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February 23, 2011

Scott Walker [Hearts] NY Times

For me the best part of the Scott Walker prank call is how much he loves a New York Times article:

SCOTT WALKER: The New York Times, of all things—I don't normally tell people to read the New York Times, but the front page of the New York Times, they've got a great story—one of these unbelievable moments of true journalism—what it's supposed to be, objective journalism—they got out of the capital and went down one county south of the capital, to Janesville, to Rock County, that's where the General Motors plant once was.

FAKE DAVID KOCH: Right, right.

WALKER: They moved out two years ago. The lead on this story's about a guy who was laid off two years ago, he'd been laid off twice by GM, who points out that everybody else in his town has had to sacrifice except for all these public employees, and it's about damn time they do and he supports me. And they had a bartender, they had—every stereotypical blue collar worker-type, they interviewed, and the only ones who weren't with us were ones who were either a public employee or married to a public employee. It's an unbelievable—so I went through and called all these, uh, a handful, a dozen or so lawmakers I worry about each day, and said to them, everyone, get that story and print it out and send it to anybody giving you grief.

Given the New York Times' century-long hatred of labor, it's funny that Walker thinks the story he's talking about is somehow unusual. But in any case, the picture the article paints is horribly sad—of people who've been brutalized by Wall Street and GM blaming each other for what happened, with no understanding of who's done this to them and how.

JANESVILLE, Wis. — Rich Hahan worked at the General Motors plant here until it closed about two years ago. He moved to Detroit to take another G.M. job while his wife and children stayed here, but then the automaker cut more jobs. So Mr. Hahan, 50, found himself back in Janesville, collecting unemployment for a time, and watching as the city’s industrial base seemed to crumble away...

He says he still believes in unions, but thinks those in the public sector lead to wasteful spending because of what he sees as lavish benefits and endless negotiations.

“Something needs to be done,” he said, “and quickly.”...

“Everyone else needs to pinch pennies and give more money to health insurance companies and pay for their own retirement,” said Cindy Kuehn as she left Jim and Judy’s Food Market in Palmyra. “It’s about time the buck stops.”...

Crystal Watkins, a preschool teacher at a Lutheran church, said she was paid less than public school teachers and got fewer benefits. “I don’t have any of that,” she said. “But I’m there every day because I love the kids.”

In Palmyra, a small village bounded by farmland and forests, MaryKay Horter remembered how her husband’s Chevy dealership had teetered on the brink of closing after General Motors declared bankruptcy, for which she blamed unions.

Ms. Horter said she was forced to work more hours as an occupational therapist, but had not seen a raise or any retirement contributions from her employer for the last two years. All told, her family’s income has dropped by about a third.

“I don’t get to bargain in my job, either,” she said.

You have to admit, the people who run the U.S. do a great job.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at February 23, 2011 01:46 PM

Divide and conquer... the easy and winning strategy for those who aspire to dominate.

Keep spreading the word. You are good.

Posted by: Matt at February 23, 2011 02:54 PM

I'll bet that GREEDY REALLY is on the line with STUPID now. Stupid should learn to screen his calls, but then stupid is as stupid does.

Wisconsin: Ya git the gummint ya deserve.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 23, 2011 03:19 PM

Yeahbut what about all the rich people who can't afford $1000/bottle champagne anymore because of Obama's tax increases? Aren't they a persecuted minority? Why do you have no sympathy for them, you fake humanitarian?

Posted by: Duncan at February 23, 2011 04:18 PM

I'll admit, I don't read the news enough to understand what is going on here. Maybe I'll drop out of following it at all and then, given my luck, all this (North Africa, the mid-west) will turn out to be the Revolution. You can thank me later.

Posted by: Cloud at February 23, 2011 04:59 PM

Don't leave now the funs just starting. Walker's talking baseball bats. I JUST waiting on the balls.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 23, 2011 05:51 PM

Typo; He's JUST Waiting on the balls.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 23, 2011 05:52 PM

There needs to be a special name for this type of faulty thinking as it is so common - sort of a workingman's Stockholm Syndrome.

It is interesting that they seem to be advocating a system of government that enforces a standardized pay and benefit structure for everyone of their own class but rewards a small upper class with wealth and power based strictly on politics.

Fortunately I believe we already have a name for this kind of political system.

Posted by: Jimbo at February 23, 2011 07:11 PM

You caught the byline on that article, right? Family business.

Posted by: Josh K-sky at February 23, 2011 07:18 PM

You have to admit, the people who run the U.S. do a great job.

They couldn't do it without the newest member of the gang, "We'll eat your LUNCH" Sulzberger.

Posted by: Happy Jack at February 23, 2011 07:29 PM

Monarchists. Wilson was right the first time. They ALMOST had killed themselves off, and WE were selling BOTH sides guns and powder. WE should have JUST STAYED HOME.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 23, 2011 08:53 PM

How come when people complain about government employees "lavish benefits," it's always in-fighting among the poor, working class?

The "lavish benefits" they should complain about go to the administrators and the congresspeople -- like the lifetime health care and pensions after 2 years in congress. Nobody is talking about cutting the benefits of congress.

Yet, we're ALL supposed to have skin in the game and sacrifice.

Everyone except those who don't have to live under the laws they pass.

Posted by: Sophie at February 23, 2011 08:53 PM

Monarchists. Wilson was right the first time. They ALMOST had killed themselves off, and WE were selling BOTH sides guns and powder. WE should have JUST STAYED HOME.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 23, 2011 08:55 PM

Quite--and the "argument" posited by those seeking to undermine the EFCA card check is that the danger is from the union, i.e., the threat to this 235-year-old hypocritical stinkhole called "America" is that there will be coercion used against the employee [!]: ostensibly, he/she will be under duress to accept a better wage and benefits package for him/herself and the family.

Not, mind you, that management/owners will likely retaliate against a worker pursuing the possibility--the right, under the Wagner Act--of collective bargaining, but that we must safeguard the "right" of the worker to not be exposed to "hidden union coercion" [!].

The other euphemism employed by the investor class is the "right to work state" ploy--i.e., the outrageous utterly bogus subtext being that the unions are keeping a segment of the population from working. In actual fact, the avoidance of being a fucking wage slave for the rest of their natural lives is the option that the unions provide.

Without someone zealously agitating on behalf of the working class for a living wage the chances are slim to none that the worker will see anything better than subsistence wages in his or her pay envelope--in addition to virtually non-existent benefits for him/herself and family members. To wit:

"The National Labor Relations Act or Wagner Act (after its sponsor, Senator Robert F. Wagner) (Pub.L. 74-198, 49 Stat. 449, codified as amended at 29 U.S.C. § 151–169), is a 1935 United States federal law that limits the means with which employers may react to workers in the private sector who create labor unions, engage in collective bargaining, and take part in strikes and other forms of concerted activity in support of their demands" [Wiki].

Posted by: Dean Taylor at February 23, 2011 10:32 PM

from Democracy Now:

NOAM CHOMSKY: There has been a huge attack against private sector unions. Actually, that’s been going on since the Second World War. After the Second World War, business was terrified about the radicalization of the country during the Depression and then the war, and it started right off—Taft-Hartley was 1947—huge propaganda campaigns to demonize unions. It really—and it continued until you get to the Reagan administration.

Reagan was extreme. Beginning of his administration, one of the first things was to call in scabs—hadn’t been done for a long time, and it’s illegal in most countries—in the air controller strike. Reagan essentially—by "Reagan," I mean his administration; I don’t know what he knew—but they basically told the business world that they’re not going to apply the labor laws. So, that means you can break unions any way you like. And in fact, the number of firing of union organizers, illegal firing, I think probably tripled during the Reagan years.

Then, in fact, by the early '90s, Caterpillar Corporation, first major industrial corporation, called in scabs to break a strike of industrial workers, UAW. That's—I think the only country that allowed that was South Africa. And then it spread.

When Clinton came along, he had another way of destroying unions. It’s called NAFTA. One of the predicted consequences of NAFTA, which in fact worked out, was it would be used as a way to undermine unions—illegally, of course. But when you have a criminal state, it doesn’t matter. So, there was actually a study, under NAFTA rules, that investigated illegal strike breaking organizing efforts by threats, illegal threats, to transfer to Mexico. So, if union organizers are trying to organize, you put up a sign saying, you know, "Transfer operation Mexico." In other words, you shut up, or you’re going to lose your jobs. That’s illegal. But again, if you have a criminal state, it doesn’t matter.

Well, by measures like this, private sector unions have been reduced to, I think, maybe seven percent of the workforce. Now, it’s not that workers don’t want to join unions. In fact, many studies of this, there’s a huge pool of workers who want to join unions, but they can’t. And they’re getting no support from the political system. And part of the reason, not all of it, is these $2 billion campaigns. Now, this really took off in the late '70s and the ’80s. You want to run for office, then you're going to have to dig into very deep pockets. And as the income distribution gets more and more skewed, that means you’re going to have to go after Jeffrey Immelt and Lloyd Blankfein, and so on and so forth, if you want to even be in office. Take a look at the 2008 campaign spending. Obama way outspent McCain. He was funded—his main source of funding was the financial institutions.

AMY GOODMAN: Now they’re saying he’s going to raise, Obama is going to raise $1 billion for the next campaign.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah, and it’ll probably be more than that, because they’re predicting $2 billion for the whole campaign, and the incumbent usually has advantages.


Posted by: Dean Taylor at February 24, 2011 03:09 AM

“I don’t get to bargain in my job, either,” she said.

Yeah, just who do these unions think they are anyway? I have to work for low wages and no benefits. Why can't everyone else? I mean, sheesh.

Posted by: Paul Avery at February 24, 2011 06:59 AM

Class War in Wisconsin

Labour is seriously divided. The political right has invested heavily in turning private sector employees against their public sector counterparts. And, it has worked. After three decades of war on private sector unions, only 7% of non-public workers are protected. Predictably, this has translated into an almost complete erosion of their previously held health and pension plans they once enjoyed.

Today, US private sector workers have been reduced to Japanese-like long hours. Their health plans consist of HMOs providing substandard care, often having to navigate numbing bureaucracies, only to be told "coverage denied". They no longer have employer-paid pensions. Most are now on their own when it comes to retirement. Or if lucky, they may have a generous employer that gives half towards a 401k plan that merely feeds traders on Wall Street, while never delivering enough returns actually to fund their retirement.

In short, it has been a return of the mean season. Briefly, in 2008, this frustration was directed against the Republicans. Yet, the Democrats delivered no tangible gains for labour since taking power then, and now, the right has helped steer working-class anger away from Wall Street and back to Main Street's teachers and public employees. Deftly executed, private sector workers without benefits now blame workers who do have them as the cause of their deprivation. Instead of seeing the gains unions can deliver, private sector workers now take the lesson that these gains have somehow been taken at their expense – all the while ignoring the trough-feeding that continues unabated on Wall Street.

The new class war, as it is actually perceived, is not between workers and capital, but between private and public sector workers, with the fires generously stoked by the billionaire Koch brothers and rightwing money generally.

--Jeffrey Sommers

Posted by: Paul Avery at February 24, 2011 07:24 AM

I said it before and I'll say it again...there needs to be a revolution in this country-USA- for there to be any substantial change that benefits the majority of the population. This will only come about by vast sustained protest and direct action. Until we reach that point we will be basically pissing in the wind.-Tony

Posted by: tony at February 24, 2011 08:24 AM

I'm all in favor of the mean season. I need to start being meaner to Republicans.

Posted by: Duncan at February 24, 2011 09:58 AM

OBVIOUS ANSWER---Globalize the Unions, get the laws changed that way. Union COHESION is EASILY accomplished through the net.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 24, 2011 10:04 AM

This was atrocious reporting, and probably utter horseshit. Anecdotes are not polling data. My guess is that they had the piece already written and then interviewed folks until they found the stories they wanted, because there are angry blue-collar types are everywhere (although the wife of a car-dealership doesn't really qualify). The national polling data don't support this malarky. Judging by what I saw when I was there on Monday, there was heavy representation by rank and file members of private sector unions, and my own store of anecdotes include republican union members who scoffed at what the union was telling them in November as alarmist, and who then showed up last Wednesday in Madison to demonstrate. The New York Times just wants us to believe are neighbors are a bunch of shitheels to stop us from working with them.

Posted by: Bob Clark at February 24, 2011 05:03 PM

Bob Clark sounds right to me, and Mike Meyer is singing the Internationale pretty nicely, though Union cohesion in my opinion isn't going to result from the Internet. Has anybody formed a Facebook union solidary group yet? I wonder how that will work out. . .

Posted by: N E at February 24, 2011 07:09 PM

NE: Hate to say it but Marx told YOU so back in the day. But that ain't what I'm talking about. I'M promoting a POLITICAL service using THE INTERNET. I look at it as COMPETITION against POOR WAGES&NO BENNIES. I would place workers right as a PARTY PLANK second only to GITMO.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 24, 2011 09:22 PM

To add further context to this entire tragic, 235-year-old duplicitous narrative: Matt Taibbi has learned that DoJ is participating in a Wall Street rentier "safe passage" protocol.

That is, the SEC--the federal agency enjoined as purported watchdogs of investor-class larceny--is laboring with the DoJ to slipstream rentiers who have possibly..."strayed" too far over the line of financial propriety (e.g., insider trading scams) to alert them of federal juridical intent.

By doing so, the potential-felon rentier may then plan his/her legal gambit vis a vis the suspect behaviour. If it is learned--via SEC as legal conduit--that DoJ intends to tread lightly (if at all), then minor-to-no investment "adjustments" are needful.

How's that! How's that for a "Fuck you, working class!" message! If the State had any more contempt for the working class--or, better: if the State could get away with it--Forwardlooking would go to Madison and whip out his schlang at the mezzanine and urinate down upon the activists.

Posted by: Dean Taylor at February 25, 2011 07:59 AM

PLANK#3; Honesty in the DOJ: A LOT-O-JAYBIRDS need to need to be jailbirds. Some from these CORRUPT administrations, and a cagefull from Wall Street.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 25, 2011 02:15 PM

There is no solid slur for a rich person.

Understand this and you understand nearly all that's wrong with western civilization.

I was talking to an anglophilic friend of mine from India. We were discussing race and class. We had, between us, lots of nasty names for poor people, various forms of brown people, and a few solid ones for well-off (usually white, but not necessarily) people. Particularly nasty ones for just plain old white people weren't in the offering -- and he had a lot more linguistic diversity to choose from than I did. And neither of us could come up with a truly obnoxious, not to mention actually vile one, for rich. The best he managed was "ponce."

Our society's social values are the values of our aristocracy pressed down on us like a stencil. We, in a very general sense, think of richness as something to aspire to and, as such, have a respect for richness even when it, and its holders, are riotously unrespectable. And despite the notions that the impoverished have a certain dignity, and despite explicity and unambiguous blessings from the founder of our most popular religion, we hate the poor. There's really no other word for it. We don't even say "poor" in televised political discorse anymore. With exceptions: Edwards did -- and things worked out so well for him.

The reason why labor can be divided up so easily is because of that unfounded, ridiculous respect. Private-sector workers simply refuse to judge their richer peers by any human standard. They're not really people. Thus, the economy is as much the fault of the president or the banks as much as it is the fault of the weather. It's the job of the worker to deal with it. And, as such, if there's any notion that the public sector worker is better off, well, fuck him.

We are ruled by an aristocracy that, for many people, can literally do no wrong -- no moral wrong.

This is why race often factors into this. Race is a form of class -- nothing more. Class is arbitrary and non-exclusive; you can belong to several at once. So long as each class, however you want to formulate them, is aspiring to be like the rich, they will always treat their non-rich fellows with contempt.

So while the NYT piece may be ginned up, the quotes could very well be real. I've known people that I respected and was shocked to learn that they didn't like taxing the rich "because I might become rich someday." They later disabused themsevles of this idiocy -- the Bush Administration helped them along probably more than I did -- but this notion is widespread in the population and is the sibling of the intra-class contempt that's being played out right now.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at February 25, 2011 10:47 PM

The Great Taboo broken here is the taboo of Empire which disallows even the MENTION of the phrase "working class."

And why might that be so, i.e., why might it be the case that the State/corporate/MSM regime studiously avoids even the mention of the term?

Because, first, it would risk ALERTING the slumbering giant--i.e., the overriding majority of the rank and file--that such a thing as "class" even exists! That is to say, one of the ways that consent is manufactured to control those who have been marginalized by predatory capitalism--marginalized as a function of its top-down, exploitive hierarchy--is by perpetrating the ruse that we have 1) a democracy, where 2) "all men are created equal."

That feint by those courting and wielding Power has great utility in that the working class is placated and tranquilized--i.e., drugged!--and thereby kept off balance as would-be activists. The psy-op process works something like this: "Even though I am a plumber's assistant [or store clerk, or office worker, etc.], I am JUST AS GOOD as anybody else in this country and--by extension--in the world, since we Americans are exceptional!"

It is an utterly cynical tactic used by those preservers of the status quo, playing upon the worst features of a humanity beaten down by elitist interests--i.e., it belies the actual antagonist (that identity purposely obscured) and, as victims are predisposed to become victimizers, it ultimately sets one worker against another, both globally and at home, as the true source of his immiseration is elided.

That is, (and, secondly), by broaching the term, its counterpoint--i.e., the INVESTOR CLASS--is inevitably brought to the fore. This is problematic because now an antagonistic dyad--i.e., pairing off--has been determined and, therefore, also serves to alert the working class that there does, in fact, exist ANOTHER collective of which 1) he is most certainly NOT a member, and 2) he is, in fact, shunned, feared, kept at a safe distance, etc.--literally, via housing/education/health care strata, and metaphorically, via elitist entitlements believed OWED only to the "better" people, i.e., by those comprising the investor/property owning opulent minority.

postscript: for more on this ALL-IMPORTANT issue:

The Hidden Injuries of Class, by Richard Sennet*

*"the Centennial Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics, the Bemis Adjunct Professor of Sociology at MIT and Professor of the Humanities at New York University" [Wiki].

Posted by: Dean Taylor at February 26, 2011 01:22 AM

The term "working class" was invented to obscure references to the poor. It only makes sense once you realize that the term "middle class" already exists, making the neologism redundant. Until I got that working class included the poor, it confused the hell out of me when I was younger. Clinton (the male) used it often enough for me to remember it, I think, but it isn't bandied about that often. But you'd better believe that talking heads will use that term before they'll say "poor."

Posted by: No One of Consequence at February 26, 2011 03:17 PM

And, lest we forget, let's remember that corruption of purpose (though out-and-out financial corruption is not out of the question) within unions has helped keep workers weak. U.S. labor law protects union leaders with an efficacy only comparable to how it protects corporations, and workers have a hell of a time fixing their unions through the courts. As for union stupidity, they have absolutely no remedy. Many unions backed Reagan and Clinton -- hell, PATCO (air traffic controllers) backed Reagan!

Populists are placed in the unenviable position of having to fight unions because they back anti-union establishment democrats, not only donating worker money but propagandizing for them.

Is it any wonder unions cannot spearhead our interests anymore? We can't even think of a slogan that covers them. Union-first-so-long-as-the-union-isn't-mobbed-up-or-a-company-shop-(since-many,-many-are)-and,-even-then,-an-exception-must-be-made-for-powerful-unions-that-back-pro-NAFTA-and-other-investment-treaties-while-refusing-to-educate-their-membership.

Workers of the World Unite! still works. That phrase almost explicitly encourages one to not join one of the bigger, U.S. establishment unions since one is joining with others worldwide.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at February 27, 2011 01:05 AM

know the enemy!

The antagonistic nature of the terms "working class/"investor class"--an index pointing up the all-too-real malign, adversarial "relationship" at large--is lost in using the term "middle class." There, one notes an almost benign, innocuous construct--compared to the cognomen "working class".

My sense of the matter is that "working class" is even more detrimental to the State/corporate programme owing to the reality of one group actually working being named as such, while the exclusive clique of investors would rather "consult"--e.g., with one's stockbroker, attorneys, etc.--than actually labor. Living off of the ample returns to be had in the buying and selling of debt--Goldman-Sachs' CDOs underwritten by AIG/FP's credit default swaps--has no issue, i.e., neither goods nor services that actually add to the non-exclusive Commonweal. Which is why they are referred to as rentiers: the receipt of monies for letting out land--when one does not improve or labor upon said property--was famously condemned as immoral by Marx and other socialist in the 19th c.

Again, too, "middle class" as opposed to--what?--the "well-to-do"? The antagonism-at-large is not apparent in that match.

The "working class"/"investor class" dyad has great utility, at the very least, for identifying the unremitting, exceedingly destructive conflict in play. The
otherizing term "poor" elicits less the idea of warring than that of a non-descript collective which exists, somewhere, possibly akin to zombies, i.e., living, literally, from hand to mouth.

Then, too, there is a religious element to the term--individuals have been known to identify as "poor" vis a vis asceticism for one's spiritual development--Gandhi, Siddharta, ascetic Christian sects, etc. The ruling/investor class have fostered that idea of "sacrifice" as a good to be aspired to! And, be convinced that they are eager to create this kind of confusion in order to keep the sans culottes away from the barricades.

But, yes, "working class" and "poor" are, essentially, on one side of the equation, but the absolute necessity of identifying "the enemy" is aided via the prodigious mention of who it is that is facing destruction: the collective that labors, producing goods and services, i.e., the working class. By doing so, the alternative is compelled, i.e., the terms "well-to-do" and "poor" do not draw up lines of battle as well as "working class" invites. The term "investor class" elicits the crux of the matter: capital, and to then cite the existence of the obverse--working class--keeps the true struggle in view.

Posted by: Dean Taylor at February 27, 2011 01:24 AM

I think you're discussing which terms are most rhetorically useful. If so, we have a slight disagreement, I think.

Working class isn't much of a compliment. Sure, it sounds nice -- if you're already well-off. It sounds generous. That's kind of the problem. It implies you don't have the means to avoid work.

I understand that the term also implicitly accuses the richer classes of not working, but hell, that's part of their mystique in western culture. Further, the lumping-together of a migrant worker and well-paid doctor into one class is disquieting -- for the migrant worker, not the doctor. If the doctor chooses to identify with a less-affluent class, that's fine since it's likely he or she has the wherewithal to understand the implications of that choice. Poor people should, under no circumstances, be encouraged to identify with a richer group of people by willfully ignoring the difference in economic power; they don't have the time and influence (usually) to protect their interests as well.

Further, investor class is a very bad term. Due to pension funds, plenty of U.S. citizens can arguably be lumped into that category -- and if that isn't what you intended by the phrase, then the problem is still ambiguity due to the decision's arguability. Investors, in and of themselves, aren't really the movers and shakers in the U.S. -- some investors are. The rest of them, regardless of their highly variable socioeconomic backgrounds, are what we call "chumps." If you have to pursue criminals after the crime and can't prevent the crime from occuring, you're not really running anything. Investors are ridiculously weak in the U.S. due to the lack of majority voting in shareholder decisions and laws favoring CEOs and boards of directors over shareholders.

Hell, investors, especially small ones, have a tremendous amount of shared interests with the poorest members of society. The Wall St. Casino is very bad for most investors (by number, not by financial power), just as it is for everyone else. Dems and Repugs both use (weak) investors as pawns.

The term that should be applied is already well-heeled: aristocracy. This gets to the heart of it: those who, due to elite status, rule. The problem isn't corporations, or investors, or even merely politicians, but aristocracy. That is the class you want to set off from the rest -- this is the only "other" that can be justifiably denoted.

Poor may have inherent negative connotations, but those can be challenged. If you can strip those away -- and you can, because plenty of people in poor and middle-class neighborhoods do -- you end up with a net sense of virtue. This is because many middle-class people and poor people have a lot of overlap -- you can bounce from one to another visciously. They're really the same class, obscured only by the timeframe selected, like two chemicals trading a proton back and forth.

I wouldn't be adverse to the use of all of poor, poverty, working class, and common citizen, however. Rhetorically speaking, the "other" needs one term -- aristocracy, I'd argue -- but "we" can fit in lots of places.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at February 27, 2011 10:18 AM

I'm a Migrant Laborer. At present I'm following around horses and cows, on foot. I have a Zulu Speer.
But with the advent of THE INTERNET, I HAVE POLITICAL POWER. More power than carrying that speer ever did. Why, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner know me and where I live, and I OFTEN give them advice on political issues. Believe me without the internet the thought would not have crossed my mind.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 27, 2011 12:14 PM

"investors, especially small ones, have a tremendous amount of shared interests with the poorest members of society"

Investors don't think that, and neither do the poorest members of society, and neither do I.

"Investors are ridiculously weak in the U.S. due to the lack of majority voting in shareholder decisions and laws favoring CEOs and boards of directors over shareholders."

I think that's dead wrong. CEOS and boards have power, but generally because they represent huge blocks of shares. The overall trend in the past 30 years has been toward greater shareholder control, not less shareholder control. The whole Milken/Drexel led Wall Street financialization of the US economy in the 80s subjected all companies to takeovers whenever management failed to exercise sufficient ruthless economic discipline on labor. Enlightened management gets replaced whenever it fails to take any opportunity not to maximize short-term value. That process works through shareholder control, not management control, and the takeovers have been leveraged with Wall Street money that made it possible to acquire companies without vast capital by taking on enormous debt and using the debt aggressively to take apart companies, dismantle pension funds, break unions, and end collective bargaining. Junk bonds first made this possible, but all sorts of financial vehicles have followed. The most notable result has been the destruction of US manufacturing in many sectors, the latest result complete Wall Street dominance.

"The problem isn't corporations, or investors, or even merely politicians, but aristocracy."

Well, our current aristocracy is corporate. We don't have a landed gentry, or even some racial dominant group like wasps or anglo-saxons. Those who run international corporations can be small town boys from the heartland, eastern Jews, Europeans, Asians, South Americans, and people from lots of different races and ethnic and religious backgrounds, but they must fit seamlessly into the dominant international business/corporate culture. The children of these people attend the same international schools and they go to the same ski resort vacations, and they have lots of the same facebook friends and linkedin contacts. Membership in this corporate class cuts across national borders. The modern Holy Roman Empire is global capitalism, now principally finance capitalism, and the aristocracy running the empire consists of the corporate membership. The representatives of the multinational corporations move freely between business and government and even the nonprofit world across national borders, and their influence is derivative of the corporate wealth behind them.

So I think the problem is principally not artistocratic. Fundamentally, it is economic, as a materialist view of history would suggest.

Posted by: N E at February 27, 2011 03:43 PM

"Investors, in and of themselves, aren't really the movers and shakers in the U.S. -- some investors are."

Well, that's it: it's the top five-or-so per cent that are deemed "players"--and, NOT, e.g., Aunt Fartface, the spinster who "invests" her $100 mattress money on a lark. Nor does the term "investor class" refer to the physician who consults with his broker in the few minutes before his next patient consults with him. I did not want to belabor what seemed

It's something akin to what sociologist Thorstein Veblen referred to as the "Leisure Class", hence the allusion to fucking around all day long on and off the phone with one's stockbroker.

Here: it's the Fortune 500 CEOs and their major stockholders, the rentiers at Goldman-Sachs, and the piglets running, e.g., B of A and Wells Fargo--the investor class. The Koch brothers, Mayor Bloomberg, Lloyd Blankfein's mommy, etc. Players. Versus the working class--i.e., goods and services, no tony, exclusive prep schools--in fact, no exclusion: full stop. The "investor class": elitist barbarians hiding behind a stomach-turning veneer of egoist entitlement.

By the way, Herbert Walker sang the praises of the investor class, specifically that they ought to be left unhindered to ply their self-aggrandizing--and eminently destructive--neo-liberal agenda as this will result in--jobs! Isn't that fun! The "lesser people" will have something thrown to them via overlord largesse--i.e., some of the wealth that accrues to their casino-capitalist maneuvering will (eventually) trickle down to the rest of us slobs. Isn't that grand of them!

We, of the working class are not remonstrating to be patronized with "a job". The poor souls building pyramids for departed pharaohs had "jobs". We, of the working class want--demand--more! Much, much more! What do we want?

We want our fucking lives back--that's what we want! Fuck you and your "job"! We want our fucking lives back!

We want the hours of our lives--as MANY of them as possible--to do with as we deem meet. In thrall for far too many hours for far too little pay--in the name of a "job"[!]--is at cross-purposes with having a life.

We are complete human beings: we contain multitudes. Fuck you and your "job"! Fuck you and your consumerist rat race masquerading as "the American Dream". Fuck you and your incredibly bullshitty "Protestant work ethic". And, Capitol Hill: give the "honor" of being a wage slave to your hideous, elitist, offspring.

And, if the yahoos out in the hinterlands have bought into this pseudo-religious claptrap about "our work ethic" then they have merely betrayed themselves to the rest of the planet as being God's Chosen Assholes. But, do spare the rest of the more reflective selves in the world that ludicrous Calvinist dilemma you've been bearing.

Posted by: Dean Taylor at February 28, 2011 03:16 AM

On the matter of the Times and its "hatred" or, or at least total indifference to, organized labor,I put forward as evidence that a superb book I published last year, Philip Dray's THERE IS POWER IN A UNION: The Epic Story of Labor in America, failed to be assigned a review in either the Book Review or the daily paper -- and I happen to know that their labor beat reporter (some job that is) offered to review it. But then, the book didn't get reviewed in Dissent or The Nation either, which is even more wtf-ish.

Gerald Howard, Doubleday

Posted by: Gerald Howard at February 28, 2011 01:01 PM

Good for you publishing that, Mr. Howard. I see the Post did a mostly favorable review on Dray's latest book, and though I haven't read it, I bet it deserved even better than Kazin said. I once read Dray's book on lynching, and that was an eye opener even for the relatively open eyed, which I thought I was and always think I am until I discover (yet again) how hard that really is.

Posted by: N E at February 28, 2011 04:25 PM

REPRESENT YOURSELF, call John Boehner @1-202-225-0600. Say what's on YOUR mind. Why wait on a crooked politician?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 28, 2011 06:07 PM

REPRESENT YOURSELF, call John Boehner @1-202-225-0600. Say what's on YOUR mind. Why wait on a crooked politician?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 28, 2011 06:07 PM
"investors, especially small ones, have a tremendous amount of shared interests with the poorest members of society"

Investors don't think that, and neither do the poorest members of society, and neither do I.

Right, because investors who aren't already rich made out like bandits during the last few financial crises, all of which were preventable by prosecuting criminals. The position that law enforcement isn't an issue that a janitor and a doctor both have a concern about is so inane that one might be tempted to put that down to malice rather than stupidity, to contradict the old adage. Of course, taking the position that law enforcement isn't something that one is interested in is well into malice -- unless one is also not rich, in which case it becomes both malice and stupidity.

The overall trend in the past 30 years has been toward greater shareholder control, not less shareholder control.

The overall trend over the last 30 years has been toward a complete lack of legal penalties against business leaders -- now being formalized. Further, I made a clear distinction between shareholders who were not part of the board of directors or who otherwise controlled company policy as opposed to shareholders who merely had investments -- a distinction you obfuscated to . . . I'm not sure why that was, really, but it made the rest of the response irrelevant.

We don't have a landed gentry, or even some racial dominant group like wasps or anglo-saxons.

What the fuck? Did you just claim that the U.S. doesn't have a racially dominant group? Are you trying to troll? If so, actually, I think you went too far there -- that's less irritating than just rather silly.

Aristocracy has nothing to do with having a landed gentry. It's completely unecessary. In fact, the success of modern aristocracy is precisely that it is no longer tied to land.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at February 28, 2011 10:27 PM

"complete lack of legal penalties against business leaders"

No, against shareholders. Management gets shitcanned in a heartbeat, and they can and do get prosectued too, but not so much ownership. Rememer the guy who was President who said we were going to have an "ownership society". Well, that has been the goal for the last few decades.

Seriously, read some Michael Lewis: what went on in the 80s as part of financialization of the country was creation of financial vehicles to make it much easier for ownership to replace management that "underperformed". Management can and often has been self-interested, and that creates problems for Wall Street, so they clipped management's wings several decades ago, making possible the creation of vast fortunes again.

And yes, the US doesn't have a racially dominant group the way it once did. Sure there are lots of male white old farts on boards, but that's not the key criteria now. All kinds of Asians and Latinos and Jews and even Africans and African Americans and women can be there too, provided they are part of the corporate heirarchy, which you can call an aristocracy if you feel like it, though I think it changes the meaning of the word too much and loses meaning. That said, we may be arguing semantics there. I have no objection to describing the chieftans of the corporate world as a corporate aristocracy. It's just thinking of management rather than ownership as the problem that I think goes wrong.

I don't think law enforcement goes to the heart of the problem or that its useful to think of the poor and corporate executives as having a common bond in being victims of the law. Seriously, that's not a political "alliance" that's going anywhere.

Posted by: N E at March 1, 2011 06:00 AM

The white men (some of them slaveowners) who wrote the Constitution put in checks and balances BECAUSE they understood tnat accountability is necessary. Corruption will come, but woe to him through which it comes. The system is corrupt when there is no accountability. That's where we are now.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at March 1, 2011 07:52 AM