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Heather Boushey argues that the way academics measure economic growth is outdated and doesn’t show the full picture of the wealth gap between the 1% and the rest of us.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.

Cory Booker and The Danger of Reformism

Cory Booker is a US senator from New Jersey and a Democratic presidential candidate. On April 24, 2019, an op-ed piece penned by Sen. Booker was posted on The Guardian’s website as a part of their Broken Capitalism series. Booker’s piece is entitled, Workers are Creating Massive Wealth. Why are Corporations Hoarding it All?, followed by the subtitle, Our Economy Works Best When No One is Left on the Sidelines. Now let’s look inside.

Booker supplies a few anecdotes throughout the piece that are tragic and show the crushing effects of capitalism, like this one story of a woman named Carol Ruiz:

Every day Carol Ruiz wakes up at 3.30am and goes to an airline catering service at Newark airport, where she helps prepare the food carts that flight attendants push up and down the aisle…. At the end of her 40-hour week she takes home $345. The average airline CEO makes that amount in about 20 minutes.

 Last year, while Carol was undergoing treatment for cancer, her kids and husband went without health insurance so the family could afford her medical bills…

He then follows most of the stories with statements like these:

Workers are increasingly stuck in an “I win, you lose” economy, a zero-sum game in which those in power relentlessly pull out the rungs of the ladder behind them, ensuring that opportunity is limited solely to those who already have it.

Booker than goes over other aspects of the cruel capitalist system and how it hurts the working class in the form of corporations using intermediary contracted workers which keeps wages down, stock buy-backs by companies using Trump tax cut-gained funds to enrich stock owners, and the unfairness of non-compete agreements between employees and employers at low-wage jobs.

So here is Mr. Booker’s sort-of solutions:

There’s no silver bullet, but we can start by making it easier to join a union, giving workers the ability to fight corporate power with power of their own. Second, we must reinvigorate our tepid antitrust agencies, which have long-served corporate interests at the expense of workers. We should also restrict anticompetitive practices like non-compete agreements and “no-poach” clauses and maintain strong rules that hold parent companies more accountable for outsourced employees. And we should crack down on the proliferation of corporate stock buy-backs, or, at the very least ensure that if a corporation buys back stock to increase shareholder value, workers are cut in on the action.

Great, right?

What Booker and other liberals are guilty of is in taking half-measures and falling into the trap of reformism. They want to change society, as they call it, and spew enough fake promises to the masses in order to get enough votes to take office. They want to usurp any momentum by the people.

They want to maintain the current capitalist system while offering crumbs to the workers that often don’t end up even falling from the table. There are enough GOP members and right leaning Dems to halt any of these reforms before they are out of committee. These goals are merely “pony promises” in today’s system.

What we need is true, far leftist change. We need to smash capitalism and found a new system not based on greed and inequality. The point is to make real change, not reform. A radical left remake is the true answer to address these economic and social injustices.

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

Media Post: Why Flee El Salvador, and The French ‘Yellow Vests.”

A short post today with two important video reports from The Guardian and The New York Times showing why Salvadoran migrants are leaving their homes to apply for asylum here in the U.S. (hint: Washington’s crimes), and the latest on the French “yellow vests” movement

“Breaking The Silence” of Occupation

Israeli soldiers arrest Palestinian protest against Jewish settlementIn The Guardian yesterday there was a piece on striking testimonies from Israeli soldiers recounting their own violence against the people of occupied Palestine.

The Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence has been collecting these testimonies for it’s ten years of existence and conducted a reading in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square on Friday: the anniversary of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land in 1967.

They are all horror stories that recount the brutal nature of the occupation down to small incidents detailing differing types of atrocities against innocent Palestinian citizens. And it shows that even Israelis, themselves, feel guilt over their little part of the internationally condemned occupation.

Here is just one of the recounted incidents found in the article linked here:

SERGEANT, ANONYMOUS
Paratrooper, 2002, Nablus
We took over a central house, set up positions, and one of the sharpshooters identified a man on a roof, two roofs away, I think he was between 50 and 70 metres away, not armed. I looked at the man through the night vision – he wasn’t armed. It was two in the morning. A man without arms, walking on the roof, just walking around. We reported it to the company commander. The company commander said: “Take him down.” [The sharpshooter] fired, took him down. The company commander basically ordered, decided via radio, the death sentence for that man. A man who wasn’t armed.

I saw with my own eyes that the guy wasn’t armed. The report also said: “A man without arms on the roof.” The company commander declared him a lookout, meaning he understood that the guy was no threat to us, and he gave the order to kill him and we shot him. I myself didn’t shoot, my friend shot and killed him. And basically you think, you see in the United States there’s the death penalty, for every death sentence there are like a thousand appeals and convictions, and they take it very seriously, and there are judges and learned people, and there are protests and whatever. And here a 26-year-old guy, my company commander, sentenced an unarmed man to death.

 

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Critical Bergdahl Comrades Republican Agents

Afghanistan Captured SoldierI am still in a dizzy regarding my reaction to the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity and all the accusations and critical shots being taken at the White House, Bergdahl’s Father, and Bergdahl himself in it’s wake. So I’m awaiting the facts before making any bold decisions in the form of a post. But I will say that the politics being played around this event by the Right is striking.

 

Let’s first look at the accusations against Bergdahl through quotes from a NYT article from June 2nd:

The furious search for Sergeant Bergdahl, his critics say, led to the deaths of at least two soldiers and possibly six others in the area.

Yet…

Pentagon officials say those charges are unsubstantiated and are not supported by a review of a database of casualties in the Afghan war.

A second former senior military officer, who also was briefed on the Bergdahl investigation, said there was no direct evidence that diversion of surveillance aircraft or troops to search for Sergeant Bergdahl encouraged the Taliban attacks, or left other American troops vulnerable. “This was a dangerous region in Afghanistan in the middle of the ‘fighting season,’ ” the officer said in an email, adding that although the search “could have created some opportunities for the enemy,” it is “difficult to establish a direct cause and effect.”

And…

A review of the database of casualties in the Afghan war suggests that Sergeant Bergdahl’s critics appear to be blaming him for every American soldier killed in Paktika Province in the four-month period that followed his disappearance.

Now, I am not calling anyone a liar and I’m sure that these men in uniform believe what they believe, but the most troubling Republican antic is this:

Two of Bergdahl’s former comrades – Joshua Cornelison and Cody Full – gave interviews to the Wall Street Journal, Fox News and the Daily Mail suggesting the soldier had endangered the lives of fellow soldiers by voluntarily leaving his base.

They pair also spoke to the New York Times, which disclosed the interviews had been “arranged by Republican strategists”….

The series of interviews was facilitated by Capitol Media Parters, a PR firm owned by Richard Grennell, Mitt Romney’s former foreign policy spokesman.

This was from The Guardian yesterday. 

 

 

 

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Hillary Attacks Gun Culture

1e1e828f-c6fb-4842-8667-fffca5de21fd-460x276A report in The Guardian on a recent speaking engagement featuring former Sec. of State, and potential Presidential Candidate, Hillary Clinton at the National Council for Behavioural Health conference in Oxon Hill, Maryland, in which she stated that gun culture in the U.S. is “way out of balance”.

She argued that the idea that “anybody can have a gun, anywhere, anytime” needs to be reined in while our Second Amendment rights could still be recognized.

Read Here.

Also, at The Guardian’s website you can find great info and cool graphs outlining individual gun laws state-by-state (link below). But the information was published in January, 2013, and, therefore, may be outdated regarding some States.

See Here

 

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Piketty On The “American Dream”

thomas-piketty-economist-will-huttonA great op-ed in The Guardian by Heidi Moore on Thomas Piketty’s book “Capital in the 21st Century” which has made Piketty a “rock-star economist”.

It argues that the “American Dream” and meritocracy are not the rule but the exception in Western history among other things that are sure to bring us all down.

The op-ed lists more points made in the book and gives a good summary than that is simplistically listed here. So go read it and, in the interest of full disclosure, I just got through the introduction of the book and it is pretty f’n good.

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America Is Not in Retreat

John Kerry, Sergey LavrovAn op-ed in The Guardian by Michael Cohen argues that America is not in “retreat” around the globe but rather is just not invading other countries and starting World War III without due course.

He refutes individual arguments by mostly right-wing critics and makes the case that changing tactics is not a sign of backing off the global stage.

Read Here.

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Venezuela’s Pres. Maduro Interview and Article

Venezuelan President Nicolas MaduroA great piece in The Guardian on recent Venezuelan unrest with a print and video interview with Pres. Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro claims that the U.S. is almost directly involved with the middle- to upper-class revolt their in an effort to procure Venezuela’s vast oil reserves.

I am not backing that assessment but the U.S. has had a century of destabilizing activity in Latin America. The evidence is clear.

But what is important to take away from this piece, and the protests in general, is that it’s the revolution of the rich. U.S. political assessments of it are wrong. It is not a “Spring” revolt.

Now there are problems in Venezuela, and The Guardian lists them, but they are getting better as The Guardian also reports. It’s like Maduro said in the interview: “What country doesn’t have problems?”

There is no justification in these protests which are a coup attempt to overthrow a democratically elected government without major crime.

Read Here.

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