Thursday, April 30, 2009

Our Pretty Corporatist State

Now with sweet and sour Add On. ... plus the Top Ten corporate Lucky Duckies!

Allow me to put on my union guy/class warrior head gear for a moment ...

This little screed by Matt Taibbi via Glenn Greenwald, hit me in the solar plexus:

... [W]hen the excesses of business interests and their political proteges in Washington leave the regular guy broke and screwed, the response is always for the lower and middle classes to split down the middle and find reasons to get pissed off not at their greedy bosses but at each other. That’s why even people like [Glenn] Beck’s audience, who I’d wager are mostly lower-income people, can’t imagine themselves protesting against the Wall Street barons who in actuality are the ones who fucked them over ...

Actual rich people can’t ever be the target. It’s a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master’s carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields. You know you’re a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit. Whatever the master does, you’re on board. When you get frisky, he sticks a big cross in the middle of your village, and you spend the rest of your life praying to it with big googly eyes. Or he puts out newspapers full of innuendo about this or that faraway group and you immediately salute and rush off to join the hate squad.

A good peasant is loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger. And that’s what we’ve got now, a lot of misdirected anger searching around for a non-target to mis-punish . . . can’t be mad at AIG, can’t be mad at Citi or Goldman Sachs. The real villains have to be the anti-AIG protesters! After all, those people earned those bonuses! If ever there was a textbook case of peasant thinking, it’s struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires. It’s really weird stuff ...

The banksters are reaming us, each and every one. What we have in this country is a dandy system where profits are privatized and losses are swallowed whole by the taxpayer.

Goldman Sachs -- of which I used to be a tiny little stockholder -- rules our world. And it makes no difference whether Republicans or Democrats are in power, for as Democratic Senate leader Dick Durbin says:

"... The banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place."

How else to explain how the banks can run us over the cliff, and then have Paulson, Bernanke and finally Geithner, pay them billions for the really bang-up job they have done on our behalf?

And of course these gents are amazed -- totally astounded -- that people who struggle to meet a mortgage and worry night and day about losing their jobs might get royally ticked off when these jokers still insist on getting paid millions in salary. Big money for our financial oligarchs is simply the natural order of things and we'd all better damn well get used to it.

The game is fixed, boys and girls, and it's been fixed for years. And don't whine to me about pathetic liberals conducting "class warfare." Warren Buffet weighed in on that subject years ago:

"Do we have class warfare in this country? You bet we do. And my side is winning ..."

Democrats -- political "liberals" -- are the operators of this charming carnival ride ... just as the Republicans are. They're just a little more opaque about it. And you and me, we're the toothless ride operators who stand around and yuck it up, smoking our cigarettes and snorting our crystal meth, waiting for an extra quarter or fifty cent piece from the oligarchs who ride in the hand-painted cars, waving to us as the Ferris wheel lifts them skyward.

Add On: One narrow ray of sunlight is that Bankster Kenny Lewis, until yesterday the Chairman of Bank of America, is Chairman no longer.

Bank of America Corp.'s (BAC) shareholders voted in historic fashion on Wednesday to strip chief executive Ken Lewis of his title as chairman, demonstrating just how precarious Lewis's hold on his other job - chief executive - has become.

It's useful to point out that this small rebellion was led by labor unions. Lewis is still the CEO, but you can't have everything.

Add On Too: And if you need to know the freaking grip in which the banksters hold the guvmint, you need only look here:

The Senate handed a victory to the banking industry on Thursday, defeating a Democratic proposal that would have given homeowners in financial trouble greater flexibility to renegotiate the terms of their mortgages.

The House of Representatives, meanwhile, overwhelmingly approved a bill backed by the Obama administration that would limit the ability of credit card companies to charge high fees and penalties. The bill, approved 357 to 70, still faces obstacles in the Senate, where — as the action on Thursday illustrated — the industry has more clout, particularly among Republicans and moderate Democrats.

I guess I should get over being amazed at how readily Senators will vote against their constituents. Because giving the banksters hundreds of billions just isn't enough ...

Add On the Third: This pretty much encapsulates the difference between Socialist Europe and "Free Enterprise" America:

Which region is the true Socialist state?

-- Europe has cradle to grave health care plans, generous unemployment benefits, and free or subsidized college costs.

-- The US gives away public assets (oil, gas, mineral rights) for pennies on the dollar, has huge subsidies and tax breaks, and bails out reckless speculators.

Pretty much says it all, especially since last Fall, when the Congress and President went balls out propping up banks, car companies and insurance conglomerates. It's ludicrous to call what we have a "Capitalist" system at the present time. But hey, maybe in the future!

Add On #4: And even as the economy craters and stock market sinks, a number of Lucky Duckies make out like reverse Robin Hoods:

The 10 highest-paid CEOs for 2008 at Standard & Poor's 500 companies based on calculations by The Associated Press.

1. Aubrey McClendon, Chesapeake Energy Corp., $112.5 million

2. Sanjay Jha, Motorola Inc., $104.4 million

3. Robert Iger, Walt Disney Co., $51.1 million

4. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., $42.9 million

5. Kenneth Chenault, American Express Co., $42.9 million

6. Vikram Pandit, Citigroup Inc., $38.2 million

7. Steven Farris, Apache Corp., $37.2 million

8. Louis Camilleri, Philip Morris International Inc., $36.9 million

9. Kevin Johnson, Juniper Networks Inc., $36.1 million

10. Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase & Co., $35.7 million

Remember, these fine folks earned the money. The companies they lead are all worth far less today than they were a year ago, and the Financial companies have taken billions in Federal money (that's taxes from you and me).

So why the hell wouldn't they be worth every penny? It's the way things are supposed to be. Just ask any of them.


Hurting said...

"’s struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires."

I agree wholeheartedly with the point of view of the posting. Let's not be guilty of crossing the line here just to make a point. Yes, the political stooges of corporatism and banking interests have maintained the status quo by deliberately confusing and equating unfettered greed with political freedom and democracy in the public mind, but nobody, NOBODY defended or expected those taxpayer funded bonuses, outside of the companies that issued them. Also, nobody was so blatant as to claim that the recipients "earned" the bonuses. They pleaded contractual obligations, which was bad enough.

Anonymous said...

A great post, but there is so more to be understood.

Yes, the disparity between rich and poor has been growing, a signpost to a much more dreadful path that we are currently hurdling down. But this is nothing new, and has been more than obvious for the last twenty-five years. The anger is finally here. It is late, but here. Yet to successfully use this anger to affect substantial change we first must completely understand the functions that created our collective paralysis. This is not just a rich/poor issue or a labor/management issue. It is a societal decay based on the flawed premise that our standard of living can continue to expand at the total expense of the worlds supply of resources.

High-technology-based advanced Western societies suck up such an enormous percentage of energy, especially oil, natural gas, and coal, that there is, as of today, no apparent means by which we can get off this train without a massive change in the way we live our lives. Our money, our wealth, our economy, our labor, our homes, our food - EVERYTHING - depends upon the rate at which we - collectively - consume energy. No one is exempt from this fact. Look at any compounding curve of economic growth, energy use, peak oil, and monetary inflation and they all show that historically, we are fast approaching the exponential downside of diminishing returns. Our debt, the government, the Federal Reserve, our producing ability - all of it is going off of a cliff because we need so much energy to sustain our 'standard of living.' When you talk about the economy you are really talking about energy. It is the only thing that has even allowed modern societies to flourish. And flourish they have, but ask any oil man and they will tell you the same thing - the rate at which the oil comes out of the ground equals the rate at which it begins to disappear - a perfect bell curve. Look at any macro economic indicator and it always says the same thing - we are on the downside of the energy curve.

Renewable energy is one solution, but the levels of energy that can be extracted from both is, as of today, microscopic compared to the amount that is extracted from fossil fuels.

Simply put, there is, as of this moment, nowhere near the technology available to sustain our current growth. So, collapse of growth equals removal of wealth and reduction of standard of living. Period. There is no solution. This is just a reality.

Don't forget - struggling 'middle-class' America is also struggling 'over consuming' America. Destruction of 'wealth' is basically removing anything that requires too much energy to sustain. It is a big evening out of anyone that is not wealthy. Of course the rich are immune. The water rises from the bottom up. It's no coincidence that American central banking and finance has flourished directly in line with the energy binge since the turn of the century. We have been living one big long artificial oil-based plastic ride. It is over.

Steve Hulett said...

A year ago, my wife and I installed solar panels on the roof of our house.

A small gesture, I know, but at the time we did it, we were one of twenty-six households in our town that had solar panels.

It's not cheap (there is a tax deduction) and we are far from rich, but we believed it was worth doing ...

Anonymous said...

The smallest gestures are often the most meaningful. Kudos!

It's awful waking up to this nightmare that our collective America is likely held together but for the good fortune of what is sucked out of the ground and shaved from the tops of mountains. We easily could and would dissipate into regional disarray with the collapse of the mass corporatism food, transportation, and industry. A scary thought, but very true unless we try the small things to connect the dots, rather than leaving it up to Mother Capital to wish it away for us.

Anonymous said...

"The explosive spread of the internet, finally, was also a product of the era of ultracheap energy. The hardware of the internet, with its worldwide connections, its vast server farms, and its billions of interlinked home and business computers, probably counts as the largest infrastructure project ever created and deployed in a two decade period in history. The sheer amount of energy that's been been invested to create and sustain the internet beggars the imagination."

So... I guess it's been nice talking to ya'll. So much for innovation saving the day.

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