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

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

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.

Continue reading

How To Fix The World

I have come to believe it is a waste of time to discuss “policy” anymore. Billionaires and corporations control the legislative and administrative branches. And that’s that. Period.

We can’t get anything through the Congress, no matter what. The Executive branch lives in a neoliberal mindset. The agencies are controlled by lobbyists. (Once in a while something can happen, but if we fix corruption, we fix all of it.)

Activists should put 100% of effort into fixing this. Fix money in politics and corruption. Nothing we advocate can happen otherwise. Everything we fight for will happen if these are fixed – because the public wants the same things. (That’s why we do what we do.)

There really is no other fight.

Sanctions On Russian Oligarchs Won’t Work But Sanctions On Russia’s Economy WIll

Sanctions on Russia’s oligarchs won’t work. The idea is that imposing sanctions of Putin’s oligarchs will cause them feel pain and do something about Putin. This is a US-centric view of how it works:

– In the US the oligarchs tell the government what to do. In Russia it’s the other way around. Putin tells the oligarchs what to do.

– BECAUSE this is how it works here, the US continues to allow oligarchs to hide their wealth behind anonymous “shell” corporations. So oligarch assets remain safe. Shell corporations owned by oligarchs can continue to buy real estate, art, etc.

– Also hidden assets of politicians, collected from oligarchs, remain safe.

WSJ, How Donald Trump’s Web of LLCs Obscures His Business Interests,

President-elect Donald Trump owns a helicopter in Scotland.

To be more precise, he has a revocable trust that owns 99% of a Delaware limited liability company that owns 99% of another Delaware LLC that owns a Scottish limited company that owns another Scottish company that owns the 26-year-old Sikorsky S-76B helicopter, emblazoned with a red “TRUMP” on the side of its fuselage.

Sanctions on Russia’s economy are another matter.

Congratulations Corporations, The Next President Will Be Your Business Partner (Updated)

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

It hasn’t sunk in yet but yesterday’s vote to allow Republican election-rigging and keep the filibuster marks the end of democracy. From here on out the fight is over. Republican efforts to rig the next elections will now accelerate. They know they have a free hand to do what they want. The public will tune out, understanding that nothing can change.

Billionaires and corporations funded and engineered the effort to keep the filibuster. Their thinking is that they’re at the top of a system rigged in their favor, and the filibuster keeps anything from changing. The filibuster has maintained their position at the top of the pyramid, blocking all efforts by the people to use government to change the rigged system. All Republicans were part of this pay-for-play operation, of course, but so were many Senate Democrats under Obama, and now Manchin and Sinema.

The corporations and billionaires think the current system of paying politicians to keep the money flowing to them has been locked in.
Continue reading

The Benefits Of Trade And Automation Were Stolen From Us

This post first appeared at Government Cheese.

The capitalist economist’s argument for “free trade” was the Jetsons Economy argument: the future will be glorious. They explained that when you move production to places where workers were paid less, everyone here would benefit because it freed up resources that would be applied to better jobs with higher wages, more free time, etc. The resulting gains would benefit everyone. And everyone where the jobs were moved to would also benefit from climbing the same ladder.

Sounds nice. A democracy would have made sure that was written into trade agreements, for everyone on both sides: The gains must be shared by everyone.

Same for automation, technology, etc. The gains were supposed to go to everyone. A democracy would have guaranteed that’s what happened.

A democracy would certainly have outlawed what did happen: Big money used “free” trade and automation/technology to pit workers against each other to force wages and benefits DOWN, with all the gains going to the top few.

What actually happened is that the Jetsons economy was stolen from us.

The Brand-Name “NAFTA”

All of this and the consequences — the benefits of trade and automation going to the top, everyone else forced ever downward, homes lost (and bought up by private equity to rent back to the former owners), factories closed and abandoned to rot, businesses closed and replaced by private-equity-owned chains, communities destroyed, etc – is covered by the brand name “NAFTA” for voters who were affected by this. That’s a big part of what brought us Trump and destroyed the Democratic party in the minds of all those voters.

Why Blame Dems?

Those textile mills and furniture manufacturers and all the rest of the manufacturing that went away when the Jetsons Economy future was stolen, the hollowed out cities with abandoned stores & homes downtown, ringed by private equity chains in malls out by the highway, bitter people forced out of the middle class blaming Dems for what happened to them…

The dilemma: This stuff branded NAFTA was a Republican/Wall Street neoliberal project all along but some Dems went along with it. Carter with deregulation, Clinton with trade, Obama with Wall Street. Wall Street/corporate money and propaganda getting them into office. (The famous chart showing the split between productivity and wages started under Carter/Volker. Then driven home by Reagan.)

The reason it’s identified with Dems more than Republicans now is that Dems were supposed to be the party of labor. The Democrats were supposed to protect working people from the things big money wanted to do to us. So Dems get the blame for breaking that wall of solidarity.

It’s like how Dems get the blame for things every single Republican is doing. We expect Republicans to be the party of capital, not Dems. Of course it wasn’t all elected Democrats who did this, but the capital bought enough Dems to get away with it.

The Hawley Nonsense “Porn” Interview – A Master Class In Propaganda

You probably think I’m going to mock this. Nope.

Watch this interview. It is a master class in propaganda. What he says was obviously (to me) written in one of their well-funded think tanks. He has obviously rehearsed this. Those of us who mock it just don’t get what the real message is and how effective it is.

As I keep saying, the current Republican fascist appeal all goes back to “NAFTA” – which is the brand name for the neoliberal austerity attack on the middle class, pushed by Wall Street, by all Republicans, and bought into by the “corporate Dems.” (See below)

How can you make these claims?, Hawley is asked. Answer: “If you look at the policy of deindustrialization…

The Virus That Carries the DNA Therapy

The porn nonsense is like the virus that carries the DNA therapy. The virus isn’t the point, the embedded DNA is. The virus is used to move around the body, targeting the right cells, leaving behind the intended therapy.

The “porn” part will be repeated widely because of the outrageous nonsense, but… Then there is this nugget (and a few others like it): “The [Democrat] policy of deindustrialization.” It is slipped in there, as if it is something we all know and agree with. The Dem policy is why you are all suffering, out of work, etc.

The nugget – the real message here – is the things slipped in as taken for granted now that they have your attention.

The REAL message in this is: “Democrats did this to you. We (the fascists) are here to make it all better.”

See the longer interview here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=583015609418505

It All Comes Back To NAFTA

“NAFTA” is a brand name for all the neoliberal policies that wiped out the factory towns and turned blue collar workers against Democrats.

The Clinton admin went all-in to get NAFTA passed. The televised 1993 “debate” between Al Gore and Ross Perot over NAFTA is worth revisiting. “Giant sucking sound” of jobs leaving the country – and that’s what happened. (The damage was really more from China entering the WTO, but “NAFTA” is the brand name for all of it.) The “benefits” of free trade were all directed up to a top few. People were threatened with, “Do you want YOUR job moved to China, too? No? Then shut up and take the pay cut.”

And everyone in the Midwest and other “post-industrial” areas that were wiped out understand this.

Obama understood, too. In 2008 he campaigned in the Midwest as the candidate who is going to do something about NAFTA and all the shit that is happening to you.

Blue-collar workers voted for Obama because he campaigned on fixing NAFTA, but then he didn’t. During the campaign there was a scandal that Obama had reassured Canadian leaders that he didn’t mean it. Then, immediately after taking office he went back on renegotiating NAFTA,

The administration has no present plans to reopen negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement to add labor and environmental protections, as President Obama vowed to do during his campaign, the top trade official said on Monday.

Then came full-on neoliberalism. Dems did not even bring the promised Employee Free Choice Act, which would have made it easier to organize unions in the workplace, up for a vote. Wall Street was bailed out and instead of removing (and prosecuting) the executives whose fraud caused the financial crisis the bailout funds were used to give bonuses to those executives. Austerity was imposed. The “recoverey” left millions behind, especially in the “deindustrialized” regions.

Then the Obama/Wall Street years clinched the wipeout of the middle class. For millions upon millions things didn’t get better, they got worse. People don’t forget things like that.

So Trump campaigned on getting rid of NAFTA, etc. Add in the right’s propaganda infrastructure )”Republicans are the party of the working class”) and here we are.

PS The Onion has more on this, demonstrating how the virus spreads, so it can implant the DNA. Also it’s hilarious: Josh Hawley Slams Video Games As Threat To American Masculinity After Bullshit Sniper Ends His ‘Battlefield’ Killstreak

Brilliant – Watch This Clip

Watch this clip. Brilliant. Follow the money behind the votes. It really is just paid corruption.

“David Sirota critiques coverage of DC budget battles
Reliable Sources

Former Bernie Sanders campaign advisor David Sirota says the news media should be following the money on Capitol Hill, sharing context “about which industries are buying which politicians.” Sirota also argues that the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 is impacting American politics today.”

I can’t find a way to post the clip here so Click This to watch.