The Corporate Take Over

Did you know that 90% of the media we consume is controlled by only six companies?CorporateMedia

This means that we don’t actually get “news,” we get what the corporate heads want us to think is news. Why do you think we get headlines like: President Obama to Headline Hispanic Caucus Awards. These are meant to be distractions from what is really going on in the world, and especially right here in the US. While we focus on the “news” that these corporations feed us, those same corporations are sending all of our jobs overseas, eliminating our middle class, taking all of our money, and driving as many of us as they can into poverty. They don’t care if our economy collapses because they have their fingers in plenty of other pies all over the world. If consumers in the US can no longer afford their products because we have been driven into poverty, they will simply move to another market.

It is not just the media. Starbucks has nearly taken over the coffee business, especially here in the US. Though many “media” articles rave about their coffee quality, being a coffee connoisseur, I can attest that the quality is not nearly as awesome as those articles claim. At least they do offer a light roast coffee, which is healthier and contains more caffeine for the morning “kick”. Unfortunately they do not offer other healthy options, such as nut milks. Cows milk causes gastrointestinal issues for many people, not to mention it is very high in calories. Starbucks alternative is soy milk, which does not have the same gastrointestinal effects and less calories than cow’s milk, but there are health risks with soy, especially if it is not prepared properly.  Big corporations aren’t concerned about the health risks their products have on a few consumers, especially if those symptoms can’t be definitively traced back to their product.

McDonald’s sells more hamburgers than any other fast food business, and have been caught on several occasions cutting corners…corners that put the health of their patrons at risk. Their disregard for their employees is well-known, and well documented. Another corporate giant who has a well documented disregard for their employees is Wal-Mart. What is frustrating for me in these cases is the fact that without their employees, these companies would be nothing. The people who come in every day, put in the work, deal with customers, lift the boxes, cook the food, stock the shelves and keep the places running are the ones who ensure that the companies stay in business. Without them, there would be no company, yet the corporate heads treat them like disposable rags. If someone needs some time off to care for a sick loved one, or they get into a car wreck, or some other tragedy befalls them, these corporate heads simply fire them and move on to someone else who will fill the slot rather than recognizing the hard work that person has put in for the company. These people are not disposable, and the corporate heads need to know that.

Our financing industry is being consolidated into a few big banks. We don’t even have control over who we’re indebted to anymore. When I was in school, I took out school loans with Wells Fargo. Within months the bank had sold my loans to Fannie Mae. My debt transferred to someone I never made a contract with–without my consent, and there was nothing I could do about it.

What can we do to protect ourselves?

We need to break the corporate power over our country. I believe the first step is to get behind Bernie Sanders. He truly understands how urgent our plight is. I believe he will take action to: limit congressional terms, close corporate tax loopholes, make sure these corporate leaders are accountable for their actions, and much more.

On a more personal level, I try my best to avoid big corporations. I bank at a local credit union. Most of my clothes are purchased second hand; not only do I get to avoid spending money at a big corporate owned institution, I also save money that way. I do my best to get as much of my food as I can locally, and cook at home. When I do go out, I prefer unique restaurants as opposed to chains. I have a latte machine at home. I can make my coffee with whatever kind of milk I want…including the nut milks I make myself.

In the end, we need change…both on a macro and a micro scale. We can make the small changes in our own lives that tell these corporate leaders we’ve had enough, but we need a revolutionary change like Bernie Sanders to ensure that they truly get the message.

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Time For Change

I do a lot of watching, listening, learning, and trying to understand everyone’s point of view. At this point, I’m having a hard time understanding the opposition from lower and middle class Americans toward economic change. Personally, I’m tired of working harder and harder every day, every week, every year…for nothing. I spent years in college just to find that my efforts were just as worthless as working all those years. Now I’m making just as little as I was before I went to school, only now I have $50,000 worth of debt looming over my head. Every time I do something to try to make my life better, easier, more manageable…you know…reach for “the American Dream,” my legs get swiped out from under me before I even take the first few steps. I know I’m not the only one. I’ve heard stories far worse than mine. Corporate America and the super wealthy are choking the life out of the rest of us.

Wealth inequality in this country is staggering, and it is growing.

income-inequality-has-grown-in-us

Our middle class is falling into the lower class. Each year, more and more people find themselves making less than what is necessary to live. Eventually, if nothing is done, American will resemble a medieval oligarchy with one wealthy ruling class and one peasant class who has no power whatsoever. Think about that. The money is still out there, it’s just that the vast majority of people have no access to it.

Why is that, and what can we do about it?

There are many reasons. To begin with, many of our jobs are being shipped over seas. We can start to resolve that by creating a tariff on all finished goods. If it costs manufacturers just as much to make goods overseas as it does to make them here in the US, they may as well keep the jobs here. We can also create new jobs here. As Bernie Sanders has suggested, there are plenty of jobs just waiting for ordinary people…as soon as we start to rebuild our infrastructure. All over the country there are roads, bridges, dams, aqueducts and many other such neglected structures necessary for our cities to function properly. By repairing these structures, we can create thousands of jobs.

Of course, the biggest issue is how the ultra wealthy and major corporations are able to avoid paying their fair share into our economy. They are more than happy to take your money from you, but when it comes to contributing to the society as a whole…

3trillion

Now keep in mind, three trillion is just the amount of money these guys avoid paying into the system. It’s hard for me to even imagine a number like that…$3,000,000,000…and that is what they are supposed to contribute to our society, but don’t. Imagine what that kind of money could do for schools, for our police departments, for rebuilding infrastructure…heck, use your imagination! The first step to ensuring these people pay their fair share and can longer slip through their loopholes is to pull the money out of politics. We need to get the lobbyists out of Washington, overturn Citizens United, and bring democracy back to our political system. To ensure that our democratic system remains sound, we really need to impose term limits on senate seats. (“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”-John Emerich Edward Dalberg.) Since the ultra wealthy and big corporations will have been stripped of their power and influence at that point, politicians could then create laws to close those loopholes without the fear of retribution.

In the end, the only thing that will save this economy is to stop the flow of money from the lower and middle class into the ultra wealthy and major corporations. As long as the money that we lose to the wealthy and corporations remains out of reach, and never makes its way back into our economy, this system is doomed for failure. Many of these corporations do business all over the world, so they really don’t care if we all fall into extreme poverty, because they have plenty of customers in elsewhere who are ready, willing, and able to buy their products. The only way they can continue to do this to us is if we let them get away with it. We’ve been letting them steal from us, use us, and treat us like we’re disposable for far to long. This country was built on the backs of hard working people like us. It’s time that we take back our economy, take back our country…time that we show wealthy billionaires and corporations that if you want to do business in the US, you need to contribute to our society…plain and simple.

Minimum Wage War

I know I’ve talked about this before, but I think this is a very important subject that needs further investigation. One of the first steps in repairing our economy is to bring money back to consumers…people who are actually going to spend the money in our marketplace, not leave it sitting in bonds, assets, or overseas somewhere. Until people have money to spend, ensuring that the money flows freely through our system, it will continue to stagnate at the top, grinding the wheels of our economy to a halt.

Many people believe that we can bring money back to the consumer class by raising the minimum wage, which is true…somewhat. But what about five, ten, or fifteen years from now? After inflation hits, we’re right back where we started.

The minimum wage doesn’t affect inflation! That is most certainly true. What affects inflation is the amount of money that is in circulation. This means that if money is destroyed, like when older bills are collected and taken off of the market for destruction, the value of our money raises, until new bills are printed, at which point, the value of our money decreases to accommodate the new bills.

What does that have to do with the minim wage? I am so glad you asked that! The minimum wage has always been a set number. At this point, the national minimum wage is $7,25 per hour. People want to raise that to $15 an hour, but I say again, what happens in a few years when the government prints more money, devaluing what we have? That $15 an hour will seem like the $7.25 we earn now. The resolution for this issue is to link the minimum wage to the total amount of money in circulation. Let’s try to put it into perspective. Let’s pretend that $15 is 0.000001% of the total amount of money in circulation (I haven’t done any research on the figures, so I just pulled that number out of thin air). Now, if the government were to say that the minimum wage is 0.000001% of the total amount of money in circulation per hour, rather than $15 per hour, if more money were printed, the minimum wage would go up to reflect the amount of inflation that has occurred. This would not only ensure that people continuously receive a living wage, it would also ensure that we have a continuous amount of vital funds flowing through our economy, rather than stagnated at the top.

The reason I don’t see a system like this being implemented is because it forces accountability onto those who have avoided accountability all of their lives. In fact, many of them pride themselves on it and make a living off of avoiding responsibility.

At some point it will have to become clear that the personal gain of a few is destroying everyone. A truly balanced system cannot sustain a single economic class, nor can it sustain one class with enormous economic and political power, while the other has next to none. Without balance, our system will collapse.

Poverty: Closing the Gap

Picture a river, flowing swift and smooth along its bed. The waters easily spin the wheel in the mill, keeping everyone well fed with the flour produced within. Then the land up stream is bought by a family who dams the river for their own personal use. As the river dries up, the crops die, the mill no longer spins, and the town begins to starve.

That is the state our economy is in. The free flow of our money has been dammed for so long that small businesses are dying off, people are working 50+ hours a week just to keep their heads afloat (and many times not succeeding), students are drowning in debt–just from trying to learn something–anything–that might help them survive, doctors are more concerned with how much they can charge than how they can help their patients–we are drowning in inches of water.

Bernie Sanders has some wonderful ideas. Rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure will definitely bring a lot of jobs that we desperately need, and closing the loopholes on the corporations and the wealthy is something I have been adamant about for years, but there is so much more that needs to be done if we want to be a great nation again–such as breaking up the big monopolies. Companies should not be able to hold more than 30% of any one market. We have stifled the growth of our small businesses for long enough. We need to let the smaller stars shine, open more doors for more people, and allow more companies to give more people the opportunity to move farther within them.

So many believe that raising the minimum wage will pull people out of poverty. The problem is, it is only a temporary fix. Eventually more money will be printed, the value of the dollar will drop, and the minimum wage will need to be raised again. By leaving the minimum wage at a set number, we ensure that the fix is only temporary. To make it a permanent fix, we must tie it to the amount of money that is in circulation. By making the minimum wage a percentage of the total amount of money currently in circulation, people will always know that they will earn a living wage.

We need laws in place that prevent companies from monopolizing 70% of the market. The loopholes that allow multi billion dollar companies and elite billionaires to remove vital funds from general circulation must be closed. We need permanent solutions to our economic problems, not just temporary fixes. Until we get them, we will continue to drown.

The Cost of Doing Business

There is a grave misconception in this country that the purpose of a business is to make money. In truth, the purpose of a business is to create a product or service that people want…or better yet need.

In actuality, profit is a by-product of good business. If a company makes a good product, that company will inevitably make money because people will buy that product. Sweeten the deal by adding awesome customer service and technical assistance, and it is likely that many of those customers will become loyal, repeat customers.

There are several aspects of good business that tend to be overlooked by our society’s faulty business model. To begin with, quality is often sacrificed to save money. Granted, cost does become a factor when consumers shop for products, but most people look for the highest quality products that fit well into their budget. Sacrificing product quality while continuing to raise pricing means that eventually average people will no longer be able to afford base products that have little or no value at all.

Another area that companies like to cut costs is employee wages. To me, that seems like the companies are just shooting themselves in the foot. Most companies create general consumer products and services meant for people just like their employees. Now, by ensuring that their employees don’t have the money to buy their products, and show them off to their friends (who, by the way, had their wages cut by similar companies) aren’t these guys just making sure that no one is able to buy their products? That, simply, makes no sense to me.

Employee relations is an area where most US businesses fail miserably. What puzzles me here is that employee satisfaction has been shown time and time again to improve productivity and overall sales–dramatically. When people are happy with their jobs and their employers, they show confidence, loyalty, the willingness to work more and to work harder for the company–they have a genuine desire to see the company succeed. On the flip side of that, when people are unhappy in their jobs, they are more likely to take more time off of work–both paid and unpaid, they are less likely to care about the quality of the products/services they are producing, and they are more likely to harbor animosity toward their employer.

What do employees tend to complain about? Well there are a lot of things, but let’s take a look at a few of the chief issues.

Overworked

The average full-time worker now days puts in 50+ hours per week. The sad part about that is the fact that in many places in the US, that doesn’t pay the bills. In the 1950s, people worked an average of 40 hours per week, and could sustain an entire family off of the income from that one job. Now it takes two incomes, often both of them working full-time (or more) to ensure that the bills get paid. I think people are more than justified for claiming that they are overworked.

Never Any Time to Rest

This goes hand-in-hand with being overworked. While working 10 and 12 hours days, and having employers expect miracles from them, employers also think that people can rest, recharge, and be ready to go again with a mere ten minute break. Ten minutes barely gives a person enough time to catch their breath, or go to the restroom. It’s unlikely that there’s enough time to do both in ten little minutes. Another big trend I’ve seen is 30 minute lunches. No wonder so many people have gastro-intestinal issues. I mean, really? Thirty minutes to shove down a plate of food, get severe heartburn, then hate life for the rest of your shift!?

Scheduling

This is one of the main issues I see. Companies expect their employees to be “flexible” with their schedules, which basically means that you have to come in whenever they want you to. If you need time off–forget it. If you want specific days or hours–not going to happen. If you need to change your current schedule due to something changing in your life–don’t even try.

There are many other things that can cause friction or issues between an employee and employer, but these are at the top of my list.

What most of these companies miss is that good relationships with their employees is what saves them money and brings in new money. By ensuring that their employees are satisfied, the employees are more likely to gain loyalty to the company. That means they will stay longer, ensuring that the time, effort, and money put into to training them was not wasted. Along with that loyalty and satisfaction comes a desire to see the company succeed, raising the quality of the product/service the employee produces. With that desire to see the company succeed comes a desire to be at work, on time, every day, which means the employee is less likely to take sick days. Once the company raises the employee’s wage enough to buy the company’s product–advertising it to his/her friends, the company can gain even more business through the loyalty of a satisfied employee.

Crawling Through Loopholes

3trillion

Three trillion dollars per year. That’s a large number. That is not the money the wealthiest Americans actually take in, or pay out. That is the amount of money they dodge paying into the system. That is the money they are supposed to pay to ensure that our money keeps flowing; to ensure that our economy stays afloat. While they hoard their money, keeping it out of circulation, the wheels of our economy continue to slow down. The more they gain, and refuse to use, the less there is to use. The less there is to use, the slower those economic wheels turn. Eventually, those wheels will come to a halt.

As these wealthy people hoard more money, there is less to go around for the rest of us. This means that as the rich get richer, the poor get poorer…and that income disparity is a growing issue:

INcome-Inequality-has-grown-in-US

Much of this is due to greed. For a while, wages rose along with productivity. Then, the salaries stagnated, while the productivity continued to rise:

Income and productivity growth, 1947-2009

(Interesting side note: as you can see, the salary stagnation seems to coincide with the Reagan administration. The results from his “trickle down” economics are apparent.)

Many middle and lower class people are forced to go into debt to survive, simply because their wages are not enough to provide their family’s basic needs:

bottom-90-is-falling-deeper-into-debt

What’s really frustrating is the fact that the wealthiest people in America are not physically capable of spending their money. Not in their lifetimes, not in their children’s lifetimes, not even in their grandchildren’s lifetimes. If they were to make an all out effort to spend all of their money before death, it is unlikely that they’d succeed, yet they break the law to hoard their money. An old woman who keeps every stray cat in the neighborhood is actually helping the neighborhood by taking those cats in, but she is considered “crazy” for collecting them. A man who keeps every newspaper he’s ever gotten is considered “crazy” as well. He isn’t hurting anyone, in fact, those newspapers could come in handy if the information in them were ever needed. People who hoard money hurt everyone, yet no one deems them insane. Their money should be in circulation, keeping the wheels of our economy moving smoothly, but it’s not, and the people responsible break the law to ensure that it’s not, and are never punished for their misdeeds.

The few things that will bring jobs and prosperity back to this country will probably never happen, but here they are:

  1. Close these loopholes. Everyone needs to be responsible for keeping our economy moving. If the top 20% try to leave all of the economic flow to the rest of us, there won’t be much flowing going on, since they own almost everything: wealthdistribution
  2. We need to establish a tariff on incoming goods. So many companies have taken their manufacturing over seas because the labor is cheaper. They pay next to nothing to manufacture these products, then they ship the products back to the states. If the US were to charge a tariff for those incoming goods, it would no longer be cost effective to send those manufacturing jobs over seas.
  3. Pull the money/corporations out of Washington. We don’t need our elected officials being bought. I was nearly kicked out of government class because I said that lobbyists were detrimental to our system. We were “taught” that lobbyist were necessary to research issues, and gather information that the politicians were to busy to accomplish themselves. I told the class that lobbyists would gather only biased information and half truths designed to fulfill their goals. A better solution would be to set up student internships. Law, political science and business students especially would jump at the chance to intern in Washington, and their research would be far more thorough, and a lot less biased. My idea made a lot of sense, went against tradition and the big corporations, and because of that, my professor nearly had a cow (several of my classmates had actually listened to me).
  4. Treat churches like the businesses they are. Their revenue should be treated like the income it is. They should receive tax breaks for charitable donations, like everyone else, and if they qualify for other exemptions that everyone else qualifies for, they should receive those. Giving them blanket exemption from taxes is the same as mingling church and state.

Everyone needs to be responsible for this country’s economy. The government, the corporations, and the rest of the top 20% have left it up to the rest of us for far too long. We don’t have the resources to save the country, they do. They’ve been crawling through their loopholes long enough. It’s about time they step up and do their share.