Thursday, July 21, 2011

THE NEW SERFDOM

Did anyone see that article in a recent New Yorker about the heir to the Walton fortune building an art museum in Arkansas? I had just read elsewhere that in 2005 the Walton family's wealth was equal to the wealth of the bottom 140 million of us combined.

That's right, they had as much money as one hundred and forty MILLION of us. You'd think they'd be able to raise the pay at WalMarts and offer better benefits right? But not only do those who do most of the work for WalMart, including the cheaper laborers who make products for low wages elsewhere, which eliminated jobs in this country—from the mom and pop stores Walmart put out of business to the makers of products they import from cheaper labor overseas etc.

The New Yorker article pointed out that the Walton family fortune is greater than Bill Gates's and Warren Buffet's fortunes combined, and that this not so little art museum project from I think her name is Alice Walton managed to get federal money to have a new four lane highway built to Bentonville, Arkansas, the home of the Walmart empire, and managed to get the state of Arkansas to let her museum project be tax free, and when questooned about it she did what the wealthy always do when questioned about all the breaks they get for their projects, be they new sports stadiums or arenas or office buildings or etc.—it's okay because it'll create jobs.

What they never say is that it will create the kind of jobs we need to build these projects of ours and maintain them and they may not pay so well in some cases but everyone will be better off with our new highway or shopping mall (the governor of my state, New Jersey, gave up millions from the federal government to finish a tunnel project already begun, and cut education and police and all kinds of essential services because the state didn't have the money, but developers wanting to build a new mall in The Meadowlands (where the mob used to bury their victims legend has it) he's willing to have the state foot the bill) or art museum in Bentonville (to display her "American art" collection accrued sometimes by outbidding major museums unable to match her fortune) rather than...

...and this is why we're all becoming the new serfs working for the whim of our masters...taxing the wealthy to get the revenue to pay for cleaner energy and new infrastructure that benefits everyone, not just the pet projects of the wealthy.

It's late and I'm too tired to look up the article, but I'll type in a link in the morning. (And I could go on using Murdoch and his empire as another example of this, but nighty night...)

[PS: Here's the link, but unfortunately you have to either be a subscriber to The New Yorker or pay for the article.]

17 comments:

JIm said...

Take it all and it will not save socialist, Marxist, progressive failing Obamanomics.

harryn said...

Oh, come on Jim ...
In order to be competitive in a functioning global market, none of those historic tags work.
We are so far from the original tenets of our founding documents that they're not salvageable - and haven't been for a long time.
If you think otherwise, you're deluded.
At best, we're a hybrid of most of those ideas and more.
That's called evolution and compromise; and to think that we can employ any other methodology of governance would make us more impertinent than we've already become.
What is clear, is that human value and rights are diminishing proportionately with the rewards to mediocrity and wealth.
None, or little of which has anything to do with Obama.
It's the tolerance of an irrelevant political system that panders to special interest while refusing debate and compromise that has paralyzed political evolution and intelligent social consciousness.
That, and all the fear-mongering rhetoric of history's horrors that prevents America's future from evolving and happening.
Up to this point Jim I've seen nothing but your contribution to the problem - not a solution.
Come on brother - commit, instead of repeating the same old banter ...

harryn said...

I'd also like to know what qualifies the Waltons - besides the acquisition of commodities - to build an art museum?
In the cultural mecca of Arkansas no less ...
Something really reeks of self-aggrandizement -
reminding me of that old Charlie Tuna (Starkist) commercial ...

Lally said...

paul, I didn't get chance to delete the first comment before you responded, so I'll leave it in. But I really don't want to waste my, or anyone else's, time on such silliness. Either he knows fully well that everything in that comment is nothing but lies, or he actually is so brainwashed he believes the,. Either way it's a total waste of time and energy to try and argue with him. As so many others in the middle and on the left, including economists and even some Republicans, our president's economic plan, just as his health plan, comes right out of the Republican playbook. Obama is not only not a "Marxist, "socialist" etc. but he isn't even much of a "liberal." in many ways. He is a centrist pragmatist trying to address our country's problems during a time such stringent rightwing ideologic litmus tests for Republican politicians that Reagan policies are now viewed by the right's arbiters and their followers as "Marxist, socialist," etc. In fact, reagan never proposed (as president, he may have as a politician) anything even slightly as opposed to leftist and even liberal beliefs and policies as Obama is proposing in his economic plan. So, if you don't mind Paul, I;k continue to delete comments that continue to attempt to spread lies as blatant and silly as those that prompted your response.

JIm said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
harryn said...

I get it Michael, but I wouldn't be much of an Obama fan if I didn't hold some hope before futility ...

Lally said...

I'm not saying Obama isn't a source of hope, I believe he is. because in the political atmosphere that rightwing propaganda and machinations has produced, where anything other than full compliance to the superrich masters of the right's agenda to seize all power for the interests of those superrich controllers (i.e. the Koch brothers, the Murdoch empire, etc.) is considered traitorous, Obama has the smarts and the personality to negotiate the obstacles they keep throwing up better than any other politician out there I can see. And he is accomplishing stuff. The Republican (in particular Romney, but Republicans were touting it before him) healthcare plan that Obama got passed isn't what the left or even many centrist Democrats want (they want a one-payer system or "medicare for all" etc.) but it's certainly better than what the superrich masters of the right want, which is no healthcare for anyone who can't pay their medical corporations' excessive fees. etc.

Lally said...

And PS Paul, as was evidenced by his last comment on the following post, he doesn't even read or listen to or watch whatever I write about or link to, because he always gets whatever facts are being offered or truths exposed etc. completely backward, and then attributes it all to Obama's "marxism, socialism" ad nauseum. So, my advice is to ignore him.

Robert Berner said...

Dear Lal--Your regular readers might be as amused as I was this morning when I read Nick Kristof's op-ed in the NY Times. Three paragraphs in and I thought, "Well, here are Swiftian 'modest proposals' for the 21st century." And then I stopped and said, "Wait--this is no satire... It's exactly what the shrink-the-beast politicians, bankers, consultants, and other servants/lackeys of the Koch Brothers, the Waltons, the Murdochs, the Gateses, etc. are in fact doing: a 21st century plutocracy equivalent of what 19th century French romanticist/symbolist artists advocated. But in this case it's not a systematic derangement of the senses, but a systematic disassembly and destruction of everything we ever considered part of the Social Contract: social services, free elections, medical care, retirement, public services, public education, decent jobs, collective bargaining, adequate wages, and so on. Take away everything we think of as integral parts of democracy and necessities in the promotion of the general welfare (remember those words from the U.S. Constitution?)and what are we but serfs in a system of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich?
Bob B.

JIm said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lally said...

Bob, thanks for steering us to that column. Here's the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/21/opinion/21kristof.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha212

harryn said...

Once again Michael - I do get it, and didn't mean to infer that you were suggesting Obama wasn't a source of hope amid all these ridiculous right wing machinations.
My intent, when I'm feeling tolerant enough, is to stand toe-to-toe with the idiocy of Jim's comments.
That's what I saw as Obama's platform of 'hope' in the wreckage of the Bush years and the subsequent de-evolution of consciousness among the right wingers of the country.
With all these idiots, I can't help but believe that the light will go on one day. That's the 'hope' that empowers my tolerance.
But it is getting ugly out there ...
When brinksmanship takes precedent over intelligent debate and compromise the democratic process is unrecognizable.

JIm said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jamie Rose said...

loving the deletions.

Curtis Faville said...

My own take on Wal-Mart is that they're basically a front for Chinese manufacturers. They're acting as a conduit for distribution and sale of goods made in China at comparatively cheap rates, and then sold in the much richer American market.

The thing about globalism is that it's basically a zero sum game. We were sold on "free trade" back in the 1980's--world-wide employment would raise in unison in this synergistic environment of exchange. But that didn't turn out to be true. The world wide capital entrepreneurs understood that it was still about playing one market against another, buying off the regulators and tax collectors, and laughing to the bank.

We're in an undeclared trade war with much of Asia. No one talks about it--it's not PC to discuss. But China has defacto barriers to American goods and capital, and runs its currency artificially low to ramp up the trade imbalance.

We are just beginning to feel the long term effects of this disequilibrium, as our GDP slumps, our tax revenues decline, and the cash flow winds down.

It sounds racist to dis the Chinese, but now they own our debt as well. Serious thinkers about history now speculate that the sleeping dragon has more surprises for us, down the road. Has China's military bearing been tested since the late 1940's? The Japanese would have conquered China, had the British and Soviet Union not stopped them. Their new strategy is to bury us with cheap mops and flip-flops. Tomorrow it will be cars.

Meanwhile the planet is going to hell. Do you think the Chinese are going to care about environment concerns? In your dreams.

Lally said...

Good summary Curtis, thanks for that. But your last point is a little off I think. There's a lot more going on in green energy in China than here, and at least some of the Chinese top leaders understand that their future depends on some ecological balance. It's also true, that they're not going to let that get in the way of keeping the masses as satisfied and/or oppressed as possible to continue their economic growth and extending their economic and political power. But still, there's more awareness and even action than that last statement implies.

Curtis Faville said...

Mike:

China is bringing on--I think this is what I heard--one new coal-fired generating plant PER DAY.

This will have catastrophic effects on the planet.

Remember the Olympic scandal in which Beijing freeways were closed for a week, to keep the chemical soup (which is that city's "air") down?

We were told that pragmatic military planners at the Pentagon had planned for the Iraq war a decade early, "in order to protect our petroleum interests."

But the new contracts being signed all over the Middle East have Chinese names on them, not American or European ones. Did China influence our policy to do "nation-building" in order to facilitate their petroleum needs?

There was a lot of talk of conspiracy during the Clinton years. Chinese backers bankrolled the Clinton Presidential runs, and began to buy our debt.

In retrospect, that's interesting.

They don't care who's in power, as long as their agenda is met. Did China stand to gain from "free trade"? You bet.

Is China interested in free trade from their side? I don't think so.