Monthly Archives: October 2014

Invisible Hands: The Businessmen’s Campaign to Dismantle the Post Office

By Steve Hutkins, via Angry Bear and Save the Post Office

This is an article written by Steve Hutkins in January 2012. It originally appeared on the “Save The Post Office Blog”.  Steve lives in a small town in New York’s Hudson Valley. He has no affiliation with the U.S. Postal Service—he doesn’t work for it, nor does anyone in his family. Like millions of Americans, he just likes his local post office, and he doesn’t want to see post offices being closed.

Invisible-HandsThe leaders of the Postal Service have made no secret of their plans for reforming the postal system. They have issued white papers, given speeches, presented “optimization” programs, and appeared before Congressional committees. The plans are clear: eliminate the layoff protections in union contracts; cut the career workforce by nearly half while tripling the number of non-career workers; reduce service standards for first-class mail; do away with Saturday delivery; give management control of workers’ benefit plans; consolidate over 250 processing plants; and close 15,000 post offices.

What we don’t see very often are the players making this all happen. We assume the Postmaster General is making the decisions, but he is merely the front man. Behind him are the USPS Board of Governors, the mail industry stakeholders, and the corporate class as a whole. These businessmen (and women) prefer to keep a low profile, so we rarely hear from them in public. They leave it their surrogates — journalists and academics, politicians and pundits — to speak for them. But it’s the businessmen who fund the think tanks, endow universities, make campaign contributions, pay lobbyists, and run the news media. Yet for the most part, they are not to be seen.

In her excellent book Invisible Hands: The Businessmen’s Crusade Against the New Deal, historian Kim Phillips-Fein paints a very revealing picture of how the corporate class operates. Her theme is the way conservative businessmen worked behind the scenes to undo the New Deal. Believing all would be right if government stayed out of the economy and left everything, in Adam’s Smith famous expression, to the “invisible hand” of the market, these businessmen have spent decades working to weaken unions, eliminate social welfare programs, minimize government regulation of their companies, and diminish public services.

AttackWhile the U.S. Postal Service is obviously not a product of the New Deal, that same conservative agenda is behind the attack on the Postal Service we’re witnessing today. Cutting the workforce, closing post offices and plants, and moving toward privatization through outsourcing and divestiture of assets — these are all part of an effort to shape the postal system in ways that serve the interests of an elite business class rather than the good of the country as a whole. The free-market ideology and greed for profits that drove efforts to undo the New Deal are basically what’s driving the “postal reform” movement today.

Power in numbers: The stakeholder associations

As Phillips-Fein explains, one of the most common methods for the businessmen to advocate for their agenda was to bond together. Recognizing the power in numbers, they formed associations like the American Liberty League (organized by the du Ponts) and the Foundation for Economic Education (founded with help from B. F. Goodrich), as well as giving new energy to existing organizations, like the National Association of Manufacturers and other industry trade groups.

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Why We Should Be Seething with Anger over Inequality

by Paul Buchheit, mirrored from Common Dreams

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“If we were given proper media coverage of the endless takeaway of our country’s wealth by the super-rich, we would be infuriated,” the author writes. (Photo: Len Tsou/ UNARMED CIVILIAN/flickr/cc)

It was recently reported that Americans greatly underestimate the degree of inequality in our country. If we were given proper media coverage of the endless takeaway of our country’s wealth by the super-rich, we would be infuriated. And we would be taking it personally.

Each of nine individuals (Gates, Buffett, 2 Kochs, 4 Waltons, Zuckerberg) made, on average, so much from his/her investments since January, 2013 that a median American worker would need a quarter of a million years to catch up. For the most part it was passive income, new wealth derived from the continuing productivity of America’s workers.

Why We Should Take It Personally

First, because our productivity is rewarding a relatively few people. In addition, many of the top money-makers are damaging other American lives. The top nine include four people (Waltons) who pay their employees so little that we taxpayers have to pay almost $6,000 a year to support each one of the employees. And it includes two people (Kochs) who have polluted our air and water to enrich themselves while quietly funding organizations that threaten to dismantle what’s left of our democracy.

Another personal issue: While the Forbes 400 made almost enough in one year to fund the entire safety net, they don’t even have to pay taxes on their half-trillion dollars of investment gain until they cash in, which may be never.

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Look how IBM plays the H-1B Game

by Virgil Bierschwale, published October 2, 2014 at Keep America At Work 

Pay attention to the difference between the prevailing wage and the proposed wage between the different groups.

First we have IBM Managers

http://keepamericaatwork.com/?page_id=208&occ_code=11-0000&cname=IBM_CORPORATION&cstate=TX&ccity=AUSTIN

You will notice that these are paid 15,000 or more  over the prevailing wage.

Now let’s drill down to the business and financial operations group.

http://keepamericaatwork.com/?page_id=208&occ_code=13-0000&cname=IBM_CORPORATION&cstate=TX&ccity=AUSTIN

Again, good premium over prevailing wage except for the rank and file.

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It Happened Again: How 14 People Made More Money Than the Entire Food Stamp Budget for 50,000,000 People

by Paul Buchheit, mirrored from Common Dreams

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Billionaire investor Warren Buffett. (Photo: Fortune Live Media / flickr / cc)

For the second year in a row, America’s richest 14 individuals made more from their annual investments than the $80 billion provided for people in need of food. Nearly half of the food-deprived are children. Perversely, the food stamp program was CUT because of a lack of federal funding.

In a testament to the inability — or unwillingness — of Congress to do anything about the incessant upward re-distribution of America’s wealth, the richest 14 Americans increased their wealth from $507 billion to $589 billion in ONE YEAR from their investment earnings. As stated by Forbes, ” All together the 400 wealthiest Americans are worth a staggering $2.29 trillion, up $270 billion from a year ago.”

The Richest 14 Made Enough Money to Hire Two Million Pre-School Teachers or Emergency Medical Technicians

Billions of dollars of wealth, derived from years of American productivity, have been transferred to a few financially savvy and well-connected individuals who have spent a generation shaping trading rules and tax laws to their own advantage. It’s so inexplicably one-sided that the 2013 investment earnings of the richest 1% of Americans ($1.8 trillion)was more than the entire budget for Social Security ($860 billion), Medicare ($524 billion), and Medicaid ($304 billion).

Continue reading It Happened Again: How 14 People Made More Money Than the Entire Food Stamp Budget for 50,000,000 People

THE CASE FOR A 21ST CENTURY NEW DEAL: MINIMUM WAGE AND BASIC INCOME

When was the last time American workers saw a real increase in wages? That would be back in the 1960s; since then, workers’ wages have been flat or falling along with record-high unemployment during the Second Great Depression of the Bush and Obama administrations (14 years running).

Productivity has increased up to 1000 fold during that time, but all the financial gains have gone to the corporations and their “shareholders”.

Who are the “shareholders”? Not the common stock holders; their returns are minimal if any at all. The “shareholders” are primarily the executives and their management team that have stock options. They run organizations like their own private plantations, in other words, it’s “plantation capitalism”.

And American workers get left out.

This is what America has become today. Rewards for the few and nothing for the rest, which creates the ever-widening inequality gap.

Don’t expect Democrats or Republicans to do anything; they’re paid to maintain the status quo in favor of corporations and the rich. Their bribes come in the form of campaign contributions and lucrative rewards after they leave office.  For example, former president Bill Clinton has made over $110 million in speaking fees since leaving office in January 2001 (in addition to his government pension and perks paid for by taxpayers).

The Supreme Court has also been overly friendly to Big Business in their decisions ruling in favor of corporations almost 100% of the time.

imagesWall Street and Big Business learned their lessons from the FDR years; now they completely own both parties (Republicans and Democrats), and in effect, they control the government. Almost every law passed has the corporate seal of approval. This, in effect, allows them to act with impunity and no fear.  During the Great Depression, the Pecora Commission investigated the Wall Street bankers and was instrumental in sending many of them to jail. Under the Obama Administration, in contrast to FDR, no bankers have gone to jail.  

The deck has been overwhelmingly stacked against American workers since the 1980s.

The NDP Proposal

The NDP goal is to ensure workers make at least $38,000 per year and workers with families make $52,000 per year.

Continue reading THE CASE FOR A 21ST CENTURY NEW DEAL: MINIMUM WAGE AND BASIC INCOME