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Saturday, July 26, 2014
The song remains....
“We are amazed but not amused
By all the things you say that you'll do
Though much concerned but not involved
With decisions that are made by you
But we are sick and tired of hearing your song
Telling how you are gonna change right from wrong
'Cause if you really want to hear our views
"You haven't done nothing"! “
Paul Ryan is at it again.
A “New Plan” to tackle Poverty and Inequality in America is the subject of a recent document out of Ryan's House Budget Committee.(1)
There are a few good ideas...the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is about the ONLY thing that Milton Friedman ever advocated that I agree with, is one of the bright spots. Another is the call for “Sentencing Reform”, along with some not very clear language about how we should treat folks who used to be in Prison as if they were actually Human, again.
The rest is just the same old song that Ryan and his bunch have been singing for the last 40 or so years.
“Block Grants” to the States...so that Texas can decide how to deal with their numerous Po' Folks...leaving the bad ol' Fedgov nothing to do but write larger checks.
Having lived in Texas...and been Poor in Texas...I think that it should be objectively clear to everyone that the States can only rarely be Trusted to do the Right Thing, as regards Minorities, and Poor People, the Running of Elections, and the Funding and Execution of Education.
Sometimes, the Fedgov has no choice but to force some States to do the Right Thing.(Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, Brown v. Board, and on and on.)
I'll take another look at Ryan's ideas when Texas acts like it gives a damn about what ALL of it's People think about things.
Currently, Texas has no Initiative and Referendum mechanisms...no provision for Recall of Elected Officials who turn coat after they take office...and a State Government run by, for the most part, angry white men with lots of money.
There is no public provision of healthcare, of mental healthcare or of worker protections to speak of, save those minimum efforts that Texas is forced to do, by the Fedgov.
There's no Ethics Enforcement to speak of, either...merely a few organisations, in a few buildings in Austin, that say the word “Ethics” on the front door.
Texas has no Unions...at least not with any teeth.(Strikes are Illegal, for Teachers, at least.)
There are very few Protections for regular folks that have any history of being enforced, by Texas, on it's own initiative.
The Government of Texas, and it's Big Business Enablers, reckon that the “Market”(world without end), should figure out how much to pay employees...that Minimum Wage is anathema to the “Market”(Holy, Holy)....and that Employees should just shut up, and get back to work...for however many peanuts the Boss(Shall we Kneel?) is willing to turn loose of.
Until that set of rules and regs and the thinking that is behind them can be legitimately Challenged...in Public Debate, and at the Ballot Box...and using Evidence, instead of just louder and louder shouting...such tired old prescriptions as Ryan and the Gang keep trotting out are simply Non-Starters.
That these Class Warrior's continue to pontificate on what a bad idea a minimum wage is, is probably the part of this Document that angers me the most.
What is the alternative to enforcing even a crappy Minimum Wage?
The Big Companies would immediately drop the wages and salaries of their employees down to the least they could get away with.
Smaller Companies would have to follow suit.
No thought would be given to whether or not folks could actually live on these wages...let along if such wages allowed the possibility of movin' on up in the world.
The only consideration that would be entertained would be “how low can we go, before the workers either abandon our employ, or rise up and hang us?”;
Just like so many formerly American companies have done in places like China, Guam and Bangladesh.
Texas, and many other States with similar Operating Systems, would soon be Third World places.
What Ryan and his Ilk always fail to understand, is that Capitalism is NOT a system of Morals.
The Only Morality even contemplated in the numerous Foundational Texts that I have read on the subject, is Individualism...which usually means the Freedom and Individuality of those who can afford to protect it, themselves.
To his credit, Adam Smith did consider the other side of the equation...in a book that is hardly read or remembered....”A Theory of Moral Sentiments”.
It was like Part 2 of his better known, and much cherry-picked Bible of Capitalism, “...Wealth of Nations...”.
But it is a far cry from a Progressive call for the Rights of the not-so-wealthy...and it is in an entirely different universe from “Socialism”.
There is, I admit, a bunch of talk in these tomes regarding the responsibility of the state to “Protect Property”...this is given great weight.
But Employees are hardly talked about, at all...save as “Units”...especially in the 20th Century ruminations and dreamsongs about Capitalism.
If we would only “get government out of the way” and “let the Market Function...”, soon all would be better off, and rivers of milk and honey would spring forth, and there would be no Poverty.
The evidence, however, is in. We've tried this, twice, now. Once, pre FDR...and second, since Reagan...effectively undoing much of the things that FDR did.
The first time around, it took a Depression and a World War, and a whole lot of Civil Unrest to pry the Rich Old Men out of the ears of Public Officials.
This second go-'round, we haven't had the spine to do so.
Ryan talks a lot about, essentially, Boot Straps.
He does this in flowery, obfuscatory language that sounds nice, if one doesn't look too closely...or think too long. It's easier to swallow if one is already rich, and has never relied on Ramen Noodles for dinnertime fare.
This Document, like so many before it, is merely another exercise in Euphemism and Hypocrisy, using one sided references that back up Ryan's beliefs and preconceptions, and totally ignoring anything that disagrees(heresy).
I suggest that Ryan and his Friends go back to the drawing board, and bring the folks from the other side of the aisle out of the broom closet, and to that drawing board , right beside them.
Joining them in the room should be All of the so called “Stakeholders”...not just representatives of Business...but those who have no stakes to hold, having used them for kindling in order to boil their Bootstraps.
When studies and polls and investigations turn up evidence supporting the opposite of what Ryan and the Chamber of Commerce would prefer, they should not be simply defunded and ignored...but included in the discussion, along side the various catechisms of Free Market Orthodoxy.