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Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

Ms. Klein would have us believe that the diabolical right-wing machine has used home ownership and stock ownership as tools to entice working-class people to vote for right-wing politicians against their real economic interest. The truth is more nuanced. The right is not a monolith--clearly some in it are willing to use any policy necessary to secure political advantage, while others are motivated by an idealistic desire to raise more people into the middle class. Not every right wing policy maker is a Karl Rove or a Tom DeLay, and I would certainly not put Grover Norquist in that camp.

More and more Americans are starting to understand that the strident claims of both sides are much akin to the commercials for light beer. It is time for the politicians and pundits to grow up and start to synthesize: the right needs to acknowledge that there is no returning to 1929--that progressive policies have helped to create wealth and improve our society. The left needs to acknowledge that "the free-market system" is a provident money cow that needs to be maintained and nurtured--and both sides need to agree that means must be found to more equitably distribute its "milk".

The political debate would become so more intelligent and satisfying if it started there.

Ethan Boger

Blue Ash, OH

Feb 4 2008 - 4:46pm

Web Letter

The cult of free-market capitalism had a long run this time around, and damaged or destroyed hundreds of millions of lives from here to Jakarta. But its adherents continue to offer us the Kool-Aid of deregulation, tax-free societies, limitless opportunity, a nation of self-governing freeholders.

The enduring seductive power of this cluster of delusions disheartens me. The democratic left has always overestimated the influence of reason in human affairs. The rightists have proven to be wiser. They have even managed to convince their supporters they are not, like chimpanzees and baboons, descended from tree shrews.

Barry Blitstein

New York, NY

Feb 4 2008 - 8:55am

Web Letter

This was a good piece of writing. The American people believe that big business and the multinationals have declared war on them. The only purpose of "free trade" is to drive down wages, and they rightly see the outsourcing of their industries and jobs overseas for cheap labor as an attack on their middle-class life style. Class warfare came from the top and not from the bottom.

For example, as a result of NAFTA, we also see many jobs and industries going to Mexico and Central America. The trailer division of Fleetwood moved from Rialto, California to Mexicali just over the border. In Rialto they payed their workers $20 an hour. In Mexicali, Mexican workers are payed $3 an hour. The American workers who lost their jobs were of Mexican descent.

There was a fairly recent story from the New York Times News service about a California Agribusiness owner taking his "fifty-million-dollar business" to Mexico "because" he couldn't find enough workers in California. Poor fellow! He paid field workers $9 a day in California, but his labor costs were reduced by paying Mexicans, in their own land, $11 a day. The low cost of labor soon made up his start-up cost. He was quoted in the article wondering why the same Mexican workers didn't work as well in Mexico as in the United States.

Oddly enough, cheap labor in Mexico drives down the wages of Undocumented workers in the United States as well as American citizens.

Also, this sub-prime mess has stopped new construction, and many undocumented workers lost their jobs and returned home. However, I read recently that Mexico is having a building boom so there may be jobs there, but at lower wages, of course. "Free trade" drives wages down everywhere.

Without jobs, immigration reform may become a moot point.

Pervis J. Casey

Riverside, CA

Feb 2 2008 - 11:53pm

Web Letter

What do we see on every single mutual fund prospectus? The words: "Past performance is not a guarantee of future return."

To gainsay Ms. Klein on the basis of the past performance of the stock market, even over the long term, is to deny a few realities that are going to make this market downturn long, deep and cruel.

Energy resources are static. This is key to all economic production. We are twenty years away from a real solution and, even worse, our leaders have no political will to solve it. Population however, is certainly not static.

Deregulation has fueled unprecidented corruption and speculation. Even that fantasy magazine The Economist finally now admits that there are more revelations to come.

Despite conservative's insistance on a "free market--free from government regulation--they scream for government help when deregulated banks fail due to greedy and ill-advised policies. Governments seem all too happy to help. We cannot have a system of "semi-free" markets, where they are free until the inevitable downturn and then rescued with your tax money, without paying a severe and deep price one day.

All three of these events have hit at once. Naomi Klein points out the inevitable conclusion of property once owned and now lost: disillusionment with the system. Why is that such a hard concept to accept? Surely her article is closer to the truth than a reliance on continuing oil exploration, deregulation, and welfare hand-outs to greedy investors that overreach their assets.

B. Todd Huffman

Kidlington, United Kingdom

Feb 2 2008 - 3:52pm

Web Letter

There are so many holes in this article it's hard to know where to begin. First off, the government doesn't give cues--rather, it issues not-so-veiled threats that banks offer these loans with the promise of massive lawsuits if they "leave out" or red line too many poor minorities. Of course, these minorities were never going to be able to pay back the loans when the government devalued the money in their pockets with massive fiat printing and borrowing to pay for useless programs, but she ignores this salient point.

Furthermore, stock ownership should not be seen as earnings to live off of but rather as a savings program to cash out years later when tax rates will be lower on retirement incomes. It's a good thing some wise investors have their stocks now to pay the mortgage, huh?

Finally, the privatization of Social Security has always been prevented by those who fear it will work and show the Ponzi scheme for what it is--a point of demagogic nonsense to uninformed lovers of redistribution. If it were implemented, perhaps this new ownership class would truly rise up as proud members of a different stripe--namely, capitalists.

Mark Wells

Los Gatos , CA

Jan 31 2008 - 8:50pm

Web Letter

Of course, the implication of what Klein says is that "progressives" (read: paleosocialists) need class division to exist in order to plunder the riches of the wealthy.

What I don't understand is why in Klein's world, the only way to help people out of poverty is to force other people to surrender their wealth to the poor. The "ownership society" concept is a far more optimistic and realistic path to financial security, as it aims to give poor folks the same tools that wealthy folks use to become wealthy, and to stay wealthy!

Actually, I do understand. Just like any other "progressive," Klein needs the existence of a class divide so that she can become wealthy by writing garbage fictions about the great class divide. Without poor folks, she wouldn't have a market.

Jeremy Peters

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Jan 31 2008 - 8:37pm

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