I found this letter to the editor of the Bellingham Herald. I think the author has a very good grip on the reality of our bastardized political system. The House and Senate make sure that they are taken care of along with the rest of the government. I would rather that they take the same kind of pay cut so many of the rest of the working people in this country have--at least 25%. As Daddy always said 'Wish in one hand and s**t in the other and see which fills faster.'
Well, here it is--Wednesday. I thought I would come back yesterday to finish but got side tracked. I will see what else might be of interest.
The morning news carried the stories of Republican victories in those two widely publicized gubernatorial races and the Democratic victory in the equally publicized House race. The news reader noted that the Republican talking heads are touting the Republican victories as a rejection by voters of Democrats, particularly Obama. They, of course, have noting to say about what the Republican defeat, in a traditionally Republican district, might mean. I didn't expect anything else.
They also took note of the defeat of Maine's gay marriage law. I have thought for some time now that we should take a different approach to the problem of discrimination against gay couples inherent in our marriage laws. Let's simply remove all of the advantages embedded in our laws and customs attached to marriage. Start with the tax code--no more choice of filing 'Married filing joint,' 'Married filing separate,' or 'Single.' Everybody files single and pays single taxes. Next, remove the right of survivorship for surviving spouses with regard to real estate. Follow that up by requiring anyone who has children (adopted or by birth) have their guardianship papers ratified by a court and that they carry those papers with them at all times so they can be examined by doctors, the police, or whoever might have a concern for the children. Also, remove the rights of a spouse to visit a hospitalized adult and make medical decisions. Everyone would have to have a living will and a medical power of attorney. So many of those opposing gay marriage claim that marriage is a 'sacred' institution and we have a Constitution prohibition against the establishment of religion. I would argue that should extend to the religious institutions that derive from religious belief and custom. Virtue has its own rewards, they say. Let's make it so.
I found this Newsweek article yesterday linked on MSNBC. Daniel Gross asks a question that has been in my mind for several years now--why are the stock markets up when the Main Street economy is still mired in recession. His answer makes a good bit of sense. The stock markets track a rather narrow indicator of economic activity--the prices of the stocks of major companies. Not all companies. Every now and then, one of the talking heads on a business channel will note that the numbers are heavily weighted toward the largest companies and a big move by only one or two will take the market way up or way down masking any broader movement in the market. Gross makes the point that those companies are all global companies and there has been a significant shift that most of us on Main Street may not have noticed. Once upon a time, American companies made goods in America to sell to an American market, first, and then to markets over seas. Then, during an earlier phase of globalization, those companies began making goods overseas for sale in the American market, primarily, with surpluses going to overseas markets. Now, however, those companies (nominally American) are producing overseas for sale in overseas markets with the U.S. market becoming more of a secondary outlet. The result is a mirror image of the starting point. In the first case, so long as the U.S. market was strong those companies could make a large profit even if the overseas markets stagnated. Now, the companies can make a large profit if their overseas markets are strong and growing even if the U.S. economy stalls or shrinks. I have mentioned the down side of globalization for labor as workers competed with low wage, no benefit workers overseas whose workplace had few safety or environmental regulations. Essentially a race to the bottom as our workers found their standard of living drastically cut at the same time that foreign workers found their standard of living greatly increased at least by comparison to what they had before. But, and this is the key, our fall was greater than their increase in absolute terms and most of that appeared as profit for the company and as bonuses and/or higher salaries and/or dividend increases for the stockholders. Little of it 'trickles' down to us. But that was when the U.S. was the strongest and largest consumer market in the world. Everything I have read about the rising middle classes in China and India indicate that that won't be the case for much longer and we should be afraid, very afraid, when it no longer is the case.
Tom Englehardt has a guest post by Barbara Ehrenreich on his Tomdispatch site this morning which anyone concerned with both the swine flu and health care reform should read. If a roofing company took $2,000 to repair the roof and did a slow and shoddy job we would be clamoring for our money back. But major pharmaceutical companies took $2 billion to produce the vaccine in specified quantity in a specified time frame, decided to use an antiquated and inefficient method of production instead of newer, more productive methods, and then failed to inform the Government of delays haven't been asked to refund any part of that money. I think Ehrenreich's comments on the role of the profit motive here is key and why health care should not be left to for profit companies.