Billionaires take lead in conservatives’ self-pity parade

From Al Jazeera:  http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/10/20121016134832922797.html

Paul Rosenberg
21 Oct 2012

America’s billionaires are up in arms! Sure, they’ve made out like bandits, while tens of millions of Americans are still suffering – out of work, in bankruptcy, or owing more on their mortgages than their houses are worth. Along with the rest of the 1 per cent, they’ve captured 93 per cent of income gains in the US in the first year of lopsided economic recovery. But that’s not the point! The point is: They’re the most oppressed people in the history of the world! What’s happening to them in America today is reminiscent of Nazi Germany under Hitler!

Believe it or not, that’s the message coming from a veritable parade of self-portrayed victims at the pinnacle of the 1 per cent of the 1 per cent, who are very angry at President Obama supposedly saying mean things about them. These men are so spectacularly wealthy that it’s literally impossible to understand them in the context of other people’s economic lives, to make sense of what they’re saying. They’re like elephants in the midst of a leper colony, complaining about a gnat bite in a dream they just remembered.

They’ve also been treated so well by Obama that it’s likewise impossible to grasp. He could have gone after them immediately after taking office, breaking up the big banks and pursuing criminal charges against those responsible for destroying the economy based on multiple interlocking forms of fraud. Obama did none of that. There’s simply no understanding their hatred of him in purely objective terms.

But their self-pitying portrayal as victims is another thing altogether. It’s not just commonplace, it’s virtually mandatory among the ranks of American conservatives today – particularly when there’s little or no basis in fact. Indeed, it’s sometimes even quantifiable, as I explained in a column occasioned by Herman Cain’s slow, self-pitying exit from the presidential race.

Increasing taxes slightly

For example, there’s a widespread belief in certain evangelical Christian circles that 146,000 Christians a year are martyred worldwide, when the real figure is almost certainly less than five a year (possibly even zero) – which would yield what I dubbed a “conservative victimology ratio” of 28,600 to one. Likewise, voter fraud cases are similarly scarce, but conservatives imagine they number into the millions – and voter suppression in various forms actually does keep millions from voting. Using a variety of different approaches and examples, I came up with victimology ratios ranging from 30.4 million to one down to 22,010 to one.

Continue reading at:  http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/10/20121016134832922797.html

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How Obama Can Smoke Out Mitt: Call for Breaking Up the Biggest Banks, and Resurrecting Glass-Steagall

From Robert Reich: http://robertreich.org/post/33847356202

By Robert Reich
Thursday, October 18, 2012

President Obama should propose that the nation’s biggest banks be broken up and their size capped, and that the Glass-Steagall Act be resurrected.

It’s good policy, and it would smoke out Mitt Romney as being of, by, and for Wall Street — and not on the side of average Americans.

It would also remind America that five years ago Wall Street’s excesses almost ruined the economy. Bankers, hedge-fund managers, and private-equity traders speculated on the upside, then shorted on the downside — in a vast zero-sum game that resulted in the largest transfer of wealth from average Americans to financial elites ever witnessed in this nation’s history.

Most of us lost big — including over $7 trillion of home values, a $700-billion-dollar bailout of Wall Street, and continuing high unemployment.

But the top 1 percent have done just fine. In the first year of the recovery they reaped 93 percent of the gains. The latest data show them back with 20 to 25 percent of the nation’s total income — just where they were in 2007.

The stock market has about caught up to where it was before the crash. The pay and bonuses on the Street are once again sky-high. So are the pay and perks of top corporate executives. The Forbes list of richest Americans contains more billionaires than ever.

And the tax rates of the top 1 percent are lower than ever — courtesy of their armies of lobbyists.

Continue reading at:  http://robertreich.org/post/33847356202

Posted in Class War, Economic Issues. Comments Off on How Obama Can Smoke Out Mitt: Call for Breaking Up the Biggest Banks, and Resurrecting Glass-Steagall

Making Labor Pay

From Dollars and Sense: http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2012/0912sciacchitano.html

Recent battles in Wisconsin and San Jose show why we need universal pensions.

By Katherine Sciacchitano

This article is from the September/October 2012 issue of Dollars & Sense magazine.

The political economy of the recovery is making the United States even more unequal than it was during the bubble years. Incomes fell across the board during the crisis: median family income is 6.3% below what it was in 2001. But the top 1% garnered 93% of income growth in the first year of recovery. Housing, still the main source of wealth for middle-income families, remains depressed while stocks are close to pre-crash highs. Moreover, the drive for more tax cuts for the wealthy continues. And policy initiatives to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid would weaken the safety net even as it is most needed.

A spate of attacks on state and local public-sector pensions now threatens to make inequality even more entrenched and painful, and to undermine both short- and long-term economic growth.

The power of labor is dead center in this agenda. Despite a long-term decline in workers covered by union contracts, unions have over 16 million members: they are still the social force most capable of combating the assault on workers’ incomes and militating for greater equality. Crippling their political power therefore remains both a tactical and a strategic objective on the right. With only 6.9% of workers in the private sector covered by union contracts, versus 37% in the public sector, public-sector unions are bearing the brunt of the attacks. And public pensions are the battering ram.

Attacking Unions, Eroding Pensions

The trip wire for the assault on pensions was the combined fall in state and local revenues from the bursting of the housing bubble, and the steep losses suffered by pension funds during the resulting stock market slide of 2007-2009: by 2010 there were widely acknowledged public pension funding shortfalls totaling nearly $800 billion

While pension funds are slowly making back market losses, conservative advocates like Andrew Biggs at the American Enterprise Institute are arguing for new measures of shortfalls that would bring them to over $4 trillion, and using this $4 trillion figure to call for a national movement to slash both public-sector pensions and union rights. The implicit threat is that taxpayers will have to pay these trillions now and into the future, even though they themselves may not have pensions. The stated policy objective is to convince taxpayers and politicians that defined benefit pensions are too expensive in the public sector and should be replaced with defined contribution plans.

Defined benefit pensions are a form of deferred compensation—pay for work performed; they provide guaranteed lifetime payments in retirement. Defined-contribution plans give workers tax breaks for individual savings; workers invest these savings and then pray they don’t run out. Over the past three decades, defined benefit pensions have been nearly eradicated in the private sector for non-union workers; their abandonment in the public sector would effectively end defined benefit pensions as a norm for retirement security and shift the burden of retirement savings almost entirely to individuals.

Continue reading at:  http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2012/0912sciacchitano.html

Posted in Class War, Corporate Abuse, Economic Issues, Employment, Hard Times, Human Rights. Comments Off on Making Labor Pay

Meet Romney’s Economic Hit Man

From Truth Dig:  http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/meet_romneys_economic_hit_man_20121018/

By Robert Scheer
on Oct 18, 2012

Mark the name of R. Glenn Hubbard, the man who will make your life miserable if Mitt Romney is elected president. Unless, that is, you happen to be one of the swindlers who has profited mightily from the nation’s economic pain.

Hubbard is the ideological hit man instrumental in justifying the mortgage derivatives bubble that caused the Great Recession during the George W. Bush years. He now serves as Romney’s key economic adviser and is the front-runner to be the next Treasury secretary should the Republican win.

“Romney’s Go-To Economist” read the headline on a New York Times profile of the dean of Columbia University’s Business School, which notes that “During a stint as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for President George W. Bush, from 2001 to 2003, Mr. Hubbard was known as the principal architect of the Bush tax cuts.” In that capacity, and after returning to Columbia, Hubbard was also the chief cheerleader for a runaway derivatives market that spiraled out of control and left the Great Recession in its wake.

While pocketing millions in fees from the financial industry that he was ostensibly studying as a neutral academic, Hubbard was an enthusiastic backer of the virtues of a burgeoning unregulated capital market that sold toxic derivatives to the world. In a landmark paper that he co-wrote in November 2004 with William C. Dudley, at the time the chief U.S. economist at Goldman Sachs, it was asserted, “The capital markets have helped facilitate a major transformation of the U.S. mortgage financing system over the past 25 years. … The result has been a dramatic decline in the cyclical volatility of housing activity.”

Their study was published by the Global Markets Institute of Goldman Sachs at the very time that Goldman, a leader in the capital market, was packaging and selling some of the toxic mortgage-based derivatives that would come close to destroying the world’s economy.

Continue reading at:  http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/meet_romneys_economic_hit_man_20121018/

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Ann Romney: Mormon missions and U.S. military are ‘different ways of serving’

Really ? You stupid overly privileged bitch…

Yeah Mitt’s cushy French Vacation and multiple deferments were just as much service as the kids of my class going to Vietnam and coming home in body bags or missing limbs.

It must have been horrible for Mitt to suffer the deprivation of Paris in the 1960s and those rude French people saying to him, “Mange d’la merde, Il n’y a pas de Dieu.”

Pretty much the same if you are a totally insensitive asshole who read too much fucking Ayn Rand.

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/10/18/ann-romney-mormon-missions-and-u-s-military-are-different-ways-of-serving/

By David Edwards
Thursday, October 18, 2012

The wife of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Thursday said that her husband and sons had not joined the U.S. military but had found “different ways of serving” by going on religious missions in France, England, Australia and Chile as part of their obligation to the Mormon church.

During an interview on ABC’s The View, co-host Whoopi Goldberg asked Ann Romney how she would explain to the families of fallen soldiers why her husband and sons had not served their country.

“When I read about your husband, what I had read — and maybe you can correct this — is that the reason he didn’t serve in Vietnam was because it was against the religion,” Goldberg said.

“That’s not correct,” Ann Romney insisted. “He was serving his mission, and my five sons have also served missions. None served in the military, but I do have one son that feels that he’s giving back to his country in a significant way where he is now a doctor and he is taking care of veterans.”

“So, you know, we find different ways of serving,” she added. “And my husband and my five boys did serve missions, did not serve in the military.”

The candidate’s wife explained that Mormon missions were like military service in that “you’re going outside of yourself, you’re working and you’re helping others. And it changes you. And are we so grateful in this country for those people — men and women — that are volunteering, they’re sacrificing their life for us, and we cannot forget that or we have to acknowledge that always.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/10/18/ann-romney-mormon-missions-and-u-s-military-are-different-ways-of-serving/

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Quebec’s ‘truncheon law’ rebounds as student strike spreads

From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/may/24/quebec-truncheon-law-rebounds-student-strike

A draconian law to quell demonstrations has only galvanised public support for young Quebecois protesting tuition fee hikes


guardian.co.uk, Thursday 24 May 2012

At a tiny church tucked away in a working-class neighbourhood in Montreal’s east end, Quebec’s new outlaws gathered on Sunday for a day of deliberations. Aged mostly between 18 and 22, their membership in a progressive student union has made them a target of government scorn and scrutiny. And they have been branded a menace to society because of their weapons: ideas of social justice and equal opportunity in education, alongside the ability to persuade hundreds of thousands to join them in the streets.

Under a draconian law passed by the Quebec government on Friday, their very meeting could be considered a criminal act. Law 78 – unprecedented in recent Canadian history – is the latest, most desperate manoeuvre of a provincial government that is afraid it has lost control over a conflict that began as a student strike against tuition hikes but has since spread into a protest movement with wide-ranging social and environmental demands.

Labelled a “truncheon law” by its critics, it imposes severe restrictions on the right to protest. Any group of 50 or more protesters must submit plans to police eight hours ahead of time; they can be denied the right to proceed. Picket lines at universities and colleges are forbidden, and illegal protests are punishable by fines from $5,000 to $125,000 for individuals and unions – as well as by the seizure of union dues and the dissolution of their associations.

In other words, the government has decided to smash the student movement by force.

The government quickly launched a public relations offensive to defend itself. Full-page ads in local newspapers ran with the headline: “For the sake of democracy and citizenship.” Quebec’s minister of public security, Robert Dutil, prattled about the many countries that have passed similar laws:

“Other societies with rights and freedoms to protect have found it reasonable to impose certain constraints – first of all to protect protesters, and also to protect the public.”

Such language is designed to make violence sound benevolent and infamy honourable. But it did nothing to mask reality for those who have flooded the streets since the weekend and encountered police emboldened by the new legislation. Riot squads beat and tear-gassed people indiscriminately, targeted journalists, pepper-sprayed bystanders in restaurants, and mass-arrested hundreds, including more than 500 Wednesday night – bringing the tally from the last three months of protest to a record Canadian high of more than 2,500. The endless night-time drone of helicopters has become the serenade song of a police state.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/may/24/quebec-truncheon-law-rebounds-student-strike

Posted in Activism, Anti-Globalization, Civil Rights, Class War, Education, Globalization, Police Abuse, Police State. Comments Off on Quebec’s ‘truncheon law’ rebounds as student strike spreads

This Is What Tyranny Looks Like

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/05/23-4

by Carl Gibson
Published on Wednesday, May 23, 2012 by Common Dreams

Remember when police beat Tea Party activists with batons, raided homes without warrants, unjustly arrested and strip-searched Tea Party protesters, or attacked and intimidated journalists covering Tea Party rallies?

Me neither. But then again, the Tea Party took to the streets in favor of higher profits and less regulations for the richest 1 percent, whose ranks they hope to but will never join. The media is more than happy to inflate their crowd estimates, and police are more than happy to let pro-status quo protests take to the streets undisturbed. The Tea Party has since phased out street protests to take over a major political party and make it bend to their every radical whim.

While it hasn’t yet taken over a major party, the Occupy movement has successfully exposed the oppressive fascist police state that has reared its ugly head in the past year. If you want to see what tyranny looks like, consider what happened to the estimated 75,000 protesters who took on the military-industrial complex at last weekend’s NATO summit in Chicago, after the mayor revoked protesters’ attempts to lawfully assemble.

-A night before protests even begun, the Chicago Police Department raided an activist’s home and arrested several on unproven allegations of terrorist activity, all without a valid warrant.

-At the front of a police line surrounding a NATO gathering, police suddenly start beating unarmed protesters with batons in an eerie video resembling police at Egypt’s Tahrir Square.

-While covering the protests, credentialed journalists are attacked by police who use bicycles as weapons.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/05/23-4

Posted in Civil Rights, Class War, Constitutional Rights, Fascism, Globalization, Hard Times, Police Abuse, Police State. Comments Off on This Is What Tyranny Looks Like