Tuesday, July 30, 2013

From Loving Your Pain to Feeling Your Pain

How does President Obama telegraph his contempt for the working class?

By traveling to an Amazon distribution warehouse full of temporary wage slaves and calling for a cut in the corporate tax rate from 35 to 28%. And on top of that, bestowing our financial overlords with even more monetary incentives via training, at government expense, the workers for those low-paying jobs, and then rewarding the freeloading CEOs with even more financial perks when they then deign to hire the trainees. It's a trifecta for the plutocracy, a triple whammy for the rest of us. It's a perfect example of privatized profit at public cost. Or, if you prefer, corporate welfare.

The little guy pays the higher effective tax rate. The tax revenues, in turn, get sucked out the Treasury door by the corporate tax evaders. Most of it stays in their pockets, and only some of it goes to hiring a token number of laborers on the cheap. The already-manipulated unemployment rate will drop by a few points and politicians will make themselves look good for doing something that is actually quite bad. And that is the enablement of the closed feedback loop where money begets power begets more money begets more power. Ad infinitum.

And all this will be accomplished as President Obama purports to be concerned about the widening wealth gap between the haves and the have-nots. We are not supposed to notice that ever-widening gap between his words and his actions. Amazingly enough, there still appears to be a sizeable enough segment of his personality cult remaining willfully and faithfully blinded to how badly they are being had. I think this may have something to do with his recent guilt-inducing trip down racial-profiling memory lane. Gifted orator and social identity politics liberal that he is, he still enjoys an approval rating just south of the 50% mark. Not bad for the leader of a country ranking a dismal 27th in per capita income, 27th in life expectancy, and where four out of five people are now threatened with imminent poverty.

So I am now taking bets on how many times he will utter "middle class" at his speech today in Tennessee. Along with his usage of the word "folks," we should probably take Noam Chomsky's advice* and, Run Forrest Run! like a million desperate Gumps.

My only consolation is that many, many folks are taking sharp notice of the locale of his latest outburst of demagogy. Amazon was elevated to the ranks of history's most notorious employers a couple of summers ago when word leaked out (call the NSA!) that the company had actually stationed ambulance crews outside their buildings because workers by the dozens were passing out from the intense heat.  According to one investigative report, Amazon actually plucks its workers from an outside agency taking its own pound of flesh and rarely elevates them to permanent positions.  A story in the Huffington Post recounts how workers are forced to wait in line at warehouse security checkpoints for up to half an hour -- without pay -- to make sure they haven't stolen any merchandise on the way home.

And it's not just critics of Amazon's working conditions who are disgusted with Obama's choice of venue. The American Booksellers' Association has protested the visit, claiming that Amazon hurts small businesses by flouting sales tax laws and putting small independent bookstores out of business through predatory pricing.

Obama, meanwhile, will laud the fact that Amazon workers get health insurance cards, benefits not specified, as temporary, part-time and low-wage as they may be. It's called lowering expectations and calling it a win. Or, if you like, peeing on my leg and telling me it's raining.

I also got to wondering whether New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman had anything to do with the president's choice of Chattanooga as the locale for another stop on his Magical Mystery Tour. Friedman, who has been described as one of Obama's favorite media mavens, did after all write a piece last fall that he dubbed Obama's MomentHe waxed rhapsodic about that Tennessee City being a hub of IT nirvana and thousands of crappy factory jobs and the perfect geographical symbol of Centrism. Or, if you prefer, untold riches for the few and immiseration of the many.
There is a huge amount of innovative thrust building, bottom-up, in the U.S. economy today. If Washington could just get the macro picture right, you could see a real growth surge in America. We’re just a couple of grand bargains away from something big.
And that brings me to the news. It’s good to see the budget talks between President Obama and the Republicans getting off to a solid start, but we know there will be plenty of partisan fireworks before any deal is cut. With that in mind, I hope the president will reframe and elevate the debate. It is vital that he not frame this as a discussion of just new taxes and spending cuts. His guiding principle should be “growth.” Right now, the whole budget discussion reeks too much of castor oil — and which side will have to swallow the biggest spoonful.
 And that brings me back to Chattanooga, where, Mayor Ron Littlefield says, city elders looked themselves in the eyes 15 years ago and realized that “we were a dilapidated city going the way of the Rust Belt.” But, by coming together to make the city an attractive place to live and getting both parties to agree to invest in a fiber-to-every-home-and-business network in a 600-square-mile area, Chattanooga replaced its belching smokestacks with an Amazon.com fulfillment center, major health care and insurance companies and a beehive of tech start-ups that all thrive on big data and super-high-speed Internet. “We’ve gone from being a slowly declining and deflating urban balloon, to one of the fastest-growing cities in Tennessee,” said Littlefield. The fiber network now attracts companies that “like to see more and more of their employees able to work some of the time at home, which saves on office space and parking,” the mayor said.
Friedman spoke, and the president listened. That Big Data part especially had to have been a turn-on. NSA-Amazon Partnership, here we come! Obama put Chattanooga on his calendar, post-haste. After all, it's only a short verbal technocratic hop from Friedman's ridiculous Bottom-Up bromides to Obama's latest Middle-Out catchphrases. I'll be paying attention to Obama's words today just to see how many Friedmanisms (along with middles classes and folks and dropped Gs)  manage to worm their way into his rhetoric.

Meantime, here's my comment to the Friedman column as published last year:
So, Mr. Friedman is advocating a massive government propaganda campaign to convince the proles that cutting back on our Social Security and Medicare and other "middle class" goodies will be fun for us. Something like a Mary Poppins for grown-ups. A spoonful of sugar in the form of better internet connections will help the medicine of retiring at 70 go down. Or some such nonsense.
CEOs and pundits throughout the land are serenading us with the same tired old tune called "Love the Pain." And Friedman's use of such words as "thrust-building" and "bottom-up" even add a sexy new slant to the genre of fiscal S&M. The plutocrats wield the whips, and we will swoon under their lashes. The president will do his part by making austerity excitingly patriotic. Friedman's multimillionaire financial guru is at the ready to impart some economic Viagra, keeping that dreaded deflation at bay.
Risky start-ups, here we come! But, if the addition of an Amazon warehouse to the Chattanooga landscape is your idea of boom-time, think again. These fulfillment centers have a less than stellar reputation in how they treat their poorly paid, no-benefit workers.
You know what would really stimulate the economy? A national living wage law to lift retail and warehouse workers out of poverty. Scrapping the cap on FICA Social Security tax contributions to make the trust fund solvent for generations to come. Medicare for All.
Forget the shared sacrifice. We should be demanding some shared prosperity.
Keep in mind that Obama's latest new and improved "Grand Bargain", while purporting to be a call for jobs, is simply Austerity by another name. Obama's offers of chained CPI as a method of cutting Social Security, along with other safety net cuts, are still very much on the table. He is not calling for taxes to pay for infrastructure and a government jobs program. He is calling for we the taxpayers to keep funneling our dwindling resources straight to the top.

He is advocating pure Trickle-Down Reaganomics. He always has. Only the weasel words have changed due to circumstances that were never beyond his control at all. (see: Geithner, Rubin, Summers) The natives are restless, so now he is pivoting, out of pure political necessity, from Tighten Your Belts to Feel Your Pain mode. But make no mistake. Those belts are still being tightened. Or, if you prefer, the nooses are being finessed.

And that, said Forrest Gump, is all I have to say about that.



* "When a politician uses the word 'folks' get ready for the next series of lies."

14 comments:

James F Traynor said...

Friedman, the media whore. Suitable company for the prez. But who's the one doing the pimping.

Pearl said...

There is an award winning TV series shown in Canada (and other countries as well) called Undercover Boss in which executives of various companies or corporations disguise themselves and join the regular workers to investigate how things are run. Afterwards, they invite the people they worked with back to their head office and reward those they admired with cash gifts (money for a child to attend college, expensive vacations, help with a mortgage) and if they show promise promote them or offer them franchises of their own. These employees who have worked their asses off in difficult and demanding work in often poor surroundings, then weep and hug their bosses and almost drop to their knees in adoration.
In the finale there is a huge coming together of all the employees of the company where more adoration for their bosses continues. Of course nothing is mentioned about how the rest of the personnel continue their struggle to exist and there never is shown the existence of a union or improvement of general working conditions or better pay for the rest of the employees.
This particular popular program disgusts me and reveals more about how our capitalistic system squeezes everything possible from helpless workers, than they might realize. It was obvious that many of the workers were desperate to reach their quotas, often jeopardizing their health in the process. I wonder if any of them may have had the guts to tell their bosses off and been fired and not been included in the filming. It is a troubling expose of how the average working man or woman is caught in an inhumane net and used in a successful TV series in which the bosses are deified. It is also obvious that any 'improvements' made are to increase the revenues and profits of the particular company. Slavery is alive and well in America.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Great post, Karen.

Friedman, Brooks, and countless other columnists/talking heads spew their bullshit on a regular schedule, probably on the principle that if repeated often enough, these regressive ideologies will be internalized by a significant fraction of the populace. Their b.s. output is so great that their teeth should be stained brown, but aren't because it's sugar-coated bullshit. And that is the great danger of modern "reasonable-sounding" neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism. The tone is moderate, the arguments are developed, so it's all-too-easy for the audience to bobble-head nod in agreement and fail to notice the errors of logic, the faulty and deficient premises, and worse yet, often a complete absence of moral considerations in their paeans to the supposed wonders of unchained capitalism.

Whether the Friedmans and Brooks of this world are ignorant/deluded, or self-deluded, or flat-out paid prostitutes for the plutocracy is hard to tell. It's probably some of each. And while they ought to be ashamed of their shilling for exploiters, they are, ultimately, deliverers of opinion, and I fully expect the vested interests to do their utmost to get opinions favorable to their positions out into the mass media.

While the presence of so much crap is certainly objectionable, what really bothers me is the degree to which actual facts relevant to the looting of this nation have been systematically ignored and progressive opinions marginalized within the mass media. I don't think that the Friedmans/Brooks of the world could work their spell if relevant facts and the progressive narrative were given sufficient mainstream media exposure.

Of course, Obama delivering neo-liberal/neo-con crap falls into a whole other category, much more objectionable than the media talking heads. I've never had any illusions about Friedman/Brooks working for the great masses of the people. But Obama led the lower- and middle-class voters to believe that he would work for them, so his performance in office is nothing less than a betrayal of trust.

Finally, I do agree with @Pearl that shows such as "Undercover Boss" are disgusting examples of the media's co-optation of worker discontent. Similarly, @Valerie made the point long ago at Sardonicky that mainstream media cop shows insidiously program viewers into the belief of strong danger from terrorism and criminals that justifies an expanded, aggressive, militarized law enforcement and the violation of civil liberties.

Zee said...

I have spent a little bit of time—not much, I admit—reflecting on what constitutes a “living wage,” and what it would cost to implement some sort of “basic income guarantee” to every American adult. These are some off-the-top-of-the-head observations and calculations.

As far as what constitutes a living wage, the City of Santa Fe, New Mexico—a pretty lefty town, and also pretty damned expensive—decided that $10.51/hr constitutes a living wage and implemented it back in March of this year.

http://www.santafenm.gov/index.aspx?NID=84

This represents about a 31% increase over theFederal minimum wage of $7.25/hr. Thus far, I have not heard of any businesses there closing down owing to the wage hike, or cutbacks in the number of employees retained by local businesses. Of course, the living wage has only been in place since March, and Santa Fe is a busy tourist destination both in summer and for winter skiing. The true story may not be told until a full year has transpired. Still, the calamitous impacts predicted by the local Chamber of Commerce and Santa Fe businesspeople has not come to pass—at least not yet.

The accepted number of hours in a “person-year” is 2088, so 2088 person-hrs/year x $10.51/hr = $21,945/year.

Voil√†, an estimate of a living wage in an expensive place to live. Which is a little less than double what is considered the Federal “poverty level” for a single individual.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Poverty_in_the_United_States

Now, I don't want any of you out there to conclude that I have transmogrified into a commie-pinko, but in order to lend the dignity to work that I believe it deserves, I would be willing to give the foregoing “living wage” a try at the national level, just to see what would happen. I was, after all, a scientist specializing in experimental—not theoretical—investigations.

Not that this will ever happen, of course. The outcries of “socialism” and “government interference” from the so-called “right” would be horrendous, I might even be crucified as a traitor by my own (former) friends and neighbors, and in any event, our Wall Street-owned President would veto any such attempt.

Now, based on the foregoing figures, I also tried to estimate what it would cost to offer every American adult a “living income,” whether or not that person chose to work, per the discussion that I had with The Black Swan a thread or two ago.

According to Wiki Answers, there are on the order of 226 million people over the age of 18 in America,
and 140 million over the age of 21.

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/
How_many_Americans_are_over_the_age_of_18

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_Americans_over_21

For the sake of frugality, let's assume that the age of adulthood is 21.

Well, 140,000,000 x $21, 945 = $3.1 x 10**12, or $3.1 trillion.

Currently, we take in $2.45 trillion in Federal tax revenues, borrowing the rest (~$1.0 trillion) in order to spend $3.5 trillion in 2012. See the two “pie charts” here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_budget

So $3.1 trillion represents about 21% more than we currently take in annually at the Federal level.

$3.1 trillion also constitutes about 21% of our GDP.

Even if we were to decide to guarantee every American a top-of-the-poverty-level annual income, $11,170/year, the cost would still be $1.6 trillion, which is still larger by half than what we borrow to make up for our annual deficit.

Somehow, I just don't see that providing an annual, basic guaranteed income to the entire adult population is ever likely to happen.

Between ending the annual Federal budget deficit of $1.0 trillion (which we now borrow) and paying for an additional $3.1 trillion for a basic income guarantee to every one, taxes would have to go up at least $4.1 trillion, or 60%.

And I don't think that this will be only for the rich. Would the middle-class be prepared for such a tax hike in order to provide even those who choose to free-load with a “living wage?”

I just don't think so.

Zee said...

PS--

I am confident that I have overlooked many things in my "off-the-top-of-the-head" observations and calculations, including how much employers could cut their current salaries/wages owing to the basic income guarantee.

And then we would have to factor in the impacts of a single-payer health care system on both tax levels and what then constitutes a living wage.

If health care is "taken out of the equation," could we then cut our estimate as to what a living wage is?

I'm just trying to stimulate some quantitative thinking on what the real, national, fiscal impacts are for ideas such as these.

Serious criticism is welcome, just be nice.

The Black Swan said...

@Zee,

The main criticism I have is pretty simple and comes in the form of a few questions.

What is money? Where does it come from? What is debt? What is meant by public debt and private debt? What are taxes? How do we really pay for our government?

The reason we can't provide a living wage to everyone in this country isn't because of a failure of revenue or taxation, it is because of a failure of imagination.

I think this is a very important discussion to be had, so I look forward to seeing your answers and letting you know my point of view on these things as well. :)



The apparatus of our enslavement is the tool of our liberation.

May all beings be happy.

Zee said...

@The Black Swan—

You ask some interesting questions to which I have given little thought, I confess.

Not being an economist, I can only offer answers that come from textbooks—or Wikipedia—that seem consistent with my layperson's understanding of how our economy works.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money

First, you've asked me “What is money?” Well, I like Thomas Sowell's straightforward definition of money as “an intermediary means of exchange” I also think that he gives a very clear explanation as to why money was created:

“Many economies in the distant past functioned without money, People simply bartered their products and labor with one another. But these have usually been small, uncomplicated economies, with relatively few things to trade, because most of the people provided themselves with food, shelter and clothing, while trading with others for a limited range of amenities or luxuries.

Barter is awkward. If you produce chairs and want some apples, you certainly are not likely to trade one chair for one apple, and you may not want enough apples to add up to the value of a chair. But if chairs and apples can both be exchanged for something that can be subdivided into very small units, then more trades can take place, benefitting both chair-makers and apple-growers, as well as everybody else. All that people have to do is to agree on what will be used as an intermediary means of exchange, and that means of exchange becomes money.

Some societies have used sea shells as money, others have used gold or silver, and still others have used special pieces of paper printed by their government. In the early colonial era in British West Africa, bottles and cases of gin were sometimes used as money, often passing from hand to hand for years without being consumed. In a prisoner-of-war camp during [WW II], cigarettes from Red Cross packages were used as money among the prisoners...

What makes all these different things money is that people will accept them in payment for the goods and services which actually constitute real wealth. Money is equivalent to wealth for an individual because other individuals will supply the real goods and services desired in exchange for that money. But, from the standpoints of the national economy as a whole, money is not wealth. It is just a way to transfer wealth or to give people incentives to produce wealth.”
—Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy, Revised Edition, 2004.

So from my perspective, money is what allowed the creation— for good or for ill, depending upon one's viewpoint—of our “specialized and interdependent society.” I have always simply taken it for granted—without giving it much deep thought—that this was fundamentally a good thing. It allows the individual to devote 100% of one's time to doing something that one is good at, and, it is to be hoped, one actually enjoys and takes some pride in. Thanks to money, those of us who don't produce “barterable” goods can provide other services or—in my case, knowledge—for which we are paid money, and with which we can purchase the necessities of life: food, clothing, shelter, etc.

In the foregoing quote, Sowell also succinctly explains where money comes from—at least in our case—as “special pieces of paper printed by [our] government.”

But our paper money—or money in banks mostly represented by computerized record—has value only because we have agreed as a nation that it does. (Happily, at the moment, the rest of the world seems to agree with us.)

Of course, it's not as simple as the Federal Reserve actually printing money, but the metaphor works. The Fed controls how much money is in circulation with the two main objectives of providing maximum employment and keeping prices stable, i.e., controlling inflation/deflation. How it does this in practice, I have not a clue.

These are my understandings of what our money is and where it comes from.

Zee said...

@The Black Swan—

Questions, Part II:

You've further asked me:

» What is debt?

» What is meant by public and private debt?

» What are taxes?

» How do we really pay for our government?

I hope my answers will not be seen as overly simplistic, but they reflect my layperson's understanding of our economy and our government. Taking the questions in order:

There are various forms of debt, not all of which are related to money or the economy. If you save my life by donating me a kidney, well, I'm permanently in your debt; it's something that I can never fully repay no matter how hard I try. Yes, I can donate money to “kidney disease and transplant research,” or I can become an organ donor myself (I already am.), and try in various ways to “pay [your gift] forward.” But none of that will ever compensate you fully for the consequent risks that you now face, living with only one kidney.

But in the context of this discussion, “debt,” as I understand it, is—or should be—a voluntary arrangement between two individuals or entities, one of whom provides or “lends” money to the other so that the latter can purchase goods or services (say, a new home) that she/he could otherwise not immediately afford. Since we're talking “debt” here, instead of “gift,” there is some expectation that the lent money will be someday returned to the original lender.

The lender might simply want his/her money back in full, but more often the lender expects some interest to be paid so that she/he makes a profit by the lending.

This is also my understanding as to what constitutes “private debt,” money lent between two private individual people or entities, with no involvement of the government.

Like private individuals or entities, governments borrow money for various purposes, “selling” bonds— to be repaid with interest at a specified date or dates—to various individuals, entities, or other national governments. If a government continues borrowing more than it can pay off, over time the debt accumulates. This is called the government's “public debt;” depending upon the level of government involved, this can also be the “national debt.”

To answer you as to what taxes are, well, I first have to remark upon why we need a government at all.

I like Abraham Lincoln's explanation:

“The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves - in their separate, and individual capacities. In all that the people can individually do as well for themselves, government ought not to interfere. The desirable things which the individuals of a people can not do, or can not well do, for themselves, fall into two classes: those which have relation to wrongs, and those which have not. Each of these branch off into an infinite variety of subdivisions. The first - that in relation to wrongs - embraces all crimes, misdemeanors, and nonperformance of contracts. The other embraces all which, in its nature, and without wrong, requires combined action, as public roads and highways, public schools, charities, pauperism, orphanage, estates of the deceased, and the machinery of government itself. From this it appears that if all men were just, there still would be some, though not so much, need for government. —Abraham Lincoln (My bold emphasis.)

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Abraham_Lincoln

“Taxes” constitute money that we as citizens voluntarily contribute to the government in order to perform those two classes of endeavor that we cannot, individually, accomplish. Taxes nominally pay those who work directly for the government and who decide what we shall try to accomplish as a people, and then pays for all the goods, materials and services required to build those public roads, highways, schools, orphanages, etc, on down the food chain to you and me.

I look forward to learning how your perception of these topics differs from mine.

Zee said...

@All--

I've tossed out a couple of thoughts as to (1) what might constitute a “living wage” in the United States, and, (2) whether or not it is possible to offer a “basic income guarantee” (BIG) at that wage level to every adult American. Thus far, only The Black Swan has considered such a discussion “important,” and I am looking forward to his reply.

Is anyone else out there interested in a quantitative and practical look at how this might be achieved, per Karen's remarks on this posting?

Have I grossly overestimated/underestimated what a “living wage” is? It could make a difference, you know.

And how would we possibly implement a BIG even at the Federal “poverty level,” given the staggering cost and our current tax revenue and borrowing levels?

Is the solution so obvious that it entirely eludes simple old conservative me, viz., “We'll just extract taxes from the rich at whatever level is required by force majeur, to give everyone else whatever it is they want?” (And, of course, that approach just has to work, per liberal dogma!)

Or do the fabulously rich somehow need to be persuaded to accept less profit in order to achieve a greater social good? Impossible though that may seem? (Why do Scandinavian CEOs get paid so much less than the “rock stars” in the U.S.?)

As I said, only The Black Swan seems interested in the details—and the devil is always in the details. I'm looking forward to what I expect to be a highly innovative, alternative scenario from him, as I believe it will be.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Just a few quick thoughts (unfortunately, not at all quantitative) for the Basic Income Guarantee discussion:

There are some economic constraints besides the level of taxation required, differences between then (decades ago) and now, that might affect the economic viability of guarantee proposals. (Note: this is purely an economic issue, and in no way reduces the moral argument for a BIG. Unfortunately, economic considerations can affect the viability of moral policies).

Back then, when this country still had a relatively broad manufacturing base, money delivered via a BIG could be viewed as general economic stimulus, with a reasonably high domestic multiplier. Odds are, the recipient would soon spend such money, and, in most cases, it would be for goods and services produced domestically. Now, many products purchased by the low-income segment of the populace come from abroad. Need a low-cost frypan, spatula, or blender? It'll probably come from China. Buying a new TV? Ditto. Much basic food is sourced domestically, but by no means all. Even rent might nowadays be paid to a real estate investment trust that owns the properties, with a significant foreign shareholder base.

Sure, some such spending will go towards wages of domestic distribution, retail, or maintenance employees, but a good chunk will leave. (Anybody know the relevant statistics?). And since we are talking about compounding as money circulates, even relatively small amounts siphoned off to foreign destinations might significantly affect the total result. Furthermore (and entirely aside from how it might affect individual motivation), I fear that paradoxically, a BIG would actually accentuate the low-wage, relatively-unskilled, consumer sector of the economy, rather than the more important sector relating to things that really should be done.

This is a BIGGIE (pun intended): A basic income guarantee would pull people away from abject poverty, but still doesn't address the need for this nation to allocate enough to various projects that are often very large in scope --- infrastructure, R&D, education, the extra needs of the older population, as well as some younger at-risk ones... --- and these must often be done via large-scale governmental projects (whether or not private enterprise participates). Bottom-up market-based "decisions" --- purely via spending --- won't get those things done.

The Black Swan said...

Zee,

It was great to read your responses, and that I might have spurred on some new thought. Frankly I think the issue of money, debt, economics and capitalism is the core issue that needs to be discussed and debated. Maybe this isn't the best forum to do so, but I would like to continue this discussion with you and whomever else is interested either here, or somewhere else.

The bit you quoted about why have money is great, and I agree 100%. The only real problem is that this is no longer how we use money or why it exists.

I have a lot of ideas bouncing around in my head, and I will try to come of with something coherent as a reply, but it might take me a day or two.

But a few quick things.

The USA is a monetary sovereign, we print our own money. So who do we borrow from? Why do we need to borrow at all? If I buy a gov't bond for $100 where did my $100 come from and how is the gov't going to pay me back plus interest?

So if we don't need to borrow money to have money, then why is all money issued as debt?

Usually the people that lend out money are able to exert influence over those that borrow...

Taxation is another interesting concept. The USA prints it's own currency; supplies it's own currency. All the dollars that all the people have all came from the Federal gov't. So why would it need to take back money from us in order to fund itself? Or is taxation more a method to make sure there aren't too many dollars in circulation and thus lead to inflation?

And then wealth...
The game of monopoly is a wonderful way to look at modern capitalism and money creation. But say you are playing with 4 people (and I don't know all the rules of monopoly so I will make a little bit up) and you each start with $2000. After awhile of playing, one player has accumulated $6000. Well this leaves only $2000 to be shared between 3 people. Meaning that in order for one person in Monopoly to become rich, everyone else must become poor. Strangely enough, this is exactly how things work in the real world. We don't need to tax the rich in order to pay for more government, we need to tax the rich so that they cannot pauperize the rest of us. Because what is a democracy if you allow a financial elite to leave the demos destitute?

And Monopoly also can be a good tool to explain the National Debt. The banker, at the start of the game, has issued $2000 to each of 4 players. On the bankers balance sheet they now have $8000 of debt. That debt is a direct reference to the amount of currency in circulation. If the banker were to raise taxes to reduce their 'debt' there would be less money available to the players and the game might grind to a halt. But the banker doesn't owe $8000 to anyone, because the banker prints and issues all of the currency. So the debt isn't a debt that is owed to another entity, the debt is simply a calculator of how much currency has been issued by the bank.

That's pretty much how things work over here in the real world, but... where do those dollars come from? Maybe the USA isn't really printing it's own currency... but that's a whole other can of worms and something we can talk about later.


I'll finish up this with my new mantra and hope to keep this discussion alive. I have a very seldom used blog of my own if we wish to transfer the discussion there, or we can keep on expanding this thread if Karen doesn't mind.

We have always used myths and metaphors to explain reality. But now we have confused our myths and metaphors for reality. In order to maintain the sanctity of our myths and metaphors, we must sacrifice reality.

The apparatus of our enslavement is the tool of our liberation.

May all beings be happy.

Zee said...

@The Black Swan--

You've given ME a lot of food for thought.

Take your time in composing your additional thoughts, because it will take me quite some time to respond to your current ideas!

If you have a blog elsewhere, I would be happy to reply there. Just let me know where "there" is.

The Black Swan said...

Zee,

http://blackswanmovement.blogspot.com/

Zee said...

Black Swan--

I'll look for your thoughts there.