Class Warfare Blog

May 19, 2019

Hello? What About the Emoluments Clause?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:11 pm
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When he issued a subpoena week before last, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal said he was seeking six years of President Trump’s personal and business tax returns to aid a committee investigation into whether the IRS was doing its job properly in auditing a sitting president and whether the law governing such audits needed to be strengthened.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin denied the “request” saying that the subpoena was “unprecedented” and “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”

Hello?

First of all, the Treasury Secretary does not have a say in this. He does get to decide whether a congressional subpoena is appropriate or not. The law simply says such returns will be provided upon being subpoenaed.

Second, audits? WTF? What about the emoluments clause of the Constitution, also called the foreign emoluments clause, which is a provision of the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 8) that generally prohibits federal officeholders from receiving any gift, payment, or other thing of value from a foreign state or its rulers, officers, or representatives? If Mr. Trump has been making money off of his presidency, and he apparently has, and the sources of those funds are foreign, wouldn’t his tax returns show that income? Wouldn’t this be a way for Congress to exercise its oversight responsibilities as no other body has that responsibility?

Hey, they got Al Capone on tax fraud, didn’t they? Might work again!

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May 10, 2019

Trump’s Business Losses

Filed under: Business,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:22 pm
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The New York Times is reporting that IRS records show Donald Trump’s businesses lost approximately $1.15 billion dollars during the decade from 1985 to 1994. That sounds like a lot of money and was. But it is not in current terms. I picked the year 1990 at the center of this period as a form of averaging and used an inflation calculator to convert those dollars into what they would be today.

In today’s dollars, Trump’s losses would be . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . .

$2,240,000,000.

This raises schadenfreude to whole new levels!

May 8, 2019

The Bullshit Scam that Are FICO Scores

We have all been told that FICO credit assessment scores are important. There are even services that will help you improve your FICO score, so you will have more credit opportunities.

It is all bullshit and a scam on the public.

I am a responsible person (IMHO of course). I pay my bills on time with rare exceptions, usually based upon forgetfulness. In any case, I have run up quite a bit of credit card debt, not unlike many Americans. But I was paying them down assiduously. I paid off one card and closed the account, a sign of a good faith borrower, I thought . . . and then my FICO score went . . . down. WTF? I still have plenty of accounts, but if I close one I am less credit worthy? WTF? How does that make sense?

I then paid off a car loan! Woo hoo, I paid off my car and I owned it free and clear . . . and my FICO score went . . . down! Again, WTF?

All of the signs of being an honorable borrower cause my credit score to be decreased?! So, I kept my head down and just paid down what I owed. I paid more than the minimum payment on my credit cards every month, and my FICO score climbed up to 700 and beyond! I was so proud!

But, I wasn’t making enough progress on reducing my credit card dept, so I applied to my Savings and Loan for a signature loan (that had a lower interest rate than my credit cards) and paid off my all of my credit cards (Balance = $0)! Note that I replaced my CC debt with an unsecured loan debt of the exact same amount in this process, so my indebtedness did not change even $1. So what happened?

My FICO score soared from ca. 700 to ca. 800! I was now much more credit worthy than I was before, even though my indebtedness was exactly the same! Also, I did not prove my ability to pay off loaned funds at all! But, now I was an “excellent” credit risk where before I was only a “good” credit risk.

Ironically, my S&L checked my FICO score to assess whether I was worthy of the signature loan (aka no collateral loan) when they processed my loan application.

So, what do I conclude from all of this?

I conclude we have been conned. FICO scores (created by a private credit scoring concern . . . I wonder what their corporate values are?) are part of an institutional effort to make sure we are indebted to the system to the max. They are designed to make sure that we can borrow much more than we are prepared to repay in any one year or even one decade. They are a tool of the lending institutions and the financial elites who are now running the whole fucking show!

That Donald Trump is one of their minions doesn’t help one fucking bit. I feel I want to go around the world apologizing to people in all of the countries of the planet for electing the abomination who is Donald Trump and for supporting an American system that oppresses so many people, including our own.

 

May 3, 2019

Some Have More Equal Rights Than Others

No, we are not talking Animal Farm here, we are talking about Republican court packing which has created a Supreme Court consisting of five Justices wedded to the Religious Right. If the Republicans win the next presidential election and retain control of the Senate, it is quite likely that Justice Ginsberg will retire from the Court and be replaced with a sixth Justice wedded to the Religious Right.

The consequences of this are huge. We are faced with avoiding taking cases on church-state separation to the Supreme Court out of fear as to how they might rule. (Look what they did with Citizens United.) And, once the federal courts indicate that they favor religious exceptionalism, look to the more conservative states to be making laws favoring religious groups by the score.

Right now, the recent history of the court has provided exclusions for religious groups from obeying the law. They say, everyone must obey the law . . . except . . . if you have a profound religious belief, you do not have to. Consider the Obamacare contraception coverage situation, as just one example. You must obey the law, they do not.

The whole idea of the separation of church and state was to keep religious squabbles outside of government . . . and . . . to not have government bodies deciding religious issues. It protects the government from religion and religion from government. Once that barrier is broached (and there are already holes in the dike) then where is the line to be drawn as to how much the government can favor the religious over the non-religious? There is no natural divide, so as the metaphor goes, the flood gates will be open. Once that happens, how long will it be before states pass laws favoring one religion over others? (You will only need a stopwatch to measure how long that will take.)

Any number of current justices believe that the religious can be favored over the non-religious under the Constitution. This leaves the non-religious in a second class status, with only the freedom of speech provision of the Constitution to protect us.

And so many of the religious wonder why atheists are so “hostile” to religion! Even when religious people, some–not all, are actively working to get the law to favor them over us. That’s one reason for the hostility. (D’ya think?)

Elections have consequences. If you want to continue the Repubs court packing practices, then indeed vote for Republicans for Senate and President. Ruth Ginsberg cannot live forever. If the Supreme Court gets packed with even more adherents for the Religious Right movement, then the GOP will have its fondest wish, for trickle down religiosity incorporated into our governments, to become the state of this country for decades to come.

April 21, 2019

Jail Birds Fly Free … Well Some Do

One of the parents who conspired to get their kid into an elite college the old fashioned way (cheating, bribery, influence, etc.) has been on trial and that trial is in the sentencing phase. The prosecution wants something a little less than a year in prison and the defense wants something closer to a month in prison.

So, this is the justice system we have. People go to jail for cheating on college admissions requirements, for possession of small amounts of marijuana, etc. but if you do something really big, like bring down the financial system of the U.S. and the world, or defy the orders of a federal judge, you get swept under the rug as being “too big to fail” or, gosh, you get a presidential pardon. I understand that some banks might be too big to fail but are they too big to be broken up and sold off? Are the executives too big to go to jail? Do we need bigger jail cells? We used to send bankers to jail and did so as recently as the savings and loan debacle in the 1980’s. But now, gosh, it would be just so sad to do that, so let’s just give those executives a bonus and let them retire or, heck, just let them keep doing what they have been doing.

Obviously justice in this country has always been predicated upon the color of your skin and your socioeconomic status. If Bernie Maddoff had bilked a bunch of poor people or a bunch of people of color, would he have gone to jail? He had the bad taste to bilk white people who had been rich, so his fate was sealed.

This is sad.

April 5, 2019

AOC Derangement Syndrome

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC as she is referred to, is a new member of the House of Representatives. Since she stands for all things abhorrent to the status-quo loving GOP she is the target of amazing stretches of logic. Take, for example, this cartoon:

In the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War, what was the greatest economy mobilizing force? That would be the American government, not capitalism. In the Great Depression, the business types (the Capitalists) insisted that it was a normal “business cycle” and that things would recover by themselves and that we should do nothing to help the struggling people.

This is what Democratic Socialism is all about, the government as representatives of the people, in control of the economy. Control in the sense of setting the rules, not running it as in totalitarian socialism. Currently, the capitalists have captured the government and are running the economy for their benefit and screw the rest of us. That is what capitalism offers unless it is restrained by government by the people … or a divine king if you want to try that again. (Donald Trump has volunteered for the position.)

April 2, 2019

And Forgive Us Our Debts

Michael Hudson is writing a series of books on the topic of debt forgiveness as a necessary component for capitalism to work. This topic evoked in me a memory of a conversation I had with my mother when I was a lad. She commented in church that the original version of the Lord’s Prayer included the phrase “… and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” but this was not approved of by the wealthy so it was transformed into “… and forgive us our trespasses as we also have forgiven our trespassers.” (By sixteenth century Anglicans?) There are a number of variations of these “translations,” but whatever was come up with (trespasses, sins, etc.), it was to get debt forgiveness (part of Mosaic law) out of that prayer.

A bit of this history is to be had at Naked Capitalism in the form of:

The Delphic Oracle Was Their Davos: A Four-Part Interview With Michael Hudson About His Forthcoming Book The Collapse of Antiquity (Part 1)

Highly recommended.

Some Enticing Teasers:
• “Rome was turned into an oligarchy, an autocracy of the senatorial families. Their “liberty” was an early example of Orwellian Doublethink. It was to destroy everybody else’s liberty so they could grab whatever they could, enslave the debtors and create the polarized society that Rome became.”
• “That’s why you don’t have any history of economic thought taught anymore in the United States. Because then you’d see that Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and the “Ricardian socialists” and indeed most of the 19th century had a completely opposite idea of what constituted a free market … (o)pposite from the neoliberal idea that freedom means freedom for the wealthy to indebt and destroy the economy. Opposite from the liberty of Brutus to overthrow the Roman kings and establish an autocratic oligarchy.”

January 8, 2019

E Pluribus Unum

I like to watch “reality” TV shows, as opposed to the unreality TV shows marketed as reality TV shows (like The Apprentice, Survivor, etc.). The shows I like are those in which people show off their crafts. I have always enjoyed watching the choreography of a short order cook while in diners, so I like cooking shows. I used to do a bit of wrenching on my own cars, so I like auto repair and customizing shows and I ran across a delightful show the other day, “Barnwood Builders.” This is a work crew, located in West Virginia that fell into the profession of dismantling log barns and houses for reassembly (Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle). These are very likable people. They are hard-working, fun-loving, and honest Americans who refer to themselves as “hillbillies.” And I guess they are, some of them even live in “hollers.” (For the foreign-based readers of this blog a “holler” is vernacular for a hollow in the land, a plot of land with gentle hills around it.) They also show a deep respect for the original builders of these erections, who usually used little more than an axe to shape the logs stacked to make the buildings. The modern crew uses traditional tools but modern ones too.

Their self deprecating humor and pun throwing is quite refreshing in its playfulness (and cleanliness). For example, in discussing finding workplaces for which the directions were a little … vague, shall we say (such as “over thataway a fur piece”), the line is “throwed out” that “Those people believe hillbillies don’t have GPS.”

These folk are typical of the Americans I have run into in my travels. I haven’t been to every state but I have been to the four corners and visited much in between and most of the people I have encountered seemed very likeable, nice people, hard working, honest.

So, what has happened to us? We seem now a nation divided. On the coasts we have pointy-headed intellectuals who don’t have the sense to come in out of the rain and in the middle we have “deplorables,” whatever that means. Why is there all of this misperception and mistrust. I suspect it is because we have all been conned for far too long politically, but still.

Back when I was a youngin’, the nation’s motto was E Pluribus Unum, a lovely Latin phrase that means “out of many, one.” It spoke to the Grand American Experiment in self governance whereby we would govern ourselves, that “we didn’t need no stinkin’ kings or popes” to govern us. And we would do it by forging one will out of many. This was accomplished through disputation and diplomacy politically through the “go along to get along” facility of compromise, thus we could get to a single place for all Americans. That didn’t mean we all got what we wanted, but each component of American society got something close to what they wanted from time to time and not too far from what they were comfortable with most of the time. However, in many conservative circles today, compromise is a dirty word, something never to be entertained and we are now in a win at any cost political culture.

In 1956 we jettisoned E Pluribus Unum, in favor of “In God We Trust” and look at how that turned out. Seems “God’s Children” love making war with one another. Since it has been that way for a very long time I guess that is what we can trust this God fellow for. Maybe we should go back to our former motto. It conveys a goal worth getting.

January 7, 2019

But Who Is the Magician?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:57 am
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Most people know that performing magicians use gestures with one hand to attract attention from their other hand which is busy doing the trick. In national politics, Donald Trump is the Distracter in Chief, the waving hand that draws our attention away from the Republican machine which is doing its best to eliminate environmental regulations, consumer protections in the law, health insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, miscellaneous favors for the rich, and many of the other gains made by the people over the past forty years or so. Mitch McConnell is doing his best to pack the federal court system with people who are not representative of the people (very, very conservative white guys).

So, if Mr. Trump is the distracting hand, and the GOP usual suspects are doing the tricks, just who is the magician? (Ignore than man behind the curtain!)

Just askin’.

December 27, 2018

Fear Mongering for Fun and Profit

The Atlantic magazine published an article this last April with the intriguing title “The Last Temptation,” subtitled “How evangelicals, once culturally confident, became an anxious minority seeking political protection from the least traditionally religious president in living memory.”

I didn’t finish the article but it started in the same vein as so many others, with Donald Trump and his high percent of the evangelical vote. The article did suggest, though, that there had been some kind of sea change in evangelical attitudes over the past half century. One paragraph summed up their opinion:

“The moral convictions of many evangelical leaders have become a function of their partisan identification. This is not mere gullibility; it is utter corruption. Blinded by political tribalism and hatred for their political opponents, these leaders can’t see how they are undermining the causes to which they once dedicated their lives. Little remains of a distinctly Christian public witness.”

Finally, we get to the crux of the matter. Things changed when some “elites” decided to convert Christian conservatives into a political force. Believe it or not, early on most American Christians thought that the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling was a good thing, that such decisions should be left to families in consultation with clergy and health professionals, that government shouldn’t be involved. Abortion did not become a “wedge issue” until it was forged into one.

Similarly, as in all other political “mood shifts,” the usual motives involved were: money, power, and fear. In the case of mobilization of evangelicals as a political force, fear was the chosen tool. Evangelicals were and are taught that the world is becoming an ever more sinful place, when that conclusion is far from the truth. They are taught that there is a “war on Christianity,” that morals are sinking fast and that something must be done! Older citizens living in suburbs came to fear Black criminals over the much greater threats to their safety.

All of this was perpetrated, of course, by religious and secular elites, to serve their interests, not the interest of ordinary citizens, Christians or not. George W. Bush is famous (infamous?) for brushing off the Religious Right’s demands for “more” from him by saying “those people are never satisfied.” All they had gotten was a paltry office and a president-appointed officer.

The only resolution of this awful set of circumstances is for all of us to admit that we have been “played” by our political leaders. They all need to be replaced, based upon their records. While it may not be possible to expect complete honesty (within some limits) from our leaders, wouldn’t it be refreshing if we got some? Certainly fear mongering and lying continuously need to be shamed out of existence.

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