May 12, 2006

WEEKEND SPECIAL: DENNY DIMWIT ON CORPORATE WELFARE



The Goat Rope is pleased to once again feature a learned discourse from bantam rooster and noted free market economist Dr. Denton "Denny" Dimwit. Dr. Dimwit is director of the Goat Rope Farm Entrepreneurship Center, which is not directly affiliated with the WVU Entrepreneurship Center, although it regards the latter with great admiration.

Dr. Dimwit was selected to be a featured writer because, after thoroughly investigating the field, Goat Rope is convinced that Dr. Dimwit is smarter, more articulate, and better looking than other free market economists. He also has the biggest hen in proportion to body mass.

More importantly, we believe that opening Goat Rope to diverse viewpoints in a climate of mutual respect will contribute to greater civility and courtesy in our society at large.

THE DIMWIT DISPATCH

Crudirini! This blog is getting stupider every week! It must be written by slime molds...really stupid slime molds.

What's all this stuff from yesterday about corporate welfare and the corporate nanny state? You don't get it, do you? Once you buy the government, you can do anything you want with it. It's private property.

And speaking of nannies, check out the picture. The dark handsome guy in the background is me. Now check out what's in front of me. You know what that is? Huh? I'll tell you. That's one BIG hen. Yowza! And you know what? She's with me, got it? Yeah man. It's more proof of the beauty of the market.

That's the truth. You bet your cloaca.


GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

May 11, 2006

STRIKE THROUGH THE MASK



Caption: Current events have driven this cat to drink. Some of us were already there.

One of the more outrageous fish tales peddled these days--and the competition is fierce--goes like this:

A. We have a free market system (except for those pesky social programs and bothersome regulations); and

B. Our "conservative" friends are protecting it.

What we really have is more a case of socialism for the rich where the resources of the state are used to further enrich the already wealthy. Unfortunately, political debate is often hypocritically and successfully framed as market good/government bad by the beneficiaries of the system.

Progressives often shoot themselves in the foot, or someplace worse, by accepting those terms of debate.

A new and free downloadable ebook titled The Conservative Nanny State:
How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer
by Dean Baker is a welcome dose of reality.

Baker is co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Beat the Press blogger.

Here's a sample from the introduction:

Political debates in the United States are routinely framed as a battle between conservatives who favor market outcomes, whatever they may be, against liberals who prefer government intervention to ensure that families have decent standards-of-living. This description of the two poles is inaccurate; both conservatives and liberals want government intervention. The difference between them is the goal of government intervention, and the fact that conservatives are smart enough to conceal their dependence on the government.


The book deals with a host of topics, include trade deals, federal reserve policies, taxes, CEO pay, and corporate welfare.

Another good source for unmasking the nanny state and the bogus cult of the market god is Good Jobs First, which has led the way in exposing corporate welfare and economic development scams.

GJF founder Greg LeRoy is author of the book The Great American Jobs Scam: Corporate Dodging and the Myth of Job Creation, which shows that cities and states give away $50 billion a year in corporate subsidies and often get little or nothing in return.

It's time for some serious unmasking.

(Full picture disclosure: while Goat Rope is generally opposed to outsourcing, the drinking cat pictured above is not a resident of Goat Rope Farm. When the animals here find out about it, they may go on strike, a move that would be devastating if they actually did anything useful).

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ABOVE THE MAINMAST

May 10, 2006

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS...FOR A FEW



Groups that advocate for sane budget priorities and human needs are urging people to contact the Senate today to oppose a $70 billion tax cut package that may move today. The bill passed the House Wednesday.

A toll free number to the Capitol switchboard has been provided by the American Friends Service Committee: 1-800-459-1887

The cuts would provide $42,000 in tax breaks for millionaires, while the middle fifth of taxpayers with incomes averaging around $36,000 would only gain $20, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

For more information, click here.

Forty five percent of the benefits of the cut would go to the 0.2% of the population with incomes over $1 million; the bottom 3/4 of the population, with incomes of $75,000 or less, would only receive 5% of the benefits, which would average $30.

According to an analysis by the National Women's Law Center, in the great state of West Virginia, only 0.1% of households--481 to be exact--would get the big cut, while 686,285 households would get the $30.

When the tax cuts get translated into budget cuts, guess who would feel the pain?

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

LIVING WAGES: A WIN/WIN FOR WORKERS AND SMALL BUSINESSES


Caption: A scientific survey of dogs, cats, and peacocks on Goat Rope Farm found no job loss after an increase in the minimum wage. Productivity, however, was another matter.

Around the country, momentum is building on campaigns to raise federal and state minimum wages, an issue that may even affect the outcome of elections in 2006 and 2008.

The success of efforts in 21 states and the District of Columbia shows that this is winnable. Every new state victory makes it easier for others and sends another message to Congress. In El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia, we won the first round with a partial legislative victory in March and are gearing up for round two.

And this is a fight anyone can join: if your state has an ongoing campaign, you can find out more and join it by contacting the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign. If your state has already raised the minimum, you can help make noise at the federal level.

Aside from covering yourself in eternal glory, you can contribute to a struggle that could help millions of low income Americans and slow down the ongoing race to the bottom.

Meanwhile, here's some new ammunition for the struggle:

A frequent objection to raising the minimum wage is that this would have an adverse impact on small business. However, the Fiscal Policy Institute has completed a new study that "examined recent state-by-state trends for small businesses employing fewer than 50 workers and found that employment and payrolls in small businesses grew faster in the states with minimum wages about the federal level than in the remaining states where the $5.15 an hour federal minimum wage prevailed."

These findings reinforce results from an earlier study by the same group.

Specifically:

*the number of small businesses grew by 5.4 % in higher minimum wage states between 1998 and 2003 compared to 4.2 % in other states;

*small businesses had higher job growth in higher wage states (6.7% vs. 5.3%);

*total annual small business payrolls increased more in higher wage states (24.5% vs. 21.2%);

*average worker payrolls increased more in higher wage states (16.7% vs. 15.1%

*the number of small retail businesses increased in higher wage states while they declined in others (0.6% vs -0.3%); and

*between Jan. 1998 and Jan. 2006, total job growth and total retail job growth increased more in higher wage states (9.7% vs. 7.5% total and 10.2% vs. 3.7% retail).

Further, the study found that "the positive effects of the increased minimum wage on low-wage workers' income were not negated by reduced hours of work."

The results of the study suggest that:

faced with an increase in the minimum wage, small businesses may have benefited from some combination of higher productivity through improved worker retention and savings on recruitment and training. There may also be a "Henry Ford" effect at work: if you pay workers more, they can buy more, boosting the overall economy, especially among small retail businesses.


The experience of the campaign in West Virginia suggests that this kind of information carries weight with legislators and the media. Repeated studies show that the general public overwhelmingly supports an increase.

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: HIGHER THAN THE FEDERAL MINIMUM WAGE

May 08, 2006

WORKING POOR INCREASINGLY AT RISK



Caption: America's low wage working people are more likely to fall into poverty. Goat union leader Arcadia S. Venus asks, "Are you guys going to just sit there and take this? Here's a hint: the correct answer is 'No!'"

According to the New York Times, a new study shows that families struggling to make ends meet are increasingly at risk of falling into poverty.

"Americans on the lower rungs of the economic ladder have always been exposed to sudden ruin. But in recent years, with the soaring costs of housing and medical care and a decline in low-end wages and benefits, tens of millions are living on even shakier ground than before, according to studies of what some scholars call the 'near poor.'"

Sociologist Mark R. Rank of Washington University of St. Louis, is the author of a new book titled "One Nation, Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All." A 2004 study by Rank and Daniel A. Sandoval and Thomas A. Hirschl of Cornell University found that for all age groups except those 70 and older, the likelihood of a fall into poverty rose sharply in the 1990s compared to previous decades and is likely to continue to increase.

For an abstract of the article, click here.

According to that study, titled "The Increase of Poverty Risk and Income Insecurity in the U.S. Since the 1970's," in the 1980s, about 13 percent of Americans in their 40s spent at least a year below the poverty line. By the 1990s, 36 percent did.

The Times article says that
Comparable figures for this decade will not be available for several years, but other indicators--a climbing poverty rate and rising levels of family debt--suggest a deepening insecurity, poverty experts and economists say.

More people work in jobs without health coverage, including temporary or contract jobs that may offer no benefits or even access to unemployment insurance. Medicaid is offered to fewer adults (though to more children). Cash welfare benefits are harder to secure, and their real value has eroded.

While 37 million Americans lived below the poverty level in 2004, another 54 million lived in households where earnings were between 100 and 200 percent of the poverty line. These families are increasingly vulnerable to a downward spiral.


Princeton sociologist Katherine S. Newman told the Times, "We don't track this group of people, and they are very vulnerable."

Triggering events for a downward plunge often include a health care crisis or layoffs.

These findings highlight the need for bold public policy responses, such as universal health care, public wage insurance, raising the minimum wage, and maintaining and improving the social safety net. Unfortunately, the current ruling clique has other priorities.

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: SUPERLUNARY