Sunday, December 23, 2007


I read somewhere that the middle class acts as a moat protecting the rich from the poor. So, I get very confused when I see the rich shitting all over the middle class and, in effect, doing away with the moat.

You see it everywhere lately: Some huge mega-corporation decides to slash its employees' benefits to the bone in order to save a few pennies even though it's made BILLIONS in profits in a given year (cough-cough-Viacom-cough-cough). What the hell is going on here???

I understand that many corporations are run by greedy sons-of-bitches who would stab their own grandmothers in the face just to make an extra buck. But, when they begin in earnest to destroy the only buffer between themselves and the filthy rabble clamoring at the castle walls...well, what exactly is going on?

Anybody with even the slightest grasp of history knows that when wealth is concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite, and the peasants are starving, it's time to roll out the guillotines. So, what gives? Do they think that the masses are so doped with "bread and circuses" that the powderkeg won't ever explode? I wonder.

Maybe those concentration camps that Halliburton (go ahead, look it up) has been quietly building are meant for anyone who speaks out-- for anyone who tosses a molotov cocktail over the ramparts-- for anyone who has worked for a company for 10+ years and ends up getting raped by it.

I don't know. Maybe we are all too pacified to do anything about it. As long as cable TV is piped in to the homeless shelters then maybe our corporate masters really don't have anything to worry about!


Tim Robbins said...

Nice caricature of Hugh Hewitt talking! Or is that Mark Steyn writing?

Ms. Kelley-Lossada said...

Bravo! :)

Anonymous said...

So what is your theory of wealth creation? Are you advocating Marxism/socialism or government regulation?

Viacom made $818m on $3.27b gross revenue. That's 25%. Is that too much? By comparison Exxon just posted net income of $9.4b on revenue of $102b, or 9%. Should Viacom be forced to pay more to its employees even if the labor market doesn't support more benefits? If so, how do you think the institutional investors would react to that?

Dominic said...

Hahahahaha! That's the clearest explanation I've ever seen of trickle-down economics!

Anonymous said...

It's actually just simple economics. If you own stock in your IRA in a company, and that company chooses to pay more for labor than the labor market is asking because of altruism or whatever, and that action results in subpar earnings as compared to similar market participants--then you won't hold that stock because it will not increase in value because the company is not performing at the maximum efficiency and return.

That's why I asked the question--you can be upset about greedy bastards etc. all you like, but the laws of economics are in play whether you want them to be or not. Do you believe in unfettered capitalism and free enterprise or do you advocate some form of socialism or controlled economy? If you like government control, then where is a place in the world that has achieved the standard of living comparable to that in the US?

Kenny P. said...

Hey, I'm not advocating anything but good old fashioned American capitalism.

Is 25% profit too much? Sounds like a fine amount of profit to me. Bully for them! I wish they had made more! However, that's totally beside the point of my post. Go ahead, re-read it. I'll wait...

And, I never said anything about "forcing" Viacom to "pay more" to its employees. I just think it's shitty when they CUT benefits ("You thought you had a pension? Heh heh, we were just kidding about that!") when they've had such a successful year. My point is that in the long run, destroying the middle class is probably not going to turn out to be a very good strategy for them.

But, what the hell. This isn't about long-term thinking, is it? It's about maximizing profits TODAY. Who cares about the future? We won't have to live there! We can ride this horse at full-gallop while starving it, and when it drops dead we can use it as a tax write-off! Hopefully the damn government will step back and repeal those silly child labor laws and laws against owning slaves and let the law of the jungle--er, pardon me, the laws of economics create a perfect world for the "institutional investors!"

By the way, you asked about places in the world that have achieved standards of living comparable to ours. Well, check it out:

It seems that our own CIA's statistics indicate that we Americans aren't nearly as well off as you seem to think we are. Though, we do have more airports than any other country.

Sharon Spotbottom said...

And surely we have more 'shit' than any other country!
go kenny :)

Anonymous said...

I know K.P. says he isn't a liberal, but it is always nice to have other points of view presented. Bully for you K.P. and to all the others who read/write about this stuff. I really enjoy how you can use art to so fully express the state of things (real or imagined). You should consider political cartoons, although the Times or Post probably wouldn't publish this particular one.



Anonymous said...

I read the post correctly the first time. The reason I asked the question was with all your class warfare talk it was hard to ascertain that you believed in free market capitalism.

Usually when someone rants about some company making BILLIONS they are making one of two mistakes—one that the company should be somehow broadly overpaying for labor out of the goodness of their hearts when that is usually just not possible in a publically traded company in which management that did that would be quickly replaced by the shareholders who want to maximize the return. The second mistake, this is often made with respect to oil companies is that since they make BILLIONS then they must be gouging the consumer. This ignores the fact that without the cutthroat competition in the industry those companies would make more and their products would cost you much more. That’s what is so ridiculous about the idea of a “windfall profits” tax on the oil industry which is operating on a 9% margin. Try operating a small business on a 9% margin—you wouldn’t be at it very long.

I have no comment about Viacom’s pension decisions, but as someone who employs middle class people I’d tell you that I’d pay them more and give more benefits if I didn’t cough up so much in taxes and regulation to the government. Just complying (not even getting into the rates and amounts of tax paid) with federal and state tax law cost my business $44k to an accounting firm to prepare the tax returns. That’s about half a middle class salary if I could eliminate that cost of compliance with a tax code that was simple enough to be prepared in house.

You then rant about the law of the jungle/economics making a perfect world for institutional investors. I was making the point that economics applies whether you like it or not. Institutional investors such as the California Public Employee Retirement System are extremely proactive at demanding that management maximize profits or get replaced. You don’t need a greedy bastard stepping over his grandmother—the public employee pension fund in this state does it for you.

Your idea that somehow “our own CIA” indicates we are not nearly as well off as we think we are is misguided. There are myriad and multiple lists showing the best/happiest countries in the world based on multiple factors. The US is never even top ten. The top ten is always Norway and Sweden, Switzerland and Australia and places like that. I have family in a few of those places, and those countries get ranked high for something like socialized medicine even though the care isn’t very good. Their real standard of living is not nearly as good as what comparable people here in LA enjoy. My point was that we have an enormous amount of wealth in this country. The poor in this country have televisions, cars, electricity etc---which is a big leap up from the poor in this country 30 or more years ago, and much more than the poor in many, if not most other countries have. Our duty is to keep raising those standards, and that happens through economic freedom and free enterprise. Nobody has ever redistributed wealth to lasting prosperity.

not anonymous said...

"The poor in this country have televisions, cars, electricity, etc... "

Nothing new... Imperial Rome's plebeians had bread and circuses keeping them placated.

Rebecca said...

Yeah, the rapid shrinking of the middle class is some freaky-ass shit, man. It's becoming all feudal and stuff.

Holley T said...

*sigh* I wish some of this discussion made sense to me....I could have went into a better paying profession.

Kenny P. said...

I forget who it was that said, "The rich only start calling it class warfare when the poor start fighting back." It was probably some damn commie.

Taxes are too high and the tax code is ridiculously convoluted and in need of overhaul. The government is bloated and ineffecient. The poor corporations are at the mercy of shareholders and market forces. Things are tough all over. It doesn't change the fact that the middle class is being squeezed out of existence.

The poor have TVs, indeed. That's because the TVs are built by even poorer people in other countries who now have all the manufacturing jobs that once belonged to Americans.

You can poo-poo the CIA's World Factbook lists (like the one that says our per capita GDP is tenth in the world [See? We made the top 10, after all!] Oh, and the one that says our unemployment rate is 55th best in the world; and that our rate of inflation places us way down in 90th place, right behind Macedonia; and that we rank 45th in life expectancy; etc.) all you want. but, it was YOU who asked me to show you "a place in the world that that has achieved the standard of living comparable to that in the US". If you think I'm "misguided" for doing what you asked, then I don't see the point in talking to you anymore--I'll just listen to you pontificate and nod politely.

Anonymous said...

"If you think I'm "misguided" for doing what you asked, then I don't see the point in talking to you anymore--I'll just listen to you pontificate and nod politely."

That wasn't what was misguided. Misguided was you looking at individual elements on a list and therefore concluding we don't have one of the best standards of living in the world.

And, again, my point was that the poor, and what wealth the poor have is changing, and has been changing for the better.

Anonymous said...

You said:

“The poor have TVs, indeed. That's because the TVs are built by even poorer people in other countries who now have all the manufacturing jobs that once belonged to Americans.”

The export of lower wage jobs overseas has been happening for centuries. It’s the reason you are being paid well to create cartoons when a few decades ago you’d be in one of those laborious manufacturing jobs. Exporting low wage jobs has overall meant the creating of higher paying jobs here. Low wage labor is the only way developing countries can attract jobs and capital. Eventually their standard of living increases.

Remember when there was the uproar over Nike producing shoes in sweatshops in Asia? As repulsive as that may be to us—those sweatshops are their only employment. Shutting them down had some of the following effects:

• In the early 1990s, the United States Congress considered the "Child Labor Deterrence Act," which would have taken punitive action against companies benefiting from child labor. The Act never passed, but the public debate it triggered put enormous pressure on a number of multinational corporations with assets in the U.S. One German garment maker laid off 50,000 child workers in Bangladesh. The British charity organization Oxfam later conducted a study that found that thousands of those laid-off children later became prostitutes, turned to crime, or starved to death.

• The United Nations organization UNICEF reports that an international boycott of the Nepalese carpet industry in the mid-1990s caused several plants to shut down; thousands of Nepalese girls later entered the sex trade.

• In 1995, a consortium of anti-sweatshop groups threw the spotlight on football (soccer) stitching plants in Pakistan. In response, Nike and Reebok shut down their plants in Pakistan, and several other companies followed suit. The result: tens of thousands of unemployed Pakistanis. Mean income in Pakistan fell by 20%. According to University of Colorado economist Keith E. Maskus, studies later showed a large proportion of those laid off ended up in crime, begging, or working as prostitutes. (Masksus source: The Race to the Top: The Real Story of Globalization, by Tomas Larsson.)

• In 2000 the BBC did an expose on sweatshop factories in Cambodia with ties to both Nike and the Gap. The BBC uncovered unsavory working conditions, and found several examples of children under 15 years of age working 12 or more hour shifts. After the BBC expose aired, both Nike and the Gap pulled out of Cambodia under public pressure. Cambodia lost $10 million in contracts, and hundreds of Cambodians lost their jobs.

Anonymous said...

Whoever thought a guy pooping would cause such a stir? Regardless, I think we can all agree that the U.S. has a pretty good standard of living whether you are rich or poor as compared to many countries around the world. I think we can also agree that children shouldn't be involved in the sex trade or sweatshops but sometimes we have to make a pick and then end up with intended as well as unintended consequences. As for the economics of taxes I have to agree with K.P. Even though I manage to get out of nearly all of my taxes through the current tax code, I would really appreciate a standard (read flat) tax. As far as the bloated government. As one who is sucking off the teat of the government (I am in the military), I have to agree that it is quite wasteful in many aspects and deserves a little trimming. All in all, as the great philosopher Rodney King said, "can't we all just get along?" And finally, unlike many in the plebeian system set up by the Romans, our system offers people the opportunity to go up the ladder. Personal testimony here: I started as that poor kid in the trailer park working my way through middle school and high school and now I've manage to become an anesthesiologist. I don't think I did anything fantastic except demonstrate that our country offers opportunities that many others don't, regardless of where they lie on the CIA list.



Dominic said...

"... our country offers opportunities that many others don't."

Well, even a poor farm boy like Nikita Khruschev could grow up to become Premier of the USSR, or middle-class young baseball player like Fidel to become the "maximum leader" of Cuba or the mediocre painter Adolf to become Fuehrer within their respective tyrannies

What does that say about their systems of government? Nothing.

It's simply that personal ambition and the willingness to play along with the rules of whatever system you were born into that will help you achieve what you want out of life.

What the USA offers is more people that chance... but, so do Europe and Asia now.

It's time we stress, not our material wealth and massive military strength, but what truly makes the USA a great nation - our laws, our Constitution and Bill of Rights. The world would be a better place for it.

Christy H. said...

I learn stuff from Kenny's Korner! I learned that the EU is kicking our ass, and that it's probably nicer on the whole to live in New Zealand than in the good ol' US of A. Also, that there's no AIDS in Svalbard! Also, that sweatshops are good because if you didn't have them then little children would turn into prostitutes. Not too sure about that last one.

Happy New Year to Kenny's Korner, where I always find art, plus stuff to make me laugh and stuff to make me think. And also sometimes stuff that grosses me out a little. But in a good way.

Kenny P. said...

Thanks, Christy! Happy New Year!

david gemmill said...

it's almost as if he is shitting out his spinal cord. maybe his spine was full of shit. no backbone. poor dude.