Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 10:14 pm

Why anti-government conservatives should be parachuted into more business-friendly environments

Apparently, Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has said some things that have hurt the fee-fees of our Galtian overlords. Fred sent me the following, which he says he saw on some board dedicated to Stanford football. (Uh, OK, whatever.) The writer purports to be responding to this video of Elizabeth Warren as he wahrgarblz:

“You built a factory out there? Good for you,” – “Built a factory” is a summary for a lot of work. Put up equity, designed a business, took risk to buy land, get permits, pay property taxes and use taxes and permit fees. Then, bought a bunch of equipment and had it installed …and paid sales taxes. Hired some employees and paid them a bunch of money and paid payroll taxes on top of that. Bought a bunch of raw materials from companies that paid a bunch of salaries and a bunch of taxes. Building a factory is a huge private investment that pays the public a lot of taxes for the right to be built.

“But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.” – Between fuel taxes, license fees, tolls and various taxes on transportation related activities, the roads budget is smaller than the total tax take.

“You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.” No, you did not educate them. You babysat them for 12 years. Then I hired them, taught them how to be responsible and show up for work, taught them how to communicate in clear sentences, taught them that there are rights and wrongs and (unlike with your schools) wrongs have consequences in the workplace. Then paid for extended education for my employees so they could continue to improve themselves and better add value to what we do around here.

“You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.” Funny, my factory has 24/7 security guards because the last time it was broken into, the police did not even bother to take a report, they just said “call your insurance company”. As for fire? The closest fire department is 10 miles away. My insurance company requires that I have a full wet sprinkler system to qualify for insurance because there is no local fire protection.

“You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.” Well, that is not exactly true. When the AFL-CIO tried to unionize my workforce, they staged three days of noisy protests outside my factory. The police forces just stood around and watched as the protesters intimidated my workers, vandalized their cars and destroyed my property.

You say “we” like the government and society are the same. They aren’t. My company and my community and you politicians are not “we”.

One could use many adjectives to describe this outlook. “Rational” is not one of them. “Contextual” is not one of them. “American” is not one of them. Given the likelihood, in this day and age of video cameras in every phone, that AFL-CIO protesters destroyed your property in plain view while uniformed police officers stood by and watched, I’m pretty sure “factual” isn’t even one of them.

Indeed, one could I’M SORRY I CAN’T HEAR YOU MY BULLSHIT DETECTOR IS GOING OFF TOO LOUDLY.

Wait. You know what? I’m over being civil to idiots.

Memo to this shit-for-brains Galtian overlord:

You’re so talented? You’re so smart? You’re so independent of everything your fellow Americans have worked and sweated for that you’ll be just fine without it?

OK. Let’s test that hypothesis.

This’ll be the best “Dude, What Would Happen?” episode ever. (My 10-year-old loves that show. Sorry.)

Here’s what we’re going to do.

We’re going to parachute your ass into the wilds of north-central Alaska or a free-fire zone in Uganda or a raft off the coast of Somalia. Just to be fair, we’ll parachute your money in, too, all in gold, of course, since U.S. currency would be too declassé.

We’ll let you keep all the education and experience you’ve ever gotten. And all the friends and contacts you’ve ever made.

We’ll let you keep the lowest corporate tax rate in 60 years. Hell, we’ll set the tax rate to zero. And we’ll let your corporation keep its share of the $2 trillion in cash U.S. corporations are sitting on when unemployment is better than 9%. Because, after all, what’s yours is yours, right?

All we ask in return is one thing:

Create some jobs.

That’s all.

Granted, for the entire 10-year period from 2001 through 2010 that was too goddamn much for you to be bothered with. But I’m going to assume that, oh, I don’t know, maybe you just weren’t trying. Maybe it was all that uncertainty about the horrific cost of government regulations or something. Whatever; we’ll give you a mulligan on that. And, as I said, we’ll let you keep all your stuff.

But here’s what we won’t let you keep.

The U.S. military, which keeps you reliably supplied with cheap energy.

The subsidies for whatever it is you do — and, honestly, it doesn’t matter what you do because at the moment, federal, state and local governments are subsidizing everything from ethanol to NFL franchises.

The Internet, which was built by the taxpayers when I was 9, belonged to them until I was in my late 30s and should never have been put in private hands at all.

The roads, including the Interstate Highway System, that are paid for by people whose gasoline tax payments constitute one HELL of a lot bigger share of their income than yours, not to mention, in many cases, bonds that drivers and non-drivers alike pay for. (Fun fact: Pedestrians and private 4-wheel vehicles a disproportionately high share of the costs connected with road maintenance; 18-wheelers, many of which routinely travel over weight limits, pay a disproportionately LOW share of the costs.)

Or the government mechanisms that make the insurance companies whose cost you complain about so much possible in the first place.

Or the water lines that make your pretty sprinklers work.

Or the police departments that might or might not have allowed AFL-CIO thugs to damage your workers’ cars and destroy your property — I think you’re pulling this one out of your ass, although we’ll let that go — but which damn well do keep the very walls of your plant from being carted off and sold for scrap and the women who work for you from being raped and mutilated right there on the assembly line by the Lord’s Resistance Army or whatever the hell terrorist group Rush Limbaugh thinks he can suck up to conservative Christian listeners by fellating on the air this week.

Or the current state of education of the work force. Because if you like this, you’ll love a work force consisting mainly of 9-year-olds pointing AK-47s at your head. (And just so you know, teaching people how to communicate in clear sentences, which, on the basis of 35 years in the business world, I can confidently conclude you have not done because the sheer incidence of such effective education in the business world is vanishingly small, means that you also have to teach them the difference between reality and fantasy. Keep that in mind next time. Moreover, given how much personal offense you have taken at Warren’s remarks, you probably should Google “synecdoche,” although because I’m repaying you in kind, I’ll let it go. That said, the period goes inside the close-quotation marks.)

That’s the deal. It’s what you asked for, so you pretty much have to take it, now, don’t you?

Strap on the chute and get on the plane, big guy. I’ll be happy to be the jumpmaster who puts a boot up your ass as you and your bullion exit over the drop zone.

And then?

Start creating jobs.

Go on.

We’ll wait.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 8:10 pm

When you’re in three dimensions, Left and Right don’t tell the whole story; or, Not quite as overlooked as he thinks

More than six years ago, on the occasion of my 20th anniversary in the newspaper bidness, I wrote, among other things, the following:

  • One of the two biggest battles of the 21st century will be defining the role of the corporation in our society.
  • The other will be liberal democratic values vs. medievalist religion.
  • This week, Barry Ritholtz, a tad late to the party but with a far larger audience, concurs:

    The new dynamic, however, has moved past the old Left Right paradigm. We now live in an era defined by increasing Corporate influence and authority over the individual. These two “interest groups” – I can barely suppress snorting derisively over that phrase – have been on a headlong collision course for decades, which came to a head with the financial collapse and bailouts. Where there is massive concentrations of wealth and influence, there will be abuse of power.  The Individual has been supplanted in the political process nearly entirely by corporate money, legislative influence, campaign contributions, even free speech rights.

    This may not be a brilliant insight, but it is surely an overlooked one. It is now an Individual vs. Corporate debate – and the Humans are losing.

    Consider:

    • Many of the regulations that govern energy and banking sector were written by Corporations;

    • The biggest influence on legislative votes is often Corporate Lobbying;

    • Corporate ability to extend copyright far beyond what original protections amounts to a taking of public works for private corporate usage;

    • PAC and campaign finance by Corporations has supplanted individual donations to elections;

    • The individuals’ right to seek redress in court has been under attack for decades, limiting their options.

    • DRM and content protection undercuts the individual’s ability to use purchased content as they see fit;

    • Patent protections are continually weakened. Deep pocketed corporations can usurp inventions almost at will;

    • The Supreme Court has ruled that Corporations have Free Speech rights equivalent to people; (So much for original intent!)

    None of these are Democrat/Republican conflicts, but rather, are corporate vs. individual issues.

    If slavery was this country’s original sin, then what sold us into bondage far from the lands of our fathers was the 1886 Supreme Court case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. The substance of the case is a mundane tax matter. But because of a clerk’s note (follow the link for details), corporations ever since have been treated in American law as having pretty much the same 14th Amendment rights as human persons … and even fewer responsibilities and obligations. True, corporations cannot vote. But neither can they be forced to kill or die for their country, not can they really be held accountable for the crimes they commit. And when, as a result of the Supreme Court’s recent Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, it’s now legal for corporations to effectively buy congresscritters, voting seems gratuitous.

    Next year will be 125 years since Santa Clara, and we remain in bondage with no Moses on the horizon. It is theoretically possible that we could remove our yoke by amending the Constitution to restrain the rights and privileges of corporations, but in the universe we actually inhabit, the likelihood seems exceedingly small.

    Ritholtz concludes:

    But the battle lines between the two groups have barely been drawn. I expect this fight will define American politics over the next decade. Keynes vs Hayek? Friedman vs Krugman? Those are the wrong intellectual debates. Its you vs. Tony Hayward, BP CEO, You vs. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO. And you are losing . . .

    Actually, I think there are at least two more likely scenarios than the decade-long battle Ritholtz predicts.

    In one, the battle goes on much longer, as I predicted six years ago.

    In the other, with Citizens United decided, the battle is already over and the corporations have won.

    And these days, I fear the latter is closer to truth.

    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 8:57 pm

    Why people want to see free markets dangling by the neck from the nearest lamppost

    Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 8:57 pm
    Tags: , , ,

    This:

    Tribune Co. proposed paying its top 43 executives a severance package of cash and benefits if they are asked by a new board to leave the company after the Chicago-based media conglomerate emerges from bankruptcy.

    The company didn’t put a price tag on the package, but said it amounts to 2.5 times salary and bonus for Chief Executive Randy Michaels, and 2.25 times salary and bonus for Chief Operating Officer Gerry Spector. Both would be entitled to 24 months of the company’s group health benefits.

    Nine other top executives, including Tony Hunter, the publisher of the Chicago Tribune, and Eddy Hartenstein, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, would get 1.75 times salary and bonus plus 24 months of benefits. A list of 32 others would get 1.5 times salary and 18 months of benefits.

    This is particularly outrageous to me because I devoted 25 years of my life to newspapers and because I can quantify some of the opportunity costs the community incurs when this kind of thing happens in the newspaper business. For example, the amount of money we’re talking about here will run into the tens of millions. I suspect that’d be enough to buy the Greensboro News & Record and still have plenty left over for some reasonably high living. Or, looked at another way, that money could keep a fairly good-sized newspaper fully staffed for years without any other source of revenue.

    But this episode is in other ways no different from what happens every year at many, many other large corporations in all kinds of industries in this country. Stockholders’ money is wasted, jobs — and, in many cases, workers’ lives — are destroyed, the rich get richer, and God forbid you suggest any kind of government help for people who have the unmitigated gall to remain unemployed in an economy in which there are four workers for every job of any kind. ‘Cause that’s socialism, and by God, that’s un-American.

    Well, considering what passes for “American” in the U.S. economic and legal system, I’m starting to wonder whether an invasion wouldn’t be a bad idea.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 11:07 pm

    John Stossel is a corporate whore, Chapter MDCCCLXXXIII

    Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 11:07 pm
    Tags: ,

    John Stossel used to work for NBC until his corporate whoredom became so overt that even parent company GE couldn’t take it anymore. (Think about that.) Now he’s with Fox News, where his particular brand of Teh Stoopid finds its natural home. Claiming that “economic freedom saves lives,” he quotes George Mason University Economist Don Boudreaux:

    (T)he Haitian earthquake killed tens of thousands of people. But the quake that hit California’s Bay Area in 1989 was also of magnitude 7.0. It killed only 63 people. This difference is due chiefly to Americans’ greater wealth. With one of the freest economies in the world, Americans build stronger homes and buildings, and have better health-care and better search and rescue equipment. In contrast, burdened by one of the world’s least-free economies, Haitians cannot afford to build sturdy structures. Nor can they afford the health-care and emergency equipment that we take for granted here in the U.S.

    These stark facts should be a lesson for those who insist that human habitats are made more dangerous, and human lives put in greater peril, by freedom of commerce and industry.

    I’d like to get to bed sometime tonight so I’m not going to unpack every steaming, stinking turd in these two grafs, but I’ll address a couple.

    Boudreaux implies that the U.S. is freer than Haiti. Fact is, 1) Haiti was pretty much lawless even before Tuesday and 2) these sturdier American buildings aren’t sturdier because of freedom, they’re sturdier because the government required them to be.

    Also, anyone who honestly thinks that freedom of commerce and industry do NOT put human lives in greater peril needs to learn about the tobacco industry … and, for that matter the “corn” (read: high-fructose corn syrup) industry.

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