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On this labour day...
September 7, 2009 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Social mobility, income inequality and wealth disparities.

BONUS
  • After a 30-Year Run, Rise of the Super-Rich Hits a Wall: Over the last two years, the rich became poorer, and they may not return to their old levels of wealth anytime soon.
  • Household Debt to Net Worth Ratio Spiking - "While the richest were impacted the most in $ terms, the lower to middle class tend to have more of their net worth stashed in real estate (i.e. their home). Thus, while the financial markets rebounded in 2009, it is likely that the lower to middle class didn't reap the reward (housing has continued to fall). Thus, when data is updated for 2008 and 2009 (though too early to judge where we'll end up this year), expect the discrepancy to be even wider."
  • Poverty, growth, and sustainability - "Getting out of poverty means, among other things, having access to more of society's resources for the sake of consumption: better diet, healthcare, education, transportation, housing, clothing, and other goods... Now consider the environmental side of the coin."
  • Thin Value, Thick Value - "Profit through economic harm to others results in what I've termed 'thin value'. Thin value is an economic illusion: profit that is economically meaningless, because it leaves others worse off, or, at best, no one better off. When you have to spend an extra 30 seconds for no reason, mobile operators win -- but you lose time, money, and productivity. Mobile networks' marginal profits are simply counterbalanced by your marginal losses. That marginal profit doesn't reflect, often, the creation of authentic, meaningful value. Thin value is what the zombieconomy creates."
  • Life Inc. - "about money as a medium, and the way centralized currency and corporate capitalism were accepted as given circumstances of business, rather than inventions of particular people at a particular time... how the world became a corporation"
  • The Size of the Bush Tax Cuts vs. the Cost of Health Care Reform - "Tax cuts for the wealthy come before health care for the uninsured."
  • Health Care That Works - "Until the mid-19th century, firefighting was left mostly to a mishmash of volunteer crews and private fire insurance companies. In New York City, according to accounts in The New York Times in the 1850s and 1860s, firefighting often descended into chaos, with drunkenness and looting. So almost every country moved to what today’s health insurance lobbyists might label 'socialised firefighting'. In effect, we have a single-payer system of public fire departments... Throughout the industrialised world, there are a handful of these areas where governments fill needs better than free markets: fire protection, police work, education, postal service, libraries, health care. The United States goes along with this international trend in every area but one: health care."
  • Professor Paul Krugman at war with Niall Ferguson over inflation - "One of them is a 'poseur'. The other is 'patronising'. One suffers from 'verbal diarrhoea'. The other is a 'whiner'... Those accusations were slung round in an increasingly bitter public row between two of the world’s most distinguished commentators on global finance and economics, professors Paul Krugman and Niall Ferguson, of Princeton and Harvard, respectively. It started as an argument about bond prices. But last week it blew up into a row about racism, printing money, spending our way out of recession, and the fate of the global economy." [1,2]
  • Why the Growing Level of U.S. Debt May Not be Inflationary - "The future level of the debt in the U.S. is not a worry if we get effective health care reform (rising health care costs are the major source of projected future deficits)."
btw, labor day (American) "originated in Canada [...President Grover] Cleveland was also concerned that aligning a US labor holiday with existing international May Day celebrations would stir up negative emotions linked to the Haymarket Affair."
posted by kliuless (54 comments total) 82 users marked this as a favorite

 
Damn fine, and there goes my plan of being productive today.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:38 AM on September 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Unionization up on state, local levels.

Which IMO is what is desperately needed at this time. CEOs and other extremely-overpaid top-level employees and directors need to be bitchslapped back to reality. More money must flow to employees. Top staff must take significant pay cuts.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:50 AM on September 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


So you hand this out on Labor Day. Does this mean there's going to be a mid-term sometime in October?
posted by philip-random at 9:58 AM on September 7, 2009


The fact that young children growing up in high-stress poverty are effectively BRAIN-DAMAGED forever -- that's a medical, economic and moral catastrophe. Especially when you consider just how big that population is. Can we really have a vibrant society and economy when so many of our citizens are handicapped by brain physiology detrimentally affected by abject poverty?

I'm neither rich nor poor, but I would have no qualms about paying some higher taxes in order to fix some of our major problems, starting with the eradication of poverty. I guess I was lucky because although I did grow up in abject poverty, that part of my life didn't begin until I was five years old, by which time I guess my neural nets were pretty well established and healthy. I did still end up with PTSD, but I'll take that over being permanently dumbed down by early childhood poverty.

We're neither 'the land of the free' (more people in prison than any other country), nor "the land of opportunity" (more people trapped in their socioeconomic status than other developed nations). 30 years of primarily Republican rule has brought us to this point, and I can't say I'm all that surprised. Just saddened.
posted by jamstigator at 10:03 AM on September 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


We're not the land of the free simply because we have people in prison? If that knocks the US out of the "land of the free" world, then I'd rather not be there. Most of the folks in our prisons are there because they've done something that put them there; I'd hate to see what our society would be like if they were left 'free'. (And Republican rule didn't bring us to that point with the prison system.)

Now if we were knocked out of the "land of the free" world because most of us are 'enslaved' by the almighty dollar and the need to have it, then I'd agree.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 10:16 AM on September 7, 2009


The Krugman/Ferguson matchup is eerily reminiscent of many contentious MetaFilter threads.
posted by carsonb at 10:16 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just before we get started on the links: it's a moral outrage that people in civil society should die through lack of money, or become poor because they are sick.

The only meaningful measure of civilisation is how it treats it's most vulnerable members.

Sorry, I've been meaning to say that for a while. I'll go quietly and rtfas now.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 10:29 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


...almost every country moved to what today’s health insurance lobbyists might label 'socialised firefighting'. In effect, we have a single-payer system of public fire departments.

...giving us politicized hiring and advancement practices, overspending on way more fire protection than anyone has needed since the "long hot summers" of the late 1960s and early 70s, inefficient balkanization of services, and firehouses full of overpaid muscle-bound loafers with nothing to do all day but drink and plan their retirement.

This is what healthcare will be like under socialized medicine.

I'm neither rich nor poor, but I would have no qualms about paying some higher taxes in order to fix some of our major problems, starting with the eradication of poverty.

If our government can't "fix some of our major problems" now with the trillions of dollars it's been able to play with for the past 50 years, what makes you think it would be able to do so with trillions more, including your paltry contribution?

More money must flow to employees. Top staff must take significant pay cuts.

American workers with jobs already make s**tloads more than those of almost any other nation. If anything, we need to make less, so there's more capital for companies to invest in new plants and products. And there's rarely any see-saw connection between the salaries of top staff and employees at big companies. I mean, if my CEO gave back a million dollars of his salary this year, the board wouldn't immediately say, "Great, now we can pay Fazenmeyer more!" They'd say, "Great, now we gotta hide this money from our great, big greedy, self-perpetuating, ever-expanding, stupendously inefficient government -- especially those firemen."
posted by Faze at 10:41 AM on September 7, 2009


It has been suggested, with some plausibility, that what sustains the American belief in the "land of opportunity" is not reasonable confidence of steady, incremental improvement in socio-economic status from generation-to-generation, but rather a belief in the possibility of one's own dramatic elevation into the higher economic strata, buttressed by the assumption that the absolute condition of the lower tiers will be improved in any case.

The stakes are high, the odds are low, and the last roll came up snake eyes - but there's still a crowd bellied up to the table like it's the only game in town...
posted by Urban Hermit at 10:49 AM on September 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


...giving us politicized hiring and advancement practices, overspending on way more fire protection than anyone has needed since the "long hot summers" of the late 1960s and early 70s, inefficient balkanization of services, and firehouses full of overpaid muscle-bound loafers with nothing to do all day but drink and plan their retirement.

This is what healthcare will be like under socialized medicine.


That you think this is somehow worse than firefighters starting fires to drum up business indicates that your opinion is not one which should be given any consideration whatsoever. You are self-refuting and self-marginalizing.

If our government can't "fix some of our major problems" now with the trillions of dollars it's been able to play with for the past 50 years, what makes you think it would be able to do so with trillions more, including your paltry contribution?

Yes, the only way the government can spend is the way it has. That spending a lot of money in one way hasn't worked well proves that spending a lot of money is in and of itself a failure rather than discrediting the manner in which it was spent. Fantastic logic. Thank you for contributing.

If anything, we need to make less, so there's more capital for companies to invest in new plants and products.

This was pernicious, destructive nonsense in the 1980's and in the past eight years and anybody still purporting has forfeited any place in the discussion that they might have claimed.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:50 AM on September 7, 2009 [15 favorites]


We're not the land of the free simply because we have people in prison?

You're not the land of the free because you have MORE people in prison per capita than any other nation in the so-called "Free World". If that is not cause for thought, then what is?

Please do THINK, America. You're not the land of the free just because your propaganda (force-fed since early childhood) says so. It's got to play out in the real world and no, it's not looking that good of late. As jamstigator suggests, you've allowed a succession of conservative powers and thinking over the past thirty years (Ronald Reagan onward, so yes I'm including the Clinton years here, too) to let the rich get immeasurably richer and the poor get immeasurably poorer.

So sorry, call me a godless Communist, but I can see no REAL freedom in this situation as it does necessarily consign a certain percentage of one's neighbors to hell (either the prison system, or just good old fashioned bottomless poverty). This is a foolish way to go about things, and fools and their freedom are soon parted.

And now, I promise I'll go read at least some of the articles before further vanting (that's not a typo, that's venting + ranting combined).
posted by philip-random at 10:50 AM on September 7, 2009 [9 favorites]


They'd say, "Great, now we gotta hide this money from our great, big greedy, self-perpetuating, ever-expanding, stupendously inefficient government -- especially those firemen."

You have no ear for dialogue.
posted by creasy boy at 10:51 AM on September 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


The American class war: they won it in the 1930s but they won't stop strafing your corpse.

If anything, we need to make less, so there's more capital for companies to invest in new plants and products
This seems to ignore how a consumer market economy generates capital; from people spending money on the things companies make (read: source in China). From the third link:
Over the past decade, rising US household spending has served as the main engine of US economic growth. From 2000 to 2007, US annual personal consumption grew by 44 percent, from $6.9 trillion to $9.9 trillion - faster than either GDP or household income. Consumption accounted for 77 percent of real US GDP growth during this period - high by comparison with both US and international experience
And further to that parenthesis, what makes you think those companies are going to invest capital in America, when they've been shipping it elsewhere in search of higher returns for many years now?
posted by Abiezer at 10:55 AM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


...giving us politicized hiring and advancement practices, overspending on way more fire protection than anyone has needed since the "long hot summers" of the late 1960s and early 70s, inefficient balkanization of services, and firehouses full of overpaid muscle-bound loafers with nothing to do all day but drink and plan their retirement.

I should introduce to some volunteer firefighters I'm friends with. They work 9-5 jobs and come home to be on call so they can fight fires and pull people out of car collisions. Or maybe the guys out in California that are drinking and planning their retirement while they try to contain the massive wildfires. Or the lazy guys up in Montana that do the same thing. Why do people overconsume so many fire protection services? I'm sure the free market can figure it out.
posted by ryoshu at 10:57 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


This just in: Total 10 Year Job Gains: Negative 203k

As depressing as this is, I feel vindicated. I always suspected I wasn't a slacker.

At 28 going on 29, I am still trying to claw my way up to the middle class with my fancy college degree. The real fun will come when the Boomers start to retire. Maybe I can get one of their jobs, but just wait until our generation will be paying for their hip replacements. Yipee!
posted by Acromion at 10:58 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


We're not the land of the free simply because we have people in prison? If that knocks the US out of the "land of the free" world, then I'd rather not be there. Most of the folks in our prisons are there because they've done something that put them there; I'd hate to see what our society would be like if they were left 'free'. (And Republican rule didn't bring us to that point with the prison system.)

Probably, it would look a lot like Canada, Japan, the UK, and other countries that don't have insanely high prison populations. Why would that be a bad thing? Those countries also have Universal Heath-care, too. The only other country that comes close is Russia, and even then, it doesn't come very close.

If the U.S. released one out of every three prisoners, we would have about as many prisoners are Russia.


In order to match the UK, we would need to release 4 out of every 5 prisoners.

In order to match the horrible dystopia that is Canada, we'd need to release 5 out of every 6 prisoners (side note, China's incarceration rate is nearly identical to Canada's)

And to match Japan's incarceration rate, we would need to release 11 out of every 12 prisoners.

(Here's where I got the stats)
posted by delmoi at 11:16 AM on September 7, 2009 [29 favorites]


Fucking hell Delmoi, those stats are gold.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 11:30 AM on September 7, 2009


That just means their drug war is not working as well.
posted by qvantamon at 11:30 AM on September 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


In order to match the UK, we would need to release 4 out of every 5 prisoners.

Wow, that's a fittingly shocking figure. The discussion of UK prison populations often centers on the sky-high numbers and overcrowded system that we currently have, along with warnings that if we go much further along the "lawandorder" route we'll end up like the US. Indeed, the US is held up as the paradigmatically bad example of a penal system, and one we should avoid. Suggestions of building larger prisons or involving the private sector invoke "just like the US?" comparisons.
posted by Sova at 11:33 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Great post, kliuless. One year into this THING and certain patterns are presenting themselves.

From the Life Inc link: However, Rushkoff points out, we haven't had many opportunities to consider alternatives, since corporations have controlled media, government and schools. Aren't we completely conditioned to accept corporate assumptions as what's real, inherent and incontrovertible?

This goes way deeper than just a few words can do justice. If the America of the past 30 years was a religion, it would be called Corporatism, which when you think of it, is an awfully sinister name for a religion (equal parts bureaucratic and necrophilic).

Allow me, as neither a historian nor an economist, to suggest that the future for the great America "Experiment" (if it has one, if it truly wants to be anything more than a polluted and divided backwater in a hundred years) lies in its ability to shift gears and directions and become neither a Canada nor a Switzerland nor a UK ... but it's own unique THING. And step one in this great shift has to be a wholesale devaluing of the Corporatist agenda. Full stop.

FUCK THE SHAREHOLDERS!

This kind of shift can't happen quickly (and it shouldn't) ... but it does have to happen. As to how to affect this? I see a lot of genuine illumination in the various links posted here, both in the initial post and throughout the thread.

Happy Labor Day.
posted by philip-random at 11:40 AM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


So much to comment about labor/labour day.

aligning a US labor holiday with existing international May Day celebrations would stir up negative emotions

In Hawai'i -- a firebed of union-labor movements in the pre-statehood days -- the fearmongering about 'negative emotions' and 'agitators' was set in motion after the 1938 Hilo Massacre . Damn uppity brown ppl.

Today, few ppl in Hawai'i even know what international May Day is -- May 1 is "Lei Day" in Hawai'i. Few even know their labor history -- it has been steadily vilified over the years. Just cover over dissent with pretty flowers.

Oh, and if you are poor, you must be ignorant, lazy or criminal (or genetically predisposed?). Reagan cleared that up for us.
posted by Surfurrus at 11:42 AM on September 7, 2009


Most of the folks in our prisons are there because they've done something that put them there; I'd hate to see what our society would be like if they were left 'free'

As the posters above me have pointed out, America incarcerates a far greater percentage of its citizens. Why is that? Are Americans so much more evil? Are they more murderous, more drug addled, more corrupt than any other citizens in the world? Or is it possible that our citizens are jailed more readily for more offenses and for longer sentences than any other nation.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:42 AM on September 7, 2009


RE: becoming it's own unique THING.

This kind of shift can't happen quickly (and it shouldn't) ... but it does have to happen. As to how to affect this?


Stop voting for Democrats and Republicans.
Vote in third, fourth and fifth party candidates into Congress. Lots of them.
posted by Zambrano at 11:48 AM on September 7, 2009


Duverger's Law, Zambrano. Our two-party system isn't the result of conspiracy, it's the result of all the power going to the highest score. If there's a roughly equal number of lefties and a roughly equal number of righties, and the left has two parties and the right has one, the right's going to win as long as the left keeps dividing its votes between parties.

In systems where you vote for specific candidates for specific positions, you're going to end up with two-party systems because having more parties than the other side is a losing strategy every time in such systems. You need a proportional represenation system to make voting third party viable.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:53 AM on September 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


having more parties which are percieved to be viable than the other side is how I should've phrased that.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:59 AM on September 7, 2009


American workers with jobs already make s**tloads more than those of almost any other nation. If anything, we need to make less, so there's more capital for companies to invest in new plants and products. (Faze)

*head splode*
posted by WCityMike at 12:12 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the great links, sir.
posted by maxwelton at 12:13 PM on September 7, 2009


Faze clearly hasn't traveled much if he thinks that single-payer medicine is bad and American workers are well-paid.
posted by oaf at 12:14 PM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


American workers with jobs already make s**tloads more than those of almost any other nation. If anything, we need to make less, so there's more capital for companies to invest in new plants and products.

There is absolutely no response to this other than "Horseshit".

The only reason we have been an the economic superpower is because our middle class was the biggest and most affluent ever created. The buying power of the middle class is what our whole system depends (or depended) on.

The American Labor Movement gave us that. Workers rose up, at great risk, and took their due - to everyone's benefit. Management would have never (repeat, NEVER) have come off of any of it on their own.

Do you think it's a coincidence that our economic power has waned as Labor has lost power? I submit they are directly connected. We have exchanged an economic engine for a vacuum cleaner.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:33 PM on September 7, 2009 [15 favorites]


Wow, Faze, dude...open your eyes. A whole freaking TON of people in prison here are there because of three strikes laws, mandatory sentences, and growing and/or smoking wacky tobacky (something that people did without imprisoning themselves for some thousands of years until we came along and decided it was so vile that you should be incarcerated away from other citizens).

And paying people LESS? Really? So you're saying that it's okay for poor children to have deformed brains, and not only that, we should pay people less so even MORE children grow up that way? Clearly you have never lived in abject poverty yourself, or you would not so blithely wish to consign millions of additional children to that fate.

At the same time, Faze, it sounds like you'd argue FOR the $750 million compensation package that the CEO of Cigna received. I'd agree that yes, HE needs to be paid less. It's not like we have the best health care in the world (as evidenced by results, not propaganda). If we did, then MAYBE he might be worth that much. But no, I don't think any job is worth that much. I'm sure *someone* with bang-up credentials would be glad to step in for a paltry $20 million compensation package, or less.

I'm guessing you're a troll. If not, our education system clearly failed you. Or you failed it. Whichever.
posted by jamstigator at 12:33 PM on September 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


We're not the land of the free simply because we have people in prison? If that knocks the US out of the "land of the free" world, then I'd rather not be there. Most of the folks in our prisons are there because they've done something that put them there

This is absolutely true. Of course it is also true that most of the folks in the Soviet gulag were there because they'd done something to put them there. And most folks in Chinese prisons did something to land themselves there as well. So I'm not sure this says what you think it says.
posted by Justinian at 12:48 PM on September 7, 2009 [12 favorites]


I'm glad you guys managed to respond to Faze while I was still puttering about trying to decide where to fucking start.
posted by brundlefly at 12:59 PM on September 7, 2009


We incarcerate more people and then we keep them in prison longer. We're moving toward the criminalization of homelessness. There's a case coming up in my county where some podunk speedtrap has held a guy on charges of indigency for three fucking months while demanding he pay nearly three grand in fines. That's deeply fucked up. The whole sentencing system is out of whack. You can be GRAR GRAR TUFF ON TEH CRIMEZ and still acknowledge that we are only digging ourself deeper into a hole, and the solution isn't DIG MOAR.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:04 PM on September 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


The brilliance of Faze's comment is that he turned an excellent post from kliuless into a "pile on Faze" pissing match, where each comment is more condescending, more snarky, and more off-topic than the next. Congrats. He pooped once. The rest of you followed his example.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 1:05 PM on September 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


US Un(der)employment
Last week saw the official unemployment rate in the US rise to 9.7%, it’s highest level in 26 years.
Close to half a million people became unemployed in August alone bringing the official unemployment figure up to 14.9 million, an increase of 7.9 million since the recession began in December 2007. More than 5 million people have been out of work for 6 months or more, with the unemployment rate for teenagers (who are looking for work) a staggering 25.5%.
These are the numbers that hit the headlines in the media, but as dire as they are they mask a huge increase in the level of underemployed – those who have been forced to start working part time as a result of the recession or can only find part time work in the job market. At the end of August 2009 9.1million people fell into this category, an increase of 50% in the last year. This brought the lesser publicised measure of underemployed (unemployed plus forced part time) up to 16.8%, the highest on record, with the average working week down to 33 hours, the lowest on record.
This has led to a huge surge in the number of working families having to resort to food stamps to get by, with 40% of food stamp claimants being in employment
posted by Abiezer at 1:05 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Congrats. He pooped once. The rest of you followed his example.

It's Labor Day and Faze is working hard under that bridge. I don't think it's too much to toss him a bone.
posted by ryoshu at 1:16 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


C'mon, people! The problem with modern-day America is that we obviously make too much money and have too many firefighters. I mean, if that's not the most obvious fucking observation ever I just don't know what is.
posted by Avenger at 1:39 PM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


If the U.S. released one out of every three prisoners, we would have about as many prisoners are Russia.

This only makes sense if you think our prisons are for crime control. That's not the point; the point of prisons, now that Jim Crow is ostensibly outlawed, is "Negro" (and "Mexican") control.
posted by orthogonality at 2:24 PM on September 7, 2009


That's not the point; the point of prisons, now that Jim Crow is ostensibly outlawed, is "Negro" (and "Mexican") control.

Well, that and profit.
posted by brundlefly at 2:30 PM on September 7, 2009


The favorite count on this comment (a comment made by a middling-university grad student who, as far as I can tell, has never worked a day in his life) is symptomatic not of its clarity or incision, but of its politics. As someone who doesn't think that Faze is a troll, I'll mount a brief defense of two of his ideas.

Fire departments are enormous rackets, and I for one hope that the bargaining entailed in whatever version of nationalized health care (in which we wait and wait for the curve to bend, because NHC is after all about a bigger pie, right? You can trust us because we're not about profits.) we wind up with looks nothing like the public sector employee clusterfuck we have now. Perhaps we can arrange rubber rooms for homicidal nurses?

Anyway, as to the argument about government fixing our problems? Leviathian has grown. I hope the smarmy, juvenile tone demonstrated in your rejoinder to Faze-- "Fantastic logic. Thank you for contributing."-- belies a twinge of uncertainty about the strength of your argument. Because your team has been winning for years, and yet it keeps kvetching about how much worse things are getting-- especially in the living laboratories of progressivism.
posted by Kwantsar at 2:56 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


(a comment made by a middling-university grad student who, as far as I can tell, has never worked a day in his life)

You know what? I flunked out of college my first go. Dropped out, got a job working at a local fast food joint, and then shortly thereafter packing glass vials and ampules at a factory. I got laid off, met someone who was nine months pregnant, moved in, and raised the kid as mine, working at factories and Wal-Mart and whatever else would have me to support what was then my family. It was barely enough; we spent time on food stamps and time in Section 8 housing when it wasn't, and spent an awful lot of time worrying and stressing over paying for rent and food and clothes and school supplies for her 7 year old, that sort of thing. Ultimately it was those economic difficulties that wore the relationship down and tore it apart; I moved back in with my folks and got my feet back on the ground, eventually returning to school, and she moved herself and her kids out of state and, last I heard, wants nothing to do with me. Given how acrimonious things got at the end, I can't say I blame her.

Point is, I know what it is to struggle. I know what it's like to go in and do the job day in, day out, with no end and no better future in sight; hell, if you need help with academic motivation, I can't recommend anything as strongly as I recommend a series of miserable dead-end jobs. And by god I will not be called a shiftless layabout by some anonymous fucking asshole on the internet.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:29 PM on September 7, 2009 [21 favorites]


Poverty is not ennobling. It sucks the life and spirit out of the best of us.
posted by Surfurrus at 4:00 PM on September 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


Faze is the first user who has inspired me to actually take a look at the available flags and think "is obvious trolling noise or derail?" Congratulations, I guess.

As a survivor of several boom/bust cycles in the tech industry, I've had the misfortune of witnessing a number of businesses run into the ground by inept management who, while laying off in some cases double figure percentages of staff were simultaneously divesting themselves of their massive options grants and giving themselves huge raises. In the few notable cases which come to mind first, none of those businesses are still around and the worst/largest of them went from a company with 500 worldwide employees and a hundred million and change in annual revenue to essentially nothing within the span of 18 months. This last one I witnessed as an employee but most of the rest as a consultant called in to attempt to save massively overbudget/schedule projects that in most cases were related to what would charitably be assumed to be "core competencies" of the businesses. There is a thriving consulting industry right now doing nothing but coming in and cleaning up after bad management and bad decision making. I'm not sure exactly how new this phenomenon is but it doesn't bode well for the future of the sort of Cowboy-CEO that has become so popular lately. (Seriously, if your CEO can't hold an intelligent conversation on the topic of whatever it is your company does with his employees, he probably should not be the CEO. Why this bit of "wisdom" continually escapes directors of public companies is beyond me.)

It is my suspicion that the conflation of "shareholder value" with "stock price after financials" is at the root of this problem and that in order to correct it, we will have to reexamine the motivations of corporations themselves.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:14 PM on September 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


We're not the land of the free simply because we have people in prison?

Not any people in prison. More people in prison. But you already knew that.

Also, isn't that the most basic definition of "free," i.e. the ability to come and go as you please and speak to whomever you choose about whatever you like? The percentage of citizens in prison seems like an excellent measure of a country's "freedom level."

I'd hate to see what our society would be like if they were left 'free'.

Well, the good news is that we get to see for ourselves.

I thought maybe you were being sarcastic, but then I thought not.

Faze is the first user who has inspired me to actually take a look at the available flags and think "is obvious trolling noise or derail?" Congratulations, I guess.

And Kwcantsar's comment was the first I've ever marked "Offensive" - too bad this thread got hijacked by jackasses (and then out-labor-dayed by Michael Moore. ;) That comment would have been offensive even if it had been true.

Nice thread. Great links. Obviously still sorting through them...
posted by mrgrimm at 5:52 PM on September 7, 2009


If you believe that workers making less will result in companies having more money, you really ought to read a book on economics or something, because as economic theory goes, you're on par with the girl wearing lots of hemp macrame and wanting to go to a barter only economy.

Also: "...way more fire protection than anyone has needed..."

I'm really looking hard and failing to find the picture of the big street near my house, but suffice it to say you're out of your element here too. And that was a measly little house - imagine if it was one of those factories you've been so busy fetishizing.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:13 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fire protection, like war, requires overwhelming force. Otherwise, you're trading people for dollars. I guess that fits in well with his stance on healthcare, though.
posted by ifandonlyif at 7:10 PM on September 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


Ditto feloniousmonk; the cowboy CEO thing was a huge WTF for me when I first saw it in action; and a morale killer for the workers.

Startup pharma, bought out by a middling pharma wanting to be big pharma. Lots of promises, like keeping (newly bought) lab and personel where they were. Went out, hired a new CEO, gave him a big multi million bonus. CEO dissolved newly bought lab, resigned, got a big assed multi million dollar resignation bonus, not to mention stock options which he liquidated before dissolving the newly bought lab. Stock prices fell from ~$80 (my options were at ~$40) down to ~$1.

That and there were 7 or 8 vice presidents. Like, wtf. The vices did very little other than to fly out from the home office, first class, and lecture us about how the company was great and that we should be happy to be part of them now. That at, in the end, fire senior scientists who weren't working directly on the antibiotic that the startup was bought for.

Incidentally, about half of the lowest workers (and most of the middle-scientists) were invited to move to another country and join the buying company (albeit at about 70% of the buyer company's current staff's salary per position).

There's something wrong with corporatism unless you're part of the executive class.
posted by porpoise at 8:33 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fire departments are enormous rackets
posted by dirigibleman at 12:23 AM on September 8, 2009


American workers with jobs already make s**tloads more than those of almost any other nation. If anything, we need to make less, so there's more capital for companies to invest in new plants and products.

Hoho. Yes. That's the spirit I like to see. I may be a citizen of a social democratic country, and benefit from all that entails, but I like to see my employees think like this.

It is true that higher taxes and wages, and more regulation means that profitability growth in my country is lower than that in the US. That is why despite being a citizen of a fairly egalitarian country where everyone has health care and the chance to attend university - I invest a lot of my money in the United States.
Now I hope you take pride in that. You do seem to, Americans of my acquaintance always brag about the size of their economy and how their country is the wealthiest in the world.

I see myself as a sort of absentee owner of a share in a giant plantation. And you? Well, my friends - you're out there picking cotton for me. Maybe slaves in the antebellum South took pride in the importance of the plantation where they worked?

In any case, if you're reading this at the office, get back to work! If you all do real well this year then Massa can take his seven weeks of annual leave in Bali instead of Italy.
posted by atrazine at 3:16 AM on September 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


I think the fundamental problem with Faze or Kwantsar's ideas that workers need to be more competitive - lower pay rates, reduced conditions, whatever - is that if they are wrong, they push millions of people toward penury. The alternative, where a fairer division of rewards sees lower rewards for CEOs and shareholders but higher rewards for workers, would only result in some diminishment of CEOs rewards and dividends if it is incorrect.
The idea that a group of workers, firefighters in Kwantsar's example, is on "a racket" because they have overtime allowances, or a $500 payment after 5yrs of service, or modestly generous retirement benefits is laughable compared to, say, the bonuses paid to finance analysts or other "high flyers".
To hold these examples up as the worst drawbacks of a potential public healthcare system, compared to the present system where sick people are regularly bankrupted, or worse, makes a pathetic argument.
posted by bystander at 10:53 PM on September 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


The fact that young children growing up in high-stress poverty are effectively BRAIN-DAMAGED forever -- that's a medical, economic and moral catastrophe.

You want cheap labour, right?

In the system we have, it is certainly in the best interests of those at the top that those at the bottom stay on the bottom.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:27 PM on September 9, 2009



Actually, if you rationally break it down, this isn't the case at all. The #1 cause of instability, insecurity, THREAT is poor people. Hence, feed and house the poor and the overall quality of life goes WAY up, thus the system is improved.

But, of course, I'm assuming here that "the system we have" is rational.
posted by philip-random at 9:31 PM on September 9, 2009


More money must flow to employees. Top staff must take significant pay cuts.American workers with jobs already make s**tloads more than those of almost any other nation. If anything, we need to make less, so there's more capital for companies to invest in new plants and products.

Faze, you are a moran.

Have you never left the safety of your little nook of the world?

Have you never lived in a nation with a functioning public healthcare system?

When compared against those nations — Canada, Norway, France, UK, whomever — the US is factually "about the same" on most measures except one: your healthcare system sucks.

Somehow, other nations not only have the capital for companies, but also the funding for research and development, and public healthcare. You guys get shafted.

My guess is that you're quite well-off, or quite young, or quite insulated from what's really happening, or a combination thereof. You really haven't the foggiest idea what you're talking about, and it shows. Please, for the sake of your public image, say less than you do. It is better to be thought a fool, than to write on MeFi and prove it.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:34 PM on September 9, 2009


I think the fundamental problem with Faze or Kwantsar's ideas that workers need to be more competitive - lower pay rates, reduced conditions, whatever - is that …

…the top one percent of the population holds almost half the wealth of of the nation.

WTF? They wish to defend that?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:38 PM on September 9, 2009


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