Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Eve of Destruction

Don't forget to hang up your stockings by the chimney with care tonight, kiddies, because the Default Elf will be making his rounds.* It's the Nightmare Before Halloween! The whole world is watching, waiting and scared. So you might want to leave him a pot of hot water and some tea bags as a sacrificial offering. Or maybe you don't believe in default Armageddon any more, because your own personal catastrophe has already struck. Maybe you're so broke you can't see the dentist and your teeth have started falling out. If so, you might try putting them under your pillow in hopes that the Trickle Down Fairy will pay you a visit and slip you a few nickels. Of course, any tax is your responsibility, not theirs.

In any case, you do begin to suspect that this whole crisis is just a bigger than usual headfake when you read Thomas Friedman's New York Times column today. He already sees the day (tomorrow) when the fear abates, the crisis temporarily ends, and the real business of destruction can get underway with a vengeance before the next crisis hits in six weeks.

 His personal Santa and his close personal friend is one Stan Druckenmiller, Forbes billionaire and self-promoting philanthropist whose claim to fame is urging debt-enslaved college kids to blame Grandma for their world of economic woe instead of.... well, him and his band of plutocratic predators. You get the awful rancid taste of Bowles-Simpson Catfood in your mouth the minute you start reading:
Wait! Who is that speaking to crowds of students at Berkeley, Stanford, Brown, U.S.C., Bowdoin, Notre Dame and N.Y.U. — urging these “future seniors” to start a movement to protect their interests? That’s Stan Druckenmiller, the legendary investor who made a fortune predicting the subprime bust, often accompanied by Geoffrey Canada, the president of the Harlem Children’s Zone, of which Druckenmiller is the biggest funder. What are they doing on a Mick Jagger-like college tour where they don’t sing, don’t dance, and just go through a set of charts showing young people how badly they’ll be hammered if our current taxes, growth rates, defense spending and entitlements stay where they are?
As I pointed out in my published response,
Thomas Friedman doesn't tell you that the mass movement of young people against the greedy geezers is, in reality, an astroturf scam funded by billionaire Pete Peterson. It's called "The Can Kicks Back," and it comes to life every time there's a new manufactured crisis.
With another episode of Disaster Capitalism upon us, Druckenmiller, himself a multibillionaire hedge fund mogul, is joining fellow plutocrats Al Simpson and Erskine Bowles in their zombie propaganda campaign aimed at slashing the safety net. They just can't get enough of the wealth of a nation. More and more seniors are falling into poverty, and the Fix the Debt scare-mongers have shamelessly used young people as human shields in their pathological quest for more, more and more.
Under their “chained CPI” proposal, over the next 25 years the average retired federal employee would lose $48,000. The average Social Security recipient would lose $23,000; the average military retiree would lose $42,000, according to Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Why not suggest to your greedy plutocratic pals, Mr. Friedman, that they do away with their carried interest deductions and pay their fair share in taxes if they're so interested in saving the kids? How about scrapping the cap on their own FICA contributions to protect Social Security?
Because, make no mistake -- this is not generational warfare. It's class warfare, of the pathological rich versus the rest of us. And we plan on fighting back, every step of the way.
To get all fired up and ready to fight, be sure to watch the latest Simpson and Bowles comedy routine here, followed by an excellent takedown of their geriatric antics by cartoonist Mark Fiore. 

We've grown a little leaner, colder, sadder, older, so haul out the holly, and say bah humbug to catfood. We need a little Christmas, right this very minute. 

Update* -- thanks to some Congressional can-kicking tonight, the government will soon be open for business and default has once again been averted. So it looks like the next opportunity for the Grinch to shoot us up with another bolus of shock doctrine will be 'round about Valentine's Day. But until then, the anticipatory drama and fear-mongering will continue.  


Pearl said...

I have received e-mails asking me to sign a letter of congratulations for victory to President Obama from some various democratic groups. I may reply that I am waiting to find out what cutbacks he has agreed to sign away to his opposition in order to keep Obamacare safe and unsullied before I do so.

Also, there are voices of concern from both sides as to how it will work out once the shutdown has ended and applications are able to come in. I don't see many conservative states changing their minds about accepting Federal funds for Medicaid in order to implement the plans for Obamacare.
Congratulations will have to remain on hold meanwhile. Stay tuned.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

@Pearl: You're correct in being skeptical.

@Karen: A fine post/comment.


As of Wednesday evening, Karen's comment to Friedman's column had the most reader recommendations of any comment on that column. And quickly scanning through the first page of most-recommended comments, I saw that virtually all in some way took serious issue with Friedman's guilt-trip dreck-rationalization that asks even less of the rich and the corporations than the inadequate amounts they currently contribute to a nation that has made them fabulously wealthy.

Cutting corporate tax rates to zero as Druckenmiller proposes? That suggestion alone should be enough to completely discredit both Druckenmiller and Friedman. And means testing Social Security and Medicare might seem "fair", but predictably would lead to a Balkanization of beneficiaries, and cuts to the benefits of even those who most need such programs. Again, anything to avoid properly taxing the wealthy and the corporations.

I'm never sure whether Friedman and others like him actually believe what they write, or just knowingly serve as shills for the plutocracy. Ultimately it doesn't matter, the damage they do is independent of whether factual disconnect or willful complicity is at work.

Anyone have any idea what Friedman's total wealth, yearly income, and tax rate are? Perhaps some substantial time living as less-well-paid Americans live might modify his wealth-serving opinions. He will, though, undoubtedly require some time to acclimate, to adjust his lifestyle and expectations, and maybe even acquire a taste for cat food — perhaps he can splurge on the "gourmet" kind. He should live on progressively less money each month, say about a 10-20% decrease each month until he reaches the monthly earnings at the current minimum wage or the average retiree's Social Security payment, or better yet, say the lowest quintile of Social Security payments *. And then live at that rate for a year. Then we'll see whether he wants to write any more columns echoing his most recent one.

*: (Minimum-wage monthly income: $1,208, based on the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year.
Average Social Security: according to the U.S. Social Security government website (, in June of 2013, retired workers received a $1,269 average monthly benefit. Princely! I have no information on the distribution of those social security payments, and don't have the time to research it, but if that's the average for the current 37 million retired workers, we can expect that many millions of people are receiving appreciably less).

The Black Swan said...

I think the debate about entitlements needs to be refrained. Every cut we make from aid to the poor turns into aid for the rich. So instead of talking about the poor 'moochers' who are being carried along by the system, we need to talk about the rich moochers who are being carried along by the system. Every dime that comes out of our pocket from 'reform' ends up in the pockets of the rich. So let's cut entitlements, heck let's get rid of them, but only the ones for the rich.

And on another note. That giant Pentagon/NSA/CIA budget, where does that money go? Corporations. So the corporate world gets $1trillion or so a year from the government, and the actual citizens of this country... nothing. Yet it is the citizenry who are 'moochers' and 'takers' and 'leeches'. What a country!

Jay - Ottawa said...

Like the rest of you I'm waiting for the fine print to appear on the deal to put government back to work and raise the debt.

For those of you who haven’t heard, Glenn Greenwald is leaving the Guardian to help kick start a new venture in journalism funded by eBay multimillionaire Pierre Omidyar.

This could be interesting. It might be tough to freeze out a multibillionaire who has the desire and the millions to give established media giants a real run for the money.

I haven’t checked this out with Karen, but if I knew Omidyar’s email address (Greenwald’s is already available), I’d send him a certain blogger’s resumé not just for a column but to help direct the entire newsroom.

James F Traynor said...

The crisis will continue but not on the front or even back pages. There appears to be considerable angst internationally as to the soundness of our 'paper', U.S. treasuries. The Chinese, always practical, are again talking about cobbling together some kind of index currency to replace the dollar. It is a tremendous advantage to us in having the dollar as the international medium of exchange.

As for Friedman, he's pathetic but still, I think, the voice of the powers that be. Something's going on up there and I don't like it.