Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gazillionaires Cleaned Up During Last Year's Crash (For You)

Instead of free higher education, health care and a sustainable economy, we got a fantasy finance boom and bust on Wall Street which crashed the real economy. We have our 400 billionaires, and we have 29 million unemployed and underemployed Americans.

We have an infrastructure in shambles. We have an environment in crisis. We have a health care system that would make Rube Goldberg proud. And we have the worst income distribution since 1929.

. . . Where's Dwight David Eisenhower when we need him?

A smart ass named Les Leopold at Alternet asks the question of the hour ("What Recession? As the Economy Crashed Around Them, 400 Richest Americans Lined Their Pockets with $30 Billion"):

It's great to know that during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the wealth of the 400 richest Americans, according to Forbes, actually increased by $30 billion. Well golly, that's only a 2 percent increase, much less than the double digit returns the wealthy had grown accustomed to. But a 2 percent increase is a whole lot more than losing 40 percent of your 401k. And $30 billion is enough to provide 500,000 school teacher jobs at $60k per year.

Collectively, those 400 have $1.57 trillion in wealth. It's hard to get your mind around a number like that. The way I do it is to imagine that we were still living during the great radical Eisenhower era of the 1950s when marginal income tax rates hit 91 percent. Taxes were high back in the 1950s because people understood that constraining wild extremes of wealth would make our country stronger and prevent another depression. (Well, what did those old fogies know?)

Had we kept those high progressive taxes in place, instead of removing them, especially during the Reagan era, the Forbes 400 might each be worth "only" $100 million instead of $3.9 billion each. So let's imagine that the rest of their wealth, about $1.53 trillion, were available for the public good.

What does $1.53 trillion buy?

Doug J at Balloon Juice has provided me with more laughs than I can stand today at David F. Brooks' expense. And, boy, does he have a lot to answer for (pay back?).

I’m all jacked up on the Via I taste-tested a few hours ago, so I couldn’t stop myself from taking an early look at Bobo. What kind of a person would think his readers might enjoy an extended and unexplained parable about David Hume and Jeremy Bentham? Why not just start signing this shit Bobo +6?

Matt Bivens in Tomdispatch reports that if we would just "Follow the Money" and not care so much if we "Give Hank Paulson a Tax Break" we would soon discover that we had already spent more than WWII cost (4 Trillion public dollars (. . . according to a report to Congress from special inspector general Neil Barofsky, the overseer of the bank bailout program.)) on Wall Street to get them back on their feet (so we can then spend much, much more to save their asses as they start up the next bubble to fleece the willing sheep (US)).

But you already knew that.


"There are many possible responses to the news that we have committed more than four trillion public dollars to Wall Street" (maybe we can "throw in a credenza by way of thanks"?).

Mine is a roar of admiration.

Four trillion dollars! Holy hell! I didn't even know that was possible! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

After all, the cost of World War II in inflation-adjusted dollars was $4 trillion. This bailout thing is just getting started, and already we've burned through that.

Without even noticing.

Certainly without rationing sugar or collecting scrap rubber or any of that nonsense.

Who's the Greatest Generation now, baby?

Suzan ___________________

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