one man's conspiracy is another man's business plan
Wednesday, March 23, 2005 | Credit Cards as Poor Tax: Why the Bankruptcy Bill Makes Sense
We all know the most sensible way to use credit cards: pay off your balance every month. Use the card as a convenience, don't fall into the trap of buying things you can't afford, don't think of it as an emergency savings account, and whatever you do, don't charge up a big balance and get yourself into the position of struggling just to pay off the interest. That's all terrific advice, and for folks lucky enough to be able to afford to follow it, it works. You get all the advantages of the card without any of the pitfalls.
But for an increasing number of Americans, it's just not that simple. Of course there are the Big 3 - medical treatment, divorce, job loss - and the fact that those big 3 are such a windfall for credit card companies should have been a red flag all by itself.
Now let's talk about Big 4. That's people who have a job, or two, or maybe they're uniquely American enough to have three. But even all that labor is simply not enough to make basic expenses. Not basic expenses like a night at the movies, or new curtains, and certainly not furniture.
No, we're talking about basic expenses like rent. Food, electricity, gas for the car, bus passes, diapers, things people who pay their credit card balance every month pay before they go shopping.
See, those folks have some money left over after they've paid for all that basic stuff. That money is called discretionary income. Or disposable income. Having that, even a little of it, is what separates the affluent from the poor in the US these days, and the number of poor is growing and the number of affluent is shrinking.
So what happens when your income is greater than your basic expenses? Cut back, naturally. But where do you cut back? Feed the kids a little less? Ask the landlord or the mortgage company if you can pay a little less this month? Doesn't work that way.
So you pay the rent and charge the groceries this month, you pay the rent and charge half your electric bill next month, you charge the expensive prescription the insurance won't pay for the next month, the next month you get a flat tire, you charge a new spare.
The money you pay to the credit card is more than what you would have paid for the groceries or electricity, if you'd had the cash. You didn't. So you must pay a poor tax.
The annual fees, the late fees, the penalty fees, the usurious interest charges, the fee computation fees, all of that is the tax that you, as a poor person must pay. Your affluent brother does not have to pay it, he is not poor.
The new bankruptcy laws are consistent with that. Your very wealthy brother will be able to declare bankruptcy and obtain relief from debts he incurred.
You, on the other hand, if you are forced to declare bankruptcy, will continue paying your poor tax.
This is because the market, in its wisdom, has decided that the value of your day's labor, your value to society, to the market, is not enough to justify a day of survival for you.
As a commodity, you are disposable. The only way the corporations can make any money off you is if you are in prison.
Then you become a revenue stream.
Sure, it costs your affluent brother more to keep you in prison than it would cost him to pay some of your rent and food, and doctor bills, but as an inmate, you're worth more to the corporations than you ever were as a low wage earner paying your poor tax.
And Americans have always been willing to dig a little deeper, pay a higher price, if they can be sure that as a result, the poor will suffer more. posted at
Friday, March 11, 2005 | Health Care and Housing: The Winnowing
Recent years have seen a marked acceleration in the effective use of health care and housing costs as a key tool in phasing out the middle class. Traditionally, the middle class has comprised the bulk of the voting class.
Not just in the US, but everywhere, and throughout history, it has been the middle class that does the job of community building and the development of culture.
Middle class, for our purposes is defined as those who have resources left over after meeting basic survival needs. Discretionary resources, which they can use, in the case of money, to put aside to start a business, take a vacation, buy a lake house, send Junior to college. In the case of discretionary resources of time and energy, these can be used to attend parent-teacher or town hall meetings, run for city council, or volunteer for someone who is, teach children songs, customs, recipes, build family and community traditions, bake cookies for the local high school bake sale to raise money for band uniforms, run errands for an elderly person - it's discretionary, it's their choice.
The reason the middle class does this is obvious: the wealthy do not have the same motivation to use their resources in this way; if they are not happy in Smallville, they can retire to their second home in Largeville, or they can donate to something and go about their wealthy pursuits. The poor do not have discretionary resources; all their time, money and energy is spent in the struggle to obtain basic survival needs, whether they succeed in obtaining them or not.
Captialism thrives on a middle class, feudalism does not, and as the nation transitions to feudalism, the middle class, long the friend of business large and small, must face its new role as the mortal enemy of the feudal lord.
Textbook capitalism also depends on the motivational aspect, greed if you will, but narrowly channeled: people will work harder to make a higher profit for their employers in order to secure a resultant benefit for themselves.
Once that is taken away, and the worker receives no benefit regardless of how hard he works, or what a good job he does, that motivation is lost, and once the market has successfully lowered the value of his labor to a level below the value of the goods and services necessary for his survival, the worker is in effect a serf, who will live or die according to the grace and favor of the lord, who has no incentive to preserve the life of a particular serf, when there is a plentiful supply of them all hoping to be chosen for a chance to live a little longer.
People will pay all they have, and do almost anything, to get medical treatment when they are sick or injured, and especially if their children are sick or injured, and they will extend themselves the same way in order to obtain or remain in housing.
Nothing insures a more rapid or certain descent into poverty in the US than a medical bill, whether the patient has insurance or not, even the 20% not covered by the typical worker's policy can easily run into the 5 figures, a sum that might as well be 12 figures, for all the chance the worker has of paying it.
His every check for the rest of his life is now spent before he earns it, and he will no longer enjoy discretionary resources.
Medical catastrophe, even if the "catastrophe" is as routine as an inflamed appendix or a child's tonsillectomy can be the catalyst for removing the family from housing, but it is by no means the only, or even the most common route to the street.
Merely by limiting the rise in the worker's income to a fraction of the rise in the cost of housing, and even housing peripherals such as utilities, the society is assured a steady, certain and increasing stream of dispossessed.
Once one is priced out of housing completely, his return to it is unlikely, and his chances of quickly being subsumed into the justice system is high, where as a prison inmate, his cost to the taxpayers will be more than offset by the profit he represents to the prison industry.
There is a lot to be said for moderation over isms. Whenever an ism is given precedence over the well-being of a society, the society fails.
My favorite analogy is the four year old and his dinner: if you give him nothing but cake, he will get sick, but if you give him nothing but broccoli, without the incentive of the cake, he will also get sick. Applied to economies, once you have fed, housed, and doctored all your people, you can have a big bowl of capitalism with whipped free market on top.
I have no problem with capitalism. In fact, it can be an effective feudalism-preventive dentifrice when used in a conscientiously applied program of responsible statehood and single standard human rights compliance.
Americans react very negatively to any suggestion of redistributing wealth, and this extremism is now moving in for the kill.
The gap between rich and poor has become so wide, and the concept of upward mobility so trampled that today, someone born into poverty has about the same chances of reaching the middle class as he does of winning the lottery.
Societies make choices, and choices have consequences.
As more people are priced out of housing, as increasing numbers of people have nothing to lose, the affluent also begin to learn about consequences.
Surging hordes of desperate poor do not make you, or the property you work hard to pay the bank for, safer.
The affluent must now make some hard decisions.
Shall the money you were saving for your child's education be used to pay off the mortgage? After all, he is not likely to need an education for the jobs of the future, and he will definitely need housing, which is rapidly becoming a luxury.
Or should you use the money to hire guards to protect your home from the poor, whose numbers grow faster than they can be seized and locked up?
Those of you who have traveled may have noticed that in some countries who have gone to a two class feudal system, even as close as Latin America, that the houses have walls around them. Tall, thick walls, with locked gates, and guards with machine guns to protect them from the starving kids who assailed you in the airport parking lot.
Small business owners must make room in their budget for gunmen to shoot the feral children who hover in their doorways, negatively impacting their sales to the monied class. Masses of indigent swarm over garbage dumps, for anything they can sell, for food.
Some of you may have noticed that restaurants in the US have begun keeping their dumpsters inside locked, fenced pens, to prevent this on a smaller scale.
Others may have noticed that your own status as a holder of discretionary resources has changed. A few decades ago, it was possible for a family to meet basic needs on one salary of a store clerk.
This did not happen overnight. It is the result of a series of societal choices, over a long period of time.
Unfortunately, while the way there may have been relatively slow, the only exit is not. The road of moderation not taken is a one way street. posted at
Thursday, March 03, 2005 | America's BTK Foreign Policy
It's like Oscar night. "The nominees are..." Everyone on the edge of their seats, rethinking those last-minute bets, "oh no wait, I wanna change my vote."
"May I have the envelope please?"
Condi Rice, a little giddy in her new role as starlet award presenter, simpers.
"And the winner is - "
For months, even years, people around the world have been speculating. Who will be next? Will it be Iran? Syria? Venezuela?
A couple of weeks ago, it looked like Iran for sure.
But then some Washington brows began to furrow. Maybe not. Iran is awful big. And it's got an air force. And bombs. Plus Russia says the oil there is theirs. And then there's the Michael Jackson trial. May sweeps and all.
And as quickly as the talking heads changed their predictions for best picture from Aviator to Million Dollar Baby, it was Suddenly Syria. And Lebanon, which as Uri Avnery points out in his recent comments, is not viewed with the same degree of separateness from Syria by everybody.
But when you're the US, how things are viewed doesn't really matter much.
If plausible deniability was needed once upon a time, it isn't today.
America's BTK foreign policy is not high maintenance.
And before you can say sparkle, terrible crimes had taken place in the Middle East which were immediately blamed on Syria.
The timing is pure coincidence, of course.
Anyone who suggests that it is hardly logical that Syria, a country with at least one company lapping up oil in Iraq, and a lucrative contract for outsourced US wetwork, would all of a sudden, within the space of a week, off a wily old Lebanese imperialist collaborator and then send a guy off to kill some Israeli gunmen on a bus in Tel Aviv is simply an anti-Semitic blame America firster and probably a single-payor-health-care-supportin' socialist to boot.
Syria did it, and that's that. Probably did the tsunami too, and they are occupying Lebanon!
Now this is truly astonishing. Both the US and Israel are simply outraged at Syria's military presence in Lebanon. Occupying another country! Can you imagine!
Within days, at least one US lawmaker had called for dropping nuclear weapons on Syria, Hilary Clinton, the wife of ex-US president Bill Clinton, chimed in to show that America is a moderate and gentle serial killer, suggested only that Syria should be punished, thus paving the way for a moving display of how the two allowed branches of the US corporate party will reach a compromise and only bomb Syria with conventional weapons, saving the nukes, presumably for Iran.
Meanwhile, Lebanon, in an unexpected burst of US-boosted people power, offered news cameras feeds of 60 thousand or so people in the streets, many carrying signs with slogans thoughtfully painted on in English, the government, said to be "pro-Syria," resigned, the army became somewhat divided, and the Israeli press reported that the US had given Israel the "go-ahead" to attack Syria.
The Golan Heights, natural settlement expansion, match made in heaven.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005 | Americans confused over what America is
There is a popular fallacy loose in the United States, that "America" means the guy at the convenience store counter, the family who lives next door, the people buying popcorn at the Magic Johnson Theatre, the girl who took your lunch order, your child's teacher.
America, some mistakenly believe, is apple pie and spring festivals and face painters and clowns and Hollywood spectaculars. It is not skateboard tournaments and liberty and justice for all.
America means mega-corporations who make large amounts of money from the blood and sweat and bones of those listed above, and millions of others all over the world, most of them living lives of worse misery than any of the above can even imagine.
America means death squads, brutal hordes of torturers and sexual predators, hopped up and let loose on half-starved populations with no defensive weapons to speak of, save what they can steal or cobble together as the tanks roll down their street.
America means marvelous new landmines who can blow children to bits from an exciting 300 meters.
America means microwave pain rays, to cook the flesh of any who would dare oppose BTK as foreign policy.
America means murdering journalists, and forcing anyone who mentions the fact to resign.
America means that if you are poor, you are fucked, and if you are not rich, you are about to be poor.
America means that your serious disease, your horrific injury, is a terrific business opportunity for rich men who want to be richer.
America means sending people to Syria to be tortured, and then criticizing human rights in Syria.
America means occupying Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and beyond, to one degree or another, funding Israeli occupation of Palestine, while decrying Syrian military presence in Lebanon.
And the list goes on.
To oppose any of this is to be anti-American. A terror apologist. With the terrorists. An obstructionist, a rejectionist, a conspiracy theorist, anti-business, socialist, a terrorist.
And to be anti-American is not pragmatic. posted at
Actions like Sep 11 do not happen in a vaccuum.
Long before those hijackers ever stepped foot on the planes the damage
had been done. They were brainwashed with the same type of garbage
propaganda that is spewed from Fatwa's weblog.
Middle Eastern countries are so much more barbaric today and preAmercia than America can ever hope to be...America has only been around 230 years...who did you blame for everything before that Ductape? I am calling a Fatwa on your bullshit!
IMO - terrorist plain and simple. He is an Al queda operative who
should be put in a cage on gitmo Skinner
My favorite..."In Defense of Holocaust Deniers"
I always thought that "The Enemy Within" was just a metaphore for liberalism, that is, until I encountered Ductape Fatwa. He should be in an orange jumpsuit for sure.
peopleforchange.netductape is either a commie, al queda, or a deep cover mole
Tells you something about this asshole doesn't it. He's really serious.
I believe that DF is nothing but a Republican plant...
Ductape is a commie, a terrorist, and he drinks blood too. He drinks
Capitalist blood. He eats unborn babies too
Give me your address and I'll send you $20 and a thank-you note for taking your hatred elsewhere.
A terrorist with a sense of humor!
He ain't nuthin' but shit
inadequate, halfway house bullshit
You are a dumbass. Fuck you and your condescension about us "benighted sheeple." hamletta
Untruthful, damaging bullshit
no better than the neocons and no different than Timothy McVeigh
dailykos.coma turd in the punchbowl...if DF were Joe Hill he probably would have killed himself rather than get put to death.
A compost pile of fecundity
dailykos.comdespicable and literally mentally ill