People say that I’ve changed. Politically, I mean. But that’s not really true. I’m actually way too rigid for that. I believe exactly what I always did but if twenty years ago these beliefs made me a progressive, today progressivism has departed so far from these ideas that holding them makes you something very different.

Take, for instance, the discussion about the citizenship question on the census. Together with other progressives I was always opposed to taxpayers funding capital’s exploitation of labor. Remember how we used to oppose the fact that Walmart or MacDonald’s employees were so underpaid that they had to be on social assistance? Right? I’m not crazy, am I? We were against that.

Well, I haven’t really changed. I’m still obstinately, outdatedly against that. Illegal immigrants are exploited by employers who underpay them and obviously provide no benefits. The tax payers are supposed to facilitate this by providing things that these exploited workers don’t get from employers. The census allows to calculate the amounts each area gets for social spending. Sneaking illegal immigrants into the census without remarking on their citizenship status ensures that they will be provided for by the taxpayers and dishonest, predatory employers are off the hook. I’m still against that but the progressive movement has made a 180° turnaround and is now aggressively, hysterically in favor of facilitating this exploitation.


31 thoughts on “Change”

  1. Politics changes, though. What was once republican switches to Democrat and back. It almost seems like we’re in the middle of one such switch sometimes.


    1. “It almost seems like we’re in the middle of one such switch ”

      It’s called political realignment, the last realignment began sometime after 1968 (or early 1970s) and ended in 1980. It’s still way too soon how this one (which began in 2016) will shake out…


    1. I’m battling rigidity with all I can. But my main principles remain unchanged. I could have never imagined that the day would come when the only place on TV to hear the words “capital exploits labor” would be fucking Fox News. I’m very stunned by this development.


  2. You use the word “rigid” as a wholly bad thing, but isn’t a horror of any (hint of) rigidity a feature of neoliberaliberal new order you keep criticizing?

    While being “inflexibly set in opinion” is often bad for academics, being “precise and accurate in procedure” is not. And those are only two of the meanings of rigidity.

    It is fine to be inflexible about 2+2=4 or about Spanish Civil War happening between the years …. , and not in 1568 for instance.

    Also, if your analysis is “precise and accurate,” not changing your conclusions without sufficient proof to the contrary is common sense.


    1. My friend, it’s not a hint of rigidity when I don’t use a bathroom cabinet in my own apartment for 4 years because I’m too mentally rigid to find out if it exists. Or when I almost freeze to death because I’m too rigid to explore the thermostat dial on the wall. I have a real problem here.


    1. Great article! You always have really great links.

      The analysis is spot on. Zygmunt Bauman would have had a ball with this Gillette ad if he were alive. This is absolutely the face of modern capitalism. It doesn’t sell product. It sells identity.


  3. Also, I expect people who take time and make the effort to study questions deeply before reaching conclusions to be more sure regarding those conclusions and more ready to defend them than somebody influenced mainly by feelings and the current soundbites in the media. (Hope you understand what I wanted to say in this too long sentence.)

    Too great flexibility may point at lack of courage, intelligence and/or desire to formulate and defend one’s principles.


    1. I don’t think I’d ever get to the point of having too much flexibility. For now, it’s still a struggle to get myself to go to a cheaper and better grocery store and not the overpriced horrible place I’m used to.

      But I absolutely agree that foundational principles are important to have. I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point of cheering on capital to exploit labor, for instance. I’m kind of stuck on this point and I like it.


  4. You’re mixing issues.

    On low pay, WalMart and other wages, low enough so that you can be working FT and still be on some form of welfare (up to $11/hr qualifies for food stamps, I believe), is equal opportunity — you’re low paid regardless of citizenship or visa status, which means WalMart as a corporation is effectively being subsidized by the government (with money raised from taxes).

    Some occupations are very largely staffed by undocumented workers. But you must be documented to qualify for programs like food stamps.

    Justice would mean higher wages for all (and I guess equity would mean subsidies for all people or all businesses) AND a more rational immigration process. For that last, a whole lot would have to be thought about and changed, more than (for example) what the Jordan Commission came up with in the 90s. There are just so many who have been here undocumented for decades, working, with no path to regularizing status, and US policy and its legacy has put so many in a position to have to flee their places of origin.

    The progressive positions are both higher wages and better immigration policy — it’s not either/or. Immigration situation is dauntingly complex, though, the more you look at it, and there’s not a silver bullet for it; the other thing, as I keep saying, is that US economy really does depend on low-wage or no-wage underclass. We’ve had slavery, sharecropping, and massive numbers of low-paid immigrants, as well as low-paid native born, since the beginning. The ambiguity of the immigration situation — “you can’t come in, and you can’t legalize if you’re already here, yet we need your work and will pay you a little bit” — does serve capital.

    Remember those 200 undocumented Poles Trump’s contractor brought in in the 80s to clear ground for his tower? Nothing paid into social security or anything for them, and they didn’t always get paid. This is how money is made here.


    1. Our economy only depends on this kind of thing to the extent that we allow a very rich minority to get richer than it would otherwise be exploiting these people. And currently the entire progressive movement is about giving these bastards exactly what they want in exchange for them making some ridiculous PC commercials or censoring political opponents.

      Illegal immigrants don’t qualify for food stamps but neither are food stamps influenced by the census. What is impacted is social services, social workers, public schools, school remediation programs, the free healthcare, limited and insufficient as it is, etc.


      1. Not the “free healthcare” — if you’re not insured an ER will stabilize you, but not keep you in hospital or provide care. Public schools, etc., well, illegal immigrants pay taxes, so it’s the same as having a documented or citizen child. … only the very rich benefit, that’s not clear. Food prices and much else are kept down by the low wage. And you could solve the suffering you’re talking about just by raising pay.

        I do not know that a pay hike, even huge, would fully work to put USians at full employment and eliminate undocumented immigrants, but it would be a start and it would benefit everyone. Meanwhile, you could start allowing more people to be documented.

        I am quite sure the reason people are so upset is that immigration to US is so often not from Europe.


        1. I’m sure there are some illegal immigrants who find a way to pay taxes. It’s pretty exceptional, however. As for raising pay, why would anybody pay minimum wage and benefits plus payroll taxes when they don’t have to? This is profitable, so it exists.

          As for somebody preferring immigrants from Europe, if that were true, it would be happening. But it isn’t because the jobs of people clamoring against the wall, for instance, would be threatened by immigrants from Europe like they aren’t by immigrants from Honduras. Plus, there’s definitely the racism of wanting immigrants one can condescend to and exploit and it’s psychologically easier to do that when they don’t look like you. Nobody minds there being a wall between them and immigrants like me, you know? There is a war going on in Ukraine right now. A million and a half displaced individuals. Ten thousand dead and more dying every day. Is anybody proposing relaxing the immigration ban on refugees from Ukraine? Obviously not. So where are these people who are so upset at the absence of blue-eyed immigrants?


          1. Income taxes are taken out of checks. If you’re undocumented you probably don’t file on Federal income tax, so don’t get a refund. Property taxes are figured into rent, and there is sales tax, etc. Schools are funded by property tax so if you’re paying rent you are paying taxes for ’em.

            Would you be willing to have refugees from Ukraine here, or do we need to have fewer total immigrants of any kind?

            My priority is Mex. / C.A. because it’s ancestral — this movement across borders has been happening since before Columbus, U.S. as entity is the latecomer and interloper.


            1. Who pays illegal immigrants with checks? The whole point is to employ them illegally and avoid worker protections and payroll taxes.

              The point for me is not “fewer immigrants or more immigrants.” These are people, not apples. What I want is for the immigration process to be civilized in the direction of avoiding dangerous treks through countries and deserts and decreasing illegality and marginalization.

              And yes, most of the things we enjoy today are artificial and recent. National borders, welfare, Internet, electricity, feminism. But their newness doesn’t mean they should be ditched.


              1. Out of payroll. And yes, people are paid with checks & treated as if legal. Factories, restaurants, offices, all kinds of places do this and have a don’t ask don’t tell custom. They’ve got legal employees too, anyone willing to do that job for that wage.


          2. ” illegal immigrants who find a way to pay taxes.”

            Well one of their advantages as employees is the ability not pay withholding and other taxes… sales taxes, yeah… other stuff…. not so sure…

            ” that immigration to US is so often not from Europe.”

            I think that’s party true, but not necessarily for… appearance reasons. More like extreme cultural alienness…


            1. But even then. There is a constant undertone of hints that anybody who is unhappy with the way things are is motivated by racism. Yet there is zero effort to bring in more immigrants from Europe. It’s not an existing reality but a talking point to shut everybody who questions what we currently have. “It’s wrong that people are dying in the desert.” “You racist! If they were white, you’d be so into it.”


              1. “there is zero effort to bring in more immigrants from Europe”
                What are they gonna do, drag them in at gunpoint? Most European countries are either very nice to live in or are close to nice to live in places… why go through the nasty us immigration services and condemn yourself to weird, nasty tasting food when you can go next door for better wages?


              2. I don’t know if people would come or how many would come. But if it were true, as we keep hearing, that half of the country is so diseased with racism that it’s terrified of “the browning of America” and it’s desperate to bring in crowds of blond immigrants, wouldn’t somebody have tried opening the border to them? If it were true that the support for the wall is motivated by racism, wouldn’t it follow that somebody would try to open the borders to, say, very blond Russians? I’m not saying I desperately want more Russians around but I’m not seeing any support for the racism argument.


    2. “The progressive positions are both higher wages and better immigration policy ”

      The progressive position on immigration at present is de facto open borders (since they reflexively oppose anything esle). You can’t advocate for that and higher wages (except for the very tippy top of the pyramid).
      Progressives have to choose between higher domestic wages and more immigration.


      1. I don’t think it’s true, but higher wages are needed anyway. And I’m for human rights. But then don’t consider myself “progressive” – I’m an actual leftist.


        1. “I don’t think it’s true”
          How can you raise wages with a flood of people whose only advantage is willingness to work for less….

          “I’m an actual leftist.”
          I have no earthly idea what that means…. Bernie? Shakesville? Chapo? Something else?


            1. “What flood?”

              In 2015 Germany pilot tested a limited open borders project and was quickly overwhelmed and is still reeling from the number of arrivals (and the experiment threw the staid German political scene into absolute turmoil ending the career [so far] of Angela Merkel). what makes you think that open borders for the US would be less stabilizing?


              That’s one explanation. Every real life left government institutes strict border controls (often maintained by snipers and/or landmines and the like). I live in a formerly left country that is yet to recover from the social wreckage….


  5. What do you think people of the future will find horrifying about today’s attitudes?
    Caffeine becomes a banned substance?
    Everyone is vegetarian?
    Monogamy is possesive and out of date?


    1. No on caffeine and vegetarianism, but yes, I do think people will find it harder to have profound relationships because of consumerism. And they’ll compensate for the sense of loss by claiming that monogamy is possessive and out of date.


  6. “if it were true, as we keep hearing, that half of the country is so diseased with racism”

    It’s the racial equivalent of vulgar Marxism (capital is always evil) or vulgar feminism (men always oppress women). ‘Whites are always motivated by racial animus’ repeated endlessly is just about as profound and helpful as the other two…


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