When the gods dance...

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's Class Warfare As The Rich Gets Richer

It's Class Warfare As The Rich Gets Richer


"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A." - Gordon Gekko

"There's class war alright. But it's my class that's making the war. And we're winning it." - Warren Buffet

I believe America is at war. But this time, the villains aren't named Saddam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden, or Muammar Gaddafi. 

This war doesn't involve the use of military action. It doesn't involve Congress making a formal declaration of war. This war is covert. Instead of guns fired by soldiers, it's bills passed by elected officials. Instead of bombs dropped from planes, it's bombs dropped from Corporate America. Instead of the invasion of another country, this war involves the invasion of people's paychecks and pensions.

To understand this war, to truly grasp the scale of it, we need to look at the people who have declared war on the poor and middle class of this country.

Ronald Reagan   

You don't have to be alive to make this list. The good times for the wealthy began under President Reagan. First, he fired the air traffic controllers and crushed their union. Second, he introduced America to "Reaganomics," his economic poo-poo platter of tax cuts for the rich, cuts to government programs, and a sharp reduction in government regulations.

Reagan charmed millions of Americans into believing an incredible fairy tale:

If we cut taxes for the rich, if we gave all the cake to the wealthy, crumbs from the cake will trickle down to everybody else, and VOILA! PROSPERITY!

This of course was a lie.

In the last 30 years, the top 1% has seen their wages explode into the stratosphere. Meanwhile, the paychecks of everybody else has stayed stuck in neutral.

In the last 30 years, the crumbs from the economic cake has not trickled down. Instead, the rich got their cake. And they ate it too (including the crumbs)!

Little known fact about Ronald Reagan. He started his career as a Democrat. Then he went Republican. Then he went senile.

Probably not a coincidence . . .

Senator Phil Gramm, Representative Jim Leach, and Representative Thomas Bliley

In 1999, Bill Clinton signed into law the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act). It repealed the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which prevented any institution from becoming a commercial bank, investment bank, and insurance company all in one. Phil Gramm is the father of our great financial crisis. Because of his bill, Citigroup, ahem, pardon me, I mean "Shittygroup", which is part commercial bank, part investment bank, part insurance company, and part Death Star, is considered "too big to fail." 

We are told that Shittygroup, Skank of America, and Goldman Sucks are so crucial to our economy that these monstrosities must never go bankrupt, even as they take our taxpayer money and pay themselves an ungodly amount in bonuses, even as they take our taxpayer money and jack up the interest rates on our credit cards.

And we have Phil Gramm to thank for all of this. If he ever crosses the street in front of me, I will personally thank Phil Gramm by running him over with my car.

Speaking of Wall Street . . .

The Financial Sociopaths Who Brought Us The Subprime Mortgage Crisis

For those who don't know, let me break down how the assholes on Wall Street nearly destroyed our economy and ruined the lives of millions of people.

1. Lenders sold mortgages to investment banks, who then combined these mortgages with car loans, student loans, and credit card debt into complex (and unregulated) derivatives known as collaterized debt obligations (CDOs).

2. Investment bankers sold these CDOs to investors. Now, when people go to pay their mortgage, that money goes to investors.

3. The investment banks then paid investment agencies (i.e. Moody's) to evaluate the CDOs. Most were given Triple-A rating. This made CDOs popular with retirement funds.

4. In this new system, lenders no longer cared if a borrower couldn't pay because the lender got paid when they sold the mortgage. So naturally, they started making riskier loans. The investment banks didn't care either. The more CDOs they made, the more they got paid.

5. In the early 2000s, we saw a rise in subprime loans which were made to America's riskiest borrowers. The investment banks preferred subprime loans because they carried higher interest rates. This led to a massive amount of predatory lending. Borrowers were needlessly placed in expensive subprime loans, loans most of them could not pay. 

It got so crazy that people who worked at McDonald's were moving into $100,000 homes. And even worse were the so-called NINJA loans. NINJA stood for "no income, no job". The only requirement for NINJA loans was that the borrower needed to have a social security number!

That's it!

As long as you weren't a corpse, you could sign up for this loan!

6. AIG sold derivatives known as credit default swaps, a form of insurance for investors who owned CDOs. If the CDO turned to junk, AIG promised to pay the investor back. Also, speculators could buy credit default swaps and bet against CDOs they didn't own. For example, Goldman Sucks and Merrill Lynch were just some of the banks who bought CDOs, just so they could bet against them.

However, AIG didn't have the money, nor the collateral to pay anybody back. When the economy crashed, AIG owed billions. Our government decided that "The Notorious AIG" was indeed "too big to fail", handing the company the largest government bailout in American history (85 billion of our tax dollars in order to save them).

When Wall Street's ponzi scheme collapsed, it doubled America's debt. States across the country saw their deficits explode because they invested, among other things, the retirement funds of their own state workers. Iceland went broke. Greece went broke. Hell, America went broke. And the crash left 30 million people unemployed worldwide.

Former Fed chief Alan Greenspan knew Wall Street was shady. He did nothing. Ben Bernanke, current Fed chief, did nothing. The Securities and Exchange Commission, which is supposed to keep a watchful eye on Wall Street, did nothing.

Angelo Mozilo, former CEO of Countrywide (one of the biggest predatory lenders out there) walked away with 470 million. 140 million came from dumping his company stock in the months leading up to the housing collapse. He dumped his company stock because he knew a Category 5 hurricane was about to hit. When the company collapsed, he got to keep all of the money. 

After driving Merrill Lynch off a cliff, former CEO Stan O'Neal was allowed to walk away with 161 million in cash and stock options.

After nearly destroying AIG (and ruining the lives of an unfathomable amount of people) with his credit default swaps, executive Joseph Cassano resigned, only to be paid a million dollars a month (in taxpayer money) by AIG as a "consultant."

After crashing Lehman Brothers into the side of a mountain, CEO Richard "Dick" Fuld testified before Congress. He destroyed millions of people's lives and caused his company (at the time the 4th largest investment bank in the country) to file for the largest bankruptcy in American history. He didn't go to jail of course. And he got to keep all of the half-a- billion he earned from 1993 to 2007.

In April of last year, Goldman Sachs, sorry, I meant Goldman Sucks, was sued by the federal government for selling highly fraudulent CDOs. But don't get too excited. CEO Lloyd Blankfein (who made nearly 100 million in the 2 years before the crash) is real cozy with President Obama. Goldman was the President's biggest donor in 2008. So don't expect any justice to be served.

                Lloyd Blankfein is, in the words of Charles Barkley, "turrible. Just turrible."

And it was Blankfein who had the nerve to say that "Wall Street is doing God's work."

Yeah right. And I'm sure that every Sunday Blankfein learns all about "God's work" while he sits in a pew at The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Thieves!

When George W. Bush bailed out Wall Street with his 700 billion dollar TARP (the Troubled Assets Relief and Protection Act), we were told it would not only save the reckless bankers, and it would not only save our economy, but that it would also help struggling homeowners with their mortgages. But the Treasury Department gave that money away with no strings attached. And the Home Affordable Modification Program (which was part of TARP) has been an epic fail. Mortgage services are foreclosing homes in record numbers.

Nobody has been investigated. Nobody has gone to jail. This is because the financial sector employs over 5000 lobbyists. Between 1998 and 2008, Wall Street spent over 5 billion on campaign contributions and bribery.

WHOOPS! Did I say bribery? I meant lobbying.

And the same people who played a part in the great crash of 2008, are some of the same people in the Obama Administration (helloooo Tim Geithner). 

What I hate the most about Wall Street is that they don't actually make anything. They create nothing of value. All they do is move debt around. And I'm supposed to be impressed? I'm supposed to believe these charlatans are "Masters of the Universe"?


Republican Dictators, er, I mean Governors

These state deficits have really exposed the darkness in the hearts of elected Republican officials. Take for instance these headline-making governors. They are using these deficits as an excuse to attack everything they hate: unions, teachers, abortion, regulations.

I talked about this in detail with a blog post I wrote last month called Who Is America's Worst Governor? I listed the 8 worst offenders. They are:

Scott Walker, John Kasich, Paul LePage, Jan Brewer, Tom Corbett, and the 3 dicks, I mean the 3 Ricks: Rick Scott, Rick Snyder, and Rick Perry (Sorry! That R key is too close to that D key).

What these governors have in common is a distaste for working people. They have all passed legislation that cuts social programs for the poor, while cutting taxes for millionaires and billionaires.

Walker, in his zeal to snatch collective bargaining rights from state workers, likely violated Wisconsin's open-meeting laws. And the sneaky way he passed his bill just proves what a weasel he is. 

Ohio governor (and former Lehman Brothers executive) Kasich signed into law the truly atrocious SB 5 bill, which is even worse than Walker's union-busting bill (at least Walker exempted police officers and firefighters). 

The decline of the unions (along with our change in tax policy) is why America has the greatest economic disparity in the history of the world.

While I would love to revisit these terrible governors (in all of their glory), I recommend those who haven't read my post to check it out.

Let's move on . . .

The Republicans In Congress

Americans have been falling out of the middle class in record fashion. A lot of people are homeless and hungry for the first time in their lives.

The poverty rate is now at 14.3 percent, the highest since 1994. And the Department of Agriculture has reported that "the prevalence of food insecurity" is at an all-time high.

One of the consequences of the Great Recession is the record number of children falling into poverty. It is estimated that the number of children living in poverty will soon hit 25%, the highest percentage we've seen since The Great Depression.

And yet, the debate is not about how can we help these children. The debate is centered around "what are we going to cut?" And, "how many programs that benefit the poor are we going to destroy?"

In order to pay for these Republican tax cuts for millionaires and businesses, programs that benefit the poor must be cut. 

According to the Majority Report, these social programs were sliced and diced in order to fund tax cuts for the wealthy:

1. Early Childhood - cut by 11.2 billion

11.5 billion = the per year cost of recent tax cuts for millionaire's estates.

2. Department of Housing and Urban Development - Republicans proposed a cut of over 5 billion to this program which offers a variety of services for low income Americans.

8.9 billion = cost of allowing mortgage interest deduction for vacation homes for millionaires. 

3. WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) the program that offers supplemental nutrition to poor families - cut by 504 million

6.7 billion = cost of estate planning techniques used by the wealthy to avoid paying taxes.

4. Teacher training and afterschool programs - cut by 4.6 billion

5.2 billion = cost of removing limit on itemized deductions for high income tax payers.

5. Job training for new and unemployed workers - cut by 4.1 billion

4.1 billion = cost of tax breaks for offshore operations for US financial companies.

6. Low Income Energy Assistance (grants to poor families) - cut by 2.5 billion

2.5 billion = tax cuts for oil companies.

7. Community Health Centers - cut by 2.5 billion.

4.9 billion = cost of extending alcohol and fuel tax breaks.

8. Homeless Assistance Grants - cut by 2.0 billion

 2.3 billion = tax loopholes for hedge fund managers and private equity managers.

9. Legal Services For The Poor - cut by 420 million

312 million = cost of allowing companies to write off punitive damages.

10. Title X Family Planning - cut by 317 million.

303 million = cost of tax breaks for timber industry.

This is class warfare! Our Republican elected officials (and quite a few Democrats) are the anti-Robin Hoods. They're stealing from the poor, to give to the rich. They're robbing poor Peter to pay for wealthy Paul.

Hey, speaking of douchebags named Paul . . .

Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee Chairman, put out a budget that will leave the vast majority of future retirees without decent health care by ending Medicare as we know it.

According to the Congressional Budget Office analysis, most middle-income retirees would have to pay almost half of their income to purchase a Medicare equivalent insurance package by 2030. And they would be paying even more of their income in later years. And of course, Ryan's budget includes more tax cuts for the rich (reducing their tax rate from 35% to 25%).

                            Paul Ryan hates old people!

And what did our "liberal media" have to say?

They credited Ryan for his "serious" proposal. But they said nothing about how Ryan's budget fails to address our out-of-control health care costs. 

They talked about how Ryan is "a nice guy, who works out a lot." Number one, who gives a shit about Paul Ryan's pecs? And number two, how about addressing how if every senior got a Medicare voucher under Ryan's plan (which most won't be able to afford), the added cost will be 20 trillion over the next 75 years. This comes to $60,000 for every man, woman, and child in this country.

And here's two other terrible ideas from Republicans in Washington.

1. They wanna raise the retirement age from 65 to 70.

They keep saying "we should raise the retirement age because people are living longer!" Yes, let's raise the retirement age because manual labor in your 70s is FUCKING AWESOME!!!

In the dream world of Republicans, everybody will be forced to work until they're 100. Or until they drop dead! Whichever comes first.

2. They wanna "reform" social security.

Kentucky Senator (and Tea Party favorite) Rand Paul said, "Social Security is going to incur a 5.4 trillion dollar debt over the next 75 years."

Hey Rand, I got a great idea! Let's make 100 percent of Americans pay FICA taxes on 100 percent of their income, just as 96 percent of Americans already do! Why should someone making $100,000 pay social security on 100 percent of their salary, while someone making $1,000,000 pays social security on just 13 percent?

And to every politician in America, STOP CALLING SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE, AND MEDICAID "ENTITLEMENTS"! If you have to pay for something in order to receive it, then it's not really an entitlement. 

I prefer we call it "social insurance." Because really, that's what it is.

And since slicing away at America's "social insurance" seems to make Rand Paul so randy, how about this: Let's slice away at the ridiculous Congressional retirement plan (with its pensions and cozy perks).

If we can't have it, you can't either!

Corporate America


America's wages rose 2 percent from last year. And when you adjust that for inflation, Americans are now making a whopping 52 cents more a week!

Try not to spend it all at one place!

Meanwhile, top executives made 27 percent more in the last year. The average pay for top executives is now 9 million dollars a year.

Profits are up at most of America's top corporations. In the last 3 months of 2010, Big Business saw their stock perform so well, that if you wanted to find a period of time that was comparable, you'd have to go all the way back to 1950.

Last year, General Electric made 14 billion in profits. Goldman Sucks made 8 billion. General Motors made 4.7 billion. Google made 18.9 billion. And Exxon Mobil made an astonishing 39.5 billion dollars in 2010.

But profits derived from sales only increased a measly 7 percent. Profits are up because American companies shed a whole lot of jobs last year. And they cut the pay and the hours of their employees.

And they've turned tax-dodging into an artform. The top 3 corporate tax dodgers are Exxon, Skank of America, and GE. Last year these three companies paid a combined $0 in taxes.

That is unbelievable.

Michael Moore was right when he said that "America is not broke." No, we aren't. Not by a long shot. Corporations are sitting on hundreds of billions of dollars.

Are these corporations hiring people?


Last month our economy added 230,000 jobs. That sounds great until you remember that we lost 8 million jobs as a result of Wall Street shenanigans. According to Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, "In order to get back to the 5% unemployment rate we had before the Great Recession, we will have to wait until 2018."

Most Americans can't afford to wait that long.

Rich People

I've said this before and I'll say it again: I don't hate rich people because they're rich. I hate that they don't contribute their fair share.

I hate that they've co-opted the White House, Congress, and the Governor's office in so many states. In order to be a successful politician in this country, you pretty much have to be the rich person's bitch.

And hey rich people, when is enough enough? You already have more money than anybody else. Why do you need more? 

Barack Obama

You don't have to be a Republican to make this list. Obama's extension of the George Bush tax cuts was unforgivable. His deficit commission (also known as the Catfood Commission), which wants to "reform" social security, is a joke. And the 38.5 billion in cuts he and the Republicans agreed to that prevented a government shutdown was atrocious. He talked about how this was "the biggest annual spending cut in history."

Good grief! That's a Republican talking point!

Mr. President, you are a Democrat (allegedly). Why do you so often sound like a Republican?

He also talked about how "we need to live within our means."

And by "we", he means "you." Not the wealthy folks, but "you."

Republicans originally asked for 32 billion in cuts. But Obama and the Democrats bumped it up to 38.5 billion, because really, poor people in this country just haven't suffered enough. So goodbye pell grants because you're about to be as extinct as a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Goodbye after-school programs. We didn't need you anyway. And so long heating assistance to the elderly. Just buy grandma a Snuggie and a box of matches and wish her the best of luck!

At the end of the day, Barack Obama is just like every other politician. He doesn't work for us. He works for the rich folks and the corporations.

How does it feel America to know that you are under attack by your own government? How does it feel to know that the wealthy and the corporations are using your tax money as their own personal ATM machines? How does it feel to know that the politicians are obsessed with the deficit, while completely ignoring the fact that we desperately need to create more jobs?

And how does it feel to know that raising taxes on the rich (which would bring in so much revenue) is something that is never considered, even though 64 percent of Americans are in favor of it?

(And if you really wanna be depressed, check out these amazing charts from Mother Jones which show just how great the rich are doing, and how not-so-great everybody else is doing.)

It's D-Day, and it's class warfare. And the only way we can fight back is to storm the streets of Washington the way Tom Hanks stormed the beaches of Normandy. Instead of Saving Private Ryan, let's protest Congressman Ryan! It's time to continue what was started on the steps of Madison, and what has spread to the steps of Indianapolis, and Columbus, and Lansing.

And it's time we join US Uncut and protest against these tax-dodging corporations.

In the words of Public Enemy, we need to Fight The Power. We need to tell these people "NO MORE!"

When is enough enough?

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