Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

Critique of the Political Scene Today?

“As faction is the effect of that loose government which is unavoidable in a time of war and trouble; so, while faction is suffered to continue, it is a perpetual bar to better administration; for it emboldens the bad, and terrifies the good. Is a lunatic, whom the physician cannot approach without danger to himself. Some statesmen, therefore, when it rages high, withdraw from affairs, and will not administer the physic of their councils till the fit is over.” Charles Davenant. 1698.

corporate personhood

When a corporate changes its home to Bermuda or the Cayman Islands, does it become a non-person?

Plea for artistic assistance

I need to come up with a cover for the paperback edition of The Confiscation of American Prosperity. The best image I can imagine would be a 1930s-style cartoon showing bosses and politicians screwing workers. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

Strike at California State University

Two of the campuses of California State University are striking today. The timing of the strike is unfortunate, coming at the same time as fees are raised once again almost 10%. The union realizes that pay raises are a small part of the overall abuse of higher education in California, but strikes are only permitted in opposition to the contract with University system. Chronic underfunding began during the first term of Jerry Brown, when the passage of proposition 13, frightened him. Not only is the administration grossly overpaid, its management style is arrogant and heavy-handed. Finally, the gutting of public education at all levels means that students come to the University underprepared and, more often than not, lacking the funds to pay for their education. Not only do they fall under a heavy debt burden, they work too many hours after school in order to focus on their education. To add insult to injury, all of us have to listen to public figures telling us how our economic future depends upon educating young people, presumably without any tax burden unless such funds are directed to hedge funds engaging in charter school scams.

Paperback version of The Confiscation of American Prosperity

I am writing a first draft of my introduction to the paperback edition of my book. Any feedback would be very much appreciated.

The Confiscation of American Prosperity: From Right-Wing Extremism and Economic Ideology to the Next Great Depression first appeared in October 2007, just as the stock market was peaking. Judging by the public pronouncements by economists and the business press, the economy appeared modestly healthy before the breakdown of the subprime mortgage market. In fact, the weakness of subprime mortgage market was a symptom of deeper problems that had been eating away at the economic core.

In addition to a diagnosis of these deeper problems, such as growing inequality and an emphasis on financial activities, rather than more productive economic endeavors, the book offered a historical analysis of the willful gutting of the economy that occurred over the last four decades. The Confiscation of American Prosperity presents this history in the form of a crime story, beginning with an accounting of the economic plunder engineered by a small part of society, with the complicity of both political actors and many, if not most, economists. The second part of the book describes the way that this group was able to carry out the theft of enormous wealth. In the tradition of crime stories, the third part of the book examines the expected retribution. The final section addresses the incompetence of the economists, who should have acted as policeman while the plot was unfolding. Continue reading

Jack Abramoff on political corruption

Americans love reform. Each election is about reform, change, throwing the bums out. And yet, nothing ever changes. We see new faces, but we face the same problems. Why? Because it’s the system which needs to be changed not the current cast of characters running the system. But systems are hard to change. Each year, the congressional high priests offer a sacrifice to the idols of change. They pass reform bills, or change the rules in Congress. Ostensibly, these alterations are done to fix the system, yet nothing seems fixed. Is corruption in Washington really ended by insisting congressmen eat their food with their fingers standing up, rather than seated with forks and spoons? Yet this is the kind of reform which Congress proposes, passes, and then congratulates itself about.

For years, it has been difficult to pass legislation in the changed partisan congressional atmosphere. So a lobbyist trying to enact his client’s wishes needs to get his amendment onto a bill likely to pass both the House and the Senate, to then be signed by the president. No bill is more likely to pass than a reform bill. While there may be hiccups on the way, most reform bills will make it all the way to the president’s desk, so smart lobbyists always keep an eye out for reform bills.

It’s ironic, if not horrific, that this is the case. The very bills designed to limit corruption and improve our system of government sometimes serve as vehicles for special interests. Like fugitives surreptitiously searching for an escape car in the dead of night, too many lobbyists prospect for reform bills in the hope of attaching their amendments. To my great shame, I was part of that group too.


How can the right wing blame unemployment on educational (skill) deficiencies and then shortchange the entire educational system?