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The Hoax of Conflict

3:17 pm in Uncategorized by Donald Goldmacher

This entry was written by HEIST co-producer and co-director Frances Causey.

The conflict and profit driven mainstream media continually props up the belief that Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on anything. But when it comes to economic policy, conflict is an engineered myth, a smokescreen perpetuated by the “inside the beltway gang” ostensibly to keep the faithful of both parties happy. I call it smoke and mirror politics.

What is being obscured is the fact that both parties shamelessly support multi-national corporations and financial elites at the exclusion of everything and everyone else. Since the late 1970’s, the GOP and their billionaire backers have spent billions of dollars shaping government in their own “profits at any cost” vision. The Democrats began falling nicely into line beginning with President Jimmy Carter who started the deregulation craze by deregulating the airline and trucking industries. No, this is not your grandfather’s Democratic party anymore.

The Democratic Party, once the champion of working people and defender of Roosevelt’s New Deal that defined liberalism, now finds itself making policy and laws that are destroying what is left of the New Deal and subsequently the middle-class.

Reading between the lines of President Obama’s Top 50 achievements speaks to this reality.
Yes, President Obama and Congress threw working people a few bones like the auto bailout and extension of long term unemployment benefits (to be rescinded somewhat if the sequester happens) but closer scrutiny of the list reveals that a majority of “accomplishments” were for the very few at the very top of the economic scale.

Number One on the list is health care reform. Polls show that 77% of Americans overwhelmingly wanted a government run healthcare option to compete with private insurers. But the public option was dead on arrival after President Obama and Finance Committee Chairman Democrat Sen. Max Baucus played the “Washington shell game” and let Big Pharma and the insurance industry dictate the terms of the legislation, which was a huge windfall to both.

The insurance industry got millions of new customers and high premiums subsidized by the taxpayer and Big Pharma can continue its predatory pricing and monopolistic policies while high drug prices and healthcare costs continue to devastate the budgets of working class families. Big money finds a way.

Number Two on the list is the passage of the stimulus, which was touted and allegedly designed to spur the economy for EVERYONE. But figures show that 93% of recovery dollars went to the 1%. The stimulus did keep the economy from going off the cliff by not completely shutting down our banking system but offered little else in the long term to bring back good jobs with benefits to working people. Relative to our 1979 economy (when Democrats acted like Democrats), the current economy has lost about one third of its ability to generate good jobs or those with good wages, healthcare benefits and retirement.

Lastly, lets look at Number Three on the list: Wall Street Reform. As I write, the White House and Congress are effectively putting the last nails in the coffin of Dodd-Frank, the law originally designed to re-write the rules of how Wall Street did business.

Instead, Congress is once again pandering to groups like the Mortgage Bankers Association that is sitting on bad mortgages to the tune of a 30% loss, which they are loath to write off. The only way to recoup their losses is to create another housing bubble and Congress is only too happy to comply by loosening lending standards again.
Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley is currently crafting a bill that would set up a trust to “purchase or guarantee refinanced (private) mortgages.” Taxpayers will be forced once again to pay for the excesses of investors. After all, this IS how our democracy works these days.

America experienced her greatest prosperity in the 1950’s and 1960’s when we had a political balance of power and laws that ensured fairness. The Democrats representing working people were a counterweight to the power of the capital class, represented by Republicans. Income equality and upward mobility, a core component of the American Dream, was the result. Today, there is overwhelming evidence that your children will not have their fair shot at the American dream. Our Democracy and dreams have been sold to the highest bidder. If indeed there are only two kinds of power in America: organized money and organized people, organized money has had its way. Which do you belong to?

This entry is also available on Daily Kos.

The Silent War Against Workers by Big Business Is Growing Louder!

7:07 pm in Uncategorized by Donald Goldmacher

Siblings Alice Walton and Jim Walton

This entry was written by Frances Causey.

Thankfully, stories of striking workers at Wal-Mart and Hostess are making the front pages of newspapers and leading the “A” blocks of cable news shows. These two companies epitomize the war against workers that began over 40 years ago. Wal-Mart is the poster-child for corporate malfeasance and draconian worker policies. Wal-Mart workers on average are paid so little that the American taxpayer is literally subsidizing these workers as tens of thousands of them have no health benefits which forces them to use state Medicaid for healthcare. Wal-Mart made $15 billion dollars last year. Four out of the America’s top ten Billionaires are Wal-Mart heirs.

Its no better over at Hostess, a company that has been bought and sold three times since the 1980’s, putting the Twinkie maker in debt but making Wall Street investment bankers and top management a bunch of dough (sorry). And guess who bankrolled those deals? Fees and stock deals were funded by employee layoffs! But the biggest ding-dong of all would be the current Hostess CEO who while decrying striking workers for wanting livable wages and benefits gave himself a 300 percent raise.

The American worker-those who live off a paycheck – has experienced “death by a thousand cuts” over the last forty years which we amply portray in HEIST. Despite slick corporate press releases regurgitated by corporate owned media, workers at Wal-Mart and Hostess have been forced to rise up because they can no longer support their families with what they EARN. Forty million good paying jobs with benefits have been shipped overseas or dismantled by corporations since the late 1970’s and were replaced by low wage service jobs with no benefits.

Simply put, working for a living no longer pays for most workers in this country. Incomes in America are much lower than is widely understood. Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter David Cay Johnston crunched the numbers in Heist. One-third of jobs in America pay less than $15,000 a year, which includes part time workers and people with two small jobs. But half of Americans make less than $25,000. Three quarters make less than$54,000. Ninety-nine percent of workers make less than $250,000 per year. HEIST describes the corporate makeover of big government that saw the Democratic Party become almost indistinguishable from Republicans on economic matters. Policies were developed that clearly favored the “capital” class not the “working” class.

American style Democracy has been unique for one simple reason: a majority has- for the most part- benefitted from the fruits of the nation’s labors. But this is no longer true as the workers at Wal-Mart and Hostess know all too well. With nowhere to go, these brave workers are fighting back and making great strides in raising the nation’s consciousness about economic inequality. We must support them! So if you live in a city where Wal-Mart workers are striking, go there this Friday, black Friday, and instead of shopping, take striking workers a sandwich, a bottle of water or give them a pat on the shoulder or a word of encouragement. These workers are “walking the walk”!

For more information on the Wal-Mart workers’ strike, check out forrespect.org Read the rest of this entry →