Daily Topics - Tuesday January 2010
Quote: Are we like late Rome, infatuated with past glories, ruled by a complacent, greedy elite, and hopelessly powerless to respond to changing conditions? -- Camille Paglia
Hour One - Is the voice of the middle class becoming more violent?
Hour Two - If there's a protection for you when your toaster blows up, why shouldn't there be a protection for you when your mortgage blows up? Mark A. Calabria, Ph.D. www.cato.org
Hour Three - "Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity." Dr. James Hansen www.stormsofmygrandchildren.com
I have written to Obama's Whitehouse cvoncerning several issues, but the main theme is always the same. Our President is not a purist. Our President is a consequentialist. He believes that we can sacrifice the rights and needs of the few to benefit the many. Of course, if he has to throw gays under the bus, along with the public option and single-payer, to maintain power, then he will do so.
Theodore J Marcott,
Obama proudly refers to himself as a pragmatist. A rose by any other name...
I noticed years ago it was hard to find anything not made in China.
It is easy to see how micro economics in many ways mirrors the macro, except that it is a bit less uncomplicated to see how a breakdown can occur. A person earns a certain modest wage, and if his or her needs are satisfied by, say, watching television, listening to records, reading books, going to a restaurant once a week, attending a movie once a month, and taking a vacation to Florida once a year, one can easily live within their means without too much trouble. But in a world where electronic gadgets, personal computers, the internet and cell phones opens up whole new vistas of desires, you might crave things that are a sign of “sophistication”—digitized toys that can turn that rat and roach infested closet you live in into a self-contained entertainment and learning center, The early Macintosh computers wetted your appetite (before you tired of their “secrecy” about upcoming products that didn’t allow you to make intelligent purchasing decisions on their already over-priced product). Then there was digital media “revolution”: CDs, Laser Disc (you can’t even find a machine to play those anymore, but they do make fascinating house ornaments) and DVDs. There are a lot of titles for the dedicated videophile, but you just don’t have the cash to buy them all with.
But once in college long ago, some bank sent you an application for a piece of plastic called a Visa card, an when it arrived you really didn’t know what to do with it (maybe even a little scared to use), but once you take the leap, you realize it’s like “free” money and you don’t even have to pay all of the balance at the end of the month. Who would spend almost a month’s pay on the first portable DVD player (don’t ask)? You might do it because you always have that “free” money as a fall-back plan. And then you apply for another, and another card. Unfortunately, your income has only risen marginally; but no matter, as long as you pay the minimums, you figure that eventually you’ll have everything you’ll ever want soon enough, and you won’t want anything else, and everything will come until control, in time. But the market doesn’t aid you in this endeavor. For example, it wasn’t that long ago that a PC with a 486 Intel processor and 8 MB of RAM at $2,000 was considered “top of the line.” Now you can’t even run the latest Windows without at least 2 GB of RAM. Yesterday, it was DVDs; today its Blu-Ray. Tomorrow it will be something else (like 3D-HD).
But then one day your job becomes an artifact of history, and the funds you were depending upon to plug-up the dike is swept out to sea. It’s only for a short time, but you’ve been living on the edge for quite some time now. You still have access to “free” money for awhile, which you may use to pay for essentials and the minimums with. But even this fantasy world must come to an end; the bubble bursts, and your financial situation collapses like the house of toothpicks it was destined to become once you began to use “free” money to buy things that either depreciated in value, or had no value to anyone but yourself.
Faced with economic calamity, you could just pay a bankruptcy attorney to make the problem go away, or observe that banks and whole countries default on everything all the time, so no one will notice if I do (right?). But you decide you want to do the “right” thing—if only out of “habit” and you don’t like change—so you contact a debt consolidation operator; after a period of haggling where you are forced to do all the fighting with the credit card companies (like threatening to default if they don’t stop with the late and over-limit charges), you are obliged to accept a payment plan that cancels your cards and forces you to make a lump sum payment per month that is larger than the original combined minimum payment. The effect of this is that you have to pay for everything you buy in cash, just like you used to do before you got yourself into this mess. But now that $500, which in the very beginning was wholly used to buy things that others were employed to make or provide services for, is now completely at the service of financial institutions, keeping them profitable while not doing a damned thing for economic activity.
That’s the way it is. People have to have money to buy things to keep the economy going. But instead of raising wages, businesses in league with banking institutions schemed to keep wages low and offer consumers “free” money with high interest rates to build a bubble economy and cover the bankers’ bottom line if things went south—but only for a time. As Ravi Batra intimated last week, only so much debt can be accumulated before access to “free” money will eventually run out too—and what is to show for it? For financial gambling institutions, it didn’t even “buy” anything to begin with, except to fill the pockets of a few multi-millionaire and billionaire executives while it was still available (especially when you have friends in the Fed). It was the middle to low-income consumer who was given the burden of making the economy work, without legitimate means to do so.
We flew Omaha, NE to Amsterdam, Holland Nov. 4, 2009. I am a 67 year old woman, 5'4" tall and 155 pounds. I was dressed comfortably, I had 12 hours of airplanes and airports ahead of me. Security said randomly (?) I was pulled from the line for a body search and she patted my waist 3 or 4 different times. I finally said, It's fat. She then told me to love myself. I do, chubbiness and all. When we arrived in AMS, my suitcase had also randomly (?) been gone through by security. I had forgotten to mail a letter and they have removed the mail drops in the secure area and I had to outside the airport to mail the letter. Dave worked in the Omaha airport for 8 years, so we know there were mail drops up to 1990. I didn't even wear a coat outside to make reentry easier.
New iPhone App: "iMscrewed"
Unemployed Americans, and those soon to be unemployed, can now download an iPhone App to help them cope with having their jobs shipped overseas, their tax dollars given to the bankers running our economy and their very lives sold to billionaires in nice suits.
Based on Thom Hartmann's award-winning manual "SCREWED! The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class" "iMscrewed" uses GPS technology to locate:
Where in the world your job went or is going;
Which corporate jet, limosine or whorehouse was paid for with your tax money;
Which highway overpasses currently have space available for you to sleep under.
Remember, protecting jobs in America is PROTECTIONISM, which could lead to economic problems that could cost you your job. But, while you are no doubt better off for having your job eliminated, you may want a little help coping with life as an underemployed warning to those few who still have a paycheck.
iMscrewed will enable you to
Download picture of the vacations enjoyed by the people who eliminated your job
Take a virtual tour of the Goldman, Sachs headquarters paid for with your tax dollars
Chart the explosion in the derivatives market that is not only unregulated, but vastly larger than the entire economy of our planet: just like in 1929!
Has the American Dream collapsed for you? Are you feeling a little bit down, now that you will be unable to pass on to your children a living standard comparable to that which your parents gave to you? When you were young, one parent could earn enough to put kids through college, enjoy vacations and have a decent retirement; but now, you'll be living with your kids while holding down three minimum-wage jobs ... if you're lucky!
All this could get you feeling hopeless, but don't worry! iMscrewed has a host of games to bring back your dreams.
iHistory: This app furnishes frequent reminders that we've had it just as bad before and overcome them by working together to push our politicians. (Note: this application works very slowly; you may want to quit in dispair too soon)
iBribe: This app provides the campaign money that every politician needs to get into office or stay in office. The best part of this app is that politicians who refuse to play along get swept out in the next election; the worst part is that you must have $1 million or more to use this app effectively.
iMhuman: A new problem today is that our economy, and therefore our politics, are controlled by non-human corporations. Powerful servants but dangerous masters, this new form of life uses people to front amoral and reckless actions in service of a single purpose: their growth upon our blood. They must be brought under control: the humans must rise up!
Are you working harder and taking home less pay? Are your health insurance premiums rising faster than your rage and anxiety? Do you feel that the American Dream is slipping away?
Get help! Get iMscrewed!
To find a community bank or credit union with a risk assessment of B or better in your area go to www.moveyourmoney.info and enter your zip for a list (no charge).
Advantis CU is awesome. Interest on your checking account. Free atms anywhere in country. You can use other CU's to make deposits if an Advantis is not convenient to you. Highly recommended.
Eliot Spitzer was on The Ed Show last week advocating for people moving their banking from the TARP recipients to local community banks. (I'll post the website he cited in my next post.) Video:
The website Eliot Spitzer gave is:
OSU Federal Credit Union is fantastic. A few months ago I'd gotten tired of irreversable fee's at Wells Fargo during some hard economic times, and after threatening to do it many times before, I finally got furious and closed my personal and business accounts immediately and opened an account at OSU. On the day of opening, they even offerred me a loan to consolidate my high interest credit cards - from over 30% down to 5.5%. They also contribute to the community here and have been recognized as one of the best, or the best credit union in the nation (? not sure the exact stats). Good luck!
The "move your money" website listed about 40 community banks in my area (free.)
Hey Buddy, if you choose this, can you give the book to Mare?
No More Republicans
CIA reportedly ordered Blackwater to murder 9/11 suspect
Hmmm, Reminds me of when the CIA hired the mob to kill Castro.
I want to know what law(s) Thom speaks of when he says that during the Reagan administration they enabled such things as hedge funds to buy businesses (e.g. LA Times) and make the business responsible for the debts (not the hedge fund). Of course, the hedge fund then required the managers of the business to return a high rate of return. The business response was to layoff a lot of people and make the remaining workers perform the same work. Also, they lowered the quality of their products while consumers were still believing the quality was the same (for a while). After consumers woke up to what was happening the business started to fail and bankruptcy ensued. How do the hedge funds escape the consequences?
I asked this question in the chat room and received no immediate answer, and I am too slow to keep up in the chat room.
My morning Obama-mail came with a 2010 DNC survey asking for citizen comment or concerns. (My post sounded like I was chanelling a familliar voice) And is as follows:
"The commons' that elected this president also elected a do-little congress more concerned with re-election than serving the good people whom their office is made to serve. I am concerned of the influence entrenched within congress from intrests outside the common's good, especially those which pay little to no taxes and use that money in a more direct way to buy our politics, not just the people but the processes that hold true or decay a democracy."
Thanks for the voice Thom.
I have been trying to find Bush Jr.s speech about home ownership from Oct. 15, 2002 but it seems it has been scrubed off the White House's web site.
Beautiful post. Dickens couldn't have said it better. It's really frightening.
This is the Congress under the Obama Administration . . . Of course, nothing is up front or open.
Re: moving money out of big banks -- this was on Democracy Now yesterday: http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/4/move_your_money_project_urges_people
The wife, I and our business went all Credit Union in 2004.
And btw, I have been in a credit union for years and love it. They don't do first mortgages, though.
I would move my money to a credit union started by a good progressive organization if it were available. I think many of us would, once the word got out.
MONDO interesting graph on Electoral College vs Popular Vote:
MONDO interesting graph on percentage of Party make-up during Democratic Presidential terms:
A few weeks ago, I saw the ceo of Exxon on CSPAN saying the same thing as Dr. Hansen. He said cap and trade wont work. We should collect a carbon tax that is refunded evenly to everyone at the end of the year. That way, it is tax neutral, because it is all refunded; therefore it does not hurt the economy. It would reward people who use less carbon and penalize people who use more. I am pretty surprised to hear those two agree on the solution to climate change.
Obama in Action: 320 Days
Thinking about the crotch bomber --- the bomb was too small to do significant damage, especially when held between the legs.
There are a number of simple things (forgive me for not detailing them) that would have given the "alleged" terrorist a bigger chance of bringing down the plane. It seems more likely that the point of this AQ op was to stimulate precisely the reaction that the GOP wants: to start strip-searching Arabs or Muslims or whatever. That'll be great for AQ recruiting!
What about progressive health care co-ops?
Maybe co-ops couldn't get big enough memberships to be cost-effective. Still, if European countries with much smaller populations can make health care work, maybe there is a way to do this...
You can check the safety of your bank using this free screener at:
Last year I moved my money to a bank which operates only in my state. I have noticed that banks in agricultural areas seem to have the highest safety ratings.
Longtime listener first time caller.....
Thom, because of work I'm unable to call during the show. A couple of points I'd like your opinion (and bloggers) on:
1. Regarding the bailing out of the banks, they were leveraged up 30 to 1, heavily invested in mortgage backed securities for which there was no market... Had we not bailed them out a run on the banks would have left the FDIC (ie the tax-payer) on the hook for the whole mess; this was the lesser of the evils.
2. I think we should accept the concept of corporate personhood (is that a word?) and then seek to limit their political influence under the 14th amendment , equal protection under the law. Find our John Roberts or Scalia to argue that their ability to lobby makes them more equal than the "persons" speech protected by the 1st. If they were limited to what the indivdual can contribute there would be bipartisan support for publicly funded elections!
3. The adinistration should examine the trade deficit and adopt a carrot/stick approach to bringing jobs back to this country. Place tariffs on the high dollar-high employment (labor intensive) products; the stick. Give tax breaks to bring /produce those goods here, especially in areas of high unemployment; the carrot.
Thanks for letting me vent. Best.
Nancy in Renton suggested a couple books. Wish I haddent been driving so I could have written them down.
Another Nancy in Renton
Yesterday's segment about how millions of people's only income is food stamps triggered something in my head. The premise for "ending welfare as we know it" is that there are some lazy, shiftless [i.e. "brown" people] who deserve to be dumped or who would benefit from a swift kick in the pants to get a job. But wait, unemployment didn't go down much as a result of this policy change. They only went down during the dot.com boom, when demand and wages were enough to cause employers to actually consider hiring some of "those" people whom they normally would never consider. During those days unemployment dipped down to levels that were not dreamed possible.
Now with the current economic situation long term unemployment is rising. The first fired and last hired are these same people at the bottom. All of this makes me conclude that the real problem with welfare is that there are not enough jobs, not that "welfare queens" are too lazy to work.
We need to reform welfare reform.
I support the recommendations of Roy Tuckman and Quark (Jan. 5) RE moveyourmoney.info as a source of information about local banks. The "Democracy Now" show on Monday 1/4 had an interview with Robert Johnson, former economist at the Senate Banking Committee, about this very subject.
"Democracy Now" is extremely informative about all kinds of topics not covered by mainstream media. It is on radio and TV stations around the country every weekday. I highly recommend it to all your listeners. Check website: democracynow.org
I called the White House yesterday to tell Obama that he had the choice to help the corporations or help the American people. He made the wrong choice --- to help the corporations. Then I left Ravi Batra's website URL and a dare to Obama to read Dr. Batra's books.
Maybe if enough of us send similar messages, the "pattern" will become noticeable.
White House Comment Line: