Category Archives: Banksters

Fear, fables, and fact: The age of raptor capitalism


Bill Moyers has evolved from the days he first crossed our path as press secretary to President Lyndon Johnson, a tragic figure who fought for the poorest Americans at home and waged war on the poorest people of Vietnam, rising up in rebellion against a small elite maintained in power only by the force of American arms.

A trained seminarian, Moyers moved into the political and journalism realms with a sense of mission of the sort we call the Sermon on the Mount version of Christianity, carrying with the sense of faith a belief that Christian communion involves sharing and giving of things as well as affirmations of faith.

There’s a peculiar version of Christianity implicit in the neoliberal ideology that has transformed the U.S. into an economic system where wealth inequality has reached unprecedented levels [a transformation we’ve witnessed as a journalist]. What else but Calvinism on meth enabled the fairly straightforward investments we recall writing about three and four decades back into today’s kaleidoscopic cascade of   hallucinatory derivatives, in turn piled onto a stock market in which the same share of stock may me traded hundreds of times in a single second?

What have we lost? How did we lose it?

On 4 February 2013, Jacobin published “The Politics of Debt in America,” an essay by historian and writer Steve Fraser from which comes this telling quote:

Today, we have entered a new phase.  What might be called capitalist underdevelopment and once again debt has emerged as both the central mode of capital accumulation and a principal mechanism of servitude.  Warren Buffett (of all people) has predicted that, in the coming decades, the United States is more likely to turn into a “sharecropper society” than an “ownership society.”

In our time, the financial sector has enriched itself by devouring the productive wherewithal of industrial America through debt, starving the public sector of resources, and saddling ordinary working people with every conceivable form of consumer debt.

Household debt, which in 1952 was at 36% of total personal income, had by 2006 hit 127%.  Even financing poverty became a lucrative enterprise.  Taking advantage of the low credit ratings of poor people and their need for cash to pay monthly bills or simply feed themselves, some check-cashing outlets, payday lenders, tax preparers, and others levy interest of 200% to 300% and more.  As recently as the 1970s, a good part of this would have been considered illegal under usury laws that no longer exist.  And these poverty creditors are often tied to the largest financiers, including Citibank, Bank of America, and American Express.

Fraser — who has taught at both Columbia and NYU — is author of the forthcoming The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power. Here’s author bio:

Steve Fraser is the author of Every Man a Speculator, Wall Street, and Labor Will Rule, which won the Philip Taft Award for the best book in labor history. He also is the co-editor of The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, The Nation, The American Prospect, Raritan, and the London Review of Books. He has written for the online site Tomdispatch.com, and his work has appeared on the Huffington Post, Salon, Truthout, and Alternet, among others. He lives in New York City.

With all that as prologue, here’s a very relevant discussion between Moyers and Fraser, via Moyers & Company:

Moyers & Company: The New Robber Barons

From the transcript:

BILL MOYERS: Fables?

STEVE FRASER: Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: Of freedom?

STEVE FRASER: Yes. One of them is this notion of the free agent. That he’s out there and he’s going to reinvent himself. Another fable of freedom is an old one but it’s taken on new and very telling life in our time. And that is the fable that you can escape and be free privately through consumer culture. That that is the pathway to liberation. And that has always offered itself up all through the 20th century as a way of escape.

I don’t mean to minimize the importance of material wellbeing for people and the need to live a civilized life. To have what you need to live a civilized life. The material things you need. But we have advanced way beyond that. And we deal in fantasy to an extreme degree. And it’s very hard to resist this because the media in all of its various forms presents an image of the country which we’re all supposed to respect, admire and strive for which is at variance with the underlying social and economic reality that millions upon millions of people live.

We’re fascinated by the glitz, the glamor, the high tech. We think of our country as a consummately prosperous one. Even while every social indice indicates the opposite. That we are actually undergoing a process of– we are a developed country underdeveloping. And because what does development mean?

First of all, if it doesn’t mean– how is the general population faring? How– what is the measure of their well being? And if we look at stagnant, declining real wages. If we look at families that can no longer support themselves without multiple jobs. Without both spouses working. If we look at college students deeply in debt in order to, in theory, get that degree which promises them, and that’s an illusory promise to some very significant degree, some upward mobility. It’s that reality which the media often does not portray.

BILL MOYERS: How has the common opinion of elites changed since the first Gilded Age, the days of Carnegie and Rockefeller and the greatest industrialists of that period, and today?

STEVE FRASER: I think elites during the first Gilded Age, the people we sometimes, we used to call the robber barons, were held in great suspicion. Their motives were doubted. They seemed to be behaving in ways that violated the notions of economic justice. Of religious propriety. They seemed to be placing money before all else. They seemed to be threats to the democratic way of life. They were buying Supreme Court justices. They were buying senators and so on. They seemed to be an imminent threat to the American birthright of the democratic revolution.

Elites in our second Gilded Age, in our day, are far less frequently thought to be guilty of that, and on the contrary, as the champions of the free market are thought to be our wise men. Our savants.

BILL MOYERS: Even though the free market fails time and–

STEVE FRASER: Right. Time and again. Right.

BILL MOYERS: Here’s an irony to me. In the recent midterm elections, exit polls showed that 63 percent of the voters believe that the economy works only for the wealthy. Only 32 percent believe that the economy includes everyday people. And yet look how the vote went. Look who the victors were.

STEVE FRASER: Well, there could be nothing more telling that we are indeed living in an acquiescent moment than those kinds of statistics. And those kinds of statistics have been around for a long time. On the one hand, both political parties have run, the Republicans more swiftly than the Democrats, have run far away from the kind of social programs, welfare programs, infrastructure investments, progressive taxation, for fear that they will offend the right, the very powerful and vocal right in American life.

Hope™ and Change™ — for banksters only


Two graphic takes on a Citibank-authored add-on to the federal budget dropping the post-Mortgagegate ban on banks trading in those oh-so-tempting  highly risky derivatives of the sort that brought the whole thing crashing down and stuck the rest of us with the bill. . .

First, from David Horsey of the Los Angeles Times:

BLOG Horsey

And from the Jack Ohman, editorial cartoonist of the Sacramento Bee:

BLOG Ohman

Rap News: Tacklin’ the New World Order


Direct from Melbourne, Australia, we bring you the latest edition of Juice Rap News, created by Giordano Nanni and Hugo Farrant, this time targeting yet another powerful meme.

From their YouTube channel, thejuicemedia:

The New World Order [RAP NEWS 30]

Program Notes:

The New World Order: They control the world’s governments; THEY rule over all of us from the top of the pyramid. While WE suffer at the bottom. Right? Today we blow open the truth about the NWO in order to shed light on this widespread conspiracy which has frequently been invoked to explain the state of our world. Join intrepid host Robert Foster as he takes control of the lever of critical inquiry, alongside special guests Russell Brand, conspiracy guru Terrence Moonseed, and NWO representative William De Berg, in order to ask: who is the New World Order? And how can we stop it?

Warning: This episode of Rap News has been in the making since we started the show, 5 years ago. No punches will be pulled, no quarter will be given, and no depth will be left unplumbed on this arduous quest for the harsh truth. Welcome to the New World Order, bitches.

Written & created by Giordano Nanni & Hugo Farrant in a suburban backyard home studio in Melbourne, Australia, on Wurundjeri Land.

The pyramid of the hierarchy of control/power is posted here, and worthy of your consideration [click on the image to enlarge for legibility].

Bernie Sanders breaks it down: The rich win


In a deft takedown of the new spending bill, Sen. Bernie Sanders places the trillion-dollar spending package in the context of the flow of wealth to the few at the very top as the national infrastructure collapses and families fall further behind and the young are burdened with ever-larger debt obligations to obtain an education that will merely enable them to tread water while the elderly see their pensions and Social Security payments covering less of their living expenses.

One family, the Waltons [no, not those Waltons, but the Walmart Waltons] owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans, while 90 percent of new income goes to the top one percent.

The major beneficiaries of the package are defense contractors, most of whom, as Sanders notes have been found guilty of fraud or made settlements with the government for  constantly underestimating costs, then collecting payments for massive overruns.

The bill also allows significant benefit cuts for employees who belong to more than one pension plan and can end in disaster for millions of middle class employees. In some case, cuts can reach half of the promised pension benefits. Meanwhile, the banksters who caused the crisis used to justify the draconian cuts escaped punishment and continue to salt away their millions and billions.

Anyone who things that Congress regulates Wall Street has it backwards, Sanders said. With their power and wealth and massive campaign funding, its the banksters who regulate Congress and write the laws the pass.

And now Wall Street’s giants have infused the spending bill with a provision repealing the regulations passed in wakes of the crash that imposed weak but real limitations on their rampant greed, setting the stage for another crash [and bailout] to come.

From his YouTube channel:

Bernie Sander: Wall Street Wins Again

Program notes:

Sen. Bernie Sanders discusses the omnibus appropriations bill on the Senate floor.

The Democrats: Plutocratic since ’92, gettin’ worse


Bill Moyers and journalist and Harper’s Magazine publisher John R. MacArthur conduct a devastating dissection of the Democratic Party and the plutocratic alliance that has devastating America’s dwindling class of well paid blue collar workers to satisfy the demands of the plutocrats who now control both major parties in the U.S.

At the core of the agenda mandated by the Chicago Democratic machine [a point we’ve made here countless times] is the demand for an end to all remaining barriers to corporate and bankster profiteering [read looting], a push begun by Bill and Hillary back when Bubba signed NAFTA and continuing through today as Barack Obama, a product of that Chicago machine, rams through “free trade” agreements across both the Pacific and the Atlantic, sounding the death knell for organized labor and the aspirational working class.

From Moyers and Company:

Democrats Bow Down to Wall Street

From the transcript:

BILL MOYERS: In 2008, Obama, he used NAFTA against Hilary Clinton, as you said, because Bill Clinton had sponsored it in 1993. And he promised that he would reform NAFTA.

JOHN R. MACARTHUR: Right.

BILL MOYERS: Has he?

JOHN R. MACARTHUR: No. As soon as he got into office, he announced, we really don’t need to reform NAFTA. We’ll find other ways to help people who’ve been hurt by NAFTA, which they, and of course, they’ve done nothing. In fact, he’s pushed more free trade deals, Korea, Colombia, et cetera, you know, he keeps pushing, and now, the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, which will make things even worse.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah. You say if he wins the Trans-Pacific Partnership, he’ll be giving away big chunks of our remaining manufacturing base to Japan and Vietnam and other Pacific Rim countries. Why does he want to do that?

JOHN R. MACARTHUR: Because he’s the fundraiser in chief. And again, this goes back to Bill Clinton. Because Obama’s really just imitating Bill Clinton. Clinton made an alliance with the Daley machine in Chicago, which Obama, he’s inherited that alliance with the two Daley brothers. The people who were thriving are the people in power. Rahm Emanuel is now mayor of Chicago. Bill Daley and Rahm Emanuel were the chief lobbyists for passing NAFTA under Clinton. They’re the ones who rounded up the votes. They’re the ones who made the deals with the recalcitrant Democrats and Republicans who didn’t want to vote for it. These people are in the saddle. They succeeded each other as–

BILL MOYERS: They’re Democrats, too.

JOHN R. MACARTHUR: Democrats. But Daley succeeded Rahm Emanuel as Obama’s chief of staff. These are the people Obama talks to all the time. And they’re saying, free trade, great. We don’t know about factories closing. But it’s a great way to raise money.

BILL MOYERS: Senator Mitch McConnell, who will soon be the Senate majority leader, said that new trade agreements are one of his top priorities. Are we about to see some bipartisan cooperation between the Republicans in the Senate and Obama in the White House on passing this new trade agreement?

JOHN R. MACARTHUR: Absolutely. They’ve already announced that they’re going to try to work together. And if history is repeated, you will see fast track passed.

BILL MOYERS: Which means…

JOHN R. MACARTHUR: Which means you give the president, you give the executive branch, the authority to negotiate the trade agreement in secret. That’s what Congress gives away, which I think is unconstitutional. Because the Senate is supposed to advise and consent, right? But so far, nobody has challenged it on constitutional grounds. You give fast track authority to the president. They negotiate the deal. At the end of it, a gigantic bill, very complex, because I’ve read the NAFTA agreement, it’s very complex language. You give it to Congress. And you say, okay, vote for it, yes or no, up or down.

No amendments allowed, no amendments allowed. And so that’s when the heavy lobbying starts. And most times, at least in the past with PNTR, that’s permanent normal trade relations with China, and NAFTA, the big money wins. And this is what’s going to happen again with TPP if people don’t stop it before it gets to the fast track stage. And I guarantee you, this is a way to send more jobs, particularly to Vietnam and Malaysia. What’s happening now is that labor rates are going up slightly in China. This panics the corporations. They want other places to go. Vietnam’s an even cheaper labor platform than China. And so it’s cheap labor coupled with really minimal environmental protection. You can do just about anything you want to.

Killing American democracy with a spending bill


Or rather, killing off what little remains standing in the way of a complete plutocratic takevoer.

All in all, it’s a brilliant dissection of the what the Congressional spending bill really does from Abby Martin, who is maturing into a a dramatically effective voice for the rest of us in her transformation from a community access channel commentator right here in Berkeley into a journalist of real stature.

And if you’re not furious before the clip is over, check your pulse to see if you’re still alive:

From Breaking the Set:

The Top 5 Things That Screw Over Americans in 2015 Spending Bill

Program notes:

Abby Martin discusses the spending bill that is about to be voted on by Congress and the various ways that it screws over regular Americans.

Ferguson as the fruit of the neoconservative dream


From Keith Boag of CBC News comes a very important analysis of the consequences of the neoconservative revolution launched under Ronald Reagan and continued under Barack Obama.

At the heart of the necon regime is the notion that social costs should be offloaded from the corporation and the plutocrat and laid on the backs of those least able to bear the costs.

What’s chump change to a Bill Gates or Michael Bloomberg is an onerous or intolerable burden to the rest of us. And besides, they’re the ones who own the politicians for the simple reason that almost no one reaches national office without their backing and all the implied deals flowing therefrom.

From CBC News, here an excerpt about how a policing regime designed to fill that agenda lead to violence in Ferguson, Missouri:

Riot-torn Ferguson’s distrust of police flows from a city run on fines

  • The city at the centre of the Michael Brown shooting is one of 90 small enclaves in the same county

In St. Louis County, two-thirds of the population, about 650,000 people, live in what are called “incorporated municipalities. There are 90 of them.

A few have city-sized populations. Ferguson’s is about 21,000.

Fourteen have populations of fewer than 500. The smallest is Champ, population 12. The smallest area-wise is MacKenzie, which is about the size of 10 football fields.

Most stunning of all is that 58 of the 90 municipalities have their own police departments, which is where the perniciousness of the micro-burgs comes into view.

St. Louis County is littered with police whose main preoccupations seem to be writing traffic tickets and/or arresting people for not paying the tickets.

Ferguson, of course, is in it up to its eyeballs.

Fines and court fees are Ferguson’s second largest source of revenue, bringing in just over $2.5 million last year.

And do read the rest.