We should have ONE day without shopping

Good old New England, it’s illegal for many store to open Thanksgiving Day in 3 of our states! People have three other days to shop, we don’t need Thursday. For the chains that open elsewhere on T-day, I’m boycotting them for the rest of the year.

BAD LIST:
Open in Morning: Best Buy, Kmart, Lord & Taylor
Not open til evening: Walmart, Target, Macy’s, Toys “R” Us, JC Penny, Kohls, Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, Sears, Office Depot, Office Max, Michaels

GOOD LIST:
Pier One, Nordstorm’s, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Sam’s Club, Burlington Coat Factory, Costco, Ross Stores, Lowe’s, Von Maur and Cabela’s, Barnes & Noble, Home Depot, Radio Shack

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/26/thanksgiving-shopping-ban_n_4346023.html

The Substance of the Occupy Wall Street Movement

The Occupy Movement has received a lot of support from people around the world, and a lot of criticism for not having a clear request or agenda.  To simply state a problem ” We are the 99%”, referencing the wealth gap between rich and middle class (I don’t think this is about or will become a movement the conditions of the working poor) is not enough to gain action from the political powers for change.

The list of complaints includes a variety of topics from the various participates in the movement.  The underlying theme of complaints that seem to be universal include:

  • The economic gap between rich and poor is widening.
  • The quality of living for the middle class is dropping.
  • Capitalism is out of control and has given all the power to the wealthy.

The middle class wants to be able to earn a certain standard of living.  They are doing everything requested of them to earn that lifestyle: gone to college, worked hard to move up the ladder, invest in home, and save for retirement and now the people demand the promised return: 1.  A secure retirement lifestyle with decent health care and 2. Similar opportunities for the younger generations.  They do not understand how those two concepts are now threatened after years of hard work that filled the coffers of the rich 1%.  And the ruling rich do not believe they are responsible for providing those entitlements, but the Occupiers believe  the rich have some responsibility because they have controlled the government spending and taxation which now threaten the promised entitlements.  The rich say: You are now taking more than you paid for these entitlement programs.  But if the middle class was paid more, or the rich didn’t get out of their tax obligation, or the government was forced to save, then the government may be able to support the entitlements, making the necessary revisions as the population ages.

Capitalism has allowed the wealthy to become the ruling class and overpower the majority.  Nothing is perfect, and capitalism certainly is not a perfect economic system.  So I think the real message from the Occupy Movement is that we need to revise our economics (demonstrated on their holiday card) and politics to support our values and responsibilities.

On Monday’s show, Charlie Rose subtly presented the issues and the solution at the root of the Occupy Movement discussion and the Congressional Super Committee deadlock.  His guests presented the two fundamental sides of the issue.   David Brooks discussed ideas relating to he conservative point of view “We need less Government involvement and cost”.   The Tea Party represents the extreme view: we don’t want to pay taxes to support programs with excessive waste and programs that support freeloaders.  Then Dov Seidman discusses his work to help companies develop Ethical Business Practices that are also prosperous because they resonate with the values of the public.

The solution is increase ethics and responsibility in business and politics.  This can’t be mandated, but has to be a cultural change from the ground up.  We have to change our behavior and practices in a way that creates the right incentives for businesses to change, and no longer look for ways to cheat the system.

One of the fantastic developments with this movement is the creation of “Participatory Democracy”.  I think this type of development in the political process is the next revolution, to find a modern political model that represents the wishes of the people and not the ruling class.

The Challange of Capitalism

Economies have evolved and for now we are settled on a Capitalists system.  Maybe that is the best system for us right now, I don’t know enough about economic systems to have an opinion on which may be better.  But I think we all should be more cognoscente of the challenges and disadvantages of this system, so that we avoid the pitfalls of the system as much as possible.

With Capitalism, individual benefit and prosperity is the focus.  I think the biggest problem with Capitalism is Fraud and Deceit.  Without significant regulation, and a source of fact checking, the consumers and average citizens have no way to get the right information through all the misinformation forced in front of us.  Even if we try to get a handle on the information needed, the information becomes so convoluted you have to hire a lawyer to explain each sentence.  How do we know who or what to trust?

  • We can no longer trust banking institutions to provide a reasonable loan given a person’s economic situation.  Nor can we trust the securities they are trying to sell.
  • Most commercials are obviously misleading and deceitful.
  • Can we trust our investment advisers?

The thing that worries me, we all know someone who is incompetent for their job, maybe we know many people who we would not trust in that profession.  Yet we inherently trust our doctors, airline pilots, funny guys on TV who give financial advice using funny sounds. Frontline on the public TV station has been highlighting cost saving short cuts taken by the Airline industry that are not regulated by the safety administrations.  Today’s episode of 60 Minutes highlights the hidden fees in 401k programs.  These fees are not hidden in the fine print, they are unpublicized fees that we have no way of identifying.

This could be the greatest opportunity for the government.  Modern society has a reasonable distrust of the government, as we should.  But why is out distrust stronger for the government than for commercials, business, safety regulations, etc.?  Do we really expect big companies, wall street, and real estate agents to be looking out for our best interests?  We have eliminated regulation in favor of cost savings on the various products and industries.  Hopefully with a democratic system, and with our bill of rights, we can have an effective government that is checked and regulated by the people.

We need to regain control of the government by voting, writing to the elected officials, and talking to each other about priorities and ways to solve the most important problems.  And we need to empower them to work against the negatives of capitalism.  Wrong doers should be fined an amount equal to the egregiousness of the crime, and publicized to allow consumers to choose other sources of business.

I think the public fight against fraud is key to this effort.  Individuals and companies should be publicly shamed for such wrongdoing, and others should fear repeating similar action.  We need more institutions to investigate and publicize the actions and promotions of companies.  This requires improved education to show people the difference between factual based news versus the  info-tainment of network news programs.