The Wealth Divide

More people are being born poor in this country than has been the case in over a hundred years.  More people are descending into poverty for the first time in their lives than has ever happened in the history of this country.  Also, for the first time ever, this generation of Americans will do considerably worse than the previous one and not because they don’t work.  Americans now work 20% more hours per person than just 30 years ago. On top of that, 80% of two adult households have both adults working.  We’re working harder than ever before, making less, saving nearly nothing and rolling up the largest personal dept of any country, anywhere on the planet at any time in history.

On the up side, our rich people are doing really well. In fact, better than they’ve ever done before. This is what they call the wealth divide.  The money gap.  The yawning chasm between rich and poor.

As the vast majority of Americans get poorer, the ultra rich just keep getting ultra richy-er.  They’ve got their hands firmly on the controls of this money train and they like the way it’s going.  Why wouldn’t they.  98% of the privately held wealth of the wealthiest nation on the planet is concentrated in the accounts of about 6,000 people;  6,000 people out of a population of 380 million.  That’s a percentage that approaches zero.  Forget the one percenters; those guys are pikers.  The 6,000 richest people in this country could own other countries and some of them actually do.  One of them has his own space program.  A couple of billionaire brothers just bought a presidential candidate for $40 million after spending $20 million a few months before in order to destroy that same candidates candidacy…. that’s just showing off.

And while those shiny happy people with private islands, private banks and private armies buy up and privatize what’s left of our government, the rest of us just circle the drain… one flush away from oblivion.

I wondered recently if this was what the founders had in mind.  Then it hit me.  Within the framework of their experience, this is exactly what they were thinking.  They were rich, fat, white guys.  One of the reasons they told England to suck it was to find a way of legally keeping more of the profits, paying less in taxes and owning people without feeling bad about it. So really, as noble as we like to believe them to be, they’d probably be okie dokie with a guy who used his trust fund to buy and break up companies, putting tens of thousands of workers out of work, pillaging their retirement funds and leveraging the whole mess to do it again and again, bigger and bigger, flush after stinking flush.  I’m pretty sure that at least half of the founding fathers would high-five a guy like that.

David J Lynch, a financial reporter with Bloomberg and a guy who knows a lot about this kind of thing, wrote last October, “A widening gap between rich and poor is reshaping the U.S. economy, leaving it more vulnerable to recurring financial crises and less likely to generate enduring expansions.” Lynch suggested that, left unchecked, the ten-year trend toward increasing inequality may disrupt social stability with increasing severity and would steadily become more difficult from which to recover. 

Since 1980, a little over 5% of annual national income has shifted from the middle class to the nation’s richest households. Roll that little factoid around in your head for a second. That’s 5% per year since 1980. Which means that last year the wealthiest 5,934 households (according to 2010 Census Data) enjoyed an additional $650 billion (about $109 million apiece) above and beyond what they would have had if the economic pie had been divided as it was in 1980.

Between 1993 and 2008, the top 1 percent of families captured 52 percent of total income gains, according to a 2010 analysis of IRS tax data by economist Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley.  That means 1 percent of our population took more than half of the income gains in a 15 year period leaving the remainder to be shared by 380 million people.

Pacific Investment Management Co’s (PIMCO) CEO, Mohamed El Erian said in a Forbes interview last September that, “The large and growing gap between the haves and have-nots will tend to undermine growth, both directly and indirectly by reducing the marginal propensity to consume and by amplifying the political polarization that has already contributed to poor economic policymaking.”

According to the standard statistical measure of inequality known as the Gini coefficient, the U.S. Gini score rose from .39 in 1968 to .47 in 2010, meaning that incomes were becoming increasingly unequal. In the 30-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only Turkey and Mexico have more unequal societies than the United States. In the U.S., the rich-poor gap widened by 20 percent since the mid-1980s, more than double the increase in any other developed country.

Ultimately, unbridled inequality threatens social stability as rich and poor stew in their resentment of each other. Ben Bernanke last year told CBS’s 60 Minutes that rising inequality was leading to “a society which doesn’t have the cohesion that we’d like to see.”  That’s Bernanke speak for “the economic division is becoming a social division and people are getting pretty mad.”  Again, the implication being that this is how revolutions get started. When enough people get pissed off about having nothing or enough fathers are unable to provide for their families or enough unemployed people decide that they have less to lose by breaking the rules of society than they have to gain by following the rules, disrule will begin to break out like popcorn in a microwave; a few pops here and there and then suddenly the whole bag is popping and filled with steam. 

What makes this country a special thing in the history of countries, is, more than anything else, an idea. The idea that everybody has a chance to go from the bottom to the top. With ingenuity and hard work anybody, and I mean anybody, can strike it rich.  And the reason we have that possibility is that this whole place is supposed to be a level playing field.  It’s as hard for me as it is for you.  It all depends upon how much we put into it in terms of effort and smarts.   It’s what makes us the good guys and allows us to scoff at how screwed up everybody else’s system is.
 
At least that’s the idea we used to have.  That’s the idea we sold to the rest of the world to make them all wish they could come here.  But under the current system, that idea is farther and farther away from the truth.  The distance between the idea of fairness and the reality of an obviously rigged game is growing at the exact same rate as the distance between the haves and the have-nots in this country and that is absolutely not a coincidence.

I need to make this really clear.  I’m not opposed to being rich.  I would happily accept a truckload of money every day of the week and spend it on big houses and jet skis and fancy ass cars.  Being rich is a universal dream.  Most of us want life to be easier and more comfortable.  We want our children to have advantages.  We want to be healthy, safe and happy and even if money doesn’t guarantee that, at the very least money makes the effects of not having money go away.  Being rich may not be easy but it sure as fuck is easier than being poor.

It isn’t my contention that rich people shouldn’t be allowed to be rich or that they shouldn’t be able to take advantage of the money that they’ve acquired.  What I am saying is that they shouldn’t use that money to make sure other people can’t have money.  They shouldn’t use that money to subvert the political process or rig the financial industry so that only people with vast sums can participate.  The farther away the rich get from the poor, the more that the poor feel left behind and the more angry they become.  There is a point where that becomes dangerous.  It probably isn’t tomorrow or next week or even next year, but if it continues in this direction with this persistent incipient draining of economic hope from one side to the other, the lack of hope will turn to hopelessness and then rage and finally, what was once the semblance of a level playing field will become the cratered battlefield in the aftermath of revolution.  If history teaches us anything it’s that people always do what’s easiest. And when hope is utterly removed it is simply easiest to take the money back from the guys who have been piling it up and keeping it from everybody else.

That really is how revolutions get started. Just ask Czar Nikolas.

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Occupy Yourself… With Something Important

When the Occupy Wall Street movement began, I have to admit, in a cynical way, I was just looking at the people in the protest as neo hippies. A generation of young people mostly invested in doing what they wanted, including getting high and getting laid and maybe getting a $5 chai latte while using the free broadband to tweet and Facebook and whatever the newest version of that might be. (Note to old people like me… If you’ve heard of it, it is no longer cool.)

So anyway, I had an initial opinion about the kids and it was a one dimensional picture that I created based mostly on one second video edits and a couple of jokes on the Daily Show. All of my favorite comedians chimed in with something about the protest or the protesters on their podcasts (another note to old people, a comedian who does not have his or her own podcast at this point, is essentially a dinosaur waiting for the asteroid’s cloud to blot out their existence) and I even caught a snippet or two on the actual news.

Then of course, NYPD Capt. Tony Baloney decided to spice things up with a little pepper spray and not only did the media’s attention become stronger, it became longer. The news providers were more and more willing to up the segment length from 15 seconds to 30 seconds and then 2 minutes and finally whole segments. What had been a cartoonishly simple drawing of the people and the movement suddenly became a full color painting on a giant canvas. People from divergent backgrounds started to look, explore and appreciate the story as they began to feel it and experience it in fullness. The story of it was no longer hippies chanting slogans, it was moms and dads, unemployed assembly workers, laid off transportation workers, homeless home builders and a host of others from as many different backgrounds and locations and economic circumstances as you can conjure in your imagination. They were all there and they were saying essentially the same thing. “These guys broke the economy and got even richer than they already were while the rest of us found ourselves out of work, out of insurance, out of food and shit out of luck. And we don’t know exactly what to do about it, but we want something… anything done to fix it and keep it from happening again.”  I’m paraphrasing.

The average American is a pretty resilient creature. We whine a bit when the cable is out or there’s no Pepsi left in the fridge, but by and large, we can be counted on to get up, go to work and eat a bunch of shit if it means we can feed our families and pay for some “hardly covers anything but the catastophic shit” health insurance. We’ll put up with a lot. The basic inequities of our system are clear and evident to all of us and have been for a long time. We’re used to the idea that there is such a thing as ultra wealthy people who have more money than two or three sub Saharan countries combined. We accept it and even to some degree admire it and we don’t want to abolish it because we all hold out hope that someday, we can be there too. maybe a lottery win, maybe a kid who can play football and another kid who comes up with the next Facebook. We don’t want to do away with ultra richdom, we just don’t want to have our faces rubbed in it every single day. And even that could be ok (remember we have tv shows and magazines that only exist to show us pictures of rich people, their houses and their vacations) as long as we didn’t think the whole game was completely rigged.

But the incontravertible evidence of the rig was finally presented in the court of public opinion and I gotta believe this is where we rest our case.

During the last ten years, as the circumstances of the average person in American got worse and worse, the top one or two percent of the economic population increased their holdings more, as a percentage, than has ever happened in the history of this country. Clearly, every dollar that fell out of our pockets was falling into theirs. Whats worse was that it wasn’t accidental. They actually created a system that they knew would fail and by so benefit them while screwing us. They created a betting system that would allow them to bet on the fact that we would all lose and they would all win and then they also came up with an insurance policy for the whole thing so that they could get paid off double and triple, all the time sucking more money out of us, the economy and the future. Then when the thing finally did blow up, the guys who sold the insurance policies (and had to pay off) and the guys who didn’t buy an insurance policy (and lost their investors pension funds) got all of their money back AND SOME because the government decided it would be worse for everybody if these financial titans were to suddenly need to find jobs.

To add insult to injury, after our representatives in the government bailed these financial pillagers out, they used hefty bags of cash to pay bonuses to the very people who had crippled the nation and to some degree the entire world economy. The argument was that the bonuses were contractually required, but I guarantee you that I can find a lawyer in about 20 seconds who would willingly spend the next ten years trying to break the contracts or at the very least tie up the funds in a knot of red tape the size of the Wall Street brass bull’s balls.

Of course, all of this happened with the back drop of Halliburton and Black Water actually losing track of actual billions of dollars, flown over on actual C-130′s and stacked on actual pallets and wrapped with celowrap. Yes, Americans out on the street, destitute and wishing only for a job and place to sleep, had to wander from warm spot to warm spot while actual tons of dollars were lost.  Not spent, not wasted on speed boats and hookers, not used for blow or private jet rides to Ascot for the races,.. no, just lost, as in we have no idea where it is.

So now, on Wall street, a bunch of Americans, some of them hippies, some of them mommies, some of them republicans and some of them democrats, just want something to be done. They, and by they I mean we, or me or everybody I know, would probably prefer something substantial and punitive but we’d more than likely be mollified by something symbolic. But, truthfully, there are some really rich people in this country who need to step very carefully for the next little while because some shit could happen. People are so frustrated and so disenfranchised that they are actually willing to spend late fall in the park, for night on end, in New York City, no showers, no heat, no comforts and the constant threat of arrest. They’re willing to do this in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Columbus, Cleveland, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver and a list of other cities across this nation. Not because they’re hippies and need a cool thing to do. Not because they just want to get on tv or have a story to tell. They’re doing all of it because they want something to be done. They don’t know what, but something. Anything.

So,we have choices. Once in a while we get a choice handed to us that lets us decide not only something to do, but something to be. This choice we have in front of us will say a lot about who we are to people who read about us twenty or thirty years from now. Our kids or grandkids, or even beyond that kids will eventually see some photos and read papers about the time Americans stood up and said, rich is ok, we all want to be rich, but jesus fucking christ, you guys have taken all of it and left us nothing and that is just plain wrong. and oh, we just sorta remember that we outnumber you 300 million to a thousand. You can either fix this thing you broke or we’re going to come live on your estate in the Hampton’s, eat your dog and take dumps on your driveway.

Life is all about choices and this one can make us better or it can make us take a dump on your drive way. Choose wisely.

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A Funny Thing Happened on Wall Street

Forgive me for not writing in a while.  I’ve been a little busy. I’d been out of work and that left me a lot of time to write. Then I found some work and I had less time.  I didn’t have zero time, just less.  I still spent the same amount of time watching TV or listening to podcasts or just watching the movie in my head, but somehow there just wasn’t enough extra time to actually write.

A lot of things happened worth writing about, like…

Ok so nothing really happened and I just didn’t have the will to overcome the inertia of not writing.  I had the urge from time to time but never in a sustained way, so , you know,… fuck it.

Some of you may have noted recently that I wrote a piece back in July about the ratio of CEO’s pay to average worker’s pay and how that stacked up around the world.  I think that back in  July about 15 of you read it.  It wasn’t a ground breaking piece but it let me vent about some of the more obvious inequities in the system and throw some feces at the power structures and I did a nice illustration for it.  I also did a table with some info in it that detailed the ratios discussed.  That comes up later so store the info for now. 

So anyway, it wasn’t the last thing I wrote but it was the last thing I published.

Then, about two weeks ago a funny thing happened on Wall Street.  A couple dozen granola munchers with irritatingly dirty hair but a justified miffiness about Wall St. excesses by Wall St. exec-ses started having a protest.  They blocked a little traffic, chanted some  slogans, bugged the passersby and got a little bit of TV time. But by and large, it was going un-noticed and was about to be packed up and put away.  The american people were canceling the protest for low ratings because they either didn’t understand or they didn’t care, or maybe both.  And the white guy with the dreadlocks and the pukka beads wasn’t helping middle america feel warm and fuzzy about the whole group.  They were just about to be, ex protesters.  They were going to tune the guitars, whip out the pan flutes, have a bit of a sing along and then go grab a caramel machiado and call it a political yawn when all of a sudden and out of nowhere came their prime time tv hero with a white uniform shirt and a badge.

Just as America was starting to turn the page and go back to reading about J Lo again, NYPD Capt. Anthony Bologna started spraying down screaming girls and AP photographers with a seemingly endless supply of anti personnel pepper spray and presto change-o, bingo bango boingo, they’re in business again.  Capt. Anthony Bologna (yes, that’s right, Tony Baloney) puts the whole thing right back on center stage, prime time, the big top and we’re off to the races… and this time it’s gonna be bigger and better than ever because now they have footage of girls in a fenced off section being sent into paroxysms of screaming pain and we have frozen still shots of an older policeman with a grimace of pure hatred to use as the back drop for the news story.  Yeah, this will grab some eyeballs.

I’m not saying that the protestors shouldn’t get the attention.  I think they should, really.  They’ve got a reason to be mad.  I’m mad to.  But, it’s been two weeks now and I still don’t know what they hope to express beyond the basics of “we’re mad enough to stand out here and go without showering for longer than usual”.  I haven’t seen a plan of action articulated or a set of grievances listed in detail.  Maybe it’s just as simple as they’d just like the government to actually hand out some punishments to the dickweeds who broke the economy and shoved a few trillion dollars into their own pockets. 

I’m all for that, but if you start hanging these guys by lamp posts, where does it stop? 

I think we’d have a case against the whole Blackwater / Halliburton war profiteers group and nobody would really miss them.  And then there’s the whole over leveraged loan industry and the insurance guys who bet heavy on everybody going broke (and won). but if you take them, you’d probably end up sweeping in a lot of “really rich but mostly not guilty of killing the golden goose” banker types and investment hedge fund operators just by accident. And really, if we take them and put their heads on the wall, we have to also target the buffoons who let it happen in the first place and that would be the entire Bush administration and some of the Clintonites, and finally,… us.

Yep that’s right.  Us.  We the freekin people.  We let it happen.  We blithely strolled along in the “we are the champions” 90′s and kept on going through the “It’s fucked up but what can you do” 00′s and we let people run things without asking them what they were doing or holding them accountable.  Worse than that, we wouldn’t have understood the answer, if we’d have been able to form the question about what was going on because we couldn’t be bothered to read up on it and learn the new terms for how rich people were going to bend us over the table again.  But it didn’t matter because we all had jobs and some of us had health care and we have a super massive military dick that we can just smack nation bitches in the face with and that can distract us from the fact that we’re spending more than were making, we have no industry, China and India now make everything and whoops, the EU, which looked pretty strong for a while seems to have stepped into a couple of really deep holes called Greece and Italy and made some bets they couldn’t pay off.

That’s called world economy I think.  We’re all connected.  Nobody fails alone.  Money, like matter, is never destroyed, it just changes form (and location).  But being all connected, we’re all to blame because we’re all responsible. But it’s all fucked now, we’re fucked, they’re fucked, all the fucking fuckers have fucked us hard and fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck….

So anyway, I told you that to tell you this.

I wrote the piece about CEO Pay excesses back in July and nobody cared.  You could hear the crickets yawning as the tumbleweeds blew past.  Nothin….

Then,Wall St becomes the next political battleground, hotspot, TV moment.  Celebrities start grabbing mic time and before you know it, somebody says CEO enough times that the magic threshold is met and the internet starts spewing out search returns with the words CEO, pay, and workers in them and guess who has those words and two thumbs?  That’s right…. this guy!

I went from a couple hundred hits a week to 6,000 page views an hour.  I was on fire.  My article was everywhere.  My wife went to her Facebook page and the tabel graphic I used for the worldwide ratios was being passed around like a giant joint at a Grateful Dead show.  People were reading and commenting and having a great time telling me what a magnificent writer I was and that they just loved my piece and oh, by the way can you tell us what the source of your numbers was… we want to quote you.

brrrrp,(record scratch).  What?  You want to quote me? You want to use my material as source for your argument?  You want to use something I wrote, to stand up to actual educated people and wave my chart around?  You know what.  I don’t think that’s a good idea.  Did you read the thing I wrote about penis on the menu?  What about the 3 part series I did on Weiner Gate?  What about my rant on sending money to help the rich ass Japan after the Tsunami or the one I did about white guys with shaved heads.  You really don’t want my stink anywhere near your cause, fellas.  People who like me don’t want me around that much.

And when I said that, it was like I’d smacked them all in the face personally.  I had splash a big ol turd in the middle of the punch bowl at their “rally to make some kind of a point in America” party.  The DJ stopped the music and everybody turned to look at me.  But now, instead of it being 200 people a week, it was quite literally thousands of people.

They asked again about my source. I said no again, that’s not a good idea.   I think at one point I said “I read some shit, I wrote some shit.  I made a graphic.  I’ve done what I set out to do.”  I told a few of them who persisted that I’d searched the internet using words like CEO pay, average worker pay, imbalance and stuff like that,  and they came back at me incredulous.  How could I have misled them so?  How could I have so royally screwed them and their grand design to hold me up as a beacon?  Was I serious?  I Googled it?  Really?

Yeah, you bet your ass I googled it.  And I Binged it and Yahooed it and I read a lot of stuff.  But I didn’t know that there was going to be a quiz at the end of class.  I didn’t show my work.  I wrote what I wanted to write for my purposes and I forgot that there was an entire population of loonies and goonies out in the boonies who will adopt your thing and make it theirs and then hate you for it, and love you, and then hate you again and stroke your hair while calling you a fascist. And then take a picture of you and cut the eyes out and wear the eyes while they’re sleeping in a Saran wrap tent.

I had become instantly famous and infamous and then, very quickly, irrelevant to the conversation as the factions lined up and started throwing poo at each other like teams of screaming chimpanzees.  “This is what he meant!”  “No, you’re wrong, this is what he meant!”  “,  “Typical liberal horseshit!”,  “He has left us a shoe!!”

The groups were divided into three basic camps.  The ones on the left who loved the info, wanted to load it into their “destroy the ultra right” howitzer but were mad at me for not citing my sources because it may their cudgel less whompy.  The ones on the right who were mad at me for suggesting that big business and the republicans could have had something to do with the debacle and the neck-deep shit we seem to find ourselves precariously treading water within,… and not citing my sources, and the ones in the middle who really thought the article was fun to read and that I was doing an interesting and entertaining job of fending off the hyenas sniffing around for cited sources.

Usually when I’m writing. I’m not thinking that somebody is going to source me. I do enough research to find stuff out to where I understand it and believe I have the gist, but not so much that it starts being work. I’m not getting paid and I’m not getting a grade so really, I’m writing for me. I think it is important for people to understand that I’m just a guy who can type. I’m not a nationally recognized economist. I’m not running for office and in all likelihood, you wouldn’t like me personally if you met me. So read, enjoy the words; take from them what you want, but let’s try not to treat it as holy writ.

In the last few days I’ve said at least as many times as I’ve said anything else, that people shouldn’t just believe something because somebody can type and just because that typing includes cited sources. The cited sources could be made up, too. Seeing it written does not make it so. I know what I read. I know what I found and I know what I believe to be the truth of the situation but that is strictly a belief within me. And as much as it makes my heart hurt that there are people out there who will believe anything, I’m just as bummed because there are an equal number who will believe nothing but never try to find out something.

Just because I don’t want to cite source doesn’t mean I made it up. Likewise, just because somebody cites sources doesn’t make it fact.  Don’t be so quick to accept the validity of anything just because somebody attached a source with an official stamp of approval.  Those are the easiest things in the world to fake.

I answered a lot of different ways to the commentators on the blog (and you should take a read of those when you have an hour to kill) but I guess the best answer, if you’re one of the people who think I didn’t do enough to prove something, is for you to make choices in who and what you believe.  I’m just a blogger.  The threshold for what I have to do is pretty low and my desire to prove something to you is even lower.  Skepticism is a natural protective feeling that you should have. It’s a good thing but you having it doesn’t actually require me to do anything to prove something to you or anybody else. 

I appreciate that any of you read my piece and that it caused some of you to think beyond the fecal humor.  But to overlay some kind of rules of journalism on it after the fact or to think of it as anything more than an entertainment piece that I wrote to make my wife think my brain was sexy big is just flat-out wrong.  Some things are just for fun and shouldn’t be used as the plank in a campaign to topple corporate greed based economies or to beat the opposition over the head for political amusment.  I’m just an asshole who writes dick jokes.  I can say what I want, the way that I want and I don’t have any responsibility to you on how I do that.  You don’t have to read it, but if you do, you don’t have to believe it, but if you do you don’t have the right to require me to do more, write more, say more or research more.  I’m not trying to be shitty about this, but I’ve had half a hoard yelling at me from one side and half a hoard yelling for the other side, and a bunch of them yelling at each other and it’s all just over a bunch of words I strung together.  Sweet Salty Jesus, if you’ve read any of my other pieces you know that I’m not taking me that seriously.  And if I’m not taking me that seriously, they why in the hell are you? 

Now go do something important and get off my tit.

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Going for Broke – Will Legislate For Food

The count down to Armageddon is on again.  Apparently, if we don’t pay off some of our debt or raise the debt ceiling, the world will end Tuesday.

You know what? I am soooo over this whole “the world will end if we don’t do such and such” mindset that the politicians and the newsies want to keep us perpetually wrapped within.  Fear keeps them employed so I can see why they like it.  I just can’t figure out why we let them do it.

Here’s two things about our most recent world ending, hellsacommin fearfest:

A) If every nation that ties its currency to ours suddenly fails because we owe more than we’re allowed to by law (an arbitrary law we made up and changed several times to suit our expedient needs) then they’re all stupid and deserve to go belly up.  But they’re not stupid and they won’t go belly up.  They’ll change a law or a line in a law or move some electronic numbers from one column to another and the sun will still come up tomorrow (bet your bottom dollar).  Everybody will still be here and the next fear threat scandal will already be loaded up in the barrel and ready to fire straight at  our gawping faces.

B) There’s too much money and real estate involved and they’re never going to let it all crumble away because rich people will always do what is in the best interest of rich people.  If you count on nothing else in life it should be that the ultra wealthy have very strong instincts for survival and greed (and the survival of greed).

Here’s the info you should have in the front of  your brain but don’t.  This is the stuff that the republicans seem to be very good at deflecting attention from and the democrats seem to be completely incapable of focusing our attention on:
If we let the Bush tax cuts expire… the tax cuts for the top 2% of the wealthiest Americans (the wealthiest population in the history of wealthy populations), we would be out of debt in just over 5 years.  We, the US, the country with the biggest debt any nation has ever had, the largest economic engine the world has ever known and the home of the greediest muthers the planet has ever seen, could be out of debt and paying for new roads, bridges, hospitals and teachers in five short years if we simply asked our richest 2% to pay the level of taxes that they were paying under Bill “depends on what the meaning of IS is” Clinton.

Why isn’t that “Page One – Above the Fold” in every newspaper?  Why isn’t it on the front of Google and Yahoo News, AOL, MSN, the NYTimes-Online and the Washington Post eVersion every day… all day? 

It’s almost like rich people control the media.

Why aren’t you mad about this?  You live here.  You vote, or at least I hope you do.  You may feel powerless.  You may think, “What’s the point? They’re going to do what they’ve always done.” But the only reason they get to do that is that you stay sitting on your couch when you should be sitting at your computer typing 60 enflamed words a minute to your congress person telling them to get this shit fixed and that the 2% can damn well cough up some green backs to repair the thing that they broke in the first place.

In the 1950′s the pay separation between the CEO’s and average workers in what we now call the Fortune 500 companies used to be about 20 to 1 (a CEO made 20 dollars for every dollar a mid level manager made. )  20 to 1 was here in American and extreme compared to the rest of the world where even now it is more commonly about half of that.  During the 1980s the pay gap between CEO’s and average workers grew from 42:1 to almost 85:1.  By 2004 it had jumped to 301 : 1.  And now???… well now, right here in the good old US of A, the ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay is running 475 to 1 while in Japan, a very profitable nation with a very good standard of living, the ratio is 11 to 1.  The average Japanese CEO would kill himself in shame if his company failed so badly that it needed to be bailed out by the government in order to stop the world economy from crashing.  American CEO’s take bonuses of 15 million dollars for doing that.

In case you need somebody to characterize that for you… that’s a bad thing.  This level of greed is not a sign of American business success and superiority.  It is an example of institutionalized insanity because these companies can and do lose billions of dollars in a single year and the CEO’s still make the monster money.

How can there be people who think of themselves as republicans while also being middle-income, poor or unemployed?  How is it even possible that there are people who are not rich, yet still believe that it’s in their best interest to vote for the republicans who clearly have only the protection of the rich as their goal?  It reminds me of that line about the  greatest thing the devil ever did was to convince you that he wasn’t real… Well, the greatest thing the republicans ever did was to convince 14% of the american population that protecting the rights of the rich was somehow good for poor and middle-income people.  The reason I say 14% is that one-third of eligible voters (33%) actually vote and one half of them ( 16% or so) vote republican.  Take out the top earning 2% and you’re left with 14% of the population that have been brainwashed into protecting rich people contrary to their own self interest.  It’s like these people are saying to themselves, “Maybe I’ll be rich someday so I’m not going to vote for things that are against the interests of other rich people.”

They have a better chance of winning the lottery or being hit by lightning than of becoming rich enough to join the two percenters. Yet they feel they need to protect the future possibility of success rather than the current reality of privation.

Republican politicians protect themselves and their monied patrons with the argument that what’s good for business is good for the country and that, in turn, is good for poor people.  Taxing rich people is bad for business and therefore bad for poor people.  They’ve done a fantastic job of connecting the two arguments but I promise you that they are not connected.  Taxing the rich is not the same as taxing business.   The tax rate for businesses is too high (one of the highest in the world) and is one of the primary reasons that so many corporations have moved their operations and business addresses overseas.  On the other hand, the tax rate for rich people is the absolute lowest in the world.

We need to separate the concept that Rich People equals Business Owners.  It’s just not true in most cases.  The richest rich guys I’m talking about are not owners.  They’re the CEO’s hired by stock holding board members to run the companies and they’re living like princes.  Employment packages for these guys now normally include massive contractual bonus structures, golden parachutes and stock options that pay off regardless of the company’s actual bottom line. The basic argument in favor of this system is that you have to pay really big money to get the best people.  But these are the same guys that destroyed the economy and bankrupted the world as well as their own companies. Yet they still got paid.  In some cases, they got paid with our money from the bail outs.

The Bush tax cuts that need to expire are not about companies.  They’re not about keeping business moving or greasing the wheels of industry.  They’re about tax breaks for private jets and massive yachts and 15 million dollar bonuses.  They’re for rich people. For protecting the money of rich people who have paid their republican butt monkeys to hold the rest of us hostage and threaten the end of everything we hold dear so that they can continue to light giant cigars with hundred-dollar bills.  And if that doesn’t piss you off, you’ve either been completely hypnotized by republican rhetoric or you’re opening a box of stogies right now.

Got a light?

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Scan, Pat Down or Blow up: Your Choice.

Naked x-ray tatas.  Oh boy!The TSA (Transportation Safety Administration) is coming under fire again for groping some new kid or feeling up another beauty queen / basketball cheerleader.  Somebody got all bent out of shape because uncaring hands in blue plastic gloves are touching the outside of clothes in the general area of private parts.  OMG! Americans are being violated!  Privacy is being perverted. Lines are being crossed! A whole new set of rules has to be adopted because someone was offended!!

Really?  That’s where we are?  We’re all so privileged in our protected cocoons of safety where nothing bad ever happens that now we have the cheek to feel violated about a pat down after ten years of increased security because people who have vowed to destroy us have actually used airplanes to kill before? 

You know that there are actual important things to deal with? You know, for instance that teenagers are still chopping arms off of people in central africa for backing the wrong despotic candidate, right?  You know that somewhere in a sand hut with a sand floor in the middle of sandy-ass Libya a small family of uneducated skeletons supported by a sewage worker who got the job because he’s skinny enough to fit into the sewer pipe is sharing their last meal of rotten rice because sometime tomorrow an errant NATO bomb meant to help them stay free from Mohammar Qadhafi will free them permanantly from this mortal coil.  There’s actual stuff happening to actual people all over the world nearly every moment of every day.

And now you’re upset because Lakeisha at the TSA station, who just wants to finish her shift and go back home to fix dinner for her kids, touched you, in a completely unemotional and non sexual way, between your legs so that the rest of us can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’re not smuggling guns, knives, dope or bombs onto the plane in order to kills us all.?

You know what?  Fuck you.  Yeah, you heard me.  Fuck you and the precious little entitled horse you rode in on.  Bend over, spread’em, take the goddamn pat down and shut the fuck up.  Nobody cares about your “feelings” or your right to privacy. If you can’t let Darrell check your nethers for lighters and fuses, then maybe you should just start driving because I don’t want you on the plane next to me.  I don’t want to have to tackle you when you reach down to re-adjust the fellas or tie your shoes.  I don’t want to call my wife on the Skyphone to tell her that me and some other passengers are going to have to take the plane back from bunch of idiots with box cutters and God delusions because you didn’t want somebody to touch, even for a second, your flabby ass cheeks and inner thighs.

And while we’re at it, patting down a kid doesn’t mean shit to the kid.  And it would have passed without notice by that kid except that some mom who felt like little Sarah Jean Whateverhernameis was just the kind of kid to get a lot of “Look at me” press for the mom’s pet grudge (that she picked up from FOX or CNN). “Oh, my little angel has been violated.  Point the camera at me.  Look at my pasion and anguish.  I want my 15 minutes.”

Listen up, America, You have some choices to make.  You can take the pat down, walk through the body scanner or even show up at the airport naked… or, and here’s the choicest choice, don’t freekin fly.  It’s up to you.  You choose.  But do it now and get the hell over it or so help me, I’m going to pull this car over and smack all of you.

Key rist!

If you take the pat down, you have to accept that there is no such thing as an effective pat down that doesn’t touch everything, including babies butts and crotches and your tits.  If there’s a place that TSA isn’t allowed to touch, that’s where the drugs, the bombs and the guns will be.

It’s not like nobody every stuffed a kilo of cocaine into a baby’s diaper or up somebody’s ass in a string of balloons before.  When I was a youngster, everybody I knew who smoked pot carried their dope in their underpants.  I knew one guy who tucked it way up behind his balls and actually got past a police pat down once because the cop didn’t want to crotch grab.  Good for my friend.  Not good if that’s TSA, now, and bomb making materials.  Half a security pat down is no pat down at all and absolutely not secure.

With all that we’ve seen in the last few years, it can’t possibly been that long until somebody tries to be the first Boobie Bomber.  So believe me, we want TSA to be able check out the fake tatas.  We NEED TSA to be able to check out the fake tatas. 

If you choose the scanner you have to accept that completely disinterested hourly employees of the government are going to see ghostlike outlines of your person in which your belt buckle, your dental bridge work, the pin in your knee from the skiing accident 20 years ago and the gun taped to the inside of your thigh will show up as fairly solid shapes and that your butt, your boobs, your embarrassingly small penis, your belly overhang and your armpit fat will not only be vaguely discernible wisps of imagery but that the bored individuals seeing it will dismiss it immediately, not store it for future use or distribute it to the internet for somebody’s perverse pleasure or stare, point or giggle at you on the way by because nobody cares about your fat, old, body (or even the young good-looking ones).  Porn is way too easy to get in thousands of variations for anybody to spend even a second of their time ogling your x-rays.

And if you fly a lot and you’re worried that being scanned all the time will increase your radiation exposure, you should know this;  Standing on the side-walk waiting for your friend to pick you up at the airport exposes you to more radiation than the scanner ever could.

Or, you could choose not to fly.  Nobody is making you fly.  Nobody says you have to be searched, patted or scanned.  You’re making the choice to fly and with that comes the responsibility to prove without a doubt that we who do not know you can trust you not to kill us and that you can likewise now trust us;  all because, Mr. Blueglove Dontgiveashit touched your junk in a totally not gay way.

I know you’ve got an argument right now but you know what.  Shut up.  Nobody wants to hear it.

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Weinergate III: Weiner Pulled Out

Yeah, I know it happened last Thursday and I probably should have written something about it by now, but I had other things to do and frankly the Weiner story has had just about as much sauce squeezed out of it as we’re likely to get.  But, I suppose that since I wrote about the beginning, I should write about the end.

US Representative Anthony Weiner shocked absolutely nobody on Thursday when he resigned amid the final passionate throws of the Weinergate scandal.  Weiner had vowed to stay firm in his resolve and not pull out of his seat but the continual and insistent push back from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi forced the eventual climax of explosive political pressure resulting in the withering of Weiner’s resolve.  Even so, Weiner said he would stay in and try to keep doing the job, but Pelosi insisted that he just wouldn’t be effective in a diminished capacity.  In the end, spent and depleted, Weiner slipped out almost entirely unnoticed.

This certainly isn’t the legacy that he was hoping for.  But at least for the foreseeable future, whenever somebody says wiener at a picnic, somebody else is going to remember and perhaps even giggle a little about the Weiner in Washington that couldn’t stay in the pants and out of the limelight.  The photogenic penis that ended a Weiner’s career; in short, Weiner’s wiener.  Snort, haw haw, thigh slap…. aw that guy was such a moron…

So what is the newly former representative going to do with the rest of his career?  If he wants to stay in government and make use of his “talents” he may want to make inquiries with the Berlussconi government in Italy.  I don’t know for sure, but I would suspect that any bunga bunga party worth its probable scandal , would include quite a few phone camera pictures of junk, trunks and bunks as well as a villa full of 17-year-old “actresses” with “political aspirations”.

If national / international politics are not to Mr. Weiner’s taste I know that a spot at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) World Bank has opened up for the next 2 to 5 years.  Apparently, not being able to discern acceptable and unacceptable behavior is such a plus at the World Bank that they put people like that in charge of the whole thing.

I have to admit… I’m disappointed.  Genuinely.

I continue to be disappointed by people in power because of how they behave when they have that power.  However, I’ve come to the realization that it isn’t their fault.  It’s mine.  I expect them to behave like I think the rest of us should behave.  As it turns out, we, people, humans, behave like children or animals when we get the opportunity.. almost universally.

When our leaders behave like the rest of us we are all shocked because wow, they’re animals just like us.  

We stomp our feet and want what we want.  We’re petulant and greedy. We’re petty and egocentric. Fearful and filled with false bravado.  We’re cartoons or monkeys or maybe even cartoon monkeys.  Men think mostly with their dicks or their stomachs. Young, sexually charged and attractive women are drawn to powerful men because of an evolutionary drive for security. Middle aged men cheat on their wives because they feel time slipping away and they see a time coming when it will be too late and the opportunity will never come again. Mature women gasp about it because they’ve forgotten that they waved their tails and pushed up their boobs in front of the biggest baboons when they were young.  

Men want to still be young and strong and do the things young men do without the thought or wisdom that comes with responsibility or station.  They want to cut loose, get drunk, smoke a bunch of pot and lay in a bed with a dozen willing young women.  Of course, nobody can actually do that except the most powerful and wealthy of men but for some reason we expect that when a man achieves the ability to do something like that, that he will have the strength of character to not do it or at least the cunning to not get caught.

We are, all of us, a couple of generations from the trees and we like to feel good; we’ve evolved to be happy about eating and sex and safety from being eaten.  We like to do those things in order to make the happy juice in our brains.  On top of all that we have a thin veneer of civilization wherein we’ve agreed to some basic rules about how we should our shouldn’t behave regarding ownership, sex and killing.  But it is an extremely thin veneer.  Beneath it all, we still seethe with jungle passion.

My civilized veneer is disappointed again with Weiner and those like him who feel compelled to lead yet have failed the moral character test.  The monkey in my head just thinks he has an interesting and plausible method for attracting willing females.

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Handicapping the Republican Front Runners

For those unfamiliar with sports betting, handicapping is what a tout or odds maker does when assessing the likelihood of one team or one horse or one thing being victorious over another.  Usually, this also assumes that all of the horses in the race or teams in the league have at least some potential chance to win.  The problem with handicapping the candidates for the republican nomination is that all but one of the contestants have zero chance to win. Forget not being in the same league, they’re not even in the same game.
 
Did you watch the Republican Debate last week? I know of a group of people who didn’t. The spin specialists working for each of the potential candidates. Each and every one of them had the same answer to the question, “Who won the debate?” They all said their horse won.  Batshit crazy Michele Bachman’s spin doctor stood there with a straight face and proclaimed that she had won… clearly.  Why? Why do you think she won? How could you possibly watch that and think she won? Because she’s not speaking in tongues or dancing with snakes? That’s not winning. That’s simply not stepping in your own poo.

Bachman is using her fostering of 28 kids to show what a great human she is. Bachman fostered 28 kids and adopted 6 more. That’s two Branch Davidian’s short of a compound. Given her religious point of  view and tendency to preach, gathering 34 trusting souls to indoctrinate and send out into the world seems more like a missionary program than a family.

All of the other candidates talked about their families; their kids and spouses, etc. except for Gingrich. Lots of kids… good. Lots of wives, not so much. They proudly proclaimed their opposition to gay marriage and abortion rights like they were checking off items on a list of ingredients to bake a republican pie. They professed their love of the historically inaccurate rewriting of Ronald Reagan’s legacy and they universally railed against social programs like health care while promising never to touch Medicaid or Social Security,… except maybe to privatize it (which means letting the insurance companies run it for profit). And to a person they all rang the “Obama is a job killing, big government, tax raising machine who doesn’t get the big picture or understand the common man in the way that the republican party does” bell.

Rick Santorum is proudest of his position against gay anything. It’s the cornerstone of his argument for everything. But replace gay with black and he’s George Wallace in 1964. It seemed politically tenable then to have a position against racial equality but now we look back and think, “What a moron!” That’s Santorum on the gay issue now.

Pawlenty, milquetoast about everything else claims to be the most effective anti-abortion rights activist in the race. That’s like getting a trophy for being the guy who could slam his head into the wall more often than anybody else. Yeah, you can do that pretty good there champ, but you know what… the wall is still there. Hit the showers, Pawlenty.  Oh, also it was funny to watch him crawfish about trash talking Romney over “Romney-care”.  It was like the guy on the play ground who said he’d take on anybody when he was with his friends but now, Big Johnny Murphy is here slamming his fist into his other hand saying let’s go and Pawlenty can’t recant fast enough.  And I think he pee’d just a little bit.

Newt Gingrich seems to be the only guy in the room who doesn’t know his career has been over since Clinton bitch slapped him in the 90′s. He sold a lot of books and that seems to make him believe that people think he’d be a good president besides the glaringly obvious fact that he’s a horrible human being.  Character counts, even in the heartland, and his character sucks.  Also, incase he missed the exact moment when the trap door dropped, it was when his entire staff of 16 people quit, over he and his wife appearing too extravagant in front of out of work americans and taking a two-week vacation to Greece and Turkey in the middle of a campaign for “Leader of the Free World”.  Boom. Finished.

Ron Paul spoke at length about wiping the slate clean and starting over, getting back to what we used to be (old people say shit like that all the time not knowing that nothing goes backwards, ever). He’s so in favor of limited government that he’d cut cabinet positions and whole departments. Let’s face it, we don’t need the EPA to tell us the air is dirty or the water is flammable. We can see that for ourselves. He spoke for several minutes in a slow monotone and used big words while waving his hands about. The crowd yawned and the cameras looked at the other, prettier candidates. Funny old guy, out.

Herman Cain said last week that he wants muslims who work for him to take a loyalty test. I’m sorry but you can’t be a serious candidate for the office of the President of the United States of America and say stupid shit like that. Also, he’s not big on reading. Cain says that if elected he won’t sign any bill longer than 3 pages. Does that include the cover page?

Mitt Romney’s the only one on the stage who’s even in the right league and he’s going to lose by 15 points because he’s a mormon.  Clearly, he’s the odds on favorite at the dog show in a room filled with mangy mutts and floppy mixed breeds that chase their tails. He’s a well spoken, calm person with the right education and experience. He looks great in profile with a lantern jaw and a perfect head of hair with greying temples that had to be painted on.  He says the “Right-ist” stuff in the right-ist way and even seems reasonably ok to centrists; but the mormon thing is too much poo juice to get down. Don’t get me wrong; all religions sounds crazy to me. Obama believes in the guy who came back to life after the roman’s spiked him to a cross. 20% of the world’s population believes that Mohammed dictated the Koran in a single sitting and ascended to heaven while sitting on a rock. And Romney believes that Joseph Smith read “coded” tablets out of hat and that secret underpants are the key to the afterlife ownership of your own planet filled with willing women.  Gay marriage; no. Abortion rights; no.  Lost tribe of jews in ancient america; you betcha.

The take away on this non event is that you have to hate with a seething passion even the concept of Obama in order to vote for any of these people. If you’re a republican, you should be afraid that this is the best your side can come up with.  If you’re a democrat,  you need to be terrified that one of these cartoons could potentially end up in the oval office.

That’s the elephant in the room.

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