Banking and Housing

Nov
18

Born on Home Plate

Remember the satirical "Billionaires for Bush" protesters? Around this time in 2008 I asked them to become Oligarchs for Obama, and they refused. But I predict Tycoons for Trump will be born this month. Inequality, like war and climate destruction, has its face now.

Chuck Collins' book, Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good, presents the problem of inequality as well as any I've seen. Collins was born into wealth, gave it away, but still refers to himself as one of the wealthy, perhaps because of all the lasting privileges wealth brought him. Collins sites other examples, as well, of the wealthy putting their wealth to better use than hoarding.

Collins explains how a lot of philanthropy is, however, counterproductive, benefitting those least in need of it. He argues for a popular movement to create progressive taxation and progressive restraints on income. But he also makes a case for appealing to one percenters for solidarity, rather than demonizing them -- apparently because this has proven to work better but also because it's too late for anything else. Wealth has been so concentrated that without defections at the top it will never be truly shared again.

Oct
16

What Hillary Clinton Privately Told Goldman Sachs

At first glance, Hillary Clinton's speeches to Goldman Sachs, which she refused to show us but WikiLeaks claims to have now produced the texts of, reveal less blatant hypocrisy or abuse than do the texts of various emails also recently revealed. But take a closer look.

Clinton has famously said that she believes in maintaining a public position on each issue that differs from her private position. Which did she provide to Goldman Sachs?

Yes, Clinton does profess her loyalty to corporate trade agreements, but at the time of her remarks she hadn't yet started (publicly) claiming otherwise.

Jun
12

The Financialization of Fiction, and Vice Versa

Tag: Banking and Housing

The Utopia of Rules by David Graeber is an engaging riff on the theme of bureaucracy and the BS people think about it.

"De-regulation," of finances, Graeber points out, creates more rules, paperwork, and bureaucrats, apparently because what happens is not the equivalent of firing a bunch of factory safety inspectors, but rather the employment of enough bureaucrats to redirect control of wealth from mid-sized companies to giant conglomerates. Yet, just as people imagine criminals to be mostly black or violent, or war to be philanthropic or necessary, or estate taxes to be about family farms, or voter fraud to be impacting elections, or elections to have any value that could possibly be hurt by voter fraud, or a minimum wage to eliminate jobs, or corporate trade agreements to not eliminate jobs, or guns to make us safer, or prisons to "correct" something, or wealth to trickle down, or small-time foreign thugs to constitute a graver threat than a McDonald's diet, what matters is a fiction well told, not any facts.

Career advancement in a bureaucracy, Graeber writes, is based not so much on merit as on the loyalty exhibited by a willingness to pretend that it's based on merit. If you play along with the collective delusion, you're rewarded.

"Globalization" is not about tearing down borders, but rather trapping people behind militarized borders within which public supports can be denied and workers can be compelled to work for little or nothing -- in other words, a species of bureaucratization. The effort to create a truly borderless and fair world is known as "anti-globalization."

The "free market" means heavier bureaucracy, and an expansion of those areas of life that come under the control of state violence. This was the story of Russia's transition from state to private economics, Graeber writes: more bureaucrats, not fewer.

When police bring law and order, we picture them turning a violent situation non-violent. In fact, they are not involved in most violent crime, and mostly show up to nonviolent situations which they turn violent. You have a much higher chance of being killed by police than by the terrorists they are now mostly imagined as combatting.

When someone tells you to be "realistic" about such supposed fantasies as peace or justice, they are not telling you to recognize how things are, as they and you may imagine they are, but rather they are telling you to acknowledge the violence by which the state can impose its will no matter how stupidly it might choose to do so. "Real" in this usage comes from the Spanish real meaning royal or belonging to the king, not the Latin res or thing. It is the royal usage that created such phrases as "real property" or "real estate." The point is not that a house truly exists, but that the king ultimately owns it. To "be realistic" about violence simply means to be violent about violence. After all, we all know violence exists; some of us choose not to multiply it.

Cutting taxes on "job creators" doesn't create any jobs, just the reverse. With more wealth, they do things like taking their pay in stock options, and then using extra money that could have gone into new hires or raises or research for stock buybacks. The result is a weaker economy inhabited by people convinced it's both a stronger economy and an inevitable economy against which one need not waste any energy struggling for change.

Why don't we have robots doing our factory work and house work? Why don't we have useful technological advances on the scale of previous eras? Graeber writes that the most immediate reason is that 95% of robotics funding has gone through the Pentagon which has no interest in such matters and is more interested in destructive inventions like killer drones.

In addition, robots are understood as job killers rather than time savers because we offer no one a guaranteed income even if they don't need to work. We begin with the requirement that everyone work no matter what, and then figure out stuff they can do to fulfill that requirement -- such as trying all day to get us to switch from one giant phone company to another.

Another problem is innovative corporate culture that kills innovation by investing in only sure things, requiring everyone to invest time in PR, and multiplying bureaucracy.

People are told to cling to the American freedom of private health insurance companies as an act of rebellion against government bureaucracy, even as the insurance corporations create vastly more bureaucracy, paperwork, sickness, and death.

We don't notice bureaucracy, Graeber believes, because it has mushroomed. The average American will spend 6 months of their life waiting for stoplights to change and some larger length of time filling out forms.

We don't notice bureaucracy, think we despise it, and secretly love it, Graeber thinks -- love it because it is the enemy of unpredictable and improvisational play, which we've been conditioned to believe is dangerous. Of course, the opposite is true.

The preceding is a sampling of Graber's book and my thoughts on it, not a summary. I urge you to dive into it yourself. It's a book that intentionally raises many large questions. A couple of small ones stand out as flaws, however: 1) Why in the world does the author keep his money in Bank of America? 2) Why does he imagine that the "War on Terror" has ended? The whole point of a war on terror is that it's not endable, as terror can never be eliminated. Nor of course can it be outdone in terrorizing by anything moreso than war.

Sep
16

Talk Nation Radio: Kevin Zeese on Activist Media, TPP, Climate, Wars

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-kevin-zeese-on-activist-media-tpp-climate-wars

Kevin Zeese (at right in image) is an organizer at http://PopularResistance.org We discuss activist journalism, stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saving the climate, and ending the wars.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks 

Nov
27

Talk Nation Radio: I'm Thankful We Can Abolish Debt

Tag: Banking and Housing, Talk Nation Radio

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-im-thankful

 

RollingJubilee.org has abolished over $14 million worth of people's debt to make the point that debt can be abolished.  Aaron Smith explains how.  Aaron Smith has been a participant in several initiatives of Occupy Wall Street, from park maintenance to research on the financial system. Currently, he is primarily involved in the Rolling Jubilee, a project to purchase defaulted debt on open markets and abolish it.  The Rolling Jubilee is meant to demonstrate the injustice of the debt system and make lives better in the process.  Aaron is a host of Occupy Wall Street Radio on WBAI.Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

Jun
18

It's the Ownership

Tag: Banking and Housing, Labor, Political Ideas

If you're like me you've read several books that list inspiring examples of worker owned businesses and co-ops, suggesting that expanding on such models might begin to right the wrongs of an incredibly unequal society that is growing even more unequal by the day.

The best such collection I've found is in a new book by Gar Alperovitz called What Then Must We Do?  This book also offers a powerful argument that radical change is needed, albeit an argument with some possible flaws.  First the inspiring examples:

Nov
10

Occupy Movement Demands Home Mortgages Correction

Tag: Banking and Housing

On Thursday, OccupyWashingtonDC.org teamed up with the Backbone Campaign, National People's Action, and the New Economy Working Group in a march from Freedom Plaza to the Federal Housing Finance Administration (FHFA).

The demand they brought, along with giant props including a foreclosed house under water, was for a correction.  The 1%, they said, inflated house values and made off with ill-gotten gains, but those left with underwater mortgages when the house values were brought back down have suffered.  The demand is for mortgage values to be adjusted to match the current market values of houses.

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