Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The government society

Local pundit Jeff Alworth has overcome writers block once again... by simply copying the idea of a national writer.

So even though Marie Coocoo wrote about it just days ago, it's time for Alworth to to bash the idea of Americans "owning" things. ("owning" is in direct violation of the Rules of the Commune)

The Ownership Society (Revised)

Suprisingly, Alworth admits "In terms of ownership, I'm a paycheck man" when clearly "earning a living" is also against the Rules of the Commune. But working (if you can call copying other writers ideas about a week after they are published) working, isn't good enough for Alworth because he doesn't have enough "capital gains." Oh I'm sure he has some, home ownership in America is at an all time high and appreciation of property is the most common form of capital gain. But unless Alworth's entire income comes from these gains he is just going to be bitter. (If I can't play with that toy then I'll break it so no one can play with it)

Alworth gets to the meat and potatos of his idea saying "If this sounds like class warfare, it is. Best get used to it and the fact that, unless you're perusing that Choate brochures, you're probably getting jobbed by the "ownership society." Working stiffs own one thing--their paycheck--and we've done a rotten job protecting it."

Since Alworth is an admitted "paycheck man" (how embarrasing to admit that in public) I guess that Alworth doesn't own anything. I'll look for him at Dignity Village. I'm not even sure what "Choate" is but with the magic of a little word like "probably" thrown in that sentence it means that his thesis doesn't actually have to be, in a strict sense, true. At least not all the time.

But what can I, the aspiring socialist, do about this you wonder?

"We need to go back to a time when we collectivized risk and demand that our federal dollars support things we actually own, not the Wall Street and real estate speculation of the ultra-rich:"

The good old collective. It actually sounds like a good idea but I have this faint notion that it's been tried already... can't put my finger on it... maybe if I lived in that world Superpower the Soviet Union my thinking would be clearer.

Alworth's ideas:

"Health care. Should be a right of every citizen, and every citizen should have to pay into the system to support it."

Every citizen should have to pay for it? That's not a right then. I don't have to pay for my free speech. What if someone can't/won't pay into it? Oh wait, you mean those "other" folks, the ones who have capital gains, have to pay into it. I gotcha. But not meth addicts, they don't have capital gains.

"Public education. Public schools should always be funded first, at an adequate level, before any funds flow to private educators."

By adequate they mean "as much as you are willing to give us and then a little bit more for good measure." Another idea on the table, fund medical research involving sawing off arms before any funds flow to "helpful medicine that gets results."

"Minimum wage. No family in America should work full time and not be able to feed their family. (This isn't as pressing an issue in Oregon.)"

By "family" are you referring to extended family? Mom, dad and two kids? And what are these families eating? Top Ramen? Caviar? Does it matter? Or should we just trust that all the details will come out in the wash?

"Higher education. The surest way to get ahead is an education. That is currently becoming the domain of the upper classes, and the federal government is defunding public assistance to students."

Another quick way to get ahead is to copy other writer's ideas days after they put something out... I don't think that Alworth has been to a PCC campus recently. I've seen "students" actually use their class time to sleep. (maybe they were dreaming about how they were going to spend their capital gains but I'm not sure)

"Defined benefit Social Security. Dubya would love to turn Social Security into a vast 401 (k) scheme where citizens would lose the assurance of a regular check for the risk of regular investments into a system that may be bankrupt when we retire."

Potential motto for this program: Because we did such a bang-up job with the first social security program. (Note: Everyone constantly saying that the current "system is broken" or "bankrupt" or has an "unfunded liability" doesn't count as bad.)

"Bankruptcy protection. Given all the burdens placed on citizens by the plutocrats in power, it is plainly immoral to remove bankruptcy as a last-resort method of escaping debt, as the GOP did a couple years ago."

Because why should I be held responsible for buying that big screen when I clearly couldn't afford it? Punish the "plutocrats" not me. (Note to Alworth: Pluto was just demoted from "planet" to "moon" so I'm not sure if that should affect your choice of words.)

I know that I am looking foward to this new "non-ownership" society dreamed of by Marie Coocoo, I mean Jeff Alworth. Not being in charge of my own retirement will be great. Not being able to choose my own doctor, and better yet having the receptionist be the same "helpful" lady that works at the DMV is going to be even better! (heart transplant? get in this line and take a number... sorry, it's that line, you will have to get a new number)

And I'm certainly as excited as the next heroin junkie that the concept personal responsibility will be irrelevent, because after all, it's those plutocrats and their captial gains who are to blame.


terry said...

Wow. I have little use for Alworth's blather, and little use for your condescending putdown.

I guess to be transparent I have to acknowledge that I am proud to be a "paycheck man" - I indeed own nothing (except bills) and have no hope of owning a home. So I will carry on, building wealth for others (my employer and landlord) while building none for myself on the Oregon minimum wage of $7.50 per hour.

Homeownership is at an all time high because of innovation and new products in the mortgage industry (like interest-only, nothing-down, and adjustable-rate loans, which have allowed millions to qualify who would not have qualified under the traditional mortgage lending rules like 20 percent down payment, etc) and because of the low interest rates of recent years.

Homeownership is also at an all-time high because the age distribution of Americans has become more favorable to homeownership than ever before. (The huge baby boomer generation is right now in (or is approaching) the age brackets of highest homeownership.) Simply put, people in their fifties and sixties are MUCH more likely to own their home than are people in their twenties and thirties.

Nobody much cares about the "paycheck man" of the working class - you have as much as shown your disdain - and their economic position is in protracted and inexorable decline. So enjoy your affluence and wealth (exactly what WORK have homeowners done to earn the huge appreciation many have been enjoying?) while you can and don't complain when your own economic position declines.

Daniel said...

My affluence and wealth? I don't think that I made any reference to my own economic status here. I'm a "paycheck man" myself. (and it ain't a huge paycheck)

But I'm glad that I own my 401(k) instead of having someone else have money that is promised to me but isn't really mine so a judge, a bankruptcy, corruption or a whim could take it all a way. (did you happen to hear the news yesterday about the airline industry and their pension plan?)

I am a homeowner and the appreciation comes from simple ownership yes, but I take care of my investment. (I am painting my house right now)

Anonymous said...

stop paying your taxes and see who owns your home.slaves still exist under another name" paycheck man"

Anonymous said...

Just take your place on the coveyor line and shut up!

Kristopher said...

Nmae one place on this earth ( other than your non-existant anarcho-utopia ) where the State does not come by and extract tax from property owners.

I'll move there tomorrow.

Jeff Alworth said...

All right, I'll bite. Since our respective posts speak for themselves, I'll address the one issue you seem genuinely to have missed--collectivized risk. In one model of governance, citizens assume all risk. They buy their own health care, hope they make enough to feed their kids, and hope that when their bodies finally break down they've had enough kids to feed them. Call it the Bangladeshi model.

Then there's the model in which citizens pay a portion of their income for assurances about health care, employment and disability, and pensions. Call this the industrialized Democratic model.

Many in the GOP want to adopt the Bangladeshi model because, like the grandees in Dhaka, they know they'll be living large. My post was merely a suggestion that for the rest of us, the Bangladeshi--or Norquist--model leaves something to be desired.

Bobkatt said...

How Expensive is Cheap Labor? From Human Events online

How Expensive is Cheap Labor?
by Lynn Woolley
Posted Sep 06, 2006

"At last, a front-page article in the Dallas Morning News has provided some real numbers for at least one of the nation’s top five metropolitan areas. The story, based on U.S. Census Bureau data from 1999 to 2005 shows the median household income in the Dallas-Fort Worth region fell 10 percent when adjusted for inflation."
"But aren’t we told that the migration of millions of low-income workers into our country is a net gain? And that they come here simply to do the jobs that Americans won’t do? Well, yes, we’re told that by President Bush and others like Lonnie “Bo” Pilgrim who claims that he can’t find enough workers to pluck chickens at his 26 Pilgrim’s Pride plants. Already, he’s got three of those plants operating in Mexico."
"The experts say that’s because of who’s coming across the border. “The type of people we’re drawing are less educated,” said Pia Orrenius of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “Job growth is strong, but many expanding sectors are hiring for low-skill positions.”
The Congressional Budget Office has just issued a little-reported analysis showing the Senate bill would cost the taxpayers $126 billion during its first decade. CBO says it would require 31,000 new federal workers just for law enforcement and that newly legalized immigrants would claim $50 billion in federal benefits including Medicaid and Social Security. And government estimates are almost always low.

Daniel said...

Jeff, I certainly don't believe in a state of social darwinism (any more than I belive in evolutionary darwinism) when it comes to society making sure people are not dying in the street.

We have theluxury of living in a country where people are not starving to death, dying of malnutrition or the common flu.

However, I don't believe that we should institutionalize a "you get everything you need no matter what" attitude in people.

I already pay a portion of my income for medical care (a premium) and a portion of my income for my retirement (my 401(k)) and taxes for unemployment and disability. Your model differs only in who has control over these things.

I can change my contributions/investments tommorow based on what I believe will be my retirement needs. I can choose a different medical plan with a different premium/deductable/coverage.

You on the other hand offer a theoretical (and socialist) model where the consumer is no longer offered a choice. Lack of choice breeds mediocrity and a lack of incentive to reap rewards breeds complacency.

No system of governence or societal order is perfect. Our compassionate capitalism is as close to perfect as it gets though.

Anonymous said...

This may not be the right place to put this but I wanted you to have the information.
I want you to know that I’m glad that someone is standing up for right and wrong. I was so relieved that through your efforts the day labor program was shut down in Cornelius at Centro. The program attracts large groups of individuals who leave the area and neighborhood littered with empty beer containers, garbage, human waste etc. So many of us in the area were happy for the labor program was shut down. However I have some rather disturbing news that I felt necessary to bring to your attention. On Sept 5, 2006 Centro Cultural put up a sign on the west side of their building, right above the glass doors. Here is what the sign says
‘Lugar de espera trabajo
de 6:00 am a 2:00 pm
de Lunes a Sabado

I don’t speak Spanish but I do believe it is a sign advertising the day labor program (once again) and now with extended hours. I hope you will continue the fight. Please don’t let this be a set back. There are many people behind you.
Thank you for caring

Daniel said...

Anon, thank you for helping us monitor the situation. We will, of course, continue the fight.

el razonador said...

Daniel - Sorry for the long post, but I've got some questions regarding your theory. Compassionate capitalism? Could you please define that one?

You have a hysteric tendency to equate the notion of a social saftey net with socialism, indicating that you've never really read Marx or neo-Marxists, and don't really know what it is you're criticizing.

To counter your anecdotal example, here's one of my own. Before getting pregnant, my wife and I shopped around for what we thought was the best insurance. In total, it would cost us $1000 to have the baby, and we could use the doctor we wanted, have it at the hospital we wanted, etc. We chose this plan. However, last week and without notice, 8 months into the pregnancy, we found out our plan had changed. Now it will cost $3,000 to have the baby, and our co-pay is 50% higher than before. We did not choose this, clearly it was just some good capitialist doing what capitalists do, acting in the interest of the bottom-line. On our limited budget, the additional costs are quite a hit, and we feel genuinely burned by an industry that has bastardized the original notion of insurance (to serve a group of people so that they can collectivize risk) into a profit-making enterprise.

But enough about my woes. You claim that a society that relies on public programs becomes lazy, essentially. Can you then explain to me why probably one of the most productive eras of this country's history-economically, scientifically, culturally-and the massive growth in our middle-class, occurred in concert with a major expansion in federal benefit programs: FDIC, federally insured housing mortgages, federal student loans, public school education, the GI bill, the federally financed construction of our vast interstate highway system, and so on? How does this square with your "compassionate conservatism" that seems to prioritze an individualized approach?

Let me first say that I believe in the virtuous aspects of capitalism, and its recent global expansion. Nonetheless, unlike you, I also believe that unchecked, Capitalism can do great harm to certain modes of social organization, to our social structures, and to the most vulnerable among us. I can point you to high-ranking figures in the World Bank (the quintessential capitalist institution) who agree with this sentiment.

Thus, I don't view a society's demand for government regulation in order, for example, for our having to avoid bearing the social costs for corporate and capitalist foolishness, such as the Savings & Loan scandal of the 1980s, and the even more recent and more costly Enron and WorldCom fiascos. These are multi-billion dollar catastrophes that ruined a lot of people, and for which we have to bear the costs (and will continue to do so for a long time). Thus, making demands on our government to regulate this nonsense, is, in my view, the actions of a responsible citizenry. Not the whining pleadings of a lazy mass who would rather languish away on the dole.

Conservatives constantly lament government bureaucracy. But what bigger bureaucratic nightmare is there than our privatized healthcare system? There exists in our society, a non-trivial number of unhealthy people whose lives are literally dominated by task of simply trying to navigate this system. It negatively impacts all facets of their life, including their ability to work, independently of their ailment. Medical costs are the leading cause of individual financial ruin in this country. It seems unfair and unnecessary.

So, why do you so quickly attach the socialist label to anyone who points out simple facts such as these: Among advanced industrial nations, we have the greatest concentration of wealth in a few elite hands. If history is any indicator, this will prove socially disastrous in the future. Americans are the most debt-laden individuals in the world. We rely on credit more than any other country in the world. These are precarious situations, and reason for real concern. How does your compassionate capitalism deal with them?

Lastly, since your response to such calls for a social saftey net are so extreme as to equate those who voice them with Soviets, then it seems that you are willing to follow capitalism to its extremes, yes? The prinicples of the free market are directly contradicted by government policy that restricts the operation of markets across international borders. This includes the market for labor. As a free-marketeer, then, it seems odd that you should be so fervently against undocumented immigration. The organizing prinicple behind NAFTA is to integrate North American markets. Why then should the market for labor not also be integrated? Do you not want to compete with Mexican labor, and would rather the federal government step in on your behalf to relieve you of having to particpate in this central process of capitalism, competition? This doesn't sound like capitalism to me, but rather nationalism or, I guess, a form of state-sponsored capitalism.

Jeff Alworth said...

Ah, what he (el razonader) said.

el razonador said...

Daniel - Cat got your tongue?

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