Monday, October 5, 2015

The ‘Carly’ Conundrum

The ‘Carly’ Conundrum

Fiorina’s Rise in the GOP Proves
That No One Vets Anyone Anymore.

            I love early, if premature, campaigns like the “Iowash” Caucuses and that expanded Town Hall called New Hampshire. They become a kind of polemic test-lab for political candor that comes virtually without recourse. Political candidates seem to be able to say just about anything this early in the game—the more outrageous the better—and if it sounds clever, outspoken and original (rest assured) there will be throngs of the faithful with Kool-Aid and straws just waiting to suck up the latest simplistic soundbites as if they had any substance at all.

            Political portfolios don’t matter any more. In fact, most of the time these days they are a detriment. And why should they matter after the numbing realization that both Houses of Congress have become nothing more than straw men who shake their impotent rattles with a rolled-up Bill of Rights while an imperious Administration and a Supreme Court that now notoriously legislates from the Bench do all the heavy lifting? On top of that, the GOP, which has had control of the Legislature since 2010, has recently engaged in such an orgy of  “eating its own” that a horrified electorate has nothing left to do but sit back and watch it all in utter disbelief.

            This Republican self-devouring comes to the delight of Democrats who will embrace anyone with a pulse, and who will never abandon any member of their posse as long as they’re not pedophiles or patriots. But the public at large has a different take. The people are concerned. And they will look anywhere for answers these days—especially outside the beltway. That in itself goes far to explain the reason the three leading Republican candidates in the Presidential polls have no political credentials whatsoever.

            Knowing how to milk the Media’s manic need for ratings, Donald Trump has been gobbling up all the broadcast time with his train-wreck campaign philosophy that says, “Break enough furniture and take on the status quo with as many insults as you can cram into a soundbite, and the people will beat a path to your door.” But recently, he is starting to see his credibility collapse like a bad soufflé because he’s beginning, with the revelation of his Swiss-cheese economic and foreign policy “plans,” to come off as both unqualified and trite. The Donald is still leading, but now according to last week’s WSJ/NBC poll his numbers have dropped from a high of 32% in early September to 23% and just one percentage point over Ben Carson.

            Ironically Carson perfectly fits the Christian Coalition/Tea Party matrix so tightly that he is virtually the Republican Platform personified. As such, he doesn’t have one original idea to call his own combined with the added appeal that he is a self-made millionaire brain-surgeon who happens to be black. And, purely in terms of strategy, Ben would make a lovely Number 2, which seems to be the job for which he is actually campaigning.
            That leaves the latest Zeitgeist and GOP flavor-of-the-day, Carly Fiorina. As the only woman in the field, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO has debated, scrapped and elbowed her way not only into the Top Tier of Republican candidates, but also locking solidly into third place, with 11% points, tied with the only career politician currently in double digits, Senator Marco Rubio (who has also renounced Congress as “impotent”).

            To these tired eyes at least, Carly was only one of two people on the dais during the second debate at the Reagan library [along with Rubio] who came off as presidential. And on what little “scrap time” has remained in the wake of The Donald’s cable news binges as of late, Fiorina’s interviews have come off as crisp, clear and concise. Her command of the issues has seemed refreshing. She is unrepentantly self-confident. And by all appearances, she comes off as capable of thinking outside the box. Or does she?

            In retrospect, I have to note that, just as FOX orchestrated the first GOP debate to take Trump down, CNN seemed to deliberately structure its Q&A building blocks very pointedly to raise Carly up during debate Number 2 at the Reagan Center. They fed her all the juicy questions, allowed her (quite rudely at times) to interrupt all the other candidates, and then crowned her the winner almost as soon as the cameras moved away from the backdrop of Air Force One and into the B-roll around the hangar.  

            The fact that Carly is a woman would seem to provide the perfect foil to countervail the inevitable return of Hillary (who will most definitely clean up her email “problem” in time to lock down her party’s nomination). “So why not Carly?” one is driven to ask. And many voters are starting to do just that.

            Frankly, in this seeming Age of Transparency, I’m sitting here in utter disbelief at the whole process, especially at Carly Fiorina’s meteoric rise to Number 3 in the Republican polls. Although we would all like to look upon this kind of candidate as viable and credible, even the most superficial glance at her track-record causes one to wonder what kind of unmitigated hubris would cause this woman to run or why the Grand Old Party would ever take her seriously.

            Ultimately, any viable candidate for POTUS would be running on some record of accomplishments. Trump, for all his shortcomings has a net worth of from $4 billion to $10 Billion and can simply out-muscle any RNC cabal set in place to take him down. Ben Carson is a brain-surgeon, self-made millionaire and co-founder of The Washington Times. Carly, on the other hand, has a record of personal and professional failures so broad and deep that, upon examination, she would (under inevitable media scrutiny) come off like a shadow-protagonist in House of Cards. And rest assured it is something of which RNC insiders are keenly aware. So let’s just hit the highlights if we may:

             Fiorina’s main claim to fame is her tenure as the first female CEO of venerable tech giant Hewlett-Packard. When questioned about her six-year tenure beginning in 1999, she proudly points to the fact that, through their purchase of Compaq in 2001, she doubled HP’s annual revenues and increased its acquisitions to about $89 Billion, making it the largest computer company in the world at the time. Even though Hewlett Packard’s stock dropped 30% during the acquisition, the deal looked great on paper, and the figures sang. What really went down in subtext was the undeniable truth that one outdated “big box” computer company bought out another dying but cash-rich big box computer giant, creating a “Maya” (illusion) investment bubble that was doomed to burst.

             At the time this HP/Compaq “merger” took place in 2001, Apple was already blowing the tech market wide open with new innovations like iPods, feather-light laptops and swivel face, flat-screen computers that had Windows based technologies in a panic. But one thing we get to learn quickly about Carly is that she is all about the numbers. In terms of people skills and consensus management, she has always scored at the bottom. In truth she is one of the Judas goats of the Top-Down business model that boasts a lovely bottom-line (for a while) while jobs and productivity become, in equal measure, the first casualties of the new “Executive Pretty” regime.
            The biggest part of Carly Fiorina’s impact everywhere she goes is the ruthless specter of “attrition management.” Her tenure as Number 2 at Lucent (from 1996-1999) was often referred to by employees as "Carly's Reign of Terror," where the company slashed jobs while artificially puffing up the profits through specious "vendor loans" and cooking the books that ended in a $1.1 Billion fine by the SEC.

           While CEO of HP, she immediately cut 18,000 jobs to make the fit with Compaq more supportable, took HP’s employees off its vaunted profit sharing plan and onto a bonus system, which is analogous to taking away someone’s 401 K while giving them a chump-change money bump at Christmas. Add to that the fact that Hewlett Packard, formerly Number 1 in employee morale when Fiorina took over plummeted down to dead last among all major corporations. Her management style was often described as “shrill.” And her relationship with the HP Board was most frequently characterized as “dysfunctional.”

            By the time Carly was forced out in 2005 (with a $100 M Golden Parachute), HP’s stock had tanked to about half its value. InfoWorld (the tech bible) grouped her merger with Compaq as “The 6th Worst Tech Flop of All Time,” and many financial commentators referred to her as “the Anti-Steve Jobs,” citing her charismatic personal style as being more than countervailed by her lack of vision and outdated approach to innovation. Top it all off by the fact that thousands of the HP jobs Fiorina cut while at the helm of HP got outsourced to China, and you have what amounted to the perfect poison package that would cause the average CEO with any conscience at all to consider taking hemlock. On her way out, she seems to have been credited as the Genesis of a New Millennium business stigma called “Corporate Suicide.”

            To say no one at HP was sorry to see Carly go would have been an understatement. But she still managed to appeal to a certain class of corporation that prized an ability to juggle structure over long-term vision. And she ended up landing on her feet with consulting jobs for the next couple of years, until 2008, when Carly—apparently because of her “no prisoners” approach to finance—was named Funding Chairman for the Republican National Committee and immediately brought on board as the Money Wazir for John McCain’s final push for POTUS.

            Never accused of being a team player when she was at either Lucent or HP Fiorina, from the outset, started making the 2008 McCain campaign all about “her.” She immediately started holding press conferences—several of them, more than the candidate himself—while grabbing headlines and issuing public proclamations in the process.

            Carly’s constant upstaging had already started chafing with McCain when she dropped the first shoe in a spate of major gaffs by opining in an interview on CNN that Alaska Governor and VP Candidate Sarah Palin was “not qualified” to be head of a major corporation like Hewlett Packard. Since Palin was running as No. 2 for that other sizable corporation, the United States of America (and was already chafing from allusions to her being the summary Barbie Doll and intellectual lightweight), it did not set particularly well with McCain insiders.

            Rather than back away or revert to the ultimate equivocation that she was “taken out of context,” Fiorina doubled down on it the next day by also declaring that John McCain wouldn’t be qualified to run a major corporation like HP either—basically inferring that neither the Candidate nor his already beleaguered Running Mate were in Carly’s league when it came to actually getting things done.

            It was reported from the inside that McCain, known for being dyspeptic even the best of times, went ballistic and demanded that Fiorina immediately be removed form her RNC post. And within 24 hours (and only after seven weeks on the job) Carly was gone.

            Somehow, the debacle that followed in the wake of her handling of the GOP finance committee in 2008 and the “bad blood” that came out of it didn't dampen her political ambitions in the least. So in 2010 she launched her campaign to run for Barbara Boxer’s seat in her home state of California.

            Arguably one of the least popular and most corrupt Senators in California political history, Boxer was considered beatable, especially given the national tone of discontent with the first two years of the Obama/Reid/Pelosi triumvirate. As everyone remembers 2010 was a banner year for Republicans who recaptured the House of Representatives and gained major inroads in the Senate, winning landslide elections practically everywhere but California.

            What happened instead was a candidate, in Fiorina, who emerged as brusk, unlikable and incredible. Her primary campaign against Tom Campbell was labeled sleazy and defamatory, and her “demon sheep” commercial was rated one of the most ridiculous TV political ads of all time—so much so that, by the time she got to the general election her “favorable” ratings had flatlined, and she couldn’t have beaten Hugo Chavez in a runoff.

            As predicted, Boxer absolutely clobbered Carly on her record as CEO at Hewlett Packard (especially the outsourcing of jobs to China) and underscored what insiders had known all along—that in 2008 McCain had, prior to Palin, initially considered Fiorina for VEEP when insiders warned that the corporate baggage Carly brought from her debacle at HP could take down their bid for the White House. As a result Boxer, no fan favorite by any means, cleaned Fiorina’s clock by double digits when in fact Boxer herself couldn’t garner a 46% approval rating in her own state prior to the general election.

            If Carly Fiorina flopped that badly against Barbara Boxer, one can only imagine what her chances would be against a tough campaigner like Hillary Clinton, a former Secretary of State and two term senator with a political portfolio packed with good report. Add to that the fact that, in the wake of her 2010 debacle, Fiorina stiffed both staffers and media alike with unpaid bills and bounced salaries. Granted, vanquished political candidates are notorious for leaving the detritus of unpaid bills lying around in the wreck of their defeat. But not if they ever plan to run again.  

            But Carly is running again—this time with great gusto, even though she seems to have an uneasy relationship with the truth, as evidenced by some of her “references” during the debate. Ready with what seemed to be an over-prepared response to CNN’s Q&A, she referenced her very hawkish stance on foreign policy, underscoring her “no compromise” dealings with Iran.

            “The first thing I would do on Day One,” Carly responded, “would be to give a call to my good friend Bibi Netanyahu, and reassure him…” etc. But is Ms. Fiorina really that close to the Israeli Prime Minister? According to every source consulted, Carly Fiorina may have met Bibi once for about a minute—scarcely the basis for a close friendship. She also made absurd promises about building up the Sixth Fleet (already the largest maritime nuclear force in the world) and putting more troops in Germany that, at this moment, stand at 40,000.

            No! Ms. Fiorina is not close to Netanyahu. But according to rumors, she is pretty tight with some Muslim leaders, including former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  And to this moment, she remains tainted by what has now become the ultimate paradox—her ill-timed “Praise for Islam” rant that oddly scraped across the open wounds of a Nation in mourning just two weeks after the attack at One World Trade Center. On September 26 in that same month and year, the then HP CEO went on rhapsodically about the greatness of Islamic culture as one of the civilizing influences of the world—a speech she recently refused to disavow, and one for which she is currently getting hammered by members of her own party.

            In subtext, what seems to have motivated Carly to launch into such a lofty, if inaccurate (and propagandist) paean to the Ottoman Empire had little to do with ideology and more to do with her company’s lucrative technology contracts in the Middle East, including a $140 million “shadow deal” with a then sanctioned Iran. So, it would seem that Ms. Fiorina’s speech might well have come as a somewhat calculated move to ingratiate herself and her company by sending a little political “sugar” to her contacts in the Middle East.

            Ignoring the fact that Elephants have long memories and that everything you do in politics will come back to haunt you, Carly Fiorina now finds herself in the consummate Conundrum. Is she an Islamophile, as her 2001 “Ottoman Rhapsody” would indicate? Or was that “I love Islam” tagline a mere corporate ploy to take the heat off her cronies in that troubled corner of the world? Either way some issues of character come into play. And Fiorina’s credibility has come to the chopping block. I realize that calling someone a lying politician is the very definition of pleonastic.  But shouldn’t one at least start out in one’s career by trying to tell the truth?

            In truth, Ms. Fiorina’s entire track-record is built on a body of lies, half-truths and foggy interpretations of her prowess so overripe and unpalatable as to render her low-hanging fruit for any Democrat Candidate with half a brain to splatter across the airwaves with a single swipe of the facts.

            In a Republican Party so desperate to regain a hold on its soul, Carly arrives at this point in a pretty package indeed. Smart, insightful, rich, successful, articulate and tough—she would appear to be ready to take on all comers, and the Devil take the hindmost. Unfortunately “the Devil” is also in the details.  And at this point, Carly Fiorina is looking a lot more like Faust than Abraham Lincoln.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Why We Can't Be "Denmark!"

Why We Can’t Be “Denmark!”

A Reasoned Response to Bernie Sanders
And the Neo-Socialist Mantra

            I would like to start this article out with a very special “thank you” to both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. You’ve got Bernie far out on the Democratic Left and Donald far out on the Republican Right drawing record crowds because they are both offering bold visions about what’s wrong with America and how to fix it. It doesn’t really matter at this point that their philosophies are off target. The important issue is that they speak with passion! They care! Above all else they are both symbols of just how fed up the American electorate is with politics as usual.  It has become more serious than any other time in modern American history. And that is a good thing!

            By now, just about everyone gets Trump. “The Donald” is one of the five best-known American celebrities and ranks in the Top 10 in global awareness. I covered him in my article two weeks ago and haven’t really changed my opinion much since then:

           For now, I want to focus on Bernie—God bless his good intentions—and how he has become the new flashpoint of American politics. For those of you who can’t look up from texting long enough to observe the world around you, Bernie Sanders is Vermont’s self-confessed Socialist Senator challenging Hillary Clinton in her bid for POTUS while galvanizing frenzied crowds of “Feel the Bern” groupies, shouting “Socialism” as if they had just invented it. 

            Although he has a detailed list of big government initiatives, Sanders’s political strategy is simple. And it comes in two parts. Part One: “Promise everybody more stuff. And be sure to bang on the rich…especially the Super Rich.” Part Two: “Look longingly to Denmark...and Sweden and Norway and all the other countries in what is known as the Nordic Model as role models for what can be done to develop the perfect society—one where you have free-university education, universal health care, double the minimum wage we have now in America, and about $100 a day for people who can’t work and earn a living for themselves.”

            The social structure of the Nordic Model is often referred to as a Social Democracy, a term that is catnip to liberals because Social Democracies are often perceived as the final rung on the ladder to a purely Socialist state. Of course, liberals are buying into this utopian notion mainly because they haven’t done their homework.

            So I’m going to try to explain the nature of this kind of naïve economic reasoning as regards the American political dynamic. And I offer a spoiler alert from the outset. Before this article is over I will be accused of being the following: a socialist; a radical right wing hack; a racist; an America-hating cynic; a flag waving patriot fanatic; and (by a few I hope) someone who actually cared enough to find out how things really work.  

            Finding out how things really work means ultimately getting to the core truth of how nations view themselves. And in truth the governments (and businesses) of these five “Social Democracies” prefer to call their economic model Nordic Capitalism, all five nations avowing that they have managed to strike the balance between “competitive capitalism,” a free-market economy, and an appropriately responsible welfare state.

            Yes, that last term, “welfare state,” is the ultimate poison pill to every conservative reading this, because in America it smacks of FDR’s New Deal, LBJ’s Great Society, Barack Obama’s feckless “New Beginning” and every other cynical attempt to bribe the vast unwashed with “more free services” that are anathema to every hard working, tax paying citizen in the USA.

            In Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland they actually understand the true meaning and apply it. It means striking the balance between government, corporate, institutional and individual investment. For this plan to work, everyone has to commit to the Social Contract—all of it! And all participants had to “buy-in” at the same time with a shared long range goal in mind: the fact that if they paid in today, they would—in 20 or 30 or 40 years—be eligible for the full package of social benefits at the other end.

            Criticize this or not, the Nordic Model has worked exceptionally well since it was first set up during the 1950s. And they have been apparently doing something right because today the five Nordic countries rank in the Top 10 in every significant category:

            • World Happiness Index. That means citizen/individual satisfaction with quality of life, personal freedom, expectations of security, and trust in government.
            • Social Equality [Inequality] Index. This defines the social platform that provides a “level playing field,” equality of opportunity and rising to higher levels of success.
            • Democracy Index. This encompasses political integrity, the political culture, civil liberties, individual freedom and freedom of the press.  
            • The Legatum Prosperity Index (LPI). This includes such intangibles as quality of education, entrepreneurship, personal security and general economy.
            • Gender Equality. This includes equal pay for equal work, political opportunity, and elimination of sexual discrimination. Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden take the top four slots in this area, while Denmark comes in at No. 8.

            To answer the overarching question, the United States ranks an archaic 23rd in Gender Equality, logging in just after Burundi and just before Australia.

            So you have to be asking where does the US come in in the other indexes I just noted? The truth is that we do surprisingly well, given the fact that we have a highly pluralistic multiracial society that is also the most overregulated on earth. We rank in the top 20 (of 161 nations) in most of the above categories, except when it comes to Social Equality where to drop to a disappointing 28th, Quality of Education where we log in at 29th and Freedom of the Press where we rank an abysmal 47th.

            Otherwise the U.S. ranks “A #1” in the most prisons and the largest prison population, exceeding those of Number 2 China and Number 3 Russia combined. We are Number 1 in the most millionaires, deaths by violence, plastic surgeons, and small arms exports. Additionally we rank Sixth in medical expenditures and an absolute Number 1 in spending for entitlements, at $2.3 trillion a year. Lamentably we come in at Number 2 in child poverty levels, at 23%! And yet to add to the Paradox that is America, “We the People” are the most generous nation on Earth, and the only country that ranks in the Top Five of the 3 Standards for charity, relief contributions and helping those in need.

            What most Socialists choose to ignore is that the USA is already one of the largest per capita welfare states in the world. In fact, nearly 110 million Americans (or 34.5%) are on some form of welfare. When you add in Social Security and Medicare the number jumps to 154 million or roughly 49% on some form of government subsidy. Add to all this the fact that American tax payers rank Number 8 out of the Top 10 most heavily taxed people on Planet Earth and it would seem that we are more than doing our part. This is especially significant when you take into consideration that 30% of us are paying 90% of the individual taxes levied in this country (including the evil 2% Super Rich who pay 24% just on their own).

            But Bernie Sanders, the Don Quixote tilting lances at the windmill of Income Inequality continues to sing “The Impossible Dream” to the vast army of the disenfranchised—43% of whom pay no income taxes whatsoever—for our need to tax, restrict, legally handcuff and bring down those rich nasty moguls and who happen to be responsible for about 72% of the actual GDP of this nation.

            To the surprise of no one, Bernie and his Neo-socialist groupies like to cherry-pick their objections and then oversimplify on their solutions. Then again, one has to excuse “The Bern” because he is from Vermont, and life is simpler there…and is able more or less to operate on the Nordic Model of government. That’s because Vermont is our second smallest state with a population of just over 630,000 people, with a middle-class Caucasian ethnicity sitting right at 94%. Small by US standards, Vermont has the same population as Oklahoma City but nearly twice as many people as the entire nation of Iceland, (at about 323,000). And by now the light should be clicking on, because one of the secrets of the Nordic Model is that it works quite well with smaller populations with shared middle class values—ones that are demographically consistent and possess a large degree of cultural and ethnic uniformity.

            In truth the other four nations that follow the Nordic Economic Model—Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden—have a relatively small, ethnically uniform, middle class demographic that makes their economic model very manageable indeed, especially when you add-in four other factors that most of the world’s major nations lack. In terms of population, Finland, Denmark and Norway each have slightly over 5 million people. Sweden, with 9.6 million is the most populous. And all five Nordic nations combined total 25 million people, or about 62% of the population of California (at 38.8 million).

            I use comparisons to California, not only because it is the 9th largest economy in the world but also because it is the most aggressive welfare state in the 50 United States. Longing to be a model for Socialism, California is sadly the poster child for bureaucratic corruption at every level and an utter failure as a social experiment. As America’s only “Sanctuary State” it now ranks Number 1 in levels of poverty, Number 48 (out of 50) in Quality of Education, Number 1 among most heavily taxed citizens, the most illegal aliens (3.1 million), and the highest crime rate in America. 

            In the meantime, however, let’s get back to the five nations with the Cooperative Capitalistic Model, including the four major factors that go into making it work.

            The Nordic Heritage. The Vikings of the 10th Century notwithstanding, the Nordic nations have been the paragons of longstanding “civilized” societies with at least three of a democratic mindset. Technically, three of them (Norway, Sweden and Denmark) are Constitutional Monarchies. Finland and Iceland are pure democracies. All have had a longer record of ranking at the top of civil rights for all its citizens than other countries. All of them had the good sense to stay out of World War I, and were only on the fringes of World War II, due mainly to German and Soviet aggression. (Only Finland has actually fought any kind of real war in the last 100 years [1939], where it became the only nation in history to pay-off all debts to the US, while battling its Russian attackers to a standstill and eventual truce.) If it sounds like I’m making a case for Nordic superiority, I plead guilty. But from what I can see these nations long ago proved themselves, mainly because they truly understand The Art of the Deal.

            • The Universal Participation of All Parties—business and industry, government, institutions, and the individual taxpayer—all buying-in at the same time. At various stages of the 1950s, each government of the Nordic nations sat down with its business leaders, trade unions and political representatives of the people and mutually agreed upon roughly equal payment from all groups that they would receive back in a proportionate measure of social services. Everyone is symbiotically invested. And from a broader perspective the entitlements are actually more of a monetary incentive package (a universal 401 K if you will) that everyone realizes will be honored…without concerns that their government might throw them under the bus with the next administration.  
            • Institutional Trust and High Levels of Integrity—Integrity is the key issue here, and in a way it is the only thing that matters. Trade Unions work well with industries and corporations. They have kept a balance between wage levels that are superior to the national average of American workers but not so extortive that they drive corporations to send jobs overseas. 77% of the companies in Finland, Norway, and Iceland keep their jobs inside the country with slightly less than that in Sweden and Denmark. People in the Nordic Model are also intent on keeping their word. That is why Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark make up four of the top five most honest nations in the world. Iceland recently dropped down to Number 12 due to their financial corruption scandal in 2008. But true to their national character, Iceland threw their top financial CEOs in jail for conspiracy to defraud (rather than bail them out and give them platinum parachutes). The main point is that this kind of system can only succeed if the moral compasses of all parties are pointed toward true North; and a singularity of purpose follows.

            Demographic Consistency.  Essentially all five Nordic nations have one large middle class. Aristocracy and the super rich represent the usual 1%. The underclass (including minorities) represents less than 5% in most instances. About one in five citizens are involved in domestic management (house wives/husbands). That leaves a vast number of about 78% working most of their lives. And given their relatively high minimum income, about 70% of all workers pay into a tax system from which virtually all benefit. Most of the beneficiaries of entitlements, retirement, health care and welfare usually represent less than 32% of the labor force, which means that until recently surpluses in overall national treasuries were the expected norm. Almost all Nordic countries boast about 45% of renewable sources for energy (solar, wind, geothermal and hydro).

            In all instances, all Nordic nations have a 95% Northern European Caucasian population, and it was only recently that they intentionally diversified by letting in political refugees from Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East. In 2010, Sweden instituted a very generous open-door policy to “refugee” Muslims from Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Somalia…and in the last five years has sadly become the Number 2 Rape Capital in the world after South Africa.

            Naturally all is not perfect up north. Sweden, Denmark and Finland—due to their membership in the EU—are feeling downward pressures on their currency from the financially profligate nations of Greece, Spain and Italy. Largely, however, the Nordic Model is about the best and most universally heralded in the world.

            So why not us? Why not here in the good old USA? I’ll try to keep the answers simple, but easier said than done. First, the Nordic Model is based in Cooperative Capitalism where Integrity is the byword.

            The short stormy history of the United States of America is one based in what I have come to call Adversary Capitalism—a system by which no one trusts anyone. Government, business, institutions, labor and the individual taxpayer have been at odds with each other almost since the founding.  Economics here tend to be Darwinian. The ethnic mash-up over the last 100 years has been a quantum soup of corruption, confused ethics, racial mixes and social mores from six continents and hundreds of cultures. Everyone is trying to “beat the system.” And that System is the Government. Rather than spend the next 20 pages explaining the complex economic mosaic generated inside our flawed but brilliant nation over the last 250 years, I will try to hit the highlights in what amounts to a print version of The 2 Minute History Of America.

            Like most colonial empires in this hemisphere, the United States of America started out as an agrarian society formed primarily by wiping out the indigenous peoples and rapidly institutionalizing a system of slave labor that we fought a Civil War put an end to in 1865. That was quickly replaced by an Industrial Era in the late 19th Century that in turn introduced sweatshops, child labor, seven-day work weeks and predatory “Company Stores” that amounted to nothing more than indentured servitude to millions of miners and factory workers, a system that finally brought on trade unions and guilds to protect the overworked, underpaid labor force and actually started out as a very good thing because they helped put a tight leash on “robber baron” enterprises already glutted with huge profits from wars, demands of industry, monopolies and polluting the food chain with rotten goods and fake commodities. In fact the abuses of this Malicious Mogul Capitalism were so severe by the turn of the 20th Century that none other than Theodore Roosevelt had to shut them down with hardline USDA food standards and “trust busting” antimonopoly legislation. About the time things were coming into balance and labor, industry and government, were starting to understand one another, along came Woodrow Wilson and the Sixteenth Amendment that introduced something called a permanent Income Tax. Starting out as a modest assessment, it quickly got ramped up in 1917 to help fund our participation in World War I—a senseless global conflict fought by 135 nations and killing 16 million people that, to this day, no one can either justify or explain.

            After World War I and the massive industry always generated from conflict, America enjoyed yet another post-war boom era with things like automobiles, trains, transportation, heavy mining, mass broadcast communications, and easy money, 90% financial leveraging and a manic global stock market with no safety net.  Not surprisingly, bogus corporations, bad financial models and overbuilt, undercapitalized industries became rampant. Unfortunately, the nation’s banks were the primary funders of this profligacy, and did so with absolutely no “backup plan.” So when the wheels came off on Black Friday 1929, the banks collapsed and everyone’s personal savings went down the tubes with them. Meanwhile our nation’s surviving financial institutions decided to double-down on the corruption by foreclosing on farmers, householders, small businesses and anyone else unable to hold up their end of the economic Golgotha that followed.

            Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal came along just in time in 1932 to rescue the average man with work projects and welfare, damn the corporations with a run of new regulations, managing to build individual trust in the Government while subliminally demonizing the evils of our financial institutions (many of which deserved it). In truth FDR did some truly great visionary things like set up the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the FDIC to insure the banks against failure, and Social Security to give people a savings system for retirement. As for just about everything else, Roosevelt created a massive Socialist Structure that made government the Nation’s largest employer, incorporating about a thousand different works projects administrations and utter collusion with Labor Unions who, around that time, became the single most powerful special interest in American History. He also decided that Income Tax, a relatively minor assessment to that point, was a really good idea. So, right in the middle of the worst Depression ever, he doubled taxes on the average family and jacked it up to  90% for millionaires and large corporations. Then he took us off the Gold Standard and incorporated a new kind of cash called “Federal Reserve Notes,” deciding along the way that it was OK to print more money—a lot of it—to pay for everything else. Statistics now support the fact that much of this actually made the decade long depression even worse, until World War II came along, giving everybody jobs and enabling anyone with a dram of enterprise to get richer in the process.

            After we helped fight and win World War II (a real war against real evil), the US emerged to become by far most enterprising nation with “The Greatest Generation” in the history of the world. So we decided to leverage our power and influence by rebuilding a war ravaged Europe (including funding our defeated enemies) through the Marshall Plan and other very generous “loans,” none of which were ever paid back by a Europe that ended up 20 years later thumbing its nose at us for our profligate economic policies.

            All this put a drain on our national coffers. And the truth is that, even though we won World War II, the USA continued fighting more wars (from Korea to Cuba to Vietnam) for the next 20 years—all framed around the USSR and the Cold War Communist threat. So, until the mid-1970s we basically had an economy structured upon a Military/Industrial complex that none other than Dwight D. Eisenhower tried to warn us about. John F. Kennedy (a closet conservative) actually saw the advantage of a ramped up MIC, but still managed to lower the optimum income tax back to 50%, revamped our national economic emphasis toward space and high technology, ushered in racial equality and tried to rein-in the insatiable power of the Federal Reserve Commission. After Kennedy was assassinated for reasons too numerous to mention, he was succeeded by Lyndon B. Johnson and later by Richard M. Nixon along with a series of the worst political and economic decisions in modern history.
            LBJ and the Great Society. Not only did Lyndon Johnson reboot the Vietnam campaign and send us into a 10-year war in Southeast Asia, he also used the legacy of JFK to launch an economic welfare package called “The Great Society,” and “War on Poverty,” which initiated a kind of systematized national indolence. Privately proclaiming that this legislation would guarantee the Democrats “The n***** vote for the next 100 years,” Johnson appealed to the nation’s blacks by saying (in subtext): “This is your compensation package for 250 years of slavery, abuse, discrimination, social humiliation and deprivation. In order to make it up to you, we are providing you with food stamps, free health care, free housing and unemployment compensation. But this all comes with a hitch: You’re not eligible for any of these benefits if you work for a living.” Not all blacks (and poor) bought into this welfare Faustian pact, but about 10 million did, helping to create an unprecedented drain on the national coffers that LBJ and the Dems provided for by ramping up the national debt, all the while alienating businesses with higher taxes that sent a lot of corporations seeking refuge in overseas bank accounts.

            Richard Nixon and the Super Bureaucracy.  Richard Nixon’s legacy was tarnished for his inability to end Vietnam and for the Watergate scandal. But what people don’t realize is that he was the biggest closet liberal in US political history. Not only did he shut down oil depletion allowances that discouraged drilling, he also helped make us dependent upon Arab oil and the ultimate “OPEC” embargo that quintupled the cost of gas at the pump in the 1970s. Nixon also helped create the EPA and OSHA clamping down on both environmental and work safety standards that caused many small businesses to go broke in compliance. Already squeezed by what had become overpaid, underperforming labor unions, US industries soon discovered that they could ship the majority of their jobs overseas, pay workers less than 1/10th those of US workers and often make a better product. And so the mass Exodus of jobs leaving America began…but by no means ended. It also hastened a paradigm shift away from an industrial economy to that of a consumer-based economy.

            Citibank South Dakota and the Rise of the “Loan Shark Nation.” By 1981, the US economy was in full stride, changing over from the most influential industrial power in history to becoming an economy based in consumerism. Rapid advances in technology, computer technology, communications, entertainment and easy credit—especially in the form of credit cards—kicked off the new Era of the Consumer Cow.  Seductive credit offers and "super malls” made it easy for shoppers to stock up on all kinds of new toys from electronics to personal computers to cars and “put it on plastic.” By the 1980s we had also ushered in a period of unprecedented loan shark interest rates underwritten by all major banks. This was jumpstarted by Citibank (after a favorable Supreme Court “loan shark” ruling in 1978) by going through the Legislature of South Dakota whose lender laws stated that interest at any level up to 100% could be levied without being defined as Usury. This sent a stampede of banks and financial institutions set up shop in Sioux Falls, issuing their VISA and MASTERCARD and DISCOVER cards from there, thus enabling US Credit to enjoy a world reputation for unethical loan practices, easy balance transfers and bait and switch interest rates that often ran up to 60% per anum.  That practice carries through today: Ask anyone late with a couple of credit card payments or any of the hundreds of thousands of people still in their 10th year of paying off their student. In fact, for the last 35 years or so, America has become a Loan Shark Nation. We feed off the milk of the overburdened, overcharged Consumer Super-cow. The problem is that now the Cow has stopped giving milk and started giving blood. (Bernie Sanders is upset about this. And “The Bern” is right.)

            NAFTA and the Wave of Open Borders.  Once upon a time, the United States had an immigration policy that was a model for the world. Especially around the turn of the 20th Century, “The poor and huddled masses longing to be free…” would actually come into NYC, log in at Ellis Island and apply for citizenship. It was an honor. It took work. The US actually enforced its immigration statutes. That enforcement started getting lax in the 1960s with loose border checks and bribed entries through the Sun Belt states. But the real coup de grace came with the National Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) enacted in 1994 and broadly supported on both sides of the aisles of Congress. In his book and film, Save Your Job Save Our Country, Ross Perot warned about NAFTA as a vehicle for the Mexican Government to export its marginalized labor force over onto us but no one listened.  Since that time, the flood gates have opened, and an estimated 24 Million “undocumented workers,” (pick a term) have come across, taken millions of low wage jobs, gobbled up about $240 billion a year worth of free health-care, education and SNAPS, all while they send $122 billion a year back to relatives across the border, for a total of $2.4 Trillion in the 20 years that has enriched the Mexican economy while eviscerating ours. (Ironically, Bernie Sanders wants to repeal NAFTA. But he thinks it’s unfair because Mexican workers are being exploited. I believe they would all come over tomorrow if they could. This is America: The Land Of Opportunity. They know that even if Sanders and his minions do not.)

            Finally we get to the two longest nails in the coffin of the American socio-economic model. 

            America’s Role as the World’s Policeman. With practically no time to heal from the ravage of World War II, we were forced into a Cold War mentality that lasted another forty years. We were given the role as the world’s policeman, and embraced it. And we still do. I won’t even go into George W. Bush’s contrived Iraqi war that cost $2 trillion (and 8,000 American lives) or the fact that the US has a reputation for throwing its allies under the bus, while selling military hardware to help prop up the nations that seem to hate us most. Looking beyond that political myopia is fact is that we have spent more than $31.5 Trillion on the US military machine since 1946 and have precious little to show for it other than government defense contracts that provide the ultimate manual for manufacturing graft, price-gouging and waste… and the fact that we have abandoned gigatons of castoff military weapons and equipment scattered all over the world—left in the hands of ISIS, Al Qaeda and other hate groups dedicated to our destruction. No one has ever dared open the lid on the money pit created by defense contracts. But if they did, they would be appalled at the “profiteering” and bureaucratic mishandling that goes on to this very day. Meanwhile, we have managed under the Obama Administration to dismantle and disempower our nation’s armed forces to their weakest point since 1939.

            Quantitative Easing. The Great American Ponzi Scheme. So, the inevitable question leads to the Elephant in the Room: How have we paid for all this over the years? The answer is obvious. We print more money. It now has a fancy new name originated by the Japanese in 1991 when they devalued the yen: Quantitative Easing. But the US Government coopted the concept under FDR, and we are still the master-makers of “funny money.” Twenty years ago it was still OK to do because America was still the engine that drove the world's economy, and we had a government surplus. That was more than gobbled up by the two most inept administrations in American History—the one two punch of Bush and Obama—until we now have printed up about 3.8 trillion dollars that we have buried inside the FED, not yet released into the global marketplace because, if and when it is, it could easily trash world financial markets overnight. China and Japan (holders of 44% of our debt paper) know this. And that is why the world's money indexes are shuddering at this very moment.
            Much of this Quantitative Easing is due to the reboot the US Government had to do in 2009 after the criminal mismanagement of our financial institutions, and the main reason Bernie Sanders is so pissed off at the very rich (.1%). In many ways I couldn’t agree more. If we had thrown a few financial CEOs in jail back in 2009 as Iceland did, justice would have been served and the public confidence might have been restored. Instead, we bailed them out, gave them immunity and made a couple of them Secretary of the Treasury.

            Meanwhile rogue corporations convicted in the last four years, such as JP Morgan Chase, GM, Toyota, ING, and HBSC—who are guilty of everything from funding terrorists to knowingly selling cars that kill people—need to have some of their CEOs prosecuted for criminal conspiracy. Instead they are slapped with billion dollar fines—the punitive equivalent of a scolding—while the Scoundrels In Charge (SIC) get bonuses.

            In that respect, I am all for Bernie Sanders’s crusade. Unfortunately, Bernie and his populist tigers have at last fallen for the big Socialist lie that runs to Government as the blunt instrument of enforcement, starting with new draconian policies against big financial institutions, along the way embracing the myth that our nation's Billionaires are somehow to blame for all our troubles. We’ve got a little news for you, Bern: Even if we seized the assets of everyone in America with a net worth of $100 million, it wouldn’t generate more than $660 billion, which would cover the cost of running the US government for about three months.  And clamping down on corporations doesn’t work, because any fool knows that corporations don’t pay taxes, ever! They pass on all those hits to the end consumer in the form of raised costs of goods and services…and mutually agreed upon price floors. And that is the paradox of Adversary Capitalism: that businesses have always found a way to beat the system. We already have a zillion laws on the books that clamp down on business and industry, and it just hasn’t worked.
            Still Vermont’s Favorite Son has galvanized his base with yet another one-two-punch of political rhetoric. One is to raise the minimum wage (to $15), and the other is to provide even more government services that he has no idea of how to execute or pay for because he hasn’t addressed—and no one has—the real rotten-to-the-core corruption of the Modern American Mindset.
            Some of it has to do with the fact that the Great American Welfare State is already so entrenched that, according to a very recent study from the Cato Institute, 33 of the 50 states from Hawaii to South Carolina offer “income relief” benefits (up to $60 K a year!) that pay much better than actually having a job. And 13 states have entitlement packages that actually break down to more then $15 an hour tax free, which means most recipients are far better off just not working…so they don’t.

            With the firm belief that in a Democracy we get exactly the government we deserve, I offer a few more statistics that “We the People” need to address before we decide to pull the trigger on true Socialism and even more government control. And it comes, not by embracing the delusion of who we think we are, but by addressing the reality of who we really are.

            • Even though we represent less than 4.5% of the World’s population, the US gobbles up more than 13% of the world’s total food supply. Every American consumes 1993 pounds (nearly one ton) of food in a year. We are the fattest nation on earth at 62% overweight and 31% clinically obese. And we overeat to the tune of about 2 billion calories a day—enough to feed a nation of 80 million people (the population of Mexico).
            • We have the cheapest food prices of any other nation—88% of it GMO. And we spend twice as much on fast foods (junk food) as the next 5 nations on the list.  
            • Due to bureaucratic glitches and fear of liability, we throw away 40% of the food we produce, enough to feed the entire nations of Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile.
              Having only 4.5% of the world’s population we consume 24% of the world’s energy—including petroleum, gas, coal, electric and renewable sources.
            •. In fact, US citizens own 256 Million—25.6%—of the world’s 1 Billion passenger vehicles. And we own three times as many flat-screen TVs, computers, smartphones and iPads per capita of any other nation.
            • We have more credit cars, credit card debt and credit card fraud than the other Top 3 economic powers combined.
            • We take twice as many prescription drugs as any other nation, and have three times as many deaths due to drug overdoses.
            • We are in fact a nation of Guinea pigs medically manipulated by a $2 Trillion dollar “Sickness System,” evidenced by our National Affordable Health Care act that opened its coffers to the Big Pharmaceuticals and the insurance companies, allowing them to triple their rates prior to its introduction in 2016.
            • Meanwhile, we have gutted Medicare to the tune of $700 billion to provide free health coverage to 15 million Americans who don’t have it—which ironically approximates the number of “undocumented workers” hanging around.  
            I bring up all these statistics because we are a sensation-saturated, drug-addicted, credit corrupted nation of overweight, over-shopped, super-entitled, narcissistic, star-worshippers, leveraged to the hilt and deluded by our 24-hour access to an orgy of media and internet into believing that we are entitled to everything we want without having to take responsibility for any of it. We want our social services and we want them now! We don’t know where they will come from or that the price they extract will be less and less personal freedom. All we know is that we are going to follow anyone who promises us more without requiring anything…from us.
            So now we come back to the moment, and the new political Zeitgeists…or are they? We have Donald Trump on the right, bleating out testosterone tirades about throwing 15 million people back across the border, building up our military and making economic war on China. And we have Bernie Sanders on the left, a True Believer trying hard to think outside the box. Unfortunately for “The Bern” he has leapt out of the box and onto the Socialist bandwagon, along with some political penis envy of smaller more tightly run Nordic Countries whose government models are far easier to manage.

            In truth, Bernie, the only purely Socialist nations in the last ten decades were the USSR that collapsed in 60 years under the weight of its own Cold War Machine, China that slaughtered 43 million people before it turned Capitalist 25 years ago, Cuba that has underperformed since its inception, and North Korea that ranks 161st out of 161 nations in Quality of Life…and spends most of its time building nukes and nuclear delivery systems. 

            Winston Churchill once deftly described Socialism as, “A philosophy of Failure, the creed of Ignorance, and the gospel of Envy. Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”

            Let’s stop deluding ourselves into thinking we can imitate Denmark or Norway or Finland or any other nation in the unique Nordic model by calling it “Socialism” and tricking ourselves into chasing it down while reviling success and the hard working people who made this imperfect but dynamic Democracy possible. The Nordics are not socialist. They are Social Democracies. They are Cooperative Competitive Capitalism. They are a group of nations that had a dream, sat down with all hands, set an economic game plan and stuck to it. And they kept it simple. They are what we once were becoming but lost touch with about fifty years ago. And we so desperately need to get it back.

            In his inaugural address in 1961, John F. Kennedy said: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Rather…ask what you can do for your country.”

            So I offer this recommendation, Bernie: The next time you show up in front of your record crowds, start challenging them to take responsibility for themselves. Educate them on the glorious legacy of something called “Citizenship” and the responsibilities that go with it. Teach them how to save their money, eat sensibly, limit their incessant involvement in mindless media, get an education, give back to their communities and start making contributions instead of demanding them.

            Try that message to your groupies. But when you do, don’t be surprised if you hear a collective “WTF!” Just before they pause to check their earpieces and then go back to taking “selfies” on their iPhones.

10/12/2015. A Footnote: Since I originally published this piece, I've been contacted by several people in Scandinavia, including an offer from Sweden to write an article, and several contacts from Denmark. Without exception, they have informed me that their economies are being undermined and plunged into debt by immigrants, especially those from the war-torn Muslim nations in the Middle East, who do not work, get on their national welfare rolls and largely contribute to their nation's rising crime rate. I would suggest that Senator Sanders might want to take a closer look at what is really going on in the Nordic countries. After he does, he might want to reexamine his simplistic socialist game plan ... unless of course he is satisfied with convincing others that up is down, wrong is right, and that a society based on something for nothing has any chance to survive.