America's Real Welfare Queens
By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed
Let's talk about America's real welfare queens.
Republicans are all upset about people getting government benefits, but our nation's real welfare queens are this country's billionaires and biggest corporations.
But first let's look at who the Republicans want us to think about when they use slurs like "welfare queen."
Back in November, the largest cuts in the history of the federal food stamps program, otherwise known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, went into effect.
Thanks to the efforts of Republicans, $5 billion was slashed from the program, directly affecting the lives of 47 million Americans.
But those devastating cuts aren't enough.
Republicans are still convinced that America is filled with people that would rather live off of government assistance than get a job.
And they're still convinced that cutting food stamps will help solve the nation's spending and debt problems.
So, they're trying to cut even more from food stamps.
Right now, Congress is working on a compromise to the farm bill, which thanks to Republicans, will likely cut billions more from food stamps, and leave millions of additional Americans without access to the nutrition they need to survive.
But here's what Republicans aren't telling you.
In 2012, the average American taxpayer making $50,000 per year paid just $36 towards the food stamps program.
That's about ten cents a day.
Now compare that to the fact that an average American family making $50,000 a year pays a whopping $6,000 a year in subsidies to Republican-friendly corporations.
So, who's really causing our nation's economic woes? America's real welfare queens: the corporations.
As Bill Quigley points out over at Common Dreams, the Cato Institute estimates that federal subsidies to corporations cost Americans nearly $100 billion each year.
And on the state and local levels, state and local governments provide at least $80 billion in subsidies to corporations, according to a study by Louise Story at The New York Times.
Some of America's largest corporations, like Shell, Ford and Chrysler, have received more than a billion dollars each from state and local governments.
And then there are indirect subsidies; Taxpayer money that indirectly benefits corporations.
Researchers at the University of Illinois and University of California-Berkeley found that American taxpayers pay a staggering $243 billion per year in indirect subsidies to the fast food industry alone.
That's because the fast food industry pays such low wages that we the people are forced to hand over $243 billion to pay for the healthcare and other public benefits of fast food workers.
Meanwhile, our tax code, which favors billionaires and corporations, saves corporations on average $200 billion each year, while you and I have to pick up the slack.
It's that same tax code that's allowing giant corporations like Apple and GE to hide their money in corporate tax havens to avoid paying their fair share.
And corporate America is getting new handouts from the government on a routine basis.
The Boston Globe looked at tax legislation that was passed by Congress in the first few months of 2013, and found that the legislation contained 43 corporate-friendly tax breaks worth around $67 billion.
Compare all that money that corporations are getting to the $5 billion that has already been pulled out of food stamps and the $40 billion in additional money for food stamps that Republicans want to take out.
They could easily pay for the entire food stamps program just by closing one or two of the smaller loopholes that pass tax expenditures or government checks along to the top 1 percent and the nation's biggest corporations
There's no doubt about it.
Food stamps aren't bankrupting America. The never-ending profit pipeline between Capitol Hill and corporate America is.
When Republicans talk about "welfare queens," they're really talking about their buddies in big banks, Big Oil, and giant transnational corporations.
It's time to cut off the corporate welfare pipeline, and use those billions of dollars to help our economy recover, and to help those Americans who need it the most.
Business, in a self-avowed "capitalist" country is treated gently. Many think it is un-American to do otherwise. But, as the global depression proved (as if we needed proof after Enron and the hundreds of other financial illegalities that have occurred in the last few decades) business must be controlled and prosecutions must occur if there are proven violations of ethics and laws. This article shows how corporations are stealing from us while using the propaganda that has worked so well before: 'leave us alone - we can be trusted to do what is right'.
That has always been a lie. Posts in this thread show that.
We are being fleeced while thinking that their practices are good for the country.
This article has a number of different sources that provide links to their research. Read them.
The Myth of Efficient Markets
By: masaccio Sunday January 26, 2014 10:30 am
One of the unkillable ideas that ricochet around the empty heads of the right wing is that markets are part of the natural order of things. As Bernard Harcourt explains in his book, The Illusion of Free Markets, in this natural order “economic exchange constitutes a system that autonomously can achieve equilibrium without government intervention or outside interference”. That idea evolved into the idea that markets are inherently efficient. That is, of course, stupid. The last couple of weeks provide several examples of the myriad ways actual markets work.
1. Freedom Industries pollutes the drinking water of Charleston, WV. It has no insurance, but it has assets. Its owner, J. Clifford Forrest, owner hires the giant law firm MacGuire Woods to handle a bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Judge, Ronald Pearson, allowed Forrest or someone linked to him to lend the bankrupt firm $5 million to keep it operating, while taking a first lien on its assets. Then when the company collapses into Chapter 7 liquidation under the weight of the damage it has done, the current owner will exercise the lien and put those assets into a new company and keep right on working for himself.
2. Health Management Associates of Naples, Florida runs a bunch of hospitals. It set up a system of rating emergency room doctors by how many of their patients got admitted to the hospital. The goal was to admit half of emergency room patients. The company posted scorecards so every doc could see how they were doing. The New York Times reports:
This month, the Justice Department said it had joined eight separate whistle-blower lawsuits against H.M.A. in six states. The lawsuits describe a wide-ranging strategy that is said to have relied on a mix of sophisticated software systems, financial incentives and threats in an attempt to inflate the company’s payments from Medicare and Medicaid by admitting patients like an infant whose temperature was a normal 98.7 degrees for a “fever.”
3. Hammerman & Gainer was awarded a contract to manage assistance to homeowners in the wake of Hurricane Sandy by the Chris Christie administration. It was terminated recently because of complaints that it didn’t provide help. It’s bid was $68 million, “$127 million less than the only other bidder”, according to the Wall Street Journal. It won despite having been criticized for its handling of a similar contract in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. WNYC, a public radio station, adds this tidbit:
HGI won its contract last May shortly after its New Jersey law firm, Capehart Scatchard, made a $25,000 donation to the Republican Governors Association, which is now headed by Christie. The RGA contributed $1.7 million to Christie’s re-election campaign.
4. United States Investigations Services LLC provided background checks for security clearances. The Department of Justice filed a suit against the company asking for billions in damages because the company didn’t actually do the background checks in at least 665,000 cases. The complaint says the point was to increase revenues and profits. A spokesperson explained: “These allegations relate to a small group of individuals over a specific time period and are inconsistent with the strong service record we have earned since our inception in 1996.” Perhaps the problem was that only a small number of people were hired to handle hundreds of thousands of clearances.
Those are just some big examples from the last couple of weeks. The list could be multiplied without end. The concept “market” may be perfectly efficient and wonderful in every respect, but the practical application of the term in the real world is pretty much like every other human activity: plenty of effort by participants to game the system for their personal benefit and screw everyone else.
It’s bizarre that so many people cling to the myth of market marvelousness despite massive evidence of market corruption and inefficiency. People seem to think that each example of corruption or inefficiency is a bad apple who should be punished. But, of course, we don’t do that any more. The people behind these examples are being sued, not indicted. Their corporations may or may not pay up, but no one is going to jail, and no one is being punished. Every single one of the responsible people will walk away with a pocket full of dirty money, and their reputations, if they care about them, will be restored after the obligatory time away from the media spotlight.
Beyond that, how could anyone think that any human activity wouldn’t be subject to lying, cheating and stealing, including the sacred market? It must be some kind of quasi-religious fervor that deadens people to the reality slapping them in the face, rapt in their ecstatic vision of perfection without cost.
This myth is one of the most destructive ones out there. It's used as an excuse for some of the most egregious behavior business engages in. Those that espouse this concept are trying to put one over on you to be able to get away with something they shouldn't.
Don't let them.
Better Markets Financial Reform Newsletter
March 14, 2014
Department of Justice, like the SEC, knowingly misleads the American public about being tough on financial crimes that victimize Main Street. DOJ's independent inspector general just released a report showing that the DOJ and the Attorney General himself "wildly overstated" the work of their so-called "mortgage fraud task force." For example, the IG reported that, at a press conference in October 2012, the AG overstated the number of criminal defendants charged by a whopping 400% and overstated the estimated losses by an unbelievable 1000%. Proving that this was no accident, but an intentional policy, DOJ continued to use these false and misleading numbers for more than 10 months after knowing they were totally wrong. The IG report is couched in polite language and preposterously frames the matter as a reporting and classification problem, but it can't hide the fact that DOJ has misled the American people about its failure to fight financial crimes. Unfortunately, pretending to be tough on financial crimes and Wall Street has also been common at the SEC, as reported here in February 2013 and again here in October 2013. While DOJ and the SEC fight a PR war to convince the American people that they are doing their job when they are not, the crime spree on Wall Street continues, the number of Main Street victims continues to go up, and the confidence of the American people in their government continues to go down, which is why Better Markets recently sued the DOJ for transparency, accountability, and oversight.
While Main Street continues to suffer from the economic wreckage caused by the financial crash, Wall Street Bonus Pool jumps 15% in 2013. New York Comptroller DiNapoli announced on Wednesday that the average bonus paid to Wall Street employees increased by 15%, bringing the bonus pool close to pre-crisis levels. The announcement comes at the same time that the budget request for the financial cops, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, is being slashed by more than 10%. This is a huge victory for Wall Street and will allow them to return to the high-risk behavior that led to the financial crisis.
The American people are not to blame for the financial crisis. You don't want to miss Dean Starkman's article exposing the corrupt, greedy practices of the financial institutions responsible for the subprime mortgage crisis which triggered the 2008 global economic collapse. Starkman absolves the American people from the pernicious, unsupported charge that they were equally responsible for the worst financial crisis since 1929 and the worst economy since the Great Depression, debunking the myth that attempts to shift blame from the bonus-bloated pockets of the guilty to the victims of a countrywide mugging. Saying "everyone is to blame" distorts reality, shields the guilty from criminal prosecution, and victimizes the American people who already have to pay the cost for the crisis Wall Street caused: $12.8 trillion. The consequences of this subprime shakedown continue to overburden the American people as a rapidly disappearing middle class pays the ultimate price, while the top 1% enjoy a robust economic recovery and top Wall Street executives cash in exorbitant bonuses. The American people deserve a free market without systemic corruption and a justice system which holds the guilty accountable for their crimes.
There are numerous links in the articles providing more information and sourcing.
I strongly recommend this organization for much-needed balance that corrects the myths and lies Wall Street tells us daily, with the help of politicians, especially those that work not for us but for the powerful that actually run the country.
Should GM Get the Death Penalty for 57 Cent Premeditated Murder?
Thursday, 03 April 2014 14:47
By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program
Executives at General Motors have answered the age-old question of how much is a life worth.
A life is worth 57 cents.
Earlier this week, newly installed General Motors CEO Mary Barra was on Capitol Hill, testifying before Congress about GM's recall of nearly 2.6 million vehicles because of a faulty ignition switch, a problem that has caused the deaths of at least 13 people.
But more importantly, Barra was answering questions about why GM knew about the ignition switch problem a full decade ago, but chose not to make fixes that would have saved American lives.
At a news conference after her testimony before a House subcommittee, Barra told reporters that, "I think we in the past had more of a cost culture."
In other words, GM cared more about profit margins than peoples' lives.
And at least with the ignition switch debacle, that appears to be the case.
When General Motors first learned about the ignition switch problem, executives and engineers got together to discuss how the company would respond.
According to GM, company engineers got together in 2005, and proposed solutions to the ignition switch problem, which included installing a small new piece of metal called a "switch indent plunger".
But, statements in 2005 GM internal documents show that the company's executives decided not to fix the ignition switch problem because that small new piece of metal was too expensive and an unacceptable cost.
So, how much did the ignition switch piece that GM executives chose not to fix cost?
That's right, according to testimony from House Democrat Diana DeGette of Colorado, the piece that needed to be installed in the faulty cars, the "switch indent plunger," cost only 57 cents.
When asked about that number, GM spokesman Jim Cain said that, "Presumably it is based on documents in evidence, so I won't dispute it either."
So, rather than go out and spend 57 cents per car, or a little over $1.48 million to fix all of its cars with the ignition switch problem, GM essentially performed a cost-benefit analysis, and found that fixing the vehicles, and saving American lives, wasn't worth losing that $1.48 million.
To put that in perspective, GM's net income in 2013 was $3.8 billion.
So, the ignition switch fix would have only cost .0003 percent of the company's 2013 net income.
As Michael Moore put it, "GM has a legal and fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders to make the biggest profits that it can. And if their top people crunch the numbers and can show that they will save more money by NOT fixing or replacing the part, then that is what they are going to damn well do."
Even Daily Show host Jon Stewart was outraged by GM's actions, saying that, "For God's sake, even if you're strapped for cash, GM, you could have found at least that much in the seats of the cars you're fixing. The thing would have paid for itself."
The GM debacle represents a huge problem with corporate America today - a lack of any real accountability.
As Donna Smith, executive director of Health Care for All Colorado, and an owner of a recalled GM vehicle put it, "The GM recall represents once again how dishonest and greedy many, if not most, US corporations have become."
The whole notion of "corporate responsibility" has been thrown out the window, and been replaced with the mentality that profits are king.
Many corporations are willing to do just about anything to protect their profits and bottom-line, even if that means "accepting" that a few people might die as a result, whether in a car crash, an oil-rig explosion, or a suicide after a home is foreclosed on.
And even worse, they know that nothing will happen in the way of punishment.
Sure, they might face a fine or two, and have to settle a couple lawsuits, but at the end of the day, those are just the costs of doing business and piling on the profits. In many cases, they're even all or partly tax-deductible, so you and I end up paying for it.
Those fines and lawsuit settlements are built into the risks that American corporations are willing to take.
But it's time for that to change, and to put accountability back into the game.
It's time to bring back the corporate death penalty.
As I chronicle in my book "Unequal Protection," throughout most of the 19th century an average of 2000 corporations a year got the corporate death penalty. They were dissolved, their assets sold off at auction, and their stockholders and managers left out in the cold.
We've done this before, and we should do it again. Corporations shouldn't be able to commit massive crimes - from environmental crimes to banking crimes to defective product crimes - and get away with just a slap on the wrist.
And they certainly shouldn't be able to choose making a profit over protecting human lives.
Until there's the real threat of substantial punishment, like losing the right to do business in America, corporations will continue to play fast-and-loose with the lives and livelihoods of the American people, and Americans will continue to suffer.
Let's make sure that no one else ever has to lose a loved one because a car company thought that installing a 57 cent piece of metal was less important than being a good corporate member of the community.
This thread was started because of a realization that any entity that relied solely on making profit would have no real interest in concerning itself about those who merely were consumers of its products - unless it was necessary. Here is another example.
There is overwhelming evidence of corporate indifference to people, animals, and ethics when they don't contribute to profits.
Obligatory comment: yes, there are degrees of concern and there are examples of companies doing things that show concern but...they are dwarfed by what this thread contains, which is an expose of the ugly side of capitalism that will not stop ever.
Greed is good; profits before anything; the "free market" (which doesn't exist) rules. Those are the ideologies that most think are good to believe and support.
All are bullshit!
AlterNet / By Dave Johnson
The Privatization Scam: 5 Horror Stories of Gov't Outsourcing to Greedy Private Companies
Taxpayers are getting fleeced.
May 14, 2014 |
Here’s the scam: For decades we’ve been subjected to constant propaganda that government is inefficient and bureaucratic and expensive. We’re told that the answer is to “privatize,” or “outsource” government functions to private businesses and they will do things more efficiently and everyone comes out ahead. As a result we have experienced decades of privatization of government functions.
So how has wave of privatization this worked out? Has privatization saved taxpayers money and improved services to citizens? Simple answer: of course not. If a company can make a profit doing something the government had been doing, it means that we're losing out one way or another. It’s simple math. And the result of falling for the privatization scam is that taxpayers have been fleeced, services to citizens have been cut way back and communities have been made poorer. But the companies that convinced governments to hand over public functions have gotten rich off of the deal. How is this a surprise?
Here are 5 privatization horror stories, where government outsourcing has gone terribly wrong. (Or maybe you’d say it has gone terribly right if you are one of the companies getting the taxpayer dollars.)
1. Chicago Parking Meters
The mother of all privatization horror stories is what happened with Chicago’s parking meters. In 2008 the city “financialized” its parking meter revenue stream. It leased the rights to collect from parking meters to a consortium led by Wall Street bank Morgan Stanley. The lease is for 75 years.
Right away parking-meter rates went up fourfold and meters stopped working. The city’s residents were unhappy, but there was nothing they could do about it.
But wait, it gets worse. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that the big Wall Street bank was more interested in making money than in giving Chicago the best deal it could. An inspector general looked into the deal and found that the city was shortchanged by at least $974 million. But a 2010 Forbes story says the Morgan Stanley consortium may realize a profit of $9.58 billion after paying Chicago only $1.15 billion.
To top it off, the city not only gave up 75 years of revenue for not nearly enough up-front cash, it had signed a contract prohibiting the city from interfering with Morgan Stanley’s ability to profit from the deal. This means the city can’t build parking structures where they are needed and can’t even give out disabled parking permits. The city can’t even close streets to have street fairs or festivals without paying Morgan Stanley for lost meter profits.
2. Toll Roads
Some states are considering privatizing their roads with “public-private partnerships.” The deal is that private companies maintain the roads and in exchange can charge a toll and make a profit. How is this working out?
In 2006 Indiana privatized I-90, the Indiana Toll Road. For $3.8 billion the state gave a 75-year lease to the Australian company Macquarie Group and Spain’s Cintra. (Goldman Sachs is said to have earned $20 million for brokering the deal.) At the time Washington Post business columnist Jerry Knight wrote that the deal sounded like “tossing the family furniture in the fireplace to keep the house warm.”
Since then tolls have just about doubled. And it’s going to get worse. Dave Jamieson at the Huffington Post explained, “The road's leaseholders can now raise the toll annually at one of three rates -- at a flat two percent, at the percentage increase in the consumer price index or at the percentage increase in gross domestic product -- whichever is highest. Over the course of the coming decades, Hoosiers can expect to learn a hard lesson in compound interest, long after Gov. Daniels is gone.”
In 2007 Colorado leased its Northwest Highway to a Portuguese/Brazilian company for 99 years. The company raised tolls 50% and taxpayers have to pay the company if too many carpoolers use the high-occupancy lanes. The contract includes a “non-compete” clause that "requires payments to the foreign corporation if certain roads or facilities are built in the area that would compete with the toll road." In other words, if traffic gets really bad Colorado is not allowed to do anything to solve the problem for its citizens – mass transit, congestion-relief arteries, etc. -- instead forcing citizens to use that highway and pay whatever the toll is. For 99 years.
3. Prisons for Profit
Imagine a system where someone makes a profit if more and more people are put in prison. This is known as a “perverse incentive.” Really, can you think of anything worse than getting a profit to get people put in jail? What you think could go wrong is exactly what does go wrong. These companies want profits, so rehabilitation becomes a “cost.”
These companies push for government policies that put more people into prison for more crimes and for longer sentences. Prison-for-profit companies working with the corporate/right-wing lobbying outfit American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) came up with model legislation pushing things like “three strikes” and “truth in sentencing” which greatly increase the number of prisoners and the amount of time they serve.
But the worst part of prison privatization is companies saving on “costs” by cutting back on staff, food quality and you-name it. A 2013 Palm Beach Post investigation found that “dangerously low numbers of corrections officers — including local guards with criminal backgrounds — and reports of squalor, rape and riots dog corporate prison operators. ...Audits, security reports, lawsuits, government records and state and federal investigations in 21 states unveil a startling pattern of murder, riots and sexual assault at private prisons nationwide. Often, those failures stem from not enough guards.”
Nine major riots erupted since 2000. At least 25 inmates died amid claims of mistreatment, inadequate medical care or in riots. Three prisons for teenagers were shuttered between 2000 and 2012 after discoveries of squalor and sex abuse. A women’s prison was emptied after widespread reports of rape by staff.
How does this compare to prisons that are not run by private companies for profit?
At Florida’s state-run prisons in the same 12-year period: No major damage or severe injuries from riots; no closures over squalor; no Justice Department investigations over human rights.
In another example in Mississippi, a private company called the GEO Group ran the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility. The Justice Department spent two years looking into conditions at the facility and issued a report saying the facility engaged in “systemic, egregious and dangerous practices.” A judge wrote the company "has allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk."
Cont'd From Above
A recent In the Public Interest report, The Costs of Private Prisons, says “the promised cost savings often fail to materialize.” The report looked at more than 40 studies of private prisons and how this turned out, in five states. They found “no cost advantage” and that for-profit prison companies, “employ questionable methodology when calculating costs of private facilities. This includes finding ways to hide the costs of private prisons, ensuring that increased costs are not apparent until after the initial contract is signed, and using inflated public prison costs during comparisons.”
4. Cost Overruns
Cost overruns are a common scam when governments outsource to private companies.
In 2008 New York City decided to “save money” by contracting out its payroll system. The original estimate to develop the “CityTime” system was $68 million. A little over 10 years later the cost had ballooned to more than $700 million and the system still didn’t work. A recent Daily Kos post descibed what an investigation revealed:
The corrupt contractors lined their pockets with millions of dollars as they accepted kickbacks, funneled huge sums into shell companies, deposited stolen money into overseas accounts, inflated bills and maintained a bloated payroll with excessively paid and even fired employees.
The contractor, Science Applications International Corp. has agreed to pay the city $500 million “under a deferred-prosecution agreement to resolve claims that it conspired to defraud the city.” Three employees were recently sentenced to 20 years each for their roles in the theft and fraud.
5. Any Government “Outsourcing” Anything
If you examine the claim that private companies are always more efficient than government, the argument starts to fall apart. Just how are companies more efficient?
The first way companies are supposed to be better is cost-savings. But just how do they save money? There are two ways a company can save money over what government spends. The first is to reduce what it pays employees and suppliers. The second is to cut back on the amount or quality of the service the company is taking over.
So let’s say a town decides to “save money” by outsourcing its trash collection. The people who were employed by the city to do this are laid off and things are turned over to the company. Typically the company will hire people at as close to minimum wage as possible and likely with no benefits. It will employ fewer managers and pay them less as well. It will cut back on maintenance of the fleet, and it will try to cut back on the pickup service.
Does this actually save government money? If people with OK public-employee jobs are replaced by lower-paid workers the community is poorer in the aggregate. More people will need public “safety-net” services. There will be foreclosures. Tax revenue drops because of lower pay but also because poorer people can’t spend as much in stores. Sales taxes drop as stores face fewer customers able to get by.
Daphne Greenwood of the University of Colorado did a study of privatization titled, The Decision to Contract Out: Understanding the Full Economic and Social Impacts. The study found that the resulting wage and benefit cuts hurt the community at large, including declining retail sales, greater reliance on public assistance and a larger share of at-risk children in low-income families. On a recent phone call discussing the study Greenwood said that when governments outsource, “the availability of middle-class jobs is affected, even upward mobility.” She said, “Contracting to private corps usually means big reductions in worker benefits and benefits,” and “lower wages often mean a shift to less experienced employees.”
In addition, she said, “There are more workers and retirees who end up on public assistance, which means more children in poverty so local schools are dealing with more problems.”
Janice Fine of Rutgers University has also done a study, Overlooking Oversight: A Lack of Oversight in the Garden State is Placing New Jersey Assets and Residents at Risk. She looked at outsourcing in New Jersey and found that a “stunning lack” of government oversight of contractors caused problems for Hurricane Sandy victims as well as greater risk for vulnerable children – and millions in wasted tax dollars in New Jersey.
On the same call as Greenwood, Fine said she found, “a stunning lack of government oversight of contractors,” and that, “oversight shouldn’t be set aside because of cost, it should be an essential part of outsourcing.”
Time To Reassess
Government outsourcing, also known as privatization, has been going on for decades, and now governments are reassessing whether turning public property and services over to private companies has really been a good idea. Story after story has appeared detailing horror stories of corruption, incompetence and general scamming by companies interested only in profit. Molly Ball reported recently in The Privatization Backlash in the Atlantic, “In states and cities across the country, lawmakers are expressing new skepticism about privatization, imposing new conditions on government contracting, and demanding more oversight. Laws to rein in contractors have been introduced in 18 states this year, and three—Maryland, Oregon and Nebraska—have passed legislation, according to In the Public Interest, a group that advocates what it calls 'responsible contracting.'"
Other Horror Stories
A report by In the Public Interest titled “ Out of Control: The Coast-to-Coast Failures of Outsourcing Public Services to For-Profit Corporations,” highlights several other horror stories that happen when local and state governments privatize public functions to private companies. The report begins,
“Eager for quick cash, state and local governments across America have for decades handed over control of critical public services and assets to corporations that promise to handle them better, faster and cheaper. Unfortunately for taxpayers, not only has outsourcing these services failed to keep this promise, but too often it undermines transparency, accountability, shared prosperity and competition – the underpinnings of democracy itself.”
The next time someone tells you private companies are always “more efficient” than government, tell them the facts are against them. It has been tried and it didn’t work.
Any government (or other) activity should always focus on efficiency and the prevention of waste, but when your only interest is profit a good outcome is rare. This article is important reading for anyone who has bought into the myth that business "knows best".
See the article for links.
Rotten Eggs Yield $6.8 Million Fine for Iowa Company
An Iowa company has agreed to pay $6.8 million in fines for crimes that include selling the tainted eggs that caused a nationwide salmonella outbreak in 2010.
A plea agreement filed Monday by federal prosecutors calls for Quality Egg to plead guilty Tuesday to charges of bribery, selling misbranded eggs and introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce.
The company is admitting that, between 2006 and 2010, it intentionally sold eggs to customers in Arizona, California and elsewhere with false labels that disguised how old they were.
The company says its employees twice bribed a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector in 2010 to approve eggs that didn't meet federal quality standards.
Company owners Austin and Peter DeCoster are expected to plead guilty Tuesday to introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce.
I could post stories like this daily. They never end. Get the money, get the money, get the money.
Greed is all.
The name of this thread IS accurate, isn't it.
Be careful out there!
Kneeling in Fenway Park to the Gods of War
BOSTON—On Saturday I went to one of the massive temples across the country where we celebrate our state religion. The temple I visited was Boston’s Fenway Park. I was inspired to go by reading Andrew Bacevich’s thoughtful book “Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country,” which opens with a scene at Fenway from July 4, 2011. The Fourth of July worship service that I attended last week—a game between the Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles—was a day late because of a rescheduling caused by Tropical Storm Arthur. When the crowd sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” a gargantuan American flag descended to cover “the Green Monster,” the 37-foot, 2-inch-high wall in left field. Patriotic music blasted from loudspeakers. Col. Lester A. Weilacher, commander of the 66th Air Base Group at Massachusetts’ Hanscom Air Force Base, wearing a light blue short-sleeved Air Force shirt and dark blue pants, threw the ceremonial first pitch. A line of Air Force personnel stood along the left field wall. The fighter jets—our angels of death—that usually roar over the stadium on the Fourth were absent. But the face of Fernard Frechette, a 93-year-old World War II veteran who was attending, appeared on the 38-by-100-foot Jumbotron above the center-field seats as part of Fenway’s “Hats Off to Heroes” program, which honors military veterans or active-duty members at every game. The crowd stood and applauded. Army National Guard Sgt. Ben Arnold had been honored at the previous game, on Wednesday. Arnold said his favorite Red Sox player was Mike Napoli. Arnold, who fought in Afghanistan, makes about $27,000 a year. Napoli makes $16 million. The owners of the Red Sox clear about $60 million annually. God bless America.
The religious reverie—repeated in sports arenas throughout the United States—is used to justify our bloated war budget and endless wars. Schools and libraries are closing. Unemployment and underemployment are chronic. Our infrastructure is broken and decrepit. And we will have paid a crippling $4 trillion for the useless and futile wars we waged over the last 13 years in the Middle East. But the military remains as unassailable as Jesus, or, among those who have season tickets at Fenway Park, the Red Sox. The military is the repository of our honor and patriotism. No public official dares criticize the armed forces or challenge their divine right to more than half of all the nation’s discretionary spending. And although we may be distrustful of government, the military—in the twisted logic of the American mind—is somehow separate.
The heroes of war and the heroes of sport are indistinguishable in militarized societies. War is sold to a gullible public as a noble game. Few have the athletic prowess to play professional sports, but almost any young man or woman can go to a recruiter and sign up to be a military hero. The fusion of the military with baseball, along with the recruitment ads that appeared intermittently Saturday on the television screens mounted on green iron pillars throughout Fenway Park, caters to this illusion: Sign up. You will be part of a professional team. We will show you in your uniform on the Jumbotron in Fenway Park. You will be a hero like Mike Napoli.
Saturday’s crowd of some 37,000, which paid on average about $70 for a ticket, dutifully sang hosannas—including “God Bless America” in the seventh inning—to the flag and the instruments of death and war. It blessed and applauded a military machine that, ironically, oversees the wholesale surveillance of everyone in the ballpark and has the power under the National Defense Authorization Act to snatch anyone in the stands and hold him or her indefinitely in a military facility. There was no mention of targeted assassinations of U.S. citizens, kill lists or those lost or crippled in the wars. The crowd roared its approval every time the military was mentioned. It cheered its own enslavement.
War is not a sport. It is about killing. It is dirty, messy and deeply demoralizing. It brings with it trauma, lifelong wounds, loss and feelings of shame and guilt. It leaves bleeding or dead bodies on its fields. The pay is lousy. The working conditions are horrific. And those who come back from war are usually discarded. The veterans who died waiting for medical care from Veterans Affairs hospitals could, if they were alive, explain the difference between being a multimillion-dollar-a-year baseball star and a lance corporal home from Iraq or Afghanistan. At best, you are trotted out for a public event, as long as you read from the script they give you, the one designed to entice the naive into the military. Otherwise, you are forgotten.
All religions need relics. Old uniforms, bats, balls, gloves and caps are preserved in the Baseball Hall of Fame, like the bones of saints in churches. In that Cooperstown, N.Y., museum you walk by glass cases of baseball relics on your way to the third-floor display bearing the words “Sacred Ground: Examining ballparks of the past and present, this exhibit takes a look at America’s cathedrals of the game.” At ballparks the teams display statues of their titans—there is one of left fielder Ted Williams outside Fenway Park. And tens of thousands of dollars are paid for objects used by the immortals. A 1968 Mickey Mantle jersey was auctioned in May for $201,450. Team minutiae and statistics are preserved, much as monasteries preserve details of the lives and deaths of saints. Epic tales of glory and defeat are etched into the permanent record. The military has astutely deified itself through the fans’ deification of teams.
The collective euphoria experienced in stadiums, especially among those struggling to survive in the corporate state, gives to many anxious Americans what they crave. They flock to the temples of sport while most places of traditional religious worship in the United States are largely deserted on the Sabbath. Those packed into the stadiums feel as if they and everyone around them speak the same language. They believe those in the crowd are one entity. And they all hate the same enemy. To walk through Fenway Park in a New York Yankees shirt is to court verbal abuse. To be identified as a Yankees fan after a game in one of the bars outside the park is unwise. The longing to belong, especially in a society where many have lost their sense of place and identity, is skillfully catered to by both the professional sports machine and the military propaganda machine.
Cont'd From Above
Many sports devotees return after the games to dead-end jobs, or no jobs, to massive personal debt, to the bleakness of the future. No wonder supplicants at Fenway Park part with such large sums of money to be entranced by fantasy for a few hours. And no wonder it is hard to distinguish the fantasy of a game from the fantasy of the military. Life in the Army or the Marines begins to look like spending a few years at Fenway. And that is why the military invests so much in sponsoring sporting events. Between innings Saturday, the screen above my head flashed segments called “U.S. Army Presents Top Prospects” that showcased promising ballplayers. Recruitment ads appeared at intervals. And the logo “Discover a Stronger Future. There’s Strong. There’s Army Strong” was ubiquitous. The Pentagon spends some $4.7 billion a year on recruiting, advertising, public affairs and psychological operations, according to a 2009 report published by The Associated Press. And much of that is targeted at the audiences of professional sports.
The owners of coal companies at the turn of the 20th century in southern West Virginia found that by funding local baseball teams they could blunt the solidarity of workers. Towns and coal camps rallied around their individual teams. Workers divided themselves according to team loyalty. Sport rivalries became personal. The owners, elated, used the teams to help fracture the labor movement. And the infernal logic is no different today. The players on a baseball team—who usually do not come from the city they represent—are used to promote a provincial chauvinism and a false sense of belonging and empowerment. And the financial, emotional and intellectual energy invested by fans in these well-choreographed spectacles keeps the onlookers docile and supine.
The Boston Globe and the Knight-Ridder media chain reported in 2005 that Phillip H. Morse, a minority partner of the Boston Red Sox, chartered his private jet to the Central Intelligence Agency, which used it to pick up terrorism suspects in the Middle East and Europe and fly them to Guantanamo Bay. The plane was spotted in Cairo on Feb. 18, 2003, according to Knight-Ridder. The imam of Milan, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, had been kidnapped the day before on a Milan street by the CIA and the Italian Military Intelligence and Security Service. He was then flown clandestinely to Egypt. It is nearly certain that Morse’s plane was used for that flight. The imam was allegedly beaten and tortured in an Egyptian-run “black site.” The Gulfstream jet, the Globe reported, rented for $5,365 an hour, which, it calculated, worked out to $128,760 for a 24-hour day, or about $900,000 a week. Not even the highest-paid star on the Red Sox makes that much money.
The use of the Morse jet to carry out extraordinary rendition exposes the dark side of professional sports, how it is used by oligarchs and the military to manipulate and control us. The Red Sox logo that normally adorns the plane was missing. But the logo in any case would not have been visible to the imam, whose head would have been covered with a hood. The only difference between the imam and the rest of us is that we don’t require blindfolds.
Since 9/11 especially, there have been major changes in the country affecting all of us. Many don't notice the suppression of dissent or the militarization of law enforcement.
This important essay demonstrates corporate involvement with the government that seeks to manipulate our support of militaristic goals.
I recommend it.
Disgusting: Piggish Fast-Food Giant Accused of Stealing Workers' Wages
Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches has been skimping on the fair pay.
Alternet by Lynn Stuart Parramore
August 12, 2014
Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches — which promises "Freaky Fast Delivery & World Class Catering!" — boasts nearly 2,000 locations throughout the U.S. in 43 states. A favorite of college students, the Illinois-based franchise has recently been making headlines for something not so classy: systematically ripping off its employees.
Karolis Kubelskas and Emily Brunner, on behalf of themselves and fellow workers, stated in a lawsuit filed in federal court that they were made to perform off-the-clock duties for which they were not properly compensated, leading to breaches in overtime and minimum wage laws. Among the shenanigans Kubelskas and Brunner claim they faced at the sandwich chain, was for workers to be clocked out at the end of the day, even though managers knew they didn't have enough time to perform required closing duties. The managers were incentivized to shortchange employees, according to the lawsuit, by getting bonuses for hitting labor cost targets.
Some people, of course, like the way the fast-food giant does business. As Dave Jamieson notes in the Huffington Post, Jimmy John's "was often highlighted as an entrepreneurial success story by failed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney on the 2012 campaign trail."
Wage theft, something many hoped was a dim memory of 19th-century Dickens tales, has become an epidemic in America. Billions of dollars in wages are stolen out of employees' pockets, and millions of workers affected each year. From denial of overtime to shortchanging on benefits to payroll fraud, hard-working people are getting robbed and often have little recourse to address the crimes because the laws are woefully inadequate and only sporadically enforced.
A conservative estimate of unpaid overtime alone reveals that it costs workers at least $19 billion every year. Women, minorities, immigrants, and workers at the bottom of the wage scale are the most vulnerable, but nobody is immune. Wage theft schemes are often so sneaky that employees don't even realize they are being cheated.
Wage theft is a perfect example of why neoclassical theories of the market sorting everybody out into mutually beneficial arrangements is absurd. When the power is weighted on one side, somebody is going to get screwed, and it's going to be the person serving the sandwiches.
Oh, noes, ANOTHER ruthless screw-the-employee company. Just like Walmart and many, many others.
As I have said before, when your only motivation is profit nothing else matters. Employees that can make you successful...Screw em. If they don't like it they can go somewhere else. Regulations against this crap...No, dammit. I can run my business any way I like no matter what I do or who gets hurt.
Yep, for many "it's the American way". I have mine - you get yours.