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This Lies Behind Our Economic Boom and Political Bust

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Last year the wealthiest nation in the history of the world generated $8.7 trillion in new wealth, more than the next 10 countries combined. That works out to over $65,000 per household. How much of that worker generated new wealth did you receive in your pay raise last year? If your family income was $60,000 last year, and if you were rewarded with just 5% of the new wealth that you helped create, plus a cost of living adjustment to keep up with inflation, your family income today should be over $63,500? Is that true for most of you? Probably not, because that second bar graph on right suggests personal household income is not growing much.

Some people looking at this will say:
“Yea, rich people will get richer, but low unemployment and new manufacturing jobs will add a lot of wealth where there was none before. Right”?
That hasn’t been the case overall for the past 40 years. The great wealth creation last year isn’t a one-off event. It happens nearly every year. And every year since the mid-1970s workers do not receive any (or very little) share in the rising hourly GDP (New Wealth).

Prior to 1974, we all receive productivity raises nearly every year on top of any cost of living adjustments (a COLA, as it was called). Since then we stopped receiving productivity raises and lost public sector health coverage, pension plans, and other benefits. We have received cost of living raises since then, but productivity raises have been minimal. Therefore, while our wages keep up with inflation, they aren’t keeping up with new personal wealth. Put another way, our collective wages are a smaller and smaller percentage of our National GDP.

If wages continued keeping up with hourly GDP since 1974, the median household income today (fam of 4) would be over $115,000/year instead of nearly half that. The national GDP is nearly three times greater today than it was in 1974, yet inflation-adjusted have barely risen. These are uncontested facts. Chronic wage suppression (and I do believe this is deliberate) accounts for most of our economic ills today.

Imagine how much easier it would be to raise money for our schools and local services if everyone in town had twice the income they make now. How much money would we save on government aid to the working poor (daycare, housing, medical care, etc.) if everyone had twice the income and didn’t need financial subsidies? Imagine how the economy would be buzzing if everyone had lots more discretionary income to buy things, thus boosting the demand for production. The only downside is that the wealth of the richest 1% wouldn’t be growing quite as fast. The decline of the middle-class, the lack of good paying jobs, the increase in public assistance, the rise in taxes and decline of other government services are all symptoms of income inequality. The cycle of wealth accumulation followed by catastrophic wars and social collapse is a very old story with a many-centuries-old history.

Are you still with me, because this next part is important.

There has not been a big partisan difference on the issues of a fair distribution of wages or wealth. Both political parties remained silent on the subject for decades, until the 2014 election. Both parties talked about job growth, but not wage growth. Both talked about growing the economy but not about our shrinking pensions and benefits packages and stagnant wages. They talked about bolstering the middle-class but didn’t mention our growing poverty class for almost three decades.

Republican legislators (not most rank and file members) have been far more pro-corporate in pursuing the interests of the wealthy elite over time. Republican party elites also shamelessly pandered to value voters and the far-right fringe to win elections but never delivered on their promises. Main Street Republicans were used and abuse to the elite of their party could pursue the corporate donor interests.

On the other side of the aisle, Democratic Party leadership (not every legislator) also pandered to big corporations, to the rich and to their more liberal base while being complicit in their silence on income inequality and many other matters important to their voters. No one in government was addressing the shrinking middle-class or their shrinking wages relative to the size of the ever-growing US economy. No one was listening to any of us!

Hence, we had a political revolt in both parties during the 2014 elections. Rank and file members of both parties weren’t listening to each other either as powerful special interest, foreign and domestic, made sure we didn’t get together to compare notes. Donald Trump rose up among conservatives to shake things up in the GOP. Bernie Sanders rose up among liberals to shake up the Democratic establishment.

So here we are today, like opposing armies glaring at each other across the battlefield in a war we never wanted. Both sides have been ignored by our leaders. Both sides have been told the other side is the cause of our decline. Both sides have been given false reasons for our growing dissatisfaction. And yet the real reasons for this sluggish Main Street economy, which is slowly squeezing us into poverty, are reasons that we all share in common.

It is the failure of our politics to address the unfair distribution of wages and wealth. It is hundreds of policies that favor the profitability of big businesses over the best interests of our people. It is the corruption of special interests representing the ultra-wealthy and buying elections. We would all do far better if we could just lower our guard, put our less consequential differences aside for now and join in common cause to take charge of our economic well-being.
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Uranium One Hype a Big “Nothing Burger”

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

President Trump and some Republicans in Congress want the Department of Justice to investigate Trumps political opponent, Hillary Clinton. Specifically they want a Special Counsel appointed to investigate her ties to the sale of US uranium to Russia. Attorney General Jeff Sessions squirmed under pressure to act from a GOP congressmen at a hearing on November 14, 2017.

A President calling for criminal investigations of his political opponents is abhorrent in any modern democracy. In this particular case a second Special Counsel investigation would also give Trump political leverage to further obstruct the efforts of Robert Mueller’s investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia. But I suspect the biggest reason Jeff Sessions squirmed when pressed to appoint a Special Counsel was because there is simply no basis to investigate anything connecting Hillary to Uranium One sales. Here are the essential facts in a timeline format.

2005 – Bill Clinton and Frank Giustra, a Canadian mining financier with an interest in the UrAsia Mining Company, visit Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is an independent country that was once under the control of the former Soviet Union. Not long after the Guistra visit, UrAsia Mining receives a lucrative mining contract in Kazakhstan.

2006 – Frank Giustra donates $31.3 million to the Clinton Foundation.

2007 – UrAsia Mining Company merges with South Africa Mining Company to become the Uranium One Company. Frank Giustra sells his financial interests in the company.

2008-2010 – During this period several active investors with an interest in Uranium One Company and a former investor (Giustra ) donate more than $8 million to the Clinton Foundation. Donation from just the active investors totaled just over $4 million. The Clinton Foundation omitted these active donors’ names in a US Government filing document, later admitting that information was omitted by mistake.

2009 – Hillary Clinton becomes Secretary of State. Later that same year, Rosetom, a Russian mining company, begins buying a stake in Uranium One.

2009-2013 – During this time Rosetom completes three separate transactions to gain a controlling interest in Uranium One. Announcement of plans to take over Uranium One invokes the need for the Uranium One sale to be approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). (Note: This sale of Uranium One only involved product mined in the US and sold only to private nuclear power generation companies within the US. CFIUS is an advisory committee. Only the President of the United States can stop the sale of this company to a foreign business entity.)

2010 – The CFIUS committee, comprised of the Secretary of the US Treasury Department and department heads at the Justice Department, Homeland Security, Consumer Affairs, the Defense Department, The State Department, the Energy Department, The office of US Trade Representatives and the Science and Technology Policy group, approve the sale a controlling interest in the Uranium One Company to the Rosetom company. At the time of the approval, the State Department’s CFIUS representative was the Assistant Secretary of State, Jose Fernando (not Hillary Clinton). Had any one of these agency heads objected to the sale the matter would have gone to the President to decide. The purchase of a controlling interest in Uranium One by Rosetom did not involve or allow the export of uranium to Russia.

2017 – President Donald Trump and Republican members of Congress call for a criminal Investigation of Hillary Clinton’s connections to this uranium sale that took place seven years prior.

That’s it. If there was a quid pro quo arrangement between Hillary Clinton and Uranium One or Rosetom it isn’t apparent from the facts, as least not to me. There are other facts that advocates of a Hillary prosecution toss into the mix (speakers fees, etc.), but they have little apparent relationship to the essential accusation the Republicans are making. If Hillary Clinton could no, and did not, contribute anything of value to the parties involved in the sale of financial interests in Uranium One, then there was no quid pro quo, no bribery to investigate.

Even FoxNews’ Sheppard Smith called out his own company and the President on this one. https://youtu.be/f8wuFDs7xSA

 

 

Let’s Talk!

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

I don’t mean to offend anyone who enjoys sports, but professional sports have become a primary distraction keeping us from our due diligence to be well informed and actively engaged in the level of civil discourse our democracy requires.(This doesn’t apply to everyone who likes sports). So when folks are upset that politics is infringing on sports, they affirm the role of sport as a means to avoid uncomfortable conversations.

Most Americans have developed a superficial relationship to politics (Including many in the media who cover it like a sport). Politics as sport is all process and insider intrigue. It is devoid of real substance or depth behind the reported facts. We lose sight of the real world consequences that bad policy decisions have on our lives.

Current events are forcing us to confront politics as we haven’t done in years. It’s a good development, but it will take time to get use to talking about politics with our neighbors again. It will take time to gather the essential facts we should have, facts that have been missing or withheld from us for years. And it will test our patience and tolerance as we begin to bridge the gaps that have come to divided us. So let’s hang in there and keep talking.

Oct. 7, 2016 – The Day We Learned and Forget Russia Was Attacking Us

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

OneDaysNews

James Clapper of the CIA and U.S. intelligence agencies announce that Russia is taking active measures to interfere with our Presidential elections.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/64-hours-october-one-weekend-blew-rules-american-politics-2-162827162.html

 

It was Friday, October 7, 2016. There was a rapid series of news dump that day that changed to course of our Presidential Election and our country.

If corporate (for profit) news outlets based reporting on the gravity of events rather than a stories public appeal, the top news story on this one day during the campaign would have been that US intelligence agencies announced that Russia was actively messing with our election. Media manipulations by powerful people behind the scenes took place in the hours that followed the announcement, burying the biggest news story in a decade. Who was behind the release of that shocking Access Hollywood tape that stole our attention?

The video doesn’t say. It could have been Hillary friendly sources, neutral sources or even Russian cyber-ops. It doesn’t matter. The corporate media released the tapes and then fed the blaze of interest that followed.

Then, an hour later, the first of the Podesta emails were released These emails that had been stolen by Russian based hackers and the content was used to strategically selected emails for release that maximize damage to the Hillary campaign. The Podesta email release blunted the impact of the Access Hollywood tapes. Both stories dominated the news for days. The two stories combined completely eclipsed the Russia story. And so the biggest story in a decade, That our democracy was currently under attack by Russia, got buried and erased from our collective conscious until after the election.

The Hypocrisy Risk for Social Conservatives

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Whenever hypocrisy strikes a Republican politician, the immediate argument on the right is that Democratic politicians are not morally superior to Republicans. This is may be true, but it is also misleading. The most recent GOP hypocrisy scandal is an example.

Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania became the latest GOP social conservative to manifest hypocrisy. Murphy is married, has an adult child, is a staunch right-to-life proponent and a member of the Congressional House Pro-Life Caucus. This January he voted for the latest Pro-Life bill that passed in Congress. He proudly highlighted his support for the bill in a press release that reads in part:

“Passage of H.R. 7 in the wake of the President’s executive action yesterday gives me great hope that moving forward, we will once again be a nation committed to honoring life from the moment of conception onward and ensuring American taxpayer dollars are never spent to end a life before it even begins.” [Murphy, January 24, 2017]

The scandal is that he had just suggested to a woman who became pregnant as a result of their extra-marital affair that she should have an abortion. The woman, Shannon Edwards, was offended by the hypocrisy of Murphy’s public and private attitudes on abortion and told him so in a text message:

“And you have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options.” [Edwards, January 2017]

Ms. Edward’s texts went public and Tim Murphy has since announced he will not run for re-election next year.  The very polarized social media debates are well underway.

From this brief account the hypocrisy is clear and the consequences are sad for those involved, especially his wife and child. Frustration on the right is also understandable as this keeps happening on the GOP side. It may seem like the media are selectively reporting on GOP moral gaffs, hence comes the counter-argument that Democratic politicians are just as likely to engage in immoral behaviors, but circumstances make this misleading.

On the Republican side, family values focuses on moral issues, such as this case in point. On the Democratic side family values focuses more on policy issues, such as universal health care, fair wages, school lunch programs, etc. It is less likely politicians will fall victim to hypocrisy if the family values they promote are policy related rather than morality based.

As long as Republicans exploit social conservative issues and insist on legislating morality, the GOP will continue to provide glaring examples that we all fall short of living perfect lives. Conceding that Democrats are just as likely to engage in immorality may be true, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are still less likely to sound like hypocrites when they do.

Should I Stand or Should I Kneel?

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Are the NFL players who kneeled in protest at the National Anthem to be reviled, or were they being courageous?

Did they insult our nation, or is their freedom to action what our flag stands for?

Were the protesting players disrespectful or patriotic?

These questions vexed the nation in recent days. People argued and took sides. Tempers sometimes flared. Angry posts or tweets were exchanged. And somewhere in a Russian troll farm cyber warriors were smiling.

This National Anthem flap is a perfect example of how we are being manipulated by higher powers in the media sphere every day. Some of the bad actors are foreign, such as the Russia operatives at the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, with its army of automated bots, who took to Twitter once again to polarize our public discourse over the NFL protest flap.

The truth is that Russia has been doing this type of thing for years; Using social media platforms on the internet to post extreme and inflammatory messages on opposite sides of every issue. This is just one of Russia’s many methods to sow discord and to splinter our national unity. Their goal: Polarize our politics, widen our political fault lines, pit us against one another and make America ungovernable. Russia is targeting other democracies this way in Europe as well.

But Russia isn’t the only player fomenting disunity and despair. They may even be minor players next to some of our own “stateless” oligarchs who benefit from governmental paralysis at every level. These billionaires don’t want to pay any taxes, support the public commons or be told what they can and can’t do. They are among a oligarchs from around the world who control more wealth and power than most countries. They see self-governing entities as obstacles to be overcome in pursuit of wealth, or as competition in their exercise of power, and some have been messing with our politics and social perceptions for years.

To borrow from a prior article:

… there is strong evidence that the rogue interests of certain Western billionaires and Russian oligarchs have converged. Breaking down the economic barriers that keep wealth and power in check under civilian controlled democracies, and the goal of undermining the strength and unity of Western democracies (strengthening Vladimir Putin’s global influence) are essential aligned.

This is the bigger picture. It is a picture so large it’s hard to take in and even harder to accept as true. Yet here we are, confronted by a clear case where a foreign power used Twitter to influence the personal conversations we are having with each other.

Mainstream media also has its part to play in this NFL protest story and countless others like it. It is the “for-profit” news outlets that select what we will be talking about tomorrow. NFL players protesting during the National Anthem is a real money topic. It attracts a much wider audience compared to another story about race relations. It’s important to remember here that we are the commodity the broadcast media delivers to advertisers. What they choose not to cover, we don’t talk much about. A simple internet search for “NFL protests” proves this point. Lost in the hoopla about the flag is any discussion of why there is a protest.

So what was the protest about?:

1. Police in this country kill too many civilians.

2. If your skin is black, you are twice as likely to be one of those killed.

NFL players were trying to bring attention to these issues, one superimposed on the other. On average, police kill about two people per day. For perspective, in all of Great Britain police kill about two people per year. If the rate of police homicides were that low in the US there wouldn’t be enough of them to reveal any sort of pattern. But a pattern does exist, and African-Americans are too often the victims.

These same racial patterns come up time and again in the American justice system because we have a pervasive and persistent problem with race. Whether we are looking at statistics about arrests, convictions, incarcerations, police stops, etc., the same pattern is superimposed on the data. Racial disparity, by far, is the more stubborn of the two problems listed above. We do need to address it. The other part of the problem, the high number of police killings, is a more solvable problem. We can all agree that the fewer number of civilians killed the better. That might mean better police training, better vetting of applicants and changes in police tactics or philosophy.

But here’s the thing. When we try to have that discussion, the social media platforms light up with extreme, emotionally charged messaging that polarizes our public discourse. Conversations quickly become adversarial. Efforts to separate one issue from another to make problem solving easier are sabotaged. Fake news stories begin popping up to further cloud the issues and crazy websites emerge to sustain the divisions thus created. These are often organized disinformation campaigns to reinforce political disunity. They can be so successful that we sometimes can’t even agree on the same set of facts. We get locked into an ideological battle and don’t how we got there. We can’t see the nefarious forces at work behind the scenes.

To understand how this is happening we have to consider the massive social media platforms though which we can broadly and anonymously communicate with millions of strangers. Never before have we had a cyber presence where everything we write or reveal about ourselves exists forever and is available to anyone. The whole internet is a gigantic, ever growing database that can be searched and analyzed. It’s a mercurial universe of ones and zeros. Yet, to an ever greater degree, our world view is molded by our social media experiences. Even as we become more enmeshed in the cyber world, this new medium is increasing falling under the influence of powerful people with weaponized information technologies and the motivation to alter our perceptions, our behavior and our culture. Our vulnerability to manipulation by bad actors has never been greater.

We need to educate ourselves about this new virtual world in which we find ourselves. We have lost control over our public discourse and need to win it back. We have to learn how to recognize when we are be targeted with propaganda messaging and how to resist falling victim to it. We mustn’t let our authentic narratives become hijacked by those who would alter our perceptions to serve their own ends? If democracy is to survive, if America is to survive, we have to overcome our differences and fight back against those who want to see our people’s Republic fail.

Charlottesville Battlefield – Follow the Money

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Charlottesville isn’t so much a turning point as a tipping point where a long standing social problem became a passionate social issue for the rest of us, as it should have been sooner. The media’s periodic stories of hate crimes and hate groups over the years just didn’t catch our attention.

Back when this latest iteration of white supremacy started growing again during the 1980’s, it was financed by bank robberies and break-in’s with the proceeds being shared around the country with various other hate group chapters.

Think about that for a moment.

The oxygen needed to organize and grow these hate groups is the same as for any other enterprise. It takes money… lots of it.

So how much money does it take to sustain and operate this huge national, in fact global, white supremacy movement today? Who provided the cash to pay for all those tiki torches,the military equipment and the uniforms worn by so many alt-right protesters? Who provides the money to support the targeted alt-right media campaigns required to convert, recruit and motivate so many young white men? Who coordinated and subsidized the transportation needed to get everyone there and back, and where did the money come from to pay for it all? Who would want to harm our country and paralyze our politics so much that they would provide tens of millions of dollars to sustain this sick movement?

I don’t have answers, but these are among the questions we should be asking. Since it is obvious the movement is being funded by bank robberies these days, and since it is a global movement with strong elements in Great Britain, Germany, France and Italy (to name a few), it is likely that funding for this movement is coming from wealthy sources that what to diminish or control Western democratic countries like ours.

I suspect foreign sources are ultimately behind the growth of hate groups here and abroad. You might think I’m crazy, but if I’m correct, this is just another aspect of the new type of warfare raging against us.Power and control are behind this movement. The haters themselves are only brainwashed pawns in a much larger game.