Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Americans: eating shit and liking it

At work, I am forced to socialize with the curious sub species of Homo Sapiens, the Homo Sapiens Americana.

The Homo Sapiens Americana looks very similar to the Homo Sapiens, but the branch has some very important differences - the lack of common sense and critical thinking abilities being the most major ones.

The Homo Sapiens Americana is the creation of a concerted, relentless, masterful propaganda campaign waged through the mass media of this country.

Americans are bombarded with daily propaganda shaping their very thoughts and viewpoints on TV, newspapers, the internet. These are coordinated assaults, a machine gun rapid fire shots of pundits spewing, writers skewing and internet rabble rousers lying - to say nothing of Fox "news" own brand of reality.

Americans do not question how the many new Governors all apparently reached the same conclusion - to take out the unions, to take out collective bargaining. Not one, not two, but many more state politicians have decided to defang the unions.

Teachers, firemen and policemen belong to unions, and (correctly) believing that there is strength in numbers collectively bargain and negotiate with their employers (namely, states) for benefits and pay.

The fact that this is a nationwide campaign to bust their unions and force them to not be able to unite - the fact that this is not one state but is happening right now in Ohio, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Idaho, Iowa...

This is a coordinated, from above, nationwide campaign.

This is disaster capitalism at its finest - use a disaster (in this case the lack of funds in each state's coffers) to push through radical agendas on the quick.

The interesting thing in all of this is that this is done so openly and blatantly - after all, the goddamn union in Wisconsin agreed to the motherfucking demands for the so called "austerity measures".

NYTimes, Union Leader Minces No Words When Labor Issues Are at Stake, dated February 22, 2011:

“It’s absolutely clear that the governor’s budget bill is all about taking away our right to bargain collectively and organize into unions,” said Mr. Beil, 64, who first took a job with the state of Wisconsin in 1969, as a probation officer. “It’s difficult for us to understand how stripping people of their collective bargaining rights will help close a hole in this fiscal year’s budget.”

His battle with Mr. Walker is the toughest fight of Mr. Beil’s career. Already, the union has agreed to Mr. Walker’s demands to have public employees pay more toward their pensions and health coverage, translating into a 7 percent cut in pay.

Those concessions drew a moment of gloating from Mr. Walker at a Monday news conference. “That’s an interesting development, because a week ago they said that’s not acceptable,” he said.

The union fucking agreed to the cuts.

So why weren't the cuts implemented - after all, this is about balancing the budget, right?


This is about balancing the state budget and not about union busting, right?


By the way, my definition of "austerity measures" is "screwing the middle class".

Again, it is just a coincidence that so many state politicians all had the same thought and took the same anti-union action at the same moment.



As I wrote above, there is a limitless source of odious propaganda influencing Americans.

It is all over the TV "news", especially cable news, newspapers and of course the internet.

As an example, lets take this standard meme article, Anger brews over government workers' benefits, dated March 8, 2011, which is front page as of now on Yahoo.

The article is from a very small, pitiful and un-influential montgomeryadvertiser, but never mind that, front page of Yahoo! it is!

When Erin McFarlane looks at public workers, she sees lucrative pension benefits she doesn't ever expect to get. And it makes her mad.

"I don't think that a federal employee or government employee is worth any more than anybody else who does their job and does it well," said the Slinger, Wis., woman. She's been working a couple of bartending jobs since January, when she was laid off from her job at a Harley Davidson plant after almost a decade.

She's not alone in seeing public servants as public enemies in some ways. For some everyday Americans, it's a case of pension envy.

Envy. Why should they be better off than me?

A USA Today/Gallup poll last month found that Americans largely side with the employees, though about two in five that want government pay and benefits reined in.

Remember this stat - despite all the propaganda, 3 out of 5 Americans side with the Unions - a clear majority.

Also, keep in mind how the poll questions are written in this country, which makes this even more of an amazing stat.

Do you dislike the lazy union scum having better benefits than you, the patriotic working American, and if you don't you are a socialist liberal Hitler loving commie?!

Barbara Davis, a retiree from Cherry Hill, N.J., has been watching public workers in rallies in Madison, Wis., as well as Trenton. She says the protesters are wrong about tightening benefits hurting the middle class.

"I'm sorry, but what they're doing is telling off the middle class," said Davis, 76, and a co-chairwoman of the Cherry Hill Area Tea Party. "The middle-class people don't get all the goodies that they do."

The middle class people do not get the "goodies" because, the dumbasses, they are not in a Union.

Also, the definition of "goodies" is standard benefits and respect which is provided to all the workers in Germany, France, Spain, Holland, Belgium, Poland...

"It's the government sector worker who's the new elite, the highest-paid worker on the block," said David Gregory, who teaches labor and employment law at New York's St. John's University.

Right! He or she is better off than me! Fuck them!

If the government worker is "the new elite", what then does one call the bankers who get millions of dollars in bonuses?

Gods, perhaps, lording it over the Idiocracy masses... ?

Also, notice that this is not some schmuck off the street saying this propaganda meme - this is a professor at a university.

And not just any professor, a paid hack highly compensated for spouting the correct things in the mass media (his bio is here).

For instance, most non-uniformed public employees who have worked in New Jersey for 30 years with an ending salary of $85,000 can look forward to retiring at 55 with an annual pension of about $46,000. Working until age 60 and a salary of $90,000 can bring a pension of $57,000. And many of the New Jersey's public-sector retirees have no or low premiums for their health insurance.

For a private-section worker who retires at 55, relying solely on a 401(k) without an employer match, it would take a $100 contribution to a plan every week for 30 years and getting an annual return over 7 percent to get to the same level of pension benefit as the public worker retiring at that age. Those benefits would run out after 25 years for the 401(k) retiree.

Healthcare is FREE in ALL the other CIVILIZED countries of the world.

In America, it is part of the "goodies" which the Tea Party woman was so miffed about.

Also, pay close attention as to what a rip off a 401(k) plan really is - we'll get back to that in a jiffy.

To be fair, most public-sector retirees don't get such rich pensions. New Jersey's Treasury Department says the average annual pension due state workers who retired between July 2009 and June 2010 was just over $30,000 per year; for local government employees, it was about $20,000.

And the members of the state's two biggest public employee retirement systems are required to pay 5.5 percent of their base salaries into the pension funds.

And there is another side of the issue - the huge benefits, the high salary numbers used to rile the unemployed and pissed off Americans are the outliers; not that common.

The retirement benefits are also paid off each paycheck by the people who pay, day in, day out to at the end of their working career get the agreed on before benefits.

So what is the reaction of a typical Homo Sapiens Americana to the following scenario: a teacher works for 30+ years, paying 5.5 percent of each paycheck towards his retirement, the terms agreed upon before his employment.

Then, after the 30+ years and paying into the system, suddenly he finds out that, guess what, we are changing the terms at the end of the game. The terms and conditions we agreed on beforehand, before he started working, which for a teacher usually mean low pay and higher benefits and retirement?


And the reaction of a typical Homo Sapiens Americana: Haha, fuck him!

There are a lot of such reactions at work: the snarling face uttering the words "union employee!", with a sort of primordial tribal hatred.

The comments, of usually very obese, low skill, low class (subjective, I know) workers in a lunchroom usually contain the words "lazy", "union", "fucking" and lots of nods and knowing head shaking.

This is, in case you need things spelled out to you, the sin of ENVY.

Interestingly, Americans do not complain about the bank bailouts, the banker elite getting the highest bonuses in history for two years in a row, paid for by their (and mine, goddamit!) tax dollars.

All quiet on the banker front.

And who gets the benevolence of the new breed of American state politician?

Walker donor wins tax break in budget:

Things are tight at the statehouse, but not so tight that Gov. Scott Walker couldn't find room in his proposed state budget to insert a tax break for some in Wisconsin's prefab home industry.

And it's a tax break that would benefit one of his biggest contributors - Wausau Homes in Rothschild.

Same old, same old Madison politics?


Maybe not.

It is true that the firm's co-owners and the co-founder's wife donated a total of $25,000 to Walker's campaign fund last election. The trio has also been active with the tea party movement and Americans for Prosperity, which helped organize tea party events.

Also, the head of the association that represents the prefabricated home industry said Friday that Wausau Homes would benefit from the Walker budget provision, which proposes exempting certain prefabricated homes made in Wisconsin from the sales tax if they are to be shipped to and located in another state. The state estimates that this would cut state revenue by more than $500,000 over the next two years.

$25,000 investment for at least a half million gain - not too bad of an investment.

Also, amusingly, notice the name of the place - Rothschild.

Nothing wrong with this here, of course?


I have noticed, first with alarm, then with resignation, how masterfully the American media machine influences people, and how easily the people in this country are influenced, their opinions - indeed, their very thoughts - shaped.

The outrage started with the bank bailouts resulting in record bonuses for thieves, which was deflected into outrage over the bailouts of the auto manufacturers (which, say what you will, at least manufacture REAL TANGIBLE STUFF and employ hundreds of thousands of people, when the whole supply chain is considered), which was deflected into the hatred of unions - aka hatred of their fellow middle class Joe Six Pack.

I have to almost get up and applaud - this was a masterful job, indeed, by the best propaganda machine in existence.

Bonus One:
The 401(k) scam

I always figured that my karma in this life is to play the role of an observer. Too intelligent to fall for the prevalent bullshit, too insignificant to do anything about it.

I watched with horror, and then with resignation (this is a theme of my life in America and with observing Americans and their - our - country) as the Naomi Klein disaster capitalism theory were coming true.

One area where a hit job happened was the area of pensions.

A pension is a GUARANTEED payout to an employee after a set number of years worked for a company/government organization paid until death, every week or month.

The iffy word here is guaranteed, and the corporations (and politicians), always on the lookout for new ways to screw the middle class, looked for alternatives.

After all, this money was not necessarily in play - and if I learned anything about this country in the last few years, is that the stock market beast requires more and more money to operate.

It is ever hungry.

And lo! a new way to screw the middle class and feed the beast was found.

The word of the day was "privatization", and the idea sold to the rubes was on the surface a good one - give me control over my money, give me control over my retirement, give me control over my destiny!

On the face of it, a grand idea.

Upon closer examination, however...

Sen. Harkin: New retirement scheme hinges on advisers:

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, would like to create a new private retirement system that is based on professionally managed pools of retirement funds. He doubts that Americans on their own can cobble together nest eggs big enough to finance their post-work needs.

“Forcing people to manage their own retirement funds isn't working,” Mr. Harkin said of the growing use of 401(k) plans by employers. “Most people don't have the background, the interest or the time. Instead, retirement dollars need to be pooled to take advantage of economies of scale and managed by professionals who carefully select and monitor every investment in a diversified portfolio.”

By gawd, he just called Americans stupid!

After all, investing in a stock market is supremely easy - you just buy low, and sell high.

Simple, right?

The 401(k) plan lets the employer off the hook for the retiree, and is now being implemented for government employees, but this time without the propaganda - this is an order, from above, totalitarian style.

So teachers, policemen, firemen - "enjoy" your 401(k) like the rest of us.

Forbes: 401(k)-style pensions issue for Kan. House panel,

Kansas legislators waded Monday into a debate over having the state move toward a 401(k)-style plan for teachers and government employees to attack the long-term funding problems of their pension system.

The president of a free-market, Wichita-based think tank and the chairman of a Topeka building construction supply company urged the House Pensions and Benefits Committee to endorse a bill making the change for teachers and government workers in 2013. They say the state and its taxpayers can't afford traditional pension plans.

Simply put, 401(k) is taking out GUARANTEED payment for retirees and replacing those GUARANTEED monies with, well, gambling on the stock market.

It is pure genius, because the idiot citizens of our Idiocracy cannot admit, even to themselves, that they are too stupid to understand the stock market and invest wisely for 30+ or more years.

To be honest, I don't understand how the market operates either, knowing that it is run by about 8 or so main computers which shape it, and the joke of a financial media in this country claiming a single reason de jour (daily reason y'all) for the whole market going up or down.

Typical article on yahoo or google finance is in the theme of "A big company releases it's Q3 earning, disappointing, market down", as if a single report can bring the WHOLE market down.


Tens of Millions of transactions, actions happening every nano second, influenced by one event.

Per day.

Anyhoo, I digressed.

Back to our 401(k) gambling.

One problem with idiots (like myself) investing in the stock market (well, gambling, actually) using their retirement money is this:

Let the 401(k) investor beware,

A new report from the Government Accountability Office warns employees to watch out for biased investment guidance from the financial companies paid to set up and run their 401(k) plans.

Although not a shocker, the GAO report nonetheless stings. People already skittish about the stock market are scared to put what savings they do have in a retirement account. No question many workers don't know what to do, so they turn to the companies running their retirement plan for help in selecting their 401(k) investments. But now comes this report that such assistance might not be in their best interest.

The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, says that the financial companies that manage 401(k) plans might not be fully disclosing to participants that they are receiving third-party payments from investment fund companies through deals sometimes called revenue sharing. These payments create a conflict of interest because providers get more money from certain funds. And for the less scrupulous, that's incentive to steer people to those funds even if they cost more or perform worse.



Like they say, a sucker is born...

The GAO is also concerned about providers recommending higher-cost investment products outside of plans. For example, let's say a worker is leaving his company and wants to roll over his 401(k) money to an individual retirement account. The worker may not be aware, because of insufficient disclosures, that fees are often higher for products offered outside the plan. A service provider could earn $6,000 to $9,000 in fees from a participant's purchase of an IRA, compared with $50 to $100 in fees if the same participant were to invest in a fund within a plan, the GAO said.

It's my money, and I want to control my destiny!

Welp! well, there you go, idiot, control away ahoooooooy!

So now, Homo Sapiens Americana is retiring.

How is it going, HSA?

Wall Street Journal: Retiring Boomers Find 401(k) Plans Fall Short,

The 401(k) generation is beginning to retire, and it isn't a pretty sight.

The retirement savings plans that many baby boomers thought would see them through old age are falling short in many cases.

The median household headed by a person aged 60 to 62 with a 401(k) account has less than one-quarter of what is needed in that account to maintain its standard of living in retirement, according to data compiled by the Federal Reserve and analyzed by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College for The Wall Street Journal. Even counting Social Security and any pensions or other savings, most 401(k) participants appear to have insufficient savings. Data from other sources also show big gaps between savings and what people need, and the financial crisis has made things worse.

"Inevitably, we find that, for the average person, there is not enough there," says financial adviser Paul Merritt of NTrust Wealth Management in Virginia Beach, Va., who has found himself advising many retirement-age people with too little savings. "The discussion turns out to be: What kind of part-time work do you want to do after you retire?"

He has clients contemplating part-time work into their 70s, he says.


No sympathy from me to you, baby boomer HSA - it's your money, and you are so smart and in control of your deeeeeeeeeestiny (yes, I gloat, I have become what I despise).

In general, people facing problems today got too little advice, or bad advice. They didn't realize that a 6% annual contribution, with a 3% company match, might not be enough.

Some started saving too late or suspended contributions when they or their spouses lost jobs. Others borrowed against 401(k) accounts for medical emergencies or ran up debts too close to their planned retirement dates.

In the stock-market collapses of 2000-2002 and 2007-2009, many people were over-invested in stocks. Some bailed out after the market collapse, suffering on the way down and then missing the rebound.

Several problems highlighted here.

First, the retirement here depends on the vagaries of the stock market OVER WHICH YOU HAVE NO CONTROL.

Only an idiot would prefer a 401(k) over a GUARANTEED pension, and willingly switch.

Second, this is based on your contributions, and god forbid if your spouse, you or your kid get seriously sick and/or lose a job.

Then, no contributions mean no retirement - and if it is a serious illness, and your ever private health insurance company throws you out of the plan and you become bankrupt... What happens to your 401(k) retirement then, HSA?

And then, the third reason - do you really think that Joe Six Pack is an investment guru, able to switch his monies from bonds to gold to silver to commodities to stocks and back again, guided by the American financial media?

So the losers are the middle class rubes, the winners are the big business and, of course,

They were a gold mine for money-management firms. In 30 years, the 401(k) went from a small program to a multi-trillion-dollar industry supporting thousands of financial planners and money managers.

Ta Da!

But a 401(k) also requires steady, significant savings. And unlike corporate pension plans, which are guaranteed by the U.S. government, 401(k) plans have no such backstop.

Once again, kiddies:


401(k) = not so much.

It's my money, and I want to control my deeeeeeeeeeeeeestiny!


So how much of their salary should people contribute?

Who knows - I know, lets ask the experts!

Vanguard Group, one of the biggest providers of 401 (k) plans, has changed its advice on how much people should save. Vanguard long advised people to put 9% to 12% of their salaries—including the employer contribution—in their 401(k) plans. The current median amount that people contribute is 9%, counting the employer contribution, Vanguard says.

Recently, Vanguard has begun urging people to contribute 12% to 15%, including the employer contribution, because of the stock market's weak returns and uncertainty about the future of Social Security and Medicare.

Splendid, a moving goalpost.

I assume that in a few years the "experts" will say 25%.

It's my money, and I want to control my deeeeeeeeeeeeeestiny!

Millions ready to retire -- but not financially,

''The baby boomers will be the first generation that will do worse in retirement than their parents," said Teresa Ghilarducci, an economics professor and retirement specialist at the New School for Social Research in New York. "And the next generation of retirees will do a lot worse; they fall off a cliff," largely because so few of them will have the traditional pensions that many of their parents and grandparents had.

It's my money, and I...

Americans planning to retire in 5-10 years could see their golden years tarnished by a confluence of circumstances, including depressed housing prices, soaring health costs and a fitful stock market that has pummeled 401(k) plans.

That GUARANTEED part looks mighty good now, eh, baby boomer baby?

Phyllis Kaplan, of Highland Park, Ill., began receiving early Social Security payments last August, at 63, because she had lost her job as a graphic designer for a publishing house. She rolled over money from her 401(k) into an IRA, but she said that still left her without enough income, even with $1,200 in monthly Social Security benefits.

So Kaplan started working 10 days a month in a bead shop, making use of her artistic flair.

''I realized I had to continue working because I can't pay my bills," said Kaplan, who has been divorced for 24 years. "I have no pension, and I have to buy health insurance, and this job is helping me develop more of a nest egg." She noted that Social Security would cut her benefits if she worked more each month.

What a clusterfuck.

The government regulations are still designed over pensions.

The government regulations are still concerned with retiring the older folk, to let them live in some kind of dignity, and perhaps even more importantly from the healthy nation's point of view, to clear the way in the job market for the younger set.

How's that 401(k) working out then, when 70 year olds have to work, and want to work MORE?

A new report by McKinsey & Co., the consulting firm, is gloomy about retirement. The report, "Restoring Americans' Retirement Security: A Shared Responsibility," says, "The average American family faces a 37 percent shortfall in the income they will need in retirement," meaning "the average household will face a retirement savings shortfall of nearly $250,000 by the time of retirement.

It's not your money, doofus.

It is the stock market money.

And you have no control whatsoever.

Bonus Two:

During the Soviet era, a dissident (an idealistic, over educated doofus, member of the educated intelligentsia) protested the sclerotic, bandit government and instead of being killed outright like in Stalin's time was sent to exile.

To a far away kolkhoz - a state farm.

On a kolkhoz, every farmer was equal, and they all worked for the same wage.

They worked the same hours.

They did not gain bonuses for working harder, nor did they have any incentive to work harder.

They were all equal, except, of course, for the local Party representative, who received more money and did not have to work in the fields with them.

The exile observed an interesting common thread in these peasants' lives - envy.

The peasant families had small plots of their own, a very small private spot where they could plant their own plants to feed their own family (the kolkhoz's production of wheat, pigs', etc were all confiscated).

These private plots were tolerated by the authorities, because, without them, the whole village would starve to death. As long as they did not sell their produce (that would be illegal and highly capitalistic!), it was a tolerated practice.

But sometimes a particular peasant's produce was mighty, and was much bigger than others'.

What happened in those instances amazed and shocked the dissident transplanted to the village - the other peasants without fail denounced the more successful than them kolkhoznik to the authorities, namely the secret police.

They were pissed off that he had more than them, and denouncing such a person resulted in the confiscation of the private produce if not a term in a gulag (jail).

The kolkhozniki did not question the fact that the local Party bozo did not have to work the fields and made much more money than them while doing, well, nothing.

They did not question the police coming into their houses and arresting them at their whim for any real or imaginary crime.

But they could not stand when one of their own, from the same social class, by luck and hard work, bettered his situation.

Years of propaganda produced a special branch of the Homo Sapiens family - the Homo Sapiens Sovieticus.

Homo Sapiens Sovieticus.

Homo Sapiens Americana.

Do you see any difference between the shit eaters?


zfolwick said...

you have GOT to add a facebook button to this!

Nemo said...

As a fellow 'karmic observer', I had tried on many occasions over the past 30+ years or so to also sound the warning on what the Powers-That-Be had in mind for the 'excess population'. All the way back to the mid 1970's when all the talk was about 'deregulation' and 'privatization' and 'Laffer Curves' and "Get gub'mint off the backs of the businessman, and we'll have paradise on Earth!" and all the other seductive buzz-words and trite sayings were being run up the flagpole to see who would salute them. I smelled a rat then, and that rat has grown to elephant proportions.

We let the businessmen have free reign, alright...and look where we are now. Greed always trumps ethics, every time. Call it a historical cycle. One that a great many people in the past tried to warn us about, but were drowned out by the very same propaganda you mention.

So now...we're staring the very real specter of financial (and inevitably, social) collapse in the face. Thanks largely to the cloud-cuckoo-land beliefs of HSA, who wouldn't listen to ear-grating, busted-bottle, mean facts when they could be serenaded by sweet hosannas of grift-prone Uber-Babbits... who promptly robbed them (and all the rest of us) blind.

All perfectly predictable.

Santayana was right, and is probably laughing his arse off in the Afterlife...

Anonymous said...

Great stuff.

You've probably seen this George Carlin clip dealing with this topic but in case you haven't: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5dBZDSSky0

Anonymous said...

Public sector unions should be illegal. Why should government employees be able to force politicians to raise taxes to fund their demands, while the taxpayers take it up the ass to pay for it?

Nobody should have the ability to raise their own salary at the expense of everybody else.

Anonymous said...

Really weak article considering your previous entries. I would replace the word envy with disdain when referring to joe-six-packs attitude towards public sector union employees.

I assume you have never worked in a union and don't know the difficulty in getting a single freeloading, under performing piece of shit fired. Also, with most unions having set pay raises depending on years of experience there is the same culture of laziness and unwillingness to do anything but the minimum. You touched on the same point in your Soviet Union reference.

Not to mention the fact that alot of unions require their members to pay dues, irregardless of whether the employee even wants to be in the union or not. They also require members to attend union sponsored protests and rallies, again irregardless of their personal opinion on the matter at hand.

Public sector jobs are also a magnet of social engineering policies. Placing under qualified, affirmative action appointed positions to 80 IQ high functioning retards. Visited a DMV/MVA or state office lately?

So maybe the YooEssEy at large is right that it is high time for police officers and teachers to bite the proverbial bullet and scale back.

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