Lyrics from Buffalo Springfield started floating into my head when to my shock and consternation I got word that Dick Romney had expressed sympathy for the 99% and lack of it for the 1% that Occupy Wall Street keeps hammering. I have no doubt of his insincerity, but Mitt (did I say Dick?) is nothing if not a political animal with a keen nose for which way the wind is blowing. Mitt-head (that doesn't work as well) of the "there are other ways to serve your country besides going to Iraq, like working on my campaign" fame, took the temperature of the water and came up with a reading that is an indication of just how far the Occupy Wall Street movement has spread. There's something happening here.
Romney was responding to the criticism that, although he was one of the Iraq war's biggest boosters under the reign of King George, not one of his fine, athletic sons had served (now just as absent from Afghanistan). The Mitt-head said they were showing their support for the country by "helping me get elected." This is the guy who does not hesitate to follow the low road blazed by Dick Cheney on questions of national security, saying at the Citadel:
"I will not surrender America's role in the world. If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I am not your president. You have that president today."
Thus all but accusing a sitting president of treason. What a Dick. In fairness, Romey's sons can show themselves to be decidedly cooler than dad, as when Tagg was asked if the question posed to Romney about the brothers' lack of military service was unfair, to which he responded "there's no such thing as an unfair question in politics." (Disclosure: I met Tagg briefly when working at Harvard Business School. Nice kid.)
So now that Dick, er, Mitt-head Romney has poked his nose into the air and smelled a fresh breeze blowing, just what do the Occupy Wall Street protesters mean by "the 99%?" Is it just something that sounds good? In the interest of generating light as well as heat, it is necessary to detail just how wealth in America breaks down.
It can be thought of as a pie cut into three even slices. Ninety percent of us own between us one of those thirds, and nine percent of us own the second slice. Here's the good part: a mere one percent, one out of every hundred, gets that last entire third all to themselves. This is an investor class, which derives its income largely through dividends, and capital gains. When Wall Street went to Vegas with everyone's demand deposits in the subprime mortgage scandal and lost, these are the people who got bailed out.
Romney's nod toward the Occupy Wall Street Movement is important because it sets up a delicious contradiction between Republicans and the despicable Bill O'Reilly, who has, beneath the radar, begun to routinely slander Occupy Wall Street as organized and run by "anti-Semites." Media observers should begin to document that O'Reilly spews this dangerous venom in his radio shows but not on television, where he would probably be shut down or subject to legal action. O'Reilly knows what he is doing: one can get away with far more toxic and slanderous speech on radio than on television, which nevertheless commands millions of listeners. It is imperative that O'Reilly be hit with a lawsuit soon (amazingly, it is impossible to google an audio file of one of these recent programs, any recordings appreciated, you'll be astounded at what this horrible man has been getting away with saying on radio that he would dare not try on Fox, and of course when most liberals hear his voice on the radio they just keep on going. It is vitally important that this be monitored.)
So: is Mitt Romney getting into bed with anti-Semites? And is Bill O'Reilly, who called him the next "Eisenhower," now backing one?
The Rolling Stones' Matt Taibbi has made a fascinating set of proposals to augment Occupy Wall Streets' current demands, which include re-instituting Glass-Steagall, repealing the Patriot Act, and a national moratorium on the death penalty, some have proposed in the name of Troy Davis. Taibbi writes:
1. Break up the monopolies. The so-called "Too Big to Fail" financial companies -- now sometimes called by the more accurate term "Systemically Dangerous Institutions" -- are a direct threat to national security. They are above the law and above market consequence, making them more dangerous and unaccountable than a thousand mafias combined. There are about 20 such firms in America, and they need to be dismantled; a good start would be to repeal the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and mandate the separation of insurance companies, investment banks and commercial banks.
2. Pay for your own bailouts. A tax of 0.1 percent on all trades of stocks and bonds and a 0.01 percent tax on all trades of derivatives would generate enough revenue to pay us back for the bailouts, and still have plenty left over to fight the deficits the banks claim to be so worried about. It would also deter the endless chase for instant profits through computerized insider-trading schemes like High Frequency Trading, and force Wall Street to go back to the job it's supposed to be doing, i.e., making sober investments in job-creating businesses and watching them grow.
3. No public money for private lobbying. A company that receives a public bailout should not be allowed to use the taxpayer's own money to lobby against him. You can either suck on the public teat or influence the next presidential race, but you can't do both. Butt out for once and let the people choose the next president and Congress.
4. Tax hedge-fund gamblers. For starters, we need an immediate repeal of the preposterous and indefensible carried-interest tax break, which allows hedge-fund titans like Stevie Cohen and John Paulson to pay taxes of only 15 percent on their billions in gambling income, while ordinary Americans pay twice that for teaching kids and putting out fires. I defy any politician to stand up and defend that loophole during an election year.
5. Change the way bankers get paid. We need new laws preventing Wall Street executives from getting bonuses upfront for deals that might blow up in all of our faces later. It should be: You make a deal today, you get company stock you can redeem two or three years from now. That forces everyone to be invested in his own company's long-term health -- no more Joe Cassanos pocketing multimillion-dollar bonuses for destroying the AIGs of the world.
"A series of bailouts, bank rescues and other economic lifelines could end up costing the federal government as much as $23 trillion, the U.S. government's watchdog over the effort says -- a staggering amount that is nearly double the nation's entire economic output for a year."--Politico: "Bailouts Could Cost US $23 Trillion"
"Two-thirds of the nation's total income gains from 2002 to 2007 flowed to the top 1 percent of U.S. households, and that top 1 percent held a larger share of income in 2007 than at any time since 1928." --Center for Budget Priorities