Friday, June 25, 2010

Senate Millionaires Declare Class War On The Rest Of Us


You may have missed this column on investment banking in the NY Times on Tuesday. Happy days are here again... for some people, very few in fact.
Great Recession? What recession? The world’s millionaires and billionaires-- now totaling 10 million-- saw their overall wealth jump 18.9 percent last year, to $39 trillion.

The surge in the stock market in 2009 restored many people back to the ranks of the rich as the financial crisis abated. The number of people with at least $1 million in assets beyond their homes and household goods climbed 17 percent... Their total wealth approached the 2007 peak of $40.7 trillion, after a 20 percent plunge to $32.8 trillion in 2008.

And the very rich did even better than the merely rich. And guess who gives campaign contributions with the express purpose of gaming the political system to work for themselves? They have their own political party-- the GOP-- and nearly control the other bunch of cowardly schlemiels through unscrupulous leaders like Rahm Emanuel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, not to mention the merely ethicless and greedy like Blanche Lincoln, Joe Lieberman and Charlie Rangel.
At the end of 2009, it said, these “ultra-high net worth individuals” held 35.5 percent of the total $39 trillion of the world’s wealth, or an estimated $13.8 trillion, even though this group represented less than 1 percent of the 10 million people classified as being rich, or roughly 90,000 worldwide.

Based on the report’s numbers, rich people had wealth averaging about $3.9 million last year, while ultra-rich people had fortunes averaging about $150 million.

As expected, the most millionaires could be found in the United States, where their ranks rose 16.5 percent, to 2.87 million, last year, according to the report. Their total wealth in North America rose 17.8 percent, to $10.7 trillion.

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They share the money with the politicians and the politicians take care of them-- in every way. Yesterday Dave Johnson penned a brilliant post for AlterNet, 6 Shocking Ways Conservatives Helped Cause the Economic Destruction of America. America's economy started falling apart in 1981, the year Ronald Reagan took office.
Conservative policies transformed the United States from the largest creditor nation to the largest debtor nation in just a few years, and it has only gotten worse since then:

And this is only one of six shocking charts in Dave's post

...Sometimes it can be so obvious where a problem comes from, but very hard to change it. The anti-government, pro-corporate-rule Reagan Revolution screwed a lot of things up for regular people and for the country. Some of this disaster we saw happening at the time and some of it has taken 30 years to become clear. But for all the damage done these "conservative" policies greatly enriched a few entrenched interests, who use their wealth and power to keep things the way they are. And the rest of us, hit so hard by the changes, don't have the resources to fight the wealth and power.

Look at the influence of these entrenched interests on our current deficits, for example. Obviously conservative policies of tax cuts and military spending increases caused the massive deficits. But entrenched interests use their wealth and power to keep us from making needed changes. The facts are here, plain as the noses on our faces. The ability to fight it eludes us. Will we step up and do something to reverse the disaster caused by the Reagan Revolution or not?

And, as if on cue, yesterday at 5:14pm the every single Republican, plus Ben Nelson, a Republican in all but name, voted to filibuster a bill to extend unemployment insurance to workers tossed out of jobs because of these very policies Dave was referring to-- you know, the ones put in place by conservatives. The cloture vote failed 57-41. That's right-- 57 senators wanted to end the filibuster but they were thwarted by the 41 heartless conservative millionaires, most of whom sincerely-- or cynically-- believe in what Nixon henchman John Ehrlichman candidly told the press when defending Spiro Agnew's blatant deceitfulness in coaxing angry students to riot while coaxing angry hardhats to beat them up: Politics is the art of polarization.

They just cost close to a million and a half Americans the ability to pay for their groceries or their rent next month, a potential disaster for an economy just beginning to crawl out from under the Bush-Republican recession. But that's exactly what they want to do: tank the economic recovery in order to, perversely, enhance their chances to grab power in November. I'll tell you something-- if an unemployed worker got an all-too-easily obtainable automatic weapon and mowed down a couple dozen Republican senators, the prosecutor would have to pray I wasn't on the jury.

As Joan McCarter pointed out at Kos this morning before the GOP filibustered the bill to death, in their mania to strangle the unemployed, the GOP also dealt a devastating blow to local governments across the country, a blow likely to re-start a downward spiral. Democrats were looking for this drastically compromised bill to "help states avoid further layoffs and service cuts that could otherwise slow recovery" from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the National Governors Association said in a letter on Tuesday to leaders in the Senate....
Governors and state legislatures in some 30 states have already budgeted for this funding, a huge portion of most states' budgets. A KFF report [pdf] last year found that "Medicaid is the second largest line item in state budgets following elementary and secondary education. Presently, 17 percent of state funds are allocated to Medicaid on average and it is the largest source of revenue in the form of federal grant support to each state."

It also found that decreases in funding "reduce the flow of dollars to hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies and pharmacies, and reduce the amount of money circulating through the economy, affecting employment, income, state tax revenue and economic output." When you hear that as many as 200,000 jobs (the CBPP says it's up to 900,000) could be lost if this funding is not passed, these are the jobs in question. For the graphically inclined, this is what it looks like.

What happens without it? Lost jobs and state budgets cut to the bone. That's just on the on the Medicaid funding front. It doesn't even touch the 903,000 who have prematurely lost their unemployment benefits. That number will be 1.2 million as of Friday. It's not only incredibly cruel of our Congress to fail each and every one of those 1.2 million-- and their family members-- it's cutting any economic recovery we're experiencing off at the knees.

All that it would have taken was the two "moderates" from Maine and the "moderate" from Massachusetts. But they weren't there for their own constituents yesterday. They were there for Jim DeMint and his cockamamie partisan Waterloo mania.

One of the worst and most corrupt of the GOP millionaires who disdain empathy for the unemployed is North Carolina Senator Richard Burr. And while his conservative Democratic colleague Hay Hagan voted for the extension, Burr was a firm NO vote. This morning North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, running for the seat Burr is occupying, made sure voters in their state would know where Burr stands. "We've got over 400,000 unemployed men and women right here in North Carolina, but Richard Burr stood in lock-step with Washington Republicans, voting for partisanship and against unemployment protections. He couldn't run fast enough to the aid of his big money supporters in Wall Street when he bailed them out, but when it's time to help everyday Americans he turns his back on them. After 16 years in Washington, he just doesn't get it-- our state is hurting. But the unemployed don't have lobbyists, and they don't make campaign contributions. In Richard Burr's Washington that means they can't buy a seat at the table, let alone be afforded the respect of an up or down vote on the Senate floor.”

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