January 19, 2015
Crisis: The rich, Obama, Hedges, José Mujica, "Compassionate Conservatism"
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

Prev- crisis -Next


1. Half global wealth held by the 1%
2. Just in Time For GOP-Controlled Congress, Obama
     Announces Tax on One-Percenters

‘You Have a Mother’
Truthdigger of the Week: José Mujica
5. The New Compassionate Conservatism and Trickle-Down


This is a Nederlog of Monday, January 19, 2015.

This is a crisis log. It has 5 items and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the fact that half the global wealth is owned by 1%; item 2 is about Obama's announcement he wants to tax the one-percenters (more); item 3 is by Chris Hedges, and is about the life of someone who survived Auschwitz, as a child; item 4 is about the president of Uruguay (one of the few politicians I can believe in); and item 5 is Robert Reich on "compassionate conservatism".

1. Half global wealth held by the 1%

The first item today is an article by Larry Elliott and Ed Pilkington on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Billionaires and politicians gathering in Switzerland this week will come under pressure to tackle rising inequality after a study found that – on current trends – by next year, 1% of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99%.

Ahead of this week’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the ski resort of Davos, the anti-poverty charity Oxfam said it would use its high-profile role at the gathering to demand urgent action to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

The charity’s research, published today, shows that the share of the world’s wealth owned by the best-off 1% has increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014, while the least well-off 80% currently own just 5.5%.

Oxfam added that on current trends the richest 1% would own more than 50% of the world’s wealth by 2016.

These are - I would say, and I do belong to the 99% of the poor - obscene numbers, that show a very few greedy egoists (Ayn Rand agrees!) have captured nearly all - "by next year, 1% of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99%" - and use if for their own benefit.

Here is some more - and Byanyima is the director of Oxfam:

Oxfam made headlines at Davos last year with a study showing that the 85 richest people on the planet have the same wealth as the poorest 50% (3.5 billion people). The charity said this year that the comparison was now even more stark, with just 80 people owning the same amount of wealth as more than 3.5 billion people, down from 388 in 2010.

Byanyima said: “Do we really want to live in a world where the 1% own more than the rest of us combined? The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast.”

As to: "Do we really want to live in a world where the 1% own more than the rest of us combined?".

Well, to start with... who are "we"? Here my problem is less with the question (I don't, is my answer, though like everyone I have no real choice) but with the facts that (1) this strong tendency to enrich the very few rich, that also was a huge success, has been implemented in the U.S. since 1980, that is for 35 years now, and (2) many of the poor ones - of the 90% or the 99% [1] - and especially the great group of the less intelligent ones seem to still believe the total crap that they will get rich, while (3) many of them also seem to have lost virtually all feelings of moral decency, solidarity and fairness (and hence all the scolding on the poor and the ill, by people who are poor).

But OK - I don't disagree with Oxfam (disclosure: I am a monthly supporter of them, even though I have little money), and in fact was mostly outlining the enormous successes of propaganda, baloney and bullshit (that almost everyone hears and reads more of than of any science, for it is everywhere).

As to Oxfam's plans or proposals:

Oxfam said it was calling on governments to adopt a seven point plan:

• Clamp down on tax dodging by corporations and rich individuals.

• Invest in universal, free public services such as health and education.

• Share the tax burden fairly, shifting taxation from labour and consumption towards capital and wealth.

• Introduce minimum wages and move towards a living wage for all workers.

• Introduce equal pay legislation and promote economic policies to give women a fair deal.

• Ensure adequate safety-nets for the poorest, including a minimum-income guarantee.

• Agree a global goal to tackle inequality.

I agree, but with the billionaires owning the major media this will be very difficult, even though it is all eminently reasonable for virtually everyone.

2. Just in Time For GOP-Controlled Congress, Obama Announces Tax on One-Percenters

The next item is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows (and perhaps I should say straight away what my first reaction was: "Typically Obama! After furthering the enormous incomes of the banks for 6 years, and with a Congress that will never pass this, now he suddenly is for tax increases on the rich - he is lying and posturing, as usual"):

Just days ahead of President Obama's State of the Union on Tuesday, the White House has announced plans for a major tax overhaul which would raise rates on the nation's wealthiest individuals and increase fees for financial firms while offering an assortment of tax breaks designed to help the nation's struggling middle class.

In a media call with reporters on Saturday, an unidentified Obama administration official offered the broad strokes of the proposal. According to Reuters:

Obama’s proposals call for reforming tax rules on trust funds, which the administration called “the single largest capital gains tax loophole” because it allows assets to be passed down untaxed to heirs of the richest Americans.

They also would raise the capital gains and dividends rates to 28%, the level during the 1980s Republican presidency of Ronald Reagan.

As I said: This is mere dream spinning, mere propaganda, mere bullshit - and also, it takes away interest from what Obama really furthers, and may well succeed in getting accepted: The incredibly horrible and for that reason also secret TTP and TTIP.

Finally, here is the last paragraph from Jon Queally, who also sees this:

Taken in terms more familiar to progressives, this argument speaks to the reality that while the top 1 percent have been the main recipients of prosperity and financial improvement for decades, it remains the middle class, the working poor, and those left out of the economy entirely who continue to be punished by rampant inequality and an economic and political elite that has detached itself from the concerns of the majority of people. And though there may be reason to celebrate aspects of the new plan, it's clear that many will be unimpressed by that fact that the proposal to more adequately tax the rich and help the poor arrives at the very moment the president and his party are least capable of making it a reality.
Yes. It is utter baloney, that I think is meant to take the attention away from the TTP and TTIP, by propounding a nobly sounding but completely irrealistic "plan".

3. ‘You Have a Mother’

The next item is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:
Lola Mozes’ childhood came to an end in the fall of 1939 at a small bridge in Poland. She was 9—seated in a horse-drawn wagon, her back propped against her family’s silver Sabbath candelabra, which was wrapped in a blanket—when she saw the aftermath of a German bomb attack. The sight of human bodies, along with eviscerated horses gasping in pain and struggling to rise despite their gaping wounds, reduced her to tears and panic. Her mother, Helena Rewitz, born Schwimer, who would hover over her daughter like a guardian angel later in a Jewish ghetto and the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, took the terrified child into her arms.

I sat with Lola Mozes at her dining room table in Brooklyn on Friday. Short and petite, with curly black hair and white gold hoop earrings, she had a soft, infectious laugh, an impish sense of humor and fine facial lines that she inherited from her father and mother. Her charm and warmth were girlish and slightly coquettish.

“I am the great pretender,” she said, smiling. “It is always there, what I went through. I am tormented by it. It keeps repeating and repeating itself in my head.”

Maybe I should tell my readers that my father and his father were both arrested in July 1941, as members of the communist resistance against the Nazis; that they were both convicted, by collaborating Dutch judges, to concentration camp
imprisonment, that my grandfather did not survive; that my father survived more than 3 years, 9 months and 15 days as a political prisoner in German concentration-camps; that he rarely talked about it but dreamt about being in the camps nearly every night; and that I have been thrown out of the University of Amsterdam's faculty of philosophy briefly before taking my M.A. there, while seriously ill also, and as the only student to whom this ever happened since 1945, and I specifically was thrown out, utterly falsely, as a "fascist terrorist " according to at least 16 hysteric extremely well-paid totally incompetent quasi-marxist leftist fascist liars, because I had publicly criticized them, namely by asking questions. (Happily, my father was dead then.)

There are four pages to Chris Hedges' story, and this is from the last page:
I did not write this story to say that Germans are bad and Jews are good. The line between good and evil runs through all hearts. It is, sadly, as easy to become an executioner as a victim. This is the most sobering lesson of war. And it is something the greatest writers on the Holocaust, such as Primo Levi, understood. There were, after all, Jüdische Ghetto-Polizei, Jewish Kapos, Judenräte, Sonderkommandos and Blockälteste whose contributions to the organization of the ghettos and the death camps kept the crematoriums functioning. The prisoners who lowered themselves to the moral squalor of the SS were soon lost. I did not write this piece to say that virtue or goodness triumphed after the Holocaust. The Nazi extermination of 12 million people, including 6 million Jews, was a colossal, tragic and absurd waste of human life. I wrote this piece to say that the fierce and protective love of a mother and a father is stronger than hate.
Yes - and let me also say something on the reasons that in Holland over 1% of the total population was murdered for being "of the Jewish race", which is far more than in almost any other country:

The main reason are that David Cohen and Abraham Asscher were two quite rich Dutch Jews who decided to collaborate with the Nazis, and first got most of the Jews to register as Jews, in 1940-41, and then helped most of the poor Jews into the concentration camps, with the explicit point and promise from the SS that the rich Jews then would be spared.

As Karel van het Reve put it, in his foreword to David Koker's book:
(..) the Jewish Council (an institution, as our teacher Jacques Presser wrote in an unpublished book Homo submersus (..) of Jews who earned above a certain income, with the aim of sending the Jews who earned less to Poland)
--Foreword in: David Koker, "Diary written in Vught""
Indeed Cohen and Asscher were saved, at the price of over 100.000 poor Jews who were murdered. Also, after the war neither of them even had to face a court: The Dutch mostly pretended nothing had happened (and grew even more anti- semitic after the war than before the war).

The Asschers and Cohens also had children, who had children, notably Rob Oudkerk (grandson of David Cohen, dismissed as a sadistic cocaine-using alderman of Amsterdam some years ago); Lodewijk Asscher (greatgrandson of
Abraham Asscher, presently vice-president of Holland, and very rich); while I have asked many times of Job Cohen what is his relation to David Cohen, but
Job Cohen - also very rich - has never answered anything I wrote, thereby suggesting he has to hide a lot.

The same three heroes (all "social-democrats") together with mayor Ed van Thijn (who also pretends he is Jewish without having the faith, if he can profit by that) organized the typically Dutch "solution" to the drugsproblem:
  • a mayor (like Van Thijn or Cohen) or an alderman (like Oudkerk) would sign a "personal permission" for a dealer of illegal drugs (marijuana and hashish) to deal their still illegal drugs from a coffeeshop (there are over 400 just in Amsterdam)
  • the amount of drugs these coffeeshops sold would remain unknown (!!)
  • the quality of drugs would not be controlled;
  • the mayor or alderman would get 5% of the profits
I do not know about the last point and therefore have struck it out, but the rest is gospel truth since the middle 1980ies, that is for 30 years now, since when also at least 300 billion (with a b) euros worth of only marijuana and hashish have been sold in this manner in Holland - where no one questions this, including all the judges and all the policemen. (Incidentally: 5% of 300 billion = 300 000 000 000 : 100 * 5 = 15 000 000 000 euros = 15 billion euros in 30 years - and 5% is easily paid by the clients of the drugsdealers).

4. Truthdigger of the Week: José Mujica

The next item is an article by Natasha Hakimi on Truthdig:
In case you don't know who José Mujica is: read the last link - and he is the president of Uruguay presently, and one of the few politicians I really respect.

Here are some of my reasons why:

Under Mujica and his predecessor, Tabaré Vásquez, who not only also belongs to the Broad Front party but will replace Mujica when he finishes his term March 1, the nation has witnessed an economic boom fueled by the agricultural industry and a dramatic decrease in poverty from 40 to 12 percent in the past 10 years. The minimum wage has increased by 50 percent and the Uruguayan wealth gap has narrowed. Moreover, the 75 percent increase in the economy has allowed for social spending to expand, money that has gone in part toward funding education and has, for example, allowed every schoolchild to have his or her own laptop computer. Mujica has also focused on enacting environmentally friendly policies and limiting consumption, an approach consistent with the speech he gave at the 2012 Rio+20 Summit in which he stated, “We can almost recycle everything now. If we lived within our means—by being prudent—the 7 billion people in the world could have everything they needed. Global politics should be moving in that direction.”

But not all of the Broad Front leader’s policies have been as welcome as free laptops. Mujica has also approved controversial legislation, such as the legalization of gay marriage and of abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Perhaps most controversially, under his rule Uruguay became the first country to legalize the production and sale of marijuana. Mujica explains that in his view the true dangers of drugs lie in trafficking, not consumption. 

So there is something a good politician can do, in a mere ten years, in a poor country, and in Mujica's case (who also gives away 90% of his presidential income) when one is between 70 and 80 years old.

5. The New Compassionate Conservatism and Trickle-Down Economics 

The last item today is an article by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:

Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are zeroing in on inequality as America’s fundamental economic problem.

Bush’s new Political Action Committee, called “The Right to Rise,” declares “the income gap is real” but that “only conservative principles can solve it.”

Mitt Romney likewise promised last week that if he runs for president he’ll change the strategy that led to his 2012 loss to President Obama (remember the “makers” versus the “takers?”) and focus instead on income inequality, poverty, and “opportunity for all people.”

The Republican establishment’s leading presidential hopefuls know the current upbeat economy isn’t trickling down to most Americans.

I say. Well... I am not amazed. And they even may win, now that the press works for them; the Supreme Court works for them (in majority); the thousands of lobbyists mostly work for them; and the major media mostly broadcast what has their approval.

Here is another bit, that compares Eisenhower and Reagan, who were both conservatives and Republicans:
Since Reagan, Republican policies have nudged it toward big gains at the top and stagnation for everyone else.

The last Republican president to deliver broad-based prosperity was Dwight D. Eisenhower, in the 1950s.

Then, the gains from growth were so widely shared that the incomes of the poorest fifth actually grew faster than the incomes of the top fifth. As a result, America became more equal than ever before or since.

Under Ike, the marginal tax rate on the richest Americans reached 91 percent.

But no present-day Republican wants an Eisenhower - who also warned for the military-industrial complex, that these days pays most Republicans, it seems.

In any case, if you believe a modern Republican is a "compassionate conservative" ... I pity your mind.

[1] I think the terms "90%", "99%" and "1%" are justified, but I do not think further refinements are very interesting. Also, I do think at least 10% is in favour of the 1%, simply because they work for them. So I would say that in general the opposition of the 90% and the 10% is a fair opposition, though it
is true the 10% can flummox many of the 90% by false promises, bullshit and baloney.

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