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Karl Marxio Brothers: An 8-bit ‘Marxism for Dummies’ for the digital generation

marx8bit1.jpg
 
Dialectical materialism as explained by 8-bit philosophy, a kind of “Super Marxio” or “Marxism for Dummies” for the digital generation. Why bother with boring old Das Kapital when you can bluff your way through the exam with this four-minute video?

More low resolution gems of useful information on Plato, Nietzsche, Kant, Sartre, Zeno, Descartes and Kierkegaard can be found here, or better still, read the books.
 

 
H/T Nerdcore

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Creepy anti-communist propaganda from Bohn Aluminum and Brass Corporation, 1952
07.16.2014
07:30 am

Topics:
Art
Class War

Tags:
propaganda
anti-communist


 
Bohn Aluminum and Brass Corporation is most famous in the design crowd for its futuristic advertising campaigns—absolutely gorgeous (and totally campy) illustrations of all the products they dreamed of one day manufacturing. (There’s one of a firetruck that’s so New Wave it should probably be a B-52s album cover.)

Lesser known is that the Detroit-based company was in constant conflict with the quickly radicalizing United Auto Workers membership—the local was actually the first to elect a black president, a surprise to many, despite Bohn’s primarily black labor force.

Sensing danger, Bohn produced an anti-communist campaign, perhaps hoping that a bunch of ominous posters might mold dissent into model employee patriotism. It’s difficult to imagine that any Bohn workers were inspired to fealty by corny sloganeering and a few creepy disembodied (white) hands, but one would hope that the heavy-handed (geddit?) propaganda gave the Detroit proletariat a giggle as they occupied factory floors, organized work stoppages and staged sit-down strikes with over 12,000 workers.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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You must sip it: DEVO’s Jerry Casale and his blue-collar wine
07.09.2014
10:31 am

Topics:
Class War
Food

Tags:
Devo
Wine


 
Celebrity wines are fairly common, even Megadeth bonehead Dave Mustaine has one (along with Tool’s Maynard James Keenan, Primus’s Les Claypool and, of course, Sting), but for founding DEVO member Gerald Casale to start his own wine estate and brand, 50 by 50, is a downright subversive act.

Jerry grew up in Akron, Ohio at a time when being around good wine was still confined to families with money. Self-taught working-class sommeliers and oenophiles were not populous groups. He told wn.com:

Listen, I grew up blue-collar in Ohio. I ate what people ate there, which was basically macaroni and cheese, pizzas, overcooked brown rump roast, bologna sandwiches … any cheese was Velveeta and any wine was Night Train.

Moving to California with the band in the ‘70s, he became interested in wine and over the years educated himself in the finer details of his hobby here and abroad, visiting vineyards while on tour. A life-changing epiphany-like wine boner occurred in France when a tour promoter gave him a glass of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. “Discovering wine is one of the most special experiences you can have, like seeing a great film or falling in love,” he said in an interview with Wine Searcher. “When you taste a great wine, and you haven’t grown up privileged to be around wine, that makes you understand why people talk about wine. It’s unforgettable.”

Jerry told Wine Spectator:

When we signed with Warner Bros. Records and moved to California [in the late 1970s], a world opened up to me. We hit California not only when there was an explosion in the music scene, but there was a revolution in cuisine. All the restaurateurs were now famous and had cookbooks out and were new and young and were stretching food consciousness… I met them all, and they were DEVO fans! I got to eat and drink in their restaurants and ask a lot of questions. I started from zero and learned and learned and learned. Touring completed the picture. In Europe, I was able to visit vineyards. It was a revelation.

Eventually Jerry was well versed in wine lore to be qualified to work for the Wine House in Los Angeles, teaching classes about wine appreciation for three years in the ‘90s when DEVO was not active. (Interestingly, the Davis Enology & Viticulture Organization program at UC Davis’s acronym is DEVO). He is down to earth, completely lacking in snobbery, and talks about wine like a normal person, not like a pretentious ass. He described his wine classes as being unintimidating:

I taught beginning and intermediate courses. But I guess I had the same basic advice for them that Famous Amos (Cookies) did: ‘Start from where you are’. Quit worrying about it. Let’s demystify things. Wine is 50 percent farming and 50 percent artistry. But the farming is really the foundation. It’s as easy as ‘I like oranges, I like bananas, but I don’t like pineapples.’ You don’t like zinfandel? Fine, don’t worry about it, no matter who shoves a zinfandel at you and says ‘this will blow your mind and it’s $300 a bottle.’ You can find decent wines at every price point.

In 1985 he was set to buy land in California on which to start a vineyard but this plan was scrapped when Warner Brothers dropped DEVO. Four years ago he was still talking about starting his own vineyard with a partner, going so far as to have soil tests done in Napa, and now with the help of winemaker Kenn Vigoda, he has started a 23-acre estate, with a tasting room based on the “50 by 50 house,” the legendary, never-built, 60-year-old blueprint of a glass house designed by architect Mies Van Der Rohe (one of whose apprentices was the grandfather of musician and producer Vess Ruhtenberg). The DEVO merchandising potential for the 50 by 50 estate is endless, aside from pun-heavy wine names. DEVO energy dome hat wineglass charms?

Jerry on Burgundy:

When you get a great bottle of Burgundy, it blows away a great bottle of anything else. You can drink your way through mediocre Burgundies in the pursuit of the ultimate one, so it’s a holy grail quest. What I love about Burgundy is that the wine is so friendly when you get a good one, and it doesn’t leave you beat up. It’s so personal with the food—anything from grilled salmon to lamb chops to duck. You can even have it with some pizza.

Jerry on Pinot Noir:

It’s like a high-strung woman. When it’s right it’s so right. When you get a good one, they just turn you around; you’re addicted.

Jerry on wine and class structure:

Luckily, there’s a certain amount of middle class egalitarian ethic left in the wine world. The rest of the world has gone back toward medieval times when 10 people owned everything and everyone else was serfs.

“Wine Booty” with Gerald Casale, taped in front of a live audience of wine aficionados in Napa Valley back in May:

 

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
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Punk Rock and the Situationist International
07.01.2014
04:21 pm

Topics:
Class War
History

Tags:
Situationist International
Guy DeBord


 
“The wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails appears as an ‘immense collection of commodities.’”—Karl Marx

“In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.”—Guy DeBord

“The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.”—Guy DeBord

“We are not working for the spectacle of the end of the world, but for the end of the world of the spectacle.”—Raoul Vaneigem

“Quotations are useful in periods of ignorance or obscurantist beliefs.”—Guy DeBord

“We’re not here to answer cuntish questions.”—Guy DeBord

On the Passage of a few People through a Rather Brief Moment in Time: The Situationist International 1956-1972 is an interesting short film by Branka Bogdanov primarily documenting the work of ultra-leftist French philosopher Guy DeBord, author of the influential post-Marxist study of late 20th capitalism Society Of The Spectacle. The film explores the Situationist International’s role in inciting the Paris riots of May 1968 and the influence of the SI’s nihilistic aesthetics on the punk rock era.

Interviewees include Greil Marcus, author of Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, the late Malcolm McLaren and Sex Pistols graphic designer Jamie Reid.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Anarchist icon Emma Goldman’s warning about capitalism from jail, 1893
06.23.2014
10:08 am

Topics:
Class War
History

Tags:
Anarchism
Emma Goldman

emma g mugshot
 
Red Emma’s mugshot

When state senator Wendy Davis held her 11-hour filibuster in Texas last year to block Senate Bill 5 and its restrictions on abortion, it was hard not to think how much better (and entertaining) anarchist firebrand “Red Emma” Goldman would have been if she’d have been the one speaking for so many hours. Davis incited a loud but well-behaved demonstration outside the capitol building in Austin. If Emma had been the orator, there would have been an actual riot. And fires.

Journalist Nelly Bly did a series of profiles of well-known anarchists for The New York World in 1893. She visited 25-year-old Emma in the notorious Tombs jail in New York City shortly after her arrest for inciting a riot at the Carpenters Hall in Philadelphia. Emma was demurely waiting for her friends to bail her out prior to the trial, where she was found guilty and sentenced to a year at Blackwell’s Island Penitentiary. After the obligatory description of Emma’s appearance and clothes (“a little bit of a girl” with “pretty and girlish” hair and dressed in “modest blue serge Eton suit, with a blue muslin shirtwaist and scarf” ), Bly elicited a prescient quote about, among other topics (like free love and marriage), capitalists:

Everything wrong, crime and sickness and all that, is the result of the system under which we live, she continued earnestly. ‘Were there no money, and as a result, no capitalists, people would not be over-worked, starved and ill-housed, all of which makes them old before their time, diseases them and makes them criminals. To save a dollar the capitalists build their railroads poorly, and along comes a train, and loads of people are killed. What are their lives to him if by their sacrifice he has saved money? But those deaths mean misery, want and crime in many, many families. According to Anarchistic principles, we build the best of railroads, so there shall be no accidents… Instead of running a few cars at a frightful speed, in order to save a larger expense, we should run many cars at slow speed, and so have no accidents.’

‘If you do away with money and employers, who will work upon your railroads?’ I asked.

‘Those that care for that kind of work. Then every one shall do that which he likes best, not merely a thing he is compelled to do to earn his daily bread.’

‘What will you do with the lazy ones, who would not work?’

‘No one is lazy. They grow hopeless from the misery of their present existence, and give up. Under our order of things, every man would do the work he liked, and would have as much as his neighbor, so could not be unhappy and discouraged.’

(I was going to include Emma’s famous blintz recipe, which she included in a letter to her long-time friend and lover Alexander Berkman, but to obtain a copy you have to donate $10 to the Emma Goldman Papers at the University of California at Berkeley. Other writings of hers can be found for free at the online Anarchist Library.)

Newsreel footage of Emma at a press conference upon her return to the U.S. in 1934:

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
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Ron Paul, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Grover Norquist will be in the next ‘Atlas Shrugged’ movie


 
For those of you who haven’t been keeping tabs on the massive, slow-moving trainwreck that is the Atlas Shrugged trilogy, the first movie cost $20 million and made $4,627,375 at the box office, while the second cost $10 million and made $3,336,053. The third had to be partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign that yielded a cool $446,907—we have to wait for the September release before formally declaring it a failure, but I think it’s safe to say we’re not looking at a blockbuster here. It gives one the warm fuzzies to realize that a movie based on Ayn Rand’s epic paean to capitalism is a failure by her own measure, since the free market has stubbornly refused to acknowledge the Atlas Shrugged cinematic “franchise.”

But wait—the final installment will be pulling out all the stops!

After toying with the idea that the third installment could be made into a musical (not kidding, look it up), the Randroids are bringing out the biggest guns: Ron Paul, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Grover Norquist. Hannity was apparently already in the second one, but conservative weirdos really work best in an ensemble, don’t you think? Apparently the pundit guest-stars weren’t even given scripts but were instructed instead to just “riff” off protagonist John Galt’s ten hour monologue. This should give you an idea of the professionalism of the movie.

They say politics is just show business for ugly people, but when show business gets political, some of that ugly is gonna get on the silver screen. For a preview, check out Ron Paul’s feverish endorsement of Ayn Rand below. Watch the crazy old man give his book report. Do it.
 

 
Via The Hollywood Reporter

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Anarchism in America


 
As the title promises, Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher’s Anarchism in America is a documentary survey of anarchism in the United States. The film presents an overview of the movement’s history, such as the Spanish Civil War, the 1917 Revolution, Emma Goldman, and the deaths of Sacco and Vanzetti, and takes these as the points of departure for what were then (1983) contemporary observations from the outside looking in on Ronald Reagan’s America. Whether viewed as a time capsule or as an able introduction to the various forms of anarchism, the film makes for fascinating viewing and has held up well after 31 years.

What’s perfectly obvious is how much of a libertarian or individualistic route the American strain of anarchism takes—let’s call it “free market anarchism”—in stark contrast to European-style communal living experiments (such as squatters’ groups or farm co-ops). They’re just not quite the same school of thought, although if you were to draw a Venn diagram of what they do have in common, it would be significant but also… probably equally incompatible for the things which they lack in simpatico. Does anyone in Anarchism in America have any hopes for a revolution? Seemingly not in their lifetimes. (Many of them were right, of course. I’ve read that the filmmakers are planning a sequel, so I’d suspect that post-Occupy, post-Piketty, there would be more positive prognostications to be found along those lines today.)
 

Emma Goldman will not attend your revolution if she can’t dance….

The film also offers anarchist or anarchist-leaning thinkers uninterrupted camera time to make their points. Like Murray Bookchin, who says this:
 

I had entered the communist children’s movement, an organization called the Young Pioneers of America, in 1930 in New York City; I was only nine years of age. And I’d gone through the entire ’30s as a—Stalinist—initially, and then increasingly as someone who was more and more sympathetic to Trotskyism. And by 1939, after having seen Hitler rise to power, the Austrian workers’ revolt of 1934 (an almost completely forgotten episode in labor history), the Spanish revolution, by which I mean the so-called Spanish civil war—I finally became utterly disillusioned with Stalinism, and drifted increasingly toward Trotskyism. And by 1945, I, finally, also became disillusioned with Trotskyism; and I would say, now, increasingly with Marxism and Leninism.

And I began to try to explore what were movements and ideologies, if you like, that really were liberatory, that really freed people of this hierarchical mentality, of this authoritarian outlook, of this complete assimilation by the work ethic. And I now began to turn, very consciously, toward anarchist views, because anarchism posed a question, not simply of a struggle between classes based upon economic exploitation—anarchism really was posing a much broader historical question that even goes beyond our industrial civilization—not just classes, but hierarchy—hierarchy as it exists in the family, hierarchy as it exists in the school, hierarchy as it exists in sexual relationships, hierarchy as it exists between ethnic groups. Not only class divisions, based upon economic exploitation. And it was concerned not only with economic exploitation, it was concerned with domination, domination which may not even have any economic meaning at all: the domination of women by men in which women are not economically exploited; the domination of ordinary people by bureaucrats, in which you may even have welfare, so-called socialist type of state; domination as it exists today in China, even when you’re supposed to have a classless society; domination even as it exists in Russia, where you are supposed to have a classless society, you see.

So these are the things I noted in anarchism, and increasingly I came to the conclusion that if we were to avoid—or if we are to avoid—the mistakes in over one hundred years of proletarian socialism, if we are to really achieve a liberatory movement, not simply in terms of economic questions but in terms of every aspect of life, we would have to turn to anarchism because it alone posed the problem, not merely of class domination but hierarchical domination, and it alone posed the question, not simply of economic exploitation, but exploitation in every sphere of life. And it was that growing awareness, that we had to go beyond classism into hierarchy, and beyond exploitation into domination, that led me into anarchism, and to a commitment to an anarchist outlook.

 
Worth noting that Bookchin left anarchism behind, too, due to what he saw as the antisocial element to American style anarchist thought.

There’s one particularly amazing piece of footage (among several included in the film) that I wanted to call to your attention. It’s the demonstration of how a policeman’s truncheon fares against various food items such as an egg, squash, and an eggplant before moving on to a Yippie’s head. That clip comes from an “answer” film made by the Yippies in the aftermath of the Chicago riots that was played on television there due to the “equal-time” rule specifies that U.S. radio and television broadcast stations must provide an equivalent opportunity to any opposing political parties who request it. When Mayor Richard Daley got to tell the city’s side of the story in something called “What Trees Did They Plant?” the Yippies got to tell their side in an extremely whacked-out short film scripted by Paul Krassner. That starts at 30:50 but if you want to see the entire thing, click over to archive.org, they’ve got it. (The guy with the truncheon is Chicago-based lefty humorist and radio broadcaster Marshall Efron, who played one of the prisoners in George Lucas’ THX 1138. He was also the voice of “Smelly Smurf” and works as a voice actor in animated films to this day.)

Toward the end of Anarchism in America, Jello Biafra and Dead Kennedys are seen onstage performing “We’ve Got a Bigger Problem Now,” while in the interview segment a level-headed young Biafra suggests that anarchy, or some sort of revolution in the USA, is probably a long, long way off. If they do make the sequel, he’s one of the first people they ought to interview for it. I’d be curious if he still feels that way. I would suspect that he’s much more optimistic these days.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Will Rogers calls bankers ‘the most disgustingly rich audience I’ve ever talked to’
06.03.2014
04:42 pm

Topics:
Class War
History

Tags:
Will Rogers
bankers


 
For the longest time my impression of Will Rogers was that he was just a Hollywood cowboy, but the actor and vaudevillian was also a cutting political satirist, arguably in the league of Mark Twain. He was a staunchly liberal populist—anti-war, anti-big business, anti-poverty, and he abhorred the two-party system. Lines like “a fool and his money are soon elected,” and “I belong to no organized party, I’m a Democrat,” gave him an air of relatable cynicism—think of a Jon Stewart with more middle American appeal. Rogers’ humor also laid the groundwork for Stephen Colbert’s cartoonish right-wing ideologue shtick. He even ran a mock presidential campaign in 1928, over 80 years before Colbert’s, on the fictional Anti-Bunk Party ticket.

His healthy habit of self-deprecation usually kept him in the good graces of the folks he mocked, but it’s hard to believe the speech below, from either 1923 or 1924, didn’t piss off a few oligarchs. After making some bad investments in an attempt to produce his own films, Rogers took on a bunch of corporate speaking gigs to pay off his debts—he was considered the most successful “after-dinner speakers” of his time. The performance you hear is actually the studio recording of a talk he gave live, most likely to a conference for the American Bankers Association in 1922.

It’s not likely that Rogers felt conflicted mocking capitalists and taking their money, but he also made no bones about the moral righteousness of paid funny-men, saying in 1923, “banking and after-dinner speaking are two of the most non-essential industries we have in this country. I am ready to reform if they are.”

The transcript is below, but it’s really worth listening to for Rogers’ comic timing and oratory bravado

Loan sharks and interest hounds: I have addressed every form of organized graft in the United States, excepting Congress. So it’s naturally a pleasure to me to appear before the biggest. You are without a doubt the most disgustingly rich audience I’ve ever talked to, with the possible exception of the Bootleggers’ Union Local No. 1, combined with the enforcement officers.

Now I understand you hold this convention every year to announce what the annual gyp will be. I have often wondered where the depositors hold their convention. I had an account in a bank once and the banker asked me to withdraw it. Said I used up more red ink than the account was worth.

I see where your wives come with you. You notice I say “come” not “was brought.” I see where your convention was opened with a prayer. You had to send outside your ranks to get somebody who knew how to pray. You should have had one creditor there. He’d have shown you how to pray. I noticed in the prayer the clergymen announced to the almighty that the bankers were here. Well, it wasn’t exactly an announcement. It was more in the nature of a warning. He didn’t tell the devil, he figured he knew where you all were all the time anyhow.

I see by your speeches that you are very optimistic of the business conditions of the coming year. Boy, I don’t blame you. If I had your dough, I’d be optimistic too.

Will you please tell me what you all do with the vice-presidents the bank has? I guess that’s to get anybody more discouraged before you can see the main guy. The United States is the biggest business institution in the world. They only got one vice-president. Nobody’s ever found anything for him to do!

I’ve met most of you as I come out of the stage door of the Follies every night. I want to tell you, any of you that are capitalized at under a million dollars needn’t hang around there! Our girls may not know their Latin and Greek, but they certainly know their Dun and Bradstreet.

You have a wonderful organization. I understand you have 10,000 here, and with what you have in various federal prisons, your membership is around 30,000.

So goodbye, paupers! You are the finest bunch of Shylocks that ever foreclosed a mortgage on a widow’s home.

 

 
Via The Public Domain Review

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Dialectics & Disco: Post-punk Marxists Gang of Four get funky on ‘Dance Fever,’ 1982


 
Ohhhhhhh, this clip of Gang of Four doing their biggest “hit” on that most mainstream of American pop TV programs of the 1980s, Dance Fever, is good but ultimately it’s best considered an occasion for a little “what if” speculation. If you squint your eyes just so, you can imagine the punk-funk art school Marxists up there doing “At Home He’s a Tourist” or “To Hell with Poverty,” or, perhaps even, “Capital (It Fails Us Now)”—can’t you just picture that shit??

Goddamn, that would really have been something seeing and hearing their jagged-edge critiques of Western culture beamed all across Reagan’s America! (Although “I Love a Man in a Uniform” was less politically strident than many of their songs, it was banned by the BBC during the Falklands War in 1982.)

But still, seeing them introduced by fuckin’ Denny Terrio does have its charm…
 
Gang of Four
 
Of course, it would be even better if they weren’t lip-syncing…. I half-suspect that Jon King intentionally did a shitty job with the sync as a subtle nod to the diehards, but it may just be his natural intensity and enthusiasm. Sara Lee’s prominent bassline in this song makes the groove unstoppable. There’s a reason “I Love a Man in a Uniform” got them invited to be on Dance Fever and it’s that bass.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Want a revolution? Left unchecked, parasitical capitalism WILL produce one


 
If you’ve been (wisely) keeping yourself away from the greater mainstream media miasma, you may not have heard about the book that’s been causing “conservatives” and Libertarians to foam at the mouth and in general go pretty fuckin’ apeshit. French economist Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is a match to dry drought-brush causing a veritable meme-fire, chasing out rats and other rodents from their hiding places.

It’s been fun to watch their worldview get annihilated by facts. Numbers don’t lie—but politicians do. The likes of Rep. Paul Ryan have no cover anymore. They’re holding their shticks, so to speak.

Piketty’s story makes effective use of graphs, data and highly quantitative analysis, with his conclusion being about as blunt and straightforward as a two-by-four to the back of Rush Limbaugh’s giant butter-sculpture of a head. To put it succinctly, Piketty has proven what we probably already knew: Economic growth, in developed countries like the US, has become increasingly “owned” and funneled into the gaping maws of the 1%, and is largely fueled by increasing levels of debt for all the rest of us. In other words, for the last couple of decades we’ve moved into a sort of flesh-eating bacteria version of economics that isn’t floating anyone’s boats except for a tiny minority, who are using their economic power—their capital—to grab all the benefits of growth for themselves.

But this isn’t too surprising and it’s not really what has both left and right flipping out about. The REALLY BIG STORY is about inherited wealth. In other words, that 1% we keep talking about aren’t the God-annointed uber-successful genius entrepreneurs that the Fox News types always claim they are. They aren’t the hallowed Atlas shrugging “job creators,” either. Nope: That 1% consists overwhelmingly of people who inherited their wealth, and are now using that vast amount of capital to grab any additional growth for themselves, locking out the “little guy” out in the process.

Great system we’ve got here: One baby is born with barely a pot to piss in, but another one—well 1% of babies at least—hits the fucking jackpot through an accident of birth. The other 99% are on their own!

Since the Reagan era relaxed financial and banking laws have made it ever and ever easier for enormous globs of capital to attract even more enormous globs of capital—often without doing any real “work” or creating much of anything save for more money, while smaller players got knocked out, sent to work at Walmart or some non-unionized service industry where they will never be able to accumulate enough capital themselves to ever start their own business again. With a de-capitalized and unempowered middle class, there’s not a lot of real growth around so the uber-wealthy have worked very hard to “own” what little growth there is out still out there to siphon off, stripmining the rest of the economy for whatever else they can using a mindboggling array of debt instruments: Leveraged buyouts and private equity along with consumer credit cards, mortgages, student loans, CDOs, CMOs and all sorts of other debt that funnels even more capital to the 1% without creating any real growth. They’re using your credit card debt, your mortgage and your student loans to make you work for their enrichment.

Job creators? Bullshit.

The middle class are the job creators and they are rapidly going off line for lack of access to capital. Their would be customers are broke, too. Nobody wins except for you-know-who!

This is why the Tea party has been programmed to despise the Fed’s quantitative easing program: The 1% that is largely an inheritor class don’t really care about real economic growth all that much. In fact, they don’t like it at all: Growth often comes with inflation, which for an increasingly wealthy middle class isn’t a problem as long as wealth is increasing more quickly than prices. (In fact, most economists believe that some inflation is probably necessary in order to achieve optimal growth.) But if you are a Romney or Koch or Walton who inherited a giant ball of capital, you certainly don’t want to see any inflation because that reduces your standing. I mean, it’s not like trust fund kids create REAL jobs, is it? Any of those shitty minimum wage jobs that “capitalists” crow so proudly of having created probably came about because they eliminated many more higher-paying jobs, by using their vast (and otherwise useless, ‘cause they CAN’T spend it all) capital to buy politicians and twiddle the laws in their favor.

Anyway, this grabbing of the growth by the inheritor class manifests itself in all sorts of heinous abuses of the political and economic system, but one obvious way that pops into my mind is in the real estate market. In major markets like New York and London, rents and housing costs have skyrocketed, completely out of proportion to average wages. And why? Because the uber-wealthy have so much extra cash that they dump it into real estate that neither they nor anybody else uses. Indeed, fancy neighborhoods in London like Mayfair are becoming veritable ghost towns, filled with empty houses and apartments (unless the squatters, God bless ‘em, get in there!). I remember looking at an apartment on Prince Albert Road and the doorman complained that the entire building was usually empty. But the point is that all that useless money is in effect getting speculatively dumped into real estate and the result is… nothingness. Empty neighborhoods. The oligarchs aren’t even eating in the local ritzy restaurants, because they’re someplace else. They also forced out the merely “rich”!

To sum up: Capital has become so concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority of people that those who own it can never make use of it efficiently. How could they? They inherited it after all which means they may have no business sense whatsoever aside from hiring the right people to work the system into vomiting out more capital into their cupped hands and opened mouths.

As a result, real growth (ie, not driven by middle class debt or the other myriad pyramid schemes of the super rich) has plummeted and the vast majority of middle class people have seen their standard of living slide backwards and access to the capital and tools with which in times past they may have enriched themselves has been forcibly pulled from having any practical possibility of enriching their lives! This goes way beyond mere “fairness” after all, as the new overlord “rentier” class increasingly block access to that which the middle class needs to have in order for real overall wealth to grow!

The “lumpen capitalists” have absolutely no interest in your social advancement, Jack.

In 19th century China something similar happened, and the consequences were dire indeed. Arable land (which is in effect “capital” in an agrarian society) was increasingly concentrated into the hands of a shrinking number of people. Eventually, everyone was so damned poor that by the end of the Qing dynasty even the long-suffering Chinese had had enough: 50 years of revolution later and Mao and his posse were large and in-charge. And aside from the fact that there are some who argue that Mao’s minuses (eg, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution) eventually outweighed his pluses, just getting there was no picnic.

Is that what we really want? Lots of folks say they want a revolution until they discover what living through one is actually like. Put in another way, we need some redistributive schemes now—Piketty says nothing short of an 80% wealth tax, enforced globally, will do it—or else the redistributive schemes twenty years from now will probably be far less pleasant for everyone concerned.

Below, Thomas Piketty speaks about his work with Justin Vogt, deputy managing editor of Foreign Affairs:

Posted by Em | Discussion
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