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Posts Tagged ‘income inequality’

Student Loans
Student loans are a scam intended to redistribute income from college students to wealthy individual and institutional investors. College students today owe more than $1.4 trillion dollars in student loans, and that figure is getting bigger by the day. Total student loans outstanding exceeded total credit card debt when it hit $1.2 trillion in 2014. Only mortgage debt is greater than student loan debt, but with home values going up, mortgage debt is an investment, whereas student loans have become something of a gamble for a large number of students. (Friedman)

Why do the student loans keep piling up?

About twenty-three years ago, somebody on Wall Street discovered student loans could be securitized. That’s a situation in which investment firms buy student loans from issuers, pool them together, and then issue bonds backed by the loans to wealthy investors. The loan originators earn hefty fees with every loan they sell. The investment firms also obtain a large fee with every bond they sell. (Carrillo)

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For example, a private commercial bank might issue $10 million in student loans at 6 percent interest. A student spends four or five years in college, and then spends ten to twenty years paying off a loan. So that $10 million principal can earn another $10 million in interest or more over the lifetime of the loan. An investment bank might pay $2 million or more for the $10 million in loans from the commercial bank. Then the investment bank will turn around and collect millions in fees from investors for the same loans once they’re bundled together and bonds are issued. The investors might experience a growth in the value of their bonds, so they can sell them, in which case, somebody will get a fee for performing the task. There’s money to be had for all involved in this process, except for the borrowers. (Carrillo)

Most student loans are guaranteed by the federal government. So there’s no risk to investors. It’s free money. The federal government pays the interest on the loans to the investment banks even when the students are still in school. Once the students are out of school, they are required to pay on the interest and the principal to the bondholders. This is how your student loan payments mostly go directly into the pockets of the 1 percent via these bonds. Some of the proceeds go to the service providers.

The Wall Street business strategy on this matter has always been simple: Push the federal government to limit federal grants to college students, and expand the student loan program. That’s precisely what has occurred. In 2016, total outstanding student loans represented roughly 7.5 percent of the United States gross domestic product, up from 3.5 percent only ten years earlier. Nearly 43 million Americans are chained to student loan debt, each with an average balance of $30,000. (Wikipedia)

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While the total number of Federal Pell grants has grown in current dollars since 1976, the cost of education has grown faster. In 1976, for example, the average Pell grant paid 72 percent of the maximum expense of attending a public four year college or university. This figure grew to 79 percent in 1979. Nowadays, the average Pell grant is less than half of that, hovering inside the 32 to 34 percent range. (ACE)

This forces many students to borrow money to help finance their higher education, and it also plays straight into the hands of wealthy investors. The interests of those investors seem to coincide with the concerns of many politicians within the federal government and both major political parties. Student loan default rates jumped from 2010 to 2013. Along with other corporate media sources, CNN reported in 2012 that “The percentage of borrowers who defaulted on their federal student loans within two years of their first payment jumped to 9.1% in fiscal year 2011, up from 8.8% the previous year, according to U.S. Department of Education data.” Investors began selling off their bonds, resulting in declining values. Something had to be done to restore investor confidence, and so the federal government doubled student loan interest rates on all new loans from 3.4 to 6.8 percent on July 1, 2013. (Sheehy)

This increased the return on investment while doubling the burden on the 99 percent who take out new loans to finance what is called the American dream, but it’s really becoming the American nightmare. This is rightly called income redistribution. The doubling of student loan interest rates benefited smaller Wall Street investment banks, as well as such Wall Street heavyweights as JP Morgan/Chase and Goldman Sachs. Loan originators and investment companies receive billions of dollars in fees every year from new student loans. Both JP Morgan/Chase and Goldman Sachs are publicly traded corporations. Both corporations are listed among the Dow Jones Industrials, and both keep their stock prices rising, in part, to the securitization of student loans, which benefits their affluent shareholders.

The more interest students are forced to pay, the higher the bonds can sell for, and the more attractive they are to investors, especially since the government guarantees them. (Carrillo) In this way, America’s higher education policies have been legislatively constructed so as to redistribute the income of the 99 to the 1 percent via higher student loan debt.

Wall Street banks also rigged the game even more against student loan borrowers by having the government make it almost impossible to discharge student loan debt through bankruptcy. Students are tied to the debt until it’s paid, or they die. This leaves less money for students to spend when they graduate, forcing them to curtail their purchases, and weakening the economy in the process.

When the US congress and President Obama allowed the interest rate of new student loans to double to 6.8 percent in 2013, the public outcry was so heavily against it that politicians had to reduce student loan interest rates within a year. The burden for students and their families had been too great. The rate was dropped to 4.9 percent in 2014, which was still 50 percent higher than in 2012. (Lobosco)

Bernie Sanders was right when he declared the government could provide free public education to its people. The money is there, and always has been. During the economic crisis of 2008-2009, the federal government and the Federal Reserve gave out tens of trillions of dollars to rich investors, investment banks and hedge funds. Politicians called these actions “quantitative easing” and “bailouts.” (Irvin) See The $26 Trillion Bailout to Save Incompetent but Rich Investors-JohnHively.wordpress.com. If trillions of dollars to bail out the rich are there whenever they need it, why isn’t that money also available when the rest of us need it?

The answer, of course, is simple.

Like many other issues, student loans are a corrupt, financially rigged game that shows how the government acts as a conduit in redistributing income from the 99 to the 1 percent when it doesn’t have to. Just follow the money and you will know who is corrupting your government.

Works Cited
Friedman, D. (May 17, 2014). Americans Owe $1.2 Trillion Dollars In Student Loans. New York Daily News. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/americans-owe-1-2-trillion-student-loans-article-1.1796606

American Council on Education, (ACE) http://www.acenet.edu/news-room/Documents/FactSheet-Pell-Grant-Funding-History-1976-2010.pdf

Merganser Capital Management, Investment Memo http://www.merganser.com/PDF/Memo/2015-Q3.pdf
http://money.cnn.com/2012/09/28/pf/college/student-loan-defaults/

Carrillo, R. (April 14, 2016). How Wall Street Profits From Student Debt, Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-wall-street-profits-from-student-debt-20160414

Irvin, N. (October 29, 2014). Quantitative Easing is Ending, Here’s what it did, in Charts. New York Times. October 29, 2014. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/30/upshot/quantitative-easing-is-about-to-end-heres-what-it-did-in-seven-charts.html?_r=0

Sheehy, K. (July 3, 2013). What the Stafford Loan Rate Hike Means for Students. US News and World Report. http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/2013/07/03/what-the-stafford-loan-interest-rate-hike-means-for-students

Lobosco, K. (June 30, 2016). Student Loan Intereest Rates Are Going Down. CNN Money. http://money.cnn.com/2016/06/30/pf/college/student-loan-interest-rates/

Wikipedia, Student Loans in the United States. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Student_loans_in_the_United_States

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neil-gorsuch-cartoon-matson

On February 17 2017, the US senate will resume its duties; one of which will be to confirm or reject Neil Gorsuch as President Donald Trump’s choice to be the next US Supreme Court Justice.

Several days ago, the Guardian reported Trump had urged Wall Street Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to eliminate Democrats potential use of the filibuster to stop Gorsuch, which is the so-called nuclear option.

Gorsuch needs sixty out of 100 possible senate votes in order to be confirmed to the post. The nuclear option would eliminate the sixty vote threshold, by instituting a fifty-one vote threshold. The Republicans hold fifty-two seats in the US senate, while the Democrats hold forty-eight. That means eight Democrats must vote to sustain Gorsuch’s nomination, or the candidate will fail. If Gorsuch fails to get sixty votes, the Democrats can filibuster his nomination, putting an end to it, unless the so-called nuclear option is used by Republicans. That’s not going to happen.

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The nuclear option would mean the end of the filibuster in the US senate. The filibuster has been used to ensure a sixty vote majority is always needed to pass any legislation. The result has been years of gridlock. Politicians of both major political parties have abused the filibuster over the years, so as to ensure they can fail to solve the problems that have perplexed the nation, and have a ready made excuse for the folks back home.

Once the sixty vote threshold is eliminated, however temporarily, a simple up and down vote for Gorsuch can take place. However, Republican voters might get a bit angry the nuclear option isn’t being used for their issues. The Republican Party establishment, with control over the white house and both houses of congress, could easily end legalized abortion. That’s what their base wants them to do.

However, doing so would eliminate abortion rights as a wedge issue with which to manipulate the emotions of grassroots Republicans, and divert their attention from other things, such as passing trade treaties that make it easy for US corporations to export US jobs overseas, and redistribute the difference between the older higher US pay and the new lower foreign wages to the 1 percent via higher corporate profits, share prices and surging dividends.

Likewise, the Democratic establishment will not want the nuclear option used. Then they’d need to please the grassroots of their base for a simple up and down vote can occur over numerous issues that conveniently cannot reach the sixty vote threshold. This includes a vote for amnesty of undocumented immigrants. A vote for the Dream Act can occur. A vote for a renegotiated NAFTA can take place. A vote to raise tariffs on US goods manufactured overseas and exported to the United States can occur. A vote to raise the minimum wage would be a great opportunity. A vote to rein in the excesses of Wall Street can be had. A vote to tie CEO compensation to corporate crimes can take place, such as corporate money laundering of Mexican drug cartel money.

The Republican and Democratic establishments, which are the major corporations, Wall Street executives, and billionaire investors who control the politicians of both political parties, will not want to see an aroused Republican base demanding simple majority votes on issues dear to their hearts, and which have been carefully cultivated by the corporate media. That would be against the financial interests of the establishment members. So, too, would the nuclear option be against their interests.

Like the conservative news media outlets, these issues are things the Guardian editors dare not mention. The Guardian is regarded as a liberal newspaper, and so the aim of the story is to raise the interest of liberal readers. However, the first duty of any editor is to edit and omit all news stories with a view to what the news ought to be, and that is closely related to the second duty of an editor, which is to never offend advertisers. The advertisers in major media news outlets are largely politically and financially powerful corporations. The loss of their advertising dollars would be a sharp blow to any news media outlet, such as the Guardian. The Guardian editors must walk a tightrope; keep liberals reading, while pleasing major corporate advertisers.

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So expect the Democratic establishment to come up with at least eight Wall Street senators willing to vote for Gorsuch to avoid the nuclear option. Expect Wall Street Senator Ron Wyden to be the first to cross the aisle on behalf of Gorsuch to avoid raising the hopes of Democratic and Republican voters everywhere once the nuclear option appears.

 

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where_does_all_the_money_go___pavel_constantin

As President-elect Donald Trump takes office today, January 20, 2017. the Pew Research Center reports “the public has starkly different expectations about which groups in society will gain influence – and those that will lose influence – under his administration.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) say wealthy people will gain influence in Washington when Trump takes office. Just 8% say they will lose influence, while 27% expect the wealthy will not be affected.”

I agree with the 27 percent who say the wealthy will not be affected. The reason is simple. The rich already control both major political parties, and through them, the rich control the federal government, virtually all state governments, and most big city governments, as well as a lot of local governments.

The wealthy are not going to improve upon that score a whole lot under Trump. Control of the legislative process has been the primary means by which the 1 percent has methodically increased its share of wealth and income of the United States year after year for the last thirty-five years.

That’s why the 64 percent who say wealthy people will gain influence are wrong inasmuch as wealthy people have so much power they can’t possibly gain anymore.

The difference is that those rich folks who use the Democratic Party as a vehicle to control the mechanisms of government and to profit via those mechanisms, have lost influence. Think Warren Buffett, George Soros, Bill Gates and other Democratic Party billionaires. Their rivals who control the Republican Party will gain influence at their expense.

Those Republican billionaires include Sheldon Adelson, Donald Trump, Charles and David Koch, hedge fund managerz Paul Singer and Robert Mercer, and a lot of other Wall Street investors.

Together, the billionaire Democrats and billionaire Republicans form a kind of good old boy network with some rivalries among them. They also control the media in such a way as to ensure we don’t see this, although it’s pretty obvious.

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classwarfare

A new report by Oxfam.org shows eight people as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of humanity, which is 3.6 billion people. Oxfam is an organizations that monitors income and wealth inequality throughout the world. Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are two of those eight richest people.

The folks at Oxfam have figured out why income and wealth inequality continue to grow. They write,

“The gap between rich and poor is far greater than had previously been estimated, with big business and the super-rich fueling the inequality crisis by dodging taxes, driving down wages, and using their power to influence politics.” They’re really saying political power inequality has caused income and wealth inequality.

This is the golden rule in action; he who has the gold makes the rules. In harsher terms, the rich have used their money to corrupt government at all levels and rig the economic game against everybody else. The game has been rigged in favor of the rich and powerful, and in particular, Wall Street. The big banks have held millions of homes off the market in the US in order to drive prices up, and they’ve been quite successful at it. Meanwhile, the US justice department has turned a blind eye to this conspiracy in restraint of trade, even though it is the US Census Bureau that first reported this.

Oxfam suggest five actions they believe can reduce income and wealth inequality, but in reality, these five are not enough. The five are;

  1. Stop offshore tax dodging which costs the US and developing countries more than $100 billion each year.
  2. Raise the minimum wage so that working families can make a living wage.
  3. Fight discrimination of all kinds and ensure equal pay for equal work.
  4. Build and invest in a social safety net for everyone.
  5. Ensure every person has access to affordable, high quality healthcare and education.                 Click here for the full Oxfam report.

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Finland is several heads above the United States in public education. They used to be about the same in terms of student testing. Then in the early 1970s, the Finns decided to undergo a massive reconstruction of their educational system. They took off, leaving the US in the dust.

Finland has the highest test scores in the Western world. How’d they do that?

Finland’s students have the western world’s shortest school days and shortest school years. That’s to give kids time to be kids. They’re in school no more than 20 hours a week, and that includes lunch. They’re also among the least tested students in the world. Finland provides a vast social safety net for all families.  Finnish students get almost three times as much recess as US students. All of this is because Finland has a student centered education system. The success of students is the most important thing in the Finnish system.

In the United States, increasing the corporate profits of the publishing industry is the most important thing the US educational system is supposed to do. So most everything in the US K-12 educational system is geared toward testing.

Corporate profits are had with every test a child takes. This is precisely why US students are the most tested in the world, and by a wide margin. However, it gets worse than that. Standards are continuously raised, even if most of the students, or a significant segment of them, fail the current standards. That’s because the higher the standards, the more students fail and need to retake the tests, over and over again, until they pass the tests, or they move up in grade. Every test students are forced to take provides the testing industry with greater profits. But when a sufficient number of students begin to pass the tests, the standards are raised, or the tests are changed, to make them more difficult to pass.

The movement to tie teacher pay to the success of student testing forces teachers to teach to the test. Recess has been massively cut at many public schools. Recess has been eliminated in some. US education is about massive test preparation, and much of the preparation materials comes from the US publishing industry, which increases their profits.

The last thing the people behind US educational reforms want, as well as the corrupt politicians behind them, is an educational system that prepares students to be better citizens and gives them enhanced job skills, although many educators try to do this in what spare time they have to teach this stuff.

The testing industry keeps this farce going by giving campaign contributions and other perks to US politicians, which is precisely why the US educational system typically ranks about thirtieth in the world, and never moves up, and why Finland typically rates in the top five, and is often number one in the world.

In the US, educational reform means redistributing local and state tax dollars to the rich shareholders of the testing industry. Local control of public education means the testing industry might not be able to get away with this theft throughout the US, and this is why the Feds have become more involved in K-12 public education.

In other words, financial corruption guides US government K-12 educational reform, while the needs of students guide educational reforms in Finland.

 

 

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This is the third part in a series. So now we’re getting into some debatable stuff, but here goes.

  1. Obama brought the federal budget deficit down from the  more than $1.4 trillion a year he inherited from bumbling, corrupt and incompetent George W. Bush to $587 billion in 2016.
  2. Obama presided over one of the biggest stock market bubbles in world history, and did nothing about it. The hangover from this bubble is going to last quite a long time, but many of his rich supporters got richer because of it.
  3. The president presided over one of the biggest housing bubbles in US history, and did nothing about it. This bubble redistributed trillions of dollars from working folks to Wall Street executives and billionaires that have always been his financial supporters. The big banks illegally conspired to withhold 3.4 million houses off the market (over 50 percent of all vacant houses in the USA) in order to drive up housing prices, and Obama made certain not to let his justice department do anything about this. See The Big Banks Are Manipulating the Housing Market–JohnHively.Wordpress.com
  4. Obama presided over the largest redistribution of income in US history, and did nothing about it. From 2009 to 2013 the 1 percent stole all of the US income growth, and they stole over 50 percent in 2014 and 2015.
  5. In other words, Obama presided over an economy driven by bubbles and redistributing income from the 99 to the 1 percent. Good job!
  6. Obama called rising income inequality “the defining issue of our time.” When his Wall Street financial masters objected to this subject, Obama never mentioned it again. Guess who was really in charge of the white house? Hint. The big investment banks, along with other Wall Street executives and billionaires.
  7. All of the above suggests the next recession is going to be worst than the last one, and it is on its way. We’re at or near the peak of this weak economic expansion. Once we’ve reached that peak, the only place to go is down. Some of Obama’s better known accomplishments (or notoriously known depending on your point of view) include the Affordable Care Act and getting us out of Iraq. These were included in President Obama’s Top Accomplishments, and His Worst–JohnHively.Wordpress.com. Part two included normalizing relations with Cuba. That list can be found here.

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Portland Oregon opened up a new front in the battle against income and wealth inequality. On December 7, 2016 local officials voted to slap a surtax on corporations that pay their chief executive officers more than 100 times what they pay their typical workers. The bill was sponsored by outgoing City Commissioner Steve Novick.

According to the Nation, “The Portland move will be the nation’s first tax penalty on corporations with extreme CEO-worker pay gaps. But it’s unlikely to be the last. Much like the Fight for $15, this bold reform could well spread like wildfire.

Indeed, we may look back at the Oregon vote as the dawn of a new “pay ratio politics.” Thanks to a new Securities and Exchange Commission regulation, publicly held corporations will this year have to start calculating the ratio between their CEO and median worker pay. The first of these ratios will go public in early 2018.

These federally mandated pay ratio disclosures will make it easy for states and cities to adopt Portland-style surtaxes—if they have the political will to do so.”

For Novick the bill was all about striking a blow against our nation’s skyrocketing inequality. “CEO pay is not just an eye-catching example of, but a major cause of, extreme economic inequality,” he said in a statement after the council vote. “Extreme economic inequality is—next to global warming—the biggest problem we have in our society.”

Currently, the top 1 percent steal via federal legislation anywhere from 24 to 37 percent of all income produced in the USA every year, compared to just 8 percent 36 long years ago. The top 1 percent now own more wealth in the USA than the bottom 90 percent as of a few years ago, and that is sure to have grown since then.

Click here for the entire story in the Nation.

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