If you’re Rich you’re doing well during the Obama Presidency

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 9th, 2013

Week in Review

The rich continue to get richer in the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  And it’s a Democrat in the White House.  Who said he was the champion of the middle class.  But the facts sure don’t bear that out (see Tim Carney: Conservative reformers should fix the rigged game by Timothy P. Carney posted 6/4/2013 on The Examiner).

The game is rigged against the regular guy in America today. And it’s rigged in favor of big business, the politically connected, and the wealthy…

Corporate profits soared to a record $1.73 trillion annualized rate in the first quarter of 2013, more than triple what they were in 2001, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Banks made a record $40.1 billion in profits in the first quarter, 16 percent higher than a year before, according to FDIC data…

And how’s the regular guy doing?

New business formation continues to fall to record lows. In 1980, nearly half of all firms were less than five years old. The latest data from the Kaufmann Foundation puts that number at about one-third.

And the working man isn’t faring better. Unemployment, while improving, is still high. Maybe worse is the collapse of median household income — down more than 7 percent since 2008, and it is not noticeably climbing.

Wait a minute, did I miss something?  I thought President Obama won the 2012 election.  Not that rich guy with Wall Street friends.  Mitt Romney.  For this is exactly what President Obama warned us would happen if we elected Mitt Romney.  The rich would get richer.  And the poor would get poorer.  And here that is happening under the Obama presidency.  Guess Mitt Romney isn’t the only rich guy with friends on Wall Street.

Meanwhile, federal spending hit a record 26.9 percent of GDP in 2010. While it dropped a bit to 24.8 percent in 2012, that is still higher than any year between World War II and 2009 and 18 percent higher than the average year from the previous five decades.

So it’s no surprise that seven of the 10 richest counties in the United States are in the Washington, D.C., area. Revolving-door lobbyists and government contractors are living the high life in McLean, Georgetown, and Great Falls.

The game is rigged, and conservatives can point out that the chief game rigger is government. The tax code is convoluted, regulations are terrifying, big businesses that fail get bailed out while small entrepreneurs get crushed by bureaucracy…

Republicans ought to abolish corporate welfare, including subsidies for exports and green-energy projects. Break up the big banks. Get rid of corporate tax credits.

Politically, these policies checkmate Democrats because corporatism is at the heart of President Obama’s economic agenda. Subsidies for Boeing, Chrysler and General Electric are the building blocks of Obama’s “New Economic Patriotism.” Obamacare was built in collusion with drugmakers and the hospital lobby.

So big government policies help, surprise, surprise, big government.  Where we are but pawns in their game of ruthless power acquisition (as in the IRS harassing those Tea Party members).  And accumulation of wealth.  For it’s all about them.  Those in government.  And those connected to those in government.  Sure, they’ll throw a few alms out to the poor.  Some free birth control to young voters.  Not enough of anything to improve their lives.  But enough to keep them happy.  And voting Democrat.  While they laugh.  All the way to the bank.  And then back to their plush estates in McLean, Georgetown, and Great Falls.

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The Problem with the Occupy Wall Street People is that they don’t Know the Difference between Capitalism and Crony Capitalism

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 15th, 2011

Bank Tellers have a Job because they didn’t go to College to get a Philosophy or an English Degree

Another proud day for American public education and American colleges (see Protesters arrested in bank march, party in Times Square by Georgett Roberts, Jennifer Bain and Kevin Fasick posted 10/15/2011 on the New York Post).

The “Crossroads of the World” were jammed when thousands of anti-greed protesters brought their party to Times Square, capping a day of marches marred by the arrest of more than 20 who stormed a Citibank branch.

And what do they want?  A lot of free stuff.  The greedy little bastards.

Brought their ‘party’?  Yeah, that about sums up these beatniks on Wall Street.  For them life is nothing but a party.  And a protest is an even better party.  I mean, look at them.  They’re having the time of their lives.

Earlier, 24 protesters were arrested when a mob stormed a LaGuardia Place Citibank and shouted slogans as two demonstrators closed their bank accounts in protest just after 2 p.m.

I hope they find a safe place for that money.  There are a lot of desperate people out there who need money.  And it would have been a lot harder for them to get at that money if they had left it locked in a bank.

They were screaming and chanting while they were going in. Security told them to leave, but they didn’t. They stood in a group chanting things to the tellers. There were locked in, and then they were taken away.”

If I’m not mistaken bank tellers aren’t part of that superrich 1%.  No.  They’re probably a part of that 99%.  Like the protesters.  Only they have a job.  Unlike the protestors.  Because they didn’t go to college to get a philosophy or English degree.

“We went into the bank to peacefully protest,” she said. “People were standing in the bank giving testimonials, speaking about their student debt, some of which is held by Citibank and a few undercover police officers came into the bank”

These people partied for 4 years (or more) while going to college getting their worthless degrees.  And learning how to hate America.  And the man.  And now they’re bitching to complete strangers about their own bad decisions?  Taking on debt for some BS degree?  Mom and Dad probably warned them not to do that.  To get a degree in something useful instead.  Like business.  Accounting.  Chemistry.  Something that has value in the economy.  But did they listen?  Apparently not.

He said he paid $559 annually in fees to the bank, including late charges.

“I’ve been wanting to move my money for awhile. But this opened my eyes,” he said of his experiences. “I’m going to use a community-based bank for my funds.”

This is just like someone living in East Berlin at the height of the Cold War waiting for their chance to escape to West Berlin.  To scale the Berlin Wall.  Before the East Germans shot him.  Or her.  Of course, there are some subtle differences.  East Germany was an oppressive police state that killed people trying to escape.  While America is a free county.  With a free market.  Where you can move your money to any bank you wish.  Without the threat of being gunned down by the state.

We call this free market capitalism.  Businesses compete for you business by pleasing you more than their competition.  You don’t need a law to make banks please you.  If you don’t like how a bank is treating you, leave.  All you have to do is open a new account.  Withdraw your money from the old account.  And deposit it into the new account.  It’s that easy.  It sure is a hell of a lot easier than trying to
climb a barbwire wall under withering machine gun fire.

If Government Favoritism Bothers you Perhaps you should Direct your Angst at Washington D.C. at the Next Election

These protestors may hate capitalism.  Because they were taught that on our college campuses.  But they sure love some of its billionaires.  Even though they belong to that 1% (see Protesters should not target entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs by Antony Davies posted 10/12/2011 on The Morning Call).

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple who died last week at age 56, left the world a better place than he found it — and not just because of the treasure trove of gadgets he shepherded into creation.

Mr. Jobs’ life is a testament to what economists have long been telling us — that wealth and plunder are not the same thing. Plunder is what you get when you take from others. Wealth is what you get when you give to others.

Due to his commercial success, Mr. Jobs accumulated $8 billion of wealth over his life. But you won’t see Occupy Wall Street protesters coming after Jobs or Apple because it is so obvious that we freely gave our money to him in exchange for his products. We don’t view Jobs’ wealth as plunder, but as one-half of a transaction. We gave him $8 billion and he gave us the world that science fiction authors promised.

We voluntarily gave our money to billionaire like Steve Jobs.  The Occupy Wall Street mob is trying to take money from others.  The Steve Jobs of the world create wealth because they please us.  People like those on Wall Street threaten us for plunder or else.  Steve Jobs good.  Plunderers bad.

The young protesters currently occupying Wall Street should be careful where they direct their ire. People like Steve Jobs who gained their wealth by providing value to others — including the protesters using iPhones to call their friends — shouldn’t be the subject of protest. The protesters should focus their ire on those who use the political process to gain plunder by forcing the rest of us to subsidize their losing business models.

Some of these pirates can be found on Wall Street. They benefited when the government forced taxpayers to underwrite Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s largesse, and they benefited when the government forced taxpayers to bail out the companies that bet on that largesse.

But they’re not just in New York City.

Let us not forget that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are Government Sponsored Enterprises.  With close ties to the government.  Executing government policy.  And being under the official oversight of the government.  In particular, at the time of the subprime mortgage crisis, Barney Frank and Chris Dodd.  Who kept saying there’s nothing wrong with Freddie or Fannie.  That they were both as sound as a pound.  All the way up to the Great Recession.  Which they caused.

Pirates can be found on Main Street, where businessmen ask the government to create an unfair licensing system that will hamstring their competitors. They can be found in the public sector, where public unions ask the government to maintain a system that forces us to use the U.S. Postal Service to send first-class mail. Some can even be found on the farm, when they fight to maintain government requirements to put ethanol in our gas tanks and pay huge tariffs on imported sugar.

Here’s my point. Pirates can be found in all cities, and in all sectors, but their power to plunder has its source in one city: Washington, D.C. The federal government and the businesses that use political ties to force their products on consumers aren’t creating value — they’re enriching themselves at our expense. If protesters want to stop the plunder, then they are protesting in the wrong place.

That’s right, it takes two to tango.  And to plunder.  Lobbyists can’t lobby politicians unless they’re for sale.  Corporations can’t plunder unless they have cronies in Washington letting them.  By restricting competition.  And this is the key difference between capitalism (such as Steve Jobs used) and crony capitalism (such as what everyone is pissed off about).  It’s is crony capitalism that gets special favors from government.  In exchange for campaign contributions.

So if this kind of government favoritism bothers you, perhaps you should direct your angst to those who make the rules.  Washington D.C.  And by that I mean at the voting booth at the next election.  The way real democracy works.

The Occupy Wall Street Protestors have no Idea about Capital, Labor, Regulatory, Distribution, Insurance or Piracy Costs

And speaking of piracy, let’s talk about that a little.  And I’m not talking about bootlegging music or movies.  I’m not about literal pirates on the high seas (see Prepare to repel boarders posted 10/13/2011 on The Economist).

SOMALI pirates can be persistent. They have attacked the Maersk Alabama, a container ship owned by an American subsidiary of Denmark’s Maersk Line, no fewer than five times, most recently in May. In the first attack, in 2009, the captain was held hostage until the US Navy rescued him. Then Maersk put private armed guards on the ship. Since then, it has successfully repelled all boarders.

Maersk says it is only arming a few ships plying the pirate-infested waters off East Africa. But the practice is spreading rapidly among shipping firms despite the cost, which can run to $100,000 per voyage for a four-man team. That is because the number of attacks, off Somalia and elsewhere, has kept growing despite the strengthening of naval patrols (see chart). The European Union’s NAVFOR task-force, NATO warships and other navies patrol the waters off Somalia, but this has only pushed the pirates out into the open ocean, extending their attack zone towards India’s coast and as far south as Mozambique’s. This has forced the shipping industry, its insurers, and the national and international authorities that oversee them to accept that private armed guards are a necessity.

American ships plying these waters are bringing American-made goods to overseas markets.  Which everyone agrees is vital to our economy.  A positive balance of trade.  More exports.  Less imports.  And here we are trying to deliver our exports.  And having our ships hijacked by pirates.

Protestors hate corporations.  Because that’s where rich people sit back with their feet up on their desk puffing away on their fat cigars.  While counting their money.  At least, that’s what the protestors think.  They have no idea about the capital costs for plant and equipment.  Labor costs.  Regulatory costs.  Distribution (container ships ain’t cheap).  Insurance.  And, of course, piracy on the high seas and ransom demands.

Protestors are no fans of military spending, either.  They think the military is used just to invade other countries so we can steal their oil.  Well, they can’t blame this Somali piracy on America.  For the Somalis are stealing from anyone.  And nations everywhere have banded together to try and protect their trade routes.  But can’t.  Which is pretty sad.  Because during World War II we eventually defeated the U-Boat menace in the North Atlantic.  Of course, back then, we spent what was necessary on the military to win.  Unlike today.  Where the military budget is just a source of funds the Wall Street protestors want to plunder.

The Occupy Wall Street protestors are Acting like Spoiled Children, Like a Bunch of Eric Cartmans

The Occupy Wall Street protestors hate banks.  Capital formation.  Corporations.  That is, capitalism.  How do we know this?  Because they have told us.  Via Twitter.  Blogs.  YouTube.  Which they wrote and/or recorded on their Apple products.  And uploaded it to the Internet.  That we then downloaded on our Apple products.  Or other devices.  All of which made possible by banks, capital formation and corporations.  That is, capitalism.

These kids love capitalism.  They love the toys capitalism offers.  They just hate not being born into privilege.  Where they can afford to satisfy every want and urge as soon as they have it.  Without having to work hard or wait until they can afford to pay for these things.  They’re acting like spoiled children.  Like a bunch of Eric Cartmans.  Except for that part about being a bunch of filthy, stinking hippies.  For everyone knows that hippies are the bane of Cartman’s existence.  But apart from that one difference, these protestors are Eric Cartman.

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LESSONS LEARNED #59: “When the Right partners with business the Left calls it crony capitalism. When they partner with business the Left calls that smart government.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 31st, 2011

Microsoft Learns the hard way to Lobby Congress

Microsoft was a rogue corporation.  A big, profitable, rogue corporation.  And it was in the government’s crosshairs.  With all of their going about their business.  Alone.  Without any federal assistance.  Who did these people think they were?  They didn’t spend a dime lobbying the federal government for anything.  As if they could just go on about their business competing in the free market.  Scoffing at the government’s business resources.  All those things they could bring to the table.  To make an unorganized market organized.  Make Microsoft better.  Make Microsoft’s products better.  All for a nominal fee.  Some campaign contributions.  A vacation junket or two.  A little monkey business with someone you’re not married to.  A Roman indulgence of intoxicating substances and flesh.  You know, lobbying stuff.  But no!  Not Microsoft.  Those holier than thou sons of bitches.  Who did they think they were?

Well, Microsoft went too far.  Pissed off the wrong people.  People with friends in Washington.  People with power.  And a justice department.  Empowered with antitrust legislation.  Big, nasty, legal teeth.  Their crime?  They gave away Internet Explorer free.  And that was unfair to their competitors.  But it was a sweet deal to the consumer.  None of them complained.  They were happy to get IE free.  It saved them money.  It was their competitors that were pissed.  Because they couldn’t sell something that Microsoft was giving away free.  So the Department of Justice (DOJ) sued Microsoft claiming they violated the Sherman Antitrust Act.  Which Congress passed in 1890 to protect consumers.  And here the DOJ was fighting a case.  And if the DOJ won, the consumer lost.  They would have to pay for IE or a web browser from one of Microsoft’s competitors.  Which just goes to prove that it is never a consumer that complains about ‘predatory’ pricing.  It’s always a competitor that can’t compete at the same price that runs to the DOJ crying for antitrust protection.

Microsoft learned a very important lesson.  When you sit on big piles of money you don’t dis the federal government.  You show them the proper respect and give them some of that money. For your own protection.  For if you don’t they will go after you.  Like they did with Microsoft.  Who is smarter now.  Today, Microsoft spends millions on lobbyists.  To pay tribute for the pleasure of being left alone to operate in the free market.

Money Corrupts, Big Piles of Money Corrupt Absolutely

Microsoft is not alone.  There are a lot of honest companies out there.  But, sadly, there are a lot that aren’t.  Especially if they have a friend in Washington.  Because Washington sits on great big piles of money courtesy of the tax payers.  And a select few spend that money.   Put these two together and it’s a recipe for corruption.  Because one person can skim a little off the top of a huge transaction that is all but impossible to see.  Unless you start living like a Rockefeller on a government salary, that is.

The Teapot Dome scandal was the biggest government scandal of its time.  It involved leases to oil reserves transferred from the Navy to the Department of the Interior.  These were strategic reserves for our navy in case we went to war.  Important to have.  Because you don’t want to run out of oil during a war.  Albert Fall was the Secretary of the Interior.  And it was his job to lease those oil reserves.  Which he did.  But they didn’t go to the low bidder.  They went to the one that made it most worth his while.  Ultimately it was all that ‘making it worth his while’ that did him in.  He became a very rich man.  Which was impossible on his salary.  So they caught him.

Congressmen profit as Shareholders in Crédit Mobilier

The Teapot Dome was a big scandal perpetrated by a few players.  The Crédit Mobilier scandal, on the other hand, had far greater tentacles.  And is a good example of how government partnering with business goes wrong.  It involved the Union Pacific Railroad.  A sham company they created called Crédit Mobilier.  And some 30 Congressmen. 

The railroad to the pacific was a risky proposition.  It would take a very long time to build.  It would go through some very difficult terrain and hostile Indian country.  And there were few shippers on the proposed road.  In other words, it would take a long time to earn any revenue on this line.  And it was possible that they would never complete it.  Or ship enough freight to operate it profitably.  So the government stepped in and partnered with the Union Pacific.  And the fraud began.

The trick was how to make this loser a winner.  Railroad profits weren’t the answer.  So how can a railroad company make a profit without running any trains?  Why, from construction, of course.  That’s where Crédit Mobilier came in.  They built the railroad.  Billed Union Pacific.  Who then billed the government.  And, surprise, surprise, construction costs went way over budget.  Because they were overbilling Union Pacific.  Who then overbilled the government.  But the government just kept on paying.  Why?  Because they had shares in the very profitable Crédit Mobilier.  You see, when you share in the obscene profits of a government contractor you have little incentive to see or stop the fraud.

Government Steps into the Mortgage Business and Gives us the Subprime Mortgage Crisis

For years the federal government implemented policies to increase home ownership.  In their models, this was the driver of all economic activity.  A lot of material and labor builds a house.  And a lot of material and labor builds the things that furnish a house.  Ergo, the more people who bought houses the greater the economic activity.  And that meant everyone.  Even the people who couldn’t qualify for a mortgage.  A lot of which were minorities.  So if a bank denied anyone a mortgage, it just reeked of racism.  So lenders had to find a way to make the unqualified qualified before the DOJ charged them with discrimination in lending.  So, in the mid 1990s, they figured out how to make the unqualified qualified.  Along with a little help from the government.

The subprime mortgage was the vehicle.  Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMS).  And No Income No Asset (NINA, aka, Ninja) loans.  Of course, these by themselves didn’t solve any problem.  Because no respectable lender would ever approve such risky mortgages.  This is where government came in.  Or, rather, the Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE).  Better known to you and me as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Here’s how it worked.  The GSEs bought those risky loans from the lenders.  Then sold them to Wall Street.  Where investment bankers packaged them into Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS) and Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO).  High risk loans became low-risk, high-yield securities.  The risk was transferred from the bank to the taxpayer and then to the investor.  And back to the taxpayers when they had to pay for the bailout of the subprime mortgage crisis.

The enabler for this great financial crisis was the government.  First ‘encouraging’ banks to loan to the unqualified.  And then by their partnership with the GSEs.  Encouraging more and more risky behavior because they were getting a piece of the action.  So they turned a blind eye.  Even when some warned the committees responsible for their oversight.  They laughed.  Said they were just mean racists trying to deny fair and affordable housing to minorities.  And they insisted that these GSEs were financially strong and healthy.  Up until the world learned they weren’t.

Crony Capitalism can be Smart Government if it Saves the Environment

There’s one reason why government partners with business.  Corruption.  Crony capitalism.  Either an unscrupulous business trying to buy favors for personal gain.  Or an unscrupulous politician trying to sell favors for personal gain.  And good luck if you run an honest business.  Because the buying and selling of favors simply becomes paying tribute to be left alone.

Both sides are guilty of this.  Though the Left says it’s the Right that is in the pocket of the corporations.  Which is funny.  Because the Left is just as guilty.  But when they do it, it serves a higher purpose. So it’s smart government.  Such as when one of the world’s largest corporations, GE, doesn’t pay any income taxes.  By using some creative accounting practices.  But they’re very cozy with the current administration.  So they get a pass.  And they’re eager to cash in on all that green legislation.  To help them sell their green products.  You see, that’s good for the environment.  So it’s okay that they don’t pay income taxes.  And, more importantly, they have lobbyists.  They know how to play the game.  And they play it well.

But when the Right wants to cut the corporate income tax to stimulate the economy to create jobs, that’s just corporate welfare.  They’ll fight that every day of the week.  But if a corporation’s lobbyists treat them well, they’ll make the incandescent light bulb illegal.  So that corporation can sell more of their compact fluorescent lamps.  But that’s not crony capitalism.  That’s just smart government.  Because it saves the environment.

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