Archive for the ‘capitalism’ Category

And I stand with the protesters in Oakland, California.  And in New York City.  And in Atlanta, where they were evicted from their rightful place on the streets.  And everywhere they choose to exercise their Constitutional rights to peacefully assemble and seek redress of their grievances from their government.

This is a disgrace.  The police are deliberately using violent force to disperse peaceful protesters.  Whom are they protecting?  They have more in common with the protesters than they do with the brigands, pirates and kleptomaniacs on Wall Street; they should be marching in the streets as well.

So should teachers, firefighters, postal workers, and anyone else who collects a paycheck.  Anyone who isn’t a millionaire should be demonstrating and demanding accountability from Wall Street and justice leveled against them.  Not one more protester should go to jail for exercising his or her rights until the robber barons and ripoff artists in the so-called “financial industry” have been brought to justice.

This is a global struggle.  It will not go away, and the more they crack down on the protests, the louder they’ll get.

And don’t give me any shit about “class war.”  The Republicans have been waging class war on the middle and lower classes for over 30 years now, eroding our rights to unionize, crafting tax policies that ensure the rich get richer and the rest of us stay in our place, giving power to the bosses and ignoring the needs of the workers.  The fact is, they only complain about class warfare when their victims fight back.

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This video is a must-see for anyone who wishes to understand the truth behind our present economic disaster and why Republicans should never, EVER again be trusted to control the country’s wealth.  They ran us into the ground many times before, and they’ll do it again.

So you see, the disaster visited upon us by Bush & Co isn’t an aberration.  It’s a logical result of a failed ideology.

Thought for the day

Posted: April 16, 2009 in capitalism, socialism

Under communism, man exploits man.

Under capitalism, it’s exactly the opposite.

“They need to spend a little time outside of New York, … Because … if you go to North Dakota, or you go to Iowa, or you go to Arkansas, where folks would be thrilled to be making 75,000 dollars a year — without a bonus — then I think they’d get a sense of why people are frustrated.”

– President Obama, commenting today on the clueless and avaricious Wall Street executives who wrecked the economy and are fleecing the country for all they can get

Keith Olbermann had an outstanding Special Comment last night.  I haven’t found full transcript yet, but for now here’s the video in case you missed it.

I couldn’t agree more.  These parasites, crooks and liars have gotten away with their economic rape and extortion for far too long.  They need to be brought back down to earth.

Okay, in the past two years foreclosures have been at record levels, and people are losing their homes in droves.  In January of 2008, foreclosures were up 57% over the previous year, and the crisis shows no sign of slowing down.  Our usual responses to crisis have had no effect, but then, throwing money at a problem rarely solves it.  You need a plan first.

So, with more and more families facing foreclosure and homelessness this year, and housing prices continuing their downward spiral, what can be done to stem the housing crash and “save” the housing market?

I believe I have the answer.  Are you ready?  Four little words.  Just four.  Here they are:

Not a damn thing.

That’s right.  There is nothing that can be done to “save” the housing market, because any and all efforts we make today to “stabilize” prices are predicated on the ridiculous notion that current home prices are actually realistic.  They aren’t.  The fact is, in most markets around the country are still at least 50% over-inflated as a result of five or more years of “irrational exuberance.”  Please forgive the use of Alan Greenspan’s terminology.

Take Arizona, for example.  In 2004 I secured a mortgage of $142,900 for a 1400 square foot house, a little over $100 per s.f.  It seemed unreasonable then, since only four months prior, similar houses in the same neighborhood had been listed for around $125,000.  That’s a 15% increase in just four months.  Take it out a year and you get a 45% rise in prices in a year.

That’s almost what happened.  We lived in that house for almost three years before selling it.  In mid-2005 we thought about selling and were told we could get $225,000 for it if we’d done it then.  That works out to a nearly 60% rise in perceived value in a little over a year.  The silly thing is, we hadn’t actually done anything major to it in that time.  Just carpeting and a new sliding patio door.

At the same time, the average income in Tucson rose less than 5%.  You do the math and see if it makes any sense.  To me, that makes it a 55% disparity between income and housing costs.  And the truth is, housing prices in Tucson were already, on average, 10% higher than the average income could afford.

Ridiculous.

So there you go.  There’s not a fucking thing the government or anyone else can do to “stabilize” the housing market, because it’s been unrealistically hyperinflated for at least ten years.  The fall it’s experiencing right now is only the beginning of a long and painful decline, and any attempts to stop it will fail.  Like the stock market, there’s a long way to go before it hits bottom.

Am I being alarmist?  Am I being cynical?  Am I being unrealistic?  I think not.  If you start from the assumption that the affordable home price for a typical family is about 2 to 2.5 times their annual income, then in a place like Tucson, where average income is between $45 and $50,000, then the average home should cost $90 to $125,000.  So basically, Tucson has nearly stabilized.  Last I checked, starter prices there were in the $100 to $160,000 range.  Of course, unemployment is also at record highs, so…

But, if you look at, say, Delaware County in New York, where the average income is $32 to $36,000 and houses are still being listed for $200,000 and up, the decline hasn’t even started yet. Of course, Delaware County has its own set of problems, mainly inflicted upon it by New York City.  But the point remains the same.  The average family simply can’t afford to buy a house there.  Prices are outrageous.

And that’s not even the beginning of it.  Look around your own city, town, village or state.  I’m sure you can find examples of what I’m talking about.  Do the research yourself.  It’s not that hard to find.

You just have to be willing to look, and accept the truth.

As I mentioned in a previous column, I am currently in the middle of attempting to read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.  It’s every bit as bad as I expected.  Heavy-handed, turgid, meandering, and about as subtle as a brick to the head.  But, it’s a “classic” and so I will continue my desperate sojourn through this literary wasteland.  Perhaps after I am finished I will reward myself with a re-reading of “The Grapes of Wrath.”
Reading this book naturally got me thinking about the myth of Atlas.  While the image of a grand figure carrying the world on his shoulders (and thus being the “prime mover” in Rand’s philosophy) is doubtless appealing to the wealthy and powerful, it is also a misapprehension of the original story.
You see, in the ancient myths of Greece, Atlas was one of the Titans who, along with his brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus, rebelled against the Olympians.  In punishment for his hubris, Zeus condemned Atlas to stand at the corner of the world and keep the sky and the earth separate for all eternity.
In other words, unlike our modern-day Titans, Atlas did not choose his fate – it was imposed upon him.  It was punishment for his hubris, an entirely too appropriate word meaning “aspiring to godhood”.  And he doesn’t “move the earth”, he holds up the sky.
Our modern-day Titans would do well to learn the definition of “hubris” and its costs.
They might also, in light of their recent spectacular failures, do well to study works by other authors.  I recommend one especially, one which should have particular meaning in light of the “too big to fail” attitude of some of our less competent captains of industry.  It’s a quick read, so I shall present it in its entirety:
Ozymandius
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
-Percy Shelley
And a second version, by one of Shelley’s contemporaries:
In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.” The City’s gone,
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.
—Horace Smith
Read these words, you Titans, you modern-day Atlases, and ponder the punishment for hubris.  And also consider the true meaning of the concept “too big to fail.”
Atlas aspired to godhood, and was laid low for his arrogance.  Ozymandius built great cities of stone, and reveled in his power and creation.  In his arrogance he thought none could rival him.  Nothing remains of his works.