Power-Marketing

At Stake in 2016: Ending the Vicious Cycle of Wealth and Power

What’s at stake this election year? Let me put as directly as I can.

America has succumbed to a vicious cycle in which great wealth translates into political power, which generates even more wealth, and even more power.

This spiral is most apparent is declining tax rates on corporations and on top personal incomes (much in the form of wider tax loopholes), along with a profusion of government bailouts and subsidies (to Wall Street bankers, hedge-fund partners, oil companies, casino tycoons, and giant agribusiness owners, among others).

The vicious cycle of wealth and power is less apparent, but even more significant, in economic rules that now favor the wealthy.

Billionaires like Donald Trump can use bankruptcy to escape debts but average people can’t get relief from burdensome mortgage or student debt payments.

Giant corporations can amass market power without facing antitrust lawsuits (think Internet cable companies, Monsanto, Big Pharma, consolidations of health insurers and of health care corporations, Dow and DuPont, and the growing dominance of Amazon, Apple, and Google, for example). 

But average workers have lost the market power that came from joining together in unions.

It’s now easier for Wall Street insiders to profit from confidential information unavailable to small investors.

It’s also easier for giant firms to extend the length of patents and copyrights, thereby pushing up prices on everything from pharmaceuticals to Walt Disney merchandise.  

And easier for big corporations to wangle trade treaties that protect their foreign assets but not the jobs or incomes of American workers.  

It’s easier for giant military contractors to secure huge appropriations for unnecessary weapons, and to keep the war machine going.

The result of this vicious cycle is a disenfranchisement of most Americans, and a giant upward distribution of income from the middle class and poor to the wealthy and powerful.

Another consequence is growing anger and frustration felt by people who are working harder than ever but getting nowhere, accompanied by deepening cynicism about our democracy.

The way to end this vicious cycle is to reduce the huge accumulations of wealth that fuel it, and get big money out of politics. 

But it’s chicken-and-egg problem. How can this be accomplished when wealth and power are compounding at the top? 

Only through a political movement such as America had a century ago when progressives reclaimed our economy and democracy from the robber barons of the first Gilded Age.

That was when Wisconsin’s “fighting Bob” La Follette instituted the nation’s first minimum wage law; presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan attacked the big railroads, giant banks, and insurance companies; and President Teddy Roosevelt busted up the giant trusts.

When suffragettes like Susan B. Anthony secured women the right to vote, reformers like Jane Addams got laws protecting children and the public’s health, and organizers like Mary Harris “Mother” Jones spearheaded labor unions.

America enacted a progressive income tax, limited corporate campaign contributions, ensured the safety and purity of food and drugs, and even invented the public high school.

The progressive era welled up in the last decade of the nineteenth century because millions of Americans saw that wealth and power at the top were undermining American democracy and stacking the economic deck. Millions of Americans overcame their cynicism and began to mobilize.

We may have reached that tipping point again.

Both the Occupy Movement and the Tea Party grew out of revulsion at the Wall Street bailout. Consider, more recently, the fight for a higher minimum wage (“Fight for 15”). 

Bernie Sander’s presidential campaign is part of this mobilization. (Donald Trump bastardized version draws on the same anger and frustration but has descended into bigotry and xenophobia.)

Surely 2016 is a critical year. But, as the reformers of the Progressive Era understood more than a century ago, no single president or any other politician can accomplish what’s needed because a system caught in the spiral of wealth and power cannot be reformed from within. It can be changed only by a mass movement of citizens pushing from the outside.

So regardless of who wins the presidency in November and which party dominates the next Congress, it is up to the rest of us to continue to organize and mobilize. Real reform will require many years of hard work from millions of us.

As we learned in the last progressive era, this is the only way the vicious cycle of wealth and power can be reversed.

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So maybe you’ve seen someone parking in a handicap spot and then walking right into a space or maybe you’ve seen a wheelchair user move their legs or get up from their chair, maybe you’ve seen a cane or a walker user take a few steps without it, maybe you’ve seen younger, prettier, even larger people using power scooters at the market or at theme parks? In case you missed it, NONE of those things imply that someone is “faking” a disability.

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Most consumers seem to want superfoods like ‘Açaí from the Amazon,’ 'Inca Berries from Peru,’ 'Goji Berries from China’ and 'Cloudberries from Finland’ because they want some sort of miracle silver bullet, harvested from deep in the jungle, or gathered from the top of the purest mountain. It’s fetishistic, in the anthropological sense of the word: you’re the Don Quixote of the health food store, searching for the right combination of exotic antioxidants, that will let you live forever.

Nobody seems to want to hear that red cabbage will accomplish almost all the same things these 'magical’ berries will, for a fraction of the sugar, and 1/20th of the price. For some people, when superfoods are staring at them in the grocery store for $1.99, it seems too easy.
— 

biodiverseed

The power of marketing, as it applies to produce:

“Quinoa may deliver a complete protein—all of the amino acids you require—in a compact package, but rice and beans together actually do better. And like goji berries, blueberries and strawberries are packed with phytochemicals. The only problem is that lacking an exotic back story, food marketers can’t wring as exorbitant a markup from these staples: The domestic blueberry, for example, is periodically (and justifiably) marketed as a superfood, and in 2012, products featuring blueberries as a primary ingredient saw their sales nearly quadruple. But they only raked in $3.5 million—less than 2 percent of açaí-based product sales.

-Tom Philpott, “Are Quinoa, Chia Seeds, and other ‘Superfoods’ a Scam?” (from Mother Jones)

The lesson? Find your local superfoods. I assure you they are just as good. But, if you must have your Inca and Goji berries, it’s a hell of a better price point to grow them yourself.

Why We Must Try

Instead of “Yes we can,” many Democrats have adopted a new slogan this election year: “We shouldn’t even try.”

We shouldn’t try for single-payer system, they say. We’ll be lucky if we prevent Republicans from repealing Obamacare.

We shouldn’t try for a $15 an hour minimum wage. The best we can do is $12 an hour.

We shouldn’t try to restore the Glass-Steagall Act that used to separate investment and commercial banking, or bust up the biggest banks. We’ll be lucky to stop Republicans from repealing Dodd-Frank.

We shouldn’t try for free public higher education. As it is, Republicans are out to cut all federal education spending.

We shouldn’t try to tax carbon or speculative trades on Wall Street, or raise taxes on the wealthy. We’ll be fortunate to just maintain the taxes already in place.

Most of all, we shouldn’t even try to get big money out of politics. We’ll be lucky to round up enough wealthy people to back Democratic candidates.  

“We-shouldn’t-even-try” Democrats think it’s foolish to aim for fundamental change – pie-in-the-sky, impractical, silly, naïve, quixotic. Not in the cards. No way we can.

I understand their defeatism. After eight years of Republican intransigence and six years of congressional gridlock, many Democrats are desperate just to hold on to what we have.

And ever since the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision opened the political floodgates to big corporations, Wall Street, and right-wing billionaires, many Democrats have concluded that bold ideas are unachievable.

In addition, some establishment Democrats – Washington lobbyists, editorial writers, inside-the-beltway operatives, party leaders, and big contributors – have grown comfortable with the way things are. They’d rather not rock the boat they’re safely in.

I get it, but here’s the problem. There’s no way to reform the system without rocking the boat. There’s no way to get to where America should be without aiming high.

Progressive change has never happened without bold ideas championed by bold idealists.

Some thought it was quixotic to try for civil rights and voting rights. Some viewed it as naïve to think we could end the Vietnam War. Some said it was unrealistic to push for the Environmental Protection Act.

But time and again we’ve learned that important public goals can be achieved – if the public is mobilized behind them. And time and again such mobilization has depended on the energies and enthusiasm of young people combined with the determination and tenacity of the rest. 

If we don’t aim high we have no chance of hitting the target, and no hope of mobilizing that enthusiasm and determination. 

The situation we’re in now demands such mobilization. Wealth and income are more concentrated at the top than in over a century. And that wealth has translated into political power.

The result is an economy rigged in favor of those at the top – which further compounds wealth and power at the top, in a vicious cycle that will only get worse unless reversed.

Americans pay more for pharmaceuticals than the citizens of any other advanced nation, for example. We also pay more for Internet service. And far more for health care.

We pay high prices for airline tickets even though fuel costs have tumbled. And high prices for food even though crop prices have declined.

That’s because giant companies have accumulated vast market power. Yet the nation’s antitrust laws are barely enforced.  

Meanwhile, the biggest Wall Street banks have more of the nation’s banking assets than they did in 2008, when they were judged too big to fail.

Hedge-fund partners get tax loopholes, oil companies get tax subsidies, and big agriculture gets paid off.

Bankruptcy laws protect the fortunes of billionaires like Donald Trump but not the homes of underwater homeowners or the savings of graduates burdened with student loans.

A low minimum wage enhances the profits of big-box retailers like Walmart, but requires the rest of us provide its employees and their families with food stamps and Medicaid in order to avoid poverty – an indirect subsidy of Walmart. 

Trade treaties protect the assets and intellectual property of big corporations but not the jobs and wages of ordinary workers.

At the same time, countervailing power is disappearing. Labor union membership has plummeted from a third of all private-sector workers in the 1950s to fewer than 7 percent today. Small banks have been absorbed into global financial behemoths. Small retailers don’t stand a chance against Walmart and Amazon.

And the pay of top corporate executives continues to skyrocket, even as most peoples’ real wages drop and their job security vanishes.

This system is not sustainable.

We must get big money out of our democracy, end crony capitalism, and make our economy and democracy work for the many, not just the few.

But change on this scale requires political mobilization.

It won’t be easy. It has never been easy. As before, it will require the energies and commitments of large numbers of Americans.

Which is why you shouldn’t listen to the “we-must-not-try” brigade. They’ve lost faith in the rest of us.

We must try.  We have no choice.

Police in Europe are now saying that gun banning has failed them. Terrorists have managed to get a hold of high powered, black market assault rifles, in spite of the fact that these are virtually impossible to get through legal means in most European nations.

As well, many law enforcement agencies are armed with little or nothing, and finding out quickly that criminals do not obey gun laws, they simply buy illegal arms from the robust black market.

In Europe it is just as easy to get weapons on the black market as it is to walk into a gun store in the United States. In many cases, the prices you pay on the black market are considerably less expensive than in nations where the same arms can be purchased through legal avenues.

Europol chief of staff Brian Donald recently said that there were two “large seizures” of firearms, mostly “assault weapons”, in the past two weeks alone. None of these were stolen from the gun stores or the homes of law abiding citizens. Yet in spite of the laws against them, it has been relatively easy to easy to get your hands on pretty much anything you want – even easier than in the United States for many select fire, fully automatic weapons.

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I think today has taught us a lot about how big social media is as a marketing tool.

Like, yeah, it was never in question, but let’s recap:

Stephanie from Yahoo busted the fourth wall off its damn hinges (if you consider media outlets to be on the other side of the fourth wall, which traditionally they are), as did StubHub, via direct interactions with pro-Larry fans as well as explicitly pro-Larry statements.

FYZ is now, in all likelihood, done for. Last I checked, both a paparazzo came forward claiming theft and dresslike-1d put FYZ on blast with a screenshot of an e-mail that destroyed the notion that FYZ is fan-run. Literally, in a single day, FYZ has been put in water so hot it could burn them right off the map.

Lots of news/gossip outlets are embracing a pro-Larry approach (explicitly and non), and there’s huge reason to believe there will be more to come.

This is just stuff that happened today. Two days ago, the concept of this sort of pro-Larry narrative on an official media scale would have been absurd to even consider. It’s been one day, and the narrative–the feeling surrounding Harry and Louis as lovers, or friends, even–has shifted.

One day. Social media. Crazy, right?

Did

you

know

that

perfection

really

does

exist?

         

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Think you aren’t being fooled by advertising tricks?

Take a look at this so-called expert revealing food marketing’s secret weapon.
No amount of marketing makes factory farming acceptable.

Some of what has gone on, in addition to an increase in the wealth/income ratio, is a capitalization of the increase in other kinds of rents, like monopoly rents. If monopoly rents get increased, if the market power of firms relative to workers gets increased, as when you have the ability of a few, like the banks, to get government guarantees — the value of that is increased and gets capitalized. And that increases wealth but it doesn’t increase capital. So it’s that distinction between wealth and capital that turns out to be critical.

What has happened repeatedly in recent years is that we’ve had monetary authorities allowing — through deregulation and lax standards —banks to lend more, but not for creating new business, not for capital goods. The effect of it has been actually to increase the value of land and other fixed resources [buildings, real estate, etc]. Disproportionately it goes to the increase in the value of these fixed assets.

If more of the savings of the economy leads to an increase in the value of land rather than the stock of capital goods, then worker productivity won’t go up. Wages won’t go up. So some of what is going on is that we haven’t been doing the kind of investment that we should be doing.

When you deregulate, you allow more lending against collateral. Then those who have the assets that can be used for collateral see those assets go up in price, like land. And so those who hold wealth become wealthier. The workers, who have no wealth, don’t benefit from that expansion. So the link is that credit affects land prices and fixed asset prices, and those go disproportionately to the rich. And that is a major part of the increase in the wealth.
vimeo

Extremely powerful message, worth the watch

Facing a future where women are still paid 23% less than men for the same work, and where 1 in 5 women are raped or sexually assaulted in gender-based violence, little girls between 6 and 13 years-old dressed as pretty pink princesses drop F-bombs to draw attention to society’s continued sexism. Asking the question, “What’s more offensive? A little girl saying f*ck or the sexist way society treats girls and women”