Tag Archives: capitalism

Big business is NOT our friend

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I have been watching the events surrounding the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and it reaffirms my philosophy that Big Business is NOT our friend.

I’m not a Marxist or advocate state ownership of business but I do feel that industry needs to be heavily regulated. Big businesses, left to their own devices, will screw us over in some form if we aren’t watching them like a hawk. The corporation only answers to their owners and shareholders. With some rare exceptions, benevolence from big business only exists if it doesn’t cost them very much money and if they benefit from it.

History is full of the damage and chaos when big business is left to run amok. The big example is the Crash of 1929. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 89 percent of its value by 1932 and put us into a depression that didn’t subside until the start of World War II. That was 12 years of massive unemployment and suffering.

We had the robber barons of the 19th century which included John D. Rockefeller, John Jacob Astor and Andrew Carnegie. These guys were the Goldman Sachs and AIG of their day. Men like that were known for extensive use of child labor, deadly working conditions and strong arm tactics if workers complained.

Upton Sinclair wrote “The Jungle” that exposed conditions in the U.S. meat packing industry and led to the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. Now we seem to be returning to those days when you didn’t know if your food or medicine was safe. The food industry have worked for years to reduce the regulations in place.

More recent follies included the Savings and Loan crash in the 1980s and there was Black Monday in October 1987 when the stock market dropped 500 points or 22.6 percent of value. We’re still experiencing the damage from the crash in 2008 and the collapse of the housing loan market.

The BP oil spill isn’t the first or last example of big business raping our environment in the name of profits. Google “superfund” and you will find a lot of information on trashed environments that taxpayers paid to have cleaned up — places like Love Canal, Times Beach and smaller locations like old factories that found it was cheaper to dump their hazardous wastes on their property than to have it properly disposed.

The problem with “big business” is shown in little ways as well. Grocery chains don’t locate in low income areas so those people are forced to pay more for their food. Money and favorable policies meant to help family farms end up going to agriculture conglomerates like ConAgra. Wal-mart treats their employees so bad that many have to apply for food stamps and welfare to make ends meet.

What bothers me the most is most people let these things happen or look the other way. One reaction is that they would rather have a cheaper price than a company that acts ethically and responsibly. Big business isn’t the driver of the economy. The engine of our economy is small businesses— the mom and pop locally owned shops and services. Big business’ charity work comes from their advertising budget and most of their profit leaves the area and contributes nothing where they operate.

An obstacle to stopping this screw over is the government. Legislators in D.C. or in the states are bought and paid for by big bushiness in some way. Both Democrats and Republicans. If we want to return our country to the people we need to only vote for people who will refuse to be bought.

Unless that happens, things like the BP oil spill will continue.

*This article appeared in the July/August 2010 issue of The Central Ohio Humanist*

American Capitalism: short term gain and screw the future

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My one major complaint about American style capitalism or a better term would be corporatism, is the need for short term gain at the expense of the future. Corporations and their lackeys in the Congress seem to bend over backward to protect profits but ignore the consequences of that short sightedness. Take for example the comments made by Rep Jim Jordan (R-OH4) and Marathon Petroleum Co. President Gary Heminger on Thursday to the Findlay Courier concerning the proposed carbon cap and trade program.

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan and Marathon Petroleum Co. President Gary Heminger on Thursday said congressional Democrats’ plans to reduce carbon emissions would raise utility bills and kill jobs.

The hardship to the 4th District would be compounded by its large number of manufacturers, whose costs would climb. The Democrats’ plan would be a “job killer,” Jordan said.

“It takes a lot of energy to manufacture things,” he said. “We are a huge manufacturing district.”

A study by The Heritage Foundation, a public policy research institute, said the 4th Congressional District would be the fourth hardest hit in the nation.

Marathon employees also are vulnerable, Heminger said.

“I talk to our employees (and tell them) … ‘What this does, is, this is going to eliminate your job. It is not just an extra 50 cents, a dollar, whatever per gallon at the pump, and whatever the increment is in your electricity bill, or your natural gas bill,’” Heminger said. “‘But it is going to eliminate one of the largest industries in the country.’”

Marathon, Jordan warn about ‘job killer’ legislation

Yes, a carbon cap and trade program would force a change in how we do business. The change though is for a future long term benefit by leveling the playing field. The one obstacle to a clean energy economy is the cost. A cap and trade program would remove that obstacle.

Leveling the playing field by forcing fossil-fuel prices to reflect their true cost will spur a wave of clean-energy investment: research and development in new technologies, new factories to produce solar panels and wind turbines, and energy-efficiency retrofits of commercial and residential real estate. That means jobs, and lots of them. While some businesses that rely on dirty energy will be hurt, many others will thrive in the clean-energy economy.

Most carbon cap plans are set up to fail because they reward energy companies with permit giveaways and fail to compensate consumers for increased electricity bills. One such proposal hit the Senate floor last year, only to collapse under the weight of too much spending and not enough protection for the middle class. Obama’s cap-and-refund plan avoids these mistakes.

Obama’s Carbon Cap-and-Trade Plan Can Boost Growth

A clean energy economy would help reduce climate change, improve the health of the population, add to our national security by removing our dependence on foreign oil, and bring about greater technology investment.

We may have to buy electric cars that cost $40,000 but the technology is still pretty new. Heminger doesn’t seem to be aware of Moore’s law in the computer industry and that would happen in the electric car industry as we move forward. Five or six years ago I had to spend about $20 for a compact florescent light bulb, now you can buy them for less than $10. When consumer VCRs came on the market you had to spend thousands of dollars now you can buy one for less than $20 – if you can find one.

We must change our energy policy and get rid of the dirty fuel. I would much rather do it now while the transition costs are relatively low then be forced to do it through some major crisis like the melting of the ice caps or cut off of foreign oil when it will cost us all much more.

Accountability doesn’t seem to apply to the rich and well connected – Surprise!

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Another day of news and another heavy sigh. I could just beat my head against a wall, but then my insurance company may not pay for the resulting medical bills. The problem is when god damn cocksuckers screw all of us then nothing happens to them. NOTHING! A President shreds my rights and has lied to my face, a freaking CEO gets a nice bonus of killing his company and the jobs of his workers, and yet some guy gets caught with a bit of weed and gets years in prison. Why do we go down this road every time? I can’t be the only person who doesn’t ride the short bus.

The company I work for has a performance bonus each month if we reach certain quality standards. If we do we get some extra cash and a pat on the back. If not, we don’t get a bonus.

Someone with only half a brain understands how that works – right? I get an incentive to go the extra mile – which in turns helps the company. If I don’t then I don’t get the extra perk(s) and at worst I could lose my job if my work falls below a base level of expectations. My company operates on a “what have you done lately” premise. I have seen people with 10 years experience let go because they failed through all the progressive steps used to help us do a good job. They weren’t paid extra for not doing their job.

It seems the rich and well connected don’t get it. Yes, I have known they are treated differently but it drives me batty that even their ethical values are opposite of what I am expected to follow. Here some examples:

The South Financial Group, South Carolina’s largest bank, announced earlier this week that it had been approved to receive $347 million [1] from the U.S. government. But the bank’s founder and longtime CEO Mack Whittle won’t be sticking around. He retired with an $18 million severance package in late October, two months earlier than had been expected. Because of the timing, he’s free from golden parachute limits that come with accepting bailout money.

The $18 million package “reflected [Whittle's] 20 year career with [South Financial Group] as its founder and only CEO,” the bank said in a statement [5]. (We called the bank and they referred us to the statement.) In addition to a $4 million cash severance payment and $9 million pension benefit, the plan came with a number of side perks like a $133,920 auto allowance and $75,000 for “financial planning.”

Under Whittle, the bank grew to be the largest based in South Carolina, with $13.7 billion in total assets and 180 branch offices in Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina. But the bursting of the housing bubble has hit the South Financial Group hard. Since the beginning of 2007, the bank’s stock [6] has fallen sharply from above $26 to about $3.50 today. The bank booked a $25 million net loss [7] in its third quarter.

Bank Got Bailout, CEO Got Golden Parachute

A majority of America’s largest publicly traded companies and the U.S. government’s largest federal contractors — including some receiving millions in federal bailout money — use multiple subsidiaries in offshore tax havens to conduct business and avoid paying U.S. taxes, a new report finds.

To illustrate the problem, Levin said the report found that Citigroup has set up 427 tax haven subsidiaries to conduct its business, including 91 in Luxembourg, 90 in the Cayman Islands and 35 in the British Virgin Islands. He said other havens include Switzerland, Hong Kong, Panama and Mauritius.

Bailed-Out Firms Have Tax Havens, GAO Finds

Although [Obama] doesn’t rule out investigations – and appears to be passing the baton to his Attorney General – it’s hard listening to Obama talking of “looking forward” and not to conclude that he’s going to pass on this.

However, the rest of the planet will not forgive or forget what the Bush regime engaged in: Torture.

Nor has Bush shown the slightest regret for his actions. Indeed, he recently argued that Obama must use the same techniques as he did

Bush says two things here which are important. He claims that he checked the legality of his actions, which is simply laughable. What he actually did was engage John Yoo to tell him that these actions were legal, despite the fact that the US has previously prosecuted people for the very actions Bush indulged in.

The second important thing he says is that members of Congress were consulted. This more than anything else accounts for Pelosi and others scrambling to give immunity to the telecoms. There are people in the Democratic party who were consulted and, I suspect, are up to their eyeballs in this.

Obama on Investigating Bush Crimes: “Need to look forward”

Then finally on my local level with a small bit of rational justice – finally:

Ohio’s second-largest public pension system had been linking its bonuses to benchmarks. That meant investment officers still qualified for big checks even in economic downturns, so long as their portfolios performed better than market averages.

Supporters of the system said it has helped minimize losses even when investment markets crash.

Some retired teachers called on the pension board to change the formula in the fall after The Dispatch reported that 21 investment officers earned bonuses of $100,000 or more in 2008, with 10 clearing $200,000. The bonuses came on top of base salaries ranging from $170,000 to $270,000.

In a 6-3 vote yesterday with one abstention, the board approved a compromise that will cut bonuses in down years but not eliminate them, which some retired teachers had advocated.

Payouts will be cut if the teachers’ retirement fund falls

But what really got to me was a final quote later in the article:

The three board members who voted against cutting the bonuses noted that the board had approved them last year, and to change the formula now would be reneging on that promise.

“Philosophically, I am very much opposed to the suspension of the promise we made to the employees,” said Tim Myers, a board member and teacher. “I don’t think I can vote for a plan that goes back on a promise we made to our employees.”

“(The decision) was finally a realization that we’re in unique times and when you’re in unique times, you need unique solutions,” said David Parshall, a retired teacher from the Southwest Licking School System who heads a group of activist retirees. “Promises that have been made to retirees have been broken, and no one has shed a tear.”

Circuit City, for example, will be shedding 36,000 jobs when they close down within days. We’ve already lost hundred of thousands of jobs since the cocksucking rich and well connected stabbed us all in the ass and NONE of the current solutions help us – real Americans – the ones who can’t afford it. The latest is the no strike clause in the recent auto bail out agreement.

I was taught that I will be held accountable for my actions, whatever the result. When will that be happening for the money whores and well connected?