The One Percent, Private Property,
the Commons, & The War on the Middle Class


A major problem facing humanity is how we share our finite world. Even though the rate of growth is slowing, the human population is still exploding. And the problems caused by overpopulation are still being ignored. Thus, we face environmental and resource distribution problems that are increasingly out of control.

Paul Gilding, the Australian environmentalist and author
of the book The Great Disruption, on Occupy Wall Street:

"I look at the world as an integrated system, so I don’t see these protests, or the debt crisis, or inequality, or the economy, or the climate going weird, in isolation — I see our system in the painful process of breaking down. Our system of economic growth, of ineffective democracy, of overloading planet earth — our system — is eating itself alive. Occupy Wall Street is like the kid in the fairy story saying what everyone knows but is afraid to say: the emperor has no clothes. The system is broken.

"Think about the promise of global market capitalism. If we let the system work, if we let the rich get richer, if we let corporations focus on profit, if we let pollution go unpriced and unchecked, then we will all be better off. It may not be equally distributed, but the poor will get less poor, those who work hard will get jobs, those who study hard will get better jobs and we’ll have enough wealth to fix the environment.

''Class Warfare'' by Joel Sindelar. Click to see the full size image.“[But] what we now have — most extremely in the U.S. but pretty much everywhere — is the mother of all broken promises. Yes, the rich are getting richer and the corporations are making profits — with their executives richly rewarded. But, meanwhile, the people are getting worse off — drowning in housing debt and/or tuition debt — many who worked hard are unemployed; many who studied hard are unable to get good work; the environment is getting more and more damaged; and people are realizing their kids will be even worse off than they are.

"This particular round of protests may build or may not, but what will not go away is the broad coalition of those to whom the system lied and who have now woken up. It’s not just the environmentalists, or the poor, or the unemployed. It’s most people, including the highly educated middle class, who are feeling the results of a system that saw all the growth of the last three decades go to the top 1 percent.”

In our current situation, who decides how our planet is used? Do a small number of people have a right to possess unlimited wealth while the middle class slips into economic insecurity and/or poverty? What about unlimited wealth while billions live in extreme poverty (less than $10/day)? Charity certainly is a good thing. But does anyone have the right to demand that those with more give up some of what they possess so that strangers — strangers who we have no reason to believe would be any more inclined to give up their wealth if the situations were reversed — can live decently?

A Ted Talk by Chuck Collins, author of 99 to 1

First, some facts and figures from 99 to 1

Chuck Collins, author of ''99 to 1''
  • The 1 percent has 35.6 percent of all private wealth, more than the bottom 95 percent combined.
  • The 400 wealthiest individuals on the Forbes 400 list have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans.
  • In 2010, 25 of the 100 largest U.S. companies paid their CEO more than they paid in U.S. taxes. This is largely because corporations in the global 1 percent use off shore tax havens to dodge their U.S. taxes.
  • Between 1983 and 2009, over 40 percent of all wealth gains flowed to the 1 percent and 82 percent of wealth gains went to the top 5 percent. The bottom 60 percent lost wealth over this same period.
  • The world’s 1 percent, almost entirely billionaires, own $42.7 trillion dollars, more than the bottom 3 billion residents of earth.
  • Between 2001 and 2010, the United States borrowed over $1 trillion to give wealthy taxpayers with incomes over $250,000 substantial tax breaks, including the 2001 Bush era tax cuts.
  • The American 99 percent has seen their national share of annual income decline from 91 percent in 1976 to 79 percent in 2010. The share of total wealth owned by the bottom 90 percent declined from 19.1 percent in 1962 to 12.8 percent in 2009.
  • The median net worth of white households in 2009 was $113,149, over 20 times the median net worth of African American households ($5,677) and 18 times that of Hispanic households ($6,325).
  • In 2010, average CEO pay for an S&P 500 company was $10.8 million, a 27 percent increase over 2009. The gap between CEO and average U.S. worker pay is 325 to 1, up from 42 to 1 in 1980.
  • The corporate 1 percent dominates the lobbying for federal and state policies. In the last 30 years, the ranks of official lobbyists have exploded. In 1970, there were 5 registered lobbyists for every one of the 535 members of Congress. Today there are 22 lobbyists for every member.


Chuck Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and directs IPS’s Program on Inequality and the Common Good. He is an expert on U.S. inequality and author of several books, including Economic Apartheid in America: A Primer on Economic Inequality and Insecurity, co-authored with Felice Yeskel (New Press, 2005). He co-authored with Bill Gates Sr. Wealth and Our Commonwealth (Beacon Press, 2003), a case for taxing inherited fortunes. He is co-author with Mary Wright of The Moral Measure of the Economy, about Christian ethics and economic life.

Wealth inequality in the United States:

"In 2012, the top 40 hedge fund managers and traders were paid a combined $16.7 billion, equivalent to the wages of 400,000 ordinary workers." (Paul Krugman, NY Times, 2/13/2014)

And in the rest of the world:

The Horribly Skewed Ownership of Our Planet

How skewed is the distribution of our world's wealth? Consider these bizarre facts (taken from another discussion of how crazy and dangerous the inequitable distribution of resources has gotten):
Americans earning minimum wage earn more in one hour than most Third World people earn in a brutal 10 - 12 hour workday; many millions of Americans (those whose salary and benefits are equal to $60,000 or more) make more in one hour than those people earn in one week of virtual slave labor.

In Mexico, a tiny elite owns almost everything, while half the population lives on less than five dollars/day.

From 1993 to 2002, the aggregate compensation of the top five executives in all public companies amounted to an astonishing $250 billion, equivalent to 7.5% of all corporate earnings. (Journalist Unmesh Kher, "Inflated Pay," Time, December 5, 2004)
To translate that quotation: Take the enormous "profit pie" baked by American corporations. Cut it into 13 slices. Now take one of the slices and give it to just five people! That seems like a sane distribution of resources, right? In a world with limited resources and starving billions, five people should be allowed to accumulate so much? Did these five really add as much value to their companies' bottom lines as the full time labor of 750,000 average US workers? That's what we paid them: Each one earned as much as did 150,000 average US wage earners during the same time period. Another way to view that simple fact: Each one of those corporate leaders earned more than ten million average Third World workers during the same time period.

And even after the economic downturn and its crushing effect on the working class 99%, executive pay continued to rise to even more absurd heights!

CEO of Exxon:  One of the Owners of Our World.  Click me for some perspective on the size of the problem.

And in the "First World," they are hard at work,
diligently trying to eliminate the middle class.

Bernie Sanders Makes the Case Better than Anyone:
The Greedy Are Waging War, and They're Winning!

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In the decade starting in 2003, the typical American family
lost 1/3 of their wealth while the rich continued to get richer.
How do the rich manipulate the electorate to support policies that
create such an unfair distribution of wealth? Let's let John Oliver explain:

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October 25, 2011

Top Earners Doubled Share of Nation’s Income, Study Finds

By ROBERT PEAR

WASHINGTON — The top 1 percent of earners more than doubled their share of the nation’s income over the last three decades, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday, in a new report likely to figure prominently in the escalating political fight over how to revive the economy, create jobs and lower the federal debt.

In addition, the report said, government policy has become less redistributive since the late 1970s, doing less to reduce the concentration of income.

The United States of Unreality. Click to see the full size image. “The equalizing effect of federal taxes was smaller” in 2007 than in 1979, as “the composition of federal revenues shifted away from progressive income taxes to less-progressive payroll taxes,” the budget office said.

Also, it said, federal benefit payments are doing less to even out the distribution of income, as a growing share of benefits, like Social Security, goes to older Americans, regardless of their income. …

In its report, the budget office found that from 1979 to 2007, average inflation-adjusted after-tax income grew by 275 percent for the 1 percent of the population with the highest income. For others in the top 20 percent of the population, average real after-tax household income grew by 65 percent.

By contrast, the budget office said, for the poorest fifth of the population, average real after-tax household income rose 18 percent.

And for the three-fifths of people in the middle of the income scale, the growth in such household income was just under 40 percent.

The findings, based on a rigorous analysis of data from the Internal Revenue Service and the Census Bureau, are generally consistent with studies by some private researchers and academic economists. …

Also cited as factors contributing to the rapid growth of income at the top were the structure of executive compensation; high salaries for some “superstars” in sports and the arts; the increasing size of the financial services industry; and the growing role of capital gains, which go disproportionately to higher-income households.

The report found that higher-income households got a larger share of the pie, while other households got smaller shares.

Specifically the report made these points:

¶ The share of after-tax household income for the top 1 percent of the population more than doubled, climbing to 17 percent in 2007 from nearly 8 percent in 1979.

¶ The most affluent fifth of the population received 53 percent of after-tax household income in 2007, up from 43 percent in 1979. In other words, the after-tax income of the most affluent fifth exceeded the income of the other four-fifths of the population.

¶ People in the lowest fifth of the population received about 5 percent of after-tax household income in 2007, down from 7 percent in 1979.

¶ People in the middle three-fifths [i.e., the "Middle Class"] of the population saw their shares of after-tax income decline by 2 to 3 percentage points from 1979 to 2007 [while the richest 1% saw their incomes double].

The study was requested by Senators Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, when he was the senior Republican on the panel.

Representative Sander M. Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said the report was “the latest evidence of the alarming rise in income inequality.” …

Even after the economic crash of 2008, the relentless greed of the 1% continues as mega-corporations continue to pay their executives absurd compensation for their labor.

Saint George (Carlin) on The War on the Middle Class


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How Mega Corporate Globalization Is
Actually Creating Global Slavelization

The Elimination of the Middle Class: Part I


(A brief, vivid explanation of how wealth has been
transferred from the middle class to the super-rich)


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"Corporations Are People, Too."

The Elimination of the Middle Class: Part II


(Stephen Colbert, Ralph Nader, with a touch of Jon Stewart)


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How about this: The 400 richest Americans — or, for an even better comparison, the 225 richest people in the world — have more wealth among them than the poorest 45% of the rest of the world; the wealth and control of our planet's resources of this tiny group of 225 rich people is more than the combined wealth of 3 billion people! You're right. That isn't fair. That's why George Bush arranged to give the Fortunate American 400 a massive tax break. And when people are losing their homes by the millions the angry rich still feel they are being taken advantage of by paying way too much in taxes!?!

Such extreme inequality is destructive and benefits no one!

It may even be killing you . . .

Click on the audio player to hear Stephen Bezruchka, M.D., of the University of Washington,
describe how the skewed distribution of wealth may be profoundly affecting your health.

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Income inequality may even cause obesity!?!
OMG! Bush Morphed
into the Tea Partier.
New Face: Same Idiocy

George Bush morphing into Alfred E. Neuman
What Me Worry?

[To download, right-click
the animated image]

And It's Getting Worse :-(

Not long ago, it was estimated that the top 1% now own half of everything on planet earth. Reread that a few times until the absurdity of this state of affairs sinks in. Another way to understand the insanity of how resources are distributed among human beings is that, by January of 2016, the richest 62 people owned more than the poorest half of the world's population! One year later, the richest 8 (that's right, eight) people owned more than the poorest half of the world's population, more than 3.6 BILLION people! How is this acceptable?

Back in 2009, a former chief economist of the IMF warned that the U.S. was on its way to becoming a corrupted pseudo-democracy like banana republics. But nobody listened. Our "leaders" are part of the controlling oligarchy and, as Aldous Huxley noted long ago, the masses are anesthetized by baubles and beer.

Speaking at a Federal Reserve conference on fixing the
banking system, here's a truly astonishing and remarkably frank
presentation by one of the most renowned economists in the world:

The Problem Is that They're All Crooks!

The truth underlying Stephen Colbert's black comedy in the video below should be frightening. Our corporate oligarchs are rapidly dismantling the economic system that enabled a middle class to thrive in the industrialized First World. If you disagree and think things are OK, then to you, more than anyone, Stephen says, "You're Welcome."

The Elimination of the Middle Class: Part III

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The Elimination of the Middle Class: Part IV

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The Elimination of the Middle Class: Part V

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Jon Stewart & John Hodgman on the Bush Tax Cuts

The Elimination of the Middle Class: Part VI

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Stephen Colbert & Lou Dobbs'
War on the Middle Class

The Elimination of the Middle Class: Part VII

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Stephen Colbert's Requiem for Pensions

The Elimination of the Middle Class: Part VIII

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The Elimination of the Middle Class: Part IX

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Bush Vetoes Health Care for Poor Kids
Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert Respond

The Elimination of the Middle Class: Part X

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For a less humorous but just as outrageous view, take a look at:

Bill Moyers On the Disappearing Middle Class

The Elimination of the Middle Class: Part XI

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The rich get richer and the poor get . . . Never mind what the poor get.  The hell with the poor.



And anyway, worrying about being homeless gives the poor something to do.



America's last export:  Jobs.



You can always trust your local corporate oligarch.



And God so loved the rich . . .



Compassionate conservatism.



The flat death tax proposal.



 

Uh oh!  He's using drugs again.



''How the middle class prays'' . . . ur uhm, or rather ''How the middle class is prey.''



How to stretch your retirement dollars.



Retirement plans, post Bush.



The incredible, vanishing safety net.



You know, the one about the ''trickle-down'' that causes the rising tide that lifts all boats.



How unregulated, ''free'' markets ensure that the playing field is level.  Yeah right!



You know, the one about the ''trickle-down'' that causes the rising tide that lifts all boats.
NY Times Opinion Page Logo

Op-Ed Columnist

Fast Track to Inequality

By BOB HERBERT

Published: November 1, 2010

The clearest explanation yet of the forces that converged over the past three decades or so to undermine the economic well-being of ordinary Americans is contained in the new book, “Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class.”

The authors, political scientists Jacob Hacker of Yale and Paul Pierson of the University of California, Berkeley, argue persuasively that the economic struggles of the middle and working classes in the U.S. since the late-1970s were not primarily the result of globalization and technological changes but rather a long series of policy changes in government that overwhelmingly favored the very rich.

Those changes were the result of increasingly sophisticated, well-financed and well-organized efforts by the corporate and financial sectors to tilt government policies in their favor, and thus in favor of the very wealthy. From tax laws to deregulation to corporate governance to safety net issues, government action was deliberately shaped to allow those who were already very wealthy to amass an ever increasing share of the nation’s economic benefits.

“Over the last generation,” the authors write, “more and more of the rewards of growth have gone to the rich and superrich. The rest of America, from the poor through the upper middle class, has fallen further and further behind.”

As if to underscore this theme, it was revealed last week (by David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter for The New York Times), that the incomes of the very highest earners in the United States, a small group of individuals hauling in more than $50 million annually (sometimes much more), increased fivefold from 2008 to 2009, even as the nation was being rocked by the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Last year was a terrific year for those at the very top. Professors Hacker and Pierson note in their book that investors and executives at the nation’s 38 largest companies earned a stunning total of $140 billion — a record. The investment firm Goldman Sachs paid bonuses to its employees that averaged nearly $600,000 per person, its best year since it was founded in 1869.

Something has gone seriously haywire in the distribution of the fruits of the American economy.

This unfortunate shift away from a long period of more widely shared prosperity unfolded steadily, year after year since the late-’70s, whether Democrats or Republicans controlled the levers of power in Washington. “Winner-Take-All Politics” explores the vexing question of how this could have happened in a democracy in which — in theory, at least — the enormous number of voters who are not rich would serve as a check on policies that curtailed their own economic opportunities while at the same time supercharging the benefits of the runaway rich.

The answer becomes clearer when one recognizes, as the book stresses, that politics is largely about organized combat. It’s a form of warfare. “It’s a contest,” said Professor Pierson, “between those who are organized, who can really monitor what government is doing in a very complicated world and bring pressure effectively to bear on politicians. Voters in that kind of system are at a disadvantage when there aren’t reliable, organized groups representing them that have clout and can effectively communicate to them what is going on.”

The book describes an “organizational revolution” that took place over the past three decades in which big business mobilized on an enormous scale to become much more active in Washington, cultivating politicians in both parties and fighting fiercely to achieve shared political goals. This occurred at the same time that organized labor, the most effective force fighting on behalf of the middle class and other working Americans, was caught in a devastating spiral of decline.

Thus, the counterweight of labor to the ever-increasing political clout of big business was effectively lost.

“We’re not arguing that globalization and technological change don’t matter,” said Professor Hacker. “But they aren’t by any means a sufficient explanation for this massive change in the distribution of wealth and income in the U.S. Much more important are the ways in which government has shaped the economy over this period through deregulation, through changes in industrial relations policies affecting labor unions, through corporate governance policies that have allowed C.E.O.’s to basically set their own pay, and so on.”

This hyperconcentration of wealth and income, and the overwhelming political clout it has put into the hands of the monied interests, has drastically eroded the capacity of government to respond to the needs of the middle class and others of modest income.

Nothing better illustrates the enormous power that has accrued to this tiny sliver of the population than its continued ability to thrive and prosper despite the Great Recession that was largely the result of their winner-take-all policies, and that has had such a disastrous effect on so many other Americans.

NY Times Opinion Page Logo

Op-Ed Columnist

Who Will Stand Up to the Superrich?

By FRANK RICH

Published: November 13, 2010

IN the aftermath of the Great Democratic Shellacking of 2010, one election night subplot quickly receded into the footnotes: the drubbing received by very wealthy Americans, most of them Republican, who tried to buy Senate seats and governor’s mansions. Americans don’t hate rich people. They admire and often idolize success. But Californians took a hearty dislike to Meg Whitman, who sacrificed $143 million of her eBay fortune — not to mention her undocumented former housekeeper — to a gubernatorial race she lost by double digits. Connecticut voters K.O.’d the World Wrestling groin-kicker, Linda McMahon, and West Virginians did likewise to the limestone-and-steel magnate John Raese, the senatorial hopeful who told an interviewer without apparent irony, “I made my money the old-fashioned way — I inherited it.” . . .

The wealthy Americans we should worry about instead are the ones who implicitly won the election — those who take far more from America than they give back. They were not on the ballot, and most of them are not household names. Unlike Whitman and the other defeated self-financing candidates, they are all but certain to cash in on the Nov. 2 results. There’s no one in Washington in either party with the fortitude to try to stop them from grabbing anything that’s not nailed down.

The Americans I’m talking about are not just those shadowy anonymous corporate campaign contributors who flooded this campaign. No less triumphant were those individuals at the apex of the economic pyramid — the superrich who have gotten spectacularly richer over the last four decades while their fellow citizens either treaded water or lost ground. The top 1 percent of American earners took in 23.5 percent of the nation’s pretax income in 2007 — up from less than 9 percent in 1976. During the boom years of 2002 to 2007, that top 1 percent’s pretax income increased an extraordinary 10 percent every year. But the boom proved an exclusive affair: in that same period, the median income for non-elderly American households went down and the poverty rate rose.

It’s the very top earners, not your garden variety, entrepreneurial multimillionaires, who will be by far the biggest beneficiaries if there’s an extension of the expiring Bush-era tax cuts for income over $200,000 a year (for individuals) and $250,000 (for couples). The resurgent G.O.P. has vowed to fight to the end to award this bonanza, but that may hardly be necessary given the timid opposition of President Obama and the lame-duck Democratic Congress. . .

The issue is whether the country can afford the systemic damage being done by the ever-growing income inequality between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else, whether poor, middle class or even rich. That burden is inflicted not just on the debt but on the very idea of America — our Horatio Alger faith in social mobility over plutocracy, our belief that our brand of can-do capitalism brings about innovation and growth, and our fundamental sense of fairness. Incredibly, the top 1 percent of Americans now have tax rates a third lower than the same top percentile had in 1970.

“How can hedge-fund managers who are pulling down billions sometimes pay a lower tax rate than do their secretaries?” ask the political scientists Jacob S. Hacker (of Yale) and Paul Pierson (University of California, Berkeley) in their deservedly lauded new book, “Winner-Take-All Politics.” If you want to cry real tears about the American dream — as opposed to the self-canonizing tears of John Boehner — read this book and weep. The authors’ answer to that question and others amounts to a devastating indictment of both parties.

Their ample empirical evidence, some of which I’m citing here, proves that America’s ever-widening income inequality was not an inevitable by-product of the modern megacorporation, or of globalization, or of the advent of the new tech-driven economy, or of a growing education gap. (Yes, the very rich often have fancy degrees, but so do those in many income levels below them.) Inequality is instead the result of specific policies, including tax policies, championed by Washington Democrats and Republicans alike as they conducted a bidding war for high-rolling donors in election after election.

The book deflates much of the conventional wisdom. Hacker and Pierson date the dawn of the collusion between the political system and the superrich not to the Reagan revolution, but to the preceding Carter presidency and its Democratic Congress. They also write that contrary to the popular perception, America’s superhigh earners are not mostly “superstars and celebrities in the arts, entertainment and sports” or the stars of law, medicine and real estate. They are instead corporate executives and managers — increasingly (and less surprisingly) financial company executives and managers, including those who escaped with outrageous fortunes as their companies imploded during the housing bubble.

The G.O.P.’s arguments for extending the Bush tax cuts to this crowd, usually wrapped in laughably hypocritical whining about “class warfare,” are easily batted down. The most constant refrain is that small-business owners who file in this bracket would be hit so hard they could no longer hire new employees. But the Tax Policy Center found in 2008, when checking out similar campaign claims by “Joe the Plumber,” that only 2 percent of all Americans reporting small-business income, regardless of tax bracket, would see tax increases if Obama fulfilled his pledge to let the Bush tax cuts lapse for the top earners. The economist Dean Baker calculated that the yearly tax increase at the lower end of that bracket, for those with earnings between $200,000 and $500,000, would amount to $700 — which “isn’t enough to hire anyone.”

Those in the higher reaches aren’t investing in creating new jobs even now, when the full Bush tax cuts remain in effect, so why would extending them change that equation? American companies seem intent on sitting on trillions in cash until the economy reboots. Meanwhile, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office ranks the extension of any Bush tax cuts, let alone those to the wealthiest Americans, as the least effective of 11 possible policy options for increasing employment. . .

As “Winner-Take-All Politics” documents, America has been busy “building a bridge to the 19th century” — that is, to a new Gilded Age. To dislodge the country from this stagnant rut will require all kinds of effort from Americans in and out of politics. That includes some patriotic selflessness from those at the very top who still might emulate Warren Buffett and the few others in the Forbes 400 who dare say publicly that it’s not in America’s best interests to stack the tax and regulatory decks in their favor. . .

NY Times Opinion Page Logo

Stop Coddling the Super-Rich

By WARREN E. BUFFETT

Published: August 14, 2011

Omaha

OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)

I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.

Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.

Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.

But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

Warren E. Buffett is the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the three wealthiest people in the world.

So how do they get the middle class to vote for such idiocy?

Attention Morons of America:  Vote Republican!

And if you want to really understand how the insipid
Tea Party could get ordinary citizens to frantically work
against their own interests, consider this enlightening
and frightening article from The New Yorker
about the billionaire Koch brothers.

& Michael Moore On the Downsizing of America

The Elimination of the Middle Class: Part XII

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Finally, Lewis Black
On the Heart of the Matter: Greed

The Elimination of the Middle Class: Part XIII


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left-click here.
 

Click here for the best explanation of the 2008 economic collapse.Blaming America

While in many circles it is quite fashionable to blame America for the tremendous disparity in wealth and power, that obscures the issue and makes finding a solution almost impossible. The historical fact is that once humans moved beyond tribal living, the skewed distribution of resources became more and more extreme. There was an Inca emperor with 10,000 virgin wives, not to mention King Solomon with his 1,000 wives and concubines. While there are those that would also be quick to blame Saudi extravagance on the artificial creation by the West of the Saudi family's dominance (or Dubai extravagance on the West's support of the emirates), there is simply no evidence that historical patterns in the region were ever any different once tribes began to be replaced by kingdoms and eventually empires.

 
Welcome aboard Wall Street
Executive Air's nonstop
flight to Economic Disaster.

We will be arriving slightly ahead of schedule.
Welcome aboard Wall Street Executive Air's nonstop flight to Poverty.
The United States is simply the geopolitical-economic entity currently on the top of the heap. With the mismanagement and explosion of the US deficit due to massive tax cuts for the rich along with a simultaneous massive expenditure of funds on two wars, the strength of the American economy may be rapidly eroding. And, as we have seen recently, the deregulation of the financial markets has enabled unrestrained greed to create economic havoc that may finally end American dominance. In any case, with corporate globalization, the distinction between the U.S. and the rest of the world is slowly dissolving. Yet, as this occurs, the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands is increasing, rapidly creating a pattern that might better be termed global slavelization. The new ruling oligarchy is becoming an alliance between those whose interests lie with the multi-national corporations they own and control.
 

Jason Jones & the Incredible

Selfishness of the Super Rich

The problem is that we need to come to terms with the normal, universal human tendency to try to acquire and retain control over wealth, over resources. This tendency has accelerated out of control as we have created larger and larger social groupings that have enormous quantities of wealth. The wealth of southern city-states enticed the northern barbarian hordes to invade. While we may be able to stop the endless organized violence over land and other spoils of war, the vast resources within societies numbering many millions of people remain a mesmerizing target. With the advent of the corporation, we have made legal and financial manipulation the preferred weapon of conquest and acquisition. However, when the population explosion is added to the increasingly inequitable distribution of resources, the situation becomes increasingly untenable, unstable, and unsustainable.



Here's an Insider's View from
the Top of the Corporate World.

Inside Job

The Academy Award winning documentary
explaining the economic collapse of 2008

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Toward a Yoan Understanding of the Problem and Its Solution

What does the study of Yo (Reality) tell us about property rights and sharing our world? Help us develop a Yoan philosophy of property rights. On our WikiYo, we have created a page where all can contribute and you can help us develop a proposal for a Yoan model of ownership/property rights. Please feel free to chime in and edit the linked page and to create other linked pages with other proposals and/or discussions of the issues.

Our wiki is temporarily down. To download a printable copy of a recent version of this collaborative view of property rights, click here.

Are we exaggerating the extent of the problem?

Well, if the incredibly skewed ownership of our planet doesn't convince you that there is a major problem, maybe Michael Crichton's short essay about ownership of knowledge will. It's a bit of a "mind blower." And it shows that Dave Rovics is not exaggerating, even a little, in the song below.

The Commons

Dave Rovics

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First you told us only through you could we know God
And if we dared to question, then He wouldn't spare the rod
For you we worked the soil, for you we dug the moors
For you we shed our blood and fought so many pointless wars
Now you build your fences; you say there's nothing we can do
You say the world around us belongs fairly to the few
But about six billion people, no doubt will agree
This world is our home, not your property

New Currency: Reality Notes
New US Currency: The One Reality Note (or The Yo Note ;-)'

The International
New International Currency: The One Reality Note (or The Yo Note ;-)'


The Animated Version



and
A More "Realistic" Version
The United States of Unreality. Click to see the full size image.
It's the commons, our right of birth
And you who would enclose the land all around the Earth
Our future is your downfall, when we cut this ball and chain
You who'd sacrifice the public good for your private gain

With our sweat we built the railroads, built cities on these shores
But because you own the money, you say that it's all yours
We laid the phone lines and the pipelines and then right before our eyes
You say the things our taxes paid for you now will privatize
Privatize the hospitals, privatize the schools
Privatize the prisons for all those who break your rules
And preparing for the day, when all the wells run dry
You say you own the very rain that falls down from the sky

But it's the commons, our right of birth
And you who'd own the water all around the Earth
Our future is your downfall, when we cut this ball and chain
You who'd sacrifice the public good for your private gain

You claim to own the harvest with your terminator seeds
You claim to own the genomes of every animal that breeds
You claim to own our culture and the music that we play
And with each song that we download to your coffers we must pay
You would even own my name and you say it's for the best
Maybe you'll let us on your radio if our songs can pass your test
You own country, you own western, you say you've given us a choice
You may own the airwaves but you'll never own my voice

It's the commons, our right of birth
And you who’d own the music all around the Earth
Our future is your downfall, when we cut this ball and chain
You who'd sacrifice the public good for your private gain



And let's not forget Mitt Romney's record as a job creator.
It's as close to non-fiction as the Book of Mormon.
But the Tea Party ninnies bought it:



Mitt Romney, American Parasite

His years at Bain represent everything you hate about capitalism

By Pete Kotz
published: April 18, 2012
  • The smartest guys in the room: Members of Bain Capital with Romney, center, who managed to destroy four of his 10 biggest moneymakers

    The smartest guys in the room: Members of Bain Capital with Romney, center, who managed to destroy four of his 10 biggest moneymakers Bain Capital, 1984

  • David Foster, a union official at Kansas City’s Armco steel mill, says Bain drove the mill into the ground by placing its own interests above customers’.

    David Foster, a union official at Kansas City’s Armco steel mill, says Bain drove the mill into the ground by placing its own interests above customers’. Jayme Halbritter

  • A Bain partner told author Josh Kosman that higher-ups frequently discussed cutting workers. Job growth “was never part of the plan.”

    A Bain partner told author Josh Kosman that higher-ups frequently discussed cutting workers. Job growth “was never part of the plan.” Lyric Cabral

James Sanderson had encountered a rare moment of industrial harmony.

It was the early 1990s, and the 750 men and women at Georgetown Steel were pumping out wire rods at peak performance. They had an abiding trust in management's ability to run a smart company. That allegiance was rewarded with fat profit-sharing checks. In the basement-wage economy of Georgetown, South Carolina, Sanderson and his co-workers were blue-collar aristocracy.

"We were doing very good," says Sanderson, president of Steelworkers Local 7898. "The plant was making money, and we had good profit-sharing checks, and everything was going well."

What he didn't know was that it was about to end. Hundreds of miles to the north, in Boston, a future presidential candidate was sizing up Georgetown's books.

At the time, Mitt Romney had been running Bain Capital since 1984, minting a reputation as a prince of private investment. A future prospectus by Deutsche Bank would reveal that by the time he left in 1999, Bain had averaged a shimmering 88 percent annual return on investment. Romney would use that success to launch his political career.

His specialty was flipping companies—or what he often calls "creative destruction." It's the age-old theory that the new must constantly attack the old to bring efficiency to the economy, even if some companies are destroyed along the way. In other words, people like Romney are the wolves, culling the herd of the weak and infirm.

His formula was simple: Bain would purchase a firm with little money down, then begin extracting huge management fees and paying Romney and his investors enormous dividends.

The result was that previously profitable companies were now burdened with debt. But much like the Enron boys, Romney's battery of MBAs fancied themselves the smartest guys in the room. It didn't matter if a company manufactured bicycles or contact lenses; they were certain they could run it better than anyone else.

Bain would slash costs, jettison workers, reposition product lines, and merge its new companies with other firms. With luck, they'd be able to dump the firm in a few years for millions more than they'd paid for it.

But the beauty of Romney's thesis was that it really didn't matter if the company succeeded. Because he was yanking out cash early and often, he would profit even if his targets collapsed.

Which was precisely the fate awaiting Georgetown Steel.

When Bain purchased the mill, Sanderson says, change was immediate. Equipment upgrades stopped. Maintenance became an afterthought. Managers were replaced by people who knew nothing about steel. The union's profit-sharing plan was sliced twice in the first year—then whacked altogether.

"When Bain Capital took over, it seemed like everything was being neglected in our plant," Sanderson says. "Nothing was being invested in our plant. We didn't have the necessary time to maintain our equipment. They had people here that didn't know what they were doing. It was like they were taking money from us and putting it somewhere else."

History would prove him correct. While Georgetown was beginning its descent to bankruptcy, Romney was helping himself to the company's treasury.

The Working Man's Villain

He should have known better. The year before Romney purchased Georgetown, he mounted his career in politics, setting his sights on the biggest target in Massachusetts: the U.S. Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy.

There were early signs that he might topple the Kennedy dynasty. Much like today, Romney was pitching himself as a commander of the economy, a man with the mastery to create jobs. Yet he suffered an affliction common to those atop the financial food chain: He assumed that what was good for him was good for all. Call it trickle-down blindness.

In the midst of that 1994 campaign, one of Romney's companies, American Pad & Paper, bought a plant in Marion, Indiana. At the time, it was prosperous enough to be running three shifts.

Bain's first move was to fire all 258 workers, then invite them to reapply for their jobs at lower wages and a 50 percent cut in health care benefits.

"They came in and said, 'You're all fired,'" employee Randy Johnson told the Los Angeles Times. "'If you want to work for us, here's an application.' We had insurance until the end of the week. That was it. It was brutal."

But instead of reapplying, the workers went on strike. They also decided the good people of Massachusetts should know what kind of man wanted to be their senator. Suddenly, Indiana accents were showing up in Kennedy TV ads, offering tales of Romney's villainy. He was sketched as a corporate Lucifer, one who wouldn't blink at crushing little people if it meant prettying his portfolio.

Needless to say, this wasn't a proper leading man's role for a labor state like Massachusetts. Taking just 41 percent of the vote, Romney was pounded in the election. Meanwhile, the Marion plant closed just six months after Bain's purchase. The jobs were shipped to Mexico.

Yet Romney didn't learn his lesson. He seemed incapable of noticing that his brand of "creative destruction" left a lot of human wreckage in its wake. Or that voters might see him as more scumbag than saint.

Just a few months after being hammered by Kennedy, he set fire to another company.

The Price of Incompetence

The move was classic Bain. Before buying Georgetown, Romney had purchased the Armco steel mill in Kansas City, Missouri, which had been in business for more than 100 years.

"We were setting a lot of records for production at that time," says employee Steve Morrow. "We were making a lot of money because we were getting profit sharing."

Bain combined Armco with the mill in Georgetown and foundries in Tempe, Arizona, and Duluth, Minnesota, to form the newly christened GS Industries.

Romney purchased Armco with just $8 million down and borrowed the rest of the $75 million price tag. Then he issued bonds—basically IOUs—to borrow even more to pay himself and his investors $36 million.

Within a year, he'd already made four times his initial investment while barely lifting a finger. But he'd also run up a staggering $378 million in debt on GSI's tab.

Steel is an infamously cyclical business, a worldwide commodity prone to the same wild price fluctuations as oil. The Kansas City plant forged parts for equipment used in mining gold and copper, leaving it susceptible to the instability of those markets as well.

Yet the smartest guys in the room thought they could run the plant better than the people setting production records.

"They were getting rid of old managers and hiring new managers that didn't have any steel experience," Morrow says. "Some of the guys were nice guys and everything, but they didn't have a clue what was going on."

Many of the new supervisors were ex-military, people who believed that grown men and women are best motivated by punishment. Before Bain, says Morrow, "everybody got along."

Afterward? "They wanted to run the plant like a disciplinary environment. They wanted to discipline people for getting hurt on the job. They wanted to put us in an environment like a war, where we were always fighting with them."

Romney was charging GSI $900,000 a year in management fees to run the company. The Kansas City mill received $900,000 worth of ineptitude in return.

Although Bain borrowed $97 million to retool the plant so it could also produce wire rods, it left the rest of the facility to rot.

To save costs, Bain went miserly on everything from maintenance to spare parts and earplugs. Equipment deteriorated. Because the new managers didn't know how to repair it, "they'd want to rent a new piece of equipment out instead of maintaining what we had," Morrow says. The waste and inefficiency was breathtaking.

Bain's plan all along was to streamline the company into greater profitability, then reap the rewards with a public stock offering. But the exact opposite was happening. Even Roger Regelbrugge, whom Bain installed as CEO, knew the debt was crushing GSI from within, according to Reuters. If a public offering didn't materialize, the company would collapse.

Steel was about to enter a periodic downturn. Countries around the world were locked in a war of tariffs and government-subsidized production, creating a glut and driving down prices. Romney's strategy of the flip was never meant to endure difficult times.

Workers saw the end coming; they were particularly worried that Bain was badly underfunding their pension plan. So they went on strike in 1997, bringing a traditional Rust Belt flair to the festivities by littering the streets with nails and gunning bottle rockets at security guards.

When it was all over, the steelworkers union agreed to wage and vacation cuts in exchange for extra health and pension safeguards should the plant close.

Yet GSI was now hemorrhaging money, says David Foster, the union official who negotiated the deal. He claims that Bain cursed the company by placing its own interests above those of customers or long-term stability.

"Like a lot of private equity firms, Bain managed the company for financial results, not production results," Foster says. "It didn't invest in maintenance or immediate customer needs. All that came second to meeting monthly financial goals."

It would take a few more years of bleeding, but GSI eventually fell to bankruptcy.

The Kansas City mill closed for good; 750 people lost their jobs. Worse, Romney had shorted their pension fund by $44 million. The feds were forced to cover the difference, while workers saw their benefits slashed in bankruptcy court.

The battered Georgetown plant and the foundries in Arizona and Minnesota ultimately were bought out of bankruptcy by new companies. Their workforces were halved.

Still, Romney walked away unbruised. All that debt was technically GSI's, not Bain's. Because he'd repaid himself and his investors just months after the purchase, Romney pocketed millions for running the company into the ground.

"They were clever and ruthless enough to pay their own investors back at a really high return rate," Foster says.

This was the beauty of Romney's racket. Even if he killed a company—and he tended to kill them fairly often—he still made out, leaving others to take the hit.

The Parasitic Capitalist

On the campaign trail, Romney describes his work at Bain as resurrecting distressed companies. In this version, he's the white knight lifting troubled firms from the precipice of failure.

Not true.

Private equity companies like Bain rarely buy anything but profitable firms for one compelling reason: The patient must be healthy enough to be force-fed all that debt. So it's something of a misnomer for Republican opponents to slur him as a "vulture capitalist."

"Romney is not a vulture capitalist, as Rick Perry says, since vultures eat dead carcasses," notes Josh Kosman, who has written about the private equity business for 15 years. He's "more of a parasitic capitalist, since he destroys profitable businesses."

Judging by the title of his book—The Buyout of America: How Private Equity Is Destroying Jobs and Killing the American Economy—it's safe to assume that Kosman is no fan of the industry. But he concedes that the business isn't inherently wicked.

The game works like this: Big-money investors write checks to people like Romney, who pool that money to buy or invest in other companies. Internal company documents show that a year before Romney left Bain in 1999, one of his funds had reached a massive $10 billion.

Although Bain requires a $1 million minimum for a seat at the table, its investors don't just come from the wealthiest 1 percent. They also include college endowments and teachers' pension funds.

Jon Burgstone, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley's Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology, sees private equity as essential to the economy. He might be a member of President Obama's National Finance Committee, but he's still an admirer of Bain.

"Generally, private equity companies invest in larger firms that need reorganization or in smaller companies that need growth capital," he says. And their management can usually benefit from "very bright Bain consultants."

That feeling is shared by Steven Kaplan, among the foremost scholars in the field. The University of Chicago finance professor says that, statistically speaking, firms like Bain improve a company's cash flow while providing investors with a better return than the stock market.

There's no question that Romney had a gift for minting money. In 1986, he bought medical-equipment manufacturer Calumet Coach for just $1 million, later flipping it for $34 million. He made 16 times his initial investment in the Gartner Group, a technology-research firm.

In what was perhaps his crowning achievement, he bought the money-losing Wesley Jessen VisionCare for $6 million in 1994. Seven years later, it was sold for a dazzling $300 million.

Kaplan argues that critics rarely mention these success stories, preferring to "cherry-pick" deals that paint Romney as unmerciful and gluttonous. "I think it's quite unfair," he says. "He was extremely successful at Bain, generating returns for his investors. Bain Capital had a tremendous track record. When you invest in dozens of companies, some of those deals don't work out."

But if critics are quick to disregard Romney's triumphs, defenders are equally swift to rationalize his catastrophes. They'll note that for all of Romney's bankruptcies, most were rescued by new companies and survive today. It's the final dollar tally that matters.

Yet they seem strangely incurious about the ruin he has delivered across the country. Take Kansas City, for example.

The Armco plant closing involved more than the torching of 750 jobs, Morrow says. Contractors and suppliers collapsed. Workers' children and widows lost health care and pension benefits. And while Bain received millions in tax breaks—paid for by the very people left holding the bag—Romney walked away millions richer.

So one might forgive everyday Americans for feeling they're on the wrong end of a rigged game, one where the wealthy always win—no matter how inept—and the little guy is left to hack through the debris.

Bain is a private company, meaning it has no obligation to reveal its practices. It has never made public a list of companies it has purchased (nor would Bain or the Romney campaign comment for this story).

So in January, The Wall Street Journal did its best to piece together Romney's track record, reviewing 77 investments made under his direction. It turned out that nearly one in three of the companies experienced severe financial trouble. One in five wound up in bankruptcy.

The more telling figure: Of Romney's 10 biggest moneymakers, he ultimately destroyed four of them, leaving bankruptcy judges to clean up the mess.

As Foster sees it, Romney was an early pioneer of gaming the system. It would take another decade before large banks used many of the same principles to detonate the mortgage industry.

"The great irony is that his entire management experience at Bain Capital is buying companies and loading them up with debt and then looting the balance sheet," Foster says. "It's the very model that drove the American economy off the cliff then left other people to manage the wreckage."

The Job Assassin

Renee Fry doesn't recognize the tin man she sees on TV, the candidate so congenitally wooden that he makes Al Gore seem like Flavor Flav. She was Romney's deputy chief of staff when he was governor of Massachusetts. The guy she served was warm and considerate, quick to distill data and seize the big picture.

"I'm lucky because I know him from the day-to-day Mitt," Fry says. "He liked going out and talking to people and learning from people. The Mitt I know had a real appreciation for people."

But if Romney played the friendly politician, kindness wasn't his specialty at Bain. Rewarding CEOs with huge bonuses, he was generous to ranking executives. Yet he tended to treat those below his pay grade as little more than machinery.

Romney has claimed to have created 100,000 jobs at Bain and says that providing work for Americans was a primary company goal.

He cites Domino's, Sports Authority, and Staples, companies that added jobs after Bain bought in.

But Bain bought Domino's just months before Romney left to run the Salt Lake City Olympics, meaning someone else created those jobs. And he didn't manage Staples or Sports Authority; Bain was a minority investor.

By Romney's logic, any large investor—say, the Texas teachers' pension fund—also creates hundreds of thousands of jobs. The boast is so foolish that his campaign has since backed away from it.

Even Kaplan admits that private equity firms rarely create jobs. Workers are seen as costs, and costs are the enemy. According to Kosman, Romney was in truth among the most heinous job-killers of them all.

While writing his book, Kosman conducted an interview with a Bain managing partner. The man told him that when Bain was about to buy a company, its partners would hold a meeting. "He said that about half the time [they] would talk about cutting workers," Kosman says. "They would never talk about adding workers. He said that job growth was never part of the plan."

That claim was buttressed by the Associated Press, which studied 45 companies bought by Bain during Romney's first decade. It found that 4,000 workers lost their jobs. The real figure is likely thousands higher, since the analysis didn't account for bankruptcies and factory and store closings.

An example of Romney's cold-blooded approach is his 1994 purchase of Dade International, an Illinois medical-equipment company. He soon merged it with two similar firms, a move that tripled sales.

Once again, he couldn't help but raid the vault, peeling away $100 million for himself and investors at the same time Dade was laying off 1,700 American workers.

After Bain closed a Dade plant in Puerto Rico, human-resources manager Cindy Hewitt was asked to lure a dozen of those employees to work in the company's Miami factory.

But that plant soon closed as well. Although Romney was gobbling up millions, Bain still wanted those laid-off employees to repay their moving costs.

"They were treated horribly," Hewitt told The New York Times. "There was absolutely no concern for the employees. It was truly and completely profit-focused."

And let's not forget Mitt
Romney, the Child Molester
Mitt Romney:  A confessed child molester.
More Republican, Sexual
Religious Hypocrisy

Yet Bain's molestation wasn't complete. It was trying to sell Dade but didn't like the offers it received on the open market. So it created an artificial market of its own.

In 1999, it forced Dade to borrow $242 million, which was used to buy back company stock from Bain, Dade executives, and their banker, Goldman Sachs.

Bain was again extracting profits with borrowed money. It had pushed Dade's debt to a bracing $2 billion. To help pay for the deal, the company laid off another 367 workers.

But that debt proved too much for Dade's shoulders to carry. Three years later, the company was bankrupt.

Kosman calls it standard Romney operating procedure. To pump short-term earnings, he would essentially "starve a company," whacking not just employees, but also customer-service and research-and-development funding—the ingredients of long-term prosperity.

"I think they're one of the worst, at least during Romney's time," Kosman says. "They were very aggressive about dividends. They were very aggressive about borrowing the most money they could. He's very driven to be the best he could be, and that was to be as cutthroat as he could be. But in the process, he hurt a lot of companies and cost a lot of jobs, maybe tens of thousands of jobs."

Kosman says it's telling that Romney never cites companies he actually managed as evidence of his job-building skills.

"If Romney had some stories to tell, he'd use those stories," he says. "I think it's very interesting that he's not telling those stories because I think they don't exist."

The Welfare Queen

Romney's economic views were on stark parade during this year's Michigan primary. He ripped President Obama for bailing out the auto industry and argued that it should have been dealt with in his favorite resting place: bankruptcy court.

He was particularly incensed that the president rescued workers' pension funds before covering Wall Street's bad loans.

But his faith in the free market wobbles when his friends need rescuing. Romney just as vigorously defends the $10 billion government bailout of Goldman Sachs, his investment partner at Bain.

After all, Romney frequently assumed the role of welfare queen himself.

In 1988, he bought South Carolina photo-album maker Holson Burnes. In exchange for the firm's promise to build a new factory, the people of Gaffney, South Carolina, gave Bain $5 million in bonds and $200,000 in utility upgrades.

The plant closed just four years later. The 100 jobs there were later shipped to Mexico.

At GSI, he dumped $44 million in pension shortfalls on the federal government. And when he bought mattress maker Sealy in 1997, he took $600,000 in welfare to move the firm from Ohio to North Carolina.

Even a company Romney cites as one of his greatest achievements—Steel Dynamics, where he was a minority investor—was practically launched by corporate welfare. Indiana taxpayers gave the firm $77 million to open a plant. Residents of DeKalb County actually had their income taxes raised solely to help Romney and his friends.

Tad DeHaven calls it "theft and redistribution."

He's no yammering Trotskyite; DeHaven is a former budget adviser to Republican U.S. senators Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Yet he notes that firms like Bain often get governments to subsidize their raiding parties.

The feds take $100 billion a year from everyday taxpayers and send it straight to companies like Romney's, says DeHaven, who now works for the Cato Institute, a conservative think tank.

But like most good Republicans, he's reticent to single out the candidate for criticism. "It depends on what he knew and Bain's involvement in obtaining subsidies," DeHaven says. "I don't know if it makes him a hypocrite or not, but he should answer questions about it."

The President of Russia

Those answers won't be forthcoming. Romney refuses to discuss most of the companies he purchased at Bain, nor will he release his tax records from those years. As a result, voters are left to make their own call on his catalog of creative destruction—and what he might be like as president.

Romney has professed his admiration for Ronald Reagan. But judging by his business history, the president he most resembles is Vladimir Putin. Romney has devoted his life to ensuring that every last penny rises to a few hands at the top. And like Putin, he has never shown much concern for the countrymen he tramples along the way.

"The word 'oligarchy' comes to mind," says Michael Keating when asked to envision a Romney presidency.

Keating is a former business consultant and executive at Bertelsmann, a multinational investment firm that operates in 63 countries. He asserts that men like Romney "hide their antisocial actions behind a rhetoric of free-market capitalist platitudes. But in the end, it's all about the bottom line—and only their own bottom line . . ."

"I don't think Romney is so much dangerous as he is unimaginative," Keating adds. "And in the world we live in, that amounts to the same thing."

link to original article

And here's Matt Taibbi's version in the Rolling Stone

Mitt Romney, American Parasite:
The 4 minute video.

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Aw C'mon! Bain Was Started
With Death Squad Money!?!

We just can't make this stuff up.

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Here's a link to The Huffington Post article.



Some other views of "property rights"

Tongue-in-cheek or not, this is actually what happens when individuals and corporations are allowed to exploit resources without a concern for the long range general good:


Intellectual Property Rights

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Here's Stephen Colbert & Lawrence Lessig
On our grossly outdated copyright laws.

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And whatever you do, don't forget the hairy-nosed Wombat!



This is how the Wombat describes the task before us.





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The Part II Video is missing

It looks like it was removed from where it was posted for violation of TOS. I hope you can get it posted elsewhere.

Part II

It's back. But note that most of our videos provide an alternative (just below the video box) should they fail to play. Thanks for letting us know about the problem so we could fix the link.

Dan