Monday, January 28, 2019

Repairs to water main breaks are resembling archaeological digs

Above: These workers are installing new water mains in La Porte, Indiana, ca. 1935-1940, with funds provided by the New Deal's Public Works Administration (PWA). During the New Deal, there were large investments in water purification systems, water towers, water mains, and consumer connection lines. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Lost in all the Trump madness of the past two years is the fact that America's infrastructure is still falling apart. Old water mains are bursting left and right. On January 4th, a 40-foot geyser sprung from a 100-year-old pipe in New Orleans. On January 18th, a water main installed 136 years ago, when Chester Arthur was president, broke in Madison, Wisconsin, causing traffic problems. On January 23rd, customers lost water service after three water main breaks occurred, all on pipes that are 90+ years-old.

And these are just a few of the quarter-of-a-million water main breaks that will occur in the United States this year. Further, as if traffic problems, road damage, flooded homes, and loss of water service were not bad enough, we also know that our old waterworks & plumbing are responsible for children drinking lead, as well as an annual loss of 2 trillion gallons of water.

But there's no national urgency to modernize our infrastructure, is there? There are local efforts of course, but these amount to band-aid solutions. Only the financial might of the federal government can solve this problem. Unfortunately, our federal government consists of too many political puppets for the rich. And so, instead of appropriate funding for public works, our right-wing legislators & presidents (Reagan, Bush, Trump) have handed out numerous tax cuts for the super-wealthy - tax cuts that have helped the rich achieve record-breaking and mostly self-serving fortunes. Instead of improving the common good, or facilitating better wages for workers, right-wing & neoliberal politicians have helped the uber-rich engage in a record amount of stock buybacks... and given them more money to develop their escape plans, in the event that their greed finally destroys the United States (see, e.g., "The super rich of Silicon Valley have a doomsday escape plan," MSN and Bloomberg, September 8, 2018).

When will the American people stop being suckers for the rich? When will they demand more investment in the common good, for the sake of their children? Well, if the election of born-into-wealth, spoiled brat Donald Trump is any indicator... not any time soon.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the the right superhero at the right time. The millionaire & billionaire supervillains of the world have met their match.

Above: Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has the millionaire & billionaire supervillains of the world running scared. Supergirl emblem & outfit used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

The super-wealthy elite at the World Economic Forum in Davos--people who spend their lives hoarding wealth, and then attend this yearly carnival-for-the-rich to assuage what little bit of guilt they feel--are terrified that their taxes might go up if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) gets her way (see, e.g., "The super rich at Davos are scared of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's proposal to hike taxes on the wealthy," CNBC, January 22, 2019).

Of course, the rich--as well as their middle & lower income bodyguards--will tell us that taxing the rich will hurt workers and economic growth. This is ridiculous, because economic growth was much stronger when taxes were higher on the rich (top marginal, capital gains, estate, and corporate taxes). From 1933-1980, when New Deal taxation was still dominant, economic growth reached 5% or more 22 times. From 1981 to the present, i.e., since trickle-down economics has taken over, it has exceeded 5% just once (data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, see my blog post here). And yet still the rich and their bodyguards have the gall to tell us that things are so much better since their wealth-hoarding has been allowed to go unchecked. Do you believe their horse crap? Are you going to make them happy and eat it?

As far as workers are concerned, they too were much better off when taxes were higher on the rich. America's middle-class was much more vibrant from 1933-1980 than it is today (see, e.g., "For most U.S. workers, real wages have barely budged in decades," Pew Research Center, August 7, 2018). Our wages were better, our retirements were better, our infrastructure was better, and our mental health was better (see, e.g., "Suicide rates rise sharply across the United States, new report shows," Washington Post, June 7, 2018).

AOC is changing the national discussion. People are beginning to understand that taxing the rich--instead of kissing their feet and changing their diapers--is the better way to go. Elizabeth Warren, who's been fighting this fight longer than AOC, has now proposed a 2-3% yearly tax on the assets of the super-wealthy. This is exactly what we need (among other things). The Forbes 400, for example, are now worth a record-breaking $2.9 trillion. They've accumulated this obscene wealth while the rest of us have experienced a decaying quality of life - our children are drinking lead from old pipes & plumbing; we're dying deaths of despair more often; our health insurance is a confusing amalgam of wickedness; and our life expectancy is dropping.

Trickle-down economics is the problem, not the solution. Politicians like AOC, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren understand this; as do many (but unfortunately not all) of the working class Americans who have witnessed the collapse of the American Dream.

Yes, AOC is the right superhero at the right time.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The top 10 domestic policies that the Democratic Party's presidential candidates must commit to. Yes, a purity test.

Above: Men learning the mechanics of refrigeration in a WPA adult education class in Buffalo, New York, 1936. During the New Deal, many educational opportunities were created - free literacy courses, free distance learning courses, free adult education classes, free job training, new K-12 schools, new college buildings, and much more. Today, unfortunately, education is frequently ransomed. One must agree to huge outlays of money, or lifelong debt, in order to receive training and education. And, because the rich have destroyed the American Dream, most jobs don't pay enough to warrant the investment or debt. This has left many American workers in a horrible no-win situation: Either go into debt and become unable to pay it back, or don't go into debt and only be eligible for low-wage work. Yes, the American Dream has been replaced with this American Nightmare. And the rich love it, because it fattens their wallets, portfolios, and bank accounts. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

The Democratic Party's presidential candidates for 2020 must commit to the following 10 policies (among others):

1. Higher taxes on the rich--on both income and wealth--and more funding for IRS enforcement.

Top marginal rates, estate taxes, corporate income taxes, and capital gains taxes must all be raised. A yearly wealth tax should be imposed on all billionaires. Any deductions, exemptions, shelters, loopholes, or other gimmicks used by the rich to avoid contributing to the common good should be scrutinized or eliminated.

We're frequently told by the political right that if we raise taxes on the rich, the rich will go to greater lengths to hide their money from the tax man, and so therefore we shouldn't raise their taxes. This rationale is absurd. It's akin to saying, "We shouldn't have laws against burglary, because then the burglars will be sneakier." The answer is not to submit to tax criminals, but to better fund the enforcement division of the IRS.       

2. Medicare-for-All or a Medicare buy-in.

Our current health care system is a disaster. Compared to citizens of other developed countries, we're paying more to die younger. The best first step to end this nonsense is to create a Medicare-for-All system or, in the alternative, a Medicare buy-in option for those who don't want greedy CEOs and shareholders in the private sector making healthcare decisions for them.

3. Repeal the 2005 bankruptcy restrictions.

By disallowing a fresh start for lower-income people, the 2005 bankruptcy restriction law (which Joe Biden voted for) is destroying many lives. It should be repealed in full. (See, e.g., "Study: Law creates many too broke to file for bankruptcy," Nasdaq, February 24, 2015.)

4. Debt-free public college.

Public colleges should either be free or their tuition should be income-based. Forcing middle and lower income Americans into debt, if they want a college education--while the children of the rich attend debt-free--is an abomination. It's the sign of a caste system, and that's not what America should be about.

5. Student loan debt elimination.

All student loan debt should be eliminated. Holders of student loan debt should not bear the enormous burden of the current $1.6 trillion cumulative debt. Why? Because student loans have benefited everyone (with the possible exception of the students themselves). For example, student loans help pay for the salaries of administrators and professors. Those administrators and professors then spend the money in the general economy - buying groceries, buying houses, buying cars, paying contractors to improve their homes, etc. To place the burden on individuals--with interest--when the entire society has materially benefited, is ruthless and unfair. In contract law there is the concept of "unjust enrichment." I think a similar phenomenon has occurred here - society has pocketed the benefits of student loans, but the individual debtors bear all the responsibility; and, often, enjoy little or no improvement to their lives. 

6. Increasing the minimum wage.

I don't know if a blanket increase to $15 is the way to go. Big businesses like Walmart can bear that burden much better than mom & pop shops. But I think a federal increase to $10 is reasonable, with state & local governments determining whether or not they can handle a higher increase.

7. Increasing the earned income credit.

Earned income credits (EIC) should be increased, especially for workers with no children. The current maximum amount allowed for such workers is $519. That should be tripled or quadrupled to serve as a true incentive to work. And the maximum income that one can earn, and still be eligible for the EIC, should also be increased. For example, $15,270 is the most a single person can earn and still be eligible. That should be increased to at least $25,000.

8. A job guarantee.

A person who cannot find a job in the private sector, or in regular government employment--commensurate with their education, training, and experience--should be offered a public works job for a certain, sometimes renewable period of time.

9. A Green New Deal.

A Green New Deal could help avert climate change catastrophe, create millions of good-paying jobs, build solidarity, and contribute to the job guarantee policy.

10. Gun regulations.

I am a gun owner, I enjoy target shooting, I have no problem with the Second Amendment (although I think its meaning has been distorted by the profit-seeking gun industry), and I think concealed-carry for private citizens, and armed guards in schools, makes sense in some situations. But the current philosophy of a free-for-all, where anyone can have an assault rifle with a 500-round drum magazine, because "good-guy-with-gun-stops-bad-guy-with-gun" is infantile and insane. Why? Because there are too many irresponsible nuts in this country, and those nuts aren't usually going to give you enough response time before they shoot you. And today's "good citizen" could be tomorrow's nut.

We need universal background checks, reasonable limitations on clip capacities, reasonable manufacturing limitations, a better gun registration system, safety license requirements, and other common sense regulations. And yes, mental health should be addressed too - for example, improving economic opportunity and restoring the American Dream might go along way towards calming the anger and despair that is rising in the United States - anger and despair that is causing more and more people to reach for a gun to take their own lives and/or the lives of others.

**********

If the Democratic Party's presidential candidates do not commit to the above, then they're signaling to us that they're more concerned about private wealth than the common good.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Record bank profits, record stock buybacks, record fortunes for the 1%... but stagnant wages & poverty for the working class. And still the people obey.

Above: "1939 A.D.," a lithograph by Elizabeth Olds (1896-1991), created in 1939. Elizabeth Olds worked in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1943. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Economic injustice framed as wonderful

CNN recently reported that America's big banking institutions "brought in more than $120 billion combined in profit last year, the result of President Donald Trump's corporate tax cuts and a booming economy [booming for who??]. That's a record showing."

We also know that Corporate America engaged in a record amount of stock buybacks in 2018--over $1 trillion worth (stock buybacks enrich shareholders, especially wealthy shareholders, and do nothing for workers)--and further, we learned that the super-wealthy are continuing to acquire more riches to add to their narcissistic, self-serving, record-breaking fortunes.

But what about our wages? Well, according to analyses by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the compensation research group PayScale, our real wages (wages compared to inflation, i.e., the actual value of our paychecks) moved somewhere between -1.3% and +1.1% over the past year (see here and here). In other words, our wages are stagnant, just like they've been for the past several decades.

And not only have our wages faltered, but also our infrastructure, our retirements, our health (both mental & physical), our once-budding democracy, our education, and just about everything else that contributes to our quality of life.   

Despite all this extraordinary economic unfairness, not a day goes by without some right-wing or centrist politician, talking head, or Internet commenter spouting a bunch of bullsh&t about how American-style capitalism is the best thing since sliced bread; how "job creators" and tax breaks for the rich will fuel "innovation" and improve our quality of life - decades of trickle-down failure notwithstanding.

And the funny thing is, tens of millions of middle-class & poor Americans nod in agreement with all this economic crap, their heads swaying back-and-forth like the grinning bobble-heads you see in gift shops.

Agreeing. Submitting. Obeying.

The murderous world and U.S. economies

According to an official from OxFam, a large international organization trying to highlight and end poverty, "Today, 262 million kids are going to stay home because there is no funding for their education, 10,000 people today will die because they don't have access to basic health care that could easily be funded through proper fiscal systems" (emphasis added). And Jason Hickel, an anthropologist from the London School of Economics, argues that if poverty is measured by $7.40 per day, instead of the current [and absurd] measure of $1.90 per day, "we see that the number of poor has increased dramatically since 1980, and today stands at about 4.2 billion people." ("26 Billionaires Own The Same Wealth As The Poorest 3.8 Billion People," Huffington Post, January 20, 2019).

And of course, we know that cultural murder is not limited to third-world countries. In the United States, for example, many thousands of people are dying premature deaths thanks to Republican efforts to withhold Medicaid from low-income Americans (see, e.g., "Study: Thousands Of People Will Die In States That Don't Expand Medicaid," Talking Points Memo, January 31, 2014). What right-wingers fail to understand (or perhaps they fully understand and don't care) is that when people can't afford expensive medicines and procedures, or don't go in for regular check-ups for fear of the cost, they're more likely to die. For example, a high-income person who goes in for regular check-ups is much more likely to catch cancer early and avoid death.

We also know that a greater and greater number of Americans are dying from suicides, overdoses, and other deaths of despair. These cultural killings have occurred alongside the rise of extreme income & wealth inequality and also alongside the fall of the American Dream. Mere coincidences? Please.

The overarching question to all of the above is: When will the middle-class & poor stop permitting themselves to be bullied and killed by political, social, and economic systems that cater to the 1%?

Above: "Desperate Conflict," a linocut by Edward Hagedorn (1902-1982), created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. In America, an unholy alliance of wealthy psychopaths, puppet politicians, predatory financial institutions, right-wing talk show hosts, and misinformed voters have come together to persecute struggling Americans. When will struggling Americans fight back? Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Friday, January 18, 2019

The WPA's Julian Smith Casino

Above: The description for this photograph, taken in May 1938, reads, "August, Ga. - The Casino - Julian Smith Park - built by the WPA is used by the community for group entertainments." Note the WPA sign near the middle of the building. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: A closer look at the WPA sign from the previous photo.

Above: The Julian Smith Casino today. The building is not a gambling casino, but instead utilizes a more general definition of the word "casino," to indicate a social gathering place. According to the Augusta Chronicle newspaper, the building has hosted many events, including a "rehearsal by the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, high school dances and countless first meetings of couples who remain married to this day" ("Building preserves memories," April 6, 2006). Photo courtesy of the Augusta city government.

Above: WPA workers constructing the Julian Smith Casino, September, 1936. Julian Smith was a mayor of Augusta, Georgia in the 1920s. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: WPA workers building a stage in the Julian Smith Casino, September, 1936. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

More unhinged, uninformed criticism of AOC: Why do right-wingers keep clinging to an economic system that has performed so terribly?

Above: A WPA-sponsored history course for adults in Detroit, Michigan, 1936. Today, unfortunately, most Americans don't know their own nation's history (see, e.g., "How Much U.S. History Do Americans Actually Know? Less Than You Think." Smithsonian Magazine, May 28, 2015). And this lack of knowledge has devastating consequences. For example, not only do most Americans have little-or-no knowledge about the benefits of the New Deal, but they also have short-term memory loss with respect to trickle-down economics - forgetting, time and time again, how it's failed us. Thus, we continue to elect politicians who keep handing out more tax breaks to the rich. And with each successive round of diaper-changing for the super-wealthy, the common good deteriorates more and more. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

The political right's harebrained criticism of AOC

Right-wingers are angry at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). Her agenda for more economic opportunity for middle-class & poor Americans has them turning their heads like Linda Blair's character in The Exorcist. Writing on Fox News, young Michael Knowles, who seems to be the next-Glenn-Beck-or-Paul-Ryan-in-training, says, "The frequently-wrong but never-in-doubt freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., may indeed be the voice of her ignorant generation... Fortunately for her, in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king; and among a blithely ignorant generation, the lightly educated activist is congresswoman." (Lightly educated? AOC has just as much, if not more education than Knowles.)

There is so much absurdity and hypocrisy in Knowles' op-ed, it's truly astonishing. For example, he writes, "Raised in the United States after the fall of the Berlin Wall... young Americans have been sheltered both empirically and academically from the myriad horrors wrought by socialism throughout history. And so the problem worsens" (Sheltered empirically? Who says such nonsense?). Knowles also writes: "Millennials might not know much, but according to a 2016 Harvard survey, they know they don't support capitalism, with 51 percent of young adults rejecting economic freedom."

"Economic freedom"? For who? The Federal Reserve recently found that economic mobility (the "American Dream") has declined significantly since 1980. Less economic mobility is not freedom, it's economic imprisonment. Reduced economic mobility means that whatever economic condition you're born into, for example, poverty, you're more likely to stay there. Meanwhile, the super-rich--holed-up in their private compounds--are enjoying record wealth. Funny how things work out like that, huh?

Modern capitalism = economic freedom?? For most Americans, that's complete & utter garbage.

The pseudo-sage vs. AOC's welfare capitalism

Knowles writes as if he's an 80-year-old sage. He's 28; younger than AOC. But he gets a platform on Fox News for some unknown reason (perhaps because he writes things like "sheltered empirically"). But to his point about socialism creating horrors... does he think that capitalism has not caused horror? Was it not capitalism--in one form or another--that dispossessed and killed American Indians, enslaved generations of African Americans (and caused us to slaughter each other in the Civil War), and exterminated 6 million Jews? (Well, to be fair, the latter was fascism - capitalism's more evil brother.)

The truth of the matter, completely lost on Knowles, is that just about any political & economic system can be set-up to either help people or abuse them. And AOC's brand of socialism, like Bernie Sanders' brand, is really just welfare capitalism. It doesn't call for an end to the free market--despite the hysterical rants of carnival-barking critics like Knowles and Beck--but instead seeks to shore up the common good - roads, bridges, healthcare, Social Security, education, wages, etc. Welfare capitalism is a good balance between (a) the desire for private fortune and (b) proper funding for the common good. That's really all AOC is talking about. Not "confiscation of wealth," as the rabid right screams in terror.

The promotion of failure

Here's my larger question: Why do right-wingers like Knowles keep clinging to an economic system that has performed so terribly? I'm not talking about capitalism per se, I'm talking about America's particular form of capitalism: Trickle-down economics.

We've been living under a trickle-down economics regime ever since Ronald Reagan. This regime--this form of capitalism--has slashed taxes for the rich, deregulated financial institutions, turned a blind-eye towards pollution, persecuted the poor (for example, restricting debt-relief), and has placed top priority on protecting the private wealth of millionaires & billionaires who deliver campaign cash to their political puppets - all the while dismissing the common good as "evil socialism."

And so, what are the results of our trickle-down economics? These things: Crumbling infrastructure; soaring national & consumer debt; ever-rising suicide rates; mass incarceration; disinvestment in education (causing, among other things, unmanageable student loan debt); a revenue burden that has shifted down onto the heads of the middle-class & poor at the state & local level; an extraordinary rise in drug overdoses; stagnant wages; a retirement crisis; lowered life expectancy; and the conversion of a budding democracy into ruthless plutocracy.

That's the system, and results, that Knowles and his ilk offer to you as a delicious piece of pie. What causes them to consider such hideous results to be so incredibly wonderful? What madness overtakes the mind, so that a person thinks bad is good?

GDP evidence to support AOC

Let's look at Gross Domestic Product (GDP, economic growth) specifically, to see how trickle-down economics compares to New Deal economics. This is an interesting comparison, because AOC is advocating for New Deal-type policies (e.g., the "Green New Deal"), and also because the political right condemns the New Deal as "socialism." The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that GDP grew by 5% or more 22 times from 1933 to 1980 - when New Deal economics was dominant. But from 1981 to 2017, when trickle-down economics was the dominant force, economic growth topped 5% just once. (And here are the economic growth numbers--by %--for the pre-WW2, New Deal years specifically, i.e., 1933-1940: -1.2, +10.8, +8.9, +12.9, +5.1, -3.3, +8.0, +8.8... far better than today's measly numbers). 

Knowles has a history degree; and he called AOC "lightly educated." But how does he not know the history of our GDP? Or, if he does know it, why does he consider one time over 5% to be a better performance than 22 times over 5%?

Are you now beginning to see the foolishness of trickle-down economics, the foolishness of the political right, and the foolishness of people like Michael Knowles? - people who ridicule New Deal "socialism," even though New Deal "socialism" vastly outperforms trickle-down capitalism, and thereby creates a more vibrant middle-class.

Mr. Knowles: AOC is not the voice of an ignorant generation; you, however, are the voice of an ignorant political movement - because trickle-down capitalism isn't freedom... it's an under-performing joke.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

A year into the right-wing economic "miracle": The rich are receiving billions in tax cuts... but the value of our paychecks is crumbling

Above: "Poverty," an aquatint by Dorothy Rutka (1907-1985), created while she was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Our paychecks have weakened

Just about everyday, we hear some talking head on cable TV news--usually a right-winger, but sometimes a centrist--tell us that the "fundamentals of the economy" are strong, or even that we've experienced an economic "miracle." Lies. The value of our paychecks, which is fundamental to our economy, has deteriorated since Republicans handed out massive tax cuts to the rich a year ago.

According to the most recent real earnings summary from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), "Real average hourly earnings [for all workers] increased 1.1 percent [but see next paragraph], seasonally adjusted, from December 2017 to December 2018" (real earnings are your wages compared to the cost of goods and services). Are you impressed by that? Are you impressed that, after the rich received billions and billions in tax cuts, you got a raise of 1.1%?

And it may be worse. According to PayScale, an organization that studies workplace compensation, and uses a slightly different analysis than the BLS, real wages have actually fallen by 1.3% since the GOP's tax scam was enacted. Also, "more than 60% of Americans said they did not get a pay raise in the last year." (See, "Did you get a pay raise in 2018? This explains why you still feel broke," MarketWatch, January 12, 2019).

As if stagnant wages were not bad enough, we're also accumulating record household debt, we're struggling with retirement, and "most American's can't afford a minor emergency." Does that sound like a strong economy to you? So, why are the talking heads telling us that the economy is so great? For whom are they talking about? Also, are they being paid by the 1%, in one manner or another, to spout this nonsense?

Of course, none of this should really surprise us. Trickle-down economics has been with us since Ronald Reagan (and arguably even before Reagan), and it hasn't done much for us. For example, according to the Pew Research Center, "For most U.S. workers, real wages have barely budged in decades" (August 7, 2018). And on top of those stagnant and dropping wages, we have a whole host of other social, economic, and environmental maladies that have been ushered in by right-wing, coddle-the-rich economics: Children drinking lead from old pipes & plumbing; soaring national & personal debt; lowered life expectancy; rising rates of suicides & drug overdoses; mass incarceration; rural hospitals & clinics closing; larger & more deadly wildfires; a record amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; and on and on we could go.

A bubblehead nation?

In America today, we have an insane phenomenon occurring: Millions and millions of hardworking Americans are goosestepping behind a born-into-wealth "trust fund baby" president, who's never done a hard day's labor, has a long record of bankruptcies, and who "isn't long on empathy" (i.e., a sociopath). Why on God's Green Earth would any worker support such a person?

President Franklin Roosevelt was also born into wealth & privilege, but his experience with polio, and his willingness to learn from his wife Eleanor (as well as from advisers like Louis Howe and Harry Hopkins) made FDR a much more caring person. And so, he condemned the fraud of trickle-down economics and, instead, adopted public policies that coddled the rich less and helped the middle-class & poor more. As a result, real wages (the value of our paychecks) went up.

Isn't it funny that right-wingers condemn the New Deal, even though our wages went up and it set the stage for the greatest growth of the middle-class, but then praise trickle-down economics, even though that has meant decades of stagnant or dropping wages? And isn't funny, further, that tens of millions of hardworking Americans go along with this crap? What kind of cultural sickness grips a nation and makes it behave in such an idiotic, imbecilic, ignorant, half-witted, harebrained manner?

Above: This chart shows stagnant real wages in the United States, ca. 1924-1933, and then a dramatic boost during the New Deal. We could experience this again, but only if we abandon right-wing, coddle-the-rich economics. This chart is from Gerhard Bry, "Wages in Germany, Great Britain, and the United States," p. 278, in Gerhard Bry (ed.), Wages in Germany, 1871-1945, Princeton University Press, 1960. Image used for educational, non-commercial purposes.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Worried that their super-wealthy supervisors might get taxed more, the political right tries to nude-shame AOC

Above: "Sleeping Girl," a woodblock print on paper by Michael Gallagher (1898-1965), created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Gibbes Museum of Art.

The political right is pulling out its hair and gnashing its teeth over Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). They cannot believe that a member of Congress would have the audacity to tax their millionaire gods, their billionaire overlords, and their super-wealthy supervisors. The fact that she wants to represent the people and improve the common good is causing them to vomit up their lunch - like a snake vomiting up a recent meal to escape an approaching threat.

Recently, some on the political right have tried to circulate a fake nude of AOC (see, for example, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attacks The Daily Caller for publishing 'a fake nude photo of me'," Business Insider, January 10, 2019). 

I'm not sure what the original intent was, but the Internet circulation of the fake photo was almost certainly an attempt to discredit AOC and her policy goals. In other words, "her desire to tax the rich more is wrong because she once took a nude photo of herself." As absurd as that rationale is, many on the political right would, wholeheartedly, nod their empty heads in agreement.

AOC, of course, was having none of it, replying to the lurid, right-wing, yellow journalism, "GOP have been losing their mind + frothing at the mouth all week, so this was just a matter of time. There is also a Daily Mail reporter (Ruth Styles) going to my boyfriend’s relatives' homes + offering them cash for 'stories.' Women in leadership face more scrutiny... Completely disgusting behavior from Conservative outlets. No wonder they defended Kavanaugh so fiercely."

At the end of the day, the political right is having a hard time fighting AOC's policy agenda, because decades of right-wing trickle-down economics has wreaked havoc on our nation (stagnant wages, crumbling infrastructure, unmanageable personal & national debt, rising suicide rates, etc., etc., etc.). So, they're starting to look for things to discredit and shame her on a personal level. For example, has she ever been naked? Did she kiss a boy in the 5th grade? Did she ever dance in a sexy manner? Does she wear bikinis? Did she ever wear a skirt above the ankle? Has she ever had sexual thoughts, of any kind whatsoever? If they can prove any of these "horrible" things then that will prove, to them, that tax hikes on the super-rich and a Green New Deal are obviously wrong - merely the ideas of a liberal, sinning, wild woman.

Never underestimate idiocy.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

We should tax Sean Hannity more, so that millions of other Americans can have greater purchasing power

Above: Part of an artwork by Elizabeth Olds (1896-1991), created in 1939. Olds was a prolific lithographer in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. If living in America teaches you anything, it teaches you that many rich people are ultra-greedy - selfishly hoarding money while others suffer. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Sean Hannity is very upset about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's idea to tax the wealthy more, to fund a Green New Deal and other initiatives. Hannity says that if we tax people like him, they'll be less likely to buy yachts, buy new cars, go out to restaurants, or remodel their homes, etc. Hannity says, "The contractor, the electrician, the plumber, the carpenters - they're the ones that benefit when rich people spend money on their homes ("Sean Hannity Warns Tax Hikes Would Stop Rich People From Remodeling Homes," Huffington Post, January 9, 2019).

But wouldn't the contractors, and the tradesmen & women, benefit more if greater numbers of people could afford to remodel their homes? Wouldn't there be more car sales and more restaurant purchases if the middle-class & poor had more disposable income, instead of just barely makes ends meet, or paying so much money towards their student loans and usurious credit card balances? Right now, millions of people are not "in the game," so to speak, because "Most Americans Can’t Afford A Minor Emergency" (Huffington Post, January 29, 2018), let alone the luxuries of boats, new cars, and nights out on the town.

Hannity also warns that if he and his greedy peers are taxed more, well, "Rich people won't invest in companies, that means they're not going to hire people." But we've been lavishing tax breaks on the rich for decades now--Reagan tax cuts for the rich, Bush tax cuts for the rich, Trump tax cuts for the rich--and what do we have to show for it? These things: A gutted manufacturing sector (the rich sent most of those good-paying jobs overseas, or gave the jobs to robots); fixed pension plans replaced with roulette wheel 401Ks; and stagnant wages (see, e.g., "For most U.S. workers, real wages have barely budged in decades," Pew Research Center, August 7, 2018).

Ocasio-Cortez and others are right. We should tax the rich more, and use that revenue to help create a Green New Deal, so that millions of Americans can have better-paying jobs and better purchasing power. Money needs to be recycled - not vacuumed up to the top and thrown in a safe.

You know what's really sad though? Millions of Americans have no knowledge of history, no knowledge of economics, and no critical thinking skills. So, they'll goosestep behind Sean Hannity and cry out in anguish, "NO!! You can't tax the rich!!"

There are so many people spreading horsesh&t, and so many people eating that horsesh&t, that Hannity will probably win the argument. And so, the rich will continue to gobble up all the money, while our children continue to drink lead from old pipes & plumbing; while we sink further and further into unmanageable personal & national debt; while more people kill themselves out of despair; while our planet continues to heat up; while our wages continue to stagnate; and while our healthcare continues to get kicked & thrown around like a rugby ball. And the rich will be laughing the whole time, oinking with each other, "Holy smokes! What a bunch of ignorant suckers!!"

Isn't that pathetic? Isn't it pathetic that the American people have been reduced and humiliated to such a degree... and still haven't learned their lesson? The truth is, we've become sources of amusement for the rich - rubes and suckers, completely unaware of how embarrassed and ashamed we should be.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Nancy Pelosi shows off her incredible weakness and gullibility, telling MSNBC's Joy Reid that "we're not looking for a fight" - and will, instead, be seeking "bipartisanship" and "unity" with Republicans. Unbelievable.

Above: "Down and Out," a painting by B. Braverman, while the artist was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. Today, the Democratic Party needs to punch more, and take the mat less. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the New Deal Gallery in Mount Morris, NY.

Gullible, naive, weak, foolish

We are frequently told that Nancy Pelosi is a fighter and a powerhouse. A few days ago, her daughter gruesomely said, "She'll cut your head off and you won't even know you're bleeding." However, her recent interview with MSNBC's Joy Reid, at Trinity University, shows her to be a weak, gullible, and perhaps even delusional congresswoman.

Speaking about political division (see video of the interview here, starting about 36:15), Pelosi said she's going to seek bipartisanship, and that there's already bipartisan support on issues like prescription drug cost, infrastructure, gun safety, protection for the "Dreamers," ending discrimination against LGBTQ, and "a number of other issues." Joy Reid, the reliable cheerleader for centrist Democrats, played her role dutifully, nodding in approval and repeatedly saying "sure" to all this nonsense. 

Either Pelosi is purposefully deceiving the public or she's utterly clueless and delusional. There is not bipartisan support or agreement on any of the issues she mentions. Anyone who has paid attention to politics and the news these past 10+ years knows that conservatives and liberals are in complete disagreement on just about every major issue in this country. Indeed, this is why major issues remain unresolved; because neither party has been able to completely overpower the other - not in Congress and not in the court of public opinion.

This sort of "reaching across the aisle" during the Obama era was a complete disaster. It led to the Democratic Party losing 1,000 political seats across the country, and ushered in the lunatic Donald Trump. It seems that the Democratic Establishment has learned nothing. Nancy Pelosi has learned nothing. How can they be so damned obtuse?

Pelosi and her ilk are leading us to the next, perhaps final slaughter; they're setting the stage for the next madman - a madman even worse than Trump. Why? Because in their efforts to appease and shake hands with the Republican Party they will accomplish nothing (because the Republican Party wants them to accomplish nothing). And the resulting stagnation will infuriate a good percentage of the electorate. They'll be angry, desperate, and they'll fall for the next authoritarian carnival barker who promises to "Make America Great Again."

Above: "Bradshaw's Twist," an etching by Frank Ominsky (1898-1981), created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. Fighting in politics is the norm, not the exception. This will never change, because of the very nature of politics. The corporate-controlled Democratic Establishment seems to have forgotten this, and constantly tries to "reach across the aisle" to shake hands with vipers. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

We need a fire-breathing pugilist

Nancy Pelosi is perhaps well-intentioned; but she is nonetheless a political menace. The Nancy Pelosis, Hillary Clintons, and Barack Obamas of the world simply can't get it through their thick skulls: the Democratic Party needs to fight aggressively and fight dirty. They need to punch, kick, belittle, and snarl. They need to breathe fire like Daenerys Targaryen's dragons. They need to "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee," and then finish off their opponent with a series of merciless jabs, uppercuts, and roundhouses.

Republican politicians--who give endless tax breaks to the rich, while reducing the quality of life for the rest of us--need to be stomped into the ground and exposed for the sociopaths that they are. If supposed "fighter" Nancy Pelosi isn't up to the task, then she should step down and let someone else take up the leadership role. Someone with fire & fight.

Instead of reaching across the aisle, Democrats need to write up legislation that will help the American people, and then let Republicans block it, as they inevitably will (Republicans sign nothing that does not, somehow, someway, enrich the already-rich), and then broadcast those blockades every minute of every day. Show the American people how the Republican Party is damaging their lives and blocking progress.

Yes - punch, kick, elbow, clothesline, trip, spit, growl, poke in the eye and never apologize. That's how you win in politics. That's how you beat Republicans and their hideous policies.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

AOC welcomes their hatred

Above: In this 1-minute audio clip, from a speech on October 31, 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt says he welcomes the hatred of those who wish to subvert democracy with their wealth. The words you will hear in this clip are the greatest words ever spoken by a president.

A right-wing Twitter user published a video of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) dancing, and wrote: "Here is America's favorite commie know-it-all acting like the clueless nitwit she is." AOC responded by posting a video of herself dancing outside her congressional office, and wrote, "I hear the GOP thinks women dancing are scandalous. Wait till they find out Congresswomen dance too!"

Presumably, the right-winger who posted the video of AOC dancing, and thinks such dancing is the sign of a nitwit, has little-or-no problem with Donald Trump having adulterous affairs with playmates and porn stars, and grabbing women by the you-know-what without even asking. We may never know for sure, because the right-winger appears to have deleted his Twitter account, creeping back into the shadows whence he came.

AOC has made a habit of fighting back, without hesitation, against neoliberal and right-wing detractors, and has no problem accepting the centrist criticism, "radical." She recently said: "I think that it only has ever been radicals that have changed this country. Abraham Lincoln made the radical decision to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the radical decision to embark on establishing programs like Social Security. That is radical... You know, if that's what radical means, call me a radical."

AOC also wants to tax the rich, quite heavily, to improve the common good (like FDR did). For this, she will receive a lot of hatred, not only from right-wing millionaires & billionaires, but also from their lapdogs. The lapdogs will bark loudly, to protest any tax rate increase on their millionaire & billionaire masters. They'll cry in agony, "NO! Don't tax my holy job creators!!" ("Job creators" who, by the way, have spent the past many years exporting good jobs and replacing them with crap jobs. See, for example, "For most U.S. workers, real wages have barely budged in decades," Pew Research Center, August 7, 2018).

Yes, the bootlickers, toadies, and sycophants will come out in force against AOC's tax agenda. And for every insult they lob at AOC, perhaps their masters will toss them a little doggy treat, "Yes, that's it, good boy! Protect my wealth... protect my privilege... and protect my children, who will inherit great wealth while your children struggle and fight for the scraps... good, GOOD BOY!!"

The fact is, we desperately need more representatives and leaders like AOC... representatives who truly understand the meaning & value of a government that is of, by, and for the people... leaders who will welcome the hatred of the right-wing millionaires, billionaires, and lickspittles.

Above: A WPA poster. Let's hope that AOC never stops dancing and will, someday, dance on the grave of inhumane right-wing policies that take from the struggling poor and give to the undeserving rich. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The political & Christian right tell us that the poor are incompetent lazy pigs, who can't create jobs and watch too much porn

Above: The description for this photograph, taken in May 1936, reads, "Stony Creek CCC Camp, Ross County. CCC boys are shown grouped together with an Emergency School teacher who is giving them lessons in advanced algebra. These fellows are taking this course with the expectation that it will assist them in later jobs that they may get." Most CCC enrollees came from low-income families, and were considered by many Americans to be lazy good-for-nothings. But, when given opportunities from the New Deal, instead of insults, they thrived. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

On a recent episode of Fox & Friends, right-wing ideologue Star Parker shamed low-income men who receive food assistance: "These guys are not working... They're watching porn, they're watching TV, they're watching women, they're watching everything, but they're not working."

However, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "Most Working-Age SNAP Participants Work, But Often in Unstable Jobs" (March 15, 2018). That sounds right; because if there's anything America's holy "JOB CREATORS" are proficient at, it's in making unstable low-wage jobs.

Jerry Falwell, Jr., leader of the Christian right, recently mocked low-income Americans: "A poor person never gave anyone a job."

But poor people (and the middle-class) do create jobs. Every time they make a purchase they put money back into the economy. If people stopped spending we'd enter another Great Depression.

Falwell's comments are reminiscent of President Donald Trump's statement that he doesn't want a poor person running the economy. The implication, of course, is that poor people are far too incompetent to run things. But let's think about that for a moment: What have the rich accomplished during their management of the economy? A ballooning national debt, crumbling infrastructure, stagnant wages, mass incarceration, rising suicide rates, and a planet heating so rapidly that human existence is now in serious jeopardy. In fact, one of the few real accomplishments of the rich is that they've enriched themselves further. They've been gorging on so much money these past few decades, while everyone else suffers mentally and/or financially, that they're now enjoying record-breaking fortunes.

Insulting the poor is a central feature of the modern political & Christian right. Whether they're calling them "takers," "wild animals," or "lazy pigs," they LOVE to mock and ridicule the less fortunate. Sometimes they'll frame it as "tough love," i.e., shaming the poor into correct behavior. But to me, that's like punching someone in the stomach, and causing internal bleeding, to let them know that they should be exercising and strengthening their abdominal muscles.

Insulting the poor does not improve their lot in life. If anything, it just exacerbates the cultural belief & myth that the poor are ne'er-do-wells who are not worth hiring, promoting, or trusting with responsibility.

Above: A WPA worker in Webb City, Missouri, 1936. The WPA hired millions of poor, unemployed Americans to modernize America's infrastructure. Their vast public works are still in use today. Isn't it funny that so many on the political right consider the poor to be worthless, or even sub-human, yet they're benefiting so greatly from the work of the poor (roads, bridges, airports, parks, water lines, sewers, etc.)? Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

"If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven... I say again - it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!"

--Jesus, from the book of Matthew. No words from Jesus are more despised by the political & Christian right. They hate that he said this, and willfully disobey. The disobedience can be seen, for example, when televangelists live opulent lifestyles and their flocks continue to follow them, and also when conservative politicians insult the poor but evangelicals repeatedly vote for them anyway. What a sham, what a farce.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Deal Art: "The Start"

Above: "The Start," a drypoint on paper by Lee Townsend (1895-1965), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. According to an AskArt page, "Lee Townsend was active/lived in New Jersey, Wyoming, Illinois," and was known for illustrating books and creating art related to horses. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Weatherspoon Art Museum.