Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 12, 2006

A Socialist Editorial

The editorial staff of an openly socialist U.S. newspaper is using the top Sunday spot to delve into the myth of the American dream:

This nation [...] is held together by an appealing faith: that anyone who works hard and plays by the rules can attain the American dream [...]. But the trends of the past quarter-century compel a reexamination of this creed. When President Kennedy promised that "a rising tide lifts all boats," he was correct. Today that claim could be disputed.

They present and thoroughly debunk some theories which try to dispute the widening gap between rich and poor.

[B]ut after a quarter-century of disappointment, the struggles of Americans in the bottom half of the income distribution cannot be viewed as temporary.

The difference between rich and poor has serious consequences in areas like education.

Tuitions at four-year colleges have more than doubled since 1980, with the result that gaps in enrollment by class and race, which declined in the 1960s and 1970s, are as wide now as 30 years ago.

They editors put the blame where it belongs, on the rich. Their preferred models are Sweden and Germany, where taxes are much higher and social redistribution a major part of government definition.

[I]t's not quite true that the rich can enjoy their riches without harming anyone; their money changes life for people lower down. This might not matter if inequality brought compensating gains: if the growth of relative disadvantage were offset by absolute wage rises or by social mobility. But increases in wages have been small or negative, and the United States has become less socially mobile than nations such as Sweden and Germany.

It is heartening to see a U.S. paper argue and embrace social-democratic to socialist policy and laud Old European nations for their achievement. But then, we know of those liberal media and some may wish for a new McCarthy to suppress such communist tendencies.

But what is stated above is obviously correct and easy to understand.

It should be equally easy to get most of the electorate behind politicians that stand to correct the situation. But party politics in the U.S. being what they are, expect nobody to pick this up an run with it.

What Republican or Democrat would risk to demand higher taxes from the rich and threaten distribution to the poor? Looking at their campaign trough and the hands who feed them, expect none of them to do so.

Not even with the support of the Washington Post.

Posted by b on March 12, 2006 at 14:11 UTC | Permalink

Comments

b, thanks for linking the article. I found the admission that the excuses for waging falling at the bottom are running out. I still believe this whole was planned from on high, the elites care less about the lower classes. But I do know families that are in perpetual poverty and pertually on welfare. Our system leaves those people behind by not identifying those families and their children and start training them at a very young age, even before pre-school. Even if we could one or two children into productive citizens and break the cycle for some it's worth spending the money.
Our schools and system does not have the resources to train parents and their children and break the cycle.

The most interesting part of the article though was the last paragraph that mainly said lte us change things "some" but not to much because we may stall growth or displace some at the top. The last paragraph was striking. The Post is, and represents the Washington establishment. They will not push policy ideas that go to far because they would be working against themselves and they are not willing to sacrifice for the greater good.

Posted by: jdp | Mar 12 2006 15:06 utc | 1

Though a rising tide does lift all boats, this dark cabal of loathsome gribbles chewing worm- holes in our tiny barks will soon sink even the mightiest among US.

How truly pathetic then, if these gribbles of greed manage to convince US that we should have somehow bailed faster, even as they infect every ship of state, and sink the world to its abyssal deep.

Shine bright sunlight and salt sea air in every dark nook. Use a sharp-bristle deck brush with lots of coarse salt. Expose and root out every maggot worm and corruption, every con and scam, then we'll all flit about on the bright waters.

Fewer words? Flog them until their skin flays,
make them wear their dishonor about their neck, and drag the shackles around the corporate yard.

Posted by: PingPing | Mar 12 2006 18:21 utc | 2

Perhaps a tsunami equalizes all boats better. Simplistic metaphors damage discourse.

Posted by: biklett | Mar 12 2006 19:00 utc | 3

As long as the wealthy had incentives to invest in jobs that benefitted the American economy and job market, the rising tide theory had some validity.

Now the money is being invested in offshore jobs to produce cheap imported goods that Americans have to work longer and harder to afford.

And America has ceased to consider the social component of labor. Labor costs are just another expense to be minimized like staples of copier paper.

Even Adam Smith, who is held up as the great father of free markets, pointed out that markets exist for the benefit of the population, not the other way around.

A nation's workforce is a resource that must be tended and cared for through education and proper health care. We are so fixated on the ideology of unfetterd free markets that we have lost sight of the reason we have created them.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Mar 12 2006 19:10 utc | 4

But, I see bums with ipods, dude. sheesh

There's a so-so bbc documentary by always annoying Alain de Botton called "status anxiety" addressing the old problem of realm of necessity and the realm of freedom. The relativity of these two concepts is indisputable All we can seem to know for sure is inequity is always intolerable to those who are dispossessed of things, no matter what those things might be, so that a first-world bum suffers the indignity of inequity as greatly as all other bums--that is, inequality is an intrinsic human quality.

On the other hand, a less Weberian account of this problem, comes from the western-marxist obsession w/ a "form of life." Capitalism constructs a form of life oriented to such persitent anxieties. The solution is to do something different in the organization of life that collapses the dualism of needs/freedom.

It is, definitely, a big theoretical and practical problem.

Posted by: slothrop | Mar 12 2006 19:22 utc | 5

"The Poor Will Always Be With Us"
-Jesus

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Mar 12 2006 19:36 utc | 6

U$,

yes, the poor will always be with us. That's why we build railroads and freeways, so we can have them live on the other side where we don't have to see and interact with them on a daily basis...

But seriously, folks, there is no reason that even the poor cannot have access to minimum standards of education, health care and environmental protection.

And remember, the dividing line between "us" and "them" is as narrow as a railway line or a freeway meridian.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Mar 12 2006 19:54 utc | 7

Americans have been hoodwinked into thinking that higher taxes is giving their money away to the lazy and shiftless. That socialism rewards the unmotivated and punishes the entreprenorial. So they have exchanged taxation, where they have accountablility through government -- for corporatism and what amounts to taxation through profits (ask cheveron or shell) with no accountability. Peoples socialism has been exchanged for corporate socialism.

Posted by: anna missed | Mar 12 2006 19:56 utc | 8

It is also amusing that representatives of the energy, defense and transportation sectors - industries that are highly dependent on the government for regulation, subsidies and contracts - are often the staunchest proponents of "free markets".

Remember Dick Cheney's quotes about being a "self-made man"?

Posted by: ralphieboy | Mar 12 2006 20:18 utc | 9

And of course the "personhood"ification of the corporation makes them in effect a sacred "individual", and like "individualism" itself remains cloaked to examination with regards to its economic and ethical implications -- a presupposition of american exceptionalism assumed as a givin.

Posted by: anna missed | Mar 12 2006 20:41 utc | 10

Most major cities in america have at least one sports stadium financed in large part by public money that carries the name of some corporate entity, in the interests of a corporate owned sports franchise. If thats not corporate socialism then I dont know what would be.

Posted by: anna missed | Mar 12 2006 20:59 utc | 11

If you were to compare tax liability of medium income in 1980, to that of medium income 2004, have the rates doubled?

Posted by: F Gabby | Mar 12 2006 22:09 utc | 12

Sorry, off-topic, but is there a reason billmon basically has stopped blogging?

Posted by: | Mar 12 2006 23:09 utc | 13

not that i know of

Posted by: annie | Mar 12 2006 23:21 utc | 14

yeah anna missed, our very own quest field the people voted and said no, do not build . didn't even matter we had to pay for it anyway. then the monorail, we vote 3 times we want it, 3 friggin times. finally by the 4th vote, its a goner. why vote. it only works out when you vote for what the business leaders want, otherwise we are irrelevant, except to foot the bill.

Posted by: annie | Mar 12 2006 23:27 utc | 15

The thing about the exceptionalism that informs the US system of governance, is the fact that the ethical (the common good) part of the equation is left to default -- In that ethical realization is a supposadly natural resultant of the system, as opposed to the deliberatly planned ethics of popular socialism. In the exceptionalist system then an ethical-- egalitarianism -- is produced as if by magic, through the primacy of individual initiative -- or greed. In this way both the individual and the (corporatist) government are absolved of an ethical function altogether, which then can be further demonized as evil inefficiant (big) government intrusion, (in the form of)excessive tax burden, legislation of morality, etc. Proponents of such a system see ethics more as a function of Darwinian natural selection, in other words, might makes right, winner take all.

Posted by: anna missed | Mar 13 2006 0:20 utc | 16

David Sarota has a nice article at Huffington Post on free trade and the 2008 election. It is amazing how this stuff rears its head and then after the election we're told again how free trade is good for US. The elites may be starting to get it, maybe?

Posted by: jdp | Mar 13 2006 1:06 utc | 17

Uncle $cam - The passage reads, "The poor are always among you, but I will not always be with you." Jesus was bitching to his disciples for some quality time away from their social work, not predicting an infinitude of poverty.

But like Darwin's Theories, the Calvinists and Baptists corrupted the passage to imply Social Darwinism, survival of the rapist (rather than the "best fit" as Darwin postulated), and your misquote, "the poor will always be with us."

That sounds like some scabies medication TV ad.
"Get 'Poor Gone Now', with Right Away!(TM) by Glaxo Smith Kline, available at local Wal-Mart."

Face it, we have been sold into mental slavery. "But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother."

Here, grok this:
http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/FarmIncome/govtpaybyfarmtype.htm

Posted by: PingPing | Mar 13 2006 2:57 utc | 18

"The Poor Will Always Be With Us"
-Jesus

Jesus was such a stoic.

Good News for bums and Kings alike.

Posted by: slothrop | Mar 13 2006 3:05 utc | 19

Ping, your link doesnt ring

Posted by: anna missed | Mar 13 2006 4:08 utc | 20

Pro-Life Bush gives newborns a real reason to cry

On the same day as the several- hundred- thousand- strong- march- against- making- criminals- out- of- even- people- who- simply- help- undocumented- immigrants, the Comptroller General of the US, David Walker, was working hard to alarm the 'grownups' who manage the money for the country.

If you had a baby last year, that child now comes with a $156,000 mortgage attached to them. ハIf you work a full-time job, under the leadership of George W. Bush, your obligation has more than doubled. ハAnd as time passes, you and your children will receive fewer and fewer services for the financial obligation you now shoulder. ハA huge percentage of your contribution will simply go to pay interest on the debt we are rapidly accumulating.

Posted by: citizen | Mar 13 2006 4:43 utc | 21

What continues to surprise me re the US economic set-up is that Americans are almost completely blind to the fact that things can be managed differently. Not just in theory. In practice, as for example, in Europe or Canada.

I have been hearing of the imminent collapse of those degenerate socialist high-tax European economies for the last 20 years. Well, no collapse yet. No sign of collapse either, but that doesn't stop the critics.

Then there are the annoying lies put out by some Americans about the Canadian medical care system, etc. The title of "Soviet Canuckistan" may acts like a "DANGER - Do Not Enter" sign to people's brains.

Meanwhile, US retirees go north or south to buy cheaper drugs, and US researchers leave to work elsewhere.

Posted by: Owl | Mar 13 2006 7:38 utc | 22

You'd think that after 30 years of lower taxes, free market deregulation, NAFTA, GAAT, the WTO, offshoring, corporate welfare government grants, stagnant minimum wage, several limited wars, diminished health care, and pension requirements, any number of corporate financial bailouts, relentless government repression of trade unionism, reduced enviromental regulation, and all round republican and democratic acquesence to the general needs of business over the needs of its citizens for most of my adult life -- that we should be in total 100% blissful economic and social nirvanna. By all accounts and expectations, all boats should be bobbing in frothy exuberance on the shinning high seas, because as best that could have been expected, the business interests in america have been givin a virtual carte-blanche on everything.

And yet, growth in GDP for the last 2 quarters (of 2005) was less than 1%, real middle class income has decreased (over the last 30 years), health care has dropped to 23 place world wide, infant mortality is approaching 3d world status, 3'd highest divorce rate, 2'd highest prison population, 7th highestin carbon pollution (behind the middle east countries), 2'd highest emissions of organic water pollution, 6th in quality of life, and while we're 3'd in per capita income, its still one of the most expensive countries to live in -- and while not horrible by comparison, There is precious little here that is either exceptional in itself or as the result of exceptionalist economic policy. Interesting that the countries that outrank the US on the positives like income, quality of life, health care, social welfare and foreign aid delivery are those inefficient socialist democracies of Europe.

Posted by: anna missed | Mar 13 2006 9:23 utc | 23

Adam Smith was never in favor of "laissez faire", that concept that originated later. He was chiefly opposed to government-sponsored monopolies and trade restrictions that protected & favored companies over consumers.

The modern equivalents of the British East India company these days are government contractors who receive no-bid, cost-plus contracts, cusomized tax breaks and exemptions from environmental or social legislation (or the complete lack thereof).

To me a "level playing field" does not mean an unrestricted flow of goods, labor or capital: it means that if other countries that export goods to the USA need to have environmental, labor or social legislation that is up to our standards, or they should make up for the difference in the form of import tariffs.

The latter would not only protect US jobs & industries, it would encourage other nations to achive equal standards. "Protectionism" has been given a dirty taint lately, but what about protecting jobs & the environment?

Posted by: ralphieboy | Mar 13 2006 9:52 utc | 24

What is rightly private? The fruits of our labors; that which we create should be ours to keep, give, eat.

What is rightly common? That which none of us individually created; that which all of us depend on for life.

These two questions and their answers provide the basis for what we should socialize and what we should privatize.

Land, air and water are three things that none of us can create, and on which all of us depend, and therefore their economic value should belong to all of us without regard for what work we do.

Our wages are something that we create from our contributions to society, and therefore they are rightly ours to keep, and in a just society shouldn't be taxed. Similarly, the products we make or buy are ours to keep or to sell, and in a just society those sales shouldn't be taxed.

So why do we tax sales and wages and buildings, and just barely tax land value, particularly in our largest cities, where land value can be as much as 100,000 times the value of an acre of good agricultural land? Yes, 100,000 times -- and someone is getting to privatize virtually all of that economic value, as if somehow they had created the land themselves, or created the economic value themselves, or bought it from someone who had created it themselves. Perverse!

Tax the land value first. If that isn't enough, then maybe we have to tax some sales, starting with luxury goods, not milk, bread and eggs. Maybe we have to tax some wages, starting with the high-income folks, not those who are just getting by. Maybe we collect more from the casinos, whose societal contributions are debatable.

That newspaper owns a very very choice bit of NYC real estate, and fails to recognize that they didn't create it, and didn't buy it from the guy who did. They, and all the rest of the occupants of those valuable pieces of land, owe the rest of us the rental value of that land. It makes an excellent tax base, and will promote social and economic justice better than any other reform I know of.

Check out http://www.wealthandwant.com, and in particular, two pieces by Auburn's late Bob Andelson, linked on the front page.

Posted by: LVTfan | Mar 13 2006 13:46 utc | 25

Talking about Europe, a brief plug to mention that Mrs. Lupin's new book, OVER HERE: AN AMERICAN EXPAT IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE, is now available on both Amazon US and Amazon.co.uk.

The book tells of our decision to leave Los Angeles after the "reelection" of you-know-who and diaries our relocation to the South of France during the ensuing 12 months. It's illustrated with 100 b&w photos. It's a cross between A YEAR IN PROVENCE and DAILY KOS.

Posted by: Lupin | Mar 13 2006 15:43 utc | 26

LVTfan,

that is much the hang of Adam Smith: the wealth of a nation lies in the wealth of its labor. The job of the government is to manage the nation's resources and to assure that no individuals or groups use their economic advantages to gain excessive political or social influence.

A nation's workforce is also a natural resource, which must be educated and kept healthy, which requires access to health care and a healthy environment. We have seen what has happened to civilizations that have neglected and exhausted their resources.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Mar 13 2006 16:28 utc | 27

Say goodbye to Knight Ridder news, but not to the San Jose Mercury News. Reuters still standing for the moment.

From page 6 (because news consolidation is, in the words of the Don, "just business"), Knight Ridder sells self to "McClatchy".

Posted by: citizen | Mar 13 2006 19:11 utc | 28

The new federal tactic of criminalizing reporting on political crime has transferred hosts and is being energetically propagated at the state level.

Suburban Guerrilla also notes an NYT article showing that blogs go harder, deeper, faster. Note that The NYT uses my favorite stupic debaters trick and minimizes blog reporting by noting that blogs did almost no original reporting: only 1 percent of the posts that day involved a blogger interviewing someone else and only 5 percent involved some other original work, such as examining documents.
1% of all the posts involved interviews! 5% involved research! Anyone want to guess how many posts are in the 'sphere every day?

And then she proves the point by proving that blogs also can have longer memories when some pro-embryo, anti-person schmuck tries to make political fertilizer out of raped women - a political practice, which by the way, Sylvia Federici has noted has a long history as a technique for disintegrating communities by starting with the trust between men and women. It's a good book.

Posted by: citizen | Mar 13 2006 19:44 utc | 29

There are still people who believe that news & information is the "product" that the networks sell and that viewers/listeners are the "customers".

The product they are selling is advertising time and their customers are the corporations and organizations with products or ideas to sell. The news/information/entertainment that they offer is just the window dressing they use to fix their target audience and make it appealing for their customers to place thier advertisements there.

Lots of folks are scared s***less of blogs becaue they short-circuit this system, and even if they are providing "less than 5% original work", it is there to inform, not to attract some sucker to watch a deodorant ad.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Mar 13 2006 19:59 utc | 30

There are still people who believe that news & information is the "product" that the networks sell and that viewers/listeners are the "customers".

this kind of misunderstanding is pandemic and necessary for the suckers to go on being fleeced.

similarly people assume that wars are fought for a Big Reason -- rather than for the creepy little reasons like winning elections, disposing of surplus war materiel and stroppy young underclass males, raking big no-bid contracts into private pockets, and generally redistributing the nation's wealth into the pockets of friends and relatives of the governing elite. there are ostensible rationales and then there are real, pragmatic agendas. forget cherchez la femme, and focus on suivez l'argent, and everything starts to make a lot more sense...

people think that Gitmo and Abu Ghraib exist because the elite want to torture information out of prisoners, and we complain because the prisoners are innocent or torture is not only barbaric but a piss-poor way of getting useful information, or because this tarnishes the national reputation. but the point of Gitmo and AG, I am convinced (w/a hat tip to Zeynep at UTSS who figured this out first and confirmed my vague uneasy feeling) is not to polish an international rep or to get information. it is to terrorise people -- in occupied Iraq, but perhaps even more here at home -- by telling and showing us this is what we can do to you, this is how we can disappear you, we are above the law, it doesn't matter if you are innocent or not. the message of AG and Gitmo is felt by every opponent of the Bush regime, and that's exactly how torture and arbitrary detainment work -- how they are meant to work -- what they are for. we miss the point when we argue that they don't serve the ostensible purpose, because the ostensible purpose is rubbish, a thin rationale over the will to terrorise. the arbitrariness is not necessarily incompetence -- it is also functional, because arbitrariness makes violence even more terrifying (ask any battered wife or child).

there are plenty more inversions of this type in play. I'm sure we can all think of some more.

seems to me the real enemy of every totalitarian regime is its own people. all its efforts are bent on intimidating, wooing, fooling, beguiling, dominating them -- bread and circuses, and behind them, half-visible and deniable, the shackle and the whip.

Posted by: DeAnander | Mar 14 2006 0:22 utc | 31

@citizen - you blew yr. 1st link on yr. 2nd post.

Posted by: jj | Mar 14 2006 4:13 utc | 32

Anybody know anything about the demise of Knight-Ridder. I'm suspicious 'cuz they were the only mainstream operation doing real reporting from Iraq.

Posted by: jj | Mar 14 2006 4:17 utc | 33

David Sirota on globalization and political complicity:

LINK

Posted by: Groucho | Mar 14 2006 14:34 utc | 34

@jj
Thanks for pointing that out. The link to a story on criminalizing reporting is here.

@ralphieboy
Thanks for putting it so clearly. Yes, readers are not the papers' customers anymore. An important moment in any person's education.

Posted by: citizen | Mar 14 2006 16:05 utc | 35

DeA,
hear hear!

They have repetedly told us how they think: "shock and awe" for one. Still our hope tricks us into thinking that they are just incompetent. They are torturing for the same reason Saddam was, to keep the people down. I think it was in Dune that it was said "a ruler must see to it that the people know of many stories were someone has challenged power and met an unhappy end". They are creating such stories and the arbitrariness is part of it.

Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Mar 15 2006 0:31 utc | 36

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