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Cooperative Efforts: This Is How We Save Ourselves

7:32 am in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

Richard D. Wolff

The Western emphasis on the individual at the expense of the group — an emphasis that capitalism seems to heighten — has its good points and bad points. One of the bad points, a massive, Rand-stoked indifference to the plights of others, has dominated our politics and culture for most of the past half-century.

This emphasis has been so strong that it hinders our ability to connect with each other, and ironically leaves marriage as the only form of deep connection that our society honors — which may account for the desperate urgency with which we marry and then later divorce.

The institutions that seem to have best weathered the current storms of end-stage capitalism are precisely those that put democratic functions first. Individuals have voices and are encouraged to use them, yet they are not allowed to dominate, much less totally control, the process the way the hyper-rich do today. Whether it be a bowling league, a CSA, an urban or rural community produce garden, or a group of Silicon Valley Republican computer geeks working in democratic Marxian fashion in each other’s garages, this is how we save ourselves — and it has always been how we save ourselves, Ayn Rand to the contrary.

The 150-Year Labor Shortage, The Fall of Corporate Taxation: Things The Establishment Media Don’t Exactly Emphasize

6:06 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

Woman Struggling to Embrace Marx (photo: [planeta_roig, flickr)

Woman Struggling to Embrace Marx (photo: [planeta_roig, flickr)

If you haven’t encountered it already, I highly recommend Southern Dragon’s excellent series of diaries entitled “Marx in the Morning”, featuring lectures and commentary by Richard D. Wolff and David Harvey. (Here they are so far, in order: #1, #2, #3, #4.) The comments threads are among the best in terms of concentrated utility (very good signal-to-noise ratio, in other words), and the post contents are themselves worthwhile. Even if you’re a certified smartypants, chances are that you’ll learn something new and useful.

Aside from the revelations about Marx’s work, I learned two useful things that are central to American life today, yet which I have never once heard stated on the radio or TV or read in a newspaper: I learned about the labor shortage that fueled the 150-year period of rising wages in the United States, and I learned about the fact that corporations used to pay a lot more in corporate taxes, especially as an overall percentage of American tax revenues, than they do now.

As Rick Wolff has explained in various fora (such as here), the 150-year period of rising wages lasted from 1820 to 1970 — essentially, for as long as there was something resembling cheap undeveloped land that could be farmed and before mechanization and computerization had raised productivity and efficiency to the point where employers (both in the city and on the farm) could get by with fewer workers (and so didn’t need to keep hiring them, much less giving them pay raises). Wages have since then started to drop, to the point where even two-income families don’t have the same standard of living their parents enjoyed on one income, much less any hope of improvement on what their parents enjoyed.

As for the corporate tax revelations, those are especially ironic as one of the favored whines of the one-percenters and their shills such as the boys and girls of the Heritage Foundation is that American corporations pay too much in taxes. What the one-percenters won’t tell you, Rick Wolff does — namely, that American corporations used to pay a lot more in taxes than they do now:

Compare income taxes received by the federal government from individuals and from corporations (their profits are treated as their income). The table below (in millions of dollars) is based on statistics from the Office of Management and the Budget in the White House:1

Year Total Individual Income Taxes Total Corporate Income Taxes
(In Millions) (In Millions)
1943 6,505 9,557
1948 19,319 9,678
1968 68,726 28,665
1988 401,181 94,508
2008 1,145,747 304,346

The overall picture is unmistakable. The trend is clear. During the Great Depression federal income tax receipts from individuals and corporations were roughly equal. During World War Two, income tax receipts from corporations were 50 % greater than from individuals. The national crises of depression and war produced successful popular demands for corporations to contribute significant portions of federal tax revenues.

Two extremely important facts, yet until a few weeks ago I hadn’t heard of either of them. I’m betting that not one in a hundred people know of them.

Thanks again, SD.

What The Traditional Media Isn’t Telling You About India

7:37 am in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

Seems like you can’t open the web browser these days without seeing yet another story based on cherry-picked information on how nations must ditch all social spending and cut taxes on the rich in order to be "competitive". Yesterday’s thumbsucker along these lines comes from the New York Times‘ Jim Yardley:

JHABUA, India — Inside the drab district hospital, where dogs patter down the corridors, sniffing for food, Ratan Bhuria’s children are curled together in the malnutrition ward, hovering at the edge of starvation. His daughter, Nani, is 4 and weighs 20 pounds. His son, Jogdiya, is 2 and weighs only eight.

For the governing Indian National Congress Party, which has staked its political fortunes on appealing to the poor, this persistent inability to make government work for people like Mr. Bhuria has set off an ideological debate over a question that once would have been unthinkable in India: Should the country begin to unshackle the poor from the inefficient, decades-old government food distribution system and try something radical, like simply giving out food coupons, or even cash?

Where is this NYT story set? In Jhabua.

Where is Jhabua? In Madhya Pradesh state, which is currently run by the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP. Bear in mind that India’s states have somewhat more autonomy from the central government than do those of the US; they are almost countries in their own right, and many were kingdoms prior to the British invasion of the 18th century.

What is the BJP like? They’re arch-conservative free-market worshipers; they also controlled the perennial starvation case that is the state of Uttar Pradesh from 1991 to 2007. Bhopal, which may remember was poisoned by Union Carbide in a December 1984 accident that resulted in at least 15,000 deaths and long-term devastation of the local environment, is the capital of Madhya Pradesh.

Meanwhile, as Greg Palast noted back in 2005, the cities that are driving India’s economy — Bangalore and the like — are all in Socialist-run states like Karnataka and Kerala, which have free universal education and tough labor unions:

A few years ago, I dropped in on a fishing village in Kerala in Southern India. Most fishermen worked from motorless dug-out log boats. Their language is Malayalam, but a large banner slung between two coconut trees announced in English, "WordPerfect applications class today." After they brought in the catch, the locals practiced programming on cardboard replicas of keyboards.

What made this all possible was not capitalist competitive drive (there was no corporate "entrepreneur" in sight), but the state’s investment in universal education and the village’s commitment to development of opportunity, not for a lucky few, but for the entire community. The village was 100% literate, 100% unionized, and 100% committed to sharing resources through a sophisticated credit union finance system.

This was the community welfare state at its best. Microsoft did not build the schools for programmers — the corporation only harvested what the socialist communities sowed.

The economist Amartya Sen won the Nobel Prize in 1998 for predicting that Southern India, with its strong social welfare state, would lead the economic advance of South Asia — and do so without the Thatcherite sleight-of-hand of pretending that riches for the few equates to progress for the many.

Don’t bother looking for quotes from Professor Sen in Mr. Yardley’s NYT piece. He’s not saying what Mr. Yardley’s bosses want to hear — or to see passed along to us. At least not on economics, anyway.