Posts Tagged ‘wealth

23
Feb
09

Best Videos From Last Week 2.23.09: Fox’s Right Wing Agenda, Concentration of Wealth, Regulation

There was some good TV happening last week, here’s what I found notable (hint – read the stuff at the bottom. really):

  • With more and more voters edging toward the left or moderate (and, ahem, away from the Radical Religioner Party), Fox is having a harder time hiding their right wing agenda. CNN’s Howard Kurtz catches the latest Oh No, They Didn’t! moment on Fox.
  • MOST WORTH WATCHING: I very much appreciated this 20 minute clip of Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski on Morning Joe as he discusses the concentration of wealth over the last few years. It is important for the public to understand that Republican policies enable the top few to get richer off the backs of the lower masses and unless we want the government to determine labor costs (we don’t), it is up to the public themselves to deflate the culture of extreme corporate wealth. Watch the video.
  • CLASSIC GO GET ‘EM! CLIP: Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero goes off on Fox over the suggestion that laborers have to shoulder the burden when companies lose competitiveness (many times due to executive decisions). Lots of talking over each other, which is annoying and Bernero obviously had an agenda when he went on the show, but still…it’s a good clip.
  • Repubs are already lining up their big guns against the upcoming attempts at health care reform. Some of the guns are not new and this one in particular, Betsey McCaughey, is having a clear problem locating the truth. Warning: it’s a Keith Olbermann clip, so if you don’t like him…watch the clip anyway.
  • IF YOU HAVE ITUNES: Dan Rather Reports aired an excellent program on the housing crisis with an even more excellent interview with TARP watchdog Elizabeth Warren. She is one of the few honest heroes of the Wall Street bailout. If you don’t have Itunes, you can get the transcript at the bottom of this page – I recommend the PDF version because the online version has formatting issues. Here are some highlights from the interview that are extremely worth a read:
    • RATHER
      Well, you’ve written– a great deal about family economics and the middle class. Are we in danger of– for all intents and purposes– losing the middle class? Or is that too much of a fear?
      WARREN
      No, I think that’s the real fear. So, here’s the– here’s what’s happened over a generation. Somebody out working 40 hours a week is making less than he was making 30 years ago. Household income has gone up a little. How? Because we put the second earner to work– if she could do it. But that has now flattened out. There’s no one else to put to work. We’ve put to work as many moms as we can possibly do. So, where we stand now is income has flattened out again. But core expenses; housing, health insurance, transportation, child care and taxes, because they’ve got these two salaries, have all gone up. And that’s left the basic family with less money than they used to have a generation ago. So, then we hit the skids of this recession. The bottom falls out of the housing market. They can’t tap home equity. These crazy mortgages for many of them are forcing their expenses up. They’re losing jobs. And that means we have not a few people, we have literally tens of millions of Americans, hard-working, play-by-the-rules, middle class people; people who got decent educations, people who got decent jobs, people who got married, moved out, bought houses, the backbone of what we are as America, those people are now hanging on by their fingernails.
    • RATHER
      If we lose the middle economic class do we have an America approaching anything what we’ve known in my lifetime and yours and our father and mother’s lifetime?
      WARREN
      No. It’s a different America. It becomes a two-class America. It may actually have a larger upper class. You know, maybe– maybe that moves to ten percent of the population who really do quite well. You know, the kids; you can send the kids to college with no debt and they graduate with no debt. They do fine. Nobody gets sick. You know, that’s the group that works. And then what we have is a big underclass. It’s folks who just live basically paycheck to paycheck. If– if you can hang on, if you don’t get a layoff or a cutback in hours
      RATHER
      Or you don’t get very ill?
      WARREN
      If– and one of the kids doesn’t get sick, if grandma doesn’t fall and break a hip, if you don’t get divorced or have a death in the family, you might be able to skirt through. But if anything goes wrong, you’re living one pink slip, one bad diagnosis away from complete financial collapse.
    • RATHER
      You did a special report on regulation. Take us back quickly over the last 25 years. What’s happened to regulation or supposed to have happened to regulation.
      WARREN
      So– so, here’s one way to look at it. In 1792 our young republic, George Washington is president, hits its first economic crisis. And credit markets freeze. Does this sound familiar?
      RATHER
      Yes, it does.
      WARREN
      And– it almost brings the country to its knees. And here’s what happens. About every 15 to 20 years we have another crisis. We call them panics. We have different names for them.
      RATHER
      Depression?
      WARREN
      Depression. But they happen about every 15 to 20 years for 140 years. The pattern is just unmistakable. Then we hit the Great Depression. And coming out of the Great Depression we put three new regulations in place; Glass Stiegel, which divides our community banks basically from the Wall Street investment banks, FDIC insurance, put money in the bank and know that it’s safe and some SEC regulations so you can invest on Wall Street and they can’t cheat you too directly. That’s what we put in place. For 50 years we have no bank failures, no major crises. It works. Now, there’s innovation. There’s change. It’s time to change regulations. It gets to be the early 1980s. And what do we do? Instead of saying new products, we need to change regulations to adapt, we take a different path. We say–
      RATHER
      We let banks to go in the insurance business and vice versa?
      WARREN
      Let’s deregulate. That’s exactly right. We begin to break down the old regulations. We say, “Who needs regulations? They’re so pokey. So old.” So, we go with this idea of let’s get rid of regulation and what happens? Late 1980s, savings and loan crisis should’ve been a warning. Late 1990s, remember long term capital management, hedge fund? Should’ve been a warning. But we let it go. Early 2000s, Enron, bad books, not telling the truth. Should’veĀ  been a warning. But we let it go. And where do we end up? In the biggest crisis since the– Great Depression. Markets are wonderful. They produce great wealth for us. But they are by their very nature something we call pro-cyclical. When they’re going up, they chase themselves up. Hey, wow, it’s doin’ great! Up they go. And when the go down, they chase themselves down. And they go lower than actual supply and demand would suggest. Now look, we can live in a world all ups and downs for the rest of our lives. We can say, “Who needs regulation? Let’s just ride that roller coaster wherever it goes.” But, you know, we have to remember when it goes down, it doesn’t just take down the people who gambled. It doesn’t just take down the people who invested on Wall Street. It takes down everybody who’s got a pension. It takes down folks who have jobs in construction industries and– and other industries that get hit by this. It takes down– in this case, it takes down homeowners, people who thought they were doing the right thing to protect themselves for the future. It takes down the prudent along with the gamblers and the wild ones.
      RATHER
      Which is where we are today?
      WARREN
      Which is exactly where we are today. So, we could say, “Hey, no more regulation. That’s fine.” But look what it’s brought us. We are not willing to let these big financial institutions fail. We’ve got this too big to fail notion. So we are going to shovel billions of dollars in their direction and still take the position we shouldn’t regulate them? I– this is a world that may be a lot of fun for
      the high flyers who get theirs and keep theirs. But it’s not a world that works very well for ordinary families.
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12
Aug
08

U.S. Voters Are Default Republicans

The vast majority of Americans in the recent past, now, and for the foreseeable future are and will continue to naturally lean Republican. As a country, our immediate political tendencies are to side with the Republicans and only when we feel the Republicans have screwed it up enough, do we vote Democratic. However, we will always default in favor of Republicans when our lives are not extraordinarily painful and there are no wide-sweeping movements in favor of civil rights of one group or another.

MONEY

We are a nation of consumers. Pro-business government, incorrect free market assumptions and the quelling of consumer protections have largely given way to a corporatocracy in which corporations are not accountable for legal violations or unethical activity as long as they put enough cash in the pockets of the decision-makers. These corporations have spent oceans of dollars studying how best to target American buyers, purchasing every morsel of information on every purchase and convince us the world is our oyster – leaving out that we’re selling our soul and justifying their behavior with claims of free will.

The television tells us from the time we are young we can have whatever we want. International trade has flooded our markets with cheap goods, encouraging those on the lower economic echelons to live high on the hog like those rich people across town. The credit industry has convinced people that the size of their paycheck should have no bearing on their lifestyle. And our natural inclinations toward competition, narcissism and self-centeredness has evolved into an ostentations consumerism and a culture toward monetary dominance over ones’ neighbors.

Republicans naturally feed our desire to have the biggest, best and brightest of everything by claiming (falsely, most of the time) they will not tax us and the Democrats will. Republicans call upon the politics of personal responsibility, convincing voters that their hard-earned money should never be taken by the government only to be wasted in amidst the bureaucracy or dolled out to the undeserving poor who are actually just lazy drug addicts who want to mooch off society.

Despite the growing wealth gap and widespread publication of wealth statistics indicating the top one percent of Americans earn far more than those in lower economic classes (the top one percent of Americans earned more than the total income of the bottom 20 percent of Americans from 2003-2005), the majority of Americans are convinced that they could make as much money as they want easy as pie and the Democrats simply want to tax them into poverty and ruin their chances to achieve the American dream.

Disturbingly, term after term, Republicans insist on policies that make the rich richer and give businesses more powerful tools to vacuum money right out of American pockets. Republicans are vastly responsible for legislation that weakens the dollar and helps to grow the impoverished population. Yet, time and time again, these voters fall for Republican machinations of representing and protecting the working class.

WHO IS A DEMOCRAT?

Democrats, on the other hand, tend to lay claim to the more educated, community-minded and globally exposed voters. While many votes are determined by familial culture, most Democrats become enlightened that coexistence is inevitable and, thus, adopt the philosophy that we must think of others and not just ourselves when casting a ballot or were taught this philosophy as a child. In basic terms, the competing presidential considerations are “Who would be the best president for the country and the world?” vs. “Who would be the best president for me?”

In times of peace and economic prosperity, the move across political lines is most likely from Republican to Democrat. Many are born Republican – especially in the South – but grow and go farther for college and work. Travel has become cheaper and easier, allowing more and more Americans to discover foreign nations and appreciate cultures across borders. The isolationist nature of Republican doctrine becomes short-sighted and distasteful to them.

Certainly, there are abdications. Many professional athletes who may have grown up in poorer neighborhoods or belong to minority demographic groups begin to vote Republican as their income grows. The same development applies to business people. Also, Republican “philosophy” of limited government draws many uninformed voters who believe the party’s false promises of protecting basic American freedoms – even now as a Republican administration stompes on one civil liberty after another.

DANGER = REPUBLICAN VOTERS

In times of war or danger, the gut reaction of Americans is to protect their own and vote for the Republicans, who follow “might makes right,” invasion of democracy, sealing our borders and market their ideas with utterly ridiculous notions like “Freedom Fries” and patriotism = character, encouraging their uneducated followers to viciously attack and morally assassinate anyone who should utter an opposing viewpoint (2006’s Shut Up and Sing about the Dixie Chicks is shocking and infuriating).

This reactionary culture of Americans plays right into the Republican’s hands as they take advantage of the politics of fear, whispering about attacks around the corner as Lieberman did in June and using verbiage indicating it is because of Bush and Bush alone the U.S. has not sustained another terrorist attack since 9/11.

The politics of fear, however, doesn’t simply pertain to physical insecurity, but also cultural attacks. Republicans, who are largely populated by white-bread, uneducated or very rich, christians, scurried to the polls when convinced that the possibility of gay marriage would somehow reduce the value of their own marriages (again, the voting mindset that only takes into account the ballot-casting individual rather than the community as a whole) and is a danger to the basic foundations of American culture. While it wasn’t surprising that Republicans would stoop to such levels to win elections, it is dreadfully disappointing for the rest of us to watch these unenlightened Americans play right into their hands without so much as a second thought.

Certainly, when a demographic group has felt oppressed enough to risk their lives in the creation of a national movement, as the African-Americans did in the 60’s, the result is widespread education and information proliferation among voters, driving up Democratic numbers. Because the gay community cannot rely on the organization of the religious institutions to aid in their battle, as African Americans could, their attempt to educate and reach voters will progress much more slowly. But take into consideration the decades and decades of injustice faced by African Americans and it easy to understand that progress may be slow, but it is inevitable.

DEMOCRATS SUCK AS POLITICIANS

Democrats could counter this American gut culture more than they do if they were more concerned with governing well and speaking loudly and passionately for that which is right. Instead, as with Republicans, Democrats are singularly concerned with winning and join the ranks of lobbyist-dominated degenerates. They allow the shadows of polls and assumptions of voter whims to lead them into capitulation and, subsequently, domination by the Republicans as the Democrats’ hypocrisy and weakness become palpable. Democrats try to stay out of Republican mud, but never fully grasp their ability to claim victory on the issues with cleverness and clarity. Each election becomes a theater of errors and disheartens those of us who want to fight the good fight, driving us to register as Independents.

And so the United States will always lean Republican. And when the Republicans screw things up enough, the voters look to the Democrats to clean up the mess. Which they do. And once the country is enjoying smooth sailing, Americans fuck everything up again by voting with selfishness and refusing to acknowledge the complete discord between Republican promises and the actual results of their leadership.

The pendulum may swing back and forth, but it will always linger on the right. I try to counter this by raising my voice and refusing to be afraid of offending people. That annoying bumper sticker “If you’re not angry, you’re not informed” is right, though. Education is the key to altering the immediate reaction of the U.S. to look to Republicans for answers. Because the Republicans will never do right by everyone – only by themselves.




Scarlet Letter of Atheism

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