Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category


We hit 100,000 views a few days ago, and to celebrate (if that’s the right word) we’re listing the best posts we’ve published over the years, divided by category. Here’s the second installment. The third will be the first of the Humor installments, and it’ll focus purely on jokes.

Civil Liberties

Economics

Gardening

Interviews

Journalism

 

 

 


The British analytical group, More in Common (“founded in memory of [British MP] Jo Cox [murdered by a neo-Nazi]”), reports that the vast majority of Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture.

The study has design problems, such as considering no political positions to the left of “progressive activists,” and defining “PC culture” only in terms of language. (Obviously, it goes far beyond this.)

Still, the study has some value. Among other things, it reveals that a full 80% of Americans (including 75% of Afro-Americans and 88% of Native Americans) “dislike” PC language and consider it a problem. As well, the single group most likely to view PC jargon favorably — though only a third do so — is “progressive activists,” 8% of the total population, who are overwhelmingly white, earn over $100K per year, and are most likely to hold advanced degrees.

In other words, “the liberal elite,” those most likely to control “progressive” media outlets (such as, to fairly single them out, Alternet), and to indulge in the use of PC terminology.

And PC terminology is to all appearances not intended to unite the oppressed against the common ultra-rich enemy, but to give its users a warm feeling of self-congratulation on being enlightened, morally superior, above the rest of us. It’s in-group, self-identifying, and self-congratulatory jargon.

Think about it for a moment. How many people do you know who use terms like “woke,” “people of color,” “white privilege,” “privileged”? I’ve lived for nearly 30 years in a barrio where maybe 25% of the people are white, and I have never heard any of my Mexican or black neighbors, or my poor white neighbors, use these or similar terms. Never. Over damn near 30 years. Never.

“Progressive activists” are not speaking the language of the people. They may want to shame people into using their jargon, but they are not speaking the language of the people.

It’s time for the “progressive” left to stop patting themselves on the back. It’s time for them to stop using jargon that alienates people. (Try telling someone who’s making minimum wage, spending 50% of their income on rent, has no health insurance, and can’t come up with $500 cash to cover an emergency, that they’re “privileged” because of the color of their skin — see how far that gets you; see how far that goes in building coalitions to build solidarity, to improve life for all.)

The PC left is a curse, navel-gazers intent on proving to themselves how virtuous they are in comparison to us unenlightened plebes, especially through use of their in-group jargon. They’re an ongoing disaster.

If the left is ever to make real progress in this country, to make concrete policies to benefit all, it won’t be through using bizarre jargon that plays into the hands of Trump’s “very fine people.” It’ll be through talking about economic policies that benefit all of us.


Here, at minimum, are the posts that we’ll put up over the next month or so:

  • A review of Neal Stephenson’s masterful, very thought-provoking new near-future sci-fi novel Fall, or Dodge in Hell, that’s in many ways is reminiscent of his near-future political thriller Reamde;
  • Quite possibly one or two other sci-fi book reviews (we tend to review only books that we love or those that particularly irritate us);
  • A long look at the reasons why the USA has ended up with a grotesque authoritarian as president, and who and what’s to blame;
  • Excerpts from both of our upcoming nonfiction titles, Death Wins All Wars: A Memoir of Draft Resistance in the 1960s, by Daniel Holland (September 2019), and The Great Evil: Christianity, The Bible, and the Native American Genocide, by Chris Mato Nunpa (October 2019);
  • A long look at economic inequality in the USA, and how those who do useful work are systematically screwed;
  • A good-sized excerpt from Zeke Teflon’s sci-fi sequel to Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia;
  • Anything else we find both funny and/or insightful (preferably both).

Stay tuned.


graphic by J.R. Swanson

“A rising tide lifts all yachts.”

–Anonymous (wrongly attributed to JFK)


Trump backed down. He backed down from systematic child abuse and holding abused children hostage to his demand for a useless-as-tits-on-a-boar-hog border wall.

That he would even consider, let alone implement, a policy that traumatizes children and uses the abused children as hostages tells you all you need to know about him.

Add to that the fact that he wasn’t man enough to take responsibility for his horrific actions and attempted to blame others for what he did, and you really begin to understand what Trump is. (Come up with your own epithets — they’re almost certainly accurate.)

But Trump’s actions reveal more than his lack of character, they reveal the “character” of the scared-shitless Republicans in Congress who wouldn’t denounce the pure evil of deliberate, organized child abuse and holding children hostage. They wouldn’t, and won’t, stand up for what’s right if it threatens their self-interests.

As for Trump’s supporters, the most charitable explanation is that they’re brainwashed, frustrated fools (via Fox “News” and Facebook) who take the Glorious Leader’s every word as gospel, no matter how obviously false and self-contradictory. The less charitable interpretation is that they’re fear-driven, vicious racists.

I take a more charitable view:  they’re simply focused on their own economic survival, are too dumb to understand that Trump is not on their side, don’t care about the suffering of others, and are primed to blame scapegoats for their problems.

How can we reach them?

It is possible. At least in some cases. The corporate Democrats (and Republicans) systematically screwed over the white working class over the past four decades, leaving jobless, rotting, hopeless communities in their wake as they catered to the corporate overlords who funded their identity-politics, elitist campaigns. Who can blame people for being pissed off? And who can blame them, given the pathetic job the corporate media does, for being grossly misinformed?

What might bring at least some of them around is how obviously they’re being screwed by Trump and his Republican enablers. Their friends and family members will begin to die shortly, if they haven’t already, because of inadequate or nonexistent healthcare coverage. And things will only get worse — more and more people will die needlessly — as long as the Republicans are in charge and focused on ensuring profits for big pharma and the parasitic (apologies for the redundancy) healthcare insurance industries.

This is the most obvious point of attack. But the corporate Democrats (Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, et al.) won’t even consider attacking it. They’re beholden to their corporate funders, have betrayed the white (and black, and brown)  working class for decades, and think they can continue to get away with it, simply because Donald Trump is, very obviously, a cancerous polyp on the rectum of humanity.

Pelosi, Schumer, et al. have got to go.

Offer suffering people some real relief, and they might turn away from the vicious demagogue and hypocrite Donald Trump, and his enablers.

Donald Trump seems to be gambling that the real pieces of human shit in his base, who enjoy seeing the abuse of immigrant children, will be motivated to get out and vote for his Republican minions in the midterms.

We can only hope that the forces of human decency are stronger.

 

 

 


When Amazon started, the company’s founder and directors decided to use books as a loss leader, to sell them at prices where they were certain to lose money — a lot of it. Why would they do that? While no one except Jeff Bezos and his minions knows for sure, there are several likely reasons:

  • The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) system. That system gave Amazon immediate access to a numerical listing of almost every book in print (or out of print, since the ISBN was introduced in 1970) — perfect for database-organized online sales.
  • Selling books at or below cost was an easy way to build market share and visibility.
  • That money-losing strategy drove competitors out of business, especially independent bookstores and most of the chains — Borders, B. Dalton, Waldenbooks, etc., and it greatly weakened the only remaining large chain, Barnes & Noble. This drastically increased Amazon’s leverage with publishers. Jeff Bezos famously said that Amazon should “should approach these small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.” And Amazon has done that.
  • Amazon, which was founded in 1994, had deep enough pockets to lose money — a great deal of it — in pursuit of its goal of complete dominance of bookselling and damn near everything else, and in fact did not turn a profit until 2001.

The results of this are well known. In addition to driving myriad independent booksellers — who simply couldn’t compete on price — out of business, Amazon also drove out most of the chains, which bore massive expense through their bricks-and-mortar stores, and so again couldn’t compete on price. The irony is that the chains had driven huge numbers of independents out of business by undercutting them on price, and they in turn were undercut by Amazon.

Amazon still sells books fairly cheaply — though it seems like their massive book discounts of decades past have largely disappeared except on the most popular titles — and, using their ill-gotten reputation as the lowest-price seller, have branched out into selling damn near everything.

Many people apparently still assume that Amazon will provide the lowest price on almost anything they buy. Guess what — they’re wrong.

I occasionally order goods online, mainly musical gear, computer gear, electronic components, and optics. When I do so, I always check prices, and I’ve almost always found lower prices than those on Amazon, usually on eBay. Here are a few examples of items (all brand new) I’ve purchased recently where I could find exact comparisons between Amazon and other sources:

  • NUX OD-3 guitar drive/preamp pedal — $35.99 on Amazon, $20.02 (with free shipping) on eBay.
  • 1/4″ female guitar jack (metal construction) X10 — $4.57 on Amazon, $1.89 (with free shipping) on eBay.
  • 10mm Plossl eyepiece (for telescopes) — $34.00 on Amazon, $6.26 (with free shipping) on eBay.
  • 250K audio taper potentiometer — $1.40 on Amazon, $1.32 (with free shipping) on eBay
  • Acer S200hql monitor — $127.95 on Amazon, $79.99 (with $8.50 shipping) on eBay

There are other online retailers who usually have better prices than Amazon for the things I often buy; a few that come to mind are SurplusShed for optics, Newegg and Fry’s for computer gear, and Musicians Friend and Sweetwater for musical gear. However, while their places normally beat those of Amazon, you can often find whatever you’re looking for on eBay for even less.

So, you think you’re getting the cheapest price by buying from Amazon? Think again.

 

 


This morning I had coffee with a friend who’s a CPA, and we talked for over an hour about the economy, and especially about how those of us who work for a living are getting screwed. There are almost innumerable ways — pick an area, any area — but for now we’ll stick to the purely economic. Here are few of the things we talked about:

  • Dividends and capital gains (basically profits from selling stocks and bonds) are only taxed at about half the rate of money earned through work. If you work for a living in the USA, you’re probably paying about twice the amount of income tax (as a percentage of income) as a trust fund kid who’s never worked a day in his life.
  • If you work for a living and have to spend all, or nearly all, of the money you earn, you’ll pay a much higher effective tax rate on the necessities of life than wealthy people. Here’s why (to keep things simple, we’ll only talk about sales taxes here): If you live in an area with an 8% sales tax rate, make $2,000 a month, and spend $1,000 of it on such things as clothing, food, car parts, and beer (mustn’t forget the beer), you’ll end up paying 4% of your income in sales taxes. If you’re a trust funder with an income of $20,000 a month from dividends and capital gains (i.e., income not derived from useful work), and similarly spend $1,000 on clothing etc., your effective tax rate on those necessities will only be .4% of your income — one-tenth the rate of a $2,000-a-month wage earner.
  • If unemployment is low, and wage growth starts to outstrip the rate of inflation, the Federal Reserve Board will raise the prime rate to create more unemployment and keep wages down (as it’s doing at present). How does an increase in the prime rate do this? It “cools the economy” by making it more expensive for businesses to borrow and then spend the borrowed money on new facilities, machinery, or wages for new workers. It also raises the cost of consumer borrowing, especially as regards home mortgages. And the higher the mortgage interest rate, the fewer mortgages are taken out; this puts a damper on new construction and so decreases the number of construction jobs and also jobs in the industries that supply construction firms. Hence “economy cooled” and wages held down.
  • If you work for a living, have little or no savings (as is typical), and have to borrow money for a medical or other emergency, you’ll likely do so on a credit card, on which you’ll be paying sky high interest, probably in the 15% to 20% range, if not higher. If you’re wealthy and decide to borrow money, you’ll likely pay an interest rate in the low to mid single digits.
  • Under Trump’s much vaunted tax cut, 83% of the benefits go to the wealthiest 1% of Americans.  The rest of us get crumbs and will have to pick up the tab in fairly short order, in the form of goods-and-services price inflation and higher interest rates on credit cards and mortgages. In essence, Trump’s tax cut is a massive wealth transfer from those who do useful work to the ultra-rich, who don’t. (Disgustingly, some working class people are happy to scarf up crumbs, lick their masters’ boots, and grovel like dogs.) And if you think giving the rich ever more money is somehow a good idea, that’s been de facto federal policy since the time of Reagan; and how has that worked out for you? It has?! Good boy! What a good boy! Lick up those crumbs! Good boy!

I could go on, but won’t.

To put it simply, the economic deck is stacked against those who work do useful work, especially those who do useful work and won’t exploit others.