Wednesday, October 17, 2012

1% - Twilight of the Elites - a book report

America after Meritocracy By Christopher Hayes I have a good friend who currently is of the opposite political persuasion. We banter back and forth. I share books and articles with him. He lent me his copy of this book. I have just finished reading. He will no doubt be astonished that I agree almost totally with this author. It has been my contention right along that those on the right and on the left are all dissatisfied with the current state of affairs. Where we should be collaborating, the powers that be are content with us battling back and forth while the Elite among us continue to enjoy outstanding wealth and privilege. To start with a definition of meritocracy is required. I was going to quote my Webster Dictionary but it isn’t even mentioned. Perhaps my copy is too old. The author’s general definition is that those in the meritocracy are the cream of the crop, natural born leaders, and highly intelligent, hard charging persons regardless of sex or race. Some came to power from wealth or privilege. These are the people who generally make the decisions that affect all others in the world. This is not a bad thing as we want the best and brightest to make those critical decisions necessary to keep moving forward. The problem as he and I see it is that in recent decades starting in the 1980’s in America there has been a disconnect between these leaders and the rest of us. Without regard to the general prosperity of the average citizen, these Elite have made decisions that have had the direct effect of lowering our standard of living while increasing their wealth astronomically to where it is incomprehensible to even imagine. He spells this out in great detail. He covers many different areas such as Wall Street, Congress, the Catholic Church, Corporate America and even Major League Baseball. All of these institutions have failed in their responsibility to citizens by ignoring our needs while protecting and enhancing their grip on power. He points out the disastrous effect of the Supreme Court decision to allow Corporations to spend unlimited funds on political elections thereby assuring their continuing dominance regardless of which party is in the majority. All politicians are deeply indebted to those Elite who shower funds on their behalf. On page 181 he quotes Thomas Paine on the importance of the proximity of politicians and those who elect them, “That the ELECTED might never form to themselves an interest separate from the ELECTORS, prudence will point out the propriety of having elections often, because as the ELECTED might by that means return and mix again with the general body of the ELECTORS in a few months, their fidelity to the public will be secured…. On this….depends the STRENGHT OF GOVERNMENT, AND THE HAPPINESS OF THE GOVERNED.” The author doesn’t mention the following but I wish too. The above has become meaningless as Congress has become a career instead of service. Something over 90% of Senators and Representatives are re-elected time after time. This in my opinion creates the distance between them and not being able to understand the lot of our citizens. He is convinced as I am, that the ELITE are so far separated from the populous that they just don’t care. As this separation intensifies sooner or later a backlash will occur as it does today in countries like Spain and Greece. To say it can’t happen here is denying the reality. He points out how countries like Brazil have quietly and successfully closed the gap with the rich still getting richer but the rest catching up. It is possible to accomplish but we need the will to get it done. Let us hope it does happen. This is a worthwhile book to read. Jack B. Walters October 17 , 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Fine Print- a book review

How big companies use “Plain English” to rob you blind By David Cay Johnston Mr. Johnston is a financial investigative reporter. This is his third book. The first two were “Perfectly Legal” and “Free lunch”. He has appeared in a documentary and is often interviewed on news channels relative to financial matters. Several years ago I placed reviews of his books on my blog. It is In searching the Internet for reviews of his books he discovered mine. He was pleased enough to write to me. We kind of became pen pals. He lives in Rochester, N.Y., my sister lives in my home town of Lockport, N.Y. which is about 50 miles from Rochester. I try to visit her every year. For two years I was able to combine these visits with a drive to Rochester to have breakfast with David. He was kind enough to sign my copies. Since I am also an author, I gave him copies of my three books. He was complimentary but at the same time advised that they would never sell. He was correct. Over 90% were just given away to friends and family. His books on the other hand were best sellers. After those two years we were never able to co-ordinate my visits so we could get together. What with his writing and interviews he is just not available. I still treasure those two opportunities. He is doing a great service for America. If only those in power would read they might become more responsive and start the financial recovery of our country. You and I know that is not going to happen. They are too busy raising campaign funds to worry about actually doing something positive. Now about this new book, if anything it was more depressing than the first two. In chapter after chapter he spells out the mismanagement of our tax dollars not only at the Federal level but also State. It was very hard to read. I could only take a chapter at a time. I would put it down and start again another day. The money being given to politicians is mind boggling and the largess given in return inflates the profits, particularly of the largest corporations by providing ways to hide profits so little or no taxes are paid. One issue happened in 2004. The corporations that had moved American jobs to China and elsewhere were required to pay 35% tax on profits but only when returned to America. The Congress in its wisdom granted them a special tax of 5%. The bill was called “the Jobs Creation Act of 2004”. It was passed with 205 out of 221 Republicans and 75 of 199 Democrats. The corporations brought home $312 Billion. While there was a promise of American jobs, nowhere in the bill did it specify nor was there any provision to monitor. In actual fact thousands were laid off. As an example Pfizer closed whole factories. The workforce at the end of 2004 was 115,000. By 2009 it was down to 75,000. Hewlett- Packard immediately fired 14,000 employees. Other industries did the same. Astonishing that such a disgrace could occur under the guise of helping American workers. Believe it or not in 2012 these same corporations have accumulated $1 Trillion in untaxed profits. I am well aware that consideration is being made to repeat this once again which will deny proper tax payments and destroy several hundred thousand more jobs. Once again it will be the Republican Party most in favor. Regardless of who becomes President, this will be approved. Keep in mind that all the while American manufacturers producing in America pay 35%. Can you not see how wrong this is? There are specific chapters about abuses in pipe lines, railroads, waste removal, telecommunications, film production, etc. Each time he clearly states the facts which beg for correction. His final chapter is entitled “Solutions”. The most important concerns the 2010 Supreme Court decision to grant corporations unlimited expenditures to influence elections. He particularly chastises Chief Justice Roberts for giving them vast new rights. He mentions previous bad decisions by the Court such as the Dred Scott decision that stated that slaves were not persons protected by the Constitution. He pleads that the Congress take action to overturn or that new justices might reverse. Since the decision was 5 to 4 that could happen but in the meantime untold damage will have occurred to our election system. I will end here by imploring others to read this and his other two books and do what you can to restore a Congress that truly cares about American workers. Jack B. Walters October 10, 2012