Sunday, October 26, 2008

Trickle Down is Dead (We Hope)

I have news. Banks aren't using the huge infusion of Federal money to free up credit, which is what it was intended for. Republicans didn't want strings attached.

The big banks are using the money to buy weaker banks, pay stockholder dividends, and hand out executive bonuses. (This is the pattern established during the previous Reagan and Bush recessions. The strong use their cash to buy up the weak. In this case it is OUR cash they are using.)

Instead of freeing up credit, banks are freezing consumers' credit, and charging more for it. How is this helpful?

Consumers afraid for their jobs and getting huge jumps in credit card fees and interest are still spending––but they are no longer buying. Much of what they used to spend on products they are now spending on interest and fees.

What happens next? As consumers stop buying things, manufacturers, distributors and stores start laying people off by the thousands.

Unregulated markets are not free markets; they are controlled by the powerful. They are managed by greed. (Are we surprised?) They are organized to benefit the fewest people possible in the name of "efficiency." Always Lower Prices are delivered at the cost of Always Lower Wages (and Always Bigger Bonuses for the owners of the Big Box.)

The other option isn't Socialism or Communism, it's called looking out for the American Middle Class. As Democrats and Republicans alike used to do, under Truman and Eisenhower and Kennedy and Johnson. Even under Nixon (who would be a Communist by McCain and Palin's definition.)

When more people are paid better, the economy booms; when fewer people get paid insanely the economy slowly strangles itself. This is the second time we've had to learn this. It happened once before under Coolidge and Hoover. It created the Great Depression.

This is the final proof about the "trickle down" fallacy, the cockeyed notion that if we paid the top one percent a bazillion dollars, that those dollars would find their way down to everybody else. They might, if we were sellers of $50,000 wristwatches or $2000 hairdressers or tony chefs or sellers of $500 loafers.

The average "beneficiaries" of this topheavy financial system are hardly benefited at all, they are underpaid workers of two and three jobs, industrial workers who've given up on the notion of a middle class life because they can't unionize. $7 an hour cleaners of $800 a night hotel rooms. Machinists who are being paid to train their cheaper replacements or box their machines to be shipped overseas.

The true engine of our economy isn't the banks who are hoarding the trillion dollars they got bailed out with. It is––it could be––well paid workers whose jobs are secure, who aren't ripped off by lenders, who trust their government to do honestly by them. But that engine has been stripped bare by the Republican theory of trickle-down.

The Republican years have been a disaster for most Americans. Even Alan Greenspan, the high priest of trickle down, has admitted he was wrong, surprised by the arrogant chicanery of the men in the executive suites. He was fooled. "Shocked, Shocked! to discover there was gambling going on in the casino!"

The solid Eisenhower and Kennedy economies were built upon the large middle class created by FDR's New Deal; it respected working people, it included them. The new Reagan-Bush-Bush (McCain?) Republican Economy was, in essence, a Ponzi Scheme. The question is: are a majority of Americans still content to be fooled by it?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bachmann's Non-Apology Ad

The oddest thing about this Bachmann ad is the fuzzy, Mommy-loves-you tone of it. Is this a serious political ad or an invitation to try some new personal hygiene product? Is it a prayer site or a singles site? Her inflections are so carefully intimate, so caressing and personal, you wonder about her intentions towards you. It's uncomfortable to watch the ad with other people in the room. Laughter helps.

Have you ever trusted someone who talked to you this way? Is it the break-up tenderness? Or is it the tone of the sympathetic mortician? Is she the shady loan officer who wants to be your friend? Maybe she's trying for the oh-so-kind voice of the caring professions, but her policies are all about caring for large companies and leaving individuals unprotected. Whether it's healthcare protection or legal protection or job protection or reproductive protection or protection from government spying, the only protection Bachmann prescribes for regular folks is prayer. But not just any kind of prayer. Her prayer, her church, her kind of people, her specific belief-system taught at the Church of God-Will-Make-You-Rich. "Listen to me and you too can live in a house like mine." Or is she showing us a vision of Heaven? Tasteful, quiet, gentle colors, soft carpeting, nice clothes, and sweet voices. Is this a vision we should vote for?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Michele Bachmann, Inquisitor

This past week the congresswoman from Minnesota's Sixth District said on national television that members of Congress should be investigated for "anti-American" beliefs. She suggested that the inquisition ought to start on the left hand side of the aisle and singled out Barack Obama. I mean, my goodness, can't you tell just by his name? It's sadly reminiscent of Nixon's enemies list and Joe McCarthy's list of known Communists––which is another charge the McCain camp is lobbing this week.

The most chilling thing about Michele Bachmann may be how nice she seems. Her blissful earnestness, her attractive smile, her friendly eyes and good manners, her excellent grooming. All of those pleasant traits were on display in her MSNBC appearance as she called for a broad investigation of the other party. It's jarring to discover how happy some people are to announce their prejudices. Michele Bachmann seems proud of her narrow-mindedness. She's very sure of herself.

Just think of it: people who disagree with Michele Bachmann might be "Anti-American". I guess if you or I disagree with her, she'd be happy to investigate us too. If my names sounds foreign all the more reason.

Of course if we agree with her we have nothing to worry about. That is the test the Bush administration and its Republican-dominated Congress put into place. With us or against us. Friend or foe. If you are on the big red team there's no need for scrutiny. You'd just better make sure you're on the big red team. If you're not you might find your conversations listened to, your mail read, your friends questioned, your air travel curtailed, your books banned, your patriotism questioned, your rights suspended. With a nice smile of course.

How did we get here? Witch-hunting has been around forever, but the recent phenomenon may have its starting point in 1996 when the new Republican leader Newt Gingrich issued a list of words to use to describe Democrats. Paint the opponent as an enemy, as an "other", and it's easy to justify other measures.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Banana Republicanism

Actually National Socialists might be a better label for these Bush era kleptocrats who turned their publicly elected Republican government into a grinning, winking whore for big business. That was the National Socialist model.

Big Business with an army attached. Privatized warfare.

Big business that has specially lowered its own taxes to make its life easier while it runs small business out of business. Big business that transcends national boundaries. Big business that has looted America of its middle class jobs with the eager assistance of Republican laissez-faire policy-wonks and faux-conservative economic philosophers. Why employ American breadwinners when foreign children are so much easier to boss around, and so much cheaper?

Conservative? What have they conserved? They threw away everything that had worked during the best half century in American history. They raped the environment and overcooked the climate. They replaced practical systems with pie-in-the-sky, lowered wages and greedily inflated executive bonuses, traded practical regulation for cronyism carried on with winks and closed eyes; they replaced verifiable certainties with empty promises and magical marketplaces complete with fairies and elves. They privatized the profits and socialized the risks. They get, we pay. They eat, we receive the bill. Socialism for the rich; that's what National Socialism was after all.

And what was National Socialism's other name? Oh, yeah: Nazism. Fascism, just like the angry hippies warned us. It was war run for profit and plunder. It was a bandit system, a system run by thieves and bully-boys. (Why is it all the worst crooks have that heavy five-o'clock shadow: Himmler, Speer, Joe McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, Nixon, Abramoff. How do we always fail to recognize the crooks?)

Banana Republics were our own pet dictatorships run for American corporations in tropical countries. But this new American Republicanism was foisted on us by the party of Theodore Roosevelt and Eisenhower and Lincoln. I'm sure they'd never believe it. Neither can I.

Sinclair Lewis was right. ""When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." Some patriots. Some Christians.

This present crisis was caused by goons who paid themselves too much for profits squeezed out of workers and customers, and paid themselves still more when the profits turned into losses. Their schemes were backed by promises they had no intention of keeping, secured by assets they didn't own, and funded by debts they didn't plan to pay.

It will be interesting to see whether America has the stomach to place blame, to investigate and prosecute, or whether, as has happened after other recent Republican regimes, crimes are buried, witnesses eliminated, records are burned, tapes erased, memories fogged and winnings quietly invested in overseas banks. Will the culprits be forgiven again? Where would we imprison them all? Maybe we could make cell space available by releasing the political prisoners of the 1960s. These new criminals committed worse crimes than throwing rocks and getting stoned; they lied, invaded, wasted, polluted, killed, spied, defrauded, kidnapped, tortured, disgraced our reputation, stole our national nest egg and mortgaged our children's future. We ought to be a angry about that, and patient enough to see justice done properly this time.

Sarah Palin Related To European Royalty

It's shocking to discover that Sarah Palin's family tree, far from being as lowly as yours and mine, actually contains links to the ancient aristocratic bloodlines of European royalty and the effete, ascot-wearing offspring of the old East Coast rich. She's a toff, a blue-blood. She is, my friends, an elitist. Fundamentally so.

This may explain why she loves fur and enjoys shooting wildlife from airplanes instead of with the aid of ordinary pickup truck headlights like the rest of us. Why she holes up at her country residence instead of getting all dirty and lowdown with her state's elected politicians. When asked why she was suddenly opposing the investigation of her abuses of power while governor, Palin said either "L'etat, c'est moi"* or "Let them eat cake" depending on which story you've heard.

The question now is, do we curtsey to her? Does she expect us to curtsey to her? If we don't curtsey to her will she sick her Alaskan bully-boys on us?

(* Translation from the French: We don't need no stinking badges.")

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Palin Debate Critique

I realize I immediately lost credibility by using a French word in the subject line, but that may be our problem. Democrats lose by seeming more intelligent than attractive Republican incompetents who ordinary people would like to drink with. George W. Bush is a doorknob, he was a doorknob four years ago, he was a doorknob eight years ago, he was a doorknob when he cratered a series of private companies and was bailed out by friends of his dad's, but many Americans are doorknobs and feel more comfortable with others who have doorknobbish characteristics... oh, mistake, a five syllable word. Sorry.

Let me begin again.

Sarah Palin is a wacko crazy power-abusing nincompoop who prays for the world to end soon.

That is a soundbite. It also fits the perceptions of the American people. But if Joe Biden uses a soundbite, he shouldn't use that one because it's mean, and it's always wrong to be unkind to a woman––unless the woman is married to a Democratic candidate. Or is a Democratic candidate herself, in which case she can be called a be-otch repeatedly until she's out of the race at which point the Republicans who called her that can reap the eager votes of all her supporters. It is never considered mean for a cute American Republican to call a Democrat an elitist, which is also a French word.

Is this sounding fair to you?

Feminism is complicated. In this election, choosing an incompetent, inexperienced anti-feminist ultra-conservative woman who can see Russia and favors charging rape victims for the cost of investigating the crime they are a victim of, has given racists all over America the opportunity to say they are feminists. Think of it. Set aside the white hood and put on a pink ribbon!

Some are saying Sarah Palin is brave to enter this debate tonight. I think Joe Biden is the brave one, because cute always wins on America's Got Talent. If she cries, she will immediately be crowned Vice President and Joe Biden will be a hated man. If she doesn't drool, Sarah Palin will be described as admirably prepared.

Poised is another word you will hear. It is a word often used to describe beauty contestants. Bank robbers are often described as poised, so are murderers awaiting sentencing, so are con-artists, sociopaths, vacuum cleaner salesmen, and CEO's who you only realize afterwards were defrauding the company of millions. Politicians are poised on their good days. Tigers poise before they murder small woodland animals and tear them apart with their enormous teeth. You never know when a pit bull is poised to strike. Pit bulls are not as intelligent as humans but they usually win in a fight. Does this matter? Are you confused?

This election hinges on how confused Americans can be.

Republicans like us to be confused. Confused about our feelings. Confused about which side our bread is buttered on. (It's the side that is yellow.) Confused enough to think we get too much from the government and bazillionaires get too little. Confused about how old the earth is. Confused about whether Barack Obama is really a Christian or just goes to church to confuse us. Confused about right and wrong. As they did four and eight years ago Republicans are busy confusing voters about where they should vote and on what day. In Colorado and Virginia they are trying to confuse college students by telling them they cannot vote where they go to school, but must travel home to vote or lose their scholarships. In Michigan they are telling people who've lost their homes to foreclosure that they lost their voting rights at the same time. When confusion doesn't work, large red FELONY signs at polling places plant fear. Fear and confusion are the Republican trump cards.

My second biggest fear is Sarah Palin becomes president partway through a McCain presidency. My biggest fear is that McCain, the last angry man, will have time to precipitate some terrible disasters all on his own. But, heck, he's a war hero, and she's cute as a button. That's always been enough before. Actually, it didn't win four years ago. Maybe there's hope after all.