Thursday, February 14, 2008

Economic Stimulus To The Rescue? Not Buying It.

“Hey you, Whitehouse. Ha ha charade you are….
You're trying to keep our feelings off the street.
You're nearly a real treat,
All tight lips and cold feet.
And do you feel abused?” — Pig (Three different ones), Pink Floyd

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s official; President George W. Bush signed the bill allowing a one-time $600 rebate to each of us today. Don’t worry – they’ll borrow the money from China to pay for it. Who cares about that national debt thing when we’ve got hurting businesses needing us to spend money at their establishments? And how better to do this than give it to these cash-strapped folks all over the country with the intent that we will go out and immediately give it to these companies to help give a temporary little spike in their sales.

So this is supposed to help the nation’s pandemic economic blues … how…? Oh! That’s right – cosmetically! Who cares about the real thing when we can simply paint it over and not be required to pay attention to (much less address) the real problem, right? It’s the good guy cowboys riding in to the rescue on their white sawhorses.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the folks who’ve been standing on the precipice of financial disaster are still right there next to the abyss. The companies receiving the government funded windfall will note a slight uptick in sales for a bit, only to recede back to stagnant and sub-stagnant levels. And the businesses who’ve been pained by the economic downturn – as well as those simply watching the market trends looking to cushion their positions – are preparing layoffs to help boost their profit margin in the coming quarter. Isn’t that tremendously helpful? More people getting pink slips, meaning more people tightening belts! Pretty effective, huh?

“The inflation of war cuts the pay of the employed, the pension check of the retired and the savings of almost everyone…. Working people feel the double impact of inflation and unemployment immediately. But Negroes feel its impact with crushing severity because they live on the margin in all respects and have no reserve to cushion shock. There is a great deal of debate about the nation's ability to maintain war and commit the billions required to attack poverty.” — “The Domestic Impact of War In America” speech, Martin Luther King Jr.

Yesterday both Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson started on the media and congressional circuit, giving us the hard sell on this new action, and even going so far as pronouncing the economy “fundamentally sound” (shades of the ever-so-insular W). Not only that, they declare this $600 will single-handedly pull the economy up and we will have no recession.

And here in unemployed-tranny-land, I’m not buying that for half a second! How daft do they assume we are? Sure, I may come across as pretty dumb to these Washington elitists – but I’m not stupid.

Apparently neither are folks in the U.S. Senate, as reported after Paulson’s visit. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) – a conservative at that! – likened it to “pouring a glass of water into the ocean.” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) commented that when alarm bells should’ve gone off last year, that Paulson and Bernanke instead “hit the snooze button,” also noting the need for honest assessments instead of “hiding [their] head in the sand.”

“You gotta stem the evil tide,
And keep it all on the inside….
Mary you're nearly a treat
But you're really a cry.” — Pig (Three different ones), Pink Floyd

All the “fixes” the President and his cabinet, and an arm-twisted Congress pass are geared primarily to benefit business. Yet, throughout this post 9/11 administration, it’s been business raking in the record profits. American workforce productivity has increased over the past quarter century, most dramatically even since the millennium. Yet since that time, most notably in the Bush Administration, it’s been fueling the record profits in a greed-fest fashion.

Meanwhile, the typical worker is making the same wage – even with the rising costs of all necessities – and is still fearful enough of being downsized or offshored out of a job that they remain financially paralyzed. This means real wage growth has dropped for the first time has dropped for the first time while business continues padding their capital base.

Now that home prices are declining (the only source of wealth increase for most Americans) and everyone’s lost faith in the economic future, business feels pinched and gets immediate help. They dress it up as being a boon for the populace, but nothing’s addressing the root cause – income and opportunity disparity. It’s bullshit.

In 2003, Business week estimated that 24% of the employed workforce in the U.S. earned below poverty-level wages. (

“A pig is a pig, and that’s that!” — Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics

Bush ballyhooed a plan, and sent Bernanke around the country trying to play up a new concept: providing an avenue for regular Americans to get into startup business and become entrepreneurs. It’s a great plan, actually, as workers are nothing but machine parts to Corporate America – easily and blithely discarded – while putting us in direct competition with winnowing competitors for the American dollar will provide real competition (and hopefully a way to stanch the rising price tags of everything lately.) It also gives historically employment-disparate groups – especially groups like the transgender community – some hope and chance for job security. It was a great plan … and unfortunately that’s all it was: a great PLAN. Nothing but empty words, what a surprise ….

You could toss that plan in the same trash can with Bush’s promises on “leveling the playing field” for small business, and working to find affordable group insurance by consolidating a policy for pools of small employers. Nice thoughts, no follow through … you gotta love that Republican work ethic, eh?

Here’s a message to Washington and Corporate America: how about providing some hope via jobs with income enough to actually pay for something beyond the bare necessities? How about a winner-take-all mindset of “what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine”? We’ve moved most of the way there, and that upper –two percentile doesn’t seem to be consuming anywhere near the level of what the lower-ninety percentile used to comprise (and can no longer afford to do so).

Do you want a real way to make this happen and truly put “more money into the people’s hands” as these empty-hearted politicos are so fond of repeating? Don’t do it the way Glenn “Give-It-All-Away-To-The-Rich-Tycoons” Beck suggested by reducing all taxes on business. Sure they’ll produce more – especially the biggest of the bigs. And with no impediments, they’ll be more than happy to continue doing it with the cheapest possible labor and maximize their ongoing bottom line greed fest a la Exxon, Halliburton or Microsoft.

Find methods to force things into smaller more entrepreneurial-sized so the competition exists to keep these prices truly down and to give folks both opportunity and a sense of job security. And if the mega-sized companies want to remain so, then they either need to pay their employees hugely enough to match their profits – or face a commensurately ramped up tax level based upon the wage disparity between the highest paid officers (wage, bonus and benefits) to the lowest level employees they employ. If these CEO’s and owners wish to make more than 25 times the profit of their low-level grunt employees, then these companies should be happy to pay a price for that – escalating as their compensation multiplier rises.

And the money raised from these new corporate taxes? Why, let’s use that to pay for these economic stimulus rescue plans rather than raising the national debt to do it! After all, someone’s got to pay for it. Why not the ones who benefit from this disparate system the most?

“Oh I'm out here trying to make it, baby can't you see?
It takes a lot of money to make it – let's talk truthfully.
So keep your love light burning and a little food hot in my plate.
You might as well get used to me coming home a little late.
Oh, Oo-ooh, I got work to do, I got work baby.” — Work To Do, the Isley Brothers

“Congress appropriates military funds with alacrity and generosity. It appropriates poverty funds with miserliness and grudging reluctance. The government is emotionally committed to the war. It is emotionally hostile to the needs of the poor.” — “The Domestic Impact of War In America” speech, Martin Luther King Jr.

No comments: