Thursday, February 21, 2013

Steal From the Poor (They Don't Mind - They're Already POOR), Summers Expects Trouble in 2013 (Far Worse Than 2008), and Wal-Mart Bashes Self



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ALEC strikes again (and again, and again).

Like a rattlesnake.

Working with the folks at ALEC, and with the assistance of the complete roster of the state's profiteers, Walker got passed the Wisconsin Omnibus Tort Reform Act of 2011.

One group of profiteers was composed of the people who run the state's nursing homes and, as their participation ribbon in the game of dismantling The Wisconsin Idea, these gombeens got a provision in the law whereby any state records of abuse and/or neglect in the state's nursing homes has been ruled inadmissable and unavailable to attorneys seeking damages on behalf of the victims of said abuse and/or neglect. In other words, you have to prove abuse and/or neglect of some of the state's most vulnerable citizens without the help of the state to which they paid their taxes most of their lives.

You can see where this is headed, right?


The Walker Way


By Charles Pierce, Esquire

20 February 13


he election (twice!) of Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to run their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, has caused a radical redefinition of the political culture unlike that taking place almost anywhere else. The Wisconsin Idea - from which came many of the progressive notions that made the 20th century superior to the 19th, and the political manifestation of what became known as the Social Gospel - was the animating force behind Wisconsin politics for so many years that watching Walker recklessly destroy it is like watching the political equivalent of paving paradise and putting up the parking lot.

Much of the attention was paid to Walker's attempts to drain the power from organized labor. But he also was serving up almost the entire movement conservative buffet, including "tort reform." Working with the folks at ALEC, and with the assistance of the complete roster of the state's profiteers, Walker got passed the Wisconsin Omnibus Tort Reform Act of 2011. One group of profiteers was composed of the people who run the state's nursing homes and, as their participation ribbon in the game of dismantling The Wisconsin Idea, these gombeens got a provision in the law whereby any state records of abuse and/or neglect in the state's nursing homes has been ruled inadmissable and unavailable to attorneys seeking damages on behalf of the victims of said abuse and/or neglect. In other words, you have to prove abuse and/or neglect of some of the state's most vulnerable citizens without the help of the state to which they paid their taxes most of their lives. You can see where this is headed, right?

The Wisconsin Center For Investigative Reporting did.

Wisconsin's nursing homes have descended into deregulated chaos. The industry now combines all the worst elements of a monopolistic business model with the basic bureaucratic inhumanity of a spread sheet. What regulations are still in place are paralyzed because there aren't enough investigators to make them function. And the most obvious remedy outside government - the threat of huge penalties deriving from civil judgments - has been defanged by the tort reform bill.

But critics say making state investigation reports of nursing homes inadmissible in civil and criminal lawsuits - a change that took effect after Wisconsin adopted tort reform legislation in 2011 - means that more cases of alleged neglect or abuse will go undetected and unpunished. "Especially if it's a Medicaid facility, I really believe transparency is essential," Hanrahan said. "We need to see how tax dollars are being spent and what quality of care is being provided." In fact, the Wisconsin health department has cut its staff of full-time nursing home surveyors from 100 in 2002 to 64 in 2012.

Smith said staff was reduced because the number and capacity of nursing homes in Wisconsin have decreased. She provided data showing that, during this same period, the number of facilities fell from 412 to 398, and that resident capacity declined from 43,268 to 35,183. The drop in inspectors (36 percent) was greater than the drop in facilities (3 percent) or capacity (19 percent). Meanwhile, the number of complaints the state received about Wisconsin nursing homes and assisted living facilities rose from 1,684 in 2000 to 2,562 last year - an increase of more than 50 percent.
I will grant you that I am a little bit bughouse on this because I lived in Wisconsin for five years and came to deeply love its tradition of progressive politics, which is now being trashed for private profit by a jumped-up county executive with his eyes on bigger prizes. Give Paul Ryan credit. He only wants to starve granny slowly.

Oh, and the state's supreme court is still a mess, too. But it does give me another opportunity to write, "Patience Roggensack."

Fallone and Megna argued that Roggensack is part of a dysfunctional Supreme Court that has suffered through high-profile altercations, including in 2011 when Justice Ann Walsh Bradley accused Justice David Prosser of choking her during an argument. Prosser denied the allegation and a special prosecutor declined to bring charges. Roggensack has tried to distance herself from that incident even though she witnessed it."I'm not connected to that inappropriate interaction," she said Tuesday.
She's "not connected" to it even though she witnessed it.

Profiles In Jell-O.


Tea Party Leadership at its finest?

But wait!

Love the Dimocratic Dish That Obama's Summers and Geithner have served up so far?

Wait'll you get a load of the dessert.

Those guys are certainly some top-notch (take a look at their salary levels!) economic chefs, aren't they? (And after that spectacular screw-up of Geithner's at the New York Fed before the current one, he's still being touted as the number one candidate for Fed Chief after Bernanke! You gotta love that brotherly love.)

In 2012 Q IV, the Eurozone economy declined 0.6%. France is teetering. Powerhouse Germany shows weakness. Britain's in recession. Major economies are too big to bail out. Day of reckoning time may arrive sooner than expected.

Summers expects trouble in 2013. European reality suggests collapse, he says. "It's only a matter of time." It'll be far worse than 2008 when it happens.

Markets are dismissive, he says. They're disconnected from reality. They approach all-time highs when depression conditions affect growing millions.

The Fed may begin gradually removing the punch bowl. Its January 3 minutes expressed concerns. Continued accommodation could do more harm than good. 

Unemployment, homelessness, and hunger grow with profits. They're slowing but who cares. Anomalies abound. Something "doesn't pass the sniff test," says economist David Rosenberg.

Disturbing economic analysis follows. Read at your mental peril.


by Stephen Lendman

Things aren't as good as they seem. Dire economic conditions masquerade as sound. Media scoundrels twist reality. 

Big Lies proliferate. Repetition convinces most people hard times are good or not as bad as their personal situations suggest.

Wall Street manipulators transformed America into an unprecedented money making racket. Business models prioritize grand theft. Money is made by stealing it.

Government officials collude at the highest federal, state and local levels. They're well rewarded for going along. Who said crime doesn't pay? 

Swindling is the national pastime. It's the American way. It's institutionalized. So are casino capitalism, market manipulation, front-running, pump and dump schemes, and other fraudulent practices. 

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Bankfein calls it "doing God's work." He left unsaid which one he means. 

It's hard imagining greater brazenness. It's harder knowing the Supreme Court ruled banks and other financial entities immune from securities fraud by those harmed. 

Washington alone may sue for redress. It rarely happens. Criminally prosecuting top officials never follows. They're free to steal again. They take full advantage.

Read the rest if you dare.

And from our most intrepid reporter, KG at Sardonicky:

Blowback: Greed Edition


February 16, 2013

"Where are all the customers? And where's all their money?" frets a Walmart vice president in some panicky emails revealed today by Bloomberg News.

Cameron Geiger, who runs the hilariously-named U.S. Replenishment Division at the world's largest retailer, might start looking at his own employees, whose crappy average $8/hour paycheck has shrunk even further thanks to the rising price of food and medical care and the demise of the two-year payroll tax holiday. Walmart workers are also Walmart's best customers. What's earned in Walmart is spent in Walmart. And the world's biggest retailer just had its worst quarter in seven years.

So, does this mean that the Walmart honchos are going to replenish  their workers with a pay raise to make up for that dent in their paychecks and get them spending again? Of course not. The workers have simply been directed to just try even harder to make those unaffordable cheap items fly off the store shelves into the hands of penniless big spenders. According to Bloomberg,

 Wal-Mart’s Geiger in his e-mail urged employees to improve business by "fixing something that could really make a difference to our performance." He quoted Tim Yatsko, the company’s executive vice president of global sourcing, saying:“We need to ‘stop the stupid.’”

Wal-Mart U.S. CEO Bill Simon said during a Feb. 1 officers meeting, the minutes of which were attached to Geiger’s e-mail, that the troubled economy leaves little room for internal errors.

“In an environment like this, we can’t afford to hurt ourselves,” Simon said, according to the minutes. “Self-inflicted wounds are our biggest risk and our toughest enemy.” Of course, nothing is being said about healing their self-inflicted wound by raising that abysmal hourly wage. It might have the horrifying result of inspiring other corporations to do the same, even without the unlikely passage of the excessively stingy $9/hour minimum suggested by President Obama. No. Walmart's solution, according to the correspondence, is to grab the ever-shrinking piece of the meager consumer pie all for themselves by whatever means necessary.

Who knows - they may even figure out a way to reduce hours and wages even more and have their lawyers write a whole new tome of corporate welfare legislation. When they talk about "everybody suffering" in their emails, they are not talking about their workers or their customers. They are talking about their business competitors, such as those other go-to shopping centers for the indigent - the Dollar Store franchises.

Walmart has always had a ready, willing and able partner in the Obama Administration. The Justice Department recently announced there will likely be no criminal prosecution for violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of those involved in that Mexican bribery scandal. Michelle Obama has long been a booster of the retail gulag's various greed-washing campaigns for hiring vets and stocking their shelves with healthier food, ignoring its anti-union stance and gender discrimination. And President Obama is now set to appoint Chief Walmart Greed-washer Sylvia Mathews Burwell as his chief budget officer.
The defacto policy of the neoliberal Age of Obama will continue to be: Work hard for less. Always the low standard of living. Always.

Meanwhile, the income gap between the richest of the rich and the rest of us is growing ever wider. The top one percent's share of the pie has risen by 11% since the recovery, and stagnated or shrunk for everybody else, according to a study by economist Emmanuel Saez of UC Berkeley. From the New York Times:

Excluding earnings from investment gains, the top 10 percent of earners took 46.5 percent of all income in 2011, the highest proportion since 1917, Mr. Saez said, citing a large body of work on earnings distribution over the last century that he has produced with the economist Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics.
Concern for the declining wages of working Americans and persistent high levels of inequality featured heavily in President Obama’s State of the Union address this week. He proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $9 from $7.25 as one way to ameliorate the trend, a proposal that might lift the earnings of 15 million low-income workers by the end of 2015.  
Of course, the Walmart heirs themselves are getting richer by the minute. They now have as much wealth as the bottom 42% of Americans combined. Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute calls them "Exhibit A" in the national scandal of extreme income inequality.  

In 2007, it was reported that the Walton family wealth was as large as the bottom 35 million families in the wealth distribution combined, or 30.5 percent of all American families.

And in 2010, as the Walton’s wealth has risen and most other Americans’ wealth declined, it is now the case that the Walton family wealth is as large as the bottom 48.8 million families in the wealth distribution (constituting 41.5 percent of all American families) combined.

It’s hardly a surprise that the economic circumstances of the Walton family and that of most Americans are moving in opposite directions, but some have attempted to quibble with the use of this particular statistic by noting that nearly 13 million American families have negative net worth—meaning that they have outstanding debts greater than the value of their assets. This is a bit of a strange objection—of course, many American families have negative net worth, but this is an economic reality, not a statistical fluke.
Walmart relies very heavily upon those negative-net worth customers. One of the reasons the retailer is experiencing such a setback this quarter is that IRS tax refunds (including for those struggling consumers qualifying for the earned income tax credit) have been delayed due to the manufactured feckless cliff crisis and other glitches. 

And how about the other phony crisis known as the Sequester, which is designed to make poor people share the sacrifice with the military industrial complex?

Congress is dealing with it by blowing town for an entire week for an extended Presidents Day seven-day weekend. The president and the missus will be taking their own separate vacations, golfing and skiing respectively.

So that should answer the burning question I know has been on all your minds lately: Where are all our politicians? Where's all our money?

Tell it, Karen!


Wonder if anyone's listening?


2 comments:

Beach Bum said...

"Where are all the customers?

Unfortunately several factors out of my control force me to stop at Wal Mart from time to time. One being the fact that I do my shopping when I get off work early in the morning and you can't throw a rock more than a couple of times before you hit one of the many Wal Marts in this area open 24/7.

Be that as it may I am hearing some noise that Wal Mart is freaking out over Amazon daring to step into their areas of cheap good. We buy our batteies for things like remote controls and flashlights online through Amazon because they are tons cheaper along with detergent and other items.

Yeah, I know Amazon is no saint either but until a socially responsible retailer comes into play I'd rather give them my business as much as possible. I utterly despise Wal Mart.


Suzan said...

Amen, Bro!

(If I were a praying woman, I might say.)

I hear that they're getting ready to abandon the increasingly poverty-stricken USA anyway for all those rich (with American business tax-break writeoff $$$$$) and better developing economies in India, China, etc.

At least we got miles of parking lots out of their temporary habitation, eh?

(Which we need to house our increasing number of poor (which are growing by leaps and bounds) at night now.)

Love ya,

S

"Oh, they paved Paradise, put up a parking lot!"