Previous weeks' top issues

Other economic absurdities that
Democrats must expose:

...because it's wrong to penalize success and hard work.

...After all, they came from, and understand, business.

...even though it is based on pitting the worlds' workers against each other.

...union bosses are only out for themselves.

...and the more the rich have, the more will trickle down to everyone else.

...Democrats are communists, or at least, socialists at heart.

...so when we tax wealthy investors, we lose jobs.

...so investors, not workers, create wealth.

...so we should give them all the tax breaks possible.

...Democrats just want to tax and spend today.

General Issues:

...It's a mountain, and a terrible defense of globalization.

...for those of Indonesia, Mexico, China and India.

...and how not to do it again.

...and the "crisis" is just a ploy by those who want to destroy it.

...Republicans' most important propaganda technique.

The good news: the class war is over.
The bad news: the people who work for a living have lost.

Connect the dots between two of our best conservative financial publications and it’s clear that America’s wealthy and powerful have it made in this economy, and workers are in a state of permanent decline—unless something radical is done by our federal government. (Like a Roosevelt-style New Deal.)

The current Fortune magazine (Jan. 18), “Directors: Feeding at the Trough,” describes how directors of 491 corporations made an average of $213,000 in 2008, with several making over $1,000,000. Fortune asked the question: “How does a board member challenge a CEO when the director is being paid oversize amounts likely to be important to his or her lifestyle?” If there ever were a mystery about why CEOs are making tens of millions a year, this should remove it.

It hardly matters that some of these “directors” were ex-corporate cronies or relatives of the CEO, since even total strangers will support each other if it means that they will both become famously rich by doing so. Their shareholders won’t object to such ridiculous incomes because they’ve been profiting immensely themselves. Why?

Easy. The current Business Week cover story (Jan. 18), “The Disposable Worker,” describes how “Pay is falling, benefits are vanishing, and no one’s job is secure. How companies are making the era of the temp more than temporary.” Not only that, the Bureau of Labor statistics estimates that over 26% of today’s workers have “nonstandard” jobs—workers classified as “independent contractors,” “temps,” day laborers, and so on. In almost all cases: no pensions, no health care benefits, and draconian working conditions.

As Business Week concluded:

At the bottom of the ladder, workers are so powerless that simply getting the minimum wage they're entitled to can be a struggle. A study released in September and financed by the Ford, Joyce, Haynes, and Russell Sage Foundations found that low-wage workers are routinely denied proper overtime pay and are often paid less than the minimum wage. It followed a Government Accountability Office report from March 2009 that found that poor oversight by the Labor Dept.'s Wage & Hour Div. leaves low-wage workers "vulnerable to wage theft."

Some companies have been fined for misclassifying employees as freelancers and then denying them benefits. Meanwhile, the George W. Bush Administration made it easier for people earning as little as $23,600 a year not to be covered by overtime-pay rules.

Workers hired for temporary or contract work face a higher risk of developing mental health problems like depression, according to research presented in 2009 by Amélie Quesnel-Vallée of McGill University. A lack of job security and health-care benefits, as well as social ties to the rest of the workforce, increase stress levels for temps and contractors. A survey conducted in September by the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that people who experienced a forced change in their employment during the last year were twice as likely to report symptoms consistent with severe mental illness as individuals who hadn't experienced one.

The situation is especially difficult for young people, many of whom haven't been able to get a first foot on the career ladder. The percentage of people 16 to 24 who have jobs has plummeted by 13 percentage points since the beginning of 2000, while the share of workers 55 and over who have jobs has edged up over the period, despite the recession.

Some young people are so desperate to get a start, they're working for free as semi-permanent interns. "Companies that used to use only one or two interns are now asking me for five or six at a time," says Lauren Berger, who runs a company that matches interns with entertainment, marketing, and media companies. Berger also reports a rise in the number of "adult interns," who work for free while trying to break into a new career.

The Business Week article went on to describe what everyone knows by now. The relentless war on the wages of those who work for a living is continuing up the economic ladder, and now includes lawyers, teachers, engineers and everyone in a class that must compete with their counterparts in the developing world.

To check out this issue further, go to International Free Trade; It’s Not “Globalization”

A clear and obvious explanation of why
the U.S. economy will not recover

In the article "Not So Radical Reform; How New Democrats and Wall Street are watering down financial regulation in Congress," Business Week (Jan. 11 issue) described why our economy is likely to remain in deep trouble.

…[Barney} Frank, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and other left-leaning Democrats have had to deal with the New Democrat Coalition, a moderate group inside the party that shares many of the values associated with Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council, which was founded 25 years ago in the belief that Democrats couldn't win elections without a strong moderate platform.

In the House of Representatives, where the debate on regulatory reform started, the New Democrat Coalition has 68 fiscally conservative, pro-business members who fill 15 of the party's 42 seats on the House Financial Services Committee. And with just a 38-member voting majority over Republicans (who often vote as a block in the House), Frank and Pelosi can't push legislation through without the New Democrats' support. "We're pro-growth, innovative Democrats with real-life experience," said New York Representative Joseph Crowley, the Coalition's chairman. "Many of us come out of the business world." The group's growing importance isn't lost on the President. After traveling to Manhattan in September to rally support for financial regulation, Obama invited a couple of members, including Crowley, to fly back with him to Washington on Air Force One.

The New Democrats' ties to Wall Street are strong. Jim Himes, a first-term congressman from Connecticut, is a former Goldman Sachs investment banker. Representative Mike McMahon represents a large constituency of Wall Street employees in Staten Island and Brooklyn....Since the start of the 2008 election cycle, the financial industry has donated $24.9 million to members of the New Democrats, some 14% of the total funds the lawmakers have collected, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Representative Melissa Bean of Illinois, who has led the Coalition's efforts on regulatory reform, was the top beneficiary, with donations of $1.4 million.

How clear can it be? Today's ideological battles are not between Democrats and Republicans, they are between those who are trying to represent the interests of the entire U.S. (progressive Democrats) and those who are in the pockets of Wall Street (Republicans and "new Democrats). So far, those in the pockets of Wall Street are winning big time.

For more insights into this issue, go to: Bill Clinton, a Moderate Republican.

Closet aristocrats who pretend to be capitalists

If you ever doubted that conservatives who claim to believe in capitalism are actually closet aristocrats who believe in royalty, check out the following two recent articles in Barron’s, America’s premier conservative financial publication.

In a December 28 column, “Ready for the Grave,” Thomas Donlan wrote: “…the estate tax should be repealed permanently because it takes capital out of private investment (meaning fewer jobs and less economic growth) and puts it into government expenditure (meaning more dependency and less economic growth).”

It’s the usual defense of America’s aristocratic dynasties of billionaires and multimillionaires, whose descendants will never have to work a day in their lives except for therapeutic purposes. And there are a lot of them.

In a November 30 column, “Watching Over the Family Fortune,” Hilary Johnson described a growing sector of the financial industry that is servicing “multifamily offices,” by making sure that entire groups of wealthy families are properly invested in today’s hazardous economy.

If you would like your own family to take advantage of this road to perpetual wealth, don’t get your hopes up unless you have a lot of money. As Johnson explains, “In effect, the firms are replicating the services of traditional single-family offices for a broader audience. While it can take a net worth of $1 million to justify the costs of a single-family office, multifamily offices typically target folks with $30 million and up.”

Republicans and conservative Democrats will try to assure you that all this is a good thing because it means that rich investors will have even more money to invest in new businesses and jobs. Unfortunately, if they follow the prevailing Wall Street advisors, they’re going to be investing—not in jobs in the U.S.—but in jobs in China, India, and a variety of developing countries.

The average American would be much better off if the inheritors of great wealth had to pay at least as much tax as those who work for a living. Then government would have more money to actually create jobs in this country: teaching, policing, building and repairing roads, bridges, schools, etc.

Actually, both of these articles are recurring themes that come out about every six months or so in the conservative news media. Check out the older excerpts of conservative articles in other places in this website, and you’ll find similar examples.

A voter's guide to healthcare double-speak

The massive confusion about upcoming congressional healthcare legislation would be reduced if voters understood the actual meanings behind the sound bites they hear on radio and TV. For example:

  • “You can’t allow government bureaucrats to control your health care.” Meaning: To the extent that pharmaceutical, insurance and healthcare industry bureaucrats can make governmental protections of patients’ rights absent or ineffective—they will be able to control your health care and its costs.

  • “We’ve got to make the healthcare program deficit neutral.” Meaning: We can’t revoke tax cuts for the wealthy or raise their taxes, so that means we must allow low- and middle-income citizens to go without the care they need, even to continue living. (Anyway, the world is overpopulated.) Of course, deficit spending is perfectly ok to finance a war—even the ones we never should have started in the first place.

  • “We’re passing the costs of this healthcare bill down to our grandchildren.” Meaning: The grandchildren of the wealthy will eventually have to pay for some of this, since they’ll be the only ones making enough money in the globalized economy to pay any additional taxes. You can’t get blood out of a turnip, and we obviously won’t be able to raise taxes on the grandchildren whose parents couldn’t afford to send them to college.

Although the above clichés specifically relate to healthcare legislation, the following are indirectly connected:

  • “We’ve got to give workers a break and let them keep more of their own money.” Meaning: Today’s spin doctors define “workers” as corporate executives, professional athletes, hedge fund managers, hard-working investors, prestige doctors, lawyers, entertainers, etc. Virtually no one today suggests that government raise taxes on actual workers: those low-wage, working-class Americans who keep our country going. In fact, many get, and will continue to get, earned income tax credits because they’re not even making a living wage.

  • “Small businesses are the biggest job creators in the U.S.” Meaning: Since Congress has embraced globalization, the largest, decent-wage corporations are no longer in the country. They’ve all gone to low-wage Third World countries. Today, a large manufacturer will locate in the U.S. only when a state gives it huge tax breaks and incentives, and promises an eager supply of desperate, low-wage, non-union workers—and as few workplace standards as possible.

  • “We shouldn’t tax small businesses, the source of job growth.” Meaning: Even though a small business owner may make over $250,000 after all expenses, we shouldn’t tax him like we tax people who aren’t fortunate enough to own profitable businesses.

  • “We’ve got to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” Meaning: We’ve got to cut benefits to those who need them the most. Again, it’s actually a cover for the anti-tax ideology that says you can’t “penalize” those who are profiting most from an economy that is deliberately biased in favor the politically powerful and wealthy, and at the direct expense of those in the middle and bottom of the income scale.

The inherent weakness in the all-pervasive anti-tax, anti-government ideology is that it is essentially a reactive mindset. Its premise is that the federal government should ignore obvious, looming national problems until they reach a crisis stage, and is forced to act—and then hope it’s not too late.

A proactive mindset, on the other hand, holds that it is much cheaper and more effective to prevent problems in the first place, or at least keep them from getting worse—than to wait until they approach insolvability. Many of our national problems are approaching very dangerous junctures: global warming, the loss of our national standing relative to China and India, the unending decline of well-paid working-class jobs, exploding disparity of income and wealth between rich and poor, social disintegration, and the declining availability of health care to the poor and middle class.

Isn’t it time for citizen outrage at those Congresspersons who are deliberately yielding to the anti-tax, anti-government crowd? This is not an argument for that bugaboo, “big government.” It’s an argument for good government, and voters shouldn’t allow spin doctors to confuse the two with their doublespeak.

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