Congratulations to David Sirota and Naomi Klein, who are the winners of the Izzy Awards for journalism contributions. "Welcome to Blockadeia!" (I.F. Stone applauds somewhere).
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If you thought all the hare-brained schemes from the Peterson-funded righties to privatize Social Security, Medicare (voucherization is the marching order here), and every other safety-net program under the USA USA USA sun didn't have a greater scheme behind them for further enriching the already rich, you just haven't been paying attention, which is almost forgiveable as these guys are stealthy - and relentless.
And the middle and lower classes just keep voting for the rich to get more tax cuts. (Because, you know, one day they might be rich too (or so they are told every day on the TV).)
No Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid/Disability for you! (h/t "The Soup Nazi" - Seinfeld)
They say that insanity is doing the same summer weekend over and over and expecting a different outcome, but, then again, New Yorkers have never been too concerned with soundness of mind. Despite a grim 2014 season of rosé shortages, Kardashian surpluses, celebrity real-estate misadventures, and a recruitment drive by the Ku Klux Klan, wealthy urbanites have again flocked to the Hamptons this summer.
No surprise here: the beach-lined hamlets continue to be a refuge for havoc. This week’s news that House minority leader Nancy Pelosi was turned away from a restaurant and kept awake until four A.M. is just the latest in a string of humiliations for visitors and residents alike. We’re not even a month past the summer solstice, but Madonna has already been accused of “stealing” from taxpayers by an East Hampton farmer, on account of her intention to collect tax credits on a Bridgehampton parcel zoned for commercial-farming use.
Harsh vibes have also arrived in Montauk, where Booby Trap MTK had to delay its opening because a “20-year-old vandal bashed in all the windows,” Page Six reported. Perhaps Montauk temporary resident Leonardo DiCaprio could class up the joint by taking his 24-year-old girlfriend there for take-out, if they could tear themselves from the daybed where they reportedly spent all day semi-publicly displaying their affection and drinking rosé.
We haven’t forgotten about the rosé shortage — it is back, and worse than ever. Marc Leder, the Sun Capital Partners chief known to at least one Page Six writer as “the Hugh Hefner of the Hamptons,” avoided the grape-drink drought by flying in some bottles from Ecuador, though, to be fair, he was already sailing around the Galápagos Islands when he took receipt of the shipment.
It’s a wonder that all these folks even made it to the Hamptons, with the new helicopter rules and frequent groundings. East Hampton, in April, limited choppers to a single landing per week, infuriating those who could afford to skip sitting on the Long Island Expressway. A court lifted the ban for three weeks, and later ditched the single-landing rule while upholding a curfew of 11 P.M. for helicopters (and 8 P.M. for larger and louder aircraft).
“For months I’ve been talking about helicopters,” The Kills singer Alison Mosshart griped to Page Six. “I love them. I want to get on all of them.” Still, at least Mosshart could walk: Chelsea Leyland, a D.J., dislocated her knee at Glastonbury, which kept her from performing at photographer Ben Watt’s annual Shark Attack Sounds party.
If there’s one thing rich people love, it’s blaming populist New York mayor Bill de Blasio for their problems. A Hamptons jitney suffered delays after the mayor’s new traffic-safety plan closed 86th Street and Lexington Avenue to left turns. “We trust reducing the risk a New Yorker is seriously injured or worse is worth a few more minutes on the Jitney,” a de Blasio aide wrote in response to complaints, doubtless prompting exclamations of “The hell it is!” from some Upper East Siders.
Even those who survived the jitney delays faced further frustration upon arrival in East Hampton, where Uber pulled its service after new taxi-licensing rules vexed the ever-aggressive start-up. “Its CRAY CRAY better they UBER THAN HAVING DRUNKS ON the ROAD — wake up,” tweeted the wife of one famous person. Andy Cohen agreed.
Grim headlines were everywhere. Tory Burch waited to find out whether she’d be accepted into the Southampton Bathing Corp. Elin Nordegren drank shots of Sex on the Beach. Matt Lauer’s neighbor threatened legal action over some view-obstructing trees that Lauer was planting on his farm. Christie Brinkley’s ex-husband Peter Cook reportedly ogled “pretty young things” in Sag Harbor, while Christie Brinkley’s ex-husband Billy Joel married Alexis Roderick elsewhere on Long Island. An anonymous 10-year-old Hamptons resident described himself as a “kidult.”
It wasn’t exactly his choice, but polo player Nacho Figueras ended up with the correct idea, playing in California after the Hamptons polo grounds where he used to earn his keep were sold. Figueras reportedly skipped the Hamptons altogether, decamping for St. Tropez after his stint in the Santa Barbara area. Now that’s how it’s done.
At least they're having fun.
But, oh, don't they hate the inconveniences the rich have to suffer during their vacations?
And don't you wonder where the money to fund the Klown Kar Kandidates comes from?
How about from people who've negotiated (through their owned representatives) their private very low tax rates? (It's that "carried interest" loophole that Mitt Romney thought reporters were soooo rude to ask him about.) "It's LEGAL!" he said again and again. And, of course, it is. They paid good money for it to be.
July 29, 2015
America’s parasitical oligarchs are masters of public relations. One of their favorite tactics is to masquerade as defenders of the common folk while neatly arranging things behind the scenes so that they can continue to plunder unimpeded. Perhaps nowhere is this sleight of hand displayed so artfully as it is at a particular high-profile charity with the nerve to bill itself as itself as “New York's largest poverty-fighting organization.”
British novelist Anthony Trollope once wrote, “I have sometimes thought that there is no being so venomous, so bloodthirsty as a professed philanthropist.”
Meet the benevolent patrons of the "Robin Hood Foundation."
Robin Hood in Reverse
The "Robin Hood Foundation," named for that green-jerkined hero of redistribution who stole from the rich to give to the poor, is run, ironically, by some of the most rapacious capitalists the country has ever produced — men who make robber barons of previous generations look like small-time crooks. Founded by hedge fund mogul Paul Tudor Jones, the foundation boasts 19 billionaires on its leadership boards and committees, the likes of which include this sample of American plutocracy:
-Hedge fund billionaire Steven A. Cohen, who, when he is not being probed for insider trading (his company, SAC Capital Advisors, pled guilty to securities and wire fraud) is busy throwing parties for himself worthy of a Roman emperor at his Hamptons palace and bragging about his $700 million art collection. He suspends a 13-foot shark in formaldehyde from the ceiling his office, perhaps as an avatar of his business practices.
-Billionaire Home Depot founder Ken Langone, who threatened to turn off the charity donations if Pope Francis dared to continue criticizing capitalism and inequality, and also likened the plight of the wealthy in America to Nazi Germany. The GOP megadonor doesn’t care for bank regulation and it’s no surprise that he is the main booster for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s presidential bid, as his plan to shred Social Security is a fond wish of the tycoon’s.
- Hedge fund billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller, funder of right-wing causes who dedicates himself to spreading deficit hysteria and ginning up generational warfare on college campuses by trying to convince young people that they are being robbed by seniors using Social Security and Medicare. A long-time anti-tax crusader and supporter of such anti-labor enthusiasts as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Druckenmiller warned President Obama that any attempt to tax the rich to pay for social services for the poor would be futile.
By occupation (the more useless and parasitical the better), it comes as no surprise that 12 of the 19 men in leadership positions at the "Robin Hood Foundation" happen to be hedge fund managers. A group called "Hedge Clippers," supported by a coalition of labor unions and community groups and devoted to exposing how billionaires scheme to inflate their wealth and influence, has pointed out in a scathing report that the "Robin Hood Foundation" has close ties to an organization called the Managed Funds Association (MFA) that — shocker! —lobbies tirelessly for unjustified tax breaks for hedgies.
Paul Tudor Jones’s top deputy, John Torell, chairs the MFA, and 31 members of "Robin Hood" ’s governing board and leadership committees are executives at firms that belong to the highest membership levels of the organization.
The MFA was relatively small until 2007, when Congress started eyeing the “carried interest” tax loophole. Then it brought out the heavy artillery to protect elites from paying their fair share. The carried interest loophole is the MFA’s top priority.
The King of Scams
The carried interest loophole, as economist Dean Baker put it, is likely the worst of all the “sneaky and squirrelly ways that the rich use to escape their tax liability.” It goes down like this:
Hedge fund managers brazenly claim they deserve to pay a special low tax rate on the money they earn overseeing the funds they manage because, um, it’s not guaranteed. So they pay 20 percent instead of the 39.6 percent they would pay if the money were taxed as ordinary income. They get very rich from this windfall, just ask Mitt Romney. But you know what? Lots of workers have no guarantee about the money they’ll earn, from people selling cars to the guy who just served you a burger. Do they get a special tax rate? No, they don’t. They pay full freight. In fact, almost nobody’s income is guaranteed. You could get a pay cut tomorrow. Or a pink slip. Do you still pay regular income tax? Yep, you do.This unfair tax break basically allows hedge fund managers to screw their fellow Americans out of money that could do things the illustrious patrons of the "Robin Hood Foundation" claim are so dear to their hearts, like building schools and feeding the poor. According to a Congressional Research Service cited in the "Hedge Clippers" report, closing the carried interest loophole would generate $17 billion a year. How many hungry children in New York City could that feed? All of them?
The loophole makes absolutely no economic or social sense, it’s just a way for the rich to say, hey, we’re powerful enough to lobby for this insanity, so you little people just go ahead and pay for that airport where our private jets are about to land and that road where our Porsches and limos cruise.
It’s a middle finger held up to every hard-working person in America. Dirt kicked in the face of the poor.
It’s a driver of inequality and encourages risky speculation on Wall Street. Hillary Clinton, perhaps hoping to ward off the threat of Bernie Sanders, has been making noise about closing the carried interest loophole, which many a politician has made before. Given the cultural focus on inequality and the egregiousness of the policy, it may just be vulnerable. Let’s hope so.
Den of Thieves
The mission statement of the "Robin Hood Foundation" brays about all the funding it provides for school programs, generating “meaningful results for families in New York's poorest neighborhoods.” Soup kitchens! Homeless shelters! Job training! The tuxedoed tycoons throw money at all these causes “to give New York’s neediest citizens the tools they need to build better lives.”
How far does this largesse actually go toward ameliorating New York’s poverty problem? Unsurprisingly, not very far at all. In fact, as "Hedge Clippers" points out, the poverty rate in the city has grown over the course of the "Robin Hood Foundation" ’s history, from 20 percent in 1990 to 21.2 percent in 2012.
Guess what’s also grown? The bank accounts of 19 billionaires on the Robin Hood Foundation’s boards, which have ballooned 93 percent since 2008.
"Hedge Clippers" applied a delicious tactic to expose the hypocrisy at the heart of the "Robin Hood Foundation" with stark mathematical precision — they used the organizations own metrics as an analytical tool.
The foundation is famed for using grantee evaluations, cost-benefit analyses, and performance measures, including a metrics system freakishly named “relentless monetization.” So the "Clippers" applied these methods to the foundation’s hedge fund backers themselves, systematically exposing the degree to which they increase inequality and poverty.
How bad it is? A chilling ratio summarizes just how bad— 44:1.
That is to say, for every dollar the Robin Hood Foundation hedge fund managers studied give to the organization’s antipoverty efforts, they soak up $44 from the public in the form of tax avoidance and anti-tax advocacy. The authors of the report believe that to be a conservative estimate.
Take the case of Steve Cohen, he of the shark in formaldehyde, and board member emeritus of the Robin Hood Foundation.
The tally of his recent donations to the foundation: $4,850,000.
The estimated amount he ripped off the public in 2014 by paying special low tax rates: $1,300,000,000.
Quite a difference.
When they aren’t advocating tax swindles, members of the "Robin Hood Foundation" put in plenty of time fighting fair wages, trying to shred the social safety net, and killing worker protections through their associations with organizations like the Manhattan Institute, the Partnership for New York City (the voice of big business in NYC and a big foe of paid sick leave), and Fix the Debt (a notorious group devoted to crushing Social Security and Medicare).
When you think about it, it looks as if the "Robin Hood Foundation" members are actively trying to strip the public and strangle working people to such a degree that poverty and nickels thrown by billionaires will be all that’s left of America. The rest of us will all be living in Sherwood Forest.
The "Robin Hood Foundation" ’s new motto:
Increasing poverty is our business.(Lynn Parramore is contributing editor at "AlterNet." She is cofounder of "Recessionwire," founding editor of "New Deal 2.0," and author of Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture. She received her Ph.D. in English and cultural theory from NYU, and she serves on the editorial board of "Lapham's Quarterly." Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.)
And speaking of Robin Hoods (merrie olde England what ho!, pip pip, cheerio, ta-ra, and all that), our correspondent Ian Welsh relates the following:
So, Jeremy Corbyn, who believes in re-industrializing England, re-nationalizing the railroads and various other genuine left-wing policies is cruising towards the Labour nomination, leading every poll.
I am, of course, pleased.
Let us examine why:
A lot of Labour politicians and officials are whining about Corby, stating that Labor will be wiped out if he wins the election. All that doom-mongering has done nothing I can see to slow Corbyn down. I would go further, I would say that having Tony Blair against him is to his benefit. Labour may have been better than Conservatives, but Blair accelerated neo-liberal policies, and got Britain into a war that is very unpopular on the Left. The more Blairites blare, the better for Corbyn.
- Neo-liberalism has been in charge in England since Thatcher in the 70s. There were some good years, but the simple fact is that most of the population is no better off than before her, and many are worse off. Neo-liberalism, for most people in Britain, has failed. Incomes are stagnant or down; university tuitions are way up; universal healthcare is being dismantled; the welfare state is mean and stingy; and increasing people can’t afford to buy a home where the jobs are (London). Thatcherism, and Blair’s “new left” has failed.
- Corbyn talks like an ordinary human being. He has held to the same principles and policies for his entire life, even when times were against him. It is credible that if elected Corbyn will actually implement those policies. Being yesterday’s man is important, because the media is full of stories about how the younger generations are doing worse than their parents and grandparents. Sure, Corbyn wants to do stuff that is out of fashion: but those old-fashioned politics, according to the media, worked better than the new-fangled ones.
- Labour has lost two elections in a row. Worse, they were wiped out of their Scottish stronghold by the the SNP, who won because the ran to Labour’s left. Contrary to all the squealing from neo-liberals like Blair, the evidence is that Labour lost more seats because it was too right wing than too left wing.
As I noted before, the most important thing for people with genuine belief (and Blair is a true believer) is maintaining control of all parties likely to gain power. Labour falling would be a major blow to neo-Liberalism (of which the New Left is part.)
I’ll discuss Corbyn’s policies later. They aren’t a bad idea, per se, but as with Syriza (in a much less serious way) I wonder if he understands just what would be required to make them work. The current world economic structure was set up specifically to make sure that the sort of policies which worked in the post-war liberal period, the sort of policies Corbyn wants to institute, can’t work. Indeed, they aren’t even allowed by the various trade agreements.
In the meantime, barring something major, I expect Corbyn will be the new Labour leader. And I expect he will be the next Prime Minister of Britain, because Cameron is going to keep driving most Britons standard of living into the ground.
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