Mr. Potter Has Won?

My perennial Christmas Missive, returns after a 4 year (can your believe it) hiatus. And who would have thought 5 years after the Great Meltdown produced the Great Recession, , 5 years into the age of Obama and a purported move away from supply-side economics pretty much nothing has changed to reign in the very things – excessive income inequality, unfettered financial speculation and moral hazard policies that reward the affluent investor over the struggling worker—that drove us to the brink Great Depression II, setting us up nicely for another round of financial mayhem within the decade.  Meanwhile 5 years into a recovery plan that has produced recovery for the richest  10% of the population who now take in more than half of all income (up by over 50%) and even more so the top 1% who raked in  over 90% of the gains from the recovery, middle class and working families are enduring stagnant or declining incomes that haven’t seen significant real increases since the dawn of 1980s supply side economics.    I was apparently naively optimistic when I wrote: Perhaps by Obama Christmas II the tides may turn. For now, let us at least raise a voice of prayer and a glass of cheer to the fact the Potters aren’t adding as much to their winning totals as they used to.Who knew Morning In America actually meant a sunset for  middle class expansion and an American Dream  deferred.. And yes, Virginia, income inequality DOES matter as any Feudal peasant or lord could have told you and as a brief glance at a map of global income inequality also tells you.  Excessive income inequality produces and exacerbates  poverty and  authoritarianism.  Period.  But at least there is hope in the coming year, what with that Marxist in The White House (as we always knew, thank you Fox News) and one now in the Vatican (thank you Rush Limbaugh for that bit of analysis), that national and global attention and conversation may actually turn to a meaningful discussion of inequality and—beyond the social justice issues and even bad for capitalism issues (true capitalism being antithetical to monopolies of power and wealth) the anti-democratic tendencies it fosters.  Until then,  let us hope that the Mister Potters haven’t won – for once they do it won’t be the same America we were born in.  Merry Christmas and best hopes for the future.  CL

__________

I watched the perennial holiday chestnut, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the other day. There was George Bailey, as he is every year, struggling to keep the old Savings and Loan afloat. There was the malicious Mr. Potter, a truly covetous old sinner, trying to put Bailey out of business.  There was Clarence the angel showing, once again, that our world is a better place for the George Bailey’s amongst us.  It’s too bad that in today’s world the Potters are beating the Baileys, hands down.

Old man Potter dismissed the Bailey Savings and Loan as a kind of privatized social welfare program for dumb poor workers who couldn’t cut it on their own. “And what does that  get us,” he asked?  “A discontented, lazy rabble instead of a thrifty working class.  And all because a few starry eyed dreamers stir them up and fill their heads with a lot of impossible ideas? Don’t the  Rush Limbaughs or Tom Delays say the same thing today?

Labor laws, social welfare, retirement benefits, guaranteed healthcare, workplace safety laws, consumer protection–all are dismissed by our modern Potters as so much misplaced sympathy offered to the undeserving by the foolishly starry eyed, thinking that is at best naïve and at worst dangerous.  Any mention of social welfare on AM radio is now associated with Bolshevik Socialism – want to give workers a guaranteed living wage or put any limits at all on the worst excesses of the market and you’re labeled as an advocate of Gulags and death camps.

George, of course, argued back.  “Just remember this, Mr. Potter,” he retorted, “that this rabble you’re talking about, they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community.  Well is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?”  Today he could add: is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die with decent healthcare, affordable housing, quality education for their kids and the sure knowledge that when old age comes, there will be some comforts to look forward to?

We don’t have that many George Bailey’s today. Few stand up to our Potters when they tell us workers can’t expect job security, no one is entitled to healthcare and decent pay is whatever the most desperate amongst us is willing to work for.  Even the Democrats, the party of dreams for the working stiff, have fallen in line with the rhetoric of balanced budgets and smaller government (except, of course, if deficits are required to provide tax cuts to the richest Americans) even if the cost are reduced programs to help the disadvantaged.

Can’t anyone makes the simple point George made that helping the least amongst us is not simple altruism, it is Capitalist self interest at it’s best? “Your all business men here,” he reminded the S&L board members thinking of supporting Potter, “don’t it make them better citizens? Doesn’t it make them better customers?”  Heck, wasn’t it that old socialist Henry Ford’s idea to raise worker pay, not because it was the moral thing to do but because it made them better participants in the Capitalist market place?   Like Old Man Potter, much of American corporate business has become warped and frustrated by ruthless competition and now sees its workers only as cattle to be milked for as long as possible before being sent to the layoff slaughterhouse.

Frank Capra understood that the Potters amongst us seldom lose, though the more public-minded like old George could, on occasion, battle them to a draw. Notice that, while George Bailey ultimately survived his battle with Potter, the old man survived unscathed too, his own crime of theft of the Bailey’s deposits unpunished. There have always been the Potters amongst us, those who pursue personal gain at any cost, be they a grasping banker like fictitious  Potter or the greedy executives of a massive corporations like Enron or WorldCom. What’s regrettable is that there are fewer and fewer George Bailey’s speaking up for the little guy.

In the real world the Bailey S&L would have been bought out by the 1980s by PotterCorp, a huge transnational Financial Services leviathan. A PotterCorp holding company would have bought out Bedford Fall’s chief industry, the plastic’s factory old Hee-Haw Sam Wainwright had built at George’s urging and shipped the jobs to Third World sweatshops. Downtown Bedford Falls would now be a ghost town with shops shuttered by a massive PotterMart selling cheap slave-labor produced products to the town’s poorly paid service employees.   Yes, least be there any doubt, in the world of today Mister Potter would have won.  And, least there be any doubt, Mr. Potter voted Republican.

 

Posted in Barack ObamaSupply-Side Economics. Tags: Healthcare ReformIt’s a Wonderful LifeMr. PotterLeave a Comment »

What Obama Should Say

And now another installment in my ongoing series “What Barack Obama Should Say!” (And, before you go blind looking for the other installments in the series, this is the first ongoing of the ongoing. )

Yesterday, when asked the seemingly “Duh” question of how many homes he owned (usual answer for most American’s being between zero and one) John McCain said: “I think, uh, I’ll have my staff get to you. I’ll try to tell you about that.”

Today, picking that low lying fruit, Barack Obama said: “I guess if you think that being rich means you’ve got to make $5 million, and if you don’t know how many houses you have, then it’s not surprising that you might think the economy was fundamentally strong,” he said.  “If you’re like me, and you’ve got one house, or you are like the millions of people who are struggling right now to keep up with their mortgage so they don’t lose their home, you might have different perspective.”

McCain spokespiece Brian Rogers, immediately responded saying: “”Does a guy who made more than $4 million last year, just got back from vacation on a private beach in Hawaii and bought his own million-dollar mansion with the help of a convicted felon really want to get into a debate about houses?”

The answer by Senator Obama should be, of course,  “Darn Tootin, Skippy. “

Barack’s response should be:

Yes, I made four million dollars last year.  By that measure, I’m a millionaire.  Which is something I don’t think my wife and kids – or anyone elses’, would complain that much about.  Let’s be honest here, I’m a millionaire.  And so is John McCain.  But here’s the difference between us.  John McCain wants to help today’s millionaires become tomorrow’s billionaires.  I’m a millionaire who wants to help today’s non-millionaires to have a chance to get rich, too .  John McCain is about the Millionaires’ Dream.  I’m about the American Middle Class’ American Dream.

John McCain supports the so called Bush Tax Cut–which is actually a Tax Shift, pushing the cost of government from the broad shoulders of the rich to the overburdened shoulders of the middle class—to help keep making millionaires billionaires. John McCain supports off-shore oil Leasing—not drilling mind you, but leasing oil sites offshore to mega oil companies who already own thousands of acres of oil leases they refuse to drill on—to help make more millionaires billionaires.  John McCain tells you off-shore leasing will bring down prices at the pump?  With all due respect, the good Senator is, at least on this issue, either misinformed himself or deliberately trying to misinform you the people.  All the rhetoric about off-shore drilling is a shell game by the very companies that helped bring you high gas prices to allow them to lock up total control of all future oil supplies in this country.  Which will help make a few billionaires mega-billionaires, but won’t do one thing for your pocketbook the next time you gas up.

So do I want to get in to a debate about houses?  The answer is, ‘No, I don’t.”  At least, I don’t want to get into a debate about my one house or his ten.  I do want to get into a debate about YOUR houses—the houses of millions of Americans in the middle class whose dream of home ownership–the gateway to middle class stability and prosperity—has been turned into a nightmare of debt and foreclosure because of rapacious business practices and  a lax  government oversight of rapacious business practices. A lax government, you can add, that  spent all its time looking for WMD’s that didn’t exist over there while an Economic WMD – subprime mortages—went off over here.

I do want to get into a debate about the millions of Americans whose dream of entering the middle class through home ownership is now denied because the same rapacious business practices that were willing to loan to anyone any amount of money for any reason during the good times are now unwilling to loan anyone any amount for any reason in the bad times – the times when people DO need the help and support of their once friendly and now hostile neighborhood bankers.

I do want to get into a debate about a government that bends over backwards to bail out the big guys—and make no mistake about it, when Republicans decry Big Government its only the Big Government for the Little Guy they defame; Republicans love Big Government  for the Big Guys, government of the people, by the people and for the richest people—a government that doesn’t hesitate to bail out Wall Street but is late to the game to bail out Main Street.  Or bail out just about any Street in a City like New Orleans, I might add.

Senator McCain has accused me of being an elitist, of being out of touch with you, the American people.  That may be true.  I don’t live from pay check to pay check, like most Americans do.  I did once – indeed, I did for most of my life. But not today.  I do live in a million dollar house which most American’s don’t.  Though I didn’t always and lived much of my life without owning a house—or living with a parent who did.  My children do not go to bed at night hearing hushed whispers from their parents in the next room anguishing over which bills they can and can not pay, which medical procedure for which child they can or can not afford,  how long they have before they lose their house to foreclosure or when will the layoff notice come.  Though I once  heard such  hushed conversations—the grownups with the long faces—my children do not.

Yes, I am a millionaire.   But I make no apologies for having achieved the very thing I, and millions of my fellow Americans have always dreamed of. I  had a shot at the American Dream and I have achieved it beyond my own wildest dreams.  I am proud to be an American success story and I am humble enough to realize it is only in America that my story could ever have been told.   And that is why it is my ambition, my goal, to make the same dream I have lived and realized a reality for as many of my fellow Americans as possible.

So yes, Senator McCain, like you I am a millionaire.  Unlike you I know how many houses I own – one, not ten.  And, unlike you, I spend more of my time worrying about the plight of the vast majority of Americans who are not millionaires but who aspire for at least some of the lifestyle and securities millionaire’s enjoy—like guaranteed access to high quality housing, healthcare and education and  economic stability and prosperity—than about those as rich or richer than myself.

Do not get me wrong.  I do not condemn the rich.  Many of those who enjoy great wealth today got to their esteemed stations in life the old fashion way – they worked hard for it.  They worked and achieved the American Dream.  Admittedly many of those who are rich got rich the even more old fashion way—they were born into wealth or married into it.  But, even then America won’t get rich by attacking and destroying its rich.  America will get rich by making room at the great national prosperity table for everyone.  When the non-rich get rich the rich get richer. That’s the true American dream.
As John Kennedy said, a rising tide CAN lift all boats and not just the yachts will the average person’s dingy gets swamped.

For, after all, what would benefit the American corporate and economic elites’ bottom line more: an America filled with the remnants of a former middle class fallen into poverty where wages are stagnant or in decline and home ownership has collapsed? Or an America where the threshold for being in tomorrow’s middle class is what we’d call rich today?  THAT is the 21st Century American dream.

And  such a dream  is not the stuff of flight and fancy.  A century ago  only the rich lived as well and as long as members of what we’d today call the middle class do.  That tomorrow members of the middle class should live as well as those we call rich today?  Well, Andrew Carnegie once famously and factually said that Capitalism is about turning luxuries into necessities.   And that is what the free market, done correctly, should produce:  a broad, vibrant and growing middle class of increasingly affluent Americans—every man a millionaire. Not a middle class in retreat, with a few men multi-billionaires in a society of  declining prosperity.

So the Rich – God Bless ‘em.  Indeed, God has.  So much so that Government need not.  It is time this American government stops worrying more about those who are already rich and more about those who some day should be rich.

So, Senator McCain, do I want to discuss houses?  Yes sir, I do.  For America’s economic house is in disorder.  After a generation of policies to make the rich richer at the expense of the middle class its time to clean house and institute new policies.  Policies that will make the middle class richer the poor richer AND the rich richer,

Fourteen Years Ago Bill Clinton said the age of big government was over.  In that he meant the age of bloated, unaccountable government bureaucracies, he was correct.  But today I say the age of Government for the Big Guy and the Big Guy alone, is over.  The preamble of our Constitution, in describing the purposes for which We The People created this Union, stated one of the most important goals of this union is to “Promote the General Welfare.”  For a generation we have been promoting the selective welfare—the welfare of those whose welfare is already assured.  It is time for our government of the people, by the people and for the people to protect the welfare of ALL the people.

And not just those who own ten houses.  Or their friends.

That’s what the man from Illinois should say.  In my humble opinion, of course

Mr. Potter is Winning

(My Dear CityBeat Readers: I first laid fingers to keyboard on this piece four years ago when I was typing out columns for HispanicVista. It’s become, for me, my own perennial holiday repeat which I’ve vowed to post every year until the thesis no longer applies. Which, given the events of my lifetime, may be the balance of my lifetime. But optimism lives on, especially during this season of faith and hope. A Merry Christmas and wishes for a happy Holiday season to you and yours. — CJL)

I watched the perennial holiday chestnut, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the other day. There was George Bailey, as he is every year, struggling to keep the old Savings and Loan afloat. There was the malicious Mr. Potter, a truly covetous old sinner, trying to put Bailey out of business. There was Clarence the angel showing, once again, that our world is a better place for the George Bailey’s amongst us. It’s too bad that in today’s world the Potters are beating the Baileys, hands down.

Old man Potter dismissed the Bailey Savings and Loan as a kind of privatized social welfare program for dumb poor workers who couldn’t cut it on their own. “And what does that get us,” he asked? “A discontented, lazy rabble instead of a thrifty working class. And all because a few starry eyed dreamers stir them up and fill their heads with a lot of impossible ideas? Don’t the Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys say the same thing today?

Labor laws, social welfare, retirement benefits, guaranteed healthcare, workplace safety laws, consumer protection–all are dismissed by our modern Potters as so much misplaced sympathy offered to the undeserving by the foolishly starry eyed, thinking that is at best naïve and at worst dangerous. Any mention of social welfare on AM radio is now associated with Bolshevik Socialism – want to give workers a guaranteed living wage or put any limits at all on the worst excesses of the market and you’re labeled as an advocate of Gulags and death camps.

George, of course, argued back: “Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about, they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?” Today he could add: is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die with decent healthcare, affordable housing, quality education for their kids and the sure knowledge that, when old age comes, there will be some comforts to look forward to?

We don’t have that many George Bailey’s today. Few stand up to our Potters when they tell us workers can’t expect job security, no one is entitled to healthcare and decent pay is whatever the most desperate amongst us is willing to work for. Even the Democrats, the party of dreams of the working stiffs, have fallen in line with the rhetoric of balanced budgets and smaller government (except, of course, if deficits are required to provide tax cuts to the richest Americans) even if the cost are reduced programs to help the disadvantaged.

Can’t anyone makes the simple point George made that helping the least amongst us is not simple altruism, it is Capitalist self interest at it’s best? “Your all business men here,” he reminded the S&L board members thinking of supporting Potter, “don’t it make them better citizens? Doesn’t it make them better customers?” Heck, wasn’t it that old socialist Henry Ford’s idea to raise worker pay, not because it was the moral thing to do but because it made them better participants in the Capitalist market place? Like Old Man Potter, much of American corporate business has become warped and frustrated by ruthless competition and now sees its workers only as cattle to be milked for as long as possible before being sent to the layoff slaughterhouse.

Frank Capra understood that the Potters amongst us seldom lose, though the more public-minded like old George could, on occasion, battle them to a draw. Notice that, while George Bailey ultimately survived his battle with Potter, the old man survived unscathed too, his own crime of theft of the Bailey’s deposits unpunished. There have always been the Potters amongst us, those who pursue personal gain at any cost, be they a grasping banker like fictitious Potter or the greedy executives of a massive corporations like Enron or WorldCom. What’s regrettable is that there are fewer and fewer George Bailey’s speaking up for the little guy.

In the real world the Bailey S&L would have been bought out in the 1980s by PotterCorp, a huge transnational Financial Services leviathan. A PotterCorp holding company would have bought out Bedford Fall’s chief industry, the plastic’s factory old Hee-Haw Sam Wainwright had built at George’s urging and shipped the jobs to Third World sweatshops. Downtown Bedford Falls would now be a ghost town with shops shuttered by a massive PotterMart out by the interstate selling cheap slave-labor produced products to the town’s poorly paid service employees. Yes, least be there any doubt, in the world of today Mister Potter would have won.

And, least there be any doubt, Mr. Potter voted Republican