Quote of the Day: Fiscal Cliff Taxes

by TKOEd • Tuesday, Dec 11, 2012 • no responses - be the first

Derek Thompson:

When President Obama says he’s going to raise the top marginal tax rate, the key words there are “top” and “marginal.” According to the president’s plan, every dollar under $250,000 of earned income will enjoy the same tax cut it has today. He’s only pledged to raise taxes on income above that level by about 5%. So, if you make $251,000 next year, your tax bill wouldn’t go up by $12,000. It would go up by $50. A steak dinner, not a small car.

Thompson’s post is titled, Rich People Who Don’t Understand Taxes Should Be Told So. I completely agree with that statement, but they should only be a starting point because of their outsized influence in our political system. We need as many people as possible to understand this. It’s mind-boggling the number of people who don’t understand or possible feign ignorance at our marginal income tax rate structure. Including many in the press. We got to do better.

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5 @ 5: Fast Food Nation

by TKOEd • Monday, Dec 10, 2012 • no responses - be the first

We’re are becoming a nation of service workers. And fast food workers have a long, hard fight ahead of them to get living wages. With perseverance, and our support they can get there sooner rather than later:

A Fast Food Nation Fights for Living Wages—Against Long Odds.

You think Barry was fucking ’round in that election? Nah, B. Just like ’08, he played to win:

The Science Behind Those Obama Campaign E-mails.

I wish this was a surprise, but it’s not. The NYCHA sucks, badly:

Housing Agency’s Flaws Revealed By Storm.

In arguing against raising the Medicare eligibility age, Charles P. Pierce shows why he’s necessary:

The Actual Cost Of Washington’s Clever Debt Deal.

#ICYMI. I wondered aloud about Jeffrey Goldberg’s gun fantasies.

Jeffrey Goldberg’s Gunsmoke.



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Train People For The Jobs You Have, Not The Jobs You Might Want

by TKOEd • Wednesday, Nov 28, 2012 • no responses - be the first

Who’s Hiring?:

“You can make six figures as an auto technician” says Rich Orbain, the manager of General Motors Auto Service Education Program. “If that person has the motivation and skill and the drive, they can do it” he says, adding that despite long-standing programs at 61 community colleges across the country, General Motors (GM) is currently only getting about 500 of the 2500 trained new technicians it needs each year.

Stuff like this should be a slam dunk for politicians. Where’s the legislative bill to creat more for programs of this nature? Where’s Obama’s PR push to get people into the jobs that are available today? Now 2000 jobs isn’t many, but that’s just at GM:

Data from the Department of Labor project that the need will be above average for auto service technicians in the coming years, and that the auto industry is going to need to find, train and hire more than 100,000 new people who can get under the hood and keep our cars and trucks running smoothly.

Not everyone wants a job as an auto tech, but there are plenty of people who would jump at the chance given the still sorry state of the economy. Even during good times lots of people need work, and more specifically need to gain the skills to get these jobs. We hear a lot about “job training programs”, but here we have programs that still aren’t meeting the demand companies need. Why? It’s not as if CEOs don’t have the ears of politicians. Pols need to ask the right questions. When Obama meets with the “titans of industry”, he should ask them where the jobs are. John Boehner & Mitch McConnell should do same. Find out where the jobs are & train people for those jobs. Give people specific tax breaks to help them move for a new job. Make it easier to get the breaks that are already on the books.

GM not being able to fill all their auto tech positions is an abject failure on the part of our government during a recession. Now the Republicans haven’t wanted the economy to get better for fear that Obama would get the credit, but I expect more from Democrats. This is the kind of stuff GOPers could possibly support.

People needs jobs, and there are some specific companies that need employees, and need them now. It’s the government’s job to get the 2 sides together.


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Costco, Wall Street & Sacrifice

by TKOEd • Tuesday, Nov 27, 2012 • one response - join in

“How Costco Became the Anti-Wal-Mart”:

…not everyone is happy with Costco’s business strategy. Some Wall Street analysts assert that Mr. Sinegal is overly generous not only to Costco’s customers but to its workers as well.

Costco’s average pay, for example, is $17 an hour, 42 percent higher than its fiercest rival, Sam’s Club. And Costco’s health plan makes those at many other retailers look Scroogish. One analyst, Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank, complained last year that at Costco “it’s better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder.”

God forbid there’s a large company that actually seems to be taking care of its employees. God forbid there’s a company who isn’t squeezing every last bit of life, and productivity out of its employees just so shareholders can make few more bucks. Who are these shareholders? Michael Lind has the answer:

Most publicly traded companies have shares that are bought and sold constantly on behalf of millions of passive investors by mutual funds and other intermediates. Some shareholders invest in a company for the long term; many others allow their shares to be bought and sold quickly by computer software programs. Unable to identify what particular shareholders want, CEOs with the encouragement of Wall Street have treated short-term earnings as a reliable proxy for shareholder value.

That last line is an important one. It’s exactly why Wall Street analyst, Emme Kozloff, thinks Costco CEO, Jim Sinegal:

“…has been too benevolent,”…”He’s right that a happy employee is a productive long-term employee, but he could force employees to pick up a little more of the burden.

Yes. That’s exactly what we need more of in this country, service industry workers picking up more of the burden for companies with billions in revenue. Why? The shareholders. Who could possibly be more important?

You might wonder I’m writing focusing on an article from 2005. I really wanted to highlight the kind of sacrifice that many on Wall Street (and their sycophants in the Senate & House) support. In their eyes, working people need to give up things, gifts the right-wing might call them. Meanwhile, rich people? They don’t have to give up shit. In fact if we don’t give them more shit, they won’t work. They won’t be the “makers” or “job creators” that they are so adamantly convinced they are. Right. If you believe that, I’ve got some pre-election polling that proves Mitt Romney should have won. These people won’t stop “working.” They are the walking, talking epitome of C.R.E.A.M. That picture of Mitt Romney & his boys at Bain with money everywhere? An outtake from that Wu-Tang video. They live to make money, and if some working stiff has to make a few less bucks or have shitty or no insurance so that people like Mitt Romney can make a few more bucks so be it. That’s America, that’s capitalism. Specifically that’s shareholder capitalism as Michael Lind put it. If they really stop working, trust me when I say it’s not big loss, they’re probably too stupid to be in business anyway.

CEOs need to make sure their employees get crumbs, and nothing more. Sometimes even crumbs are just too good for them. The CEOs themselves? They should get the whole slice of bread. Unless they don’t want the crust, that they can feed to the dogs strapped to the roof of their cars. This is the world according to Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner & Wall Street “analysts.” They cry, and moan about having to pay a few percentage points more of marginal income tax, but they support sacrifice from everyone else. Fuck that. Yes they will whine heavily about the tax increase, but then they’ll remember they’re rich & get over it. They’ll go back to making up more nonsensical ways to make money. Some other way to scam a whole bunch of people, and then scurry away with a nice severance package before any realizes the great damage that’s been done.

Jim Sinegal said he was trying to have a sustainable company that will be around for many decades to come, but the “Street” doesn’t want to hear that:

On Wall Street, they’re in the business of making money between now and next Thursday,” he said. “I don’t say that with any bitterness, but we can’t take that view. We want to build a company that will still be here 50 and 60 years from now.”

Bingo. I could not agree more. These people don’t do “in 10 years.” They can barely think past the next financial quarter. Meanwhile shareholder capitalism isn’t great at its main purpose. Again, Michael Lind:

Shareholder value capitalism in the U.S. since the 1980s has even failed in its primary purpose — maximizing the growth in shareholder value. As Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman Business School at the University of Toronto points out in a recent Harvard Business Review article, between 1933 and 1976 shareholders of American companies earned higher returns — 7.6 percent — than they have done in the age of shareholder value from 1977 to 2008 — 5.9 percent a year.

Even that scumbag, Jack Welch thinks it’s stupid:

For his part, Jack Welch has renounced the idea with which he was long associated. In a March 2009 interview with the Financial Times, the former head of GE said: “Strictly speaking, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world.”

So why do persist with this “stupid” idea? Greed. That, and the idea that’s seems to be pervasive among many right-wingers: If you’re not rich, it’s because you don’t deserve to be. Something is wrong with you. Not the way we do thing here, in America. But it’s you, your own fault, and society has had no hand in that. It’s one of the reason they hate Obama, he doesn’t subscribe to that world view. He thinks we’re all in this together. He thinks Americans should look out for one another. Especially those who are the worst off & the able to do it for themselves. They don’t like that one bit. Don’t you know that’s socialism? Bailing out the financial industry? Capitalism. Helping the poor, working poor & working class? Socialism. See how that works?

I’m ready for Obama to take the GOP, and all these fat cats (my apologies to actual fat cats) right up to edge the fiscal “cliff“, shove them off & toss a boulder off right after ‘em. Like Wile E. Coyote, they’ll be back, but this will be more than worth it.


(All emphasis in this post is mine.)

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Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices

by TKOEd • Tuesday, Jan 25, 2011 • one response - join in

A protest in Utah against Wal-Mart

Image via Wikipedia

This is a very good documentary on the business practices, and effects of Wal-Mart. If you’re like me, you don’t shop at Wal-Mart & have no intention of ever doing so, but this doc will anger, and sadden you. Wal-Mart is worse than I ever knew.

The High Cost of Low Prices


The New Yorker On The Social Worth Of Wall Street

by TKOEd • Tuesday, Nov 23, 2010 • no responses - be the first

What Good Is Wall Street?: Much of what investment bankers do is socially worthless.

This is an epic article. It’s a must read of the highest order if you care at all about what’s happened to our country not just over the last few years, but over the last 30.

Giełda na Wall Street

Image via Wikipedia

Here’s an excerpt where the writer, John Cassidy, is talking to an ex finance insider, Paul Woolley:

At first, like most economists, he believed that trading drove market prices to levels justified by economic fundamentals. If an energy company struck oil, or an entertainment firm created a new movie franchise, investors would pour money into its stock, but the price would remain tethered to reality. The dotcom bubble of the late nineteen-nineties changed his opinion. GMO is a “value investor” that seeks out stocks on the basis of earnings and cash flows. When the Nasdaq took off, Woolley and his colleagues couldn’t justify buying high-priced Internet stocks, and their funds lagged behind rivals that shifted more of their money into tech. Between June, 1998, and March, 2000, Woolley recalled, the clients of GMO—pension funds and charitable endowments, mostly—withdrew forty per cent of their money. During the ensuing five years, the bubble burst, value stocks fared a lot better than tech stocks, and the clients who had left missed more than a sixty-per-cent gain relative to the market as a whole. After going through that experience, Woolley had an epiphany: financial institutions that react to market incentives in a competitive setting often end up making a mess of things. “I realized we were acting rationally and optimally,” he said. “The clients were acting rationally and optimally. And the outcome was a complete Horlicks.” Financial markets, far from being efficient, as most economists and policymakers at the time believed, were grossly inefficient. “And once you recognize that markets are inefficient a lot of things change.”

Woolley is also quoted making statements like this: “Why on earth should finance be the biggest and most highly paid industry when it’s just a utility, like sewage or gas?”, and: “It is like a cancer that is growing to infinite size, until it takes over the entire body.”

I encourage you to read the whole thing. It shed light on some things without the use of much finance jargon.

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The Wire, Monopoly & Capitalism

by TKOEd • Thursday, Oct 7, 2010 • no responses - be the first

The crack game, in it’s essence, is pure capitalism.

Profit, over people, at all costs. Eliminate enemies at all costs. Take out the dominant political regime or competition at all costs.  Endless accumulation of property and capital, at all costs. Domination through coercion, violence and if necessary legal
means at all costs.

…the human toll, are all irrelevant.

Above is an excerpt from an excellent post by @Mdotwrites over at her blog Model Minority. Please read the full post.

Mull it over a bit & then think about this bit of satire from The Poke:

Monopoly, the iconic board game that for decades has instilled the values of aggressive capitalism into the young, joined forces today with the hit TV show The Wire.

Emphasis mine. While “The Wire” version of monopoly is not real, Mdot’s points are very salient. I’m not saying we shouldn’t play Monopoly & the like, but I am saying we need to think a lot more about the ways in which capitalism inserts itself into every single aspect of our society. From board games to “the game”, it’s everywhere, and it’s something we must grapple with much sooner rather than later.

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“Understanding Karl Marx”

by TKOEd • Tuesday, Sep 28, 2010 • no responses - be the first

Excerpt from UC Berkely economist Brad DeLong‘s lecture on Marx:

Karl Marx had a three part intellectual trajectory. He started out as a German philosopher; became a French-style political activist, political analyst, and political historian; and ended up trying to become a British- style economist and economic historian. At the start of his career he believed that all we had to due to attain true human emancipation was to think correctly about freedom and necessity. Later on he recognized that thought was not enough: that we had to organize, politically. And then in the final stage he thought that the political organization had to be with and not against the grain of the truly decisive factor, the extraordinary economic changes that the coming of the industrial revolution was bringing to the world.

And another:

Marx is mostly an economist and economic historian, but he is also part political activist–and also part prophet.

Read or listen to DeLong’s full lecture here.

h/t Ezra Klein
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Who’s Fault Is It?

by TKOEd • Thursday, Oct 2, 2008 • no responses - be the first

According to this Thomas Frank commentary we know who’s fault it isn’t. Frank speaks with Bill Black, a professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City & according to Frank: “an authority on the Savings and Loan debacle of the 1980s.” Mr. Black offers these thoughts:

four entities that under conservative economic theory should have exercised effective market discipline — the appraisers, the originators of the mortgages, the rating agencies, and the investment banking firms that packaged the subprime mortgage-backed securities.” Instead of “disciplining” the markets, these private actors “served as the four horsemen of the financial apocalypse, aiding the accounting fraud and inflating the housing bubble.” It is they, Mr. Black says, who “turned a crisis into a catastrophe.” [...]

There is no way to measure the number of people who took out mortgages they knew they couldn’t afford, of course, but for what it’s worth, a 2007 report by the Mortgage Bankers Association reports that the FBI estimates “80 percent of all reported fraud losses arise from fraud for profit schemes that involve industry insiders.” That means the lenders, not the borrowers.

Economist Austan Goolsbee writes:

And do not forget that the vast majority of even subprime borrowers have been making their payments. Indeed, fewer than 15 percent of borrowers in this most risky group have even been delinquent on a payment, much less defaulted.

When contemplating ways to prevent excessive mortgages for the 13 percent of subprime borrowers whose loans go sour, regulators must be careful that they do not wreck the ability of the other 87 percent to obtain mortgages.


by TKOEd • Thursday, Sep 25, 2008 • one response - join in

From this Forbes.com article.

In fact, some of the most basic details, including the $700 billion figure Treasury would use to buy up bad debt, are fuzzy.

“It’s not based on any particular data point,” a Treasury spokeswoman told Forbes.com Tuesday. “We just wanted to choose a really large number.”


This has got to be a bad dream. I mean for the love of God. These people are unbelievable.

This is bullshit. NO. FUCKING. DEAL.


Bailout Questions from Marc Ambinder; emphasis mine:

So where did the $700 billion number come from?

We already know the answer to that.

Sec. Paulson told congress yesterday that the plan was to spend roughly 50 billion a month,

Sen. Schumer asked: why not $150 billion then, and let the next administration do a re-evaluation in January? No real answer.

So, why $700 billion? Where is it all going? And why do they need it all at once? And how do they know how much it’ll cost without knowing what criteria they’re going to use to buy firms

And what’s to prevent Paulson from engineering the bailout, and then, once he leaves office, taking the helm of one of these companies as it transitions back to the private sector?

And did the administration really have a bailout proposal stashed away for weeks without informing Congress?

NO. FUCKING. DEAL. (not 700 billion at least)