Asking "[w]ho really rules?" researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue that over the past few decades America's political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power.
Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters.
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
It seems, of late, there is a great deal of reporting on the wealthy, even the very wealthy, ini our country.
And it's about time.
With their ability and proclivity to buy our representatives and their legislation and so, our laws and government, I think it important to know things like what they're doing, how our system got this way and, perhaps most importantly, how we can and do get out of this god-awful, so-corrupt way of not really running the country for the people and as we should.
Here's the first:
Matt Taibbi's New Book Is a Striking Study of How the Rich Are Never Punished for Their Crimes
'The Divide' is a riveting account of how the 1% get away with pretty much whatever they want
Matt Taibbi has been doing a fantastic job of reporting on Wall Street and the brokers and hedge fund managers and the like, who brought the nation's and world's economies to the brink of financial collapse in 2008. He continues that work, fortunately for us, here.
A second article, this from Bill Moyers:
A brief description:
The median pay for the top 100 highest-paid CEOs at America’s publicly traded companies was a handsome $13.9 million in 2013. That’s a 9 percent increase from the previous year, according to a new Equilar pay studyfor The New York Times.
These types of jumps in executive compensation may have more of an effect on our widening income inequality than previously thought. A new book that’s the talk of academia and the media, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, a 42-year-old who teaches at the Paris School of Economics, shows that two-thirds of America’s increase in income inequality over the past four decades is the result of steep raises given to the country’s highest earners.
This week, Bill talks with Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, about Piketty’s “magnificent” new book.
“What Piketty’s really done now is he said, ‘Even those of you who talk about the 1 percent, you don’t really get what’s going on.’ He’s telling us that we are on the road not just to a highly unequal society, but to a society of an oligarchy. A society of inherited wealth.”
Krugman adds: “We’re seeing inequalities that will be transferred across generations. We are becoming very much the kind of society we imagined we’re nothing like.
As always, good and important reporting from Mr. Moyers.
Third, this article, which tells us of the results of all this power grab, corruption, bribes and "campaign contributions" in America:
Some sad, likely surprising, if not frightening information:
The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction.
While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades.
After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.
The numbers, based on surveys conducted over the past 35 years, offer some of the most detailed publicly available comparisons for different income groups in different countries over time. They suggest that most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality.
Although economic growth in the United States continues to be as strong as in many other countries, or stronger, a small percentage of American households is fully benefiting from it. Median income in Canada pulled into a tie with median United States income in 2010 and has most likely surpassed it since then. Median incomes in Western European countries still trail those in the United States, but the gap in several — including Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden — is much smaller than it was a decade ago.
It goes on:
“The idea that the median American has so much more income than the middle class in all other parts of the world is not true these days,” said Lawrence Katz, a Harvard economist who is not associated with LIS. “In 1960, we were massively richer than anyone else. In 1980, we were richer. In the 1990s, we were still richer.”
Finally, this last article, at least today, is this one, further describing America's current status:
Princeton Study: U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy
I think it's important we know who we are, what we are, how we spend our money, collectively, as a nation, as in our Defense Department, what form of government we have, who rules us and where the wealth of the nation is going.
It's going, largely, to the top "1%."
To the already-wealthy.
A friend of mine on Facebook wrote a bit yesterday about his Chevrolet Volt electric car. What he says was rather eye opening to me and I think it may well be to lots of Americans who may not be familiar with what's possible here:
When I first got my Chevy Volt at the end of 2013, Keith Reynolds asked if I could give a one month update. With how obviously it behaved differently in the cold than warmer temperatures, I decided to wait until I had more info on different conditions to give a review. I'd say after a 75 degree day I'm now due.
The first thing I should say is it is an absolute joy to drive. It's like a silent hovercraft with instant acceleration and good (not killer) cornering. And the low drive setting engine brakes really hard so I rarely touch the brake, and just absorb whatever speed I was doing back into battery storage as I slow into braking traffic or lights, or down hills. I can come to a stop just taking my foot off the accelerator even on a downhill upwards of 10%.
I've driven it a bit over 5500 miles in four months, just over half of it electric and the rest on long trips out to NY state (230 miles each way). In the depth of winter I was getting only about 32 miles on a 10+ kWh charge (which costs me around $1.20), and low 30s mpg on gas. Its biggest weakness is heating the inside without the engine running, so it was using gas partly for heat, partly for locomotion. Today I got over 49 miles on the same 10+ kWh charge. Around 40 mpg with the gas engine charging the battery, which drives the wheels. I've used almost 76 gallons of gas in almost 2600 miles on gas, and about 2960 on electricity from my outdoor outlet and free public parking charges, probably about $80-90 in electricity.
So under 7 cents a mile to drive, and way more fun than any car I've ever had or driven, stick shifts or not. I swore I would never drive an automatic, but this car has totally changed my thinking. I would never buy anything but an electric car again. It's effectively getting well over 120 mpg on days I drive under 50 miles locally, I can go wherever I want, and I look forward to zipping around in it every morning. Among the hadfull of best purchases I've ever made.
So think about it.
You save money.
You buy less gas. A LOT less.
You pollute less.
Those are two HUGE wins.
Wins for you. Wins for all of us.
Let's et this party started.
Monday, April 21, 2014
Sunday, April 20, 2014
Saturday, April 19, 2014
Thursday, April 17, 2014
I could hardly believe my eyes. This was on the Senator Blunt's Facebook page yesterday:
A Republican, our very own Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, at that, teamed up with Colorado's Senator Michael Bennett to----hold your breath----propose a JOBS/INFRASTRUCTURE BILL in this Congress.
I nearly fainted when I saw it.
I've been harping on this for months, both here and on Facebook, on his page and elsewhere, trying to get him--or someone, anyone--to write, propose and pass such a bill.
The Americans need the jobs and have for years now, at least since 2008 when the financial collapse nearly took place. The nation needs the infrastructure work, as evidenced by two, count them, two bridges collapsing in the last couple years and finally, the economy needs the boost.
It couldn't be more obvious what was needed. Yet all this time, no one proposed such a bill.
I say again, our own I-70, from Illinois and St. Louis on the East, all the way through Columbia and over to Kansas City and Kansas on the West, the whole thing needs updating, widening and improving. The highway is downright dangerous to the point of, in too many places, dangerous and even lethal. Far too many people have been killed on that thoroughfare, all because it's outdated and highly traveled.
There's more good news, too:
The bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Dan Coats (Ind.), Lindsay Graham (S.C.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Angus King (Maine), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Mary Landrieu (La.), and Mark Warner (Va.). U.S. Representative John Delaney (Md.) introduced the companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, which has been cosponsored by 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans.
It has, of course, bipartisan support, everything. This, very likely, has every reason to pass, it seems. Of course, it should, badly as it's needed and for all these reasons.
Another great thing about all this is that, with this, we'll finally get something productive out of this Congress. Last year, out of their very short scheduled work year, it was one of the least productive sessions of that government body ever. I think this may have arisen from the fact that, first, it was needed so badly, in so many ways, and the representatives in Congress knew they had to be productive this year after all. They know Americans want to, at long last, get something out of this body, what with all we pay them.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
In the last two days, I've been struck by the most amazing, dumbfounding, confusing, negative headlines in media and actions by groups of people in the Republican Party. Here's the first:
It seems the Republicans in Oklahoma--you know, the "small government" people--don't want the cities of the state to be able to legislate for themselves any higher minimum wage so the rocket scientists in the statehouse there created this legislation. Forget a "living wage", Oklahomans. You're screwed.
Here's the 2nd headline:
Forget working together. Forget being "American first." Forget cooperation. Forget colaboration. Forget compromise.
The only thing important, apparently, to too many Tea Party, Right Wing members and Republicans is to separate themselves from the rest of the country.
How is that smart?
How does that make any sense?
How is that progress?
Most importantly, how is that good for the nation?
What in the Sam Hill has gotten into these people?
I'd like to think, I'd like to give them credit that it's not just racism.
But it surely looks like it.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
To all the haters and non-believers out there, read 'em and weep (with thanks and a hat tip to The Huffington Post):
WASHINGTON -- The Congressional Budget Office has released updated estimates on the Affordable Care Act's impact on both the budget and the health insurance industry. The findings show that the president's signature health care law is actually growing cheaper to implement, costing the government $5 billion less in 2014 than was previously projected. The law also is projected to cover more individuals than previously believed, owing, in part, to some broader workforce trends.
Some of the highlights:
''It's that time of year again, April 15, taxes.
I know it's depressing, but just remember, you're paying for roads, bridges, hospitals, and an army to keep the nation free.
Unfortunately that nation is Afghanistan.''
Monday, April 14, 2014
Hard-charging rock and roll, from the next generation of rockers:
So what if they look like they're 16.
I think it's safe to say a good deal of Americans think first, we're on the wrong political and/or societal path, be they Right Wing, Left, Republican, Conservative, Democrat, Liberal, Libertarian, "Tea Party", Independen or whatever. And second, I think a great deal of us also feel we're terribly, terribly destructive on this path. Many have predicted or are predicting the end of our existence as a nation, at least as we have been for the past previous 300 years.
Herewith, then, I propose 3 rather simple things we could and should do as a nation, to set us back on a constructive, positive path for the nation and all Americans:
1) We should, without question, end campaign contributions. I think virtually all Americans, of whatever political stripe, agree that we need to get, as I've said many times, the big, ugly, corrupting influence of the wealthy and corporations out of our election system and so, our government. If we don't do that, if we don't stop these people from buying our legislators, in effect, and so, their/our legislation and our laws and finally, our government, nothing will take place for the betterment of the ENTIRE nation and not just for those same wealthy and corporations.
2) To that end, so that we, as a nation, don't NEED campaign contributions in our elections and so we don't have non-stop campaigns and campaigning, we need to do what England and a lot of other nations did eons ago and that is limit campaigns to, at most, one or two months length.
Think about it. Campaigns don't need to and shouldn't last that long None of us want to hear these people, anyway. All we want them to do is do their job. All we want and need them to do is work for the betterment of, yes, their constituents, but for the nation overall, as well. Additionally, the legislators don't even want to have to shill and prostitute themselves for this money. Let's put two and two together, come up with four and end all this nonsense and corruption and distortion of the system and nation. Let's end perpetual campaigns. This isn't rocket science.
3) Finally, let's get back to where we don't have television stations and channels taking only one side of issues, either the Republican/Conservative or Democrat/Liberal sides--or any inbetween. Let's reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine. Lest you don't know your American history, a refresher:
The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was, in the Commission's view, honest, equitable and balanced
The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented.
Again, it's my contention this only makes sense and is nothing but simple, logical, intelligent and strongly positive for the nation. We have FAR too many one-sided pundits, railing against either policies or politicians and their rants and tirades go either totally un-debated or weakly so. In a lot of cases, if they are debated at all, it is extremely half-hearted.
The dismissal of this Fairness Doctrine, in 1987, by the Republicans, mostly, has led to, in the worst incarnation, Fox "News." It is owned by a wealthy, extremely Right Wing executive and spews nothing but one-sided viewpoints with usually no rebuttal at all or very little at all. There have been countless times when their staff has voiced outright untruths (read: lies). It hasn't mattered. They carry on unabated and unanswered.
Their counterpoint has given birth to MSNBC and while I admittedly support them and their broadcasts (truth in advertising), it is also my view that having both of these channels and stations has been extremely negative on the nation overall. As a country, we have become far more polarized, we only listen to our own preconceived, pre-accepted viewpoints and we don't even listen to one another, too frequently.
With all this history and fact in mind, it's my strongly held contention that we should, without question, bring back this same Fairness Doctrine. I feel also strongly that it would help take some of the vitriol and ugliness out of our elections, our political system, our government and even the nation, overall.
People will scream their First Amendment rights are being taken away but that's nonsense. No one is proposing anyone's viewpoint can't be heard. This only says that, on and in the public airwaves, a countering point of view must also be aired. It is long, long overdue. The original Fairness Doctrine legislation should never have been done away with.
All that said, do I think ANY of this will take place?
Not on your life. Not on mine.
It's sad, it's frustrating, even demoralizing and defeating but not one of these possible legislative moves will be made at all, unless or until we come to some cataclysmic event or events in the nation, heavens forbid.
This is just my way of tilting at a windmill, out here, so to speak.
A Don Quixote of 2014 and for America, if you will.
We have to do what we can.
Three white people shot, he internets and media light up:
Mostly black people shot? Not so much:
23 people have died in Kansas City-area homicides this year
Sunday, April 13, 2014
And that good news out of Kansas is this, earlier this week, from The New York Times:
It seems the Guv's and Republican's earlier legislative work, IS, in fact, coming back to haunt him and hopefully, his political future:
But policy changes that lawmakers added to the bill, most significantly diminishing job protections for teachers, seem all but certain to become a thorny campaign issue for Gov. Sam Brownback, a conservative Republican, as he seeks a second term.
In a state where a debate over financing for education has simmered for years, Mr. Brownback has yet to say whether he will sign the measure, approved late into the night on Sunday. But a statement from his office suggested support, reading, in part: “The bill ensures that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently, putting money in the classrooms to help teachers teach and students learn.”
It seems the Republican Party in Kansas is once again deeply split on an issue. Some are for the bill, others against. The state's Supreme Court said more money needs to go to poorer school districts, too, which a lot of Republicans want to fight but others, wisely, want to support. Then there are the extra "ornaments" which were put on the bill they're also fighting over.
It all gives Democratic Representative Paul Davis far more political ammunition and ability to stand up for the schools and school funding and so, for the people of Kansas, the "little people", the working-, middle- and lower-class people who mostly make up the state and not the top "1%."
As I've said before, I love the smell of Republican division, if not self-destruction, in the morning.
There are two terrific articles in The New York Times today, both brief and both on technology.
The first is
It is about how we have taken innovation to its extreme and we're "innovating" beyond human needs and with not enough or no concern for what said "innovation" might mean for or do to, we humans. A bit from the article:
We treat innovation like an impersonal force, and a ceaseless outcome of entrepreneurship in tech. If we displace people or distort our culture with innovations that, say, wipe out local bookstores or measure every moment in a warehouse worker’s day, it is the price of a generally beneficial force.
Increasingly, however, economists and social thinkers are challenging the conventional wisdom on innovation.
It goes on to point out that government laid the groundwork for and even began a great deal of the technologies and technological breakthroughs, yet business then privatizes those technologies and reaps all the monetary benefits, thus keeping them from the people and the society. This makes for yet one more way more and more of the wealth of the entire nation, the entire society is whisked away for and to the top "1%", the wealthy or already-wealthy of the society. Clearly this is neither fair or beneficial for that entire society, for the people.
Finally, it also points out that we're far more interested in that "innovating" and concentrating, especially in business, on greater and greater speed and on shorter term investing, as companies, industries and corporations. Clearly that's been a trend that's been building over the last several decades and time and again it's proven itself very short-sighted and even harmful to the very companies it's supposed to be helping, let alone to the people these companies and industries are supposed to be serving, let alone, again, the overall nation, the country, as a larger group.
The second article, again, from today's Times, is about a new book:
In warehouses run by Amazon and Walmart, he says, workers are monitored by machines, their work output determined by performance optimization programs. At financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, traders and managers depend so heavily on algorithms that they abdicate personal responsibility for events like the subprime mortgage crisis.
The problem isn’t just the machines, however; it’s what machines do to thinking. In his book, “Mindless: Why Smarter Machines are Making Dumber Humans,” Mr. Head bemoans a triumph of computer-led systems thinking and so-called “scientific management.”
These have led to “misindustrialization,” he writes, in which service workers’ emotions are manipulated to optimize retail sales, and Oxford dons are judged by a “research excellence framework” that compels them to publish nonsense to meet irrelevant standards.
And this is why I point out we need government even more now, today, and for two huge reasons.
First, all the industrialization and innovation and dependence on computers and technology is making us, in the business world and so, in the nation and world, overall, far more controlled by those machines and "productivity" and "innovation" so the human factor is being pushed out of the picture, if not ignored altogether. That can be nothing but dangerous for the people on a small scale but also, in the bigger picture, for, again, the entire nation. We need government and rules to more control the direction of "progress" so all that innovation and technology and progress serves the people instead of the people serving the productivity.
Second, with the coroporatization of America and the world, combined with the wealthy people's and corporation's ability to buy the legislation they want, that will benefit them and their companies, through the very legal but very corrupting campaign contributions, all this gives them strong, nearly unfettered ability to have virtually everything headed in their way so more and more pressure is but on business, those corporations and so, us, the people, for more and more innovation, more and more "productivity", more and more "progress", all at the expense of the people, the worker, the man and woman on the street. The emphasis remains on profits for the companies--and so, the wealthy--people be damned.
That does not make for a healthy, even workable society. No way.
So we need government to not only keep those "at the controls" of society honest--no small feat in itself--but also to keep the wealthy and companies and corporations doing what's best for the larger society and nation, as a whole.
Do I think this will happen?
Absolutely not. And for a few reasons here.
1) Government and laws never have kept up with technology and advances in industrialization. Government virtually always comes in afterward--long afterward--after there has been a collapse or tragedy of some kind and cleans up the mess. There is no better nor more recent example of this than the 2008 financial meltdown that nearly took America's and the world's economies down;
2) That "innovation" described above is hurtling forward at ever faster speeds, leaving government and our representatives ever further behind;
3) As long as we allow "campaign contributions", it leaves those with great deals of money--again, the wealthy and corporations--virtually if not truly in control of the very government that is supposed to be there to protect the people and nation.
It's all a Libertarian's and Republican's and Right Winger's dream.
It's also the dream of any anarchist.
I don't have my hopes up.
Anyone overly concerned or worried about "big government" in the US, in my eyes, doesn't see what's happened in the last several decades and of late. The "big boys" are in control and they don't like or want "big government" in any way, shape or form and they're getting just what they want, just what they're paying for.
Have a nice Sunday, y'all.
Saturday, April 12, 2014
''Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don't learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying 'yes' begins things. Saying 'yes' is how things grow. Saying 'yes' leads to knowledge. 'Yes' is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say 'yes'.''
Friday, April 11, 2014
I don't know if you were paying attention two days ago but, as the title above says, Senate Republicans just further turned American history on its head.
I think all of us were taught, in grade school and middle and high school, all, that America was about equality and fairness.
Well, nuts to all that, say those Senate Republicans, yet one more time with their vote Wednesday this week:
Despite weeks of heavy messaging, Democrats failed to get a single GOP vote as the third attempt in recent years to pass the wage equality legislation fell six votes short.
“The promise of equal pay for equal work should not be a partisan issue — it should be a matter of common sense and fairness, an essential step for the security of our families, the growth of our economy, and the strength of our middle class,” Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement after the vote.
“Unfortunately, Senate Republicans disagree,” she added.
I say again, why any woman--any woman--in this nation would vote Republican, for this political party or for anyone in it is beyond me.
Now that I'm at it, why would black Americans vote for them? Republicans have come out against renewing the Civil Rights Act.
Gays? Republicans are famously, famously against equality here, too, for gay Americans.
The elderly? Unless their wealthy, of course? Republicans are for dismantling Social Security.
Hispanics? Republicans are notoriously against immigration reform of virtually any sort.
It truly seems the only people left to vote Republican are white, wealthy men.
Well, and any middle- and lower-class American the Republicans are able to dupe.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
With this result yesterday:
What woman, what working woman would vote Republican?
What woman, Hispanic, black, gay or elderly person would vote for this political party, for that matter?
I just don't get it.
I can hardly believe, frequently, the extraordinary things said by people in the Republican Party out of the respective state capitols of Jefferson City, Missouri and Topeka, Kansas. Here's the latest one, from just yesterday:
Oh, yes he did:
State Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger (R) explained to his colleagues on the Missouri House's Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities committee that when he goes to buy a new vehicle, he doesn't just make a snap decision.
"I have to look at it, get information about it, maybe drive it, you know, a lot of different things. Check prices," he said, according to video recorded by Progress Missouri. "There's lots of things that I do putting into a decision. Whether that's a car, whether that's a house, whether that's any major decision that I put in my life. Even carpeting."
What's so amazing/fascinating/incredibly stupid about this is that, first, Rep. Gatschenberger seems to be saying--or wanting to say--that this is an incredibly important, rather grave decision, yet he compares it with--ulp--buying a car or carpeting.
Second, he seems to think and assume that women of all ages could, would or do think of having an abortion lightly.
Since he's not a woman and so, can't have ever been in this situation, it's clear he has no idea whatever what these women go through in such a situation.
Fortunately, others in the House--not Republicans, of course--caught him on this, got him to rethink, at least a little bit, and apologize for making so light of this situation:
State Rep. Stacey Newman (D) called Gatschenberger out on the car comparison in a testy exchange.
"Are you equating that with a medical decision?" she asked Gatschenberger.
"No--" Gatschenberger said.
"That was your analogy, and that was extremely offense to every single woman in this hearing, representative," Newman said. "Your comments were extremely offensive to every single woman sitting in here, whether they're pregnant or whether they're not. I want to point that out, because that kind of attitude is demeaning to women, regardless of what they decide to do."
"That was not the intention. I apologize for that," Gatschenberger responded.
But Gatschenberger was pressing Newman to reconsider the bill seconds later.
Honestly, if people's own lives' and rights' weren't at stake, this would be funny.
Instead, it's tragic.
Tragically stupid, in fact.
With this kind of statement repeatedly coming from people in the Republican Party, on top of yesterday's vote by Republicans in the Senate disavowing equal pay for women doing the same job as men in the workplace, it stuns me any woman--any woman--would vote with these neanderthals.
Final note: Lest anyone think this might be overlooked by the rest of the nation or even the world, the article is in both Mother Jonesand Talking Points Memo.