The Shame Of Cheap-Labor “Conservatives”

by Phaedras

The shame of American homelessness

The economic crunch faced by America’s working poor is stark. Since 1979, U.S. housing costs have tripled. Some of that growth is the result of well-meant initiatives, such as slum clearance and rigorous building-code enforcement that forces rents upward. But governments have not compensated for the low-income housing deficit with more rent subsidies or more public housing. Both, in fact, have been gradually disappearing. Meanwhile, real pay, in dollars adjusted for inflation, went up just 1 percent from 1979 to 2003, the same period housing costs went through the roof.

They don’t adjust the change in housing costs for inflation, and they should have. But if you use the trusty-dusty CPI inflation calculator you will find that real housing costs, the biggest part of any working person’s budget, rose 20% while real wages rose 1%. This was during a period in which America as a whole got indisputably richer. Measured by the increase in GDP, America got 90% wealthier. Nearly double. But real wages went up one percent over the same period. That huge increase in wealth sure didn’t go to much of anyone in the bottom 60%. Ya know, the majority?

My question to any working person would be, don’t you feel cheated? Republican or Democrat, I don’t care. Don’t you feel cheated? Throw out the ideology, throw out the wedge issues, all I’m asking is, don’t you feel cheated? Because you should. Do you honestly think that the wealthy elite who collected most of that new wealth are really that much better than you? I don’t.

You could look at some of the abuse I’ve taken on this site, though I doubt you’ll feel like hunting for it. I will try to honestly summarize some of it. I’m an idiot because I used to be a janitor. Remember the days when there was no shame in honest work? I’m a mental defective because I’ve never risen above the working class. The same working class my great grandfather belonged to, and there was no shame in it in his day. The same working class that my grandfather started in, though he did rise to a high executive position eventually. The same working class that my mother, an LVN, was a part of. And there was never any shame in their being working class. Now I’m supposed to hang my head in shame for being a member of the working class because some Republican says so. If you’re one of those who think that, I got a little message for you: Sit on it and rotate, motherfucker. I’m at least as good as you and probably better. Money is not the measure of all things.

Like most Americans, I’m working class. Therefore I don’t deserve to make a decent living, not should I be allowed to reproduce. Who says? By what authority? It’s way past time working class people in this country started voting for their own interests. Yeah, I know, neither party truly represents our interests. The liberal elites don’t really give a shit about us, as right wingers love to point out, but the conservative elites, who seldom get mentioned, are downright hostile towards us. For better or worse, I think the Dems are where we have to start. If you strongly feel differently, I can understand that. If that’s the case, then work to change the Republican Party. Make them represent us. Someone should sure as hell be representing our interests. We are the majority.

Cross-posted at No Fear of Freedom.

Krugman Debunks Bush Job Numbers

When does optimism — the Bush campaign’s favorite word these days — become an inability to face facts? On Friday, President Bush insisted that a seriously disappointing jobs report, which fell far short of the pre-announcement hype, was good news: “We’re witnessing steady growth, steady growth. And that’s important. We don’t need boom-or-bust-type growth.”

But Mr. Bush has already presided over a bust. For the first time since 1932, employment is lower in the summer of a presidential election year than it was on the previous Inauguration Day. Americans badly need a boom to make up the lost ground. And we’re not getting it.

When March’s numbers came in much better than expected, I cautioned readers not to make too much of one good month. Similarly, we shouldn’t make too much of June’s disappointment. The question is whether, taking a longer perspective, the economy is performing well. And the answer is no.

If you want a single number that tells the story, it’s the percentage of adults who have jobs. When Mr. Bush took office, that number stood at 64.4. By last August it had fallen to 62.2 percent. In June, the number was 62.3. That is, during Mr. Bush’s first 30 months, the job situation deteriorated drastically. Last summer it stabilized, and since then it may have improved slightly. But jobs are still very scarce, with little relief in sight.

[E]conomic growth is passing working Americans by. The average weekly earnings of nonsupervisory workers rose only 1.7 percent over the past year, lagging behind inflation. The president of Aetna, one of the biggest health insurers, recently told investors, “It’s fair to say that a lot of the jobs being created may not be the jobs that come with benefits.” Where is the growth going? No mystery: after-tax corporate profits as a share of G.D.P. have reached a level not seen since 1929.The year of the Great Crash. When Bush says everything is great, he means it’s great for his rich buddies. He doesn’t know or care how the rest of us are doing. We don’t contribute $$$millions$$$ to his campaigns; we are therefore invisible to him. We don’t exist.

This is apparently a family trait. Bush I didn’t give a shit, either. Neither of them can see past their own upper circle. Neither of them has any desire to. So Junior isn’t lying; he’s telling a very limited truth from inside a very small tunnel.

Facing larger realities is NOT something the Bushes are any good at.

Starving the Beast


Published: NYT, July 6, 2004

WASHINGTON, July 5 — Welfare programs around the country are in limbo because of a stalemate in Congress that has prompted state officials to postpone new investments in child care, expansions of job training and most other initiatives for welfare recipients and low-wage workers.

Congressional Republicans insist that stricter work requirements must be part of any effort to renew the 1996 welfare law. Democrats, including some who voted against that measure, now embrace it, saying only minor changes are needed.

Major provisions of the law were scheduled to expire in September 2002. Since then, Congress has passed seven bills extending the program, typically for three months at a time. Lawmakers, who return to work on Tuesday, say they see little chance for approval of a long-term reauthorization this year.

If the stalemate persists, states could lose money. The House and the Senate have tentatively agreed to continue providing $16.5 billion a year for the main welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. But with large budget deficits looming, lawmakers say, Congress will be under intense pressure to cut this amount next year.

“Our fear is that if you go past the elections, things will change — things will change for the worse,” said Marc S. Ryan, Connecticut’s budget director.

Representative Wally Herger, a California Republican who is chairman of a subcommittee that handles welfare legislation, agreed, saying, “As time passes, budget pressures will squeeze tighter and tighter.”

And so the Gingrich/Norquist/Bush strategy of deliberately creating huge deficits in order to use the resulting budget squeeze to strangle social programs is coming to fruition. The Bush Tax-Cut for the Rich is going to force cuts in programs for the poor.

They’re going to tell you they ‘have no choice’. They’re going to say ‘economic realities’ are forcing their hand. They’re going to say, ‘We’d like to but we can’t–there isn’t enough money.’

Bullshit. They did this deliberately. They’ve been planning to do it since Reagan’s first term almost 25 years ago. Nothing about it is ‘accidental’; nothing about it is a ‘response to economic conditions’. It was engineered from the beginning to do exactly what it’s doing, and Ryan is right–it’s going to get much worse after the election, especially if Bush wins.

Class Warfare in America by Bill Moyers, Part 5

In my time we went to public schools. My brother made it to college on the GI bill. When I bought my first car for $450 I drove to a subsidized university on free public highways and stopped to rest in state-maintained public parks. This is what I mean by the commonwealth. Rudely recognized in its formative years, always subject to struggle, constantly vulnerable to reactionary counterattacks, the notion of America as a shared project has been the central engine of our national experience.

Until now. I don’t have to tell you that a profound transformation is occurring in America: the balance between wealth and the commonwealth is being upended. By design. Deliberately. We have been subjected to what the Commonwealth Foundation calls “a fanatical drive to dismantle the political institutions, the legal and statutory canons, and the intellectual and cultural frameworks that have shaped public responsibility for social harms arising from the excesses of private power.” From land, water and other natural resources, to media and the broadcast and digital spectrums, to scientific discovery and medical breakthroughs, and to politics itself, a broad range of the American commons is undergoing a powerful shift toward private and corporate control. And with little public debate. Indeed, what passes for ‘political debate’ in this country has become a cynical charade behind which the real business goes on — the not-so-scrupulous business of getting and keeping power in order to divide up the spoils.

We could have seen this coming if we had followed the money. The veteran Washington reporter, Elizabeth Drew, says “the greatest change in Washington over the past 25 years — in its culture, in the way it does business and the ever-burgeoning amount of business transactions that go on here — has been in the preoccupation with money.” Jeffrey Birnbaum, who covered Washington for nearly twenty years for the Wall Street Journal, put it more strongly: “[campaign cash] has flooded over the gunwales of the ship of state and threatens to sink the entire vessel. Political donations determine the course and speed of many government actions that deeply affect our daily lives.” Politics is suffocating from the stranglehold of money. During his brief campaign in 2000, before he was ambushed by the dirty tricks of the religious right in South Carolina and big money from George W. Bush’s wealthy elites, John McCain said elections today are nothing less than an “influence peddling scheme in which both parties compete to stay in office by selling the country to the highest bidder.”

Small wonder that with the exception of people like John McCain and Russ Feingold, official Washington no longer finds anything wrong with a democracy dominated by the people with money. Hit the pause button here, and recall Roger Tamraz. He’s the wealthy oilman who paid $300,000 to get a private meeting in the White House with President Clinton; he wanted help in securing a big pipeline in central Asia. This got him called before congressional hearings on the financial excesses of the 1996 campaign. If you watched the hearings on C-Span you heard him say he didn’t think he had done anything out of the ordinary. When they pressed him he told the senators: “Look, when it comes to money and politics, you make the rules. I’m just playing by your rules.” One senator then asked if Tamraz had registered and voted. And he was blunt in his reply: “No, senator, I think money’s a bit more (important) than the vote.”

And there it is. Bare naked in front of god and everybody: ‘Money’s a bit more important than the vote.’

Granny D, otherwise known as Doris Haddock, the 90-yr-old woman from New Hampshire who walked across the country trying to call attention to Campaign Finance Reform a few years ago, wrote: ‘So many of the problems we face, from an unnecessary war to a mismanaged federal budget (which impacts health care, schools, Social Security and the nation’s real security needs) directly derive from the influence of special interest groups in Washington.’

Never has this been more obvious than now. But it has gone much further in the past three years than buying access–the Bush Administration is selling the government off piece-by-piece to corporate interests: Kenny-Boy Lay got to choose the Energy Secretary, vetoing the first choice because he wasn’t friendly enough to the energy industry; Cheney allows oil and gas corporations to write the country’s energy policy in secret and the SCOTUS backs him up; he then meets with them again in Oct of ’02, five months before the invasion of Iraq, to carve up the Iraqi oil fields; the US Forestry Div is run by ex-lobbyists for the timber industry; OSHA is run by corporate lawyers who used to specialize in protecting their clients from suits by injured workers arising from malfeasance and negligence; scientific evidence developed by government agencies must be vetted by political operatives for ideological purity and withheld if it doesn’t pass the test; the list is endless and stretches all the way through the Bush government.

And don’t be fooled by Tamraz’s little excuse–‘I’m just playing by your rules’–because he bought those rules. This is a corporate government and they’re playing to win. The class war being waged in this country is their war; they started it, and they’re pressing their advamntages in every way possible. They’re not buying Congressmen, any more–they own the government lock, stock, and barrel already–they’re bidding on the Constitution itself.

So what does this come down to, practically?

Here is one accounting:

“When powerful interests shower Washington with millions in campaign contributions, they often get what they want. But it’s ordinary citizens and firms that pay the price and most of them never see it coming. This is what happens if you don’t contribute to their campaigns or spend generously on lobbying. You pick up a disproportionate share of America’s tax bill. You pay higher prices for a broad range of products from peanuts to prescriptions. You pay taxes that others in a similar situation have been excused from paying. You’re compelled to abide by laws while others are granted immunity from them. You must pay debts that you incur while others do not. You’re barred from writing off on your tax returns some of the money spent on necessities while others deduct the cost of their entertainment. You must run your business by one set of rules, while the government creates another set for your competitors. In contrast, the fortunate few who contribute to the right politicians and hire the right lobbyists enjoy all the benefits of their special status. Make a bad business deal; the government bails them out. If they want to hire workers at below market wages, the government provides the means to do so. If they want more time to pay their debts, the government gives them an extension. If they want immunity from certain laws, the government gives it. If they want to ignore rules their competition must comply with, the government gives its approval. If they want to kill legislation that is intended for the public, it gets killed.”

I’m not quoting from Karl Marx’s Das Kapital or Mao’s Little Red Book. I’m quoting Time magazine. Time‘s premier investigative journalists — Donald Bartlett and James Steele — concluded in a series last year that America now has “government for the few at the expense of the many.” Economic inequality begets political inequality, and vice versa.

That’s why the Stanleys and the Neumanns were turned off by politics. It’s why we’re losing the balance between wealth and the commonwealth. It’s why we can’t put things right. And it is the single most destructive force tearing at the soul of democracy. Hear the great justice Learned Hand on this: “If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: ‘Thou shalt not ration justice.’ ” Learned Hand was a prophet of democracy. The rich have the right to buy more homes than anyone else. They have the right to buy more cars than anyone else, more gizmos than anyone else, more clothes and vacations than anyone else. But they do not have the right to buy more democracy than anyone else.

Unfortunately, legally Mr Moyers is wrong: Solicitor General Ted Olson stood up in front of the Supreme Court a couple of years ago and argued with breath-taking arrogance that money=free speech. He as much as said that Americans have exactly as much free speech as they can afford to buy and no more.

The SCOTUS agreed with him and struck down the $$ limits on corporate-paid political ads.

So the rich now have the legal right to buy more democracy than the rest of us. And they’re exercising that ‘right’ every chance they get.