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FRED
11-16-06, 05:16 PM
Class Struggle: American workers have a chance to be heard (http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110009246)
November 16, 2006 (JIM WEBB - WSJ)

The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.

Incestuous corporate boards regularly approve compensation packages for chief executives and others that are out of logic's range. As this newspaper has reported, the average CEO of a sizeable corporation makes more than $10 million a year, while the minimum wage for workers amounts to about $10,000 a year, and has not been raised in nearly a decade. When I graduated from college in the 1960s, the average CEO made 20 times what the average worker made. Today, that CEO makes 400 times as much.

In the age of globalization and outsourcing, and with a vast underground labor pool from illegal immigration, the average American worker is seeing a different life and a troubling future. Trickle-down economics didn't happen. Despite the vaunted all-time highs of the stock market, wages and salaries are at all-time lows as a percentage of the national wealth. At the same time, medical costs have risen 73% in the last six years alone. Half of that increase comes from wage-earners' pockets rather than from insurance, and 47 million Americans have no medical insurance at all.

AntiSpin: Mr. Webb is the newly elected Democratic senator-elect from Virginia. This is what the congressional overturn was about and what the 2008 presidential election will be about, and I'm glad to hear the subject opened for debate so clearly. But as a Libertarian Democrat, I'm concerned that the cure for "Class Warfare" offered up by the current Democratic party may be worse than the disease. (Thanks for the find, Aaron).

Webb is a breath of fresh air. Hearing a member of Congress utter the words, "America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years… Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars." That's the truth, and the current administration seems to have an alergy to it.

"Since income data on individual soldiers is not available, Medill News Service analyzed U.S. census data on household income for fallen troops’ hometowns. Figures are as of Jan. 28, 2006… more than two-thirds of the soldiers who have died during Operation Iraqi Freedom come from areas of the country poorer than national averages." Poor areas bear burden of casualties in Iraq (http://observer.medill.northwestern.edu/301-wi06-sec04/2006/03/poor_areas_bear_burden_of_casu.html)
These data are misleading. The question is not the median income of the troops versus U.S. society, it's the proportion of troops that come from each wealth quintile. A Freedom of Information Act demand may turn that up. If the data are available, the chart might look something like this:


http://www.itulip.com/images/wealthtroops.jpg

jk
11-16-06, 05:49 PM
i find it hard to believe that as much as 5% of the troops come from the top quintile. i think your hypothetical graph is, most likely, overly generous.

Uncle Jack
11-16-06, 06:16 PM
What would you expect to see with a chart like that? There were some complaints early on in the war from people who didn't want to die who thought they were in the military for the college money. Opportunity comes with a price, and in the case of the military the price of college funds is potentially your life, the gamble.

In spite of the reported deaths, all senseless 3,000 or so, it is a tiny fraction of the total number who have served in the military since the war began. Would you rather have a draft so the chart looks a little more evenly distributed between the rich and the poor? I hope not.

The better alternative to that idea (or ideal as the case may be) and since you are calling yourself a Libertarian, is to have the rich pay for the war that they want to fight.

Let's act like true Libertarians and agree not to fight any war that we can't pay for outright. If we stuck to that line of thinking, left or right of Libertarian thinking, you'd find a lot fewer wars happening, I think.

EJ
11-16-06, 10:26 PM
What would you expect to see with a chart like that? There were some complaints early on in the war from people who didn't want to die who thought they were in the military for the college money. Opportunity comes with a price, and in the case of the military the price of college funds is potentially your life, the gamble.

In spite of the reported deaths, all senseless 3,000 or so, it is a tiny fraction of the total number who have served in the military since the war began. Would you rather have a draft so the chart looks a little more evenly distributed between the rich and the poor? I hope not.

The better alternative to that idea (or ideal as the case may be) and since you are calling yourself a Libertarian, is to have the rich pay for the war that they want to fight.

Let's act like true Libertarians and agree not to fight any war that we can't pay for outright. If we stuck to that line of thinking, left or right of Libertarian thinking, you'd find a lot fewer wars happening, I think.

Peace, Uncle Jack. You have made my point for me. If the average American had to sacrifice for this war, everyone equally, every day, in life, limb, and treasure, it would have ended long ago, or never have been undertaken in the first place. If it had been worthwhile, able bodied men and women would line up to join the fight, regardless of prospects here at home. Neither condition is true, and so the war was wrong.

Uncle Jack
11-17-06, 08:08 AM
Peace.

I took that chart personally. I was in the Navy and part of my reason for joining back in 1981 was economic opportunity. Even though at that time I thought war with Russia was inevitable, I understood the risk I was taking. Aside from the people who were in the military at the outbreak of the war(s), I think the current crop of military personnel understand their risks as well.

I also got a little frustrated about you calling yourself a "Democratic Libertarian." What is it about the Libertarians, aside from or perhaps in addition to their inability to get elected, that cause people to qualify themselves in such a manner? Just this week Bill Fleckenstein of Contrarian Chronicles said of himself "I'm a Libertarian, but vote with Republicans the <b>majority of the time</b>."

It seems the Libertarian ideals are appealing enough for most people (<a href="http://www.self-gov.org/quiz.html">if they took the quiz</a>) to call themselves a Libertarian, but when it comes right down to casting their vote they still want some faction to control some aspect of government, either fiscally or socially.

In deference to the title of your post, I believe there already is a serious class struggle in this country. No one I talk to on either side of the aisle, so to speak, believes the representatives we have in place or vying for office represent the populous. How else can we explain to the rest of the world a 40% voter turnout? The biggest class, individuals who just want to be left alone to do their thing, stayed away and continue to stay away. Apathy gets the largest amount of votes these days.

Signing off before I turn this into a pointless ramble, which I may have already done.

Thanks for the outlet. By the way, where's that Martin Mayer interview?

BK
11-17-06, 09:54 AM
So, what do you propose....

Option 1 - a draft - then the smart and well connected will
A. Get their kids safe assignments during times of War
...can you say Al Gore - tour was Press Corp assignment - at least it was in Country and he probably good hear guns and bombs
or
President George Bush - tour in the National Guard Duty
or
President Clinton - tour as a Rhode Scholar.

Option 2 - Never Fight a War -yah. that will work.

Sadly, I think wars get so politicized these days the Politicians exert direct influence (micromanagement) on the Military amd this leads to more casualties.

When War gets over Politicized you going to lose a lot of Good Men when soldiers are used as Policemen and not soldiers.

The guys I know who volunteered for the Military and made it their lives have enjoyed their careers. They've been well trained, educated, and decent financial benefits if you stay in it long enough. For many smart men and women it is a great way out of the poverty.

Uncle Jack
11-17-06, 10:52 AM
I propose the "yah, right" solution. I know it will never happen, but that's what I want.

A draft is absolutely no good due to the corruption we saw during Vietnam, select rich boys avoiding service or getting desk jobs state-side or away from the action. I think if you drew one of those wealth charts from that era it would be similar due to the very reasons you stated: smart, well-connected, etc.

One of the reasons free trade is so highly advocated by the LP is so people don't go to war over resources, which is what we are essentially doing in the middle east. That idea of removing the dictator was horse hockey, same with trying to install our better idea of government, a democracy in the middle east, what a crock!

People may find this hard to believe, and I'm being way-over-simplified in stating it this way, but if we can go to a fixed currency (doesn't have to be gold, just stop printing money and debt out of thin air) the wars would stop.

You tell anyone on the government dole that we have to choose between them continuing their benefits or the U.S. fights the enemy (real or perceived) you wouldn't have anyone voting to have their benefits cut. That's the main problem, everyone in the current system thinks we can have both, fight a war and continue with the handouts. Who pays? Not the people making the decisions, that's for sure.

War is a losing proposition in all cases. As for who should be in the military, it has to be a voluntary, contractual agreement.

EJ
11-17-06, 01:01 PM
The Libertarian party has been over-run by nutjobs for as long as I can recall. Libertarianism is a popular religion with an unpopular church. Most Americans, if that take that quiz, will find that their beliefs are Libertarian, but the only way to get them to vote that way is to plaster the Libertarian Ideology label onto an existing party. Fleck can say he votes Republican, while I vote Libertarian ideas, insofar as they are expressed by either party. These days I find Democratic candidates more Libertarian than Republican candidates, at least in deed. The Republicans talk a good game, but look at what they've actually done.

On the draft, it was noted on NPR last night during their coverage of Milton Friedman that Nixon ended the draft on Friedman's advice for the reasons you state, and I agree with them. That said, the results have been less than ideal. While there is no optimal solution, other countries seem to be able to spread the risk across various classes of society more fairly than the U.S. does, and it's worth discussing why that's the case. I also agree that making wars more difficult to fund without apparent short term cost will make them considerably less attractive as an alternative to more constructive ways of dealing with political conflict. The decision to go to Iraq, for example, should have had an immediate impact on the average American's standard of living, else most Americans enjoy the surreal experience of a free lunch and are not even motivated to understand what the war is about, never mind inspired to go fight in it.

Pervilis Spurius
11-17-06, 03:28 PM
Agree on the Libertarian party sentiment.

I am curious which countries you have in mind when mentioning this risk spreading and what their system is? I know in germany for instance, I believe all males at the age of 17 or 18 must serve 2 years in the military. In israel, I believe all citizens male and female must serve unless there is a specific religious proscription against it (i.e. I think Chassids are exempted from service)

EJ
11-17-06, 04:16 PM
Agree on the Libertarian party sentiment.

I am curious which countries you have in mind when mentioning this risk spreading and what their system is? I know in germany for instance, I believe all males at the age of 17 or 18 must serve 2 years in the military. In israel, I believe all citizens male and female must serve unless there is a specific religious proscription against it (i.e. I think Chassids are exempted from service)

That is the other fairness solution: no draft, everyone serves. If you're unlucky enough to be serving when there's war, you get to go, regardless of means.

Don't be shocked to see such a system adopted in the US if we have a really deep, prolonged recession.

jk
11-17-06, 10:48 PM
That is the other fairness solution: no draft, everyone serves. If you're unlucky enough to be serving when there's war, you get to go, regardless of means.

Don't be shocked to see such a system adopted in the US if we have a really deep, prolonged recession.

during the debates about the draft during the vietnam war, there was much discussion of compulsary national service, not limited to military service. this seems a more palatable alternative.