THIS WEEK’S SYNDICATED COLUMN: Eat the Rich

Soak the Rich, Corporations

A moratorium on housing foreclosures and evictions is a good idea. So is making the tax code more progressive. Obama’s plan to build new public works is smart. But those are half-measures. Even if they don’t come out of Congress watered down and wankified, they’ll come too little and too late to kill the rapidly metastasizing disease that threatens to kill the U.S. economy: income inequality.

Employers are shedding jobs at a breathtaking rate: more than 560,000 per month. The rate of job losses could soon hit a million. People who still have jobs are being squeezed by pay cuts and freezes; even those who have yet to be affected are closing their wallets out of fear that they’ll be the next to get chopped. So consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of economic activity, is plunging. Moreover, millions of individuals and businesses have lost access to credit and thus the movement of capital that might have pulled us out of this tailspin.

“The key is that the consumer is in the worst condition since the Great Depression,” retail consultant Howard Davidowitz told NBC News. Boarded-up shops will abound. Experts expect 73,000 retail locations to close during the first few months of 2009. Between 20 and 40 percent of national retail chains will shut down. This isn’t a recession. It’s a depression, and it could destroy the country.

If broke consumers are the problem, shoveling money into their pockets is the way to get them spending again. Where do get it? The reason Willie Sutton robbed banks, he supposedly said, was because “that’s where the money is.” These days, the money is the hands of corporations and rich individuals.

(Warning: boring economic statistics and analysis follow. But stick with me. You could get a check!)

Tax returns give only a partial picture of a nation whose riches have been aggregated in the hands of a tiny elite. “The Internal Revenue Service,” reported The New York Times in 2007, “captures only about 70 percent of business and investment income, most of which flows to upper-income individuals, because not everybody accurately reports such figures.” So actual income inequality is bigger than IRS data indicates.

Even so, the IRS finds a huge pay gap between the very rich and the rest of us. “The wealthiest one percent of Americans earned 21.2 percent of all income in 2005,” the most recent year for which IRS data is available, according to a 2007 piece in The Wall Street Journal.

What if we played Karl Marx and left that one percent of the population (people who earn over $350,000 a year) with their fair share–one percent of national income? If we divided the rest of the loot equally, everyone else–99 percent–would get a 20.2 percent pay raise.

I don’t know about you, but I could use it. And because I’m a patriot, I pledge to fritter away half of my 20.2 percent windfall on wine, women and frivolous American-made consumer goods.

What would happen if we adopted the communist principle of total income equality? That would require closing the gap between median (the halfway mark of income distribution) income and average income. Due to wage inequality, the average worker earns 40 percent more than the median. Close the gap, and two-thirds of Americans get a raise. One-third gets a cut. But only a small group, the top five or ten percent, would feel significantly pinched. Most of the third wouldn’t lose much. And everyone would benefit from the increased economic activity that would result from equal income distribution.

Call it trickle-up economics.

Wouldn’t socialism remove people’s incentive to work hard? Though not a perfect economic model, the Soviet experience seems to disprove the idea that you can’t find good CEO help for under a million bucks a year. Soviet physicists, athletes, filmmakers, novelists, composers and other innovators led their fields, yet were rewarded with little more than a medal and a puff piece in Pravda. Mikhail Kalishnikov invented the AK-47, the world’s most popular firearm. He was never paid a dime, and never cared.

Here in the U.S., brilliant people become schoolteachers and priests. Salary isn’t the biggest motivation for most people.

Another thing to bear in mind is an aspect of wealth Americans don’t usually think about: assets. Eliminating income inequality wouldn’t address asset inequality. The rich, who’ve had years of high income with which to save and invest, and have inherited assets from parents and grandparents who did the same, would still be rich. A truly efficient attempt to put more money in the average person’s pocket would require redistribution of these accumulated assets.

If Willie Sutton were still around, however, he might find it easier to go after biggest 4000 U.S. corporations than its richest 40 million households. So let’s look at big business income.

After-tax 2007 profits for U.S. corporations totaled $1.8 trillion, up 10 percent since 2001. (Bear in mind: this figure doesn’t include CEO salaries, capital reinvestments, and the acquisition price of other corporations.) The effective average corporate tax rate in the U.S. is about 13 percent–one of the lowest in the industrialized world. If we were to double the effective tax rate to 26 percent, the U.S. would remain a tax haven compared to Germany and other major European countries.

Let’s say the IRS took that extra 13 percent corporate profits tax and cut a check to the American people. Why not? Without us, the U.S. consumer, these companies wouldn’t be in business. In 2007, every worker in the U.S. would have gotten a check for $12,000. That’s a lot of xBoxes, not to mention mortgage payments.

There’s plenty of cash left in the U.S. economy. Sooner or later, the tiny minority of corporations and rich individuals who are hoarding our nation’s wealth will be forced to share it with the rest of us. The question is when, and how.

COPYRIGHT 2009 TED RALL

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52 Responses to “THIS WEEK’S SYNDICATED COLUMN: Eat the Rich”

  1. Fouad Says:

    Ted I hate to be the bringer of bad news but even when it does come to this – to where asset disparity is worse than in Cuba or Egypt of the 1950’s – who is to say that the wealthy won’t simply pull a Reza Pahlavi – stick as many gold bullion’s as they can into a duffle bag and flee to a lawless third world country who’s (non-historic)capital serves as a luxurious sanctuary to the rich and has no extradition treaty with the US.

  2. Jason Says:

    I am afraid that there is no set of words short of “Mentally Ill” to describe people such as yourself who continue to advocate complete socialism. IT DOESN’T WORK, TED. It creates nightmarishily brutal governments and simply makes people equal in their misery and their fear of speaking openly at busstops. Cuba, the USSR, that lovely Communist haven of North Korea. China has adopted some capitalist virtues to prevent it from going the way of the Soviets, but the people still live in a society where they can be taken off to jail for writing an inappropriate statement on a blog.

    And don’t bother with the typical Socialist blather of “Oh, that’s not real Communism. They didn’t do it right.” They did it the only way it can be done. The man in charge of redistributing the wealth eventually becomes a tyrant.

    You’re out of your mind if you think it work out any other way. How many times does a plan have to fail before you accept that it can’t work within the restraints of human nature?

    And, as I’m always fond of saying to you, if that’s the country that you desire then hop on a plane to North Korea or ride a boat out to Cuba. But it’s despicably absurd for you to enjoy the immense luxuries that our capitalist society has brought you and then advocate turning it into a third-world dictatorship.

    Your heaven is a boatride away, Ted. Grow some balls and go there.

  3. Jason Says:

    I am afraid that there is no set of words short of “Mentally Ill” to describe people such as yourself who continue to advocate complete socialism. IT DOESN’T WORK, TED. It creates nightmarishily brutal governments and simply makes people equal in their misery and their fear of speaking openly at busstops. Cuba, the USSR, that lovely Communist haven of North Korea. China has adopted some capitalist virtues to prevent it from going the way of the Soviets, but the people still live in a society where they can be taken off to jail for writing an inappropriate statement on a blog.

    And don’t bother with the typical Socialist blather of “Oh, that’s not real Communism. They didn’t do it right.” They did it the only way it can be done. The man in charge of redistributing the wealth eventually becomes a tyrant.

    You’re out of your mind if you think it work out any other way. How many times does a plan have to fail before you accept that it can’t work within the restraints of human nature?

    And, as I’m always fond of saying to you, if that’s the country that you desire then hop on a plane to North Korea or ride a boat out to Cuba. But it’s despicably absurd for you to enjoy the immense luxuries that our capitalist society has brought you and then advocate turning it into a third-world dictatorship.

    Your heaven is a boatride away, Ted. Grow some balls and go there.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    I agree with Ted on most of this. The only part I disagree with is the example of Soviet scientists and engineers. It’s true that true geniuses don’t stop being brilliant just because they don’t earn millions of dollars, but I’m sure that some of them would have preferred more compensation than a medal and a mention in Pravda.

  5. The Reverend Mr. Smith Says:

    I’m afraid I have to agree with Jason. When I see “what if we played Karl Marx”, I imagine rising into the sky on a pile of dead bodies, ala that old Total cereal commercial. Sure, let’s raise the corporate tax rate, and STOP the corporate welfare. That would help. Other than that, there isn’t much to do except ride it out and hope the new and preferably improved federal government that rises from the ashes of societal collapse will adhere to the fucking Constitution this time. The Soviet experience wasn’t a perfect economic model? That’s rich. Pun intentional and unavoidable.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Ted,

    Thank you!

    When I came out as a Bolshevik it was an uphill battle. A real socio-economic psychoanalysis of all of history if you will.

    I’ve been fighting people like Jason for decades now. For some reason they always tend to ignore massive chunks of history and 99% of all economic ideology.

    Jason, last time I checked we are nothing like these countries that adopted socialism. The European states and the U.S. were the actual battle grounds for socialism. Karl Marx is rolling in his grave knowing that socialism happened in backwood countries. Also, how Taylorism was passed as socialism in the USSR and China now.

    There is no man in charge, Jason. It is really no where in the literature. And trust me, I have read all the works from Marx to Mao.

    It’s actually interesting that you mention human nature. The argument of human nature being the way it is was actually refined by Marx and other Communists. Also a lot of our reform programs are Marxist in nature. It is also ironic that Marx is really the one who said, “I would not look at a dog without looking at dog nature; so why should I do the same with humans.” Marx in fact said it was human nature to become socialist; hence the evolutionary theory. Hence what is happening now!

    Not to mention we are only a few things away from completing Marx’s list of a Communist state. So it is in fact you Jason who needs to leave. Seeing as how within the end of the decade this country will be at least officially on its way to socialism.

    I hear Zimbabwe has a place for you. Or maybe you’ll prefer South Korea where there is capitalism with a brutal police state where people disappear and they have a 99% conviction rate. Honestly, just go live with Mugabe.

    In my case, I think I’ll stay here and fight against inequality and ignorant people such as yourself. If you cannot admit to yourself that the USSR was nothing more than capitalism (Taylor’s version) under another banner; then you seriously need an economic lesson.

    On another note, as much as I dislike the Cuban political system. Something can be said about how a small island can be a thorn on a super power for half a century. The embargo is still there; and the U.S. is really the lone vote to keep it there.

    By the way Jason. The point of socialism is so people don’t have to work a two or three dead end jobs to afford even the basic human needs. If you don’t think anyone in America is doing this then you really need to check yourself into a mental institution.

    I always enjoyed my walks through D.C. Decadence to the left of me and mentally ill people and bums to the right.

    As I am writing this, I really think you are right Jason. I think we really need to get rid of Taylorism, Smith’s Capitalism, and really Capitalism in general. It failed in the USSR, the 1930s, and now (respectively). You are absolutely right, enough with capitalism. Let’s try something which has been tried before in other countries and has worked… socialism.

    To sum it up Jason. It takes more balls to stay and fight for what you believe in than to leave.

  7. Marion Delgado Says:

    This is an amazing editorial, Ted, in many ways gutsier than your kind of eerie editorial on terror widows and your admittedly over-the-top one on Pat Tilman.

    Ironically, it makes me want to buy as much Rall merch as I can afford to see it. I herby pledge 10% – no, 20% – of any checks I get out of this to the Rall Fund 🙂

    MD

  8. Marion Delgado Says:

    Jason

    You’re kind of missing the point of this editorial – not to ADVOCATE communism or socialism but to point at the elephants in the room of economic inequality and where all the wealth !@#$!@#ing WENT, and highlight the fact that Americans are SO BRAINWASHED they CAN’T EVEN THINK anymore, which is why they cannot solve their simplest and most obvious economic problems.

    And frankly, it’s partly thanks to you dittobots. What Orwell said about Soviet commissars under Stalin applies to market fundies very well – you’re part gangster, part gramophone.

    I lived in a communist country years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. We could travel freely in the East Bloc, and I did so.

    In Eastern Europe we had truly terrible or nonexistent autos, the Russians threw their weight around all over the East Bloc and made everyone quarter their troops and learn the Imperial Language, our TV was the worst on Earth, etc., but we also had fun, craftmanship, good health care, top notch public transportation, dedicated teachers, doctors, etc., a kind of sense that at least we weren’t draining the blood of the third world to put a blush in our cheeks and generally a kind of frank and open discussion amongst ourselves of issues that I don’t see happening in corporate America (which now strongly resembles the most closed of the East Bloc countries – Russia, Poland, Bulgaria – rather than the most open. Cuba would be over the line into more closed, by the way: One of my professors was blackballed from teaching because some CP Cuba freaks in one of his classes at Moscow U wrote up denunciations of him, which even Russian students hadn’t done for decades. Overall, your crap about the 2nd World is crap. And most of the Third World knew that a colonial society was not all about making them a competing first-world economy, and could only dream of even a Russian standard of living. Hungarian Arno Rubik even made over a million dollars US with Rubik’s Cube, and he did it through the communist Ministry of Free Enterprise.

    And Communist Yugoslavia was the Garden of Eden compared to post-Communist Yugoslavia. It was one of the nicest countries in Europe. It even made the beginnings of an affordable communist car in the Yugo.

    After the capitalists invaded Russia in the early 90s, life expectancy fell by 15 years. Of all the communist leaders, only Stalin had a kill count to match the early deaths caused there by people like you!

  9. Incitatus Says:

    Sure, if it worked so well for the Soviet Union, Cuba and North Korea, why not go all Marx, all the way? Have a blast trying to share Bill Gate’s “net worth” of Microsoft stock among the American proletariat.

    Please, please, go back to analysing the Middle East brouhahas, on which you are usually spot on the money, and let go of your “boring” economic analysis, which is not enlightening, nor funny.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    I agree with Jason. If that’s what you want, move.

    I can tell you this: if anyone starts redistributing 90% of my income to those who don’t have my abilities nor drive – there’s going to be some people eating bullets. I guarantee it.

    Marx had it wrong. The concept is:
    “From and to each according to his ability”.

    If you don’t like it, leave.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    I agree with Jason. If that’s what you want, move.

    I can tell you this: if anyone starts redistributing 90% of my income to those who don’t have my abilities nor drive – there’s going to be some people eating bullets. I guarantee it.

    Marx had it wrong. The concept is:
    “From and to each according to his ability”.

    If you don’t like it, leave.

  12. onetwothree Says:

    The fundamental problem that you are making is that you think wealth is zero sum. That is, rich people are rich because they stole more than their “fair” share. Solution: Stealing it in the opposite direction. That’s incorrect–most rich people (genuine thieves aside) are rich because they produced wealth, not because they took it. That’s why the USSR’s economic policies kill 10s of millions, and that’s why they had 60 years of breadlines in a country that had never known hunger in its whole history.

    There’s really not one sound statement in your article.

  13. onetwothree Says:

    The fundamental problem that you are making is that you think wealth is zero sum. That is, rich people are rich because they stole more than their “fair” share. Solution: Stealing it in the opposite direction. That’s incorrect–most rich people (genuine thieves aside) are rich because they produced wealth, not because they took it. That’s why the USSR’s economic policies kill 10s of millions, and that’s why they had 60 years of breadlines in a country that had never known hunger in its whole history.

    There’s really not one sound statement in your article.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    Hey Jason: Suck a dick.

    Hey Ted: Why do you approve messages with personal attacks in them — against other posters on the same page — like “you’re mentally ill, with no balls,” or like “suck a dick”?

    “Idiot,” “moron,” some people just get off on being abusive, and especially at getting away with it. There is literally mammalian stuff that happens in our brains when we mistreat other people and they “submit” to it. It makes us feel “dominant.” Approving abusive posts is submission.

    On the subject at hand: Complete 100% income equality didn’t even exist in the Soviet Union and would never be implemented here. It looks like Ted is just trying to push the outside of the envelope to the end of the playing field so other people can seem moderate and reasonable with other radical proposals. Do newspapers really print this stuff?

    Also: Our team is the “nightmarishly brutal” one these days. We have more people in prison than almost anybody. We’re in the finals with capitalist “Communist China” for the brutality championship.

    Our cops routinely beat and shock people for little more than annoying them, and there are never consequences for the individual cops or for the police departments as institutions.

    This month transit cops in California literally held some poor unarmed bastard face down on the ground and shot him in the back. He died. There is video of the whole event from multiple angles despite the cops’ routine efforts to capture and destroy evidence of their own misbehavior. Transit officials have nothing to say about the whole thing except “Nobody should jump to conclusions.”

    So: The usual critiques of socialism are “it doesn’t work” — actually it works for most people at least as well as capitalism ever worked in the same countries — and “it’s nightmarishly brutal.” The problem is, the establishment has successfully acclimated the public to nightmarish brutality. Kiefer Sutherland is a hero for torturing people on TV. People don’t care any more. We’re used to it. Stalinism? Bring it on.

    If you think you’re free to say anything you want at a bus stop, you could … let’s see … start introducing yourself to strangers at bus stops and telling them how you thought 9-11 was a good thing and you hope “al Qaeda” does it again. Or tell renters they should stop paying rent and should shoot any sheriffs who try to perform evictions against them. No? You’re free to say anything you want that doesn’t frighten anybody important, same as anywhere else.

  15. Ted Rall Says:

    The latest Anon. has a point: I’ve been getting slack on the personal insults. So I’ll renew my warning to stick to the argument. Personal attacks detract from good debate.

  16. Grouchy Says:

    Ehm, Ted, if we’re going into complete fantasy land (the thought that the modern U.S. would really contemplate such wealth redistribution), let’s shoot even higher: a sustainable economy that doesn’t rely on insane, soul-crushing consumption…

  17. Anonymous Says:

    ted,

    stop being so frikin’ smart.

    it’s embarrassing to the rest of the u.s.’s morons (jason, etc.) who don’t read well enough to understand what your are advocating or why.

    thanks!
    money(g)
    seattle, wa

  18. Incitatus Says:

    Marion,

    No matter how much you sugarcoat (and I know people from the East Bloc and Cuba whose experiences and reminiscences of Communism are not as rosy as yours), Real Socialism (TM) sucked and it didn’t work. Of course people still smiled, made love and walked their dogs in the park. Dictatorships are never as gloomy as in literature or the movies. The basic facts stand: coming out from a situation where their economies were leveled after WWII, all the countries of Western Europe managed to raise their standards of living way beyond those of the countries behind the Iron Curtain.

    You probably lived through the very last days of Brezhnev and the succession of living-dead Party poobahs that followed him. That was mild, even compared to the Kruschev years, but it was not representative of the whole seven decades of Communism in Russia, and the four of same in Poland, Hungary et alii.

    Again, if people want to see “income equality” at work, they should travel to Cuba (they’d better be able to speak Spanish and to blend in, though). It also helps to put the lie to the second, long-ranting Anon, with the tired tirade that unrepentant Commies repeat nowadays about Taylorism this, state Capitalism that. There’s no Taylorism at work in Cuba, and one of the most glaring failures of the Revolution was the inability to kick-start an industrial economy in the island, unlike in the rest of Latin America.

    On a last note, and in tune with Ted’s sentiment about personal invectives, when you talk about “people like Jason” you probably mean “people who think like Jason” (and me, presumably). There’s hardly anything you know about Jason, other that he doesn’t share your love of socialism.

  19. Incitatus Says:

    Marion,

    No matter how much you sugarcoat (and I know people from the East Bloc and Cuba whose experiences and reminiscences of Communism are not as rosy as yours), Real Socialism (TM) sucked and it didn’t work. Of course people still smiled, made love and walked their dogs in the park. Dictatorships are never as gloomy as in literature or the movies. The basic facts stand: coming out from a situation where their economies were leveled after WWII, all the countries of Western Europe managed to raise their standards of living way beyond those of the countries behind the Iron Curtain.

    You probably lived through the very last days of Brezhnev and the succession of living-dead Party poobahs that followed him. That was mild, even compared to the Kruschev years, but it was not representative of the whole seven decades of Communism in Russia, and the four of same in Poland, Hungary et alii.

    Again, if people want to see “income equality” at work, they should travel to Cuba (they’d better be able to speak Spanish and to blend in, though). It also helps to put the lie to the second, long-ranting Anon, with the tired tirade that unrepentant Commies repeat nowadays about Taylorism this, state Capitalism that. There’s no Taylorism at work in Cuba, and one of the most glaring failures of the Revolution was the inability to kick-start an industrial economy in the island, unlike in the rest of Latin America.

    On a last note, and in tune with Ted’s sentiment about personal invectives, when you talk about “people like Jason” you probably mean “people who think like Jason” (and me, presumably). There’s hardly anything you know about Jason, other that he doesn’t share your love of socialism.

  20. Anonymous Says:

    Ted,

    What is wrong with people who contribute more to society getting a larger share of the pie? Even socialists, in both fact and fiction, give those in leadership positions more than the average working stiff. In Brave New World, the Alphas all had their personal helicopters while the Epislons rode the tubes. In the real Soviet Union, leaders in their fields were not “rewarded with little more than a medal and a puff piece in Pravda”, They were given better housing, cars, nice vacations, and perks just like their capitalist counterparts.

    I will agree with you that executive compensation has become outrageous, but that’s the fault of the stockholders who tolerate it.

    Grouchy,
    What is soul-crushing about consumption? Why would someone want to buy a product that crushes their soul? If there are products on the market that can compress our incorporeal essences, then they should come with warning labels saying so.

    Alternately, we could go for a soul-crushing sustainable economy. One only needs to look to Brazil to see how that works. Sugar cane is grown for ethanol in virtual slave labor conditions.

  21. Anonymous Says:

    Ted,

    What is wrong with people who contribute more to society getting a larger share of the pie? Even socialists, in both fact and fiction, give those in leadership positions more than the average working stiff. In Brave New World, the Alphas all had their personal helicopters while the Epislons rode the tubes. In the real Soviet Union, leaders in their fields were not “rewarded with little more than a medal and a puff piece in Pravda”, They were given better housing, cars, nice vacations, and perks just like their capitalist counterparts.

    I will agree with you that executive compensation has become outrageous, but that’s the fault of the stockholders who tolerate it.

    Grouchy,
    What is soul-crushing about consumption? Why would someone want to buy a product that crushes their soul? If there are products on the market that can compress our incorporeal essences, then they should come with warning labels saying so.

    Alternately, we could go for a soul-crushing sustainable economy. One only needs to look to Brazil to see how that works. Sugar cane is grown for ethanol in virtual slave labor conditions.

  22. Kurt Says:

    Sorry Libertarians… Your arguments have no merits… Brazil and Argentina are great examples of libertarian extremism where 3 people have everything and everyone else has jack shit. Now onto the things I agree with you about, but why our current system is absolute bologna.

    1. Money goes to those with talent/drive (aka the Hiratio Alger argument): This doesn’t work anymore. I think Steve Jobs is a remarkable person and an exceptional talent, but he also makes more than 10,000 what the average worker makes in the Apple factories in China. Is Steve Jobs 10,000x better? Could Steve Jobs be Steve Jobs without the shmuck in China making .00001x what he makes? There is also the problem with wealth. Over 99% of wealthy people were born wealthy (and by wealthy, I mean Warren Buffett and George W. Bush, not a guy who makes a half million a year). An example for you righties is Ted Kennedy who was born rich and has gotten richer in spite of a number of personal failures and in your minds a complete lack of value. The money he started with was the ill-gotten gains of his father. For the lefties, GW is the result of the ill-gotten gains of a bootlegger who had a war profiteer for a son.

    2. Rich people are rich because they are good, not because they are stealing: The fact is that unless you have food, shelter, health care, child care, transportation and other basic needs guaranteed, you don’t have the freedom to risk that rich folks have. You also probably don’t have much excess income to invest. That results in every transaction you make with a bank, corporation or rich guy be a inherently powerless transaction. If you think about the money you get and how you spend it, most people 35 or older will have to confess that 80-90% of their income goes to transactions that they have little power over the outcome, including the transaction called their salary. As income equality gets more pronounced (an inevitable outcome of libertarian free market fantasy), the transactions that a poor or middle class person must engage in become less and less free will.

    I await your flames!

  23. Anonymous Says:

    I like the insults(guilty). When rereading our posts it reminds us how stupid we are. Honestly tho there was an inordnant amount of bile spilled on this one. Can’t we come up with better solutions than calling each other names? And please keep it short, for those of us with limited attention spans.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    I like the insults(guilty). When rereading our posts it reminds us how stupid we are. Honestly tho there was an inordnant amount of bile spilled on this one. Can’t we come up with better solutions than calling each other names? And please keep it short, for those of us with limited attention spans.

  25. Jason Says:

    Where to begin?

    Our first anonymous fellow? I love the “When I first came out as a Bolshevik, I faced an uphill battle.” Yes, it must have been a difficult struggle. After having confessed to adhering not only to the ideology but also to the specific party that brought in Communism and the murder of millions . . . well, yeah, I suppose that was an uphill battle for you to gain acceptance. I can only hope you never reach the top of that hill.

    But, oh, the Bolsheviks didn’t mean for it to all go so horrifically wrong! Well, I didn’t mean to get my ass kicked by the drunk marine who I kept making fun of at a party last year . . . . but human nature tends to take its course. It’s so tragic that you modern-day Bolsheviks haven’t picked up on that one crucial element. “There is no man in charge,” you say. Explain that to Stalin, Castro, Mao and good ol Mr. Kim. There’s not supposed to be a man in charge according to that literature you love to hand out to people, but that . . . is . . . the . . . whole . . . point. Once you have complete socialism, you have too much power in one guy’s hands and he ALWAYS take the reins – killing all the good-natured fellows such as yourself who were cheering him on during that uphill battle.

    Wow. Long paragraph. Sorry. Should’ve just repeated my original request that you not repeat the “They’ve just never implemented it properly” crap.

    And Delgado – your argument’s great. “Life in the East Bloc wasn’t THAT bad.” Forgive me, my friend, but I have no interest in living in mediocrity. I still desire for this country to be the best that it can be – and a move towards complete socialism is regressive, not progressive. And pointing to Yugoslavia as an example of capitalistic failure is laughable. From what I recall, there were a fewwwwww other variables in that region during the late 90s that might have brought about that lowered life expectancy. I could be wrong.

    To the fellatio-loving Anonymous, you sound like many of the westerners I routinely meet in China who are fresh out of college. Basically, the constantly repeated argument is as follows . . . “America’s government has flaws. China’s government has flaws. Therefore, America is as bad as China.” I’m sure there is some Latin term for this logical fallacy, but it never stops you folks from chirping it. America has problems with its police and its Drug War prisons, but trust me, chief, it’s NOTHING compared to Communist China.

    Wow. I can’t believe I just wasted so much time responding to you people. Dear Lord, I need to get a life!

    Well, I’m going to go down to the liquor cabinet, get some Russian Vodka, and see if I can drink enough of it to start to believe that Bolshevikism is the way to go.

  26. Anonymous Says:

    I agree:

    Watch “Zeitgeist: Addendum” which proposes a scientific technocracy. I agree with it.

  27. Grouchy Says:

    5:30pm Anon:

    I’ll ignore most of the snark and just point out that while sugar cane ethanol is better than corn ethanol, it isn’t sustainable if you’re going burn a lot of it into the atmosphere–sustainable means NOT changing the planet’s climate.

    And if you’re really worried about slave labor, I’d avoid buying anything American based companies have produced in Asia. Or, for that matter, any produce grown right here in the Grand Ole U.S.A.

  28. Grouchy Says:

    5:30pm Anon:

    I’ll ignore most of the snark and just point out that while sugar cane ethanol is better than corn ethanol, it isn’t sustainable if you’re going burn a lot of it into the atmosphere–sustainable means NOT changing the planet’s climate.

    And if you’re really worried about slave labor, I’d avoid buying anything American based companies have produced in Asia. Or, for that matter, any produce grown right here in the Grand Ole U.S.A.

  29. back to the future Says:

    > They were given better housing, cars, nice vacations, and perks just like their capitalist counterparts.

    Better housing, cars, vacations, yes.

    "Just like their capitalist counterparts," no. Not at all.

    There was nothing like American inequality in the Eastern bloc, nothing like American wealth or American poverty, much less the even worse extremes in the Third World.

    As I recall, conflating the second (grossly false) assertion, with the first (actually true) assertion, was the great propaganda coup of the Cold War.

  30. Anonymous Says:

    > What is wrong with people who contribute more to society getting a larger share of the pie?

    What a COINCIDENCE, that the people CUTTING THE PIE UP think it over and then decide THEY THEMSELVES are the ones "contributing" the most.

    That's what the fuck is wrong with it. Among other things.

  31. Anonymous Says:

    > What is wrong with people who contribute more to society getting a larger share of the pie?

    What a COINCIDENCE, that the people CUTTING THE PIE UP think it over and then decide THEY THEMSELVES are the ones "contributing" the most.

    That's what the fuck is wrong with it. Among other things.

  32. Grouchy Says:

    Go Kurt, tell it on the mountain. You’re spot on here. Malcolm Gladwell recently published a book (Outliers) that systematically debunks these myths. It’s on my to-read list…

  33. Grouchy Says:

    Go Kurt, tell it on the mountain. You’re spot on here. Malcolm Gladwell recently published a book (Outliers) that systematically debunks these myths. It’s on my to-read list…

  34. Anonymous Says:

    “After having confessed to adhering not only to the ideology but also to the specific party that brought in Communism and the murder of millions . . . well, yeah, I suppose that was an uphill battle for you to gain acceptance. I can only hope you never reach the top of that hill.”

    I love it when people mention this. Frankly I’ll leave this one out because it always turns into an ugly game of showing how the capitalists actually have killed more people and then your head spins around trying to find an excuse. So I’ll sit this argument out.

    “Wow. Long paragraph. Sorry. Should’ve just repeated my original request that you not repeat the “They’ve just never implemented it properly” crap.”

    I never said they implemented it incorrectly. In fact, Taylorism under the guise of socialism was extremely efficient in the USSR and other low economic countries. So much so that without it the extermination of a whole race of people would have been easier.

    “And pointing to Yugoslavia as an example of capitalistic failure is laughable. From what I recall, there were a fewwwwww other variables in that region during the late 90s that might have brought about that lowered life expectancy. I could be wrong.”

    You are wrong it was the failure of their capitalist endeavors.

    “”America’s government has flaws. China’s government has flaws. Therefore, America is as bad as China.””

    You are absolutely right. That is one of the flaws of pretty much all modern day people -post-modernism that is. No one is as good as the other. Hence the reason why there is so much misery in the world. I probably think that argument is more bullshit than you would. In fact, I wrote an editorial to the newspaper one time saying those people ought to be hung from the tallest tree possible as a lesson.

    My point is not that they didn’t implement it correctly at all. My point is that it was implemented correctly and it in fact brought in a lot of wealth to the population. Life in the Eastern bloc was terrible; the reason being the bureaucracy which prevented the capitalism in the USSR from developing light industry because heavy industry made so much money.

    My point is that people make concious decisions. Such as Lenin who made the decision to have capitalism in the USSR (not socialism mind you) through NEP and War Communism. There has never really been a revolutionary Communist state in a developed nation and if there was you would not be arguing the point.

    Your argument is like saying American Democracy is not working in Iraq like it is in the U.S. The point being that we got our democracy through an intense process active and non-active of revolution and progressive reform which lasted quite a long ammount of time.

    Communism did not become the tantamount epitomy because they made conscious decisions to deviate from it. They knew they were deviating and they made up the ideology for the deviation afterwards.

    Regardless of how many people you said died in the USSR more so would have died without Bolshevism. Hence why history would never have forgiven them.

    Yet again, evolutionary Communism is coming. You can’t stand there and tell me that many Americans working a dead end job while people are making money from their toils is going to be accepted for very much longer. We do need to be progessive, but delaying that progression because you are afraid of an ideology which only took place in third world countries where it was never ever ever written for is quite disdainful.

  35. Anonymous Says:

    to all those crying “foul” here::

    all ted did was advocate a taxation change and a wage allocation change that would benefit more U.S. citizens (not less – as we have now).

    he did not invoke marx, nor did he call for communism.

    he advocated common sense change to the current practice of most being destroyed for the benefit of a few to none being destroyed for the benefit of all.

    simple
    pragmatic
    egalitarian
    necessary
    etc.

    (as always)
    thanks,
    ted

    money(g)
    seattle, wa

  36. Anonymous Says:

    to all those crying “foul” here::

    all ted did was advocate a taxation change and a wage allocation change that would benefit more U.S. citizens (not less – as we have now).

    he did not invoke marx, nor did he call for communism.

    he advocated common sense change to the current practice of most being destroyed for the benefit of a few to none being destroyed for the benefit of all.

    simple
    pragmatic
    egalitarian
    necessary
    etc.

    (as always)
    thanks,
    ted

    money(g)
    seattle, wa

  37. Incitatus Says:

    The one thing that ties all Americans, left and right, is complete ignorance about the large world outside its borders.

    To the Anon that mentioned the “virtual slave labour” conditions in which sugar cane is grown, you’re way off base: it’s actually not much worse than the deal Mexican strawberry pickers in California get.

    To Kurt, I’ll try and keep brief, but if you really think Argentina and Brazil are examples of “extreme libertarianism”, or even you meant it allegorically, you know jacks about those two countries or what “libertarianism” (Classical Liberalism) is all about. Namely, protectionism, state-funded trade-unionism and state-sponsored cartelization are not libertarian tenets, as far as I know.

    If you didn’t mean it as a poor allegory, I’m either one of those three who has it all or one of the rest who has jack shit. I’m going to go to sleep and dream I’m one your illusory three.

    Lastly, the difference between Steve Jobs and the poor Chinese who welds transistors on a Mac motherboard is that without Jobs there would be no Apple Computers. Luckily for Chang that is not the case, or he’d be startvind in an unyielding rice paddy.

  38. Anonymous Says:

    Actually the guy’s name is Mikhail Kalashnikov, not “Kalishnikov”, but I’ll let that slide.

    I love how the Libertarians are going ape because their pet theory isn’t working out so well…hope they give up the market and just go Anarchist.

    – Strelnikov

  39. Anonymous Says:

    Actually the guy’s name is Mikhail Kalashnikov, not “Kalishnikov”, but I’ll let that slide.

    I love how the Libertarians are going ape because their pet theory isn’t working out so well…hope they give up the market and just go Anarchist.

    – Strelnikov

  40. Grouchy Says:

    [T]he difference between Steve Jobs and the poor Chinese who welds transistors on a Mac motherboard is that without Jobs there would be no Apple Computers. Luckily for Chang that is not the case, or he’d be startvind [sic] in an unyielding rice paddy.

    Yes Incitatus, that’s classy. Reminds me of this argument, from 1856:

    “The negro should thank his maker for his master and benefactor, for without him, he would surely endure starvation and the most arduous barbarity of his native continent.”

  41. John Madziarczyk Says:

    You’re right. It’s one of the lesser known features of the Soviet experience that people became motivated by the prestige that accomplishing something would give to them. It doesn’t change the fact that at the ground level workers seem to have been frustrated by the society not coming through with its guarantees of workers’ control. And sometimes prestige created distortions of its own, arguably contributing to a ‘new class’ of folks, but yeah, there are reasons other than pure money that people do the stuff they do, or at least reasons why they would do the stuff they do if it their work was respected with dignity.

  42. Jason Says:

    Yeah, Strelnikov, after sixty years of facilitating more technological innovations than in the history of the world, this one bump is proof that the free market “isn’t working out so well”.

    I would try to explain to you that the problems were facing aren’t so much the result of the free market, but are instead the result of unions crippling our industries and the Clinton Administration forcing banks to provide those subprime loans (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivmL-lXNy64, as just one example of this policy) and the Bush Administration’s failure to remedy this practice before it reached this critical mass. But I know it would be a waste of typing.

    So I will just say that anybody who states that the free market is doomed to failure because of one dip in the road is the bearer of such absurd and almost childish bias to almost qualify as being truly irrational.

  43. Angelo Says:

    The parasites will ease up just enough to keep this dying animal alive…then, once they are sure their capital is secure in a blackwater-guarded account in dubay, they will dislodge themselves, and fly away leaving our emaciated carcass to be picked apart by vultures.

    three cheers for the chicago school.

  44. Anonymous Says:

    “…Lastly, the difference between Steve Jobs and the poor Chinese who welds transistors on a Mac motherboard is that without Jobs there would be no Apple Computers.”
    – Incitatus

    I-beams are welded together; transistors (more like chips) are soldered to circuit boards. I’m guessing you have done neither.

    – Strelnikov

  45. Angelo Says:

    I love the exploding of the motivation myth.

    As far as computers, let’s not forget how most of these technologies developed. The internet was not invented by someone who got rich off it. Neither was the computer. I wonder who invented the hand crank radio…now that’s a device we should probably all familiarize ourselves with.

  46. Incitatus Says:

    Grouchy, it might have been crass, but it’s true nonetheless: the Chinese worker’s life is better, thanks to Apple and he’s not, by any stretch of rethoric enslaved to it. Could he be paid better? Arguably. Should Jobs earn a little less? Debateable. Is poverty in the world caused by Jobs earning umpteen times more than Chang? Not on your life.

    Strelnikov (I sure hope that’s not Dr. Zhivago’s Strelnikov), you guessed wrong. My imperfect command of English mumbled it up, but I actually meant soldering (to weld and to solder both translate to soldar in my mother tongue). Thanks for patronizing me, though.

    Yes, Angelo, I’m sure you can name (from memory) all those people that “invented” the internet or the computer and point out how most of them were not working for private enterprises.

  47. Kurt Says:

    Incitatus,

    My allegory regarding Brazil and Argentina was neither bad nor inaccurate. Cartels, corruption, etc. are the predictable outcomes of libertarianism, which by the way has little or nothing to do with classic liberalism. Remind me again when the classic liberals who founded this country started regulating trade again?

    I agree that there is no Apple without Jobs, but there is also no Jobs without skilled labor to exploit. Like I said, Steve Jobs has extraordinary merit compared to almost all of the other captains of industry. I used him as an example because in spite of his high level of merit he still uses coercive tactics and engages in transactions in which he has a significant advantage in information or leverage. If you think, however, that those working in factories in China have anything resembling a freewill stake in their relationship with their employer, you are insane. It is also demonstrably not true that agrarian China pre-economic revolution has a worse quality of life than post-economic China. A few people do better (and most of those are in Shanghai and Hong Kong, where there is western style hybrid economy), but most Chinese are slaves and work at threat of complete destitution or death. To paraphrase (or maybe quote) FDR, “a necessitous man cannot be free.”

  48. Grouchy Says:

    the Chinese worker’s life is better, thanks to Apple…

    Who says so? Is his life better because of the mercury in his water or the smog in his air? Is his life better because the revenue brought in from the West props up his country’s dictatorship?

    Have you visited any of these “globalized” communities in Asia? (I have.)

    Please, explain to me why “Chang,” working in his sweatshop, has it so much better than 19th century slaves in the U.S.

  49. Incitatus Says:

    Kurt, you’re very good at sophistry but you really, really lack basic info on South America’s recent history. It’s gotta be fun debating you on it. Please explain to me how state-sponsored cartels, state-funded trade-unions, price controls (causing widespread scarcity, of course), liquidity control (meaning forcible withholding of checking & savings above $10k – that's right, ten thousand) and a change in fiat currenct every 18 months is “libertarian” or even Friedmanesque? If you want find a libertarian straw man to beat, you’d to better look for it elsewhere, rather than Brazil or Argentina. It’s pretty obvious to all concerned here, and that includes Lula and Kirchner that what held South America back for two decades was a large, intrusive state presence in the economy – much of it, thanks to the military dictatorships that you foolishly think were oh so libertarian.

    As for China, my sources tell me the Chinese don’t even have to have their arms twisted by the government to readily admit life is better now than it was at any point during Mao’s rule (the Cultural Revolution being the low point). In fact, life has probably never been better, for most of the Chinese, than right now. Not that it couldn’t be better, but the dismal life you describe for the Chinese peasant was already there, for centuries.

  50. Kurt Says:

    Incitatus,’

    My argument is that libertarianism is essentially anarchy, which leads to some sort of corporate statism (aka fascism). I will admit that I am not a student of South American history, but from my vantage point, it appears that there is little economic regulation in Brazil and Argentina, and that the state in both countries is simply a tool to protect the interests of the small group of wealthy. You have convinced me to do more research, but I must take exception to your statement that I am engaging in sophistry. I disagree with you but I certainly don’t think that your motives are impure or that you don’t believe what you say. I would appreciate the same respect, thank you.

    On your comments about China, you are woefully ill informed. There are a number of documented cases of workers in Chinese factories producing products for U.S. consumption being beaten, docked in pay, and even executed for offenses like trying to organize a guild or union and for being ill or injured on the job. When a person can be executed for not showing up to work or be beaten for getting sick, that person is not an employee, but rather a slave. To say that that “employee” employer relationship was negotiated on equal standing requires some impressive mental contortionism. I don’t doubt that life for many chinese is better than surfdom, it isn’t substantially better and it certainly isn’t even a second world existence.

    Lastly, you completely failed to explain how in the libertarian utopia you so eagerly espouse that the rich cannot, by forcing the masses into desperate circumstances, just steal everything. As long as there is not some minimum standard of living and basic guarantees of human rights, there is no way that the captains of industry can even engage in a fair employee-employer relationship.

    Maybe you can explain what libertarianism does to account for perverse incentives and externalities? How can libertarianism protect people’s environment, safety and health? How can libertarianism prevent Bernie Maddoff’s and Enron’s? I have asked 100’s of libertarians to help me with this and they basically said that the injured parties could seek relief in courts, usually two sentences after exclaiming a need for tort protections for corporations.

  51. Jason Says:

    Kurt actually is correct about the state of affairs for Chinese sweatshop workers. Their existence is not much better than it was during the decades under Mao or under the Imperialists who ruled China before the People’s Revolution booted them out and replaced them with a new boss (cue the music – “same as the old boss”).

    It’s wrong to blame this on capitalism, though. Capitalism has simply dragged the uneducated rural worker’s miserable existence out of the farms and into the factories. The hell that they live is still a strong after-effect of when Marxism decided to visit the Orient (see “Cultural Revolution” for all the fun facts of what happens when theory meets reality).

    Communism puts too much unattainable power in the hands of a few. And that fatal flaw is what the new Chinese Capitalism is beginning to chip away at. Thanks to the introduction of capitalism, a very powerful middle class is emerging. People in the cities now have money and can actually sit back and enjoy themselves. Now that these people are no longer having to exist hand-to-mouth, they are able to focus on other concerns – human rights, environmental concerns, even animal rights (at least for the cuddly ones).

    THAT is the brilliant contribution that capitalism is bringing to China. An educated wealthy middle-class. It’s a beautiful thing to see and it’s going to shake the country to the core.

    There’s just no getting around it, my man. Capitalism rocks. Join the true People’s Revolution!!!!

  52. Incitatus Says:

    Kurt,

    This seems to be turning into a verbal duel that only you, I and Ted (who approves the comments) care about. I’ll make this my last retort and move on, but I’ll address some of your points.

    “I will admit that I am not a student of South American history, but from my vantage point, it appears that there is little economic regulation in Brazil and Argentina,

    It’s nice that you show some humility in recognizing your ignorance about it. I appreciate it. I take back the “sophistry” comment, and believe me, I meant no offense.

    Getting back to the subject, both Brazil and Argentina (and probably other Latin American countries, but I’ll restrict myself to the devil I know) are highly regulated economies and have always been. The past administration in Brazil (1995-2003), largely decried by the South American left and their fellow travellers worldwide as neoliberal created regulatory agencies for every major sector of economic activity, and then some, to “compensate” for the small number of privatisations it made. All throughout the 70s and the 80s, goverment (yup, those military juntas) was dominated by technocratic economists, most from academy, who inflicted on their countries an endless sequence of “economic plans”, all to no avail in their alleged goal of curbing sky-high inflation.

    The Brazilian labour code, which draws inspiration from Fascist legislation in Italy, and remains virtually unchanged from the mid-30s, forces business to deal with state-sponsored unions. Brazil, BTW, has a federally mandated minimum wage.

    I could go on and on, but the point is, that every sensible person down here realizes that South America is poor not because business is not reined in, but because there are not enough jobs, and the few there are, requires low-skilled labour (of which there is plenty) pays little. In my view, the way to overcome this is to have more and more diverse economic activity, something we didn’t get from central planning in the last 70 years.

    and that the state in both countries is simply a tool to protect the interests of the small group of wealthy.”

    That is basically true for all of South America, as well as North America. Your mistake, in my view, is to think that business in general is the enemy.

    I don’t doubt that many workers in China are abused. Like I said, that is, unfortunately, par of the course in Chinese history, be the abusers feudal landlord, party bosses or entrepreneurial party hacks. I doubt that it is on the rise, though, and I honestly doubt that many or any big Western corporation is involved in abuse of its workforce. Overall, I think the Chinese trend (that includes Taiwan) is upwards.

    I am not a Utopian (though I’ll admit to being an optimist) and I’m not as much of a libertarian zealot as you try to paint me. From the vantage point of a third-world country, though, I do know that people here are poor not because the rich hoard it all, but because there is not enough vibrant economic activity to decently employ most of the population. I also think that there is no way to ensure by fiat a decent standard of living, but you can guarantee, by rationing, that everybody, but the usual suspects, have only the bare minimum, like in Cuba. The only way out of this mess is economic growth, and years of central planning have failed to make it happen steadily. That is why i look fondly on the ideas of Mises, Hayeck and similar economists.

    To close, central planning or even mild Keynesianism also doesn’t account for positive externalities, but I don’t see you guys holding it oh so important in this case. I am just finishing “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. I suggest you email Joel Salatin, from Polyface Farm (look’em up) and ask him how much he thinks the government has been protecting your environment and your health. Finally, Madoff perpetrated his schemes in spite of SEC surveillance – and possibly because of their “endorsement”.

    That’s all, feel free to reply if you wish, but I invite you to bomb another post.

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