There is much ongoing discussion about steps needed to turn the enormous one day action of the global Women’s March in to a sustained movement to achieve better outcomes for the vast majority of Americans.1 To focus on just one strategic element, the movement needs to move beyond identity politics to embrace class warfare. The rich and corporations have carried out a sustained and successful class war for more than 40 years. They control the government and the economy. Donald Trump is just a symptom of the underlying issues. We need to break this hammerlock and shift the rules of politics and the economy back towards us, the 90% who are living off the remainders, the scraps from their feast. Continue reading
“There” is our current situation in which our government has been bought by the rich and corporations, over 80% of the population has not had a pay raise in 40 years and the public sphere, schools, parks, our infrastructure, really anything not behind the gated walls of private wealth, is being starved in the name of free market ideology. The American promise that hard work, pluck and a bit of luck can bring success to anyone, regardless of their rank at birth, is an empty myth. If you are born poor you will die poor. Even if you are middle-class, there is a significant chance that you will sink and at any rate you will always struggle just to keep that middle-class status.
The rich and corporations have waged a 40 year class war. At this point they have won all of the battles and continue to take home the spoils. Continue reading
Now that the quadrennial Presidential election circus has officially passed the first pole, we can take a look at the field. None of the Republicans would even be allowed into my outhouse let alone past the front door. They are all counter-factual, racist, homophobic, religious, free market fundamentalist zealots (excepting of course Trump who is most of that but also a made for TV grinning orange monkey). So, enough with them. Continue reading
NSA’s gathering of Meta Data Compared to Corporate Use of Information
In the current discussions of the government’s wholesale seizure of the meta data of our personal digital lives there is regular comparison to the acquisition and use of information about our digital lives by corporations. At the moment corporate use of individual information results in targeted advertising and increasingly location aware targeted advertising through our smart phones. The implicit, sometimes explicit, notion is that we mare so used to corporations gathering information that the NSA is just another corporation, nothing but just a bit more of the same old.
Comparisons Between Corporate Data Gathering and the Government Vacuum Cleaner Are Wrong Headed and Misleading Continue reading
May Day 2013 brought a piece in the NY Times by Thomas Friedman, “It’s a 401(k) World” that points out the enormous changes in employment, technology, personal access to information and personal responsibility for larger swaths of life. Work changed from a steady job as a regular feature of life to a series of part-time or short term engagements with corporations who view labor as a throw away element.
Reading this op ed leaves one with the notion that these changes have arisen through some immutable forces of nature. Continue reading
In recent years a standard bit of political rhetoric in the US has included references to “the job creators”. This most usually flows along the lines of higher taxes on the wealthy will injure the job creators. Or, government regulation is crushing the job creators. The presumption of course is that the wealthy, the 1% in the current rhetoric, create jobs (and those not created by the wealthy are created by small business – this being another, long term part of our political discourse). Thus, government must do nothing that will upset the wealthy.
It must be noted that we have already had a large experiment with the obverse of this “don’t disturb the wealthy” policy. What if we made the wealthy even richer by lowering their tax rates? By simple logical deduction, this would incent them to invest more and create more jobs. Well, the Bush II years proved that this does not happen. Despite the largest tax reductions on the wealthy in US history, job creation under Bush II was worse than in any presidency back to Hoover.
At some level believing the wealthy to be the job creators seems natural enough. They have lots of money to invest and in their desire for more they will be out investing in new projects that per force must create jobs. Without the aid of real analysis, I have always been a bit suspicious of this idea. Wealthy people have their money managed for them by large financial institutions and financial specialists. Very few of them are directly involved in any business other than the business of worrying about whether their financial advisors are ripping them off or doing stupid things. Why do real work when you can have your advisors leverage the vast scale of your wealth to get special deals on bundled high return financial instruments.
BTW – Hanauer’s analysis is straight forward Keynesian economics. We have a demand problem. US corporations have record sums of cash on the balance sheets. Yet they are not investing it. The answer is lack of demand, increased sales to generate the virtuous cycle of profits followed by jobs. Though both the US and Europe are busy proving again that our economic problems are not going to be solved by austerity, debt reduction policies, other countries, like South Korea, have proved anew the merits of Keynesian remedies. Unfortunately, we have no one in the elites who have the political will to do what has worked before very reliably. They used to call it “pump priming”. Now our pump is dry, unemployment and underemployment is perniciously eating away at our society.
- he was an early investor in Amazon [↩]
Wonder about the Impact of the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United Decision?
Government in the US, as everywhere, has always been tilted in favor of the wealthy. But, the Citizens United decision in 2010 giving corporations the right spend unlimited money has made government, really at every level, into the sole playground of the rich and big corporations.
A couple of weeks ago This American Life broadcast “TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN FOR OFFICE”. Listen to this program. It will further clarify how totally corrupt our government has become.
I came on a set of graphics in Mother Jones, “It’s the Inequality, Stupid: Eleven charts that explain what’s wrong with America” that illustrate what you probably already know. But, a simple refresher course in some of the reasons why the rich are rich. The 99% already have this base covered.
Here are some of the charts I liked. Read the whole article at the Mother Jones website.
Income (constant dollars)
Note that if median family income had simply kept up with inflation over this period it would have grown to $92,000 instead of $50,000.
Are Corporations Over Taxed?
Mother Jones does not make it clear that the Payroll Tax is also a tax on individuals. To add insult to injury the Payroll Tax is not levied beyond the first %106,800 of income.
How Are The Richest of the Rich Doing?
When it comes to job creation both Democrats and Republicans reflexively trot out small business as the engine of growth. These flights of breathy admiration for plucky small business owners are part of our national myth, right up there with cowboys. There probably is some truth in this myth as long as you accept the other side of the equation which includes the fact that jobs in small businesses are lower paying and less stable than those in the middle and big size companies.
But to demonstrate the extent to which today’s political environment has lost any sense of consistency, we now have the Republicans saying that any tax increases on the wealthy and corporations are “job killers”.
Since when have wealthy individuals created jobs? They don’t start new entrepreneurial ventures. They do buy extra vacation homes and fly to Vermont and Colorado and Switzerland more frequently in their private jets for skiing and apres ski fun. Much of this extravagance also occurs outside of the US. It is well known that unlike poor and middle class people, wealthy people do not spend incremental income. They save a large portion of it. Poor and middle class must spend every dollar to keep up. I defy you to find data that supports the wealthy as a source of new job creation.
As for big corporations, they are sitting on huge pools of cash and not creating jobs now.
Companies had a record $ 1.91 trillion in cash and other liquid assets at the end of the first quarter, the report also showed, up from $ 1.86 trillion in the prior three months. Six consecutive quarters of profit growth helped fuel a 96 percent jump in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index from its recession-low in March 2009 through March 2011. ((http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-06-09/household-worth-in-u-s-increases-by-943-billion-fed-says.html))
There has been consternation that though corporate profits and productivity have soared since the 2008 meltdown, corporations are not investing in the US economy. To some extent this may merely be a symptom that big corporations are not beholden to any nation state. Just because IBM has headquarters in Armonk, NY does not mean that it is primarily US-centric in its business activities and future plans. IBM’s 2010 Annual Report reported sales as follows: Americas $42,044 billion; Europe/Middle East/Africa $31,866 billion; Asia Pacific $23,150 billion. The report further glows about the opportunities in the emerging boom economies of India and China. The US (not even reported separately, just as part of the “Americas”) is not a high growth region.
To satisfy you own curiosity about how widespread this global phenomenon is look up some recent annual reports for companies like GE, Walmart, Caterpillar, or just choose your favorite large company that has headquarters in the US.
Returning to wealthy individuals, it would not be surprising if one could look into their portfolios to discover that they reflect the same global thinking as found in the IBM example.
A final note must be made that during the 1950’s and into the 1960’s and again in the 1990’s Federal taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations were significantly higher than they are today. Yet, those periods are marked by higher than average job creation. George Bush’s huge tax give aways tot he wealthy (really a transfer of Chinese liquidity to the US wealthy through the Federal tax system) in the 2000’s coincided with the lowest job creation period in US history dating all the way back to Hervet Hoover.
The case of the Federal Communications Commission v. AT&T1 now being heard before the US Supreme Court raises anew the craziness of the thinking that has position corporations to be “persons” in the first place.
Noun vs Adjective!
First we have several of the justices focusing argument around the difference between “persons” and “personal”.
But several justices said it was too much of a leap to go from saying that corporations might be “persons” for some purposes to saying that their “personal privacy” could be invaded. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said he could think of many instances “where the adjective was very different from the root noun.” “You have craft and crafty,” he said. “Totally different. Crafty doesn’t have much to do with craft. Squirrel, squirrelly. Right?” “Pastor and pastoral,” he went on. “Same root, totally different.”
Can they be serious that the issue here is the difference between a noun and an adjective and the not novel observation that a common root does not universally generate a common smenatic value?
As reported, during the oral arguments, “Can you give me any examples in common usage where people would refer to the personal privacy of a corporation?” Justice Scalia asked Mr. Klineberg. “Do you have any examples from The New York Times, from, you know, Boswell, from anywhere, that anybody refers to the interests of a corporation as the ‘personal privacy’ of General Motors?”
Following Scalia’s line of argument, we might ask ourselves to find examples from common usage, excepting those generated by the Court’s long standing finding that corporations are “persons for some purposes”, where people refer to corporations or any business entities as persons. Even corporations only use the impersonal pronouns “it” and “they” in referring to themselves. Certainly corporations acting in groups use the pronoun “we” in the collective sense. But, can anyone find examples where people in common usage use “I” “you”, “he” or “she” in referring to corporations. Corporations certainly never use these pronouns in speaking of the corporation. Ask the common person anywhere whether they think that a corporation is a person in any sense that relates to the classic uses in American history. Does the the Declaration of Independence’s line, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Does anyone think that corporations have unalienable rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness?
Last year’s Supreme Court decision granting corporations the right to free speech, and by extension the right to spend whatever amounts of money they want to express their opinions, is a now well known extension of the corporation as a person. With the thinking revealed in these oral arguments, who knows where this court could find on the issue of the right of corporations to personal privacy.
Three strikes and you are dissolved!
Perhaps we should envision some further extensions of this thinking. If corporations are persons, then why don’t we apply the same penalties to their misbehavior that we do to real persons? Repeat offenders are regularly sentenced to long terms in jail or even life in prison. Shouldn’t we apply this thinking to corporations and hold them to the same accountability? Three strikes and you are dissolved!
- See the NYTimes, “Court Weighs Whether Corporations Have Personal Privacy Rights” By ADAM LIPTAK Published: January 19, 201 [↩]