Saturday, November 19, 2011

Play the game

[This is a response to the suggestion that someone, who is worried that he can't afford healthcare for his family, should "play the game" of making more money.]

I understand there are different stances on the real issues here: people who blame specific government programs (such as Fannie and Freddie Mac's lack of assets) and people who blame lack of government regulations (such as the role-back of Glass-Steagall); people who point out the agency of individuals to make good choices and avoid being taken advantage of and those who squarely blame those who have profited off the bad debt, volatile markets, and exotic financial products. Actually figuring out how our economy became so vulnerable and why it took such a strong hit, isn't as easy as a bunch of sloganeering.

Defending the status quo however, as you have done, is just painful. When arguments are easily bandied around that justify treating low-income earners as less than human; it's hard not to respond with anger. If you really think that it's okay for 45,000 people in the U.S. to die yearly due to lack of healthcare coverage; you're sort of a horrible person. Then to justify this fact by proclaiming that low wage-earners should "play the game" like the Kardashians; is just mind-numbingly ridiculous. On top of that, you go on about how other people should educate themselves; implying that you know what your talking about because you haven't been influenced by the "liberal media"?! Are you kidding me?

How so many people can, with a straight face, be so incredibly complicit in perpetuating the increase in wealth disparity (not just in the U.S. but around the world) is amazing to me. It's difficult to understand the arguments when the people who are talking about NOT benefiting from the labor of others are defending the people who profit from the labor of others.

The only way I can reconcile this weird stance, is that when poor people benefit from the labor of others - this is bad - but when rich people profit off the labor of others (raking in record profits, draining pension and retirement funds, demanding union concessions while voting yourself a raise, rolling back benefits, taking out insurance policies on bad debt you just sold, out-sourcing to countries with more exploitable labor markets - like slaves, etc) - this is AWESOME because rich people did it, so it's just "part of the game".

But yeah, people should do something when they are in a bad situation. They should do something when other people are leeching off their labor. They should do something - those "tiny steps" toward being respected and being able to provide for themselves and their families through their hard work - like the Haymarket riots.

Slave labor and underpaid labor around the world can rise up, they can change their situation by being bold enough to stand up and risk their lives to change the game. You're saying people should play the game to avoid their preventable deaths. That's just beyond the pale.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Dirty hippie"

[This may just be a troll feeding, but I created a rebuttal to the idea that the occupy movement is a bunch of "dirty hippies" that believe they are entitled to the benefits of other people's labor.  Parts of the rebuttal use the original posters language, so it should have enough context within it.]

Yes, Paul, there is something rotten in Denmark when one assumes that a choice to live off of the products of other's work is an act of god. We called that "Divine Right" back in the day and it was also a back-bone of the lord-serf economic system. It was born out of Calvinist and Stoic ideas that the poor were poor because they were inferior and God loved them less, because everything happened according to God's will. If someone suffered it was because of sin, not because of bad circumstances or abuse. This was the way that the powerful stayed in power - and sat on their asses as the serfs and blue-collar workers, child labor and slave labor, did all the work and they profited - by convincing those laborers that working their lives away with little compensation was godly. 

I know - it's a radical idea to think that someone who works 40 hours a week (oh wait, 40 hours? - that was the labor movement) should get a living wage; and receive the pension and retirement they depend on and were promised. I know - it's a radical idea to think that someone's tax dollars should be spent on educating children and investing in infrastructure instead of giving tax-breaks and subsidies to companies making record profits. I know - it's a radical idea to disallow someone to sell bad debt that they know will fail and take a large insurance policy out on it. I know - Reinstating the Glass-Steagall act is all about looting, not bathing, and living in your mom's basement. I know - Protesting the increase in wealth disparity, decrease in socioeconomic mobility, and lack of employment is the SAME as being content to subsist off a welfare safety-net, not increase your productivity through education and vocational training, and not work. 

Just plug your ears and repeat the mantra "dirty hippie" "dirty hippie" "dirty hippie" - it will make all those issues disappear and make you feel better about yourself. It will also make all the veterans and professionals involved in the movement disappear - and replace them with your second nephew's brother's sister's cousin that smokes too much weed and litters.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


 [This is a little different than what I envision for this blog - as it contains more than a few positive assertions - but wanted to share.]
 - just a brief note about the concept of "class warfare" and "anti-corporatism". I don't think it is that simple. Some corporation are pretty damned cool. Many rich people are rich because they are hard-working and have great ideas. I don't see anyone picketing the Gate's family. What is at issue is that many people make incredible money playing money games - essentially gambling. 
Their money does depend on how smart they are - but not on the quality of the goods and services that they produce. Their money depends on things like how long the cable is to their computers, so their trades go in a couple milliseconds faster. It depends on how much interest they can collect because the people that owe them are unable to pay down the principle of their loan; they get rich when people pay money and get nothing tangible in return. I think many people were more than willing to let this go - until it got completely out of hand. 
Government regulations were either insufficient or created unintended consequences. Banks started trading financial "products" so exotic that even insiders were perplexed - and somehow rain or shine - the banks won their bets. The people became irresponsible borrowers, allowing credit to sustain them instead of insisting on fair wages and benefits for work. Opportunists started flipping houses on credit so frequently that HGTV was full of reality shows about it. Then, as many suspected, it blew up - causing difficulty for nearly everyone without a golden parachute. 
I'm incredibly happy that the problems of these systems have come to light. I have hope that the next group of young people won't get trapped in the cycle of debt that many of us have allowed ourselves to fall into. This isn't a movement that ignores personal responsibility, is anti-business, or pro-hand-out....quite the opposite. I'm hoping that this conversation ends in pointing out that usury and gambling aren't acceptable sins and a successful rebuttal to the bizarre neo-Calvinist concept that being rich automatically means that God loves you more, that you are responsible, that you aren't taking advantage of anyone, that you aren't stealing, that you aren't sucking on the public teat, that you aren't a drain on society, that you aren't dangerous, etc.