The American Way?

I don’t know what is wrong with me lately. Maybe I am just full of self-righteous crap, as some might think. White, middle class guilt?

Perhaps nothing is actually wrong with me, at all.

However, because the political campaign is heating up, I have been contemplating the state of affairs in our country.

Maybe this is a luxury I am afforded in that I only have one job. That would be running my business, which, at times, amounts to a 24/7 endeavor.

I judiciously account for what free time I do have leftover. Rarely, if ever, do I watch TV. I instead choose to spend time with family and friends, to read books, to have serious conversations, enjoying music and perusing the internet. I leave a lot of time for personal introspection and free thought; I try to make it count.

That said, in an accumulation of conversations, both business and personal, reading, research and just paying attention, I am lead to believe there is something fundamentally wrong with today’s American Experience.

What happened to good old fashion American optimism? Where is the expectation that individually and collectively things are going to get better, easier, more prosperous, connected and meaningful?

I don’t see too much positive energy emanating from our nation, our leadership and our people. I see gloom and doom. I see if you don’t get screwed, that is a victory. I see hyper competition; dog eat dog, greed and excess. I see little empathy and compassion. I see looking out for number one and very little looking out for others. I see dogma over pragmatism and practicality. I see the concept of taking care of the planet, our home, as an afterthought, at best.

I am reluctant to point fingers but, in my mind and I probably am wrong, I see our “so called” version of free markets and capitalism running amuck. Our system of government, if it isn’t already, is rapidly becoming an oligarchy.  Google it.

It is the natural evolution of a successful corporation to compete. They innovate. They succeed. They grow.

A corporation is nothing more than a legal entity granted certain benefits and restrictions through law.

It can be privately owned in which case there are owners. Its stock is not traded on the open markets. The stock is illiquid and doesn’t have a market value per se, but obviously there is huge value as an entity and from its revenue stream.

Or a corporation can be a public corporation, with its stock trading in the markets. A publicly traded corporation still has owners but that ownership is ever changing. The said value of the corporation is based upon the number of stock shares outstanding and the market price per share of the stock.

The price per share is based upon a number of factors, but at the end of the day it comes down to how much profit the company generates and the value of its assets less its liabilities. It often is based upon performance measured as shortly as quarterly earnings.

Money is generated to the stock holders from dividends (pay outs) but mostly by purchasing at one price and then having the ability to sell it a higher price, once again based on profits.

Money in the stock market is also generated by the action of buying and selling stocks, etc. Whether a stock holder makes or loses money on his trades, a brokerage firm makes a commission on each sale. So having an active stock market with buying and selling makes the brokers a lot of money regardless of the outcome to the investors.

There is also a big market in funding corporations with loans, often times to take over other companies, etc. Consulting and company valuations.  This is called investment banking and it’s a huge business.

So to win the game, companies have to make profits and more importantly continue to grow, infinitely. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this but at some point in a progression of success, the game powers up.

Companies are making so much money that it gets harder to generate growth. Growth is the key. Investors look at whether you are making more sales and/or profit versus a prior period. You can make the most profits of any company in the world but if you aren’t continually growing profits over prior period, the value of your company takes a hit.

So then the game becomes purchasing smaller companies, perhaps in the same industry; sort of like buying out your competition. Then they diversify and buy laterally related companies. Once they get big enough they buy out the whole supply chain. Then they move overseas. Then they cut wages. Then they cut benefits. Then, then, then, do you get the picture? It is the nature of the beast. More, more, more.

You increase sales, sell more stuff. You increase margins by cutting costs or increasing your price. Buy low, sell high. Sell less at higher prices. Sell more at lower prices. Sell at the same price but cut your costs. It’s not rocket science.

Somewhere in time, savvy companies came to the conclusion that it was also smart to influence government and politicians. Once they dipped their toes in this water, they discovered that as measured by return on investment you could invest millions and get billions in benefits. You could invest billions and get trillions. Is it right, wrong or otherwise? It is a natural progression.

Use government to close, restrict or protect your market. Use government to cut costs. Use government for favorable tax treatment. Do business with the government.

Corporations are legal entities, not people. They don’t have a concept of right and wrong, moral or immoral. Empathy, sympathy; these concepts don’t feed the monster.

Yes, yes that is fine but people still own the stock and are officers of the corporations, right?

Yes of course people run these companies and given enough money you can get a person to do anything in the name of corporate profits. It is the same game with the politicians. Given enough financial incentive, some people will do just about anything you want. You just have to find these people and feed them the cheese.

That was why the average CEO of an American corporation is paid 475 times more than their lowest paid employees. They get the job done for their team, come hell or high water.

In the process of allowing corporations virtually unchecked power and practical control over our political process, you find the world being slowly but surely evolving into the haves and the have-nots, the elites and the rest of us, the debt slaves and the debt holders, the idle rich and the families who work 120 hours a week to stay above the poverty line.

There is too much money being made maintaining the status quo and old technology. Cancer treatment is a trillion dollar industry. Oil and gas? Throw away products?  There really isn’t a better way out there?

Think about our modern economy. We are a faint shadow of the economic and manufacturing powerhouse we once were. We are a consumerist and service based economy. Most of the stuff we buy is made elsewhere. We are merely traders and debt merchants. It is a house of cards.

With the exception of the arms industry, the military industrial complex, there are few exceptions where we innovate, home grow and make our own products. Is war a for profit endeavor? Is protecting American interests abroad a euphemism for protecting our corporations? I don’t know, just asking a question here.

My bottom line is that money corrupts. Follow the money.

If you paid attention to what happened and is happening in Ligonier Township you will see the wishes of the general public were ignored in an effort to spur economic development. Economic development that risks our quality of life and puts the public at risk and the science is not fuzzy if you take some time to educate yourself.

Decision makers had conflicts of interest in making the decisions because the outcome could benefit them and others financially. Period.

Ligonier Township is a microcosm of what is taking place at every level of government and if we want to solve the problem partially, we need to get the money out of politics. Whether by publicly financed elections, overturning Citizens’ United, stopping lobbying or by term limits; we need to fix this problem.

Secondly, we need to undergo a crisis of conscience, where we as individuals and  humanity inherently do the right things for the right reasons at the right time.  This is coming.

The two party system is a sham. The differences between the two parties are an illusion; they’re on the same team. The lack of progress and gridlock is intentional.

When you look at what actually gets accomplished in the way of making life better for all Americans, not much gets done. Does it? Doesn’t that kind of piss you off?

What can we do?

First off, don’t be a chicken shit. Discuss your ideas, your thoughts, your concerns with your friends, family and fellow citizens. Figure out, as best you can, what you think is going on in the world in your own. Bypass the mainstream propaganda machine.

Get involved politically. I am not telling you to run for office. I am not telling you to go campaign for someone. You can if you want, but educate yourself as to who is running for what. What do they stand for? What do they say? What is their track record? Vote.

If you have enough nachos, discuss who you like and why with other people. Share it on social media.

The biggest lie of all time is that it is impolite to discuss politics and religion outside of your own home. What a bunch of horse shit that is. What is more critical to your quality of life and livelihood than politics and religion?

I know life is tough and it’s getting tougher, do think that might be intentional? For your sake and the sake of your children and grandchildren, you need to wake up, stand up and be heard. For the sake of all of us, we need to wake up.

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