Perhaps even more odious than the wealth dynasties accounting for much of the record income inequality is the rise of the hyper-rich hedge fund manager. Paul Krugman takes on this new breed of predatory billionaire in his latest column, pre-empting the standard jaded response of "So, what else is new?" and refuting the standard right-wing apologia that the speculating rich deserve every penny they're able to extract:
The goal of this misdirection is to soften the picture, to make it seem as if we’re talking about ordinary white-collar professionals who get ahead through education and hard work.
Being nothing more than glorified gamblers playing with other people's money, writes Krugman, the hedge fund operators are actually causing dangerous economic instability:But many Americans are well-educated and work hard. For example, schoolteachers. Yet they don’t get the big bucks. Last year, those 25 hedge fund managers made more than twice as much as all the kindergarten teachers in America combined. And, no, it wasn’t always thus: The vast gulf that now exists between the upper-middle-class and the truly rich didn’t emerge until the Reagan years.
More broadly, we’re still living in the shadow of a crisis brought on by a runaway financial industry. Total catastrophe was avoided by bailing out banks at taxpayer expense, but we’re still nowhere close to making up for job losses in the millions and economic losses in the trillions. Given that history, do you really want to claim that America’s top earners — who are mainly either financial managers or executives at big corporations — are economic heroes?Not really. And as a wise man observed way back when, "I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all."
And what Krugman calls "the avoidance of total catastrophe" really is in the eye of the beholder -- and the myriad victims of the wealth mafia. Living in the shadow of a crisis? It's more like holding on for dear life within a raging tornado if you're still out of a job, lost your home, got your food stamp benefits cut by a cadre of bipartisan congressional millionaires, owe more in student loans than you could ever hope to repay in one low-wage lifetime.
My response to Krugman:
It's a runaway financial industry, all right, and it's still running wild, running roughshod over everything in its path. (That would be us.)
As former bank regulator and white collar crime expert Bill Black points out time and time again, not one Gordon Gekko clone on steroids has gone to jail since the crisis erupted.
At best, the regulatory and law enforcement race course stewards (Mary Jo White of the SEC, Eric Holder of the DOJ) are cowed and inept. At worst, they're complicit enablers, champing at the bit themselves to remount the funhouse carousel for the ride back to Wall Street.
Look at Timothy Geithner. He galloped from the N.Y. Fed to Treasury, leading the bank bailouts at taxpayer expense. And now, big surprise, he's grazing on untold millions in the green pastures of Warburg Pincus as a private equity stud.
Even ex-CIA General and Iraq surge-meister David Petraeus (who also has no financial acumen or credentials to speak of) got a gig telling other obscenely rich men what they want to hear. His luxury stall is located at the KKR private equity firm. (Because the multinational financiers have made a killing from our trillion dollar wars.)
Enter Elizabeth Warren, a national treasure if there ever was one, who's finally giving the elites a real run for their money. Her recent impassioned tirade against the Citigroup infiltration of the White House is one for the record books.
If anyone can hobble the lot of them, she can.And no, she does not necessarily have to accomplish this from the Oval Office. Simple verbalization can work wonders. Her very existence within the closed media propaganda establishment is actually kind of miraculous all by itself. And that being said, I would love nothing more than to see a vibrant Democratic primary. Let Hillary face Warren, Bernie Sanders, even Howard Dean.
But the political-media industrial complex would probably allow that spectacle to continue only for a finite period, until we've been sated on false hope, and Hillary's challengers are kicked to the curb. That would happen after the billions in ad revenue from a series of televised debates and SuperPac fund-raising has filled the establishment's coffers to bursting. What worked for the Republicans (the Tea Party "crazies" vs. Mitt Romney) can also work for the other wing of the Big Business Party.
Remember: there's the ruling class, and then there's the rest of us.
|The Biosphere of Citigroup Infiltration|