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Why you’re wrong about communism: Here are 7 huge misconceptions about it — and capitalism Why you’re wrong about communism: Here are 7 huge misconceptions about it —

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Why you’re wrong about communism: Here are 7 huge misconceptions about it — and capitalism

Why you’re wrong about communism: Here are 7 huge misconceptions about it — and capitalism
written by Jesse Myerson / Salon January 14, 2019
18

As the commentary around the deaths of Nelson Mandela, Amiri Baraka and Pete Seeger made abundantly clear, most of what Americans think they know about capitalism and communism is arrant…

 

As the commentary around the deaths of Nelson Mandela, Amiri Baraka and Pete Seeger made abundantly clear, most of what Americans think they know about capitalism and communism is arrant nonsense. This is not surprising, given our country’s history of Red Scares designed to impress that anti-capitalism is tantamount to treason. In 2014, though, we are too far removed from the Cold War-era threat of thermonuclear annihilation to continue without taking stock of the hype we’ve been made, despite Harry Allen’s famous injunction, to believe. So, here are seven bogus claims people make about communism and capitalism.

 

1. Only communist economies rely on state violence.

 
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Obviously, no private equity baron worth his weight in leveraged buyouts will ever part willingly with his fortune, and any attempt to achieve economic justice (like taxation) will encounter stiff opposition from the ownership class. But state violence (like taxation) is inherent in every set of property rights a government can conceivably adopt – including those that allowed the aforementioned hypothetical baron to amass said fortune.

 

In capitalism, competing ownership claims are settled by the state’s willingness to use violence to exclude all but one claimant. If I lay claim to one of David Koch’s mansions, libertarian that he is, he’s going to rely on big government and its guns to set me right. He owns that mansion because the state says he does and threatens to imprison anyone who disagrees. Where there isn’t a state, whoever has the most violent power determines who gets the stuff, be that a warlord, a knight, the mafia or a gang of cowboys in the Wild West. Either by vigilantes or the state, property rights rely on violence.

 

This is true both of personal possessions and private property, but it is important not to confuse the two. Property implies not a good, but a title – deeds, contracts, stocks, bonds, mortgages, &c. When Marxists talk of collectivizing ownership claims on land or “the means of production,” we are in the realm of property; when Fox Business Channel hosts move to confiscate my tie, we are in the realm of personal possessions. Communism necessarily distributes property universally, but, at least as far as this communist is concerned, can still allow you to keep your smartphone. Deal?

 

2. Capitalist economies are based on free exchange.

 

The mirror-image of the “oppressive communism” myth is the “liberatory capitalism” one. The idea that we’re all going around making free choices all the time in an abundant market where everyone’s needs get met is patently belied by the lived experience of hundreds of millions of people. Most find ourselves constantly stuck between competing pressures and therefore stressed out, exhausted, lonely, and in search of meaning. — as though we’re not in control of our lives.

 

We aren’t; the market is. If you don’t think so, try and exit “the market.” The origin of capitalism was depriving British peasants of their access to land (seizure of property, you might call it), and therefore their means of subsistence, making them dependent on the market for their survival. Once propertyless, they were forced to flock to the dreck, drink and disease of slum-ridden cities to sell the only thing they had – their capacity to use their brains and muscles to work – or die. Just like them, the vast majority of people today are deprived of access to the resources we need to flourish, though they exist in abundant quantities, so as to force us to work for a boss who is trying to get rich by paying us less and working us harder.

 

Even that boss (the apparent victor in the “free exchange”) isn’t free: the market places imperatives on the ownership class to relentlessly accumulate wealth and develop the forces of production or else fail. Capitalists are compelled to support oppressive regimes and wreck the planet, as a matter of business, even as they protest good personal intentions.

 

And that’s just the principle of the system. The US’s particular brand of capitalism required exterminating a continent’s worth of indigenous people and enslaving millions of kidnapped Africans. And all the capitalist industry was only possible because white women, considered the property of their fathers and husbands, were performing the invisible tasks of child-rearing and housework, without remuneration. Three cheers for free exchange.

 

3. Communism killed 110 million* people for resisting dispossession.

 

*The number cited is as consistent as it is rooted in sound research; i.e., not.

 

Greg Gutfeld, one of the hosts of Fox News’ “The Five” and a historical scholar of zero renown, recently advanced the position that “only the threat of death can prop up a left-wing dream, because no one in their right mind would volunteer for this crap. Hence, 110 million dead.” In declaring this, Gutfeld and his ilk insult the suffering of the millions of people who died under Stalin, Mao, and other 20th Century Communist dictators. Making up a big-sounding number of people and chalking their deaths up to some abstract “communism” is no way to enact a humanistic commitment to victims of human rights atrocities.

 

For one thing, a large number of the people killed under Soviet communism weren’t the kulaks everyone pretends to care about but themselves communists. Stalin, in his paranoid cruelty, not only had Russian revolutionary leaders assassinated and executed, but indeed exterminated entire communist parties. These people weren’t resisting having their property collectivized; they were committed to collectivizing property. It is also worth remembering that the Soviets had to fight a revolutionary war – against, among others, the US – which, as the American Revolution is enough to show, doesn’t mainly consist of group hugs. They also faced (and heroically defeated) the Nazis, who were not an ocean away, but right on their doorstep.

 

So much for the USSR. The most horrifying episode in 20th Century official Communism was the Great Chinese Famine, its death toll difficult to identify, but surely in the tens of millions. Several factors evidently contributed to this atrocity, but central to it was Mao’s “Great Leap Forward,” a disastrous combination of applied pseudoscience, stat-juking, and political persecution designed to transform China into an industrial superpower in the blink of an eye. The experiment’s results were extremely grim, but to claim that the victims died because they, in their right minds, would not volunteer for “a left-wing dream” is ludicrous. Famine is not a uniquely “left-wing” problem.

 

4. Capitalist governments don’t commit human rights atrocities.

 

Whatever one’s assessment of the crimes committed by Communist leaders, it is unwise for capitalism’s cheerleaders to play the body-count game, because if people like me have to account for the gulag and the Great Sparrow campaign, they’ll have to account for the slave trade, indigenous extermination, “Late Victorian Holocausts” and every wargenocide and massacre carried out by the US and its proxies in the effort to defeat communism. Since the pro-capitalist set cares so deeply for the suffering of the Russian and Chinese masses, perhaps they’ll even want to account for the millions of deaths resulting from those countries’ transitions to capitalism.

 

It should be intuitive that capitalism, which glorifies rapid growth amidst ruthless competition, would produce great acts of violence and deprivation, but somehow its defenders are convinced that it is always and everywhere a force for righteousness and liberation. Let them try to convince the tens of millions of people who die of malnutrition every year because the free market is incapable of engineering a situation in which less than half of the world’s food is thrown away.

 

The 100 million deaths that are perhaps most important to focus on right now are the ones that international human rights organization DARA projected will die climate-borne deaths between 2012 and 2030. 100 million more will follow those, and they will not take 18 years to die. Famine like the human species has never known is in the offing because the free market does not price carbon and oil-extracting capitalist firms  have, since the collapse of the USSR, become sovereigns of their own. The most virulent anti-communists have a very handy, if morally disgraceful, way of treating this mass extinction event: they deny that it’s happening.

 

5. 21st Century American communism would resemble 20th century Soviet and Chinese horrors.

 

Before their revolutions, Russia and China were pre-industrial, agricultural, largely illiterate societies whose masses were peasants spread out over truly vast expanses of land. In the United States today, robots make robots, and less than 2% of population works in agriculture. These two states of affairs are incalculably dissimilar. The simple invocation of the former therefore has no value as an argument about the future of the American economy.

 

For me, communism is an aspiration, not an immediately achievable state. It, like democracy and libertarianism, is utopian in that it constantly strives toward an ideal, in its case the non-ownership of everything and the treatment of everything – including culture, people’s time, the very act of caring, and so forth – as dignified and inherently valuable rather than as commodities that can be priced for exchange. Steps towards that state of affairs needn’t include anything as scary as the wholesale and immediate abolition of markets (after all, markets predate capitalism by several millennia and communists love a good farmer’s market). Rather, I contend they can even include reforms with support among broadly ideologically divergent parties.

 

Given the technological, material, and social advances of the last century, we could expect an approach to communism beginning here and now to be far more open, humane, democratic, participatory and egalitarian than the Russian and Chinese attempts managed. I’d even argue it would be easier now than it was then to construct a set of social relations based on fellowship and mutual aid (as distinct from capitalism’s, which are characterized by competition and exclusion) such as would be necessary to allow for the eventual “withering away of the state” that libertarians fetishize, without replaying the Middle Ages (only this time with drones and metadata).

 

6. Communism fosters uniformity.

 

Apparently, lots of people are unable to distinguish equality from homogeneity. Perhaps this derives from the tendency of people in capitalist societies to view themselves primarily as consumers: the dystopic fantasy is a supermarket wherein one state-owned brand of food is available for all items, and it’s all in red packaging with yellow letters.

 

But people do a lot more than consume. One thing we do a huge amount of is work (or, for millions of unemployed Americans, try to and are not allowed). Communism envisions a time beyond work, when people are free, as Marx wrote, “to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner… without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.” In that way, communism is based on the total opposite of uniformity: tremendous diversity, not just among people, but even with in a single person’s “occupation.”

 

That so many great artists and writers have been Marxists suggest that the production of culture in such a society would breed tremendous individuality and offer superior avenues for expression. Those artists and writers might have thought of communism as “an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all,” but you might want to consider it an actual instantiation of universal access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

 

You won’t even notice the red packaging with yellow letters!

 

7. Capitalism fosters individuality.

 

Instead of allowing all people to follow their entrepreneurial spirit into the endeavors that fulfill them, capitalism applauds the small number of entrepreneurs who capture large portions of mass markets. This requires producing things on a mass scale, which imposes a double-uniformity on society: tons and tons of people all purchase the same products, and tons and tons of people all perform the same labor. Such individuality as flourishes amid this system is often extremely superficial.

 

Have you seen the suburban residential developments that the housing boom shat out all over this country? Have you seen the grey-paneled cubicles, bathed in fluorescent light, clustered in “office parks” so indistinct as to be disorienting? Have you seen the strip malls and service areas and sitcoms? Our ability to purchase products from competing capitalist firms has not produced an optimally various and interesting society.

 

As a matter of fact, most of the greatest art under capitalism has always come from people who are oppressed and alienated (see: the blues, jazz, rock & roll, and hip-hop). Then, thanks to capitalism, it is homogenized, marketed, and milked for all its value by the “entrepreneurs” sitting at the top of the heap, stroking their satiated flanks in admiration of themselves for getting everyone beneath them to believe that we are free.

 

 

 
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Communism has sucked in every country that's tried it.

 

I'm guessing that it's over-centralized, over-planned and doesn't handle real human greed well when it's hidden from view.

 

I'll take a regulated free-ish market over a fully planned economy any day.

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To the author's credit, several parts of the article deal with the fact that communism works even more poorly than capitalism.

 

I found No. 5 - "21st Century American communism would resemble 20th century Soviet and Chinese horrors"  to be not only unconvincing but absurd.  Nowhere it has been tried has communism undergone a "withering away of the state".  On the contrary, the trend has been for deranged dictators in countries labeled "communist" to grab power with disastrous results. 

 

Communism has been thoroughly discredited because it has failed wherever it has been tried.  Given communism's record, it is something of a mystery to me that a few still espouse it.

 

I consider myself liberal, egalitarian and pragmatic.  I have become a Democratic Socialist because I see the triumph of liberal values in the growing number of nations which have adopted that system.   In Democratic Socialist systems, capitalism is retained but is highly regulated and taxed.  Most of the Democratic Socialist countries have been able to achieve private industry which works for the general good rather than against it.  These countries have cradle to grave welfare systems and high levels of economic equality.  Studies have show the peoples of Democratic Socialist nations to be the happiest in the world.

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By the way guilluamezenz, any further threads advocating communism will have to be posted in NHB. 

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Marx was not a communist. So the fallacious arguments put forth by Adam Smith regarding the creation of a capitalism that was based upon egalitarianism required some thought experiments. Adam Smith understood fully the problems with capitalism and Marx paralleled his thinking. That markets could serve a good purpose is not something Marx would disagree with and in fact there were markets long before the advent of what we now think of as capitalism. 

 

But I often do like to enjoy a good socialist brew just as much as the next comrade. 

 

Image result for communist beer

 

 

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On 1/15/2019 at 1:13 PM, bludog said:

To the author's credit, several parts of the article deal with the fact that communism works even more poorly than capitalism.

 

I found No. 5 - "21st Century American communism would resemble 20th century Soviet and Chinese horrors"  to be not only unconvincing but absurd.  Nowhere it has been tried has communism undergone a "withering away of the state".  On the contrary, the trend has been for deranged dictators in countries labeled "communist" to grab power with disastrous results. 

 

Communism has been thoroughly discredited because it has failed wherever it has been tried.  Given communism's record, it is something of a mystery to me that a few still espouse it.

 

I consider myself liberal, egalitarian and pragmatic.  I have become a Democratic Socialist because I see the triumph of liberal values in the growing number of nations which have adopted that system.   In Democratic Socialist systems, capitalism is retained but is highly regulated and taxed.  Most of the Democratic Socialist countries have been able to achieve private industry which works for the general good rather than against it.  These countries have cradle to grave welfare systems and high levels of economic equality.  Studies have show the peoples of Democratic Socialist nations to be the happiest in the world.

You are right communism fails every time its tried. 

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Would a dedicated communist not argue that they are more truly liberal than a capitalist?  Both philosophies remain visionary  'ideas' because the ideals enshrined within have long been abandoned. Yet both persist, and both are an illusion so I wonder what other common ground there might be like 'wealth & poverty' 'privilege &  serfdom'  'inequality & exploitation and the list goes on leaving me wondering if we will ever be 'liberated' from all of them.

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2 hours ago, AlanMckennedy said:

Would a dedicated communist not argue that they are more truly liberal than a capitalist?

 

Only in some cases.  Dictatorships are not liberal forms of government .  And nowhere it's been tried has communism ever transitioned beyond dictatorship (fascism).  In practice, communism has turned out to be profoundly to the right.  And mainly for that reason, communism has been discredited by most.

 

2 hours ago, AlanMckennedy said:

Both philosophies remain visionary  'ideas' because the ideals enshrined within have long been abandoned. Yet both persist, and both are an illusion so I wonder what other common ground there might be like 'wealth & poverty' 'privilege &  serfdom'  'inequality & exploitation and the list goes on leaving me wondering if we will ever be 'liberated' from all of them.

 

There's no precise answer to that.  There are many ways of measuring national success;  military power ...  economic clout ... empire ... glorification of a rich few.  Probably the most typical liberal definition of a governmental system's success puts the most emphasis on egalitarian high standards of living combined with representative government and broadly defined "freedom".

 

But governmental forms continue to evolve.  The most current form of government that comes closest to the description of of "ideal" is Democratic Socialism, as seen in the Nordic countries and elsewhere.  And they have done it by discarding the worst and keeping the best of several other systems.

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Radicalism is always Utopian.  Radical left, radical right, doesn't matter.  They are based on false premises, fantasies, that if only, if we could just, all we need to tweak is...  And the tweaking never ends  Because there is always more, there is always conflict and fear and greed and injustice.

 

AND the entire premise of radical equality, when unpacked, is utterly absurd.  We discriminate, and we should.  We make all kinds of choices all the time.  The state allocating resources to support pure science is one thing.  The state allocating resources to limit poverty and ignorance and injustice is one thing.  Somebody has to make those decisions, right?  What's worthwhile?  Everything isn't worthwhile.  It's not worthwhile to allocate a million dollars to researching why some people like pink, is it?  I mean...is it?  We can decide not to do that, can't we?  So somebody has to decide.  The hierarchy starts with our ideas and cannot and should not be avoided.  People who align themselves with really bad ideas will and should find they have few resources at their disposal.  People who embark on things that are useful do and should find they have more resources.

 

If we work towards some minimum standards, if we can ensure people are not crushed by healthcare, that our economy isn't built to strand people on the hamster wheel forever, but instead is built to provide some economic independence, allows people to build a little breathing room if they make some reasonably good decisions, then they will have the the time and the economic freedom to consider pursuing their own ideas and dreams.  We will have more and varied players chasing down their own thoughts in all kinds of directions.  We will have what the free market is supposed to provide.  Paradoxically for some, I suppose, we cannot enjoy that free market without...regulating our economy properly.  I don't understand why that's so objectionable for some people.  It's just reality.

 

Crushing identity politics seems to the the hallmark of communism.  It has not only failed, but fallen apart, descended into a pit of horrible oppression in a big hurry, every time.  Does it matter what the number is that were killed in the Soviet Union?  The point is, it was millions, and why?   The answer to that is why communism is a non-starter.

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Keynesian economic principles (demand-side theory), as implemented in FDR's New Deal,  were the correct answer to the excesses of capitalism of the 1920's in the U.S., which resulted in the Great Depression. The New Deal was not socialism, or communism. It was a solution to the widespread poverty, and income equality caused by the rampant greed, corruption, and monopolies of "Robber Barons".


American big businessmen, (such as JP Morgan, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, Flagler, Astor) amassed huge fortunes immorally, unethically, and unjustly. The term "Robber Baron"  was coined by protracted years of harsh depression and the belief that the American dream of abundant prosperity for all was a hopeless myth.
Biographies of Mellon, Carnegie and Rockefeller were often laced with moral censure, warning that "tories of industry" were a threat to democracy and that parasitism, aristocratic pretension and tyranny have always trailed in the wake of concentrated wealth, whether accumulated dynastically or more impersonally by the faceless corporation.

 

FDR's New Deal was essentially a demand-side economic theory of capitalism that provided jobs, and income to the impoverished victims of the Gilded Age by expanding the role of government to include public welfare.
 

And It worked!!!!
At least for 50 years. Then came the 1970's...

Jimmy Carter inherited a deeply troubled economy. Inflation had been on the rise since the Johnson years.
In addition, a decline in worker productivity and a rise in competition from Germany and Japan compounded the nation's economic problems.
The resulting anti-inflation policy that was forced on Carter included controlling public spending, and limiting the expansion of the welfare state,
Moreover Carter argued that the ambitious policies of the Great Society were no longer possible, and that the Democratic Party must by economic necessity become more centrist.

 

So in 1981, roughly 50 years after the New Deal, Reagon was elected, and began the insidious return of supply-side economic theory, characterized by Milton Friedman and the "Laffer curve". This turned the Keynesian idea of creating demand for products, and commerce (by supplying the general population with economic security, and welfare) on it's head. The Freidman trickle-down theory would supply the new barons of industry (the 'job creators') with all the economic resources of the country. The big con was that the virtuous corporation, if given enough wealth would share that wealth with the general population.

 

After ~ 40 years of the Milton Freidman supply side experiment in trickle down economics, the results are in:


It did not work!!!
At least for 90% of the population. The top 1% will obviously disagree with my assessment that we a right back to where we were 100 years ago, with widespread economic inequality, rampant greed, corruption, and monopolies that exploit workers, and taxpayers.

 

Then, as now, it is parasitic, and a threat to democracy. These parasites have new names, such as Bezos, Zuckerburg, and the Walton family, but they are the new Robber Barons.


The debate should not be about Socialism vs Capitalism as forms of government. It must be about which (capitalistic) remedies can be implemented raise the general welfare of the population, and which services must be provided for the public good by our government without the corruptive influences of profit and greed imposed by private enterprise.

 

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It bears mentioning that the economic problems of the 1970's came on the heels of a 10-year undeclared very expensive war that did nothing to pay for itself (to say nothing of achieving no real political objectives, either).

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3 hours ago, splunch said:

It bears mentioning that the economic problems of the 1970's came on the heels of a 10-year undeclared very expensive war that did nothing to pay for itself (to say nothing of achieving no real political objectives, either).

 

This is true. Not to mentioned the Oil Embargo perpetrated by Saudi Arabia (the 1st of many of their hostilities toward the US).

 

Regardless of the many causes of the economic malaise of the 70's. The solution was not to abandon viable economic policies, and
conclude the Democratic Party must "by economic necessity become more centrist".  This essentially made the middle, and lower economic classes
of the population pay the price for these events, and emboldened the Republicans to discredit New Deal, and Great Society ideals.

 

The solution should have been to drastically cut back on the exorbitant, and unwarranted Defense spending (post-Vietnam).
To his credit, George H.W. Bush (who described supply-side Reagonomics as 'Voodoo' economics) understood this folly 20 yr later, and "re-discovered" the Peace Dividend remedy of the late 40's.

fy13histmilitaryspend.gif

(Bill) Clinton also tapped into this Peace dividend. He envisioned moving talent and technologies from dead-end Cold War projects to civilian products and services. This post-Cold War shrinkage of the U.S. military was very much a bipartisan effort. It began under a Republican president and a Democratic Congress and continued under a Democratic president and a Republican Congress.

 

However, this effort was only somewhat successful, and short lived. The reason was, (and still is) because supply-side economic policy was still the considered the magic bean for all economic ailments.

 

This became obvious with the sharp decline in economic activity during the late 2000s. The Great Recession is considered the most significant downturn since the Great Depression.


Again, the capitalism suffered the cancer of greed, and corruption rampant 100 years ago.
Again, a Democrat (Obama) inherits a economic mess, and is forced to capitulate to the ransom of the Financial Barons, and corporations by bailing the criminals out, and the Fed provided free money to these virtuous, and altruistic 'job creators'(/sarc).

 

Again, the middle class is decimated, and the general population is forced to pay for the financial orgy of greed and corruption of the criminal Barons.

 

It would have been useful to actually prosecute the actual crimes committed by these entities, and send some real persons, to real prisons.
It would have been useful (and still is) to address the root cause of so many economic problems, which is to say:

 

Supply side, trickle down economics is a farce, and continues to injure the citizens of the country (at least 90% of them).
Carter was wrong. Friedman was wrong. Reagonomics failed (demonstrably). Trickle down never trickles down. Corporate tax breaks will never trickle down, only generate buyback activity.


John Maynard Keynes was right. FDR and New Deal policies have been proven to be the best method of fueling the American dream of abundant prosperity for all, and reconstituting the middle class, while providing basic human services to those that need them.

 

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The kernel that sticks in my craw is, among the middle and lower class supporters of voodoo economics, they fail to recognize that there is no real difference between expecting the government to cure all of your ills, or expecting a huge corporation to cure all of your ills.  Either one taken too far will fail you in their own way.

 

If you want to advocate for competitive markets, slashing taxes without end on giant corporations and capital gains is not the way to do that.  That just ensures those entities will grow in wealth until they become so powerful that they start dictating to the rest of the world.  If you want the benefits of the competitive market, we need a codified, carved-in-stone policy for dealing with TBTF, and anti-competitive actors.  We've just been ignoring it, nay-- encouraging it --for decades.  Breaking up Ma Bell, we went through all that work and effort to split up what had become a monopoly.  A few years later, those companies just merged together again and again until they turned back into pretty much what we just did all that work to split apart.  And if you suggest that's a problem and we should do something about it, people look at you like you've got two heads.  WHY???  Did Reagan and the centrists and Voodoo Radio do such a good job of selling this mythology that people really think breaking up monopolies is a bad idea?

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'Democratic Socialism'. I love this phrase because it describes 'me' to a tee, so by definition I'm a socialist but to label socialists as 'radicals' illustrates a prevalent misunderstanding of what being a socialist actually is. I do not understand why republican lawmakers react so strongly to perceived 'socialist' policies when america has already embraced the concept of social security, food stamps, emergency aid etc. Before social safety nets it was simply down to how charitable those around you were prepared to give to ease your suffering.  As the wealth of capitalism expanded so Philanthropy came to represent the social responsibility  of capitalism and funded many aspects of social reform. Making a benefit an 'entitlement' to me is a socialist concept afforded by capitalism. What wrong with that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, splunch said:

The kernel that sticks in my craw is, among the middle and lower class supporters of voodoo economics, they fail to recognize that there is no real difference between expecting the government to cure all of your ills, or expecting a huge corporation to cure all of your ills.  Either one taken too far will fail you in their own way. 

They fail to understand the difference because no one (including recent Democratic leaders) explains it to them. the difference of course is that the government is mandated, obligated, and held accountable to curing the ills of the population, (at least the existential 'ills').

Corporations, on the other hand are fiducially bound to maximize profits for their shareholders. Period. They are the opposite of altruistic. Maximizing short term profits, and greed in general is not necessarily a bad thing. But when it crosses the line into exploitation of workers, and taxpayers (We The People - the general population, ), the magic bean becomes poison for the middle class, and highly addictive steroid for the plutocratic Barons.

 

Greed is good (in very small doses). It motivates, and promotes economic activity. It can be given to legitimate entrepreneurs to encourage development, and supply of goods, and services that can benefit the greater public good. It also can be given to citizens to encourage spending, and demand for goods, and services that can benefit the greater public welfare.

 

Individuals can abuse this benefit by becoming lazy, and dependent, and not contributing in return as productive workers, and taxpaying citizens.

Corporations can abuse this beneit by becoming lazy, and dependent, and not contributing in return as job creators, and taxpaying corporate citizens.

 

When taken too far, giving corporation the resources, but not the obligation, to cure all our ills, results in job outsourcing, worker / consumer exploitation, and Recessions / Depressions.

 

When taken too far, giving individuals the resources, but not the obligation to cure their ills, will result in greedily taking benefits without contributing back to society, or  consuming vast quantities if elicit substances, such as disposable, cheap, low quality products made in China, (sold through Walmart, and Amazon). They probably won't stash the money in off shore accounts, bribe politicians, or hire lawyers to evade taxes, though. The majority of the resources would pass through to create demand, and stimulate the economy. And yes, create jobs.

 

 

2 hours ago, splunch said:

Did Reagan and the centrists and Voodoo Radio do such a good job of selling this mythology that people really think breaking up monopolies is a bad idea?

Yes, they did. Hillary swallowed the bean, and got wealthy. Ryan and the Republicans became magic bean Cartel. Baron Democrats such as Bloomberg, and Howard Schultz continue to sell the magic bean prescription..

Why does the middle class believe this economically provable nonsense?

Why do climate deniers belief pollution is harmless despite it being scientifically provable.?

Why do anti-vaxxers believe the dangers of vaccination despite it being medically provable?

 

Perhaps none of our recent political leaders have sat down and explained the causes of wealth inequality, how it affects them, and the appropriate remedy.

FDR had endless fireside chats directly to the Citizens to explain the dangers of excess capitalism (in words they could understand), and how the New Deal was the only viable remedy. They already knew how it affected them.

 

IMHO, the only political leaders that currently understand these economic forces  are Sanders, and Warren.

However, both have jumped into solution space (M4A, wealth tax proposals, etc) without directly attacking the supply-side scam, and explaining why these solutions are vital to the current and future prosperity of 90% of the American population.

 

I am also reluctant to fly these economic solutions under the flag of socialism. I have nothing against the word, but it is a demagogue target. Socialism is a political concept, not an proven economic theory. I prefer Keynesian, or demand-side. But if it must be an -ism, then FDR-ism would better.

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On 1/21/2019 at 1:51 AM, dontlooknow said:

You are right communism fails every time its tried. 

Is Communism as practiced in the People's Republic of China today failed?

China's leaders still proclaim that they are Communists, but they have used the tool of Capitalism to develop China at a rate that no large country has ever come close to doing without serious busts.

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15 hours ago, ExPDXer said:

They fail to understand the difference because no one (including recent Democratic leaders) explains it to them. the difference of course is that the government is mandated, obligated, and held accountable to curing the ills of the population, (at least the existential 'ills').

Corporations, on the other hand are fiducially bound to maximize profits for their shareholders. Period. They are the opposite of altruistic. Maximizing short term profits...

 

IMHO, the only political leaders that currently understand these economic forces  are Sanders, and Warren.

However, both have jumped into solution space (M4A, wealth tax proposals, etc) without directly attacking the supply-side scam, and explaining why these solutions are vital to the current and future prosperity of 90% of the American population.

 

Corporations will reflect the people who run them. There was a time when a Wall Street investment firm was run by people who knew that it was possible to kill the golden goose, and they regarded it as a profoundly important responsibility to keep their firm growing responsibly for the long term, so it could function as a pillar of economic stability in the economy.  That was an understood purpose of the company.  I think the unbridled mergers and acquisitions that really took off in the 1980's and 1990's brought that to an end.  The corporations that seek to pack as much growth into the share price as possible without any regard for anything else ate the more responsible firms.  If mergers that serve the board with big payoffs, but yield less competition in the market and a corporation edging toward TBTF status, if those mergers were blocked, the short-termers would put themselves out of business and the folly of their ways would serve as a cautionary tale.  The company that funnels everything into the stock price can use its market capitalization to overwhelm and consume competitors, and feed itself on their products and market share and talent.  They get bigger, they acquire more.  As the competition is reduced, and there are no real alternatives to these behemoths, their screw-ups become a threat to the entire economy.  They are now Too Big To Fail.  Now we're stuck with the most irresponsible, the most self-serving and destructive groups dominating our economy.

 

Monopolies, cartels, anti-competitive practices, too-big-to-fail.  If we had blocked those mergers going back to the 80's, the short-sighted rent-seeking profit takers would have died and the wisdom of the conservative, responsibly managed players would have been demonstrated.  Instead, the biggest players treat our economy like coke fiends, and we let them, enable them even.

 

The aspects of our society that this threatens are pretty much endless.  As TBTF reaches new heights, services that people depend on for survival come with terms of service that circumvent the Bill of Rights.  Their political influence crushes the voice of The People in Washington and every federal court room across the country.  Divisiveness serve to perpetuate and cement the power of these actors, so they encourage it.  So the good we could accomplish by pulling in the same direction is lost.  Productivity measured in dollars?  The good as human beings we could be accomplishing is drained away into useless rent-seeking endeavors, and we are conditioned to praise and worship anyone who wins in that arena.  Once you're rich, the consequences drain away, criminal or otherwise, for your actions.  How much more deeply could we reinforce negative behaviors?  

 

Furthermore, this fraud is not sustainable indefinitely.  Eventually they will have killed the golden goose, which in this scenario means they have bled the entire economy for all the wealth it can bleed until it crashes, and called that "wealth".  How do our civil rights fare when that happens?  Can women and minorities and homosexuals and any other vulnerable population expect justice in a collapsed economy, which will still largely be run by the very actors that killed it?  History suggests not.  History suggests that's when the extremism runs amok.  Nobody controls what happens then.

 

So we're talking about allowing a handful of very large, powerful, wealthy actors suck everything they can manage out of the economy, to the point that they bleed it white, and in the process, destroying the democratic process, our Bill of Rights, and everything else that might limit their profits.

 

That's how I see it, anyway.  That's why anti-competitive behavior, fraud, monopolies and cartels, TBTF, is my issue, and why I weight it so heavily.  If we let the worst among us control everything the issues we fight over are just bones and scraps they'll throw us to fight over, and all of our efforts at justice and fairness and equality of opportunity and prosperity for the long haul will be pointless.

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The ills you describe can be applied to any developed country on the planet regardless of their political or religious persuasion Whether it be a democracy or dictatorship and regardless of the economic model adopted they all  suffer the social  consequences of 'government' Is it a coincidence that America, China, Europe, Saudi Arabia, India, Australasia, Indonesia etc all have citizens living in poverty of one sort or another. No matter how rich a country becomes it will always maintain an underclass even if it has to be imported as in some oil rich middle eastern countries. Every 'government has pledged st some time or other to 'tackle poverty' and not one them succeeded regardless of wealth.  Poverty is best seen not as a social blight but a necessary function of society.. This would explain the persistent nature of the 'underclass' and its connection with commerce big or small. Conglomerates have a vested interest in controlling wage demands of all its workforce and you start by making sure there is a pool of poor people. If big business is this cynical to its most vunerable citizens do not expect 'responsible' behavior to anyone else.

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On 2/6/2019 at 12:41 AM, XavierOnassis said:

Is Communism as practiced in the People's Republic of China today failed?

China's leaders still proclaim that they are Communists, but they have used the tool of Capitalism to develop China at a rate that no large country has ever come close to doing without serious busts.

China is certainly not a 'communist' state. The closest it ever came to communism was under chairman mao and he managed to mess it up big time. China's success is simply down to having a huge cheap workforce made available  to western investors and having some smart people pulling the strings.  China has a habit of taking the idea's and practices of other nations to boost their economy and like it not they've done a decent job of it.

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On 2/6/2019 at 11:59 AM, splunch said:

Monopolies, cartels, anti-competitive practices, too-big-to-fail.  If we had blocked those mergers going back to the 80's, the short-sighted rent-seeking profit takers would have died and the wisdom of the conservative, responsibly managed players would have been demonstrated.  Instead, the biggest players treat our economy like coke fiends, and we let them, enable them even.

 

I cannot argue with your observations. I only quibble with the TBTF acronym.

It is more like "Too Politically Connected to Fail."

 

JP Morgan produced no product, and only employed 256,105 people in 2008 , which is far less than Starbuck's, and about the same as McDonald's.

Are they also too big to fail?

 

2008 Bailout cost: $14 trillion....

 

the-real-size-of-bailout.jpg

From March 18th, 2008:

JPMorgan’s $12 Billion Bailout
 

Over the weekend, the Federal Reserve bailed out JPMorgan Chase.

No, that is not a typo. On Monday, JPMorgan’s stock closed up 10 percent in a down market, increasing the bank’s market capitalization by more than $12 billion.

 

 

From 2017:

"There are too many banks,” JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon said almost exactly two years ago.

 


And the beat goes on. Now, there will be one fewer.......

 

Today:

 

NYT:  The Biggest Bank Merger Since the Financial Crisis

The combined company will be the sixth-biggest bank in the U.S. by assets, falling in between U.S. Bancorp and PNC Financial Services Group Inc.
 

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22 hours ago, ExPDXer said:

 

I cannot argue with your observations. I only quibble with the TBTF acronym.

It is more like "Too Politically Connected to Fail."

 

JP Morgan produced no product, and only employed 256,105 people in 2008 , which is far less than Starbuck's, and about the same as McDonald's.

Are they also too big to fail?

 

If you just shrug when JP Morgan and Citigroup and AIG and everyone else implode in 2008, and let them collapse, yes, they are too big to fail.  They would cost not just those jobs, but they would topple each other in a cascading sh!t storm.  So now it's millions wiped out immediately, and all of the value that was tied to those banks, up in smoke?  I do not agree with their notion that there is nothing we could have done to take these banks in hand at the time, but I do agree that just letting them totally collapse would have nuked the entire global economy.  It would have.

 

But nothing was stopping them from taking individuals within those banks and prosecuting them for massive fraud, putting them in prison and confiscating everything they own here and abroad, assuming control of the banks completely and breaking them apart while managing the bailout as needed.  People should have gone to jail, without a doubt, and those banks should have been split apart.  That was the moment to Glass Steagall their asses and send a message to them and to us.

 

Starbucks is too big to fail, too, in simplistic terms.  If some handful of executives at Starbucks makes a bunch of terrible blunders and the corporation invests in some terrible venture that disintegrates and kills the company, yes, I think allowing that many jobs to just vanish into the ether instantly would not be something we should tolerate.  You would want the authorities to step in, assume ownership, break that bitch up, and wind it down while keeping the coffee shops open and spreading out the ownership before releasing it back into the wild.  

 

Obviously the difference between Starbucks and Goldman Sachs is that Starbucks isn't in the business of leveraging itself up to its eyeballs in interconnected schemes around the globe, rigging markets and selling fraudulent "dogsh!t" (their words) to their customers and pulling profits out of the system while jacking up the paper-only market to justify what they are pulling out and spending in real time.  So Starbucks isn't nearly as vulnerable or dangerous to the economy.  But I suppose there is nothing stopping it.  They could decide to leverage all of their real estate and equipment to invest in money-making schemes.  Why not?

 

I don't want to micro-manage these behemoths.  It's impossible, because they are so big and powerful and interconnected that it's impossible to think of all the ways such entities will manipulate and game the system.  They accumulate such wealth and power that they hire the world's best talent and employ it coming up with new and creative high tech ways to rig the game in ways that regulators never understand until it's over.  Just break them up.

 

People, especially right-wingers, seem to think that's radical.  Why is that radical?  It was the law until 20 years ago.  And it was the law until a mere 9 years before they crashed the economy the last time.  Nine years into throwing out the framework of our financial regulations, they nearly killed the whole planet's economy, and at that point, people behaved as if reinstating those regulations was like harking back to the fvcking Stone Age.  Impossible.  Couldn't be done.  Nine years of a screaming fireball of fraud after repealing Glass Steagall, it had somehow become impossible for us to regulate our economy in ways that prevented this scale of disaster for 70 years.  In 9 years it went from established fact to outrageous.

 

I smell propaganda.

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5 hours ago, splunch said:

If you just shrug when JP Morgan and Citigroup and AIG and everyone else implode in 2008, and let them collapse, yes, they are too big to fail.  They would cost not just those jobs, but they would topple each other in a cascading sh!t storm.  So now it's millions wiped out immediately, and all of the value that was tied to those banks, up in smoke?  I do not agree with their notion that there is nothing we could have done to take these banks in hand at the time, but I do agree that just letting them totally collapse would have nuked the entire global economy.  It would have.

I think we are in agreement. I was just trying to figure out what would we measure to determine if a corporation was indeed too big.

 

The accepted definition:  certain corporations, particularly financial institutions, are so large, vital, important, and so interconnected that their failure would be disastrous to the greater economic system, and that they therefore must be supported by government when they face potential failure.

Not a very informative definition if you ask me.

 

Anyway,  what form of capitalism allows corporations to keep all gains made, but pass the risk onto the general population?

This is very, very, bad behaviour, and should not be rewarded.

They should be allowed to go under in a predictable manner, maybe like a SUPER FDIC that is paid for through financial transactions.

 

I'm telling you history is repeating itself.....

In 1914, Louis Brandeis railed against what he called the “curse of bigness" He warned that banks, railroads and steel companies had grown so huge that they were lording it over the nation’s economic and political life. Brandeis worried that the corporate giants of his day would imperil democracy through concentrated economic power. His writings helped drum up support for the creation of the Federal Reserve System, antitrust laws and trust busting.

 

I found 2 good articles on the subject:

 

Remarks by FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair to The Economic Club of New York - April 29, 2009

<snip>

FDIC chair Sheila Bair: "The idea that certain financial firms were too big to fail, should be tossed in the dustbin.”

 

“Too Big to Fail” Must Die

<snip>

"Until the early 1980s, it was generally assumed that failure was a possibility for financial institutions, along with losses for investors who lent to them or held shares in them. Sensible regulation underpinned the assumption. Back in the mid-1930s, the trough of the Great Depression, the federal government created a way for commercial banks to go under without catastrophically damaging the broader economy"

 

6 hours ago, splunch said:

But nothing was stopping them from taking individuals within those banks and prosecuting them for massive fraud, putting them in prison and confiscating everything they own here and abroad, assuming control of the banks completely and breaking them apart while managing the bailout as needed.  People should have gone to jail, without a doubt, and those banks should have been split apart.  That was the moment to Glass Steagall their asses and send a message to them and to us. 

 

Yes!!

 

6 hours ago, splunch said:

People, especially right-wingers, seem to think that's radical.  Why is that radical?  It was the law until 20 years ago.  And it was the law until a mere 9 years before they crashed the economy the last time.  Nine years into throwing out the framework of our financial regulations, they nearly killed the whole planet's economy, and at that point, people behaved as if reinstating those regulations was like harking back to the fvcking Stone Age.  Impossible.  Couldn't be done.  Nine years of a screaming fireball of fraud after repealing Glass Steagall, it had somehow become impossible for us to regulate our economy in ways that prevented this scale of disaster for 70 years.  In 9 years it went from established fact to outrageous. 

 

As I recall, Joe Biden has some unfortunate history in this area of Glass Steagall. It's the Third Way, ya know.

 

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So this is an age old topic it seems. What one person contemplates as extremes, another one sees as fixing a problem. Market economies aren't all bad, yes, there are good things in market economies. Yes, there's nothing wrong with trading between countries. 

Wasteful haste, in trading over time that unduly creates inequality, not too good. Trade that benefits different societies, regarding good use of resource, is. 

Take China, they got over a billion people, they don't need the US. They could, if required, fashion pretty much a self sufficient, closed for the most part, perfect economy.

Same for a lot of countries. That is, if you were to remove corrupt tyrants, and also remove unregulated greed for the sake of greed.

Who was it, Tolstoy, who in War and Peace, said something like, war just sucks, but it is truly only the infinitesimals who know of such. 

In Russia, you had the chieftain Oligarchy, this provisional government where back in the old day, people, those steeped in power thought, hey man, we're all doing okay. 

Basic feudalism, as was much of Europe back then, prior to, when the industrial revolution took shape, where trading went on, where you had some semblance of markets, but still for most, life was and societies were feudalistic for the most part. And sure, the revolution that happened

in Russia between the Provisional house of Romanov / and the Bolshevik /was an unnerving one/ big time / and crazy as heck - Stalin was one huge prick, there is no denying this - even though he was in fact a teeny tiny little physical specimen, with such tiny little hands.

 

The Bourgeoisie term, was introduced by Karl Marx, indicating the middle class.

The Bourgeoisie, how they might sit wavering in the wind, a seed never to find any true soil with which to manifestly grow... 

I read that on the back of an old Topps baseball card, Karl was a lefty, with a strong pitching arm, they all said.

 

Peace!

 

 

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Oh, Sheila...  pushing that utter balderdash that the repeal of Glass Steagall wasn't the problem.  Nothing to see here...most of the assets weren't in FDIC banks, so this wasn't about Glass Steagall.  Plenty of sources for that propaganda since 2008.  That phrase "liquidity crisis" as a description for the outright fraud and utter failure and corruption of regulatory systems is a tip-off that somebody is about to start unloading that BS onto you.

 

Plenty of people who understand this stuff very well have described how the merging of all those different kinds of institutions created the behemoths that were big enough and powerful enough to distort the system and cause that crash.  

 

You know where we could start?  How about leveraging assets more than once?  In what universe is it at all sensible for me to loan you $10,000 on a $10,000 car, when you've already borrowed $10,000 against that same car from somebody else?  Let alone from 30 other people!!!  Only a banker could begin to explain why that's safe and sound with a straight face.  The notion that I need to empower Goldman Sachs to throw around 20, 30 or 70 times its actual weight in world markets because they do such great things for us all...  Right, like that great thing they did in Malaysia?  For that great thing where they sold securities they created and managed and traded in secret "pools" to their clients, while shorting them and internally calling them "dogsh!t"?  That kind of great thing?

 

The fact is, behemoths like that empower the power hungry, the sociopaths, the psychos, who clamber to the heights of those institutions by selling their ability to earn profits right now to their shareholders, their board members.   Once there, as a group they keep selling that, making it happen.  How many times do they have to be convicted of felonies for rigging markets, defrauding their customers, money laundering, running scams to steal from public funds, etc, etc, etc?

 

These institutions are now big enough that they can weather things like Trump's trade war while smaller farmers are driven out of business.  Who will buy up their farms?  A small time farmer looking to build a thriving business that drives his local economy and feeds his family?  No, not exactly.  It'll be the same sort of corporate group that is buying up homes around the country, for cash, and then securitizing the leases on the open market.  What could possibly go wrong.

 

In another 30 years, there will be maybe 3 banks, 2 insurance companies, and a handful of corporations that are partially owned by one or more of those institutions who will literally own everything.  Every service or product you depend on for survival will be under monopoly or cartel control, and you will have to sign "terms of service" that will obliterate the Bill of Rights, because, hey, this is PRIVATE, so we can do what we want.  If you don't like it, don't buy it, right?  Except we're talking about FOOD, which you cannot even grow yourself, because nobody can afford to own a farm anymore.  (And even if they could, their neighbor's Monsanto pesticide-resistant crops mean new pesticides will be drifting onto their land, and killing their crops, unless they also buy those corporate seeds at a nice healthy markup...which means their neighbors also have to buy them...)

 

Breaking these behemoths up is really the only answer.  Force them to compete, and if we have services that have to be utilities, then make them utilities.

 

Geez, what a ran...  ;)

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9 hours ago, splunch said:

Oh, Sheila...  pushing that utter balderdash that the repeal of Glass Steagall wasn't the problem.  Nothing to see here...most of the assets weren't in FDIC banks, so this wasn't about Glass Steagall.  Plenty of sources for that propaganda since 2008.  That phrase "liquidity crisis" as a description for the outright fraud and utter failure and corruption of regulatory systems is a tip-off that somebody is about to start unloading that BS

Yea, a lot of weasel words in that speech of hers.

Her phrase "Everybody should have the freedom to fail in a market economy. Without that freedom, capitalism doesn’t work. "

freedom to fail seems to mean a) take extraordinary risk, b) make other entities absorb the losses, c) clear the books, then repeat under new management.

 

9 hours ago, splunch said:

You know where we could start?  How about leveraging assets more than once? 

Agreed. you seem to have a good grasp of the current (dire) situation.

I would only add:

Mandatory minimum prison sentences for antitrust violations, and other corporate crimes.

 

and vigorous enforcement, prosecution of  the following:

 

The Sherman Antitrust Act1(1890) which outlawed trusts, monopolies, and cartels to increase economic competitiveness.  Violations of the Sherman Act individuals can be fined up to $350,000 and sentenced to up to 3 years in prison. Companies can be fined up to $10 million

 

* these fines are a joke, every 4 minutes Bezos earns enough to pay the maximum fine.

 

The Clayton Antitrust Act (1914) provided further clarification and substance to the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. The Act focuses on topics such as price discrimination, price fixing, and unfair business practices. Enforcement is by the FTC and the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

 

The Celler-Kefauver Act (1950), strengthened powers granted by the Clayton Act to prevent mergers that could possibly result in reduced competition intended to prevent mergers and acquisitions that could reduce competition.

 

10 hours ago, splunch said:

The fact is, behemoths like that empower the power hungry, the sociopaths, the psychos, who clamber to the heights of those institutions by selling their ability to earn profits right now to their shareholders, their board members.

FDR called them 'self-seekers'.

 

10 hours ago, splunch said:

How many times do they have to be convicted of felonies for rigging markets, defrauding their customers, money laundering, running scams to steal from public funds, etc, etc, etc?

Apparently many many times........

 

JP Morgan's Criminal History:

Penalty total since 2000:  $29,715,750,704

 

toxic securities abuses 3 counts $13,450,500,000 fines

mortgage abuses  3 counts $5,411,600,000 fines

banking violation 13 counts $4,012,350,341 fines

anti-money-laundering deficiencies 2 counts $2,161,000,000 fines

False Claims Act 1 count $614,000,000 fines

foreign exchange market manipulation 1 count $550,000,000 fines

consumer protection violation 4 counts $520,500,000 fines

investor protection violation 8 counts  $436,052,143 fines

securities issuance or trading violation 8 counts  $427,324,210 fines

energy market manipulation 1 count  $410,000,000 fines

 

DOJ Corporate prosecutions / fines since 1999: (saving consumers from the scourge of Fine Arts dealers, and Mrs. Baird's Bakeries)

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (2017)    Foreign currency exchange: $550 million
Citicorp (2017)    Foreign currency exchange:$925 million     
Espar Inc. (2015)   Parking Heaters: $14.9 million
Sea Star Line LLC (2012)    Coastal Water Freight: $14.2 million     
Crowley Liner Services Inc ( 2012)    Coastal Water Freight: $17 million     
Maxzone Vehicle Lighting (2012)   Aftermarket replacement:$43 million     
Horizon Lines, LLC (2011)    Coastal Water Freight: $15 million     
Polar Air Cargo LLC  (2011)    Air Transportation (Cargo): $17.4 million     
Embraco North America (2011)    Compressors : $91.8 million     
Northwest Airlines, LLC   (2010)    Air Transportation (Cargo):$38 million     
Irving Materials, Inc (2005)    Ready Mix Concrete: $29.2 million  
Dupont Dow  (2005)    Chloroprene Rubber: $84 million  
Crompton (2004)    Rubber Chemicals: $50 million     

Sotheby's Holdings Inc (2001)    Fine Arts Auctions: $45 million
Eastman Chemical Co.(1999)    Sorbates : $11 million
Pfizer Inc.(1999)    Maltol/Sodium Erythorbate: $20 million
UCAR International, Inc.(1998)    Graphite Electrodes: $110 million   
Archer Daniels Midland(1997)    Lysine & Citric Acid: $100 million  
Mrs. Baird's Bakeries     (1996)    Bread: $10 million   

 

10 hours ago, splunch said:

In another 30 years, there will be maybe 3 banks, 2 insurance companies, and a handful of corporations that are partially owned by one or more of those institutions who will literally own everything.  Every service or product you depend on for survival will be under monopoly or cartel control, and you will have to sign "terms of service" that will obliterate the Bill of Rights, because, hey, this is PRIVATE, so we can do what we want. 

I give it 10 years.

 

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