Category Archives: Economy

Kentucky Governor To Mitch McConnell: Get Your Facts Straight On Obamacare


Kentucky Governor To Mitch McConnell: Get Your Facts Straight On Obamacare

Wait just a cotton pickin minute!!  You mean to tell me that Mitch by god McConnell might be … a lyin sack o’ shit?!  No!  Say it isn’t so!!


Government Shutdown Was Planned For Months


Government Shutdown Was Planned For Months By Ed Meese, Koch Bros.

From the article, “So, when you are told by Republicans that the shutdown is he fault of President Obama and Democrats, you can now say with certainty that this is untrue.”

Note the article’s source: FOX news

My comment:
The Union and Confederate soldiers would often get together in the evenings, and then resume hostilities the next morning.  Axis and Allied soldiers would cross the fields between the trenches to share a bottle overnight and then resume hostilities the next day.

One can be friends with a conservative, but one never forgets that they are also, always the enemy.  It is their stated intention to destroy the USA and all that she has come to stand for.  All that it was said she stood for from the moment she was founded, though it has taken a long time to even begin to approach those ideals.  And, even though there is a long way to go to achieve those ideals.  This latest manufactured “crisis” and the looming one in 9 days are just the latest examples of their attempts to do so.
This is what they have said they want, and this is what they have worked hard to accomplish.


Apathetic After Shock


There has been a lot of talk recently, of course, about Edward Snowden and traitors.  There has been a great deal of public gnashing of teeth and wailing by our elected leaders over his release of the snazzy Micro$oft PowerPoint slideshow that was not meant for public consumption.  There was a really well done piece explaining how, under the definitions given in the US Constitution, Snowden has not committed treason.  Not going to talk about that today.  Not directly.

Instead, what I find bothersome is just how much acceptance there is about this from the vast majority of people.  I really shouldn’t be surprised, and I suppose I’m not really.  Still, I am disappointed.  When it broke, I had hoped that perhaps this would be sufficient to bring about a ground swell of anger and activity.  There was certainly an initial outburst of shock.  And, yet, very quickly since then …

There has been some small amount of noise at the fringes.  Reddit has been one place where a little activity has taken place.  The Daily Kos, EFF, and a lot of other organizations have quietly come out in opposition.  Note the key word being quietly.  These organizations sent out emails to their members.  I know.  I got some of them.  I certainly didn’t get all of them.  I’m not on all of their mailing lists.  There was some activity on the right.  Again, I know.  I saw some of it.  I heard about other, and I went looking to see if there was any in other places.  At the fringes, yes.  In the heart, in the mainstream?  No.  Not really.

stopwatching.us was set up to collect signatures.  I want to share with you a screen shot taken from that site on the morning of June 16, 2013.  It is a compilation that shows their “Selected Signatories.”  I’ve compiled the 4 categories that they have on four separate tabs – Organizations, Individuals, Businesses, and Members of US Congress – together for you to take in all at once.

Combined Selected Signatories

As of this morning, they have collected 178,350 signatures.  Please read that again.  That’s a sad number.

No one cares.  The majority of the country is so used to the intrusions of the PATRIOT Act, warrantless searches, surrendering our civil liberties in the name of security, and the concept that “If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear,”  that this kind of “revelation” is blasé.  No worries, mate.

According to one poll (as reliable as that may be), 54% of Americans think that Snowden did the right thing in exposing PRISM, but 53% still think he should be prosecuted.  A vast majority of people say they’re following the story closely.  My theory as to why?  Because to most people this is just the next episode in the Bourne Chronicles.  Most people are likely watching to see which scenario happens next.  Will he be subjected to “extraordinary rendition”?  Will he be found dead “by his own hand”?  Will he be mundanely arrested and extradited back to the US?  Will he become an “asset” of the Chinese or some other foreign government that would like access to the information he may still have not released yet?

They are not paying attention because they are interested in or concerned about the actual issues.  I see in both left of center and right of center blogs, as well as the main stream media the over-whelming theme of “Who cares?” about the program itself.  I actually read the words, “I am not sure I care if the government is reading my email or listening in on my phone calls as long as it keeps me safe.”  The majority of the coverage of this case is about who is Edward Snowden?  (My Google search for the term, “Who is edward snowden” returned 1,180,000,000 results)  What is Booz Allen Hamilton?  (A firm most of us had never heard of before.)  Should we be privatizing “national security”?  (A question that probably should have been asked 40 years ago, but which was answered as an inevitable part of the supply-side, conservative domination of the government over that time period.  What did y’all really expect?)  And, so on.  Very little about the intrusiveness of this program which in all likelihood has accomplished nothing in terms of actual security, despite claims to the contrary.
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Just the Bare Minimum?


I am not picking on Nicholas Ruiz.  He is a good man, and I hope that he does succeed in his efforts to unseat John Mica in 2014.  However, it was Nick’s recent post, and the ensuing conversation we had, which has actually formed the spark and starting point for today’s epistle.  In particular, these words:

My politics are progressive. I aim to raise the minimum wage.

First, I am not opposed to raising the minimum wage.  I agree that it needs to be raised.  Let me be clear about that.  No one can live on the minimum wage at its current level and as it currently exists.  I have a conservative friend who argues that the minimum wage was never intended as a livable wage.  It is his contention that the minimum wage was intended only for kids that were getting their first jobs, interns learning a craft, and the like.  That is, quite simply horse puckey and shows either that he is completely ignorant of history, which would be very typical of most people, or that he has been brainwashed by the right, which would also be very typical.

A very brief history lesson on the minimum wage, and if you are interested in more, then I will trust that you know how to use either the library or the internet.  The minimum wage was first enacted in Australia.  It traveled from there to the UK, and did not finally make its way to the US nationally until 1938.  In 1907, a legal decision was rendered in Australia that clarified the intent of the minimum wage.  This was known as the Harvester case, and it made it clear that the minimum wage “means that the wages shall be sufficient to provide these things, and clothing and a condition of frugal comfort estimated by current human standards.”  In America, it was specifically summarized as being intended to achieve the “elimination of labor conditions detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standards of living necessary for health, efficiency and well being of workers.

A wholly different concept has been at various times discussed and even implemented, and that is a training wage.  Perhaps it is this which my friend has confused for the minimum wage.  That’s possible.  (Conservatives are often easily confused.)  A training wage is still often used at a new position.  An employer will pay a new employee a lower amount during training, and at the completion of that training period, a raise will go into effect.  Again, though, that is an entirely different animal and should not be confused with a minimum wage, which is intended to provide at least sufficient wage to live upon.  According to research done recently, one can not live on the minimum wages we are paying.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in West Virginia, a worker earning minimum wage has to work 63 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom unit at fair market rent.  That is the fewest hours in the country, and the highest is in Hawaii at 175 hours per week.  Ponder that for a moment.  At minimum wage in Hawaii, you have to work more hours in a week than there are just to afford rent on a standard two bedroom unit.

From their 2013 report, another way to look at it, in order to afford a two-bedroom rental unit at fair market value without paying more than 30% of one’s income, one would have to earn $19.14 an hour.  The lowest in the 2013 report, is in West Virginia at $12.35.  (Not counting Puerto Rico at $10.41)  The highest is still Hawaii at $32.14 an hour.  These are not wages to live extravagant lifestyles.  These are just to be able to afford a two-bedroom home.  Family friendly.

We are a long way from providing a minimum wage that would allow for even living in “frugal comfort.”

So then, what do we do?  Certainly, the minimum wage should rise.  The cost of living has gone up.  Inflation affects everything, and the minimum wage is no exception.  However, all wages, except at the top have been stagnant.  And, there is a question that has been bugging me about this.  One that I will tell you right up front that I do not have an answer to.  If we raise the minimum wage to where it really should be, say somewhere in the neighborhood of $14 to $18, then what happens to the rest of our wages?  Those would necessarily need to be raised as well, yes?  If not, then is the effect not to have brought everyone’s wages down?  Rather than the “rising tide that lifts all boats”, have we not, instead, sunk all but the biggest ships?  And, that is what the right has been doing to us for years.

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Google Viewing Peer-To-Peer


On March 11, 2012, I posted about peer-to-peer financing.  I wrote at the time that I felt this was a way for the people to use the system against itself.  It is not a perfect answer, but it was one tool that can be used.  I still believe this to be the case.  However, I heard something that is only slightly disturbing this week.  It is also reaffirming.

Google is getting involved.  Google directly, mind you.  Not their investing arm, Google Ventures.  Google is investing $125 million dollars and taking a seat on the board at Lending Club.  This indicates a number of things.

From a practical standpoint, neither Google nor Lending Club are speaking out directly about what their plans are specifically.  Speculation is that Google wants to implement their technology and bring Lending Club into the Google Wallet fold.  There is also, of course, their cut.  It’s just a good investment, when they’re going to get a slice of the loan fees generated; $350 million in loans in the last quarter.

It also, indicates that people are catching on more and more to this method of lending.  People are looking beyond banks more every day, and seeing other methods and ways to move beyond them.  Consider:

Chanda Lugere works for a bank, but when she wanted a loan to consolidate her credit card debt, which carried a high interest rate, the bank didn’t have much to offer. She tried other banks, but even with her excellent credit score she got nowhere.

So Lugere, who’s in her 30s, went online seeking alternatives.

People living in a 20th and 21st century capitalist society often find themselves in need of credit.  That is, sadly, a reality.  It was not always so, and it does not always have to be so, but it is the case now.  Do we have to go through the wringer to get it?  Do we have to sell our soul to the company store?  Not necessarily.  Peer-to-peer lending offers a way forward for people to get financing to reduce the interest they’re paying, while still returning a profit to those lending.  As I wrote in my previous piece on this topic, this not only has a solid financial basis, but a much higher social value.  For the borrower though, this saves them significantly and thus allows them to get out of debt much more quickly!  Chanda Lugere, mentioned above, got her loan at 6% which, while still high, is half of what she was paying.

Another issue that Google’s investment indicates though is that bigger businesses are catching on, and this part worries me.  If big business gets into the game, they will find ways to pervert it.  They will find ways to wrest control of the system even further away from the people.  Make no mistake about it, business was already involved.  As I pointed out in my previous piece, both of the big P2P lending facilitators, Lending Club and Prosper, were associated with WebBank.  This, as Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar put it, is not a true peer-to-peer system, but rather a “peer incorporated” system.  The smaller the corporation stays in relation to the overall system though, the more the peers are able to stay in control and to benefit from the system, rather than to become simply grease for the gears.
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Fight CISPA Again


image

It’s back, and it has to be defeated, again. Go blackout to protest. Call your Senators.  Sign the petition calling on Obama to veto it. Call the White House demanding he veto it. Stay off the internet.

White House petition

Call the White House at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414

Don’t JUST take online slacktivist action, but do that, too.  Go Blackout on April 22!

In case you are unaware what CISPA is, here is a brief from the EFF.


Occupy Every Day


Every once in a while it is important to revisit older topics, that we’ve discussed before.  Today, I would like to come back to a couple of those, because they remain important and relevant.

If we are going to maintain pressure and relevance, then we have to continue to remember to act, right?  One of the major knocks against the Occupy movement, for example, is that it lost focus.  Certainly the occupation of major parks, and the various actions that were taken beginning in September of 2011 were breathtaking and stoked the imagination.  They fired me up.  They captured the hopes of many who were struggling to find “hope and change” in an America that had yet again been lied to and misled.

And, then, they fell apart.  As with most inclusive movements, it fell prey to its own grand ideals.  Instead of staying focused on the financial purposes that it started with, it wanted to be leaderless and then it became amorphous and had so many tentacles and purposes that it lost its relevance.  Oh, to be sure, it still exists.  The movement that is.  I believe that there are still a few active occupations.  Somewhere… Maybe.  Even I have lost track, and interest.  They lost me when they got off track.  And, yes, I admit that I boisterously proclaimed that it was the last great hope for America.  I even went so far in my fervor at the time as to say that if it failed, then I would start voting for the most evil right wing candidate I could find in order to simply hasten the fall of America.  “Bring on the burning,” I said.

I retract those words, and acknowledge my own foolishness in having said them.  I can only say that I was fired up and hopeful.  I was excited and trying to get others equally fired up and motivated.  I do still believe that it had great potential.  Had there been some strong hands to guide it and maintain focus at the core, then it could have accomplished great things.  I do think that it had impact, in changing the focus of the conversation ever so slightly.  It was not the impact though that it could have had, and the damn Tea Partiers are still holding too much sway.  Largely that is because there was too heavy an influence in the Occupy movement that simply felt that they could somehow change the system without actually being participants in the system.

There are only two ways to change a political system.  One can either participate in and change it from with in, or one can violently overthrow it.  That’s it.  There are no other alternatives to changing it.  If you play a pussy-foot, half-in-half-out game then what happens is that you wind up supporting (whole heartedly) the status quo.  That is what happened with the occupy movement.  Too many wanted to try to maintain the illusion that they were above and beyond the system, while still enjoying the benefits of that system.  They wanted the technological benefits (the iPods, the smart phones, the lap top computers, the internet, the wifi, etc), they wanted the Constitutional protections, the responsiveness of the elected representatives, and all that the system had to offer.  They screamed for and demanded their rights.  “Whose park?  Our Park!” and “This is what Democracy looks like” they screamed.  Hell, I screamed, for I took my boys and went down to the streets, too.  But, for all too many of them, they didn’t then want to exercise their responsibilities.  They didn’t want to vote, or participate in the jury pools.  They didn’t want to pay taxes or support that same government that they railed against.  They didn’t want to participate by electing the candidates that would support the views that they wanted supported.  They were only half-in.
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