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Thread: SiriuslyLong Once Asked A Question...

  1. #1
    Atypical is offline

    SiriuslyLong Once Asked A Question...

    ... why is the growing difference between the wealthy and the rest of us is important?

    This is only one reason but very instructive!!!!
    A Different Legal System for the Rich: Imagine Getting Off Easy for Hit-and-Run Because You Run a Hedge Fund by Joshua Holland

    It's not just the recession that's killing the middle class -- it's how the legal system is being used to establish a two-tiered society.

    Our lopsided wealth distribution makes the U.S. look more like a banana republic than one of the richest, most highly developed nations in the world. But having a small, wealthy elite living it up among a nation of struggling workers doesn't make a country a banana republic. In a true plutocracy, you also need a bifurcated legal system, with one philosophy of justice for the wealthy and another for the little guy.

    While that’s the case to (greatly) varying degrees in every justice system in human history, in a banana republic that class divide is systemic -- it’s baked into the cake. And that may be exactly what’s developing, gradually, in the United States.

    Recently, a modest crime that made big headlines provided an eye-opening anecdote. In July, Dr. Steven Milo, a surgeon, was riding his bicycle on a Colorado road when he was struck from behind by a Mercedes. According to the Vail Daily, Milo “suffered spinal cord injuries, bleeding from his brain and damage to his knee and scapula,” causing “disabling spinal headaches” and requiring “multiple surgeries for a herniated disc and plastic surgery to fix the scars he suffered in the accident.” His attorney said Milo “will have lifetime pain.”

    The driver of the Mercedes took off, stopping later not to call for help for Milo, left bleeding at the scene, but for service for his damaged luxury sedan. In Milo’s words, the man “fled and left me for dead on the highway,” a serious felony.

    Or it would be if you or I had committed the offense. But the driver that day was 52-year-old Martin Joel Erzinger, a Morgan Stanley Smith Barney money manager who oversees more than a billion in assets for “ultra high net worth individuals, their families and foundations.” District Attorney Mark Hurlbert was apparently concerned with Erzinger’s future -- SEC rules would have required him to disclose the felony within 30 days of being convicted, which might have cost him his job -- and decided to accept a misdemeanor plea, over the objections of Milo and his attorneys. Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger's profession,” Hurlbert said, “and that entered into [the decision].”

    There’s nothing new about high flyers getting off the hook for traffic accidents with a wink and a nod from friendly prosecutors, but what makes the story noteworthy is that Hurlbert, who ran as a Republican in an unsuccessful bid for the state senate last year, felt comfortable acknowledging his reasoning to reporters. That he’d freely admit to considering an accused felon’s social status in charging Erzinger suggests a cultural shift in the works.

    For the rest of the article go to-
    Last edited by Atypical; 11-24-2010 at 01:53 PM.

  2. #2
    SiriuslyLong is offline
    SiriuslyLong's Avatar
    Joined: Jan 2009 Location: Ann Arbor, MI Posts: 3,560
    That's a terrible story, and the guy should be put away. It is a shame that our justice system isn't above such things.

    Keep in mind that there will always be "rich" even if the income gap is narrowed. And sorry as it is, those rich will likely be treated differently.

  3. #3
    Atypical is offline
    But the number of "the wealthy" matters because it is easier to abuse and steal with more "associates".

  4. #4

  5. #5
    Atypical is offline
    Great article, Havakasha.

    Near the beginning this sentence appears - Americans are generally not bothered by inequality because they believe with hard work, they, too, can strike it rich.

    That is one of the great myths of our times.

    There are studies I've seen recently that show almost no one rises above the level they are born into. No, Charlie, you will not go from a 35K person to a millionaire in your lifetime no matter what you do. It very rarely happens.

    And politicians use this bs to dupe people into believing that the wealthy must not be abused "because they are us."

  6. #6
    SiriuslyLong is offline
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    Joined: Jan 2009 Location: Ann Arbor, MI Posts: 3,560
    Quote Originally Posted by Atypical View Post
    Great article, Havakasha.

    Near the beginning this sentence appears - Americans are generally not bothered by inequality because they believe with hard work, they, too, can strike it rich.

    That is one of the great myths of our times.

    There are studies I've seen recently that show almost no one rises above the level they are born into. No, Charlie, you will not go from a 35K person to a millionaire in your lifetime no matter what you do. It very rarely happens.

    And politicians use this bs to dupe people into believing that the wealthy must not be abused "because they are us."
    That's a cynical point of view, and seemingly entirely focused on MONEY. Can one work hard and enjoy success? Success is a marvelous thing. Whether it being your children doing a little better than you, or you getting a promotion...... All any of us were ever guarenteed is Life, Liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness, and I believe happiness is equivalent to successs. I'm starting to think you are the materialistic ones.

  7. #7
    Atypical is offline
    You missed the point.

  8. #8
    Havakasha is offline
    Havakasha's Avatar
    Joined: Sep 2009 Posts: 5,358
    ENTIRELY missed the point! Jeez.

  9. #9
    Atypical is offline

    Hey, SiriuslyLong, Here's Another Reason To Be Concerned.

    New Report from U.S. Chamber Watch and Citizens for Tax Justice

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has lobbied heavily for Congress to make permanent all of the Bush tax cuts — even for the richest Americans — despite the fact that these tax cuts will add to the national debt and do little to boost consumer demand, ultimately hurting business far more than it could possibly help. Why would the U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobby in favor of something that is no help to business? Part of the answer must lie in the personal interests of the CEOs who fund and run the Chamber. As this report explains, many of these CEOs would personally gain $700,000 to $1.7 million if the Bush Tax Cuts are extended.

    A Lot to Lose: the U.S. Chamber’s Fight to Protect its Richest Corporate CEOs’ Wallets

    On behalf of corporate CEOs, who would personally gain hundreds of thousands - even millions - of dollars, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been lobbying heavily for a permanent extension of the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthy. The CEOs for whom the U.S. Chamber is lobbying include some of the wealthiest executives in the nation, who make tens of millions of dollars in annual income: bankers like Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan (average income: $21,991,394), Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs (average income: $31,949,089), and John Stangfeld of Prudential Financial (average income: $16,375,447); coal mining executives like Massey Energy’s Don Blankenship (average income: $12,739,276); and insurance company CEOs like Ronald Williams of UnitedHealth and Angela Braley of Wellpoint (average income: $16,196,989 and $12,204,978, respectively).[1] Each of these CEOs stands to personally gain at least $700,000 to $1.7 million if the Bush Tax Cuts are extended.

    Unsurprisingly, the U.S. Chamber does not highlight the personal benefits the Bush tax cuts provide for these millionaire executives, but as demonstrated in press reports last week and in the U.S. Chamber’s own tax filings, these are the CEOs who fund and determine the U.S. Chamber’s agenda.[2] And the Chamber is spearheading this CEO-driven effort despite clear evidence that the tax cuts would actually hurt the American business community it claims to represent: the cuts would add hundreds of billions to the deficit and limit the effectiveness of on-going efforts to revive the American economy and create jobs. According to the tax policy group Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ),

    Fiscal responsibility, job creation, and tax fairness all depend on Congress allowing the Bush tax cuts for the rich to expire at the end of this year as scheduled. According to figures from the Treasury, extending the Bush income tax cut for the richest 2 percent would cost $678 billion over a decade.[3]

    The U.S. Chamber has apparently chosen to ignore the destructive impact the extension would have on the middle class and rebuilding the economy as a whole. Equally troubling, the U.S. Chamber has even opposed tax reforms that actually would benefit mainstream American businesses and incentivize creation of American jobs. For example, the Chamber opposed a payroll tax holiday for companies that brought jobs back to the United States from overseas, arguing that Congress must focus on the “big picture:” “all 2001 and 2003 expiring tax provisions.”[4] But in fighting for an extension of the Bush tax cuts, the U.S. Chamber is doing nothing more than ensuring a personal perk for the people that pay its bills.

    New research on U.S. Chamber CEOs’ compensation by U.S. Chamber Watch and tax analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice[5] illustrates just how much benefit these CEOs will gain from an extension of Bush Tax Cuts.

    Key Findings:

    Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of News Corporation, whose donation of $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce led to well-publicized shareholder outrage, would pocket more than $1.3 million.

    Don Blankenship, a former U.S. Chamber Board member and the CEO of Massey Energy, whose company owned the mine in which twenty-nine miners died in April 2010’s mining disaster, the worst in forty years, would take home more than $700,000.

    David Cote, the CEO of Honeywell and a member of the National Fiscal Commission, who keynoted an address to the National Chamber Foundation expressing concern about the national debt over the next ten years, would get a tax cut of over $1.2 million.

    CEOs of big banks on Wall Street, who helped collapse the economy and then used the U.S. Chamber to fight stronger financial regulations, stand to reap between $700,000 and $1.6 million each.

    The CEOs of the health insurance industry, whose industry saw an overall increase in profits this year even while they slashed benefits and instituted breathtaking premium increases, are looking to personally benefit from another hit on the middle class by taking in between $335,000 and $875,000. [Pictured: Angela F. Braly, CEO of Wellpoint]

    U.S. Chamber President and CEO, Thomas Donohue, who has shifted the Chamber’s mission from serving mainstream business to serving the interests of the CEOs whose corporations write the biggest checks, will personally gain over $200,000.

    Full Report
    __________________________________________________ ___
    There are many other reasons to abhor a plutocracy, SL.

    For those that want to read more, go here to see how wealthy corporatists are stealing our country.
    Last edited by Atypical; 12-01-2010 at 09:58 AM.

  10. #10
    Atypical is offline

    Yes, Capitalism Is Predatory - Very Predatory!

    Documents Reveal One Bank’s Plan to Squeeze Customers for More Overdrafts
    Marian Wang

    In recent months, rules from the Federal Reserve have made it harder for banks to impose hefty overdraft fees when customers try to make debit transactions or ATM withdrawals without enough money in their checking accounts.

    Before the rule change, banks could automatically sign up customers for what they often referred to as overdraft coverage or overdraft protection. The so-called “protection,” it’s worth emphasizing, isn’t from overdraft fees themselves—it’s from the potential embarrassment or hassle that comes when a transaction is rejected due to insufficient funds. The “protection” also allows the bank to collect hefty fees for covering such transactions.

    But if the past is any indication, banks will go to great lengths to protect those fees, which are big business. As the New York Times recently reported, banks make more on those fees than they do on penalties from credit cards.

    To give a glimpse of just how hard banks have worked to keep overdraft fees flowing, we review some internal e-mails and memos from earlier in the decade that Wells Fargo turned over in response to a class-action lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco. The documents—which we’ve loaded into our document viewer— sometimes veer into banker-speak, but we’ve tried to translate as needed.

    “We are currently analyzing the change in frequency of overdrafts,” Wells Fargo Executive Vice President Ken Zimmerman wrote in an April 2005 e-mail. The cause for concern at the time? An unexplained decline in revenue from overdrafts.

    Zimmerman noted in a later e-mail that they’d analyzed the decline and “if there is good news to be had,” it is that the it was probably due to “increases in both the volume and size of tax refunds.” The tax refunds, especially when directly deposited to consumers’ bank accounts, had provided an additional cushion of cash that protected many consumers from overdrawing their accounts for a period of time, but customers would eventually resume “normal OD [overdraft] behavior” after the “excess balances are depleted.”

    This was good news, according to Zimmerman, because it defied the bank’s earlier suspicions. Several years before, Wells Fargo began to re-engineer the way it processed checking transactions in order to maximize the number of overdraft fees it could charge consumers. The bank was afraid that the small segment of customers that overdraft the most—the “high-OD customer segments”—would notice and react.

    “Given our dependence on a small set of OD consumers (4% generate 40% of total OD/NSF revenue),” Zimmerman wrote, “a small change in behavior within this group can cause a large change in revenue.”

    What Wells did is by now well known: It engineered its processing of transactions to mix together different types of transactions—debit-card purchases, checks, and automated clearing house transactions—and reordered each transaction to be processed from the largest to the smallest at the close of every business day.

    The changes, referred to as “Sort Order Optimization” and implemented in 2001, were intended to maximize the number of fees potentially incurred by the smaller transactions that would be processed later. An August 2002 bank memo marked “HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL” shows that this initiative was projected to boost Wells Fargo’s fee revenue by more than $40 million annually.

    The bank had also extended what it called a “shadow line” of credit to consumers using debit cards or making ATM withdrawals, triggering more fees where previously these transactions would have just been declined. These initiatives, as part of a series of changes, were expected to together generate an additional $138 million in overdraft revenue for the bank each year, according to the bank’s memo.

    For Wells Fargo, boosted revenues weren’t the official rationale, of course. One bank document explained that the changes in posting order would yield the following benefits to consumers:
    More of a customer’s high dollar items will be paid, which we believe are the transactions a customer feels are most important (e.g., mortgage or rent).

    In court, U.S. District Judge William Alsip didn’t buy the bank’s arguments. In a 90-page ruling against Wells Fargo, he said the bank had acted in bad faith and that its “true motives” for re-engineering its processing of transactions were “gouging and profiteering.” The ruling came down on August 10—the same day Wells Fargo told investors that the Fed’s new rules on overdrafts would cost the company $500 million in fee revenue.

    A Wells Fargo spokeswoman told me that the company is disappointed with the judge’s ruling and is appealing the decision. “We believe Wells Fargo’s method of processing transactions has been appropriate and consistent with customer’s interests and the laws and rules of governing regulatory authorities.” She also said that Wells Fargo—like many banks—offers a type of overdraft program that lets consumers link checking accounts to eligible credit cards or savings accounts to cover overdrafts, and the fees for this type of protection are typically smaller than the standard overdraft fees.

    Several months have passed since the ruling against Wells Fargo and the implementation of the Federal Reserve’s new overdraft rules, but as TIME magazine notes, statistics on how many consumers have signed up for the banks’ “overdraft protection” vary depending on who you ask.

    Consumer Reports—which has told consumers, “Don’t opt in!” in order to avoid the hefty fees that were once automatic—released a poll earlier this month that found that only 22 percent of bank customers chose to opt-in. An August survey by the American Bankers Association, however, put that figure higher—at 46 percent—but still lower than the figure quoted by the Wall Street Journal last week: a whopping 75 percent—meaning that three-quarters of bank customers supposedly chose overdraft fees over declined transactions.

    What the surveys by Consumer Reports and Moebs Services—the bank-industry consulting firm whose survey was cited by the Journal—both agree on is that previous experience with overdrafts doesn’t seem to deter customers from opting in to overdraft coverage services that allow banks to keep collecting these fees, which often cost $35 or more for each transaction.

    The Federal Reserve currently requires consumers to opt in to bank programs that charge fees for debit and ATM overdrafts, but it still allows banks to charge the fees by default when automated debit transactions and checks overdraw checking accounts. Last week, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which oversees state-charted banks, issued guidance to banks on how to curb abuses of overdraft protection programs and help customers who chronically overdraft to find better alternatives and avoid hefty fees.
    Last edited by Atypical; 12-01-2010 at 11:46 AM.

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