Saturday, December 01, 2012

On Government

It is not terribly easy to define precisely what the term “government” means. But if it has anything to do with managing public affairs and the public good I think it might be possible to argue that we no longer really have government. Public affairs, and especially the public good seem to have pretty much disappeared from what goes on in Washington, D.C. When it becomes obvious that many, if not most of our Senators and House members no longer represent the public, but, rather, the myriad special and private interests that are bribing them it would seem they are engaged far more in managing private affairs rather than public ones. This situation is summed up pretty well in the observation that we have “the best government money can buy.” Until money is removed from the political process (something that may never happen) there is little hope for having something that might be described truly as “governing.” Of course the recent ruling by the Supreme Court that money represents speech means that we can never have anything even resembling traditional government. This really boils down to saying “He who has the most toys wins,” which seems to be the basic mantra of the United States these days.
I confess to being lost in a sea of fog and incomprehension. I cannot understand how and why so many of our elected officials seem to have joined me in this fog and lack of understanding. I know nothing of economics, having never been in the least bit attracted to the “dismal science.” Nor have I ever had any interest in or experience with business. I know I should probably not presume to comment on such weighty matters, especially living here somewhat isolated near the end of the earth. I think perhaps I simply do not understand complicated matters like business, finance, and government (and free-market capitalism terrifies me). For example, somewhere yesterday one of our erstwhile leaders said, “Businesses are making record profits, so where are the jobs.” Maybe I am wrong but this seems to me to represent such a misunderstanding of capitalism I cannot believe anyone actually said it. One of the ways businesses make profits is by cutting down on their workforce. That is, eliminating jobs, reducing their payroll, and squeezing more work out of fewer employees. The increase in profits has to be directly related to the resistance to labor unions, minimum wages, a large pool of unemployed persons willing to work for less, and so on, all linked to the fundamental greed that seems to accompany such things. Greed seems to be a fundamental prerequisite for an all-out assault on the working class.
Along these lines I recently learned that the average wage for Costco employees is $17 an hour, contrasted with the $8.81 per hour of Walmart employees. Costco still manages to make a profit. So what difference does it make with respect to profit? The head of Costco apparently makes a measly $500,000 annually, so most of the profit is shared with the employees. Contrast this with Walmart where apparently the five or six members of the owning family have between them more wealth than some 40% of all Americans. That is, the owners of Walmart pocket for themselves most of the profit whereas the owner of Costco shares it with his employees. In my opinion the Costco plan is how things should be, the only explanation for why they are not is, as far as I know, just pure and simply, greed. This type of greed seems to have become commonplace for those who own and/or manage corporations. I see no reason why a few people in charge of Disneyland, for example, should get 100 million per year for their services, garnered by the high prices they charge the children for their (basically artificial) pleasures. Personally, I think this is disgusting. It is by no means unique to either Disney or Walmart, and represents capitalistic greed at its absolute worst. How this has been sold to the American public as the best economic system on earth I cannot understand.
I think the current argument about raising taxes on billionaires and multi-millionaires by 2 or 4% is basically pathetic. Their taxes should be raised more like 60 or 70% or even more. If I understand it correctly under Eisenhower their tax rate was 90% and they still made money. The current attempt by the Republican Party to protect the obscenely wealthy is itself obscene, and should rightfully be so considered. Here again I can see no other explanation than greed gone wild. After my 83 years of life in this culture I have come to understand that the U.S., far from being the land of “milk and honey,” is in fact the land of greed and exploitation. This cannot be allowed to continue. It probably will not much longer as it is this same greed and exploitation that will eventually doom us all. Perhaps the only consolation is the fact that the greedy bastards will not be able to take it with them.
 Do not seek evil gains; evil gains are the equivalent of disaster.


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