jeffc

Last active
2 months, 2 weeks ago
User Picture

Senator Elizabeth Warren: Asking Sensible Questions

By: jeffc Sunday April 14, 2013 7:08 pm

note: the video below is not the standard 5:08 video excerpt that’s been posted everywhere. It’s 3x longer.

While I’m still in shock that we have at least two senators that actually ‘get it,’ it’s still depressing that we have more than seventy (I’m simply being kind) who don’t. Throw in several generations of industry insiders taking over regulatory roles, embedded corporatists throughout our judicial system, news agencies and government, and it’s a wonder that government hearings on accountability even happen.

Help isn’t going to come from the Right, nor the center. It never has. You can go all of the way back to the Boston Tea Party; authoritarians, conservatives and fence-sitters didn’t participate. Sorry, modern day “tea party”-types. Regressives don’t assist progress.

And only when it’s obvious and opportune to do so will many in the center or the average John/Jane pile on. They don’t have the gumption to transcend, on their own, the thirty years of lies that have been hammered into their brains by entities like the Heritage Foundation, Chamber of Commerce, RW hate radio, etc since the Reagan years. Some simply like playing it safe and waiting to see who is going to be the eventual winner before declaring their support.

Others show more promise, however. Show them compelling evidence, and the hallucinatory fog of regressive talking points evaporates. Explain the convoluted mess in a way that makes sense to the average person and you can start to wake up the sleepwalkers of America.

And that’s what Elizabeth Warren has been doing for the last five years since arriving on the national scene: asking sensible questions, and unraveling the purposefully obscure financial and legal terminology that keeps Americans from finding out just what’s going on, and putting it into plain-speak for all of us to understand.

Here is the first part (14 minutes) of her recent appearance at the “Outsourcing Accountability” Banking Committee hearings dealing with the foreclosure mess, the regulators and consumer protection. Even on most progressive sites and all over YouTube, you’ll only find the standard 4-5:00 video excerpt. But you deserve more; how else are you going to wake up the sleepwalkers?

Cross-posted at: lifeismelody

 

The Billionaire’s Cap series, part 1: When Is Enough Enough?

By: jeffc Sunday November 4, 2012 1:22 pm
A Game Anyone Can Play

billionaire's capLess messy than guillotines and worldwide collapse, and more fun and participatory than actually letting things get that far out of hand, the Billionaire’s Cap is a game of strategy and skill for the whole family to enjoy. The objective is simple: work your way through life until you’ve earned $1 billion dollars, and bingo! You’re declared a winner and allowed to merrily spend that repatriated and federally taxed hard-earned cash however you see fit. But the perks of winning don’t just end there!

As a Billionaire’s Cap winner, your income will be dutifully capped until your net worth falls to $100 million (or some other agreed upon threshold). No more pesky earnings reports, inflated deductions, giant government welfare checks or needless disaster profiteering. No more rat race mentality debasing your beautiful mind by making it spend all of its waking hours hewing ruthlessly to the bottom line. Nosirree.

You’ll be free to do what people are supposed to do in a consumer economy; circulate those dollars by actually spending money on goods and services instead of siphoning them up, hoarding them and devising ever more outrageous ways for them to multiply in the financial sector’s fantastical gaming tables. (You know; the crapshoots where the general public and the planet itself cover your losses, but you get to pocket any record earnings made in between?) It’s not time to cash in, it’s time to spend out.

In an ironic nod to those good old days of the last thirty years and to your former obsession with the bottom line, all future profits generated by your amassed and capped fortune, whether through stock portfolio increases or interest payments or maturing bonds, will be automatically electronically wired to a special national account which will apply any earnings directly to your home country’s non-military debt.

And by whittling down your personal reserves to that of a small country’s through spending in the consumer economy, you’ll be reinvigorating the economic ecosystem, helping to correct systemic imbalances and getting ample free time to discern the deeper mysteries of life. Should you weary of a daily routine bereft of deal-making and generating millions of dollars while you sleep, no one is stopping you from either returning to the office to work for free or offloading all of your cash until your net worth falls to the threshold point at which you may resume making a profit.

But why bother? If we’re here to make a living, and you’ve made several lifetimes’ worth already, why stick around just to keep running up the score? Wouldn’t it be more judicious to move on to the next most important thing in life now that you’ve got the food, shelter, resources thing covered? You’re in a position that 99.99% of the human population will never be in; shouldn’t you be using this opportunity to explore and solve the next set of questions one reaches when freed from the lifelong struggle for basic necessities? By capping your income and net worth at an obscenely high level, the Billionaire’s Cap provides you with a chance to do just that. Enacted globally, the Billionaire’s Cap could be a real stepping stone to the next phase of human development.

 

When is Enough Enough?

There are estimates of $20, $30, perhaps upwards of $40 trillion dollars hidden in offshore accounts around the world. Given the nature of financial gamesmanship, I’m inclined to go along with the higher ballpark figures. Cumulative global debt stands at around $41 trillion dollars. The global economy in its entirety is approximately $70 trillion dollars. The world’s largest nine banks have over $225 trillion in derivatives exposure which is roughly three times the world’s economy. These mind-boggling sums are concentrated in the relatively few hands of around 2500 individuals (1150 recognized billionaires) and parent companies around the world. In terms of their ability to negatively affect the global populace at large, they are stronger than, have a greater impact upon, and exude a much wider reach over the planet than all of the great armies of the past combined.

To their way of thinking, money is not only considered free speech, it is an instrument of propaganda which shapes public opinion, distorts perceived reality and muddles the trail of accountability. In this skewed worldview, corporations aren’t just outrageously considered ‘persons’, they’re deferred to over living and breathing human beings. Vast sums of concentrated wealth are used in methodology as tools of terror. Wars, coups, bailouts, environmental catastrophes, the crushing of populist uprisings. Threatening sovereign nations with economic austerity blackmail unless they agree to open up any nationalized industries or banks to the vulture capitalists. Speculating on world food prices and energy costs, driving down national currencies and overloading them with debt, outsourcing entire industries to the places where they can pay and be overseen the least while polluting and profiting the most.

Destabilizing governments and endangering poorer communities unless their industry is allowed its way in those countries. Back room deals, bribery, dead end paper trails. Flooding the world with weapons shipments and arming both sides in a conflict should it suit their ends. Money laundering billions and trillions of dollars, manipulating market value and key exchange rates (as in LIBOR), insider trading. Bypassing and defanging regulatory agencies, demonizing and attacking watchdog organizations, partnering with military dictatorships, silencing witnesses and whistleblowers.

No compendium of laws or agreements will ever wipe out criminality and corruption. Individuals, groups and governments devoted to ‘the dark side’ of things will always exist. But by recognizing the disproportionate and detrimental effects that concentrated wealth accumulation can have, both in the hands of billionaires and in the service of limited liability corporate entities, we as a society can certainly begin to tame the undue influence that empirical individual fortunes and incorporated legal fictions have on our livelihoods, resources and societies. The Billionaire’s Cap is a step in that direction. It is not meant to be a standalone solution by any means.

There will never be an accord or policy directive that all of the citizens of the world will unanimously agree upon. But by beginning to discuss and put into place safeguards that preempt or prevent some of the more egregious outrages committed by the few upon the many, we can start to build a world where bottomless greed is not so duly rewarded (and thus encouraged). A world where we can start to responsibly take note of the various challenges and tipping points that our ecosystems, societies and financial systems face; and where a majority of us can finally stand up and say: “Enough is enough.”

 

*     *     *     *     *

The Billionaire’s Cap series is an ongoing set of articles, musings and policy suggestions which intermittently appears as if by magic on the internetz. The Billionaire’s Cap is published exclusively on LifeIsMelody.com and firedoglake.com. The series introduction can be found here and/or hereThe author is a 99%-er who is neither jealous of wealthy individuals nor interested in ‘punishing success’. He is interested in hearing your suggestions, critiques and proposals for reducing concentrated wealth accumulation and income disparity while also increasing the stability and integrity of both our ecosystems and our economic systems towards sustainable ends. Upcoming topics include “The Necessity of Building Pressure Valves Into a System” and “How to Make a Billion Dollars.”

Introducing the Billionaire’s Cap

By: jeffc Friday September 7, 2012 3:50 pm

ED NOTE: This diary was originally published September 5, 2012.

billionaire's cap

Get your Thurston Howell III on!

A Contest, A Hat and A Novel Approach to Disparate Economic Inequality

At some point in the very near future, we’re going to have to address the dangers that unfettered wealth accumulation and concentration pose to our world’s various economic systems, governments, people and yes, even to the planet itself. The Billionaire’s Cap is a novel approach to normalizing the grotesque economic inequality in our present day societies. It celebrates the success of the mega-earners and then frees them from the obligations of further compensation. This then allows others to take their own turn at the helm (or the trough, as it may be) and increases economic mobility for everyone else.

Unlike many revolutions and wars, the Billionaire’s Cap does not require bloodshed or the loss of life. Nor does it foist any new kings, military despots, systems of government or national religions upon people. Rather, it simply recognizes that the world’s largest fortune holders can pose as much of a threat to our democracies, economies and national sovereignties today as the mightiest conquering armies in history did in the past. The Billionaire’s Cap competition neutralizes the threat by keeping only the largest individual fortunes in check. That way, no one person can unduly influence, manipulate or jeopardize the entire system under which we’re all operating. Multi-billionaires simply become single billionaires. Flags and national borders are left undisturbed. Necks are left intact.

Change can be slow. It can take years for the effects of thoughtfully crafted new policies and economic reforms to wind their way through the economy and impact everyone. Conversely, when conditions are allowed to deteriorate in spectacular fashion, the resultant turmoil and violent revolutions can be swift. But a hastily set up solution can have built-in mistakes and long term consequences. The Billionaire’s Cap serves as an economic re-stabilizing device which any nation can implement quickly and safely, regardless of their economic or political system. It is a tool whose beneficial impact could be felt within months instead of years. It can function as an effective first step in any nation’s transition to a more stable domestic (and global) economy.

The Billionaire’s Cap: What Is It?

The premise is simple: amass a billion dollars, claim your prize (your Billionaire’s Cap hat-wear, custom embroidered with your initials) and remove yourself from the payroll. Your jersey is retired with much fanfare and raised to the rafters. You are now ineligible to collect any further income in the future until your net worth falls to a threshold amount TBD (at which point you can resume collecting earnings again until your net worth returns to $1 billion). And of course, you’ve got a billion dollars burning a hole in your pocket and just dying to be spent. Spent in the real economy, the consumer-driven economy.

There are of course several initial stages to complete before the competition is up and running. First on the list would be the process of getting the 99%-ers of the world to encourage their governments to adopt the idea. Once an alliance of nations has begun to form and implement the accord, it would only take the people of the U.S.A. to force their own government to adopt the measure for the program to be a smashing success.

Second, until a plurality of nations adopts the Billionaire’s Cap, some nations might want to pre-emptively discourage multi-billionaires from fleeing by imposing a prohibitive 50% penalty on emigrants whose net worth exceeds $2 billion and barring those individuals from engaging in any future trade, visitation or commercial activities with their former countries should they choose to ex-patriate. Thus, of the only 300 people on the entire planet worth over $2.1 billion for whom this might prove useful, those who would want to renounce their citizenship and make off with half their loot to some country that does not yet participate in the Billionaire’s Cap competition would be free to do so. But they could be barred from re-entering the country, would not have any say in how their penalty would be dispersed by their former country, and their companies would be either prohibited from doing business in that country or subject to tariffs.

The Unbearable Lightness of Billions

Once a country formally adopts the Billionaire’s Cap, its first order of business would be to get all of its billionaires’ net portfolios down to $1 billion. Winning contestants can offload their fortunes any way they choose to, as long as they have pared their net worth down to $1 billion dollars within twelve months of being declared a winner. In that respect, the earliest stage of the competition is going to be very different from the ensuing years because we would just be dealing with the less than twelve hundred individuals worldwide who already are billionaires and multi-billionaires. Whereas all future winners are still working their way towards their first $1 billion, those persons already worth $5, $10 or $40 billion would have an unprecedented opportunity to make many of their friends and family members instant winners as well when they begin doling out their excess billions. As the program expands, the threshold could eventually be adjusted to include those who have netted $1 billion, depending on the upper tier tax rate of that individual’s country over the course of their career.

There will of course also have to be securitization referees in place to monitor possible abuse by multi-national conglomerates, foundations and those individuals trying to hide their funds in offshore accounts and shell companies. And inevitably, there will be a handful of nations who will refuse to adopt the Billionaire’s Cap. We must do our best not to let the U.S be one of them. No, the Billionaire’s Cap should start in America: birthplace of “We the People”, home to a third of the world’s billionaires, and a nation three hundred million strong whose livelihoods, homes, economy, government and environment have been hollowed out by the .01% (one hundredth of one percent) and lawless corporate greed run amuck.

As time goes on, the number of nations not participating in the Billionaire’s Cap could conceivably drop to fifty, then down to one or two dozen. Those desperate countries, some of them small island nations perhaps, some of them strategic outliers, will just be harboring a hundred or so extremely rich ex-patriates who are barred from doing business in Billionaire’s Cap adoptee countries and unable to set foot in their native lands.

A dying breed of exiled tycoons proclaiming loudly to the people of the world, “$1 billion dollars is simply not enough money for any decent person of character to live on, let alone be happy with.” They will raise their indignant and persecuted fists to the sky and rail unceasingly at the heavens until they are hoarse, their bitter tears falling silently to the sparkling diamond-encrusted sands beneath their feet. Allowing us to note, from afar, that apparently $10 or $25 or even $50 billion dollars is not sufficient enough money to achieve one’s happiness either.

* * * * *

Postscript: Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be bringing you more Billionaire’s Cap accord columns addressing such issues as: wealth disparity and its effects; how the Billionaire’s Cap accord gets money circulating in the economy again; how to make a billion dollars (you don’t want to miss that one, kids!); how would countries implement the accord/competition; what effects the accord/competition would have on the global economy; how would the Billionaire’s Cap competition affect multi-nationals, foundations, offshore havens, tariffs, treaties, etc.; how to get the US on board; would the Billionaire’s Cap program be able to influence upper-tier tax rates and the creation of a living wage; plus stories, facts, figures, puns, charts, graphs and more! See you then.

cross-posted at lifeismelody.com

Happy Fourth! Celebrate your independence with the e-gadsen flag…

By: jeffc Tuesday July 3, 2012 8:59 pm

Hope everyone at the Lake has a good Fourth tomorrow. Here’s a little graphic I came up with, the e-gadsen flag, that you can blow up or scrawl on a sign or shirt if you wanna hang out with the tea-hadists in your neck of the woods during their ACA/Tax faux-Patriot outrages. Should let you blend in pretty well (as long as you bathe first and tie that friggin’ long hair into a topknot under your tri-corner hat or baseball cap, you DFH!) and maybe even inspire some literacy along the way! Be safe, have fun and scramble a brain or two.

dontreadtome

The Latest Wells-Fargo Scam (auto-enroll trickery)

By: jeffc Friday March 16, 2012 8:50 pm

WF to big things

The shenanigans and deceit just aren’t ever going to cease until every single corporate charter of every single predatory or TBTF corporation is shredded, burned and buried.

Just this evening, right after 6PM, I got a call from a rep at Wells Fargo; and boy did she have a deal for me! She said that since I’ve been such a loyal longterm customer would I like to receive a special offer on life insurance worth up to $1 million. She said with this special new program they could have it in the mail and get it to me within 7-10 days, and I could look it it over and see if it was something I’d be interested in. As a matter of fact I would have 60 whole days to review the materials and consider whether I’d like to enroll, and that all I had to do was make sure I replied by the 60th day to cancel and that-.. Uh, excuse me, miss, did you say “cancel”? “Yes sir, that’s correct”. Don’t you mean ‘enroll’? “Well sir, all you have to do is review the documents for this coverage and if you decide you don’t want to participate, just be sure to cancel and-..” Whoah, Nellie. Let’s try this again. Shouldn’t I be able to review the documents and if I decide to participate, then I need to enroll within the 60 day period to take advantage of this great offer, not cancel? Because if I have to cancel the policy that means I’m being automatically enrolled, doesn’t it? “Well sir, the-”.