Tag Archives: CBS

SYNDICATED COLUMN: You’re Not Underemployed. You’re Underpaid.

The Case for Shiftlessness

No bank balance. Nothing in your wallet.

“I’m broke,” you say. “I need a job.”

Or:

Perhaps you have a job. Then you say:

“I’m broke. I need a better job.”

You’re lying. And you don’t even know it.

You don’t need a job.(Unless you like sitting at a desk. Working on an assembly line. Non-dairy creamer in the break room. In which case I apologize. Freak!)

You don’t need a job. You need money.

We’ve been programmed to believe that the only way to get money is to earn it.

(Unless you’re rich. Then you know about inheritance. In 1997, the last year for which there was solid research done on the subject, 42 percent of the Forbes 400 richest Americans made the list through probate. Disparity of wealth has since increased.)

It’s time to separate income from work.

For two reasons:

It’s moral. No one should starve or sleep outside or suffer sickness or go undereducated simply due to bad luck—being born into a poor family, growing up in an area with high unemployment, failing to impress an interviewer.

It’s sane.

“American workers stay longer at the office, at the factory or on the farm than their counterparts in Europe and most other rich nations, and they produce more over the year,” according to a 2009 U.N. report cited by CBS. Thanks to technological innovations and education, worker productivity—GDP divided by total employment—has increased by leaps and bounds over the years.

U.S. worker productivity has increased 400 percent since 1950. “The conclusion is inescapable: if productivity means anything at all, a worker should be able to earn the same standard of living as a 1950 worker in only 11 hours a week,” according to a MIT study.

Obviously that’s not the case. American workers are toiling longer hours than ever. They’re not being paid more —to the contrary, wages have been stagnant or declining since 1970. Numerous analyses have established that, especially since 1970, the lion’s share of profits from productivity increases have gone to employers.

Workers are working longer hours. But fewer people are working. Only 54 percent of work-eligible adults have jobs—the lowest rate in memory. Which isn’t surprising. Because there are fixed costs associated with employing each individual—administration, workspace, benefits, and so on—it makes sense for a boss to hire as few workers as possible, and to work them long hours.

This witches’ brew—increased productivity coupled with higher fixed costs, particularly healthcare—have led companies to create a society divided into two classes: the jobless and the overworked.

Unemployment is rising. Meanwhile, people “lucky” enough to still have jobs are creating more per hour than ever before and are forced to work longer and harder.

Crazy.

And dangerous. Does anyone seriously believe that an America divided between the haves, have-nots and the stressed-outs will be a better, safer, more politically stable place to live?

Sci-fi writers used to imagine a future in which machines did everything, where people enjoyed their newfound leisure time exploring the world and themselves. We’re not there yet—someone still has to make stuff—but we should be closer to the imagined idyll of zero work than we are now.

If productivity increases year after year after year, employers need fewer and fewer employees to sustain or expand the same level of economic activity. But this sets up a conundrum. If only employees have money, only employees can consume goods and services. As unemployment rises, the pool of consumers shrinks.

The remaining consumers can’t pick up the slack because their wages aren’t going up. So we wind up with a society that produces more stuff than can be sold: Marx’s classic crisis of overproduction. Hello, post-2008 meltdown of global capitalism.

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Martin Ford warns that the Great Recession is just the beginning. In his 2009 book “The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future” Ford, “argues that technologies such as software automation algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI), and robotics will result in dramatically increasing unemployment, stagnant or falling consumer demand, and a financial crisis surpassing the Great Depression,” according to a review in The Futurist.

The solution is clear: to guarantee everyone, whether or not he or she holds a job, a minimum salary sufficient to cover housing, transportation, education, medical care and, yes, discretionary income. Unfortunately, we’re stuck in an 18th century mindset. We’re nowhere close to detaching money from work. The Right wants to get rid of the minimum wage. On the Left, advocates for a Universal Living Wage nevertheless stipulate that a decent income should go to those who work a 40-hour week.

Ford proposes a Basic Income Guarantee based on performance of non-work activities; volunteering at a soup kitchen would be considered compensable work. But even this “radical” proposal doesn’t go far enough.

Whatever comes next, revolutionary overthrow or reform of the existing system, Americans are going to have to accept a reality that will be hard for a nation of strivers to take: we’re going to have to start paying people to sit at home.

(Ted Rall’s next book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt,” out May 22. His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2012 TED RALL

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Boycott the 2012 Election

Hey Liberals! Time to Stop Getting Rolled

We might as well have defaulted.

Regardless of where you stand politically, the deal to raise the federal debt limit came too late for the U.S. to achieve its main objective, avoiding the downgrading of debt issued by the U.S. Treasury that would have followed a default.

“The political and financial world surely thinks less of us now, and one demonstration of that will likely be a downgrading of the credit rating of the U.S., probably imposed in the next few months,” writes John Keefe of CBS’s Moneywatch. “The net result will be higher interest rates on U.S. government debt, which is likely to bleed through ultimately to higher costs for all sorts of other interest rates.”

The buzz on Wall Street says that Standard & Poor’s will soon downgrade T-Notes from a sterling “AAA” either to “AA+” or “AA”, the same as Slovakia. That’s exactly what would have happened had there been a default.

It is true: Our leaders are idiots.

“I have a home in Nevada that I haven’t seen in months,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid on the floor of the Senate. “My pomegranate trees are, I’m told, blossoming.” Too bad. He missed his pretty flowers for nothing.

Liberals got rolled.

Just like on healthcare.

Just like on everything else.

Everything about the way this deal went down, from the initial posturing to a compromise that will make the Great Depression of 2008-? even worse, along with Congress’ total lack of concern for the hardships being faced by the 20 percent-plus of Americans who are unemployed, has people disgusted.

“The big loser after this exercise is Washington,” Republican strategist Scott Reed tells The New York Times. The 2012 election “has the potential to be an anti-incumbent feeling in both parties.” Gee, ya think?

If any good comes out of the debt limit fiasco, it’s that this embarrassing showdown could serve as a long overdue wake-up call to liberals who still have faith in the Democratic Party. Maybe, just maybe, these ideological rubes will finally accept the obvious truth:

Those corrupt corporate-backed pigs just aren’t that into us.

So boycott the pigs. It is time for Real Liberals to kick Team Democrats to the curb. It isn’t hard. Next November all you have to do is…

Nothing.

Just.

Don’t.

Vote.

In other countries voter boycotts have a long and proud tradition as a way to effect pressure on a non-responsive political system. Think the politicians won’t care if you don’t vote? History proves you wrong. Even in dictatorships where only one candidate appears on the ballot, regimes go to desperate lengths to get people to turn out to vote. Why? It proves the government’s legitimacy.

Samuel Huntington cites the example of apartheid-era South Africa in his book “The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century”: “In the 1988 municipal elections, the [pro-apartheid] South African government…clamped down on pro-boycott opposition groups and made it unlawful for individuals to urge a boycott.” The African National Congress then upped the ante, declaring its intent to “use revolutionary violence to prevent blacks from collaborating [by casting a vote].”

Extreme, perhaps. Effective, definitely. The ANC is now the majority incumbent party in post-apartheid South Africa.

Are you Real? Or do you play for a Team?

If you’re a Real Liberal, you espouse liberal values and policies that you think would make America a better place. If you’re a partisan of Team Politics, you only care about one thing—whether the Democrats get elected. You couldn’t care less about policy.

Which side are you on?

Like Clinton and Carter before him, Obama has sold out core liberal Democratic principles, such as fighting for the weak and poor and expanding the social safety net, as well as civil liberties. He can’t point to a single major liberal policy achievement. Heck, Obama hasn’t proposed a major liberal bill. Even so, Team Democrats will vote for Obama in 2012. Team Democrats are Democrats first, liberals last.

Real Liberals, on the other hand, have no reason to support the Dems. The debt limit deal makes this painfully clear.

Paul Krugman, the only reason to read The New York Times op/ed page, calls the debt limit deal “a disaster, and not just for President Obama and his party. It will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America’s long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status.”

Krugman is a Real Liberal. Real Liberals care about liberal policies—defending old liberal victories such as Social Security and Medicare, as well as struggling to achieve new gains like a public-works program to put the unemployed to work.

Real Liberals give Democratic politicians the benefit of the doubt. But after they prove themselves to be a DINO (Democrat In Name Only), Real Liberals withhold their support. Classic example: Joe Lieberman, the senator from Connecticut. Current version: Barack Obama and his allies.

Obama has been locked in an epic showdown with House Republicans for weeks. Matador vs. bull. Scary and exciting.

First and foremost, the debt ceiling debate was ridiculous from the start. The economy is at a standstill. Recent GDP numbers came in at a sub-anemic 1.9 percent, so low that the real unemployment rate of 21 percent will continue to increase. Foreclosures are emptying out whole neighborhoods.

The traditional, historically proven Keynesian response to Depression is for the government to spend more. Members of both major parties know this. Yet here they were, both agreeing to spend less, indeed to slash the budget by historic amounts. If the Democrats had an ounce of sense, much less principle, they would have refused to discuss budget cuts at all. (Although an end to the wars would be nice.)

Obama and Congressional Democrats went along with trillions in cuts, cuts that may lead to Soviet-style collapse. The Dems’ only demand was that a final agreement include tax increases on the wealthy.

In the end, the Hopey Changey matador hopped the fence and fled the stadium. The GOP got their cuts. The Dems didn’t get a cent of taxes on the rich.

OK, Real Liberals. It’s been three years. You know Obama’s record. Obama never fights. When he does, it’s for conservative values, like slashing the federal budget and giving our money to millionaire bankers.

Why would you vote for him, or any Democrat, next year?

I know, I know: the Even More Insane Evil Republicans would take over. Après nous, la deluge. To which I ask, really, truly, no sarcasm—what difference would it make?

What if John McCain had won in 2008? Do you think we’d be at war in more countries than Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Libya? Would the Republicans have done less than Obama for the unemployed and homeowners getting evicted from their homes?

How much longer are you going to tolerate the sellout Democrats? How many more times are you going to stand in line to cast a vote for these treacherous scum?

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL