NO NATO! #noNATO
Shut down the war machine! Stop Imperialism!
NO NATO! #noNATO
Shut down the war machine! Stop Imperialism!
This is totally absurd:
Andrew Schiff was sitting in a traffic jam in California this month after giving a speech at an investment conference about gold. He turned off the satellite radio, got out of the car and screamed a profanity.
“I’m not Zen at all, and when I’m freaking out about the situation, where I’m stuck like a rat in a trap on a highway with no way to get out, it’s very hard,” Schiff, director of marketing for broker-dealer Euro Pacific Capital Inc., said in an interview.
Schiff, 46, is facing another kind of jam this year: Paid a lower bonus, he said the $350,000 he earns, enough to put him in the country’s top 1 percent by income, doesn’t cover his family’s private-school tuition, a Kent, Connecticut, summer rental and the upgrade they would like from their 1,200-square- foot Brooklyn duplex.
“I feel stuck,” Schiff said. “The New York that I wanted to have is still just beyond my reach.”
The smaller bonus checks that hit accounts across the financial-services industry this month are making it difficult to maintain the lifestyles that Wall Street workers expect, according to interviews with bankers and their accountants, therapists, advisers and headhunters.
“People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress,” said Alan Dlugash, a partner at accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron LLP in New York who specializes in financial planning for the wealthy. “Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”
Facing a slump in revenue from investment banking and trading, Wall Street firms have trimmed 2011 discretionary pay. At Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and Barclays Capital, the cuts were at least 25 percent. Morgan Stanley (MS) capped cash bonuses at $125,000, and Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) increased the percentage of deferred pay.
“It’s a disaster,” said Ilana Weinstein, chief executive officer of New York-based search firm IDW Group LLC. “The entire construct of compensation has changed.”
Most people can only dream of Wall Street’s shrinking paychecks. Median household income in 2010 was $49,445, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, lower than the previous year and less than 1 percent of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s $7 million restricted-stock bonus for 2011. The percentage of Americans living in poverty climbed to 15.1 percent, the highest in almost two decades.
House of Mirth
Comfortable New Yorkers assessing their discomforts is at least as old as Edith Wharton’s 1905 novel “The House of Mirth,” whose heroine Lily Bart said “the only way not to think about money is to have a great deal of it.”
Wall Street headhunter Daniel Arbeeny said his “income has gone down tremendously.” On a recent Sunday, he drove to Fairway Market in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn to buy discounted salmon for $5.99 a pound.
“They have a circular that they leave in front of the buildings in our neighborhood,” said Arbeeny, 49, who lives in nearby Cobble Hill, namesake for a line of pebbled-leather Kate Spade handbags. “We sit there, and I look through all of them to find out where it’s worth going.”
Executive-search veterans who work with hedge funds and banks make about $500,000 in good years, said Arbeeny, managing principal at New York-based CMF Partners LLC, declining to discuss specifics about his own income. He said he no longer goes on annual ski trips to Whistler (WB), Tahoe or Aspen.
He reads other supermarket circulars to find good prices for his favorite cereal, Wheat Chex.
“Wow, did I waste a lot of money,” Arbeeny said.
$17,000 on Dogs
Richard Scheiner, 58, a real-estate investor and hedge-fund manager, said most people on Wall Street don’t save.
“When their means are cut, they’re stuck,” said Scheiner, whose New York-based hedge fund, Lane Gate Partners LLC, was down about 15 percent last year. “Not so much an issue for me and my wife because we’ve always saved.”
Scheiner said he spends about $500 a month to park one of his two Audis in a garage and at least $7,500 a year each for memberships at the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester and a gun club in upstate New York. A labradoodle named Zelda and a rescued bichon frise, Duke, cost $17,000 a year, including food, health care, boarding and a daily dog-walker who charges $17 each per outing, he said.
Still, he sold two motorcycles he didn’t use and called his Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet “the Volkswagen of supercars.” He and his wife have given more than $100,000 to a nonprofit she founded that promotes employment for people with Asperger syndrome, he said.
(click the link for the rest)
With organized labor increasing support for the Occupy movement – SEIU Local 1021, the Alameda County Labor Council and other unions greatly contributed to the success of the November 2 Oakland General Strike – many see the battle for the 99% as energizing traditional Democratic constituencies for the November 2012 elections. But if the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction reaches a bipartisan deal in the next three weeks that cuts Medicare and Social Security, the opposite is more likely to be true.
Progressives have not focused on the Deficit Reduction Committee, as its meetings have coincided with the growth of Occupy’s historic grassroots movement for economic justice. And some are addressing the President’s refusal to commit to a Wall Street transaction tax, which is the subject of an “Occupy the Treasury” event today. But the Committee is being pressured to slash hundreds of billions of dollars from health care and entitlement programs, and from other domestic needs, as part of an Obama-backed “grand bargain” to raise taxes on the wealthy. Should such an agreement be reached, those who worry that Occupy lacks specific demands will have their fears allayed: Occupy activists will have a clear target in President Obama and other Democrats backing such a deal.
As Republicans promote even more tax breaks for the wealthiest 1%, Democrats would appear to have a great opportunity to seize the spirit of the Occupy movement and become the party of economic populism for the 2012 elections. President Obama now talks the language of economic unfairness. But if he and fellow Democrats agree to a deficit reduction deal that cuts Medicare, Social Security, and other programs serving the 99%, expect an electoral calamity for Democrats in 2012.
Unlike the Tea Party, Occupy is neither funded nor controlled by key figures in a national political party. But as labor unions with close Democratic Party ties increasingly get involved in the movement, they may soon be forced to choose which side they are on.
President Obama and national Democratic leaders better hope they do not put labor unions in a position of having to make this choice. Because while labor leaders have stood by Obama despite his weak record on their priorities, Occupy has galvanized union members in a way that alters this calculus.
SEIU, for example, is not going to be able to conduct an effective electoral mobilization drive in 2012 if its members see Obama and the Democrats as having sacrificed Medicare, Social Security and vital domestic programs. And even if union leaders throw millions into Obama’s campaign, this will now be framed as a betrayal of the values of the Occupy movement rather than as a smart investment in labor’s future.
Obama put himself in this box by proposing the “grand bargain” to Speaker Boehner, and then agreeing to create the Deficit Committee. And for all his talk about raising taxes on the wealthy, he is not promoting using the money generated to provide additional relief to the bottom 50%.
Some believe that Obama’s real strategy is to put Republicans on the defensive for backing the interests of the 1%, and that the President knows the Deficit Reduction committee will not reach agreement. These folks probably also believed that Obama picked Larry Summers and Tim Geithner to head his economic team because these insiders would be more effective in cracking down on Wall Street – when the opposite proved true.
David Dayen of Firedoglake has provided outstanding coverage of the Deficit Reduction committee, whose work must end in three weeks. Obama supporters better hope that no agreement is reached, as the alternative puts the President and the Democratic Party in the crosshairs of a growing and increasingly powerful progressive movement.
Randy Shaw is author of The Activist’s Handbook and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century.
This is ridiculous. A country club for the 1% that rakes in tons of $ is trying to bust their worker’s union even though it is driving them into the ground. The fat cats are so anti union, they kill themselves just to bring down an organization that gives workers power and a fair shake.
Typically, when a company busts a union it does it to save money. Yet as the case of the16-month-long lockout at the Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton, Calif., shows us, unionbusting often has very little to do with saving money and everything to do with the power bosses wish to have over their workers.
For more than 30 years, the Castlewood Country Club has had mostly positive labor relations with its 60 or so food service workers, who are members of UNITE-HERE Local 2850. Workers at the country club had always been paid decent wages and had decent healthcare. The club’s members could afford to do it. A Castlewood membership costs a one-time fee of $25,000, plus a $630 “gold membership” monthly fee to stay in the club.
After the last contract was negotiated with workers, Jim Clouser was appointed to lead the club’s board of directors. “It was clear from the beginning that he was intent on taking on the union simply because was ideologically opposed to unions,“ says country club member Larry Ferderber.
In late 2009, the Country Club made an offer to its workers that would raise their out-of-pocket healthcare costs to nearly $637 a month—about 50 percent of an average club worker’s income. Union members made a counter offer that would have saved the country club money over the long run. The country club rejected the offer, and workers were locked out on February 25, 2010.
Many suspected that the country club was not negotiating in good faith and management’s real goal was to provoke a lockout so they could bust and severely weaken the union.
“Settling this dispute and providing affordable healthcare for our families would cost each member less than 30 cents a day—so why are we still fighting?” says Wei Ling Huber, president of Unite Here Local 2850, which represents the locked-out workers.
After the lockout began, according to UNITE HERE Local 2850 union organizer Sarah Norr, the workers were brought into a meeting with management, which said the only way the union workers could return is if they agreed to decertify the union. The union workers, of course, refused to do that and the company hired scabs to take their jobs.
According to union organizers, the company has refused to so far negotiate in good faith. The union has since filed unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board claiming that the country club is trying to permanently replace workers, which is illegal during a lockout.
The company has spent a tremendous amount of extra money due to the labor dispute. According to internal documents, the company has spent at least $340,000 on legal expenses related to the lockout. Also, according to UNITE HERE organizer Sarah Norr, two golf tournaments have cancelled tournaments thus far and another 11 golf tournaments have indicated that they will not return this year to hold tournaments. All this costs the country club expected revenue.
“They didn’t realize who they were picking a fight with, that [workers] had an organization behind them that would fight for them,” says Ferderber. “As a result, the country club has gone into massive amount of debts fighting this union.”
“There is a clear crisis of conscience here,” says locked-out janitor Francisca Carranza. “The club is spending more money locking us out, when it could save money with our proposed contract.”
Castlewood’s Board of Directors have tried to keep the escalating costs secret from the rest of the club’s 800 members. “When I speak up about the matter, the Board of Directors always tries to keep it hush. They have even threatened to kick me out of the club for speaking up about it,” Ferderber says.
Despite the apparent dedication of Castlewood management to bust their union, workers say they are not deterred. Last week, they engaged in mass civil disobedience to prevent golfers from playing in the annual Castlewood Country Club Golf Tournament. Two dozen union members and their supporters were arrested for blocking traffic from entering the country club.
“We have persisted—we aren’t going anywhere,” said Wei-Ling Huber, president of Local 2850. “We are going to go back, we are going to go back union, and we are going to go back with a contract.”
A conservative-leaning news website says it has obtained documents from the United Auto Workers’ Internet server that show the union is behind a new, nationwide campaign to train 100,000 Americans for “sustained non-violent direct action” on behalf of “the 99 percent.”
The Daily Caller says the documents show the UAW is helping to organize a coalition of 43 organizations calling itself “The 99% Spring.”
The documents, which it says were downloaded from an “unprotected area of the UAW’s Web server,” include press releases, social media plans and a list of talking points.
But a source told The Detroit News that they were “posted by accident” to the union’s website. That person said the UAW is part of the coalition, but not its “mastermind.”
The UAW would not comment on the document leak.
Executive Editor David Martosko acknowledged that his group learned about the documents from a hacker.
“We downloaded the material and connected it back to their website,” he said. “It shouldn’t surprise anybody that a labor union is behind the latest iteration of the Occupy campaign.”
On its own website, The 99% Spring identifies itself as an outgrowth of the Occupy Wall Street movement that took over city squares and newspaper headlines last fall.
“This spring we rise! We will reshape our country with our own hands and feet, bodies and hearts,” the group says on its own website.
“We will take non-violent action in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi to forge a new destiny one block, one neighborhood, one city, one state at a time.”
UAW President Bob King has made no secret of his support for the Occupy movement or its latest, more confrontational evolution.
“In April, we’re going to be part of a broad coalition that’s going to be training our membership and anybody who cares about justice in this society in nonviolent direct action,” King told union members in Flint earlier this month at a rally marking the 75th anniversary of the Flint Sit-Down Strike that led to the recognition of the UAW.
King said their first target would be the General Electric Co. shareholders meeting in Detroit on April 25.
“It is morally wrong — it is absolutely wrong — that they make billions and billions and billions of dollars and pay not a single penny in taxes,” King said of GE. “Enough is enough. We’re the 99 percent who want 100 percent fairness for everyone.”
But Martosko said the $168,073 in salary and benefits he says UAW documents show King earns annually puts him in the other camp.
“He is the 1 percent,” Martosko said. “I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve it, but he shouldn’t act like he’s a pauper.”
The Daily Caller was started by conservative commentator Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel, an aide to former vice president Dick Cheney.
@IPS_DC @SenatorSanders @CatholicDems
It looks like the last 30 years Neoliberal economics has done little to raise the economic conditions of working people. All it seems to have done is create a bigger gap between us and the rich. Even “socialist” social-democratic European countries have seen a bit of income inequality growth.
Unfettered global capitalism: chippin’ away at your social safety net, doin’ for the money, doin’ for the lulz… but mostly for the money.
It’s almost insane that Republicans can keep burying their heads in the sand when it comes to economic inequality. The thing is, it’s not because they’re total idiots that they ignore charts like this. It’s because this is exactly what they want. From attempting to hack away at medicare and social security, to union busting on the State and Federal Level, Republicans are ratcheting up the “class war”.
From the AFL-CIO blog (found via twitter @AFLCIO ):
by Tula Connell, Jan 30, 2012
There’s income inequality, and then there’s the United States. New research shows that within the developed world, no nation has seen the income share of the top 1 percent grow faster over the past three decades than the United States.
To qualify for the elite status of 1 percent in annual income, an individual makes somewhere in the mid-$300,000s per year (or way more, like Mitt!).
(H/t to the Institute for Policy Studies.)
Please, everyone, follow me into a quiet room—we’re going to discuss the outrageous $100 million-plus golden parachutes corporate CEOs get, and we wouldn’t want Mitt Romney to think we were engaging in an “envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach.”
A new study (PDF) looks at the 21 CEOs who’ve gotten “walk-away packages” of $100 million and up since 2000, for a combined total of nearly $4 billion. Those packages included stock option profits, full-value stock awards, salary and bonuses, benefits from health care to country club membership, pensions and more. The report defends the concept of the golden parachute, but says:
In principle, to protect someone from financial harm if they lose their job due to a merger, that executive needs a single year’s salary and bonus. A CEO should not need three or even two years’ salary and bonus, plus immediate vesting of all equity and pensions, plus benefit and perquisite continuation, as was paid to most of the CEOs in this report. A CEO who is retiring should not need a severance package as well as a retirement package, such as was paid out to John Kanas by North Fork. A CEO who is retiring should not need a pension as well as the continued vesting of stock options and restricted stock, as was paid out to Lee Raymond by Exxon Mobil.
A full year’s overblown CEO salary and bonus seems like more than enough to me, but fine. Let’s pretend that’s reasonable—the reality is still unreasonable.
These astonishing golden parachutes aren’t going only to successful CEOs, either. The 21 $100 million-plus CEOs include William McGuire, of UnitedHealth Group, who was “asked to leave” (or whatever other euphemism we apply to rich people who get fired) when “he became embroiled in a stock options backdating scandal.” Nonetheless, he got a payout of $285 million. Home Depot stock prices were stagnant under Robert Nardelli, and shareholders and the board were not happy with how much he was making as CEO, but when he left, it was with more than $220 million. Pfizer lost $140 billion (with a B) in market value under Hank McKinnell, Jr., but he walked away with $188 million.
Never mind getting $100 million. If you were fired for being corrupt or harming your employer, would you leave with the equivalent of multiple years of salary? Shoot, if you left a job beloved by every single one of your bosses and coworkers, would you get that much relative to your current pay? Highly unlikely, unless you too are the CEO of a bank or major corporation. Because again we see that America’s culture of accountability applies only at the bottom, and that at the top, there is just about no screw-up too big to deny a member of the 0.1 percent their $100 million payout.
AMAZING article from Common Dreams. Click the link!
..It depends, for instance, on worker organization. When workers are organized, they’re better able to fight for higher wages and to represent their interests in the political sphere. When workers are disorganized, capitalists can easily “capture the state” and use it to make laws that rig the game in their favor. The more control over government that capitalists achieve, the worse the rigging and the greater the inequality that results.
Inequality also depends on capitalist organization. An internally cohesive capitalist class is more powerful than a factionalized one. The worst situation is when capitalists are united and workers are divided. That’s when we’re likely to see runaway inequality.
In the United States, inequality has waxed and waned as a result of these factors. When the working class has been well organized, when the demand for skilled labor has been high, when the economy has been expanding, and when immigration policy and trade laws protected U.S. workers from exploitation on a Third-World scale, inequality has decreased. The period from about 1945 to 1970 fits this pattern. Because less inequality means less wealth for capitalists, capitalists fight back. That’s what we’ve seen in the period from about 1970 to today.
Extreme economic inequality in U.S. society is indeed beginning to generate widespread discontent. But some economists and sociologists have argued that the last 30 years of capitalist ascendancy have brought us to something other than a routine tide-turning moment. What these last decades have brought us to, or rather gotten us into, they say, is an inequality trap — a situation in which capitalists are so far ahead that it may be nearly impossible to turn things around without fundamental change.
The kind of inequality trap in which we find ourselves has a number of parts. One is the nearly complete capitalist capture of the state. As capitalists and their elite agents — think here of the richest 1% — have accumulated more and more wealth, their ability to control elections and policy-making has grown enormously. This has yielded not only an economic game hugely rigged in favor of capitalists, but the squeezing-out of populist opposition in government. It’s no surprise, then, that many people have lost hope in mainstream electoral politics, and thus refuse to participate in what seems like a sham. Under these conditions, capitalist dominance is more or less ensured and inequality is locked in.
A second part of the inequality trap is the destruction or co-optation of institutions that once inspired dissent and built solidarity among the working class. I am referring principally to unions. Despite their all-too-human failings, unions once brought working people together to fight for their interests. Capitalists know this, which is why they have devoted so much effort over the last 30 years to crushing unions in the private sector and are now doing it in the public sector. As unions have been weakened, the inequality trap has closed all the more tightly.
Another part of the inequality trap, alluded to earlier, is the ability of capitalists in the U.S. to draw on a worldwide labor pool. The international “free trade” laws that make this possible undercut the ability of workers in the U.S. to demand better wages. Which means that many workers in the U.S. feel that resisting capitalist demands is pointless, because if these demands aren’t met, capitalists will just move overseas. Workers here are thus stuck in a situation of worsening inequality, while capitalists enjoy a new freedom to roam the globe in search of cheaper labor and higher profits.
We need to tax financial transactions and wealth itself. We need to tax income and capital gains over $400,000 a year at a 90% rate. We need to use the money to create a democratically controlled central bank to fund cooperative work enterprises. We need to create a public jobs program so that everyone who is willing and able to work can have a meaningful job at a living wage. We need to at least double the minimum wage and set a maximum wage.
And, while we’re at it, we need to establish a national health service, so no one goes broke trying to pay for medical care. We also need to abolish tuition at public universities, so that every qualified student can get as much education as he or she wants.
In the meantime, finding that peaceful way will depend on facing the gloomy reality of our current predicament. To get out of the inequality trap, we must first see that we’re in it. If there is a solution, perhaps it will be found by refusing to believe that what is necessary is impossible. That refusal will also be a step toward escaping the larger inequality trap called capitalism.