came into being with a new determination to suffer, to struggle, to sacrifice, and even to die, if necessary, in order to be free.

I can’t help but notice how these same words could be spoken about the Arab Spring and the quick changes that came to so many countries in the Arab world.  While things are still in the process of changing in many of those countries and conditions are far from perfect, U.S. actions in relation to the events were (and continue to be) deplorable.  Instead of embracing the people and protesters who put their lives on the line for what our government says it loves, the U.S. government continued to back certain authoritarian regimes and turned a blind-eye (or continued to arm regimes) as countries like Bahrain brutally put down protests to maintain their grasp on power.  Our government officials can pay all the lip service they want to freedom but their actions are a much clearer indicator of their true feelings.

We all know what happened as a result of the old Plessy doctrine: There was always the strict enforcement of the separate, without the slightest intention to abide by the equal.

To say that equality in the overall system reigns supreme today is simply ignoring reality.  The justice system became incredibly lopsided in terms of incarceration rates shortly after King gave this speech as the drug war was ramped up.  Pew Research notes, “In 2010, all black men were six times as likely as all white men to be incarcerated in federal, state and local jails”.  It shouldn’t be surprising that is coupled with disparities in education spending.  The Center for American Progress found U.S. “schools spent $334 more on every white student than on every nonwhite student”.  While the days of overt segregation may be done, the covert methods of segregation are far from gone.

…all types of conniving methods are still being used to keep Negroes from becoming registered voters.

The only words that need to be changed to relate it to Republican and Tea Party actions of present day are the last three.  Just delete those and insert “voting”.  And using the miniscule amount of voter fraud as justification is just another instance of thin rationalization.

So we can see that there is still a great gulf between the haves, so to speak, and the have-nots. And if America is to continue to grow and progress and develop and move on toward its greatness, this problem must be solved.

We just found out the top 1% will own more than half of the world’s wealth by next year soooo, this has not only not changed for the better, it’s gotten incredibly worse.  I’m sure Dr. King would be rightfully appalled.

Today, great leaders, like Nelson Mandela and Robert Sobukwe, are among the many hundreds wasting away in Robben Island prison. Against a massive, armed and ruthless state, which uses torture and sadistic forms of interrogation to crush human beings, even driving some to suicide.

While King might not be surprised torture and sadistic forms of interrogation are still being used today, he would probably be shocked to know the U.S. government was using them recently and using rendition to allow more harsh methods.  How could the people we elected choose to commit crimes that we knew were reprehensible so long ago?  Still an astounding decision.

If the United Kingdom and the United States decided tomorrow morning not to buy South African goods, not to buy South African gold, to put an embargo on oil, if our investors and capitalists would withdraw their support for that racial tyranny that we find there, then apartheid would be brought to an end. Then the majority of South Africans of all races could at last build the shared society they desire.

A few situations around the world come to mind here but none more prominent than Israel and the continued support given to it by the U.S. despite the crimes it commits against so many in the West Bank and Gaza.  The U.S. has the power to pressure the Israeli government into allowing the formation of a Palestinian state yet does the exact opposite by continuing to arm Israel, who then uses those arms to kill thousands of Palestinians using incredibly questionable justifications (there’s that word again…).  The U.S. has the answer to the problem but chooses to ignore it.

…we will be able to speed up the day when all of God’s children—black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, Hindus and Muslims, theists and atheists—will be able to join hands and sing…

Religious tolerance?!  Blasphemer!!

I’m kidding, of course, but this is certainly a lesson that still hasn’t made its way into the psyche of America, and that definitely includes parties on both sides of the political spectrum.  The amount of Islamophobia running rampant in the Western world right now is startling.  King would be heartbroken, for sure, but would fight on as always.

…there are some things in the world, to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon all men of goodwill to be maladjusted until the good society is realized. I must honestly say to you that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation, discrimination, colonialism and these particular forces. I must honestly say to you that I never intend to adjust myself to religious bigotry. I must honestly say to you that I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I must say to you tonight that I never intend to become adjusted to the madness of militarism and the self-defeating effects of physical violence.

Maybe the most powerful words to live by in the speech.  Certainly worth the quote.  If only we could all be so lucky as to be so maladjusted…

 

Social Protest Lit: Ruskin, “The Veins of Wealth”

A piece from “Book II: The Chasm” which regards economic/social inequality with an excerpt by John Ruskin from The Veins of Wealth:

Primarily, which is very notable and curious, I observe that men of business rarely know the meaning of the word “rich.” At least if they know, they do no in their reasonings allow for the fact, that it is a relative word, implying its opposite “poor” as positively the word “north” implies its opposite “south.” Men nearly always speak and write as if riches were absolute, and it were possible, by following certain scientific precepts, for everybody to be rich. Whereas riches are a power like that of electricity, acting only through inequalities or negations of itself. The force of the guinea you have in your pocket depends wholly on the default of a guinea in your neighbors pocket. If he did not want it, it would be of no use to you; the degree of power it possesses depends accurately upon the need or desire he has for it, – and the art of making yourself rich, in the ordinary mercantile economist’s sense, is therefor equally and necessarily the art of keeping your neighbor poor.

//

Krugman On Giles, Piketty, and Inequality

Krugman_New-articleInlineA June 1st op-ed by Paul Krugman that argues that inequality is rising in the Western World, and especially in the U.S., while debunking Chris Giles’ (the economics editor of The Financial Times) critique of Thomas Piketty’s best-selling economics book “Capital In The 21st Century”.

Read Here.

//

Are The Poor Better Off?

POOR-master675Another great article in the NYT that was written by Annie Lowrey explains that though many poor families have more material wealth in terms of TV’s, smartphones, and an Internet connection compared to past times, they are becoming worse off in terms of economic inequality.

She explains that the reason for this “material abundance” for the lower SES population is due to the falling prices of goods as a result of global economics. But when it comes to expenses critical to moving out of poverty such as education costs, healthcare, and minimum wage jobs, their outlook is bleak.

Read Here.

//

Series On Free Trade and Inequality

16divide-map-tmagArticleA great opinion piece in the NYT as part of a series by Joseph Stiglitz called “The Great Divide,” entitled “On The Wrong Side of Globalization.”

This editorial is great outlining how America is losing the benefits of global free-trade through the analysis of what we know about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. He goes through the history of free-trade agreements and how they are increasing equality here in the U.S. Must Read!

Read Here.

 

//

Miller On Economic Inequality Riddles

matt-miller-114x80Matt Miller, op-ed writer of The Post, puts forth two “riddles” in today’s issue that asks why hasn’t the middle and lower-classes in the U.S. revolted over income inequality. A good read.

Read Here.

 

//