Cannibals

“It worked so well in the third world that we brought it home.  The Corporatacracy colonized its own People.” John Perkins, “Hoodwinked.”

There’s a scent of a fresh kill in the air, and the hunter is crouched and ready to spring, it is so certain of it’s prize it’s brazen about showing itself.   We’ve seen it play out before on whatever nature program:  Some one is going to eat today, some one else is going to die.  Except this isn’t a normal kind of nature program to which I refer, in this case the

lionprey

Photo courtesy National Geographic

hunter is corporate America and the prey is US citizens.

There’s been evidence of its coming for some time now.  As Naomi Klein describes in her important work “Shock Doctrine” Americans ravaged several South American nations during the eighties and nineties.  Graduates of Chicago’s School of Economics, impressed with Milton Friedman’s perception of free market capitalism tore apart democratic governments and national resources, all for the love of mammon.  It was ugly.   People went to jail or were killed for protesting against American influences.   In the aftermath of ravaged economies that were driven to third world nation status, only socialist kinds of interventions ameliorated the damage.

The time is ripe for the Corporate Hunter to finally move in for the kill on its Citizen Prey.  With a Congress full of Corporate lackeys (Pass this bill or say goodbye to your donations) and a CEO for President whose greed is ostentatious,  the chase is nearly over.

Cutting Corporate taxes as well as individual taxes for the wealthy (not to mention a permanent ban on estate tax) means that the monies to run the nation must come from somewhere.  They come from 98% of the rest of us.  Many itemized deductions that are currently available to Mr and Mrs Average are nixed under the plan which combined with changes in tax rates, spell disaster for most of us.  It severely curtails the ability for communities to pursue bonds for building and education.  Higher education, our biggest contributor to progress, innovation, and enlightenment, is threatened.

While we reel from the blow of the “Tax Cut and Jobs Act”, another fatal wound will be incurred with the elimination of  longstanding safety nets of Social Security and Medicare. We will take our last breath with the ending of Net Neutrality where equal access to information allows our democracy a freedom other nations covet.

We are in trouble.  There’s not much to do now, no matter how fast or how hard we run, the Corporate Hunter has gained considerable strength these past twenty years, it has waited patiently for right time, the right hour, to move in for the kill, and it seems to be upon us.  The Oligarchy is unashamedly cannibalizing its own.

RIP Middle Class.   RIP American Dream.  RIP American Democracy.

 

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The London Lesson

There’s a lot going on right now:  The GOP tax bill would devastate our nation in ways that will take decades to amend.   Net Neutrality,  which keeps our democracy healthy by providing the ability for all of us to freely access any information, without regard to economic status, it is currently being threatened. We have a President who openly attacks the 4th estate, the entity which keeps the government accountable and operates on one of the foundations of American values.

It’s exhausting.

There is, however, a beacon of inspiration to which we can turn. Hitler’s decision to Blitz

stpauls

St. Paul’s Cathedral miraculously survived the German bombing.  Courtesy BBC News

the city London was founded on the idea that Britain would eventually get tired and capitulate to the dictator.  From September 1940 to May 1941, whether it was day or night, German airplanes dropped bomb after bomb after bomb on the city in an attempt to tire its people and government.  Children were sent out of the area to relatives further north.  The Tube was opened up as a makeshift bomb shelter where thousands gathered for protection.  Docks were targeted during low tide so that water to fight the fires was scarce and maximum damage inflicted.  Yet, Londoners never yielded.

It is certain they too were exhausted.  Weary from fighting fires.  Weary from rationed food. Weary from losing friends or loved ones to the bombings.  Weary from lack of sleep due to air raid sirens at all hours of the day.  Weary from taking care of the wounded or elderly.  Weary from worry.  Yet, they never yielded.

While we do not face the physical destruction wrought upon those staunch, stubborn, glorious Londoners, we do currently face attacks on our freedoms and democracy on a daily basis. (I’ll note that part of the danger is that since the attacks are not physical, a large portion of our citizenship has simply turned away, turned the t.v. off, and choosen not to pay attention at all.)   But for those of us who are attentive, who are writing and calling and donating, and fighting for all we’re worth, we must continue until we’ve turned the tide to a more equal, more kind government.

We cannot afford to let up once.  We cannot allow our children’s future to be rent with destructive economic policies.  We cannot give up fighting for the health of our planet and the value of our natural resources.  We cannot concede our democracy to the oligarchy any more than those Londoners could not concede to Hitler’s Germany.

Be encouraged, fellow American.  There are others who’ve faced grievous circumstances only to have their resolve strengthened, their mettle tested and refined to an even stronger element.  When you are tired, when you feel lambasted at every level by attempts to undo all that our nation has stood for, think of those Londoners who stayed the course and demonstrated to their adversary that no amount of bombs would propel them to surrender.

#Resist.

Frankie Wallace

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Protest Sympathy

Boy, has Facebook and Twitter and most of America blown up over this whole protesting thing.    I have a theory.

I’m willing to bet that the bulk of those who are mad as hell at the anthem being disrespected haven’t protested much in their life, if at all.

The entire premise behind protesting (let’s all assume from here on out that I always refer to protesting as peaceful, because I do) is to be able to speak our mind about a perceived injustice, and to do so without legal repercussions.   I can stand on a street corner all day long claiming that being forced to wear a seat belt takes away my freedom to choose otherwise, and I won’t get arrested.  Free speech, baby.

It’s empowering to protest. But here’s the thing:  In order to be motivated enough for us to get out of our comfy house and protest, the injustice must be felt acutely by an individual.

There’s no reason to protest if I don’t feel my rights are threatened.  If I am white and have a cross bumper sticker on my car, I pretty much don’t feel like any of my rights are being threatened.  I can walk into any store and get what I need without being watched for fear I would steal something.  If my tail light is out and I am stopped, I know fairly certainly that I will have a friendly exchange with a police officer, probably get a fix-it ticket and be on my merry way.  I can go to the church of my choice.  I can submit an application to a job and be judged solely upon my qualifications, not my skin color.  Life is good!   I experience no threat to my freedom, what is there to protest?

Here’s the chink in the armor:  If I haven’t had to protest, I don’t have the capacity to understand someone who has.   I can’t fathom what could be so unjust in the world that I would need to publicly state my frustration in order to bring about change.   I can’t imagine why I would need to waste my energy marching when I don’t have any challenges in life.

This whole ‘take a knee’ gig has a lot of people fuming, I think, because they can’t understand that someone feels an injustice deep enough to speak out against it by protesting since they’ve not done so themselves. They have no point of reference for public dissent because they’ve never experienced a curtailment of their freedom. It’s entirely lost on them why such a seemingly drastic action needs to take place since they’ve not been challenged themselves in a manner that requires a similar action.

Protesting a social injustice is as American as the flag and the Fourth of July.   But engaging in the activity requires reaching a level of discomfort that, fortunately, many haven’t reached in our society.  Therefore, there’s little understanding or sympathy of the motivation behind the behavior, and lots of judgement instead.

Peace today to each of you….we need it.

Frankie

 

 

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Free Market Reality

A “Free market equals a Free human” is a nice catchy phrase.  It implies that there’s no burden of regulation, no government interference, no one sitting in a far away office telling you what you can and can’t do with your life. While it might seem like something recently coined, the phrase was actually invented in the aftermath of the Great Depression as a means to push against newly minted government regulations on businesses (see Kevin Kruse’ “One Nation Under God“).

The sentiment is alive and well today, even if it is decades old.  Politicians and pundits alike are adamant about a strict free market: anything short of an unbridled economy is socialist and should be avoided at all costs, goes the talking point.   We aren’t free if the government is imposing its will upon the people and their businesses.

Truth is, this notion really gets twisted.

I am all for capitalism.  The idea that demand drives supply and prices and wages while at the same time the competition enables innovation, creativity and iPhones seems fairly logical.  As a fiction writer, I absolutely appreciate the competition aspect in keeping me a sharp writer with new twists.  I find the marketing arena exciting and even fun.  I greatly enjoy the ability to set my own prices as a self-published author.  I am happy to be able to choose Dutch Bros. over Starbucks, Jeeps over Explorers, and Sling TV over Charter as a consumer.

Yet.   The reality of the free market gospel is that it gives corporations freedom to manipulate interest rates, freedom to drive up foreign exchange rates, freedom to create economic bubbles.  Consider the market crash of 2007.   With the invention of wiley animals such as CDO’s and derivative markets, investors were able to create a bubble that not only busted, it hobbled the housing industry for years (consumers still feel the effects of inflated home prices), and very neatly enabled a large shift in wealth distribution upwards, sounding an air-raid-worthy alarm for the US middle class.

The consequence of such ‘freedom’ was a monumental chasm of wealth disparity such that the majority who once thought themselves ‘free humans’ because they exist within a ‘free market’ system were no longer free, but shackled with debt and very few resources.

Perhaps a free market doesn’t equate to a free human after all.

There’s an agreement we all have that certain things just aren’t advantageous to a viable society; theft, murder, and money scams are regulated and deemed illegal precisely because of the damaging affect they pose to a peaceful way of life that’s necessary if we want to progress as a species.  We all accept this premise to be true and in that we understand that we aren’t free to do whatever we want.   It is time we extrapolate that idea into the intangible realm of economics.  If SCOTUS can rule that a corporation is a person, then that person should be subject to rules and regulations that prevent them from harming society, just like the rest of us.  That is the reality of a free market.

Yours,

Frankie

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To Hell With General Welfare

They’re some of my favorite words of the preamble, and as all words of our our founding document, they were carefully, purposefully, weighed before they were chosen by our forefathers.

                                                                “General Welfare”

It is included among other phrases in the preamble of the Constitution. Phrases not meant to be suggestions, not merely “guidelines”, but rather a command:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

These words mean to take care of the general public.  Take care of your people.  Take care of your nation.  They are specific in their intent:  the good of the most is an imperative goal, and burden for our sworn leaders. They’re part of the social contract, we elect and pay our representatives to speak for us and ‘promote the general welfare.’

They’re there for a specific reason:  a healthy ‘most’ or middle class is directly reflective of a healthy economy, nation, and democracy.   A sizable, vibrant middle class defines a nation’s culture, its trends, its innovations, its norms and standards.  It keeps an economy robust and forces companies to be creative.

There’s a lot of negative rhetoric in the media right now surrounding the idea of the government “taking care of us,” or the “general welfare.”  But it’s right there in the preamble of our Constitution, the very thing that every single congressperson and the President himself swear to uphold upon entering office – promote the general welfare.

Legislatures are matching their actions with the idea “the government shouldn’t take care of us” as the AHCA is being “rammed through” without debate or the thought of the general welfare of the nation.  They know better and they’ve sworn better, but they’ve buried their conscious long ago and realize they can take advantage of this moment of shock where the public can barely get its bearings from one day to the next, when national security is no longer a consensus and the public lives in fear – thanks to a President, thanks to certain media – and manipulate it and swerve the tide of fortune to their greedy little hands.  To hell with the general welfare.

Furthermore, there’s another bill that’s passed the House with even more terrifying consequences: The Financial Choice Act.  It repeals Dodd Frank, AND, ties the feds hands to bail out a sunken economy.   Should the FCA pass, the scenario would be something like:  new cool economic bubble, crash that we all knew was coming, and then, well, nothing. There’s no help because the FCA actually makes it illegal to bailout the economy with any kind of stimulus such we had with TARP.  We currently have a President who has been cavalier about declaring bankruptcy and would probably not be bothered one bit by doing so with the nation’s economy.  There were Republicans calling for ‘austerity’ after the 2007/2008 crash (Have you kept up with how well that worked out for Greece?) so if the FCA becomes a signed gig then that’s a likely road we’ll be forced to take and we’re pretty much screwed. To hell with general welfare.

Keep calling, keep emailing, keep making noise.  We are a democracy, but it only works, and can only be sustained, if we participate.  And if ever there was a moment, this is it.

Yours,

Frankie

 

 

 

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Trump’s Problematic Hero Worship

It’s no secret that our President fawns over Putin and appreciates the Russian’s haughty brand of governing-and-giving-zero-f’s  with regards to human rights and democracy.  And there was the praise of the Philippine president who is mass incarcerating his own citizens.

Adding to his list of “people to keep on a pedestal if your a power hungry megalomaniac”, our President  called Recep Tayyip  Erdogan to applaud his success at throwing away democracy in Turkey.   I don’t know about you, but I’m noticing a trend here.

It’s troubling, this sort of maligned hero worship emanating from our elected leader. Mostly because I’ve come to learn that there is in the works a constitutional amendment, employed by a governor’s convention . The Koch brothers and their ilk have been systematic in their funneling of nearly two billion dollars in local elections to have gained enough governors under their control to call a convention and successfully amend our founding document. Such an amendment strips down the government roles and spending, so ‘state’s rights’ presumably gets priority and the federal government is just a shell.

To many, the idea might seem like a good one.

The truth is that as much as the government has grown, so has our standing in the world and our growth as a population and we need a decent level of government in order to thrive.  One of the lessons we learned (or not) from the Great Depression is that private business cannot fulfill the fundamental gaps that a vibrant society requires to operate: interstate roads, railroads, bridges, national defense, and social services.  Today we still see that when private businesses do provide a service, the tendency to overcharge and price out the middle class becomes an issue (pharmaceutical industry anyone?).   Government is absolutely required so that proper legislative actions bring a balance to corporate greed. Not to mention that with a hallowed out government where everything is privatized, the shots are wholly called by the corporations and there’s nothing to stand in their way of pillaging for whatever they can get.

It’s important to the citizenship of the US that its leader acknowledges and even demonstrates a star struck admiration for his cohorts who are dissolving democracy and replacing it with tyranny. A US president who idolizes brute force and centralized power over checks and balances is just the right ingredient needed for the Koch brothers to realize their vision of a shell government and corporate domination with a constitutional amendment, at which time the financialization of our nation will be complete.

Get involved and hold your government accountable.

Thanks for tuning in,

Frankie

 

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Capitalist No More: The New American Economy

I attended a local forum group yesterday at my local library, the topic was “The Economy under a Trump Presidency.”  The panel consisted of three men of varying backgrounds, all from the area:  an economics professor, a former Tea Party member, and the county Democratic Chair.  Of the three two of them touted the idea of de-regulation and a ‘Free Market.’

It struck me as I listened to them that we have to redefine what a free market actually means.  We no longer live in the nostalgic time of simple capitalism/consumerism kind of system wherein companies are focused on manufacturing a good and selling it for the best possible price.  Ostensibly, this type of free market economy encourages innovation and creativity and allows the ‘invisible hand’ to guide supply and demand.

The problem with that perception is that companies and corporations no longer focus on actual product manufacturing and profits.   Today’s financialized economy is now run from the boardroom and only shareholder interests matter.   The manufacturing and actual productivity are a side note.

So what does a ‘free market’ mean to a financialized economy?   It means deregulation so that markets can be manipulated with sketchy things like derivative trading, which created the housing bubble that sent us into a major recession.   It means no accountability with regard to public safety – think EPA rollbacks.  It means curbing the federal government’s roll in our system and replacing it with corporate legislation designed only for the benefit of the elite.   This is the new ‘free market’ with which we must wrestle.

In an interview with Salon magazine, economist Gerald Epstein discusses a recent paper he published concerning this ‘free market’ and ‘Trumponomics’.  Here is his perception:

The one that I’m most familiar with is getting rid of Dodd-Frank, and deregulating finance. We know that this is likely to generate, at least in the short run, a lot of profits to the Goldman Sachs friends of Trump by letting them do whatever they want to do with borrowed money. We’ve seen this picture before, and we know that it’s not going to end well. We know that it could lead to more financial instability and maybe even another economic crisis, and then the government will be placed in the same kind of bind it was before.

Capitalism works, and worked well enough for the US so that we could claim ourselves as the most affluent nation on earth.   But we are no longer a capitalist nation, we are a financialized nation and the idea of a ‘free market’ means something entirely different in this world.

Yours,

Frankie

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