Why the Bubbles?

In the last couple of decades, we've had a collection of economic bubbles bursting. Post-Vietnam, the overspent economy crashed, bringing down our technological capacity, education system, and middle class economy. Reagan poured zillions into his California military-industrial buddies (the reason they'd put him in office), dropped taxes on the highest income bracket, added non-income-based taxes on the middle class, and released the electronic media from their social responsibility so they could reap the "magic of the market" and kept the majority of the nation in recession for another dozen years. Clinton rolled back some of the mil-industrial corporate welfare, slightly adjusted the income tax percentages, almost balanced the budget, and occasionally listend to smarter people in government and his cabinet. We managed to sustain a reasonably robust and less unfair economy and began to bring a little life back into the education system and economy for about half of his 8 years. Bush turned that all around. He went whole brainless hog on deregulating the Wall Street crooks, designed an economy to best benefit corner office psychopaths and trust fund babies (big surprise, since Bush is probably the poster child for both species), and cranked up the welfare system for the most inefficient, corrupt part of the national economy; the military industrial complex.

The nation suffered 8 years of depressed middle class incomes, two major economic crashes, a radical dumbing down of the education system, more corporate and government scandals than the conservative media could cover-up, and is, now, stone broke and functionally inept.

Obviously, "bubbles" follow stupidity. The radcon habit of electing the braindead is hard on the economy. It's great for the elites, since nobody is watching the national cookie jar, but it's tough on the nation, overall.

The old radcon tactic of constantly repeating Nixon's Big Lie is even wearing out. My favorite Big Lie is the "myth of Middle Class decline." The chart at right may be hard to read, but it's a plot of incomes, broken into economic classes; from the 95th percentile (95th highest incomes) at the top to the 10th percentile at the bottom. This is census data and is unweighted for cost of living or any other funky copout to try to hide the facts. At the bottom of our income class system, it's pretty obvious that the poor have seen no improvement in life from the booms or busts. Since inflation hasn't slowed at all over the years, they obviously are more poor than they were 40 years ago. If you believe that a "middle income" family made about $85,000 in 2003 (the green line), it appears that their income has at least steadily increased. Since these are before tax numbers, they are fudged a good bit to disguise the cost of the double-income households' attempt to stay with inflation. Even the Census Department is in on the game to convince us that we're treading water, not sinking.

The latest economic bust is evidence that we're sinking and are shod in lead boots.

For most of my adult life, I've wondered how ordinary, "middle income" families can afford modern Texas whorehouse-style surburban homes. When we lived in California, in the 80s, my kids were disappointed that I stuck us in a $1600/month, 900 square-foot apartment, instead of putting all of my savings into a $300k, $3500/month house in the eastern LA burbs. I couldn't make the math work, on my $85k salary, so I stuck with what I could manage. What I suspected and now know, was that everyone who played that game ran a Ponzi scheme on themselves; paying the big bills with credit card loans and a series of "2nd mortages." Except for my tolerable mortage, I've always paid as I go and gone without when I couldn't. No new cars, no new clothes (yep, I buy my clothes 2nd hand), no new furniture, no new anything except food and toilet paper (that's even recycled paper). The economy wouldn't survive long on me, but it isn't doing well on the rest of you, either.

Here's what I think is the real problem with our economic system; it's designed to benefit the fewest, richest citizens and damn the rest of us. That's it.

Take, for example, interest rates. Common sense would tell you, I think, that bank interest rates should at least be slightly higher than inflation. A rational society would want to encourage conservative savings for all citizens. You can't make people be rational, but government can encourage that kind of activity. The following two graphs seem to indicate that had been the Fed's policy for quite a while:

If you get nothing more out of these two graphs, it should be that there used to be an attempt made to make normal, conservative savings a reasonable investment. It has never been a way to get rich, but for most of modern history savings have kept up with inflation. Since Reagan, that link was disconnected. Reagan wanted to encourage wild spending, irrational borrowing, and the kind of short-term thinking that led us to where we are today. Republicans like to brand Democrats as "tax and spenders." I'd think that "borrow and spenders" would be worse, but the radcon media seems to ignore that notion.

We're reaping the result of "borrow and spend" without a lick of sense. One key, I think, to settling this economy down is to provide a means for ordinary citizens to safely keep up with inflation. Currently, the unregulated credit card mobsters are allowed to charge leg-breaker rates (20-32%!) while those same banks pay pitance interest rates to savers. This kind of system is doomed to failure, but the no-government radcons are too dumb to see it. Or too vicious to care.


Blaming the Reaction

Recently, a redneck aquaintance sent me a spam email that argued the nation should "pull out of Chicago" because, like most American cities, the city has a variety of crisises. Of course, any city in the United States would exhibit a colleciton of economic and social failures these days. After 8 years of waste and corruption in Washington and all over the country, everywhere Republicans have reared their evil heads, the whole country is failing.

The title of this retarded neocon rant is "Should the US pull out of Chicago?" Look it up, you'll be amazed at how foolish working class Republicans can be. Here is my response:

"More politics from the innumerate conservative crowd?

"Of the Illinois Legislature, 26 of 59 of the members are "there aren't any" Republican. They even have a website (http://www.senategop.state.il.us/.) which must be non-existent since they don't exist. Illinois isn't even in the top five of the highest state taxes: "Tennessee (9.4%), Louisiana (8.7%), Washington (8.5%), New York (8.25%), Arkansas (8.15%), Alabama (8.05%), Oklahoma (8.05%), and California (8.0%)." However, Chicago is the most expensive place in the country to buy cigarettes, but the the "top nine states with the highest state tax on cigarettes are: New Jersey ($2.58), Rhode Island ($2.46), Washington ($2.025), tied for fourth place are Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, and Michigan ($2.00)." Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont tax Social Security income as harshly as does the federal government. A bunch of Republicans run most of those states. "The top five states (in order) based on median real estate taxes paid are: New Jersey ($5,772), New Hampshire ($4,136), Connecticut ($4,049), New York ($3,031), and Massachusetts ($3,195)." Of course, those states also have the most expensive incomes and the most expensive real estate.

"Overall, the most taxed states are New Jersey at 11.8%, New York at 11.7%, and Connecticut at 11.1%. New Jersey is cursed with ex-Goldman Sachs CEO and Republican Christopher Christie, New York's David Patterson is a Democrat, and Connecticut is governed by Republican Jodi Rell.

"The worst colleges in the nation are all from neocon states or worse: http://www.radaronline.com/features/2006/09/the_nine_worst_colleges_in_america.php/. The worst schools in the nation are unquestionably from the south, with Mississippi heading the list. (http://www.heartland.org/policybot/results.html?articleid=14359).

"Chicago doesn't make it into the top 25 of the country's most dangerous cities, either: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0921299.html. Again, it's mostly red states that are home to the dangerous places.

"The natural neocon political tactic is Nixon's Big Lie. You can safely assume that pretty much anytime a Republican is talking he or she is lying. We expect if from them. The real reason that people get so upset when a Democrat gets caught screwing around, robbing from the public till, or lying is that we don't expect that behavior from Democrats. We elect them to fix things. We elect Republicans because we have too much spare cash or too much economic stability and want them to "fix" it for us."


The Price of Getting it Right

One of my favorite authors, Thomas Frank (http://tcfrank.com/), has gotten it right so often over the years that he's practically invisible. In his books (The Wreaking Crew, What's the Matter with Kansas, and One Market Under God), he has predicted the collapse of our unbalanced fantasy economy, the failure of democracy, and the corruption of our social system by corporate greed. His reward has been complete invisibility in the eyes of corporate media. Economic and business gurus like Thomas Friedman and Tom Peters (what's with all the Toms in economics?) have been consistently wrong in their predictions, analysis, and comprehension of economics and society and they are, still, considered "experts" in fields where they have demonstrated absolutely no ability to predict consequences or reactions.

Why does the media demonstrate this incredible disconnect from reality?

Mostly, the media has fooled the majority (the "can be fooled all of the time" crowd) into believing major news is about information, not propaganda. The myth of a "liberal media" is a fantasy invented by crazy rightwingers and corporate interests. It is certainly true that the majority of intelligent people are also liberal. It follows that the majority of people who can write coherent sentences will also be liberal. What doesn't make sense is the assumption that corporations run by the same kind of people who run General Motors, Apple, Halliburton & Drexler, Microsoft, and Sony would allow their news outlets to present viewpoints that are substantially in conflict with corporate interests. That doesn't happen. Dream on paranoid neocons.

What does happen is that some residue of actual thought creeps into the overall media and, since it is so at odds with the majority message, it sticks harder and longer than the propaganda. When the propaganda turns out to be grossly wrong, as has the "free market magic" drivel, the remaining message is what is left; the truth. Over time, the sum of remaining messages creates our impression of the media and, if the truth is all that remains, the overall perception of the media is "liberal."

For example, the war promoters during the Vietnam era were all promoting the corporate pro-war message. They were all fools or corporate shills. Their message has vanished into the ether. What's left is what writers like Mal Browne, Peter Arnett, Neil Sheehan, Horst Faas, Charlie Mohr and David Halberstam and that genre of analysts said about that conflict. Those authors' work sticks in history because they were right. They were right because, as Halberstam said,"My loyalty was not to the president, not to the secretary of state or to the generals who sat on their asses in Saigon. My loyalty was to the First Amendment and to my readers." When your loyalty is to the truth, you are not only right more than not you are also most likely "liberal." One of the foundations of a conservative philosophy is dogma, the act of clinging to illusion over reality. It's tough to be right when you aren't living in the real world.

The tendency of the majority to cling to fantasy doesn't offer much hope for the future. If we desperately hope that the greedy and insane are "right" and punish those who are right with banishment or derision, what hope do we have of ever creating a just and rational society? I don't mean just here in the United States of America. I mean in the world.

When it was obvious that worshiping wealth and greed was creating a monstrous split between the haves and the rest of us, most Americans worshiped greed and wealth. McSame campaigned hard on the terrible thought that Obama might actually tax the wealthy according to their ability to pay taxes and the benefits they receive from their position in society. Anyone with the slightest sense of history would know that every past war resulted in taxation on the wealthy. Income taxes were invented, in fact, to pay for wars and they were, originally, only levied on the wealthiest citizens.

Obviously, the average trust-funder hates the idea of making any useful contribution to society, but why that influences the rest of us is beyond me. The fact that this message had any stickage at all is due to the overwhelming conservative nature of the major media.


A Really Dumb Waste of Tax Dollars

You should check out this article: "Taxpayers may pay legal bills for mortgage execs." It is hard to imagine a more convoluted, incompetent, amoral, and foolish system than our current corporate legal definition. The purpose of corporations was, originally, to allow money to be pooled to accomplish substantial tasks that were too large for normal business arrangements; sole proprietorships and partnerships. Due to a screw-up made by one of our many incompetent versions of the grossly misnamed Supreme Court in 1886, an ex-railroad executive turned sinister "court reporter" (J.C. Bancroft Davis) invented corporate rights based on the 14th Amendment. The lazy justices did not rectify this intentional perversion of their ruling and we've been stuck with a despicable and unaccountable intuition ever since.

As the US economy continues to self-destruct, we should take advantage of this moment in history to redefine the purpose and structure of corporations. Corporate executives should bear more responsibility for the actions and failures of the businesses they administer, not less. Since their business structure is supposed to, first, provide useful benifit to the society, that should be their first obligation. Second in line would be the profit of their investors. Last is the wealth of the executives.


Too soon?

In 2004, I suggested that Democrats sit out the elections. All of them. Since Republicans, the part of the rich and stupid, were determined to trash the country and the rich and stupid were determined to let them, I thought the best move the Democrats could make would be to let them do their worst.

To be clear, I'm talking about two groups: 1) the rich and 2) the stupid. The rich have every reason in the short-term world to be Republican. Their worst fear is that they will have to pay for their power and protection and luxury. The "Reagan Revolution" was about exactly that; providing a seperation and insulation layer between the people who derive the most from our economic and political system and the responsibility to pay for that benifit. Characters like Donny Trump and Paris Hilton and G.W. Bush expect to be treated like royalty, but they do not want to pay for that treatment. They are the ultimate believers in the free lunch. The stupid are the breed that Nixon labeled "the silent majority." They are rarely silent, but they are often the voting majority. They are unskilled, uneducated, superstitious, and on average at the old end of the nation's demographic. The are rural, small town, out-of-touch, and terrified of their own shadows and every other shadow in the night. Sarah Palin called them "true Americans," but they are much closer to true Tories. No only would they have not fought against the British in the American Revolution, but they would probably have sided with the British. Conservatives. Cowards. Fools.

The voting majority is made up of the stupid, in most elections. They have nothing else to do but to vote themselves rich and safe. They aren't bright enough to idenfity either wealth or safety. The middle states are great examples of this stupidity. Right down the "heart" of the nation, from Texas to North Dakota, all red states. All packed full of down-bred rejects of the rest of the country. Every family's smart kid has abandoned those places as soon as he or she was able. (Example: President-elect Obama's mother was born in Kansas, but her parents excaped to California and she spent most of her life in Hawaii; about as far as you can get from Kansas.) All the dumb kids stayed and reproduced themselves, way too often. Each of these states are stuffed with citizens older than the national average. These states have K-12 education systems that are stuck in 1955, minus the 1955 science classes. Not a one of them has an important technical university or a significant industry. They farm, with lots of welfare support. They work at Walmart, selling products made in China. They sell Grandma's stuff in their antique stores. They consistently vote against their own best interests, but they count on federal welfare to make up for their lack of initiative, talent, and hard work.

It took a decade of similar foolishness before the real majority of Americans wised up and elected FDR. Before that Republicans and equally corrupt Democrats drove the country into the ground, requiring Teddy Roosevelt to completely revamp the economic system, going after monopolies and robber barons with his big stick.

The general public has become as gullible and uneducated as the worst fears of the nation's founders anticipated. Voters are afraid of intelligent politicians, so they vote for "clever" ones. Clever like foxes, not humans. Self-interested, greedy, corrupt characters like Dick Cheany thrive in this kind of environment. Vicious scumbags like Karl Rove become rich and powerful on skills that are not only destructive to the nation, but that are incredibly remedial and transparent.

It was obvious that this kind of government would destroy the education system, crash the economy, wipe out the middle class, promote superstition, fear science, and do decades of damage to the nation that would take more decades to fix. But the majority, the not-so-silent and very foolish majority wanted this future. Intelligent people have been imigrating from the US to Canada, New Zealand, Europe, and the rest of the civilized world for a decade. I know a lot of people who have considered giving up on the "land of the free" and heading for safer grounds. Nobody wants to be the last imigrant on the boat when the facists close the boarders.

My theory was that Democrats and intelligent people should let the fools crash the country and return to pick up the pieces. It turned out that Bush and Co. were able to do that job a lot faster than I'd imagined possible. Maybe Obama has timed it perfectly.


Coleman's Past

Pitiful little Normal Coleman thinks the Democrats aren't "playing fair." He may find himself in need of a pardon from his hero, G.W. Bush, because of the illegal money he's taken from at least one supporter/owner. In a last ditch maneuver to turn this disaster into political hay, he dipped into comedien Al Franken's past to call up the routines Franken performed or wrote for SNL as "evidence" that Franken's past makes him unfit for political office. As if Republicans go into politics with ideals and morals?

Normal's past is pretty shaky, if he wants to go that way. When Paul Wellstone died and Coleman inherited his current office, he said "I will be a 99% improvement over Paul Wellstone." A real class act that Coleman character. Wellstone was the only Senator to see through Bush's Iraq War scam and Coleman has yet to perform a single sentient act as Senator.

Going further back in the boy's history, we find he was a mindless upper-crust hippy wannabe during his days as a Hofstra University radical. One of Coleman's famous quotes is "These conservative kids don't fuck or get high like we do... Everyone watch out, the 1950s' bobby-sox generation is about to take over." Top that Franken!

"Bobby-sox generation?" What kind of hippy dork was he?


#192 Comparing the Candidates

Watching the recent speeches, I realized something amazing about the Republican candidate: John McSame is Eric Cartman, sort of grown up. Listen to his ranting, his strange nasal grunt used to punctuate his "important" moments. If we could just get him to sing "In the Ghetto," I think it would be obvious that John McCain and South Park's Eric Cartman are the same guy.

I wish I had written the following thoughtful analysis, but I didn't. However, it is so perfect that I wanted to do my bit to distribute it further. The comparisons between the two sets of Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates are clear and obvious. One set is completely unsuited and unprepared for any office more critical than small town American (preferably small town Alaska or Arizona where nothing of importance ever happens and nothing of value is created). The other set is prepared, educated, intelligent, and capable. If you are still inclined to vote for the unprepared pair, racism is clearly your motivation. In fact, you are simply casting your vote for two pink boobs. Here are some of McSame's greatest hits: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/6/20/3645/88162/152/538868.

In the 2008 Presidential Election, what if the candidates resumes were reversed?

  • What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, including a three month old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?

  • What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review?

  • What if Barack Obama finished 894 out of 899 graduates from the Navy Academy in 1958?

  • What if Barack Obama had been a prisoner in Vietnam for five years and suffered from Delayed Stress Syndrome?

  • What if McCain had only married once, and Obama was a divorcee?

  • What if Obama was the candidate who left his first wife after a severe disfiguring car accident, when she no longer measured up to his standards?

  • What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while he was still married?

  • What if Barack Obama had failed at an attempted suicide?

  • What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to pain killers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?

  • What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?

  • What if Obama had punched a woman in the face in the halls of Congress?

  • What if Obama had been a member of the Keating Five? (The Keating Five were five United States Senators accused of corruption in 1989, igniting a major political scandal as part of the larger Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s.)

  • What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?

  • What if Obama couldn't read from a teleprompter?

  • What if Obama was the one who had military experience that included discipline problems and a record of crashing five planes? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-klein/mccains-secret-questionab_b_107409.html

  • What if Obama was the one who was known to display publicly, on many occasions, a serious anger management problem? Or if he used high levels of profanity in his private and public conversations.

  • What if Michelle Obama's family had made their money from beer distribution?

  • What if the Obamas had adopted a white child?

You could easily add to this list. If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are?

Educational Background:

Barack Obama:

  • Columbia University - B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in International relations.
  • Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude, Editor and President of Harvard Law Review
  • Taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for twelve years.

Michelle Obama:

  • Princton University - BA in Sociology, Cum Laude
  • Harvard Law School, Juris Doctor (J.D.)
Joseph Biden:
  • University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.
  • Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)

John McCain:

  • United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899
Cindy McCain:

  • BA in Education - University of Southern California
  • MA in Special Education - University of Southern California
Sarah Palin:

  • Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
  • North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
  • University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
  • Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
  • University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism
Todd Palin:
  • High School Graduate
Some try to sweep the issue under the rug but this is about racism. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when there is a color difference.

Education isn't everything, but this is about the two highest offices in the land, the second highest office and the spouses who wield influence over them, as well as our standing in the world. You make the call.

Sheldon Aubut http://www.sheldonaubut.com/

October 2008