Posts Tagged wall street

Corporations No Longer Need Republicans To Do Their Bidding

The greedy, corporate, tax-evading pricks over at Apple Inc.said that they will not offer computers and other technological support to the Republican National Convention this coming July because of Trump’s comments about women, immigrants and minorities. The decision by one of the United States’ largest and most popular companies is the biggest corporate defection from the Republican convention, where the party will formally nominate Donald Trump.

News outlets and Clinton supporters are beside themselves with joy, seeing this as a significant win for progressive groups, which are pressuring major companies to boycott the convention over Trump.

And I am beside myself with outrage at how fucking naive and stupid people actually are.

The truth of the matter is that Apple will not endorse the RNC, not because of Trump’s stance on women and immigrants, whom they could not give a flying fuck about given their track record of running slave labor overseas and evading taxes here, but becasue Apple and all these corporations don’t need the Republicans anymore to do their bidding!!!

Hillary will be taking care of that from now on, just like she always has been.

And you know why? Because Hillary Fucking Clinton is a corporate shill and essentially a moderate Republican. She would have been a rising star in Ronald Reagan’s administration.

I really cannot believe how utterly deluded and naive people are. I cannot believe that they are buying this bullshit about corporations like Apple and all having finally turned a new leaf.

They have not.

And they are not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, or because they care about immigrants, women, blacks or anyone. They are doing it becasue a Clinton presidency is not going to hurt their bottom line, and they know it.  They do not care what the party they support is called as long as it helps them.

I mean, even the Koch Brothers have endorsed Clinton. the KOCH BROTHERS, who are the poster child of sinister corporate greed.

People need to realize that all those Republicans distancing  themselves from Trump are not doing so becasue they necessarily disagree with Trump’s stances on women, immigrants, the poor, blacks and what have you. They do so because the crass way Trump says things makes them look back. It is much harder to get even stupid people on your side and to vote against their own self interest when you are blatantly homophobic, misogynistic and racist and thus bigoted.

Trump is not saying anything out loud that the Republicans have not been dog-whistling about to their constituents and “shareholders” and creating policies for, for decades now using polite language and euphemisms. They just don’t like him becasue Trump’s crassness is so off-putting to people.

And the goes for Apple.

It would look really bad for Apple Inc to endorse Trump. No one would buy the stupid, overpriced shit anymore and people would start boycotting them too.

I am really dismayed at the state of affairs lately. It is like everyone has fallen into this collective stupor that does not allow them to see things for what they are. It is like as a nation we are digging ourselves ever deeper into a mess of our own creation.

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Bernie Sanders’ vs. Hillary Clinton’s Tax Returns

Benrie v Hillary

Bernie Sanders reportedly earned just over $200,000 in 2014. That same year, Hillary Clinton, Sanders’s top Democratic rival, gave about 45 paid speeches, many of which paid her more in a single hour than Sanders made the entire year.

The Washington Post reports on Sanders’s income. “The senator from Vermont reported income of just more than $200,000 on his 2014 returns, according to the first few pages of his federal and Vermont filings, which were shared with The Washington Post back in June. On Friday, the couple is planning to release the rest of the returns, including attached schedules,” writes the paper. “The vast majority of the couple’s income came from Sanders’s $174,000 Senate salary and Social Security benefits that both he and his wife, Jane, a former college president, receive.”

In 2014 alone, Clinton gave speeches to GE (for $225,500), the National Automobile Dealers Association ($325,500), Deutsche Bank AG ($280,000), and many more.

As CNN reported at the beginning of this year, “Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, combined to earn more than $153 million in paid speeches from 2001 until Hillary Clinton launched her presidential campaign last spring, a CNN analysis shows.

“In total, the two gave 729 speeches from February 2001 until May, receiving an average payday of $210,795 for each address. The two also reported at least $7.7 million for at least 39 speeches to big banks, including Goldman Sachs and UBS, with Hillary Clinton, the Democratic 2016 front-runner, collecting at least $1.8 million for at least eight speeches to big banks.”

Here’s a list of Hillary Clinton’s publicly disclosed paid speeches since leaving the State Department, totaling a sweet $21,667,000:

Hillary Clinton Speeches 2013-2015_1

 

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How Gullible Are You?

After a three month hiatus I am back and what better way to start off the quest for knowledge, wisdom and non bullshittery than to ask yourself this very simple question: How gullible are you?

10942607_1429185550706710_5682680835405031896_nAre you gullible enough to believe that the billion galaxy universe was just created for us?

Are you gullible enough to believe that a god would impregnate a poor peasant girl to give birth to himself so he can then grow up and die for a bunch of sins that he created in the first place so that one day he may come down and die for them to prove a point? (Are you officially lost amid this convoluted clusterfuck way of thinking here? Um, yeah, so am I)

Are you gullible enough to believe that Islam is a wonderfully peaceful religion that is merely misunderstood?

Are you gullible enough to believe that ideas, even bad ideas  – and religion is full of bad ideas – do not influence the people we become? The decisions we make and the priorities we set?

Are you gullible enough to believe that corporations are people? That money does not influence political outcomes?

Are you gullible enough to believe that giving rich people tax exemptions so they can hide their wealth in offshore accounts creates jobs and helps some worker stuck in a minimum wage paying slow death improve their standard of living?

Are you gullible enough to believe that wealthy people are wealthy because they work for it instead of being the laziest, greediest, most opportunistic moochers that they are, who exploit the system, with proficiency and profligacy about which poor would-be swindlers can only dream?

Are you gullible enough to seriously think that beliefs and the ideas that inform them are beyond criticism and above reproach?

Are you gullible enough to believe that there is an actual marked difference between Democrats and Republicans?

Are you swayed by fluffy and hopeful State of the Union Addresses by our one percent fellating leaders? Are you so enamored by the belief in them that you forget that despite lofty speeches promising to help the middle class, they wanted to (and have in the past) appoint Wall Street executives in key goverment positions, such as President Obama’s nomination of Wall Street executive and banker Antonio Weiss for a top job at the Treasury Department?

Are you gullible enough to believe that one middle-class boosting policy enacted for every twenty pieces of legislation enacted furthering the “causes” of millionaires, bankers, corporations and oil companies, will bring us a step closer to the direly needed changes we need? That such half-assed steps will strengthen the middle class?

Are yo gullible enough to believe that giving more tax breaks to millionaires is good for all us?

Are yo gullible enough to think that most millionaires are even paying any taxes?

Are you gullible enough to believe that placing health care in the hands of private corporate entities that do not give two shits about your health but instead care a whole lot of about the bottom line, was better for people? Or constitutes health care reform?

Are you gullible enough to believe that the Republican party stands for anything else beside hate, greed and bigotry?

Are you gullible enough to seriously believe that the solution to the crisis we face today with respect to a diminishing middle class is corporatist Hilary Clinton?

Are you gullible enough to believe that a Senate that actually votes on whether climate change is real or not can be trusted with accomplishing anything meaningful for this country and its people?

So exactly how gullible are you?

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Quote of the Day

When I was secretary, we had basically a two-war strategy. We had to maintain sufficient forces to be able to fight two wars at once. He switched that. Now we’re going to have a one-war strategy. And that’s all being done as a rationale to justify further deep cuts in the defense budget so he can allocate that money to food stamps or whatever else he wants to spend it on.

Dick-Cheney-1-300x214Dick Cheney criticizing President Obama for prioritizing feeding people over waging wars.

If there ever was any doubt that Republicans do not believe people are entitled to food, what Dick Cheney, former Vice President and eternal war mongering war criminal at large, had to say at an energy industry trade show in Billings, Montana should put all those doubts – and denials – to rest.

If I had not read it, I would not believe that someone is and can be so openly callous so as to state, as a matter-of-factly and with a straight face, that spending money to feed human beings is a waste as that money could be better used engaging in wars.

The thing that is truly disturbing is that he is so cavalier and smug about this. There is not even any pretense to caring about peoples’ lives and the human cost of war. I can almost picture him saying this with the demeanor of a bad cop with a wicked grin who just wants anyone to give him a reason.

Another thing to note, of course, is that President Obama does not and has not prioritized the poor and hungry over anything. He was the architect behind the Draconian sequester (thinking that if he makes it cut-throat enough, it would turn away even Republicans. Little did he know), he failed to close down Gitmo, he continues to support and sign off on the use of drones and, if I recall, he personally signed an $8.7 billion food stamp cut into law!!

So, on the one hand you got this sorry excuse for a human being named Dick Cheney declare, without shame and compunction, that spending money on feeding people as opposed to going to war was a waste and on the other hand you got him accusing the President for having done precisely that when the President has clearly not ever put the poor and hungry before any other cause, including war, the defense budget, Wall Street and private industry in general.

Thirty years ago Obama would have been a proud candidate for the Republican party, palling around side-by-side Ronald Reagan. He is not a liberal, no matter how many times people repeat that. It is just that the Republican party of yesteryear is gone and what has remained has moved substantially more to the Right, getting greedier and more Orwellian than ever, in turn making someone like Obama look like a Liberal.

Conservative hypocrisy and callousness truly have no bounds.

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Just Get A Job At McDonald’s and Let the American Dream Begin

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When people are struggling financially, such as being unemployed, on welfare, on disability or in any other circumstance that has rendered them poor and without income, the stereotypical, go-to phrase of bootstraps bullshittery is always “go get a job at McDonald’s, buddy“. Usually this phrase is uttered by people who themselves never have worked at a place like McDonald’s (or Burger King or any other similar fast food joint) and who view not working at a shit-hole like that as a contemptible refusal by alleged “lazy freeloaders” to pull themselves up by their bootstraps to finally stop mooching off of hard-working, honest, supposedly bootstraps-pulling individuals.

Oh you know, if it were me I would totally lower myself and go work for McDonald’s”  says some dipshit one percenter who was escorted out of government offices with seven figure bonuses made entirely possible by a tax-payer funded bail out for an economic meltdown he and his colleagues caused across the financial world, in collaboration with the majority of the US Congress.

The rhetoric here is “you work hard, you create your own luck, and you gotta believe anything is possible“blah blah blah.

The irony of this type of callous, rancid rhetoric, of course, is that people who do work at places like McDonald’s or Burger King etc,  do not even get paid a livable-wage which they then could supposedly use to pull themselves up by their bootstraps to realize their American Dream.

Striking McDonald's worker Bartolome Perez, 42, protests outside McDonald's on Hollywood Boulevard as part of a nationwide strike by fast-food workers to call for wages of $15 an hour, in Los Angeles

Earlier this month, McDonald’s employees in California, Michigan and New York have filed class-action law suits against McDonald’s alleging that McDonald’s has engaged in systematic wage theft.

“The suits allege that McDonald’s has forced employees to work off the clock, not paid them overtime and struck hours off their time cards.

We’ve uncovered several unlawful schemes, but they all share a common purpose — to drive labor costs down by stealing wages from McDonald’s workers,” said Michael Rubin of Altshuler Berzon LLP, an attorney who represents California workers.

The employees in Michigan allege that they would start getting paid only when customers walked into the restaurants, even if they showed up to work hours earlier.
New York McDonald’s workers, who filed their case in federal court ,claim the fast food chain did not reimburse them for the cost of cleaning uniforms. They say it drives some workers’ real wages below the minimum wage, which is a violation of federal labor law.

Since 1985, the Labor Department has found that McDonald’s and its franchises have had to pay back wages more than 300 times for Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violations.

These types of exploits are not just confined to McDonald’s, however.  Burger King, most notable among a myriad of companies out there, is another avid exploiter.

As the truly sad and somewhat harrowing accounts of fifty-year-old Glenn Johnson who gets paid $14,000 a year (that is $1,166 a month) working at a Miami-area Burger King, just minutes away from the fast food company’s corporate headquarters, show, even if your company does not actively steal from you, as a regular employee in the fast-food industry, which many, including the Burger King spokesperson believe to “provide an entry point into the workforce for millions of Americans,” you still cannot make ends meet despite working full-time and working hard.

Note how the bootstraps rhetoric is not just about working but working hard. “You work hard, you create your own luck, and you gotta believe anything is possible” it goes. Thing is, that is just not how it always goes.

Glenn Johnson is a man who, much like many other men and women out there, does work hard, to the point of exhaustion, yet is still struggling.

Come work for us for scap wages and the American Dream can happen to you, too!!

Come work for us for scrap wages and the American Dream can happen to you, too!!

He gets paid $7.93 an hour, no benefits, no health-care. When he gets sick or feels sick, he gets some Tylenol or VapoRub or some other over-the-counter medication as even going to the hospital will cost him $1,000 off the bat. This means that Mr. Johnson is also not having access to preventive care and thus is not getting routine physical check-ups, which are especially important for someone his age.

His rent is $765 a month, which takes up more than three weeks of his paycheck, and he also has to pay for utilities and food as well as gas to put in his car so he can get to work. This does not leave much for anything else, including paying for his health-care.

An individual like Mr. Johnson, with his level of income, may, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, be eligible for government subsidies of his premiums but he is not eligible for government subsidies of his deductibles and actual health-care costs (because that would have actually been a policy helping people, so, naturally, it was voted away).

fast food 2

Note that someone who only makes $14,000 a year does not even qualify for the low/zero deductible Gold and Platinum plans under Obamacare, he only qualifies for the Silver and Bronze ones, both of which have, relatively speaking,  astronomically high deductibles, from $5,000 to $10,000.

How can someone whose yearly income is $14,000 ever come up with a $10k or even $5k deductible?  That $10k may as well be a million because he doesn’t have that either. Affordable, I think not, Mr. President.

In addition to the fiscal strain, Mr. Johnson also has to content with the emotional strain of working such a minimum-wage job without having the means to do anything else beside work. He just does not bring home much to do anything else with, such as go on vacation. He seems just like another indentured servant. He often comes home tired and exhausted, unable to do anything but eat dinner, take a shower, watch some TV and go to bed, just so he can start the same thing tomorrow.

He does not get any benefits, therefore, he is also not eligible to go on vacation or take a week off or even afford to get sick – not that he could afford going on vacation if he wanted to. Additionally, he has to content with abusive bosses and managers.

It is just a demoralizing existence. And he is not the only one.

All the while, Burger King has been posting a 37 percent in its quarterly gains.

The comment section of the Huffington Post, where Mr. Johnson’s story was first published, reeks of the same old garbage, out-of-touch bootstraps narratives and other associated Gordon Gecko prosperity dribble blaming Mr. Johnson for the fact that he is getting paid scrap wages without benefits or anything else and that he clearly seems unwilling to pull himself up by his bootstraps.

gop-bootstraps-5

Some people state that it is Johnson’s fault for being 50 years old, working in the same place for the past thirty years and still making about the same amount of money. “Why was he not promoted?” they ask or “does he have bad work ethics? A bad attitude?”

People blame him for being a “loser” who is merely choosing to work at Burger King. As if Mr. Johnson was offered a host of opportunities for a better job and income yet inexplicably chose to work a minimum-wage paying slow death.

As if the ability to make the best choices in life was not often dependent on one’s socio-economic situation in society as well as race, gender, bodily ability, abuse and a host of other factors that systemically place certain people on trajectory-fucking paths and disadvantaged positions vis a vis people who enjoy a host of privileges – such as being born white, straight, able bodied and wealthy or any combination thereof.

Privilege gives people freedom of choice, it gives them options, which, in turn, allow making good and prudent decisions possible. And isn’t that what poverty is ultimately about? That one’s choices shrink in proportion to one’s wealth whereby the less you own, the fewer choices available to you?

Poor people are often blamed for their situation, as if they were born into privilege and wealth and always functional, loving, non-abusive families with a myriad of choices available to them while inexplicably making the bad ones to their own detriment.

minimum-wage-protesters

As I have mentioned before, this delusion – or lie may I dare say – that sheer will power can make individuals transcend barriers, the glass ceiling, and overcame systemic inequalities, is precisely the kind of misleading bullshit that the likes of Romney (and even the President) and other one percenters regurgitate when speaking to the masses of people who are navigating a tedious existence of one paycheck/crisis away from destitution without any real prospects for improvement in sight, thanks to a host of middle-class busting policies by both of our parties and a practically non-existent social-safety net.

These are the things that, contrary to popular (and it appears even professional belief)  cannot be ameliorated with mere sheer individual will-power, as individuals cannot be tasked to solve and overcome systemic issues.

That Burger King is paying its employees scrap wages without any benefits whatsoever, and is not required to do so by law, is a systemic issue.

fast foodPeople who admonish Glenn Johnson and millions of others like him for not having made “better choices”, for having “chosen” “loser vocations” thus not working a great job with great pay, are missing the point, which is that a) not everyone is born into the right set of circumstances and that regardless of that b) not everyone in society can be rich.

Professions in hospitality and janitorial services are, traditionally, not the kind of jobs that make people rich.  Especially the fast food industry is notorious for abysmally low wages and as generally being in the lowest paid job category. People are often not expected to remain in them for long and only be taking on such a job if all else fails (unless, of course, you are in a huge recession where even skilled workers cannot find jobs in their trained professions so they have to work for such places). This high turn-over in employees has played to the advantage of the fast-food industry that is bringing in record profits, because labor leaders often have not made an effort to organize these workers into unions to increase their collective bargaining power. Given the immense advantage owners can take of this situation, it is unlikely that they will support for changes to occur.

Yet, they are professions that are both needed and do require hard work.

However, without a meaningful social safety net in place as well as meaningful labor laws and protections, people just eek by an existence, slide down the ladder until they hit bottom, or in this case Burger King and McDonald’s – the go-to employers people evoke when admonishing and vilifying  welfare recipients and the poor in general.

Mr. Johnson deserves to be working in a job, whatever that job may be, that pays a livable wage, that offers him benefits in the form of vacation and sick leave, that accommodates disabilities, that requires mandatory minimum wage increases in regular intervals. He deserves to not find himself a paycheck away from destitution, he deserves to have something to show for after a life-time of working hard in a vocation of his choice (or not of his choice, but out of necessity) instead of destitution, poverty and exhaustion while the company he works for posts record profits with a few on top reaping all the benefits.

There was a time in this country, not too long ago, where if you worked full-time, no matter what you did, you could afford to live like a human being. Now, it’s almost impossible for an unskilled worker to get a full forty hours, lest their employer have to fork over their paltry ‘benefits’ package. Even if they did, minimum wage is not enough to pay the bills or live the kind of dignified life resembling that of a human being. This is why the middle class is dwindling and why our economy can’t get back on its feet.

Poverty is destabilizing on many levels and the health of any society is generally measured by the existence and health of its middle-class. A healthy middle-class is indispensable for the smooth functioning of a democracy.

But sure, let’s blame the poor and dismiss them by suggesting they shut up complaining and just go work at McDonald’s to make their (American) Dream come true, even though the wages places like McDonald’s and Burger King pay are not fit for a dog,  while playing the violin for the “poor” billionaires who feel threatened and whine about having to endure bad press.

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By Virtue of Their Efforts

Americans understand that some people will earn more than others, and we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their efforts [emphasis mine] achieve incredible success.  But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”  – President Barack Obama 

The Middle Class, literally, carrying the economic burden of society, including the rich man.

The Middle Class, literally, carrying the economic burden of society, including the rich man.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem with not only Obama’s speech in particular but this country’s attitude toward economic stability and upward mobility, in general; this idea that those who have a lot – obscenely a lot, owning 80% of the country’s assets a lot – have it because of “virtue of their efforts.”

The reason I keep referencing President Obama is not because I am especially interested in beating up on him  – as he is certainly not the only leader who entertains these incredibly misplaced notions about bootstraps – but to point out that such assertions, coming from the President who sets the tone, do not help people but lend credibility to false bootstraps narratives that tell us that the only thing standing between the haves and have-nots is supposedly just hard work and effort.  As if systemic inequalities, formulated into policy by our very leaders and the corporations whose bidding they do, were not the enemies of the very security that Obama is advocating for.

Was it possible to get through a speech addressed at the American people without giving credence to, and therefore validating, the very bullshit bootstraps narratives that are the reason we are here? Or could we maybe indulge the radical idea that the American people, the wage-earners and non asset-holders, the poor, disabled and disadvantaged, are worth uplifting, regardless of their efforts?

Or maybe at least acknowledge that effort has nothing to do with why so many people are struggling while so few are benefiting.

The problem with narratives, while certainly heart-warming, is that they automatically and implicitly view people who do not enjoy incredible monetary success as those who simply are not making the effort and sacrifices, as people who don’t work hard enough, try hard enough and make better decisions, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps blah blah yawn.

Never mind that the ability to make the best choice often depends on one’s socio-economic situation in society as well as race, gender and a host of other factors that systemically place certain people on trajectory-fucking paths and disadvantaged positions vis a vis people who enjoy a host of privileges – such as being born white, straight, able bodied and wealthy or any combination thereof.

Privilege gives people freedom of choice, it gives them options, which, in turn, allow making good and prudent decisions possible. And isn’t that what poverty is ultimately about? That one’s choices shrink in proportion to one’s wealth whereby the less you own, the fewer choices available to you?

Poor people are often blamed for their situation, as if they were born into privilege and wealth with a myriad of choices available to them while inexplicably making the bad ones to their own detriment.

Romney 2012

This delusion – or lie may I dare say – that sheer will power can make individuals transcend barriers, the glass ceiling, and overcame systemic inequalities, is precisely the kind of misleading bullshit that the likes of Romney (and even the President) and other one percenters regurgitate when speaking to the masses of people who are navigating a tedious existence of one paycheck/crisis away from destitution without any real prospects for improvement in sight, thanks to a host of middle-class busting policies by both of our parties and a practically non-existent social-safety net.

These are the things that, contrary to popular (and it appears even professional belief)  cannot be ameliorated with mere sheer individual will-power, as individuals cannot be tasked to solve and overcome systemic issues.

Systemic Inequity

Not getting paid fair, livable wages is a systemic issue; not being able to collectively organize in a union to protect yourself from exploitative employers, is a systemic issue; not being able to access affordable and quality health care because our government has decided to let the free market of profit and greed be in charge of making health-care decisions for us, is a systemic issue;

Working a life-time in your vocation of choice and diligently paying into your 401(k) just to see it decimated by the great captains of hard work is a systemic issue;

Paying nearly 40% of your middle class income (and thus from your subsistence) in taxes (that mostly go towards things that do not benefit you) while those making fifty or hundred times more than you don’t pay a dime thanks to a tax structure that favors the wealthy at the expense of everyone else, is a systemic issue;

Blaming the Poor

Religious People Blaming the Poor Because That’s Exactly What Jesus Would Do

Working for an employer that does not grant you equal pay for equal work because you are of a certain color, ethnicity, creed, gender, sexual orientation and a host of other aspects that are a part of one’s identity, is a systemic issue;

Finding yourself unemployed because some asshole like Mitt Romney bought the company you worked at, drove it into bankruptcy and then stole your retirement while he was at it, is a systemic issue;

Not being able to find work after such a layoff and unemployment benefits not only paying you sustenance pay but also running out despite a shitty job market, is a systemic issue;

Being at the mercy of banks and corporations that get to do whatever they want with you without any oversight and accountability in place, is a systemic issue.

This list is certainly not comprehensive and goes on and on.

The point is to illustrate that these are not things that individuals can overcome with sheer will power and just a little bit “more effort.” These are the things that fundamentally prevent a lot of people from upward mobility. Because when you are  at the mercy of the corporate robber barons that view DC as their customer service department,  and all cards are stacked against you, you are at a systematic disadvantage and thus trapped.  Work as hard you want and good luck trying to beat the system that is categorically holding you back.

The government must step forward and through regulations shift the burden away from the hard working middle class and the poor to level the playing field. It was about time that the 1% paid their fair share of taxes instead of getting exemptions in the form of legal loopholes while the 99% pick up their slack.

It was about time corporations not only paid their fair share in taxes (or any at all, most don’t pay taxes) but they also started paying their employees fair and livable wages because someone working his or her whole life in their vocation of choice, or not choice but out of necessity, is entitled to not find themselves with nothing at the end of the day.

That is why Romney’s infamous “I want everyone to be rich” comment is so enraging,  – as if everyone in this society could be a millionaire, and as if we didn’t need teachers, fire fighters, sales associates, professors, manicurists, cooks, janitors, truck drivers, hair stylists, nurses, engineers, architects and a host of other such professions; professions that do require hard work and are needed for the functioning of society but which just don’t happen to pay six figure salaries.

Obama Out of Touch

Obama held a lofty speech peppered with lots of ideas about how corporations can make workers’ lives better, urging companies to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 on their own (yeah right), with a lot of rhetoric about hard work and opportunity, while in fact coming across as someone who is out of touch with the reality millions of US workers whose companies are actively and openly trying to deny them benefits, overtime, safety on the job or any other kind of benefits, are facing.

While it is hopefully optimistic of him to plead with companies to do the decent thing and pay their employees fair, livable wages, he, of all people, should know that you cannot achieve equity and  (social) justice by merely recommending that those who engage in unjust behavior please refrain from doing so in the future.

robber_barons_2Case in point AOL, which has announced that it was going to cut their employee’s 401(k) matching contributions to save $7.1 million despite a $679 million income in the last three months of 2013, up 13 percent from the year before.

AOL is probably one of those companies that Obama was addressing and their response to his plea apparently was a huge middle finger to his request as they are trimming back benefits from workers who made the company profitable, because clearly making over a billion dollars a year is not enough. Quick the CEO needs more money, after all, for his ski house in Aspen.

Does that sound like an entity that would change its practices to pay decent wages and benefits because the President politely asked them to by appealing to their (seemingly non-existent) conscience?

It certainly would not hurt AOL to step  up to the plate and show the rest of the world that it cares about it’s employees by not gutting their 401(k) but AOL will not do that because as a corporation it only cares about the bottom line and because calls for fair wages, union representation, overtime and a host of benefits for employees are a mere suggestion by our leaders, as opposed to required by law.

Memo to the President: people are working hard, just that good jobs with a livable wage are vanishing, while people are working harder and harder to make ends meet with their employers often being the enemies of their security. Voluntary compliance by corporations, employers, especially if it undermines profits, is not going to get us out of the recession.

I cringed when I heard Obama say what he did during his State of the Union Address because not only was it was filled with a lot of hot air and little substance, much like the majority of his track record as the President, but because it is such a harmful notion to spread as it feeds into the very deceitful and misleading narrative about hard work, the (ever elusive it appears) American Dream and bootstraps narratives that the Conservative base is gobbling up so enthusiastically.

It is also precisely because of such simple, lofty narratives of “hard work” and “ambition” and “The American Dream”  that we do not have a decent social safety net in place, for example,  and why most Americans have been manipulated into believing that such a system would give rise to legions of lazy people, takers and moochers and strawmen really  – which is why people in this country have been consistently voting to eliminate whatever meager social safety net is in place (even though, quite frankly, the welfare, food-stamps and financial assistance poor people receive in this country, if they receive them, is hardly worth even calling a social-safety net). The crude reality is that people in this country do not have any security. Period.

We don’t have many of the structures in place that would directly address the economic issues and challenges Obama pointed out plaguing millions of Americans today, such as lack of jobs  – good jobs  – and we do not have them because the government has failed, over and over again, to provide and secure them.

What’s In a Good Job

Jobs where people are treated with dignity and valued, and never exploited.   Jobs that come with the protected right to organize. Jobs that offer healthcare benefits. Jobs that offer benefit packages such as paid leave for  vacations, emergencies,  births and deaths without such leave being held against an employee. Jobs that provide for a good work-life balance.

Jobs where employees are valued as individuals contributing to the success of the company as opposed to just being seen as cogs in a wheel to be used to get the guy on top and the wealthy shareholders fat and wealthy.

A job that not only offers its employees meaningful access to health care but one that also offers decent retirement packages and matching contributions by employers, so that after a life time of hard work people do not find themselves with nothing to show for but the thrill of being one step away from the poor house.

Jobs where federal overtime rules are not treated as a suggestion. Jobs that provide a safe and healthy work environment that doesn’t render people sick.

This is the bare minimum for what makes a job a good job, for the most privileged workers.

For those who are not privileged, a good job is one that does not discriminate against employees on the basis of their identity; one that grants equal pay for equal work to employees regardless of their race, gender, age, ethnicity, religious affiliation, sexual orientation and/or identity; one that accommodates disabilities of any kind and one where the expectation to “get along” is placed always and only on bullies and harassers, and never on the people being bullied or harassed. A job where it is safe to report bullies and harassing behavior.

These things that make a job a good job, in turn, need to be legislated by the government, not merely treated as loose guidelines that employers should put into practice if they are so inclined, because when profit drives your agenda you will not be so inclined.

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american dSee, people in this country are not struggling because they are not working hard or putting effort into things – as the President states –  but because the protections and provisions mentioned above, you know, the things that make a job a good job and a secure job leading to a stable, solid, prosperous middle class, are not there and because our lawmakers, most of whom are millionaires (and corrupt) are not enacting legislation that would force employers to put into practice such protections and provisions.

The result of such inaction, such apathy, is ultimately exemplified by  companies like AOL that, despite record, billion dollar profits, stiff their employees and cheat them out of their retirements and do so openly and unapologetically.

AOL is not the only company, however.  This practice of slowly and systematically exploiting employees to maximize profits is something a lot of companies have been engaging in, and continue to engage in , openly and without compunction while Washington has been standing by idly holding lofty speeches about hard work, effort and bootstraps, indirectly admonishing those who cannot afford gold plated car elevators as those not working hard enough, being ambitious enough and putting in the extra effort that those who own all and everything allegedly have put into things.

Thing is, Mr. President, if your goal is to help people out of the trap of working hard while still being tethered to poverty, then it would be a good idea to maybe first acknowledge that they are entitled to food, not hold lofty grand speeches about hard work and effort and then sign food stamp cuts into law, leaving millions of people hungry.

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Ethics Lower Than That of Child Molester

While most folks cannot wait to retire from the mostly wretched, soul quashing, often underpaid and stressful positions they have been trapped in for the past several decades, officials in the executive branch, Congress and senior congressional staff members seem to be getting their second wind once their jobs in the public sector end.

Apparently you can never be too old to retire from exploiting America and our corrupt politicians certainly have never met a constituent they were not willing to sell out to corporations and big business vultures for good money.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, for example, who oversaw the Obama administration’s response to the 2008 financial crisis (thanks Obama for yet another completely competent decision)  will take his spin through the revolving door this year by joining private equity firm Warburg Pincus. Geithner followed the lead of former Treasury heads Robert Rubin and John Snow in making the move from Pennsylvania Ave. to Wall Street, where financial firms pay top dollar for former top government officials’ experience and connections.

Interesting to note is that Geithner managed the government bailouts of Citigroup, Bank of America and General Motors Corp., among others. While he was also in charge of lobbying Congress to pass the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which brought tighter regulation of financial institutions with the aim of preventing another crisis (not really), I think it is pretty safe to assume that he made sure to sweeten the deal for Wall Street as much as possible resulting in a watered-down policy aimed more at keeping critics quiet while giving them a sense that something was done rather than actually changing the way Wall Street does things. I mean have you heard of anyone in Wall Street getting in serious trouble or even face criminal charges since the 2008 crash? Yeah I didn’t think so.

The graph below shows Geithner’s employment timeline and the extent to which he has been going back and forth between private sector and public sector positions – ethical concerns that one may influence the other or pose a conflict of interest be damned.

Geithner employment timeline

The website http://www.opensecrets.org has compiled an entire list of politicians who have been profiting heavily from this revolving door by selling out hard working Americans and the poor, elderly and disabled of this country whose votes they secured to the vultures of the financial, defense, energy and pharmaceutical industries without compunction.

The graph illustrating Geithner’s employment timeline is pretty much the same for most politicians.

Well, it’s good to know that India is such a corrupt country and we here in the US aren’t.

Geithner employment timeline 2

Another bunion on the face of not only humanity but especially this country, Joe Lieberman, has announced today that he has joined the private equity firm Victory Park Capital, where he will serve as chairman of the firm’s Executive Board. Of course he will.

Lieberman retired from the U.S. Senate in 2012 after serving for 24 years. In 2006, he was reelected to the U.S. Senate as an Independent after being defeated in the Democratic primary election.

While in the U.S. Senate, I fought for policies that would allow small businesses to thrive,” Lieberman said in a statement. “I look forward to a long-term partnership with Victory Park Capital that will position the firm for continued growth.”

Note that Lieberman is almost 72 years old, but apparently greed knows no age limit and this sorry excuse for a human being just cannot help spending his last few years on this earth to fuck everything up for generations to come.

Also note that private equity firms are not “small businesses” nor do they work for the interests of small businesses. They are vultures and run the type of schemes that got this country into the fiscal mess it is in today. Not that the crisis hurt them, of course, because us 35%-tax-rate-paying peons ended up bailing out their 0%-tax-rate asses.

Also interesting to note that almost all of these people call themselves pious, god fearing Christians out there to do god’s work blah blah wet fart.

Well at least our policy-makers are being consistent; obvious and greedy yes, but consistent.

I must say, however, that given that many, if not all, of our lawmakers seem to have been taking public sector jobs not to serve their communities or this country but to manipulate and mold the government to serve the narrow interests of corporations  and the wealthy – with the added bonus of securing themselves lucrative positions guaranteed to influence government and corporate policies – it’s truly a wonder that anything gets passed that doesn’t exclusively benefit the wealthy and powerful.

While Edward Snowden has to rot away his life in exile for having exposed government crimes, these treasonous assholes get to sit nice and pretty on cushy salaries and health care that the tax dollars of the 99% pay for while they are working to make things happen for the 1% who don’t pay a dime in taxes. That these opportunistic parasites get to continue making the law of the land and called patriots is nauseating.

Woody Allen once remarked that politicians have the ethics of a child molester – or actually a notch underneath that of a child molester. Given the above and the general state of this country for the past twenty to thirty years, coupled with the completely ineffective, almost parasitic Congress of last year and the general state of affairs, I am coming to realize just how true those words are.

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