December 29, 2019
Twump’s Twicky Tweets…

…explained by Anthony Piel:

President Donald Trump spent yesterday at Mar-a-Lago tweeting and claiming credit for the Dow Jones reaching nearly 29,000, an all-time record. Trump has put out over 100 Tweets making this claim, and saying it will be the central issue in his campaign for re-election in 2020. Trump’s base is delirious !

The question is, do stock market price trends actually measure trends in the real economy, or something else ? The answer is, something else. So, what do the stock market prices actually reflect ? The answer : The continuing rise in stock markets results mainly from the continuing increase in disparity of wealth and income in the US. The typical already-wealthy few, who own and earn more that the bottom half of all Americans, have limited ways of investing their new wealth in economic development initiatives, so month after month and year after year, they routinely put part of their new-found (often untaxed) wealth in the stock and bond markets. It is this, and not economic growth, that accounts for the continuing rise in the markets.

In practice, US Presidents have very little influence over true economic growth. They like to claim credit for the good times, and blame others for the bad. The few times Trump has put his thumb in the pie (e.g. Trade War with China, closure of GM auto plants) have turned out to be disasters for American farmers and workers. Trump is under-equipped to deal with these issues, and he consults no one who knows better, but he talks a “great” game to his base.

From Trump’s viewpoint, the “official” indicators look good. The core Consumer Price Index looks reasonable, but it excludes food and fuel ( huh ?). It grossly understates the real decline in the purchasing power of the US dollar (over 5.5% a year). The official Unemployment Rate looks like a record low of 3.5%. The truth is it is closer to 10%. But the “official” rate excludes would-be workers who have become too discouraged to register as unemployed. Contrary to “official” assurances, families are not in fact surveyed to find out who is employed or unemployed, who is adequately paid or not, or who can afford health & medical care or not. The homeless are certainly not being surveyed or asked any of these questions. The Trump/GOP has no desire to find out.

If Democrats and other rational, reasonable, informed Americans could re-capture the Senate and the Oval office in 2020, we’d have a chance to discuss and find more accurate ways to measure the economy, and we could explore those policies and programs that would reach the intended results.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:22 PM
July 01, 2017
The Yellow Peril

Below are Fred Reed’s conclusions. For his supporting evidence, go here. I find it very convincing, but then I would. Pinko peacenik snowflake that I am.

To one watching the advance of Chinese science and technology, or to me anyway, several things stand out. First, the headlong pace. Second, the amount of it that appears aimed at making China independent of the West technologically and getting the United States off Beijing’s back. Third, the apparent calculated focus. It looks like intelligent design, as distinct from America’s competitive scrabbling for profit by special interests, the hope being that this might inadvertently benefit the country as a whole…

While Beijing works to benefit China, rapidly increasing its techno-industrial clout, Washington spends insanely on weaponry. It is trying to apply a military solution to a commercial problem. America crumbles economically, politically, culturally, but has the very best bombers.


achinesepicture.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:33 PM
September 22, 2016
Presented Without Comment

From the New York Times:

Punctuating his view, Judge Elliott cited the testimony of a bank employee who told the court: “I’m not here as a human being. I’m here as a representative of Wells Fargo.”
Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:31 PM
August 13, 2016
Hold On a Minute…

…corporations are people, too. From Naked Capitalism:

Their paper closes by examining the notion that right wing politics in America has been driven by donations piling up from eccentric entrepreneurs like investor and conservative mega-donor Foster Friess — the sort of people who are widely imagined to populate the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans — rather than mainline big business corporations, such as those on the Fortune 500 list.

On the contrary, the researchers find that “a simple count of firms and investors on Forbes show that the largest American corporations support Tea Party Congressional candidates and organizations supporting the movement, such as Freedom Works, at much higher rates than Forbes 400 members. Even making due allowances for Dark Money, the difference is substantial.”

Evidently American big business firms are not centrist, as many pundits would have it. As Ferguson and his colleagues put it:

Stories that the steady rightward drift of the American political universe is somehow the work of exceptionally ideological individual entrepreneurs are huge over-simplifications. If the center is not holding in American society — and it rather plainly is not — America’s largest companies are as implicated as anyone else; indeed, perhaps more so.


acorporate-personhood.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:01 PM
July 08, 2016
The People’s Republic of North Dakota

Yves Smith tells you something you didn’t know. North Dakota? Apart from a lonely Democratic senator, North Dakota’s government is about as deep red as you can get.

In 1932, North Dakotans voted 57 to 43 to ban corporations from owning or leasing farmland. In 1963, the legislature enacted a law that required pharmacies be owned by a state-registered pharmacist. The effect was to ban chains, except those operating at the time the law was passed. In 1980, North Dakotans voted to establish a State Housing Finance Agency to provide mortgages to low-income households.

In recent years several of these laws protecting independent farmers and businesses have come under attack by big corporations. After several attempts by Big Pharmacy failed to convince the legislature to repeal the Pharmacy Ownership Law, Walmart spent $9.3 million to finance a ballot initiative. In November 2014, the initiative lost by a vote of 59-41.

In 2015, big corporations did convince the legislature to overturn the 1932 anti-corporate farming law. This June, North Dakotans voted to reinstate the old law by a resounding margin of 76-24.

Today the economic structure of North Dakota reflects its focus on independent and cooperative businesses. The Pharmacy Ownership law, for example, has markedly benefited North Dakota. A report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) found that on every key measure of pharmacy care, including quality and the price of drugs, North Dakota’s independent pharmacies outperform those of neighboring states and the U.S. as a whole. Unsurprisingly North Dakota also has more pharmacies per capita than other states. Its rural residents are more likely to have a nearby pharmacist.

North Dakota’s banking system reflects a similar community-based structure. An analysis by ILSR found that, on a per capita basis, the state boasts almost six times as many locally owned financial institutions as the rest of the nation (89 small and mid-sized community banks and 38 credit unions). These control 83 percent of the deposits of the state. North Dakota’s community banks have given 400 percent more small business loans than the national average. Student loan rates are among the lowest in the country.

As Stacy Mitchell, director of ILSR’s Community-Scaled Economy Initiativeobserves, “While the publicly owned BND might well be characterized as a socialist institution, it has had the effect of enabling North Dakota’s local banks to be very successful capitalists.” In recent years, local banks in North Dakota have earned a return on capital nearly twice that of the nation’s largest 20 banks.


adakotaflag.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:18 PM
May 19, 2016
Getting Rich by Going Broke

This is from Thinking Highways (whose site seems to be hacked) via Naked Capitalism. Once again, the invisible hand of the market turns out to be in your pocket.

Beginning with the contracting stage, the evidence suggests toll operating public private partnerships are transportation shell companies for international financiers and contractors who blueprint future bankruptcies. Because Uncle Sam generally guarantees the bonds – by far the largest chunk of “private” money – if and when the private toll road or tunnel partner goes bankrupt, taxpayers are forced to pay off the bonds while absorbing all loans the state and federal governments gave the private shell company and any accumulated depreciation. Yet the shell company’s parent firms get to keep years of actual toll income, on top of millions in design-build cost overruns….

Of course, no executive comes forward and says, “We’re planning to go bankrupt,” but an analysis of the data is shocking. There do not appear to be any American private toll firms still in operation under the same management 15 years after construction closed. The original toll firms seem consistently to have gone bankrupt or “zeroed their assets” and walked away, leaving taxpayers a highway now needing repair and having to pay off the bonds and absorb the loans and the depreciation.

The list of bankrupt firms is staggering, from Virginia’s Pocahontas Parkway to Presidio Parkway in San Francisco to Canada’s “Sea to Sky Highway” to Orange County’s Riverside Freeway to Detroit’s Windsor Tunnel to Brisbane, Australia’s Airport Link to South Carolina’s Connector 2000 to San Diego’s South Bay Expressway to Austin’s Cintra SH 130 to a couple dozen other toll facilities.

We cannot find any American private toll companies, furthermore, meeting their pre-construction traffic projections. Even those shell companies not in bankruptcy court usually produce half the income they projected to bondholders and federal and state officials prior to construction.


atoll2.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:14 PM
May 11, 2016
Way Back in 1979!

…today’s horror show was precisely foreseen. Frightening stuff from Sally J. Goerner at Evonomics.com. Dr. Goerner holds out some hope if you follow the link to her whole article, as you should.

…But the pundits are all missing the point: the Trump-Sanders phenomenon signals an American oligarchy on the brink of a civilization-threatening collapse.

The tragedy is that, despite what you hear on TV or read in the paper or online, this collapse was completely predictable. Scientifically speaking, oligarchies always collapse because they are designed to extract wealth from the lower levels of society, concentrate it at the top, and block adaptation by concentrating oligarchic power as well. Though it may take some time, extraction eventually eviscerates the productive levels of society, and the system becomes increasingly brittle. Internal pressures and the sense of betrayal grow as desperation and despair multiply everywhere except at the top, but effective reform seems impossible because the system seems thoroughly rigged. In the final stages, a raft of upstart leaders emerge, some honest and some fascistic, all seeking to channel pent-up frustration towards their chosen ends. If we are lucky, the public will mobilize behind honest leaders and effective reforms. If we are unlucky, either the establishment will continue to “respond ineffectively” until our economy collapses, or a fascist will take over and create conditions too horrific to contemplate…

Rigged systems erode the health of the larger society, and signs of crisis proliferate. Developed by British archaeologist Sir Colin Renfrew in 1979, the following “Signs of Failing Times” have played out across time in 26 distinct societies ranging from the collapse of the Roman Empire to the collapse of the Soviet Union:

1. Elite power and well-being increase and is manifested in displays of wealth;

2. Elites become heavily focused on maintaining a monopoly on power inside the society; Laws become more advantageous to elites, and penalties for the larger public become more Draconian;

3. The middle class evaporates;

4. The “misery index” mushrooms, witnessed by increasing rates of homicide, suicide, illness, homelessness, and drug/alcohol abuse;

5. Ecological disasters increase as short-term focus pushes ravenous exploitation of resources;

6. There’s a resurgence of conservatism and fundamentalist religion as once golden theories are brought back to counter decay, but these are usually in a corrupted form that accelerates decline.

The crisis reaches a breaking point, and seemingly small events trigger popular frustration into a transformative change. If the society enacts effective reforms, it enters a new stage of development. If it fails to enact reforms, crisis leads to regression and possibly collapse.


abreadline2.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:22 PM
July 09, 2015
What Adam Smith Thought…

… the “Invisible Hand” actually did. From Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker of October 19, 2010:

Smith believes, in a way that few neoclassical economists seem to accept, that there is a “natural” price for goods — for goods — a price that takes in the cost of making them and a profits for the makers — and a “market” price, and that these two are not always the same. The market is susceptible to pressures from the masters and dealers to keep prices unnaturally high. Smith does not think that “government is the problem”; he thinks that the producers’ compact against the consumers is the problem, and that the producers, because they are concentrated and rich, are usually able to make the government take their side. It is the proper function of the state to prevent the dealers from ganging up on the customers. “Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production, and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.” For Smith, the market moves towards monopoly; it is the job of the philosopher to define, and of the sovereign state to restore, fair play.

ainvisible.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:57 PM
January 14, 2014
Just Another Job Creator

At Gin and Tacos Professor Ed says:

General Motors under [CEO Roger] Smith spent $90 billion on robotics and automation in nine years … Of course none of it worked, with factory robots breaking down constantly, painting one another, and welding car doors shut…

The fact is that General Motors didn’t go bankrupt, it committed financial suicide because its executive culture fostered a loathing for the UAW and the hourly workforce that was so extreme that it obliterated basic logic and business sense. The idea was not to replace the workers with Japanese robots (GM Robotics was acquired from Fujitsu) because it would save money; it was to replace the workers with robots because fuck the workers.

Try to picture the mindset of people who would rather run their company into the ground than give their grunt employees a Cost of Living raise. It’s like an airline that would rather blow all of its planes up on the runway than give passengers an entire can of soda.

But enough about Delta.


apumpingiron.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:56 PM
December 17, 2013
Trickle-Up Economics

Is this a great country or what?

Almost a third of the country’s half-million bank tellers rely on some form of public assistance to get by, according to a report due out Wednesday.

Researchers say taxpayers are doling out nearly $900 million a year to supplement the wages of bank tellers, which amounts to a public subsidy for multibillion-dollar banks. The workers collect $105 million in food stamps, $250 million through the earned income tax credit and $534 million by way of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, according to the University of California at Berkeley’s Labor Center…

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:32 PM
October 23, 2013
Working for the Man

Read these excerpts and then proceed directly to Naked Capitalism for the rest. The essential, primal split in America is not about race, color or creed. It is the one between loaners and borrowers. Examined closely enough, all our political battles trace back to that. There are many more of us borrowers than loaners, of course, but we are slow learners.

Today, in 2013, debt numbers all over are at levels that nobody would have believed possible only 30 years ago. Household debt, national debt and corporate debt hang around our necks like so many nooses, and all we can do to prevent ourselves from suffocating is to borrow more. And so, inevitably, debt levels rise further. And just as inevitably, more and more people fall by the wayside; they can’t keep up anymore. They are either too much in debt already, or they can’t find a job that pays enough — provided they find a job at all — or both. In the process, we have become, the vast majority of us, entire societies of debt slaves, living in constant fear of losing a job and/or a home, and/or contracting a disease.

And it’s not just paying back their own debt which people find ever harder: much of the debt from the financial — and overall corporate — sector has been transferred to the public sector, first becoming national debt and then trickling down into household debt through taxes and cuts to services…

It’s ironic that one of the undoubtedly most capitalist countries on the planet, Switzerland, appears to take wealth redistribution more serious than any other, with a slew of referendums (yes, they have actual democracy) aimed at decreasing income inequality. In March, one such referendum forced public companies to give shareholders a binding vote on executive compensation. In November, there’s a vote on the 1:12 initiative, which stipulates that executives can’t make more than 12 times the salary of the lowest-paid employee. Which somewhat perversely means executives have a very good reason to raise that lowest salary: they themselves can get 12 dollars for every single dollar they give the employee, so an extra $1000 per month for the latter translates into $144,000 extra per year for the bosses.


adebt-collectors-main_full.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:34 AM
April 09, 2013
Government Taken Over

Lately we’ve been hearing a lot of conservative crowing about the stunning success of Margaret Thatcher’s privatization of public monopolies. As with so many of the Chicago Boys’ factoids, though, there’s more to the story. Lots more. Here’s an excerpt from a long examination of the question by University of Missouri economist Michael Hudson.

Yet by 1997 the Conservatives were voted out of office by one of the largest margins in their history. What concerned voters were the results of privatization that Mrs. Thatcher had not warned them about. Prices did not decline proportionally to cost cuts and productivity gains. Many services were cut back, especially on the least utilized transport routes. The largest privatized bus company was charged with cut-throat monopoly practices. The water system broke down, while consumer charges leapt. Electricity prices were shifted against residential consumers in favor of large industrial users. Economic inequality widened as the industrial labor force shrunk by two million from 1979 to 1997, while wages stagnated in the face of soaring profits for the privatized companies. The tax cuts financed by their selloff turned out to benefit mainly the rich.
Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:15 PM
March 25, 2013
If It Quacks Like an Oligarch…

From Naked Capitalism:

Now Johnson carefully laid the bread crumbs, but so as not to violate the rules of power player discourse, pointedly switched from the banana republic term “oligarch” to the more genteel and encompassing label “elites” when talking about the US (“elites” goes beyond the controlling interests themselves to include their operatives as well as any independent opinion influencers). Yet despite his depiction of extensive parallels between the role played by oligarchs in emerging economies and the overwhelming influence of the financial elite in the US, there’s been a peculiar sanctimonious reluctance to apply the word oligarch to the members of America’s ruling class…

But the fact that some people have advantages and are able to make the most of them, isn’t the reason to pin the “o” word on America’s top wealthy. It’s that, like Simon’s prototypical emerging market magnates, they increasingly dominate our society and are running it strictly for own self interest and devil take the rest of us. And the results on important metrics are worse than in Russia. The Gini coefficient is a widely-used measure of income inequality. The Gini coefficient is worse (higher) for the US than for Russia. Even though its rich have gotten richer and have pulled away from their lessers, the rest of the population has also done better:

In dollar terms, Russia’s GDP increased 7.5-fold over the last decade from around $200bn to $1.5 trillion; at the same time, nominal average wages increased 14-fold over the same period from $50 to around $700 a month.
And the latest statistics on the Gini coefficients (at least readily findable on the Web) are a few years stale. As we’ve written, the income gains in the US from 2009 to 2011 went entirely to the top 1%, which saw a 121% increase; the rest of the population suffered a small decline. That would increase the US Gini coefficient even further.

akoch.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:33 PM
September 19, 2012
In Debt We Trust

The essential political divide in the United States is between lenders and borrowers. Here’s one of the ways it plays out between those who charge interest and those who pay it. Or between the job creators and the moochers, as Romney would put it.

Companies that pay out all their cash flow as interest do not pay income taxes on this diversion of revenue, because interest is a tax-deductible expense. As for the financial engineers at the top – the class that has replaced industrial engineers – they aim to get rich not by earning profits, but by capital gains. These are taxed at much lower rates. So the financialized tax system encourages speculation rather than profit-making direct investment.

Suppose that a company earns $1 million dollars of profit in a year. About $400,000 must be paid in income tax. A corporate raider will buy the company’s stockholders (equity owners), for $10 million in junk bonds. The entire $1 million dollars of profit will now be paid to the banker or the bondholder in the form of interest. The company won’t report a profit, so there is no tax payment. The financial manager will hope to increase the company’s price (to re-sell it on the stock exchange) by cutting costs or selling off its pieces to make a capital gain. This is how Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital made money. It is “balance sheet” engineering, not aimed at raising production or living standards…

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:49 PM
April 11, 2012
Back at the Trough Again, Snuffling and Snorting

It is hard to avoid thinking that these people are perfect swine, so I won’t even try. Oh, and let me be clear: I’m not talking about people like Annette Alejandro.

From the New York Times:

Annette Alejandro just emerged from bankruptcy and doesn’t have a job, and her car was repossessed last year. Still, after spending her days job hunting, she returns to her apartment in Brooklyn where, in disbelief, she sorts through the piles of credit card and auto loan offers that have come in the mail…

But as financial institutions recover from the losses on loans made to troubled borrowers, some of the largest lenders to the less than creditworthy, including Capital One and GM Financial, are trying to woo them back, while HSBC and JPMorgan Chase are among those tiptoeing again into subprime lending.

Credit card lenders gave out 1.1 million new cards to borrowers with damaged credit in December, up 12.3 percent from the same month a year earlier, according to Equifax’s credit trends report released in March. These borrowers accounted for 23 percent of new auto loans in the fourth quarter of 2011, up from 17 percent in the same period of 2009, Experian, a credit scoring firm, said.


apig.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:43 PM
April 04, 2012
The Sacred Duty of the Corporation

Things Al Franken and I didn’t know, from Naked Capitalism: it seems we were both tricked back in the 1990s by slick-talking corporate hucksters:

“It is literally — literally — malfeasance for a corporation not to do everything it legally can to maximize its profits. That’s a corporation’s duty to its shareholders.”

Since this sentiment is so familiar, it may come as a surprise that it is factually incorrect: In reality, there is nothing in any U.S. statute, federal or state, that requires corporations to maximize their profits. More surprising still is that, in this instance, the untruth was not uttered as propaganda by a corporate lobbyist but presented as a fact of life by one of the leading lights of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, Sen. Al Franken. Considering its source, Franken’s statement says less about the nature of a U.S. business corporation’s legal obligations — about which it simply misses the boat — than it does about the point to which laissez-faire ideology has wormed its way into the American mind…

It was only in 1997 that [the Business Roundtable] argued that taking care of shareholders was the best way to take care of the remaining stakeholders, rather than the other way around:

“…the paramount duty of management and of boards of directors is to the corporation’s stockholders; the interests of other stakeholders are relevant as a derivative of the duty to stockholders. The notion that the board must somehow balance the interests of stockholders against the interests of other stakeholders fundamentally misconstrues the role of directors.”

This doctrine, known as “shareholder primacy,” now reigns in the corporate world today, and it has so increased the power of those whom it has benefited that it will not be easy to dislodge. Those who propagate it believe, or would have us believe, that it is based in law; in fact, it is supported by no more than ideology.

This week’s New Yorker has a fascinating piece on ExxonMobil by Steve Coll which contains this exchange between Diane Sawyer and the company’s present CEO, Rex Tillerson:

Sawyer then asked him, “What is the responsibility of a multinational corporation to make the world better through charitable activity? Is it a tithe of ten per cent? How much?”

“Ultimately this is our shareholders’ money we’re spending,” Tillerson said. “So it’s not my money to tithe. It’s not the corporation’s. It’s our shareholders’.”

Tillerson’s predecessor as CEO, Lee Raymond, retired in 2006 with a going-away present from the shareholders of $400,000,000.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:17 PM
February 13, 2012
Ask the Man Who Was One…

Corporations are indeed people, and very nasty ones, Robert Stein argues. And he ought to know. Here’s an excerpt from his valuable blog, Connecting.the.Dots:


If corporations are indeed people, they are the most greedy, selfish and ruthless in the society. During years of sitting on boards of directors, I was always astonished by what happened to individuals (including myself) when they sat around a corporate table.

Institutional roles acted simultaneously as a narcotic that suppressed conscience and a stimulant to bring out every bit of low cunning to profit the organization. I have seen religious leaders, academics and business statesmen propose solutions to problems that would make a carnival pitchman blush.

If corporations bear any resemblance to individual human beings, they are people who have been lobotomized of all social instincts except their need to protect themselves, profit and grow.


aboardroomtable.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:56 PM
December 02, 2011
An Entomologist Looks at Inequity

From Edward O. Wilson’s On Human Nature:

I suggest that we will want to give [universal human rights] primary status not because it is a divine ordinance…or through obedience to an abstract principle of unknown extraneous origin, but because we are mammals. Our societies are based on the mammalian plan: the individual strives for personal reproductive success foremost and that of his immediate kin secondarily; further grudging cooperation represents a compromise struck in order to enjoy the benefits of group membership.

A rational ant — let us imagine for a moment that ants and other social insects had succeeded in evolving high intelligence — would find such an arrangement biologically unsound and the very concept of individual freedom intrinsically evil. We will accede to universal rights because power is too fluid in advanced technological societies to circumvent this mammalian imperative; the long-term consequences of inequity will always be visibly dangerous to its temporary beneficiaries. I suggest that this is the true reason for the universal rights movement and that an understanding of its raw biological causation will be more compelling in the end than any rationalization contrived by culture to reinforce and euphemize it.

Is Dr. Wilson right? “In the end,” who knows? At present, in the United States at any rate, the biological consequences of inequity are invisible to its temporary beneficiaries.


awall.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:51 AM
October 07, 2011
The Real Threat of Big Government

Jim Fallows led me to this chart from Mother Jones. Click to enlarge it into legibility.


abaanx.jpg


The point, which Teddy Roosevelt was the last Republican president to grasp, is that the natural and inevitable result of “free market” competition is not efficiency, invention, a level playing field, personal freedom, or the greatest good for the greatest number. It is monopoly.

This is what the Republican small government types would fear if they had a clue. Not government regulation. Ask anyone for his or her worst experiences with unresponsive, uncaring, indifferent, and rapacious bureaucracies. The answer will seldom be the Post Office or the Social Security Administration or even the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Nine times out of ten it will be a bank, an insurance company, a giant utililty, a cable provider. You can’t vote the rascals out. There is no congressman to complain to. You haven’t got a hope of successfully suing them. Corporate decisions are unappealable, mercilessly and mindlessly enforced by courts and bill collectors.

You can’t even get past the phone tree to speak to anybody in actual authority. Such people must exist, but they are faceless and unaccountable. You are in Kafka country. Just ask any of the poor bastards defrauded and evicted in the great mortgage swindle that blew up the economy for everyone but the bankers responsible.

This is the “big government” the useful idiots of the Tea Party ought to fear. Instead they are speeding its arrival. Perhaps it has already arrived. Look at the chart.

The only thing capable of standing in its way is the regulatory authority of the “big government” that the boobies have been taught to fear. Indeed it may already be too late. The Citizens United decision and the corporate-owned Congress and Obama’s economic team may have seen to that.

In which case God bless us all, and Tiny Tim Geithner.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:04 PM
May 09, 2011
In Which I Can’t Come Up With A Clever Title About Swipe Fees...

As if America didn’t have enough wars already, we have before us the Epic Struggle between the Big Retailers and the Big Banks:

The battle of the “swipe fees” has been hard to miss the last few weeks. The big banks are spending millions of dollars on TV, radio and Internet ads telling us that the government should not limit the fees that they charge on debit card transactions. On the other side, a coalition of major retailers, such as Wal-Mart and Target, has been funding a comparable campaign to stop the banks’ gouging.

So far so good. It’s like the Iran-Iraq War — who the hell are we supposed to root for???? But then there’s this:

In this case, Wal-Mart is on the side of the angels; small businesses and consumers will win if they prevail. This is an important battle in its own right, but even more important as a lesson in effective politics.

Read the rest of the piece — it makes its point succinctly and effectively, and needs no help from me. But the looming brouhaha illustrates something that no one ever points out: Those terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad regulations that businesses like to complain about frequently have the curious effect of protecting or benefitting, y’know, business.

This is the dirtiest of dirty little secrets in our current discourse.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Kurt Weldon at 03:15 PM
February 25, 2011
Good Question...

Are these people overpaid?

David Rhode is a paramedic in Middleton, Wis. He works 56 hours a week, mostly in 24-hour shifts, frequently carrying wheezy patients up and down flights of stairs. He said he earns about $43,000 a year.

HuffPost asked Rhode, 36, how it feels to be overpaid. His eyebrows went up.

"I drove my Ford Focus here," he said. "I live in a 950-square-foot condominium!"

Luckily, this question is easily answered: Anyone who makes under $250,000 a year is overpaid. Anyone who make over $250,000 is underpaid.

Please make a note of it. It is, after all, one of the base assumptions of our current national discourse.

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Kurt Weldon at 01:20 PM
November 03, 2010
Today Iraq & Afghanistan, Tomorrow the World!

The problem with using capitalism as a sole means to govern a country or the world is that it is like a religion, a set of beliefs whose adherents cannot seem to allow the existence of other systems. Most capitalists lack imagination — they have never even considered that a more advanced, more humanistic system might exist if we were to allow Darwinian competition with new forms of economic governance. Thus capitalists are stuck in a time warp, the human race never advancing beyond war making and other harmful forms of capitalist activities.

To these limited thinkers no advance in systems of governance beyond capitalism seems possible or desirable. Capitalism is the be all and the end all. No experimentation with other forms of economic governance systems is to be allowed. Perhaps systems beyond capitalism, socialism or communism might be found, however, if we allowed our minds to expand beyond our current outmoded ways of thinking.

Since the end of World War Two the United States has led the world in extending the gospel of capitalism to unwilling nation states. Therefore, it must be said that capitalism as currently practiced is itself a system of totalitarianism. Chalmers Johnson did not go far enough in his Blowback Trilogy and his subsequent book, Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope.

America has no intention of handling over the mantle of capitalism to China. It already has designs on China’s system of governance which, like ours, can be wrongheaded from time to time. Therefore, the future of America undoubtedly will be that of Rome, unless new thinkers, better and more humane, can help the world see beyond the current system of world governance and monetary systems. Perhaps Hannah Arendt best expressed the conundrum in her 1958 book The Origins of Totalitarianism:

To be sure, totalitarian dictators do not consciously embark upon the road to insanity. The point is rather that our bewilderment about the anti-utilitarian character of the totalitarian state structure springs from from the mistaken notion that we are dealing with a normal state after all — a bureaucracy, a tyranny, a dictatorship — from our overlook the emphatic assertions by totalitarian rulers that they consider the country where they happened to seize power only the temporary headquarters of the international movement on the road to world conquest, that they reckon victories and defeats in terms of centuries or milllennia, and that the global interest always overrule the local interests of their own territory.

AdamSmith.jpg

Webding3.jpg

Posted by Buck Batard at 04:30 PM