Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The 1% Is Fine, Thanks For Asking

The New York Times headline reads "Top Earners Doubled Share of Nation’s Income, Study Finds". The story will spoil your lunch.

The Washington Post reports the same results under a different headline: "Nation’s wealthiest 1 percent triple their incomes, according to CBO report." The Times didn't want to upset the mandarin class too much. Double sounds less unfair than triple.

Either way the upper upper upper class is eating our lunch. And breakfast and dinner. Maybe the message is that once you are so very rich it doesn't matter whether your income tripled or doubled. Who can keep track? Poor them, with all that income to sort out. What a headache; let's give them some more tax breaks to help them deal with it.

Another thing that's making lives more unequal is that so much more of the government's "help" is dished out to people who don't need it but just heard it was available. Imagine if rich people demanded equal access to food stamps. Rich farmers and big farmers get more relief than poor and small farmers. Big companies get more help than the small businesses who stand in as the poster children of the Chamber of Commerce (which has been screwing them for decades.)

The financial rescue was supposed to help all of us, but notice who butted to the front of the line. The too-big-to-fail banks and financial companies and major corporations (many of whom, like GE, have bigger financial services sides than their old manufacturing sides) hogged it all. They are hoarding trillions, refusing to share it, pay it out, invest it or use it to hire people or order inventory.

They are using it instead to give enormous bonuses to their tip top people. Goldman Sachs reported a $393 million loss this past quarter, but that's a fraction of the $10 billion bonuses it will pay to its executives for delivering that loss. Go figure.

Never mind, it doesn't compute. Heads they win, tails they win. The 1% always win, the 99% always lose. At least since Reagan changed the rules.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Income Inequality is Killing Us

This short TED lecture by Richard Wilkinson is worth watching and sharing. You might want to pause the video, as I did, to look more closely at the graphs. The TED lecture series is wonderful, a great place to learn from the best minds out there.

I like Professor Wilkinson's statement at one point, looking at a graph on upward mobility: "If you really want to live the American Dream I suggest you move to Denmark." I don't remember who he was quoting. Income inequality is killing us, but it's also making us miserable while we're alive. This is what is putting people into the streets.

Richard Wilkinson is an epidemiologist and professor at Nottingham University, and founder of the Equality Trust.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

A Narrowing Sense of Loyalty

David Carr has a pertinent column today. Maybe it explains why the news media has been dismissive of the Occupy Wall Street movement. It also raises, again, a key element in the current crisis. It's a matter of loyalty.

When a business ceases to be concerned with what it delivers to its customers and only interested in delivering cash to its owners, we have a problem. When this is the model everyone is copying our society is in trouble. When our news is crafted in a way that supports this model we have a hard time resisting it, but that is the picture we get from most of our reporting class––most uniformly on FoxNews and on radio. That, in the words of the recent Bush White House, is "our new reality."

Pay cuts for workers are seen as a revenue source by those further up the food chain. It's unattractive, antisocial, predatory, but it's described admiringly in the business press. American business used to have three key loyalties: to customers, employees and owners. (I've written about this before.) But there's been a dramatic shift in the past forty years; the first two have been degraded to feed the last loyalty. We are loyal to our companies but our companies have ceased to be loyal to us.

All obligations to employees and customers are set on the debit side and seen as negative to the only true value, profit, and profit feeds the bonus machine. So employees and customers are, in a very fundamental sense, seen as the enemy in many or possibly most executive suites and also by the economists and accountants who equip business plans with their rationale. Look at our present economy: 99% of Americans are in financial difficulties and afraid, but very eager to work for whatever they can get. This is a very pleasant picture for the lucky few.

Look at the Austerity model being pushed by Republicans today. Is it telling us that we never deserved the broad prosperity of the recent past? Was the postwar boom an illusion or an aberration or a problem that it took the executive class forty years to eliminate?

Does prosperity belong only at the top of the pyramid? We get to build that pyramid and admire it from a distance, but in the economy built by Reagan and Milton Friedman and Grover Norquist and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the pyramid is purely for the glorification and enjoyment of the small class whose names are engraved at the top. And this circles back to something I wrote in 2002 and posted to this blog's first entry in 2004. Who are we working for? What are we creating with our labor? What is this vast efficient machinery meant to do? Who is it meant to serve?

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Monday, October 17, 2011

What Has Reaganomics Done For You?

Today's must-read is from Mother Jones.

Look at the graphs and read the data and ask yourself: "What has Reaganomics done for me?"

Better still: "What has Reaganomics done TO me? To my neighbors? To my neighborhood? To my kids' schools? To our family budget?"

To all of us...

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Our Bad Habit of Blaming Everyone

This series of short pieces by James Fallows of the Atlantic (one of our most astute and fairest political analysts) graphically details the absurd gymnastics the press employs to keep up the make-believe, to avoid telling Americans that one side (the Republican side) is chiefly responsible for the dysfunction in Washington right now.

Article One.

Article Two.

Article Three. They are brief, readable, and more to the point than my commentary here.

Bad habits have bad consequences. When it's a bad habit of a large institution like our news media, the consequences are enormous. To avoid showing "preference," American journalism behaves like a bad parent, blaming both children for what they know full well has one culprit. A decent family therapist could tell you what the result is. It gives permission to the Republicans to do what they like and spit in the Democrats' face, which is what they've done. Why be moderate when extremism causes no negative comment and gives greater leverage?

Why be law abiding when crime isn't punished? Why be a public-minded corporation when a predatory business model pays better and has no negative consequence? Imagine a court system that avoided a verdict on anything, blaming victim and assailant alike. Americans have come to despise political correctness that protects minorities and vulnerable people from abuse, but there is another form of political correctness being exercised today: it protects the powerful and the rich and their political handymen in the Republican Party. It's corrupting our public conversation.

Here's a quiet little article in the Washington Post, which got no traction in the big echo chamber of 24 hour cable news. It isn't the Democrats who can't get things done. It's the Republicans, resorting to the filibuster at levels never seen before in Congress, not even in the bad old days when partisans had fistfights on the floor of the House.

The go to guy for guaranteed political deadlock is Republican leader Mitch McConnell. It's strangely apt that the one true master of making our government as slow as a turtle actually looks and sounds like one. Here's another very sharp analysis of McConnellism by James Fallows.

America is being told the opposite, though. Watch the news or read a newspaper and you get the idea that the failure is being set up by both parties equally or by the Democrats who really sincerely want Obama to fail. But the opposite is true.

The Republican Party has been engaged in a 30 year effort to make government fail. To make it less efficient (government is actually far more cost effective than private contractors the Republicans are constantly touting, especially in defense operations where the private contractors have enormously ballooned the cost of waging war.) The Republican goal is to make government NOT work. To make government smaller, weaker and dysfunctional. To privatize it, which means to hand it over to corporate ownership, just as elected Republicans are owned by corporations. Do we want government by corporation? Corporations are not run as democracies. They are run from the top down. What the Republican Party wants is the end of democratic government.

Norman Ornstein, a conservative Washington observer from the American Enterprise Institute, examines the dysfunction of government and lays it directly at the feet of Republicans in this article published in Foreign Policy magazine. Obama and his slim Democratic majorities achieved a lot in two years. But getting the system to work was agony.

Ornstein: "So what went wrong? Republicans, having been thrashed at all levels in 2008, did not respond to the voters' rebuke by cooperating with the majority or trying to find common ground. Instead, repeating a tactic employed with great political success by Republicans in 1993 and 1994 against a newly elected President Bill Clinton, they immediately united fiercely and unremittingly against all the Obama and Democratic congressional initiatives. In the Senate they used delay tactics -- the filibuster and the hold -- in an unprecedented fashion, to block a large number of Obama administration nominees for executive branch positions and draw out debate to clog the legislative process and make an already messy business even messier. The session's legislative accomplishments occurred because Democrats maintained enough discipline -- and had large enough margins -- to enact their bills with the support of Democrats alone."

But look at the photo. The mug shot of the problem has both Democrat and Republican leaders in it. Reid who did everything he could to reach compromises and pass bills and McConnell who vowed that his one priority over four years was to make Obama's presidency a failure. The headline, too, blames both for the stubborn obstructionism of one party, muting the criticism, smudging the report, hiding the conclusions, misleading the reader. The Republicans get off easy thanks to the editor and the picture editor. Is that their job––to give Republicans covering fire?

At some point anyone who tries to work in a system so rigged toward one side becomes a sap, a pigeon, a fool. The Republicans are delighted at how angry Democratic voters are at their elected representatives. The public doesn't know what is happening. By not reporting the bad faith of the Republican Party the press becomes an enabler, an accessory to the theft of our functioning democracy. Here's a very good New Republic piece by Jonathan Cohn discussing the smoothest practitioner of false equivalency around, David Brooks.

This is not a new issue. It's been happening ever since the news media was charmed into bed with Ronald Reagan. It's distorted America's understanding of key issues, leading us to alarming levels of stupidity on science and events and economics. Most Americans now think there were WMD in Iraq; there weren't. Most Americans believe scientists are split on climate change; they are almost unanimous that it is happening and human activity is the cause. Mostly this is because news editors remove any stress or conclusion from topics covered. "Is the earth round? No one really knows, and opinions differ." We complain about bad government policy, but this foolish policy of our news media is a major cause of that. Being lied to is worse than being uninformed.

From the Washington Post, on how the news media have blamed both parties, wrongly, for the debt impasse.

Good coverage on this topic from the Washington Monthly, at the time of the Arizona shooting, when the Republican gun-rights and violent-language crowd were very aggressive and dominated the news cycle. There was a tradition among rival mobs in Chicago in the 1920s to send enormous floral tributes to the families of mobsters they'd rubbed out. I am reminded of this wonderful tradition when I hear Republicans commenting on deplorable events like oil spills and mass shootings.

Here's a round up of very good commentary at the time of the Arizona shooting spree, with astute comments by a Gulf Coast blogger.

This column by Bob Cesca discusses how the news media carefully hides Republican hypocrisy, spreading it around, damning all politicians. Apparently to avoid embarrassing Republican officeholders. What other reason could there be?

Discover magazine attacks the Republican war on science––and the media's refusal to report it. Most Americans have the wrong understanding of key scientific issues of our day, mostly because the news media have avoided informing them in clear terms. And this avoidance isn't accidental. It happens because of intense pressure from powerful industrial and religious groups and their party of choice. Galileo would have a very hard time with today's Republicans.

This excellent piece by Neil Buchanan, law professor at George Washington University, dissects a pernicious outgrowth of the False Equivalency problem: the tendency of columnists (like Thomas Friedman of the New York Times) to declare a pox on both parties and call for a third party. A stupid idea in a non-parliamentary system that already is having a hard time compromising. Friedman wrongly suggests that the middle is vacant. Any Democrat could tell you their representatives have tried so hard to find middle ground, there's some real concern they've lost track of their original principles. Until the Republicans devoted themselves to destroying our system it used to work pretty well, through compromise, and most Americans ask for and expect compromise. But because of how politics is reported, compromise is punished and extremism is given a free pass. These days it is almost entirely extremism with a Republican face.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

The 99% Are Being Heard

Most of the mainstream media still don't "get" what the Wall Street protests are about. This CBC interviewer tries rubbishing the protesters in the usual way, and Pulitzer Prize reporter Chris Hedges politely explains where the interviewer is wrong and then calmly folds the man up and puts him back in his sanitary wrapper.

There must be a circulating rule book titled "How to Dismiss, Insult and Marginalize Anyone Who Opposes the Total Power of Hedge Fund Billionaires", which instructs network talking heads how to be rude to people outside the money elite. Most TV hosts are contemptuous of this movement, and contemptuous in the same way, using the same words, the same references to the 60s and hippies and drugs and guitars and bongos. There has to be an approved script. Maybe Frank Luntz provided it.

(You might not know this, but most TV talking heads live in small furnished apartments inside the pockets of the expensive suits you see billionaires wearing when they creep from marble office to forty foot limousine. So talking heads are always alert to the moods of their billionaire hosts. Sadly, they have a tin ear for the lives and concerns of the real people living on the other side of the TV screen.)

Good news. According to this story in Business Insider, the Occupy Wall Street movement, sometimes called "The 99%", are twice as popular as the "Tea Party" movement (which is paid for and fully owned by the Koch Brothers and other billionaires).

The movement is spreading and gaining allies. It has a way to go yet. Take a look at the popular protests that took place in Paris in 1968. They were huge. They involved everyone, every class, every walk of life. Their mistake was resorting to violence––if they hadn't they would likely have succeeded.

The trick of true influence is a mixture of assertiveness and patience. The 99% have a real message. They are us. They are teachers, electricians, firemen, students, nurses, engineers, small businesspeople, retirees, people from working and middle class neighborhoods.

The majority of Americans agree that concentrated wealth has harmed the economy, made it less stable, less sustainable. We aren't pushing for confiscation of capital, we are talking about putting capital to work the way we used to. Putting Americans to work, and paying for that work in a way that strengthens the entire economy not just the top 1%.

Call it liberal if you like. But wouldn't a true conservative want to restore and keep the institutions and rules that have worked well for us? The system that grew out of the New Deal worked very well between 1945 and 1980, the most prosperous period in American history. The Republican revolution dismantled that system, and we've seen what happened. Look who's prospered and who hasn't.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Trading with Our Enemies–Treason or Patriotism?

From Bloomberg News: the Koch Brothers flouted U.S. law prohibiting trading with enemies of the U.S. They did business with Iran, who funded the recently convicted underwear bomber and other terrorists far more competent and dangerous. The person who uncovered the wrongdoing was a Koch employee whose job it was to check company compliance with laws and ethics. When she found non-compliance she was quickly transferred and subsequently fired.

Is this new? No. Unique? Not at all.

Trading with the enemy used to have the quaint label of "Treason", but no longer. When Dick Cheney was chief executive of Halliburton, his company traded with Iran too. They broke explicit U.S. laws in doing so. A grand jury was empaneled and a Senate Committee reported on the lawbreaking, but Mr. Cheney did not go to jail. Maybe because he'd become George W. Bush's Vice President.

Forbes magazine reported on Halliburton's ingenuity in evading laws. But Halliburton isn't the only company mentioned. Dell, Hewlett Packard and Microsoft are also tagged. Treason? Corporations are (thanks to the Republican majority in the Supreme Court) legally classified as "people" ––except when they commit treason. Then they aren't people and are immune from capital punishment.

A BBC report from 2002 shows Cheney was also linked to charges of stock manipulation and corporate fraud. Again nothing happened. He was Vice President.

A good summary of the corruption at Halliburton under the leadership of Dick Cheney and during his period as Vice President when he fed contracts to the company and continued to receive payments from the company can be found at Business Ethics magazine.

This way of doing business may be treasonous but it is commonplace and seldom punished. Halliburton has since moved its headquarters to Dubai as a way of evading American taxes, regulation and legal liability. It still earns its billions off the American taxpayer but it keeps its offices and profits safely offshore.

CBS Marketwatch published this in 2003, as America went to war:

"When individual Americans are accused of helping terrorists, they're thrown in jail and their names are dragged through the mud. But when major U.S. corporations are caught trading with the enemy, they get just a slap on the wrist from the government. In the past two weeks, the government has revealed that 57 companies and organizations have been fined for doing business with terrorists, despots and tyrants."

"However, neither the government nor the companies are forthcoming with the public about the details of the illicit trade with rogue governments like Iraq, Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Sudan."

Not done yet. This article from The Guardian outlines how the father of George H. W. Bush and grandfather of George W. Bush helped finance the Nazi war machine, funneling investment money to the companies that used slave labor to prepare Germany to invade Poland, France, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Belgium Norway, and rain bombs on London. His firm helped build the war machine that precipitated the global war that killed (by conservative estimates) 60 million people. This financing of the Nazis was legal until war broke out. The war declaration finally made it a crime and the capital investments were seized in 1942. He lost lots of money but Senator Bush didn't go to jail. Why was Prescott Bush less immune than Dick Cheney?

There's another kind of treason that doesn't involve aiding fascist dictators bent on destroying America. If it's homegrown is it more patriotic? Prescott Bush was also one of the Wall Street figures behind a 1934 plot to overthrow the Roosevelt presidency. Here is a recent BBC program about the plot which nearly turned America into a fascist state.

Today's Wall Street bigshots may be losing the ability to be traitors here at home. They've exported so many jobs and so much of our manufacturing muscle to China that America isn't really worth overthrowing anymore.

It will be interesting to see whether Immelt does anything to repair his anti-American record. This article in Foreign Policy Magazine asks the same question. He's now in charge of restoring the American jobs picture, hired by Obama much as Wall Street pirate Joseph Kennedy was hired by FDR to set up the SEC. Who knows the criminals better than these guys?

Getting back to massive criminal extortion, and back to the Koch Brothers–––the Koch Bros have now been implicated in the 2008 spike in gasoline prices––at a time when demand was slack and supply was sufficient prices still went to record highs. How much did these manipulations steal from Americans? And how much did this theft of household liquidity contribute to the near collapse of our economy in late 2008?

This is predatory behavior similar to the kind of market gaming that Enron traders laughingly executed against the utilities customers of California.

Listen to those tapes, reported years later when obtained by CBS News, and you get a sense of the cold-bloodedness of the traders involved, and the cold-bloodedness of the game Enron set up and exploited. Enron did its damnedest to bankrupt the largest state in the nation rather than let up when public finances imploded and citizens suffered rolling blackouts.

"They're f------g taking all the money back from you guys?" complains an Enron employee on the tapes. "All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?"

"Yeah, grandma Millie, man"

"Yeah, now she wants her f------g money back for all the power you've charged right up, jammed right up her a------ for f------g $250 a megawatt hour."

Traders or traitors? Businessmen or criminals? It's hard to tell the difference. Sometimes, not often but sometimes, corporations are run by psychopaths. (I covered this in an earlier post.) When this happens, it happens because there's lax regulation, because there's a sense of impunity, because the government watchdogs have been defanged and defunded, and there's too much money available to be stolen. When this happens it's very hard for an ethical company to compete. And there are ethical companies. Most corporations are pretty good employers and good citizens. By cracking down on the bad actors wouldn't we be helping them? Maybe a few good corporations should join the protests on Wall Street.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Today's Must Read-The Panic of the Plutocrats

Krugman won a Nobel Prize in Economics. So did Joseph Stiglitz. Why, instead, do Americans believe the stock speculator "experts" who dominate FoxNews and CNBC and CNN-Money? Krugman nails it again today. Now I know what the P stands for in GOP: Plutocrat.

What's alarming and disgusting is how much of our broadcast air is devoted to these Plutocrats, these puffed up aristos, many of whom have "earned" their fabulous lifestyles by speculating with mommy and daddy's money, playing with inherited wealth. America has changed in the past forty years from one that values and rewards work to one that worships and protects the few people with great wealth. Teddy Roosevelt called them "malefactors of great wealth". He was a Republican, but not today's kind of Republican.

The modern Republican Party caters to wealth. Working people don't have it. The financial system and the post-Reagan decline of the middle class has seen to that. The system has skewed so radically because of Reaganomics (the "trickle-down" fairy tale) to the point where owning is now more honored than working. Those who own stocks for a living pay a much lower tax rate than people who work. And anyone who doesn't like this is called a Marxist or a Hitler.


The Wall Street protesters are protesting unfairness and the kind of Old World aristocracy America was created to get away from. (Think Louis XIV) We 99% are angry about the restoration of the Old World model––except for those still hypnotized by the Murdoch media. If the Tea Partiers would think about it, they belong to the 99% too. We have common cause.

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Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Demands of the 99%

Last night Keith Olbermann read a very articulate and comprehensive list of demands issued by the Occupy Wall Street group. It might be better to characterize them as a list of charges demanding redress or correction. A list of grievances. Naomi Klein addressed the protesters; her important speech is published in The Nation. Krugman wrote this morning that this is a watershed moment. We must seize it.

These individuals, working people, students, people who used to work until they were outsourced or downsized, teachers, nurses, engineers, communications workers, ministers, janitors, firefighters, neighbors, friends, are not radical. They are in a very important sense true conservatives. They are for restoring the rules and the rights and the public institutions that functioned well during the best half century of American history, the years following the New Deal. These rules and rights were honored and preserved by FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Carter, even Nixon. But since the Reagan years these rights and rules have been systematically eroded or taken from citizens and given to corporations and corporations have been allowed to evade their obligations as members and leaders of our society. The corporation isn't a dangerous thing except when it works against the society and the people in it. Often corporations have been a strong progressive force in our lives, advancing civil rights, retirement security and other benefits, but without limits and reasonable regulation by the people and their democratic government corporations can be a dangerous thing.

The founders knew this. Contrary to what false conservatives say on television, the founders had concerns about the concentration of wealth. James Madison had this to say:

“[T]he day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility. It will be an impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of few. A Republic cannot stand upon bayonets, and when the day comes...we must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the country to readjust the laws of the nation to the changed conditions.”

The founders' beliefs and ideas resemble not only what is being expressed by the protesters on Wall Street but the ideas put forward by the president and the Democrats and shut down by the Republicans in Congress. Reasonable limits on corporate power is not a radical idea. Progressive taxation didn't make Eisenhower a communist. President Washington formed an army to go after tax evaders. Hamilton created the national debt not as a burden but to enable the American economy to grow and prosper. The Republicans in Congress and their wealthy and powerful allies on Wall Street need to be subject to reasonable restrictions and levels of taxation. It is the working and middle classes who need protection and help.

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Jon Stewart on Pathetic Hypocritical Tone-Deaf Pinky-Out Tea-Drinking Elitism on FoxNews

The best coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement has been in the Guardian.

The best analysis of the pathetic hypocritical tone-deaf pinky-out tea-drinking elitism of the talking heads on Fox and other television media has been Jon Stewart's. In this broadcast he's absolutely ruthlessly honest and on target. He helps them damn themselves with their own words.

Please share these links with everyone you know.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Some More Slogans for Your Wall Street Placards

Vote Republican

Vote Republican

Make a few rich people
Very, very happy
Vote Republican

Vote Republican

Money Floats to the Top
Vote Republican

Vote Republican

One for you.
A million for me.
One for you.
A million for me.
(Vote Republican)

Herbert Hoover!
Rah! Rah! Rah!
Vote Republican

Capitalism has a Cruel Beauty
Vote Republican

Vote Republican

Vote Republican

“We’re broke! We’ve had to sell one of our houses in Aspen! Please help!”
Vote Republican

Vote Republican

Vote Republican

Every Man for Himself
Vote Republican



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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Words for Your Wall Street Placards

I wrote these as part of an unpublished ad campaign eight years ago. Some of them appeared on placards in the hands of a group called Billionaires for Bush, an elite troupe of mature lefties who showed up at Bush rallies in tiaras and furs, some of them in drag, screaming like teenagers at a Justin Bieber concert. Sad to say, the slogans are still relevant, still ironic. I'm not against capitalism, but it used to belong to all of us.

Vote Republican

Vote Republican

Vote Republican

Get a cool job parking Bentleys
Vote Republican

Make believe you’re Rich
Vote Republican

Trick. Cheat. Win.
Vote Republican

upstairs maid.
Vote Republican

Vote Republican

Vote Republican

We know best
Vote Republican

Wealthiness is next to Godliness
Vote Republican

Money belongs to the rich
Vote Republican

Your kids would rather inherit money than clean air
Vote Republican

Vote Republican

Enron demonstrates the beauty of an unregulated marketplace
Vote Republican

Heads I win
Tails you lose
Vote Republican

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Monday, October 03, 2011

"Goldman Sachs rules the world"

Stock trader Alessio Rastani had a moment of remarkable candor on the BBC last week.

"For most traders we don't really care about having a fixed economy, having a fixed situation, our job is to make money from it. Personally, I've been dreaming of this moment for three years. I go to bed every night and I dream of another recession. When the market crashes... if you know what to do, if you have the right plan set up, you can make a lot of money from this."

"This is not a time right now for wishful thinking that governments are going to sort things out. The governments don't rule the world, Goldman Sachs rules the world," said Rastani.

He expressed an eager hope that the economy would crash in the next year because it was going to make him very rich. These are the people who will control events. Unless we restore some of the regulations removed by the last four presidents prior to Obama. One good idea would be to place a tiny transaction tax on share trading.

"...a tax of just 0.05 percent (one twentieth of one percent) levied on each stock, bond, derivative or currency transaction would be aimed at financial institutions’ casino-style trading, which helped precipitate the economic crisis. Because these markets are so vast, the tax could raise hundreds of billions of dollars a year globally for cash-strapped governments and could increase development aid."

It might also help limit the large financial speculators who buy thousands of shares for split seconds and then sell them, forcing the markets quickly up or down in massive computer driven gyrations. Those gyrations are making traders rich because they earn fees for every transaction. These traders profit from a panicked market. They profit from inadequate public information, from their own prior information or inside information, from asymmetries of information and from broad insecurities and public worries.

Barbara Ehrenreich has a very good piece in the Washington Post. How strange it is to live in a country where most people are hurting, worried and living at their limits but the rich are treated like a special protected class. It's worth reading and sharing.

"...consider Daphne Guinness, profiled at length in this past week’s New Yorker, who is apparently best known for wearing clothes, which she draws from a wardrobe of 2,500 garments, 450 pairs of shoes and 200 handbags. On the day she was interviewed, she wore a high-collared, presumably bespoke shirt by uber-designer Alexander McQueen, “a pave diamond brooch,” silver sheaths on two of her fingers and “custom-made sparkly silver Mary Janes, with a three inch platform under the toe” — not the heel, the toe. Well, to each her own, but she might as well walk around Manhattan wearing a sign saying “My husband stole your pension.”" The super rich are flaunting again because they've been rebranded by the Republicans as "Job Creators"––without creating any jobs. Their money isn't invested in factories or employees but luxury goods.

But anyone or any party that takes the side of the poor against the rich or the powerless many against the powerful few will find he has powerful enemies. Money puts people in office and guess where the money is. Meanwhile we have a large powerful political and media apparatus devoted to the aid and protection of the very rich: the Republican Party, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the entire Murdoch operation, and most of talk radio.

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Sunday, October 02, 2011

No Exit to Brooklyn

There are conflicting stories about what happened on the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday. The Times reported an entrapment maneuver by the NYPD but twenty minutes later backed away from that story. The Guardian reports conflicting accounts of the same event (some saying the police led the protesters on, some saying the police did no such thing) but paints a clear picture of non-violent non-threatening protesters manhandled by police. One documentary filmmaker and photographer was there, and her version of events is unambiguous: the police created a situation and exploited it.

I'm reminded of the children's story: "Come into my parlor, said the Spider to the Fly." Did the New York police entrap the protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge? Was their retreat strategic? Did they have arrests in mind?

There is a justification for entrapment which argues that the crime is obviously a crime. But didn't the police have bullhorns? Why didn't they announce, loudly and clearly, "If you walk onto this thoroughfare you will be arrested." Did they? Why didn't they?

Plain, unelaborated reportage can suggest all kinds of things, can be interpreted to the preference of a diversity of readers. But blunt questions can and should illuminate the reporting by laying out the obvious things that were not said, that were not done, that were enabled, that were suggested falsely.

A policeman who says "After you" could be inviting you onto a prohibited roadway or inviting you to buy illegal drugs; but law abiding citizens might believe the police are giving permission, might believe they are offering a temporary license to do something, or an escape from a place that has suddenly become too small for the crowd that has assembled.

The police have a responsibility to the crowds they are policing that is greater than their responsibility to the absent and powerful groups the assembled are there to protest. The New York Police Department is there to protect and defend New Yorkers, all New Yorkers, not just the owners of New York but the renters, the hired workers, the unemployed New Yorkers, the students going to school there, the recent graduates who live there, the powerless as much or more than the powerful. The powerful have their own protections.

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