Twitter And America’s Billionaire Problem

A democracy would never let this happen.

Twitter is the de facto town square, information source here and in much of the world. This is because of the “network effect.” Everyone has to be there because everyone else is. It doesn’t work any other way. Facebook is that for connecting with friends and relatives.

That’s what a public utility is.

Our government used to recognize and regulate that. The telephone system required the network effect in order to work. That could be only one. So the government regulated it.

We all know the reason the government doesn’t regulate now is because it is captured by vested interests.

This is what happens when our “system” is run at the whim of billionaires and petrostates. $44 billion (44 thousand million) is actually not that much money to Musk and the Saudis.

Regulate Twitter – And FB, Google Etc.

So Twitter is melting down. Twitter became the de facto “town square.” It was a “public good” where We the People could get news and discuss things.

One super billionaire (plus Saudi Arabia) purchased it and is destroying it. He was allowed to purchase in an obvious attempt to influence what the pubic understands – against the “public interest.” This is because we no longer have a functioning government.

We are SO FAR from remembering that corporations are entirely creatures of law, which means they are created by OUR laws. Nothing more. We the People – government – created the idea of corporations as a way to get investment for large projects – things WE want done. Corporations were created to SERVE US.

We used to REGULATE corporations to be sure that these entities we created act in the public interest. Here we are with such an OBVIOUS demonstration of the need for government to step in and regulate. Quickly. But the concept has been erased from our brains.

We Are Supposed To Be The Boss Of Them.

Government is supposed to be We the People acting to make OUR lives better. It has been “captured” and acts now only on the interest of those who own these entities and so often against the interest of We the People. We allowed corporate money to “leak out” of the corporation and be used by individuals (the executives of the corporation) to literally bribe government officials to look the other way and allow them to loot the corporations and public sphere. That money also feeds a massive propaganda apparatus that brainwashes us into forgetting the very idea that We the People are supposed to be in charge here.

I recently wrote about this here: Understanding What a Corporation Actually Is Can Help Restore Democracy

Spending Is The Purpose of Government in a Democracy

This post originally appeared at Imagine Democracy Oct 10, 2021.

How often do we hear that “government spending is bad,” or “the government spends too much money”?

The purpose of government in a democracy is to do things for We the People to make our lives better. We the People make the decisions, and allocate resources toward making our lives better. Government spending is the point of democracy. Government in a democracy spends to make our lives better.

Here’s an experiment. When you hear the word “government” substitute the words “decision-making by We the People.”

When you hear, “Government regulation gets in the way of business” try this, “We the People are supposed to decide to regulate business activities to protect US”.

When you hear “the private sector should decide how to spend money,” try this, “In a democracy We the People decide to have roads and rail and solar power, etc.” When you hear that “taxes are theft,” try this, “We the People decide to tax the rich and their corporations so they don’t get so big that we can’t control them.”

This is not how it is today in this country. For decades we’ve been told that government – decision-making by We the People – is bad, that government spending – We the People doing things to make our lives better – is bad, that regulating – We the People protecting each other – is bad. And this has made our democracy weak.

So now many people believe anything government (democracy) does is bad and government spending is bad. That is anti-democracy, and we are living with the consequences of decades of that anti-democracy propaganda.

You Can’t Shame A Corporation But You Can Shame Executives

The tactic of trying to “shame” a corporation away from harming the environment, consumers and/or democracy relies on a misunderstanding of what a corporation is. Corporations serve as masks for the actual power-brokers, absorbing the public disdain for the power-brokers’ decisions.

If activists want to change the decisions made they have to realize that a corporation’s executives and Board members make decisions, corporations don’t. The recent post Understanding What a Corporation Actually Is Can Help Restore Democracy explains,

Here’s the thing: A corporation is a contract. It is a legal agreement enabled by our (“We the People”) government. That’s it.

Corporations are not sentient entities. Contracts don’t “think” or “want” or “need” or say” or “care” or “do” anything. Neither does a will, nor a lease, nor a confidentiality agreement. Corporations also can’t be “greedy” or “criminal” or “good” or “altruistic.” But people can.

Corporations don’t do things, but the executives & Board of the corporation do do things.

Go After The Doers

Corporations don’t “behave,” executives and Board members do. Executives and Board members also care more about their personal interests than about the interests of a corporation or institution they are supposed to be managing. Instead of thinking you can change corporate “behavior,” activists should instead go after the executives and Board members who actually make decisions.

Unions Understand Power

Way back when I was consulting for unions I was involved in a campaign to get a large public institution to stop hiring non-union construction companies. This involved researching the Board members of the institution, learning about their public lives, and finding strategic points to target.

Example, one Board member funded a symphony. The union targeted the symphony with very public actions naming and shaming the Board member for forcing people’s living standards down, risking worker’s safety, etc. The Board member cared what the symphony social group thought about him. The union shamed him in front of people who mattered to him.

Another Board member was an executive at a company that was getting ready to go public. The last thing he wanted was bad publicity of any kind directed at him.

The union conducted other similar public shaming actions targeting the actual decision-makers.

The union publicly shamed the decision-makers, not some non-sentient entity (a corporation or institution) that masked the actual decision-makers. Things changed real quick.

Budget Cuts = Eating The Seed Corn

This post first appeared at Government Cheese – Chronicling the Collapse of democracy

Government budget cuts are not what they seem.

Understanding history could also be called ‘wisdom.’ Wisdom told stories about “eating the seed corn.” If you eat the seed corn you can’t plant your crops the following year and everyone eventually starves.

In the early 80s Reaganism/Thatcherism (neoliberalism) convinced the country to drastically cut taxes on the rich and “pay for” it by cutting spending. The US stopped spending on maintaining and modernizing infrastructure – especially transportation infrastructure, on education, on science … on so many things. So we lived off of prior investment for so long. But the infrastructure deteriorated and we certain never modernized it. (Just look at our rail and transportation systems, compared to the rest of the world.)

All that $$ was transferred to the already-wealthy top few who paid for the propaganda that convinced the rest to do this.

Privatization

Another piece of this scam was “saving money” through privatization. Using local trash collection as an example, cities would “save money” by getting rid of public trash collection and contracting with the “private sector” to do this more “efficiently.” What this meant was laying off the decently-paid public employees and hiring them back at minimum wage with no benefits. The infrastructure – trucks etc – to do this would receive little maintenance, collection schedules would be cut back, and people had to drag their trash to the curb instead of having it picked up at the house.

This didn’t actually save money, it shifted it. The newly minimum-wage workers would lose their houses which reduced property prices for e everyone and killed the tax base, they’d go on public assistance, schools would suffer and have higher costs, etc across the board. And poor people can’t spend much so all local businesses suffer, too.

Etc etc etc we can see it all around us now. But it is too late.

See also:

When Government ‘Saves Money’ And Gets ‘Smaller,’ We All Lose

You can “save money” by not changing the oil in your car. But have you ever seen a car that has never had its oil changed? After a while white smoke pours out the back because the rings are ruined. Other parts of the engine are also being ruined. Eventually the engine will seize up and quit and you have to either replace the engine or scrap the car. A simple and inexpensive procedure every few months would have prevented many thousands of dollars in expenses later.

After the Reagan tax cuts we “made government smaller” in several ways that are coming back to bite us now. One way we “saved money” by not “changing the oil” was by deferring maintenance of the country’s infrastructure – the water systems, levees, dams, roads, bridges, airports, ports, rails systems, electrical systems, and the rest of the things we all rely on to bring us safe water, get us to work, ship products and generally move our economy and live our lives.

Now the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) most recent “Infrastructure Report Card” estimates we need to spend $3.6 trillion just to bring the infrastructure up to where it should be, never mind catching up to the rest of the word with high-speed rail and smart electrical grid systems. The bill is getting more expensive every year, and people are dying as bridges, roads and other important infrastructure components fail. Thousands died in New Orleans when the levees failed.

5 ways privatization is fleecing American taxpayers

If people with OK public-employee jobs are replaced by lower-paid workers the community is poorer in the aggregate. More people will need public “safety-net” services. There will be foreclosures. Tax revenue drops because of lower pay but also because poorer people can’t spend as much in stores. Sales taxes drop as stores face fewer customers able to get by.

Reagan Revolution Home to Roost: America Is Crumbling

Only Republicans Can Be Harmed

You’ve heard the term IOKIYAR. It’s OK If You Are Republican. This week we’re experiencing a variation of that: Only Republicans Can Be Harmed. Also Only Republicans Count.

Judge Cannon explained that prosecuting Trump would harm him and his reputation, because of the “threat of future prosecution and the serious, often indelible stigma associated therewith.” Also, “As a function of Plaintiff’s former position as President of the United States, the stigma associated with the subject seizure is in a league of its own.” Therefore the Justice Department has to stop.

Bush v Gore

This is a variation of the Republican Supreme Court’s reasoning in Bush v Gore that if the Florida vote-counting were allowed to continue it might “threaten irreparable harm to petitioner (Bush)” chances of winning the election.

What about harming Gore’s chances of winning if they kept counting? That’s different. Only Republicans Can Be Harmed. Only Republicans have legitimate concerns.

Only Republicans Count

Now we have the latest variation on this concept of Republican legitimacy. Donald Trump says presidents can declassify docs ‘even by thinking about it’.

So, couldn’t President Biden have RE-classified the documents by thinking about it?

Here’s the thing: ONLY REPUBLICANS COUNT! Trump CAN, Biden CAN’T.

In the Republican mind, Democrats are not legitimate. Democrats aren’t “real Americans.” Non-whites also fit into this scheme. They are not “real Americans.” This applies to people who live in large cities as well.

This also goes for non-Christians, by the way. 61 percent of Republicans supported declaring the United States a Christian nation.

The rest of us just don’t count.

Understanding What a Corporation Actually Is Can Help Restore Democracy

This post originally appeared at Imagine Democracy.

“Some corporations do bad things.” “Corporations bribe politicians.” “Good corporations don’t harm people.” “Corporations are greedy.”

Almost everything we read and hear about corporations destructively misstates what corporations are and why we have them. Understanding what a corporation really is has enormous implications for our democracy.

Corporations Don’t “Do” Things

Here’s the thing: A corporation is a contract. It is a legal agreement enabled by our (“We the People”) government. That’s it.

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