Top Down Economics: Dashiell Hammett, John Grisham, Barack Obama and You

I tell ya, if it wasn’t for pesky things like bills, and a perennial lack of funds, I could spend more time consistently updating this blog. Rather than these “drive-by” postings, that demands on my time have reduced me to.

I really need to write for a living, but the writing markets aren’t what they were. Writers of the 30s and 40s were averaging anywhere between $200 and $1000 for a short story. A $1000 is still a lot of money now. But in the 1930s that translates into probably $10000 in today’s money. Especially considering the average family income coming out of the depression, was around $1500 a year. So heck yeah, a $1000 check for a short story in the 1930s was a good chunk of change.

Even the pulp writers, especially the prolific pulp writers were raking in the dough. Here it is 70+ years later and the market for short fiction has not just dwindled, but the average pay rate has dwindled to a fraction of 1930s pay rates. Most people are very lucky to get a $100 for a short story, much less the $1000 of the 1930s. While the internet is great for turning everyone into writers and radio announcers, it’s done so at the expense of creating a viable monetization model for it, and thus eroding the existing model. The “Why should people pay for your review in the New York times or listen to this radio show, when you can read a 100 free blogs or a 100 free podcasts” mentality.

And don’t get me wrong, I love bloggers and podcasters, but don’t use us as a reason not to pay the professional a decent wage. The same goes for writers. The glut of online magazines has seemingly through their mere existence altered how print publications compensate their writers… and not in a good way.

Nowadays places are paying you less, and want far more. Not just first rights, but world rights, reprint rights, electronic distribution rights, you name it they want it, and generally, for short stories, don’t want to pay you over a $100. In 1937 Dashiel Hammet sold the rights to his popular THIN MAN series to Hollywood for $40000. A princely sum for 1937, and nothing to sneeze at in 2009. Let’s compare it to the $100,000 a “hot” author/screenwriter can command today.

In 1937, that $40000 was income tax free, the price of a house averaged $4000. So you just made enough to buy in cash ten houses. Compare that to today, a superstar writer gets a quarter million dollars for the rights to his novel. After taxes we’re talking if he’s lucky $198,000. Now the price of your average home is still around $250000. With homes in California still going for half a million dollars. So the superstar writer of today makes enough to put down a large downpayment on one house, as compared to the superstar writer of yesterday that makes enough to buy ten houses. Not to mention the fact that studios today have locked writers out of making residuals for new mediums derived from their work.

And yes, I get it that print publications aren’t what they were. That the multitude of media and mediums currently available has cut into the bottom line of print publications, so you have magazine circulations in the 10s of thousands rather than the 100s of thousands. And exorbitant ticket prices covering up the fact that less and less people are going to the movies. For every DARK KNIGHT that does well, their are a few score of REDBELTs that don’t.

But the thing is the increased cover and ticket prices, and ad and tie-in prices offsets this… so that the various mediums, are still ending up in the black.

So there is no reason the writers whose work is the source for the cartoon, and the film, and video game, and the internet download, shouldn’t receive residuals in these mediums as well. But It is just like in every other big business these days, the suits want maximum profit while sharing as little as possible of that with the workers who make the profits possible.

There was a time when if the company did well, that was passed down to the workers, in raises, bonuses, profitsharing, pensions… not any longer. If you’re not a suit at the corporate headquarters, or in the board meetings, if you’re just the poor sap who actually does the work… you get none of those things. You get a job with a payscale that is gradually going backwards, and the always pleasant possibility of having your job outsourced from under you, to a country where the suits can pay the workers even less and get away with it.

When economic gurus talk about the weakening of the dollar this is what they mean. And the only ones getting rich in such a system are the banks and the conglomerates. The setters of prices. The manipulators of money. So that you have a top down system, where the base, the majority of the population, is canabalized crushed to support the excesses, expenditures, waste, and greed of a vocal minority at the top.

When Barack Obama put the nation further in debt to the tune of 1.4trillion dollars, to bail out the very people who were and are responsible for our nations economic crisis, the banks and the conglomerates, that is a top down system in effect. It’s the many people being canabilized to support the few, an inherently flawed and unsupportable system, that grows more unsupportable the more the dollar is devauled by spending money that we do not have.

In essense not just locking the taxpayer into bondage to pay for the excesses of greedy, rich men, but locking the taxpayers’s children for generations to come.

It’s slavery. 21st century style.

And it’s the reason no one can make a living wage anymore. Not writers, not technicians, not engineers, not anyone.

The wealth would have and will have to be distributed more evenly throughout the pyramid for the pyramid, for the people and the nation to survive. The people are the foundation for the nation, and economically, emotionally, educationally, culturally; the American people, and the American foundation… under a storm of unchecked, venal capitalistic tyranny.. is crumbling.

Capitalism is this seasons shiny new Fascism.

And will goosestep us all to death, if not stopped.

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