Ripped Off

The con artist of old we’ve stereo-typed as snake oil salespeople have evolved.  They now wear $5000 suits and preach a self-serving message that captures our imagination of independence and prosperity.  It’s appeal however outshines its limited reality.  Only a few will achieve true financial freedom and prosperity.  While we can still all share in the gains of those few by our labor, we are slowing being reduced to little more than grist for the meal for the oligarchs dressed in those $5000 suits.

wealthyobligation

 

Many voters will tell you they don’t vote because it doesn’t accomplish anything.  And based on one scientific study they would have a legitimate complaint.

“ …economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”

To make matters worst these elites have been able to influence our legislators in various states to enact laws that make voting more restrictive for some.   Especially those who might be critical of the crony capitalism that has taken over our representative form of government.

Both parties have contributed to this decrease in voter turnout and despair in under-representation, leading many to feel the system has abandoned them.  And yet when those who still remain active in the polls do vote most, it appears, continue to vote for the very people who alienate them from the process.

I’m not ready to join that lot who refuses to vote.  Not yet.  That would satisfy the elites who have aided in creating this condition. But when people like me DO decide to stop participating in the democratic process, it’s because we realize it is no longer what it once was.

When resistance disappears from the system that allows the wealthiest to control policy in this country, then we return to a form of government that existed before the colonials rose up against the British royalty, where the fate of the nation rested in the hands of people whose primary concern was their own self-interests.

Succumbing to this however is not something the powerful elite should look forward to.  When the last vestige of those who work fastidiously to fix what’s broken with our republican form of government find it easier to throw their lot in with the vigilante and militant groups that speak of revolution,  Wall street better hope all of their money has built enough fortresses and hired enough security personal to protect them.  Images of an American-style Syrian conflict arise with this scenario.

feudalism

There was a time I think when both political parties seem to be guided by the principle that put the general welfare of the country over private special interests.  But now the two surviving major parties appear to have lost sight of this ideal, becoming corrupted at some level by the neo-liberal view that holds free markets will solve all of our problems.

One Party in particular has taken this to such an extreme that they would divest us of our republican form of government and supplant it with the principles of capitalism.  Republicans are convinced that any and all government should stay out of the affairs of the markets, allowing the magical, invisible hand to work its healing ways it’s claimed will benefit us all – eventually.  It’s that “eventually” that I have a hard time with.

People engaged in actions that attract consumers know that their self-interests involve catering to the needs and wants which the market demands.  If their product or the means of producing it repels the consumer they will have to make necessary changes or risk losing market share and at worst, going out of business.

Thus when polluters are confronted with public outrage they will stop polluting and find other ways to make their product.  When children’s toys are discovered to be defective by the public, manufacturers will retool their machinery to correct the defect.  The same with automobiles that explode in a crash. Or when scientists who work for the fossil fuel companies discover their product could contribute to a warmer climate, changes are made to correct these deficiencies.

Except that all of this is more a load of horse shit than it resembles a truth.

First off, by the time many businesses are willing to finally make changes the public demands, too many innocent people have needlessly died or suffered major physical harm, often long term.

libicefishing

Time after time people who are doing what’s in their best interests will not voluntarily change their ways if their product creates threats to human health and well-being, even when defects or serious problems are caught before being presented to the public for their consumption.  Take the case of the Ford Pinto for example:

The Pinto’s design positioned its fuel tank between the rear axle and the rear bumper. In a crash, the filler neck could tear away from the tank, spilling fuel beneath the car. The tank itself could also be punctured by the protruding bolts of the differential.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigated complaints about the Pinto’s fuel tank safety as early as 1974, taking action in 1977 — after an article in Mother Jones. The article claimed that Ford was aware of the design flaw, was unwilling to pay for a redesign, and decided it would be cheaper to pay off possible lawsuits. The magazine obtained a cost-benefit analysis that it incorrectly claimed Ford had used to compare the cost of repairs (Ford estimated the cost to be $11 per car) against the cost of settlements for deaths, injuries, and vehicle burnouts .  SOURCE

And though the NHTSA could only validate 27 deaths connected to the defect as opposed to the hundreds claimed by other sources, the defenders of the Ford Pinto went to court to counter the bad press they were receiving.  Their deep pockets were able to convince a California Supreme Court to rule in Ford’s favor.  A decision that “not only tolerated manufacturers trading off safety for cost, but apparently encouraged manufacturers to consider such trade-offs.”

The chemical disaster in Bhopal, India is an even more egregious example of self-interests that sought to minimize threats to their profits while it increased risk to public safety.  Sadly the Indian  government turned its head to the unsafe measures being practiced at the Union Carbide Corporation’s chemical plant in Bhopal which ultimately led to the deaths of 3800 people an untold suffering for thousands more.

The number of deaths resulting from a failure of businesses to implement measures that guarantee best safety practices is staggering.

More than 100 people … die every day in the United States as a result of their work, according to the AFL-CIO. In 2011, about 4,693 workers were killed on the job, and 50,000 workers die every year from work-related diseases such as cancer.   SOURCE

Opponents of this view will argue rightfully that accidents will happen but wrongly surmise it is always the responsibility of the worker to practice safety.   When a company cuts corners for cheaper, less safe equipment or doesn’t properly train their employs, workers have no control over the consequences that this creates.

When disasters do occur at large facilities like the 2014 Elk River chemical spill the public is put at risk.  Sadly these incidences occur after regulatory agencies have either officially given them a clean bill of health based on dubious findings or have simply failed to routinely monitor such conditions and exact severe penalties for serious violations at various sites, as what happened at the West Texas Fertilizer Plant .

jamiolcartoon Reduced manpower to carry out these inspections is part of the reason but a reluctance to take serious actions by an agency that is in good standing with an industry is also at fault here.  The quid pro quo interaction between agency heads and their well-healed corporate buddies is an inevitable condition that arises when state and federal executive administrations staff the agencies with former employees of the businesses they are tasked to oversee.

Though both political parties are guilty of mismanaging the public trust and cozying up to wealthy special interests, only the GOP has made it a part of their Party platform to remove the government almost entirely from its duties to promote the general welfare of citizens, putting us at the mercies of CEOs and their boards who put their own self-interests over those of the community.

right&wrong Part of their business models employ the cost benefit analysis to assess damages that result from their failures to implement the more costly, best safety practices.  This leads to decisions, as it did in the case of the Ford Pinto, where human lives have less value than what it cost companies to correct a potential deadly product defect.  When our government fills critical posts with people who empathize with corporate wishes then it’s not hard to see why, as the California Supreme court did in the Ford Pinto case, safety is traded for keeping costs low and profits high.

Businesses have worked hard through friendly conservative Supreme Court rulings to attain the status of “citizen”, yet they often elude the responsibilities of a citizen who gambles with the lives of their neighbors when they engage in unsafe practices.  People are basically greedy and self-serving and this is what makes the Ayn Rand view of social economics so popular.  It tells a truth about ourselves while ignoring there is also an altruistic side to human nature.

Pro-industry politicians will too often exploit the self-serving aspect of human beings, often disguising their underlying motives that benefit themselves and their wealthy benefactors.  A cromulent sense of individual freedom that many use to gain support for policies backed by industry special interests conceals the fact that most people are not truly free from the conditions imposed by markets and the self-serving players who manipulate them.

cronycapitalism

Most Americans want to believe the people who have the wealth and power in this country are ultimately honest and will do what’s best for most Americans.  There are plenty of examples to cite this but most of what I have seen in this area is a thing of the past.  Over the last 30 years or so the people in power seem to favor policies that support a top to bottom approach setting policy.  If the people at the top can convince the  policy makers that their actions have the greatest benefit, even though there will be collateral damage, then we can expect more Ford Pintos, Bhopal India disasters, Elk River chemical spills and West Texas Plant explosions

We all want to live safe and prosperous lives but accepting trade offs that put the bottom corporate line over our safety will only achieve this for a small number of people – those at the top.

Vote for whoever you want but do so with the understanding that some are reaching their one hand out to you to press the flesh while having their other greased with that which benefits their own self-interests.

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11 responses to “Ripped Off

    • That would definitely be a big step John and there is a strong effort here to achieve that, but it won’t happen soon if we are able to achieve it at all.

    • We could all say more because we are neck high in the bullshit. I continue to arguing with people who keep saying it’s the government but it’s only the government they don’t like as businesses exploit the consumer. The laissez faire approach is to let them exploit consumers. The invisible hand will slap them across the face – EVENTUALLY

  1. I’ll never understand how folks can so totally vote against their own self interest. Of course the media conspires to hide what goes on behind the curtain. As Steve said… don’t get me started!

  2. Again, Woodgate, you’ve provided so much tasty raw meat to chew on…I’ll have to take it one bite at a time.

    “I’m not ready to join that lot who refuses to vote. Not yet. That would satisfy the elites who have aided in creating this condition. But when people like me DO decide to stop participating in the democratic process, it’s because we realize it is no longer what it once was.” -Woodgate

    Cynic that I am, I used to come across what I call “Deliberate Non-Voters” all the time. Now, I’m not talking about the “Lumpenproletariat Non-Voters”, the mouth-breathing majority of our imbecilic population who couldn’t give less of a shit about anything….well, other than what Kim Kardashian’s ass is doing, or the latest Loserbook Status Update of their ex-boyfriend’s 2nd cousin. I’m talking about people who have at least 5 functioning brain cells left. I’m talking about well-meaning folks who say “There’s no point in voting”, or “voting only validates the system”. To them, I always say the following:

    I completely agree with you! For all the good voting does, you might as well do naked pushups on a pile of broken glass. (Then a classic, insufferable, Sedate Me tirade about how “everything sucks shit” ensues. That’s followed by…)

    However….when you stop voting, the political process changes in NO WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM WHATSOEVER. The system does not care one bit if an election winner gets 600 million votes, or 6 votes. They still take that office and claim 100% of its power.

    Not only that, absolutely NOBODY notices the Non-Voter. Nobody aims their cynical sales pitches at you. Voter Turnout is hardly even mentioned anymore. Non-Voters have stepped outside the process altogether. They may as well step into a spaceship’s airlock, hit the Eject Button, and “space themselves”. As the tag-line from the movie Alien goes, “In space, no one can hear you scream.”

    Non-Voters ensure their opinions are, not just not represented, but that they disappear into a vacuum. In fact, not voting actually makes the voices of remaining voters louder. And who are those remaining voters? Studies continuously show that those remaining are richer, whiter and generally benefit more from the status-quo. In other words, the least likely people to stop voting are the very people who’ve fucked shit up in the first place!

    So why passively eject yourself into space when when you can passive-aggressively scream…and maybe get noticed? So, instead of not-voting, do something crazy. Vote Rhino!!!

    (Note: The following video has some 1980’s Canadian political/cultural references…”The MacDonald Report”, SCTV’s Bob & Doug MacKenzie and PM Trudeau’s famous “The state has no business in the bedroom of a nation” comment…However, it’s still very watchable)

    Yes, this was for real! This video was NO joke. I personally saw it air on the CBC National newscast as a kid. They were (and are again) a REAL party. Unfortunately, the party got sabotaged in 93 by bullshit, anti-democratic rule changes (Sound familiar?) that were intentionally designed to run parties like it out of existence. Which really sucked, because I was not only hoping to vote for it, I may have even run for it!”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhinoceros_Party_of_Canada_%281963%E2%80%9393%29

    Instead, I had to settle for a disturbingly successful career in satirical municipal politics which, come to think of it, are pretty good political satire in their own right.

    And I can’t help but thinking this was what Donald Trump was thinking when he announced he was running for President. I think he just confused the Republican Elephant for a Rhino.

  3. “Most Americans want to believe the people who have the wealth and power in this country are ultimately honest and will do what’s best for most Americans. There are plenty of examples to cite this but most of what I have seen in this area is a thing of the past.” – Woodgate

    The days of the responsible, conscientious, capitalist are essentially over. Just because it’s so obvious, my favourite “then & now” comparison is George Romney vs his son Mitt. Both were captains of industry who became Governors of major states and ran for President as “left leaning” Republicans.

    George Romney came from nothing and rose to the top on merit. He saved American Motors Corporation and was paid a ludicrously small salary by today’s standards. At one point, he cut his own salary by a third and even returned a couple bonuses because they were “too high”. (Imagine dat!!!) He championed civil rights and pushed for specific policy changes in housing. He even criticized Mormonism’s blatant racist practices. He regularly criticized “selfishness, immorality & materialism” , the corrupting influence of “the special interest democracy” and the “semi-monopolist economy”. Unquestionably, a moral man wanting to make a better society.

    Mitt Romney was born rich and took advantage of it every chance he got. Instead of saving companies that made meaningful products and employed people at good wages, Mitt’s Vulture Fund got ludicrously rich by destroying them and producing nothing but unemployment & lower wages. This Romney didn’t give his ludicrously excessive salaries back. He hides them in the Caymans! His dad put out 12 of his tax returns while running for President. Under protest, Mitt put out only one and it was full of shit. Not remotely interested in civil rights, or The Poors, Mitt calls for tax cuts for The Riches, even though taxes are a fraction of what they were in his dad’s day. Mitt’s only humanitarian achievement was implementing pre-Obamacare in his state, which he thoroughly disowned later. Mitt didn’t criticize monopolistic economics, or the corrupting rule of special interests. He criticized The Poors in front of the monopolists & special interests and he promised to advance their agenda.

    Politics aside, I think this is a highly symbolic “then & now” comparison of our economic & political leadership.

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