Posts from — January 2012
My daughter Grace once jokingly told me that this was the difference between an American and a Canadian:
Every morning the American wakes up and exclaims, “Thank God I’m an American!” And every morning the Canadian wakes up and exclaims, “Thank God, I’m not!”
That was a long time ago. Now, married to an American and with two American sons, she has become a U.S. citizen.
And Canada, it seems, is in danger of becoming American in all the ugly ways that used to make Canadians shun Americanism.
Chris Hedges writes in Truthdig today:
What happened to Canada? It used to be the country we would flee to if life in the United States became unpalatable. No nuclear weapons. No huge military-industrial complex. Universal health care. Funding for the arts. A good record on the environment.
But that was the old Canada. I was in Montreal on Friday and Saturday and saw the familiar and disturbing tentacles of the security and surveillance state. Canada has withdrawn from the Kyoto Accords so it can dig up the Alberta tar sands in an orgy of environmental degradation. It carried out the largest mass arrests of demonstrators in Canadian history at 2010’s G-8 and G-20 meetings, rounding up more than 1,000 people. It sends undercover police into indigenous communities and activist groups and is handing out stiff prison terms to dissenters. And Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a diminished version of George W. Bush. He champions the rabid right wing in Israel, bows to the whims of global financiers and is a Christian fundamentalist.
I had hoped that Canada would escape the global infection that has afflicted so many nations but apparently not. With its economic success and political enlightenment, Canada has attracted the attention of the corporate predators who are intent on spreading their toxic doctrine throughout humankind. They are targeting Canada as they targeted America and Europe. The prospects are chilling.
Hedges puts it this way:
The decay of Canada illustrates two things. Corporate power is global, and resistance to it cannot be restricted by national boundaries. Corporations have no regard for nation-states. They assert their power to exploit the land and the people everywhere. They play worker off of worker and nation off of nation. They control the political elites in Ottawa as they do in London, Paris and Washington.
These “conservative” activists are all the more sinister because they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Hedges warns that:
Our most dangerous opponents, in fact, look and speak like us. They hijack familiar and comforting iconography and slogans to paint themselves as true patriots. They claim to love Jesus. But they cynically serve the function a native bureaucracy serves for any foreign colonizer.
Obviously, the corporate quislings have risen to power in Canada. I never thought I would live to hear a Canadian cabinet member call environmentalists “radical.” But that’s how Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver described opponents to a proposed pipeline that would transport oil from the Alberta tar sands to Texas refineries. I happen to think the pipeline might be the less dangerous of two unwholesome alternatives, but I certainly would not call opponents to the project “radical.” A better adjective might be “concerned.”
Hedges seems to think the Occupy Wall Street movement is the only salvation – for Canada as well as America. He declares:
The Canadian prime minister is as much a servant of corporate power as the American president. And replacing either will not alter corporate domination. As the corporate mechanisms of control become apparent to wider segments of the population, discontent will grow further. So will the force employed by our corporate overlords.
But I think I know Canada better than he does. I lived there for two decades. My son, my sister and many other close relatives live in Toronto. My brother, his wife and their children live in London, Ontario. I have friends and relatives across Canada. And I cannot believe they will let the subversive neocons win the battle for their country.
Most Canadians are sensible people. They will not fall prey to the slick propagandists that corporate colonizers employ to spread fear and dissension. There are political alternatives to Stephen Harper and his gang. Good alternatives. We shall see what happens in the next election.
January 31, 2012 2 Comments
A Hindu once told me that in his religion it was a sin to give handouts to beggars. He explained that the beggars had been sent back to earth to pay for the sins of their previous life and by helping them we would interfere in God’s plan.
I didn’t research the matter so I don’t know if that’s really a Hindu precept. But it is certainly emerging as a Republican talking point in this year’s election campaign.
To counteract the widespread discontent over the yawning income gap in America, Republican strategists are advancing the theory of the “deserving” rich and the “undeserving” poor.
This theory is highlighted in a new book by Charles Murray which identifies a new “white lower class.” Murray attributes their poverty to character flaws. He describes them as shiftless and promiscuous, and says they raise their children so badly that they, too, grow up to be lazy and undisciplined.
This is the argument that people like Murray have traditionally used against African Americans. Now, with poverty spreading through white America, they’re revising it to include all of the poor.
The bottom line, they say, is that rich people succeed through working hard and getting married before they have children. And their children become rich, too, because they’re raised right.
It’s a seductive concept, especially to Calvinist protestants who believe that’s the way it should be.
And we keep hearing it from those Republican presidential candidates – even Newt Gingrich, who is a perfect example of the kind of person who would NOT be rich if the theory were valid.
It’s a dangerous theory because it is so completely wrong and so easy to accept.
We all have a residual sense of guilt and it’s not hard to convince us we are poor because God is punishing us for our sins.
It’s the opposite of Christ’s teachings, of course. But it works. And it backs up the Republican agenda.
Discussing Murray’s book in her Salon.com column today, Joan Walsh explains how:
The only real way to address the growing gap between the wealthy and the rest of us is, Murray argues, is to implore the white uber-class to take more of an interest in the growing underclass. But taking more of an interest, in Murray’s view, basically involves latte-town liberals realizing the only thing that will save the lower class is more self-discipline, and therefore abandoning their traditional support for government programs that try to help them, but only make things worse. Murray takes pains to show that the four most Super of the SuperZips – New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area – are also the home of our liberal media and government elite, seeking to prove that the country is being governed by the people who are most isolated from the rest of America.
So the Republicans” proposed budget cuts that would leave the poor in abject misery - without unemployment insurance, without Social Security, without Medicare or Medicaid, without health insurance, without even food stamps – are really for their own good, see? The government would be doing them a favor to deny them help. It would teach them self discipline and make them work harder.
As Gingrich advises, they would “take a bath” and “get a job.” Naturally, they would get married and raise their kids right.
And get rich, of course.
Yeah. And if you believe that, you deserve a Republican government.
January 30, 2012 2 Comments
President Obama faces a formidable foe in November – stupidity.
And I have scientific evidence to back up this view.
New research at Brock University in Ontario reveals that low-intelligence adults tend to adopt socially conservative ideologies, which stress hierarchy and resistance to change. And these attitudes contribute to prejudice.
I have long suspected something of the sort.
Every poll shows about a third of the American population clinging to outdated conservative beliefs in the face of all evidence.
You may have heard some of them yelling and screaming during those Republican presidential primary debates, booing gay servicemen and declaring that uninsured accident victims should be left to die.
And you know they will vote Republican in November despite anything the president might say or do. If they can find their way to the polls.
These are the kind of people Hodson describes as “low-intelligence adults.”
And it’s this “low intelligence” that Republicans are counting on.
In an article in Consortium News, Robert Parry examines the myth of supply-side economics, which Republicans are touting as the panacea for America’s economic woes.
Parry notes that:
All four remaining Republican hopefuls – Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich – have proposed lower tax rates especially on the rich with the same enduring but fanciful faith in “supply-side” economics.
Reminding us that “America’s three-decade experiment with low tax rates on the rich, lax regulation of corporations and ‘free trade’ has been a catastrophic failure, creating massive federal debt, devastating the middle class and off-shoring millions of American jobs,” he reasons:
You might think that few Americans would be fooled again by this sucker bet on “supply-side.” But the Tea Partiers and many rank-and-file Republicans seem ready to put what’s left of their money back down on the gambling table.
You might think so, indeed, if so many voters weren’t “low-intelligence adults.”
And if “low-intelligence adults” weren’t so prejudiced.
As Perry points out:
The GOP hopes also may hinge significantly on how determined some whites are to get the country’s first black president out of the White House. Historically, demagogic U.S. politicians have had great success in exploiting racial resentments, although these days often with coded language like Gingrich calling Barack Obama “the food-stamp president.”
If you encounter any of these “low-intelligence adults,” try not to argue with them. They won’t understand a word you’re saying. Just smile and walk away.
You can only hope they turn on each other, the way the presidential candidates are doing, and that some of them get so mad they stay home in November.
January 29, 2012 2 Comments
So what if Mitt Romney is worth $270 million? So what if he made more than $20 million last year without working a day? And so what if he paid less than 15 percent in taxes? There’s no law against any of it.
There’s no law against keeping some of his millions in a Swiss bank and more millions in the Cayman Islands. Uncle Sam doesn’t seem to mind.
John Kennedy was rich. FDR was rich.
This is America. It’s OK to be rich. And until Congress does something about our cockeyed tax code, it’s OK to take advantage of loopholes in the law. Not admirable, of course. But OK.
But there’s a catch.
Even if you are that rich, if you run for president, there’s an unwritten law that says you should have the ordinary American’s best interests at heart.
And that’s where Mitt Romney fails.
Rich as he is, you would think – as they say back in Jamaica – his belly would be full by now. But apparently, he can’t help wanting more.
His mindset is so elitist that he thinks corporations and banks are “people.”
And if he is elected president, he plans to lower his own taxes by a bunch while raising ours!
In fact, everything he says shows he is primarily interested in making himself and his pals richer – at our expense.
Take his recent comment on America’s tragic foreclosure crisis:
Don’t try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom.
How’s that for sheer heartlessness?
And, as it turns out, for sheer selfishness?
According to an article in Salon.com today:
A ThinkProgress examination of Mitt Romney’s presidential personal financial disclosures from May 2011 reveal that the former Massachusetts governor and his wife own or owned millions of dollars worth of a Goldman Sachs investment fund invested heavily in mortgage-backed obligations. And the current owners of those mortgage debts began foreclosure proceedings against thousands of Floridians.
Along with his investments in Bain Capital funds linked to offshore tax havens, the Romneys have large investments in the Goldman Sachs Strategic Income Fund (institutional class). The firm’s March 2011 annual report for the fund notes that about 8 percent of the fund is invested in banks and 24.5 percent is invested in mortgage-backed obligations. Romney’s form says he has invested between $1,000,001 and $5,000,000 in the fund and his wife Ann has invested an additional $1 million-plus. Since the 2008 economic meltdown and the enactment of the Troubled Asset Relief Fund, this fund has done quite well, growing 7.88 percent between April 2010 and March 2011.
The mortgage-backed securities in the fund include adjustable rate mortgages from Bear Stearns, Countrywide, IndyMac, and Washington Mutual. A 2009 Center for Public Integrity report identified all four of those companies as among the top-25 subprime lenders in the lead-up to the market’s collapse. Countrywide ranked first in that report and Washington Mutual ranked second. While the remnants of those companies have been purchased by major financial institutions, an array of mortgage loan service companies bought up the individual mortgages.
In other words, as Salon points out, letting the foreclosure crisis “hit the bottom” may be disastrous for homeowners but it makes the Romneys richer.
Yes, Jack Kennedy and FDR were rich, very rich. But can you imagine either of them being as heartless and selfish as Romney?
January 26, 2012 1 Comment
You have to admit Mitch Daniels had a lot of nerve to blame President Obama for the nation’s budget woes. The Indiana governor appeared on TV last night to give the official Republican response to the president’s State of the Union address, and I figured he must be living in an alternate universe.
Did he remember that he was George W. Bush’s budget director? Did he recall that they presided over the worst economic disaster since Herbert Hoover?
Daniels and Bush inherited a $236 billion budget surplus – with a projected 10-year surplus of $5.6 trillion – from Bill Clinton. They squandered it and left the country with a $1.3 trillion deficit – and projected shortfalls of $8 trillion for the next decade.
By the time Daniels and his boss handed over the reins to the Obama administration, the American economy was in free fall.
Yet Daniels acted as if Obama was responsible for America’s problems. He could not deny that he and Bush left the country in a deep economic hole. But he declared that:
(Obama) was elected on a promise to fix (the problems), and he cannot claim that the last three years have made things anything but worse: the percentage of Americans with a job is at the lowest in decades.
It takes a lot of brass to ruin a country’s economy and then blast your successors for not fixing it fast enough. And it takes even more nerve to suggest that the way to turn things around is to reinstate the policies that created the crisis.
And, of course, Daniels was just plain lying when he said Obama has made things worse. If you listened to the president’s speech, you know the facts show he has made a lot of progress despite horrendous odds. But lying is what Republicans do best. Daniels didn’t mind saying that President Obama is anti-business, for example.
Obviously, he hadn’t listened to the State of the Union speech that I heard. What I heard from the president was a pro-business agenda that offered a slew of concessions to corporations and even compromises on the environment to encourage domestic energy development. I heard the president sometimes risk turning off his base to extend an olive branch to conservatives.
But I also heard the president refuse to sacrifice the old, the weak and the sick to corporate greed.
So you can imagine my surprise when Daniels unblinkingly depicted the Republican Party as the champion of the downtrodden American middle class. He even promised such improbable policies as ending Social Security payouts and Medicare protection for the rich. I bet that was news to his fellow-Republicans. Can you imagine telling some millionaire who has been paying into Social Security all his life that he can’t get the benefits he earned because the government figures he doesn’t need it?
That will be the day!
But, obviously, Daniels was just blowing smoke, as Republicans so often do.
For example, he accused the president of stoking class warfare by attempting to remove tax loopholes while committing the Republicans to doing the very same thing.
He insisted the president is trying to divide Americans – after Obama repeatedly called on Democrats and Republicans in Congress to work together for the good of the country!
In short, listening to the official Republican response, I was left wondering what speech they were responding to. The arguments Daniels conjured up had nothing to do with reality.
January 25, 2012 7 Comments
You might think that the Republican presidential primary debates will damage the party, exposing as they do the nastiness of the candidates and the emptiness of their proposals. But there’s another side to the story.
The debates provide a platform for the most pernicious right-wing propaganda, which is repeated over and over – usually without a whisper of protest from the moderators.
What do those moderators do for their pay, anyway? It seems their only job is to parrot questions fed to them by their producers. The questions usually do little more than stoke the (fake?) animosity between the candidates, but occasionally a question will deal with a substantive issue. And that’s when the debaters get their chance to spread their lies.
How about this whopper from Mitt Romney last night?
President Barack Obama’s $814 billion economic stimulus program “didn’t create private-sector jobs.
It’s amazing that Romney’s nose didn’t start growing.
As the Associated Press pointed out politely this morning:
There is no support for that assertion. Between 1.2 million and 3.7 million full-time-equivalent jobs were created last year because of the stimulus, according to an August 2011 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Meanwhile, another government report found the stimulus program has paid $34.5 billion in tax incentives to businesses, including $260 million to hire younger, unemployed war veterans.
Economists debate whether the stimulus lived up to its promise or was worth the cost, but no one seriously argues that it created no jobs. Many believe it helped to end the recession even while falling short of its employment goals.
This is one of Romney’s favorite lies, and he is allowed to repeat it constantly. Why don’t those TV interviewers and debate moderators stop him short and point out that he is lying through his teeth?
If I were organizing one of those debates, I would arrange for a flashing red light and a buzzer to go off when anyone tells a lie. And the truth would immediately appear in bold type across the screen.
The way it is now, the debates are just one more outlet for the endless stream of lies that the right-wing propagandists have manufactured. The result is that many Americans have come to believe the most outrageous disinformation.
As Micheal Lind points out in Salon.com today:
One benefit of the prolonged campaign for the Republican presidential nomination has been the revelation that most of the 20 or 30 percent of Americans who describe themselves as conservatives live in a fantasy world. In their imaginations, Barack Obama, a centrist Democrat with roots in Eisenhower Republicanism rather than Rooseveltian liberalism, is a radical figure trying to take America down the path of “European socialism.” The signature healthcare reform of Obama and the Democratic Congress, modeled on Mitt Romney’s insurance-friendly Massachusetts healthcare program and closely resembling a proposal by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, is described as “statist,” “socialist” or “fascist” (as though Hitler came to power with the goal of providing subsidies to private health insurance companies).
How can otherwise sane people believe such lunacy? The answer is that members of the right-wing counterculture are brainwashed — that is the only appropriate term — by the apocalyptic propaganda ground out constantly by the conservative media establishment.
And the brainwashing has only just begun. Brace yourself for a relentless torrent of anti-Obama lies as the 2012 election campaign gathers steam.
January 24, 2012 7 Comments
According to American folklore, you don’t tug on Superman’s cape and you don’t mess around with casino operators. And it looks as if the warning is still valid in real life. A couple of years ago, Reuters reported:
Late last autumn, a Hong Kong jury convicted four men of a conspiracy to commit bodily harm and a fifth of soliciting a murder.
At first, the men had been ordered to break the arms and legs of a dealer at Sands Macau suspected of helping a patron cheat millions of dollars from the business. Later, a call went out to murder the dealer, court records show. But then one of the gangsters balked and reported the plans to authorities.
The plot’s mastermind, according to testimony in previously undisclosed court transcripts obtained by Reuters, was Cheung Chi-tai. At trial a witness identified Cheung as a leader of the Wo Hop To — one of the organized crime groups in the region known as triads. Another witness, a senior inspector with the Hong Kong police called to testify because he is an expert on the triads, identified Cheung by name as someone who would commit crimes for money. Cheung’s organized crime affiliation was corroborated in interviews for this article with law enforcement and security officials intimately familiar with the gaming industry in Macau.
The murder-for-hire case sheds light on the links between China’s secretive triad societies and Macau’s booming gambling industry. It also raises potentially troubling questions about one of the world’s largest gaming companies, Las Vegas Sands, which plans to open a $5.5 billion Singapore casino resort in late April….
The Reuters report adds:
The link between Macau’s gambling industry and organized crime may be an open secret, but it has come under increasing scrutiny lately. Within the last two weeks, MGM Mirage said it would give up its holdings in New Jersey in response to pressure from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. The state agency had said that Pansy Ho, MGM Mirage’s partner in Macau and the daughter of casino tycoon Stanley Ho, was an “unsuitable” associate, an assertion stemming from the agency’s belief that her father has links to organized crime.
So you will forgive me for wondering about the man who built the Las Vegas Sands and still owns most of its stock, the man who is bank rolling Newt Gingrich’s bid for the presidency of the United States.
His name is Sheldon Adelson (photo above, left). He is worth billions and he is donating many millions to superPACs supporting Gingrich.
Adelson is the kind of heavy hitter who needs only to make a phone call to kill a bill in Congress. According to Wikipedia, when Adelson was negotiating with the Chinese to open his Macao casino, Congress was considering a bill to prevent the U.S. Olympic Committee from supporting China’s bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympics. Adelson called his old pal, then-House Majority Leader Tom Delay, and as Wikipedia reports:
A few hours later DeLay called back and told Adelson he could tell the mayor of Beijing “this bill will never see the light of day.” The resolution did not pass.
When an Israeli television station suggested Adelson had acquired a casino license in Las Vegas inappropriately through political connections, he forced the channel to apologize. Obviously, Adelson isn’t the kind of guy who meekly accepts bad press.
So you’re not likely to hear or read much about Adelson’s casinos and Chinese gambling enterprises during the Republican presidential primary campaign. What you will hear is that Adelson is an avowed supporter of Israel and picked Gingrich as his man because they agree on far-right Mideast policies.
Whatever. Adelson might be just another passionate right-wing billionaire who hates unions, Palestinians and liberals.
And he might just happen to have 20 or 30 million dollars lying around that he figures Gingrich could use.
But I can’t help wondering what if…
What if Gingrich becomes president on Adelson’s dollar?
And what if Adelson is not the kind of guy Americans want owning their president?
January 23, 2012 1 Comment
Someone should name a computer pest after Newt Gingrich. The one I would suggest is ZeroAccess, a Russian made Trojan that replicates itself every time you kill it. Its job is to help other Trojans slip past your computer’s security system.
I suspect I picked it up by downloading a fake Adobe Flash update. Anyway, it kept me at the keyboard for hours on Friday.
It manifested itself in a series of alerts from McAfee, informing me that the virus protection program had detected and dealt with a Trojan. I clicked on “More” and found the intruder was the Zeroaccess bug. It had installed itself in a file in “Documents and Settings.”
Obviously, the alerts were wrong. This Trojan would not die.
After several scans failed to solve the problem, I phoned McAfee and persuaded a nice young lady in India to give me a free virus removal session. Normally, I was informed, it costs $89.
The session took the rest of the day and continued into the night.
The issue was escalated from one technician to another as the McAfee SWAT team battled the resilient bug. Several tools, each more potent than the last, were deployed. But every time a tool reported that the bug was dead, it reappeared as soon as I rebooted.
Eventually, some time after 10 p.m., the wily pest was exterminated. I think the lethal weapon that finally did the job was called Comclean. It took nearly an hour to go through 50 cleaning “stages” while I sat bleary-eyed in front of the screen.
I went to bed exhausted.
Watching the South Carolina primary results come in last night, I was reminded of the resilient ZeroAccess bug.
It became obvious early on that Newt Gingrich (above, left) was the runaway winner. And the pundits were shocked.
They had predicted a while back that Mitt Romney would win in a walk, then conceded as Gingrich surged that it would be neck-and-neck. But Gingrich had them fooled. Again.
Remember how “dead” Gingrich was back in the summer, when his staff abandoned him? And again last month in Iowa? And all those other times throughout the Republican presidential primary campaign?
Every time the pundits told us he was down for the count, Gingrich popped up again – like Freddy Kruger in “Nightmare on Elm Street” (above, right).
Now, he seems very much alive. And like ZeroAccess, he will open the door to a host of deadly infections unless someone finds the right tool to wipe him out.
The danger to America is very great.
Newt Gingrich is not a sick joke. I see him as a sociopath with bad intentions.
You might think that such a creature poses no threat to President Obama, but you would be wrong. There are more malicious people in America than you might think. And those grinches find vicarious release in Newt’s venom. They would vote for him in a heartbeat.
Brace yourself for an invasion of political malware if Newt Gingrich gets the Republican nomination.
The coming presidential campaign is shaping up as a classic contest of good versus evil. And the power of evil is not to be underestimated.
January 22, 2012 3 Comments
I’ve been seeing TV commercials recently warning of the widespread theft of American inventions and urging me to call my Congressman about it. And I realize America has lost a lot of its technology to countries like China and India.
I think it’s one of the main reasons for America’s inability to get the economy back on track. Its failure to protect the technology developed here has cost America its competitive edge in the global marketplace.
But I do not think the vast majority of ideas were stolen off the Internet. I think the ideas got shipped overseas along with the factories and other production facilities that use the ideas.
Surprisingly, the remedy the government is proposing is to shut down the Internet as we know it today.
From what I know of the proposed legislation, I believe it would ban the common practice of sending stuff we like to each other. Every day, I get links and attachments from friends and relatives. And I am sure they didn’t get permission to use the jokes, cartoons, articles and so on that they picked up while browsing.
Some time ago, I wrote a column for Jamaicans.com that I see everywhere. It was about being “Jamaican” regardless of skin color or ethnic background and a lot of people picked it up to send to fellow-Jamaicans or use it on their web sites. Was I upset? Of course not. I was flattered.
Also, I search the Internet to find illustrations for my blogs. I would have no idea who to ask for permission to use them, and I couldn’t afford to pay for the privilege. But I feel safe in using them today because everybody does it. (According to Rachel Maddow, even the members of Congress who were pushing the censorship law used “plagiarized” pictures on their web sites.)
It would be devastating for the government to criminalize the practice. It would shut down such popular sites as YouTube and put every email user at risk.
Widespread protests, which included the threatened shutdown of Wikipedia and Google,forced Congress to back off, but there’s still a lot of pressure to enact the legislation later on.
In the meantime, the government has shut down the largest file sharing site on the Internet – using its existing powers.
I don’t know much about file sharing. I rarely listen to music on my computer and I can’t stand most of today’s hit songs.
But it seems to me that shutting down a site that gives users access to popular songs is very heavy handed. I realize that the people who wrote and recorded the music would prefer listeners to buy CDs, but I think some fans would buy the CDs anyway after first hearing the music on the Internet. And I squirm at the thought that if it’s illegal to download a song from a file sharing site it might well be illegal to email a song to a friend. Or a cartoon. Or an article…
What can you and I do about it?
Not much. The power of the mighty Hollywood moguls is arraigned against us, and their lobbyists will not be deterred. Unless…
Unless an Occupy the Internet movement emerges, encouraging fans to stop buying Hollywood’s wares until the freedom of the Internet is protected.
Meanwhile, the government would be better employed trying to stop foreign powers from stealing America’s technology along with its factories and its jobs.
January 21, 2012 2 Comments
You’ve probably figured it out for yourself. I have a tendency to reinvent the wheel. But just in case you’ve been too busy to think about the global revolution that’s taking place, here’s my “Eureka!” moment.
I think I know what’s going on in the world – and why. It was Sandra who got me thinking about it.
Why, Sandra mused, are powerful global corporations destroying America’s middle class?
Why indeed? You would think they have a lot to lose by undermining their customers’ purchasing power.
At first, I thought it must be a desire for personal dominance. Wipe out the middle class and leave just the super-rich and the desperately poor, and the super-rich can pretty much do as they please. The infamous “droit de seigneur” (which gave feudal lords the right to deflower any maiden in their feifdom) sprang to mind.
But as I thought about it, a more commercial explanation emerged.
Globalization opened the door for western corporations to develop new markets – and not just by selling goods abroad. By moving their production facilities to less developed countries, these corporations not only lower labor costs dramatically but also stimulate the foreign economies and generate new customers over there.
OK. You knew that.
But did you figure out where that leaves American consumers?
Eventually, we become obsolete. Or at least disposable.
The inevitable consequence is that America – and the west – must accept eroded wages and workers’ rights to compete with less developed economies abroad. Over time, standards of living will level out around the globe.
Now, I have to concede there’s a moral argument in favor of that. After all, why should Americans and other citizens of industrialized nations enjoy a vastly superior standard of living to the people in less fortunate countries?
But, as one of the lucky ones, I am reluctant to give up my advantages.
And I expect my elected representatives to protect them.
It’s not just that the global corporations are immensely powerful. There are market forces at work, which once set in motion become irresistible.
I imagine the best our governments can do is soften the impact of this revolutionary global change. And one way to do that is to demand redress from the corporations and individuals that profit so abundantly from globalization. In other words, tax them.
The revenue from these taxes could be used to repair and expand the country’s infrastructure, encourage research and innovation, and fund various projects that provide jobs and sustain the middle class.
Of course this will not happen if the politicians in power are owned by the corporate elite. Their policies will inexorably advance the global change that’s sending jobs abroad and taking money our of our pockets. And they will protect the super rich from taxation at all costs.
Our only recourse is to elect representatives who are prepared to demand that the corporate and financial elite share a small fraction of the enormous wealth they’re accruing at our expense – as President Obama suggests.
His task in this election year is to persuade Americans to let go of the myths of the past, to overcome their nonsensical fear of “socialism” and their veneration of “free enterprise.”
January 20, 2012 1 Comment