Thursday, February 25, 2010

Corporations and the Destroying of America

There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible. – Henry Ford

We are entering a new era in the history of American life. Never in our history have we faced the possibility of millions of Americans not only being unemployed during this recession but not being able to be employed once this recession ends. Many economists predict that even after we recover that the unemployment rates will continue to be high for years. Job growth has continued to shrink in America for decades as many corporations have elected to ship American jobs overseas in a race to the bottom for the cheapest labor. They have moved manufacturing from third-world country to third-world country with no regard for its long-term consequences to the American worker. Corporations have traded the viability of the American labor force for short-term profits and Wall Street ratings.

What the heads of many of today’s corporations have forgotten is that if we lose the American middle-class which was created with manufacturing there will be no one left to purchase their products. The thing that Henry Ford understood was that if his workers or the American people could not afford the products he was manufacturing then there would be no profits and that is why he wanted to pay his workers a livable wage. Now does this take away from the fact that he was adamantly anti-union? Of course not, but it does prove that he recognized how consumerism benefited not only Ford but American corporations as a whole.

When Ford started the 40-hour work week and a minimum wage he was criticized by other industrialists and by Wall Street. He proved, however, that paying people more would enable Ford workers to afford the cars they were producing and be good for the economy. Ford explained the change in part of the "Wages" chapter of My Life and Work. He labeled the increased compensation as profit-sharing rather than wages. – Wikipedia

Imagine today if someone like Ford were to once again make such proposals how they would be criticized by other CEO’s and Wall Street. This mentality of greed and getting rich at any cost by American corporations is going to turn the American economy into the very rich and the rest of us. If we do not have a vehicle for the majority of American citizens to reach and stay in the middle-class we are setting the stage for our descent into third-world status. Are we willing as a nation to accept large numbers of our fellow citizens unemployed and living on the public welfare rolls. Those same rolls we have continued to reduce in an effort to decrease our support for our friends and neighbors. At least the Europeans have laid the foundation for a support and safety net to help them adequately address the shortfalls in the capitalist model. We on the other hand have accepted the false meme of the wealthy that “good” citizens don’t take handouts.

But here is something that the wealthy have not shared with the general public, “There have been no new manufacturing jobs created in the US since 1999” - Red Alert

In addition "Middle-income families made less in 2008, when adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1999 – and the number is sure to have declined further during a difficult 2009," the Washington Post reported. "The Aughts were the first decade of falling median incomes since figures were first compiled in the 1960s."

It is no wonder the ranks of the fringe groups are growing whenever the white middle-class feel threatened there is never a shortage of scapegoats to be sacrificed. The concern of course is that the real culprits are allowed to continue business as usual while the rest of us fight it out over the crumbs that have fallen from the table. Instead of fighting over the rich folk's crumbs we need to be demanding the pie be enlarged so that we all can get our fair share. For too long we have bought the lie that there is only limited assets and that our corporate overseers know best how to distribute those assets and anyone who complains is naïve at best and a socialist at worse.

The time has come for this dysfunctional government to begin to stand up for the people of this nation and not just the corporations. We need to enact a fee on corporations who ship our jobs overseas and invest that money to allow entrepreneurs who are willing to create green sustainable manufacturing jobs right here in America to do so. You should be allowed to create jobs wherever you choose but our tax dollars should not be used to subsidize our own demise. We should be manufacturing new battery technology, wind turbines, and solar technology right here in America. It is up to our elected officials to predict the future technologies and ensure that our workers are in a position to take advantage of those trends. We have economists, experts, and futurists who have for decades predicted where technology and manufacturing are headed and yet the American worker finds themselves in this position?

The American consumer is also the American worker, and if we don't do something to protect our manufacturing base here at home, it is going to be hard to buy any retail goods. - Lindsay Graham
The Disputed Truth

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Next Election Syndrome

''In my father's day, you legislated for four years and campaigned for two; now it's full time,'' Bayh said this week. ''It never stops. My bottom line is that there are a lot of really good people trapped in a dysfunctional system desperately in need of reform.'' -

One of the main causes of the political gridlock that is gripping Washington and has brought our federal government to a screeching halt is the phenomenon of the constant campaign. Regardless of whether you win or lose moments after the election it all begins again. The problem with the constant campaign is that you basically invalidate the results of the previous election. You exchange long-term legislative initiatives for short-term political gains. Because you are always running for re-election or election to another office there is little if any incentive for compromise or accomplishing any legislative business. Bringing home pork has replaced solving complex political issues. Instead of running on any legislative record of accomplishments our congressional leaders are now campaigning on how much pork they have delivered to their districts.

As a result of this process we have sessions of congress that continue to kick the can down the road when it comes to solving major issues facing the American people. Issues like campaign reform, entitlement programs, and health-care reform continue to be discussed, debated and left to languish in session after session of congress. There may have been a time when this process was allowable in our nations past, but with the looming crisis's facing our country this attitude is no longer an option. With massive unemployment, thousands of Americans dying each year due to a lack of health-care coverage, and the corporations amassing millions of dollars of profit at the expense of middle America we no longer have the luxury of a dysfunctional government.

The main problem I have with the tea-baggers is that they have allowed themselves to be co-opted by the same interests they claim to be against. If we in America could ever get past the trivial tribal issues that continue to divide us we could remake this country into a greater vision than the founding fathers could ever have had. The problem with going back to 1776 is that we were not a land of freedom for all and so there are many folks who are not willing to go backwards to some false premise of America. There has to be a way of taking what was good with the original visions of the fore fathers and wed it to the inclusion of all Americans. We will never be able to accomplish this if we continue to hold on to the things that divide us and ignore the so many more things that unite us.

If we allow this phenomenon of constant campaigning to continue to invalidate our elections it will only give rise to the lunatic fringe and the anarchists who want to remove all government from America. We have elections for a reason and when you lose an election you do not have the option of preventing the victorious party from governing. You have the right to present your arguments and ideas but you lost for a reason. You can't have it both ways where on the one hand you laud the political process of democracy, but at the same time if the results are not to your liking you can invalidate them through obstructionism and become political opportunists. We have to get rid of this false meme that there is a rational opposition with rational grievances against the Dems and this President. If the bi-partisan commission on the budget is not proof enough of the duplicity of these Republicans then no amount of proof will suffice. It is incumbent upon a free press to expose this duplicity and not allow these obstructionists to have it both ways. This notion of an objective press being one that presents both sides as rational is absurd when one group is not acting rational.

Another problem with the constant campaign is that campaigns are also constantly doing fundraising and putting campaigns into bed with special interests that are now crafting our legislation. The key to election victories has gone from candidate competency to candidate fundraising ability and the two are not the same. Candidates now have to appeal to the baser instincts of the party faithful and cannot be seen as being complicit in the legislative accomplishments of the other side. This has led to obstructionism versus compromise. It becomes almost impossible to work with someone whom you have demonized in getting elected and now must work with once the election is over. Of course now the election is never over so where does that leave the American public. What many of today's politicians have forgotten is that in order for democracy to work it must be by the consent of the people and if you contaminate the process then you can very easily remove the consent.

This is the era of the constant campaign – where in order to break through the clutter, first time candidates must start their campaigns two years out and former candidates start campaigning again the day after Election Day. - Joe Garecht

The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy - Charles de Montesquieu

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Monday, February 15, 2010

The Republicans, the Supreme Court, & the Corporations

I use to think that what has occurred over the last few years has just been a random series of political events and while they were devastating they were still unrelated. As I see more of our democracy breaking down I am becoming more skeptical concerning the randomness of these events. I have still yet to figure out how you lose two election cycles in a row and yet claim victory for your ideas that were soundly rejected and proven to be bankrupt. The thing about the Republican PR machine is that they have been allowed to create an alternate reality.

This alternate reality resembles our reality in many ways albeit one. In both realities the facts are the same but how they are interpreted are very different. It is a fact that the Republicans were decisively defeated in the election of 2008, no one can dispute that. Yet according to this alternative reality the election was not a repudiation of Republican ideas it was a repudiation of George W. Bush as if he were acting single-handedly to bring down the government and the country. It didn’t take long for them to throw George W. under the “straight talk” express bus. The sad part of all this is how Democrats have allowed this re-writing of history to continue unabated. It is one thing for Dick Cheney to come out from under his rock to defend his torturous record, but to allow these other clowns to distance themselves from the impending collapse that the Dems inherited is unconscionable. There have been more Dick Cheney sightings since he left office than the entire eight years he was in office. I don’t recall him being this accessible when he authorizing torture.

But let’s take a moment to see if we can connect the dots. First the Republicans work to cripple the government and make it appear incapable of solving the problems of average Americans. These average Americans become disillusioned with their government and accept the Republican meme that the government cannot be trusted to do anything and therefore all government intervention is anti-American and anti-founding fathers. Yet the government has a record when allowed to perform of successfully running programs like Medicare and Medicaid which these same average Americans count on every day. Add to this mix that you prevent any Democratic legislation from being enacted not because it is bad for the country but merely because it is politically expedient and you now have a dysfunctional legislative process. So you have a government that is not trusted to correctly sell postage stamps and a legislative process that is being obstructed to the point of a standstill.

The next dot is in the event that the federal government no longer functions to solve average American’s problems who then fills the void? Who then is able to advance policy and get legislation through? Well, thanks to the recent ruling of the Supreme Court that void will now be filled by the corporations. Let’s be clear it is not that the corporations were not instrumental in our body politic prior to this ruling. Corporations have continued to circumvent our democracy through campaign cash and lobbying efforts. Corporations have historically influenced public opinion and policy through the media by using advertising; they have used campaign cash and lobbying efforts, and the threat of extortion through plant closures and higher prices. What the Supreme Court has done is allowed the corporation’s unfettered access and influence in our political system at a time when the system is perceived as broken. What they did was the equivalent of giving Halliburton a no-bid contract to America to provide arms and materiel during war time.

The final dot is the corporations themselves who have historically shown that they have little regard for democracy or the will of the people. It is common wisdom in the world that the capitalists of America will sell you the rope to hang them with and this decision by the Supreme Court may bring this gem of wisdom to fruition. Once the will of the people has been stymied by corrupt politicians and obstructionists the only coherent voice from the chaos will be the benevolent corporations who will ride in and rescue the American public from its impending doom at the hand of government mismanagement. These of course would be the same corporations who took this economy to the brink of Armageddon and continue to provide each other with immoral compensation for these failures. I guess the Republicans are not the only ones living in this alternative reality. You now get giant bonuses for running your company into the ground by gambling with its assets and why not your company will not be liable for it anyway.

There is a foundation being laid in America and I am afraid that we are so busy concentrating on the minutiae of the 24 hour news cycle that we are missing the larger picture. As Pink Floyd so aptly stated you build a wall one brick at a time and these are just more bricks in the wall.

I find rebellion packaged by a major corporation a little hard to take seriously. – David Byrne

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Republicans Do Not Have To Win

The election of 1994 only reinforced the strategy of no. Why help the majority pass legislation when you can stall until voters, frustrated with gridlock, throw the other side out? Once out of power, Democrats went to school on the GOP delaying tactics. - Robert Schlesinger

As I look over the Republican strategy of the last year and its impact on the electorate one thing is abundantly clear. The Republicans do not have to win at anything, because even when they lose they win according to their scorecards. The Scott Brown election in Massachusetts has been presented as this massive shift in the public’s desire for President Obama’s “changey, hopey” message. While the Scott Brown election was troubling, I think in the long run it will be beneficial to Democrats. It will be beneficial to Democrats because I think it has exposed the absurdity of this super-majority being necessary to govern and to pass any legislation.

Already we are beginning to see stirrings from Democrats about changing the Senate rules and for good reason. The Republicans have turned the filibuster into their own personal veto. Election results have become invalidated and the democracy that so many Americans grew up believing in has become dysfunctional. And as long as nothing gets done then the minority party can claim that the majority party is not responding to the wishes of the American people. By employing this strategy the Republicans have given fuel to the directionless populist movement known as the “tea-baggers”, who’s only common thread appears to be that they are against government and who can blame them. My belief is that what many of them are against is a government that is broken with no possible remedy in sight.

Even folks who previously believed in the power of government to affect positive change in the lives of people are on the ropes after the whole health-care debacle. Unlike many of the right-wing conservative talking heads I do not think that the way to move forward is to go backwards. This strategy plays right into the hands of their obstinate politicians who only have to prevent government from working to win and not actually get anything done. The Democratic strategy moving forward should be to make democracy work again not by trying to continue to seek bi-partisanship with a group that has no intention of working with you, but by changing the rules to allow our democracy to work. What many Americans just want to see is action being taken even if that action is wrong.

The American public is not that concerned with ideology as much as we are being told. There are segments to the extremes of both parties that hold those entrenched ideological positions but most Americans are pragmatist and they just want to see that something gets done. They want to believe that somebody is listening to them and responding to their concerns. If the Democrats are not able to provide them with that then they will suffer great loses in November. The truth is that for the long-term future of America this strategy of breaking our democracy holds dangers that the politicians and strategists of today are not concerned with and that is dangerous. If we continue this cycle of each party getting elected and no one accomplishing anything then the future of our whole democracy is at stake. Eventually the country will become ungovernable and maybe that is the goal of the Republicans.

A good example of this phenomenon of just do something is George W. Bush even in the midst of his wrecking the country he continued to score fairly high marks until the end. Those marks were due in a large part I believe to his ability to appear to be getting things done, they may have been the wrong things but they were getting things done. If the Democrats have any chance of salvaging this November they had better get down to the business of making government work again. I say this not because of its short term benefit of keeping them in power but because of its long-term benefit and that is because it is the right thing to do for our nation.

Scorched earth campaigns may win you the battle, but it leaves the land barren and unfruitful for a long time and with the current state of our nation is this something we can afford?

In the first 50 years of the filibuster, it was used only 35 times. But the last Congress alone had 112 cloture motions filed, plus threats of more. This is the tyranny of the minority. - Peter Fenn

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