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Little Sympathy For Bernie Madoff’s Family

Surely, it’s been a difficult time for the wife and son of Bernie Madoff,  the man now serving a 150-year prison sentence for running a $65 billion Ponzi  scheme and bilking investors out of their life savings. The couple’s other son,  Mark Madoff, committed suicide, hanging himself with a black dog leash while his  two-year-old son slept nearby. Ruth Madoff, Bernie’s wife, says she knew  nothing about her husband’s crimes while they were happening, but must endure  the harassment, shame, and upsetting newspaper headlines that have come as a  result of the scandal. And Andrew Madoff, the other son, feels betrayed.

They’ve been through an ordeal, no question about it. But  is this really the time to be making a mass appeal for sympathy?

It seems the Madoffs think so. In a new book, Truth and  Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family,  Ruth and Andrew Madoff, along  with Andrew’s fiancee, Catherine Hooper  tell all about their time  with Bernie Madoff. The book was written by  Laurie Sandell, but “arranged,”  CBS’s 60 Minutes reports, by Hooper. And the complaints about Bernie Madoff  are many.

Said Andrew Madoff to 60 Minutes:

It was one of the hardest things to come to grips with, in trying  to  get my head around this, was that feeling that I had been used—almost  as—as a human shield by him. He—it’s—it’s unforgivable. No—no father  should  do that to their sons.

A  “human shield”? He wasn’t in the middle of a revolution in Libya.  He was the  son of a crooked financier and involved in the family  business. And while he  may well not have known about his father’s  transgressions, he surely lived well  from the deception his father  engineered.

Ruth Madoff was allowed to keep $2.5 million of  the couple’s stash, an amount she acknowledged to 60 Minutes  is a lot of  money to some people. But she added quickly that she’s  spending a lot on legal  fees. And Andrew, while portraying himself as  something of a victim, was a bit  more coy with CBS’s Morley Safer:

Safer:  Let me ask a really intrusive question. How much are you worth as we speak?

Andrew:  Well, I was fortunate over the years, running the business  that Mark and I ran.  It generated many millions of dollars in profits  and enabled my brother and I  both to live a comfortable lifestyle.

Safer:  You haven’t answered the question.

Andrew:  I made, in—in good years—several million dollars. My life, at  this point,  is an ope—is an open book. The details of my financial  past have been laid  bare completely in the lawsuit against me. I  haven’t enjoyed it. But that’s the  reality that I live in.

Safer:  Do you fear ending up broke?

Andrew:  I think that it’s a very real possibility, but I am prepared to start over  again and build myself back up.

Think  of all the people who have been unemployed for many months,  even years. The  people who have lost their homes and actually still owe  money on the mortgage  because their houses are worth so much less than  they paid for them. The people  who don’t have health insurance, and  live in fear of developing some illness  they won’t be able to afford to  treat. Does Andrew Madoff think a few million  dollars a year is still  just “comfortable”?

The  Madoff family has indeed endured a great deal of upheaval. But  this is not the  time to ask the rest of the country for support.

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, October 31, 2011

November 2, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Income Gap, Mortgages | , , , | Leave a comment

The GOP’s Lies And ‘Monstrous’ Lies

In politics these days, there are lies, “monstrous lies,” and statistics. By lies I mean the mundane nonsense that dribbles out of politicians’ mouths when the facts don’t suit them or they just don’t know any better. By “monstrous lies,” if I can borrow the phrase of the moment, I refer to the grander deceptions swallowed by whole political movements, delusions and deceptions that infect larger issues of policy and worldview.

Statistics in this case, along with pesky facts, help expose and distinguish the two species of falsehood—both of which have been on dramatic display during the GOP presidential primary campaign.

Take, for example, Michele Bachmann, who is practically a walking, talking full-employment plan for journalistic fact-checkers. Appearing at last week’s Republican debate (sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party Express—does that mean that the Tea Party is now part of the lamestream media?), Bachmann repeated a favorite talking point, that the Constitution forbids states to mandate that their citizens buy health insurance, Romneycare-style. “If you believe that states can have it and that it’s constitutional, you’re not committed” to repealing the Affordable Care Act, she argued. But the conservative case against the healthcare law rests on the notion that because the Constitution does not explicitly authorize such a law, the federal government is barred from instituting one. Since the 10th Amendment reserves powers not delegated to the federal government back to the states, it is constitutional for, say, Massachusetts to require its citizens to purchase health insurance (or car insurance, for that matter). Bachmann’s stance, one blogger at the influential conservative blog Red State argued, is “either ignorance on display or dishonest pandering.”

Bachmann was even more egregious after the debate, when she went on Fox News Channel, and later the Today show, and asserted that Gardasil, the vaccine that Texas Gov. Rick Perry had tried to mandate for Texas schoolgirls, caused “mental retardation.” It’s such whole-cloth twaddle that even the likes of Rush Limbaugh (“she might have jumped the shark”) and the Weekly Standard (“Bachmann seemed to go off the deep end”) blasted her for it.

But Bachmann is literally and figuratively small potatoes, Perry’s arrival having returned her to the lower tier of GOP contenders. And she is minor league compared to Perry in the “monstrous lie” department.

The phrase of course comes from his memorable description of Social Security. “It is a Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today, you’ve paid into a program that’s going to be there,” Perry said at his first presidential debate. “Anybody that’s for the status quo with Social Security today is involved with a monstrous lie to our kids, and that’s not right.” Elsewhere he has called the program “by any measure … a failure” and cited it as “by far the best example” of an extra-constitutional program “violently tossing aside any respect for our founding principles.”

It’s a catchy turn of argument, but one monstrously divorced from reality. His “failure” kept nearly 14 million seniors and 1.1 million children out of poverty last year, according to Census Bureau data. Here are the facts about Social Security: Without any modification, it will pay out full benefits for the next 24 years. Starting in 2035, its trust fund will no longer be able to pay full benefits. Instead it will pay roughly three quarters benefits through 2084, which is as foreseeable a future as anyone can peer into in these matters—a problematic future, but hardly a monstrous one and certainly not an impossible one.

Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office has produced 30 policy recommendations, some combination of which could fix the Social Security shortfall. Here’s one: Remove the payroll tax cap so that more wages are subject to the payroll tax. That would make the program solvent for the 75-year window—again, hardly a monstrous situation. (To put it another way, the Social Security shortfall figures to be roughly 0.8 percent of GDP—roughly the same as the cost of extending the Bush tax cuts over the same period.)

Social Security wasn’t the only topic this week of Texas-size Perry misinformation. Obama “had $800 billion worth of stimulus in the first round of stimulus,” Perry said. “It created zero jobs.”

This gem—a staple of GOP talking points—earned a “Pants on Fire” rating from PolitiFact, which pointed to several independent analyses that came to quite different conclusions. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the first round of stimulus created or saved between 1.3 million and 3.6 million jobs; HIS/Global Insight put the number at 2.45 million, Macroeconomic Advisers at 2.3 million, and Moody’s at 2.5 million. The GOP may disdain jobs that come from public spending (recall Speaker John Boehner’s “so be it” comment when asked about budget cuts leading to fewer jobs), but they cannot seriously argue that the economy would be better off if the ranks of the unemployed were 2.5 million persons more swollen. So instead forgo the inconvenient truth in favor of the monstrous lie.

These lies are monstrous because they are not one-offs, but are central to the GOP case—that Social Security (except, they are quick to add, for those currently on it) and the stimulus plan don’t work. So they have real-world policy consequences—see the emerging conservative line of attack against Obama’s American Jobs Act, that it is a stimulus retread. “Four hundred-plus billion dollars in this package,” Perry concluded at the debate. “And I can do the math on that one. Half of zero jobs is going to be zero jobs.”

He may be able to do math, but his grasp on the facts is tenuous at best.


By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, September 22, 2011

September 22, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economy, Elections, Federal Budget, GOP, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Teaparty, Voters, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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