Tag Archives: economy

Just watched “Capitalism: A love story”

7 Jun

I will state up front that I consider myself a socialist. Not the “Zomg! Obama’s a fascist/socialist/communist/racist/muslim!!!11” kind that the people with tinfoil hats seem to think is socialism, but the one of the actual kinds of socialism.

To be completely honest, I’m not quite sure exactly where I fit on the socialist spectrum. I think I land somewhere between “progressive” and “democratic socialist“.  (At least those were my top too according to this test)

I’m of the position that a government, formed by the people, should be charged with conducting itself in a manner that best protects the interests of the people as a whole. In other words, the government should work to make sure the greatest number of people possible have the best standard of living possible. (Yet the rights/views of minorities should be protected, hence why I don’t believe in direct democracies that lead to mob rule, but I digress)

I feel that hard work should be rewarded, and that people should benefit from their labor. But then this is where my views get confusing, even to me. I do not feel that the wealthiest people in America are necessarily “hard workers”. I feel they cynically game the system much the same way welfare freebooters game the system.

My view that the wealthiest people unfairly manipulate the system was really confirmed by this movie. Now before you make the assumption that I am some Michael Moore fan boy, there was a lot about this movie that did not sit well with me. I felt the lion share of this movie was an appeal to emotion, which makes sense, Moore is trying to outrage you into action, yet I would have preferred he focus more on facts rather than sensationalist teary-eyed families being forced out of their homes.

The facts that are in this movie should speak for themselves. The most compelling part of the film is when Moore weaves together the story of how America became a plutonomy starting with the recession of the Carter years and the capturing of the government by Wall Street during Reagan’s presidency. The scene where Don Regan tells president Ronald Reagan to “speed it [his speech to the NY stock exchange] up” is amazing.

The whole tale of a calculated and organized hijacking of the nation by Wall Street’s CEOs seemed to smack of conspiracy theory. It’s an amazing, and infuriating, story, but I would like to find some evidence outside of Moore’s documentary in order to decide for myself if it’s true. There is one thing, however, that this conspiracy story has going for it that others don’t:

In most conspiracies, the actors are the government. The problem with this is that the government is notoriously incompetent.* The “9/11 was an inside job” conspiracy is extremely improbable merely because of the high level of planning and competency required to pull off such and act and then cover it up. A government is just not capable of that level of finesse. (Especially under Bush’s incompetent reign) In this conspiracy story, however, the actors are not some clumsy government, but a small collection of some of the smartest, most brilliant people in America, the CEOs on Wall Street.

“But wouldn’t market competition dictate that different CEOs be working against each other?” Yes and no. While they most assuredly were in competition with one another, it makes more sense for them to work together on something that would benefit them all greatly. (Like no regulations) However, the ultimate “winner” was Goldman Sachs. Under Clinton and Bush, Goldman Sachs managed to fill top Treasury Department positions with its “former” employees, including even the position of Secretary of Treasury with Henry Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs. (His net worth was $700 million when he left to become Sec. of Treas.) With this superior posturing, Goldman Sachs was in prime position to pressure its will on the government.

(Goldman Sachs also had their CEO in the Sec. of Treas. position with Robert Rubin. (Who also served as CEO of Citigroup) The current Sec. of Treas., Timothy Geithner, is a protegee of Rubin’s)

The most shocking and outrageous part of the film for me came when Moore discussed the recent bailouts of the super banks.  Two months before elections, Sec. Paulson drew up a 3 page plan to bail out Wall Street. (Keep in mind, usually legislation passed by congress is hundreds, if not thousands, of pages long) In that plan Paulson stipulated that all laws, including court review, would be waived:

Sec. 8. Review.

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

Checks and balances anyone? The American people were rightfully outraged, but Paulson and his goons ramped up the fear factor, hoping to cram through the bill with a little debate as possible, just as Bush had done for the Patriot Act and the war in Iraq. Amazingly, for once, the American people fought back and the bill was defeated, by 12 votes. Congress then went home to prepare for elections.

Here is where I become really furious: Enter the democratic party leadership. Paulson and company rush back to DC and enter in backroom deals with the democrats. Promises are made, futures are sealed, and then congress does a complete 180, the American people be damned. Paulson gets the key to our pockets and makes off with 700 Billion; proof Wall Street has muscles to flex over our government.

The film is very thought provoking to say the least. It’s clear that our “free market” system is being manipulated to the benefit of a very select few. Employment near 10%, thousands of people being evicted from their homes, corporations making millions off of “dead peasant” policies, meanwhile banks take billions in our money, only to send their executives on luxurious vacations and the CEOs retire with unholy amounts of money. This isn’t working, but what’s the answer?

Despite the film being directed by Michael Moore, a person people on the right hate as strongly as they love Reagan, I feel a large portion of the movie would appeal to the right as well, especially the Tea Party movement. The fact that we’re being universally fucked by our leaders is something we can all rally behind, and I think this is one of the great points the movie tries to make. Moore references a Citigroup memo that was leaked where Citigroup explained to it’s top investors that they [Wall Street] had successfully turned America into a plutonomy, and that it was no longer a democracy. (Seriously, go read it, it’s scary) The memos explained that the top 1% of America now had more wealth than the bottom 95% COMBINED. Here’s the real kicker: Citigroup states in the memos that the biggest threat to their “gravy train” (yes, that is a direct quote) would be if society demanded a more equitable share of the wealth. The biggest problem was that despite having more money, a rich person can only cast as many votes as a poor person, 1. In other words, if the peasants realized that they were never going to get that carrot, the “American dream” of wealth, that they would revolt and vote the puppet government out of office. (Seriously, go read the memos)

I certainly feel communism is just as evil as American style unregulated capitalism. While we have vast economic inequity, communism, as practiced as a political system, is totalitarian and oppressive. I want there to be a middle ground, that’s why I call my self a progressive socialist. But do my views work? I don’t know. To be honest, I’m not sure how closely my views fall to those in Europe. I’ve always dreamed about moving to Europe because there they work to live, whereas here we live to work. Unfortunately, Europe is going through a financial crisis right now because Greece took that to the extreme, completely unbalancing their budget. I’m interested to see how European style socialism weathers this crisis.

*unless you work for the Coast Guard

At a crossroad in life

19 May

Hey everybody. As you might have noticed, I haven’t posted in a while. Last Saturday was my graduation from college. I was already nervous about it and then the Thursday before I got a call from my mother that my grandmother, the only one I have left, had cancer. My grandmother was subsequently hospitalized and could not make it to my graduation. My parents came up, my mother was extremely stressed, and we went through the motions. Afterwards we packed up all of my things into a little U-haul and I lost my academic hood.

One of the most difficult things for me was having my sanctuary, my little apartment room, invaded and packed away. My parent’s didn’t mean to “invade” it, and I’m not upset at them for it, but still, it was my little space where I could feel secure. Having to pack it all away without regard to the memories I have in that room hurt. And so I left my home of four years, my girlfriend of nearly three years, and both my best friends to drive down to a state I hate to visit my favorite, and last, grandparent who was now dying of pancreatic cancer.

Here I have no friends, no job, nothing. I don’t even have a space of my own. I’ve been moving around from room to room in the house, depending on where each uncle is going to sleep. One night I was in the frog over the garage, now I’m in my sister’s room. (She left for VaBch) All of my belongings are packed in boxes, cold in the garage. I have only some clothes and my computer that I move from room to room. I’m all alone here, and my parents are really stressed out. We don’t get along well normally, and now everything is really straining.

I want to get a job, what type of job, I don’t know. I want my own apartment, someplace I can feel safe and decorate. Getting a job takes time, and unfortunately that’s time I don’t have. My dad just lost his job, and so now he’s looking for a new one. He flew up to NY to network, but we’re thinking his best lead is in Dallas, TX. Years and years of work and he’s right back to where he started. It’s not fair. Nothing is. Regardless, we’re being kicked out of our house on July 15th. Our rent period runs out then and the people we rent from want to sell the house. I have no idea where I will be after that date. It kinda makes getting a job hard when you don’t know where in the country you will be in the next month. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s being alone.

While all this is going on, I’m trying desperately to start my life. I’m just now starting to figure out who I am. I realize that there will always be people who disagree with me, there will always be people who criticize me. The only thing I can do is try, try to not take it personally, which is very hard, and decide if their criticism is valid or not. I would really like to have a fun and adventurous job in some distant country. I’m thinking about gradschool a few years down the line. Getting my master’s in political science might help me get that job. The problem is they say that you should have a job that’s relevant to what you want to study before you apply to gradschool. The other day I applied for a management job at Waffle House…. The economy is so bad I can’t afford to be picky. I just hope I get a job that will help me get into gradschool.

My world is falling apart and I’m alone. I even started posting in the “strictly platonic” section of Craigslist, just so I could have somebody to talk to, maybe even go see a movie with. No luck. I’m just so scared that I’m going to get a job at the Home Depot and be stuck there for years. I’ll be working at a shitty place for too long and gradschools won’t take me. I’ll be passed over in favor of new, fresher graduates who enter a better economy.

I’d really like a job that would make me feel like I’m contributing to the good of the world, but it’s a little hard to focus on that when you’re not sure if humanity is worth saving.

Some thoughts on getting a job

17 Dec

So as my last year of college winds down, I’m starting to think about employment for after I graduate. To be honest, the coming change is kinda scary. I’ve never been paid anything above a wage before, and the idea of someone paying me thousands of dollars a year to do something blows my mind. I’m not sure if I’ll be good enough to do whatever it is I need to do.

As if the job market was not already tough, I have a few…..principles…I refuse to compromise on. My biggest fear is becoming a wage/corporate slave. I would rather starve than worship some evil overlords and thank them that in their mercy they allowed me to become their slave in return for barely enough money to live.

I refuse to prostrate myself before my employers, or potential employers. The relationship will be balanced, or there will be no relationship at all.

I refuse to have my cellphone turned into a leash my boss holds tightly in his hand.

I refuse to work in a barren cubicle that constantly reminds me how tenuous my employment is, that I could easily be replaced tomorrow.

I refuse to grovel for my vacation time. If I put in the hours, it’s mine.

I refuse to work unpaid hours to prove my loyalty to a company that has none for me.

I refuse to work in a top-down, one way communication, management environment.

I refuse to tolerate abusive and screaming bosses.

I refuse to spend the vast majority of my life working a job I hate in the hopes that when I am old I can retire and be happy for the 10 years before I die.

Live free or die.

America is fucked

9 Dec

I have officially lost all hope in the United States. The worst part is that I feel helpless to do anything about it. Public healthcare is dead, much to the delight of the evil healthcare corporations and their bought and paid for republican supporters.

60 % of all bankruptcies in the US are because of healthcare bills!

Despite that alarming fact, nobody gives a shit! We just don’t! American’s have been so beaten over the head by their politicians since Watergate, that there is no such thing as a shocking scandal. We have been desensitized to corruption, greed, war, and hypocricy. Nothing is new! It’s like politicians can do the most insane shit that would never fly in other contries, and then they can look straight into the camera and DARE the American populace to do something about it. They have no problem doing this because they know we won’t lift a finger!

Sure, a small group of citizens will be outraged, make a few signs, and go shouting around out in the cold, but the majority of people will do NOTHING. The worst part is that the most active block of citizenry is the least informed!

That’s right, the Tea Baggers. They are the biggest group of clueless fucktards that I have EVER seen. I wish these idiots were politically dead, being so extreme, but they’re not. They’ve taken the republican party hostage and pushed out moderates. Facts don’t mean shit to them. The saddest part about this whole thing is how they’ve been duped by the evil corporations who are trying to screw them over, especially on healthcare!

My prediction for the future of America: Big corporations will become increasingly more and more powerful. Democrats will lose power to Teabaggers over an economic crisis that grew out of hand under Bush. Liberals will start to lose culture wars as the religious fanatics push back hard, spurred on by the election of “reality doesn’t matter” teabaggers. Nothing real will be done about global warming. The big businesses have that in their pockets with elaborate PR campaigns. Lowland countries will go underwater, but we won’t care until Florida starts going under due to the polar ice caps melting. Religious nuts will also manage to overturn Roe v. Wade and destroy a woman’s right to control her body. Science will be pushed out of the classroom along with abortion-reducing sex education. News agencies will fall even more into corporate hands than they have already. (Unbiased mass media already doesn’t exist)

I could go on, but I don’t want to. Basically everything that progressives have worked hard for is going to be for naught. The standard of living and opportunity will continue to plummet as America looses her place among rivals like China. I’m depressed and cynical. I feel there is no hope, and that resistance is futile. This was once a country with great potential founded by liberal deists, now it’s a joke, a hopeless corporate joke.

Big Business, workers, and regulation

26 Oct

There is one god in capitalism, profit. This god is extremely powerful because it is fueled by a constant driving force, human greed. In some political circles, “regulation” is a four letter word, an inherently evil concept put in place to inhibit people from making money.

In pure free market capitalism the needs of the people are outweighed by what is most profitable. All concerns about safety and ethics are secondary to the power of the dollar. This is where regulation comes in. At the heart of government regulation is not some sinister plot to keep people from making more money, but to protect people from abuses by business to their health and security.

Sure it might be more profitable for a business to dump pollutants into a near by river instead of paying to properly dispose of them, but doing so would hurt the people living near that business.  One could counter “well, a business that does that would hurt its profit because the people in that area wouldn’t buy from them.” While this is a nice theoretical mechanism to protect people, reality shows that this is not the case. If big businesses actually cared about polluting the environment, we wouldn’t need the Environmental Protection Agency. Yet big businesses continue in harmful practices in the pursuit of profit, and so the EPA is a very busy agency.

Regulation doesn’t just protect the environment people live in from business, it protects people’s livelihoods and the economy. Everyone is painfully aware of the recent and devastating recession. People love to go on and on about the bail out, and how horrible it is. While I also hate the bailout and wished the banks and companies were just allowed to fail, the real villain here is deregulation.

Take the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act for example. This act, pushed through by 3 republicans in 1999, repealed the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. The Glass-Steagall Act put up a wall that kept investment banks separate from commercial banks, separate from insurance firms, etc. Without this protective legislation, banks from one field took over institutions from another, like Citibank taking over Travelers Group Insurance to create a super hybrid company, Citigroup. These institutions then spread their tentacles into every financial nook and cranny in the quest for more and more profit, and in the process became “too big to fail”. If they went down, they would take down everyone else with them.

The Glass-Steagall regulation was designed to keep catastrophes like this from happening. Also, take the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. This act made it possible for companies to engage in extremely risky practices like “credit default swaps” and “collateralize debt obligations”, free from the watchful eye of regulators. Companies could now make their balance sheets look good, even though they were engaging in very dangerous deals.

Unfortunately, we all now know the consequences of this type of deregulation. Without the safeguards in place, nothing was stopping businesses from making a buck, regardless of the risk and potential danger to society. In the end, wall street imploded and millions of people on main street who had nothing to do with this payed the price with their jobs and investments.

The last thing I wanted to touch on was workers. Keep in mind that profit is god. Reducing the price to operate a business means you make more profit. One of the most costly expenditures for a business is personnel. For a factory, the ideal worker is a robot. A robot can preform a task much faster than a human worker, it can often do it better, and best of all, they don’t get tired and you don’t have you pay them wages.

Robots, however, have a high one time price when you buy them, and then you have to maintain them. (Altogether this is still more cost effective than hiring workers) The next best thing to robots are slaves. Slaves also have a maintenance cost, but they work for free until they die. Unfortunately for big businesses, government regulation prohibits slavery.

Given these two realities, the next best thing a big business can do to minimize overhead is to try and make their workers as near to slaves as possible. The more you can work them, and the less you have to pay them the better. Whatever you do, don’t let them organize unions and try to improve their conditions.

There was an old theory by Ferdinand Lassalle in the 19th century called “Subsistence theory of wages“. The idea was to pay workers the bare minimum they need to survive. This way they wouldn’t breed uncontrollably, and the labor force along with wages would be kept in check. This theory has long been debunked, and labor unions have made a real difference in passing regulations to improve people’s lives, however, many of the sinister motives behind this theory remain.

To many big companies the worker is a commodity. In the US we have labor laws that regulate businesses when it comes to wages, working environment, etc. These regulations protect the people working in a company from abuses, and attempts to insure that they can afford to live. This in turn raises the overhead cost for businesses employing American workers. In turn, businesses outsource their jobs overseas to countries where there are fewer or no regulations to protect employees.

Here they can pay workers subsistence wages and work them to exhaustion. Businesses can afford to run sweatshop conditions in these countries given the high population of the work force and thus high demand for employment. (There is a website here where you can put in your zipcode and see what local companies are outsourcing jobs from your town overseas)

Without these regulations protecting American workers there would be sweatshops in the US. Corporate interests in the America actively work to try and weaken protective regulation and unions in an effort to make the American worker more like sweatshop workers. I honestly don’t know how we’re going to be able to protect the American worker and his/her job when so many people are willing to do the same work overseas for a fraction of the price, while at the same time being bared from unionizing for better living conditions.

Other big businesses have found even more ways to make money off of their workers through “dead peasant” insurance policies. Companies like Dow Chemical, Procter & Gamble, Wal-Mart, Walt Disney take out life insurance plans on their employees, only to cash in on them when their employee dies. Most of the time the employee doesn’t even know their company has this policy out on them. These company owned insurance policies make up 20% of all life insurance sold each year.

Just some thoughts.

Why does it feel like the GOP is still in charge?

27 Sep

I get the feeling the republicans are still in charge of the country. Even though technically they lost both the white house and congress, they still manage to some how throw a wrench in all the democrats’ plans.

Healthcare is a perfect example. The dems have enough seats to push this through, but it’s as if the republicans are in charge of congress. No matter what Obama’s plans are they manage to somehow stall them.

I think the killer here is the economy. Under the last 8 years of regulation being a fowl word the economy went to hell. Bush and the republicans fucked things up so badly, and got booted out just in time of this tsunami of shit to crash on Obama and the dems.

What was Obama to do? Nothing and let it play out? (Like what the tea party folks are screaming they wish he had done) Then the economy would have completely crashed and the republicans would have pointed the blame at him anyways.

Obama was damned either way. Let the largest economy in the world crash and be blamed, or try and bail it out and be blamed. (And trust me, I wish those fuckers at the bank had been allowed to drown, but what were we to do?)

I just am amazed how the republicans are surfing this. It’s like they’re trying to say “We know we fucked this whole thing up to begin with, but since we started it, we know how to finish it, and this Obama guy is just going to mess it up worse!”

They’re using the anger over the economy to block every measure the democrats want to put in place. How are they able to still do this? Just steam roll them. They’ve shown that they don’t really care about bi-partisanship. Obama’s reached out to them several times (and pissed off his base in the process) and for what? For them to spit in his face and then complain that he doesn’t care.