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Archive for the ‘OccupyWallStreet’ Category

Growing Greed, Income Gap Threaten America

A hardening caste system driven by the insatiable greed of its wealthiest citizens.

America is devolving into a desperate almost Third World society defined by a hardening caste system driven by the insatiable greed of its wealthiest citizens. Nobel-Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz argues in his new book The Price Of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future.

This is excerpted from a book review published in the Chicago Tribune July 12, 2012 by Bernard Vaughan. “We are now approaching the level of inequality that marks dysfunctional societies,”  Stiglitz writes. “It is a club that we would distinctly not want to join, including Iran, Jamaica, Uganda and the Philippines.”

Statistics on widening U.S. income inequality are well known, but Stiglitz details them to show the trend has passed into a danger zone.

About 30 years ago, the top 1 percent of income earners received 12 percent of the nation’s income, which could have been unacceptable enough, Stiglitz writes. But by 2007, the average after-tax income of the top 1 percent had reached $1,300,000 while the bottom 20 percent averaged only $17,800.

With the end of the Great Recession, the gap has only widened: The ratio of CEO annual compensation to that of the typical worker in 2010 was 243 to 1, the level it had been before the financial crisis, the author says.

These economic realities imperil America’s future, corrupting basic notions of fairness and justice critical in a thriving democracy.

Such dramatic inequality, according to Stiglitz is the byproduct of a bubble-strewn economy beholden to a deregulated and all-powerful financial industry all too often dictating government policies through its lobbying and money politics.  The author argues that these economic realities imperil America’s future, corrupting basic notions of fairness and justice critical in a thriving democracy. As inequality increases,opportunity decreases and cynicism is ascendant, Stiglitz says.

Alienation has begun to replace motivation,” Stiglitz writes. “Instead of social cohesion we have a new divisiveness.” Stiglitz’s book echoes others released recently by liberal-leaning voices examining America’s struggle to rebound from the financial calamity of 2008, including studies by economists Paul Krugman and Jeffrey Sachs, former President Bill Clinton and filmmaker Charles Ferguson.

Stiglitz, a former Clinton administration and World Bank economist, received the Nobel Prize for economics in 2001 and published a series of popular studies in the last decade starting with Globalization and its Discontents (2002), an attack on the International Monetary Fund’s austerity policies.

While Stiglitz’s book zeros in on the idea of inequality, it follows a similar script. Most of its pages are devoted to how America got where it is as opposed to what it can do to reverse course. Ample blame is assigned to the Reagan administration for ushering in an anti-government zeitgeist that Stiglitz argues has engorged the financial industry at the expense of the middle class. Clinton exacerbated financial deregulation, and President Barack Obama has missed a critical opportunity to rein in Wall Street, the book maintains.

Though Stiglitz teases the reader with solutions, it’s not until late in the book that he outlines his economic reform agenda. With some exceptions, many of his suggestions are similar to those offered by Sachs, Krugman and liberal activists. They face the same steep odds in the current political environment, with Obama and Democrats facing a staunchly conservative Republican Party in Congress, in most states—and even on the Supreme Court, some critics say, after decisions such as Bush versus Gore and Citizens United.

Stiglitz’s ideas often echo the Democrats agenda: tax reform so the wealthy pay more; reining in Wall Street; investing in education, technology and infrastructure; and campaign finance reform. He also argues for tempering globalization, where capital is allowed to migrate to the cheapest labor force and free flow of goods is unimpeded by anything but dollar considerations.

It could be the 1 percent who try to do something about inequality as they realize that their fates are bound to how the other 99 prcent live.

Ultimately, and ironically, Stiglitz says, it could be the 1 percenters who try to do something about inequality as they realize that their fates are bound to how the other 99 prcent live.

Throughout  history, this has been something  that the top 1 percent eventually do learn,” he writes. “Often, however, they learn it too late.”

While you’re waiting around for the 1 percenters to come to their senses, here’s a Free offer that may help you survive and thrive in these difficult economic times. If you have an interest in starting a business of their own, Denny Hatch, a friend and mail order guru has developed 22 Rules for Internet Success and with his permission I would like to send you a copy. It’s yours for the asking: Just shoot me an e-mail: Send me a FREE copy of Denny Hatch’s 22 Rules for Internet Success

In 1942 Another Mail Order Millionaire Started From His Home

Diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1939, Norman Edmund was quarantined in a sanatorium, where he watched eight of his 10 wardmates perish from the disease, But he turned the gruesome experience to his advantage. Unwanted by employers, who feared the young accountant could still be contagious, Edmund started an Army salvage business in his New Jersey home.

At the time of Edmund’s retirement in 1975, the company had sales of about $10 million.

That business became Edmund Scientific, publisher of the famous Edmund Scientific catalog. The catalog—loved by science geeks for more than half a century—still sells you-build- it telescope kits, antigravity devices, solar-powered gadgets of all sorts, and goofy-yet-instructional items like a brew-your-own-root-beer kit. Edmund saw the catalog as a much needed tool for science education, particularly after the Soviet launch of Sputnik in the late 1950s.

The Russians were beating us,” recalls Robert Edmund, Norman’s son. “You had to get your people involved in science.” Norman Edmund died January 17. he was 95 and had enjoyed good health since beating TB.  He started his first company, Edmund Salvage, in 1942 at the behest of friends who worked at the Frankford Arsenal, an Army supply depot in nearby Philadelphia. Edmund began taking in surplus military equipment, tearing it apart, and selling the components, including lots of lenses for amateur photographers and for industry.

Edmund Salvage became Edmund Scientific, whose flagship was the scientific catalog. “Edmund scoured hundreds of magazines a month looking for products and ideas“,  Robert recalls, “As a kid, stacked up, the magazines looked like a skyscraper to me.”

Later, Edmund Scientific operated a retail store from its headquarters in Barrington, New Jersey, attracting science buffs worldwide. Salvador Dali, during a period of interest in optical illusions, stopped by to examine prisms and lenses, says Alex Husted, a grandson of Norman’s. “Norman would buy train cars full of war surplus to get binoculars, and you’d get all this other stuff you didn’t  want—motors, gear boxes, random lab equipment.” Much of it went into  a space known as “the mad scientist’s room.” An annual tent sale—people camped overnight to get first crack at the oddball offerings—would clear the stuff out to make room for new shipments.

At the time of Edmund’s retirement in 1975, the company had sales of about $10 million. Robert took over, expanding the optics business and manufacturing lenses in-house. In 2001, Robert had to break some news to his father. He had sold the scientific catalog to an educational company. “The  world  was changing,” says Robert. “People weren’t buying kits. They were finding their science elsewhere.” His father took it hard.

New owners have kept the catalog going. Edmund Optics, as the family business is now known, has grown to $120 million in sales. And Robert is eager to describe a grant program he started two years ago, giving $80,000 annually to fund promising ideas of the sort his father might have championed. There is one grant in particualr. It went to a Peruvian who had developed a rapid diagnostic kit for tuberculosis.

Norman Edmund, 1916-2012.

This article first appeared in INC. The Magazine for Growing Companies under the byline of Jeff Bailey.

It’s never been easier or more necessary in these difficult economic times where our unemployment rate seems permanently stuck at around 8% to consider starting your own business. No other business I know costs less to get started in than Mail Order and with the help of the Internet allows beginners to run their own businesses from anywhere.. It can be started part- time to help your family ‘get over the hump’,’ put some bread on the table’ and when the profits come rolling in, it’s easy to make it a full time career like Norman and his son Robert Edmund.

The book HOW TO BECOME A MAIL ORDER MILLIONAIRE contains all you need to know to make a go of this exciting and rewarding business. It’s sold on a complete money back guarantee of satisfaction. You can order it from Amazon for $39,95 plus s&h or as a reader of this blog direct from the publisher for only $29.95FREE shipping and handling. Send check or money order to SUPERIOR PRESS 333 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1032, Chicago IL 60601.

Little Known IRS Office That Actually Works For the 99%

This posting is considerably longer than any other I have ever done. Take my word for it. Ignore the “TL;DR” crowd, this one you will really enjoy! It’s the inside story about a government office that actually works to save all of us from paying more taxes than we should.

DEFENDER OF LAST RESORT…Nina Olson is director of the Taxpayer Advocate Service, whose job is to oversee “advocates” in every state. These employees of the IRS who represent taxpayers in egregious disputes with the service. The advocates are grease in the gears of an agency that gets jammed all too often.

Olson wins relief for 70 percent of the 300,000 people and businesses that open a case

There has been only one national taxpayer advocate, Olson, has held the position since Congress created it a decade ago. She presides over 2,000 caseworkers and data analysts–a sliver of the IRS, which employs over 100,000 people. Individuals, corporations, small businesses, even millionaires and sovereign nations have sought the help of the  Taxpayer Advocate Service, as have accountants and trained tax preparers who find the tax code and the IRS impossible to navigate. In a typical year, Olson wins relief for 70 percent of the 300,000 people and businesses that open a case, according to her office. Many of these petitioners have usually exhausted most other opportunities for recourse and are often experiencing severe economic hardship.

Though she has characterized IRS procedures as Kafkaesque, Olson empathizes with the agency. Congress is constantly demanding that it collect more revenue, both to bridge what’s known as the tax gap–the more than $385 billion discrepancy between the revenue  the IRS actually collects and the amount the government believes it is owed each year–and to pay down the federal deficit. While Congress demands more money from the IRS, however, it has not been generous in funding the agency.

Congress is also making the tax code more complicated every day. Right now it tops out at 3.8 million words, four times as long as War and Peace. The IRS doesn’t have the manpower to manage the scads of credits and changes to the code it is required to enforce. And computer glitches are entangling more people in audits than ever before–millions in just this year.

“For the majority of taxpayers, the IRS has become faceless, nameless, with no accountability and no liability.”

Part of Olson’s job is to target the agency’s failures and shame it into fixing them. At the same time, she’s looking at taxpayers and trying to figure out why some of them don’t pay. She recently gave a speech to the Federal Bar Association’s annual lunch with the  theme: How the 99% experiences the tax system. She started with the bad news:

  • One in three won’t get their calls to the IRS answered.
  • The wait time for half of all people who have written to the IRS is more than six weeks.

When I heard that“, she exclaimed, whacking her head, “I nearly hit my head against a wall.” “For the majority of taxpayers, the IRS has become faceless, nameless, with no accountability and no liability.” One of the attorney’s in the audience said “she’s completely right”. He called his dealings with the IRS “a hall of mirrors, where there are no real people and only disembodied voices with badge numbers.” He  was recently snarled with a two-year fight to reverse a $24,000 penalty for a client, a Midwest manufacturer. He said “No business could stay in business behaving the way the IRS does toward people.” The case was resolved only after he brought it to the local affiliate of Olson’s agency.

“I saw the consequences of an irrational and overly burdensome approach to tax administeration,”

Olson, 58, is an improbable insider, an animated woman who prefers hot pink blazers and jangly earrings to power suits. She lives in a D.C. townhouse and walks two miles to work every day. When she was younger, she wanted to be a painter. She studied fine arts at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and moved to Chapel Hill, N.C., after graduation to start her painting career. She took a part-time job working for a lawyer, whose clients were local wineries, coffee shops, and artists. Olson had a knack for numbers and organizaton, so friends and local businesspeople started asking her to prepare their tax returns. To her surprise, she was good at it. She bought a copy of the tax code and taught herself its ins and outs. In 1987 she enrolled in North Carolina Central University School of Law, taking night classes while working for the lawyer and raising her son by herself. Four years later she became a tax attorney. In 1991 the local bar association asked if she’d be willing to take on some pro bono work. Olson wanted to use her tax expertise to help those who were unable to buy groceries or pay rent because the IRS was levying their paychecks. The following year she started an independent low-income tax clinic, the first of its kind in the country. Soon  the clinic was serving about a thousand taxpayers. One woman was an immigrant from Egypt, who earned $10,000 a year as a hairdresser and was being charged about $35,000 by the IRS. The woman’s husband, who beat her, had defrauded the IRS without her knowledge. When the agency uncovered the scheme, he fled  the country. The woman could barely read English and had never filed a tax return, but the IRS viewed her as uncooperative. It took Olson four years to free the woman of her obligations. “I saw the consequences of an irrational and overly burdensome approach to tax administeration,” she says.

In the 1990’s the Senate held scathing hearings lambasting the agency for abusing taxpayers, which eventually led to the passage of the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act in 1998. The new law increased oversight of the IRS and included federal funding to expand low-income tax clinics. It also created the naional taxpayer advocate, a position that reported to then Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, not the IRS commissioner. Two years later she was appointed to become the first, and to date, the only director of The Taxpayer Advocate Service, whose position has no term limits. She told herself that she would stay until she got bored or until frustration with the IRS drove her to quit. “I’m not bored yet”, she says. “And I still have a bit more work to do”.

Olson’s story ran in the April 9–April 15 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek and this posting is an except from it.  As citizens of the United States we are all entitled to make use of this little known service that has resolved many tax problems of the 99%…and we are grateful for such an exemplary government employee as Nina Olson.

If you’ve taken the time to read through this posting and learned something you didn’t know before, as I did, I thank you very much and I would appreciate hearing from any new readers as well as regular followers.

The Greatest Entrepreneurs of Our Times!

Who Would be on your list?   This list compiled by the editors of FORTUNE MAGAZINE and published in their April 9, 2012 issue lists  their choice of  The Greatest. See if you agree. All information is based on calendar year, 2011.

  1. Steve Jobs/Apple…Sales 108.2 billion…Market Value $546 billion… Employees 63,300
  2. Bill Gates/Microsoft…Sales $69.9 billion…Market Value $30 billion…Employees 255,593
  3. Fred Smith/FedEx…Sales $39.3 billion…Market Value $30 billion…Employees 255,573
  4. Jeff Bezos/Amazon…Sales $8.1 billion…Market Value $84.6 billion…Employees 56,200
  5. Larry Page & Sergey Brin/Google…Sales $37.9 billion…Market Value $203.2 billion…Employees  32,500
  6. Howard Schultz/Starbucks…Sales $11.7 billion…Market Value $40 billion…Employees 149,000
  7. Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook…Sales $3.1 billion…Market Value $75-100 billion (est.)…Employees 3,200
  8. John Mackey/Whole Foods…Sales $10.1 billion…Market Value $15.5 billion…Employees 56,200
  9. Herb Kelleher/S.W. Airlines…Sales $15.5 billion…Market Value $64 billion…Employees 45,392
  10. Noira Yang Murthy/Infosys…Sales $6.0 billion…Market Value $32 billion…Employees 145,059
  11. Sam Walton/Wal-Mart…Sales $446.9 billion…Market Value $316.5 billion…Employees 2.0 million

Total Sales… $796.7 billion

Total Market Value… $1.4 Trillion

Total Employees… 3,063,000

Becoming  an entrepreneur is certainly a worthwhile goal if making a lot of money is what motivates you but there’s no guarantee of wealth and the majority of people who decide to start their own business, frankly do not succeed. It  takes dedication, long hours and a good idea. There are many bumps along the road to entrepreneurial success so be sure to look for advice and help from those who have been successful before. One guide I would highly recommend to  those who would like to own a  business of their own, one  that can be started part-time and is perfect for  those who would like to run it from their home is MAIL ORDER, also known as Direct Response. The internet has been an eye-opener and a game changer for mail order businesses and has helped create MAIL ORDER MILLIONAIRES almost overnight. Just about every successful business you see online is a mail order business. Direct Response means  that products or services are sold direct to the public not  through brick and mortar retailers. Companies like AMAZONZAPPOS, FIRST STREET, STAUER, BRADFORD EXCHANGE, HEARING HELP EXPRESS, GRAVITY DEFYER, HABAND…just to name a few of the very successful mail order companies you see advertise regularly in magazines sell their products direct to the public.

As a reader of my blog I  would like to help you get started in this wonderful business  that changed my life and can change yours, too.

HOW TO BECOME A MAIL ORDER MILLIONAIRE is available online from AMAZON at its published price of $39.95 plus s&h…..or you can save $10 and order it direct from the publisher for $29.95 plus $3.50 s&h (total $33.45). Send check or money order along with your name and address to: SUPERIOR PRESS 333 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1032, Chicago, IL 60601. Sold on a 100% guarantee of satisfaction or your money back.

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the OWS Protests

That’s the headline to Matt Taibbi’s article in the current issue of ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE. Last week’s post was from a conservative columnist who writes for FORTUNE MAGAZINE. It’s only fair for a progressive view–and there’s few as good as Matt Taibbi. He alone is well worth subscribing to one of my favorite magazines ROLLING STONE. Herein are excerpts:

“I have a confession to make. At first I misunderstood Occupy Wall Street. The first few time I went down to Zuccotti Park, I came away with mixed feelings. I loved the energy and was amazed by the obvious organic appeal of the movement, the way it was growing on its own. But my initial impression was that it would not be taken very seriously by the Citibanks and Goldman Sachs of the world. You could put 50,000 angry protestors on Wall Street, 100,000 even, and Lloyd Blankfein is probably not going to break a sweat. He knows he’s not going to wake up tomorrow and see Cornel West or Richard Trumka running the Federal Reserve. He knows modern finance is a giant mechanical parasite that only an expert surgeon can remove. Yell and scream all you want but he and his fellow Franksteins are the only ones who know how to turn the machine off.

That’s what I was thinking during the first few weeks of the protests. But I’m beginning to see another angle. Occupy Wall Street was always about something much bigger than a movement against big banks and modern finance. It’s about providing a forum for people to show how tired they are not just of Wall Street but EVERYTHING. This is a visceral, impassioned, deep-seated rejection of the entire direction of our society, a refusal to take even one more step forward into the shallow commercial abyss of phoniness, short-term calculation, withered idealism and intellectual bankruptcy that American mass society has become. If there is such a thing as going on strike from one’s own culture, this is it. And by being so broad in scope and so elemental in its motivation, it‘s flown over the heads of many on both the right and the left.

The right-wing media wasted no time in cannon-blasting the movement with its usual idiotic clichés, casting Occupy Wall Street as a bunch of dirty hippies who should get a job and stop chewing up Mike Bloomberg’s police overtime budget with their urban sleepovers. Just like they did a half-century ago, when the debate over the Vietnam War somehow stopped being about why we were brutally murdering millions of innocent Indochinese civilians and instead became a referendum on bralessness and long hair and flower-child rhetoric, the depraved flacks of the right-wing media have breezily blown off a generation of fraud and corruption and market-perverting bailouts, making the whole debate about the protestors themselves—their hygiene, their ‘envy’ of the rich, their ‘hypocrisy’.

The protestors, chirped Supreme Reichskank Ann Coulter, ‘needed three thing: showers, jobs and a point’. Her colleague Charles Krauthammer went so far as to label the protestors hypocrites for having iPhones. ‘OWS’, he said is Starbucks-sipping, Levi’s- clad, iPhone clutching protestors (denouncing) corporate America even as they weep for Steve Jobs, corporate titan, billionaire eight times over’. Apparently because Goldman and Citibank are corporations, no protestors can ever consume a corporate product—not jeans, not cellphones and definitely not coffee’—if he also wants to complain about tax money going to pay off some billionaire banker’s bets against his own crappy mortgages.

Meanwhile on the other side of the political spectrum, there were scads of progressive pundits like me who wrung our hands with worry that OWS was playing right into the hands of assholes like Krauthammer. DON’T GIVE THEM ANY AMMUNITION! we counseled. STAY ON MESSAGE! BE SPECIFIC!. We were all playing the Rorschach-test game with OWS trying to squint at it and see what we wanted to see in the movement. Viewed through the prism of our desire to make near-term, within the system changes, it was hard to see how skirmishing with cops in New York would help foreclosed-upon middle-class families in Jacksonville and San Diego.

What both sides missed is that OWS is tired of all this. They don’t care what we think they’re about, or should be about. They just want something different.

We’re all born wanting the freedom to imagine a better and more beautiful future. But modern America has become a place so drearily confining and predictable that it chokes the life out of that built-in desire. Everything from our pop culture to our economy to our politics feels oppressive and unresponsive. People want to go someplace for at least five minutes where no one is trying to bleed you or sell you something.

I think I understand now that that’s what the Occupy movement is all about. It’s about dropping out if only for a moment, and trying something new. It doesn’t need to tell the world what it wants. It is successful for now, just by being something different.”

These are only excerpts from Matt’s excellent article in the November 22nd issue of ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE. To read it in its entirety, pickup a copy or better yet become a subscriber. I’ve been hooked on their political reporting for 25 years and with age, year after year, it only gets better.

What Really Has The 99% Up In Peaceful “Constitutionally Protected” Protest

If you are like most of us then you are one of the 99%. If you happen to be one of the 1%, then lucky you. Just skip this week’s blog because you won’t be the least bit interested in what I have to say. This opinion piece ran in the Nov., 7, 2011 issue of FORTUNE MAGAZINE. It was written by Geof Colvin.

“The most important fact to realize about the rash of popular protests around the world— OCCUPY WALL STREET in the U.S., demonstrations in Greece, Spain, London and elsewhere in Europe, really aren’t about money or inequality. If they were, they’d be easier to deal with. They’re about perceived injustice. which reflects a deeper, fiercer problem.

The spark of the U.S. movement may soon be obscured as it’s taken over by career protesters, labor unions, and others who enjoy any chance to torment corporate managers. But the spark is where we find what’s new and meaningful, and it seems to have emanated from a feeling by the protestors that they aren’t getting a fair shot at prosperity. They believe that big companies, specifically major banks, have rigged the system to their own benefit and to ignore the suffering of ordinary people.

That perceived injustice is the real root of today’s rage. Yes, many Wall Street executives make tons of money, but plenty of hedge fund managers, for example, make far, far more, yet no one is camping outside their suburban Connecticut offices. For that matter, America loves Warren Buffett, just as they loved Sam Walton when he was the country’s richest man. Fellow citizens making billions do not by themselves get many people riled.

Even economic inequality isn’t enough to send mobs into the streets. Inequality in the U.S. has been increasing for over 30 years. During most of that period the rich were getting richer, and the poor were getting richer. But the rich were getting richer faster. Though the gap was widening, the lid stayed on discontent as long as everyone was moving ahead.

Inequality actually diminished in the recent recession, as it usually does in tough times. If inequality were the problem, people would be less upset today than they were in 2007. What’s new is that those with medium and lower incomes have not been getting richer for several years, while those with high incomes have been, and the unprecedented slowness of post-recession job growth has left many feeling deprived of their rightful opportunity to improve their lot. More broadly, they feel they’re being punished even though they did nothing wrong, while those whom they blame for the whole mess—the bankers—got bailed out and were raking it in. INFURIATING INJUSTICE.

The elements are the same in protests worldwide, whether the specific grievance is blatant corruption, as in China and the Middle East, or violation of the social compact as in Europe. The innocent are punished while the guilty are rewarded. That combination is intolerable.

In the U.S. this narrative is flawed and in some ways plain wrong. Most of the Occupy Wall Street protestors probably don’t know that they as taxpayers, actually made money from the bank bailout. They may be forgetting that millions of Americans are being foreclosed on because they willingly, even eagerly, took out mortgages they couldn’t afford. Some protestors are simply clueless, like one who responded to a question from the New York Times by saying ‘he never heard of Warren Buffett’, or one who complained to NPR ‘that we’re paying for the bailout’, or one who told the Times that ‘the airline Virgin America is a good company because it’s working on solar planes.’

IT DOESN’T MATTER. WHAT PEOPLE KNOW OR DON’T KNOW ISN’T IMPORTANT. ALL THAT COUNTS IS WHAT THEY FEEL.

At a private meeting of movers and shakers a few years ago, a CEO presented the facts on long-term diverging fortunes of the wealthy and the middle class in the U.S. Henry Kissinger, who was chairing the meeting, observed ‘that the situation held the makings of a social and political cataclysm’. It seemed an overly dramatic pronouncement, but he was right. Only a feeling of powerful injustice was missing, AND NOW IT’S HERE!

Even if Occupy Wall Street should evaporate, the fuel that’s feeding it will not. Think of it as a warning. Cataclysm is a long way off and it certainly isn’t inevitable. But we’re a little bit closer.

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