Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thank You Barney Frank

Barney Frank had more impact on my life than any human being outside my immediate family.  I was 27 years old and adrift.  I was in the final semester of UMass/Boston after an bumpy 8 year odyssey toward an undergraduate degree in political science.  I had been working as a stock boy at the Stop & Shop for 11 years and was contemplating the exciting prospect of being promoted to frozen food manager at Store 431 in Roslindale, a blue collar neighborhood of Boston.  Then, everything changed.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake!

If you want to give your class-based moral indignation a big boost, read today's front page story on Ronald Lauder, heir to the Estee Lauder fortune.  The lengths to which the Lauder family goes to avoid taxes is extraordinary.  Clearly, this family believes that its wealth is divinely granted and it owes nothing to the country that has treated it so well. 

Here's just one example.  A ten year fight over a piddling $90 million for a family sitting on billions:
When Mr. Lauder’s father, Joseph, died in 1983, family members fought the I.R.S. for more than a decade to reduce their estate tax. The dispute involved a block of shares bequeathed to the family — the estate valued it at $29 million, while the I.R.S. placed it at $89.5 million. A panel of judges ultimately decided on $50 million, a decision that saved the estate more than $20 million in taxes.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cue the "Law and Order" Theme

There is a truly stunning article in the Financial Times that provides a "tic toc" of the event leading to and following the famous incident in the New York Sofitel Hotel between Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the chamber maid.  It must be read in its entirety to get the full impact.  It suggests the possibility that DSK may have been set up by political forces supporting French President Sarkozy. 

Here are some of the amazing documented facts:
  • The maid entered the room at 12:07.  At 12:13 pm DSK was on the phone with his daughter making lunch plans.
  • The maid made frequent visits, before and after the incident to a nearby room on the same floor.  The hotel won't reveal who was in that room.
  • DSK was warned that somebody was monitoring his cell phone calls, which caused him to have his blackberry checked for bugs.  He left his blackberry in the room and it was mysteriously disabled.
  • There a a video of two security guards "high fiving" and doing a 3 minute celebratory dance after DSK was arrested.
  • The head of security for the holding company that owns Sofitel Hotels was at a soccer game with Sarkozy when the incident occurred.
It's a plot worthy of Law and Order.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Krugman on the 99.9%

Paul Krugman points out the economic fallacy of coddling the 0.1%.

Given this history, why do Republicans advocate further tax cuts for the very rich even as they warn about deficits and demand drastic cuts in social insurance programs?

Well, aside from shouts of “class warfare!” whenever such questions are raised, the usual answer is that the super-elite are “job creators” — that is, that they make a special contribution to the economy. So what you need to know is that this is bad economics. In fact, it would be bad economics even if America had the idealized, perfect market economy of conservative fantasies.