Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Pathology of Greed

Hardly a day goes by that we don't read an infuriating account of the bad behavior of rich people. This week, it was revealed that union-busting billionaire Chicage heiress and Obama bundler Penny Pritzker also makes a career out of systematically getting the property taxes on her many estates drastically reduced. There is a body of proof as high as a penthouse that the uber-rich as a whole are insatiably greedy, inhumane and really not as smart as they fancy themselves to be. If they had as much brains as they do money, they'd have the sense to shut up and hide. But narcissists can never shut up and hide. They flaunt, they preen, they throw their contempt in our faces.
Nevertheless, I was shocked, shocked at the latest extreme demands that the heavy-hitting lobbying group known as The Business Roundtable are making of the  government they so obviously control. It used to be that the oligarchs worked behind the scenes and behind closed doors as they peddled their influence to presidents and congress members and treasury secretaries. No more. The BRT has come out with a public manifesto called Taking Action for America. It's just about as cravenly ugly as it gets. It's for the benefit of a very select few and to the detriment of the many. It's a veritable counter-attack against the Occupy Movement. It even parodies the Declaration of Independence and begins with: "We, the CEOs of America...."

In a nutshell, the kleptocrats of the BRT want what little taxes they do pay reduced, environmental regulations scrapped, laws governing humane working conditions for their employees relaxed, their contributions to workers' health care and pensions slashed, the already watered-down and delayed measures in Dodd-Frank financial reform to just go away, and Medicare and Social Security "reformed".

And here's the really scary part. They released their report after meeting with President Obama and receiving some encouragement. They were also slated to meet privately with Treasury Secretary Geithner to discuss the details and logistics.They're openly bragging about how they are working closely with Congressional conservative Democrats (and yes, they really do call them Blue Dogs) to get their legislation passed. They're crowing about how the Beltway corporate media  just love, love, love their ideas! As far as they are concerned, they have themselves a done deal. And they may be right.

Of course, the proposals are couched in the tried and true doublespeak linguistics  of "job creation" and "economy healing." The BRT aims to hook us with a long intro about how terrible the unemployment crisis is for all those poor workers out there, and how they can help. But it's really nothing more than a repetition of the mantra of voodoo Reaganomics. If the government will only release the millionaires and billionaires from their shackles, they will be free to trickle down their golden drops of beneficence on the rest of us!  Ummm -- haven't we already seen how well that theory has worked out?

True to form, these transglobal corporate heads just love to refer to themselves as "small businessmen" who are being inordinately hurt by such cumbersome anti-pollution regulations as the Clean Air Act. They provide a laundry list of regulations they want tweaked. For example, they reckon that it will cost them too much money to comply with proposed EPA guidelines for solid waste removal. And they are vehemently against a requirement making them divulge the toxic chemicals used in hydrofracking, their excuse being that forcing them to list the ways they poison our water will put a damper on "innovation" (translation: limitless profits). 

And make no mistake: the one percenters want to destroy Social Security by privatizing it. Of course, they don't say so in so many words. Their sanitized version goes like this: "Complex and burdensome regulations" such as forced FICA contributions "are slowing the recovery and hampering job creation."
The BRT would much rather help workers start individual retirement savings plans, and "educate" the doofuses on how to scrimp and save and plan ahead:
Ensure that requirements do not discourage retirees from continued work.... Enact reforms that bring Social Security into long term financial balance as soon as possible to minmize disruption and give Americans the lead time to plan appropriately.
Translation: People are lazily retiring too early! Kill Social Security and either make people work until they die or force them to purchase junk pension plans created by the private sector, all the while humanely forewarning them they will have to make do with much, much less. 

Democratic Lame Duck Rep. Heath Shuler, who is leading yet another secretive "Gang" effort in Congress to achieve a draconian Grand Bargain of safety net cuts, is quoted on the BRT webpage as simply loving these plutocratic ideas: "Taking Action for America is the right plan at the right time," he gushes. "America’s business leaders have detailed a jobs and growth strategy that will benefit American workers. I call on my colleagues to work with me, the Business Roundtable and all stakeholders to act this year." 

And Barack Obama also seems to be totally on board with his corporate cronies:
These are relatively modest adjustments that can stabilize our economy, give you the kind of business confidence you need to invest.That means working together to reform our tax system so that we are rewarding companies that are investing here in the United States, making sure that we are able to cut our tax rate here but also broaden the base," he said.
The president said more should be done on energy and providing educational and job-training opportunities for workers, in line with what the BRT outlined on Wednesday.
"I'm prepared to be a partner in that process," Obama said.
"But we're going to have to have everybody pulling together," he said. "The business community is going to have an important voice in how that moves forward."
Tell me again why some people still believe that this President's new-found campaign populism should be taken seriously. 

Co-Presidents Obama and BRT's Jim McNerney (of Boeing) Share a Tender Moment


The Black Swan said...

This doesn't shock me at all, nor will the fact that the MSM will report this in a positive light or not at all. This planet has been subjugated by the rich and powerful. It is hard to see so many people waking up to this fact and realizing how much we have lost. The harder part is seeing how many people haven't woken up to this and may never do so. The rich and powerful know the minority of informed citizens don't have the power or voice to pose a threat, and the rest just don't care. So now they don't have to hide in the shadows, they can be blatant about it, safe in the knowledge that not enough people will know or care enough to truly challenge them.

I still think we need to change this idea of 99% v 1%. I have family in the financial 1% who are completely oblivious to what is going on in the world and really have no power over anyone. This is about a very small cabal of rich and powerful families controlling the fates of everyone and everything on the planet. They need a name that speaks the truth of who and what they are. I don't know that name should be, but we shouldn't lump all the 'wealthy' into one category of evil. We should lump all the evil in together with their own category of being.

Denis Neville said...

Why the stunning silence in the face of Obama's efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits along with his pursuit of a whole slew of other policies that are an anathema to liberals?

Why do they still believe that this President's new-found campaign populism should be taken seriously?

Ignorance and the erosion of historical memory make such deceptions possible and plausible.

Read Ken Silverstein’s “Barack Obama Inc. Birth of a Washington Machine”:

“For Barack Obama…mounting a successful career, especially one that may include a run for the presidency, cannot even be attempted without the kind of compromising and horse trading that may, in fact, render him impotent…How quickly Obama’s senatorship has been woven into the web of institutionalized influence-trading that afflicts official Washington. He quickly established a political machine funded and run by a standard Beltway group of lobbyists, P.R. consultants, and hangers-on. Obama’s top contributors are corporate law and lobbying firms, Wall Street financial houses (Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase), and big Chicago interests. Obama immediately established a leadership PAC, a vehicle through which a member of Congress can contribute to other politicians’ campaigns—and one that political reform groups generally view as a slush fund through which congressional leaders can evade campaign-finance rules while raising their own political profiles…In the unstinting and unanimous adulation of Barack Obama today…[there is]the obvious: that big donors would not be helping out Obama if they didn’t see him as a ‘player.’ ‘What’s the dollar value of a starry-eyed idealist?’”

Obama’s faux populism is all hat, no cattle (despite the smell of bullshit). It’s cheap talk, while conducting business as usual. And the populist rhetoric will disappear November 7, 2012.

Team Obama knows that people are stupid enough to fall for it again.

The result?

A political constituency that slavishly and unconditionally supports Obama and the Democratic Party will inevitably be once again ignored by Obama and the Democratic Party.

“No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have searched the record for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.” - H.L. Mencken

Fear-mongering has also replaced "hope" as an Obama's re-election strategy, and like most fear-based campaigns it will be effective. Two ways in which people are controlled. First, frighten people. Second, demoralize them. An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern. They don't want people to be educated, healthy and confident because they would get out of control.

Kat said...

You know, the sticking the public with the cost of environmental clean up, the privatization of public services, the never ending granting of tax credits and subsidies at the state and local level-- this is the real transfer of wealth to the 1%. Sometimes I think there is too much emphasis on marginal tax rates and the damn "Buffet rule". As Zee and I know (from reading David Cay Johnston's books), Mr. Buffet has little to worry about because he is gaming the system so many other ways.

Denis Neville said...

They’ve gotta a lot of nerve!

Glenn Greenwald, “Unintended irony from the NYT,” about an article lamenting the extreme levels of corruption in Afghanistan’s ruling class, a narrow business and political elite defined by its corruption, that are impeding U.S. goals for post-withdrawal stability.

“Within that article lurks one of my favorite passages I’ve read in that paper in quite some time:

'The players include people tied to President Hamid Karzai’s inner circle, many of whom have profited from the crony capitalism that has come to define Afghanistan’s economic order, and nearly brought down Kabul Bank . . . Despite years of urging and oversight by American advisers, Mr. Karzai’s government has yet to prosecute a high-level corruption case.'

“It’s simply shocking to find a country which would allow its political class to be dominated by those who ‘have profited from the crony capitalism that has come to define its economic order’ and who ‘nearly brought down’ its banking system. What must it be like to live in such a country? But even more bewildering still is that the Afghans simply refuse to prosecute their high-levels financial criminals, even though the U.S. is providing advice and oversight! Maybe it’s unsurprising to see a country treat its powerful criminals with impunity, but not when they have the United States of America providing guidance and wise counsel. What could possibly explain this? Are they simply ignoring the important lessons we’re teaching and the shining example we’ve set?”

Hypocrilarious ! [Urban Dictionary: describing situations in which hypocrisy is so blatant and/or stupid that it is hilarious.]

Karen Garcia said...

We wuz reading each other's minds! I just posted something on that Times piece and other jollity!

Jay - Ottawa said...

A while back Paul Krugman said the split was more like 99.99% to 0.01%.

The great mass of "plain people" still act as though they were outnumbered. No wonder Mencken grew impatient, turned away from the wolves and directed his mockery at the sheep.