Monday, November 18, 2013

How Much Will Rachel Jeantel's 15 Minutes Continuing Irk The Haters? (Plus Tea Party Racism & Zimmerman Arrested Again)

Haters never win. I just think that's true about life, because negative energy always costs in the end ~ Thomas William (dob 2/9/1981) an English actor who played the character of Loki in the Marvel Studios films Thor (2011), The Avengers (2012), and Thor: The Dark World (2013).

This post consists of three related topics/questions, as follows... [1] Rachel Jeantel's "15 minutes of fame" continues with an Ebony article and photo shoot. How much will this irk the haters? [2] Is someone who agrees with those who say the Tea Party has a problem with racism sticking to a generic Leftist template? and [3] The killer George Zimmerman was arrested for threatening his current girlfriend with a gun. Is this guy eventually going to end up in prison for an extended period of time?

[1] Rachel Jeantel Dec/2013 Ebony Photo Shoot & My Subscription To Said Publication... Just How Much Will This Irk The Haters?

I just received the December 2013 issue of Ebony in the mail, paged though it, and found an article in the "Style/Makeover" section titled "Rachel Jeantel: New Year, New Look". This is the 7th issue of Ebony I have received, despite never subscribing to it. Honestly I have no idea why they're sending me this publication. I got a bill awhile ago, but it said that if I wanted to continue receiving Ebony I should submit payment. I figured the magazines I had received thus far were a trial subscription that Ebony had decided (for a reason unknown to me) to send me the mag for free to get me hooked.

I did not return the bill with my payment info and inform them I wanted to keep getting Ebony. I threw it away and assumed no more magazines would be sent. But still they come. And I've been reading them (most of the articles) and not disliking it... not liking it enough to subscribe, but it's an OK read for free. I also received two issues of some snowboarding magazine that I never told anyone I wanted. That magazine I paged though and looked at the pictures (and nothing else), as I have zero interest in snowboarding.

Although I do know why I got that one. I got an email from Publisher's Clearinghouse and entered their sweepstakes (a number of times)... but NEVER ordered anything. Yet they THINK I ordered the snowboarding magazine when I know I did not (not even by mistake). I emailed them when they sent me a bill and said "I did not order this and am not paying". No response. I called them when the second issue arrived and found out they had received my email and my subscription was cancelled (and I owed nothing).

I haven't contacted Ebony because the bill they sent me said I should pay if I wanted to CONTINUE my subscription. They've never said I owed them anything for the issues I've already received. If they want to send me the magazine for free that's OK with me... which is definitely NOT the case with the snowboarding mag, which I don't want, even for free. In any case, back to the Rachel Jeantel article... it is not that long and mostly concerns the "makeover". I say she looks good (see picture below). And I also say, that, although her "fame" (however long it lasts) came from a tragic incident (the murder of her friend)... still, I say "good for her". And I decided to share these feeling on my blog because I figured it is something that would irk the haters (at a minimum).

Rachel Jeantel says (in the article) that she did not seek fame. Of course not. She was there (court) to "help out a friend". Yes, she did not want to get involved at first, but that was only when she thought the police didn't need her testimony (and she did not want to get involved if she didn't have to). I say this is completely understandable, given the "media backlash" (mentioned in the article) and the racist hate it attracted from the Right (I know because many of the racist haters commented on my blog when I wrote about the murder of Trayvon Martin).

This Ebony article makes me smile when I think of something positive coming Miss Jeantel's way; after all the hatred and racism directed at her from the Right (even if it in no way makes up for the loss of Trayvon Martin, or for his killer getting away with murder). Still, it is a small victory against all the haters. My hope is that Rachel rides this train as long as she is able, and that it (her fame, even if it does not last) assists her in attaining much future success.

Let me know if you agree, or if you're a hater who disagrees (I'll publish your comment but likely ridicule it... so, if that is OK with you - hate away). BTW, I wasn't suggesting (with the underlined header that my subscription to Ebony would irk anyone, only the fact that Rachel Jeantel appeared in the magazine).

[2] Can My Pointing Out The Fact That The Tea Party Has A Racism Problem Be Described As Me Following A Leftist "Template"?

This is the racism from the Right (mostly concerning our first Black president) that, if you mention it to anyone who isn't a Lefty, is met with skepticism. I recently noted my agreement with a public figure who said the Tea Party contained racist elements, to which the Libertarian-voting Objectivist/Ayn Rand enthusiast rAtional nAtion replied by saying "As w-d sticks with the generic template".

The "generic template", according to the rAtional fEllow (if my deciphering of his comments is accurate) is that I call the Tea Party racist while ignoring the racism in the Democratic Party. Wrong-o, Mr nAtion. There are racists who identify with all political parties, it's just that the racism in the Tea Party is provably worse. And those Conservatives who disagree with it ignore and deny it, while at the same time using it to their advantage. They ignore/deny it even if they don't agree with it because any attack on Obama is good (in their minds). It gets the racists out to vote... the racist Republicans and Tea Partiers, that is.

So... in regards to the "generic template"... am I quilty of adhering to one as the rAtional oNe charges? Do the the haters of Rachel Jeantel include many Tea Partiers? While I am sure many Conservatives hate her, regardless of whether or not they identify with the Tea Party, is she hated more by Tea Party folks? These are two additional questions you may consider answering if you choose to reply to this post.

[3] George Zimmerman's History Of Domestic Abuse & Problems With Guns Meet, Again

George Zimmerman's first girlfriend (and at-the-time fiance) filed a restraining order against him predicated on a charge of domestic violence (in July of 2005). Although whenever anyone brings this up (in print or on the TV) they also mention that Zimmerman filed a reciprocal restraining order... implying that this was just a "he said, she said" case in which they were both accusing each other and therefore either could be lying (or they could both be guilty of violence against the other).

Then, following Zimmerman's acquittal in regards to the charges against him for killing Trayvon Martin, his (now ex) wife Shellie called 911 (Sept 2013) and said George had his hand on his gun and was threatening to shoot her and/or her father. She also accused him of punching her father in the nose and smashing her iPod. Afterwards she declined to press charges, although she did divorce him.

Now Zimmerman has a new girlfriend and THAT girlfriend has made similar accusations. Below I have transcribed a portion of the 11/18/2013 airing of Politics Nation hosted by Al Sharton. Why an excerpt instead of just telling you what happened in my own words? Because it will irk the haters...

Al Sharpton: Breaking news tonight, George Zimmerman arrested in Florida. At this hour Zimmerman is behind bars [picture of a bearded Zimmerman displayed on screen]... after an incident involving his girlfriend. Charged with felony aggravated assault with a weapon, domestic battery violence and criminal mischief. (excerpt from the MSNBC program "Politics Nation").

Now, according to Zimmerman (in a 911 call) he says his girlfriend went crazy on him. Zimmerman's version of events (as told to a 911 operator) is that his girlfriend - who is "pregnant with our child" - got violent after she told him to get out and he agreed to do so. Zimmerman says she started yelling and breaking her own stuff. Or his stuff. He wasn't sure. His girlfriend says Zimmerman stuck his gun in her face, but in regards to that Zimmerman says his GF has a gun and his gun is locked up. (see here for the audio of the 911 call).

In regards to this I say Zimmerman is a liar. Also, I must ask WHY would any sane female agree to shack up with this person? He has a history of abusing women and threatening them with guns. What is wrong with these women? And how the hell did Zimmerman get a GF, move in with her, and knock her up in less than 2 months time?

The question I'm going to request any reader of this commentary respond to is... will this idiot (the current GF) press charges, or will she decline to do so (like Shellie)? Also, will Zimmerman be convicted and serve some jail time (as he clearly needs to) or will this be another "he said, she said" situation where Zimmerman defends himself by lying (as he obviously did when he told "his side" of what happened the night he murdered Trayvon Martin)? And, finally, will yet another woman shack up with Zimmerman and eventually file domestic abuse charges... and in how short of a time period will that come to pass?

For the record, I know George was acquitted in the show trial, but I shall continue to say he murdered Trayvon, as that is what I believe happened. Technically he was found "not guilty", but in my mind he is a murderer.

Image Description: Rachel Jeantel post-makeover in the December 2013 issue of Ebony magazine.

Video Description: Racism Still Motivates Tea Party. In this Ring of Fire video, host Mike Papantonio & Chauncey DeVega discuss racism within the Tea Party and how the word "cracker" is NOT comparible to the N-word, 8/9/2013 (9:33).

SWTD #220, lDel #12.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Regarding The Rationale On Why Higher Education Should Be Free

...higher taxes on the wealthy can finance more investments in infrastructure and education, which are vital for growth and the economic prospects of the middle class. Higher taxes on the wealthy also allow for lower taxes on the middle -- potentially restoring enough middle class purchasing power to keep the economy going ~ Robert Reich, describing why taxing the rich is good for the economy as quoted in his 4/18/2012 article with the same title. Robert Reich (dob 1/27/1963) an American political economist, professor, author, and political commentator. He served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter and was Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997.

I recently heard a rationale via Progressive Talker Thom Hartmann's radio program for getting rid of the for-profit higher education system we have in the US. This rational reminded me of a discussion that took place on the blog of a "Moderate" turned Libertarian from awhile back. And, after hearing Mr. Hartmann's rational, I must say that it looks like I was right, but not entirely for the reasons I thought I was.

The discussion and then the rationale from Mr. Hartmann as follows...

Dervish Sanders: I think college education (and beyond) should be free. It's an investment because people with higher levels of education get higher paying jobs and pay more in taxes over their lifetimes. (7/3/2011 AT 4:48pm).

Libertarian Blogger: Oh, free college education now! Do you have ANY idea how expensive that would be? And do you even care? We'll pay for it by taxing the rich, right? (7/3/2011 AT 9:00pm).

Thom Hartmann: In my new book, The Crash of 2016, I point out that one of a number a possible triggers for the next major stock market crash is a widespread default on student loan debt. That's a time bomb, but, what's really interesting is that it would cost the federal government about 125 billion dollars a year to provide everyone in the country with basically a free college education. We spend about 121 billion dollars a year administering, overseeing, checking for fraud and subsidizing our loan program. I think we should have a jubilee... forgive all student debt and then start providing people with free college education, it's our intellectual infrastructure. (The Thom Hartmann Program, 8/23/2013, 27:47-28:43 of the first hour of the THP podcast).

When I made my comment on Mr. LB's blog I was making the same argument as former Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich (as quoted at the top of my post)... and that was without knowing how much it would cost. And Mr. LB is right when he asked "do you even care". I did not because I know that such investments return more than what they cost (as I pointed out). But why the hell are we spending only slightly less (4 billion, according to Mr. Hartmann) so banksters can make money? This is more corporate welfare that we don't need. Also, clearly Mr. LB didn't care (or know) how much the cost would be, or how paying to send qualified individuals to college is an investment (and that is how we should look at it).

Yes, more people would likely go to college if it were free (and all you needed to do was qualify), so the amount would likely rise from 125 billion... but, again, it is an INVESTMENT. And, this criticism is from an individual who constantly criticizes and insults American workers who have "chimpanzee jobs" (he wants to offshore them) and says "we have a shortage of skilled workers", but then slams the idea of "we the people" via our government making an investment to solve the problem!

Sounds to me like this dude simply hates the government and irrationally places his faith in the "free market" to solve our problems... but the only problem the "free market" has any interest in solving is accruing more profit to itself. That is the only goal of the plutocrats, what's best for the nation be damned. IMO, either the people who subscribe to this nonsense (the free market as a solution to all our problems) are either fools who allow their idolizing of the wealthy to blind them to reality (such a fool can be recognized by the things they say such as "I love billionaires"), or have some financial incentive to spread their "free market" lies (they work for a billionaire funded institution).

Proof of this irrational hatred is a ridiculous insistence that no matter what the government attempts to do, it gets the exact opposite result. For example, if it attempts to tackle the poverty problem (LBJ and the Great Society), it makes poverty worse... and if it invests in our intellectual infrastructure... wanna guess what happens?...

Libertarian Blogger: I would also submit that a huge reason for the skyrocketing costs of higher education is the fact that the government continuously subsidizes it. (11/14/2013 AT 9:16pm).

In explaining his BS statement Mr. LB says "when you subsidize something, you increase demand. When you increase demand, you increase the price"... and then makes his case by informing his readers that "nearly 40% of the kids who take these subsidies never even graduate". Obviously (in his mind) these 40 percent never should have attempted college to begin with.

While it may be the case that some of these students who dropped out shouldn't have gone that route, but the way to weed out these people should not be to take away government subsidized government loans. Mr. LB thinks it's just the poorer kids who start college but don't finish it? Clearly he believes the only reason anyone would quit is because they never should have gone to college to begin with (they realized they weren't cut out for college, I guess). But neither of these suppositions are necessarily true.

Notice how all the assumptions that Mr. LB makes lead to one conclusion? That conclusion being that who goes to college should be based on ability to pay. He also approves of this kind of discrimination in the health care insurance arena, insisting that Single-Payer would result in rationing. But we have rationing NOW. Again, based on ability to pay. Me, I think the problem of people starting college and not finishing is likely more often than not money related (the student can't afford to continue). But, for those who drop out because they decide they can't hack it... perhaps we can blame the admissions officers who took their money instead of counseling them to consider (for example) trade school?

Whatever the case may be I agree with Mr. Hartmann, in that paying for the college or trade school education of qualified individuals is an investment in our intellectual infrastructure. Higher learning isn't a commodity we should be looking to keep the price down on by deciding who should be able to attend based on ability to pay (or ability to get some kind of scholarship, of which there are only so many to go around). There are other ways to lower the cost of a college or trade school degree.

Higher education should be free because, in the end the taxpayer would come out ahead... those who attend and graduate end up making more over their lifetimes and therefore pay more in taxes. We make our money back, in other words. Not only due to the higher educated person paying more in taxes, but also because people with higher incomes have more money to spend into the economy, thereby stimulating economic growth that benefits everyone.

Video Description: Obama unveils plan to lower college costs, 8/22/2013 (2:08).

SWTD #219, wDel #42.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Libertarian BS About The Great Society Subsidizing Poverty

from 1963 when Lyndon Johnson took office until 1970 as the impact of his Great Society programs were felt, the portion of Americans living below the poverty line dropped from 22.2 percent to 12.6 percent, the most dramatic decline over such a brief period in this century ~ Joseph A. Califano Jr. (dob 5/15/1931) Special Assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson (7/26/1965 to 1/20/1969).

If there is one thing that Libertarians absolutely can not stand it is the idea that government can be a force to affect positive economic or societal change. Fact is, Libertarians strongly believe that government can't do anything right. One of their favorite pastimes is running down government and heaping praise on the so-called "free market". It's the answer to all our problems, doncha know?

If they aren't demonizing government, an institution that represents The People and works on their behalf (in so far as they haven't been bribed by the wealthy elites), then Libertarians are demonizing poor people; and the demonization of both is exemplified in this recent post by a Libertarian blog I check in from time to time.

Libertarian blogger: The poverty rate was coming down precipitously in this country and for the most part people weren't having children out of wedlock, and then came the Great Society. Thank you so much, the political class. ...this is one hell of a strong correlation and you know, YOU KNOW, that if the trend-lines had been plotted out in the opposite direction the left would have been singing and dancing that it was some sort of proof-positive that the Great Society was effective. And the fact that it makes such total fucking sense. Of course when you subsidize something you're going to get more of it. Hello! (11/12/2013 AT 7:43pm).

The poverty rate was coming down because our economy was growing due to industrialization and continuing innovation, for which, yes, we can thank the so-called "free market". But the reason EVERYONE benefited is because of the existence of unions; organizations that allowed workers to bargain for their share of the wealth. According to Mr. Libertarian Blogger (Mr. LB) Democrats can't blame Reagan, but it was Reagan who kicked off his presidency by declaring a war on working people, as Liberal Talker Thom Hartmann points out in his 2006 book Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class...

Thom Hartmann: We can easily trace decline [of unionization] to Reagan's first public declaration of war on the middle class when he went after the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) in 1981. He broke the back of the air-traffic controllers' union and began the practice of using the Department of Labor - traditionally the ally of workers - against organized labor and working people. (Excerpt from Thom's book reprinted by Alternet, 9/5/2006).

If you look at the graph Mr. LB includes with his post to "prove" that LBJ's war on poverty actually subsidized poverty and therefore increased it, you will get the impression that the Great Society didn't have much of an impact, but that is because the graph covers such a large period of time (1940-2010) and all the programs that comprised the Great Society were not actually fully in effect for very long, as noted by Wikipedia...

Wikipedia/The Great Society/The War On Poverty: The War on Poverty [began with] the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which created the OEO to oversee a variety of community-based antipoverty programs. ... The OEO was dismantled by the Nixon and Ford administrations, largely by transferring poverty programs to other government departments. Funding for many of these programs were further cut in President Ronald Reagan's first budget in 1981.

Mr. Libertarian Blogger is criticizing a program that began in 1964 and for which the dismantling commenced only 5 years later (under Nixon who assumed office in 1969)? And, then there is the fact that Johnson got us involved in the Vietnam war the previous year (1963) and "Anti-war Democrats complained that spending on the Vietnam War choked off the Great Society". So, the programs were under-funded due to money spend on the Vietnam conflict, which brings us to what the actual criticism should be... a criticism the Lefty publication The Nation notes was levied by Martin Luther King...

Mark Engler, writing for The Nation: King criticized Johnson's War on Poverty for being too piecemeal. While housing programs, job training and family counseling were not themselves unsound, he wrote that "all have a fatal disadvantage. The programs have never proceeded on a coordinated basis... At no time has a total, coordinated and fully adequate program been conceived". (Dr. Martin Luther King's Economics: Through Jobs, Freedom 1/15/2010).

The obvious conclusion is that the Great Society didn't do enough and it didn't do it long enough. Mr. LB did not present "one hell of a strong correlation" that the Great Society caused poverty to increase, as the short while that it was in place it did have an effect (as Joseph A. Califano Jr. points out in the quote at the top of my post).

As for the graph and conclusion drawn from it by Mr. LB that out-of-wedlock births have increased (again) due to the Great Society... this is a simple-minded conclusion (the kind of conclusions Conservatives and Libertarians excel at). The Brookings Institute analyzed the data, and their conclusion was that out-of-wedlock births in the United States increased due to "technology shock".

The researchers lay out their hypothesis as follows...

Brookings: In the late 1960s and very early 1970s (well before Roe v. Wade in January 1973) many major states, including NY and CA, liberalized their abortion laws. At about the same time it became easier for unmarried people to obtain contraceptives. ... We have found that this rather sudden increase in the availability of both abortion and contraception [caused] reproductive technology shock... In our view, it was the technology shock itself that, by eroding the age-old custom of shotgun marriage, paradoxically raised out-of-wedlock birth rates instead of lowering them. (An Analysis of Out-Of-Wedlock Births in the United States by George A. Akerlof and Janet L. Yellen of Brookings, 8/1996).

Why? Brookings concludes that...

Brookings: Women who were willing to get an abortion or who reliably used contraception no longer found it necessary to condition sexual relations on a promise of marriage in the event of pregnancy. But women who wanted children, who did not want an abortion for moral or religious reasons, or who were unreliable in their use of contraception found themselves pressured to participate in premarital sexual relations without being able to exact a promise of marriage in case of pregnancy. (same credit as previous quote).

Thus out of wedlock births increased. Granted, this explanation is a little more complicated and nuanced than the one put forward by Libertarians and Conservatives who think like Mr. LB. It makes sense to me, in any case. More so than the notion that poor people prefer to live in poverty, so long as they're getting welfare from the government... and a poor woman will have kids out of wedlock on purpose just to get more bennies. Regarding that argument Brookings said...

Brookings: One argument that appeals to conservatives is that of Charles Murray, who attributes the increase to overly generous federal welfare benefits. But... welfare benefits could not have played a major role in the rise of out-of-wedlock births because benefits rose sharply in the 1960s and then fell in the 1970s and 1980s, when out-of-wedlock births rose most. (same credit as previous Brookings excerpt).

However, as I pointed out earlier, demonizing the poor is something Libertarians and Conservatives excel at. If you say the government can't help the poor (and in fact it makes poverty worse) then no money need be spent on these types of programs. There is therefore no need to tax the wealthy to help the less fortunate (as it only harms them). And, let us not forget that it's their own fault for being lazy and preferring to lie back in the social safety net hammock instead of working hard to get ahead.

But most people do not prefer to only get by. Most people do work hard but simply can't get ahead... as the plutocrats are taking more and more, which is easier for them to do since Reagan and his war on unions. It certainly is no coincidence that Libertarians and Conservatives also hate unions, as unions allow workers to bargain for higher wages. Also, it is no coincidence that Libertarians and Conservatives love free trade, as that also drives down wages for working folks. Hello!

SWTD #218, wDel #41.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Clueless Ayn Rand Worshiping Objectivist Concerned About Wealth Inequality Doesn't Realize His Ideology Fosters It

Oh, for an honest Libertarian who would say "Yes, in Libertopia we'd have rampant quackery, organ-seizure, baby-selling, slavery in all but name - BUT THAT'S FREEDOM! ~ Seth Finkelstein, programmer and author who writes for The Guardian.

The video at the bottom of this commentary was recently included in a post about wealth inequality in the United States on the ironically titled blog "rAtional nAtion uSA". The proprietor of this blog, Lester Nation, is an individual who believes in the greed rationalizing ideology of Ayn Rand. Given that, his including of this video in his post proves just how clueless this guy is when it comes to the end game the plutocrats who endorse Libertarianism (like the Koch Brothers) desire.

The endgame of the plutocrats; the entire goal of pushing Libertarianism and Randism on our nation is to further enrich themselves and impoverish everyone else. This is a zero-sum game and when the rich get richer we all get poorer. It doesn't have to be, but the way Libertarians play the game it is. If they were willing to pay their workers more those workers would spend that money into the economy, thus increasing demand and benefiting the "job creators". Instead they seek to pay the workers as little as possible, thus decreasing demand.

Libertarians say economics isn't a zero-sum game, but that is only true when the economy is growing. The economy only grows when the workers have money to spend; which generates demand; which grows the economy. Problem is, when the corportist and CEO class seeks to increase their wealth by paying workers less and less, this causes the economy to contract (workers have less money to spend) and then the game is zero sum (the workers can't spend unless they borrow against the equity in their home, use their credit cards, or otherwise go into debt). For the plutocrats to win the workers must lose, which they have been over the past 40 years, ever since this country adopted Reaganomics (also known as "trickle down").

But Libertarians (the true believers like Lester) fail to realize this. They think that if government simply gets out of the way the wealthy elites will (unrestrained) be able to make more money and that money will trickle down to everyone else (those who work hard). This, despite the fact that the employers seek to pay as little as possible and, without government "restraining" them, they will engage in practices that drive down wages to an even greater extent... insourcing, outsourcing (using cheap overseas labor and then importing the goods sans tariffs), anti-unionism, etc.

Question is, for how long with the citizens tolerate this inequality before they demand change? And what kind of change will they demand? That really concerns Lester. He articulates these fears in a comment to his own post as follows...

rAtional nAtion: How this is going to shake out is uncertain. But my money rests on serious social unrest, a serious depression, and the results will be exactly what Capitalists have railed against for years. MORE GOVERNMENT CONTROL and HIGHER TAXES. (10/22/2013 AT 4:56pm).

All I can say to that is... amen, Lester. I pray you are right, but I also pray the middle class isn't decimated before we reach a breaking point. BTW, by "more government control" Lester refers to more democracy. Libertarians hate democracy, as they foolishly believe the "free market" should rule, not "we the people". Me, I'm a Progressive who believes in democracy and believe that "more government control" equates to our elected representatives doing more of what we want. And, of course taxes aren't high enough (FactCheck.org and PolitiFact both confirm that taxes are at a historical low).

I think Lester is right, but unlike him I don't fear the results he predicts. I am not looking forward to a possible depression, but if the people wake up and demand more democracy, higher taxes and other economic policies that will rebuild the middle class I'd be on board with that 100 percent.

According to Thomas Jefferson, "those seeking profits, were they given total freedom, would not be the ones to trust to keep government pure and our rights secure". The "free market", in other words, will destroy rights in order to gain more profit... and reduce the rest of us to paupers (or vassals). A country with a large and vibrant middle class, as pointed out by Progressive talker Thom Hartmann, is not natural.

When the plutocrats rule (as the Libertarians desire) the end result is a small number of uber wealthy rulers, an equally small middle class, and a large number of working poor. "We the people" via our elected officials must create and enforce legislation and economic policies to foster and enable the existence of a middle class... this would be the government that Libertarians and Randians like Lester Nation fear and despise. These foolish individuals fail to recognize the wisdom in Jefferson's words because they have been thoroughly duped by the plutocrats.

Video Description: Video posted on the rAtional nAtion uSA blog to complement a 10/22/2013 post by the proprietor titled "The Great American Income Shift". The video points out just how much more money the wealthy have than the rest of us (and that the inequality is significantly more than most Americans think)...

Further Reading
[1] Libertarianism Makes You Stupid by Seth Finkelstein, August 1997.
[2] Garbage and Gravitas... Ayn Rand was a melodramatist of the moral life: the battle is between the producer and the moochers, and it must end in life or death by Corey Robin, The Nation 5/20/2010.

SWTD #217, lDel #11.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Billionaires Kill: Volume 1

The inability to grasp the pathology of our oligarchic rulers is one of our gravest faults. We have been blinded to the depravity of our ruling elite by the relentless propaganda of public relations firms that work on behalf of corporations and the rich. Compliant politicians, clueless entertainers and our vapid, corporate-funded popular culture, which holds up the rich as leaders to emulate and assures us that through diligence and hard work we can join them, keep us from seeing the truth ~ Chris Hedges (dob 9/18/1956) an American journalist and best-selling author specializing in American politics and society. With this quote from his 10/20/2013 commentary "Let's Get This Class War Started" Hedges warns us that we aren't taking the danger posed by billionaires seriously.

Recently I read a commentary on a Libertarian blog where the proprietor and author asked "whether having multiple billionaires in a Society is desirable or not". He added some caveats, but basically the answer was yes, billionaires are beneficial. In regards to this conclusion I am in strong disagreement. Progressive talk radio host Thom Hartmann wrote an article about this awhile back, and his conclusion was that we (as a society) should not allow anyone to accumulate a billion dollars (or more).

Thom codified his proposal by launching the "No Billionaires" campaign and website. As proposed by Mr. Hartmann, when anyone accumulates WEALTH (in aggregate, he isn't referring to income) in excess of a billion dollars, a wealth tax of 100% should be assessed. While that may sound extreme and I'm sure the aforementioned Libertarian blogger would label me "Far Left" in response, I say Thom Hartmann's case against billionaires makes sense and is something I would support.

Regarding why I would support a tax that amounts to confiscation (oh, my!), I'd like to address that question with four quotes from the aforementioned Libertarian blogger and follow up these selected quotations with excerpts from the articled authored by Thom Hartmann in which he lays out his case. As follows...

1. Libertarian Blogger: In and of itself it's a meaningless question (the question of whether or not billionaires are desirable). You would also have to known, in my opinion, a) the overall size of the economy, b) the growth rate, c) the opportunity structure, d) the regulatory climate, e) the amount of crony capitalism involved...

My Commentary: No, you don't need to address those questions before deciding whether or not billionaires are desirable. They are not, whatever the answers to those questions might be. The reason they are not is that, when money is allowed to aggregate in the hands of a few the result is ALWAYS that those few (or some among them... example: The Koch Brothers) use their wealth to manipulate public discussion, public opinion and our legislators (via campaign donations AKA bribes). Wealth aggregated in a few hands breeds political corruption (the bribes I just mentioned). Mr. Hartmann points this out with the following (excerpt from his article)...

Thom Hartmann: We've been given political corruption as billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers can now buy politicians and legislation to benefit their own selfish interests like tax cuts for wealthy people, deregulation for polluting oil corporations, and free trade for job outsourcers.

2. Libertarian Blogger: I mean, I know that the left de facto wants me to say that billionaires are evil and all but I would simply point out that Cuba, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, and Indonesia don't have any billionaires and do we really want to emulate them?

My Commentary: Untrue. The Left does not want YOU (or anyone representing your Libertarian/Conservative) position to "de facto" say billionaires are "evil". This "evil" nonsense is a strawman the Right likes to break out whenever this question comes up. Selfishness may indeed be evil, but that is not what is at issue. The real question is whether or not having billionaires is beneficial to society. Also, the reason some countries are poor has nothing to do with them having or not having billionaires and we don't need to emulate any poor country to not have billionaires (this is another strawman).

Mr. Hartmann gets it...

Thom Hartmann: The issue is not punishing the wealthy. The issue is acknowledging that billionaires have sucked up so much wealth out of our economy that the rest of us are drowning. What's worse is the rest of us are working harder than ever. Productivity has steadily increased post-World War 2, and it used to be that income gains increased right alongside it. But around the time of Reagan, productivity and wages began to diverge. While productivity increased, wages stagnated. That's because all the extra profits made by increased productivity weren't given back to the workers, but instead pocketed by CEOs and executives.

3. Libertarian Blogger: You would also have to know... what the billionaires do with the money (do they waste it on politics or are they philanthropic?).

Thom Hartmann: Our nation does not thrive on the goodwill of billionaires. We thrive on the hard work of average Americans who wake up every day, go to work, care for their families, and raise children to believe that America is a "WE" society - a place where we all work together. Not a place where we wait for scraps to fall off the billionaires' dining table.

My Commentary: The Libertarian blogger has posted on the awesomeness of billionaire philanthropy before, but I'm with Thom Hartmann on this. Whether or not billionaires are philanthropic is not at issue. OVERALL the existence of billionaires is destructive, as Mr. Hartmann explains in his article...

Thom Hartmann: We've been given financial instability as billionaires, having more money than they can spend in a dozen lifetimes, go to Wall Street to gamble. As author Larry Beinhart has discovered, whenever tax rates drop below 50% - and the super-rich have a lot of hot money to play with - there are always subsequent economic crashes: It happened in the 1920s, it happened in the 1980s with the Savings and Loan crisis, and it happened just a few years ago with the housing bubble bursting.

My Commentary: An example of how the existence of billionaires is destructive would include the crony capitalism mentioned by the Libertarian blogger. It is CAUSED by billionaires spending money to influence our political system. The two go hand-in-hand (billionaires and crony capitalism). This is a fact Mr. LB is clearly oblivious to. Another harm billionaires visit on our economy is the crowding out (and outright targeting) of small business...

Thom Hartmann: We've been given gigantic transnational corporations - steered by billionaires - that can crush the competition of small business and kill the American entrepreneurial spirit. According to a newly released study by the New America Foundation, the number of entrepreneurs per capita in America has dropped by 53% since 1977. And since 1991, the number of Americans who are self-employed has dropped by more than 20%. Americans who use to be able to start their own businesses are increasingly being forced to join the ranks of the working poor - crowded out of the market by the billionaires' corporate domination.

4. Libertarian Blogger: Thankfully, the economy isn't a zero-sum game. (This is actually a comment Mr. LB makes to his own post).

My Commentary: Up to a certain point this is true, but the way the billionaires have been playing the game, it is NOT... as pointed out by Mr. Hartmann...

Thom Hartmann: ...the rest of us are working harder than ever. Productivity has steadily increased post-World War 2, and it used to be that income gains increased right alongside it. But around the time of Reagan, productivity and wages began to diverge. While productivity increased, wages stagnated. That's because all the extra profits made by increased productivity weren't given back to the workers, but instead pocketed by CEOs and executives. In other words, we're all working harder, but unfortunately by no will of our own have been forced to give up these fruits of our labor to the elites - to the billionaires whose wealth has exploded and continues to increase year after year.

My Commentary: Is Mr. LB completely unaware of the fact that income and productivity gains used to track each other and they no longer are? This is the very definition of zero-sum, Mr. LB! In another commentary on his blog Mr. LB says "the assertion that the rich are getting richer is a patently false one" and he "proves" his assertion by citing figures concerning the percentage of wealth held by the top 1%, a figure that does fluctuate and is currently lower than it has been in the past (in 1992 the top 1% held 37.2% of our nation's wealth and in 2010 they held 35.4%).

But this is yet another of Mr. LB's strawmen! There are a lot of people who qualify as rich who aren't members of the 1% club. As a whole the rich (not just the 1%, Mr. LB) ARE getting richer. According to a 4/25/2013 article titled "It's Official: The Rich Are Getting Richer And Everyone Else Is Getting Hosed" from the Business Insider (an article that cites a Pew Research Center study that "looked at how American households have fared since the depths of the recession")...

Business Insider: The richest 7% of American households went from owning 56% of the country's net worth to owning 63% of it. That left only 37% of the country's net worth to everyone else. (article by Henry Blodget).

Proof positive that the rich are getting richer. Now, Mr. LB loves to defend the wealthy and use strawmen to do it, but the aggregation of enormous sums of money *is* destructive and deleterious to our economy and our nation, no matter how you slice it. It is bad regardless of what the answers to the meaningless questions Mr. LB asks...

Thom Hartmann: ...our subservience to the billionaires has given us a perverse form of capitalism - corporate capitalism - which subjugates all the needs of our society like clean air, food and water, security, healthcare, education, retirement, and energy to the demands of quarterly profits. To the demands of billionaires who sit in corporate boardrooms and figure out what extra bit of profit they can squeeze out of their workers, out of the fracking wells, out of the Gulf of Mexico, out of bombs dropping on Afghanistan, out of healthcare premiums, and out of pensions and retirements. As Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges has routinely pointed out, corporate capitalism, if left unchecked, will kill us.

My Commentary: Yes, corporate capitalism brought to us by the existence of billionaires is killing us. Unless we want to die (economically as well as literally) we need to rein them in. Or, as Thom Hartmann concludes, "the way to put a check on it (the destructive power of the billionaires) ...is to cut off the spigot funneling what was once middle class wealth to the billionaires".

See also: The Billionaires' Long Game by Robert Reich, 12/11/2012.

SWTD #216, wDel #40.