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Old 10-24-2006   #1
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,012
Essay discusion - Marko's Thom Hartman essay

I read the Thom Hartman discussion that Marko posted and thought that it was spot on for the first half and then devolved into socialist crap for the second half. First half summary: corporations have taken control of our goverment and as a result wealth is being transferred from the middle class to the wealthy elite who make the rules and the middle class is dissapearing. Second half summary: therefore we have to put Democrats back in power, have more government programs and redistribute the wealth of the nation from the wealthy to the poor.

I agreed with the first part, but not the second half. If the problem is the corporations have hijacked the government, the solution is to give the government back to the people and restore our democracy, not institute socialism.

Just one point he completely lost me on (there are many others). He said the tax system needs to be more fair and then suggested taxing the wealthiest 5% of Americans at a rate of 70%. What!? How is that fair?

If those people obtained their wealth by inventing or manufacturing something that benefits everyone else and everyone buys their product then they are entitled to keep every cent of their earnings (minus reasonable taxes). That's how a capitalist society works and that's what gives people incentive to create. You think the pharmaceutical companies are working on a cure for cancer because they're good guys? It probably has more to do with the windfall once they succeed. If 70% of their profits are taken away, wher is the incentive to put so much effort into it? The wealthy create the jobs as well. If, however (and I think this was the point of the essay before it got off its track) that person obtained their wealth by manipulating the government and getting favorable legislation passed, (Haliburton proffiting from the war in Iraq) that is what needs to be stopped.

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Old 10-26-2006   #2
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
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hello blutzski,
I am glad to see somebody liked this idea. And, for anybody who is just joining in on this post and doesn't know of the essay we are talking about, here is the link: http://www.zmag.org/content/showarti...m?ItemID=11195

And, actually I am not really going to disprove anything you have said. I really can't understand the author's logic of a 70% tax on the elites either. I have no idea where that number comes from. I will email his blog to find out though. But, I don't understand how you get him trying to push socialism onto us. Also, the word "socialism" is forever hexed for many different reasons. As soon as you write or say the word people will instantly think... Commie! So, are you talking about social programs, social-democratic or communist socialism? America used to be very social-democratic and some good things were created during this time: Unions, Social Security to name a few.

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Old 10-26-2006   #3
Join Date: Apr 2004
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well i'm no expert on social sciences or government, but i'll point out a couple things that come into my head when reading blutzski's post:

1) i think that it is a pretty gray area between "giving the government back to the people and restoring democracy" and "instituting socialism" - this description reminds me of a campaign add, and seems to ring of the black and white world that many people live in these days. i think the point is that corporate influence has increased tremendously lately (even so far as to actually write legislation, while the policy makers do not even read the bills anymore) - and government/increased regulation is the only answer (that i know of) to counteract this influence. Basically, our capitalistic society is set up for businesses to make money, bottom line - so...it follows that if our social policy is driven by the corporate motive to make money, then it is not always the best result for the people. (example - seat belts - these have saved many lives, right, but had to be forced on the auto makers - it did not help them make money) -

However, all the right wingers out there will stick to the MO that "increasing government/regulation" is socialism...a very bad thing. I guess one could say that reducing government checks and balances to a single entity that is dependent on the corporate money for its viability is akin to authoritative totalitarianism, or fascism.

I guess my long winded point is that in order to "give the government back to the people and restore democracy", you will need more regulation, which many people will say is "socialism" - so....the right wingers are stuck on this one. IMO, the solution is more regulation, public financing of elections - basically regulations/laws to get the money out of politics and reduce corporate influence over social policy.

or...maybe another right wing acceptable solution is to wait for all corporations to turn into ben and jerry's style....I'm not holding my breath though.

2) as far as taxes go, our system is way screwed up. i think the 70% thing you mention would be a means to fix the problem (or help maybe) without fixing the system. basically, as i see it, we have a progressive system, where the wealthier people pay more percentage tax (opposite of flat tax rate), but since the institution of this, there has been so many loopholes built in, that our effective tax system is very non-progressive - wealthy people have many ways of hiding their taxable income and sheltering it, such that they really don't pay a progressive rate. Seems like a solution might be to wipe the slate clean, get rid of all the loopholes, and have a less progressive system.

3) as far as the pharmaceutical companies go, i think that you will find that much more money is going into finding treatment drugs for all these long term illnesses (cancer/HIV/etc), as opposed to finding cures...basically because they make more money off a prescription that never loses its market, as opposed to a one time cure. This is a typical example of how a capitalistic mindset is not the direction that our social policy should go. I don't know the solution since these are private companies, who should be able to make and sell whatever they want, but at the same time i think that we could agree that cures are more beneficial than treatment drugs.....

anyways, my 2.
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Old 10-26-2006   #4
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2004
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Like Marko said, socialism has a wide range. On one end, every thriving society needs some degree of socialism. It doesn't benefit anyone if there are beggars and theives living in the gutters. Corporations can't make money if there is no one to sell to. There needs to be some level of socalized safety net to maintain a strong middle class. Our progressive tax system is socialist. On the other end is communism where everything is socialized, the government runs everything and individuals own nothing. The continued debate will always be where to draw the line - how socialized should we be? And I'm not going to debate that since there will always be different opinions with good and bad points on both sides.

I guess the point of my post was Hartman should have stopped while he was ahead. I haven't heard anyone, republican or democrat, say corporations having control over our government is a good thing. But the answer isn't to give the government more control over our lives and impose 70% taxes on the wealthy. The answer is to reduce the amount of control the corporations have on our government. And you do that through regulation not socialism. They are two completely different things.

I disagree with Steve's point that "in order to "give the government back to the people and restore democracy", you will need more regulation, which many people will say is "socialism" - so....the right wingers are stuck on this one. IMO, the solution is more regulation, public financing of elections - basically regulations/laws to get the money out of politics and reduce corporate influence over social policy."

Regulation is not the same as socialism. Socialism is redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor and having the goverment, mainly through taxing the rich, pay for social programs for the poor. (Again, a degree of that is necessary in any society and I'm not going to debate where that line should be.) Regulation on the other hand is, in my opinion, one of the main jobs of the government. And the regulations should be made by the people to promote democracy and fair capitalism. Where we have gone wrong is the corporations are writing the regulations to benefit themselves not to promote fairness and democracy. That is what needs to be fixed or it won't matter where you stand on the socialism issue because we won't have any say in the matter anyway. It will be decided by the corporations.

Don't accept your national ID card in 2007.
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Old 10-26-2006   #5
Denver, Colorado
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Steve, your 2 cents is well written. And, blutzski, this new stuff is more about the capitalist society. I just posted and saw you have replied so I haven't had time to read what you just posted. I don't think I have twisted the debate, maybe just juiced it up...but sorry if I did.

I was getting tired last night so I didn't write some of the other things I would like to say about the "capitalist society." Lately, I am just not so sure about how I feel with this whole "capitalist society," or about how global capital is able to roam wherever it pleases-with NO Restictions. I am aware of the fact that this is a very touchy subject, so I will use Noam Chomsky as my companion. I am also very aware that this "invisible hand" is what feeds, employs, and shelters my ass. So I understand that there are aspects of this system that work well... just not as good as it could... unless your in the top 10 percentile... or even better in the top 1 percentile.

This is a great analogy by Chomsky of how capitalism works, "Understanding Power, page 62":

"It's like traffic: I mean, you can't make driving a car survivable by driving well yourself; there has to be kind of a social contract involved, otherwise it won't work. Like, if there was no social contract involved in driving - everybody was just driving like a lethal-weapon, going as fast as they can and forgetting all the traffic lights and everything else- you couldn't make that situation safe just by driving well yourself: it doesn't make much difference if you set out to drive safely if everybody else is a driving lethal-weapon, right? The trouble is, that's the way that capitalism works. The nature of the system is that it's supposed to be driven by greed; no one's supposed to be concerned for anybody else, nobody's supposed to worry about the common good- those are not things that are supposed to motivate you, that's the principle of the system. The theory is that private vices lead to public benefits - that's what they teach you in economics departments. It's all total bullshit, of course, but that's what they teach you. And as long as the system works that way, yeah, its going to self destruct."

I am also tired of hearing people re-utter, "well, we would just live in mediocrity if it wasn't for capitalism." I just cringe at that phrase. This phrase was PUT into our heads through massive PR campaigns that was started in the 1950's. This is a blurb from Chomsky, page 384. The lead in to this quote is him talking about the people of the world being very social-democratic after WWII, and how powerful corporate interests were very concerned about this, which lead to the destruction of labor movements, etc.:

"...the US population was very social-democratic after the war - it was extremely pro-union, it wanted more government involvement in regulating industry, probably a majority thought there should even be public industry - and business was terrified by it, they were very scared. They in fact said in their publications things like, "We have about five or six years to save the private enterprise system." Well, one thing they did was to lauch a huge propaganda program in the United States, aimed at reversing these attitudes. It was actually called at the time part of "the everlasting battle for the minds of men," who have to be "indocrinated in the capitalist story", that's a standard straight quote from the P.R. literature. So in the early 1950's, the Advertising Council(an organization begun during WWII and funded by the business community to assist the government with propaganda services at home) was spending huge amounts of money to propagandize for what they called "the American way." The public relations budget for the National Association of Manufacturers went up by about a factor of twenty. About a third of the textbooks in schools were simply provided by business. They had 20 million people a week watching propaganda films about worker-management unity, after the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 allowed propaganda to be shown to basically captive audiences in companies. They continued on with the "scientific methods of strike breaking" that had been developed in the late 1930s: devoting huge resources into propaganda instead of goon-squads and breaking knees. And it was all tied up with the "anti-Communist" crusade at the time - that's the true meaning of what's referred to as "McCarthyism," which started well before Joseph McCarthy got involved and was really launched by business and liberal members of the Democratic Party and so on. It was a way of using fear and jingoism to try to undermine labor rights and functioning democracy."

Chomsky also talks about "The Fraud of Modern Economics" and "International Capital: the Imperial Age." On page 254 he talks (this talk takes place in 1994) about:

"the basic assumption of classical economists was that labor is highly mobile and capital is relatively immobile - that's required, that's crucial to proving all their nice theorems. That was the reason they could say, "If you can't get enough to survive on the labor market, go someplace else" - because you could go someplace else: after the native populations of places like the United States and Australia and Tasmania were exterminated or driven away, then yeah, poor Europeans could go someplace else. So in the early 19th century, labor was indeed mobile. And back then, capital was indeed immobile- first because "capital" primarily meant land, and you can't move land, and also because to the extent that there was investment, it was very local: like, you didn't have communication systems that allowed for easy transfers of money all around the world, like we do today. So in the early 19th century, the assumption that labor was mobile and capital is immobile was more or less realistic - and on the basis of that assumption, you could try to prove things about comparative advantage and all this stuff you learn in school about Portugal and wine and so on... Well, by now the assumptions underpinning these theories are not only false - they're the opposite of the truth. By now labor is immobile, through immigration restrictions and so on, and capital is highly mobile, primarily because of technological changes. So none of the results work anymore. But, you're still taught them, you're still taught the theories exactly as before - even though the reality today is the exact oppopsite of what was assumed in the early 19th century. I mean, if you look at some of the fancier economists, Paul Krugman and so on, they've got all kinds of little tricks here and there to make the results not quite so grotesquely ridiculous as they'd otherwise be. But fundamentally, it's all just pretty ridiculous. I mean, if capital is mobile and labor is immobile, there's no reason why mobile capital shouldn't seek absolute advantage and play one national workforce against another, go wherever the labor is cheapest and thereby drive everybody's standard of living down... [In fact that is what we are seeing right now, it started with NAFTA, etc.] Nothing in these abstract models actually works in the real world. It doesn't matter how many footnotes they put in, or how many ways they tinker around the edges. The whole enterprise is totally rotten at the core: it has no relation to reality anymore - and furthermore, it never did."

There are alternatives to capitalism, but they are all works in progress. And, in order for this to happen people need to go beyond the typical black and white thinking. I am not the expert in this field. But this website and organization, ParEcon, seems to be going the right direction in having "productive" debates and ideas about what could help make a difference in our world economy. http://www.zmag.org/parecon/indexnew.htm

Oh, I just read this essay this morning. It isn't accademic, but it really made me think. Enjoy... http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com...-dead-and.html
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Old 10-26-2006   #6
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 254
well blutzski, i don't think we are disagreeing here. my intention was not to imply that the government should have more control over our lives, but rather to state that regulation can be misconstrued (especially by people with political aspirations) to be "socialism" and also as "control over our lives" - basically, i'm attempting to point out the hierocracy of the idea that government regulation is not necessary to get corporate influence out of social policy on the grounds that it is "socialism" - i agree with you that socialism and corporate control of government are very different things.

i very much agree with marko in his explanation that social democratic policy has lead to some benefits of society.

and of course no will SAY that it is a good thing to have corporations in control of our government, but this is definitely the agenda of the right wingers....aka - privatization. the current executive administration has undoubtedly fostered a culture where corporate influence has increased, as have the ear marks and last minute special project inclusions. Do you think this just happened under their nose while they didn't notice? too busy looking for osama perhaps? i doubt it.

so i don't see any disagreement here. i think we both agree that getting corporate influence out of public policy can only be accomplished via regulations, and must be done to restore democracy, right?

i think you're getting stuck on my point that regulation can be MIS-construed as socialism. I think that we probably also both agree that corporations will never write regs. to the benefit of the people, unless it just so happens to have that effect while increasing their own profits.

so...what do you (or anyone else) think about the idea of public financing of elections? also, what is your beef with a national ID card? I really am unaware of the idea, but don't understand what the problem is with another piece of ID?

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Old 10-26-2006   #7
Join Date: Apr 2004
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sorry, spell check error -

hierocracy (a word i don't know) was meant to be hypocrisy.
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Old 10-29-2006   #8
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
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so...what do you (or anyone else) think about the idea of public financing of elections?
I think public financing would definitely help clean up the political process. And, you could say that the electronic voting machines need a little cleansing as well...considering it is probably one of THE biggest scandals of our time. Check out this funny little video clip...

I also wanted to add one more thing to the capitalist/socialist topic, and maybe I am kind of repeating myself. But I think it crucial for people to understand that there is more to socialism than just the tainted name that was incurred from early communists, like Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. There are many different forms of socialism: social democracy, libertarian socialism, revolutionary socialism, communism, democratic socialism, and so on. I personally like the philosophy of a social democracy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_democracy However, I do not claim to be enough of an expert to know what system would work best for the world. But, one thing is for sure: A corporate capitalist world - with no restraints - that has absolute power will ultimately lead to the destruction of this world. Some form of "rational social planning" is needed to put the reins on what has now become the Goliath of this world. This giant does not give a flying F**k about us or the planet. It will create wars for profits, and is in control of the most powerful military in the world (see: the documentary, Why We Fight). It literally can and will grind a mountain down to nothing for its’ insatiable appetite for profits. (See Climax mine near Leadville for just one example)

Alright, one last Chomsky quote. I know. I know. You have probably had enough of Chomsky quotes on this post. But this one, I think, is profound. This was a speech he gave sometime in the early 90’s. To read more Chomsky stuff, check out his website: www.chomsky.info What I like the most about Chomsky is that there is no rhetoric being shoved into your face. The best thing about Chomsky’s writings is that it just makes you THINK, and it pushes you to go beyond the narrow boundaries of our mainstream debates. It should be required reading for everybody.

"Modern industrial civilization has developed within a certain system of convenient myths. The driving force of modern industrial civilization has been individual material gain, which is accepted as legitimate – even praise worthy – on the grounds that private vices yield to public benefits in the classic formulation. Now, it’s been long understood – very well – that a society that is based on this principle will destroy itself, in time. It can only persist with whatever suffering and injustice it entails as long as it is possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited, that the world is an infinite resource, and that the world is an infinite garbage can. At this stage of history either one of two things is possible: either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community interests, guided by values of solidarity and sympathy and concern for others, or alternatively there will be no destiny for anyone to control. As long as some specialized class is in a position of authority it is going to set policy and special interests that it serves. But the conditions of survival – let alone justice – requires rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole, and by now that means the global community. The question is whether the privileged elites should dominate mass communication, and should use this power as they tell us they must – namely to impose necessary illusions to manipulate and deceive the stupid majority and remove them from the arena. The question in brief is whether democracy and freedom are values to be preserved or threats to be avoided. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured. They may well be essential to survival.”
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Old 10-30-2006   #9
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,012
Great post Marko.

Originally Posted by marko
IA corporate capitalist world - with no restraints - that has absolute power will ultimately lead to the destruction of this world. Some form of "rational social planning" is needed to put the reins on what has now become the Goliath of this world. This giant does not give a flying F**k about us or the planet. It will create wars for profits, and is in control of the most powerful military in the world (see: the documentary, Why We Fight). It literally can and will grind a mountain down to nothing for its’ insatiable appetite for profits. (See Climax mine near Leadville for just one example)
Sorry if I'm being repetitive, but If there's one thing I want to get across is that this is an issue that all sides need to understand. Marko's way far left of me but I totally agree with him here. It isn't a Democrat or Republican thing. Corporations are a-political. They will f*@k you regardless. Being a capitalist and republican I use to subscribe to the theory that market forces will keep things in check and the government has our best interests in mind when they go to war or pass things like the patriot act. People need to educate themselves on who is really controlling the government and what the real motivation behind its actions are. Corporations are absolutely fine. Corporations controling our government will be the end of this country as we know it.

Steve, with respect to the National ID card, it has nothing to do with homeland security and everything to do with big brother. It is required to have an embeded radio frequency chip in it with "certain basic infomation" in it. What "certian basic information" means will be determined by the department of homeland security at al ater date. Here's where the corporations are heading with this. http://www.adcritic.com/interactive/view.php?id=5927
Eventually they are going to say you need the chip implated under your skin in the name of "security". We all need to take steps NOW to prevent our civil liberties from being eroded further in the name of security. Do NOT accept your national ID.

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