Saturday, June 20, 2015

From my clippings file

Every so often, I email an article to myself for future reference, often with the idea of writing a blog entry.  Most likely I don’t get around to it.  So, since I don’t have a hot topic in my head this week, I thought I’d muse about some of these clippings.  Don’t worry, I won’t write about all 59, just enough to fill a Reader Weekly page.

One apropos to the attempts to take some auditing work from the State Auditor was a letter to the Duluth News Tribune by Paul and Susan Schurke of Ely.  They praise Rebecca Otto for pointing out that nobody knows what the potential cost to taxpayers of new mines will be.  Is it any wonder that the corporate-lovers in the Minnesota legislators want reduce Otto’s authority?  Strange that this same crowd complains about taxes.

“Otto’s common sense mining position can unite us all.”  Duluth News Tribune, 2013-12-09.

Pete Seeger wrote long ago that we have the best politicians: “We elect them again and again.”  One of the reasons we elect them again and again is that a plutocracy finances too many elections.  Plutocracy is government by the rich.  “Capitalism vs. Democracy” by Thomas B. Edsall ( asks “Is deepening inequality inevitable?  The case for a global wealth tax.” - New York Times, 2014-01-28.  It is a review of Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”.  Edsall quotes Piketty’s assertion “when pay setters set their own pay, there’s no limit”.

A reverse on a wealth tax is offered by D. J. Tice in “There’s no pot of gold for the working poor”, Star Tribune, 2014-02-09.  His first suggestion is “to stop raising their taxes.”  He also suggests expanding both the State and Federal Earned Income Tax Credit.  He also writes that any hike in the minimum wage will probably result in fewer workers over the long term.  Think of how you once bought an ice cream cone.  Somebody bent over the freezer and scooped your choice into a cone.  Now you can go to Chilly Billy’s and fill your own cup with your choice of frozen yogurt.

My answer to when pay setters won’t set their pay is when the sun sets in the East.  Joe Nocera wrote about all the gimmicks that CEOs and their boards use to keep raising the CEOs pay to ridiculous levels.  See “CEO Pay Goes Up, Up, and Away”, New York Times, 2014-04-14 (  Shareholders can vote against boards that grant obscene pay, but they will probably be outvoted by institutional investors who exercise “fiduciary responsibility” by voting in management’s favor.  Even if that responsibility were directed at reducing executive pay, current law says that “Say on Pay” is only an advisory; management doesn’t have to honor the shareholders vote.

Have you considered that the wealthy wield much more power than kings of old?  Except they don’t need armies of soldiers to stay in power, just armies of lawyers and lobbyists.

You can know that things are out of control when a “conservative” columnist calls attention to the inequalities.  My favorite “conservative” columnist, Ross Douthat, wrote  “College, the Great Unequalizer”, New York Times, 2014-05-03 (  He says that the Party Scene at many colleges benefits the well-heeled student and sucks in the “lower-status” student.  The well-heeled can rescue those who practice an excess of vices, but the less-well-off can’t.  The well-heeled will go on to social or economic success regardless of their performance.  Others will rarely join that social class.

And the upper-class is finding many ways to get their way no matter the cost to the rest of society.  It is well-known, to those who care, that the Koch Brothers through their American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are writing our laws in cahoots with Republican legislators.  One of the current examples is “right-to-work” laws.  Many of the laws are almost identical to what ALEC proposed.  “Wisconsin’s law was a virtual copy of the 1995 model bill promoted by” ALEC.  See “Scott Walker and the Fate of the Union”, New York Times, Dan Kaufman, 2015-06-12.

The article points out how the upper-class minions don’t care about much more than keeping their masters happy.  The accident rate among workers is higher in right-to-work states.  Scott Walker promised the president of the state-wide union of heavy machine operators that the “right-to-work bill” would not make it to his desk.  Walker got his contribution and the labor guy lost Walker’s commitment.

How the Republican Party has changed!  The 1956 Republican Party platform included “The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the Eisenhower administration.”

And it even gets worse.  See “Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Attorneys General”, Eric Lipton, New York Times, 2014-12-06.  The attorneys general are sending letters of complaint about air pollution to the Environmental Protection Agency that are almost duplicates of letters written by the lawyers of energy companies.  These attorneys general are getting huge campaign contributions from energy companies.  Thanks to these contributions, 27 of the states’ attorneys general are Republicans.  Who was it that wrote, “We have the best government money can buy”?

Or to blaspheme Abraham Lincoln, “A government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations shall not perish from the earth.”  Or should it be “shall destroy the earth”?