Thursday, April 12, 2012

Buffett, Stuff It

You know that when the mainstream corporate press starts snickering behind your back about your latest campaign theme, you have overplayed your hand. Dana Milbank has put up a pretty hilarious post spoofing the president's Buffett Rule and its latest Kabuki manifestation yesterday in the White House: a backdrop of four wealthy "Patriot Millionaires" and their all-girl quartet of photogenic assistants. Milbank referred to them as "Bobbleheads" to describe their synchronized cranial movements every time Barry mentioned how well he and they are all doing. It was, of course, pure coincidence that the Fab Four just so happen to be big Obama donors. The token millionairess in the bunch was heiress Abigail Disney. Obama, in turn, has been a big promoter of the Disney franchise, and recently used the Magic Kingdom as a backdrop in a speech pushing for an expedited visa process to enable opulent foreigners to visit the Stand Your Ground State without having to wait in one of those boring lines like everybody else. 

And one of the walking wealth props, Whitney Tilson, would probably largely escape the Buffett Rule anyway. He has stashed a lot of his cash in offshore tax havens.

Call those who wait in line the Jimmy Buffetts and the privileged few taxomasochists the Warren Buffetts. Milbank suggests that every time the Buffett Rule phrase is uttered, we should all take a drink. Margaritas, Pina Coladas but no Dom Perignon! This presidential campaign between two phony one percenters -- one of whom flagellates himself with a flimsy overcooked piece of angel hair pasta, and the other who has already admitted that he relishes firing people --  sure has me wanting to sing J.B.'s "Why Don't We All Get Drunk."

But since I don't sing well, I wrote this little nursery rhyme instead. If anyone is offended, then I thank you kindly.

The rule they call Buffett,
I'd just as soon stuff it
Right up their political ass.

They'll poop out their speeches,
Those corporate leeches --
Nothing solid -- just more corrupt gas.

Barry and the Bobbleheads (photo by AP)


Will said...

If you've had your fill of the political Kabuki, how 'bout some uplifting theatre of the made-for-TV street variety? It's a little over 7 minutes, but hang in there for a very happy ending:

tsisageya said...

I don't think so, Will.

Karen Garcia, this post is perfection. Now I'm going to run over and read the piece to which you so kindly refer.

The nursery rhyme is perfection, as well. I laughed, I cried, I got angry.

It's a very strange-feeling laughter that you provoke. Kind of an angry, disgusted, hilarious mirth. Is such a thing possible? lol

Valerie said...

The problem isn't the tax rate of 30% which wouldn't solve our deficit problems but would be better than what we have now - It is that the 1% would manage to get out of paying even that!

My favourite taxes are the tiny half a percent on ALL stock trades - which would include the nano trades - and raising the capital gains tax rate to regular income. The days when we did that so rich people would invest in things like factories and expanding their companies here in the U.S., thus creating jobs, is over. It is income plain and simple - part of their wealth portfolio - and it needs to be taxes as income.

Great poem, Karen!

The Black Swan said...

Easter got me thinking about this issue and I thought of a way to better understand what is going on in the world. Say you are having an Easter Egg Hunt, each egg has a prize and at the end of the Hunt (say 10 minutes) whomever has the most eggs wins. Now out of all the children there is one is incredibly talented at spying out the eggs. They can seemingly find them everywhere. Another child is good collector, but has a very strong sense of sharing. When they see another kid without any eggs they donate one of their own. Finally there is kid who is not very good at the Easter Egg Hunt, but they want to win. So they steal eggs from other kids baskets, they trip kids who are going after the same egg as them. Now who will win the Easter Egg Hunt? The most skilled, the most deserving? Nope. The person who will do whatever it takes to win no matter what that involves. We live in a society where the people with the biggest pile of eggs are the winners. This is how civilization has always been. And unless we can change the underlying assumption, of what winning is and who the winners are, this is how civilization will always be.

Karen Garcia said...

Hello all,
Here is my response to Paul Krugman's column on our favorite big and tall man, Joysey Gov. Chris Christie and his scamming lies on the abandoned Hudson River commuter tunnel.

If the tunnel had been planned as an underground bunker for crooked politicians and fugitive banksters requiring an undisclosed location, or a secret subterranean cave for the Homeland Security state to spy on ordinary Americans, or a massive underground parking garage (with elevators) for plutocrats, the thing would have been built by now.

But since its purpose was to make the lives of hard-working commuters and the traveling public easier, Christie's phony fiscal conservativism would not allow it. He obviously could not stomach the creation of thousands of construction jobs to make a dent in his state's unemployment rate. As his slash and burn campaign continues, he brazenly blames hard times on the poor, the sick and the jobless -- whom he has the chutzpah to call "couch potatoes."

What do Christie and his one percent cronies care? If he wants to go anywhere -- say, to his son's Little League game -- all he has to do is hop a state helicopter to the field and then take a limo to the stands. There will be plenty of planes, yachts, choppers and chauffeurs in Christie's bright, publicly-subsidized and personally profitable future.

No wonder George Bush praised him as an "enormous personality" at his odious New York City tax conference this week. Christie makes lyin' Paulie Ryan look like a meek little choirboy who suffers from a math disability and a mild allergy to honesty. Christie is a walking, talking Whopper.

4Runner said...

Art is in the eye of the beholder, but the last line of your poem transforms it truly into a work of fart.

Denis Neville said...

@ Zee and Valerie – a short bibliography, rather than a detailed plan, that reflects my views of a "radically restructured social compact."

A few suggested readings:

Tom Hayden, “The Port Huron Statement”:

“At its most basic, participatory democracy meant the right to vote, as Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “not with a mere strip of paper but with one’s whole life.” It meant simplicity in registration and voting, unfettered from the dominance of wealth, property requirements, literacy tests and poll taxes. It meant exercising the right to popular initiatives, referendums and recalls, as achieved by Progressives in the early twentieth century. And it meant widening participation to include the economic sphere (workplace democracy and consumer watchdogs), neighborhood assemblies and family life itself, where women and children were subordinates. It meant a greater role for citizens in the ultimate questions of war and peace, then considered the secret realm of experts…The overall strategy of realignment envisioned participatory democracy directly connected to a new social movement, one capable of forging a new governing majority on a national scale.”

Tom Hayden, “New Port Huron Statement”:

Tom Hayden, “Participatory Democracy: From the Port Huron Statement to Occupy Wall Street:

“Globally, the unfettered appetites of capitalism have created an intolerable human condition. It is time for a participatory New Deal, to bring the banks and corporations under the regulations and reforms they have escaped through runaway globalization. This year marks the first presidential campaign in our lifetime when the gluttony of Wall Street, the failures of capitalism, the evils of big money in politics and a discussion of fundamental reform will be front and center in election debates. No doubt the crisis that gave rise to Occupy will not be fixed by an election, but that’s beside the point. Elections produce popular mandates, and mandates spur popular activism. It’s time to organize a progressive majority, and the vision and strategy of Port Huron is worth considering as a guide.”

Peter Corning's “The Fair Society: The Science of Human Nature and the Pursuit of Social Justice.” A harmonious society depends, absolutely, on fairness and social justice. "A new biosocial contract…must strive to achieve a fair society. Our primary social (and moral) obligation is to provide for all of the basic needs of our citizens. However, a biosocial contract must include other important dimensions of fairness as well. There are, in fact, three distinct fairness precepts - equality, equity (merit), and reciprocity -- that must be combined into a package and balanced in order to create a society that is relatively fair and just to everyone in terms of both the benefits and the costs. Indeed, the fairness of our social, economic, and political relationships is vitally important to sustaining a voluntary and harmonious social contract."

Carne Ross’s “The Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People Can Take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century.” A nine-point manifesto for citizens to regain control of the decisions that affect their lives. His message to the elites is that if they do not listen and act, they will face the consequences: "The less people have agency – control – over their own affairs, and the less command they feel over their futures and their circumstances, the more inclined they are to take to the street."

Parable of the Good Samaritan

Kat said...

Valerie said...

The problem isn't the tax rate of 30% which wouldn't solve our deficit problems but would be better than what we have now - It is that the 1% would manage to get out of paying even that!

or that this new revenue would go towards our secretive security state, private prisons, banks, etc., etc., etc.

Zee said...


Thank you for the links and book references. I will try to read them as time allows.

@The Black Swan--

I appreciate your Easter metaphor. We do indeed seem to have become a society of "robber barons," though I don't believe that all who have done very well in America are "kleptocratists."

How to persuade ourselves to be more generous with our "eggs?" I have been trying to develop some thoughts along that line from the Conservative perspective.

If I can nudge myself beyond the "broad outline" stage to something coherent, I will try to share them here.

tsisageya said...

As Lambert says: But have I mentioned lately what an asshole Obama is?

The Black Swan said...

@ Zee,

I'm sure there are a few people out there who became wealthy and powerful by doing good for others, but they are the very small minority throughout our human history.

My main point is that we are a species that is easily overpowered by our most threatening members. Large populaces allow themselves to be cowed into submission by a small minority of thugs. When your oppressor is willing to murder you, torture you, hurt your family and you are not, they will always be able to wield power. I am not advocating violence though. We can't solve problems using the same powers that created them.

Our civilization has been built on oppression of the masses by the few. And the few are almost always thugs. We then convince ourselves that this is the way things should be, that it is only natural that a few murderous psychopaths hold the reins of humanities future in their hands. We then meekly go along.

To break out of this system will require a revolution in every facet of human society. It will require a revolution in how we view ourselves and our species, in how we understand our place in the natural world.

Civilization is an assault of the rational versus the wildness of nature. But we are the wildness of nature and to separate ourselves from this fact is to separate from our own selves. This is a dangerous and schizophrenic way of living.

I don't have any answers, I am still seeking my own way and trying to live a humane life in a world of madness. But the more we can explore on these themes, the better chance we have of creating a brand new way of life.

The only thing I do know is that Love and Compassion will be the building blocks of the only future worth fighting for. But I will not raise my voice or my hand to keep our madness humming along.

James F Traynor said...

Black Swan,

Somehow the Scandinavians seemed to have stumbled into the solution.

Yes, we are ruled by thugs, well mannered but still thugs.

Valerie said...

A reader in the comment section of the Pain of Spain (NYT yesterday)– sorry but I didn’t note his name and now I can’t find his comment to hat-tip him – recommended this interview out of the archive of Charlie Rose. It is called A Prophetic Interview with Sir James Michael Goldsmith and it blew me away! This man nailed it back in 1994! Charlie Rose had clearly already drunk the Clinton Kool-aide on Free Trade which they called “Trade Liberalization.” Ha!

Laura Tyson espoused unsubstantiated myth after unsubstantiated myth – corporations weren’t shipping jobs offshore to take advantage of cheap labour they were doing it because other countries had trade barriers – get rid of the barriers and American corporations build things in America (I think NAFTA had only been signed a few months prior to the interview.) But it is interesting to note how these corporate collaborators talk. She kept saying that Goldsmith’s facts were wrong when she was the one giving false information and he was the one telling the truth. THIS is how America is propagandized. The liars just stick to their lies painting whatever picture they want to paint, negate the REAL facts and the audience gets confused. I give James Michael Goldsmith credit for maintaining his cool in the face of being called wrong on the facts by someone who cherry picked and her facts to give an entirely false picture of what was really happening.

These are the links. Unfortunately I couldn’t pull up the show on the PBS archive so I had to get it off of YouTube in several segments. Just listen to the first one and if it grabs you like it did me, you can listen to the rest. If you don’t have time, make sure you listen to the last part when he talks about the future of the U.S. economy. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

Zee said...

@James Traynor--

Yes, the Scandinavians seem to have found a good model that this nation should aspire to. I think some time ago we agreed that the Scandinavian nations are mixed economies and definitely not socialist.

So my conservative sensibilities are not at all offended by such a model.

One additional thought on the Scandinavian model, though.

The trilogy by Stieg Larsson-- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc. --is, of course, fiction. (And damned good fiction at that.) But Larsson was also a respected investigative journalist. So maybe his notions about a Swedish government that exerted too much power over some of its most vulnerable citizens—which was the basis for his stories—also had some basis in fact?

Even in a benevolent government, thugs will crop up if we aren't constantly vigilant.

@The Black Swan--

I'm definitely not suggesting any sort of violence as a means of persuading ourselves-- i.e. Americans—to be more generous with our “eggs,” per your Easter metaphor. That is, to move closer to a mixed economy model.

What I alluded to was an effort on my (conservative) part to put into words my observations about the many and varied metaphorical landmines that Progressives sow in their own paths on the way to trying to persuade the general public—Centrists and Conservatives—that a Scandinavian model is not the first step down the road to “socialist hell.”

I tried to bring this up some days ago when I asked in this forum why Progressives allow themselves—and Europe—to be portrayed as “socialists” by extreme right-wingers when neither seems true. Why not fight this image in the “mainstream” media, I asked, because I have never seen any such debates anywhere. Yes, yes, I know you all mistrust the mainstream media but how many people really listen to Rachel Maddow and Keith What's-His-Name?

Only @Valerie seemed particularly interested in such a discussion; since we've already talked about this a little bit off-line, I let the matter drop until I could develop the ideas more fully. I'm still thinking, not even writing yet.

There are many other areas in which Progressives allow extreme right-wingers to control the debate without any cogent counterarguments presented in forums where the remaining 80% of political America are likely to see them.

I'm just trying to compile a useful list of words and ideas that Progressives use—apparently without any forethought—that trigger alarm bells in the minds of Centrists and Conservatives that can be used by extremists to totally control the discussion.

And, once so “framed,” why do Progressives fail to fight back in any meaningful way?

Anonymous said...

@Zee and everyone

Blogs and online forums are little more than support groups for this or that issue or mindset.

Nothing written will ever bring consensus or sufficient action for change, especially among Democrats. And the larger American population is a group of risk-adverse, ill-informed, authority-controlled morons. (Sardonicky readers not included)

Keep repeating "I'm definitely not suggesting any sort of violence as a means of (fill in the blank)". The Powers That Be love you for that position, which guarantees the one percent will stay in power.

Time is on the side of The Powers That Be. TPTB can resist all forms of Occupy park squatters, protesters, bloggers, and hand-wringers.

In five or ten years little will be different, except that many of the older Occupy park squatters, protesters, bloggers, and hand-wringers will be either dead of old age, or too feeble to do anything. For the rest, real life will intervene.

A better use of limited time, money and energy is to move to Scandinavia or (fill in the blank) and live the life you want. Or buck-up and join the American rat race and chase the golden ring. Corporate business is booming and the stock market is soaring. Drill baby drill, frack baby frack.

Living well is the best revenge. Once you have made a few million you can donate money to the Occupy park squatters, protesters, bloggers, and hand-wringers.

Why waste your final years tilting at windmills?

Zee said...


In the previous thread I asked @Denis to provide me with some description of the "radically restructured social compact" that he hopes for, and in the current thread he obliged me with a reading list that I will look at. I'll thereby have a better understanding of where @Denis comes from, where he wants to go, and if we share at least some common destinations.

While I've appreciated some of your previous posts (although I can never be certain that the various comments by "Anonymous" are all by the same person), I guess that I'm still left wondering exactly what future you aspire to, for which we should all be manning the barricades instead of wringing our hands here.

For my part, I have lived--indeed, am living --the American Dream. I want more Americans to be able to share in the dream that I have been blessed with.

So, while I'm probably better equipped than any other particpant in this forum to commit real violence, I see it not only as wrong and, indeed, as "biting the hand the fed me," but also as completely counterproductive to positive change where change is necessary.

Not to mention, probably futile, as some of us have discussed in this very forum.

So where is it you are trying to take us--and by what conveyance--if, as you say,

"Nothing written will ever bring consensus or sufficient action for change, especially among Democrats. And the larger American population is a group of risk-adverse, ill-informed, authority-controlled morons."

Just askin...

PS: as one who posts under a pseudonym myself for various reasons, I certainly have no problems with you preserving your own privacy insofar as possible.
The internet can be a scary place.

Karen Garcia said...

Note to Readers:

Since there appear to be at least two people now posting as "Anonymous" it is getting too confusing for me to moderate, and for readers to follow, the comments under such circumstances.

If you wish to post anonymously, please just make up a name/use initials so we can tell you both/all apart. I just received three "Anonymous" posts in a row, one of which had one Anon. addressing the other Anon. It is ironic, considering the "mystery poster" is the one hiding behind the anonymity mask to freely criticize all the other posters here -- who have the courtesy to at least use a first name. Count me among the frustrated hand-wringers, trying to make sense of it all. The three aforementioned Anonymous comments have been rejected for publication.

tsisageya said...

Karen Garcia,

What now?

Karen Garcia said...

Huh? :-/

This thread is hereby closed. Mama cita has had enough!