Posts Tagged ‘Capitalism’

Why Donald Trump Needs People To Be Poor

June 6, 2017

In his inimitable, deeply personal manner Newark’s US Representative, Pat Tiberi, emailed his constituents a survey. “What are your priorities to create jobs? Your priorities are my priorities. Your thoughts are important to me.” followed by the GOP house menu. The survey presents the appearance of propriety as the party is now the government, no need to bother. The party itself is now evolving with the “old” guard (McCain, Kasich, etc.) and the new populist/nationalists, again, presenting the appearance of being irreconcilable. Trump came in forming a weird coalition of uber wealth (his cabinet is the richest ever) and those who appear to have not so much (really?). Those who appear to have not so much either find their modicum of success to be a plateau or are without success altogether. Each triumphs the Trump presidency for a different reason. All the statistics from the “Occupy” days haven’t disappeared and the ubers’ wealth is superfluous, i.e. it is not generating more wealth. The not so’s find their overcapacity to work is, in an odd way, superfluous, i.e. that there either is not better compensation for their work, or the expenditure of greater work effort will not greatly improve their economic position. Recent developments in the automotive sector may help shed some light on this. The last couple of years have shown continuous and steady sales of various automotive products. In spite of this, Ford sacked its CEO and is restructuring for change. GM is pondering splitting its stock like airline seating – first class and coach. According to classic capitalist theory, nothing is awry. An investor purchases a scrap of paper and yearly the company selling the paper pays out a dividend. Where’s the hitch? What is destabilizing the auto companies is that the value of the piece of paper hasn’t gone up. In short, the superfluous wealth tied up with this “investment” is not promising a large enough return. Put crassly, the money needs to make more money. In today’s global economics, the auto industry is akin to the stationary industry of 50 years ago. Making an envelope is not all that complicated. Though there once was a steady demand for paper envelopes, nothing would make the producer’s stock price rise dramatically, as the competition was equally adept at producing envelopes. Imagining Ford and GM to be making envelopes brings us back to the weird coalition that supports Donald Trump. The ubers demand a greater return on their wealth. The not so’s would like a greater return on their participation in this enterprise. Unlike colonial imperialist times, no new market or supplier will magically manifest itself in today’s global economics. Everyone, everywhere has access to a mobile device which will tell them what something on Ebay can be gotten for. So the classic “buy cheap, sell dear” model is well worn. Other approaches are available that will make America great again and cause stock value to rise (saving jobs but not necessarily creating them). Early on in their schooling children are taught the Disneyland version – discover something everyone wants and you’ll be a star. This is John Kasich’s methodology in dealing with the drug epidemic in Ohio through research funding. Another approach is by making what is public private, and vice versa. The health care debate swirls around this interpretation, and now the Trump presidency is calling for it with appeals to make America’s infrastructure great (and private)  again. But the tried and true (historical) approach to increasing the value of what you already have is to make sure others ain’t got it. Exclusivity is priceless. This technique increases the value of superfluous wealth without the risk of needing to expend it, creating something new, or tying it up in mundane, long term low yielding envelope company stock. The likewise tried and true method of making people poor (making sure other’s ain’t got it) is through creating an other, someone who is predetermined to be without. The without can be anything from job skill capacity, place of residence, genetic background, right language or learning, etc. This is the glue that bonds the coalition of uber wealth and those who appear to have not so much. Each are looking to enhance the value of what they have, at the expense of some other. Neither are very happy with what envelope sales generate. Analysis concludes by reminding the reader that “creating an other, someone who is predetermined to be without” is the classic definition and function of racism.

Hail To The Chief (Of Promotion And Sales)

January 4, 2017

In his introduction to The Culture of the New Capitalism (2006) Richard Sennett reasons out what he imagines will be the subject of his book. “Only a certain kind of human being can prosper in unstable, fragmentary social conditions. This ideal man or woman has to address three challenges.” “The first concerns time: how to manage short term relationships, and oneself, while migrating from task to task, job to job, place to place.” “The second challenge concerns talent: how to develop new skills, how to mine potential abilities, as reality’s demands shift.” “The third challenge follows from this. It concerns surrender; that is, how to let go of the past.” Ostensibly, this will result in “A self oriented to the short term, focused on potential ability, willing to abandon past experience is – to put a kindly face on the matter – an unusual sort of human being.” (pgs. 3-5) A little later on, in describing one of his studies that this work is an outcome of, he reiterates “Here I had the chance to see the cultural ideal of the new capitalism at its most robust, the boom suggesting that this new man/woman would get rich by thinking short term, developing his or her potential, and regretting nothing.” (pg. 7) Fair enough outcome of reasoning, as old as Plato, that usually is composed of ideas and eventually categorizes on ideals.

In a short essay entitled “From Someone to Nobody” (1950) Jorge Luis Borges follows a particular character, warp, or drift of thinking and reasoning. “To be one thing is inexorably not to be all the other things. The confused intuition of that truth has induced men to imagine that not being is more than being something and that, somehow, not to be is to be everything. That fallacy is inherent in the words of the legendary king of Hindustan who renounces power and goes out to beg in the streets: “From this day forward I have no realm or my realm is limitless, from this day forward my body does not belong to me or all the earth belongs to me.” Schopenhauer has written that history is an interminable and perplexing dream of human generations; in the dream are recurring forms, perhaps nothing but forms; one of them is the process described in this essay.”

Borges’ insight informs more than refutes Sennett’s imagining (as Sennett’s “factual” research findings are the “empirical” refutation, the stuff of the book). Though written over a half century ago, it also informs the ever recurring and repetitious “marketing” of the contemporary situation; why it is so necessary for current political leadership to promote and “sell” prosperity futures to an individual subject “oriented to the short term, focused on potential ability, willing to abandon past experience”. After all, if “not to be is to be everything” what need is there for competing alternatives, difference, compromise, or reason itself?

Refreshment Opportunity

August 29, 2016

A teaser. Really. But oh, so revealing. “Is city corporate park about to land first user?” (Chad Klimack, Newark Advocate, 8-25-16) reports “on the potential economic development opportunity” of (what the Kasich administration defines as) a “Job Ready Site”. Analysis notes “the “opportunity” apparently concerns the city’s long-vacant Job Ready Site, which covers nearly 300 acres inside the 500-plus-acre corporate park.” Lest, dear reader, one believes that “the city’s…” designates ownership, the article later clearly points out that “Pataskala’s corporate park is privately owned”. Significant for Analysis is that “Pataskala officials and their county counterparts have been bullish on the corporate park ever since the opening of the extended Etna Parkway in 2011. The county used a $3.4 million state Job Ready Site grant — and contributed almost $3 million of its own money — to build the road. Officials argued it would open up the site to development by creating an easier connection between U.S. 40 and Broad Street.” Equally significant for Analysis is the anecdotal narrative (that never was) “City and county officials may be hesitant to comment because they have come close to landing a user before — only to see the company go elsewhere. An unnamed data center sniffed around the park in early 2015. Representatives even submitted a rezoning request for 212 acres inside the park, but they ultimately pulled the request.” Of course, Grow Licking County has a complete array of tax credits, abatements, subsidies and incentives to consummate the art of the deal. Analysis wonders whether 5 years of inactive vacancy is a sign of success or failure (on the part of Grow Licking County)? The tax payers have provided well over six and a half million dollars for some privately owned property to become profitable. This is done with the “hope” of jobs being created. Would they do this for a hot dog vendor who wanted another cart and was willing to hire an employee to man the cart? Restrain your guffaws, please. What of a “mom and pop” (such a thing still exists?) restaurant, garage, or small farm wanting to add another location or expand? Would the county commissioners fund that job creation? No, of course not, it would have to be really big before… That is the “natural” expectation that drives the repetitive behavior (we all recall the definition of insanity and repeating behavior that doesn’t work). How big? What makes it big enough to qualify? Analysis would like to look at this from a more contemporary perspective. To be really big means big wealth. Big wealth can’t be idle, it is supposed to create even more wealth. The power of wealth, also known as capital (from whence comes “capitalism”), is that it can create value. Big wealth (capital)) calls the shots (“only to see the company go elsewhere” So much for some governor or president being credited for creating…). Capital (big wealth) determines value. The “natural” expectation is that the “privately owned” land has some value. The actuality is that capital (big wealth) alone determines value, hence the almost 7 million spent by the tax payers wooing big wealth (naturally described as “opportunity”). Where have we seen this before? Analysis finds this repeatedly playing out in the kabuki of the 2016 presidential contest. Indeed, in recorded interviews, the Republican candidate for president has repeatedly said that his value (net worth) cannot be pinned down because that changes with however it is he feels about his personal worth on any given day. Substantiating his expressed policy position is the adamant refusal by the GOP candidate to release his tax returns. Doing so would assign him a specific value, limiting the “opportunities”. A key component of “opportunity” is such “feeling” toward value. Analysis found this term appeared 6 times in Klimack’s little article. The rival on the DEM side is just too happy to establish her own value, believing such inherent worth justifies “receiving” mega bucks in multiple speaking honorariums. The big wealth (capital) accumulated from these brief speaking stints have helped create the candidate’s value, entitling her to address things from the side of capital (big wealth) while promoting the neo liberal mantra of “opportunity” for all. In 2016 the American electorate has presented itself with the choice of “wealth determines value” or “value determines wealth”. Would the reader prefer a Pepsi or a Coke?