Monday, December 8, 2008

The Looting Continues: Did Paulson Contribute $300 Billion of U.S. Taxpayers' Money To The Wall Street Holiday Bonus Fund?

It's that time of year again. Let's make a gratitude list. We can be grateful for our health, for a roof over our heads and food in the kitchen, family, friends, neighbors. The simple things in life can see us through, right? Even in hard times.

Nonsense. That's middle-American pap generated by the PR machines to keep the natives down on the farm while the country is being looted by the politicians and the Wall Street Boys. While we're counting our blessings of the non-monetary form, they're finishing the looting of this country which has been the primary goal of the Bush administration.

Exactly what have the Wall Street Boys and the politicians they own done to our country? They've looted it. They've stolen grandma and grandpa's meager savings by hacking interest rates to below 1%, forcing seniors to give their houses away to the predators who sell reverse mortgages -- at a hefty price. They've manipulated the stock market to run it up, get your average person to invest, then the big boys sell quick and the average American loses half of their money. They've done that several times. They don't pay taxes, hiding their money in private equity funds off-shore. They bribe politicians to make laws that allow businesses to take all our jobs to third world countries to be done by child, prison, and slave labor. They manipulate the currency, holding down interest rates to create a bubble in the stock market, then one in real estate, and they steal many people's life savings.

Our economy is either teetering on the edge of a depression or maybe we're already there, and the Republicans are having fits about the fact that unionized auto workers with 30 years' on the job earn $60,000 plus medical and a pension. Which is what every American should be earning to have a decent life. But these people think all the wealth should go to the upper class, the top 5%, the insider, and working people should work for nothing.

Back to the gratitude list: It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year. Christmas lights and trees, colored paper, presents, cards, carolling, holiday parties and cheer, cookies and fudge and turkeys and excited laughing children. That's for the working people. But for the richest people in the country, it's even more exciting and lucrative, because: It's Holiday Bonus Time On Wall Street!!

I'm thinking that so many Americans are broke and can't really afford the Christmas lights, or they've lost their home so have nowhere to put them. Can't afford a Christmas tree. No presents. No parties. No cheer. Unemployment, maybe absolute paralyzing terror at what lies ahead. So maybe we should go to Wall Street and stand outside, in the street, and give a shout out to the Wall Street Boys who will be getting so much money in the next few weeks as a special reward for -- Best Looter? Best cheat, thief, liar. Best traitor. Best house-stealer. Best stock manipulator. Best performance of a criminal stealing everything that's not nailed down? Best politician-briber? The possible awards are endless. Maybe they'll throw us a few pennies as they dash from their high-rises to their chauffered limousines which will take them to the heliport so they can quickly get to their private jet at the airport and arrive just in time for the party in their own villa at Lake Como. Maybe they'll throw us a few pennies on their way out the door.

Did anyone think that there would be no bonuses for the Wall Street Boys? Don't be silly. Why else did they send the Secretary of Goldman Sachs, formerly known as the U.S. Treasury, to Congress with that ransom note -- the one that said "Give me $700 Billion Or We'll Blow The Whole Place Up?" Why is it Paulson refuses to tell the country what he did with the $300 Billion that our corrupt politicians just handed over to him like he was a trick or treater and they were giving him a bag of Good 'N Plenty? Paulson refuses -- refuses to tell Congress, or tell the public, who he gave that $300 Billion of taxpayer money to. How is this even possible? How much of taxpayers' money is going directly into the pockets of Paulson's friends on Wall Street? And why did Congress turn over that money without so much as a peep of protest? Are they getting kick-backs? Is everyone who's running our country corrupt?

"Some observers, such as financial expert and reporter Stephen Gandel, say bonuses are expected to be down, but not as much as they might have been without the bailout. Gandel, who's a Money magazine senior writer and contributor to says, 'Compensation should be down 70 percent but, because all this new money is coming from the government, the firms are now saying they can pay more, and so they're only going to cut bonuses by 40 percent.'"

We learn that John Thain, the CEO of Merrill Lynch, has just demanded a $10 Million Holiday Bonus for himself. For what? Most efficient at destroying a company? Merrill Lynch was rumored to be on the edge of failure just a few months ago, and was only "saved" by being bought out by Bank of America. Good job John Thain. How much of the $300 Billion goes into your pocket John?

The office of Goldman Sachs located on Wall Street -- as opposed to the office located in the U.S. Government and formerly known as the Treasury Department -- has reportedly set aside $6.8 billion dollars to be paid out to its insiders in bonuses. That's Billion -- with a B. Morgan Stanley, another Wall Street firm, has apparently decided to cut back, and they only have set aside $6.5 Billion -- with a B -- for Holiday Bonuses for the Wall Street Boys. The average investment employee is already earning $400,000 per year in regular compensation, ten times more than the average American working person earns.

Apparently the billions in bonuses to be paid out in the next few weeks to the Wall Street Boys, possibly coming from the $300 Billion of Taxpayer money handed to Paulson, may not be as exciting as the $60,000/year the unionized auto workers make, which we've been hearing the Republicans scream about for weeks now. You can barely turn on a news program without hearing some right-winger screaming about the auto workers. Particularly the old ones and the sick ones who worked 45 years at a plant doing tough physical work and now get healthcare and a pension, which really outrages the right-wing. They hate old people. They really hate old sick people because they're bad for the bottom line. And hate the children of union workers, hate paying for them to get an operation if they're sick. I wonder if the auto workers get a frozen turkey as their bonus? More likely, they get nothing.

If the Republicans have their way, the union workers will all be thrown out of work and cars will only be made in third world countries by slave labor. But the Wall Street Boys will keep their jobs right here in the good old U.S.A. I can't imagine another country in the world that has such corrupt politicians that they would allow this type of theft.

How could Congress stop this looting of our businesses and our treasury, this destruction of our economy, the theft of the meager assets and savings of the majority of the people? A lot of these Wall Street insiders structure their compensation in such a way that they can claim it as capital gains instead of ordinary income. That means they pay a maximum tax rate of 15% of the money they earn from their job. Congress does nothing to stop this. Actually some Democrats tried to change the law to close that loophole, but Chuck Schumer, another huge recipient of money from Wall Street, worked with the Republicans to make sure his "generous" friends on Wall Street didn't have to pay taxes like the auto workers do. That's right. Chuck Schumer -- a Democrat. A Democrat who gets lots of money from Wall Street.

Congress could also cap how much compensation can be a tax write-off for a business. They've done that for business meals. Some little salesperson on the road is scrutinized by the IRS to make sure he's not claiming too much on his lunch write-offs -- can't get the turkey and cheese, just the turkey by itself. But for the Wall Street Boys, who give so much money to Congress, no cap. If a business could not write off any compensation in excess of $250,000, for example -- meaning income, benefits, retirement, stock options, the whole bit -- then pursuant to basic corporate laws, these businesses could not pay these obscene levels of compensation. Or, if they did, then the business would be taxed on let's say Mr. Thain's $10 million bonus first, and then Mr. Thain would be taxed on it too. It would eliminate the practice of corporate looting. Which is one of the reasons we've got the Wall Street Bailout -- the insiders looted their companies.

And finally, of course, Congress could reinstate a progressive tax system to end the practice of insiders looting their companies, stealing the wealth from our nation, then hiding it in overseas private equity funds. We're being looted just like third world nations were looted by the European colonial powers. If we reinstate a progressive tax system, we could end this.

For example, $250,000-$500,000 should be taxed at 50%; $500,000 - $750,000 should be taxed at 70%; $750,000 - $1.0 million 80%; everything above that 85%. That would accomplish so many things. The tax burden has been shifted more and more over to working people and away from the rich, with many corporations paying no taxes, and the wealthy often paying lower tax rates than does the modest-income working person. This would allow real tax relief to your average working person, since the rich would have to pick up a bigger share of the nation's taxes.

This would also allow the country to pay down the enormous debt run up by the Bush regime. It would allow us to fund the services we need, including free national healthcare and dental care for all citizens. It would probably eliminate this obscene corporate looting which has characterized the Bush regime years. It would also eliminate so much of the corruption in business and finance which has plunged our country into a recession or depression, take your pick. People don't spend as much time and effort coming up with fraudulent schemes when they know the profits of the schemes will mostly go to pay taxes. It might eliminate much of the corruption in Congress because the people paying the bribes wouldn't have the money to pay the bribes.

Most of the top people on Wall Street should have been indicted already, assets seized, possibly sitting in Attica because they can't make bail. Instead Congress has handed them $300 Billion (with an additional $400 Billion promised). What a bitter loss for the American people.

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