Since we are coming up on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. I thought this would be an appropriate way to commemorate an event, that no matter how terrible, was one of the defining moments of the 20th century.
Thomas Frank - Pity the Billionaire:
First some true confessions. I’ve been doing a lot of reading over the past couple months. A brief illness had put me off my game for a while and somehow a good read keeps the mind vital without taxing it as much as a steady diet of writing. (In other words, I have been lazy for the past few weeks - but only for medicinal purposes.) During that time I worked my way through Thomas Frank’s “Pity the Billionaire”.
Frank has some very cogent arguments about how the far-right operates and how reality has morphed into an almost alternate universe from the rest of us. Its a place where grass is blue and the sky is green. In that topsy-turvy upside-down world one of the most glaring ironies is the resurgence of Ayn Rand. After all - corporate corruption and regulatory complacency had almost brought the entire world economy to its knees. That should have been enough to consign copies of Atlas Shrugged to the paper shredders for the next half century. But no…quite the contrary.
Ayn Rand For Dummies:
Rand contends that the true heros are the billionaires. The talented and few. They are the masters of the universe. They are our betters. They make ships like the Titanic possible. But they are also the victims. They are victims of our ingratitude. Our inability to appreciate how they have made our lives better makes them so. They employ the people who built the ship and lifted them from them from homelessness and an early grave to mere poverty. The people should be grateful to the likes of these billionaires. They are the producers. So they made a few mistakes and almost pushed us in to a second Great Depression that would have made the 1930’s seem like a cake walk - no biggie. After all, they are the JOB CREATORS! And now the job creators are on strike, refusing to hire because we, the ungrateful public have made their lives so “uncertain”.
Sometimes you find a supportive voice where you don’t expect to find one. I have to admit that I have a soft-spot for Jim Cramer….Beyond the fact that he autographed a book for my Dad shortly before his death….he does try to make Wall Street explicable to those of us who have not spent quality time on the floor of the stock exchange. He had words of wisdom about the #occupy Wall Street movement and highlighted the concerns of many about “direction.” Cramer has a unique opportunity to shape that focus the movement…by reaching out to them He certainly had enough to say about justice not being done…
I have a confession to make. It is official - I just made more money this year trading a single stock than I made either teaching or selling homes or doing any of the other things that I have been trained to “do” or “produce.” Given the fact that I am a card-carrying “progressive” this is a sad state of affairs indeed - particularly since the sum I made trading Apple stock on dips and peaks was hardly impressive. For “playing the game - I do not apologize. In times like this we have to do what works..and like I said - since I didn’t have much money to trade with in the first place - no markets were shaken to the core by my actions.
My financial worries aside - this leads to a bigger issue that has far more serious implications for the American economy and Main Street America.
Perhaps one of the biggest elephants in the room from #occupy wall street movement is that many of the protesters have done a 180 degree turn on that “self determination” thing.
Real estate agents are independent contractors and we are often coach and cajoled into believing that “you make it happen and YOU are in 100% control of your destiny.” That works until it doesn’t. You can be as aggressive as you want - but if consumer demand has completely dried up very few will survive. Like selling coals in Newcastle - selling houses in the biggest recession since the great Depression is about as easy as selling ice to Eskimos.
Much of the criticism levied at the #Occupy Wall Street movement has pinpointed the fact that in general the protesters lack “direction.” These people are not fools or bums and those who would dismiss them lightly do so at their peril. They are savvy enough to know something is wrong. Very wrong. They have the right target in their sites. They are disgusted with Wall Street and the “too big to fail” banks that have yet to be held to account for the misery they have inflicted on millions of Americans. They understand that the banks were bailed out. They understand that instead of lending the largesse from the taxpayers - the banks took the money and locked it up. They get that the super-rich, the big banks, and multinational corporations are sitting on the trillions of $$ that are desperately needed to kick start our economy. They understand that until that money circulates - the misery on Main Street will only increase.
But specific demands are harder to get to…
So here are some demands that would give the movement “direction”. They are particularly relevant to an #Occupy Wall Street movement in that it targets Wall Street and the big banks. (more…)
People keep talking about things that are broken. I’m not talking about a cup or a glass or even Grandma’s antique china. It usually goes something like…”the_______industry is broken!” or “the _____system is broken!” or the ______business. Which begs the question: how can so many industries, businesses, and systems all be broken at the same time?
Personally, I have had two careers and it seems as though academia is broken and the real estate industry is broken beyond repair. My father had cancer and getting him treated because he was in an HMO was a nightmare…so the insurance industry is broken. The big banks won’t discuss loan modifications with clients - so the banking industry is broken.
When there are this many “broken things” shattered on the ground at the same time - something is wrong systemically. It is rooted deep within the our government and the body politic. This is what happens when a government ceases to be functional. When the government is broken, it means that those who would exploit and steal, those who would earn their money on the backs of others are in firm control. In our case, the capitalistic beast has been let loose and its eating its prey. Unfortunately we are the prey and until the beast is contained - we will continue to look at our institutions and business as so much shattered glass.
The Wall Street protests reveal that the public is now aware of the fact that they are prey. They see who the enemy is and are finally standing strong. The response by the police only affirms how badly dysfunctional things are. They are arresting the protesters while leaving the real criminals free to continue the carnage. Pssst…I have a hint for you men in the white and blue shirts….the REAL criminals have suits and carry briefcases…
If I hear one more word about the plight of the “job creators” - I think I’m going to explode. Please let’s get real on this issue. It has degenerated to the point where all you hear is incomprehensible slogans and veiled threats of pulling the plug on yet more jobs if taxes on the rich are allowed to rise by so much as a dime. Since they weren’t creating jobs in the first place - stating that this will prevent them from creating jobs seems a moot point. This is another example of fact-free political pandering. The facts be damned when you are trying to convince the masses that what is bad for them is actually good.
The New York State Millionaires Tax - an onerous burden? Not so much…
No this is not a parody on freedom fries and all things anti-French American.
Once my brain stopped rattling today - I came to a epiphany that had long been hibernating in the darkest corners of my mind. It was one of those “ah -hah!” moments that is generally cause for self-congratulation. But not in this case. My epiphany can summed up in a simple sentence: Our government is no longer a functioning entity.
Our Government has been hijacked a religious and ideological faction:
Our government no longer functions because it has been hijacked by by religious and ideological extremists locked in an unholy alliance with a Machiavellian oligarchy. The power rests with the monied elite in the oligarchy while the tea party extremists are merely tools for business interests. The tea party enables and the oligarchy continues to disable what little is left of our republic.
From - http://www.flickr.com/photos/speakerpelosi/
I have long been an Obama apologist - after all we have an entrenched “tea party” of freshman congressmen along with massively corrupt DC infrastructure thanks to unlimited campaign funds from big business. Obama entered office at the worst possible time. There is a common saying which is actually a curse: “May you live in interesting times.” A worse curse might will be “May you win high office in interesting times.” Politics - after all - is the art of the possible. Those who dig in and won’t budge - in the end won’t last.
However, the president’s performance this week tells me that he may not have what it takes to govern in this environment. He is first and foremost a constitutional lawyer and a scholar. Nothing wrong with that. I would rather have a scholar than a cowboy like Bush as POTUS in such a challenging environment.
As some of you know - I make my so-called living in the wild and crazy world of Westchester NY real estate. Being 20 miles north of Manhattan - about a 35 minute train ride to Grand Central Station in mid-town Manhattan. of course our market was heavily impacted by the crash of 2008 - but nothing like many other parts of the country. Prices are down about 30% - we have some short sales, some foreclosures, but the market has been spared more than many other parts of the country…