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Saturday, October 08, 2011

Soak the Rich

"You're either one of the 99 percent of one of the 1 percent," reads a sticker on a lamppost near my house. The implication being that if you're not one of the 1 percent, you should be packing your class warfare kit of cardboard signs, camping gear and iPods loaded with a copy of Paranoid Android and head on over to Wall Street.

Soak the rich isn't an original slogan, but in this age of NGO's and a massive white elephant civil service, who are the rich exactly?

Elizabeth Warren explained that the rich are people who build factories but aren't grateful enough to pay their fair share. Whatever that fair share might be. Warren has good reason to be outraged by business owners who just aren't paying enough. She's the one they're paying the money to.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau refused a Freedom of Information Act request to release her salary, but we do have the salary ranges for two assistant directors of sub-offices at the CFPB.

The Assistant Director at the Office of Financial Empowerment, whose job is "developing and implementing policy and programs that empower low and moderate income and underserved consumers to make better informed financial decisions" has a salary range of 185,000 to 247,000 dollars.

The Assistant Director at the, Office of Older Americans, (apparently senior citizens is now politically incorrect) also has a salary range of 160,000 to 235,000 dollars (apparently senior citizens also matter 25,000 to 12,000 dollars less than "underserved consumers") and his or her job involves "Working with the Associate Director and Deputy Associate Director of Consumer Education and Engagement, as well as senior leaders from across CFPB." (That's senior leaders who make a lot of money, nor leaders who are seniors.)

Just how many senior leaders, directors, associate directors and deputy associate directors are there at a single consumer agency? When you find out let me know. But the CFPB has offices in four major cities, pays relocation costs and promises "a highly competitive compensation and benefits package".

Does the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau really exist to protect consumers or to provide six figure jobs to reliable political allies like Liz Warren?

Here's a hint, the Dodd-Frank bill didn't just establish the CFPB, it also created the Office of Financial Research with a neat little caveat exempting them from pay schedule limitations

"COMPENSATION- The Director, in consultation with the Chairperson, shall fix, adjust, and administer the pay for all employees of the Office, without regard to chapter 51 or subchapter III of chapter 53 of title 5, United States Code, relating to classification of positions and General Schedule pay rates."

In case you happened to miss that, it was only somewhere around the 1000th page under Section 152 D (2 ) right behind the case reading, "Beware of the Barney". It's an ironic note in a bill that fusses a bit about executive compensation when they're private sector executives, but creates an organization with open ended salaries for government employees.

Oh and if you're still worried whether Elizabeth Warren has enough to eat, her Harvard salary was around 632,000 dollars. Her workload? Teaching a class on contract law twice a week. It's not exactly shoveling coal in a coal mine. Class warfare it turns out is a game for the rich.

If Warren becomes a Senator, her measly salary would be a mere 174,000. It's hard to imagine how she'll even live on so little.Out near Wall Street, a whole bunch of bright young things are listening to Bob Marley and eagerly looking forward to the chance to be able to make a difference for people with a 174,000 salary too. If those damn greedy Republocrats don't ruin it for them.

The 1 percent vs 99 percent class warfare rhetoric leaves out the 2 and 3 percents like Warren who make their money by promising to protect us from the 1 percent if only we won't ask too many questions about how many senior assistant directors it takes to screw in a lightbulb (to be known as Luminescent-American) at the Bureau for the Promotion of Government Directorates.

The 2 and 3 percents expect us to join a war against the 1 percent for their profit, not for ours. At least the revolting soldiers in the Russian and French revolutions got to burst into some cellars and gorge themselves on expensive wines. We can look forward to living on government cheese so we can pay for all the directorates and the 19 or so percent of the country that sees the government dole as its birthright. 

But the 2 and 3 percenters are not an organic movement, they're a political class whose advancement is promoted by elements of that 1 percent. As are the 99 percent protests. Can it really be class warfare if the people waging it are in the same class as the people they're waging it against? It's not a new question. The French Revolution was packed with the upper class. Lenin was the son of a nobleman. Castro's father ran a plantation.Obama is the grandson is a bank president.

Peer through the cardboard signs and it starts looking more like a fight among the 1 percent of millionaires and billionaires who want to run the country their way and need populist support or the illusion of it. Most revolutions begin within an oligarchy and most empires are torn down from within.

Say what you will about Obama he has created plenty of jobs. Government jobs. And subtracted a whole lot private sector jobs. This doesn't make much sense if you think of him as leading an economic recovery, rather than serving as a figurehead in an effort to put the country and the economy under the control of particular interests within that 1 percent.

Interests like some of those nice billionaires who fund activist groups out of the goodness of their hearts because they love this country so damn much. Like noted patriot George Soros or the Sandlers, those lovely people with their creative subprime mortgage loans who are just so darn concerned about the poor. Or Warren Buffett who is just so fired up about the rich paying their fair share of taxes-- so long as it results in a tax code which still leaves him with the same loopholes while letting him go on profiting from the bailouts.

Is that class warfare? More like a structural civil war between those who see themselves benefiting most from a tightly regulated economy under their control against those who want a deregulated system. Or a less regulated system anyway.

On one side are the public sector unions and the dole crowd, the professional activists, consultants and bearded marxists who need something to do with their free time. Not to mention the twenty and thirty somethings working in the private sector who are too stupid to realize that they're being used by the same billionaires that they're protesting against to destroy their own job market.

And that's what the pathetic Occupy Wall Street camp boils down to. A pro-government protest against some billionaires, just not the ones ponying up at Obama fundraisers. Class warfare done on the cheap by people who don't work and have no class.

Power to the people is a slogan that's half-right. Revolutions are rarely about the people, but they're always about power. And they do give that power to people. Some people. Like Harvard professors and billionaires who fund populist movements and the Obama Administration which has lost all hope of being able to run for office on the Arab Spring or on dead Al-Qaeda leaders and hopes to run on the American Autumn instead.

While spring is a metaphor for renewal, autumn is a metaphor for decline. Whether the progressives using the slogan American Autumn understand what they're saying or not is an open question, but it is an accurate description. Their American Autumn is very much a symbol of national decline, not because it's an attack on Wall Street, but because it's a power grab by the government money faction of the 1 percent disguised as soak the rich populism.

Free enterprise created the mercantile middle-class, while government bureaucracy created a rival middle-class. In the long run only of them can remain a viable economic entity. Either the path to advancement will be through the free market or through civil service exams. We will either have a middle-class of free men and women, or of government employees voting to find new ways to squeeze money from the citizenry to pay their own salaries.

15 comments:

Lemon said...

That should be the Office of Old Geezers.

Keliata said...

That works too, Lemon lol.

****

Those 99-percenters marching on Wall Street with iPods and camping gear are almost enough to make go down there and roll my eyes at them and say, "Oh, please."

I'd invite them to Buffalo, NY (second poorest city in the country and for some reason living here doesn't count as being a real New Yorker) and bring them up on the rail road tracks.


Or maybe show them movies of the Great Depression and the many Hooverville shanties. I think there was a Hooverville in Central Park too.

Strange. PBS has been airing "Prohibition: A Nation of Hypocrites" this week.

Fascinating if you get the chance to watch it. It mentions how prohibition thrust many Americans into poverty, Hoovervilles, and turned others into criminals.

Maybe there's a reason big business, the 1-percent should be getting tax breaks. Tax them out of business and tax yourself out of a job, a home, an iPod, etc.

Shavua tov

ramcclain said...

This is absolutely one of your best. Should be front page all over the US. Emailing and sharing on social networks, and hoping that some of those who are supporting these nuts, and therefore those who are manipulating them, might read and see the error of their ways, and who is really at fault! In addition to the monied behind this, I firmly believe that this administration, and many DemocRats are as well. It is a distraction from their huge failure(s)!

Charlie Hall said...

This is an example of the incompetence of the American Right. They think that the government can be exempt from labor markets. In order to get well qualified employees, the government has to pay competitive salaries!

And for the record, Elizabeth Warren is currently employed by a private law school, not a government agency. At least if you are going to fan the flames of resentment, get your facts right.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Funny how you guys don't think that about Wall Street. The difference though is that all these "well qualified chair sitters" are being paid on our dime.

Warren was a government employee, now she's running for a government position. Her Harvard position is private sector, but it shows how little she works for a living.

vanderleun said...

Just a note to say you added the salary and the royalties/fees elements of Warren's pay incorrectly.

Ivan said...

Elizabeth Warren's pay at Harvard is in the range for senior management at some companies. She has some cheek to complain about factory owners not paying their fair share, when she herself collects good money for nothing for most of the week. Is it any wonder that university education is so expensive? This then is the mystery: well-heeled parents pay through their noses for an expensive socialistic education, which their wards then parley into high paying parasitical jobs in the government machine. Why I would say we have all the trappings of a mandarin class right here.

Keliata said...

I stand corrected.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has spread to Buffalo. There was a NYC style protest against corporate greed in front of city hall, the source of more greed and corruption than anything in the private sector (with the exception of two extremely corrupt and shoddy construction companies that the city constantly gives contracts to).


99-percent of the problems in Buffalo are our own fault--electing corrupt politicians after corrupt politicians and awarding tax incentives to every corporation that promises to bring in high paying jobs that never materialize (Adelphia, Bass Pro).

Keliata said...

But I'm confused about the differences between the Tea Party and Occupiers.

Are they basically the same movements with the same grievances? It seems they do, except the Occupiers appear more pretentious and the Tea Partiers more 'bama boy redneck.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

the tea party is a libertarian oriented protest for smaller government

the occupy wall street is a left of center movement seemingly calling for higher taxes for wall street

Halycon said...

I was sitting on the buss the other day and I picked up on some oncersation where someone was explaining how all these tax cuts were useless because the rich were simply just sitting on all this money. They weren't investing because the economy was weak so they just hoarded their wealth. This is pretty much what we're seeing with the big banks that aren't lending much.

Anyways this fellow suggested that they tax the uber rich because then the people would have money to spend again which means more customers.

At this point, people are starting to wonder if there is a way out of this recession and these large protestors are indeed the downtrodden and the abused. As you'd expect with any oppressed living being, they revolt. But they aren't outside Washington like the Tea Party, but they are outside Wall Street.

Perhaps like you Knish, they don't believe governments can sort this mess out. Which is exactly why they are taking the fight, straight to the mega-corporations. They're blaming the people at the top and they see Wall Street as being the top, not the government.

Anonymous said...

Actually, these days, everybody, rich, poor, middle-class are are just "sitting on" their money because, given the state of the economy, nobody wants to spend too much. We're all "hoarding" these days. That's just the way it is, when times are tough; it's not some evil plot cooked up by Wall Street, or everybody's favorite villain, "The Bankers." It's the way the economy works.I fail to see how taxing the rich even more could possibly give the average citizen more to spend, unless they're planning on throwing it out by the fistfull on public street corners---which you know they aren't. Tax money always ends up in the hands of government, which will then spend it on redecorating the offices of the Committee for Research into the environmental effects of plastic bottles on blue whales. Then they'll give another few billion to some expensive boondoggle or other, which, about five years later, still can't be built, because they don't have (wait for it!) enough money!

So, then they'll raise taxes. Again.

I remember, way back when bail-outs for banks we're being demanded. We were told then that they were just too big to fail, and that they needed help, and if we suggested the market should just take its course, and we should let them fail---well, we were just being heartless, that's all. Which makes one wonder why the protestors aren't camped out on the White House lawn, instead of Wall Street.

/Rhinestone Suderman

Discount Jerseys said...

Should be front page all over the US. Emailing and sharing on social networks, and hoping that some of those who are supporting these nuts, and therefore those who are manipulating them, might read and see the error of their ways, and who is really at fault! In addition to the monied behind this, I firmly believe that this administration, and many DemocRats are as well.

Halycon said...

@ Rhinestone

Well the low interest rates mean that it's not worth hoarding money up and with prices rising, people are spending more and more of their income. This is why we have the middle class squeeze across the West. Prices are rising and wages aren't moving up to compensate enough.

Bottom line. The middle and working class folk no longer have the money to spend. The government spending is up the wazoo but it's not really doing anything. The central banks just want to lend out money, keep low interest rates and print money through quantative easing. When the central bank does quantative easing, it hits people who are less well off and those with pensions because it pushes up inflation. The only ones to benefit of quantative easing are the rich and they're simply hoarding that money.

You can make your jokes about wastefull big government but the main idea is that the rich need to get spending again. Somehow the more intelligently run East Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan don't just twiddle their fingers, but they try to get demands in for the good of their people. At least they could say to the rich "we'll tax you unless you create N amount of jobs", if they create jobs then that boosts growth which is good for the economy.

Keliata said...

TY Daniel:) This occupy wall street movement seems to have popped up overnight. I know feel more up to speed.

BTW: Do you have any opinion or info on why the tiny book A Time for Outrage by holocaust survivor Stephane Hessel has reportedly inspired the occupy wall street thing?

I just saw an interview on PBS. Apparently A Time for Outrage is about the author's outrage at Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

I don't get what that book could have to do with wall street. If there's an overlap between the two I am in the dark. I just don't get it.

Apparenlty the book is quite popular now on some college campuses.

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