Monday, December 23, 2013

Why the poor should vote

Believe it or not, some candidates deserve to win elections, or rather, we deserve for them to win.  I've been trying to help a very strong advocate for the downtrodden win a state election in my district, so I am once again facing a hard political reality: the downtrodden don't vote.  It's a double-whammy.  Lower-income folks don't vote as much as upper-income folks, who also have more money to give.  But we still don't vote.  All the effort our side spends trying to limit political spending (although I agree we can never compete monetarily) would be much better spent turning out our people (where our true strength lies, in numbers), and everything that entails.  It means organizing, organizing, organizing, changing the laws to remove barriers to registering and voting, and organizing.

And here I have another bone to pick with some friends on the left. Some say it makes no difference to vote.  But if you're living on minimum wage, bub, and one side wants to raise it and the other side wants to get rid of it or keep it down, believe you me, it matters.

Everybody says Americans are the worst at showing up to vote.  Not true, actually.  The Swiss are worse, and sometimes so are Canadians.  In Brazil and Australia, you have to vote. It's the law.  (So it's not really a fair comparison.)  But does this make their result better?  I don't know.  Here's an interesting discussion of it, whether you agree with the conclusions or not.  (Check out the results about what voters don't know.  But, sorry, no, it doesn't mean you're smarter if you're not voting.  Just the opposite!)

I do know there are a lot of reasons Americans don't vote.  My two favorite sociologists ("You have favorite sociologists?") Frances Fox-Piven and Richard Cloward have written a few books about it and related effects (see Why Americans Don't Vote, Why Americans Still Don't Vote, and Poor Peoples' Movements).  Some of this has changed since Jim Crow ended and "Motor Voter" passed, but two facts remain: (1) Most people who are registered to vote actually do vote, and (2) There are still barriers to registering.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Get a Better Job - I'd Love to!

Along with a couple hundred other cities, our community had a big rally for fast-food workers Dec. 5.  About 75 people stood on a corner outside a McDonald's in bitter cold, waving signs, chanting and cheering at passing cars, Santa came with his naughty list (hint: McDonald's was on it), and we even tried to go inside the store to deliver the good news that low-wage jobs need not be so miserable if we all stand together and fight for justice (a couple of suits who claimed to be security blocked the doorways).  Media coverage was pretty good, and a good time was had by all.

However, a handful of detractors seemed to think that fast-food workers should just get a better job if the pay is so bad.  Well, there's a simple answer to that.  (More on the more complex answer another time.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Rush to B.S.

I listened to a little Rush Limbaugh today (I know, a little goes a long way) trash-talking Obama (I know) about income inequality.  But he didn't talk much about in-equality.  He yells and screams about "equality" (as if anybody ever mentions that any more) and how it's not possible, never happens, "sameness isn't possible," blah, blah blah, blowhard.  This is what is known in logic -- something Rush avoids whenever possible (but he does try to appear to use it) -- as a straw dog.  It means Rush decided it was more fun to talk about something else and just appear to be talking about the same thing.

BTW, Obama never talks about economic "equality" and probably doesn't believe in it, -- and definitely doesn't support it.  What he and other Democrats sometimes talk about is how much inequality we have in the USA.  What most USAns believe, including Republicans, is that we have too much.  So you really don't have to be a "socialist" -- which Obama is not -- to want to rein it in.

But here's one interesting point while we're on the subject.  Rush claims in his rant that:
  1. the USA has the highest living standard in the world (untrue - see my previous post),
  2. the USA has the most economic freedom (untrue - also see my previous post), and
  3. no government program since the beginning of time has ever increased the living standards of a nation (STRRRRIIIIKE THREEEEE!  see Social Security, a very successful anti-poverty program for almost 80 years now).
Anyway, the straw-dog-meister then starts yelling about what "really pisses [him] off" (doesn't everything?).  And it's how the rich are "being demonized" -- you just can't make this stuff up!  On and on he shouts about people citing the rich getting richer.  And then he confirms it, reading a bunch of (conservative) data about the top income brackets increasing their income by 60% then 50% (a lot of money if you're already at the top) by smaller and smaller percentages as he drops the income ladder (never mentioning of course that even the same percentage on a lower income is a lot lower, much less a smaller and smaller and smaller percentage).

But this is all part and parcel of what Limbo does best.  He loves to take a part of an argument, without the parts that make it make sense (out of context), and ridicule the whole based on the part.  It's like holding up a spark plug and yelling, "This thing can't carry people around!  They must think we're stupid!"   Actually, it's Limbo who thinks we're stupid.

Friday, November 22, 2013

How rich are we?

We always hear the USA is the richest country in the world and the freest, which is why everybody supposedly wants to come here except for the people who hate us because we have something they don't.  Something like that.  A lot of silly arguments ensue, but one interesting point concerns Sweden and environs.

Sweden and its neighbors have free health care and education, strong public assistance, and a growing public sector, kinda the opposite of the USA.  Yet infant mortality in Sweden is about half the rate in the USA.  Life expectancy is higher in Sweden than in the USA.  Whaaaat?

I ran across this vid arguing against the "Scandinavian Myth" of socialism (YIKES!) and higher living standards.  Smart guy (probably one of the smarter proponents of the "free-market" point of view), but as one of the comments points out, he completely overlooks inequality, which is measurable.  Several of the comments echo the point with examples.  Back to that in a minute.

There's a lot of talk these days about (gasp) "SOCIALISM" because of Obama (who is not a socialist) and Obamacare (which is not socialism), but this comparison is really about two different ways of looking at capitalist economies and the people who live in them (see next paragraph).

Another commenter, a sympathizer with Mr. Molyneux, complained of a contradiction: first he says Scandinavians are more free than US citz, then he says they are worse off.  Besides, he doesn't seem to understand that Switzerland is NOT a Scandinavian country.  I'm just sayin'.  I mean, Molyneux does say he's debunking the connection between socialism and higher standards of living, but what he does is first show how un-socialist the Scandinavian countries (plus Switzerland!) are, then tries to show their standards of living are not as high as the USA's.  I think he forgot what he was talking about.

What he actually does is show that in Scandinavian countries, there is a highly active social infrastructure system, but they still have highly active market-based economies.  He tries to show that Sweden's private employment dropped as governments employment rose, but look closely at the chart: at least half the time the declines in private sector employment come first.  So which is driving what?

But the biggest thing I noticed -- back to main point about how rich we are (or aren't) in the USA -- was living standards.  If you look at vague (conservative) measures, like average income, a country like the USA comes out smelling pretty good.  That's because we have a lot of very rich people, rich enough to tip the balance away from the millions of poor people we have.  But figure in the inequality, and you get a very different picture.

So, to sum up, USA: nice people, birthplace of great music, poker, and great pie (pecan, better than apple), but not as free as we think, not as rich as we think, worse for babies, old people, sick people, workers (OK, read my other posts), and we need to change the way we do things.  Boo!  More on the Myth of the Free Market later.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Left opposition to Obamacare

It is partly true that Obamacare is a Republican plan or "Republican-inspired" plan, but that insult -- and I am guilty myself at times -- obscures some very significant differences that are worth noting before we take off advocating, "The best thing that could happen would be a quick and total collapse," -- which is reckless and inhumane, besides being juvenile.

Here's a historical fact: When Massachusetts passed "Romneycare" it was Democrats who dominated the legislature and overrode several Romney vetoes of aspects like the employer mandate to provide insurance.  Romney also advocated that nobody, no matter how poor, should get health care for no cost at all and instead promoted the idea of a small premium for the very poorest, but the Democratic legislature overrode him.  Obamacare includes both a strong employer mandate (with all its problems) and an enormous expansion of Medicaid -- which is much better than Medicare anyway, as people who have been on both (like my mother) can attest.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Low Wages

Why would you not support this?

Good paying jobs with decent benefits and rights have been systematically eliminated in the USA, by union-busting, off-shoring, "free trade," strong dollar policies, you name it.  Unemployment and underemployment, together with the rising cost of the regressively underfunded system of public higher education are keeping huge numbers of today's young people out of both work and school.  In both places they compete against older folks, booted out of their 10-20 year seniority jobs by market corrections and the like.  And when they do find work - ugh! - the wages are low, the disrespect is high, and the grind is lucky-if-daily.

These are the new coal mines.  Cola mines, we might call 'em.

The corrosive effect of this re-proliferation low wage work is concrete.  But liberals miss half the point.  It isn't stupidity that leads to policies favoring this social ill, it's self-interest on the part of the really big bosses.  People accept lower wages and work with greater compliance when they are desperate and ill-fed (I use the word advisedly: people in this country tend to have enough to eat in terms of quantity -- when's the last time  kwashiorkor was a big problem in the US?  Never? -- but the poorer you are the worse is the quality of your sustenance.)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dick Durbin Lies About Social Security

No kidding, a politician lied.  Who'da thunk it?  Well, this one's a whopper, and it's insidious because it's been around since the late 1970's and many millions of people actually buy the crap.  Since Social Security was first proposed, its detractors have screamed "socialism!"  When that didn't fly, they started saying the idea would never work.  Here's the problem with that: it works.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Service Employees strike

Sorry for the long delay, anybody who was watching, but I was a little tied up with a MASSIVELY SUCCESSFUL STRIKE at the University of Illinois!  After months of seemingly endless negotiations and picketing, almost 800 food service and building service employees (including maids, linen maids, and the folks who deliver campus mail) walked off the job at midnight March 11, 2013, and set up 24-hour pickets all over campus!