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Tea Party? Really?

April 15, 2009 Leave a comment

The anti-tax protests are lame and misguided by right-wing populism. Of all the shit our taxes go to (i.e., corporate welfare and augmenting an Empire) some folks are complaining about the “economic stimulus” bill. They have a warped understanding of the significance of spending on certain programs.

I understand that they see spending while having a defecit is wreckless and in some circumstances that is certainly true but as imperfect as analogies are, consider this: Our cars need fuel. When fuel is low our cars stop working. “Saving” our fuel does not help. Likewise, when the economy is running out of “fuel” you don’t “save” or cut fuel intake.

At the same time you don’t put sugar in your gas tank either. That is to say that what we spend should be aimed at increasing employment and wages. The bailout money for the banks obviously didn’t achieve that and a lot of what was originally in the economic stimulus package could have done this but was gutted.

We need tax justice, not necessarily less taxes. The problems Social Security and Medicare face are due to other economic factors like inflation and high health care costs (which is due to private medicine, not socialized medicine which is cheaper, more efficient and more accessible). Take Social Security. There is a phony scare about it being insolvent. Despite it is paid up past 2040 (what other program can say that?) the problems it faces internally are due to the cap (e.g., Warren Buffett, the richest man in the world, sees less than half of one percent of his annual income taxed for the program while a waitress working double-shifts sees 100% of hers taxed).

Increasing spending on our social infrastructure like roads, schools and hospitals is a good thing because it provides jobs to millions of Americans and puts money in their pocket.

Outlawing the privatization of basic health insurance will save us money since considerably less will be spent on administrative costs as has been proving in most of the developed world. We spend on average nearly twice as much as Canada and yet we have 50 million uninsured or underinsured Americans (imagine how much bigger your paychecks would be if your health insurance costs were cut by half and you didn’t have to spend money on prescriptions, co-pays or emergency visits!). On top of that most of those who file bankruptcy over medical bills have insurance. In Canada and UK it is a crime for private companies to sell basic health insurance.

Having good quality schools, social infrastructure and health will require taxes and spending. In return we get jobs, public safety, an education and healthier lives. When employment is likely already in double-digits, social infrastructure is in poor shape and the health care industry is quickly becoming its own crisis then why on Earth are we protesting spending? We should be out in the streets for particular kinds of spending and radically opposed to other kinds (i.e., universal health care versus universal bank care).

Spending is not the enemy anymore than putting gas in your tank is the enemy (or if you want another analogy: putting nourishment in our bodies). What we spend on and how we can manipulate and control the results is what matters. We need a wage-based economy that provides quality social services, as close to full-employment as possible and government policies that not only empowers workers and retiree’s but is also accountable to the public at large (i.e., self-managing and participatory democracy). Having tea parties and falling prey to right-wing populism is not and will not help, nor is dogmatic support for the Democrats.

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Necessities for a Classless Economy

April 15, 2009 Leave a comment
Look for the bare necessities,
The simple bare necessities

– Baloo, The Jungle Book

What do Leftists mean when they say they want “economic justice”? If we mean we desire a classless economy then it is our duty to define the basic features of a classless economy. We don’t have to nor should we attempt to come up with a blueprint of how each classless economy will look in the future. Just like Capitalism (which is largely defined by private ownership of productive assets that are allocated through markets) has no blueprints so too should a classless economy be able to describe its core features without providing overly-technical details.

First, we should start with defining a classless economy. Class divisions are hierarchal distinctions within a society based on access to certain social advantages like income, education or jobs. Therefore a classless economy is one where all workers have, for example, equitable access to livable wages, higher education and desirable jobs, and institutional practices are in place to prevent the rise of hierarchal divisions.

What is needed to have a classless economy?

Ownership of Productive Assets

If places of labor are allowed to be owned privately then an immediate class division arises: the owner and the workers. One essential feature of a classless economy is the abolition of private ownership of productive assets. Instead a classless economy would have social or communal ownership.

Allocation of Goods and Services

Some on the Left think we can have solidarity, which is synonymous with classlessness, and still have markets. I strongly disagree. Markets by their very nature pit buyers versus sellers, seek to cut corners and encourage other forms of anti-social behavior (i.e., externalities like pollution and traffic congestion are popular examples). A classless economy cannot allow interests to be divided between producers and consumers or else it will cease to be a classless economy. Consumers and producers will both need to plan the economy cooperatively and in a democratic fashion that gives each participant say to the degree they are affected. Such a process does not require endless meetings. If done through respective councils of consumers and workers spread out among industries and communities and facilitated through an impartial third party the process could be done more efficiently and effectively.

Remuneration of Labor

To maintain a classless economy it will be important to determine how to compensate workers. We have already gotten rid of ownership, but what about output which can be impacted by access to tools or genetic talent? If I have better tools than you and inherited talents that allow me to spit out more products then you then I can make more money than you, assuming we remunerate output. But if we do this then we can easily recreate class divisions. If we compensate others based on how hard and long they work to produce socially valued work then all have an equitable access to earn as much as anyone else. What you make, the tools you have access to and the genes you inherited will not impact your income. The only thing that is considered is the effort and sacrifice you endured. Similarly, you would not get paid to dig holes in your backyard since it is not socially valued. If consumers request X and you produce it then you will get paid based on how hard and long you worked to produce it.

Division of Labor

In any work place there will be a number of tasks to be performed. If they are distributed in such a way that some monopolize empowering, informative or desirable tasks then class divisions emerge. A classless economy cannot have every person doing every job. Who would want to anyway? But we can divide tasks in a workplace or throughout various workplaces so that all have an equal and fair access to empowering and informative tasks. This can be done by workers evaluating various tasks, grading them, determining an average and distributing those tasks out based on what one desires, is qualified for and what is available. If my specialized skill is a molecular biologist then I can balance my job by doing less empowering tasks. Perhaps I have an aversion to sweeping floors but am more open to cleaning labs, filing paperwork or carrying out other rote and tedious tasks. If I want to do it, can do it and it is available then I will do it.

Summary

To have a classless economy we will need to abolish private ownership of productive assets, allocate goods and services through a participatory and democratic planning process that involves both workers and consumers, remunerate based on effort and sacrifice and distribute job tasks in a balanced way so that all have an equitable access to do what they want, what they are capable of doing and what is available to do. Achieving this wont be easy but it is also not Utopian as some might think.

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