What Costco has to teach the 99-percenters who think they’re Republicans

It’s not complicated. Every retailer, restaurant, and corporation in America can do what Costco is doing, but they don’t.

Costco

Why is that?

I think it’s because the people who own and run these businesses refuse to look beyond next quarter’s financial statements. Their thought processes, their vision, and their values don’t include ways to share their wealth with their workers.

They are greedy, selfish, sons-of-bitches who want us to think that’s just how capitalism works.

That also seems to be how today’s conservatives who are outside the 1% think, too. What other explanation can there be for why they think they are Republicans?

Conservatives Don’t Seem to Understand Reality

Costco clearly has leaders, a board of directors, and shareholders who are visionary and courageous enough to implement ethical and moral business strategies that are profitable AND which include a more equitable distribution of those profits to workers in the form of livable wages.

Contrast that with the lies we’re told by Wall Street, by Big Business shills like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association and the National Federation of Independent Business, by libertarian mythologists like Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute, and by Republican politicians who keep claiming that trickle-down economics works, that we should abolish a minimum wage and leave compensation to market forces, and that government interference and over-reach are stifling business and our economy.

How is it that conservatives don’t get that all of that is, of course, complete and total bullshit?

How is it that conservatives who make less than $340,000.00 – what it takes to be in the 1% – insist on voting for Republicans and their failed policies which have ALWAYS been designed to benefit the rich and powerful first and foremost?

Liberals: Time to “Welcome Their Hatred”

We need leaders like Bernie Sanders who welcome the hatred of Wall Street and Big Money.

Compare Bernie

 

We need people like Lawrence Lessig as politicians who represent us and who are willing and eager to confront Big Money for their lies and their failures.

 

As individuals, we also must welcome the hatred of the rich and powerful. We need to find the courage to band together. We need to shine light on the fact that conservatism and Republican policy is to blame for where we are now as a nation and as a society.

More than anything, we liberals need to stop surrendering to the all-too-common liberal weakness of always wanting to find compromise.

No more compromises. It’s how we got to this sorry state of affairs. We let conservatives move the center further and further to the right by acquiescing to their demands and our own desire to avoid confrontation and conflict.

No more.

Liberals didn’t elect Reagan and two Bushes. Liberals didn’t cause banks to fail. Liberals didn’t demand that government shrink and corporations become less and less regulated. Liberals didn’t funnel all of the recovery and wealth to only the absolute richest among us.

We liberals need to continue to point out these and all the inconvenient truths that stem from conservatism (and its absurdly juvenile and greed-driven stepbrother, libetarianism).

Our fellow citizens who self-identify as conservatives need to hear from us whether they want to or not. They need to hear the truth; that they are also part of the ever-shrinking middle class and the ever-growing class of working poor.

They need to hear from us liberals that they are wrong – plain and dead wrong – for voting for ANY Republican anywhere and at any level of government.

They need to keep hearing it. Conservative (and much of libertarian) ideology that informs and drives Republican policies have unequivocally been proven to be dead wrong for everyone on every issue, and that includes economic issues. That is true, of course, for everyone except for the rich and powerful.

The Parties Are NOT The Same

It’s pretty simple and absolutely obvious. The GOP is the party of big business and the rich.

For those who are tempted to trot out the b.s. false equivalence that, “Both parties are the same,” save it. As far as I’m concerned, you’re second in line as the greatest obstacle to making real progress in this country. You give Republicans cover, and you need to stop it.

Number one on the list of obstacles are actually those Americans living in households with adjusted gross incomes of less than $340,000.00 per year who insist that they are Republicans and who vote for Republicans. I have news for them. They are not in the 1%. The conservatives in the 99% mean precisely nothing to Republicans except as useful fools who can be counted on to vote for them.

Organized Labor Is the Path to Prosperity

It’s absolutely stunning that conservatives aren’t banding together with the rest of us in the middle class in support of organized labor. History proves that stronger unions are the path to better and higher standards of living for everyone.

It bears repeating.

If you make less than 340-grand and think unions are somehow the problem and Republicans are the answer, then you not only don’t understand reality, you’re the biggest obstacle to prosperity we have right now in America.

So, how about it, conservatives?

How about you wake up and stop voting against yourselves and the rest of us?

You’ll thank yourself and, more importantly, so will future generations.

95 percent

——

Additional Reading:

Strengthen Unions

Wealth Inequality in America

Top 1 percent: How much do they earn?

Capital Eye Opener, March 8: The Fight Over Minimum Wage, and Rand’s Partisan Appeal

New Poll Shows Overwhelming Support for Major Minimum Wage Increase

Activists Around the US Fight to Raise the Minimum Wage

 

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Let’s #NeverForget915 and the Lies of Trickle-Down Economics

NeverForget915On this, the 5th anniversary of the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, Americans should take time to pause and remember this as yet another heinous crime of historic proportions perpetrated on Americans on a day in September.

It wasn’t terrorists and it wasn’t Main Street who killed our economy. No, this crime was perpetrated on us by a conspiracy forged between Big Money on Wall Street and Small (not Big!) Government politicians who carry their water and actually pass rules and laws that make the crime legal.

That means we’re also to blame. Actually, it’s not all of us who must share the blame.

There’s no other way to say this. It’s Americans who vote for politicians who want to further deregulate all kinds of industries, including the financial services industry, who share in the blame. By electing people who work to shrink government and deregulate industries, we’re actually creating a “Socialism of Wall Street” where the gains of capitalism are privatized to an infinitesimally small number of people while all the losses are socialized to all the rest of America.

How much more proof is needed that deregulation, coupled with greed and power, leads to terrible outcomes for everyone except those with wealth and power? I consider myself to be a capitalist, but I also know from experience that corporations have proven time and again that they cannot be trusted to police themselves alone.

For an excellent accounting and timeline of events that led up to the crash of ’08, I recommend reading this 2011 Forbes piece, Lest We Forget: Why We Had a Financial Crisis.

In it, Steve Denning writes:

Many actors obviously played a role in this story. Some of the actors were in the public sector and some of them were in the private sector. But the public sector agencies were acting at behest of the private sector. It’s not as though Congress woke up one morning and thought to itself, “Let’s abolish the Glass-Steagall Act!” Or the SEC spontaneously happened to have the bright idea of relaxing capital requirements on the investment banks. Or the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency of its own accord abruptly had the idea of preempting state laws protecting borrowers. These agencies of government were being strenuously lobbied to do the very things that would benefit the financial sector and their managers and traders. And behind it all, was the drive for short-term profits. <emphasis added>

I think “…being strenuously lobbied…” is too polite a euphemism.

It was the Big Money One-Percenters exercising their control over politicians who got agencies to do their bidding. 2008 was the result of the lies Reagan told America about trickle-down economics and the size of government, and the perpetuation of those lies coming from Republicans, extreme neo-cons, and the One Percent ever since. They are the ones who killed our economy in 2008, and they will do it again unless we do something to stop them.

Need more evidence?

Here are some facts about the 2008 bailout, courtesy of Public Citizen.

  • Amount the crash cost the U.S. economy: $22 trillion
  • How much everyone would get if that $22 trillion were divided equally among the U.S. populace: $69,478.88
  • Assets of the four biggest banks in America — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wachovia/Wells Fargo — when they were “too big to fail” in 2008: $6.4 trillion
  • Assets of those four banks today: $7.8 trillion
  • Of the 63 former Lehman Brothers employees identified by a bankruptcy examiner as being aware of an accounting scheme Lehman used to mask its true finances, number who are employed in senior financial services positions today: 47
  • Number of the 25 banks responsible for the bulk of risky subprime loans leading up to the crash that are back in the mortgage business: 25
  • Chances that an American voter thinks that regulating financial products and services is “important” or “very important”: 9 in 10
  • Chances that an American knows the Earth orbits the sun: 8 in 10
  • Amount spent in 2012 by Wall Street and other finance industry behemoths on lobbying to roll back, water down and weasel out of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: $487 million
  • Number of registered financial industry lobbyists in 2012: 2,429
  • Number of lawsuits filed as of April of this year by Eugene Scalia, son of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, to hold up implementation of Dodd-Frank rules on legal technicalities: 7
  • Rank of finance industry among all corporate election spending by sector in 2011 and 2012: 1
  • Amount the industry gave to political candidates in 2011 and 2012: $664 million
  • In 2012, rate at which revenues of JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the U.S., matched Public Citizen’s operating expenses for the entire year: Every 80 minutes

To my friends on the right, isn’t it time to wake up to the reality that trickle-down economics is a lie? The One Percent don’t care about you, and you are extremely unlikely to ever become one of them.

Isn’t it time to join forces as average, middle class Americans to make our voices heard about getting big money and it’s corrupting influence out of politics, and to get our democracy turned back over to us ordinary citizens?

You can start by joining and supporting CoffeePartyUSA and by becoming a Citizen Co-Sponsor of the American Anti-Corruption Act.

UPDATE 9/16/2016:

I am no longer a supporter of any kind of Coffee Party USA. To understand why, click here.

http://anticorruptionact.org/
http://anticorruptionact.org/

A Condensed History and Plea for a Better Future


Dateline: October 29, 1929

U.S. stock market crashes. That wouldn’t have been such a big deal for most Americans in 1929 except that unregulated banks had invested their depositor’s funds into the stock market, too, and without having to tell anyone what they were doing. When the stock market tanked and there no buyers, the banks couldn’t sell their holdings either. Some had to close. They no longer had the one thing a bank is supposed to have – money.

Remember, this is an unregulated industry and there was no such thing as the FDIC and deposit insurance. That didn’t come along until 1933 (http://www.fdic.gov/about/learn/learning/why/index.html)

Panic about being able to get to one’s money, of course, causes the “run” on the banks. Bankers have no money. They lost it all. Oops. Sorry about that.

No money in banks also means no credit for businesses to operate, either. Businesses, naturally, start to worry about preserving whatever remains of their capital so they let workers go. People don’t have work so they have no income. Remember, this is before unemployment insurance or any sort of government welfare programs, too. People literally have nothing. No money in the bank and no one working means no one is buying anything, either, so there’s no reason for businesses to produce much in the way of goods and services. It certainly doesn’t mean there will be any growth and rehiring any time soon. The spiral downward has started, and it’s adios amigos to everyone.

Ain’t unregulated, unfettered capitalism grand?

And with sincere apologies to some of you, that stupid fucking Russian cunt had the balls to write a few pieces of fiction less than 30 years later and some people like Alan Greenspan either came to believe it was a new religion, suffered severe amnesia about what had happened and why a few decades earlier, simply never bothered to study history at all, or more to what I believe saw then and now that deregulation is the surest way to become filthy rich at expense of ordinary people.

Back to the 30s. So, the federal government creates programs to put people back to work – work that actually benefits society as a whole. My father worked in the CCC program. He and many other young men from PA took care of parts of the Appalachian Trail. So what, you might say. What did that really do for society? Ok. Forget the A.T. Ever hear of the TVA, Triborough Bridge, the Bay Bridge, or Grand Coulee Dam? There’s a good chance something where you live that serves you, your neighbors, and the common good – a school, a hospital, or a highway, for example – was built by people employed by BOTH private businesses and the government as a result of the federal government and deficit spending to fund work programs. (See http://americanhistory.about.com/od/greatdepression/tp/new_deal_programs.htm and http://www.pbs.org/wnet/blueprintamerica/reports/the-new-new-deal/public-works-administration/693/)

Let’s speed things up a bit. This is getting pretty long.

Lawmakers and citizens alike come to realize that businesses and especially banks are either too stupid or too greedy or both to be completely trusted to regulate themselves. Glass-Steagall is passed in 1932. The “Truth in Securities Act” is passed in 1933 and the SEC and a bunch of other laws are passed beginning in 1934. Banks, at least, are safe and some rules are in place to regulate the financial services industry.

Now it’s 1999. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, a GOP disaster euphemistically referred to as the Financial Services Modernization Act (reminds me the so-called “Patriot Act”. We should always get very suspicious of legislation given names that sound like sugar coating or the titles of Mel Gibson movies) effectively repeals Glass-Steagall.

Only a few short years later we find ourselves once again in an economy where too little regulation and oversight exists, thanks mostly to Greenspan, the GOP, and weak-kneed Dems.

W drives the final nails into the coffin up by giving away the federal surplus to the rich, invading 2 countries off the books based on total lies (except for the fact that Afghanistan was harboring bin Laden and he proceeded to fuck that up totally by invading Iraq) and running up the biggest debt since – you guessed it – that other GOP nitwit, Reagan. The financial service sector, who had been merrily creating so-called investments out of highly speculative debt, and the real cold-blooded capitalists who were making even more billions on derivatives tied to that shaky debt, have been doing so without regulation or oversight.

When the bubble bursts ON W’s WATCH, who pays? We the taxpayers do.

So I get the tea party anger. Honestly, I do. But the anger, frustration, and demand for change needs to be directed where it belongs; at deregulation, failed GOP economic and fiscal polices dating back to Reagan, and the disaster created that forced Bush to have to put TARP in place for Obama to have to accept and implement. Wake up, tea baggers and you Obama-haters. Have you just conveniently forgotten or chosen to ignore how we got here?

Now I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but the more I read and listen to people a lot smarter than I the more convinced I am that TARP had to be done to save the economy and that, perhaps, the biggest mistake being made in DC is that the feds are not spending enough.

The parallels all seem to be there to the 1930s. Some experts say that FDR was too concerned about fiscal restraint in the beginning. Had he done more, they say, the Depression may not have lasted as long or required WWII to really pull us out of it. (I’m sorry that I can’t find a reference to that and don’t have time to keep searching right now as we’re going to a grad party. Maybe someone else can find something on it. I only remember hearing it or reading it somewhere; maybe last Sunday on one of the news programs.)

There are people out there a lot smarter than I who can explain all of this a million times better. Here’s one…..

http://robertreich.org/post/719313692/my-father-and-alan-greenspan

What got me going on this today was an article in today’s NYT. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/11/us/politics/11tarp.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

It’s proof to me that Americans really aren’t very well-informed. Candidates for public office are probably the dumbest of the lot. Trying to make hay on who voted for TARP is like blaming the iceberg for the sinking of the Titanic (the iceberg didn’t do anything). Captain W and his administration steered us into that iceberg. In case you haven’t noticed, they and their cronies are long gone in their yachts for life boats.

How refreshing would it be for politicians to stand up to the STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE HYSTERIA IN THE MEDIA and actually educate the voters on what really caused the bottom to drop out of the economy and the fact that….gulp….there was no other choice but to go with W’s bailout. I mean, really. What alternative was there?

The real objective ought to be what comes next to keep this from happening……AGAIN!

Don’t Blame the Borrower – How a Republican Congress Helped to Create the Current Economic Crash and Continues to Erode the Middle Class

As I see it, the reality is that our current economic problems stem directly from deregulated financial markets. We can thank Alan Greenspan, appointed by Reagan, and the pro-business, deregulatory belief system of the Republican party for that.

YOU CAN’T BLAME ME FOR ASKING
Let’s start with the mortgage crises since that seems to be something most people can agree is at the root of our current economic problems. The notion that we should blame the person applying for a mortgage that they can’t afford versus the people and systems that are supposed to screen applicants and then say, “No” is just silly, but that seems to be the position of social and fiscal conservatives.

Let’s see where the argument for blaming the applicant takes us……

  1. Let’s say I go to a bank or lender and apply for a mortgage suspecting – or even knowing – I can’t pay it back.
  2. The bank decides not to check me out and deny my application. Why? They know they won’t be holding my loan very long. Why not? Because they don’t have to and aren’t motivated to thanks to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, a law passed in 1999 while Clinton was president but Congress was controlled by Republicans. Remember that it is, after all, Congress who makes law, not presidents. GLBA was authored by Republican Senator Phil Gramm and Republican Representative Jim Leach, with contributions from Republican Rep and House Commerce Committee Chairman, Tom Bliley. It effectively removed regulations on banks created in 1933 by the Glass-Steagall Act which, itself, was a response to conditions not at all unlike today that caused the Great Depression – an unregulated financial services industry.
  3. Because sufficient regulations no longer exist thanks to the GLBA, lenders of all kinds – including banks – can now package and sell my loan with thousands of others to someone else and wash their hands of the initial risk of lending me money. No reason to deny my application if they aren’t worried about me paying it back – that’s someone else’s worry now.

So what should we expect will happen? No one will deny my loan application because there’s money to be made quickly by writing the loan and selling the now infamously “toxic asset” to someone else. Well, here’s what will and did seem to happen…

  1. I and lots of people will get mortgages we don’t qualify for
  2. The re-packaged investments will be sold to someone else
  3. Those packaged securities will become worthless because not enough people can pay them back, and
  4. The financial services companies who used to be regulate banks but who no longer fall under enough regulation and scrutiny will go crying to the very same government who stopped regulating them in the first place to now bail them out.

The Rich make and pass laws to benefit the Rich, and when things go bad we as citizens pay for it through weaker markets and inflated government debt. If we were real Capitalist, we’d let them all fail just like Bear Stearns and Leahman Brothers, but that would create complete anarchy…..actually, it would mean a lot of rich people would lose a lot of money, and that will NEVER happen.

So if you’re blaming Clinton for perpetuating the idea of broader home ownership as the reason for our current problems, you really need to look at the simple truth of the matter.

If you’re somehow trying to make a connection between broader home ownership and too many unqualified loan applicants, then you really have to blame GLBA and greed for that. Home ownership is still a great idea for our society, but deregulating the lenders and blaming the borrower doesn’t make sense.

RICH REPUBLICANS AND THE MIDDLE CLASS
Plain and simple, the current economic problems can be traced back to when Republicans had a Congressional majority and could create laws that allowed their supporters and constituents in big business and especially big finance to maximize return and minimize risk. As a result of GLBA, their big money supporters were able to create Bank of America, Citigroup, and J.P. Morgan Chase.

Pretty soon, financial markets were a free-for-all, just as they had been before the Great Depression. Firms that had once been regulated so that they wouldn’t fail were now buying and selling every imaginable type of security without rules, including mortgages that never would have been approved to begin with which are now re-packaged as some kind of investment vehicle.

The American Middle Class once again allowed themselves to be duped by the wealthy and powerful. It’s not the borrowers fault if they are lent money they can’t repay. The lender is supposed to say, “No” if they know the only way they make money is if the borrower pays them back. The lack of regulation allowed – hell, encouraged – those loans to written and then sold off as investments so that the rich could get richer off of the transaction without any regard for the borrower or the affects that so much failed lending could have on everyone and the economy.

The lack of regulation on the banking industry is the classic fox in charge of the hen house. It’s easy to see that a few very smart and very rich people understood how to make a great deal of money out of the house of cards that was the real estate bubble.

THE FATHER OF SMALLER GOVERNMENT
The lack of regulation actually brings us to Mr. Smaller Government himself, Ronald Reagan, and his fed chairman, Mr. Greenspan, who convinced us that smaller was better. No need to regulate banks as had been done since the Depression and the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. This is America, land of free markets! Let the markets decide! (Translation: Let Rich Republicans Decide)

Yes, this is America and so that means we have only ourselves to blame or thank for who we elect, the markets we create, and the consequences of our decisions. So if anyone is going to go back and blame Clinton for wanting more people to own homes, we must go back just a little further to Ronald Reagan.

Reagan ballooned the federal deficit to it’s largest amounts ever (to that point in time) after getting elected on the “government’s not the answer to the problem, government is the problem” fable. Clinton left office with a federal surplus which W proceeded to totally squander by giving it to the rich in the form of tax cuts. Remember, too, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq have never been accounted for in the federal budget. The piper isn’t even close to being paid when it comes to the federal deficit.

So who really is the party of fiscal responsibility? Make no mistake, Republicans talk a grass-roots, family values game but that’s a ruse intended – and seemingly working extremely well – to convince middle America that they are the Republican party core. Wrong. The wealthy is the real Republican party core. The religious-right, pro-life, Creationist, white-bread American is just the uniformed and ill-advised pawn in their game. They are easily convinced that so-called tax-and-spend liberals, job-stealing illegal immigrants, and unfair (meaning unregulated) foreign markets and labor practices are to blame for our troubles.

We only have ourselves to blame.

A FINAL THOUGHT ON CONSUMERISM, FOREIGN LABOR, AND OUR ECONOMY
When it comes to foreign and domestic markets and labor, we only need to look in the mirror. Consider the goods and services we consume, how that affects the economy, and what it means to domestic and overseas markets and societies, including China.

Any business is in business to do something profitably. Businesses who outsource everything possible to overseas markets like China do so in order to lower operating expenses and maximize profits on the goods and services they sell and we buy from them.

Hey, we don’t want government to tell them or us what we can and can’t do, right? No need to regulate business, right? This is America, land of the free and free markets! Let us as producers and consumers drive the market!

So if we as consumers….

  1. weren’t always encouraging businesses to lower costs by constantly demanding and buying cheaper and cheaper goods (the WalMart affect)
  2. were more willing to elect leaders who put the needs of the American middle class worker ahead of the corner office CEO maybe with proper tariffing and changes to NAFTA – George H.W. Bush’s baby, by the way, and
  3. stopped believing red herrings like illegal aliens taking all of the good paying jobs (yeah, like picking vegetables and raking lawns) thrown at us by right-wing news sources like Fox, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Quinn and Rose as the cause of our economic problems,then maybe we wouldn’t be in such a mess.

In a democracy, we have some power by virtue of our ballot. So long as we allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking that the Republican party in this day and age is anything but a party of the rich, we’ll keep going through cycles where they come to power every so often, make changes that only benefit the rich like deregulating markets and cutting taxes for the wealthy under the total lie of Reagan’s failed “smaller government” and “trickle-down economics” theories, and we’ll be stuck once again holding the short end of the stick.

It really is something to see – middle class Americans somehow thinking that Republicans are in our corner. I don’t get it. The past 3 Republican administrations – Reagan, Bush 41, and especially the last 8 years under W have proved that to me. Look at how W took Reagan’s failed philosophies – and the deficit – to heights unimaginable. When were we last really prospering? Wasn’t it under Clinton?

For now it seems the majority of Americans have awoken from the nightmare of Republican dogma and are at least willing to try something different. After all, you know the definition of insanity, right? – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.