Category Archives: Class War

Class War: A Labour Day Greeting Card!

Last year at Labour Day I wrote about how I began reading Mark Steyn’s pearls of shit.

He was waxing on about how the world is so great and technology will save us and humans can trump an instant karma planet that may not endure us much longer. We should all stop whining and have faith in the Fortune 500 R&D divisions to conjure up the next fuel for global pillaging.

But class war is on my mind this year. And since it’s Labour Day, it’s important to point out that your labour is worth more shit and less value than ever before in recent generations. AND IT’S OUR FAULT because we are letting “them” do it to “us.”

And I know that it sounds like the “typical” bleeding heart anti-establishment tone to blame some “them” but there is a “them”, and Greg Palast has defined “them” quite neatly [see his whole piece below]. And as much as all this data relates to the USA, Canada is a syncophantic replica of this economic beast.

Just a few timbits of a sense of “them”:

50.4% = amount of US income earned by the richest quintile

5.9% = the amount the US median income dropped since Bush’s election-rigging machine stole the White House

83% = the amount of stock market shares owned by the richest US quintile

53% = the amount of stock market shares owned by the richest 1% of the US

3% = the amount of all US private assets owned by the poorest 50% of Americans

As a country’s economy grows and wealth increases, the Gini Index measures the income disparity within that nation. One of the things that demonstrates who gets the benefit from economic increases is to examine the relationship between wages and productivity. When a nation’s productivity increases, you would think that the wages of the workers who are producing more effectively would reflect that improvement.

Since 2003, the reverse has happened in the US. Productivity increased while median wages declined 2% after adjusting for inflation. In the first half of the decade, worker compensation [wage plus benefits] has been half of US productivity increases. However, the share of wage income earned by the richest 1% of Americans nearly doubled to 11.2% in the last 30 years.

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the [US’s] gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s.” Wages 6 months ago reflected just 45% of the US GDP, while 36 years ago wages represented 53.6% of their GDP. In fact, a Goldman Sachs report concluded, “the most important contributor to higher profit margins over the past five years has been a decline in labor’s share of national income.

Corporate profits are predominantly earned by the richest quintile of Americans these days. They are “them”.

Since last summer, however, the value of workers’ benefits has also failed to keep pace with inflation, according to government data.

Dividends per share rise when large and small corporations cut benefits to workers. Dividends are largely distributed to the top income quintile of Americans.

But maybe “them” have been hurting by this as well. “At the very top of the income spectrum, many workers have continued to receive raises that outpace inflation, and the gains have been large enough to keep average income and consumer spending rising.” OK, maybe not.

But why is it so easy to blame “us” for “them” screwing us out of living or just wages?

If you think people deserve a share in the value or wealth they create, you understand the Labour Theory of Value, and you are in good company with two of the fathers of capitalism: Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Sadly, though, neoliberal free trade economics of global corporate neofeudal rape and pillage reject such quaint notions and liken you–in your support of the Labour Theory of Value–to Karl Marx: not so much a fan of classical or neoliberal economics.

And when I say that it’s our fault that we continue to allow ourselves to be abused by the richest quintile or 1% of Americans [or Canadians or OECD world], it is because of how Marx connected the Labour Theory of Value to social order. More egalitarianism comes when more people are able to share in the fruit of their labour. This is not happening so much anymore. During the communism scares of the early 20th century, labour was able to make great gains in wages, benefits and social welfare as capital feared Red Revolutions across the industrial world. With the Evil Empire gone, and only a few marginalized “Red” nations remaining, there is less incentive to buy off labour.

Polls show that Americans are less dissatisfied with the economy than they were in the early 1980’s or early 90’s. Rising house and stock values have lifted the net worth of many families over the last few years, and interest rates remain fairly low.” Plus, “global trade, immigration, layoffs and technology — as well as the insecurity caused by them — appear to have eroded workers’ bargaining power. Trade unions are much weaker than they once were.

And then there’s Wheel of Fortune, reality television and the other elements of what make up today’s religion as the opiate of the masses. Class warfare belongs to another time and place. We see Hummers driving down our street and we think we’re in the blessed world of economic birthrights. “We” are “them” so warfare is against ourselves. Except the economic statistics show we’re being bled like the frog in the pot on a slow heat.

But then again, in a global sense, the OECD world is the world’s top economic quintile. If the workers of the industrialized world unite against our oppressors, that’s just us in the top 2-19% income group going after the top 1%. Is that really a class war?

Horatio Alger, Jr, 19th century American pulp novelist, championed the great American rags to riches dream. As long as the poorest four quintiles of North American population continue to think that we’re just one raise away from getting our Hummer, we will refuse to recognize that class politics that allow the irony-free American “president” to chuckle while claiming to be the president of the “haves” and the “have-mores”.

And if the Irish saved western civilization after the fall of Rome and through the Dark Ages, perhaps the ascendent political movements of Latin and South America with their focus on human over corporate centred economic development will save the myopic greed of the class rulers of North America.

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TODAY’S PIG IS TOMORROW’S BACON (a Labor Day recipe)

By Greg Palast
September, 3 2006

Some years from now, in an economic refugee relocation “Enterprise Zone,” your kids will ask you, “What did you do in the Class War, Daddy?”

The trick of class war is not to let the victims know they’re under attack. That’s how, little by little, the owners of the planet take away what little we have.

This week, Dupont, the chemical giant, slashed employee pension benefits by two-thirds. Furthermore, new Dupont workers won’t get a guaranteed pension at all — and no health care after retirement. It’s p
art of Dupont’s new “Die Young” program, I hear. Dupont is not in financial straits. Rather, the slash attack on its workers’ pensions was aimed at adding a crucial three cents a share to company earnings, from $3.11 per share to $3.14.

So Happy Labor Day.

And this week, the government made it official: For the first time since the Labor Department began measuring how the American pie is sliced, those in the top fifth of the wealth scale are now gobbling up over half (50.4%) of our nation’s annual income.

So Happy Labor Day.

We don’t even get to lick the plates. While 15.9% of us don’t have health insurance (a record, Mr. President!), even those of us who have it, don’t have it: we’re spending 36% more per family out of pocket on medical costs since the new regime took power in Washington. If you’ve actually tried to collect from your insurance company, you know what I mean.

So Happy Labor Day.

But if you think I have nothing nice to say about George W. Bush, let me report that the USA now has more millionaires than ever — 7.4 million! And over the past decade, the number of billionaires has more than tripled, 341 of them!

If that doesn’t make you feel like you’re missing out, this should: You, Mr. Median, are earning, after inflation, a little less than you earned when Richard Nixon reigned. Median household income — and most of us are “median” — is down. Way down.

Since the Bush Putsch in 2000, median income has fallen 5.9%.

Mr. Bush and friends are offering us an “ownership” society. But he didn’t mention who already owns it. The richest fifth of America owns 83% of all shares in the stock market. But that’s a bit misleading because most of that, 53% of all the stock, is owned by just one percent of American households.

And what does the Wealthy One Percent want? Answer: more wealth. Where will they get it? As with a tube of toothpaste, they’re squeezing it from the bottom. Median paychecks have gone down by 5.9% during the current regime, but Americans in the bottom fifth have seen their incomes sliced by 20%.

At the other end, CEO pay at the Fortune 500 has bloated by 51% during the first four years of the Bush regime to an average of $8.1 million per annum.

So who’s winning? It’s a crude indicator, but let’s take a peek at the Class War body count.

When Reagan took power in 1980, the One Percent possessed 33% of America’s wealth as measured by capital income. By 2006, the One Percent has swallowed over half of all America’s assets, from sea to shining sea. One hundred fifty million Americans altogether own less than 3% of all private assets.

Yes, American middle-class house values are up, but we’re blowing that gain to stay alive. Edward Wolff, the New York University expert on income, explained to me that, “The middle class is mortgaging itself to death.” As a result of mortgaging our new equity, 60% of all households have seen a decline in net worth.

Is America getting poorer? No, just its people, We the Median. In fact, we are producing an astonishing amount of new wealth in the USA. We are a lean, mean production machine. Output per worker in BushAmerica zoomed by 15% over four years through 2004. Problem is, although worker productivity keeps rising, the producers are getting less and less of it.

The gap between what we produce and what we get is widening like an alligator’s jaw. The more you work, the less you get. It used to be that as the economic pie got bigger, everyone’s slice got bigger too. No more.

The One Percent have swallowed your share before you can get your fork in.

The loot Dupont sucked from its employees’ retirement funds will be put to good use. It will more than cover the cost of the company directors’ decision to hike the pension set aside for CEO Charles Holliday to $2.1 million a year. And that’s fair, I suppose: Holliday’s a winning general in the class war. And shouldn’t the winners of war get the spoils?

Of course, there are killjoys who cling to that Calvinist-Marxist belief that a system forever fattening the richest cannot continue without end. Professor Michael Zweig, Director of the State University of New York’s Center for Study of Working Class Life, put it in culinary terms: “Today’s pig is tomorrow’s bacon.”

London Bombings: One View

I think this about sums it up, except that the US/UK imperialists don’t have a monopoly on terrorism:

“Terrorist Blair, who assisted The US Empire in raining death down upon the Iraqi populace, though Iraq harboured no weapons of mass destruction and posed no direct military threat to either Britain or the US, and is admitted, even by Rumsfeld, to have had no connections to Al Quaida, has regrettably reaped for the British people what he has sown in their name. And his sanctimounious [sic] posturing about “terrorism” doesn’t change the reality of who are the real terrorists all one wit. And we all really know it.

The Futility of the Left-Right Political Spectrum

The left-right spectrum is pretty obsolete, what with right wing w.Caesar running crazy deficits to undermine government’s ability to meddle with individual freedom to become rich and free from social regulation and left wing governments pledging to balance budgets: typically the reverse of the old Cold War Keynesian days.

In November of 2002 a friend sent me a link to a site, Political Compass, to do a survey to see where I would live on a two-dimensional spectrum consisting of left-right and authoritarian-libertarian, like so:

The next two images show estimates of where other well-known people could be on this spectrum.

Currently:

So 2.5 years ago I did the survey and ended up in the bottom left quadrant:

These days, as I get older and wiser and parental and more mature and more committed to the establishment I did the survey again to find myself–shock–even more radical:

Ultimately, I think everyone ought to swing by this website, Political Compass, to see where they are. The sooner we get more and more people releasing themselves from the tyranny of a 1-dimensional political spectrum, the better. The next task will be to create 3 and 4-dimensional models.

Real Soap, “Real” Beauty, “Real” Feminism?

Dove soap’s Campaign for Real Beauty is very interesting to me. I’ve seen the billboards and I appreciate their attempt to legitimize beauty beyond what we’re brainwashed with in Maxim, Playboy, Baywatch and the like.

But I’m not so sure about Dove. I’m not so sure that even if their soap products, etc. are stupendous that I respect them co-opting a legitimate debate for corporate ends. True, they may be spurring some to expand their sense of beauty, but underlying Maxim, Playboy, Baywatch and Dove is the consumerist necessity of defining for us what we want so we can buy it from one company, as opposed to the other.

So cynically–or perhaps realistically–Dove is merely engaging us in clever market segmentation: they are the soap for people who don’t wish to recognize any legitimacy in stereotyped constructions of beauty. How post-modern of them.

Then there’s the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, that helps “girls all over the world to overcome everyday beauty pressures.” Right. Again, Dove may be god’s gift to women’s dermatological health, but do we really want Dove being in charge of this dialogue? They sure want to be in charge of it. Great viral PR [we’re encouraged to invite friends to the website]. In fact, instead of them actually having to advertise to you about how great they are in funding socially-conscious projects, we end up seeking that information from them. It’ll stick to us better that way because we want to know about them. The cosmetics and health products industries are prime culprits in destroying women’s self-esteem. How ironic–or socially healing?–of Dove to try to rectify this. Either way, they will probably sell more soap.

Happily for Dove, 2 of the 5 items listed as success stories for the Self-Esteem Fund are photo exhibitions they created themselves.

It may be terrible to rub this in, but Dove is even doing market research on us as we navigate their site. In providing information about their motives [thoroughly altruistic sounding, of course–remember, they’re on our side!], they ration the information so that we need to click to further screens for elaboration. They end up with a good sense of just how much each of us is interested in various depths of information. This information about us can be combined with a log of all pages we visit on their site [including the time we spend between clicking through pages] to give them a pretty wonderful sense of how much we care to know. Heck, even I track my access logs to examine reading/clicking habits on my site [anonymously, though, because I collect nothing about yall but IP numbers]; I’ve got to believe Dove does it too. Worse still, if we actually log in and supply demographic data when we create our profile on the site [assuming a certain percentage of those signing up are not lying], they get an even broader sense of us, despite their claim that they only collect navigation data anonymously and in the aggregate. And what is our benefit from all this? Better soap? Better self-esteem through Dove products?

Even more cynically, perhaps, how many of the people taking part in the definition of beauty discussions on that site are Dove lackeys spinning conversation in defined PR areas? If I were running this campaign, I wouldn’t leave the discussion board completely at the mercy of regular normal people without having my branding agents subtly making it all worthwhile.

So then I dug through my hard drive to find the August 1992 update of the soc.feminism faq that defines various flavours of feminism to see which ones would support Dove’s campaign and which ones would condemn it. The updated faq of Different Flavours of Feminism is more useful.

Applying each flavour to Dove’s campaign will require great thought: more than I can accomplish without a few more days/weeks of mental meandering. [Maybe in the meantime I’ll write something in here about the disaster of w.Caesar’s election. Or not]

For now, until you follow the link to the full faq with descriptions of the flavours, here they are, listed:

Amazon Feminism

Anarcho-Feminism

Cultural Feminism

Erotic Feminism

Eco-Feminism

Feminazi

Feminism and Women of Color

Individualist, or Libertarian Feminism

Lesbianism

Liberal Feminism

Marxist and Socialist Feminism

Material Feminism

Moderate Feminism

‘pop-feminism’

Radical Feminism

Separatists

Men’s Movements:

Feminist Men’s Movement

Men’s Liberation Movement

Mythopoetic Men’s Movement

The New Traditionalists

The Father’s Movements

Finis

Afghanistan, September 11, 2002 and Land Mines

Afghanistan signs the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines on September 11, 2002 while Iraq, Israel and the USA (and 46 others) still have not.

With North America (at least) dwelling on commemorative events surrounding the first anniversary of September 11, 2001, odd ironies were at play elsewhere in the world as that day, Afghanistan signed the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines.

There are still unanswered questions about who is functionally in charge of Afghanistan (and if the big W is pulling strings, or the big W’s string pullers, whatever) and why that day was chosen. What kind of political value would there be, and for who, to orchestrate that event on that key day? Is it a sign of the White House’s total domination of the enemy that is/was Afghanistan that they signed on that day?

146 countries have signed, ratified, or agreed to be bound by the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, also known as the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines. They are listed here.

49 countries haven’t signed the treaty as of this month, including some notables: Iraq, Israel, and the USA.

And while political posturing prevents more countries from signing, Canada’s light shines as an example of how other states COULD operate.

Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham attributes, “much of the remarkable progress achieved to date to an unprecedented level of cooperation and coordination between governments, international organizations and NGOs.”

I wonder who will sign on September 11, 2003.