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THESE ARE OUR SAVIORS? SPARE US!

THESE ARE OUR SAVIORS? SPARE US!

It is interesting that people who hate government are so desperate to be involved in its epicenter. Thus we have Bennett of Utah and now Lugar of Indiana who are insufficiently right wing to cut the mustard, and must go – and have gone.

 Apparently the rationale of the far right wing is to get into government so that they can destroy it. There seems to be an attitude that government is inherently bad and that we must follow the constitution in order to defray its excesses, real or imagined. This view is the opposite of the view of the Founders who wrote the constitution and considered government to be a noble exercise of representative democracy, the central thread/rationale for having a government in the first place.

I am of the opinion that a lot of the line we hear from the right is false by design; that they care little of the real issues of the day (unemployment, international trade issues, the environment etc.), but use them very cynically for the purpose of effectuating their real design, which is to make the rich and corporate class richer with a view toward a form of a latter day feudalist state in which we are the vassals and corporations are (effectively) the state. I have blogged on this topic a couple of times to this effect.

Methodologies to make this happen include privatization efforts (designed to make profits and remove public control over public matters such as education, social security and other now government programs where lots of money is there for the taking). It is important in such a scheme of things that all such programs subject to privatization be trashed by pre-takeover propaganda about how  cost ineffective and un-American they are, how government cannot do anything right, and how private enterprise can come in on the white horse and save the day.

There are those of us who disagree with this cozy assessment; we have seen the bankrupt prone Trumps, Gilded Age trusts, the Enrons, Madoffs et al. and have witnessed firsthand the performances of those on the white horses in our recent bailouts of these intrepid horsemen, who never met an asset that could not be securitized.

These are our saviors? Spare us!

It appears that the role of government should properly be to bail out the rich but leave the poor and the veterans under the bridge in the far right wing’s philosophy of government. It seems to me that if the only real purpose of government is to serve as a blocking back for the rich ball carrier to make money, whatever the pretense and propaganda, then it is time to cancel the game. I, for one do not wish to participate in such a phony excuse for government, where money capital writes and enforces the rules ranging from sexual mores to the air we breathe. There are numerous and better options, and all involve an active engagement of the citizenry and a refusal to sell our public wealth and our futures as serfs serving a corporate culture.

 We should show corporate privatizers the gate and proceed to flesh out our own futures (financed in part by more equitable taxation rates – the latest outrage being that GE has paid an annualized rate of only 2.3% on its billions in profits over the last decade, a far less rate than many pay who are on food stamps)! Such disparities in financing America (among other things) must cease – now!  GERALD E

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TRUMP AND THE DEUTSCHE BANK

TRUMP AND THE DEUTSCHE BANK

I have been blogging for several months that Trump has been money laundering through the Bank of Cyprus which prior to his election was co-managed by Wilbur Ross, Trump’s current Secretary of Commerce, whose duties now, among others, involve the enforcement of sanctions against such nations as Iran and Russia. The co-manager of the Bank of Cyprus who served along with Ross was a Russian friendly with Putin and the bank was a well-known money laundering operation for Putin and Russian oligarchs to launder rubles into dollars and other Western investments in secretive fashion via shell corporations, trustees et al. One such transaction reportedly involved the purchase of a piece of real estate in Florida Trump had bought earlier for forty millions dollars and sold to a Russian for more than eighty million dollars. How the buyer and seller divvied up this more than 100% in profit in this rather clear case of money laundering was not included in the report, whether Trump took all the profit or a previously agreed-to commission for his services.

Recently I found that the Bank of Cyprus may have had competition in the Trump/Putin money laundering business when a business reporter wrote that the Deutsche Bank was on the hook for loans to Trump for “at least” 130 million dollars and to his son in law Kushner for 289 million dollars. (It is unclear whether Kushner’s loan is actually a loan to Trump who needed cover.) Trump had earlier defaulted on a 640 million dollar loan from the bank, which sued him, but the case was settled. The loans here in question were made to Trump by Deutsche Bank when every other bank had turned him down, apparently because of his multiple bankruptcies, spotty repayments and litigious conduct.

The reporter went on to write that the State of New York had fined Deutsche Bank 425 million dollars for money laundering out of Russia. Deutsche Bank’s criminal record also included several billions of dollars in fines for mortgage fraud, 3.5 billion dollars for fixing rates in the LIBOR scandal, and a guilty plea to wire fraud, among other crimes. No one went to jail, of course, since all the big banks and their affiliates are too big to fail, the reader may recall. Just pay the chump change fines and walk while a true bank robber who holds up a bank teller for 2 grand does 25 years while real bank robbers (the banks’ executives) hold forth in their executive suites complaining of high taxes and overregulation.

The foregoing is prelude. Here is the rest of the story. U.S. law prevents banks who have been convicted of securities violations from engaging in the lucrative business of managing retirement savings unless they can get a “special exemption from punishment” from the U.S. Department of Labor. Obama gave such an exemption for one year to all the big Wall Street banks (including the Deutsche Bank) in December, 2016. Trump at the end of 2017 has given five year exemptions to such banks with a three year exemption for Deutsche Bank, a bank to which he owes millions.

One can only wonder (as I do) whether Deutsche Bank with its record of fraud and money laundering convictions hasn’t quietly agreed to reduce Trump’s debt or wipe it out altogether in return for his allowing such bank to continue to  manage the trillion dollar business of money management for retirement and other such funds, or alternatively and in the face of possible subpoena, have by the back door served as guarantors on loans made by other banks to Trump’s Swiss or other such bank accounts in payment for his allowing them to continue to engage in the lucrative profit making management of retirement and other such investment funds.

Proof? I have none, but I would not be surprised if this or something like it were not the case given the abusive and even criminal financial tactics employed by both Deutsche Bank and Trump in the past. Another question > If we are going to keep a tight rein on banks who have been convicted and fined for fraud and securities violations, then why not keep only a one-year extension from punishment on the big banks rather than hand out three and even five year extensions within which they can go back to their old mortgage fraud and reckless investment policies? Could the Wall Street banks other than Deutsch Bank be in on this possible payoff deal, too? I detect a strong odor, but you be the judge.     GERALD        E

On November 12, 2017, in response to an email by a friend, a retired CIA spy who was concerned with Trump’s ego and insecurity and hostility to our intelligence agencies and shortly after Trump had returned from his trade tour to the Orient which he pronounced to be “a tremendous success,” I responded as follows, slightly edited.
It is not only Putin’s appeal to Trump’s ego and insecurities that is winning the day for Russia; it is Trump’s fundamental ignorance of government and his role as president. It is also noteworthy that it was not just Putin who
cleaned his clock and instilled doubt in the findings of our intelligence agencies. Everywhere Trump went on this trip his clock was cleaned on matters of trade, winding up with his congratulations to China for, among other things, its success in enjoying the world’s greatest trade surplus (while we are by far the victim of the world’s greatest trade deficit, roughly 800 billion dollars per annum).
The final insult to our trade status came when some of the other countries involved in the TPP (from which he had withdrawn) announced to his face that they were going to go ahead with the such a treaty – and exclude us. This cements Chinese influence among such countries for years to come – at our expense. It appears that Trump’s insecurities, ego and ignorance (quite aside from his corrupted administration) are at odds with America’s goals and the aspirations of its people and that he needs to be removed from office as soon as the law allows.  (End of email).
Addendum – It appears that Trump’s recent slander of Africans as immigrants is playing into the hands of the Chinese once again since the Chinese are busily engaged in making economic deals by the dozen with African countries, including long term leases of land for agricultural purposes. Trump is persona non grata in the UK and has had to cancel his long-planned trip there for fear of massive rejection in the streets of London, whose Lord Mayor is a Muslim, but has invited himself to Davos to mingle with the richest people on earth at their upcoming meeting who, but for the fact that America is such a large market, would probably disinvite him from attending as well since he thrives on chaos and the superrich thrive on peaceful if greedy pursuit of profit.

A Modest Proposal: #ProtectTheTruth

George Lakoff

America’s tweeter-in-chief plans to attack the free press next week. He desperately needs your help to succeed.

You can help him by repeating his words and lies. You can help him by focusing outraged attention on his antics.

Or we can work together to redirect the energy, counteract rather than react, and reframe the conversation.

Here’s a way: rather than argue against him directly or waste time refuting his attacks, let’s ignore his antics and make a positive, proactive argument. While he assails the free press, let’s use our voices to honor the essential work reporters are doing in this dangerous era. Let’s have a conversation about why the free press is more crucial than ever.

Reporters are guardians of freedom.Their job is to pursue the truth. We may disagree with them sometimes. We may wish some of them would do a better job. But the press is…

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PURGES AND COMPLICITY

I live and vote in Naples, Florida. Our local congressman (Rooney) came out a few days ago with a Stalinesque call to purge the FBI from elements who don’t like Trump. At about the same time he called for hero worship by the independent branch of our tripartite  government as a job requirement and after I fired off a letter to the editor, I was invited to comment on the sudden popularity of the word complicit by a lady professor to whose blog I regularly contribute. Following, slightly edited, was my response to her invitation.

Speaking of complicity, Congressman Rooney (from here in Naples) now wants to “purge” anti-Trump elements out of the FBI and, presumably, other police and intelligence agencies he labels as being members of some mythical “deep state” cabal that runs America. I have responded with a letter to the editor this morning calling for him to resign with his banana republic and Stalinist purge chatter designed to cover Trump’s possible involvement with Putin in the destruction of our democracy via Putin’s demonstrable interference in last fall’s election.

Few these days seem to understand that the judiciary is an independent branch of government with constitutionally-designed duties, among which is not one to protect anybody from the rule of law, including presidents (see Nixon). Interference with carrying out of such duties, it seems to me, is in itself obstructionist and as applied to foreign interference and depending upon the facts, possibly seditious or even treasonous.

Words such as complicity matter. For instance, a letter to the editor in the local blah laments the coming “liberal wave” and the spending certain to follow. Such people don’t look on the other side of the fiscal curtain. If they did they would see Republican spending that dwarfs Democratic spending, but  “spending” via “tax cuts” designed to fill the coffers of the rich at the expense of education, infrastructure, and other areas of interest to Democrats.

Similar laments are made by Trump and Republicans about too many rules and regulations that (though the Dow is at historic highs) are allegedly preventing investment and the profitable conduct of businesses, but they neglect to point out that every economy whether organized as a capitalist or socialist market has rules and regulations. The question at base is a political decision not based on rules and regulations but rather on who gets to make the rules and regulations. Republicans, even with the history of The Great Depression and Bush’s Great Recession as open books and harsh lessons on what can happen with lack of public regulation, want to leave the rule and reg authority to the rich and corporate class with minimum public input.

We saw how leaving rules and regs and/or lack of their enforcement to the rich and corporate class worked out as recently as 2007-2008. Remember the threat of international depression, trillions in lost home equity resulting from millions of foreclosures, bailouts, massive mortgage fraud  by Wall Street banks, etc.? I do, and it looked a lot like 1929. I for one am not hankering for a repeat of either 1929 or 2007-2008 with a Trump-led return to under-regulated trickledown/austerity economics and Wall Street policymaking. I have read economic history, so no, thank you.     GERALD       E

INFORMATION INEQUALITY AND LARCENY

The following, lightly edited for blogging, was a recent response I gave to another’s invitation to respond to the topic for that day.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, one of my favorite economists, won a Nobel Prize in economics for his work on information inequality between buyer and seller. Like the “free market” idea, there has rarely been information equality other than in isolated cases. Buyers and sellers do not obey the gentlemanly ideas of Adam Smith with his theory of perfect competition in a market where both buyer and seller have all the pertinent information necessary to make honest transactions. On the contrary, the truth is that buyers and sellers are almost always trying to con one another by subtle word or deed in order to gain pecuniary and/or other advantage.

We have similar problems in information inequality between government and its citizens as politicians come up with phony rationales in order to reward their campaign-contributing friends. Taxpayers are misled into believing, for instance, that tax breaks for Wall Street and the oil industry are in the public interest. Thus we see obvious giveaways such as the depletion allowance of a wasting asset to the fossil fuel industry, accelerated depreciation schedules etc. Most of us are only vaguely aware of the enormous subsidies given over to fossil fuel businesses and, for that matter, to the Wall Street financiers, where hedge and equity fund managers pay a “carried interest” tax rate on their commissions far below what they would have to pay if such commissions were treated as what they plainly are – ordinary income.

In this latter connection, it is interesting to recall that both Trump and Hillary pledged if elected to end this “carried interest” fraud but it somehow survived in the tax bill just passed, and when the Ways and Means Chair was asked how that happened, dismissively replied: “People don’t care about that.” Wrong. I care when billions of dollars in revenue per annum is stripped from our treasury – which increases our debt by the legislative trickery of defining what is plainly ordinary income into a hybrid “carried interest” redefinition so that ordinary rates are reduced to only fifteen percent on these superrich hedge and equity fund managers. I don’t know how much more we can put on our bill of debt before our Chinese and other creditors come calling with, among other things, a demand that we give up our dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency, a status we have enjoyed since the Bretton Woods Conference in New Hampshire in 1944 and one we dare not surrender.

I could but for time and energy write a book on this topic for today., but suffice it to say that if all these hidden (and some of the unhidden) subsidies not in the public or national interest were ended and the “defense budget” were halved (at no risk for readiness) and the tax rates were the same as today and wage inequality were ended, we would see economic growth even greater than that after WW II, be enabled to substantially reduce or in time pay off our debt, see multinationals come home with their capital for investment in our booming market with aggregate demand in the stratosphere. etc. etc. etc.

Fleshing out such a Pollyanna view with the superrich in control of our politics is, admittedly, highly unlikely, as the greedy insist on even more public subsidy for their operations (but sans a share of the profits in return for our investment), so we are left with a situation where we cannot broadly attack the current corporate swindle of our till with Republicans and Wall Street propaganda organs in full swing, and must nip at the edges for the time being. As my fellow commentators know, my nip is wage inequality, but unfortunately, there remain many other public-private swindles available for nipping, so let’s keep nipping while awaiting the election less than a year from now when we will end the larcenous conduct of this Congress and replace its members with those devoted to the public good.       GERALD       E

 

WHEN STARS FELL ON ALABAMA

Though I am delighted with the outcome in Alabama, something happened yesterday that is perhaps more important in the long run than winning a seat in the Senate. I refer to crossover Republican votes, especially those of Republican women. They said no mas by their vote against the coarseness and insulting sexual and political misbehavior of such as the Trumps, Bannons and Moores. Dignity and respect trumped party, as well it should, and thus we are all winners, including Republicans who for their own reasons voted for Moore.

We have been drawn into Trump’s narcissistic otherworld swamp to such a point that we are not only allowing Trump to question our democratic institutions (FBI, State Department etc.) but even our folkways and mores (grabbing women, lying as truth, alternative facts etc.). I think the result yesterday will never bring us back to a Norman Rockwell existence where the little girl skips gaily down the sidewalk with her Easter basket (if it ever existed), but it will at least slow our fall into social as well as political and economic oblivion. I think there is a lot of room on the spectrum between Norman Rockwell and Trump’s grabbing women braggadocio and that yesterday’s watershed event signals a return to a less coarse and insulting America and hope for the future of a robust democracy as well. I am encouraged.

TAX CUTS, DEBT AND ECONOMIC GROWTH

TAX CUTS, DEBT AND ECONOMIC GROWTH

Today a lady professor in her blog asking for commentary noted tongue in cheek that GOP lawmakers with their vote for this vicious so-called tax bill (with its horrendous effects) must not have grandchildren. My response to her observation, slightly edited, was as follows:

Ah, but Professor, the GOP lawmakers do have grandchildren and have indeed considered how this “greed now” so-called tax bill affects their progeny. The bill provides for virtual extinction of the estate tax so that inherited wealth is passed on unimpeded to heirs and devisees. The bill also adds greatly (via tax cuts and definitions of income) to the troves of the present superrich so that they have more to leave to their successors. Piketty treats this problem at length in his book (my secular bible – Capital in the Twenty-First Century) with an historical look at inherited wealth and patrimonial capitalism.

The bill now pending in conference (and whose effects are almost universally decried by responsible economists) thus provides for more money for the superrich and a mechanism for passing on such increased troves to their untaxed successors, and with our economic growth in the doldrums and virtually certain to remain there, the money to pay for such reductions in current taxes for those most able to pay has to come from somewhere in what Stiglitz has designated as our “economic pie,” and the only place it can come from is the rest of us.

Republicans tell us that economic growth will offset the some 1.5 to 2 trillion dollar addition to our debt. Right! And the moon is made from green cheese! As we all know (not just economists), economic growth depends wholly upon aggregate demand, and with the shrinking wherewithal to the mass of consumers occasioned by Republican giveaways to the superrich (those who cannot consume more since the lawns on their estates are already crowded with Rolls Royces) and for other good reasons, I view the grossly misnamed “tax cuts and jobs bill” as a spike in the heart of our economy and predict a recession in 2018 or no later than 2019 when the impact of this bill (if finally passed) reduces aggregate demand and results in negative growth which will in turn INCREASE OUR DEBT.

So how, as you rightly ask, do we end what these myth-making Republicans are leaving us beyond voting them out of office? Answer: We take voters off the Yellow Brick Road and introduce them to reality via a stern science known as arithmetic, a science immune to myth and ideology.     GERALD       E