Friday, May 30, 2014


Instead of taxing corporations, and while "business developments" like Ballpark Village are being given salex tax "credits" (Ballpark Village gets to keep 17 million dollars worth of sales tax collected), the public is continually being asked to pay for more and more, with less and less say in what the money is used for.

Let's talk about my one of my favorite issues: public toilets.

Going for a weekend vacation 2 hour drive along a highway?  There are rest stops with public toilets. 

Going on a DAILY 2 hour bus trip, one way, to your job?  No public toilets.

The same developers and construction companies are going to get this money, and they are going to get richer.  They will be using that money to fund campaigns of politicians that will support more "transportation projects."

It's not just their fault, though.  It's ours, too.  We should be telling them what to do.  NOT ASKING, TELLING.  It is our money. 

If someone stole $416 from you, you would call the police and report the robbery.  At the minimum, that is what you are giving the government in sales tax every year.  (Assuming all you buy is basic food and necessities at $100 a week for a year, and pay 8 percent on those purchases.)

Call Governor Nixon, Mayor Slay, and your local Alderman and let them know you are AGAINST any further increases to sales tax.

Friday, May 23, 2014


Metro is raising Metrolink fares and transit pass prices on July 1st.

Strike citywide, don't ride the bus or train on July 1st!

We need national media attention.  The public is not a cash cow for a transit agency that spends $5 million dollars on "contributions to outside entities" (CEO John Nations grooming is political career, once his $250,000 a year "sentence" at Metro is over.)

Public transit should not be about "business development."  It should be about serving the public.

Keep the phone campaign going! Call everytime you ride!  Demand they not raise fares, and demand accountability!

Print and share the Jam The Phone Lines leaflet:

Keep checking back!  I've been "occupied" with other matters, but will be back in blogging action next week!

OCCUPY METRO!!!!!!!!!!


Thursday, May 8, 2014


On May 15th in 150 cities, including St. Louis and Show Me 15!, fast food workers will be on strike for a higher minimum wage. 

Join the strike:
Sign the Petition:

According to Raise The Minimum Wage website, if minimum wage had risen with inflation, it would be $10.86.  (In 2012 I read a study that said $13.38, but I can't find the link.)

And according to a study covered by HuffPost, if the wage had increased with worker productivity, it would be $21.72.

$15 really is the minimum.  $10.86 is still too low.  $21.72 is very justified though.

Consider this:

Employers have been under-paying their employees for forty years.  Productivity is up, so they are paying less for more.  Do I need to make the point about where those big executive salaries are coming from?

The ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay is 273-1, down from a high of 383-1 in 2000, but up from 20-1 in 1965.

At the beginning of Reagan's presidency our country had the least unequal income gap in the world, now we have the greatest income gap.

From the same article:

CEO pay has increased faster than wages to high-skilled workers, suggesting that the salary market isn't very efficient. "Consequently, if CEOs earned less or were taxed more, there would be no adverse impact on output or employment," the report concludes.

We are doing the work- and doing it faster and better- but we are not getting any benefit.

You  know what grew instead of worker's earnings?  Credit cards and credit card debt.  If you are over 50 you probably remember when credit cards were American Express and Diner's Club for rich people and executive expense accounts (back when their salaries were only 20 times bigger than the average worker's).

Unions have been losing strength since Reagan.  The "Right To Work" states are union-busting.  Right to work means "you have the right to work as a non-union employee at a union shop".  For non-union wages, that is.  It's not right, it is totally wrong!  (Every job should have a union!

And now with the economic collapse in 2008, things just keep getting worse.  This statistic tells the whole story:

The National Employment Law Project reports that that low wage industries employ 1.85 million MORE workers now than at the start of the recession while mid-and higher-wage industries employ 1.83 million LESS.

Basically, all of the people that lost their white collar jobs are taking over the low wage jobs.  (This explains the 200 applications a week for part-time mall jobs.)

Did you know that wealth grows at a faster rate than economic growth? The rich get richer, no matter what happens to the rest of us. 

As a general rule wealth grows faster than economic output, he explains, a concept he captures in the expression r > g (where r is the rate of return to wealth and g is the economic growth rate). Other things being equal, faster economic growth will diminish the importance of wealth in a society, whereas slower growth will increase it (and demographic change that slows global growth will make capital more dominant). But there are no natural forces pushing against the steady concentration of wealth.

(You might like this, too, on Piketty's book:

There is no shortage of work.  There is plenty to do.  And there is no shortage of money, either.  No executive deserves 273 times the amount of money his employees make.  That is ridiculous.

And as for this argument that it will "hurt" small businesses.  Well, low wages are already hurting their employees, and a higher minimum wage would actually help in weeding out unprofitable businesses.  Too many people with a little inherited wealth start businesses that are really hobbies.
(And then there are places like this: )

The people at the top-- the wealthy people, and job "Creators"-- are not going to give us decent pay of their own accord.  Take Metro for example. The CEO of Metro, John Nations, makes 5 times what his drivers do (and while that isn't 273 or even 20 times what they make, this is public transit agency, not a Wall Street brokerage).  Metro drivers have been working for 6 years without a new bargaining contract or a raise.

CEO John Nations is fond of reminding everyone that he is only at Metro to prepare his political career as governor or senator.  He promises Right To Work will be first on his agenda, I've been told by five or six people that know him personally.  Basically, we the people are paying him to advance his own interest.

I don't think these people should be running our society or keeping such big chunks of the money for themselves.  I don't think a business of any size, large or small, should ask workers to live below the poverty level.

Do you?

If you agree that things need to change, support the worker's by not eating fast food on May 15th.  Call the corporate headquarters of McDonald's, Taco Bell, etc, and tell them you stand with the striking workers.  Call Mayor Slay and tell him you support $15 an hour in St. Louis.

Seattle will have a $15 minimum wage in three years. Let's put St. Louis on the map.  SHOW ME 15!


More reasons not to eat fast food:

You might also like this post, on my Occupy Your Life blog:

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


From the above article, a Metro spokesperson commenting on the crosswalk where the woman died:

There is no signal or gate at the crossing, or at any of Metro’s other pedestrian crossings.

“Per the industry standard, we only have signals at street grade crossings,” Beck said. “If we had gates at pedestrian access crossings, people would just walk around them.”

I especially love the editorial on "people would just walk around them."  Really? Are you sure?  Maybe SOME people would.  Maybe the girl that died would have waited for the signal or gate.  But you don't know, do you?  That's just your low opinion of your rider's, right out there in the open.

There is a pretty serious lack of commitment to safety on the part of Metro.  The lack of coordination with street services on sidewalk and street maintenance near bus stops is obvious.  But the Metrolink has a lot of problems, not just at the crossings.

The Maplewood Metrolink is one of the most badly designed and unsafe stations I have ever seen.  There is no crosswalk at the street, to the bus stop.  The eastbound buses have to make a right turn out of the station and go down a Manchester a quarter mile, turn around, and come back up, because there were too many problems with oncoming traffic.

There is a naturally occurring blindspot for eastbound traffic at the curve in Manchester just before the Metrolink station.

That's just one of the most obvious examples.  You see, the people that do the planning and development and construction don't ride the train and buses.  They don't build the stations with an organic understanding of the flow of rider foot traffic.

It looks okay, and it follows the "industry standard".  They collect their paychecks and go home in their cars.  If there is a problem, it is never found until everything is built.  Like the traffic accidents that plagued the Maplewood station before Metro re-routed the buses to make right turns out of the bus depot.

Their should be more safety at rail crossings.  And there should be more safety from the rider's point of view built in to new structures.

Two people have died at this crossing.  What is it going to take Metro?

EDIT: There is no story or news link posted about the fatality on Metro's website.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


I haven't been posting the last few days because I started working on a plan for unemployed and low-income to get discounted or free passes.  (I hope to post both soon.) I've been looking at the sales tax revenues, and Metro's annual fiscal reports.

I've also been trying to come up with some sort of model where Metro would be financially solvent.
They don't have an ideal model for solvency. Most public transit agencies operate at a loss, with two-thirds or more of their funding from local, state, and federal sources.  They are just going to keep plodding along, doing the same thing everyone else is doing.  So it is up to us-- the public transit riders-- to find solutions.

This is some of what I have been learning and thinking about:

Even if Metro raises the fares in July, and again in two years, they will never be viable in their current incarnation.  

To be solvent right now, Metro would need between $4.50 to $5.80 per boarding!  NOT per person, per boarding-- that 55 million per year statistic they like to throw around. That's just their operating expense. That doesn't include paying off all their debts.  

(The $1.30 variance is due to the fact I do not know what their "Depreciation and Amortization" is really hiding. I do know that eliminating 5 million in "Contributions to Outside Entities" would cover the 2.5 million a year they claim they need from the riders.)

As I began to examine Metro's annual fiscal reports, I have had to study how bonds are structured, public/private partnerships, and public transit agencies generally-- in particular how tied they are to local "business development".

I have had to research the structure of government funding for both public entities and private business development. This has further led me to investigate things like "fiat currency" and money generally, foreign "aid", banking and the Federal Reserve, and, of course, bonds.

In my post "Metro Is Juggling A Lot Of Bonds" I compare our public transit agency to Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers before the economic collapse in 2008 and 2009.

Metro isn't the only agency that involves itself in "business development" using (pardon the pun) government funding as a vehicle for private development and individual political careers.

Someone gave me the book "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man," by John Perkins on Friday, and I read the whole thing on Sunday.

From Wikipedia:

Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign "aid" organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet's natural resources. Their tools included fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization.

These days, global dominance is no long dependent on military invasions and "manifest destiny".  Instead of sending in an army to "bring freedom and Christianity" to the impoverished heathens of the world (and gain control of their natural resources and cheap labor), private industry-- Like Halliburton, once run by Dick Cheney, to use one familiar example-- go to a place like, say, Ecuador, and convince the rich people and government to "invest" in new roads and bridges (sound familiar, cough-County Executive and Prop A- cough?) and electrical grids, plumbing, and of course, oil and gas pipelines and refineries.

Don't worry, wealthy Ecuadorians and government, you don't have to come up with the money up front!  The U.S. government via USAID will loan your country the money to hire our contractors, and your country will pay the loan back with all the money you make from this modernization!  We will "create jobs" and "new services" and you will attract lots of "talented young professionals" that will make you even richer, and saddle your country with a debt to the U.S.!

The rich people say "yay, more money for us!"  And the U.S. government loans them a bunch of money in "foreign aid" so that they can hire and pay companies like Halliburton.  Those companies come in and cut down the rain forest and put oil pipelines and electrical grids to run the pipelines. 

Who is paying that debt you ask?  Not the wealthy.  Not the government.  Ecuador, and other countries like it that have accepted U.S. foreign "aid", have become a modern slave plantation.  The slave owners owe the U.S. government a lot of money for all those pipelines and modernizations ("business development") and now the slaves better pick a lot of "cotton" (oil) to pay it off.

In all of the places where this has occurred, the average people are actually worse off than they were before the U.S. industry and government loans.

Now, the flip side of this is a place like Saudi Arabia.  This oil rich nation doesn't need the U.S., but the U.S. needs Arabian oil.  Those crafty developers sold the wealthy of Arabia on the idea of modernized, western-style, skyscraper filled cities.  "It will be better than Vegas!" They said.  And the Saudi's agreed.

But they are not in debt to us. And the skyscrapers that you see in Dubai  (EDIT: sorry my bad- Dubai is in the United Arab Emirates- actually a country that has benefitted a lot more than even the Saudis from petro dollars.) were constructed with petrodollars, that is, money the U.S. pays to Saudi Arabia for oil imports.  Clever, huh?

Does that benefit the taxpayer of the U.S.?  Not really.  Of course, our cars keep getting fueled with Saudi oil. But that money the government is "loaning" in "aid" is your tax dollars.  And it's all going right into the pockets of Halliburton executives.  Many of whom end up as our politicians (not just Cheney).

You know, like how John Nations becomes the head of Metro, and receives a $250,000 a year salary to build Metrolink stations for the likes of companies like Cortex.  ( 

John Nations is very vocal about his purpose at Metro.  He is there for five years so that he can run for either a Senate seat, or Governor, depending on who you talk to.  Public transit?  That's an after-thought.  That is just a necessary technicality.  Nations sole responsibility is to make sure the local Cheney's and Halliburton's are happy, so that they will contribute to his campaign finance fund.

Or how people like County Executive Charlie Dooley need to make sure that his friends at Musick construction get all the construction jobs for the Metrolink. 

It is not just that the inflated statistics of the "Economic Hit Men" and croney capitalism have become the new economic success model for "business as usual", it is that profit is funnelled only to a certain section of society: Big business and the already wealthiest individuals, and the two things that keep the wealth flowing to them: the military, and the government.

Substitute the U.S. military for the Saint Louis city and county courts and lawyers.  Our lawyers and judges are so wealthy because there is so much crime.  There is so much crime because half the city is a 1st world ghetto-- the national version of the 3rd world, international sweat shop.

You know, like those children and prisoners in China working to make t-shirts and stuff?!JkEIe

The Chinese government has to accept payment for these manufactured goods.  They accept the payment in U.S. Treasury Bonds.  That is why you hear that Chinese own 1.5 Trillion of the U.S. Debt.  (You know, that debt that equals $55,000 for every man, woman and child in the U.S.  And $155,000 per taxpayer?)


Many objects are manufactured in China these days, and many of those objects are purchased by people and firms located in the United States of America. And before an American firm can purchase something from a Chinese firm, the American firm needs to trade some of its US dollars for some Chinese money. Thus America ends up with more Chinese-made goods and China ends up with more American money.
Now in the natural course of floating exchange rates what would happen here is that the dollar price of Chinese money would rise, and this would increase the price of Chinese-made stuff in America and decrease the price of American-made stuff in China. That in turn would tend to discourage the flow of Chinese-made stuff to the United States of America.
But the Chinese government for various reasons wants to subsidize Chinese manufacturing. So they want to send those dollars they accumulate back to the United States


...once you accept the idea that China’s dollar earnings mostly have to stay as dollars, it is clear that there are no alternatives to owning U.S. securities, government and private.  There no other safe, liquid investments available in the necessary quantities.  At the margin, China’s sovereign wealth fund can buy equities and real assets like property, but the bulk of the overall portfolio has to be held in liquid securities.  These are foreign exchange reserves, remember, not some pot of spare money to be gambled away.

The Chinese government is not going to let their own money's value increase, or demand higher wages and safer conditions for those sweat shop workers, because they need those foreign exchange reserves to make their country wealthy.  (And that means make their government and rich families- the Chinese 1%- richer.  See it doesn't matter what race or religion or what country.  The world is really about the rich profiting from the poor.  All the other divisions are to keep us fighting each other instead of them.)

The Chinese government need the U.S. dollar to stay strong.  That way they can keep making a profit from all that sweat shop and prison labor.

This works out for the U.S. government, too. U.S. corporations have lots of "aid" and "modernization" and "democracy" to sell to the oil producing nations.  And then there is always "re-building" after a war, or a natural disaster.


  In "Cronies," it is clear why Halliburton hired Mr. Cheney, for he "knew how to vacuum up federal money and federal contracts." Other facts from "Cronies": During Cheney's tenure at Halliburton, he nearly doubled the amount of federal contracts to $2.3 billion. Also, Cheney assisted the parent company, Brown & Root, in receiving a fifteenfold increase in federally backed loans and insurance from the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Mr. Cheney understood the importance of lobbying, for he doubled political donations while at Halliburton.     According to the Center for Public Integrity and mentioned in "Cronies," seventy companies and individuals who were substantial contributors to the Bush-Cheney campaign have been awarded billions of dollars in contracts in Iraq.
    Have we become a nation of lobbyists, for lobbyists, and by lobbyists? The crony democracy chain links politicians, government appointees, corporations, government contracts and lobbyists. The chain includes interchangeable employment with each successive administration from government officials to corporate CEO or Washington lobbyist. The goal is profit at government expense. What is the financial calculation of waste and abuse in such a system?

(This is also worth reading:

There is enough money in the world for every single person to have enough to eat, a place to sleep, and medical care.

According to Jeffrey Sachs: 

To end extreme poverty worldwide in 20 years, Sachs calculated that the total cost per year would be about $175 billion. This represents less than one percent of the combined income of the richest countries in the world.
The military budget in the USA is about $680 billion per year3. A large amount of other funding is directly connected to military spending in the states, bringing the total closer to $1 trillion per year4.Even if we assume the lesser of these numbers, annual defense spending in the US is about four times as much money as is needed to begin rapidly ending extreme poverty in the entire world. If some of the US military’s monstrous budget could be channelled towards humanitarian goals, then extreme poverty in our world could quickly become a thing of the past.

There is enough money, it is just not being distributed in a way that is meaningful.  It's all about "profit" for the corporations and corporate leaders. 

When wealthy people buy a bond, whether it the Chinese government buying Treasury bonds, or William "Bucky" Bush's St. Louis neighbor buying a Metro municipal bond, they expect not only a nice return on their investment financially, they expect to be catered to.

That means no Metrolink running through the northside neighborhoods that serve only to supply surplus labor that will work cheap and not complain.  Keep those people incarcerated by lack of decent public transportation.  Make sure the slave-maid has to ride the bus for two or three hours to get to the plantation house.

That money is also not to be spent improving those neighborhoods.  They aren't earning enough to pay for improved street services.  How can they, on such low wages?

In St. Louis, there is enough money for public transit to be absolutely free of charge.  Rider revenues could be easily covered by Prop A's one half of one percent sales tax in the county and one quarter of one percent in the city, if the full amount was used for operating expenses.

But it can't.  Even though Prop A is straight revenue, most of the money Metro receives (or so the man at Dooley's office told me) goes to paying its bonds-- it's IOU's.

Metro operated at a loss of $249,514,470 in 2013.  So no matter how often they raise fares, they will never have enough.

And it is so burdened by debt that another fluctuation in the market could cripple it completely.

And if you have read this whole post, you probably understand as I do, that this current global economic model is destined to crash-- again and again.

This system needs constant, voracious expansion.  That can only occur if more construction and "business development" is needed, paying the lowest possible wages and providing the fewest possible services.

Find a reason to invade another country, like the Russians in the Ukraine. Or start a war, as the Bush-Cheney regime did in Iraq.

Or if you're lucky, there will be a natural disaster, like Hurricane Sandy:

Or an earthquake in Haiti. (Sorry, did you think the Red Cross was sacred?)

This system is not going to change by itself.  Not globally, nationally, or locally.  These people make money whether there is war or peace.  They make MORE money the smaller the middle class is and the more poor people there are. 

It is only going to change when enough of us DEMAND our fair share. And frankly, that time is long passed. 


PS: if you read all the way through this, you might be interested in this stuff as well:

On "Foreign Aid": 

On the Economics of the 1%: 

BILL MOYERS: Here’s Piketty’s main point: capital tends to produce real returns of 4 to 5 percent, and economic growth is much slower. What's the practical result of that?
PAUL KRUGMAN: What that means is that if you have a large fortune, or a family has a large fortune, they can -- the inheritors of that large fortune -- can live very, very well. They can live an extraordinary standard of living and still put a large fraction of the income from that fortune aside and the fortune will grow faster than the economy.

On Fiat currency: