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The Conflucian policy advice to Hillary Clinton on economics

It’s a bit much for one dragon.

She didn’t ask for my opinion but she’s getting 200 advisors to tell her theirs. The problem she is facing is how to rebalance the country in terms of income inequality without, you know, pissing off the ultra wealthy. I’m not sure it can be done. A little bit of a snit is to be expected in all likelihood. Although, maybe she could have someone from Vox put together one of those cool and groovy graphics that demonstrate that no matter how hard the vanishing middle class works, we will never be able to afford our own yachts. That might bring a tear to the eyes of the 1%. The graphics should show how big a boat you can buy on a lifetime of $32000/year (if you’re lucky enough to get that these days) compared to what Steve Ballmer can buy.

Ok, so what would I recommend? Well, the rich are not going to like this but I’m not really interested in how the rich feel about these things. I’m only interested in bringing back prosperity, income security and innovation to the American middle class. It’s not all about them, except they are behaving like greedy dragons sitting on a giant pile of gold. If they’d just get off the stash we wouldn’t have any problems with the rich. I don’t envy their wealth and don’t want to be like them. I just want to be fairly compensated without feeling like I just got a handout that i didn’t deserve.

What I see as the biggest obstacle to income equality is what I call “exploitative profit mining”. That is the idea that Americans  can be harvested for various wealth through rents, fees and deregulation. I don’t want to feel like a crop anymore. The number one biggest policy initiative that I would propose is to eliminate the incentives to take advantage of everyday Americans simply because there is no one making sure it doesn’t happen. Than means reregulation. I can already hear the screams and howls from the flaming swamp monsters of the ridiculously rich. We can start at Wall Street. Let’s stop rewarding excessive financialization and risk taking. Maybe this would mean that Wall Street bonuses have to be capped at no more than 15% of income. That’s right, give those guys a straight salary. Maybe this would mean you can’t work an analyst to death at 100 hours a week. Go through every industry and increase the compensation to all stakeholders, not just the shareholders. Hire good managers and stop making CEOs co-owners who have an incentive to increase the values of their options at everyone else’s expense. That’s not socialism. That’s fairness.

Speaking of shareholders, I would like to see an alternative to the 401K. Americans should not be forced to gamble their retirement savings at a global casino. It’s immoral to require non-wealthy Americans to do this. Sorry, I’m not into it. I don’t like risk, especially when I’m going to have to live on that money. Plus, the 401K system undermines industries and innovations that create jobs. We have all seen investments gain in value when jobs are eliminated. The work still has to be done but it’s sent overseas or heaped onto the backs of people who are left after the lay off bloodbath. It’s inefficient and it destroys wealth of the middle class. Again, shareholders are not the only people who count. Bring back defined benefit pensions.

Medicare for all. There I said it. It’s ridiculous that anyone in this country has to be at risk of losing everything they’ve worked for all of their lives because cruelty is the flavor of the day on TV and radio. Let’s stop beating people when they’re down. If there are going to be sacrifices, everyone should have to make them, including the people getting rich on hip joint replacements and hospital beds. If you can’t get Medicare for all, at least impost cost controls and uniform fee schedules. Insurance companies shouldn’t have to negotiate different payments for each course of treatment based on how much profit providers think they can reap. Obamacare is not the wonderful panacea it’s been made out to be and it was never supposed to control costs. Let’s stop lying about it.

For god’s sakes, do something about long term unemployment. We’ve been hanging out here for too long. The jobs numbers are not telling the whole story. There are too many part time positions, too many temp positions and salaries are too low. Plus, ageism is rampant. Those of us who have decades to go before we can retire need to live on something. In the meantime, our lives are on hold. We can’t spend money because we don’t have it. That’s a drag on the economy and it depresses the wages of everyone else. People in the sciences especially need help. There’s a blighted generation that needs to be working. Set up some  private-public research labs, pay us a living wage and let’s get on with it already. We’re being wasted out here.

Those are some of my suggestions. I can think of a zillion more. We need to work on infrastructure, especially broadband. We need to gradually free ourselves from fossil fuel. The lefties will make climate change the reason but I’m just as interested in loosening the control of the super rich oil barons on the rest of our lives. Their price manipulations affect everything from mass transit initiatives to food prices. We should be allowed to choose whether we want to be owned by oil. I choose not to.

By the way, I don’t want profit sharing. I want a nice, steady income with a living wage. I’ve seen profit sharing schemes and they’re not serious. They are no substitute for stability. Our corporate overlords have a different value system than average Americans. Some of us do not want to be our own bosses, aren’t particularly turned on by playing capitalist games and just want the sweet relief of a regular paycheck. Recognize this. It’s important. Let’s stop measuring success in terms of how many yachts we can buy. Success can mean many things from discovering a new drug to being the best baker around. It’s not all about money.

I invite other Confucians to chime in here. What would your advice be to Hillary?

Finally, here is a video from one of my favorite straight talking Australians, Jane Caro. Caro has a background in advertising but she has been a popular speaker on education and feminism as well. In this video, Caro speaks about Dangerous Ideas. Her bit on quotas for women on boards and other institutions is brilliant. Not to be missed. So, I would add as a final suggestion to Hillary to institute a Gender Glasses program like they have in Finland. That is a government office that actually gathers cold, hard statistics from workplaces that demonstrate whether there is discrimination that prevents women from succeeding. No more “he said/she said”. If statistics are good enough in sports, they’re good enough to prove sexism in the workplace. Let’s measure everything. This country is way too deferential to men’s needs and ignores the economic impact on women’s lives.

Fast forward to about the 3 minute mark to Jane’s introduction.

25 Responses

  1. I don’t have good feeling about our future. I just don’t.

  2. I’m a little annoyed with the idea that we have to tip-toe around the ultra wealthy. Before 2000, that was our money. That they’ve managed to manipulate the system to gather it all under themselves doesn’t make it less our money. There’s no reason why they have to be so over the top rich. They can’t spend it all. It’s only useful for them to buy power. We know this and it makes us angry and impatient. I’m not sure it’s the !% that Hillary needs to keep from pissing off.

    • She’s smart enough to know that. …. No matter what the advisors tell her. The question is…. How much does she care?

      • They took her out in 2008. I suspect she has to care whether she wants to or not. The question is, how will she get around them?

  3. I like this Jane Caro; well, of course, I would.
    Meryl Streep would be wonderful in the movie: A Most Dangerous Woman.”

  4. I just watched the entire Caro talk, including the q and a, and absolutely loved it. Thanks, RD, for sharing it.
    Actually, Caro and Streep share a very similar comedic delivery style.

    • Isn’t she great? Hillary should hire her as a campaign advisor.

      • Yes, she is and I loved her shout out to Hillary: Women’s rights are Human rights.”
        As far as being with the campaign, we’re way too hypocritical about salty language (especially out of the mouths of women) for it to work.
        Can’t you just hear it, “What about the children? Won’t someone think about the Children!!!”
        Wolf Blitzer stroked out when he heard Mrs.Blago use “the f bomb” on a recording.
        Note to Wolfie: Adults occasionally say fuck.

  5. I’d offer the rich the French Option: either cooperate or literally risk your head. We out number them.

    • “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”–attributed to tycoon Jay Gould.

      • And, he did just that in Ludlow, Colorado.

        • As long as the workers identify themselves as some nationalistic, ethnic (I include race as a type of ethnicity), or religious (or non-religious, for that matter) category before they identify themselves as workers–the Goulds of the world will be able to outmaneuver any wannabe Robespierres.

    • Not for nothing, my moniker was once Therese Defarge.

    • That leads to another problem: even a “successful” revolution merely replaces the existing amoral, predatory oligarchy with a different amoral, predatory oligarchy, using a different justifying ideology.

      Louis XVI was a ditz, but were Robespierre, and then Napoleon, improvements?

      Nicholas II was a ditz, but were Lenin, and then Stalin, improvements?

      “Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss”–the Who

      • Now, we’re talking about human nature. The Reign of Terror was horrible but few would argue that the French people aren’t better off in a Republic than their ancestors were under the Bourbons.
        Can evolution happen without bloodshed? I don’t know.

        • The National Assembly wasn’t really all that radical to start with, they were handed a flaming sack of **** by the imploding Ancien Regime and things kinda spun out of control.

  6. How about if you want to be able to bid on government contract business your company must have x% of your workers in America. Wouldn’t that help reduce outsourcing jobs to third world countries? Amend the Buy America Act to exclude the loopholes and add an American worker clause so it is not just about costs.

  7. OK, that was my #1 idea (see above). #2 is to remove the CAP on Social Security payroll deductions. Employers get a free ride on not paying full payroll taxes for their uber-costly senior managers–without a cap this might help moderate salaries at the top end (well a little). #3 Hedge fund managers’ income should be taxed at regular rates and not at 20%–this makes no sense–of course the Democrat-controlled Congress in 2009 could have changed this and chose not to. Too many campaign contributions at risk dontchaknow! All these ideas have been floated before, we just need some leadership and action!

  8. The scolds are telling me I have to vote Democrat because (fill in the blank). Anyway I’ll sit this one out because like a rice farmer in South East Asia during the 60’s it doesn’t matter who’s in Saigon.

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