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Friday, April 22, 2011

Debt, oil, Obama, Walmart and more....

Walmart. This says it all...
A study released this week found that if the nation's largest low-wage employer, Walmart, were to pay its 1.4 million U.S. workers a living wage of at least $12 per hour and pass every single penny of the costs onto consumers, the average Walmart customer would pay just 46 cents more per shopping trip, or around $12 extra dollars each year.

Consider that the next time you hear some corporate mouthpiece warning of massive job losses if some minimally progressive policy were enacted. You never see them arguing on the cable news shows that increasing the minimum wage will hurt Walmart’s or McDonald's bottom lines; it’s always about the jobs that will be destroyed.
We all pay for Walmart's stinginess. Their workers can't afford medical insurance, so when they get very ill, they go to emergency rooms.

The libertarian answer: Shut down emergency rooms.

Debt. Most Americans don't want Congress to raise the debt limit. Most Americans are idiots.

If the debt limit doesn't go up, we will either stop paying back the money we've borrowed -- a move which would end the American experiment once and for all, since the country would be, in essence, bankrupt -- or the government would have to stop issuing Social Security checks.

Good god. Is it possible that even this group of Republican legislators are that stupid?

Studying Trig. Some posts down, we discussed Professor Brad Sharlott's paper on the Sarah Palin conspiracy theory, which holds that she is not the real mother of Trig. I was not convinced, although Sharlott raised some interesting points. Today, Justin Elliot of Salon has offered a resounding rebuttal to Sharlott's monograph.
Trig Truthers have fixated on any number of details about Sarah Palin's pregnancy. Sullivan, for example, thinks it was irresponsible that, shortly before she went into labor, Palin got on a plane from Texas, where she had been speaking at a conference, and flew to Alaska.

But whether Palin acted irresponsibly is beside the point.
Actually, her behavior is very much to the point, if you're asking the right question. The question is not "Is she Trig's mother?" but "Does this woman have any brain cells rattling around in her skull -- and if she doesn't, then why does anyone care about her political opinions?"

Of course, Palin stumps for Trump's forays into birtherism. If she's going to dish out paranoid horseshit, she deserves to receive return fire. So let's not feel sorry for her.

It's not "fraud and manipulation" if it's legal. Obama says that he's going to root out "any fraud and manipulation in the oil markets that might be contributing to higher U.S. gasoline prices." Most people operate according to the misapprehension that oil prices are strictly a matter of supply and demand. If prices rise, supply must be tightening, right?


The real cause of skyrocketing gas prices is commodity speculation. A barrel of oil goes through many owners before it reaches your car, and the costs are passed on to you. Basically, the Wall Streeters are doing to oil and other commodities what they did to housing not many years ago.

Yes, but that's not really "fraud and manipulation," is it? Obama's words seem strong, but they actually allow much room for weaseling. There used to be laws against this sort of thing, and now there aren't. The people who make the laws were purchased by the speculators who want to rob you at the pump. Some forms of robbery are quite legal.

Has Obama done anything to bring back the older regulations? Yes, he did. Believe it or not. Apparently, it was not enough.

If you really want to know what the problem was and is -- if you want to know the real reason why you're paying nearly four bucks a gallon -- read this. The Enron Loophole was supposed to have been closed in 2008, but market speculation continues nonetheless.

My mind keeps on flashing back to that scene in Natural Born Killers, where Mallory voices a longing for a "cop-less town." That's what the libertarians have given us: A cop-less town.

And this is a main point of difference between myself and many of my readers.
I'm not angry at Obama per se, even though I expect little good out of him. Nor am I truly pissed off at the Democrats, as wretched as many of them have been.

Obama is a mere symptom. The name of the disease is libertarianism. As soon as you people hip yourself to that fact of political life, as soon as you shift focus from the players to the game, you can start playing a newer and better game. The politicians can't save you, but you can save you.

Change the weltanschauung -- the national ideology -- and you'll suddenly have oodles of great leaders. The toadies will become princes. Presidents don't create a weltanschauung shift, not all by themselves. Even Reagan didn't do that, although a great shift happened on his watch.

A massive propaganda campaign took place at that time. You couldn't turn on the radio without hearing a salesman expound the virtues of the New Way of Life that the country was now destined to lead. Mysterious commercial-free programs showed up all over the teevee, featuring Milton Friedman in serious talks with Maureen Reagan about the virtues of the free market. Teevee commercials also sold fundamentalist Jesusism as though it were a new deoderant, and all of the televangelists spent half their time screeching for unfettered free markets as the only antidote to Godless Bolshevism.

(Side note: Remember the "Power for Living" ad campaign? That one came a few years later. I recall it well because it was particularly crass.)

Even if Barack Obama were on the side of the angels -- and I don't think he is -- you couldn't expect him or any other individual to counter that barrage.

We have to do it ourselves. All of us.

Speaking of Obama... As you watch the video below, you (some of you) will be outraged: How can these people still support Obama? But I see this protest song as a great sign. These people seem truly pissed off, and not just because they hate Obama's treatment of Bradley Manning. They are angry at this whole failed presidency. And they are desperate to support a new leader and a new Democratic movement. (Also see here.)

The song would have worked better if it were half as long, though.

Well done!. I don't agree with everything but I agree with almost everything you have said, and for me the stuff you address here is the most important stuff wrong in the US today. I get mad every time I think about these issues.

I disagree with one comment;

"The real cause of skyrocketing gas prices is commodity speculation. "

You are speculating (pun intended). Might be so. Might not be so. I dont know. But certainly OTC exemptions (which provide cheap leverage) certainly facilitate speculation. If you run very expansionary monetary policy you would expect commodities to go up. Cheap money. Dollar goes down.

But remember, China wants oil too.

"Yes, but that's not really "fraud and manipulation," is it? "

Agree entirely. The Soviets considered speculation "economic crime". I don't know myself, its about how you want things to be. But I do know that this current system - zero cost money and pretend financial capitalism - makes it too easy to make money right now - there is no real risk to speculation in the current system. I get it right I keep the money. I get it wrong, my bank collapses and the tax payer pays. Then I get free money to make sure my bet works. Its cos the banks failed and god knows we have to have the banks, right? But if the entire system clearly fails you cannot do piecemeal reforms and expect things to make sense. The policy "cure" has set up a system where bankers are given money for exploiting a rotten system. Its wrong, and really the whole thing is ripe for root and branch reform.

"The people who make the laws were purchased by the speculators who want to rob you at the pump. Some forms of robbery are quite legal."

Yes. Quite simply. Of course it helps that legislators are idiots. It also helps that people believe economic myths are natural laws. But hey, you guys also believed in Manifest Destiny - whatever that is. As the philosopher said "Never give a sucker an even break"

" The Enron Loophole was supposed to have been closed in 2008, but market speculation continues nonetheless."

There is heat around this, but no light. Since America doesn't have any vision of an alternative system, then I doubt you can have meaningful reform.

After all, all investment is speculation in some sense. So what if I am raping and pillaging - its my right as an American to exploit other Americans. Cool!

What you should have done was nationalise the banks when you had a chance. But now, you need to decide what Capitalism really means. Does it have to be Crony? Is "Libertarianism" coherent? What is Libertarianism when corporates dont pay tax but have the right of free speech? Why do we give these muppets anything other than prison time? They are all a bunch of total Kochs.

Honestly, this whole system has no legitimacy. Nothing holds it up. Its the weirdest thing. I kind of know how we got here, but I don't understand why everyone doesn't see that its corrupt through and through? Or perhaps they do? Perhaps really bad things are only a few years away? A system this corrupt usually collapses cos there is no reason for workers to work. A Kleptocracy is not an equilibrium!

Sorry I have gone on too long. Free free to delete or chop down to size. Im just mad/sad.

"Ovulating after childbirth depends on a few key factors and is unique for every woman and each of her subsequent births. While one woman may be fertile again as soon as 10 weeks after birth, another can conceive in as little as 6 weeks... Breastfeeding moms can expect to remain infertile as long as her baby is nursing around the clock, but again this is subject to each woman's body."

If Sarah is not the mother of Trig, you have a problem of who the mother might be. Ovulating within 6 weeks after giving birth is really fast. Bristol would have have to get pregnant within days after giving birth to Trig, and give birth to a 7 pound baby boy on December 29, 2008, 8 months after Trig was born. The other problem for those who think Bristol is the mother of Trig, is that Levi Johnston, Bristol's boyfriend when Trig was born, has never hinted that Bristol had a previous pregnancy.

Everything is possible, but it's almost silly to question that Sarah is not the mother of Trig.
Sarah Palin might not be all that but Barack Obama has to be even less the way they go after her.

I'm reminded of that SNL skit Lowered Expectations.
If men gave birth they'd all be bragging how they golfed nine more holes after their water broke, and gave birth all by themselves in the golf cart and personally bit and tied the umbilical cord. Bashing Palin is boring, to say the least.

I agree with you 100% on the media messaging and I've been saying it for 12 years now, but no one's going to get it. I could organize hundreds of people to protest Bush back in the day, but I could never get anyone, not one person, to do even guerilla tactics to play the media, and it would be simple to do. Code Pink came closest, with a catchy way to attract media attention and get even a snippet of message across...but we need more than that.
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