Monday, May 28, 2018

Last Call For We're All Working Poor Now

Now that corporate America has gotten their trillions in tax savings, they don't have to pretend any longer that the American workers matter in the least anymore.

Very few Americans have enjoyed steadily rising pay beyond inflation over the last couple of decades, a shift from prior years in which the working and middle classes enjoyed broad-based wage gains as the economy expanded.

Why it matters: Now, executives of big U.S. companies suggest that the days of most people getting a pay raise are over, and that they also plan to reduce their work forces further.

Quick take: This was rare, candid and bracing talk from executives atop corporate America, made at a conference Thursday at the Dallas Fed. The message is that Americans should stop waiting for across-the-board pay hikes coinciding with higher corporate profit; to cash in, workers will need to shift to higher-skilled jobs that command more income.

Troy Taylor, CEO of the Coke franchise for Florida, said he is currently adding employees with the idea of later reducing the staff over time "as we invest in automation." Those being hired: technically-skilled people. "It's highly technical just being a driver," he said.

The moderator asked the panel whether there would be broad-based wage gains again. "It's just not going to happen," Taylor said. The gains would go mostly to technically-skilled employees, he said. As for a general raise? "Absolutely not in my business," he said.

Stagnating wages, steep cuts in employees as unskilled workers are replaced with AI, and a massive reduction in standard of living for most Americans from even a few years ago: that's what we're facing in the next ten to twenty years.  Steve M breaks it down:

I hope politics can mitigate this, but I fear it may be too late for a political solution -- the rich have too much money and too much power, and democracy is unresponsive to the rest of us. The non-rich are urged to fight among ourselves -- white vs. non-white, native-born vs. immigrant, union vs. non-union, Fox viewer vs. "cultural elitist" -- when we should recognize a common enemy and act accordingly. At this point I can't see a significant reordering of the way things are without violent social unrest, and I see no sign that that will happen anytime soon. For now, massive inequality is here to stay.

Long term, Steve is right. The GOP tax scam package will see to that.

Short term, as long as Trump can convince his base that "those people" still have things that Trump can take from them, that will remain the case.  Should however people get tired of the con, either through Trump's political power being broken by Mueller or by a economic recession on Trump's watch (both being very probable) then all bets are off.

Trump Cards, Con't

Just a friendly reminder that while Donald Trump, his two sons Donald Jr. and Eric, and his son-in-law Jared Kushner are all crooked and headed for a reckoning with the Mueller probe, Trump's daughter Ivanka is just as corrupt and dirty as dear old dad.

China this month awarded Ivanka Trump seven new trademarks across a broad collection of businesses, including books, housewares and cushions.

At around the same time, President Trump vowed to find a way to prevent a major Chinese telecommunications company from going bust
, even though the company has a history of violating American limits on doing business with countries like Iran and North Korea.

Coincidence? Well, probably.

Still, the remarkable timing is raising familiar questions about the Trump family’s businesses and its patriarch’s status as commander in chief. Even as Mr. Trump contends with Beijing on issues like security and trade, his family and the company that bears his name are trying to make money off their brand in China’s flush and potentially promising market.

The most recent slew of trademarks appear to have been granted along the same timeline as Ms. Trump’s previous requests, experts said. But more broadly, they said, Ms. Trump’s growing portfolio of trademarks in China and the family’s business interests there raises questions about whether Chinese officials are giving the Trump family extra consideration that they otherwise might not get.

These critics say the foreign governments that do business with Ms. Trump know they are dealing with the president’s daughter — a person who also works in the White House.

“Some countries will no doubt see this as a way to curry favor with President Trump,” wrote Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, and Norman Eisen, chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, two nonprofit watchdog groups. Mr. Eisen’s group reported on the trademarks on Saturday.

Trump's side deals, personally being enriched by foreign countries who wish to do business with the US, has been the play since the 2016 election, and the Trump family's business practices have been dirty for decades prior.  It's no wonder then that Ivanka follows in her father's footsteps, gaining new frontiers for the Trump Organization (that of course none of them are supposed to be involved in) while also running the executive branch of the US.

Graft and grift at its finest, while Americans continue to struggle paycheck to paycheck.

Economic Anxiety Watch 2018, Con't

The racism and intolerance at the core of Trump popularity has always been a case of his implicit and explicit promises to hurt black, Latinx and Asian folks in America and to make (white) America great again at our expense, and it should come as no surprise that much of white America is jumping at the chance to take advantage.

Since the founding of the United States, politicians and pundits have warned that partisanship is a danger to democracy. George Washington, in his Farewell Address, worried that political parties, or factions, could "allow cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men" to rise to power and subvert democracy. More recently, many political observers are concerned that increasing political polarization on left and right makes compromise impossible, and leads to the destruction of democratic norms and institutions.

A new study, however, suggests that the main threat to our democracy may not be the hardening of political ideology, but rather the hardening of one particular political ideology. Political scientists Steven V. Miller of Clemson and Nicholas T. Davis of Texas A&M have released a working paper titled "White Outgroup Intolerance and Declining Support for American Democracy." Their study finds a correlation between white American's intolerance, and support for authoritarian rule. In other words, when intolerant white people fear democracy may benefit marginalized people, they abandon their commitment to democracy.

Miller and Davis used information from the World Values Survey, a research project organized by a worldwide network of social scientists which polls individuals in numerous countries on a wide range of beliefs and values. Based on surveys from the United States, the authors found that white people who did not want to have immigrants or people of different races living next door to them were more likely to be supportive of authoritarianism. For instance, people who said they did not want to live next door to immigrants or to people of another race were more supportive of the idea of military rule, or of a strongman-type leader who could ignore legislatures and election results.

The World Values Survey data used is from the period 1995 to 2011 — well before Donald Trump's 2016 run for president. It suggests, though, that Trump's bigotry and his authoritarianism are not separate problems, but are intertwined
. When Trump calls Mexicans "rapists," and when he praises authoritarian leaders, he is appealing to the same voters.

Miller and Davis' paper quotes alt right, neo-fascist leader Richard Spencer, who in a 2013 speech declared: "We need an ethno-state so that our people can ‘come home again’… We must give up the false dreams of equality and democracy." Ethnic cleansing is impossible as long as marginalized people have enough votes to stop it. But this roadblock disappears if you get rid of democracy. Spencer understands that white rule in the current era essentially requires totalitarianism. That's the logic of fascism.

Why anyone would be surprised that a country that was founded on slavery and created internment camps for Japanese-Americans is rapidly gravitating towards fascism under authoritarian rule is beyond me, but this path for America isn't new by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it's very much part of our country's history and obvious to anyone who has been paying attention.

Trump's rise is often presented as a major break with the past, and as a repudiation of American values and democratic commitments. But in an email, Miller pointed out that white intolerance has long served as an excuse for, and a spark for, authoritarian measures.

"People are fond of the Framers’ grand vision of liberty and equality for all," Miller says, "but the beauty of the Federalist papers can’t paper over the real measures of exclusion that were baked into their understanding of a limited franchise."

Black people, Asians, Native Americans and women were prevented from voting for significant stretches of American history. America's tradition of democracy (for some) exists alongside a tradition of authoritarianism (for some). The survey data doesn't show people rejecting American traditions, then, Miller says, so much as it shows "a preference for the sort of white-ethnocentrism that imbued much of the functional form of democracy for the better part of two centuries."

New era, new technology, same old story.  And at the end of this road is always the mass destruction of black and brown lives.
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