Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘wealth inequality’

incomeq
The economic and political game is clearly rigged in favor of wealthy, and its getting worse. This is a recipe for economic disaster, and which has been closely followed by major Wall Street politicians, such as Ron Wyden, Barack Obama, Mitch McConnell, Orrin Hatch, and George W. Bush.

The richest are getting richer, and their doing so quickly, and at the expense of the rest of us. For the most part, control of the levers of political power is how they have gained their money. It’s that simple. The rich control the Republican and Democratic parties, and with them, they control all three branches of the federal government, as well as most state and local governments. And that’s just in the USA.

In early 2016 Oxfam reported that just 62 individuals had the same wealth as the bottom half of humanity. About a year later Oxfam reported that just eight men had the same wealth as the world’s bottom half. Based on the same methodology and data sources used by Oxfam, that number is now down to six.

inequality-cartoon

There is a reason why the rich, and in particular the super rich, continue to get richer. The politicians of both major political parties work as agents on behalf of their billionaire benefactors, whether its Republicans such as Mitch McConnell, or Democrats like Ron Wyden.

This is why the poorest half (and more) of the world has continued to lose wealth; and the very richest individuals—especially the top thousand or so—continue to add billions of dollars to their massive fortunes. Inequality deniers and apologists say the Oxfam methodology is flawed, but they’re missing the big picture. Whether it’s six individuals or 62 or 1,000 doesn’t really matter. The data from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook (GWD) and the Forbes Billionaire List provide the best available tools to make it clear that inequality is extreme and pathological and getting worse every year.

cent8

As of Feb. 17 of 2017, the world’s six richest individuals (all men) had $412 billion. Just a year ago, on March 1, 2016, the world’s six richest men had $343 billion. They’re the same men today, although slightly rearranged as they play “king of the hill”: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Amancio Ortega, Mark Zuckerberg, Carlos Slim Helu (with Larry Ellison jockeying for position). The wealth of these six men increased by $69 billion in just one year.

According to a new report, which can be accessed below, the poorest 50 percent of the population has seen their share of wealth decline. And the richest 500 people own more wealth that the bottom 70 percent.

Six Men Own More Wealth Than the Bottom 50 Percent of the World’s Population–EcoWatch.org

Read Full Post »

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)

student-debt-cartoon-englehart-495x354

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)

image

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

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

images

The Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate by 0.25% on Wednesday. The corporate news media, both liberal and conservative, claimed this signified the Fed’s confidence in the improving U.S. economy. There may be some truth to this, but maybe not.

Anybody with any knowledge of US business cycles can see our current business expansion is nearly over, which makes this a poor time to raise borrowing rates. See The Coming Recession Is Going to be a Big One–Johnhively.Wordpress.com. The current expansion is 91 months old this month, which makes it the fourth longest on record. In February 2017 it will become the third longest in US history. All the variables indicate we’ll be hitting a recession sometime before or by June 2017.

Maybe Fed officials decided to deflate the stock market and housing bubbles the US economy is in the thrall of. The US economy has been powered by a series of federally created or federally condoned bubbles since the 1980s, which is radically different from the US economy of 1933-1981. The US economy will be suffering from a massive hangover when this next recession hits, which is why it will in many ways be far worse than the last recession.

Rising rates will affect millions of Americans, including home buyers, savers and investors by increasing the cost of which they borrow. In other words, trillions of dollars are going to be redistributed from the 99 percent to rich bank shareholders and bondholders. It’ll cost you more to borrow, and the difference between the old rate and the new rate goes straight into the pockets of the rich.

Income and wealth have been massively redistributed from the 99 to the 1 percent by a series of deliberate federal government actions over the last thirty-five years. This is why interest rates have been historically low over the last eight years, and had been getting progressively lower since 1981. The demand for goods and services by the 99 percent is largely dependent on the ability to borrow to a much greater extent than earlier decades.

This is also means the Fed will have to enact negative interest rates to help bolster the economy during the next recession, which is currently the case in Europe.

Change in the form of a shift of political power from the billionaires to the middle class will finally come because of this next recession as millions more people vote via their wallets and take to the streets.

Fed officials raised its target for short-term interest rates by 0.25 percentage points to a range of 0.50% and 0.75%.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »