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Disaster capitalism

by Ed Raymond | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Gadfly | June 7th, 2017

How long does it take you to pay your Social Security taxes for the year?

Jay Gould was one of the richest capitalists in the United States in the 19th century, bribing legislators, robbing, killing, and hiring a private army to fight labor union strikes over wages, hours, and working conditions.

He and his associate Jim Fisk tried to corner the gold market so they could raise the price of agricultural products and increase the price of shipping on his railroads. Gould came from a poor background but ended up controlling 10,000 miles of railroads in the U.S.

Now that we are living with King Donald in Trumpistan, I’m beginning to think that Jay Gould was not bragging when he said: “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”

Before I get into more details about income inequality, there’s a rumor floating around that we live in a Christian country. Let’s hear it from the Bible and St. Luke:

“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you and defame you on account of the Son of Man...

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep…

From anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”

Well, folks, how are we doing?

A few facts and incidents that have occurred in recent months suggest that many Christians pay no attention to those “suggestions.” Evidently, greed is inspiring.

Hedge fund managers use other people’s money to bet on whether parts of the economy will succeed or fail. Some make it big.

James Simons of Renaissance Technologies made $1.6 billion last year, or $768,000 an hour. He paid his Social Security taxes in ten minutes on his first working day. Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates came in second at $1.4 billion, or $673,000 an hour. It took him 12 minutes to pay his Social Security taxes.

Robert Mercer of Renaissance made a paltry $125 million in the hedge fund racket but is mainly responsible for supplying the funds putting King Donald in the White House throne room. Mercer was way down on the list of hedge fund managers and made only $60,000 an hour, so it took him two whole hours to pay his Social Security taxes.

But these poor guys get a real tax break. They have a maximum tax rate of 15%, half of what their secretaries pay. The top 25 hedge fund managers made a total of $11 billion in 2016.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, King Donald has recommended a 25% cut in food stamps for the 2018 budget, a program that helps feed 43 million Americans at an average $1.40 per meal. Let’s see. What kind of a meal can you buy for a $1.12?

People who work in full-time low-paying jobs earn so little a family of three exists at below poverty level. Unless wages are raised the poor will continue to suffer from food “insecurity.”

Six of the 20 biggest occupations pay at poverty level or below. Eight of the 10 jobs that will add the most positions in the future are presently at minimum wage. Most recipients work but many are disabled or elderly.

The only solution to food stamps is raising the minimum wage, providing health care and paid sick leave, and full-time work.

The giant retailer Walmart pays so poorly that the American taxpayers put up $6.2 billion a year to keep its workers alive and well with food stamps and health care. It’s even called the Walmart tax now.

Meanwhile Marc Lore of Walmart e-commerce, the highest paid executive at Walmart, made $236.9 million in 2016. A Walmart “associate” making an average $11 an hour would earn the same after working 199 years.

What is happening to the American worker in Storm Lake, Iowa in the pork, egg, and beef plants is a microcosm of labor troubles around the world. An article by Patricia Cohen in the New York Times outlines why King Donald is sitting in the White House throne room.

She uses the example of Dan Smith, now 66, who started at a pork processing plant in 1980 in the town of 11,000 at a wage of $16.00 an hour. Thirty-seven years ago it was enough to buy a home, a couple of cars, a small RV, a boat—while the wife stayed at home with the children.

Then Wall Street and Ronald Reagan greed stalked the workers. Corporations speeded up the pork and beef lines and cut the number of workers.

Strong unions were gradually replaced with workers from Latin America and beyond, hired by “coyote” labor contractors paid by American corporations to find cheap labor in third-world countries. They paid smugglers and built tunnels to bring them across the border. Politicians-for-rent-or-buy failed to enforce laws that required employers to hire only documented workers.

Even High-and-Mighty Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Phoenix said he couldn’t find an employer who hired illegals although he could have arrested hundreds each morning picking up workers waiting on Phoenix street corners for the vans.

Politicians said we needed a 2,000 mile fence 16 feet high to stop the workers from crossing, thus increasing the sale of 17-ft ladders.

Actually, as a dominating wall, all we had to do was put a member of the Walton family of Walmart fame, the richest family in the world who make billions off the labor of illegals, in jail for a period of time, just enough to gather the attention of other employers. The clanking of cell doors mightily concentrates the mind.

This is only part of the reason that Dan Smith is retiring in 1966 at a salary of $16.00 an hour, the same salary he started at 37 years ago. If his salary had kept pace with the rising Consumer Price Index, he would have retired from a job paying $47.00 an hour.

Becoming a third world country is an American tragedy.

A quick review of the gang of 14

I have lived during 14 presidents. Most contributed something to our general well-being. FDR put the nation to work during the Great Depression and brought us Social Security. Truman dropped the bomb and saved an estimated million lives, pushed the GI Bill, and integrated the armed forces.

Eisenhower brought us the interstate highway system and warned us about the military-industrial complex.

Kennedy invaded the Bay of Pigs, made Nikita blink over missiles in Cuba, and had casual sex with Marilyn Monroe and gangster girl friends. LBJ got a bloody nose in Vietnam and pushed civil rights and voting rights through a reluctant Congress.

Nixon passed environment, clean water and air laws, and gave us several years of paranoia. Ford, who, according to LBJ, “played too many football games without a helmet,” had enough sense to pardon Nixon, who lived in his own private jail for the rest of his life.

Carter turned the White House into amateur hour but his service to the nation and the world after his presidency is unparalleled.

Reagan played a handsome president on TV, traveled “well” meeting allies overseas, and made friends rich by pushing tax cuts and pissed-on-down economics. Bush 41 organized a successful Gulf War, brought us the Disabilities Act, but was born with a clumsy silver foot in his mouth. He was boring as hell.

Clinton was never boring. He brought us the best economy in many years with 22 million jobs while messing with Monica in the backroom. I understand he had a taste for cigars.

Poor Bush 43 wasn’t dumb, but “The Great Decider” just never attempted to learn anything. He will be forever known for turning the Middle East and much of Asia into a world disaster zone.

Obama hated the idea of absolutely necessary glad-handing, back-scratching politicking because he figured he knew what was right. He acted as if he didn’t need advice from others. He was right in most cases, but too many Republicans thought he was just another uppity “n----r.” His Obamacare will now be around forever in some form.

Republicans, you had seven years to come up with a better plan. You are beginning to prove you’re too dumb to govern. So now we have King Donald. He’s nuts.

There isn’t much art in The Art Of The Deal

My parents used a couple of sayings to comment on our actions as children. They also seem to be accurate in evaluating King Donald. As farmers they tended to use farm symbols.

When our mother wanted to correct our behavior, she got a quizzical look on her face, cursed in French, and said in English: “Why did you do that? Were you born in a barn?”

When our father wanted to comment on the actions of politicians and bureaucrats, he would curse in French and say: “Pardon my French, but politicians are as useless as teats on a boar.”

When they didn’t want us kids to know what they were talking about, they spoke French.

Trump’s parents couldn’t stand him as an adolescent so they shipped him off to a military school as soon as they could.

The main question is: how long will King Donald last? Some day his metastasizing ego will hit 10,000 rpms and blow up his brain or the world. A person who should be on Prozac, Lithium, Xanax, or other psychotropic drugs should never be near nuclear buttons.

I thought my favorite Minnesota philosopher Garrison Keillor summed up King Donald rather well in The Washington Post: “It was a great relief to have Mr. Twitter out of the country for nine whole days, and the entire country felt it, like when your neighbor with the busted muffler goes away for a while and takes his yappy dog with him, and you realize what a beautiful thing common civility is. We were able to turn to the joys of life and forget the absurdities for a while.

He was to the penthouse born and ordinary life makes him uneasy. Has he ever sat in the grandstand or stood in line for a bratwurst? When did he last mow a lawn?” I might add: how can any thrice-married man with four kids be proud of the fact that he has never changed a diaper?

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