Monday, August 24, 2015

The 2015 Ballot Box Question: Who Can I Trust To Do The Right Thing?

The first couple of weeks of the Canadian 2015 General Election are mercifully over and the ballot box question has emerged, largely due to what has happened in the courtroom during the Mike Duffy trial and not by what has been said by the leaders during the campaign.  During the trial, it has become apparent that there was wrong doing by the members of the Prime Minister's staff, an attempted cover up, and the denial by the Prime Minister that he knew what his staff was up to.  Whose version of how the events that unfolded do you believe?

Well, that depends on whether you are a fervent supporter of one of the major political parties.  True blue Conservatives will believe the Prime Minister's version, while the supporters of the Liberals, Greens, and the New Democratic Party (NDP) will decode the received testimony of yet further evidence of the moral vacuum that has been guiding this country for the last ten years.

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But what about those who are not bonded to anyone of the major parties and can vote freely on election day?

I believe that it comes down to: who can you trust to do the right thing?  This operates in two different ways.  On one level, it involves an evaluation of what courses of actions are being proposed by each of the parties, in particular, what actions are being proposed to bring about what results in the fiscal and social spheres.  On an other level, it involves a judgement concerning how each of the parties would govern, which include issues of fairness, respect for all Canadians, transparency, and accountability.

With regard to the policy side, it really comes to what people believe about the role of government.  The Conservatives run on the idea of minimal intervention into the lives of Canadians, small government and low taxes.  The other parties would have a more activist approach, paying for their proposed interventions by increasing taxes on some segment of the society, either the corporate sector or for those who can afford to pay more or both.

Of course, a person's conception of what constitutes the good society and not the appeal of the leaders' hairstyles -- although Justin Trudeau does have the nicest hair -- will sway the vote towards one of the parties.

But where it gets tricky is the question of trust with regard to how the government is run.  Both the long standing ruling parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives, have been plagued with scandals.  The Liberals lost their majority government due to the fallout of the Sponsorship scandal in 2004 and it now appears that the Conservatives will do the same in this general election with the fallout of the Senator Mike Duffy trial: their support is holding at less than 30% in the polls.

Which brings us to the NDP.

They don't have a tainted past in federal politics because they have never governed.  A similar situation existed earlier this year when Albertans, in what we thought was the most conservative province in Canada, voted in the provincial NDP to a majority government, ending  44 years of Progressive Conservative rule.  Looking at the polls, it looks like the NDP could form a minority government since the fear factor of electing an NDP government federally has diminished considerably.

The one thing that could change the existing dynamic is if the financial markets go into a free fall as was the case during the 2008 federal election.  It could happen that Canadians might not want to risk handing the reigns of power to an untried political party to lead the country through the tumultuous economic aftermath of a second financial crisis.  Better the devil you know than the one you don't.

In any case, only time will tell, and this campaign is dragging along at a snail's pace, leaving plenty of time for something exciting to happen. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Canada Embraces Its Watergate Moment And The People Will Decide, Maybe.

We could call the latest scandal in Canadian politics Duffygate, our version of the Watergate scandal that rocked America during the 1970s.  There are of course differences (tape recorded conversations vs. emails) but there are a lot of similarities in the unfolding of the two scandals.  In both instances, an unpopular leader of the country had to deal with the bungling of his underlings: in the US it was a bungled burglary attempt, in Canada it was a bungled Senate nomination.  In both instances there was a cover-up and the public was lied to.  In both instances, it was perceived that a breach of trust had occurred by the person occupying the highest and most important position in the country: in the case of Richard Nixon, he decided to resign rather than face an impeachment process; in the case of Stephen Harper, his fate will be decided by a grumpy Canadian electorate in the present general election.

Perhaps the most unsettling feature of both scandals is the contemptuous attitude that non-elected officials displayed towards the population at large, calling into question whether the two leaders shared this inclination and that the actions of the underlings were simply a manifestation of the culture created and maintained by the two men chosen to lead their respective countries.

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It could be argued that the unethical behavior is nothing more than the consequence of maintaining a political system in which political power is an all or nothing proposition.  To wield power the consent of the electorate must be won, and in the tradition of the political blood sport of electoral politics in North America, "winning isn't everything; it is the only thing."  Hence, the deception and manipulation are simply the means to a greater end.

However cynical this approach to politics might appear and whether the realpolitik in both Canada and the US actually functions in this manner, it fails to take into consideration the cornerstone of representative democracy: the trust that the electorate must have in transferring its sovereign power to an elected government.  Importantly, it is not required that everyone is in agreement with the government's programs and activities -- the electorate determines who possesses the legitimacy to act on behalf of the citizens, and if the people are not in agreement, those who are entrusted with that legitimacy can be voted out of office -- but while holding office those elected to act on behalf of the people must be trusted to act in the best interests of the citizens and to be truthful in their communication.  Failure to do so on either count constitutes a breach of trust and undermines the capacity of the political system to function.  After all, regardless of the power of mass communication in the information age, it still comes down to each individual citizen to evaluate the performance of an elected government and this cannot be done properly if the electorate has been deceived.

As a result, the result of the Canadian 2015 General Election will not be determined by the ideas and proposals from each of the political parties concerning the economy, social programs, the environment, and national security.  It will unfold as a morality play in painfully slow motion. 

Essentially, to re-elect the Stephen Harper led Conservatives, Canadians must decide if Mr. Harper is a man that can be trusted.  If they decide yes he can be trusted, a return to a minority Conservative government is by no means out of the question.  If they decide no, then the result of the general election is really a crap shoot, coming down to whether dissatisfied supporters of the Conservative Party decide to opt for the Liberals as the lesser of two evils, decide that the leader of the Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau, is like the Tory ads say, not ready for the job and vote for the New Democrats, or stay at home and not vote at all.

If you like a horse race, as the first-past-the-post voting system implies, this one is too close to call.  It will go down to the wire, and without question the vagaries of the voting method will influence the final result. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

When It Comes To Boring Nobody Does It Better Than Canada

A Group of Canadians Watching the Leaders Debate
Same as it ever was . . .
Same as it ever was . . . 
(Once In A Lifetime, The Talking Heads)

It's a moody Manitoba mornin'
Nothing's really happening, it never does (Moody Manitoba Morning, The Bells)

Having lived all my life in Canada, I am struck by the boring sameness of life in the Great White North.  Yes, there are some interesting places to visit and some interesting people to get to know, but, all in all, living here is like watching the snow melt.

I think it has something to do with the geography.  In a travel brochure you might see some appealing photos of Quebec City, Peggy's Cove, Niagara Falls and the Rocky Mountains, but what the brochures fail to mention is the vast distances separating our sights of interest and how excruciatingly boring it is to traverse those spaces of the big empty.

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Canada's Lamentable Lack of Imagination
Canada's Greatest Cultural Achievement: The Charter of Rights and Freedoms

I know.  I come from the prairies.  Living in Winnipeg was cool, but ask anyone what it is like to drive in or out of Winnipeg on the Trans Canada Highway.  The greatest danger comes from the fact that the land is incredibly flat and the road is incredibly straight.  It is so boring that people fall asleep at the wheel while driving, leading, of course, to tragic consequences.

A couple of years ago, I decided to drive from Ottawa to Winnipeg and traversed our largest province, Ontario.  Let me tell you, the Canadian Shield is interesting for about fifteen minutes of the two full days of seeing nothing but rocks and lakes and trees and the occasional Tim Horton's, Canada's favorite coffee and doughnut shop.  So boring that my two sons sucked me into an argument when leaving Thunder Bay about whether Terry Fox is a Canadian hero just to yank my chain in order to break up the monotony.

I can also attest that driving from Winnipeg northward to Thompson, Manitoba, and along Quebec's Lower North Shore are as boring if not more so than driving across Ontario.  Some would argue that the most boring drive is from Montreal to Toronto.  It's difficult to decide.  To do so would involve an extremely boring conversation I would rather avoid.

Regardless, if people are to survive and prosper, they need to be genetically endowed to be able endure long periods of time where nothing much happens and to fill those days, weeks, months, and years, with mind-numbing routines in order to pass the time.  Life in Canada is about exciting as paying down a 25 year mortgage.

My father, on the other hand, lived through some remarkable times.  He grew up during the Depression; went off to fight in the Second World War; played professional football; brought up two kids that saw a man walking on the moon.

Not me.

The only iconic moment that comes to mind thinking about the last fifty years in Canada was Paul Henderson scoring the winning goal with the time running out in the final game of the Canada-Russia Summit Series in 1972.  Not a lot has happened since.  Like what?  The Charter, NAFTA, Justin Bieber?  That's about it.  History is what happens outside of Canada.

Which brings me to Canada's current General Election, which will go down in history as one of the longest and most boring electoral campaigns ever held, as about exciting as driving across Ontario. 

In fact, Canada's present social contract has been in place for more than 40 years.  All we do is tinker at the periphery.  Raise or lower taxes slightly.  Add on an additional social program here and there.  Nothing that would rock the boat.  Steady as she goes.

It appears that we are either incapable or not really wanting to make any institutional changes.  We have a hereditary monarch as our head of state; an appointed corrupt upper house that cannot be reformed in any meaningful way; and an antiquated voting method that distorts electoral results.  Yeah, but life is good, especially if you happen to be from British or French stock.

Case in point.  Holding what will most likely the only televised debate between the leaders of Canada's major political parties more than two months before the day of the election.  Not that many people watched it, and most of those who did will forget about it.

Apparently, the biggest event that will mark the campaign is when Statistics Canada publishes the latest data concerning Canada's economic growth.  After five straight months of miniscule contractions of the GDP, one more makes it official: we are in a RECESSION.  Oh my god!  Run for the hills! 

Unless you work in the oil and gas sector, you won't feel a thing except paying less for gasoline when you fill up.  For those who do work in the oil and gas producing provinces, you could vote against the governing party, but then again we all know that the Conservatives do not control the price of a barrel of oil, and eventually either the Americans or the Saudis or both will come to their senses and curtail their production levels in order for the price of oil to rise, and with it Canada's GDP.

All in all, it comes down to which leader can do the least harm.  Four more years of the same, or four years of someone brand new that is trying to convince us that there are no big plans in the works?  These are the choices?

In any case, whoever forms the next government will probably not have a majority of seats in Parliament.  Nothing new there, four out of the last five governments have had less than 50% of the seats. 

Stay tuned.  Given how the first-past-the-post voting system does not work very well with multi-party elections, I am sure that the results will be something of a surprise, but nothing that would motivate Canadians to make any significant changes to our political system

After all, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  Let's keep on chugging along with what we got, and thank God we are not living in Greece or Afghanistan or in Central America, places where you can't sit patiently and watch the snow melt.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Big Bumble: The 2015 Canadian General Election

Sometimes, I think Canada should change it's name to Bumbleslavia, a land in which people bumble along and where bumbles are common and appreciated by the people: "Did you see the latest bumble?  Yeah, that was a good one. It will be hard to beat."

The latest Big Bumble -- methinks it will be in the running for the Grand Prize in the Bumble of the Year Awards -- is the Prime Minister calling a general election in the middle of the summer while most people are away on vacation, eleven weeks before the day of the election.

Why on earth would he do that?

Well, as could be expected, our government bumbled big time when drawing up the so-called, Fair Elections Act (ha ha ha, calling elections fair in Bumbleslavia always gets a laugh).  The Minister responsible for drawing up the law did not foresee that groups who do not support the ruling party would start spending large amounts of money to air television commercials critical of the government in anticipation of the upcoming election. 

Oops!  Easy to understand since Bumbleslavia is running its first election where the date of the election was fixed by law, not that the Prime Minister is always bound to respect the laws his government draws up, the last general election was held before the fixed date!

But as we like to say in Bumbleslavia, one good bumble deserves another.

In this case, there just happens to be a clause written into the Fair Elections Act (tee hee, sorry I couldn't help myself) that increases the amount of money political parties can spend during the election if the campaign is longer than the prescribed 37 days.  This election will be the longest in living memory and will double the spending limit.  Oh, I guess you should know that only the ruling party has enough money to do so, and taxpayers will be picking up half of the bill.  Oops!

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According to the former Director of Elections, this move on the part of the Prime Minister is gaming the system, running contrary to the notion of having fixed election dates and having fair elections (big chuckle).  In the Bumbleslavian way of thinking, the Prime Minister saw an opportunity to expose a bumble in the law and did so and should be applauded.

I think the former Director is just feeling grumpy because he no longer presides over the Bamboozling Bumble that goes by the name of the Canadian General Election.  What makes it really interesting is that governments are formed on the basis of the first-past-the-post voting method. 

Get this!  Governments are formed in Canada not on the basis of the popular vote, but on the basis of the number of electoral districts won by each party.  To win an electoral district, a candidate doesn't need a majority of the votes.  He or she just needs to get more votes than the other candidates.

Wow! That means that in a close three-way race, more people could vote for the two losing candidates combined than for the winning candidate.  Get out of town!

Wait, it gets better.  Counting up all the electoral districts, a party could form what in Bumbleslavia is referred to a majority government (guffaw) by winning half of the electoral seats that are up for grabs.  Doesn't that mean that the so-called majority government could get elected with substantially less than fifty percent of the vote?  Absolutely!  In other words, more people could have voted against the ruling party than who voted for it.  And you call that "Democracy"?
Oops, but only in Bumbleslavia.  You see, in Canada we take the Big Bumbles all in stride.  Don't worry.  Be happy.  Why fret about what we are really good at.

I love you Canada.

Bumble on and bumble strong in the Great White North!!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Greece Has Been Shat Upon With the Dung of the Devil

Over the last few weeks, I could not but help notice the parallel narratives unrolling with the Pope on tour in South America condemning the moral bankruptcy of our present economic system and the arduous negotiations surrounding yet another bailout of the Greek government.  In short, the Pope repeatedly exposed the absence of morality within capitalism and linked it to the exploitation of the poor and the rising environmental crisis encircling the globe.  As Pope Francis points out -- I still find it strange that I would be quoting the Pope, but hey, he tells like it is -- capitalism today is the dung of the devil:

An unfettered pursuit of money rules. The service of the common good is left behind.  Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home.

Sounds like a pretty accurate description on what is happening in Europe.  For instance, we have witnessed the usurping of Greek sovereignty over its territory, Greece having been reduced to the status of a debtor colony by the German led European Union, which has become little more than an extension of European banking system, that above all protects the interests of the French, Swiss, and German banks.
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The Greek people, on the other hand, are being sacrificed on the altar of maintaining a common currency.  The so called structural adjustments imposed upon the Greeks have just made matters worse: the economy has shrunk by 25%, and young Greeks are leaving the country to seek their fortunes elsewhere, and why wouldn’t they, facing the bleak prospect of trying to find a job in a country where the unemployment rate for the young top 50%.  As well, child poverty is rampant and the suicide rate has skyrocketed.  So much for being a member of the European Union. 

To make matters worse, officials from the European Commission will be in place to make sure that the Greeks continue to liquidate whatever remaining public assets that can be sold off at fire sale prices, the proceeds going to cover a portion of the potential, or should I say inevitable, losses that the European banks stand to incur.

Eventually, there will be a day of reckoning.  Indeed, the Washington based International Monetary Fund has indicated in one its reports that given the present state of the Greek economy, Greece will not be able to meet its debt obligations: “Greece’s debts can only be sustainable with debt relief measures going far beyond what the Eurozone has offered so far.”

In fact, Greece’s accumulated debt has reached 200% of its GDP while its economy continues to shrink.  In other words, the economic activities within the Greek economy do not and, most likely, will not generate sufficient revenue so that the Greek government can pay off its debt.

The former Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, makes the point succinctly when speaking to the BBC. He said that the program that Greece was subjected to “will go down in history as the greatest disaster of macroeconomic management ever.”
Say what you will about the Greek penchant of not paying their taxes, awarding themselves overly generous pension plans, and defrauding the social system, the million dollar question (pardon the pun) is the following: given the present state of the Greek economy why continue to extend credit, three massive bailouts in five years, and continue to pretend that the structural adjustments that to date have utterly failed will somehow miraculously resuscitate and bring the moribund Greek economy back to life? 

Where the dung of the devil seems to be pretty thick is with the German-led banking system.  If there is any nation on this planet that should be aware of the effects of debt relief, it is definitely the Germans, having been crushed by the reparations imposed by the victors of the First World War in the Treaty of Versaille, which many believe that created the conditions that brought about the Second World War, and having been forgiven for their debts during the reconstruction years of the Marshall Plan.  Indeed, the Germans were the beneficiaries of an overwhelmingly forgive and forget attitude on the part of the allies who could have sought their "pound of flesh", which given the scale of the harm the Germans inflicted upon humanity, they could still be paying today and would do so for the next thousand years.

So, where's the love?

It's not as if the German banks were lending the Greeks a portion of the hard gained savings of the German population.  The money that was lent was created out of thin air in writing up the IOU to the Greek government which then reciprocated with one of their own to the consortium of European banks.  Moreover, potential losses due to non-performing loans can be easily removed off the balance sheets by the act of quantitative easing in which the European Central Bank also creates money from thin air and transfers the bad debt away from those banks that were foolish enough to lend funds to the Greek government in the first place, a practice that the American Federal Reserve employed to prop up to the too big to fail banks in the US following the collapse of the financial markets in 2008-09. 

Simply put, the European banks do not want the contagion to spread.  The default of a small member country like Greece would not imperil the solvency of the European Union.  However, other countries like Portugal, Spain, and Italy would do considerable harm to the continued viability of the EU if they too were to default on their debt obligations.  By teaching the Greeks a lesson they will never forget, the aforementioned nations take notice and fall into line with the dictates of the European Central Bank.

The other thing to consider is the exposure that the banks holding the Greek debt have with regard to the derivatives markets.  A default could trigger a chain of massive payments that could freeze the liquidity of the entire European banking system, and, as a result, the entire European economy. 

Perhaps, this is the scenario that needs to be avoided at all costs.  In such a situation, the Greek government's default must be avoided for the time being, and if that means extending credit to a debtor that cannot repay the debt in order to keep the debtor nation on life support for an indefinite period of time, so be it.  In the meantime, the significant extraction of wealth from the Greek economy can be used to hedge against the repercussions of a possible default, even make money if it indeed comes about.

As you can imagine, the Greeks find themselves in an extremely shitty situation.  Regardless of the financial strategies, the desire to make money from money amongst the creditors trumps the productive use of capital in Greece's real economy.  Without access to sufficient lines of credit from its domestic banks, businesses cannot finance their day-to-day operations.  As a result, many of them will simply close their doors, laying off employees in the process, while they contemplate moving their operations elsewhere.  By doing so, the economy continues to shrink as do the revenues of the state and the capacity to service the existing debt.  Caught in a vicious circle, it should not come as a surprise if the pain caused by the imposition of draconian fiscal measures upon the society lead to social unrest and violence.  In the worse case scenario, one the Germans know all too well, the drowning man will clutch upon a dragon and those from the far right will take control of the state. 

What we have been witness to in Europe is the machinations of an amoral political agenda, which organizes the global community into becoming the means to the end of maximizing profit at the expense of the human condition and the health of the planet.  Breaking free from this institutional order cannot be done by simply changing the positions of the economic levers.  It can only be achieved by changing the moral code at the base of our society.

In such a context, what Pope Francis has been saying over the last couple of weeks needs to be taken seriously and acted upon, by Catholics and non-Catholics alike.      

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pope Francis Captures the Moral High Ground Much to the Dismay of His Detractors

Way to go Frank!  You really knocked that one out of the park.  I never thought that I'd be writing about an encyclical from you, but what you had to say about climate change and how it is connected to the economy and our relationship with the planet and the rest of humanity pretty well sums up what I and a host of other progressive bloggers have been writing about for the last few years. 

Coming from you, however, carries a moral authority that has the potential to counterbalance the amoral neoliberal garbage that is spewed upon us by the traditional media, captured, for the most part, by a money-grubbing, Mammon-worshiping, financial elite and their minions.

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There are many memorable quotes to be found in this encyclical.  Perhaps the most direct, no holds barred observation is "the Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth." 

Tell it like it is Frank.  Don't pull any punches.

It's refreshing to hear a message that doesn't buy into the economy uber alles bullshit we hear everyday.  If you can read between the lines, it goes something like this:

Through put.  It's all about through put.  The more of the earth's natural resources we can extract and put to use, the better it is for all of us.  Don't worry about the toxic waste.  If you make enough cash, you can live far away from the garbage dumps.  Climate change?  Who gives a fuck about climate change when you and me will be long dead before the worst of it arrives?  Greed is good, I tell ya.  It's all about making as much cash as you can, and don't let anybody stand in you way, least of all those tree-hugging, bike-peddling, granola-munching, solar panel freaks that will be forcing us all to drive Priuses if we let them.

Ok, I had my fun, but, on the serious side, Pope Francis goes for the jugular when he exposes the irrational belief in the market's "invisible hand", the economists blind leap of faith which will make everything just right:

Once more, we need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals. Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations? Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration, or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention.

You got that right Frank. The quality of life doesn't come down to the bottom line. 

Life is a mystery. Nevertheless, we just happen to live on an incredibly beautiful planet.  For the most part, what's been missing from the climate change debate is a sense of morality, and who better than the Pope to capture the essence of the moral question we face.  In his words:

When we ask ourselves what kind of world we want to leave behind, we think in the first place of its general direction, its meaning and its values. Unless we struggle with these deeper issues, I do not believe that our concern for ecology will produce significant results. But if these issues are courageously faced, we are led inexorably to ask other pointed questions: What is the purpose of our life in this world? Why are we here? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us? It is no longer enough, then simply to state that we should be concerned for future generations. We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity.

Powerful words that we need to return to from time to time regardless of one's religious beliefs.  Yes, these words are indeed addressed to everyone on the planet.

In closing, I take great pleasure in thinking that Pope Francis will now use the considerable means that he has at his disposal to get his message out to his more than a billion followers, and there is nothing that the traditional media can do about it except watch.

Thanks Frank.  Your sense of timing is impeccable, or should I say infallible.  ;-)


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Fuck the Job Count! What People Need Are Living Wages!

Every month the charade continues. Governments in North America announce the latest labour market statistics, hoping to pull the wool over the population’s eyes, making them believe that things are a lot better than they really are.

It’s relatively easy to do: just don’t count those who are so discouraged that they have given up looking for a job.  In reality, these people still exist; they just don’t show up in the unemployment figures.  As a result, people are spoon fed a distorted picture of reality that they seem more than happy to accept, unless, of course, they are struggling to make ends meet, which in America is more than 100 million people.
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You don’t need to be a genius to see how the big lie works.  If the numbers are jigged to show less than a 10% unemployment rate, people will think that this means that 90% or more of the people who are employable do in fact have jobs.

It’s difficult to know in North America what the real unemployment rate is.  Estimates, based on the participation rate, those who are between 18-54 years old and do have jobs (see John Williams' site, Shadow Statistics) are closer to 23%.  In other words, three times the official, government endorsed, rate!

If that’s not enough, the government stats do not differentiate between part-time and full-time jobs, between temporary and permanent employment.  Having a permanent, full-time job with benefits that pays more the $50,000 is not the same as working part-time at Walmart, but for the purposes of propaganda they are.

What would make a difference is if we starting using the median income as an indicator of economic performance.  For example, U.S. real (inflation adjusted) median household income was $51, 939 in 2013 versus $51,759 in 2012, statistically unchanged.  In 2013, real median income was 8% lower than in 2007, the year before the onset of the Great Recession.  What’s up with that?

Things are about to get worse.  The U.S. Congress, otherwise known as America’s elected millionaires club, has just given the President of the United States of America, Mr. “Forget About Change You Can Believe In“ Barak Obama, the authority to fast track trade negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which effectively will make it easier for multinational corporations to offshore production where salaries are the cheapest and where the environmental regulations are the most lax.

This recent development reminds of the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen’s poignant classic, “My Hometown” released in 1984 on the Born In The U.S.A album, a precursor for what was coming down the road:

Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores

Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more

They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks

Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back to your hometown

Fortunately, there is push back and it’s coming from municipal government, the level of government closest to the people.  Last week, the municipal council of Los Angeles adopted a resolution that would see the minimum wage become $15 an hour by 2020, joining Seattle and San Francisco in the fight against poverty.  As could be expected, billionaire Warren Buffet went on record to say that that raising the minimum wage to a living wage was a bad idea.  Bad idea for whom Warren?  Fat-assed rentiers like yourself or for the children of parents who have two work at least two wage-slave jobs in order to house, clothe, and feed their kids?

What will be really interesting to see and very sad if it is indeed the case –of course, we won’t know beforehand since the wordings of the multinational trade agreements are being kept secret—is if a corporation can file a motion in the investor-state dispute settlement tribunal to roll back living wage legislation adopted at the state or municipal level.

That’s certainly not the kind of change people were hoping for!!!