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Shirkin’ for A Livin’

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I'm really glad I didn't vote for Obama. I'd be even more disappointed in him than I now am. He's done well with discussing the world's economic issues with the G20 elites (so far) and with those private investors whose "mistakes" converted the largest economy in the world into the world's largest welfare charity. But he's apparently forgotten those whose hopes and votes gave him that opportunity.

I have not been an advocate of the financial rescue of the automakers. The demise of the American auto industry, while a saddening thing, is only the result of the arrogance and hubris of the management. The fault for their bad decision-making cannot be laid at the feet of the workers themselves. But these bad decisions will still cost the workers almost everything while the execs will retain their future economic security, as GM's departed CEO's severance package attests.

I can still hear GM's former CEO Rick Wagoner bragging in 2004 that GM management had heard the clamor over increasing oil prices, but they would continue to build SUVs because that market was where they derived their profits. The CEOs of the other companies all made similar noises at that time. The problem was, each company was attempting to reduce their wage and benefit obligations at the same time, slicing the throat of the very market they pursued with their SUV and big pickup advertising. The infamous trickle-down effect so loudly proclaimed by the Republican Party since the days of the humorously-appropriate Laffer Curve only became evident when the loss of wages and benefits to auto workers spread out into their communities, affecting the employees of parts suppliers and the coffee shop across the street from the plant, and so on.

We have heard a lot of talk about how the nation has gotten into this mess, so I don't need to expound voluminously that. I'm looking at what is being done now, and how it isn't helping the very people who need it most. I shouldn't be too surprised by these events, as this has been the history of this nation since a bunch of wealthy smugglers and swindlers decided that they had enough of the King's long distance frontier justice interfering with their profits. Once they had attained the power to control their own economic destinies, they also had control of those who were not moneyed.

In theory, this wouldn't be so. As Shirley Smith of BuzzFlash quoted from Theodor Herzl's 1902 effort, Altneuland, in a recent post: "The wealth of a country is its working people." In the United States, this wealth has been seriously squandered.

Another 663,000 lost their working status in March out of more than two million jobs lost since the beginning of 2009, according to the Labor Department’s latest employment report. Age discrimination is raising its snotty punk head at a time when those who worked all their lives will have nothing to fall back on as their lives turn to dust and blow away in the bitter winds of the economy. Not even another job, dare they hope for. The Labor Department report shows that job losses are widespread across the economy and growing.

This latest can be seen in the newspaper business, where 700 unionized employees of The Boston Globe have to give back $20 million in wages and benefits and still risk losing their employment. This comes at a time when Globe owner New York Times Company is compensating ("paying" is SUCH an ugly word to the ruling elite!) CEO Janet L. Robinson $5,578,451 for 2008. Forbes' displays Robinson's entire remuneration package here if you care to peruse it.

One Globe union official noted that these cuts would be easier to sell to the rank and file if it were seen that Globe management were sharing the pain, but nonunion managers would receive an additional 10 vacation days this year to make up for the 5 percent pay cut they were getting. The workers get nothing in trade for their losses, not even a promise to try to save their jobs. Better to make no promise than one that would be broken, right?

The Globe employees' backs are to the wall with management's hands on their throats. The official unemployment rate is now 8.5% while the real rate of those working only part-time (if they are working at all) is closer to 17% as more companies announce pending layoffs due to reduced customer demand. Those who aren't furloughed completely suffer reduced employment, with the average number of hours worked down to 33.2 per week, the lowest since such record-keeping began in 1964.

Meanwhile, many an economic assault batters the walls of the American domestic castle. Uncollectable credit card debt is at a 20-year high according to Moody's Credit Card Index. The University of California estimates 3.7 million working-age adults nationwide have lost health coverage since Bush's recession began in 2007, and this number is only expected to grow. Paying credit debt and doctors has to be falling behind buying food, for as of last January 32.2 million people received an average $112.82 per person in food stamps. One in every 10 Americans is going hungry, and some dare to call the US a Christian nation! Who would Jesus let starve? Did He not feed the multitudes, according to the New Testament which most Christians don't read very often because there's little sex and violence in it?

Too often, the castle is lost in the assault. The loss of domiciles due to inability to pay continues unabated. The number of bankruptcies rose 9 percent from February as 130,793 people filed for bankruptcy in March, an increase of 38 percent over the previous year while Congress pretends to be the faithful steward of the public's retiring purse. But what can one expect from the government which, on Dubya's watch was also violating labor law and pulling a Wal-Mart on their own employees to reduce labor costs?

Trust in the government was weak to begin with, and is beginning to show signs of slipping more, despite the mandate for change. There is a growing body of discussion as to Obama's favoritism shown toward the banks. So far, no CEO of Goldman Sachs or AIG has been dismissed by the President as happened to GM's Rick Wagoner. The UAW would love to see Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis summarily dismissed, for example. There is even more reason to justify such terminations for cause, as the president and chief executive of BNY Mellon Asset Management notes in a recent New York Times op-ed. Ronald P. O’Hanley reminds us that we taxpayers own these banks through the TARP plan, but admits that We, the People are about to be fleeced again. How does he know?

Michael Hudson of Global Research says that the recent furor over AIG's opulent bonus scheme using TARP funds is a smokescreen covering up the real swindle, which is that Geithner's bank bailout plan is a giant Ponzi scheme similar to the one that put Bernie Madoff behind bars for the rest of his life — only much larger. Essentially, banks have been granted protection from loss by the taxpayers when they pick up some of those "toxic assets," but the rest of the plan is that the taxpayers will LOAN the money used to buy these assets in the first place. Where is that skin the banks have to have in the game, Barry???

Columnist E.J. Dionne claims that the Obama/Geithner plan to bail out the banks reveals a deference to the existing financial system and feels that this is why Obama will "challenge his natural allies". The administration is apparently working on ways to slip even more of the taxpayers funds to these banks — while Main Street is crumbling into ruin, I might add — without having to abide by any Congressionally-mandated regulation. Would that not piss off the residents of Pottersville if that news got out? Who would then have Barry's back when the Republican Long Knives come out?

As the declining Boston Globe notes in a recent editorial, "taxpayers are paying dearly for the mistakes of reckless plutocrats." Blogger Michael Collins adds, "There isn't a faction left, other than the principals, who have any sympathy for the Wall Street geniuses who were so totally incompetent that they've nearly ruined the nation's economy." Even corporate shill and shrill conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks advocates cutting the Gilded Goliaths down to size via government regulation.

It doesn't help build confidence in the public when the news emerges that TARP recipients like J.P. Morgan, Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and major hedge fund D.E. Shaw paid millions to hear Obama's chief economic adviser Larry Summers speak privately to them about economic issues prior to his government appointment overseeing and reworking their failed operations. (You can see an expanded list of those companies which paid Summers to speak at the linked site). Does this not implicate that a quid pro quo is in place? A "you owe us, Larry" situation, in reality? And where does Geithner get off pointing a finger at "failures of supervision" causing the crisis when he was the failure who supervised at the time? That failure continues despite the changed door plate.

The popular mood for pitchforks and torches is growing. Blogger Eric Harrington wants to see the Wall Street execs arrested and tried for criminal negligence, a position that isn't so extreme when the former Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention (which repaired the damage cause by Charles Keating's Lincoln Savings crisis) notes that the entire banking industry is riddled with fraud.

But the Wall Street issues are SO last week. New opportunities to shill for campaign contributions have arisen! This week, the Congressional Democrats have taken up the challenge defending against that "onerous" estate tax that 99.7 percent of Americans will never need to worry about. There is also a growing reaction to plans to force CEOs to be financially accountable for their performance. How much can be made seeing to it that the wealthy again resume immunity from consequence?

The need is great and the time is short, for New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof attempts to remind us that when "Wall Street plutocrats … demand billions for bailouts … the poor typically suffer invisibly and silently." He also suggests that Obama could learn something from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's approach to bank nationalization as a means of dealing with the crisis without bankrupting the taxpayers. We wouldn't want the public to awaken from the loss of Lost and insist on the government actually doing something to solve the crisis they allowed to occur in the Main Street Commissary, now would we?

But in America, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Domestic glass manufacturer PPG recently lost a large glass order for the New World Trade Center to a Chinese supplier. And the manufacturing sector continues to shrink, eliminating the jobs that made the American middle class possible. Fiddle on, Obama-Nero!

American workers can't resort to not paying their taxes as a protest against the economic laissez-faire policies of their government, as EU citizens are now doing. They don't have withholding over there to ensure that the government gets their piece of the action before it gets diverted into more practical uses – like surviving. We're just supposed to settle for believing that our fortunes are turning around now that five small banks have returned a total of $353 million they got from TARP and paid $5.4 million in dividends to the government for the privilege.

Some people are buying into that meme, as personal anecdotal evidence indicates. Restaurants in my little corner of Southern California are more busy than I've seen in a while. But it's really a stretch trying to get me to believe Geithner when he claims that there was no difference in the way the administration has handled the auto and finance industries.

You can't sell us that pig in a poke, Timmy. Nor can you sell us that Jimmy. Not even at the employee price. We're too broke to even pay attention to the ads, much less to a liar like you. Time to go meditate. Got to lower my pre-existing condition blood pressure before I need a physical bailout at the taxpayers' expense – assuming the local emergency room is still open for business.

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About pessimist

  • I believe that your disappointment in Obama is premature. As there are those you cite above who believe that everything is going to hell in a handbasket, there are also those who believe what Obama and his economic arm are doing will, in fact, work.

    I think the jury is still out.

    B

  • Clavos

    The jury (i.e. the American people) is out — to lunch.

    Permanently.

  • No longer. They’re on welfare rolls or unemployment lines.

  • Well, it is a shit show for sure and your article does a great job of chronicling the mess.

    My issue is with the blame.

    We are living through the predictable consequence of a western culture and lifestyle that was always unsustainable. We are at unsustainable now.

    The blame lies with our shared belief that we would always be better off tomorrow than today, that living equitably and sustainably was a weakness to be battled at every instance.

    Nobody was bitching when the price of their homes soared past ridiculous, when they had unlimited credit to spend on mountains of earth choking, non productive consumer crap, or when the price of a shirt in Wal Mart clearly meant horrible slavery somewhere else.

    Screeching at the very folks who made our shallow, plastic lives so wonderful for so many decades, now that they have failed to perform for the first time, reminds us that; to the victors go the “what have you done for me lately” spoils.

    Rather than who did what to whom, when, and why, what we really need is some of that passion redirection towards the future, where we may be able to craft a civilization that really is, finally, better than before.

  • Let’s raise your collective blood pressures a bit more, folks. Apparently Barak Huseein, (blessed of Hussein) Obama is not merely bowing to Saudi thugs (I told you all I would rub your noses in that act of submission to a foreign power). He is also under pressure to sell all of your assets out from under your feet to the Chinese. Maybe the Chinese will be nice enough to toss in some chop suey or egg-drop soup to the soup kitchens. It would be a nice touch – if they are not laced with strichnine….

    The prediction in Isaiah that the wealth of the west would be taken from it seems to be coming true – fast! I’m trying to puzzle out how it will get from China to here. I just got notified that my severance pay is on its way, so I could use some of those – well what the fish currency should I look forward to, anyway?

    Later we have to check for yeast products so that yeast products will neither be eaten nor seen in the house for Passover. I don’t know, boys and girls. This is starting to look an awful lot like Redemption on the way….

  • Aetius Romulous,

    There is a saying in Panama to the effect that Gringos look at life through a three stage filter:

    1. I like it;

    2. So I want it; therefore,

    3. I need it.

    I’m pretty well convinced that this is true. It may be somewhere or other at the root of the “financial crisis” there — and probably elsewhere too.

    Dan(Miller)

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Wow… And I thought Panama was just a cool tune by Van Halen.

    They are such a wise people.I guess without us Gringos, Panama would be a better place…*Hmmm*

  • Dan
    (Mil)
    (ler):

    You forgot (or the Panamanians forgot) Stage Four: I’m entitled to it.

    As in: it’s only right that I should have a Hummer which gets such miserable mileage that it needs filling up again before it even gets off the gas station forecourt, a house so large that the phone in the 7th bedroom has a different area code than the one in the garage, a pool big enough to host a regatta in that I never use, and be able to eat out and/or order in for every meal. I mean, it’s only right. It’s the American Way. Right?

  • Doc, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

    Dan

    (Mil

    ler)

  • Clavos

    Or as in:

    It’s only right that the government should support me because, with fourteen children, there’s no way I have enough time to go to work, and besides I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let some asshole who thinks he’s better than me boss me around.

    But it ain’t right that the government can get away with giving me as little as they do; I need more money so I can get me a giant flat screen TV like the rich folks on the hill have; even though they can’t use it much because they’re at work from sunrise to long after sunset. It’s no problem for me, I can watch TV all day, I don’t work.

    And it damn sure ain’t right that the government can stop me from buying cigarettes and booze with my food stamps…

  • Clav,

    Oh, Oh. You’re asking for it. Better duck*

    Dan(Miller)

    *Quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Aww..I like Ducks.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Ya know, I haven’t seen too many Hummers anymore. Plus, I think you gotta be a little retarded to buy anything from GM. The last time I checked Toyota was killin ’em all with Prius sales.

  • Bliffle

    Good article.

    Sums up a,lot of the excesses that we are now saddled with, and describes the biggest Bank Robbery in history: The looting of the US treasury by the richest and most powerful people in the world. They can’t stop: there is no satisfying Greed.

    They exploit because they can.

  • A Duck

    Aww..I like Ducks.

    Go quack yourself, human!

  • Cindy

    Excellent article. And of course the links are important to look at.

    I’m not sure how anyone can say this form of government/economic structure works. It worked for some people for a very short time–historically.

    Pointing fingers is all well and good, but it’s all, every bit of it, part and parcel of the system almost all of you advocate for (claiming nothing else could possible work better than this)

    I hope you come around soon. Or just wait until the whole thing falls down.

  • the looting of the US treasury by the richest and most powerful people in the world. They can’t stop: there is no satisfying Greed. They exploit because they can.

    That, Bliffle, is the perfect explanation of the “evil inclination” hayétzer ha’rá. The rich and powerful steal – they can’t stop. They exploit because they can . Carry that concept into personal relationships and you have dealt with just about every problem in human relations that exists.

  • Clav,

    Are you projecting?

    [quack]

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Cindy… I do agree to an extent but all I ever see is complaining or finger pointing. I never see any solutions. Ultimately, we do have a choice. To be as uninvolved as possible. Still, I don’t know of any other systems that will work any better.

  • Actually, I tend to agree with you Brian. He’s got a great command of the facts – in fact, the whole article comes across as a litany or a laundry list of all that’s wrong. But we know all that, really. I find the main problem with the article is lack of focus. The Realist seems to be all over the map. I can hardly expect a solution, but a nice summary would be nice. What are the major strains and stresses? All facts and no concepts.

    It’s also unclear why the Realist is so glad he didn’t vote for Obama. Would McCain do better, or anyone else for that matter? And that’s another respect in which the article sort of dangles.

  • It’s also unclear why the Realist is so glad he didn’t vote for Obama.

    You need glasses, Roger. The man indicated that his disappointment is far less for not having voted for the bum. It appears irrelevant what he thought of McCain….

  • Our world will, by necessity, morph into something different – as it always has. That much is certain.

    If we are all very lucky, it will be slow, indeterminable progression from here to there. It may already be under way. The trick will be identifying the change and getting ahead of it.

    The broad strokes should be clear – it will be global, more equitable, and involve a greater reliance on technology, mainly the internet.

    Change will have to start with economics and global financial architecture, with politics signing on or fighting a desperate rear guard action against change. That will be the friction point – will politics follow the necessary and inevitable global economic change, or will it battle to the death with ideology and patriotism?

    I dunno.

  • Ruvy,

    Your argument doesn’t wash; these aren’t good enough reasons since the situation may well be insolvable. Your own vitriol stops you from thinking clearly.

  • The change is sure coming, Aeatius. Imperial presidency and imperial government – a preamble to the NWO. So don’t raise your hopes too high. Enjoy while you can.

  • I’m really glad I didn’t vote for Obama. I’d be even more disappointed in him than I now am

    Roger, that is how Realist begins this article. I quote his reason. From having read many of his articles, I tend to doubt that he would have voted for McCain, but that is not relevant here.

    My arguments, Roger? I’m not making any arguments: I’m quoting you the words of the author.

    It is rather simple…. There is no vitriol, anger or anything else here. It’s called a quote to authority – the authority being the words of the author.

    barúr l’khá? hevánta otí?

  • Ruvy,

    I assume then that Isaiah must needs have also predicted from his prescient perch that there was going to be a “west.”

    B

  • Still a logical flaw, Ruvy. That’s how I see it. To wit, if he would be equally disappointed in anybody else, there is nothing to be disappointed in Obama in particular. That’s how I read it.

  • I assume then that Isaiah must needs have also predicted from his prescient perch that there was going to be a “west.”

    Then you shall see and be radiant, and your heart shall throb and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned over to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. [Isaiah 60:5]

    The sea is to the west of Israel, Baritone. That is how the see is viewed in the Bible – to the west. That is how we view the sea now – to the west. The other sea is to the south – the Red Sea. Almost no prophecy dealt with the Red Sea, except by name, Baritone. The term “Wealth of Nations” also comes from this phrase, B-tone…. It was always assumed – even by non-Jews – that Isaiah was talking about the west. And the wealth would be to the west of Israel. That is what Isaiah saw, and that is what he said. That is all that Isaiah had to know.

  • Just another prime example of religion making something out of nothing. Had Isaiah farted, an entire belief system would have arisen based upon the effects of an ill wind from the nether world.

    B

  • Pretty weak soup there, B-tone. Isaiah farted, so did Elijah, Elisha, Samuel and all the other prophets. Heck Deborah the prophetess had periods! And King David got mad at people who pissed on the wall. But they were just people – probably sharper and more perceptive than you or I, but people nevertheless.

    Also, just to toss the soup-pot back at you, it is Christians who worship people, not Jews. It’s hard enough to get us to worship G-d. We’re certainly not going to demean ourselves worshiping mere people. If you Christians (and former Christians) had been following Isaiah around in Israel, then, had Isaiah farted, an entire belief system would have arisen based upon the effects of an ill wind from the nether world.

  • Hummm, B-Tone…..

    Jesus or John must have really let off some nasty farts eating falafel and such. Christianity does have a whole theology based on an ill wind from the nether world. And Mary Magadalene must have had some pretty painful periods (no Midol at the local chemist in those days) because blood figures pretty prominently in a religion that talks about gobbling up the blood and body of its god a few times a day….

    You really shouldn’t get me started tearing apart Christianity, B-tone. I’ll do it with a relish and zest that mere atheists like you can’t match….

  • Oh, BTW,B-Tone… Still holding that vigil for the Blessed of Hussein? Word at Debkafiles has it that the Saudi thugs (to whom the prick bowed) are not impressed with Obama’s attempts to kiss Persian ass. I guess the royal assholes are offended….

    Obama was and inexperienced incompetent when he messed things up in Kenya trying to help his Luo tribe there. And now that he is in charge, he is showing just what an inexperienced idiot he really is.

    That vigil for the Blessed of Hussein is going to get pretty lonely after Easter and as May roles into June, B-tone.

    Ah, to be living in interesting times….

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Had Isaiah farted, an entire belief system would have arisen based upon the effects of an ill wind from the nether world.

    I cried… No, really, it was that good.

  • #19 – Brian,

    We live in a “sick soup”. It causes and/or encourages all sorts of problems. The economic problems are only one part of it.

    As long as one lives in the soup, one can argue all day long about how to try to stay afloat…but the problem won’t be solved by staying in the soup.

    People offer criticism when one suggests getting out of the soup. I’m waiting around until anyone cares to address moving beyond that criticism (which is valid and important) and helps with fixing some of the problems they see, instead of crying “it can’t be done” after they’ve considered it for 30 seconds. It will take more thinking and work than that.

    Let me know when you’re ready to work on solutions with me. There are things that need to be thought about. I’m ready when you are.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Let me know when you’re ready to work on solutions with me.

    I’ll be ready by about Thursday, mid-afternoon. If you could order the soup before I get there, that’d be…

    Oh, you were talking to him

  • lol silly

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    We live in a “sick soup”. It causes and/or encourages all sorts of problems. The economic problems are only one part of it.

    Well, I guess if you are referring to the fat cats who made this mess then I can agree,but, for people like myself, We’re just trying to get by. The working class is just trying to do what’s right.

    as for your thoughts…I’m always ready. Go’head & spill ’em.

    *all these references to soup is making me wonder what I should have for lunch*

  • Ruvy,

    You go ahead and have a good time dissing the christers. They are only slightly loonier than the judeo part of the judeo/christian cabal.
    You’re just a member of a much older bunch of nutballs.

    Your take on Obama’s trip and its results is ludicrous. The last time I looked, it appears that there’s a hell of a lot more muslims in the world than jews. Frankly, they are much more important to the future of the world than your little “promised land.”

    Obama didn’t kiss their asses, he showed them a bit of respect which is obviously beyond your limited abilities. Obama is far more pragmatic than those who believe as you. You believe I have my nose up Obama’s ass, I believe you have yours up your god’s.

    B

  • Cindy

    Brian,

    Well, I guess if you are referring to the fat cats who made this mess then I can agree,but, for people like myself, We’re just trying to get by. The working class is just trying to do what’s right.

    I’m really trying to point out that none of us signed on for this design of society. I remember one of my first political ideas as a kid was along the lines of, “But I didn’t agree to any of these rules. No one asked me if this is how I want things to be.”

    Did anyone ask you yet Brian? Yet we claim we’re free.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    “Did anyone ask you yet Brian? Yet we claim we’re free.”

    HA! Like someone is gonna ask this working class schmuck…

    Cindy,I can definitely agree with you and I’m sure I have felt the same way but,honestly,I really have no idea what other system if any could replace what we have. I also think that this type of exploitative attitude is what ruined the music industry as well…

  • Brian,

    You may be interested in an organization for worker mutual support worldwide.

    A link to their US branches.

    Their culture.