Thursday, February 15, 2018
You cannot use the gross domestic product (GDP) as a barometer of how a country is doing as a whole, and the well being of the people. The GDP deals in averages and aggregates. Aggregates hide the nuances of inequality, which is one of its prime faults. The GDP looks at the stock market and unemployment to gauge what is good or bad, but unemployment, which is currently at 4.1 percent is not a true number as many people are working at gig jobs and being paid in cash just to survive while hoping for a full-time job with healthcare and a pension, which by today’s standards are a pipe dream. Ten years ago, the French president Nicolas Sarkozy wrote that the gap between reported well-being and people’s lives experience was creating a gulf of incomprehension between the expert certain his knowledge and the citizen whose experience of life is completely out of sync with the story told by data of the GDP. The gulf, Sarkozy put into words, summarizes the anger that is currently tearing so many societies apart is dangerous because the citizens end up believing that they are being deceived. Nothing is more destructive to a democracy as when its people lose trust in it. One might read about the experiment involving the capuchin monkeys and inequity. Two monkeys were in cages next to each other and given treats. The scientist gave one monkey a better treat than the second monkey, the second monkey, feeling violated, became irritated with the scientist and the inequality in treats. The monkeys sense of fairness supports the evolution of humans and our reactions to the violation of cooperation between our efforts on a job and the payoffs for our efforts. Wages have not kept up with inflation. The minimum wage, had it kept up, would be around $22 to $24 an hour today. With fewer jobs, we should be looking at new ways to support our capitalist system, like the universal basic income, Medicare for all, and free education, like the old G.I. Bill. To see a GDP looking good does not tell the true story. The GDP is out of date. It was invented in the U.S. in the 1930s, and even then some like Simon Kuznets, a Belarusian-American economist, had doubts about using the GDP when they counted financial speculation and armaments as positive outputs. Those are not the services that dominate a modern economy. It is the inequality that must be fixed or democracy will go away and replaces by what?Even Monkeys Knoe Inequality Is Wrong
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
Had an enjoyable conservation not too long ago with a young stockbroker about solutions to income inequality and other ails afflicting our country. I advocate for universal basic income (UBI). A few years ago the call for a $15 minimum wage was called delusional, but now there are many places that are paying $15 an hour minimum wage or slow walking to the $15. Still, even if it was full-time work, it would only be an annual income of $31,000 a year. Just about enough to keep a person off the streets and get the basics, but, still, it is an incredible accomplishment by those who took to the streets to bring about this change. So, now it is time for another delusional fight to take place and that is for a UBI. Though there are a lot of areas to be worked out with the UBI, there are just as many good things to come from UBI. Some people say if people receive $1,500 to $2,000 a month, they would quit working, which has proven not to be the case within Alaska, the best example of UBI in action. Even if people did quit their jobs, it would open up jobs for others who want a better lifestyle, like owning a home, new car or the latest technology. Some who quit their jobs might like to own their own business or go back to school or find a better job that they enjoy and expect to stay in until they retire. Maybe now, one person in the family could stay home with their children, if they chose to, without creating a financial hardship and this too would open up another job. If this were to start a worker shortage, this would be good for workers because maybe the companies that hire part-time employees and pay them little with no benefits would have to up their game to find good employees. With UBI, there would be no homeless, more jobs, more cash in the capitalist system because about 75 percent of the people would be buying more durable goods, such as televisions, washers and dryers, cars, boats and house. The work force would be younger because the older people could afford to retire if they wanted, and not have to work until they’re 70 years old or die. The older workers with all their experience could rebuild our social infrastructure working with young people in volunteer positions with sports, fire, law, medical, education, and parks, to name a few, and even helping guide those who want to startup a businesses. For those who question how to pay for the UBI, it could come from corporate taxes, estate taxes, taxing the super rich and making corporations pay for the use of our Commons. So, let’s all be a little delusional and see where we are in two to three years on a UBI. There are backers of this, billionaires, like Mark Cuban and Nick Hanauer, see how a UBI will benefit individuals and the country as a whole. Ontario, Canada, is experimenting with UBI and other countries, as well.
Thursday, February 1, 2018
The U.S. Supreme Court has given to labor and it has taken from labor. In Feb.26, 2018, they will be taking from labor and their decisions will destroy labor’s membership and bankrupt unions financially. The Court could then allow workers who have paid union dues to seek refunds from union dues already paid, which would drive a stake into the heart of labor unions. After three tries, in 2012, 2014 and 2016, the high court is poised to reverse its own 40 year precedent and strike down the Fair Share Fees as unconstitutional. The 1977 ruling said workers did not have to pay for unions’ political activity. The verdict expected in June of this year would allow workers to pay nothing toward union dues, but still receive the union protections. This could force unions to have to raise union dues on those who remain or lose clout in states, such as California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, in the public workers, such as law enforcement, firefighters, teachers, government agency workers and other public employees. So, what are unions going to do? The best response is for all unions to go on strike and the others engage in sickouts or workers can just put their hands in their pockets. This is just starting and the GOP now smells blood. And from the unions we hear crickets. There’s no plan to fight back, in fact, most workers don’t even know what is going on and how it can effect their livelihoods and that of their families are at stake. Where is the unions counter message? The corporate-owned GOP is out there trashing unions and passing laws to degrade all the positive unions do for the workers and communities where they exists, but there’s no counter message. Why aren’t unions fighting back? Why haven’t they taken to the television and radio stations and news programs and mailers to get their message out and drum up support? Why are our unions so silent about this? Why are unions not trying to elect people like Bernie Sanders, who will fight for the people? The unions need a message, like universal healthcare, more unions, free education (like we used to have), a decent minimum wage, universal basic income, job safety, food safety—everything that matters to the working person and their families. Unions are the backbone of the working class and help all workers whether they are union or not. Have unions lost the will to fight for their rights? If so, why and how can this be changed before it’s too late? Time is running out for the argument for this case will be heard Feb. 26, and a decision by the end of June. There needs to be loud voices against this case otherwise we’ll be hearing the death knell for unions demise. “The labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who attack labor forget these simple truths ,but history remembers them,” Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech to the AFL-CIO on Dec. 11, 1961.
Monday, January 29, 2018
Will a universal basic income (UBI) work? One only has to look back at the GI Bill, which was put in place after World War II that established free college education for ex-military members and very low-interest rates on home loans. In fact, when I purchased my first home, I paid $40 down to cover closing costs and with a payment on a newly built three-bedroom, two-bathroom with a den, fire place 1,600 square foot home for $160 a month payment on $19,000 plus taxes and insurance. After about seven years, I sold the home for $48,000. This was my UBI and there are many more who got their middle class start by using the GI Bill, which even paid $350 a month to go to college three-quarters of the time.This made it possible for me to start a sheet metal shop, which twenty-nine years later provided me with a union pension. All of this was made possible with the GI Bill, which very closely resembles a UBI. Just think what $1,500 or $2,000 a month would do for everyone. Maybe they’d be able to parlay into college, a house, starting a business, and have time to volunteer to our social infrastructure, like schools, old folks homes, community organizations and special districts. I know this works because I did it while using the GI Bill. Now is the time for a UBI. Now, there are those who will say not everyone will work and that maybe true. Some will not work just like they don’t work now, but most will work and probably at gig jobs, part-time jobs and some at full-time work to fill the open spots by the ones who don’t work. Look at Alaska, despite receiving the equivalent of a UBI, most Alaskans still work. I have heard some ideas of $2,000 a month and also letting a person work for as much as $6,000 a year, which is only $30,000 a year. I believe they should be able to work for as much as they want. But still, a couple receiving the $2,000 UBI and making $6,000 a year times two is $60,000 annually. I think it should be $6,000 a month working and $2,000 in UBI benefits, which would greatly reduce the inequality this country now has while reinvigorating the capitalist systems, which would pull all of the HaveNots up to a very good standard of living, and the ones with just the $2,000 a month who don’t work would still have a roof over their heads and food on their plates. If they are part of a couple, they’d have $4,000 a month or $36,000 a year and be off the streets. Yes, there is a lot to workout, but there is support from the very rich tech companies and there’s actually a college course on UBI is being taught in Southern California.
Sunday, January 28, 2018
Why are union workers’ money enriching the rich? Public employees pension funds fund the destruction of not only the livelihoods of private sector workers, but also their own unions, which are, of course, the only reason union workers enjoy any benefits at all. The unions in search of higher returns, pension fund managers have taken to investing in what are known in the trades as “alternative” investments, such as hedge funds and private equity. They take union money and invest in companies that then do a so-called “efficiency” remodel to make the company make more money. This is just a code for screwing the workers by cutting wages, hours and even jobs. The purchasers borrow lots of money to buyout these heavily indebted companies, which forces management in an effort to achieve greater efficiency by cutting against the employees. What they did in the case of Safeway grocery stores is sold stores to nonunion operators, closing stores and squeezing labor. In all, 63,000 people lost their jobs. The human costs in doing business like this was suicide, alcoholism, heart attacks, bankruptcies, and broken families due to divorce. The money in union pensions is providing the cash to private equity firms, which puts union workers out of jobs when the equity firms buy the companies the union workers are employed by. They then layoff workers, slash pensions and healthcare for their own profit. Unions need to be careful in what and where they invest pension money in, otherwise the pension money managers are working against the very entity that employs them. It’s kind of like the old saying goes, investing in equity firms “is like chickens voting for Colonel Sanders.”
Thursday, January 25, 2018
The two things which will destroy our world as we know it, are inequality and climate change. The Freedom of Enterprise Act (FEA) being proposed by the Republicans will be against anything that alleviates climate change and inequality. In fact, EEA exempts anyone worth a billion dollars from paying taxes and from having to obey all laws, exempts for now homicide and assault. OxFam, an international charitable organization focused on eliminating global poverty, says there are now 2,043 billionaires in the world and their fortunes grew by $762 billion in 2017 while the poorest of humanity saw no increase in their wealth. Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett have $250 billion more than 160 million Americans. If this trend continues driving up the bargaining power of those at the top while driving down the bargaining power of those at the bottom, this will trap people in poverty and further fracture our society. OxFam said the massive inequalities are being driven by factors that include excessive financial returns to company owners and shareholders at the expense of ordinary workers and the rest of the economy. The ability of rich people to use tax havens to evade or shield trillions of dollars from tax authorities, public policy that permits market conditions that push down wages and infringe on labor rights while extreme wealth is inherited and not earned. Read the book “Capital” by Thomas Piketty to understand how this is coming about. The Have Nots will not stay at peace with this much longer. Just look at Greece, which has a new austerity bill the will limit the right to strike and speed-up property foreclosures. You won’t find this being reported in the news because the corporate media does not want you to know about any of this occurring, preferring to participate in the blindside of the working people. It is time for a universal basic income and a $15 to $22 minimum wage.
Friday, January 12, 2018
Now that the $15 an hour minimum wage has legs, we should start the fight for how people have little chance to find a lucrative job that will last their entire working life and end with a pension and healthcare. The manufacturing jobs are either relocated to another country or just about to be eliminated by machines or robots. Retail is going by the wayside as the brick and mortar stores are replaced by online shopping. What’s left are tech jobs, service jobs, and the best—building trade jobs, which need to be union with their own healthcare, pensions and their own four-to-five-year paid training programs. The unions and workers who support them now need to fight for Project Labor Agreements on all government projects. The union workers also need to vote for leaders who will support unions and the unions need to organize all non-union trades. Also, we need to support non-labor incomes, like the Universal Basic Income (UBI) and get behind corporations paying rent for our Commons. When the corporations damage our environment, like they have in the past—air pollution, oil spills, toxic dumping—we are all impacted so remember this when the pundits on Fox, Limbaugh, Beck, etc, begin the crusade to convince you paying for the Commons is a bad idea. If people do not understand this, they should read, “With Liberty and Dividends For All” by Peter Barnes. They should also read, “Rights of Man” by Thomas Paine. The workers who have the best chance to survive are the trades, healthcare, education, tech, first responders, law enforcement, and firefighters. Even these jobs will probably be lessened by tech and robots. Labor-type manufacturing will not be back. Coal mining will not be back. Oil work will go. There is only so much government work to do because the automation will take over the humans’ jobs. It’s hard to believe, but Fox news commentators Bill O’Reilly and Lou Dobbs agree with paying for the Commons. O’Reilly said, “It’s my contention that we, the people, own the gas and oil discovered in America. It is our land and the government administered it in our name—land and water are the domain of we, the people.” Dobbs said, “The oil that we’re talking about belongs to us, as you said. In Alaska, there’s a perfect model for what we should do as a nation. We should have—let’s call it ‘American Trust.’ Have the oil companies put their fees into that trust not to be touched by the Treasury Department or any other agency, but for investment on behalf of the American people. A couple of things then happen. One, it reminds everyone whose oil this is. And, it even puts a little money, a dollar sign on what it’s worth to be a citizen.” This fund could be paid out as dividends and could be connected to the Social Security system, which is already in place—UBI plus Social Security plus gig jobs (temporary jobs) and people might be able to survive. One only needs to look at Trump and the GOP’s recently passed tax bill, which will make America the world’s most unequal society, and as author Thomas Piketty says this tax bill will turbocharge America’s inequality, making it more of a “rentier society.” The days of children doing better than their parents are pretty much over. Children born today in poverty have fewer opportunities to make it out of their situation. UBI and compensation for our Commons are ways to counteract the devastating inequality.