Reading some right-wing crank “Dissident Right” comment thread recently, I came across someone claiming that everyone is just lazy and won’t work. This crank claimed that the shoe-shiners at Grand Central Terminal make $100,000 a year, and since it doesn’t take much skill to shine shoes, anyone can be upper middle class if they just weren’t so lazy.
I ran the numbers, to gross $100k a year shining shoes you’d have to shine 80 shoes a day at $5.00 – $5.00 was the price when I got my shoes shined at GCT in the 2000s. But of course, that’s a really, really good day, unusual, and like Taxi drivers, you have to rent a space at GCT to shine shoes, and the rent-seekers are the ones that actually make the money.
It works the same with retail locations in general. There’s a price floor – you want to run a coffee shop at a busy commuter location, you pay top dollar. It’s the rent-seeker, the one that owns the exclusive rights to the location, generally a landlord or, more likely, a string of landlords, that actually sets the price. If anyone had read their Henry George, they would understand that “land value” plays into this. In a place like a busy public transportation hub, there’s the state, the landlord, the lessee, the licensee, the building owner, the tenant management company, then the actual contractor.
The idiot right-winger thinking that a guy shining shoes at GCT makes six figures doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about, because he’s never actually run a business, but is instead simply an office worker, heavily subsidized by the government, who has actually never engaged in anything close to a “free market.”
Anecdotal, for sure, but in my life time, 100% of the most hard-core “free market” types worked in Finance or Defense, or some other ultra-centralized, heavily subsidized industry. Which is probably why they signal so hard as “free market” types – because they themselves are not free market types, and have to quash all the cognitive dissonance. They know, on some level, that they are welfare queens, so project HARD as to how dedicated they are to “free markets.”
You see something similar with computer workers. The “dissident right” is full of these types too. Notice how they are always complaining about H1-Bs and how “incompetent” they are? While it’s true, many of those H1-Bs are just warm bodies filling a slot, the fact is there are plenty of smart Indians that can program computers. But the white guys know they can’t complain about this unfair competition, so they always pretend that all the H1-B visa Indians are “incompetent.”
Computer programmers are some of the worst “Ayn Rand” idiots, and are too chicken-shit to actually acknowledge they are in competition with a billion third-worlders that can take their jobs at any time. The whole point of being a white collar worker is so you can lord it over those lower than you. The ranks of computer programmers are filled with former nerds still mad that the jocks got the cheerleaders and now comfort themselves that the jocks are now selling cars while they make more money programming computers and have an Asian girlfriend that still isn’t as hot as the cheerleaders they longed for in high school.
Of course, none of these computer programmers ever thought why they were pining for the cheerleaders but not the chubby but cute nerd girl that was actually “in their league.”
One famous episode of 30 Rock has the Tina Fey character going back to her high school reunion. She always thought of herself as the put-upon nerdette in high school that was bullied by the beautiful cheerleaders, only to learn that she was the bully – her constant sarcastic comments mocking the pretty girls actually hurt people’s feelings. She wasn’t the “nice girl” beset by the mean girls – SHE was the mean girl and she didn’t have any friends because she was a bitch.
The news headlines this week shows that the Federal Reserve now owns 10% of Walmart debt. This is a huge and massive subsidy to not only Walmart, but also Walmart’s debt holders. Why did the Federal Reserve buy Walmart debt? To prop up the price. They “printed money” in order to subsidize Walmart and the financial system in general.
The actual “free market” solution would be to let the price of Walmart debt drop very, very low.
But that would have impacted the rich and the upper-upper-middle class, and also the middle class 401ks generally. That is politically impossible, so the government, the Fed, used socialism to make sure the rich stay rich, and the poor stay poor.
You’ll notice there isn’t a single “Dissident Right” that has ever mentioned this subsidy to the rich, to the Fortune 500, to Wall Street.
RamZPaul’s co-host mentioned it once, indirectly. She pointed out how unfair it was that all the small mom-and-pop businesses have been forced to close for going on four months now, while Walmart and Amazon have been allowed to stay open and have made record profits. The richest 100 billionaires have significantly increased their wealth during the “lock downs.”
But what happens when someone comes along and says, you know what? Let’s pass a UBI. Let’s give some of this printed money not to the already-rich, not to the financial system, not to Wall Street, not to prop up paper wealth. Just write checks and give them to everyone, in which case the bottom half will immediately go out and spend that money in the real economy of goods and services.
The right-wing cranks all of a sudden cry, “socialism!” “Lazy bums just don’t want to work!”
We’re not on the same side.