Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Familiar Anti Christ Rumors

When logic and good sense fail you can always call up the bogeyman. The Republican Party has been working this theme ever since Obama began his run for president. It's one of their dog whistles.

There have been posters of Obama with a Hitler moustache. Obama, the first black president, is "the Other", "Not like us", "Obama isn't an American", "Obama isn't a Christian." (He's both Christian and American born, and having risen from working class roots he's more like us than the patricians running for the Republican nomination, but truth is as irrelevant as logic and good sense.)

Last week someone in the audience shouted that Obama is The Anti-Christ. Which raises the End Times rumors, another useful dog whistle. When Republicans don't want to deal with real problems––joblessness, climate change, financial insecurity, extreme wealth disparity––they call up scapegoats. They blame immigrants, Muslims, African Americans, socialists, communists, Christians of other denominations, unions, children, old people. Satan. The bogeyman. They call the president of another race and political party The AntiChrist (as reported in this NYTimes piece.) They can't handle the present time, so they bring up the End Times.

Is this craziness catching? Is it religion or science fiction? L. Ron Hubbard advised other science fiction writers decades ago that the best way to get rich was to found a religion (as reported in this Wall Street Journal article from 1997) and there have been a lot of strange new "Christian" sects and factions in the past few decades. Many emerged as a way to make money, and fell when the money disappeared, often with the religious leader. But the ride will last as long as the money lasts. (This LATimes article from 1987 will recall the charlatans of that time, Swaggart, Bakker, Robertson and Roberts. Oral Roberts tried to extort $8 million from his followers, saying God would kill him if the money wasn't given to his ministry.)

One of the loopier religious loops out there is the Prosperity Gospel, which preaches worldly riches. (This article from BeliefNet discusses the flaws in this fringe of Christianity.) It appeals mostly to people worried about their security in a time of financial crisis. "If God loves you He will make you rich." The pastor might as well say "rich like me" because the pastors pushing the prosperity gospel are always very prosperous themselves. Big cars, expensive suits, private jets, fancy homes unlike the spartan parsonages most conventional churches provide. These pastors are living proof of their gospel and look prosperous indeed, prosperous out of the pockets of the flock. Michele Bachmann's biggest religious backer, Mac Hammond, has had his own run-in with the IRS which only makes him more beloved by his mesmerized parishioners. Imagined persecution is good for money-raising.

But why preach earthly prosperity when the world is going to hell around you? Why is God making you rich if He's about to take it all away? This is what thinking rational people, even Christians, call a contradiction.

Because the prosperity gospel's flip side is always Armageddon. These demagogues have a private line to the holy truth, a bit like stock touts have an inside line on the next winner. If you've ever heard Michele Bachmann's cooing, bedroom voiced prayer about the End Times, you have to wonder what planet her secret messages are coming from. "God loves the poor––Send me money." It is always tied to a demand for money, for her campaign or the very special pastor who prays for it on radio and TV. Those pantsuits and hairstyles her husband art directs are not cheap.

Why do we take any of these people seriously? Money from heaven in one breath and the rain of fire in the next. I suppose it's good television just as creepy movies about demon possession and secret messages in Da Vinci paintings are good television. Whipping up end times fears gets people talking, and fear gets them into the fold. The prospect of these GOP choices puts the fear of God into me.

If he wasn't being sarcastic in the Gospels, Jesus favored the poor and condemned the rich; so why do these "fundamentalist" "Christians" turn the Gospels on their head?

And again, why if "the end-times are near" are these so-called "Prosperity Christians" piling up money they can't take with them? All the GOP candidates cater to the notion that "Jesus Preferred Rich People", either outright or in code. Creating a false picture of Jesus may be the worst kind of blasphemy.

Actually, to give Bachmann proper credit, many leading Republicans worship a goddess rather than a God, and her name is Ayn Rand. You want values? Hers are definitely HOT. It's all about getting what you want, whatever cost to the people around you. If you want the Anti Christ it won't be a centrist liberal like Obama, it'll be someone toting a copy of Atlas Shrugged, with a cross and a flag on his or her lapel.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Violent Suppression of Peaceful Wall Street Protesters

Lawrence ODonnell gives a rightly angry eight minutes to analyzing the brutality police are meting out to protesters in the Wall Street Occupation movement. He does a judicious and intelligent job of it.

International Business Times posted this short video. Captured from the street, it illustrates the smug amusement of the haves for the hapless on the street below. Drinking champagne and laughing, as if they know the police are working for them.

From the Nation, a welcome rebuke to the New York Times' embarrasingly biased article. The Times sent a columnist instead of a reporter and she casually cherry picked a few odd protesters, using them to discredit the whole movement and its grievances. I've not seen a balancing story from the Times. The Guardian has, so far, done the best job of covering the protests. Here's a good piece in the Guardian by Amy Goodman.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Un-Christian Super-Religious Republican Party

Today there's an excellent Washington Post article by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, professor at Chicago Theological Seminary, who explains how un-Christian the Republican Party's economic policies really are. Worth reading and worth sharing.

This well-argued opinion piece from the Rev. Jennifer Butler, Executive Director of Faith in Public Life, says the same thing, calling the Republican efforts in Congress downright immoral.

Luckily, even though there are millions of dollars and hundreds of radio and television platforms pushing it, Americans aren't buying this strange Anti-Christian brand of Christian Capitalism. This poll from the Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service found that more Americans think capitalism is at odds with Christian values.

Actually, when you sit down and read the New Testament, read it with your heart not your bank book, Jesus does sound like a Socialist, if not a downright Marxist. This liberal Jesus doesn't jibe with the Romney/Bachmann/Perry/ Cain/Santorum/Paul/Christie/Boehner wing of the Republican Party (all of the Republican Party these days) who think Jesus was sent by our Heavenly Father to make us very wealthy and provide us with an affordable servant class. The Republican Big Idea is that the poor should learn how to obey their masters.

This article from Religion Dispatches speaks to this harsh anti-worker, anti-union thread. Republican strategists have been aggressively pushing in that direction, using carefully lifted Bible verses. Verses that spoke to the lives of slaves in Biblical times are being used to justify slavery today, sometimes saying, as Bachmann has, that slaves had it better than today's unemployed. Suggesting that slavery would be a good solution to today's problems. That Jesus was, by some bizarre misinterpretation, a hard capitalist, an anti-liberal, pro-slavery, anti-tax anti-public school right winger. Fruitcake theology.

Was Jesus a socialist or was he a banker? When you read him do you think his heaven on earth would look like Scandinavia or would it look like pre-Mandela South Africa? This post on the Real Economics blog sorts the different threads of Christian economics.

Jesus Was a Socialist:

"The Protestant Reformation may have started in Martin Luther's Germany, but the reformist impulse would not stop there. Luther had one especially radical notion—that everyone could through the tools of literacy and study come to an understanding of his or her relationship to God. With this idea, the authoritarian relationship of the church was shattered. The Protestant Reformation shattered Christianity into thousands of sects large and small. Yet out of this cacophony would emerge dominant themes.

"In political terms, the center would be occupied by Luther and his followers. On one hand, his teachings about the worth of the lowliest among us would inspire the Peasant's Revolt of 1524-25. On the other, he would encourage the secular authorities to brutally suppress the uprising. Lutherans would run the governments of the Nordic countries for hundreds of years and were a part of feudalism, yet there were plenty good Lutherans in those countries who could find reasons to explain why Jesus and Luther would have loved cooperatives and become Social Democrats. Lutherans have more or less put themselves out of business as a religion but their cultural heritage still makes it true that if a social welfare system works anywhere, there's a good chance it is happening where Lutherans once roamed the earth.

"The Reformation's left would be occupied by the followers of Menno Simon—the Swiss Anabaptist. Now it may be pretty hard to imagine the very culturally conservative Mennonites and Amish as lefties but consider this—Christianity had managed to keep silent or encourage the practices of human slavery for over 15 centuries before Simon and friends wrote principled objections to it in 1534. They are SERIOUS about staying out of wars and have been since their founding. Their economic beliefs encourage sharing and community, and because they are so honest, a lot of the expensive apparatus of contracts is avoided. Not surprisingly, they are usually very prosperous. You can think of them as hippies—only with skills and excellent work habits."

Or Jesus Was a Pure Market Capitalist:

"And then we come to the right. John Calvin was Frenchman living in Geneva who would literally set Christianity on its head. For example, usury had been considered the mortal sin for over 1000 years. Now Calvin would teach that Jesus did not mind moneychangers so much—he just didn't want them setting up shop in the temples. For most of history, Christians were the poor, the folks with the shit jobs, the slaves. Now Calvin would teach that God made people rich to show that he loved them.

"Calvinism would migrate to USA in many forms but the dominant one was through the Puritans who came to Massachusetts. These folks would organize our most prestigious schools like Harvard and Yale. When people talk about WASPs, they are talking about worship-the-rich Calvinists. But the Calvinists are not limited to the snooty set. Oh no, no, no. Find some mouth-breather that denies evolution or climate change and thinks Jesus rode a dinosaur to church and in USA, the chances are about 99% you are talking to a Calvinist. Calvinism so defines the American culture that one is not wrong to think that when someone calls themselves a Christian and is not Catholic, that person is an off-shoot of the Calvinist impulse."

Do we believe the Martin Luther King Jesus or the Milton Friedman Jesus? The Jesus of "feed the poor, help the afflicted" or "money grows on trees"? Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney believe Jesus was an MBA, that being rich is the most crucial part of Christianity. The richer you are the more Christian you are. Whose Bible did that come out of? The Gospel of Riches version of Christianity is the church of Swiss Bankers and Wall Street.

American voters need to know the difference. We need to be worried about what the hard Right Wing has in mind. The bankers' side is all Republican. Wall Street's Jesus is Republican. The former slave states are all Republican. What does that tell you? Jesus wasn't necessarily anti-capitalist, but he preached a softening of capitalism's hard edge. That is Liberalism. Jesus was a Liberal. He was on the side of the little guy, of the masses, the owner of the hardware store down the street, the small farmer, the public school teacher with forty kids in her class, the two-earner family whose earners are unemployed and have a mortgage to pay.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ugly Suppression of Peaceful Wall Street Protesters

I got this YouTube link from a friend in NY.

Penning the protesters up with orange mesh and then macing them.

Watch it in slow motion.

Pretty awful. Pretty damning.

Why did the MSM cover protests in Cairo and Tripoli but refuse to cover them here?

Five tea party fruitcakes show up in colonial garb carrying a poster showing Obama with a Hitler moustache and it ends up on the national news. They get to trot out their oddball ignorance for the networks.

But thousands of college educated citizens show up to protest Wall Street greed and nobody hears about it.

There is good coverage from the great British newspaper, The Guardian. Wish we had the Guardian here.

Raw Story is now reporting spreading protests across the country. This has the feel of genuine protest, not the astroturf dummied-up phonies of the Tea Party, but real people really mad about real things.

Labels: , ,

Farm Politics

A good story from NPR. (Does NPR do any other kind?)

This quote seems to catch the gist of it: "According to the Environmental Working Group's crunch of USDA numbers, between 1995 and 2010, 10 percent of farmers who received subsidies took home three-quarters of farm subsidy dollars. About 62 percent of American farmers don't receive any subsidies at all, according to 2007 data."

When FDR created the idea of farm subsidies it was to keep poor farmers on their farms during years of low commodity prices, and to help stabilize the prices of those commodities. It worked. Since then, though, farms have consolidated into immense businesses. Agri-business owns farmland. Farming has gone corporate, and the corporate side of farming is taking most of the subsidies. To borrow a farm analogy, the larger pigs have a way of shouldering the smaller ones away from the trough. Wrong? Maybe not, but we should know what is going on. There are good reasons for having small farms, family farms, just as there are good reasons for having small towns. But is modern farm legislation helping either?

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Invisible Protesters Occupy Wall Street

Keith Olberman featured this invisible phenomenon the other night, and then again with Michael Moore the next night.

Nobody is covering the protests on Wall Street that have been going on for a week.

Meanwhile five people show up in colonial costumes with signs saying Obama is a Nazi and it's on all four network news programs and the front page of every newspaper.

Is it because most American side with Wall Street?

Or does Wall Street own the public conversation?

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Google Chairman Favors Federal Stimulus Spending

Good interview via Mother Jones. A corporate leader who seems to understand how a consumer economy actually needs consumers.

Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, GOOGLE: "The economy is today stuck behind the power curve. It needs a lot of encouragement. It needs not just something like the jobs bill, but also significant government stimulation in terms of buying power and investment. Otherwise we're set up for years of extraordinarily low growth in the economy and no real solution to the jobless problem."

Christiane Amanpour: But you say significant stimulus. Obviously this is a political environment where the only real conversation is about cutting. Do you see any expectation or possibility of a climate for more stimulus?]

Schmidt: "Well that's a political question. But the current strategy is ludicrous. You have a situtation where the private sector sees essentially no growth in demand. The classic solution is to have the government step in, and with short-term initiatives help stimulate that demand. If they do it right, they'll invest in income and growth producing things, like highways and bridges and schools."

In other words, the radical budget cutting being forced by the Republicans is exactly the wrong thing. The Obama jobs bill is the right thing, if he can get it passed.

This corporate leader understands what most Americans don't: our economy won't recover without another strong jolt of stimulus. Corporations won't spend their money (in some cases OUR money, which they got in rescue packages) unless consumers show the confidence to spend, and consumers won't have that confidence if they don't have money in their pockets and if they're worried their employer is about to lay them off or cut their pay, which is what employers do when they're uncertain.

The consumer/employer/manufacturer cycle is a whirlpool right now, leading us down. Only federal stimulus will do the trick, like it did in 2009 when the entire world economy was on the brink. Then it did work. It will work again if Congress will let it work.

The problem we have is REPUBLICANS DON'T WANT A GOOD ECONOMY. They want Obama to fail, and in order for him to fail we as a nation must fail. Then Republicans can take over again. Do we remember what got us here? The dangerous finances of Bush and his Republican enablers.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fundamentalist "Christians" and Israel

I'm surprised no one makes this comparison.

The fundamentalist "Christians" on TV and Colorado Springs and other enclaves across America "love" Israel the way prospective heirs used to "love" the dying rich relative in nineteenth century novels.

They love Israel because they know Jesus will come when an independent Israel is consumed in fire and bloodshed according to the book of Revelations, or according to some interpretations of the book of Revelations. They don't care so much about Israel qua Israelis but Israel as a stepping stone to ancient prophecy. These "Christians" are less interested in preserving our world as they are in ending it in a specific way, and soon.

Just some thoughts I had reading Michael Tracy's Mother Jones piece this morning. I wish more political commentators would make this comparison.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Class Warfare or The Social Contract

Today's must read is Paul Krugman's column. Here's an excerpt:

"Republicans claim to be deeply worried by budget deficits. Indeed, Mr. Ryan has called the deficit an “existential threat” to America. Yet they are insisting that the wealthy — who presumably have as much of a stake as everyone else in the nation’s future — should not be called upon to play any role in warding off that existential threat. Well, that amounts to a demand that a small number of very lucky people be exempted from the social contract that applies to everyone else. And that, in case you’re wondering, is what real class warfare looks like."

The cry of Class Warfare has worked well for Republicans for many years. It's worked even better for their clients. Especially the very rich, who own for a living instead of working, whose incomes have been multiplied by five while working people's incomes have been flat or declined. Working people's incomes have measurably declined against rising costs of healthcare, housing, tuition and food. But the rich are fine. The rich are protected by a whole political party.

Taxes on income from stock sales and money manipulation, which is how the rich "earn" their money, have declined. Millions made by buying and selling shares in fractions of a second as they rise and fall are taxed at a rate that's roughly half of what working people pay for their eight, ten, twelve hour days. Fair? Fair doesn't enter into it. The preferable tax rates for financial manipulation are the Republican sacred cow, the Republican golden calf. Voting against them is therefore "class warfare".

The Social Contract is a phrase the Republicans don't use very much. It raises the notion of obligation. Rich people get rich by mastering the art of accounting and accounting dislikes obligations. Obligation is a cost that subtracts from profit. Obligations avoided make the shareholder richer and the executive stock options fatter. So the idea of obligations to others in society is foreign to them. People who live outside their balance sheets don't exist, and people who weigh on their balance sheets are a problem to be avoided.

This is the sad result of forty years of "BusinessThink" in our politics. Owners––stockholders––are valued over workers because of how profits are accounted. There should always be three loyalties in business, but American BusinessThink has abandoned two of them: the customers and the employees. The rest of society was jettisoned long ago.

We need to be reminded what The Social Contract is. It's what our nation was founded on. Adam Smith, the architect of capitalism, wrote about it, but the users of his architecture have managed to forget the most important parts of what he wrote, the parts they find it convenient to forget, just as they forget the inconvenient parts of the Bible and the Constitution. Remind yourself by reading Krugman's column today.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rick Perry Wants More Poor People Working Harder For Less Money and Paying More Taxes

A good article from the Guardian last week points up the flaws in Rick Perry's Texas jobs picture.

Let me see if I understand this: Rick Perry wants more people to be poor, and wants more poor people working harder and longer for less, and wants more poor people paying more taxes so rich people can pay less than they already do which is less than poor people pay.

Nod if you agree.

I get this information from Forbes, by the way. And CNN Money. And the New York Times.

More middle class Americans have become poor in the past ten years, so Bush already accomplished what Perry said he wants to do. And Bush already guaran-darn-teed that very very rich people paid lower income taxes than bus drivers and office managers, making it better to own for a living than work for a living. And all the other Republican candidates agree on this. So what's the fuss about? Why are networks covering this? Instead of covering thousands of protesters on Wall Street...

So, the real Texas story? More jobs but not enough to keep up with the population growth. More jobs but lower paying jobs, more new government funded jobs than private sector ones, and worse conditions in many important categories. In effect, Perry has done to Texas what George W. Bush did to the U.S. Do we need it done all over again?

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

From INC. Magazine: High Tax Norway is an Entrepreneur's Paradise

Today's must read. Share this INC. magazine article with a small business person you know.

"Only two countries in the OECD—Chile and Mexico—pay a lower percentage of their gross domestic product in taxes than we Americans do.

"But there is precious little evidence to suggest that our low taxes have done much for entrepreneurs—or even for the economy as a whole. "It's actually quite hard to say how tax policy affects the economy," says Joel Slemrod, a University of Michigan professor who served on the Council of Economic Advisers under Ronald Reagan. Slemrod says there is no statistical evidence to prove that low taxes result in economic prosperity. Some of the most prosperous countries—for instance, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, and, yes, Norway—also have some of the highest taxes. Norway, which in 2009 had the world's highest per-capita income, avoided the brunt of the financial crisis: From 2006 to 2009, its economy grew nearly 3 percent. The American economy grew less than one-tenth of a percent during the same period. Meanwhile, countries with some of the lowest taxes in Europe, like Ireland, Iceland, and Estonia, have suffered profoundly. The first two nearly went bankrupt; Estonia, the darling of antitax groups like the Cato Institute, currently has an unemployment rate of 16 percent. Its economy shrank 14 percent in 2009."

Why did these "high tax" countries weather the recession better? Because their citizens didn't have the bottom drop out of their world. They didn't panic about their retirement accounts because they have a government that insures that. Safety nets are there to guard against the uncertainty problem. The Right in this country thinks the only ones entitled to safety nets are large corporations. That's what's holding us back.

INC. is the international magazine of entrepreneurship. It's the small business bible. It isn't aimed at or written by Wall Street or corporate types. And this article makes perfect sense. America isn't falling behind because of high taxes. We'd be much better off, less worried, more stable, more secure if our tax rate was higher and fairer. If the government took care of the things individuals and companies shouldn't have to worry about. Consumers would be freer to spend. Entrepreneurs would be freer to innovate. Think how productive we could be. Look at how entrepreneurs thrive in Norway. All they have to focus on is what they do best.

A fairer system with Eisenhower era tax rates could remove the healthcare burden from small business and from everyone. That is a major source of uncertainty today. Imagine not having to worry about it. Imagine being able to concentrate on what you do best. (I'm a small businessman, have been for 35 years. I know I would like this.)

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How American Corporations Plundered Employee Pensions

Wall Street Journal reporter Ellen E. Schultz discusses her new book RETIREMENT HEIST in this interview with How did many major American corporations plunder their employees' retirement funds? It wasn't complicated. It was surprisingly easy for them to do. First they hired expert help. Legal and accounting experts. Then they went to work. Read and share this interview. RETIREMENT HEIST is an important book.

"Think of pensions as a debt. If a company can reverse a debt, it can record it as income. And that income is the same as if they got it from selling trucks or whatever it is the company sells. There were billions in promises to retirees for pensions and healthcare and death benefits and life insurance, and the companies figured out that if they cut or eliminated them altogether then they could get those billions in profit -- and even use them for executive compensation."

But what are promises? What are obligations? Why do large profitable companies steal pension funds? Because they can, and their executives instruct them to do so. They are rewarded for doing so.

Remember, a corporation is properly called a "limited liability corporation". In a legal sense, in a purely capitalistic sense, they are formed and operated to avoid obligations, to evade responsibilities, to figure out ways of delivering as little as possible for as much money as possible. "Innovation" often involves devising ways to give poorer, cheaper, delayed and/or non- service for as much as they can charge. Companies that do this are admired for "outcompeting" their competitors, and their shareholders are the envy of the shareholders whose companies have more scruples.

Not all corporations behave this way, but without regulations to keep the game fair the ones that do cheat have a competitive advantage.

This is happening more and more because consulting companies and corporate leadership pow-wows and business schools have taught business leaders to ignore two of the three loyalties corporations have, the loyalty to the customer and to the employee, and to put all effort and dedication to pleasing the third group––the owners and shareholders. Corporate executives usually belong to this group. When possible the loyalty is confined to the executives themselves, leaving shareholders holding the bag.

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, September 15, 2011

High and Low

Why is our economy so miserable right now? Americans work harder, longer, for less money. Where have the fruits of increased productivity gone? Look up.

As this article in the Guardian reports, CEOs are getting paid big money. It's even bigger when they fire more people (and pay less––or nothing––in taxes.)

Which may explain what's happening to the people in the middle. Middle class workers are becoming extinct. How do we know? Corporate planners are no longer planning for the middle class consumer. New products are aimed at the rich and the poor. High and low. The Guardian has noted this trend, as has the Wall Street Journal.

The middle class is a shrinking market, and it's shrinking because of policies pushed by business and their political allies. For the past twenty years companies have been offshoring jobs––helped by "conservatives" in Washington. For thirty years they've been killing unions. Corporations with cash are buying out competitors and firing their workforce. It's a downward spiral. What's strange is the way millions of American workers are collaborating with their own degradation. And how is it good for business for consumers to have less money to spend?

We are becoming Mexico, Columbia, Nigeria. We are becoming a "Banana Republic", thanks mostly to Banana Republicans. And it isn't the store. It's much less pleasant.

Look at Rick Perry's Texas. The job growth he's touting has a worrisome pattern. The Guardian has a story today on the nature of those new jobs. They pay poverty wages.

The other jobs Rick Perry "created" in Texas, the ones paying a decent livable wage, are government jobs, the kind of jobs Republicans normally hate.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Corporations Are Hoarding Trillions

We've been hearing it from a number of reliable sources. Trillions of dollars are being withheld from the economy. Which is why the economy is flat. ABC News reports this. USAToday. The Salt Lake Tribune. Consumers don't have money to spend. Government revenues are down. So where are these phantom trillions?

Corporations have it.

The same corporations who are demanding more tax cuts. Presumably to sock away with the trillions they're holding now.

Why aren't they spending it? Because they're afraid. (The polite word is "cautious".) Afraid to invest in product or equipment or hiring because consumers aren't buying. And consumers aren't buying because they're either unemployed or afraid of being unemployed. Also because their pay hasn't risen much in recent decades, which is the sort of thing that adds to the trillions corporations have in their private stash. It's a circular problem, one bad habit leading to another. We underpay American workers and they cease to be good consumers, and they pay fewer taxes, which causes our infrastructure and schools to deteriorate, which hurts our business economy down the road. The only beneficiaries of this dynamic are the companies who are paying themselves too much and investing too little, but that benefit won't last forever.

In the 1930s the behavior was called HOARDING. It was considered foolish, antisocial and unpatriotic, and rightly so. Money hidden in the mattress does nobody any good. Scrooge was a hoarder. Picture America's biggest corporations as so many Scrooges.

The Economist magazine has a good discussion of the foolishness of corporate hoarding. The problem is contained in this pull quote:

"If cautious firms pile up more savings, the prospects for recovery are poor. Economies will be stuck in the current—and odd—configuration where corporate surpluses fund government deficits. If firms loosen their purse-strings to hire workers and to invest, that will allow governments to scale back their borrowing."

The Economist is a highly respected financial journal, not a liberal talking shop.

The Republican talking points deny the main problem. They recommend fixing the recessionary cycle by feeding more money to the companies already refusing to spend the trillions they have.

From Republican presidential candidate and former pizza CEO Herman Cain comes this arrogant, self-righteous screed, explaining why corporations aren't using their trillions to add jobs.

"It's their money. It's their money. It's their money."

If that isn't clear enough Cain says they can burn their trillions at their corporate picnic if they'd like, but why should they hire anyone? Businesses are in the business of making money, he says, not of employing people. Why would they want to employ people when there's low demand for goods?

Why is there low demand for goods? Because corporations aren't employing people.

Why would any sane person recommend giving the holders of these idle trillions more tax cuts? They aren't doing anything with the cash they already have. We might give them tax cuts proportionate to the new hires they make. Employed people pay taxes and buy goods. That's part of the Obama Jobs Bill.

The point is, these trillions are only "their money" because the taxpayer rescued their sorry hides after they drove the economy to the brink of collapse. They've responded by taking that rescue money and keeping it. They've accepted that taxpayer help and helped themselves. They've used that taxpayer cash to buy competitors and lay off workers, to export factory jobs and white collar jobs to China and elsewhere where workers come cheap.

Republicans cite "uncertainty" but this top market analyst says that's plain foolish.

"I don't buy it simply because there's always uncertainty. You never know what an employee will cost two years from now. You never know what regulations await in the future. You never know what tax rates will be five years from now. Uncertainty isn't black and white. All that exists is the perception of uncertainty, and that perception usually isn't drawn up by a careful analysis of the future. It's typically an extrapolation of the recent past -- often a terrible mistake." (In other words corporations are scared and greedy.)

Here's an interesting article about where these cash rich corporations stash their billions. Written in 2008 when the economy was teetering.

Business Insider offers a financial parable, pitting the hoarder's prospects against those of the productive business owner. The hoarder doesn't come out well.

And for an alpha and omega view of hoarding, there's this essay from a religious blogger. Hoarding money is un-Christian, apparently.

Godless fools.

Or are they? Godless, yes. Fools? Maybe the plan is to hold these trillions and make the economy crash so angry Americans elect another Republican president. Our economy is cyclical, why not our political system? Wash, rinse, repeat. We may see the cataclysm Bush caused happen all over again. Don't worry about the Republicans. Their friends are the ones holding all the money.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The GOP Goal? The End of Democracy

From one of the smartest observers of politics around, the very conservative (in the old fashioned sense) American Enterprise Institute's Norm Ornstein, comes this analysis of the political mess that Republicans have made of our democracy. Today's Republicans aren't actually conservative, they are dangerously radical. They simply do not want government to function.

This sole focus is underlined by Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, who states clearly that the chief goal of the Republicans in Congress is to get Barack Obama out of office. Not one of their goals, but job one. Frankly, I think it's their only goal. Which means they are very happy that the country run off the rails, that the economy collapse, that unemployment get worse instead of better, that everyone is miserable and hating each other, because all of those things further their main goal. I'm reminded of the old southern custom of barn burning. If you don't have it, destroy it. If you don't control it, kill it. If you can't own it, burn it down. We're witnessing a kind of political terrorism. The opposite of practical conservatism.

This narrow, self-defeating, self-destructive obsession is also in action outside of the Congress, in the widespread and deliberate effort by national Republicans to shut millions of people out of the voting process. Young people, old people, working people, non-homeowners, people of color, the poor, the marginalized, all are facing fierce Republican efforts to prevent them from voting.

Column in Washington Post.

A moderate blogger compares the GOP effort to Jim Crow.

Rolling Stone does a full story on the GOP vote suppression strategy.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, September 12, 2011

Only Deficit Spending Will Save Us

Today's must-read comes from the chief economist at the Financial Times.

People have been bullied and misled about the so-called "ogre" of deficit spending. During a recessionary period, when businesses are not spending and tax revenues are down, the government becomes the key player. All other players are sitting on the sidelines, so government has to act. Government has to spend when no one else will. It may be the most crucial role government plays in our lives––unless you subscribe to the idea that government's only role is blowing up our enemies and fencing our borders.

The founders knew the importance of a national debt. Alexander Hamilton created a robust national economy by creating the national debt. Washington presided over this. Business wealth grew in America because we had a national debt. The great presidents knew this and used this tool to create infrastructure. Eisenhower didn't win WWII, rebuild Europe or build the interstate highway system with ready cash.

FDR got us through the Great Depression with deficit spending. Without it millions would have died of starvation and disease, not to mention millions more households that would have been broken up, homes and businesses lost. Instead, well built bridges and parks, roads and dams, electrical grid work in rural areas, hospitals, schools and public buildings were the result. We still see those projects in use today. We also see several generations who got higher education through the G.I. Bill, the last liberal "good deed" created by FDR. Millions would never have gone to college but for the New Deal.

FDR did make one key mistake, though. In 1936 he promised to balance the budget. His attempt to do so when the economy was still weak caused a second recession in 1937. It was only the massive deficit spending of WWII that finally ended the Great Depression.

In good times we pay our debt back... unless we have a Republican leadership that decides good times are a reason to loosen up, to throw no-strings tax breaks at corporations that are shifting jobs overseas.

Government needs to do the opposite of what businesses do. In bad times, government must spend. In good times, government spending is less important than government oversight to make sure the private sector doesn't create another financial collapse. Think if it as Id and SuperEgo. In good times the private sector needs a grown-up in the room, a conscience. In bad times, it needs someone to clean up its messes.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Big Lies

Two and a half years later we continue to hear Obama being blamed for the big deficit. Deficits are inevitable during recessions, but Obama didn't create the famous 1.3 Trillion dollar deficit of 2009. Bush created it, as the ultra conservative Cato Institute points out.

Honesty has never inconvenienced FoxNews though. If there's a useful lie, repeat it, louder if possible. Eventually it will collect a consensus around it, giving it "truthiness", and it'll become what people believe is true.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” Joseph Goebbels

The Republicans have also learned it's useful to exhume the Founders and use them like sock puppets. (There's a good story about this in the Atlantic. They call it Zombie Economics.) Never mind that the Founders would never have said what the Republicans pretend they said. Remember, Alexander Hamilton created the National Debt to help our economy grow, and Washington used the military to enforce tax collections. It didn't end there. Our greatest presidents supported what the Republican Party opposes today, and deplored what the Republican Party now stands for. Lincoln favored Labor over Capital. Theodore Roosevelt was a progressive lion who pushed worker protections and aggressively broke up the largest corporations of his time. Eisenhower opposed massive military spending. Even our bad presidents are better than the current Republican leadership: Nixon proposed universal health care and created the EPA.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Folksy Republican Stunned By Questions

Doug Grow wrote a story that's being played out in town hall meetings all across the country. Some Republicans have started keeping their town halls private and members-only. Some will only take written questions. (Good way to keep embarrassing questions out.) Some just never go home. There's no need to if their campaign is financed by offshore corporations.

Labels: , ,

Show You Care

This short video will have you reaching for your credit card and a box of Kleenex. Adopt A Job Creator...Why didn't I think of that?

Show you care by helping those who need your help the least. That's the American way. Recently at least.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

A Republican Speaks Out

It's refreshing to hear the truth, even when you already know it.

We live in strange times. "Conservatives" are hell bent on destroying the middle class and all the functioning institutions from the best half-century in American history.

We have clean water, and the Republicans are working hard to repoison it, and the air, and rape the environment generally.

They hate good government, because they want no government. They want no government because that would remove the inconvenience of democracy.

Republicans have presented and passed laws all across the country to remove young people, old people, poor people and people of color and ethnicity from the voter lists. Why? Because fewer voters make them likelier to win elections. Whiter and richer voters are likelier to vote Republican.

Mike Lofgren spent 16 years as a Republican congressional staffer. He's no fan of Democrats, but he's learned to loathe and fear Republicans and what they are trying to do. Republicans aren't conservatives, they are radicals. Lofgren calls them terrorists. They are happy to destroy America because most of their antitax corporate clients are by now safely offshore. They have succeeded in turning the U.S. into a third world country.

Here is a list of the bills Republicans have blocked in Congress. It isn't spending they are against, they are against government doing good. They are against anything that would help Americans while a Democrat is in the White House.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Today's Must Read

The Bill of Rights as rewritten to suit America's new, officially protected, Supreme Court endorsed and validated SuperCitizens (as ghostwritten by Thomas F. Schaller of the Baltimore Sun.)

Why is it millions of Americans, and I mean average wage-earning Americans with mortgages to pay and families to feed, carry water for the corporate elite who've been suppressing their standard of living for the past 30 years? Is it because FoxNews tells them to? Is it because they bought the Republican team sweatshirt and will cheer for that team no matter what? Or are that many Americans just happy to do as they're told? Is it obedience or ignorance or cowardice?

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, September 02, 2011

Profiting from Misery, Privation and Disaster

As families huddled to worry about jobs, food and rescuing the family home, Goldman Sachs was gleefully talking about financial crisis as profit opportunity. Who are these people? Are they the type who go through victims' pockets at the scene of an accident? It isn't limited to Goldman, or Wall Street. Many of the vultures lurk in hedge fund compounds in Connecticut, picking the bones of the fallen––when possible helping them fall before picking their bones. This story from BusinessInsider is particularly chilling.

This paragraph from the Guardian caught my eye.

"But a new theory is emerging among traders and economists. The same banks, hedge funds and financiers whose speculation on the global money markets caused the sub-prime mortgage crisis are thought to be causing food prices to yo-yo and inflate. The charge against them is that by taking advantage of the deregulation of global commodity markets they are making billions from speculating on food and causing misery around the world."

In other words, crisis is more profitable than stability. If that's the opposite of what most modern economies base their prosperity on, that's fine with the speculators who profit. Picture a cat playing with a mouse.

Real Economics describes the center where global food speculation takes place, the Chicago Board of Trade. Some will point out the necessary mechanism of the Chicago Board; it gets food where it's needed in an efficient fashion through the market system. But what happens when the market makers realize they profit more from inefficiency, from shortage, from panic? Markets need to have a superego to rule their id, an Apollonian side to keep the Dionysian under control. We need responsible, humane governing institutions, which is exactly what Republican radicals in the U.S. Congress are trying to shut down and disempower.

The World Food Programme paints an ugly picture of the profitability of global hunger.

The role played by speculator manipulation of supply is no secret in the fuel category (from McClatchy News)

What is the result? More of our limited consumer dollars are locked into chasing fuel and food, leaving less for other areas of spending. It works like a heavy stone tied to the ankle of the economy. What makes it harder for 300 million Americans fills the pockets of the speculators, which means hedge funds, banks, Wall Street, the folks who fund the Tea Party.

Do market makers actively precipitate disaster in order to profit from it? There were plenty of shills pushing the profit opportunities in the BP oil spill––even if they didn't cause it.

But you have to wonder sometimes. In the week Dick Cheney's memoir hits the shelves this question should strike all of us: what influence did Dick Cheney, the former chair of Halliburton, have on the awarding of billions in war contracts to his old firm? Did he want the war to happen for private business reasons? Iraq was a war virtually made for Halliburton. The U.S. protectorate supervised the collapse of the Iraq system, the destruction of all its institutions and their subsequent privatization. Is Iraq the perfect model of Disaster Capitalism? (This Amy Goodman-Naomi Klein interview caught the drift as it was happening in 2005, but the reporting never reached the mainstream press.)

The ruling ideas behind what Naomi Klein called The Shock Doctrine aren't conservative. They are the opposite of conservative. They are radical. They are anti-patriotic. They are anti-institutional, anti-national, anti-citizen. They are against the notion of functioning societies and economies because breakdown is what makes these operators rich. Wide public failure is their opportunity. Your hunger is their feast. And increasingly, these are the people at the controls at the centers of the so-called Free Market.

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Late Great Middle Class

For the past generation the Middle Class has been stuck or declining while tip top incomes and accumulated wealth have grown enormously. Taxes that previous Republicans thought fair have been labeled "Communist" and "class warfare".

Taxing the rich isn't Communist. Nor is it Communist to pay working people decently; it's practical. Better paid employees pay the taxes that build the roads but they also make better consumers, which makes a stronger economy. A topheavy economy, like the one the Republicans have built, is unstable and more likely to collapse. Here is an excellent report from the BBC website.

Business insiders are noticing what's happening to the middle class, and they're worried even if the very rich don't care. They know you can't run an economy on jewelry and yacht purchases.

As noted in The Economist (hardly a leftist magazine), this ongoing recession, caused by the recklessness of the largest investors and financial institutions, is causing the impoverishment of the middle class, but is also discarding an entire generation of young people. New graduates from college may never gain their footing, careerwise and incomewise.

And there's this, from Forbes, on Rick Perry's odd rant that the middle class doesn't pay its share of taxes.

It isn't only the "liberal" media that's acknowledging how our tax structure tilts to benefit the upper classes. (And how it doesn't create jobs.) Responsible conservative journals are writing about it too. Our economy is unfairly rigged. Besides being unfair, it's also less productive and impractical.

Labels: , , , , , , ,