Last night I asked Jim McGovern to pass along this letter to Josh Hawley’s office.
The Honorable Josh Hawley
Cc: The Honorable Jim McGovern
In your Twitter exchange with Wal*Mart, you made some great points about their exploitative behavior. I’m hoping this may be the start of some common ground between your vision of our country and my own.
I believe that it is unreasonable for our overburdened social programs to have picking up the responsibilities of employers. When an employer does not pay a living wage to the people whose time (lives) they are dependent on in order to operate, they are demonstrating a lack of value in our humanity.
I believe it’s wrong for a large organization to use a power difference to maximize their profits at the expense of their vendors, customers, employees, communities and competitors.
I tend to view history through certain ideas gaining or losing power. I think most of us agree that now seems to be a rather broken time in our nation’s history, even if we disagree as to what exactly is wrong. I’ve been looking for some of the ideas which we need to consider in order to solve our problems.
Since we live in a Capitalist society rather than an authoritarian one, I focused primarily on our economic problems. While the government could provide support to people who need it, a massive wealth disparity would demonstrate a problem with our economy.
In 2019 the Business Roundtable released a statement that seems relevant here.
“Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity. We believe the free-market system is the best means of generating good jobs, a strong and sustainable economy, innovation, a healthy environment and economic opportunity for all. Businesses play a vital role in the economy by creating jobs, fostering innovation and providing essential goods and services.
Businesses make and sell consumer products; manufacture equipment and vehicles; support the national defense; grow and produce food; provide health care; generate and deliver energy; and offer financial, communications and other services.”
— Business Roundtable, 2019
Over the last several decade, our economic system has a lot of power in the hands of people who put profitability above all else. Wages have been stagnant since the mid-1970s, while corporate profits have been through the roof.
Oil companies put profitability over our environment by lying about climate change and causing ecological disasters when tankers crash, oil rigs explode, or in many other complex ways.
Investors got rich off of mortgage backed derivatives that caused an economic crisis 10 years ago. Investors then got rich off of foreclosed homes as families lost their accumulated wealth. Now they get rich off of corporate rental properties with predatory rules.
Often this is facilitated by the government, due to the way we’ve allowed money to take over politics. This is especially true since the Citizens United decision, which effectively removed any limits on campaign spending.
In “Homewreckers: How a Gang of Wall Street Kingpins, Hedge Fund Magnates, Crooked Banks, and Vulture Capitalists Suckered Millions Out of Their Homes and Demolished the American Dream”, Aaron Glantz wrote about what this mortgage crisis looked like for some former homeowners.
“ONEWEST FINALLY PUT the house up for bid on April 17, 2013, and sold it in front of a county government building in suburban Pomona, two weeks after it disposed of the Hickerson family home at a similar auction an hour’s drive up the coast. The purchase price this time was $180,000, or about half what the bank had demanded from the Butlers. That difference didn’t matter to OneWest: because the loan was insured by the government, Steve Mnuchin’s bank could simply bill the taxpayers for the $148,000 difference. On top of that, the bank could have the government pay its attorneys’ fees, property inspections, appraisal costs, and any other expenses related to the foreclosure process.”
Onewest was handed to a group of investors who clearly put profitability over the lives of their fellow Americans.
These types of sociopathic investors are a key aspect of Fascism.
“Fascism is the open, terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinist and most imperialist elements of finance capital”
— Communist International
When I see this quote, I can’t help but think of our Military Industrial Complex. Government contracts to publicly traded companies encourage people to invest in death and destructive for profit.
This “profits first” approach to investing has manifested in all sorts of different ways.
The Tech industry (my industry) even has a term for destroying other people’s small businesses at scale. It’s “disruption”. Amazon “disrupted” brick and mortar stores before they moved on to “disrupting” their own partners.
Services like Uber and Lyft helped anyone with a car cut into the profit margins of established taxi companies who have real expenses, sometimes including medallion costs from the local government. They reinvest their profits in cutting out the drivers too.
Doordash and Grubhub leverage the same workforce of drivers to cut out employed delivery drivers, and take a big chunk of local restaurant profits. Since the pandemic, local restaurants are now forced to compete against big corporate restaurant chains, which traditionally never offered delivery options.
Here’s the thing though. The “system” and “the market” are metaphors for our collective behavior.
Corporations like Wal*Mart are profitable because investors are willing to let them behave the way they do, CEOs are willing to make destructive decisions, employees are willing to work for them, vendors are willing to do business with them, and customers are willing to shop there, the government enabling them in various ways and municipalities giving them tax breaks.
Their success depends on all of these things, not just one.
Our problems are Us, in complex ways. *We* are the economy. *We* are the system. When “The market works it out”, *We* are making different decisions.
When I listen to your party, sometimes I get the impression that they exclusively blame the Federal government, and China.
Apparently China is forcing us to buy goods from them and employ their labor. China is at fault for not following the exploitative Intellectual Property laws that we’ve allowed corporations to buy through the government.
By blaming the federal government for the actions of the people, we end up with solutions like cutting the taxes of and deregulating the most toxic elements of our economy.
This seems like Authoritarian thinking to me. A belief that the government actually controls the actions of people. That the government has the ability to sell us out to foreign parties, rather than just representing the people with the resources to buy policy.
That was us, and we can change our minds wherever we would like.
If I looked at my self — I would see I am the enemy
I am not honest nor kind nor caring nor sharing
Or any of the many thing that I pretend to be
I’m selfish and arrogant, and obedient
Follow truth only when it’s convenient
Accept laws that I know that deceive me
So I can sleep in my bed easy
Don’t blame governments, they are just us
I started my career in tech in the late 1990s, when college degrees weren’t so important (I have none), and destructive investors were showering money on anything that might give them dramatic returns on investment.
By 1999, I was a millionaire on paper, after my employer became the largest IPO of all time for a brief period. Of course, that type of investing creates a boom/bust cycle of bubbles, and the bubble burst fairly quickly.
I stayed there for the most part until a few years back, through good times and bad. I met amazingly brilliant people. I had opportunities most don’t get access to, simply because I was in the right place at the right time when profit focused investors were dumping cash on companies faster than they could responsibly spend it.
Trump’s election was a wakeup call for me. Trump was the worst of that type of mindset. Not only was he an economic predator (scamming, stiffing vendors, lying to investors, buying politicians, doing business with organized crime, etc), but he was inciting hatred, racism, violence, and xenophobia.
He is a demagogue. Telling people what they want to hear will gain you followers, but it is not an effective strategy for setting policy. Explaining what you believe in a convincing way does not make it safe. Investing your political capital in his success may achieve some goals, but the cost is incalculable.
Trump is overconfident in his own abilities, rather than being wise enough to understand that *NO ONE* is an expert on everything. The more responsibility you have, the more you must rely on expert advice from people with real world experience. As intelligent as Jared may be, a smart guy with a book is no replacement for real domain specific first-hand knowledge.
When he was elected I couldn’t help noticing that all my liberal friends were both confident that they were not the problem, and were very well off. Our success had gentrified Cambridge and Somerville. Our recruiters had started setting unnecessary burdens on employment, because we could afford to hire the best. This resulted in an *imported* workforce that increased tax revenue, while hurting the *existing* local community.
My statement should not be read in a xenophobic manner. While we certainly did employ people from other countries as well, the tech industry has been draining the creative power of our communities for some time now. Come for the schools, stay for the high salaries.
I believe more of our problems are economic than political, and blue states are often benefit from the most destructive economic focus.
Those are the choices of Americans. They benefit people like Donald Trump. They benefit people like Steve Mnuchen and Wilbur Ross, who profited from the loss of homes by American families before they were put in charge of the Treasury and Commerce by Donald Trump.
Those are the choices of workers like myself. Those are the choices of investors like myself. Choices that I changed during Trump’s presidency, and I’d like to tell you how it went.
I decided to leave my corporate job, and try to figure out how to solve our problems. Quitting a job without having a new one lined up turned out to be far harder than expected.
I was separately going through a divorce, so I found myself needing to become a renter for the first time in 15 years. Finding a rental in the area without an employer was difficult. I ended up in an apartment complex in Woburn Massachusetts which was more lenient, but charged a much higher monthly rate for relatively poor quality. Living off of my savings faster than necessary as a result.
As I began to understand how much Wall Street played into our problems, I decided to cash out my 401k, and figure out how to invest it in a better future. The tax burden was high, but if I was willing to champion government provided services, then I need to be willing to take the cost.
I decided to move to Worcester Massachusetts. Landlords were easier to work with outside of the Greater Boston area. My rent dropped by $1000 a month for a better place, which unfortunately hadn’t had any real investment in it for decades. This is beginning to change in Worcester, as more money starts to come here. The incoming Woo Socks have attracted investors, and it looked like the next area to grow.
With that investment will come gentrification.
My plan began to shape up. Self-sufficient communities are far more scalable than a global economy working primarily for the benefit of the ultra-rich. I could provide employment opportunities to skilled people without degrees, and work on building locally run services to enable local economies and communities. I want to make it easier for people to work for themselves or in smaller groups.
I signed a 3 year lease on a small shop on Millbury Street, near the new stadium. This area is on the border between lower income rentals and Kelly Square, which is receiving a bulk of the investments.
My goal was to create a community tech learning space. I want to give the community the ability to get hands on with big tech equipment and expertise, and act as a community tech incubator. I wanted to meet smart people in the neighborhoods and help them get the type of start that I was able to.
I was set to open in April, but Trump’s disastrous mishandling of Covid made it too much of a risk to my family to open the doors.
THE PRESIDENT: I think, from the beginning, my attitude was that we have to give this country — I know how bad it was. All you have to do is look at what was going on in China. It was devastation. And all you have — look at the numbers from China, those initial numbers coming out from China.
But, you know, I read an article today, which was very interesting. They say, “We wish President Trump would give more bad news. Give bad news.” I’m not about bad news. I want to give people hope. I want to give people a feeling that we all have a chance. I mean —
Q But my —
THE PRESIDENT: — when — when you saw — when you saw the numbers and when John and all of you saw those numbers — and you’re saying, “120,000 people? You mean, that’s good?” A hundred thousand dead people within a short period of time. I want to give people a feeling of hope. I could be very negative. I could say, “Wait a minute, those numbers are terrible. This is going to be horrible.” This is a horrible thing.
Q Is it possible that people heard what you were saying —
THE PRESIDENT: Hey, Jim, this —
Q — last month and said, “Okay, let’s go to the beach, let’s go to the airport, let’s go down to Mardi Gras…”
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there were a lot of people —
Q “Let’s go do those things.”
THE PRESIDENT: There were a lot of people that could have said that. We didn’t say that. Fortunately, I didn’t say that. And that was an alternative. We talked about it. That was always an alternative. That’s what I said. “Let it rip, let it ride. Do nothing.” And we could have had 2.2 million dead people, more than that, because I didn’t do that.
And we did catch it early. And we stopped China really early, and we stopped Europe really early, because I saw what was happening. What — what happened is I stopped Italy, because Italy was really heavily infected. We started off with certain parts of Italy, then all of Italy, then we saw Spain. Then I said, “Stop Europe. Let’s stop Europe. We have to stop them from coming here.” Europe. I love Europe, but they were having problems.
I don’t think anybody did a better job than that, especially when you see the 2.2, million number. And I hope we’re going to be substantially under the numbers that you’re looking at on the minimum side. Then I think we will have — hey, look, it’s still tremendous death.
Whitehouse.Gov — https://tinyurl.com/y3rye24h
Trump’s handling of COVID was, and continues to be, a disaster.
His statement reads as though he made an intentional ignorant tradeoff of our lives for the economy. He clearly believes that “the economy” is the toxic investors with money, rather than the people.
His decisions have made record profits for the investors, while Americans wait for evictions and sit in food lines. A high stock market does not feed people who the investors do not invest in. The employees forced to work in unsafe conditions are doing better than the ones who have no money, but neither was necessary.
Money paid to people as disaster relief would allow them to pay for housing and food, which would allow more of the economy to continue to provide for our needs. Instead, Wall Street soaked up trillions, while struggling Americans were given a single $1200, with added means testing that disqualified me due to my 401k withdrawal.
The last of my retirement went to helping other people make it through with the lack of support. I took a remote job at a Canadian company, because I no longer trust our economy or government. I expect a massive financial collapse soon, and I worry that the Democratic party will bail out the destructive investors again. I’m in a lease I want to avoid breaking, but I’m unsure if I’ll ever be able to use. I have plans I’d like to implement, but no longer have the time or the money due to the disastrous policies of a self-confident narcissist that has bankrupted most of his previous businesses.
I have severe misgivings about the policies of the Democratic party. They are very good at helping a destructive economy grow, while more and more people slip through the cracks. Unfortunately we are currently stuck in a two party system, and your party has decided to enable Fascism.
A combination of foreign powers, organized crime, Steve Bannon, Robert Mercer and many others worked together to try to get a a mob boss elected.
“He (Mercer) has, according to his colleagues, a theory of humans which is that they have no inherent value. That a human being is only worth as much as they can earn. He argues that he earns thousands of times more than a school teacher, which makes him that much more valuable than school teachers. And people on welfare, he suggests, have no value. They have negative value. He argues, though, that cats have value — because watching them provides pleasure to people.”
— Jane Mayer on Robert Mercer
Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer both helped Trump in numerous ways, including through the work of Cambridge Analytica, which as someone with a background in Information Security, scares the crap out of me. Big data driven political propaganda from anyone with the money and willingness to manipulate a Democracy cannot be allowed, if we care at all about the people of our nation.
By dumping money on investors through QE Lite and COVID relief, Trump has managed to artificially inflate the market, while the economy itself is in ruins.
By not giving people the resources necessary to isolate and prevent the spread, he is ensuring that millions will die. As the new UK Covid variant spreads, hospitals are going to run out of capacity. Our already burned out medical staff will get no rest.
Watch Trump’s interview with Jonathan Swan, and understand *WHY* Swan’s point about infection rate versus survival rate is so important. The fatality of rate of the virus is higher when we have the *capacity* to help people who need medical assistance. The survival rate will decrease when the percentage of patients who need medical invention overwhelms our capacity.
We die while investors profit.
The thing about a virus like this is that it doesn’t care who you are, or how critical you are. Families are being devastated by the loss of critical family members. Bread winners. Child care. The ties that bind us together.
We lose bosses, employees, mentors, heroes, politicians and even the medical staff who are so critical today.
This is who is in power.
This is who you want to discard our votes for.
This is who the Senate GOP violated their oaths to perform impartial justice in order to protect.
I can understand the distrust. Things are broken, and everyone is to blame. We all play our parts.
Your part is apparently to discard our Democracy because you won’t believe that we voted against a fascist mob boss killing us, cheering on violence against us, setting back our hard work in building a better future, and bankrupting our businesses.
If you decide to take an action that results in our next Civil War, I want you to take a good hard look at what you’re truly standing for. What you are doing to us.
Choose wisely. I believe you are a good man, and I hope you’re willing to look beyond your opinions to a larger picture.
Independent and Ethical Capitalist