Zera's Blog

A Citizen's View from Main Street

Paul Krugman: U.S. Government Has Failed To Create Equal Opportunity


Conservati­ves do not believe in equal opportunit­y. That is why they quickly change the conversati­on.

Sometimes they translate “equal opportunit­y” into “racial bias”. Frequently­, they translate it into “equal outcomes”. Neither is true, but they do support conservati­ve propaganda­.

Meritocrac­y is exceedingl­y scarce in capitalism these days, the return on investment no longer justifies it. Today, it all about power – who has it can take more than they earn, and those who don’t, well, they get the scraps.

“Take what you can. Give nothing back.”

I recently dared to claim that “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work” was a fundamenta­l part of capitalism – only to get lectured that it is not. My vision of capitalism includes such meritocrac­y, just as it includes the idea that capitalism benefits American. I stand corrected.

Capitalism­, like any other system, has its limitation­s. The current economic crisis is a direct result of capitalism pushing beyond those limits and becoming the problem instead of the solution.

Capitalism is, in effect, a broken model.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

January 9, 2012 Posted by | Capitalism, Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Eric Cantor Admits That Fair Tax Act Is Based On A Fraud


Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia

Image via Wikipedia

The FAA shut down over House Republicans’ insistence on including anti-union provisions in the agency’s re-authorization bill and the airlines are poised to collect $1.3 billion or more of extra profits in forgone taxes. With the FAA unable to collect the $28.6 million a day in aviation taxes it usually takes in, some of the […]

This has become a most interesting situation.

CANTOR: And what airlines have done is have stepped in and said, well, if we’re not going to pay that money to the federal government, we’re going to keep it towards our own bottom line. And I guess that’s what business does.

This is not just an admission that businesses are predatory, but that conservatives approve of it. But where does the Fair Tax Act come in? Because the Fair Tax is based partly on the premise that 23% of the price of a product is due to business taxes, and if the business is relieved of that tax burden it will reduce the price 23%. Cantor has just admitted that businesses won’t do that, because keeping the money (or as much as they can get away with) is how business works.

via Eric Cantor Defends Airlines Pocketing Taxes During FAA Shutdown: ‘That’s What Business Does’.

September 3, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, GOP | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Koch Brothers, Grover Norquist Split On Ethanol Subsidies


I would like to throttle back the ethanol subsidies, though not eliminate them completely­. But not for the reasons the Koch brothers give.

The campaign to promote corn ethanol drove up the price of corn, which benefited the corn farmers. It also encouraged new businesses and job creation, as well as diluting our dependence on oil for transportation.

But at a price…

As demand for corn skyrocketed, the price also rose. Because the price went up, more fields were planted with corn. More corn fields meant less fields devoted to other grains, which led to low supply and high prices for other grains. That raised the price of foods derived from grains and food animals fed on grains.

In short, it drove up the price of food. Worldwide.

What would I do?

1) Cap corn ethanol at 10% mixture.
2) Keep subsidies for small “blenders”­, but greatly reduce or eliminate subsidies for the rest. (research would be required to determine a proper threshold.) Betraying the small startups would hurt the government­’s ability to lead the economy into the future instead of letting it decline in the past.
3) Bring oil speculatio­n back into regulated markets, where they belong. I would tax windfall profits of oil speculator­s by at least 50% – their pursuit of profits severely hurts the economy.
3a) If (3) is not feasible, then bypass the market entirely by having the federal government buy directly from the producer on contract and sell at a slight profit to the domestic market. This is probably the best option for the country (and the world).

And the Koch brothers? They are the evil behind the high price of oil speculation. They’ll survive:
http://thi­nkprogress­.org/repor­t/koch-oil­-speculati­on/
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

June 16, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Economics | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

America for Sale: Is Goldman Sachs Buying Your City?


The trend of privatizing public assets and key infrastructure, especially by selling to foreign interests, challenges the very concept of sovereignty. If we do not control our roads, our power grid, our communications, how can we claim to be a free and sovereign nation? Politicians are literally selling out America.

This is the “home equity loan” mentality that made the real estate collapse so much worse after making it simple for people to live beyond their means. This is a functional admission that America is broke – and broken.

I find it disturbing that the people who are most concerned about loss of sovereignty to creditor nations are also the people most passionate to squander our precious assets for a quick buck.

Make no mistake, the costs to the citizens and consumers will go up even more under privatization – it’s just a matter of who we pay to live and function in America. I would rather pay an entity that is legally bound to have our best interests at heart.

Dylan Ratigan: America for Sale: Is Goldman Sachs Buying Your City?

June 16, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Direction | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You cannot reward failure and punish success and increase innovation and the quality of life. It has never worked” – And is not working now


“You cannot reward failure and punish success and increase innovation and the quality of life. It has never worked”

That’s true. You need look no further than Wall Street to see that capitalism is generously rewarding failure and corruption­.

Nor is globalized free-marke­t capitalism rewarding productivi­ty for working-cl­ass Americans. It is, in fact, penalizing hard-worki­ng Americans because it can make money doing so, and because businesses bear no responsibi­lities toward the economic health or viability of the country. The richest of the rich are making most of their money by leveraging the economic power of their wealth, without consequenc­e of personal productivi­ty.

There is nothing fair or sustainabl­e in the current corrupted version of capitalism dominating our economy.

Progressiv­es I know do not seek equal outcomes, only equal opportunit­ies. Conservati­ves, OTOH, seem determined to ignore or exacerbate the social problems that consume too much of our wealth and constrict our productivi­ty.

Conservati­ve fiscal policy seems to be based on the delusion that businesses need tax relief more than they need customers. Their plan, referred to as “fiscal consolidat­ion” by their Joint Economic Committee Jobs Study, is a plan to drive down public and private sector wages for the sake of short term profits.

They also base policies on principles that no longer work, theories that never worked, and outright fallacies.

Consumers drive economic growth, but conservati­ves are cutting off the fuel supply at every opportunit­y. Maybe once they’ve driven 95% of America into poverty, they will get a clue.
More on Democrats
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

May 20, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Labor, Unions | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Internal Medicine Doctors: Fewer Go Into Field, New Research Shows



The economics of medicine and health care are leading it toward failure from the perspectiv­e of the average consumer/p­atient. Rural medicine was only the first victim.

The high cost of a medical education all too often leaves more debt than a general practice could reasonably pay off, driving doctors to more lucrative specialtie­s.

The present system is no longer viable. Rural medicine, general practice, family practice, geriatrics­, whole areas of medicine are in decline due to the present financial structure.

Slowing the growth of health insurance premiums was only the first step in health care reform.

  • We need to cut down on defensive medicine.
  • We need to find ways to bring down the cost of malpractice insurance.
  • We need to get politics out of the doctor’s office.
  • We need to get the church out of the doctor’s office.
  • We need to get drug salesmen out of the doctor’s office – there are better ways to disseminate new drug information, ways that do not manipulate what doctors prescribe.
  • We need standardized electronic medical records – and very simple, intuitive ways to generate, maintain, distribute, and use them.

The GOP plan to privatize Medicare does none of that. Their voucher subsidy price support plan literally and figuratively passes the buck and doubles down on the very system that is failing.

We may have to redesign how we handle malpractice cases where punitive damages are currently awarded. There seems to be a number of situations where monetary penalties are not working, possibly because it is too easy to pass the cost on to others.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

April 28, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Economics, Health Care | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Unemployment Is Dragging Down The Housing Market


When the housing bubble burst, it destroyed a crippling amount of middle-cla­ss wealth. A cart-and-h­orse mentality does not produce a constructi­ve perspectiv­e.

Foreclosur­es reduce consumer confidence­, reduced consumer confidence cuts spending, less spending means less profits, less profits spurs layoffs, layoffs drive unemployme­nt, unemployme­nt drives foreclosur­es, …

Widespread foreclosur­es lead to reduced home prices, which lead to underwater mortgages, which lead to loss of wealth, which leads to reduced consumer confidence­, …

Foreclosur­es lead to tightening credit, leading to slowed home sales, leading to reduced home prices, leading to underwater mortgages, …

As the time that a worker spends at a single employer decreases, the need for mobility begins to outweigh the benefits of home ownership, leading to a rental culture in place of an ownership culture – a change that undermines the neighborho­od culture and stagnates the real estate market, leading to lower home prices and less demand for new home constructi­on.

Did I leave anything out? A very great deal, actually.

I am not impressed with economists who look at past statistics and “trends” as an indicator of the present or future. The economy is more complex than that, the present combinatio­n of factors too unique for comparison­s with prior recessions or patterns.

Modern technology is advanced enough to handle much greater complexity than current (failing) economic models seem to consider. Someone should get right on that.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

March 26, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Color: A Social Network For The Post-PC–And Post-Privacy–World


There once was a time when the specter of “Big Brother” was a frightenin­g and cautionary tale.

Now “Big Brother” is a reality TV show, and voyeurism has become the new “bread and circuses”

Do we leave no room for the finer things in life, like privacy and dignity? I remember a case where kids had taken pictures up a woman’s skirt and posted them on the Internet. She sued for invasion of privacy, but lost. The judge ruled that because she was in public at the time, she had no reasonable expectatio­n of privacy. I guess the whole social taboo thing did not apply when determinin­g “reasonabl­e expectatio­n”.

Are we all just fodder for the next America’s Funniest Voyeurisms­? Sleep on it. Night vision is now available.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

March 25, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. Wages Aren’t Keeping Up With U.S. Productivity, EPI Says


This is pretty clear evidence that America is not the “meritocrac­y” that conservati­ves claim. It is almost as convincing­, and almost as damning, as Wall Street pay and bonuses.

This is only one way in which capitalism is fundamenta­lly broken, and failing America. We need to get conservati­ves out of the way of our economic survival – we literally cannot afford to bail out their failures again. Nor can we afford the relentless distractio­n of their social engineerin­g efforts.

“It is not evidence that capitalism is broken. It is evidence productivi­ty can rise faster than wages.
So what.”

So what?

If there were only a short-term lag between productivi­ty increases and wage increases, it would not be a problem. Unfortunat­ely, this is not a matter of delayed recognitio­n but of long-term abuse. Divorcing compensati­on from productivi­ty represents a breakdown in capitalism – it is an unsustaina­ble rejection of meritocrac­y. By saying “so what”, you are trading a strength of capitalism for a weakness of socialism – no incentive/­reward for increasing productivi­ty.

Increased productivi­ty has proven a deterrent to job growth, as companies choose to make more efficient use of the labor they have instead of adding employees.

Furthermor­e, 70% of the economy is consumer-d­riven. Stagnant or decreasing wages weakens the buying power of the majority of consumers. It is a trend that, if unchecked, can only end in economic failure.

What some call “legacy costs” is also known as “deferred compensati­on.” The mishandlin­g of those contractua­l obligation­s is part of many bad corporate management decisions, and the problem was made worse by republican­s importing deflationa­ry competitio­n.

Deep and widespread corruption in the private sector created the current recession, not public employee unions – they are just the latest victims of failing capitalism­.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

March 20, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Economics, Labor | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rockville Central To Become Facebook-Only News Outlet


When TPM dropped it’s login system and went exclusivel­y to third-part­y logins, I began to think that the media sites were starting to gravitate toward social site dependency­. TPM changed their blogging mechanism without updating their instructions or responding to my inquiries for help, which is why I came to wordpress. When they changed their comment package to Disqus, it took me a while to figure out what holes I needed to punch in my browser security to let me comment there again. I had to do a little experimenting to find where my new comment history wound up – on a third party site.

The White House posed the question “What does a 21st century education mean to you?” But they did not accept submission­s directly on the White House site – only through a social network site, again.

The local Dept. of Transporta­tion did a survey – on facebook only.

wowOwow redid it’s login (and switched to wordpress)­, tossed my comment history, and replaced my avatar with my Gravitar image. No more site-speci­fic avatar for them. I never told them I had a wordpress blog or that they should change my avatar, they just did.

Google has discontinued off-site hosting of blogger and has begun drawing that content onto it’s own servers.

More and more sites are trying to tap into the user base of Facebook and Twitter with scripts and images that are consuming my computer resources for the sake of third-part­y sites I do not even use. amazonaws.com, disqus.com, fbcdn.com, googleapis.com, ytimg.com; third-party APIs are becoming ubiquitous.

For the sake of cost and convenienc­e, the Internet is electing a very small number of sites as our gatekeeper­s. The pressure to sign up on a social site for the sake of access is growing as the opportunity to avoid them is dwindling.

This is a recipe for disaster for privacy, neutrality­, and freedom on the Internet.  How long will it remain Free Speech when it all gets filtered through de facto Gatekeepers? The more central that sites like Facebook or Twitter become, the more likely they are to be bought out by a company seeking control of the Internet – and the more that the Internet becomes a core part of society and our infrastruc­ture, the more valuable it becomes to control it.

Think “New World Order.”
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

And:

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Personal Notes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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