Take a moment on this anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon to reflect on the the anniversary of the US backed coup against Salvador Allende’s democratically elected Marxist government of Chile on Sept. 11, 1973. Now compare and contrast that overthrow of a sovereign nation with the recent military coup in Egypt of the Muslim Brotherhood democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi, (which the United States refuses to call a coup, as they would be forced to suspend the military giving campaign to Egypt). Now to make our mental exercise interesting, compare and contrast the machinations which the Obama Presidency is going through to influence the outcome of the Syrian Civil War being waged against Iran/Soviet/China friendly Syrian President/Dictator Bashar al Assad. What do these events share as a commonality? What is the lesson to be learned from these events by emerging democracies and established dictatorships alike? Points will be awarded for brevity in your answers.
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Obama bears witness to Deep State control of the country.
In a stunning press conference Friday at noon on the White House steps, President Obama revealed that his administration has been under the secret control of powerful economic interests within the clandestine National Security Agency. The President asserted that the move towards armed conflict with Syria is a ploy by these secretive powers to move closer to open conflict with Iran, and the wealth of public contracts the defense industry would consequently garner. He further briefed the American people that he was made aware of the “government” within the US government just prior to taking office in 2008, when he was advised to keep a single payer health care system “off the table” in the negotiations with Congress leading up to the Affordable Care Act, lest he suffer public embarrassment for some indiscretions he had committed as a younger man. He revealed that he had been advised at that time, that if he “cooperated” with these interests, he would be rewarded financially upon leaving office.
The President detailed how the interests of the defense and finance industries has priority status within the parallel government that is now ruling the country. He further described the neoconservative and neoliberal approach to government and world view as a smoke screen designed to lead governments of the world into conflicts that would change very little in the actual way our world governments function, but entail vast profits for private corporations through public expenditures be they for military activism or harnessing public funds for other corporate clients. He described the problem as one of cause and effect, as those people within the clandestine spy agency used their power to spy on, and consequently blackmail elected officials into performing like “puppets” for the benefit of various companies. In return, these “public servants” are rewarded with lucrative positions within these corporations upon leaving public employment.
The rewards are passed on to those elected officials who serve these interests faithfully while holding public office when they leave. Obama cited President and Hillary Clinton who deregulated the banking industry by the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, and furthered that deregulation with the Commodity Futures Modernization Act which excused financial derivatives from regulation, and ultimately led to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. The Clintons were worth around $1M when he was elected to office in 1994. With a current net worth of around $80M, largely from speaking fees, and a book advance after leaving public office. President Obama noted that with a speaking fee that averages $200k per speech, not many of the “small folk” have been privy to his pearls of wisdom, and suggested the American people use their imaginations as to who can afford to pay those kinds of speaker fees for a 45 minute speech. “It’s not your local VFW, if you know what I mean”. Obama went on to detail how President George W. Bush, while serving those interests faithfully while in office, had left on such a disgraced note from the Iraq War and the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, that he has not been able to garner the support that the Financial sector has bestowed on Clinton’s post-presidency. The President further noted that his disclosures on this day, which were largely fallout from the revelations of Edward Snowden on the security state spying on Americans, would likely curb his own earning potential following his presidency. “That’s OK”, he said. “Like Ed Snowden I thought that my time had come to stand up, and try and defend what little remains of our democracy”.
The president also said that the trade agreements, (TPP and TTIP), currently being written by industry insiders are part of the secret government’s agenda to transfer power and wealth from the citizens of sovereign nations to the largest corporations in the world, with a particular emphasis on lending a helping hand to the Finance/FIRE sector.
In a related story, General Keith Alexander, and James Clapper of the NSA could not be reached for comment. Theories are circulating that they are secreted in a NORAD bunker somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, where they are continuing to pull the strings of government officials under their sway.
President Obama closed his press conference in which he appeared behind bullet proof shielding, and wearing a kevlar vest with this statement: “One of the problems with having a portion of our government that is virtually hidden from oversight, and exempt from control, and is privy to all the secrets in the world such as the National Security Agency, is that you never can or will know what is happening in the public sphere, nor what the real reasons are for whatever it is.” The President is said to be in hiding at present, much as President George W. Bush was following the WTC attacks in 2001. His press secretary, Jay Carney, said the president would have more to add once he felt the immediate danger to himself and his family had passed.
Active imagination? Or inevitability?
The problem with having lost my faith in the institutions of Democracy, is that I find myself in disbelief of anyone advancing an agenda such as is being done for US war against Syria. How do we separate the information from the disinformation? But they used chemical weapons against their people didn’t they? Well, if you take the unknown evidence presented by Israeli Intelligence at face value, maybe. Then again I don’t think the Israelis are above supplying tweaked data to the US, or for that matter, chemical weapons to the insurgents in Syria to help precipitate an international war against one of their nearest enemies.
Then I read that a Syrian hacker collective has disabled the New York Times website, but unless you are technologically as advanced as those hackers and are privy to all the “metadata” that may have been left as evidence by those hackers you don’t know anything. The NSA is as capable of hacking the NYT website, as anyone, and more so if they thought it advanced their own objectives, which an incident of cyber crime against a major US newspaper certainly does. Even if you trace it back to an ISP address in Syria, there’s nothing concrete to inform us of who, or which group may have instituted the attack. But the government must know, right? Like they did about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the Iraqis involvement in 911.
The more doubt that is sown about the veracity of what we read and see in the MSM, the more America, or whoever is pulling the strings in America is losing control of the narrative. And that doubt is growing. It’s informing us that we just may be puppets for the dying Hegemon’s war machine. War is the only type of economic stimulus we’re likely to see in a long time, and an expense that will make cutting social safety net programs even more of a top issue for our leaders.
Meanwhile the drumbeat of war is growing in our country as the President has said he will not seek UN consensus over military interdiction in Syria. And the drumbeats get louder and louder: DOOM! doom, doom! DOOM! doom, doom….
Working Stiffs and Executive Compensation, (or somebody’s pissing on me and telling me it’s raining).
There has been a lot of talk about how the minimum wage has not kept pace with the expanding economy of the United States. Currently at $7.25/hour, the minimum wage would be at $16.50 had it kept pace with the growth of the economy. Dean Baker makes a good explanation of how that has been by design, (It’s a feature not a bug!), here.
It’s not just minimum wage workers who have not kept pace with the economy. While inflation-adjusted (“real”) household income had been increasing almost every year from 1945 to 1999, it has since been flat and even decreased recently. U.S. median household income fell from $51,144 in 2010 to $50,502 in 2011. Extreme poverty in the United States, meaning households living on less than $2 per day before government benefits, doubled from 1996 to 1.5 million households in 2011, including 2.8 million children.
Just the facts, ma’am:
1. There are 980,000 min wage workers in the US, (from Wiki)..
2. $7.25/hour is current min wage
3. $16.50/hour would be min wage if it had kept pace with the rest of the economy
4. The difference in lost pay for minimum wage workers is $9.25/hour
5. There are 40 hrs work/week = $370/week/worker (the total increase in weekly pay for a minimum wage worker had the minimum wage kept pace with the economy).
6. $370 X 980,000 minimum wage workers in the US = $362,000,000/week, (the total difference in cost that would have been incurred in the labor market if the minimum wage had kept pace with the economy.
7. $362,000,000/week X 52 weeks per year = $18.9 Billion, (the total yearly cost had the minimum wage kept pace with the economy.
While worker compensation has not kept pace with the economy, the topography of executive compensation has grown to elevations that could not have been imagined not so long ago. Executive pay has increased by 725%, or 127 times faster than worker pay over the past 30 years.
Most of the major changes in executive compensation occurred during and after the 1980s when the financialization of America began when wunderkid Michael Milken figured out that American industry was worth more on paper anyway when it was broken up. Milken’s income set a new record in the world when he exceeded $1 Billion in a four year period back in the day. Milken served 2 years of a 6 year sentence, paid a $600 Million fine, and is today ranked the 488th richest person in the world with a net worth of around $2 Billion. Those junk bonds Milken peddled look like kids play next to the opacity of the financial derivative market we have today. In 1994, Nafta made it easy to export jobs across national borders which didn’t help bolster workers pay. Executive compensation really accelerated when the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed, (1999) and CEOs compensation in the financial sector shot up again when the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, more or less exempted financial derivatives from scrutiny and regulation. Executive compensation has dropped on average since the financial crisis in 2008, but don’t worry about whether the CEOs will be able to send their kids off to the right prep school, or be able to buy that million dollar yacht just yet.
Hedge fund managers are the most heavily compensated positions in our economy today. They’re all about managing risk if you believe the press releases. If you’re of a more cynical bent you might think they’re all about creating betting vehicles for those members and institutions in our society that can’t find a casino in Las Vegas or the world big enough to backstop the size of the bets they are likely to place. For that you need a sovereign nation willing to put its citizens health, well being, and prosperity on the line to guarantee such big bets. No hedge fund manager made more in 2011 than Raymond Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates. He made an estimated $3 billion in 2011, (which happened to be an off year for hedge funds). Two other money men made $2 billion each. In total, the top 40 highest-earning hedge fund managers made a combined $13.2 billion, with the lowest earning managers on our list making $40 million. To qualify for the top 10, a hedge fund manager needed to make more than $200 million. This is what a very bad year in the hedge fund business looks like.
Here in this one part of the financial sector we have 40 individuals whose annual compensation equalled almost 70% of the amount it would cost to bring minimum wage earners up to the level of income they would have received had the minimum wage system been designed to keep pace with the economy.
That is just executive compensation in hedge funds, a part of the financial sector that has grown significantly over the past 30 years. Factor in the executive compensation packages of the rest of our corporations, and it will become apparent just why the minimum wage as well as middle class incomes have stagnated or lost ground over these past 30 years. Consider also that increases to workers pay at the lower end of the compensation spectrum are generally spent buying goods and services that improve not just the lives of those workers, but are returned magnified throughout the economy as those purchases help create new jobs. Contrast that with executive compensation packages in the millions of dollars, where at best that excess income means that these overlords create a couple of jobs for their brokers, the local Ferrari dealership, or personal fitness trainers. I’m not suggesting that corporate executives should be compensated at the same rate as workers. We should work to see our policies return to something that would help ensure a lively economy in which all those who work for a living can expect to earn sufficient funds to lead a life free of undue financial hardship, and financial inequality is not a design feature of those public policies.
As Mr. Baker says, this is paradigm that is by design, and is not a result of some flaw in the reasoning of our policy makers. Our elected officials are and have been in the full employ of the masters of the universe who play at dominating a small sector of this pale blue dot we call Earth.
Do watch the video if you have never seen it. It’s one of my personal favorites.
The natives are restless. We used to get to come into the castle when the marauders and pillagers arrived at the city’s walls in exchange for our support and defense of the realm. Not any longer. This war is being fought in the realm of ideas and promulgated by the plutocracy through their public relation branches, aka the MSM. The people have taken to the streets with amorphous discontent and amorphous demands. The only given is that they’re not going to go away. They’ve spied the little man behind the green curtain, dispensing aphorisms, misinformation, and advice, and have decided to call him out. It’s become clear that no one in a position of power or wealth gives a fig for them. The best plan the owners of the world can come up with is to discredit them, or failing that co-opt them and their movement. With luck de-fuse the smoldering keg on the doorsteps of our moneyed class. With more luck, that moneyed class will recoup all or most of the debt owed them from the 99% who don’t enjoy the economic clout to cause the renegotiation of their debt. The most the 99% can count on is to have legislation introduced to forgive penalties on early withdrawals from their IRA accounts so they might pay back the bankers while risking their personal safety net.
It becomes harder to dismantle this social bomb as the people get closer to the edge of economic survival, but these are some committed flaks we’re up against. As each day passes it becomes clear that any sense of noblesse oblige that may have once existed in the upper echelons of society has devolved into a cynical PR operation designed to sway public opinion toward the belief that someone, anyone still cares about those 99% of Americans who don’t belong to the club. And to instill fear of changing the status quo. Still, as resources dwindle and personal debt accumulates while the middle class strives to maintain a lifestyle before it diminishes to mere economic survival; it becomes harder to distract the unwashed masses from the underlying truths. As a Buddhist might say: Painted cakes don’t satisfy hunger. And no matter how hard the economic elite spin this, the underlying reality that is sparking the public’s discontent remains the same. I take heart in the way the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its’ failed ideas and implementations, for the same thing can happen here in the West. All the PR in the political universe can’t spin away the level of unemployment and debt slavery that is the apparent goal of the plutocracy.
Eventually the oligopoly will call out the police in an effort to maintain order. They’re all ready there with swinging batons and pepper spray here in the early skirmishes of the Occupy Wall Street movement. This is just the beginning. It will get worse, and maybe we’ll have our own “uniquely American” version of tanks entering Tienamen Square, and a few martyrs to rally around, but probably not. The oligarchy learned that lesson pretty well at Kent State University on May 4, 1970. More likely the movement will be baited, provoked into doing something that could ostensibly justify quick and decisive police action to shut it down, while a parallel slam by the MSM press discredits the movement. As leaders emerge, there will be attempts to expose any flaws in their personal histories, and otherwise discredit any movement mouthpieces that emerge. In the meantime they’ll be trying to trip the rabble up in beltway debates in which most sane non-policy wonks will end up in verbal quicksand sooner or later. If not, they’ll seek a way to co-opt the movement, then sucker those who fall for it in the standard bait-and-switch following the election.
Still, I don’t see this going the way the oligopoly might want it to. We’ve reached a kind of saturation point at which there is no turning back. We’re arriving at the point at which the spell has been broken in a sufficient number of American minds to carry the seminal desire for reform forward. There’ a growing communal knowledge that no one in power is listening anymore, and that no one will do anything to stem the tide that is washing our citizenry out to sea, to sink to oblivion off the front pages of the remaining news outlets that would bother printing the demise of Joe Everyman. There’s no telling where that will end, but I think the pre-manufactured ideas of the Kochs of the world will carry little weight when it’s you, your family, and your friends on the bread lines. So in some ways the form of our discontent should stay just as amorphous and unfocused as it has been. It makes it harder for the political and moneyed class to pin down and subsequently disown based on some manufactured intellectual abstraction. Eventually they’ll snap to the fact that telling the people to eat those painted cakes isn’t gonna cut it. Eventually they’ll realize that they aren’t the only ones who can break the social contract that has existed between the rich and the poor for most of human history, when we are at their gates.
Things really are falling apart. Our Captains of Industry know that profit maximization at all costs paves the way to a better future for us all. By putting Capital into the hands of the wealthy we will fuel economic prosperity across class lines by creating jobs. Removing the burden of regulation we can lead the way to a new economic paradigm in which the rising economic tide lifts all boats. To staunch the growing international debt/credit crisis social safety nets need to be pared. The many must belt tighten; even suffer a bit, if but for their own good. The rightness of these beliefs are self-evident, even filtered through third hand delivery systems tracing back to the great thinkers who lay prone in the bell towers of the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, as they adjust their scopes on their oblivious targets, bustling about on the quad below.
Meanwhile our captains are lifting foreign workers out of their poverty, providing jobs, feeding their families, providing goods and services to the next emerging market, raising mankind. They’ve suffered some minor setbacks lately. Plant explosions for one, and BTW, worker suicides are up. Working conditions are beside the point. These kamakazi workers are merely trying to cash in on the deep pockets of their employers. Diving from company rooftops to oblivion never looked so inviting, when hope has faded. These free-loaders are merely cashing in. The obvious solution is to install “suicide nets” in strategic places. Then have worker-bees sign anti-suicide pacts with the company. Always think PR. Control the press, spin the discussion, and the collective amnesia of the masses will do the rest. Above all keep the production lines operating. If things continue to fall apart, we’ll move operations to an even more bereft corner of the world, where they’ll open their hearts and minds to the magic of our Capital.
In some ways it’s easier to accomplish now. That sense of desperation can swing both ways. It can work for us captain, or it can swing the other way. Jobs. Carrot? Or Stick? No matter. When they’re hungry and cold they’ll see the logic. Docility can come from desperation or from hunger. Weak body, weak mind. You get the picture. I think we can make this work. As long as things don’t continue to fall apart. As long as all we captains stick together. Stick to the script. Deserters will be shot.
This essay was written in response to a discussion I had last night with an expat businessman who thought parroting the rhetoric of Heritage and Cato, (even filtered through his third generation sources), is the balm the nation and the world needs now, if only the blind would see, and the deaf open their ears. My thinking is further influenced the Matthew Stoller’s excellent essay. In Stoller’s own closing words:
“One day a chunk of the elites will break away from this consensus, as the system experiences a breakdown that is so severe it threatens the interests of a powerful constituency group. For now, we will be watching the embers.”
Cross-posted at my blog.