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    • We Are Going To Go Thru Hell, So What Now?
      I was born in 1968, the year Wallerstein calls one of “world revolution”. It was a revolution that both failed and succeeded: women and minorities got more rights, often a lot more, but the end result was an oligarchy, where most people were equal in their lack of power, and where every year saw ordinary people becoming poorer, no matter what the official st […]
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Republicans bringing back the bad old days

William Tell keeps his hat on

You have to give Republicans credit for their dogged persistence.  They are going to drag us kicking and screaming back to the bad old days if it takes them a lifetime.  Look at all of the systems and bad ideas that western civilization got rid of over the past couple of centuries that the Republicans have updated and passed off as new and shiny.

1.) Sumptuary Laws: Wiki defines them as “are laws that attempt to regulate habits of consumption. Black’s Law Dictionary defines them as “Laws made for the purpose of restraining luxury or extravagance, particularly against inordinate expenditures in the matter of apparel, food, furniture, etc.””  The Chained CPI is the perfect way to restrain consumer spending, to the eventual detriment of the economy.  Back in the middle ages, the aristocrats didn’t want to have to compete with the commoners for things like purple dye and fine cloth.  If some merchant could buy that stuff for his daughter and supplies were strictly limited, that meant a duchess might have to do without.  We can’t have that.  In a similar way, the chained CPI is almost guaranteed to keep seniors from spending too much.  The working assumption is that they will scale down their purchases, going for cheaper consumer goods, probably of lower quality as well.  This will save the upper salaried from having to give up their Bush tax cuts or have their payroll taxes increased.  More money for them to spend on whatever their hearts desire, less for everyone else.  Too bad for poor seniors who scrimp and save for the meagerest luxuries.  This is what you get for a lifetime of work and getting laid off in your middle age.

Besides, it’s so much easier to tell who the lower classes are at a glance.

2.) The Truck System: Wiki defines it as “an arrangement in which employees are paid in commodities or some currency substitute (referred to as scrip), rather than with standard money. This limits employees’ ability to choose how to spend their earnings—generally to the benefit of the employer. As an example, scrip might be usable only for the purchase of goods at a company-owned store, where prices are set artificially high. The practice has been widely criticized as exploitative and similar in effect to slavery, and has been outlawed in many parts of the world.”

The proposed Medicare voucher system comes pretty close to a truck system.  Employees pay into the Medicare system throughout their working lives with the expectation that when they are of age, they will be paid their deferred compensation in the form of Medicare benefits.  Instead, they would get a voucher whose worth is much less than the originally promised benefit and it could only be used to purchase health care from a private insurer, who has no incentive to compete because there is no public option.

Truck systems have been outlawed in much of the world because it is seen as a form of slavery. Note that the proliferation of unpaid internships for college students is also a form of truck.  They cost parents a lot of money, the student gets no pay and the internship itself is frequently of questionable value in terms of acquiring further employment.

3.) Fear and lawlessness: In Republican world, the only people who have any true liberty are insane people with guns.  Apparently, there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.  Absolutely nothing. Everyone else is at their mercy and must either pay handsomely for security or fight gunfire with gunfire.  That leaves the rest of us afraid to walk around or go to school safely without fear of being gunned down.  We’re the ones huddled behind castle walls while the lawless roam at will.

4.) Serfdom: This trend is disturbing.  This is what you get when you make precariats out of workers.  The more insecure their lives are, the more they are willing to take whatever work they can get to pay their bills and they’ll do it at remarkably low prices. The attacks on labor unions is designed to create more insecurity.  Note that when you decide to go along with this trend, it’s bloody hard to win back your rights without some major socioeconomic shock, like a Great Depression.  As much as people might dislike labor unions, it’s better to have them to push around the management than not have any.

5.) Exploitation: If you want to know what the Republicans and their allies in the 1%, listen to this This American Life* episode about the The Little War on the Prairie.  This war was between the Minnesota Dakota against the US government who cheated them out of their lands.  You might be surprised to find that Thomas Jefferson was the guy who laid out the strategy of how the government was going to acquire the Dakota off their lands.  Basically it goes like this: we want the Indian lands, they aren’t going to give it to us nicely.  So, we’ll sell things to them that they want and get them deeply into debt.  When they see they’re in a hole they can’t climb out of, we make them an offer they can’t refuse.  We’ll cancel the debt if they give up their land.

It worked.  It also lead to the largest mass execution on American soil in the 1860s.  Go listen to the whole thing.  Abraham Lincoln turned out to be a decent guy but he must have been overwhelmed by the Civil War.  It’s a sad story.

So, how does this apply to Republican strategy?  As I’ve been saying for a couple of years now, it’s the Republican plan to put us in thumbscrews.  The idea is to basically turn down the heat on the economy so that people ain’t got jobs, people ain’t got money.  The corporations will stop investing, bankers will sit on the cash like the greedy dragons they are and the whole executive branch of government will be invaded by financial industry moles who will make sure that no one outside of their little evil group to which no one we know belongs gets any relief for the debt they can’t get out from.  And let’s make this clear, we’re not talking about the people who stupidly took out mortgages on homes they couldn’t afford.  Those people got their comeuppance early.  No, the squeeze is now going to be on the middle class, including the college educated, whose wages have plummeted but whose living costs have not.  As long as there is an ongoing crisis of funding the government, unemployment insurance and all the other things that keep the economy barely chugging along, the screws on us will get tighter and tighter.

The Republicans want to break the social insurance programs.  We know this because if the deficit was really bothering them, they could end the Bush Tax Cuts on the highest earners and end the wars.  If they really wanted to cure the deficit problem, they would enthusiastically back a jobs program and fund unemployment benefits so that money could go back into the economy through consumer spending and so that people could pay their taxes again.

This is not what they are advocating.  So, I can only conclude that they are willing to risk severe injury to some industries, like pharma, and the economy in general and have people lose their houses and careers because they want to push us to the point where we are overwhelmed with living expenses that we can’t pay.  Then they will generously offer to turn the money tap back on if we just give up our social insurance programs.

The temptation is going to be great in the next couple of months, especially for the state of New Jersey.  Unemployment rates here were already above 10% when Sandy hit.  Now that one of the state’s major industries, tourism, has suffered a devastating blow, there will be a lot of pressure on our Congressional delegation to cut a deal so the money can flow.  I expect every one of New Jersey’s representatives and senators to crumble.

What would happen if we don’t give in?  I don’t know but it sounds to me like taxes will go up on the wealthiest among us.  I don’t know about you but my Bush tax cut never did amount to very much.  I’d never even miss it.  But I’m guessing that if you make between $250K and $800K, it amounts to quite a bit of money.  It might mean a change in social status. I suspect that’s why the White House press corps was so anxious to find out what the plan was when Obama gave his post Sandy Hook shooting presser.  They’re trying to figure out where they will stand after January 1, 2013.

So, that’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.  The wealthy and their political arm think they can wait us out.  It’s all they’ve got left at this point.  They’re never going to be able to swing another wave election with social issues.  That demographic is dying off.  So, they’ll just keep us in pain until we give in.  Maybe it will work, maybe not.  Either way, they’re going to strangle the economy until they are no longer under any obligation to participate in social insurance.  And then they’ll move in and take everything.

That’s the Republican party in it’s modern form.  It’s still the same bunch of rapists and pillagers.  They’ve just got a formal party organization to hide behind now.  We’re now back to the bad old days of the Sheriff of Nottingham.  It’s hard to believe the middle and working class happily squandered their advantage over the past 30 years over such tripe like “family values” and “patriotism” and the “moral majority”.  I thought people would have learned their lessons by now but the Tea Party has signed up a whole new set of gullible Americans who are more than happy to bash the head of the person lower than them in the hierarchical scheme.  Some people never learn.

* I know nothing about semiotics but I find it interesting that Ira Glass, the semiotics major, manages to find stories that tie in so well to current events in a metaphorical sense.  Accident?  Coincidence?  Intentional?

19 Responses

  1. Riverdaughter

    Flatter alert: You are totally smart. You’ve got this right. A very sharp and brainy analysis.

    Except you forgot to point out that this Obama guy is the ventriloquist’s dummy for these varmints. They manipulate his jaws and their rubbish spews out in seductive melifluous tones.

    ps: Season’s greetings!

    • What bernard said.

      Joe Cannon wanted everybody to sign a petition, unfortunately it was on Kos so I declined. If the Kossholes get hosed by Obama caving to Wall Street I couldn’t care less because they brought it on themselves. Wrote my senator to let him know that even down ticket Dems won’t be getting my vote if he doesn’t fight the Three Stooges (Obama, Pelosi, and Reid) on this.

      • Obama’s not caving to Wall Street. He’s on Wall Street’s side, has obviously been so since his first cabinet picks in 2008.

      • Didn’t Joe Cannon lose his nerve and urge all his readers to vote for Obama to spare themselves the greater evil of Romney?
        So if the Obamacrats turn Joe Cannon’s Social Security to Catfood and his Medicare to Vouchers . . . it IS what he voted for.

      • Of course the problem is, is that if the Koswipes get hosed we get hosed right along with them. The only way we can save ourselves from hosing is by default-saving them from hosing as well, even though they in parTICular do NOT deserve to be saved.

    • The Republicans could have been relegated to loony tunes status, not worth listening to, had the Democrats so chosen. There was an interesting historical argument made that at one time a coalition of liberal eastern Republicans and moderately liberal northern Democrats made common cause against hard right, mostly southern Dixicrats and Republicans, but the constitution of both parties has changed and that obstacle to regression is gone. You probably couldn’t pass either civil rights or Medicare legislation today. Or SS, either, for that matter. Democrats openly collude with Republicans today.

      • The main purpose the GOP now serves for the 1% is to frighten people into voting for the Dems, who are also tools of the 1%–not that I expect the shoutycrackers (h/t Driftglass) to recognize this.

        Oreobama is a Republican in terms of economic policy–he lies to the right of Nixon and Ford, maybe even Reagan and Poppa Bush. Despite this, the shoutycrackers think he is a socialist. 🙄

        He is a ruthless imperialist in foreign policy, he loves secrecy, and he hates those who question the wisdom and morality of our having an empire. Despite this, the shoutycrackers think he is a halal-food-eating surrender monkey. 🙄

        He is a white man in every way except name and pigmentation. He was raised by his white mother, his white maternal grandparents, and his Indonesian stepfather, who was immune to the USAmerican racial caste system. Despite this, the shoutycrackers look at him and see Huey F**king Newton with an AK-47 in one hand, a Molotov cocktail in the other, a belt bristling with pistol, dagger, and grenades, and an Afro so high it brushes the ozone layer. 😆

  2. I am so glad you mentioned internships– one of the biggest loads of crap ever devised to extract free labor from people. I had to pay for the privilege of working my ass off and then, decades ago, I threw a hissy fit about the system whenever I could a find a venue. My daughter later gets in a graduate program, pays tuition, earns credits, but every term is forced to provide twenty hours a week of free labor to clinics (she was also waiting tables at the time) while the paid staff lounges about or goes to meetings. Finally, the program decides, for the final year, to add an additional 200 hours. At that point, she quit, unable to work for a living and work for free.

    Unless we manage to take our institutions and political systems from the robber barons, I fear serfdom looms for the next generation.

  3. Obama doesn’t have the guts to wear that bristling belt. He sends sneaky drones instead. How entirely like him, one of the the original Who me? liars.

  4. The Republicans have come very close to extinction once and somewhat close one other time. It was the insistence of southern Democrats that FDR cut back the New Deal and balance the budget that led to a recession in 1937 and moved the Rs from an irrelevant 89 House seats (of 435) and about 23 Senate seats (IIRC) to a reasonable opposition. LBJ was making progress in the same direction until the Vietnam War was ramped up.

    What makes the Republicans relevant is their iron control of the US House. And what makes that possible is the blatant gerrymandering in PA, OH, MI, WI, FL, and TX.

    What makes the gerrymander possible is that most Governors and state legislatures are elected in off year elections. IN 2010 in Michigan, Snyder was elected because turnout was one third less than for the Presidential elections. The same thing happened in WI, FL, etc. and each new census allows for the fresh gerrymander for another ten years.

    Like I’ve said earlier, that makes people like Leonard Lance immune to re-election worries and largely reliant on pressure from the internal GOP House nut-ocracy.

    Sandy and Irene did something interesting. The hurricanes largely hit Republican controlled areas in south and central Jersey and (in the case of Irene) Morris county and suburban Essex, That’s five of the six GOP House members from NJ. Add in Grimm from Staten Island and the possible threat to most of the 17 GOPers in FL and a bunch in the Carolinas.

    The GOP might even say, if it happened the other way, that God intervened on the side of the Democrats.

    Th Democrats would have exercised iron control (sort of) but let the Jersey reps and Grimm strategically defect on Sandy aide. Not so with these nut cases.

    I did a little counting and a majority of Democrats come in the House come from states in the Northeast and Pacific Coast that border the ocean. Look at the district maps in California and maybe three of the 15 GOpers have districts that border the Pacific with one being mostly inland. The Dems are by the water. Same is true with Oregon and Washington. It’s not so true in Jersey, though as south Jersey is Republican. Until now.

    The question becomes who do the Republicans represent? The 1% and Grover Norquist or the voters in their districts, even gerrymandered districts. Hurricane aid to Florida and the Carolinas is kind of an essential function if you live there.

    • The Democrats aren’t a real opposition party, they play rhetorical “good cop” to the Republicans but can’t run away fast enough from the opportunity to pass a populist measure whenever one arises. All the rest is just political pantomime.

    • What makes the gerrymander possible is that most Governors and state legislatures are elected in off year elections.

      What gives me hope is that in fall 2012 the Left had some good statisticians and good GOTV. Now if they will apply that to the off-years….

  5. So the question arises . . . how do we wait them out longer than they can wait us out? How do be become able to take more pain than they can inflict?

    And then, how can we actively dry up their revenue streams and economic power and positions? How can we shrink (or destroy if necessary) those parts of the economy which preferentially benefit them against us? If they can take ten times more pain than we can take, how can we inflict 11 times more pain against them than they can inflict against us? (I remember reading somewhere that North Vietnamese analysts and spokesfolk said that they could absorb and accept more casualities than we could and they would wear us down by greater ability to accept greater pain in the end. But their ultimate goal was Total Victory. I can’t see anyone on our side being willing to accept Greater Pain for anything less than Total Victory. Will anyone on our side be willing to accept greater pain for provisional victory in the meantime?)

    • I haveno idea but I suspect that if we all transferred our 401k funds to something like bonds, that would get their attention. It would have to be a concerted effort of course. But as far as yanking chains go, their reaction would be a good indication as to how vulnerable they are.

      • That sounds like as possibly-good an experiment as any. I have no specific idea what would be the “best” thing to do. Different groups of people with their own beliefs about what is “the best thing to do” should do that best thing and every so often we can compare results.

        About 401k money, I personally would think in terms of rescuing it from the hands of its kidnappers. I personally would think in terms of taking it all out, paying all the taxes and penalties, and investing it towards a semi-survivalist suburban mini-homestead somewhere. That would be turning “munny” into wealth before the managers have a chance to drain all the value out of the 401k leaving me holding a bag of Zero. Of course, that’s just my thinking.

    • Cochise used a 10;1 ratio in his war against the white people. He reasoned that the Apaches were as numerous as the trees on a mountain and the white people were clearly more numerous. A 10:1 ratio seemed reasonable to him. The Apaches actually ceased active war whenever they reached a 10:1 ratio. Each new killing of an Apache (man, woman, or child) launched a new killing wave. Unfortunately, the Army, etc. never grasped that peace was always possible once the killing stopped.

      FDR’s approach was two fold. Just like the Republicans aim at drying out the coffers of the unions, FDR aimed at drying or limiting the coffers of the 1% and corporations through taxes. More importantly, he gave the majority of people a strong reason to continue him in power (8.5% annual growth on average over 12 years with distribution skewed towards the bottom 90%).

      Obama and friends don’t follow either of the paths FDR took. Taxes on corporations and the rich have not been radically increased. In fact radical increases have not even been talked about. Second, the bottom 90% has not seen the tremendous benefits that it did while FDR was in office. FDR drastically strengthened unions. Obama has weakened them, particularly teacher’s unions and the unions of federal civil service workers.

      Eventually, it was the southern Democrats refusal to continue and expand the New Deal that slowed the whole to a crawl. The same group in Blue Dog clothes did the same in 2009-10 with the connivance of Obama and wound up taking most of the losses in the 2010 elections. In the 1930s, the wealthy and corporations supported Republicans except in the South where “conservative Democrats” were their favorites.

  6. I saw a good one-liner in the chatbox of Lucky Star Shrine Forums:

    “In Capitalist America, bank robs you.” 😈

  7. As I think further about Riverdaughter’s suggestion for 401k holders to at least move their money out of a stockfund into a bondfund . . . millions of people with 401ks will leave their money in the 401ks regardless. The fear of old age with no officially-designated retirement money at all is just too great. Given that . . . would their 401k money be safer from the fee-grubbing churn monkeys if it were on the bond side instead of on the stock side? If it would, and it could be DEMonstrated that it would, then MILLions of 401k holders would each have their own separate MILLions of enlightened-self-interest-guided reasons to move their 401k money into the bond side.

    Now . . . if enough 401k holders did that, would they end up depriving the fee-grubbing churn monkeys of enough fees and percents that the churn monkeys would feel it? Would the churn monkeys feel it so bad that they started whining so loud that the financial press began writing stories about it? If they did . . . and the stories were written . . . then all those individual 401k money-movers would discover that their millions of individual actions added up to a pain-causing collective result. It might raise their morale as being members of a social class which could injure their enemies through the pursuit of social-class action. They might begin thinking . . . in their millions . . . about how they might conduct their day-to-day getting and spending behavior so as to strengthen eachother ( or at least the sort of people they want to see strengthened) and so as to weaken their enemies and soften those enemies up for more focused and aggressive economic and political warfare combat action.

  8. Here is a blog article about when, where, and how liberals may/ may not criticise Obama . . . and for what or not-what . . . that is so funny I just had to linky it here.

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