THE GROUP—TO SAVE SPACESHIP EARTH—EPISODE FOUR

THE GROUP—TO SAVE SPACESHIP EARTH

INTERNET EPISODE FOUR

The Group: To Save Spaceship Earth is a novel work in progress. While settings, plots, theories, objects, and narratives in this novel may be analogous to what has happened in various realities around Spaceship Earth, the names of characters cast herein are fictional. All parts of this novel will be published in the Effective Learning Report at various intervals on the internet, subject to revision at any time, hopefully culminating in a final print edition offered for sale to the public.

Richard John Stapleton, Writer, Editor, and Publisher

Copyright 2020 by Effective Learning Publications. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be copied or printed on paper without permission. Share on the internet as you wish.

If you want to refresh yourself about what supposedly happened in earlier episodes, go to the following website addresses:

Internet Episode 1, https://blog.effectivelearning.net/the-group-to-save-spaceship-earth-part-1/.   

Internet Episode 2, https://blog.effectivelearning.net/the-group-to-save-spaceship-earth-episode-2/.

Internet Episode 3, https://blog.effectivelearning.net/the-group-to-save-spaceship-earth-episode-three/.

The Truther selected Henry.

Henry—“Before we change the subject I would like to say there are plenty of folks these days who do not believe in any kind of god or religion, at least not a normal kind of religion.  Apparently some scientists believe it is possible the universe just happened from, poof, a big bang, caused by nothing, a spontaneous explosion, ten to twelve billion years ago, spewing gases, matter, electrons and what have you in all directions causing billions of galaxies of stars to form, some with planets, including ours, Earth.  I cannot imagine how such a thing could have happened but we know for a fact the universe exists and contains billions of stars and probably millions of planets.  It seems obvious to me a human-like creature called god could not have possibly created the universe.  If a god did it he, she or it had to be nothing like a human being.  There is no way in hell a human-like creature could do such a thing.”

Rout—“Ok, any other comments about religion before we move on?”

Matilda—“There are people who believe there is a god but it is nothing like the typical god of a mainstream religion, a jealous, vengeful father-like figure making his children obey and love him to earn the privilege living with him in heaven forever. 

       “They believe this god is rational and loves people unconditionally.  They believe this god really understands why people do what they do, how they are caused to be what they are and do what they do, feeling sorry for humans, but not judging them, making no pretense of being all-powerful or all-loving, that sort of thing.

       “Some of these people also believe in an afterlife of total bliss and happiness.  Frankly, I don’t believe in this sort of thing.  I think when you die the electricity in your brain is shut off and nothing works from then on.  You are like an unplugged computer, except your biological parts disintegrate and decay to nothing.  It’s like having a dreamless sleep from then on.”

Luke—“I now see, my lord, with all my heart, I am in the midst of unbelievers and deceivers, foolish men and women who dare to question your holy word thinking in their hearts they are superior to your word and your sacred gospels, full of pride and vainglory, on the road to hell.  I pray for their immortal souls and I beseech you to have mercy upon them.  In Jesus’s name.  Amen.”

Steve—“For whatever it’s worth, I don’t think it does any good to talk about religion.  Seems like no one ever really changes his mind about religion.  People believe whatever their parents believed, they get brainwashed into it at an early age, and they pretend to believe it from then on, however simple minded it might have been.  I don’t think most people professing to be religious really know diddly-squat about religions, or anything else for that matter.  All they know are a few sayings they have picked up here and there, such as Jesus loves you and such, or hell is hot and you better get right with god.  Almost none of them ever read the Bible they hold so sacred to see what it really says.

       “I would like to bring our discussion down to earth and talk about what I consider the most relevant problem facing us today, the erosion and decay of family-owned small businesses in the US. I work in our family business.  We manufacture metal stock tanks, hog feeders and other products for farmers.  We have been in business over 50 years.  I have a degree in business and I would like to continue the family business and pass it on to my children.

       “Up to the past few years we did not have that much foreign competition, for various reasons, transportation costs were too high, foreigners did not understand our technology and processes, whatever.  But now we do have serious foreign competition, thanks to NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and we may not be around much longer.  We still make a profit, albeit a declining one, and our sales are going down. It’s almost impossible for small American manufacturers to compete with products made in low-wage countries.

       “Thousands of small manufacturing businesses like ours have been driven out of business in the US since 1980, and especially since NAFTA was passed in 1993.  And now we have to contend with problems caused by Trump’s trade war that caused the price of some of our raw materials to go up, while giving little relief from our foreign competition in our markets.

       “It may get to where there are no small family owned manufacturing businesses like ours left in the US. Thousands have been wiped out in the last 30 years. I’m worried sick about it, worried about my future and our family and worried about the future of our employees, who we really do care about.

       “Seems like there are no answers.  The problem has been getting worse and worse for years and it just keeps getting worse.  As much as I hate to say it, I think we would be better off with tariffs to protect our manufacturers and workers.  There are billions of poor people in the world willing to work for a pittance compared to what Americans have been paid, and if you allow free trade around the world American wages will inevitably gravitate down to the lowest level, if the companies they work for can stay in business.

       “This is already going on.  We still have some car manufacturing in the US, but wages for automobile workers are now about half what they used to be.  I read the other day an Indian textile company with 12 plants in India is now setting up a textile mill in a small Georgia town in the US to make yarn using American workers, in a town that had an American-owned textile mill up until five or so years ago.  At the ground breaking ceremony with the Georgia governor the Indian owner of the new plant, to be built from scratch on some industrial park, said his people had figured out with tax breaks, low land cost, and transportation advantages they could make a profit using American workers still living in the town that were laid off five years ago.  No mention was made of what kind of wages are to be paid, but you can bloody well bet they won’t be as high as they were in the American mill that shut down. 

       “America is being thirdworldized.  Wages in US manufacturing are being driven down toward the average level of the whole world, apparently now on a par with India.  Maybe manufacturing will return to the US, but if it does, America will begin to look more and more like India, with a rich corrupt political and economic elite at the top, a small percentage of doctors, lawyers, engineers and such and untold millions of poor people living in abject poverty and squalor.

       “Things got better in the US from about 1950 to 1980, but it’s been downhill ever since for everyone but the elite rich, and it remains to be seen how far we’ll fall before we hit bottom.

       “I recommend bringing back tariffs to protect US wages and manufacturing, and punishing US companies with much higher taxes for abandoning their employees and facilities in the US and sending US jobs overseas.”

Helen—“As you know nurses don’t make that much money, and we work hard for our money.  My take home pay has stayed about the same for a long time.  I get a raise every now and then and I don’t complain.  I enjoy helping people.  But I also don’t need higher taxes and tariffs to keep my job.  I worked to get an education and built my skill set to where I was worth something to an employer.  Anybody in America can still do that.  All it takes is being willing to work hard and get yourself the training you need to make yourself worth something to an employer.  I don’t understand why people expect taxpayers to keep on spending more and more money on welfare to help people when they can help themselves.  I think we should lower taxes, not make them worse.  And I don’t think we need a minimum wage. You ought to be paid what you’re worth, not what the government says you’re worth.”

Steve—“I agree with you about the minimum wage but I don’t think the problem is people not being able to work hard and get training.  It does no good to get training for a job that does not exist.”

Jimmy—“I agree with you, Steve, about the working hard part, but I strongly disagree about the minimum wage part.  As you may recall from our initial introductions, I am a labor union organizer.  I deal with these problems day in and day out, and I agree with much of what Steve said about the most relevant problem today being the outsourcing of American jobs.  Whew, where do you start?  This problem has been around in some form, but got going in earnest after Ronald Reagan got elected in 1980.  The root cause is greed and inhumanity to man on the part of rich capitalists, not caring about your fellow man, only caring about your own selfish hide.  On the other hand, you have the satisfied bystanders like Helen who do not have a clue what it is like to work in an industrial or big business setting as a wage earner alongside thousands of other workers doing jobs requiring specialized skills that can only be learned on the job.  Most people who have never worked in places like this have no idea what it feels like to be treated like a machine and watched over constantly by a supervisor who is paid for his blind obedience to a boss who is paid a salary to force those below him, or her, to work as hard and long as possible, for as little money as possible.

       “Skill sets, my ass, you don’t need a damn skill set to work in most businesses as a worker.  All you need is the ability to remember a few mental and manual manipulations peculiar to your job.  And this is true pretty much all the way up to the top, except in staff areas, such as engineering, accounting, marketing, law and such.  All general supervisors and managers all the way to the top spend the vast majority of their time simply watching others, bullshooting with cronies, brownnosing with bosses, and enforcing rules and regulations passed down to them by their bosses.  About the only skill set you need is the ability to talk and do what you are told.  As to so-called higher order thinking skills, forget that.  Nobody thinks in a corporation, except maybe those at the very top at times, but even they spend most of the time bullshootng and brownnosing, which are, I suppose, skills, the most important skills there are in business for those making the most money.

       “As to being paid what you are worth, who the hell knows how much someone is worth?  Do you really think you’re worth $5,000 a month to sit here and bullshit six hours one day a month?  Give me a break!  You are paid what you are paid because some idiot has decided to pay you that much, and this has nothing to do with what you are really worth.  Do you really think a corporate CEO can be worth $20 million a year?  You think you are well paid at $5,000 a day?  Some CEOs are paid $100,000 a day for bullshooting and brownnosing.

       “Worth what to whom?  You are worth a lot to your children and pets if you have any, since they depend on you and need you, but how much are you really worth?  Especially to a large corporation that could care less what you’re really worth, a heartless, soulless institution existing for the sole purpose of enriching its stockholders and higher management as much as possible by paying everyone else working for the place as little as possible, with every manager and supervisor in the joint being rewarded for putting the screws to everyone below them in the chain of command, or what I call the chain of obedience.  You think corporations are free and democratic?  Think again.  There’s almost no freedom in a corporation.  Prisons are freer than corporations, since inmates in prison can think for themselves.  Inmates in corporations can only think for the corporation.  The corporation owns your mind and brain when you are supposedly at work, even after work sometimes.

       “Corporations are freer than prisons mainly in the sense workers can go home at night, and move around in corporate facilities during the day in some cases, and do whatever they want after they get home, and they can quit any time they want, assuming they can find another job, which is damn near impossible for about half the people in the US right now who would like to work if they could find a job paying a livable wage. So most people working for corporations are not free to quit any time they might want to. Sure, they can quit any time they want to, and ruin themselves financially.

       “And those unemployed people are not able to find jobs because they are lazy and don’t have ‘skill sets’.  No, they can’t find jobs because jobs do not exist.  Some jobs do require so-called skilled sets, such as nursing jobs, and there might be some openings for those kinds of jobs now in the US, but I’ll assure you there aren’t enough of them.  No, dammit, we don’t need jobs requiring skill sets, we need jobs anyone can learn on the job that provide a decent income, like we used to have, if we are to have a decent country, like we used to have in the US. 

       “And I’ll assure you, you need people like me who will work to make sure ordinary workers are paid as much as possible by people who are out to pay them as little as possible, and your real worth be damned.

       “That’s just the way the system works, my friends.  The capitalist system that is.”

Harrison—“I’m angry and insulted.  I happen to be a corporate CEO and I can tell you this fellow is straight out of lulu land. Sounds like a commie.  Yes, corporate CEOs are paid a lot because they are worth a lot. Most of them are so valuable they could leave at any time and find similar paying jobs working for competitors. The market sets the price for anyone in the real world.  You are paid what you are worth in the market, and the only way you can find out what you are worth is try to sell yourself in the market.  Whatever you are able sell yourself for is what you are worth in reality.

       “On the other hand I don’t think any CEO is worth $100,000 a day, as this union sympathizer just told you.

       “As to a union sympathizer like you being able to raise the wages of workers, you might be able to raise them to some extent in a company that has excess profits, but in a competitive business with a standard profit margin there is no way you can go in there and significantly raise wages without ruining the company.  Significantly higher wages all of a sudden will cause the company to significantly raise prices for what it produces which will cause it to go broke because it will not be able to sell what it produces.

       “If a company is producing something in global markets its labor costs can’t be significantly higher than the labor costs of any competing company in any country or it will go out of business because nobody will buy what they produce. Too expensive.  If wages are lower in other countries than US living standards if you have free competition then goods in that industry cannot be produced in the US or the living standards of US workers must be reduced to the level of the foreign workers they are competing with.  That is the truth of the matter, my friends. 

Jimmy—“I’m so sorry you’re angry Harrison.  It’s a real shame someone as high and mighty as you would be subjected to my opinions.

       “By the way, I’m a union organizer not a union sympathizer.  As to your monetary pay being what you can sell yourself for in the market, I agree completely.  If there are plenty of jobs your pay will go up.  If there are no jobs you receive nothing, but that is not what you are worth as a human being, and what you receive has nothing to do with skill sets or what you are really worth. You are a mere commodity paid what supply and demand in the market determines.  Corporate CEOs are not paid millions of dollars per year for skill sets. They are paid as much as they are as bribes and hush money to make sure they enforce rules, regulations, policies and procedures that enrich their higher ups writing their paychecks, making sure the higher ups are paid what they want at the expense of underlings in the system.  In other words CEOs are paid as much as they are for having a greedy grasping dependable loyal system, with respect to those who write the checks, not skill sets.

       “As to no CEO being worth $100,000 a day, I could not agree more, but I happen to know some of them are paid more than that, counting all their pay, salary, stock options, profit sharing, what have you.  I saw in USA Today several years ago an article in which they reported a CEO had been paid $33 million that year.  I figured out that was about $100,000 a day.  How many days a year do they work, 300 maybe?  You do the math.”

Helen—“I don’t believe it.  Nobody could be paid that much.”

Steve—“Well, I can tell you nobody in our family subchapter S corporation makes anywhere near that much.  I’ll be lucky to take out $100,000 this year, as president, CEO, and owner for a year’s work.

       “I agree part of the problem is that people at the top are paid too much, but that is a minor part of the overall problem I brought up.  CEOs being paid too much is not causing family-owned manufacturing businesses to be wiped out.”

Bob—“A lot of people think we physicians make a lot of money, but it’s nothing compared to what some of these CEOs make.  I saw on the Internet the other day that the CEO of Walmart had been paid some $116 million dollars in one year in what they called performance pay.  That would work out to over $300,000 per day..

       “The highest paid physician I ever knew was an old fraternity brother of mine, a cardiologist.  He developed such a reputation as a chest surgeon that he could sit in his office and cut deals with rich prospective patients.  He said a billionaire once offered him so much money to travel to the home country of the billionaire to operate on him that it took his breath away.  I assume it must have been a million or more dollars for one surgery.

       “But I assure you that is not going to happen to most doctors.  In fact some of them are having a hard time of it now, paying back their student loans and finding good situations.”

Julia—“That can’t be right.  Why that’s insane!  Nobody could be paid that much for one day’s work.  You must have made some sort of arithmetic mistake.”

Mikhail—“I happen to be an accountant, and I have my calculator with me, which I just used to do the math.  If you divide $116 million by 300, which is probably about all the days a CEO works per year, the answer comes out to be $386,666 per day.”

Adam—“I think you have a pretty good grasp of things, Steve, especially your thesis that the worst hit of all have been small manufacturing operations in the US, that were essentially sold down the river by NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, and, I might add, by most economists and politicians.

       “Adam Smith back in the eighteenth century published his seminal economics book An Inquiry Into The Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in which he discussed the benefits of free trade among nations.  He essentially argued all nations and peoples would become wealthier if free trade, and unfettered competition, existed among nations, since this would cause all nations to specialize in producing raw materials, goods and services at the lowest prices since competition would force them to produce what they had the greatest comparative advantage for producing, which would also cause the yearly output to be maximized, the assumption being the more goods and services produced, the greater the wealth of nations, and, presumably, the citizens therein.

       “This makes for a good story and it made The Wealth of Nations one of the most famous books in history, the most famous economics book.  It may be true that free trade and unfettered competition would maximize production, but we will never know for sure because it will never happen and never has happened.  There have always been trade restrictions, tariffs, subsidies, quotas and what have you, in the US and whereever.  Recent trade agreements have reduced or eliminated some of them, but free trade, even today is a myth.  The US has all sorts of tariffs and so does every other country.  NAFTA, the North America Free Trade Agreement eliminated some of them and bilateral trade agreements with China and others have eliminated some of them, and, it seems this has caused the problem Steve alerted us to, namely the loss of manufacturing jobs in the US, caused by smaller US manufacturing businesses forced into bankruptcy by foreign competition, and by the outsourcing of US manufacturing jobs by large corporations.

       “Whether the elimination of trade restrictions has caused the wealth of nations to be reduced is doubtful.  It may they have actually increased the wealth of nations and people. More goods may actually have been produced for more people.

       “The problem for Steve and people like him in the US is that they paid the price of the progress.  Their incomes and wealth went down so the incomes of and wealth of the poor in third world countries could go up, and so the incomes and wealth of American CEOs and stockholders could go up.  The incomes and wealth of CEOs and stockholders of large corporations went up because of the outsourcing of US manufacturing jobs brought about by replacing high wage blue collar jobs in the US with slave-labor-equivalent blue collar jobs in impoverished countries.

       “Was this fair? Well, it turns out, fairness is in the eye of the beholder. Was it fair some of the dirt poor of poor countries should have their incomes increased by freer trade and competition between the US and its trading partners? Yes, of course. Was it fair the US CEOs and their bosses and stockholders who made this happen should have their incomes and wealth increased significantly, while workers of the US had theirs decreased? No, it’s not fair, but that’s the way things go under dog-eat-dog capitalism.

       “Obviously, something went wrong, or maybe a lot of things went wrong. Should US tariffs be reinstated as Steve recommends to correct this unfairness?  That is a tough one.  Maybe a little, maybe not, depending on how you look at it.  But one thing is for sure; we need new rules and regulations to deal with this in the US, such as higher taxes on large corporations and the rich who reaped the windfall they fostered, and something should be done to improve the plight of those cast aside.  We need a jobs program to provide decent jobs providing decent incomes in the US for those cast aside, ordinary workers, as Jimmy called them.

       “I agree there is no way millions of unemployed people are going to learn new skills and magically find millions of unfilled job openings out there.  This is absurd.  Those openings do not exist. The jobs do not exist because aggregate demand is not high enough to cause entrepreneurs to create new products and services that would make enough jobs happen. The major problem since 1980 or so is that US economic policies enacted by US politicians have kept aggregate demand low, by decreasing the taxes of the rich and increasing military expenses, and not investing in domestic infrastructure and social programs, which has caused federal debt to explode. Monetary policy has been used instead of fiscal policy to take care of the Wall Street economy, not the main street economy. 

       “The unemployment problem is actually much worse than the officially stated employment rate, since the number of people officially defined as unemployed by the US government is people currently looking for work, not counting those who know it would do no good to look for jobs that do not exist. There are millions of unemployed people in the US who have given up looking for a job, who are not counted as unemployed. And there are millions more who would work if jobs existed. The actual labor force participation rate in the US for over ten years has been about 60 percent.

       “The only way this can be cured anytime soon is by creating a massive government funded jobs program in the US creating infrastructure jobs that will put incomes in the hands of ordinary workers who will spend the money with small businesses, including small manufacturers and construction companies, that will create a multiplier effect sufficient to produce economic growth and full employment.

       “Economic conditions during the Obama and Trump administrations markedly improved for the rich, and some jobs have been created for the poor, but the situation for millions remains dire. What’s especially ominous is there are no signs the situation will be significantly improved for the middle and lower classes anytime soon.

       “Unfortunately most of the new money created by the Fed wound up in the hands of bankers and the rich, who saved the money, much of it being moved offshore to tax havens in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere. If you want to significantly stimulate economic growth and help the poor you need to put new money in the hands of the poor, not the rich.

       “That’s what I recommend.”

END OF EPISODE FOUR

To be continued…

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