Class Warfare Blog

July 26, 2014

Where Do Our Attitudes on Inflation Come From?

“Inflation is bad. Everybody knows that.” There are those words again: “everybody knows.” Any time I hear them, my defenses spring up because this phrase is usually used when the wool is about to be pulled over someone’s eyes.

Is inflation bad? Should the discussion be about whether inflation should be no more and 2% rather than no more than 3% as it is now or are we debating whether inflation should be “low” or “low”? Let’s explore this.

I don’t want to go all economic theory on this topic, mainly because I don’t know the economic theory. I am approaching this as an ordinary citizen. Let’s start with a thought experiment: what happens if inflation gobbles up half of your purchasing power? Immediately, you would really have to tighten your belt just to afford food and utilities, the prices of which will rise rapidly. But some of your expenses are fixed, like your mortgage payment, so you could deal with this disaster most probably. Usually, there is pressure on wages and interest rates to “keep up with inflation” and those adjustments result in what? They result in your biggest expense, your mortgage, becoming a smaller and smaller fraction of your budget. The inflation caused some problems but also had some positive offsets.

Now consider an example of a rich person, living off of assets (stocks, bonds, interest, etc.). If inflation gobbled up half of his purchasing power, half of his accumulated wealth basically disappears. Whereas his wealth could have bought 2X quantity of goods and services, it can now only buy X quantity of goods and services.

So, who do you think is more “anti-inflation?”

Yep, you got it in one. But why do rich and poor alike decry the effects of inflation? In one word: propaganda. Rich people really, really hate inflation because it devalues their accumulated wealth, of which they have a great deal. Poor and middle class people should not hate mild inflation because it devalues their debts. The propaganda, though, focuses in on the effect of inflation on “people on fixed incomes,” especially old pensioners. (It is easier to frighten old people.) And you will notice that they only focus on the immediate impacts, not on the corrections that take place over time.

“Rich people really, really hate inflation because it devalues their accumulated wealth, of which they have a great deal.
Poor and middle class people should not hate mild inflation because it devalues their debts.”

When inflation is higher, interest rates tend to go up because who would invest in anything that has a 3% return when inflation gobbles up 4% of the total, for example. (Currently nominal interest rates are near 0% and my bank accounts are paying about 1.2% when I last checked. There is no inflation to speak of at the moment.) Interest rates were in the 20% range when Jimmy Carter was President, for example. That makes it hard to get a loan, but remember we are talking about pensioners living off of interest on savings, etc. If our pensioner is getting Social Security, automatic inflation adjustments kick in and payments go up.

This is a little like the little girl whose cat is “stuck in a tree!” and she must get a fireman or a neighbor with a ladder to get it down. But, have you ever seen a cat’s skeleton in a tree? Or a cat, dead from a fall, at the base of a tree? No? Neither have I. The same skepticism needs to be placed upon the utterances of the “inflation hawks.”

If you hear someone warning of “Inflation! Inflation! Danger, Will Robinson,” ask yourself if they represent the interests of rich people or poor people. Is this person a stock broker, a  banker, an economist, someone working at Fox (sic) News, etc? Then they more that likely represent the interests of rich people and what they are saying is probably at least >50% propaganda and <50% realistic.

“But you said you don’t want to invoke economic theory and economic theory says that inflation hurts economic growth,” the economic theorists insist. That’s interesting because those very same theorists have been trying to prove that assertion for decades now and, well, <sound of crickets>. One economist claimed that the data show that inflation as high as 40% doesn’t hurt economic growth. So, if you hear an economist claiming that “inflation hurts economic growth” you’ll know immediately whose interests he represents (and they ain’t yours).

The Newest Age of Belief

Shortly after Darwin’s Origin of Species made its debut here in the U.S. there was a mighty debate. The core of the debate was the contest between Christian scripture that insisted that the perfect man, Adam, had been created and we were the descendants who were becoming more and more, well, less perfect and evolution that says that man is capable of improvement over time (although it is not required) and that a more capable man was coming in the future. The interesting thing was that after the debate, the bulk of the American population accepted the scientific view, at least in public. But, somewhere between then and now a whole bunch of Americans have decided they’d rather believe in Biblical fairy tales than their own lying eyes (if they even bothered to look at the evidence for the theory of evolution).

Go back a century or so and most people believed that free enterprise was, in general, a good thing but that socialism was quite the unknown. Through the Great Depression Socialism gained more and more ground with sizeable Socialist and Communist political parties growing. After WWII, though, Socialism and Communism became “bad things” in peoples minds due to the Cold War. Interestingly enough, though, currently we have, as Gore Vidal said, “free enterprise for the poor and socialism for the rich.”

This outcome is almost a concrete policy, the most recent example being the Great Recession in which the big banks all got bailed out but homeowners got a good dose of free market economics; corporations made record profits while ordinary citizens lost their jobs.

The same is true globally as countries that are rich get government-paid stimulus packages, but poorer countries are bullied into austerity measures that just make everything worse.

What do these things have in common?

“In our politics beliefs are trumping pragmatism.
It has become more important to act on one’s beliefs
than on what might work. And people steadfastly refuse
to examine their beliefs or even to consider evidence to the contrary.”

What they have in common are behaviors based upon beliefs contrary to provable assertions. Some of these beliefs have been disproven multiple times. (Paul Krugman refers to them as Zombie Ideas because we kill them and they come back to life.) Poor and middle class people believe in free market ideology, even though it is to their detriment. Rich countries continue to sponsor international organizations like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund when their free market/austerity/monetarist practices have been proven wrong over and over and over. Poor countries, possibly out of desperation or ignorance, believe in “help” from the WB and IMF, only to prove again that their help doesn’t help. Poor people believe that inflation (not hyperinflation like in the Weimar Republic) is bad, when it directly benefits them. And a very great many Americans believe in the fairy tales of Biblical Creation when there is no benefit from doing so, especially when it is directly contradicted by that very same Creation.

In our politics beliefs are trumping pragmatism. It has become more important to act on one’s beliefs than on what might work. And people steadfastly refuse to examine their beliefs or even to consider evidence to the contrary.

I have no problem with people having strong beliefs, but having strong false beliefs seems to be following the road to perdition.

July 25, 2014

Paul Ryan’s Earned Income Tax Credit

Representative Paul Ryan is at it again. His desire to be the “deep thinker” on tax and budget ideas for the Republicans has lead him into the world of the poor. (Mr. Ryan is already the deepest thinker on the Republican side but if ideas were water I could walk through his only getting the soles of my feet wet.)

Mr. Ryan has found some agreement with President Obama in an extension of the Earned Income (Tax) Credit (EIC). They both now want to extend the credit more to people who are both poor and childless.

Now consider the general Republican attitude on the poor: in summary it is “get a job.” The fact that most of the poor of working age have jobs has lead to an extension of their attitude to “get another job.” For those working couples who are still also poor, Mr. Ryan is now offering a bolstered EIC.

When you couple this with Mr. Ryan’s refusal to consider raising the minimum wage, the picture is complete. The Republicans who are in favor of small government want to cut taxes as a mechanism to reduce the size of government. Once strategy is to latch onto Democratic proposals for giving taxes back which is, in essence, a tax cut, the EIC proposal being under the guise of helping the poor. But the agreement is exposed as being merely a political tactic when one considers the overall Republican viewpoint. They are not in favor of government action to help the poor, be it Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, etc. They think everybody should pay as they go and not be “dependent” upon government for their sustenance. So, why not do what several states and other countries have done and raise the minimum wage? If people who were working made sufficient income to cover their expenses, they wouldn’t need government handouts, no? Several cities and states here in the U.S. have raised their minimum wage and have experienced greater job growth than the rest of the nation. Studies show that sometimes jobs take a hit from such a raise, but mostly there is barely a hiccough in job growth. Australia has a min wage of over $20 per hour for Pete’s sake and I don’t see them slowly sinking into the Pacific.

“So, I can understand why Paul Ryan would want a government funded EIC:
it supports substandard wages for the poor without having companies cough up,
will need to be “paid for” by cutting government spending elsewhere,
and makes Republicans look caring and compassionate. But why are Democrats for it?”

Well, the Republicans either don’t want a reasonable minimum wage because their corporate masters say so or because they are against “government interference” in business. Since they are all for government interference in business when it benefits business, I believe the second “reason” is more of an excuse that some might buy rather than a real reason. So, why do their corporate masters not want a strong min wage? Could it be that they think it will cut into their record profits? (Consider the fact that they are making record profits while the vast majority of us are struggling to recover from the great Recession. Think about that.) I still believe it is about control. The plutocrats in this country want to be able to feel as if they are in control. If Congress goes around willy-nilly establishing constraints on their actions, well, harrumph, that would be socialism!

So, I can understand why Paul Ryan would want a government-funded EIC: it supports substandard wages for the poor without having companies cough up, will need to be “paid for” by cutting government spending elsewhere, and makes Republicans look caring and compassionate. But why are Democrats for it?

I believe a robust minimum wage (especially for restaurant workers) solves way more problems than the EIC. Sure, the costs of some goods and services will go up a very little and we will all pay slightly more for those things, but vastly more people would be “middle class” instead of “poor,” they would be “paying their own way” as our culture requires and therefore would be more confident and forward looking and hopeful. Their children would have enough to eat and would do better in school. They might even be able to buy a car or a house.

Corporate profits should absorb some of the increase, but I don’t expect them to. They haven’t stinted at keeping the bulk of the gains from increased worker productivity while arbitrarily holding workers wages down over the last 40 years, so why would now be any different? If you think about it, the corporations have already been paid for that min wage raise and a lot more, but I no longer expect good citizenship from any of them.

July 24, 2014

Neoliberalism is Bankrupt . . . Surprise, Surprise

According to Daniel Jones, neoliberalism is “the free market ideology based on individual liberty and limited government that connect human freedom to the actions of the rational, self-interested actor in the competitive marketplace.” (in Masters of the Universe).

This social philosophy grew out of economic theory first developed by Austrian economist Frederick Hayek (thus creating the Austrian School of Economics) but was elevated into a libertarian ideology by Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago.

This philosophy is rooted in individualism and against collectivism in almost any form. Milton Friedman went so far as to advocate privatizing all government functions save the military. He wanted to privatize the Post Office and even sell off the National Parks to private interests.

It is not surprising that “collectivism” was excoriated by these advocates as the world was seeing a sizeable number of countries adopting socialist or communist governments. What they didn’t see, apparently, was that the entire American Experiment is a collectivist endeavor in that ‘We the People” were attempting to govern ourselves. Consequently, with the neoliberals claiming all government (meaning our collective action for general purposes) is best when it is absolutely minimal, they were saying that Americans basically didn’t need government so much, that “natural forces” aka “markets” and natural laws would serve instead.

If you think this bit of history is only interesting to students of history, consider that the current attacks on public education by rich individuals (Broad, Gates, et. al.) and corporations is a classic neoliberal thrust. “What’s troubling our schools can be solved by competition and market forces,” they say, “we only need to set up the markets appropriately.” So, charter schools have no government regulations. Teachers have no collective (i.e. union) protections. All will be taken care of by the “markets” that are being set up. It sounds like a good argument and some have bought into it. Consider Sweden which took the bait hook, line, and sinker. Their education system is in the process of a massive collapse right now.

Free Markets + Free Trade =?
The advocates for the Austrian School of Economic Thought and Friedmanism often claim that the true experiment hasn’t been tried. Too often people give lip service to free markets but then really don’t let them work. Government interference blocks their effective implementation.

Bullshit. (And I am not the first to call “Bullshit!” on this claim.)

There was a time back in the 1970’s in which the “Southern Cone” of South America was experiencing a democratic wave of change. Real democratic systems were being implemented, popular leaders were being elected. After years of autocratic rule, you can guess, if you don’t already know, what happened: democratic reforms, things like land reform, where peasants were given land previously owned by massively wealthy landowners. In Washington, D.C. this smacked of “socialism” so forces were put into play. In one example, Chile, the CIA organized a military coup and Augusto Pinochet replaced the democratically elected president Salvador Allende. What followed was brutal repression of anyone who might even look like they wanted to go back to an elected government (like intellectuals and union leaders). What most people do not know, although it was public knowledge, was that the CIA consulted with … wait for it … Milton Friedman regarding the future economic system to be installed by Pinochet. A group of economists from the University of Chicago, called the “Chicago Boys,” was installed in Chile to “guide” the new Pinochet government. Not surprisingly a free market/free trade model was selected, written up by the Chicago Boys and a few oligarchs, and adopted by the Legislature (almost at gun point). Friedman was full of glee that finally he would get his chance to show he was right. And while there was a concerted propaganda effort to paint a picture of a “Chilean Miracle” no such miracle reached ordinary citizens. Unemployment and inflation both raged. Plus, the first move of the plutocrats was to borrow a few tons of money to buy up all of the government properties being sold off (at bargain prices to the right buyers). This resulted in Chile taking on huge debt from the international banking community.

This scenario played out over and over in the countries in the Southern Cone. And, over the years, not one single, solitary democratic government continued or adopted those neoliberal policies. In retrospect, those policies were a mechanism through which the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. Economists of the neoliberal stripe don’t care who makes the money as long as the economy grows. Their policies positively affected the already rich. Is it any surprise that their policies are in vogue in Republican circles? (Milton Friedman bragged about his relationship with President Nixon.)

Neoliberalism is a philosophy that appeals to conservatives because it elevates individuals and demotes “collective action” as being socialism in essence. Since rich people all see themselves as “self-made individuals” (even the Romneys and Kochs who were supplied millions of dollars of “seed money” from their parents) they view themselves as having “made it on their own.” For example, Mitt Romney said on the 2012 Presidential campaign trail that nobody gave him a head start. He apparently didn’t count the million dollars of stock his father gave him as a head start.

So, it is clear why the rich and powerful buy into a philosophical scheme that vaunts individualism, but why do ordinary people? I think there is a form of blindness that affects many people. They go to schools paid for by governments. They then go to colleges underwritten by governments. They get government grants to start a new business. They drive their cars on government built roads, patrolled by government paid security forces (the police). They send out mailers provided by the government-provided postal service and they use their web site to bolster sales on the Internet, created by the Federal government. And then they say they did it all on their own.

“Individualism does not trump collectivism, except in the minds of neoliberals.”

The basic approach of American collectivism is this: collective action is more efficient in a great many ways than individual action. (Oooh, ahh!) For example, were the roads to our hypothetical neoliberal’s business to disappear overnight (by magic or ripped up at midnight by Chicago’s mayor—sorry, inside joke, look it up), there are a number of approaches. The neoliberal approach would be for our hypothetical business man to build a road to serve his needs and then recoup his money by charging others to use it (a toll road). The fact that road building is not this guy’s forte and that it is a massive distraction away from his business’s focus is irellevant. The American way is for all of us, through our governments, to recognize the need for such roads and build them in the public interest. Now, some of the people paying the taxes to build that road may never use the road or buy the products made and shipped on that road, so there is no direct benefit to those people. But those other people need roads in their neighborhoods, too, so the same deal is extended to them. What is created is a system of roads that all can use freely because we all own them in common. The neoliberals do not see this as “Freedom” as it does not fit their ideology, but think about it. You are “free” to use 98-9% of the roads in this country with no additional charge.

Individualism does not trump collectivism, except in the minds of neoliberals. My guess is that most neoliberals would not recognize the line “Hey, gang, I’ve got an idea: let’s put on a show!” If they did they would know why their ideology is so bankrupt.

July 23, 2014

If Then … Why Not Now?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:54 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Imagine the Earth in the fairly near future (something media moguls are doing with great regularity). The environment has gone to pot and we are looking to a technological bailout. At that point in time we have invented a viable space craft and had located and scouted a habitable planet around our nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri. So we built a space ark. Every able bodied American was invited to go. Some didn’t, most did. And the trip was on!

When we got where we were going we checked in with the scientific rovers which had been mapping the surface and analyzing the ecosystem of our new home. Apparently the soils would accept our seeds and the water was clean and the skies clear enough, so we landed and began to till fields and build shelters. We built dormitories to live in. We built medical facilities and schools for our kids. Everybody chipped in, doing either what they were best at or just what needed doing. Ph.D.s swept floors, English teachers cooked, Sanitation workers built things. Whatever it took.

Scrounging teams located materials to make bricks from and mortar. Others found trees suitable for timber for additional building projects. The race was on. The colony had to be self-sustaining before the supplies on the ship ran out.

Priorities were placed on identifying sources of medicinals and nutrients and dealing with human wastes safely. Local flora and fauna were characterized by threat level. When anyone was hungry they were fed. If anyone got sick, they were treated and examined carefully because of the fear of infectious diseases with which we were unfamiliar. When anyone tired, they had a cot to sleep on.

We were all in it … together.

This is a not uncommon science fiction scenario. I have read this story dozens of times with various twists, but the core, as described above, stays pretty much the same because to do otherwise would be abysmally stupid. It is the only way to save a viable gene pool and provide for our continuing existence.

So … if we would do this then, why not now? Why do we not treat every living person as valuable in some way. I have taught college students chemistry and I have cleaned toilets, both for pay. I am not more proud of one than the other. Both were things that needed doing. I have tried to live my life honoring people for what they contribute. If you think some contribute less than others, you are right. Children are particularly useless, but we keep them anyway. We should not be abandoning “others” for the bullshit reasons we currently have.

We are all in this together. Currently our “space ark” is the good ship “Earth.”

July 22, 2014

Accident, My Ass!

I am reading too many statements about the downed Malaysian airliner like this one “And so what this chain of reasoning leads us to is the conclusion that if Russian- or Russian-backed forces shot down the aircraft, it was very likely a tragic accident.”

Accident, my ass. The only way this was an accident was if somebody tripped and fell on the launch button while the missile was oriented in exactly the direction that would lead it to the plane. The odds on this being an accident are almost exactly zero. That missile had to have been set up, prepared, aimed, and launched deliberately. The misidentification of the plane, if there was one, was a mistake, but not an accident. People who make mistakes that injure other people are criminally liable. Accidents and acts of god, etc. are not.

This was criminal.

July 21, 2014

Self Baring Time (An Exposé!)

On the jumbledmind blog, a poster was shared with a simple message supplied by a quotation:

“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”
Dr. Paul Farmer

When I read this I felt a strong urge to explain where my posts come from and to define myself a little better. Basically this quote is close to the root of who I think I am. And I do not want to get into a “would you trade your life with someone in Bangladesh” discussion as those are quite fruitless. But something I would vote for, support, and gladly pay the taxes for is a guarantee to American citizens of shelter, food to eat, and basic medical care as a right of citizenship.

Oh, I can hear the conservatives howling already. Words like “undeserving,” “unworthy,” and “sending the wrong message,” and … well, you know. “Sending the wrong message …”: like if you are hungry, we will feed you; if you are cold, we will provide a warm, safe, place to sleep; if you are ill, we will give you medicine. That message? Isn’t that the message we give to our own children, that we will protect them and feed them, and heal them, etc.?

So, why would total strangers merit something like the treatment we provide our kin?

Well for one, it would probably be cost effective. Consider the measles outbreaks we have had because of stupid middle class people not vaccinating their children. Yet, we have allowed all kinds of poor people to wander around with flu, measles, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases for decades; how is that not the same kind of mistake? Do we not pay a price for that in excessive health care costs and unnecessary illnesses with their loss of productivity?

Hungry children clearly do not do well in school and because of that they often fall behind and end up with an ineffective education. Their job prospects are then slim and poor people (working or not) are tempted into crime and end up in jail or prison. What do you think the cost of that is? The U.S. has one in every 100 of its citizens in jail right now. We are feeding. and clothing, and housing them in really expensive institutions with around the clock service. And when we let them out (if we do) we ban them from voting (in many states) and make it really, really hard for them to get a job and sustain themselves so they are tempted back into crime. Think of what we would save if we cut our prison population to half, or a third, or a quarter of what it is now?

Consider how many fewer policemen we would need if there were less crime?

Feeding hungry children would allow them to do better in school. And if the anti-abortion folks argument of “the fetus aborted might be the next Einstein” is any good, what good is it to make sure he is born and then starve him so he can’t learn enough to become special?

How different would it be if we all grew up in a culture where we all felt that everybody (really, everybody) cared about us?

What about the incentive not to work? What about “turning the social safety net into a hammock?” I have a problem with that phrase. First of all, unless you were a sailor in the Navy, you probably associate hammocks with leisure and with good times or vacations. Consider the basic support I am suggesting: a safe, warm place to sleep (probably communal), something to eat, and medicine if you are sick. Does that equate to a vacation to you? Or “the good life?” Would you settle for that as your day-to-day existence? No? Then why would you think anybody else would equate that to “having it made?” Can you find any examples of people who would be happy to live that way? I don’t think so. And if you did find a few, they would be a tiny, tiny fraction of the entire citizenry. Studies of the homeless before the Great Recession showed the average length of time someone was homeless was about six months. Experience that for a while and it really motivates you to get out of that situation. This is the reality of it, not the “happy to be living on the streets” meme promulgated by conservatives.

I am not saying there would be no limitations to our largess. If someone in these circumstances needed a heart transplant, well, that would be sad, because there are real limits on our abilities to support our fellows. But, think about what would happen if all of the shelters, food banks, and free health clinics would find themselves out of work. Would that not create a situation where new groups would crop up, groups that would be offering job training, education, English language lessons, all of the things people who are on hard times would need to move up a notch on the socio-economic ladder? Wouldn’t everybody be better off?

But this is socialism, isn’t it?

No, conservatives, this is not socialism. This could happen under Communist, Socialist, or Capitalist systems. It is simply the extension of certain rights under citizenship. Hey, Swiss citizens have the right to go to any of their embassies in foreign countries and explain that they cannot afford a trip home and their government will get them home. I think they have to pay for the trip when they get back but no Swiss citizen will ever be stranded abroad because of their policy. It is a right of Swiss citizenship. What I recommend would just be rights of American citizens.

And, what I recommend makes me what? I don’t have a name for it, I just hope it is “someone who cares enough,” or “someone who thinks that all lives matter.”

Now, about living wages. . . .

July 19, 2014

It’s Time for Liberals and Progressives to Stop Embracing Free Trade

Too often I hear liberals and progressives singing praises of free trade as part of a preamble for minor concessions they want in the securing of it. This is sadly another case of drinking the Conservative Kool-Aid. Conservatives have been beating the free trade drum for decades now and it is easy to fall into the false equivalence of free trade = good.

We need to stop this and oppose such efforts.

The term “free trade” just sounds so very good. “Free” is good and “trade” is good, so put them together and what have you got? What you have is an aggressive policy that is only promulgated because of the rampant self-interests of plutocrats and corporatists.

Consider this bit of history. There has never been a significant global economy created based upon free trade. History, in fact, says quite the opposite. All of the major economies (Great Britain, France, Germany, the U.S., Japan, China, etc.) were created through various forms of protectionism. Remember Korea after the Korean War? A little country with fewer prospects, all torn up from a devastating civil war. Yet, now South Korea is a much greater economy that those of larger countries. (Incredibly, so was North Korea, but they have fallen upon hard times due to megalomania.) How did South Korea do this? Free trade? Nope, protectionism. The government controlled the banks and thereby controlled the funds going to any business. They had no capacity to make automobiles, so native car makers were given loans and protective tariffs to get on their feet. Ditto for much of the rest of the economy.

China was, check that, China is doing it the same way. It wasn’t that long ago that it was very hard for foreigners to sell anything in China. China had decided to make its economic bones on exports. At the same time they couldn’t allow all the money they made that way to flow right back out of the country to buy foreign goods, so they basically denied those goods to their domestic markets. Currently, they have got enough of their domestic productive capacity going that they are just beginning to allow a trickle of foreign goods to come in. (This is why China owns a pile of our debt. They were sitting on huge piles of cash that had been saved because the Chinese people had very little they could buy with it.)

Free trade is exactly what we thought it was: an aggressive attempt to flood foreign markets with your goods, so they don’t develop their own capacities and become dependent upon ours. (Wanna Coca-Cola, little girl?)

We need to start using terms like anti-competitive when we speak about free trade. Rapacious, too. And, oh my goodness, we have already seen what free trade means to American jobs. Free trade means that American manufacturers and other companies can seek out cheap labor anywhere in the world to make their “American Made” goods. Since the signing of the NAFTA, we have lost millions of manufacturing jobs.

The latest ridiculous “free trade” agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has “free trade” plastered all over it, yet only a small fraction of the total agreement has anything to do with trade (<10%, can’t say exactly because it is secret, even from the politicians who have to vote on it). There is a large section on patent protection and extension, though. Now I ask you, why would a free trade agreement seek to bolster patents which are restrictions of free trade? Again, history tells us why. In this country, for example, we had a Patent Act in 1791. But we didn’t sign the global patent treaty until almost 1900. Why was that? Because we viewed patents as protections of our own inventions. We had no interest in protecting other country’s inventions. In fact, commercial history is rife with how one country pilfered products from others. At one point Germany was using English proof marks on their knock-off goods. England retaliated by requiring all goods to have the country of origin listed. So, Germany printed it on the packaging, which once thrown away left a knock-off with no indication it was made in Germany. When the British outlawed that, they stamped Made in Germany on the bottom of heavy pieces of machinery so it would not be visible or made it so small as to be invisible, etc.

Patents are protectionist measures and aren’t compatible with real free trade, but currently “free trade” is defined as trade and other agreements that are “good for my company,” which is why the TPP negotiators have had corporation lawyers sitting in on their negotiations. It is all about them and their damnable maximization of profit and has nothing to do with you or really with free trade. You are your job are “acceptable collateral damage.”

Liberals and Progressives: Stop Accepting Free Trade as a Good Thing!

Our New Foreign Policy

In a news conference yesterday about the mess in Ukraine President Obama announced a new foreign policy. He explicitly stated that countries have the right to pursue their own destinies without foreign intervention. This principle, called the right of self-determination, is a bold new initiative on the part of the Obama administration. Strangely, the President stated this principle as if it had been part of our national beliefs since the beginning of the country, which is a strange tone to take when announcing a new policy.

The United States has been invading and taking over foreign countries for centuries. One need only think of Hawaii, Cuba, Panama, or the Philippines. In addition, we have had our foreign services (including the CIA for some reason) mount coups to overthrow legitimate governments to put our puppets in. Iran in 1953, Chile, Egypt, etc. come to mind. And, we have supported brutal dictators over democratically-elected officials in myriad countries. Think of Egypt, Viet Nam, Nicaragua, Cuba (Batista, who got elected President but when he lost an election staged a military coup; we still are mad at Castro for throwing out the “legitimate” government of Batista), and many other countries. Some forget that Sadam Hussein was our tool in Iraq before he became our whipping boy.

I thought the right of self-determination belonged just to us an a few closely held allies, but President Obama has declared that it is now a general right.

I guess that’s progress.

July 15, 2014

Conservative Confusion Over Women

Part of the conservative’s War on Women is the general berating of working mothers as mothers who do not truly care for their kids. Of course, the data show that mothers now spend substantially more time with their children than they did fifty years ago. And if you are unaware, the explosion of women into the work force occurred on Ronald Reagan’s watch, so that “50 years ago” was before that, so the mothers now are generally “working mothers.” And the reason for that explosion of women into the work force? The typical Republican mishandling of the economy leading to a recession on top of deliberate corporatist policies designed to disadvantage unions and erode wages.

So, as far as I can decipher, the conservative position wants women to stay at home with their children, but they don’t want their husbands to have decent wages, certainly not enough to afford an at-home mom. In fact, they don’t want wages high enough that a working couple can handle the costs of a reasonably-sized family.

Oh, and they don’t want women to have reliable, affordable access to contraceptives or abortions, so that they will have even more children to care for, which they cannot afford, either.

And the GOP thinks they have a messaging problem with women … I think it maybe they ought to rethink that.

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