America Is Not Rome: The Wrong Metaphor & Bad Economic Policy

I can appreciate that America likes to compare itself to ancient Rome. After all they both came from humble beginnings, they grew to become economic, political and military power houses through innovation and technological development (aqueducts, standardized parts, roads, airplanes) and they were both (to a degree) republics. Thomas Jefferson was obsessed with the Romans. Much of the architecture around the US capitol is influenced by Roman design. However they are picking the wrong empire to compare themselves to. America is not Rome, America is 17th and 18th Century France. Why am I making this comparison? Simple, America has a tax system that only benefits an entrenched aristocracy just like France did before its revolution. Also the bad foreign policy initiatives, massive debt and military quagmires are similar but mainly the tax system.

In the United States, dividends (the return on investment generated from stock investment) are taxed at only 15%. The argument is that it would be double taxation for a company and individuals that earn a profit. However, many of the wealthiest Americans generate the majority of their income from dividends. So that means the majority of their income is only taxed at 15% while the most people who earn their living through wages are taxed around 35%. This is why Warren Buffet says he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. How does this compare with France?

The second estate was the French nobility. They compromised roughly 1.5 percent of the population and paid zero taxes. They benefited the most from a system that was skewed in their favor. Essentially it was the old world’s version of Reaganomics. What exists now in America isn’t so much capitalism but rather a post-industrial serfdom. The over emphasis on supply-side economics has marginalized the majority of spenders through the process of gradually taking them out of the equation. After all, last year the average middle class citizen paid more taxes than Exxon Mobile who reinvested their (45.2  billion dollar) earnings overseas and never paid a cent in tax to the United States government. Of course, its not like corporations have the same legal status as people under the law, oh wait, never mind.

This falls into what is called the paradox of thrift. There is a belief that is common among many that what is good for the home is good for the economy. For example, if we cut household expenses it helps us have more disposable income in the long run. However if this is applied on a grand scale to the economy it actually tends to hurt it. The basics are that income/demand must be equal to output just as savings must be equal to investment. So if we decide to cut government income we must also understand that government output will be cut too. Same as if the government allows for a greater level of savings then people should be increasing their overall investments. Unfortunately this is not the case and what we are seeing is the people who have had their saving increased are hoarding their currency rather than investing or spending.

So what happens when you have a situation where people are not making any investment into a country are extracting the greatest return from everyone else? Well the French had some problems with  this exact situation. The results are actually pretty interesting. The high levels of debt, increased taxation and lack of representation caused the professional elements of society to re-frame their society. Most revolutions are successful when the middle class finally has enough and burns down the status quo. This isn’t likely to happen in the United States. America has systematically destroyed their middle class. Chances are we are about to see the return of feudalism. Feudalism with computers, credit cards, drive throughs and cell phones.

Shadow dance, look at me

Shadow Dance by KusouI was watching a newscast last nigh about GM being broke. The correspondent made some comment about “repairing the American Dream.” My first thought was “Oh shit, if that analogy catches on, maybe I can milk some traffic off of it.”

What kind of shit head am I? Families are losing their livelihood and security, and I’m thinking of “Google juice.”

I’ll tell you what kind of shit head I am. I am the f**king “Facebook generation.” I’d rather you look at me than look at all the shit that’s going on around you. I’d rather you be “captive” than be happy.

I am the shadows on the wall. I’d rather you watch me dance in the flicker of flame than be happy because without you, my anthropomorphis means nothing. Without an audience, the irony of my shadow dance is lost in silence, to the unwatching eyes of an overloaded and apathetic tribe.

Res ipsa loquitor

This is a Recession

I was up for review, today, at work. It was pretty anti-climactic. I’ve been building up to it for the last month, so I’ve had plenty of time to work up a series of indulgent dramatic outcomes in my head – none of which were all that likely to unfold.

Credit: phy5ics

In fact, the most likely outcome I’d dreamt up was getting fired, or laid off, or whatever other metaphor or euphemism you could think of when “losing your job” doesn’t suffice. It’s curious the influence that Aristotle had on us: fired, canned, laid off, terminated, let go… They all seem to entail some nuance that mean something to everyone else but the poor sucker on the butt-end of it all: no longer having anyway to pay bills, provide for the family… no longer having any security… no longer feeling secure.

I’ve been inopportunely unemployed more times than I can count (or am willing to try to). Whether it was my own doing or just some rotten, pig-faced luck, it always amounted to the same thing: not having the means to underwrite your newfound recklessness.

Recklessness comforts me. At least, that is, until the fall-out touches- down. Sometimes you can stretch it just a little bit longer, but whenever you do, the fall-out seems to double in half-life. It’s governed by the law of diminishing returns, really, but before touch-down does, all that freedom seems to be worth the trade-off, worth it to just fly in the face of biological imperatives, it’s tangible trade-offs, and Darwin. But I digress…

If I’d been canned, or “let go” as they say, I had a series of scathing summations to deliver, well rehearsed and scripted as all the world’s a stage. The only uncertainty was which one it would be. Would I tell them that it was okay, that Jesus would forgive them for their deceipt and various trespasses? Or just chuckle maniacally and walk out of the office without a word, leaving them to wonder what my next move would be: coming back tomorrow to go postal, airing their corporate dirt in very targeted and captive communities, or simply sharing snapshots of those skeletons in a very private and personal way with the roster of suppliers and clients I’d been made privy to.

But, no: it went fine, just fine. Well, not exactly. Overall, it was the poorest “performance review” I’d had to date. But there was nothing in it that was grounds for leaving me with no way to pay the bills, provide for family, or feeling secure.

Then again, this is a recession, and in a recession, anything less than “you are the single most valuable asset to this company, team, or department” is pretty much “Just go ahead, give us an excuse, I dare you.”

Pointless Content — Much Like Life

There seems to be this trend online to produce content without a point. The success of this doesn’t really surprise me. In fact, it kind of reminds me of the success of reality television. People dig it because it’s just like life: pointless. And they wonder why we let our children get fat and lazy. It’s because we’re rich, and when you don’t have to worry about sustaining your life, it’s not long before you realize just how pointless it is.

Anyway, I was checking out this channel on Meta Cafe called Cafe Confidential. The description reads:

Pour yourself a hot latte and listen in as the girl next door and the guy across the hall reveal their most personal stories. No scripts, no sets, no special effects – here at Café Confidential, you get real stories from real people, handpicked by hollywood producer Steven Bochco.

Personally, I prefer to listen to the girl next door getting racked by the guy across the hall, but that’s just me. Steven Bochco has obviously made a lot more money than I have, so in the grand scheme of a market democracy, his opinion is worth more than mine — literally.

What brought my attention to Cafe Confidential was that it’s sponsored by American Apparel. Once I’d tuned in, I saw this ad.

Well, pathetic and obsessed as I am, I couldn’t help clicking through (I wonder if that cost them anything), and it brough me to
this page on AA’s website where I was supposed to get a chance to Meet Amanda, but everytime I clicked on it, it just kept reloading the page.

This vicious loop really bummed me out. I was really hoping that my work day was going to be more interesting than this. I thought that maybe I’d get to watch a Cafe Confidential video about how Amanda banged Hugh (a guy who’s featured on the same AA’s page as her). But no, they just want my money.

That’s the real problem with using sex to sell: it’s false advertising. You advertise sex, but you’re really only offering t-shirts. It’s bullshit. I guess I’ll just have to go back to reading about Barack Obama instead. I wouldn’t mind listening to the girl next door (or Amanda) getting banged by him. But if he’s running for president, I’m just going to have to wait till the primaries are over before the Republicans release those tapes.