Fabulously wealthy businessman Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced to 24 years in prison after the 2006 financial collapse of the Enron company, in a huge business scandal in which investors lost billions. Indicted on 35 counts related to securities fraud he was convicted on 19 counts. Now authorities may cut him a deal on his sentence, and he could be out in 2017.
Los Angeles Times article here includes the quote: “Steal little, and you can rot in jail. Steal big, and you can extort a deal from the feds.”
Congress says it can’t find the money to provide healthcare for ordinary Americans, who are the public. Investment banks at this writing are furiously lobbying Congress and writing new legislation to push back regulations on derivatives. And they know they will win. Those coiffed gentlemen want to play the very gambles that helped drop us all in the banking crisis of 2008. And they will do it again. Banks act like they own Congress. And thus you are entitled to feel violated. Read more here
Every year CREW publishes an updated list. RON PAUL is on the latest, here
On one side of a city there are people so wealthy that after big parties, they are throwing out meat. On the other side there are people so poor, they cannot afford to buy meat.
Is this a moral problem?
–This question is a litmus test. It is attributed to John Rawls, liberal theorist from the 1970s. Free market and laissez faire conservatives see no problem – they think it’s “in the nature of things” that some people have more than they know what to do with, while others live with scarcity. For them, the inequality is simply not an issue.
Next, there are people who say it’s a technical problem of not enough food being grown to keep everybody in abundance, not a moral problem.
But liberals see it differently. Liberals feel there is something wrong with a system (city, nation) which in total, contains enough food for everybody, but not everyone is able to get it. The situation is unjust.
Liberalism – the left – rests on moral judgments. A prime moral is justice.
The heart of conservative economics is the idea that rich people’s wealth eventually benefits everybody. Rich people begin businesses, hire the poor, and pay them. Rich people spend money on goods the poorer people manufacture. So the wealth at the top “trickles down.”
We’re supposed to see a diagram here of the shape of society as roughly like a diamond, viewed from the side, with most people in the middle class. And as the rich get richer, the top of the diagram moves up, pulling lower ranks up.
But actually the bottom of society is not moving up. So as the top goes up, society just gets longer and more unequal. That’s what’s happening.
Trickle down theory is fairy dust. (But it drives a lot of government policy.) To a large extent, very wealthy people invest in things that bring no benefit for the working poor: paintings, jewelry, real estate.
What’s the alternative? Well there’s a new idea called the Winner Take All theory which says in this competitive society people have an intense drive to win. And the prize for rising to the top is that you grab it all – or a huge percentage – then the losers divide up what’s left.
A winner-take-all society has a different shape. A tall pyramid.
That shape is more accurate, because currently the top 1% of our population actually owns 40% of the wealth. This means a sharp inequality.
The Left is naturally opposed to laissez faire (free market) economics because it produces big wealth only for some people. What it always produces is inequality. The Left doesn’t like hierarchy (inequality) anyway, and the inequality creates great pain for the people who are left behind. The Right actually encourages social inequality. Some of them say it makes the economy run better.
There’s a statistic which population experts now use called the Gini Index. It shows how unequal a society is. It runs on a scale from 0 (perfect equality) to 1 (perfect inequality) and in the U.S. it has been increasing steadily, and it stood at 0.47 in 2005. If the Gini Index gets high, it predicts social unrest.
And there’s some new scientific research comparing nations. It shows that the more social inequality in a country, the shorter the life expectancies. For everybody. Naturally, the Right is vigorously ignoring that research. But it’s your health. That research is the single biggest threat to free market economics.
A Pew Research article 2011, reporting on their national poll, shows that while the average member of the public remains positive to capitalism, people aged 18-29 said they liked socialism better than capitalism (here, see the table under “Socialism and Capitalism” by category).
Constitution Project report on Bush-era torture: “Democracy and torture cannot peacefully coexist in the same body politic”
Constitution Project report here.
New investigation: US interrogation of detainees in Bush era sometimes used torture, and other “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment, which violated laws and international treaties, and were “directly counter to values of the Constitution and our nation,” and which “damaged the standing of our nation”
Contitution Project’s investigation report is here.
Average American in debt spends 3.5 hrs/day worrying about it, here
1% of the population now owns 40% of the wealth. What happened to democracy?
Imagine if you were on an airplane where 1% of the passengers had 40% of the seats. That’s approximately the wealth pattern in America. Statistics.
The two prime values of democracy are freedom and equality. Those are the legs on which it walks. But with this degree of inequality, the second one is broken. More…
Marketwatch: Top 10 companies here paying the least taxes
As The Daily Need noted in 2011, police actions around Occupy events got civil liberties scholars upset, article. Arresting witnesses for recording police behavior at Occupy demonstrations, for instance, is not what you expect in a free society, but its what some police announced they would do, and tens of reporters were in fact arrested just for filming the cops.
Why did the Occupy movement disappear so quickly? It didn’t lose steam, it didn’t get lost, and it didn’t dissolve for lack of leadership. It got squashed. In a New York Review article 2012, Michael Greenberg documents some of the squashing.
Because the Occupy movement got a lot of attention and had a lot of public sympathy, its disappearance leaves a political vacuum.
Large companies take out life insurance on their rank-and-file employees, so if the employee dies, the company gets all the money. The employee’s family gets nothing. In fact the employee usually doesn’t know about this. No surprise, WalMart has dead peasant insurance on its employees – here
What’s the target?
The Occupy movement:> BIG CORPORATIONS
Libertarians:> GOVERNMENT, AND THE FED
Nobody listens to libertarians any more.
The Occupation: Why?(video)
What is Glass-Steagall ?
Glass–Steagall Act (1933) created a wall between banking which deals in stock market securities and commercial banking which accepted your deposits. It prevented banks from taking your personal deposits and gambling with them on the stock market.
It was repealed in 1999, allowing Wall Street bankers to gamble, and lose, with their depositors’ money (Wikipedia). That led to the Financial crisis of 2007–2011 when the banks had to be bailed out.
SENTENCED TO HOPE
Despairing unemployed swell the underclass. And it isn’t going away. -read “Armies of unemployed” – here
America’s shadow: days of cheese and potato soup
HOW INEQUALITY KILLS
Health statisticians find human lives shorter in radically unequal societies, here.
US social stratification, surveyed by sociologists D. Livingston and S. Rose. Our society is a pyramid shape (wealth increasing as you go up the left side of the picture) but with an extemely high tip, too high to be shown in the picture, because a small number of people are making exponential income, off the top of graph. Put it this way: if you drew a line on a building three stories high to represent the distance between the lowest and the highest family income, the average (median) income sits at only 10.5 inches off the ground and half the nation is clumped below that. Rose’s bookcontains this picture as a poster.
CAN OUR ECONOMY RUN WITHOUT FEAR? here
‘A hungry man is not a free man’
America is the biggest exporter of food.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Agriculture reveals that at home, 4% of American households are going hungry for lack of money (that’s 4.4 million households), and another 12% are food-insecure: they eat if they don’t pay rent or other bills.
American poverty is a multifaceted disaster. Why do we export liberty and abundance to other lands when America is not taking care of its own?
We have had a conservative leadership. Many conservatives simply don’t want to take care of our poor. More welfare, according to Social Darwinists, just encourages the poor and then they won’t work. These conservatives are proud of their ruthlessness.
Those conservatives who do believe in helping also believe that the only help should be in the form of charity.
Many conservatives believe that charity is the answer to poverty.
(This is obviously wrong, because if charity really worked, there would be no more homeless and hungry.)
What’s the catch?
The catch is the conservative mindset that charity should only be given to people who are ‘deserving.’ (And conservatives insist on making that judgment themselves.)
So we have 18% of American children living in poverty, and their numbers are growing. We’d rather give charity to foreigners. Conservatives are giving charity selectively because of their prejudice against the poor. — These kids’ parents are welfare cases, so are not ‘deserving.’
But a nation with many hungry millions cannot be a strong nation. A hungry person is not a free person (originally Adlai Stevenson’s dictum) because hunger is coercive. A well-fed person can explore his options, read, and act as an informed member of a democracy. But a hungry person is a problem: he’s distracted, fearful, resentful, and he must look for food.
Unequally distributed hunger creates a division in a society.
Next: in a dangerous dog-eat-dog world, which conservatives insist, there’s Darwinian competition between nations. Conservatives keep saying: to survive, we have to be top dog. But how can we be top dog, with these internal divisions? Outsiders, looking at us, certainly see us weakened by them.
I’m not saying conservatives are rational.
Taking care of our own would heal us, naturally. But fathoms deep in the conservative mind is some dark, lurching logic that weakens us. Something even stronger than the fear of outside threats prevents them helping their fellow Americans.
An absurd calculus. It means that while America is the biggest exporter of food, we have hunger. We have poverty and blight. From the outside it cannot look like America is the land of the free.
Related article here.
Conservatives say property guarantees your freedom. That’s a silly idea, because our freedoms are already guaranteed by our laws. But the conservative idea has consequences: if you lose your property – house or money – you have less claim to freedom. Less freedom (liberty) for the poor, and that’s another inequality. The conservative mind likes social inequality.
For conservatives, social equality would remove life’s goals, here.
Money and property are competitive in this society. But what about first principles in America? America’s goal is to be the best society in the world, with liberty and justice for all.
Money is not the same as liberty and justice. Money does not advance us. In fact – read all the news – money is tearing this society apart. The real question is, will money and greed get between the public and America’s goals?
– Essay: THE WAR ON INTELLECTUALISM –
Summary: A working definition of the intellectual. Separating intellectuals from look-alikes. Most culture-watchers agree intellectualism has almost disappeared in America, but they disagree on causes. It’s not just a change in fashion; there are real pressures. This essay rejects some common explanations (television, the rise of religious fundamentalism, materialism, the rise of conservatism, poor schools) as incomplete, and replaces them with better explanations: sequel to the cultural upheaval of the 1960s, the university, technical specialists, the rise of relativism, the rise of psychotherapy, the resurgence of Social Darwinism, and the rise of trash culture. What’s the loss if we don’t have intellectuals? The revival of intellectualism is both a remote and precious possibility: remedies. More -
NOBODY LISTENS TO LIBERTARIANS ANY MORE
Yes. America is a democracy
Don’t trip up as you walk in here: there’s two related arguments.
We hear the argument from some people that America is not a democracy because the Constitution doesn’t include the word “democracy.” That’s idiotic. It’s like saying a horse is not a horse because it doesn’t walk around with the word HORSE written on it.
This nation is a functioning democracy because it contains the mechanics. The Constitution says the people own the place. And the people run it. Except that since there’s acres of people, it’s a two-step process: we vote for representatives, they carry our wishes to the big decision-making buildings in DC, if we don’t like what they do, we vote them out. That happens.
Next. If you voted last time, you acknowledged that process. You used it. You use the democratic machinery, you have to admit it’s a democracy. Like if you use an elevator, and you say, “this is not an elevator,” then we’ll have to find a new notch on the IQ scale just for you.
Yes, this is a democracy, and the way it works, all the mechanics of it, the representative workings the system is specified in the Constitution, so if you can read all that and still say America is not democracy, you’re no friend of reason.
But people do that. They insist it’s not a democracy, that it’s a republic. Do they realize what an insult that is, because if America is just a republic it gets classified with the likes of The People’s Republic of China, or Zimbabwe – which are republics only for the sole definition: they don’t have royalty running the country. We’re not like those. Also, we choose not to be run by the military. Not to be run by a church (well, except Utah). Not to be run by the ultra-rich who nobody voted for. Not by technical specialists who nobody voted for – because all of that is unconstitutional. And we cannot have no government because that is anarchy (although we have Libertarians, who are like anarchists with cars).
So if you have ever voted, don’t say this is not a democracy, that’s like riding a bicycle and saying, this is not a bicycle.
Listen, if you’re conservative, last eight years, you voted for Bush. Twice. Remember him – the one with the smirk on his face on television while he talked about killings? We all watched that smirk thinking: somebody put the right string on the wrong yo-yo. But you remember what he said? Said he was bringing democracy to foreign countries. Now. Would he say that, if America itself wasn’t a democracy? Obviously not. So the man you voted for, Mr. Bush, believed in democracy here.
And you voted.
Next. The second related argument is a bit different. It says: America may be a democracy, but it should not be. At first when you hear that, you think, that idea is off the short bus.
We’re not done. No, as unAmerican as it is, that’s an argument you hear. The argument says that American is worse because it is a democracy. They say, beware mob rule, saying he nation would do better is it was run by an elite, who got up there by survival of the fittest.
That is not from the Constitution. Because the framers of the Constitution believed in the greatest good for the greatest number. It’s an argument from Social Darwinism, and it says life is a struggle and physical survivors are the leaders we want for this nation. It’s an argument that says, it doesn’t matter what method the fit survive, they are still the best. The argument never did made any sense, it’s a bitchy, saturnine point of view that competition is brutish, the idea that strength is more important that goodness.
Wrong. The fittest members of society are not the best. They are only the strongest. So, you want the nation should be run by weightlifters?
But these people keep running their argument ‘America should not be a democracy.’ Some survivalist ideology so scrappy it almost looks like dragged through a Tijuana animal shelter. You read their websites, your computer starts blinking red. – In some ways, however, if they do read blogs and spray their vapid opinion around, they are at least stirring the information part of democracy.
Then they tell you it’s not a democracy.
These are people who tell you America is not a democracy, and then they’re first in line at the polling booth. Who does that? They followed the candidates, talked up the one they like, trashed the one they didn’t like, voted and then: it’s not a democracy.
Study shows low wage workers not properly reimbursed for overtime, pressured out of filing for workman’s comp after injury, other abuses here.
You can calculate it differently. The government likes to report U3 numbers because it’s not as scary as U6, showing almost double. While Obama is calling for transparency, please, let’s have some transparency in unemployment reporting. BLS report here. A call for reality here.
Our new social extremes
Do corporations pay taxes?
GAO report shows about two-thirds of corporations pay no federal taxes. And even fewer foreign companies which are doing business here. Report.
“IT’S TIME FOR REASONABLE REPUBLICANS TO STEP FORWARD AND DENOUNCE THE LIMBAUGHS AND HANNITYS FOR WHAT THEY ARE: UN-AMERICAN.” - Michael Massing
(It is not permitted to discuss the following)
It’s a free country of course, you can say anything. But raise these items in any social gathering and the room gets very quiet
The massive military budget. Different estimates are that from 20 to 42 cents of your tax dollar goes to defense. Is that good? And what’s the connection with for-profit industry?
What has Obama done to the anti-war movement? He’s effectively whipped it. Nobody’s saying anything. Except Z Net
Israel’s authority. Currently the US gives Israel $4Billion a year. So far as anyone can tell, this is a gift. Nobody can really explain why, since Israel is an advanced, wealthy, heavily armed nation. It does not manufacture cars or anything we need, and it does not sacrifice its soldiers in our wars. But Israel’s political influence in the US is huge although it has never been clear what Israel does, or has done for us, and our relationship with the country is ambiguous. Sen. Liebermann of Connecticut is identified as Israel’s primary spokesperson in Congress. He is no longer a Democrat, having switched to Independent.
Question the money, or this relationship, is to risk being called antisemitic. (Brian Cloughley does in his article, Who Runs America?)
This relationship must be clarified. Israel should either be restored to status as a foreign nation. Or perhaps it should be be made a US colony. After all the money we have sent, over the decades, we have paid for it several times over.
(We note that the unofficial translation of the Hebrew word goyim is cattle.)
Debt and coercion. We must pay our debts, so off to work we go. Meaning, we are not free not to work. For life, it appears (since the new bankruptcy laws). Well, they argue, a debtor had the choice not to get in debt in the first place. But any credit card holder knows that you owe interest money long after the principle is paid off, you have to keep working anyway.
What’s the distinction from forced labor?
Prison businesss. Money-for-justice is an old topic, but the prison-industrial complex has grown so impenetrably ugly we don’t talk about it. Business is business, and here judges get kickbacks for sending kids to jail.
Government spying on and arresting dissidents. The ACLU is at it again, complaining about the surveillance, harassment or arrest you can expect if you express your differences of opinion at protests, peace marches, demonstrations and the like. Emily Spence points out here, a longstanding practice to designate peaceful, law-abiding activists as dangerous and treasonable still exists in many of our government departments and agencies. Want to get your name on the US no-fly list (along with Sen. Edward Kennedy and Nelson Mandela)? Make some noise: freely express your dissident political opinions in public.
Why does your health insurance cost so much?
Could it have something to do with the staggering profits insurers and HMOs are making? – says Corrente , and -
“30%-35% of each dollar of your premium goes to pay for: executive salaries, administration, lobbying, marketing and other non-health care related costs.” Here.
3 in 10 postpone medical treatments because of cost
HR 676 is the universal health care bill unlikely ever to come before Congress
It’s ‘single payer’ (the government pays), like the Canadian and European models; in fact our own military’s health system (the VA) and Medicare are also single payer models. This bill is what we want and it doesn’t stand a chance in Congress . Click here for information website.
Press freedom report here.
Essay The War on Intellectualism, here.
Still listening to that ‘rising tide lifts all boats‘?
After all we’re going through. After the reports, the statistics, the debates. Next time you hear somebody talk that ‘rising tide lifts all boats,’ just do a U-turn. Flip the channel.
It’s a wrenchingly insulting metaphor from a group of nasty people.
After the catastrophic events of this year, and the year to come, they continue to natter the little sayism. ‘A rising tide lifts all boats.’
But this image never fits what you see, looking out the window, as you drive through the city.
It is a competitive society. They are proud of that. Now, the outcome of any competition is inevitably a winner and a loser. That’s an inequality. Obviously both people are not lifted; only the winner’s boat.
So they musts concede that in a competition (between people or between groups) one side increases, the other side decreases. The sum of the two is zero. That’s why it’s called a zero-sum – or a variation of it.
So the truth we need to be telling each other is another picture. Scrap the boats. The accurate picture is: ‘The higher the tree, the deeper the roots.’
The economy is an organic whole. The top and bottom parts are not disconnected from each other. Not detached like boats, and that aspect is obvious. Everything is connected in society. The tree’s branches reach high into the glittering sun because the roots reach low into the clotted dark.
So in the business world. Stratospheric bonuses for CEOs are possible because the wages of the workers have not increased from mud-low.
So why do they keep drawing for us this picture ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ on us?
Because generations of greed are so rationalized.
But why do they say so, when it is clear it is not so? Over and over, like preachers who shout from the pulpit for two thousand years that the rapture is coming, and for two thousand years the congregation then turns out of the church door in rapture. But on the way home, the congregation doesn’t see any rapture. Just the city. On the way home, they notice that every year, the limousines get longer, and every year there are more homeless people.
We think. It can’t be. Some people are raised, yes. But not the poor. Not all are raised.
Educators: this is a teachable moment. That boats metaphor is insulting because it’s not rational. In any competition (on which business is based) one party wins because the other party loses. It is not possible that both the winner and the loser of a competition win.
The depth of this is that, after this is explained, that they will use their sayism again. But repetition is not the same as truth.
If we try to explain to them about the tree roots, they start to object, not on the basis of evidence, but with scorn that we do not understand.
That scorn is no substitute for reality. It is the way they nail their points. And it does not make the boats image true.
Politicians know the effectiveness of images and metaphor to convey complex processes because it’s hard to disprove an image. And in our culture of sound bytes, the shorter the communication, the better — few people stop to ingest an economic treatises. But a competing image, catching the imagination, has the power to move, because it combines concept and feeling. It has a sticking quality. Communicated, it has the power to upset a whole paradigm.
Profiteer (n): one who makes what is considered an unreasonable profit esp. on the sale of essential goods during times of emergency
Your stockbroker’s grinning because growing worldwide hunger means lucrative, sure-fire investment opportunities. Here.
After this recession is over
Predictions vary but many say our economy will be well on the road to recovery in 2 to 3 years. Then we’ll see a rapid return to the old ways.
The President will install a few fixes into the economy, and sensible regulations will be hammered onto the financial markets – a few new laws.
Take a breath.
A few new credit cards arrive in your mailbox; suddenly a new crop of businessmen are talking razor slick, and prices begin to creep up again.
Then begins a new national scramble for stuff.
Your broker calls you on the phone chattering about miracle recoveries. New armies of salesmen with 12-foot smiles will be pushing holdings, stocks, shiny investments. – And more of those two-story SUVs.
And this recession will be like a squall of very bad weather that slows the traffic down terribly. (Collapsing banks are like, bad weather.) – But no change in traffic direction.
Eventually the weather passes. Amazing wreckage to be seen, yes. More clearing. But eventually, the old scenery is plain as day again.
And no change in the nation’s final destination: more.
Back to shopping as the center of life.
Listen. Three years is not enough to change the scenery, not the towering corporate landscape. Not the precipitous differences between rich and poor. Not the thick roots of Social Darwinism ever-budding through the dark soil we stand on.
A snappy return to greed.
Put together this little game and check out the real motives of person sitting next to you. It’s called the Nuts Game. More…