News That Will Drive You To Drink

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Yup, it’s Brownback time: Defiant Sam Brownback vows to move toward zero income tax — and make Kansas even more unequal.

The lede is pretty strong (tons-o-links to back up the assertions):

Here’s what Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s supply side economic experiment has wrought: The Republican’s massive tax cuts for the wealthy and businesses will cost the state a projected $5 billion in revenue over seven years; by this summer, legislators must address a $278 million revenue shortfall, which Brownback is looking to fill in part by slashing vital infrastructure spending and reducing contributions to the state’s already underfunded pension plan. Meanwhile, the tax cuts haven’t delivered the economic “shot of adrenaline” Brownback promised. Kansas’ GDP growth lags behind that of other states in the region, its rate of job growth is slower than that of the nation as a whole, and the state’s per-capita income ranking hasn’t changed since the tax cuts were enacted in 2012. Kansas is ascending the national rankings on one measure, however: Last year, it ranked seventh in the nation among states residents left.

Surely this dismal state of affairs has Brownback considering a major course correction — right?

Fat chance. In his State of the State address last night, the newly reinaugurated governor was at once determined, defiant, and delusional, vowing that he would continue to move the state toward zero income tax, indicating that despite some post-election speculation, Brownback has no intention of reversing course on his signature economic policy.

Kansas has turned into the predictable Randian Paradise, a Liberia on the plains as it were. Congratulations to Gov. Brownback on his recent re-election. As we’ve noted before, Kansans, you gotta dance with them whut brung you.

Paul Ryan Popped Wood You Can See From Space

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Congressman Paul Ryan and his fellow selfish SOBs will all be pleased to learn that a previously lost and unpublished Ayn Rand novel has been discovered and will soon be available:

For the first time in more than 50 years, publishers are rolling out a new novel by the godmother of libertarianism, the previously unpublished Ideal. The book tells the story of a movie actress who is accused of murder.

Rand wrote the novel in her late 20s, but never published it, although at one point, she did write a stage adaptation, which will be included in the new edition along with the short novel.

The “objectivist” author’s works — particularly the novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged — have been held up by pro-business, anti-government zealots as exemplars of political fiction. Her acolytes praise her as one of the greatest minds of the 20th century and have made her, essentially, the patron saint of people who don’t tip.

(Raw Story — New ‘lost’ Ayn Rand novel will bring her crimes against literature to new generation of jerks, by David Ferguson, AKA T.Rex

More Flip-Flops Than a Memorial Day Shoe Sale

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The Daily Banter is doing yeoman’s work trying to keep up with the 2016 Goat Rodeo’s Schröedinger’s Candidate Rand Paul’s latest changing positions on ISIS:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is a national joke and anyone who thinks he’d make a swell president needs to pay a little more attention to the, you know, news. Yesterday, we reported the freshman senator’s latest in a bottomless cup of flip-flops in which he said, on the record, that he’d intervene militarily against the Islamic State, aka ISIS. Prior to being obviously hawkish, Paul condemned Hillary Clinton for being a hawk on the Middle East. Now he’s backpedaling on his flirtation with intervention. Surprise, surprise…

…Oh, yeah, it’s time for a president like Rand Paul who totally has a strategy — which is to not have any strategies that survive for more than a few minutes. His only consistent strategy is the one in which he says whatever’s necessary to get elected, even if it directly contradicts something he just said.

At this rate, by the weekend, Rand Paul will have taken every imaginable position on ISIS, including condemnations of his own prior positions. Because he has a strategy.

It’s great, good stuff. The Daily Banter is becoming a Daily Read for me.

The Invisible Finger of the Market Place

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Any economists out there, or policy wonks want to weigh in on this:

Wallace put the question more directly: “You would allow the Ex-Im Bank to expire in September?”

McCarthy immediately said “Yes. Because it’s something that the private sector can be able to do.”

When I looked up the Export-Import Bank, it sounded like they provide low-interest loan insurance that helps small US manufacturers expand their markets overseas when the big banks won’t take the risk. That they also help the foreign customers to buy the US export also seems like a good thing. From what I can tell, essentially they step in where the banks won’t, and everyone wins.

That it was signed into existence by FDR also tells me that there is probably a real need for this thing, and so to have a pseudo-Ayn Rand Market analysis spouted off by one of the really dim bulbs of Wingnuttia, gives me grounds for instinctively being in favor of the Ex-Im.

Those who do not learn from history…

…are really f***ing stupid:

Example A is Teabagger Marilinda Garcia, who is a candidate for Congress from New Hampshire.

Gosh, you know, as a student of history (OK, it was one of my undergraduate majors), I kinda-sort know that the people of Jamestown did not starve to death because they lacked private property. They starved to death from because they did not grow food.

So why, you ask, did they not grow any food? They were being good little capitalists, and trying make it big in the mercantile economy by growing exotic crops to export to England (and presumably to return as rich as kings); they were not trying to grow subsistence crops.

So, you could say that Capitalism killed the Jamestown Colony, or the Invisible Hand killed them, or even that they all went Galt with greed. But you cannot say that they died from collectivism. That’s just stupid.

Today in Ayn Rand-Land…

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We learn that those fiercely proud Capitalists at Walmart have called in the socialized police to protect their bottled water following the brave, Galt-like despoiling of the water in Libertarian paradise of West Virginia.

(Think Progress)

Ayn Rand goes shopping

Bloomberg has a long article on Sears’ implosion that is fascinating on many levels, but it held my attention on one aspect in particular: the CEO Eddie Lampert is a hedge-fund manager and fan of dirty book author Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. He based much of his disastrous decisions on her philosophy:

…Lampert runs Sears like a hedge fund portfolio, with dozens of autonomous businesses competing for his attention and money. An outspoken advocate of free-market economics and fan of the novelist Ayn Rand, he created the model because he expected the invisible hand of the market to drive better results. If the company’s leaders were told to act selfishly, he argued, they would run their divisions in a rational manner, boosting overall performance.

Instead, the divisions turned against each other—and Sears and Kmart, the overarching brands, suffered. Interviews with more than 40 former executives, many of whom sat at the highest levels of the company, paint a picture of a business that’s ravaged by infighting as its divisions battle over fewer resources. (Many declined to go on the record for a variety of reasons, including fear of angering Lampert.) Shaunak Dave, a former executive who left in 2012 and is now at sports marketing agency Revolution, says the model created a “warring tribes” culture. “If you were in a different business unit, we were in two competing companies,” he says. “Cooperation and collaboration aren’t there.”

…Only so far, Lampert’s experiment resembles a different book: The Hunger Games.

So instituting ruthless selfishness didn’t result in manna? Creating 30 separate business units (complete with executive suites, and boards of directors) competing against each other for resources didn’t make the company run better, but instead has them on a deathwatch.

But there is an upside to Lampert’s Darwinistic approach: if Sears Holdings needs to be liquidated, many of the business units could be sold off as stand-alone companies, so he’s got that working for him.

The Bloomberg article is a fascinating look at what happens when Randite philosophy meets the real world of business. We’ve seen how it works in public policy, so is there any wonder that Dorothy Parker gets the last word:

“Atlas Shrugged is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”

The body-count of laissez-faire economics

Let’s be real: the explosion at the fertilizer factory was completely preventable. If Grover Norquist and his ilk were not so busy trying to starve the beast and bathtub-drown it for the 1%, there might have been some reasonable inspections that would have at least warned people that this was likely to happen.

Instead, over the past five years, exactly six fertilizer plants have been inspected. There are many more explosions waiting to happen. How is this possible, you ask?

In the US, there are more than 170 companies making 70,000 different chemicals, totaling $750 billion revenue, and so it only seems logical that Congress funded $10.5M for inspections. You can do the math. It is beyond preposterous.

And of course, we should thank Chimpy for the miracle of self-regulation and reporting that is supposed to make up the difference.

As for Texas, well, what kind of zoning laws would allow a bomb-making plant (remember, chemical fertilizers were part of the swords to plough shares at the end of WWII, but the industry really did result from bomb making) in a populated downtown, walking distance to the hospital and elementary school, and with several senior housing facilities also in the radius of the blast?

It all adds up to a perfect storm of Ayn Rand style selfishness and greed, and now it has a body count.

Walmart takes crowd sourcing to logical conclusion

You will work for them for free.

And please remember that collectively, the Walton Family is the wealthiest in America as you deliver packages for them without pay.

Atlas Shrugged, Pt. 2

Hey guys, did you know that Atlas Shrugged 2: The Strike was released? Me Neither! And there I was making fun of it last year when they were begging people to donate money to it and asking unpaid labor to work on it. Galt, indeed.

Here’s some reviews (from Rotten Tomatoes):

“Seriously, if this is the best promotion of itself that the free market can manage, it really would benefit from the help of a Ministry of Culture or something.” — Village Voice

“A disaster as a film, Atlas also is laughable in its presentation of Rand’s ideology.” — Philadelphia Inquirer

“The determined, if questionably talented, cast and crew of Ayn Rand devotees continue to hack their way through the lionized author’s obtuse prose.” — OK Magazine

“Rand’s detractors will hate the movie as much as they do her, but her fans will be satisfied …” – Sacramento News and Review

Maybe if they added sparkly vampires to the Director’s cut…?

Anyway, it looks like it was released right before the election in November (perhaps to persuade assholes and libertarians to vote?), and according to the IMDB it is estimated to cost about $10M to make and to date it has earned $3,333,823.

The market has spoken! Please, dear God, no Part 3, which I assume is when The Speech (a 50-page screed by one character) would be spoken.