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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Giving Us The Business

You know the last eight years, they borrowed more than it did in the whole history of our country. So they borrowed more than $10 trillion, right? And yet, we picked up 5.2 trillion just in the stock market. Possibly picked up the whole thing in terms of the first nine months, in terms of value. So you could say, in one sense, we’re really increasing values. And maybe in a sense we’re reducing debt. But we’re very honored by it. And we’re very, very happy with what’s happening on Wall Street.
- President Donald J. Trump, Hannity, Oct 12, 2017


This is how billionaires think.

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A surging stock market is great for billionaires, sure it is. You’ll get no argument from me on that.


image


A rising stock market sure is good for Donald Trump.

And what’s good for Trump is good for business, because Trump is business, isn’t he?, I mean that’s why he was elected. Business. He’s a businessman. Americans were tired of business as usual. Trump was going to run America like a business. And so he is. And so he is. Really giving us the business. 

And what’s good for business must be good for you, good for jobs, good for the national debt, good for the world.

Sure.

I mean, right?

What’s good for business is good for you.

Isn’t it?

Well? Isn’t it?

Right?

It’s not just Trump.

That’s what conservatives have been telling us for decades. That’s essentially the foundation of the Republican platform. If we create a country that’s good for business, well, it’ll automatically be good for all the rest of us. This is the fundamental message of the GOP. What’s good for business is good for you. This is modern conservatism. This is, at least in part, libertarianism, sure it is. Government is bad. Get government out of the way, kill government, drown it in a bathtub, and that’s good for freedom, good for America, good for business. And what's good for business is good for you.

Trickle-down economics, the same warm piss disguised as lemonade Republicans have been peddling since before Reagan.

And how’s that worked out for you?

What's good for business is good for you.

Seems intuitive, doesn't it? Seems logical. Seems to follow. Good for business, good for me.

Well, mostly…

[Pregnancy is] a wonderful thing for the woman, it's a wonderful thing for the husband, it's certainly an inconvenience for a business. And whether people want to say that or not, the fact is, it is an inconvenience for a person that is running a business.
--
Donald J. Trump

Sure, a rising stock market is better than a falling one (Caveat: unless you’re attempting to short your stock, but just go with me for a minute), but is that really good for the average American? 

Is it?

Maybe.

Or maybe not. Or maybe both.

See, the things that are good for business aren't necessarily good for people. Sometimes they are, yes, but not always.

Take John Thain, for example.

John Thain was the last CEO of Merrill Lynch. He made billions upon billions for the stock market. Literally.

Now what’s good for the stock market must be good for you, right?That’s Trump’s whole message this morning.

And John Thain was great for business, great for the stock market.

Oh yes. Yes, he was.

Until he destroyed everything.

Until that ballooning stock market he helped create imploded and precipitated a global financial collapse that vaporized literally trillions of dollars, destroyed century-old too-big-to-fail companies and brand new mom & pop businesses alike, zeroed millions of retirement accounts, destroyed the life savings of millions, and left hundreds of thousands jobless, hungry, and out on the street all over the globe.

How was that?

Was that good for you?

Max Belfort: What kind of a hooker takes credit cards?
Donnie Azoff: A rich one!
-- The Wolf of Wall Street,
2013.

No?

It was pretty fucking great for John Thain though. He made millions, literally. The company he destroyed paid him more than $80,000,000. Then Bank of America hired him for millions more to preside over the carcass of the company he destroyed (BOA acquired the wreckage of Merril-Lynch after it collapsed).

That's good work if you can get it.

After that, Thain headed up Citigroup, making millions more. Then he retired. With his fortune intact.

And how'd that work out for you? How's your retirement account? Recovered from Thain’s recession?

No?

Oh well.

Martin Shkreli made millions for the stock market by driving up the prices of certain critical drugs.

That was really great for investors.

And in fact, that was the whole point. Shkreli wasn’t a pharmacist, he was a hedge fund manager. The entire reason he got into the drug business was to make money. Which was a pretty sweet gig while it lasted. Great for stocks.

Kinda sucked if you were dying from AIDS and needed a Daraprim prescription though.

Was that good for you?

Mylan raised the price of the EpiPen to levels that literally killed people with allergies.

Mylan made billions. The company’s CEO became a millionaire. And the stockholders were overjoyed.

Was that good for you?

See, business raises its stock by becoming more profitable, i.e. by creating a monopoly like Shkreli, by creating a market and limiting availability like Mylan, by tricking people into investing by creating buzz for products that don't actually exist (see Silicon Valley et al), by risking other people’s money like Thain, by offshoring their manufacturing, by outsourcing, by rightsizing, by downsizing, by hiring cheap foreign labor on temp visas like, oh, let's say Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago for example.

That’s good for business.

That’s good for the stock market.

But is that good for you?

Maybe.

If you're invested in those companies.

Not so great if you're poor and your kid is allergic to bees though.

If any of my competitors were drowning, I'd stick a hose in their mouth and turn on the water. It is ridiculous to call this an industry. This is not. This is rat eat rat, dog eat dog. I'll kill 'em, and I'm going to kill 'em before they kill me. You're talking about the American way – of survival of the fittest.
-- Ray Kroc, American businessman, founder of McDonalds

You know what's good for business? Strip mining. Polluting. High oil prices. Shady deals. The 2006-07 US Housing Bubble was great for the stock market, really really great. Right up until it destroyed all your jobs, your retirement, and left you homeless.

You know what's good for business? Cancer.

You know what's good for business? War.

A surging stock market always benefits the wealthy. Always.

But it's the middle class and the poor who always pay the price when it fails. Always. Every time.

And the wealthy are fine with this.

Of course they are.

This was their idea.

This is how billionaires like Trump go bankrupt over and over without losing a penny of their wealth.

Sure, every once in a while the good guys win one and people like Martin Shkreli and Bernie Madoff go to jail…

..but, Donald Trump didn't lose his home when the bubble burst last time.

And John Thain made millions destroying your life.

And Martin Shkreli still has $70 million waiting for him when he gets out.

These people, their business model is simple: rape and pillage, rape and pillage, squeeze the suckers for all the market can bear plus ten percent. Then, when it all falls apart, demand those very same victims – the poor and middle-class – bail them out or suffer even worse. And if called on it, deny all responsibility and place the blame on the very same victims with a smug Martin Shkreli sneer and a supercilious caveat emptor.

And yesterday Republicans voted to make it illegal to sue these people when they blow up the economy and steal your money.

Which they most certainly will do again.


Using the stock market as the sole measure of economic "greatness" is disingenuous at best – and dangerously fatal at worst. Fatal for you.


If you elect wealthy business people to run the country, well, then you're going to get the business.

That's the one thing you can count on.

Every. Single. Time.

I love money more than the things it can buy. But what I love more than money is other people's money.
-- Lawrence Garfield, Other People’s Money, 1991

102 comments:

  1. Excellent piece - thank you. I am blaming the beagle for the inconsistencies of Train and Trane.

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    1. Heh, speaking of typos, don't you mean "Thain" and "Thane?"

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    2. Don't you mean Thain and Thane? Darned dog! LOL

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    3. Don't you mean Thain and Thane? Darned dog!

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  2. And Shkreli didn't go to jail for price gouging poor people over drugs. The law only came after him, just like Madoff, when it became apparent he was stealing from rich people.

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    1. Of course. Only stealing from rich people is illegal enough to prosecute.

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  3. Al Capp and L'il Abner keep popping up. "What's good for General Bullmoose is good for the USA".

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    1. I was having the exact same thought--"The country's in the very best of hands!" comes to mind, too!

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  4. Nailed it again Jim............thanks and keep it up!

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  5. Very good read but very sad and true Jim thanks. The Rich do indeed control the Government,and us.

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  6. Absolutely spot on! If my boss had his way my hourly would go to the company store, and corporate housing. It boggles my mind that so many Americans don’t understand that business is all about screwing your competitors and wringing every penny out of your staff.

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  7. Such an excellent post. It defines Republican "theology" completely and the harm it does to the middle class and the poor.

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  8. Every time I think I can’t come up with 1 more smarmy intelligent response to stupidity, I read your TL. Boom! Works. Every. Time. Hail King Stonekettle!

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    1. TL? Tea Leaf? Too Long? Time Limit? Tweed Long johns? Terrible Language? Title Line? I don't know how some of those things can be read, but context hasn't helped me figure it out.

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    2. Timeline! 😂🤦🏼‍♀️

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    3. Thanks! Should have been obvious to me; must have been a long day.

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  9. I did cry a little, because this is all so true and SO obvious yet so many people still support the Orange Asshat and his cronies just like they supported Reagan and his. It'd be sad if it wasn't so infuriating!!

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  10. Thanks for giving us the “business”,Jim. As usual ya nailed it right on the noggin.

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  11. Socialist the risk
    Privatize the reward
    rinse
    and
    repeat.
    its the republican Big business way.

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  12. Well said, well put, and bloody damning to the "Robber Barons" like Trump and Company.

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  13. Almost 20% of the homes in my lower middle-class community were lost through bankruptcy. Those homeowners lost their jobs, their homes, their dignity. The last full service grocery store closed too. Those little jobs helped people pay their bills, the big store hired teens and seniors looking for a few bucks. Those jobs are gone now. Now we have no grocery store in an area serving 30 thousand people except small independents and, thank heavens for Aldi that opens stores in depressed communities since 21% of the people in my community do not drive. No, it was not good for us.

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  14. Sad thing is, it’s not a matter of if, but when. Again

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  15. Time for some torches and pitchforks.

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  16. Time for some torches and pitchforks.

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  17. Great piece - just sad that those who really need this info the most will not likely read it & will, once again be ground under the heels of these assholes, to remain angry, confused & open to manipulation & propaganda.

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  18. Once again Jim thank you! Thank you for another excellent essay and for making it so much easier for even me to understand it.

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  19. I always wondered what went on in those "Ethics" classes taught at business school. Must have been taught by Madoff clones. I tired my hand as a stockbroker. It was always lead them to water but make them think its there idea, and oh by the way, you need to sell a variety of products to have a rounded portfolio of clients. Couldn't do it.

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    1. Didn't you see Billy Madison? Specifically the ending, with the "I award you no points" quote. The rich little $%&# (a hotel magnate named Eric, how about that) goes ballistic when confronted with a question about business ethics, which he can't formulate an answer to because he has no idea what it is.

      That's the joke -- there's really no such thing as "business ethics." At least not among the predatory rent-seeker class. They deserve no points, but they don't have a soul to have mercy on either.

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  20. As usual, Jim. extremely well said!

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  21. I am not equipped to survive in a world run by the rich. The idea of cutting the throats of others in order to acquire more wealth makes me feel sick. Can't do it. Actually won't. I wasn't raised that way. There are times when this angers me. I would like to have money, too. Or rather, I'd like to live a life where I'm not afraid all the time, where I don't have to worry about seeing a doctor or dentist or wonder what I'll do when the old car finally dies. I was told I'd have a good life if I worked hard. *laughing hysterically* Right.

    The rich are different, and they have always fed off the 98%. That realization makes me bitter and unhappy when I think about it, so I try not to think about it. Pass the scotch.

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    1. My feelings exactly Fenraven. I cannot compete, nor do i want to. I want to live my life without fear or worry about paying bills. I want to take care of my patients without worrying whether or not they can afford the medication they need to stay healthy. And, most importantly, i want to know that my children will have good lives after i am gone. none of this will happen in the current state of affairs.
      It makes me very sad, so i try not to think about it, so i can focus on giving my kids and patients the care they need to the best of my ability, and weeding the garden on my days off. I will share scotch with you.

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    2. Pass the bottle, Fenraven. These are scary times in which to get old. Or be young. Or be anything but filthy rich.

      I wonder whether it's a good idea to engage in my cheap therapy of digging in the garden while I'm blitzed on scotch (or another libation)? Sharp as some of those garden tools are, I'm about ready to try it.

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  22. If running the country is going to be like running a business, I gotta wonder when the layoffs are coming and how do they decide who gets downsized.

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    1. Well, if you look at the proposed budget, you can see what sections are being hit, and assume that all those people are going to be unemployed very soon. PBS. NPR, Endowment for the Humanities, heating help for the poor, so they can now freeze to death in the winter, and a whole lot of other programs, most of which benefitted the poor, the elderly, children, and the disabled.

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    2. Yeah, they will get rid of all those programs and announce the savings but essentially in an office its the savings from name brand coffee to generic or less..

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  23. I'm gonna be that person...

    John Thain or John Thane?

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  24. Another crash within two years. That's my prediction. And again, we will bail them out.

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    1. IF the Republicans are still in control, you can count on it.

      IF the Democrats are in control, you can count on it.

      The difference? If Rs are still in control, the bailout will come with absolutely ZERO strings attached, and there will be ZERO new legislation to avoid it happening again. This is a virtual certainty, because history has proven this - the Rs are constantly doing their best to dismantle any controls put in place by Ds.

      When I run into people that say both parties are the same, my first question is almost always "Just how stupid/brain damaged are you?"

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    2. Yes. Even the main stream economists are starting to predict a crash. The bubble will burst. Trump himself said that. What goes up, must come down. I should be retired now but I'm afraid. I have a good job today, but...

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    3. Keep the job and decide what your savings are like after the recovery from the crash (based on the assumption you are able to do your job at or after retirement age).

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  25. Decades ago Charles Wilson, then head of GM, was raked over the coals for telling a Senate committee, "what's good for General Motors is good for the country." (He had been nominated for Secretary of Defense, and Congress was worried about whether he would be willing to make a decision that would harm GM). But what he actually said was, "what's good for the country is good for General Motors, and vice versa."

    Back in those days there was a different attitude. Heads of companies were rich, yes, particularly in relation to the rest of the country, but they weren't obscenely rich. They didn't have incomes that were hundreds of times larger than that of their mid-level employees. To the best of my recollection that altered during the Reagan years. All at once CEOs started getting giant paychecks, and the rest of use started bottoming out. This emphasis on helping the rich and dumping on the poor started about that same time.

    I don't know what we can do to change things. We have swung so far to the right that the Great Society that Johnson dreamed of seems like a pipe dream. But perhaps what this Congress is doing will be enough to start people really looking at what their interests are, and to vote for those who support the other 90% of the country.

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  26. Welcome to Capitalism 2.0. Capitalism 1.0 was about using capital (money, either from borrowing or stock sale) to make a profit on the sale of goods or services. Capitalism 2.0 uses the ownership of 1.0 companies to create "financial instruments", which they use as leverage to buy up more 1.0 companies. As a result, the owners of the 1.0 companies concentrate on the stock price at the expense of everything else. Stock buybacks are an example -- their only purpose is to run up the stock price.

    And if you want to be really paranoid, the ones controlling Capitalism 2.0 aren't even human. Their trading is all done by computer algorithms. Nobody knows exactly what they're doing, and their interactions are a total mystery.

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    1. The Skynet economy. Ironic that the Terminator movie has a release year of... 1984.

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  27. Just finished reading a piece in the Toronto star about Trump and his son and daughter assuring investors in his failed Trump tower in Toronto that "nothing like this has ever been built in Toronto. It is going to be the ultimate destination for business, pleasure and entertainment." Ultimately, the project failed, the investors lost millions,Trump gained money,and the tower is 3 quarters empty for its new owners. Glad in a way, it would be terrible to have the Trump name on our skyline. I don't see after 2008 how people don't see the folly in thinking the stock market is a better measure of success than housing, a healthy environment, decent wages and job security, and healthcare for all. Thanks for this exellent piece, as always.

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    1. The Canadian government should seize it and turn it into a luxury housing complex for refugees. (Not a Grenfell, because that was intentionally left to disrepair by the selfish Tory government.)

      Keep the letters on the building, but add a few so that T-R-U-M-P gets switched around to read P-M T-R-U-D-E-A-U. :) Dotard would have a fuddle-duddle in his pants because he'd feel "betrayed" by his "new found friend."

      Who is not his friend at all, of course... he hates Dotard's guts, but isn't being too vocal and certainly isn't coming out swinging like gangbusters. He wants to snake-charm the meth-head downstairs regarding NAFTA, for one thing. The other reason is that he's, Canadian and therefore, well, "polite."

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  28. Greg - ETC(SW) USN - RetiredOctober 25, 2017 at 1:46 PM

    Also worthwhile pointing out -

    You know what's good for business? Poisoning the water, air, land
    You know what's good for business? Lack of Occupational Safety Standards (work time requirements, safety training, accessible exits, storage of chemicals, etc)
    You know what's good for business? Lack of labor regulations (overtime, working hour requirements, availability requirements, non-compete requirements, etc)

    Are these good for the working class?

    Rhetorical questions.

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  29. Thank you Jim for another thought provoking, tear producing piece.

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  30. Haven't we been here before?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robber_baron_(industrialist)

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  31. I agree with what you wrote. My question is how do we stop wealthy people from running the country? To put it another way, how do we elect qualified people to office without money? It is increasingly difficult to run for state office for less than a million dollars, let alone federal. All that leaves are the wealthy business people.

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    1. If I were King for a day, with the power to decree one thing. it would be direct public financing of political campaigns. With that, all other problems can be worked on towards a more just society. With out public financing, no progress is at all likely. It is the single highest-leverage change possible.

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  32. Towards the beginning of this essay, I read " Trickle-down economics, the same warm piss disguised as lemonade Republicans have been pIddling since before Reagan." Then I reread it as peddling. I've also always called in "tinkle on economics", so guess that's where my mind keeps going.

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  33. Yes. That's about the size of it. Big, isn't it? The big toxic lie they keep telling, they keep selling, and they keep getting away with it. Thanks Jim. Well written.

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  34. After we've been screwed over time and time again many people still want to believe that the ultra wealthy will reach down and hoist them up into the wealth cloud. Dream on you poor deluded wretches. The only thing the rich have done to bring wealth they've done for themselves. Too many people don't think they're poor but only temporarily dispossessed millionaires.

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  35. Thank you for speaking the truth, if only more people understood.

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  36. "The business of business is business" - Milton Friedman, 1970

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  37. You know what's good for business? Pain employees a living wage so they can purchase the products your business sells. Been saying this for years but it's like beating your head against the wall.

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  38. Many comments here ask "how can we stop this" or How can we stop the rich from doing this....problem is you can't. Actually you CAN but you really don't want to. Anyone ever watch Mr Smith Goes to Washington? Fairly Tale. The greatest threat to the rich and powerful, the one thing that is an equalizer for the lowest poor person, the one thing that scares these rich and power enough to spend billions to keep it from happening - your vote. But you don't really want to change, you can't because billions have been spend conditioning you to keep voting these same rich and powerful in over and over and over again.

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  39. Jim, you must be tired, you essay is very much temperate considering the topic.

    Thain and all the rest should be in prison, and left penniless and destitute after every single penny they have is paid back to those they victimized.

    They are not in prison and they are not broke, unfortunately and worse we have Trump and his greedy minions raping the land, pillaging the treasury and more than likely getting us into a war, just before the 2020 election season starts.

    I dislike (I am being diplomatic) being this cynical, in my world I prefer to see the glass as half full, not a fetid slimy mess.

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  40. I wasn't raised that way either. My parents told me "work hard and do your best" and you'll succeed in life. My parents were of another generation who weren't dealing with such greed as we've seen in the past 40-50 years, so they tried to instill optimism for the future. That sense of optimism within me was crushed many years ago.

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  41. If what people take out of this is your typos, they're fools. This was a brilliant essay, one of your best, and describes all too well what's going on. We need to vote them out. I hope we can.

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    1. You must be new here.

      I encourage readers to point out errors, so that they can be corrected. // Jim

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    2. Only because of your response, Jim...
      Third line from the bottom. I believe you left out "to" between "going" and "get".

      Cheers to another timely essay. The next crash is imminent.

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  42. And why oh why do people keep voting against their own interest? I’ll never understand it!

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    1. They don't know what's good for them.

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    2. When given a choice of voting for their interests and voting for their values, people often choose to vote for their values. That's why I often vote against my best interests. To quote Gale Sayers, I am third. Although, for me it isn't God, family, and then me. It is society, friends and family, and then me.

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  43. Thank you for speaking to what anyone that has been paying attention has known. We must continue to pay attention and stay involved, if even for our own survival.

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  44. OPM is one of the more underrated movies IMO.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62kxPyNZF3Q

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  45. One of the tax deductions trump is trying to remove is the 401K deduction. The Republicans in Congress are not happy about that and are refusing to cut the deduction, I believe they know that 401K funds are a great source of profit for the 1%. So I believe you will be able to continue to give money to the rich, though your contributions to your 401K accounts. Good luck in getting any thing back.

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  46. Martin Shkreli is the pharmaceutical industry poster boy for greed. Yes, he IS a scumbag who deserves to lose every penny he has left and spend a lot more time in a tiny cell. BUT - Where greed and predatory drug companies are concerned Martin Shkreli is just the tip of the iceberg. His company, Turing, was not the first company to to raise drug prices in this manner. It was also not the last.

    The irony is that, even though Turing dumped Shkreli as soon as he became a liability, the price of Daraprim is still the same.

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  47. There was a real sea change brought in by Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich. Rich people became openly proud of being rich at others' expense, where before they had been faintly embarrassed to admit it. But Newt Gingrich and those of like mind did the *greatest* disservice to the world not in changing the laws, but in desensitizing people to dishonesty, to bald-face lying. Because when you change the law, someone can change it back. But when you teach people not to be able to tell the truth from a lie, they will not believe there is any reason to change it back. They will believe what they hear that pleases them, and will not understand whether they are listening to someone who speaks the truth, or someone who does not even know what the difference is. The danger to this world posed by disingenuous people is greater than that posed by almost any other kind, because the one who cannot tell what truth is will not be able to distinguish whether they are being *literally* (not just figuratively) led to slaughter for someone else's benefit. And right now, that literal slaughter is very damn close to us again--not just economic destruction, but real, actual dying of large groups at the inexorable hands of other groups--because we are losing the ability to recognize the rhetoric that sanitizes the killing of millions by calling it a "final solution".

    Eleanor

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    1. Very well said. Thank you.

      And, as always, you, Jim.

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  48. Not to defend Communism, either as an ideology, or as a way of organising a country . . .

    . . . but it did remind the capitalists they needed to pay their guillotine insurance. Because once there are enough people genuinely suffering from poverty, to the point where their food security is imperilled, that's when those guillotines become more likely. The French Revolution started with food riots. So did both the Russian ones, 1905 and 1917.

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  49. Great as usual Jim!!!

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  50. Right on, Jim! And along with all the rest of this, white- and blue-collar alike (anyone not an exec, in other words) are being squeezed into doing more and more work for less and less pay; more uncompensated hours by one trick or another, and yet we are told the job market is great! In the last decade, the change in power "balance" between Corp. and employee has tilted drastically in favor of the corporation and in many situations, people can't switch jobs either because there aren't any nearby or - more frequently of late - the situation at the next place is just as bad anyway.

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  51. The bast myth the businessmen foisted on the USA was that it is a "classless" society. That has kept the unwashed masses eating shit for a very long time. And then we allow the ruling class to define what is "good" for the country, which always means good for them and to hell with anybody else. All the while Democrats were bragging about the rise of "traditional" economic indicators, such as the DOW level, during Mr Obama's administration, I was marvalling that they were perpetuating the same old same old. Now that the GOP has the reins, they'll take the "credit," and the marks will still lap it up and shout "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

    The present model is seriously broken, but the only people who would benefit from a fix are the ones who are powerless to fix it.

    -- EMH

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  52. "If you elect wealthy business people to run the country, well, then you're going to get the business."

    I had a friend recently tell me - during a bitch session about our President - "If you don't like it, run for office." I believe this is the only thing that will change things in this country: electing people of character that can not and will not be bought.

    Problem is, I have no idea how to do that when you're up against money and power, even at the local level. But until that happens, nothing will change, and it isn't unique to this administration or time in our lives. It's gone on as long as Merica's been Merica.

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    1. Not entirely. Once upon a time a wise man wrote a very good, practical book about political involvement, Take Back Your Government! by Robert A. Heinlein - Baen Books (http://www.baen.com/Chapters/0671721577/0671721577.htm). So much has changed in the years since that it feels innocent and nostalgic, but it once was perfectly true. Perhaps together we can make it true again.

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  53. Eat the rich before they eat you.

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  54. These people are the reason I hate rich people so much. I've never met one yet that didn't think EXACTLY like this. Everyone wants to be rich and they worship these people like gods. I personally have no time or energy for that. Sure- I'd love to be rich-who wouldn't? But I refuse to corrupt my morals to do so. Blood money is blood money no matter how many generations back.

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  55. "I want my fair share. And it's all my fair share." Charles Koch

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    1. "We don't want the whole world. Just your half."
      --They Might Be Giants

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  56. "Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss." We won't be fooled again?

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  57. Privatize the profits, nationalize the losses. That's how the party of business has rolled for my entire life. Socialism, in other words, but only for big corporations and the rich. You'd think the people getting screwed would catch on. You'd think...

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  58. I find myself agreeing with every word you have written here. Your blog was recommended by my friend Mark Bear, and I wasn't disappointed. Great work.

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  59. Great post, Jim.

    The Kroc quote sums up the ethos of many businessmen: ”If any of my competitors were drowning, I'd stick a hose in their mouth and turn on the water. It is ridiculous to call this an industry. This is not. This is rat eat rat, dog eat dog. I'll kill 'em, and I'm going to kill 'em before they kill me. You're talking about the American way – of survival of the fittest.” -- Ray Kroc, American businessman, founder of McDonalds

    The American way: survival of the fittest—or at least survival of the most amenable to making a killing in a literal sense.

    Much business these days is run according to the economic theories of Milton Friedman. He proposed that businesses should never concern themselves with ethics, morality, or virtues such as justice or empathy. Their only goal should be to increase profits and the wealth of shareholders. It was up to the people (that’s us, folks) to try to keep businesses from harming us.

    A major way we do this is through our elected representatives in government and through electing leaders who understand our concerns and are willing to pursue them.

    By way of example, Wells Fargo and other financial institutions found themselves up a creek without a paddle when the newly formed consumer protection group the last administration put in place held them accountable for their unethical business practices. (Wells Fargo seems to be in fresh hot water every day.) Without such pressure, businesses left to their own devices will do what Friedman suggests they ought to do—whatever it takes to get the best return on investment.

    But, the playing field is not level, because businesses deploy their considerable resources to ensure that it is not. They use their resources to keep the consumer (that’s us) from upholding our side of the Friedmanian formula—holding them to ethical standards.

    Certainly, no one told them they couldn’t. Except God, and He doesn’t count because He’s not a business man.

    So, here’s the question: Do we really want our nation—our shared home, where we live our collective lives—run like a business?

    Do we really want leaders who feel no compulsion to be guided by virtues, morals, or ethics?

    Do we want cost to be the driving factor when we need something (healthcare) or for profit to be the driving factor when we don’t (pollution)?

    So much of our collective material existence is determined by the forces of politics and business. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the two apart.

    I submit that both government and business must be run with justice, trustworthiness and empathy or we will fail to thrive as a nation and as a species.

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  60. Truth. Absolutely. Fucking. Spot. On

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  61. Damn fine essay as usual Jim, thank you. I'm a little late to this party, but I’m ready to make it even more fun. I’d never heard of Alfred McCoy until I read this article from The Intercept, a transcription of Jeremy Scahill’s interview with the man.

    LINK

    Excerpt:
    “For the majority of Americans, the 2020s will likely be remembered as a demoralizing decade of rising prices, stagnant wages, and fading international competitiveness. After years of swelling deficits fed by incessant warfare in distant lands, in 2030 the U.S. dollar eventually loses its special status as the world’s dominant reserve currency.

    “Suddenly, there are punitive price increases for American imports ranging from clothing to computers. And the costs for all overseas activity surges as well, making travel for both tourists and troops prohibitive. Unable to pay for swelling deficits by selling now-devalued Treasury notes abroad, Washington is finally forced to slash its bloated military budget. Under pressure at home and abroad, its forces begin to pull back from hundreds of overseas bases to a continental perimeter. Such a desperate move, however, comes too late.

    “Faced with a fading superpower incapable of paying its bills, China, India, Iran, Russia, and other powers provocatively challenge U.S. dominion over the oceans, space, and cyberspace.”

    It’s a lengthy read, but a fascinating interview with a fascinating man.

    Leroy

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  62. Trumpians are still fans of running the country like a business.

    What could go wrong? (besides everything?)

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  63. I titled my Jan. 19th piece on Trump Caveat Emptor http://ranthonysteele.blogspot.com/2017/01/caveat-emptor.html for exactly the reason you lay out, Jim. Every single person in the world should be familiar with what that phrase means because every single consumer (and if you aren't the 1%, you are a consumer) in the world waives their right to object to an exchange every single time they agree to just go along with business as usual.

    Business as usual is what has to change. That is what has become painfully clear to me over my adult life. Business is actually the problem, not government.

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  64. Absolutely - and it illustrates the difference between actual, living people and corporation-entity people, a point that's still not being taken seriously enough.

    Much like privatize profits, socialize losses, it's a cherry picking strategy: get the legal rights that work for the Company but avoid the obligations that would cost the Company.

    Hell, it always just boils down to Get Yours and Don't Pay For It.

    What bothers me is that, so far, no one has pointed out the identifying standard for people (The People, I suppose) that's being overlooked: To be considered a person that's part of our national contract, you have to be committed forming a more perfect union, establishing justice/tranquility of a National nature, providing for the common defense, promoting the General Welfare of the Country and its Citizens, and securing the blessings of Liberty on oneself and the general progeny of the Citizenry, as this is a generational agreement.

    Not things that Incorporated Business Entities do.

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  65. Excellent analysis. Two questions, (1) Why is it, do you think, that a significant portion of the very people the wealthy will exploit, fall for their promises? (2) Does a guy like Bernie Sanders have a prayer of even getting elected, let alone changing things in the manner he describes?

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  66. What's good for business is good for war. Happy times :)

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