Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Systematic Looting of the American Dream

Who owns the shining new residential towers going up in New York and other major cities? Don't answer; you wouldn't know them. The dream home used to be a widely shared American Dream, but this is no longer the case. (Because of Citizens United our political system is now owned the same way by secretive billionaires, many of them foreign, using piles of hoarded cash to buy residency and public policy.)

Increasingly the American Dream of homeownership is reserved for billionaires. They have extremely expensive pieds a terre in places all over the world, where they may only live a few days a year thereby evading the usual obligations to pay for local infrastructure and public services. What do you want to bet their real estate fees and taxes, if any, are paid by their companies and deducted from their income taxes, again, if any. The top 1% have learned to levitate above ordinary concerns and obligations of citizenship. What they want, they buy. What they don't want to do, they buy out of.

And what has happened to middle class homeownership? The opposite. Going, going, gone. Homeownership has become a privilege of the few who own for a living and those who work for a living are increasingly excluded.

The daily sermon fed to us for years by the banking industry and by the Republican Party was that homeownership was next to godliness. It was a measure of how responsible and hardworking you were. Now they seem to be saying that working class homeowners are to blame for the recent financial collapse. Not true, in fact. Middle class homeowners are the playthings of the 1%. The investment schemes that benefit people who own for a living are devised to skim fees and penalties and ownership from people who work for a living.

With incomes down we see more working people looking for ways to make ends meet. Reverse mortgages are advertised as a simple way to balance the family budget. By looting the family’s wealth. What choice do some families have? Looting of this kind happens when there is an exploitable advantage. Incomes have lowered for most Americans since 1980, a gift of Reaganomics. That has made most Americans exploitable.

Where have we seen this systematic looting of value before? We used to read about mobsters who took over small companies and looted their value at the point of a gun. It was a crime back then.

But more recently we’ve seen this same model used by the great heroic Venture Capitalist. The gun isn’t necessary because the middle and working class household is already being made insecure and exploitable by the decline of working incomes.

The Venture Capitalist looks for decent companies who pay their employees decently and maybe have a fully funded retirement plan for them––companies that have been untouched by Reaganomics. What does this Venture Capitalist do? He charms the company’s owner, offers him a nice check, and then he buys the company. Before the check clears he sucks all the money out of the pension fund and uses it to pay the former owner. Then he lays off employees and pockets those savings. Then he has a balance sheet that shows all of this “profit” which he uses to sell the company at an inflated price.

I realize the Nazi analogy is completely forbidden today. But the Nazi miracle was financed in a similar way, by confiscation from Jews and liberals. Someday we may be able to see the criminality of what is going on, or at least its unfairness and dishonesty. But right now it is legal. And it is also sanctified by the sacred memory of Ronald Reagan who set this middle class decline in motion.

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