This was one of my unfinished posts, but I finished it this morning waiting for customers. I started it a few months ago, while Trump was still a candidate, that French guy and Ahnold got caught with their pants down and the economy was tanking. Not that much has changed, including the way the rich men buy their way out of criminal charges. Oh well. I still hope to see Jamie Dimon in a jumpsuit and Goldman Sachs shut down. So this is a rant on that subject.
Talk about entitlement.
We are riveted to the antics of the Donald, the Royals, the Governator, DSK and all the rich, rich celebs and politicians who just can’t stop themselves from living large and loose in front of our poor, wretched eyes. We can’t get enough. Well, we are being treated to the show of a century, exactly a century. It was around 100 years ago that the Gilded Age raped our land and markets, while a handful of wealthy men dominated trade, created trusts and generally got as rich off the American Civil War and the first World War as Halliburton, the Kochs and GE is getting off our current Mideast misadventures.
Until the crash in 1929. We think we’ve been through the worst of our current depression, but it isn’t over yet. The stock market is going through the roof, up 25% over last year, so clearly, we haven’t hit rock bottom yet. And the rich just can’t help themselves from fiddling (fucking, buying, lying, stealing, raping) while America burns. And drowns. Did you know that FEMA is out of money, while the Repubs in the House are refusing to raise the debt ceiling and insisting on more tax breaks for the lying rapers and thieves? And they say they want to end entitlements! Ha! No one is more entitled than our own politicians, entitled to steal our tax monies to finance their love nests and their favorite revolving door lobbying firms.
If you think I’m bitter, you are exactly right. In fact, yes, I HAVE thought of bombs and guns in conjunction with certain firms, most of them located on Wall Street. But really, even if I blew up Goldman Sachs, the theft of our livelihoods would continue. And the path of over two decades of furtive manipulation by corporate interests in our American economy would not be redirected.
I was working in corporate advertising in the late 80’s, publishing corporate magazines for several big firms, including BellSouth, Georgia Pacific and IBM. I remember when they started seeing their employees as liabilities to be pushed out and replaced by cheap - incompetent, but cheap - contract labor. The next step, after accepting that the bottom line was more important than quality, was to outsource labor to overseas, cheaper still. And I understand how that happened, having been trained in corporate management in the 70s (Steak and Ale, owned by Pillsbury). Every month, we’d pore over the balance sheet, since our bonuses were based on the bottom line, that magic number that deducted expenses from income. We were taught to fudge the numbers, moving inconvenient expenses to some other line to make the report look better and our rewards larger. And labor was one of those lines that was seen as tinkerable. Fired, downsized, laid-off, furloughed, part-timed, whatever we called it, it just meant that we benefited from someone else’s loss of income.
So it’s totally natural that 40 years later, with politicians trumpeting their corporate management bona fides, that this de-valuation of labor has become the law of the land. As long as corporate America sets the terms, we are disposable.
I could also talk about the stupid decisions, cover-your-ass mentality and isolated upper management that prevail in corporate America, but you know that already.
The next development in the free money era was a natural development of the first - with the loss of our jobs, we had to find some other way to make a living. The real estate boom in the 90s made tidy incomes for many previous corporate workers, when they became flippers - buying cheap houses, upgrading them and reselling at a huge profit. And the banks gave them generous terms to help boost the prices, but Wall Street benefited the most. Wall Street was the biggest beneficiary in those days, since those who didn’t flip houses, sell real estate or sell mortgages were day-traders, playing the market to make an income. Trading stocks became the biggest game in town and gambling fever filtered down into the middle class. Both these endeavors - while profitable at the time - were based on gambling.
I ask myself, why do we hear the Dow average every hour on the hour? Why is the trading on Wall Street tracked on every media outlet daily, when stocks have become the game that rich men play? In the old days, in my limited understanding, stocks were issued to raise money for investment in equipment and research and development, and stockholders held onto their shares for decades, trusting that the health of the company was solid as long as they focused on provided a good product or service. These days, companies seem to have stock values based on perception and mob mentality, not the actual ability to produce anything. And solid producing companies have been destroyed on the Street, just for the joy of taking them down by some Wall Street cabal. No, these people should not be responsible any part of the American economy.
And we, the vanishing middle class, are reduced to gambling for the rich men’s crumbs. Money for Nothing is our mantra too. Maybe we can win big on Facebook stock, win the lottery, get on a reality tv show, come up with a viral video, tell all on some celebrity, become the newest random star in the media’s cynical game of making us believe we matter. The newest iteration of Bread and Circuses. But we don’t have any other choices. Do we?
One thing we CAN do is opt out of the game of the Stock Market. If we - if YOU - have money in the stock market, we are contributing directly to the decline of the American economy. Why do we prop up this corrupt system when it is doing everything to take our money and destroy the companies that used to employ us? Just imagine if the middle class voted with it’s wallet and withdrew every penny they had invested in stock, and instead invested it in their communities, becoming investors in new businesses, providing capital for local real estate investments - in other words, choosing a game that isn’t rigged against us.
That sounds hard, actually having to do research on the best way to preserve your nest egg. Yes, it’s work, not gambling. But the institutions exist in your community already to do this. We can hurt Wall Street where it counts, and negate the gambling instinct that they celebrate. Rebuild our communities and our economy at the same time.