“Over the last thirty years, the United States has been taken over by an amoral financial oligarchy, and the American dream of opportunity, education, and upward mobility is now largely confined to the top few percent of the population. Federal policy is increasingly dictated by the wealthy, by the financial sector, and by powerful (though sometimes badly mismanaged) industries such as telecommunications, health care, automobiles, and energy. These policies are implemented and praised by these groups’ willing servants, namely the increasingly bought-and-paid-for leadership of America’s political parties, academia, and lobbying industry.” – Charles Ferguson – Predator Nation
The Federal Reserve released its Survey of Consumer Finances last week. It’s a fact filled 80 page report they issue every three years to provide a financial snapshot of American households. As you can see from the chart above, the impact of the worldwide financial collapse has been catastrophic to most of the households in the U.S. A 39% decline in median net worth over a three year time frame is almost incomprehensible.
Even worse, the decline has surely continued for the average American household through 2012 as home prices have continued to fall. Median family income plunged by 7.7% over a three year time frame and has not recovered since the collection of this data 18 months ago. Even more shocking is the fact that median household income was $48,900 in 2001. Families are making 6.3% less today than they were a decade ago. These figures are adjusted for inflation using the BLS massaged CPI figures. Anyone not under the influence of psychotic drugs or engaged as a paid shill for the financial oligarchy knows that inflation is purposely under reported in order to keep the masses sedated and pacified. The real decline in median household income is in excess of 20% since 2001.
The destruction of the blue collar jobs has been underway since the early 1970s. And the relentless decline in real blue collar wages has followed a bumpy downward path for decades. Sadly, the average person doesn’t understand the insidious destruction caused to their lives by the Federal Reserve generated inflation, as they actually believe their wages today are higher than they were in 1973.
The reality is the oligarchy has used foreign wage differentials and the perceived benefits of globalization to ship manufacturing and now service jobs to Asia while using their captured mainstream media to convince the average American that this has been beneficial to their lives. Using one of their 15 credit cards to buy cheap foreign goods made by people who took their jobs was never so easy. I wonder if the benefits of being able to buy cheap Chinese electronics, toxic dog food, and slave labor produced igadgets outweighed the $2.3 trillion increase in consumer debt, 27% decline in real wages, 7 million manufacturing jobs lost since the mid-1970s, 46 million people on food stamps, $15 trillion increase in the National Debt since 1978, and a gutted decaying industrial base.
young wage high school earners
Not only have the oligarchs gutted our industrial base, resulting in enormous job losses among middle aged industrial workers, but they are now in the process of impoverishing the youth of this country by sucking them into crushing college debt with the false promise of decent paying jobs when they graduate with a degree in feminist studies from the University of Phoenix. The fabricated mantra that a college education guarantees a good paying job and a better future is not borne out by the facts.
There are over 4,800 institutions of higher learning in this country, with only about 50 considered elite. There are another few hundred top notch institutions, with a few thousand mediocre schools and hundreds of for profit on-line diploma mills exploiting the easy Federal government debt to lure millions into their profit scheme of bilking unemployed naďve middle aged dupes and eventually the American taxpayer. The average student loan debt per student is $29,000. Student loan debt outstanding has risen from $200 billion in 2000 to over $1 trillion today. The Federal Government is blowing another bubble.
They are the issuer, regulator and guarantor of these loans. They are making the loans with teaser rates to the ultimate in subprime borrowers – students without jobs going for worthless degrees at mediocre schools. The taxpayer is on the hook for the billions in loses that will surely follow. The payoff for this quadrupling of debt has been an 8% real decline in wages for college graduates since 2000. The monetary policies of the Federal Reserve and bipartisan fiscal policies of our government have led to this dreadful job market for the middle class.
college graduate wages
The mainstream media dutifully reported a few key highlights from the Federal Reserve report and moved onto more important issues like Snooki’s pregnancy and the octomom’s new porno gig. We certainly couldn’t expect business journalists at Bloomberg, CNBC, NYT, or CNN to actually analyze the data, produce an intelligent dialogue of the causes, and reach a conclusion that the affluent and influential on Wall Street and in Washington DC caused the average family in this country to endure tremendous hardship while the oligarchy plundered and pillaged the countryside, stuffing their pockets with ill-gotten gains.
Each of the ideological camps within the oligarchy trot out the usual suspects to blame the other ideological camp, while doing nothing to change the existing paradigm. Krugman and Carville are assigned the task of blaming Republican policies and dogma for the demise of the middle class.
Obama and his minions already had their press release prepared, blaming George Bush and claiming the median family has made tremendous strides since he assumed command in2009. Mitt Romney (worth $250 million), whose pocket change exceeds the annual median household income of $45,800, feels the pain of the average American family and proposes a tax decrease for billionaires and less overbearing regulation on the honorable Wall Street banks in order to help the average family. It’s nothing but Kabuki Theater as the characters play their assigned parts in this elaborate display. Gary Wills cuts right to the chase:
“Yet while the rest of the populace was suffering, the rich just got richer. In 2009 and 2010, years in which millions were unable to find work, the top one percent reaped 93% of the ‘recovery’ income, and corporations are making more than they ever did. And the Republicans can still propose even further cuts in the taxes of ‘job creators’ whose only job creation has been for their own lawyers and lobbyists.”
What you will not receive from the corporate mouthpieces in the mainstream media is an explanation of where the money went, who stole it and why it happened. The theme from the media is the loss in net worth and decade long decline in household income was unavoidable and due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control. This is a false storyline perpetrated by those who have stolen your money.
It’s been a bipartisan screw job and it was initiated by Clinton, Rubin, Gramm and Leach, who deregulated the banking system in 1999 by repealing the Glass-Steagall Act, but made it clear the Greenspan Put would always be in place to protect the banks from their own recklessness, greed and hubris. As a result, Wall Street could go ahead and take irresponsible financial system destroying risks in pursuit of vast riches, knowing they could count on the unlimited checkbook of Uncle Sam if things went south, and that’s exactly what happened. Heads they won, tails you lost. It’s good to own the politicians, regulators, and media.
Dude, Where’s My Net Worth?
“Sometime around the year 2010, Xers will hit a hangover mood like that of the Lost in the early 1930s and the Liberty in the late 1760s: a feeling of personal exhaustion mixed with a new public seriousness. The members of this forty- and fiftyish generation will fan out across an unusually wide distribution of personal outcomes, reminiscent of a night at the bingo table. A few will be wildly successful, others totally ruined, and the largest number will have lost a little ground since the days of Boomer midlife.” – Strauss & Howe – Generations – 1991
Neil Howe and Bill Strauss wrote their first generational theory book six years prior to their epic Fourth Turning prophecy. It appears they nailed it. Generation X households saw their net worth crushed, with a 54% loss in three years. The Baby Boomer households also took a beating in this banker engineered financial collapse. The Silent generation has survived this downturn relatively unscathed. Most of the Silents traded down from their primary residence at or near the top of the housing boom. As Neil Howe points out:
“Most sold or annuitized their financial assets at a much better moment in the history of the Dow. Even if they didn’t, they are more likely than Boomers or Xers to be getting retirement checks from defined-benefit corporate or government plans that are unaffected by the market.”
The Millenials and late Xers did not lose much because they didn’t have much to lose. Most did not own a house or stocks. As the economy continues to deteriorate the generational tension builds. The Silents and Boomers, who vote in large numbers, have not and will not vote for anyone who attempts to reform our entitlement system and make it economically viable over the long-term for young people just entering the job market.
The false storyline about the 2007 through 2010 being an aberration in the long term path to prosperity for the average American family is refuted by the following chart.
This chart paints a long-term picture of generational inequality that has been going on over the last three decades. Over three decades the Silent generation has seen their median real net worth increase by 133%, while GenX has seen their median real net worth decrease by 55% compared to the same age cohort in 1983. Only those 55 and over have seen a real improvement in their net worth over the last 27 years.
Considering this period encompassed a seventeen year bull market and the GDP grew from $3.5 trillion to $15.7 trillion, a 450% increase, a few bucks should have trickled down to the average household. Even on an inflation adjusted basis, GDP has risen 125% since 1983. Evidently the economic policies supported by both parties across decades have not floated all boats – just the yachts. Age is only part of the equation. Class is the other piece. There is a class war being waged and the Buffett, Dimon, Blankfein, Romney, Clinton, Koch and the rest of the ultra-wealthy oligarchs are winning. We are now in the midst of a Fourth Turning and the corrupt, dysfunctional, amoral social order will be swept away before the climax of this Crisis.
“Through the Third Turning and into the initial stages of the Fourth, the Silent will prosper, Boomers will cope with declining expectations, and Gen-Xers will get hammered. Throughout history, we have argued, inequality both by class and by age reaches its apogee entering the Crisis era. Indeed, part of the historical purpose of the Crisis is to tear down dysfunctional institutions, vacate positions of entitlement and privilege, rectify the inequality, and create a tabula rasa on which the rising generation can build something new.” – Neil Howe
The reason for the epic collapse of middle class net worth is quite simple when viewed from a 10,000 foot elevation. The great descent in net worth was primarily due to the bursting of the Federal Reserve created real estate bubble. The Case Shiller Home Price Index plunged 28% between 2007 and 2010. The wealth destruction was concentrated among the working middle class because their homes accounted for the vast majority of their household net worth. For the wealthy, housing is a fraction of their vast net worth, while for the lowly poor; homeownership is now only a dream.
Of course, between 2000 and 2007 anyone that could fog a mirror was encouraged by George Bush, Barney Frank, the National Association of Realtors, Alan Greenspan, and Wall Street shills to “own” a home. With home prices having fallen an additional 7% since 2010, the middle class has seen a further decline in their net worth. Meanwhile, Ben Bernanke’s ZIRP, QE1, QE2, Operation Twist, and the upcoming “Operation Screw the Middle Class Again” have succeeded in expanding the net worth of millionaires, billionaires and the bonuses of Wall Street bankers, while destroying the fragile finances of little old ladies and middle class risk adverse savers.
case shiller and snp500
Once you dig into the details beneath the thin veneer of Bernaysian obfuscation, you realize the corporate mainstream media storyline of middle class decline has a veiled storyline of a powerful, connected 1%, enriched at the expense of the middle class.
“Thus far, both political parties have been remarkably clever and effective in concealing this new reality. In fact, the two parties have formed an innovative kind of cartel—an arrangement I have termed America’s political duopoly. Both parties lie about the fact that they have each sold out to the financial sector and the wealthy. So far both have largely gotten away with the lie, helped in part by the enormous amount of money now spent on deceptive, manipulative political advertising.” – Charles Ferguson – Predator Nation
When you dig into the charts and data supplied by the Federal Reserve generated report, the data which goes back to 2001 tells a story not addressed by the deceptive, manipulative, political propaganda that passes for investigative reporting by the captured mainstream media. The chart below compares the median versus mean income growth from the last three Fed consumer surveys.
Overall, it reveals a lost decade of negative income growth for the average middle class family. In the early part of the decade the average middle class family made some progress as jobs were relatively plentiful and the internet crash mostly impacted the rich, who own most of the stocks in the country. This is why the median income rose while the average income fell. The wealthy have a large impact on the average because they own the vast majority of assets in this country. The stock market debacle was unacceptable to the oligarchs and their money printing puppet Greenspan.
Both the liberal and conservative wings of the ruling oligarchy were in complete agreement. A new bubble needed to be blown in order to refill the coffers of the ruling class. Paul Krugman spoke for the liberal wing:
“To fight this recession the Fed needs more than a snapback; it needs soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. And to do that, as Paul McCulley of Pimco put it, Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble.”
Greenspan and his handpicked successor Bernanke represented the conservative wing by reducing interest rates to ridiculously low levels, failing to carry out their regulatory obligations, encouraging recklessness, and purposefully failing to acknowledge and deflate the greatest housing bubble in world history:
“American consumers might benefit if lenders provided greater mortgage product alternatives to the traditional fixed-rate mortgage.” – Alan Greenspan – February 2004
“House prices have risen by nearly 25 percent over the past two years. Although speculative activity has increased in some areas, at a national level these price increases largely reflect strong economic fundamentals.” – Ben Bernanke – October 2005
“With respect to their safety, derivatives, for the most part, are traded among very sophisticated financial institutions and individuals who have considerable incentive to understand them and to use them properly.” – Ben Bernanke – November 2005
The master plan worked like a charm from 2004 through 2007 as you can see by the tremendous surge in average income. The stock market rocketed by 75% between 2003 and 2007 and national home prices shot up by 50%. Wall Street creatively invented no doc, negative amortization, interest only, subprime mortgages and generated a frenzy of demand from anyone that could scratch an X on a loan document, just as Greenspan had demanded. Being “sophisticated” financial institutions, they were able to assemble thousands of shit loans that were certain to default into one big derivative package of shit and their captured lackeys at the “sophisticated” rating agencies stamped a AAA rating on the smelly pile of feces.
Always looking out for the best interests of their clients (aka muppets), the upstanding Wall Street firms sold the derivative piles of shit to them as can’t miss investments. Wall Street profits went off the charts. Billions in bonuses flowed to the rich and powerful Wall Street titans. Mega-corporations generated record profits as consumers utilized the Fed induced tsunami of easy debt to buy BMWs, 72 inch HDTVs, home theaters, stainless steel appliances, granite counter-tops, Caribbean cruises, Jimmy Choo shoes, and Rolex watches in a mad frenzy of consumer delusion.
What you might also notice in the chart above is that median household income somehow declined during this decadent orgy of corporate fascist pleasure. How could this be? Table 2 from the Fed report makes it clear. The vast majority of households in this country generate 75% to 81% of their income from wages. Virtually none of the income generated in 85 million households (the bottom 75%) comes from interest, dividends or capital gains. You need money to make money.
The top 10% only generated 46% of their income from wages. The report does not provide details on the top 1%, but wages most certainly account for less than 20% of their income. Interest, dividends and capital gains represented 22.2% of the income for the top 10%, while it represented less than 1% of income for the bottom 75%. This data is the smoking gun that proves that Federal Reserve policy and control fraud on a grand scale by the titans of Wall Street was designed and executed to benefit only the wealthy elite billionaire class and their co-conspirators.
All the income gains during this time accrued to the psychopathic amoral financial oligarchy. The average family saw their real wages decline and anyone lured into the housing market during this time frame by the “sophisticated” financial experts at Citicorp, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Merrill Lynch, Countrywide, Washington Mutual, Wachovia, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, and the other members of the Too Big To Fail criminal syndicate was set up for epic loses.
Source of Household Income By Percentile of Net Worth
As expected, the psychopathic banker class could not be satisfied with the results of their looting. Their gluttonous voracious greed culminated in a historic collapse of the worldwide financial system resulting in a housing implosion, stock market crash and 8 million middle class Americans losing their jobs. The Fed report does show that average household income declined more than median household income after this historic financial oligarchy created collapse. One look at Table 6 from the Fed report will explain why. Only 15% of families own stocks and only 50% have retirement accounts.
Approximately 50 million households in the country have virtually no stocks and less than 30% have retirement accounts. The top 10% wealthiest households, with a median household net worth of $1.2 million, proportionately own 3 times as much stock as the average family and 90% have retirement accounts. Therefore, the 57% crash in stocks impacted the top 10% to a greater extent, while the average family was most impacted by the 28% drop in home prices.
9 out of 10 Young People Don't Invest in Stocks
Despite the fact that the median net worth of the top 10% actual rose from $1.17 million in 2007 to $1.19 million in 2010 (while the bottom 80% saw their net worth decline by 36%) the losses in the stock market were intolerable to the banker predators and their captured government parasite politicians. All the “solutions” to the Wall Street induced financial debacle have been designed to benefit those who committed the crime and should have done the time.
The singular design of those pulling the strings was to replenish the treasure chests on Wall Street, engineer a stock market rally to pump up the net worth and capital gain income for the 1%, and protect the vested interests of the financial elite. All the obscene criminally generated profits created during the boom were privatized into the grubby hands of the financial predators, while the subsequent gargantuan losses were socialized onto the backs of the American middle class taxpayers and future unborn generations.
TARP was rammed through the captured Congress by the oligarchs despite a 300 to 1 opposition from the public in order to protect obscenely wealthy bankers, stockholders and bondholders. The $800 billion of debt financed political pork, disguised as stimulus, was doled out to corporate contributors, union thugs, and a myriad of other special interests. Zero interest rates are specifically geared to generate billions of risk free profits for Wall Street and to force retirees to gamble their dwindling retirement funds in the rigged stock market.
Bernanke and Paulson threatened the limp wristed pocket protector CPAs at the FASB into allowing Wall Street banks to make up the value of their loan portfolios in order to mislead the public regarding their insolvency. The tripling of the Federal Reserve balance sheet from $950 billion in September 2008 to $2.9 trillion today was done to remove the toxic assets from the balance sheets of the Too Big To Fail Wall Street cabal at 100 cents on the dollar. QE1, QE2, and Operation Twist have had the sole purpose of providing the “sophisticated” financial elite with the funds to pump into the stock market using their high frequency trading super computers.
The subsequent Federal Reserve contrived 100% increase in the S&P 500 has repaired the damaged balance sheets of the moneyed interests, while the average middle class family has sunk further into debt and despair. The powerful entrenched sociopathic marauder class cares not for the average middle class American. They can barely conceal their contempt and disgust for the masses as they blatantly flaunt their hegemony and supremacy over our decrepit decaying corrupted economic system. M. Ramsey King described the disgusting display last week:
“Jamie Dimon’s appearance before the Senate Banking Committee was a sickening display that clearly demonstrated that Congress has been thoroughly corrupted by Wall Street. Instead of grilling Dimon, Senators acted like overly affectionate puppies fighting each other for an opening to smooch their master.”
The destruction of the middle class has been methodical and systematic. The top 10% of earners had a median net worth of $1.19 million, or 192 times as much as the median wealth of $6,200 of those in the bottom 20% in 2010. In 2007, the top 10% had 138 times as much wealth as the bottom 20%. In 2001, it was 106 times as much. With the continued rise in the stock market, declining real wages for the middle class, and further home price declines, the gap between the top 10% and the bottom 20% has continued to widen. The level of pain being experienced by the middle class has reached an unprecedented extreme. A few data points from David Rosenberg make that clear:
Forty-six million Americans (one in seven) are on food stamps.
One in seven is unemployed or underemployed.
The percentage of those out of work defined as long-term unemployed is the highest (42%) since the Great Depression.
54% of college graduates younger than 25 are unemployed or underemployed.
47% of Americans receive some form of government assistance.
Employment-to-population ratio for 25- to 54-year-olds is now 75.7%, lower than when the recession “ended” in June 2009.
There are 7.7 million fewer full-time workers now than before the recession, and 3.3 million more part-time workers.
Eight million people have left the labor force since the recession “ended” — adding those back in would put the unemployment rate at 12% instead of 8.2%.
The number of unemployed looking for work for at least 27 weeks jumped 310,000 in May, the sharpest increase in a year.
I would add a few more data points to David’s list of woe:
Over 7.5 million homes have been foreclosed upon by the Wall Street bankers since 2008.
The National Debt has increased by $5.7 trillion (57% increase) since September 2008, while real GDP has risen by $305 billion (2.3% increase) since the 3rd quarter of 2008.
Interest income paid to senior citizens and savers has declined by $400 billion (29% decline) since September of 2008 due to Ben Bernanke’s ZIRP.
Government transfer payments have risen by $500 billion (32% increase) since September 2008, while private industry wages have risen by $200 billion (4.7% increase).
The price of a gallon of gas has risen from $1.70 in December 2008 to $3.53 today.
Food prices have risen by 7% to 10% since late 2008, even using the falsified BLS data. A true assessment by anyone who actually goes to a grocery store (not Bernanke – his maid does the shopping) would be a 10% to 20% increase.
The middle class has a gut feeling they are being screwed by somebody, they just can’t figure out who to blame. The ultra-wealthy elite keep up an endless cacophony of propaganda and misinformation designed to confuse an increasingly uneducated and willfully ignorant public while blurring the facts for those educated few capable of understanding the truth.
They have been able to keep the masses dumbed down through government run education; distracted by sports, reality TV, Facebook, internet porn, and igadgets; lured by mass media messages of materialism; and shackled with the chains of debt used to acquire the goods sold by mega-corporations. We’ve become a society oppressed by a small faction of ultra-wealthy masters served by millions of impoverished, uneducated, sedated slaves. But the slaves are getting restless and angry. The illegally generated wealth disparity chasm is growing so large that even the ideologue talking head representatives of the elite are having difficulty spinning it. Even uneducated rubes understand when they are getting pissed on.
“Senator, don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining” – Fletcher – Outlaw Josey Wales
The situation is growing increasingly unstable and has left the country susceptible to an extreme outcome when this teetering tower of debt topples.
The moneyed interests have brilliantly pitted the middle class against the lower classes through their control of the media, academia, and the political system. They have cleverly blamed the victims for their own plight. They have convinced the general public that millions have lost their homes to foreclosure because they were careless, greedy and stupid. They blame the Community Reinvestment Act. They blame others for taking on too much debt when they were the issuers of the debt.
The Wall Street moneyed interests created the fraud inducing mortgage products, employed the thousands of sleazy mortgage brokers, bullied appraisers into fraudulent appraisals, paid off rating agencies, bribed the regulators, bet against the derivatives they had sold to their clients, threatened to burn down the financial system unless Congress handed them $700 billion, and paid themselves billions in bonuses for a job well done. But, according to these greedy immoral bastards, the real problem in this country is the lazy good for nothing parasites on food stamps and collecting unemployment, who need to stop complaining and pick themselves up by their bootstraps and get a damn job. It’s a storyline used against Occupy Wall Street and anyone who questions their right to plunder what is left on the carcass of America.
The vilest fraud in the history of man was perpetrated by these evil men and not one executive of these firms has been prosecuted. Obama, the champion of the little people, has proven to be nothing but a figurehead for the powers that be. Proof that the Wall Street syndicate is winning the war couldn’t be any clearer than the fact that the top six criminal banks now have 40% more of the nation’s assets in their vaults than they did before they burned down the economy.
The demonization of the victims continues, while the perpetrators prosper. The sociopaths appear to be winning; just as they seemed to be winning in the later stages of the Roman Empire.
“And we often fall into this bias on the prompting of con men and sociopaths of the predator class who use it to justify their own criminal actions and personal injustice. They are not burdened with empathy for their victims, and even delight in their misfortune. But they must find ways to make their actions more acceptable to society as a whole that normally does have such concerns for equity and justice.” – Jesse
“Are we like late Rome, infatuated with past glories, ruled by a complacent, greedy elite, and hopelessly powerless to respond to changing conditions?” – Camille Paglia
I think you know the answer to this question.
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This is the 3rd and final chapter of my series about the destruction of the middle class. In Part 1 of this series I addressed where and how the net worth of the middle class was stolen. In Part 2, I focused on the culprits in this grand theft and in Part 3, I will try to figure out why they stole your net worth and what would be required to restore sanity to this world.
Dude, Why Did They Steal My Net Worth?
“I have no problem with people becoming billionaires—if they got there by winning a fair race, if their accomplishments merit it, if they pay their fair share of taxes, and if they don’t corrupt their society. Most of them became wealthy by being well connected and crooked. And they are creating a society in which they can commit hugely damaging economic crimes with impunity, and in which only children of the wealthy have the opportunity to become successful. That’s what I have a problem with. And I think most people agree with me.” – Charles Ferguson – Predator Nation
It is clear to me that a small cabal of politically connected ultra-wealthy psychopaths has purposefully and arrogantly stripped the middle class of their wealth and openly flaunted their complete disregard for the laws and financial regulations meant to enforce a fair playing field. Why did they gut the middle class in their rapacious appetite for riches? Why did the scorpion sting the frog while crossing the river, dooming them both? It was his nature. The same is true for the hubristic modern robber barons latched on the backs of the middle class.
Their appetite for ever greater riches will never be mollified. They will always want more. They promise not to destroy the middle class, as that will surely extinguish the last hope for a true economic recovery built upon savings, investment and jobs, but it is their nature to destroy. A card carrying member of the plutocracy and renowned dog lover, Mitt Romney, revealed a truth not normally discussed by those running the show:
“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine.”
The data from the Fed report confirms Romney’s assertion. The poorest 20% were the only household segment that saw an increase in their real median income between 2007 and 2010, while the richest 10% saw only a modest 5% decrease in their $200,000 plus, annual incomes. Meanwhile the middle class households experienced a brutal 8% to 9% decline in real income. Table 2 in Part 2 of this article reveals why the poorest 20% were able to increase their income. Transfer payments (unemployment, welfare, food stamps, SSDI) increased from 8.6% of their income in 2007 to 11.1% in 2010.
Government transfer payments rose from $1.7 trillion in 2007 to $2.3 trillion today, a 35% increase in five years. I’m sure the bottom 20% are living high on the hog raking in that $13,400 per year. Think about these facts for just a moment. There are 23 million households in this country with a median annual household income of $13,400. That means half make less than that. There are 58 million households that have a median household income of $45,800, with half making less than that.
The reason Mitt Romney isn’t concerned about the very poor is because his only interaction with them is when they cut the lawn at one of his six homes. The truth is the bottom 20% are mostly penned up in our urban ghettos located in Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, NYC, LA, Atlanta, Miami, and the hundreds of other decaying metropolitan meccas. They generally kill each other and only get the attention of the top 10% if they dare venture into a white upper class neighborhood.
They are the revenue generators for our corporate prison industrial complex – one of our few growth industries. They provide much of the cannon fodder for our military industrial complex. They are kept ignorant and incapable of critical thought by our Department of Education controlled public school system. The welfare state is built upon the foundation of this 20%. It is certainly true that the bottom 30 million households in this country, from an income standpoint, do receive hundreds of billions in entitlement transfers, but Table 2 clearly shows that 80% of their income comes from working.
The annual $72 billion cost for the 46 million people on food stamps pales in comparison to the hundreds of billions being dispensed to the Wall Street banks by Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner, and the $1 trillion per year funneled to the corporate arm dealers in the military industrial complex. The Wall Street maggots (i.e. J.P. Morgan) crawl around the decaying welfare corpse, extracting hundreds of millions in fees from the EBT system and the SNAP program as they encourage higher levels of spending.
This is all part of the diversion. Forty five years after the War on Poverty began, there are 49 million Americans living in poverty. That’s a solid good return on the $16 trillion spent so far. It’s on par with the 16 year zero percent real return in the stock market. We have produced a vast underclass of ignorant, uneducated, illiterate, dependent people who have become a huge voting block for the Democratic Party. Politicians, on the left, promise more entitlements to these people in order to get elected.
Politicians on the right will not cut the entitlements for fear of being branded as uncaring. The Republicans agree to keep the welfare state growing and the Democrats agree to keep the warfare state growing -bipartisanship in all its glory. And the middle class has been caught in a pincer movement between the free shit entitlement army and the free shit corporate army. The oligarchs have been incredibly effective at using their control of the media, academia and ideological think tanks to keep the middle class ire focused upon the lower classes.
While the middle class is fixated on people making $13,400 per year, the ultra-wealthy are bribing politicians to pass laws and create tax loopholes, netting them billions of ill-gotten loot. These specialists at Edward Bernays propaganda techniques were actually able to gain overwhelming support from the middle class for the repeal of estate taxes by rebranding them “death taxes”, even though the estate tax only impacts 15,000 households out of 117 million households in the U.S. The .01% won again.
Household Net Worth Survey of Consumer Finances Federal Reserve 2010
It is easy to understand how the hard working middle class is so easily manipulated by the corporate fascists into believing their decades of descent to a lower and lower standard of living is the result of the lazy good for nothings at the bottom of the food chain sucking on the teat of state with their welfare entitlements. I drive through the neighborhoods of West Philadelphia every day, inhabited by the households with a net worth of $8,500 and annual income of $13,400.
They inhabit crumbling hovels worth less than $25,000, along pothole dotted streets strewn with waste, debris and rubbish. More than half the people in this war zone are high school dropouts, over 30% are unemployed, and drug dealing is the primary industry. When a drug dealer becomes too successful and begins to cut into the profits of the “legitimate” oligarch sanctioned drug industry, he is thrown into one of our thriving prisons. Marriage is an unknown concept.
The life expectancy of males is far less than 79 years old. But something doesn’t quite make sense. Every hovel has a Direct TV satellite dish. The people shuffling around the streets all have expensive cell phones. There are newer model cars parked on the streets, including a fair number of BMWs, Mercedes, Cadillac Escalades and Volvos. How can this be when their annual income is $13,400 and they have $8,500 to their names?
This is where our friendly neighborhood Wall Street oligarchs enter the picture. These downtrodden people are not bright. They are easily manipulated and scammed. They believe driving an expensive car and appearing successful is the same as being successful. Therefore, they are easily susceptible to being lured into debt. Millions of these people represented the “subprime” mortgage borrowers during the housing bubble.
The tremendous auto “sales” being reported by the mainstream media in an effort to boost consumer confidence about an economic recovery, are being driven by subprime auto loans from Ally Financial (85% owned by the U.S. Treasury/you the taxpayer) and the other government back stopped Wall Street banks. This is the beauty of credit. The mega-lenders reap tremendous profits up front, the illusion of economic progress is created, poor people feel rich for a while, and when it all blows up at a future date the middle class taxpayer foots the bill. Real wages for the 99% have been falling for three decades.
You make poor people feel wealthy by providing them easy access to vast quantities of cheap debt. I’m a big fan of personal responsibility, but who is the real malignant organism in this relationship? The parasite banker class, like a tick on an old sleepy hound dog, has been blood sucking the poor and middle class for decades. They have peddled the debt, kept the poor enslaved, and have used their useful idiots in the media to convince millions of victims to blame each other through their skillful use of propaganda.
They maintain their control by purposely creating crisis, promoting hysteria, and engineering “solutions” that leave them with more power and wealth, while stripping the average citizen of their rights, liberty, freedom and net worth (i.e. Housing Bubble to replace Internet Bubble, Glass-Steagall repeal, Patriot Act, TARP, NDAA, SOPA). Jesse cuts to the heart of the matter, revealing the darker side of our human nature:
“Sometimes when faced with problems that are confusing and troubling it is easier to think what someone tells you to think, particularly something that touches a deep and dark nerve in your nature, rather than carry the burden and ambiguity of struggling with the facts and thinking for yourself. Repeating a party line is a shorthand way of avoiding real thought. And the predators are always there to take advantage of it. They welcome trouble and often foment crisis in order to advance their agendas.”
“Anyone can be misled by a clever person, and no one likes to readily admit that they have been had. It is a sign of character and maturity to realize this, and admit you were deceived, and to demand change and reform. But some people cannot do this, even when the facts of the deception are revealed. It seems as though the more incorrect that the truth shows them to be, the louder and more strident they become in shouting down and denying the reality of the situation. And anyone who denies their perspective becomes ‘the other,’ someone to be feared and hated, shunned and eliminated, one way or the other.”
Until Debt Do Us Part
I sense signs of desperation amongst the plutocracy. Their propaganda machine is sputtering. Their storylines are growing tired. They have fended off the fury of the Tea Party movement by successfully high jacking it and neutralizing their impact under the thumb of the Republican establishment. The oligarchs called out their armed thugs to crush the OWS rage, while using their media mouthpieces to misrepresent the true purpose of the movement – Wall Street greed and criminality with Washington DC collusion.
The Savings & Loan Crisis of the late 1980s resulted in 800 bankers being thrown into prison. After the greatest banker heist in history, not one banker has been thrown in jail. Obama and Holder have been neutered by their masters. The power elite openly brandish their glee at avoiding accountability for their crimes. They are desperately attempting to re-inflate the debt bubble, as debt is the lifeblood of these vampire squids. The key piece of their current propaganda campaign is to convince the people they have effectively deleveraged and their continuing austerity efforts are actually detrimental to economic recovery. It’s nothing but a confidence game to keep the Ponzi going.
The Ponzi operators want to extract every last dime from the masses before the engineered collapse. The data does not confirm the deleveraging narrative. Total credit market debt in the United States is now at an all-time high and stands at 345% of GDP. In 1977 it stood at 155% of GDP and at 250% in 2000.
Total credit market debt is now $4 trillion higher than it was in 2007, prior to the financial collapse. It has gone up by $1 trillion in the last 12 months. Does this sound like deleveraging? The chart below details the truth the moneyed interests don’t want you to understand.
The bastions of capitalism on Wall Street have dumped $3.4 trillion of their toxic debt and $1 trillion of mortgage and credit card debt onto the backs of middle class taxpayers and future unborn generations. They did this under the auspices of saving the economic system. Their sole purpose has been to save themselves from becoming part of the middle class. The transfer of wealth from the quarry (middle class) to the predators (moneyed interests) continues unabated.
The faux journalists in the mainstream media have been pounding the consumer deleveraging mantra. They babble on about the austere masses methodically paying down their debts. It’s a specious lie. The chart below shows that banks have written off $218 billion of credit card debt since 2008. It also shows outstanding revolving debt falling from $1.01 trillion to $819 billion, a $191 billion decrease.
For the math challenged, like any Wall Street shill paraded on CNBC, this means consumers have added $27 billion of credit card debt since 2008. Does that sound like deleveraging? Households have also taken on $300 billion of additional student loan debt since 2008, buying into the government sponsored scam to keep the unemployment rate lower by offering the false hope of jobs with useless on-line degrees from the University of Phoenix. Does that sound like deleveraging?
They only people with the courage to tell it like it is are skeptics and outcasts from polite society inhabited by the power elite – people like Ron Paul, Michael Burry, and deceased critical thinkers like Frank Zappa and George Carlin. In one of his final appearances, Carlin brutally lashed out with a torrent of truth, only spoken by courageous people not worried about the consequences of their blunt honesty:
“Politicians are put there to give you that idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land, they own and control the corporations, and they’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the State Houses, and the City Halls. They’ve got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies so they control just about all the news and information you get to hear. They’ve got you by the balls.
They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else. But I’ll tell you what they don’t want—they don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking.
They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interest. You know something, they don’t want people that are smart enough to sit around their kitchen table and figure out how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. They don’t want that, you know what they want?
They want obedient workers, obedient workers. People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. The table is tilted folks, the game is rigged.
Nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care. Good honest hard working people, white collar, blue collar, it doesn’t matter what color shirt you have on. Because the owners of this country know the truth, it’s called the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it.”
Grotesque Casino of Corporate Fascism
“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.” – Frank Zappa
“Specifically, over the past 15 years, the global financial system – encouraged by misguided policy and short-sighted monetary interventions – has lost its function of directing scarce capital toward projects that enhance the world’s standard of living. Instead, the financial system has been transformed into a self-serving, grotesque casino that misallocates scarce savings, begs for and encourages speculative bubbles, refuses to restructure bad debt, and demands that the most reckless stewards of capital should be rewarded through bailouts that transfer bad debt from private balance sheets to the public balance sheet. What is central here is that the government policy environment has encouraged this result.
This environment includes financial sector deregulation that was coupled with a government backstop, repeated monetary distortions, refusal to restructure bad debt, and a preference for policy cowardice that included bailouts and opaque accounting. Deregulation and lower taxes will not fix this problem, nor will larger stimulus packages.” – John Hussman
None of the solutions put forth by Obama or Romney will fix the problems facing the country today. They are two handpicked figureheads representing the same owners. Both political parties are responsible for the grotesque casino that passes for our financial system. These political hacks have been in alternating control of our government system for the last 150 years.
They don’t want to come up with real solutions to the problems they created. The owners want obedient slaves, distracted by technology and shallow entertainment, subjugated by debt used to buy things they want but don’t need, believing waging wars in distant lands keeps us safe, and favoring the imprisonment of petty thieves and drug users while the grand thieves run the country and control our currency. Keeping the willfully ignorant masses in the dark and confused is a vital part of the plan. Debt is the ingredient that enriches the issuers and keeps the dupes in check.
Wall Street bankers, Federal Reserve governors, captured financial “experts”, journalists paid by corporations, economists with an ideological agenda and bought off politicians all repeating the same theme with the same unquestioning, strident conviction is a sure sign that we are being played. The never ending series of titanic bailouts of Wall Street did not avert a catastrophic economic collapse. They protected the corporate fascists from experiencing the consequences of their monstrous predatory actions over the last few decades. And it was all done for money.
Simple human greed and an insane desire by a few psychotic men to control and manipulate others for their own selfish pleasure is what has turned this country into a corporate fascist state bereft of its soul and original founding principles, as stated by Ron Paul:
“We’re not moving toward Hitler-type fascism, but we’re moving toward a softer fascism: Loss of civil liberties, corporations running the show, big government in bed with big business. So you have the military-industrial complex, you have the medical-industrial complex, you have the financial industry, you have the communications industry. They go to Washington and spend hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s where the control is. I call that a soft form of fascism — something that’s very dangerous.”
The soft form of fascism easily transforms into the hard form as those in control exhibit their supremacy with displays of military potency in our cities (Boston, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Chicago), passage of liberty stripping legislation like the Patriot Act and NDAA, along with announcements about thousands of drones patrolling our skies over the next five years.
When propaganda begins to lose its effectiveness, brute force is the next step. Whenever I write about the slow methodical disintegration of our once great republic into a dysfunctional banana republic controlled by bankers, mega-corporations and arms dealers; the apologists for the empire scoff and cynically ask for my solutions. I, along with many other rational thinking realists, have proposed solutions, but they don’t have a snowballs chance in Syria of ever even being debated by the existing ruling class. The unholy alliance between bankers, corporate interests and politicians must be broken. These proposals would go a long way towards breaking that alliance:
Since politicians cannot be trusted to exhibit courage or intelligence when it comes to public policy, a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution needs to be passed, with a five to ten year implementation period to ameliorate the pain.
Term limits of 6 years for Congressmen and Senators. Serving in Congress should not be a career. It is a duty to the country. The purpose of Congress is to represent the existing generations of citizens and ensure that future generations have a country that offers opportunity to live a better life than their parents.
The entire election process would be scraped. It would be transformed into a 3 month publicly financed election. No money from corporations, unions, or individuals would be allowed. Multiple candidates would have an opportunity to debate on public TV. The two party domination of our political process must be broken.
Corporations are not people. Extreme wealth does not give someone the right to buy elections. Rich oligarchs operating in the shadows and spending billions on negative advertising is not how a republic should elect their representatives. Lobbyists, special interests and PACs and would be eliminated from the political process.
The President could no longer issue Executive Orders, undercutting the legislative process.
Every bill before Congress would immediately be put online. The constituents of every Congressmen and Senator would be allowed to voice their opinion by voting yes or no online.
Every bill that is proposed by a Congressman must have a funding mechanism. If the proposal increases costs to the American taxpayer, something else must be cut to pay for the new proposal. This would be unnecessary if a balance budget amendment was passed.
No American troops could be committed to war in a foreign country without a full vote of Congress as required by the U.S. Constitution.
A cost benefit analysis would be conducted regarding every department and agency in the Federal Government by the GAO. Those failing to meet minimum requirements would be drastically reduced or eliminated.
The education of children would be delegated to localities, without Federal mandates. Every child in America would receive vouchers for grade school, high school and college. They could choose any school to attend – public or private. If the private school cost more than the voucher, the family would pay the difference. Excellent schools would flourish, poor schools would be forced to improve or they would close. Teacher tenure would be eliminated. Teaching excellence would be rewarded.
The first thing to be done is to abolish the Federal Reserve. It is owned by and operated for the benefit of the biggest banks in the world. Its sole purpose has been to enrich the few at the expense of the many through its insidious use of inflation and debt issuance. It has been around for less than 100 years and has debased the USD by 96%. The U.S. Treasury has the authority to issue the currency of the country. It did so from 1789 until 1913.
The 2nd thing to do would be to reinstitute the Glass-Steagall Act because Wall Street cannot be trusted to manage their risk properly. This would separate true banking activities from the high risk gambling that brought the economic system to its knees. Privatizing the profits and socializing the losses is unacceptable.
The FASB would be directed to make all banks and financial corporations value their assets at their true market value. This would reveal the mega Wall Street banks and corporations like GE to be insolvent. An orderly bankruptcy of all insolvent financial firms involving the sell-off of their legitimate assets to well-run risk adverse banks that didn’t screw up would ensue. Bondholders and stockholders would realize their losses for awful investment decisions. The economic system would be purged of its bad debt.
The currency of the US would be backed by hard assets. A basket of gold, silver, platinum, uranium, and some other limited hard commodities would back the USD. If politicians attempted to spend too much, the price of this basket would reflect their inflationary schemes immediately.
The 16th Amendment would be repealed and the income tax would be scraped. It would be replaced with a national consumption tax. The more you consume, the more taxes you pay. Wages, savings and investment would be untaxed. The tax code is the source for much of politicians’ power. Its demise would further reduce Washington DC control over our lives.
A downsizing of the US Military from $1 trillion to $500 billion annually would be initiated through the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany, Japan and hundreds of other bases throughout the world. Policing the world is bankrupting the empire.
All corporate, farm, education, and social engineering subsidies would be eliminated. All Federal employees would have their pay slashed by 10% and the workforce would be reduced by 20% over 5 years. Federal health benefits and pension benefits would be set at average private industry levels.
The Social Security System would be completely overhauled. Anyone 50 or older would get exactly what they were promised. The age for collecting SS would be gradually raised to 72 over the next 15 years. Those between 25 and 50 would be given the option to opt out of SS. They would be given their contributions to invest as they see fit if they opt out. Anyone entering the workforce today would not pay in or receive any benefits. The wage limit for SS would be eliminated and the tax rate would be reduced from 6.2% to 3%.
The Medicare system is unsustainable. It would be converted from a government program to private market based program. The Federal mandates, rules and regulations would be eliminated. Senior citizens would be given healthcare vouchers which they would be free to use with any insurance company or doctor based on price and quality. Insurance companies would compete for business on a national basis. Doctors would compete for business. The GAO would have their budget doubled and they would audit Medicare fraud & Medicaid fraud and prosecute the criminals without impunity.
The healthcare bill would be repealed. Insurance companies would be allowed to compete with each other on a national basis. Tort reform would be implemented so that doctors could do their jobs without fear of being destroyed by slimy personal injury lawyers. Doctors would need to post their costs for various procedures. Price and quality would drive the healthcare market.
The entitlement state would be dismantled. The criteria for collecting welfare, SSDI, food stamps and unemployment benefits would be made much stricter. Unemployed people collecting government payments would be required to clean up parks, volunteer at community charity organizations, pick up trash along highways, fix and paint houses in their neighborhoods and generally keep busy in a productive manner for society.
A free market method for stabilizing the housing market would be for banks to voluntarily reduce the mortgage balances of underwater homeowners in exchange for a PAR (Property Appreciation Right). The homeowner would agree to pay off the PAR to the Treasury (and administered through the IRS) out of future price appreciation on the existing home or subsequent property. The homeowner would be excluded from taking on any home equity loans or executing any “cash out” refinancing until the PAR was satisfied. The maximum PAR obligation accepted by the Treasury would be based on the value of the home and the income of the homeowner.
I’m sure there are many more solutions which non-captured, intelligent, reasonable citizens could put forth to save this country. None of these ideas would be acceptable to the country’s owners. They would reduce their wealth and power. What these oligarchs do not realize is that we are in the midst of a Fourth Turning. Those who experienced the last one have died off.
The existing social order will be swept away. It is likely to be violent and bloody. Good people and bad people will die. When the Crisis reaches its climax we will have the opportunity to implement good solutions. There is also the distinct possibility that our increasingly ignorant populace will turn to a messianic psychopath that promises them renewed glory. Decades of delusional decisions will lead to a future that will not be orderly or controllable.
“The Banks must be restrained, and the financial system reformed, with balance restored to the economy, before there can be any sustained growth and recovery. If the suffering becomes great enough, change will inevitably come, but it may not be orderly or as controllable as the moneyed interests often like to think.” – Jesse