Sunday, October 23, 2016

Tony James Was A Great Guitarist In Generation X, But The Tony James In This Post Is A Bankster-For-Hillary


I was determined to start Sunday off with something uplifting. I mean it's Sunday. But it's a season infected by Trump. The best I could do was humor (above) and a couple of sardonic bits and pieces... like Trump's campaign CEO, Steve Bannon escalating the al-right's war against Paul Ryan. The goal is to deprive Ryan of the Speaker's gavel next year and to destroy his career. Breitbart isn't just asserting that Ryan is trying to help elect Hillary but that he "leads the pro-Islamic migration wing of the Republican party" and that he's sabotaging Trump.
Fox Business host Lou Dobbs called on Ryan to step aside for his efforts to “undercut” Trump in his fight against Clinton.

“[Paul Ryan] should have the character to step aside,” Dobbs said. “I don’t think he should survive this… This man shouldn’t be there.”

“[Ryan] understands the consequences of what he does. If he undercuts Trump to the point that he loses the election, he’ll be responsible for the next three Supreme Court justices, [and] the direction of the country,” Dobbs said.

“Ryan has no concept of his responsibility as Speaker… and his duty to the nation,” Dobbs added, noting that Ryan’s future has become “intertwined” with that of Hillary Clinton’s. “He is a laughing stock leader. He is a small man dressed up in a big job… Ryan should no more be Speaker of the House than Hillary Clinton should be President of the United States. And make no mistake, the future of those two are intertwined.”

Indeed, the Washington Post recently speculated about the future relationship of the could-be Clinton-Ryan Washington power couple. “Their relationship could become Washington’s most important in determining whether the federal government functions over the next four years,” the Washington Post wrote.

Pat Caddell and others have observed that the revelation of the quiet alliance between the establishments of both parties-- praised by corporate media and denounced by grassroots conservatives and liberal progressives like Jill Stein-- may prove to be one of the most significant outcomes of the 2016 election and could prove ruinous for the Republican Party. As recent reports have highlighted, in a post-2016 political environment it remains unclear whether the Republican Party can maintain its current structure of being controlled by congressional leaders who represent the desires of the party’s donors but undermine the interests of its voters.

...“We are on the verge of seeing the Republican Party go the way of the Whigs,” Pat Caddell told Breitbart News exclusively. The Party is “at war with their voters. They are literally abandoning their own. The very base that has nominated Trump is a base that Paul Ryan can ill-afford to alienate, but on the other hand, he doesn’t believe in them. He does not believe what they believe… Having lost all of their citadels of strength, the party leaders have now abandoned all of their principles. Paul Ryan is in real trouble.”

Caddell explained that Paul Ryan is the “voice” of a Washington establishment that has “absolutely made clear” that it would prefer Clinton over Trump. “What you have is a Bush and Clinton dynasty. And the curtain has risen on the corruption that they’re all in the same game and that ultimately they’re allies. That’s what the American people have been revolting about. I fear that the establishment’s mind doesn’t even understand that that’s what the base is revolting against.”
Not funny enough for you? How about Chris Christie headed for federal prison? It's not like there are any sentient beings on the planet who didn't know he planned out the whole bridge closure debacle, but now it's being testified to under oath in open court. His deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, testified that she and Christie discussed the closure of the George Washington Bridge in advance and he gave the go-ahead.
At the same time, she testified that the governor himself sought to freeze out Steve Fulop after the Democrat was elected mayor of Jersey City. She told the jury she had planned a "mayor's day" meeting to bring together members of the administration with the incoming mayor, but the event was suddenly called off.

Prosecutors have pointed to that cancellation as another example of the how the governor's Office of Intergovernmental Relations, which was headed by Kelly, systematically punished elected officials who would not endorse Christie. But Kelly said she had no idea why the event was dropped.

She told the jury she was ordered by Kevin O'Dowd, the governor's chief of staff, to have each department call Fulop's office one-by-one and cancel.

Christie, she said tearfully, later marched into the office and declared, "No one's entitled to a fucking meeting."

She said the governor told her later to "continue to ice Fulop-- that no one was to talk to Fulop."
The Daily News report could be read as an epitaph of whatever is left of the foul-mouthed Christie's political career.

The former aide to Gov. Chris Christie accused of creating a traffic nightmare on the George Washington Bridge broke down on the stand Friday as she described her boss lashing out at her.

Bridget Anne Kelly said she was discussing the program for a press conference related to a fire in the Jersey Shore town of Seaside Heights when Christie exploded at her three years ago.

“He had a water bottle in his hand and he said, 'What the fuck do you think I am? A fucking game show host," Kelly said, her voice cracking.

The governor then hurled the bottle at her, Kelly testified.

“I moved out of the way and it hit my arm," the sobbing mother of four added.

“You're afraid of the governor?" defense lawyer Michael Critchley asked her.

"Yes, yes," she replied.

The ugly incident took place in Sept. 2013 as the politically-motivated lane closures were underway.

Is it any wonder Trump preferred him to Pence as a running mate? But as Skip Kaltenheuser pointed out Friday night, not all the ugly corruption came from Trump and the GOP. He and they may be more horrible than Hillary and the Democratic establishment but... it's just a matter of degrees. They're monstrous as well, just not quite as monstrous. They know how not to cross the line the way Trumpanzee does.
[Bradley Birkenfeld's] revelations enabled the US Treasury to recover $15 billion in back taxes, fines and penalties. They also put in motion international investigations of offshore banking's many misdeeds, and juiced up reformers seeking tougher oversight. Impacts on Swiss private banks-- there are scads of such banks, all shapes and sizes-- include a 2013 tax treaty facilitating the exchange of tax data between countries. This put a hitch in Switzerland's offshore tax haven status that vacuumed money. And plenty of dirt. Alas, though trickier, Birkenfeld says the multitude of nefarious practices requiring secret accounts still have plenty of global options.

Thing is, what the US reaped was a fraction of what could have been garnered had the massive tax evasion been fully brought to heel. That failure only increases the debt load every American carries. Why the lack of DOJ prosecutorial enthusiasm against tax cheats and their enabler bankers?

I don't want to step on too many nuggets, but Secretary of State Clinton stepped in to do the negotiations with UBS. She required UBS to disclose only 4,700 out of 19,000 illegal account holders. Birkenfeld's curious, as we all might be, as to who made the selection and how, and why the names were never made public. Why was the fine so inadequate compared to long-term profits, and why did DOJ so carelessly offer undeclared account holders anonymity and repeated amnesties?

Who are these titans of favoritism? Will the real masters of the universe please stand up?

It brings to mind proposals for excessively reduced corporate taxes for repatriating money sloshing around abroad, but I digress.

In Washington's small world of startling coincidence, before the negotiated deal UBS only contributed sixty grand to the Clinton Foundation. Afterwards, notes Birkenfeld, it went up by a factor of ten. UBS also partnered with the Foundation providing a low-interest thirty-two million dollar loan for a Foundation program. And President Clinton, the First, earned over a million and a half dollars "for a series of fireside chats with the bank's Wealth Management Chief Executive, Bob McCann...Bill Clinton's biggest payday since leaving the office of the Presidency."

...Birkenfeld reckons Americans are on the hook for a trillion dollars escaping off-shore, so they ought be making demands.
Elizabeth Schulte observed what many of us are seeing, namely that Trump's horror show is hiding what could be a rotten Democratic agenda. "Each time the Trump campaign lurches and careens to the right," she wrote, "it takes the heat off the Clinton campaign to defend its candidate's agenda." She then takes a break from the regularly scheduled Trump train wreck to talk about what Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party have up their sleeves: an immigration agenda that doesn't do much to change the status quo; a cozy relationship with the banksters; and gradual, incremental gutting of all the hopes and dreams Bernie painted for the electorate.

David Sirota has been on this beat for a long time-- and for all the right reasons. Last week he warned of shenanigans that could prove horrifying for American families that have nothing whatsoever to do with Trump.
While Hillary Clinton has spent the presidential campaign saying as little as possible about her ties to Wall Street, the executive who some observers say could be her Treasury Secretary has been openly promoting a plan to give financial firms control of hundreds of billions of dollars in retirement savings. The executive is Tony James, president of the Blackstone Group.

The investment colossus is most famous in politics for its Republican CEO likening an Obama tax plan to a Nazi invasion. James, though, is a longtime Democrat-- and one of Clinton’s top fundraisers. The billionaire sculpted the retirement initiative with a prominent labor economist whose work is supported by another investment mogul who is a  big Clinton donor. The proposal has received bipartisan praise from prominent economic thinkers, and James says that Clinton’s top aides are warming to the idea.

It is a plan that proponents say could help millions of Americans-- but could also enrich another constituency: the hedge fund and private equity industries that Blackstone dominates and that have donated millions to support Clinton’s presidential bid.

The proposal would require workers and employers to put a percentage of payroll into individual retirement accounts “to be invested well in pooled plans run by professional investment managers,” as James put it. In other words, individual voluntary 401(k)s would be replaced by a single national system, and much of the mandated savings would flow to Wall Street, where companies like Blackstone could earn big fees off the assets. And because of a gap in federal anti-corruption rules, there would be little to prevent the biggest investment contracts from being awarded to the biggest presidential campaign donors.

...Rather than funneling the hundreds of billions of dollars of new tax revenue into expanding Social Security benefits, as many Democratic lawmakers have called for, James proposed something different: A decade after George W. Bush’s failed attempt to divert Social Security revenue into private retirement accounts, the Blackstone president outlined a plan to create individual retirement accounts, some of whose assets would be managed by private financial firms.

...Critics see James’ proposal as an effort by a politically connected private equity mogul to present a Wall Street-enriching scheme as a social good-- at a moment when his own firm has faced lower profits, and at a generally challenging time for the alternative investments industry.

That industry relies on investments from state and local pension systems, which over the last decade have invested billions in alternatives in hopes of reaping above-market returns in exchange for higher fees. Recently, though, regulators, pension trustees, investment experts and academics have questioned whether retiree savings should be invested with firms like Blackstone in the first place.

Some pensions are pulling out their money. Other pension systems have been turned into 401(k)-style plans, which are difficult for the alternative investment industry to break into because of federal laws that discourage those plans from buying into riskier, illiquid investments.

In the face of these challenges, James’ proposal could provide a government-mandated flow of money from workers’ paychecks into the high-fee alternative investment industry.

“This new plan depends on sweeping government mandates, the appropriation of trillions of dollars from the private sector that is then handed over to zillionaire investment managers who make no guarantees about rates of returns or discounted fees,” said South Carolina Treasurer Curtis Loftis, a Republican who serves on his state’s pension investment council, which contracts with Blackstone. “The only guaranteed benefit I see in this plan is one for wealthy money managers and their cronies. Wall Streeters reading this plan will understand, without having specifically been told, that having Hillary Clinton and the federal government use its power to aggregate the existing and future retirement funds of working Americans and entrust it to them is the Holy Grail of finance.”

Chris Tobe, a Democrat who advises institutional investors and who served on Kentucky’s pension board, put it just as bluntly: “James’ plan is a deliberate attempt to get around federal protections for retirees because alternative investments are not generally allowed in the 401(k) world. This is about making Blackstone and other private equity firms even richer than they already are.”

Clinton has cast herself as skeptical of the “shadow banking” world that Blackstone operates in, and she has said she wants to close a loophole that lets private equity managers pay a lower tax rate than most other workers.

Yet for all of Clinton’s tough talk against Wall Street, James and others associated with Blackstone have been among her biggest fundraisers, and during a recent cocktail party in Washington D.C. to promote the plan, James said he was optimistic that a Clinton win could make his proposal a reality.

“What the election would mean for our plan: Yes, we’ve spent a fair amount of time with a number of Hillary’s policy advisors. So far they have been very encouraging about the plan,” he told the assembled crowd. “I am hopeful she’ll grab this issue once elected, and run with it. I think the signals are warm on that.”

Sirota also introduces his readers to Queens County boss and former New Dem chief, Joe Crowley, a glad-handing congressman who specializes in Wall Street corruption. He's slithered into position as the only House Dem seriously challenging the odious Debbie Wasserman Schultz as the post-Pelosi/post-Hoyer party leader-- the Speaker track. Either of them leading the Democratic Party is absolution repulsive. Sirota mentioned in passing that James' proposal "touts legislation from House Democratic Vice-Chairman Joe Crowley that would direct many employers to open individual retirement accounts for their employees. Crowley's office has promoted the initiative as one that would have the new accounts invest retiree savings in "a limited number of low-fee index fund options." However, the bill includes a provision that would give federal officials latitude to potentially invest the new money in alternative investments. Blackstone donors are collectively the third largest donor to Crowley during his congressional career, and Crowley has raised more than $1.6 million from donors in the securities and investment industry, according to CRP." Uplifting, right? This is what the Democratic Party has degenerated into. How do we fight back and derail this catastrophe? Electing committed progressive reformers like Zephyr Teachout, Pramila Jayapal, Tom Wakely, Paul Clements is a sure first step. Here:
Goal Thermometer

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,


At 6:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a great deal of work for progressives to do once Clinton gets in. Then the spotlight should be turned on her and her ties to Wall Street and war hawks. Unfortunately, for now the focus must be on stopping Trump, and stopping him from destroying democracy altogether in this country. And he will not fade nicely either.

At 9:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great song. Reminds me that sometimes you have to seek sanity in those old punk rock records. They were warning us about what's happening right now.


Post a Comment

<< Home