Author Topic: The Trump Presidency  (Read 88188 times)

Offline JayUtah

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Re: The Trump Presidency
« Reply #1245 on: September 14, 2020, 02:05:29 PM »
,but the relevant bit is that it isn't "being invested."  It's sitting in banks.  It's not circulating.  It's stagnating.

Not every billionaire does this to that extent, of course, so there will always be straw-man exceptions.  But the trend has been very much focused on moving wealth upward and having that wealth tied up in ways that benefit only a very few, not reinvested into the economy.

Most of the wealth is actually sitting in the stock market, which is just a different way of saying sitting in banks.  And many will say that investing in the stock market is investing in the economy.  Except that's not what it is anymore.  Companies don't raise capital to innovate anymore by selling equity in the company.  When you buy stock in Apple, you're not really helping Apple make new and better products.  Today, the stock market is just yet another financial game.  Shareholders aren't in it for the long term anymore.  They're in it to make more money on a 3-to-6-month time scale.  The only way you make money buying and selling stocks is when the prices change.  The stock price is no longer an indicator of the company's actual value, or connected to anything else in the economy.

In short (pun intended), the the alleged mechanism billionaires use to reinvest in the economy does nothing more than increase their personal wealth.

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Oh, my, yes.  Most of my good friends are Millennials (I'm at the tail end of Gen X, myself), and they don't fit the perception of lazy and entitled at all.

They mostly aren't.  In fact, they work much harder than I did at their age (or at least to the extent I remember).  The economics of higher education don't work anymore; you can't "put yourself through school."  The economics of the real-estate market are completely different.  Home prices have skyrocketed, far out of synch with wages.  The reason Millennials can't buy a house has nothing to do with how much they aren't spending on food service.  Further, as you allude, many of them are in living arrangments -- by necessity -- that don't allow for the traditional procurement, storage, and preparation of food.

A universal basic income would go a long way toward fixing this, or fixing the wage gap.  I don't see that happening anytime soon.
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Offline JayUtah

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Re: The Trump Presidency
« Reply #1246 on: September 14, 2020, 02:22:01 PM »
The key to this marketing success has been to focus so heavily on the success side of the equation that no one talks about that converse - what happens to the people who fail.

And the present state of the system is that failure is becoming increasingly inevitable.  In general, failure was read out as laziness.  The premise was that everyone had some marketable skill, and anyone who isn't a millionaire either hasn't developed his skill or isn't working hard enough to make it profitable.  Today most wealth in American is inherited, not earned (including that of our Dear Leader).  And today most wealth is increased by gaming economic systems such as the stock market or the labor market.  Or in Trump's case, the real-estate market, which he utterly failed to make work for him.  Now he's simply gaming the credibility of his "brand."

These are economic rents, not actual creation of value.  But the key point is that these are means wholly unavailable to the under classes.  No amount of labor at a typical entry-level job these days will provide much more that subsistence living.  This was not really always the case in America.  The American Dream was somewhat attainable in the post-War years.  You could get a good job and buy a house and eat comfortably and have plenty left over for recreation.  The fact that it once was the case is a powerful part of the marketing that it still could be the case -- which it very much isn't.

So to tell them they're failing at capitalism because it's their fault for being lazy or unimaginative is the ultimate insult.  But it works.  It's why pyramid schemes still dupe so many.  If you don't become a zillionaire in multi-level marketing, it's because you're not working hard enough, not because the mathematics of such schemes literally do not allow it.  Bernie Sanders may be a socialist in name only, but his major talking point is still valid:  You're failing at capitalism because the system is rigged.

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And in the USA, people have been marketing a distorted explanation of both capitalism and socialism that oversells the upsides of capitalism and the downsides of socialism. It's therefore not surprising many Americans reject socialism as they understand it.

Also part of the marketing is the stereotype of "socialist Europe" as brutalist, subsistence cultures, where nobody wins.  Most Americans don't spend enough time abroad to see anything for themselves.  I was lucky enough to live abroad in various places for several years.
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Online molesworth

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Re: The Trump Presidency
« Reply #1247 on: September 14, 2020, 06:44:55 PM »
A capitalist system allows people to accumulate as much wealth as they might ever be able to accumulate (needed or not), with the converse that success isn't guaranteed, and if you fail then you have to look after yourself to the best of your now limited resources. A socialist system (details depending on which one you're looking at) has the government ensuring that everyone has at least a reasonable standard of living, and pays for this by heavier taxation which is aimed at the wealthy.

To me, Wright's observation is, simply, that socialist policies are unlikely to be adopted in the USA because the marketing of capitalism has been so wildly successful. The key to this marketing success has been to focus so heavily on the success side of the equation that no one talks about that converse - what happens to the people who fail.

This, in my view, sums up the main difference between the US and what many Americans would regard as "socialist" countries, e.g. most wealthy, westernised, OECD member countries.  Although not fully socialist politically, it's recognised that society functions much better when its less fortunate members are provided for (although I admit this doesn't always happen as it should).  Whether it's through healthcare, basic income, low-cost housing or other means, giving people support at a tiny cost when spread over the rest of the population, has overall benefits for everyone.

And it's why benefits like healthcare are so much cheaper, due to economies of scale, not being run for profit, and better collective price bargaining.  Yet I still see so many comments on social media along the lines of "why should I pay for someone else's treatment", not recognising that they would see those benefits when suddenly faced with a major operation or long-term medication needs.

And my friends are relatively privileged; few of them have kids, and most of them only have one job each.
This always shocks me, that so many people in the US have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet, compared to typical westernised economies where only the very poorest are in that situation.

Sadly the UK now seems to be heading down the same road, and we're liable to end up with a very poor social support system and privatised healthcare, but that's a topic for another thread  :(
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Offline Peter B

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Re: The Trump Presidency
« Reply #1248 on: September 14, 2020, 07:38:28 PM »
Whereas increasing my disability check even fifty dollars a month would help me get more things I actually need, and my spending that money would boost the economy more than Bezos hoarding it would.

This seems to be a factor commonly missed here in the UK as well. Poorer people help sustain the economy because they spend what little money they have.

The sad irony of this pandemic is that it has exposed just how absurd the economy here actually is, being based primarily on people buying crap they don't need and running a 'just in time' model of delivery and stock control. This time last year the media was filled with articles decrying millennials as not being able to afford their own homes because they insist on spending money on breakfasts and lunches in cafes and bars rather than at home, and now the chancellor of the exchequer is practically begging them to keep doing it because people NOT frequenting these cafes and bars is apparently screwing up the economy!

That's been a Thing here in Australia too. Some talking head or other suggested if they bought fewer smashed avocado on toast breakfasts they'd be able to afford to buy their first house sooner. So smashed avocado has become a bit of a meme in Australia.

Of course, what the talking head missed was the statistics indicating housing prices in Australia have doubled in real terms in just the last 20 years. And obviously, that wealth accrues to the people who already own those houses - which is mostly Boomers.

This house price boom has been driven by record low interest rates, which it's clear won't be going anywhere upwards anytime soon.

Having said that, the situation is complicated. Builders tend to want to maximise their profits, so new houses tend to be as large as will fit on their blocks. And for those buyers contemplating saving a bit of money by moving into an apartment, there's been a spate of construction problems with new apartment buildings in a number of cities.

Offline gillianren

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Re: The Trump Presidency
« Reply #1249 on: September 15, 2020, 11:12:11 AM »
Oh, yeah, the sheer number of jokes I've seen about avocado toast.  One I've seen going around lately is, "Well, I've been making my own coffee at home for six months--why aren't I a millionaire yet?"  Because that's one of the other things that get blamed.

I've also been telling a lot of people lately about the realities of being on SSI.  For those who aren't aware, SSI is the version of disability for people without a substantial work history.  Which I don't have, because I've been disabled enough for it to affect my work history since long before I applied for disability.  (They factor in age.)  It takes years to get through the process, because they're trying to make sure no one who isn't really disabled is cheating the system for the whopping $700 a month, which is about what I get.  They limit how much you can earn through other means before losing your benefits.  They limit your assets--my monthly check has actually been cut for about ten years because I was getting disability while in possession of a life insurance policy I could borrow on, and that counted as an asset.  I can't get married without losing my benefits.  This is planned poverty; the system is set up to keep disabled people poor.  For a while, it didn't even look like disabled people would qualify for the one and only stimulus check that's been sent out.  Certainly the current payroll taxes grift isn't putting any more money in our pockets even in the short term!
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Offline JayUtah

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Re: The Trump Presidency
« Reply #1250 on: September 15, 2020, 12:05:12 PM »
This, in my view, sums up the main difference between the US and what many Americans would regard as "socialist" countries, e.g. most wealthy, westernised, OECD member countries.  Although not fully socialist politically, it's recognised that society functions much better when its less fortunate members are provided for (although I admit this doesn't always happen as it should).  Whether it's through healthcare, basic income, low-cost housing or other means, giving people support at a tiny cost when spread over the rest of the population, has overall benefits for everyone.

And this actually does work in the U.S. when you can convince people to give it a try.  We have a chronic homelessness problem in our city, largely because it's the biggest city for many miles around.  There are itinerant homeless, and we attract homeless from a wide area.  We've experimented with providing low-cost housing to the homeless instead of the typical practice of arresting and incarcerating them for minor offenses arising out of their homelessness (e.g., petty theft).  Naturally we found considerably less recidivism, and the cost was markedly less than the cost of policing, court time, and incarceration.  It's literally better for everyone if we adopt the socialist approach.

However, in America this constitutes "being soft on crime," which is an outgrowth of America as a carceral state.  This, incidentally, is why the Black Lives Matter movement doesn't get as much traction as you think it would.  The demonstrations are classified as "riots" (even when peaceable, or when violence occurs as a consequence of police provocation).  Since BLM activists are "rioters," they acquire the status of lawbreaker, which gives the right wing a moral justification to crack down on them, and the GOP the rhetorical toehold of quelling the protests in the name of "law and order."

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Yet I still see so many comments on social media along the lines of "why should I pay for someone else's treatment", not recognising that they would see those benefits when suddenly faced with a major operation or long-term medication needs.

This is the incredible hypocrisy and entitlement of American culture.  We don't want to pay taxes, but we sure want taxpayer funded benefits when we fall on hard times.  If you lose your job and you're white middle-class, it's a given that you apply for unemployment insurance, and it's a given that this will cover all your living expenses for up to several months.  This is expected.  This is part of President L.B. Johnson's Great Society that so many of the Boomers grew up in.  In short, if a racially and socially favored American falls on hard times in any number of ways, it is expected without further consideration that there will be some government program or policy that acts as a safety net.

But if you recast the problem in terms of ethnic minorities or "lawbreakers" who need the same assistance for the same reasons, then the rhetoric immediately shifts over to, "Why should my taxes go to support them?"  The underlying attitude -- and this is so very odious -- is that certain classes of American society are simply undeserving of aid.  It's racism and other -isms in disguise.

And this hypocrisy exists at the highest levels too.  American corporations shouldn't have to pay taxes because they're the engines of American prosperity, and we need to afford them the least possible friction so that they can compete in a world market.  But if they lose all their money through mismanagement and unregulated, risky investments, all of a sudden they become "too big to fail," and lay claim to taxpayer-funded bailouts.  And lest this seem like a strictly Bush-the-Younger problem, we have to note that the Obama administration quietly allowed most of the responsible parties to keep their jobs, maintain their lifestyles, and escape liability under the premise that, while lawbreakers, they were the only ones with the skills and connections to rebuild the economy.

Americans are perfectly okay with socialism when they're on the receiving end of benefits, because the GOP promotes it to their base as, "You earned this."  But they're not okay with socialism when it wants to look like a national policy, because the GOP demotes it as, "Those undesirables are taking your hard-earned money."  From the opposite perspective, the Democrats posture it as, "Every American deserves to be on the same footing," and the Republicans respond by issuing the dog-whistle, "That's socialism!"  (Remember:  capitalism=good, socialism=bad)
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Offline JayUtah

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Re: The Trump Presidency
« Reply #1251 on: September 15, 2020, 02:21:16 PM »
This is planned poverty; the system is set up to keep disabled people poor.

And this is pretty much typical of assistance programs in the United States.

For things like unemployment insurance -- which is the one we're all concerned with during the pandemic -- one is eligible only for a limited amount of time, generally not more than one year.  The size of the benefit is determined by one's needs and available assets.  Additional income during the benefit period reduces payment.  In Utah, one must give evidence of having applied for at least five jobs during each week benefits are received.  This is the epitome of a program designed to help people temporarily when they lose their jobs for economic reasons.

What's darkly humorous (and I don't mean to make light of others' plight) is the rhetoric is floating around that people will want to remain on unemployment insurance because the benefits are more than they can earn at minimum wage in a full-time job.  This is factually true.  Unemployment insurance is meant to provide an actual living benefit, and -- at least in Utah by statute -- requires a calculation of each individual's existing non-discretionary financial burden, and a reasonable margin for basic comfort.  This does not occur when setting actual wages.  The U.S. federal minimum wage was originally proposed as a basic living wage to sustain life.  It has not been increased -- even to account for inflation -- since 2009, when it became $7.25 per hour.  At 40 hours per week full-time employment, that's a gross monthly income of $1,160.  To put that in perspective, the monthly rent for an apartment in the buildings adjacent to a property I own, managed by a large commercial residence company, is $950 per month.  When we say there is a wage disparity and a labor crisis in the United States, this is what I'm talking about.  And this is for an able-bodied entry-level wage-earner, not someone considered incapacitated or lazy.

And because this is America, the cry comes up that we should lower the benefits, because why should we pay more for someone not to work than to pay someone who is working.  It doesn't seem to occur to the powers that be that this is an excellent argument for doubling or tripling the federal minimum wage.  The objection is that the giant increase in labor cost will shackle the economy.  And I just have deaf ears for that when Jeff Bezos is one of the richest man in the world, and getting richer by the minutes, while his employees -- his full-time employees -- make so little money that they qualify for supplemental food assistance.  I really don't think the "greed" of the ground-level employees is really the problem here.

Gillianren, your experience is typical of many groups who are simply unable to participate in traditional capitalism, through no fault of their own.  As Peter B adroitly points out, the prophets of capital don't seem to have an answer to that except to maintain the bare minimum (or less) required for basic subsistence.  You get to live, but you don't get to enjoy it.  And many more groups are being cut out as non-participants, for even pretextual reasons such as minor criminal convictions.

It seems the intent is a cruel "survival of the fittest" doctrine.  If one is unable to participate in capitalism either as a capitalist or as labor, then one simply doesn't fit the system.  Nature should be allowed to take its course, because how can we become a great nation if we have to drag along with us the dead weight of non-contributors?  Rush Limbaugh is infamous for saying that no nation ever taxed itself into prosperity.  Yet we have modern examples of nations with happy, productive, well-educated, prosperous populations where the chronically unfortunate don't have to fear being left behind.  They may have taxed themselves away from the obscene profit-mongering that's the American style, but the sure do seem to enjoy an affluent lifestyle.

And the other side of the coin, as I mentioned early in the pandemic, is that "survival of the fittest" doesn't seem to apply when it's a business.  Then all of a sudden they require bailouts and affordances to keep them going under trying circumstances.  It seems to me that if you're going to cut individuals out who can't participate in capitalism under trying circumstances, then you should cut out businesses who can't participate in capitalism under trying circumstances.  If part of capitalism is the potential for individual failure, then part of it should also be the potential for catastrophic business failure.  You could argue that businesses that don't maintain a suitable reserve have made unwise choices and should fail as a result.  But no, that's when all of a sudden these organizations have intrinsic, salvage-worthy value despite their questionable behavior.

Recently the Trump administration tried to add a required-work component to programs like food assistance for children and Medicaid, the national healthcare payer for low-income recipients.  (Medicare, a related program, does a similar thing for the elderly, but that's another thread.)  Essentially one could not qualify for certain very important assistance programs unless one was either working or actively looking for work.  Not only does the GOP vision of American involve keeping certain groups poor, but also requiring them to contribute to the labor market.  America has a voracious appetite for labor at rock-bottom prices, but also the moral direction that one shouldn't receive anything from the public coffers unless one is contributing in some economically cognizable way to society.

From the mere fact that someone is receiving a public supplement to pay for medical care, one can probably infer the likelihood of an inability to work.  Indeed, the intent of Medicaid in most cases is to provide no-strings payment for medical treatment precisely so that the recipient can return to the work force.  And that's largely how it has been used.  The GOP strategy would have provided practically no additional revenue, while making vast numbers of Medicaid recipients suddenly ineligible.  There is simply no way for them to pay their way.

The Trump administration and the GOP have attempted other moral gatekeeping provisions for social assistance, such as mandatory drug testing.  The marketing image presented by the GOP is that recipients of public funds are drug addicts and therefore unemployable, or drug users and using the funds to purchase drugs.  That's almost never the case, of course.  But it has been a well-known economic reality for years that the money spent on implementing the test programs far outstrips the amount spent inappropriately by the few errant recipients.  These programs so often have the potential to be wielded as moral bludgeons, and usually according to criteria that seem ostensibly valid but which are inevitably proxies for such things as race.  Note that massive bailouts to corporations do not require evidence of moral rectitude, and in fact have been given out to renumerate the losses incurred by the recipients' own flagrant malfeasance, and often to the enrichment of individual corporate officials who have less than stellar moral character.

The system is so very rigged.
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Offline Jason Thompson

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Re: The Trump Presidency
« Reply #1252 on: September 16, 2020, 04:24:29 AM »
What's darkly humorous (and I don't mean to make light of others' plight) is the rhetoric is floating around that people will want to remain on unemployment insurance because the benefits are more than they can earn at minimum wage in a full-time job.  This is factually true. 



And because this is America, the cry comes up that we should lower the benefits, because why should we pay more for someone not to work than to pay someone who is working.  It doesn't seem to occur to the powers that be that this is an excellent argument for doubling or tripling the federal minimum wage.

Not just America, sadly. Same thing happens here in the UK. People on state benefits are portrayed as scroungers getting free money for sitting around enjoying themselves all day instead of doing an honest day's work to earn their keep. The fact that media outlets can always find one or two such layabouts to act as poster-boys for this campaign just amplifies the message, while ignoring the many many people who genuinely need those benefits. Even during this pandemic when huge swathes of the workforce were furloughed, there was rhetoric that these people could not be supported for too long or they might start enjoying being paid to be at home. The fact they were sitting at home because the government decreed their workplace had to be closed was glossed over. And of course everyone I knew who was furloughed was in fact a) desperate to get back to work and b) terrified that the business they worked for would not survive and they wouldn't have a job to go back to when the government allowed their business to re-open, or that the business would have to make cutbacks and they'd be out of a job anyway (both of which things have happened to people I know). Some of our minsters actually, gallingly, pointed to people's social media accounts that were full of people trying to stay positive as evidence they were enjoying the lockdown and furlough. And don't even get me started on the complaints about taxpayers supporting the furloughed workers (the furloughed workers were still taxpayers), or the conflating of being back in the workplace with being back at work (I wasn't in my office at all for four months but I was still working full time from home).

The common thread in all of this seems to be that people would prefer to knock others down than figure out that in fact they are maybe not getting as much as they should out of a system, and so we have a race to the bottom. It seems to be easier to look at the person on benefits and ask why they get more than me than to ask why I don't get more than them: a subtle difference in the framing of the question that makes all the difference in where the attention is focused. It's the way the ones at the top have framed the situation. In the same way they have managed to convince the population at large that a job is something that can be obtained or stolen, as if it is just sitting there on a shelf waiting to be picked up rather than being handed out by the top management. If we convince everyone they can get any job they want if they try for it, we can convince them that they didn't get it because it was somehow stolen from them. That was the top tiers can keep the attention off their practices and on whichever slice of the population they feel like vilifying at the time.

And then of course we have Trump illustrating perfectly to anyone who cares to actually learn the lesson of just how absurd these justifications for people getting paid six or seven figure salaries are. We are fed this narrative that the higher you go the more responsibility you have and hence the more you deserve to be remunerated for exercising it, and yet at every turn we see top executives abdicating all responsibility and deflecting blame to their underlings when things go wrong. Trump is the absolute epitome of that, now going so far as to blame Joe Biden for the state of the country he is supposed to be running! What staggers me is just how few people seem to either see it or be willing to change it.
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Offline gillianren

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Re: The Trump Presidency
« Reply #1253 on: September 16, 2020, 11:03:33 AM »
I've argued that everyone able to work is better off for keeping me out of the job market.  Certainly it's better for companies not to hire me, discover I'm not actually capable of holding the job, fire me, and go through the hiring process again.  (Which is what the Social Security employment expert said would happen; I would be able to get a job but unable to hold it for six months.)  That's expensive and time-consuming for them when they would just, you know, hire someone better equipped to do the job.  And since I present really well, I'm quite sure I could get hired somewhere in normal times.  (Now?  No.)  And I'm relatively functional. 

Realistically, disabled people are less of a drain on the system than corporations.  I won't deny being a drain--though I provide some benefit through raising my kids and keeping a home for my partner, who's even one of the idolized military.  (I like joking that I am supported by a troop, though we keep our finances completely separate and he just makes sure I'm capable of eating and sleeping indoors.)  But I don't suck anywhere near as money out of the economy as a major corporation that qualifies for enormous tax benefits and doesn't pay its employees enough to survive.
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Offline Jason Thompson

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Re: The Trump Presidency
« Reply #1254 on: September 16, 2020, 11:22:31 AM »
But I don't suck anywhere near as money out of the economy as a major corporation that qualifies for enormous tax benefits and doesn't pay its employees enough to survive.

And therein lies another rhetorical trick by those opposed to such state benefits: forget the comparison, just give some absolute numbers that sound big.

We have it here too. Every so often you'll see a headline that argues we need to toughen up on benefit sanctions and make the qualifying criteria more restrictive, because the cost of benefit fraud runs into the millions every year. Millions of pounds of taxpayer money wasted on cheats and frauds and layabouts! Shocking! Horrific! Why is my money going to them?! Except what they don't tell you, of course, is that the total benefits budget is billions of pounds a year, so the actual cost of fraud is a tiny percentage of the total spend, and amounts to about 0.02 pence per taxpayer or some other tiny number I don't have the time to calculate. They will also of course not tell us (at least not in the same article, or one anywhere close enough to it for anyone to put two and two together easily in one newsreading session) that many more taxpayer funds were spent on a civil construction project that went overbudget or failed, or on bailing out a failing corporation, or even on a payrise for our politicians.

Because any state aid programme must by its nature involve large sums of money it is all too easy to drum up stories about waste and illegitimate use of funds because of these big numbers, while most people haven't a clue how big the overall numbers actually are or how small, comparatively, the numbers being touted as huge wastes really are.
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Offline JayUtah

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Re: The Trump Presidency
« Reply #1255 on: September 16, 2020, 12:19:21 PM »
I won't deny being a drain--though I provide some benefit...

I dispute the whole notion of a "drain" in this context.  If one voluntarily accepts employment, then one is compelled to make the expected effort.  Failing to do that might be considered a drain.  But no one is voluntarily born into a nation, or voluntarily born into conditions of varying ability.  These are circumstances, not commitments.  Margaret Mead was asked a question something like what sign showed when humans first evolved.  She answered that it was the discovery of a hominid leg bone that had broken and knit.  This was evidence that someone had cared for the victim until ability was restored, whereas in a purely animalistic world the disabled creature would quickly have died.  I tend to think of that as a species survival trait.

The notion that we measure society according to what can be extracted from each participant rather than what the responsibility is to each participant seems backwards to me.

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But I don't suck anywhere near as money out of the economy as a major corporation that qualifies for enormous tax benefits and doesn't pay its employees enough to survive.

Not only via tax benefits, but often by sequestering the money overseas so it doesn't even benefit American financial institutions.  Offshore deposits of corporate earnings deprives the United States of any possible collective benefit.  Workers are paid a pittance, no tax is even possible on the earnings, no profit comes to a U.S. back for being able to invest the deposits, and only certain individuals benefit -- ironically most often the ones that are trying to blame the less fortunate for not pulling their "fair share."
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Offline JayUtah

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Re: The Trump Presidency
« Reply #1256 on: September 16, 2020, 12:29:43 PM »
Except what they don't tell you, of course, is that the total benefits budget is billions of pounds a year, so the actual cost of fraud is a tiny percentage of the total spend, and amounts to about 0.02 pence per taxpayer or some other tiny number...

And the cost of increased enforcement would surely outweigh the savings.  Engineering has a term for this:  essential complexity.  Every design has flaws.  They can be structural, such as in the way the components are arranged.  Or they can be "critical," meaning that each component has a non-zero probability of failing before some future time t.  Solving structural problems usually means changing the systemic complexity of the design and altering its overall reliability.  Solving criticality issues usually means systemic alterations such as adding redundancy, which also comes at a cost in both design constraint factors (e.g., weight, cost) and in additional risk of failure due to systemic causes.

An ideal design is not one that eliminates all risk.  An ideal design is one that exhibits only essential complexity.  Essential complexity is achieved when any attempt to mitigate further risk paradoxically increases the risk because of the cost of the mitigation.  Similarly, at a certain point you cannot eliminate further waste in a transaction, because detecting and correcting the waste incurs a cost that may be more than what's wasted.  That's when it becomes a moral issue in some cases:  the administrators of a program would rather expend more money to make sure the moral lesson is being conveyed, but they do it hypocritically under the guise of cost savings.
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Offline JayUtah

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Re: The Trump Presidency
« Reply #1257 on: September 16, 2020, 02:49:47 PM »
Not just America, sadly. Same thing happens here in the UK.

That's discouraging.  I can understand the U.S. descending into a pit of near-fascist conservatism, but I had hoped the U.K. would be more stable.

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It seems to be easier to look at the person on benefits and ask why they get more than me than to ask why I don't get more than them: a subtle difference in the framing of the question that makes all the difference in where the attention is focused.

And I think there's more to the comparative approach.  It seems to be human nature to want to achieve priority, not matter how slight and no matter how much the absolute values.  It's not enough for me to be rich; you must be poor.  It's not enough for me to be powerful; you must be weak.  It's not enough for me to succeed; you must fail.  Endemic to American capitalism is the notion that one's success must come at the cost of another person's failure, and that person's failure is because of his laziness or some other moral flaw.

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That way the top tiers can keep the attention off their practices and on whichever slice of the population they feel like vilifying at the time.

In the specific terms of labor, the top tiers freely admit trying to reduce their labor costs.  This means paying American workers as little as they can get away with and making unions politically unpalatable.  It means offshoring to cheaper labor markets.  It means automation.  Every single economic indicator I can imagine points to conscious, deliberate effort on the part of upper management to reduce the amount of money the combined American labor force will earn, if only as a consequence of minimizing the money it will spend on labor overall.  Yet for some reason the story is that people can't find jobs because they're too focused on smashed avocado and social justice, or because jobs are being taken by scary illegally-resident minorities.

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...at every turn we see top executives abdicating all responsibility and deflecting blame to their underlings when things go wrong.

And getting away with it, because most corporations are actually run by boards of directors to whom the CEO reports.  And there is a cadre of upper-level business leaders in the U.S., all of whom sit on each other's boards.  No CEO is going to be held meaningfully accountable by a board composed of CEOs from other companies on whose boards he sits.  Nothing less than a catastrophe will unseat a CEO, and in most cases the exit arrangements for these positions pretty much set you up for life even in the event of gross malfeasance.  This arrangement is what partly tied Pres. Obama's attempts to restructure the financial industry after the crash of 2008.  The collective power of the U.S. industrial oligarchy outstrips the power of its government.

The Dodd-Frank Act and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act attempted to bring more actual accountability into the corporate boardroom and executive office suites, but naturally the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress (in Pres. Trump's early term) have largely eviscerated those measures.  And because of the unique structure of the U.S. executive branch, Pres. Trump can largely forestall enforcement of any provisions that remain.

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Trump is the absolute epitome of that, now going so far as to blame Joe Biden for the state of the country he is supposed to be running! What staggers me is just how few people seem to either see it or be willing to change it.

My über-conservative father-in-law texted, at the beginning of the BLM demonstrations, "Welcome to Biden's America."  People who would otherwise be smart are literally falling for the rhetoric that the state of the country under Trump -- now, today -- is what it's going to be in a Biden administration.  I frankly can't understand how people can be so uncritically susceptible to that sort of nonsense.

And yes, the campaign seems to be ramping up the rhetoric, criticizing Joe Biden's lackluster response to the coronavirus crisis.  What, literally, was he supposed to do?  He holds no elected office.  He has no power to order or bring about a single thing.  Literally all he can do is advocate action, which his campaign is certainly doing, and illustrate how he will handle the crisis differently when and if he does have the power to do anything.  This reminds me of when people tried to blame Obama for not taking charge more forcefully on 9/11.

I'm fully convinced that rank-and-file political advocacy in the United States really rises no higher than, say, sports fandom.  People cheer for the Republicans or the Democrats with no more thought and no less fervor than cheering for Manchester United or the Sacramento Piggers.  You want your team to win because victory is sweet, not because there's actually a future at stake.  Americans in general don't ever face existential (or even serious) crises, and so political contests aren't considered to matter, because everything in America will always be okay for us no matter what.  I hold out hope that the pandemic will convince some people that these decisions matter.  But it's bleak hope.
"Facts are stubborn things." --John Adams

Offline Obviousman

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Offline JayUtah

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Re: The Trump Presidency
« Reply #1259 on: September 16, 2020, 09:37:21 PM »
Jaw-drop indeed.  The man simply cannot fathom the possibility that someone is smarter and more capable than he.  Previously his hubris and vast stupidity left only a string of failed businesses.  Now it leaves behind hundreds of thousands of dead Americans.
"Facts are stubborn things." --John Adams