Empires won by conquest have always fallen either by revolt within or by defeat by a rival. __John Boyd Orr
by Benjamin T. Moore, Jr.
236 years ago this nation was formed. It was an experiment in a blended form of government heretofore unknown in recorded human history. There had been democracies as far back as the Grecian empire. There had also been republics. The “Roman Empire” was such. However, there had not really been a form of government that combined the two and wrapped them with the strict set of rules today we refer to as our Constitution.
A lot of thought went into constructing our Constitutional Republic. The problem with a Republic is, you’ve merely distributed the power of a King amongst wealthy plutocrats. Although a plutocracy may engage in enlightened debate marked by continuous disagreement, you could always be certain they would all agree on what was in their own best interest. Thus whatever decisions they would come to would always be those decisions that maintained their power, often at the expense of what was best for the masses of people they ruled over.
How about a Democracy? A Democracy is good as long as you’re a member of whichever group is in the majority. The “Founding Fathers” remembered the religious persecution that caused immigrants to flee Europe, risk a long, arduous and dangerous ocean voyage for the mere chance at a better life in a wilderness land.
A democratically elected, constitutional republic seemed to be the best of both worlds. No Kings to establish dynasties. The efficiency of a Republic. The fairness of a Democracy bound by the protections of a Constitution which placed strict limits on governmental powers. In truth, with only a few hiccups along the way, we’ve done pretty well.
The problem with any system is always the human element. No matter how noble the intent, over time corrupting influences will emerge to alter and wrest that original intent for selfish purpose. You need but examine any institution that has been around for any period of time to see it’s evolution into decay. One of the best examples of this are religious institutions. Once they existed to better the human condition. Now they are little more than profit driven silos of power. They’ve gone from amassing fortunes to seeking to wield political power. “Separation of Church and Sate” be damned!
Our educational institutions have also fallen to corruption. It used to be a diploma from certain institutions actually meant something. Attending those institutions taught you how to think. Now you’re taught what to think. Instead of turning out men and women equipped to invent the future, they now turn out cookie cutter drones good for nothing better than working in a corporate hive. Should any one of them actually invent something, it becomes the property of the corporation. Thus, invention is suppressed. The progress of humanity is impeded because control and profit have become more important than progress and advancement.
The primary instrument of our demise has been economic greed. We have allowed ourselves to be deluded into believing that economic systems have some moral attributions exceeding the effectiveness of their applicable functionalities. There is nothing inherently good or evil in Capitalism, Communism or Socialism. These are merely economic philosophies. These are tools used to provide a monetary system for the benefit of the societies that use them.
Ask the average American and they’ll tell you that Capitalism is good and Communism is evil. What’s worse, they will irrationally attach the attribution of evil to any society using Communism as their monetary system. Those with a smattering of historical knowledge may point to various war atrocities which occurred under some regime using Communism. If you ask them to explain exactly what Communism is, you’ll usually find their silence deafening. Ironically they seem to forget that Nazi Germany was not Communist.
Whenever you see such irrationality surrounding what is actually a neutral economic philosophy, one must ask whom is promoting these feelings? Whom continues to stoke these fires? To what end? Communism is not a form of government. Yes, I know that dictionaries will say that it is. However, if you compare the definitions of Communism and Socialism you’ll see they are actually identical. The differences are really in the terms used to describe the governmental agency used to control the distribution of the common wealth.
Capitalism is defined as the wealth being owned and controlled by private agencies and individuals. In practice however, we have corporations who’s wealth exceeds the economies of small nations. Their boards of directors are in effect governments who hoard the wealth for those at the top and exploit the workers at the bottom.
The only reason Capitalism continues to exist is, those in power have been successful – they should be, lord knows they spend enough money on propaganda – in convincing the masses that they might one day earn a seat at the table. This is exploiting the same mentality that causes people to buy lottery tickets every week.
How is Capitalism working out for us? Let’s look at a few examples. I remember when “broad band” Internet access first became available in my area. I have been “on-line” since the early 90’s. When I first got on-line, there was Compuserve and AOL. The Internet existed but was primarily the province of research institutions and the government. Everybody else used an interconnecting series of Computer Bulletin Boards known as BBS. These bulletin board services would exchange packets of mail once or twice a day using telephone land-lines and a modem through a series of “nodes” known as “Fidonet.”
You could only communicate instantly with other users in your community who happened to be on the same “Bulletin Board” as you were, at the same time. When “Broad Band” came to my area it was provided by a company called, “@Home.” The speeds were blindingly fast. Actually faster than what they are today. They had partnered with local Cable Television providers to bring their service into our homes. The rates were attractively inexpensive and I was so impressed, I couldn’t have been happier than a fat man at a free smorgasbord! Unfortunately, my joy was to be short lived.
Comcast – may their villainous tribe decrease – began buying stock in @Home. They bought enough stock such that they were able to control the direction of the company through their votes on the board. They actually voted down decisions that would have made @Home more profitable and voted into place policies that crippled @Home and eventually led to it’s demise. Once it was weak enough, Comcast made them an offer they could no longer afford to refuse and bought them out. Like a “Trojan Horse” they infiltrated @Home, poisoned them and took them over.
In rapid succession I received two notices. The first informing me that Comcast had acquired @Home and my billing would now be coming from them. The second informing me that the speed of my connection was being cut in half. Note, my bill wasn’t decreasing to reflect this diminution in service. I would continue to pay the same price but I would be receiving less. How do you like them apples?!?
Had @Home asked me, I might have warned them about what was coming. I had an interesting experience with Comcast a few years earlier. This was back when Cable was only 40 or so channels and nobody had conceived of HDTV. Our Cable bill had started out around $25 per month. We looked up one day and it had crept up to $60 a month. We hadn’t added anything, however – as I’m sure everyone who is a Comcast customer knows – Comcast had been adding in little hidden charges and hidden fees, minor price increases the results of which were, one fine day, my wife and I said enough and decided to look for other options. Because of “franchising agreements” with the City, Time-Warner couldn’t compete in Comcast’s area – outside 465 – and Comcast couldn’t provide service in Time-Warner’s area – inside 465. So much for competition benefiting the consumer.
At that time, there was a company providing Satellite TV service known as “PrimeStar.” Some of you may recall them? I opened my “Yellow Pages,” located their number and gave them a call. How bad could it be? The lady that answered the phone said, “PrimeStar, how may I help you?” I told her briefly what my issues were. I vented a little about my disgust with Comcast, then she said something that simply stunned me! She said, “well let me look at your service and see what I can do.” What? The Hell you say??? “Oh, PrimeStar contracted with Comcast to do their installations. From what I’m looking at, you’re entitled to some promotions and new pricing plans that should drastically cut your bill…. yes, we can get your bill back down to $30 dollars.”
Needless to say, PrimeStar is no longer in existence. That’s Capitalism you say? Shrewd business practices in a competitive market? Perhaps, but what about all the employees of @Home and PrimeStar who lost their jobs, their health insurance and a substantial portion of their pensions… if they were able to negotiate any of their pension funds? Collateral damage? Perhaps…
Because what we have are in essence monopolies working in collusion, there are very few companies providing Internet service to the citizens of this country. Unless these companies can rape… er, I mean, make the profit margins they wish, there are many rural communities who do not have broad band internet service. Did you know that our Internet speeds in the United States are 5 to 6 times slower than many places in Europe? France immediately comes to mind. Yes, some of it has to do with fiber-optic lines, but much of it is due to throttling that goes on at the Cable Companies. Why? Because for a few dollars more, they will sell you a tiered service with much faster speeds. Almost as fast or perhaps even a little bit faster than what @Home was bringing us for less than half the cost… and this was before fiber-optic lines!
I Will Never Buy an Apple Product Again!
One of the reasons I originally went with Microsoft for my computer system, had a lot to do with Apple blocking and prohibiting access to many features allowing users to tweak their operating system. You could only use Apple monitors, printers and their own peripherals. Thus, if Okidata had a printer that did what you wanted for half the cost of the Apple offering, you were shucks out of luck! They did get me on their iPhone however. Primarily because at that time, it was really the only “SmartPhone” available that made the Internet truly usable on a cellphone.
I was elated when I first got it. I set up my e-mail accounts, began saving my “favorites” in the web browser and I began taking pictures. It was then I noticed a problem. The first iPhone would not take videos. Really??? For those of you who do not know, the same lens that will take a “still picture” will take a video with equal ease. It is simply a matter of software. In point of fact, an entire underground counter-culture industry has sprung up “jail-breaking” iPhones. There was a 3rd party application that could turn the “still-camera” in the first iPhones into video cameras. So, why didn’t Apple think to make the camera on their well thought out iPhone a video camera? Because three months later, there were suckers waiting in line over night to get the next version of their iPhone for a slightly higher price. Of course it came with video capability.
They were gouging their customers by the incremental release of technologies they already had sitting on their shelves. Rather than produce the best product they were capable of, and then bettering themselves on their next big “reveal,” they chose instead to sell a substandard product and turn an extra dollar from a gullible, naive public. Capitalism? Shrewd business marketing? To be sure. However, it is also a hidden redistribution of wealth from people with way too little of it to people with way too much of it. Why do I say this? When you’re not getting what you’re paying for? You’re being ripped off. The difference in features between the iPhone I purchased and the new one that came out 3 months later, were not sufficient to justify the cost of an entirely new phone. I gladly would have paid $50 to $60 extra for the features which probably cost less than $10 to include. Paying $199 for a brand new phone, is a scam.
In 2005 we built a brand new 6,400 sq ft. home. We built it out of brick and spared no expense within our financial means at that time. We took our time and carefully selected the very best appliances available to our knowledge at that time. No, we didn’t buy Viking for our kitchen. We don’t have it like that… but we didn’t short change our appliances either. Our home has two high efficiency furnaces, one for the downstairs and one for the upstairs. We also have two hot water heaters. We selected A.O. Smith “Power Shots” because they had a good name. Since 2006 – when we took possession of our home – I’m on my 3rd water heater. Why? Yes, we have well water. However, we have a high end whole house filter as well as a water softener which we maintain.
What goes out on the water heater? The “thermo-coupler.” This is the control module which by the way, never comes into contact with the water. A.O. Smith has replaced at least 4 of them under warranty. They’re about $350 each. However, the warranty does not cover the labor involved to swap them out. Each time the plumber comes out, it costs $170. Growing up, we had water heaters that worked flawlessly and lasted 15 – 20 years. How can this be? Did they suddenly forget how to build reliable water heaters? Of course not! There is more money involved in fixing, repairing and supplying parts than there is in actually building and selling a solid product. This is why cars are stolen. Your car is worth over 3 times what you paid for it in parts. I’ve actually considered buying a brand new car and making a deal with someone to simply take it apart piece by piece and sell the parts on eBay. I’d make enough to pay the car off and buy another one free and clear. Yes it would take time and be a hassle, but the reason this is even possible is because the automotive industry, years ago figured out they’d make more money from people trading in their cars every 3 or so years and buying new ones.
It wasn’t enough changing the styles. The consumer needed a little extra incentive so they built them to start wearing out after 3 years. The backlash was, people began buying foreign cars. This is why German, Japanese, Korean, British cars and others are being sold here today. People simply got tired of being nickel and dimed repairing or replacing their cars every 3 years. Detroit left an opening that foreign companies rushed into fill. Capitalism? To be sure. However, the upshot was/is that American dollars have been flowing into the coffers of business and governments that are not truly Capitalist. If you worship at the shrine of Capitalism, why are you funding the governments of countries that practice Socialism and in some cases Communism?
Bottom line? The pursuit of profit under the aegis of Capitalism has caused the American consumer to fund and pay for the resources of nations who seek our demise. Who cares? So long as somebody makes a profit right?
Corporate Parasites – It Cost More To Live When You’re Poor
Businesses and Corporations actually budget, counting on your late fees. What’s worse, they now employ strategies to maximize these fees. Case in point. Like you, I have several Credit Cards. “BankAmericard” is one. “DiscoverCard” is another. I single these two out because of a particularly nasty little trick they tried to play. Like many people, we use “Quicken” to manage our finances. We have Quicken set to remind us when some payments are due and to actually pay others. One of these credit cards was due on the 1st of the month, the other was due on the 15th of the month. For several years, all was good. Every bill was automatically paid on time. No late fees. No issues.
Then one month, we got a notice of a late payment fee. When we looked into it, we discovered that “BankAmericard” had unilaterally changed the payment due date to 5 days ahead of schedule. This caused us a late payment fee. Because we paid as scheduled, we were not 30 days late and it did not impact our credit score. Not a problem, we simply went into Quicken and adjusted the payment trigger to the new date. A few months later, we got another notice of late payment. This was from “DiscoverCard.” They had done the exact same thing. Over the next 6 months, both “BankAmericard and DiscoverCard” did the exact same thing… AGAIN!
What made this possible? Banking deregulation! After President Obama’s administration put regulations back in place, this became illegal. My wife who works in the Banking Industry knows the law. When they tried it again, she called them up and cited the law which says they cannot arbitrarily change payment due dates. Here’s the tip off. The person who answered the phone acknowledged this law and apologized and set the dates back to what they were originally.
Have they stopped this practice? Of course not. If you are not aware of the changes in the law, it’s business as usual. Look at it this way. Suppose you were caught shoplifting a few steaks to feed your family. You get caught by store security as you’re about to exit the store. Would you be allowed to say, “Oh, my bad! I’ll put them back. No harm, no foul?” Of course not. You’re going to be charged. Yet, these large corporations are in essence shoplifting from the pockets of their customers. If you don’t call them on it, they get away clean. If you do catch them they simply stop. They do not refund all the fees from the times they robbed your previously. That’s just water under the bridge.
Most people get paid around the 1st and or the 15th of the month. Thus, it would make sense for your payments to be scheduled around those dates. This would also work for people who are paid weekly. When companies structure their payment due dates away from these times there is a reason. That reason is it maximizes the probability of late fees. If everybody paid their bills on time, these companies would take a hit to their revenue streams.
Socializing Cost While Privatizing Profits
There is an excellent book by David Cay Johnston called “The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use ‘Plain English’ to Rob You Blind.” How does your State or City attract a new manufacturing plant or a Sports Team? They offer the inducement of tax incentives. They’ll build the stadium or they’ll give them an abatement in State taxes to build their plant. When this happens, who is actually paying for this? The money isn’t coming out of thin air. You the taxpayer is footing the bill. When a corporation is given tax abatements to build that new manufacturing plant, yes they’re bringing jobs to your community. However, not only are they not going to have to pay State taxes – the taxes that build and maintain the infrastructure they’re going to be using – oft times they will not have to pay State taxes on their employees. They will still collect – take those taxes out of the pay checks of their employees – but they will pocket that money.
This is money that will not go to schools, fire and police departments, first responders, teachers, road maintenance and all the things that make our communities the places we like to live. Nobody asks the question, “how many jobs would a corporation have to provide before the benefits they provide would justify the costs to the taxpayers?” Politicians won’t ask because the photo-op of them cutting the tape for the opening of a new plant is good for votes.
The Oil Industry is the most profitable industry on the planet. Yet, we subsidize them each year to the tune of billions of dollars. Why? The problem is simple. Corporations have bought our elections and they’ve bought our elected officials. They are using the money they’re plucking from your pockets, your pension funds and your children’s college funds to build the prison they’re confining you in. You are paying for your own enslavement.
Whenever you hear the President or some other political leader use the phrase, “protecting American Interests,” you need to understand what they’re saying. They’re rarely if ever talking about what is in the best interest of you and your family. They’re talking about the interests of one or more corporations. We have sacrificed our treasure and paid in blood to protect the profit stream of corporations.
World War II ended in 1945, yet we still have military bases and a military presence all over Europe. Why? Radical Islamic terrorist don’t hate us for our freedom as one nit wit American President proclaimed. They hate us because our corporations are exploiting their nations, people and resources. Why do we care who is in power in a particular region? We care because we want to deal with governments favorable to our economic interests. What economic interests does the United States have in these regions? None! We do not collect taxes from those populations. It is our corporations that want to either do business there, build a pipeline across their country or use their people as cheap labor in conditions and at wages that would be against the law here.
You cannot buy cigarettes in the United States until you turn 21. You cannot market cigarettes to children. However, those laws are not present in other countries and our Tobacco Companies do a bang up business in these other countries around the world. If you’ve been on-line for any length of time, you’ve no doubt seen pictures of young children smoking. As these 3rd world nations become more modern and realize the harm being done to their children, when they connect the dots of early cancer deaths to our Tobacco Companies, how do you think they’re going to feel about the United States?
There is a multi-national corporation I am aware of that has 250 thousand employees world wide. A year or so ago, when they passed out bonuses it was discovered that 10% – the upper management – received 90% of the money. The CEO received $5 million in cash and $25 million in stock. He catches the “5 O’clock” elevator at the end of each day. He flies around on a corporate jet. The employees that make this possible, work 14 and 16 hour days. Do you see anything wrong with this? Do you think this CEO would do his job for say… his current salary plus only a $15 million bonus? $10 million? $1 million?
Tell me again why we need to cut taxes for people like this? By the way, why was his bonus structured such that he got $25 million in stock? Stock is only taxed at 13%. What tax rate are you paying? How much is enough money? How many billions do you have to have before you can say, you’ve got enough? Do you realize if you have $1 million dollars and you invest it conservatively, you will make between $80 to $90 thousand a year in interest? You won’t have to touch your principal if you can live off of $80 thousand a year. Now multiply this by the multiple – hundreds – millions some people have. Remember, these people are taxed at only 13% so no matter what happens, they’re fortunes will continue to grow.
I have nothing against this. However, if we must make a choice as to what is best for our Nation and the communities in which we live and the opportunity we’d like to pass on to our children, we need to make some changes. We are allowing this nation to be destroyed through the greed of the few at the top. When you buy a government, you get the people for free. The purpose of the government is to serve the people and provide for the common good. No Mitt, Corporations are not people! What’s best for a corporation is not necessarily best for the people. What is best for the executive management of a corporation is not necessarily best or fair for the employees that make their success possible.
Our infrastructure is crumbling. We’re fighting wars that really are not in our interest. Our educational system is failing. We’re ranked 25th in math, 17th in science and 14th in reading. This should chill your soul. The only true resource on this planet is the human resource. Problems are solved through ingenuity. Our children not only are our future, they will invent our future. If they’re not equipped to compete successfully, our future will be dim indeed.
What threatens our nation is not in the mountains in Afghanistan. It is not in the deserts of Iraq or Iran. It is not Russia, China or the monetary systems they choose to use. What threatens our nation is right here sitting around tables in corporate boardrooms.