Crossposted from DailyKos. Promoted. -- GH
(Written by an American expat living in the European Union)
This mainstream German magazine Der Spiegel in their December 30th issue, tell us that Wall Street banksters committed nothing short of a monumental insider bank robbery, which is responsible for victims like Pam Brown who has become the face of America's nouveau poor and hungry in the minds of the Spiegel's vast readership within the European Union.
The Spiegel's article also tells us that America's has a short memory. Barely 2 years after the market crashed, Wall Street is in the process of creating a second crash by speculating just as shamelessly as they did before. The Spiegel article suggests this maybe happening because there were no criminal prosecutions ever brought. Therefore it looks like the Wall Street banksters are going to do this again.
To which this diary asks, how many more times do you want to bail out Wall Street? How much longer do the bread lines have to get, how many more millions have to lose their homes? Is 59 million without medical insurance enough? When will America say no to Wall Street and yes to Main Street European style social safety net?
As an American expat who holds an M.B.A. degree, living in the European Union, I’ve started to see America’s economy from a different perspective.
I can honestly say that at least the mainstream European press isn't in league with the American plutocrat owned media. It is from this vantage point that this review seeks to interpret the German magazine Spiegel's ongoing series last published December 30th 2010 of the American empire in decline. Unlike the American mainstream media, the chorus from the European mainstream press of which the Spiegel represents, comes close to calling for the criminal prosecution of the Wall Street banksters. Europeans are already referring to this as a 'monumental insider bank robbery'.
(Quote from Der Spiegel: "From Wall Street to be thrown onto the street")
“Brown used to work as an executive secretary on Wall Street with an annual salary of $80,000. Then the financial crisis robbed her of her job. Since the beginning of 2009 she has been unemployed. She fell through the US social safety net which is full of holes, through to the very edge of poverty itself, and only through luck was able to avoid homelessness.
Still in a state of shock, she said, “overnight I again found myself on the wrong side of the tracks in life”. For untold millions of Americans the year 2010 unexpectedly became the year of the nouveau poor. Nobody really cared about her. She was passed from one welfare office to another, only to be turned down by social workers. Her story of suffering didn’t fit into the success story of Wall Street, which in 2010 slowly recovered from the crisis of the century.”
(Block quote based on writer’s paraphrased interpretation of German text of the magazine Spiegel December 30th 2010 issue)
The Spiegel magazine’s humane treatment in putting a human face on the victims of Wall Street, in this case the face of Pam Brown, on the excesses of Wall Street now asks an important new question, is Pam Brown and the millions of American taxpayers like her all across America also the victims of a Wall Street criminal conspiracy? Let’s ask ourselves who benefits from the weak American social safety net? Who profits from the taxpayer Wall Street bailout? What type of morality is promulgated here? When the American criminal justice system sits on its hands and does nothing, in what the Spiegel correctly characterizes as a ‘monumental insider bank robbery’. Instead of criminally prosecuting the masterminds of this conspiracy to defraud the American working class taxpayers and investors, they settle on defendants that maybe characterized as the copycat, Bernie Madoff wannabe small fish as a substitute. For students of literature, this is some how all reminiscent of German playwright Bertolt Brecht in his Three Penny Opera wherein the robbers bought a bank because they could make more money through the legal theft of the bank.
(Quote from Der Spiegel: "From Wall Street to be thrown onto the street")
“The stockbrokers are celebrating the end of the crisis. While the crisis is beginning to repeat itself, the banks are just as shameless in their speculation as they were before the crash.
The lobbyists are just as powerful as they ever were. The last 2 years were nothing more than a monumental insider bank robbery, which is long since forgotten. Not a single defendant from senior management was criminally charged. Instead the US Dept of Justice would rather pursue many swindlers who are small fish whose unbridled avarice made them mini-Bernie Madoffs. Bernie Madoff whilst in jail was notified of his son’s suicide.” (Block quote based on writer’s paraphrased interpretation of the German text of the German magazine Spiegel December 30th 2010)
Let’s be clear that the subtext of the Spiegel article is that these are the ethics promulgated by a country with the weakest social safety net of any major industrialized country in the world. Let’s think about this, aren’t they in fact right about that? Please consider that the annual income of the wealthiest 12,000 households is bigger than that of the poorest 24 million households. Doesn’t America allow 59 million of its citizens to go without medical insurance; 132 million without a dental plan; 60 million without paid sick leave; and 40 million on food stamps. Let’s please remember that, the wealthiest 1% of American households already have more net worth than the bottom 90% of American households. Is this the American dream or the American nightmare? By contrast, virtually everyone in the European Union has a medical plan, has a dental plan, gets paid sick leave, paid maternity leave; receives paid annual leave. This also includes low wage workers. Now ask yourself who has the moral high ground here? Now while we can all be proud Americans, surely we don’t have to be proud of the broken American social safety net.
Clearly that’s a thumbnail description of the social safety net that has allowed for the creation of America’s nouveau poor, of which in the minds of many thousands of European readers, Pam Brown has become the face of and therewith has touched the social conscience of even the mainstream media in far away Germany, and its readership throughout the European Union. In doing so will this chip away at the callous indifference that American conservatives have been socialized to accept, which vociferously preaches the homiletic platitudes of individual responsibility in order to fastidiously avoid the collective responsibility of the much needed investment of a European style social safety net for the American working class.
It is only under a European style social safety net that working class Americans like Pam Brown will ever be safe from the robber baron excesses of Wall Street banksters, who are back to business as usual, back on the mount of unbridled avarice before the dust has even had a chance to settle from the near global banking collapse initiated by the Wall Street robber barons, whose unregulated excesses will create how many more taxpayer bailouts before the full faith and credit of the federal government is exhausted, with the nations that buy American debt instruments around the world.
(Quote from Der Spiegel: "From Wall Street to be thrown onto the street")
“For many families the American dream became the American nightmare. Their falling into poverty placed them outside of the consciousness of American politicians, who placed greater value on campaign contributions than on the worries of the silent majority.
America seems to have a short memory. Brokers are celebrating the end of the crisis. While the crisis is beginning to repeat itself, the banks are just as shameless in their speculation as they were before the crash.” (Block quote based on writer’s paraphrased interpretation of German text of the magazine Spiegel December 30th 2010 issue)
How could Pam Brown expect to be treated from a nation where the top 1 percent has a higher net worth than the bottom 90 percent of Americans. The only major industrialized nation in the world which warmly greets its new college graduates with decades of the repayment of student loan debts, wherein when they aspire to the American dream, when they aspire to home ownership, only to find their homes are repossessed. We ask for justice from a justice system that turns a blind eye to the biggest conspiracy of bank fraud in the history of the planet, wherein no one is charged, no one is prosecuted, nor anyone seriously investigated.
While it is true we can all be proud Americans, we surely don’t have to be proud of the broken American social safety net, or the mockery of lady justice, whose blindfold has become a badge of shame, whose scales no longer measure anything, as they have now become a useless relic in the hands of a justice system that will not act when faced with the largest insider bank fraud in the history of the planet. This in fact nearly collapsed the world financial system!
If you think the German mainstream media is alone in it’s criticism of the American social safety net then please consider this British newspaper article from the Guardian.
“Guardian.co.uk - America's cracked political system" (28 December 2010)
The US budget deficit is enormous and unsustainable. The poor are squeezed by cuts in social programs and a weak job market. One in eight Americans depends on food stamps to eat. Yet, despite these circumstances, one political party wants to gut tax revenues altogether, and the other is easily dragged along, against its better instincts, out of concern for keeping its rich contributors happy.
This tax-cutting frenzy comes, incredibly, after three decades of elite fiscal rule in the US that has favoured the rich and powerful. Since Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, America's budget system has been geared to supporting the accumulation of vast wealth at the top of the income distribution. Amazingly, the richest 1% of American households now has a higher net worth than the bottom 90%. The annual income of the richest 12,000 households is greater than that of the poorest 24m households.
The Republican party's real game is to try to lock that income and wealth advantage into place. They fear, rightly, that, sooner or later, everyone else will begin demanding that the budget deficit be closed in part by raising taxes on the rich. After all, the rich are living better than ever, while the rest of American society is suffering. It makes sense to tax them more.”
Jobless benefits in Germany never run out, as noted in ‘America in Decline: Why Germans Think We’re Insane’. When unemployment benefit 1 runs out in Germany, unemployment benefit 2 kicks in and for people who qualify it never runs out. While unemployed the head of household and their family members continue to receive medical insurance. Essentially speaking, the same thing exists in Britain, jobless benefits don’t run out, and while a person is unemployed, they and their family members likewise are covered by the British National Health Service. Ask yourself why isn’t that the case in America? Who profits from the weak American social safety net?
“In some countries, unemployment benefits are only paid for a limited period of time following a redundancy. After that, the unemployed are on their own. In Britain, this is not the case. If you are unemployed, you can continue to receive some form of government support even over an extended period if necessary.”
Why can’t the American working class have a European style social safety net, that includes jobless benefits that never run out? Imagine if that were the case the Republicans would not have been able to hold the renewal of jobless benefits hostage for a quid pro quo trade, which provided tax cuts for the rich. Again ask yourself who benefits by the weak American social safety net? Ask yourself who benefits from unemployed persons finding it nearly impossible to pay for medical insurance, and finally who benefits from unemployment benefit insurance being time limited? Why are the Europeans so vociferous in their criticism of the weak American social safety net? Moreover, why isn’t the mainstream media reporting on this issue, except in very forgettable sound bytes.
“Guardian.co.uk - Weakening the welfare state just doesn't add up
“the US government is too ready to stimulate its economy with badly thought-out tax cuts or pork-barrel public spending increases, and to take appallingly stupid risks with monetary policy.”
“Rajan is no liberal softie; he is a former chief economist of the IMF – and one of the few economists who can honestly claim to have forecast the global financial crisis. America's weak social safety net, in which so many benefits are time-limited to make finding a job a life-and-death issue, is one of a series of deep global fault lines. Rajan admires well-designed, strong social safety nets such as those in Germany and Scandinavia, that do not remove work incentives but look after people out of work. They take the pressure off governments to take wild risks to create employment.”
The real problem is that conservatives define America’s social safety net as a job, which begs the question, what happens when the U.S. economy stops growing jobs? Where is America’s social safety net then? It isn’t just that America given its lack of a social safety net needs jobs more desperately than other developed nations with strong social safety nets. The few jobs that are available provide no benefits; in fact they don’t even provide a living wage. So how is a middle class American supposed to keep up on his payments for a $300,000 house and that new pickup truck? Will America ever be able to grow non-service sector jobs that provide benefits and a living wage again in enough volume to support the American middle class? If not, what then? Do we all become independent contractors who have to provide our own pensions, medical, unemployment insurance contributions? At which point, we see this isn’t just another economic downturn. This is a permanent paradigm shift, wherein the assumption of risk is shifted from the employer to the employee.
As such isn’t it time that America adopts a European style social safety net or are we just going to continue to grin and bear it while we wish Wall Street Happy New Year?
PS: This action diary asks you to write your member of Congress today and request that Congress hold immediate hearings on the excesses of Wall Street. To that end, please email this diary to as many people as possible to help us get the word out before a second Wall Street crash hits America, because this time we’ve been warned. This time, the European mainstream media has warned us.
(Cross posted by author from the Daily Kos.)