Category Archives: 10. Labor Power is Suppressed

Always Blaming the Worker

From a Metafilter discussion about the NYTimes article Too Young to Retire, Too Young to Die:

“The idea that one can ‘plan ahead’ in an economy where pensions are rarities and student loans a must, is senseless victim-blaming. My parents didn’t ‘plan ahead’ to have a pension upon retirement; that was just what workplaces like theirs offered. And now those workplaces don’t. The folks I know whose savings were wiped out by vagaries of the stock market didn’t suffer from a lack of planning; they suffered from the fact that retirement income is never, has never been, under the control of workers, but always elsewhere. The control is elsewhere, but the blame is always on the worker.”

Photo from the NYTimes article.

The Problem With the Laffer Curve

The Laffer Curve – the idea that by lowering taxes on the rich they’ll suddenly make tons of jobs instead of hoarding wealth instead of realizing that primarily middle-class consumers drive demand, employment and GDP – has been a disaster for decades now. Commenter on Metafilter:

“The biggest problem with the Laffer Curve is that it singularly focused people’s attention on taxes as a way to raise revenue. It completely diverted people away from the concept of taxes to shape the economy.

The top tax rate in 1960 was 92%. No sane person would pay 92 cents of a dollar earned to the government. Instead of the 92% rate raising revenue, it served to channel income in the economy away from the wealthiest individuals and toward workers. It served as a way to take the harsh, ruthless edge off of capitalism.

The result was more employment – if you had to choose between taking $1 in profit but paying 92 cents to the government, or hiring a window washer for your home office, you would take clean windows over the 8 cents in your pocket. Or maybe you would hire a guy to do research and development. Or maybe you would have a groundskeeper picking up trash.

And maybe, just maybe, when the opportunity arose to close your factory and send the work to Mexico to earn another $1 million per year, you would say “but I would actually only pocket $80,000 of that money, so it is not worth it”.

Laffer caused us to forget about that. Sure, it is common sense that you can raise more revenue with a 22% tax than a 92% tax – but taxes aren’t only about raising revenue.

Full discussion http://www.metafilter.com/145670/Laffers-Napkin#5871315

Image from Huffington Post.

Companies Don’t Want to Hire

“The crisis in confidence is that capital quite enjoys the largess of the system it’s created… yet that system doesn’t serve anyone outside of that system. However, by lumping the problems of capital in with the problems of labour, the assertion is made that everyone is at risk. When actually, most non-financial companies are doing just fine… and indeed could do much better if they weren’t strangle-held by the problems of financial companies. Thus, the problem of unemployment. Nobody wants to hire because they have to protect their financial numbers. If indeed there is a finite amount of capital, the net result of this is that in order for capital to maintain it’s huge percentage of net worth and overall national wealth, the unemployed can’t have any of it. Indeed, the reason for high unemployment is that to make those people economically active requires paying them. That money has to come from somewhere, and it has to come right out of the either personal or corporate balance sheets of those that already have it. That is why companies cannot find employees. Because they don’t want them. Rupert may blow a good ring of smoke in the air and talk about missing apprenticeships and all the rest, however the problem with that argument is that basically, none of the problems or solutions verge outside a fundamental concept — capital transferring wealth to labour. …  You cannot address fundamental problems if you are not willing to deal with the actual problem. And the actual problem of companies finding the right employees has little to do with a lack of qualified people and all to do with the fact those people require a salary, when it’s nearly free to work your current people dogshit into the ground.”

Commenter on MetaFilter

Unsavvy People

“[A]fter three years in which Very Serious People refused to hold the financial industry accountable, there’s a real grass-roots uprising against the Masters of the Universe. There will, of course, be the usual attempts to dismiss the whole thing based on trivialities. Look at the oddly dressed people acting out! So? Is it better when exquisitely tailored bankers whose gambles brought the world economy to its knees — and who were bailed out by taxpayers — whine that President Obama is saying slightly mean things about them? Or, why don’t they try to work within the system? Well, how’s that been going for those who did indeed try? When palace intrigue undermined the likes of Elizabeth Warren even within the Obama administration, and Republicans have thrown their full backing behind the malefactors of great wealth, why shouldn’t protesters go outside the usual channels?”

Paul Krugman, Unsavvy People – NYTimes.com.

The Tea Party, the Debt Ceiling, and White Southern Extremism

“Contradicting the mainstream media narrative that the Tea Party is a new populist movement that formed spontaneously in reaction to government bailouts or the Obama administration, the facts show that the Tea Party in Congress is merely the familiar old neo-Confederate Southern right under a new label. The threat of Southern Tea Party representatives and their sidekicks from the Midwest and elsewhere to destroy America’s credit rating unless the federal government agrees to enact Dixie’s economic agenda of preserving defense spending while slashing entitlements is simply the latest act of aggression by the Solid South. In light of this recent history, it is clear that the origins of the debt ceiling crisis are to be sought, not in generic American conservatism, but in idiosyncratic Southern conservatism. The goal, the methods and the passion of the Tea Party in the House are all characteristic of the radical Southern right. From the earliest years of the American republic, white Southern conservatives when they have lost elections and found themselves in the political minority have sought to extort concession from national majorities by paralyzing or threatening to destroy the United States. As white Southerners, upset with the Democratic Party’s racial and social liberalism, migrated into the post-Goldwater GOP, they brought their Dixiecrat attitudes into the party of Lincoln. The Kemp-Roth tax bill of 1981, which inaugurated the policy of creating permanent deficits by slashing taxes without cutting spending, had its strongest support among Southern and Western members of Congress and the least support in the fiscally conservative Northeast. The debt ceiling crisis is the latest case in which the radical right in the South has held America hostage until its demands are met. Presidents Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln refused to appease the Southern fanatics. Unfortunately, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress chose not to follow their example and instead gave in. In doing so, they have encouraged the neo-Confederate minority in Congress to find yet another opportunity in the near future to extort concessions from America’s majority by sabotaging America’s government.”

The Tea Party, the debt ceiling, and white Southern extremism – War Room – Salon.com.

Wielding Power

“The only rational thought is that he’s gotten what he wants. That he wanted to protect the torturers. That he wanted to protect the banksters. That he wanted to solidify and increase the powers of an Imperial Presidency. That he wanted Health Care Reform that amounts to little more than a giveaway to the megacorporations and no public option. That he wanted to put Social Security up on the chopping block.

“None of those are comforting thoughts but they don’t require us to imagine that Obama, a man of demonstrated intelligence, is an moron.

“And I’ll still (pointlessly since I live in Texas) be casting my vote for the lousy, backstabbing, villain in 2012 because even given all that he’s still a better choice than any Republican.

“Though, at this point, I’m pretty sure that’s entirely due to the Supreme Court.

  • Am I worried that the next Republican president will shit all over the Constitution and start a new and obscenely costly foreign war without even pretending to care about separation of powers? Nope, Obama (the Constitutional scholar!) already did that.
  • Am I worried that the next Republican president will slash social spending to the bone while increasing military spending? Nope, Obama already did that.
  • Am I worried that the next Republican president will decide that he has the power to imprison (forever and without even the possibility of charges and trials) any American citizen they declare to be a terrorist? Nope, Obama already did that.
  • Am I worried that the next Republican president will decide that they can order the CIA to assassinate American citizens merely on the presidential declaration that those citizens are terrorists? Nope, Obama already did that.
  • Am I worried that the next Republican president will attack whistleblowers while ignoring the crimes those whistleblowers report? Nope, Obama already did that.
  • Am I worried that the next Republican president will severely restrict abortion via executive order and legislation? Nope, Obama already did that.
  • Am I worried that the next Republican president will offer retroactive immunity to corporations which cooperate with blatantly illegal civil rights abuses? Nope, Obama alread did that.
  • The only thing I can see that differentiates Obama from Romney is who they’ll appoint to the Supreme Court.
  • I can’t be scared with dire threats that if Obama loses we’ll be plunged into war, the economy will be fucked, civil rights will be trampled, and the safety net will be shredded. Obama’s already done all that.

“The single, solitary, only thing I see that makes Obama better than any Republican up to and including Palin, is the Supreme Court.

“And on that basis I’ll vote for him. It will hurt. It will make me depressed and wretched for weeks after. I’ll hate myself for doing it, but I will because the Supreme Court is important.

“But I can’t keep pretending that the problem is that Obama just isn’t good at wielding power. He’s great at wielding power, and everything that has happened since he came into office is exactly what he wanted.

Commenter on MetaFilter

Regime Change is Not Revolution

“”There was no meaningful revolution. It’s former members of the Soviet elite and their kids who are still running the country as we speak. Nothing’s changed for the general populace except that their rights to medical care, education and (shitty, but functioning) housing has been removed. Life expectancy is fucking worse in modern Russia than it was under Communism and yet its seen as progress. Here’s what happened, in a simplistic description:

“Some of the wealthy elite decided that they weren’t getting rich enough in a closed economy. They realized that they could pacify the populace more effectively by stapling up a thin veneer of freedom while they privatized all the state-built infrastructure by way of selling it off to their buddies and simultaneously built an economy designed to do more for lining their pockets than stealing shared internal wealth ever could.

“Then they decided to clean house with the coup. This gave the illusion of distancing future government from the Central Committee and making a fresh start where the abuses of the past were blamed on historical figures, and not the people taking over who just moments ago had been ideological companions of those historical monsters.

“Yay! Communism’s over! We’re going to have elections! We’ll totally be counting the votes but there’s no corruption anymore so you can trust us! We’re going to be free now. ‘Free’ means that you can potentially purchase consumer goods that weren’t designed and manufactured by gibbons, and you can watch sitcoms instead of watching ballet and playing god damn chess. Backpacks for your children with cartoon characters on them, just like your cousin in Toronto has for his kids! Doesn’t that sound fucking sweet?”

“Then when the mic was off, they said “Of course, most of you still aren’t going to have the money to buy anything except turnips, rags and methanol. But a plutocracy’s an easier sell when people can aspire to step over their neighbor’s corpse to join it instead of that ‘we’re all in this together’ bullshit. And we won’t actually provide free speech or free elections. We’re not idiots; the idiots are those grimy people out there. Their lives are going to be virtually unchanged because they’re still going to have jack shit and they’re still going to have to be careful about how loud they complain. Hey guys, who wants an oil refinery?”

“A regime change doesn’t always equal a revolution. A revolution causes a fundamental shift in how government works. The “revolution” in question caused as much change for the ordinary Russian citizen as Bush I taking over for Reagan did for Americans.”

Commenter on a Metafilter discussion about the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Aerosolized Pork Brain and Why You’ll Never Eat SPAM Again


“The symptoms were inconsistent with any known infections, and workers’ families were unaffected, so the disorder didn’t seem to be transmissible by human-to-human contact. Like Lachance, DeVries concluded that the illness had to be an autoimmune response, most likely triggered by something inside the plant. DeVries arranged a site visit for November 28. Accompanied by QPP officials, the MDH team, led by state epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield, progressed down the head table and eventually reached the brain machine. They stood silently for a moment, watching the bursts of air rising into a red cloud, a small amount each time but enough, as it drifted and accumulated, to gradually coat workers at the head table. Lynfield pointed out that nearly all the affected workers were stationed near the brain machine and asked CEO Kelly Wadding, “What do you think is going on?” Wadding reportedly replied, “Let’s stop harvesting brains.”

The Spam Factory’s Dirty Secret, Mother Jones via Metafilter

Very Simple Puzzle Pieces

“There’s something a lot more sinister in this trend. It goes something like this:

  • It’s too expensive to hire Americans locally to do grunt work, because they’re all too proud, and want to improve their lot, so they all get college degrees. And, hiring people with college degrees still comes at a premium.
  • We can outsource, or import uneducated immigrants, but those options have downsides.
  • Hey, why don’t we wage a campaign to start convincing Americans that they shouldn’t go to college at all? Then, we can get even closer to our ideal of a permanent underclass, who we can hire cheaply and locally, by taking people who would have been expensive to hire, and making them cheaper in the long run. It’ll take a while to get there, but we’re good at playing the long game.

Anyone notice how it’s all rich captains of industry who are poo-pooing higher education? You know, the same ones who imploded the economy and are blocking all manner of job recovery by insisting that the deficit is the biggest problem, rather than unemployment? It all fits together like very simple puzzle pieces.”

Commenter on MetaFilter