RNC Half-Lives

The GOP caucus in the Senate has indicated that it is unwilling to defend Special Counsel Mueller from attacks by the Trump Administration.

Why? Why stand up for the most unpopular president in the modern era?

Because the Russians didn’t just hack the DNC. They also hacked the RNC. And I’m certain that when those e-mails are released, we’ll discover that Priebus and Giuliani and the rest were engaged in selling out the American public to the global community of elite money-launderers. How do we know this? Because it isn’t an isolated incident. The Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision, authorizing unlimited campaign spending by corporations under the ruse that they were “persons” with protected free speech rights, was a narrowly partisan decision (Republican appointees over-riding Democratic appointees). And it covered for the fact that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had been funneling illegal foreign money (primarily Chinese) into GOP coffers for years.

I’m certain that Mueller, in possession of thousands of Trump Transition e-mails, is already pursuing those links. We’ll see probably not only collusion with Russia and other foreign interests, but also collusion with the GOP Congressional Caucus in criminal misuse of government funds for political purposes in the Benghazi and Clinton e-mail server investigations.

The Congressional delegation isn’t fighting for Trump. They’re fighting for their Party. They’re fighting for their jobs. Jobs financed by foreign corporations whose only interest in American politics is that they gain a profit from their investments.

Stranger bed-fellows we have never seen. There’s no point calling them “low-life.” Their life expectancy is too low.

Maybe, in fact, they’re already dead, in the sense that they’ve sold their souls for power.

Maybe this is what the Zombie Apocalypse actually looks like. Not the undead wandering around mumbling “Brains…brains…” but “Rubles…yuan…”

The Other Shoe

Under Ryan and McConnel’s proposed tax plan, tax breaks for corporations will drive up stock markets, creating the impression that they are a more secure haven for retirement funds than Social Security. The Republicans will advance legislation to transfer Social Security obligations to private investment funds.

Remember that during the corporate restructuring of the ’90s, companies with well-funded pension plans were bought out, raided, and the folded up, leaving pensioners destitute. The new Social Security fund managers will reap windfall profits, and then default on Social Security commitments.

The New Deal recognized a fundamental fact that Republicans don’t wish to honor: “innovation” in financial services generates profits by churning wealth and increasing risk. That’s fine for those with money to play with, but the middle class needs a safe haven for its wealth. Those havens have been steadily decimated.

Prior to deregulation of the Savings and Loan industry, the middle class loaned money out to each other and earned interest on savings at a 1% differential. Today the differential is closer to 8%, and the profits go to Wall Street.

Prior to the regulations of the Affordable Care Act, which stabilized health insurance markets, the middle class paid for insurance and was denied coverage by corporation that hired huge teams whose sole purpose was to find technical errors in their applications for coverage. It was fraud.

And now we confront the desire to privatize our retirement planning. The financial industry drools over the huge pool of Social Security funds, but it is a temporary opportunity. Social Security comes directly off of our paychecks, and so reduces disposable income. Once that direct deduction is removed, people will be faced with a choice between putting money into a retirement fund and buying a fancier car or replacing a broken water heater,. Most of them will choose to spend the money, and the cost of living will rise to absorb all of their disposable income, eventually leaving nothing for retirement savings. This is what happened in the era before Social Security, and our country’s elderly were the poorest segment of society.

So, yes, Ryan and McConnell, burn down the house that Roosevelt built. Your friends on Wall Street, understanding the demographic realities, will siphon off the money to finance mansions on the pristine federal parkland that I am certain you will sell off to them. And you will be remembered as the facilitators of the greatest con ever run against the American people.

Christian Tax Policy

Here’s the prescription:

  1. Progressive corporate tax to punish monopolies and foster small business formation.
  2. Value-added tax to soften the transition to automation of work.

What follows motivates the prescription.


As a Christian, it is hard for me to focus on money. It’s not that I don’t understand economic and financial theory, it’s just that money isn’t important to the ends that I pursue. I seek, through this blog and other work, to heal the confusion that poisons our relationship with the Most High. That’s a difficult problem, demanding the fullest commitment of my energies.

As I told my sons in their formative years: “Money is a way of storing power. For those that commit all of their power to solving difficult problems, there is nothing left to store.”

Jesus warned us that “You cannot serve two masters…No man can love both God and money.” Therefore, in seeking to transform our relationship with the Most High, we do need to understand money, because it is a principle source of resistance to the rule of love. People that desire money desire it because the are selfish, and as I have explained out at Love Returns, selfishness is the opposite of love.

We have two looming disasters in our economy. The first is the destruction of the middle class by the richest members of our society, people such as Rupert Murdock and Peter Thiel that have no compunction about using their wealth to fund propaganda machines that demonize government. The second is the loss of blue-collar jobs, accessible to those with high-school diplomas, to automation.

The exploitation of resources has always been a foundational principle of American politics. Elected our first president, George Washington complained that he spent all of his time as a promoter of business opportunities in the nation’s undeveloped lands. That practice is enshrined in most of our state constitutions, where the first priority in land use policy is economic. At the federal level, conservation policy has limited the most brutal forms of resource exploitation.

Contract law provides a legal framework for exploitation of the last great resource: human potential. In the “Land of the Free,” the ability to enter into economic contracts is one of our most honored acts, though paradoxically it places us under the heavy hand of law enforcement when we have disputes. It is this that is decried in Revelation 13:18:

so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark – the name of the beast or the number of its name.

Murdock, Thiel, and their ilk know that they have attained wealth only through exploitation of investments made by others – investments accrued over millions of man years of public education and government-funded research, and trillions of dollars of infrastructure investment. Their attempts to limit their obligation to “pay it forward” are driven by greed.

Not being limited any longer by prudence or compassion, this class seeks economic dominance in their various industries. Concentration of industrial power is visible in all industries. It was decried as monopoly in the late 1800’s, and defense against it was established through the Sherman Act, the Clayton Act and the Federal Trade Commission. Those tools have become blunted in the last twenty years because trade has become multinational. Facebook and Google, the information service monopolies of our era, are not disciplined because they are American monopolists. The European Commission sees them as adversaries, of course, and Google, for one, is facing some large fines for monopoly conduct. But it’s not limited to high-tech: concentration is growing in telecommunications and financial services.

Fortunately, monopoly has one clear indicator: huge profits. In the personal tax code, we recognize that those making the most money also benefit most from public services, and tax them accordingly. We should do the same in corporate taxation. While large corporations use their market position to reap huge profits, it is small businesses that generate new opportunities and new jobs. We should reward them for their efforts. We need a progressive corporate tax code.

The middle class is not only being squeezed by monopoly pricing, it is being gutted by automation. Jobs are disappearing, and fast. On the immediate horizon is the loss of almost two million blue-collar jobs as shipping moves to self-driving trucks. But we see this throughout America: even as wages rise overseas, making local production competitive again, the factories that we are building use a fraction of the employees needed by their predecessors. All the material manipulation and most of the assembly is done by machines.

The factor that drives this investment is payroll reduction. A robot is a fixed-cost investment, does not ask for higher wages, and is subsidized by capital equipment tax write-offs. They are also far more precise in their work, yielding higher-quality goods that are preferred by consumers.

The replacement of taxed payroll expenses with tax-free capital equipment investment also hobbles government by restricting tax revenues. Clearly, our workforce needs new skills. Our youth are provided those skills for free by pubic education, but those skills no longer guarantee lifetime employment. People need to learn throughout their lives.

Employers, of course, don’t want to pay for that investment, because it creates opportunities for their best people to take positions elsewhere. So – as predicted by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations – the tendency of corporations is to exploit workers until they can be replaced by machinery, and then to cast them aside.

Smith defined the theory of capitalism, and his prescription was simple: governments must tax businesses to provide workers opportunities to retrain when they are replaced by equipment. Governments starved of tax revenues by automation can’t provide that service, which means that America’s human capital is now going to waste.

The solution comes to us from policy-makers confronting outsourcing of jobs: in Europe, companies were caught out selling products “Made in England” that were assembled from parts produced overseas in low-wage markets. To limit that incentive, a “value-added tax” was created. VAT charges a tax on companies reflecting the increase in their wealth as materials move through a system to create a finished product.

While this didn’t prevent jobs from going overseas, it did ensure that government revenues were maintained to support retraining and job placement services. If applied to goods shipped into our lucrative consumer market, it is also a reasonable way to limit the social costs of overseas production by countries that choose to exploit both labor and the environment. If a car made in South Korea for $2000 and sold in South Korea for $6000 enters the American market to be sold for $20,000, well the South Korean manufacturer should pay a VAT when that product is unloaded at Los Angeles.

It’s Finally Come to This…

I know that my less liberal friends are put off by my campaign against fiscal conservatism.

But it’s brought us to this:

UN Investigates Poverty in the US

To say that I am ashamed is an understatement.

“In God We Trust.” “One Nation Under God.”

Right. Go ahead. Wrap yourselves in the flag, and brandish the cross while you shed tears over profits lost.

How long must we suffer this faithless perversity?

Trolls against Compassion

In watching the Republican Tax Deform bill works its way through the institutional process, I can’t help but see trolling in play.

Online, a “troll” has been determined to be a person that understands human psychology, and uses it to disrupt functioning social systems. They have all the tools necessary for compassionate engagement, but choose to use them to cause fear and pain.

You see this in the tax bill crafted by Ryan and McConnell. After accounting for the additional $1.5 trillion in debt that will accrue to the public during the lifetime of the program, only the rich will benefit from the bill.

Every successful troll claims a beneficial intent, and we see this advancing in the Republican policy program. Ryan and McConnell want to create a fiscal crisis so that they have a remit to cut middle-class entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. This is a program that has been pursued by the Republican Party since the Reagan era. America’s $20 trillion public debt was amassed due to tax cuts for the rich advanced during eras of Republican control. They created the public debt, and now claim it as the reason to cut benefits established and paid for by the middle class.

To understand why these trolls are not exposed, we have to understand who benefits from their strategy. It is the financial system. Large money-center banks suck at the teat of government debt. They profit every time a government bond is sold and redeemed – and long-term deficits means that those redeemed must be replaced by new. They profit from fiscal irresponsibility in Congress. The same is true of our trade deficit: every time an American buys a Chinese product, dollars must be converted to yuan, which flow overseas and then come back to America as dollars that buy our government debt. Every step in that process makes money for the financial industry.

What should be alarming is that profits enjoyed by the financial industry accrue from the exchange of dollars that does not add value to our economy. The value of the dollars does not change – they simply move from place to place.

Wall Street is effectively a tax on Main Street.

What is painful is to realize how deeply this psychology has migrated downward into our economy. Payday lenders make short-term loans against future earnings, sometimes charging as much as 1/3 of the loan value for bridge financing that lasts only a week. In Kansas, the most successful franchise (raking in billions of dollars in profits) was started by three brothers that claimed Native American sovereignty to get around state regulations that prohibited predatory practices. Eventually, the FBI stepped in to tear down their empire. But as the empire collapsed, the remaining brother took the protected financial data and created a list of fake debt claims that were then sold on to the debt collection industry.

Yes, many debt collectors are no longer paid by claimants. They actually pay for debt listings, and do little to verify the validity of the claims. The Tucker family made millions by selling the fake debt claims to multiple debt collectors. Those debt collectors had mouths to feed and mortgages to pay, and the only way to make good on their investment was to get money out of the people whose private financial information they had acquired. The FBI is now investigating the abusive practices of the collectors working against those false claims.

The abusive behaviors of the financial system, libertarian politicians and online trolls are linked by another factor: their behaviors harm people that they don’t know personally. Safely at a distance, trolls reach out through our communications infrastructure to wreak havoc in the lives of their victims. The don’t have to confront the mounting desperation of individuals and communities ground down by their hunger for money or power. They simply acquire wealth that they use to finance the careers of politicians that oppose regulation of their industry.

This is what makes men like Paul Ryan so pitiful. They believe that they must be doing something good because people tell them that they are taking on a problem that poses an existential threat to our country: the federal debt. But the people that applaud his determination are those that engineered the creation of that debt, and that benefit most from its existence. The true motivations for their investment in politicians such as Ryan is to ensure that their wealth is protected when the system collapses.

Trembling underneath this juggernaut of debt, there are those in American commerce that still believe in producing goods for consumption, and that compete to create value for their customers.  Working in the automation industry, I am conscious that the work that I do displaces workers, creating distress from a distance much as does the financial industry. But being involved with the creation of goods and services, I do feel the pulse of that part of the economy.

The mantra that is evolving is hopeful. On the surface, that is hard to see: robots are displacing blue-collar workers, and artificial intelligence is threatening knowledge workers. What remains for people to do, then, is to ensure that customers are happy and successful, building a base for repeat business.

In other words, while the masters of the universe troll society, on the ground people are focused on learning to care for each other.

The Deformation

What do you call it when legislation is crafted in secret by people that do not accept input from the primary stakeholders?

As explained by health care and insurance providers, it wasn’t Health Care Reform, it was Health Care Deform. As delineated by the Congressional Budget Office and academicians, it’s not Tax Reform, its Tax Deform.

The Catholic Reformation was a counter-reaction to Church practices that sold paper declarations of forgiveness for sins, financing wars for control of the papacy.

Our government is now controlled by men who have demonstrated the inability to inspire by example the behaviors that they expect to see in their constituents: independence, initiative and creativity. Invoking the heartless god of “free markets” as the source of solutions they cannot themselves design, they and their financiers fall back upon fear as their tool of choice. As society collapses, they justify their dominance by reference to the brutality of the under-class that they arm.

If they could perceive themselves as God does, the leaders of the party that rules our nation would be terrified by the terrible deformations they are creating in their souls. There is no pill for that, no amount of money that God would accept. You have made our government into a pustulent boil of selfishness. You will not be purged on judgment day, for there will be no need: you have chosen to isolate yourself from the saints that you persecute. When they enter into paradise, you will be left with the dehydrated husk of the planet you have raped.

Am Misbehaving

Teri Gross, interviewing a young female actor/writer/director tonight on Fresh Air, had an uncomfortable dialog concerning male role-models that have now been revealed as sexual predators. The discussion focused on the challenges of not saying “the wrong thing,” with “the wrong thing” never being elucidated. Presumably it would be something that could be interpreted as hateful of men in general, or dismissive of the human depth and value of the work of some of the men involved, or offensive to men that they might want to work with on future projects.

So they preferred to say nothing.

This contrasted with the All Things Considered interview of women from lineage of three generations that have worked in Hollywood since 1960. They spoke frankly about the problem of sexual harassment and what it takes to avoid degradation. They had direct experience, and so had a specific human story to tell.

In both contexts, their attraction to Hollywood was explained as a reaching for the opportunity to create dreams. Remember that these are successful creators, so they have not hit the wall that causes most workers to hate their jobs after they turn forty. That wall is the gate that narrows when the cost of providing opportunities to all qualified people exceeds the available resources. When opportunities for professional growth thin out, what characterizes those that stay the course?

I would hazard that it’s not just the opportunity to create dreams for others, it’s the link between their work and the expression of their own fantasies. The more powerful those fantasies are, the greater the commitment to their craft.

Perhaps the most disturbing experience I have had in church is being told by a pastor that I was not welcome because when I meditated on the cross, everybody in the congregation felt that they were being sexually harassed. To love someone is to affirm their personality – and if they find more joy in sex than in compassion, they will channel the energy that way.

Couple this to the desire of a director or producer to associate and control beautiful people – the people that we love to watch on the screen – and the adoration that we tender to our media figures is going to amplify their worst habits. The more we adore them, the worse their conduct will become.

The problem is related to the problem Jesus faced with his disciples. The disciples believed that they needed Jesus to tell them what to do, just as consumers of entertainment believe that they need someone to give them dreams. Jesus complained of the “little faith” of his followers because they didn’t believe in themselves. He died, was buried, rose and ascended to convince them that they should cast off their doubts and love others.

Rather than fixing our gaze on that story – the true and heroic testimony of the redeeming power available to all that choose to love – we choose to fill our dreams with fantasies that can’t possibly be made true. In seeking to entertain, Hollywood doesn’t create dreams, it creates illusions. Those that suckle on its teat shouldn’t be surprised when those illusions are pierced, unmasking the self-serving motives of all those that peddle illusion – and exemplified by those that have clawed their way to the top.

Our government is also riven by corruption – politicians don’t have the power to solve our problems, so they peddle illusions. And we are disappointed in our relationships, because we operate under the illusion that someone else can change our soul when that is work that only we can do in collaboration with God.

We’re not going to end exploitation by shaming people, or throwing them in jail. There will always  be replacements.  We’re only going to solve the problem by recognizing illusionists when they appear in our lives, and putting them off with “That’s all very nice, Donald, but I need to pray for a friend before I go visit them.”