Our Top 400: A Little Historical Perspective
What if 2009′s top 400 had paid taxes at the same real rate as 1955′s top 400? What sort of difference would that have made? Our 2009 top 400, if they had paid taxes at actual 1955 rates, would have together ended up with $25.4 billion dollars less in their pockets.
This over $25 billion in tax savings – for just 400 taxpayers – amounts to a plutocracy tax credit, a giveaway to the super rich that gives our financially favored far more capacity to dominate the American political process than America’s richest enjoyed back in the 1950s. We can end that domination. But first we need to end that giveaway.
As ‘Fraudclosure’ Continues, County Clerks Take Up Cudgel
Visit the office of John O’Brien, register of deeds in South Essex County, Massachusetts, and he’ll eagerly show you stacks and stacks of documents. He calls it a crime scene.
Why? These documents, a plethora of mortgage-related assignments, were used as legal justification for evicting millions of families from their homes through a deeply flawed foreclosure process, enabled by the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems industry consortium. There’s nothing that gets O’Brien’s Irish up more than a discussion of the rampant fraud he sees perpetrated on the court.
“In America we don’t taken someone’s home away with fraud,” he says with a South Boston swagger and no-nonsense boom to his voice. “There was a Profiles in Courage moment for the administration when the five banks were brought to the table to answer for the robo-signing scandal, and they let it pass.”
Did Republicans deliberately crash the US economy?
When teachers are laid off, for example (and nearly 200,000 have lost their jobs), it means larger class sizes, other teachers being overworked and after-school classes being cancelled. So, ironically, a policy that is intended to save “our children and grandchildren” from “crushing debt” is leaving them worse-prepared for the actual economic and social challenges they will face in the future. In addition, with states operating under tighter fiscal budgets – and getting no hope relief from Washington – it means less money for essential government services, like help for the elderly, the poor and the disabled.
This is the most obvious example of how austerity policies are not only harming America’s present, but also imperilling its future. And these spending cuts on the state and local level are matched by a complete lack of fiscal expansion on the federal level. In fact, fiscal policy is now a drag on the recovery, which is the exact opposite of how it should work, given a sluggish economy.
This collection of more-harm-than-good policies must also include last summer’s debt limit debacle, which House speaker John Boehner has threatened to renew this year. This was yet another GOP initiative that undermined the economic recovery. According to economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, “over the entire episode, confidence declined more than it did following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc in 2008.” Only after the crisis did the consumer confidence stabilize, but employers “held back on hiring, sapping momentum from a recovery that remains far too fragile.” In addition, the debt limit deal also forced more unhelpful spending cuts on the country.
The War on Whistleblowers
When a democracy functions properly, media revelations of executive branch misconduct typically result in an investigation by the legislative branch. Watergate epitomized this healthy dynamic-illegal acts exposed by the Washington Post prompted congressional hearings and ultimately prosecutions. In other words, checks and balances functioned properly, and the system both cleansed itself of wrongdoers and rejected the Nixonian notion that no matter what a president does, it is inherently legal.
So when the New York Times this week ran the headline “Senate Will Investigate National Security Leaks About Terrorism ‘Kill List,’” it was a frightening sign that something has gone horribly wrong since the Woodward-and-Bernstein days.
JPMorgan: If This Is a Financial Fortress, Run For the Bunkers
The U.S. Senate Banking Committee spent over two hours on Wednesday proving to the American people that any shred of confidence they might still have in our financial markets is misplaced. Just as with the six recent hearings on the collapse of MF Global and its $1.6 billion of missing customer funds, five different regulators could not, or would not, reveal anything useful to the public on how JPMorgan, the largest bank by assets in the U.S., was permitted to blow up billions in depositor funds in an outpost in London.
Thomas Curry, head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) since April 9 of this year, did confirm one important detail during the hearing: the reckless derivative trading at JPMorgan’s London office occurred in a unit of the national bank (not the broker-dealer), using insured deposits of bank customers, while 65 of the OCC’s examiners sat in offices of JPMorgan in New York, where they are permanently stationed.
Big U.S. Banks Brace for Downgrades
Banks, bond issuers and investors are bracing for aftershocks from a wave of bank downgrades expected to hit the U.S. as soon as the coming week.
Moody’s Investors Service has said it is likely to reduce by the end of June credit ratings for 17 large global banks, including five of the six biggest U.S. financial firms by assets. The downgrades are expected to raise borrowing costs and crimp some lucrative trading businesses at the banks, including at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley.
Members of the Oglala Lakota Tribe Blockade White Clay
Activists from across the country participated in an act of civil disobedience in the town of Whiteclay, Nebraska. Deep Green Resistance, Un-occupy Albuquerque, Occupy Lincoln and Lakota organizers attached U-Locks to their necks and strung a chain between pairs of activists, blockading the road running through the town to bring attention to the town’s infamous liquor industry. After blocking the main road running through the town for 3 and a half hours, police agreed to work with Lakota women to investigate the plethora of crimes and abuses committed by the owners of the four alcohol peddlers in Whiteclay.
In addition to the blockade, the Lakota women posted eviction notices, which gave the alcohol stores 30 days to change their business and stop selling alcohol. The organizers are also determined to take on the brewers who supply the stores.
“The action in Whiteclay is the first in a series of assaults that will ensure that the poisons of Anheiser-Busch and Coors do not infect another Generation of Our Lakota here within Our homelands,” said Olowan Martinez, one of the Lakota organizers of the action.
Squatting against austerity: Occupy Pisa grows and evolves
The Occupy Pisa project started in November 2011 with the occupation of some old buildings owned by a bank in Pisa, with the aim of providing alternative and self-managed social spaces for the local community. After only a few months of successful initiatives, such as a low-cost canteen, courses and advice drop-ins, the building was evicted in February. The eviction didn’t stop them though, as they went on to set up a permanent camp in the nearby Piazza Dante, which was used as a base to organise pickets and demonstrations, and to keep engaging with the local residents. Thanks to these tactics the project has grown from being an activist-based movement to being a mixed group of people from all sorts of backgrounds, including students, precarious workers, unemployed people and local residents of all ages.
Top cop warns Ottawa Occupiers
Would-be Occupiers won’t even get a chance to hammer in a single tent peg this summer. At least, not in Ottawa.
Less than 100 days into his first term as chief of police, Charles Bordeleau told the Sun editorial board Friday he’s promising to not only shut down a repeat of the Occupy movement but not even let one get established.
“You want to protest, fill your boots,” said Bordeleau. “But they will not occupy any land here in Ottawa.”
Cops have learned from last November’s 40-day occupation of Confederation Park and have noticed a troubling trend. “There are more demonstrations and protests around the world,” said Bordeleau. “The number is a concern and we’re monitoring it here in Ottawa.”
Hong Kong Occupy campers asked to go
HSBC Hong Kong has asked protesters of the Occupy Central movement to leave the ground floor plaza of the headquarters building which they have been occupying for the past eight months.
In Hong Kong, protesters numbering about 50 at their peak have pitched tents and laid out couches as they playguitars, run photography classes and read Chinese novels beneath the headquarters of HSBC.
“We won’t leave,” said protester Leung Wing-lai. “HSBC has not given us a deadline to move out.”
Hong Kong is one of several Asian cities, including Seoul, Taipei and Tokyo, which have seen protests inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement.
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