Wednesday, September 29, 2010


MeanMesa wants everyone to read the words of the Governator of California as quoted on The Daily KOS, Kieth Olbermann's site.  The transcript of this short speech is included below.  (To visit the site, link here )

Olbermann:  #3 "Class Warfare" - The Governator handed it to big oil & big business in CA! The richest 20% own 84% of the wealth before the recession. The gap between rich & poor has never been wider. Citizens United has benefited the GOBP over the Dems to the tune of 6 – 1. Again, No $hit, Sherlock! " oil hearts"?! HELLO! DAMN! OK, boys & girls, this speech bears repeating in fullI want to talk about the corruption of the democratic process and about forces willing to sabotage the country’s economic future for private gain.

Schwarzenegger: "I want to talk about the Texas oil interests that have descended upon California to overturn a California environmental law, and then, as soon as they’ve done their dirty work thanks to millions of dollars of scare – tactic advertising, they intend, in the words of their own spokesperson, to fold up their tents and go home."

"Ladies and gentlemen, there’s a great drama, there’s a great struggle, playing out here in California right now that the rest of the world doesn’t pay much attention to and knows very little about and that’s why I’m here today to put the spotlight on this very important issue. And let me just say that the entire oil industry is not involved in this deception that I will explain here today. No, there are some oil companies that are trying to do the right thing. But others are not. Oil companies like Valero and Tesoro and Frontier and Koch Industries are blatantly trying to manipulate the will of the people and the public good."
Olbermann: Damn, damn, and DAMN!! I think the spirit of Uncle Teddy got into Governator Schwarzenegger! ;D These companies are akin to some in the auto industry who sought to diminish the roll of rail travel. Here we go again!

Schwarzenegger: "Does anyone really believe that these companies, out of the goodness of their black oil hearts are spending millions and millions of dollars to protect jobs? This is like Eva Braun writing a kosher cookbook. It’s not about jobs at all, ladies and gentlemen. It is about their ability to pollute and thus protect their profits."

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Invention of the Century? Maybe!

No, MeanMesa isn't fooling -- there's no joke here.  When there were no alternatives to horses and buggies, it seemed as if Model T's had simply descended from heaven!  Now, stranded in the internet age, we find a new idea just as exciting as the first steam engine.

Even information challenged Americans have a sort of suspicious fantasy of what actually goes on in a Congressional business office on any given morning.

Your secretary comes in with hot coffee and a list of daily "to-do's."  The schedule is remarkably the same day by day.  There are two strange looking crazies from the NRA patiently waiting in your lobby for an unscheduled appointment; a small flock of sign bearing protesters from the "God Hates Fags" church are scrapping with the police just outside your front door; PHARMA is on line 6, threatening to withdraw their campaign checks if you don't vote for House Bill 1341 as amended;  there is a "conference call" with EXXON and CHEVRON Ukraine holding on line 3; and, your DWI attorney is urgently freaking out on line 2.

Meanwhile, the average voter is trying to follow what in the hell you are doing.  FOX and the pundits either love you or hate you as final editorial decisions are being organized by their corporate headquarters.

How, exactly, can folks with jobs and families possibly be the "informed electorate" our founding fathers assumed would be the life's blood of the democracy?

Well, finally, there may be a solution for that gnawing frustration that American voters have no choice other than simply "flying blind" right up to the voting booth.

Introducing VOTILITY

Rather than mangle the story from here -- remember, MeanMesa openly admits to all the fallacies and foibles which relentlessly curse our geriatric approach to all modern technology -- just take a look at what follows.  It is the last page of the "sign up" process for a new net service called Votility.

Welcome to Votility!
It is the nation's first, unbiased, comprehensive, real-time, customer centric portal for congressional education, communication and accountability.

You will now be able to enjoy several benefits like:
  1. Being able to follow all congressional bills of interest to you,
  2. Being able to see all the proposed and accepted amendments to any bill,
  3. Being able to comment and vote on the bill, most times, BEFORE it goes to the floor of Congress for a vote
  4. Being able to see instant, real time voting results from around your District, State and the Nation and
  5. Being able to track the votes of your representatives to see how they match up with your views and much more...
The goal of the Votility service is simple: More transparency and accountability in the political system.  Please explore the entire service and let us know your thoughts.  Your Membership is important and your help in attracting people in all political categories is equally as important.  In short, numbers means power and if a lot of people together can do a little bit we can accomplish the goal stated above.

Thanks again for your interest in the Votility service and we look forward to any of your comments and feedback as it helps us customize the service to your needs.

P. S.  If you like what we're doing at Votility, please spread the word to other politically active friends. The best way: please use the SHARE button you will see after you start voting!  Thank you for your Membership!

Brent L. Willis
Founder and CEO

The link to sign up is included on the last line.  Consider taking advantage of this refreshing new idea.  MeanMesa makes this suggestion to everyone interested in knowing about the events in the Capitol -- November 2 is coming more quickly than most of us think.  It will be time to make some informed decisions!

Also, for our blog visitors from outside the country, you can sign up, too!  We know how difficult is can be to actually understand what the US government is doing when all the news is being received through the rather soiled filters of American media.

Stay informed.  Stay interested.  Don't be afraid.

Vote your best decisions for our country.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Alan Grayson and Citizens United -- Again!

MeanMesa has said it before.  Lots of Supreme Court rulings are so embedded in legalese that most Americans are stranded with only the pundits' descriptions of what they mean.  This, of course, definitely includes MeanMesa.  With all the responsibilities of blogging, dog walking and doing dishes, who has time to painfully thread through pages and pages of a ruling?

However, the scandalous Citizens United decision of a couple of months back (see previous Short Current Essays on the same topic:   link onelink twolink threelink four ) is one so nasty that it is worth fully understanding.  The neo-fascist "conservatives" controlling the majority vote in the now utterly dysfunctional Supreme Court simply out did themselves with this stinker.

The maximum clarity of the outrage becomes even more startlingly clear when translated into actual events "on the ground."  The knuckle dragging billionaires are testing their "wet dream" with progressive House candidate Alan Grayson (D - Florida).  They want to see if they can -- once equipped with the Constitutional treason of the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling -- actually purchase an election victory in race race they wish.

Grayson's email follows:

Dear MeanMesa,

Say what you want about those right-wingers, but they keep their promises.

Tax cuts for the rich? Check.

Endless war? Check.

Destroying worker protections and the environment? Check.

And last year, they made a promise about me. The Executive Director for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) said that I am the Republicans' Number One Target for 2010. That they would do whatever it takes to defeat me.

I took it as a compliment.

But here we are, six weeks before the election, and they're going all-out to keep that promise. They've already thrown $1 million in "independent" expenditure TV ads (a/k/a corporate-funded lies) at us. And now the NRCC says that it try to trash me with $817,000 of its own money (which, at the current exchange rate, is exactly equal to thirty pieces of silver). They're throwing everything at us but the kitchen sink, and then they're throwing the kitchen sink.

This is not spring training. This is not the trial run. This is not batting practice. This is not dress rehearsal.

It's show time.

They're hitting us with $250,000 of Big Oil lies, $600,000 of Big Pill lies, $100,000 of Big Business lies, and now $800,000 of Republican lies. All these lies, just to keep that promise to get rid of me.

Remember: In elections, there are no do-overs.

Alan Grayson

Monday, September 20, 2010

Part Three - "Cold Turkey" Trade Policy - Facing Facts

The third of a three part posting concerning the current dilemma in the U.S. economy - "cheap labor."

Where did it come from?  What can we do about it now?

 (For Part One, link here)
 (For Part Two, link here )
Part Two of this MeanMesa series provided a glimpse at the causes and conditions which led to the development of the current dilemma.  Hopefully, the postings so far have firmly introduced the reality of the situation.  There are no quick fixes.

California Dreamin' -- Two Unlikely Dreams

The first of the two dreams is that the "free marketeers," seeing the damage they are perpetrating on the domestic economy would suddenly find a bit of an impulse to cease their greedy, wicked ways.  However, when the soulful reaffirmation of such a change of heart is weighed against the incredible profits they are enjoying, MeanMesa has to, unhappily, place the prospect of this new nationalism in the scrap heap with all the previous idealism the same folks have already gleefully discarded.

The second unlikely dream runs along the same lines except with different players.  In it, American consumers become, well, consumed with the idea of "buying American."  Although, at first, American products competed from a position of quality with their Chinese counterparts, domestic manufacturing has descended to such a state that a.) there are no domestically produced alternatives to the import market for many products, and, b.) the cash strapped family trying to complete their weekly WalMart shopping list without enough wage dollars will walk by the higher priced, higher quality American products in favor of import items they can actually afford.

Clearly, expecting either of these schemes to re-establish the American economy  would amount to little more than the dreamy folly of a financial Pollyanna.

A Quick Visit to "Terms" and "Talking Points"

Now, an average voter could reasonably be expected to see through this mess to a way forward.  However, the national media fraud keeps relentlessly injecting just enough semantic confusion into the mix to keep such traditional common sense off balance.

The phrase -- and concept -- of "The Global Economy" is an excellent example.

In the relentlessly cited, yet suspiciously immaterial "Global Economy," the descent of American wages to the level of various third world countries is proposed as an unavoidable necessity if the domestic economy is to survive the onslaught of foreign competition's low labor costs.  "Bargain Basement" prices on imported products are often touted as proof of this scheme.  The fallacious premise, of course, is that wage starved American families can sustain some sort of equivalent "standard of living" ("purchasing power") so long as their closets remain packed with broken, worn out imports from low wage countries -- including China, of course.

Amazingly, the already vaporizing concept of the "Global Economy" has been reinvigorated by the international economic collapse.  The pitch is simple enough -- "See, it really is a global economy!  When our economy collapsed, it happened all around the world.  That proves it!"

The part of this story that the media fraud neglects to mention is that a good number of countries -- particularly those EU members with a more mature national economic policy -- are already having a robust recovery from this "global economic disaster."  However, once again the corporate media fraud, still inebriated with the stark dualism of the Cold War, steps into the fray.  "Those countries are socialist.  They have suffocating regulations, and their businesses cannot prosper under the crushing yoke of their domestic spending."

The point which is conveniently missed in this criminal over simplification is two fold.  First, the businesses in those "socialist" countries are thriving.  Second, the citizens of those countries receive social services -- paid for with their taxes -- which they generally accept as a good deal for the money.

In the United States, however, government expenditures per capita are far greater, but when it comes to the corresponding benefits, it seems that those are reserved for the "corporate owners of the Senate."  It is precisely these "corresponding benefits" -- health care, a rational energy policy, industrial development, infrastructure stability and improvement, a rational trade policy, educational outcomes, labor conditions and so forth which can no longer be set aside to the detriment of living conditions for US citizens. Doing so thus far has unmistakably revealed itself as a well lubricated path to becoming utterly non-competitive.

The most notable product of the American culture is little more than a clutch of unaccountably rich billionaires.

Is there a solution to this dismal mess?  Perhaps.

MeanMesa always tries to include some sort of a plan for the path forward.

Thom Hartmann's Tariffs

Hartmann's explanation of the history of the tariff idea in the United States has been simplified to produce suitable fodder for his rather interesting , inspiring, and highly educational radio show  (The Thom Hartmann Show, AM 1359, KABQ, 10 AM - 1 PM weekdays, Albuquerque).   Just here we can simplify it even further.

The United States government operated primarily on the revenue from tariffs for the entire time between the Revolutionary War and the timely addition of the income tax during World War Two.  In the earliest days, tariffs were enacted for two important reasons.

First, domestic manufacturing in the infancy of the country could not compete with the industrialized import power of Europe.  Tariffs on European goods were imposed to make the prices of those products high enough to stabilize competition with the less efficient manufacturing which was only beginning to take place in the US.  The US government was committed to the development of domestic manufacturing, and the tariffs served to protect those "start up" businesses.

Second, the tariffs represented a "consumption tax," and, as such, distributed the burden of the higher prices as a sort of automatically compensating, progressive scheme aimed at Americans who consumed lots of imported goods.

Naturally, as tariff regulations passed through the soiled halls of the Congress, every possible mischief came forward front and center.  No matter how tariffs were structured to the advantage of the backers of the current power elite, the complaints were essentially in a "solid state" of frenzy.  It was the beginning of the ever widening division between the middle class and the new, oligarchic, American aristocracy.

The point here is simple enough, however.  A similar competitive conflict now exists between products produced domestically and cheap labor imports.  If continued to its logical conclusion, American workers will see a continuation of the decline in their average wages until an "equilibrated state" is reached where wages are constant in both the rural areas of the Peoples Republic of China and Southern California.

What had once been the promise of the American middle class will have been exchanged for a nation of poverty level wage slaves and a handful of incredibly rich "free market" types.  (The incredibly rich "free market" types have apparently not considered that such a horde of poorly paid American workers will only be able to purchase an ever diminishing amount of their "stuff.")

The degrading standard of living in the US which has been caused by a.) lower and lower wages, and b.) fewer and fewer job opportunities will ultimately target all aspects of the domestic quality of life.  The first to be "hit" have been clearly visible already.

There is no government revenue which can be directed at infrastructure maintenance and development.  Today, the infrastructure back load in our country is already greater than $4 Trillion dollars.  Likewise, other social services which should have been foundational considering the amount of taxes we pay, have also slipped "out of reach."  Consequently, the bridges are collapsing, the roads are filled with pot holes and public schools have perpetually leaky roofs.

National health care has been savagely harnessed as a profit center for the corporate elite.  Education costs condemn many Americans to a simple high school diploma, and overall educational outcomes are even more dismal.  Innovation and invention seem to have begun an immense migration to countries where the education systems -- and the students -- can support them.

The central issue to all of this is that it is unfolding in a resource rich country which cannot solve its own problems.  The influence of the oligarchs has become so pervasive in the government that any redirection of revenue toward a solution is seen as little more than grabbing profits the rich have already purchased from the Republicans.  This lament could continue, but MeanMesa visitors can already grasp the general direction.

Hartmann's solution, also simplified, strikes directly to the core of the problem -- not surprisingly -- by reintroducing a new tariff structure.  This time around, however, the tariffs must be imposed directly on the respective values of imports of labor.  Further, since there is presently a troubling shortage of manufacturing activity in the US, there are few domestic industries to protect.  MeanMesa sees this as a potentially disastrous opportunity for the oligarchs and their Senatorial servants to simply loot tariff revenues in the same manner they loot everything else.

Tariff revenues must be directed exclusively to all the public areas which have been neglected  as a result of the collapsing economy and employment model.  The revitalization of the country's fundamental equity -- again, roads, bridges, school buildings, health care and a functional educational system -- will consist of labor intensive spending which cannot be exported.  In the short term, the tariffs may serve to keep the country afloat until material economic recovery becomes a possibility.

In the longer term, cheap imports will continue to present sub-standard quality, but they will no longer hold the narcotic appeal of lower prices.  American domestic production might revive to a point where most Americans are actually using goods produced domestically.  Other areas of domestic innovation and investment would naturally follow.

It may be important to realize that the economic malaise we are now experiencing really is due to a policy which has degraded the fundamentals of the US industrial engine.  The troubles we face are absolutely not difficulties arising from minor or temporary policy -- the essential fabric of the economy has been seriously wounded.

The Corporate Senate Greet the "Tariff Idea"

Anyone who even briefly thought that the health care reform "debate" with the oligarchy's puppets in the Senate was a new, all time high in the flow of inflammatory "buzz words and talking points" should hang on to his hat!  Once the initial shock of directing tariff revenues to domestic national needs has passed, the professional looters and other low life among us will launch into a campaign of vicious petulance indeed.

The corporate media fraud will present endless interviews "representing both sides" of the issue.  "Tonight for a deeper analysis, we are pleased to have Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin with us.  Joe, you first.  Isn't the tariff proposal the foundation of a Stalinist nightmare of the old Soviet Union style?"

Anyone who follows the propaganda cycles can take it from there.

However, even emboldened with the "new opportunities" emerging from the Citizens United decision, the ossified criminal elements in the Senate would find that the tariff proposal would have an unsettling degree of public support.  If it were to be implemented with the same attention to detail, that is, denying massive corruption, as the Recovery Act, the proposal's popularity would increase quickly.

Our "trading partners" in the Peoples Republic must learn that "most favored nation status" is a concept which flows both ways. Our petty ideologues in the Congress must learn that a rational, modern form of "good old fashioned" protectionism" holds the prospect of keeping us out of war for a few years and keeping the country afloat long enough for better times to come.

A thousand details remain to be forged for such a drastic legislative departure from our current "anything goes" style of cancer stage capitalism, but the promise of recovery may be held somewhere in this frothy mix!  MeanMesa encourages you, faithful visitor, to consider this proposal.

A "Post-Posting-Post-Script"

MeanMesa apologizes for the screwed up graphics in the original post.  

Thankfully, our IT Guy, Dave, (Who, for the sake of any interested women  among our visitors, happens to be a kind, brilliant and fun fellow and who cares for the elderly and -- is AVAILABLE!) fixed everything.

Thanks Dave!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Delaware Tea Bag Dingbat: "Just don't masturbate!!!"

MeanMesa is watching with an unsettling mixture of psychopathic hilarity and an ill defined, semi-comatose, gastric disturbance.  A Sara Palin "look-alike" with a Messiah complex fixation about stopping all masturbation in the country has emerged from, uh, somewhere in a challenge for Joe Biden's old Senate seat in Delaware.  Weird?  Not really, at least not when we look at the remainder of the Republican tea baggers who have emerged in other places.

MeanMesa never thought there were that many rocks to crawl out from under.  For this story we join Miss Randi Rhodes (The Randi Rhodes Show, AM 1350 KABQ, Albuquerque, weekdays 1 -4 PM).  Posting-wise, we'll just leave the rest up to Randi.

From the Randi Rhodes "Homework" assignment 
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 source
Christine O'Donnell expressing a "lust free" victory cheer

Curiouser and curiouser: I’m tempted to say the Republican Party is going off a cliff, but it’s more like they’re going down a rabbit hole. This Tea Party stuff really is like something from Alice in Wonderland. All we need now is the Queen of Hearts yelling “off with their heads.” Come to think of it, I guess that’s Sarah Palin.

Last night, fringe Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell won a surprise victory in the Republican Senatorial primary in Delaware. I would say she pulled out a win, but Christine doesn’t approve of pulling anything. It only took some 30,000 votes—Delaware has a closed primary. From the look of the results, it was only open to nutbags. The Republican establishment is not optimistic about their new candidate’s chances of winning the general election. Karl Rove said that in the general election, O’Donnell is going to have to answer questions about “her own checkered background.” And her background is more checkered than Bear Bryant’s hat collection.

Video of Christine O’Donnell’s comments on masturbation have surfaced. Christine says “The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So you can’t masturbate without lust.” And you know there are guys all over this country pleasuring themselves to this video of Christine saying that. Those guys are masturbating without lust, Christine. They’re masturbating with a mix of contempt and irony. Christine goes on to say “If he already knows what pleases him, and he can please himself, then why am I in the picture?” Give yourself a little credit, girl. If you can’t beat a bottle of lotion and a box of Kleenex, you probably shouldn’t be in the game.

O’Donnell’s anti-masturbation group was called SALT. What does a crusade against masturbation have to do with SALT? I could see it if it was saltpeter, but that’s a long acronym to have to think up a name for. SALT actually stands for “Savior’s Alliance For Lifting the Truth.” That’s an odd name for an anti-masturbation group. Wouldn’t the name “Stop All Lascivious Touching” be better? There! I did a better acronym off the top of my head than the one Christine O’Donnell came up with. I think masturbation must clear the mind.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Part Two - The Peoples Republic Discovers the "New Opium"

The second of a three part posting concerning the current dilemma in the U.S. economy - "cheap labor."

Where did it come from?  What can we do about it now?

 (For Part One, link here)

We left off the first part of this series of postings with the rapprochement between the United States and the Communist Chinese.  The remarkable foreign relations accomplishment was orchestrated largely by President Nixon's Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.

Kissinger was a notably effective diplomat for two important reasons.  Although an unrepentant neo-con of the day, what ideology he did personally host seemed to be easily dismissed when pragmatic opportunities of the moment emerged.  We saw this unfold visibly both in his "Chinese project" and, later,  in the U.S. withdrawal from the disastrous Viet Nam war.  The two events, it turns out, may have been more closely associated than many of us suspect.

Chairman Mao and President Richard Nixon meet, in 1972.

One of the many "failed management features" constantly lamented during the Viet Nam war had to do with the bridge that separated Hekou in China from Lao Cai in  North Vietnam.  The open complaint during the conflict was that this bridge was never bombed.  Further, at least to the limit of MeanMesa's understanding of the situation, the resupply shipments crossing the river were, at least at first, originating in both the Peoples Republic and the Soviet Union.

Diplomatically provocative tactics had been employed at other targets during the conflict.  For example, after an exhaustive warning to our allies, the harbor at Haiphong, North Viet Nam was ineffectively mined.  The effort did little to diminish the number of supply ships visiting the North from European sources on both sides of the Warsaw Line, but it served to mollify some of the most hawkish U.S. political factions.

The "Big Picture" of the U.S. Economy in  1972

1972, the year that U.S. President Nixon went to China, is a good landmark for the following geopolitical comparisons.

Until the 1980's election of Ronald Reagan, the U.S. economy had been making good progress.  Middle class wages had been increasing at a steady rate for three decades.  Home ownership was an attainable goal for most Americans.  The federal budget deficit was comfortably below the current, catastrophic percentage of GDP.

The "cash flow" within the U.S. was clicking along pretty much according to the developing "blueprint" of what a rational democracy might expect.  The well-to-do middle class was funnelling immense tax resources into the federal treasury, and the income tax rates for the wealthiest Americans was well over 60% of their incomes.

The high marginal tax rates invited American millionaires and billionaires to reinvest their earnings in their companies rather than suffer the tax rates for profits simply taken from their enterprises. This fostered a significant period of innovation, advancing product markets, highly efficient manufacturing techniques  and a healthy export market.  The concentration of wealth in the domestic U.S. made the country a global resource for investments and development.

The U.S. was the "money lender" for the world.

Perhaps most important to the point of this posting, the equity held by  middle class Americans was deep and rich.  They owned stocks and bonds, real estate, nice cars and enjoyed educational opportunities which were the envy of the rest of the world.  The "wealth" of the nation was deep seated and durable.  There were retirement accounts, pensions and substantial individual savings. Organized labor flourished, constantly pressing wages and work conditions upward for both the union workers and all others.  The roads were good, public buildings had roofs which didn't leak and a single wage earner could afford a house  for a family and still pay for his children's college.

The stand-off of the Cold War with the Soviet Union was costing a tremendous but manageable  amount of the national budget.  However, Eisenhower's famous warning about the "military industrial complex" seemed to be materializing, steaming along on its own, gradually allocating more and more of industrial American output into weapons for an eager world market.

Although far below the U.S., the quality of life in the Soviet Union was still way ahead of that in the Peoples Republic.  The Communist economies in both states had responded with a "heavy hand" against the previous Czarist (USSR) and Colonial (PRC) conditions which had grown so onerous prior to each one's revolutionary changes.  From the comfort of the United States, it seemed that these aggressive actions were  unworkable, but that view was not based on actually  directly experiencing anything even similar to the desperation imposed by either previous system.

Just as the Chinese developed an obsession to never fall back into the opium colonialism, the USSR had a similar determination to never again play host to the largesse of an absolute monarch.  These obsessions about political and economic systems in the Communist world easily vilified the international economic expansionism developing in the U.S.

The U.S. Ponders the Choices Concerning China

Here, MeanMesa must simply speculate.  Somewhere along the line, a new direction arose in the U.S. policy concerning China.

The prospect of facing two Cold War adversaries at the same time was costly beyond even the formidable resources of the U.S.  The gravity of the way things had developed in U.S.-Soviet relations (MAD - "Mutual Assured Destruction") was largely considered a tragic mistake, and a similar regimen of  ideologically confronting China could easily aggravate matters by duplicating the situation.

On the other hand, China was an economic "basket case."  Taiwan, the tiny island of refuge for Chinese nationalism, Chang Kai Shek, was the 7th largest economy in the world while the giant PRC was 16th.  If the standard of living of the Chinese people continued in the harsh conditions of the middle of the 20th Century, the outlook for the  future of the Communist government there looked bleak, indeed.

The "new direction" mentioned before was to encourage trade with the PRC, piping vast sums of American dollars into that economy to foster its development.  At first this trade was fairly rational.  The Third World PRC needed all sorts of things that were manufactured in the U.S. and Europe.  Of course, still smarting from the centuries of humiliation during the opium wars, the industrious Chinese went right to work on producing the things they needed in their domestic industries.

In order to make the trade idea work, American consumers suddenly found that they had a new access to a large variety of appealing, imported Chinese goods.  Just as the Chinese had concentrated on becoming self-sufficient by producing what they needed, they energetically approached the prospect of producing what we needed with the same fervor.

During the opium importation, "free market" types from the West had enjoyed the resources to make the scheme happen.  They had ships, armies and a colonial India to produce the opium.  They apparently were also immune from any troubling self-observation over the consequences of their ambitions.

During the outset of the new trade policies with China, a similar group of "free marketeers" emerged, again, in the West.  Here we can focus on the particular Capitalists of the U.S. trading economy.  These businessmen knew that diverting part of this country's  manufacturing capacity from domestic U.S. goods to imported Chinese goods would, in a certain sense, cut directly into the "cash flow" which our own country was enjoying.  Cheaper imported products would gradually overwhelm their domestic competitors.  Jobs would be lost, wages would diminish and businesses would close.

For years after this trade policy was adopted, these were exactly the results.   However, during this time the U.S. economy was so strong that the material impact of these changes was essentially invisible.  The strong U.S. middle class continued to provide vast tax resources for the government.  Innovative U.S. companies took advantage of domestic technological superiority to create new business.  The degrading consequences on the U.S.'s deep wealth were almost imperceptible.

Just as more and more Chinese developed an appetite for the opium, more and more Americans developed an appetite for the products of China's cheap labor.  The  autocratic Chinese government was able to manipulate the economy there to maximize the opportunities to import these, because of the labor costs, highly competitive products.  The U.S. "free marketeers" became frenzied economic "eager beavers" with an unquenchable appetite for the profits they could derive from the venture.

Little thought was given to the scope of the transfer of wealth.  In any event, no matter what happened, American policy makers were satisfied that this drain on the fundamental U.S. economy was desirable compared to the costs of  creating another Cold War adversary.  The crowd of growing oligarchs -- the eager "campaign contributors" to the same "policy makers" at election time -- were now making money hand over fist and encouraging their legislative pals to pass even more laws to support their scheme.

Predictably, over a period of a few decades, the standard of living of the average Chinese citizen improved substantially.  Not only was the country's economy enjoying the full benefit of the now terribly unbalanced trade policy, the dictatorial side of the Communist government was able to very efficiently (compared to a "free market," democratic America) direct this influx of capital to the construction of a modern state with both a convincing system of control of its people and all the trappings of a fairly effective, modern military.

There would be no more concessions of Provinces to colonial occupiers.

As to the artificially competitive Chinese goods, it turns out that they were quite similar to the opium.  Everybody liked them.  Yes, the market "quaked" a couple of times thanks to the questionable quality of many Chinese items compared to the American products they replaced, but the low prices for consumers and the incredible profit margins for the "free marketeers" always won out in the end.

Between the well lubricated legislative cover, primarily Senate Republicans, of course, and the increasingly stressed pocket books of Americans struggling through a very well engineered national economic collapse, the enterprise developed a certain "heavenly" quality.   It produced not only a startling "balance of trade" catastrophe, but also a robust collection of American billionaires, plutocrats who were enthusiastically willing to sacrifice the economic future of the country for even more of their new wealth.

In fact, the richer the opportunistic "free marketeers" became, the more dependably they could exercise their influence in the legislation.  When the office of the President turned out to have a convenient "price tag" during the autocracy, it became a screaming game of "anything goes."

That's precisely where it is now.


Although it may appear that the balance of trade is improving toward the right hand side of the graph, that reduction is actually the product of the economic collapse in the U.S.  Americans, most likely, continue to have roughly the same appetite for China's low cost labor goods, except now, they can't even afford these low priced items.  The balance of trade is temporarily improving because Americans aren't buying anything from anybody -- imported or domestic.

Not only were the low labor rates of the Chinese an appealing addiction to Americans, the case became even more grave thanks to another Chinese cultural habit.  Chinese workers traditionally saved their money.  In the pre-middle class environment of the 1970's, there were few consumer goods in China to absorb  the "capital power" entrained in all these savings accounts.  Cash rich, the Communists found that they could loan this wealth to the Americans to purchase  not only more Chinese domestic products but anything else which needed to be bought on credit, things such as the recent oil wars.

Predictably, they found that they could, in fact, loan this money to a reckless autocrat who wanted an expensive war for the Iraqi Hydrocarbon Treaty, an unpaid mutlti-trillion dollar tax cut for the plutocrats mentioned before and an outrageously, also unpaid, "bread and circuses" Medicaire Prescription Bill that was sure to win yet another election before the economy collapsed.

However, when the cash service of these debts was added to the now serious degradation of the economic fundamentals, the American economy staggered.  Either the "free marketeers" had underestimated the rate at which the disaster would approach or they simply didn't care.  Their initial plan seems to have been clear enough.  Extract all the remaining equity from the American economic system before it collapsed, convert the "take" to gold before the dollar's "currency value" slid much further and move to Paraguay.

However, this ambitious time line hit a snag.  This scheduling error caused a momentary pause for our new masters, but nothing serious.  

Some of the even less scrupulous among this crowd of billionaires decided  -- at close to the last minute -- that they would simply prefer to take control of the U.S., reducing the remnant of the traditional middle class to a modern version of "wage slaves," labor paid at wages which now had to compete with their Chinese counterparts. They were banking on the idea that once the economy faltered, most American consumers would not be able to comfortably countenance the prospect of quietly accepting lowered standards of living, and the resulting distress could be easily capitalized into a further political advantage.

This produced the hordes of illiterate hill billies chanting something incomprehensible about "take our country back."  Of course, the Chinese, aside from holding vast sums of the autocrat's debt, were not the villians.  American plutocrats, emboldened by the amount of influence their riches could  now purchase in the government, had -- in a very tangible way -- taken control of everything of value in the U.S.

However, once the engines of American prosperity had been replaced "whole cloth" by their Chinese competitors, further reductions in income amid carefully crafted increases in costs of living -- very profitable ones for the new plutocrats -- marked the permanent demise of what had been the promise of the pre-1970's economy.

Part Three of this series will discuss some possible options we, as a nation, may still enjoy, although probably not "taking our country back." Please join MeanMesa for the final part of the posting!

Please stay tuned for Part Three!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Part One - China and Western "Free Trade" - Opium for Everyone!

The first of a three part posting concerning the current dilemma in the U.S. economy - "cheap labor."

Where did it come from?  What can we do about it now?

MeanMesa would like to introduce this posting with sufficient humility to at least attempt to tag it for what it is.  What can be found here is a heady mix of selected  history, echoes of a traditional international economic conspiracy and a bit of foreign relations paranoia -- all topped with our infamous, yet delicious, cynicism.  Even with all that said, we may still have a point that our visitors might wish to consider.

So, with that inflated, self-aggrandizing disclaimer parked squarely in the light, let's take a cold look at what may be our national future.

A Gushing Historical Apology
Now, Wiki begins its abbreviated time line of Chinese history around 8,000 BC (BCE for the politically correct...).  Around that early date the Chinese had begun a remarkably stable type of royal kingdom/war lord governmental structure.  The culture was doing the things that a culture must do -- domesticating farm animals and field crops, building the Chinese version of a fairly impressive Paleolithic infrastructure of roads and cities and beginning to look at its neighbors with that "wouldn't it be nice to own that property" sort of imperial avarice.

The written account of Chinese history after that date would over fill a  dozen, modern Mid-Western city libraries.  Consequently, the exact part of all this history MeanMesa would like to emphasize in this posting becomes quite selective -- and, of course, unavoidably incomplete.  Still, perhaps even this truncated glimpse can serve as a viable foundation for our point.

Please do your very utmost to generously indulge us as we begin.

A Brief Account of the Recent History of China
The Portuguese were apparently the first Europeans to  actually begin trading with the mainland Chinese around 1500.  In no time, literally flocks of western "free market" types from a variety of countries -- the usual suspects, parties to civil wars in such matters -- had "discovered" that Chinese goods could be very popular and profitable in European markets.  Porcelain, silk, tea and many other commodities developed a market rush in post Renaissance/pre-industrialized which led these earliest capitalists to an even greater international trading frenzy.

From Wiki:  (Read the entire article here.)

Official British trade was conducted through the auspices of the British East India Company, which held a royal charter for trade with the Far East. The EIC gradually came to dominate Sino-European trade from its position in India.

Low Chinese demand for European goods, and high European demand for Chinese goods, including tea, silk, and porcelain, forced European merchants to purchase these goods with silver, the only commodity the Chinese would accept. In modern economic terms the Chinese were demanding hard currency or specie (gold or silver coinage) as the medium of exchange for the international trade in their goods. From the mid-17th century around 28 million kilograms of silver was received by China, principally from European powers, in exchange for Chinese goods. Britain's problem was further complicated by the fact that it had been using the gold standard from the mid 18th Century and therefore had to purchase silver from other European countries, incurring an additional transaction cost.

In the 18th century, despite ardent protest from the Qing government, British traders began importing opium from India. Because of its strong mass appeal and addictive nature, opium was an effective solution to the trade problem. An instant consumer market for the drug was secured by the addiction of thousands of Chinese, and the flow of silver was reversed. Recognizing the growing number of addicts, the Yongzheng Emperor prohibited the sale and smoking of opium in 1729, and only allowed a small amount of opium imports for medicinal purposes.

Of course, these hardy Europeans quickly "discovered" that opium would practically market itself!  After all, it seemed that everyone liked it!  Not only did the silver which had previously constituted an early version of the "balance of trade" problem for these Europeans come flowing back into European coffers, but the new product's sudden success actually became a formidable "cash cow" in its own right.

Bayer Aspirin?  Not exactly ... Source.

A great deal of history unfolded rather quickly, at least for China and its Imperial government.  The 1729 effort to make opium illegal in China failed.  However, the problem grew worse and worse, leading to two serious wars -- the Opium Wars of 1839 and 1858 -- in which the tactical advantage of modern European armies effectively wrecked the old Imperial structure.

The Chinese humiliation was without quarter.  Even the United States joined in the fray, sending warships and military.  Essentially no one in Europe was troubled in the least by the rampage inflicted on China so long as the immense opium profits -- by now protected by occupation armies from Europe and extracted from entire provinces which had been forcibly ceded to European interests -- continued to arrive in Western banks.

A few interesting, more contemporary notes concerning the catastrophe may be in order:  (Courtesy of -- Read the entire article here.)

In the early 19th century Napoleon said, "Let China sleep --  when she wakes the world will be sorry."

In 1900, the future Russian revolutionary leader, Vladamir Lenin, said, "The European governments have robbed China as ghouls rob copses." A descriptive 1898 French lithograph showed Queen Victoria of Great Britain, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, the Japanese emperor Mutsuhito and Czar Nicholas II all sitting around a giant pizza, inscribed with China, dividing it up with butcher knives. 

“This inferiority complex has been institutionalized in the Chinese mind." Orville Schell wrote. “In the early 20th century China took up its victimization as a theme and, and it became a fundamental element in its evolving collective identity. A new literature arose around the idea of bainian guochi—‘100 years of national humiliation.’ After the 1919 Treaty of Versailles gave Germany’s concessions in China to Japan, the expression wuwang guochi—‘Never forget our national humiliation’—became a common slogan.” 

And when Communist China was founded in 1949 Mao declared, “Ours will no longer be a nation subject to insult and humiliation.”

We can accept this little snippet of Chinese history as an adequate foundation for the intentions of this series of postings.  Although the history lesson may be over, the ramifications of this part of the story are far too central to be neglected as we consider the more modern dilemma we face with China.

Just a few more important dates for the events of China's more recent past may help. 

Roughly fifty years after the crippling -- and humiliating -- concession to the British in 1860, the Qing Dynasty failed in 1912.  In 1921, the Communist Party was founded, and by 1927 a full scale civil war had begun between the nationalist Kuomintang and the Communists.  The Communists prevailed in the civil war, and Mao Zedong began to rise as the accepted autocrat of the country.  The United States continued to support the losing Kuomintang until that insurgency relocated to the island of Taiwan.
In China, the Communists founded the Peoples' Republic of China (the PRC) in 1949, and the country began a decade long "association" with the Soviet Union until around 1960.  Part of that "divorce settlement" resulted in a million man Peoples" Liberation Army in China and 160 divisions of Soviet tactical nuclear forces permanently stationed just north of the Sino-Soviet border.  The newly separated partners had, well, "trust issues."

A decade after that, US President Nixon met with Mao Zedong and Chou Enlai in Beijeng to initiate rapprochement.  In practically no time, we arrived at where we are now. 

So, do we think that China "learned its lesson" from all of this?  The answer is a resounding -- and, resounding -- "yes."  China learned this lesson from top to bottom, from its skin to its very core, in every cell of its immense body, with every beat of its gigantic heart -- you get the idea.  However, perhaps the more interesting question is whether or not all us Westerners learned our lesson.

This old cultural echo lives and breathes in the modern Peoples' Republic, and it serves to explain some important facets of our current, puzzling relationship with that country.  As is always the case when "reality becomes real," we can either collapse into a comfortable illiteracy as we face our challenges or we can, equipped with more understanding, gentrify our predicament with the prospect of at least doing the best we can.

Quite predictably, the US domestic news pundits are currently introducing the idea that the Peoples Republic of China will soon surpass the Japanese as the second largest economy on the planet.  The "fear mongering" aspect of this "threat" is rather lackluster in that its approach can't rely incite the hill billies to some desirable, politically irrational, terror response.  The inevitability of such a development is too similar to the inexorable advance of a glacier to be of much use as the latest frightening torment.

Finally, although the historical treatment of China served to incite the country's current infatuation with self-defense capacity, the situation still enjoys a common thread with the US treatment of Iran.  In the case of Teheran, the toothless threats of the autocrat, W, and his servants succeeded in erecting a snarling, frightened nuclear power.  China, on the other hand, enjoyed far too many resource assets of money and troops.  The response designed by the Western powers took on a different course.

More about that alternate scheme later in this series of postings.

A Cold War Reorganization of Adversaries

Of course, we are all familiar with the Nixon/Kissinger courting of Maoist China, but how much sense can we make of events after that?  "Smilin' Hank" Kissinger successfully "separated" the PRC from its previous close friendship with the Soviet Union.  A few details of "secret negotiations" with the Peoples Republic finally emerged in 1971.

In no time, our two nations were playing ping pong.

Information challenged Americans believe that the Soviet Union finally buckled under the  bankrupting cost of competing with Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative -- the "Star Wars" of the 1980's.  Of course, MeanMesa visitors understand that many other geopolitical economic realities were in play.  China, however, was not so eager to "take the bait." 

That country developed its own nuclear deterrent at an affordable scale, once again demonstrating traditional Chinese frugality.  With a few dozen (the U.S. still has thousands) credible warheads on its Long March ICBM series, the Chinese autocracy met this unavoidable challenge without emptying its treasury of cash resources sanely allocated for use in infrastructure and manufacturing development along with  conventional (and, usable) military procurement.

Part Two of this series of posts will describe the course of economic relations between the West and China which have emerged from this historical beginning.

Please "stay tuned!"