The Ineffable Laziness of Blogging: Eat the Rich Edition

Once again slothfulness has gotten the best of me, so I’m just going to repost this entire righteous screed by Bill Quigley that recently appeared at Common Dreams, since it says everything that I would have said about the subject, only better.  Enjoy.

Socialism? The Rich Are Winning the US Class War: Facts Show Rich Getting Richer, Everyone Else Poorer

by Bill Quigley

The rich and their paid false prophets are doing a bang up job deceiving the poor and middle class. They have convinced many that an evil socialism is alive in the land and it is taking their fair share. But the deception cannot last – facts say otherwise.

Yes, there is a class war – the war of the rich on the poor and the middle class – and the rich are winning. That war has been going on for years. Look at the facts – facts the rich and their false paid prophets do not want people to know.

Let Glen Beck go on about socialists descending on Washington. Allow Rush Limbaugh to rail about “class warfare for a leftist agenda that will destroy our society.” They are well compensated false prophets for the rich.

The truth is that for the several decades the rich in the US have been getting richer and the poor and middle class have been getting poorer. Look at the facts then make up your own mind.

Poor Getting Poorer: Facts

The official US poverty numbers show we now have the highest number of poor people in 51 years. The official US poverty rate is 14.3 percent or 43.6 million people in poverty. One in five children in the US is poor; one in ten senior citizens is poor. Source: US Census Bureau.

One of every six workers, 26.8 million people, is unemployed or underemployed. This “real” unemployment rate is over 17%. There are 14.8 million people designated as “officially” unemployed by the government, a rate of 9.6 percent. Unemployment is worse for African American workers of whom 16.1 percent are unemployed. Another 9.5 million people who are working only part-time while they are seeking full-time work but have had their hours cut back or are so far only able to find work part-time are not counted in the official unemployment numbers. Also, an additional 2.5 million are reported unemployed but not counted because they are classified as discouraged workers in part because they have been out of work for more than 12 months. Source: US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics October 2010 report.

The median household income for whites in the US is $51,861; for Asians it is $65,469; for African Americans it is $32,584; for Latinos it is $38,039. Source: US Census Bureau.

Fifty million people in the US lack health insurance. Source: US Census Bureau.

Women in the US have a greater lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy-related conditions than women in 40 other countries. African American US women are nearly 4 times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women. Source: Amnesty International Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA.

About 3.5 million people, about one-third of which are children, are homeless at some point in the year in the US. Source: National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.

Outside Atlanta, 33,000 people showed up to seek applications for low cost subsidized housing in August 2010. When Detroit offered emergency utility and housing assistance to help people facing evictions, more than 50,000 people showed up for the 3,000 vouchers. Source: News reports.

There are 49 million people in the US who live in households which eat only because they receive food stamps, visit food pantries or soup kitchens for help. Sixteen million are so poor they have skipped meals or foregone food at some point in the last year. This is the highest level since statistics have been kept. Source: US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

Middle Class Going Backward: Facts

One or two generations ago it was possible for a middle class family to live on one income. Now it takes two incomes to try to enjoy the same quality of life. Wages have not kept up with inflation; adjusted for inflation they have lost ground over the past ten years. The cost of housing, education and health care have all increased at a much higher rate than wages and salaries. In 1967, the middle 60 percent of households received over 52% of all income. In 1998, it was down to 47%. The share going to the poor has also fallen, with the top 20% seeing their share rise. Mark Trumball, “Obama’s challenge: reversing a decade of middle-class decline,” Christian Science Monitor, January 25, 2010.

A record 2.8 million homes received a foreclosure notice in 2009, higher than both 2008 and 2007. In 2010, the rate is expected to be rise to 3 million homes. Sources: Reuters and RealtyTrac.

Eleven million homeowners (about one in four homeowners) in the US are “under water” or owe more on their mortgages than their house is worth. Source: “Home truths,” The Economist, October 23, 2010.

For the first time since the 1940s, the real incomes of middle-class families are lower at the end of the business cycle of the 2000s than they were at the beginning. Despite the fact that the American workforce is working harder and smarter than ever, they are sharing less and less in the benefits they are creating. This is true for white families but even truer for African American families whose gains in the 1990s have mostly been eliminated since then. Source: Jared Bernstein and Heidi Shierholz, State of Working America.

Rich Getting Richer: Facts

The wealth of the richest 400 people in the US grew by 8% in the last year to $1.37 trillion. Source: Forbes 400: The super-rich get richer, September 22, 2010, Money.com

The top Hedge Fund Manager of 2009, David Tepper, “earned” $4 billion last year. The rest of the top ten earned: $3.3 billion, $2.5 billion, $2.3 billion, $1.4 billion, $1.3 billion (tie for 6th and 7th place), $900 million (tie for 8th and 9th place), and in last place out of the top ten, $825 million. Source: Business Insider. “Meet the top 10 earning hedge fund managers of 2009.”

Income disparity in the US is now as bad as it was right before the Great Depression at the end of the 1920s. From 1979 to 2006, the richest 1% more than doubled their share of the total US income, from 10% to 23%. The richest 1% have an average annual income of more than $1.3 million. For the last 25 years, over 90% of the total growth in income in the US went to the top 10% earners – leaving 9% of all income to be shared by the bottom 90%. Source: Jared Bernstein and Heidi Shierholz, State of Working America.

In 1973, the average US CEO was paid $27 for every dollar paid to a typical worker; by 2007 that ratio had grown to $275 to $1. Source: Jared Bernstein and Heidi Shierholz, State of Working America.

Since 1992, the average tax rate on the richest 400 taxpayers in the US dropped from 26.8% to 16.62%. Source: US Internal Revenue Service.

The US has the greatest inequality between rich and poor among all Western industrialized nations and it has been getting worse for 40 years. The World Factbook, published by the CIA, includes an international ranking of the inequality among families inside of each country, called the Gini Index. The US ranking of 45 in 2007 is the same as Argentina, Cameroon, and Cote d’Ivorie. The highest inequality can be found in countries like Namibia, South Africa, Haiti and Guatemala. The US ranking of 45 compares poorly to Japan (38), India (36), New Zealand, UK (34), Greece (33), Spain (32), Canada (32), France (32), South Korea (31), Netherlands (30), Ireland (30), Australia (30), Germany (27), Norway (25), and Sweden (23). Source: CIA The World Factbook.

Rich people live an average of about five years longer than poor people in the US. Naturally, gross inequality has consequences in terms of health, exposure to unhealthy working conditions, nutrition and lifestyle. In 1980, the most well off in the US had a life expectancy of 2.8 years over the least well-off. As the inequality gap widens, so does the life expectancy gap. In 1990, the gap was a little less than 4 years. In 2000, the least well-off could expect to live to age of 74.7 while the most well off had a life expectancy of 79.2 years. Source: Elise Gould, “Growing disparities in life expectancy,” Economic Policy Institute.

Conclusion

These are extremely troubling facts for anyone concerned about economic fairness, equality of opportunity, and justice.

Thomas Jefferson once observed that the systematic restructuring of society to benefit the rich over the poor and middle class is a natural appetite of the rich. “Experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to…the general prey of the rich on the poor.” But Jefferson also knew that justice can only be delayed so long when he said, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

The rich talk about the rise of socialism to divert attention from the fact that they are devouring the basics of the poor and everyone else. Many of those crying socialism the loudest are doing it to enrich or empower themselves. They are right about one thing – there is a class war going on in the US. The rich are winning their class war, and it is time for everyone else to fight back for economic justice.

Bill is Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans. You can reach Bill at quigley77@gmail.com

 

P.S.:  Found this courtesy of the “Rally to Restore Sanity – San Francisco.”  I’ll be there Sunday – I’ll be the one wearing the “2010 National League Champions” T-shirt.   Don’t stop believing, people!

Posted in Eat the Rich, Lazy-ass Blogging, Torches and Pitchforks | Leave a comment

Lazy-ass Blogging: Saturday Night Short Cuts

Glad the Yankees lost, although I was hoping for a Giants-Yankees World Series.  Guess I’ll have to settle for Texas’ cinderella team getting theirs asses whupped (yeah, I know, first things first – one more win in Philly, boys).

In other news:

George Bush, Still Clueless After All These Years:  His “biggest accomplishment” was that he “kept the country safe amidst a real danger.”  Well, except for that thing on 9/11.  And as Atrios notes, there was that anthrax thing, too.  So, what was his biggest failure?  Not privatizing Social Security.

Seriously.

Heckuva job, Bushie, and by the way – thanks for bringing your book out right around election time, which means that excerpts will be appearing right before people vote, reminding them of what it was like having a fucking overprivileged, plutocratic Republican moron as President.

Long Dong Silver Lives!:  I don’t know what the fuck Virginia Thomas was thinking when she left that voicemail, but I guess she figured that being a Tea Party celebrity wasn’t giving her quite enough juice.  Coincidentally (or not), Thomas’ one-time girlfriend has a book coming out, in which she basically corroborates everything that Anita Hill said, and then some.

Gotta love the lede to that first Post article, by Michael Fletcher:

It is one of Washington’s enduring mysteries.

Nearly two decades after Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his fractious Supreme Court confirmation hearing, it remains unclear who was lying.

Actually, dude, it was very clear at the time that Thomas was the one who was lying (and it has since been confirmed on multiple occasions).  It was also very clear that Thomas was an undistinguished jurist who was nominated merely because he was a black conservative, and he has been an undistinguished Justice, notable mainly for his lack of intellectual curiosity and his adherence to conservative dogma.  The fact that he was also a serial sexual harasser and all-around dickhead, who was able to successfully play the race card to get confirmed to a lifetime position that he did not deserve, just proves how Republicans (see Bush, George W.) always seem able to fail upward.

Some People Will Do Anything to Use the Car Pool Lane:  This story is just plain weird, but seeing that the woman who kept driving around with her mummified friend was a real estate agent, it somehow makes much more sense.

Crocs on a Plane:  While we’re on News of the Weird, here’s a cautionary tale about the dangers of bringing ambulatory luggage aboard as a carry-on.

Juan is the Loneliest Number:  Here’s a good take on the sad fate of Fox News Token Liberal Juan Williams, who can assuage his fears of people wearing Mooslem garb by counting the $2 million that Fox will be paying him over the next three years.  Not bad for a pretend liberal; of course, that little windfall is not enough to prevent the usual phony controversy from being ginned up.  Nobody whines harder than a conservative troll who feels that he or one of his fellow trolls has been wronged.

I’ll leave you with this little blast from the past, as hippie freaks from San Francisco invade Hollywood and befuddle the studio audience and an incredibly square Don (Maxwell Smart) Adams:

UPDATE:  Added some more linkage to the High-Lair-E-Us Ginny Thomas saga; also, Andy Borowitz and Jack White(!) bring the funny.

UPDATE #2:  Hard to let the Ginny Thomas thing go.  I’m just amazed at the passive-aggressive chutzpah of this woman, who says she was “extending an olive branch” by asking Anita Hill to publicly admit to committing perjury.  I mean, I knew that conservatives were untethered to reality, but I didn’t expect such blatantly self-parodying behavior.  Naturally, the morons on the right think this is a big win-win for their side.  Take it away, TBogg…

Posted in Jesus of Cool, Lazy-ass Blogging | Leave a comment

“Skilled in the art of defending plutocrats”

Earlier I posted about the bailed-out banksters who would very much like to pin the mortgage fraud debacle on people like us, who bought their crappy mortgages and who, in many cases, got foreclosed on even when, with everything collapsing all around us, we made all of our payments, and trusted the mortgage holders to treat us fairly.

The banksters have their allies in the corporate-owned media, naturally, and it’s no surprise that these include the Wall Street Journal.  As you would expect, the Journal‘s op-ed page has been vociferous in it’s defense of predatory capitalism; but their news pages, which generally steer clear of the red-meat conservatism of the Journal‘s editors, have also been pushing the “it’s all just a paperwork error” narrative, as seen in this post by Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism (via Atrios):

The lead article in the Journal tonight, “Niche Lawyers Spawned Housing Fracas” telegraphs its bias in its headline: the foreclosure crisis is merely the creation of two bit lawyers who by implication don’t know what they are doing, and are pumping trivial issues up for their own enrichment, with the housing market as collateral damage.

Funny that anyone can think this spin is remotely true. The fact that solo practitioner lawyers could have such an impact on the system is not proof that they are miscreants, as the Journal implies. It is that the foundation of mortgage securitzations is rotten as a result of widespread abuses, first on the origination end, later in the foreclosure process. These small firm players are using the legal equivalent of toothpicks; the fact that their efforts have destablized the foundation of the residential mortgage backed securities market is tangible proof that they were imperiled to begin with…

…The foreclosure crisis, which is the result of what increasingly appears to be a widespread failure to convey borrower promissory notes and related liens properly to the the securitization entity is reduced to a mere “paperwork mess”. So the idea that the shortcomings are serious is dismissed. Similarly, the efforts of various attorneys who have been chipping away as aspects of this problem are incorrectly lumped together, as if there was really only a single, simpleminded strategy, a mere “lawyer’s gambit” which by implication, was copied by other low life attorneys. And this effort was to keep a deadbeat borrower illegitimately housed.

Funny, this James Kowalski, the attorney behind this dastardly act, did what members of the bar normally do (at least if they are competent): they look for weaknesses in fact and law in the case presented by the other side. And part of the process involves, stunningly enough, depositions! Kowalski’s evil deed was that he was early, perhaps first, to find a robo signer, back in 2006.

But robo signers are an abuse of court process. You can’t have it one way, and say you believe in law and order and the sanctity of contract, and then say it’s just fine to abuse legal procedures if you are pretty sure you are right. Well you can’t unless you are the Journal, skilled in the art of defending plutocrats, no matter how much in the way of mental gymnastics that might require.

Smith has a great fisking of the Journal article, but the best part is the response by James Kowalski in the comments section of the online version of the article:

Despite my best efforts to answer all of Mr. Whelan’s questions, the article contains a number of misstatements. First, Mr. and Mrs. Jackson did not face a foreclosure hearing after simply stopping payment – they paid the entire amount due per a statement sent to them by GMAC, and paid by certified check. GMAC mistakenly refused the check, alleging it was an NSF payment (not possible with certified funds), then placed the couple in foreclosure. I was simply trying to track the facts of the payment by deposing a witness who had sworn in court documents that she had reviewed the entire file and was familiar with the payment history, when, as it turned out, she was not only not familiar with the payment history, but the substance of her entire affidavit was false, including the allegation that the affidavit was sworn to in front of a notary. These were substantive questions I needed answers to – not an excuse for a delay. Further, the judge did not “throw out the case” – it is still pending, with GMAC still suing the Jacksons, years later.

I, and most of my fellow consumer attorneys who are members of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, do not raise these issues for delay – we raise them because we all have cases (this is the bulk of my foreclosure defense practice) where all or part of the foreclosure is purely the fault of the servicer or mill law firm – from homeowners whose payments were misrouted by the servicer, to servicers who simply changed the address of the property and then force-placed flood insurance, to servicers who ignore insurance plans the borrowers paid for (all examples from my cases) to servicers who refuse to even accept HAMP-type loan modification documents – all are substantive, real problems that were not the fault of the borrowers. The deposition was, in the Jackson case, merely an effort to get at the truth of the reversed payment – instead, GMAC admitted to wholesale manufacture of court documents, then promised to fix the practice, then continued that practice unabated for 4 more years.

Most of what we have uncovered are criminal violations – false testimony under oath, notary fraud, etc. These problems will continue until the attorneys general who have formed a task force recognize and confront the significant criminal violations, and will continue unless we have real reform of the servicing practices that emphasize speed over the truth.

Not a single one of my clients wants (or deserves) a free house. What they want (and deserve) is for their voices to be heard, and, for better or worse, consumer lawyers are the only ones capable of achieving this at the moment.

Oh, and it would have been nice if Mr. Whelan had taken the time to spell my name correctly throughout the article.

So, what’s the Obama administration’s response to the widespread fraud and abuse perpetrated on the American people by these greedy motherfuckers?  Well, bad things may conceivably have happened, and if they did we don’t like it, but let’s not waste time trying to place blame, and bicker and argue about who killed who:

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said Wednesday that the Obama administration will attempt to protect homeowners and police the kind of paperwork fraud that led the nation’s largest banks to temporarily halt foreclosures this month, but added that the administration had yet to find anything fundamentally flawed in how large banks securitized home loans or how they foreclosed on them.

“Where any homeowner has been defrauded or denied the basic protections or rights they have under law, we will take actions to make sure the banks make them whole, and their rights will be protected and defended,” Donovan said at a Washington press briefing. “First and foremost, we are committed to accountability, so that everyone in the mortgage process — banks, mortgage servicers and other institutions — is following the law. If they have not followed the law, it’s our responsibility to make sure they’re held accountable.”

He added, however, that the administration is focused on ensuring future compliance, rather than on looking back to make sure homeowners and investors weren’t harmed during the reckless boom years. The administration is “committed to forcing institutions to change the way that they conduct business,” Obama’s top housing official said, “to make sure these problems don’t happen again.”

As the incomparable Digby puts it:

Well that’s a big relief. And I’m sure they won’t. And anyway, to get all prissy legal beagle on the finance people would end up threatening the system and that would be bad for all of us (especially the people who run it.) Of course, if anyone should suggest that some of the individuals who caused all this carnage might be required to pay a price for what they did just as a sort of warning for the future … well then, all bets are off. In fact, there are no bets. The financial firms are to be allowed to do whatever they choose or they’ll blow this whole place to smithereens. (That’s the “free enterprise” the Koch brothers and our other wealthy overlords are working overtime to protect.)

The deadbeat citizens, however, must be held accountable lest the country creates a monstrous moral hazard. Believe me, it’s not something that our dear leaders want to do. It’s just that no functioning society can allow average people to believe that they are more important than the wealthy owners who need to risk other people’s money for the good of the country. It’s tough love. We should be grateful for it.

Do read the link in Digby’s piece about the Kochtopus and its thus-far very successful efforts, with the help of Glenn Beck and a who’s-who of American Plutocracy, to influence the November elections.  As Think Progress notes, these are the same people, or the heirs of the same people, who have been fighting the New Deal, the Great Society, and every other progressive social welfare accomplishment of the last 80 years.  They really do want a return to the Robber Baron era of capitalism, along with the destruction of unions, the dismantlement of all regulatory processes, and in the more extreme cases, an end to representative democracy itself, the better to enjoy their obscene profits and exalted status as America’s royalty.  And now that it has become easier for them to simply buy the electoral outcomes they desire, while propping up pseudo-populist movements like the Tea Party, why wouldn’t they?  Nothing personal, it’s just business:

Prudential Financial sent in a $2 million donation last year as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce kicked off a national advertising campaign to weaken the historic rewrite of the nation’s financial regulations.

Dow Chemical delivered $1.7 million to the chamber last year as the group took a leading role in aggressively fighting proposed rules that would impose tighter security requirements on chemical facilities.

And Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, and Aegon, a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than $8 million in recent years to a chamber foundation that has been critical of growing federal regulation and spending. These large donations — none of which were publicly disclosed by the chamber, a tax-exempt group that keeps its donors secret, as it is allowed by law — offer a glimpse of the chamber’s money-raising efforts, which it has ramped up recently in an orchestrated campaign to become one of the most well-financed critics of the Obama administration and an influential player in this fall’s Congressional elections…

These records show that while the chamber boasts of representing more than three million businesses, and having approximately 300,000 members, nearly half of its $140 million in contributions in 2008 came from just 45 donors. Many of those large donations coincided with lobbying or political campaigns that potentially affected the donors…

In January, the chamber’s president, Thomas J. Donohue, a former trucking lobbyist, announced that his group intended “to carry out the largest, most aggressive voter education and issue advocacy effort in our nearly 100-year history.”

The words were carefully chosen, as the chamber asserts in filings with theFederal Election Commission that it is simply running issue ads during this election season. But a review of the nearly 70 chamber-produced ads found that 93 percent of those that have run nationwide that focus on the midterm elections either support Republican candidates or criticize their opponents.

And the pace of spending has been relentless. In just a single week this month, the chamber spent $10 million on Senate races in nine states and two dozen House races, a fraction of the $50 million to $75 million it said it intends to spend over all this season. In the 2008 election cycle, it spent $33.5 million…

Chamber officials acknowledge the tough fund-raising, but they say it has been necessary in support of their goal of remaking Congress on Election Day to make it friendlier to business.

“It’s been a long and ugly campaign season, filled with partisan attacks and political squabbling,” William C. Miller Jr., the chamber’s national political director, said in a message sent to chamber members this week. “We are all tired — no doubt about it. But we are so close to bringing about historic change on Capitol Hill.”

Funny, I seem to recall someone else talking about historic change, not so very long ago.  Who was that again?

Posted in Eat the Rich, Invisible Hand-Job, It's the Stupid Economy, You Assholes, Koch Sucker Blues | Leave a comment

Thursday Night Videos

Ginats lost tonight, with their best pitcher, Smokin’ Timmy Lincecum, on the mound.  Ugh.  Good news is that they only need to win one more game, and have two pretty good pitchers in Sanchez and Cain going.  Will console myself with this very pretty yet melancholy song.

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Conservatards Are Weird

Via TPM, master right-wing troll Jonah Goldberg facilitates a weird conversation between two conservatives who apparently once were fuckbuddies and who now hate each other’s guts.  Hard to say what the hell is going on here, other than that both of these people are horrible human beings whose views should be disregarded by normal human beings:

Jonah’s weird nervous giggling in the background may be the creepiest thing about the video.

UPDATE:  Creepy, dweeby Republican dude doubles down on the weirdness.  You know, I knew a lot of guys like him in college – they tended to be the ones who wanted to debate you about philosophy or politics on a Saturday night, when all you wanted to do was get wasted – but they tended to stay out of the spotlight.  Now they’re everywhere in the media, and they’re getting way too much notoriety.  Go back to your caves and leave us normal people alone, please.

Posted in Conservatives Are Always Wrong, Douchebags on Parade, Doughbob Loadpants Cuts Another One | Leave a comment

Up Against the Wall, Motherfuckers

Throughout the stories I’ve read about the foreclosure fraud mishegas, the common thread has been that it’s all just a problem of improper paperwork, and that people losing their homes are just deadbeats anyway so who cares, really, as shown in this quote by Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan:

“We’re not evicting people who deserve to stay in their house,” James Dimon, J.P. Morgan chief executive, told analysts Wednesday.

Of course, Dimon is full of shit, as we have seen here and here.  The Banksters will tell you that these stories are just examples of isolated incidents, to be expected when so many people are having problems making their monthly payments.  But the Banksters have found a new way of screwing people out of their homes, and it has nothing to do with missed mortgage payments and faulty paperwork:

Nearly a dozen major banks and hedge funds, anticipating quick profits from homeowners who fall behind on property taxes, are quietly plowing hundreds of millions of dollars into businesses that collect the debts, tack on escalating fees and threaten to foreclose on the homes of those who fail to pay.

The Wall Street investors, which include Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase & Co., have purchased from local governments the right to collect delinquent taxes on several hundred thousand properties, many in distressed housing markets, the Huffington Post Investigative Fund has found.

In many cases, the banks and hedge funds created new companies to do their bidding. They gave the companies obscure, even whimsical names and used post office boxes as their addresses, masking Wall Street’s dominant new role as a surrogate tax collector.

In exchange for paying overdue real estate taxes, the investors gain legal powers from local governments to collect the debt and levy fees. At first, property owners may owe little more than a few hundred dollars, only to find their bills soaring into the thousands. In some jurisdictions, the new Wall Street tax collectors also chase debtors over other small bills, such as for water, sewer and sidewalk repair.

Some states allow the investors to tack on as much as 18 percent interest and a passel of legal fees and other charges. When property owners fail to make full payment, the investors can sue to foreclose – in some states within as little as six months.

 

Yes, Mr. Dimon, your company is in the business of fucking people out of their homes for unpaid water bills.  You and you fellow Banksters are the worst kind of predators, preying on people who are struggling to keep up with their monthly payments, and taking advantage of the economic calamity faced by so many municipalities by assuming duties usually intended only for governments.  Worse, many of the companies doing this are the same ones that were bailed out by taxpayer money after their greed threatened to take down the U.S. economic system:

Five big banks involved in the industry, known as tax lien investing, collected a total of more than $106 billion in bailout money through the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, known as TARP.

Over the last year, Bank of America, which received $45 billion in these taxpayer funds in 2008 and 2009, has bought liens on properties in scores of municipalities in at least a dozen states. Bank of America repaid the government in 2009.

Still, noted Cox: “There’s no bailout for people struggling to pay their taxes.”

No, there isn’t, is there?  The little people who can’t pay their bills because they’ve lost their jobs or are having to deal with astronomical health care costs have to suck it up and pay the consequences for being powerless, since anything else would be transferring “moral hazard” from the Banksters to the people actually affected by the Banksters’ shenanigans:

Jamie Dimon and the other mega-bankers who derailed the economy have a new PR campaign to sell you. They’re saying that families who can’t pay their mortgages must bear the blame — all the blame — for the foreclosure crisis. That means the public should just ignore banks’ widespread lawbreaking in the registering and transfer of property titles. For the bankers who would appoint themselves the nation’s moral arbiters, It’s always somebody else’s fault.

Not that we should be surprised. After all, the Mortgage Bankers Association, which calls itself “the voice of the real estate finance industry,” did a short sale on its Washington DC headquarters which left CEO John Courson uncharacteristically speechless. It seems he didn’t want to talk about how he walked away from the loans he took out to buy that building. But before the cat got his tongue, Courson managed to lecture homeowners on their “legal obligation” and the terrible “message they would send” by walking away from their mortgages.

Morality and law for thee, but none for me…

The bankers have benefited from a stacked deck, or what’s known as “moral hazard.” That’s the term for what happens when people don’t bother protecting themselves from risk because they know somebody else will take care of it for them. The banks are saying they’ve been reasonable business partners, giving their borrowers all the information they need to make good decisions while asking no special favors for themselves. Does that sound right? We created the “Home Loan Blame Game Scorecard,” which is at the end of this post, to find out.

As CEO of JPMorgan Chase, you’d think that Jamie Dimon might hesitate before saying “We’re not evicting people who deserve to stay in their house.” His argument rests on the idea that homeowners bear sole responsibility for taking out loans they couldn’t repay. He might be shocked, shocked, to learn that his own employees have relentlessly been trying to push these loans on people…

The “blame homeowners” argument is hypocritical, but it’s been effective. It helped bankers get themselves massive bailouts, pay themselves huge bonuses, and walk away with the profits they made by selling and trading these mortgages at inflated prices. And it’s helped them avoid having to write down their books to reflect the actual, reduced value of the assets they’re holding. That means millions of homeowners are propping them up by paying mortgages at property values that the banks themselves artificially inflated.

Now they want to use the same argument to get around the fact that they’ve been breaking property laws on a massive scale for years. It’s just “paperwork,” they say. But any homeowner who filed false affidavits – a crime that’s legally equivalent to perjury – would be looking at jail time. Remember: Law and morality for thee …

Again, none of these people are in jail; in most cases, none of them have been fired, and they’re all making really good money in spite of their malfeasance, and are expecting even more.  I’m still waiting for Republicans, the Tea Partiers, or anyone for that matter, to start focusing their anger on these bloodsucking leeches.  But then, why should they, when deadbeat homeowners, welfare queens, and lazy unemployed layabouts like me are far easier, and powerless, targets.

Come the revolution, people like Jamie Dimon are going to be the first up against the wall.

Posted in Invisible Hand-Job, Torches and Pitchforks | 2 Comments

The Church Likes The Dark

Pope Ratzi threw Australian Catholics a bone by canonizing the first Australian saint, Mary MacKillop.  Oddly enough, MacKillop was once excommunicated because of her involvement in a coverup of church-sanctioned pedophilia:

As a young nun, MacKillop – who will be canonized as Australia’s first saint Sunday at the Vatican – was briefly dismissed from the Roman Catholic Church in a clash with high clergy in 1871.

One of the catalysts for the censure strikes a note familiar to the present-day church: her order of nuns had exposed a pedophile priest.

The scandal, downplayed in church history, came to the forefront last week in a documentary about her by the Australian Broadcasting Corp. MacKillop was not the one who reported the abuse, but as a co-founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, she was the scapegoat, the Rev. Paul Gardiner told the country’s public broadcaster.

Priests were “annoyed that somebody had uncovered it … and being so angry, the destruction of the Josephites was decided on,” said Gardiner, the chaplain of the Mary MacKillop Penola Center, a state-run historic site.

The exposure of the priest was just one of many factors – including bitter rivalries among priests – that led to MacKillop’s excommunication, the Sisters of St. Joseph said in a statement.

She and 47 other nuns were thrown onto the streets of Adelaide, relying on the charity of friends to survive.

Some things never change, do they?  What makes this story even more interesting is this account, which molly brought to my attention, of a single mother-to-be dealing with the sweet embrace of Holy Mother Church:

All the media in Oz about the canonisation of Australia’s first saint, Mary Mackillop, a josephite nun is really triggering for me.

In 1974 when I was twenty, single and  9 months pregnant I told a social worker at the royal women’s hospital in Carlton I needed a safe place to stay until my baby was delivered.  She directed me to the St Josephs Recieving home across the road from the hospital.  How lucky was I was my thought as I got a parking spot right out the front.

As a little nun in full habit directed me into the front office I noticed two young pregnant women scrubbing the spotless floors. She asked me about my plans and in complete honesty (she was a nun afterall and I was brought up to be respectful to my elders) told her I had money saved and a few choices of a place to stay and felt I was well prepared and looking foreward to becoming a mother.  When I mentioned I had a car parked out the front and asked where I might park,  I noticed her demeanor altered.  She insisted on getting some help for me.  Despite my protestations to the contrary she asked/ordered me to remain seated while she got some help for me.  When she shut the door I heard her stand there and rattle some keys before I heard her footsteps fade.  I looked around me at the catholic paraphernalia and felt a surge of gratitude that my mother whom had relinquished me to adoption had said “don’t put her in a catholic family”  My instinct surged within me and urged me to run.  Thankfully I acted quickly and as I opened the door, sighing with relief that it wasn’t locked I looked down a long corridor past the stairs I saw her coming around the corner with two big burly men dressed in white heading my way quickly.  I bolted and just made it in time to the lock the doors of my car and as I was pulling away they were pounding on the windows and one of them was in front of my car trying to prevent me from driving away.  Sobbing and shaking I just pulled out into the traffic.

I know now if I hadn’t obeyed my instincts I would have been one of the quarter of a million single mothers who had their children stolen from them for adoption during the BABY SCOOP ERA.

My daughter is a fine and succesfull woman today and the mother of my two grandaughters.

I believe one of the luckiest things that happened to me in my life was missing the catholic experience. Sadly my siblings, not adopted weren’t so lucky and on reconnection I listened to their heart breaking stories of their  childhoods and the terrible abuse they recieved at the hands of  the catholics.

What was the “Baby Scoop Era,” you’re probably wondering, as I did?  Pretty much what it sounds like – mothers who had given birth to illegitimate children had those children forcibly removed from them, as the women were considered to have “psychological defects” and were unfit to raise their own offspring.  This was not limited to Australia, but was pretty much a world-wide phenomenon.  Interestingly, though, in the U.S. it was limited to white women:

“Black single mothers were expected to keep their babies as most unwed mothers, black and white, had done throughout American history. Unmarried white mothers, for the first time in American history, were expected to put their babies up for adoption…”

“For white girls and women illegitimately pregnant in the pre-Roe era, the main chance for attaining home and marriage… rested on the aspect of their rehabilitation that required relinquishment… More than 80 percent of white unwed mothers in maternity homes came to this decision… acting in effect as breeders for white, adoptive parents, for whom they supplied up to nearly 90 percent of all nonrelative infants by the mid-1960s… Unwed mothers were defined by psychological theory as not-mothers… As long as these females had no control over their reproductive lives, they were subject to the will and the ideology of those who watched over them. And the will, veiled though it often was, called for unwed mothers to acknowledge their shame and guilt, repent, and rededicate themselves…”

From 1960-70, 27 percent of all births to married women between the ages of 15 and 29 were conceived premaritally. Yet the etiology of single, white, middle-class women’s conceptions had shifted again and were now perceived as symptoms of female neurosis … the majority (85-95 percent) of single, white, middle-class women, who either could not or would not procure an illegal or therapeutic abortion, were encouraged, and at times coerced, to adopt-away their child.

It’s not surprising that organizations like the Catholic Church were instrumental in this type of activity; as this blogger notes, “The Central theme in the BSE, is the use of shame, lies, and outright fraud used by most religious or charitable maternity homes of Post War America.”  Catholic Charities, which has gotten out of the adoption business in many areas, due to the fact that they just can’t bear to let gay people adopt, had no problem rushing into Haiti after the earthquake hit to get their hands on as many “orphans” as quickly as possible, even before the dust had settled.  It’s a lucrative business, what with all the infertile couples desperate to pay any price to have a baby they can call their own.

It’s no surprise that Catholic Charities and other adoption agencies oppose the opening of adoption records:

Heather Kmetz of Catholic Charities, a Portland adoption agency, says adoption agencies would be likely to support the initiative if it affected only today’s adoptions. But this proposed law is retroactive, meaning it would reveal the names of women who relinquished their children when the state law promised confidentiality. According to Kmetz, the women who came to her agency signed a contract guaranteeing their privacy. If the initiative becomes law, Kmetz predicts, agencies like hers will use their collective powers to fight it in court.

Gotta keep the deep, dark secrets of those sinful women buried, along with the names and current whereabouts of child-diddling priests.  It’s all of a piece, and as with the sacred mysteries of the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, and the transformation of Christ’s body and blood into stale crackers and Manischevitz, the less light shed, the better.

UPDATE:  More on Mary MacKillop’s contretemps with the Church here.  “Patron Saint of Whisteblowers?”  Not as far as the boy’s club is concerned:

Some are already calling MacKillop the church’s “Patron Saint of Whistleblowers,” but it doesn’t seem that church authorities are eager to make her an icon of the era of abuse.

Portraying MacKillop as the protector of abuse victims would “reduce the extraordinary richness of her work to a very marginal episode in her life,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told RNS.

“The merits of Mother Mary MacKillop, her commitment to children, to the poor, to indigenous peoples, to the dignity of all human persons, were much more extensive than the fact that she denounced an abuser,” Lombardi said.

And Father Gardiner, the champion of her cause for sainthood, preferred to characterize the episode as “a nasty footnote to a heroic story, and I don’t think media people should take it as though it’s the main story, particularly since they’ve got a lot of closer, modern scandals occurring in the Catholic Church to concentrate on.”

“Why tarnish the occasion of Mary’s canonization with this miserable bit of scandal?” he said.

Just a marginal episode, a nasty footnote, a bit of scandal.  Nothing to see here.

Posted in Adoption: The Last Great Civil Rights Issue, Why Religion Sucks | 2 Comments