lunes, 24 de agosto de 2009

Black Welfare Moms are Socialist Slaves?

Hey folks. I was asked to respond to this missive by Star Parker, a black capitalist ideologue who, in a nutshell, says that blacks on welfare are slaves trapped in the socialist government program and will never get rich like all non-welfare recipients do... because since they get something for nothing, why work? Right, we've all heard this argument before. She then goes on to say that banks are now taking the place of black welfare recipients by accepting the government dole. Hmmm. Here are my thoughts.

First of all, Parker confuses capitalism with socialism. Capitalism is "to each according to his ability to steal (exploit others)", and socialism is "to each according to his work"... though both systems are most often only encountered in mixed (not pure) form. It is really ironic that she thinks socialism is slavery--i.e. working for no pay above bare subsistance, as the master exploits your labor... again, that is capitalism (in its most extreme form), not socialism.

But, semantics aside, her main point is that welfare gives people (she singles out urban blacks) no incentive to work (I'll talk about banks later). I think there are a lot of disincentives to work in the U.S. welfare system. That's undeniable. It could be improved by making sure that when these people decide to look for work (again) (and assuming they can get a job), they will actually be financially rewarded for that decision.

Clinton's Welfare to Work program, which Parker claims some credit for, was a disaster, essentially setting up the "Government Death Panels" Republicans love to hate now, which sentenced countless previous welfare recipients to premature death due to destitution. Basically anyone who couldn't find a job--those exact people who need welfare--were told to go fuck themselves--those who did find work were mostly hired as below-minimum-wage scabs by corporations which the government subsidized (thus pushing the full-minimum-wage demanding, wealthy capitalist success stories, out of employment).

Mainly, Parker fails to understand that capitalism requires a reserve labor force, i.e. unemployed people, in order to keep general wages down. I think 6% unemployment (which is really about 12% unemployment due to the way it is calculated (not including people who haven't looked for work in the last month or 12 months, depending, plus all kinds of other traps), is what capitalist economists consider a normal level of unemployment. If the unemployment rate falls too low, wages spiral out of control, leading to reduced profitability and high inflation. So, in the end, a capitalist society must find some way to take care of its reserve labor army, or it will collapse in on itself (thanks to Marx for that wisdom).

U.S. capitalist society has made poverty a statistic that goes along with race and stays within families/localities through generations. Other capitalist systems like in "social-democratic" Europe, & especially Scandinavia, do a much better job of retraining/educating/re-educating workers, so unemployed people are not as likely to face extended periods of unemployment (those extended periods of unemployment produce a "scarring effect" which discourages people from looking for jobs after years of no success in the search--and imagine the effect of growing up in a family in which everyone has been scarred by long-term unemployment). Because U.S. unemployment is correlated with race and geography and families, it is easy for hater capitalists like Parker to claim that unemployment is caused by race, geography, or family... but correlation ain't causation, we all know that.

Now let's talk about the banks becoming welfare queens after the $13 trillion spent on bailouts (mostly by the Fed, secretly). Ralph Nader also calls this "socialism for banks," so I'll let Parker slide on the semantics for now.

The question is, when have banks not relied on governments to make a profit? How much profit would banks make without the legal right to create money out of thin air (fractional reserve banking)? Sounds like a great business opportunity... too good to be true, except it is true, if you qualify. I looked into starting my own bank, but it turns out the requirements are that you already be a millionaire and/or you have a bunch of buddies who are also millionaires and will finance you and you all can pass an FBI background check. And we wonder why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer?

If Parker is serious about ending what I am dubbing "socialism for banks, not for you," how about making non-profit, democratically run credit unions the only legal banking entity? And of course, abolishing the stock market and its cousins is essential as well, if we are to incentivize work as opposed to theft by fat cats who get free government protection from thugs, called "police," who are ready to shoot you if you demand your money back from the white collar criminals. Obviously, there is a long list of things we would need to do to incentivize work. Let your imagination go wild.

viernes, 24 de julio de 2009

Reparations for Slavery Is Dumb, says "History Professor" Guelzo

Read this article published in the Christian Science Monitor and reprinted by the History News Network. Then read my response, or write your own.

The article is authored by Allen C. Guelzo, the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College, and the author of "Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President." He reminds me of another Civil War History Professor I love to hate: Ira Berlin. Anyway...

First the history. You would think a famous historian such as Guelzo, writing specifically about his area of investigation, should be able to make a better argument than: because most slave masters were between 17-45 years old, and because most casualties of the civil war were of that age group, then therefore most casualties were slave owners, and therefore the debt has already been repaid in blood. First, obviously, most people in the South of any age group were not slave owners. Second, slave owners were less likely to fight than non-slave owners. Why? Well, quite simply, someone had to keep running the plantations and make sure the slaves were kept from general insurrection (not to mention keep the Southern economy going to support the war effort). Would it make sense that the slave masters left their plantations at the charge of poor whites in order to go fight the Civil War? If a historian is to make such a bold and ridiculous assertion, s/he must provide extraordinary proof. None is provided. I did a quick search of Civil War books on Amazon and the top two books which treated the topic of "who fought the Civil War and why" had no mention of slave masters doing any fighting. None. Thus I stand by my obvious conclusion that few slave masters, numerically and percent-wise, fought in the war.

Now for the question of reparations. I will respond point by point.

1) The Federal Gov't was responsible for slavery. It sanctioned it (in the positive sense of the word) officially and unofficially. The author mentions the Fugitive Slave Act but then disregards its importance. Slavery would not have been possible in much of the South if the Federal Government allowed northern states to give slaves refuge from their masters.
Of course, state governments are also responsible, but as the author mentions, it would be impractical to sue each state in court one by one. You might as well sue white people one by one, if you don't mind being totally impractical.

2)Who should be paid? Rather than have a few justices decide who should be paid, let's have blacks come together in town hall meetings and decide for themselves, with the help of experts on the subject, what remedies would be acceptable to them as a group.

3) The Civil War was not reparations. 40 acres and a mule (taken from the slaves' masters) might have constituted reparations (ignoring Africa's and Latin America's claim for reparations for a moment), but that was never given. As I said in the beginning, slave masters were not significantly represented in the bloodshed. But even if they were, the U.S. as a whole benefited from the economy which rested on the backs of slaves.

Aside from the legal tort issue, let's remember that the effects of slavery on the economic and political inequalities between blacks and whites continue to weigh heavily on this country and on the world. I personally think one fair arrangement would be to redistribute wealth between the countries which controlled and which were victimized by the slave trade, such that all "Latin" Americans and Africans and Afro-Americans would have the same income and wealth as the average white American or French or Spanish or English or Portuguese citizen. Then as a measure against political inequality we could institute racial quotas for public office and the 4th estate.

People at this point generally argue to me that if we start the reparations ball rolling, where does it stop? Should poor whites get reparations from rich whites for being exploited? Sure! Why stop the reparations ball? I think it will destroy capitalism if nothing else. And I'm all for that. Let's start with reparations for slavery.

viernes, 17 de abril de 2009

Blame Israel for Palestine, Not for Everything Else

I was just reading the article on Alternet, "New Bush Torture Memos Released" and there was a guy on there who commented that, "you can blame Israel for this." For what? Torture? the U.S. Global War on Terror (or whatever euphemism Obama uses now)? Sure, Israel is fond of terror and not so fond of Arabs/Muslims, but we have to get real and stop blaming Israel for all evil in the world.

If you want some group to blame, you can blame the global capitalist class (of every religion and no religion, of every ethnicity but mostly European ancestry) who think that oppressing the majority of the world's people is ok, even if it means we have to torture them now and then to keep them in line.

Osama's initial gripe was U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia. Since then he and his ilk have expanded their jihad to the puppet governments in the Middle East controlled by western capitalists. Prof. Gelvin shows (p. 20) how this new line has become popular as "American [read capitalist] globalization" has spread over recent decades.

Israel, in fact, is a blip on the map to Osama and other "Islamists"/anarcho-caliphatists (my imperfect term for those who wish to destroy nation states and establish a single empire based on their version of Shari'a, see Gelvin p.16...). Without Israel, they still would have no caliphate... that's why Hamas (a nationalist group) and Al Qaeda don't quite get along, to put it mildly (see Gelvin p. 13).

What does capitalism have to do with the wrath of anarcho-caliphatists? Religion has greatest significance to people who are poor and alienated by their oppressive government. Remember Egypt under Nasser? Anarcho-caliphatists had quite a hard time recruiting back then, when government served the people (as imperfect as it was).

martes, 31 de marzo de 2009

You don't need to be a weatherman... if you have the Weather Channel! Thanx, Max Boot & Wall Street!

"I ... revere the courage and competence of our military.... I think much of what ails the inner city involves a breakdown in culture..." (Question: Are these Bush quotes or Obama quotes?)

"I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.”
- Obama in The Audacity of Hope.

Well here it is, we are a few months into Obama's presidency and we pretty much figured out who he is--big surprise, it turns out he is who he said he would be... basically another "compassionate capitalist."

He is compassionate with the Afghans & Pakistanis, saving them from the Taliban with drone planes dropping God's Fire--redemptive, but yes, it burns at first (which is why they are naively asking us to please stop it). And Oh Boy is he compassionate with the "too big to fail" corporations, which have received $12.8 trillion so far, about the entire U.S. GDP. He recently said he has no choice but to give whatever AIG asks for, because, he says, they are like a "madman with a bomb strapped to his chest." As William Greider points out, it's a false dilemma, because all we need to do is TAKE THEM OVER (then bust 'em up). And that's coming from someone who isn't even thinking of a whole new (old), non-capitalist economy... i.e., a supposed realist.

Arch neo-cons (including my next door neighbor who voted McCain) loved Obama as soon as he started naming his cabinet, and they love him even more now, after he fleshed out his Afghanistan/Pakistan policy. And yes, Max Boot really is this neocon Obama fan's name. I love it. There couldn't be a more apt name for a neocon. It's almost as good as Chris Riggall, the Diebold (now Premier Election Solutions) vote-stealing PR clown.

Oh btw, Obama, you may want to think twice about closing Guantanamo. It will be awfully expensive (and controversial once NUMBY kicks in), and in any case we know you already approve of torture at the big brother of Guantanamo, Bagram Airforce Base in Afghanistan. And hey, Guantanamo is actually a damn nice place to go, if you ask Miss Universe!

Bottom line, I agree with Greider's point that you don't need to be a financial or foreign policy expert yourself to understand and have an opinion on things. All you need to do is look at what your enemies think of the policies. Wall Street loves the econ policy, and Max Boot loves the foreign policy. This is more foolproof than looking at what Dems think of the policies, because Dems are biased toward whatever Obama does. Neocons and big business were supposed to be Obama's enemies, and if anything, would have the opposite bias from the Dems' supposed left-tilt, so their support means a whole lot more.

jueves, 8 de enero de 2009

Re: The Free Market Myth

I urge everyone to consider this latest and mostly excellent article, "Free Market Myth" by Mr. Dean Baker. In the article he explains that regulation of markets is neither good nor bad, neither liberal nor conservative. The question is will they be regulated to increase equality of opportunity (making medicine/credit/whatever affordable for the poor), or to increase the share of the pie going to the rich (via patents, copyright, or bankruptcy abuse prevention act of 2005)?

I say the article is "mostly excellent" because Baker makes the mistake of pandering to the libertarians with this erroneous statement: "Deregulation can be a principled position held by true believers in a free market."

In fact, there is no such thing as a "free" or deregulated market. Markets (based on money) are always dominated by one or more groups, almost always to the detriment of the majority who participate in them. Regardless of how well markets may advance overall prosperity, they will never do so as efficiently as moneyless cooperation has the potential to do. But more importantly, "unregulated" markets serve to ensure that the rich increase their wealth at the expense of the poor.

"Free trade" is a perfect example. It sounds great, but what it means is that rich people are free to pay the lowest prices anywhere on the globe to buy or produce what they wish--destroying middle classes and removing opportunities for real economic development from the 3rd world nations. Most economists, of course, argue that these low amounts paid to workers in the developing world are actually their keys to prosperity, since they mean better wages than were before earned in agriculture. But these economists propose a false dilemma. Lack of slightly better wages in sweatshops does not mean workers will be cursed to forever toil the fields with misery and ignorance as their reward. There is a third way: cooperation. It worked in many tribal societies who seemed to enjoy great leisure (enough to spend time on all kinds of elaborate rituals and storytelling) and even luxuries (feasts, child care networks) that the modern developing world's workers and even some in the developed world could only dream of. It also worked for the Spanish Anarchists for a few years, in more recent history.

"Fair trade", based on the idea that markets should not be oppressive, is a more subtle version of an oppressive free market in which the rich voluntarily throw some bones to the poor. The key word there is voluntarily--and that means that the poor are still at the whim of the rich.

The alternate Golden Rule is true: Those who have the gold, make the rules. Government doesn't shackle markets, markets are shackles in and of themselves. Short of abolishing markets entirely, government can shape them to be less oppressive to those without wealth, but most often, government, even when "democratically" controlled, sides with the rich and acts to further extort the poor. The sad vulnerability of democracy is that it functions only to the extent that information is able to be obtained and analyzed critically--and when schools train children to be good workers, and corporations control the information, democracy is only a facade for plutocracy.