I'm really glad I didn't vote for Obama. I'd be even more disappointed in him than I now am. He's done well with discussing the world's economic issues with the G20 elites (so far) and with those private investors whose "mistakes" converted the largest economy in the world into the world's largest welfare charity. But he's apparently forgotten those whose hopes and votes gave him that opportunity.
I have not been an advocate of the financial rescue of the automakers. The demise of the American auto industry, while a saddening thing, is only the result of the arrogance and hubris of the management. The fault for their bad decision-making cannot be laid at the feet of the workers themselves. But these bad decisions will still cost the workers almost everything while the execs will retain their future economic security, as GM's departed CEO's severance package attests.
I can still hear GM's former CEO Rick Wagoner bragging in 2004 that GM management had heard the clamor over increasing oil prices, but they would continue to build SUVs because that market was where they derived their profits. The CEOs of the other companies all made similar noises at that time. The problem was, each company was attempting to reduce their wage and benefit obligations at the same time, slicing the throat of the very market they pursued with their SUV and big pickup advertising. The infamous trickle-down effect so loudly proclaimed by the Republican Party since the days of the humorously-appropriate Laffer Curve only became evident when the loss of wages and benefits to auto workers spread out into their communities, affecting the employees of parts suppliers and the coffee shop across the street from the plant, and so on.
We have heard a lot of talk about how the nation has gotten into this mess, so I don't need to expound voluminously that. I'm looking at what is being done now, and how it isn't helping the very people who need it most. I shouldn't be too surprised by these events, as this has been the history of this nation since a bunch of wealthy smugglers and swindlers decided that they had enough of the King's long distance frontier justice interfering with their profits. Once they had attained the power to control their own economic destinies, they also had control of those who were not moneyed.
In theory, this wouldn't be so. As Shirley Smith of BuzzFlash quoted from Theodor Herzl's 1902 effort, Altneuland, in a recent post: "The wealth of a country is its working people." In the United States, this wealth has been seriously squandered.
Another 663,000 lost their working status in March out of more than two million jobs lost since the beginning of 2009, according to the Labor Department’s latest employment report. Age discrimination is raising its snotty punk head at a time when those who worked all their lives will have nothing to fall back on as their lives turn to dust and blow away in the bitter winds of the economy. Not even another job, dare they hope for. The Labor Department report shows that job losses are widespread across the economy and growing.
This latest can be seen in the newspaper business, where 700 unionized employees of The Boston Globe have to give back $20 million in wages and benefits and still risk losing their employment. This comes at a time when Globe owner New York Times Company is compensating ("paying" is SUCH an ugly word to the ruling elite!) CEO Janet L. Robinson $5,578,451 for 2008. Forbes' displays Robinson's entire remuneration package here if you care to peruse it.
One Globe union official noted that these cuts would be easier to sell to the rank and file if it were seen that Globe management were sharing the pain, but nonunion managers would receive an additional 10 vacation days this year to make up for the 5 percent pay cut they were getting. The workers get nothing in trade for their losses, not even a promise to try to save their jobs. Better to make no promise than one that would be broken, right?
The Globe employees' backs are to the wall with management's hands on their throats. The official unemployment rate is now 8.5% while the real rate of those working only part-time (if they are working at all) is closer to 17% as more companies announce pending layoffs due to reduced customer demand. Those who aren't furloughed completely suffer reduced employment, with the average number of hours worked down to 33.2 per week, the lowest since such record-keeping began in 1964.
Meanwhile, many an economic assault batters the walls of the American domestic castle. Uncollectable credit card debt is at a 20-year high according to Moody's Credit Card Index. The University of California estimates 3.7 million working-age adults nationwide have lost health coverage since Bush's recession began in 2007, and this number is only expected to grow. Paying credit debt and doctors has to be falling behind buying food, for as of last January 32.2 million people received an average $112.82 per person in food stamps. One in every 10 Americans is going hungry, and some dare to call the US a Christian nation! Who would Jesus let starve? Did He not feed the multitudes, according to the New Testament which most Christians don't read very often because there's little sex and violence in it?
Too often, the castle is lost in the assault. The loss of domiciles due to inability to pay continues unabated. The number of bankruptcies rose 9 percent from February as 130,793 people filed for bankruptcy in March, an increase of 38 percent over the previous year while Congress pretends to be the faithful steward of the public's retiring purse. But what can one expect from the government which, on Dubya's watch was also violating labor law and pulling a Wal-Mart on their own employees to reduce labor costs?
Trust in the government was weak to begin with, and is beginning to show signs of slipping more, despite the mandate for change. There is a growing body of discussion as to Obama's favoritism shown toward the banks. So far, no CEO of Goldman Sachs or AIG has been dismissed by the President as happened to GM's Rick Wagoner. The UAW would love to see Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis summarily dismissed, for example. There is even more reason to justify such terminations for cause, as the president and chief executive of BNY Mellon Asset Management notes in a recent New York Times op-ed. Ronald P. O’Hanley reminds us that we taxpayers own these banks through the TARP plan, but admits that We, the People are about to be fleeced again. How does he know?
Michael Hudson of Global Research says that the recent furor over AIG's opulent bonus scheme using TARP funds is a smokescreen covering up the real swindle, which is that Geithner's bank bailout plan is a giant Ponzi scheme similar to the one that put Bernie Madoff behind bars for the rest of his life — only much larger. Essentially, banks have been granted protection from loss by the taxpayers when they pick up some of those "toxic assets," but the rest of the plan is that the taxpayers will LOAN the money used to buy these assets in the first place. Where is that skin the banks have to have in the game, Barry???
Columnist E.J. Dionne claims that the Obama/Geithner plan to bail out the banks reveals a deference to the existing financial system and feels that this is why Obama will "challenge his natural allies". The administration is apparently working on ways to slip even more of the taxpayers funds to these banks — while Main Street is crumbling into ruin, I might add — without having to abide by any Congressionally-mandated regulation. Would that not piss off the residents of Pottersville if that news got out? Who would then have Barry's back when the Republican Long Knives come out?
As the declining Boston Globe notes in a recent editorial, "taxpayers are paying dearly for the mistakes of reckless plutocrats." Blogger Michael Collins adds, "There isn't a faction left, other than the principals, who have any sympathy for the Wall Street geniuses who were so totally incompetent that they've nearly ruined the nation's economy." Even corporate shill and shrill conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks advocates cutting the Gilded Goliaths down to size via government regulation.
It doesn't help build confidence in the public when the news emerges that TARP recipients like J.P. Morgan, Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and major hedge fund D.E. Shaw paid millions to hear Obama's chief economic adviser Larry Summers speak privately to them about economic issues prior to his government appointment overseeing and reworking their failed operations. (You can see an expanded list of those companies which paid Summers to speak at the linked site). Does this not implicate that a quid pro quo is in place? A "you owe us, Larry" situation, in reality? And where does Geithner get off pointing a finger at "failures of supervision" causing the crisis when he was the failure who supervised at the time? That failure continues despite the changed door plate.
The popular mood for pitchforks and torches is growing. Blogger Eric Harrington wants to see the Wall Street execs arrested and tried for criminal negligence, a position that isn't so extreme when the former Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention (which repaired the damage cause by Charles Keating's Lincoln Savings crisis) notes that the entire banking industry is riddled with fraud.
But the Wall Street issues are SO last week. New opportunities to shill for campaign contributions have arisen! This week, the Congressional Democrats have taken up the challenge defending against that "onerous" estate tax that 99.7 percent of Americans will never need to worry about. There is also a growing reaction to plans to force CEOs to be financially accountable for their performance. How much can be made seeing to it that the wealthy again resume immunity from consequence?
The need is great and the time is short, for New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof attempts to remind us that when "Wall Street plutocrats … demand billions for bailouts … the poor typically suffer invisibly and silently." He also suggests that Obama could learn something from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's approach to bank nationalization as a means of dealing with the crisis without bankrupting the taxpayers. We wouldn't want the public to awaken from the loss of Lost and insist on the government actually doing something to solve the crisis they allowed to occur in the Main Street Commissary, now would we?
But in America, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Domestic glass manufacturer PPG recently lost a large glass order for the New World Trade Center to a Chinese supplier. And the manufacturing sector continues to shrink, eliminating the jobs that made the American middle class possible. Fiddle on, Obama-Nero!
American workers can't resort to not paying their taxes as a protest against the economic laissez-faire policies of their government, as EU citizens are now doing. They don't have withholding over there to ensure that the government gets their piece of the action before it gets diverted into more practical uses – like surviving. We're just supposed to settle for believing that our fortunes are turning around now that five small banks have returned a total of $353 million they got from TARP and paid $5.4 million in dividends to the government for the privilege.
Some people are buying into that meme, as personal anecdotal evidence indicates. Restaurants in my little corner of Southern California are more busy than I've seen in a while. But it's really a stretch trying to get me to believe Geithner when he claims that there was no difference in the way the administration has handled the auto and finance industries.
You can't sell us that pig in a poke, Timmy. Nor can you sell us that Jimmy. Not even at the employee price. We're too broke to even pay attention to the ads, much less to a liar like you. Time to go meditate. Got to lower my pre-existing condition blood pressure before I need a physical bailout at the taxpayers' expense – assuming the local emergency room is still open for business.