Stop Making These Stupid Comparisons!

Nobody is saying that!

I am so sick of these kinds of arguments:  “Oh, so you want $15 an hour for flipping burgers when our firefighters get paid less than that?  Who do you think you are, scum?”192816

Stop making those stupid comparisons! No one asking for a decent wage for a crappy job of standing over a boiling vat of fries for eight hours a day is saying that they are the only ones underpaid. Fast food workers are underpaid and our military is underpaid. These concepts are not mutually exclusive.

Why can’t we all admit that a large percentage of our population is underpaid? Until Reagan dismantled our economy, whenever things improved, salaries increased for everyone, upper and lower class. Now an improved economy only benefits the 1% at the top. Can’t we all agree that pretty much everyone needs a salary increase?

After all, the money to pay firefighters doesn’t come from McDonald’s anyway. Raising the wage for hamburger flippers won’t decrease other people’s salaries. Let’s lift everyone up. And even if we only lift some up at first, it doesn’t mean others don’t deserve it, too and should also be lifted as soon as possible.

But this is what they want — they want us fighting over the scraps because then we’re ignoring the huge wealth inequality that really exists in our country, and it’s not about whether someone should get a few extra dollars an hour.

But back to the main point: Stupid comparisons. I’m seeing way too many of these.

“Caitlyn Jenner is brave.” “Yeah, well not as brave as these soldiers!”  Yes, we know. No one said she was. It is possible for more than one person to be brave, you know.

“Black lives matter.” “All lives matter!” Yes, of course all lives matter, but sometimes we need to bring attention to some of them! It doesn’t mean they are the only lives that matter!

I mean, seriously, it’s gotten out of hand. As one comedian said recently, these kinds of arguments are like someone running into a fundraising event to fight cancer and yelling, “There are other diseases, you know!”

That’s not what Karl Marx said

I am constantly amazed at how many people think Karl Marx led the Russian Revolution and was all in favor of suppressing the public and stamping out all that is good in the world. I have seen political views being called “Marxist” that Karl Marx himself would have hated.

Let’s put this in perspective: Marx was observing how terrible life was for working people during the start of the industrial revolution. Children were working for pennies a day in unsafe factories seven days a week without adequate food, shelter or medical care. Europe and America were turning into a sort of feudal system where the rich trampled upon the poor, and it appeared that it would never change.Original_Marx_Brothers

Marx thought that the only solution to this was a revolution, after which would be the establishment of communism. His idea of communism is like the hippies thought in the 60s: We’ll all work together, live in a commune (hence “communism”) and share equally, with no one above anyone else.

His view was that by sharing in this way, everyone could benefit.

Keep in mind that Marx, being an economist, was mostly talking about the economy. Marx was not against democracy. He saw democracy as “the road to socialism” and before he died, he even backed away from the idea that a revolution was needed (having observed the progress that was made in America thanks to unions). Marx was not against freedom of speech or other basic rights. He imagined that the people would still vote for their leaders but that the leaders would not be richer or better off than anyone they represented.

All of this is impossible, impractical, and will never happen.

But his ideas were still appealing to those people on the bottom rungs of society, and so when Lenin and Stalin brought about the Russian Revolution, they claimed they were doing this to bring about communism and thus help everyone. They lied. Obviously, Stalin did not have any intention of installing a democracy or allowing free speech, any more than Mao did in China using the same rhetoric.

And that’s the problem. As wrong-headed as Marx was about society and what solutions were needed to fix the problems he saw, he thought his ideas would benefit people, not enslave them. He was not evil incarnate. He was trying to make things better. His theory was warped by those who used it to accomplish their ends.

Keep in mind that Marx died in 1883, thirty-four years before the Russian Revolution. He had already begun to change his theories about what was needed to solve the vast inequalities in society, and it’s pretty clear that he would not have supported Stalin’s brutal regime which pretended to be communist.

Now, for those of you who skimmed over this and are now calling me a Marxist: No, I clearly am not. (Unless you mean Groucho.)  Communism, which robs humans of individuality and discourages individual thought and incentive, will never work. And neither will capitalism, which rewards the rich and the powerful while enslaving the majority. The solution is what basically every country in the world now has: a socialist system somewhere between those two extremes.

The debate is over where on the scale we should be.

Aiming low

“I had to work three minimum wage jobs to get by, and I made it, so I don’t see why minimum wage should be increased!”

This is a mindset I have never quite understood — things were bad for you, and therefore we shouldn’t try to make them better for other people?

Raising the minimum wage so people don’t have to work three jobs just to get by seems like a good idea to me. Besides, every time we raise the minimum wage, the economy improves. (If people have more money, they spend it, and the economy improves. Duh.)

But today I want to discuss that attitude. Can someone explain it to me? I’ve seen it many times, always from some conservative who thinks that we should lower our standards instead of raising them.

“Those damn unions want to increase wages and working conditions!” they scream. “Why should they get paid so much more than I do?” Well, that’s a very good question. Maybe you should be unionizing too so that you could get paid a better wage.  Why not raise everyone up instead of bringing others down?

Why can’t we increase standards instead of aiming for the lowest common denominator?

 

 

A test for my conservative friends

Seriously.  Forget that Obama is President for a minute.  Or pretend there is a Republican in there.

And then look at the economic numbers.

Unemployment is at 6.1%, the lowest it’s been since 2007.

There have been 63 straight months of economic expansion.obama_100906.gi.top

The budget deficit has been reduced tremendously.

The stock market has set records and is at its highest ever.

Consumer confidence is high, home sales are increasing, and we avoided a major depression.

And according to the conservative business magazine Forbes, “This is the best private sector jobs creation performance in American History.”

Forbes finds that in every measure of the economy, Obama’s Presidency has outshone all previous recent Presidents, including Reagan.

If Obama was a Republican, they would be shouting about his accomplishments.  Do you agree?

Now, mind you, this is Forbes making this comparison.  There is one place where the economy has gotten worse, and that is the discrepancy between the rich and poor.  The US looks more and more like pre-revolutionary France every day, where there is no longer a sturdy middle class.  Forbes, of course, doesn’t care about that — many economists seem to only care about how Big Business and the rich are doing.  But that’s also what most Republicans think about, too, so why aren’t they cheering on Obama’s economy?

I know, I know — silly question.

 

Government Profits on Student Loans while we suffer

Should the US Government be profiting from student loans?  Is the government’s job to “make a profit”?

One of the reasons the economy is not in great shape is because students are so in debt trying to pay back student loans.  (Let’s leave the discussion about why college costs so much for later).   If money is being spent paying back loans, it’s not getting spent on homes, cars, appliances, and goods that help the economy as a whole.    loans

A recent bill would have reduced the student loan percentages to a reasonable amount (but still, ironically, higher than when the government lends money to GM and the banks).  It was shot down by Republicans (duh).  Why?  What possible reason would they be against this?  How does this bill do anything but help all students, liberal and conservative alike, from blue states to red states?

Oh, right.  It was being paid for by increasing taxes on millionaire and billionaires, and we can’t have that, because they’re the “job creators” who will stimulate the economy.  (Remember that?  When the Bush tax cuts first went into effect, they were supposed to do that?  Remember when that happened?  Ha ha!  Aren’t we a bunch of chumps!)

So once more the government took the side of the 1%, ignoring 99% of the people they are supposed to be representing.

One of the reasons it failed as well is because of all the lies being spread all over the internet about it.  More than once I tried to explain to people who falsely claimed that this was “an Obama loan forgiveness program” that would let students get off without paying anything.  “I paid my loans, how can these freeloaders get away with it?”  Facts never matter to these people, and of course, only a few would admit that the law did no such thing, but you can guess which news station was promoting that meme, can’t you?

 

“Taxation is thievery” nonsense

Nobody likes paying taxes.  Some libertarians take that to the extreme and claim that taxation is thievery.  They paint a picture of the evil government pointing guns at the helpless citizen (usually naked and wearing a barrel for some reason) implying that it is absolutely wrong for any government to demand that citizens contribute to society.

They long for a world where the government expects nothing from its citizens — you know, like no society that has ever existed in the history of the world.

Humans are social creatures, and unless you live in a shack in the woods away from everyone, you are expected to contribute to the society that provides benefits to you.  Even primitive societies demand that you take your turn gathering berries or weaving.

To demand otherwise is just selfish.

This does not mean that we can’t complain about the unfairness of our tax system.  I do that all the time.  We have a hugely unbalanced system where the average person foots the bills so the rich and the corporations don’t have to.  We could close loopholes and adjust our tax system to be fairer while reducing (if not eliminating) income tax on the majority of Americans — and we’d still be able to balance a budget.

And we can also complain about what the money is spent on.  I also do plenty of that.  We spend too much on things we don’t need, and not enough on things we do need.

There is a lot to criticize about our tax system and where the money goes.

But to turn that into “all taxation is thievery” — well, that’s just selfish nonsense.

tax

Poor little congress

Retiring Congressman James Moran just can’t live on his measly $174,000 a year salary.