Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tax Dodgers Hoard $1 Trillion Overseas (Skills Gap Lie Exposed!) Jobs and Skills and Zombies Oh My! (Lack of Ethics and Morality OK In Best Country In World?)


April Fools?

Not so much.

Tax Dodging Companies Hoarding Nearly One Trillion Overseas

As the Civil War enthusiast said, “Southerners are a military people. We were back then, still are today.”

I don't think that that's necessarily any more true in the South than in the rest of the country. It would be fairer to say that a significant portion of the Southern population is just poorly educated, easily led by loud know-nothing charlatans or ignorant of history other than the propaganda they hear constantly on right-wing radio and TV programs that ricochets wildly in their already bent psyches (but, come to think of it, I could be talking about Orange County, California!).

I live in what had been up until the last election the North Carolina (Chapel Hill/Durham area) inhabited by progressives that had helped moved the state into national recognition under the leadership of Governors Terry Sanford, Jim Hunt and Mike Easley due to their advocacy of funding education and all types of progressive policies that included increasing the ability of minorities to exercise their right to vote (that have just about disappeared under the McCrory/Duke-backed/Koch-funded Republican juggernaut of 2012). There are very few crazy folk around here who ally themselves with the Koch-funded (Americans for Prosperity) Thom Tillis crazies who support the vote-denying, war mongering policies/laws so in vogue throughout much of the rest of the South (and many parts of the country).

If we progressives don't organize to change this state of affairs soon, we will be back to our pre-1956 status with the lower classes paying almost all of the taxes with no vote in how our funds are being used.

The Republican Party’s new attack line is to blame the world’s woes on a weakened America. With the slow but steadily growing success of the Affordable Care Act, it appears the GOP is readying to roll out its old timey “Democrats are weak on national security” tagline for 2014 instead of attacks on the President’s signature legislation.
Obama, according to likely 2016 GOP presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz, endeavors “to alienate and abandon our friends, and to coddle and appease our enemies.” Former Vice-President Dick Cheney said it’s Obama’s weakness that encouraged Putin to trample into Ukraine and seize Crimea, while simultaneously forgetting he was the Vice-President when Russia invaded Georgia in 2008. You know, when President Bush did nothing.
This neo-con language is designed specifically for the GOP’s Southern base. University of Georgia history professor James Cobb observes, “The long standing determination of so many southerners to show their ‘Americanness’ through ostentatious professions of patriotism and an aggressive ‘my country right or wrong’ attitude has typically translated into historically high levels of military participation and enthusiasm for military action.”
Certainly the loudest pro-war voices in the Republican Party are those who chose to avoid military service through the good fortune of deferment or family fortune. The chickenhawk phenomenon cuts across all regions of the U.S., but its pathology is most prevalent in the South, along with a handful of other pro-military industrial complex districts like Southern California’s Orange County and the Sunbelt states.
Chickenhawk advocacy finds a reliable home in think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, while also consistently splashed across the opinion pages of the neo-conservative Weekly Standard and the Washington Post. Mike Lofgren, who spent 28 years as a Republican in Congress and is author of The Party Is Over, writes, “If you ever wondered how the United States came to be embroiled simultaneously in two major wars and a half dozen covert ones in the past decade, the cheerleading of Washington’s laptop commandos, with their disproportionate influence in major media, has been a major factor.”
These “laptop commandos” give the GOP base its foreign policy cues. Today’s Republican Party is effectively nothing more than a pro-Southern, pro-corporate sound machine. Other than tax cuts for the rich, the party does not possess a single coherent policy, domestic or foreign.

When it comes to dealing with Russia, the GOP offers nothing that can be confused for an actual solution. Mitt Romney is doing the talk show circuit purely to remind Americans it was he who said Russia is our number-one geo-political foe. Not only was he wrong then and is wrong now — Russia poses no immediate threat to U.S. security — he offers nothing in terms of how he’d manage the Ukraine crisis differently than Obama.
Republicans criticized Obama for not having the nerve to carry out his threat against Syria, but when the President threw the decision to a congressional vote, House Republicans balked. They balked because a majority of American voters, faced with a lingering economic crisis at home, are uninterested in fighting another country’s crisis abroad.

I'll try to be humble about this next essay's subject matter (about which I've raged over and over to no avail), and am thankful that PK has finally addressed one of the most prevalent thug lies being touted for the last decade by bought-and-paid-for idiots or just full-on, long-time liars.

This very important and hopefully soon-to-be outed misrepresentation gets traction at Paul's place, and the number one reader-voted comment is our friend, Karen Garcia of Sardonicky, who takes the liars apart and scatters their shamed fragments to the ill wind blowing throughout the job-hunting populace.

Jobs and Skills and Zombies

March 30, 2014

A few months ago, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, and Marlene Seltzer, the chief executive of Jobs for the Future, published an article in Politico titled “Closing the Skills Gap.” They began portentously: “Today, nearly 11 million Americans are unemployed. Yet, at the same time, 4 million jobs sit unfilled” — supposedly demonstrating “the gulf between the skills job seekers currently have and the skills employers need.”

Actually, in an ever-changing economy there are always some positions unfilled even while some workers are unemployed, and the current ratio of vacancies to unemployed workers is far below normal. Meanwhile, multiple careful studies have found no support for claims that inadequate worker skills explain high unemployment.
But the belief that America suffers from a severe “skills gap” is one of those things that everyone important knows must be true, because everyone they know says it’s true. It’s a prime example of a zombie idea — an idea that should have been killed by evidence, but refuses to die.
And it does a lot of harm. Before we get there, however, what do we actually know about skills and jobs?
Think about what we would expect to find if there really were a skills shortage. Above all, we should see workers with the right skills doing well, while only those without those skills are doing badly. We don’t.
Yes, workers with a lot of formal education have lower unemployment than those with less, but that’s always true, in good times and bad. The crucial point is that unemployment remains much higher among workers at all education levels than it was before the financial crisis. The same is true across occupations: workers in every major category are doing worse than they were in 2007.
Some employers do complain that they’re finding it hard to find workers with the skills they need. But show us the money: If employers are really crying out for certain skills, they should be willing to offer higher wages to attract workers with those skills. In reality, however, it’s very hard to find groups of workers getting big wage increases, and the cases you can find don’t fit the conventional wisdom at all. It’s good, for example, that workers who know how to operate a sewing machine are seeing significant raises in wages, but I very much doubt that these are the skills people who make a lot of noise about the alleged gap have in mind.
And it’s not just the evidence on unemployment and wages that refutes the skills-gap story. Careful surveys of employers — like those recently conducted by researchers at both M.I.T. and the Boston Consulting Group — similarly find, as the consulting group declared, that “worries of a skills gap crisis are overblown.”
The one piece of evidence you might cite in favor of the skills-gap story is the sharp rise in long-term unemployment, which could be evidence that many workers don’t have what employers want. But it isn’t. At this point, we know a lot about the long-term unemployed, and they’re pretty much indistinguishable in skills from laid-off workers who quickly find new jobs. So what’s their problem? It’s the very fact of being out of work, which makes employers unwilling even to look at their qualifications.

So how does the myth of a skills shortage not only persist, but remain part of what “everyone knows”? Well, there was a nice illustration of the process last fall, when some news media reported that 92 percent of top executives said that there was, indeed, a skills gap. The basis for this claim? A telephone survey in which executives were asked, “Which of the following do you feel best describes the ‘gap’ in the U.S. workforce skills gap?” followed by a list of alternatives. Given the loaded question, it’s actually amazing that 8 percent of the respondents were willing to declare that there was no gap.

The point is that influential people move in circles in which repeating the skills-gap story — or, better yet, writing about skill gaps in media outlets like Politico — is a badge of seriousness, an assertion of tribal identity. And the zombie shambles on.

Unfortunately, the skills myth — like the myth of a looming debt crisis — is having dire effects on real-world policy. Instead of focusing on the way disastrously wrongheaded fiscal policy and inadequate action by the Federal Reserve have crippled the economy and demanding action, important people piously wring their hands about the failings of American workers.
Moreover, by blaming workers for their own plight, the skills myth shifts attention away from the spectacle of soaring profits and bonuses even as employment and wages stagnate. Of course, that may be another reason corporate executives like the myth so much.
So we need to kill this zombie, if we can, and stop making excuses for an economy that punishes workers. 

And speaking of the lack of morality and ethical concerns under our greatest country in the whole world fantasy . . .

Strange, isn’t it, that the system supposedly representing the apex of human development — even the end of history — has no place for ethics or morality.

Perhaps this becomes inevitable when an ideology develops to the point where the economy is considered to be outside the environment. From that dubious — to put it overly modestly — vantage point, the journey to seeing the environment, and the natural resources and life it contains, as nothing more than a cow to be milked at will is not a long one. A forest counts as nothing unless it can monetized, which often means knocking it down. Clean air? Clean water? Luxury items for those who can afford them, and thereby profits for those who can bottle it and create a market for them.

A thoughtful article in the May 2009 issue of Monthly Review caused me to think more about this. The authors of this article, “Capitalism in Wonderland,” written by Richard York, Brett Clark and John Bellamy Foster, discuss the models used by mainstream economists, which vary only on the degree to which they discount future life. Yes, that is as cold-blooded as it sounds.

Neoclassical economists base their increasingly insane conclusions that global warming is no big deal and, at worse, will cause little economic damage, on the convenient, self-serving assumption that future generations will be wealthier and therefore it will be cheaper for our descendants to clean up our messes than it would be for us.

. . . orthodox economists slide down a slippery slope in which some humans are valuable and others are without value. Such a mentality is exemplified by Lawrence Summers’ infamous memo when he was chief economist for the World Bank, in which he wrote:

“I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that. … The costs of pollution are likely to be non-linear as the initial increments of pollution probably have very low cost. I’ve always though that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted.”
Summers’ attitude, although usually not expressed in such a direct way, is not out of step with his profession. The “Capitalism in Wonderland” authors lay bare the ramifications of this type of thinking:

“[H]uman life in effect is worth only what each person contributes to the economy as measured in monetary terms. So, if global warming increases mortality in Bangladesh, which it appears likely that it will, this is only reflected in economic models to the extent that the deaths of Bengalis hurt the [global] economy. Since Bangladesh is very poor, economic models … would not estimate it to be worthwhile to prevent deaths there since these losses would show up as minuscule in the measurements.

… This economic ideology, of course, extends beyond just human life, such that all of the millions of species on earth are valued only to the extent they contribute to GDP. Thus, ethical concerns about the intrinsic value of human life and of the lives of other creatures are completely invisible in standard economic models. Increasing human mortality and accelerating the rate of extinctions are to most economists only problems if they undermine the ‘bottom line.’ In other respects they are invisible: as is the natural world as a whole.”

This is the irrationality and immorality that underlies industrialists’ and financiers’ drive to allow the “market” to make all social decisions. Markets are nothing more than the aggregate interests of the largest and most powerful industrialists and financiers. They in turn, through their stranglehold on the world’s economic heights, are able to have decisive sway over governments, which are not disembodied entities somehow floating above society but rather are a reflection of the relative strengths and weaknesses of social forces.

The modern corporation has a legal duty only to provide the maximum profit for its shareholders. In other words, it is expected to act to further its own interest without regard to anything else. The corporation is considered a legal person under U.S. law — one that has no biological limits nor barriers to its growth.

. . . “The corporation’s legally defined mandate is to pursue, relentlessly and without exception, its own self-interest, regardless of the often harmful consequences it might cause to others. As a result, I argue, the corporation is a pathological institution, a dangerous possessor of the great power it wields over people and societies.”
Even without “corporate personhood,” however, the relentless competition of capitalism would induce this behavior, and the winners of that competition are those most willing to crush all obstacles, human and environmental, while foisting the costs onto others.

Really, we can’t do better than this?

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