Archive for Economy

Railroad barons, Robber barons, and the Mafia…

Posted in Economics, Economy, Politics, Work, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2016 by urbannight

This started out as a Facebook comment that turned intoOld Monopoly a much longer post.  It is something I’ve kept meaning to write more about but for which I never get around to doing the in depth research.  Partly because I am not an economist or interested in economy.  I am interested in history and this is something I’ve been putting together in my head based on viewing of a number of documentaries and articles and books that were not specifically about the economy.  But the past decade or so has had me pulling these threads together into this concept that I think has a valid point.

In the fight to change minimum wage into people being able to earn a living wage if they work full time may be easier to understand if one understands that our modern economic system was developed by the same people who create the ‘trunk’ system of work compensation. Once upon a time, these people were called ‘Railroad Barons’. Not because their work on the railroads made them rich but because they way they made money made people think of the old ‘robber baron’s’ back in the Old Country. These were people with titles who took to robbing travelers and merchants crossing their lands in order to have an income.

Railroad Barons as a term came about because most of these people were in the business of building railroads.  But it included others that were not but practiced business in the same manner.  These were the people who came up with the idea of creating towns at their factories or operations and paying people in company script that had no value outside the company town. Then getting the families in debt to the company so they would never be able to leave their jobs and move away.

The government determined this was simply a way to try to legally enslave people and made company script illegal. Wages must be paid in legal tender.  The government seemed to be less concerned with the payment itself and more concerned with the fact that it limited mobility, trapping people.  They probably could have paid the employees anything so long as it would have been considered to have an equal, legal value, anywhere they wanted to take it so it could be used and spent in other places.  They could have been paid in pocket watches because they could be sold and traded for a relatively constant value.  Well, at least until the market got flooded with pocket watches.  But it gets the idea across.  These company scrip were bit of paper that held NO value once outside of the company town.

But in response to the Great Depression, these people changed the perception of their characters. They became known as captains of industry. They were praised for attempting to put some kind of organization and structure onto the economy. We called it capitalism and made a board game praising the concepts of making as much money possible off of others while trying to compensate them with the least amount possible without getting in trouble with the law.

Another reason that people don’t really realize that the Mafia came really close to taking control of the government back in the day is the reason that so many people were willing to work for the Mafia and to protect them. It wasn’t because they were family members. It wasn’t because these were people with natural criminal inclination. It was because, back at this time period, the Mafia in the U.S. took better care of its workers and their families than any other employer did. Older kids and young men took jobs doing stuff for the mob because the work was more likely to be steady, reliable, and better compensated and their families were looked after better than any other job in the cities they could have found, for the most part. Which may be a really sad thing to say.

Our entire economy was solidified and fine tuned by people so questionable that they made the Mafia look good. Think about it. This is the Free Trade Capitalism that so many people say is the best method of Economy.  It is a method that says anyone can get rich if they work hard enough.  This ignores the fact that unless there is an unlimited source of money, it is blatantly not true.  Given a finite source of wealth in the world, that means only so many people can get rich while most people never will, no matter how hard they work.  Free Trade Capitalism is best for funneling the most money into the fewest pockets.

I’m not saying that people should run out and become the exact opposite.  That isn’t any better.  What I’m saying is that our system isn’t all that and a bag of chips and the very roots of that system is why a living wage is anathema to what most people have been taught.

To Vote or Not to Vote

Posted in Life, Politics, Religion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2012 by urbannight

 

According to recent news articles, the black vote is wavering.  This does not concern me as much as the reason WHY it is wavering.

 

Some Christian Blacks are concerned that Romney’s Mormonism may affect his policies.  Others are concerned that Romney seems to be a president for rich white men and feel he doesn’t care at all about the African American population of the country.  This impression is, in part, due to the fact that until fairly recently, African Americans were not allowed into the priesthood.

 

These same people are concerned about Obama supporting gay marriage.  They don’t see how a true Christian can support that and therefore are reluctant to vote for him again.

 

As congregations are discussing this, pastors are offering their people a third option.  On that I think is no option at all: the option of simply not voting.

 

I’m sure this is going on among white people and people of every race or ethnicity.  But the current articles are focusing one blacks because they are viewed as one of base demographics in support of Obama in general.

 

By choosing not to vote, your ‘vote’ in essence, becomes a factor in favor of the person you least want to win.  The political process, buy it’s very nature, is not a vote for the best but for whomever you think is the least worse.

 

 

By choosing not to vote, you give up your voice and your right to complain if you don’t like how things turn out. 

 

For example, I voted for Obama.  I don’t like how the Obamacare package turned out.  Despite some of the good things in it, it is otherwise so flawed and so bad that I think scrapping the whole thing and doing it over would be better.  But Romney is my ‘Antichrist’ and I would rather vote Obama again than risk him getting into office.  Had I NOT voted, I would have given up my voice in this political discourse because I chose not have no opinion and to let the opinions of others determine the outcome. 

 

In other words, if you want to complain, you have to participate first.  Otherwise you don’t have any solid ground to stand on. You become the house build on the shifting stand rather than the one build on solid rock. 

 

Now the issues that concern them are NOT the reasons why I myself am concerned about a wavering black vote.  It is the fact that pastors are using the pulpit to give advice on not voting.  I think that it is wrong for any pastor to be using the pulpit to discuss political activism.  I think that they can discuss social activism because they are concerned with social issues. But when it crosses a boundary into political advice on how to vote then they are crossing the line of separation of church and state.

Once churches cross this line, I think they should be giving up their status as a tax-exempt entity.  I don’t care if a church protests social issues, as much as I dislike churches trying to tell everyone that they should live their lives by the churches rules.  I do care when they start telling people how to vote or when to not vote.

 

It is even harder to imaging people who have fought so long and hard to get the right to vote decided on to do it at all because they don’t like either candidate.  Once again, with politics, you are trying to pick the lesser of two evils.   

 

 

Is allowing people to get married really more harmful to you than a candidate that is pushing through reforms that will make it harder for you to vote, and who things corporations should be treated as people and people are just cogs that can be easily replaced with cheaper cogs overseas?

 

Really?

 

Don’t choose not to vote.  You should choose to vote for someone who will actually do things to improve your personal situation.  Another person’s marriage or reproduction decision doesn’t affect your life personally, so don’t base your vote on that.

Is the Economy or are Women’s Issues more important? A Changing Rhetoric.

Posted in Economics, Economy, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2012 by urbannight

People who are pro-life had been using pro-abortion instead of pro-choice in order to change the rhetoric of the debate.  To sensationalize it more.

Okay, fine.

In that case, I’ll change it too.

Instead of pro-life, I’ll use:

Anti-choice

Anti-freedom

Pro-chattel

Pro-brood mare

Anti-woman

Misogynistic

Pro-male dominance

Pro-male superiority

Anti-self determination (if you female)

People are saying the focus should remain on the economy and that this is a distraction issue.

I disagree.  The economy goes up and down and responds to WAY to many world-wide variables and, in the end, the government can only do so much in response to it.  To truly have any governmental influence on the economy, the government will need to have more influence and control in the business world than the business world wants to allow. 

On the other hand, women’s right and freedoms in a male dominant society will ALWAYS be an issue and far more under the influence of government policy than the economy will ever be.  Therefore, it truly is a more vital and pertinent issue for us than just the economy and jobs. 

And if you do not think we are still in a male dominated society, I think the last year couple of years have reminded us that have gotten complacent.  We thought we came a long way even if we didn’t have true pay equality yet.  But the GOP is clearly trying to push us back and restore more male control of the most fundamental female issues.  We need to start fighting back or we will continue to lose ground.

A group of men should not be controlling women’s reproductive rights.  By letting them say ‘no abortions’ is sending a message that a person who doesn’t exist is more important than a woman who already exists.  It says a woman has no value beyond her ability to make babies.  It says that it’s okay for women to risk death on the change that another life might be created.  It says that it is okay to for people to have children they don’t want or for whom they can’t provide.  In a world where rapists have successfully sued for visitation rights, they want to force women to have babies that may force them into keeping contact with the person who raped them.

This is unacceptable.  Women should have the right to choose.  They should have the right of self-determination.  People who base their pro-‘life’ beliefs on religious believes should NOT be forcing that religious based view on the rest of society.

Welfare for the Wealthy

Posted in Economics, Economy, Politics, Work, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2012 by urbannight

I work for a business that likes the throw the word ‘shareholds’ around all the time.  This drives me absolutely batty.  To me, shareholders are the biggest leach on a company’s resources and it is just a form of welfare for the wealthy.  And I’ll explain why I see it this way.

Once upon a time, before Wall Street existed, a ‘shareholder’ purchased shares in a venture.  Usually a ship.  Often for a particular voyage.  The money went to help outfit the ship for the journey and to purchasing cargo.  The ship returned and sold the cargo for a profit and the money went to the shareholders.  It was a one time shot sort of thing.  If you were happy with the results you had the opportunity to invest in the next trip. 

Later on, if a private business needed an influx of money, the owner could break it up into shares, keeping a majority to keep control, and selling the rest.  People could then buy into the company, producing the cash flow needed at that time, and the company would pay returns out.  Kind of like repaying a loan. Only for longer.

Now days, you buy shares of stock and you are putting a small amount of money into a company.  It seems to have very little to do with needing a quick influx of money.  You then get your ‘share’ which kind of makes you a mini-owner in the company.  Now you sit back and get returns on your shares.  So the company has to keep paying the shareholders back.  Eventually, far in excess of the money they put into the company.  The shareholders want profit course.  As they want more and more money, the company has to focus more on paying people who do nothing for the company and just sit around with hands held out saying, “Give me, Give me, Give me.”  This is money that doesn’t really ever go back into the company unless a shareholder decides to buy another share.  And they only do that so they can get higher returns.

I don’t see any real difference between share holders and people on welfare other than share holders start out with the money to buy the shares in the first place.  Then they want to get lots more money back without having to do anything. 

This is why I like to call it welfare for the wealthy.  This is why our economic model is starting to fail.  There is only so much money in the world and it keeps getting tied up at the highest levels.  Trickle down economics doesn’t exist because not enough trickles down.  As more money gets tied up in share holders’ banks or in other ‘investments’, there is less money to put back into businesses.  Therefore, cost of living wage increases do not match the actual early inflation levels so most people are getting poorer and poorer. 

I know this is a bit of an oversimplification of the flaws of our economic system.  But I still think it is a valid viewpoint and I still think ‘shareholders’ are the biggest leach on our economy and they are just people looking for a return for doing nothing.

Farmers’ Markets vs Grocery Stores

Posted in Economics, Economy, Food, Life, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on September 24, 2010 by urbannight

I remember going out to the local fields (back home, not around the current city) and paying a flat price per basket.  You then got to pick your own fruits and veggies until you filled your basket or baskets. 

Then you got your farmer’s markets which did the picking for you.  But since there were no transport fees to the stores, they could undercut the store prices and you bought your fruit and veggies at a much better rate than the grocery store.

Now you go to the farmer’s market and (aside from a few veggies) you pay more than at the grocery store.  They don’t want to bother with pricing anything under a dollar.  So a bundle of green onions costs a dollar at the farmer’s market but only .80 cents at the store.  A fruit pie costs 18$ while fresh made at the bakery it costs 8$.  A jar of salsa costs 5$ but usually just under that at the store. 

Buying locally has now become something pretentious.  Everything costs more than at the store so if you do all your produce shopping at the farmer’s markets you have to have a bigger grocery budget.  Looking around at the people you see a lot of people in more expensive casual wear. 

Farmer’s markets have become the “thing to do” for the richer people.  As a result, the vendors have raised their prices.  And now it’s more affordable for me to shop the grocery store sales than to buy locally.

Somewhere, buried in this phenomenon, is a statement on where society is heading.  I’m just not sure yet how that statement reads.

Where has all the money gone…..

Posted in Economy with tags , , , , , on August 19, 2010 by urbannight

Money is a finite item.  Governments print so much of it and destroy a certain amount each year.  People get paid, buy stuff, the spent money then either goes back into that business or it goes to shareholders, some gets spent, some gets saved.  As it goes farther up the chain of people, business, corporations, and investors, more of it gets tied up and less gets put back into the flow of money movement.

We act as if money is infinite.  Students are told that anyone who works hard can become well off and maybe even millionaires.  On one hand we are recommended to save money, on the other hand we are told that saving is hording and that the only way to keep the economy going is to spend spend spend.

Even governments are constantly spending money they don’t yet have.  And then recessions happen, stocks drop, people discover that the money they thought they had has shrunk drastically.  Sometimes it has vanished. 

And I think about scandals of the 1990’s give or take a few years.  When the average person starts hearing about shady accounting practices that make business appear to have more money than they really do.  They learn you can move numbers around to hide problems and debt.  We all learned about corporate asset shuffling on paper can change the entire picture. 

I wonder how many of these practices have gotten into the whole accounting process.  How many of them are actually taught as acceptable ways of manipulating numbers?  How many of them are accepted ways of accounting that the people doing them don’t even realize they are shady?

Which brings me to another thought:  Where has all the money gone?  You read article after article saying people who thought they had this amount really have that amount, a smaller amount. 

We count resale value of a home as money in the pocket.  But it really isn’t.  There are lots of things we do to increase our worth on paper but the reality is that those things are not real money.  It’s the idea of potential future money. But we operate as if it is already in the bank. 

So I have to ask a question.  Was there really as much money in the world as people thought?  Or has all this number shuffling and creative accounting made the world as a whole look richer than it really is and now it’s just caught up with us?

Roosevelt’s solution of the Depression was to build highways and link up the entire country.  This created actual jobs.  This helped people out at the lowest level and which in turned help local businesses and it spread upwards.

The current economic thought is that you help out the financial institutions, you help out big business, and it trickles down.  But if you don’t help out the people at the base of the totem pole of economics, it doesn’t matter how much you repaint and repair the top of the totem pole.  It will still fall over because it lacks a sound support.  The people whose actions fuel the economy through consumer spending still don’t have the money to spend.  All because there seems to be less of it in the world than before.