Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Populist Pablum and Two-Tiered Justice

Anybody noticing that President Obama is running a really bland re-election campaign? The Buffett Rule, under which millionaires would pay a flat tax of 30%, is so weak as to be laughable. Not only does it have no chance of passing and is thus just a sideshow in political Kabuki Theater, it would only raise about $40 billion in revenue over the course of a decade. Contrast this with the loss of more than a trillion in revenue because of the Bush tax cuts.

Nothing at all has been said lately about non-renewal of the so-called Bush tax cuts, nothing about taxing high-speed Wall Street trades. As a matter of fact, W himself came out of the woodwork yesterday to complain they are still called the Bush Tax Cuts, when they should be "another body's tax cuts." His heh-heh-heh appearance and still-untreated language disability reminds us why people were once so enthusiastic about Barack.

The public policy center Demos says a financial-speculation tax is not only long overdue, but would garner billions more revenue than the small ball Buffett Rule. The Eurozone is in favor of such a tax. But, wouldn't you know -- Obama and his bank-friendly Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner don't like it so much. It would cost the donors on whom they so heavily depend to remain in The White House. Writes Wallace Turbeville of The American Prospect:
The Obama administration has voiced doubts about the enforceability of an FST as well fears that the costs would be passed along to ordinary investors and the overall effect would be to raise the costs of capital and hurt growth. These objections are groundless. Enforcement has not proved to be a major problem in the U.K. as just discussed. And ordinary investors may actually benefit from an FST as fund managers have fewer incentives to engage in excessive trading that increases fees for investors. As Ian Salisbury has pointed out, “Excessive trading can be a drag on fund performance because funds' brokerage commissions and other costs are deducted from investors' returns. Trading can also pump up capital-gains taxes that investors pay.” 
Ironically, Obama made his Buffett Rule pitch in Florida, in a public speech crammed amidst several million-dollar fundraisers hosted by the very same wealthy anti-regulation people he is asking to contribute "just a bit more." It was one of those G-droppin' harangues in which his voice frequently strained against the fakery of his own words. Lots of folksy, incredulous stammerin' that rich folks get away with such an outrage. Which is pretty outrageous, considering just last week he signed into law that hilariously-named JOBS Act, which brings deregulation and fraud back to Wall Street. Obama disingenuously called it an opportunity for small investors to cash in on job-creatin' IPOs via that so-trustworthy and anonymous Internet. But in the words of Matt Taibbi, "it couldn't suck worse."

Come to think of it, the de facto campaign slogan of Barack Obama is "I Suck Less." In actuality, though, it should be "I Suck, Romney Sucks. We Both Suck Up to Capitalist Cronies, and You're All Just a Bunch of Suckers."

Not one word, moreover, from Obama on how that much-vaunted 55-member Financial Crime Task Force he announced during his State of the Union address is coming along. The fact is, it is non-existent. If you haven't yet signed the CREDO petition demanding answers from Dear Leader, here is where you can find it. Such petitions usually roll off his tefloned back like water off a duck. But it's fun to imagine that just one infinitesimal droplet of sweat might mar his brow during this election year, give him one nano-second of pause.  

CREDO points out that even were Obama to fill all 55 slots, the effort would still be but a hollow emphysemic wheeze aimed at the criminal conflagration. During the Savings and Loan Scandal of the 80s, more than 1,000 FBI agents were dispatched to investigate those crimes, which pale in comparison to the extent of the still-ongoing Big Bank cataclysm of conspiracy. And Obama's typical passive aggression is deliberate to the extreme. Time (read: statute of limitations) is starting to run out:
President Obama’s record on Wall Street accountability is abysmal. But because of enormous grassroots pressure from activists like you and polling that suggests he needs to take on Wall Street as a part of his election campaign, we have a real opportunity to move President Obama to meaningful action on Wall Street accountability. Time, however, is running out.
President Obama’s first task force at the Department of Justice did little if anything to prosecute Wall Street for crimes that led to the financial crisis. But because of your activism, he announced a new task force and named progressive champion and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman one of its five co-chairs.
Schneiderman, you may recall, was widely accused of selling out to the Obama Administration when he dropped his serious investigation of the mortgage fraudsters and reached a very bank-friendly settlement. You may also remember that he promised to walk away from the Task Force if it turned out to be a big fat sham. Well -- it has been three months. We are still waiting.

Actually, Schneiderman may be just a little slow on the uptake. Two years after my local newspaper broke the story of a scam involving a Bridezilla who faked terminal cancer in order to score a free wedding and honeymoon, our Attorney General has finally had the woman arrested, charged with fraud and grand larceny, and thrown in the slammer. (H/T Valerie)
"By pretending to have a terminal illness, Vega inexcusably took advantage of the community's hearts and minds, and profited off of their generosity," said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. "Our office will hold this individual accountable for fleecing the public through lies and deception."
Ironically -- perhaps just humanely -- the cancer bride's alleged victims think she should be receiving mental help instead of jail time. But Eric the Dread has to show that he is strong on Law and Order as it affects the lesser people. Crooks like Jon Corzine and Angelo Mozilo who deceived and fleeced the public are rich and free, because they are VIPs. Punishing them might give the Stock Market the jitters. As President Obama put it in his Buffett fluff-puffer of a speech Monday, "I believe the free market is the greatest force for economic progress in human history."

There you have it. Capitalists rule, working people drool. Straight from Boca Raton (the Mouth of the Rat*), Florida, USA, home of corporate Disneyworld fantasies and Stand Your Ground.

*Reader Jay informs me the literal Spanish translation of Boca Raton is Mouth of the Mouse. Its original name was Boca de Ratones, which would translate into Rat's Mouth. In any event, this pricey Florida resort town was named after a rodent's maw of some sort. According to "Urban Dictionary", Boca Raton is defined this way:

1) Are you from Long Island?
2) Nah, I'm from Boca
1) Same shit

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(Photo Courtesy of CREDO)


Kat said...

Your campaign slogan is perfect. Genius.
I was hoping that you would write on the damn Buffet Rule. First, yes, it is Kabuki theater. They admit they don't have the votes to pass it (and really, they've been pretty vague on how it would be implemented). The message is pretty clear: hey rich donors don't get too worked up, Guy's gotta campaign!
Next, you are right-- a financial transaction tax would be far more useful-- serving a couple of purposes at the same time.
Is there anyone who does not believe that the wealthy would find a way to get around this rule anyway (Don't answer that. The NYT comments never fail to disappoint in the gullibility department).
Finally-- what is with the slave mentality? Why is there such gushing because one of our captains of capitalism deigned to drop us a few crumbs? Get a grip folks!

Jay–Ottawa said...

In Spanish the same word can have very different meanings depending on which Spanish-speaking country you're in. Or so my Spanish-speaking friends tell me.

In Mexico, where I picked up a few sentences, the word 'raton' does not mean rat. Rat there is 'rata.' Stay with me, it gets better. 'Raton,' I assure you (at least in Mexico), means mouse.

I hope we're both right on this one, because sometimes 'rat' is so appropriate for the guy I have in mind, while at other times 'mouse' also suits him to a T.

Rose in Michigan said...

Like Karen, I get a lot of political e-mail, mainly from progressive groups like Russ Feingold's Progressives United and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. I also get mail from Elizabeth Warren, because this year I did something I've never done before: I agreed to send a small amount each month to her campaign. Since I'm in Michigan, I can't vote for her, but I want to see her crush Scott Brown, so the least I can do is send a few pennies now and then.

I don't mind her various mailings, even though they all ask for yet more money. Sometimes they include videos of Elizabeth being cool; mostly they're reports on the state of the campaign. But today I got one that was a forwarded message from Barack's boy Jim Messina, all about the Buffett Rule. It asks me to "stand with President Obama" and includes a link to mybarackobama-dot-com where they can harvest my name and address for their money machine. NOT.

Okay, I get it. Warren is fighting to unseat Brown, and he "wants to block the Buffett Rule," per her e-mail. As if it weren't exactly the Kabuki theater that Karen describes. It's going nowhere and everybody knows that, yet Team Obama continues to insult us by assuming we're so gullible we'll fall for the same ol' BS time and again.

It is to weep.

Valerie said...

I hope it is OK but I want to comment on a previous post. I was writing a paper and didn’t have a chance to weigh in on an interesting discussion.
Elizabeth, I hope you will keep us posted on your participation in the 99% protest movement in your town/city. Let us know if and when the MoveOn –ers start pushing Obama as the solution. I see your point – if there is a media message out there saying, “Young People! Get involved in your democracy!” it could be to our benefit. I guess it depends on how strong the brainwashing gets. We know there will be some, but maybe they are underestimating people’s ability to think for themselves. I certainly think the Obama camp totally underestimated its “ ideological purist” base. They were blindsided by the Occupy Movement and when they tried to align themselves with it, they were surprised to be shunned. Maybe they are underestimating how many people are like Elizabeth, who would be part of OWS if it was available but want to do SOMETHING other than talk and vote, and will be able to think for themselves.
This movement wants to co-opt OWS but why can’t Occupy co-opt them? Elizabeth, I would like to know what the conversations are like. Are people Obamabots or TLOTE’s (The Lesser of Two Evils crowd) or are they disillusioned with both parties? Are people bringing up Hedges and Chomsky and reading Sardonicky, TruthDig and the Black Agenda Report, are they listening to Democracy Now? – Or are they getting their news from the MSM. Are they open to learning more and looking for alternative news sources? The reason I ask is I started at the MSM, read Karen’s comments on the NYT and came over to Sardonicky. From Jay, I learned about TruthDig, from Kat I learned about the Black Agenda Report. I had no idea who Glenn Greenwald was a year ago – hard to believe I have learned so much in such a short amount of time.
I think we Lefties have to draw a line in the sand, but if we don’t mix with others, we won’t be able to share what we are learning. I have to admit, if there was one of these gatherings in my town and not an OWS group to join, I would consider giving it a go. At the same time, it is good, Elizabeth, that you are going into this thing with your eyes wide open to the funding and motives behind this movement. Keep us posted and always speak the truth.
And Karen – you make a good point – it will be interesting to see how the police treat this group – and I want to know if the Black Bloc will be infiltrating and destroying their credibility as they have tried to do with Occupy. I think it will be quite telling if they don’t.

Valerie said...

Obama is really good at looking like he is doing something while not doing anything. Yet, I can't believe there is anyone out there who is actually still taking him at his word - who actually believes that he is going to do anything that will slow the banksters down. Too bad the ghost of FDR doesn't start haunting his nights.

Anonymous said...

To paraphrase Linda Richman:
"A.L.E.C. is neither an actor nor smart. Discuss."
Hoping you'll write about it, if you haven't already.

Denis Neville said...

Valerie said that Move On wants to co-opt OWS, but why can’t Occupy co-opt them?

Move On, like most front groups, is insidious enough to fool a lot of people. Why would anyone trust the Move On neo-liberal policy apparatus as a potentially viable solution to our present crisis? Active collusion as a means of change? If there is to be change, it will not come from the likes of the ostensibly progressive Move On, which supports the corrupt and predatory politics of the one percent.

There is only one way things will get better, and that is when the ruling plutocracy and their Washington minions begin to fear the citizenry. As long as we continue to let them pepper spray us, jail and strip search us, foreclose on our homes and outsource our jobs, things will only get worse.

The 2012 election is essentially irrelevant. The focus should be on 2016 and a radically restructured social compact.

Zee said...


I am interested in better understanding what you view as a "radically restructured social compact."

Also, I have been slowly working my way through the varous readings that you suggested on "The New Economics."

I found especially informative the long article by Dirk Bezemer, No One Saw This Coming. It was quite surprising to see the significant number of economists from differing economic "schools" who foresaw the 2008 crisis.

Still, I have many questions that I can't really ask in this forum.

Would you consider exchanging e-mail addresses with me, perhaps through Karen Garcia, to discuss some of these questions? This would still generally preserve our respective anonymities, which, at least, is important to me.

I think that Valerie would be willing to vouch for the fact that I have not become an internet "pest" once we similarly exchanged e-mail addresses.

Anonymous said...

Don't do it, Denis. Don't give strange men your contact info.

Elizabeth Adams said...


It has been a year since I first jumped in. It was a MoveOn Tax Day protest event. 9 people showed up, and the local reporter of our small conservative community was shocked there were even that many. Following that, I jumped in for a "Rebuild the Dream" event at our local library, and we helped give input for the "Contract for the American Dream". Shortly after that, we had a "We Are the 99%"/Jobs event to show support for the new OWS during a preplanned national jobs event week. We continued to have weekly 2-hour rallies in that park for a few months, having anywhere from 4-17 people.

I went to a regional northern California Occupy GA a couple of months ago. 35 people were there for this first meeting. Six different topics were discussed, and we actually reached concensus on one of those issues: Corporate Personhood must be abolished.

I led the local Tax Day and Rebuild the Dream events, but with the recruitment and event tools provided by MoveOn and Rebuild the Dream. Without their nudge, I probably wouldn't be this far along in my activism.

I have never donated money to these groups. Just my time and resources needed to put on these events. I am aware of the negative feelings people have toward MoveOn. I spoke with an important person from Move to Amend, who is also aware of MoveOn's status as a front group for the Democratic Party. This person had only good things to say about local MoveOn groups, however.

My little group has maintained monthly meetings since June of last year. We have had Independent, Peace and Freedom, Democrat, and Green Party people represented. Most of us are disgusted with the two parties, but we try to stay nonpartisan and focus on the actual issues, which are nonpartisan. Even our little group has had to struggle to keep local politicians from co-opting our group.

One of our current projects is community outreach/education on corporate personhood, with the goal of getting our respective city councils to pass a resolution for a constitutional amendment.

This Friday we are having our first "movie night", showing the new "Koch Brothers Exposed" film.

The 99% Spring training is Saturday in my town. The 99% Spring Train the Trainer event in SF had people from Occupy as well as,,smartmeme and others. I believe the people at this SF training see this event as a way to get more people involved. I know there is still much outreach and education needed in order to get more of the 99% on board.

You asked, Valerie, about the conversations in these groups, whether there are TLOTE and Obamabots. I would say yes, there are those, even if they have been politically active or progressive for many years. People are at various degrees of unhappiness and disgust, deciding who's to blame or where the solutions lie.

I am trying to help gather up the voices of the 99%, and I believe many of us either don't realize they have a voice, or don't think their voice has any meaning or importance.

Thanks for your words of support.

Kat said...
Isn't Mr. Buffetrule a big investor in WF?
He'll get his one way or another...

Valerie said...


I am glad to hear your opinion, which is always relevant and well-informed. In fact, I realise (now that you haven't been commenting so much on these last several threads) how much I have come to look forward to hearing your thoughts. Kinda the same way I search for Karen's comments in the Reader Comment section of Dowd and Kruggie. - Just wanted you to know that.

I know that 2012 is pretty much a done deal - but, truthfully, I don't think there is going to be much of a country/democracy left by 2016. Truth be told, I have kinda given up on the whole election thing making a difference. It is ordinary people power, generated from a large group of concerned citizens, that is going to change things - and I am with you on politicians needing to fear their constituencies. Right now they fear their campaign donors and THAT is not good for the rest of us

On this particular issue, I am really torn. I know MoveOn is a front for the DNC, certainly a PAC, but not everyone who is involved in these MoveOn projects is part of the evilness. I have been reading Elizabeth’s comments both here and elsewhere (and Rose in Michigan) and these two are NOT bots.

I know there is a danger that Spring99% will drain resources (mainly man/woman power ) from the REAL OWS - or that they will be a watered down version, a palatable version to the corporations, of the Occupy Movement. My concern is that they will be like Obama - talk a good line but not actually do anything substantive. Yet . . . What are people, like Elizabeth, who clearly want to make a difference in their democracy to do? They have no resources to promote their own Occupy the Conservative Little Town Where We Live, so it is either join up with eyes open and stick around as long as MoveOn "behaves" and maybe connect with genuine like minded people or sit at home. How else are these people going to find other like minded people?

I know it is going into the lion's den but what is to keep Elizabeth and people like her from putting on the breaks when the movement become to slavishly Obama? What is to keep them from pointing out that Obama hasn’t used his power and influence to do anything substantive for the Middle Class. What is to keep Elizabeth from pointing out the three new Free Trade Agreements and the NDAA signed into effect by the Pres.

And I know someone who was involved in an Occupy group in his area and he dropped the group in disgust when his fellow Occupiers showed themselves to be bots - so even some of the smaller Occupy groups have a bot contingency.

It is not ideal, I know. And there is a fine line between resigning to the TLOTE stance and working along side them yet maintaining one's values. But even Bernie has to do this from time to time in Congress.

Valerie said...


You make me laugh! You might be Anonymous to those of us in this forum but believe me, if Homeland Security or the CIA or FBI want to know who you are - who any of us are - they already do.

Valerie said...

I really messed up that paragraph! I meant to write

I know it is going into the lion's den but what is to keep Elizabeth and people like her from putting on the brakes (sp corrected) when the movement become(s) to(o)slavishly Obama? What is to keep them from pointing out that Obama hasn’t used his power and influence to do anything substantive for the Middle Class. What is to keep Elizabeth from pointing out the three new Free Trade Agreements and the NDAA signed into effect by the Pres(?)

Sorry about that! My little "Chatty Cathy" was talking my ear off while I was trying to re-read and edit my comment!

Anonymous said...

It certainly seems like for all the time spent handwringing about whether Elizabeth Adams is doing the right thing or not, Elizabeth Adams was ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING. Specifically: making connections, building a face-to-face network of relatively like-minded people who could be called on to show up at a protest, and learning the ins and outs of organizing.

She will encounter people both to the right and left of herself, and she will make of that what she will. I trust her to do the right thing. I don't know that I trust that the rest of the audience is half as engaged, though their purity will remain higher.

One's purity is always higher when one doesn't engage.

Not Anonymous in Australia said...

Criticism coming from a source too cowardly to stand by his/her convictions and identify him/herself. Hmmmmmm. Excuse me for not caring what you think about the merits of our discussion, @Anon.

Anonymous said...


Yes, armchair activists and armchair warmongers each damage our world in their own special way.

Anonymous said...

To Not Anonymous in Australia:

No doubt the question of taking non-violent action rather than just typing is a sensitive one for you, and for many of us, too.

There is a cost to being directly involved in organizing and protesting. Many of us here and elsewhere have paid a considerable price for this. For some, this was a price we could ill afford.

So we understand why people would prefer simply to type, and we understand that typing is not without value, especially when one types (and writes) as fiercely and cogently as Karen Garcia, who has also gone beyond typing to investigative reporting, protest, et cetera.

My disappointment is that it's not clear that our collective typing is moving enough people to protest peacefully in person (civil disobedience.)

When one poses a challenge, as Elizabeth Adams has subtly (and perhaps unconsciously) done, and as I have anonymously reinforced, and that challenge results in a minor backlash of defensive posturing, I think it is safe to say we could be doing a better job.

Because civil disobedience, not just typing, is critical at this time.

You don't have to care what we say. That's okay. But if you didn't care, it would seem that you simply wouldn't respond, right?

You care. That's a good thing. Can you also move beyond simply typing and engage in organizing and/or civil disobedience?

Valerie said...


Talking about these issues - understanding what is hidden - clarifying our positions is of value - whether you think it is or not. When you have decided a conversation is irrelevant- you seem to think it is over for everyone. You come across as very judgemental and that is very alienating – particularly when you don’t really know anything about most of us. How do you know that those commenting here aren’t active in protest movements? I have been very active for the past twenty years in environmental, anti-mining and anti-war protests. Yet you come in to the conversation, on your high horse, implying otherwise. And your comments range from attacking to conciliatory.

You need to understand if you are going to cling to the Anonymous persona, that too many people hide behind anonymity on the internet. It allows people to be snide and not deal with the consequences of their nastiness. And quite frankly, it gets tiring for those of us who are willing to stand by our words and our convictions.

Jay–Ottawa said...

"A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine taste and increase their knowledge of the participants through conversation."
-- Wikipedia

It's what we do here. And it does inspire action, I can assure you.