Parasites on the Working Poor: The Payday Loan Business

Charles Cottle — In the last few years a sure sign of declining economic capabilities among the working poor has been the proliferation of “payday” loan businesses. Here in Wisconsin, the state in which I live, these businesses have sprouted like weeds in every small town across the state. The growth of the payday loan business is viewed by many to be a national problem … Continue reading Parasites on the Working Poor: The Payday Loan Business

The Panama Papers, Free Trade, and the Offshoring of National Sovereignty

Ellin Jimmerson — As the Panama Papers began to be rolled out, many were wondering how they connect to the Panama Free Trade Agreement, technically called the Panama United States Trade Promotion Agreement, and how they relatet to the offshoring of national sovereignty. Now, I am wondering whether and how they also connect to Brexit. I don’t know anything about the European Union other than it was in … Continue reading The Panama Papers, Free Trade, and the Offshoring of National Sovereignty

Contextualizing Brexit: A Conversation about Nationalism and Globalization

Jeff Berger, Charles Cottle, J. David Gillespie, and Ellin Jimmerson — The recent June 24, 2016 referendum in Great Britain called Brexit, which marks its upcoming departure from the European Union, was the context for this conversation. The participants are all Wise Guys contributors. We encourage readers to continue the discussion in the comments section. Jeff I’m still trying to make sense of the latest … Continue reading Contextualizing Brexit: A Conversation about Nationalism and Globalization

Bernie Sanders and the Jewish Question

Ron Berger — Bernie Sanders has not become the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, but he has left an indelible mark on political campaign history. For one, no other presidential candidate since Eugene Debs in the early 1900s has raised socialism as a legitimate political issue, dismissed by Hillary Clinton more for its idealism and impracticality than its association with communism. Second, Sanders has … Continue reading Bernie Sanders and the Jewish Question

Travelogue of an Unpolitician Running for Office

Karen McKim — As recently as about a year ago, whenever I was asked if I had ever considered running for office, my answer was an adamant and sincere NO! I have a hard time remembering names. I don’t like being the center of attention. On personality tests, I score ten in cooperation, zero in competitiveness. I frequently neglect to wear earrings and makeup when … Continue reading Travelogue of an Unpolitician Running for Office

Reflections of a Baby Boomer in Silicon Valley

Jeff Berger — I have recently retired after spending 37 years working and living in the Silicon Valley region of northern California, and lately I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my lucky circumstances. I have a lot of reasons to be grateful for my good luck. First I was lucky to be born in California, the land of milk and honey. The … Continue reading Reflections of a Baby Boomer in Silicon Valley

The Unlearned Lesson of the Savings and Loan Debacle

Ron Berger — In Michael Moore’s new film Where To Invade Next, he visits other countries to bring back good ideas to the United States. In one scene, he interviews a government official in Iceland about his country’s criminal prosecution of bankers after the global financial crash of 2008. No such prosecutions, Moore reminds us, took place in the United States (see my March 9, … Continue reading The Unlearned Lesson of the Savings and Loan Debacle

The Bernard Madoff Ponzi Scheme

Ron Berger — Last month ABC aired Madoff, a four-part television miniseries starring Richard Dreyfus in the leading role as Bernard Madoff, former chairman of the NASDAQ Stock Market and founder of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities. Like The Big Short feature film (see my March 9, 2016, Wise Guys article), Madoff offers a glimpse into the corruption endemic to the world of finance capitalism. … Continue reading The Bernard Madoff Ponzi Scheme

Whittaker Chambers by Sam Tanenhaus

Mark Richardson — In the current political atmosphere, in which angry conservatives seem to be claiming that the way to “make America great again” is to stifle the free expression of any ideas that are not theirs and to squash dissent, it appears to me to be a good time to look back at our history, to a time when Senator Joseph McCarthy and his … Continue reading Whittaker Chambers by Sam Tanenhaus

Reflections on The Big Short

Ron Berger — The Academy Award nominated film The Big Short is an entertaining dramatization of Michael Lewis’s book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. Most people have not and will not read the book, and it is my impression that while the film conveys the general nature of the systemic corruption that is endemic to our financial system, the specific mechanisms and broader … Continue reading Reflections on The Big Short

Who Would Alice Have Voted For?

Jeff Berger — I recently finished a biography called Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from White House Princess to Washington Power Broker by historian Stacy A. Cordery (Penguin Books, 2008). My interest in the book was inspired my brother Ron’s Wise Guy article on “The Populist and Progressive Traditions in American Politics” (Jan. 7, 2016), and it made me ponder the question of who would Alice … Continue reading Who Would Alice Have Voted For?

Why I Do Not Like Tipping

Charles Cottle — I do not like tipping waitresses, waiters, hotel bell boys, car wash attendants, or any other employees who depend upon tips for their wages. I am not a tightwad, indeed much to the contrary. I tip generously, but I do not like tipping because it is a form of exploitation. It allows the employers to exploit workers, to place workers in a … Continue reading Why I Do Not Like Tipping

Photograph of Antonin Scalia

The Constitutional Interpretation of Antonin Scalia: In His Own Words

John Kozlowicz — As we mourn the passing of Justice Scalia, it is interesting to know what was his philosophy of constitutional interpretation.   Who better to tell us than Justice Scalia himself?  Below is a speech he gave a little over a decade ago.  It clearly indicates his view on how to interpret the Constitution. Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the following remarks at the Woodrow … Continue reading The Constitutional Interpretation of Antonin Scalia: In His Own Words

It’s a Reality Show

J. David Gillespie — For a long time politicians have tried to make politics entertaining to the masses.  Roman rulers offered the plebs “bread and circuses.”  U.S. political scientists have for years written about presidential campaigns like they were horse races.  I am convinced now that what we are seeing in presidential contests is a reality show. Maybe, sensing the value of reality shows, media, … Continue reading It’s a Reality Show

Explaining Voting Machines to Space Aliens

Karen McKim — When I see nutty behavior—things like entering toddlers in beauty pageants, maintaining a national system of employer-funded health insurance, or legalizing switchblades—I practice empathy for my silly fellow humans by imagining how I would explain their conduct to space aliens. You see, I don’t want the Haggunenons to get the impression my species is irredeemably stupid, so the exercise forces me to … Continue reading Explaining Voting Machines to Space Aliens

The Color of Geography: Rural versus Urban Voting

Ron Berger — In his keynote address to the delegates at the 2004 Democratic Party convention, Barack Obama, an Illinois state senator and nominee to the U.S. Senate, gave a rousing speech that would catapult him to the forefront of the Democratic Party and eventually the presidency of the United States. Obama noted that “alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga, … Continue reading The Color of Geography: Rural versus Urban Voting

Who Benefits When China “Cheats”?

Charles Cottle — In the world of international trade, China cheats. Much was made of this claim in the 2012 election season and now again in 2016. China’s cheating, it is claimed, creates an uneven “playing field” on which the United States is the loser.  For those who have not followed these issues, China is said to cheat in three basic ways. First, it subsidizes … Continue reading Who Benefits When China “Cheats”?

The Populist and Progressive Traditions in American Politics

Ron Berger — In his book Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent, historian and political commentator E. J. Dionne puts America’s current political divide in historical perspective. Its roots, he argues, go back to the era in which the United States was founded. When the founders devised the U.S. Constitution, they were concerned with establishing a … Continue reading The Populist and Progressive Traditions in American Politics

Why I’m Supporting Bernie Sanders: The 2016 Election and Beyond

Ron Berger — At the time of this writing, political polls indicate that Hillary Clinton is the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic Party nomination for president, Vice President Joe Biden has decided against running, Martin O’Malley can’t seem to get any traction, and Bernie Sanders is the only credible challenger to Clinton’s so-called inevitability. Clinton supporters, who generally like Sanders, tell me they support … Continue reading Why I’m Supporting Bernie Sanders: The 2016 Election and Beyond