Comment on capitalism

By Ralph Wallace | Jul 25, 2019

I am not a member of the “one percent.” Not even close. I grew up in a solid middle-class family, got a job when I was a high school junior working on dangerous log booms at the oceanfront, and paid my way through college. I became a teacher, married, raised a family, attended church, and did volunteer work in my community. All in all, I think my developmental background was pretty plain vanilla.

Now, to my topic at hand. At no time did I ever feel a raging envy toward those people who enjoyed a better material life than I had. I still do not. I knew that, if I worked hard and led a clean life, I had a good shot at attaining my goals. My goal was not to be a successful business tycoon with a corner office in a New York tower. However, I did not for a moment begrudge those who did. On the contrary, I was grateful that there was the kind of person who excelled in industry, made the investment of time and money necessary, and had the entrepreneurial skill to create a business environment that allowed me to participate while pursing my own dreams. If I did have any “rage,” it was reserved for those who always felt they were owed something by business or the government. I believed that we should all have the same opportunity to achieve, but we did not have the right to expect the same results.

An early experience in the labor world had a profound impact upon me. While in college, I had a summer job as a warehouse man driving a forklift. After a week on the job, I was told by the union steward that I was working too quickly. Naively, I told him I did not understand what he meant. He quickly educated me – if everyone worked at my pace, there would not be enough work for all the forklift drivers. Management would see that the work could be done by fewer drivers and there would be resultant layoffs. I am sorry, but my sympathy did not go to the drivers who needed featherbedding to keep their jobs. Rather, my sympathy went to the owners who created the company which provided the jobs for workers who somehow felt it was OK to game the system. If that makes me a capitalist, so be it.

I lament that a sizeable number in the population today do not have this respect for the way of life that has been the bedrock for the success of our country. Quite simply, we enjoy a quality of life that is the envy of the world – and the foundation of that condition is capitalism. There are those who disagree. Incredibly, they believe that business is inherently evil, and that it “lives off the backs of workers.” These people also believe that those who work hard and achieve their deserved results somehow owe others who do not. Recently, this idea found its epitome in the Democratic proposal that a "wage" should be provided to those who actually choose not to work! That former union steward of mine would be ecstatic – the government would be gaming the system for him.

Socialism is a direct attack on our quality of life. It is a real threat. We are now beyond attacking socialism with jokes such as Margaret Thatcher’s, “Socialism is a wonderful concept – until you run out of other people’s money.” Frankly, we are at a point where we need to look around us, take stock of how far we have come in this country, discern our own personal capitalist accomplishments, and proclaim them far and wide.

Here is mine. I loved teaching. It was an honor and a privilege to engage with the development of young students. I also grew to admire my bosses -- principals who had the ability to encourage and stimulate me to improve my teaching. I determined to become that kind of school principal. Later, I had the great fortune of working for a superintendent who was truly an inspiring educator. Sadly, I recently gave a eulogy at his funeral. This wonderful man inspired me to achieve my own superintendency. In the autumn of my years, it is my fervent hope that I have contributed to the capitalism of our country, not only by my story, but my commitment to proclaiming its value.

Comments (5)
Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Jul 29, 2019 11:01

Mr Wallace more likely than not belonged to a teacher's union at one time. I believe the story about the warehouse union shop steward, but that was never the intended purpose of collective bargaining. Like most things in America, greed ruined a good thing. What happened to a fair days pay for a fair days work. I've worked both union and non-union jobs. I worked just as hard and diligently for both. When I worked union I knew what I was getting unlike working non-union retail where the help on the floor lose benefits so stock holders and managers can get bonuses. What I see now in the labor force is about fifteen percent of workers have a good work ethic and from there it goes down hill. Most of us just want to live comfortably. How much money is enough? Don't ask  one-percenter because they don't know

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jul 28, 2019 18:13

Sure, we can talk it to death. How about getting out there on the front lines and making a difference in the lives of those placed in your path. Guaranteed to leave you; and them; feeling better when you part or we will gladly refund your misery. ;)

Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Jul 28, 2019 17:23

You're embarrassing yourself, Eric, even if you're blissfully unaware.  Obama was dead right and if something isn't done about the disparity in wealth distribution in this country "something will do itself some day" as a nineteenth century economist once said foreseeing the revolutions to come.


And Obama did plenty for this economy while trump simply slid into the good times to claim them for himself, as he does with everything he never earned. But you don't have to believe me, listen to Forbes.  (Sorry for all the factual information.  I know how much you hate that.)

6 Metrics Show Trump Did Not Inherit A Mess From Obama

President Trump has tweeted or stated multiple times that he inherited a mess from President Obama. Since a large number of citizens don’t realize that his rhetoric doesn’t match reality, it is worthwhile to analyze the data and see how they match up to his statements . When you look at the employment numbers, unemployment rate, GDP growth, the federal deficit, the stock market and trade it is apparent that Trump did not inherit a mess from Obama.


Employment numbers continue a positive trend since 2011


It took a couple years after Obama took office for job growth to get back on track after the Great Recession. Starting in 2011 and through 2016 there were over 2 million jobs created per year with over 3 million in 2014. Including January 2017 when Trump was inaugurated there had been 76 months (6 years and 4 months) of positive employment growth. As can be seen in the chart below the additional 24 months of job growth are essentially a continuation from Obama’s last six years.


Unemployment rate also showed a steady improvement


In January 2009, the month that Obama was inaugurated, the unemployment rate was 7.8% and it climbed to 8.3% in February. It peaked at 10.0% in October, nine months after Obama took office and in the midst of the Great Recession.


Starting in November 2009 the rate fell every year and was 4.8% in January 2017 when he left office. It has continued what is essentially a trend that had been in place before Trump took office, as it fell to a low of 3.7% late last year but has increased a bit to 4.0% last month.


Trump best GDP growth hasn’t surpassed Obama’s


When Obama entered office the year over year GDP growth rate for the first three quarters were a negative 3.3%, 3.9% and 3.0%, respectively. The economy then embarked on 29 quarters of positive growth under Obama and has added on an additional 7 quarters, through September 2018 (and probably another one with December last year).


While the rates under Obama were not spectacular, this can be partially attributed to consumers being hesitant to spend freely coming out of the Great Recession, other consumers declaring bankruptcy with many losing their houses, businesses taking a cautious investment approach and international economies experiencing slow or negative growth.


Even Trump’s highest year over year growth rate of 3.0% in the September 2018 quarter does not exceed Obama’s high point of 3.8% in the March 2015 quarter. The first estimate for the December 2018’s growth rate, which is now scheduled to be released in just over a week on Thursday, February 21, appears to be around 3%.


It seems that 2018’s increase in GDP has been helped by the Trump tax cut, which should wear off next year, and it comes with a large increase in the federal deficit.


Trump’s deficits could be double Obama’s


When Obama took office the deficit increased due to the Great Recession causing tax revenue to fall and an increase in spending on items such as unemployment. After peaking at $1.4 trillion in fiscal 2009 (September 2009 or eight months after taking office) it fell to a low of $438 billion in fiscal 2015 and rose to $585 billion in fiscal 2016.


Multiple organizations ranging from the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget are projecting that the Federal deficit will increase even as the economy grows. After increasing to $779 billion in fiscal 2018 it appears that it could cross $900 billion this year and over $1 trillion in fiscal 2022 and beyond. The scary thing is if the economy stumbles and growth slows more than expected or enters a recession, the deficit will increase even more than what this chart shows.


S&P 500 doubled under Obama


From the day after Obama’s election in November 2008 until Trump’s election eight years later the S&P 500 rose 113%. So far since Trump’s election, the Index has increased 28%. From the graph below it appears that the stock market has essentially carried on the momentum from Obama’s tenure.


Trade deficit shows the economy improved under Obama


Lowering the trade deficit has been a rallying cry of candidate and now President Trump. He seems to view trade as a zero-sum game and if a country is running a deficit that is “losing.” What he doesn’t appreciate is that consumers and businesses benefit by having products available at a lower price than if they were built in the U.S. (and many products wouldn’t be built at all).


One critical aspect of the trade deficit is that it is highly dependent on how the U.S. economy is performing. In 2008 when Obama was elected the deficit was over $708 billion and had been at least $705 billion for four years as the economy had been doing well.


In 2009, Obama’s first year in office, the deficit fell to $384 billion, dropping over 45%. As the economy recovered the deficit grew to $495 billion in 2010 and finished 2016 at $502 billion.


In Trump’s first year in office, the trade deficit increased $50 billion, or 10%, and it looks like it will have increased another $50 billion to about $600 billion in 2018. The recovery from the low coming out of the Great Recession is another indication that the economy was doing well under Obama.


And now that trump has the reins we're slowly going over a cliff.


"Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell says that the the “growth of economic activity has slowed.” The usually optimistic International Monetary Fund projects US economic growth will drop to 1.8 percent in 2020—despite trillion-dollar annual deficits and the Fed putting off any more interest rate hikes for the rest of the year. If Powell and the projections are right, the long recovery that began after the Obama administration saved an economy that was in free fall is nearing its end. Yet President Trump trumpets the “best economy” ever, touting low unemployment . So this is what we get at the height of recovery? This is as good as it gets?


...  the average weekly pay has grown less than 1 percent per year for the decade. Low-wage workers’ hourly pay in 2017 barely surpassed what they earned in 1979, while that of high-wage workers has increased nearly 50 percent. Inequality is at extremes not seen since 1928. Workers are still not capturing a fair share of the increased productivity that they help to create.


And while incomes have stagnated, key costs have soared. Health care remains remarkably expensive; millions go without insurance or are underinsured. Gallup reports that since Trump took office, the number of Americans without health insurance has increased by a stunning 7 million. Female, younger and lower-income workers have seen a greater decline than those who are male, older and/or wealthier. Life expectancy has declined for the third year in a row. The lack of health care explains part of that. The savage opioid epidemic—a disease of despair—accounts for another chunk."


"Federal deficits have widened immensely under Trump’s leadership. This is striking not only because he promised fiscal responsibility — at one time even pledging to eliminate  the national debt within eight years — but also because it’s a historical anomaly. Deficits usually narrow when the economy is good and we’re not engaged in a major war."


Maybe you'll believe these "job creators."


Almost 90% of CEOs surveyed said the president's negotiating style had cost the US the trust of its allies, while three in four CEOs said they often had to apologize to their foreign business partners for the president's behavior. Three-quarters of CEOs also said they felt the president wasn't leading effectively on national security."

Yeah, I know, too much reading for someone with a mental block, a trump supporter after all.  And who of them actually reads.  We know he doesn't

Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Jul 26, 2019 10:13

Trump is the true socialist


Republicans are right. The scourge of socialism is already upon us. They’re just wrong about which party is to blame.


Technically, “socialism” refers to a system in which the government controls the means of production. In popular parlance, however, “socialist” has instead become a more generic right-wing slur. To the extent the descriptor signals any substance whatsoever, it’s about government handouts, picking winners and losers, redistribution of wealth, or something to that effect.


And yes, some  Democrats have proposed  some  pie-in-the-sky ideas (such as free college) that meet these vague Big Government principles. Yet, if you look at who has successfully implemented policies that fit such pseudo-socialist criteria in recent years, it’s Republicans.


Not that you’d know it from their rhetoric.


“Our freedoms are under attack because the radical left will stop at nothing until socialism has spread from coast to coast,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) proclaimed last month when she kicked off her reelection campaign. “Let me be clear: Socialism has no place in the Hawkeye State or America, and I will stop at nothing to protect our Iowa values.”


Maybe Ernst was being painfully un-self-aware here. Or maybe she thinks her voters are. Either way, for decades, “Iowa values” have explicitly included demands for big fat federal government subsidies for corn ethanol — among other payouts and market-distorting government interventions that Republicans might in other contexts smear as “socialist.”


Agricultural subsidies have been blessed and perpetuated by politicians from both parties. But lately, a Republican president, with the support of Republican lawmakers, is in the midst of a broader “socialist” endeavor to bail out the farm industry.


After President Trump picked trade wars with nearly every major U.S. trading partner — friend and foe alike — U.S. exports of soybeans, pork and other agricultural products dried up. The president subsequently decided to cover up one foolish economic policy with another, and another. He launched not one but two rounds of massive farmer bailouts, together totaling tens of billions of dollars.


Yet Republican politicians have portrayed neither of these taxpayer-funded handouts as “socialist.”


Nor do Republicans cry “socialism” when the treasury secretary lectures U.S. retailers and manufacturers about how and where they should reallocate their supply chains; nor when the president himself lectures firms about what products to stock; nor when the administration tries to get other  countries to engage in more centralized economic planning — by, for example, demanding that European political leaders commit private companies to buy more U.S. crops and liquefied natural gas regardless of price, quality or market needs.


You would be hard-pressed to find better recent examples of the U.S. government trying to exert influence, if not outright control, over the means of production, both domestically and abroad.


When not disrupting previously functional industries, Republicans have also been busy propping up failing ones. Consider the case of coal.


Technological change (i.e., fracking) has made the U.S. coal industry less competitive; at least six  major U.S. coal producers have filed for bankruptcy in the past year, with the most recent filing last week. But rather than letting markets run their course, Republicans at both the federal and state levels are concocting complicated handouts.


Trump, who rants on Twitter about how Democrats want to turn us into a “Socialist or Communist Country,” has repeatedly attempted Soviet-style bailouts of failing coal plants. On Tuesday, Ohio, a state under unified Republican control, decided to copy him, with a new law that adds taxpayer-funded subsidies for coal-fired and nuclear power plants.


What of that Republican fearmongering about Democratic wealth distribution?


It’s worth remembering that wealth can be redistributed down  or  up. Lately, the direction of that redistribution, under Republican stewardship, has been decidedly upward — in the form of both top-heavy tax cuts and the shredding of the safety net. As my Post colleague Philip Bump pointed out, the administration’s latest attempts to gut the food-stamp program proves that while Trump’s brand of socialism may extend to farmers, it’s still not available for the working poor.


What remains interesting is how Republicans manage to reconcile their anti-socialist words with their Big Government actions.


Polling last fall from YouGov, for instance, found that Republicans overwhelmingly supported  Trump’s trade-war-driven farmer bailout, despite an avowed antipathy for “socialism.” A separate YouGov poll conducted this week asked respondents whether they considered various policies to be examples of socialism, such as free college tuition (according to Republicans: yes!), or Social Security and government medical care for veterans (both no, somehow). Medicare for the elderly is decidedly not  socialist, but something approximating Medicare for everyone definitely  is .


So maybe the problem isn’t hypocrisy, exactly. It’s that the word “socialist,” to Republicans at least, has evolved to mean anything the other side is for.

Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Jul 26, 2019 07:12

"Socialism is a direct attack on our quality of life. It is a real threat."  Oh please, Ralph.  You wouldn't know true socialism if you lived in a socialist state, which, in many ways, you do.



I'm so glad that you're not one of the one percent, Ralph.  If you were I'd have some suspicions about this rant.  But as a former teacher, and a public servant as it were, I have to take your words as being sincere.


So, tell me, did you teach in a public school, the kind paid for with "other people's money?"  Did you get a pension contributed to by those some "other people?"  Did you drive to work on roads paid for by the collective funds of all the citizens?  Do you collect Social Security now?  Are you on Medicare?   Aren't these all evidence of collectivism in American government and well established aspects of "our quality of life?"


Let's start with a definitive statement.

Social liberalism”: individuals were not autonomous entities, they were socially constituted; each of us relied on complex systems—from the division of labor to bureaucracy—to survive and flourish under the conditions of modernity and especially under capitalism.” - Michael J. Thompson is the founder and editor of Logos. He teaches Political Science at William Paterson University.


How about an historical perspective from a real socialist.

“Proudhon shows that Capital and Labor, though at daggers drawn, are not antitheses.  Labor becomes capital; capital feeds and furthers labor, and the two are the beginning and the end of one human process, falsely abstracted into two warring principles.”  -Jacques Barzun, Darwin, Marx, Wagner; Critique of a Heritage


Or an American president.


"The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves in their separate, and individual capacities... as public roads and highways, public schools, charities, pauperism, orphanage, estates of the deceased, and the machinery of government itself. From this it appears that IF all men were just, there still would be some, though not so much, need for government.
-Abraham Lincoln - July 1, 1851

And that's all socialism is in reality, a collective response to the collective problems of society, those conditions beyond the individual's ability to solve requiring "combined action.


"Socialism isn’t fundamentally about public ownership of private resources. It is about collective action in pursuit of common goals, where private action has destroyed or damaged the common good. It is demonized by concentrated private wealth precisely because it is so effective at redressing so many of the problems that concentrated private wealth has inflicted on society and the world."

Oh, I know, Ralph, that your side of the political spectrum uses "socialism" as a slur.  As another famous American once said.


"Socialism is a scareword they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years.  Socialism is what they called public power.  Socialism is what they called farm price supports.  Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance.  Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations.  Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people."  -Harry S. Truman, 1952


But that's not working so well these days.


"Socialism is especially popular with young people. Among the Americans aged 18–34 who were surveyed by Gallup, 58 percent say it’s good for the country.


What’s even more striking are the measures of who likes socialism. The ideology is narrowly ahead with women, 48 percent of whom say that socialism is good for the country, as opposed to 47 percent who say it’s bad.


So if the future is female, if America is growing more diverse, and if today’s young people are destined to become more influential in our politics, it is entirely reasonable to suggest that socialism is “trending.”

So it's not surprising if Elisabeth Warren describes it so well:


There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there - good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory... Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea - God bless! Keep a hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.” - Sen. Elizabeth Warren

And that says it all or to put it more succinctly:

“The real purpose of Socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development.”  -Albert Einstein.


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