Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Nick and Joe are doing their best to beat back Milton Friedman et al

Nick Hanauer, Joseph Sitglitz videos.

This is the latest presentation Nick Hanauer has made regarding the upside downness of our economy and the backward, selfish thinking that has gotten us here. In this one he is talking to his “plutocrat” friends:

We plutocrats need to see that the United States of America made us not the other way around. That a thriving middle class is the source of prosperity in capitalist economies, not a consequence of it. And we should never forget, that even the best of us, in worst of circumstances are barefoot by the side of a dirt road selling fruit.

He takes on economics and how it is used today by plutocrats to reinforce their positions:

…for thousands of years, these stories were called divine right. Today, we have trickle down economics. How obviously, transparently self-serving all of this is.

 

Then comes Joseph Stiglitz talking about the cause and fix for income inequality.  This is based on his latest book.     He lays the cause to the “supply side” economics and thus the results of politics and policy.  It was a “disaster”.

The financial sector in recent years has been more active in taking money out of corporations than putting money into the corporations.  The flow is going the other way.

It is nice to hear someone talking about the solution in a comprehensive way.  A way that reflects understanding society and its economy in the same manor we have come to understand the environment.

Wouldn’t you just love to see them together on one of the Sunday morning shows around at table with say Senator Warren and Sanders and on the other side the Koch brothers and say Paul Ryan, McConnell and Boehner?  Maybe a Chicago School boy or girl?  Let’s throw in Jack Lew or who ever is the latest to hold that position.  How about someone from labor and the US Chamber to balance it out?  Better yet, how about simply a table of Nick, Joe, Warren, Sanders, Labor and Robert Reich maybe also Paul Krugman.  Forget the fair and balance act.

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Nope! Was the response when Senator Warren was asked about Harry Reid’s job.

By happenstance I heard today, Senator Warren’s interview on Here and Now.

I just wonder, was the answer to the question about running for the Democratic Senate top position adamant enough for those who keep pushing to have her run for a leadership position?  How is it that some of the leadership in the progressing/liberal genre not get that she is already a leader?  She’s leading already!  Now, let’s get a few more please.

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Health news

I’m not sure if there are studies looking at the long term effects of such advice on one’s health especially in this economy, but I can see where in the words of Arlo Guthrie, it could create a movement.

 

Health Experts Recommend Standing up at Desk, Leaving Office and Never Coming Back

ROCHESTER, MN—In an effort to help working individuals improve their fitness and well-being, experts at the Mayo Clinic issued a new set of health guidelines Thursday recommending that Americans stand up at their desk, leave their office, and never return. “Many Americans spend a minimum of eight hours per day sitting in an office, but we observed significant physical and mental health benefits in subjects after just one instance of standing up, walking out the door, and never coming back to their place of work again,” said researcher Claudine Sparks, who explained that those who implemented the practice in their lives reported an improvement in mood and reduced stress that lasted for the remainder of the day, and which appeared to persist even into subsequent weeks. “We encourage Americans to experiment with stretching their legs by strolling across their office and leaving all their responsibilities behind forever just one time to see how much better they feel. People tend to become more productive, motivated, and happy almost immediately. We found that you can also really get the blood flowing by pairing this activity with hurling your staff ID across the parking lot.” Sparks added that Americans could maximize positive effects by using their lunch break to walk until nothing looks familiar anymore and your old life is a distant memory.

The Onion February 6, 2015

Maybe the labor unions could follow-up on this advice and determine what the long term benefits might be?

There is also this report today:

New Study Finds Therapy, Antidepressants Equally Effective At Monetizing Depression

NORMAN, OK—Noting that similar outcomes were achieved under both approaches, a landmark decade-long study of mental health treatment options published Tuesday has found that talk therapy and antidepressant medications are equally effective at monetizing clinical depression. “Our data indicate that regular counseling sessions and prescription drugs have similarly high success rates in generating large sums of money from the clinically depressed,” said Katherine Hutton of the University of Oklahoma, the study’s lead author, noting that both methods demonstrated consistent positive earnings across chronic, episodic, and seasonal depression cases. “While some people make tremendous profits with drugs, others see substantial revenues from therapy. Together, these are two very powerful tools for improving the health care industry’s bottom line.” The study concluded that when both approaches are combined, financial results are likely to be reached far more quickly than with one method alone.

The Onion, February 17, 2015

 

I think this raises some ethical questions for the medical profession and possibly concerns for congress as to the incentives within the ACA.

Certainly, the expert advice combined with the study would create some discussion within congress regarding the policy related to just about anything…

 

 

 

 

 

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Another image of labor’s broken back: $48,887 in profit per employee!

This article via Yahoo news caught my attention: Five years into recovery, Dow Companies squeeze workers as investors thrive

I think this picture spells it out rather well.

 

Profit per employee

“As the chart shows, the 30 huge companies that comprise the Dow Jones Industrial Average have barely nudged their employee ranks higher…”

But this is even more astounding:

Over the past five years, total profits of the current Dow 30 members surged by more than 42% through the end of 2014, to nearly $320 billion. This has driven the average annual profit per employee up by more than 34% since 2009, to $48,887.

According to this CNN article from August, the median household income is $53,891.    That means these 30 companies are pocketing 90% of what an household earns.  That’s out the door, cash in the pocket 90% of what a household works all year to earn.  Now, I’m not sure, but I think that household income is pretax and I doubt they get to hid that $53,891 in some account out of reach of the tax man.  In fact, I’ll bet that household needs every bit of that money just to get through the year.

Well, the 30 are not hiding all of it:

Dividends paid by the Dow 30 are up better than 30% the past five years, according to FactSet.

Read the article.  The author does his best to explain this situation, but it’s seem more like excuses.  A grasping at straws to dismiss what we know has been an intentional drive to get to this point.  My interpretation of it is that these companies are now able to “grow” the pot of money without actually having to increase their sales.  True money from money… but, they are scared that this magic will leave them and then what?

$48,887 PROFIT PER EMPLOYEE!

 

 

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Chocolate, the free market battle ground

I’m a chocoholic.  Can’t eat it as much as I used to.  So, this bit of news by way of C & L caught my eye.  I’ll let the article speak for it’s self.

As a result of a settlement with the Hershey’s Company, Let’s Buy British Imports, or L.B.B., agreed this week to stop importing all Cadbury’s chocolate made overseas. The company also agreed to halt imports on KitKat bars made in Britain; Toffee Crisps, which, because of their orange packaging, and yellow-lined brown script, too closely resemble Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups; Yorkie chocolate bars, which infringe on the York peppermint patty; and Ms. Perry’s beloved Maltesers.

Jeff Beckman, a representative for Hershey’s, said L.B.B. and others were importing products not intended for sale in the United States, infringing on its trademark and trade dress licensing. For example, Hershey’s has a licensing agreement to manufacture Cadbury’s chocolate in the United States with similar packaging used overseas, though with a different recipe.

“It is important for Hershey to protect its trademark rights and to prevent consumers from being confused or misled when they see a product name or product package that is confusingly similar to a Hershey name or trade dress,” Mr. Beckman said in an email.

It’s that different recipe that gets me regarding the “free market” and “competition”.

Chocolate in Britain has a higher fat content; the first ingredient listed on a British Cadbury’s Dairy Milk (plain milk chocolate) is milk. In an American-made Cadbury’s bar, the first ingredient is sugar.

American Cadbury bars also include PGPR and soy lecithin, both emulsifiers that reduce the viscosity of chocolate, giving it a longer shelf life. British Cadbury bars used vegetable fats and different emulsifiers.

Funny how this works now.  In the past Japan pushed our auto industry into building better cars.  You know, global economy, down with tariffs and all.   So what do we call it when licensing agreements end up acting like tariffs?  I wonder if Cadbury can file a claim in the world court for lost revenues?  Well, they have a “license agreement” so I guess not.  Though should we allow license agreements that basically act like a tariff or worse as in this case a complete shut out of the market?  Well, I guess Cadbury is not completely shut out.  We get to see their name on the wrapper.

What about the lose of money for the importer?  How is the World Bank’s Tribunal system suppose to resolve the contest between importers and local producers?  And, why would Cadbury sign such a thing?  Are they just a holding company now so it’s money without working?  Licensing fees, royalties and all that.

Where is my free choice in this?  Hell, were is my choice at all?  Is simply a name change and wrapping enough to suggest that I am actually buying a different product from Hersey?  Am I buying from Hersey or Cadbury regarding monopoly practices?

With all these international corporate agreements, is the consumer really getting a choice?  Remember when Sunbeam was sold?  It was a big deal on the news.  The purchaser said they only wanted the brand name.

Oh and TPP too.

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It’s about the nation’s equity. We are better than this… by Professor Edward Kleinbard

Videos below the fold.

I caught Edward Kleinbard the other morning on Cspan.  He is a professor of law and business at USC and a fellow at the Century Foundation.  His book: We are better than this: How Government Should Spend our Money.  If you google his name, articles will come up from October 2014.   It attracted my attention because of my thinking as expressed in my article back in February of 2013.   The rest of the dinner table deficit/debt discussion: Equity  His thesis is that we need to be spending more as it is investment that creates the capital needed to grow the nation.  Focusing just from the view summed up in the phrase “tax and spend” misses what government is about.  Government doesn’t tax, government “principally spends money” via investment and insurance.  Spending should be complimentary to the private sector.  When government “invests” the pie gets bigger not smaller.

He worked on Wall Street for “many decades” also.   How he kept his humanity as you will hear in the presentation while being on Wall Street…?

Let me start though with this short video as it is another business person like me who appears to get my posts regarding what is needed in this country to go along with the equity spending.   I first mentioned this position in 2010 regarding the SOTU address.  Here we are 2015 and we small business people are still saying the same thing.  Professor Kleinbard addresses small business too as part of understanding the overall condition and needs.

I give you Dave Boris, owner of Hel’s Kitchen Catering.

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House exempt from ethics education, lets change that.

So, I just got an email from my congressman letting me know that he has submitted a bill that would no longer exempt the House membership from annual ethics training.  Their staff is required to have such education, the Senate is required, but not the house.   He is also trying to get it into the rules for now.

How timely considering what has just gone down in the congress.

Needless to say, the leadership is not wanting it.

The Republican Chairman of the House Rules Committee has already rejected the idea and said that it wouldn’t be “proper” for House members to required to take annual ethics training…

It would not be proper?  I guess it is beneath them?  What professional group exists that does not have a requirement for some type of annual education which often includes ethics?  My mistake, I guess they are not professionals!

Anyway, please sign the petition and share this.  I know, ethics education won’t solve it all, but at least the ability to say “I made a mistake” will be limited.

 

Thank you.

 

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So, you want a pipe line? Jobs? Addendum: Ok veto the XL, it doesn’t matter.

Addendum below.

A very interesting article at Daily Kos has been posted.   Title: There’s been HOW many Pipeline spills in Alberta in the last Four Months?

Seems the Canadian news system does not find oil, gas and toxic water spills from the mining of carbon fuels to be news worthy.   But, the native Indian sure find it news worthy.  Their news outlet, West Coast Native News has been tracking all the spills.   You know, it’s their yard getting contaminated.

The Kos article quotes WCNN:

Over the past year WCNN has reported on many Crude oil and Toxic produced water spills all over Alberta, in fact we have reported over 600,000 Litres of toxic crap that has been spilled just last month and yet not one mainstream media outlet has picked up the incidents. So lets take a look back at just the last month (October) and see just what the mainstream is not telling you.

Of that 600,000 liters (165,107.5 gallons or 3931 barrels) 136,000 is crude oil.   That is, for us non metric thinkers, 35,927.4 gallons or 855.41 barrels of crude oil spilled in one month.  How long has there been mining in the area with pipeline transportation?

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Election, democracy, Hong Kong and the US

This is a 7 minute video that looks at the way money has reduced the voter population that counts down to a handful.  Sure, we all get to vote, but it’s the things that happen before the final vote that makes the real decision.  How often do we hear that there is no one to choose, we have no choice?  My response is: Did you vote in the primary?  I think the greater work done by money regarding controlling the election results is during the primary runs.  The media looking at this as a celebrity contest and reporting it as such (Dean scream of joy turned into a negative) combined with lack of voter participation just makes it too easy for the money to be determinate in a primary.

The comparison of what we have created in the US to Hong Kong is based on this ability of a few to determine who the many have to choose from.  In the US, the filter is money.  In Hong Kong it is by law.  This video makes if simple enough for anyone to understand, including those who learn about life from the Fox news system.

 

We can not count on our media system to inform the populace as to the mechanics of our current electoral process.  They are no longer free of conflict of interest.  An election is now a major source of income/profit and the media is doing just as we have come to accept a private for profit business do in our version of capitalism.   Though it was not always just about profit or profit primary vs secondary.  It has perverted the intent of the 1st amendment as it relates to the ideals mine and my former generation were taught regarding our version of democracy.

I was surprised from the video just how close we are to having success in changing the way we fund our elections.  10 votes in the Senate.  10!

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Adding to Steve’s quest to define “money”. A couple short films.

Via Digby comes a couple short films talking about what is money.   They are part of an effort by a group/site called We The Economy that has 20 short films aimed:

 to drive awareness and establish a better understanding of the U.S. economy. Told through animation, comedy, musical, non-fiction, and scripted films, WE THE ECONOMY seeks to demystify a complicated topic while empowering the public to take control of their own economic futures.

I have to say I am a bit biased toward these two films as they promote the idea that I have presented here in various ways: trust.  It all comes down to trust.  All our wealth, power, security, prosperity and future.  Trust is the money.   And we have been doing our damnedest to destroy it in the quest for ever greater growth (financial or otherwise) via some concept referred to as freedom or more relatedly “free market”.

They are kind of humorous in parts too.

That Film about Money, part 1

The second part of That Film about Money

I’m going to go watch the rest of the films now.

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