Sunni-Shia Bellum Sacrum Fault Lines Deepen…
Historically, the term “religious war” (Bellum Sacrum) was used to describe various European wars among Christian denominations spanning mainly the 16th to the 18th century such as the Seven Year’s War (1756-1763) which spread widely throughout Europe and on to North America, Central America, the also to the West African coast, India, and the Philippines. There were dozens of other intra-Christian religious wars the seeds of which began to sprout shortly after the death of Jesus Christ.
The Encyclopedia of Wars, by authors Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod, estimate that only 7% of the 1,783 wars they chronicled involve religion. Lebanon is one of these and is still mired in a cold war phase of its 15 year (1975-90) Civil War, from which Lebanon yet to recover. Religious differences are one of the major causes on Lebanon’s many problems today and it is within this context that the mushrooming intra-Muslim war between Sunni and Shia is spreading and intensifying. Sunni comprise approximately 90% percent of the followers of Islam and their increasingly vilified coreligionists, Shia Muslims, 10%. This month Lebanon’s Shia are commemorating Ashoura and the martyrdom of Imam Hussein Ibn Ali at the battle of Karbala in 680 under increased security with additional checkpoints manned by the Lebanese army and Hezbollah forces because Da’ish and al Nursa have announced their intent to target the Shia worshipers.
Many among Lebanon’s older Sunni and Shia generation, report that as youngsters they were not aware of Shia-Sunni antagonisms nor did they harbor animosity with their neighbors. Sometimes inter-marrying, sharing holidays and developing strong friendships with each other. “That is all changed now, perhaps until End Times” according to an employee at Beirut’s Dar al Fatwa in the mixed neighborhood of Aisha Bikar near the American University of Beirut.
The gentleman and his colleague elaborated:
“Everyone alive today in Lebanon and for many generations to come will have their family’s lives negatively affected by the rapidly spreading sectarian hostility. The Sunni-Shia hatred is poisonous—it’s the new political Ebola virus! Can it be eradicated? How can we stop it from engulfing the Middle East or has it already done so?” Another added, “And forget about the Christians! In a few years’ time there will probably not be enough of them left in the Middle East to matter.”
To this observer, the spiraling sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia in Lebanon appears to be coming mainly from Sunni groups and militia who vent a laundry list of complaints against their fellow Muslims. Many but not all stemming from Hezbollah’s involvement in the civil war still raging across the anti-Lebanon mountain range to the east.
Members of the two Muslim sects have co-existed for centuries and share many fundamental beliefs and practices. But there are Sunni-Shia differences in doctrine, ritual, law, theology and religious organization and are based in part over a political dispute soon after the death of the Prophet Muhammad over who should lead the Muslim community. Sunni Muslims regard themselves as the orthodox and traditionalist branch of Islam and adhere to traditions and practices based on precedent or reports of the actions of the Prophet Muhammad and those close to him. Sunnis venerate all the prophets mentioned in the Koran, but particularly Muhammad as the final prophet. In early Islamic history the Shia were a political faction – literally “Shiat Ali” or the party of Ali and they claimed the right of Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, and his descendants to lead the Islamic community.
In Sunni ruled countries, for hundreds of years Shias made up the poorest sections of society and today many view themselves as victims of discrimination and oppression as some extremist Sunni doctrines continue to preach hatred of Shia. Some argue that the Shia-Sunni Bellum Sacrum is more political than religious. If true, the mutually destructive conflict now intensifying in Lebanon would share much in common with other religious wars which were basically political conflicts justified in the name of religion. Iran which supports some Shia militias beyond its borders is in conflict with some Sunni countries, especially regional neighbors who support Sunni militia. Lebanon’s hemmed population-Sunni and Shia has been put in a difficult situation caught up also in spill-over from the Syrian civil war. Teheran’s policy of supporting Shia militias and parties beyond its borders is essentially matched by the Sunni Gulf states with Shia and Sunni leaders often seem to be in competition as the latter continue to strengthen their links to Sunni governments and movements abroad.
Lebanon is paying a big price. Lawmakers failed on 10/29/2014 for the fifteenth time to elect a new president over a lack of quorum at parliament they will “try again” on 11/19/2014 with likely the same result because those holding power want a deadlock. Only 54 members out the 128 in Parliament showed up, well short of a quorum. The others were instructed to boycott by their parties, including the pro-Hezbollah Change and Reform and Loyalty to the Resistance blocs of the March 8 alliance. Their motive, their opponents the pro-Saudi March 14 alliance claim are purely political. The latest failed session was also boycotted by Speaker Nabih Berri, the Shia leader of the pro- Bashar Assad, Amal militia with Berri insisting he is simply trying to encourage ‘dialogue”.
“It has never been this bad” explains the proprietor of a neighborhood grocery store, agreeing with ever more of his fellow countrymen, as now opening curses both sides in public.
A few brief examples from the past week illustrate the rapidly intensifying Sunni-Shia clash.
As the Hezbollah continues boycotting Parliamentary electoral sessions due to disagreements with the mainly Sunni March 14 camp over a compromise presidential candidate. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, himself a presidential candidate, this week accused Hezbollah of “blocking Parliament in to order to blackmail political blocs into electing, their puppet, Michel Aoun.” Aoun who is as anti-Palestinian as Geagea is, denies media speculation “ that the ongoing obstruction is no longer a political maneuver, but an attempt to target Lebanon’s political system,”
Hezbollah is also being accused of joining the Syrian war and sacrificing Lebanese young men while killing many innocent Syrians solely on orders from Tehran. According to one March 14th Member of Parliament, “No one believes, not even the Hezbollah leadership that Hezbollah is fighting in Syria to protect Lebanon whose people are paying a big price for their adventure. “ Sunni opponents of Shia Hezbollah, including the spokesman for the March 14th alliance claim that “terrorists” or the so-called ‘Takfiries” would never have come to Lebanon if Hezbollah had not invaded Syria and started killing Sunni.”
The largely Sunni families of the 27 captive troops and policemen being held for ransom by the al-Nursa front are blaming Hezbollah and the Shia leader of Lebanon’s Internal Security Force, (ISF) Major-General Abbas Ibrahim, for not acting seriously to negotiate their loved ones release from captivity for purely sectarian reasons. On 10/30/14 the families threatened again to escalate their protests and have been burning tires at the Riad al-Solh Square in downtown Beirut while their relatives captors, al-Nusra Front, in increasingly setting up sleeper cells and advocating for the Sunni community in Lebanon is also accusing the ISF director of not being serious are obtaining the release of Sunni captives.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame University – Louaize and Saint Joseph University decided this week to suspend student elections for the current academic year as sectarianism spreads. “The political and security situation in Lebanon, which could impact the campus, will not allow the students to practice their democratic role positively,” USJ board of members said in a statement. Religion is a factor in this conflict also according to campus security guards on the scene trying to maintain order.
The United Nations has warned again this week that foreign religiously motivated jihadists are swarming into the twin conflicts in Iraq and Syria on “an unprecedented scale and some with religious motives and from countries that had not previously contributed combatants to global terrorism”. More than 1,500 foreign fighters are streaming into Syria each month, a rate that has increased since US airstrikes against Da’ish (Isis) began last month (9/23/14). The trend line established over the past year would mean that the total number of foreign fighters in Syria exceeds 16,000, and the pace eclipses that of any comparable conflict in recent decades, including the 1980s war in Afghanistan. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights just announced that 560 people have been killed in airstrikes since they began. That group counted 32 civilian deaths, including six children and five women.
The Pentagon estimates that each of the more than 600 US airstrikes in Syria and Iraq costs the American taxpayer approximately $ 9 million which given the claimed “kill count” means each death costs roughly $ 1.4 million each, militiamen or civilians. The rate of jihadists arriving just in Syria, again according to the Pentagon, were 12,000 in July, and 7,000 in March. But other US government’s estimates for just Syria put the jihadist arrival figures at currently 1,500 each month with the numbers accelerating and increasing coming to Lebanon. There are higher estimates according to U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism officials and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights who rank “Democracy Success Story and Arab Spring Winner” Tunisia as the country contributing the most jihadists currently arriving in the Levant.
As noted above, many of the religiously motivated jihadists are coming to Lebanon, especially up north near Tripoli which has seen heavy fighting between Sunni and Shia backed militia. If one credits their social media, several want to fight Hezbollah which they often label the “Party of Satan” and “Iran’s militia.”
On 10/30/13 Saudi National Guard Minister Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, directing his comments to the KSA’s arch foe Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nassrallah proclaimed that “The parties embracing terrorism in the region have become well-known.” Within minutes Saudi media outlets open with commentary and statements like those currently appearing in Lebanese media outlets such as Naharnet: “Yes those supporting terrorism they are the same who killed Rafik el Hariri and the remaining M14 leaders. They are the same who refuse to abide by Lebanese justice and deliver the accused/witness for investigations, they are the same who in order to remain in power, decide to destroy their country and kill their people and allow a huge inflow of terrorist into their land to show a worse alternative.”
Sentiments shared by some in the Sunni community who, unlike during the years following the 2006 July war, and Hezbollah’s widely acknowledged success against the Zionist regime still occupying Palestine, are no longer reluctant to criticize openly Shia Muslims generally and Hezbollah specifically.
Where this all ends is anyone’s guess but a ceasefire in the Syrian conflict, even limited area by area as Washington, Tehran and Moscow are discussing would perhaps help—or, as various analysts and some serious scholars postulate, the latest Sunni-Shia manifestation of Bellum Sacrum may take a long time to control if not resolve. Tens of years or centuries they advise only time will tell.
Little Eli Waller will never grow up to be president. The four-year-old New Jersey boy will never grow up to be anything because enterovirus D68 took his life — quite possibly because a boy who did grow up to be president, but not really a man, invited the virus into our country.
How many American children have to die in deference to the Democrats’ voter-importation, demographic-warfare effort? We often hear that you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, but how much Ebola, enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), Chagas Disease, malaria and tuberculosis is an acceptable price to pay to maintain Barack Obama’s open-borders-über-alles policy? These are relevant questions now, especially with a recent report confirming what was always just common sense:
The deadly EV-D68 epidemic in America was likely the result of Obama’s insistence on flooding our country with tens of thousands of illegal-alien minors.
Reports Neil Munro at The Daily Caller, “The evidence includes admissions from top health officials that the epidemic included multiple strains of the virus, and that it appeared simultaneously in multiple independent locations.”
This isn’t something hard to prove or disprove. All you need do is ascertain if the strain prevalent in the US is the same as one found south of the border. This is simple epidemiology, and there’s only one reason we don’t know:
The powers that be don’t want us to know.
Can you imagine the revolutionary uproar that would have ensued if, just when EV-D68 was big in the news, it had been revealed that Obama’s lawless abdication of his responsibility had led to American deaths?
Can you imagine what would be said if it were proven that Obama has blood on his hands?
And let’s consider the EV-D68 toll to this point. As Munro writes:
So far, that virus has been found in nine people — including at least three American kids — who died from illness. It has apparently inflicted unprecedented polio-like paralysis in roughly 50 kids, and it has put hundreds of young American kids into hospital emergency wards and intensive care units throughout more than 40 states. Most of the dead have not been publicly identified.
This, not to mention the toll taken by Ebola and the others diseases brought in by Obama’s strengthening diversifiers.
And how serious is the conspiracy of silence on the EV-D68 issue? Munro reports that a “series of government researchers, health experts and academics refused to comment, or else urged self-censorship, when they were pressed by TheDC for statistical and scientific data that would exonerate Obama and his deputies.” One of these is Columbia University researcher and top EV-D68 expert Rafal Tokarz, who, as he put it, “would really rather not comment.” Another is Professor Lone Simonsen, research director of George Washington University’s Global Epidemiology Program, whose cop-out was, “I would just steer away from that — it is not helpful, so why bring it up?”
Answer: because if Americans know that a given policy allowed EV-D68’s spread, they’ll realize the policy isn’t helpful and needs to be changed.
But this certainly is not helpful to Simonsen. As Munro pointed out, perpetuating the invasion of our country “is a top priority for the Democratic leaders, who have the power to make life difficult for grant-dependent American scientists who discover politically damaging information.”
Money, by the way, is part of the root of today’s scientific evil. As to the significance of this factor, consider that BMJ.com (formerly the British Medical Journal) reported in 2012, “One in seven UK based scientists or doctors has witnessed colleagues intentionally altering or fabricating data during their research or for the purposes of publication….” (In case you were wondering, this is how you get Al Gorleone’s gaggle of greedy global-warming gangsters.)
So we have here a confluence of scientific malpractice and political malpractice. And this brings us to Munro’s quoting of scientist and Enterovirus Foundation board member Nora Chapman: “Epidemics happen when populations mix, or when viruses mutate and combine to overcome peoples’ evolved immune defenses….”
Or when populations are mixed.
As when a president seeds various parts of the country with his carriers and redistributes disease. Hey, why keep the epidemic all in one place?
But don’t expend all your energy worrying about EV-D68 — save some of it for worrying about Ebola, of which scientists now predict there will be approximately 130 US cases by year’s end.
And how many next year?
How much blood will Obama have on his hands then?
If you think the ObamaCare disaster is bad, wait ’til you see the one wrought by ObamaDoesn’tCare.
“It’s not the underlying economics that’s driving things, it’s central bank liquidity.”
— Matt King, Citigroup
Soaring auto sales are not so much a sign of a strong economy as they are an indication of financial hanky-panky. We saw this same type of fakery play out in housing between 2004 – 2006, when prices went through the roof due to a mortgage-lending scam (“subprime”) that crashed the stock market and sent the economy reeling. Now the bigtime money guys are at it again, writing up auto loans for anyone who can sit upright in a chair and scribble an “X” on the dotted line. As a result, car sales have surged to over 16 million for the last 6 months. (A full 7 million more than the low point in January, 2009.) And it’s not hard to see why either. The finance gurus are packaging these sketchy subprimes into bonds, offloading them on eager investors, and recycling the profits into more crappy loans. It’s a perfect circle and it won’t end until the loans start blowing up, jittery investors head for the exits, and Uncle Sugar rides to the rescue with more bailouts.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First take a look at these charts by House of Debt which shows the disparity between auto spending and other types of spending since the end of the slump in 2009.
House of Debt: “New auto purchases have driven the consumer spending recovery to a large degree. The chart below shows the spending recovery for new auto sales and for all other retail spending…
From 2009 to 2013, spending on new autos increased by 40% in nominal terms. All other spending increased by only 20%. Further, excluding autos, 2013 saw lower growth in nominal retail spending than 2012…
The concern is that a lot of auto purchases are being fueled with debt, given a strong recovery in the auto loan market. Below is the net flow of auto loans from 2002 to 2013. It is a net flow because it includes pay downs in addition to new originations. As it shows, auto lending in 2012 and 2013 tops any other year during the previous expansion from 2002 to 2007 (although it is still below the amount of new auto loans in 2000 and 2001).
(“Another Debt-Fueled Spending Spree?” House of Debt)
How about that? So there’s a bigger debt bubble in auto loans today than there was before the bust. But why? Is it because demand is strong, jobs are plentiful, wages are rising, the economy is growing, and people are optimistic about the future?
Heck, no. It’s because rates are low, credit is easy, and dealers are ready to put anyone with a license and a heartbeat into a brand-spanking new car no questions asked. Here are the details from an article in the New York Times titled “In a Subprime Bubble for Used Cars, Borrowers Pay Sky-High Rates” by Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkery:
”Auto loans to people with tarnished credit have risen more than 130 percent in the five years since the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, with roughly one in four new auto loans last year going to borrowers considered subprime — people with credit scores at or below 640.
The explosive growth is being driven by some of the same dynamics that were at work in subprime mortgages. A wave of money is pouring into subprime autos, as the high rates and steady profits of the loans attract investors. Just as Wall Street stoked the boom in mortgages, some of the nation’s biggest banks and private equity firms are feeding the growth in subprime auto loans by investing in lenders and making money available for loans.
And, like subprime mortgages before the financial crisis, many subprime auto loans are bundled into complex bonds and sold as securities by banks to insurance companies, mutual funds and public pension funds — a process that creates ever-greater demand for loans.
The New York Times examined more than 100 bankruptcy court cases, dozens of civil lawsuits against lenders and hundreds of loan documents and found that subprime auto loans can come with interest rates that can exceed 23 percent. The loans were typically at least twice the size of the value of the used cars purchased, including dozens of battered vehicles with mechanical defects hidden from borrowers. Such loans can thrust already vulnerable borrowers further into debt, even propelling some into bankruptcy, according to the court records, as well as interviews with borrowers and lawyers in 19 states.
In another echo of the mortgage boom, The Times investigation also found dozens of loans that included incorrect information about borrowers’ income and employment, leading people who had lost their jobs, were in bankruptcy or were living on Social Security to qualify for loans that they could never afford.” (“In a Subprime Bubble for Used Cars, Borrowers Pay Sky-High Rates”, New York Times)
Can you believe that this kind of chicanery is going on in broad daylight without the regulators stepping in? Think about it for a minute: If the NYT’s journalists can find “dozens of loans that included incorrect information about borrowers’ income and employment”, then why can’t the government regulators? It’s ridiculous. What we’re talking about here is a new version of “liar’s loans” where dealers are helping people who don’t have the means to repay the debt, to fudge the details on their loan application so they can drive off in a shiny new Impala.
Haven’t we seen this movie before?
Here’s more from USA Today: “In the first quarter of 2014, 24.9% of all new-car loans were 73 to 84 months long. Four years ago, less than 10% of loans were that long. In fact, such lengthy terms have pulled the average new-car loan to 66 months. That’s an all-time record.”
7 years to pay off a car? You got to be kidding me? It’s like a second mortgage. And there’s more, too. The average monthly payment and average amount financed hit record highs in the first quarter too. This is from Auto News:
“The average monthly new-vehicle payment was $474 in the first quarter, up 3.3 percent from a year ago. The average monthly used-vehicle payment was $352, up 1.1 percent, Experian Automotive said.
Also in the first quarter, the average amount financed on a new-vehicle loan was $27,612, an increase of $964, or 3.6 percent. For used vehicles, the average amount financed was $17,927, up $395 or 2.3 percent.”
So Americans are not just loading on more debt, they’re also assuming that they’re financial situation is going to be stable enough to make these large payments well into the future. Good luck with that.
It’s also worth noting that, in many transactions, dealers are actually lending more than the value of the vehicle. According to Reuters David Henry,
“The average loan-to-value on new cars rose to 110.6 percent… On used cars it rose to 133.2 percent…
Auto lenders often provide loans that exceed the value of cars they are financing because borrowers want cash to pay sales taxes and fees.”
(“U.S. car buyers borrow more as rates fall and standards loosen“, David Henry, Reuters)
Let me see if I got this straight: You walk onto a car lot without a dime in your pocket, and drive off in a brand new car with everything paid for upfront? Such a deal! Can you see why we think that the sales numbers are a big fake? This isn’t the sign of a strong economy. It’s the sign of another gigantic credit bubble rip-off. But what do the dealers get out of this thing? Is it really worth their while to botch the underwriting when they know that eventually they’ll have to repossess the vehicle? Sure, it is, because there’s big money in stuffing people into loans they can’t afford.
Here’s how the Times explains it: ”Auto loans to borrowers considered subprime, those with credit scores at or below 640, have spiked in the last five years. The jump has been driven in large part by the demand among investors for securities backed by the loans, which offer high returns at a time of low interest rates. Roughly 25 percent of all new auto loans made last year were subprime, and the volume of subprime auto loans reached more than $145 billion in the first three months of this year.”
Bingo. So not only do they make dough on the high interest rates they charge their subprime borrowers, (Sometimes 23 percent or more.) they also make it by selling the loan to investors who are eager to buy any manner of crappy bond provided it offers a better return than US Treasuries. This is the mess Bernanke created by fixing interest rates at zero for nearly 6 years. Zirp (zero interest rate policy) unavoidably leads to excessive risk taking by yield-crazed speculators. The voracious appetite for subprime securities (ABS–Asset-Backed Securities) has even surprised the bond issuers who are constantly beating the bushes looking for sketchier products. This is from the same article by the NY Times:
“Investors, seeking a higher return when interest rates are low, recently flocked to buy a bond issue from Prestige Financial Services of Utah. Orders to invest in the $390 million debt deal were four times greater than the amount of available securities.
What is backing many of these securities? Auto loans made to people who have been in bankruptcy.
An affiliate of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, Prestige specializes in making the loans to people in bankruptcy, packaging them into securities and then selling them to investors.
“It’s been a hot space,” Richard L. Hyde, the firm’s chief operating officer, said during an interview in March. Investors are betting on risky borrowers. The average interest rate on loans bundled into Prestige’s latest offering, for example, is 18.6 percent, up slightly from a similar offering rolled out a year earlier…. To meet that rising demand, Wall Street snatches up more and more loans to package into the complex investments.” (NYT)
HA! Now there’s a good way to feather the old retirement fund; load up on bonds made up of loans to people who’ve gone bust.
This is the impact that zero rates have on investor behavior. The abundance of cheap and plentiful liquidity invariably leads to trouble. And there are victims in this Central Bank-authored gold rush too, namely the unsophisticated borrowers who pay prohibitively high rates on beater vehicles that are typically worth less-than-half the value of the loan. (Check the NYT article for examples.)
The Times also notes that the ratings agencies have been playing along with the finance companies just as they did during the subprime mortgage fiasco. Here’s more from the Times:
“Rating agencies, which assess the quality of the bonds, are helping fuel the boom. They are giving many of these securities top ratings, which clears the way for major investors, from pension funds to employee retirement accounts, to buy the bonds. In March, for example, Standard & Poor’s blessed most of Prestige’s bond with a triple-A rating. Slices of a similar bond that Prestige sold last year also fetched the highest rating from S.&P. A large slice of that bond is held in mutual funds managed by BlackRock, one of the world’s largest money managers.” (NYT)
Ask yourself this, dear reader: How are the ratings agencies able to give “many of these securities top ratings”, when the investigators from the Times found “dozens of loans that included incorrect information about borrowers’ income and employment, leading people who had lost their jobs, were in bankruptcy or were living on Social Security to qualify for loans that they could never afford”?
Let’s face it: The regulatory changes in Dodd-Frank haven’t done a damn thing to protect the victims of these dodgy subprime schemes. Borrowers and investors are both getting gouged by a system that only protects the interests of the perpetrators. The sad fact is that nothing has changed. The system is just as corrupt as it was when Lehman went down.
So, how long can this go on before the market implodes?
According to the Times:
“financial firms are beginning to see signs of strain. In the first three months of this year, banks had to write off as entirely uncollectable an average of $8,541 of each delinquent auto loan, up about 15 percent from a year earlier, according to Experian…
In another sign of trouble ahead, repossessions, while still relatively low, increased nearly 78 percent to an estimated 388,000 cars in the first three months of the year from the same period a year earlier, according to the latest data provided by Experian. The number of borrowers who are more than 60 days late on their car payments also jumped in 22 states during that period….” (NYT)
(According to Amber Nelson at loan.com: “In the second quarter, the value of all auto loans late by 60 days or more was more than $4 billion, up 27 percent from the prior year, according to Experian.”)
So, yeah, the trouble is mounting, but that doesn’t mean that this madness won’t continue for some time to come. It probably will. It’ll probably drag-on until the economy turns south and more borrowers start falling behind on their payments. That will lead to more defaults, heavier losses on auto bonds, and a hasty race to the exits by investors. Isn’t that how the subprime mortgage scam played out?
Indeed. But at least there are signs of hope on the regulatory front. Check out this clip from an article at CNBC:
“In August, both Santander Consumer and General Motors Financial Co. acknowledged receiving Justice Department subpoenas in connection with a probe over possible violations of civil-fraud laws. And the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Securities and Exchange Commission have both stepped up their scrutiny of the auto-loan market.” (“New debt crisis fear: Subprime auto loans“, CNBC)
So the SEC, the DOJ, and the CFPB are actually investigating the underwriting practices of these behemoth finance companies to see if they violated “civil fraud laws”?
Will wonders never cease?
Just don’t hold your breath waiting for convictions.
15 Reasons Why Americans Think We’re Still in a Recession…
1: Wage Stagnation: Why America’s Workers Need Faster Wage Growth—And What We Can Do About It, Elise Gould, EPI
Economic Policy Institute:
“The hourly compensation of a typical worker grew in tandem with productivity from 1948-1973. …. After 1973, productivity grew strongly, especially after 1995, while the typical worker’s compensation was relatively stagnant. This divergence of pay and productivity has meant that many workers were not benefitting from productivity growth—the economy could afford higher pay but it was not providing it.
Between 1979 and 2013, productivity grew 64.9 percent, while hourly compensation of production and nonsupervisory workers, who comprise over 80 percent of the private-sector workforce, grew just 8.0 percent. Productivity thus grew eight times faster than typical worker compensation…” (EPI)
(Note: Flatlining wages are the Number 1 reason that the majority of Americans still think we’re in a recession.)
2: Most people still haven’t recouped what they lost in the crash: Typical Household Wealth Has Plunged 36% Since 2003, Zero Hedge
“According to a new study by the Russell Sage Foundation, the inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36% decline… Welcome to America’s Lost Decade.
Simply put, the NY Times notes, it’s not merely an issue of the rich getting richer. The typical American household has been getting poorer, too.
The reasons for these declines are complex and controversial, but one point seems clear: When only a few people are winning and more than half the population is losing, surely something is amiss. (chart)”
3: Most working people are still living hand-to-mouth: 76% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, CNN Money
“Roughly three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings, according to a survey released by Bankrate.com Monday.
Fewer than one in four Americans have enough money in their savings account to cover at least six months of expenses, enough to help cushion the blow of a job loss, medical emergency or some other unexpected event, according to the survey of 1,000 adults. Meanwhile, 50% of those surveyed have less than a three-month cushion and 27% had no savings at all…
Last week, online lender CashNetUSA said 22% of the 1,000 people it recently surveyed had less than $100 in savings to cover an emergency, while 46% had less than $800. After paying debts and taking care of housing, car and child care-related expenses, the respondents said there just isn’t enough money left over for saving more.”
4: Millennials are Drowning in Red Ink: Biggest economic threat? Student loan debt, USA Today
“Total student loan debt has grown more than 150% since 2005… We have more than $1.2 trillion of student loan debt…
And while 6.7 million borrowers in repayment mode are delinquent, the sad fact is that many lenders aren’t exactly incentivized to work with borrowers. Unlike all other forms of debt, student loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. Moreover, lenders can garnish wages and even Social Security benefits to get repaid…
In 2005 student loans accounted for less than 13% of the total debt load for adults age 20-29. Today, student loans account for nearly 37% of that group’s outstanding debt. Student loan debt’s slice of the total debt pie for the age group nearly tripled! The average loan balance for that age group is now more than $25,500, up from $15,900 in 2005.”
5: Downward mobility is the new reality: Middle-Class Death Watch: As Poverty Spreads, 28 Percent of Americans Fall Out of Middle Class, Truthout
“The promise of the American dream has given many hope that they themselves could one day rise up the economic ladder. But according to a study released those already in financially-stable circumstances should fear falling down a few rungs too. The study… found that nearly a third of Americans who were part of the middle class as teenagers in the 1970s have fallen out of it as adults… its findings suggest the relative ease with which people in the U.S. can end up in low-income, low-opportunity lifestyles — even if they started out with a number of advantages. Though the American middle class has been repeatedly invoked as a key factor in any economic turnaround, numerous reports have suggested that the middle class enjoys less existential security than it did a generation ago, thanks to stagnating incomes and the decline of the industrial sector.”
6: People are more vulnerable than ever: “More Than Half Of All Americans Can’t Come Up With $400 In Emergency Cash… Unless They Borrow“, Personal Liberty
“According to a Federal Reserve report on American households’ “economic well-being” in 2013, fewer than half of all Americans said they’d be able to come up with four Benjamins on short notice to deal with an unexpected expense…
Under a section titled “Savings,” the report notes that “[s]avings are depleted for many households after the recession,” and lists the following findings:
*Among those who had savings prior to 2008, 57 percent reported using up some or all of their savings in the Great Recession and its aftermath.
*39 percent of respondents reported having a rainy day fund adequate to cover three months of expenses.
*Only 48 percent of respondents said that they would completely cover a hypothetical emergency expense costing $400 without selling something or borrowing money.
7: Working people are getting poorer: The Typical Household, Now Worth a Third, New York Times
“The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation.
Those are the figures for a household at the median point in the wealth distribution — the level at which there are an equal number of households whose worth is higher and lower. But during the same period, the net worth of wealthy households increased substantially….“The housing bubble basically hid a trend of declining financial wealth at the median that began in 2001,” said Fabian T. Pfeffer, the University of Michigan professor who is lead author of the Russell Sage Foundation study.
The reasons for these declines are complex and controversial, but one point seems clear: When only a few people are winning and more than half the population is losing, surely something is amiss.”
8: Most people can’t even afford to get their teeth fixed: 7 things the middle class can’t afford anymore, USA Today
“A vacation is an extra expense that many middle-earners cannot afford without sacrificing something else. A Statista survey found that this year 54% of people gave up purchasing big ticket items like TVs or electronics so they can go on a vacation. Others made sacrifices like reducing or eliminating their trips to the movies (47%), reducing or eliminating trips out to restaurants (43%), or avoiding purchasing small ticket items like new clothing (43%).
3–To pay off debt…
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “the U.S. spends about $64 billion each year on oral health care — just 4% is paid by Government programs.” About 108 million people in the U.S. have no dental coverage and even those who are covered may have trouble getting the care they need, the department reports.”
9: The good, high-paying jobs have vanished: Recovery Has Created Far More Low-Wage Jobs Than Better-Paid Ones, New York Times
“The deep recession wiped out primarily high-wage and middle-wage jobs. Yet the strongest employment growth during the sluggish recovery has been in low-wage work, at places like strip malls and fast-food restaurants.
In essence, the poor economy has replaced good jobs with bad ones. That is the conclusion of anew report from the National Employment Law Project, a research and advocacy group, analyzing employment trends four years into the recovery.
“Fast food is driving the bulk of the job growth at the low end — the job gains there are absolutely phenomenal,” said Michael Evangelist, the report’s author. “If this is the reality — if these jobs are here to stay and are going to be making up a considerable part of the economy — the question is, how do we make them better?”
10: More workers are throwing in the towel: Labor Participation Rate Drops To 36 Year Low; Record 92.6 Million Americans Not In Labor Force, Zero Hedge
“For those curious why the US unemployment rate just slid once more to a meager 5.9%, the lowest print since the summer of 2008, the answer is the same one we have shown every month since 2010: the collapse in the labor force participation rate, which in September slid from an already three decade low 62.8% to 62.7% – the lowest in over 36 years, matching the February 1978 lows. And while according to the Household Survey, 232,000 people found jobs, what is more disturbing is that the people not in the labor force, rose to a new record high, increasing by 315,000 to 92.6 million!
Bottom line: Unemployment has gone down because more people aren’t working and have fallen off the radar.”
11: Nearly twice as many people still rely on Food Stamps than before the recession: Food-stamp use is falling from its peak, Marketwatch
“Food-stamp use is finally moving away from the peak. At 46.1 million people, total food-stamp usage is down about 4% from its high in December 2012 of 47.8 million. Only eight states in March (the latest data available) were up from the same month of 2013.
It’s still not great news, however, considering there were 26.3 million people receiving food stamps in 2007…”
12: The ocean of red ink continues to grow: American Household Credit Card Debt Statistics: 2014, Nerd Wallet Finance
Nerd Wallet Finance:
U.S. household consumer debt profile:
*Average credit card debt: $15,607
*Average mortgage debt: $153,500
*Average student loan debt: $32,656
In total, American consumers owe:
*$11.63 trillion in debt
*An increase of 3.8% from last year
*$880.5 billion in credit card debt
*$8.07 trillion in mortgages
*$1,120.3 billion in student loans
*An increase of 11.5% from last year
13: No Recovery for working people: The collapse of household income in the US, World Socialist Web Site
“The US Federal Reserve’s latest Survey of Consumer Finances, released last Thursday, documents a devastating decline in economic conditions for a large majority of the population during the so-called economic recovery.
The report reveals that between 2007 and 2013, the income of a typical US household fell 12 percent. The median American household now earns $6,400 less per year than it did in 2007.
Source: Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances
Much of the decline occurred during the “recovery” presided over by the Obama administration. In the three years between 2010 and 2013, the annual income of a typical household fell by an additional 5 percent.
The report also shows that wealth has become even more concentrated in the topmost economic layers. The wealth share of the top 3 percent climbed from 44.8 percent in 1989 to 54.4 percent in 2013. The share of wealth held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33.2 percent in 1989 to 24.7 percent in 2013.”
14: Most people will work until they die: The Greatest Retirement Crisis In American History, Forbes
“We are on the precipice of the greatest retirement crisis in the history of the world. In the decades to come, we will witness millions of elderly Americans, the Baby Boomers and others, slipping into poverty.
Too frail to work, too poor to retire will become the “new normal” for many elderly Americans.
That dire prediction… is already coming true. Our national demographics, coupled with indisputable glaringly insufficient retirement savings and human physiology, suggest that a catastrophic outcome for at least a significant percentage of our elderly population is inevitable. With the average 401(k) balance for 65 year olds estimated at $25,000 by independent experts …the decades many elders will spend in forced or elected “retirement” will be grim…
The signs of the coming retirement crisis are all around you. Who’s bagging your groceries: a young high school kid or an older “retiree” who had to go back to work to supplement his income or qualify for health insurance?”
15: Americans are more pessimistic about the future, Polling Report
According to a CNN/ORC Poll May 29-June 1, 2014:
“Do you agree or disagree? The American dream has become impossible for most people to achieve.”
According to a NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted by the polling organizations of Peter Hart (D) and Bill McInturff (R). April 23-27, 2014:
“Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Because of the widening gap between the incomes of the wealthy and everyone else, America is no longer a country where everyone, regardless of their background, has an opportunity to get ahead and move up to a better standard of living.”Agree: 54%
Also, according to a CBS News Poll. Jan. 17-21, 2014. N=1,018 adults nationwide.
“Looking to the future, do you think most children in this country will grow up to be better off or worse off than their parents?”Better off: 34%
Worse off: 63%
The majority of people in the United States, no longer believe in the American dream, or that America is the land of opportunity, or that their children will have a better standard of living than their own. They’ve grown more pessimistic because they haven’t seen the changes they were hoping for, and because their lives are just as hard as they were right after the crash. In fact, according to a 2014 Public Religion Research Institute poll– 72 percent of those surveyed said they think “the economy is still in recession.”
Judging by the info in the 15 links above, they’re probably right.
It was several decades ago when I began to understand that there were powerful forces loose in the world bent on destroying the United States of America. It happened when our markets were thrown open to foreign goods and our domestic industry was forced into a contrived world market.
I was working for a company that provided fabricated steel products to American manufacturers. When our markets were opened the U. S. companies that supplied our raw material began to shut down their operations being unable to compete with foreign manufactures. It was at this point that I began to wonder why powerful forces in our nation would intentionally harm their fellow citizens.
The process of using unreasonable competition to export manufacturing and technical knowhow has continued. Knowledgeable writers and film makers have written and produced many films and articles documenting the results of this malignant intent. During the 1930s a popular radio show called “The Shadow”, involved an invisible person that could enter the room, hear all that was being said but never be seen. Our nation is being controlled by a Shadow Government.
In reviewing Tom Engelhardt’s new book “Shadow Government” Philip Giraldi writes “Shadow government operates invisibly and is accountable to no one —,.” From his review it appears that Engelhardt has confirmed the existence of a shadow government and enumerated many of it policies and machinations but failed to identify it. Read the review here. http://www.unz.com/article/
When lists of the wealthiest families in the world are compiled the name of Rothschild is always missing. The Rothschild wealth is shadow wealth. Their dominant presence in world financial circles is usually hidden.
Recently, I ran across an article by Lew Rockwell www.lewrockwell.com about an attack on his Website by the Neocons. If the Neocons have the power Rockwell describes (I believe they do.) they are surely a major force in the Shadow government of the United States of America. The article is entitled “The Neocons Hate Our Guts”
It begins with these words::
“The most despicable group of political gangsters in America want to destroy this site, and everything it stands for. Who are they? The neoconservatives.”
“Originating in Trotskyism, through their cells in New York City in the 1930s, this bunch now controls much of the American right, on which they have fastened their ideology of constant war, the police state, the welfare state, militarism, and Soviet-like thought control. The Trots sought, and seek, world power for themselves, through bloody world revolution. Trotsky even sought to have the state determine who could marry and who could have children, long before Hitler, to create a new, subservient man.”
“If you read their own books, they are open about their devotion to the “noble lie,” an idea they got from Plato. It is a virtue, they claim, to lie to the people, so that the right characters stay in power, under the guidance of the right advisors.” Read here http://lewrockwell.com/
There are serious problems in the United States of America. Some of these problems are a result of the efforts of these same neoconservatives Rockwell deplores. They are wealthy, powerful and ruthless and, as Rockwell laments, not unwilling to attach the weak and relatedly defenseless. They control the mass media allowing them to squelch any public discussion of their policies. Under their skirts hide the largest portion of so called American Christians who vapidly support an arch enemy of the God they pretend to worship.. Those that challenge their policies are threatened and, if possible, destroyed.
Voltaire is credited with this quote: “To learn who rules over you simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” If Voltaire was correct we had better wake up because the American people have lost control of their nation which is now being ruled by the neoconservatives.
Being disciples of Plato, Machiavelli, and Strauss; Neocons manipulate the nation with lies, half lies, and distortions. Their agenda for America is moral degradation, racial strife, suffocating multi-culturalism, open borders, stifling debt, pandemic mendacity, constant self-serving war, and ultimate destruction.
Their strategy is to use the United States of America to conquer the world with them as the “philosopher kings”. As we fight their war we accumulate debt to their kin who control the monetary system. Rockwell nails their agenda: “constant war, the police state, the welfare state, militarism, and Soviet-like thought control”.
The U. S. media is a source of constant propaganda, outright distortion, serious omissions, lies and detrimental manipulation; it serves a neocon agenda, at the expense of our citizens.
It is their lucre that motivates Presidential candidates and their media that controls them. True reformers like candidate Ron Paul are not allowed to gain traction. Elections are a sham.
Neocon promotion of immigration has destroyed our culture and open borders are jeopardizing national sovereignty.
We are on life support! Our manufacturing base has been perforated, our integrity is gone, our people are mostly ignorant, and our government is controlled by aliens. The neocon infusion of money will keep us afloat for as long as we are needed but what then?
At the founding of our nation we heard a lot about natural law. Natural law is a humanistic substitute for the Law God gave us in His Word. When we forsook Biblical Law we also forsook natural law. Homosexuality and homosexual marriage defy the created order while. centralization and multiculturalism destroy God-given diversity.
The legal system is in shambles. The courts fail to provide justice and the jails overflow with people that should never have been arrested. We lead the world in jailing our own citizens.
In a 1575 sermon entitled “Armed for the Fight Against Grave and Serious Error” John Calvin said, “—when a sin is deepening and spreading because of silent acquiescence in it, we must deal with it. If we only respond when the illness is deep-rooted we will be too late. — Anything that might hold us back must be cast aside, even if it involves family or friends, or those joined by the closes possible ties in this world. All such thing must be disregarded if souls purchased by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ are being led astray to be ruined and lost forever, and if things that were once well established are being overturned. Other- wise, we will have a state of total confusion, to the extent that no one will know that the Gospel came from Jesus Christ.”
In 1575 Calvin spoke from the power of the Reformation backdrop. He understood the need to protect and defend the true Gospel. We have long since passed the “too late” point. Christianity has had open borders for too long. Error is pandemic making Calvin’s call for effective, prompt confrontation impossible. We are living in utter confusion where millions of Christians have forsaken the power of the Gospel and are lost forever. The dark clouds of despotism have already covered the United States of America and serious judgment seems imminent.
Notable dissident Adam Kokesh recently wrote: As long as we remain as pack animals, we will be restrained by those who would exploit us. As long as we willingly accept the subversion of our own potential, we will remain in such a childlike state of immaturity, uncertainty, and subservience. This is about how you think, how you act, how you treat other people, what you eat, what you buy, who you associate with, and how you appreciate the unique gift that is your own will. The message of freedom demands better people. Step up.
Kokesh does not set a specific criterion for “better people”. His admonition is on target – America will not change until its people change. Groups of humans may agree on principles of right and wrong but their agreement is based on the opinions of men and the opinions of men can be permanently changed by another more powerful man. Human concepts of right and wrong always lead to tyranny.
There is only one viable source of right and wrong – the Word of God. Human sources of right and wrong are mutable; Biblical right and wrong is immutable.
It was their distant relative, Moses, who received the Law from the Creator – Neocons need the perfect Law along with the rest of God’s creation. Disobedience got us into this mess and obedience is the only way out.
We exist at the pleasure of those who hold our debt. When we are no longer useful the nation will self-destruct.
The names Catherine Engelbrecht and Reggie B. Walton may not exactly be household names, but both are part of a disturbing court ruling that can only be described as a reprehensible government protection racket in plain sight for all to see. Ms. Engelbrecht was the plaintiff and Reggie B. Walton the judge. A succinct summary is provided by Breitbart in the report, True the Vote’s Lawsuit against IRS Gets Tossed by Federal Judge.
“A federal judge in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia entered an order dismissing a lawsuit filed by True the Vote, a Houston, Texas-based non-profit organization focused on “voters’ rights and election integrity” against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The order alleged that the IRS had improperly delayed granting their application for 501(c)(3) status and targeted them as a conservative organization. The opinion, by Judge Reggie B. Walton, found that the IRS had taken sufficient “remedial steps to address the alleged behavior.”
From the ruling by Judge Walton, analysis:
“The defendants contend that the Court does not have subject-matter jurisdiction over counts one, two, and five of the plaintiff’s complaint because the IRS ultimately approved the plaintiff’s application for tax-exempt status, and thus counts one, two, and five—all of which seek “to correct [the] alleged targeting [of the IRS] and delay during its application process” for tax-exempt status—are now moot as there is no longer any case or controversy for the Court to resolve.”
How nice that the IRS can slip out of a sticky wicket by simply retroactively approving a 501(c)(3) application that they officiated with a touch of harassment and a sprinkle of intimidation. The reasoning used by Judge Walton to protect the IRS from a “voluntary cessation” exception follows:
“The rationale supporting the defendant’s voluntary cessation as an exception to mootness is that, while the defendant’s unilateral cessation of the challenged conduct may grant the plaintiff relief, the defendant is free to return to its old ways—thereby subjecting the plaintiff to the same harm but, at the same time, avoiding judicial review. Accordingly, a case can be mooted by virtue of the defendant’s cessation of its allegedly illegal conduct only if (1) there is no reasonable expectation that the conduct will recur and (2) interim relief or events have completely and irrevocably eradicated the effects of the alleged violation.”
Oh praise the sacred high priests of the Internal Revenue Service for “seeing the light” and repenting their ways. Such a reasonable trust in the good intentions of the IRS to not only follow the law but to administer their trade under the “good faith” doctrine that only a judge working for the same corrupt government as do the Lois Lerner brigade of bureaucrats, would profess.
An important USA Today article, from hardly an anti government publication, IRS list reveals concerns over Tea Party ‘propaganda’, furnishes the evidence.
“Newly uncovered IRS documents show the agency flagged political groups based on the content of their literature, raising concerns specifically about “anti-Obama rhetoric,” inflammatory language and “emotional” statements made by non-profits seeking tax-exempt status.
The internal 2011 documents, obtained by USA TODAY, list 162 groups by name, with comments by Internal Revenue Service lawyers in Washington raising issues about their political, lobbying and advocacy activities. In 21 cases, those activities were characterized as “propaganda.”
The list provides the most specific public accounting to date of which groups were targeted for extra scrutiny and why. The IRS has not publicly identified the groups, repeatedly citing a provision of the tax code prohibiting it from releasing tax return information.”
The supporting items Document: IRS ‘political advocacy cases’ list, while the pattern of selective favoritism is authenticated in the report, IRS approved liberal groups while Tea Party in limbo.
For a more cutting edge analysis from Twitchy US politics on the insanity from the Loony Left, just absorb the rhetoric and ask, who the real totalitarians are in society and even worse in government. Outrage: Court acknowledges that IRS targeted True the Vote, dismisses lawsuit anyway explains.
“Voters’ rights group True the Vote , a nonprofit “founded to inspire and equip voters for involvement at every stage of our electoral process,” has had a hard time of it. As the 2012 election approached, Cher of all people referred to True the Vote as “a bunch of Tea Party Nazis” and “animals.” Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, who sits on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, informed True the Vote founder and president Catherine Engelbrecht that he would be launching an investigation into her organization.
Of course, all of this was happening while the IRS was targeting conservative groups and holding up applications for nonprofit status, often through several election cycles. And even though the U.S. Federal District Court didn’t deny this, True the Vote’s case against the IRS was dismissed today.”
Engelbrecht issued the following brief statement:
“The Court today correctly acknowledged that the IRS targeted True the Vote because of its perceived political beliefs. Such conduct is reprehensible and should never be acceptable in a free society. Despite this critical finding, we are stunned and disappointed in the court’s ruling which nevertheless dismisses our case. We will be evaluating our legal options and will announce our intent in that regard soon.”
Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots reaction to the DC Court Decision on IRS “Unconscionable”. “The Court’s decision not to sanction either the IRS or the individual agents because it and they had taken “remedial measures” is unconscionable.”
Supporting this conclusion are Top 9 Quotes on the IRS Targeting of Tea Party Groups.
- “Not even a smidgen of corruption.” – President Barack Obama to Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly February, 2014
- “Decline to answer that question.” – Lois Lerner, pleading the Fifth Amendment before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, March 5, 2014
- “The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention.” – Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Audit
- “Instead of referring to the cases as advocacy cases, they actually used case names on this list. They [Determinations Unit in Cincinnati, Ohio] used names like ‘Tea Party’ or ‘Patriots’ and they selected cases simply because the applications had those names in the title. That was wrong, that was absolutely incorrect, insensitive, and inappropriate.” – Lois Lerner
- “Even after admitting that it had targeted groups, and a TIGTA [Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration] report detailed the abuses, the IRS did not let up. In August 2013, the IRS requested yet more documents and information. It asked us to provide, for example, all fundraising communications for the 60 days before the November 6, 2012 election, and all materials that we used in various “Get Out the Vote” activities. That request made no sense under the current standards for evaluating non-profit applications. The regulations proposed three months later, however, explain the requests, as they include specific provisions classifying any mention of a candidate’s name within 60 days of an election and get-out-the-vote efforts as taxable political activity.” – Jenny Beth Martin in testimony to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, February 27, 2014
- “The Internal Revenue Service says acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller was first informed in May 2012 that tea party groups were inappropriately targeted for scrutiny.” – Hot Air, May 13, 2013
- “The IRS inspector general said this week that while some liberal groups were given extra scrutiny by the tax agency, they were not subjected to the same invasive queries as tea party groups – a finding that seems to confirm political bias was at play.” – The Washington Times, June 27, 2013
- When the IRS revelations broke, Obama promised a full investigation. Yet Cleta Mitchell, an attorney for a number of tea party and conservative groups targeted by the IRS, testified, “None of my clients have received a single contact from the FBI, the DOJ [Department of Justice] or any other investigator regarding the IRS scandal.” – The Chicago Sun-Times, February 10, 2014
- More than 400,000 documents have been turned over to Congress, only a fraction of which have been publicly released under the Freedom of Information Act. Republicans say they’re still missing key documents including the e-mails of former IRS Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner. – USA Today, February 26, 2014
But remember, President Obama assures us there’s “not a smidgen of corruption!”
No matter your political leanings, every American should be concerned when the courts condone abusive and arbitrary administration in any agency. Allowing the IRS to retroactively cover their rear, while turning a blind eye to systemic illicit practices, is just part of the game plan that permits the court to make up law, which favors government tyranny.
The True the Vote decision is insulting and only goes to prove that reforms through the election process are truly the moot option.
Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), was on a conference call this past Monday evening, which was sponsored by TheTeaParty.net and attended by hundreds of Tea Party activists. During the conference call, a Tea Party activist asked him about President Barack Obama’s plans for executive amnesty. Priebus replied, “It’s unconstitutional, illegal, and we don’t support it.”
Breitbart.com covered the story. “‘While I can’t speak for the legislature, I’m very confident we will stop that,’ Priebus said. ‘We will do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen: Defunding, going to court, injunction. You name it. It’s wrong. It’s illegal. And for so many reasons, and just the basic fabric of this country, we can’t allow it to happen and we won’t let it happen. I don’t know how to be any stronger than that. I’m telling you, everything we can do to stop it we will.’”
Breitbart goes on to quote Priebus, “‘I have said repeatedly on immigration that the first thing is border security and the second thing is upholding the law that’s in place today. What ever happened to the border fence that was promised by Congress in 2006? It never happened. What about these sanctuary cities out there that take federal money and they’re not even upholding the law that we have in place? So somehow or another what can’t get lost in any of this conversation is the importance of border security and making sure that any sort of immigration reform talk doesn’t even begin without taking that first step.’”
As Ronald Reagan said to President Jimmy Carter, “There you go again.” There the GOP goes again: making a promise they have absolutely no intention of keeping.
Priebus’ promise that, should the GOP capture the U.S. Senate, they will stop Obama’s executive amnesty is just so much hot air. I guess he thinks that we have all forgotten then Speaker of The House Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America.”
During the congressional elections of 1994, Gingrich promised the American people that if they put Republicans in charge of the Congress, they would pass legislation to eliminate five federal departments (Education, Energy, Commerce, Interior, and Housing and Urban Development), 95 federal domestic programs, and slash federal spending across the board. The GOP promises made during the ’94 elections became known as the “Contract With America.”
GOP promises during that election cycle proved extremely successful. In the House of Representatives there was a 54-seat swing to the Republicans, which gave them a majority of seats for the first time since 1954. In the U.S. Senate there was an eight-seat swing, which allowed the GOP to capture both houses of Congress.
During the succeeding congressional session, many of the elements of the Contract were indeed passed by the Republican-led House of Representatives. It was quite another story in the GOP-led Senate. In the Senate, most of the promised bills were either killed altogether or seriously compromised through a variety of watered-down amendments. A few bills–and I mean a precious few bills–made it somewhat intact out of the Senate. At the end of the session, very little of the Contract survived. In fact, during that time, Republican senators reminded everyone that the Contract With America was only the promise of the GOP House, that the GOP Senate never joined in that promise. (Politicians are the slickest liars in the world, are they not?)
While there were several positive results of that “Republican Revolution” of 1994, including a balanced budget in 1998 and surpluses in the federal budgets from 1999-2001–all of these budgets being proposed by Democratic President Bill Clinton–Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott quickly began to compromise away most of the principles of the 1994 Contract. This led to Gingrich being ousted as Speaker of the House.
Of course, none of the five federal departments targeted were eliminated–neither were any of the 95 targeted federal programs. In fact, not only were these departments and programs not eliminated, funding for all of these departments and programs actually INCREASED under the GOP-led Congress. In 2000, Edward Crane, president of the Cato Institute, noted that “the combined budgets of the 95 major programs that the Contract With America promised to eliminate have increased by 13%.” And, in case Republicans want to try and blame the Democrat Bill Clinton for these budgetary backslidings, the facts just don’t support it.
Consider the fact that from 2001 through 2006, the GOP controlled the entire federal government: the White House, House of Representatives, and Senate. Plus, Republican-appointed justices comprised a majority on the U.S. Supreme Court. (That has been the case since the early 1970s). During those long six years, the GOP-dominated federal government NEVER revisited the principles of the Contract With America. In fact, the Bush years are on record as seeing the most explosive growth in federal spending and overreach in U.S. history to that time. There has been absolutely NOTHING fiscally conservative about the Twenty-First Century GOP. And that’s a fact.
Again, even though the GOP controlled the entire federal government for the first six years of this century, there was no attention given to the promises of the 1994 Contract With America. In addition, no attention was given to overturning Roe v. Wade and ending legalized abortion-on-demand, and no attention was given to overturning Bill Clinton’s egregiously unconstitutional Executive Orders. In fact, no attention was given to G.W. Bush’s campaign promises of fiscal restraint and no-nation building, non-aggressive foreign policy promises, or his vow to honor the Constitution by curbing the usurpations of Washington, D.C., of individual liberties and civil rights. What a joke that turned out to be!
Now we have a Democratic President, Barack Obama, who is one of the most unpopular presidents of our entire history, and the GOP is struggling to energize its own base. How pathetic is that? That’s why RNC Chairman Reince Priebus took to the air with a live conference call with Tea Party activists. The national GOP has so alienated Tea Party conservatives that it is concerned that even with a despised Democrat President, disenfranchised conservatives within the GOP could stay home in large numbers next Tuesday.
Priebus’ concern is warranted.
So, Priebus makes a Contract With America-type promise: give us the Senate and we will stop Obama’s executive amnesty. And even though it was a conference call, I assume he said it with a straight face. The problem is, it is a lie, and Priebus knows it.
Obama is going to sign his executive amnesty order soon after the elections and before the Senate convenes next year. And there are about as many Republicans in the Senate that favor amnesty as there are Democrats. Does anyone really think that John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Lamar Alexander, et al. are going to get exercised over amnesty? The Chamber of Commerce establishment Republicans are salivating over amnesty for illegals. Some of them are trying to hide an amnesty amendment in the upcoming NDAA even as we speak. Plus, just exactly what is the Senate going to do to overturn an executive amnesty order? I can already hear it. After the GOP wins the Senate, they will say, “Well, as the U.S. Senate, we can’t really do anything; we need a Republican President in 2016. Then we will do something about it.” And the beat goes on.
It’s not about stopping amnesty; it’s about political posturing for a November election. House Speaker John Boehner has promised Big Business Republicans an amnesty deal. Does anyone in their right mind believe the GOP is going to overturn an Obama amnesty order? It’s a campaign bluff. I know it; and so does Barack Obama. (I would love to be proven wrong; but the GOP track record says I am 100% right.)
The Breitbart report goes on to say, “Priebus said at the end of the town hall that he thinks it’s important for Tea Partiers and the grassroots to hold Republicans accountable.
“‘I think it’s important to build our party through addition and make sure that we don’t subtract people out of our party,’ he said. ‘It’s also important for the Tea Party to hold the Republican Party accountable. I get that. It’s not always a cheerleading opportunity. It’s both that we’re going to be with you and help you, but we have to hold you accountable once in a while. And I understand that and respect it.’”
See the report here:
No, Priebus doesn’t understand that; neither does he respect it. This is pure partisan party electioneering.
The GOP leadership has not allowed itself to be held accountable to ANYBODY. They wouldn’t let Ross Perot do it; they wouldn’t let Pat Buchanan do it; they wouldn’t let Ron Paul do it; and they aren’t letting the Tea Party Republicans do it. They think themselves above their own platform, above their conservative base, and even above the U.S. Constitution. Accordingly, they have been subtracting numbers from their own ranks for a long, long time. Where do you think the Libertarian and Constitution parties came from? Where do you think so many of the registered independent voters came from?
In any given national election the numbers of people who stay home and don’t vote always outnumber the ones who do vote. Why is that? It’s because both the Democrat and Republican parties have been ignoring so much of their grassroots base that people from both parties have been drifting away by the millions. People by the millions have given up on both major parties. Neither party in Washington, D.C., respects the people of the United States or the U.S. Constitution. Both parties grovel before Big Money. That’s why so many people have removed themselves from the two major parties.
If the Republican leadership in Washington, D.C., had been listening to its base over the past several years, Barack Obama would not be President today and the GOP would not be biting its fingernails as to whether they can take back the Senate. This should be a slam-dunk election for the GOP. And, despite the stiff-necked, Big Business, Big Brother leadership of the national Republican Party, I think the GOP will take the Senate. But if you think for one minute that a GOP-led Senate and House will do diddly squat to stop Obama’s amnesty order or to close our Southern Border, there is this bridge in the Mojave Desert you need to look at. The GOP is famous for doing NOTHING after elections are won.
Reince Priebus lamented over the failure of Congress to honor its promise to close the Southern Border back in 2006. Well, Mr. Priebus, it was the Republican Party that controlled the federal government from 2001-2006, and despite their promises to close the Southern Border, did NOTHING to actually do it. And you think a GOP-led Congress is going to do something about it now? What a joke! Most of the anti-amnesty Republicans are in the House, and they are not even a majority within their own caucus there. Try to name the anti-amnesty senators. The only ones I can recall who have been outspoken against amnesty are Jeff Sessions, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee. Even Rand Paul has softened on the subject.
I wasn’t on the Tea Party conference call last Monday evening with Mr. Priebus when he said what he said, but I’m hoping someone on the call hollered, “There you go again.”
Time will tell…
With the Abu Baker al-Siddiq Brigade, Zintan, Libya…
A second interview by this observer with Seif al Islam Gadhafi, formerly the heir apparent to his father Moammar, was sought and finally arranged as a follow up to an earlier one focusing of my interest in the Imam Musa Sadr case. That case involves a great crime against a great man and conciliator and his historic cause, and exposes those who betrayed him in Lebanon and two other countries while swearing their personal devotion and shedding crocodile tears over the past 36 years. That research is nearing completion and publication awaits DNA results from body samples more credible than the ones offered by the Bosnia laboratory two years ago and immediately demonstrated to be fraudulent. The story of why that particular lab was chosen and by who goes to the essence of the current stonewalling campaign with respect to informing the public about what exactly happened to Imam Sadr and his partners on 8/3l/1978 in Tripoli, Libya. It also identifies who instructed Gadhafi to kill them over the strong objections from the PLO’s Yassir Arafat who spoke with Gadhafi and tried to save the trio of Lebanese Shia.
But our discussion soon turned to other subject as Seif’s jailers may have taken seriously my joke that if they extended the original 20 minutes I was granted to two hours, I would deliver to them 10 US Visas and they could fill in any names the might choose. Truth told, of course I could not even get myself a passport renewal as former US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman reportedly sneered at a US Embassy Christmas party a few years back, “Lamb will serve ten years hard time in the Feds for hobnobbing with terrorists (Hezbollah in those days…who knows today?) when we get him back home.” I admit that Jeff and I both have a problem with Hezbollah. His is because Hezbollah just may liberate Palestine and mine is that Hezbollah needs to do more in Lebanon and use 90 minutes of Parliament’s time, where it has the power, to grant Palestinian refugees in Lebanon the right to work and to own a home.
Meanwhile, Da’ish (IS) is metastasizing fast in Libya through its main affiliate al Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) and plans to add Tripoli, to its Islamic Caliphate along with Baghdad, Damascus, Amman and Beirut during the coming months and if necessary, years. This, according to Seif al Islam and representatives of the Zintan brigades based southwest of Tripoli as well as two representatives of other tribes and militia moving toward supporting the still vital Gadhafi regime remnants.
Libya may be the lowest hanging ripe fruit within easy reach of Da’ish (IS) and its growing number of affiliates, according to US Ambassador Deborah Jones during a recent visit to the US Embassy in Malta, to discuss her own problems in Libya which include the 8/31/14 take-over by al Fajr Libya (FL) of the US embassy compound barely a month after it was evacuated and moved to Tunisia for the second time since February of 2011. Secretary of State John Kerry reassured the media in Washington recently that “the embassy was not really closed, but had moved out of Libya”. One Religion Professor at Tripoli University joked last week that “Kerry is correct, the US embassy is here but it’s in a state of occultation. We can’t see it but it’s around and watches us.” A Libyan photographer who was at the embassy compound when Al Fajr Libya (FL) arrived reported that the Da’ish (IS) affiliate had moved into buildings inside the embassy complex claiming that they would ‘protect it’ as they carted off boxes of documents for ‘safe keeping.’ FL is described by a former Dean at Tripoli U. as between al Nusra and Da’ish (IS) with a fragile partnership between the two and presenting to the public “A Good cop-Bad cop tag-team with differences to be worked out once all the infidels are vanquished.
Libya, as with the Arab Maghreb, is on the cusp of a new wave of Islamist groups, and is moving beyond al-Qaeda of Bin Laden, Zawahiri, and Abdelmalek Droukdel, to Baghdadi’s ISIS and its widely perceived logical offshoot ISIM being planted in North Africa and the Sahel. The threat of the Da’ish (Islamic State is already deeply anchored and expanding in the now lawless Libya, according to UN envoy Bernardino León. Several Libyan organizations recently announced their loyalty to IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. This has confirmed a speculation that IS has penetrated Libyan public institutions. The Ansar al-Sharia group, affiliated with ISIS, has declared authority during the last several days over the coastal city of Darna which is located strategically between Benghazi and the Egyptian border – just 289 km (179 miles) and 333 km (206 miles), respectively.
Countless militia are forming, merging, changing names and lying low as perceived interests dictate. Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria was retitled, revitalized and repackaged to enhance its appeal on social media as has the Furqan Brigade of the AQIM in Tunisia. Ansar Al-Sharia is another one becoming very active.The Uqba bin Nafi Brigade, has just declared allegiance to ISIS as has the Islamic Caliphate in the Islamic Maghreb. al-Ummah Brigade, which operates out of Libyan coasts and airports, another is Al-Battar is attracting pro-ISIS elements. Majlis Shura Shabab al-Islam (the Islamic Youth Shura Council), or MSSI. According to Libyan sources and journalist Adam al-Sabiri, writing in Al Akbar, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi asked these elements to deploy to the Libyan front to counter the attacks by the Libyan army led by Khalifa Haftar as part of Operation Dignity seeking to “purge Libya of terrorists.”
Libyan friends, some from three years ago, advise that more people have been killed in the past three years than during the 2011 revolution and they now fear a Somalia-like “failed state” given all the weapons, lawlessness, and growing number of Islamists. The South of Libya has not been spared the lawlessness, as tribal battles continue for control of a lucrative smuggling trade. Friends point out that the country no longer even bothers to celebrate the National Holiday commemorating the 10/23/2011 “total liberation of Libya.” “It’s a cruel joke” my friend Hinde advised as she explains that many Libyans yearn for the stability of the Gadhafi days. “Maybe wanting to turn the clock back is the same in Iraq and Egypt and Syria?” she wondered.
“The rampant regional, ideological and tribal conflicts are worse than the rule of the dictator,” said Salah Mahmud al-Akuri, a doctor in Benghazi. “Some Libyans are looking back to the old regime.”
Amidst all the chaos, Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni claimed last week that groups loyal to the IS, such as al Fajr Libya, are presently in control of the city of Derna and other Libyan towns and have begun summoning townspeople to public squares to witness declarations of fealty to Da’ish (IS), even beginning their signature public executions. Libya’s “government” claims that its “army” is preparing to expel Fajr Libya (FL) and retake the capital, as more militia rush to join FL. Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani’s said in a statement this week that he gave orders to the government forces to “advance toward Tripoli to liberate it and to free it from the grip of al Fajr Libya”. The Libyan embassy in Washington told a House Foreign Affairs committee staffer that they expect that residents in Tripoli will launch “a civil disobedience campaign until the arrival of the army.” Walking around the former “Green Square” this observer saw no signs of this rather he observed citizens stocking up on necessities or packing their cars. Later, Thani added, military forces in the strife-torn country “have absolutely united to also recapture Libya’s second city Benghazi from the local IS affiliate, al Fajr Liyba (FL). Leading one to wonder whether the Libyan “army” will fare better than Maliki’s did in Mosul and Anbar.
According to students and staff at Tripoli University, (known as Fatah University during the Gadhafi decades) a few of whom this observer first met in the summer of 2011, and who lived the political events in their country since while some of their friends and relatives, as in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, are preparing to leave and start a new life somewhere. Hasan, a Gadhafi supporter I was with nearly daily three years ago in Tripoli still curses what, “NATO did this to our country. The Gadhafi regime was changing as you know Franklin, but the reformers were prevented from making the changes that Seif al Islam and his associates got their father to agree to. Remember when Saif said “My father wants to live in a tent where he is most happy and write a history of the Jamahiriya (land of the masses). He will offer advice but have just a ceremonial role out of politics? You remember that? We believed Seif didn’t we?. Anyhow, khalas!, Libya is finished! NATO gave it to Da’ish just as they gave Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria to Iran.”
Libya is now moving beyond al-Qaeda of Bin Laden, Zawahiri, and Abdelmalek Droukdel, to Baghdadi’s ISIS and its widely perceived logical offshoot Islamic State in the Islamic Maghreb (ISIM-Damis) now expanding in North Africa and the Sahel. Former rebels who fought against Gadhafi have formed powerful militias and seized control of large parts of Libya in the past three years. Back in mid-august of 2011, the late American journalist Marie Colvin and I stood on the balcony of the Corinthia Hotel opposites the still empty Marriott where some kid was practicing sniping from the roof, at my expense, as I pointed out to Marie a body floating just off the beach of the Mediterranean across the road. We walked over and examined it and decided while it was dressed in religious garb the man may have been an army deserter; there were increasing numbers in those days, because of his military style boots. We alerted some militia guys driving along the corniche who said they would report the body and before long an ambulance did arrive. Two of the militia waded out waist deep and pulled in the bloated body to shore, unlaced his tan leather boots while holding their noses from the stench. They then threw the new boots in the back of their pick-up and drove off with no more than a smiling ‘shukran habibis’ (thanks dears). Later that day Marie and I counted a column of 143 pickups with AK-47 jubilant fist waving rebels entering along the coastal road toward downtown Tripoli having come from battles in the east around Misrata. In the next few days we discussed how there seemed to be countless ‘free-cigarettes, $200 on the first of each month and your personal Kalasnikov’ militia popping up like mushrooms after a summer rain. Three years ago one of their battle cries was “Death to Gadafi—Yes to Freedom!” Today one hears around Tripoli another slogan from the lips of young men many of whom may be the same, chanting, “Death to the kafirs (disbelievers,” or infidels) Yes to Islam!Abas (that’s all!”
Seif el Islam still resides at his cell in Zintan which, even though jail is jail, has been upgraded from when he was captured in the Sahara making his way toward Niger and his finger was cut off as a warning.
Seif, has proposed talks and is ready to participate in bringing together Libya’s warring parties and aiding the transition to what he claims he was working on before the February 17, 2011 uprising in Benzhazi which quickly spread. Seif’s team would likely include his father’s cousin and confident Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam, former Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kane, long-time Libyan diplomat, the widely respected Omar el Hamdi now is Cairo, and Seif’s sister Aisha, now living with his mother and children in the Gulf.
Seif has no illusions of returning Libya to the past, but argues that elements of the former regime deserved to be heard. “We were in the process of making broad reforms and my father gave me the responsibly to see them through. Unfortunately the revolt happened and both sides made mistakes that are now allowing extreme Islamist group like Da’ish to pick up the pieces and turn Libya into an extreme fundamentalist entity in their regional plans.”
With respect to Seifs trials, whether ins the Tripoli courthouse or at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, the odds of either happening anytime soon, ior at all, are fading as negotiations for an arrangement are reportedly progressing.
A solution is being sought, according to sources at the Justice Ministry in Tripoli because there are many problems with Seifs case which was supposed to begin earlier this year, and the case has been criticized by a number of international actors. Not least for which how Libya and the ICC have handled their cases. For example, Human Rights Watch has accused the Libyan government of failing to provide adequate legal representation and the ICC it has been unable to compel the Libyan government to allow it access — just one of many challenges to the ICC’s legitimacy in recent years. Meanwhile it is likely that Seif’s jailers, who increasing respects and admires him, may have other ideas that would enhance their own standing in Libya. In addition, certain NATO countries are said to be privately discussing with Washington, Paris London and Bonn the idea of finding a role for Seif and certain of his associates and family members in “the new Libya.”
According to Seif, and former regime officials, several NATO countries have sent messages claiming they did not intend for his father to be killed but were searching during the summer of 2011 for a refuge for his father in Africa. Seif does not believe them.
Seif al Islam still has substantial influence among tribes still loyal to Gaddafi as well as former regime officials in the army and government. The delegation Seif could assemble, including Ahmad Gadaff al-Dam, would benefit from the latter’s still strong connections with Arab governments, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and the UAE as well as some European countries.
More on this and other subjects related to Seif and the growing international recognition over the need for expulsion of Islamists from Libya, and a possible significant role for Seif, are expected to be discussed publicly soon.
Here we go again.
Last week, the country’s biggest mortgage lenders scored a couple of key victories that will allow them to ease lending standards, crank out more toxic assets, and inflate another housing bubble. Here’s what’s going on.
On Monday, the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Mel Watt, announced that Fannie and Freddie would slash the minimum down-payment requirement on mortgages from 5 percent to 3 percent while making loans more available to people with spotty credit. If this all sounds hauntingly familiar, it should. It was less than 7 years ago that shoddy lending practices blew up the financial system precipitating the deepest slump since the Great Depression. Now Watt wants to repeat that catastrophe by pumping up another credit bubble. Here’s the story from the Washington Post:
“When it comes to taking out a mortgage, two factors can stand in the way: the price of the mortgage,…and the borrower’s credit profile.”
On Monday, the head of the agency that oversees the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac outlined … how he plans to make it easier for borrowers on both fronts. Mel Watt, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, did not give exact timing on the initiatives. But most of them are designed to encourage the industry to extend mortgages to a broader swath of borrowers.
Here’s what Watt said about his plans in a speech at the Mortgage Bankers Association annual convention in Las Vegas:
Saving enough money for a downpayment is often cited as the toughest hurdle for first-time buyers in particular. Watt said that Fannie and Freddie are working to develop “sensible and responsible” guidelines that will allow them to buy mortgages with down payments as low as 3 percent, instead of the 5 percent minimum that both institutions currently require.”
Does Watt really want to “encourage the industry to extend mortgages to a broader swath of borrowers” or is this just another scam to enrich bankers at the expense of the public? It might be worth noting at this point that Watt’s political history casts doubt on his real objectives. According to Open Secrets, among the Top 20 contributors to Watt’s 2009-2010 campaign were Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citigroup Inc., Bank of New York Mellon, American bankers Association, US Bancorp, and The National Association of Realtors. (“Top 20 Contributors, 2009-2010“, Open Secrets)
Man oh man, this guy’s got all of Wall Street rooting for him. Why is that, I wonder? Is it because he’s faithfully executing his office and defending the public’s interests or is it because he’s a reliable stooge who brings home the bacon for fatcat bankers and their brood?
This is such a farce, isn’t it? I mean, c’mon, do you really think that the big banks make political contributions out of the kindness of their heart or because they want something in return? And do you really think that a guy who is supported by Goldman Sachs has your “best interests” in mind? Don’t make me laugh.
The reason that Obama picked Watt was because he knew he could be trusted to do whatever Wall Street wanted, and that’s precisely what he’s doing. Smaller down payments and looser underwriting are just the beginning; teaser rates, balloon payments, and liars loans are bound to follow. In fact, there’s a funny story about credit scores in the Washington Post that explains what’s really going on behind the scenes. See if you can figure it out:
“Most housing advocates agree that a bigger bang for the buck would come from having lenders lower the unusually high credit scores that they’re now demanding from borrowers.
After the housing market tanked, Fannie and Freddie forced the industry to buy back billions of dollars in loans. In a bid to protect themselves from further financial penalties, lenders reacted by imposing credit scores that exceed what Fannie and Freddie require. Housing experts say the push to hold lenders accountable for loose lending practices of the past steered the industry toward the highest-quality borrowers, undermining the mission of Fannie and Freddie to serve the broader population, including low- to moderate- income borrowers.
Today, the average credit score on a loan backed by Fannie and Freddie is close to 745, versus about 710 in the early 2000s, according to Moody’s Analytics. And lenders say they won’t ease up until the government clarifies rules that dictate when Fannie and Freddie can take action against them.” (Washington Post)
Can you see what’s going on? The banks have been requiring higher credit scores than Fannie or Freddie.
But why? After all, the banks are in the lending business, so the more loans they issue the more money they make, right?
Right. But the banks don’t care about the short-term dough. They’d rather withhold credit and slow the economy in order to blackmail the government into doing what they want.
And what do they want?
They want looser regulations and they want to know that Fannie and Freddie aren’t going to demand their money back (“put backs”) when they sell them crappy mortgages that won’t get repaid. You see, the banks figure that once they’ve off-loaded a loan to Fannie and Freddie, their job is done. So, if the mortgage blows up two months later, they don’t think they should have to pay for it. They want the taxpayer to pay for it. That’s what they’ve been whining about for the last 5 years. And that’s what Watt is trying to fix for them. Here’s the story from Dave Dayen:
“Watt signaled to mortgage bankers that they can loosen their underwriting standards, and that Fannie and Freddie will purchase the loans anyway, without much recourse if they turn sour. The lending industry welcomed the announcement as a way to ease uncertainty and boost home purchases, a key indicator for the economy. But it’s actually a surrender to the incorrect idea that expanding risky lending can create economic growth.
Watt’s remarks come amid a concerted effort by the mortgage industry to roll back regulations meant to prevent the type of housing market that nearly obliterated the economy in 2008. Bankers have complained to the media that the oppressive hand of government prevents them from lending to anyone with less-than-perfect credit. Average borrower credit scores are historically high, and lenders make even eligible borrowers jump through enough hoops to garner publicity. Why, even Ben Bernanke can’t get a refinance done! (Actually, he could, and fairly easily, but the anecdote serves the industry’s argument.)
(“The Mortgage Industry Is Strangling the Housing Market and Blaming the Government“, Dave Dayen, The New Republic)
Can you see what a fraud this is? 6 years have passed since Lehman crashed and the scum-sucking bankers are still fighting tooth-and-nail to unwind the meager provisions that have been put in place to avoid another system-shattering disaster. It’s crazy. These guys should all be in Gitmo pounding rocks and instead they’re setting the regulatory agenda. Explain that to me? And this whole thing about blackmailing the government because they don’t want to be held responsible for the bad mortgages they sold to the GSE’s is particularly irritating. Here’s more from Dave Dayen:
“After the housing market tanked, Fannie and Freddie forced the industry to buy back billions of dollars in loans. In a bid to protect themselves from further financial penalties, lenders reacted by imposing credit scores that exceed what Fannie and Freddie require. ….And lenders say they won’t ease up until the government clarifies rules that dictate when Fannie and Freddie can take action against them.”
So the industry has engaged in an insidious tactic: tightening lending well beyond required standards, and then claiming the GSEs make it impossible for them to do business. For example, Fannie and Freddie require a minimum 680 credit score to purchase most loans, but lenders are setting their targets at 740. They are rejecting eligible borrowers….so they can profit much more from a regulation-free zone down the line.
So, I ask you, dear reader; is that blackmail or is it blackmail?
And what does Watt mean when he talks about “developing sensible and responsible guidelines’ that will allow them (borrowers) to buy mortgages with down payments as low as 3 percent”?
What a joke. Using traditional underwriting standards, (the likes of which had been used for the entire post-war period until we handed the system over to the banks) a lender would require a 10 or 20 percent down, decent credit scores, and a job. The only reason Watt wants to wave those requirements is so the banks can fire-up the old credit engine and dump more crap-ass mortgages on Uncle Sam. That’s the whole thing in a nutshell. It’s infuriating!
Let me fill you in on a little secret: Down payments matter! In fact, people who put more down on a home (who have “more skin in the game”) are much less likely to default. According to David Battany, executive vice president of PennyMac, “there is a strong correlation between down payments to mortgage default. The risk of default almost doubles with every 1%.”
Economist Dean Baker says the same thing in a recent blog post:
“The delinquency rate, which closely follows the default rate, is several times higher for people who put 5 percent or less down on a house than for people who put 20 percent or more down.
Contrary to what some folks seem to believe, getting moderate income people into a home that they subsequently lose to foreclosure or a distressed sale is not an effective way for them to build wealth, even if it does help build the wealth of the banks.”
(“Low Down Payment Mortgages Have Much Higher Default Rates“, Dean Baker, CEPR)
Now take a look at this chart from Dr. Housing Bubble which helps to illustrate the dangers of low down payments in terms of increased delinquencies:
Data on mortgage delinquencies by downpayment. Source: Felix Salmon
“When the mortgage industry starts complaining about the 14 million people who would be denied the chance to buy a qualified mortgage if they don’t have a 5% downpayment, it’s worth remembering that qualified mortgages for people who don’t have a 5% downpayment have a delinquency rate of 16% over the course of the whole housing cycle.” (“Why a sizable down payment is important“, Dr. Housing Bubble)
So despite what Watt thinks, higher down payments mean fewer defaults, fewer foreclosures, fewer shocks to the market, and greater financial stability.
And here’s something else that Watt should mull over: The housing market isn’t broken and doesn’t need to be fixed. It’s doing just fine, thank you very much. First of all, sales and prices are already above their historic trend. Check it out from economist Dean Baker:
“If we compare total sales (new and existing homes) with sales in the pre-bubble years 1993-1995, they would actually be somewhat higher today, even after adjusting for population growth. While there may be an issue of many people being unable to qualify for mortgages because of their credit history, this does not appear to be having a negative effect on the state of market. Prices are already about 20 percent above their trend levels.” (“Total Home Sales Are At or Above Trend“, Dean Baker, CEPR)
Got it? Sales and prices are ALREADY where they should be, so there’s no need to lower down payments and ease credit to start another orgy of speculation. We don’t need that.
Second, the quality of today’s mortgages ARE BETTER THAN EVER, so why mess with success? Take a look at this from Black Knight Financial Services and you’ll see what I mean:
“Today, the Data and Analytics division of Black Knight Financial Services … released its November Mortgage Monitor Report, which found that loans originated in 2013 are proving to be the best-performing mortgages on record…..
“Looking at the most current mortgage origination data, several points become clear,” said Herb Blecher, senior vice president of Black Knight Financial Services’ Data & Analytics division. “First is that heightened credit standards have resulted in this year being the best-performing vintage on record. Even adjusting for some of these changes, such as credit scores and loan-to-values, we are seeing total delinquencies for 2013 loans at extremely low levels across every product category.”
Okay, so sales and prices are fine and mortgage quality is excellent. So why not leave the bloody system alone? As the saying goes: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
But you know why they’re going to keep tinkering with the housing market. Everyone knows why. It’s because the banks can’t inflate another big-honking credit bubble unless they churn out zillions of shi**y mortgages that they offload onto Fannie and Freddie. That’s just the name of the game: Grind out the product (mortgages), pack it into sausages (securities and bonds), leverage up to your eyeballs (borrow as much as humanly possible), and dump the junk-paper on yield-chasing baboons who think they’re buying triple A “risk free” bonds.
Garbage in, garbage out. Isn’t this how the banks make their money?
You bet it is, and in that regard things have gotten a helluva a lot scarier since last Wednesday’s announcement that the banks are NOT going to be required to hold any capital against the securities they create from bundles of mortgages.
You read that right. According to the New York Times: “there will be no risk retention to speak of, at least on residential mortgage loans that are securitized.”
But how can that be, after all, it wasn’t subprime mortgages that blew up the financial system (subprime mortgages only totaled $1.5 at their peak), but the nearly $10 trillion in subprime infected mortgage-backed securities (MBS) that stopped trading in the secondary market after a French Bank stopped taking redemptions in July 2007. (a full year before the crisis brought down Lehman Brothers) . That’s what brought the whole rattling financial system to a grinding halt. Clearly, if the banks had had a stake in those shabby MBS— that is, if they were required to set aside 5 or 10 percent capital as insurance in the event that some of these toxic assets went south– then the whole financial collapse could have been avoided, right?
Right. It could have been avoided. But the banks don’t want to hold any capital against their stockpile of rancid assets, in fact, they don’t want to use their own freaking money at all, which is why 90 percent of all mortgages are financed by Uncle Sugar. It’s because the banks are just as broke as they were in 2008 when the system went off the cliff. Here’s a summary from the New York Times:
“Once upon a time, those who made loans would profit only if the loan were paid back. If the borrower defaulted, the lender would suffer.
That idea must have seemed quaint in 2005, as the mortgage lending boom reached a peak on the back of mushrooming private securitizations of mortgages, which were intended to transfer the risk away from those who made the loans to investors with no real knowledge of what was going on.
Less well remembered is that there was a raft of real estate securitizations once before, in the 1920s. The securities were not as complicated, but they had the same goal — making it possible for lenders to profit without risking capital.
The Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 set out to clean that up. Now, there would be “risk retention.” Lenders would have to have “skin in the game.” Not 100 percent of the risk, as in the old days when banks made mortgage loans and retained them until they were paid back, but enough to make the banks care whether the loans were repaid.
At least that was the idea. The details were left to regulators, and it took more than four years for them to settle on the details, which they did this week.
The result is that there will be no risk retention to speak of, at least on residential mortgage loans that are securitized.
“…..Under Dodd-Frank, the general rule was to be that if a lender wanted to securitize mortgages, that lender had to keep at least 5 percent of the risk…….But when the final rule was adopted this week, that idea was dropped.” (“Banks Again Avoid Having Any Skin in the Game”, New York Times)
No skin in the game, you say?
That means the taxpayer is accepting 100 percent of the risk. How fair is that?
Let’s review: The banks used to lend money to creditworthy borrowers and keep the loans on their books.
They don’t do that anymore, in fact, they’re not really banks at all, they’re just intermediaries who sell their loans to the USG or investors.
This arrangement has changed the incentives structure. Now the goal is quantity not quality. “How many loans can I churn-out and dump on Uncle Sam or mutual funds etc.” That’s how bankers think now. That’s the objective.
Regulations are bad because regulations stipulate that loans must be of a certain quality, which reduces the volume of loans and shrinks profits. (Can’t have that!) Therefore, the banks must use their money to hand-pick their own regulators (“You’re doin’ a heckuva job, Mel”) and ferociously lobby against any rules that limit their ability to issue credit to anyone who can fog a mirror. Now you understand how modern-day banking works.
It would be hard to imagine a more corrupt system.
Conspiracy theorists, those who look for the facts, ignoring the pressure of jeers, flawed appeals to authority, and intimidation, are the sanest among us. The steady migration of investigative journalists, who turn their backs on more lucrative employment, is only one indication of this.
In a recent article, Scientific Study Reveals Conspiracy Theorists The Most Sane Of All, the author, J. D. Hayes, cites a recent study, published July 2013, by psychologists Michael J. Wood and Karen M. Douglas of the University of Kent in the UK. It was entitled “‘What about Building 7?’ A Social Psychological Study of Online Discussion of 9/11 Conspiracy Theories.”
Their conclusion is that, contrary to those mainstream media stereotypes, “conspiracy theorists” appear to be more sane than people who accept official versions of controversial and contested events.
Attempts to demonize our perception on conspiracy theorists erects barriers to protect those whose profits are endangered by the truth.
These techniques for manufacturing opinion were outlined by Edward Bernays, whose book, “Propaganda,” asserts those who rule should use the trust accorded them in exactly this way.
Interestingly, Leo Strauss, whose political philosophy is in alignment with Bernays, asserted the same opinion. Strauss’ work was largely adopted by those who call themselves NeoConservatives who are anything but Conservative.
The opinion shared was that those in power are justified to lie, cheat and steal to keep and increase their power. The Kochs use these techniques in business and politically.
The use of the term, “Conspiracy Theory” increased rapidly in the wake of the JFK assassination due to its pejorative use in the MSM. This worked to stifle questions already being raised.
The issue which underlies the article by William Saletan, Conspiracy Theorists Aren’t Really Skeptics attempts to validate intellectual bullying, a logical extension of the philosophies of Bernays and Strauss. You don’t get more MSM than the Washington Post.
In the original formulation of American society those in positions of authority were morally and ethically obligated to explain themselves. The facts were to be available to all. Journalists investigated and reported the truth, as they saw it. This changed.
Saletan raised the issue of human psychology but failed to mention a perplexing issue which has long troubled us. This is the presence of those without conscience. For most of the 20th Century therapists believed these individuals could change, the problem was psychological. Today we know this is a neurological issue.
Advances in neurobiology have brought objective understanding. Now, thousands of criminals have been identified as psychopaths using an fMRI. The scan identified malfunctions in areas of the amygdala, which is now known to be associated with conscience, empathy, and compassion.
According to Dr. Robert Hare, serial murderers and con-men are always psychopaths. But Hare has also noted many who are also psychopathic are not violent and well able to control their impulses to gain far more expansive goals.
These individuals are highly intelligent. At any time there are 20,000 psychopaths with I.Q.s over 180 at large in the United States.
It would be instructive to see test results from MRI scans done on Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and their cadre.
The cost of psychopathy has been calculated at around 360 billion a year – in the US. This does not include the highly intelligent ones which, clearly cost far more, given the impact of Cheney and company on America. Could the people who so desperately wanted torture as a tool be emotionally normal?
Today, experts believe the explanation for the financial meltdown now ongoing can be explained by the concentration of psychopathic individuals in corporations, finance and government.
The characteristics of the condition include calloused unconcern for others. This accounts for the oil companies which routinely externalize their costs, leaving those harmed by the toxic waste they cause, to struggle and die.
Those without conscience, willing to lie for their own profit, have long been with us. But today they can avoid the troublesome issue of having their actions known and understood. They have learned to spin.
To ensure this continues they must continue manufacturing public opinion about their previous actions. This is why they began using the term, “Conspiracy Theory.” They work vigorously to ensure the facts remain hidden.
Refusing to accept the officially mandated opinion on any subject, be in the JFK assassination or whether or not to give your child pharmaceuticals as treatment for ADHD has been used to categorize individuals who refuse to accept predigested conclusions as crazy, stupid or paranoid. When this happens, rest assured, some corporation’s profits could be impacted.
This is a form of control intended to intimidate and inject fear. It also marginalizes vast numbers of people, keeping them in fear so they can be controlled.
To that end they, I call them Greedvilleins, also use our love of each other, country, loyalty, and trust, to manipulate us into wars which profit them and place us in perpetual debt.
If you limit what is acceptable to hold as opinions and deny people full access to the facts you destroy the trust basis of our society. Emotionally normal people are not comfortable when they cannot trust those around them.
These are rational responses to existing conditions.
What is insane is trusting psychopaths. Yet these are now common in finance and government. You can be sure they will routinely act with a sublime lack of conscience, for your freedom, your assets and your very life.
To cope with these conditions many still refuse to think about it, thus avoiding extreme anxiety. Others, for instance those who look for the facts, and are demeaned as “conspiracy theorists.”
The presence of highly intelligent psychopaths among us, who generally avoid being prosecuted, is one of these explanations.
Saladan’s article passes today as investigative journalism. It pays well and explains why so many truly honest journalists left to work in the alternative media.
When I started my radio talk show back in 1994–and for the next six years hosting the show–I was considered a hero by conservatives everywhere. Between my leadership position with the Moral Majority back in the 1980s and my radio talk show in the 1990s, I walked shoulder-to-shoulder with practically every notable conservative leader, including Christian leaders, one could think of. I traveled the country speaking with, and for, the most visible conservative leaders in America. I became friends with a host of U.S. congressmen and senators, not to mention several State governors. I even sat at the “king’s table” with President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush. I was one of the “darlings” of conservatism. Just about anybody who was anybody was a guest on my show.
I only mention all of that so readers can understand my background–along with the “rest of the story” that brought me to where I am today.
Back in those days, I fell right in lock-step with the left-right paradigm: Republicans were good; Democrats were bad. And even if the Republican was downright bad, he wasn’t as bad as the Democrat. That doctrine was sacrosanct and unassailable. And I believed that malarkey as much as anyone.
I started smelling a rat in 1996 when the GOP anointed Bob Dole as the next “conservative” Republican who was going to lead us to the Promised Land. I knew Dole well enough: he was anything but a conservative. In fact, he joined the likes of Richard Nixon and now John Boehner who say that they have never read the Republican Party platform. Boehner has gone so far as to say that he doesn’t know anybody who has read it. He probably told the truth there. The vast majority of Republican leaders in Washington, D.C., have not read it, don’t care what it says, and give no heed to it. I knew in my heart that Bob Dole would be a horrible President, and that he would NOT give a hoot in hades about obeying the Constitution. Plus, I had developed a great respect for and friendship with Pat Buchanan, who was an ardent conservative constitutionalist. So, I was supporting Pat’s presidential candidacy.
There is so much I would love to tell you about the rest of that primary, but let me fast forward to the end of the season. Toward the end of that 1996 GOP primary season, the congressman that my radio talk show was largely responsible for helping get elected, Joe Scarborough, came to me and pleaded, saying, “Chuck, I’m the only Republican congressman to not have already endorsed Dole. I’ve held out for as long as I can. Pat can’t win the nomination. It’s over. Dole will be the candidate. We have to rally behind Dole in order to beat Bill Clinton. You have to help me.”
I caved. For the sake of “party unity” and “defeating Bill Clinton,” I totally capitulated. Remember the sacred doctrine: Republicans are always good guys, and Democrats are always bad guys. And if even if the Republican is a bad guy he is not as bad as the Democrat.
So, there I was, standing next to Senator Bob Dole and Congressman Joe Scarborough at a press conference at the General Aviation office at the Pensacola, Florida, regional airport publicly endorsing the Republican Bob Dole for President of the United States. Albeit, I was still wearing my Pat Buchanan lapel pin. My defiance wasn’t dead, only crippled.
As I walked to my car after the press conference, I felt sick. I mean, totally and thoroughly sick. I had betrayed my convictions and my conscience, and I knew it. I vowed then and there that I would never again support a candidate—any candidate, no matter what his or her party label–for any public office that I did not believe in my heart would at least be faithful to the essential principles of liberty upon which our country was built.
For the next four years I marched forward with my radio talk show extolling the principles of liberty as loudly as I knew how. Mind you, the bitter taste of my compromise stayed in my mouth. It never went away. Still hasn’t. In addition, the next four years afforded me great opportunity to awaken to a host of truths, including the truth that both major parties in Washington, D.C., were actually not all that different. I came to realize that what Pat Buchanan had said was really true: “There are not two political parties in Washington, D.C., just two wings of the same bird of prey.”
One of the highlights of that awakening came when I interviewed David Schippers, who was the lead counsel for the House Judiciary Committee in the Bill Clinton impeachment hearings. He told me that as he pleaded with Republican leaders in the Senate (Trent Lott, Ted Stevens, etc.) to look at the evidence that his legal team had gathered, one of the “good guy” Republican senators said, “David, we don’t care if you have a video tape of the President raping a woman, then standing up and shooting her dead, we are not going to vote to remove this President from office.”
Schippers, a lifelong Democrat, was absolutely stunned. You can imagine. Schippers was a tough, no-nonsense, right-is-right, law-and-order kind of guy. He was the guy who took on the Chicago mafia–and won. He was an honest Democrat who was willing to unveil the criminality of a corrupt Democrat. Now he was watching a group of Republican senators in Washington, D.C., make the mafia look like good guys.
Schippers wrote a book of the whole sordid ordeal called, “Sellout: The Inside Story of President Clinton’s Impeachment.” It was published by Regnery Publishing. If you’ve never read it, you should do so immediately. The real story will shock you. And you will discover that, no, the Republicans are NOT always good guys–or even the “lesser of two evils.”
Enter the 2000 presidential elections. By now, my eyes were much wider open than they had been four years ago. But when G.W. Bush first ran for President, he said all of the right things. He said he was pro-life, pro-Constitution, pro-liberty, pro-less government, pro-Bill of Rights, etc. So in 2000, I supported G.W.
I’m still doing my radio talk show (and by now I was writing this column); I’m still a conservative hero; I’m still basking in the “success” of being a conservative Republican “darling.”
But that’s when the fun started! It didn’t take very long to realize that G.W. Bush was as phony as a three dollar bill. He was no “conservative.” He was not pro-liberty, pro-Bill of Rights or anything of the kind. G.W. Bush was Bill Clinton on steroids! Bill Clinton tried to pass what became known as the USA Patriot Act, but couldn’t get it done. Bush passed it with ease. He signed the Military Commissions Act into law; he gave America an unconstitutional national police force known as the Department of Homeland Security. Bill Clinton never attempted and could never have accomplished such things. G.W. Bush introduced the “preemptive war” doctrine to America. He invaded nations that had absolutely NOTHING to do with 9/11. He signed a law authorizing U.S. federal agents–or even military troops–to seize American citizens on U.S. soil and incarcerate them indefinitely without a subpoena or court order of any kind, without habeas corpus, without legal counsel, or any other requirement of justice guaranteed in our Bill of Rights. In truth, everything that Barack Obama is using today to abuse the power of the presidency, he borrowed from G.W. Bush.
So, by 2002 and 2003, and with the bitter taste of Bob Dole still gagging me, I made a decision: I will no longer protect and support Republicans for the sake of “party unity” or for the sake of “he’s not as bad as the Democrat.” No! In truth, it dawned on me that many times Republicans were WORSE than Democrats. From now on I was going to be faithful to my convictions and to the truth as I understood it.
Many of these “pragmatic political scientists” view politics as nothing more than mathematical formulas, test tube experiments, and lab rats. They will support and endorse any formula, no matter how evil the immediate process might be, in order to obtain their supposed “greater good” objective. They recognize absolutely nothing moral or immoral as it relates to politics. It is just “science.” Nothing is right; nothing is wrong; it’s all about putting in the right formulas in order to obtain some lofty, utopian, long-term objective.
In theological terms, the above is called “moral relativism.” In philosophical terms, it is called, “the end justifies the means.” In military terms, it is called, “might makes right.” In business terms, it is called, “what’s good for General Motors is good for America.” And it’s all a bunch of horse manure!
Republican shills will accept practically any evil committed by Republicans under the rubric of the “lesser of two evils” mantra. Democrat apologists will do the same for their fellow Democrats. In truth, party loyalists from both the Republican and Democrat parties in Washington, D.C., are giving America the royal SHAFT.
Our first and greatest president, George Washington, tried to warn us about this danger in his masterful “Farewell Address.” Washington said that the “spirit of party” (meaning, the preoccupation with, and loyalty to, political parties) was our “worst enemy.” He said it was “sharpened by the spirit of revenge,” and that it “perpetuated the most horrid enormities.” He said that the “spirit of party” led to “a more formal and permanent despotism.” He said the leaders of political parties would be elevated “on the ruins of public liberty.” He said it is “the interest and duty of wise people to discourage and restrain it.”
Washington went on to say that the “spirit of party” “agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms.” He said it “opens the door to foreign influence and corruption.” He said the “force of public opinion” must always “mitigate and assuage it.” Then, Washington ended this section of the address saying, “A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest instead of warming it should consume.”
Every warning George Washington gave us concerning the “spirit of party” has come true in modern America. Party hacks place more loyalty to doing what is good for their party than doing what is good for their country. In many respects, their preoccupation with party partisanship has become their own worst enemy, just as Washington warned. These party shills constantly demonstrate the “spirit of revenge.” In the name of fighting FUTURE despotism, party hacks constantly surrender to an IMMEDIATE and “more formal and permanent despotism.” Party members are “elevated [elected] on the ruins of public liberty.” Party shills are constantly agitating “the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms [especially about how bad the other party’s candidate is].” Party shills stand back and say nothing when their party opens the door to “foreign influence and corruption.” Again, to them, party is more important than country.
The fascination with “political science” demonstrated by party hacks reveals a complete lack of moral conscience. Remember, to party hacks, nothing is right or wrong, only better or worse. Their mantra is, “Our party is better; their party is worse.” And virtually every moral and constitutional malfeasance committed by the favored party member is justified under this mantra.
Thus, Bill Clinton’s repeated perjuries could take the Office of The President of The United States to the brink of disgrace and ruin and, yet, he could still be thought a hero by Democrats. And G.W. Bush’s unconstitutional wars and assaults against the Bill of Rights could take the American people to the brink of totalitarian government and, yet, he could still be thought a hero by Republicans.
Needless to say, when I started telling the truth about G.W. Bush on my radio talk show (just as I had done when Clinton was in office), the “darling” luster quickly vanished. Suddenly, where I was once a hero, now I was a villain. Where I was once a man with great conviction and honor, now I was considered extremist–or even evil. But I was standing for the exact same principles and ideals I had always stood for. But because I was no longer loyal to the “spirit of party,” I became a political outcast. George Washington was exactly right!
As most readers know, I went on to run for President of the United States after Ron Paul was defeated in the Republican primaries in 2008. There was no way in hades I was going to pull another Bob Dole poison pill out of the GOP Big Pharma pill box and vote for the Neocon John McCain. So, when hundreds of Pat Buchanan/Ron Paul conservatives asked me to help keep the voice of constitutional government alive in the 2008 presidential campaign by seeking the presidential nomination of the Constitution Party, I did just that. And as far as I know, I am the only candidate for President that Ron Paul publicly endorsed since Ronald Reagan.
And, no, I didn’t vote for the Neocon Mitt Romney in 2012. And I won’t vote for any Neocon candidate in 2014. And should the GOP nominate another Neocon for President in 2016, I won’t vote for him either.
The liberties of the American people protected in the Bill of Rights are not test tube rats to be scientifically dissected and analyzed by party hacks, who love to call themselves political scientists. Our liberties and freedoms are not subject to the pragmatic “lesser evil” agendas of party shills–be they Democrats or Republicans.
We have been trading Democrats for Republicans and vice versa for as long as any of us can remember. And where has it gotten us? I realize that compromise is necessary in many aspects of politics–but NOT when it comes to the fundamental tenets of the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence. Compromise of those fundamental tenets is not compromise at all; it is appeasement and the worst kind of surrender. And to support those who commit such crimes in the name of party partisanship is the worst kind of patriotism.
Here is the problem. The political scientists and hacks among us do NOT recognize in any way, shape, manner or form, the SPIRITUAL warfare that we face. They do not recognize the spirit of darkness that governs in high places. They cannot recognize nor comprehend that the Evil One can just as easily accomplish his devilish purposes through a Republican office-holder as he can through a Democrat office-holder. Even many professing Christians seem to suffer from this myopia. It seems lost to them that there could be very powerful people who are masters at manipulating “conservative Republicans” and “liberal Democrats” alike for their own wicked and evil purposes. Well, there are; and they do. To single out one party as inherently “worse” and another party as inheritably “better” is the height of naiveté.
In fact, in many ways an “in the dark” Republican is MORE DANGEROUS than an “in the dark” Democrat, because the Republican is operating under the ruse of “light.” An enemy who wears the uniform of a friend is more dangerous than an enemy who wears the uniform of an enemy. That’s why G.W. Bush got away with a whole lot more than Bill Clinton did. And that’s why Mitt Romney would have gotten away with a whole lot more than Barack Obama has. And that’s why your local Neocon Republican congressional or senatorial candidate will get away with a whole lot more than your local Democrat candidate.
I made my decision as I walked away from a press conference with Bob Dole back in 1996. Somehow, in that short walk from the press room to my car, I came to agree with George Washington; and I traded the “spirit of party” for the “Spirit of ’76.” And I’ve never looked back.
It is ironic that John Fund claims some kind of victory by pointing out a highly marginal way of stealing a few votes via the unusual opportunity of finding unused ballots. In his recent article, James O’Keefe Strikes Again, the back slapping was thick and gleeful.
James O’Keefe, again, scored a media event in these last days before the coming election. This time he was not dressed up in his pimp dudes, but he should have been.
The election would have to extraordinarily close for this kind of voter fraud to matter. Argument like these are like blaming the national debt on shop lifting by senior citizens. It happens, but it is rare.
The Big Game is being run by the Number Two Man on Fund’s own speed dial, Karl Rove. Stealing Elections was essential if the Number One Man on Fund’s speed dial in the same period, Dick Cheney, of Halliburton, was to win and so become even richer. The three are linked by common interests as well as a solid and long term friendship. They scratch each other’s backs, as the expression goes.
When John beats up a woman, or otherwise misbehaves, they are there for him.
Fund, having made himself a kind of a ‘reputation’ for pimping the idea of Voter Fraud lays it on thick and cheesy in his article.
The other side, located in Colorado, make themselves look pathetic because a NeoCon had to give them this exciting idea – and these twits golly gosh, gee’d all over James O’Keefe instead of showing him the door.
Franklin’s state director, Meredith Hicks, told O’Keefe that committing voter fraud using unused ballots was perfectly okay. “That’s not even lying or stealing, if someone throws out the ballot. If you want to fill it out you should do it,” she told O’Keefe on tape.
Note: Cheating is always wrong. It destroys trust in the integrity of the entire electoral process and is repulsive in anyone.
That said, can’t you see this woman rooting round in people’s trash cans looking for those ballots? How would you know when they would appear? Many of these ballots will end up in the trash, but only after election day. “Oh. Never mind, that was yesterday.” Others will be used as grocery lists, book marks, made into paper airplanes and other purposes for which they were not intended. Some will also be used for voting.
Really, it makes you cringe.
There is a magnitude of difference between this level of electoral dishonesty and the Big Game. That is where the real money is and this article is evidence John Fund is still Pimping for the same folks who profited by murdering a million and a half Iraqis, killing off babies doomed by the effects of DU to short and horrible lives, and other war crimes galore. Remember Bush and his administration’s excitement over ‘rendering’ people?
You can’t say Fund is not consistent. So are No. One SpeedDial and No. Two SpeedDial.
To get the money you have to win the election and if you are Dick Cheney or George Bush you can’t win unless you cheat.
Rove is not into retail, he is all about Whole Selling out America with Ballot Fraud via cool electronics. He has made millions this way. Cheney, No. Two SpeedDial, made billions.
Fund and Friends are all Pimps. They should dress the role.
Ever since the 2008 financial collapse, banks have reduced their lending while accumulating U.S. Treasuries. On the surface placing capital into the safest depositor may seem prudent. On the other hand, Why Big Banks Are Suddenly Interested in Talking to You Again? According to Inc, “After years of turning away small-business borrowers, the country’s largest banks are now granting one out of five loan applications they receive. The 20 percent benchmark represents a post-recession high for big banks (assets of $10B+). Further, small banks have been approving more than half of the funding requests they receive.”
Such news would normally be welcomed. The Sovereign Man article, Here’s Why US Banks Are Now Extremely Vulnerable, presents a sober warning that the banking industry is at risk from a bond market sell-off.
“In just the last month alone American banks increased their holdings of US treasuries by $54 billion, to a record $1.99 trillion.
Facing $127 trillion in unfunded liabilities – which is nearly double 2012’s total global output – and with no inclination to reduce those numbers at all, at this point disaster for the US is entirely unavoidable.
Under the rather arbitrary Bank of International Settlements Basel capital adequacy rules government debt rated at least AA continues to carry a “zero risk” weighting. Meaning that banks do not need to set aside capital against it.
Beyond that, regulations imposed after the last crash to reduce risk require banks to hold $100 billion in liquid assets, which of course includes bonds. Thus, they are not only encouraged, but actually forced to buy government bonds.”
The fundamental change in the last six years is that the banks were rescued from normal capital requirements under a zero interest rate discount window. The inevitable result starved the small business and personal borrowing market from obtaining loans. With the loosing of funds to finance business and consumers, could the dire warning that the banks understand they need to rotate out of Treasuries, be the reason for the shift in lending?
However, the rush to come into compliance has America’s Banks Pile Up Treasuries as Deposits Overwhelm Lending. This explanation of a change in regulation ordains that U.S. Bonds are still a necessary component in their balance sheet.
“Rules approved Sept. 3 by the Fed, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. leave banks about $100 billion short of the $2.5 trillion in easy-to-sell assets that they need to meet the liquidity standard, according to the Fed. Lenders must reach 80 percent of their liquidity coverage ratios by January and have until the start of 2017 to reach full compliance.”
Illustrating this point, “Bank of America alone may need to purchase as much as $65 billion of government debt to become fully compliant, according to report last month from Marty Mosby, a banking analyst at Memphis, Tennessee-based Vining Sparks.”
Providing additional encouragement is a WSJ report that U.S. Bank Profits Near Record Levels.
“On the heels of the financial crisis, some lawmakers, regulators and consumers complained that banks weren’t lending enough. But steady improvement in credit quality, or borrowers’ ability to repay loans, is prompting banks not only to lend more but also to ease their standards.
The higher loan levels come as banks are easing up on their underwriting standards to borrowers. A Federal Reserve survey of senior loan officers released last week found that lenders were loosening standards and loan terms for commercial and industrial loans and commercial real-estate loans.”
Reconciling the need to keep buying treasuries and originating new loans to satisfy business demand is a challenging objective. By returning to the old fashion business model, of actually making loans to customers, banks are generating significant profits.
While graphs show the downward trend in loans since TARP, the current upturn is ready to be charted. Lending money for productive enterprise has contributed to a rise in GDP. The transition to a consumer based economy is dependent on the flow of transactions. When the pace of the velocity of money increases and confidence strengthens, prosperity usually follows.
The different in this feeble recovery phase is that the debt assumed by the Treasury, monetized within Federal Reserve liabilities, requires servicing no matter the health of the general economy. Near zero or cost free interest rates is approaching an expected crisis of uninterrupted maintenance. The exact trigger that drives up rates, while elusive to forecast, is inevitable in coming.
The Money Show article, Rising Rates? Beware of Big Banks, describes the predicament accordingly.
“The reality is that traditional commercial and consumer lending is no longer the big money maker that it used to be for banks. Since the 2008 financial crisis, households and businesses have been deleveraging—paying down debt—and demand for loans has been limp.
In recent years, the big banks have fattened their profits mainly from capital-markets businesses: Mergers and acquisitions, stock and bond offerings, and other types of trading. Rising interest rates also make the cost of capital go up for businesses, which can result in less deal making, lowering financing fees for the banks.”
Hype that loan demands have returned in earnest is overstated. Coming off such a low level, any modest increase looks bigger than it really is. That revered business cycle, simply is no longer the same.
So what happens in the catch-22 scenario when banks are adjusting to different capital requirements and Treasuries drop in price with a rise in interest rates? That’s the 64 trillion dollar question.
Banking is more about mathematics than business acumen when additional debt created money is needed to pay the service of obligations that come due. The roll over can be staggering. Banksters make up the monetary rules. That $127 trillion nut is bigger than all the bank reserves put together.
For those who argue the economy can grow its way out of this liquidity squeeze must have a time frame longer than the imaginative bag of tricks left in the vaults of banks.
American journalist Serena Shim was beheaded — and “not with a sword but a cement truck,” to paraphrase T.S. Elliott.
Right before she lost her head in a brutal “accidental” collision with a cement truck the size of a freight train, Shim had reported that not only was Turkey supplying ISIS foreign fighters and terrorists from such places as Pakistan and Chechnya with weapons and material, but Turkey was also spiriting wounded ISIS terrorists back over the Syrian border into Turkey, hidden in NGO aid trucks, so they could be treated in Turkish hospitals.
Turkish Intelligence is highly suspected of setting up this tragic hit on Shim, hoping to silence her — but its actions have backfired and all it has really accomplished is to make the whole world put Turkey under a microscope, asking questions about Shim’s bloody death and the role that the Turkish intelligence agency played in this beheading.
“Turkey. how could you have sunk so low?” the whole world now asks.
“Hey, it was easy,” Turkey replies. “What else could we do?” What else could Turkey do indeed — when the usual crew of polished and professional American and Israeli neo-con con-men (not to be mistaken for actual honest, hardworking and sorely hoodwinked Americans and Israelis) simply showed up at its doorstep, waved their magic wands over Turkish president Erdogan’s head and promised to get him the old Ottoman Empire back if only he would attack Syria. (Or else.)
And then with his eyes dazzled by dreams of glittering booty, Erdogan fell for the con — hook, line and sinker. Of course he did. And then he opened Pandora’s box and let ISIS in.
According to Middle East expert Judith Bello, the Washington Post published a map “of the flow of 15,000 fighters flowing into Syria from more than 80 nations, hardly the foot soldiers of a civil war. Most of these fighters have entered Syria through Turkey.”
A sorry cancer-like epidemic of death, destruction and deceit has spread over the Middle East in the last few decades. And Turkey, the “Sick Man of Europe,” has been the latest nation to catch it.
Welcome to the cancer ward, President Erdogan.
On Thanksgiving this year, Turkey will obviously have nothing to be thankful for, what with ISIS sitting at its table and expecting its dinner — unless Turkey starts “chemotherapy” immediately. My prescription for Turkey? “Stop messing around with ISIS, stop believing the empty promises of American and Israeli neo-con-men, and start behaving in Turkey’s citizens’ best interests instead.”
Turkey has been trying to join the European Union for years now. But who wants a Turkey in the EU that has already proven itself to be just another Middle Eastern “soiled dove” for American and Israeli con-men? Erdogan has thrown the baby out with the bathwater here.
Just because Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Yemen, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have all been diagnosed with the kind of fuzzy thinking that can only be caused by cancer of the part of the brain that governs common sense and self-preservation, this doesn’t mean that Turkey has to waste away too. Beheading a journalist is common in these other neo-con infected countries. But one would expect that a sophisticated and modern country like Turkey, a potential member of the EU even, might be immune. But apparently not.
President Erdogan, what were you THINKING!
PS: Looks like the average American and Israeli isn’t immune from catching the cancer of stupid thinking either. If we aren’t a lot more careful and watchful and vigilant than we are right now, then we too may soon be contracting this Turkish and Middle Eastern disease — and then watch our own journalists get beheaded too.
Avoidable Humanitarian Crisis at Lebanon Border Crossing…
Chest high metal crowd control barriers manned by armed guards—since late September they have stood outside the Arrivals Hall on the Lebanon side of the Masnaa border crossing with Syria. For Syrian and Palestinian refugees fleeing the continuing violence next door and trying to get into Lebanon the message is clear:
Don’t come within 40 meters of the Immigration building, and don’t even dream about coming to the staffed counter with any documents. None of you is welcome. Ninety eight percent of you will not be allowed in, and those who are better leave within 24 hours and have a valid airline ticket to prove your intention to depart.
Over the past few years, this observer has crossed at the Masnaa border crossing fairly frequently. Yet never have I seen such an avoidable humanitarian disaster for families seeking to get out of war-torn Syria. And it is reportedly much the same at the Jordanian border. Many refugees have found themselves squatting here—first in the heat, and now in the cold autumnal nights that increasingly are seeing cold rainfall. No other option seems available to them than to try to enter Lebanon, this as they express the forlorn hope that God in his mercy will help them.
And so here they sit, bewildered, outside the Immigration building, exhausted, little if any money in their pockets or purses, with their children thirsty, hungry, and often crying. Nearby are the local offices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), but the staff are overwhelmed, and the fact that Lebanon hasn’t signed the 1951 Refugee Convention doesn’t make things any easier for them. Extending humanitarian assistance to refugees has never been embraced by certain anti-Palestinian politicians in Lebanon, who apparently see no value in it for themselves, but that being said, it is a fact that the sheer numbers of refugees entering Lebanon now has added to pre-existing problems with respect to infrastructure, chronic water and electricity shortages, massive unemployment, exploding sectarian conflicts, and the like.
All of which can make for some harrowing scenes at the border checkpoint. During this observer’s most recent crossing, a Syrian gentleman sat on the roadside with his wife, five children, and one grandchild, explaining to me how the family had lost everything in Homs. No other choice had they than to try and seek safety in Lebanon, since Egypt and Jordan are refusing entry to Syrian refugees. His oldest child, a lovely girl named ‘Rasha,’ who appeared to be in her mid-20s, sat nursing her infant son as we talked. Rasha’s husband, he informed me, had been killed by a mortar last spring on a day he had gone out shopping for food near the old city of Homs. In desperation, the gentleman suggested that I purchase his daughter and her baby, because he saw no future for them and he could no longer provide a home for them. Plus the baby appeared ill.
After my long explanation of why, for several reasons, this was not possible, he stated his belief that my being an American meant that the Lebanese guards would allow me to enter with Rasha and her baby; they in turn could live with me until the crisis ended, and on second thought, I did not even have to pay him anything. Just save her and her baby. With respect to the Lebanese border guards, his idea was unrealistic. Most Americans do tend to be liked around these parts, and most of us try to be goodwill ambassadors because we love our country and her ideals. But it is not the case that Americans can bend immigration regulations, nor should it be. Before the crisis, Syrians and Lebanese could simply take a road not patrolled, avoiding border crossings and formalities altogether, but these days that is very dangerous.
I gave the gentleman my card and a little money in case his family and he were somehow able to get over the border, and promised him that if they were successful I and friends would try to help. I have heard nothing more from him. But I have learned, from a couple of NGOs, that encounters such as I experienced are not all that uncommon these days, with women and children stuck at the Syrian-Lebanese border being bought and sold—and with bribes sometimes offered, and occasionally paid. The frequency of this is difficult to assess, and the reality may be exaggerated, but certainly not exaggerated are the facts of the increasingly inhumane conditions that Syrian and Palestinian refugees face in Lebanon—a country in which they are denied some of the most basic, elementary rights by the government, and where they also run the risk of harmful brushes with various militias and hooligans.
Discussions I have had—with staff at the central.
Immigration office in Damascus as well as Syrian human rights associations and Syria-based Arab journalists who have researched and written about this subject—reveal not only a bleak picture of the humanitarian situation, but also a growing level of disgust in Syria over what is happening to their countrymen in Lebanon. Cases of Lebanese discrimination and harassment targeting Syrian refugees, including violations of international customary law and the 1951 Refugee Convention, have become commonplace. In addition, Syrians increasingly are falling prey to violence. Human Rights Watch said it had documented a string of attacks by Lebanese residents against Syrian refugees in August and September. Those interviewed described being stabbed, shot and beaten, and several claimed that they were either too afraid to report the crimes, or that they had and their stories had been dismissed by security forces when they did. HRW said that attacks it documented were most often carried out by private citizens, but in several cases they appeared to have “the tacit support” of authorities, and the international organization has urged security forces and local authorities to step up protection of Syrian refugees.
“Lebanon’s security forces should protect everyone on Lebanese soil, not turn a blind eye to vigilante groups who are terrorizing refugees,” said HRW Deputy Middle East Director Nadim Houry.
One especially taxing problem is the financial cost exacted by Lebanon for Syrian refugees to register a baby. In Syria, anyone from Lebanon, or from any country for that matter, can register a newborn for the equivalent of 1,000 Lebanese lire (around 66 US cents). The process takes around fifteen minutes. But not so in Lebanon. According to a report by the Taanayel General Hospital in central Bekaa, the number of new babies born to Syrian refugees, since March 2011 when the crisis began, has exceeded 15,000, just in the Bekaa Valley alone. In North Lebanon, the UNHCR estimates more than 5,000 births, and the Syrian Embassy in Beirut says there are now approximately 6,000 births per year among displaced Syrians in Lebanon. But for many of these parents, the registration process is nearly impossible.
First they must obtain a certificate from the hospital or midwife indicating the date of birth—generally not a big problem, but then the baby must be registered at the office of the local Muktar. That is if they can prove legal residence, and if the local Muktar is willing to help, which is not always the case. Sometimes he wants a fee, and in some reported cases a bribe, in order to forward the paperwork to the Directorate of Personal Status. If the parents are lucky, their application might then be sent to the Exterior Ministry for another approval, and finally may reach the Syrian Embassy to complete the process of registering the newborn. But the process can be delayed or scuttled along the tortuous procedural path for any number of reasons, including escalating anti-Syrian sentiment in government offices and among certain confessions and political parties. According to one Syrian refugee, the minimal fees charged by Lebanon, plus the traveling back and forth to different offices and locations so as to follow up on the procedures, can cost close to $500, with no success guaranteed. The amount is a fortune for most refugees, but an even greater concern for Syrian parents is having no nationality for their children. Says Joelle Eid, of the UNHCR press office, the offspring risk being added to “the stateless Kurds of Syria, since 1960, whose number of births in Lebanon is currently around 840 children.”
One chilling reason that the Kafkaesque procedures violate basic humanitarian principles is that they are forcing Syrian refugees to smuggle their babies into Syria in bags, since of course the infants would not be allowed to cross the border from Lebanon without full documentation. It is estimated that over the past 24 months more than 50 Syrian newborns, passing through Masnaa, have died from suffocation or drug overdose while being hidden from immigration officials. Parents usually are not sure how much of what drug to give their babies in order to keep them quiet and sleeping as they sneak them through the border, and too many are not waking up—all so that the parents can make it back over the border, back into their perilous, war-torn homeland, so that they may register their children’s births—in Syria, since it’s practically impossible to do so in Lebanon.
It is but one of the current abuses that are causing outrage in Syria and among advocates of human rights everywhere but it is not the only one. Both the UNHCR and HRW are accusing the Lebanese Army of committing “serious” violations against refugees, including in Ersal, where more than 200 Syrian refugees, including minors, were arrested without charge. The arrests took place September 19-24. Other reports accuse the Army of evicting, without any pretense of due process, a large number of refugees living in private homes. Then on September 25, the retaliatory measures reached a peak with a crackdown in the area of Ras al-Jafar, affecting nine informal communities with a total population of around 5000. One report states that during the raids, tents were burned in one of the random communities, completely destroying 96 tents. The raids were coupled with a large campaign of arrests targeting especially males. Some 300-500 people were detained, and while most, though not all, have been released, reports have emerged of physical and verbal assault, intimidation, and humiliation—claims that are corroborated by UNHCR photographs, including of shackled Syrian refugees laying on the ground exposed to the elements.
An Army spokesperson has dismissed as “lies” another allegation about the torching of tents in Ersal last week, yet random raids are becoming commonplace at scores of these “informal tent settlements,” as UNHCR refers to the fetid, sewage-soaked camps—camps which soon will be covered in snow and ice. Often in these camps more than 20 people will live in a tent that is intended for one family. Most of the tents are covered with nothing more than nylon, and more than 50,000 Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley are now living in these kinds of settlements—that’s 50,000 out of a registered total 275,000 in the area.
In addition to these calamities, more than 45 municipalities have imposed curfews on Syrian nationals, a move widely seen as a racist practice and one also in violation of international humanitarian law and the 1951 Convention. HRW comments that the curfews “contribute to a climate of discriminatory and retaliatory practices against” the refugees. Curfew violators are reportedly given a warning or, in some cases, are “taken to the municipality for questioning” where they may be detained for hours.
The reports have fueled anger among lawyers in Damascus, at the Lawyers Syndicate across from the Cham Palace Hotel, where seminars have discussed the legal problems facing Syrian refugees in Lebanon. In addition, the Faculty of Law at Damascus University is considering setting up a legal defense team to help Syrians in Lebanon challenge arbitrary and discriminatory applications of Lebanese laws.
“Syria helped them (the Lebanese) many times during their 15-year civil war and during the 2006 July war!” commented a teacher at a government primary school visited by this observer last week. “We gave them everything they needed. Our government buildings, social services, free medical care, free education, schools, hygienic conditions, peace and quiet, food and sometimes cash stipends. What about us? Is this the Lebanese way of saying ‘thanks’ to the people of Syria?”
She then exclaimed, “Someone must stop these attacks on our families.”
A savvy graduate student in Damascus by the name of “Ahmad” commented to this observer and to his Palestinian friend from Yarmouk camp, who having lost her own home due to shelling, now volunteers helping Syrian refugees forced to live in some of the parks in Damascus, that ISIS (Da’ish) and al-Nusra will almost assuredly be cognizant of these problems, and poised to capitalize on them, as they prepare to extend their caliphate into Lebanon—and he probably has a point.
Among the many reasons Lebanon should immediately desist in the targeting of Syrian and Palestinian refugees is that they are pushing many toward supporting those that the Lebanese government claims to be opposing.
“…that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”
– James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America (1931)
The American Dream has been defined many ways by writers of both poetic and prosaic bent, but its essentials tend to involve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (or property, depending on your source).
The Declaration of Independence, upon which an entire nation was radically brought into existence, asserts that not only are all men created equal but that this is a “self-evident” truth. By this “unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,” a contract was agreed to, that their union would be founded on this principle. Thus, America was endowed with its dream at the moment of its conception: the freedom to succeed.
The United States has promoted a self-congratulating exceptionalism for decades, waving its Declaration and Constitution in the faces of other sovereign nations as if the latter had never considered such concepts. Our capital F “Freedom” sets us apart from the rest of the world, as the political rhetoric has repeated ad nauseam, no matter the freedoms enjoyed by democracies on almost every continent. And yet our basic freedom, the freedom to succeed, America’s contractual promise, has been shrinking for thirty years.
The freedom to succeed transcends economic systems but it is most potently expressed by capitalist gains. The ability to go “from rags to riches” is ingrained in this nation’s ethos and there is nothing intrinsically immoral about that goal. However, the current state of American inequality reveals a very real and expanding gap between the rich and poor that betrays the foundational endowment of this Union. When the freedom to succeed is denied every citizen, their equality is equally denied.
Recently, the Pew Research Center released a poll on what international citizens consider the greatest threat to the planet. Conducted between March 17 and June 5 of this year, the survey received answers from 48,643 respondents in 44 countries. In the U.S. and Europe, the growing gap between the rich and the poor was overwhelmingly considered the greatest danger to world prosperity. Over a quarter of Americans ranked “Inequality” as number one, above Religious & ethnic hatred, Pollution, Nuclear weapons and Infectious diseases.
This is hardly startling news considering that the median net worth of American households fell by 35 percent ($106,591 to $68,839) between 2005 and 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It is, however, disturbing that inequality remains so prevalent five years after the Great Recession.
Capitalism is not the problem. The problem is that we have let inequality advance in this country so gradually that its obviousness is masked by its familiarity. Below, I outline eight facts about inequality in America that every American should know.
1) 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined. This ratio has been verified by Politifact and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. To put it into context, last year the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that there were over 316 million people living in the United States. That means 400 Americans have more money than over 158 million of their fellow citizens. Their net worth is over$2 trillion, which is approximate to the Gross Domestic Product of Russia.
One explanation for the vast discrepancy in wealth is the definition of “worth,” which includes everything a person or household owns. This means savings and property but also mortgages, bills and debt. Poorer households can owe so much in debt that they possess a negative net worth.
2) America has the second-highest level of income inequality, after Chile. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development studies thirty-four developed countries and ranks them both before and after taxes and government transfers take effect (government transfers include Social Security, income tax credit and unemployment insurance). Before taxes and government transfers, America ranks tenth in income inequality. After taxes and transfers, it ranks second. Whereas its developed peers reduce inequality through government programs, the United States’ government exacerbates it.
3) The current state of inequality can be traced back to 1979. After the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the gap between the rich and the poor began to narrow. For fifty years, wages differed between the upper- and working-classes, but a robust middle-class took shape and there remained ample opportunity for working-class individuals to ascend.
In his book, “The Great Divergence,” journalist Timothy Noah traced today’s inequality to the beginning of the 1980s and the widening gap between the middle- and upper-classes. This gap was influenced by the following factors: the failure of American schools to prepare students for new technology; poor immigration policies that favor unskilled workers and drive down the price of already low-income labor; federally-mandated minimum wage that has failed to keep pace with inflation; and the decline of labor unions.
4) Non-union wages are also affected by the decline of unions. The Economic Policy Institute claims that 20 percent of the growth in the wage gap between high-school-educated and college-educated men can be attributed to deunionization.
Between 1978 and 2011, union representation for blue-collar and high-school educated workers declined by more than half. This has also diminished the “union wage effect,” whereby the existence of unions (more than 40 percent of blue-collar workers were union members in 1978) was enough to boost wages in non-union jobs – in high school graduates by as much as 8.2 percent. Not only did unions protect lower- and middle-class workers from unfair wages, they also established norms and practices that were then adopted by non-union employers. Two prime examples are employee pensions and healthcare.
Today, about 13 percent of workers belong to unions, which has reduced their bargaining power and influence.
5) There is less opportunity for intergenerational mobility. In December 2011, President Obama spoke at Osawatomie High School in Kansas. He was very clear about the prospects of the poor in today’s United States:
“[O]ver the last few decades, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity have grown farther and farther apart, and the middle class has shrunk. You know, a few years after World War II, a child who was born into poverty had a slightly better than 50-50 chance of becoming middle class as an adult. By 1980, that chance had fallen to around 40 percent. And if the trend of rising inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s estimated that a child born today will only have a one-in-three chance of making it to the middle class – 33 percent.”
As refreshing as that honesty is, Obama promised no fix beyond $1 trillion in spending cuts and a need to work toward an “innovation economy.”
In a speech one month later, Obama’s Chairman of Economic Advisers, Alan Krueger, elaborated on the dire state of America’s shrinking middle-class. The contraction, he stated, could partially be attributed to “skill-biased technical change”: work activities that have become automated over time, reducing the need for unskilled labor and favoring those with analytical training. He also highlighted the 50 year decline in tax rates for the top 0.1 percent, increased competition from overseas workers, and a lack of educational equality for children. Poor children are denied the private tutors, college prep and business network of family and friends available to their wealthier peers, which locks them into the class they are born into.
6) Tax cuts to the wealthiest have not improved the economy or created more jobs. Krueger also revealed that the tax cuts of the 2000s for top earners did not improve the economy any better than they did in the 1990s (meanwhile, income growth was stronger for lower- and middle-class families in the 1990s than in the last forty years).
Tax rates for the top income earners in America peaked in 1945 at 66.4 percent. Following decades of gradual reductions, they have since been cut in half. During the same time, the payroll tax has increased since the 1950s and individual income tax has bounced between 40-50 percent through the present day. Conversely, corporate tax declined from above 30 percent in the 1950s to under 10 percent in 2011.
All of these tax cuts are made ostensibly to improve the economy and create jobs. However, the National Bureau of Economic Research has concluded that it is young companies, “regardless of their size,” that are the real job creators in America. Tax cuts to the wealthiest do not create jobs.
7) Incomes for the top 1% have increased (but the top 0.01% make even more). Between 1979 and 2007, the average incomes of the 1 percent increased 241 percent. Compare that to 19 percent growth for the middle fifth of America and 11 percent for the bottom fifth. Put another way, in 1980 the average American CEO earned forty-two times as much as his average worker. In 2001, he earned 531 times as much.
Average income across the 1 percent is actually stratified into widely disparate echelons. Compare the $29,840 average income for the bottom 90 percent to the $161,139 of the top 10 percent. Compare the $1 million average income of the top 1 percent to the $2.8 million of the top 0.1 percent. Yet both still pale beside the $23 million average income of the top 0.01 percent.
If those numbers seem a bit overwhelming, Politizane has created a video that illustrates this staggering inequality:
8) The majority of Congress does not feel your pain. Empowered by the Constitution to represent their constituents, United States Congress members are, for the first time in history, mostly millionaires. The 2012 financial disclosure information of the 534 current Congress men and women reveals that over half of them have a net worth of $1 million or more.
After the past seven facts it is difficult to read this last one and believe that these 268 legislators have the best interests of the remaining 99 percent at heart. But if that is too presumptuous a leap, it is not too bold to say that wealthier donors, lobbyists and special interest groups enjoy greater access to these lawmakers than the average American.
In January, Congress failed to extend emergency benefits for unemployment, leaving 1.3 million people without federal aid. Congress then went on a weeklong recess that kept them from debating the issue until the end of the month. The bill was too divisive for Republicans and Democrats to reach an agreement on, though unemployment was then above 7 percent nationally.
Thankfully, the unemployed have their Congress working for them. And at $174,000 annual pay, those representatives are sure to return from their vacations committed to fresh solutions.