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Wednesday, 25 January 2012 09:00

Scott Walker’s Plutonomy: An Economy for the One Percent

Written by  Mary Bottari | PRWatch
Scott Walker NYC fundraiser invitation Scott Walker NYC fundraiser invitation

While volunteer after volunteer from each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties marched into the state’s election board to deposit over one million signatures for the recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Walker was nowhere to be found.

At the hour petitions were being deposited on January 17, Mother Jones revealed that Walker was scheduled to attend a high-dollar fundraiser in the heart of the New York’s financial district at 339 Park Avenue -- the towering headquarters for global financial giant CitiGroup. The $5,000 per couple fundraiser was hosted by none other than Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, former CEO of AIG.

Walker’s choice to be on Wall Street the day of the recall filing is so astounding, for many it goes far beyond the notion of a tin ear. "Walker could not have sent a clearer signal to Wall Street, that he is on the side of the 1 percent ready to do their bidding and take the heat," said Scot Ross of the Wisconsin group, One Wisconsin Now. Ross points to the data his group compiled to support his claim that Walker is constructing an economy that only the 1 percent could love.  

CitiGroup and AIG

No two institutions are more responsible for the economic collapse of America than CitiGroup and AIG.

Citi is the original too-big-to-fail bank. Citi’s merger with Travelers Group in 1998 blew apart the Glass-Steagall protections that had kept the U.S. financial system safe from major financial crises for 60 years. 

Citi was a primary driver of the subprime mess. A top Citi official testified before Congress that the firm was betting that the housing market would go sour as early as 2006, yet it remained the nation’s top lender of subprime mortgages and continued to underwrite billions in subprime mortgage-backed securities. It hedged risk by taking out insurance in the form of credit default swaps with firms like AIG.

Like Goldman, Citi has been caught betting against its own customers. Citi’s $285 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) -- for fraudulently selling packages of mortgage-backed securities that they knew would fail -- was just tossed out by a federal judge who called it “is neither fair, nor reasonable, nor adequate, nor in the public interest.”

Today, Citi is considered by many to be a zombie bank, with billions in toxic assets and growing legal liability. Yet, Citi CEO Vikram Pandit hauled in $23 million in bonus money in 2011, giving  him plenty of pocket change to support pet politicians.

It was a surprise to see Hank Greenberg's name on the Walker invite (below). Greenberg was last seen fleeing down Wall Street with Elliot Spitzer hot on his heels, pursuing him for securities fraud and bid-rigging in 2005. AIG later settled federal and state charges for $1.6 billion, one of the largest fines in history. Greenberg, now the CEO of global finance firm CV Starr, and Co., settled the charges against him for $15 million.

All this took place, before that critical week in September of 2008 when the Lehman Brother’s and AIG collapse triggered a global economic meltdown. AIG had issued some $500 billion worth of credit default swaps it could not pay for when mortgage-backed securities went sour. In 2008, AIG was taken over by the U.S. government and bailed out by taxpayers to the tune of $68 billion. Most of that  money is still outstanding.

Right now, Walker can raise unlimited sums due to a quirk in Wisconsin’s recall law. How much he raised from Wall Street on January 17 is still unknown, although in his latest report, Walker raised 60 percent of his campaign war chest from out of state according to One Wisconsin Now. This included four eye-popping $250,000 contributions.

CitiGroup’s “Plutonomy” Memos

In his 2009 movie, Capitalism: A Love Story, Michael Moore unveiled two explosive memos written by Citi analyst in 2005 and 2006. The memos coin the term “plutonomy” and describe in glowing terms Citi's view of a U.S. economy entirely driven by the wealth and purchasing power of the 1 percent. The memos can be accessed here and offer a stunning glimpse into the cognition of Wall Street elite.

Plutocrats Drive the Economy: “The world is dividing into two blocs -- the plutonomies, where economic growth is powered by and largely consumed by the wealthy few, and the rest. Plutonomies have occurred before in sixteenth century Spain, in seventeenth century Holland, the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties in the U.S.”

The Future: “We project that the plutonomies will likely see even more income inequality, disproportionately feeding off a further rise in the profit share in their economies, capitalist-friendly governments, more technology-driven productivity, and globalization.” "Society and governments need to be amendable to disproportionately allow/encourage the few to retain the fatter profit share."

Forget about Main Street, Invest in the Plutocracy: “Since we think the plutonomy is here, is going to get stronger…” “It is a good time to switch out of stocks that sell to the masses and back to the plutonomy basket.”

While Henry Ford believed that the economy thrived when the people who made the cars could afford to buy them, the Citi plutocrats believe that growth is powered only by the super rich and that catering to their taste for imported baubles and bags should be the goal of every investor and policymaker.

Some believe Scott Walker got the memo. 

In Wisconsin, a Budget Only a Plutocrat Could Love

If you believe that “the earth is being held up by the muscular arms of its entrepreneur plutocrats,” then the first thing you should do as governor is send them some money.

Massive tax breaks for the wealthy: With a series of bills, Walker delivered $2.3 billion dollars worth of tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy, according to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo. He also gave them Health Savings Accounts and other perks for the wealthy that few Wisconsinites will be able to utilize. 

Race to the bottom in wages: At the same time,  Wisconsin protesters believe that Walker decided to balance the state's budget on the back of the middle class. Walker’s first “budget repair bill” forced concessions from Wisconsin’s 380,000 public workers, who already made on average 8.2 percent less than private sector workers. Walker's collective bargaining bill amounts to an 11 percent cut in pay for workers making $25,000 a year, and 8.5 percent cut in pay for workers making $50,000 a year, according to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo.

Pounding the middle class: Walker’s budget bill made steep cuts in the state’s largest programs that aid the middle class: $749 million in direct cuts to schools; $848 million in cuts to Medicaid; $170 million in cuts in state aid to cities and counties. The  cuts in state aid contribute to the fact that Wisconsin now leads the country in public-sector job loss. The working poor were hammered as well, with $56 million in cuts to the Earned Income Tax Credit program and cuts to BadgerCare, where Walker is threatening to deny 65,000 residents health care.

Rejection of federal funds: At the same time, Walker has turned down billions in federal assistance: $810 million for light rail (funds quickly snapped up by other governors); $23 million in broadband money (the first state in the nation to turn down broadband); $38 million for health care exchanges, and $11 million for health care for the poor.

The result of all these changes? Employment in Wisconsin dropped off a cliff the in the month of July, the month that the Walker budget kicked in. At the same time, employment nationally was on the uptick, as can be seen from these compelling graphs by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

One realtor put it this way: “Walker doesn’t get it. People don't want to move to 'Wississippi.' They want to move to a modern, pro-growth state where there will be jobs, modern infrastructure and opportunity. His policies are scaring off my customers.” A local economic think tank dubbed the issue "the price of extremism."

Plutoparticipants?

The Citigroup memos pose the question, how long will the electorate continue to endorse plutonomy?

“The rising wealth gap between the rich and poor will probably at some point lead to a political backlash,” opines the Citi analysts. “Whilst the rich are getting a greater share of the wealth, and the poor a lesser share, political enfranchisement remains as it was – one person one vote (in the plutonomies). At some point it is likely that labor will fight back against the rising profit share of the rich and there will be political backlash…”

Some might say that the residents of the state of Wisconsin have also gotten the memo. They did not just take out their anger and frustration with sustained street protests, frequently topping 100,000 last winter. They put their discontent into democratic action, petitioning for the redress of grievances in the unique way provided for by the Wisconsin Constitution.

They are refusing to be Citigroup's "plutoparticipants."

 

Link to original article: PRWatch

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  • Women: Occupy the Left
    Women: Occupy the Left

    Women’s rights have always been a bit of an add-on for the left. At this spring’s Left Forum, only fifteen of 440 panels touched on any feminist issue, broadly understood. New Left Review is famous, at least in my apartment, for its high testosterone content (despite being edited by a woman); ditto Verso, the left’s flagship publishing house, where women authors are as rare as Siberian tigers.

    Written on Thursday, 03 May 2012 20:06 Read more...
  • Conservative Nonprofit Acts as a Stealth Business Lobbyist
    Conservative Nonprofit Acts as a Stealth Business Lobbyist

    Desperate for new revenue, Ohio lawmakers introduced legislation last year that would make it easier to recover money from businesses that defraud the state. It was quickly flagged at the Washington headquarters of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a business-backed group that views such “false claims” laws as encouraging frivolous lawsuits. ALEC’s membership includes not only corporations, but nearly 2,000 state legislators across the country — including dozens who would vote on the Ohio bill.

    Written on Monday, 23 April 2012 19:50 Read more...
  • Meet the US media companies lobbying against transparency
    Meet the US media companies lobbying against transparency

    Corporate owners or sister companies of some of the biggest names in journalism against FCC order to post political ad data. News organizations cultivate a reputation for demanding transparency, whether by suing for access to government documents, dispatching camera crews to the doorsteps of recalcitrant politicians, or editorializing in favor of open government.

    Written on Sunday, 22 April 2012 15:31 Read more...
  • Former ALEC Supporters Now Find Connection Toxic
    Former ALEC Supporters Now Find Connection Toxic

    With thousands of consumers expressing their concerns about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to corporations across America, even former supporters of ALEC are feeling the heat, and some are rushing to distance themselves from the organization. YUM! Brands (owners of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut) became the 12th corporate member of ALEC to announce it is leaving the organization yesterday.

    Written on Friday, 20 April 2012 15:24 Read more...
  • A Cruel Ethos - Pay Upfront or Die
    A Cruel Ethos - Pay Upfront or Die

    Our acceptance of death for those who can’t afford medical care is unique among the advanced industrialized nations of the world. This ethos allows people who don’t have enough money or enough medical insurance to die everyday. We remain blind to the humanistic healthcare ethos of other nations, that result in greatly reduced costs and superior outcomes.

    Written on Wednesday, 18 April 2012 03:20 Read more...
  • Drug War Nightmare: How We Created a Massive Racial Caste System in America
    Drug War Nightmare: How We Created a Massive Racial Caste System in America

    The drug war has created a new Jim Crow system. Ever since Barack Obama lifted his right hand and took his oath of office, pledging to serve the United States as its 44th president, ordinary people and their leaders around the globe have been celebrating our nation’s “triumph over race.”  Obama’s election has been touted as the final nail in the coffin of Jim Crow, the bookend placed on the history of racial caste in America. 

    Written on Tuesday, 27 March 2012 19:15 Read more...
  • How ALEC Is Creating Florida-Style Messes in Other States
    How ALEC Is Creating Florida-Style Messes in Other States

    Wisconsin is a rod-and-gun state, with a hunting history that has fostered traditions of broad gun ownership and respect for the right to bear arms.

    So how did Wisconsin get saddled with a “Castle Doctrine” law that mirrors some of the worst aspects of the Florida legislation that's now at the center of the controversy over the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

    Written on Tuesday, 27 March 2012 17:42 Read more...
  • We Need More Heels Running Around Capitol Hill
    We Need More Heels Running Around Capitol Hill

    "[I]t will come, but I shall not see it ... It is inevitable. We can no more deny forever the right of self-government to one-half our people than we could keep the Negro forever in bondage. It will not be wrought by the same disrupting forces that freed the slave, but come it will, and I believe within a generation."

    Written on Tuesday, 27 March 2012 13:31 Read more...
  • The 1%’s Doctrine for the 99%
    The 1%’s Doctrine for the 99%

    Many on the American Right insist federal actions from the Civil War to recent banking regulations were encroachments on states’ rights and personal liberties, but underlying these claims – in the 1860s and today – is the greed of the richest 1 percent treating the 99 percent as chattel, writes Mark Ames.

    Written on Monday, 26 March 2012 21:21 Read more...
  • Congress Takes a Step or Two Forward, Two Steps Back
    Congress Takes a Step or Two Forward, Two Steps Back

    Watching some of the news coming from Capitol Hill this week, two old music videos started buzzing around in our heads. One was the classic “I’m Just a Bill,” from Schoolhouse Rock, in which a beleaguered piece of legislation sits outside on the marble steps hoping to someday become a law.

    Written on Monday, 26 March 2012 21:15 Read more...

PDA In Your State

Join "Countdown to Coverage" Share TPP with your Daily Newspaper

CWA devised a simple plan for which they were uniquely suited: drag TPP out of the shadows and into the light - one city at a time - using a medium they understand intimately: Daily Newspapers!

Two CWA members - Dave Felice in Denver, CO and Madelyn Elder in Portland, OR have started the ball rolling. We just need to keep up the momentum leading up to a big day of petition deliveries.

Button-ShareTPPWithNewspaper

Step 1 is to send an Op-Ed to your Daily Newspaper.

Sign the TPP Fast Track Petitions

MoveOn.org Petition - Congress Don't Renew Fast Track

Public Citizen Petition - Congress Must Reject Fast Track Authority

MoveOn.org Petition - Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership

CREDO Petition - Stop the Massive Corporate Power Grab

 

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of