Category Archives: Social democracy

The time for change is here and now

 

We were all warned about the dangers of climate change in the 1960s. In fact for a while, governments led by Republicans like George Bush Sr. actually took it seriously, until corporate raiders let loose the hounds of PR firms and government lobbyists persuaded politicians  to shelve all talk of doing something about climate change. As a result, we have squandered decades, while businesses that got rich on selling products that increased greenhouse gas emissions got rich.

Yet what are we doing about it? We are subsidizing the fossil fuel industry! As the Guardian reporters Oliver Milman, Andrew Witherspoon, Rita Liu, and Alvin Chang, explained,

“Despite the rapid advance of renewable energy and, more recently, electric vehicles, countries still remain umbilically connected to fossil fuels, subsidizing oil, coal and gas to the tune of around $11m every single minute.”

 

The capitalists from the oil and gas sector have used their vast resources to persuade us and our political leaders to do nothing about climate change for decades and instead subsidize them. That’s why I call them predatory capitalists. I think the name fits. The Guardian reporters reminded us that Lynden Johnson was warned about the dangers of climate change when Joe Biden, a pretty old guy now, was in college. Now that I think about it, I am a pretty old guy and I was in High School at the time.

 

Because  industry funded delays most scientists now say we are headed towards temperature changes of +2.7 degrees, or worse,  even if our countries meet all of their UN climate change pledges, which so far they have shown no inclination to do.

According to the Guardian reporters,

“By the end of this year (2021) the world will have burned through 86% of the carbon “budget” that would allow us just a coin flip’s chance of staying below 1.5C. The Glasgow COP talks will somehow have to bridge this yawning gap, with scientists warning the world will have to cut emissions in half this decade before zeroing them out by 2050.”

 

According to Michael Wehner, who specializes in climate attribution at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “2.7C would be very bad.” “Not bad” is not a scientific expression but we know it means  not good. Then Amanda Maycock climate dynamics expert from University of Leeds was even more blunt, at that level the planet will become “uninhabitable. We would not want to live in that world” In other words, we are right there. This is what we are now committed to unless we make significant changes and there is no good evidence yet—none—that we will make the necessary changes. Right now, we are committed to making the planet uninhabitable for people.

Apocalypse now.

 

 

Tragic Wisdom of Cornel West

 

In my last post I talked about Cornel West’s tragic vision which was enriched by the poetry of Giacomo Leopardi who wanted to find truth for the sweet ship-wrecked mind. I also mentioned in that post that the philosopher Jeff Sharlet talked about his friend Cornel West. Sharlet talked about how West maintains optimism when, as West himself has said, “we are immersed in a culture of superficial spectacle that generates weapons of mass destruction?” That is a bleak view.

 

How can West remain optimistic in the face of it? West according to Sharlet said “hope is not predicated on the future getting any better. That is the difference between hope and optimism.” West reminds us that he comes from a people that were terrorized, stigmatized, and traumatized for 400 years! They have learned a lot about trauma and know a thing or two about dealing with.

 

West, who is proudly African American, pointed out that it would have been natural for slaves in such a position to lose hope.  He did not say there was an easy way out. As if there could be an easy way out of slavery. West said many of his people just decided they would live a life of honesty, decency and integrity no matter what happened. They took the position that this is what they are called here to do and said to themselves we will just do it. They had no choice. They were not “immigrants” to North America as Ben Carson suggested.  They had been brought to this continent in the most brutal way imaginable. This reminds me again of my mother who had a little framed saying on her wall in her small apartment she lived in before she died: “This is all I have so this is all I need.”

 

West says he tries to emulate that response to injustice even when it seems impenetrable. Sometimes there is nothing he can do about it.  Whether there are consequences that flow from that choice to make this a better a world or not is beyond his control. He will just do his part no matter what. What a great attitude. “There does not have to be a direct connection between being a decent person and there being more decency prevalent in the world,” West told Sharlet.  Sometimes In some moments in history things happen that we cannot control it. That does not mean we should not choose to live a decent life. We just dissent from the injustice if that is all we can do.

 

West said he learned a lot from the great Russian writer Anton Chekhov, who West calls the greatest literary artist of the late modern world. According to West’s interpretation, “Chekhov said it is just a matter of bearing your truth to the world and doing all you can in your brief journey from Mama’s womb to tomb. We should try to pass that on to the next generation.”

 

West also warned that we might be headed towards an environmental implosion. Corporate greed (fueled by individual demands)  makes it difficult to have a conversation about important issues. If there is no way to fundamentally overthrow or transform the greed of oligarchs and plutocrats, supported by their minions,  and if the patriarchy wants to continue to obliterate women, if straights want to continue to dominate the gays and lesbians and transsexuals, they will do that. I don’t have to be a part of that he says. I can resist. I might not change the world, but I can be a decent person if I choose to be one. The white world can continue to be hegemonic and racist, our mistreatment of indigenous peoples can carry on, but let them carry it on without us. As West said to Sharlet, “I still want to be a person who fights against the period, and I want to fight with others, and if we lose so be it.”  We have no guarantees. What an inspiring thoughtful man! As an indigenous woman at the University of Winnipeg where I heard West speak, told him, “you uplift my spirit.”

 

T.S. Eliot was according to West a right-wing ideologue. But he acknowledged, that even right-wing ideologues have to be right once in awhile. Eliot got it right when he said, in the Quartets, “Ours is in the trying. The rest is not our business.” We are only here to bear witness and to try as much as we can. Or as Samuel Becket said, “Try again. Fail Again. Fail Better.”

 

West, who also said he wants to teach people how to die, asked us to consider what people will say about us. At our funeral will they say we failed?  We made misjudgments. We made mistakes. Hopefully they will see we tried, we held on, we did the best we could. As West said, “We are not pure, but will we lead a trail behind us of integrity, honesty, decency?  If so we have not really failed at all.”

 

To Cornel West resistance to evil is a religious imperative.  He always comes back to religion. He does not waste time talking to us about a personal relationship to Jesus. Instead, he says this is a world of overwhelming oppression, deception, insults, attacks, and brute force repression but will we resist? That is what it is all about for West. We have to rebel against it. But that’s enough. It is enough.

 

Low Vaccination Rates hide a profound social weakness

 

Anita Sreedhar is a primary care physician with a degree in public health and she works in the Bronx. Anand Gopal is a sociologist from my second favorite University, Arizona State University. He is also an excellent journalist who covers international conflicts such as the war in Afghanistan. They have conducted research for 5 years to learn to better understand vaccine resistance. Again, from before the arrival of Covid-19. This is what they discovered:

“We’ve found that people who reject vaccines are not necessarily less scientifically literate or less well-informed than those who don’t. Instead, hesitancy reflects a transformation of our core beliefs about what we owe one another.

Over the past four decades, governments have slashed budgets and privatized basic services. This has two important consequences for public health. First, people are unlikely to trust institutions that do little for them. And second, public health is no longer viewed as a collective endeavor, based on the principle of social solidarity and mutual obligation. People are conditioned to believe they’re on their own and responsible only for themselves. That means an important source of vaccine hesitancy is the erosion of the idea of a common good.”

 

People think they are on their own, because they have largely been left on their own. They know they can’t trust anyone else. It is all on them.

In the Unites States there has been a powerful anti-vaccine movement since long before Covid-19.

I remember one day I was at a conference at my beloved Arizona State University, and at dinner when I was chatting with the woman sitting beside my wife and I.  She seemed intelligent. After all she was an adult like me participating in a university conference with some of the top professors around the world. Both of us did not really belong there. We were ordinary citizens, but the university encouraged people like us to attend such conferences. That is why I like that university so much. I was surprised that she wanted to talk about vaccines which one of the professors had talked about as an aside. She told me she disagreed strongly with what he had said. She said  he was dead wrong when the professor said the vaccine myth that they caused autism had been debunked. (It had). But she strongly disagreed and assured me the science was firm that vaccines did in fact cause autism. (She was wrong).

 She was part of a growing movement of vaccine distrust that is particularly virulent in the US, but has reached as far as Canada, in particular, southern Manitoba.

Many reasons have been given for the anti-vaccine attitudes. Some have blamed online misinformation campaigns, others have blamed our tribal culture, and even fear of needles. Race has also been a factor. At first white Americans were twice as likely to get vaccinated in large part for historical reasons, such as the Tuskegee syphilis experiments on African Americans orchestrated by the government to their serious detriment. There was good reason for their suspicions and mistrust. Interestingly, that gap between whites and blacks has narrowed considerably since then. Many African Americans have been convinced to take the vaccines despite their suspicions.

All of these factors are significant, but Sreedhar and Gopal found a more significant factor. That was college attendance. “Those without a college degree were the most likely to go unvaccinated,” they said.  Why would that be. As the two said in their Times article, “Education is a reliable predictor of socioeconomic status, and other studies have similarly found a link between income and vaccination… It turns out that the real vaccination divide is class.”

Class is the culprit. And that makes a big difference as I shall try to show.

Trust, Mistrust and a Monstrous God

 

One of the things that is so interesting about this pandemic is the astonishing fact that so many people mistrust so many so deeply. The distrust is virtually unshakeable. I am trying to understand why that happens. And it happens a lot where I live, in Southern Manitoba.

This has caught me by surprise. Or at least it once did. After nearly 2 years of this pandemic, it no longer surprises me. I expect it. I am surprised when someone demonstrates trust.  I think it has something to do with the deeply felt religious beliefs in our community, but that still does not explain it.

Here is what Winnipeg Free Press reporter Dylan Robertson said about exactly this issue:

“Manitoba children could qualify for COVID-19 vaccines within weeks, but evangelical parents might not let their kids roll up their sleeves.

In a recent Probe Research survey shared with the Free Press, two-thirds of evangelical Manitobans said they “worry about the long-term effects of COVID-19 vaccinations in children,” compared with 41 per cent of overall respondents.

In addition, 49 per cent of those identifying as evangelical said COVID-19 as an issue was “overblown,” compared with 28 per cent of the overall population.”

 

What would lead Manitoba parents to distrust government or the authorities so much that they would put the lives of their children in danger when the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence, and by now, real life experiences, make it so clear that not taking vaccines is a dangerous choice?

The Free Press  interviewed Rick Hiemstra, research director of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and this is what he said, “A lack of trust and polarization have come home to roost.” So many of these evangelicals now identify with their group—Christians who don’t trust vaccines. They don’t trust  scientists. No matter how many of them. They don’t trust the government. Instead, they trust what other members of their tribe has told them or trust what they have “learned” from their own “research” on the Internet. And they do while they put the lives of their children in danger.

Here is what a local theologian said as reported by the Winnipeg Free Press,

“Evangelical scholar Nicholas Greco said numerous factors cause that gap, from a desire to rely on God for healing, to science clashing with creationism, to general skepticism of media and government.

Evangelicals often are reflective of a social and political conservatism, which calls for smaller governments (and) personal autonomy, but also tends to lead to a mistrust of government,” said Greco, who is provost of Providence University College in Otterburne.

Greco, a long-time communications professor, said there’s a perception the government wants to control everyone, and that the media is overhyping the virus as part of some sort of conspiracy.

“The rhetoric I hear from many of my colleagues… is that we don’t want the government to have further control, because if they do, we will lose our freedoms,” he said.

The evangelicals believe conspiracy theories rather than scientists and they believe it so strongly they put the lives of their children in danger. It is like an article of their faith that vaccines are untrustworthy, and no reasoning, no data, or no actual experiences will shake them from their convictions.

Here is what the Free Press reported, “At a recent panel, one congregant said everyone who got the vaccine is going to die within a few years, and that they’ll all go to hell.”

As an aside, think for a moment about what a monstrous God this person believed in—a god who would punish someone for eternity for doing what our scientists have strongly recommended.

It is as if denial of vaccine efficacy has become part of their religious faith.

Crony Capitalism

 

Gandhi was once asked what he thought about western civilization. He replied it would be a good idea. I feel that way about capitalism. Many of my friends are big supporters. I am more sceptical. m

Scott Galloway calls what we have  crony capitalism.  He liked capitalism; he hates crony capitalism. This is what he said to Bill Maher, who also likes capitalism:

 

“Capitalism is hands down the best system of its kind. What young people are seeing today is not capitalism. We have rugged individualism on the way up and then we have ‘we’re all in this together on the way down.’ We have socialism. Capitalism on the way up where 5 CEOs of airline companies make $150,000,000 and use all their excess cash flow to buy-back stocks so that they artificially inflate their own compensation and then shit gets real when a pandemic comes they don’t have any money and all of a sudden its ‘we’re in this together.’ When you have capitalism on the way up and socialism on the way down, that’s not capitalism or socialism it is cronyism. It is the worst of all worlds. Capitalism is full-body contact violence at a corporate level so we can create prosperity and progress that rests on a bed of empathy. We have flipped the script here. We need to be more loving and empathetic with people and more harsh on companies. We should be protecting people not companies. Fucking Delta? Burn baby burn!”

Larry Wilmore made an important point. He said, “we have not had pure capitalism for 150 years. We are constantly redefining what capitalism is”

 

In the period of the new deal we expanded what government could do. It could bring social security and unemployment insurance. It could bring things that at one time were considered uncapitalistic. Now that does not matter. Perhaps in the US Obama care will be accepted as a proper government benefit. Socialized medicine, as the Americans like to call it, has been an acceptable governmental interference in the economy in all western countries except for the United States.

 

The Republicans in 2016 rode to victory on a platform of dismantling Obama Care. For the first two years the Republicans had a Republican president and a Republican Senate and a Republican House of Representatives and could not kill Obama Care. Perhaps it is also here to stay. How many Republicans campaigned to dismantle Obama Care in the 2020 elections? Not many. They were largely afraid to try that. So they ran on no platform. Their only platform was “I like Trump.” What ever that meant.

 

In Canada no political party in 40 years has campaigned to dismantled Medicare. It is a sacred trust. It does not matter that it is not capitalism. No one in Canada cares.

Capitalism? Yeah that’s something we should try some time.

Inequities in capitalism that must be eliminated

The pandemic has exacerbated some tendencies in capitalism that have had a negative effect. For example, working from home in some sense is a good thing. It’s mostly a good thing. People don’t waste so much time commuting. They can spend more time with their loved ones. But there are problems. As Professor Scott Galloway said,

If they can move your job to Denver they can move it to Bangalore. So be careful for what you ask. I think you are gong to see continued pressure on the working class as we get better and better at outsourcing jobs.

 

I am a subscriber to Photoshop and Lightroom two photographic programs.  A few years ago, I had to subscribe to them. I could no longer just buy them; I had to rent them. I hated paying $12 a month. Now it’s more of course. Then I realized there was a benefit. They had a help line. I am not an expert in the program. I often need help. So now I can phone them 24 hours a day during the week and get my questions answered by very knowledgeable people without extra charges. I love that.

And, of course, these helpers are always in India. At first, I had a little trouble understanding what they said because of their accent, but in time I got to know them and like them. They were very helpful. They taught me a lot. But they are Indians and they answer questions for all the people in North America. These are skilled jobs. They know their stuff and the programs in my opinion are complicated. Far too hard for me to do without expert help. It’s too bad they can’t hire North Americans to do it, but the company I suppose figures they can’t hire North Americans to do it at the money they offer. But this is outsourcing technical expertise. These are not laborers.

Being near the headquarters is a valuable thing for workers in a corporation. It allows people to network and rub shoulders with executives. That proximity is very valuable for a worker trying to build a career. Because women still spend more time typically than men building relationships with their family, they will tend to gravitate toward working at home. And this of course is a good thing, but it will be a drag on their careers because they will lose the benefits of proximity if they work from home instead. As a result, this will be a drag on their march toward greater equality. And that is not a good thing. Currently,  about 7% or less of CEOs for the S & P 500 are women. If women lose this proximity to power this unfortunate situation will get worse not better. As a result, Galloway asked,

“Are we building an infrastructure at HQ that is just filled with white guys? There is just no getting around it. Proximity to headquarters puts you on a different path in terms of advancement within the organization. So, I think there’ll be some positives and some negatives that we will have to adjust for and recognize that people who serve and have the money or don’t have the kids or have the ability to live close to work. As a tribal species that loves affinity and proximity, we will have to adjust for people who aren’t capable of being at headquarters every day.”

 

For these reasons stimulus from the government should be focused on protecting people and the environment. If we took 2 or 3 trillion dollars of stimulus and divided it among the most vulnerable households, the effect on society would be remarkable. Stimulating big corporations just doesn’t do as much. People who are in the top 10% are living a great life in this pandemic.  I admit I am. Life for me is great. I spend a lot of time with my wife. We read a lot. We watch some excellent TV shows together. We miss our family and friends terribly, but we are certainly not suffering. The key is how can we protect the bottom 90%? Stimulus should be shaped to do that. If you took the bottom third of American households and divided $3 trillion among them each household would get $100,000. That could be deeply transformative. Society would be very different. And those people would spend that money inside our economies. They would not stash it away in Swiss accounts.

Or let’s say it’s even less money. It would allow those people to make better decisions. Studies have shown how poverty makes it very difficult for poor people to make good decisions. People would not have to choose between paying for their insulin or their rent. They would not have to choose between paying for food or education for their children. Imagine that.  They could actually do what’s best for their families. Life in our society could be transformed. As it is now, many people have to get part time jobs with Uber to pay for food or rent or clothing for their families. So instead of staying now with their kids and helping them learn remotely they are out working at 2 or 3 jobs. This is not good for society. There is a better way.

We do need  to reset. Only the extremely comfortable think things are perfect right now. People like my member of Parliament.

Stock Markets like Monopolies; People don’t

 

Some people have been surprised that I have been critical of capitalism. I deny that I have been critical of capitalism.   First, let me say, I have been critical of what has happened to capitalism, not capitalism itself. It is appalling what has happened to it. Monopolies are not capitalism. They are predators of capitalism. They destroy capitalism. Subsidies for capitalists are not capitalism either. What we need is capitalism!

 Hari Sreenivasan pointed out to Scott Galloway, “One of the interesting things about the pandemic is that it has been exceptional for the big 4–Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon.”

Scott Galloway, a defender of capitalism, and Professor of Marketing, not socialism, agreed, and added this,

If you owned shares in those 4 companies they have risen 47% so far in the pandemic. And it might be just the middle of the pandemic…Markets have spoken. They have said monopolies are good.”

Galloway also said,

“If you think of the market as an organism that absorbs millions of data points and then spits back a verdict, the market is saying those unregulated monopolies and these are fantastic companies, but let’s be honest, they’re monopolies, they are able to extract rents like other companies can’t, and also companies that are too big to fail like airlines that have reinvested 93% of their free cash back into stock buy-backs which juices the equity based compensation of their CEOs and then on the way down they wrap themselves in the American flag and say ‘we’re all in this together’ and look for bailouts.”

 

As Galloway said,

“One the way the up in the markets, capitalists love to be rugged individualists. On the way down they want to be coddled and entitled socialists.”

That is modern capitalism. It is sickly capitalism, good for only a few corporations. According to Galloway,

“The Big 4 have come out of the pandemic stronger. So far at least. The Pandemic has treated monopolists kindly like the child of a rich man. Which of course is what they are.

60 cents of the digital marketing dollar pre-pandemic went to Facebook and Google. Coming out of the pandemic it will be 80 cents, because there’s a culling of the herd right now in business. And the biggest elephants will come out of this with more foliage to feed fewer elephants. ”

 

And monopoly power is never a good thing. It is not good for capitalism. It is bad for capitalism, but some monopolists benefit enormously. And all of this is very bad for the economy. As Galloway said,

“We’ve had a very scary trend towards more and more consolidation of power across fewer and fewer companies. It’s bad for the economy because typically the companies that generate jobs are small and medium-sized companies. There are half as many companies being formed today as there were during the Carter administration! The consolidation of power, the tyrannical march of big tech taking shares from everybody else continues unabated.”

 

Massive stimulus is good for the economy. We’ve had that. Galloway said, what capitalism needs to oxygenate the economy would be to drastically increase the funding of regulators like the Department of Justice. They have to restore their historic role of reigning in big companies that are destroying the economy. As Galloway said, a company like Amazon can become so big that it can make an announcement that scares the crap out  of the entire “free” market. For example, he mentioned how Amazon announced that it would start delivering prescriptions to home and immediately retail pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies shed billions of dollars of market capitalization.  As he said,

“we need to go to these companies, and not only big tech, but also big Pharma and big Ag. and break them up and restore and oxygenate the marketplace. If you go back to the AT&T breakup all 7 companies were more valuable than the original one. So, you have more jobs, more acquisitions, more funding, broader tax base. Typically, everybody wins in such a breakup except for one stakeholder the CEO.”

 

Capitalism needs regulation. Monopolies don’t want it. Real capitalists know that they need it.

 

Economics writer, Will Hutton, agrees with this. He  believes what American capitalism needs is more, not less regulation. Regulation can often be good for business. Business needs good government. A government like that led by Trump is not the answer. He tried his best to eliminate all regulations. There are many on the right who think that is the right approach. It isn’t. It would have been disastrous. According to Hutton, that is why European companies are in many cases doing better than American companies. They are regulated better. So they can’t get fat and lazy.

When these giants are broken up you have more robust and vigorous corporations and it is better for everyone, in particular the public but also the organizations. They all benefit. So, the United States needs a strong President, unlike Trump, who can do this. Is Biden the one? I doubt it, but I hope I am wrong. He certainly will be better than Trump, no matter what he does or does not do.

Capitalism needs smart regulation. Without it, capitalism starves.

Flattening the Curve for Rich People: Wall Street, Main Street, or Willow Place?

 

Once again Wall Street is doing much better than Main Street. Th at should not surprise anyone.  And Wall Street is doing even much better than Willow Place. This is always an interesting phenomenon. In my view this will always happen in a system that permits plutocracy, and even worse in a system that encourages plutocracy. If we left the rich rule they would do what is in their best interests. It really is that simple.

As Scott Galloway said,

“As a nation we suffer from an idolatry of innovators. And we personify companies and believe that it all starts with the shareholders. The shareholder class is the premier class and as long as the economy is strong everything will fall into place. And we measure the economy’s health by these dangerous indices called the Nasdaq where 90% of the stock are owned by the top 10%. The Nasdaq and the Dow are not indicators of the health of our economy; they are proxies for how well the wealthy are doing. And–spoiler alert–they’re killing it.”

Again no one should be surprised by this. We have a system that is designed by the wealthy for the wealthy and inevitably such a system will deliver the goods to the wealthy. Our system does that well.

Another problem Galloway draws to our attention is that private power has been unleashed as a result deregulation. As he said, as a result of regulators doing nothing,

“… we end up with a lot of private power that has now overrun government. There are now more full-time lobbyists from Amazon that are living in Washington D.C. than there are sitting US Senators. There are more people manicuring Sheryl Sandburg and Mark Zuckerberg’s image in the communications department of Facebook than there are journalists at the Washington Post. So, we now have a situation where if you look across the market at the S&P 500, the 50 biggest companies are up for the year, the companies in the middle are down in the high single digits and the smallest 15 companies are down in double digits. We have decided that companies are either big tech monopolies, or too big to fail. That is our priority. And the wealthiest cohort in America small business owners have received one of the largest bail-outs. There will be very well publicized examples of the owners of a cupcake bakery that made it through the other end, but mostly what PPT has done is two things. Not giving  bridges to small business but giving  them piers where they are still going to go out of business, but we have just kicked the can down the road. This economy is reshaping. It’s coming down differently. And two, we have flattened the curve for rich people. Small business owners are millionaires typically, and there was no reason they needed a bailout. The big mistake here, looking back, will be we should have protected people not companies. We should have put money in the hands of people and then let them decide  what businesses survive and what perish. Capitalism and rugged individualism on the way up and cronyism and bailouts on the way down is just cronyism. It doesn’t help the economy. And money is nothing but the transfer of time and work and all we’ve decided is that we want our kids and grand kids to spend less time with their loved ones such that wealthy people now can stay wealthy.”

 

Keep the wealthy being wealthy. That is what is happening with cronyism. Is this what modern capitalism is all about?

Lessons from e-commerce

 

 

In e-commerce it took years for the kind of growth we have seen lately. It is astonishing. I hate what Amazon is doing to small businesses around the world. I hate the thought of giving any more money to the richest man in the world (or second richest) whose employees have to wear diapers to work because they are not given enough time to go to the washroom.

Before the pandemic Jeff Bezos was earning $1 million every 50 minutes now he is doing much better than that and I have helped him out, as have millions of others. We have done that because we came to realize how convenient it was to shop from Amazon. For many things we don’t really have to go to a store to look them over. Ordering them from our homes for some of us is just easier, simpler, and cheaper.  Other businesses will have to learn that we have learned something during this pandemic and if they don’t change, we will change where and how we shop. Not for everything but for many things. Capitalists had better innovate or they will be left on the dust heap. Capitalist always say that is what they are good at. Let’s see if that’s true.

That does not mean all has been rosy. As Hari Sreenivasan pointed out to,

“It has been a boon for those who could afford it. There has been a blue collar pandemic and a white collar pandemic. For the white collar people it was great.  I can get everything from Instacard and Amazon. But if you’re an essential worker that doesn’t really apply to you.’

For others not so much. And some of us still care a little bit about fairness. Fairness and competition.

Scott Galloway is a professor Marketing who was interviewed by Sreenivasan on Amanpour & Company and he agreed completely:

“If you’re in the top 10% of income earners there is no change in employment. It means you’re no more vulnerable than you were before the pandemic. There’s a 60% likelihood you can work from home. You can spend more time with your family. You maybe got 10 hours back a week. If you make less than $40,000 a year, 40% of those people have lost their jobs and less than 10% can work from home. You don’t like to say this out loud, but if you’re in the top 10% and you’re blessed with good health you’re most likely spending more time with Netflix, your kids, and less time commuting, and by the way your stocks are probably up and I would argue that a lot of the stimulus unfortunately hasn’t been about arresting the pandemic, and helping our neediest, it’s been about flattening the curve for rich people. The savings rate in American has never been higher. The Nasdaq has never been higher. If you do a google search for covid and markets you’ll find more articles than if you do covid and mortality. It’s as if as a nation our priorities are reflected in our spending. The velocity of death is unprecedented. More people are dying every day from this than any crisis in history! And that’s meaningful. But what would be profoundly tragic would be if the Nasdaq declines! At least that’s what our spending seems to indicate. We want to save restaurants but not keep schools open. We seem to want to ensure that the markets are washed in liquidity and people are wanting stimulus, but we aren’t protecting people. We see infection rates rise. And we see our health professionals wanting for PPE equipment. It does definitely seem that we have decided that corporations are people and they are the ones that we have to save.”

 

And remember all of this is not coming from some crazy leftwing extremist. This is coming from a self-described enthusiast for capitalism. He is an insider. He likes the system. Perhaps not as much as Zwaagstra does, but he is no bleeding socialist. He just thinks the current system sucks. It sucks because the rich people are swimming in cash while those who are not are taking their chances serving the rich people. They are called essential workers, but they are not paid like it.

Billionaires do Great; Poor people suffer

 

While billionaires like Jeff Bezos have seen their wealth explode (again) during the Covid—19 pandemic, poor people have suffered the most (again). Poor people are feeling the brunt of the ill effects of the pandemic. Funny how that happens.

I recently  heard a very interesting interview with Mariana Mazzucato Professor of Economics at University College in London. She  wrote a book called The Value of Everything. I assume the title is a reference to a famous  quote by Oscar Wilde, that “a cynic knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.” I actually have used that line to describe some conservatives I know. With some justification I might add.

 

At the time she was speaking on the television show she said that just as 8 million case of Covid-19 have been experienced in the US, 8 million people have dropped down below the poverty line. At about the same the average wealth of billionaires had gone up by 25%. More than a million people had died and 38 million people infected (at the time of the interview). Many more since then, of course.  According to the Gates Foundation at the time 37 million people around the world had been pushed from poverty into extreme poverty! That means they earned less than $1.90 per day. Meanwhile the rich are getting much richer. Meanwhile conservative politicians think everything is fine and no changes are needed. That is what my own member of Parliament, Ted Falk believes.  with enthusiasm he believes that. In fact any suggested changes must mean the crypto-communists are trying to turn our country into a communist hell.  

Why does it have to work that way? The short answer is that it doesn’t have to work that way, it works that way only because we allow it to work that way.  We keep electing politicians like Ted Falk. That is the system the well to do, together with their political minions, want to conserve. That is the essence of modern conservatism. Everything is fine for us, so everything is fine.