Pope Francis Condemns Corruption and Unbridled Capitalism

Pope Francis Condemns Corruption and Unbridled Capitalism

Pope Francis is truly a remarkable figure.  My favorite quote from the above Huffington Post article:

He urged politicians and business leaders “not to yield to an economic model which is idolatrous, which needs to sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profit.”

I wish I had more to write, but I am somewhat speechless.  I’m extremely glad to see such a powerful figure speaking truth and standing up for human rights.  Statements like the above shouldn’t be surprising, it’s basic common sense, but unfortunately we live in a world where people all too often put money and profit above others.

Obama to Unveil Plan to Extend Overtime Pay to 5 Million

Obama to Unveil Plan to Bring Overtime Pay to 5 Million

Another interesting article, this time a headline over at Huffpo.  If you look at the widening wage gap between owners and workers, especially if you look at it over the course of history in the last hundred years, you will see that things have gotten completely out of whack.  Don’t take my word for it, do the research.  This looks to be a way that Obama is looking to help lessen the outrageous disparity that has arisen in this country between rich and poor.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. says record payday will provide too much to spend

Floyd Mayweather Jr. says record payday will provide too much to spend

http://www.latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-sn-mayweather-says-record-payday-will-be-too-much-to-spend-20150429-story.html

When a boxer is making 200 million dollars for one fight, and people are paying $100,000 for tickets, something is wrong.  There is no kind of free market justification for that kind of gross excess.  Everyone only has one life.  When some starve while others drop $100,000 for a sporting event, it seems like it is time to take a hard look at the economic system we all live in.  This current one is absurd and grotesque.  

Welfare Makes America More Entrepreneurial

Welfare Makes America More Entrepreneurial

The above link is to an Atlantic story that talks about how the social safety net actually increases the chances of taking the risk of being an entrepreneur.  The evidence presented in the article seems to back this idea up.  It personally seems like common sense to me.  A safety net is not meant to provide someone with a comfortable middle class existence.  It merely allows for survival in the face of economic hardship.  If one knows they can take a risk starting their own business without facing abject poverty, it seems to me they would be more willing to take that risk.

2 Years After Raising Taxes On the Rich, The Story of Minnesota

2 Years After Raising Taxes On the Rich, Here’s What Happened to Minnesota

Minnesota put progressive economic policies in place when Governor Mark Dayton was elected.  The above article tells the story of what has happened since.

The article is extra enjoyable for the compare and contrast set up with Republican Scott Walker.

Thanks to Mr. Russell for the article.  

Obamacare is Barely Denting Corporate Profits

Obamacare is Barely Denting Corporate Profits

Bloomberg Business News is reporting that Obamacare is not causing any harm to business the way its opponents stated.  The article is worth reading in full to get all the details.  This article basically means that some of the main talking points Obamacare opponents tried to use to make people fearful of the law, have had a giant shit taken on them.

Walmart to Raise Wages

Walmart Raises Wages

I was happily surprised today to see that Walmart is raising the minimum hourly wage that it pays workers from $7.25 to $9 and eventually to $10.  I’m under no illusion.  This was done for self-serving reasons and not for any great altruistic purpose.  It is still incredibly hard to live in America on $9 an hour.  However, regardless, this is a good thing and Walmart, whatever their motivation, deserves credit.  If we are to criticize companies for not doing the right thing, then we must also acknowledge when they make positive changes.  Walmart has influence in the marketplace due to the fact that they are such a large employer.  Hopefully this will help set a trend of wage increases in America.  This is good news for the hard working Americans who work for Walmart, because they are slightly closer to earning a living wage.  This is good news for all Americans as our economy has always done better when American workers earn fair wages.  There is still much to be done to make our economy fair, but lets take at least a moment to acknowledge that a small step has been made in the right direction.

Thoughts On the Wolf of Wall Street

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Last night I watched The Wolf of Wall Street for the second time.  I probably enjoyed it even more this time as the movie has so many great performances and scenes.  Even many of the actors that are in the margins of the movie shine.  The movie is long and dense, so I still don’t feel qualified to give it a proper review.  However, there were a couple interesting ideas that I picked up on.

I think it is good that the movie didn’t try too hard to judge the characters.  Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, a great film in its own right, was a condemnation of the kind of behavior that took place on Wall Street in the 80’s and it still ended up serving as inspiration for modern day traders.  The Wolf of Wall Street documents the decadent and depraved nature of its characters, but for the most part it stops at documentation, and doesn’t try to relay any heavy moral message, as that hasn’t really proved effective in the past even when it is extremely well done.

I can’t help but view The Wolf of Wall Street as a comedy about the absurdity of capitalism.  These people are entirely despicable, in every way possible, yet these are the people that run our world.  In the beginning of the movie the working class is portrayed as “suckers” by these people for not having what it takes to get ahead.  Even the other rich, anyone that dares trust these people with their money, are laughed at and mocked.  This movie paints our whole capitalist system as some kind of perverse joke.  One of the most telling scenes in the movie is when Jordan Belfort, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, changes the name of his company to Stratton Oakmont to give it a respectable old money waspish sounding name.  Respectability is nothing but an illusion used to steal money from the “suckers” of the world.

But again this movie treats these people as animals in the zoo.  They are not so much treated as bad guys, but as a strange species that we allow to roam, to the detriment of all.  They make a mockery of our society, because we let them.

Radio Shack Declares Bankruptcy and the Destructive Force of Markets

Radio Shack Goes Bankrupt

The above Huffington Post story is about how Radio Shack has gone bankrupt.  My first question is, how did that not happen sooner?  My second question is what does this mean in the overall economy?  In the article it says that Radio Shack had around 27,500 employees.  Now one can’t mainly draw any conclusions from Radio Shack itself.  They simply may have been running a bad business model, they may have been run poorly.  However, in a world where technology is constantly changing, faster than ever before I think we can expect to see more of this type of thing; Businesses will go out of business when they can’t evolve fast enough.  It’s part of capitalism and it has been going on forever.  I do think though that the speed of technology will make these kinds of events more and more of a reality, as we’ve seen already.  As technological advancement speeds up so too will the fallout from companies and people that can’t adapt.  One also has to wonder how many retail stores are in danger due to companies like Amazon swallow more and more markets.

But this is precisely why we need a safety net more than ever before.  If you believe in letting markets do their thing in creating wealth, and the markets are, if nothing else, good at creating wealth, though not necessarily good at divvying it up, you must have something that balances out the destructive force that comes along with the creation of wealth.  (Markets don’t just create things like wealth and jobs, they also destroy things such as other jobs, resources,etc.)  Suddenly thousands of people’s jobs just became irrelevant through no fault of their own for the most part.  (If you read the article there is a possibility that some stores will remain open.)  As these and other people try to find new jobs do we help them keep their heads above water in the meantime, or do we simply watch as they drown?  I believe if you take a minute and put yourself in those people’s shoes, the answer is pretty obvious…