A Letter From My Husband to Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman

This is a letter My husband wrote to Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman.  I think it is worthy of reading.

I trust you will read this letter in its entirety, rather than picking and choosing issues to respond to as has been the case in the past.

I am a retiree and depend on my earned benefits (Medicare, Social Security and a small pension).

I am a Viet Nam era veteran from the early 1970s where I was a part of the IC community. During that period, I developed a deep dislike for Russia and its corrupt behavior.

Politically I was active within the GOP from the 1970s to 2005. In the late 1990s the GOP left me and became a party I did not recognize. The party also left the American people. It no longer cared for the citizens and did everything to abandon the nation’s infrastructure and the health and welfare of people that matured under the Eisenhower administration. Yes, the Democrats were the opposition, but there was usually an attempt to find solutions. Today Democratic values are more closely aligned to the values of the GOP in the 50s and 60s and for that matter the 70s and 80s. Voter opinion was valued by the party. Huge donors didn’t rule the roost. There were no Koch brothers or DeVos family influences. People mattered back then. Today, who in the GOP cares about the people?

The issues I have outlined below are important to me because I still believe American citizens matter. Everyone who lives in this country matters (other than those who choose to destroy our Democracy). I hope you consider each, realizing this nation must be one of compassion and that today’s GOP cannot continue to shove their beliefs down everyone’s throats.

Health Care

The Trump/Ryan Care legislation was unacceptable. It was cruel to those who need it most, many who have no choice. For example, my daughter-in-law has type 1 diabetes. Her employer does not provide insurance to ‘part time’ employees. By the way, she is not part time by choice, but rather because her employer (major American corporation), like so many, is avoiding the cost of benefits. Prescriptions alone could cost her $2,000 per month without insurance. A high-risk pool such as proposed by the GOP would mean no health insurance coverage and eventual death. Is what we really want? For the rich, I am sure that is the case.

The menu of EHCB under ACA has been a godsend. Yes, premiums and deductibles are high, but much better than the days before ACA. Why do I like the ACA? The answer is simple, ‘affordable health insurance for a person over 50 years old’. I was in the Defense industry for almost 40 years. My benefits were great, however with budget cuts, highly compensated employees like me and my wife were forced into early retirement. Retirement medical benefits were more costly than what I could find on the commercial market and the ACA. I was headed toward bankruptcy. Both Trump/Ryan didn’t give a damn about the over 50 population and even with increased tax credits the deal was rotten. How dare they use the legislation to reduce the taxes of the wealthy on the backs of people like us? This should be legislation for comprehensive health care for all at an affordable price no matter the individual’s age. Medicaid is an essential element of health care although it does not affect us. The GOP does not seem to care for the working people living in this country.

Earned Benefits

I am a firm believer in protecting the benefits we paid for, specifically, Medicare and Social Security. These are earned benefits. Now that I collect these benefits, I understand more than ever their importance and the need to protect them for all who have made contributions. It is important to keep these programs viable, but GOP plans are not well thought out. Why is the Social Security Cap not adjusted like it used to be? It seems like increasing a contribution to retirement a little each year is not a sin other than some Think Tank giving a Congressman a lower score. Congressmen work for us, not a Think Tank. Medicare must be kept intact and prescription prices kept affordable. Rather than adjusting retirement age (not a reality) why not consider an increase in taxes in line with inflation? Privatizing is not an option either. The Government is the best manager of my money. I’ve had so many investment firms rip me off over the years that I no longer trust them. That is the private sector.

Immigration/Refugees

The fabric of this nation is our immigrants, no matter how they arrived. It is special to see friends, co-workers, worshipers, store clerks, airport workers, public servants, etc. from so many different countries. Many came to this great country to flee oppression or poverty. Why on earth would we change something so special? Today’s travel bans and deportations are just two things that shock me. Why do we oppress people in or attempting to enter our country? I love Colorado because of its diversity. In a normal day I interact with people from at least a dozen countries. They are not here to destroy us. Why are DREAMers not citizens? What law did they break? They had no say in how they arrived and yet they are friends and peers. What about those escaping war-torn countries and areas of famine? For those of us of Christian faith, God would expect us to care for those in need. I cannot understand why Congress and the Administration are filled with such hate.

Religious Freedom

I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state. This line is being blurred by this administration and is being manifested by expressions of hatred towards believers of other faiths. I am stunned that Congress is seemingly silent on acts of violence and vandalism. Congress is guilty of not condemning this administration of promoting expressions of hate.

The Wall

This is the biggest waste of taxpayer dollars. No one knows the exact price and Congress is making no attempts to find out the true cost. Congressmen will be held accountable for this failure. This wall reminds me of the Berlin wall. Is Mexico our enemy? No. They are our friends and trading partners. Is this wall going to hinder migration of wildlife? I am sure it will. The hatred of this administration seems to trump all considerations of the impact of the wall. Bottom line this Congress is lazy. It does not want to do the hard work required to find solutions.

 Travel Ban

This is another area where Congress is not pushing back. The travel ban is a Muslim ban. More importantly it has no impacts on the investments of the president because it excludes nations where he has properties. It harms our businesses and tourism. People will not feel welcome to visit our nation and other nations will likely not welcome us. It is making this a more dangerous world. The Colorado GOP delegation seems to embrace this expression of hatred. As written, this ban has nothing to do with the safety of this country.

 Environment/Climate Change

Where do I begin? I have yet to meet anyone in Colorado that does not support green energy, does not want clean air and water, and that denies climate change. The actions of many in Congress and the current administration are advocating the destruction of all the progress we have made over the last several decades. Cost of regulations is not an acceptable excuse. The benefits have far outweighed the ‘costs’. People are healthier now. The world is better off.

Education

This administration is failing the country in a major way. Ms. DeVos should never have been confirmed. First, this was a case for pay to play. Too many Congressmen accepted donations from a Michigan resident who in turn felt obligated to support her nomination. Quite frankly, I believe this was a criminal act. Second, she advocates on the part of religious education. This dilutes the effect of our public education system. Our tax dollars must not go to religious education under any circumstance. My tax dollars must not go to supporting a school whose beliefs I do not support or agree with. Religion must be kept out of our public schools (and I am a Christian).

Voting Rights

Voting rights are being attacked in so many ways. Voter ID laws are making it impossible for the infirmed, minorities and seniors to cast their votes. A solution must be found so that all citizens can easily vote. Voting obstruction must end. Colorado may not be perfect, but does get higher grades than many states and should be held up as a good example for voting in national elections. I resent the criticism coming from the current administration on Colorado voting laws and I encourage our delegation in Washington to demand that it stop.

Infrastructure

This is an area where the GOP has dropped the ball. Where are the investments in the power grid, highways, water lines, gas lines, rail, mass transit, internet access, etc.? Congress is zeroing these investments out and refusing to increase gas taxes. Bridges are falling apart. Pot holes are everywhere. Tolls are being charged for highways that were constructed using our tax dollars. Are we giving infrastructure public assets to the well connected to profit from our contributions? This is corruption. It is a failure on the part of Congress. This took hold in the 1980s and now we as a country are facing a case of deferred maintenance which will cost ten times more to fix. Will it take a major disaster to wake Congress?

Supreme Court

This is a losing argument with you. Suffice it to say, voters will remember the Garland nomination. Why you were a part of this obstruction is beyond me. Neil Gorsuch, in my opinion, puts more value in businesses than the people of this country. There was no indication in the hearing that he would protect the lives of people in this country. Protecting big donors and big businesses seemed far more important. Is Congress throwing the poor and middle class under the bus? It appears that is the case.

Behavior of Current Administration

Our president has been in office roughly 75 days as I write this. It has seemed like 10 years of hell. Congress could become heroes if they were willing to put a stop to the chaos. Most of the EOs are not well thought out. Congress could correct the EOs, replace them, or pass legislation overriding them. We clearly have a president that has no clue on governing.

 Trump/Russia Investigations

As a veteran, I am very sensitive to anyone’s relationship to Russia. I don’t trust them and I believe they are out to destroy our great country. The Senate seems to be doing the right thing, albeit a little slow for my taste. Whatever the case may be, Congress must get to the bottom of this mess and hold people accountable, even at the highest levels of government. Tampering with our elections and any subsequent cover-up is wrong. Personally, I could probably name at least a dozen who I believe are guilty of something. It could mean a new President and it might be down the line of succession. I know I am not only person that is worried. Senate leadership is going to be very important.

Congressmen Work for Constituents

This can be the toughest thing for a Congressman, but it is the most important. Colorado elected you, not donors, not Think Tanks. You must listen to your constituents. I will hazard a guess, as much as you may not like it, most of us in Colorado embrace the ACA. Your donors may not like that, but in 2020 the voters will provide you with an assessment on how well you listened to them. In person town halls are important. Voters need to release their emotions in person and you must listen. This is especially true today, when we have an Administration that is determined to tick everyone off. Unfortunately, you will receive most of the voters’ wrath even if you were not a part of the president’s actions. I don’t believe for a minute that the Colorado protesters are outsiders. They are my friends and neighbors from here in Colorado. We want our Congressmen to hear us. I believe you can. Do you have the will?

Sincerely

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If You Remain a Republican, You Own It

Continuing my hiatus on writing about corporate feudalism (research is hard), I write this to prepare you for what the Republican Party will do when the members are returning from their break.  Those congresspersons who received heavy pushback from their constituents will be given permission to decry what is happening in the Trump administration, and to vote against bills when their votes aren’t needed to pass the Republican agenda.  We must not allow them to get away with this.  Trump is now the Republican standard bearer.  If these congresspersons truly disapprove of the Republican agenda, they must repudiate being a republican.  Otherwise, they own it.

As I have said before, I used to be an active Republican.  I came by it honestly.  My parents were active Republicans.  I was in the mold of the Rockefeller Republicans.  We were pro choice, pro women rights, pro civil rights, but we were Republicans. I served as treasurer of Republican Women in three states and worked on numerous campaigns.  As the party became more anti choice, I was looked at funny, but they claimed they were a big tent, so I stayed.  As the party became more anti women, it got more uncomfortable, but I hoped to move the party more to center, so I stayed.  As the party got more evangelical christian, I was uneasy on behalf of my Jewish friends, but I stayed.

These views I held were not looked on kindly, however, and I found myself being edged out.  We had arguments and long discussions.  My own experiences were beginning to create conflicts with my party affiliation as well.  I became a speaker for Planned Parenthood, and found myself talking with battered women.  I volunteered for a program that helped K-6 homeless children.  I learned about domestic violence, and I learned about what it was to be poor.  I learned how people wound up homeless.  I learned what the lives of homeless children were like.  I found this knew knowledge contrasted with the slogans I had heard from the party.  I tried to speak to my state legislators about the issue, and found no compassion or interest in helping.

At the time, I considered myself a strong Christian.  But the more I read my Bible, the less I could reconcile the positions of the party with what I was reading.  I read that taking care of the homeless was our responsibility.  I read that feeding the hungry was our responsibility.  I read that our job was to heal the sick.  Since I had no talent in healing, it was my job to make sure the sick could access those with that talent.  I pointed out these things to my Republican associates, but they always had an “answer.”  It was interesting, the answer always began with “Yeah, but ….”  I found that to be a Republican was to live by the Yeahbut.

Then Tancredo and Musgrave started saying horrible things about gays, and wanting to essentially persecute them.  I had good friends who were gay.  I knew these things were false.  These things were horrid lies.  There was no yeahbut that would work.  I spoke up against these lies and implored my fellow Republicans to stop.  One of my associates said to me, “I know you have been a Republican all your life.  But if you are going to be a Republican now, this is our platform and you have to endorse it. Our standard bearers endorse it and you have to support them.”  She was right.  If I retained the title Republican, that meant I endorsed what they stand for, and I had to own it.  It defined me.  I could not endorse it.  I refused to own it.  It would not define me.  I changed parties.

It was amazing how much easier it became once I left that party.  I no longer had to twist myself into an intellectual pretzel.  I no longer had to live on a diet of yeahbuts.  I could look myself in the mirror.

Today, the party stands for a number of things I could never endorse.  Their standard bearer is Donald Trump, and the rest of the establishment support him.  If one is to be a Republican today, one is endorsing and supporting Trump and all he and the party stand for.  Not just in the platform, but in their words and deeds since January 20.  They endorse it.  They own it.  Because it reflects their value system, it defines them.

So what is it that they endorse?  What do they own?  What defines them?

  1. The Republicans call themselves the party of patriotism.   Yet there is the distinct smell of Russian interference in our elections, where our President might be compromised, and our nation is at risk of becoming a Russian puppet government.  The Republican congress killed a letter of inquiry into that connection.  As a Republican, you don’t want to ensure that our election was fair, honest and open as long as your party wound up with maximum power. Foreign interference, from an adversary no less, is acceptable.  Now Trump  accuses, with no attribution, the former President of the U.S. of spying on him during the election.   Trump is the Republican standard bearer.  This is the Republican position.  If you remain a Republican, you endorse it.  You own it.  It defines you.
  2. Republicans call themselves a Christian party.  Jesus said to heal the sick.  Republicans claim to support access to health care for all, but oppose coverage.  Access means it is there, but not necessarily affordable.  In many cases, a person has to choose between life saving medications (i.e. insulin) and eating.  They may be allowed to get the medications, but they can’t afford them.  In other words, choose the way you will die, just get on with it.  This is not affordable health care, and it will kick some 30 million people off of any coverage.  It will also make health care incredibly hard to afford for many millions more.  Seniors will be especially hard hit.  People will get sick, and people will die.  However, it will mean inflated profits for health insurance companies, allowing them some of the highest profit margins on the planet.    The new Republican health care plan not only kicks 20 million people off insurance roles currently covered by ACA, it also allows companies to stop providing health care to their employees.  This amounts to around 30 million FAMILIES losing their health care.  At an average of 2 children per family, this means 120 million more without health care.  This is the Republican position.  If you remain a Republican, you endorse it.  You own it.  It defines you.
  3. The Republicans call themselves to be the party of open doors.  Donald Trump wants to ban Muslims from our country.  He wants to deport millions of undocumented people, many of whom came here as children.  He is deporting an Afghanistan veteran who served two tours of duty.  Imagine a U.S. military trained soldier in another country and mad at the U.S.  He says this is a Christian nation.  He isn’t particularly happy with the words of Jesus, “For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in … Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”   He is prepared to rip families apart, remove people from their jobs, destroy communities to fulfill his wish.  His travel ban had people stuck in airports for days with no direct access to their families or legal help.  He is willing to leave refugees suffering as they flee oppression.  He is willing to remove people who grew up in this country to places they have never seen (it is also likely they are actually deporting U.S. citizens under the pretense that they look undocumented).  The only crime committed by Dreamers is that they stayed with their parents who were seeking a better life for their children.  He has enabled the harassment of Muslims and the vandalism of mosques.  He has enabled the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries and terrorizing of Jewish centers.  He has enabled the bullying of Latino U.S. citizens.    This is now the Republican position.  If you remain a Republican, you endorse it.  You own it.  It defines you.
  4. Republicans call themselves the family values party.  This is the party that wants to obliterate Planned Parenthood and all the health care services it offers to low income men and women (no, not just women).  It is the party that wants an employer to have a say in whether a woman takes birth control.  It is the party that demands that every egg be fertilized, but would deny pre natal coverage, coverage for a hospital birth, post natal coverage, assistance in paying for feeding or caring for the child, and should the mother not live up to their standards of raising the child, would jail the mother.  This is the party trying to redefine rape to its narrowest possible definition, letting rapists off the hook so as not to “ruin the lives of fine young men.”  This is the party whose standard bearer boasts about groping women, walking into dressing rooms of naked adolescent women, insulting women’s appearance, has been accused of physical abuse, and has walked through 3 marriages, two ending because of his infidelity.  Rape, groping, domestic violence, insults and demeaning of women is not only ok, it is encouraged.  This is now the Republican position.  If you remain a Republican, you endorse it.  You own it.  It defines you.
  5. There are many other contradictions between how the Republican Party labels itself and the policies they support.  But there are also many other positions they take that are harmful to Americans.  Betsy DeVos’s education office is mandating that states accept vouchers and relax accountability in the quality of the education provided.  While this would divert funds from public schools to private, it will not make them more accessible to the people.  Rather, it will raise the rates charged by private providers (demand/supply) while not ensuring that the students are receiving the education they are paying for.  At the same time, it will divert funds away from public schools, eroding the quality of education they are able to provide.  Special needs students will be especially hard hit, as the private institutions will not be required to accommodate them, but the public schools will not be able to afford quality services.  On a different subject, both members of Congress and the president have voiced support to violating or ignoring provisions of our treaties.  There are too many treaties to name here (you can find lists of those treaties here and here.)  These include both international treaties and treaties within our borders with Native American ties.  The international treaties at risk include trade agreements, agreements for mutual support, treaties protecting the environment, and (can you believe it?) the Geneva convention.  The number of treaties threatened with Native American tribes is in the hundreds,  and all are RIGHT NOW being violated by U.S. corporations and the U.S. government.  In addition, members of congress and the President have indicated a predilection to defaulting on U.S. debt.  A default on this debt not only affects foreign investors, but every person who holds a U. S. savings bond.  The violation of treaties and default on U.S. debt reduces the word and honor of the United States to zero.  The Republican members of Congress and their standard bearer support these actions.   This is now the Republican position.  If you remain a Republican, you endorse it.  You own it.  It defines you.

All this and more is what it now means to be a Republican.  You cannot bring the party back.  You cannot urge its members away from it.  It is the substance of who they are and what they believe.  This is now the Republican position.  If you remain a Republican, you endorse it.  You own it.  It defines you.  And when the next elections come up, we will remind the voters of that.

 

 

Why Trump Keeps Going on Vacation: White House Ghosts!

Taking a small vacation from my series on corporate feudalism, I decided to report on an interesting rumor I have heard lately. For background, I used to be a very active Republican, as I have documented before. I did see the light (long story), and have repudiated that association. When I changed parties, I lost contact with those I knew who were Republican activists. But the other day, I ran in to one at the store, and she had something interesting to tell me. First, she told me how appalled she is at the Trump administration and the horrible things he is doing to our country. That wasn’t all that interesting. But then, she said, “and you won’t believe why he is spending so much taxpayer money on all these vacations.” “Oh?” I said. “Really,” she continued, “You won’t believe it. He is afraid of the White House Ghosts.”

“Afraid of the White House Ghosts?” “Yes! Apparently he thinks they visited him in his first night there, and now he hates to even walk into the place. At night, he is so terrified, he wanders around in his pajamas because he is afraid to go to sleep.”

I remember talk of the White House Ghosts. When I was working on campaigns, I heard whispering that the reason they let the story of Nancy Reagan’s astrologer get out to cover up for a more embarrassing tidbit. Nancy was claiming to talk to ghosts in the White House, that they were giving her advice, and that she was passing that advice on to her husband. I never heard whether Ronnie knew that the advice he was getting was coming from ghosts, or whether he ever acted on it. But the party was terrified that the public would find out about Nancy’s conversations and would go bonkers. The last thing they needed in the era of Iran Contra was the possibility that ghosts were advising the President using his wife as a medium. I also remember rumors that, especially toward the end, Richard Nixon was meandering through the White House conferring with the resident ghosts. (There is also a story circulating about other members of the Reagan family seeing ghosts, which is recounted here.)

There have been a number of articles about the White House ghosts, one example can be found here. Many claim to have seen them, and more claim to have heard them. It is not unusual that a building as iconic as the White House would be rumored to have ghosts roaming around. Moreover, in a structure as old as the White House, with all the electronic signals flying around, the weather around D.C., and other factors, it would be unusual if strange sounds weren’t reported. I don’t necessarily believe or disbelieve in ghosts.

So many people have asked who all died in the White House who could be haunting it today. My question is, why would the person have to have died there to haunt there? Isn’t it as likely that a spirit would return to the place that represented the most significant events of his life? The scene, as it were, of his greatest triumphs or most difficult situations? Or, where he felt he had left unfinished business? I guess if there are ghosts, any former president or any number of his advisors or associates might choose to haunt there. Maybe Lyndon Johnson? (Please, please, please)

I can’t say that I have ever seen a ghost myself, at least not that I was aware of, and until I do, I will remain a skeptic. However, I do live in a time where quantum remote displacement is a thing, where we discuss resting mass vs. unstable mass, and where Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is accepted. These things already stretch my brain. Ghosts in the White House are less of a stretch than these things are. Besides, I do get tickled at the idea of perhaps a spectral Lyndon Baines Johnson visiting Trump in the middle of the night and yelling at him as only President Johnson could do.

The Antidote to Corporate Feudalism

In my last posting, I discussed the similarities between medieval feudalism in Europe and corporate feudalism that we are entering today.  I also promised to identify what finally brought an end to medieval feudalism, and thus, the antidote to corporate feudalism today.  I am not a historian, and I will not be going into a lot of historical analysis, dates or specifics.  Instead, I am going to approach this topic through the eyes of an economist.  I welcome real historians to contribute as they deem appropriate.

There is debate about the correct date of the end of the Roman Empire and start of the middle ages, however, most historians consider it to be either the sack of Rome on June 2, 455 CE, or September 4, 476 CE, on which date Odoacer deposed the last  Roman Emperor Romulus Augustulus. However, Rome was also sacked on August 24, 410 CE, which was an important factor in the decline of the Roman empire.  With the fall of the empire, much of the cosmopolitan element of the society disappeared.  There was much less travel among communities, fewer people moved from one state to another, and society fell into isolated fiefdoms, with only the church as a somewhat uniting factor.  From that time until the crusades, feudalism, as described in the previous post, prevailed.

In 1095, Pope Urban issued the Crusades, whose purpose was to recapture Jerusalem from the Muslims. According to Lisa Blades and Christopher Paik in their paper, “The Impact of Holy Land Crusades on State Formation:  War Mobilization, Trade Integration and Political Development in Medieval Europe,” there were “four causal channels by which crusader mobilization strengthened nascent states. First, the departure of relatively large numbers of European elites for the Holy Land reduced the absolute number of elites who might serve as challengers to the king, increasing the stability of ruling monarchies. Second, crusade tithes were also among the first “per-head” taxes to be levied on European populations, creating precedent for later forms of centralized taxation and encouraging the development of representative institutions. Third, the large-scale sale of land by rural elites seeking to finance crusade expeditions undermined existing feudal institutional forms. Finally, the Crusades were a catalyst for the reintegration of Western Europe into global trade networks with implications for the rise of towns and urban governance structures. Using an original dataset of the geographic origins of elite crusaders, we find that areas with large numbers of Holy Land crusaders saw increased political stability, a higher probability of establishing parliamentary institutions, higher downstream levels of tax revenue and greater urbanization, even after controlling for a number of possible confounders.”  Others have pointed out that large numbers of lords and nobles left for the Holy Land, many died while they were there, others were bankrupted.  Their lands were escheated to the monarchs, thus increasing the power of the monarchy.  Still others had their properties seized while they were away.

While the first three channels are interesting, they don’t seem to me to be the biggest influence on the changes that occurred.  It is the last channel that I believe had the greatest impact.  Let me explain.

I first revisit the factors of production:

Land (including all natural resources),
Labor (including all human resources),
Capital (including all man-made resources), and
Enterprise (which brings all the previous resources together for production).

While the result of the first and third channels did cause ownership of the land, the first factor of production, it did not really change that ownership in a way that was felt by the peasants working the land.  It made no difference to that peasant whether the land was owned by a lord or a monarch, it was still not owned by him.  The second factor could not really be felt by a peasant either, taxes were what they were, regardless of who they went to.  Capital may have moved from lord to king, but the general population didn’t experience benefit or otherwise.  However, the reintegration of Western Europe into the global trade networks was significant.

When most people think of the Crusades, they think of phalanx of knights riding off on steeds with grim faces.  This picture is misleading.  Those phalanx of knights had to be fed, clothed, and otherwise provisioned.  It was an enormous mobilization of various trades required to keep the lords and their knights battle ready.  Peasants were not often part of this mobilization, but the craftsmen were.  There needed to be blacksmiths to tend to the horses, the swords, and so on.  There had to be people to work on the wagons, to mend the harnesses, to make or mend clothing, and even to build structures to house the armies.  There were vast amounts of food that had to be transported, and cooks to prepare that food.

Most of the craftsmen who traveled with the knights had never left their villages before.  On the journey, they met and worked with people from other villages, from other countries, who spoke other languages.  They were exposed to different ways to apply their crafts.   The new people they encountered were not only fellow Europeans, they also associated with locals in the different places they went.  This included Muslims.  They developed friendships. Most important, as I see it, they encountered the Muslim Guilds.  Originally begun in the 9th century as a way to control the quality and value of documents, the Muslim guilds had developed to control the quality and value of many other crafts. These guilds took various measures to protect their customers, and restrict access to techniques, materials, and markets.  Through these guilds, the craftsmen were able to command a reasonable, preset price for their services and know they would not be undercut by a competitor.  In other words, the guilds removed the control of the labor factor of production from the user (the lords, etc) to the provider (guild member).

The guilds did not return from the crusades fully developed.  Being introduced (or, more truthfully, reintroduced, since they had been in existence during the Roman Empire) to a society that did not have them, they had to mature, through starts and stops.  However, eventually, the mature guilds had some common characteristics in their charters: protection for the workers and protection for the consumers.  The following is taken from the Medieval Guilds page of Medieval Life and Times:

Guilds in the Medieval times – Protection of Workers / Guild Members
The Guilds in Medieval times protected the workers, or the guild members as follows:

  • Members of Medieval Guilds received protection from excessive taxes imposed by the lords and land owners
  • Competition between members was regulated by fixed pricing policies – advertising and price cutting was banned
  • Illicit trading by non Merchant Guild members was banned
  • All members of guilds were obligated to retain all trade secrets
  • The number of Guild masters and members of guilds were restricted to ensure there was sufficient business for each of the guilds
  • Sickness Protection
  • Protection for their members, goods and horses when traveling
  • Help with funeral expenses. Orphans of members of guilds were also cared for
  • Guilds funded the first non-religious schools of the Middle Ages
  • Working conditions and hours of work were regulated

Guilds in the Medieval times – Protection for Consumers
The Guilds of the Medieval times in Medieval Times also protected the consumers. The spin-offs from the regulations of the guilds led to:

  • Fair pricing policies – all prices were regulated by the guilds
  • Quality of goods or workmanship. Goods and services were inspected and members of guilds were expected to undertake long apprenticeships.

A review of the mature guild charters reveals a strong similarity to today’s Labor Unions, in fact, they are the same thing by a different name.  The first recorded registry of guilds is in 1170.  Note that guilds funded the first non religious schools of the Middle Ages.  This is important.  The guilds felt it was their responsibility to ensure the education of their members and their children (ok, boys back then, for the most part).  By establishing non religious schools, the guilds could teach students information that was outside that allowed by or pushed by the church.

Another factor of production was recovered for the guild members by the guilds.  That is the factor called Enterprise.  The guilds could, as a group, put together resources in a way that an individual could not.  They could also provide a forum for sharing ideas that could lead to innovation.  Innovation is a part of the factor called Enterprise.  The sharing of ideas stimulated the minds of the guild members, and offered an incentive to innovate.  We notice that the first castles built in the middle ages were essentially earth works, large earthen mounds.  We begin to see stone castles emerging in the Norman castles in the 12th century, coincident with the emergence of guilds.

The playing field was greatly leveled with two of the four factors of production in the hands of the laborers.

Now I turn to discuss corporate feudalism.  I begin by pointing out that the guilds, which broke medieval feudalism, were to all intents and purposes labor unions.  The only difference is in the name, and many of our labor unions today call themselves guilds (i.e. screen actor’s guild).  Labor unions are our antidote to corporate feudalism.  We can trace the strengthening of workers rights with the rise of the Labor Unions.  Unions got us child labor laws, paid vacation, company provided health care, the 40 hour work week, pensions, workplace safety and myriad other benefits.

We can also trace the weakening of workers rights over the past 35 years to the weakening of the labor unions.  The pensions that our unions had won for us at great cost, have been largely lost since then.  Health care and workplace safety are now at risk.  Corporations are pushing to regain the labor factor of production by controlling the availability of jobs and removing the ability of individuals to defend themselves.  Corporations are also pushing to regain the land factor.  Notice their buying up of farmland and creating corporate farms.  Notice their use of eminent domain to lay pipelines or create shopping centers and the like.  They are using the financial system to make home ownership more difficult.

It is important for us to stand together with unions to restore their place in our financial system.  An individual cannot stand up to the corporations alone.  It is only through unity that we can reestablish the rights of the workers.  In my next installment, I discuss the union movement in the U.S.

 

Where We Are Headed: Corporate Feudalism

In my last posting, I wrote about the indefensible theory of supply side economics.  Today I posit where this theory is heading.  Whether or not it is the goal of supply side proponents, the result will be corporate feudalism.  Let me explain.

Feudalism is defined as “the dominant social system in medieval Europe, in which the nobility held lands from the Crown in exchange for military service, and vassals were in turn tenants of the nobles, while the peasants  were obliged to live on their lord’s land and give him homage, labor, and a share of the produce, notionally in exchange for military protection.”  From a historical perspective, I’m sure this definition is as accurate as one can get while being brief.  I am not a historian (I welcome relevant input from those who are).  I will be looking at feudalism from the viewpoint of an economist, and my focus is on the factors of production.

A better definition of feudalism from an economic standpoint is a system of government based on the tenure of land, or the system of land tenure and of government in which the landholders are the governors.  These governors were the nobility, and were part of a structure that will be described later.  The term tenure means the right to hold property, however it does not mean the right to own that property.  The person is allowed to live on the land in exchange for his services.  If a lord was displeased with a tenant, he was allowed to remove that tenant from the land and give the right to live there to someone else.  No compensation was involved.

The feudal hierarchy was like a pyramid.  At the very top was the pope, and initially, the emperor.   Technically, the king was at the top, but he could be unseated by the pope if the pope became displeased.  Below the king were nobles – lords and ladies, sometimes counts and countesses, etc., who were granted land (hence the term counties) in exchange for an oath of fealty, or loyalty.  The nobles were expected to support the king in both offensive and defensive wars.  In turn, the nobles granted land to knights in exchange for their services.  According to one source, knights were expected to provide two months per year of service in peace times, and whatever time was necessary during war.  Below these were tradesmen, who did not have land per se, but did have housing in exchange for their trade. At the bottom were peasants, who were allowed to stay on the land in exchange for farming and herding.  Ownership of the crops and herds appears to have varied from place to place. In some locations, the land was mined for various ores, and those who worked the mines were granted housing near those mines.  Many of the forests were retained by the king, and in England, hunting in the King’s forests was subject to execution.

In economic terms, the pope and the kings controlled all the factors of production.  Factors of production are defined as follows:

Resources required for generation of goods or services, generally classified into four major groups:

Land (including all natural resources),
Labor (including all human resources),
Capital (including all man-made resources), and
Enterprise (which brings all the previous resources together for production).

These factors are classified also as management, machines, materials, and money (this, the 4 Ms), or other such nomenclature. More recently, knowledge has come to be recognized as distinct from labor, and as a factor of production in its own right.

Source: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/factors-of-production.html

The nobility controlled all the land, the capital and determined the enterprise.  They controlled trade routes crossing their land or ports. The only thing technically not controlled by the nobility was labor.  However, in a practical sense, the nobility also controlled the labor, because an individual peasant could not provide for his own livelihood without land or work.  Since the peasant could easily be replaced, he was in a position of having to work for the lords, or leave.

Today, the factors of production are the same, but they have a different flavor.  In place of kings, we have large corporations.  In place of the nobles and knights, we have the companies that are part of the large corporations supply chain.  In place of the peasants, we have the workers.  And, in the place of the pope, we now have a president who appears to be prepared to bestow rights and assets to corporations or withhold them at his whim.

Corporations largely control the factors of production today.  They own the rights to much of the land (i.e. corporate farms, mining, drilling, etc.)  They are pressuring congress to give them the rights to critical infrastructure that the taxpayers have built and the people own.  They have convinced the Supreme Court to grant them rights of persons when it is to their advantage, but not the obligations of persons.  They are rapidly rounding up the resources and means of distribution.  They do not yet control labor, but they are reaching a point where their control of jobs means that labor must submit to their rule.

One element of feudalism that allowed it to continue was the control of education.  Knowledge was controlled by the church.  We all know the price Copernicus and Galileo paid for presenting science that was not approved by the church.  We do not know how many other scientists were silenced.  For the most part, only male nobility could learn to read and write or do basic arithmetic, and while there are instances of women and lower class persons doing so, they are the exception. Books were primarily in monasteries and lords’ castles.  Lords would hire a monk or priest to educate their sons. The education provided to the peasants was of a religious nature, and a fearful type to keep them in line.

As with feudal times, those currently in power are trying to disrupt public education.  They would put in its place private and religious schools.  Already we see many recommending watering down education to those things a person needs to ply his or her trade.

The similarity between the feudal system in what we call the Dark Ages and the direction we are heading with the corporate world is startling.  The speed with which we are moving in that direction is breathtaking.  If we continue on our current trajectory, we will be soon entering a corporate Dark Ages.

Eventually feudalism was pretty much broken.  I will discuss the key to breaking corporate feudalism in my next installment, The Antidote to Corporate Feudalism.

The Lie of Supply Side

I graduated from the University of Missouri with a bachelor with honors in Economics in 1975, the year before Tim Kaine enrolled.  I majored in Economics for the same reason Tim Kaine did – Professor John Kuhlman.  Tim sent a letter to Professor Kuhlman that cited why he changed majors.  “You told our small honors section that you took attendance and that you expected us all to be in class every day, absent emergencies,” Kaine wrote. “Your reason for the expectation was unique and memorable: ‘UMC is a state school. Part of the cost of you being here is paid by the taxes from people all around the state, many of whom will never go to college and might not be able to send their kids to college. You owe it to them to be serious about your studies.’ That statement, and the moral sense that it conveyed, made a significant impact on me, as did your later interest in my progress at UMC.”  The moral imperatives taught in Dr. Kuhlman’s class also stuck with me.

One of those imperatives was that we had to watch our leaders.  Their decisions could have a dramatic impact on the success or failure of our nation.  They could make decisions that would have a beneficial on the overall good of the nation, or they could make decisions that would benefit a few for the short haul but cause sharp decline for the entire nation over time.

Dr. Kuhlman’s specialty was antitrust, and he gave me a passion for it as well. His rationale was simple.  Individuals simply cannot stand up to the power of a large corporation.  Neither can small companies.  When any corporation in any industry gets too big, nobody can compete with it, and there is no competition possible in the supply line.  They will simply suck the consumer dry with their pricing, suck the supplier dry with their ability to dictate prices, and prevent any potential competitors from entering the marketplace.  Worse, they are able to prevent innovation that could move us beyond their products.  We see this now, with the Koch brothers.

Among the things I learned while getting my degree were the demand and supply curve and the multiplier effect.  The multiplier effect refers to the increase in final income arising from any new injection of spending. The size of the multiplier depends upon household’s marginal decisions to spend, called the marginal propensity to consume (mpc), or to save, called the marginal propensity to save (mps).  The mpc plus the mps equals one, or the whole after tax income of the consumer.  The multiplier is then calculated using the formula 1/1-mpc. If consumers spend 0.8 and save 0.2 of every dollar of income, the multiplier will be 5.  This means that the money will circulate through the economy enough to generate 5 times as much value as its original. A common example is that when $100,000 is spent on a new road in a community and the wages go to working people with a 0.8 mpc, it generates $500,000 in economic activity in that community.  This is an important concept.  Because, the mps will vary across different segments of society.  Poor people are unable to save 0.2 of every dollar of income, really rich people are unable to spend 0.8 of every dollar.  In a society with a reasonable distribution curve, it would wash out.  But when income is heavily weighted to the top, the result is a restriction of the economy.

It is this principle that makes trickle down economics a sham.  The notion that if the guys at the top get more money, they will spend more and it will work its way down to the little guy flies against all data as well as being contradicted by the math.  There is nothing anywhere in any reality based world that suggests the possibility of trickle down economics working.

Another nonsensical notion is supply side economics.  Supply-side economics is the theory that says the supply of money, labor, and goods or services, creates demand.  In particular, supply-side economics focuses primarily on lowering marginal tax rates to the after-tax rate of return from work and investment, which results in increases in supply. Supply side economics contradicts any models that have ever worked.  There is not a credible business plan out there that suggests that a company would base new hiring on getting a tax cut.  It just doesn’t happen.

Companies base hiring on the idea that the cost of adding one more person to their employ will be less than the added revenue that employee produces.  That added revenue is generated by consumers buying the goods or services offered by the company.  That added revenue is not generated by tax cuts.  It is generated by demand.  Demand is generated by people having money to spend.

So let’s look at what is about to happen.  We already saw, courtesy of the Bush administration, that tax cuts to the wealthy do not generate jobs.  A major reason they do not generate jobs is because they don’t put money in the pockets of those with the highest mpc.  They put money in the pockets of those with the lowest mpc.  In fact, the Bush tax cuts put money in the pockets of financial hoarders.  Now the Trump administration is preparing to take money out of the pockets of people with the highest mpc, the poor and disadvantaged.  These are the people whose mpc approaches 1.  The only economic thing that could result from this action is a tightening of the economy.  As more and more Americans fall into the poverty bracket, there will be less and less ability to buy goods and services.  Elective purchases will be the first to go, and there will be job losses in those sectors, further increasing the numbers in the poverty bracket.  Those currently receiving the most income, more than they can spend, will not increase their numbers.  Meanwhile, even the large corporations, receiving the juiciest tax cuts, will not have people to sell their products to.  They will reduce employment, and the cycle will be complete.  At this point, the large corporations and the wealthy will no longer be able to sell their goods and services, the money that they gained in tax cuts will be more than offset by their losses in sales.

The wealthy and the corporations will still have a stranglehold on the factors of production, thus leading to Corporate Feudalism, which will be the topic of my next rant.