The real tyranny in America

MSNBC Rise fo the New Right Image

I watched MSNBC Chris Matthews’ The Rise of the New Right yesterday. I learned almost nothing new about the Tea Party and the conservative movement, but Alex Jones’ quote, “We’re in deep tyranny. Deep, deep, deep…” keeps ringing through my head. This man is afraid and wants to make everyone else around him fearful. I guess fear sells as his website is chock full of ads. (By the way, everyone advocates for hoarding gold, water, guns and ammo, but nobody thinks a loyal dog would help. Except Hollywood. If this country collapses, I’m sticking with my pack.)

Then I got to thinking about who the real tyrants are in America. Alex Jones, his network and FOX News came to mind right away, but so did a lot of others. I’ve prepared a very short list below to get you thinking about how much non-government tyranny is wielded over us with little oversight and almost no recourse.

FICO Scores and Credit Agencies (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax)
Every American has now been reduced to a non-disputable, three-digit FICO Score between 450-850. A FICO Score is determined by a semi-secret algorithm that is held by a private corporation. Your FICO Score determines if you will get a loan, a job, insurance and an apartment. It determines where you can live, where you can work and how much in interest you will pay on a loan if you are deemed worthy enough to get one. It even determines whether or not you can serve your country in the military and to what capacity. If your FICO Score is too low, you can be denied a security clearance.

If you become unemployed and begin shopping at WalMart to save money, your FICO Score will be adjusted accordingly, thereby affecting your credit limits. If your identity is stolen, your FICO Score will be decimated with little recourse. If the credit bureaus make a mistake reporting your payment history, they do so with impunity and can erode your FICO Score with one typo on an account number, name, amount, etc.

Personal Debt
Nothing in this country paralyzes economic or personal mobility more than personal debt. Yet we embrace it every time we buy something on credit, lease something we can’t possibly afford, charge a new gadget that we have to have or buy something on late night TV for three easy payments. The credit card has become the new handcuff. Try renting a car without a credit card or staying in a hotel by paying cash. Try buying an airline ticket without a credit card (well, now anyway, not before the NYC car bomb thing.)

Homeowner’s Associations
If you think you own your own home, go ahead and try painting it lime green with chocolate shutters. Try putting up a large flagpole and fly an eight-foot American flag in the front yard. Try digging up your back yard and planting a vegetable garden. Try building a chicken coop and raise chickens. Try drilling for oil on your property. Try putting up a radio tower. Try putting up a wind turbine generator. Try doing something as Earth-friendly as hanging your laundry out to dry. You will find out very quickly how much power your homeowner’s association has and how forcefully they will wield it.

Health Insurance Companies
Regardless of how you feel about your health insurance, they are the only “death panels” in this country. Doctors want you to live as long as possible. So do hospitals, health care clinics and drug companies. Dead people don’t generate recurring income. The only ones that want you to die quickly when you are sick are health insurance companies. It is in their best interest to rush you to your end. Healthy people pay premiums; sick people rack up expenses. You do the math.

Parent Associations at Schools
If you think your child will succeed by getting good grades or get a place on the team by working hard and honing skills, you have never had an interaction with a parent association. Their members consist of self-appointed despots who have gone to the school and their parents went there and their parents went there. Getting “in” a parent association requires more humiliation than the worse sorority/fraternity hazing you can imagine. Staying in requires all the vicious deft of a hockey mom and the morals of a soccer mom.

These are just a few “unelected, non-government” groups that wield tremendous power over our day-to-day lives and have far more influence on where we can go, what we can do and to whom we can speak. They control what opportunities our children have, what homes we can buy, where we can live and what jobs we can have.

I could think of a few more like churches, energy corporations, your own employer, etc but I’ll leave those to you and the comments below.

Ironically enough, it is government that is most likely to protect us from these unelected tyrants. Or at least try to. Or want to try to. Or say they want to try to.

Our “free society” is at once our greatest asset and our greatest enemy. It enables us to plunder and pillage resources that belong to all of us for the purpose of personal enrichment. It is the hoarding of power with a select few — be that elected senators like McCarthy or fear-mongering activists like Jones — that is the real tyranny.

We should be vigilant and suspicious of both.

Countries are not corporations so quit trying to run them like they are

Carly Fiorina‘s comments about neither candidate being able to run a corporation is causing a bunch of flap. We want our elected officials to understand how to balance a checkbook, but I’m not so sure we want them to be able to run a corporation.

A corporation’s only goal is to make profit. It is a “good citizen” because being perceived to be so is profitable, either in innate value or real dollars and cents. That good citizen images makes employees feel good about working there and customers fell good about buying from them. At the end of the day (or the quarter), profit is the only goal of a corporation.

A government’s only goal is the protection of its citizen, from enemies both outside and within. Corporations who strive to increase their profits to the detriment of the government’s citizens is one enemy that a government should be on guard against. A free market, unregulated, will result in the greedy grabbing anything they can and expanding out their reach to the detriment of others. Really, the current mess should come as no shock to anybody who has been paying attention to the human condition for the past several thousand years. Read a book; literature is rife with this stuff.

In a more personal context, I am a really good dog. I walk along the sidewalk, I don’t crap in other people’s yards and don’t jump up on the dinner table, even though it smells really good most of the time. I do this mainly because there are consequences for not. Some of self-imposed, like the desire to be liked and respected. But, if there were no consequences at all for my actions, including losing the respect of my caretakers, I’d be up on the table helping myself to the food, crapping nilly-willy all over the lawns and digging up flower beds. I am a dog; it is my nature.

Running a country is the antithesis of running a corporation. Or, it really should be. If not, it should be strongly considered.

When goods cost so much that you have to invent ways of allowing consumers to purchase them, you have an unsustainable consumer market. The recent housing stuff where buyers needed no money down and were paying below market rates is an example. The market simply ran out of consumers with capital and needed to dig deeper into those who could not afford it. The same goes for the auto industry. When the average car started topping $20,000+ and only had a life of about 7 years, the average person didn’t make that much disposable income. So, the auto lease was invented. And on and on. The formula was not about how much equity you owned in anything, but how much you could pay every month to “use” something that you could convince yourself you owned.

Our economy only exists when people buy stuff, not make it and sell it. When the consumer simply can’t afford to buy stuff, we fold into ourselves like a house of cards. That is what is happening today.

People who own most of own homes and don’t have to move, are happy with the car they have the skills to fix, have some cash in the bank and have their health will do fine over the next few years as this economy corrects itself. Those who don’t will be a strain on the economy as we right ourselves. What we need at the head of government is not someone who knows how to wring profit out of a dollar, but how to protect the citizens from the unfair claims of those who wish to take what is not theirs, both from within and out. And that is not socialism; that is just a simple counter-weight to greed.

We already have Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, Warren Buffet and Craig Newmark, among others running the corporations. What we need is someone at the helm of government who is a strong enough will to either entice or force these other strong-willed persons to play fair and nice.

And that is what I think Carly Fiorina was really saying. At least that is what I HOPE she was saying. And it is not a bad thing.

The REAL reason that immigration matters

I was reading an article in the WSJ today about how the World Cup is good for Walmart, how they want to market more to the Hispanic community and then it dawned on me –well, hit me square in the face, really. The immigration issue is a contrived marketing plan that has probably been in the works for years, maybe decades.

Ok, I am NOT a conspiracy theorist, but I do believe in the tenacity of the American marketplace. Here’s the skinny in real basic terms.

The two largest sports events that have world-wide reach are the Olympic Games and the World Cup. The Olympic Games have been pretty much marketed to death by American corporations and they are somewhat on the decline as a novelty. But, the World Cup has been out of reach of American corporations in the United States since forever. If you are a Walmart that has millions (maybe billions) of dollars worth of goods to sell and no market, you can either shrug your shoulders and give up OR you can CREATE the market. Since this is America, we’re going to go with the latter.

It may have taken Walmart decades of influence and millions of dollars to position this market, but they now have pushed the immigration issue to a head. They have gotten the media talking about it, they have the Congress talking… they have successfully banded the Hispanic community together under one common cause. NOW they have a market to appeal to!!

Do you doubt this? Then ask yourself: Why the immigration issue? Why now? Does it seem a bit too “pushed”, too contrived? Is the immigration issue REALLY a “make-or-break” issue like out-of-control medical costs, Social Security going broke or terrorism in our peaceful world? Really??

Let’s watch the issue when the World Cup fever is over. Let’s watch who does well in the World Cup and see where Walmart and similar corporations take their marketing.

Lots of walks on this topic. Stay tuned; Rufus has some thoughts as well….