Oh the poor rich people.
GOP pollster Frank Luntz invented — or at least popularized — the term "job creators." He invented a lot of terms, mostly for the purpose of engendering empathy towards and identification with the rich, but "job creators" was certainly one of the more insidious. Starting in 2012, in response to the Occupy Wall Street movement and growing resentment towards capitalism, Luntz started advocating that Republicans repeat the mantra "You don't create jobs by making life difficult for job creators" over and over again. He advised them to stop using terms like "entrepreneur" and "innovator" and instead use "job creator" and "small business owner" (even though the policies they advocated for tended to help "large business owners" instead).
It was largely successful. Public sentiment swung back around to people feeling like they couldn't do or say anything to "make things difficult" for "job creators" else they would take all of the jobs away.
In a 2019 memorandum obtained by Salon, Luntz warned Republicans that public sentiment was once again turning against the rich, and people were starting to want to make things less difficult for themselves. Which, really, is just rude.
Reporting on the results of a survey he conducted, commissioned by lobbying groups Family Enterprise USA and the Policy and Tax Group, Luntz delivered the bad news — there is a "War on the Successful." Americans are pissed off at rich people, think the rich are gaming the system (which, you know, they are), think CEOs get paid too much and low-wage workers get paid too little ... and they want health care and subsidized college.
His first piece of advice was to abandon the term "capitalism" entirely and replace it with "freedom," because people hate capitalism now. Noting that "just 31% of Americans self-identify themselves as capitalists," Luntz says this "stems from the perception of growing wealth inequality and the sense that the rich have rigged the political and economic systems to their benefit."
Now, if I were in charge of things, which I am not, I would suggest that if the rich don't want people to think they have rigged the political and economic systems to their benefit, they should stop rigging political and economic systems to their benefit. It seems like a simple answer. Though I suppose not as simple as "replace all your 'capitalisms' with 'freedoms')
Luntz also notes, interestingly, that people don't much like the terms "free enterprise" or "free market" either. Possibly because of how those things have fucked us all.
The peasants (us) are apparently also making things hard for "job creators" who don't want to pay their employees a living wage.
There is significant support for paying all working people a 'living wage' regardless of whether they work or not, and it will be easy for the Democrats to conflate this with the minimum wage to garner additional support. Big government spending proposals like tuition-free college and universal healthcare now have majority support – even as the same Americans say they prefer lower taxes, less government spending and less government. The Left has realized that if they are specific in who benefits…and make sure that only the rich pay … they win.
Yes, weirdly, given the choice between "being able to call an ambulance in an emergency" and "not inconveniencing a very rich person with a tax they don't like," most people will choose the former. People also want their kids to go to school and to be able to earn a living and think it's probably bad that 44 percent of all Americans are not earning enough to live on while Jeff Bezos is getting a bunch of government money so he can fly to the moon and be a Jetson or whatever.
Profit itself is becoming a problem, with majorities of both Trump and Clinton voters now agree that some companies' profits are simply not justifiable. And for the first time, the public is ready to put limits on corporate executive pay. The anti-corporate sentiment that first arose in the early 2000s has reached the point where pay and profit cap legislation might generate majority support. That's a first in America.
It should seem fairly obvious that the problem here is not "messaging" so much as "this set-up is not working for people."
According to Luntz "the only hope" is that people don't think the problem is that the rich are bad people, but that the system that created them is bad.
Taxing the rich has broad bipartisan appeal. Yes, even Republicans support it. The only hope: the public doesn't dislike or begrudge the rich for their success. It's the flawed system they have come to hate. The source of the problem: wealth inequality.
Across partisan lines, there is a deep and growing anger that the wealthy are gaming the system. The "lawyers, lobbyists and loopholes" messaging that we have used to attack the Left is now being turned on the right. There is evening growing support for the AOC proposal to raise the top marginal tax rate for the top 1% to 70%, as well as the 2% wealth tax among people who have $10 million or more proposed by Elizabeth Warren. Expect even more anti-wealthy tax proposals in the coming months as the Democratic primary lurches even further left.
Yes, again, people are poor and they don't like it. And they're not going to go "Oh wow, that rich person seems like a super nice guy, guess I should take a hit here and go without dinner, rather than him Godforbid having to pay some money in taxes."
The conclusion here, for Luntz, is there "the people" are going to need to be reeducated into believing that the system is fair and rich people are great and the way they became rich was fair. Of course, actually making that system fair is exactly what Republicans don't want.
Perhaps the conclusion for the rest of us should be that left-wing ideas are a whole lot more popular than guys like Frank Luntz would like us all to think.
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We got some labor history for you!
On June 11, 1352, a series of trials were held against laborers from Wiltshire, England who had violated a 1349 ordinance that decreed that all laborers must accept the wages they had received in 1346. This is a rare specific date when we can look at the economic impact of the Black Death and how the workers who survived sought to take advantage to improve their financial standing.
The impact of the bubonic plague upon Europe was truly amazing. Somewhere between 75 and 200 million people died in Eurasia, mostly in Europe between 1347 and 1351, killing between 30 and 60 percent of Europe's population. World population actually plunged by about 25 percent and did not return to the pre-plague levels until the mid-16th century. In areas such as southern France, southern Spain, and Italy, historians estimate that up to 80 percent of the population died. About 40 percent of Egypt's population died. It was 50 percent in Paris and 60 percent in Hamburg and London. And of course, waves of plague, not quite as deadly as the initial round but still devastating, rolled through Europe every few years into the 17th century. Half of Naples died in a 1656 outbreak, as an example.
The impacts of the Black Death upon society were far-reaching. In short, it destabilized everything. The authority of priests declined and fundamentalist religious movements sprung up that began challenging the church generally and began laying the way for the Reformation. Anti-Semitic attacks rose. The impact on family structure can hardly be overstated in areas where a large majority of people died. The Plague not only decimated workers, but for those who survived, it gave them more power due to the labor shortage. The farm economy at the backbone of medieval Europe was effectively destroyed. This caused a great deal of consternation to landlords, nobles, and the crown. Writings appeared that nostalgically longed for the days when peasants knew their place and demanded nothing, a very different world than after 1348. One lord in Norfolk, England lost sixty percent of his workers as peasants demanded better conditions and sometimes left the land entirely. Moreover, dead peasants paid no rent and did not labor. Inflation rose as the survivors each had more gold and silver for themselves as a portion of the economy–after all, the coins didn't die of plague. Slowly, landlords moved away from labor-intensive grain production and more toward livestock, which required fewer workers.
In England, the state responded by attempting to freeze labor in place, though it was largely fighting a losing battle. The 1349 law referenced above ordered servants and hired laborers to accept the same wages they had received in 1346. It also required craftsmen and tradesmen to charge the same prices they had in the same year. Evidently, this law was not closely followed, for in 1351, the Statue of Laborers was created that created the ability to prosecute workers for violating the law. And there were a lot of violations. In 1352, 642 people were prosecuted in Wiltshire alone. The documents survive and we have quite a bit of information. A man named John Laurok left the service of a man in Oxfordshire. He was fined six pence. Quite a few people were paid in grain at rates significantly higher than 1346, sometimes receiving twice as much. Richard the Cobbler of Clack Mount charged more for his shoes. When the bailiff went to arrest him, he fled, so when he finally was arrested, he faced a contempt of court charge in addition to violating the economic laws. He plead guilty and was fined two marks (twenty-six shillings and eight pence).
Many women were also charged. Brewing was a largely female job at this time and 24 percent of the cases were brewers or tapsters, also a female position. Four women–Edith Paiers, Alice Dounames, Edith Lange, and Isbael Purs–were all fined six pence each for receiving an extra six pence for reaping corn into sheaves. What is also notable is that this was a law–not surprisingly–that punished workers but not the people paying them. Only one person in Wiltshire was charged with offering higher wages to induce a worker to violate the law.
Some workers were acquitted. William le Coupere of Elcombe accepted offers of extra money from several men, violating the law. But the jury acquitted him, even though the official record notes that he lied under oath about it.
In other parts of Europe, the ability to keep labor in place was better organized. Catalonia for instance had already placed new restrictions on peasants and used violence and harsh financial penalties to allow them no new rights or mobility during the plague. But more nations struggled with the newfound labor demands. France for instance had enacted a similar law in 1349 but had to revise it in 1351 to permit a wage increase of 1/3 because it was just not a workable law due to peasants just ignoring it because they could.
The other thing notable about all of this is that nearly everything has a labor history. Work is a central part of our lives. It might not be as important as breathing and eating since those are biological functions, but it is a central organizing principle of nearly every society that has ever existed on this planet. That work can take place in a variety of forms, but work is as important to our society as marriage or education or ceremonies around death.
Why It Matters:
This story is…surprisingly relevant today! Our own pandemic, while nowhere near as devastating as the Black Death, has also given low-wage workers more labor power than they have had in a long time. Workers by the millions are rethinking whether they want to go back to low-wage crap jobs where they are treated like dirt. Uber and Lyft are having trouble finding drivers. Grocery delivery services struggle to find shoppers. Fast food restaurants are short-staffed. There's a good reason—those jobs suck. The pandemic relief packages gave workers some choices in their lives and some time to rethink their position in the economy. They are seeking better work now. We see Republicans and employers freaking out about this. States such as Florida and Texas are cutting off enhanced unemployment benefits early to force laborers back into bad jobs. Employers are complaining that workers aren't being good "team members," as if that was ever anything than just doing whatever the boss wants with a cheery smile and broken soul. Restaurant owners are whining about—GASP!—having to train workers on the job instead of relying on their preexisting skills.
As it turns out, global disease epidemics are a moment that sometimes give workers extra power over their lives, so long as they survive. Most did in 2020-21. Most did not in 1348-52. But those that do survive enter into a transformed labor market. The extent to which they can make those changes permanent, at least in the present, depends on how our politics seek to empower or discipline those workers. We should fight for the former.
I borrowed from John Aberth, ed., The Black Death: The Great Mortality of 1348-1350: A Brief History with Documents, for the writing of this post. It includes the material from England. I highly recommend this reader for teaching relevant topics. I use it in my Global Environmental History course. This is also a useful site with lots of detailed information about the economic impact of the plague. I borrowed a little bit of detail from here, but there's much more for you to find.
Editorial Note: This was supposed to go up yesterday, but someone (Rebecca) forgot! Our apologies!
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A burrito is about to be FOUR PERCENT more expensive!
Back when the pandemic first started and people legitimately could not go to work, we quickly learned that the most "essential" jobs outside of medical work were the retail and food service jobs that pay workers minimum wage or close to it. We learned that we actually cannot function without people doing those jobs — and it occurred to some of us that those people, being so essential, probably deserve to earn enough to live on.
Many of the people who realized this were, in fact, the people working those jobs — which is why they're not super interested in working them anymore if they can't earn a living wage while doing so.
This week, Chipotle announced that it will be raising prices by as much as four percent in order to be able to pay employees more money, due to an inability to find people willing to work for as little money as they had been paying previously. This means that my chicken burrito bowl might now cost $8.26 instead of $7.95, both of which are more than the national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Oh, the horror.
Via New York Times:
In May, in an effort to hire 20,000 employees in a tight labor market, Chipotle said it was raising wages and would pay workers from $11 to $18 an hour.
"We really prefer not to" raise prices, Chipotle's chief executive, Brian Niccol, said Tuesday at the Baird Global Consumer, Technology and Services conference. "But it made sense in this scenario to invest in our employees and get these restaurants staffed and make sure we had the pipeline of people to support our growth."
Naturally, Republicans are outraged. They can hardly believe that poor people would be so incredibly rude and selfish as to ask for more money to work. They are convinced that the thing that brought this on is Democrats giving Americans enough to live on during the pandemic and now those people would like to have enough to live on all of the time. American wages are going up, and they will not stand for it.
Mike Berg, the spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee responded to the news on Wednesday, saying "Democrats' socialist stimulus bill caused a labor shortage and now burrito lovers everywhere are footing the bill." At, again, maybe 30 cents extra per burrito, just like Marx called for.
Now, I'm going to point something out here. The national minimum wage has not increased since 2009. That's now 12 years, the longest stretch with no increase, ever. You know what has gone up in that time? The price of a burrito at Chipotle. In fact, here is a picture of their menu from back in 2012, where you can see that a burrito was $5.70. Which is less than the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
What is pretty interesting however, is that, as Ken Klippenstein pointed out on Twitter, "price increases are blamed on modest wage increases instead of executive compensation."
Despite "abysmal sales" at the beginning of the pandemic, the top five bosses at the company earned $64 million in bonuses — raking in more than double what they had received the previous year. Notice that no one (well, no Republican) says "These rich guys are getting $64 million and burrito lovers are footing the bill!"
The changes added $23.6 million to Chief Executive Officer Brian Niccol's total compensation, pushing his 2020 pay to $38 million, more than double what he received in 2019. Four other bosses, including Chief Financial Officer Jack Hartung, also saw their compensation more than double from the prior year.
About 1,000 other Chipotle employees whom we can assume are not "Crew Members" also got some pretty nice bonuses that we can assume were probably several times more than $13,000, the average amount a Crew Member makes a year.
So just to be clear: Chipotle has raised their prices several times since 2009, and in the meantime, they've given out great bonuses to their C-Level employees and other higher-ups in the company. At no point has the NRCC issued a missive condemning them for raising prices and also giving those employees more money.
Mike Berg issued another NRCC missive today, about how actually prices for everything are going up, because of the labor shortage:
It's not just your burritos that are getting more expensive.
The Washington Post reports prices jumped by 5 percent in May compared with a year ago, the largest increase in inflation since the Great Recession.
And Axios reports Democrats are finally "willing to admit they may have gotten it wrong" now that their socialist stimulus bill is causing a massive labor crisis.
NRCC Comment: "Everything is more expensive and nobody can find employees thanks to Democrats' socialist stimulus bill. Voters will hold them accountable for their wasteful spending spree."
What if the problem is not that Democrats wanted to give people enough to live on while they couldn't work, but that these companies don't want to pay people enough to live on when they are working?
Republicans have been very clear for years that those jobs do not matter, are not necessary and are only supposed to be for teenagers working for pocket money anyway, and now they're mad that people won't do them? What gives? I thought that if people refused to work for nothing, they would be swiftly replaced by robots, and that having human employees was practically an act of philanthropy from kindly job creators? Where are their teenagers and robots now?
Of course, if Republicans are truly that upset about this price increase, there is something they can do. They can march right down to the nearest Chipotle and offer to work for the current minimum wage. If they really love America, that is the only way. They can't just sit there and complain that all of these other people don't want to work for minimum wage at Chipotle if they don't want to do it either. That's not right. They should be teaching us all the joy of working for less money than you can possibly live on, and truly sacrificing so that your fellow Americans do not have to pay 30 cents more for a burrito.
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Analysis doesn't include cost of condiments for eating the rich.
An analysis of Joe Biden's plans for taxing rich people and corporations to pay for his two big domestic programs finds that the tax burden would actually be borne by rich people and corporations. This is in contrast to years of Republicans touting "middle class tax cuts" where very few of the benefits actually go to the middle class.
So let's say that one more time, a little differently: The analysis by the Tax Policy Center, a project of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, says Biden really would be taxing the rich and corporations. Furthermore, middle- and lower-income households would see actual tax cuts, not merely some scrapings off their annual taxes, as was the case for the Republicans' 2017 Big Fat Tax Cut for Rich Fuckwads. Let's dive in, but only metaphorically, since Scrooge McDuck's vault will have less money to swim in and we wouldn't want to bump our heads.
For low-income folks — households making $26,000 a year or less — Biden's plan would chop about $600 a year off their taxes on average, which works out to about four percent of their annual income after taxes. The cut would be a bit more modest for middle-class households (those making between $52,000 and $92,000), coming to about $300 annually, or half a percent of their income, but a tax cut all the same. But remember, the big draw of the Biden plan isn't so much the tax cuts as it is all the good social infrastructure stuff, like family leave, universal pre-kindergarten, two years of free community college, and all the jobs that'll come from the infrastructure/green jobs bill — with a tax cut to boot.
And now for the Class War side of the ledger:
[The] story would be very different for high-income households. Those in the top 1 percent would pay an average of about $213,000 more in federal taxes in 2022 while those in the top 0.1 percent (who will make $3.6 million and above) would pay an average of nearly $1.6 million more, or almost 17 percent of their after-tax income. [...]
Biden's proposals include extending recent temporary increases in the Child Tax Credit (CTC), the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC), and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)—all of which primarily would benefit low- and middle-income households. For high-income households, he'd raise individual income tax and capital gains tax rates, and tax unrealized capital gains at death. Finally, Biden's tax agenda includes a wide range of corporate tax increases, including a 28 percent corporate income tax rate, two corporate minimum taxes, and many other business tax changes.
Also too, the tax picture looks a bit different depending on whether families have children or not. Biden's plan to extend the Child Tax Credit in the American Rescue Plan through 2025 (it should be made permanent, but fine, budget math) would benefit mostly middle- and lower-income households.
For example, while all low-income households would get an average tax cut of about $620 in 2022, taxes for such families with children would plunge by an average of $3,200. This is a feature, not a bug, of Biden's plan. But the difference is striking.
Specifically, that benefit is $3,000 per child under the age of 18, or $3,600 per child under age six, so that would also mean extra tax savings for a lot of middle-income earners (households making up to $75,000 individually or $150,000 for marrieds filing jointly).
The Tax Policy Center also looked at whether Biden's plan really keeps to his campaign promise not to raise taxes on families making under $400,000 a year. That's complicated a bit by the fact that the analysis broke down income levels in different increments, so the closest slice on the table is households making $200K to $500K.
Still, the answer seems to be Mostly, depending on whether you include the increased corporate tax rates, which would mean tax increases for a lot of folks in the middle, especially the upper middle class.
However, if you look just at personal income and payroll taxes, which seems a fair reading of Biden's pledge, the story is quite different. Among those making less than $200,000, only a few thousand would pay higher taxes in 2022. Nearly all would be wealthy decedents who would pay Biden's tax on unrealized capital gains.
About 0.6 percent of those making $200,000 to $500,000 would pay more in taxes, averaging about $22,000. Some, of course, would be making between $400,000 and $500,000.
Mind you, the GOP won't care about such niceties and will insist that Biden totally raised every middle-class family's taxes by $22,000, which is bullshit but we're sure it'll be in an ad.
In conclusion, we're gonna eat the rich. Want fries with that?
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