All posts by Mad Hemingway

How the Super-Rich Will Destroy Themselves

Paul Buchheit | July 11 2016 | Common Dreams

(Photo: Timothy Krause/cc/flickr)

Perhaps they believe that their underground survival bunkers with bullet-resistant doors and geothermal power and anti-chemical air filters and infrared surveillance devices and pepper spray detonators will sustain them for two or three generations.

Perhaps they feel immune from the killings in the streets, for they rarely venture into the streets anymore. They don’t care about the great masses of ordinary people, nor do they think they need us.

Or do they? There are a number of ways that the super-rich, because of their greed and lack of empathy for others, may be hastening their own demise, while taking the rest of us with them.

1. Pandemic (Because of Their Disdain for Global Health)

“A year ago the world was in a panic over Ebola. Now it’s Zika at the gate. When will it end?” –Public health expert Dr. Ali Khan.

It could end with a global pandemic that spreads with the speed of the 1918 Spanish Flu, but with a virulence that kills over half of us, rich and poor alike. Vanderbilt University’s Dr. William Schaffner warned us a decade ago, “You’ve got to really invest vast resources right now to protect us from a pandemic.” Added infectious disease specialist Dr. Stephen Baum, “There’s nobody making vaccines anymore because the profitability is low and the liability is high.”

Continue reading How the Super-Rich Will Destroy Themselves

Independence Day Delusions

Paul Buchheit | July 04 2016 | Common Dreams

However we interpret the concept, we may not be as “free” as we’re led to believe. (Photo: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

We thank soldiers for our “freedom” as they travel to foreign lands to keep us free from dangers that are exacerbated by their presence in those foreign lands. Many of them return home facing lifelong battles with physical or mental injuries.

We rightfully give thanks for the many freedoms that are denied the citizens of countries like North Korea, Somalia, and Saudi Arabia. Among our many liberties, having the freedom to criticize our national leaders helps to make us a better people.

The concept of “freedom” is at the very least ambiguous, and, at the most, destructive to those being deceived by false patriotism. The people who benefit from the uncontrolled pursuit of money push the concept of individual freedom on the rest of us, making us feel unpatriotic if we disagree. “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself,” once blathered Milton Friedman, whose economic theories made America the most unequal developed nation.

However we interpret the concept, we may not be as “free” as we’re led to believe.

Is Our Nation Really “Free”?

According to the watchdog organization Freedom House, in terms of political and civil liberties the U.S. is tied for 44th freest country, after UK, Chile, Japan, Portugal, and most of the Scandinavian nations. The organization’s 2016 synopsis states: “The United States received a downward trend arrow because of the cumulative impact of flaws in the electoral system, a disturbing increase in the role of private money in election campaigns and the legislative process, legislative gridlock, the failure of the Obama administration to fulfill promises of enhanced government openness, and fresh evidence of racial discrimination and other dysfunctions in the criminal justice system.”

Freedom from Taxes? If We’re Willing to Send the Mentally Ill to Jail

Typical of a taker, Donald Trump claims that the tax collectors “take our tax money and throw it down the drain.” Another taker is libertarian Charles Koch, who said “I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington.”

Continue reading Independence Day Delusions

For Too Many, the Job Market Isn’t Working

Betsey Stevenson | July 08 2016 | Bloomberg

For all the encouraging headlines that the strong June jobs report has generated, it also illustrates a major challenge for the U.S. economy: Too many people are still not working or not even trying to find work.

The malaise can be remedied, if we can find the political will.

Despite the robust job growth of the past six years, people still aren’t participating in the labor force the way they used to. As of June, just 62.7 percent of the population had a job or was actively seeking one — up a bit from the previous month, but still almost 5 percentage points below the 2000 peak.

One explanation is demographic: As the population ages, a larger percentage will naturally be retired. This explains about half of the decline in participation, and will keeping putting downward pressure on participation — particularly as the baby-boom generation crosses the retirement threshold. The Congressional Budget Office expects the labor-force participation rate to decline another 2 percentage points by 2026.

Still, even if we look at people in the prime working years of 25 to 54, participation is depressed. At the beginning of 2000, 84 percent of prime-age adults were in the labor force. Today, only 81 percent are.

So why are so many people not participating? Do they just have better things to do? Or is something keeping them out? The answer is crucial to figuring out how worried policy makers should be, and what they can do.

Continue reading For Too Many, the Job Market Isn’t Working

HONEST CAMPAIGN: If Elected, I Promise To Give Trillions To The Rich, Spend Trillions On War, And Cut Everything For Working People

Before you vote for a presidential candidate this November, you might want to consider these two numbers:

1. $38,655,190,993,638 ($38.65 trillion)

2. $38,862,045,270,361 ($38.86 trillion)

The total for these numbers is:
$77,517,236,263,999 ($77.51 trillion)  (Note: updated July 08 3pm – changed amounts on Libya & Syria which decreased total amount)


The first number (1) is what the military and the ongoing wars have cost the U.S. From 2001 to now (* except where noted in the data).

The second number (2) is what corporations get from the federal government in the form of tax breaks, subsidies, loans, and bailouts since 2000.


Afghanistan$2,500,000,000,000$2.5 trillion2001-presentWashington Post
Cameroon (Boko Haram)$347,000,000$347 million2012UK Guardian
Chad$16,000,000$16 million2010 (est)PBS
Iraq$2,500,000,000,000$2.5 trillion2001-presentWashington Post
Israel$123,340,899,866$123.34 billion1946 *PBS
Jordan$5,000,000,000$5 billion2010 (est)PBS
Korea$40,000,000,000$40 billion1946 *PBS
Libya$1,650,000,000$1.65 billion2012CNN
Mali$32,000,000$32 million1946 *PBS
Pakistan$1,000,000,000,000$1 trillion2011Time
Somalia$55,000,000,000$55 billion2011War in Context
Strait of Hormuz$8,000,000,000,000$8 trillionSince 1976 *Oil Price
Syria (ISIL / ISIS)$13,700,000,000$13.7 billion2016Mother Jones
Turkey$41,000,000,000$41 billion1946 *PBS
Uganda$71,000,000$71 million1946 *PBS
Yeman$5,000,000,000$5 billion2011Reuters
TOTAL$14,285,156,899,866$14.28 trillion
Defense Budget (annual)$530,000,000,000$530 billionWashington Post
Black Budget (annual)$52,600,000,000$52.6 billionWashington Post
Intelligence budget (annual)$80,100,000,000$80.1 billionLA Times
National Intelligence (annual)$252,700,000,000$252.7 billionWashington Post
TOTAL$915,400,000,000$915.4 billion
USAID / Military Aid budget $550,634,093,772$550.63 billion2001-2014USAID
Foreign Aid (annual)$600,000,000,000$600 billionPolitico
TOTAL$1,150,634,093,772$1.15 trillion
NATO (annual)$650,000,000,000$650 billionPolitifact
TOTAL$650,000,000,000$650 billion
MILITARY ANNUAL BUDGETS x 10 years$21,654,000,000,000$21.65 trillion(Note: annual budgets include Defense budget, Black budget, Intelligence budget, National Intelligence budget, Foreign Aid, NATO)
TOTAL MILITARY SPENDING$38,655,190,993,638$38.65 trillion
Corporate Tax Breaks (annual)$180,000,000,000$180 billionHuffington Post
Corporate Tax Breaks (annual) x 10 years$1,800,000,000,000$1.8 trillion
Federal Grants & Allocated Tax Cuts$71,191,562,223$71.19 billionGood Jobs First Subsidy Tracker
Federal Loans, Loan Guarantees, Bailout Assistance$18,073,840,039,282$18.07 trillionGood Jobs First Subsidy Tracker
Top Federal Grant/Allocated Tax Credit Programs$71,191,562,223$71.19 billionGood Jobs First Subsidy Tracker
Top Federal Loan/Loan Guarantee/Bailout Programs$18,665,822,106,633$18.66 trillionGood Jobs First Subsidy Tracker


Consider also that these numbers may actually be lower than what is really being spent since this is not even a complete list of everything.


As a taxpayer, this is where your money is going, whether you want it to or not.


What’s the trade-off?

For all the money spent fighting wars (which was actually started based on a lie)  –and–   giving money to already unbelievably profitable corporations, here are some of the things either not getting funded or are being underfunded:

  • Schools
  • Roads & highways
  • Senior well-being (Social Security, Medicare)
  • Infrastructure
  • National parks (are now being privatized)
  • Post Office services being reduced and partially privatized (= higher costs to you)
  • Single Payer Healthcare
  • Student college loans (now privatized with sky-high interest rates)
  • Medical research (the same kind that created penicillin)
  • Technology research (such as the kind that came from NASA)




Republicans and Democrats have eroded the tax base which provided for all those essential things our people and country  need.

Continue reading HONEST CAMPAIGN: If Elected, I Promise To Give Trillions To The Rich, Spend Trillions On War, And Cut Everything For Working People

How Housing’s New Players Spiraled Into Banks’ Old Mistakes


When the housing crisis sent the American economy to the brink of disaster in 2008, millions of people lost their homes. The banking system had failed homeowners and their families.

New investors soon swept in — mainly private equity firms — promising to do better.

But some of these new investors are repeating the mistakes that banks committed throughout the housing crisis, an investigation by The New York Times has found. They are quickly foreclosing on homeowners. They are losing families’ mortgage paperwork, much as the banks did. And many of these practices were enabled by the federal government, which sold tens of thousands of discounted mortgages to private equity investors, while making few demands on how they treated struggling homeowners.

The rising importance of private equity in the housing market is one of the most consequential transformations of the post-crisis American financial landscape. A home, after all, is the single largest investment most families will ever make.

Private equity firms, and the mortgage companies they own, face less oversight than the banks. And yet they are the cleanup crew for the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression.

Out of the more than a dozen private equity firms operating in the housing industry, The Times examined three of the largest to assess their impact on homeowners and renters.

Lone Star Funds’ mortgage operation has aggressively pushed thousands of homeowners toward foreclosure, according to housing data, interviews with borrowers and records obtained through a Freedom of Information request. Lone Star ranks among the country’s biggest buyers of delinquent mortgages from the government and banks.

Nationstar Mortgage, which leaped over big banks to become the fourth-largest collector of mortgage bills, repeatedly lost loan files and failed to detect errors in other documents. These mistakes, according to confidential regulatory records from a 2014 examination, put “borrowers at significant risk of servicing and foreclosure abuses.”

Continue reading How Housing’s New Players Spiraled Into Banks’ Old Mistakes

Canada Post’s problems are driven by the neoliberal assault on public services

Micheal Laxer | June 30 2016 | 

Photo via wikimedia commons

The “problems” facing Canada Post are entirely ideological.

Canada’s politicians and media have bought into a long-term project driven by right-wing notions of society and the economy that seeks to re-frame public services as “businesses” that should be run “efficiently” along the lines allegedly followed by the private sector.

While the mythology of the private sector’s supposed efficiency is nothing more than that, mythology, that is a matter for a different article.

What is abundantly clear is that by seeking to apply fictional market ideals to government run services successive governments have sought — intentionally or instinctively — to change the way the public views these services by no longer treating them as services at all.

Canada Post is run not as a public service for the public interest but as a corporation that seeks to make a profit, which is not the purpose of a public service.

Continue reading Canada Post’s problems are driven by the neoliberal assault on public services

When You Dial 911 and Wall Street Answers


Since the 2008 financial crisis, private equity firms have increasingly taken over public services like emergency care and firefighting, often with dire effects.

A Tennessee woman slipped into a coma and died after an ambulance company took so long to assemble a crew that one worker had time for a cigarette break.

Paramedics in New York had to covertly swipe medical supplies from a hospital to restock their depleted ambulances after emergency runs.

A man in the suburban South watched a chimney fire burn his house to the ground as he waited for the fire department, which billed him anyway and then sued him for $15,000 when he did not pay.

In each of these cases, someone dialed 911 and Wall Street answered.

The business of driving ambulances and operating fire brigades represents just one facet of a profound shift on Wall Street and Main Street alike, a New York Times investigation has found. Since the 2008 financial crisis, private equity firms, the “corporate raiders” of an earlier era, have increasingly taken over a wide array of civic and financial services that are central to American life.

Today, people interact with private equity when they dial 911, pay their mortgage, play a round of golf or turn on the kitchen tap for a glass of water.

Private equity put a unique stamp on these businesses. Unlike other for-profit companies, which often have years of experience making a product or offering a service, private equity is primarily skilled in making money. And in many of these businesses, The Times found, private equity firms applied a sophisticated moneymaking playbook: a mix of cost cuts, price increases, lobbying and litigation.

Continue reading When You Dial 911 and Wall Street Answers

Hillary Clinton Hints at Giant, Trump-Like Giveaway to Corporate America

The Intercept | June 27 2016 | Mint Press News

It was full of Bernie Sanders-like rhetoric about “outrageous behavior” by business and Wall Street. But it also included a dog whistle that only huge multinational corporations would hear, telling them that she plans to deliver on one of their greatest dreams and slash their longterm taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at Texas Southern University Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

HILLARY CLINTON GAVE a big speech in Raleigh on her plans for the economy on June 22. It was full of Bernie Sanders-like rhetoric about “outrageous behavior” by business and Wall Street.

But it also included a dog whistle that only huge multinational corporations would hear, telling them that she plans to deliver on one of their greatest dreams and slash their longterm taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars.

Here’s what Clinton said:

Let’s break through the dysfunction in Washington to make the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II. … In my first 100 days as president, I will work with both parties to pass a comprehensive plan to create the next generation of good-paying jobs. Now, the heart of my plan will be the biggest investment in American infrastructure in decades, including establishing an infrastructure bank that will bring private sector dollars off the sidelines and put them to work here.

An infrastructure bank to rebuild America’s tattered infrastructure is a reasonable idea, and was also proposed by Barack Obama when he was running for president in 2008. Certainly America’s tattered roads, bridges and sewers desperately need an upgrade.

The question is where the money for it would come from. Republicans would never let it be paid for with borrowed money, and in 2011 they blocked a proposal by Obama to fund it with a surtax of 0.7 percent on incomes over $1 million.

Continue reading Hillary Clinton Hints at Giant, Trump-Like Giveaway to Corporate America

Study: A third of Iowans don’t earn enough to pay for basic living

Kevin Hardy | June 29 2016 | Des Moines Register

To survive in Iowa, it takes an income of about twice the federal poverty rate.

That figure was among the findings of a new United Way report that explored why nearly one in three Iowans struggles to afford basic living expenses.

United Way officials hope the findings will draw attention to Iowans who are above the federal poverty line, yet remain unable to afford basic necessities such as food, rent and medicine.

“That means you’re one flat tire from a financial crisis, because … you’re spending everything you have to survive,” said Elisabeth Buck, chief community impact officer at United Way of Central Iowa. “And these are people in our community. They are not faceless people.”

The findings could add fuel to Polk County’s fiery debate over raising the minimum wage above the state and federal standard of $7.25 an hour.

The United Way ALICE Report for Iowa, released Wednesday, concluded that 31 percent of Iowans are working but do not earn enough to cover the basic costs of living (ALICE is short for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). The report was commissioned by United Ways of Iowa, an association of the 25 local United Ways that serve more than half of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Continue reading Study: A third of Iowans don’t earn enough to pay for basic living

America’s One-Party Government

Eric Zuesse | June 27 2016 | Washington’s Blog


Today’s United States is a more realistic version of the type of society that George Orwell fictionally described in his allegorical novel 1984.

Like in 1984, the American public don’t know that they’re merely the tools of some unseen aristocracy who manipulate them by fear of ‘the other’, some ‘enemy’ group — manipulate the public via the media, which the aristocracy controls. But the big failing of Orwell’s model as a portrayal of the (when he wrote it) coming fascist-corporate dystopia was that he misunderstood how and why the public would falsely believe that they live in a democracy. His central character Winston Smith worked in an unrealistically portrayed propaganda-mill. But in some other fundamentals, Orwell had it right. The public don’t know that their real enemy is their own nation’s aristocracy who are mentally holding the public in bondage by lies systematically implanted into their beliefs, by means of ‘news’ media that are controlled by their own nation’s aristocracy, who own those media and/or control the government by bribery (sometimes subtle) of the politicians whom the aristocracy’s media are being paid to promote. In any case, the aristocracy control the public’s mind, to accept the fundamental legitimacy of the regime the aristocrats are imposing. Aristocrats hire the ‘news’ media.

When two nations’ aristocracies are at war against each other, the public in each is deceived to think that, in the other, the rulers are evil and reign over their public by dictatorship, but that in one’s own nation, the rulers are truly representative of the public and therefore in some high sense are legitimate or even a democracy: rule by the public, instead of by any aristocracy at all. In some of these ‘democratic’ dictatorships, it’s called rule by ‘the people’ or ‘the Volk’ (such as in Hitler’s Germany), but in others, it’s called simply ‘democracy’.

In the case of today’s America, “democracy” is the term that’s used, because America had long been a democracy and was founded by people who wanted their nation, which they were creating out of (and leading their Revolution against) a dictatorship by a foreign, British, aristocracy, to free themselves from any and all forms of dictatorship. So: “democracy” sells better as the term to continue applying to what has become America’s dictatorship.

Continue reading America’s One-Party Government