Shouting FIRE On A Warming Planet

FIRE: Finance Insurance Real Estate

I (Insurance) looks at longer-term risks. That’s why the industry is pulling out of Florida, etc. The know what is coming.

F(inance) and RE(real estate) look short-term and are still ignoring the climate crisis. There are short-term profits to be made.

Financial collapse happens slowly, then all at once. Another huge hurricane? A heat wave that kills thousands? Terrible flooding? SOMETHING will happen one of these days, and suddenly everyone will be worried that they shouldn’t be where they are.

Florida real estate is an example. It is already worthless because it will be underwater relatively soon. And one day SOMETHING will happen and everyone will decide it’s time to get out. Sell! But they’ll all decide to sell at once and the buyers will have seen the same thing. So all the mortgage will fail. All the lenders will fail.

And THAT will trigger a closer look at other climate-devalued real estate, like Phoenix and every other coastal area.

Boom.

F and RE will catch up with I.

Have You Heard That Companies Pass Along Taxes To Customers?

Here’s a common trick used against the public. Have you heard that “Companies pass taxes along to customers”? This is nonsense as soon as you think about it.

1. Taxes are on profits. Profits are calculated the following fiscal year after expenses are subtracted from revenue. A company can’t know what its taxes will be ahead of time, so it can’t increase prices.

2. IF a company DID increase prices to “pass along” taxes, that would mean the company would bring in more revenue with the same expenses. That would mean more profit. That would mean more taxes. That would mean they would have to increase prices to “pass along” the taxes. That would mean the company would bring in more revenue with the same expenses. That would mean more profit. That would mean more taxes. That would mean they would have to increase prices to “pass along” the taxes. (Continue this until prices and taxes are infinity.)

3. Companies ALREADY charge the maximum they can charge before hurting their business. Unless they’re managed by idiots who actually believe they can raise prices any time they want to but haven’t yet.

4. Companies with competitors can’t raise prices without their customers moving to their competitors. Companies without competitors are illegal – it’s called “antitrust” and governments in the past would stop this, before governments became subsidiaries to giant companies that don’t have competitors.

5. Governments became subsidiaries to giant companies that don’t have competitors because voters believed nonsense like companies “pass along” taxes to the customers.

How The Bribery And Corruption Work

When we allow “public service” top be a path to wealth we end up with self-dealing “public servants” who are in it entirely for their own careers/enrichment and not even a little bit concerned with the public interest. The influencers know that, and use it.

Jack Abramoff was one such influencer. He was a Republican “lobbyist” who was actually prosecuted for corruption, back when occasionally people were prosecuted for that. This from a 60 MINUTES episode, Jack Abramoff: The lobbyist’s playbook, explained how it works:

Abramoff: When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, “You know, when you’re done working on the Hill, we’d very much like you to consider coming to work for us.” Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to ’em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they’re gonna do. And not only that, they’re gonna think of things we can’t think of to do.

Tell them they can do really well after leaving government, and “We owned them.”

Biden, like Obama and the Clintons, made a fortune in “speaking fees” after leaving “public service.” That is just bribery, normalized. No one is invited to “speak” after public service if they rub the right people the wrong way and everyone currently IN “public service” knows that.

From Corruption: “Take The Gold Or Take The Lead”

Take The Gold Or Take The Lead

Our system has become corrupted and everyone knows what I mean. Everyone understands that government officials who “play ball” can get a huge paycheck after leaving government if they help certain big businesses while serving in government. The Nation explains, in When a Congressman Becomes a Lobbyist, He Gets a 1,452 Percent Raise (On Average), Secret deals, bribery and “buying” members of Congress are commonplace in today’s government. (See also: Tauzin, Billy.) (And: Public Interest Groups Call For Corruption Investigation Into Prescription Drug Law.)

Neil Barofsky was Special United States Treasury Department Inspector General overseeing the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). In the preface to his book Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street, Barofsky explained that people in government are given two choices, “the gold or the lead.” From the NY Times review, (emphasis added, for emphasis)

Mr. Barofsky, wearing an unseasonal wool suit at odds with a “Washington-appropriate wardrobe,” is poised to let the hostess seat them at a front table of her choosing, but Mr. Allison insists on a private table in the rear. Then he gets down to business.

“Have you thought at all about what you’ll be doing next?” Mr. Allison asks Mr. Barofsky, soon adding, “Out there in the market, there are consequences for some of the things that you’re saying and the way that you’re saying them.”

“Allison was essentially threatening me with lifelong unemployment,” Mr. Barofsky concludes, and alternatively suggesting a plum government appointment some day if Mr. Barofsky would simply “change your tone.”

When Mr. Barofsky tells his deputy of the exchange, the deputy says, “It was the gold or the lead,” resorting to the lingo of their joint experience prosecuting Latin American drug kingpins in New York: Cooperate and share the riches, or don’t and get plugged.

There are “consequences” if you don’t play ball. But if you do play ball, there are rewards. And everyone knows it.

In America now, there are “consequences” if you don’t play ball. But if you do play ball, there are rewards. And everyone knows it.

They Can’t Get Pilots Or Doctors

Being an airline pilot used to be a good job with good pay and good benefits. Pilots were respected. Young people would sign up for the Air Force to get pilot training hoping they would have great career opportunities later.

Then the airlines broke the unions. Some of them used bankruptcy laws. Some of them just broke the unions. HAHA Showed them who is the boss. Investors raked in the bucks that pilots used to be paid. So now being an airline pilot is a shit job with low pay and long abusive hours. Don’t even ask about the benefits.

And guess what? There is a shortage of pilots. the Air Force is has a pilot shortage and recruitment problems because young people know better than signing up for a shitty career.

And the investors who raked in the $$? THEY DON’T CARE. They’re gone, living it up on the money they “earned” in a system that encourages people to do what they did.

Now Let’s Do Doctors

Being an airline pilot a doctor used to be a good job with good pay and good benefits. Pilots Doctors were respected. Young people would strive to get into medical school.

Then medical corporations took over…

Housing

People used to be able to rent or buy a place to live. Then, during the Great Recession, “private equity” companies bought up as much housing as they could. Now they rent those homes out at ridiculous rates…

You get the picture.

Looting Is Our “System”

This is the result of very short-sighted thinking. There is no planning for the longer term or the public good here. This is about a few people making the most money they can as fast as they can and never mind the consequences.

Is this how a sensible democracy would operate. Of course not. The people doing the looting and raking in the $$ are able to do this because the public has been persuaded that this is the best way to do things. You wouldn’t want “big government” or “union bosses” doing “planning” deciding how to do things, would you?

So our society collapses before our eyes.

Corruption And Consequences

Silicon Valley Bank fails…

Corruption allowed the finance industry to operate outside of sensible government oversight, even as the world has experienced the consequences of this over and over again. So here in Silicon Valley and around the world, tech employees are waiting to find out if they’ll get their paychecks or get laid off next week. The world is wondering if contagion will spread that fear. Again. (Last time, because of corruption, not one banker type was held accountable. Not one.)

Also here in Silicon Valley it is raining harder than almost ever – except for a couple weeks ago. Flooding everywhere. I mean, torrential, incredible rain pouring down right now. This is because corruption has caused governments to allow the industry causing this to keep putting more and more carbon into the air even as we all know what the consequences will be.

The news lately has been about train derailments devastating localities. This happens because corruption allows wealthy rail-owners to keep governments from making them operate safely.

Inequality is now completely out-of-control. 60% of Americans now live paycheck-to-paycheck, not even able to raise $500 to cover an emergency like a car breakdown. The government doesn’t raise the minimum wage or otherwise address this because of obvious corruption. Million upon millions are spent convincing these people to blame government for this and vote for those backed by that money, and abolish democracy. “I am your retribution.”

The Supreme Court “rules” that this is all OK. Any amount of secret money is allowed to influence elections. People trying to fix this face millions of dollars spent smearing them in LOCAL elections. This Supreme Court we have is the way it is because of corrupt money spent to put them there.

Is there a common theme here?

Religious Liberty — We All Know What (And Who) THAT Means!

WaPo, ‘When was it too late?’ Some U.S. Jews wonder about their place in America,

As the midterms approached, bringing more instances of terrifying anti-Jewish rhetoric, he and his wife had their house staged to sell.

“Our question was, in the 1930s, when did people know it was time? When was it too late?” said the 66-year-old Maine doctor.

I’m not surprised to see this news report about Jewish people packing up and getting out of the US “in time.” I mean, “Religious liberty” – we all know what (and who) THAT means!

A surprising number of my own friends with Jewish ancestry are asking the question: Is it time to get out of the US? I mean, if you pay any attention at all to the news… Republicans celebrating what’s happening with Orban in in Hungary as a model for here – uh oh. An old saying: A good Jew keeps a packed bag under their bed.

Disclaimer I am 1/4 Ukrainian Jewish ancestry (grandfather – my grandmother converted). But I’m not sure Ukraine is the right place to be heading to right now.

Capitalism Parts 1 and 2

Capitalism: Maintain a “reserve army of the unemployed” to keep wages low. Keep public services (the things government does to make people’s lives better) and taxes at the top down and keep the people from organizing (democracy) to protect themselves.

Capitalism part 2: As life gets worse, bathe the masses in propaganda and point them at “the other” for blame.

Austerity breeds fascism.

The Democrats Were Supposed To Protect The Working Class

This blog chronicles the collapse of democracy, so here’s a post for that.

Chris Hedges, The Politicians Who Destroyed Our Democracy Want Us to Vote for Them to Save It, says it’s too late,

The bipartisan project of dismantling our democracy, which took place over the last few decades on behalf of corporations and the rich, has left only the outward shell of democracy. The courts, legislative bodies, the executive branch and the media, including public broadcasting, are captive to corporate power. There is no institution left that can be considered authentically democratic. The corporate coup d’état is over. They won. We lost.

[. . .]

Decayed societies, such as Weimar Germany or the former Yugoslavia, which I covered for The New York Times, always vomit up political deformities who express the hatred a betrayed public feel for a corrupt ruling class and bankrupt liberalism. The twilight of the Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Habsburg and Russian empires were no different.

[. . .]

America will descend into a Viktor Orbán-type of authoritarianism without profound political, social and economic reform.

I agree with every word of this exceptional piece except the idea that we could have walked out of the Democratic party. Things were too broken by that point and it wouldn’t have fixed anything. And the neoliberal Dems would have fought it and killed it just like they’re fighting now to kill the progressive wing. (Nader tried to “send a message” which helped Dems to lose in 2000, and the Dems of course still never got the message and just doubled down.)

My feeling is that when the (executives and Boards of) corporations banded together to pool their money to destroy democracy – sometime in the 70s – that was it. Dems not only didn’t fight back, they took the corporate side. Lots of us credit the Powell memo and it at least reflected the broader thinking that was happening then. They eroded whatever protections we had against big money running things, and there was no turning back.

For regular people they thought the Democratic party was their protector and when the Dems took the money and bought into the neoliberal (free markets etc) scam, those voters started slipping away. Then came the 2008 crash and Obama campaigning on getting rid of NAFTA, and then he didn’t and people’s lives only got worse for 8 more years, and now they’ll vote for a Trump even now before they’ll vote for Dems.

“NAFTA” is the popular code word for all of those neoliberal policies that destroyed the “American dream” and wiped out whole regions of the country and Dems squarely get the blame from working class voters.

I was just walking and listening to this about Pennsylvania. It is very much worth a listen to hear how dead the Democratic Party is with working-class people.

America’s Current Project Is Dismantling Democratic Government And Its Institutions

I’m not endorsing China’s government, but China has a rational planning system.

Politico writes about how China is surpassing the US in diplomatic relations and general influence around the world. ‘Frustrated and powerless’: In fight with China for global influence, diplomacy is America’s biggest weakness,

The Chinese communist system may be repressive and rigid, but it is more steady than the trajectory of the United States, with long-term plans that can run decades. U.S. diplomacy, on the other hand, has become too capricious, unreliable and exposed to partisan deadlock, officials and analysts say.

[…] When it comes to China, “there’s no rivalry, because the U.S. isn’t present in that rivalry here in Latin America,” the former envoy said. He noted that China is now the top trading partner for several Latin American countries. “There’s no real evidence that there’s a U.S. policy toward Latin America,” he said. “There’s pronouncements, there’s communiques, but a policy? None whatsoever.”

It’s simple. America’s “system” now prevents “us” from having and certainly from achieving any long-term goals – in diplomacy, policy and everything else

Since Reagan. America’s “conservative” project requires government to be discredited so the public will allow privatization. As a result current American ideology considers government to be bad, and government planning to be “interfering” with markets. Markets know best, etc. Business always does everything better than government. Etc.

THAT is America’s current project — dismantling government and its institutions, democratic decision-making, etc., and handing everything over to the “private” (corporate) sector — not diplomacy, policy, infrastructure or any other collective action. The wealthy who control corporations will make decisions for us. They will decide what is produced, how we live, etc.

How will this work out? Conservative ideology preaches that corporations will “act” in “their” long-term interest – even though corporations are not sentient, don’t “act,” and don’t have “interests.” In reality executives make these decisions for their own interests. The people who manage corporations are incentivized to maximize short-term gains at the expense of the long term, and then take off with the loot for themselves, not the “corporation.” So corporatism can’t, doesn’t and never will work. It’s a series of short-term managers making short-term decisions and then absconding with the loot.

China Plans, America No Longer Does

The Chinese have a system that plans and we no longer allow that. They map out goals, then come up with the plans for achieving those goals. So if they are going to build 24,000 miles of high-speed rail by 2020 they get the steel production, labor, equipment, etc in place first. They achieved that and by 2035 they will have 43,000 miles completed. At the same time they have been working on the Belt-and-Road initiative, building infrastructure around the world.

America’s “system” wont even build a few miles of high-speed rail. Never mind strategic diplomacy.