Category Archives: Class War

At the Heart of Most of Our Problems

 

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This is not merely an interesting stat. This is the cause of many of our most serious economic and social problems. This is the answer to the questions “Why is there poverty?” “Why do millions of children go to bed hungry?” Why are 2 million people homeless in America?” Why do families break up?” “Why do governments serve the few at the disadvantage of the many?” “Why do low income children have a higher mortality rate than rich people over the age of 60?”. . . . 

It Is Not Light That Is Needed, But Fire

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

“For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake… The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”

— Frederick Douglass

The 85 — Too Few to Have So Much When Too Many Have So Little

Michael Parenti

The world’s 85 richest individuals possess as much wealth as the 3.5 billion souls who compose the poorer half of the world’s population, or so it was announced in a report by Oxfam International. The assertion sounds implausible to me.  I think the 85 richest individuals, who together are worth many hundreds of billions of dollars, must have far more wealth than the poorest half of our global population.

How could these two cohorts, the 85 richest and 3.5 billion poorest, have the same amount of wealth? The great majority of the 3.5 billion have no net wealth at all. Hundreds of millions of them have jobs that hardly pay enough to feed their families. Millions of them rely on supplements from private charity and public assistance when they can. Hundreds of millions are undernourished, suffer food insecurity, or go hungry each month, including many among the very poorest in the United States.

“The number of people living in poverty is growing at a faster rate than the world’s population. So poverty is spreading even as wealth accumulates. It is not enough to bemoan this enormous inequality, we must also explain why it is happening.”

Most of the 3.5 billion earn an average of $2.50 a day. The poorest 40 percent of the world population accounts for just 5 percent of all global income. About 80 percent of all humanity live on less than $10 a day. And the poorest 50 percent  maintain only 7.2 percent of the world’s private consumption. How exactly could they have accumulated an amount of surplus wealth comparable to the 85 filthy richest?

Hundreds of millions live in debt even in “affluent” countries like the United States. They face health care debts, credit card debts, college tuition debts, and so on. Many, probably most who own homes—and don’t live in shacks or under bridges or in old vans—are still straddled with mortgages. This means their net family wealth is negative, minus-zero. They have no  propertied wealth; they live in debt.

Millions among the poorest 50 percent in the world may have cars but most of them also have car payments. They are driving in debt.  In countries like Indonesia, for the millions without private vehicles, there are the overloaded, battered buses, poorly maintained vehicles that specialize in breakdowns and ravine plunges. Among the lowest rungs of the 50 percent are the many who pick thru garbage dumps and send their kids off to work in grim, soul-destroying sweatshops.

The 85 richest in the world probably include the four members of the Walton family (owners of Wal-Mart, among the top ten superrich in the USA) who together are worth over $100 billion. Rich families like the DuPonts have controlling interests in giant corporations like General Motors, Coca-Cola, and United Brands. They own about forty manorial estates and private museums in Delaware alone and have set up 31 tax-exempt foundations. The superrich in America and in many other countries find ways, legal and illegal, to shelter much of their wealth in secret accounts. We don’t really know how very rich the very rich really are.

Regarding the poorest portion of the world population—whom I would call the valiant, struggling “better half”—what mass configuration of wealth could we possibly be talking about? The aggregate wealth possessed by the 85 super-richest  individuals, and the aggregate wealth owned by the world’s 3.5 billion poorest, are of different dimensions and different natures. Can we really compare private jets, mansions, landed estates, super luxury vacation retreats, luxury apartments, luxury condos, and luxury cars, not to mention hundreds of billions of dollars in equities, bonds, commercial properties, art works, antiques, etc.—can we really compare all that enormous wealth against some millions of used cars, used furniture, and used television sets, many of which are ready to break down?  Of what resale value if any, are such minor durable-use commodities, especially in communities of high unemployment, dismal health and housing conditions, no running water, no decent sanitation facilities, etc? We don’t really know how poor the very poor really are.

Millions of children who number in the lower 50 percent never see the inside of a school. Instead they labor in mills, mines and on farms, under conditions of peonage.  Nearly a billion people are unable to read or write. The number of people living in poverty is growing at a faster rate than the world’s population. So poverty is spreading even as wealth accumulates. It is not enough to bemoan this enormous inequality, we must also explain why it is happening.

But for now, let me repeat: the world’s richest 85 individuals do not have the same amount of accumulated wealth as the world’s poorest 50 percent. They have vastly more. The multitude on the lower rungs—even taken as a totality—have next to nothing.

Michael Parenti is an author of note who is known for the classic text on political science and American government “Democracy for the Few”. His work can be found at http://www.michaelparenti.org. This post was first published at COMMON DREAMS and distributed by PORTSIDE (See Links below)

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Chris Hedges Interviewed by Abby Martin

One of the attractions of RT and Al Jazeera as alternatives to the run-of-the-mill Media is that they do serious interviews and stories on serious topics. Abby Martin’s program “Breaking the Set” is a good example and this interview with one of the DISSENTING DEMOCRAT’s favorite authors, Chris Hedges, is a refreshing change from the nonsense we’re force-fed . . . who is Beyonce dating? . . . will Lindsay go to jail or rehab ? . . . does Holland have a new mistress? . . . and what not.

You can watch the the second part of this interview at Youtube : WATCH PART II: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxNqDg…

Grover Norquist, “Boss” of Tennessee

Volkswagen decided to build a factory in Tennessee to manufacture VWs for the American market. This is what the United States has always said foreign companies should do when they serve an American market.

The workers at the plant have asked for an election to determine as to whether the United Auto Workers union would represent them. The VW company, used to heavily unionized factories in Germany, have no problem with that and even invited the UAW in to make a presentation to the workers.

This should be a matter for the Company and its employees. But guess who has a problem with it? Someone who does not work there, someone who does not live there and someone who does not own VW stock. GROVER NORQUIST, sitting in his Washington office, has a problem with it. Grover is the hobgoblin who controls the Republican Party and orders its Congress-critters about.  Podunk may elect a Representative but Grover tells him how to vote.

Grover sent the word out to his minions in Tennessee that Unions are not to be allowed at the VW plant. The minions in the Tennessee Legislature got busy and passed State laws which would deny any State benefit, tax credit, deduction or aid previously promised to get the Company to relocate to Tennessee if and when a Union is selected. Grover’s Tennessee minions would prefer to shut down the factory and dispense with several thousand jobs than allow a Union to be duly elected by the workers.

The concept of “Class War” is not a simple bugaboo to frighten the gullible. It is going on, it is being fought and it is being won by the One Percent BECAUSE they know they are fighting it. They will buy elections, they will buy politicians, they will buy courts and they will buy propaganda to persuade us that they are not at war against us. They don’t fight fair and they will win unless we begin to fight back.

Poverty Doesn’t Just Happen

Economic inequality is the cause of poverty. We will never overcome poverty until we take on its root cause in inequality. Peter Marcuse discusses structural issues in the economy which tend to institutionalize poverty:

Exploitation at the work place. Keeping the pay for workers as low as possible is an inherent part of running a business and making a profit: the lower wages are, the higher profits are. Employers are “job creators” only against their will; the fewer workers they need use to produce a different product or service, the better off the employer is. The high pay for business executives and dividends to shareholders are directly at the expense of the workers in their businesses. .

Exploitation at the consumption end. Increasing the demand for ever more consumers goods, of course necessarily paid for out of wages, increases the profits of the producers of those goods and the wealth of the owners of the firms that produce them. Inducing demand artificially, through advertising and the wide array of cultural patterns of the kinds long documented by sociologists and economists, supports the consumption exploitation of poor (as well as middle class) consumers, to the benefit of the rich.

Exploitation at the financial end. Where, after all, do extraordinary profits of hedge fund managers and bankers come from? Ultimately, of course, from the prices paid by the purchasers of the goods and services they are financing. Their interest and dividend incomes and high salaries are really based on the profits of those making their money from more direct exploitation of the poor.

Exploitation of the benefits of land ownership, an obvious and pervasive monopoly, paid, as economists put it, by rent not for anything that the recipient of rent payments has produced or done, but solely extracted by him through the possession of something in limited supply for which there is demand. Property owners and developers are among the richest of the rich (think Donald Trump), in large part because they are able to benefit from the speculative increases in the pries of land which they own.  Ultimately, those benefits are paid for in the prices consumers pay and the rents that tenants pay, a regressively distributive system enriching land owners at the expense of all others.

All four of these forms of exploitation are among the primary causes of poverty and, centrally, inequality.

Digging deeper into what a war on poverty ought to be about would lead to examining, not only how the poor might be directly helped, but also how the rich might be constrained in those actions that keep the poor in poverty. Digging deeper into how inequality might be reduced would lead not only to measuring the extent to which it is reflected in income inequality and be ameliorated by boosting the incomes at the bottom rungs of the ladder of opportunity but would lead also to the same concern for limiting the way the rich get to the top of the ladder to begin with.

The dispute between Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio over the financing of pre-kindergarten for poor children is a vivid example of the difference, Cuomo’s insistence on paying out of general funds, does help to alleviate poverty, but it also avoids de Blasio’s proposal for  paying through a dedicated tax on incomes over %$500,000 addresses inequality directly. Thus Cuomo may alleviate poverty but de Blasio aims further directly to reduce inequality, looking both at the top and the bottom of the ladder. Reducing poverty is much less controversial than reducing inequality, which confronts more basic vested interests.

Readers can take a look at Marcuse’s analysis at pmarcuse.wordpress.com

Labor Candidates Win in Ohio

The Democrats Can’t Win Without Labor but Labor Can Win Without the Democrats

The electoral victory of Kshama Sawant in Washington State and the near victory of Ty Moore in Minneapolis have raised hopes in left and progressive circles. Another such light, also ignored by the corporate media, was the December 2013 municipal elections in northern Ohio Lorain County.

The local city council, endorsed by the Democratic Party, lined up against the workers and for local business interests to break city-union agreements and bust local unions (Sounds like Republicans don’t they? Increasingly, local Dems are modelling themselves after Obama and trying to outperform the master in servicing their Corporateer masters).

The workers were fed up and they brought their concerns to the local Labor Council. Getting along by going along has ceased to be the operating policy of local labor leaders who are gearing up for a return to militancy. The Unions decided they7 had had enough and kowtowing to local Dems was stopped. Labor put together their own ticket and ran as an “Independent Labor Party”.

Fantasy? Folly? Yes, that would be the reaction of practical pols. But things are getting so bad that it is no longer practical to be practical. Labor stopped being the kept courtesan of the Democrats, kicked her Pimp in the privates and asserted her independence.

The Labor Party ran 26 candidates . . . . . . And WON 24 ELECTIONS !!!

One victory was particularly enticing — Frank DeTillio, Chairman of the local Chamber of Commerce, ran and had all the “best people” on his side, he lost to Josh Thornberry, teacher and Union member, who had working families on his side.

The County Chair of the Democrats announced an effort to purge his party of union leaders holding Party office. But this little bit of petty revenge will not likely deter the successful Labor candidates. Labor would rejoin a REAL Democratic coalition serving the public interest but can no longer be thought of as in anyone’s pocket.

If Democrats continue to abandon working men and women throughout the country, Labor Parties may become the wave of the future.

SOURCE: http://www.labornotes.org

The SuperRich Are Stealing from Us, Part III

The SUPER-RICH Stopped Payment on Productive Americans

Reputable sources agree that the working class has not been properly compensated  for its productivity, and that the “rent-seeking” behavior of the financial industry, rather than changes in technology, is extracting wealth from society.

As a result, our median inflation-adjusted household wealth has dropped from $73,000 to $57,000 in a little over 25 years. We’ve lost another FIVE PERCENT of our wealth since the recession.

— Paul Buchreit http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/12/09-2

The SuperRich Are Stealing from Us, Part II

The SUPER-RICH Create Imaginary Money

The world’s wealth has doubled in a little over ten years. The financial industry has, in effect, created a whole new share of global wealth and redistributed much of it to itself.

In the U.S., financial sector profits as a percentage of corporate profits have been rising steadily over the past 30 years. The speculative, non-productive, and fee-generating derivatives market has increased to an unfathomable level of over ONE QUADRILLION DOLLARS — a thousand trillion dollars, twenty times more than the world economy.

With the U.S. driving the expansion of this great bubble of wealth, our nation has become the fifth-most wealth-unequal country in the world, while global inequality (between rather than within countries) has become even worse than for any one country. Just 250 individuals have more money than the total annual living expenses of almost half the world — three billion people.

— Paul Buchreit http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/12/09-2