Tag: wealthy individuals

Delusions – the US economy – the postings

The Democratic Party and Healthcare – Preserving Obamacare Cannot Be The End Game
June 24, 2017

The Democratic Party must absorb the reality of our situation. We need to develop and express some outrage at the current healthcare providers. None of this will happen as long as Democrats are taking money from the rich and corporations. If there is a single lesson from the Bernie Sanders campaign it is that with messages and programs that reflect the needs of the vast majority of Americans, you can…

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Trickle-Down Returns to Enrich the Rich
June 24, 2017

You need to be clear that the vicious Republican Party is at work on tax changes for their masters among the rich and corporations. There job is making sure that the 40 year stagnation in incomes for the 80% will not change course and the flood of wealth will continue to those at the top. 

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Regulations vs Protections – more than just words
May 7, 2017

The word “regulation” has been used as an epithet and rhetorical sledge hammer by Republicans and the centrist Bill Clinton Democrats as part of a general campaign to discredit anything that the government might do. This is part of the decades long political strategy of the rich and corporations to puff up the delights of “free markets”.

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Dumping Concrete: a law of capitalism In action – a local example
May 6, 2017

Thanks to GossipsOfRivertown for the image. The May 3rd post “Unbelievable” on our favorite local blog GossipsOfRivertown.blogspot.com caught our attention. This F.H.Stickles concrete truck dumping waste concrete next to a stream running into the Hudson River is a local demonstration of one of the central laws of capitalism. For more pictures of this incident go here. Every company seeks to get someone else to pay for as many of its…

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United Airlines, Monopoly/Oligopoly, The Natural Laws of Capitalism
April 17, 2017

From: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2017/04/15/united-airlines-new-policy/ The recent incident in which United Airlines used the Chicago Police Department to enforce its corporate policies has already roused plenty of comments. Many have focused on the clumsiness, even callousness of the policy and its later justifications by senior managers. This is missing a more telling point about airline travel today. In the US four airlines control over 80%1 of the seats…

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Building the New American Economy – Not
April 5, 2017

The title of this short book, only 130 pages, Building the New American Economy: smart, fair, & sustainable by Jeffrey D. Sachs with a foreword by Bernie Sanders (Columbia University Press, 2017) is unfortunately misleading. There is much here about the new economy. The misleading part is that there is very little about its construction, the building of the new economy. Sachs covers many important issues in a thorough, efficient…

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Thoughts on Standard Economics
April 1, 2017

I’ve been looking through Paul Krugman’s textbook Macroeconomics (Krugman and Wells, 4th edition, 2015) and came on Principle #2 – “The opportunity cost of an item—what you must give up in order to get it—is its true cost….The concept of opportunity cost is crucial to understanding individual choice because, in the end, all costs are opportunity costs. That’s because every choice you make means forgoing some other alternative.” In this…

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BEHEMOTH (BEI XI MO SHOU) at TSL Hudson
March 4, 2017

This 2015 movie by Chinese director Liang Zhao is filled with great cinematography and sounds. It trades back and forth between scenes of enormous horizon gulping coal mines, under ground mines, iron making, and ends with scenes of a ghost city filled with enormous apartment blocks in a newly developed but vacant city West of Beijing. But, the most arresting part of the movie is its focus on the workers,…

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Job (Business) Killing Regulations
March 2, 2017

Ever since Ronald Reagan told us in his 1981 Inaugural Address, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” government bashing by right-wingers, Republicans and many Democrats has been a constant drumbeat of political rhetoric. Now we have Trump with his “Kill 2 regulations for every new one” and a government dominated by Republicans for whom destroying government has been an objective for decades. We are…

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Diversity and Identity Politics Is A Deadend
March 1, 2017

Progressives have to declare class war as a central strategy. Otherwise we will all be sitting at the dinner table basking in our glorious diversity with nothing to eat. For many good reasons identity and diversity have dominated our politics for decades.  Progressives celebrate its expansion and Republicans and their brethren on the right pretty universally engage in either dog whistle or outright racist politics.  Simultaneously the rich and corporations…

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How Much Money Would It Take To Eliminate Poverty in the US?
February 26, 2017

This 2013 article “How Much Money Would It Take to Eliminate Poverty” (http://prospect.org/article/how-much-money-would-it-take-eliminate-poverty-america) addresses this question. The answer then was $175 billion. This is a ridiculously small number in the context of a $16 trillion GDP. As someone who is on the homeowners gravy train I was stuck by this part of the article: “The utterly ridiculous tax expenditures directed toward the disproportionately affluent class of people called homeowners—mortgage interest deduction,…

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Park Avenue and How We Got There
January 22, 2017

Park Avenue puts faces to many of the wealthy and the corporations. Do not for a moment think that if we could just rid ourselves of these avaricious individuals that our problems would be solved.

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The Gig Economy in the Academy – a note
December 29, 2016

The values of capitalism, especially as expressed through free market (neoliberal) ideology, have come to dominate how we organize our lives. Silicon Valley and the tech sector is busy celebrating the “gig” economy. Companies have simply stopped hiring employees and now conduct much of their work using “temps”, “1099ers”, part-time contract workers. The companies, and the champions of free markets, tout this as a wonder of flexibility and opportunity. For…

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A Note on Jobs & Unemployment
December 27, 2016

As the presidential campaign of 2016 fades away and the Trump Era begins, we find a national scene without any real discussion of the facts of jobs and unemployment and what the future might bring. Trump and others talk about bringing manufacturing back to the US. No plan, plausible or otherwise, has ever been mentioned for how to accomplish this. The Democrat are hardly better. Much has been made and…

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Book Review – The Rise and Fall of American Growth
June 25, 2016

The Rise and Fall of American Growth: the US standard of living since the Civil War by Robert J. Gordon2 is a weighty book in every regard. At 762 pages it is a heavy lift – not beach reading or even bed-time either. But I found it almost a page turner. It is very well structured and written. None of the fussiness or obscurantist language one often…

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Inside Goldman Sachs with the Federal Reserve
September 27, 2014

Since the beginning of the 2008 Great Recession we have hoped that the government would return to applying some real rational restraints on the financial system. To be honest, with both political parties deep in the pocket of the industry, this is probably merely wishful thinking.

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Flash Boys cover by Michael Lewis
Flash Boys Doesn’t Ask the Important Question
April 7, 2014

We should demand that our financial markets serve their findamental purposes – connect investors with those who can deploy those resources to create new products and services and enable the flow of these goods and services. To call holding financial insturments whether stocks, bonds, or other assets for mere seconds investments is to beggar the mind.

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playing cards
Wall St – not about investing but fixing the game
July 9, 2013

photo courtesy of Chance Agrella, photographer An article in the NY TImes today reports3 that NY Attorney General Schneiderman is pursuing various information providers, Thomson Reuters in the immediate case, for their practices of selling market sensitive information preferntially. Those paying a premium get information several minutes before its release to the general public. This is more evidence that Wall St…

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The Job Creators – Who Are They? The Rich, Really?
May 19, 2012

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…

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Economic Inequality – Does It Matter?
May 9, 2012

It is fairly widely known that income and wealth inequality in the US is as high or higher than at any time except perhaps the Robber Baron period at the end of the 19th century. Lots of articles and books explain how this has come about over the last 30 years. In a recent NYTimes Magazine article, “The Purpose of Spectacular Wealth, According to a Spectacularly Wealthy Guy” by Adam Davidson, we…

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High Frequency Trading and Deeper Questions about Capitalism
March 27, 2012

A recent PBS Newshour report by Paul Solman on Thursday 3/15/12 in his series “Making Sense of Financial News” gave pause concerning the role of high frequency traders (HFT) on Wall St. (and doubtless on other markets around the world). First, you might ask what are HFTs? These are traders who use computer-based algorithms to select, buy, and sell shares on the markets. The speed of these transactions and the…

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Charts from Mother Jones Illustrate That the Rich Have Won the Class War
November 19, 2011

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…

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Where, Oh, Where Did Our National Debt Come From?
July 8, 2011

The political rhetoric of the current moment, chiefly flowing from Republicans, but barely challenged by the Democrats, describes tales of profligate over-spending by the Federal government matched with burdensome taxation. While it is true that Federal spending is higher proportionately than post-WWII norms, social programs are not the source of this over spending. One only has to look back to George Bush’s two terms to see the true sources of the…

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Naomi Wolf’s The End of America – the movie
May 27, 2011

The End of America – a film by Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern Here is a summary4 of the ten steps discussed and illustrated by Ms. Wolf in the movie. 10 STEPS THAT CLOSE AN OPEN SOCIETY 1. invoke an internal and external threatPeople who are afraid are willing to do things that they wouldn’t otherwise do. 2. establish secret (unaccountable) prisons where torture takes…

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Corporations as Persons – Freedom of Speech, now Right to Privacy – Bring on Three Strikes!
January 20, 2011

The case of the Federal Communications Commission v. AT&T5 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”…

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Money floating around
Religious Doubt Spreads – Free Flows of Capital Seen as Dangerous to Some
November 12, 2010

There is more evidence that the current run of religious mania about “free markets” is finally giving way to a more fact-based approach to this important human invention, many countries are now applying capital controls on the flow of monies into  their economies. The world flood of money seeking higher rent districts is terrorizing smaller economies like a tsunami. Fears of speculative bubbles burgeoning and then bursting with disastrous consequences for local economies are…

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The Mortgage Debacle – Redux
October 10, 2010

The current tsunami of revelations of misbehavior, if not outright criminality, by the banking industry in their pursuit of mortgages gone bad, is further evidence of how fundamentally corrupt and cynical this industry continues to be. On the front end of this global economic disaster the financial system engaged in misleading sales tactics using financial products that were baroque in their complexities. Aided by governments seduced by the siren songs of free market…

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Do We Need Wall St. and all the other gamblers in the financial services world?
April 20, 2010

What Is the Function of Wall St.? The global financial meltdown of 2008 – 2009 with its ongoing sequelae seems not to have definitively demonstrated the dangers of our continuing belief in the religion of “free markets” nor shaken, especially it seems in the Obama administration, our thrall with Wall St. and all things financial. We are seeing the combined effects of Wall St.’s funding of the Democrats and Republicans,…

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The Two Faces of Mortgage Debt – “Return to Creditor”
January 25, 2010

Return to Creditor There is an interesting headline in today’s (1/25/10) New York Times, “Huge Housing Complex in N.Y. Returned to Creditors”.6 This article reports that Tishman Speyer Properties and BlackRock Realty defaulted (welched?) on their debt obligations of $3 billion for their 2006 purchase of the Stuyvesant Town/Peter…

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How Did We Come To Consider Corporations to Be Natural Persons? – What To Do Next?
January 25, 2010

This week’s decision by the US Supreme Court to allow corporations, including unions, to hold full rights to free speech and political action under the First Amendment to the Constitution once again reminds me of the strange practical and ethical relationship we have with corporations. In the 1886 ruling, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company1, the court reporter wrote in a summary: “The court does not wish to…

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Controlling Gambling by Wall St. and the Big Banks – Bad for Business?
January 22, 2010

Anti-Wall St Does Not Mean Anti-Business President Obama’s proposals to break up the “too large to fail” mega banks and otherwise reapply the Glass Steagall Act to the financial sector has predictably brought loud complaints that this is populist and anti-business. Even the rhetoric of the reporters and expert talking heads reflects a general bias that anything that we might do to prevent a re-occurrence of last year’s global financial…

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Manias,Panics,and Crashes by Kindleberger
Book Review: Manias, Panics, and Crashes: a history of financial crises by Kindleberger
November 13, 2009

Manias, Panics, and Crashes: a history of financial crises, fourth edition by Charles P. Kindleberger (New York: Wiley 2000) A recent Wall St Journal article described this book as a “must read” classic for anyone involved in financial markets. I have been involved directly in financial markets in two ways recently. First, I spent a year chasing around chasing angel investors and venture capitalists during the DotCom boom to fund Valuedge…

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Enron, Trust and Malfeasance
January 29, 2002

January 23, 2002 (revised 1/29/02) The collapse of energy giant Enron over the last six months has produced a surprising level of outrage especially for a cynic like me. As this drama continues to unfold, I have been trying to understand how Enron structured their business and made money. Until just last night I was operating on the belief that the cleverness and sophistication of Enron’s managers simply outstripped my…

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Enron, Trust and Malfeasance
January 29, 2002

January 23, 2002 (revised 1/29/02) The collapse of energy giant Enron over the last six months has produced a surprising level of outrage especially for a cynic like me. As this drama continues to unfold, I have been trying to understand how Enron structured their business and made money. Until just last night I was operating on the belief that the cleverness and sophistication of Enron’s managers simply outstripped my…

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  1. corrected from 60% on 4/20/17 []
  2. Princeton U. Press. 2016 []
  3. Regulators Examining Early Sales of Financial Data http://nyti.ms/12hDF3t []
  4. from the endofamericamovie.com website – 05/27/2011 []
  5. See the NYTimes,  “Court Weighs Whether Corporations Have Personal Privacy Rights” By ADAM LIPTAK Published: January 19, 201 []
  6. photo by Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times – The Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town complex in 2006- borrowed without permission []

The Democratic Party and Healthcare – Preserving Obamacare Cannot Be The End Game

While our current attention is on the Republican Party’s transfer of wealth to the rich and corporations through the charade of a healthcare reform, the Democratic Party needs to face up to its future and the future of our healthcare system in particular.

The Global Context

The chart shown here tells you everything you need to know about the outrageous amounts of money we pay versus the astonishingly poor outcomes for our health. Basically we pay twice (200% more) than almost every other developed country in the world for healthcare that is distinctly second rate.1 To put it simply we have a healthcare system that is ripping us off and laughing all the way to the golf course. It is a market system that incentivizes tests, procedures, and prescriptions, not health. It is a market system in which the providers, doctors, hospitals, insurance and pharmaceutical companies set prices as they wish.  Our healthcare system consumes just shy of 20% of our economic output. Our developed country competitors use 8%-10% of their output.

click for large size.

Preserving Obamacare is not enough to bridge these gaps.

Obamacare addresses the lack of access to healthcare in a significant but hardly comprehensive manner. It only hints at changes to the incentives and pricing that drive the unhealthy outcomes. Obamacare is not the solution. Better than nothing, but given the enormous resources being spent and the fundamental failings of the outcomes it is not sufficient.

Health Not Profits

In order to create a world class healthcare system we need to focus it on health not profits. Every other developed country long ago recognized that a market based system would not work because health is not a commodity like corn, cars, or cell phones. It is complex, multi-dimensional, and emotional. It requires a system capable of a holistic approach to people and the society they live in. Each of the countries with universal healthcare approaches implementation very differently in the details, but all have some sort of national/regional health budget that is negotiated with the various constituents. This amounts to a lump sum per person with which the health system operates to deliver health outcomes. The proof that it works is in the chart above. 

Outrage and Political Will – Stop Taking Big Money from the Rich and Corporations

The Democratic Party must absorb the reality of our situation. We need to develop and express some outrage at the current healthcare providers. It will not be a simple task to bring a sector of the economy that consumes nearly a fifth of economic output to understand that we cannot allow this to continue. We need them to evolve to a system that consumes a tenth while vastly improving healthcare for the entire population. A basic truth here is that we as a society cannot and should not allow one sector to consume so many resources, so inequitably, for such poor outcomes. In the global context this is not sustainable and makes us less competitive and less flexible to meet the changes. 

None of this will happen as long as Democrats are taking money from the rich and corporations. If there is a single lesson from the Bernie Sanders campaign it is that with messages and programs that reflect the needs of the vast majority of Americans, you can raise enough money to fight off the Republican Party and its wealthy and corporate sponsors. Time to start now.

  1. The US ranks 56th in infant mortality out of 225 countries; 48th in maternal mortality out of 184; and 42nd in life expectancy at birth out of 224. – source Current CIA The World Factbook – https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/ accessed 5/13/2017 []

Vicious Republicans Not Trump Are The Problem

With today’s release of the Senate’s version of the Republican healthcare bill we see clearly that the Republican Party is a vicious, immoral pack of angry white people – mostly men it would appear from the faces representing the party in the media (see below). No matter how you slice up this legislation it says clearly that Republicans want to punish poor and middle class people for their slovenly, lazy, unhealthy lifestyles, and reward the wealthy with a large tax holiday. The healthcare industry gets to continue charging outrageously high prices while providing last in the pack healthcare outcomes. 

Trump is a side-show

The problem is the Republican Party bought and sold by the wealthy and corporations. The Republicans are busy destroying families through their attacks on healthcare, education, family income, and government protections. The Republicans are busy mouthing talk about job creation while doing nothing to create jobs, just more rhetoric about job creators and government regulations. The Republicans are busy doing nothing to assure that a person working a full-time job can achieve a livable standard of living. The Republicans are busy destroying the environment through their actions internationally and at the EPA. The Republicans are busy destroying women’s lives through their attacks on reproductive rights and women’s healthcare. The Republicans are busy encouraging white supremacists and racists in general through their endless pandering about immigration and Muslims. The Republicans are busy destroying the very fabric of our society by completely failing to maintain our infrastructure and decrying any action by government at any level to invest in our common future and protect us from the attacks by corporations on our health and well-being.

Meanwhile the Democratic Party is still dominated by the same old people and the same old rhetoric. They need to declare war on the ruling class and its Republican Party. There should be no more talk about pleasant bipartisan legislative efforts.

Forget about Trump!

We need to defeat the Republican Party and take back the country from the wealthy and corporations.

Trump’s Innovations in Governing

The Plutocrats Have Occupied the White House and Executive Branch

It has been a fact of American life for decades that the rich and corporations control our political system. But this control has been exercised always one arms length removed from the actual levers of power. They have had to be satisfied with setting up their think tanks, hiring lobbyists, and buying politicians. Always they have had to put up with the unsavory influence that the public might have to disturb their plans and obstruct their enrichment. Even as described so eloquently and with such cleverness by Lawrence Lessig in his TED talk, “We the People and the republic we must reclaim“, the rich and corporations were always one step away from hands on control of the government.

Obama, Wall St. and Big Money

Edited 5/9/2017 

(Originally published as “Obama and the Future of the Democratic Party”)

President Obama achieved some remarkable things during his eight years. Action on income and wealth inequality were not among them. He surrounded himself, especially on the economic front, with people who had direct connections to Wall St. or academic economics. He famously made a speech in 2013 announcing that income inequality was “the defining challenge of our time”.1 Then, faced with attacks from within the Democratic Party and all Republicans that he was engaging in “class warfare”, he beat a hasty retreat. The rhetoric was trotted out but he proposed nothing and did nothing.

Citibank and Obama’s Cabinet

  1. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/12/04/remarks-president-economic-mobility []

Diversity and Identity Politics Is A Deadend

Progressives have to declare class war as a central strategy. Otherwise we will all be sitting at the dinner table basking in our glorious diversity with nothing to eat.

For many good reasons identity and diversity have dominated our politics for decades.  Progressives celebrate its expansion and Republicans and their brethren on the right pretty universally engage in either dog whistle or outright racist politics. 

Simultaneously the rich and corporations have been fighting a class war. They have succeeded beyond belief. As is well known, for 90% of the population real incomes have been flat for the past 40 yrs. Meanwhile, the rich and corporations have gotten fabulously rich. Richer than at any time in history. And, to make things worse they have done this while hiding behind free-market (neoliberal) ideology that has impoverished the government and the public sphere of our lives. Our infrastructure is crumbling, education is outrageously expensive, sending many students to decades of indebtedness. Our health system costs more than twice any of our developed country cohort and delivers third world results. 

Progressives, time to fight back. Diversity and identity without a fair share of the pie is not going to make you happy.

The Future of the Women’s March

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.

  1. The energy of this action is illustrated locally by the fact that over a 1,000 people marched in Hudson NY, a town of 7,000 in a county of 68,000. Video here of this event []

Park Avenue and How We Got There

“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.

Job Creation – A Pliable (Fraudulent) Rhetoric in the Current Debate over Debt and Debt Ceilings

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.