Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Now Corporations Have Too Much Money

Since the 1970's we've seen meager wage increases in our paychecks as the cost-of-living has gone higher. And if our taxes went up, we wouldn't quit our jobs, we'd work over-time if we could, so as to make up the difference - or what has so often happened over the last 40 years - we'll get a second job, or the wife will go out to get a job to help make ends meet. We rely on "room-mates" to help pay the electric bill so we can make our car payment.

The same thing is so for big businesses, especially for huge multi-national corporations whose only reason for existence is solely to increase profits. If you raised their taxes, they wouldn't just call it quits and shut the factory doors; they'd be forced to innovate and to do some creative marketing to cut costs and increase their sales.

But the Republicans are telling us that if you raise their taxes they won't invest and hire people. Really? Malarkey! It's almost incomprehensible that the Republicans want us to believe that if we give more tax breaks to big businesses, they will create more jobs, when as of right now in 2011, larger corporations already have more cash than they even know what to do with!

And what did they do with the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003? They outsourced more jobs overseas and we had mass-layoffs (and the banking industry, because of deregulation in 1999, caused the housing crisis).

Why aren't you working in 2011? There are 3 reasons: Cheap, cheap, and cheap. Corporation's don't want to pay fair and timely dividends to their investors, fair and equitable wages to their employees, and a proportionately fair share of taxes to their government. Now corporations literally have more money than they even know what to do with it - literally. They have TOO MUCH money, and now they have just been hoarding.

A feature of hoarding is that it leads to an inefficient distribution of scarce resources (in this case, the cash flow of our money supply in the economy), making the scarcity of cash (wages) even more of a problem. Sometimes hoarding can occur when corporations hold assets thought to be undervalued and build up reserves of it in hopes to profit or save money later (see price controls). The U.S. (the world's largest economy) now may be facing a growth problem because of hoarding, and with no growth, there's no jobs.

And why is there no growth?

Many companies have cash piling up from foreign earnings in global operations that can't be brought home without incurring taxes, so hundreds of billions in cash remain available - but sits idle in off-shore bank accounts collecting dust. Just the companies on the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index alone are sitting on almost $1 trillion in cash - a record level.

Also, the payout ratio in dividends (the proportion of earnings paid out as dividend income to shareholders) are at their lowest since 1937 - and cash is piling up far faster than most industrial giants can possibly find a prudent use for it. One manager of a dividend fund says, "The likelihood of spending money poorly is increased by having a surplus of it."

And what's more, dividend income is being taxed (capital gains taxes) at historically low rates (15% since the Bush tax cuts). But the Republicans want to do just the exact opposite, and lower these taxes even more...even though we have less government revenues and higher debt because of the last recession.

With the economic "recovery" barely out of the sickbed, many companies are reluctant to invest heavily in expansion. Others want to keep cash handy for potential acquisitions (more "legal" monopolies). So cash sits idle - even as interest rates, after inflation, are so low that cash often produces negative real returns!

An S&P senior index analyst says, "Companies are basically earning more than they've ever made before, but their payouts are nowhere near as high - they're holding their cash really tight. You can call them Scrooges if you want."

I think "scrooge" would be an understatement when we have 30 million Americans struggling to survive. But the Republicans, rather than tax the rich and corporations at an earlier tax rate (the Clinton years), they'd rather cut government services and programs for the poor and elderly. Now what does that tell you, when they'd rather take from those who don't have enough to save those who have too much?

Whatever happened to that old saying, "You gotta spend money to make money"? Maybe if these big corporations spent money (in wages and/or taxes), we could finally see some real growth in the economy. If the big corporations want to hoard, charge them a "hoarding tax". Maybe then they'll build a factory (in America) and hire people (Americans) to do something instead.

Also, the Republicans have argued that businesses need "confidence and certainty in the marketplace" before they can invest, expand, and hire workers (as though there's never any risk involved). As you can see from the chart below, the cash-to-assets ratio more than doubled between 1980 and 2004. The rise between 2004 and 2010 (which was really a recession-driven drop, followed by a rapid recovery) just puts it back at trend. Which suggests that businesses aren't "insecure" in a particularly historic way. They're just not hiring more and not spending more because they don't see a reason to.

So the extraordinary reserves don't suggest an extraordinary absence of confidence, and aren't actually that extraordinary. For many years, while paying low wages and low taxes, big corporations have been hoarding the money supply all along.

If you break it all down to the smallest common denominator, your boss (the CEO) isn't your friend at all. The company you work for has no loyalty to you or the community you live in. You rely on him for a paycheck, that's all. To him you are just a necessary evil, someone whose labor he must pay for because slavery is against the law. He would rather not pay you at all...let alone give you a raise.

And if his business is slow and he lays you off, he doesn't want to pay for your unemployment benefits. And when you get sick, he doesn't want to pay for your healthcare. And when you get old, he doesn't want to pay for your Medicare or Social Security either. He doesn't even want to pay taxes to build the roads to move his goods, he'd rather someone else pay for that too.

Just because something is good for his businesses, it doesn't make it good for you. If he tells you how to vote, I would vote just the opposite way. He's not your friend, so don't trust him. But if he denies you a fair wage or refuses to fix the road, he'll tell you he's not your enemy either. He'll say it's nothing personal against you, it's just business. So don't worry about voting to raise his taxes or joining a union for better wages and benefits. If he complains, just tell him...it's nothing personal, it's just for survival.

It's odd...the CEOs know their money is no good to them after they die, but yet they'll still insist on taking it all to the grave with them, rather than let anyone else have any. That is truly hoarding.

Monday, May 30, 2011

iLove Apple but iHate Tax Cheats!

The good news for Apple Computer: The May 20 explosion that killed three workers at an Apple supplier factory in China is not going to delay iPad and iPhone production. 

The bad news for Apple: “Cool” products may no longer blind consumers to corporate arrogance. Activists with US Uncut, the grassroots anti-corporate tax cheat drive, will be staging protests this Saturday at Apple outlets nationwide. The issue: Apple is pushing Congress to let U.S. corporations “repatriate” profits they have sitting overseas at a tiny 5 percent tax rate. Dangerous working conditions at overseas factories have helped those profits soar. 

A Hong Kong group, two weeks before Apple's May 20 blow-up, released a report that detailed “alarming” safety problems at the explosion site. Apple CEO Steve Jobs currently holds an $8.3 billion fortune.

Apple Computer

I can sync my iPhone to my MacBook - why can't I sync it to my Values?

Apple is lobbying congress for a "Tax Holiday" so they can dodge $4 billion in taxes. Do we want $4 billion for Apple OR salaries for 90,000 teachers?

US Uncut Demands

Apple: Leave the Tax Cheat Lobbying Group and Stop Lobbying Congress for More Tax Loopholes!

Congress: No More Budget Cuts – No Billion Tax Holiday For Corporate Tax Cheats

On June 4th, organize a US Uncut protest at your local apple store!

Why Apple?

Apple plays huge games with their taxes. By disguising profits in the US as foreign earnings in low tax countries, Apple dodges billions of dollars of taxes they should be paying.

Over the last three years, Apple actually did pay some US corporate income taxes. Unlike General Electric or Pfizer or Verizon, who pay zero taxes, Apple is not a total tax sleaze.

But they’re hiding something. In fact, they're hiding a whole lot. Despite all the sales of iPads, iPhones, iTunes, iPods and iBooks in the United States, Apple says that just 13.9% of its profits were earned in the US last year. Really? We call bullshit. Apple: Leave the Tax Cheaters Coalition!

Apple is a leader of a Tax Cheaters Lobbying Group that is lobbying Congress to give tax dodgers a tax holiday. They call themselves the “Win America Campaign,” but America will lose $80 billion if they get their way.

In addition to Apple, the coalition includes other technology companies like Google, Oracle, Cisco, Microsoft and Adobe, drug giant Pfizer, and utility leaders including Duke Energy. Members of the coalition have squirreled away more than $1 trillion offshore, and want special treatment for it. When they bring this money back to the US, they want to pay just 5.25% rather than the 35% tax that is legally due when foreign earnings are brought back to the US. In total, this corporate tax bonanza could cost the US Treasury $80 billion or more. Apple’s cut of the tax dodgers' feast would be nearly $4 billion.

Tell Apple to stop being a Bad Apple. Organize an action using the Apple Action Kit on the menu at the right. Then list your action on the actions list!

Please help spread the word. Share this and use the hashtag #badapple on Twitter.

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Will Michele Bachmann Debate a High School Sophomore?

16 year old Amy Myers made the challenge, but Tea Party representative Michele Bachmann thinks God is on her side. I think that I for one (as well as MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell) would bet our money on Amy.

Just hours after Sarah Palin announced a bus tour of the East coast to possibly initiate the beginnings of a presidential campaign, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) told reporters that she was likely to announce a White House campaign next month in Waterloo, Iowa — and she did, sort of.

During a taping of an Iowa Public Television program, Michele Bachmann shared with voters that she’s had a “calling” to begin the “momentous decision” to run for President, AP reports. 

“Every decision that I make, I pray about, as does my husband,” said the Minnesota congresswoman, according to radio broadcaster O. Kay Henderson. “And I can tell, yes, I’ve had that calling and that tugging on my heart that this is the right thing to do.”

Bachmann, who was born in Iowa is expected to call on evangelical Christians for support — private meetings with pastors are in the works whose presence in the Republican primary process is influential. Bachmann is expected to announce her candidacy in her hometown of Waterloo.

She also promoted her Tea Party resume, stating the people “want something new and different. They don’t want anything that reflects the status quo or the establishment. I think the Tea Party movement has made that very clear, that they don’t want Washington as usual.”

She certainly is different, in that incredible, mind blowing delusional way.

“I am not an establishment candidate. I’ve set my own course. I’m a very independent person,” Bachmann added. “I’ve taken on my own Republican leadership when I was in the Minnesota senate and I’ve taken on my own Republican leadership in the Congress of the United States. I am an equal-opportunity fighter because I am about the people.”

She further stated, “I fight for what I believe in. I’m committed and I have a record of being a fighter. That, I think, makes me unique, I think, above all of the candidates.”

Yes she certainly is unique. What would prompt respect while she touts herself as a viable candidate would be for the Tea Party heroine to take on the children who have recently sought her out to debate her claimed accuracy of history, or her revision of such.

Michele Bachmann, who claims to be a Constitutional expert, should have no issues debating the 16 year old Amy Myers...but as of this post, there has been no response to the challenge. If Bachmann were ever to be nominated for the GOP presidential  ticket next year, it would be interesting to see her debate Obama, and to have her answer some of the charges she's leveled against him.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The 99ers Revenge

Almost 7 million jobless Americans have already exhausted all their unemployment benefits and now have no income at all. Many are known as "99ers" - - - those who've been out of work for 2 years or longer.

There are over 3 million more Americans who are currently receiving federal extended jobless benefits. Last December the congressional Republicans had voted to approve the funding for them for one more year, but only in exchange for 2 more years of tax cuts for the rich.

Now Republican governors and state legislators all across the country are reducing or eliminating those benefits in exchange for more tax breaks for corporations. By the end of 2011 we will have close to 10 million jobless Americans with no income at all, thanks to the Republicans for the deregulation of the banks (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act), allowing for the outsourcing of jobs (free trade agreements), and for the Bush tax cuts for the last 10 years (inheritance taxes, capital gains taxes, and corporate taxes*).

Just recently the Republicans voted along party lines to continue oil subsidies for oil companies but at the same time also complained about the debt. The Republicans will end food stamps for the poor and cut off Social Security and Medicare for the elderly; yet they will be generous with corporate welfare. They don't legislate for THE PEOPLE and small businesses, they represent the rich and large corporations.

The Republicans have been refusing to nominate Elizabeth Warren of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to reign in the very banks that have caused this country so much harm. It was the banking industry that gave so much money to the Republicans in lobbying for the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. (Also, see my post on the Inside Job).

Bill Maher asks, "30% of this country will always vote Republican...I'm just asking...why?" (Especially if you earned less than $250,000 a year.)

 * Bush Tax Cuts

Apparently, America's job creators can create a lot more jobs when their taxes are higher - even much higher - than they are today. The epic failures of the Bush tax cuts for America's supposed job creators hardly end there. The U.S. poverty rate began rising in 2005, well before the onset of the December 2007 Bush recession. As David Cay Johnston document, average household income fell after the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, dropping to about $58,500 in 2008 from $61,500 in 2000. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) found that the Bush tax cuts accounted for almost half of the mushrooming deficits during his tenure, and, if made permanent, over the next 10 years would contribute more to the U.S. budget deficit than the Obama stimulus, the TARP program, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and revenue lost to the recession put together. As the data show, the Bush tax cuts provided a massive payday for the wealthy, helping fuel record income inequality."

Friday, May 27, 2011

It's Not Personal, it's Just Business

As though the loss of millions of jobs and the loss of billions of dollars in tax revenues shouldn't be taken personally by ordinary working-class Americans. Here's a radical idea: Hire Americans and tax corporations and CEOs at the same rate as their workers.

radical [rad·i·cal] – adjective 

  1) Of or going to the root or origin; fundamental: a radical difference.

  2) Thorough-going or extreme, especially as in regards to change from an accepted or traditional form: a radical change in the policy of a company.

  3) Favoring drastic political, economic, or social reforms: radical ideas; radical and anarchistic ideologues. 

  4) Albert Einstein's and Bud Meyers' views on multi-national corporations (see The People's Budget)

Seven publicly traded U.S. corporations represented on President Barack Obama's Advisory Council for Jobs and Competitiveness - including General Electric Co. and Intel Corp. - have devoted a growing pool of their non-U.S. earnings to investments in other countries.

As a group, many American-based multi-national companies (several with current or former chief executive officers on Obama's jobs council) over the past four years have almost doubled the cumulative amounts they've reinvested overseas, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

By doing so, companies may be able to take advantage of "faster-growing markets" and "lower production costs", and they can "defer" U.S. income taxes on profits from overseas sales. Underscoring the difference between a CEO's corporate interest and the national interest of the United States of America, they're also investing money elsewhere that could be helping the U.S. economy, this according to the former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich. 

"That's a signal that they are betting less on America," Reich said. "We've got to understand there's a fundamental difference between the competitiveness of these companies and the competitiveness of America and American workers." (What are the biggest differences between "patriotism" and "treason"?)

Here's one "radical" proposal: Eliminate the profit motive for corporations by nationalizing those that outsource American jobs, don't pay taxes, and profit from America's natural resources.

Profits are primarily used to enrich the few at the top of a corporation (their board of directors) and their stockholders; excessive profits go into their pockets, and aren't always used just for research, development, and the producing of goods. Any leftover financial resources that are not needed to expand, produce, or pay their worker's wages go into offshore bank accounts for a very few wealthy people. 

"Profit", as the only governing motive for a corporation, does not consider or factor in the American economy as a whole, nor the working-class's livelihoods at all. The corporation is all about producing more (whether needed or not) and producing it cheaper (sacrificing quality and safety), and constantly expanding to create more with less (but not for the sake of conservation, but for higher profits).

A corporation must always grow, can not remain stagnant (at par with current demand), and will not accept "finite" anywhere in their corporate lexicon...whether in relation to their stock price, company profits, or executive salaries.

Unlike stagnate wages, frozen salaries, or limited incomes, corporate executives refuse to live with finite employee compensation packages, and businesses must always grow at the expense of anything and all, except for those within the top echelons of a corporation. CEOs say they work for the shareholders, but they are usually shareholders themselves...and are taxed at a lower income rate than their secretaries earning a minimum wage.

If corporations were nationalized, and the profit motive was removed, people's wages need not be depressed or jobs outsourced for cheaper labor. Artificial demand need not be created if the market is saturated, when all the needs are met; and executive salaries could be governed and limited so as not to be reliant on profit margins. They wouldn't be paid with "stock options" as "incentives" to outsource jobs. They would be paid base salaries (or hourly wages) like the workers. If they perform well, they get a raise. If they fail, they are fired like anyone else. And they'd be taxed at the same rate as their workers (as a percent of their wages). We could eliminate capital gains taxes completely.

Excessive profits (after what is used for the research, development, and the production of goods), would go to the U.S. Treasury as tax revenues to fund The People's Budget, and not be used to buy multiple mansions, yachts, private jets, and small Greek islands. We could eliminate corporate taxes completely.

Corporate "subsidies", as they exist today, would be truly used as taxpayer assistance to innovate and develop new ideas for the better of all the people, such as cheap and clean energy (as they were first intended), and not just used to enrich the few on the backs of the poor. Why should a vital commodity and natural resource such oil and other fossil fuels be exploited for profit by a select few? Nationalize the energy industry and that could help eliminate corporate welfare completely.

A factory would produce what the country needed AT COST for the consumption of the American people, and a profit motivator would only exist for the sale of goods to foreign markets...again, with the excess profits going into THE PEOPLE'S government treasury to improve the quality of life for her citizens (schools, roads, bridges, etc). We could eliminate tariffs and export taxes completely.

By nationalizing corporations, we could also eliminate political corruption and election influencing, such as votes sold for the highest bid, like bribes. Members of congress could vote with their conscience, not with their wallets.

What would be even MORE radical than this proposal would be to allow corporations to continue raising the cost-of-living on all of us by price gouging, greed, thievery, and using fine print in contracts and bills that's written in legalese - using everything they can (like a whole division of litigation lawyers) to make us more poor, while they get more rich....while the nation crumbles. That's not only radical, it's insane.

Why do so few people of such enormous wealth need to control most of the American economy? Don't dictators do that? Why should one man in the United States be allowed to hoard $50 billion if he won't invest and/or refuses to hire people at "living wages"? Does he NEED to make another $50 billion when 50 million poor Americans rely on food stamps just to eat? If so, can a rich man go to Heaven?

Let's face it...old fashioned capitalism had a good run for a long time, but now its broken. Long gone are the middle-class days of the 1950's. Mom can't stay home any more to greet you with milk and cookies when you come home from school. Just like dad, she has to go to work too. The world has changed and so have we. The Republicans have been trying to convince us that less taxes on the rich and corporations creates job. For the last 10 years we've seen how well that has worked...we now have record unemployment and record debt while corporations are earning record profits and their CEOs are earning record salaries.

It is the excessive, cancerous, addictive and evil American Greed of a few that causes so much harm for so many. People, as individuals, are all expendable in the efficient day-to-day operations of any major corporation. The CEO, just like the janitor that empties the waste basket in the executive restrooms every night, is just another cog in the corporate wheel. If, hypothetically, we eliminated all the current CEOs in all corporations, couldn't the company survive just as well without them if the vice-president immediately took over all their duties? Multiply all those CEOs who earn multi-million-dollar annual salaries and imagine how many people could remain employed in America and earning a "living wage". Are those CEOs, as mere individuals, really worth all those other lives that they seem all to willing to sacrifice for cheaper labor overseas?

We need to move on and make changes in our political and economic system of government that better reflects THE PEOPLE'S needs, wants, and desires...not the perverted and greedy desires of a few CEOs governing soulless corporations whose ONLY concern is for profits.

From TruthOut.Org: At some level, corporate executives are aware that they are lowering workers' living standards, but their decisions are neither coordinated nor intentionally harmful. Call it the "paradox of profitability." Executives are acting in their own and their shareholders' best interest: maximizing profit margins in the face of weak demand by extensive layoffs and pay cuts. But what has been good for every company's income statement has been a disaster for working families and their communities.

Based on my observations over the last 30 years (and especially over the past three), it's become quite apparent that the Democrats today are almost where the Republicans were 50 years ago....they've moved that far right. A Socialist back then might be considered a Progressive today (and Progressives today are more like Democrats were 50 years ago). And a Republican today might be what a Nationalist was back in 1939. The party ideologies have changed that much.

But for the most part, the ordinary American people haven't moved at all, we're still the same, we haven't changed all that much. We still want honesty and fair play from our political and corporate leaders, but we find very little of either these days...especially with the Republicans, who represent corporate interests rather than THE PEOPLE'S interests.

Is this plan radical? Maybe, but no more so than Republican Paul Ryan's plan - which is deceptively named The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America's Promise (such as Medicare sir?). It should really be more aptly named The Path to Ever More Excessive Prosperity for CEOs and Corporations. Whereas with The People's Budget, it is actually THE PEOPLE who are being represented. Just as Rolling Stone magazine says, "This is more than a fantasy document. It's sound policy." Read more about it here at TheMiddleClass.Org

Meanwhile, if we complain about greedy businesses, the corporate kingpins of  these international cartels multi-national conglomerates will always tell us, "It's not personal, it's just business." (Michael Corleone, The Godfather Part III)

Albert Einstein on Corporations

"The economic anarchy of a capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers, the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor - not by force, but on the whole - in faithful compliance with legally established rules. I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals." - Albert Einstein, The World As I See It (1949) 

"The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital - the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked, even by a democratically organized political society."

"This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature."

"The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population."

"Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the intelligent to use his political rights." - Albert Einstein, Monthly Review, May 1949

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Are American War Veterans Lazy?

According to many conservative critics, Reagan economists, Fox News commentators, and Republican politicians, yes...they are. They think our Vets are not looking hard enough to find honest work, that they should all take two jobs at McDonald's to make ends meet, that there are plenty of jobs available if they would just get up off their fat lazy asses and look for one.

The Republicans think that they shouldn't receive any medical care or financial assistance or food stamps to see them through these unusually harsh economic times for ordinary folks...because after all, those are "government hand-outs". They liken social programs and safely nets to Socialist "entitlements". And just like Medicare and Social Security, Republicans would also like to end unemployment benefits in exchange for tax breaks for the rich.

Ben Stein thinks that most unemployed people have "poor work habits" and " poor personalities." Fox News' John Stossel thinks a vast number of jobless Americans are panhandlers and calls them "freeloaders". Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle thinks the jobless are "spoiled hobos". Republican senators such as Judd Gregg says unemployed American workers are "encouraged not to go look for work" and "don't want to go look for work". Republican Senator Orrin Hatch wants the jobless subjected to mandatory drug testing. Florida state Senator Nancy Detert wanted their UI department to "more closely scrutinize those applying for benefits to get rid of slackers and malingerers." Florida Republican governor Rick Scott thinks the jobless aren't looking hard enough and wanted to end benefits to give more tax breaks to the rich. Texas Republican representative Blake Farenthold compared Americans on unemployment insurance to alcoholics and drug addicts. Fox News' Glenn Becks calls them "un-American". (The list is too lengthily to include here).

Are most our U.S. war Veterans un-American lazy alcoholics?

The unemployment rate for veterans who served in the military at any time since September 2001 was 11.5%, and about 25% of Gulf War-era II veterans reported having a service-connected disability.

But if you break it down to young male veterans (those ages 18 to 24) who served during Gulf War Era, 21.9% were unemployed as of late last year - while the jobless rate of young male non-veterans was 19.7%.

Graduating from college doesn't guarantee anyone a job either. Employment rates for new college graduates have fallen sharply in the last two years, as have starting salaries for those who can find work. What’s more, only half of the jobs landed by these new graduates even require a college degree, reviving debates about whether higher education is really “worth it”. But still, one writer for the New York Times asks, "Are college grads too lazy to work?"

Another New York Times writers claims: "Economists had found that a large fraction of unemployed people delay going back to work solely because the unemployment insurance program was paying them for not working." Again, implying they were lazy. With a higher unemployment rate, might this also imply that our War Veterans are lazy as well?

"Lazy" is always the first, and most persistent, term that conservative news commentators, Republican legislators, and many ideological zealots use to describe millions of jobless patriotic Americans. This has always been the case, as it was during the Great Depression when FDR actually chided the country for this in one of his State of the Union addresses (or was it a fireside chat?)

Amid the violence of combat, many veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan never imagined the added stress they would face in trying to find work back home...let alone be called "lazy".

Unemployment among these recent veterans is higher than among the rest of the population and among military veterans overall, according to the latest U.S. Labor Department data. In April, as the country continued its "slow recovery" from the worst recession since the 1930s, the jobless rate among Iraq and Afghanistan vets was higher when compared with non-veterans.

Many of the unemployed are members of the National Guard and reserves who have deployed multiple times, and some come home to find their jobs have been eliminated because the company has downsized or outsourced. Other companies might not want to hire someone who could deploy again or will have medical appointments because of war-related health problems. Sometimes just the mere state of "being unemployed" keeps one from being called for a job interview (just as with age discrimination).

Too many men and women who have served their country so bravely now find themselves unemployed. About 1.5 million veterans are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing. Nationally, an estimated 107,000 veterans find themselves without a home each night.

With high unemployment, many older people were forced to take an early retirement at age 62 with reduced Social Security benefits, and many in their prime are applying for disability; but some Vets can qualify for their military pensions as early as 37 years old, and will have medical coverage and other benefits paid for through the Veterans Administration.

But the non-Vets have the Republicans going after Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security disability, and food stamps. But either way, corporate America is not only NOT creating enough domestic jobs for the Vets and everyone else, but they also want to end all the social programs for the very people that they put out of work or refuse to hire.

Does America really have a problem creating jobs that pay a "living wage", or are our military veterans (those who volunteered for boot camp to risk their lives in war) just reckless alcoholics, low-life drug addicts, uneducated morons, lazy hobos, lack the necessary job skills, and are not "mobile" enough - - - and who made bad decisions in their life, failed to plan ahead, and just preferred to collect unemployment benefits - as opposed to doing an honest hard day's work?

My father was a veteran of two wars (Korea and Vietnam), and he was the hardest working and most disciplined and responsible man I've ever known. Having grown up on a southern farm during the Great Depression, to him, laziness was a "Mortal Sin" - and he condemned those that were. So I can only imagine how our veterans must feel if they were every accused of this. If it were me, I'd be so angry I might want to take up arms against those who'd dare point their accusing finger at me*.

Are jobless American Vets really just "lazy", and that might be why 8 Republican controlled states are passing legislation to reduce or end federal unemployment benefits for them - just to give more tax breaks to the rich? Or are the ignorant conservative critics, Reagan economists, Fox News commentators, and Republican politicians just mean assholes? I for one, can certainly tell the difference.

* As for me? Read: What it Means to be Lazy (Written by a Lazy Man) and If I'm Lazy, then Fox News' John Stossel is Pretty. And for satire, read As America Digs Out, the Jobless Relax.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Once, I was a Republican

For many years, when I once thought I was a conservative Republican, I believed in the mantra that the Australian-born media magnate Rupert Murdoch espoused through his media kingdom. One need not look any farther than Fox News to see what  influence he wields in American politics, where 50% of our Republican presidential candidates in 2011 are paid Fox News commentators.

Rupert Murdoch promoted the economic philosophies of the likes of Milton Friedman, who was an economic advisor to U.S. President Ronald Reagan that extolled the virtues of a "free market" economic system with little intervention by government (pro-monopolies and pro-outsourcing, and anti-regulation and anti-tax). Meaning, outsourcing jobs to "emerging markets" to empower the people of impoverished nations with jobs to become consumers...to allow corporations to use cheaper labor to expand their corporate consumer base to increase corporate profits (Read Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine and see the documentary Inside Job).

Ronald Reagan adopted Milton Friedman's economic philosophies and shared them with Margaret Thatcher 30 years ago. Now in both Britain and America we have policies of "austerity", where the middle-class has to "share in a sacrifice" of budget shortfalls due to low tax revenues to finance public programs that the middle-class had once enjoyed. The budget shortfalls that the politicians allowed, but a "sacrifice" that neither the wealthy nor the politicians need to share. Prosperity for THEM, austerity for US.

During the riots and protests in Britain, Glenn Beck on Fox News had many American viewers believing that those people weren't just exercising their right to freely assemble, they were all just radical Socialists trying to destroy democracy (just like when the unemployed in NYC protested for extending jobless benefits; Beck called them un-American and Socialists too.)

If you disagree with Glenn Beck, or if you believe that the rich (like Beck) should pay their share of taxes, or if you believe that outsourcing jobs for profits is destructive to our economy, or if you believe that the government has a roll and responsibility to THE PEOPLE, then according to Glenn Beck, you're a Socialist.

But the protesters in Britain were mostly just ordinary people who got economically screwed by their leaders - just like the people protesting in the Middle-East, but Beck doesn't call them Socialists. He says they were the victims of tyrannical dictators, as if the people in America and elsewhere around the world weren't the victims of corporate tyrannies - - - as though some forms of tyranny were acceptable.

But what is the difference if the outcome is the same, when bad economic policies allows for the re-distribution of a nation's wealth to flow up to the wealthiest people? When State-sanctioned economic polices essentially legalizes stealing from the poor to give to the rich? When the standard-of-living for ordinary people declines, getting worse year after year, instead of getting incrementally better every year?

But something is happening. Since the financial collapse of 2008 people are waking up...as in a new "Age of Enlightenment". We are becoming more informed and are beginning to take action. Rupert Murdoch, not one to admit a mistake or miscalculation, is easing Glenn Beck off the air. Beck's radical ideas are losing Fox News viewers (I was one of them). And the Tea Party that Rupert Murdoch, Glenn Beck, and the Koch brothers helped create, is like a pack of rabid dog that broke loose from their leashes and is now running wild in the streets. The Tea Party doesn't want ANY government at all, and the conservative Republicans are becoming fearful of losing all their corporate handouts such as oil subsidies.

Since 2008 I've learned a great deal about the Republican party that I was never aware of before...and now I feel so foolish for my past naivety, but at the same time, very relieved that at least I finally saw the light.

The Republicans aren't (and never were) for THE PEOPLE. They are (and always have been) about big business and corporate interests. The two Republican exceptions in all of American history may be Dwight D. Eisenhower with his position on the defense industry, and Abraham Lincoln with his position on slavery.

A modern Republican has not proposed or advocated any legislation that has benefited the average American citizen in decades. I beg someone to please point out one law that didn't put corporate interests over the interests of the average working-class American citizen.

Once, I was a Republican...but I've seen the errors of my ways and have repented.

Bill Maher, "30% of this country will always vote Republican...I'm just asking...why?"
See the hilarious video

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bill Maher: Why Would You Vote Republican?

All polls overwhelming show that any effort to dismantle Medicare as we know it to give extra tax cuts to millionaires is a non-starter. As a matter-of-fact, most Americans want to tax the rich to pay for programs such as Medicare. And why not? After all, they won't pay you a fair "living wage".) Take the poll here.

The myth of taxing the rich - When taxes go up on the rich, they do report lower incomes...but that's mostly because they're fiddling with the tax code to report lower incomes, not because they're actually earning any less.

Within the GOP there is an irreconcilable conflict between the "Tea Party" class of GOP "young turks" - who want to go for broke to destroy FDR's New Deal and impose their social agenda - and those within the "moderate" element of the Republican Party whose highest concern is only winning general elections...they only represent the rich. The rich have had tax breaks for the last 10 years, but instead of hiring Americans, they have only continued to outsource more jobs overseas.

President Obama, in his 2011 State of the Union address, talked about how most people could remember the good old days, when getting a job meant showing up at a factory after finishing high school. 

"If you worked hard, chances are you'd have a job for life, with a decent paycheck and good benefits and the occasional promotion," the president said, adding that he understood "the frustrations of Americans who've seen their paychecks dwindle or their jobs disappear - proud men and women who feel like the rules have been changed in the middle of the game." 

Here are the new rules: 1) Don't be old. 2) Don't be unemployed. 3) Don't pin your hopes on college. 4) Don't expect to make more money at your next job. 

When the Republicans took the House last year, instead of focusing on jobs, they went after jobless benefits, Medicare, abortion, union rights, and National Public Radio...and they also insisted on extending tax subsidies for big oil companies and tax breaks for the rich; even though the tax code has become dramatically less progressive since the 1960s, as tax cuts and loopholes have reduced a wide variety of taxes paid by the rich. 

Paul Ryan would surely protest that the GOP's stingy public policy is not motivated by greed, but by necessity — that it is indispensable to sustaining robust economic growth. High taxes and big government, in this view, will encourage sloth among the undeserving and discourage productive citizens from giving all in the workplace. 

Like Bill Maher asks, "30% of this country will always vote Republican...I'm just asking...why?"

Monday, May 23, 2011

Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged

3 Fatal Flaws in Ayn Rand's Perverse

'Moral Philosophy'

It is astonishing that a 54-year-old book, based upon three patently false premises, has suddenly been resurrected. The Chair of the House Budget Committee requires his staff to read Atlas Shrugged.

Ayn Rand lived in a world of fiction, and it shows in her social analysis...

(Excerpt) By Catherine Burke | May 17, 2011

We cannot maintain a productive relationship with someone we cannot trust, or someone who is dishonest, cowardly, disrespectful, indifferent to our feelings or unfair. It is likely that we and other members of the group will seek to point out the negative behavior, but if it persists, the person will be actively excluded from the group. This reflects the basic need of any group or society.

From prehistoric times until the present, human beings have had to find ways to cooperate and work together in order to survive. Today, much of this cooperative behavior is supported by public services. Consider our need for education from kindergarten through universities, a stable monetary system, laws that protect property, courts to adjudicate disputes, rules to provide an even playing field in markets, hospitals, roads, airports, bridges, defense from predators whether criminal or military, development costs for technological innovations such as the Internet and modern medicines, libraries, parks and clean beaches.

"None of the goods provided through government come free," Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.”

The rich and powerful also rely on society for many of the goods of civilization, which are created through the cooperative efforts of all. Despite the arguments of Rand and the libertarians none of us can opt out of our need for society and its governing institutions.

Rand and other libertarians argue that markets are, and must be, “free.” Yet no market has ever existed without rules and referees, any more than you can have a football game without rules and referees. In the earliest markets in small, lightly populated villages, the rules were usually set by social custom. Someone who cheated would be ostracized, even exiled, if they did not pay back the person they had cheated and promise not to do it again.

Rand and her acolytes seem not to have looked at the human condition. Every business is a social system, and the values that bind humans together are necessary if the business is to thrive and prosper. Every community is a social system that requires humans to work together and cooperate.

However we demonstrate the core values, human beings are not, and cannot be isolated and survive. We are moral beings with a strong sense of what is fair, honest, trustworthy, courageous, loving and respectful of human dignity. Our survival and continuation as a species depends upon others. As David Brooks has written, cooperation is built into our DNA. Rand is wrong, and those who follow her have created policies that have been destructive of our economy and our nation.

Full Op-Ed Piece

FDR on Unemployment

Just like Obama after Bush, FDR had inherited an economic nightmare after the Republican polices under Hoover.

In 1932 the citizens of America were eager to see Republican President Herbert Hoover out of office. From the start of The Wall Street Crash (1929), President Hoover had done next to nothing to try and counter the Great Depression. He and the Republicans had argued (just like today) that the economy naturally went in to cycles of "bust" and "boom". Hoover kept insisting, "Prosperity is just around the corner."

By then, one out of four men were out of work. Those lucky enough to have jobs convinced themselves there was something wrong with the unemployed – lazy, immoral, parasitic thieves – compounding the shame, guilt, fear, and worthlessness these men felt because they were no longer able to support their families. Once hard-working people, they searched for jobs and told themselves they’d soon find work, but the lack of jobs sent them farther and farther from their homes. 

As the days passed and no work was found, they began to look old and act poor, which further hindered them in finding employment. Brought up in the belief that work brought its own rewards, accepting charity just to survive was a bitter pill to swallow. Some preferred to starve rather than seek help. Unable to cope with the shame of being unable to support and shelter their families, some turned to drink, others withdrew from society. Some beat their wives and children, others sought release by committing suicide. Some rode the rails, making the 1930s the heyday of the "hobo" (hence the term many Republicans use for the unemployed today). 

Mass unemployment relief during the Great Depression did much to upend the 1920s "poor-law mentality" that assumed that the unemployed were lazy, not the victims of a larger structural collapse; yet it also upheld previous ideas about the marginal place of non-whites and women to the American workforce. "When we're unemployed, we're called lazy; when the whites are unemployed it's called a depression." - The Reverend Jesse Jackson)

By the spring of 1933, when FDR took the oath of office, unemployment had risen from 8 to 15 million (just as we have today, but then it was roughly 1/3 of the non-farm workforce. Today it's called 8.8% unemployment). Although The Great Depression was world wide, no other country (except Germany) reached so high a percentage of unemployed.

FDR's predecessor, President Hoover, had believed "the dole" would do more harm than good, and that local governments (soup lines) and private charities (churches) should provide relief to the unemployed and homeless. Just as the GOP claims today, that extending UI benefits CAUSES unemployment.

During The Great Depression breadlines and Hoovervilles (homeless encampments, like tent cities are today) appeared across the nation. Many of the unemployed sank into despair and shame after they could not find jobs. The suicide rates increased from 14 to 17 per 100,000. (Figures for the suicide rate during the Great Recession aren't available as of this post, but funding for suicide hotlines has been increased by congress.)

FDR, after assuming the presidency, promoted a wide variety of federally funded programs aimed at restoring the American economy, helping relieve the suffering of the unemployed, and reforming the system so that such a severe crisis could never happen again.

However, while the New Deal did help restore the GNP to its 1929 level, and did introduce basic banking and welfare reforms, FDR refused to run up the deficits that ending the depression required. Only when the federal government imposed rationing, recruited 6 million defense workers (including women and African Americans), drafted 6 million soldiers, and ran massive deficits to fight World War II, did The Great Depression finally end.

FDR's Philosophy on the Unemployed and Worker's Rights

Franklin D. Roosevelt ( FDR), referring to the 1921 President's Conference on Unemployment: "It said many sound things. It proposed the control of credit  expansion by the banks; it proposed the prevention of over-expansion of industry; it proposed the control of public and private  construction in boom periods, and it proposed security against the suffering that might come from unemployment."

What much has changed in the past 80 years, and why haven't we learned from the past, and are always doomed to repeat it? The problems we had then still exist today. And the unemployed are berated now as they were then. FDR (while still governor of New York) said aid to the unemployed "must be extended by government, not as a matter of charity, but as a matter of social duty." But the Republicans have been trying to convince the general public today that the jobless are just lazy...just as they did 80 years ago.

The Forgotten Man was the term Roosevelt used in a fireside chat (radio address) he gave on April 7, 1932. Roosevelt used the term to describe the poor men who needed money and were not getting it, promoting his New Deal (Also, read FDR's entire 1932 campaign address on unemployment)

"The overwhelming majority of unemployed Americans, who are now walking the streets and receiving private or public relief, would infinitely prefer to work." - FDR’s Message to Congress on Unemployment Relief. (March 21st, 1933)

MYTH: FDR was against unions. FACT: In response to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's congressional message of May 17,  1933, Congress passed the National Industrial Recovery Act (NRA). Employees were given the right to organize and bargain  collectively and could not be required, as a condition of employment, to join or refrain from joining a labor organization. The NRA—by  a separate executive order—was put into operation soon after the final approval of the act

"It seems to me to be equally plain that no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By "business" I mean the whole of commerce as well as the whole of industry; by workers I mean all workers, the white collar class as well as the men in overalls; and by living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level. I mean the wages of decent living." - Franklin Roosevelt's Statement on the National Industrial Recovery Act (June 16, 1933) 

Read the text to FDR's Fireside Chat 4: On Economic Progress from October 22, 1933.

FDR's Statement on the National Labor Relations Act (The Wagner Act - July 5, 1935) "A better relationship between labor and management is the high purpose of this Act. By assuring the employees the right of collective bargaining it fosters the development of the employment contract on a sound and equitable basis."

Labor Day Statement by FDR (September 5th, 1937) - "The wage earners of America do not ask for more, [but] they will not be satisfied with less." 

FDR on Republican fear tactics (Sounds like he knew the Koch brothers) - "There is another means of spreading fear — through certain Republican industrial leaders. I have said, without being controverted, that 5,000 men in effect control American industry. These men, possessed of such great power, carry likewise a great responsibility. It is their duty to use every precaution to see that this power is never used to destroy or to limit the sound public policy of the free and untrammeled exercise of the power of the ballot. In violation of that duty, some of these 5,000 men who control industry are today invading the sacred political rights of those over whom they have economic power. They are joining in the chorus of fear initiated by the President [Hoover], by the Ambassador, by the Secretary of the Treasury, and by the Republican National Committee."


“No country, however rich, can afford the waste of its human resources. Demoralization caused by vast unemployment is our greatest extravagance. Morally, it is the greatest menace to our social order.” 

"Here is my principle: Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle."

"If I went to work in a factory the first thing I'd do is join a union."

"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of a private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power."

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little."

"True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made."

"We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we now know that it is bad economics."

The Last Sensible Republican in American History

In 1954 (unlike his fellow Republican, President Hoover) President Dwight Eisenhower (who warned us about the defense industry) had opined about government social programs in a letter to his brother. “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history." 

Might we see this happen in the 2012 elections because of the Republican attacks on worker's rights, jobless benefits, Social Security, food stamps, Medicaid and Medicare? And the GOP still continues to vote for tax cuts for the rich and to give away billions of dollars in taxpayer-paid subsidies to corporations (like big oil companies) who don't pay taxes. Even a typical Republican voter can't be too happy about that. Isn't that like robbing the poor to pay the rich?

Where would the economy and the American worker be today if FDR had been Obama's predecessor ?

From MSNBC's Rachel Maddow:

From MSNBC's Rachel Maddow:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

More on the Budget, Deficit, and Debt

First of all, in order for a budget to truly represent the needs and wants and will of THE PEOPLE, they must have equal access to all the  information that's being put out, by both liberal and conservative arguments, that represent the opinions of both sides - so THE PEOPLE can form a more rational consensus based on what they read in newspapers, hear on the radio, and see on TV. 

PACs and super-PACs (political action committees) and "think tanks" that are funded by special interests (usually corporate interests), have been given unlimited power by the U.S. Supreme Court by unlimited campaign contributions and anonymous donations* (see below). Elections and political messages can be bought by those who have the most money and can be manipulated to control the message given to average voters.

For the time being, only independent bloggers like myself can express our views that aren't being slanted by anyone else's opinion, but is only a voice based on the opinions of others in the media. I can watch MSNBC and Fox News and see their slants on all the issues, and form my own opinion based on my own personal consensus that I form with what information I have available to me.

Personally, I would like to see the unions and corporations taken out of the equation, but rather have taxpayer-funded campaign contributions equally divided between the political parties to spend as they want on campaign ads...on the federal, state, and local levels...giving THE PEOPLE equal and opposing points-of-view to make form their own opinion and come to their own consensus on the issues. Otherwise, we'll hear nothing but propaganda by the more financially dominant force.

From the Huff Po: Here's a quick quiz. Which of the following is satire from a Saturday Night Live sketch, and which is a quote from Newt Gingrich being interviewed recently regarding his statement on Medicare and Paul Ryan's budget proposal as "right-wing social engineering goes too far":

  • "Any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood. Because I have said publicly those words were inaccurate."
  • "I just hope the lamestream media won't twist my words by repeating them verbatim."

So much for Newt Gingrich's sage wisdom on reducing the debt, or his chances of becoming our President. Thank goodness for that!

All these deficit hawks haven't been doing "what the American people asked us to do", to borrow a favorite formulation of House Speaker John Boehner (and other congressional conservatives) who claim a mandate for shrinking government in ways that directly harm working-class families (but benefit the wealthy). These elected officials aren't so much interested in following popular opinion as they are in manipulating it for their ends.

Economist Brad DeLong talks about Simple Deficit Reduction Arithmetic: A Comment on Kash Mansouri, commenting on Kash Mansouri's post Some Simple Deficit Reduction Arithmetic

The evidence is unmistakable that Republicans realize the budget they adopted last month that was confected by Paul Ryan is a political albatross - but the Democrats have awakened to the fact that Paul Ryan's plan is the best thing that ever happened to them, because a major overreach of this kind perfectly characterizes the Republicans' greatest weakness: hubris. The Democrats: "We have a plan. It's called Medicare".

The president could also usefully interrupt our deficit obsession for a moment to remind Congress that 13.7 million Americans are still unemployed. If setting up a mechanism for cutting the deficit in the long term makes sense, slashing it now would be foolish.

But there's only one deficit reduction proposal clearly backed by the American majority, and that's The People's Budget from the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Read my post How do we restore America's middle-class? SOLVED

Glenn Beck has told you that the clenched fist represents Socialism, but he's wrong. It represents solidarity among ordinary people.

* While the Citizen's United decision allowed unlimited donations by corporations and individuals, it did not allow anonymous donations.   The federal election law requires that donors be identified.   In order to do an end-around this requirement some political operatives have set up non-profit organizations to hide donor identities. This not only violates FECA but IRS regulations as well. The Department of Justice has the authority to enforce criminal violations of FECA even without action by the Federal Election Commission.

President Obama is considering an executive order that would require companies bidding for federal contracts to disclose all of its federal political spending over $5,000 for the previous two years which they now keep secret, including money spent indirectly through third party organizations like the Chamber of Commerce. The proposed transparency order would create one central database on the website www.data.gov  that would list the political activities of government contractors and their affiliates and officers.

"The reaction to the executive order highlights the need for it.   The Chamber of Commerce has been apoplectic over the executive order, making arguments that are absurd on their face.   They have been lobbying former Chamber board member, William Daley , who is Obama's chief of staff.   They claim transparency will lead to corruption in government contracting when just the opposite is true.

How do we restore America's middle-class? SOLVED

Corporate America, enabled by our political system, destroyed the economy for average American workers

What once made America an exceptional country was that free people with an entrepreneurial sprit were empowered to innovate and market their ideas and inventions - to engage in "free enterprise" that was guaranteed in a capitalistic "free market" economic system. But most of us don't have the talent or know-how, or are unwilling to take the risks, or can't afford the start-up costs, or aren't that ambitious...and would just prefer to labor for other entrepreneurs in exchange for a steady wage.

But as we've seen, first with the robber barons, and now with large corporations, successful entrepreneurs are either forced out of business or bought out by their competitors...even though competition was supposed to be the governing factor in a fair market place where the costs of doing business and the prices of goods were naturally and reasonable controlled by the supply-side of businesses and the demand of consumers.

Monopolies were once outlawed as one way to maintain a fair marketplace, by promoting fair competition. Yet Milton Friedman had claimed that laws against monopolies caused more harm than good, and that unnecessary monopolies should be countered by removing tariffs and other regulation that upholds monopolies. But with monopolies, especially now in a world of "free trade", multi-national corporations have become more like international cartels.

America is no longer a nation of entrepreneurs, it has become a nation of oligopolists (cartels) in which a market or industry is dominated by a small number of sellers. America lost her exceptionism, and the American worker became the victims of cartels, paying the high prices for their goods and being paid their slave wages. And if they could, corporations today would do exactly what many robber barons of the past once did: control every aspect of our lives by forcing us to live in their company housing, buying our goods at their company stores, and paying with wages that are company chits, rather than with U.S. currency.

This is why in 2011 most of us won't be on the Board of Directors of a large and powerful corporation, or be an enterprising entrepreneur...we'll either be working for depressed wages, or we'll be unemployed with an increasingly hostile attitude against the jobless.

Most of us aren't born to live out our lives with overly ambitious expectations in life. We might strive hard to become successful, but we don't usually aspire to riches beyond our wildest dreams, and then become disillusioned with ourselves and with life in general if we don't accomplish that lofty goal. We don't consider ourselves failures and become bitter and suicidal. Most of us just strive for an average middle-class life-style with reasonable creature comforts and financial security. We're not greedy, or addicted to ruthless ambition, constantly seeking an adrenaline rush in adventurous risks and conquests. Most of us just want to go to work at a fair-paying job and then relax and watch a little TV at night. Is that too much to ask when living in the richest country that the world has ever seen in human history?

Many of us might have a passion in life - be it in music, sports, etc - and some people may become extremely wealthy. But these people just became wealthy doing what they love to do. These are the truly lucky ones. And in the days of yore, if someone were to work hard, save their money, and invest in a business, they may have a honest passion and true belief in the good or service they were offering - and they would take pride in the service or product they sold. Sometimes they took responsibility too, especially if their name was on the product, as their reputation mattered to them. It wasn't always JUST about the money. But these were entrepreneurs, not corporate CEOs.

Reverse Robin Hood Economics

It began when entrepreneurs (small businesses) became limited liability corporations, when the rich began taking from the poor.

People in charge of large corporations - those massive bureaucratic machines with no single purpose other than shareholder value and company profits, don't appear to take the same pride in the good or service as a small businessman  might. And most on the board of directors take no responsibility at all, using limited liability clauses to escape blame and punishment for using cost-benefit analysis when allowing dangerous products on the market. Corporations may give campaign contributions, but they are NOT real people with feelings, and are usually not the respected community leaders working on behalf of the people's interests. Otherwise, they wouldn't need public relations offices and an army of litigation lawyers.

A CEO today appears to be driven by two things only: the value of the stock, and getting rewarded for increasing stock prices and profits. And if that means sending American middle-class jobs to China (the ones that most average Americans aspire to have), then so be it. And our elected politicians seem to agree with corporate America's philosophy, more than they do with The People's philosophy...especially the Republicans.

Take taxes as just but one example. The government is going broke on all levels, but the Republicans don't want to raise taxes on the corporations and CEOs that outsourced all the American jobs. Instead the Republicans would rather deny jobless benefits and food stamps to those that lost their jobs to outsourcing. The political-corporate packs seem to agree that American workers should NOT have ANY livelihood AT ALL. So then, what do they propose that we do with 30 million unemployed human beings...lock them all up in a FEMA camp and then process them into Soylent Green?

The GOP's argument that any increase in taxes (meaning corporate and capital gains) will do "irreparable harm to the economy by killing peoples’ incentives to work and invest". Many Republicans have actually advocated for lowering their taxes, even lower than they are now since the Bush tax cuts, the ones they've enjoyed for the past decade. And some members of the GOP have even proposed completely eliminating them all together!

The GOP has been trying to convince the American people that if I was the CEO of a large multi-national corporation, and if you lowered my taxes, I would hire more Americans; but if you raised them, I just might close my business or not hire anyone at all!

The Corporate Myth

In my example we'll use this scenario: 

I am a CEO of a large American-based multi-national corporate conglomerate with limited liability. Last year I outsourced thousands of middle-class American jobs to China for cheaper labor - to lower the cost of my company's payroll. I saved the company millions of dollars for shaving "business related" expenses, and the value of the stock went up because of this. I also hired a crack team of tax lawyers to avoid paying any corporate income taxes. I also paid lobbyists to have Republicans legislate laws favorable for my company...and as an added bonus, I even managed to get some generous government subsides. For all my hard work I was handsomely rewarded for all my cost-cutting measures and corporate welfare by receiving a large bonus in company stock-options. After a year I only had to pay 15% in taxes for long-term capital gains (minus all the deductions and tax write-offs that my expensive personal accountant will find for me). My business made 40% more in profits last year than the year before, and my base-salary went up three-fold in the last two years.

BUT...if you raise my taxes on my personal salary by 5%, or if you make me pay ANY corporate taxes at all, and if you stop giving my company free taxpayer subsidies, then I will close my business and stop hiring people in China. I will no longer enable foreign workers to be consumers of my products, and I will no longer pay foreign governments corporate taxes. I will do nothing to try to expand my business into other "emerging markets" where the people are even more poor and desperate; and I will no longer participate in "free market economies" in an attempt to generate company profits. I will lay off all my Chinese workers and close all the factory doors in China and retire.

BUT...if you LOWER my taxes even more, I promise to hire LOTS of American workers and pay them a fair "living wage".  I also promise to pay my fair share of corporate taxes to help maintain America's infrastructure. And I promise to stop begging for government hand-outs (i.e. corporate welfare, corporate entitlements, government subsidies). I also promise to pay the same income tax rate on my multi-million salary as does ordinary working Americans. And I promise to stop bribing the people's elected officials, just so I can become more rich. I promise, I promise.

Oh, I forgot...and I REALLY promise to stop funding conservative "think tanks" to spread propaganda about the unemployed, and I will stop insisting that corporations not pay unemployment benefits to the people that I either laid off or refused to hire. I also promise to no longer spread the lies that they "lack the necessary job skills" or that they "have to be more mobile". And I also promise not to call them "lazy bums" anymore either. 

OK? Now will you lower my taxes? Please, please! Do we have a deal? hack-hack-cough-cough-clear throat-cross fingers...PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I need "certainty in the marketplace"! But if you raise my taxes, I'll ruin the whole damn economy!

How do we restore the middle-class? SOLVED

The Great Recession began with the Republican sponsored Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act 1999, which repealed part of the Glass–Steagall Act of 1933, opening up the market among banking companies, securities companies and insurance companies. The Glass–Steagall Act had prohibited any one institution from acting as any combination of an investment bank, a commercial bank, and an insurance company. This, in conjunction to corporate monopolies and the outsourcing of millions of American jobs, has erased America's middle-class. This was allowed to happen because our elected politicians (mostly Republicans, beginning with the very likeable and witty and charming Ronald Reagan) allowed for it. And because corporations are allowed to influence our elections, it won't get any better, only worse...unless it's fixed very soon.

First, vote Democrat...the lesser of the two evils (preferably members of the Progressive Caucus). Then hold their feet to the fire to restore worker's rights. Renegotiate ALL "free trade" agreements. If we can't outlaw or nationalize corporations like BIG OIL (and the BIG BANKS that are deemed "too big too fail"), regulate them and penalize them when they break laws and/or outsource jobs. Outlaw monopolies to induce a more fair marketplace with TRUE completion. End ALL corporate subsidies to companies earning record profits. End super-PACs to eliminate corporate influence in our politics, so that THE PEOPLE are represented, not just the interests of  large American-based multi-national corporate conglomerates with limited liability. And endorse The People's Budget, so that our nation's finances better reflect the wants and needs of ordinary Americans, not just the wealthy CEOs of the Corporate States of America.

And stop watching Fox News and believing all the GOP's scare tactics...

Empowered Chinese workers will soon overtake America's middle-class

IBM’s top human relations executives discussed transferring 3 million U.S. service jobs to countries such as China by 2015. the United States lost 2.5 million manufacturing jobs since the Bush presidency beginning in 2001. The rise in the U.S. trade deficit with China between 1997 and 2006 has displaced production that could have supported 2.2 million U.S. jobs. Most of these jobs (1.8 million) have been lost since China entered the WTO in 2001. And up to 2.1 million jobs could be supported if China cracked down on rampant piracy in areas such as software and movies. 

And that's just in China...and how many more additional jobs could these lost jobs have created, had they remained in America and create more demand here? And then the recession killed off another 7.9 million jobs just in the past three years. It's increasingly likely that many  of those will never come back, even as our workforce (with only a 65% participation rate) grows by another 150,000 every single month.. 

It's nothing but a myth when American corporations complain about foreign competitors. If the jobs had stayed here, there would be very little foreign competition at all. So if U.S. corporations aren't hiring American citizens, and they refuse to pay U.S. taxes, then why do we even need them here? Tell them to move to China, but to leave their American citizenships behind.

My America, from Middle-Class to Food Stamps

Are You Middle Class?

Rich or Poor - Very Little in the Middle

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Path to Prosperity: A Republican Bedtime Story

Once upon a time there were the really good Republicans and the very nasty and evil Democrats. The Republicans were the brave freedom fighters for free trade and free (emerging) markets - and enabled big corporations to be free to do whatever they pleased. Even the U.S. Supreme Court had agreed with them. This proved that the Republicans were the righteous defenders of modern capitalism, and therefore, the best qualified to represent the welfare and lives of THE PEOPLE. The little people cheered!

On the other hand, the bad Democrats always stood in the way of the good Republican's desire for global trade by arguing for destructive things such as worker's rights, fair taxes on the rich, and justice for all. The Democrats were trying to destroy the good ole U.S.A.! That made the little people very sad.

The GOP's bold and noble argument was that any increase in tax rates will do irreparable harm to the economy by killing peoples’ incentives to work and invest...saying that if multi-national corporations could only earn a 50% profit instead of a 60% profit, then they wouldn't bother trying to make any profit at all. The whole economy could collapse. The GOP said that if Paris Hilton had to pay 5% more in taxes, she'd have to fire her bodyguard, housekeeper, hairdresser, chauffer, and cook...and Beverly Hills might not ever be the same again.

Since the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, America lost millions of jobs and had a record high unemployment rate...higher than that at the height of the Great Depression. Over the past three years alone the United States had record deficits and budget shortfalls, and a housing bubble with record foreclosures. The Republicans, because of de-regulation of the banks, caused The Great Recession. So the GOP must have thought this was a good thing, because they, and all the bankers and CEOs had big happy smiles. The Republicans told the little people that this is how things should be. So THE PEOPLE were warm, snug and content.

But the GOP thinks that more of the same (more tax breaks for corporations and the rich) will make it all that much better for THE PEOPLE; and that by lowering corporate and capital gains taxes for the rich even more would bring them (the average working people) back to full employment again, earning a "living wage" and allowing them all to live a middle-class lifestyle...to once again have "prosperity". The GOP convinced the little people that they will fix all the roads and bridges, hire more teachers, and put a man on Mars as well. All they had to do was bring in less tax revenues by NOT taxing the rich, but by eliminating food stamps for the poor; and only then could all this be accomplished. But best of all, if they were all good little people, and believed the Republicans plan, they would all get a lollipop too! The little people were very excited!

If the banks and corporations are already earning record profits, but still aren't hiring people domestically, how will increasing corporate profits and CEO pay with more tax breaks help the man on the street (literally, the homeless man on the street)? But the little people were told not to worry, that everything would be great...and that all the starving homeless people would go to Heaven. Their GOP leaders seemed so sage and sincere. One had even wept at the podium while giving a tender speech in Congress. THE PEOPLE were touched.

Just how exactly will lowering taxes for big banks and big corporations that are earning record profits, but who outsource jobs overseas and foreclose on homes (and for wealthy people like Donald Trump who file for bankruptcy every 3 years), restore the great American Dream for average working people today? But the little people were told to watch Fox News, and that Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly would explain all these good things that THE PEOPLE needed to believe - "they were looking out for you". The little people were relieved, and finally felt safe and secure at last.

The GOP might have wanted to raise taxes on the poor (while ending unemployment benefits for the jobless), and then expand the military budget another $100 billion a year to build more fighter aircraft to put people back to work. Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing would love that...lots of multi-billion-dollar no-bid government contracts that are completely paid for by the "working poor" taxpayers.

The good Republicans believe in more corporate welfare for multi-national corporations, who pay no corporate income taxes, and always give the bulk of their political donations to GOP PAC funds that support Republican candidates - who in turn will always vote for lower taxes for big corporations and lower capital gains taxes for rich people. This appealed to the GOP very much, so they convinced THE PEOPLE, and it was so. The rich were happy and the little people were told that they should be happy too. So they were.

And even though THE PEOPLE had lost their jobs, lost their homes, and lost all faith in capitalism, they still begged their Republican leaders to tell them another fairy tale. And although THE PEOPLE no longer had Medicare and Social Security, and had lost all their hope, according to their wise, thoughtful, honest, sympathetic, and fearless Republican leaders, all the THE PEOPLE would be just fine. They were told that the brave and noble Republicans would take back America. The little people clapped and cheered like good American patriots. They were happy, because they were finally back on the path to prosperity.

And then all the little people lived happily ever after.

The End