Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Saint Basil

Poverty for the sake of poverty is meaningless, according to Saint Basil, so how is it that we are wholeheartedly accepting the spread of poverty through out the U.S.A.?  Why is poverty, but not gross wealth, stigmatized?  If I were to go door to door and take a survey of what the community thought about offering shelter, food and clothing to the homeless, how many of them would be in support of using tax dollars to extend services to homeless?  It seems entirely doable, what with all of the empty real estate in Austin, TX.  We have 49 million Americans living in poverty.  How can it be deemed as a service to society to be waging war on citizens?  Poverty and its causes are a disease to society and punishing the homeless is, per se, killing the messenger.  I watched a cop this evening write a ticket to this perfectly peaceable homeless man who is always polite and doesn't bug anyone.  I am happy to offer them money when I have it and why wouldn't I be?  I was told by a friend once how people have to be able to ask for help in order to succeed.  He was young and used to getting help from people, his family and such.  What about the legions of people who do not have those avenues from which to draw support, which is the majority of us?  Simply because one is employed does not mean they are immune and the greedy forces that cause disparity know few boundaries today.  They have brain washed our elected officials.  The cop who was writing a ticket does so because it is his job, allegedly, but only because this is the current dictate of the city.  Capital Metro does not have to be punitive.  Why not live to make each others' lives good instead of uncomfortable?  Do cops go to work in hopes of being able to harass the homeless?  Hopefully not. Is there not a better application of the function that the police force serve in this city? Austin is a safe city, compared to others of its size and one would think that the city would be interested in keeping it that way.  Poverty breeds desperation and desperation breeds crime.  Homeless people deserve the same rights as those who have a place to call home. Why wouldn't they? Let them be or offer them a dignified existence, because harassing them is futile as well as undignified.  Homelessness will not disappear by writing tickets to them and pretending that lack of access to services is tenable.  Getting a job is not feasible for older people and with employment as scarce as it is, no one should be haughty about their stature.  I wish I could afford to give these guys who loiter at the bus stop more money, but I can only give a little. If more people took an interest in the lives of the less fortunate, it would only make life more meaningful for us all.  Helping others takes us away from our all too common and mundane problems, so why not? Many people who were once gainfully employed are without work...is it not finally time to question and undermine the mythological premise that all you have to do is work hard to succeed and that material success is because of hard work? There is a saying, that to anyone who boasts about their wealth coming from hard work, one must ask whose? So let us take off the rose colored glasses that make inequity and disparity plausible and, at the very least, help people in need of the basic and simple things.  It is all that any of us needs.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Glorification of Internet Based Companies

Thanks to the candid, no frills reporting of PBS Newshour, I am privy to the absurd hubris of the modern business person.  The story begins with the statistic offered by the Kaufman Foundation, that start-ups create three million new jobs annually.  How long these start-up companies survive is not disclosed and perhaps not researched.  The reporting does explain how most start-ups fail, but these start- up accelerators are supposed to ensure the viability of businesses. It is an allegedly exclusive engagement, harder to get into than IV league schools. What are the genius ideas coming out of these angel investor incubators? The one that impressed me was called LENDFREND, the founder of which aims to garner a sizable portion of the estimated 75 billion dollars that friends lend to each other. Forgive my naive and unsophisticated method for evaluating the value of business, but if your product is meant to skim off the money that people lend to each other, your business might be apart of the problem, not the solution to the problem.  (The problem being a lack of money to spare, in case this is not as absurd to you as it is to me).  Each company is compared to Facebook and Google, two companies which would not be as lucrative as they are were it not for the hype and the funds that were pumped into these companies.  That is not to say that Google and Facebook are not valuable creations, but valuable is not always measured in dollar amounts and often the dollar amount does not do a thing justice, whether it is high or low. Another start-up concept that was featured is based upon restaurants and streamlining the experience, being able to jump ahead in line and order.  I am not sure how that would sell to restaurants and the novelty of such a system might be thrilling for a nano- second, but it sounds like another unnecessary use of technology.  It is not a sign of progress when we become slaves to the tools we create, but when we create tools that improve our lives. Is there a bubble? This should not be so difficult to assess.  While three million jobs are created by start-ups, what is the survival rate of these businesses? Where are these jobs created? What are the external costs of these businesses?  Internet start-ups and Silicon Valley receive lots of attention, likely because they are making money without doing the pesky work that is typically associated with how money is made.  The fact remains that the need for profitability is passed off to someone and in the end, Silicon Valley is not a booming arena, but an old farming community that is now littered with vacant office buildings.  There are not shortcuts to survival for everyone, just some people and those shortcuts, as we have seen with the financial meltdown, cost other people their jobs, their homes, and their communities. The glorification of allegedly new business models is an obvious hoax, as the value of any business is based upon a need and the service of that need.  Economics is premised upon the idea of people having unlimited wants in a world of limited resources.  Thus far our economic advancement can be summed up to the creation of many artificial wants and needs, so much so that we have neglected our fundamental and profound needs as human beings: widespread access to food, shelter, clothing and community.  Business can be good, but in moderation, just like everything else.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Baby Boomers

                I am driving in the passenger seat of a new car to a restaurant to have a bite to eat and the driver of the vehicle is about twenty years my senior. She is apart of the so called baby boom generation.  This is a curious set of people, as they are arbitrarily accredited and discredited, depending on your politics, with various things. Protesting against the Vietnam War and helping to end it and bring the troops home, raising awareness about the environment and it's intrinsic importance, the Civil Rights Movement and so on.  There are a handful of people, for better or for worse, who spearheaded these movements. Many of the original hippies were in fact people who were independently wealthy and therefore had the resources necessary to take time away from the workaday world that most people were rigidly committed to. While the U.S. is supposed to have been at it's heyday in the 1950's, these were, in reality, very grim times. The threat of nuclear war, the paranoia that emanated from this threat, the Red Scare and the consequent Communist "witch" hunts spearheaded by Joseph McCarthy, the lack of opportunity for women and minorities...all of these combined hardly evoke a sense of goodness about this time period. It was the beginning of the promotion of industrialism and the consequent consumer culture that was to fuel the need for industrialization. Sexual mores were supposed to be conservative of the Puritanical ideal and everyone was supposed to be satisfied with the status quo.  There is, naturally, more than one version of the state of things, as the realities that people occupy are separate.  The 1960's was a reawakening of the human spirit and an affirmation of the human condition.  We are not machines, meant to function as tools in a hierarchical industrial and governmental order, but people who have wants, needs, dreams and desires that oftentimes fall outside the realm of so called Puritanical conduct. Not to mention how people were not so pleased with being called upon to fight in what was obviously an ethically compromised war...or do they still call it The Vietnam Conflict?  American corporations are still denying their culpability for dropping so many tons of agent orange on civilian populations and its environmental damage.  Given this backdrop, it is hard to say that these were the best of times for the United States of America. What was most insidious about this era, the post WWII era, is how it heralded in an age when people were expected to fall in line with the new economic and social order, regardless of how they felt about it. 
           My mother grew up in Wichita, Kansas.  She was married and pregnant by age 18 and not necessarily in that order. She was the product of parochial education and a two parent middle class family.  Her marriage was untenable, if only for it's banal and unpromising quality.  She left her husband and took her son out of the state and went exploring. I enjoy listening to her adventures and admire her nerve, albeit with reservation, as her actions were not supported by any real goals, but by her desire to enjoy life. She did protest against the Vietnam war and even lost a job over it, since the man who owned the dry cleaning shop where she worked did not appreciate her voicing her opinion.  This was not easy for a single mother with a son. She worked to raise awareness about the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons production facility when it became clear how it was contaminating the environment and causing cancer.  She did her part to be progressive. 
            One day I was driving with her in Boulder, Co and she was explaining to me, in her typical bubbly tone, how their were two camps of hippies, those who cared about issues of social justice and spirituality and those who were into drugs and the lascivious lifestyle.  "And you belonged to the latter group," I teased her. She laughs, as it is partly true. Then again, the rampant alcoholism of that time is not any more attractive, than the illegal drug use of the time, if not less. The point being is that the baby boomers fell short of offering up a viable and lasting plan to cure the world of its ills.  Those who could ultimately decided that, if they couldn't beat the establishment, they'd join it and they did. Were things improved? That is perhaps too soon to tell. 
            As I am driving in the car to go and eat with a person who is about the same generation as my own mother, we are discussing the current environmental catastrophes, namely the drought that likely will plague the area for years to come. She begins to offer up a diatribe about what "this generation" will have to face, describing how "they have never been in a war, they have never been ...." I am put off by this rhetoric because it wreaks of a dictatorial quality as well as a certain lack of accountability among the baby boom generation.  I feel free to criticize because I have been on the receiving end of the ageist criticism and have fought back by simply explaining that blaming the younger crowd is not indicative of ones superiority, but their lack of leadership and accountability. I, myself, have always been politically active, but I am weary of labels, generalizations and prejudices that are apart of any clique, group, movement, and so on. I am impressed by the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, the Environmental Movement, the women's rights movement and the like, but it is clear how the economic forces that make exploitation of natural and human resources, as well as human differences, has hardly been abated. In these times they have been accelerated and it is difficult not to participate in ones own undoing. The person whom I am driving with is a decent person on the whole, but her words betray an obvious level of obliviousness.  She asserts that "this generation" (presumably mine) has never been through a war.  The fact is that we have been in the throes of what is described as the longest war in U.S. history, these wars in the Middle East.  She asserts that this generation has never had to go without...no, I have been very much aware of the pressing economic circumstances that have been a grim reality since I was a child.  For me, conspicuous consumption was never the order of the day. It seems that what I am hearing is a boat load of propaganda that has been preached by the baby boom generation. For all practical purposes, they really should be pointing this criticism for lack of experience at themselves.  They enjoyed the ride of their generations rebellion and we, those born after them are left with more hierarchy, more war, more pollution, more disparity, more people and less time.  I am not a fan of ageism and so I would invite people of all ages to take responsibility for the role they play and their contribution to the current status quo.  Unless we all take responsibility for our own actions, emotions and ideas, we cannot positively effect our communities and the broader society.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hierarchy No More

                When We the People speak out against the overwhelming power of corporations, it is for good reason.  In the hands of corporations we have developed many dysfunctional systems.  Transportation systems, healthcare systems, education systems, food production systems, information technology systems...this list may be good enough to start with. The reason that these systems have failed us is because they are part and parcel of a gimmick, a sales pitch, and the promotion of an oversimplified product, that is, the consumptive lifestyle.  It has been imposed on us and is now the dominant way of life.  We may try to navigate our way through it and to transform it to make it more dignified, but the sum total will always diminish the intrinsic value of what we do because we cannot help but be co-opted in the dysfunction.  Corporatism relies on hierarchy and lack of access to the decision making process, it relies on dysfunctional human relationships and the disrespect that is transmitted as we deal with our factually inferior status in the scheme of hierarchy. The question remains, can we treat each other with respect and dignity enough to work with each other instead of an anonymous entity? I think so and the Nobel Prize winning work of Elinor Ostrum describes this reality in her work Governing the Commons, The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. She explaind that there is not evidence how neither governments nor corporations have exhibited their superior efficacy to govern and provide for people better than people can.  Out current government may bare some resemblance to the Democratic ideal, we do have elections, but they are neither free nor fair.  Our government is NOT of the people, by the people and for the people.  It functions as a strange negotiator between corporatism and Democracy and the latter is been sacrificed. Our current government serves as a top down dictator of policy and the corporate interests serve as a top down dictator of habit. Therefore, the dialogue has been minimized and our imaginations a long with it. We need to start asking questions about the way we interact, which is largely and oppressively governed by our economic relationships. Standing up to power is no small feat, and cooperation is absolutely necessary, not for the purpose of another top down ideologically based form of government, but for the purpose of creating a viable and valuable way of life.  We are expected to have faith in hierarchy and to trust it.  While President Barack Obama's achievements are lauded as exceptional, it must be understood that this simple judgement is apart of the elitist hierarchical ideology.  The desire to climb through the ranks of hierarchy and to "be somebody," so that we can bask in the glory of the praise and power we have, or so we can garner the authority we believe we need to influence others, or both, must be questioned.  Imagine a world where a persons rise and fall has nothing to do with you, but in which you and they can contribute to easing the burden of life and offering what so many humans enjoy most: community.  This is why people watch television, as it affords a level of community, even though it is hardly a community. It is a means for selling the brands of hierarchy.  It is prime time that we question the value of money and how it is made and the value of what money produces must also be questioned. This is anathema in the production consumption society because it is understood that we work for money and our money affords us the things we need and want.  Allegedly the super wealthy provide these...not so much. Steve Jobs, was he wealthy before creating Apple? No, but his parents had access to jobs that allowed them to teach their children, as well as provide for their needs. Today, we do not create circumstances economically that provide for a persons' creativity. We see first hand the kind of "talent" that Plutocracy offers us: Paris Hilton and The Kardashians.  This is the ultimate perversion of the production-consumption model, how the end game is to produce nothing and consume everything that is precious, thereby destroying it.  At this juncture, re-instating the Banking Act of 1933, also known as Glass-Steagall, will not be enough to re establish the integrity in our economy that we are yearning for (and by we I mean the 99%). The elite machinations of the post-industrial economy thrive on the froth of finance to maintain their legitimacy.  It is because our legislators are apart of this fraud that they do not regulate it. This administration, like others before it, does not know how to deal with unemployment, how to deal with pretty much any crisis of the human experience or condition, in case they have not made their perpetual plunders obvious. Hierarchies do not work if our goal is to have and promote a Democratic society, one that abides by the rule of law, that is humble to the mandate for transparency and whose public servants (and public masters) abide by the principles of their own dignity, integrity and autonomy and that of the people they represent. 

SIgns and Symbols

           This is a response that I offered to a person on the Occupy Wall Street forum, in response to their idea that we might embark on changing our economic system by removing the NYSE sign, as a changing of the guard.

           The process through which we promote Democracy cannot embody the same ethos as that which we are trying to correct. It does not make sense. Taking down symbols is a superficial change. The biggest change is that which has to happen in our minds and it has to be a collective action of honoring each other above and beyond what the status quo chooses to honor us. It means recognizing a persons intrinsic value and valuing labor, their talents and what makes them unique, as well as just like everyone else. It means sharing what needs to be shared. It means not valuing ones stature and occupation above another person. It is not simply unemployed people who are marching, but those who realize how precarious their own circumstances are even with a job and a home. What is the value of a job, a title, a salary if it could, has been and likely will be taken away from you? Conversely, is the high premium that we all place on money and stature the reason why people work so hard to hang on to this ideal and amass wealth...even if it is to the detriment of so many people?  Probably.  It is not until more people realize that this movement is about them, about questioning the value of what they do for a living and questioning how it truly serves them and the world they live in, regardless of how much money that have.  It is not right that money is used to exploit and bully people, but this is not new to the human experience.  It cannot continue to be enough to a person to have a secure job...and this is a great time to shrug off this veneer. People will have to be willing to do different jobs and perform different tasks. In the developed world the ideal lifestyle that is promoted is largely artificial and divorced from the human condition. The status quo is arrogant, it is a ruse. According to Mayor Bloomberg and his ideal economic order, the super wealthy are the creative class and other people work for them...as vague as it is absurd. Clearly they are not creative enough, because we would have functions in society that were worth a damn. What they are good at is taking and destroying. Creativity is about creating and giving. When the NYSE sign comes down, if it comes down, it would be better if it goes down not as a ceremonious attack, but because of its basic lack of utility that is understood by the greater society.  It might come down for the purpose of seeing more of the sky...then again I don't even know where this sign is.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Money Changes Everything...

So Let Us Change the Currency That We Trade

I was downtown visiting the bank, making out a check to my landlord. She is a decent person on the whole, but I can't help think how I am investing in the artificial value of real estate here in Austin. My landlady likely bought the place when housing prices were higher and she is reluctant to sell because she will lose on her investment. This is where the renter class becomes so valuable to bankers and property owners, to bolster the artificial value of the product. Not to mention that if it were not for the globalized economy, housing prices would not be nearly as high as they are today, because people would not have access to the occupations and the sums of money that are made, by a minority of people, which increases the value of homes. If multinational corporations are hiring and people are moving there, the real estate is valuable. This is what makes college towns vital, the LACK of a local economy. If and when we do have local economies, local currencies are vital to protecting the local economy from being undermined by the global and corporate interests that aim to siphon off cash from communities that they take from, impose on, but do not serve.  Money is about faith and trust in the value of a standard unit, but also faith and trust in what it will buy us. While Martha Stewart was thrilled when her stock went up and she became a billionaire, most people are concerned with being able to afford food, shelter, gas, and clothing. When the value of my work, that earns me those paper dollars, seems to afford an increasingly lesser quality of life, and when there is not money to give to people for their labor, when it is being hoarded and misused, it undermines the value of the currency.  It begs the question, why do we work for it, the money? Why does it not work for us? These were the concerns of U.S. citizens in the beginning of the creation of this nation. They did not want to be slaves to the papered aristocracy.  In a post WWII era, after which the mantra was to promote security and to eliminate the need for war by increasing the fluidity of the market between nations, the fix was locked in. If you read Candy Bombers by Andrei Cherny, it is discussed how the Russian's reluctance to join the allied forces economically after the war was for fear of being slaves to Wall Street. It is also highlighted how the decimated cities of Germany could have just as easily been cities of the U.S. like Detroit or New York. A notable observation today, as one of those cities has been decimated by the business practices of Wall Street, while the other has been worked politically to be part and parcel of Wall Street and to validate it's existence therefore.  Global markets and their peacekeeping fluidity are a quaint theory, except what we are dealing with now is the lack of fluidity of money that is caused by human vice, the seven deadly sins if you will...and maybe a few others have evolved that we do not have a name for. Banks have come to a place where they are allowed to behave and believe that they are self sustaining and valid entities and they are not. THEY ARE NOT. They only have this power because our government offers this legitimacy to the major banking institutions...it is vital that we ask WHY? Then again, we all know why. It's because it is intoxicating to the ego to have access to so much wealth, access that was legislated over time but not understood and accepted and debated adequately by the people who ultimately had the most to lose from these policies. That is what so many politicians conveniently forget when they are being wooed by lobbyists, that they are there to set public policy that works for the people, not for the profits of the few. It is amazing how they perpetually forget this and how they fail to recognize how their lack of governance will ultimately undermine their own influence, as it already has.  But back to my previous point, about what money is. There are so many euphemisms for what money is, love, energy and that is what it can be, but what it is in todays' crude economy is power.  It is this way because money buys the things we need and want, be it clothes, shoes, homes, housing.  When banks and politicians and interest groups decide that they want more, it means that We the People, will eventually get less...if not immediately. Our streamlined currency has made it easy to siphon off the value of labor to the point that it practically and factually undermines the value of labor.  No one can make 500 plus million dollars in a year with honest toil,  which begs the question, what in the world has traditionally made them think that they are so special as to believe that they are intrinsically that valuable? Well, the cops are the first ones, then it is our elected officials at the local level, then it is our Federal Government and in the meantime it will be Xe, formerly Blackwater,  a military contractor known for nefarious deeds in Iraq who is readied on the payroll of the U.S. government to attack U.S. civilians if they should, and we should, defy the corrupt and unjust system with which we deal.  We should not be docile peons eager to "be competitive in the job market." What for? So we can eek out a meager existence for the purpose of making a handful of of people wealthy? So that the Federal Government can print out more artificial money to pay for the unethical wars we fight in? This is not in the interest of We the People. So much of what we are dealing with is our own lack of esteem and self esteem, as we have intimated the factual inferior status that we enjoy in this society. As Emmanuel Wallerstein explains in one of his works, The Decline of American Power, we live in a hierarchical society that is based on sexism, racism, ageism and classism.  We pretend to want to chip away at the former, but we do not and cannot, because they are integral tools to upholding classism. First Lady Michelle Obama's brother, Craig Robinson explained on Charlie Rose how he and his sister were told by their parents that, simply because someone may treat you like you are less because of their prejudice, that they did not have to intimate this.  This surely was not the advice that their  forefathers gave to their offspring. They couldn't because racism was an institution by law and fact. Today, racism is employed by fact and is inextricably linked to class. For all the trite discussion about race not mattering in America after electing a black President, let it be admitted that it is the white half of him that had access to private education, as his white grandmother was the main stability in his life. It was the white half of him that was elected as President of the esteemed Harvard Law Review.  He likely would not have been so chummy with a bunch of white guys who had an affinity for Constitutionalism were he not privileged in his own right and it is the white half of him who was and is privileged and who was elected President of the U.S.A. Barack Obama explained candidly that he did not empathize with the angst of the Civil Rights movement...no surprise there, but that doesn't mean it was not real for those who endured those turbulent times. Perhaps Obama knew how detrimental it would be to lend credence to the real, perpetual and obvious disparity in African American communities. That said, no one tells their children that just because they are poor that they do not have to behave that way, as poor is apart of rich, they are labels used in the institution of classism.  Yes, the myth of the classless society has been promoted for the purpose of taking the focus off the policies that have been employed to make classism increasingly rigid.  It's a joke, as people with half their wits about them don't feel intrinsically inferior to anyone because of money; and certainly not to the mass produced "stars" that are churned out on reality t.v.  We understand that ones superior wealth has to do with luck and for some hard work and intellect.  The latter are sometimes beneficial to society, but not always and sometimes not at all. Am I to think someone who makes a fortune exploiting child prostitutes is laudable? No, I do not, but the money they make from this unethical and illegal act gives them power and freedom. The major banks are not different. Their gains are ill begotten and therefore illegitimate. The people of OWS who are in the streets raising awareness about this are far more integral than the dubious currency...if only because the people who need it the most have been cut off from it. Get a job! Yeah, right, so I can be exploited as a cog? Corporations need people, people do not need corporations. If the banks can use our elected officials to design an economy that works for them, why can we not use our government to make an economy that works for us? In the meantime, let us look at the businesses in our communities and ask what they do for We the People. Please, spare us your low wage and benefit free jobs, as what we are in need of are dignified systems of work for us and that do not chip away at our dignity, our integrity and our autonomy.  We do not want to be identified as fodder, as mere workers or consumers, but as humans and citizens in a Democratic government. With work and luck we'll get there. The first step is for us to change our minds about who we are. As Harriet Tubman is supposed to have said, the greatest challenge she had in freeing people from the bondage of slavery was in convincing them that they were slaves. What is curious is about the slavery of our current corporatized economic system is that it makes slaves out of all persons.  Some are just better paid than others. Maybe we can enlighten the bankers to the finer things in life, that which is finer than needing to assert ones superiority and anothers' consequent inferiority. In the mean time, it is time for us to stop buying into the mantra of hierarchy...it might take some time.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Arbeit Machs Frei?

Arbeit Machs Frei is the metal sign that reads above the Aushwitz Concentration Camp, one of the camps in which 6 out of the 9 million Jewish people in Europe were systematically murdered.  "Your work will set you free."  Is it not time to question the power of authority? 

 If it were not for the Occupy Wall Street Movement, there would be no voice for the disenfranchised. It should come as no surprise that people are in the streets demonstrating, as this is an age old manner of practicing solidarity with others who share the same plight. Today, it comes as a surprise that more people do not identify with OWS, only because the problems that have plagued us will not go away on their own.  We can no longer take comfort in the pretense that wealth is defined simply by capital accumulation, because this philosophy leaves so many people all over the world impoverished and I do not mean this in the material sense.  What is the value of any wealth if it is built upon tenuous structures?  It amounts to nothing.  We have an economic system that should be mocked if not condemned, but instead it is promoted. While the average salary in the U.S. is estimated to be in the mid 40's (estimates that include in its averages the top one percent, which is a mistake in calculation therefore), a minority of people are given the freedom to make money out of money.  How is this possible? It is not, it is a fabulous fiction.  Money is currency that is meant to be a standard unit for trading goods and services, it is symbolic of an advancement public trust.  That public trust has been broken and the American people have been duped.  We were told that lending billions, if not trillions, of dollars to salvage the financial institutions that perpetrated fraud would "save" the economy.  If the money was not granted, the sky would fall, loans to businesses would not be offered, and so on. Here we are in the midst of massive unemployment, but more importantly, massive underemployment.  Work and money are at the core of everything we do, everything we say and who we believe ourselves to be and yet we also have been duped into not honestly discussing what money is really worth, what it should be able to purchase and what it should not.  Not to mention, what is the value of what I get for what I give? That a person feels entitled and needy of hundreds of millions of dollars is not only a travesty for how it has served to denigrate the economy, but a travesty for how it, outrageous fortune, has been used to denigrate the value of life itself.  Unemployment is not simply hovering at ten percent and if these jobs that were created were so fruitful, there would be more transparency about how much they paid and in what sector.  If it were  announced that Wall Mart added more jobs, this would not be something to cheer about.  Then again, if Google were to announce adding more jobs, it might not be either.  That is because in this world of business and corporatization, there is little culpability, that is, they do not need to justify their existence, they are allowed to be and to prosper without measuring what their actual value is.  While the First Lady campaigns to battle obesity, the President visits a burger and fries franchise that is deemed an American success.  Why is this decided to be laudable? Because it is financially rewarded and everyone needs money in order to survive as a cog in this dysfunctional machine. Nevermind that half of all our potable water is devoted to raising livestock, which is a bad investment, never mind that the creation of monoculture in agriculture is not a good idea, but that if the profit motive dictates it, the behavior will be adopted and potatoes abound. Are we not sentient beings that have the capability to adopt sensible economic choices that might offer a sustained level of prosperity, one that incorporates social equity with environmental equity?  That is the fix, though, equity and reciprocity, if they have ever mattered they matter the most to those who are lacking and the least to those who believe that have the lions share.  How long the legitimacy of this alleged wealth will last, who can say.  The question remains, what is the value of wealth created out of disparity?  What is the value of work that only promises to ensure more work with less reward? What is left for the rest of us, yes, the 99%? It is clear that there is a wide variation of economic experience, as people still have jobs, some people still have decent paying ones.  By decent I man at least twice the national average and preferably two incomes in a family.  For those who do not have jobs, we are told it is because they lack the skills and that food service and laundry service require a specialized skill set, in addition to offering low pay... and you thought Google was exclusive.  The facts are purposely obfuscated.  When President Obama offers inspiration for the value of a collegiate education, he fails to mention that what he is promoting, or being told to promote, is not education, but specialized skills, the value of which is dubious.  When President Obama speaks about creating jobs and improving infrastructure, he fails to mention that the tax payer monies will not be going to creating American jobs entirely, as Chinese companies are profiting off of these infrastructure improvement projects.  It is estimated that, in order to bring unemployment levels down that 300,000 jobs would need to be added each month for several years.  What is the value of employment if it does not offer an increased quality of life?  Employment is not enough, we must be working not simply to keep people busy, but to allow people to have the choices, the knowledge, the access to resources that makes life precious.  Salaries and wages become trivialities when the value of work is increased.  Simply because it is a job that pays hardly means its a good job, no matter the benefits, the perks, the stature. What matters is the value of the work to society and community.  Mission statements be damned, we need results and positive ones at that. Funneling money, our weightless paper currency, into the coffers of the already wealthy is not the solution, its the problem. The President's green energy initiatives are creating huge solar farms in deserted land across the nation and these subsidies go to benefit already wealthy corporations, like Goldman Sachs.  When President Obama claims to understand the plight of the average American worker, he betrays his woeful ignorance when he says that "Americans are living pay check to paycheck."  No, that would be an improvement, dear Mr. President, as it would imply a level of security. I am not a Republican, for the record, I voted for Obama and I will again, maybe, but I am beginning to think the Presidential elections should be called off.  It would save money and We the People would devote less energy to the bru-ha-ha of pageantry that has become to awful campaign for the White House.  We the People need to stop believing in the value of top-down administration of power, be it through out workplaces or our governments.  This is not Democracy, this is oppression and we can only make our souls, our person, stronger, if we refuse to be made inconsequential.  This is what makes the Occupy Movements not only valuable, but an absolute necessity for preserving the value of our lives.