Posts Tagged Occupy wall street

Wage Increases Alone Are Not Enough

In a move that could alter the minimum wage debate and improve the image of the world’s largest retailer, Walmart announced it will raise the baseline wage of its current store employees to $10 per hour, bringing pay hikes to an estimated 500,000 workers.

The company said in an announcement on Thursday that it would raise its wage floor to $9 in April, followed by a second boost to $10 by next February.

Now I do not want to berate them for giving their employees a wage increase. That is a good thing and better than nothing, I guess.

But I do want to make a few observations:

1) A dollar or two more per hour spread out over two years is nothing but a drop in the bucket and is not likely going to change the situation of people in Wal-mart’s employ all that much, if at all.

2) Compared to the obscene wealth Walmart and the Walton family have (the six Waltons have a net worth of $144.7 billion. This fiscal year three Waltons—Rob, Jim, and Alice (and the various entities that they control)—will receive an estimated $3.1 billion in Walmart dividends from their majority stake in the company), giving their employees a mere dollar or two an hour more in wages is not only a drop in the bucket but, quite frankly, insulting. It reeks of the kind of greed communists have not only predicted but almost caricatured since the beginning of the industrial revolution and the emergence of capitalism. The greed here is unfathomable.

3) What Walmart is doing here is voluntary. They are not obliged, per federal minimum wage laws, to give their employees more than $7.25 an hour. People are all beside themselves over the “generosity” of Walmart  and celebrate this as some kind of a victory for workers.

There is a whole lot wrong with this, not the least of which is that 10 dollars an hour is not a livable wage. It amounts to not more than $18,720 a year before taxes. After the tax collector is done with you, that amount is most likely reduced by another 40%. No one can live on this.

But the bigger issue here is that  people waiting to be paid a livable wage for a days’ work shouldn’t be dependent on the largesse and generosity of their employers voluntarily giving them wage increases. In other words, it should not be up to an employer’s discretion to not only treat their employees well but to also give them wage increases. Because a lot of them will be waiting forever.

That is why we need regulation in the form of laws that guarantee a realistic livable wage, limiting executive income to a reasonable multiplier of that wage, so that if executives want to make more, they need to give their employees more, too.

4) All this brings me to my next point, which I cannot emphasize enough: $10 an hour is not a livable wage.

Heck not even $15 an hour is.

Making $28,880 per year (which is what someone getting paid $15 an hour would be making) is not a livable wage. After taxes, not much remains. People in such a situation, which is already considered the gold standard (the $15 an hour minimum wage)  won’t be given healthcare benefits or will not be able to afford quality health care with low deductibles and co-pays.

Many of them will not qualify for government subsidies as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as the poverty levels are set so low that most people do not qualify and  many of these people won’t earn enough money to feed themselves, much less a family, and many of them won’t be able to save as much as they’ll need for their retirement, if they can save anything at all.

People who honorably dedicate their time, energy, and talents to jobs that might not traditionally pay well because some capitalist pig decided it is worth less, are indeed entitled to something though. They are entitled to not work their whole lives only to find themselves poverty-stricken, or hungry, or homeless after one small (or not small) financial crisis. And if we’re not going to ensure that every job comes with a livable wage, access to affordable healthcare, and retirement benefits, then we’ve got to provide a robust and well-funded social safety net.

None of which we have these days. The money you get deducted each pay-check for social security may as well be torched and dumped into a landfill, because you most likely will not see much of it. It is just money the government collects from everyone each month that lands into a pool of money that Congress regularly steals from (i.e. borrows against) and then when it is time to pay-back, they talk about cutting social security altogether.

So we do not even have a social safety net.

Unemployment benefits run out after a year or two max and most people do not qualify for welfare and foodstamps because the bar for qualifying for such benefits has been set so low, that no one but people pushing shopping carts, qualify.

I know someone in their 60s making $800 dollars a month and they were denied food-stamp benefits because they allegedly make too much money. And that is in California. An ostensibly liberal state.

5) Finally, and most importantly: wage increases are meaningless if they are not accompanied by tax reform in the form of reducing the taxes on the poor and middle class while closing the loopholes and increasing the taxes on the wealthy.

Imagine if you could keep 85% of the money you make each month, instead of having relinquish nearly 40% of it to the Federal government. Imagine how much better off you would be. I know I would be able to pay off my student loan debt and increase my standard of living by manifold.

But the reality is that the majority of us do not get to keep that money. We have to give it to the government, while someone making 100 to 1000 or even 10,000 times or more than we do gets to keep all their money, accumulating wealth fast and easy while free-riding on the taxes we all pay for them. This is wealth redistribution bottom to top, make no mistake about it. The middle class has been and continues to underwrite the success of the wealthy.

That is why minimum wage increases alone are meaningless if they do not go hand in hand with tax reforms. Because even if we were to push for higher minimum wages, people end up just paying more of that in taxes, which then effectively nullifies the whole reason why wages needed to be increased in the first place. The only one benefiting from wage increases is the government.

Hard work and making more money won’t do you any good if you are crippled by high taxes. At least in Europe the higher taxes people pay go back to them in social programs and a robust social safety net. Here, the poor and middle class are taxed into oblivion and when push comes to shove, they don’t see any of it come back to them in form of healthy, meaningful and robust social programs.

Right now, thanks to our current tax system that has been designed to benefit the very wealthy, corporations and wealthy individuals have managed to exploit loopholes to such an extent that has allowed them to keep the trillions of tax dollars we ought to be collecting from them, as profit.  That is how they keep getting richer and why you and I, are not.  Trickle down my ass.

The idea behind trickle down was that by giving the wealthy and big earners and corporations tax breaks, thus lessening the burden on them,  you create the kind of environment that creates jobs and allows the wealth to trickle down to the lower ranks. The idea was that your employer will pass to tax savings it got on to you in the form of benefits and great wages.

That is one huge lie. And it never happened, given the decline of the middle class ever since trickle down was being sold to the American public.

In fact, trickle down is one of the biggest lies ever told and it does not work. It is a myth.

Corporations and the wealthy do not pass on the savings they get in taxes to their employees and workers. Instead they hide all those monies in off-shore accounts and pocket them. There is a reason Romney did not want to publish his tax returns and can afford gold plated car elevators in one of his mansions.

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Our Corrupt Congress

congress is corrupt

 

The American Dream hard at work

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JPMorgan’s $7 Billion In Penalty Payouts Pale In Comparison To Its Monstrous Profits

jp morgan graph 1

This is an example of how regulation has completely and utterly failed, despite it being there technically and looking like it has succeeded by mere virtue of existing. In other words, regulations have to be meaningful otherwise their mere existence is just lip service.

Case in point: JP Morgan Chase’s $410 million deal to settle charges it manipulated electricity markets in California and Michigan. This brings the amount the bank has paid in fines and settlements in the past couple of years to nearly $7 billion.

That may sound like a lot, until you consider the metric fuck tons of money the bank has made during that time.

The Daily Beast recently did the hard legwork of compiling all of these settlements into one helpful post, which are summarized in these charts.

JP Morgan chart 2

See, if you keep breaking the law and pay the fine while continuing to break the law because you recognize that paying the “fine” is still more profitable than obeying the law, then that fine is no longer a fine, but a tax or a fee. In other words, the fines imposed on these banks are not harsh enough so they are seen by the company just as a fee or tax they have to pay so they can continue violating the law. In essence, therefore, they are just basically paying a fee for a license to break the law. Thing is, if the “fine” does not hurt the company, it is not a punishment.  Seven billion may seem a lot to you and I, but for a company that makes above $50 billion, the fine they have to pay is a drop in the bucket.

And this is pretty much what it comes down to. We do have regulations which the GOP and its peons like to cite, but they are not really stringent enough. They are more like a slap on the wrist. Because that is the case, the thinking by such companies is “well, let’s just pay the fine and break the law.”

(I am using hypothetical figures to illustrate the point):

Option A: Don’t break the law = $40 billion profit

Option B: Break the law: $ 75 billion profit 

Option C: Pay a fine, break the law:  $75 billion minus $7 billion fine = $68 billion profit.

In conclusion: choose Option c: Break the law, pay the fee for the licence to break the law.

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Obama, Romney, the One Percent. What’s the Difference Anyway?

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Do you think if I sent Obama an invitation to come over to my house for dinner he would? Like he did with Sarah Jessica Parker, George Clooney, Steven Spielberg and the countless other 1%ers?

Amidst all the discussions about what a terrible person Mitt Romney is (which he is) who is out of touch with how most human beings on this planet live their lives and the challenges they face and amidst all the talks about how Obama is not such a person  – since he clearly is the “man of the people” – a self made man and community organizer who did not grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth – I noted that while that may have been true about Obama a long time ago, that person no longer is.

The tragedy is that Obama and co are claiming to fight the good fight: “For hard working Americans” while Mitt Romney is seen as that greedy asshole who could not care less about such hard working people. Yet, in essence, Obama is not all that different from Mitt Romney when it comes to the  privileges they enjoy.

Michelle Obama in Vogue trying to inspire Americans since clearly this is exactly how most Americans look like at home

Michelle Obama in Vogue trying to inspire Americans since clearly this is exactly how most Americans look like at home

Having a spread in Vogue magazine depicting a lavish 1% er setting and stating how the Obamas inspire America – shortly after the sequester, no less, where millions of people – most of whom are poor and vulnerable – have seen the kind of cuts that make the difference between employed or not/roof over your head or not/food on your table or not/able to afford medication or not etc – also doesn’t help and make you a man of the people.

When Clooney threw a fundraising soiree for Obama last year, it cost $40,000 a plate to attend. In other words, these Hollywood high rollers at Clooney’s house were paying more for two hours with the president than they pay their nannies, housekeepers and gardeners in a year.  Just like Romney. And they call themselves the good guys. The ones working for you and I instead of the lifestyle of the rich and famous.

Let us backtrack.

Scott Prouty, the man who shot the infamous 47% video of Mitt Romney where he is seen talking, in horrid yet very detached detail, about the slave labor conditions in Chinese factories and trashing everyone in this country who isn’t a member of the social register, sat down for an interview with MSNBC’s Ed Schultz a couple of weeks ago to not only reveal his identity but to mainly talk about the video and what inspired his decision to release the footage.

I highly recommend watching the video (a transcript to follow later) as it – more than anything else – is a shining example of how a man, a seemingly ordinary citizen who remained invisible to Romney even as he was serving him his $50,000 plate of food,  made the courageous decision to record and release a video of a candidate running on the platform of patriotism and love for all of America, when in reality the only people he was going to represent were the kind of people he was having that $50,000 a plate dinner with.

Prouty explained that one should not pay $50,000 to hear what a candidate has to say – as if that kind of fundraising was confined to Romney and his kind only. The evidence above with respect to Obama and his late night soirees with Hollywood -listers shows that paying tens of thousands of dollars to hear a candidate speak is not something solely confined to Romney.

Income Gain Disparity 1966 to 2011

Syracuse University professor and Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston analyzed the disparity between the gains in incomes of the average taxpayers and those in the top 10 percent and the results are shocking but not surprising.

Incomes for the bottom 90 percent of Americans only grew by $59 on average between 1966 and 2011 (adjusted for inflation), according to Johnston’s analysis. During the same period, the average income for the top 10 percent of Americans rose by $116,071, Johnston found.

Income Growth, 1966 to 2011

Income Growth, 1966 to 2011

To put that into perspective: if you say the $59 boost is equivalent to one inch, then the incomes of the top 10 percent of Americans rose by 168 feet, Johnston explained to Alternet last week.

Incomes for the bottom fifth of Americans, for instance, grew about 20 percent between 1979 and 2007, according to a 2011 study from the Congressional Budget Office. During the same period, members of the top 1 percent saw their incomes grow by 275 percent.

Another way to illustrate the huge disparity: the six heirs to the Walmart fortune had a net worth equivalent to the bottom 41.5 percent of Americans combined in 2010, according to an analysis from Josh Bivens at the Economic Policy Institute.

While income inequality may be great for those reaping the big bucks at the top, it’s likely hurting Americans overall. Greater income equality is correlated with stronger economic growth, according to a 2011 IMF report and in fact one of the hallmarks of poor, developing nations is the income gap: the poorer and more economically unstable a nation is, the bigger the income gap – with a lot of poor people (one of the hallmarks of poor nations) and a few very wealthy people and no one in between.

The American Dream hard at work

We, sadly, live in a culture of get-rich-or-die-trying. Where average, middle class (I am not even talking about the poor) is considered a one way ticket to loser-town; a failure of some sort. As John Steinbeck once said “socialism never took root in America, because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

romney-money-in-mouth

Everybody is being manipulated in one way or another to want be a millionaire. People watch the movies and TV shows, ads and magazine spreads depicting the high life and they want be part of it too. After all, why be a community organizer when you can take group pictures clenching money between your teeth.

Obama Just Another 1%er

Even our President is part of the one percent now. Make no mistake about it.

Hanging out at lavish dinner parties and soirees in the homes of celebs and fellow 1%ers, such as Sarah Jessica Parker, George Clooney and Will Smith.  Going to fundraisers at $40,000 a plate with other Hollywood hot shots.

In fact, last year Clooney himself held such a lavish soiree for Obama, inviting 150 of Hollywood’s richest for $40,000 a head to raise a meager $15 million dollars (compared to SuperPac monies, $15 million is drop in the bucket). This party was held in Los Angeles, a city plagued by chronic lack of funding where school libraries are being shut down, teachers laid off firehouses shut down. And VIPs were paying $40,000 for a Wolfgang Puck hors d’oeuvre and a silly photo with a president who only now has come to think it might be OK for gay people to have the same rights as straight people.

Democracy hard at work. As Steve Lopez wrote in the L.A. Times “Yeah, sure, Obama’s got to raise all he can to fend off Mitt Romney and hold on to his seat. But is that a race to the top or a race to the bottom? If money buys victory and access, what about the masses who can’t afford a $40 fundraiser, let alone a $40,000 party? When do they get the president’s ear?”

Do you think if I sent Obama an invitation to come over to my house for dinner he would? Like he did with SJP and George Clooney? The tragedy is that Obama and Co are claiming to fight the good fight: “For hard working Americans” while Mitt Romney is seen is that greedy asshole who could not care less about such hard working people. Yet these high rollers at Clooney’s house were paying more for two hours with the president than they pay their nannies, housekeepers and gardeners in a year. Just like Romney.

Scott Prouty. 47% videographer

Scott Prouty. 47% videographer

As Scott Prouty said in his interview with Ed Schulz about the Romney speech and fundraiser and thus his motive for taking the video “You shouldn’t have to be able to afford $50,000 to hear what the candidate actually thinks“, as if that was something solely confined to Mitt Romney and rich, greedy Republicans while Democrats and the wealthy liberals who support them would clearly not ever do such a thing.

The above evidence begs to differ.

$40,000 a Plate Fundraiser for Obama = $50,000 a Plate Fundraiser for Romney

I am sure people like Clooney and co are acting in good faith, hoping to do something so the worst man in the world in the form of Mitt Romney does not get to run this country.  But if they’re so desperate to celebrate their wonderful ways and important causes, why not a Hollywood fundraising party to save the libraries, schools, rec centers or parks? Why not start paying the people who clean your house and tend to the garden and take care of your privileged kids decent salary and health coverage?

I tell you why: because George Clooney, much like Obama, much like Steven Spielberg, much like Nancy Pelosi, much like Mitt Romney are part of the 1% and throwing soirees for the President is much more about the soirees and meeting the president than about giving a damn about the 99% and hard working Americans you claim to fight for.

Whether Obama earned it or not, he is up there now, living the good life. Sequester or not, he won’t have to worry about whether he can send his kids to college, if he will one day be without health care or lose his house and retirement and be destitute and all the other myriad of things 99% of the people in this country have to worry about. In fact, none of the policies coming from D.C. and our legislators will ever actually affect them personally. And that is a huge deal, namely that those making the laws are not affected by them. There is a reason half of Congress are millionaires.

And the thing with being part of the 1% ultimately is that more often than not it gives you amnesia. You forget. Obama had no problem letting the payroll tax-break expire, thus making almost everyone making $ 113,000 or less pay more each month, but he did increase the 3% tax increase income threshold from $250,000 to $400,000 because god knows people making 250k a year need consideration and a break. How so 99% of him.

No Soirees for the 99%

When was the last time any representative of the middle class had a candidate throw dinners and soirees for them? And not just a candidate but the President.

When was the last time the White House threw a dinner or a black and white ball for employees of NGOs, charities, volunteers and other public service jobs?

When was the last time the White House threw a dinner in honor of hard working folks, inviting them over for a night filled with Jimmy Kimmels and hanging out with the President and celebs? Sure, you can win a dinner with the President and first lady at Sarah Jessica Parker’s 10 million Borwnstone in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, if you donate money and are automatically entered into a pool, much like a lottery, with thousands of others. But when was the last time, or ever, anyone of these people have actually done something in that regard for us hard working middle or working class – heck even unemployed and poor – folks who aren’t members of the social register? Even the White House Correspondents’ Dinners that are supposed to be about journalists, have become just another 1%er event for celebrities transplanted from Hollywood to DC – but only A-listers mind you since most regular actors and SAG members are not part of the 1%  – which seems to be the only requirement to attend the Dinner.

So when I heard Prouty say that one should not have to be able to pay $50,000 a plate to hear what a candidate has to say it made me wonder if Obama is any better. Of course, Obama hanging out at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and mingling with other rich people is not the same thing as Romney’s 47% speech where he is exposed as an insincere hypocrite and the fact that he thought he could and should talk like this behind closed curtains.

But there is a broader canvas here to consider because Romney or Obama – the common theme here is that those with big bucks are being invited to the discussion table and getting parties thrown for them while most people – i.e. those who make up the majority of the voter base and also carry the economic burden of the nation – since rich people clearly aren’t – never see any of that.

The fact that those with money and the power that comes with it run the world is nothing new. However, if you are a country (or claim to be a country) that was founded on principles diametrically opposed to such a paradigm, then that is a problem. Yes, we could be just like any other third-country oppressive shithole with an income gap the size of Mount Everest, but this is not what this country is about or should be about. Back in the day, only landowners were allowed to vote and thus have their voice heard. How is that different from today where the wealthy asset holders get invited to the table and private meetings with the President and this are made part of the debate, while you and I are lucky if the White House ever returns any of our letters on a pre-written template designed for concerned citizens?

How Can You Inspire People, Barry

As to the Obamas: How can you inspire people? You inspire people by being one of them. Not by living the kind of lifestyle you just criticized your opponents for five minutes ago and which almost none of the people you are addressing can ever afford.

Yes they worked hard but what use is all that hard work and social upward mobility and thus power that comes with wealth if you are just going to behave like any other wealthy, 1%er? You have to be the change you want to see and when you say you stand for the causes of the 99% while living the life of a 1%er, that makes you not only a hypocrite but also a large part of the problem.

I understand that he is the POTUS ans as such he has a standard of living. But I am not talking about his salary. That isn’t, after all, the source of his wealth. It’s his privilege that detaches him and just makes him part of the problem.

The gross inequalities described above with respect to stagnant income growth for most Americans go far deeper than people like Boehner, Romney or the robber barons of Wall Street. Half of Congress, i.e. our lawmakers, are millionaires and in fact D.C. is the one city where one is more likely to run into a millionaire than anywhere else.

And these are law makers and legislators. The people that run this country but who are clearly beholden to the interests of the 1% – mainly because they themselves are one of them – while trying to appeal to the 99% on the surface to get their votes. And who knows, with all the voter suppression efforts by Republicans soon they may be able to even skip that and just directly work for the 1%.

The Futility of Politely Asking the 1% To Come to the Aide of the 99% 

It is quite ironic and futile that we are looking to them – the 1% – to please change things in favor of the 99%. What incentive do any of these people have to change the status quo in our favor? Congress just got a pay raise – signed by our man of the people, Obama. It was no coincident that there was no student loan bailouts. Students don’t have lobbyists stationed in DC 24/7 – unlike Wall Street and thus the members of the one percent.

Yes President Obama, I appreciate your tough upbringing and that you can somehow vaguely apparently remember what it is like to “have a rough time”  as you once told a crowd of supporters.  The only difference between you and everyone else, however, is that you are a millionaire who wines and dines with celebrities and goes to $40,000 a plate soirees – money than can be used right here and then to help out someone rather than falling into this bottomless pit of your campaign fund that just sucks up money and produces little results for the people you claim to stand for; your children don’t have to worry about racking up student loan debt at high interest rates to get an education, because you have the money to pay for it.

In fact, you are part of the 1% and as such you are not only part of the problem, you are just another out-of-touch wealthy rich puke condescending and making casual life and death decisions (and yes, these are life and death decisions you are making, believe it or not) because they won’t affect your family. Your multi million dollar retirement is secure, your pension is fat, much like you assets.

As far as I am concerned you, Mr. President, are about only “better” than Romney in so far as Romney is truly nothing but a wolf in sheep’s clothing with a horrifying track record and agenda for America. But don’t come here insulting mine and the intelligence of your supporters struggling every day at the hands of your bipartisan, failed policies  – not the least of which is the gamble you took with the Sequester, purposely making it draconian, hoping that it would deter Republicans even though your gazillion years of experience working with them and common sense, if nothing at all, should have told you that these are not the kind of people who mind draconian cuts – by claiming that you are on our side and are fighting on our behalf. if you actually do come to my house for dinner one day, maybe I believe you. Until then, you are just another rich asshole fighting to make sure you and your kind remain where you at: at the top of the food chain. 

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Review: Revenge

They say that revenge is a dish best served cold. It is, after all,  best to get back at those who wronged you when they least expect it and after the matter has settled – in their minds at least.

ABC’s primetime drama series Revenge toys with this basic premise and introduces us into the high society world that connects the wealth looted in Wallstreet to the kind of narcissistic lifestyles and decadence it creates in the outskirts of the city, in the idyllic and posh Hamptons. It tells the story of a young woman who does exactly that: take revenge on those who wronged her by making them do horrible things to each other.

Years after the injustice that landed her father in jail and then cost him his life, Amanda Clark (Emily Vankamp) moves back to the Hamptons and charms the pants off her “new” neighbors — while plotting their downfall for sins committed against her family.

This modern day drama is inspired by Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Count of Monte Cristo, in which the protagonist – after years of wrongful imprisonment  – finally returns to get revenge on those responsbile for his demise.

Revenge is an intriguing show if you can look past the gaping plot holes, if you can suspend disbelief to the 15th power and if you in general are the kind of person who enjoys watching stylized high society soap operas. Otherwise you will spend your time trying to make sense of how, for example, a little girl/woman can actually manage to take down an entire empire, why things just fall into place conveniently to achieve the desired plot outcome and why a thirty-something year old guy is a billionaire.

This is one of those shows that precipitated in light of the Occupy Wall-street movement but with the basic structure of shows like Dynasty and Dallas. It is primetime soap.

Emily Vankamp playingalm bad-ass

There is a lot of unconvincing stuff going on in this show – from not only the actions of the characters but also their feelings and emotions. People fall in and out of love with each other at a drop of a hat, true to soap opera form, someone believed to be dead ends up actually being alive and when they do come back everyone is as “shocked” about seeing this person again as they would be if that person had returned from a long vacation. Things also seem to be strangely falling into place when convenient and the plot “twists” are doctored and predictable.

They were trying to pull a Point of No Return here but it failed as this story is basically about a bunch of obscenely wealthy people who engage in the most heinous acts so they can continue living in the lap of wealth and luxury. Because of this, their “plight” and struggles do not evoke much sympathy. What do I care if the main lead brings down her scumbag husband? She is a scumbag herself. In fact, every character is a despicable human being you don’t care about.

To make matters worse, the miscasting of Emily Vankamp as the skilled, edgy and angry former delinquent with martial arts skills akin to The Bride in Kill Bill further leads to the unbelievability of the story. Emily Vankamp is just not very believable as the angry, former troublemaker from juvie out to avenge her dead father.  She seems too tame and proper. It’s like you took a girl from the OC and said “here, play the little assassin“. It just looked ridiculous and was very unconvincing

 That is because Vankamp is just not convincing as the real Amanda Clarke. She is supposed to be this complex character stuck between her conscience and her relentless desire for revenge, a woman who is deeply angry and manipulative becasue she needed to be that person in order to take down a mogul. But Emily Vankamp is just not that person. We do not see that complexity and the struggle. Her character portrayal is too calm and composed; too unconflicted. 

In fact, all the characters are mechanic and barely inhabit their roles.

Sporadically there is some excellent writing in there but that is rare becasue those excellent parts are interrupted by these annoying soap opera like plot twists and unbelievable character portrayals.

So if you don’t mind watching a bunch of poor rich people and their heart wrenching struggles to remain on top of the food chain, con each other out of millions they in turn conned out of some poor unknowing soul, then this is the show for you. If, on the other hand, soap operas with two dimensional characters and strange plot twists and unbelievable, implausible story lines aren’t your cup of tea, then I recommend not tuning in at all.

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Mitt Romney Solidifies His Candidacy for President of the United 1% of America by Picking Attila the Hun Paul Ryan as his VP Running Mate

The Destructive Duo

In a move reminiscent of a terrifying episode on the Twilight Zone, Mitt Romney  – the poster child for greed, dishonesty hypocrisy and the end of the American Dream – picked Paul Ryan, a callous cut throat politician with ethics a notch underneath that of a child molester, and whom Obama accused of favoring a “thinly veiled social Darwinism“, as his presidential running mate. And with that an unholy alliance; a match in political hell, is born.

Romney couldn’t have picked a better person for the job, as Ryan personifies every bit the things Romney stands for but is just too clumsy and inept to put in a coherent sentence.

So in a nutshell, here are some facts about Paul Ryan which, one can only hope, the American people will take into account when casting their vote this November.

  • Paul Ryan’s role model, philosophical inspiration and muse is psychopath Ayn Rand, a 20th-century libertarian novelist best known for her “philosophy” that centered on the idea that selfishness is “virtue.” Rand described altruism as “evil,” condemned Christianity for advocating compassion for the poor, viewed the feminist movement as “phony,” and called Arabs “almost totally primitive savages.” Though he publicly rejected “her philosophy” in 2012, Ryan had professed himself a strong devotee. “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” he said at a D.C. gathering honoring the author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. “I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it. Well… I try to make my interns read it.”
  • Paul Ryan favors tax increases for middle class wage earners to basically make up for trillions in tax cuts for the wealthy. His infamous budget — which Romney embraced — replaces the current tax structure with two brackets — 25 percent and 10 percent — and cut the top rate from 35 percent. Federal tax collections would fall by about $4.5 trillion over the next decade as a result and to avoid increasing the national debt, the budget proposes massive cuts in social programs and “special-interest loopholes and tax shelters that litter the code.” But 62 percent of the savings would come from programs that benefit the lower- and middle-classes, who would also experience a tax increase. That’s because while Ryan would extend the Bush tax cuts, which are due to expire at the end of this year, he would not extend President Obama’s tax cuts for those with the lowest incomes, which will expire at the same time. Households earning more than $1 million a year, meanwhile, could see a net tax cut of about $300,000 annually
  • Ryan’s budget would semi privatize Medicare and turn it into a voucher program, increasing seniors’ costs by up to $6,350 per year. In essence what the program does is give seniors a voucher worth around $6,000 a year with which they then go “shop around” for private plans or traditional fee-for-service Medicare, because we all know how much insurance companies are just dying to insure the elderly. In reality, no insurance company will insure a senior citizen with pre-exiting condition for $ 6,000 a year, which effectively would leave those elderly without health-care, unless they can come up with whatever the difference is between the $6,000 from medicare and what the insurance company demands as annual premium.   This program would effectively end medicare in the United States as we know it. Not to mention that for most people this equals a death sentence.
  • Paul Ryan wants to end social security, which he refers to as a “ponzi scheme”. In September of 2011, Ryan agreed with Rick Perry’s characterization of Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme” and since 2005 has advocated for privatizing the retirement benefit and investing it in stocks and bonds. Conservatives claim that this would “outperform the current formula based on wages earned and overall wage appreciation,” but the economic crisis of 2008 should serve as a wake-up call for policymakers who seek to hinge Americans’ retirement on the stock market. In fact, “a person with a private Social Security account similar to what President George W. Bush proposed in 2005″ would havelost much of their retirement savings.
  • Ryan’s budget would result in 4.1 million lost jobs in 2 years. Ryan’s budget calls for massive reductions in government spending. He has proposed cutting discretionary spending by about $120 billion over the next two years and mandatory programs by $284 billion, which, the Economic Policy Institute estimates, would suck demand out of the economy and reduce employment by 1.3 million jobs in fiscal 2013 and 2.8 million jobs in fiscal 2014, relative to current budget policies.
  • Paul Ryan wants to eliminate Pell Grants for more more than 1 million students. Pell Grants, which help cover tuition costs for low-income Americans, are on Ryan;’s list of cuts, which he wants to cut by $200 billion, which would ultimately knock more than one million students off the program over the next 10 years
  •  Paul Ryan supports $40 billion in subsides for big oil. In 2011, Ryan joined all House Republicans and 13 Democrats in his vote to keep Big Oil tax loopholes as part of the FY 2011 spending bill. His budget would retain a decade’s worth of oil tax breaks worth $40 billion, while cutting billions of dollars from investments to develop alternative fuels and clean energy technologies that would serve as substitutes for oil. For instance, it calls for a $3 billion cut in energy programs in FY 2013 alone and would spend only $150 million over five years — or 20 percent of what was invested in 2012 — on energy programs.  Ryan “and his wife, Janna, own stakes in four family companies that lease land in Texas and Oklahoma to the very energy companies that benefit from the tax subsidies in Ryan’s budget plan,” The Daily Beast reported in June of 2011. “Ryan’s father-in-law, Daniel Little, who runs the companies, told Newsweek and The Daily Beast that the family companies are currently leasing the land for mining and drilling to energy giants such as Chesapeake Energy, Devon, and XTO Energy, a recently acquired subsidiary of ExxonMobil.
  • Paul Ryan opposes a woman’s right to choose.
  • Paul Ryan supports an amendment to the Constitution that says life begins at fertilization. Ryan joined 62 other Republicans in co-sponsoring the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which declares that a fertilized egg “shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.” This would outlaw abortion, some forms of contraception and invitro fertilization
  • Paul Ryan supports making the coverage of birth control illegal based on religious views
  • Paul Ryan wants to end medicaid on a federal level and turn it into a state program, which would mean the end of medicaid for the poor  – the ones who need it the most.
  • Paul Ryan voted against legislation aimed at erasing pay discrimination against women. 
  • Ryan, like Romney, favors the flawed theory that new budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy, while placing greater burdens on the middle class and seniors, will somehow deliver a stronger economy.
  • Ryan rubber-stamped the reckless Bush economic policies that exploded our deficit and crashed our economy.
  • Paul Ryan voted for two wars that were unpaid for.
  • Paul Ryan voted for the Bush tax cuts that were unpaid for.
  • Paul Ryan voted for the prescription drug bill that wasn’t paid for.

So here is Paul Ryan for you. A contemptible jerk who loves to go after the poor and the unfortunate. A cowardly, callou fresh of the boat rodent ready to ruin the United States, one legislation at a time and a smirk on his face.

 What Romney and Ryan, the Dystopian Duo, want is really a return to the Robber Baron age of unregulated capitalism and social Darwinism where millions suffered in extreme poverty without access to food or medical care and where elders were forced to live with their children or in extreme poverty.

Moreover, the trickle down economics he so much favors used to maybe work at a time when people didn’t have to be billionaires. In today’s economy, however, nothing trickles down but more work with less pay.

The assumption, of course, is that the American people are wise enough to understand the truly disastrous and detrimental direction these two will take us and thus not vote for this ticket.  Given two terms of George W. Bush that ultimately ruined our economy and just the systematic way people in this country keep voting against their own self interest, that is an assumption I am not willing to make so easily.

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The Culture of Greed: Puff Daddy’s Son Accepts Scholarship Despite Father’s Half a Billion Wealth

That this is a world of the rich, by the rich and for the rich becomes evident to me everyday. The latest example to the point: Puff Daddy’s son who received a $ 54,000 scholarship to attend UCLA despite his father’s whopping half a billion dollar wealth.

Puff Daddy is considered the riches man in hip-hop and his wealth was estimated at nearly $550 million by Forbes magazine last year.

The rap mogul’s oldest boy will attend top athletic powerhouse UCLA on a full Division 1 scholarship to play football.  The scholarship is only available to the most elite high school athletes, aged 19 and under.

At the same time, UCLA is a school where tuition and fees have tripled in the past ten years, rendering the once affordable UC an expensive school resulting in open protests and general dissatisfaction on the side of students who find it increasingly more un-affordable to attend UCLA.

Naturally, some have questioned the rationale of the school to give this much money to the son of a multimillionaire, especially in light of the astronomic budget crisis in California in general and the UC system in particular.

UCLA’s athletic department needs to consider the fact that perhaps there is another athlete on the football team, who could perhaps really use this scholarship,” UCLA student Neshemah Keetin told CBS Los Angeles.

In its response to criticism over the award, UCLA stressed its “robust financial aid program,” 30 percent of which it said is funded by tuition and fee revenue:

“Unlike need-based scholarships, athletic scholarships are awarded to students strictly on the basis of their athletic and academic ability — not their financial need. Athletic scholarships, such as those awarded to football or basketball players, do not rely on state funds. Instead, these scholarships are entirely funded through UCLA Athletics ticket sales, corporate partnerships, media contracts and private donations from supporters,” the statement said.

Others have argued similarly, namely that his son earned the scholarship and has every right to it, regardless of his father’s wealth.

But it is really not as straightforward as the wanna-be millionaires who keep pandering to the cause of the wealthy in the hopes that one day they will be one of them, claim.  And while no one is debating the fact that Justin Combs is a good student and capable athlete who earned this scholarship, the uproar is not about his scholastic abilities or questioning them or even depriving him of what he  rightfully earned,  this is about a teenager receiving funds to attend college he does not need. Sean “Diddy” Combs is said to have given him a $ 360,000 Maybach for his 16th birthday.

The statement bu UCLA is misleading in its assertion that this is a non-issue since the funding for Justin Comb’s scholarship does not come from the state but through ticket sales,  corporate partnerships, media contracts and private donations from supporters.

While it is true that the money Combs receives does not come from tax payer dollars, that is beside the point because regardless of the source, the money has to come from somewhere no matter what you call it and every dollar that goes to some rich kid that really doesn’t  need it, is taking away money from someone who does.

The whole point of a scholarship is, or ought to be, to honor the work of excellent students and provide them with an opportunity to obtain higher education which they would not be able to do without the scholarship.  Giving people who are wealthy and can afford it money to go to school sort of defeats the whole purpose.

If Justin Combs was independent and could take care of himself without his father’s money, yes, he should be able to keep it. But he is not. His father has been and continues to support him financially, therefore there is no need for him to also keep the money.

Pimp Daddy’s son doesn’t need a scholarship when his dad is sitting on half a billion dollars, just like wealthy people and millionaires don’t need tax breaks.

Taking something you don’t need is not earning it, it is being greedy.

And that is what it ultimately comes down to once again. And that is also why so many people cheer for it and don’t think he should return the $ 54,000.

Greed and with it the love for money are the cultures that have been fostered deep into the American mind. Any unscrupulous act in this country is excused, condoned  and apologized for as long as it creates wealth.  Whether the means by which one arrives at that wealth is unethical or hurting others is irrelevant.  If it makes money, it goes and is erroneously called The American WayThe American Dream or “success”.

The sad reality is that UCLA is in a budgetary crisis. Tuition has gone up, the economy down and lots of students will have to either take out more student loans, thus remaining in debt for a long time after entering the workforce, to be able to attend college or they will not be able to attend at all. In fact, UCLA became a focal point in the Occupy Wall Street protests, with students rallying against a planned 16 percent tuition fee hike. In April, the school was forced to embarrassingly clawback $27 million in financial aid accidentally deposited into students’ accounts.

The Culture of Greed

Given the genuine crisis the UC system finds itself in, scraping for every dollar to be able to make education semi-affordable to people, is it unreasonable, jealousy or assholish even to ask that the son of a semi-billionaire not accept the $54,000 athletic scholarship? Don’t we have a responsibility toward one another as human beings to do the right? Is the “each person on his own” mentality the American Way? Are these the values we ought to instill upon future generations? The bottom line?

No wonder Mitt Romney thinks that being a business person is the one and only legitimate claim to the Presidency.  In fact, the entire platform he is running on is based on this ridiculous assumption. He actually believes that every American can and should want to be a millionaire.  As if jobs like teacher, firefighter, nurse, scientist or professor could ever produce millionaires.  Jobs that, nonetheless, are vital to the functioning of society.

We are a nation of wanna-bes chasing the money or die trying.  And of course we embrace and applaud anyone and anything that caters to that notion, thinking that maybe by supporting such notions we somehow “reserve” a place for ourselves in the millionaires hall of fame.

I think Bill Maher, as usual, summarized my sentiments quite brilliantly:

Mitt Romney has to start understanding why people don’t like him: it is not because he is rich, it is how he got richNow here are some other rich guys.  Here’s Henry Ford with his Model T.  Walt Disney with an early cartoon idea.  Jobs and Wozniak with their first desktop. 

You see what the first three have that Mitt doesn’t?  A product.  Something they made besides money.

You know, venture capitalists are not creators.  They’re businessmen who find weak companies, and prey on them.  And Mitt can’t understand why anyone would ever question capitalism no matter how feral it gets.  ‘What?  We found a wounded animal and we ate it!’

The quintessential America

The folks at Bain, including Romney. This picture summarizes the reality in America and everything that is wrong with it.

 At one of the debates, Mitt said, ‘I won’t try and define who’s rich and who’s not rich, I want everybody to be rich.’  Cue the morons in the audience clapping their hands like seals at a Sea World getting a bucket of chum.

Well, I can define who’s rich and who’s not.  Who’s rich is Mitt Romney. And who’s not is someone making $26,000 a year. And the success or failure of his campaign will depend on his ability to convince someone making $26,000 a year that he, Mitt, a rich guy, knows how to make them rich too.  And if you elect him, he’ll tell you the secret.

It’s not a political platform, so much as a wealth seminar.  This is the same thing that makes guyslike Tony Robbins rich.  They have a secret.  But the secret turns out to be that they’re rich because they’re robbing you! And somehow Americans are good with this.

Yes, that’s how Mitt Romney rolls, straight outta Salt Lake.  Get equity or die trying. Remember, Mitt knows the secret.  Obama doesn’t know the secret.  As Mitt always says, Obama never even ran a corner store.  He was a community organizer helping poor people!  Bleh!  What would you rather do, help poor people, or have money in your mouth?” 

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