Pay Tickets Or Die

The guy running for Mayor of Philadelphia as a Democrat will win the election, Philly is a Democratic town. And this guy has a great idea.

He wants meter maids to not only give out parking tickets, but since they’re out in the street anyway, other kinds of tickets as well. Like for littering and jaywalking.

Not to generate more fines for the city, of course. How could you think that? But because we want to keep the city clean, and walkers safe.

A couple of problems here, however.

Autos have license plates but individual litters and jaywalkers don’t. So to make sure the right people are ticketed, should we all be obliged to wear personal license plates on our backs and chests? In order to keep the city cleaner, and prevent traffic deaths from jaywalking?

Since some litterers and jaywalkers might object to being stopped on the street, and might even get violent, should meter maids be armed? And if a litterer, say, is shot trying to escape a littering incident, should the armed meter maid be punished or given a citation for bravery in the line of duty?

OK. You don’t like wearing personal license plates, and you don’t think arming meter maids is a great idea. How about a technology fix to make this great idea practical?

Facial recognition technology has made tremendous strides in recent years. Arm meter maids with these devices instead of guns, devices that record faces of litterers or jaywalkers, run it through computers that show their addresses, send them a fine bill by mail. And if they don’t pay off dun their wages or seize their property.

We don’t even need to depend on just meter maids to track these miscreants. Just install more street cameras than London has everywhere in Philly that are supposed to spot violent criminals and also use them on the littering and jaywalking front. And on the not waiting for a red light to change front. And the drinking beer that isn’t in a brown bag front.

Our soon to be new mayor of Philly has a great ticketing idea. Wonder what else he has waiting in the wings.

[My newest book is Gorilla Warfare Against The Bureaucratic State — Confessions of a Lefty Libertarian.]


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)

Mr. Putin Is Chuckling At The Dinner Table

Before becoming Germany’s foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop was Nazi Germany’s ambassador to Britain in the mid-1930s. There’s a famous story of him dining with Winston Churchill and discussing the war both expected to come soon. Ribbentrop noted that this time around Germany would have Italy as an ally. To which Churchill famously responded: “Only fair. Only fair. We had them last time.”

This remark brought to mind the present deepening involvement of the U.S. and its NATO partners with Ukraine in that country’s struggles with Russia. The new government in Kiev, it should be noted here, was not elected. It came to power when protestors in the country’s capital overthrew the elected government, a corrupt lot to be sure, but no more noticeably corrupt that those now running the Ukrainian government.

So here’s the current scoreboard of who seems to be getting what from out of this crisis. We, the United States and our NATO partners, get to support a badly divided, terribly corrupt, nearly bankrupt state whose finances will require $30 billion or more in loans and grants in the short-term, and heaven only know how much in a longer term to bring the country up to some approximation of western economic standards.

Oh. And we also get the growing hostility of Russia, a country we are very dependent upon for progress with Iran and Syria and budding conflicts in Asia and nuclear disarmament and…well, the list goes on from there.

And what does Russia get from this Ukrainian crisis? Crimea, which is has already taken. And the loss of having to loan billions and billions to a nearly bankrupt state that the West now has to fund (with little chance of ever getting back any of its loans) along with the need not to give Ukraine bargain prices on its gas imports, and good deals on its exports to Russia.

Italy turned out to be a very bad, resource draining partner for Nazi Germany during WWII. Churchill’s quirky prediction summed this up nicely. The West today seems to be making a very similar deal with Ukraine.

We have gained a drain and a pain in Ukraine. Mr. Putin has escaped a set of obligations to Ukraine he didn’t really want and couldn’t really afford. He must be laughing his buns off watching us sink into a hole he has escaped.

(Recent books by Michael Silverstein include The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street and Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan)

My 2016 Dream Ticket — Sanders And Paul

My dream presidential ticket in 2016 is a lefty libertarian ticket. Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul.

If this sounds strange, it shouldn’t. The Democrats were always a party that sought to keep Wall Street in check. Then in the 1990s Bill Clinton wedded this party to The Street. Republicans were long a party of openness on social and personal issues. Then fundamentalism took over a large part of its agenda in these realms and the result was that very, very curious McCann-Palin union. A Sanders/Paul ticket is no more inherently strange a mix that the ones now in place in our two major parties.

Beyond this, it would have enormous popular appeal. Especially for turned off youthful voters, conned on Hope and Change, unhappy about fundamentalist threats to their chosen ways of life. What these and so many other voters want are the things Sanders and Paul offer — Decency and Freedom.

Could this pairing win the election as a third party offering? Probably not, given the way our electoral system has been rigged. However…

Imagine this pair on the same platform with the same-old, same-old big buck beards put up by the national Democratic and Republican organizations. They would bring front and center the two greatest threats to our national polity — a perverted form of crony capitalism, and an overreaching presence of government snoops and private data miners in individual American lives.

Sanders and Paul in 2016. Decency and Freedom.

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

How To Reanimate The U.S. Economy

These days you often hear that our politics have become “monetized.” That with all the money pouring into elections, especially since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, government is being distorted in ways that work only for deep pocket special interests and not the interests of the American people generally.

Yes, that’s a negative. But perhaps we should also focus more on the upside. Focus on the way all this election spending helps give our moribund economy a positive jolt. From this perspective, the problem is not that too much money is fouling the system, but that too little is going toward buying public office.

Soaring spending on elections is in fact one of the economy’s major growth sectors. And while a lot of this spending gets no further than the sticky palms of a few contribution bundlers, a lot more tickles down to a fast expanding network of middle class and even poor staffers who do campaign field work, and have other fundraising, soliciting, technical, legal and communication employment.

Based on these profound insights, the question then becomes how to further grow election-based spending. A few obvious answers quickly come to mind.

First, of course, we could start at the top. Almost half of the $6.3 billion spent on electing people to office in 2012 went into the Obama-Romney campaigns. Presidential elections now take place every four years. With a simple constitutional amendment, however, we can have them every two years and double presidential election spending with all its attendant economic benefits.

And why not do this, after all? There would be no loss in the quality of governance from the White House from such a change. The last two years of a sitting president’s first term are totally geared to getting reelected. In the last two years of a second term a sitting president is a lame duck. We drop the last two years of each term and lose nothing of political consequence while gaining billions in economy-animating spending.

Competitive congressional races are now another spending cash cow. Candidates may now need to raise $19 million or more for a competitive Senate race and more than $9 million in a competitive race for a House seat. Again, just a small constitutional tweak that makes election for a House seat every year and a Senate seat every two years would double House election spending and triple (yes, triple!) spending on Senate races.

The economic boost here could be expanded even further by lowering the bar to get on the ballot in every state, thereby allowing anyone with a few extra bucks and some time on their hands to run for national office. This would confuse voters even more than they are presently confused and thus make even more races for Congress competitive.

Elections for national office are just the tip of this economy-enhancing iceberg. The Census bureau reported that in 2012 there are more than 89,000 local governments in this country — state, county, municipal, town and township, special and school districts. Within these local governments there are often a fair number of positions that are elective. No national constitution and relatively few state constitutional amendments would be needed to change the length of time between elections for most of these hundreds of thousands of elected offices. Reduce times between all these local races, the potential growth of overall campaign spending is mind boggling.

The flood of money that now goes into getting elected to so many public offices has soured many Americans on our politics. Do I have a solution for this sad political reality? No. All I’m saying is that since we’re stuck with political lemons, let’s make more economic lemonade. And since we don’t even have the best government money can buy, let’s spend some more and maybe its quality will improve.

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

Ukraine Crisis — Middle East Implications

The regions of the world can’t be neatly separated when it comes to setting a foreign policy. The present crisis in the Ukraine, in which Russia is a key participant, is not just a crisis in that part of Europe. It has profound implications for what’s happening in the Middle East — and what might happen there soon.

Israel wants the United States to take out Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. They think they have a U.S. agreement to do so if the present negotiations with Iran over this infrastructure don’t eliminate its ability to build nuclear weapons. Russia is critical to achieving this elimination. If it backs off doing so because of conflict with the U.S. over Ukraine, present negotiations with Iran may well falter, and the Obama Administration may be forced to get into a military conflict with Iran — with the potential to spread dangerously.

Russia is also a very key player in the Syrian civil war that already is spreading to neighboring countries. It has been reasonably cooperative in getting Syria to make at least a few concessions. If conflict between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine gets too serious, cooperation over Syria will falter — and this war might spread dangerously.

U.S. policy toward Russia over the Ukraine has very serious Middle East implications. While the media drums today are beating out a “we must stand up to Ivan” chant, a wider policy view might be a wiser policy view.

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

Where The Hell Is A Real Third Party?

Haven’t you figured it out yet? All this nonsense about “will Hillary run.” And “is Chris Christie as nasty as it he seems.” And “will the Democrats hold the Senate.” It don’t mean hardly anything! It’s entertainment at best, but in a more sinister sense, the more realistic sense, it’s just a distraction from a truth now so obvious that only a political dummy has failed to understand its implication.

The implications are this: Both our major political parties just represent the interests of the top one percent. One party, the Democrats, incline to allow the enrichment of the top to proceed more slowly with a few extra crumbs dribbled down to the rest of us. The other major party, the Republicans, want it all to go to the top because they deserve it all.

All the representatives of both parties. ALL OF THEM, live in a Beltway cocoon that is so divorced from the realities of the country’s majority that pain out here is a just a dull echo, and the only things that really resonates  are endless reports of economic improvement and recovery that the puppet masters at the top let our elected officials to hear daily.

A third party would NOT just skim off votes from the left. It would combine the populist left with the populist right in a true synthesis of the country’s currently true center.

Where are you, third party makers? Things are sliding toward a terrible fruition unless you appear soon. Hurry….Hurry….Hurry…

Michael Silvestein’s novel The Bellman’s Revenge, is available from Amazon.

Send Mike Silverstein To The Fed!

Anyone who has followed policy-making by the Federal Reserve in recent years knows these people are innovators. Indeed, there hasn’t been this much innovation on view since Rube Goldberg stopped producing out-of-the-box solutions to everyday problems.

With this in mind, I now offer myself for the position pf poet-in-residence at my hometown Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia. After they create this position. Which I hope will be soon.

Yes, in past years I have often been critical of The Fed. Like the vast majority of Americans who not benefited from its policies, policies that have only greatly enriched the already greatly rich, I have said unflattering things about this institution.

Now, however, impoverished by these same policies, I am prepared to change my tone and churn out servile praise for Fed governors and their good friends on Wall Street. If I get paid to do so. And a two-bedroom apartment comes with the poet-in-residence gig.

Rocky took a chance.Ben Bernanke took one with the world’s economic future. Shouldn’t his successors take one and hire me?

I can be reached at: Serious inquiries only.

Recession Over? Yeah, right.

If you read the business press these days you’ll run into the following word pair a lot—“post-recession.” The experts all seem to agree, and Washington clearly believes, that the recession that officially ended in purely economist terms in 2009, has also ended in the way the rest of the world should see the economy today.

Except that idea is a crock. What’s happened is that markets that can be manipulated to increase the wealth of the wealthy have been so manipulated with the aid of the Federal Reserve that has pumped out trillions in new money scooped up by these markets and their manipulator-beneficiaries. Pretty much everyone else has been screwed royally.

The game of pretending we’re out of the recession and in a recovery mode is played with numbers — numbers that are either fudged, or more often, just interpreted in a way that proves the point the game players want to prove.

But here’s the number that really matters. Three-quarters of Americans believe we are still in recession. They know this because they are living in a recession. The relatively few who aren’t living in the recession, of course, parrot about a post-recession economy and a recovery endlessly.

Michael Silverstein’s novel, The Bellman’s Revenge, is available from Amazon.