Obama Goes From White House to Wall Street In Less Than One Year

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the Seeds&Chips Global Food Innovation Summit on May 9, 2017 in Milan, Italy. (Photo: Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)

By Max Abelson for Bloomberg – Last month, just before her book “What Happened” was published, Barack Obama spoke in New York to clients of Northern Trust Corp. for about $400,000, a person familiar with his appearance said. Last week, he reminisced about the White House for Carlyle Group LP, one of the world’s biggest private equity firms, according to two people who were there. Next week, he’ll give a keynote speech at investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald LP’s health-care conference. Obama is coming to Wall Street less than a year after leaving the White House, following a path that’s well trod and well paid. While he can’t run for president, he continues to be an influential voice in a party torn between celebrating and vilifying corporate power. His new work with banks might suggest which side of the debate he’ll be on and disappoint anyone expecting him to avoid a trap that snared Clinton. Or, as some of his executive friends see it, he’s just a private citizen giving a few paid speeches to other successful people while writing his next book. “He was the president of the entire United States — financial services are under that umbrella,” said former UBS Group AG executive Robert Wolf, an early supporter who joined the Obama Foundation board this year. “He doesn’t look at Wall Street like, ‘Oh, these are individuals who don’t want the best for the country.’ He doesn’t stereotype.”

Destructive Stock Buybacks—That You Pay For

'Conventional monetary policy has failed,' writes Brown. An economy in service of the people, not industry and the banks, is what's needed now. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

By Ralph Nader for The Nader Page – The monster of economic waste—over $7 trillion of dictated stock buybacks since 2003 by the self-enriching CEOs of large corporations—started with a little noticed change in 1982 by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under President Ronald Reagan. That was when SEC Chairman John Shad, a former Wall Street CEO, redefined unlawful ‘stock manipulation’ to exclude stock buybacks. Then after Clinton pushed through congress a $1 million cap on CEO pay that could be deductible, CEO compensation consultants wanted much of CEO pay to reflect the price of the company’s stock. The stock buyback mania was unleashed. Its core was not to benefit shareholders (other than perhaps hedge fund speculators) by improving the earnings per share ratio. Its real motivation was to increase CEO pay no matter how badly such burning out of shareholder dollars hurt the company, its workers and the overall pace of economic growth. In a massive conflict of interest between greedy top corporate executives and their own company, CEO-driven stock buybacks extract capital from corporations instead of contributing capital for corporate needs, as the capitalist theory would dictate. Yes, due to the malicious, toady SEC “business judgement” rule, CEOs can take trillions of dollars away from productive pursuits without even having to ask the companies’ owners—the shareholders—for approval.

After The Financial Crisis: How The Ultra-Wealthy Have Prospered

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By Nick Beams for WSWS – It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. The same might apply to a graph. One such case is a striking graphic, published in the Financial Times this week, showing a downturn in the wealth of the world’s top-ten billionaires in the financial crisis of 2008, and then roaring back, at an even greater rate than in the past, to reach new heights. As the brief article noted, the net worth of the world’s “very wealthiest people took a hit during the financial crisis as the stock market tumbled—but that pause would be short lived.” The crisis proved to be but a “temporary setback.” The graphic serves to underscore the real meaning of the word “recovery,” which is so frequently bandied about by the heads of the world’s major economic institutions to describe the state of the world economy. In fact, it has nothing to do with economic reality. On the contrary, it reveals the state of the world’s ultra-wealthy, in contrast to the situation confronting hundreds of millions of working people in the major economies, where real incomes remain below their level before the 2008 crisis, and wealth has contracted.

Barbara Lee And Tulsi Gabbard Side With War Party On Sanctions

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By Danny Haiphong for Black Agenda Report – The House recently voted to enforce sanctions against Russia, Iran, and the DPRK. Congress included an unprecedented provision in the bill to restrict the President from amending the sanctions without approval from Congress. Despite vocal opposition, the Trump Administration was forced to sign the bill in the face of near unanimous support. All three in Congress who voted against the sanctions were Republicans. Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul were the only Senators to vote down the bill. Also missing from the opposition’s short list was Democratic Party representatives Barbara Lee and Tulsi Gabbard. Lee and Gabbard’s absence from Washington’s minuscule opposition to sanctions is significant because both representatives have a record of using their vote to curtail US war designs. Lee was the only elected official to vote against the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. She opposed the invasion of Iraq two years later. One of the few Black Congressional Caucus members with a consistent track record against foreign intervention, Lee also opposed President Barack Obama’s violation of the War Powers Act when he led the NATO invasion of Libya in 2011.

The Dance Of Death

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By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build. They seek to destroy. They are agents of death. They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated. Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch. Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future. Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. State repression is indiscriminate and brutal. And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House. The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse. Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus.

‘Obscene’: 70 Top Healthcare CEOs Raked In $9.8 Billion Since 2010

"Stock-heavy pay drives CEOs to do the exact opposite of their buzzword-laden goals of creating a 'patient-centered' health system that focuses on 'value,'" writes Axios's Bob Herman. (Photo: Elvert Barnes/Flickr/cc)

By Jake Johnson for Common Dreams – While the Senate GOP’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been denounced as potentially devastating to the poor, the sick, women, people of color, children, and those with pre-existing conditions, a new analysis published Monday finds that no matter what happens, the CEOs of large healthcare companies are likely to continue living lavishly. “The median household income in 2015 was $56,515, which the average healthcare CEO made in less than a day.” Bob Herman, Axios Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2010, the “CEOs of 70 of the largest U.S. healthcare companies cumulatively have earned $9.8 billion,” according to a report by Axios’s Bob Herman. Herman goes on to add that the CEOs’ earnings “far outstrip[ped] the wage growth of nearly all Americans.” “The richest year [for healthcare CEOs] was 2015, when 70 healthcare CEOs collectively made $2 billion,” Herman notes. “That was an average of about $28.5 million per CEO and a median of about $17.3 million per CEO. The median household income in 2015 was $56,515, which the average healthcare CEO made in less than a day.”

There’s No ‘Free Market’ Solution To Health Care

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By Geoff Coventry for Other Words – The Republicans have big plans for health care in this country: to eliminate coverage for millions of Americans while delivering a big tax cut to the rich. As someone who stands to benefit from that tax cut, let me just say: I don’t need it, and I don’t want it. No tax cut is worth excluding millions of Americans from the health services they need. Any new health care legislation should be focused on providing the best available health services for all Americans, not deliberately putting them out of reach. And yet, this is exactly what the twin monstrosities that came out of the House and Senate would have done. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the House bill would’ve left 23 million Americans uncovered by 2026. The Senate version was only a shade better, leaving 22 million people out. Those bills were nonstarters with the public — the party was forced to pull them, along with any immediate plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). This Republican-majority Congress has shown their cards: They favor less coverage for workers and the elderly and lower taxes for the wealthy. Republicans in both chambers claim they’re doing this to support “freedom” and “choice” for the American people. They say the “free market” is the only way to provide Americans with access to affordable health care.

Stunning Truths About The Bloated Safety Net For The Wealthy

A shredded net. (Photo: Sandstein)

By Paul Buchheit for Buzz Flash – Housing: Start with the homes, the expensive homes, the estates. For the mortgage interest deduction alone, households earning over $100,000 in 2012 claimed 77.3 percent of the total tax savings. For many of these well-positioned Americans, there are second homes with another mortgage deduction. Then, piling on, those with expensive homes can take a tax break of UP TO A HALF-MILLION DOLLARS when they sell their homes. Relatively few tax breaks go to low-income Americans. The total of mortgage and property tax subsidies is nearly DOUBLE the amount spent on public housing programs. Social Security: As noted, wealthy people are cashing in because of their longer lives. But there are more reasons for their late-life benefits. Lower-income earners are subsidizing the 10% of Americans who stop paying for Social Security when they reach the $127,200 income limit. Also subsidizing the rich are the unauthorized immigrants who pay for Social Security but are ineligible for benefits. Savings: A wealthy household can make millions in capital gains and pay NO TAX as long as investments are held, and then bequeath the estate to heirs with LITTLE OR NO TAX. Less fortunate Americans who have to rely on bank accounts get virtually no interest — and the majority of overdraft fees.

Seattle Makes History – Passes ‘Tax The Rich’ Income Tax

Kshama Sawant addresses a crowd of "tax the rich" supporters outside at a rally before the vote.

By Andre Roberge for Progressive Army – Even though this may seem like cut-and-dry common sense legislation, this ordinance still has an uphill battle ahead of itself. Former Washington State Attorney Rob McKenna laid bare the main issues as follows: 1.[The city] would also have to persuade the Supreme Court to ignore an existing state statute that prohibits counties, cities … from imposing a tax on net income. 2.[What they] would have to do is persuade the Supreme Court to overlook its own precedent. The precedent alluded to above deals with a 1930s Washington Supreme Court decision that states “income is property, and the state’s constitution declares that all property must be taxed uniformly.” Since Seattle’s proposed income tax is a progressive tax and not “uniformly” distributed onto all tax brackets, the Supreme Court would have to redefine property. Some critics have gone even further.

G20 Is Desperately Trying To Save A Failed World Order

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By Nick Dearden for Aljazeera – The Hamburg G20 might go down in history as the moment the international elite just couldn’t hold it together any longer. For years, leaders of the most powerful countries have come together to cooperate on how to run the world: the G6, G7, G8, G20. Their watchword was stability. Holding it together was far preferable to allowing an international free for all. Agreeing among themselves was preferable to cooperating with small, poor and troublesome nations at the United Nations. That’s why they invented this system of global policymaking. But the global elite has fractured. In the run-up to the Hamburg G20, the talk was of the global strongmen who had taken centre stage, for whom diplomacy was simply war by other means. The power of Trump, Putin, Erdogan and their ilk derives from a form of nationalism that believes global rules are for the weak. The G20 came to prominence in 2008 after the financial crash meant the richest G8 countries needed the wealth of emerging nations to stabilise the world economy. The likes of Saudi Arabia and Turkey were granted a seat at the table. In London in 2009, they patted themselves on the back on a jobwell done. But their reforms were too timid, too beholden to the free-market ideology that caused the crash in the first place. Today that crash haunts this G20 like a ghost that won’t be exorcised.

What Happened To America’s Wealth? The Rich Hid It

Jeff Smallwood/Flickr

By Chuck Collins for Other WOrds – There’s actually trillions that could be used to fix our roads and schools. The wealthy just don’t want you to know where it is. If you find yourself traveling this summer, take a closer look at America’s deteriorating infrastructure — our crumbling roads, sidewalks, public parks, and train and bus stations. Government officials will tell us “there’s no money” to repair or properly maintain our tired infrastructure. Nor do we want to raise taxes, they say. But what if billions of dollars in tax revenue have gone missing? New research suggests that the super-rich are hiding their money at alarming rates. A study by economists Annette Alstadsaeter, Niels Johannesen, and Gabriel Zucman reports that households with wealth over $40 million evade 25 to 30 percent of personal income and wealth taxes. These stunning numbers have two troubling implications. First, we’re missing billions in taxes each year. That’s partly why our roads and transit systems are falling apart. Second, wealth inequality may be even worse than we thought. Economic surveys estimate that roughly 85 percent of income and wealth gains in the last decade have gone to the wealthiest one-tenth of the top 1 percent.

Urban Shield: A Federal Protection Racket

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By Ann Garrison for Black Agenda Report – In 2015, Berkeley, California City Councilor Max Anderson voiced this eloquent opposition to militarization of the police during the annual Bay Area Urban Shield war games and weapons expo: “The culture that’s cultivated by the type of training that you receive becomes the way you conduct yourselves . . . “When I was in the Marines in the early ‘60s, all our pop-up targets that we practiced on were Asians. You know now they’re Middle Easterners, so it kinda shifts, and so the rationale and the justification for targeting people on these bases shifts along with it. “And when military weapons follow military thinking into our police ranks, you know we have a problem. You know it’s a problem of association because when you’re in a combat situation, you’re thinking about survival, and you’re thinking about enemies and friendlies. And when you inculcate that into our environment here, and we start thinking about the citizenry as either being friendly or enemies, and react accordingly based on what designation we lay on people, then we’re sliding down that track.” What could better describe the prevailing mindset of U.S. police? And we all know who’s on the enemies list that they feel compelled to kill to survive: Black and Brown people, Muslims, and poor people.

This Is What Democratic Party Propaganda Looks Like

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By Sheila Norton for The Washington Journal – It began with two Democratic legislators, both deeply concerned about the threat from the Republicans’ Trumpcare bill, sitting on the steps of the Capitol — Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative John Lewis (D-GA), the Civil Rights legend himself. What began as a conversation shared on Facebook grew organically into a powerful moment of truth. Ben Winkler of MoveOn.org happened to be walking by in the early moments and chronicled the evening as the crowd and emotion swelled. I’ll let Ben’s words speak for themselves, but this should serve as a reminder that despite everything there are genuinely good people working passionately to make Americans’ lives better, and magic can happen when a concerned citizenry gets involved. After your read and share this thread, call your Senators at 202.224.3121 and let them know exactly how you feel about the effort to repeal Obamacare.

US 1% Will Control 70% Of Wealth By 2021

America’s oligarchs are set to maintain their grip on the majority of the country’s wealth, with a new study claiming that they will control 70 percent of national wealth by 2021. (AP/Vadim Ghirda)

By Whitney Webb for Mint Press News – America’s rich just won’t quit getting richer, according to a new study released in mid-June by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a global management consulting firm. The study, which seeks to analyze the global wealth management industry, as well as the evolution of private wealth, uncovered some startling statistics that suggest that global financial inequality will grow significantly by the year 2021. The firm found that the already massive gap between the world’s wealthy elite – the approximately 18 million households that hold at least than $1 million in assets – and everyone else is continuing to widen at a remarkable rate. The estimated 70 million people who make up these households were found to control 45 percent of the world’s $166.5 trillion in wealth. And in just four more years, it is estimated that they will control more than half of the world’s wealth, despite representing less than 1 percent of the world’s current population. However, while rising inequality is a global phenomenon, it is especially pronounced in the United States. While wealth inequality in the U.S. is by no means an unknown phenomenon, the U.S. is significantly more unequal than most other countries, with the nation’s elite currently holding 63 percent of the private wealth.

Ditch Both War Parties: Anti-War Coalition Maps Independent Course To Peace

We say No to War sign seen at a 2007 anti-war protest. (Photo by Thiago Santos on flickr)

By Glen Ford for Black Agenda Report – On June 16 through 18, the United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC) will hold its annual conference, under the theme: “Stop the Wars at Home and Abroad: Building a Movement Against War, Injustice and Repression.” For three days, the convention center in Richmond, Virginia, will likely be the sanest building in the nation, the one place where you won’t be subjected to a barrage of warmongering fantasies about Russian threats to a non-existent American democracy. Instead, hundreds of activists from a broad range of organizations will be hard at work building alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans who have plunged the world into endless war and condemned most people in the United States to a dismal future of economic insecurity, the worst health care system in the developed world –- and if you’re Black, the ever-present threat of sudden death at the hands of police. The all-seeing, eternally-listening, omnivorous data-crunching mechanisms of the national security state that was once justified by manufactured fears of Soviet Russians, then exponentially expanded to cage, kill and contain Black revolutionaries, and then vastly reinforced again to criminalize Black people as a group, creating the world’s biggest mass incarceration police state…