OCCUPY WALL STREET: Separating Fact from Media

 

By Walter Brasch

 

Newspaper columnist Ann Coulter, spreading the lies of the extreme right wing, called the Occupy Wall Street protestors, “tattooed, body-pierced, sunken-chested 19-year-olds getting in fights with the police for fun.” She claimed the protestors, now in the thousands in New York, are “directionless losers [who] pose for cameras while uttering random liberal clichés lacking any reason or coherence.” (Several hundred thousand of these “directionless losers” are expected to attend rallies in more than 650 cities, Oct. 15.)

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), House majority leader, called the protest nothing more than “growing mobs,” completely oblivious to his myriad statements that he supports “mobs” when they are from the Tea Party. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, tacking as far right as possible to avoid anyone thinking he was once a moderate, called the protest “dangerous.”

Republican presidential contender Herman Cain, in a moment that demonstrated how out of touch he is with the economic reality of the five-year recession, argued, “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks; if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!”

Glenn Beck, too irrational even for Fox News, which terminated him less than two years after it tried to make him a TV superstar, told his radio audience, the protestors “will come for you and drag you into the streets and kill you.”

Lauren Ellis of Mother Jones, at one time a cutting edge magazine for social justice, believed that the protestors have a “lack of focus.” Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, wrote, “A protest without an objective is like a party or a picnic of the unemployed and the indolent. Unless you have an objective, what are you doing out there?”

First, let’s see just who these protestors really are. And then, let’s see what they stand for, since the mainstream media, of which Fox News is an entrenched part, don’t seem to be getting the message from the people.

The protestors rightly say they are part of the 99 percent; the other one percent have 42 percent of the nation’s wealth, the top 20 percent have more than 85 percent of the nation’s wealth, the highest accumulation since 1928, the year before the Great Depression. Even the most oblivious recognize the protestors as a large cross-section of America. They are students and teachers; housewives, plumbers, and physicians; combat veterans from every war from World War II to the present. They are young, middle-aged, and elderly. They are high school dropouts and Ph.D.s. They are from all religions and no religion, and a broad spectrum of political views.

 Support has come from senior politicians with very different philosophies. Vice President Joe Biden believes the protests are because “In the minds of the vast majority of the American–the middle class is being screwed.” Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), unlike a vast majority of Republican politicians, stated, “If they were demonstrating peacefully, and making a point, and arguing our case, and drawing attention to the Fed—I would say, ‘good!’”

 Second, like all protests, there are different opinions within the ranks. But, there is a core of beliefs. The protestors are fed up with corporate greed that has a base of corporate welfare and special tax benefits for the rich. They support the trade union movement, Medicare and Social Security, affordable health care for all citizens, and programs to assist the unemployed, disenfranchised, and underclass. A nation that cannot take care of the least among us doesn’t deserve to be called the best of us.

They’re mad that the home mortgage crisis, begun when greed overcame ethics and was then magnified by the failure of regulatory agencies and the Congress to provide adequate oversight, robbed all of America of its financial security. During the first half of this year alone, banks and lending agencies have sent notices to more than 1.2 million homeowners whose loans and mortgages are in default status, according to RealtyTrak. Of course, less regulation is just what conservatives want—after all, their mantra has become, “no government in our lives.”

The protestors are mad that the wealthiest corporations pay little or no taxes. They point to the Bank of America, part of the mortgage crisis problem, which earned a $4.4 billion profit last year, but received a $1.9 billion tax refund on top of a bailout of about $1 trillion. They look at ExxonMobil, which earned more than $19 billion profit in 2009, paid no taxes and received a $156 million federal rebate. Its profit for the first half of 2011 is about $ 21.3 billion.

They rightfully note that it is slimy when General Electric, whose CEO is a close Obama advisor, earned a $26 billion profit during the past five years, but still received a $4.1 billion refund.  

They’re mad that the federal government has given the oil industry more than $4 billion in subsidy, although the industry earned more than $1 trillion in profits the past decade.

They’re mad that Goldman Sachs, after receiving a $10 billion government bailout, and a $2.7 billion profit in the first quarter of 2011, shipped about 1,000 jobs overseas. During the past decade, corporations, which have paid little or no federal taxes, have outsourced at least 2.4 million jobs and are hoarding trillions which could be used to spur job growth and the economy.

They’re mad that corporations that took federal bailout money gave seven-figure bonuses to their executives.

They’re mad that the U.S., of all industrialized countries, has the highest ratio of executive pay to that of the average worker. The U.S. average is about 300 to 475 times that of the average worker. In Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, and England, the average CEO earns between 10 and 20 times what the average worker earns, and no one in those countries believes the CEOs are underpaid.

 They’re mad that 47 percent of all persons who earned at least $250,000 last year, including about 1,500 millionaires, paid no taxes, according to Newsmax. If you’re a Republican member of Congress, that’s perfectly acceptable. They’re the ones who thought President Obama was launching class warfare against the rich by trying to restore the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans. They succeeded in blocking tax reform and a jobs bill, but failed to understand the simple reality—if there is class warfare, it is being waged by the elite greedy and their Congressional lackeys.

 Herman Cain, Fox TV pundit Sean Hannity, and others from the extreme right wing said the protestors are un-American, apparently for protesting corporate greed. The Occupy Wall Street protestors aren’t un-American; those who defend the destruction of the middle class by defending greed, and unethical and illegal behavior, are.

 [Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist, and the author of 17 books. His latest book is Before the First Snow, a social issues mystery set in rural Pennsylvania.]

 

 

 

Banker Bonuses: Not Such a Wonderful Life?

Astonishingly, bankers may have surpassed lawyers, journalists, and child pornographers as the country’s most reviled people. They did this through a combination of tanking the world economy; extorting money and property from customers and the government; and downright, naked and stupid greed.

Oh, and complaining they weren’t paid enough to do it.

A recent informal Vanity Fair poll indicated 56% of banking greedheads felt their bonuses weren’t large enough. Clearly, this is indicates an IQ so low or hubris so large they shouldn’t be trusted with piggy banks, much less handle your life savings and the wealth of the world.

What’s the Big Deal?
Many have made a big deal about the unfairness of this arrangement. Many have claimed the inequities of the US corporate compensation system is making us into a country of overwhelming class division. In short, many have been right. But the emphasis on class warfare and inequality is only half – maybe less than half – of the picture.

The It’s a Wonderful Life banks of yore were paragons of charity and virtue compared to the ginormous money-maws of today. Despite bankers being beholden to no one other than their hand-selected boards and compensation committees, they make business decisions based on a monthly horizon to enhance their ‘pitiful’ quarterly bonuses. A banker looking beyond a quarter would be locked up in the Insane Banker’s Asylum for the Criminally Greedy. One looking out into the vastness of time – next year – would be executed for their danger to society.

That short-sightedness explains their Nostrasdumbassian inability to have seen the economic crash coming. That blindness to the danger of their own practices screwed their customers, the public – and not least of all – their investors. And now that they’ve good and thoroughly fu*cked their investors, they’re back to the same asinine practices as before, except – like a anitbiotic-immune bacteria – they’ve strengthened and widened the gap between what is legal and what is common sense.

Exercising their much vaunted “skills”, they’ve used taxpayer money, much of which was skimmed off for last year’s bonuses, to ‘reinvest’ and reap near-record profits this year – thereby clinching this year’s bonuses too. The only people dumber than the bankers are their stockholders. They’ve cheered as bankers laundered the money into record profits, either blindlessly stupid or so greedy they don’t recognize this as what it is…a ponzi scheme.

Bernie Madoff must be so proud.

Because they need binoculars to see the ends of their noses, they don’t see that everything will happen again. Their penchant for driving resources offshore to avoid the taxes that comprised last quarter’s stunning economic ‘recovery’ make it harder and harder to extort money from a US government with less and less of it to give. Meanwhile, all those cozy offshore havens – many of which are as friendly to America as a pack of rabid wolverines – are perfectly positioned to nationalize our money to pay for their own bait and switch schemes.

And as the macro-economic robbery continues, the bankers will again be shocked at another “completely unexpected” event. All those jobs that moved or disappeared to make companies more “profitable” steadily depleted the pool of potential customers with money for the banks to steal use to continue the ruination of their Holy Grail – capitalism.

Oh, and that’ll be a $130 million bonus for the trouble.

Where Do I Sign Up?
Bankers – in fact, almost all business US Big Wigs – receive huge bonuses if profits go up or they go down. They receive bonuses from the very companies they ran into the ground to keep their “expertise” with the company. They get bonuses because they successfully lobby each banking reform attempt into a cozier and cozier government/business alliance that – guess what – awards them bigger bonuses. Investors look the other way as long as money is coming into the Ponzi triangle and most complain for show only when the dividends come due and the banks can’t pay them. Then, they angle for a big bonus to pay their wizards of financial acumen to figure out some other way to steal twice as much money – partly used for big bonuses – next quarter.

Many supporters of corporatism über alles claim the execs deserve the big bucks because they are risk takers. The only problem with that axiom is that they take those risks with other people’s money and get paid whether the risks pay off or not.

Unbridled greed is leading them to not only kill the goose that laid the golden egg, but eat the egg, dine on the goose, and steal  their neighbor’s fowl for another mighty fine meal. One paid for with unsustainable bonuses.

Ain’t it a wonderful life?

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

Banker Bonuses: Not Such a Wonderful Life?

Astonishingly, bankers may have surpassed lawyers, journalists, and child pornographers as the country’s most reviled people. They did this through a combination of tanking the world economy; extorting money and property from customers and the government; and downright, naked and stupid greed.

Oh, and complaining they weren’t paid enough to do it.

A recent informal Vanity Fair poll indicated 56% of banking greedheads felt their bonuses weren’t large enough. Clearly, this is indicates an IQ so low or hubris so large they shouldn’t be trusted with piggy banks, much less handle your life savings and the wealth of the world.

What’s the Big Deal?
Many have made a big deal about the unfairness of this arrangement. Many have claimed the inequities of the US corporate compensation system is making us into a country of overwhelming class division. In short, many have been right. But the emphasis on class warfare and inequality is only half – maybe less than half – of the picture.

The It’s a Wonderful Life banks of yore were paragons of charity and virtue compared to the ginormous money-maws of today. Despite bankers being beholden to no one other than their hand-selected boards and compensation committees, they make business decisions based on a monthly horizon to enhance their ‘pitiful’ quarterly bonuses. A banker looking beyond a quarter would be locked up in the Insane Banker’s Asylum for the Criminally Greedy. One looking out into the vastness of time – next year – would be executed for their danger to society.

That short-sightedness explains their Nostrasdumbassian inability to have seen the economic crash coming. That blindness to the danger of their own practices screwed their customers, the public – and not least of all – their investors. And now that they’ve good and thoroughly fu*cked their investors, they’re back to the same asinine practices as before, except – like a anitbiotic-immune bacteria – they’ve strengthened and widened the gap between what is legal and what is common sense.

Exercising their much vaunted “skills”, they’ve used taxpayer money, much of which was skimmed off for last year’s bonuses, to ‘reinvest’ and reap near-record profits this year – thereby clinching this year’s bonuses too. The only people dumber than the bankers are their stockholders. They’ve cheered as bankers laundered the money into record profits, either blindlessly stupid or so greedy they don’t recognize this as what it is…a ponzi scheme.

Bernie Madoff must be so proud.

Because they need binoculars to see the ends of their noses, they don’t see that everything will happen again. Their penchant for driving resources offshore to avoid the taxes that comprised last quarter’s stunning economic ‘recovery’ make it harder and harder to extort money from a US government with less and less of it to give. Meanwhile, all those cozy offshore havens – many of which are as friendly to America as a pack of rabid wolverines – are perfectly positioned to nationalize our money to pay for their own bait and switch schemes.

And as the macro-economic robbery continues, the bankers will again be shocked at another “completely unexpected” event. All those jobs that moved or disappeared to make companies more “profitable” steadily depleted the pool of potential customers with money for the banks to steal use to continue the ruination of their Holy Grail – capitalism.

Oh, and that’ll be a $130 million bonus for the trouble.

Where Do I Sign Up?
Bankers – in fact, almost all business US Big Wigs – receive huge bonuses if profits go up or they go down. They receive bonuses from the very companies they ran into the ground to keep their “expertise” with the company. They get bonuses because they successfully lobby each banking reform attempt into a cozier and cozier government/business alliance that – guess what – awards them bigger bonuses. Investors look the other way as long as money is coming into the Ponzi triangle and most complain for show only when the dividends come due and the banks can’t pay them. Then, they angle for a big bonus to pay their wizards of financial acumen to figure out some other way to steal twice as much money – partly used for big bonuses – next quarter.

Many supporters of corporatism über alles claim the execs deserve the big bucks because they are risk takers. The only problem with that axiom is that they take those risks with other people’s money and get paid whether the risks pay off or not.

Unbridled greed is leading them to not only kill the goose that laid the golden egg, but eat the egg, dine on the goose, and steal  their neighbor’s fowl for another mighty fine meal. One paid for with unsustainable bonuses.

Ain’t it a wonderful life?

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

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