Corporations Are People (by SchlepLabs)
‘The most laughable aspect of all this insanity is that the Republicans contend that jobs will be created if there are major rollbacks to the nation’s system of regulatory safeguards. They of course, have no evidence of such a claim and can provide no data to support the point.
The Obama administration also sees through this nonsense and issued a statement earlier this week that said if the president was presented with REINS Act, that he would veto the bill.
It’s plain to pretty-much everyone except the proponents of Big Business that this is not about jobs, but all about the corporate bottom line.
So here’s a question to Mr. Boehner, Mr. Cantor and the rest of the time-wasters in Congress: where are the jobs?’
Why NPR won’t give air time to the Occupy Wall Street protests in lower Manhattan.
No crowds, celebrities, mayhem or soundbite-able demands? No coverage for you.
NPR hasn’t aired a story on the “Occupy Wall Street” protest — now entering its second week — but several of you aired your concerns about the lack of coverage, and Ralph Nader called to say NPR is ignoring the left.. We asked the newsroom to explain their editorial decision. Executive editor for news Dick Meyer came back: “The recent protests on Wall Street did not involve large numbers of people, prominent people, a great disruption or an especially clear objective.”
Well, at least we have an answer about priorities at NPR that people can argue with. That’s good. That’s transparency.
Prominent people, huh? As opposed to young people giving up their lives to sleep outside in rain, filth and noise and perhaps get maced to make a political statement about accountability on Wall Street…
Disruption? And that differs from an invitation to mayhem how… exactly?
Dick Meyer’s statement should be a widget. Meaning: NPR should keep a rolling list of candidate-for-coverage stories that it is not covering with a clear explanation for why it is not covering them, and then place it around npr.org as a sidebar.
UPDATE: NPR caves! Or maybe it’s more accurate to say they changed their mind.
‘– Of last year’s 100 highest-paid corporate chief executives in the United States, 25 took home more in CEO pay than their company paid in 2010 federal income taxes.
– These 25 CEOs averaged $16.7 million, well above last year’s $10.8 million average for S&P 500 CEOs. Most of the companies they ran actually came out ahead at tax time, collecting tax refunds from the IRS that averaged $304 million. – CEOs in 22 of these 25 firms enjoyed pay increases in 2010. In 13 of these companies, CEO paychecks ratcheted up while the corporate income tax bill either declined or the size of the corporate tax refund expanded. Included amongst the 25 are well-known corporate behemoths like General Electric, Boeing, Verizon, and Ebay. Prudential CEO John Strangfeld, in one example, made $16.2 million last year while his company reaped a $722 million tax refund. Bank of New York Mellon CEO Robert Kelly received $19.4 million, after his bank got a $670 million tax refund. Eighteen of the 25 companies that the IPS studied operated subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. In fact, “the firms, all combined, had 556 tax haven subsidiaries last year,” including 128 for just one company (the reinsurance corporation Aon). Currently, corporate taxes have plunged to historic lows, with many of America’s largest companies literally paying no federal income taxes. Meanwhile, according to researchers at Northeastern University, corporate profits accounted for 88 percent of real national income growth since 2009, while wages and salaries made up less than 1 percent. In 2010, executive pay grew by 27 percent while wages grew by only 2 percent. The IPS also found that “of the 25 companies that paid their CEO more than Uncle Sam, 20 also spent more on lobbying lawmakers than they paid in corporate taxes. Eighteen gave more to the political campaigns of their favorite candidates than they paid to the IRS in taxes.”’
– These 25 CEOs averaged $16.7 million, well above last year’s $10.8 million average for S&P 500 CEOs. Most of the companies they ran actually came out ahead at tax time, collecting tax refunds from the IRS that averaged $304 million.
– CEOs in 22 of these 25 firms enjoyed pay increases in 2010. In 13 of these companies, CEO paychecks ratcheted up while the corporate income tax bill either declined or the size of the corporate tax refund expanded.
Included amongst the 25 are well-known corporate behemoths like General Electric, Boeing, Verizon, and Ebay. Prudential CEO John Strangfeld, in one example, made $16.2 million last year while his company reaped a $722 million tax refund. Bank of New York Mellon CEO Robert Kelly received $19.4 million, after his bank got a $670 million tax refund.
Eighteen of the 25 companies that the IPS studied operated subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. In fact, “the firms, all combined, had 556 tax haven subsidiaries last year,” including 128 for just one company (the reinsurance corporation Aon).
Currently, corporate taxes have plunged to historic lows, with many of America’s largest companies literally paying no federal income taxes. Meanwhile, according to researchers at Northeastern University, corporate profits accounted for 88 percent of real national income growth since 2009, while wages and salaries made up less than 1 percent. In 2010, executive pay grew by 27 percent while wages grew by only 2 percent.
The IPS also found that “of the 25 companies that paid their CEO more than Uncle Sam, 20 also spent more on lobbying lawmakers than they paid in corporate taxes. Eighteen gave more to the political campaigns of their favorite candidates than they paid to the IRS in taxes.”’
What an amazingly lovely woman …
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Many of the toughest sentencing laws responsible for the explosion of the U.S. prison population were drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which helps corporations write model legislation. Now a new exposé reveals ALEC has paved the way for states and corporations to replace unionized workers with prison labor. We speak with Mike Elk, contributing labor reporter at The Nation magazine. He says ALEC and private prison companies “put a mass amount of people in jail, and then they created a situation where they could exploit that.” Elk notes that in 2005 more than 14 million pounds of beef infected with rat feces processed by inmates were not recalled, in order to avoid drawing attention to how many products are made by prison labor.
‘How is it that our nation is awash in money, but too broke to provide jobs and services? David Korten introduces a landmark new report, “How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule.”’
The dominant story of the current political debate is that the government is broke. We can’t afford to pay for public services, put people to work, or service the public debt. Yet as a nation, we are awash in money. A defective system of money, banking, and finance just puts it in the wrong places.
Raising taxes on the rich and implementing financial reforms are essential elements of the solution to our seemingly intractable fiscal and economic crisis. Yet proposals currently on the table fall far short of the need.
A newly released report of the New Economy Working Group, coordinated by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC, goes beyond the current debate to call for a deep restructuring of the institutions to which we as a society give the power to create and allocate money. How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule spells out the steps required to rebuild a system of community-based and accountable institutions devoted to financing productive activities that create good jobs for Americans and generate real community wealth.
Over the past 30 years, virtually all the benefit of U.S. economic growth has gone to the richest 1 percent of Americans. Effective tax rates for the very rich are at historic lows and many of the most profitable corporations pay no taxes at all.
Despite the financial crash of 2008, the financial assets of America’s billionaires and the idle cash of the most profitable corporations are now at historic highs. Their biggest challenge is figuring out where to park all their cash.
Unfortunately, most of those who hold the cash and the corporations they control have lost interest in long-term investments that build and expand strong enterprises. The substantial majority of trades in financial markets are made by high-speed computers in securities held for fractions of a second. Business pundits still refer to this trading as investment. It bears no resemblance, however, to the investment required to put people to work rebuilding a strong America.
Read more at www.yesmagazine.org
Corporations are using their stores of cash primarily to buy back their own stock, acquire control of other companies, invest in off-shoring yet more American jobs, and pay generous dividends to shareholders and outsized bonuses to management.
Last night’s episode in the new season of Caprica, “Unvanquished,” was quite simply amazing. It brought together disparate threads from the previous season, and showed us how business, crime, and religion are pretty much the same thing.
While the first season of Caprica focused on two families, the wealthy Graystones and the immigrant mobster Adamas, this season has shifted emphasis. Now the Graystones are completely interconnected with the Adamas, and the two powerful forces at work are the Graystone Corporation (now run by Daniel Graystone’s enemy Thomas Vergis) and the monotheist terrorist movement STO. Both groups are vying to use technologies developed by Daniel Graystone and his daughter Zoe to further their goals to dominate Caprica - whether that’s financially or spiritually.
I watched the pilot & quite enjoyed it, but lost interest somewhere in the first or second episode of the first season. Yet, after watching the most recent episode, I have to say that I am much more interested in watching the rest of the series than I thought I would be going into the second half of the first season. Now I suppose I will have to go back and watch the first half of the first season, though I doubt it will be as good as this most recent episode. You can catch the timeshifted episode as well as the four previous episodes at http://www.hulu.com/caprica. It is probably a good thing for as many people as possible to watch the episodes online if not on television in order for the series to get better ratings, and hopefully be renewed for a second season.
Cartoon of the Day
“And, as an originalist, Scalia argues that the idea that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment protects women’s rights is a “modern invention”, because he says, in 1868 when it was written, “Nobody thought it was directed against sex discrimination”. Evidently, back then, women hadn’t been invented yet. (Made Do With Steam-Powered Friction Pump)
Plus, the 14th Amendment was created to protect the rights of newly freed slaves. That’s why it strictly limits equal protection under the law to “All persons born or naturalized in the United States…” So all Scalia is saying is that women aren’t persons.
Before all you minorities demand that Scalia recognize your equal rights, just ask yourself, were people like me living in America in the mid-19th century? And if not, put a cork in it. Because our longest serving Supreme Court Justice is still living in 1868.”
The Arthur Magazine Email Bulletin
October 1, 2010 Special Edition
Why I Left My Publisher in Order to Publish a Book
by Douglas Rushkoff
I’m getting more questions about my latest book than about any other I’ve written. And this is before the book is even out—before anyone has even read the galleys.
That’s because the questions aren’t about what I wrote, but about how I ended up publishing it: with an independent publisher, for very little money, and through a distribution model that makes it available on only one website. Could I be doing this of sound mind and my own volition? Why would a bestselling author, capable of garnering a six-figure advance on a book, forgo the money, the media, and the mojo associated with a big publishing house?
Because it would make my book twice as expensive for you, half as profitable for me, less purposefully written, and unavailable until about two years from now. In short, the traditional publishing system is nearly dead. And publishing a book under its rules can mean the death of ideas within it, as well. Until it utterly reworks its method, gets rid of a majority of its corporate dead weight, releases its publishing houses from the conglomerates that own them, and embraces direct selling models, the publishing industry will remain rather useless to readers and writers alike.
Authors and readers no longer need Big Publishing to find and engage one another. The sooner we all realize this, the better off we’ll all be.
Think of it from the author’s perspective. In the traditional publishing model, I write a proposal over a period of months, submit it to publishers, and—if the ideas manage to match the agenda of an acquiring editor at a big house—I get a deal. That deal is nice a thing. It means the publishing house, acting like a bank, lends me the capital I need to research and write a book. This is no small gift.
Then again, it’s not really a gift. A year later when I turn in the actual book, that editor may no longer be at the publishing house. His imprint may no longer be there, either. Or the publishing house itself may have been bought by another company. (All three have happened to me.) Whatever the case, the book is now submitted to the editor who acquired it, or his assistant, or some other editor who replaced him. Then the publisher has a month or so to decide if they like what I’ve written. If they do, cool. If they don’t, they can give me notes about how to make it more publishable—or they can simply decide it’s no good at all and that they don’t want to do it, anymore.
If they don’t like it, I’m supposed to give the money back. (Or, if I’ve got a great agent, he’ll ask for a “first proceeds” clause which means I only have to pay them back out of the money I make on the book if I take it elsewhere.) In any case, the original advance turns out to have been more of a loan, and the publisher more like a bank making an investment. If the environment changes, well, they move on. That’s how my first book on the Internet ended up being canceled in 1992, because the publisher was afraid the net would be “over” by 1993 when the book was to be released. (It came out in 1994, from a now-defunct boutique imprint of HarperCollins.)
But even assuming they like the book and want to publish it, this only means they will then begin the one-to-two-year process of bringing it to market. The original rationale was that the book’s editor would spend at least a few months going back and forth with the writer about the content, the style, the arrangement of chapters, the tone, and so on. The editing process was a collaboration between the author an the editor who knew how to make good writing better.
Today, editing is seen as a market inefficiency, or wasted salary. Most editors spend the bulk of their time acquiring new titles instead of editing the ones they have. So once they’ve read the proposal they’re pretty much done with the creative end. Instead, that year or two from manuscript to book launch is spent “gearing up” the marketing and publicity machines. All sorts of people are supposed to learn about the book, and then “sell” it to distribution partners, chain stores, and independent retailers. The longer this process takes, the more people are involved. And in a self-justifying feedback loop, the more people are involved, the longer the process becomes.
All this ends in a “sell-in” figure—the number of books that are ultimately shipped to the stores, where they can be marked up another fifty percent and then returned if they’re not sold. Does the process increase that sell-in figure? Not from what I can tell. In fact, in a universal policy I still don’t understand, marketers do not reveal their sell-in figures to their authors, or even their own editors.
In the end, the books we read and write must keep a few dozen people employed, and the shareholders of at least three major corporations satisfied—almost none of whom actually create value. A book that costs three dollars to print ends up costing the consumer 28 dollars from the retailer, plus tax, plus shipping. The author gets around 10% of cover price per book applied to his advance, returns, discounts, and other creatively accounted debits. Then there’s publicity departments to work through before doing any interviews or asking for reviews—all who have multiple authors competing for the same media opportunities. Getting oneself a great “media hit” can actually get an author in trouble.
Meanwhile, the better editors and publicists—the ones who understand their jobs differently than the corporate publishing model now dictates—are the first to be let go when budgets are cut. Working with an author on a book takes valuable time away from the acquisition of more titles. Working a whole afternoon to get a young novelist on NPR for an hour means a lot less to the executives and their balance sheets than getting a defamed movie star two minutes with Katie Couric.
Luckily for writers, however, the editors, marketers, and publicists booted from the corporate publishing industry are starting up little companies of their own. The corporate book industry can’t grow at the rate required by publicly held companies, anyway. This is why it is failing. Publishing is a sustainable business, not a growth industry. So it needs to be run by people looking for sustainable projects and careers—not runaway profits.
One of these companies, O/R books, is run by an old friend of mine, John Oakes. He’s been asking me to work with him for 20 years. So I figured it might be a good idea to take the book I’ve been working in one way or another for the past 20 years and publish it with his fledgling company.
The model is simple: work the concept with John, write the book, print and digitize it, and then sell it. No distribution, no marketing. Just put the link online and let people pay by credit card, paypal, or whatever method they choose. No middlemen, no markups, no returns. The book comes out two months after I’ve finished it, instead of two years. The public gets the book or ebook for half of what a “regular” book would cost—and the writer and publisher actually earn more, not less, per actual book sold. (Yes, the credit card companies still get their cut, but so do the central bank and taxman get their cut of any financial transaction.)
Moreover, producing less than a dozen titles a year, the independent publisher can focus fully on each one. I get to work with a friend, and in a way that puts the ideas of the book before the fleeting priorities of the marketing department. The whole process scaled to the human beings actually producing and consuming the content, instead of the corporations extracting value from our interactions.
The downside, of course, is that there’s no books in stores, no listings on Amazon or BN.com, and no reviews from those who view independently published books as unworthy of critical attention. (Don’t blame them—they’re having a hard enough time keeping a column or two of the newspaper devoted to books at this point, anyway.) Luckily, most real readers aren’t fixated on which corporation has backed which book project.
Will people still be able to find a book that’s not in stores, and will they want to? Well, most books sell more electronic versions than print ones anyway, and Amazon already sells more of most books than all real-world retailers combined. So the only real question is whether people will follow a link to a place other than Amazon to buy a book, and whether they will be as comfortable using Google to find it as they are the search box on Amazon.com.
I’m betting they will. Especially for a book about the promise of digital media and the ways in which most established institutions are still entirely missing the opportunity here. The idea of the book—and much of my career—is that computers and networks give us the ability to rewrite the rules through which everything operates. Some of the systems we’re using may have been efficient back in the 13th century, but are truly and totally obsolete today. Systems like central monopoly currencies, corporate charters, and, yes, top-down publishing and distribution are all breaking down, for better and for worse.
Those of us depending on them will have to improvise for a while, and those of us capable of designing alternatives will get to have some fun. The good news and bad news here is that we must create new ways of doing things that meet our real needs. And the easiest way to begin that process is to learn to distinguish between the real world and the systems we have been using to operate it—learning to see the territory instead of just the map.
And sure, I wrote my latest book to help people start to do this in the digital realm—to learn how to see the programming behind the software, websites, and devices they are interacting with every day. Without some knowledge of what these things were designed to do, we have little hope of using them effectively. We are less likely to become real users than we to become the used. Most kids think Facebook is there to help them make friends.
Likewise, naif that I was, I thought the publishing industry’s primary goal was to help me communicate my ideas to the world. Live and learn.
Douglas Rushkoff’s latest book, Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age, is available only at http://orbooks.com.