How to Fix the American Economy in Nine Simple Steps

July 4, 2011

 – by ‘tamerlane’


Get off the Pot

It’s going on eleven years since the American economy last didn’t suck. Bush spent eight years

F.P.O. Insert kitchy patriotic image here.

trashing it; barry’s spent another 2 1/2 years fiddling while Rome burns. In desperation, the American people are open to anyone offering a solution, however drastic.

From the Right, Rep. Paul Ryan offered a suitably draconion budget with cuts to the bone across the board, but especially on social services. From the lunatic fringe, Rep. Ron Paul suggested the federal government declare bankruptcy. The moderate republican obama administration, they of the “transformative change” — have been content with a few tweaks — a bailout here, a quantitative easing there, with a smokescreen of serious speeches pledging to seriously do something serious one of these days. From the left have come no comprehensive plans, only shrill warnings not to touch Medicare or Social Security.

Such “plans” are drivel.  Most are just fiddling with the knobs on a broken machine. Proposals like Ryan’s are on par with the medieval surgeon’s bleeding of the patient to dispel bad humours. We sent these people to Washington to get things done, specifically to fix the economy. Since they refuse to piss, it’s time for them to get off the pot. Time for the common folks to take charge.


A Simple Plan

Once you identify the real problem, great or small, the solution turns out to be fairly simple.  While the baboons in Washington sit around scratching their monkey butts, this ordinary American citizen decided to work out a real plan.  You may reject it on principle, or quibble with its details. But it’s comprehensive, is strengthened by synergies, is straightforward, and it’s bold.

Right now, we need bold. The patient that is the American economy has flat-lined, the EMTs need to crank up the defibrillator and quick. In contrast, the prescriptions coming from Washington are about as useful to our patient as “get more exercise” or “try to cut fats from your diet.”

Most of all, I’m convinced my plan will work.


1) “First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All The Economists”

For the past 30 years, our nation’s economy has suffered the ministrations of members of a bizarre religious cult known as “Economics.” Many splinter sects of this cult exist, each decrying the others as heresies. But all the cults of economics share one trait — they don’t work. All economics is voodoo. Astrology. Tarot reading.

Some sects are not as bad as others, but none have anything at all to do with the real world, and consequently, none have any predictive powers whatsoever. The great scientific thinker, E.O. Wilson, who considers economics “folk psychology” and “mostly irrelevant”, notes that it

“… cannot answer definitely most of the key macro-economic questions that concern society…. The world economy is a ship speeding through uncharted waters strewn with dangerous shoals. There is no general agreement on how it works. The esteem that economists enjoy arises not so much from their record of successes as from the fact that business and government have nowhere else to turn.”

Since Reagan, the United States has fallen victim to the most deluded and destructive sect of the cult, “Libertarian/Anarchist” economics. Known variously as the “Chicago School” or “Austrian School”, its witch doctors included Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan, both former acolytes of that psychotic priestess of greed, Ayn Rand.

Thanks to their gris-gris, the once mighty bodybuilder of American industry has been transformed into an emaciated heroin junkie. Admittedly, some modern economists, realizing that (again, from Wilson)

“[s]eldom are the premises of [economic] models examines closely. Seldom are their conclusions tested to any depth with quantitative field data. Their appeal is in the chrome and roar of the engine, not the velocity or destination”

are earnestly trying to take a more scientific approach that offers real predictive power.

Ultimately, though, all economists make the same fundamental error of placing the cart before the horse. They tweak our society to fix the economy, when it should be the other way around.

‘But tamerlane,’ you’re surely saying, ‘is it really necessary to actually kill them?’  It sure would be fun, and, one might argue, deserved. But no, all we need to do is ignore whatever they say. That’ll be hard at first, because, like the fortune tellers they are, economists lure us with vague prognostications of the tall, dark stranger we’ll meet in the next quarter with half a million new jobs, or the exotic destination we’ll visit, where housing starts are up 11%.

In place of such gibberish, we’ll rely instead on our own common sense:

  1. Where do we want to go?
  2. What’ll get us there?
  3. Do that, and to hell with the rest.


2) Put Most Bankers in Chains; Put a Leash on the Rest

There’s a colony of parasites lviing in the bowels of our nation’s economy. These parasites produce nothing, provide no real services, yet makes obscene mountains of money just by shuffling around other people’s money. They’re called the financial “industry”, and they need a smack-down.
First off, the up & downs of the stock market are essentially meaningless. Unlike the current Washington baboons who fixate on Wall Street, we’re gonna ignore it. Sure, the stock market is essential in providing investment money for business. But mostly it’s just a pack of gamblers who bet on the success of other people’s businesses. Many now bet on the success or failure of the other broker’s bets. Heck, we’d do no worse aligning our economy to a Vegas sports book.

We’ll let the gamblers play, and even get rich now and again. There will, however, be strict regulations and oversight to prevent the abuses so prevalent on Wall Street that damage our economy. I know what you’re thinking, but that’s how other countries with healthier economies handle things, so put a sock in it. We’ll also be throwing into jail anyone who engages in things like predatory lending. Long sentences. In nasty, rat-infested jails. Filled with mother rapers and father rapers.


3) Create Jobs (Duh)

Every politician chants the same mantra: “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!” By which they mean, ‘in this economy, you’re gonna need three jobs to make ends meet.’ These baboons do nothing tangible to create a base that’d generate real job growth, yet upon the latest report of 100,000 McJobs, they preen like a toddler proudly displaying their first potty.

It’s stupid to promise jobs to people if there’s nothing for them to do. Since we’re not stupid like, say, an economist or a politician, we’ll move right along to the things that’ll create not thousands, but millions, of jobs, and damn good ones, too.


4) Resurrect American Industry

I say “resurrect’ because, let’s face it: we spent the past 30 years intentionally killing off the largest industrial base the World had ever known. The economists clamored for the “World Economy”, then the corporate tapeworms shipped everything off to other parts of the world, mostly China. Now, everyone in Washington says we’ve got to “get competitive” to win back the jobs and manufacturing we so recklessly gave away. But in the Brave New World Economy, “competitive” means working 14-hour shifts for 59¢ an hour without bennies, in dangerous, polluting factories churning out shoddy crap that breaks.

This brew the economist witch doctors cooked up has been great for the world, and great for about 2% of Americans. But it’s sucked big time for the other 98% of us. So guess what, people — “World Economy” has just been cancelled.

There are a few American manufacturers clinging to life, But We’re gonna have to pretty much rebuild a manufacturing base from scratch. Our solution will be bold and it will be broad. The Federal government will:

  1. Invest properly in R&D, the way nations with strong economies — Japan, China, Germany — do;
  2. Kill the sham R&D subsidies (corporate welfare, really) to industries like mega-agriculture and fossil fuels;
  3. Undertake large-scale infrastructure projects that require heaps of both manpower and stuff made in America;
  4. Provide concrete assistance — not just lip service — to innovative & small business start-ups in the forms of loans, support programs, contracts, and tax incentives;
  5. Levy tariffs on foreign imports equaling the cost savings those countries enjoy from exploiting their workers and destroying the environment. The stuff we still make is already of better quality, but now we’re talking honest “competitiveness”!
  6. Close the loopholes in the corporate tax code that allow nominally “international” corporations to enjoy all the advantages of doing business in the US., while shielding their assets abroad from US taxes.


5) Get Cracking on That Green Economy, Already!

To win the latte liberal vote, obama made sweeping promises to create a “Green Economy” that would at once revitalize our economy while saving the environment. Like any good compulsive liar, once elected, barry did squat to fulfill his promise.

Yet the concept is still a sound one. It offers the best hope, in fact, to cure a host of ills. To make any real impact, though, the creation of our Green Economy has to be implemented on a massive, national scale. It’ll be like a 21st century version of the Tennessee Valley Authority, but on steroids.

Like the TVA and its hydro-electric power, our Green Economy will rely on already existing energy technologies. Also like the TVA, Federal underwriting will break the logjam by providing the capital investment the insipid “free market” is unable to muster.

The various elements will range in scale from private households to large power plants:

  1. Provide seed money and investment for large solar-mirror turbines and next-generation wind turbines that truly are “shovel ready”;
  2. Support and expand the military’s initiative toward becoming 50% self-sufficient from renewable energy by 2020;
  3. Rescue the few remaining domestic renewables makers by placing orders for solar panels atop the roof of every federal building in the nation. The resulting economies of scale will make renewable energy affordable for everyone;
  4. Make a “Solar Mortgage” available to every household and business in America. This is a simple yet brilliant idea already being implemented by private local vendors to remove the roadblock of prohibitive initial costs of these systems. Any participating household or business will have a renewable (usually PV panel) system installed that meets their energy needs. The Federal program will pick up the tab. The participant then makes a monthly “mortgage” payment equal to their average monthly utility bill. The term of the mortgage is flexible & based on that payment. Like a bank does with a house, the government covers the upfront cost, then gets paid back over time with interest. As the Solar Mortgage Program would only contract from American vendors, and employ American workers, it helps meet several goals of our overall plan.

Many other innovative programs will be part of the Green Economy initiave. All of them represent an investment in our industry, and our future. The advantages of going green vs. buying fossil fuels — either abroad or at home, is the same as paying a mortgage on a house you own vs. giving rent to someone else.


6) Make-Work Projects

When the previous great depression hit America, Hoover sat idly while millions suffered, waiting for “the market” to eventually sort things out. FDR actually did something — he created jobs through programs like the WPA and CCC. The suffering was ameliorated, while the workers’ paychecks helped spur more economic growth. And some very useful things got built, too — roads, bridges, national parks.

Today, our nation is falling apart at the seams. Our transportation network is crumbling, our large cities rotting. Out West, forests overgrown with brush lead to devastating mega-fires. Let’s tackle all these problems, and more. We’ll employ people — the young, those undesirable 40- & 50-somethings — who’d have no other hope of getting a job. Their paychecks will create other jobs, and we’ll fix up our nation in the process. Yes, this is government fiddling with “the market.” No, this may not force people to “take personal responsibility.” Yes, this is “socialism.” But guess what — Socialism Works.


7) Take Back Jobs Given to Foreigners

The tariffs in #4 above will reverse the ruinous practice of outsourcing jobs. Yet even at home, jobs that should go to Americans are instead taken by foreigners.

  1. Crack Down on Unfair Work Visa Practices — When not shipping jobs oversees, corporate tapeworms import ever-increasing numbers of foreign workers to the US. Arriving on work visas intended only for when a company can’t find a qualified American applicant, these foreign employees are willing to work killer hours for less pay than Americans. Not only do the tapeworms reap the direct payroll savings, the presence of the foreigners allow them to squeeze their American employees on wages and benefits. This practice is not only bogus, it’s unethical and un-American. Under our common sense plan, the INS will be directed to implement a new policy that only issues work visas in the rare instances when truly no suitable American worker can be found. Any corporate tapeworm caught trying to get around this policy will find themselves sharing a cell in that nasty jail mentioned above.
  2. Stop Illegal, & Curb Legal, Immigration — This may be too controversial for some, but it’s worth putting on the table. Fact: There are as many as 30 million illegal immigrants in this country; Fact: That represents 10% of the population; Fact: Unemployment is around 10% OK, it may not be that simple. But let’s dispense once and for all with the canard ‘illegals are willing to take jobs that Americans don’t want.’ No, illegals are willing to work for wages that Americans won’t accept.

The Saga of the Georgia Peaches highlights our muddled thinking on this subject. Following the passage of a strict anti-illegal worker law in Georgia, peach-growers suddenly found themselves at harvest time without their usual work force of illegals. ‘See why stopping illegal immigration is a bad idea,’ they all sung, ‘now y’all are gonna have to pay more for peaches at the supermarket!’  Ignoring for a moment that all these growers had been committing a federal offense, the sky isn’t really falling.

They’ll just have to buck up and hire Americans, pay them (at least) minimum wage, and pass the cost onto us. Yeah, the price of peaches will jump to $6 a pound, but we’ve been paying the real cost all along, only not at the checkout counter. And what we’ll get for that $6 is nothing to sneeze at: unemployment in Georgia goes down, bigger paychecks spread the wealth around, and the State’s social services will be relieved of the departed illegal workers. If that all seems too draconian to you, then pass a goddamn bill naturalizing the illegals who are currently dragging down wages.


8) Kill the Minimum Wage; Institute a Minimum Income

We Americans take strange pride in our byzantine approach to regulations. We have a federal minimum wage, but individual states have their own minimum wages, sometimes special minimum wages for teenagers or part-time workers. One teensy-weensy flaw in our system is that even the federal minimum wage is not a living wage — for anyone not living on their sister’s couch, it leaves you about $6,000 p/a short of what you need to survive.

Just raising the figure isn’t sufficient, so long as there are corporate slaveholders like Walmart who make everyone “casual” employees. Even when the baboons in Washington rouse themselves to belatedly raise the minimum wage, they stupidly enter a fixed figure in the bill, which quickly falls behind inflation. Under our plan, we will create a minimum wage law that sets the wage as a variable linked to inflation, price indexes, etc. Presto! No need to ever pass another bill!

Going further, we’ll establish a Minimum Income (“M.I.”), also a variable linked to indicators. This will be the minimum amount of money a person/household needs to survive. Can’t find a full-time job? No problem! The government will cover the gap between your wages and the M.I. Oh, we’ll also be assigning you to a job, maybe something you’re skilled at, but also maybe sweeping streets or in the kitchen of a retirement home. We’ll also train you for some steady job. Once the M.I. program is in place, we can terminate the various welfare and workfare programs that are so costly and utterly worthless.


9) Damn the Deficit – Full Speed Ahead!

Yo! All you babbling baboons in Washington — sit down, shut up, and pay attention: The federal deficit is not the problem; it’s but a symptom of the problem. Stop trying to fix the deficit — sucking on cough drops won’t cure pneumonia. If you fix the core problem, then the deficit will eventually go away on its own.

Those politicians most eager to cut the federal budget also usually urge that the government “be run more like a business.” I agree. A business in trouble can either react by cutting things like promotion, shutting plants, and laying off workers. Those ones almost always end up closed. Other business respond by taking out loans and expanding operations. They bravely invest, in anticipation of an eventual Return on Investment. These are businesses that usually persevere. Let’s apply this winning business strategy to our nation’s current woes:

Problem: Expenditures are up.
Solution: Cut non-essential costs. The only area where sizable savings can be realized is the military. We operate several wars in branch locations that have yielded zero ROI. We should shut down these operations ASAP, and assign the employees to other departments. There’s also some room to cut our Medicare line of products, but it’s very popular with our customers. All other potential savings combined are relatively minor. Social Security is a wholly self-funded subsidiary which actually extends loans to other departments. Shutting it down it would be counter-productive.

Problem: Revenues are down.
Solution: We have two remedies available to us. First, we should increase taxes — or more accurately, return to previous levels on the upper tax bracket. Earlier reductions of this income stream account for nearly all our current shortfalls. Second, we can take out a loan to cover the difference. Fortunately, as we ourselves print money, we can do this as needed.

Problem: Our plant operations are inadequate.
Solution: The previous management foolishly shut down profitable factories and branches. We need to reverse that by investing in new factories, new markets, and hire the necessary employees. We’ll print some money to cover the start-up costs, but are confident that the ROI will begin to be realized early, and will eventually be significant.


A Simple Plan?

‘Can it really be that simple?’ you ask. My plan is a good one, or at least a good starting point for a serious discussion. But simple and easy are not the same. Too many people with power & influence have too much personally to lose. They’ll make it hard to implement this simple plan.

The question then is, do we let them keep that power, and let them continue destroying our economy and our nation? Or do we wrest that power away, and do what needs to be done to save our country?


(c) 2011 by True Liberal Nexus. All rights reserved.


Poor, Poor Rich Folks

September 24, 2010

Bonjour,

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Todd, comte du Henderson, and I am trés riches.  But, even though my family earns $400,000, which is eight times more than the average peasant family, (we are at least eight times better than you, of course), we can barely make ends meet.  Nous sommes pauvre!  That’s because the jacobins in the IRS take a criminal 35% of the last $26,350 of our paltry wealth.

I am a law professor, and my wife is a doctor, so you can be assured that we are kind-hearted people with the best interests of you, the peasantry, in mind.  But soon we will be forced to live in some dirty hovel, and eat sewer rats, as you do, because the Socialists in Paris, I mean Washington, are robbing us blind.

Why, for example, must my family finance the government with 1/4 of our earnings?  It’s not like the government does anything for us.  We probably should hire one of those fancy accountants to help us evade taxes, but we can’t afford one.  Marie says we just drank the last d’Yquem and she’s scrounging for loose change in the couch. Those atheist revolutionaries also penalize us for having married and started a family.  How else is overpopulation going to progress if two people are not given tax breaks for having three children?  Talk about perverse!

After paying for a government we don’t use, our next biggest expense, like most white people, is our mortgage.  In the exclusive neighborhood we live in, houses aren’t cheap.  Is it really fair to penalize us for wanting to live far from the rabble?  We pay $15,000 in property taxes. Mon dieu! — that’s nearly what a peasant earns in an entire year!  Half of that goes toward paying for peasant children to attend public schools.  Since we want our own scions to be prepared to one day assume their rightful role among the nobility, we send them to expensive private schools where they can associate with their peers.

Honestly, I have no idea where the remaining $285,000 goes!  We live a practically spartan lifestyle (thankfully, basic cable has FOX), with only a few hundred dollars per month to spare.   We could fire the servants, I suppose, and stop taking the babysitter out to Ruths Chris.  Or maybe cut Fifi’s art classes.  This is scary — we’re this far from losing our house and living in a trailer park with … peasants.  And then what will happen to the entrepreneurs we employ and the “new arrivals” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) they employ in turn?  Surely they prefer working for a noble house like the duHendersons, than having some government protecting their interests!

The bigger question, though, is, by what right does the government collect any taxes at all, then fritter it away recklessly?  My family certainly can make wiser spending decisions.  In fact, I’m not sure why we even have a government.

So, mes amis, s’il vous plait, take pity on us poor rich folks.

(c) 2010 by ‘tamerlane.’  All rights reserved.


All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Boots

August 11, 2010

The other day, I went shopping for cowboy boots. I tried on a pair from an unfamiliar brand — Smoky Mountain.  They were so comfortable that I wore them out of the store and kept them on all day.  It wasn’t until the next morning, when I pulled them on to do my barn chores, that I saw the “Made in China” label.

For some time now, I’ve tried to boycott Chinese products, for reasons given below.  It can be hard.   Practically everything, from tools to kitchen utensils to pet food, comes from China.  Even if you’re prepared to spend a bit extra, most retail stores carry little or nothing else.


I’m Just a Material Cowboy, Living In a Material World

Packaging can trick you.  Not for a second would I have considered a pair of boots from Anping Julong Animal By Product Manufacture Co. Ltd.  I assumed (admittedly, without thinking too hard) that these boots, in their buff box with a woodsy green logo of a mountain range topped by “Smoky Mountain” in Cooper typeface, came from east Tennessee or North Carolina.  In my subconscious arose an image of doughty Appalachian folk in plaid shirts lovingly hand-crafting my new boots in a bat-on-board workshop surrounded by tall pines.  I now know that my leather-upper-balance-man-made-materials footwear was slapped together by slave labor in some pollution-belching factory in Guangdong Province before traveling across the Pacific in a 40′ container.

Now alerted, I pulled out all my boots & shoes.  With the exception of two pairs, my Justin packers and my sturdy, Wisconsin muck boots, all were from China.  I reeled.

Marketing doesn’t have to be deceptive.  There’s no sin in effectively communicating a product’s benefits, even if its primary benefit is low cost.  The Smoky Mountain mark, however, is a deliberate lie.   It fooled me into believing I was paying a premium (the boots were as expensive as Justins) for an American product.  Neither the box nor the company web site give any indication who Smoky Mountain is or where they are from.  Somewhere out there is a rich bastard who just got a littler richer by first exploiting a Chinese laborer and then duping me.

We Americans, though, need scant help with our self-deception.  We complain when  jobs get shipped oversees, yet we exclusively bargain-shop.  Granted, most of us were raised to view bargain-hunting as praiseworthy thrift, but in today’s global economy, ostensible bargains come with an hefty, hidden mark-up.

The graver problem is not how we shop, but why we shop.  Instead of buying things we need or would enjoy using, we buy things for the sheer thrill of acquiring them.  This pleasure in finding & acquiring must originate from hunter/collector days if not earlier, but in a world where artificially lowered prices combine with a culture obsessed with possessions, our primeval instincts have been perverted into a mad, insatiable lust.


Birth Of An Addiction

The perversion of the American work ethic into the American acquisition addiction can be dated fairly accurately.  Near the end of WW II, when, after seven years of a brutal depression, and another five of a tough (by our standards) war, average Americans craved,  & felt themselves deserving of, the gamut of comforts and luxuries.  By happy coincidence, we had just undergone massive expansion of  our manufacturing base while obliterating that of our competitors.  US-made TVs, autos, dish washers, blenders and baseball gloves were all plentiful and affordable.

Steadily, we frittered away that huge lead.  Germany started offering high- end products at acceptable prices, while Japan flooded the market with acceptable products at low-end prices.  Meanwhile, our bulwark industries, especially auto, ossified and disgorged inelegant crap.  Somewhere along the line, the American people morphed from producers into “consumers.”

Jimmy Carter, in a serious buzz kill, tried to warn us.  We were instead drawn to Reagan’s siren call, telling us America had never been healthier.  Reagan unleashed the dogs of capitalist consumption and the rich got richer and trickled down some table scraps to the rest of us.  People started having to work longer and longer hours, while real wages stayed flat and productivity actually went down.  But the rich kept getting richer.

When they shut down the steel mills and the factories, and shipped those jobs oversees, they told us we were transitioning to a “Service Economy.”   When they shipped all the service jobs oversees, they told us we now had an “Information Economy.”  And now we’re down to a “Jobless Economy.”


The Pawn Shop School of Economics

Through these many decades of steady decline, we Americans have stubbornly clung to that shopping habit we first picked up in the late forties.  To maintain our habit, we first used up our savings (individual and collective), and then we went into debt.

Our primary pusher has been East Asia, and more and more, China.

A savvy drug dealer, China is intimately familiar with our special cravings and caters to them fastidiously.  What? I must choose between the DVD, the swing set, or … these spiffy new boots?  I want them all now! Thanks to China, I can afford them all at once — with the caveat that the DVD will break within 6 months, the paint on the swing will poison my kids, and if I saw the factory my boots were made in, I’d probably retch.   Products from China are cheap because because unethical means are used to keep costs down.  The raw materials increasingly come from poor countries, where the Chinese come in, strip the land of everything of value, then leave.   Chinese factories are inefficient, polluting nightmares, with horrific working conditions.  The products are shoddy to the extreme.  So they fall apart.  Which isn’t really a problem, because we buy them not so we can use them; we buy them so we can buy them.  Everything revolves around getting that next shopping high.

How have we been able to pay for this sustained and growing trade deficit?  Like any desperate junkie, we’ve pawned off our valuable possessions, our national assets.  Twenty-five percent  of US debt is in the hands of foreign nations, a doubling over the past two decades.  We now owe China almost one trillion dollars.


Getting Clean

Every recovery begins by acknowledging that you have a problem.  Capitalism and its twin, consumerism, are destructive diseases.  Possessions and comforts can provide happiness, but the obsessive pursuit of them only brings woe and devastation.  Anyone who tells you capitalism is a good thing is either evil or insane.

The second step is to take some concrete actions to curb your addiction.  Ideally, the government could stage an intervention.   The regulations on business & finance, never terribly strong, that were lifted in the eighties, could be reinstated in force.  US firms that offshore jobs could lose their right to do business in the US, with their CEOs stripped of US citizenship.  Perhaps granting “most favored trading nation” status to countries that rig their currency or who permit inhumane labor practices is not such a hot idea, after all.  The FTC could also crack down on deceptive advertising.  The “America’s Choice Seafood” brand with its red, white and blue logo, would instead have to display a red star and the slogan “China’s Rape of the Oceans.”

Don’t hold your breath — the government was long ago bought and sold to the capitalists.   The GOP has always been the champion of laissez faire, but of late Democrats have shown they differ only in degree … and hypocrisy.   The libertarians behind the Tea Party movement don’t think capitalism and offshoring have gone far enough!


A Seven Step Program to Recovery

No, we must clean up our act ourselves.  Here’s a suggested recovery plan each of us can implement:

1. Tune out the propaganda. Advertising is shrewdly — and scientifically — designed to tap into your primal emotions: don’t let it brainwash you.  Instead, practice an healthy internal dialog:  No, that new laptop will not make me sexier. My closet is already full.  My existing stereo still works.  I can slice an hard-boiled egg perfectly fine with a knife.

2.  Don’t Buy Chinese. Read the label on every item before tossing it into the cart.  If it’s from China, toss it back.  This will be hard, as most items in most stores only come from China.  The Dollar Store is off limits.  For products from other foreign countries, practice discretion.

3. Buy American. If you plan your purchases, and are willing to spend a little more for better quality, buying American is entire feasible.  A great place to start is this site with links to hundreds of US makers of quality products.  You can even find china made in the USA!

4. Buy Used. Regardless of where it was made, a used item won’t have to be re-made.  As a bonus, it’s usually missing that wasteful packaging.

5.  Make an Inventory, Make a Plan. Like I did with my shoes, check what you own and see where it came from.   Next, assess your regular and upcoming purchases, and craft a plan to alter your buying habits, buying American or even abstaining.   I did this exercise with my barn attire.  I’m stuck with my Chinese cowboy boots, but my next pair will definitely be American Justins.  I have an Australian hat (a nice country), and new, hand-crafted American gloves, but I need another pair, and these ones from New Mexico look nice.  I found some exquisite and very reasonably-priced leather belts from Illinois.  My Wrangler 13MWZ’s are almost non-negotiable.  Wranglers are made in Costa Rica, another nice country that protects its environment and offers universal healthcare.  But if I wanted, I could find suitable US-made substitutes.  Compiling this list took me about 30 minutes.

6. Spread the Word. Tell everyone you know that you’re a shopaholic but that you’re on the road to recovery.  Ask them not to buy you gifts made in China.  Like AMERICAN MADE on Facebook.  If you’re the agitating type, write letters to inform retailers and wholesalers that from now on, you’ll only buy quality, preferably American-made, products, and never Chinese.

7. Compile a “Sound of Music” List. As in “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens … these are a few of my favorite things.”  It’s a safe bet that high on your list will be intangibles like snowflakes and kittens, time spent with family, quiet walks, sunsets at the beach, home-cooked dinners with friends.  And if so, then why not focus on enjoying the real happiness those things provide, instead of the effervescent pleasures of material acquisition?

Perhaps we will finally hear what Jimmy Carter was trying to tell us thirty years ago — our personal value does lie in what we do, not what we own.

(c) 2010 by ‘tamerlane.’  All rights reserved.


A Thin and Weak Brew

March 29, 2010

– by ‘tamerlane’

In one scene in the 1963 film, THE GREAT ESCAPE, a prisoner of war, played by Donald Pleasence, fixes a pot of tea for his fellow POW.  As he robotically fetches the leaves, boils the water, and fills the pot, Pleasence apologizes for reusing very old and weak tea.  What Pleasence tries to hide is that he is virtually blind, and has carefully rehearsed the steps involved in brewing the tea to fool his comrade.

The present day “Tea Party” movement (“TP”) is reminiscent of Pleasence and his stalag tea.  Theirs is a thin and weak substitute for that first, potent brew.  Today’s protesters hope that by blindly aping the motions of an earlier era, they can can create a brew as potent as the original.


No Sons of Liberty, These

The current TP gang thoroughly misinterprets and perverts the objectives and principles of the 1773 Boston crew.  The Sons of Liberty were not protesting taxation per se, only who had the right to tax  — a distant parliament, or their own representative bodies.

The Patriots certainly didn’t seek to abolish, or even limit, government.  The colonies all had robust legislatures, enacting broad regulations and imposing numerous taxes, which the Boston Tea Party and other protests, and the ensuing rebellion, sought to preserve.   Most tellingly, immediately after securing their right to self-rule, the Americans sat down and created a very complex and overarching system of national government, with the Constitution as its operating manual.

Modern TP activists routinely call for the elimination of that system created by our Founding Fathers, with the repeal of much or all of the Constitution they wrote.   The original tea party was a question of the form of government, the modern movement questions the very existence of government.


Ersatz Tea

The TP was unquestionably astroturfed by libertarian/anarchist agitators who for decades have harbored a master plan to kill the government that interferes with their rapacious greed.  But the masses of average Joes and Jolines now filling the TP ranks are motivated by inchoate sentiments of anger, resentment, and powerlessness.   Still unformed in their minds — or their movement —  is a set of concrete objectives or even fundamental principles.  The various TP splinter groups are just now getting around to holding rancorous debates over a platform.

Only slightly more in focus is a target for their bile:  the ‘undeserving’ ne’er-do-wells (not exclusively, but often coincidentally, minorities), and the government that allows them to free-load off hand-outs paid for by TPer’s tax dollars.  In directing their anger at those a rung or two below them on the socioeconomic ladder, instead of at the corporate oligarchs who thieved and cheated their way far up that ladder, the TP masses have allowed themselves to be mightily duped.  For there is no greater recipient of federal largesse than the big corporations — cash handouts to airlines following 9/11, token lease payments for federal land to ranchers and drillers, bailouts of AIG, GM & Goldman Sachs.  If this corporate welfare elicits any ire at all in the TP luddites, it is always directed at the feds issuing the checks, not at the corporations themselves who lobby and bribe.

There’s no denying that the leaders of the American revolution were nearly all affluent planters and merchants partly concerned that Parliament’s sundry excises might crimp their trade.  To their credit, the Founding Fathers were also motivated by firmly-held principles derived from their egalitarian, commonwealth heritage.  In contrast, the unspoken goal of the TP leadership is nothing less than a return to a pre-Magna Carta feudal society, with impoverished vassals bound in servitude to wealthy and omnipotent lords.  That the prospective vassals are actively working to bring about their loss of liberty indicates that, intellectually, they are the functional equivalents of medieval peasants.


When The Sheep Empower the Wolves

The real oppressor of the people is not the government.  It is the unregulated free market, with its sociopathic corporations and robber barons who  habitually act in their own self-interest and against the interests of society.   When they cannot sufficiently exploit their American workers to meet their insatiable avarice, they simply fire them and find new workers in foreign countries that permit unbridled exploitation.

A major role of any government is to protect its people from the selfish acts of anti-social individuals.  Before our federal & state governments began “meddling” with the free market, America was home to virtual slave labor camps, known as mining towns.  Before the government saddled business with “onerous” regulations, factories routinely used child laborers, paying them a pittance for 10 –12 hours’ daily work.  Before the government “stifled productivity” with environmental protection, industrialists and mining magnates cut costs by dumping pollution, poisons, even radioactive waste, thereby forcing society as a whole to subsidize their obscene personal wealth.

The benefit each of us derives from our government’s intercession on our behalf far outweighs any minor burdens from 1040s and the DMV.  The ignorant fools who comprise the bulk of the TP have no idea of the ruin and suffering they are working to bring down upon their own heads.  They are like sheep, who, resentful at being herded by the dog, kill the dog, unwittingly exposing themselves to the predation of the wolves.

(c) 2010 by ‘tamerlane.’  All rights reserved.