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We want answers from the pols: Why do Americans have to put up with Exploitative Profit Mining?

(This was written in steam of consciousness mode.)

This is an invitation to the politicians out there to answer this question.  Why are Americans expected to tolerate exploitative profit mining by the wealthy and well connected?  Why are we supposed to just sit here like crops to be harvested?  As soon as there is even a teensy bit of disposable income, that we are supposed to sock away for the future, some capitalist on steroids has to find a way of siphoning it off for his own use and profit.

We all know the game is rigged and yet we’re expected to put all of our precious savings in the stock market or in the hands of fund managers or pay a steep tax penalty to cover our living expenses if we have the misfortune to suffer periods of extended unemployment before we turn 59.5.

We’re all expected to get a college degree if we have even a prayer of getting a good job but then we are tied to these monstrous student loan debts or we spend years pursuing a PhD in a difficult subject only to find we have to take a series of $37K/year jobs.

We’re all expected to pony up hundreds and thousands of dollars for lousy health care policies and an ACA that has separated the country’s workers into two classes.  But the minute we ask for a fairer system that imposes cost controls on medical costs and profit limits on insurers, you’d think we were being irreligious.  Same with internet providers who can’t be bothered to improve their infrastructure even while they intend to reduce competition and split the proceeds from mergers amongst their shareholders.  Apparently, there is no one in Congress or the executive branch who thinks it is possible to stop what consumers think of as destructive mergers and loss of net neutrality.  Why are we expected to put up with that?

Every business and industry has figured out how to extract the maximum amount of pain and we rely on Congress to help us have a say in the matter and they do nothing to stop the extraction.

There’s got to be a better reason than the fact that campaign finance reform is broken.  We want answers as to why we are expected to tolerate the intolerable.

It’s one damn thing after another and no one is buying the excuse that nothing can be done because of the Republicans.  We’ve been watching this unfold for more than a decade and we haven’t even seen you Democrats putting up much of a fight.

Why does exploitative profit mining seem so unstoppable among the politicians that we elected to keep the playing field level so that we can all benefit from the fruits of our labors?

We want answers.  Feel free to use the comment thread below to provide them.  I think we have a right to expect a response of some kind.

Come on, Al Franken.  We supported you from the beginning.  What say you?  How about you, Elizabeth Warren?  And you, Hillary Clinton?  Enough of the foreign policy.  We want to hear about domestic issues.  What are you going to do about this?

Another fine product from Jane Caro

Jane Caro is a former advertising executive and now a public speaker in Australia.  Her presentations cover many topics but she’s particularly outspoken about politics, education and feminism.  Some of you might remember a former video of hers on how politicians can gain the trust of their constituents.  I think it might be this one where Caro was one of 4 panelists talking about political spin from an advertising branding point of view. Pick her up at minute marker 19:00-ish.*

This latest one is about feminism and not being “nice”.  According to Caro, and our own site statistics, we must have been doing something right in 2008 because the push back, name calling and ostracism was ferocious.  She also makes a point about women on the internet that I have been trying to emphasize for some years now.  When it comes to the blogosphere, the internet is the best friend women ever had.  It is the great equalizer.  Yeah, your potential allies can leave you off their blog rolls and the trolls can be hostile pains in the asses.  But they can’t shut you down.  Nope, you can go on saying one irritating thing after another and if you don’t like the comments you get, well, they’re just pixels on a monitor.  They can not hurt you.

Anyway, enjoy the latest from Jane Caro.

 

I found Caro’s eight rules of political branding.  Before the purists out there get all bent out of shape that using advertising is somehow “dirty” in politics, know that to get elected, you need to advertise yourself and show the voters that your services are worth purchasing for a length of time.  Politicians that do not advertise do not get elected.  It goes with the territory.  Here are the Eight Rules:

1.) Underpromise and overdeliver.
2.) Be voter centered. Convince your voters that you put them first. Take risks in defense of what you believe even if it may cost you personally.
3.) Don’t sacrifice what your core voters always liked about you to buy new voters.
4.) All voting decisions are made emotionally and then post-rationalized. There are two emotions that change behavior: Hope and Fear. If you want to change behaviors, get to know what are the voters’ hopes and fears.
5.) While voting decisions are made emotionally and are post-rationalized, you must give voters ammunition to defend their choice.
Policy is important.
6.) Raise voters’ morale and your own. We want to vote for people who look like they want the job and once they’ve got the job, look like they love the job.
7.) Lower voter anxiety about YOU.
8.) Voters want politicians to love their constituency.

About Kos and Netroots Nation

Please fade away

I’m embellishing a comment I made in the last thread and moving it up to the front page.

This is not specifically about Netroots Nation and Markos Moulitsos, the founder of DailyKos, and why he won’t go to Arizona next year.  However, I went to the first two YearlyKos events so I can comment on this whether they like it or not.  The first YearlyKos in Las Vegas was amazing.  The second was just weird in ways I can’t even describe.  The “vibe” was off and I started to feel coerced in a way that was not dissimilar to the kind of emotional manipulation you might find in a fundy evangelical tent revival meeting.  It was deeply unsettling.  So, maybe I knew after YearlyKos2 that I didn’t really belong anymore.

But now I hear that Kos is onboard with getting behind Hillary and telling his droogs to fall in line.  I don’t know because I don’t go to DailyKos and haven’t for going on 6 years now.  But I did read his self-righteous little screed about why he wouldn’t be attending Netroots Nation in 2015 and here’s my take on it:

For the presidential campaigns of 2016, Kos should STFU. Seriously, it was Kos that forced us (Clintonistas posting at DailyKos) out of our tribe and then lead the social psychology storm troopers to quell stifle smother kill dissent on the left.  If I recall correctly, he referred to us as a “shrieking band of paranoid holdouts”, or something to that effect. (Katiebird may remember the lovely term of endearment better than I can) Let’s examine Kos’s moral authority to make pronouncements about 2016.

Did Kos support Florida and Michigan voters in 2008? Um, no.

Was Kos a Hispanic leader defending the rights of primary voters who were locked out of Texas caucus sites? Um, no.

Did he defend the little old ladies who were silenced in Kansas? How about the primary votes in NJ that were handed over to Obama at the convention without so much as a “by your leave” by that paragon of virtue, Jon Corzine? Did he question the precedent the Democrats were setting when the most successful female candidate in the history of American politics was humiliated by being denied a legitimate role call vote at the convention?

No, No and, most emphatically, No.

His behavior was egregious and extraordinarily un-democratic in 2008 but no one challenged him. Well, WE did but then his flying monkeys accused us of racism.

So, I’m sure that Kos now flatters himself as a man of principle by refraining from entering Arizona. But he sold those principles to the highest bidder in 2008 giving us a president who I am convinced will go down in history as the Nero of our republic. In the process, he helped to invalidate the primary system, promoted the ends justifying the means, and allowed misogynism of the most vile and opportunistic kind to flourish on his blog.

So, fuck Kos with a 2″ diameter test tube brush.

He’s done enough damage. The best thing for Democrats to do is to get the hell out of the way and let people have choices in 2016.  A legitimate primary where real issues are discussed in detail by women who are familiar with policy, and can extrapolate policy outcomes, would be a very good thing. The party’s obsession with trying  to decide what is the best for us (and I am being generous with my words here) backfired stupendously in 2008.  It needs to back off now.

Just stop tinkering with the election process. Most Democratic voters know who is going to work for them. They don’t need to be corralled like sheep.

Update: So, I went over to the Big Orange Satan to see what they’re up to and it’s worse than I thought.  They are playing with dangerous things.

Update2: Maybe it doesn’t matter whether Kos attends Netroots Nation.  But we should never forget the atmosphere that he created in 2008 or dismiss the idea that it can’t happen again.  It can if we aren’t vigilant.  IMHO, Democrats should start with a fresh slate in 2016 (not necessarily fresh candidates) and evaluate candidates more dispassionately than they did in 2008. (yes, I know I’m dreaming)  As far as I can see, we did not learn our lessons and safeguards are not in place in the primary system or online to prevent a repeat.

Narcissists, scapegoats and the golden child

A few months ago, I said I would be revisiting the topic of narcissists.  It might have been Phillip Zimbardo’s book, The Lucifer Effect, that lead me to read more on narcissism and malignant narcissism.  Or maybe it was one of those moments that we all have from time to time when something we see that is out of focus suddenly snaps into place.  I had interactions with many narcissists last year in every possible area of my life.  The one at work was particularly awful. But whatever it was that finally clued  me in, I realized how narcissism has been allowed to run amok.

We all have the capacity for narcissism. Most healthy human beings have to be somewhat narcissistic to survive.  In this economic environment, we have all been pushed a bit further on the spectrum because a false sense of scarcity has been created and we are all competing for the same piece of the pie.  It pays to be more selfish, to project more confidence and talent than we actually have, and to adopt an “every woman for herself” attitude.  But most of us do not have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a way of seeing the rest of the world as merely actors in the play we wrote ourselves and are directing.

Here are the characteristics of people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD):

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance (may be shown as an exaggeration of abilities and talents, expectation that he or she will be seen as superior to all others).
  • Is obsessed with him- or herself.
  • Goals are almost always selfish and self-motivated.
  • Has troubles with healthy, normal relationships.
  • Becomes furious if criticized.
  • Has fantasies of unbound success, power, intelligence, love, and beauty.
  • Believes that he or she is unique and special, and therefore should only hang out with other special, high-status people.
  • Requires extreme admiration for everything.
  • Feels entitled – has unreasonable expectations of special treatment.
  • Takes advantage of others to further his or her own needs.
  • Has zero empathy – cannot (or will not) recognize the feelings of others.
  • May be envious of others or believe that others are envious of him or her.
  • Behaves arrogantly, haughtily.

- See more at: http://www.bandbacktogether.com/adult-children-of-Narcissistic-parents-resources/#sthash.HtiA1zJT.dpuf

Based on the number of politically tone deaf statements from the plutocrats about how the rest of us envy their success, it has become painfully obvious that there is a surplus of narcissists at the top. But you might be surprised by how many people with NPD hide behind religion.  A very religious person is very hard to criticize and our social structure gives them a convenient cover screen.  How could a person who praises the lord and loves Jesus (and lets you know about it all. the. time.) be selfish, manipulative and malicious? It’s a brilliant place to be if you want control but want to come off looking sweet and pious while simultaneously believing that you are superior to others because you have The Truth.  Many cult-like and high control fundamentalist religious organizations encourage this kind of narcissism in their converts. The Duggar family is a perfect example of this mindset.

And then there is the right wing noise machine that seems to encourage a base narcissism in its target audience.  The unlucky “deserve” what they get while the rich “deserve” what they’ve gotten.  And what’s wrong with saying things that are racist?  You’re allowed to be a racist if you want to be.  (I’m just paraphrasing the incredible things I’m hearing from the Fox News crowd lately.  Personally, I think racism is revolting in thought, word and deed.) Putting people down to make yourself look superior is a hallmark of a narcissist, although I doubt that these same Fox News watchers would be as comfortable saying it’s Ok to be anti-semitic.  Just a guess.

The relationships that develop in a family poisoned by a narcissistic parent illustrate on a micro scale what can be projected to a wider audience in the political sphere.  In a family when one of the parents has narcissistic personality disorder, the children in the family are frequently pitted against one another.  The NPD parent designates one of the children as the scapegoat.  The role of the scapegoat may rotate but it’s usually one particular child that is targeted.  This child is usually the more sensitive child, the one who doesn’t play the game and flatter the narcissist, the truth teller.  When the NPD parent injures this child using emotional manipulation and encouraging the others in the family to “mob” (bullying by group), the NPD parent gets a whiff of narcissistic supply.  They get off on control and their ability to make someone else feel inferior, to sabotage and limit their success. The goal of the NPD parent is to make the scapegoat bend to her will by using ostracism, mockery, malicious gossip and alienation.  Yeah, imagine living with that.

The golden child, on the other hand, can do no wrong.  No matter how much the kid screws up, the NPD parent will make excuses.  It’s not his fault.  The problem started before he came along.  He needs time to mature.  He will never suffer the consequences of his behavior nor will there be any criticism of his limitations.  Indeed, any minor accomplishment is made to look magnificent.

And then there are the flying monkeys.  Flying monkeys are the siblings, and others, who act as the hit men for the NPD parent.  They are sent on missions to obtain information from the scapegoat that gets reported back to the NPD parent.  The parent then uses that information to spread rumors, gossip and malicious mockery through his or her own actions or the actions of the flying monkeys.  The gossip may contain a hint of truth but this is usually blown out of proportion.  The more voices that propagate the gossip, the greater the negative effect on the scapegoat.

So, here’s my leap from micro to macro and what we will be subjected to for the next two years until the presidential election.  The narcissists are in charge.  They control the horizontal and the vertical.  All the moneys are belong to them and they are determined to extract every penny of what they think they are owed.  They will do this by conscripting the US government to cover their debts even if it means impoverishing the tax base.  They don’t see labor as consisting of real people.  Labor is a resource to be used when it is needed and discarded when it is not.

I’d like to use the term exploitative profit mining to describe the effect of unfettered narcissistic capitalism on the general public and predict that this will continue to result in economic instability and eventually, the dangerous undermining of democratic governments.  The early and mid 20th century saw the negative fallout of this kind of behavior with WWI, the Great Depression and WWII.  I’d hate to think we are going to have to live through those kinds of upheavals again but the rise of ultra right wing and nationalistic parties in Europe in the wake of austerity, as well as the political chaos caused by the Tea Party fanatics here in the US have me very worried that we’re headed for trouble.

Over the past 6 years, we have become all too familiar with the typical behaviors and attitudes of narcissists.  Do not look to them for any sense of empathy.  They do not possess it and the only mechanisms for keeping them in check have been abandoned at this point.  Check out any review of Tim Geithner’s book, Stress Test, if you want to know what he,  the lieutenant of the narcissists, did on their behalf.  Keep in mind the characteristics of narcissists as you read it.

Their most significant triumph to date has been to get their golden child elected.  The scapegoat is Hillary Clinton.  Look at any comment section of a left leaning blog and you will find this is true.  Obama inherited the financial crisis.  That’s why the economy sucks.  The Republicans hate Obama.  That’s why the ACA is FUBAR.  Obama didn’t start the war in Iraq.  So, it’s not his fault if the void we left when we pulled out of Iraq has destabilized the country.

(Sidenote: Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker was interviewed on Fresh Air yesterday.  In the last 4 minutes of the interview, Filkins lays out the culpability of the Obama administration with respect to the current crisis in Iraq.  It’s not pretty. Expect Filkins to suffer some scapegoating for truth telling about the golden child’s “accomplishments”.)

Hillary can do nothing right.  Everything she says is scrutinized in order to put the worst possible spin on it.  She’s not perfect, that’s for sure, and right now, unless I see her move to the left boldly to take on the exploitative profit miners, it will be hard for me to justify voting for her.  But, golly gee, nobody is as bad as the left seems to think Hillary is.  According to the left, she and her husband wrecked welfare and imposed an unconstitutional piece of legislation on gay people while single handedly destroying Glass-Steagall.  Then they wickedly danced around the fire while chanting incantations, laughing evilly at the suffering of others and killing the bees.  It’s an image of the Clintons that completely cuts out the crazy Whitewater scandal, the crazy Monica scandal, the hours of congressional hearings and special prosecutions over billing records, and the millions of dollars that they and their friends and everyone who ever worked for them were forced to spend on what turned out to be harassment suits.  This during the Newt Gingrich years.  Remember Newt??

But it doesn’t matter.  Hillary Clinton is facing flying monkeys on the left as well as the right.  And while we can’t do anything about the flying monkeys on the right, I just have to wonder if the flying monkeys on the left have thought this through.  The books I’ve read say that the flying monkeys are not always aware of what they are doing.  The narcissists controlling them make them feel included, like they’re one of the club.  And it’s fun to get that sip of narcissistic oxygen that comes with watching the scapegoat flailing and not succeeding.

There’s a danger to this though.  If Hillary truly is the last great hope of the left in 2016, and she sees that the narcissists and flying monkeys on the left are determined to see her fail, then her only choice to win the White House is to appeal to the disaffected voters of 2008 who abandoned the Democrats for the Tea Party.  That wouldn’t be me.  I’m still in exile.  I’m talking about the more socially conservative Democrats who felt snubbed by Obama and his supporters writing them off, calling them religious, gun toting, bitter knitters.  She’s got to get her votes from somewhere and if the crunchy lefties and snobby lefties are going to get prodded by the narcissists to go after her non-stop from now until 2016, then she’s going to have to appeal to the Reagan Democrats.  At this point, the left is all but conceding that she is the inevitable candidate (why they say this is anyone’s guess but it’s out there).  And if it is true that the left is finally, reluctantly, going to get behind Hillary, it’s going to be undermining its own candidate if it keeps telling the world how loathsome it thinks she is.

That’s something to think about.

On the other hand, Hillary has to come to terms with her scapegoat role.  Once you have become the scapegoat, there is virtually nothing you can do about changing it. Defensiveness doesn’t do much good. The scapegoating will continue until the narcissist dies or the flying monkeys get a clue as to how and why they are being used.  As long as the flying monkeys are getting off on what they’re doing, finding it successful, and the golden child remains protected, don’t expect anything to change.  The scapegoat has a choice.  Go along with it or divorce the whole family.  You can never appease the narcissist enough to be your own person.

Romancing the PUMAs

Lambert posted about the Democrat’s growing election dilemma yesterday with some speculation from an EJ Dionne article. PUMAs are back, baby!  Oh Yeah!

Or should I say, the stupid racist menopausal uneducated working class sino-peruvian lesbians are back.  It’s very weird how the Democrats manage to mine the data and come up with this constituency over and over again.  It’s a distortion that kinda-sorta proves the point of the Mad Men post I wrote yesterday.  Computers can be extraordinarily useful but they also tend to be levelers.  There are descriptors that the guys (and they are almost always guys) did not collect before they ran their analysis.  Now, they may have enough information to get enough PUMAs to the polls in November but THIS former PUMA, and I suspect many others, will be a much tougher sell.  But first, let’s try to clarify what we mean by Clinton voter and PUMA.

From my own perspective, the acronym PUMA, Party Unity My Ass, was only useful through the 2008 election season.  I was a New Deal Liberal style Democrat who voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996.  Unlike a lot of younger Democrats, I have a completely different and more realistic understanding of what the Clintons were up to back then.  I’m a late baby boomer who didn’t benefit from the earlier baby boomers’ advantages.  I was a working mother back in 1992 and I strongly identified with Hillary Clinton.  I saw “ending welfare as we know it” as a very good thing because the idea was only part of a strategy to introduce more of a European style welfare state with a national health policy, educational training, child care and housing.  It was all part of a package deal.  Then I saw both the Democratic party and the Republican party pick that package to bits.  The Democrats helped deep six the healthcare initiatives and Newt Gingrich’s Contract On America destroyed welfare.  That’s what happened guys.  You might have been studying and partying.  The rest of us were living in a grown up world.  As for NAFTA, I’m sorry, I think it’s a good idea to remove trade barriers between your two closest neighbors.  I had problems with some of the details but in general, these were Republican insertions, not Clinton’s.

We can talk about Glass-Steagel and Robert Rubin if you like.  In retrospect, deregulation of the banks and derivatives, etc, was a pretty bad thing but it was also an unstoppable phenomenon.  Clinton was NOT the driving force behind these initiatives.  From what I can recall, Phil Gramm was the nasty on the TV all the time ramming this crap down our throats.  Go look it up.  To this day, I avoid Texas just so I don’t have to run into that drawl.

Ok, so that’s my background.  You can read my credo in the tabs to find out what I value, and from the site statistics, someone(s) has become very interested in those values of late.

Now, when I say PUMA was only a 2008 thing, that means that to ME, after the election was over, it lost its meaning as a resistance movement.  The Democratic party lost me.  I officially rescinded my membership in the party in 2008 and only re-registered as a Democrat in PA last year when I applied for a new driver’s license here in PA after my move.  In PA, the primaries are closed so voters are forced to choose a party when they register to vote, unlike NJ where the semi-closed primary means you can choose a party on primary election day.  I think anyone who reads my credo will see that I am a liberal New Deal style Democrat but my party affiliation, in spite of my registration, is very tenuous.  In other words, if a third party came around that represented my views, I’d jump in an instant.  Also note that I’m not a fan of the Greens and don’t particularly care for the crunchy type’s irrational condemnation of GMO crops, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, nuclear energy and corporations.  I find some of the left to be as black and white in their thinking as the right and, frankly, I am losing patience debating the “religious” beliefs of both sides.  I’m also not a selfish short sighted Libertarian.  That’s where the rebels without a cause hang out. And you will never catch me voting for Republican ever again.  My one vote for McCain in 2008 was purely a protest vote against the Democratic party because of its unethical treatment of its own party voters in 2008.  It was not an expression of support for the Republican party or its cavalier, cruel, heartless, greedy, narcissistically malignant, lying, deceptive, destructive platform of “ideas”.

It was very upsetting to pull that lever and I will never forgive the Democratic party for pushing me to make that decision for a couple of important reasons.  First, I was deprived of an identity and second, I was deprived of voting for the first African-American for president.  But in my very important opinion, voting for the first ANYTHING was not a sufficient excuse to overlook or condone the party for rigging the primary and compromising what the party stood for. Some Democrats were able to overcome their moral resistance to what the party was asking them to do.  I could not.  That’s what made me a PUMA and also explains why PUMA lost its utility after the election.  I felt that that what was required to fix what was broken was something bigger, more organized and longer lasting than a slogan.  And then real life intervened and I couldn’t devote any time to it.

But PUMA did survive in another form on other blogs.  I can’t endorse these other PUMA blogs.  I have a sense that they were compromised by Tea Party and Republican operatives.  There was an irrational embrace of birtherism and a weird support for Sarah Palin.  This blog struggled with some of those holdouts for awhile until their presence got to be unbearable.  These are the people that I think EJ Dionne is referring to in his post.  What I think they have in common is their extreme anger at what happened to them in 2008.  They were completely ignored by the Democrats who circular filed their votes and topped it off with a smug, “we’re smarter and know what’s best for you, you ignorant working class ‘gits” attitude.

Oh really?  Those PUMAs who are still fuming on the Tea Party friendly blogs may not have Ivy League degrees or know someone who works in a “creative class” field but when it comes right down to it, the election of Barack Obama has done more to solidify the strangle hold of the oligarchs on the American public than any previous president we have ever had.  We have actually devolved as a progressive nation.  I will go so far as to say that Obama’s presidency has sped up that devolution.  You could argue that Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have been different but my intuition (which hasn’t failed me yet in this whole mess) tells me that you would be wrong.  In any case, when it comes right down to it, the “creative class” that got fooled into voting for Obama in 2008 and 2012 is no different from the working class voters it dismissed so senselessly. To the oligarchs, you might as well be living on a rice paddy in Bangladesh.  Your ultimate fate is no different than the bitter gun toting church goers in rural Pennsylvania.  You can be economically ruined and made politically impotent just as easily.  That truth is just now dawning on you as you read The Divide and Piketty’s Capital and the latest study that says you don’t have enough money to make a dent in the lobbying shield wall of the 1%.

As for me, I don’t know if I would support Clinton in 2016.  My sense is that so much has happened to fundamentally change the nature of our country in the past 20 years that there would have to be a personality much bigger and more visionary than Clinton’s to drag us back onto the right track.  Could she do it?  Maybe.  But maybe she also recognizes the political landscape that she would be entering.  I saw her evolve during the primary season.  She was forged by fire and was gaining momentum when the party cut her off.  That was a mistake the party made out of fear but it made it prematurely.  By September of 2008, Elmer Fudd could have gotten elected as the first cartoon Democratic president, the situation was that dire.  In a sense, the election of Barack Obama was not a triumph of identity politics as much as it was one of panic and desperation.  But I have no doubt that under Hillary Clinton, there would have been more rehab and less codependence.

Slightly off topic, I find it interesting that so many people on both the right and the left are ramping up their anti-Hillary rhetoric.  Those Democrats who are still on the fence about her should take a moment to think about what’s going on there. Both parties are pawns of the oligarchs right now.  And someone in the Democratic party has pushing hard on the idea that if we just let Obama have his 2 terms, we could have Hillary in 2016.  That push acknowledges two things: 1.)People want someone to do something already and they’ve decided that the most likely person is Hillary and 2.) if you treat voters like children and make them delay their gratification, you can make them focus on some future uncertain reward while taking their minds off what they can do to help their own desperate situations in the present.  Whatever the left is currently spewing about how bad the Clintons are bears a striking similarity to the right’s mindless invectives against them to me.  And that suggests that there are some very powerful people who do not want Hillary to be the next president.  If she were already in the pockets of these very powerful people, you would expect less vilification, wouldn’t you?  Think about it.

In the meantime, I will leave you with this link to Phillip Zimbardo’s steps for overcoming situational influence.  The Democratic activist base should have read this before they flattered themselves that they were not at all like Kansas and couldn’t be fooled into doing anything against their own best interests.  I only recently discovered these steps but I think I’ve been wise to them since YearlyKos 2007 in Chicago when something just didn’t seem right.

As to the Democrats winning the election in 2014 and 2016, I’m almost getting to the point where it doesn’t feel like it will make a difference which party wins in November.  Having the Democrats in charge only slows down the slide to the right.  It doesn’t stop it.  And as destructive as the slide might be, I see very little evidence that the Democrats are motivated to prevent if from happening.  In fact, the dangerous collapse of the Republicans into crazyville only makes it easier for the oligarchs to get just about anything they want from the Democrats with very little effort.  Like I said before, I would gladly jump to a third party that is more responsive to my values.  At this point, appealing to me as a former PUMA is probably a waste of time because I see what I am to the party- a faceless data point projected onto a latent structure.

When the party starts treating me like an enfranchised citizen again, then we’ll talk.

 

(Un)intended Consequences?

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The last vacation I took: Bethany Beach, Delaware, July 2011

In a day or two, I will relate my own ongoing struggle with Obamacare (it’s not positive, believe it or not).  But for now, I want to talk about something I saw yesterday on Corrente regarding the Clinton papers and what Hillary Clinton had to say about the individual mandate.

But first, let me tell you about Jobs4NJ.  When I was laid off back in 2011 from the job I loved, I signed up for the NJ job matching service.  You upload your CV to their database, spend 2 hours correcting all the formatting mistakes, and wait.  By the way, we were told at the NJDOL that we could also apply for state jobs but that each job application would require a $25 fee.  That fee was non-refundable whether you got a job or not.  Imagine asking a bunch of unemployed people to cough up $25 for each job opening they saw on the state employment site.  I’m wondering if that was a Christie innovation.  The DOL employees were extremely kind, helpful and treated us with dignity and respect and even they thought the fee was outrageous.

Anyway, getting back to Jobs4NJ.  They sent me some job listings.  The good positions were gone, gone, gone from NJ.  The postings I got had descriptions that seemed a bit vague, as if the companies themselves weren’t really sure what they wanted.  Most positions in “science” were really business positions.  Apparently, R&D has an unmet demand for marketing and finance specialists.  Labrats?  Ehhhh, not so much.

I applied to some of the few low level lab positions that were available, and, as is the custom these days with companies, never heard back from any of them that they even received my CV and cover letter or what exactly the mismatch was.  This was not the example of malignant narcissism run amok that I alluded to a couple of days ago though.  I would be grossly exaggerating if I characterized this all too typical insensitivity towards jobseekers as evil.  I’m saving the story of true senseless malice for a book.

I still get email from Jobs4NJ, though you’d have to drag me kicking and screaming to go back to that state.  But I noticed something the other day about the new positions.  Quite a few of them have the word “CONTRACT” in the post.  Hmmm, that’s a new one, thought I.  And then, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

Over a year ago, I predicted that the ACA would lead to a greater number of contract positions.  And why is that?  There are a couple of reasons.  One, it allows many corporations to go “weightless”.  They don’t have to offer their workers benefits if they get a third party vendor to handle their human resources needs.  That third party vendor becomes a middle man, matching up contractors with the company.  The middle man becomes the tax collector who processes the paperwork and handles the  untidy business of interacting with the people who, you know, get their hands dirty in the labs.  (Sidenote: It always amused me when I compared the executive cafeteria with the R&D cafeteria.  The business workers had bespoke prepared foods, plenty of healthy and delicious options and an on-call nutritionist who would consult with you on your dietary needs.  I witnessed this personally one day.  The R&D cafeteria served the kind of high fat, high calorie limited entrees that would be perfect for coal miners, not a bunch of bespectacled, skinny geeks.  But since the executives rarely interacted with us, we may perhaps excuse them for thinking we were grimy blue collar lumberjacks who needed 5000 calories per serving of bland, greasy food.)

The other reason why the ACA is leading to a greater number of non-full time, contract positions is that because the employer mandate keeps getting put off, indefinitely, it seems, the employee is now responsible for carrying the weight of the health care premiums, which, by the way, are still astronomical when the deductibles and OOP expenses are factored in.  An increase in precariousness shouldn’t be surprising.  Why should an employer invest money in training and retaining an employee when they don’t have to?  It’s a kind of moral hazard, is it not?

So, it came as no surprise to me that Hillary Clinton saw a flaw in the individual mandate back in the 90s.  Let’s be clear, that’s not the same as a universal mandate, which seems to be a cornerstone of successful national health care systems around the world.  It’s important that all stakeholders, employees and employers, buy in to the system or it doesn’t work.  But to put all of the burden on individuals and letting employers get away with no responsibility?  According to the papers, Hillary Clinton said that was a problem:

“That is politically and substantively a much harder sell than the one we’ve got — a much harder sell,” Clinton said. “Because not only will you be saying that the individual bears the full responsibility; you will be sending shock waves through the currently insured population that if there is no requirement that employers continue to insure, then they, too, may bear the individual responsibility.”

Yes, this is exactly what is happening.  EVERYONE is potentially affected.  Even worse, there may be a two tier system of employees.  I can just imagine the better connected, legacy ivy league graduates becoming fully vested in the employee benefit system while the state school graduates scramble from job to job trying to find a foot hold.  It’s already happening in the pharmaceutical industry where what the MBAs consider the cream of the crop get the few coveted positions in Cambridge and San Francisco and the rest of us run from contract position to contract position, or stuck in an endless series of low paying post doc positions.  (Sidenote: you politicians are crazy if you think we former scientists are going to let you get away with the “there aren’t enough STEM workers” schtick.  We are already all over the comments sections and posting loud and clear that there is no shortage.  We’re not going to let our children languish in the labs for decades while they make less money than a first grade teacher for all the education they have.)

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!!

What else do contract workers not have besides health care benefits?

Well, I will tell you because I have been there.  They don’t have pensions, 401K plans, sick days, holidays or vacation days. They don’t get tuition discounts or reimbursements.  They don’t get to ride the buses for free nor can they get a spot in the employee parking lots.  And if you are a temp or contract worker, you don’t really have ANY labor protections.  You may have trouble getting paid due to the way companies pay their invoices.  In some cases, you have no protection against discrimination.  Think of how gay contractors fare with even the federal government.  YOU’RE a CONTRACTOR.  Your boss could call you in at any time of the day or night and make unreasonable demands on your time.  He may decide to arbitrarily cut your hours in half one week and let YOU worry about how you’re going to pay the rent or health insurance premium while your kid is in the hospital. As a temp worker “you do not have a salary”, as I was so brusquely  and dismissively reminded one day.

See where this is going?  Sorry, people, this is where we already are.  It’s not the future of employment.  It is the now.  Check out the Freelancer’s Union to see what employment is turning into.  A rational person would become debt free as quickly as possible and build a tiny house with solar panels and no plumbing and grow their own food.  We can let Krugman wax rhapsodic about what would happen to the economy if everyone cut back and accrued as little debt as possible.  Talk about lack of demand.  But that’s where we’re headed.  Those of us who were lucky enough to have some savings when the masters of the universe decided to pull up stakes and grab the pie for themselves have decided to stop spending money.  It’s self preservation but it’s not healthy for the country.  No more Royal Caribbean cruises, no more vacation rentals at the shore.  We question whether we really need that bentwood coffee table and agonize over hair cuts.  We save up for the days we have to call in sick.  We put off replacing our broken phones.

I think it’s time we stopped making excuses for our politicians that let this happen.  In fact, I’m not blaming Republicans for the recent, drastic, horrible negative turn of events that working people are experiencing right now.  They were like snakes and we knew what they were.  Their poison was already well understood by the educated working class.  We have no one to blame but ourselves for allowing the stealthy predators into our midst in the last 6 years.  Some of us were so bedazzled by being called “creative” that we failed to look closely at who our new friends were.

But whether the war on the working class by the financiers was intentional or not, we can no longer deny, or should I say, we deny at our peril, that our nation’s top politicians have provided a moral hazard for finance and businesses both large and small, to continue to shed benefits and worker protections via the contracting route.  In the pharmaceutical area, this was accomplished easily by laying off hundred of thousands of R&D professionals in the wake of the Great Recession and now hiring us back as contractors.  Indeed, the high unemployment rate of the last several years coupled with the delay in the employer mandate for the ACA has created a perfect storm where the stripping of compensation is going to pick up even faster and reach deeper into the American workforce just as Hillary predicted decades ago.

It’s happening so fast that many of us don’t even realize the predators are on us until we’re being forced down the gullet.  Will this become a harder sell politically in November 2014?  We will see.

The Democrats’ big mistake. HUGE

So, it looks like the federal healthcare exchange site is not going to meet its deadline. And there are a bunch of Senators getting all antzy about Obamacare (really? Just now? Didn’t you guys READ what you passed??). And to top it all off, Obama is going all Waffle Man on us, all right?

Now, I’m not going to claim that Hillary Clinton would have given us a better healthcare bill, although I’m going to bet she would have researched it to within an inch of her life. But what I am absolutely sure of is that damn healthcare site would have been up and running on time because it would have been tested thoroughly two years ago. Because, you know, some people do their homework and are diligent pains in the asses and some people aren’t, all right?

Here’s a blast from the past from Tina Fey to remind the party where it went wrong. Well, first, it listened to a bunch of overeducated grad student guys who had problems with women and were quite willing to saddle us with an untested corporate schmoozer type from their tribe. This was clearly more important than poor and sick people getting healthcare. Some accomplishment.

Thanks for ruining everything, Assholes.

I wouldn’t count on complacency

Krugman wrote a post on The Political Economy of Permanent Stagnation pointing out that the economy just plods along with high unemployment and sluggishness and people are just getting used to it:

But won’t there be an ever-growing demand from the public for action? Actually, that’s not at all clear. While there is growing “austerity fatigue” in Europe, and this might provoke a crisis, the overwhelming result from U.S. political studies is that the level of unemployment matters hardly at all for elections; all that matters is the rate of change in the months leading up to the election. In other words, high unemployment could become accepted as the new normal, politically as well as in economic analysis.

I guess what I’m saying is that I worry that a more or less permanent depression could end up simply becoming accepted as the way things are, that we could suffer endless, gratuitous suffering, yet the political and policy elite would feel no need to change its ways.

Given that I am sort of *living* the rude awakening from the American Dream and see many people in similar distressing circumstances, I can tell Krugman that there is definitely not complacency out here.  There’s anger, bitterness and resentment.  The resentment is not because we want to be rich or have two or three nice Lexus SUVs and a Pied a Terre in Lower Manhattan.  It’s that some of us can’t afford rent on a small row house in a 70 year old affordable housing development and pay for a health insurance policy on an exchange.

The administration should not get complacent and assume that the great unwashed masses out here have no idea what a raw deal they’re getting with Obamacare.  I am quite surprised at the number of people making a lousy $11/hour at their less than full time jobs who know better than some bloggers exactly how much they’re going to have to pay in taxes and penalties if they can’t afford a policy. I’ve met young healthy guys who can’t afford a doctor and physical therapist to treat their possibly dislocated, inflamed shoulders that they use every day to dig trenches.  They know exactly how the bonus class is screwing them.

All they need is a charismatic, take-no-prisoners, energetic politician to speak for them and there will be plenty of change.  That’s why the moneyed elite will fight back tooth and nail and smear any such politician who challenges it.  That’s why we have Obama.

They’re going to try to run a woman next time.  The Republican campaign against modernity will make her extremely attractive.  I don’t think it will be Hillary for the same reason that Krugman feels that stagnation is something we have gotten used to.  Hillary’s best chance was 2008. Her policy wonkiness, knowledge of the executive branch and vision would have been well suited to tackling the financial collapse and turning back the worst of the Bush policies.  That’s why she didn’t get the nomination in 2008.  The moneyed class didn’t want experience, knowledge and competency.

By the time 2016 rolls around, Republican policies will be more firmly set and it’s going to take someone who is bold enough to shake the foundations to really make a difference and roll back 16 years of stingy conservatism and bad financial and business decisions.  Can she do it?  Sure she could.  But the forces who kept her out in 2008 will either make her kiss their rings, in which case, she’d be useless to us, or they’re going to try to take her out again.  If the establishment Democratic party starts pushing her as their nominee genuinely, I’d have to question how much she’s been co-opted.  She’d almost have to run against her own party.  I haven’t seen that yet and given what a loyal Dem she is, don’t expect to.

Anyway, my point is that there’s plenty of discontent.  The people in charge might want to seriously consider what they’re doing.  The people I’ve been talking to are majorly pissed off right now at their prospects and we’re talking about manual labor all the way to the most educated among us.  A whole swath of Americans of all socio-economic levels are just waiting for a sign.  At this point, I don’t know if it’s going to come from the right or the left but when it happens, it’s going to be big.

One other thing: The bonus class shouldn’t sit on its laurels after the Voting Rights Act was gutted last week.  The discontent has spread so wide now that it is no longer confined to the generational poor and minority voters.

I have lettuce!

And radishes!

And Deer!

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Funny, I don’t remember planting any Deer.

My cousin gave me a moonflower.  Going to put it in the flower bed right outside the back door once I get rid of the gigantic hosta and the poison ivy.  Why, yes, I DO have an itchy rash on my wrists and ankles.  Why do you ask?

PLUS!

Hillary Clinton just verified her Twitter account.  Here’s what her account profile looks like:

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That doesn’t look like a presidential candidate’s profile.  That looks like someone who wants to express an opinion or two.

Excellent.

You can follow her debut at #tweetsfromhillary.

O-care

Paul Krugman’s latest column is about the mess of our national health care system.  He makes a good point about how social insurance programs make us freer people, allowing us to change jobs and start new enterprises without the fear of economic catastrophe.  But I’m not sure the so-called “jahb creators” care about economic catastrophes that happen to ordinary people.  To them, the only thing that counts is success.

I’ve got to admire Paul’s sunny optimism about Obamacare but, frankly, I think it’s a pretty fricking bad piece of legislation that didn’t rein in health care costs, locked us into a decidedly UN-free marketplace  with zero competition, and was only achieved by throwing women’s right to an abortion under a bus.  So, you know, there’s that.  I don’t particularly like Obama’s method of getting universal healthcare.

It beats me why he didn’t take his own state of Hawaii as a model for healthcare where employers can choose from several tiers of coverage for their employees, from basic coverage to more swank.  Oh, wait, that sounds more like what Hillary proposed during the 90s.  You know, the system that everyone whined was too complicated?

At this point, I would take even a basic plan.  My COBRA coverage runs out at the end of this month. I can’t complain about my insurance provider, except for the outrageous premium, even with group rates.  The coverage was superb. That’s what my French company negotiated for us. But getting insurance on the open market is fairly terrifying.  I will be looking into CHIP programs for the kid.  It’s going to be an adventure.  Spending hours and days trying to justify my need after the decades I spent as a hard-working taxpayer is not how I want to spend my time.

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