Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Shop the Local Merchant Economy

Dees Illustration
James Hall, Contributing Writer
Buying at large box stores is a way of life for many consumers. Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Target are routine locations to spend your hard-earned dollars on items of necessity.

However, what happens to the profits when the sale is completed and the bills are paid? Does the money stay in the local community, where the transactions are generated, or are they filtered off to the treasury of public companies that dominate the economy?

The pitiful answer, well known to the chagrin of the small business enterprises, is a prime reason why the middle class is vanishing.

For several decades, the corporatists expedited their transfer of the manufacturing sector overseas. The resulting elimination of high paying jobs and benefits is a direct result of the Free Trade policy designed to impoverish ordinary families. The importation of slave labor products that fill the shelves of the internationalist chain stores resulted into the removal of domestic items, not solely because of the cost of goods, but by a designed objective to reduce the standard of living in our country.

Add to this frightful give away trade bias towards importing products from the third world is the irrational practice of public subsidies for attracting chain store development in local communities.

Stacy Mitchell makes valid points in Don't Subsidize Big Boxes at Local Shops' Expense,
Sifting though the postmortem news of Borders Group’s demise, I came across a local newspaper story about a California town that had spent $1.6 million to lure a Borders bookstore to a local shopping center. According to the paper, government officials in Pico Rivera in 2003 agreed to pay part of a new Borders store’s operating expenses by providing a $10,833 monthly subsidy for the next 15 years.

Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) has been a frequent recipient. From 2008 through 2009, the company pocketed $7.9 million in tax exemptions from local development agencies in New York, according to data from the state comptroller. Wal-Mart also received $1.8 million in tax credits and rebates in 2009 to build five supercenters in Louisiana, records kept by the state’s Board of Commerce & Industry show. Last year, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the city of Bridgeton, Mo., approved a $7.2 million deal to finance construction of a single Wal-Mart supercenter.

Other big retailers have been at the public trough, too. Target (TGT) picked up $1.4 million in local tax breaks to build a store in the small town of Kenner, just outside New Orleans, according to the Times-Picayune. Amazon (AMZN) secured a five-year sales tax exemption from the South Carolina legislature in exchange for opening a distribution center in the state.
Corporate welfare is a major factor in the demise of tangible free enterprise. The notion that corporations merit subsidizes to attract their business is an even more hideous concept.

The article Shopping with Local Merchants Benefits Economy, Environment by Beth Turner illustrates the bad economics that actually hurt local economies.
According to Tulsa-Centric, a company created to support local businesses, 'For every $100 you spend at a local merchant, 68 of those dollars return to the community. When spent at a national chain, only $43 stay in the community.' This doesn’t even take in to consideration how much we’re lessening our carbon footprint by cutting down on shipping, hauling and packaging.
Following up on the ill served Borders experience, further evidence is cited in the EXECUTIVE SUMMARY - ECONOMIC IMPACT ANALYSIS Local Merchants vs. Chain Retailers.
1) Local merchants generate substantially greater economic impact than chain retailers.
2) Development of urban sites with directly competitive chain merchants will reduce the overall vigor of the local economy.
3) Modest changes in consumer spending habits can generate substantial local economic impact.

For every $100 in consumer spending at Borders, the total local economic impact is only $13. The same amount spent with a local merchant yields more than three times the local economic impact.
The economic formula for the Wal-Mart business model is to undercut everyone. Volume of sales and products translates into one-stop shopping. Their dominance from this type of operation drives out the merchant shopkeeper. Is this really free enterprise, or is it a well-staged blueprint to impoverish local economies, financed with government subsidies, on the back of the taxpayer?

The consequence of the box store economy is that the chain stores set the wage scale. Small business entrepreneurs are forced out of business and relegated to hired-help status. The velocity of money slows as local disposable income shrinks due to the lower prices charged by the chains. The tax incentives and exemptions only benefit the mega stores, while the former owners of eliminated businesses and the customers who flock to the lowest price bear the costs in their property and state taxes.

Over the last decades, this pattern plays out in every community. The demise of viable local economies is visible in the decay and dependency culture that replaced the independent merchant marketplace. Wall Street’s propensity to drive out small business and supplant global franchised outlets is a major factor in the systematic reduction of the domestic standard of living.

It is not by chance that the elites of finance promote a scorched earth policy for Main Street. Their desire to cheapen products and wrangling the public into an addiction of buying junk is a given. What not well understood is that the supercenter is a fortress ready for a barbarian assault. Their high wall of pricing protection relies upon cheap imports. Nevertheless, the weak dollar exchange rate is in the process of an inevitable total demise. As the dollar panic accelerates and the loss of purchasing value quickens, the cost of imports will spike. The foreign manufacturers will experience a sharp decline in sales and their factories will slow down or close.

The solution to this contraction that relies upon the "as needed" inventory and container ship delivery paradigm is the return to a domestic manufacturing and a merchant economy. When the financial bubble bursts, and the chain stores close, where will you buy items for everyday use? Learn this lesson now and shop local whenever you can.

Hundreds Threaten Suicide At Microsoft Supplier Plant In China

SEATTLE, Wash. (CBS Seattle) – Some 300 Chinese Foxconn employees who manufacture X-box 360 machines said they would throw themselves from their Wuhan, China, plant if demands for lost wages were not met.
China Jasmine Revolution, an activist revolutionary organization with a name borrowed from the Tunisian revolt that set off the Middle East unrest, reported that employees made their demands for a wage increase for 100 employees on Jan. 2.
Management at Foxconn — the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer and a crucial link in the supply chains of Apple, Dell, Nintendo and Song — responded with an ultimatum. Employees could quit with one month’s compensation awarded for each year with the plant or go back to working.
Many employees quit, but Foxconn allegedly dishonored the agreement and awarded former employees nothing.
Around 300 workers returned to the plant in an uproar, and staged their protest on the plant’s roof on Jan. 3.
Wuhan’s mayor intervened through hours of negotiations, walking them back from the roof’s edge until 9 p.m. when workers agreed to return to work, according to Calls to Foxconn were not immediately returned.
A Microsoft spokesperson wrote CBS Seattle a statement saying, “Microsoft takes working conditions in the factories that manufacture its products very seriously, and we are currently investigating this issue. We have a stringent Vendor Code of Conduct that spells out our expectations, and we monitor working conditions closely on an ongoing basis and address issues as they emerge. Microsoft is committed to the fair treatment and safety of workers employed by our vendors, and to ensuring conformance with Microsoft policy.” ­
Foxconn came under fire in 2010 when workers successfully committed suicide in a plant that manufactured components for Apple. Then, Foxconn told media that it considered every worker’s life to be valuable while some plants required workers to sign contracts stating that they wouldn’t kill themselves.
Wired magazine was granted access to the factories, which installed nets that would catch anyone attempting to jump.
Touring the Longhua plant in 2011, Terry Gou, the chairman of Foxconn parent Hon Hai Precision, said suicide rates among workers in his plants were smaller compared to the country’s and added a country’s suicide rate typically climbs when its GDP does, Forbes reported.

Romney defends 'I like to fire people' remark

CONCORD, N.H. -- Mitt Romney may well win the New Hampshire primary today, but his quote about firing people is also likely to be a legacy of his campaign in the Granite State.
Romney defended the remark during a polling place visit in Manchester, noting that he made it while discussing ways to make it easier for Americans to choose their insurance companies.
"I was talking about as you know insurance companies," Romney said. "We all like to get rid of our insurance companies."
Democrats and some Republicans continued to attack Romney for the comment, saying it reflects a callous attitude in tough economic times.
As Romney reached out for a baby today, a heckler yelled out: "Are you going to fire the baby?"
Romney is also taking heat for his work with the Bain Capital private equity firm.
As we reported earlier, Texas Gov. Rick Perry -- campaigning in South Carolina -- described Romney and his Bain associates as "vultures" who wait "for companies to get sick; they swoop in; they eat the carcass."
The Associated Press reported on Romney's appearance today:
Taken together, the assault has left Romney's team tense going into a night they hoped would be a celebration of an overwhelming victory that would contribute to the perception that the former Massachusetts governor would inevitably become the Republican nominee.
Instead, when Romney reached out to hold a supporter's baby daughter, the shouts were angry. "Are you going to fire the baby?" someone yelled over the din.
Others shouted, "We want Mitt!"
Romney's staffers tried to guide him through the crush of reporters shouting questions at him and had to shove people out of the way to open the door of Romney's SUV. His daughter-in-law was left behind in the crowd, and Romney moved a meeting with volunteers to a different, unannounced location.
He had no other public events planned until Tuesday evening.
Romney has led in opinion polls here for months -- in recent days by 20 percentage points or more. He's been pushing for an overwhelming victory as he looks to South Carolina, a state where the conservative GOP base was uncomfortable with him in 2008, and strives to wrap up the nomination fight as quickly as possible.
See photos of: Mitt Romney, Rick Perry

Michigan Treasurer says Detroit to run out of money by May

(Reuters) - The struggling U.S. city of Detroit is on track to run out of money in May instead of April after spending changes made by city officials, Michigan Treasurer Andy Dillon said on Tuesday.
Dillon addressed media following a two-and-a-half-hour meeting with a team that is looking at Detroit's financial picture and trying to assess whether the city needs an emergency manager to take over operations. It was the first time the 10-member team met since it was appointed last month.
He said Detroit's most urgent issue is figuring out how to arrest escalating retiree health care costs, and clean up a balance sheet laden in debt and interest costs. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing had earlier predicted it would run out of money in April if spending wasn't curbed.
"It's my understanding that April has been pushed back to May," Dillon said, noting that the mayor "needs concessions from labor to avoid running short of cash."
Dillon said the team met with a "sense of urgency...and there was also anger," because members of the team asked "how come we didn't know the numbers were this bad?'" he said.
He said the team -- which includes a retired Detroit police chief and former Michigan Supreme Court justice -- used audited financial statements and a report furnished by the business community as a basis for their initial meeting.
Dillon expects to make a recommendation on a Detroit emergency manager within the next 50 days. As his team digs into Detroit finances, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is working to extract significant concessions from labor unions.
If Bing delivers a convincing cost-cutting plan to the state, Dillon said he would be able to suspend the work of the financial review team. Bing has said he expects to deliver a plan in early February.
The team was named by Governor Rick Snyder after a preliminary review of city finances showed "probable financial stress" after Detroit was unable to tackle mounting deficits.
Detroit, with a population of 714,000, has faced hard times as the contraction of the auto industry has led to a dwindling population and lower revenues. More than 36 percent of the Motor City's residents live below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Dillon's team will meet with Bing administration officials, members of the city council and labor unions in coming weeks. Dillon said that although this is a financial review, it's also a review of the "quality of life."
The panel wants to "make sure residents aren't waiting for a bus to arrive, or when they call 911 public safety make sure people are safe in the neighborhoods and there is lighting in the neighborhoods."
(Reporting By John Stoll; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Exclusive: Ex-SEC lawyer said to settle Stanford-linked case

(Reuters) - Former Securities and Exchange Commission attorney Spencer Barasch is expected to settle Department of Justice civil charges that he inappropriately represented alleged Ponzi schemer Allen Stanford, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Under the terms of the planned settlement, expected to be announced later this week, Barasch will pay a $50,000 fine, the people familiar said.
He will also settle a disciplinary action before the SEC under which he is expected to agree to a 6-month ban from practicing before the commission, one of the individuals said.
The SEC is tentatively scheduled to vote on the matter behind closed doors on Thursday. Barasch is expected to settle the matter without admitting any wrongdoing.
Barasch, a former head of enforcement for the SEC's Fort Worth, Texas, office, is now a partner at the law firm Andrews Kurth in Dallas. He has been at the center of a Justice Department probe since at least 2010.
That year, SEC Inspector General David Kotz released a report that found Barasch tried to quash investigations of Stanford while at the SEC, and then later repeatedly tried to get permission to represent Stanford after leaving his SEC post.
The SEC turned down his request each time, but Barasch persisted and eventually did provide some legal counsel to Stanford in the form of roughly 7 billable hours for travel and for reviewing a document on regulators' inquiry into Stanford's business, the report found.
In a statement issued last year, however, Andrew Kurth's managing partner Bob Jewell said he did not feel Barasch violated any conflict of interest rules and disagreed with the findings in Kotz's report.
Federal conflict of interest laws bar former government employees for life from communicating or making an appearance before the U.S. government under certain conditions, such as being substantially involved in the matter while in government.
A lawyer for Barasch and the SEC declined comment. A Justice Department spokeswoman had no immediate comment. Barasch and his law firm, Andrews Kurth, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The settlements come as federal prosecutors prepare for a criminal trial of Stanford, who is accused of running a $7.2 billion Ponzi scheme and deceiving thousands of investors into buying certificates of deposit from his Antiguan bank.
Stanford has denied the charges. Jury selection in the case is scheduled on January 23.
(Reporting By Sarah N. Lynch and Aruna Viswanatha; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

New Hampshire 2012 Primary Jan 10 2012 Exit Poll Results

Citizens United Backlash Grows from Cali. to NYC Urging Congress to Overturn Corporate Personhood

Adding to a growing nationwide backlash against the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, California lawmakers have introduced a resolution that calls on Congress to "propose and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United." The New York City Council has just passed a similar resolution, echoing measures passed in Los Angeles, Oakland, Albany and Boulder. We speak to Public Citizen President Robert Weissman; California Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski, who introduced the state’s Citizens United resolution; and New York City Council Member and measure co-sponsor Melissa Mark-Viverito. "I think it taps into the sentiment that we’re seeing around the country growing, regarding Occupy Wall Street, where people really feel that government is disconnected from the vast majority of the population, and because of this influence that corporate interests have," Mark-Viverito says. [includes rush transcript]

JUAN GONZALEZ: We turn now to a growing nationwide backlash against the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that opened the door for nearly unlimited political spending to influence elections. On Wednesday, California lawmakers introduced a resolution that calls on Congress to, quote, "propose and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United ... and to restore constitutional rights and fair elections to the people." Meanwhile, here in New York, the City Council passed a similar resolution. All of this comes after similar measures passed in Hawaii and other cities, including Los Angeles, Oakland, Albany and Boulder. On Friday, Montana’s Supreme Court restored a 100-year-old ban on corporate spending directed at political campaigns or candidates. Last year, federal lawmakers introduced four different constitutional amendments to the U.S. House and Senate aimed at overturning the Citizens United ruling.
AMY GOODMAN: Some of the concern about the impact of Citizens United is inspired by the influx of unlimited corporate cash into Iowa’s presidential caucus. Television ads sponsored by a political action committee that supports Mitt Romney plastered the state’s airwaves, attacking his rival, Newt Gingrich.
RESTORE OUR FUTURE: Ever notice how some people make a lot of mistakes?
NEWT GINGRICH: It was probably a mistake. I made a mistake. I’ve made mistakes at times.
RESTORE OUR FUTURE: So far, Newt Gingrich has admitted his mistakes or flipped on, teaming up with Nancy Pelosi, immigration, Medicare, healthcare, Iraq, attacking Mitt Romney, and more.
NEWT GINGRICH: I made a big mistake in the spring.
RESTORE OUR FUTURE: Haven’t we had enough mistakes? Restore Our Future is responsible for the content of this message.
AMY GOODMAN: That ad was paid for by super PAC, or political action committee, called Restore Our Future. The PAC has no direct participation from the Romney campaign, but three of its founders were campaign staffers on Romney’s failed 2008 presidential bid. Gingrich finished fourth in the Iowa caucus and accused Romney of trying to buy the election.
Well, for more, we’re joined by two lawmakers who helped introduce resolutions opposing Citizens United. California Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski joins us from Sacramento. He helped author Assembly Joint Resolution 22, which he introduced on Wednesday. And we’re joined by Melissa Mark-Viverito, a member of the New York City’s Progressive Caucus and co-sponsor of the resolution which passed here in New York yesterday. Rob Weissman is also staying with us, the president of Public Citizen.
Let’s go to Sacramento, California. Bob Wieckowski, talk about the legislation, the joint resolution that you introduced yesterday.
ASSEMBLYMEMBER BOB WIECKOWSKI: Well, good morning, Amy and Juan.
California is the most populous state, obviously, and we want to send a strong message to members of the United States Congress that we need to have Citizens United overturned, that it’s just—the influence of corporate money in our elections is just not going to be tolerated in California.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And what would it take to be able to get a constitutional amendment? This is a resolution, right? It’s not—it’s not binding, even on the state?
ASSEMBLYMEMBER BOB WIECKOWSKI: Right, correct. It’s a voice in the debate that’s going on. And we understand that Congress has to go through the process of introduce the amendment, has to be ratified by the states, three-quarters of the states. So it’s an uphill battle. But the dialogue and the outrage that people feel, and people in California feel, about this potential influence that corporate money is going to have on our elections is—needs a vehicle. And this is where we start.
AMY GOODMAN: And Melissa Mark-Viverito, talk about the New York City Council resolution that you co-sponsored.
COUNCIL MEMBER MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: Well, basically, as the assemblyman said, it’s about really allowing this municipality to have a voice in this debate. We’re seeing this discontent grow. Surveys demonstrate that people just don’t want this level of corporate influence and dominance over government. And so, this is a way of really adding our voice. I think it taps into the sentiment that we’re seeing around the country growing, regarding Occupy Wall Street, where people really feel that government is disconnected from the vast majority of the population, and because of this influence that corporate interests have, which is really representing that 1 percent and continuing to want to dictate the laws and regulations in this country.
So, it is, coming from New York City, a strong statement that we also, as a municipality—and hopefully the state will do the same thing here in New York, is to send that message that we want a constitutional amendment. Historically, obviously, most of these amendments have come from Congress, having—bringing it back to the states, and it’s never been done at the state level, making the request to the Congress. But again, we’re seeing this grow across municipalities and across states, so hopefully this will lead to some level of resolve and resolution on this matter.
AMY GOODMAN: Who were the forces on this New York City Council—you’re a City Council member—that pushed this forward and off, the communities, like the community you represent? How does that fit in with campaign finance reform?
COUNCIL MEMBER MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: Well, we have one of the strongest campaign finance laws in the country, is in New York City. And obviously, this also impacts—this decision is going to impact local elections, because your independent corporate interests can spend as much as they want. And so, it is going to impact us. But we do have strict laws, and we’ve been historically the strongest to say that we don’t want that level of influence in our local politics. And so, my community, which is a low-income community, it is a community of color that a lot of times has been disenfranchised, in general. You know, we obviously are very concerned about having our voice heard and having government really reflect the true interests and needs of our communities. And again, limiting corporate influence and dominance through contributions is one way of doing that. Allowing—
AMY GOODMAN: You represent East Harlem.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, hours before voters took part in the Republican caucus, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich appeared on CBS and publicly accused Mitt Romney of being a liar.
NORAH O’DONNELL: You said of Mitt Romney, "Somebody who will lie to you to get to be president will lie to you when they are president." I have to ask you, are you calling Mitt Romney a liar?
NORAH O’DONNELL: You’re calling Mitt Romney a liar?
NEWT GINGRICH: Well, you seem shocked by it. I said yes. I mean, what else could you say?
NORAH O’DONNELL: Why are you saying he’s a liar?
NEWT GINGRICH: Because this is a man whose staff created the PAC. His millionaire friends fund the PAC. He pretends he has nothing to do with the PAC. It’s baloney. He’s not telling the American people the truth.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Rob Weissman, what about this whole issue of how these groups have developed and their so-called ties, or no ties, that they supposedly have to the candidates?
ROBERT WEISSMAN: Well, under the election rules, they’re not allowed to coordinate with the candidates. And let’s assume that they’re not. They probably aren’t. But in the case of the Romney PAC, as well as—the super PAC, as well as the others, it’s exactly as Newt Gingrich said. It’s run by Romney’s prior campaign manager and other Romney friends. They’re soliciting from the super Romney donors. And they’re running ads on behalf of Romney, doing exactly what Romney would like to do, but worse.
So there’s two key features of it. One is that because there’s no accountability whatsoever for an entity called Restore Our Future, unlike there is for candidate Romney, they can do nothing but run vicious attack ads, and they can’t be held accountable in the way that Romney himself would be if he were to run the ads.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain—
ROBERT WEISSMAN: The other is that Romney—the Romney campaign has got donation limits. The Restore Our Future super PAC does not. So they’re getting donations on chunks of a million dollars or more, and it’s coming from individuals and from corporations, thanks to Citizens United. We’re really moving very quickly in the direction of massive corruption of the election process, in a way that goes back at least to Watergate and maybe long before.
AMY GOODMAN: Rob Weissman, can you explain Citizens United, what this group was, what this Citizens United decision came out of, how it links to Hillary Clinton and an organization that Newt Gingrich, who seems now hoist on his own petard, worked closely with, Citizens United?
ROBERT WEISSMAN: Well, the organization Citizens United is an extreme, fringe, right-wing organization. If you go to their website, they’re very concerned about the U.N. takeover of the in the United States, and that’s sort of one of their core agenda pieces. They also spend a lot of time developing so-called documentaries. And in the lead-up to the 2008 election, they did an hour-long video hit piece on Hillary Clinton, assuming that she was going to be the nominee for—the Democratic nominee for president. Then the issue—as it turned into a court case, the issue was, could Citizens United air this hour-long attack video on Hillary Clinton on cable TV on demand? And that was actually a really narrow question to our election law that’s kind of technical—not unimportant, but not really that interesting. And that’s how it was handled as it went up to the courts.
When it got to the Supreme Court, it was argued that way, the first time in front of the Supreme Court, over that narrow, technical issue. And the Supreme Court said, "Well, that’s all very nice, but we’re interested in a much bigger question, which is, can we just wipe away all restrictions on corporate spending on elections, so long as there aren’t direct contributions from corporations to candidates?" So having decided what the question should be, even though it wasn’t the question in the case, the Supreme Court then held a new argument and answered the question the way they intended to, which was to say, corporations have a constitutional First Amendment right to spend whatever they want to influence election outcomes.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting that Newt—
ROBERT WEISSMAN: So that was all generated from this organization, Citizens United.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting that Newt Gingrich made films with Citizens United, his own organization. But Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yeah, I’d to bring back Bob Wieckowski from—the California assemblymember. What’s been the impact? Because California obviously has very expensive media markets throughout the state. What’s been the impact of the Citizens United case on races already in California?
ASSEMBLYMEMBER BOB WIECKOWSKI: Well, so far, we had—we had like the city of Los Angeles and the city of San Francisco races. So, our primary season starts in June. And I think folks are terrified, as Robert pointed out, that there’s going to be this deluge of corporate money that’s going to come in. And we also have a changed primary system where we have the top two—top two voters are going to go into the general. So we’re concerned that we’re just at the beginning of a whole year of corporate spending to, you know, determine what the outcome of the elections are going to be. So, the spending is just—hasn’t started yet. They’re collecting the moneys, I guess.
AMY GOODMAN: And the issue of privacy, Bob Wieckowski?
ASSEMBLYMEMBER BOB WIECKOWSKI: Well, I don’t put much weight on the issue of privacy. I mean, corporations aren’t natural people. The public has a greater interest, and we as legislators have a greater responsibility, to let people know who this message is coming from. As has been outlined on your show, there’s—we don’t even know who, you know, People for Good Government are when they come in, and there’s no—there’s no accountability that we have with that. And, you know, this decision flies in the face of all the history of the United States of trying to limit corporate influence and trying to limit these—have these manipulations in our elections. It’s really—it’s quite scary right now in California with all the money that potentially could be spent on determining the outcome of races.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And I’d like to ask Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito—as you said, New York City has one of the toughest campaign finance laws, and it also has a six-to-one public match for those who participate in—under the rules, but it hasn’t stopped a billionaire from running for mayor three times and spending $70 million to $100 million each time to get himself elected as mayor.
COUNCIL MEMBER MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: Right, and it’s true. I mean, our—what we obviously would want to see is people to opt in to the campaign finance program, because it does create a level playing field. Everyone that participates in the program for the position you run, you’re capped in terms of how much money you can raise and how much public money you get back to really have a budget for your campaign. But people can opt out of the program, and then that’s where the amount of undisclosed money or the amount of money that you can raise for an election is one that is not capped in any way. So, obviously that’s where we saw our mayor independently finance his own campaign and in the last election spend over $100 million in a mayoral election. So, we obviously are concerned.
And just to reiterate, the other issue with the Citizens United is the lack of transparency and accountability, that you don’t know where this money is coming from. And you’ve already seen, two years in, you know, how much additional money has been spent in the last election cycle. So, really, it’s a bad, bad decision. And we’re really concerned about the implications running into the future.
AMY GOODMAN: Melissa, you used to work for SEIU. This also involves union money.
COUNCIL MEMBER MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: Yes. But unions are made up of members, and it’s very clearly known who the individuals are that comprise unions. And so, when a union is giving money in a donation to a candidate, you know exactly where it’s coming from, so there is that level of disclosure that it already exists. And fighting on behalf of worker rights and collective bargaining rights, to me, is very different than fighting behind an interest who actually wants to exploit workers and really government intervention in the protection of workers. It’s a very different dynamic.
AMY GOODMAN: And in a moment, we’re going to have a very interesting discussion about what’s going on in Indiana around worker rights. But I wanted to turn to one last clip. A day after narrowly winning the Iowa caucus, Mitt Romney came under intense questioning in New Hampshire Wednesday by a member of Occupy Boston and Occupy New Hampshire over his past comment that corporations are people. The exchange took place at a televised town hall during which Senator John McCain endorsed Romney.
MARK PROVOST: You’ve said that corporations are people. But in the last two years, corporate profits have surged to record highs, directly at the expense of wages. That’s in a JPMorgan report. Now, it seems that the U.S., it’s a great place to be a corporation then, but increasingly a desperate place to live and work. So would you refine your earlier statement from "corporations are people" to "corporations are abusive people"? And would you be willing to reverse the policies of both the Obama administration and his predecessors around corporate-centric economic policies that only see wealth and income, you know, just go to the top, at record highs seemingly, every—faster every year? And the people in this country are in a permanent economic stagnation. So, I just want to see some color on that.
MITT ROMNEY: Where do you think corporations’ profit goes? When you hear that a corporation has profit, where does it go?
MARK PROVOST: [inaudible] profit, I mean, it depends—
MITT ROMNEY: Yeah, but where does it go?
MARK PROVOST: Well, it depends. If they retain it, there’s retained earnings, that means that they’re not spending it on—they’re not distributing it as dividends, and that means they’re not using it for capex, capital expenditure. You know, so they could just hoard it. That’s retained earnings. Right? But as profits, it goes to shareholders. So it goes to the 1 percent of Americans that own 90 percent of the stocks.
MITT ROMNEY: OK, not let’s get to facts, all right? There are two places they can go.
MARK PROVOST: Those are facts, Mr. Romney.
MITT ROMNEY: Hold on. It’s my turn. You’ve had your turn. Now it’s my turn, all right? First of all, you’re right it goes to dividends, all right, which is to the owners. But they’re not the 1 percent. All right? They’re not only the 1 percent. I’m sure, among the dividends, go to the 1 percent, but also go to the people who have pensions. All right? There’s a guy. You don’t—are you in the 1 percent? No. He’s got dividends and retirement plans, 401(k)s. They’re filled of the dividends that come out from corporations. That’s number one.
Number two, you are right, they can go into retained earnings, which then can be used for capital expenditures or growing the business or hiring people or working capital. When a business has profit, it can do good things: give it to the shareholders and grow the enterprise. And by the way, the only way it can hire people is if it grows the enterprise.
Now, corporations, they’re made up of people, and then, of course, the buildings that people work in. The buildings don’t pay taxes. The only people that—the only entities that pay taxes are people. And so, corporations are collections of people that are trying to have good jobs for themselves and promote the future. And so, corporations are made up of people, and the money goes to people, either to hire people or to pay shareholders. And so, they’re made up of people. So, somehow thinking that there’s something else out there that we could just grab money from and get taxes from, and everything could be better, that doesn’t involve people, well, they’re still people. And what I want to do is make America a place where those corporations that have that money decide to invest here.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Mitt Romney answering a question from one of the people at the town hall about calling a corporation a person. Rob Weissman, we just have a minute. Can you respond?
ROBERT WEISSMAN: You know, that’s a lot more of a refined response than he gave before. But he’s wrong about what he’s saying. Corporations are entities, not just a collection of people. They are entities that have their own legal life, state-created legal life. And the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United said that those entities, not the people within them, but the entity itself, has the right to spend whatever it wants to influence the outcome of elections, that’s—to represent actual, real, live, living, breathing human beings.
I mean, that’s why we need a constitutional amendment to both overturn Citizens United and clear the way of this confusion that corporations have a claim on the constitutional rights that are intended to protect people, real people, like you and me. It’s why the resolutions in New York and California are so important, and it’s why people are mobilizing around the country on the second anniversary of the decision, January 21st, to really build the movement to call for a constitutional amendment. It’s going to take a long time, but we are going to win this thing. Folks who want more information can go to a lot of places, but among them is, which is our campaign to help drive forward the movement for a constitutional amendment.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you all for being with us. Rob Weissman is president of Public Citizen. Thanks to California Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski, joining us from Sacramento, and Melissa Mark-Viverito, a member of the New York City Council and co-sponsor of the resolution here in New York that passed yesterday.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’re going to Indiana to a debate over worker rights. Stay with us.


New Jersey Will Pay You $1000 To Destroy The 2nd Amendment

Brandon Smith
There is nothing more disgusting or detestable than a citizen informant. Without citizen informants, tyrants could never retain the kind of power they wield. In fact, without citizen informants, totalitarian movements would never gain traction. This is why EVERY functional oligarchy throughout history has implemented programs designed to encourage the development of common spies, using the promise of monetary reward, or collective recognition.

Sadly, there are many in our society that would gladly sell out their closest friends and family to the tortures of authoritarian bureaucracy for nothing more than a firm pat on the head and a few fiat dollars. If there was ever a more degraded lot of bottom feeding opportunist scum, the citizen informant is the very epitome.

With the implementation of the “See Something, Say Something” program, and the increasing drive by the White House to institute community watch efforts to route out “extremists”, showcased quite clearly in strategic outlines like the ‘Empowering Local Partners To Prevent Violent Extremism In The United States’:

The issue of informant networking has come to the forefront in America. My personal view is that these nauseating and diseased people should be treated as treasonous as any globalist, regardless of stated intention. That said, in an environment rife with extraneous poverty, informancy cannot be avoided. Plenty of men and women, stricken with empty wallets and bellies, are extraordinarily prone to betrayal, regardless of their inherent morality. This is the kind of world we will soon be living in, and this is the kind of environment that corrupt officials like those in New Jersey are prone to exploit. Pathetic, weak, cowardly, but ultimately dangerous sheep unknowingly serving the very men who would seek to enslave them.

In terms of 2nd Amendment rights, I find the very idea of debate rather pointless. The logic is undeniable. If you cannot defend yourself, you are a victim. Period. You become food for predators and parasites. Any state government or national government which actively seeks to disarm its citizens is suspect. I couldn’t care less about their stated rationalizations or rhetoric. In New Jersey, in Chicago, in Washington D.C., or anywhere else for that matter, an innocent man who is disarmed by law will always be victimized by an outlaw who armed through criminality. The concept of reduced crime through gun confiscation is so naïve it warrants considerable analysis. Through such efforts, good men are left defenseless, while evil men are free to wreak havoc.

The 2nd Amendment is not a negotiable or debatable pillar of the Constitution. It is absolute in its protection. Every American, regardless of the temporary circumstances of the times, is free to arm and defend himself from ANY enemy, from average criminals, to government thugs. The gun confiscation program featured in the video below, and instituted by officials in New Jersey, should not be taken lightly. The pure idiocy inherent in its premise cannot be ignored. New Jersey’s willingness to pay off potential informants could very well be a petri dish test for much more expansive programs across the country in the future. If we cannot stop the corruption and anti-constitutionalism of a pathetic state like New Jersey, then how can we expect to disrupt the same brand of corruption throughout the U.S.?

  Guns are simply not the issue. An armed and educated populace is a populace safe from crime. This is a fact. New Jersey’s informant program is a travesty of justice, not only because it encourages American on American treason, but also because it ignores the very purpose behind the Second Amendment; to create a populace free from the fear of tyranny. If we do not put an end to the anti-gun tides in New Jersey, we should fully expect to see such atrocities against freedom planted at our own front doors in the near future. There are no exceptions to the Constitution. New Jersey is not outside of its jurisdiction. Every person in that state deserves the same protections as anyone else. We must disrupt the sick and perverted no questions asked buy-off policies now prominent in that region, or be subject to the same in the near future…

Meanwhile, in the Persian Gulf…

With all eyes focused on Iowa, what is happening in the Persian Gulf escapes most everyone’s notice. The babble of competing voices – the nattering nabobs of the mainstream media, the “spin”-doctors, the lobbyists and special interests currently inundating the airwaves with propaganda – drowns out everything else. Nothing short of a major terrorist attack could possibly compete with the Iowa story – and yet what happens in the Gulf, or doesn’t happen, will reshape the American political landscape and may well determine the course of the presidential election.
As the aircraft carrier the USS John Stennis retreated in the face of Iranian naval exercises, the Iranian chief of staff gloated:
“I recommend and emphasize to the American carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf. I advise, recommend and warn them (the Americans) over the return of this carrier to the Persian Gulf because we are not in the habit of warning more than once.”
Bold words, backed up by very little. It turns out those supposedly “long range” missiles they test-fired to top off their recent military exercises couldn’t even reach Bahrain, let alone Israel – and were entirely the creation of Photoshop. This posturing is for domestic consumption: as the sanctions continue to bite, the regime seeks to divert popular anger over the country’s worsening economic crisis and put the full blame on the Americans (and, as always, the Brits).
The war of words also serves the purposes of our domestic demagogues. US presidential candidate Rick Santorum responded to the Iranians’ meaningless chest-beating with practiced cluelessness, announcing he wouldn’t hesitate to bomb Iran for fear of rendering America a “paper tiger.” The Pentagon, for its part, had a more measured response, as Ha’aretz reports:
“Asked later Tuesday if the U.S. intends to send naval reinforcements to the Gulf in response to Iranian talk of closing the Strait of Hormuz, Pentagon spokesperson George Little did not answer directly but said, ‘No one in this government seeks confrontation over the Strait of Hormuz. It’s important to lower the temperature.’”
A significant faction within the US military is opposed to the War Party’s latest crusade: you’ll recall Admiral William Fallon’s very public dissent from the bomb-bomb-bomb-Iran crowd in 2008, leading to his resignation as chief of the US Central Command. Among the top officer corps, Fallon is far from alone.
This dissent, however, comes a little too late, since we are already at war with Iran: the economic sanctions we’ve imposed are in themselves acts of war, and the latest version – sanctions on banks that do business with Iran – are already having their effect: a drop in the value of Iranian currency.
It is rank hypocrisy for the US to point to the Iranian threat to close the Strait of Hormuz when Washington is seeking to block commerce traversing the Strait by imposing sanctions on Iranian oil. The Iranians know very well that the sanctions cannot be enforced without a military blockade – and that is the next logical step on the road to war.
By all means, enjoy the Iowa circus: I certainly am having fun with it. What makes it a Circus Macabre, however, is that it takes place in the shadow of a looming catastrophe: the advent of World War III, and the onset of a second Great Depression.
Santorum’s fear that the US will be considered a “paper tiger” is entirely rational, albeit not in the sense he means it. The “paper tiger” isn’t our lack of military prowess, but rather our paper money we are degrading to the point of utter worthlessness. As the mountain of debt grows higher, our real national security interests are being subverted by militarists of Santorum’s stripe who don’t understand a simple fact: we’re bankrupt.
Bankrupt empires are prone to sudden collapse: witness the fate of the Soviet Union. Neither our think tank “experts” nor the intelligence community had a clue prior to the downing of the Berlin Wall that the mighty Kremlin was on the verge of imploding – and it looks like the same cluelessness is at work as their own empire reaches the meltdown point.
Imperialism is a luxury we can no longer afford, and yet long after the empire has been foreclosed our rulers will continue to strut about on the international stage as if the United States mattered. Even as we descend into the economic abyss, we’ll be hearing from the Santorums, the Bachmanns, the Gingriches, and the Romneys about the glories of “American exceptionalism” and our duty to police the world – and they’ll find a substantial audience in some quarters. Major changes take a long time to register in the public mind: that’s why the rulers of a declining empire are likely to act with the same overweening arrogance years after the underlying reality no longer lends credence to their empty posturing.
We are at a particularly dangerous juncture. War with Iran would destroy, with one stroke, the spotty economic “recovery” and plunge world markets into chaos. Yet this grim prospect – which was the official rationale for the biggest theft bailout in history – doesn’t deter our warmongers in the least. The economic case against war with Iran should be enough to convince any rational person that peaceful engagement with Tehran is the only solution.
The problem is that economics takes a back seat to politics: that is what’s driving us into an open conflict with Iran. While the IAEA report contains no new information about Iran’s alleged nuclear arms program, and while our own intelligence assessment says they stopped all work on nukes in 2003 [.pdf], war serves the political interests of several major factions within the US elite. First and foremost is the powerful Israel lobby, which exerts a major influence on both political parties: they long ago targeted Iran for destruction, echoing the laughable assertions of Israeli officials that Iran represents an “existential threat” to the Jewish state’s very existence. Secondly, the neoconservative faction of the GOP, which has glommed onto the Romney campaign, and has its voice in Fox News and the Murdoch media empire: that crowd welcomes any and all wars as an expression of “national greatness.” Thirdly, the powerful pro-Israel faction of the Democratic party, which wields a lot of influence among the top donors: centered in Hillary’s State Department, this powerful pressure group has kept the US from pursuing a more evenhanded policy in the Middle East.
To reiterate the central insight of what I call “libertarian realism”: foreign policy is all about domestic politics. It doesn’t matter if war with Iran would have devastating consequences for ordinary Americans: as long as war serves the political interests of our governing elite, then war we shall have.

Keiser Report: Hollywood Cons Congress (E234)

Hyperinflation Dollar Collapse: They have Warned Us!

Morris Voice Over - Crusading For Mercantalism

Greece Spends Bailout Cash On European Military Purchases

As Greek standards of living nose-dive, loans to households and businesses shrink still further, and Troika-imposed PSI discussions continue, there is one segment of the country's infrastructure that is holding up well. In a story on Zeit Online, the details of the multi-billion Euro new arms contracts are exposed as the European reach-around would be complete with IMF (US) and Europe-provided Greek bailout cash doing a full-circle into American Apache helicopters, French frigates, and German U-Boats. As the unnamed source in the article notes: "If Greece gets paid in March the next tranche of funding (€ 80 billion is expected), there is a real opportunity to conclude new arms contracts." With the country's doctors only treating emergencies, bus drivers on strike, and a dire lack of school textbooks and the country teetering on the brink of Drachmatization, perhaps our previous concerns over military coups was not so far-fetched as after the Portuguese (another obviously stressed nation), the Greeks are the largest buyers of German war weapons.  It seems debt crisis talks perhaps had more quid pro quo than many expected as Euro Fighter commitments were also discussed and Greek foreign minister Droutsas points out:"Whether we like it or not, Greece is obliged to have a strong military".

From Zeit Online: Fine Weapons For Athens (Via Google Translate)
Frigates, tanks and submarines: A Greek military passes any savings package. And Germany benefited.

The Gift of the Greek Ministry of Defense has the man in the head: up to 60 fighter aircraft fighter for maybe € 3.9 billion euros. French frigates for about four billion, patrol boats worth 400 million euros, as much is the necessary modernization of the existing Greek fleet. Then it still lacks of ammunition for the Leopard tank , also would have two American Apache helicopters will be replaced. Oh, and one would like to buy German U-boats, total price: two billion euros.

What the man who goes in and out of Greece's Defence Ministry, in an Athens cafe is because of the sounds absurd. A State which is on the verge of bankruptcy and is supported by billions of the European Union wants to buy tons of weapons? The man in the café is often seen in photos next to the generals of the Army or Defense, he phoned often with these people, so he knows his way around. He knows how sensitive the issue, and would therefore - like most other party - are not named in the newspaper. He even holds for arms purchases currently not communicable. But could soon change that, he says: "If Greece get paid in March the next tranche of funding of € 80 billion is expected, there is a real opportunity to conclude new arms contracts."

If only one billion staying left, so the man could be, for example, the first Euro Fighter frigates or a binding order.

Really incredible: This spring, decides whether Greece survives in the euro area or the drachma back . On the morning of the internals in the café are freely divulged, physicians treat in Athens hospitals only in emergencies, bus drivers on strike, are still missing textbooks in schools and thousands demonstrate against state officials announced their dismissal. Greece's government announced a new savings program that barely spared a Greek.

Unless he works for the military or the armaments industry . On these two areas is in fact still almost passed without any austerity.


Under Greece's EU partners, there are few who speak out publicly in favor, stop the project immediately and Greek armor for a long time. One is Daniel Cohn-Bendit, leader of the Greens in the European Parliament: "From the outside, access to EU countries in practically all the rights of Greece. Nurses will cut the wages and everything should be privatized. Only in the defense budget, it means a sudden, it was a sovereign right of the state. It's surreal. "

Cohn-Bendit believes that behind the hesitation of Europe to entrenched economic interests. Main beneficiary of the Greek armament policy in Europe is just saving champions Germany. According to the just-released report, Arms Export in 2010 after the Portuguese, the Greeks - a state on the verge of bankruptcy - the largest buyers of German war weapons. Spanish and Greek newspapers spread the rumor at all, Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy would have remembered former Prime Minister of Greece George Papandreou nor the end of October at the edge of a summit meeting to finding solutions to existing or new arms orders complete. In Papandreou's environment is not confirmed, the federal government decided denied "messages, Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy had recently urged Greece to new arms deals, baseless," said a spokesman via e-mail.


Clearly this is apparently also become a state visit in Greece: German Government members expressed their export needs, and the Greeks reiterated their demand for imports. It has every known, "that Greece had invested too much in its military," so Linnenkamp. Yet the Greeks piled on over the years, enormous obligations.


But in the spring of 2010 reminded Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (FDP), the Greek government to the order of € Fighter, just weeks before the Greek bankruptcy. "Westerwelle called for a commitment to the Euro Fighter," says someone who has experienced the talks closely. The Foreign Minister also assured again in the Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini: "We do not urge the Greek government to buy. If (they) but, at any time whatsoever, a decision to purchase fighter aircraft meets the Euro Fighter countries want to be represented here by Germany, will be considered in the decision. . This is within the European Union, but completely normal, "A few weeks later Westerwelle called in the stock market newspaper more discipline from the South:" We expect before, there are discussions about aid that Greece executes fully their own homework to consolidate policy. "

How does that work? Not at all, is the defense expert Linnenkamp: "It was totally irresponsible to speak in the midst of severe economic crisis, the issue of Greece's Euro Fighter at all."


Dimitris Droutsas is one of the few Greeks who speak openly about these figures. By June 2011, he was of Greek foreign minister. "We have not spent so much money on defense, because we made it fun," he says. The Greek foreign borders must be secured against the waves of migration from North Africa and Asia, almost daily there are conflicts with Turkey. "As Foreign Minister I was always in the afternoon a message from the Defense Department with the list of Turkish violations of our airspace." Greece also been watching with concern the increasing activity of the Turkish navy in the Aegean Sea and have seen a good 35 years on the "Turkish invasion" Cyprus . Since then, the Greeks lived in a state of fear. That with Turkey give an arms race, although both countries are in NATO, Droutsas deems legitimate: "Whether we like it or not, Greece is obliged to have a strong military" point.


Resistance in its own population as Droutsas Greeks need not fear. The Greek military security sector promises to the people - and jobs. In a country without its own significant industry that is worth much. German defense companies have recognized this early and with Greek companies closely intertwined. Someone who mitverhandelte long, says: "In Greece, the arms deal as a give and take anywhere. What do I get in return when I buy a tank with you? Always it was also about compensation. Any politician who signed a treaty with the Germans hoped that a corresponding portion flows back. "

How To Prepare For The Difficult Years Ahead

How should people prepare for the difficult years that are coming?  I get asked about that a lot.  Once people really examine the facts, it is not too hard to convince them that an economic collapse is coming.  But once they accept that reality, most of them want to know what they can do to prepare themselves and their families for the hard times that are ahead.  Well, the truth is that it does not have to be complicated.  Many of the things discussed throughout this article are things that most of us should be doing anyway.  Now is not the time to be splurging on luxuries or expensive vacations.  Now is not the time to be going into large amounts of debt.  Instead, we all need to get back to the basics and we all need to do what we can to become more independent of the system.  Just remember what happened back in 2008.  Millions of Americans lost their jobs and millions of Americans lost their homes.  Now experts all over the globe are warning that another great financial crisis that could be just as bad as 2008 (or even worse) is coming.  Those that don't take the time to prepare this time are not going to have any excuse.
But there is also a lot of sensationalism out there.  There are some people out there that claim that the economy is going to collapse all at once and that we are going to go from where we are now to some type of a post-apocalyptic "Mad Max" society almost overnight.
Well, that is just not going to happen.  We are not going to wake up next week in a world where we are all fighting each other with sharp pointed sticks.
Just like anything else, an economic collapse takes time.  I like to describe what is happening using an analogy from the beach.  When you build a mighty sand castle, it is not totally destroyed by the first wave that comes along, right?
Well, it is the same thing with the U.S. economy.  It was the greatest economic machine that the world has ever seen, and it is most definitely in decline.  But there are stages to that decline.
The "wave" that came along in 2008 did a huge amount of damage.  Our economy has not recovered from that.
Now another wave is coming.  But that will not be the end.  There will be other waves after that.
Eventually, this thing is coming all the way down.  Someday America will be such a horror show that it will be hard to believe that it is the same place that many of us grew up in.
But in the short-term, we are going to be facing a major league recession and millions of Americans will lose their jobs.  It won't be the end of the world, but for some people it may feel like it.
So when you are talking about "how to prepare", the truth is that it depends on what kind of time frame you are talking about.
In the long-term, a lot of the things that even the hardcore survivalists are doing will not be nearly enough.
In the short-term, there are things that all of us can do to weather the coming storm....
Get Out Of Debt
The global financial system is headed for a massive crisis.  Just like in 2008, a lot of people are going to lose their jobs and a lot of people are going to lose their homes.
In such an environment, it makes sense to travel as "lightly" as possible.
That means getting rid of debt.
Some forms of debt are worse than others.  Mortgage debt is not that bad.  We all need somewhere to live, and not all of us can run out and immediately pay off our mortgages.
But there are other forms of debt that are absolutely toxic.  A good example of this is credit card debt.  There are very few things that are as good at bleeding your finances as credit card debt is.  For example, according to the credit card repayment calculator, if you have a $6000 balance on a credit card with a 20 percent interest rate and only pay the minimum payment each time, it will take you 54 years to pay off that credit card.
During those 54 years you will pay $26,168 in interest rate charges on that credit card balance in addition to the $6000 in principal that you are required to pay back.  That is before any fees or penalties are even calculated.
But a lot of Americans still have not learned to stay away from credit card debt.  In fact, one out of every seven Americans has at least 10 credit cards.
The truth is that in future years there is a good chance that you may be facing a situation where you are not making as much income, so you want to try to start reducing your expenses right now.  Getting out of debt will help you to do this.
Save Money
A shockingly high number of American families are operating without any kind of financial cushion whatsoever....
-According to a Harris Interactive survey taken in 2010, 77 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.
-According to one recent survey, one out of every three Americans would not be able to make a mortgage or rent payment next month if they suddenly lost their current job.
This is one reason why so many Americans have lost their homes and why so many Americans have fallen below the poverty level in recent years.  They simply had no cushion.
Last year, 2.6 million more Americans dropped into poverty.  That was the largest increase that we have seen since the U.S. government began keeping statistics on this back in 1959.
Don't let this happen to you.  At a minimum, everyone out there should have a cushion that will cover at least 6 months worth of expenses.  Preferably, you should have a cushion that will last you at least a year.
Yes, I know that is a tall order.  But you would be amazed at how much money the average American family wastes in a typical month.  Almost all of us have areas where we can cut back.
Trust me, in the middle of a major recession you will be really glad that you are sitting on a pile of savings.
Get Independent Of The System
What would you do if you lost your job tomorrow?
Would you have any other income?
How long would it be before you lost your home?
Those are very important questions.
The truth is that the system is failing and so we all need to work hard to become more independent of the system.
So what does that mean?
Well, instead of relying on someone else to employ you indefinitely, you can start up a business in your spare time.  Yes, it will cut into your television time, but if someday you lose your job you will be extremely happy that you still have some income coming in.
Another way of becoming more independent is to start a garden.
Yes, you can run down the street and buy giant piles of cheap food right now, but that will not be the case forever.
Store Food And Focus On The Essentials
I might get into a little trouble for saying this, but the truth is that there is not going to be a major famine in America in 2012.
However, that does not mean that you should not be storing food and other essentials.
In the old days, our grandparents always saved up food.  It was just a natural thing for them to do.  This was especially the case if they lived through the Great Depression.
When hard times come, you will be glad that you have food stored up.  Plus, food is never going to be cheaper than it is today.  Having food stored up is a great hedge against the rising food prices that we will see in the future.
No, we are not going to see hyperinflation by the end of the year like many of the sensationalists are warning.  But someday you will be really glad that you stored up food for yourself and your family.
We live in a world that is becoming more unstable with each passing month.  You never know when the next natural disaster, pandemic, war or national emergency will strike.
It only makes sense to store food and other basic essentials that you will need in the future.
In a previous article entitled "20 Things You Will Need To Survive When The Economy Collapses And The Next Great Depression Begins", I listed 20 of the things that you would need in the event of a major disaster, a national emergency or a total economic collapse.  These are things that you are going to want to make sure that you have ready right now, because after the crisis begins it may be too late to prepare....
#1) Storable Food
#2) Clean Water
#3) Shelter
#4) Warm Clothing
#5) An Axe
#6) Lighters Or Matches
#7) Hiking Boots Or Comfortable Shoes
#8) A Flashlight And/Or Lantern
#9) A Radio
#10) Communication Equipment
#11) A Swiss Army Knife
#12) Personal Hygiene Items
#13) A First Aid Kit And Other Medical Supplies
#14) Extra Gasoline (But Be Very Careful How You Store It)
#15) A Sewing Kit
#16) Self-Defense Equipment
#17) A Compass
#18) A Hiking Backpack
#19) A Community
#20) A Backup Plan
In the comments to that article, the readers suggested the following additional items....
A K-Bar Fighting Knife
Extra Batteries
A Camp Stove
Pet Food
Heirloom Seeds
An LED Headlamp
Calcium Hypochlorite
Ziplock Bags
Maps Of Your Area
Sleeping Bags
Rifle For Hunting
Extra Socks
Gold And Silver Coins For Bartering
Once again, a lot of these things are not going to be needed right away.  The economy is going to go through a lot more ups and downs before it totally dies.
In the short-term, keep an eye on the European debt crisis, the Japanese debt crisis and the U.S. debt crisis.  There are a lot of similarities between what happened back in 2008 and what is happening now.
And what happened following the crisis of 2008?
Unemployment shot through the roof.
So be prepared for that.
Make a plan for how you and your family will survive if you end up unemployed.
Also, when it comes to "how to prepare", there is one aspect that is often overlooked.
During the difficult years ahead, we are all going to have to be mentally and spiritually tough.
It won't matter how good your physical and financial preparations are if you are cowardly and paralyzed by fear.
The times that are coming are going to test all of our hearts.
Some people are going to make it and some people aren't.
Some people will become so consumed with fear that they will give up completely.
Don't let that happen to you.
Prepare your heart, soul, mind and body right now for what is coming.  For those that are cowardly the years ahead will be a total nightmare, but for those that overcome the fear the years ahead have the potential to be a great adventure.
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Winning Our Future | King of Bain "When Mitt Romney Came To Town" [Trailer]


It is no surprise to see Mitt Romney attacked as a caricature of Gordon Gekko, the corporate raider immortalized in Oliver Stone’s 1987 film “Wall Street.” As far back as 1994, when Romney ran for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy successfully defeated him by utilizing that exact attack strategy. And it is in no way fundamentally wrong.

Like Gekko, Romney made his fortune buying and selling companies; and like Gekko, he believes that his “greed is good” version of rough-and-tumble creative destruction is a positive force for America, weeding out the bad performers and nurturing lean-and-mean profit engines. If you are looking for the paradigmatic exemplar of the new style of capitalism mogul launched by the Reagan revolution, Romney is your man. Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko is merely ersatz.

The shock is to see Newt Gingrich and his financial backers channeling the Oliver Stone critique so passionately and wholeheartedly. If you have not seen the three-minute advertisement “When Romney Came to Town,” the soon-to-be debuted documentary lambasting Romney as the enemy of the American worker, prepare to be flabbergasted.

“Their greed was only matched by their willingness to do anything to make millions in profits.”

“This film is about one such raider and his firm.”

“His mission: To reap massive rewards for himself and his investors.

“Romney took foreign seed money from Latin America, and began a pattern exploiting dozens of American businesses.”

And so on. Michael Moore doesn’t sting this hard, and MoveOn isn’t this angry. If Romney, as expected, ends up winning the Republican nomination, Obama’s campaign team can relax. Their work has already been done.

Much is being made of whether Gingrich has broken some sort of unspoken code of Republican primary collegiality by declaring class warfare on Romney. As Jonathan Chait argues, you can question whether a fellow GOP candidate is a true conservative, but to call him a “plunderer” is, or should be, beyond the pale. Plundering is what capitalism is all about! The free market is supposed to be built on the principle of unrestrained plunderation. Or it would be, if Democrats didn’t keep getting in the way with their socialist-leaning regulations.

But the more interesting, deeper point to be made here pinpoints one of the great ironies of post-Reagan American history. In 1987, “Wall Street” served as a vehicle for a left-wing attack on the emerging values of the Reagan era. There was a new kind of capitalism in town, and Oliver Stone made a passionate case for its wrongness, for its destructive elevation of the concept of shareholder value at the expense of all else.

But Oliver Stone lost that battle. The movie made a lot of money but it didn’t make a dent in an emerging bipartisan consensus that yes, greed was good, and anything that restrained Wall Street from pursuing its vision of how capitalism should be practiced was bad.

In 1987 Newt Gingrich was a congressman from Georgia who made news by successfully bringing ethics charges against Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright. The historical record does not easily reveal whether he expressed a public opinion on the movie “Wall Street” that year, but it doesn’t seem like a stretch to imagine that, if asked, he would have dismissed Oliver Stone’s assault on Wall Street as liberal folly. And indeed, seven years later, Gingrich led the historic Republican takeover of the House of Representatives, a feat that can be regarded as cementing the Reagan impulse toward deregulation in place.

He had help, of course, from Bill Clinton, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, all of whom agreed, at the time, that letting Big Capital do as it pleased was the best economic policy for America. But Gingrich deserves special credit. During the Clinton interregnum, Gingrich kept the flames of the conservative revolution burning brightly.

As CEO compensation exploded and income inequality grew — a transformation aided and abetted by Mitt Romney and Bain Capital, as Benjamin Wallace-Wells details in his superb New York magazine article, “The Romney Economy” — the view that maybe, just maybe, our country had taken a horrible wrong turn became further and further marginalized. Even the great eruption of the financial crisis, which some of us thought at the time would absolutely, positively force a deep rethinking of the relationship between Wall Street and the government and the working man, hardly seemed to cause a ripple. It was as if terrorists blew up the train track, and the locomotive chugged right along, undamaged.

Until 2011. Until Occupy Wall Street. Until, suddenly, it was the 1 percent who became marginalized. Until the political power of Main Street anger matured, stunningly, into a politically potent force. There is no better demonstration of this than the fact that Newt Gingrich is now wearing a Leon Trotsky mask, or that Jon Huntsman is saying that, if elected, he would break up the big banks and Rick Santorum is declaring that a “commander-in-chief is not a CEO.”

What the Wall Street Journal euphemistically calls “the rougher side of American capitalism,” in its Monday article examining the legacy of Bain Capital, is suddenly no longer in fashion. And there is no better proof of this than the spectacle of one of the great culture warriors of our time, Newt Gingrich, defecting to the other side.

His treason won’t help his sorry campaign, and won’t deflect Romney’s path to the nomination, but it is still well worth our attention. Because the power of its attack highlights Romney’s biggest vulnerability. In the 32 years since Ronald Reagan was elected president, there has never been more widely expressed antagonism and anger toward the practitioners of corporate-raider, leveraged-buyout, excessively compensated CEO, shareholder-value capitalism than there is now.

And that’s Mitt Romney. That is who he is. He can flip-flop about everything else, but there’s no way to wriggle out of his essential nature. He’s the 1 percent — even Newt Gingrich says so.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.More Andrew Leonard

80 Percent Of Homeowners Behind On Mortgage Ineligible For Loan Modification Program

Less than 20 percent of homeowners who theoretically qualify for a government mortgage modification are actually eligible, according to data released Monday by the Treasury Department.
Although roughly 4.6 million U.S. homeowners have missed at least two mortgage payments -- making them technically eligible for Making Home Affordable, the federal government's flagship homeowner assistance program -- a whopping 80 percent of those borrowers cannot be helped by the program. According to the Treasury report, just 900,000 homeowners actually qualify for a loan modification under Making Home Affordable.
Dean Baker, an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said that fact reflects the program's low goals. "If 900,000 are eligible, and this is your main program for helping underwater borrowers, and we know that not all 900,000 can be helped, this doesn't look very ambitious," he said.
The numbers reinforce just how far short the program, initiated by President Barack Obama with much fanfare in early 2009, has fallen short of its goals and fuel critics' assertions that the program is largely ineffective. "This program, in its design, is set up to help a very small portion of people," said Baker.
(Under Making Home Affordable, homeowners who aren't yet delinquent in mortgage payments but are at risk of imminent default might also qualify for loan modifications. The Treasury data did not include that population.)
Borrowers are locked out of the federal program for a myriad of reasons, including the kind of loan they have and the property at issue. Not covered by the program: rental properties, "manufactured" homes, homes with Federal Housing Administration loans, and homes with Department of Veteran Affairs loans.
Many borrowers can't get help because their monthly mortgage payment is deemed affordable, irrespective of whether it actually is for the borrower. The idea behind the loan modification program is to make the monthly mortgage payment more affordable, defined as a payment that is less than 31 percent of the borrower's total monthly debt payments (think car payments, student loans, credit cards, etc.). One-third of homeowners who would otherwise qualify are ineligible because they already have a mortgage payment that meets this criteria, according to the Treasury report.
Borrowers who have abandoned their property are also ineligible, the assumption being that they are not committed to their home.
"If you look at the large number of vacant properties, I think that speaks to the fact that, in many cases, the borrowers were reached too late in the game," said Baker. "The borrower assumed they'd lose their home so they walked away. You could say those people aren't eligible, but they might have been if we'd reached them earlier."

Source: Treasury Department report.

Wall Street Employees Threaten To Quit If Bonuses Aren't Up To Snuff

For some on Wall Street, a less-than-stellar bonus is simply too much to bear.
Brokerage executives at one Wall Street firm, Jefferies Group, have threatened to leave the company if their bonuses aren't up to par with other firms, the New York Post reports. Though some particularly stellar employees may be able to eventually convince their bosses to give them a bigger share of the bonus pie, nervousness surrounding dismal job prospects on Wall Street will likely keep most bankers quiet.
"It's a terrible time to be an employee," Robert Ottinger, a New York-based compensation lawyer told the NYP. "Employers know they have all of the power."
Any Jefferies Group employees that decide to walk will likely have to put their money where their mouth is. As Business Insider notes, company CEO Richard Handler recently said the decision to quit won't be without any financial penalty.
Nervousness about the global economy, new regulations, slow dealmaking and public anger at banks will likely push banks to slash this year's bonus pool so much that it will be the smallest since the height of the financial crisis in 2008, the Wall Street Journal reports. At Morgan Stanley, some investment bankers may see their bonuses cut by 30 to 40 percent. And at Goldman Sachs, many of the firm's partners' compensation could be halved.
Estimates of this year's Wall Street bonuses have varied widely, but usually see a drop from last year. According to a November survey from consulting firm Johnson Associates Inc., for example, bonuses should fall 20 to 30 percent on average this year. Other surveys predict an average drop of 35 to 40 percent.
Still, the Wall Street workers themselves haven't cut their expectations, with 62 percent saying they expect a bonus that's in line or bigger than last year's, according to an October survey from

And for certain types of employees, bonus prospects may be getting brighter. Wall Street firms boosted their use of one-year "guaranteed bonuses" -- the practice of promising a generous bonus to a new hire before they've ever made a trade -- in 2010, according The Institute for International Finance, an industry advocacy group. Banks often use guaranteed bonuses to lure potential employees and the industry faced "senior staff hiring pressures" in 2010, the report found.
Though bonuses may be down overall, total compensation, which includes salaries, benefits and bonuses, is on track to exceed 2010 levels at seven big banks, according to an analysis of compensation data from the first three quarters of 2011 by the Public Accountability Initiative. The December report found that compensation will likely hit a record $156 billion -- a 3.7 percent boost from 2010.
But as that compensation is on track to rise, another more ominous metric is going up as well. At least 10,000 more Wall Street workers will likely lose their jobs by the end of 2012, according to an estimate from the New York State comptroller cited by the New York Times.
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