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Here's the not so surprising truth. The rich got a hell of a lot richer AGAIN this year and the vast majority of Americans became worse off. The numbers out this week only highlight what we already know: we've been had.
Citigroup earned $4.4 Billion in the first quarter of this year and Bank of America $3.2 Billion. The top 25 hedge fund managers earned on average $1 Billion each this past year. Meanwhile, real unemployment is nearly double the official 10% unemployment rate and average Americans continue to struggle with pay cuts and job losses as Wall Street fa tcat bankers continue to squeeze more and more profit out of us. The fat cats take our money in two ways: financialization and government corporate welfare financed with our tax dollars.
Financialization is the way most banks make profit theses days. It's making money out of fees and services. Need to refinance that debt? You'll have to pay a variety of fees to the bank. Overdraw on your account? Fees will be paid. Need to wire money? More fees.
Government welfare, in the form of TARP, is such an obvious con game that even middle-of- the-road, pro-business sorts are getting angry. After all, the banks got billions of dollars in very low interest loans that they then turned around and lent back to tax payers at high interest rates- on credit cards, home loans, etc.- all the while refusing to reward us for saving money by keeping the interest rates they're willing to pay on savings accounts and CDs at a little over 1%.
Sadly, because our government generally creates legislation to please the highest bidder, Wall Street is currently spending enough money on lobbying Congress to kill any and all banking reform. That's too bad because the proposed banking reform law before the Senante Banking Committee would actually help make things better. As it stands now, the bank reform law would stop tax payer bailouts by forcing banks to reserve enough money that they can cover their own risky investments. It would also end the virtually unregulated derivative trading market as well as set up a consumer watchdog agency to protect us from things like predatory lending.
The lobbyists for Wall Street have been quite successful in convincing lawmakers to oppose the reform. Republican lawmakers are now unanimously opposed to banking reform. Even worse, the GOP and its propaganda machine at Fox are continuing to exploit the white fear of Tea Party sorts in order to create divisions between working Americans, divisions that only ever benefit the rich. Working Americans who ought to be united in our anger against the rich are far too busy hating each other to notice that we've been had. In other words, the financial crisis has not been a crisis but a huge pay off for the rich.
But amidst all the 4/19 demonstrations and counter demonstrations, who would notice? I hate the right-wing nuts, and they hate the likes of me, and Wall Street fat cats have their hands in our wallets while we argue over the 2nd Amendment and immigration issues. These are important issues, to be sure, but they are being exploited by the wealthy politicians and bankers and their PR foks so that we don't look at the "man behind the curtain" and realize that the long-term redistribution of wealth to the top 5% in this country continues even in the current "crisis."
Perhaps the current scandal over Goldman Sachs, the absolute obvious fact that they ripped us off and made a fortune doing it, will allow average Americans to figure out where their interests really lie. But with all 41 Republicans in the Senate opposed to banking reform, with Fox News blathering on about such socialist interference with the "free" market, I am willing to predict that the fat cats on Wall St. will continue to get richer even as the rest of us get poorer.
"The legislative battle over health care reform is not over," Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, chairman of the House Republican Conference, wrote in a letter to members ahead of the Veterans Day break. Pence urged them to keep reaching out to constituents and host town hall meetings to highlight ways Republicans say the bill will hurt seniors, women and small businesses.
"We must continue to oppose the Pelosi health care bill and stand by the American people in support of Republican-offered solutions that meet the needs of families by lowering health care costs," he said, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who shepherded the bill to passage.
Because the extreme right is thinking of it as the Pelosi health care bill and because they honestly believe the Health Care Bill will somehow hurt Medicaid (huh?) and make their medical care more expensive and worse (huh?), their response is understandable.
The sort of people who go to TEA Parties are misinformed by extreme right websites and Fox "News." Recent scientific research shows that even when presented with compelling evidence to the contrary, most people will continue to cling to their world view. Their response, therefore, is understandable if extreme and violent.
What is most certainly not understandable is the willingness of GOP leaders, including John McCain, to exploit this sort of white fury for their own political ends. McCain should be engaged in Congressional debate, not fanning the flames of misinformed fanatics with his own health care town hall where he is encouraging "protest."
The fact that the GOP continuously misuses its base of misinformed, rural white folks is not surprising. They have been doing this since at least Ronald Reagan, but especially since the mis-election of Dubbya in 2000. Perhaps the only way to get them to stop is to burn them in effigy? Of course, GOP leaders like populist manipulator McCain would find being burned in effigy at a town meeting "offensive" and "unAmerican."