Jobs and GOP ‘Dialectics’: Turning Things Into Their Opposites
By Carl Davidson
Beaver County Blue
People sometimes either groan or laugh when they hear the term ‘dialectics,’ a word which some people use to bamboozle others into thinking they know something when they don’t.
But here’s a great ‘laughing out loud’ example inspired by a few lines for Mike Hall’s current post on the AFL-CIO blog today, Aug. 2:
“The 4,000 furloughed Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) workers and 90,000 workers on airport construction projects stalled by the Republican shutdown of the FAA are worrying about how they will pay their bills in the coming weeks.
“But the only worry House Republicans have is how they are going to spend their six-week summer vacation. House Republicans leaders adjourned the House last night until Sept. 7 without taking action on reauthorizing an FAA bill so the agency—shutdown since July 22—could reopen and construction funds move down the pipeline again.”
So here’s a great example of Republican ‘dialectics’, their ‘Jobs Plan’ of turning real jobs into their opposites, non-jobs. It’s easy to laugh at, if it didn’t mean so much suffering for so many working-class families. I suppose we could say there’s a ‘unity of opposite’ there, too.
One thing that burns me up more than GOP nonsense, though, are many of the mainstream media pundits who don’t have any idea on how to ask a decent follow-up question. When our right wing lawmakers (and their White House allies) go on at length about cutting this and slashing that, taking money from low-income and middle-income workers and giving it to the super-rich, there always comes a point where they assert, ‘and this will create jobs!.’
Back in my youth I taught logic for a year at the University of Nebraska. Full disclosure here: I actually appreciate real dialectics, and other rules of argument. But one point I often made to my students: An assertion is not an argument.
Now why can’t our media pundits say, ‘Wait a minute here, Congressman (or other policy wonk). You’re cutting both spending and jobs, reducing overall demand. Then you assert this creates jobs? Can you tell us exactly how that works? Especially when it’s mainly demand that creates jobs? An assertion is not an argument.”
If I heard it just once on CNN, it would make my day.
My logic course back in 1965 was for incoming freshman. Wouldn’t it be great if news anchors could at least reach that level, even if it’s too much to expect of Congress and the White House? All the more reason we have to rely on our own labor-oriented blogs and news services. We know how to make use of decent dialectics, and put a spotlight on the foolish versions of our adversaries.
The Real Crisis: When Everything Decent Is ‘Off the Table’
By Carl Davidson
Beaver County Blue
Leave it to the New York Times to look for a silver lining in the dark cloud of a Wall St-rightwing victory on ‘The Deal’ over the phony budget crisis.
“Democrats can look forward to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts next year,” says their Aug 1, 2011 editorial, “and will have to make the case in the 2012 elections for new lawmakers who will undo the damage.”
In other words, the bondholders will be paid on time, the markets will be stabilized for a short time, and matters will continue to get worse for the jobless and the rest of us. Tighter your belt another notch and get used to it. As for 2012, you have ‘nowhere to go’, so don’t expect much.
No thanks. This ‘deal’ belongs to those at the top who benefit from it. The rest of us have no choice but to organize and keep fighting. Demanding an end to tax breaks for the rich will be part of it. So will throwing out useless politicians owned by Wall Street and the banks where we can.
So the Times editorial has a minor point.
But we have a better platform to stand on-the ‘People’s Budget’ of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Conyers Full Employment Bill HR 870 to supply jobs where they’re needed most, Medicare for All, passing EFCA, the Employee Free Choice Act and ending three wars. Fund it all with a financial transaction tax on Wall Street’s unproductive speculation.
What’s interesting about this package of demands is that they have all been declared, by our supposed betters, ‘off the table.’ It means we are outside their circle of manufactured consent called ‘neoliberal hegemony.’ Never mind that each one has majority support among voters. Never mind that the largest caucus in Congress supports them. And never mind that they would actually work, and build a progressive path out of prolonged austerity.
Instead, our leaders owned by finance capital have taken a position of circling their own wagons, while making the crisis deeper and longer for everyone else. To sell it, they repeat the mantra that this is going to create jobs by ‘confidence building,’ i.e., making business people feel better about themselves and their bank balances.
They’re fooling themselves as well as the rest of us. Jobs are created by increasing demand-and they are right now implementing a deal to lay off government-funded workers and cut demand everywhere. Our current wars, in addition to being unjust, are making us less secure and prosperous, not more so.
Getting a seat in the dining room where we’ve been declared ‘off the table’ is no good anymore. We need to start building a new table. That means vastly expanding grassroots organization with a fighting capacity, at the polls and it the streets, and the sooner, the better.
I hope it’s a call to man the barricades!
Progressive Caucus Calls Emergency Meeting
A Democratic source on Capitol Hill tells The Huffington Post that the Congressional Progressive Caucus will hold an “emergency meeting” on Monday to discuss the final deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
The meeting will take place at 2:00 p.m. and there will be “a formal vote on the Caucus’ position to the deal.” Members have been urged to attend.
Earlier on Sunday, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a co-chair of the caucus, put out a statement harshly opposing the deal as it has been described in press reports.
“This deal trades peoples’ livelihoods for the votes of a few unappeasable right-wing radicals, and I will not support it,” the statement read. “Progressives have been organizing for months to oppose any scheme that cuts Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security, and it now seems clear that even these bedrock pillars of the American success story are on the chopping block. Even if this deal were not as bad as it is, this would be enough for me to fight against its passage.”
How progressive lawmakers come down in the final vote may be the key to its passage. There are 76 members of the CPC, including one senator, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Should House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) bleed a good chunk of votes from his party — a perfectly conceivable outcome — he will be forced to rely heavily on Democratic votes.
Progressives have swallowed their complaints about major pieces of legislation before, including health care reform and the extension of the Bush tax cuts, but they do hold some leverage going into the debt ceiling vote, which will be held Monday or Tuesday.
— Sam Stein
Save Us From the ‘Business Guy’ Candidates
By Carl Davidson
Beaver County Blue
Some things just drive you nuts.
Take Mitt Romney. Yesterday, July 28, the GOP’s presidential wannabe toured Screen Machine, a factory in Pataskala, Ohio, just outside Columbus. The plant make heavy construction equipment, rock crushers to be exact.
Romney and the owners, Doug and Steve Cohen, held a typical photo-op. Mitt took the occasion to blast both Obama and ‘government’ as ‘bad for business.’
Really? What did Mitt have in mind? A wimpy stimulus package? A failure to build more infrastructure? In that case, he might have a point.
But no, the real problems are environmental regulation, labor safety codes and health care. In other words, with more pollution and more unsafe conditions at work, and less health care to deal with the consequences, business could surge ahead.
There’s not any truth to that claim, but that’s not the worst of it.
First, there’s the irony that Obama’s health care plan is basically a national version of Romney’s Massachusetts Plan. If we could scrap both and replace them with ‘Medicare for All,’ yes, it would be better for both workers and business—save for the health insurance firms.
But the real clincher is the story of Screen Machines, where Mitt, the tough-minded, pragmatic business guy candidate, was delivering his words of economic wisdom. Here’s the Washington Post on the topic:
“Yet it’s been the government - and Obama’s policies in particular - that has helped propel Screen Machine’s growth at its sprawling new headquarters here, even during the recession. The company, which builds heavy-duty crushing and screening machines used in construction, mining and recycling, received four stimulus awards totaling $218,607. It is also benefiting from a 10-year deal with local and state governments to not pay taxes on its property, equipment or inventory, according to public records.”
We need to make a minimum requirement of all elected officials that they at least have the ability to blush when feeding us a lot of nonsense. Of course, that might wipe out most of Congress, and a few in the White House, too. But then we’d have some open slots for politicians who count voters rather than dollars.
Clean Water, Green Energy and the Big Blue Marble
By Carl Davidson
Beaver County Blue
A Reuter’s story this morning about the rising threat to the water supplies of 12 East Coast cities connected a few dots for me. The threat comes from burning carbon and climate change, which will raise sea levels and wreak havoc in numerous ways.
“Rising sea waters may threaten U.S. coastal cities later this century, while the Midwest and East Coast are at high risk for intense storms, and the West’s water supplies could be compromised, “the story led off. “These are among the expected water-related effects of climate change on 12 cities across the nation over the remainder of the century, according to a study released on Tuesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a leading environmental group.
“A lot of people think of climate change in the global context, but they don’t think about the local impact climate change might have, particularly on water-related issues,” said Steve Fleischli, a senior attorney with NRDC’s water program.”
Perhaps it’s because my daughters and grandkids live in New York City that the story caught my eye. ‘We’ll have to make room for them here in Beaver County,’ up in the hills on the west slope of the Alleghenies, I first thought.
But what about the Marcellus shale fracking by the gas drillers? We might not have any decent water here, either.
That was the first dot. Then I recalled living in New York City when my first daughter was born. I was working at a leftwing newsweekly, and from out of nowhere, it seemed, 1 million people turned out in Central Park for the first Earth Day in the spring of 1970. What were we to make of it? This was something new, so I started reading stuff from a Marxist expert on the topic, Barry Commoner, a local science professor from Queens, and later a presidential candidate for the Citizens Party in 1980.
I loved Commoner’s open mind and lucid ways of putting things. There are three laws of the universe, he said in one speech I covered. One, there is no free lunch (the law of conservation of energy); two, everything goes somewhere; and three, everything is connected to everything else. Later, after some more study, I added a fourth: Shit happens. (Chaos and complexity theory, especially in systems far from equilibrium.)
Those are the second dot. All four figure in to all the debates over the Marcellus Shale. All the poisonous brine goes somewhere, both what remains 10,000 feet down after cracking the shale, as well as all of it that comes back up. And every day, with the accidents occurring, we get proof of my point number four.
Earth Day didn’t really appear out of nowhere. Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ a book on toxics, had a big impact in the 1960s on the campuses and in the suburbs among awakening housewives.
I’ve also always stressed the importance of a seemingly small event at the end of 1959, the publication of a space photo from Explorer IV, the famous ‘big blue marble’ picture. It was the first real life photo of us and our home. We couldn’t see ourselves, of course, but I and many others noted two things about it. First, it was beautiful and revealed that we were a water world, with a dynamic interplay of wind, sun, moon and waves-all inexhaustible sources of natural and renewable energy. Second, there were no lines on the grounds. We could see our bioregions, but not our countries.
That’s the third dot for the day. We’re all in this together. We may be comrades, allies or bitter adversaries, but we’re all here and we’ve nowhere else to go. Getting my kids and grandkids up into the hills doesn’t solve anything. Along with hard-nosed organizing for grassroots people power, for clean energy and green manufacturing, we need to resurrect one of my favorite slogans from 1968-‘All Power to the Imagination!’ and keep our shoulders to the wheel.
Snake Oil Senator Coburn: Doing the Opposite of What’s Needed.
By Carl Davidson
Our local newspaper, The Beaver County Times, runs reasonable editorials from time to time, even though it’s generally prone to a lukewarm centrism.
But July 24’s ‘Put Up or Shut Up’ is a puzzler. It describes the bizarre budget choices of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who would drastically slash our country’s safety net, impose severe austerity and greatly expand the pool of youthful unemployed by raising the retirement age to 70, among other draconian measures.
Whether the BCT is for Coburn or just using him as a foil to stir up readers is unclear. In either case, our Blue ‘deficit hawk’ in Congress and our Tea Party governor both need a more frontal attack.
Coburn’s suggested ending the wars and cutting defense would surely help, but the rest of his ideas are dead wrong. In a down economy, the government needs to spend more, and more productively, in order to increase the demand that creates jobs. More jobs then bring in more tax revenues.
Making 70 the retirement age only adds to unemployment among young families, not to mention more poverty among older people. No increase in demand there, so that’s a huge job destroyer.
The main thing ignored is that it’s a hoax to think we’re broke. There’s plenty of money if our politicians had the guts to go and get it where its hoarded away. A financial transaction tax for starters on Wall St gambling (not productive investment) would do wonders. Then take the $106K cap off FICA. Then close the corporate welfare loopholes and repeal the Bush tax breaks for billionaires. Only keep the subsidies for infrastructure, for clean energy and green manufacturing startups. Then save on health care by passing Medicare for All.
Finally, set up a WPA/CCC 2.0, modeled after FDR’s Works Progress Administration, to put millions to work on modern infrastructure.
Ask any business person in this down economy what is more important to them, new purchase orders and customers? Or tax cuts? The answer is a no-brainer. New customers top the list, and they won’t care if the purchase orders come from government.
The two recent bubbles that burst, housing and consumer credit, left ordinary folks without the wherewithal to increase demand and thus increase jobs. That’s why in today’s situation, government has to spend more, not cut back more. And unproductive wealth has to be taxed.
Cutting back will make matters worse, and the more you cut, the worse it will be. I’m open to friendly wagers on the matter, but if nothing gets set straight, just wait and see. Unfortunately, I think future events will bear me out.
Lies, Blue Smoke and Mirrors: The Neoliberal-Tea Party Jobs Plan at Work
By Carl Davidson
File this under the ‘Why is Anyone Surprised Dept?’
This morning’s Pittsburgh news media lets us know that more and more Pennsylvanians are unemployed. Particularly, it’s in ‘Unemployment rate up in Pennsylvania’ in the Pittsburgh Business Times by Paul J. Gough.
What’s interesting is how it gets spelled out:
“Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate rose slightly in June as the Commonwealth followed an upward trend of national jobless data that has been rising since the spring.
“The state’s unemployment rate was 7.6 percent in June compared to 7.4 percent in May, according to data released Thursday afternoon by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry. That translated into a net of 2,600 jobs lost to a total 6.3 million people employed in Pennsylvania. Specific data for Pittsburgh won’t be released for several weeks, but unemployment increased in Pittsburgh to 7 percent in May, the most recent month where data is available.
“Much of the decreases were due to 7,800 jobs cut in education, health and social services. Also losing jobs were financial (2,000 jobs), leisure and hospitality (1,400 jobs), and professional/business services (1,700 jobs).”
What this means is that our GOP governor’s plan is working as designed. He and others of his ilk are determined to slash government spending on social services and the work force that provides them. Now if we combine this with taking money from low-income and middle-income workers, and give it to the superrich as tax cuts, we can help the ‘recovery’ of the wealthy by reducing consumer demand from the rest of us.
Now put these two planks together, and you have the GOP-Blue Dog-Tea Party plan for employment, and as we can see, it’s working rather well.
Of course the numbers are going in the opposite direction from what they’ve been claiming will happen. Maybe we just need even more layoffs and even less spendable income at the bottom, and then we’ll really see things take off!
Now Obama’s problem is buying into this. But if he’s going to sell it beyond the business press, it’s going to need a sales team with a lot of lies, blue smoke and mirrors.
Turn the Tables on a Rigged Game
By Carl Davidson
Beaver County Blue
Our local conservative newspaper, the Pittsburgh Business Times, carries an instructive story this morning, July 21, 2011, about how to solve our revenue problems, only it fails to make the critical point. So I’ll lend a hand. It says:
“Pennsylvania casinos brought in $81.4 million in tax revenue from table games during the fiscal year that ended last month, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Of that, about $71.3 million went to the state’s general fund and another $10 million went to local municipalities and counties that host the state’s 10 table game casinos.
“The Rivers Casino on the North Shore was responsible for $8 million in state tax revenue and $1.2 million in local payments through its table games operations during the past fiscal year.”
It goes on to break the numbers down even more.
Now I can enjoy a day at the Casino. I recently took my Mom and stepfather, a retired J&L worker, to the Rivers for his 84th birthday. I hit the nickel slot for $1.50 on my first try, but ended up leaving $5 in the hole.
But here’s my point. There’s a much larger casino in this country that has global reach. It’s called Wall Street, and enormous sums are bet there every second, with the biggest bets being placed by hedge fund managers gambling with other people’s money.
But where’s the ‘house take,’ like the tax revenues reported above? If they can get these amounts from the working class, what about the Wall Street class?
That’s what a financial transaction tax would do, and it could pay a great deal of our country’s social needs budget with plenty left over. What’s more, it wouldn’t even put a burden on productive capital, such as a new green manufacturing startups.
Instead we get big-time gamblers in derivatives wanting us taxpayers to cover their losses. That would be like me going to the Pittsburgh treasurer and asking for a tax deal to get my $5 back that I lost the other day, but I still get to keep the $1.50 I won on my first bet.
The bottom line is that we live in a class society with the wrong class on top. The boss press can easily report on the gaming taxes taken mainly from the working class, but the notion of taking a ‘house cut’ from the truly high rollers of finance capital, well, that’s ‘off the table.’
It’s time to turn this rigged game upside down.
What Happens When You Accept a Neoliberal Frame — or How Obama Joined the ‘Gang of Six’ and Became a Reverse Robin Hood
By Carl Davidson
Only one of the Gang of Six pictured above has done something positive recently, Illinois’s Dick Durbin, when he blurted out that ‘the banks own the place’ in reference to Congress
Otherwise, this crew just cooked up a deal, under a false flag, that claims the US economy is going to recover by taking from the poor and giving to the rich—and now Obama has signed on to it.
It all follows from the false frame, that our main problem is ‘deficits.’
No, there’s plenty of money if you go after it in the right places, and our main problems are lack of jobs, unjust tax codes and the lack of a progressive clean energy and green manufacturing industrial policy.
But neoliberal finance capital has suckered our political class, with some exceptions, into its false framework. Once you accept the notion that there’s no money, that deficits can’t be corrected without cuts, and that tax cuts create jobs in a down economy, you’re on the road to perdition. Jobs are created by increasing demand, and these measures just decreased demand from both consumers and government. Ask your local deficit hawks to explain how decreased demand creates more jobs, and then try to keep from laughing out loud before they finish.
The ‘exceptions’ just noted in our political class are the 70+ votes in the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and the real solution to the crisis is in the ‘Peoples Budget’ they have promoted to counter both the White House and the GOP-far right alliance. Be sure to help them win in 2012, and to their ranks.
Progressive Democrats of America is the main group supporting the good guys here, speaking truth to power and calling mass meetings locally around left-progressive solitions. Go to http://pdamerica.org and hook up. We need to grow its size tenfold.
Why ‘Middle Class’ Drives Me Bonkers
By Carl Davidson
Here’s a perfectly decent chart showing how the value created by increasingly productive Pennsylvania workers ‘trickles up’ to the top. Fine, then comes the claim that the ‘middle class’ is shrinking because workers aren’t getting a fair share.
What drives me nuts is that the same people are called ‘middle class’ and, indirectly, also ‘working class.’ Why do we need to be in two classes? The first is entirely arbitrary and, as the chart shows, only has to do with income levels. The second is about your relation to production, and not owning any means of production, ‘be your payment high or low’ (Marx).
Here’s the rub. The use of ‘middle class’ can be heard to be dismissive of those workers in greatest need. We need unity between both groups, those in greatest need and those more recently pushed down. ‘Working class’ is a fine inclusive term for that. Let’s brush aside the disdain from those who think themselves our ‘betters’ and take more pride in who we are.
Bob Dylan, for goodness sake, even uses the word ‘proletariat’ in his last album, another fine Latin word for ‘people of no property.’ But I’ll settle for ‘working class’ for now.