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Author Topic: Is America no longer what it once was?
Omega M.
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Obama thinks so.

I know America still has problems that need to be fixed, but when was it better? Surely not while slavery and segregation existed. Is Obama just nostalgic for the Sixties?

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Jesse
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Some things were better in the past, some weren't.

It's highly amusing to see a guy who has made a career out of claiming that librals have spent 40 years "destroying america" claim now that anyone who suggests that anything was better in the past is "selling despair".

All of a sudden, we're the best we've ever been and we haven't lost all our rights because of the femanazi angents of political correctness?

Neat-o.

[ August 09, 2008, 04:25 PM: Message edited by: Jesse ]

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Redskullvw
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We are certainly not better than we have ever been.

We are better in terms of race relations. Civili Rights legislation, environmental standards, and the shear economic output of our country.

Things that suck. Our space program. The collapse of heavy industry sectors. The current disease which is commonly known as unions. The state of elementary education. The purchasing power of the dollar. The fact we have somewhere north of 15 million illegal aliens- who represent much of the shortfall in our healthcare system. We also have managed to squander block grants and matching funds to such an extent that our infrastructure in most of the country is less than it can or should be.

The funny thing is, most of these problems have developed in the last 40 years, and are the result of the liberalism movement that is more commonly called the boomer generation.

I too find it funny Obama is nostalgic for a time that predates the ascendancy of liberalism. The fact he does not recognize that the problems he finds the worst are also problems caused by the very liberalism he represents.

A cynical part of me hopes he gets elected, because if he did he would likely be the last Democrat elected for decades.

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JoshCrow
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quote:
Originally posted by Omega M.:
Obama thinks so.

I know America still has problems that need to be fixed, but when was it better? Surely not while slavery and segregation existed. Is Obama just nostalgic for the Sixties?

I don't get it... isn't it obvious he's referring to the Bush years and the fact that the rest of the world no longer holds America in as high an esteem as it once did, partly because of foreign policy, and partly because of development in places like China? This isn't a "sixties" reference at all.
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hobsen
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Speaking to an adult Obama could perfectly well have said that President Bush had damaged the nation during his eight years in office, and that he hoped to repair some of that damage and get the country back on the right track again. The approval rating for President Bush suggests most Americans agree with that, and nobody expects the Democratic candidate to say the Republicans did a great job.

But speaking to a little girl, Obama probably did not want to frighten her by suggesting the country was run by an idiot. And he could not be sure she could distinguish between Bush being a bad President and a bad man, so he would not want her to make her run away screaming in fear if she chanced to meet Bush because she thought he was a danger to children. Moreover it was sensible to appeal to her interests by saying in effect, "I have children much like you, so I want to make America better for you and for everyone."

Let us say he did the best he could in answering a complex question posed by a child. Unlike questions posed by adults, to which candidates rehearse safe answers, I think they just do the best they can with questions from children. How well they do depends on how well they know children, and how fast they can think on their feet, neither of which have much to do with their potential as POTUS. And I should say any candidate realizes there are things he should not say to children, whether he is good at crafting appropriate answers or not.

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Jesse
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After all, there was no disease of Unions during the most prosperous time in our nations history, and the fewer workers have been unionized the greater our prosperity has always been.

Red, what's your source for numbers of illegals?

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Redskullvw
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That is the latest estimate I saw the last time I looked into it and can't even guess as to what government agency or ngo provided the figures. At a bare minimum, we have at least 12 million. The other extreme is a plausible 20 million. The most frequent number that most people seem to agree on is 15 million.

Georgia has approximately 1 million illegals as of the last census.

If Georgia has 1 million, imagine the rest of the nation's numbers. Frankly 15 million seems almost unreasonably low.

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Jesse
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I've never heard higher than 12 from a government source, which doesn't mean that government sources are the most accurate.
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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by JoshCrow:
quote:
Originally posted by Omega M.:
Obama thinks so.

I know America still has problems that need to be fixed, but when was it better? Surely not while slavery and segregation existed. Is Obama just nostalgic for the Sixties?

I don't get it... isn't it obvious he's referring to the Bush years and the fact that the rest of the world no longer holds America in as high an esteem as it once did, partly because of foreign policy, and partly because of development in places like China? This isn't a "sixties" reference at all.
This is how I read it. And polling shows that America overwhelmingly agrees with him. Something like 80% of the country thinks we're headed in the wrong direction.
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RickyB
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"The current disease which is commonly known as unions."

Can I have your weekends? Seeing as you have no use for them, them being secured by a disease and all...

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Redskullvw
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interesting thing to note that when the Parade of The Olympians happened the other night, France was essentially booed. Iraq got a very loud show of cheering. Afghanistan benefited from the same level as Iraq. Japan got a polite clapping. South Korea got a pretty good round as well approaching that given to Iraq.

Surprisingly, the USA got the loudest cheering from the audience except for two other nations. The first was North Korea- which happens to be China's oldest continuous ally. And of Course China itself cheering for its 600+ members of the national team.

Its just very puzzling to me when in uncensored moments, you can see what people think by how they react, the USA seems not to be suffering from this great domestic and international condemnation.

With the exception of North Korea and China itself, no other nation had as much cheering for its athletes as they entered the stadium. You cannot tell me that the audience must be made up mostly of Americans.

I really think polling data is becoming less and less reliable in the United States due to the ever shrinking number of people with land lines and geographically stable area codes.

When I see statements that 80% of the United States voters believe we are headed in the wrong direction as a result of the President, I have to wonder if only 20% of the voters polled were Republican- or the fact that educated households with above middle class incomes that identify themselves as Republicans are at least 20% of the time without land lines. Meaning a lot of Republicans will never get polled

Which leads to the case where you have Gore predicting a 4-5% victory on election night, or Kerry predicting a 2-3% victory on election night.

I think far less than 80% of Americans think we are headed in the wrong direction. I also think most of the world still is willing to cheer for us- even if the cheering is taking place in a totalitarian dictatorship where any protesting can cost you your life.

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Lyrhawn
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Of course China cheered us.

Given the trade imbalance, we pretty much paid for the Olympics. I think it was a thank you.

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RickyB
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"If Georgia has 1 million, imagine the rest of the nation's numbers. Frankly 15 million seems almost unreasonably low."

Not every state has that many peach and pecan trees that need picking. Also, of course the south has more than the north. Any particle dispersal equation would show you that, I think (Said the Rickster, hazarding a mathematical allusion despite his limited command of that science...)

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Jesse
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Red, not all of that 80% thinks we need to head in Obamas direction, by a long shot.

A significant chunk think we're headed in the wrong direction because we're tolerating homo-sectuals. Some think we're headed in the wrong direction because we don't have prayer in the schools, or because we teach the godless "theory of evo-loo-shun".

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OceanRunner
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quote:
Something like 80% of the country thinks we're headed in the wrong direction.
Doesn't everyone always feel that way? I'm just saying...
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Redskullvw
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Jesse

Exactly. You have the wording of the question to account for much of the "majority" opinion. The fact that in that majority the question allows people with very different ideas as to what is wrong yet still be counted as fundamentally holding the same opinion that starts the skew. Add to that the decline in representative and accurate land-line based phone polling and you suddenly get the results that make such polls the darlings of the MSM.

Right now I would hazard that if you asked specifically what was wrong with the United States, and then matched that up with voter affiliations, the degrees and types of dissatisfaction would suddenly not represent 80% dissatisfaction on generalized specifics.

Its kinda like the surveys on people's personal economic outlooks and what people think is the personal economic outlook of their neighbors. When asked if they are doing well and are optimistic as individuals, around 90% say they are. When asked if their neighbors are doing as well 90% say their neighbors are doing fantastically bad and that the economy sucks for everyone else.

Makes you wonder. If 90% of people think their own economies are doing well, where is the 90% of Americans who are suffering the worst economic downturn since the Depression?

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flydye45
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I think that both Liberals and Conservatives agree that America wasn't what it was...though we both emphasize different things. [Wink]
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Brother Phil
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"After all, there was no disease of Unions during the most prosperous time in our nations history, and the fewer workers have been unionized the greater our prosperity has always been."

That's great for the country's prosperity; any idea if it's also the case for the workers?

Over here in the UK, Industry and the national economy do great - but it's by paying the vast majority of the workforce minimum wage.

Thatcher broke the back of the unions (though they had got to the point that it was them or the government) and then destroyed our industrial base to prevent them ever getting that powerful again.

A recent newspaper article figured that a "living wage" for a family of 4 is about £27k. I'll be lucky to see that, even if I manage to get that PhD I'm after.

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Jesse
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Those comments were sarcastic, Brother Phil.

The high-water mark of Union Membership was through the 1950's and 1960's, periods of massive growth here.

Edited to avoid unintentionally sounding like a total dick.

[ August 11, 2008, 07:27 PM: Message edited by: Jesse ]

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LoneSnark
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"Can I have your weekends? Seeing as you have no use for them, them being secured by a disease and all..."
Ha ha, very funny. Or are you seriously suggesting that Americans would still be working 60 hours a week were it not for unions?

The fact is, Americans happily accept lower pay in exchange for fewer hours. As such, it is in everyones best interest for companies to pay us less in exchange for us working fewer hours because real hourly worker compensation has increased and altered the incentives (a longer weekend, or an even larger house?). If any insane company refuses this new reality, then they will be run into bankruptcy by companies that do and therefore enjoy greater productivity.

"The collapse of heavy industry sectors."
Odd, according to the statistics the United States' industrial and manufacturing sectors are producing twice what it was in the late 80s. The difference is that thanks to robots, computers, and factory area networks our factories are automated and therefore employ very few people.
http://www4.ncsu.edu/~gsparson/data/industrialoutput.gif

[ August 11, 2008, 10:10 PM: Message edited by: LoneSnark ]

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Redskullvw
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LS

You are correct on both points. You got the issue with whether unions have any benefit or relevancey at this point. Ans you got what I was driving at re: the industrial sector.

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RickyB
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"Ha ha, very funny. Or are you seriously suggesting that Americans would still be working 60 hours a week were it not for unions?"

Eeeeeyup.

Saying "oh yeah, it was unions that forced that to happen, but it would have happened anyway" is mealy mouthed in the extreme. Not just weekends, mind. Sanitary work conditions, family consideration, medical insurance... Fact is, (Ed. to modify:) nearly wherever unions are forbidden, menial labor gets shafted on those fronts and many others to this day.

[ August 12, 2008, 07:41 AM: Message edited by: RickyB ]

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LoneSnark
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How? Tell me, RickyB, how do companies make us work in unsanitary working conditions at low pay? Labor markets function just like product markets. There are variables available and people choose among the possible employers. If you want employees then you must offer competitive wages and competitive work environments. This is why companies spend millions of dollars air-conditioning office buildings. There was never a union, and no labor laws require such, but spending millions to install and maintain environmental controls is cheaper than the pay raises it would require to keep your workers from taking jobs in other more comfortable companies.

And yes, this even holds true for menial labor jobs. But, being menial labor with a fresh flow of immigrants from poor countries, their base pay is very low so in most instances it is cheaper to compensate workers than it is to make their environment more comfortable.

That is not to say unions wouldn't help. Just as granting a government monopoly in the auto market would help Ford, granting a government monopoly to a union helps its workers extract monopoly rents from their employers and customers. Regretfully, as union workers tend to earn more than their average customer, you are extracting monopoly rents from the poor and giving it to the upper-middle class. And doing this at the point of a gun seems wrong to me.

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DonaldD
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unions were a form of organized collusion that were necessary (at the time) to combat the collusion among employers - and also among simple monopoly employers (single employer towns.)

Idealized markets like you posit only work over long periods of time, assuming perfect information and require complete freedom of movement of both jobs and employees.

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The Drake
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We are no longer capable of mustering the resources to go to the moon. College education and healthcare are becoming more difficult to secure. Military might has been rendered less relevant due to asymmetric warfare. We are more indebted than ever before. Films have been replaced by comic book adaptations, and the most popular show (American Idol) is a British import. The great companies are no longer American, but Multinational. We can't have a telephone conversation without fearing the government is listening. America cannot even count on winning Olympic Basketball - a sport we invented.

Clearly, the 21st century is not the zenith of American power, economy, culture, freedom or sport.

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DonaldD
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Naw, basketball was invented by a Canadian... but don't worry, you'll still win Olympic gold
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RickyB
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"How? Tell me, RickyB, how do companies make us work in unsanitary working conditions at low pay?

How did they? How do they do it the world over? By exploiting the simple fact that the workers are more desperate for the job, than they are for keeping the factory open.

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DonaldD
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Case in point - WalMart will close a store rather than continue as a union shop.

This has the added benefit of scaring off other employees wanting to improve their own working conditions.

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The Drake
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But the Canadian was in Massachusetts when he invented it, so its ours. [Smile]
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Redskullvw
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We are currently working on going back to the Moon and to Mars after the Shuttle program is completed, giving us an orbital platform with the capacity to dry-dock a long range spacecraft. We are certainly 20 years behind the original vision, but we are also far from being unable to do this. College education is more widely and freely availible to more people than ever before. College entrence and retention has become so common that people are now seriously wondering what differentiates the shear mass of newly college educated people that we have right now. As for healthcare we serve more, in better facilities, with greater penatration to the lowest levels of society while also absorbing 15 million illegals into a system they neither pay for before they get sick or after they get sick. That charity alone is an indication we are far better in healthcare terms than ever before. In terms of indebtedness, we are essentially moving right along at the same comparable relationship between the public debt and its percentage to the GDP. In some years we are less, in some years we are more, but in frank terms, we are no more indebted now than we were 60 years ago. As for the pop-culture, 40 years ago you had psychedelics and Batman movies. It is little different today, we have raves and Batman movies. The fact that most television studios have been retreading BBC television shows for American audiences is nothing new, and likely something that will not change anytime in the foreseeable future. After being fed a diet of BBC retreads for decades, I have to say it speaks volumes as to the originality of American producers of television shows. It is true that great companies are now Multinational, but you sidestep the fact that most great multinationals are in fact American based companies.

And we are certainly mopping the Olympic competitions up in basketball on both the Men's and Women's side. Both teams trounced the host teams by 30+ points.

In all examples you gave as evidence, reality contradicts your supposition.

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LoneSnark
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quote:
How did they? How do they do it the world over? By exploiting the simple fact that the workers are more desperate for the job, than they are for keeping the factory open.
Simple, they did not. American wages in 1908 seem low to us in 2008, but at the time the technology did not exist to give every coal miner a suburban lifestyle. Companies operating in free economies usually profit around 10% of revenue (less for recession, more for prosperity). That was true back then as it is today. If that number were reduced from 10% to 0% back then then coal miners would not have been much better off, just as bankrupting today's companies would not make today's employees much better off. When unions artificially drive up compensation for union members it does so by making the rest of society poorer through higher prices. But it is not an absolute transfer, as some activity is destroyed by the higher prices.

To put it another way, if 100% of the workforce was unionized we would all be absolutely poorer and company profits would still represent about 10% of revenue.

As unions restrict labor, compensation rises, profits fall, companies curtail production, unemployment rises, supplies fall, prices rise, profits recover; net effect: everyone is poorer, especially those rendered unemployable by the unions.

This is because this is an average. Some companies are highly profitable at 20% of revenue and others are just breaking even. As such, if the average falls from 10% to 0%, those that before were wildly profitable are still profitable (from 20% to 10%) but the losers are now quickly going bankrupt. And when they do shutdown, their production will not be replaced, leaving their workers to become an unemployable underclass.

quote:
Idealized markets like you posit only work over long periods of time, assuming perfect information and require complete freedom of movement of both jobs and employees.
We use markets because we lack ideal information. If we had ideal information then you could just have a government beurocrat set wages and job allocation. Because we lack that information, we use markets because they are capable of arriving at a price without much information at all. If it seems workers are in short supply then raise wages; if it seems like workers are plentiful then stop. If additional information is available then they will do better, but even without they will still do a passable job.

And as American workers enjoy a very high standard of living I suspect labor markets are working remarkably well given the limitations imposed upon it. Everyone can get a price and then take it or leave it, except for those unlucky enough to not be worth at least $6.55 an hour. These people have no choice but to die homeless in the street.

[ August 12, 2008, 06:09 PM: Message edited by: LoneSnark ]

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DonaldD
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You seem to assume that knowledge of wages and monopolistic practices has been transparent in the past. This was patently not the case even after unions were past their heyday.

Also left out of your calculations are non-wage environmental concerns.

You are also neglecting the monopoly practices of companies in the absence of organized resistance. It is debatable whether unions are still needed today to prevent back-sliding, but historically, companies have demonstrated that the welfare of their workers only became an issue when the existing employees were able to demand improvements.

Also we use markets in order to trade - nothing to do with absence of information. But for the markets to work as you posit, they would require perfect information and mobility (other wise, prices are NOT linked to supply and demand) and in many companies today, it is still a firing offense to share salary information. That is just one way in which companies actively work against the free market you espouse.

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LoneSnark
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I do not. Attempts at monopoly are as old as time, so are the means people use to curtail them. And what does pollution have to do with employees? If you mean comfort and safety in the work environment, then you need to realize that these are not free for the employer, they are a form of compensation. The millions spent air conditioning office buildings were not mandated by either union or government, but it is cheaper than the increased wages to keep employees from taking employment elsewhere.

And companies can engage in all the monopoly practices they like; if their prices and quality (wages and work environment) are uncompetitive then they will face a high turnover and risk bankruptcy.

What they fail to teach in Econ101 is that prices in the real world never directly link supply and demand. What is being linked is the perception of supply and demand because, as you say, all parties are keeping their private information secret. When I ask what the pay package is at Walmart they have no way of knowing that I already checked what is on offer from Target and being just a little under will cause them to lose the auction. As such, even if Target is not hiring right now, Walmart must act as if they are unless they want to risk being short of workers in the event Target is hiring.

Some economists argue that it is this imperfect information which makes the labor system work at all. This is because as information improves it is the actors with more skill at analyzing information which win out, which would invariably be the human resources department.

Using this logic, a case has been made by some labor economists to explain a portion of the increase in owner profits (recently peaked at 13% of revenue) in the 21st century to the ability of companies to data-mine government statistics to better contain worker compensation. Of course, this would argue that unions are needed now more than ever, which no one here seems to be suggesting.

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munga
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and.... both of your are failing to realize that market pressures are very very effectively keeping the costs of products low (even if wages and other COGS are not released) to the point of total failure to make profits in exactly the amount of industry that must factor contracts at the bank, which in turn, creates the banks' piece which we call "inflation" and thus, the our FOMC is the author of our recession. This recession causes ALL small business to gradually float into receivership of large (financial or industrial) monopolies, whether or not they are so recognized.

[ August 12, 2008, 09:39 PM: Message edited by: munga ]

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LoneSnark
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No, the bank's piece is called the price of renting capital. If you got your way and this price became zero then our currency would become worthless in short order.

And which monopolies are these, since almost all small businesses that die get taken over by other small businesses when the bank sells off their assets.

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munga
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no, LS. The Asian system works exactly on this principal.

Please tell me if the Yen is strong?

Please read my other thread- Fixing Energy, Economy and Environment in one blow... (well, I can't remember what I named it, but that's close). Recessive economic policy is the first topic.

And LS, when small businesses "die" and get taken over by larger entities.... isn't that eventually the same as a monopoly? Where is competition coming from, if no more independent operations exist and rather there is a fleet of operations owned by a few large entities? Banks DONT usually sell off assets, especially if the facility is in close to working order. What they do is come in and take over, babe.

[ August 12, 2008, 09:57 PM: Message edited by: munga ]

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LoneSnark
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Wait, so the burger king down the street that went belly up is being run by the bank? Wait, no it isn't, the assets were sold off to Joe which always wanted to run his own business.

And no, even if you own 100% of the producers in a given market you still do not have a monopoly until you find a credible way to prevent new entrants to the market. Afterall, what was the point of building a monopoly if once you raise prices, within short order your market share drops to zero?

No Asian system works that way. I suspect you are thinking about Japan, but even there long term interest rates are not even close to zero. However, at 1.46% they are close, as such inflation is higher than America (7% verse 2.8%) while at the same time the economy is shrinking (-2.3% verse 2%).

[ August 13, 2008, 08:10 AM: Message edited by: LoneSnark ]

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munga
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LS,

Is the Burger King operating close to it's proft line? Chances are, the fast food industries and movie industries and many other arts and leisures are still ok. They aren't in the inflation basket anyway, as you know. But many other industries are at soft default, receivership and cure.

And yes, the best way to prevent competition is to prevent access to capital for them. Exactly what I've been saying.

Yes, injection of liquidity upon the indicator of inflation is how the Asian currencies work. The interest rates you quote are immaterial because interest rates and inflation are unrelated.

[ August 13, 2008, 12:23 PM: Message edited by: munga ]

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LoneSnark
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I agree, cut off the flow of capital and competition will stop. However, there just happens to be lots of capital flowing around the world, I personally own a whole bunch of it. If you convince me you have a way to make money then I might invest it in you. Otherwise, getting the Federal Reserve to run the presses for you without charging interest would be a crime against humanity, otherwise known as debasing the currency.
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munga
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LS-

You constantly confuse me. Why would we make such a request of the treasury? Wouldn't that make us just like the fossils I am always smacking?

The feds needs to run the presses for the PRODUCTS of America generally and inject it where it will (military benefits, research, salaries, teacher improvement, welfare, social programs....) Producing dollar bills to match the known products of Americans is not debasing the currency it is providing the medium of exchange per our contract with the treasury.

But not for me. I want to END all graft of that sort.

[ August 13, 2008, 01:47 PM: Message edited by: munga ]

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