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THESE ARE OUR SAVIORS? SPARE US!

THESE ARE OUR SAVIORS? SPARE US!

It is interesting that people who hate government are so desperate to be involved in its epicenter. Thus we have Bennett of Utah and now Lugar of Indiana who are insufficiently right wing to cut the mustard, and must go – and have gone.

 Apparently the rationale of the far right wing is to get into government so that they can destroy it. There seems to be an attitude that government is inherently bad and that we must follow the constitution in order to defray its excesses, real or imagined. This view is the opposite of the view of the Founders who wrote the constitution and considered government to be a noble exercise of representative democracy, the central thread/rationale for having a government in the first place.

I am of the opinion that a lot of the line we hear from the right is false by design; that they care little of the real issues of the day (unemployment, international trade issues, the environment etc.), but use them very cynically for the purpose of effectuating their real design, which is to make the rich and corporate class richer with a view toward a form of a latter day feudalist state in which we are the vassals and corporations are (effectively) the state. I have blogged on this topic a couple of times to this effect.

Methodologies to make this happen include privatization efforts (designed to make profits and remove public control over public matters such as education, social security and other now government programs where lots of money is there for the taking). It is important in such a scheme of things that all such programs subject to privatization be trashed by pre-takeover propaganda about how  cost ineffective and un-American they are, how government cannot do anything right, and how private enterprise can come in on the white horse and save the day.

There are those of us who disagree with this cozy assessment; we have seen the bankrupt prone Trumps, Gilded Age trusts, the Enrons, Madoffs et al. and have witnessed firsthand the performances of those on the white horses in our recent bailouts of these intrepid horsemen, who never met an asset that could not be securitized.

These are our saviors? Spare us!

It appears that the role of government should properly be to bail out the rich but leave the poor and the veterans under the bridge in the far right wing’s philosophy of government. It seems to me that if the only real purpose of government is to serve as a blocking back for the rich ball carrier to make money, whatever the pretense and propaganda, then it is time to cancel the game. I, for one do not wish to participate in such a phony excuse for government, where money capital writes and enforces the rules ranging from sexual mores to the air we breathe. There are numerous and better options, and all involve an active engagement of the citizenry and a refusal to sell our public wealth and our futures as serfs serving a corporate culture.

 We should show corporate privatizers the gate and proceed to flesh out our own futures (financed in part by more equitable taxation rates – the latest outrage being that GE has paid an annualized rate of only 2.3% on its billions in profits over the last decade, a far less rate than many pay who are on food stamps)! Such disparities in financing America (among other things) must cease – now!  GERALD E

ALEC AND THE ECONOMY

 

ALEC AND THE ECONOMY

Professor Kennedy in her recent blog wrote on the antics of the American Legislative Exchange Committee (ALEC) in keeping a lid on wages and corporate taxes, among other efforts to represent their business clients, clients (my observation) such as Eli Lilly, for instance, whose insulin profits are stratospheric and who received tax cuts via the Trump-Ryan giveaway of billions to add to their coffers and our long term deficit. I responded to her blog, slightly edited, as follows.

ALEC has done a good job in writing up model legislation for Republican politicians who crow that it is their own while waving the flag and putting down labor and liberals as socialists in order to soften public opinion when the resulting bills are heading up for committee hearing, and there appear little countervailing models from underfunded labor unions and liberals to stanch such a well-funded torrent of money and propaganda designed to align public opinion with corporate bottom lines.

It’s working, and the infamous Powell memorandum to his friend (a vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) in 1971 opened the door for the formation of such right wing lobbying groups as ALEC a few years later, an event which, when added to the subsequent election of union-hating Reagan in a perfect trifecta marked the end of the New Deal, an era where wage increases matched the Dow.

Right to work laws then proliferated, and net corporate profits zoomed (along with the Dow) with ALEC tax-shielding amendments to the internal revenue code while median wages for minimum wage earners (as adjusted for inflation) actually went down, thus leading to a crippling externality to aggregate demand, the arbiter of economic growth.

So what to do? Elect Democrats to state legislatures, repeal right to work laws, send ALEC’s efforts back to their writers, and in general create a legislative atmosphere more favorable to labor via a doubling of the minimum wage (a wage that hasn’t been increased for more than a full decade) etc. Can’t be done? That’s what Republicans said when FDR came up with the Wagner Act, the Social Security Act, an end to bank runs, etc. With a drastic change in legislative personnel in state houses around the country, we can match or exceed the success ALEC has enjoyed since 1973 by making this economy work for all of us, not just corporate shareholders and executives. So when do we make our move? Yesterday.      GERALD         E

ALEC AND THE ECONOMY

ALEC AND THE ECONOMY

ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Committee, formed in 1973) has done a good job in writing up model legislation for Republican politicians who crow that it is their own while waving the flag and putting down labor and liberals as socialists in order to soften public opinion when the resulting bills are heading up for committee hearing, and there appear little countervailing models from underfunded labor unions and liberals to stanch such a well-funded torrent of money and propaganda designed to align public opinion with corporate bottom lines.

Its plan is working. Powell’s infamous memorandum to his friend (a vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) in 1971 opened the door for the formation of such a right wing lobbying group as ALEC a few years later which, when added to the subsequent election of union-hating Reagan in a perfect trifecta marked the end of the New Deal, an era when wage increases matched the Dow. Right to work laws then proliferated, and net corporate profits zoomed (along with the Dow) with ALEC tax shielding amendments to the internal revenue code while median wages for minimum wage earners (as adjusted for inflation) have actually gone down for the last forty years,  thus leading to a crippling externality to aggregate demand in which consumer demand represents 70 percent of the economy and is the arbiter of economic growth.

So what to do? Elect Democrats to state legislatures, repeal right to work laws, send ALEC’s efforts back to their writers, and in general create a legislative atmosphere more favorable to labor via a doubling of the minimum wage (a wage that hasn’t been increased for a full decade) etc. Can’t be done? That’s what Republicans said when FDR came up with the Wagner Act, the Social Security Act, an end to bank runs, etc. With a drastic change in legislative personnel in state houses around the country, we can match or exceed the success ALEC has enjoyed since 1973 by making this economy work for all of us, not just corporate shareholders and executives. So when do we make our move? Yesterday.        GERALD          E

HIDDEN COSTS TO CONSUMERS AND TAXPAYERS

HIDEN COSTS TO CONSUMERS AND TAXPAYERS

When as a corporate officer you are graded solely on shareholder value, bottom lines and tax avoidance, it is not surprising that the human element (even death and dismemberment) is ignored. Workers Compensation acts were passed at the behest of the rich and corporate class in order to avoid tort suits which would greatly increase corporate exposure to money damages for their negligence and, of course, corporations farm out even workers compensation liability to insurance companies, so there is no direct avenue to their coffers via tort suits to injured employees on the job as such suits are forbidden.

Unions are not only necessary to countervail wage inequality; they are also necessary to address dangerous working conditions. Right to work acts and other statutory removal of rights of labor to seek tort relief should be matters of negotiation, not Republican legislators who seek campaign contributions from the rich and corporate class.

Want to get good and mad? Fines and workers compensation premiums are deductible, thus making them a mere cost of doing business, and since the rich and corporate class add such costs into the price of their goods and services, you and I are subject to a double whammy, i.e., higher costs and reduced sharing of the tax load. Pitchforks, anybody?   GERALD         E

WAGE INEQUALITY AND RESULTS

WAGE INEQUALITY AND RESULTS

My followers know that I constantly harp on wage inequality as (other than Trump) our number one domestic issue and that I occasionally discuss economic externalities (unexpected results) that give credence to such assessment. Some such unexpected consequences of wage inequality are of little moment but some are of considerable significance, and a squib in a magazine I read recently points out such an externality (if it is one) involving an economically worrisome combination of housing, healthcare and wage inequality in Colorado, which I have reproduced as follows:

“Percent of Coloradans who have forgone health care as a result of the high cost of housing, according to a recent study by the Colorado Health Institute. Researchers found that while the average Colorado housing cost rose 77 percent over the last decade, the state’s median income increased only 4.5 percent.”

In other words, housing costs in Colorado rose an average of 7.7 percent a year while median income only rose less than one half of one percent a year. Result? Suffering and death and/or bankruptcy for want of sufficient income. This not so surprising result is only an externality depending upon the view of the assessor and may simply be an expected result in and of itself and since limited to one state is perhaps not so foreboding, but let’s consider other externalities (or simple results) flowing from this one comparison (such as comparisons of this 4.5 percent increase in wages for the last ten years with the increased and inflationary costs of food, new cars, insurance premiums etc. over the same period). When medical or any other sector of the economy hogs income, then little if any disposable income is left for a movie, new furniture, restaurants etc. with the result that the general economy is depressed, and resort to credit cards (at confiscatory interest) only make a bad situation worse.

Colorado is joined by many other areas in which housing costs are exploding, especially around Silicon Valley and mini-Silicons elsewhere in the country, and especially around university towns and reworked city centers where young millennials are congregating but with a falling birth rate are not reproducing sufficiently to ameliorate future labor shortages. (AI and robots to the rescue?)

Thus where I live here in Florida we have such high housing costs that the well to do are enduring labor shortages because workers cannot afford to live here. Politicians are talking of building housing with reasonable rental rates in order to attract workers. It seems the rich and corporate class are willing to go to any lengths to preserve the status quo other than the obvious answer to the housing conundrum, i.e., raising wages so that workers have the wherewithal to stay in or near town and trim their hedges, walk their dogs and teach their kids.

The squib I have taken the liberty to quote above, I think, showing that human beings suffer and die for want of sufficient income to seek medical help and pricey drugs, is a bridge too far, especially in a country where we brag that we are the richest in the world. Who’s we? It’s not the great mass of people who by reason of wage inequality and even those insured when insurers set the terms of the policies.

It seems to me that our present healthcare “system” is overpriced and in the final analysis even cruel in its application in a world where suffering and death and medical bankruptcies are less important than  profit-making. I am therefore in favor of a Medicare for All or some form of single payer coverage perhaps based on the Canadian template, where I read recently that one Canadian when asked about his out of pocket expenses said that his only out of pocket experience was when he reached into his pocket to bring forth his health card and that he had no other expenses.

Well-funded detractors who favor the status quo of profit over life and medical costs that millions cannot afford will come up with claims of socialism, the end of America and other such rant reminiscent of claims made by Republicans when FDR proposed a social insurance program we know as Social Security, and we all know how that worked out, what ever the ism.

Back to my personal rant > If those who favor maintaining the cruel, inefficient, profit first and costly healthcare “system” we now have wish to keep their good times rolling, then they are going to be disappointed when we enact a healthcare law that covers every American and their “system” becomes outdated, like the sudden decline in buggy whip sales when autos were invented, and among other things, they are going to be doubly disappointed when we also pass laws that end wage inequality and outlaw grossly misnamed “right to work” travesties.

No way? Can’t happen here? Wanna bet? With labor shortages many such good things can and will happen. The superrich don’t like to trim hedges – especially their own – and corporations don’t know how.      GERALD         E

 

 

CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION OF POWERS

CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION OF POWERS

Professor Kennedy in her blog today laments how Putin is having his way via Trump in “taking over the United States without firing a shot” and attributes such takeover to Trump. Many of my fellow contributors today followed suit, labeling Trump and his sycophants as gangsters and calling out Trump for putting his personal interests over that of country. I responded to her blog and my fellow contributors’ contributions, slightly edited, as follows.

To my fellow contributors > All right, we now know that we are governed by criminals with the aid and assistance of domestic sycophants who are in the game to get their piece of the pie, along with foreign mobsters (Putin is not the only one) who are intent on the destruction of what is left of our democracy to advance their own profit driven ends and  geopolitical purposes, so what are we going to do about it? Will Trump’s impeachment and even his removal from office end our problem?

I think the answer is no (though it would be a start). There are many “Trumps” lurking in our political pasture waiting for their shot at criminal power grabs, ranging from zoning payoffs at the local level to dozens if not hundreds of crimes committed by the present occupant of the Oval Office in pursuit of his self enrichment and that of his progeny and selected sycophants. We need an informed citizenry in order to end this democracy-ending plunge into 1984, not a pro-gangster cult, but I think what we need most is congressional activism. Following is a brief overview of one way we can end the present unholy alliance of crime and government.

Thus, for instance, the Constitution plainly states that the Congress is in charge of foreign trade (which includes tariffs and the like), but the Congress under Section 232 of a Cold War trade act delegated that power to the president on a finding that national security is involved, a delegation Trump quickly exploited, and now we have a manufacturing sector in recession, soybean and other farmers on welfare, tariffs which increase prices to American consumers etc., and this delegation of power is just one such example. There are many others where the Congress has yielded its legislative prerogatives to the executive via delegation of its authority under one pretense or another, some delegations good and some bad as they worked out in practice.

My recommendation is that the Congress have staff comb through every statute on the books to see what legislative powers they have delegated to the executive and reclaim such powers to themselves, doling out or removing such powers if already doled out on a one by one basis to the executive as the Congress may condition and direct. Unwieldy? Probably, but better an unwieldy reclamation of powers than their delegation to an administration composed of crooks and a president who has no interest in governing other than to feather the financial nest of his and his progeny’s nests (along with a share of the boodle to supportive sycophants via tax cuts, lax regulation etc.).

This, in view of the resistance one can expect from settled interests and corrupt politicians,  will not be easy and will take time, but the reality is that the judicial branch has no authority to reform the system and the executive branch cannot be expected to go along with a reduction in its powers, so only the Congress is left to reform a system of delegation of powers that has been hijacked by a crime syndicate only interested in governing to the extent that its members can make money. (See Ivanka’s Chinese patents and trademarks, Trump’s Turkish property interests, a pending hotel in Moscow, massive tax cuts for his “settled interests” and himself etc.).

If there are better ideas in how to end this assault on our economy, our democracy and our mores and folkways, I’m open to suggestion. Whatever works – but it had better work soon lest there be no framework to reform.       GERALD          E

ALL IS NOT LOST – YET.

ALL IS NOT LOST – YET.

Professor Kennedy in her blog today notes that Trump has debased the presidential office and politics in general so badly that we may never become once again civil in our political discourse. Most of the comments of my fellow contributors in their responses were rather negative in suggesting that our ability to get along politically has been permanently wounded, that we cannot put the genie back in the bottle etc. One of her contributors suggested a Marshall Plan to repair the rift. I responded to her offering, slightly edited, as follows.

We do indeed need a Marshall Plan, not to rebuild war-torn infrastructure but rather to rebuild confidence in our democratic values, in the absence of which we can expect  accelerating greed and control grabs among those who lust for power not only for money but for all power and the end of our democracy, an attempt which, if successful, will result in the end of our democracy and imposition of authoritarian rule en route to failed state and perhaps colonial status. I am now more mindful than ever why my old World Politics professor at university insisted on calling humans “homo saps” rather than homo sapiens, the former a deserved label as measured by the social misconduct of many of us these days – and as history tells us – the misconduct of many of those before these days.

That said, and back to the topic for the day, we start from where we are, and however daunting, must insist that the democratic values we inherited from the agoras of Athens via the library of Jefferson be followed. We need not repair such values; they remain constant and are there for the taking. What we need to repair are the ideas and attitudes of the members of our society, ideas and attitudes which currently foster greed, power grabbing and the like as well as racism, class distinction etc.  (which are designed to give moral authority to such anti-social ideas and attitudes) and which, I fear, will be harder to repair than an unnecessary attempt to repair our democratic values, as in, how do you repair racism?  It will take time and perseverance for our repair effort to play out, especially given the last few years when Trump, Putin and others who would destroy our democracy have dug our anti-social hole deeper than ever, but to reiterate, you start from where you are – and here we are – and it’s not 1984 just yet.

Our immediate task is to turn those who are digging the hole deeper out of positions of authority. Politically and metaphorically speaking, we need to fill the hole, not dig it deeper. To state the obvious, we must take the shovels away from the homo saps (Trump-led Republicans), break out our own democratic tool kits, and work without ceasing to repair our society’s ideas and attitudes with a view toward saving and strengthening our tattered democracy – so let’s get on with it.       GERALD           E

TO KILL OR NOT TO KILL

TO KILL OR NOT TO KILL

Professor Kennedy’s blog today raises the age old issue of capital punishment, citing the  views of police chiefs, research showing many on death row who were released when the real killers were found etc. Most of my fellow contributors to her blog are opposed to capital punishment, as am I, but on varying grounds. I answered her blog, slightly edited, as follows.

I have been opposed to the death penalty most of my life on grounds that it is hypocritical for the state to engage in the same conduct it condemns when it kills people who have killed other people. I also think an argument can be made that a sentence of life without parole is worse than execution, but whatever, I think the state should be held to higher ethical grounds than those of its murdering citizens since in any event and as noted by the police chiefs, death penalty statutes are not a deterrent since more murders are committed in states that execute than those that do not.

While I carry no water for the private prison industry, I think the recent blanket release of thousands of felons, some dangerous, has nothing to do with philosophy and a lot to do with saving money, and considering the wave of recidivism likely to occur since the release bar has been lowered, I question whether we are even going to save any money by such blanket release in view of an impending mini-wave of crime and its costs resulting from such release, and not to mention the pain and distress new victims will suffer, victims who would otherwise not have been victimized but for this “change in policy” that put thousands of felons on the street. Parole at what costs?

I could (but won’t) go into a discussion of overworked public defenders anxious to cop a plea with the prosecution and judges who perennially complain of crowded dockets, but will leave that to non-lawyers’ imagination. Murder trials and their invariable appeals take time and effort, both in short supply among public defenders and trial courts. Suffice it to say here that I think it can be argued that such problems when operating in tandem likely contribute to increased time laid on hapless defendants at the upper level of sentencing guidelines under the guise of judicial discretion.       GERALD         E