The Unholy Alliance between the rich (Wall St.) and the powerful (D.C.)

(This was also posted in the group "Left Wing Atheists")

 

I have come a long way in three years. I was so naive. I couldn't wait to vote the Republicans out of office, so I registered myself as a Democrat and woke up at 5am to go stand proudly in line to vote for Obama. Like many of us since then, I now realize what a sucker I was. I had high hopes that Obama was going to nationalize the banks when he took office and start loosening the hold the bankers have around our throats. Well, that didn't happen, and instead he went after health care. We all know what he has and has not done since, with the latter more than overwhelming the former. So I got frustrated, as most of us have, that nothing changed with Obama. I got determined to educate myself and find out what the real problems are, and what the real solutions are.

 

I started watching a lot of MSNBC. At first, I stuck with Hardball with Chris Matthews. While that kept me informed as to what the two political parties were up to, I was far from satisfied. Then one day I tuned in a little early and caught a little of Dylan Ratigan. His personality turned me off a little at first, but the next time I saw his show I was mesmerized. Hooked. Here was a guy who was finally speaking about the real issues, the fundamental structural problems underlying the mess we are in. If you know the show, much of what I am about to say will sound like repetition, but these are what I think the real problems in America are.

 

There are 6 industries which own the US government, the military-industrial complex (e.g. Lockheed Martin), health care (Big Pharma, health insurance), banking, energy (oil, Halliburton), agribusiness (think Monsanto), and telecommunications (e.g. the phone companies that rip us off). The heads of these industries use their spectacular wealth to buy politicians. In fact, 94% of our elections are now won by the candidate who raises the most money. Obama was no exception. Yes, he raised more money from small donations than anyone had before, but he also raised more money from LARGE donations than ever before. Goldman Sachs was his single biggest campaign contributor in 2008. We all know that if a candidate tries to go against any of these industries, they use their fabulous wealth to take out attack ads so that they don't stand a chance (think swiftboating). As long as our two political parties play by the rules, they can divide up the country in any other, meaningless way they want.

 

They have a very cozy relationship, these plutocrats. The politicians look the other way while the rich engage in insider trading. They even call up their friends on Wall St. and give them insider information as to policy changes which have financial ramifications (and then engage in a healthy amount of insider trading themselves). Then the rich spend huge amounts of money in lobbying efforts to convince the politicians as to how the laws should be written. They have managed to rig, to their vast benefit, the tax code, trade policies, and banking regulations to siphon money from the American people and into their pockets. They pay lower taxes (or none at all) than average American individuals and businesses. They trade with countries like China which can make products far cheaper than we can make it here, eliminating American jobs while flooding the markets with cheap goods (think Walmart). But the banking "industry" seems to have benefited to even more egregious levels.

 

Our US government has allowed a $700 trillion, completely invisible and unregulated swaps market to exist without requiring all of these transactions to take place on a visible (and regulatable) exchange. There are no capital requirements, which means they can trade without having anything of value to put up as collateral. And when their bets go bad, the Fed just sends them a check to the tune of $29.6 trillion of our tax-payer money so far since the crisis began. And I thought we had a deficit! Where are we getting all of this money from? Are we just printing it?

 

Meanwhile 1 in 15 Americans now live in poverty. 18% of us are unemployed (that's the "real" unemployment figures), and that's not even counting the underemployed. Incomes are falling, debt is mounting. People are left homeless while foreclosed homes sit empty. Income and wealth inequality are at their highest levels since the Great Depression. Meanwhile our elections are being put up for auction and neither political party will stand up to these powerful ruling interests. If this isn't a state of unjust affairs, then I don't know what is. These are issues that shouldn't even be restricted to the left, we are all being oppressed. But while we on the left are waking up, those on the right are drifting towards a libertarian philosophy which plays right into the hands of the rich. With no government around, who could possibly stand up to the rich?

 

We need to retake our government, not break it down into uselessness. And we need large-scale structural solutions to address these mounting problems. We need systematic and system-wide changes to our democracy and our government. We need to weed out waste and abuse of power at all levels. We need to eliminate subsidies for oil companies and stop sending money without strings attached to the bankers. We need to break up the banking cartels so that never again will an institution be "too big to fail". We need real regulations on the banking industry, and that begins with having capital requirements and putting the swaps market on a visible exchange. If we change the way Wall St. does business, they will make money honestly and contribute real value to America rather than being fueled by the need to create more and more debt. We need to restructure debt to help out students and homeowners. And to that end I would suggest literally bailing out the American people. If we are going to print money, why not give it directly to Americans so that they can use it to pay off their debts to the banks?

 

We need to eliminate superpacs and overturn the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court that makes corporations people and money into protected free speech so that the rich can't talk more loudly than everyone else. We need a real energy plan, and we need to improve our energy efficiency so that we can approach a % in the 90's like other modern industrialized nations have rather than the 34% efficiency we are now sitting at. We need real environmental regulations, and we need to completely restructure our educational system so that we can keep up with the rest of the world. And we need to end privatized profit but socialized risk for the wealthy, and incentivize investment in America and it's people.

 

The political discussion has been framed by our politicians as being about ballooning debt. While certainly this is a huge problem, I am quite certain that if we address the real problems in America, our national debt problem will also be solved. If we stop war-mongering and being the arms-dealers to the world, we won't have huge costly wars to pay off. With an economy that puts people to work, our social programs will have plenty of funding to continue operations, keeping Americans healthy and financially supported throughout old age.

 

We are really running out of time. The changing environment is going to make all humanity come together, one way or another. We can come together now and make the necessary changes to our lifestyle and our society so that we can all live on this earth in peace, or the catastrophe to come will be marked by the most violence, starvation, and suffering the world has ever known. And the US needs to lead the way. When the catastrophe comes, humanity will largely blame Americans for it, and rightly so. There will be enough blame to go around, but the American people can do something about it now, while we still have time. If we do not raise our heads up out of the herd and take our country back from the oligarchs who hold us as slaves and hostages, the lion's share of the moral responsibility for the future of humanity will be ours to bear.

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Wanderer, this comment evoked so many thoughts, I don't know where to begin. First of all, I agree with what you wrote and you write beautifully. 

Yes, first we must recognize we must "learn to live with less." For those of us who have been scaling down, it is not at all unpleasant or foolish, it is just different and we have to do things like turn the furnace down ... you know all the things that are recommended. We have to be willing to challenge the Pope and his horrid bias against family planning. We have to decide if we want to buy bombs and bullets or create enough jobs to cut unemployment ... wars do not add more jobs but increasing education opportunities for life-long learning- creates many more jobs with better outcome. Wars destroy, education empowers imagination, exploration, experimentation and produces something of value.  

I am so sorry to learn of your autistic son and that implies that families should not have to carry the full burden in such cases. Disabilities can crush a family under medical costs and providing for them for their entire lifetime. There is no reason the entire society cannot participate in the support of those who need this help. I can never vote for Ron Paul because of his stand. 

Keen points out that the neoclassical economic is based on perfect markets and level playing fields and equal opportunities and natural flow to equilibrium. These assumptions don't exist, never have and never will.  

I don't see two parties, I see Democrats and Republicans controlled by banks and financial institutions and any third party has not a chance to compete fairly. I thought Obama was different. What a sad joke. Even if he wanted to do what he said he was going to do, he chose Greenspan, Geithner, Bernanke, Summers, and Emanuel for his cabinet the day of his inauguration. Holder turned out to be of no use for civil rights. We still have torture, loss of privacy ... Oh, I don't want to get started. 

Your whole statement of the organism is so beautifully and well written, I can't add anything to it. Perfectly done. 

I repeat your last statement:

"We need to start reforming our society, and quick, but it will take an immense effort. But what choice do we have?"

Thanks for the compliments! Actually that is only the beginning of my organismic thinking, I am trying to write a book on ethics in which organicism plays a main role, and actually I should be getting back to that rather than spending so much time on politics, but both areas are so fascinating and in need of such major changes! We can't leave ethics to the religious, but neither can we leave politics to the largely religious and ignorant American population.

 

I completely agree with Keen in that the assumptions made by the neoclassicists (which is really just a butchering of classical theories) do not reflect reality, and this is a big part of the problem!

 

I also completely agree with you about Obama. Dylan Ratigan, the guy I source heavily in the OP, pointed out a lot of this stuff to me, and then I went out and got "Confidence Men" by Ron Suskind and he points out how Obama has done virtually everything wrong when it comes to fixing the financial mess, starting with picking the guys you pointed out. I am so utterly disappointed as well!

Dee, Capitalism that focuses on quantity over quality is a real problem and failing bridges, closing of mom and pop stores, turning small farms into huge agribusiness with monoculture presents risks to food supplies, and penalizing small business while disproportionally rewarding big business definitely needs to be addressed. And certainly we need to have child care for all our children as well as elder care. 

When I was in China there were "creches" at work sites and young mothers could take time to breast feed their babies without losing earnings. The Scandinavian countries had one year for the mother to stay at home with a new baby and the father was able to take six months of that time to stay home without loss of pay. In Hungary new mothers could stay home the first year after each birth but had to return to work or be charged with a crime. 

We need more emphasis on cooperation, not competition. There are many jobs that require more than one person to complete it and working as a team member is a learnable skill. 

Yes, owners of capital have value because of their access to capital to produce goods and services; they cannot do all that needs to be done to produce.

Owners of labor have value because they provide the labor and skill to do the productions of goods and services. 

Profit is a legitimate goal, however, when cost of capital is high, cost of labor is low, and profits go to investors, it is relatively easy to get the system out of balance, increasing the gap of rich and poor. 

Banks get their cut by charging interest on loans to capitalist and labor. When demand for goods and services go up, wage earners have easy access to credit, taking risks that prudent people would not. When they miss a payment or are late, interests rates rise to an obscene level, further sucking earnings out of their pockets. Later on house, car and credit card payments quickly escalate to repossession of car, foreclosure on house, and unethical collections and the family falls into high stress, conflicts, problems and the family system deteriorates. 

Not a pretty picture. 

> on each end of the political spectrum is a philosophy based on either competition or cooperation to the exclusion of the other

That's pretty good. 

> We should somewhat reward talent and hard work and somewhat allow the weak to fall behind, but while keeping checks in place to make sure that fewer people are disadvantaged

That's the Capitalism With Benefits tune I keep singing.

This discussion is pretty interesting.  It may take me a while to do the reading.

Thanks Andrew. Take your time, I'm just glad you managed to work your way over here!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100224132655.htm

 

From the Article "Liberals and Atheists Smarter?":

 

"In the current study, Kanazawa argues that humans are evolutionarily designed to be conservative, caring mostly about their family and friends, and being liberal, caring about an indefinite number of genetically unrelated strangers they never meet or interact with, is evolutionarily novel.  So more intelligent children may be more likely to grow up to be liberals.

 

Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) support Kanazawa's hypothesis.  Young adults who subjectively identify themselves as "very liberal" have an average IQ of 106 during adolescence while those who identify themselves as "very conservative" have an average IQ of 95 during adolescence.

 

Similarly, religion is a byproduct of humans' tendency to perceive agency and intention as causes of events, to see "the hands of God" at work behind otherwise natural phenomena.  "Humans are evolutionarily designed to be paranoid, and they believe in God because they are paranoid," says Kanazawa.  This innate bias toward paranoia served humans well when self-preservation and protection of their families and clans depended on extreme vigilance to all potential dangers.  "So, more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to go against their natural evolutionary tendency to believe in God, and they become atheists."

 

Young adults who identify themselves as "not at all religious" have an average IQ of 103 during adolescence, while those who identify themselves as "very religious" have an average IQ of 97 during adolescence."

Wanderer, this is an interesting study and it fits with my experiences teaching. Teaching at the boys' ranches, boys who believed in god and evil, tended not to do the things necessary to make personal changes in their attitudes and behaviors. Boys who did not believe in mystical powers appeared to recognize they had to work things out, there was no helping hand to guide them or protect them. They tended to be more explorative and asked more questions. Parents of the boys with faith knew that they knew how to parent and reluctantly looked at other options. They were the most resistant to skill building. Parents of boys with no expressed faith knew they did not know how to parent or did not know how to handle their sons caught up in bad influences.  

Working with battered women, those women who prayed for relief continued to be beaten. Those who refused to be a victim did what was necessary to be free of abuse. 

Working with men and women prisoners, I experienced the most eager learners of life skills were those who took responsibility for their criminal conviction and did not rely on superhuman power to influence outcomes. Those who wanted a better life did those things that have a higher probability of reaching goals.

Discussing this with other educators, wondering why people with faith in something other than themselves for resolution of their problems, did not do as well in social interaction and developing life skills as those who expressed no faith. This is not surprising in a prison population because many prisoners have personality profiles that revealed manipulation and exploitation as their strongest characteristic. Appearance of religiosity may or may not indicate faith in god. 

Hmm, makes sense to me! I've come to realize that I am not so much smarter than everyone else, as I had previously thought, but rather that I just have a knack for asking the right questions. One of the biggest problems I have with other thinkers is their willingness to have the issues framed for them before they have even framed them for themselves. I suppose faith is like the ultimate wool over your eyes in that not only have the questions been framed for you, your entire worldview is framed for you before you are even born. Anyone willing to accept that kind of enslavement of the mind hasn't become fully human, in my opinion.

intelligence is a difficult thing to quantify IMO - you have IQ - but have you hung out at a Mensa meeting recently?!

If I wanted to I could. :-)

I don't buy this at all, sorry.

First, 97 vs 103 is not that big of a swing.  Second, there are more possible explanations.  More intelligent kids are more likely to go to college; while there are religious colleges, most colleges still teach secular values.  Same goes for the political side, though 95 vs 106 is a more impressive delta.

I think someone may have used generic data to reinforce a pet theory.  I wonder if he got a book deal out of this one?  Here is some of the author's other work:

Why do Beautiful People Have More Daughters?

Why the Intelligent Choice Isn't Always the Smart One

Not exactly rocket surgery.

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