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.

 

When we became an oligarchy

An oligarchy is a government run by a small group of elitists;  in our case, the very rich.  (In which case, perhaps the better term is a plutocracy.)  Today’s Supreme Court ruling was the final deciding factor.

How did we get here, in a place that Teddy Roosevelt warned us about?    money

1.  Reagan’s tax cuts.  It started under Reagan when the tax rates on the super rich were dropped tremendously.  Soon after this, we started going into great debt (unnecessary wars didn’t help any).  Infrastructure started falling apart, education was cut, opportunities started vanishing, and they took the middle class with them.  And the rich got even richer and, therefore, more powerful.

2.  The removal of regulations.  Reagan again.  From the very beginning, our economy went through periods of prosperity and crash, on the average of every seventeen years.  There was the Panic of 1819, the 1837 Crisis, the Panic of 1873, the Panic of 1893, the 1907 Banker’s Panic, and so on up to the Great Depression. Then Franklin Roosevelt put in controls and restrictions on Wall Street and banking and lo and behold, no depressions and no recessions for fifty years. Reagan comes in and removes those and bang! The S&L crisis, the 2001 recession, the 2007 Mortgage crisis, and the 2008 Bush collapse.  But more importantly, the lack of regulations produced less competition as huge businesses and banks gobbled up smaller ones and created monopolies.  This gives us great income inequality, where the vast majority of wealth in America is concentrated in the very few at a level comparable to the period before the French revolution.

3.  Gerrymandering.  This isn’t new, but it has gotten so absurd that it keeps those in power there, with hardly any challenges to incumbents.  Therefore, there is no one “stirring up the pot” and bringing in new blood to change things.  In certain districts, it is impossible for the other party to challenge the incumbent party.  This is terrible for democracy, which — like capitalism — needs competition to survive.

4.  The removal of campaign contribution limits.  With Citizen’s United and today’s McCutcheon decision, the Supreme Court has vested power in the filthiest rich at the expense of the rest of us.  You have to be daft to deny that money is power, and what these decisions do is to create the two great fictions that “corporations are people” and “money is speech.”  This means those in power now have even more means to keep themselves in power, by being able to spend unlimited, uncontrolled, and unregulated money in politics.

Because, according to the Supreme Court, if you bribe a politician quietly behind the scenes, it’s a crime.  But if you do it as a campaign contribution anonymously, it’s protected speech.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this latest nail in democracy’s coffin but for now I am just too angry to think.

Capitalists except when Obama does it

The Obama administration recently announced that the regulation of domain names for the internet, which has been controlled by the government, will soon be decided by the free market. dot-com-domain-seisure  So of course conservative groups who rail against government regulation cheered loudly, congratulating Obama for supporting capitalism.

Ha ha! Just kidding!

Just a few days ago we saw how conservatives love capitalism and the free market (except when government regulations help their Big Money contributors).   

And how the basic premise behind Fox News is “Whatever Obama does, we’re against it.”

So I don’t have to let you know how Fox reacted, do I?