Archive for the ‘wealth divide’ Category
Bob Herbert wrote a very good column today about what he calls the “campaign disconnect” between Democrats, Republicans, and average Americans. I highly recommend reading the whole thing, but essentially Herbert makes the argument that neither party has adequately addressed the economic desperation of citizens. Democrats have decided to humor the disastrous idea of austerity measures, while Republicans behave as though they’ve “lost their minds completely,” an assessment that I think is way too generous on Herbert’s part.
I prefer his latter description when he accuses Republicans of “peddling a fantasy that has already damaged the country profoundly.” That definition contains the acerbity needed to fully grasp how poisonous the GOP’s philosophy is these days.
Yesterday, I briefly recapped the blatant hypocrisy displayed by certain Republicans in regards to the stimulus. Bobby Jindal and Jeb Bush, two “stalwart Conservatives” both greedily gobbled up stimulus cash before returning to their roots: bashing any recovery plan the Democratic administration proposes.
But hypocrisy aside, the GOP, and the elite in general, have genuine disdain for the underclass. The truly sad part is that they’ve brainwashed poor Republicans into going along with their scheme to permanently quarantine the undesirables. That’s when you get elderly people showing up at healthcare reform town hall meetings, screaming that they want the government to keep its hands off their Medicare. Sigh.
Senator Orrin Hatch proposed an amendment that would demand mandatory drug tests for welfare and unemployment beneficiaries because, as we all know, the only people out of work these days are worthless drug addicts. Sharron Angle implied unemployment benefits make people lazy, and that there are lots of jobs out there, but workers just refuse to buckle down and find them, and Rand Paul told them to quit being cry babies and go flip fries at McDonald’s so they can feed their children.
My new Maureen Dowd is on a roll this week. First, he declared an end to the era of opulence based on the rantings of a southern Baptist megachurch leader. Bobo made this bold proclamation during a time of enormous wealth disparity, and after poor taxpayers just dropped a couple trillion dollars bailing out Wall Street tycoons, who BTW, handed out record bonuses during the economic collapse.
Now, he argues that we are the middle of a “jobless recovery,” whatever that means. At first, I assumed he was talking about the people who wrecked the economy receiving fat bonuses, while the starving masses squirrel away food stamps. You know, “the right people” are recovering – prospering, even – while the undesirables suffocate under a mountain of debt and disease. After all, there’s not enough money for universal health care, but there’s enough cash to supply two ongoing military occupations.
Or perhaps Bobo was referring to America’s two tier justice system where the underclass forever toil and barely scrape by, occasionally bearing the full brunt of the courts, which imprison and enslave the working class for petty theft and drug-dealing, while the CEO of a company that dumped millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, along with poisonous chemical dispersants, gets to go yachting with his buddies.
Alas, Bobo appears to be talking about magical thinking. He writes, “After decades of affluence, the U.S. has drifted away from the hardheaded practical mentality that built the nation’s wealth in the first place.” In his revised history of the United States, sometime around 1800, the economy simply “took off.” Like a miracle.
I write a lot about how certain elite (pundits, politicians) have made it their quest to criminalize poverty. David Walker, a lackey of billionaire and Social Security pirate, Pete Peterson, openly pined for the days of debtors’ prison, which is actually already a reality in six states. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) proposed an amendment that would demand mandatory drug tests for welfare and unemployment beneficiaries. A particularly enlightened commenter on my blog summarized the logic behind the amendment thusly: “you gotta make sure they’re not on the crack pipe.”
Previously, I have also written about hiring practices that act to preserve America’s permanent underclass, and how some employers are now making it a practice to check potential employees’ credit scores. Poor people are buried under extravagant loans, which they might never fully pay back, simply for attempting to pursue higher education. Some students actually resort to killing themselves to escape debt, but these are isolated instances that shouldn’t overly concern anyone.
Then there was the embarrassing spectacle of the ruling elite dangling the carrot of unemployment relief before the noses of millions of jobless Americans. There were actual lengthy debates about if the country could really afford the lavish benefits ($300 a week per person) to help people survive the recession during a time when the U.S. is engaged in two separate tremendously expensive military occupations – not to mention the shadow wars in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc. – and after taxpayers spent trillions bailing out the crooks on Wall Street.
Now, a Tea Party favorite Carl Paladino has thrown his hat in the poor-bashing ring.
Paladino said he would transform some New York prisons into dormitories for welfare recipients, where they could work in state-sponsored jobs, get employment training and take lessons in “personal hygiene.”
Don’t worry. The program would be totally voluntary.
Back during the healthcare debate, certain Republicans claimed we didn’t need reform because when the existing healthcare system failed, private charity organizations would magically step in to fill the void.
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) told an uninsured woman with growing tumors that she should seek “existing government programs” or find charity.
CHURCHILL: I have a very close relative, a woman in her early forties, who did have a wonderful, high-paying job, owns her own home and is a real contributing member of society. She lost her job. Just a couple of weeks ago, she found out that she has tumors in her belly and that she needs an operation. Her doctors told her that they are growing and that she needs to get this operation quickly. She has no insurance. [...]
CANTOR: First of all I guess I would ask what the situation is in terms of income eligibility and the existing programs that are out there. Because if we look at the uninsured that are out there right now, there is probably 23, 24% of the uninsured that is already eligible for an existing government program[...] Beyond that, I know that there are programs, there are charitable organizations, there are hospitals here who do provide charity care if there’s an instance of indigency and the individual is not eligible for existing programs that there can be some cooperative effort. No one in this country, given who we are, should be sitting without an option to be addressed.
Frum Forum’s Andrew Pavelyev also advocated the private charity approach, though he acknowledged the “let them beg” model of handling sick people might lose the GOP some support.
This was how the right put a pleasant face on the movement to abandon sick people. Yes, Cantor was just regurgitating the same “public, bad, private, good!” mantra dribbling from the Republicans since Reagan, but by tacking on “charity” to the end of his abandonment plan, Cantor was able to shield himself in a cloak of altruism…if only for a little while…at least until people noticed his plan was ultimately, “Hope a nice person takes pity upon you, and can heal tumors. Thanks for the tax money!”
The other day, Greenwald wrote a very good summary of America’s collapsing empire. Basically, we are entering year nine of the Afghanistan occupation, and Republicans are leading a crusade to cut benefits and Social Security during the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Greenwald highlighted this disturbing passage from a NYT article:
Plenty of businesses and governments furloughed workers this year, but Hawaii went further — it furloughed its schoolchildren. Public schools across the state closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year to save money, giving students the shortest academic year in the nation.
Many transit systems have cut service to make ends meet, but Clayton County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, decided to cut all the way, and shut down its entire public bus system. Its last buses ran on March 31, stranding 8,400 daily riders.
Even public safety has not been immune to the budget ax. In Colorado Springs, the downturn will be remembered, quite literally, as a dark age: the city switched off a third of its 24,512 streetlights to save money on electricity, while trimming its police force and auctioning off its police helicopters.
I occasionally feature bits of empirical evidence to prove the existence of the collapsing empire in this blog, like the inevitable Republican-inspired Mad Max future of no firefighters, or parks, and endless water shortages. And we’ve seen signs of the decay everywhere – the real unemployment of 16 percent, and certain counties’ decision to switch from pavement to gravel roads in order to save money, not to mention the woeful state of the nation’s other infrastructure (water mains, bridges, etc.).
I don’t need to tell you shit is bad. But what’s so amazing about all of this is Washington’s utter indifference to the state of the decaying empire. (Quick digression: Don’t get me wrong. I don’t wish to imply empires are a good thing. We know the true toll of colonialism and empire expansion, and I reject the notion that America must remain an all-powerful empire in order to survive and thrive.) If the ruling class isn’t made to understand the effects of their detrimental policies, the U.S. will not only lose the empire, but the very fabric of society itself.
Former Shell president John Hofmeister rushed to Tony Hayward’s defense today on American Morning by arguing that the pandemic of populism that has swept across the US – resulting in Tony becoming Public Enemy Numero Uno – is misguided because he totally won’t walk away with as much cash as everyone thinks.
ROBERTS: What do you think he’s going to come away with in terms of a golden parachute if he’s ousted? We’re hearing certain figures, maybe a one-time payment of $1.5 million, an annual pension of $900,000 at the age of 60. I know he has a tremendous amount of money in stock as well. What do you think given the circumstances BP can give him to go out the door?
HOFMEISTER: Well, those packages are really carefully scrutinized in the U.K.. You know, I worked there for about eight years as part of Shell’s organization, and the British people, the British press, they really carefully scrutinize. And I think boards in the U.K., as well as the rest of Europe, are pretty straightforward on these separation packages. These are not as generous as what some people might see in the U.S..
The numbers are large, but remember, Tony’s running one of the major companies in the whole world. And so there is a recognition of his contributions of many, many decades and I think, you know, because of the balance with which boards take these things, the numbers I’ve seen and read about don’t surprise me at all. They’re kind of in the ballpark of what’s happened in other British companies.
Tony was born in 1957, which makes him 53. Even if he lives a relatively short life (let’s say for the sake of argument 75 years,) he’ll collect $19,800,000 from his pension, alone. That’s without counting his stock. As of December 31, he held more than 535,000 shares in BP, which would currently be worth about $327 million. If he cashed out his stock right now, and only lived until 75, he’ll ultimately collect $346,800,000 (though Tony says he’s giving up his stock option to rake in $12,394,400 under a long-term incentive plan.)
I know. You’re sitting there, wondering why I’m wasting precious bandwidth on trashing the dude from those commercials for free credit scores, which aren’t really free, and landed freescore.com in a heap of trouble when they were accused of misleading consumers.
Anywho. When he isn’t lending his mug for the purposes of misleading the public, Stein is an economist, atheist-basher, and had a semi-regular columnist gig at the godless New York Times.
A new report from RealtyTrac, Inc. predicts that lenders may foreclose on one million homes this year (via). In the spirit of accuracy, I should write “at least one million Americans,” since more than one person undoubtedly lives in a majority of those doomed residencies.
Nearly 528,000 homes were foreclosed in the first six months of 2010. As lenders work through a huge backlog of borrowers behind on their mortgages, even more home repossessions could occur before the end of the year.
According to RealtyTrac, Inc., a foreclosure listing service, the number of households facing foreclosure in the first half of the year climbed 8 percent when compared to the same time frame last year. In June, 1 in every 411 households received a foreclosure filing.
The fastest growing group of foreclosures involved homeowners with good credit who took out conventional fixed-rate loans. Many of these borrowers have fallen behind in their mortgages due to unemployment or reduced income.
It takes about 15 months for a home loan to go from being 30 days late to the property being seized and sold. Between January and June of this year, about 1.7 million homeowners received a foreclosure-related warning. At the time of this writing, more than 7.3 million home loans are in some stage of delinquency. The states experiencing the highest foreclosure rates are California, Florida, Michigan, Illinois, Arizona and Nevada.
As Susie Madrak and Atrios have been saying, HAMP was a total failure that actually ended up prolonging the agony of homeowners. Additionally, Congress has thus far failed to extend unemployment benefits, which will result in more waves of foreclosures.
It seems like we see this same study every month.
The gap between the wealthiest Americans and middle- and working-class Americans has more than tripled in the past three decades, according to a June 25 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Yeah, but we’ve known that forever, right? Wages are stagnate, the majority of people have very little wealth (it’s much worse for women of color) while a smaller and smaller minority hoard all the cash.
I posted a question on Twitter: “How many studies need to come out showing the huge wealth disparity before the government acts to fix it?” and got the usual snarky, flippant response I’ve grown to expect and love from readers. The standard response goes like this: the government knows it’s a problem, but the rich, connected people are the ones in power, they benefit from this feudal system, and so they vote to preserve it.
I completely agree with that assessment, but there comes a time every few generations where that system becomes utterly unsustainable, and even the well-healed oligarchy must make some concessions to the serfs. Seriously – who in their right mind thinks this economic model can go on forever? Eventually, the whole thing will collapse and the rich won’t have a government left to protect their sweet little ponzi scheme. At this point, it behooves not only the poor to rework the system, but also the rich.
Remember how those lazy black people suddenly — and collectively — decided to stop paying their mortgages (probably so they could stay home and hoard some sweetass welfare,) ruining the entire economy?
Well, it looks like we’re gonna have to start thinking creatively to nail this one on the poor, too.
Whether it is their residence, a second home or a house bought as an investment, the rich have stopped paying the mortgage at a rate that greatly exceeds the rest of the population. More than one in seven homeowners with loans in excess of a million dollars are seriously delinquent, according to data compiled for The New York Times by the real estate analytics firm CoreLogic.
By contrast, homeowners with less lavish housing are much more likely to keep writing checks to their lender.About one in 12 mortgages below the million-dollar mark is delinquent. Though it is hard to prove, the CoreLogic data suggest that many of the well-to-do are purposely dumping their financially draining properties, just as they would any sour investment.
So here we have poor people, who were taken for a ride in a financial system built on shady lenders and speculative investment, lost everything, but continue to pay their lenders because of a sense of duty and dignity. Then, we have the societal elite, many of who understood the magnitude of their pernicious trading, got rich off Wall Street’s giant ponzi scheme, and now show exactly the same level of responsibility and class by walking away from their delinquent loans.