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Democracy and Money

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    Posted: 10 Nov 2011 at 16:40
 
A question: How well will democracy do in the future, if current trends continue- if society becomes more hollowed out, the middle class shrinking, and with extreme polarization of wealth?
 
 
...We have a society in which money is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people, and in which that concentration of income and wealth threatens to make us a democracy in name only...
 
 
...Who’s in that top 0.1 percent? Are they heroic entrepreneurs creating jobs? No, for the most part, they’re corporate executives. Recent research shows that around 60 percent of the top 0.1 percent either are executives in nonfinancial companies or make their money in finance, i.e., Wall Street broadly defined. Add in lawyers and people in real estate, and we’re talking about more than 70 percent of the lucky one-thousandth. ....
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Harburs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Nov 2011 at 16:45
The only treat for extreme capitalism will be socialism to keep the balance.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Nov 2011 at 16:55
What will happen is what always happened over the past 200 years of "demcratic" government. A realignment that will correct things and put them back to where they belong.
 
How and when will this happen God only knows. The current climate is not encouraging with unionised workers protesting in favour of destroying their unions (this happened in Wisconsin) and voting for political parties that publically advocate redistributing wealth from the bottom up through tax cuts for the wealthy and a systematic destruction of the welfare state and localised tax increased through stealth taxes and sales taxes (as is happening in Italy).
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Nov 2011 at 18:10
There is a revolution coming. The west is in the midst of its death throes, exacerbated by stupidity in Europe (The badly handled debt crisis) and insanity in the US (Brinkmanship over very reasonable tax rises). Sooner or later the suffering majority, the squeezed middle will see through the demagoguery of the right in the US and the self interest of the financial and political elite in Europe. What they end up doing once they achieve this level of self awareness is anyones guess.

I, for one, am placing my bets on a Nuclear winter/post apocolypse scenario.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Nov 2011 at 18:40
What Parnell says is definitely a possible pattern of events however, I believe that the bigger Western Countries have the infrastructure in place to utterly crush any widespread and sustained popular dissent in such a way that would have made the erstwhile Col. a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Over the last decade we have seen our rights and liberties eroded and a more hawkish and mocking attitude to protesters in state guided and state controlled western mass media.

I'm thinking Children of Men.


Edited by Zagros - 10 Nov 2011 at 18:45
"There was glory in pissing, Corabb decided as he watched the stream curve out and make that familiar but unique sound as it hit the ground." So true.
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Well, everyone knew the war is coming. But nobody wanted to believe it. And so, Germans took the advantage despite they were weaker than France alone.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Nov 2011 at 19:30
Originally posted by Zagros Zagros wrote:

What Parnell says is definitely a possible pattern of events however, I believe that the bigger Western Countries have the infrastructure in place to utterly crush any widespread and sustained popular dissent in such a way that would have made the erstwhile Col. a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Over the last decade we have seen our rights and liberties eroded and a more hawkish and mocking attitude to protesters in state guided and state controlled western mass media.

I'm thinking Children of Men.
 
Yes Zagros, western countries (and even all countries for that matter) have the ability to crush dissent (which we see daily in the Wikileaks fiasco among other things).
 
The problem who can wield the power to do so?
 
No one man or one group can ever command the majority support forever. They migh do that for a decade or two but eventually they will fall. In western europe as elsewhere the power is with the wealthy but elections are still free and the possibility of leftist parties taking power is still high and continues to happen. Of course power does corrupt them but eventually the "democratic process" corrects such mistakes. Once free and fair elections go down the drain and the people become silent about it (like disenfranchising certain people or banning certain parties) then your worries might just come true.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Nov 2011 at 20:46
Quote In western europe as elsewhere the power is with the wealthy but elections are still free and the possibility of leftist parties taking power is still high and continues to happen.


Far right populist parties have earned most of the political dividend from the economic crisis. Far left parties are as irrelevant as ever (thankfully) and the center left, social democratic parties are either stagnant or in genteel decline. The exception seems to be in France and Germany, where the center left seems destined to reclaim political power, but thats mainly because the center right have done such a great job of alienating their electorates. (and theres an element of 'its their turn' as well)

Italy seems to be without ideology with the exceptions of its political and regional fringes; it truly is an old mans club where the center left and center right ensure their cronies and buddies get rewarded. So if Berlesconi is replaced by a putatively center left Prime Minister... It really won't make much of a difference.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Nov 2011 at 22:52
Originally posted by Parnell Parnell wrote:

Quote In western europe as elsewhere the power is with the wealthy but elections are still free and the possibility of leftist parties taking power is still high and continues to happen.


Far right populist parties have earned most of the political dividend from the economic crisis. Far left parties are as irrelevant as ever (thankfully) and the center left, social democratic parties are either stagnant or in genteel decline. The exception seems to be in France and Germany, where the center left seems destined to reclaim political power, but thats mainly because the center right have done such a great job of alienating their electorates. (and theres an element of 'its their turn' as well)

Italy seems to be without ideology with the exceptions of its political and regional fringes; it truly is an old mans club where the center left and center right ensure their cronies and buddies get rewarded. So if Berlesconi is replaced by a putatively center left Prime Minister... It really won't make much of a difference.


 
Well lets put something clear first, the left has always been weak in europe except in Britain, France and Spain where it is the dominant force. This was one of the key factors in forcing those leftist parties to adopt a "right wing" approach as happened in Britain where one can probably safely say that Blair was economically speaking more right wing than Thatcher.
 
Other than the Netherlands and Finland, recent elections in Denmark and Ireland the right lost government and in most of europe the left has stood strong by either gaining more votes or keeping their share. Exceptions like Finland and the Netherlands are largely because of local factors chief among them is either pathetic weakness of the leftist parties or the relative isolation of those countries from the troubles in europe.
 
What the left needs in order to strike balance in the political spectrum is to revitalise its base by focusing on what matters instead of trying to emulate the right while putting cosmetic touches so that the party could still claim to be leftist. I have yet to see a leftist party defending the welfare state or campaigning to make the tax system fairer and better distributed. The populist right makes a campaign out of a single issue and focus on it garnering enough votes from traditionally leftist/rightist electorate untill they win. This should be the message of the left.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Nov 2011 at 23:23
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

 
Well lets put something clear first, the left has always been weak in europe except in Britain, France and Spain where it is the dominant force. This was one of the key factors in forcing those leftist parties to adopt a "right wing" approach as happened in Britain where one can probably safely say that Blair was economically speaking more right wing than Thatcher.


You're right to an extent I suppose, but we should bear in mind that the supposedly 'center right' governments in western Europe during the Cold War designed and maintained the welfare states that everyone now takes for granted. So the definition of left and right is a little skewed. In fact the very reason the idealogical left is/has been so weak in Europe is because the Christian democratic center right has made a virtue of claiming the best ideas of the left and preserving power. In essence the whole left/right divide is little more than a facade. Modern political parties that obtain political power follow an essentially pragmatic, non ideological governing philosophy. The true political revolutions under our system of representative democracy are grounded in whatever the body politic decide. Thatcher revolutionised Britain because the public grew tired of the stagnancy and trade union militancy that so characterised mid 70s Britain. New Labour became such a political force because they embraced the core Thatcherite economic philosophy but 'did their bit' for beloved public services like the NHS. I don't see how you can say New Labour was to the right of Thatcher since the level of public spending in the UK increased extravagantly in those years.
 
Quote
Other than the Netherlands and Finland, recent elections in Denmark and Ireland the right lost government and in most of europe the left has stood strong by either gaining more votes or keeping their share. Exceptions like Finland and the Netherlands are largely because of local factors chief among them is either pathetic weakness of the leftist parties or the relative isolation of those countries from the troubles in europe.


I'm not knowledgable enough to speak about other countries but the 'right' didn't lose power in Ireland. Right and left are essentially meaningless terms over here. One centrist coalition lost power to another centrist coalition. All meaningful decisions are predetermined by our international bailout facilitators.

Quote
What the left needs in order to strike balance in the political spectrum is to revitalise its base by focusing on what matters instead of trying to emulate the right while putting cosmetic touches so that the party could still claim to be leftist. I have yet to see a leftist party defending the welfare state or campaigning to make the tax system fairer and better distributed. The populist right makes a campaign out of a single issue and focus on it garnering enough votes from traditionally leftist/rightist electorate untill they win. This should be the message of the left.
 
Al-Jassas
 


The grand coalition that characterised the postwar political consensus - a partnership between labour, capital and government - is clearly the way forward. However the mass industries of those years are a thing of the past. Most people work for small and medium enterprises in the service sectors which are, for obvious reasons, harder for trade unions to organise in. Unless there is a fundamental change in our economic and political structure I can't see how we'll ever achieve anything even resembling that unholy alliance that heralded the new order.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Nov 2011 at 10:09
Originally posted by Parnell Parnell wrote:

Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

 
Well lets put something clear first, the left has always been weak in europe except in Britain, France and Spain where it is the dominant force. This was one of the key factors in forcing those leftist parties to adopt a "right wing" approach as happened in Britain where one can probably safely say that Blair was economically speaking more right wing than Thatcher.


You're right to an extent I suppose, but we should bear in mind that the supposedly 'center right' governments in western Europe during the Cold War designed and maintained the welfare states that everyone now takes for granted. So the definition of left and right is a little skewed. In fact the very reason the idealogical left is/has been so weak in Europe is because the Christian democratic center right has made a virtue of claiming the best ideas of the left and preserving power. In essence the whole left/right divide is little more than a facade. Modern political parties that obtain political power follow an essentially pragmatic, non ideological governing philosophy. The true political revolutions under our system of representative democracy are grounded in whatever the body politic decide. Thatcher revolutionised Britain because the public grew tired of the stagnancy and trade union militancy that so characterised mid 70s Britain. New Labour became such a political force because they embraced the core Thatcherite economic philosophy but 'did their bit' for beloved public services like the NHS. I don't see how you can say New Labour was to the right of Thatcher since the level of public spending in the UK increased extravagantly in those years.
 
 
Actually this notion that right wing government "designed" and "kept" the welfare state is a little misleading. Except in Britain and the US, all of western and central europe had a strong and functioning welfare state setup largely even before WWI as the case in Germany. When the war was over socialists and communists won almost every election between 1945 and 1949 and it was these governments that restructured and laid plans to expand the welfare system that existed before the war. The reason why the right was so dominant afterwards was the connivance that socialist and communist parties in central and eastern europe showed when Stalin decided to turn them into communism by force by forcing military coups in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria.
 
This and the response by leftist parties across europe in support of Stalin horrified the masses and more importantly the US and Britain both of whom did everything including rigging elections (as happened in Italy) so as to ensure the left whether it was radical or nationalistic out of power.
 
Now for the definition of right and left being skewed, I beg to differ. The right in europe is and always has been the right. Yes they support high income taxes and some tax increases here and there but when it comes to being business friendly and their policies are business oriented there is no doubt about that. Germany and France have among the lowest corporate tax rates in the world and their regulatory system is far less complex and demanding than the US's.
 
Their environmental record is no where near comprable to the US record which is much better.
 
Even some of their signature welfare programs are far from being "socialist". Except in Britain and Sweden healthcare is largely privatised not nationalised just like the US. The only difference is there isn't monopoly and governments watch the market with a hawk's eye to ensure its competetiveness.
 

 
Originally posted by Parnell Parnell wrote:

Quote
What the left needs in order to strike balance in the political spectrum is to revitalise its base by focusing on what matters instead of trying to emulate the right while putting cosmetic touches so that the party could still claim to be leftist. I have yet to see a leftist party defending the welfare state or campaigning to make the tax system fairer and better distributed. The populist right makes a campaign out of a single issue and focus on it garnering enough votes from traditionally leftist/rightist electorate untill they win. This should be the message of the left.
 
Al-Jassas
 


The grand coalition that characterised the postwar political consensus - a partnership between labour, capital and government - is clearly the way forward. However the mass industries of those years are a thing of the past. Most people work for small and medium enterprises in the service sectors which are, for obvious reasons, harder for trade unions to organise in. Unless there is a fundamental change in our economic and political structure I can't see how we'll ever achieve anything even resembling that unholy alliance that heralded the new order.
 
There was no post war consensus (except maybe in the US). In europe it was the red scare that made governments force corporations to accept new welfare legistlation and fear of losing power made the right accept the status quo. Once the red scare was gone the systematic destruction of the welfare state began.
 
Al-Jassas


Edited by Al Jassas - 11 Nov 2011 at 10:10
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The power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, This is apt in the democratic system accross the world, the primary factor of good democratic governance should be probity in public by the poloticos. The factured verdict in some way helps where more than one party rules. Recently in India this form of Governance has also shown hole's , where collective swindling of public wealth by all stake holders.
 
It is time that other pillars of the democratic set up should be made independent , such Auditor General, House commitee should have more than just policos, the Judiciary should become more active, federal investigative agencies.
At the end of each terms of Governance there must be some accountability on the rulers and onus of ommission and commission should not go along with their mandate for a period of atleast 3 years from the date of leaving the chair.. They should do some sort of handing over process to the next incumbent.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Nov 2011 at 14:00
Money does not corrupt given the fact that it is impervious to putrification and after all is said and done the degenerating element is the human psyche.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Nov 2011 at 15:51
Where is the evidence for the ideas that "welfare is dead", "the west is dying", "right-extremism is on the brink of taking over Europe", "we are apporaching an apocalyptic war"? Or is this a misundestanding of what many here have said? remember that if we see the present day societies as far from perfect so was those of the past - gthe ones we know about. "Golden ages" belong not so much the history-books as the fairy-tale books, and could anybody mention when the "uncorrupted" or "clean" or "perfect" years of democracy was?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Nov 2011 at 16:21
I agree. Most of the doomsaying is the result of accepting right-wing propaganda, in for instance thnking banks getting hit for money or being regulated to keep them stable is bad for society; or people taking a lax atitude to work are somehow immoral or deceptive; or nationalised industries are ipso facto inefficient; or the euro is sick and may fall apart.
 
Ask yourself who actually suffers and who actually benefits from all these things. Inflation benefits people who do not have money against people who do. That doesn't make it bad.
 
Someone pointed out correctly that the vaunted German work ethic is a fairy tale, as anyone who has worked in Germany can tell. However, if it were true who wold have been benefitting from it all these years? At least f yo're lazy you get the benefit of being lazy.
 
People who wuld actually benefit from or be unaffected from by the doomsday scenarios, yet accept the barrage of right-wing (economically) threats of disaster are part of the mechanism by which the right maintains its grip (just as the feudal aristocracy was maintained in power by supernatural belief in the divine rights not just of kings but of lords.
 
It was ever thus in fact. Elites maintain themselves in power by the masses' faith in them. Something has to happen to break that faith. More often than not it is some undeniable disaster  (the Black Death, WW1, the Great Depression...) which then leads to revolution although western Europe managed to bring that about pecefully, largely because the threat of Bolshevism and anarchy was seen as worse.


Edited by gcle2003 - 11 Nov 2011 at 16:25
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Nov 2011 at 16:37
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

[QUOTE=Parnell] [QUOTE=Al Jassas]
 
Even some of their signature welfare programs are far from being "socialist". Except in Britain and Sweden healthcare is largely privatised not nationalised just like the US. The only difference is there isn't monopoly and governments watch the market with a hawk's eye to ensure its competetiveness.
I have to differ. On a minor pont I thought Denmark had the same system as England. (Britain does not have a health care system, the Enghlish, Scots, Welsh and Irish have their own.)
 
More importantly the health services of the other EU countries (all of them I think) are not in the least like the US, since the central role is played by State insurance, not by private industry. Everybody therefore pays the same premium (or similar; sometimes it differs by occupational qualification or income), in effect a special tax. Out of that health care suppliers are paid at rates de facto set by the State, even if negotiation is allowed.
 
The difference between the EU in general and the UK systems is that the health care providers in the UK are themselves nationalised and paid directly. Doctors for instance get a certain rate per annum dependng on the number of patients on their books, no matter how much actual work they do.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Nov 2011 at 17:56
Originally posted by Parnell Parnell wrote:


Far right populist parties have earned most of the political dividend from the economic crisis. Far left parties are as irrelevant as ever (thankfully) ...

What a "far right populist party" as well as a "far left" one is open to debate, but often it seems parties criticising immigration are a substantial part of the former. If so, then the last years financial turmoil is simply not enough to explain the rise of such parties, since it happened many years before, even sometimes in the late 20th century. I am not sure how "typical"(or the opposite) this country(Denmark) is, but at least here there is little to support economic problems "triggered" such a "right populism" (if we say there was such "right populism" of course).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Nov 2011 at 20:00
Originally posted by fantasus fantasus wrote:

Originally posted by Parnell Parnell wrote:


Far right populist parties have earned most of the political dividend from the economic crisis. Far left parties are as irrelevant as ever (thankfully) ...

What a "far right populist party" as well as a "far left" one is open to debate, but often it seems parties criticising immigration are a substantial part of the former. If so, then the last years financial turmoil is simply not enough to explain the rise of such parties, since it happened many years before, even sometimes in the late 20th century. I am not sure how "typical"(or the opposite) this country(Denmark) is, but at least here there is little to support economic problems "triggered" such a "right populism" (if we say there was such "right populism" of course).
 
While there are populist single issue parties that are wrongly supposed to be right wing like the BNP (which is actually a nationalistic xenophobic leftist party) the majority of far right parties in europe are both xenophobic and follow a neo-liberal school in economics like UKIP, Wilders's group, Le Pen's party and others. This puts them squarely on the far right of the spectrum.
 
Now why did those parties apparently succeed despite the financial troubles? Well one has to ask first was the countries they were successful in among the ones that suffered the most or were they relatively shielded?
 
The answer is where ever a country suffered the least or actually gained from the crisis (like the Netherlands and Switzerland) while having right wing governments following right wing policies the far right which mixes its xenophobia with the economic message gains.
 
In other countries the fact that mainstream right wing parties with tacit support from left wing parties began to appease the fringe and impliment their policies disregarding what they stand for. This gave legitimacy to the far right and increased its support as we saw in France where the Le Pen gang were just about to be burried in the political grave yard (they were so broke they sold their own HQ) when Sarkozy gave them the kiss of life with a serious of dumb legistlations nationally and locally that targetted immigrants in general and muslim immigrants in particular which rallied the masses to the far right.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Nov 2011 at 11:25
I have a strong impression (not least from some national media)there is a lot of "myths" about "waves" of extremism of the one kind or the other, flooding over most of Europe. The evidence I have seen so far is that such "news" are not yesterdays, but last centurys news. but perhaps I missed it?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Captain Vancouver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Nov 2011 at 18:12
 
......at a time when the nation is looking for ways to battle unemployment, big companies are creating fewer jobs, and critics say they are neglecting to lay the foundation for future growth by expanding into new businesses or building new plants.
 
 
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/22/business/rash-to-some-stock-buybacks-are-on-the-rise.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp
 
Another question comes to mind, inspired somewhat I suppose by the thought of a "two state solution" that is bandied about in relation to Israel/Palestine, is this: Is the US headed for a kind of two state solution of its own, with a globalizes minority who's interests are increasingly detached from those of the common citizen in America, and indeed not only detached, but at odds with them?
 
The article above discusses the practice of corporations buying back their own shares, often spending billions at a time, even while laying off workers and contracting inwards. There is of course a purpose for this, and again it is one that benefits that small minority, but not the long term good of the country.
 
One could imagine here a stable, if unethical and reprehensible, situation. A monied class that has its collective arm tightly wrapped around government, and its assets free to go where ever beneficial for them in our globalized economy, does exactly what is best for themselves, which may or may not include investing in socially beneficial projects. An ever poorer working class either accepts the endless spin about freedom and an exceptional society, or finds political alternatives hard to come by (Obama didn't have much audacity at all, Nader was ridiculed into obscurity).
 
In effect: two states, each with their own solitude, the more affluenct one protected by private security. This sort of thing is not withour precedent in history.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Nov 2011 at 16:03
Shades of Soylent Green! Obviously all of these rants over a "monied class" apparently are totally unaware as to the actual identity of the ownership! It is not a group of bloated plutocrats but instead Mutuals, Pension Funds, and "Charitable" foundations!  
 
For an inkling, read this little article:
 
 
 
Honi soit qui mal y pense
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Joined: 29 Sep 2010
Location: Vancouver Isle
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Captain Vancouver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Nov 2011 at 18:08
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

Shades of Soylent Green! Obviously all of these rants over a "monied class" apparently are totally unaware as to the actual identity of the ownership! It is not a group of bloated plutocrats but instead Mutuals, Pension Funds, and "Charitable" foundations!  
 
For an inkling, read this little article:
 
 
 
 
Ma and Pa Average work hard, and deposit some of their money into a pension fund, knowing that they will not be able to  build cars and scrub floors forever. This goes into vehicles such as mutual funds, bonds, stocks, etc. The control of these vehicles falls to fund managers, coporate CEOs, stock brokers, and others on Wall Street or its equivalent. When these funds arrive, said managers exclaim to themselves:
 
1) Ma and Pa have worked hard for this, so it's our sacred duty to get the best return possible, while of course safeguarding the integrety of the capital, taking no more risks than Ma and Pa would approve of.
 
or,
 
2) Mana from heaven! Now, let's see how we can spin this dough into a fortune by, say, bundling it up with dodgey mortgages and selling it to unsuspecting crackers; or at least rip off some fat salaries, bonuses, commissions, and/or fees by the various circuitous methods we have dreamed up over the years. Praise the God of filthy lucre.
 
The questions remain: Do Ma and Pa exist in a different country now, one financially, ethically, socially, and perhaps soon politically distinct from the real and metaphorical Wall Street and its associates? Is it sustainable? Is it changeable? What sort of reactions may take place?
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