“The Holy Grail Of Liberalism”

I heard Mitch McConnell, who spent four years as the leader of Senate Republicans trying to undermine Barack Obama’s presidency by undermining the economic recovery, say this today:

The only reason Democrats are insisting on raising rates is because raising rates on the so-called rich is the holy grail of liberalism. The holy grail of liberalism. There aim isn’t job creation; they’re interested in wealth destruction. Not job creation, but wealth destruction.

Like the Holy Grail related to Jesus, which mythically found its way into the hands of tidy-white Europeans for safekeeping (uh, but they seem to have lost it anyway), the myth that McConnell and other conservatives believe about liberals, you know, that we hate rich people and want to take all their stuff, is a persistent myth.

It is so persistent that a prominent leader of the Republican Party—right in the middle of what are supposed to be serious discussions on the budget—thinks nothing of standing on the floor of the U.S. Senate and proclaiming it to the world.

But is it really just a myth? Are liberals really “interested in wealth destruction” ? Really? Of course we are! Why? Because we want everyone to be poor! We want everyone to suffer and starve and die! That’s what we want. We want to destroy the rich so everyone can die in misery and pain equally. Yep, that’s what we want.

And the first step in doing that—our holiest of grails—is to put those onerous 39.6% Clinton tax rates back on the backs of the rich so they will just give up and quit. So they will just surrender all their money to us. So we can then take their money and give it to lazy slobs, mostly lazy slobs of color, who don’t want to work, who don’t want to do anything but live off the efforts of others, who want nothing more out of life than to sit around the house and suck the life out of the wealthy, those productive folks who Republicans tell us create all the jobs.

Jobs? Did someone say jobs? Who the hell needs jobs when we can destroy the wealthy!

Yes, that’s what we want; that’s why we exist.

And after all the wealth is gone, after we get our holy grail, and get our jollies on all that “wealth destruction,” then we liberals can sit back and watch everyone croak.

All thanks to us! Long live liberalism!

17 Comments

  1. I was pleasantly surprised to learn on Maureen Holland’s blog about the details of a business model that is benign to employees and serves a stark contrast to that of Walmart’s which is, well, the word “predatory” comes to mind. The company is Costco and a good link describing its business model came from a conservative commenter on Moe’s blog.

    There is hope, it would seem.

    The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good will to men.”

    Till, ringing singing, on its way,
    The world revolved from night to day,
    A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
    Of peace on earth, good will to men!

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    • I share your enthusiasm for Costco, Jim, although I must say that most of the stores aren’t unionized. There is a long way to go, but at least there is a place to start (I think most of their unionized employees–Teamsters–came when the company bought another business).

      A good sign that Costco is better managed than Walmart is that most of their employees have health insurance (85% or so) and the company reportedly pays more of the share of that insurance than the industry average. We don’t even want to talk about Walmart in that regard.

      And besides all that, going to Costco is a much better experience, in my opinion, than going to Sam’s Club. When I am in Scottsdale visiting my daughter (only two weeks away now!), I enjoy shopping there. Their return policy used to be far superior, too.

      By the way, thanks for getting me in the Christmas spirit with your selection!

      Duane

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      • King Beauregard

         /  November 30, 2012

        The issue, to me, is not whether a business has been unionized; the issue is whether management has applied pressure to prevent unionization or has engaged in dirty tricks once a union drive has started. Happy employees may not want a union because they are happy with how things are.

        I am careful to cite “dirty tricks” because ANY business should treat a union as a serious threat that should be resisted, but truthfully and fairly. A union means that management and labor are divided into opposing teams that must negotiate through the union, and if there had been good will between management and labor before, a union will certainly interfere with that. If you are already running your business with an eye to your employees’ well-being, you probably give your employees at least as good a deal as unions could, and it could be CostCo falls into that category.

        WalMart clearly does not, though.

        Back in the 20th century, even ol’ King Beauregard found himself as The Man when some employees of the Cleveland Food Co-op decided they were somehow being oppressed, and a union would fix everything. So they found a non-AFL-CIO-affiliated electricians’ union, got the members all riled up about how the employees were being somehow mistreated, became even nastier after the employees voted the union down, and destroyed most of the good will of the organization. And you know, we never did find out how the employees were oppressed. The only concrete things they brought up were 1) employees didn’t have contracts with the store, 2) there was a five minute walk from the employee parking lot to the store, and 3) one guy was mad that he had to wear a hair net in the kitchen.

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        • I respect your practical experience with unions here, King, and your point about how the process actually works is a cautionary lesson indeed. A symbiotic relationship is clearly preferable to an adversarial one. I would say that two-party national politics is comparable to that. Opposing views are healthy but become hurtful when winning becomes more important than discourse.

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          • King Beauregard

             /  November 30, 2012

            Lest there be any confusion here, I think unions are awesome, but they exist to solve a problem. In the absence of that problem, they’re not solving anything.

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            • King Beau,

              Obviously unions exist only because of a need. If there is no need, or if the need is not critical to a majority of employees, unionization will not take place. I, too, resent the unfair practices of management to keep out unions, even though, like you, I understand the motivation to engage in those practices. A union is a serious threat to management’s workplace hegemony and no one expects there not to be a fight. But all over the country businesses, like Walmart, resort to what you call “dirty tricks” to keep workers from having a strong voice in the workplace. And this latest effort was just an attempt to combat those ongoing dirty tricks.

              Your personal example notwithstanding, most workers will not even entertain the idea of a union if they think their employer has “an eye” to their “well-being.” That is okay by me. I would rather we live in a world where unions were not necessary, since that would mean that management was acting in both the interests of the business and the employees who make it work.

              That having been said, there are situations in which employees do need a union and are scared stiff of entertaining the idea, mainly because of tactics employed by management designed to instill fear and then rule by it. Walmart is the perfect illustration of how a company, one that by all accounts should—these days—be ripe for unionization, can avoid it if they use fear and intimidation to keep unions out.

              Unions, as much as I appreciate them, are not perfect creatures by any stretch of the imagination. They can be corrupted; they can exercise poor industrial judgment by ignoring the needs of management; they can, even by an appropriate consideration of the well-being of their members, weaken the company by not properly considering the well-being of the company or industry.

              And this lack of perfection has been the union’s worst enemy because it is exploited by management at every turn. Everywhere we hear about the excesses of unionism, but rarely about its successes. That is why there is such an otherwise inexplicable distrust of unions by workers. Workers, though, should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. No, unions do not in every case behave as they should, but they have been and remain a force for good in the workplace, even in workplaces that reject them. The constant threat of unionization does make some employers treat their workers better.

              So, in the end unions need to keep fighting for all workers, giving all a voice in the workplace, even in unfriendly workplaces like Walmart. Because there will always be with us the temptation for management to exploit workers and use fear to keep them silent. And that kind of fear, the kind that keeps workers working in deplorable conditions like in Bangladesh, should not be tolerated anywhere, especially in a civilized society.

              Duane

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              • King Beauregard

                 /  November 30, 2012

                “A union is a serious threat to management’s workplace hegemony”

                Not always just that: a union is an outside agency with its own agenda that will place itself in deliberate opposition to some part of one’s business. Even the most enlightened business owner is going to be wary of the attendant risks — to management, to the company’s viability, and even to labor. A union means new legal costs. A union means a decrease in business flexibility. But a union may not mean better wages, hours, or conditions, not if the business was already trying to be fair with employees … and if you’re that type of business owner, you’ll see the union as hurting your people.

                Agreed about the horror stories (including mine, which is probably one of the more extreme stupid cases). I guess I just wanted to counter your starting assumption that, if CostCo doesn’t have a union, it could do better. But it always comes down to the same thing: talk to the employees, find out whether they feel they’re being treated fairly, whether they’re receiving a fair wage, and whether they feel management is responsive to their needs. If so, great! Let’s not create a new horror story by imposing a union where none was needed.

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                • We have only a slight disagreement here, I think.

                  How people feel about being “treated fairly” is subject to a lot of conditions. I don’t think it is necessarily an accurate gauge of workplace fairness to, for instance, have management ask folks, folks who know they would likely lose their jobs if a union came in or even if they attempted to organize one, if they are being treated fairly. (I once worked for a businessman who threatened to close his factory if garment workers unionized; and I am sure the workers there would not have dared say a word to management about “unfairness.”) It is an asymmetric relationship without union representation, because it is just one lone voice against The Man, and under those conditions I would sometimes, but not always obviously, suspect that workers weren’t being honest about the conditions.

                  Having said that, I wonder what you meant by this:

                  …a union is an outside agency with its own agenda that will place itself in deliberate opposition to some part of one’s business.

                  I’m not sure how that would work. If you mean “deliberate opposition to managing some part of one’s business,” I can certainly understand that. But I’m not sure how you meant it, so if you would, elaborate a little bit.

                  And for the record, I agree that union’s have their own agenda, but my point about all this is that the biggest part of their agenda should be in the survival, even thriving, of the business that employees its members. And union thinking is that a business can best survive and thrive by treating workers well, as well as particular business conditions permit. Do unions sometimes push too far, beyond what those business conditions permit? Yep, but that is an argument for better unions, not no unions.

                  Duane

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                  • King Beauregard

                     /  December 3, 2012

                    We seem to be on the same page overall, though I tend to regard the employees’ opinion as the best yardstick (imperfect though it may be). And yeah, you have to be mindful of the circumstances under which those opinions are offered.

                    By “deliberate opposition to some part of one’s business,” I’m thinking from the perspective of a guy who has started a business: suddenly there is this outside force that is interfering with management (obviously), with labor (by dictating what they may not do), with management-labor relations, and so on. Maybe “interference” was the word I was originally looking for.

                    But “the biggest part of their agenda should be in the survival, even thriving, of the business that employees its members” … yeah you’ll find that with the best of unions, but beware the reality that some unions are mostly in it for their own survival. If it means getting themselves installed in an organization that doesn’t really benefit from them, these less sterling unions will go there. They might even be willing to hoodwink the employees they are allegedly representing — for example, the union rep in “my” union drive told employees that union dues were voluntary, which of course wasn’t the case. When someone actually looked it up in the handbook and confronted him, he clarified he meant you have the option to pay more than the voluntary amount.

                    I will stress that the union in question wasn’t even affiliated with the AFL-CIO (strangely enough this was a selling point with the wood nymphs they were selling to), and I would expect better of any union that could maintain AFL-CIO status.

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                    • King Beauregard

                       /  December 3, 2012

                      “pay more than the voluntary amount”

                      I meant “pay more than the MANDATORY amount”.

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                  • Okay, I think we’re pretty much aligned, but I will say I am a little troubled by this:

                    …beware the reality that some unions are mostly in it for their own survival.

                    I understand, given what you have said from your own experience, why you might say this, but if you really think about it, big-time unions cannot survive unless they pay attention to the business their members are in. Yes, there have been some dumb decision made by labor unions (“dumb” in hindsight, that is), but at the time those decisions were being made, the union leaders thought they were doing what was right for the membership, not just what was right for them as leaders (they get paid no matter what) or for the union as an entity.

                    In the auto industry, sure, unions were partly responsible for the weakening of car companies (we won’t go into the poor management decisions regarding products and marketing, etc.), but most of the agreements signed that hurt (in terms of legacy costs) were fashioned in times when the car companies dominated the world market. There was, at the time, plenty for everyone as far as their eyes could see.

                    What the unions failed to see in time was that our increased openness to global markets and the rehabilitation of other country’s economies, meant a smaller market share. More competition meant leaner margins and thus a need to adapt to that reality. I will concede that unions tend not to be constitutionally adaptive. They are, to be honest, conservatively-run organizations and very slow to adjust. That tendency is, I think, changing. My own union learned to be quite adaptive, even more forward thinking than management, but it took some time.

                    Duane

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                    • King Beauregard

                       /  December 4, 2012

                      Not sure what’s so disturbing about acknowledging there are some unions that put their survival first. That impulse exists at least a little in ANY organization, to say nothing of any organization that has to pay its employees. Unions are human institutions and are capable of pretty much all the failings of any other institution, just as they can be motivated by social conscience and even altruism.

                      At the heart of it, I think such difference of opinion we have is encapsulated in our response to learning that a given company may unionize. Your reaction is most likely an expectation of a better company; I won’t have an expectation either way until I know a little more about the company, the union, and the employees’ grievances.

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                    • Yes, unions are interested in survival, but not at the expense of the businesses which employ their members. “Sucking the life out of the employer is not a survival technique,” is really all I was saying. In context, you said,

                      If it means getting themselves installed in an organization that doesn’t really benefit from them, these less sterling unions will go there. They might even be willing to hoodwink the employees they are allegedly representing — for example, the union rep in “my” union drive told employees that union dues were voluntary, which of course wasn’t the case.

                      As I re-read that, if all you mean is that a local union activist might want a union to come in for some kind of self-aggrandizement, I don’t doubt that happens. I just doubt that unions, as entities, would willingly go where they think potential members wouldn’t benefit.

                      In any case, I have enjoyed our exchange because I don’t get to talk union stuff very often on this blog!

                      Duane

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  2. Kabe

     /  November 29, 2012

    I personally do not hate money or those that have more than myself. I do, however, hate the Hell out of greed and those that are greedy beyond comprehension.

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  3. King Beauregard

     /  November 30, 2012

    I will give Mitch McConnell this much: if you visit, say, HuffPo, you will find any number of commenters writing in about how they want to soak the rich; they don’t even care if repealing the Bush tax cuts hurts the poor, so long as it mildly inconveniences the rich. So yeah, there are uninformed nincompoops who attach themselves to any part of the political spectrum.

    The difference is, the dullards on the Left are marginalized, while the dullards on the Right are steering the Republican Party.

    So the Democrats want to raise taxes on the people who have prospered even under a bad economy, simply because they are the only ones who can afford to chip in more without it compromising their quality of life or their companies’ survival. That’s how ANY successful project is run: everyone contributes what they are best able to contribute. Yeah, it stinks that taxes exist at all, but if you enjoy the stability and relatively Utopian nature of 21st century America, taxes are a small price to pay. Especially if you make so much money you honestly can’t figure out how to spend it all.

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  4. Saying liberals want to destroy wealth is absurd. I do think it is fair though to ask how much flattening of the income and wealth distribution should be a goal.

    I’d like to see improved opportunities for those at the bottom of the ladder more than for those at the top rather than redistribution. That said the use of progressive taxes and social benefits for the poor is appropriate is all else fails to avoid the distribution of wealth being too inequitable.

    If we could get the distribution of wealth back to where is was say in 1990 that would seem an appropriate goal to me. I don’t think any sensible person wants to perfect equality.

    Any thoughts on this anyone else.

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    • Bruce,

      Liberals love wealth. We want a lot of Warren Buffetts running around, making money, helping the country, and, uh, paying taxes.

      The opportunities you (and I) seek “for those at the bottom of the ladder” can only come through investing tax dollars to create those opportunities, most of which come via education or job training. And since we have to get the tax dollars from those who have the money, “redistribution” is inevitable. How much? how much from whom? is fair to ask.

      Apparently, we both agree that a grossly inequitable distribution of our nation’s wealth would not be a good thing. What about a moderately inequitable distribution? What, indeed, is a reasonable level of wealth inequality?

      I don’t favor progressive taxation because I am a liberal. I am a liberal because I favor progressive taxation. I favor it because of my guiding concept of fundamental fairness (those that benefit the most from society should pay the most to maintain it as a civilized one—by 21st-century standards) and because, as I said, we need the money to do things we agree need done. And rich people have more money to spare than the rest of us.

      I don’t know what a reasonable or realistic goal for national wealth distribution would be, only the ideal: a relatively equal distribution. I know that such a thing is not now, nor will ever be, possible to achieve, for a lot of reasons, including that some folks will always work harder than other folks and thus deserve more. How much more do they deserve? Beats me.

      I only know that in order to provide the opportunities you and I agree are necessary, it costs a lot of money. It also costs a lot of money to keep the government doing other things for us, like inspecting our food and water; funding basic scientific research, supervising air travel; protecting us from enemies abroad and criminals at home; and keeping poor children, the sick and disabled, and the elderly from dying in the streets. In short, it costs a lot of money to keep America a desirable place to live for all.

      And it is only fair—only fair—to ask those who have the resources, who for whatever reason have benefited the most from this bountiful land, to pay higher tax rates than those who have benefited less. How much higher? That is, inevitably, a political question that will always have evolving answers because of a changing polity.

      But I suggest that we pay more attention to the growing divide between wealthy Americans and everyone else while there is still time to narrow the divide without recourse to more drastic measures, which will undoubtedly come when social instability becomes impossible to manage with a simple tweak of the tax code. As Justice Louis Brandeis famously said,

      We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.

      The relatively tiny progressivity involved in the restoration of the Clinton high-end marginal tax rates—which irritates Mitch McConnell so much he feels it necessary to slander liberals—is just one fix among many that should follow.

      Duane

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