I'll write soon on the Obama budget proposal, I promise. Right now I am trying to let my snarkiness fume off, as I wonder how anyone could think Obama is a liberal when he has so bought into the right wing's propaganda-heavy effort to use their (fake) concern about the deficit to justify the destruction of the progressive state established under FDR. What they are aiming for is the complete dismantlement of Social Security and Medicare, while they satisfy Big INsurance in the dismantling of the modest effort we've managed towards heatlh care reform. They want to freeze public worker pay for years and support efforts by states to renounce their obligations towards public employee pensions and health care/ They've already voted for increasing the tax burden on the working poor when they passed an extension of the absurd Bush tax cuts (primarily benefitting the wealthy and big corporations) while refusing to extend the Obama Making Work Pay program (primarily benefiting the working poor): that tax increase for the poor/tax cut for the rich bill passed in December meant a significant tax increase for 51 million Americans in the bottom of the income distribution was used to pay for more and more egregious handouts to the filthy rich (people and corporations) such as the extension of the 2003 dividend tax rate at 15% and the extension of the Bush tax cuts, and the ridiculous extension of the R&D credit, the section 179 expensing, and similar provisions.
Meanwhile of course, the House GOP is planning to cut funding for all those things it has hated through the years because it represents what the liberal half of America thinks is just ordinary American caring for one another. They plan to zero all funding for family planning--that isn't because those services aren't needed, it is because their aim is to target all the stuff they don't like. See House GOP Declares War on Planned Parenthood, Mother Jones, Feb. 9, 2011. They want to cut things they count as wasteful--let's see, that would be pollution control and environmental safety--probably including banning the EPA from regulating deadly carbon monoxide (that stuff that makes the air a killer for us, which of course must not be a pollutant since Big Business is the main producer of it, in the GOP unscientific model of the universe), food safety, law enforcement, education spending, high-speed rail (see Samuelson's ridiculous op-ed in the Washington Post today), nutrition support for poor pregnant women (can't have an abortion before birth on federal dollars, but you can't get food so your baby will be healthy either!). For more than you need on all this, see Challenging Obama, House GOP calls for deep cuts, Espo & Taylor, AP, Feb. 9, 2011. They want to force the entire country to abide by their moral set--a kind of establishment of fundamentalist religion via the House's funding provisions. And remember, this is the same group that passed a $1.3 to $1.6 trillion tax cut during Bush's first year that was entirely financed by borrowing, so that they could give a huge tax cuts to the wealthy. This ain't got nothing to do with the deficit. It has everything to do with seizing a moment of public ignorance to use to undo worthy programs and keep spending on the Reagan misguided bloated and continually over used military budget.
So folks, after my snarkiness recedes a little, I'll try to write about the budget, the House's idiocy, and the typical commentary on it. Right now, I can't bring myself to say a word about them.
In the meantime, here's something worth looking at. Before It's News, "9 Pictures of the Extreme Income/Wealth Gap", Feb. 14, 2011.
The writer claims that if people only understood the enormous concentration of wealth in this country and its deletrious impact on politics, democracy and people, they'd stand up and demand (a la Tunisia and Egypt?) that our politicians do something about it. I suspect that is true. That is the main reason that the mainstream media--especially the Fox News and Rupert Murdoch Wall Street Journal type right-wing propaganda centers make sure that they talk all about the 'entitlements" that (they claim) are breaking the fiscal back of the country as those socialistic things we do for public employees and poor people etc, and fail to mention the far greater number of "entitlements" for the wealthy that are what is really breaking all our backs (from the huge proportion of the benefit of the tax expenditures in the Code to the way we build roads, situate police, and service needs of propertied people).
Here's a noteworthy paragraph from the article.
How Much Is A Billion?
Some Wall Street types (and others) make over a billion dollars a year – each year. How much is a billion dollars? How can you visualize an amount of money so high? Here is one way to think about it: The median income in the US is around $50,000, meaning half of us make less and half of us make more. If you make $50,000 a year, and don’t spend a single penny of it, it will take you 20,000 years to save a billion dollars. . . . (Please come back and read the rest of this after you have recovered.)
What Do People Do With SO Much?
What do people do with all that money? Good question. After you own a stable of politicians who will cut your taxes, there are still a few more things you can buy.
Remember that we had some fund managers with multiple billions of profit in one year. And we have typical MNE corporate CEOs making 7 or 10 or 20 million annually. The CEO with a $20 million annual salary makes more in a day than his average workers will take home in an entire year. Does the CEO really add that much--is it true that the enterprise couldn't exist, couldn't function without that person in that office, that the productivity of the workers would stagnate? One has to doubt that, since what we hear is that CEOs are often the causes of huge losses, as they over-acquire and over-leverage their enterprises to up the ante on their own performance pay.
And of course we have had fund managers getting compensation (in their "2 and 20" or "5 and 50"--20% or 50% of the profits of the partnership they manage) with both deferral and capital gains preferences, in the case of private equity funds and real estate partnerships in particular but also in many cases with the hedge funds. My My, that's a nice perk for the very wealthy. But do they contribute so mightily to the US economy as to be worth this kind of excess? No way. Paulson--remember, the guy that garnered all the praise for having foreseen the mortgage loan crisis and shorted those CDOs that he talked a bank into filling with bad loans, making $20 billion for his fund in the year of the breakdown? That naked short is no service to the economy. The demand for bad loans drove the production of them, and the bad loans are at the heart of the mortgage loan meltdown that has millions of ordinary Americans out of their home looking around them wondering what happened to their own American dream. Naked short speculation was nothing but devastating and Paulson is no here. (See Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism, for more, among others.)
So what kind of things can these oligarchs who reward themselves at our expense afford, according to the website? A billion'll buy you, for example:
- a thousand expensive Maybachs, a car costing $1 million apiece
- 137 years of nights in the Burg Al Arab in Dubai at $20,000 to $30,000 a night
- ten $100 million yachts
- 25 Gulfstream G550 private jets, at about $40 million a pop
- 40 private islands, castles included (at about $24.5 million each)
- 125 estates at $8 million each
- 200 watches that cost $5 million each
The point of all this is that these prices themselves are ridiculous, fostered by the huge wealth now available to America's super-elite, the result of the "inequality bubble" that has put more and more of the product of millions' of people's hard labor in the hands of an oligarchic few. There are people at the top who "are amassing multiples of billions, paying very little in taxes and using it in ways that harm the rest of us." Resources are concentrating, heavily, at the top, in ways that are fostered by the tax policies and the spending policies supported by the GOP.
"Between 1979 and 2008, the top 5% of American families saw their real incomes increase 73%, according to Census data. Over the same period, the lowest-income fifth (20% of us) saw a decrease in real income of 4.1%. The rest were just stagnant or saw very little increase. This is why people are borrowing more and more, falling further and further behind. (From the Working Group on Extreme Inequality)."
[One of the bad results of such inequality is the psychological effect.] People need to feel they earned that they have earned what they have, and develop theories about why they have so much when others do not. Bizzare and cruel explanations like Ayn Rand's psychopathic theories about "producers" and "parasites" take hold. Regular people become little more than commodities, blamed for their misery ("personal responsibility") as they become ever poorer.