** Updated Below.
The Ready for Hillary SuperPac is holding a humungous going out of business sale in anticipation of Hillary herself formally announcing her candidacy as early as this week. You can get your Hillary fleece jacket, your Hillary fleece scarf, your Hillary fleece hat, your Hillary fleece headband. Each and every item of apparel is guaranteed Made In USA and bears the exclusive "Formidable" label, just in case you thought you were getting something cheap made in a Bangladesh Walmart sweatshop.
And just in case you were worried about the jobs of the Hillary retailers, don't be. They will be painlessly subsumed into the official campaign itself, simply moving their store to a new, shinier location. Only the logos will be changed. There will always be fleece.
The fleecing of America has been going very strong for a long while now, regardless of the political party or the president. We are just getting the shocking word that New York City municipal workers have been getting royally fleeced by Wall Street! An analysis by the city comptroller reveals that over the past 10 years alone, at least $2 billion in "fees" have been paid to wealthy money managers by teachers, sanitation workers, cops, firefighters and other workers who thought they'd been saving for their retirements and earning interest on their payroll deductions.
As New York Times reporter Patrick McGeehan puts it in his lede (h/t Robert S.), "The Lenape tribe got a better deal on the sale of Manhattan island than New York City’s pension funds have been getting from Wall Street."
Except that somebody changed the rules without telling the workers. Now, all Wall Street has to do is merely touch other people's money before turning it into gold... for themselves. And it sure smells like Stringer is doing some ass-covering here himself. He knew what he knew when he knew it, and maybe figured it was better to expose himself rather than have some reporter or watchdog group do it for him.“When you do the math on what we pay Wall Street to actively manage our funds, it’s shocking to realize that fees have not only wiped out any benefit to the funds, but have in fact cost taxpayers billions of dollars in lost returns,” Mr. (City Comptroller Scott) Stringer said.Why the trustees of the funds — Mr. Stringer included — would not have performed those calculations in the past is not clear.Mr. Stringer, who was a trustee of one of the funds when he was Manhattan borough president before being elected comptroller, said the returns on investments in publicly traded assets, mostly stocks and bonds, have traditionally been reported without taking fees into account. The fees have been disclosed only in footnotes to the funds’ quarterly statements, he said.The stakes in this arena are huge. The city’s pension system is the fourth largest in the country, with total assets of nearly $160 billion. It holds retirement funds for about 715,000 city employees, including teachers, police officers and firefighters.Most of the funds’ money — more than 80 percent — is invested in plain vanilla assets like domestic and foreign stocks and bonds. The managers of those “public asset classes” are usually paid based on the amount of money they manage, not the returns they achieve.
This scandal will not stop Wall Street from its continual fleecing of the workers of America, however. If you thought that self-interested plutocrats had given up on the idea of cutting Social Security to augment their robbing of public pension funds, think again. They have a wealth of think tank surrogates to do the dirty for them. Just because their latest tactic of scapegoating Elizabeth Warren as an anti-capitalist witch is already getting stale doesn't mean they're actually going to stop. They won't stop until they succeed in burning every retiree and disabled person, every widow and orphan and low wage worker at the stake and then sweeping up their ashes as a commodity ripe for investment and future profit.
Reactionary pundit Ramesh Ponnuru did the honors in this week's Bloomberg View while his godzillionaire boss was getting knighted, blessing the Bush-Clinton dynasty, munching canapes with Joe Biden, not-running for mayor of London, and building a new bronze palace over the ruins of a Roman temple.
Ponnuru's logic is nothing if not ponerological*:
Social Security is becoming a worse deal for each generation. Those now joining the workforce are expected to pay more into the system than they get out of it. Warren's plan is to shower more money on the current generation of retirees, but without increasing the deficit over the next 10 years. That means, in all likelihood, raising taxes on current workers while also increasing the program's long-run fiscal deficit.Translation: give Wall Street your tired, your poor and whatever pennies remain. Tax not what your wealthy elites hoard for themselves, but what you can bestow on the wealthy elites. And by the way, the only surefire way to keep people out of poverty is to get rid of poor people altogether. It's 21st Century Eugenics 101.
The strongest argument in favor of expanding benefits is that Social Security should keep all senior citizens out of poverty, and doesn't. That fact, though, is really a remarkable indictment of the way the program is currently structured. As my American Enterprise Institute colleague Andrew Biggs has pointed out, the program substantially reduces work, saving and even birth rates without accomplishing this key social goal.
It's the same fleecing song that reactionaries have been singing since time immemorial. Karl Marx wrote about the selfishness of the elites in the mid-19th century in one of his New York Tribune newspaper columns, slugged Pauperism and Free Trade: The Approaching Commercial Crisis.
Karl knew that the term "free trade" was a neoliberal buzzword for enforced immiseration of the masses. How he would have loved skewering NAFTA and the TPP. Back then, the elites were celebrating the Irish potato famine and "transportation" of the marginalized to the penal colony of Australia as the greatest cures for poverty the world had ever seen. Disasters culled the welfare rolls magnificently. "Never let a crisis go to waste" was not a slogan invented by right wing Democrat Rahm Emanuel, who recently bought himself a second term as herd-culler extraordinaire.
As a matter of fact, I'm going to play a little game and tweak some of the names and places in Marx's op-ed:
In a (mansion) malt-house in (Chicago) Banbury, Mr. (Emanuel) Henley, (mayor of Chicago and NAFTA architect) President of the Board of Trade, lately explained to his assembled (godzillionaire donors) farming friends that Pauperism had decreased but by circumstances which had nothing to do with (his own policies) free trade; and above all, by the (irresponsible mortgagors, poorly performing schools) famine of Ireland, the discovery of gold abroad, the exodus of Ireland, the great demand consequent thereon for (Wall Street/ free market solutions) British shipping, &c., &c. We must confess that (globalization and privatization) "the famine" is quite as radical a remedy against Pauperism as arsenic is against rats. "At least," observes (corporate media pundits) The London Economist, "the (hippies) Tories must admit the existing prosperity and its natural result, the emptied workhouses."By the way, Marx's gig at the Trib didn't last too long. When he complained about not getting paid enough or on time, they told him not to bother sending them any more articles. Plus ca change, etc. Even socialists and hippies have to eat, which in Neoliberal World makes them greedy little bastards who need to donate more skin to the game.
* Political Ponerology: a term coined by Polish psychologist Andrew Lobaczewski to scientifically explain how evil can take over entire countries and political systems. His book by the same name, recommended by contributor Denis Neville, is well worth delving into, despite it not being an "easy read." The gist is that all it takes are a few psychopaths to infect a society and its government. A preview is available here.
** Update, 4/10. You heard it here last. Hillary Clinton is making the Big Announcement Sunday on Facebook. For somebody who claims to want to run a down-to-earth campaign, though, she sure is picking a funny way to show it. Because as her candidacy is revealed in cyberspace, she will actually be way up there in outer space, soaring high above it (and us) all on her way to Iowa for chit-chats with the carefully vetted just plain folks. The courtier press will find their instructions swearing them to secrecy and script-adherence under every kitchen chair. In exchange, they will be granted occasional access to a high level staffer for those all important news-crumbs.
Meanwhile, we get a preview of the preview, in which Hillary plays doting Granny harboring a tender desire for a whole nation full of entitled little Charlottes. This was juxtaposed with Elizabeth Warren kvetching hilariously last night about tender little fannies. No connection at all, I am sure.
Here is my New York Times comment on this subject:
“'I’m more convinced than ever that our future in the 21st century depends on our ability to ensure that a child born in the hills of Appalachia or the Mississippi Delta or the Rio Grande Valley grows up with the same shot at success that Charlotte will,” Mrs. Clinton wrote, referring to her new granddaughter."
Let's be clear. Charlotte has an absolute guarantee of success, not a mere shot at it. "Shots" are for the little people and their bootstraps, as are those reassuring dog whistles to Wall Street known as Ladders of Opportunity and Level Playing Fields.
It's not careerist success or the desire to be as rich as a Clinton that we're after, Hillary. It's sheer survival in a world gone mad with hyperactive capitalistic greed.
If these are the kind of bromides that Mrs. Clinton will present in lieu of actual policies -- like taxing the rich, coming out against the corporate coup known as the TPP, expanding Social Security, reining in and prosecuting Wall Street criminals, leading the fight to overturn Citizens United -- then she is going to need every penny of that two billion dollar donation stash to buy her way into the White House.
We no longer have a functioning democracy. So thank goodness that Elizabeth Warren is out there, putting the pressure on and speaking truth to power.
She's giving voice to the real theme of Dynastic Horse-race 2016: "It's the Corruption, Stupid."