Olivia just tipped me off to watching Stanley Greenberg, author of “The Two Americas,” on C-SPAN2 BookTV. His final point was really powerful: that the democratic party’s new focus on the economy is pointing at a kernel of a much larger problem: the growing inequality between normal workers and the wealth of the owners of the corporations that employ them. He talked about how over the past three decades, income has barely increased for workers and costs have gone up by orders of magnitude. He talked about how people feel that they cannot even make economic progress, despite being hard workers. I’d write more about this, but I have to let it simmer: I think it’s a key to the arguments I’ve been developing over the past few months.
I don’t normally watch The West Wing, but I watched a couple of episodes last night with Olivia. One of them had as a subplot the concern that a tech company was moving 17,000 programmer jobs to India, and a union organization wanted answers from the administration. The initial tone of the episode seems to speak to the concern of the workers, but the “ending moral” is that you can’t please everyone, and that globalization is ultimately “bad in the short-term but good in the long-term.”
I’m not sure if that’s the viewpoint of Aaron Sorkin, or if he simply wanted that viewpoint to show up in his show. But by hearing people talk about globalization so casually, I came to a very vivid realization. When people say, “Yes, 17,000 jobs are lost here, but it’s still good for our economy,” we don’t even realize what that person means when he or she says, “our economy.” Everyone has this different concept of the economy, and what exactly it is. For example, if I were to ask a bunch of people, even bunch of economists, what the economy is, would I get the same answer from each of them? Probably not.
Now, if we go down to the individual level, asking one of those programmers whose jobs was offshored what his economy is like, he would probably respond that his economy is quite shitty. And if we went to a community like Silicon Valley, from where the jobs were offshored, most people would say that the people of Silicon Valley are experiencing a rough economy.
But who is actually benefiting from the offshored jobs? Some people say “the corporation benefits,” but that too is an abstraction. The corporation was comprised of those 17,000 jobs (and others), so how could it possibly benefit if those jobs are gone? Definitely it doesn’t seem the corporation benefited from the relocation of 17,000 skilled workers. Do other workers benefit from the relocation of those workers? Probably not, as it creates team fragmentation, lowers morale, etc. So who benefits? Who?
When people say “the economy gets better in the long-term,” what they mean is that shares of stock for shareholders goes up over time, and the stock market, as a whole, goes up. And shareholders are nothing more then the a privileged class, an elite, of America. So why do we let our economic future (the economic future of the workers) be decided by their wants and needs of the already-privileged shareholders? Why should I accept that 17,000 American jobs lost is worth the 2% increase in share price? And why do we implicitly accept this in our use of language surrounding the “national economy”?
A few days ago, the assault weapons ban was lifted after its 10-year term set by President Clinton in 1994. The ban enjoys 71% support across the country, and is supported by many peace groups and even police chiefs and police organizations. Nonetheless, the congress, being controlled by Republicans, refused to scheduled a vote for renewal.
Now, I know some people say the ban didn’t achieve much because automatic weapons are still available. This site explains that quite clearly. But that doesn’t mean we should just forget about the ban. It means we should write a better one.
It’s true that criminals who want to use assault rifles to do bad things would find a way to get them anyway, but that’s only the organized, rich criminal. The kind of criminal I’m worried about is the kind who gets laid off from his job and realizes life isn’t worth living, so he goes and buys an AK-47, works into his office building and kills 30 people in 10 minutes.
Furthermore, for those among us who tout the second amendment, let’s remember a couple of things. First of all, that amendment was written with the intention that the civilians who owned weapons needed to do so because this placed a check on the government that said that the people might rise up and cause a revolution if the government became corrupt. Now, I may be making a generalization here, but I think most of the people who own assault weapons don’t want to engage in a popular uprising against this or any other American government. I find that most gun-owners tend to be very [faux] “patriotic”.
But my second point was that even if you wanted to rise up against the government, you couldn’t. Our founding fathers didn’t anticipate tanks, Apache helicopters, not to mention crowd control techniques like tear gas. Even if you could organize a small militia with M-16s and the whole nine, you would be squashed by an enormous military might.
I think it is noble to think that you have the right to overthrow your government, but I think the only way to do that nowadays is by shifting the popular sentiment so that even those in the military don’t want to protect government interests. And you can do that without assault weapons.
But the saddest thing is how little press I think this is getting. I hope Kerry makes it a campaign issue. And I hope Bush is stupid enough to let the ban sit there lifted, proving that he is in the pockets of big campaign contributors like the NRA.
Well, I just watched the Bush speech. Definitely full of spin, but then again, which politician’s speech isn’t? But my problem isn’t really with the spin; I’m equipped to cut through it. What I’m worried about is the content of the speech. This is something journalists rarely talk about. Post-speech commentary from MSNBC was the same asslicking you’d expect from a delegate on the RNC floor. The “journalists” rated the speech’s performance, not its content.
If I wanted to read performance reviews, I’d go to the A&E section of my newspaper for the latest blockbusters. I don’t care whether George W. Bush was “stiff” when he delivered his speech, or whether he fumbled his lines. I don’t care whether it was eloquent, or whether it was impressive for someone who “let’s face it, is no Winston Churchill.” Yes, there are moments when oration matters. I do love the poetic nature of Shakespeare’s Saint Crispen’s Day speech in Henry V, and I do get a tingle down my spine when I read the line “…We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…”, but we are talking about a platform and set of policies for our country, not some morale-lifting speech to troops before they enter what seems to be a hopeless battle.
For more analysis of the speech, read on….