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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Question of the day for America


And for modern society:

Microsoft says it will cut up to 18,000 jobs next year to “streamline” its business. Microsoft now employs 125,000 people.
In an era of increasing technological advances, the logical endpoint is a few humongous companies raking in hundreds of billions a year with a handful of employees. When more and more can be done by fewer and fewer, the profits will go to an ever-smaller circle of executives and investors. 

But the rest of us won’t be able to afford to buy what these companies produce because we’ll either be unemployed or serving the wealthy in menial jobs paying almost nothing. The old economic model was mass production by many, mass consumption by many. 

Will the new one have to be production by a few, redistribution to the many?


Actually, originally, when the clear path forward for humankind and history was seen as the industrialization of the world, of work, of our society and our lives, it was assumed that we would, as a people, as a group, as nations, have fewer and fewer people work but still get a living wage.

Absolutely true. There were books written on it, pointing the way. 

It was the only thing, they thought, at the time that made any sense.

How foolish and naive we were.


11 comments:

Sevesteen said...

One of Microsoft's many problems is open source--Almost everything you'd pay for from Microsoft has a free, legal equivalent open source program, and the semi-exceptions are mostly Visual Basic and .net. Android is based on open source, Linux can replace Windows for most uses and is free--and the license it is released under prevents it from being exploited. I use it at home almost exclusively, with the biggest exception when I have to update a GPS.

I would think that open source software and the whole open source gift culture would be something you'd support...except that if it really does take over, it would wipe out Microsoft, forcing them to lay off even more workers.

When more and more can be done by fewer and fewer where businesses must compete with each other, less work is required to maintain the same standard of living. At what point should we have frozen progress--when 10% of the population was farmers, or sometime after labor saving inventions made more and more food able to be grown by fewer and fewer farmers? When a refrigerator was a luxury? When a microwave was a luxury? When a computer or an internet connection was a luxury?

Now? All the previous gains were legit, but now we've reached a peak, and more efficiency will suddenly have a different result?

Mo Rage said...


You missed my point.

What should happen, and what has been proposed but that isn't happening and that likely won't happen, given humankind's propensity for greed and selfishness, is that corporations should exist for the people and the nation and world, instead of for the few executives at the head of such companies.

It's a "share the wealth" thing.

Instead of a few people making many, many millions and having and keeping billions, locked away, the wealth would be distributed.

I doubt you'll ever get that.

I can hope, however.

This would neither stop nor even impede progress.

Sevesteen said...

We aren't any more greedy or selfish now than we were in the past. Corporations are a way for ownership to be split, so the benefits can be shared by ordinary people...like the thousands of retirement funds that own bits of Microsoft.

And we apparently have a very different idea of wealth. Wealth is things that make lives better or more interesting--education, food, health care, entertainment etc. Pieces of paper in a vault aren't wealth, they merely represent a way to make it easier to spread wealth--If I need glasses, I don't have to find an optician who happens to need a network. Locked in a vault, money is useless--and locking it in a vault doesn't change the amount of good things available to ordinary people.

Corporations should exist for their owners--for the people who risked their money to invest. If they aren't, why invest? Allowing people to get rich by fulfilling the needs and wants of others, or by owning a small portion of a corporation that does that is responsible for a huge amount of human progress--even if the motives are considered greedy.

Mo Rage said...


I agree, we are certainly no more greedy or selfish than in the past. It's just that our pretty much unfettered Capitalism that's giving far too much money to the small numbers at the top.

I think we both know what wealth is, by definition.

Your response that "Corporations should exist for their owners" is certainly true, to a point but they also need to and have to exist for the employees, too, so the whole thing works. It's why there has to be a living wage, etc. As things are now, a far higher percentage of the national wealth goes to the already-wealthy, in huge proportion in the US, compared to all other nations, not that you're concerned.

Fact: "The United States rank last in child income poverty, has the largest difference in Ratio of the upper bound value of the ninth decile (i.e. the 10% of people with highest income) to that of the upper bound value of the first decile, for 2010, and has the highest percentage of people living below 50% median income." (Statistics from UN studies).

From Right Wing, Conservative, mostly Republican, business-friendly Forbes Magazine:

"A new study from the European Central Bank suggests that the state of wealth inequality in the U.S. is even more dire than previous statistics have shown.

America’s wealthiest 1% likely holds between 35% and 37% of the nation’s wealth, the highest rate out of all 10 wealthy countries examined, according to a working paper authored by ECB senior economist Philip Vermeulen. That range, which outpaces the 34% Federal Reserve figure often cited for the U.S., incorporates data from what Vermeulen calls the 'missing rich'—billionaires whose massive wealth he claims is underestimated by most other surveys."

And the last time the wealth inequality was as severe as now?

Just before the Great Depression:

U.S. income inequality, on rise for decades, is now highest since 1928 (link: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/12/05/u-s-income-inequality-on-rise-for-decades-is-now-highest-since-1928/).

You see, wealth inequality isn't about one having too much, in this case, WAY too much and others being jealous, no. Wealth inequality is about making our entire system unstable.

That's just not healthy for anyone.

Sevesteen said...

Unfettered capitalism? That's a joke, we have Crony Capitalism where regulations are written by and for favored corporate interests, deliberately made complex, with selective enforcement. VP Chaney and Halliburton wasn't a coincidence.

Are your various statistics including transfer payments? Turns out a lot of poverty stats don't include welfare or other aid when calculating income--it makes inequality seem higher and more frightening.

I care little about income inequality, what matters to me is increasing the absolute standard of living of the poor. Most poor people in the US can afford food, air conditioning, a microwave, smartphone, etc. If you want to convince me that the US is worse, use absolute measures of living standard.

What does "highest percentage of people living below 50% median income" mean in plain English? This sounds like another of those stats where eliminating the incomes of people earning too much money would make it "better".

Mo Rage said...


By unfettered Capitalism, I mean a bit of what you're describing. Because of what's called "campaign contributions", the wealthy and corporations can buy whatever legislation they want by owning, in effect, their--our--legislators. Yes, that's crony Capitalism, same thing, you bet.

Any welfare payments are chicken feed compared to what the corporations are taking from us, from the government and nation. Check this out, from earlier today:

Hedge funds escaped billions in taxes (link: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/07/21/hedge-funds-options-trades-tax-avoidance/12947225/).

You may care little about income inequality but it is a very real issue for all of us, for the nation, if a very small group of people gets most of the nations profit. That kind of imbalance, historically, takes down nations and economies.

Regardless of what the "highest percentage of people living below 50% median income" means, it's ridiculous to say anything about "...eliminating the incomes of people earning too much money." No one is proposing that in any way. No one is talking about anything remotely like that. All that's being proposed is the wealthy and corporations pay more of their own fair share in taxes. We need good highways and schools and infrastructure in order for the nation to function and be successful. Paying a fair share in taxes, besides being part of what should be a true, patriotic duty, should also be what they pay so we operate successfully as a nation. Additionally, the wealthy and corporations should pay a true, fair share, for having and to have access to what could be argued to be the biggest and best markets in the nation--our own.

Doesn't that seem true and right? Even to you?

Sevesteen said...

I agree that eliminating incomes of people earning too much money is a stupid solution...my point is that the statistic is equally stupid, since the stupid solution would help the statistic.

And you don't know what it means but use it anyhow?

It isn't the tax cost of welfare payments (both corporate and personal welfare included here) that bother me most, it is the side effects of creating perverse incentives. Working and producing useful things (even if just hamburgers) should be rewarded, manipulating the tax system or welfare system should not. When the difference in living standard of working isn't much better than not working (or as it is sometimes now, worse in the short term) many people won't work, so there are less goods available to everyone.

Share the wealth by force is generally disastrous. Compare the prosperity of countries based on economic freedom--there is a very, very strong correlation--and the scandinavian countries the left loves to use as an example are small, and relatively free economically. Even comparing the absolute living standard of the poor vs economic freedom--there may be a bigger difference between top and bottom, but the bottom is higher in economically free countries.

When you say you're more concerned with disparity than standard of living, you are effectively saying "It's better for the poor to be worse off as long as the rich aren't too far ahead".

Hell no. I want everyone to get more, even if it is distributed unevenly.

Mo Rage said...


You say "Share the wealth by force is generally disastrous."

That is patently untrue.

First, a wildly unequal wealth structure as we have today is one of the things that helped lead us to the Great Depression. It's documented.

Second, when we had higher taxes on the wealthy and on wealth--from the 40's to the 60's, at least--we had the highest increase in the middle class and the most growth, also, in our economies, ever.

But you call that "disastrous."

Mo Rage said...



Then you say: "When the difference in living standard of working isn't much better than not working (or as it is sometimes now..."

But it isn't. There is not a small difference between working a job in America compared to being on welfare. Welfare, first, is nearly non-existent. Second, what it does pay is extremely small, period. And it only lasts 6 months, if that? And that's about the same to you? You're assuming Right Wing dogma and statements and opinion as fact. It's just not that way at all.

Your statement:

"When you say you're more concerned with disparity than standard of living, you are effectively saying 'It's better for the poor to be worse off as long as the rich aren't too far ahead.'"

I never once said, here or anywhere else, that I'm more concerned with disparity than standard of living. I also have no idea where you got that. It was foreign to me when you wrote that. I went back and read and confirmed I wrote no such thing.
I'm extremely familiar with people of the Right Wing attributing statements and positions to me falsely. It's one of their tactics. I'm surprised and disappointed it's yours, too.

I would in no way even suggest that "It's better for the poor to be worse off as long as the rich aren't too far ahead."

That's just absurd.

Sevesteen said...

Most of the stats you post are about relative poverty, not absolute poverty. You don't talk about starving, you talk about inequality of outcomes. You don't use the exact words "It's better for the poor to be worse off as long as the rich aren't too far ahead."...but virtually everything you say on the subject translates to that. And apparently Americans who are eating but can't afford overpriced Nikes are more important than third world people whose best hope for not starving is making Nikes.

Mo Rage said...


For you to think I said or suggested the following, that "It's better for the poor to be worse off as long as the rich aren't too far ahead" is so absolutely mistaken, I can't insist or protest enough.

This is the kind of wealth inequality I'm speaking of--and this is from a 2011 article in Forbes Magazine, very business-friendly, to say the least:

Six Waltons Have More Wealth Than the Bottom 30% of Americans

http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2011/12/14/six-waltons-have-more-wealth-than-the-bottom-30-of-americans/

Wealthy people needn't "do without" or suffer in any way for this country to be more equal.

You shouldn't read into things what aren't there, first. Second, you shouldn't assume the worst, also when it's not there.

Go see "Inequality for All" by Robert Reich when it comes out.

You won't but should.