Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Self-Interest

Comments

1
Those are admirable capitalist traits when you are competing with others. They are terrible traits when you are a looter.
2
That paragraph made my eyes owie...
3
I nominate this for Post of the Day. Hell, maybe even Post of the Month.
5
spot-on goldy.
6
People forget that the middle class was clawed out of the oligarchs in bloody fights.

But they're getting reminded every day.
7
Selfish and self interested is the perfect description of the Republican'ts. It could be their motto!
8
Hey Goldy, I think it's worth noting that the corporatists are staging their own anti-union rally in Wisconsin now, too: http://gatewaypundit.rightnetwork.com/20…
9
I merely follow the rules of the market, trying to make my way be being quicker, smarter, and capture more of the profit. The problem is the rest of you lot. Greedy, selfish, and self-interested, and trying to steal what I have rightfully earned.
10
This is also a nation where many, many working people adhere to the belief that if they "think like a rich person" it will somehow actualize in their lives. Step one is to start kissing a lot of rich-guy ass, as a down payment on all the ass-kissing you hope to receive, once Operation Bootstraps is complete and you're handed the key to the country club.

11
It always amazes me how conservatives can make such brazen, bald-faced assertions without ever once coming to the realization that their words better describe themselves and their supporters than they do their opponents.

And what's even more infuriating is, he's not in fact attacking "the leadership" of labor organizations, he's attacking the rank-and-file, because, in this day and age THEY are the ones who direct the actions of their leadership, not the other way around.

Repubs apparently believe most labor organizations in the 21st Century are still run in a manner depicted in '50's movies like "On The Waterfront": a handful of union bosses sitting around in a cigar-smoke filled back room dictating to the members how things are going to be. But, with a handful of exceptions, that portrait has been an anachronism in the labor movement for the past 30 or 40 years.

Most of the unions I've either worked with or for are structured much more democratically, more bottom-up than top-down; national leaders are elected by and serve at the pleasure of their members; national councils or boards comprised of rank-and-file members dictate policy, and staffs are obliged to carry it out.

An old-style union boss along the lines of a Dave Beck or Jimmy Hoffa wouldn't be able to function in the modern world because there's simply far too much scrutiny of their actions: by the government, by governing bodies, and by their own members, to allow for this kind of behavior. Unlike (as others have pointed out above) those on the other side of the bargaining table who are ultimately beholden to no one but their shareholders, and who, as a consequence, can get away with just about anything if it has a positive effect on the value of their holdings.

So, remember kids: when a Republican starts spouting off about the other side being, "greedy, selfish and self-interested", check first to see whether those words can be more easily applied to the speaker than to the subject of their speech.
12
I thought exactly the same thing Goldy.

They did it with the mortgage crisis too. Blaming the home buyers for being too greedy but not the banks, because, you know, banks are supposed to be greedy.

Yes, America is the land of the hypocrite.
13
There's a reason why Canada has a GDP twice ours, a lifespan 8-10 years longer, and half our unemployment (they count all unemployed, not the fake stats we use) - they don't tax the rich HALF what the middle class is taxed like we do.

Hedge fund CEOs pay 15 percent federal tax AFTER deductions for "expenses" like golf.

America is being taken for a sucker by the job-exporting capital-exporting rich.
14
@9, maybe the rules of the market are wrong. Seems to me like in that field, stealing and rightfully earning get pretty similar.
15
Isn't it funny how, during the Bush Bank Bailout, we couldn't dare cut incompetent CEO salaries or reign in bonuses for sociopathic investment bankers because those were CONTRACTS, and CONTRACTS are legally binding, and cannot be broken?

But when it comes to the non incompetent/non-sociopaths, who just have a regular job that happens to be part of a collective bargaining CONTRACT, it's perfectly fine - nay, Our Patriotic Duty - to break it?
16
Great post. Great comment by Ken Mehlman @4.

There is no more frightening politician in America today than Chris Christie. What's so frightening is that for millions upon millions of Americans what Chris Christie has to say is refreshing common sense. And if we actually went and implemented that refreshing common sense we'd send America even further along its path toward becoming Brazil.

Christie speaks to the natural American desire to get something for nothing, the free lunch. And if we're crawling out of the wreckage of our past free-lunch economics, that's all the more reason to double-down and demand even more free lunch. The failure of voodoo economics only fuels the desire for even more voodoo economics.

And by the way, I'll be the first to admit that public employee pensions--especially at the state level--create an unsustainable burden.
17
And remember, Chris Christie is the same politician who killed the Hudson River tunnel project because he was afraid of purported cost overruns. Not coincidentally, this was a commuter rail tunnel. I can absolutely guarantee you that if it was an auto tunnel, Christie wouldn't be sacrificing the project at the alter of his fiscal conservative credentials.

Just to show how far the Republican Party has fallen--how far American civilization has fallen--Christie Whitman, a GOP governor of New Jersey not too long ago, avidly supports Obama's plan to introduce high-speed rail. Meanwhile, Republican governors across the country are falling all over themselves to reject the high-speed rail funds from the stimulus act. Imagine Christie Whitman winning a Republican primary today. By today's standards, she's a European socialist.
18
You know why that is @16? Because far too many states have been underfunding their employee pension funds for decades, and now, as the Baby Boomers near retirement age, they're suddenly faced with the reality that, along with all their other budget woes, they don't have enough capital in those funds to cover the large numbers of employees who will soon be retiring.

This is NOT BTW the fault of those employees. Just as in the corporate world, states have either gotten into the habit over the years of outright raiding pension fund reserves to pay for other projects, or simply not funding them sufficiently when they had the money available to do so, all apparently operating under the notion that, "we'll take care of that later". Well, it's no longer later, it's NOW, and suddenly that shortfall is coming along to bite them in the ass.

What people like Christie and Walker are doing, is not just declaring open war on unions, but breaking a compact with public employees that has existed for decades. These employees fought long and hard to win those benefits, and now, just as the bill is coming due, those on the Right suddenly want to tear up the contract and start over. I guess they figure, if the banks and insurance companies and financial institutions can get away with doing essentially the same thing with such impunity, well, why can't they do it too? After all, a state, like a multi-national corporation MUST be "too big to fail" too, right?
19
Republicans are masters of projection, taking every one of their own faults and projecting it on their enemies in order to distract their marks.
20
@13: I agree with your sentiments, but I prefer my facts to be less made up.

The U.S. GDP is more than 10x that of Canada:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_…

Canada's life expectancy is 2.4 years longer than the U.S.:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cou…

Canada does not count people who are not looking for work in their unemployment stats:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discouraged…

And the disparity in taxation in the U.S. is related to source of income, not wealth.

I totally agree with your sentiments, but since they're supported by real facts, why bother making stuff up?
21
COMTE @18, thank you for providing some context regarding my statement regarding public employee pension obligations being unsustainable.

In no way do I support state governments reneging on their existing pension obligations or state governments' underfunding those obligations through years of Enron accounting. In this sense, Christie is being just as greedy (on behalf of the New Jersey taxpayer and his own political fortunes) as he can get away with being, and part of that is having the chutzpah to accuse the unions of being guilty of just what he's guilty of. See Cascadian @19.

There's a comparable analogy with the auto industry. To my knowledge, the new autoworker labor agreements don't come with generous pensions. But that doesn't excuse the auto industry from backing out on its existing pension obligations.
22
@13: Realizing you might have meant GDP *per capita*, please also note that Canada's is in fact 3% lower, not 100% higher: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cou…
23
I have no problem with the public employees' unions being greedy, selfish, and self-interested. That's their job. I do have a problem with their politician-employers colluding with them to support their demands, rather than doing their job of trying to extract as much work from them as possible for as little compensation as possible. (And when the government hires Goldman Sachs to do some work for them, I hope the government is equally hard-nosed in their contract negotiations.)
24
@23:

And yet that's exactly what the politician-employers in WI and other states did: they negotiated with the unions and got generally lower-than-private-sector-wages (short-term gain for them), but in exchange promised generally higher-than-private-sector-benefits (long-term loss for them).

But now that those benefits are starting to affect the states' bottom-lines (for reasons I cite above), the politician-employers not only want to renege on that part of the deal - and which, if it was just that alone, they probably would have even gotten some of their way (as evinced by WI SEIU's offer to give up some $100 M in benefits) - and instead are going all-in for the entire pot: give-back of many already contracted benefits, AND no ability to negotiate ANY benefits in the future. And what's even worse, it's being done on a completely manufactured pretext, since, as has been cited in countless news articles, the state was looking at a budget SURPLUS before Walker & Co. "negotiated" a series of corporate tax cuts that wiped out that surplus.

The unions bargained in good faith; they've offered to take further cuts to keep the state financially solvent; they probably would have even been willing to sit down with Walker and negotiate further cuts, if it had been necessary. But, it seems pretty clear that's not what Walker wants: he doesn't want to stabilize WI state finances (if that were the case, he wouldn't have insisted on enacting those corporate tax cuts in the first place), rather he wants to castrate state employees' only bargaining chip, their LEGAL RIGHT to bargain collectively for wages, benefits and working conditions.

And this doesn't even go into the issue of what outlawing state employees' unions would do in terms of political contributions...
25
It's not necessarily in the boss' best interest to try to pay the lowest possible wages. That'll just drive out the talent.

Check out what Henry Ford said (emphasis mine):

"There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible."
~Henry Ford

Capitalism is broken.
26
@25:

Exactly, because, while Ford may have been a complete rat-bastard in some regards, the one thing he did recognize was that, if your own employees can't afford to purchase the very same products they make, then your business model is completely fucked-up.
27
@26: I guess Boeing's business model is completely fucked up. They should focus on building planes their employees can afford to buy, dammit.
28
@27:

Commercial jet airliners aren't considered a "consumer product" in the same category as say, a toaster-oven, an automobile, or a house. That's why that funny word "commercial" is usually included when referring to such products; to differentiate things that are used primarily in the conducting of a business activity from those used primarily (albeit not exclusively) for personal usage.

But hey, nice try and we'll send you the home version of "Apples To Apples", so you can get in some practice.
29
@28: Sorry for not reading your mind. I stupidly thought you meant what you said. Since you didn't use the words "consumer product" or "commercial" until the snide reply, I didn't realize that's what you meant. Sorry for being dense.

But It's still a stupid argument. Is a Rolls-Royce a consumer product? Should every employee, down to minimum-wage night janitors, be able to purchase everything a consumer product a manufacturer makes? How about a $500 espresso maker? A high end jeweler?

It sounds all clever, but it's complete BS. Plenty of well run, non-fucked-up business models don't rely on their employees as their target market. In the value segment it's more true, in the Luxury segment it's not true at all. Most products are somewhere between.
30
"Greed, selfishness, and self-interest, huh. Um... isn't that exactly what we celebrate about Wall Street?"

Read this story by Matt Taibbi first, then come back here and tell me you celebrate their deliberate subversion of justic and attacks on American people.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/new…
31
@29:

You shouldn't apologize for being dense, you should learn a little bit more about how things work in the real world before you spout off, that's all.

For example, if you knew anything about the history of labor in this country - let alone some fundamental principles of how our economy functions - then you probably wouldn't go around making stupid assumptions like the one you did.

Furthermore, it's entirely possible that the people building Rolls-Royces for example CAN afford to buy one - you just ASSUME they can't, because you only know what it costs to BUY one, not what it costs to MAKE one. Same goes for that $500 espresso machine: take out the retail markup, which is what commonly occurs when employees make company purchases of the consumer products they themselves manufacture, and it's eminently affordable. Same goes for that high-end jeweler; they probably own more jewelry than you can imagine, because they don't pay the mark-up.

But let me guess: you think all those people out in Redmond actually pay SRV for MS products, don't you?

"There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible."

Henry Ford
32
@9 - great - another idiot who thinks taxation is theft. I suppose you think you get nothing in return as well.
33
@26 this is why they send labor overseas. If you're not selling the products to the people who make them, mainly because they steal them, it doesn't matter what you charge anymore.
34
@32 taxation is theft, if you're going to get all technical. What I care about is representation. It's only a crime to me if I'm not allowed to have any say. You can't choose to not participate in giving taxes to the government anymore, unless you don't want to work, or want to shelter your assets in other countries. It's not that the government asks you, would you like the police and fire departments, it tells you, if you want to live here, right now, and work here, right now, there's a price we have to pay to live a certain way, a certain way that's been decided by elected officials. They take this money, without asking, on the labor I give to the market place, not from the corporation's transactions. In other words, when I work hard for 8 hours a day the government is going to step in and STEAL a percentage of that based on what they consider the cost of doing things the government should do are. These powers are limited by the constitution. It didn't used to be this way though, paying taxes on labor. There was a time not long ago where the idea of a government taxing labor was immoral, that there was plenty of taxes coming in from commerce to negate the idea that labor was something that needed to be taxed. People work for labor, why should they get less? It wasn't till more recent that a movement to shift all government resources away from helping the people, taxing everything they do and leave the poor poor corporations alone. I get that, it's probably not what the person you were responding to was talking about, as many right wing fantasies involve the idea that corporations should also never be taxed, but the notion that human labor needs to be taxed by a government is a very new one, and calling taxes on that theft, is 100% accurate. There's absolutely no reason at all that the government should be involved in my financial data if all I did was work 8 hours a day in order to survive. That's how it worked for thousands of years, and this system will crumble just like all the others that have tried. I see no reason to put in 4-5 grand every month to a government that spends an overwhelming majority of it blowing the hell out of the middle east.
35
34, dear, i offer this bit of advice in the spirit of helping, not snarkiness: paragraphs are your friend. An organized post shows an organized mind. Posting something in that manner is just one step above posting something all caps.

With that said, I think I understand the general thing you are getting at, and I mostly disagree. You seem to be absolving the average citizen of any responsibility, and putting all the blame for everything on the government. I, for one, do not like being cast as a victim - although I know it's all the rage in conservative and libertarian circles.
36
Next thing you know Governor Christie will be calling union members overfed.
37
@34,
You're saying income taxation is theft, not all taxation, right?

In either case though, if taxation is theft, then use of any public property or service, beyond what one pays in taxes, is also theft, right?

So, poor people should only be allowed in public parks for, say, one day per year. Whereas the wealthy are allowed to in them 300 days per year. And don't forget streets and sidewalks! The rich can use them all they want, but the poor just have to stay home.

Your argument is a silly one.