Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Property Rights Have An Ugly Past

If you ever thought slavery was un-American you probably should read this. Slavery is one of the foundation stones of the American mindset, particularly the modern mindset.

In the present capitalist mindset there's a growing entitlement that includes imagined or projected profit, and when such profit is challenged today's capitalists look on it as theft of property, even though the property or profit hadn't been possessed yet. What this does is pit workers' expectations against the expectations of people who own for a living, and we know which side has the litigious power and flexibility to shape the law. Working people are entering a hostile future that's likely to turn their jobs into an obligation and render their rights negligible.

In a justice system that prefers property rights above human rights, and owners' rights above workers’ rights, we are seeing the establishment of law that will be hard to overturn, not only precedent preferring the owning side of any argument, but the overturning of precedent that upholds the worker’s side. Law is never more conservative than when it is radical. Even during the broad prosperity following the progressive era and the New Deal, property was sacred, which meant that property “earned” previously under suspicious conditions, through slavery or theft of land from native Americans or railroad fraud or the underpaid employment of masses of immigrants, was protected by the law. If you were to look at the histories of many of the great fortunes in this country you’d probably agree that inheritance is a very efficient form of money laundering. Inheritance is the preferred means of gaining wealth in this country, preferred by the Republicans certainly, who think getting millions from daddy is holier than working for it, more deserving of tax protection anyway.

This weirdly un-American mindset that feels contempt for working people and worships the ownership class is actually very American. It comes down to us from the age of slavery, when great fortunes were made both North and South because working didn’t entitle you to anything. This is how the Republicans have had such an easy time turning the word “entitlement" into a slur. If you are entitled to anything you already own it; that’s what they say. Having to work for it negates the right you are claiming.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

The West Virginia mining country is our ugly past and our ugly future

Poverty hasn’t come back in West Virginia because the War on Poverty failed. It’s back because the Republican Party worked for the past 30 years to repeal everything FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, and yes even Nixon put in place to make lives better for working people in America. The Republican Party decided their sole clients were the very rich. Oh they paid lip service to the white racist vote, but most of the Republican policies were directed at depriving and disempowering all working people, white, black, Hispanic, everyone who worked for a paycheck. The Republican Party has diminished the lives and reduced the power of everyone who works for a living and enhanced and protected the wealth and the power of people who own for a living.

Here's an article from today's New York Times that discusses how hopeless lives are in West Virginia.

This is what the bad old days looked like before the progressives (Republicans and Democrats both) wrote workers’ rights into law. An ugly violent world of private corporate armies that prevented workers from organizing or demanding their rights. Few Americans have ever heard of the Ludlow massacre.

Why? Mostly because textbook companies don't dare offend the wealthy who perpetrated this horrible crime. Life was awful for working people a hundred years ago.

The mining companies owned not only the jobs but the houses miners lived in and the stores they were forced to shop in. When miners in Colorado tried to unionize the mining billionaire John D. Rockefeller Jr. sent in hired thugs who burned the miners out of their camp and then mowed them down with machine guns when they tried to escape the flames. It changed how Americans saw the working poor.

This is the future the 1% want. This is the future that the Republican Party is determined to give us. Rich and poor divided, with very few living a middle class life.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Rich Live Larger And Longer Than You And Me

I read an interesting article at the Atlantic and it got me thinking...

The core philosophy of the Republican Party these days is that a problem only exists if you spend money on it, meaning tax dollars, meaning THEIR tax dollars.

If you stop spending money trying to solve poverty (or the healthcare crisis) the problem ceases to exist.

In the mind of the Republican Party, poverty is only a problem because solving it costs rich people money they’d rather spend on another home in another tropical tax haven or on another corporate takeover.

If you stop spending money to alleviate poverty or the ill health of poor people the poor will go away and die and solve the problem more cheaply and therefore more efficiently.

As Scrooge said “Let them die then and decrease the surplus population.”

Why the American public doesn’t find this repugnant is a mystery until you realize that vast wealth also buys a lot of PR, a lot of network time, or, in the case of FoxNews, a whole network. (The Koch Brothers now hold a partial veto power over programming on PBS because they help fund it.) The .1% own most of the media.

The rich are not necessarily fascists, but they benefit from fascist policies so they often aren’t inclined to oppose them. It takes time out of their leisurely existence. Those who donate to liberal and progressive causes are to be applauded. They are acting against their own financial interests, just as the rural poor are voting against theirs, but what use are so few in the face of so many?

There is a meme going around that suggests that poverty is caused by the poor. You hear this on right wing talk radio.

Oddly enough, it’s true. In a way not quite captured by the right wing meme.

The poor who listen to right wing radio and watch FoxNews and nod obediently are helping deepen their own poverty and ignorance and ill health, by cooperating with the rejection of ObamaCare and by disbelieving science, by obeying their masters, by voting for Republican candidates who perpetuate their powerlessness. They are not stupid people, even though they are behaving stupidly. They are ignorant, not stupid. They may not even be ignorant, just ignorant of their predicament. They have been conned and are now invested in that con game, too embarrassed to admit it, because admitting you were tricked is harder than losing what was stolen from you in the process.

You have to reach a very low point before you admit you did something dumb, and, luckily for the Republican Party, most of the poor people who vote for them would rather die first.

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