Reading and watching events play out across the Middle East, we have a front row seat to a highly historical moment in history. This part of the world has been under some kind of dictatorship for something like 6k years and we are witness to possibly the last vestiges of 'iron fist rule' in this relatively very brief time span in the history of the world. Some countries will not get it right on the first try and some dictatorships will live on, but not for long. The die has been cast, with the first pouring of the democratic mold by the small country of Tunisia.
It's just amazing to see how the world has advanced in the last 100 years or so. Germany had their holocaust and Japanese soldiers were tossing Chinese babies into the air and catching them on their bayonets. Man's inhumanity to man has known no bounds. But, hopefully, we will not go back. Hopefully, good has triumphed over evil and we can get on with it.
However, vigilance is the order of the day. Left unattended, evil doers can be the undoers of any democratic society, including ours. For example, we are upon the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire where 146 garment workers died, many because the doors and exits were locked by company managers. This incident is not too different than the Postville Raid of 2008 where immigrant laborer's were being abused, physically and financially. Some 400 undocumented immigrants were working under deplorable conditions, some subjected to sexual assault and child labor laws were being violated.
These examples make the point that, without proper oversight and regulation, evil can and will ramp up and trump any democratic society. To say that mans inhumanity to man has disappeared is to ignore daily events and history in general. Today, the strength of our democracy is measurable to a large degree by the level of tolerance given to perceived wrongdoing and mostly applicable to the financial sector. Wealth directly translates to power and power and evil, where combined makes democracy live hard. Proper regulation is a constant, never ending struggle fer shure.
Often, partisan politics come into play in deciding right from wrong on some issues. Right and wrong can take on different meaning for people of a different class or situation in life on some issues.
For example, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) was created in 1824 by the War Dept. Since, the Interior Dept. of the US gov't has pretty much controlled the lives of Indians and Eskimos. Perhaps, the BIA was a good thing at inception and/or for a number of years. But, looking at the status of Indian reservations today one has to wonder if the Indians should continue to be controlled by a government oversight agency. Surely needed, if one believes the sales pitch of the BIA chief re the 2012 budget. Coming up on 200 years of Indian 'management'. Should this program be continued or absolved?
John Stossel recently related that the first floor of his oceanfront home was destroyed by ocean activity and the federal gov't replaced it for free. Then the ocean took his whole house and the gov't replaced that one for free as well. He also received a tax credit for an electric golf car paid for with your tax dollars. Stossel often rants that these type programs are to the benefit of the wealthy at the expense of the taxpayer.
And, in today's Washington Post, I find an article, by an MBA student at GWU, relating why a pair of eyeglasses can cost up to $1000. He gave a cost breakdown for a pair of glasses costing $320. He notes that the frames cost approx $38 and the lenses $48 and that add-ons, such as nose pads $60, tax $16 and a host of other charges bring the total to around $270, or what the customer would pay for a set of $320 glasses. From another perspective, a gisted text from Barry C. Lynn's, 'Cornered'. Until the 1980's one could stroll into one of thousands of small stores run by individual and independent opticians and optometrists and purchase eyewear provided by dozens of suppliers who often fashioned the frames on site. Following the Regan era and 'greed is good', merging of corporations began to take off. The Italian firm, Luxottica, began buying up their competition. In 1995, Lenscrafters, In 1999, Ray-Ban from Bausch & Lomb., In 2001, Sunglass Hut's chain of 1900 stores. Three years later Luxottica took control of Cole National, which owned Pearl Vision as well as the optical departments at Sears, Target, and JCPenny. Luxottica also run the optical depts. at Macy's and other Federated stores. In 07 they picked up the US eyewear company Oakley for $2.1B, made affordable by the fact that Luxottica has, for years, used its control of retail outlets to choke Oakley slowing to death. That deal brought Luxottica three more retailers, including Bright Eyes and Sunglass Icon, the main competitor of Sunglass Hut. Now, if you don't buy your eyewear from LensCrafters or Pearle Vision or Target or Sears it's still likely you are going to deal with Luxottica as they control the distribution of much of the world's eyewear to what few independent stores remain. They not only sell products under their brand name and that of Ray-Ban, they make what is sold under Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and Tag Hener. Likewise, if you buy from Australia, Europe and even China, there's a good chance your buying from Luxottica. One has to wonder where all this merging and monopolizing might lead in another 30-50 years.
Another article in today's Wash. Post several members of Virginia's House of Delegates relates that Virginia ha failed to systematically analyze millions of dollars being spent each year on tax credits an preferential incentives provided to those groups savvy enough to negotiate the legislative process. They state that during this General Assembly alone they considered 25 bills either reauthorizing credits or creating new ones. "Name your favorite initiative or industry and we have a credit for it". Coal, motion pictures, barge and rail companies, ports, long-term care, aircraft, land preservation and r&d receive substantial tax dollars, something on the order of $200M, which will continue for many years without legislative action. When passed, those credits authorize the transfer of money from taxpayers to the beneficiaries each year with no additional oversight by the General Assy. Eliminating credits for the coal industry alone, over $100M, would allow the corporate tax rate to move from 6 to 5.25% and provide a tax refund of $15/yr for each Virginian.
Maybe we should just forget all this right/wrong decision making and head to the lake an drown a few worms. Whadda ya say?
Otherwise, we have the Corpocracy we deserve.