Goldman Sachs churns out enormous profits from its high-rolling, casino investment schemes, while also churning out fat paychecks for its top executives. They literally sack up the gold, even as their speculative gambles have wreaked havoc on our real economy.
But, finally recognizing that their public approval rating has sunk lower than mad cow disease, Goldman’s banking barons now want you to know that they feel your pain and are eager to “give back” to the people. So — ta-da! — they’ve transformed themselves into philanthropists, having goosed up the bank’s foundation in order to flash their “charitable side.” Goldman’s chief of staff noted that “people said we weren’t doing enough” to address the gross inequities created by Wall Streeters, so they’ve turned their foundation into the fourth-largest corporate charity in America. In an orchestrated show that the New York Times dubbed “reputation redemption,” the bank’s charitable arm doled out $241 million last year, including grants to women in developing nations and small-business projects here in the U.S.
That sum would be impressive, except for a couple of ugly hickies on it. First, the foundation spends an unseemly amount on slick videos and PR efforts to extol Goldman’s new “generosity,” diverting philanthropic funds from altruism to corporate promotion. One Goldman banker, who’s appalled at the self-congratulatory splashiness, said of the charity: “It’s run as if it’s a Broadway show.”
Second, $241 million sounds like a lot — until you see that the financial empire’s income last year topped $34 billion. Do the math, and it turns out these “bankers with a heart of gold” actually allocated less than one percent of Goldman’s income to its widely ballyhooed beneficence.
How pathetic. Even poor people put these multimillionaires to shame, regularly donating 3.2 percent of their meager incomes to charity. Trying to buy redemption on the cheap is just another banker scam, but why aren’t we surprised that they would even view charity as a self-serving hustle? After all, on Wall Street, it’s assumed that anything can be bought and sold — from fraudulent investment packages to congress critters.
It’s no surprise, then, that the wizards of Goldman Sachs assumed they could purchase an image makeover, convincing us gullible rubes that they’re not just a pack of malicious, money-grubbing narcissists, but at heart, are huggable bankers who want nothing more than to serve humanity. Hence, the Goldman Sachs Foundation spreading a few of its millions hither, thither and yon in a flashy show of charity designed to mask the bank’s voracious ethic of greed.
But whom do the Goldman Sachers think they’re fooling? By putting a pittance of their billions into charity, they’re merely updating the old PR shtick attempted a century ago by the billionaire robber baron, John D. Rockefeller, who went around in public passing out dimes to a few children in the vain hope of buffing up his sour public image. But, worse, Goldman’s sly executives are not even donating their own dimes! It’s the shareholders’ money that these bankers are doling out. Worse yet, it’s also our money. By ours, I mean that Goldman’s so-called “gifts” are deducted from the income taxes the bank owes, thus, shorting America’s public treasury of funds that We The People need for schools, roads, parks, clean water and other essentials to advance our society’s common good.
Also, what is “charitable” about funneling $375,000 into one of Bill Clinton’s show-and-tell PR events? This donation by Goldman’s foundation went to Clinton’s Global Initiative conference in September, allowing the banking giant to plaster its brand on the event, including being the “host” of a panel moderated by Chelsea Clinton. Come on, that’s not charity — it’s advertising.
The more Wall Street bankers try to purchase morality, the less they have. We don’t want their false “charity” — we want honest accountability for their destructive greed, and we want a restructured, decentralized and ethical banking system based on fairness and common decency.
By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, November 7, 2013
“Replace The Sequester, Not Sebelius”: While She Tries To Fix A Broken Website, Congress Allows Rest Of Government To Crash
An embarrassing mistake, which should be considered a scandal, has caused the Internal Revenue Service to perform far fewer tax reviews and cut back its fraud investigations, costing the Treasury billions of dollars. Have there been any angry House hearings? No.
That same mistake has forced the National Institutes of Health to cut more than 700 advanced research grants, delaying the progress of vaccines and experimental treatments. No hearings.
And it has cost the economy hundreds of thousands of jobs, according to the Congressional Budget Office, but there is no sign that Republicans want to investigate what went wrong.
That’s because the mistake is called the sequester, and Republicans know what went wrong: they caused it by threatening default in 2011 and then refusing any budget agreement that included new taxes the next year. They’d much rather investigate a serious bumble by the Obama administration in rolling out the health-care website — which will eventually be fixed — than examine the effects of their own actions.
The paradox of Republican complaints about the website’s failings has been widely noted: They are pretending to care about the technical problems of a law they want abolished. But in fact the hypocrisy goes much deeper than that. In virtually every department of government, the right wing has used the sequester to encourage government to stumble, creating backups and denials of service that will be far more damaging than the ones going on at www.healthcare.gov. The sequester, which has been the Tea Party wing’s sole legislative victory, is evidence that its members want government to do less with less, and that they aren’t interested in having it work efficiently in delivering services to the public.
Any lawmaker who came to Washington to improve government, rather than shrink it, would do everything possible to reverse the sequester, as Democrats will try to do in a budget conference beginning this week. (They will be joined in that effort by a few Republicans who want only to turn back the cuts to the Defense Department.) But most Republicans, ranging from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to the furthest extreme in the House, have said they have no intention of letting the budget caps expire, and certainly aren’t interested in replacing them with higher revenue.
The only thing they have clamored to replace is Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services secretary. While she tries to fix a broken website, Congress is allowing the rest of government to slowly crash.
By: David Firestone, Editors Blog, The New York Times, October 28, 2013
“Another Great Anti-Obamacare Lie Exposed”: Data Proves ACA Not Responsible For Growth In Part-Time Jobs
One of the more popular economic myths spun by the anti-Obamacare forces is the suggestion that employers are avoiding the law by moving to an employee model based on part-time workers rather than full-time employees.
For those committed to destroying the Affordable Care act by any means possible, who can blame them for seeking to misdirect based on using only a small part of the data as it pertains to employment when telling the full story blows up the entire meme? Such a claim is, after all, ear candy for an audience looking for any reason to hate the law, even if they don’t quite know why they so are so displeased.
The problem, however, is that this popular line of attack comes with a rather significant flaw—the claim is provably false.
While there are, no doubt, a few companies out there moving to increase part-time employees at the expense of full-time workers—mostly involving retail and fast food companies that have always depended heavily on a part-time employee model—it turns out that the frantic claims arguing that the ACA is causing some massive loss of full-time work is simply not supported by the empirical data.
While we will get to that data in just a moment, to better understand how the opponents of healthcare reform are selling this bit of disinformation, it is important to know the basis of their claim.
It begins by acknowledging that 27 million Americans are currently employed in part-time jobs—a number that is, in fact, well above the historical norms.
Left on its own, that bit of information ties in quite nicely with the suggestion that we can hold Obamacare responsible for these numbers when one considers that employing full-time workers holds the potential for greater benefits obligations for a company with 50 or more employees.
However, when one looks just one layer beneath the surface—a bit of research one might expect honest brokers to perform before informing the public that the sky is falling—a very different picture emerges.
There are—as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)—two classifications of part-time workers.
Those who are working 35 hours or less because they cannot accomplish the full-time employment they desire are called “part-time for economic reasons”, while those who work 35 hours or less because that is all the work they want are part-time by choice.
A more careful review of the latest BLS jobs report out last week—a review in which the anti-Obamacare forces do not want you to engage in—reveals that while we do, indeed, currently have 27 million part-time workers in the economy, only 8 million of these people are working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job.
That means that 19 million Americans are working part-time because that is all the work they desire to have.
What’s more, not only does the September jobs report reveal that the number of part-timers wishing for full-time work showed no increase when compared to the previous month’s numbers, the report provides a piece of data far more important—
In September of 2012, the number of part-timers seeking full-time work comprised 6 percent of the workforce. One year later, the September jobs report reveals that the number has shrunk to 5.5 percent.
Thus, not only has this supposed employer desire to avoid Obamacare not increased the number of part-time workers in the country; we actually see that the numbers are on the decline.
Now, before you launch into a cynical attack on the numbers as something ‘fudged’ by the Obama Administration, you might want to bear in mind that the opponents of the ACA have based their own argument on the very same numbers—albeit using only the top-line figures to make their misleading point rather than conveying the full data that shows a very different result.
As the old saying goes, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
There is something else you should probably know when attempting to make sense of the part-time worker picture—
As the following BLS chart reveals, the number of part-time workers as a percentage of the entire workforce has been on the decline since the numbers peaked with the onset of our deep recession in 2008—well before the concept of Obamacare entered into the public lexicon and conscious.
Does it surprise anyone that, as the economy has improved—even if far slower than we would like—the number of part-time workers have declined?
Yet, to hear the anti-Obamacare forces tell the story, not only is part-time work increasing—when it very clearly is not—they have chosen to pretend that this is the result of the Affordable Care Act rather than obvious impact our economic circumstances would naturally play in the part-time versus full-time worker scenario.
Clearly, more part-time workers seeking full-time employment have found more success as the economy has improved.
So, should we give Obamacare the credit for the reduction in part-time numbers? I don’t think so as, to do so, would be as ridiculous as the efforts to blame Obamacare for the large top-line number of part-time jobs.
More liberal babble from an Obamacare apologist?
While you are entitled to think so if this brings some measure of comfort, you should probably know that even the staunchly anti-Obamacare publication, The Wall Street Journal—relying on data rather than right-wing hysteria—has reached the very same conclusion.
If you find yourself surprised that so much of the part-time workforce is comprised of people preferring a shorter workweek to a full-time job, you might ask yourself who, typically, seeks part-time work?
Many of us can recall our younger days as students in need of some spending money. We were not the least bit interested in full-time employment at that time, only that weekend job to earn some gasoline and date money.
Nothing much has changed in this regard for today’s high school and college students as they continue to occupy their spot in the count of part-time workers by choice.
So, where did the growth in part-time workers by choice come from following our recession?
The answer can be found in two categories—
First, we have the homemakers who elect to make the children their priority when allocating their time.
When the recession hit, many of these people found that the breadwinner in the family was being adversely affected by the poor economy and resolved to help the family finances by getting a part-time job to augment income. Now, as the economy slowly improves, some of these people are able to leave the workforce entirely and return full-time to their desired day job—”stay-at-home” mom or dad. This is, no doubt, playing a role in the declining number of part-time workers in the workforce.
Secondly, we have those who hit retirement age only to discover that their savings and Social Security payments were insufficient to support the lifestyle they had hoped to experience during their sunset years.
It is no secret that the lack of sufficient savings to support of seniors in retirement is turning into an epidemic problem. If you are, somehow, unaware of this, I recommend that you read a piece entitled, “The U.S. To Face A Married Couples Retirement Crisis” written by my Forbes colleague, Richard Eisenberg, to get up to speed.
As a result of the difficulties facing retirees, it can come as no surprise that, as the baby boomers have reached the age of retirement, they play—and will continue to play—a major part in increasing the number of part-time workers in the country. These are people who want to, at the least, accomplish semi-retirement if they cannot afford to fully retire and opt to augment their savings and Social Security with part-time work.
When you consider how and why the numbers of part-time by choice employees grew following the onset of the recession and the arrival of baby boomer retirement, only the hardest of heads can fail to see how the top-line number of part-time workers grew, why it is now decreasing and why a full two-thirds of the part-time work force chose to be part-time workers. It would also take a very committed ideologue to avoid the stark fact that these part-timers by choice are not relevant to an analysis of the impact of Obamacare on the availability of full-time work.
What is relevant to the question are the eight million part-timer for economic reasons.
Given that the data is crystal clear that these numbers are falling year-to-year, it defies logic to claim that Obamacare is forcing these numbers upward. Indeed, even if the number of people forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time work was on the rise, it would not make the case that Obamacare is to blame as the weak economy would present a better explanation. Such a result would, however, at least give some basis for the possibility that the ACA is as fault.
But with the numbers of those who are part-time because they can’t find full time work falling, the argument becomes absurd.
As I often note, there are some valid arguments—even if I might disagree with the much of the logic behind theses arguments—to support those who wish to take a stand against the Affordable Care Act.
However, when the opinion-leaders who seek to guide your point of view away from a fair, reasonable and rational assessment of the law by feeding you false arguments and half-stories easily disproven by readily obtainable data, it defies reason that anyone—whether for or against the law—would believe anything else these people are trying to peddle.
Simply put, if you are going to hate this law, don’t you think you should hate it based on actual information and data rather than half-truths and misrepresentations?
By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, October 27, 2013
Once upon a time, walking around shouting “The end is nigh” got you labeled a kook, someone not to be taken seriously. These days, however, all the best people go around warning of looming disaster. In fact, you more or less have to subscribe to fantasies of fiscal apocalypse to be considered respectable.
And I do mean fantasies. Washington has spent the past three-plus years in terror of a debt crisis that keeps not happening, and, in fact, can’t happen to a country like the United States, which has its own currency and borrows in that currency. Yet the scaremongers can’t bring themselves to let go.
Consider, for example, Stanley Druckenmiller, the billionaire investor, who has lately made a splash with warnings about the burden of our entitlement programs. (Gee, why hasn’t anyone else thought of making that point?) He could talk about the problems we may face a decade or two down the road. But, no. He seems to feel that he must warn about the looming threat of a financial crisis worse than 2008.
Or consider the deficit-scold organization Fix the Debt, led by the omnipresent Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. It was, I suppose, predictable that Fix the Debt would respond to the latest budget deal with a press release trying to shift the focus to its favorite subject. But the organization wasn’t content with declaring that America’s long-run budget issues remain unresolved, which is true. It had to warn that “continuing to delay confronting our debt is letting a fire burn that could get out of control at any moment.”
As I’ve already suggested, there are two remarkable things about this kind of doomsaying. One is that the doomsayers haven’t rethought their premises despite being wrong again and again — perhaps because the news media continue to treat them with immense respect. The other is that as far as I can tell nobody, and I mean nobody, in the looming-apocalypse camp has tried to explain exactly how the predicted disaster would actually work.
On the Chicken Little aspect: It’s actually awesome, in a way, to realize how long cries of looming disaster have filled our airwaves and op-ed pages. For example, I just reread an op-ed article by Alan Greenspan in The Wall Street Journal, warning that our budget deficit will lead to soaring inflation and interest rates. What about the reality of low inflation and low rates? That, he declares in the article, is “regrettable, because it is fostering a sense of complacency.”
It’s curious how readily people who normally revere the wisdom of markets declare the markets all wrong when they fail to panic the way they’re supposed to. But the really striking thing at this point is the date: Mr. Greenspan’s article was published in June 2010, almost three and a half years ago — and both inflation and interest rates remain low.
So has the ex-Maestro reconsidered his views after having been so wrong for so long? Not a bit. His new (and pretty bad) book declares that “the bias toward unconstrained deficit spending is our top domestic economic problem.”
Meanwhile, about that oft-prophesied, never-arriving debt crisis: In Senate testimony more than two and half years ago, Mr. Bowles warned that we were likely to face a fiscal crisis within around two years, and he urged his listeners to “just stop for a minute and think about what happens” if “our bankers in Asia” stop buying our debt. But has he, or anyone in his camp, actually tried to think through what would happen? No, not really. They just assume that it would cause soaring interest rates and economic collapse, when both theory and evidence suggest otherwise.
Don’t believe me? Look at Japan, a country that, like America, has its own currency and borrows in that currency, and has much higher debt relative to G.D.P. than we do. Since taking office, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has, in effect, engineered exactly the kind of loss of confidence the debt worriers fear — that is, he has persuaded investors that deflation is over and inflation lies ahead, which reduces the attractiveness of Japanese bonds. And the effects on the Japanese economy have been entirely positive! Interest rates are still low, because people expect the Bank of Japan (the equivalent of our Federal Reserve) to keep them low; the yen has fallen, which is a good thing, because it make Japanese exports more competitive. And Japanese economic growth has actually accelerated.
Why, then, should we fear a debt apocalypse here? Surely, you may think, someone in the debt-apocalypse community has offered a clear explanation. But nobody has.
So the next time you see some serious-looking man in a suit declaring that we’re teetering on the precipice of fiscal doom, don’t be afraid. He and his friends have been wrong about everything so far, and they literally have no idea what they’re talking about.
By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 24, 2013
Woo hoo, even.
It was a nick-of-time rescue, like when Polly Pureheart is whisked off the railroad tracks right before the train comes barreling through, or the correct wire is snipped and the bomb timer stops counting down with just seconds left.
Last week, hours before a historic default, Congress finally stopped playing chicken with the world’s largest economy and ended the government shutdown.
So . . . hurray, right?
Crisis averted, lessons learned, common sense restored. Everything’s good, is it not?
Well, no. Not even close.
Pardon the pooping of the party, but it’s hard to cheer the aversion of a crisis that:
A) Was entirely manufactured.
B) Will in all likelihood recur very soon.
This is what it has come to in Tea Party America: government of the crisis, by the crisis, for the crisis, government that lurches from emergency to emergency, accomplishing little, resolving less and generally behaving with all the thoughtful reflection of a toddler holding her breath until she gets her way.
Let no one claim this is no big deal because we’ve had shutdowns before. Let no one chirp that this is how things are supposed to work — checks and balances and all. Let none of us act as if it’s anything but bizarre to see a militant faction in one chamber of the legislature bring government to a halt because it doesn’t like a law.
Most of all, let us finally stop pretending this is only about that law, the Affordable Care Act, and the delusional claim that it will usher in socialism, communism and slavery, resurrect Vladimir Lenin and send Nazis marching down Pennsylvania Avenue.
No, this is about Obamascare, the terror of what some still regard as alien and their consequent refusal, even five years in, to accept the legitimacy of a president twice elected with nary a hanging chad in sight.
The only good news out of this 16-day debacle is that his refusal to kowtow to these bullyboy tactics suggests that the president does, indeed, have a spine, rumors to the contrary notwithstanding.
Repeat: That’s the only good news. Anyone expecting the even-better news that this closes the book on the Tea Party, given its abject failure to achieve its stated goal of defunding the Affordable Care Act, will be bitterly disappointed. These are true believers. True believers thrive on rejection.
Note that, even as other Republicans were sounding appropriately chastened, Tea Party activists were assailing the party for “surrender” and were disavowing regret. As the shutdown was going down in flames, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a Tea Party stalwart, told CNN, “Unfortunately, once again, it appears the Washington establishment is refusing to listen to the American people.”
This, as polls show the American people’s esteem for the GOP and the Tea Party at record lows and 62 percent of respondents were telling Gallup they wanted their representatives to compromise so the government could reopen. Gallup also tells us Americans now identify government dysfunction as this country’s biggest problem.
The disconnect between what Cruz says the people are saying and what they are actually saying should surprise no one. The defining characteristic of the Tea People has always been their ability to convince themselves reality is whatever they need it to be.
Reality, after all, is not the point. Ideological purity is.
So we will likely return to this crossroads, or one very much like it. Any hope of avoiding that rests with the dwindling population of adults in the GOP and their ability to make their party realize what should have long ago been obvious.
They can have purity or they can have power. They cannot have both.
By: Leonard Pitts, J., Featured Post, The National Memo, October 21, 2013