Saturday, April 21, 2012

The sacking of main street America

Paul Ryan chairman of the House committee that writes the actual budget we must live or die with, said this week that safety-net programs are “a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency”. It's always been the Republican view that people will live in grinding poverty on the government dole rather than do a day's work, no matter that there aren't enough jobs for everybody since they crashed the economy.

The fact is that other than unemployment benefits (and those are only available to people who have had a job) the overwhelming bulk of federal assistance goes to people that are working, and often two or three jobs. The minimum wage is so low that one full time job won't pay family health insurance premiums. Companies like Walmart are heavily subsidized by the government providing Medicaid and food stamps to their workers. The Sam Walton heirs as a group have more billions than any one individual billionaire on the planet. Paying decent wages is for suckers, suckers like the hundreds of thousands if not millions of small businesses they destroyed. It would take a major research study to calculate the damage they've done to America, but it would make the sacking of Rome seem like a case of littering.

For Medicaid in particular, the majority of recipients are elderly or disabled. Two thirds of nursing home budgets come from Medicaid. If Republicans were to actually cut Medicaid it would empty the nursing homes into the street. They won't do this of course, almost all nursing homes are owned by Republicans. It's just fodder for the uninformed (and mostly just stupid) people who vote Republican.

Here's an article I found on Drudge, they think it's anti-government but there are some grains of truth here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Stand your ground Jean Valjean

It’s 4-20 and if you can’t remember reading Les Miserables in high school because you were smoking in the boy’s room, there is just one aspect of the story relevant to this rant. It’s that Jean Valjean got five years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. He then got another 16 years for several attempted escapes. In the past this was considered shocking, but in the corporate owned prison system of America this would a light sentence. The Corporate prison system routinely engineers ever longer sentences for prisoners in their custody for simple infractions of the rules. Serious crime like stealing bread on three occasions can get you life without parole in a private prison.

Some of the harshest laws that have been passed by states came as a result of lobbying by, or more accurately wholesale bribery of Republican lawmakers by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), or more accurately Abominable Legislation by un-Elected Corporations. Still, you have to wonder why these mega-corporations would push this Stand Your Ground Law. They don’t really need to pander to the gun nuts, the crazy people don‘t really need convincing to vote Republican.

The idea that it was simply to boost gun sales doesn’t make much sense, there’s already a shortage of guns and ammo. With a black President they can’t make them fast enough. Walmart is the biggest gun seller in the country and a big player in ALEC, but their business model is to suck dry local economies by absolute domination. They are doing just fine already, the increase in gun sales isn’t even a rounding error to them.

So why would a corporate lobby make it legal for a person to gun down anybody who makes them feel threatened? To quote the possible (however unlikely) next President of the United States, “Corporations are people my friend”. That’s right Monsieur Valjean, make the corporation feel threatened,  they can then shoot you, and not worry about asking questions later. After all stealing bread is a threatening act. So is union picketing, occupying the corporate owned Zuccotti Park, or entering a private gated community (with permission or without). Even if you paid for the bread (or the Skittles).

Trevon Martin’s case was nearly ignored completely like dozens before him. ALEC wasn’t expecting to get this much attention, not that this case is likely to get any of these laws overturned. The people who write the checks don’t want them changed. You may see them amended to restrict this type of “self defense“ for “common” killers, but don’t expect any of the changes to apply to the corporations. They are a special kind of people my friend.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Human flesh is just too tempting

A lot of things happened today that don’t seem to have much significance, the same way that one snowflake at the top of the mountain that begins rolling downhill doesn’t have much significance to the ski lodge at the bottom… until it gets there in the form of an million ton avalanche.

China has announced that starting today the Renminbi will be allowed to float a full percentage point each day in currency trading with the USD, double the previous policy.  This seems like merely a snowflake, until you consider that that the Peoples Republic of China has been spending 200 billion USD each year to keep this from happening.

This has much to do with why China has acquired over 3 trillion in foreign currency reserves (though some is in Euros and other currency). The biggest reason China has so much cash is that the US has allowed huge trans-national corporations like GE, Hewlett-Packard and Walmart (among many) to keep their money offshore. This used to be treated as tax fraud. That “tax shelter” in the Cayman Islands isn’t there because the Caymans has no income tax, but because it is simply a shell game.

Transnational corporations buy from themselves in an offshore country to sell in the US so that the “actual trade” with China takes place in a never-never land of no taxes. Nothing more substantial than a PO Box will take for itself all the mark-up on the transaction. This leaves no profit in the United States to be taxed. Ostensibly they are known as US corporations, but they have accumulated off shore more 2 trillion in USDs this way.

This sort of extra-legal wheeling and dealing is why somebody like Mitt Romney has bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands. It’s no wonder he’s said that basically his tax returns are none of your business.

Back to the new liberalized trading of the Yuan, if China really does allow its currency to be exchanged in an unregulated way we should in theory see the USD rise in value, making all that stuff Walmart sells become 40% more expensive. That should make manufacturing jobs come back to the US.

The problem is that you can’t really rely on monetary policy alone to create an economy. You need an actual trade policy, a policy on manufacturing, on the financial sector, on labor, energy, education… you know, all that stuff that the first Congress back in 1790 created  policies on, and that Ronald Reagan did away with.
An economic policy that was designed by Alexander Hamilton took us from a wooden shovel economy to the greatest industrial power on the planet. A status that China will claim for its own in the next five years because they understand our history, and we don’t.

This is not to say that we Americans have no potential. American technology was able to take a human heart and make it beat inside Dick Cheney’s chest. Of course he may tear it out and eat it at any moment. China is working on a cure, and will probably find it.