Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Scandal Within a Fraud Wrapped in a Theft

Remember how each of the homeowners unfairly foreclosed on was supposed to get a paltry thousand or two dollars out of that pathetic sweetheart deal the Obama Administration put together with the criminal banksters earlier this year? The total settlement amount came to a mere $2.5 billion. And the bulk of it, theoretically, was supposed to go directly to the affected residents. At the very most it would have paid maybe a month's rent, or the cost of a moving truck, for each victim. There was also money put aside for general housing relief for the states. 

The upshot was, that after stealing billions and creating untold misery for millions, banks once again got away with murder*, or at least with fraud, conspiracy, perjury and grand larceny. It can't get any worse than that, right?

Wrong. The New York Times has published an article revealing that the hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for housing relief for the states is being used for other purposes. The states are in budget crises from coast to coast, thanks to the de facto austerity policy that is in place here in the Corporate Homeland. Thanks are also due to the same big banks, whose recklessness crashed the economy in 2008, leading to an unemployment crisis and business closings and the resulting shriveling of local tax bases. Regular federal aid to states has dried up too, thanks to the machinations of the phony deficit hawks posing as responsible people in Washington. Dozens of states are, in effect, robbing Peter (the settlement funds) to pay Paul (everything else.) In the best case scenarios, they're robbing from the poor to give to the poor. In the worst case scenarios, they're robbing from the poor to give to the corporations and the rich. Perhaps the worst case of all is in Arizona, where the AG wants to use half the settlement money for (private) prisons. Well, they argue, prisons are considered housing too! You have to put a roof over the heads of all the marijuana smokers and undocumented folks! Luckily, a civil rights group has already sued to try to prevent this particular outrage. But how about Georgia, which will use its $99 million share to "lure job-creators" to move into their state?

Even in my home state of New York, whose attorney general was one of the big holdouts against the Obama Administration's mortgage fraud settlement until he was co-opted into running a non-existent mortgage fraud task force, admits New York's $15 million share will be used to fund legal clinics to counsel homeowners facing foreclosure rather than repay the people who were wrongly foreclosed on. The funding for the legal program was drying up, and the decision was made to use the money proactively rather than retroactively. So the people already out on the street or living in a relative's basement can probably kiss their thousand bucks goodbye. 

Texas, of course, never had any notion of using its share for the purpose intended. This is a state, remember, that was threatening to secede a few years ago. What else do you expect when you hand crooked Governor Goodhair (Rick Perry) a fat check from Washington? He'll either pretend to refuse it or find a sneaky way to funnel it to his rich friends. In the case of the fraudclosure settlement, it just went straight to the General Fund with no accountability even offered.

In cash-strapped California, where A.G. Kamala Harris was another diehard holdout on the puny bank settlement, Gov. Jerry Brown has announced his state's $400 million share will go directly toward closing the budget gap:

 (Harris was) holding out until the very end for a deal guaranteeing that a large share of the benefits would go to California, and then trumpeting her success in a news conference and a flurry of interviews with national news outlets. So Mr. Brown’s revised budget put her in an awkward position.
“While the state is undeniably facing a difficult budget gap,” she said in a statement, “these funds should be used to help Californians stay in their homes.” Both officials are Democrats.
When asked if Mr. Brown could legally appropriate the money, which is supposed to be held in a special fund “for the benefit of California homeowners affected by the mortgage/foreclosure crisis,” a spokesman for Ms. Harris declined to comment.
Just last week, Ms. Harris announced plans to give about half the money to groups that provide housing counseling and legal assistance to homeowners — groups whose budgets have shrunk while demand for their services grows. The other half would be used primarily for investigation of mortgage-related crime.
The Obama Administration apparently never saw this diversionary development coming. They are quietly, even desperately, begging the states to use their sudden mini-windfalls for the intended purpose. Fat chance. It's like giving a starving man $100 and telling him to use it to pay his electric bill.

The $2.5 billion was intended to be under the control of the state attorneys general, who negotiated the settlement with the five banks — Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Ally. But there is enough wiggle room in the agreement, as well as in separate terms agreed to by each state, to give legislatures and governors wide latitude. The money can, for example, be counted as a “civil penalty” won by the state, and some leaders have argued that states are entitled to the money because the housing crash decimated tax collections.
Shaun Donovan, the federal housing secretary, has been privately urging state officials to spend the money as intended. “Other uses fail to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the settlement to bring real, concerted relief to homeowners and the communities in which they live,” he said Tuesday.
Yeah, Shaun. That ridiculous settlement sure would have changed the lives of all those victimized homeowners and their entire communities overnight. But here's the thing: what goes around, comes around. You force through a joke of a settlement, and guess what? The joke turns out to be on you.

Meanwhile, the Administration is trying to save face by launching an FBI investigation into that mysterious $2 billion ($4 billion? $14 billion?) Whale Fail loss over at mortgage fraudster JPMorgan Chase (one of the Big Five banks slapped on the wrist in the settlement.) The number of people believing there is going to be an actual probe is approximately zero.

* There is a case to be made that banks are literally killing people. Job loss and health insurance loss and home loss caused by the bankster-induced economic crash cut years off lives.  Bank-assisted suicide is another cause of premature death. 


Denis Neville said...

Dean Baker and Kevin Hassett, The Human Disaster of Unemployment

“The prospects for the re-employment of older workers deteriorate sharply the longer they are unemployed. A worker between ages 50 and 61 who has been unemployed for 17 months has only about a 9 percent chance of finding a new job in the next three months. A worker who is 62 or older and in the same situation has only about a 6 percent chance. As unemployment increases in duration, these slim chances drop steadily.

“The result is nothing short of a national emergency. Millions of workers have been disconnected from the work force, and possibly even from society. If they are not reconnected, the costs to them and to society will be grim.

“Unemployment is almost always a traumatic event, especially for older workers. A paper by the economists Daniel Sullivan and Till von Wachter estimates a 50 to 100 percent increase in death rates for older male workers in the years immediately following a job loss, if they previously had been consistently employed. This higher mortality rate implies that a male worker displaced in midcareer can expect to live about one and a half years less than a worker who keeps his job.

“There are various reasons for this rise in mortality. One is suicide. A recent study found that a 10 percent increase in the unemployment rate (say from 8 to 8.8 percent) would increase the suicide rate for males by 1.47 percent. This is not a small effect. Assuming a link of that scale, the increase in unemployment would lead to an additional 128 suicides per month in the United States. The picture for the long-term unemployed is especially disturbing. The duration of unemployment is the dominant force in the relationship between joblessness and the risk of suicide.”

“Policy makers must come together and recognize that this is an emergency, and fashion a comprehensive re-employment policy that addresses the specific needs of the long-term unemployed…Every month of delay is a month in which our unemployed friends and neighbors drift further away.”

Our kleptocrats could give two turtle shits…scandals within frauds within thefts…the governance of thieves, our Megakleptopia.

Kat said...

My state received good marks for using all the funds for housing. Most of this is going to go towards "neighborhood stabilization" i.e, bulldozing deteriorating homes. This is the best we can do?

Kat said...

BTW-- what is the "scandal within a fraud wrapped in a theft" a play on? I was trying to remember the original phrase and where it is from the other day.

Karen Garcia said...


Winston Churchill, in his first wartime broadcast. "I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in mystery inside an enigma..."

Kat said...

Thanks! I knew there was a riddle and enigma in there. Forgot about the mystery-- perhaps my life is lacking mystery?
Had no idea it was Winston Churchill, however.
This phrase has actually been a topic of conversation at my house more than a few times recently. I suppose we could have gone online to figure it out. Oh! I did. Sort of.
Hmmm... I am really not adding much to this discussion. Sorry for the self indulgence.

Valerie said...

First, @Denis is absolutely correct in pointing out that older unemployed people stand little chance of getting ANY employment, let alone employment in their area of expertise. I remember this issue coming up two or three years ago in the Times and a guy working in a Human Resources department of a big corporation anonymously commented that the situation was far worse than any of us realised - that basically anyone out of their twenties and thirties was not even considered as a matter of unspoken policy. The thing is, older people who have worked all their lives can't conceive of taking help from the government. When they lose their jobs, they cut back, they deplete their savings, they take crap work for crap wages - all before their finally are forced to accept unemployment. When my husband was laid off because the shipyard he was designing boats for went under, it didn't even occur to us to collect unemployment. Seriously - not even on our radar. We just limped along on one salary, cut back on EVERYTHING and paid our bills and what we could on our credit cards – thank goodness we didn’t have a ton of c.c. debt. I am not surprised that people commit suicide, particularly men who are often defined by their work and their role as a provider - especially after they lose their unemployment and have no way to support their families. THAT is a question NO ONE can answer. Where do these people go after they have run out of unemployment and they can’t find work – any work? The streets? I can see how someone in his or her fifties with no home, debt and Social Security and Medicare being cut and think that it would be better to die now.

Remember my friend the English teacher, the best teacher I ever knew who was laid off from her job with a textbook company? The one who made the choice to sell her house and its contents to make ends meet until she qualified for Social Security? She worked for the census bureau for about 4 months and only in the last month found a job; she watches people take standardized tests like the GED and the MCAT and is paid $13 an hour - She was relieved to finally have a job. She ought to live REAL well on $13 an hour before taxes, don’t ya think?

As for the money that should be going to homeowners fraudulently thrown out of their homes going to the States governments. I am totally sick of Federal money going to the States who misuse it! I can't believe, in this day and age, how people these people aren’t on some kind of computer list where a federal agency couldn’t take the funds and cut them a check directly.

I think of my European history classes where the overlords kept raising taxes and starved the peasants working their lands to go fight wars, or just because of their excessive lifestyles. And the law was always on the side of the overlord. We used to sit in class and think how terrible that was and how glad we were that we weren't living in those times anymore. Now look at us.

Denis Neville said...

@ Valerie – Exactly, I too remember “how terrible that was and how glad we were that we weren't living in those times anymore. Now look at us.” Who would have thought it could happen to us.

The Cost of Inequality

“Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today…We no longer ask… Is it good? Is it fair? Is it just? Is it right? Will it help bring about a better society or a better world? We cannot go on living like this. The little crash of 2008 was a reminder that unregulated capitalism is its own worst enemy: sooner or later it must fall prey to its own excesses and turn again to the state for rescue. But if we do no more than pick up the pieces and carry on as before, we can look forward to greater upheavals in years to come.” - Tony Judt, Ill Fares the Land

Why aren’t those who profess to be interested in preserving the free market and democracy interested in greater equality?

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you super add the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” - Lord Acton

Too much inequality has been extraordinarily destructive. It’s not simply a matter of the health and social problems. The quality of our democracy has deteriorated with this greater inequality.

“The average well-being of our societies is not dependent any longer on national income and economic growth…But the differences between us and where we are in relation to each other now matter very much.” - Richard Wilkinson

In “The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger”, coauthored with Kate Pickett, Wilkinson provides statistical evidence that societies that are more equal - with a smaller income gap between rich and poor - are happier and healthier than societies with greater disparities in the distribution of wealth. Across the board, mental health, levels of violence and addiction, even life expectancy are affected by the psycho-social stress caused by income gaps and status anxiety.

“If Americans want to live the American dream, they should go to Denmark.” - Richard Wilkinson

Valerie said...

I know I made a lot of errors in my last comment. Thanks, Denis and others, who read with tolerance, overlooking the mistakes in search of the message. I can only say, that I was really upset at the injustice of the whole situation and that emotion interfered with my writing. It is good to be among friends at the Salon de Sardonicky.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Denis Neville said...

“The Poverty Business,” Brian Grow and Keith Epstein, Bloomberg Businessweek: “Inside U.S. companies' audacious drive to extract more profits from the thin wallets of the nation's working poor”

Barbara Ehrenreich points out that it’s not just the private sector that’s preying on the poor, “Preying on Poverty: How Government and Corporations Use the Poor as Piggy Banks”: neo-crimes and pseudo-crimes carry financial penalties as well as the threat of jail time

“The poster case for government persecution of the down-and-out would have to be Edwina Nowlin, a homeless Michigan woman who was jailed in 2009 for failing to pay $104 a month to cover the room-and-board charges for her 16-year-old son’s incarceration. When she received a back paycheck, she thought it would allow her to pay for her son’s jail stay. Instead, it was confiscated and applied to the cost of her own incarceration.”

“In a study of 15 states, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University found 14 of them contained jurisdictions that charge a lump-sum “poverty penalty” of up to $300 for those who cannot pay their fees and fines, plus late fees and “collection fees” for those who need to pay over time. If any jail time is imposed, that too may cost money, as the hapless Edwina Nowlin discovered, and the costs of parole and probation are increasingly being passed along to the offender.”

As Black Agenda’s Glen Ford said, “America’s damn near nonexistent social welfare structure is packaged as a virtue. Americans don’t even know what a minimally just society looks like or feels like. Most Americans are at the total mercy of the rich.”

“This is the lesson that movements such as Occupy Wall Street must learn, or be ultimately waylaid and demoralized. You cannot “regulate” the behavior of Tyrannosaurus Rex while he still has the size and teeth to kill you at will. The T-Rex, here, is a class that, even if chopped into many Velociraptors, will still dominate the societal jungle if they are not removed from dominion over the economy.” – Glen Ford, “Make the Choice: Wall Street or Society”

Meanwhile, Obama tweets tout of pro-austerity chart.

As dday said, “This is something that should lead to outrage rather than be source material for boasting, but that’s the Democratic Party we have today.”

Denis Neville said...

@ Fred – the real nanny state being sucked dry!

How the Hollingsworth Hounds of our nation view it: Lucky Ducky, the poor little duck who’s rich in luck, in "Tricklin' Down!”

Lucky Ducky should be paying tax on that $1. He's cheating the system!

Valerie said...

I feel like I don't even know this country anymore! The traps for democracy have been set and the plutocratic dictatorship is going in for the kill!

Kat said...

Thanks for the comment. Everything you say is so true. I'm sorry for your experience. That must have been devastating for your husband.

Denis Neville said...

The Baffler, one of the great little magazines, is back after a two year hiatus.

Thomas Frank’s salvo, “Too Smart to Fail: Notes on an Age of Folly”

“What happens when the experts are fools? What happens when their professions are corrupted, their jargon has become a shield against outside scrutiny, their process of peer review has been transformed into a device by which a professional faction can commandeer the discipline, excommunicate rivals, and give members of the “us” group endless pardons for their endless failures?”

“Moral failures, mistakes were hardwired into the belief systems of the organizations and professions and social classes in question. As such they were mistakes that - from the point of view of those organizations or professions or classes - shed no discredit on the individual chowderheads who made them. Holding them accountable was out of the question, and it remains off the table today. These people ignored every flashing red signal, refused to listen to the whistleblowers, blew off the obvious screaming indicators that something was going wrong in the boardrooms of the nation, even talked us into an unnecessary war, for chrissake, and the bailout apparatus still stands ready should they fuck things up again.”

“We have become a society that can’t self-correct, that can’t address its obvious problems, that can’t pull out of its nosedive…we have entered an age of folly that -for all our Facebooking and the twittling tweedle-dee-tweets of the twitterati - we can’t wake up from.”

Karen Garcia said...

Here's my response to the latest Brooksian babble. (he talked about how spoiled the hoi polloi are,)

“Having lost a sense of their own frailty, many voters have come to regard their desires as entitlements. They become incensed when their leaders will not respond to their needs.”

Just substitute "plutocrats" for voters, and "puppets" for leaders. Rich people who fork over $80,000 a plate at political fundraisers, and millions more on lobbyists, need that extra coddling. They are one angry, thin-skinned minority group who’ve just never had an equal opportunity to develop life’s little calluses.

You're darned right, David -- the ingrates must be stripped of their obscene pay packages, loopy loopholes, and taxpayer-funded entitlements And they must be evicted forthwith from the dangerously deregulated casinos they quaintly like to call banks.

Oh, and here's another Brooksian bit of revisionist history needing just a minor parenthetical tweak: “Once people (read: corporations) lost a sense of their own weakness, the self-doubt went away and the chastening structures were overwhelmed. It became madness to restrain your own desires because surely your rivals over yonder would not be restraining theirs”.

Absolutely right again, David. Corporate persons, unpatriotic brats that they are, whined and howled until our compromised leaders relented. And Oligarchs Gone Wild resulted.

Spare the rod and spoil the plutocrat. It's time we forced them to behave and share the wealth. They'll thank us for it one day.

John in Lafayette said...

GREAT response to Brooks today.

Kat said...

@Denis-- a friend turned me on to The Baffler during the Clinton years. She patiently explained to me that Clinton was a wolf in sheep's clothing. I started to wake up a little then.
Check this out:

Denis Neville said...

@ Kat – Yes! Document the atrocities – Charles Ferguson’s “Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America

Bill Clinton…Jeeze! Where to begin?

For starters, how about his radical deregulation of the financial industry, the Financial Services Modernization Act, –“what we are doing is modernizing the financial services industry, tearing down those antiquated laws and granting banks significant new authority” - and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which exempted from government regulation all of the collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps. He still acts as if the horrible outcome of those atrocities had nothing to do with him. He just blathers on and on and on.

He feels our pain? My ass! Clinton's already got his wealth.

Clinton was recently at the Peterson Fiscal Summit.

“The low point of the day was the spectacle of former President Clinton mouthing false platitudes designed to gut everything his party once represented.”

“The welfare ‘reform’ which Clinton supported has swelled the ranks of the poor and separated mothers from their children while doing nothing in the long run to end poverty. That added special piquancy to the sight of the self-satisfied post-President silkily arguing that we should take the same "reform" hatchet to Social Security and Medicare.”

“If Bill Clinton had any moral perspective he'd be holding Jimmy Carter's hammer at a Habitat For Humanity building site somewhere, not pushing programs that would doom the middle class.”

Denis Neville said...

Not only is the FBI launching an investigation into $billions$ derivative losses at mortgage fraudster JPMorgan Chase, the Senate Banking Committee will call Jamie Dimon to testify.

Who is Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota) single largest contributor?

Yep! JPMorgan Chase.

“If you can’t take their money, drink their whiskey, screw their women, and vote against ‘em anyway, you don’t belong in the legislature” – Jesse Unruh, as quoted by the late Molly Ivins

Anonymous said...

Hi Karen,

Sorry, don't know your email address, so I am using this format.

I just wanted to say, "thank you" again. Love your response to Brooks today in the Times....and your always poignant and insightful comments when I see them. I wish I had such eloquence, so it is great to have someone say how I feel with such command and feeling.

You should have your own column on the old grey lady.

Chris Doyle SF, Ca.
cdsfca at gmail

Zee said...

One thing that @Denis didn't remark upon when providing the link to the article by Dean Baker and Kevin Hassett is that Baker is associated with the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research and Hassett is associated with the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

I think that this is worth noting.

They also participated in an excellent discussion on the PBS NewsHour a couple of days ago:

Baker's and Hassett's cooperation--despite differing political and economic views--to identify and find a solution to a very real human disaster, is an example of the only way that we will ever begin to emerge from from the political and economic crisis that we are in today.

Zee said...

One thing that @Denis didn't remark upon when providing the link to the article by Dean Baker and Kevin Hassett is that Baker is associated with the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research and Hassett is associated with the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

I think that this is worth noting.

They also participated in an excellent discussion on the PBS NewsHour a couple of days ago:

Baker's and Hassett's cooperation--despite differing political and economic views--to identify and find a solution to a very real human disaster, is an example of the only way that we will ever begin to emerge from from the political and economic crisis that we are in today.

Karen Garcia said...

@John in Lafayette and Chris in SF,

Thanks! :)

Denis Neville said...

“The Other America”

“There are literally two Americas. One America is beautiful … overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity. This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies and culture and education for their minds and freedom and human dignity for their spirits. In this America, millions of people experience every day the opportunity of having life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in all of their dimensions. And in this America millions of young people grow up in the sunlight of opportunity.

“But tragically and unfortunately, there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the ebullience of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this America millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist. In this America millions of people find themselves living in rat-infested, vermin-filled slums. In this America people are poor by the millions. They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

“In a sense, the greatest tragedy of this other America is what it does to little children. Little children in this other America are forced to grow up with clouds of inferiority forming every day in their little mental skies. And as we look at this other America, we see it as an arena of blasted hopes and shattered dreams.” – from a speech by Martin Luther King, Stanford University, April 14, 1967

Contrast this to the sight of the self-satisfied Bill Clinton “silkily arguing that we should take the same "reform" hatchet to Social Security and Medicare,” “mouthing false platitudes designed to gut everything his party once represented.”

Denis Neville said...

@ Zee – Yes!!! Baker's and Hassett's cooperation is an example of the only way that we will ever begin to emerge from the political and economic crisis that we are in today.

But today such cooperation is drowned out by the “No compromise” on taxes, health care, government spending. And if I haven’t been clear enough yet, let me say again: No compromise.”

The very core of our nation is the result of compromise. No compromise, no America.

Compromise is not weakness. Compromise involves respect for your opponent. Compromise means respect for all your constituents - "We, the People". Compromise was the higher road so that the few would not oppress the many, nor the many the few. Our Founding Fathers knew exactly what they were doing. Our current crop of yahoos don’t.

Neil Gillespie said...

Re Karen: "Remember how each of the homeowners unfairly foreclosed on was supposed to get a paltry thousand or two dollars out of that pathetic sweetheart deal the Obama Administration put together with the criminal banksters earlier this year?"

Yes, I remember, and thought at the time the money would never reach the people in need.

Sadly the Boston Herald has reported another foreclosure suicide, "Connecticut mother-daughter die in murder-suicide" May 12, 2012

"The mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and the daughter served as her caretaker, neighbors said. Police said the mother and daughter owed $50,000 in taxes to the city of Stamford and their house was in foreclosure. The home, which was surrounded by an overgrown lawn and left in disrepair, was sold during an auction last month, police said."

Ironically the sale may have benefited this family:

"Conklin said investigators contacted a lawyer involved in the home’s sale Friday afternoon and learned that the mother and daughter were to receive between $200,000 and $250,000 from the transaction, after their owed taxes and other debts were subtracted from the sale proceeds. The buyers tried unsuccessfully to contact the mother and daughter following the sale, Conklin said."

It is pretty clear that ordinary people no longer have an advocate in government. Franklin Roosevelt literally worked himself to death in office during the Great Depression and WWII. Can anyone honestly say Obama would have done the same?

In my view people have to become more self-reliant. The current Democrat leaders are all corporatists. The quest for a messiah delivered Obama. People must take charge of their lives. Invent something. Develop a marketable skill. Start a company. Hire people.

While I support Occupy, I also wonder how all that effort and money might have been better spent. I suppose Occupy was a necessary first step. But now other strategies are needed. For example, if banks are so bad (and they are), why not start a people’s bank run on honest principals? Better to be a survivor of injustice than a victim.

Zee said...


You are, of course, correct. We have forgotten our own history: the long and contentious debates during drafting of the Constitution; the horrible compromise on slavery that was made to ensure that the Constitution would be acceptable to all the states; the subsequent arguments between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists during ratification that led to the adoption of the Bill of Rights which was, in itself, a compromise of sorts.

Yes, the Founding Fathers knew what they were doing. They undertook a hugely difficult task, worked exceptionally hard to accomplish it, and honorably compromised when that was the only path forward to achieve their great objective.

As a nation we seem to have forgotten all of that.

Still, I try to be hopeful when I see people like Dean and Hassett working together. Perhaps all is not lost. At least, not yet.

Neil Gillespie said...

Re: The Founding Fathers knew what they were doing

Agreed, but that was not necessarily a good thing. The U.S. Constitution was designed from the start to empower the one percent of its time, land-owning white men. Zee noted the "horrible compromise on slavery", but what about poor white men, and women? Women's suffrage, the right to vote and run for office, did not pass until 1920 with the 19th Amendment.

Earlier this year Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg appeared on Egyptian TV and discussed whether the U.S. Constitution should be a model for Egypt. This is a quote from Ginsburg: "I would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a Constitution in the year 2012"

The State Department video linked in the ABA story has been removed, but here is a link to a short clip that shows the quote by Justice Ginsburg.

The U.S. Constitution still keeps the one percent in power. America is not a democracy, but a republic that prohibits popular election of the president. Article II Section 1 established the Electoral College. Americans do not directly elect the president. Remember Bush v. Gore? Gore won the popular vote, but lost the presidency after 5 conservative US Supreme Court Justices stopped the Florida recount and made Bush president. The Electoral College eliminates the possibility that a third party candidate could be elected. Back in 1992 Ross Perot did not get a single electoral vote, even though Perot got over 19 million popular votes.

The New York Times earlier this year had an excellent story on the U.S. Constitution, ‘We the People’ Loses Appeal Around the World.

The Times story had this salient quote: "…Thomas Jefferson, in a 1789 letter to James Madison, once said that every constitution "naturally expires at the end of 19 years" because "the earth belongs always to the living generation.""

The "horrible compromise on slavery" relegated African slaves and their descendants to an additional 78 years of servitude until passage of the 13th Amendment. (1789-1865). It also undermined the Constitution’s professed ideals, and culminated in the Civil War. Then followed another hundred years of Black misery; slavery in the form of peonage, lynchings, and Jim Crow, until the Civil Rights act of 1964. In some parts of the South the Civil War is still being fought. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is still under attack.

Yet two Justices, Scalia and Thomas, support the concept of originalism, a principle of interpretation that tries to discover the original meaning or intent of the constitution, and apply it today.

How can Justice Thomas, a descendant of African slaves, support originalism, when the original constitution would have enslaved him? Talk about ideology getting in the way of critical thinking!

Law professor Sanford Levinson argued in his book "Constitutional Faith" that the U.S. Constitution is worshipped to a degree that is unhealthy for our freedom. Levinson discussed this on BookTV last year.

More than ten years ago Yale political science professor Robert Dahl made a similar point in his book "How Democratic is the American Constitution?" Dahl’s book is profiled on Wikipeida.

Some time ago the publisher of another website questioned if we would be better off today if the colonies remained under British rule. Maybe we just need a new constitution, one that empowers all people equally. How likely is that to happen?