Category Archives: Tea Party Express

DIY Business News: How to stop yelling at the TV screen and get some real news

Stock Ticker Old

Spare me the whining about Americans and their financial illiteracy.  It’s not like they are getting any help from institutions which ought to be assisting them. 

Media bashing gets a bit cheap at times, but in this realm the broadcast media isn’t delivering anything close to real “business news.”  For starters, most of what passes for “business” news on the cable TV outlets is nothing more than financial sector gossip and stock market reporting.   When everything is said and scrolled across the screen, what the consumer has gotten is information of the stock markets, by the stock markets and for the stock markets.  

If we take the most generous definition of an investor possible – one including individual investors, investors in retirement 401(k)’s, IRAs, mutual funds, and ETF’s – then we can claim that 48% of the adults in the U.S. have money invested in “the market.” [CNN]  Meaning, 52% of Americans have no investment in “the market” at all, and one could question how carefully those who have funds in the retirement accounts are attending to the investments made on their behalf.  Drilling a bit deeper into the numbers we find that only 13.8% of all U.S. families held any individual stock. [CNN] “Ownership of savings bonds, other bonds, directly held stocks, and pooled investment funds sustained sizable drops in ownership rates between 2010 and 2013, although none of the four types of assets are commonly held, with ownership rates in 2013 varying between 1.4 percent (other bonds) and 13.8 percent (directly held stocks).” [FED pdf]

The best face we can put on this is that what passes for business news in this country is stock market information of direct interest to at best 14% of the nation’s adult population.  Why? We can guess — (1) It pleases the managerial types who are focused on short term gains in stock prices? (2) It’s cheap to produce?  Reporting on stock prices is really easy, especially if the big driver is something accessible like the Dow Jones Industrial Average. (3) It gives executives an opportunity to tout the value (whatever that might be) of their companies, thus moving their stock prices up?  However, what it doesn’t do is give anyone a clear overall picture of business in the United States of America.

Do It Yourself

If business news isn’t what’s on offer from the news channels which purport to provide it – then where to find it? 

The Federal Reserve has all manner of publications available online which will inform the inquisitive about consumer and personal finance.  Auto and Student debt is up at the moment, while the home ownership rate is falling, but not as many homeowners are now in default.  Interested in income inequality, or wealth gaps? Information is available from the FED on those topics as well.  Look and one can find all manner of information and analysis, unfettered from political punditry, on the subject.  In fact, one can discover that the way we talk about income inequality may be a function of how we measure it.

The San Francisco Federal Reserve is pleased to highlight its blog, with features ranging from how the FED recycles old currency to how Medicare payments may be curtailing inflationary trends.  If more generalized information is the target, then the Beige Book is as good a source as any:

“Commonly known as the Beige Book, this report is published eight times per year. Each Federal Reserve Bank gathers anecdotal information on current economic conditions in its District through reports from Bank and Branch directors and interviews with key business contacts, economists, market experts, and other sources. The Beige Book summarizes this information by District and sector. An overall summary of the twelve district reports is prepared by a designated Federal Reserve Bank on a rotating basis.” [FED]

Think of the Beige Book as “one stop shopping” for general economic news in each of the FED’s regions.

 Hard Hat

Labor:  A steady diet of cable business news might leave a person with the idea that labor news doesn’t exist except so far as it concerns minimum wage issues, or the latest protest of less than living wages. It’s more difficult to find than information about economic trends, but it’s there.   A person might want to start with Labor Press.OrgLabor Notes, is another source.  Union labor issues are well publicized in AFL-CIO sites.  There’s more information available from the SEIU, and AFSCME.

Those cable shows – and they are just ‘shows’ – could fill a goodly amount of their time just from Department of Labor information.  They won’t because they’re too busy tossing softballs to CEOs, but they could for example offer the investor’s side of the argument about fiduciary responsibility and financial advisers from DoL information.  If it’s numbers that are wanted, there’s a whole bureau for those – the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Want the current consumer price index, the unemployment rate, payroll employment figures, average hourly earnings, the producer price index, productivity statistics, or the employment cost index? All these are available from the Department of Labor.

Doing Business:  Republican presidential candidates Cruz and Kasich both proposed eliminating the Department of Commerce.  This is taking the Tea Party Express right over the edge into the Silly Swamp.  One excellent source of information about our economy is the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which compiles data regarding personal income and outlays – read: income and spending – what could be more “economic” than that?  Want information concerning the Gross Domestic Product? Consumer Spending? Corporate Profits? Fixed Assets?  Balance of Payments? State and Metropolitan GDP? Quarterly GDP by industry? It’s all available from the Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis.

When thinking of broadcast media it’s important to remember that what keeps the cable ‘business’ news going are advertising sales, and a commercial which might cost $2,000 to $3,000 for a network broadcast sponsorship could be as cheap as $175 on cable.  Little wonder their business seems to be limited to softball interviews and streaming the DJIA numbers on the screen – which you could do at home on any computer monitor.  Those shows are relatively banal because they probably can’t afford anything else.

Enterprises like Bush’s Baked Beans, Chef Michael’s Canine Creations, and Slap Chop are right in the mix with Ford, Chevrolet, and Wal-Mart sponsoring what passes for business and news reporting. [HuffPo] We’d be better served to Keep Calm and Do It Yourself.

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Filed under Commerce Department, Economy, labor, media, Tea Party Express

>Something for Nothing Promises In The Mailbox

>Guessing from the propaganda in my stack of mail, what I should want are (1) lower taxes and (2) smaller government. However, in not one of the instances does the candidate in question specify which taxes should be lower, nor precisely how government can be any smaller. My assumption is that these come from the Something For Nothing Party.

At the risk of utter redundancy, my taxes (and everyone else’s) are the lowest they’ve been in the last 50 years. So, why would I want them any lower? If lower taxes automatically mean that economic growth will be skyrocketing upward, then why, pray tell, did the economy tank during the Bush Administration when “lower taxes” were all the rage? Maybe it had something to do with “smaller government” and “eliminating those burdensome regulations” like the ones that had previously prevented Wall Street traders from artificially creating  financial products of highly questionable value?

It’s not that I necessarily want higher rates of taxation at the local, state, and national level — BUT I do want what that tax revenue will buy. I want my local deputy sheriff to be driving a reliable vehicle, one capable of starting up when needed; and, I want the young man to have functional gear in order to carry out his duties. I also want to pay him adequately for his efforts. What I don’t want is a local law enforcement agency that violates the spirit of the First Law of Personnel Management — “If you pay peanuts, you get squirrels.”  It would help this young man inestimably if he had some other support as well. In short, I don’t want a smaller law enforcement agency in my community. If anything, I’d like for it to expand.

Since much of the crime in this area is directly related to drug and alcohol abuse, it would help our young deputy if there were treatment programs available for drug and alcohol abusers. It’s much cheaper to put a person into a residential drug treatment program than it is to incarcerate the individual for the felony he or she is more likely to commit if left untreated. And, not to put too fine a point to it, having a few less druggies and drunks around would allow the deputy to spend more time addressing the problem of people who speed through small towns as though we had nothing (like children, pets, livestock, and our own bodies) worth slowing down for.  Spending a few dollars for drug, alcohol, and mental health treatment is a bargain in terms of local law enforcement. Again, in this instance I don’t want, and wouldn’t be well served by, “smaller government.” Not if that means closing treatment centers in rural Nevada. These services cost money, and I don’t expect to get something for nothing.

I’d like the deputy to stay around for a while. That means there ought to be schools for his children to attend, specifically a school that promotes academic achievement, and has extracurricular programs to keep the kids engaged and occupied constructively — and preferably actively. My tax dollars go towards that and I don’t mind a bit. Every dollar I spend on teachers, books, equipment, supplies, football helmets, volleyballs, basketballs, and school paste means (1) people don’t have to hire private tutors and (2) all the little darlings are occupied in constructive activity doing what kids ought to be doing — learning and playing. As every parent knows all too well — children are expensive. They need food, clothing, shelter, and under ideal circumstances a family telephone plan with unlimited texting. Their essential equipage includes various and sundry electronic devices, most of which attach in some way to their ears and may also require a truly remarkable use of their thumbs. Some, however, are more expensive than others. There are those who require extra assistance, either physical or educational. Some face language barriers, others physical barriers, and there are still others for whom even rudimentary learning is a very difficult task. What kind of a person would I be if I only wanted my tax dollars expended on the “normal” the “athletic” and the “bright.?”

I don’t have anything against home schooling. If that’s the way the parents want to go, so be it. But, just as our deputy or any other member of the community should be able to choose home schooling, the family should be just as free to choose not to home school — and the community should provide a school adequate for a range of educational goals from school-to-work to graduation from a college or university. Once more, I don’t want, and wouldn’t be well served by, “smaller” educational services. I don’t expect others to pick up the tab for all the educational services in my community. If by pooling our resources (tax revenues) we can make our educational system equitable for all children and families in the state, then that seems a better proposition. I do not expect something for nothing.

There are some other services middle and working class people deserve. For example, people deserve a local branch library, with an up to date collection of books and media, and those who can’t afford home computers should be able to use one at the public library. I don’t mind this a bit, including the part where I don’t mind paying for it in tax dollars. I really don’t want to have to go out and buy every novel I might want to read. Nor do I want to return to the days of the “subscription” libraries of the 18th century which were fine for the rich and prosperous, but unavailable for the most part to middle class Americans. Does “smaller government” mean we cut back the hours in libraries, museums, and other educational institutions in our communities?  If it does, then I want no part of it. I don’t expect to get these services for nothing. I expect to pay for them.

I once had a private well and septic tank. Never again. The water tasted fine, but I was never completely sure what was in it, and if I had questions then I had to pay for testing it. The septic tank worked reasonably well when fed various products to keep it functioning, which were all to no avail during a small flood in our area. Then it got expensive and became a royal pain. I don’t mind one single little bit that I am paying for “city water” and community sewers.  Yes, paying the monthly sewer and water bill is a bit more expensive in the short term, but having the assurance of sanitation and clean drinking water is preferable in the long run. I really don’t want a “smaller” sewer and water district. I’m also grateful that the federal government has grant and loan money available for our community to preserve the cleanliness of our water and the improvement of our sewer system. We used some of that funding recently to improve the sewer lines. My tax dollars at work, and I didn’t mind it a bit.  Does “smaller government” mean that federal loan guarantees and grant funds won’t be available when next we need to make repairs or improvements?  If so, then I want no part of it. I don’t expect to get something for nothing.

There are those around here who want less regulation, which generally translates to fewer people from the BLM threatening to “trespass” them for overgrazing public lands. Everyone knows who they are. These are the same people who don’t seem to mind one whit if the next rancher to move cattle into the grazing area has to feed because there is precious little green stuff left. Would “smaller government” mean that the few who trespass would be protected, while the majority who do not would be left to their own devices (and hay stacks) to feed when it was their season to turn cattle into grazing areas? If that’s the definition of “smaller government” then it doesn’t sound very equitable or economically viable. And, speaking of grazing areas, who’s going to stock the reservoirs with fish? The last I remember this was done by “government” people with barrels of fingerlings to be hauled to the remote reservoirs. Followed hard by vehicles bearing families with fishing poles for a day of good old fashioned recreation.  Does “smaller government” mean reducing fish and game services?

We’ve had some grousing about restocking Lahontan Trout in the area, and the way the Rainbows were “taken out.” However, it won’t be long until the Lahontan, which thrive much better in highly alkaline waters than the imported Rainbow, take hold and we can “release to grease” with them. If  “smaller government” means fewer, smaller, and less tasty, fish are in the streams in this region, then I’m definitely not among the advocates. I do not expect something for nothing. If stocking the streams and reservoirs is required, then obviously we need to pay for it.

I expect my roads to be cleared in the Winter, and repaired in the Summer; Nevada having two seasons: Winter and Road Construction. I don’t expect anyone to “donate” towards these activities. I don’t expect to have to pay tolls every time I change roads. I don’t expect truckers who deliver goods to my community to have to pay tolls each time they change routes. I really don’t want to have to pay any additional freight charges, necessitated by toll charges, which further increase the prices I have to pay at the check out counters. I’d like my roads and highways in such condition that getting the front end re-aligned doesn’t become a monthly expense. I don’t expect that this will be given to me as some kind of “right,” I expect to pay for it — again, I do not expect to get something for nothing.

I expect, and my insurance company expects, that I will have adequate fire protection here. That means that there should be a functioning pumper truck, at least one “brush truck,” and fire hydrants. Someone has to maintain all this “stuff” at the firehouse, I do not expect to get this for nothing. I expect to have to pay my share for it. I certainly don’t want my community or even my county to endure the horrific publicity garnered by a Tennessee community that offered “subscription” services for firefighting.  We don’t let other people’s pets burn to death around here if we can prevent it. If “smaller government” means the prospect of subscription service, then you can definitely count me out.

We have an ambulance and emergency medical services in the community. OK, it isn’t the Mayo Clinic, but it does well, and definitely serves an aging population. I would never expect that the EMTs who man the station donate their time and expertise, nor would I every expect that all the equipment and supplies are there for my needs without me having to pay anything for them. I don’t expect to get something for nothing.

If someone would like to pay for toll roads and bridges, pay for private security services, pay for home schooling and tutoring, pay for all the expenses associated with private water and wastewater treatment, pay for every book he or she ever wants to read, keep private medical personnel and emergency vehicles on station, buy a private stream in which to fish, buy his or her own recreation areas, subscribe to a fire fighting service, purchase land for recreational activities — fine. However, just because a few people have the resources and riches to do these things doesn’t mean that the majority of the U.S. population should have to condone this complete lack of community spirit, and utter disregard for community needs. We don’t expect something for nothing — which is what I suspect some of the recipients of the mailers would like to have. Government without paying for it.

Government isn’t a generalized amorphous mass — it’s the fire department, the sheriff’s office, the public schools, the community college, the emergency medical services, the public library, the well stocked reservoir, the properly grazed rangeland, the public parks and recreation areas, the clean water and wastewater treatment facilities and if we each pay a share we can enjoy the services, programs, and projects — we’re not getting something for nothing and we don’t expect to.

And those mailers? They came to my USPS box — yet another government service.

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Filed under Republicans, Tea Party Express

>Heads Up: Angle – Ashjian Meeting

>If you’ve not already done so, please click quickly over to Jon Ralston’s reporting in the Las Vegas Sun concerning the meeting between Republican/Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle and Nevada Tea Party candidate Scott Ashjian. Links to references available from the Sun.

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>Federation Derails Tea Party Express: What Does Angle Do Now?

>As noted previously, the Tea Party Express was one of the first organizations to endorse Nevada senatorial candidate Sharron Angle, and provided her campaign with $258,752 in advertising. [DB] So, now that the National Tea Party Federation has expelled the group from its ranks, [MSNBC] what stance will Candidate Angle take?

According to NBC: “On its website, the federation stated it had given the Tea Party Express, through direct contact with one of its leaders, a deadline to rebuke and remove spokesman Mark Williams. That leader’s response was clear: they have no intention of taking the action we required for their group to continue as a member of the National Tea Party Federation,” the federation stated. Therefore, effective immediately the National Tea Party Federation is expelling Tea Party Express from the ranks of our membership.”

The National Tea Party Federation issued a press release at 3.43 p.m. yesterday, July 17, 2010 stating: “Last night, a member of the National Tea Party Federation communicated our decision directly to a member of the leadership team of Tea Party Express. That leader’s response was clear: they have no intention of taking the action we required for their group to continue as a member of the National Tea Party Federation.

Therefore, effective immediately the National Tea Party Federation is expelling Tea Party Express from the ranks of our membership. ” (emphasis in original)

Will the Nevada Republican candidate reject the support of the Tea Party Express? Return the money and repudiate the intractable stance taken in support of Mark Williams’ racist letter? Maintain her association with the Tea Party Express and allow her campaign to be associated with Williams’ rhetoric? The Angle Campaign has a decision to make – Scylla or Charybdis?

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>Williams, Angle, The Tea Party Express, And The Politics of Race

>Anyone who believed that the American public moved entirely beyond racial politics in November 2008 was sadly and naively delusional; or, perhaps, willfully rationalizing the situation. We hadn’t moved all that far 18 months ago and we haven’t now. Nor can we reasonably expect that racial divisiveness will disappear from an American social landscape in which it’s taken root since 1608.

We still harbor those who opine that they’d tell us what they really think, but it wouldn’t be “politically correct,” (read: polite.) And, we still have those who make their racism blatant, blunt, and public. For example, we have Glenn Beck, who obviously doesn’t understand either liberation theology or Biblical history, telling his audience that Jesus couldn’t have been a supporter of liberation theology or social justice because had he been so he would have come back and make the Jews pay. [HuffPo] First, liberation theology is essentially non-violent, and the criticisms of it from the Catholic Church from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1984 stemmed from the philosophy’s emphasis on freedom from temporal bondage, as opposed to an emphasis on freedom from sin; and further, the Congregation advised that “This warning should in no way be interpreted as a disavowal of all those who want to respond generously and with an authentic evangelical spirit to the “preferential option for the poor.” It should not at all serve as an excuse for those who maintain the attitude of neutrality and indifference in the face of the tragic and pressing problems of human misery and injustice.” (emphasis added)

Secondly, someone might want to remind Mr. Beck, who professes as interest in history, that it was the Roman government that executed Jesus of Nazareth. A 1985 statement from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is rather clear in its pastoral direction: “As the council statement requires, the presentation of the Crucifixion story should be made in such a way as not to implicate all Jews of Jesus’ time or of today in a collective guilt for the crime. This is important for catechesis and homilies, especially during Lent and Holy Week, as well as for any dramatizations of the events, such as Passion Plays.” There may be some congregations for whom the “guilt trip” is accepted, but it is not a feature of mainstream Christian theology.

There’s another example of blatant public racism that hits a bit closer to home. Mark Williams, who describes himself as a “Founding Tea Party Patriot,” and “spokesman for the Tea Party Express,” [MarkTalk] was moved to react to the NAACP’s call for the repudiation of racism in the Tea Party Express, not by calling out those who would taint the Tea Party Express with a public display of their prejudices, but by crafting a Letter to Lincoln attacking the NAACP, a post he has since taken down. [TPM]

If Williams meant to create a parody, he was well wide of the mark. His premise appears to be that the NAACP is, itself, a racist organization the philosophy and political agenda of which tends to “enslave” African Americans in bondage to Big Government. The analogy doesn’t work, simply because it has required federal action to obtain civil rights for African Americans in housing, voting, transportation, and other realms of American life in which “small” governments in States and localities perpetuated Jim Crow Laws. The NAACP stood at the forefront of the Modern Civil Rights Movement to end the segregation and second class treatment received by African Americans who sought to vote in public elections, use public transportation systems, eat in public restaurants, attend public schools, and fully participate in American economic life.

And, speaking of local issues, this stance taken by Williams in his “Letter,” as an advocate for the Tea Party Express, is related to the senatorial election in Nevada. The Tea Party Express announced its endorsement of candidate Sharron Angle, [KTNV] [LVTSG] and promoted fundraising for her campaign. [TPblg] The Tea Party Express also released television advertising for the Angle Campaign. [TPMDC]

The Tea Party Express has provided more than merely an endorsement. Angle’s FEC filing for April 1 to May 19, 2010 shows “The PAC Tea Party Express bought $258,752.00 worth of advertising and the PAC Club for Growth bought an additional $277,211.00 spending $208,000.00 of the $277,211.00 in one day, during the period of the FEC filing.” [NJP] (emphasis added) Further, Angle would have us believe that her donations come from individuals making modest contributions. The filing shows otherwise: “An analysis of the “Itemized Receipts” reveals that donations from Nevada were $45,221.50, out of state donations were $61,260.50, and another $184,222.51 in donations were classified as “Unitemized” This is not a grassroots effort when the three PACs spent $536,263.00 and her donations were only $290,704.51.” [NJP]

So, what is Candidate Angle’s reaction to Williams’ commentary? How would she respond to this statement from a Founding Tea Party Patriot and Spokesman for the Tea Party Express?

Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government “stop raising our taxes.” That is outrageous! How will we Colored People ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society?” This stereotyping is patently offensive, and the underlying assumptions elementally racist.

There was more: “And the ridiculous idea of “reduce[ing] the size and intrusiveness of government.” What kind of massa would ever not want to control my life? As Coloreds we must have somebody care for us otherwise we would be on our own, have to think for ourselves and make decisions!” The NAACP’s membership did think for themselves, then and now. It was the NAACP that faced down demands from southern governments in the 1950s for copies of their membership lists. [CaseLaw] It was the NAACP that sought an anti-lynching bill in as early as 1918. [NAACP] It was NAACP Litigation Director Charles Hamilton Houston and Legal Counsel Thurgood Marshall who brought 26 cases to the U.S. Supreme Court, one of which was Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. [NAACP] Mark Williams may have assumed that the “darkie” stereotype describes a portion of the African American community, but he’s missed both the history and the point.

How does Mrs. Angle feel about the Tea Party Express spokesperson using an unmistakably biased perception of African Americans as a feature in his “parody” of the NAACP’s efforts to secure civil and human rights for its membership, and by extension for members of other ethnic minorities?

Will Candidate Angle forswear the support of the uniformed and ill-advised like the followers of TV personality Glenn Beck? Will she forswear the support of one of her earliest endorsements, the Tea Party Express and its evidently bigoted spokesperson Mark Williams?

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Filed under Angle, Beck, NAACP, Tea Party Express