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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Oligarchy

8:00 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go;
Take a look in Tiffany’s store, glistening once again
With Wall Street bonus trinkets all aglow.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Art flies from Christie’s.
But the amazing sight to see is the tax cut guarantee
For the most wealthy.

Hedge funders content, still paying 15 percent
Is the wish of Boehner and Mitch.
Help these hurt least by financial crises
Is the Chamber of Commerce pitch.
And the GOP and Tea Party can’t wait for Congress’ new session.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go.
There’s treats in the tax break deal for all the very well-heeled:
Estate tax gifts for billionaires, you know?
It’s beginning to look like oligarchy
Secret campaign gifts
Give scions power in Congress halls to force jumps to all their calls,
Always good and swift.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
If you’re doing drugs.
Look at unemployed stats; foreclosures still roaring fast,
‘merican dreams and life savings both mugged.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas:
Food bank grocery lists.
The only break the unemployed see is 13-month’s reprieve
jobless benefits.

Aid and career counselors for jobless 99ers
Was the wish of Bernie and friends;
Help through COLAs for veterans and grandmas;
Was the hope of liberal House Dems;
Both crushed, progressives now all dread Congress’ new session.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go.
There is a poisonous pill slipped into the tax cut deal:
Robbing Social Security, oh no!
It’s beginning to look like oligarchy.
Soon budget cuts will start
And the thing that will make them sting is the knowledge that you bring
Of the pain they’ll impart.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Everywhere you go.
Take a look in Congress Hall, middle class badly mauled,
By demands from Republicans, you know?
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas;
Debts are racking up;
To help jobless 15 million, the bill’s $900 billion
— With the wealthy’s cut.

A steady job with good pay, health benefits to stay
Is the wish of the middle class.
A good economy; hope, security
Are the goals of the working class.
But they know Congress handles their concerns very last.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go;
No money for construction or local government bond funds.
The stimulus will be much too low, so
It’s beginning to look like oligarchy;
Shake hard workers down
And give to the wealthy few, untrue to the red, white and blue,
Their greed has no bounds.

***

It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas

1951 — Meredith Wilson

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go
Take a look in the five-and-ten, glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Toys in ev’ry store
But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be
On your own front door.

A pair of hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots
Is the wish of Barney and Ben
Dolls that will talk and will go for a walk
Is the hope of Janice and Jen
And mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again</em

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go
There’s a tree in the Grand Hotel, one in the park as well
The sturdy kind that doesn’t mind the snow.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Soon the bells will start
And the thing that will make them ring is the carol that you sing
Right within your heart.

Republicans Kiss the Rich; Diss the Jobless

8:58 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

A brutal competition pits worker against worker continually now in this country. Five unemployed people vie with each other for each available job. It’s like a cruel game of musical chairs, with five desperate competitors for one seat.

Workers who’ve lost cars to repossession and homes to foreclosure run around frantically trying to get that one job. When the music stops, four disheartened, still-unemployed people move to other viscous cycles of five struggling to win one available job.

Republicans watching this blame the 14.6 million unemployed Americans for the inadequate number of chairs. They’ve called the unemployed lazy and refused to extend unemployment compensation. Meanwhile, the GOP is demanding an extension of Bush’s tax cuts for the rich.

To the GOP, the rich are deserving. Republicans see the unemployed as leeches — not as victims of filthy-rich, banksters who destroyed the economy, not as the stalwart citizens whose tax money Bush used to bail out Wall Street. To Republicans, the unemployed – along with the un-rich – deserve only disrespect.

And they’ve been heaping it on.

Republican Sen. John Kyl of Arizona said during a debate on the Senate floor, for example. “In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.”

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah demanded drug tests for those receiving unemployment benefits, "We should not be giving cash to people who basically are just going to blow it on drugs."

Republican Senatorial candidate Sharron Angle of Nevada said extending benefits to the unemployed, who she characterized as “spoiled,” would be “terrible.” She told a radio station: “You can make more money on unemployment than you can going down and getting one of those jobs that is an honest job, but it doesn’t pay as much. And so that’s what’s happened to us is that we have put in so much entitlement into our government that we really have spoiled our citizenry and said you don’t want the jobs that are available.”

Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer of South Carolina said the unemployed, like stupid stray animals, should not be fed: “My grandmother was not a highly educated woman but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania denied U.S. Labor Department statistics, insisting there are plenty of jobs, but the unemployed are shiftless and prefer their paltry government benefits over jobs: "The jobs are there. But if we keep extending unemployment, people are just going to sit there.”

By contrast, Democrats, who view the highest unemployment rates in 28 years as an emergency, have repeatedly tried to get a compensation extension passed and will mount another attempt Tuesday.

Disdainful of the unemployed, Republicans have refused to vote to extend the lifeline unless Congress ends its historical practice of classifying unemployment compensation as emergency funding, which is added to the deficit. The GOP is demanding that the $35 billion cost of extending compensation be offset by cutting federal programs or by reducing the stimulus – the very program designed to create jobs for the unemployed. In the six weeks since extended unemployment compensation expired and Republicans have blocked renewal, weekly checks averaging $300 ended for 2 million Americans.

Republicans try to sound fiscally responsible as they explain their votes disregarding the plight of the unemployed. But Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl’s words wreck the GOP’s deliberate disinformation campaign. While insisting that unemployment compensation extension be offset, Kyl says that’s entirely unnecessary for extension of Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy. When Republicans give rich people tax breaks, the GOP thinks it’s fine for the $678 billion cost to be added to the deficit.

Minority whip Kyl’s stance is held by the majority in his party. Most Republicans agree Congress need not pay for tax cuts benefitting the wealthy. “That’s been the majority Republican view for some time,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “So I think whatSenator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject.”

Today, American workers face the worst job market since the Great Depression, with unemployment stuck at 9.5 percent and the average spell of joblessness lasting 35 weeks.In May, there were 11.8 million more unemployed workers than there were job openings.

Democrats see the pain of losing a job, financial security and hope for the future. Republicans see something entirely different – lazy, drug-addicted moochers living off the rich who the GOP believes should continue to be taxed at rates lower than those paid by their secretaries.

GOP Wants a Country by Corporations for Corporations

10:54 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Tea Party darling and Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul spoke last week like the political novice he is – revealing unfiltered GOP “truths.”

First he informed MSNBC talk show host Rachel Maddow that government should not be able to force businesses to serve black people. Corporate desire to discriminate should trump the civil rights of black people, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, and pants-wearing women, according to this Republican candidate, who has since rushed to assure everyone that he personally is not a bigot.

Rand Paul followed up the assertion of corporate-privilege-over-human-rights with two more Republican tenet revelations. First he called the Obama administration “un-American” for holding the corporation BP accountable for the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that killed 11 workers and devastated the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico. Then Rand Paul added that society should refrain from the “blame game” in the case of another corporation, Massey Energy, the owner of the West Virginia mine that blew up killing 29 workers. “We had a mining accident that was very tragic,” he said, “Then we come in, and it’s always someone’s fault. Maybe sometimes accidents happen.”

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No More Deceit — Strictly Regulate Wall Street

8:38 am in Business, Financial Crisis, Legislature by Leo W. Gerard

Recent stories about Wall Street contain a recurring theme: deceit.

For example, this week the CEO of the late Lehman Brothers, Richard S. Fuld Jr., with a completely straight face swore to Congress that he’d been utterly out to lunch on the issue of “Repo 105,” a sleight-of-hand accounting procedure auditors found Lehman used to conceal its debts.

Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil lawsuit charging Goldman Sachs with securities fraud and describing a scheme in which Goldman defrauded clients by selling them a mortgage investment to bet on after secretly permitting selection of its component securities by a hedge fund manager who Goldman knew planned to bet against it.

Also last week, the Senate conducted hearings on failed Washington Mutual following a report by a Senate subcommittee that found the bank’s lending operations rife with fraud, including fabricated loan documents.

This deceit illustrates that America’s largest financial institutions can’t be trusted to refrain from crashing the world economy again. In fact, when the big banks announced their first quarter earnings recently — Citigroup $4.4 billion; Bank of America, $4.2 billion; Goldman Sachs $3.46 billion, and JPMorgan $3.3 billion; Morgan Stanley $1.8 billion – it turned out that much of that money was made by their trading divisions – the very ones that dragged them – and the U.S. economy – down during the crisis in 2008. These are the same risky trading practices that cost taxpayers a $700 billion bank bailout, their savings, their jobs, their businesses.

Clearly, these bankers can’t control themselves. And the “free market” has failed to moderate their behavior. Strict regulation is essential, including re-instituting the Glass-Steagall Act and other rules that will prevent financial firms from growing too big to fail; forcing the banks themselves to pay for liquidation of big financial institutions; placing on open markets trades of those secretive derivatives that brought down AIG and that the SEC says Goldman used fraudulently; and creating an independent consumer financial protection agency to stop practices like predatory lending, usurious interest rates and hidden fees.

Congress lifted bank regulations over the past three decades, including the Glass-Steagall Act passed after the 1929 stock market crash to reduce speculation and conflicts of interest and to prevent “too-big-to-fail” financial institutions by forbidding the combination of investment and commercial banks. Like gullible investors in subprime mortgage bonds, the politicians who reversed those rules bought the argument that the free market would regulate itself. This is the same argument 1,500 Wall Street lobbyists are using, along with millions of dollars, right now in attempts to persuade lawmakers to stop worrying their little heads about seriously regulating Wall Street.

Main Street, where foreclosures continue at a record pace and unemployment remains painfully near 10 percent, desperately needs its own 1,500 lobbyists and millions in influence dollars. It will have the power of thousands of voices at a “Make Wall Street Pay” rally April 29 in the heart of New York City’s financial district, one of several protests across the country organized by the AFL-CIO.

On Main Street the need to forcefully re-regulate to prevent another Great Recession is clear; it’s not in Washington, D.C. In fact, weakening the already-too-soft financial regulation bill proposed by Sen. Chris Dodd is a crusade for Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, whose campaign coffers have received more money from security and investment firms than from any other category — $1.3 million. Like a Wall Street banker, McConnell is using deception. For example, he harped all last week that an “orderly liquidation fund” in the Dodd bill was a “bailout fund.”

It’s not. It would be created with fees on banks – not taxpayers. And it’s not for bailouts that preserve banks. It is for bank liquidation. It would pay for the orderly closing of too-big-to-fail banks. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post ridiculed McConnell’s claims, and Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of the Nation, described McConnell’s attacks on the bill as fraudulent.

All of the sudden on Monday, McConnell changed his mind about Dodd’s bill. Coincidentally, that was three days after the SEC filed the fraud suit against Goldman Sachs, making railing against financial reform appear not quite so politically wise to Republicans anymore. It’s all about the politics in Washington, D.C.

McConnell said he had new optimism that Wall Street reform would pass because Democrats had resumed bipartisan talks and, he said:

“I’m convinced now there is a new element of seriousness attached to this, rather than just trying to score political points.”

Listening to McConnell is like hearing Lehman’s Fuld, who got a $22 million bonus six months before his financial firm filed for bankruptcy, swear to Congress he knew nothing about the “Repo” accounting procedure Lehman used to conceal $50 billion in debts. Following his testimony, Anton R. Valukas, the examiner in the Lehman bankruptcy, told Congress that his investigators found a person who had discussed Repo with then-CEO Fuld and e-mails to Fuld describing it.

The problem with McConnell and his new-found eagerness to pass “bipartisan” legislation is that the Dodd bill needs to be strengthened, not weakened with compromises thrown to Senate Republicans, all 41 of whom signed a letter last week saying they’d vote against it.

Before compromises remove from this bill the power to effectively regulate, Congress needs to review what Goldman is accused of doing. Ezra Klein of the Post described it best:

“Goldman Sachs let hedge-fund manager John Paulson select the subprime-mortgage bonds that he thought likeliest to explode and put them into a package called Abacus 2007-AC1. Paulson, who guessed early that the market was heading for a crash, wanted to bet against these bonds. But he needed someone on the other side of the bet. So Goldman went out and found him some suckers, or, as Goldman called them, “counterparties.” . . .But here’s the rub: Goldman didn’t tell the counterparties that Paulson had picked the bonds. ‘Goldman wrongly permitted a client that was betting against the mortgage market to heavily influence which mortgage securities to include in an investment portfolio, while telling other investors that the securities were selected by an independent, objective third party,’ said Robert Khuzami, the director of the SEC’s division of enforcement.”

Khuzami’s description makes Goldman’s behavior sound a lot like lying.

The real economy in this country – the one that manufactures, builds and produces tangible products – can’t afford a Wild West financial economy. The real economy depends on banks to finance business expansion and everyday transactions. All of that froze in the Fall of 2008 because of Wall Street’s reckless, inadequately-regulated gambling.

In a speech in New York City on Thursday, President Obama reinforced that some bankers "forgot that behind every dollar traded or leveraged, there is family looking to buy a house, and pay for an education, open a business, save for retirement."

Obama also referenced the issue of dishonesty when he said this in New York:

"A free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it."

If McConnell-style deceit about the financial reform bill continues in the Senate, serious regulatory reform won’t happen. Half measures won’t work. Only robust financial reform will end Wall Street’s freedom to deceive.