Why Hillary Shouldn’t Be The Democratic Party’s Standard Bearer

Hillary Clinton outlined her economic policies the other day. They were billed as helping working Americans, giving a boost to the middle class. And they would do that. Sort of.

When you look at her proposals concerning sick leave and minimum wages and equal pay and gender equality generally in the workplace, they look very, very familiar. That’s because some of them have been on the books in countries with advanced economies for more than a hundred years, and are even already on the books of many developing countries today.

On these shores they would indeed make economic life better for many people. Marginally. They would take the edge off some of the additional nastiness and pain so many Americans have experienced in recent years. But they are a palliative, not a fundamental improvement, when it comes to this country’s real economic woes.

That’s because we’ve had an economic coup in our economy. The top one-tenth of one percent have taken control of key economic levers. The result isn’t just that the very top have benefited while the middle has wallowed. Not just a failure of trickle down. The vast enrichment at the very top HAS TAKEN PLACE AT THE EXPENSE OF THE MIDDLE.

We’ve been robbed. A genuine counter-coup, not the equivalent of longer coffee breaks, is needed to redress things.

Hillary Clinton might get the middle class longer coffee breaks. But she’ll never be the leader of a needed economic counter coup. She’s the same old same old, same promises, same travails down the same old unhealthy economic trails.

Democratic voters were conned by our first black president. You want to be conned again by our first woman president? You want to make history again, or do you want to thrive again?

No to Hillary. Been there. Done that. Want better.

Michael Silverstein’s new book:

Profundity Du Jour

Profundity Du Jour

Do things ever really change?

That question came to mind the other day when I happened to hear an old song by the Kingston Trio titled “Merry Minuet.” Written by Sheldon Harnick and recorded by the Kingston Trio in 1958, it was very popular that year. Here’s its opening lyric:

They’re rioting in Africa
They’re starving in Spain
There’s hurricanes in Florida and Texas needs rain.

So has anything really changed in the world since this lyric became so popular more than half a century back? Yes and no.

The world was then, was before then, and is now, full of man-made and natural disasters. So maybe you could say that nothing of consequence ever really changes accept for a few place names and different natural disasters. When you look at the magnitude of comparable events, though, it’s immediately clear that things have gotten very different indeed.

Rioting seems benign compared to the genocides and nutcake religious insanities being perpetrated in the Middle East and elsewhere. The starvation on view in refugee camps in so many places in the world today not only dwarfs hunger in 1958 Spain but worldwide hunger at any time since the end of WWII. As for hurricanes and droughts in Florida and Texas, look at what’s happening now climate change-wise from California to Calcutta.

So what’s really changed since the Merry Minuet appeared? Put it this way. Much more of the same old shit, greatly magnified.

My new book:

Canuting Renewable Energy

Canuting Renewable Energy

King Canute was a silly old coot
When his power he planned to be showing,
With the help of his church he would stand on the beach
Tell the waters: “You gotta stop flowing.”

Fossil fuel kings, and their money church pals
Now stand on the energy shore,
To the sun and the wind and the heat of the earth
They proclaim: “We’ll permit just a bit but no more.”

Canute’s quirky play, to control ocean waves
Just reflected his times’ power thinking,
Today (nothing new) fossil fuel’s power crew
Think their gaming can stop their own shrinking.

Michael Silverstein’s newest book, Gorilla Warfare Against The Bureaucratic State — Confessions of a Lefty Libertarians, is now available from Amazon]

The Big Tent, Or Half-Tent-Plus-One

Big Tent Or Half-Tent-Plus-One

There are two basic views of how a society should be organized that can be the basis of a political system. They are: We’re all in this together; or Us against them.

This leads to two basic political identities. They are: I’m a caring American/Christian/person; or I’m a taxpayer.

Based on these views of how a society should be organized, and how people in this society see themselves, we get two approaches to governance: Generating harmony (the big tent); or Divide and rule (the half-tent plus one).

Today’s leading national proponent of the Us against them, I’m a taxpayer ID, divide and rule approach is Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin. No one has had more success with this approach. By not making things better for anyone but a tiny few people on the top, he has nonetheless managed to squeak out election victories in his home state with a theme that might be summed up this way: People just a little better off than you must be brought down to your level.

Similar successes with this approach are also on view in many other places around the country. In Kansas, for example, a new law prevents folks receiving public assistance from using any of this aid to pay for a movie or go to a swimming pool — deriving relief from the Kansas summer sun in an air conditioned movie theater or swimming pool considered just a sop to “Them” paid for by abused taxpayers.

America seems to be getting smaller every day. The way we’re going, we may soon disappear as a civilized country altogether. Too bad. We once did better.

[This author’s newest book, Gorilla Warfare Against The Bureaucratic State — Confessions of a Lefty Libertarians, is now available from Amazon]


Gorilla Warfare

My new book just became available. It’s a real hoot.

A most unusual political memoir: Gorilla Warfare Against The Bureaucratic State (Confessions of a Lefty Libertarian).

This book’s definition of “gorilla” — An individual who takes on hopeless but worthwhile causes; who disrupts (at least for awhile) the machinations of deeply entrenched interests; or who causes a change (at least to some extent) in ossified thinking; and who does these things while wearing gorilla slippers.

The book describes the gorilla’s painful (and often painfully funny) dealings with the solar energy, poetry, environmental, and parking ticket establishments.

About the Author: Michael Silverstein is a former senior editor with Bloomberg News. Over the years his writing has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Atlanta Constitution, Christian Science Monitor, etc. He’s also been a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and Boston Phoenix, and a regular commentator on National Public Radio.

A Progressive’s Call For Smaller Government

Conservatives are shredding the safety net. They say government spending here is getting out of control.

I agree. We have to reduce spending in this realm. And there’s only one sensible and sustainable way to do this: We have to reform the private sector of the economy.

Isn’t that obvious? The main reason more and more people need government aid is because their economic needs aren’t being met by working in the private sector. If they made enough, they wouldn’t need food stamps. If they made enough, they wouldn’t need subsidies to help pay for their health insurance.

Raise the minimum wage, and safety net spending decreases. Rebalance the tax code so it doesn’t unduly favor capital over labor, investors over workers, and fewer working people would qualify for earned income credits that reduce government revenues.

The government safety net that covers the elderly, the disabled and the impoverished young should of course remain in tact. But the part of that safety net that today is growing so quickly because working people are being squeezed in a top-heavy marketplace, could be cut dramatically with reforms of the private sector.

Progressives — ditto the conservatives’ call for smaller government. Just combine the call with the most sensible and sustainable way to bring it about. Marketplace reform.

(Michael Silverstein’s recent books, all available from Amazon, include: The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street, and the comic novels’ Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, The Bellman’s Revenge, and Murder At Bernstein’s.)

Dear HP, Please Marry Me

The Supreme Court has recognized a corporation’s constitutional right to political expression. It may soon do the same for a corporation’s right to religious expression. So shouldn’t the right of corporations to marry — not just other corporations via mergers but marry people — be recognized as well? And if a guy like me also happens to have a thing for Hewlett-Packard and wants to hook up, shouldn’t I have the right to pop the question?

Dear HP, Please Marry Me

Dear HP, please marry me
And soon enough we’ll make them see
That man and firm can find a way
To mate, the heck what skeptics say.

Our courtship past was long and bumpy
On the road to rumpy pumpy
But soon, I’m sure, we’ll be much freer
Thanks to Antonin Scalia.

His law proclaims we’re both the same
So will you deign to share my name
And stride the world, head high, a queen
As Hewlett-Packard Silverstein.

(Recent books by this writer, The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall StreetFifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, and The Bellman’s Revenge, are all available from Amazon)

1938 All Over Again?

The Sudetenland was a part of Czechoslovakia in 1938 mostly populated with people who felt very German. Hitler claimed he had to protect their interests because of shared ethnicity. With the compliance of France and England, he took it.

A short while later Poland took another part of Czechoslovakia, saying it had a right to do so because this area had a lot of ethnic Poles. The same process was carried out by Hungary, which swallowed another part of Czechoslovakia using the same justification.

The 1930s were big on people whose sense of ethnic identity outweighed their sense of nationhood. Along with the small and mid-sized ethnic claims playing out then, there were the two biggest ones — Pan Germanism and Pan Slavism.

This kind of trans-national ethnicity was one of the factors that led to the Second War War. It’s worth mentioning now because of Russia’s present claims on Crimea — based on the Russian ethnicity of many of that region’s population.

The latest book from Michael Silverstein: The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street.

Let’s Make Our Minds Up About Regime Change

Street protests got rid of a military government in Egypt. The U.S. applauded this.

Then other street protests got rid of a new democratically elected President in Egypt. The U.S. denounced this, but soon went along with military control of the country.

Now street protests in Ukraine got rid of a democratically elected government there. And the U.S. approved.

But when street protests now threaten to take control of the province of Crimea, the U.S. denounces the action.

Is it any wonder the Russians are confused about our policies when it comes to how governments should stay in power or be dumped from power by street potests? We don’t seem to have one policy in this regard.

Michael Silverstein’s newest book, The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street, is now available from Amazon.

A Philadelphia Story

I got a good deal the other day. A K-Mart in Philadelphia, my hometown, is closing, and there are interesting bargains to be found there. I found a new pair of sneakers for $14.99

When I took my find to the checkout, the cashier asked the usual friendly question. “How are you, today.”

I answered, “fine, then made the mistake of asking how she was. “Lousy,” was the reply.

Instead of quitting while only a little behind, I ventured a comment about what a great buy I’d just gotten. “I wouldn’t have bought it,” she said.”

Ah, I answered, “you would if you had been walking around with holes in your old shoes.”

She finished ringing up the sale and replied:” No, I would have kept walking around with holes in my shoes.”

Phllly is a poor town. The third poorest city in the country with a population greater than one million. The only two big cities that are  poorer are Detroit and Baltimore. There’s a lot of unemployment in all three.

The cashier I conversed with had a low paying job that she was about to lose with no other one in sight. She probably wouldn’t have gone for a pair of new shoes at any price.

The stock market is booming in this country. The very rich are getting very richer. The middle class is getting squeezed and shrinking. The poor are losing benefits, even when they manage to keep their jobs.

But you can buy a lot of things cheap. A good trade off? Maybe not.

Michael Silverstein’s newest book, The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street, is available from Amazon.