Friday, May 20, 2011

Envy Economics and You.

So, I had a job interview today.  That's not the bad news, actually, because I fucking killed it in the interview.  I always do though.  I've always said, if I can get an interview, I can get the job, because I always do great in an interview situation.  I thrive under the pressure that most people get bubble guts and the overpowering urge to take a shit over.  I think best on my feet, staring down the barrel of a scrutinizing interviewer, asking me the most random and confusingly-worded questions and expecting a clear, concise and immediate answer.  It's in these situations that I am most able to relax, tap into my quick wit and defuse the situation with humorous anecdotes and relevant personal stories and experiences.  I'm great at job interviews, I'm telling you!  So, that part was great.  What sucked is the fact that California is in a hiring freeze at the state and local level thanks to being almost bankrupt due to horrible fiscal mismanagement by the dipshits in Sacramento.  So, all the work I did to prepare, all the effort I put into making a great impression, all the excitement I had watching my interview panel of 3 women laugh and just completely fall for the patented Dave charm (tm) just basically went to shit because it could be months before I hear anything, if I hear anything at all. 

I hear the Republicans using a new term to marginalize the democrats and those who agree with them that the ultra rich in this country don't deserve yet another fucking tax cut and that they, and the obscenely wealthy corporations they work for need to pay their fair share to help get us out of this huge fucking financial quagmire we're stuck in, that is almost entirely due to their own manipulation of the market and plundering of the economy for their own personal financial gain.  This term is "Envy Economics".  Basically, it means that all the rest of us are jealous of rich people and want to punish them for their success by making them pay more taxes.  4 years ago it was called socialist redistribution of the wealth, back when Joe the plumber was the Fox News pawn du jour.  They keep coming up with new fancy buzzwords for it, but it basically boils down to "You only want me to pay more taxes because you're jealous of me, don't hate the player, hate the game."  I'm actually rather surprised that Republicans are getting so ballsy that they're actually calling it "Envy Economics" now.  Socialist redistribution of the wealth is far less condescending and self-aggrandizing than accusing everyone who wants the rich to stop dodging their share of the tax burden through loopholes and exploiting the system of being jealous.  They're literally saying "Don't hate us because you're not smart enough to avoid your fiscal responsibilities!"  "Stop being jealous of all the nice shit I got by raping your 401k's!"  It's as if the Republicans have all become rappers and are telling the middle class to kiss their fucking pinky ring and count the spokes in their triple gold rims.  Haters gonna hate, get off our rich ass nuts.

I was thinking about this today as I drove home from my interview.  I was thinking about the fact that, were it not for the fucked up state of CA's state budget, I would probably have been offered a job and most all of my immediate financial concerns would be no more.  I was thinking how our budget probably wouldn't be so fucked up if we didn't give tax breaks to companies that ship jobs out of the state.  It probably wouldn't be so fucked up if we didn't waste billions of dollars on pet projects for congressmen who want to pander to their wealthy benefactors to keep those campaign contributions rolling in so they can keep getting re-elected.  It wouldn't be so fucked up if we didn't continue to reward companies who aren't creating new jobs with billions of dollars in completely undeserved subsidies when they're already making plenty of profits on their own.  It wouldn't be so fucked up if the people we went to first when times got tough were the billionaires and millionaires instead of the middle class government employees and families on welfare.

See, that's what the Republicans tell you.  That it's welfare moms and illegal immigrants taking advantage of the system that wrecked California's economy.  That it's pampered government employees with their outrageous pensions and benefits packages that drove us to financial ruin.  And people buy it because, well, a lot of people are fucking stupid.  Yeah, I know that's so elitist of me, flaunting my junior college level education and modicum of common sense like that in the face of the great, ignorant proletariat, but I'm not going to apologize for taking the 5 minutes required to do enough research to see that this is all a bunch of bullshit.

Anyone remember Enron?  If you lived in California back in the early 2000's you sure as hell do.  Not just because of their spectacular boom and bust story and how they took down not only a hugely profitable fortune 500 company, but an over 100 year old accounting firm with them for helping them cook their books and hide it from shareholders and employees, but because of how brutally they fucked Californians in the ass thanks to energy deregulation.

You know about energy deregulation, right?  Remember how energy companies promised us it would be so wonderful for consumers, because now energy companies would get to compete for your business on the open market?  And, instead of being stuck with just one utility company - PG&E - and having to pay whatever rates they set for power, you would get to choose from several different companies and they would "have" to offer the best service at the lowest price or else you would be able to just take your business elsewhere?  Oh, it sounded so wonderful and logical!  I mean, free market competition, what could be better for the consumer than that?  Well, what happened?  A bunch of different energy companies came in and started buying up power plants and selling power on the open market.  Sounds good so far, right?  Well, guess what happens when you trade energy on the open market?  Speculation!  Glorious, free market, capitalist, American as apple pie and racial profiling speculation!  Now brokers could place bets on whether or not energy prices in California would rise!  But wait, it gets even better!  Guess who the brokers who placed these bets worked for?  ENRON!  Guess who owned most of the companies that owned most of the power plants in California?  You guessed it, ENRON!  Guess who would call their companies who owned these power plants and tell them to intentionally go offline for any old made up reason they could think of in order to create "rolling blackouts", generate a completely fake energy crisis and drive the price of electricity through the roof?  OMG YES, ENRON!  So, in the middle of a record summer heat wave, when half the state of California was experiencing rolling blackouts and the other half was turning off their air conditioners at the hottest part of the day out of fear that they would have blackouts too if they didn't, the price of electricity was at an all-time record high and Enron made over $4 billion dollars in a 3 month span.  Wasn't deregulation GREAT for the consumer? 

So, what does this have to do with the price of tea in China?  Well, in an effort to stop the out of control energy price spiking that was causing Californians to see something like $750-1000 a month energy bills when the same power usage cost less than $300 the year before, Gray Davis and the state legislature agreed to buy long-term energy contracts at the current, ridiculously high prices energy was trading for at that time because they feared prices would only continue to go higher and higher and if they didn't act immediately, the cost of energy could triple or quadruple from where it already was and completely bankrupt the state and little old ladies on social security would be dying in their homes from heatstroke and it would be a nightmare of epic proportions.  To top it all off, there was a huge wildfire devastating southern CA and it just gave Eron's speculators one more reason to drive up the price of electricity, one more excuse to order plants to shut down to ensure those price increases and more fuel to extort the state into signing on the dotted line.  So, Gray Davis and the state congress signed a long-term, multi-billion dollar contract to buy this energy and, wouldn't you know it, a miraculous thing happened!

Right after the ink dried on this contract, the price of energy fell drastically!  Shock and surprise!  As soon as they were guaranteed an exorbitant price for all this energy they had produced, they dropped the price of energy through the floor.  The net result of this was that the state of CA lost billions of dollars, Gray Davis was recalled and in stepped "The Governator."  Things were so fucked up by this screw job that our economy is still a mess today in large part due to those contracts and the damage they did to the state's budget.  Add to that the fact that, after the Enron fiasco, the state depended largely on huge property tax revenues from the exploding real estate market to bail out their financial woes, a bubble that burst spectacularly in 2008 and left the state even worse off than it was before, as now they not only still had the residual mess from the energy contract debacle, but a whole slew of new debt that has been acquired against the expectations of billions in property tax revenue that never materialized.  The only significant source of income for the state now was corporate taxes, which had been slashed drastically under Arnold's governorship in an effort to stimulate new business investment in the state.  A move that didn't really result in much new investment or job creation at all.  Instead, it enabled California corporations to hoard more wealth, it enabled the richest people in California to hoard more wealth and they all decided to create their new jobs in states like Texas instead. 

So, here we are.  A state on the brink of bankruptcy, everyone running around blaming poor people and Mexicans for all of our problems, and dumb hick conservatives believing it, because of course they believe welfare moms and Mexicans are the cause of all our problems, it's printed on the back of the official Republican voter identification card.  I think it's even a part of their benediction prayer.  It's not like it's hard to convince a bunch of undereducated, middle class white people that brown people on food stamps are why the state doesn't have any money anymore.  Never mind the fact that the state spent over 10 times as much money on tax breaks for wealthy individuals and businesses than their entire budget for welfare, medicaid and housing assistance combined.  Never mind the fact that the amount of money given in subsidies to companies that aren't even hiring new employees could have prevented the hiring freeze that's keeping me from getting the job I interviewed for and would otherwise have earned.  It's all those damn immigrants and their anchor babies and teachers and their greedy desire for a decent retirement package and medical benefits!

See, pointing out the fact that giving the ultra rich money that they don't need, haven't earned and don't deserve hurts our economy is "Envy Economics".  It's punishing their success by not allowing them to hinder you from achieving your own.  Pointing out the fact that giving tax breaks to the ultra rich and mega corporations who are already paying the lowest income tax rate in American history is hurting our economy and driving down the quality of life for the 98% of the country who falls somewhere between middle class and homeless is "Envy Economics".  It's punishing their success by not allowing them to hold you by the ankles and shake until every fucking penny falls out of your pockets so they can take it and use it to buy a 4th vacation home.  Pointing out that the average income for the wealthiest 1% in America is now higher than it was before the market crashed in 2008, that they are now better off than they were before they caused the financial collapse that fucked up our whole country in the first place, while middle class incomes continue to be about 10-15% lower than they were before 2008, unemployment continues to hover around the 10% mark, foreclosures are still at an all-time high, more people are falling below the poverty level and applying for financial aid for the first time than at any other time in our nation's history and food and gas prices continue to rise towards record highs is "Envy Economics".  See, just because the average American family can't afford to fill up both their car and their bellies, that doesn't mean we should punish the CEO's who are making nearly $10 million a year before bonuses, just because they're the ones who laid you off, took billions in bailout money and made the decision to keep raising the price of food and gas for no other reason than to keep getting richer.  Stop being a jealous little bitch and just take your ass fucking like the good little slave you are.

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